In 1981 Barbara Thompson’s band Paraphernalia played in Ilminster, Somerset, and I went along. Jon Hiseman was the drummer for his wife’s band and after buying a (vinyl) album after the show, I went backstage to get some signatures and meet the band. I told Jon how much I had enjoyed the music of Colosseum, and his reply was: “I was in that band for only four years and I get more comments about it than anything else I have done.”
Culture doesn’t just live in museums and opera houses. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability index is flawed and subjective.
A few months ago, I stepped out one morning and saw a coil of animal poo on the doorstep. My mother and I spent a long time trying to figure out what sort of animal had done the deed. We decided, in the end, that a fox was the culprit. But it could also have been a racist. The incident has occurred twice but as we’ve got rid of the evidence both times, we’ll never know.
I am not the only one who has had a similar experience in London. Just search “poo on doorstep”. It occurs frequently enough to have generated several threads on the internet. Yet, when ranking the world’s best cities to live in last week, the mighty statisticians of the Economist Intelligence Unit didn’t take into account “likeliness to find a turd on your front doorstep”. In the 14 years I lived in Lagos, I never once found faeces in front of my house. Yet Lagos is judged one of the 10 least liveable cities in the world, and London comes much higher in the desirability rankings, at number 48.
The country boasts marvels that have lasted centuries. Now a culture of corruption has led to mediocrity everywhere
The horror of the bridge collapse in Genoa could hardly have happened in a more stunning city. I’m supposed to go there for work, but usually find myself idling to admire the sudden views of the sea from the hills. It’s a bit like Bristol: an elderly port that, with its rivers, summits and soul, has reinvented itself.
Genoa has always felt a strangely English place, too. The city’s flag is a St George’s cross. It was here that Italy’s oldest football team, still called Genoa Cricket and Football Club, was founded by an English doctor. It went on to win nine scudetti (championships) in the glory days of the early 20th century.
New Zealand’s restrictions on ownership are worth considering here if the housing market is to be reformed
Last week, New Zealand banned non-resident buyers from purchasing existing homes, to make housing more affordable for its citizens. It joins Switzerland, which has also banned non-residents from outside the EU from buying property. Several other jurisdictions around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore and British Columbia in Canada impose restrictions or surcharges. Political interest is growing in these sorts of measures here: in its 2017 manifesto, the Labour party pledged to give local people “first dibs” on new homes in their area.
The Observer is the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.
Anti-Trump activists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Democratic Socialists of America have galvanised disillusioned voters
On the well-kept shores of Martha’s Vineyard, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Obamas arrived this month, still drawing their respective following of acolytes for book signings, cocktail parties and informal think-ins about what Democrats need to do to turn back the tide of Trumpism. The local joke is that when they leave the tiny airport “the left turns right” to their down-island destination of identical clapperboard summer retreats. Beyond this cloistered world of J Crew and clam bakes, the destination of travel looks very different. As America prepares for electoral combat season in the midterm elections this November, the centre-left is being lured to turn harder to the left.
The hot movement for opponents of Donald Trump’s aggressive populism is the Democratic Socialists of America, fiercely competing for political oxygen with Democratic party candidates.
The Qixi festival stems from a simple romantic tale, but luxury brands have made it their own
News from China: the western celebration of romantic union, Valentine’s Day, has been dumped. It’s not you, it’s me or, rather, it’s a scheduling issue. Falling during Chinese new year, Chinese millennials and Generation Z-ers struggled to make time for it. Perhaps more critically, it wasn’t working for global luxury conglomerates.
Instead, taking advice from McKinsey, that well-known enabler of romance, luxury brands have helped Chinese lovers shift their allegiance to Qixi, the traditional Chinese festival of love. Also known as the Double Seventh (it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month), Qixi was celebrated last Friday. You can probably still hear the cheers from the conga line in the boardrooms of purveyors of luxury handbags. Because, although Qixi springs from the simple love story of cowherd boy meets weaver girl and cross a bridge of magpies to be together, it has also proved capable of delivering super-size sales. The real hookups are between luxury brands and WeChat, one of the most powerful apps in the world, with one billion monthly active users of its messaging and payment services.
The beauty rat race may be a winner at the tills, but high street chains shouldn’t help to glamorise cosmetic surgery
As a teenager, I spent many a happy hour perusing the makeup aisles in Superdrug with my friends, filling our baskets with dubious purchases such as lurid bottles of 99p nail varnish. And while I might fork out £40 today for the odd eyeshadow palette, in my 30s, my makeup bag remains filled with Superdrug’s cheap and cheerful staples, not least because it seems to do a better job than most retailers in stocking products that suit brown skin.
So it jarred when I heard that its latest wheeze is offering Botox and lip fillers in-store. After a phone consultation, customers will be able to combine a quick facial injection with picking up their lunchtime sandwich. Perhaps execs think it’s the natural step for this savvy chain, where rising profits have made it one of a shrinking number of high street success stories. The size of the cosmetic procedures market has quintupled in five years, as non-surgical “tweakments” have been popularised by shows such as Love Island – prominently sponsored by Superdrug – and reality stars such as the Kardashians. Clinics have reported a spike in inquiries, with young girls coming in with photos of Love Island contestants to show the look they’re striving for.
Chris Riddell on why no Brexit is better than a bad Brexit