My pandemic comfort? Google reviews. They can be as compelling as any TV drama | Louise Benson

The comments aren’t just transactional – they can reveal more about how we connect than the curated feeds of social media

Human connection can often be found where you least expect it. Google Maps, started as a straightforward navigation tool, has become in recent years an unlikely treasure trove of humour and intrigue. With many businesses in my area closed for much of the pandemic, I took to exploring them through the reviews that others had left online. I have traversed foreign cities from my sofa, idly dreaming of future holidays via a one-line description of the perfect snack bar.

From reviews of a local bistro to the dry cleaner, I have stumbled on snatches of city life that seem as compelling as any sitcom. Entire sagas are played out in a few sentences, and I have read elaborate tales of love, fights, breakups and makeups. “The owners created a drama around them, and chose us to express all their violence,” begins one particularly ominous review of a bar, which ends with: “We spent the night in hospital and my friend had to get surgery to fix his nose.”

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The Green party is showing Labour how to connect with its former heartlands | Lynsey Hanley

Rather than campaigning on the climate crisis, the party has won people’s support by focusing on their local environments

In the week before the Hartlepool byelection, a still loyal Labour voter gave a bleak assessment of her hometown to a reporter from the Financial Times. “We are at the arse-end of the world, just a sprawling housing estate. We don’t really make anything any more.”

The floppy union jack hanging outside Labour’s Hartlepool HQ at the insistence of Keir Starmer’s London-based team turned out to confirm, rather than refute, that verdict. In the absence of making things, Labour tried to make meaning through the display of empty symbols and lost, catastrophically. But there’s another way to create something meaningful: by building relationships. This is where, away from the byelection media frenzy, the Green party excelled in some of last week’s other elections for local councils in England.

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