Say you’re looking to spend $4 million. A six-bedroom on Mulholland is within range … but, then again, that Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ sure looks nice. Or—just spitballing here—have you ever thought about a peerage? Apparently, 16 of the U.K.’s last 17 Conservative Party treasurers have, or at least they didn’t say, “Oh, I couldn’t, really,” when one was offered. And to take that first step toward the House of Lords—by briefly serving as party treasurer—all they had to do was donate that amount or more to the Conservatives.
“An investigation by The Sunday Times and Open Democracy reveals that wealthy benefactors appear to be guaranteed a peerage if they take on the temporary role as the party treasurer and increase their own donations beyond £3 million,” reported The Times of London. “Among them was Peter Cruddas, a billionaire whose peerage was pushed through by Boris Johnson against the recommendation of the Lords appointments commission.”
These purchases—sorry, appointments—aren’t merely ceremonial: peers are actually part of the legislative process. One of the recently ennobled defended the “tradition,” but critics have called the practice, which the party doesn’t publicly acknowledge, a scandal. According to the newspaper, “one former minister said there was ‘a law of omerta’ forbidding any discussion of the link between donations and seats.” In comparison, the competition doesn’t have its act together: while 22 major Conservative donors—who gave a total of more than $70 million—have been given peerages since 2010, says The Times, “only two Labour Party donors and five Liberal Democrat financial backers have been ennobled over the same period.”
Daniel Humm, who just turned New York’s Eleven Madison Park vegan, will not have the opportunity to create the high-end dining equivalent at Davies and Brook, at Claridge’s. “The central London hotel posted a statement on Twitter … saying that it is ‘not [the] path we wish to follow’ at the restaurant, which offers a four-course menu at £125 [$170] a head including caviar and foie gras,” reported The Guardian. “In a statement posted to Instagram … the chef underlined that his principles were paramount in the ‘mutual announcement’ to ‘go … separate ways’ with Claridge’s.”
While you’re waiting for that peerage you ordered to arrive—and, efficient as the system is, we know how impatient the very wealthy can be—doesn’t a little ocean cruise sound appealing? The luxury-boat business is booming after having ground to a halt at the start of the pandemic, and 2021 has been the industry’s best year in more than a decade, according to The Times of London: “More than 200 new superyachts were launched this year up to September, up from 165 in the same period of 2019, and there are orders for 330 to be built before 2023.”
The motivation, in part, is to try to out-sail the coronavirus—head for the high seas!—but it also helps sales that the pool of potential customers has widened. “According to Forbes’s 2021 list, there are 2,755 billionaires worldwide, a rise of 660 compared with last year,” said the newspaper. One is Jeff Bezos, whose new, 416-foot, three-mast super-yacht—anticipated to be the world’s largest—is now reportedly being tested on the water.
An unexpected run on Pecorino in this southern Indian city last year—the result of a cacio e pepe video having gone viral on social media—was no aberration. The hitherto virtually cheese-free nation is undergoing a dramatic shift in taste. “Across the country, artisan cheesemakers have begun to emerge,” reported The Guardian. “Now it is possible to get fresh, Indian-made mozzarella, stracciatella, burrata, gruyère, stilton, halloumi, reblochon, comté, cheddar, feta and parmesan in cities and towns across India. In urban middle-class households, demand for gourmet cheese platters has, in the words of one Delhi supplier, ‘gone ballistic’ this year.”
Experts think the boom will continue, as people care more and more about what they eat—until recently, much of the cheese available in India had been of the processed variety. Not that there aren’t growing pains. “While it operated under the radar for the past few years, [Indian] cheesemakers were freely labelling their cheeses with European names,” noted the newspaper. “But several said they had been served legal notices by the Italian embassy over the use of the name ‘parmesan’ and other protected designations, while the La Gruyère estate in Switzerland has recently sent letters to all cheesemakers in India telling them they are not allowed to use the name. Many have since opted to call their cheese ‘alpine style’ to avoid legal difficulties.”
One lone Adélie penguin recently turned up in southern New Zealand, nearly 2,000 miles away from its Antarctic home—only the third recorded instance of that particular G.P.S. malfunction. The speculation is that, as warming waters drive fish toward colder climes, penguins follow. Or, anyway, this one did. “Apart from being a bit starving and severely dehydrated, he was actually not too bad, so we gave him some fluids and some fish smoothie,” Thomas Stracke, of Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation, told The Guardian. The penguin was released into a bay, and it’s hoped he might even find his way home. “I would have preferred to get him on the Hercules [air-force plane] that drops staff at Scott Base,” Stracke confided to the newspaper, but he was told it couldn’t be done. “They had a meeting with the other big penguin guns and they said no.”
The change to the tricolore apparently happened back in July, but only now has the deepened blue in the French flag been flagged. “According to officials, navy blue was considered ‘more elegant’ but also felt to ‘reconnect with a symbol of the French Revolution,’” reported The Guardian. “Others had more divisive theories: that the darker blue, now noticeably different to the blue of the European Union flag, signalled a rift between France and Europe.” Aides to President Emmanuel Macron deny this: “There is no ‘blue war’, it’s nonsense.”
Ursula Wanecki, a 65-year-old tax consultant in this western German town, is ready to retire from her other job—her “hobby” of the last 16 years—which will essentially happen when Angela Merkel steps down as chancellor next month. “[Wanecki’s] public presence as Germany’s leading Merkel double in everything from satirical TV shows and supermarket openings to private weddings and birthday parties has kept her busy,” reported The Guardian. Wanecki told the newspaper that “what I’m looking forward to most is being able to wear nail varnish and big earrings again, something Merkel never does.”
No word yet on whether any Olaf Scholz look-alikes are hiring agents in advance of the chancellor-in-waiting’s ascension next month.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail