Preserved in a dozen unforgettable episodes, Fleabag will forever be struggling to keep her guinea-pig café afloat, not to mention dealing with the likes of Bus Rodent, Arsehole Guy, and the odious Martin. But at least the woman who created her, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is having a smoother ride.
“Waller-Bridge’s company, PMWB, has turned over £22 million [$30 million] in the past 20 months, according to Companies House accounts that provide the first comprehensive look at the riches the actress has amassed since breaking into the mainstream,” reported The Times of London. “During that time she has become white-hot property in Hollywood, winning Emmy awards for her work on the second season of Fleabag and landing an exclusive eight-figure deal with Amazon Studios to create and produce new television shows.” Also coming up for her: the delayed but now imminent Bond film, No Time to Die, on which Waller-Bridge provided “little spices” for the screenplay, and a co-starring role opposite Harrison Ford in the fifth Indiana Jones installment.
Is Finnish finished in Helsinki? The language evidently poses no obstacles for the 5.5 million Finns who speak it, but as for practically everyone else … well, unohda koko juttu (never mind). Typologically agglutinative, dependent on suffixal affixation, and worse, Finnish is considered one of the most impenetrable languages for non-native speakers to master. And the recently elected mayor of Helsinki feels it’s such a turnoff to foreigners that he wants to make English an official language of Finland’s capital city. (It would share the honor with Suomalainen—Finnish for “Finnish”—and Swedish.)
The mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, called Finland’s “inability to hold on to foreign professionals … a ‘terrible failure,’” according to The Times of London. “Although Finland gave us Nokia, 5G, and Linux, experts say that growth is being held back by a deficit of skilled labour. Postgraduates in fields such as artificial intelligence and telecommunications are among those to have left recently, citing language problems.”
There’s no evidence at hand about how the French fare with Finnish, but compared to the rest of Europe, and the world, their English skills lag badly—they’re ranked about 40th globally. And what English they do learn, according to a YouGov poll reported in The Times of London, is more likely to come from Netflix than from the classroom. “While the Dutch, Nordics and Germans soak up English from childhood from subtitled television and films, French TV usually broadcasts only dubbed foreign content,” said the newspaper. That sounds dreadful on so many levels, but there’s currently an upside: “Seven of the top French Netflix shows this week are in English.” Well, with that foolproof method, one is apprending the Anglais quickly, bien sûr.
Maybe it’s just a thoughtful way of bringing a bit of the office to isolated employees working remotely. Nomura Holdings has extended its ban on smoking to staff working at home, during business hours. “The rules will be based on mutual trust and don’t include a punitive clause,” reported Bloomberg News, adding, “About two in 10 smokers said their cigarette consumption has increased as a result of working from or staying at home during the pandemic, according to a March poll by the National Cancer Center Japan.” So: health concerns. Sure, maybe it’s a tad Big Brother–ish, but let’s not worry just yet. At least not until you discover that you need a swipe card to get into your kitchen.
A 37-year-old pastry chef is living like a hobbit near Chieti, Italy, with his wife and family, in a hobbit house, wearing hobbit clothes, dreaming, naturally, of someday building a hobbit village. “I realised that books and films were no longer enough for me to satisfy my passion for the fantasy genre and, in particular, for the Lord of the Rings saga,” Nicolas Gentile told The Guardian. “I decided that I wanted to live my hobbit life to the fullest.” Gentile’s most significant revelation was that “my friends, my relatives and the farmers of Bucchianico have always lived as hobbits. They work like hobbits, carrying out jobs that are all in close contact with nature. They celebrate like hobbits, by organising festivals and dances and even dress up as hobbits…. I realised that I have always lived in the Shire.” Siamo tutti Bilbo Baggins.
Starting with William Wordsworth’s, in Grasmere, surveyors with $140,000 electronic backpacks will be cataloguing headstones throughout England’s 19,000 graveyards. Four teams carrying the Ghostbuster-like packs (five cameras, two laser scanners, a G.P.S. tracker) plan to wander over as many as three bucolic cemeteries per day, “walk[ing] along every alternate row of graves, scanning the position of every memorial, building, wall and tree, taking up to 50 million measurements in every graveyard,” reported The Times of London. The result will be a free database, a kind of “Google Maps for graves,” according to the organizers.
The project will take seven years to complete. “It is also expected to alleviate the pressure on vicars struggling to deal with hundreds of queries from amateur genealogists all over the globe who are trying to trace their English roots and find where their forebears were laid to rest,” noted the newspaper. Sounds, in a way, like metal-detecting of a much higher order.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail