Government officials come and go, always, but Boris Johnson’s government is bleeding them. Notably ethics advisers, and that’s probably as telling as it sounds. “Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, announced his departure in a terse statement that blindsided No 10,” reported The Times of London. “Appearing before MPs on Tuesday, he said that he had been ‘frustrated’ by Johnson’s approach to the revelations of Downing Street parties during the lockdowns, adding that resignation was ‘one of the rather blunt, but few, tools available to an independent adviser.’… The prime minister is likely to struggle to replace Geidt, who has quit after 14 months.” Geidt’s ethics predecessor, Sir Alex Allan, lasted 16 months.
Johnson needs to replace Geidt quickly, but, at this point, would you take the job? “Many plausible candidates,” noted the newspaper, would not want to. The Labour deputy Angela Rayner told The Times, “The prime minister has now driven both of his own handpicked ethics advisers to resign in despair.... How can anyone believe he is fit to govern?”
The novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz (Foyle’s War, etc.), who has admitted that “even one [bad] review will really, really upset me” and that he goes to a “dark place” whenever he gets one, has found a way to deal with it. The catalogue copy for his upcoming Detective Hawthorne novel, The Twist of a Knife, which features an author called Anthony Horowitz, “describes how the fictional Horowitz’s new play … has not received universal acclaim,” according to The Times of London. “In particular, Sunday Times critic Harriet Throsby gives it a savage review, focusing particularly on the writing. The next day Throsby is stabbed in the heart with an ornamental dagger, which, it turns out, belongs to Anthony, and which has his fingerprints all over it.”
The youth-obsessed influencer universe is being infiltrated by seniors. Not just people over 20—even older than that, if you can imagine. And their topics range from knitting to sex education. “Dinesh Mohan, 63, from Delhi, became a model and actor at 55, and inspires his 305,000 Instagram followers with his posts,” reported the South China Morning Post. He’s not alone. The “dancing dadi” (“grandmother” in Hindi) of Instagram, Ravi Bala Sharma, also 63, performs to Indian songs for 187,000 followers. And Internet sensations Yashpal Verma and his wife, Shanta, 82 and 76, regale 58,000 rapt followers with stories about their daily lives. “The Covid-19 pandemic has further pushed the elderly deeper online, scouting for shopping and entertainment,” explained the marketing chief of an online shopping portal. “They are also opting for online venues to learn singing, dancing or exercising through live-streaming channels.”
Not just in India. In Japan, “elderly influencers are making waves on TikTok,” said the S.C.M.P. “One such group is of men in their 50s and 60s—who call themselves ojikyun or ‘old men’ in Japanese, and kyun, meaning ‘heartthrob’. Showing off their spontaneous dance moves in shirts, ties and brightly coloured belly warmers, the elderly gents have become Japan’s latest TikTok sensation.”
The list of the world’s great migrations may soon include a new species: wildebeests, humpback whales … and Russian millionaires. It’s anticipated that more than 15,000 of them will flee Putin’s Russia this year, according to projections “based on migration data by Henley & Partners, a London-based firm that acts as matchmaker between the super-rich and countries selling their citizenships,” said The Guardian. That figure represents 15 percent of Russians with assets of more than $1 million. “Russia [is] haemorrhaging millionaires,” Andrew Amoils, the head of research at New World Wealth, which compiled the data for Henley, told the newspaper, which also noted that, proportionately, “Ukraine is projected to suffer the greatest loss of high net worth individuals.”
Humpback whales migrate in order to breed, wildebeests in order to follow the rainfall. What motivates Russian millionaires? Tax breaks, mainly. And where will they go? Well, the United Arab Emirates is expected soon to be the world’s most popular destination for HNWRIs, The Guardian reported, followed by Australia, Singapore, Israel, and “the three Ms”—Malta, Mauritius, and Monaco.
A 101-year-old Dutch woman has been reunited with a painting the Nazis looted from her father. Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, who’d joined the Dutch resistance, “had never given up hope of finding the 1683 portrait of Steven Wolters by Caspar Netscher, a Dutch master whose paintings are in the National Gallery in London,” reported The Guardian. “It had hung in her childhood home in Arnhem and had been a much-loved possession of her father, Joan Hendrik Smidt van Gelder, a doctor and director of the city’s children’s hospital, who went into hiding after refusing to accept Nazi orders.”
The painting went missing following the Allied forces’ ill-fated Operation Market Garden, of A Bridge Too Far notoriety. It later turned up in Düsseldorf, then in Amsterdam, with a private collector, and it was finally returned, after a negotiation, to Bischoff van Heemskerck. Her father would have been “so happy that it came back,” she told the newspaper, which said that “having treasured the painting for six months, she has consigned it to Sotheby’s in London,” where it’s estimated to bring $35,000 to $60,000.
Guess who’s not coming to dinner? A tweet from the Afghan-Canadian user @SamQari “centered on a claim that it is socially acceptable, or even customary, for Swedes not to feed their guests, especially children,” reported Euronews. “Not here to judge,” it read, “but I don’t understand this. How’re you going to eat without inviting your friend.” In other words, Swedish children can’t expect a playdate to turn into a dinner date.
The tweet went viral. Swedes weighed in, some claiming the custom didn’t exist, or no longer did. For others, it resonated. “A lot of families would [do that], and it wouldn’t be a strange thing,” one woman said. “It’s so rude … but it’s definitely Swedish culture.” Another noted, “Swedes are among the nicest people on earth. It’s just not obvious to them from a cultural standpoint that one should share food with guests.” An op-ed in The Independent written by someone who grew up in Gothenburg admitted, “It’s true we don’t serve food to guests,” but “what’s even more confusing to me is why that’s even a problem. The Swedish thinking goes like this: the other child (or the other family) may have plans for another kind of dinner, and you wouldn’t want to ruin the routine or preparations.” Whatever your take, remember, it’s strictly BYO. —George Kalogerakis
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL