Helena Morrissey is a remarkable person. She is one of the most successful women working in the City, has been named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 greatest leaders and has still found time to have nine children. She has also just written a timely book, A Good Time to Be a Girl, in which she makes a compelling case for more diversity in the workplace. But I was struck by one key piece of advice she had for women, which was to marry the right person. Helena married Richard, who was more than happy to stay at home looking after all the kids, which allowed her to pursue her career. It made me wonder if Helena would think my wife had married the right partner. We both had jobs we enjoyed and neither of us wanted to – nor could afford to – stop working. So when the kids were young we were totally at the mercy of childminders. Mostly we muddled through, but occasionally they phoned in ill and then we went into meltdown over who had the busiest day, who could spare the time to be late by taking the kids to school and who would organise another parent to pick them up at the end of the day. Helena’s husband went on to train to be a Buddhist monk in his spare time. I can see why.
Cheddar Man turns out to have been black, with blue eyes and curly hair, and ended up in Somerset via a circuitous route through Europe from the Middle East. The story has been a gift for those who have always believed Englishness to have been an amalgam of many different cultures and nationalities and so far the more rabid, anti-immigration Brexiters have not come up with an explanation as to why the earliest modern Brits weren’t white Aryans as had previously been supposed. But it can’t be long before a new narrative emerges. Cheddar Man will turn out to have been an aberration. An illegal immigrant who smuggled his way into the country from Calais by hiding in the fur of a woolly mammoth and then holed up in Cheddar Gorge, trying to steer clear of Home Office patrols in freezing-cold caves, before coming to an untimely end after being hit on the head by a piece of flying cheese.
A billionaire is entitled to spend his money how he chooses. But I can’t help feeling Elon Musk could have come up with something rather more useful than sending one of his Tesla cars, with an astronaut suit in the driving seat and David Bowie’s Life on Mars playing on a loop, into space as the first payload for his Falcon Heavy rocket. If there is life out there, it’s asking a lot of them to have the sort of sense of humour that finds coming across a car in space amusing. More likely, they would imagine humans to be a bit weird and decide to give us a wide berth. But I can’t judge Musk too harshly as I am thrilled that serious space exploration is back on the agenda. When I was a child I was captivated by Nasa’s Apollo missions to the moon and kept scrapbooks of photos and newspaper cuttings of every one. There was something about the hope and audacity of the vision that transcended much of the depressing nature of the day-to-day news. I could do with some of that right now. So even if there’s nothing much to find, I am very happy for Musk to go looking for it.
What has now been seen cannot be unseen. Footage of President Trump boarding a plane has gone viral as his usually well-glued hair was blown out of place by the wind to reveal he is practically bald. It was a horror show and as an image of vanity exposed, it could not have been bettered. And yet part of me felt some sympathy for the president, not something I had previously experienced. Most of the time I don’t really give too much thought to the fact that I am – to all intents and purposes – bald. I try not to look at myself in mirrors and keep the few hairs that are still hanging on in there to a number one cut. If there’s one thing worse than being bald it’s being tufty and bald. But there’s no getting away from the fact that, deep down, I do mind being bald. Given the choice I would much rather still have hair and can’t quite forgive it for having fallen out. So in some ways, Trump and I are on the same spectrum of denial.
Like many people, I’ve often been held up in long traffic jams near Stonehenge on the A303 and wished there was an alternative route, but boring a concrete tunnel through a Unesco world heritage site, which is the Department for Transport’s preferred option in proposals published this week, doesn’t really seem to be a sensible solution. For one thing, Chris Grayling has never knowingly been right about anything; for another, it sets a dangerous precedent. Before we know it we will be knocking down bits of Hadrian’s Wall that are in the way or turning Kew Gardens into a building site for luxury flats that will permanently be left empty. And that’s merely the start. The tunnel will also destroy the local water tables and take out the important archaeological site of Blick Mead – an ancient spring around which signs of human habitation going back 12,000 years have been discovered. Excavation at Blick Mead is still ongoing so we won’t even know what we’ve lost if the tunnel is built. So why not just build an ordinary bypass that will cause less disruption and can at least be grassed over at some point in the future?
Digested week digested: The Brexit war cabinet: still at war with itself.