Digested week: start with a Monday from hell and go from there

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA</span>
Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA


Today was the kind of Monday we all dream of having. My 10-year-old son fell, hurt various bits of himself and smashed his two front teeth on the pavement. We spent the day in A&E, then the dentist. I and the extended family went into uncharacteristic convulsions when presented with the necessity of the latter, because our folk memory is saturated with horror stories of oral tortures past.

In the 1940s and 50s, you see, my parents’ native town of Preston was not at the forefront of dental technology. Rotten or damaged teeth were poked, filled and pulled without anaesthetic (or qualification, to hear them tell it – the “local dentist” seems to have been whoever had the cleanest pair of pliers at the time).

But times have changed. It took our dentist about half an hour to build, bond, file and polish two brand new teeth where there had suddenly been none, almost painlessly and never terrifyingly. The chain of horrors has been broken. I offer you this as a tiny point of light in a world that otherwise seems hellbent on running back towards darkness.


We all knew that the pandemic was a complete ball-ache but now we have definitive proof. It comes courtesy of singer Nicki Minaj, who tweeted to her 22 million followers: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”

Words to live by. Or, possibly not. Chris Whitty decried the irresponsibility of spreading unfounded rumours about Covid jabs but – while it was rather a splendid denunciation of misinformers – it was not actually necessary. It is a simple but enduring fact that, outside a few very narrow, specific contexts, the minute you mention testicles you are in comic, not medically persuasive territory. I’m sorry – I don’t make the rules.


Two-year-old internal research by Facebook concluding that Instagram (which it owns) has a bad effect on young users’ states of mind, particularly aggravating body issues for teenage girls, was leaked by someone at the firm.

When I think of how bad my classmates and I used to feel after reading women’s magazines, I could weep for anyone whose soft, malleable little psyche is being ineluctably deformed under current conditions. If I had had to deal with Instagram and filters and ordinary people habitually making themselves look extraordinary and showing me only the latter, I would quite simply have gone mad.

Teenagers everywhere, dealing with all of this and so, so much more, I salute you. This world is completely crackers and you are the sanest things in it.


I periodically rearrange my underwear drawer. Doesn’t change anything. It’s still a collection of mismatched, formerly elasticated, limp, holed items that would be better relegated to the floor-cloth division but must be deemed fit for purpose in the continuing absence of anything better.

And so to the cabinet reshuffle, whereupon a variety of ministers are redeployed to stress-test the theory that things can’t get any worse. As I’m sure you know by now – that’s why you’re under the duvet crying, or possibly on top of the duvet gazing blankly at the ceiling; both responses are valid – Nadine Dorries is culture secretary, Liz Truss is foreign secretary and her predecessor Dominic Raab has been made deputy prime minister. If it’s any comfort – and we’ll just pause here for a moment’s mirthless laughter and duvet adjustment – this last counts as a demotion from his previous role and punishment for his non-part in the evacuation of Afghanistan.

No, no, I certainly wouldn’t get out of bed just yet either.


The latest, TikTok-inspired craze among the young is apparently covering houses in baked beans. You know, like egging. But with beans. Or like the craze for singing sea shanties. But with no multipart harmonies, and with beans.

Obviously my instinct is to rush to condemn. But my fury at the stupidity of youth is tempered by the memory of the best day we ever had at my school. The tampon machine in the girls’ loos broke and was giving out free tampons. Naturally, it was emptied in seconds. A group of girls, who shall remain nameless even to this day, took it upon themselves to take this abundance of goods, soak them in water and then throw them at the walls and roof of the school until it looked like it had been snowing. This was glory enough but what no one had realised was that the wet cotton wool would stick to the rough bricks and dry, immovably, there. The school was decorated with tampons – out of reach of ladders or teachers hanging out of various windows – for weeks. We nearly died laughing every day.

To misquote Stand By Me – a popular film at the time, which was before any TikTokker was a glint in Apple’s eye – I never had a laugh like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?

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