Digested week: I’ll miss face masks. They give me freedom to mouth obscenities | Lucy Mangan


Now that he has left the tender embrace of the select committee, Dominic Cummings has taken to – is the word explaining? – himself to paying subscribers via Substack. In the unlikely event that you are not prepared to part with cash to hear what the hobgoblin of chaos is currently divulging, here is the gist:

Badly they well did! Everything a disascess! Successter! Deaths because people didn’t involve his involvement. Awful government which he which not responsible was for he did not do things why for not. He solved all successful failures after inventing science one morning last spring too modest to blog he was but did. Thought of ideas problems big small and did do and not. Ever faithful ever pure to bad mens incompetent take his fiery sword. Dom right wrong not wrong right left up a bit down a bit truth and light direct debit ten pounds please.


A rather beautiful and moving insight into history was gained this week when archaeologists revealed that even people in the Iron Age couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of all their shit. New research by Dr Lindsey Büster from the University of York, writing in the journal Antiquity, argued that the proliferation of low-value objects – like bone spoons and gaming pieces – in the walls of a roundhouse in the 2,500-year-old settlement at Broxmouth, Scotland, and nail cleaners elsewhere or a toy sword in an adult’s grave in Canterbury are proof that our ancestors of millennia ago were as irrationally attached to their possessions as we are. They just didn’t have Marie Kondo’s book or Netflix series to advise them only to keep the bone spoons that spark joy, or no more than one nail cleaner per hillfort roundhouse to sort them out.


Strange to say, the commission of a new £200m royal yacht Britannia at a time of national emergency, widespread financial and other suffering and rapidly diminishing resources of all kids continues to causes ructions. Among the people, who say – well, largely the stuff about national emergency, financial and other suffering and the rapid diminishment of everything necessary to mass health and wellbeing. And among the politicians, who say “Boris, do you think this is really the look we need at the moment?” And among various important entities like the Ministry of Defence who, when told that they would be paying for it, say: “We’re not paying for that.” Former chancellor Ken Clarke called it “silly populist nonsense … [from the] people in No 10 who just think there’s free money and that waving a union jack and sending yachts and aircraft carriers around the world shows what a great power we are”.

I have a solution of sorts, if I may? Royal yachts are supposed to be used to drum up international trade and investment, yes? So, for the next few years/decades in the service of crippled post-Brexit Britain, it is essentially going to function as a giant begging bowl, yes? Well, bowls float, do they not? Let’s drop the pretence, simplify the design and just beat a big dish out of whatever scrap metal we can find and send it round the world. It just needs a rudder and someone with big, global-heartstring-tugging eyes to steer it.

It doesn’t solve the problem of what to do about the fact that I now have a crush on Ken Clarke, but I suppose that’s on me.


I’m as crushed and wearied by this whole pandemic thing as the next person but – I’m going to miss masks when they go (yes, yes, Delta variant, you cheeky mutating scamp, I see you – I mean if they go, of course! You keep doing you, and we’ll just have to see). I don’t have to clean my teeth before nipping hastily to the supermarket for the staple foodstuffs I still at my advanced age don’t seem to be able to keep a reliable stock of in the fridge. I don’t have to smile at people (aka pulling my natural Bitchy Resting Face into neutral so I don’t keep frightening children). Above all, I am free to mouth obscenities at all those who displease me. Anti-maskers don’t know what they’re missing. Some twunt roars past in a sports car and/or with music blaring, walks at half-speed along a busy pavement, has a man bun? Have at it. Mouth and muffledly mutter all the imprecations you wish. I myself have never felt so free.


I cannot lie. The week has ended in utter, if solely personal, triumph.

I have faced and completed a brace of tasks that have been crouching on my soul since what feels like the dawn of time. It matters not what they are – were. Were! We all have them. Hated, hateful, postponable but ultimately vital and unavoidable excursions into horror that require you to face a vilely potent combination of confrontation of your personal flaws and weaknesses, engagement with officialdom and objective administrative horrors, emotional exposure and the outlay of cash with no corresponding pleasure or reward other than the staving off of further administrative horrors and/or legal proceedings down the line.

But they’re done. I set the leather strap between my teeth, lured my mind into a place where it felt neither fear nor hope nor desire and they’re done. I am hoping the universe will recognise this achievement by granting me – say 48? though 24 would do – hours of precious, glasslike mental tranquillity before the next set of chore-beasts come crawling over the horizon of my consciousness and take up squat, black residence there once more. Happy weekend, everybody. Maybe.

One of the newborn twin cubs delivered by giant panda Shin Shin at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoological Park
No, no, wait – come back, this is a GOOD thing! It’s one of the new – very new – twin cubs born to giant panda Shin Shin at Ueno Zoo. Photograph: Tokyo Zoological Park Society/AFP/Getty Images


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