Unsurprising to learn that the Financial Times’ supplement ‘How To Spend It’ has changed its name from the breathtakingly literal name it gave itself in 1967. ‘How to spaff it’ might be more contemporary, but perhaps they’ll need to hedge against a change of prime minister? So they’ve come up with ‘HTSI’. Couldn’t that have been something more engaging like WTAF?
Although I am neither a watch portraitist or a ‘nuovo paysan’ living in Northern Ibiza, the Saturday FT is an escapist weekend treat for me and my partner to press our noses against a porthole of HMS Vicarious and marvel at the lives of the richest people in the world. Our favourite column in the HTSI supplement is ‘The Aesthete’, the best example of which was in 2020 with Nadia Rosenthal, the chair of cardiovascular science at Imperial College London. As if her chosen “The moment that changed everything”, which was “when I found the first enhancer in the human genome in 1983”, were not enough, Ms Rosenthal goes on to list her wellbeing guru as Joseph Pilates… because she trained with him herself. Natch. The house her parents bought just happened to have thrown in with the purchase, “two Steinway concert grands in rosewood cases”. You can’t make it up. So enjoy the rest of her style signifiers here!
The truth is, Alexa lies
In the movie A Night at the Opera (1935) Groucho Marx has been wining and dining a glamorous lady friend. When the bill comes, he takes it from the waiter in a gentlemanly manner and exclaims “Nine dollars and fourteen cents! This is an outrage.” He hands the bill to the woman saying “If I were you I wouldn’t pay it.”
Alexa, Amazon’s talking Bluetooth speaker, like Groucho, also flatters to deceive. For example, when Alexa says “Would you like me to send a link to your phone to get you started?” and you say “Yes”, Alexa replies “To get a link on your phone to get you started you’ll need to create a profile on your Alexa app.” So Alexa is neither a real “me”, a person, or going to help me.
Perhaps it’s this sly use of the word “I” and “me” that ticks me off most. Like the automated announcer at the railway station ‘who’ announces “I’m sorry to announce the 9.05 to London is cancelled.” I find myself muttering to myself “No you’re not. You’re software. Hokum tech used by service providers and businesses to fob us off or to make us go online and do the work ourselves and then charge us extra for tasks that were once an intrinsic part of the service or product: the admin charge, the booking fee, the parking app’s 30 mins parking for £1.00 of which 60p is for the parking, 17p + 20% VAT the “Convenience fee” and Text messages another 17p+20% VAT. Note to self. De-select those texts I never asked for.
What next for the monarchy?
The platinum jubilee gave pause for thought. On the one hand, I have a soft spot for the Queen and respect for how she’s conducted herself. On the other hand, seeing the entire Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace reminded me that the best thing would be for Elizabeth II to be our last ever monarch.
The monarchy is the apex of our iniquitous class system. We are not citizens in our own country, we are subjects. So what’s not to scrap? They’re also a desperately dowdy and unglamorous lot. European monarchs may also be dull and mediocre but at least they scrub up well in Hello magazine. Our lot look like a shopfront of dusty curtains.
But what would they do with their lives post EIIR? Charles could be a latter day Swampy and superglue himself to his rumoured kid leather lavatory seat. Non-sweating Andrew could work in a pizza parlour, Edward in a call centre doing am dram at weekends. ‘Young’ William would make a fine bursar in a minor prep school, and Harry could work as a hipster mixologist. The only risk to the public would be that any one of them might turn their hand to writing children’s books.
Bubble tea will take over the world
Tapioca used to be the pudding nightmare of schoolkids in times gone by, but now it’s all the rage in the form of the “bubbles” in bubble tea. Originating from Taiwan, and otherwise known as Boba tea, bubble tea is typically made from milk or fruit juice, sugar, tea and pearls of tapioca. It’s colourful, it’s sweet, and the straws are wide and chunky.
I’m told by my kids that lemon tea and strawberry flavoured tapioca bubbles is a winner, but to avoid the taro tea with plain tapioca bubbles; btw, the chewy texture of the bubbles is called “QQ” in Taiwan and China.
Bubble tea shops are popping up all over the place. I counted ten in Brighton. The bubble boom is boosted by social media; there are even bubble tea ‘influencers’ on social media platforms. So rather than die wondering, give it a try, even if it’ll probably be just the once. Before the bubble bursts.