Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
John Crace

Digested week: Whatever they’re taking, Liz and Boris might just live for ever

Liz Truss with Boris Johnson (right) at the national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London in November.
Liz Truss with Boris Johnson (right) at the national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London in November. Photograph: Reuters


A new book, The Good Life, co-written by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz and based on Harvard University’s 84 years and counting study of adult development has found there is a direct link between happiness and living longer. Those who nurture healthy relationships and have learned how to forgive themselves – regret is a dirty word – are less likely to die prematurely. In which case, it might just turn out that Liz Truss is going to live for ever. Most normal people – if a prime minister can ever be said to be a normal person – who had tanked the economy and increased everyone’s mortgage substantially in just under 50 days might have been tempted to lie low for a couple of decades at least. But not our Liz. In just three months, she has re-emerged with a 4,000-word piece for the Sunday Telegraph and an interview with Spectator TV. That is quite some speedy self-absolution. There again it turns out that Truss has forensically sifted the evidence and concluded she doesn’t have anything to feel sorry for. It was all the fault of the commies working in the Bank of England and the Tory party. Magnificent. Boris Johnson may look to be out of shape but he could also outlive us all as he too has no regrets and is planning a comeback. Asked by Nadine Dorries on TalkTV whether he might have tried to cover up his involvement in Partygate he was outraged. As if! It would be totally out of character for him to tell lies. I guess we could all do with a bit of what Liz and Boris are taking.


Spoiler alert! Happy Valley has come to a close and the finale didn’t disappoint. Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire’s double act was up there with the all time great TV drama moments – I’m thinking Jimmy McGovern and Robbie Coltrane’s Cracker as a comparison – and was a wonderful advert for not releasing an entire series all at once. Just about all the loose ends were tied up – Faisal the pharmacist was in for a nasty surprise at the end-of-shoot party – and the only thing that left me puzzled was why Darius’s brother and two side kicks had decided to knock off Tommy Lee Royce (superbly played by James Norton). Above all, the series didn’t let you down dramatically or psychologically. Catherine Cawood was never less than a force of nature, no one can quite say the word “twat” with as much feeling as she does and there was room for redemption as she made he peace with Clare. And Ryan could do the right thing and reveal his exchanges with TLR. He wasn’t doomed to be like his father. The final 15 minute face-to-face between Catherine and TLR was a tour de force. At one point we and Catherine could almost feel sorry for Tommy, before she reminded us of his crimes. It ended in hell-fire worthy of Wagner and Dante. Catherine has earned her overland trip to Nepal. Shame we won’t be seeing her again when she gets back.

Rishi Sunak (right) and Volodymyr Zelenskiy with helmets on
Rishi Sunak (right) to Volodymyr Zelenskiy: ‘Don’t you think my boots are great?’ Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/PA


It’s nearly 25 years since my dad died and I find I miss him more as time passes. He served in the navy during the second world war and remained in the service until the early 1960s by which time I was about seven years old. He then decided to become a Church of England vicar. I never really did discover why he changed career in his early 40s. From time to time I would try to raise the subject with him, but he had a way of gently closing down the conversation. But in an ever so nice way. It was only a day or two later that you realised he had never given you a straight answer. My father was never an ambitious man. After he had done three years as a curate, he took on three village parishes in Wiltshire. He was asked to move on to a bigger parish in Portland but he chose to remain where he was up until his retirement. My dad also seemed to have a mistrust of authority, which must have made life tricky both as a sailor and a priest. So the chances are that he would have been horrified by this week’s meeting of the General Synod at which the bishops were trying to get their fudge on gay marriage past the clergy and the laity. Vicars will be allowed to bless same-sex couples, but not marry them. Talk about the established church being out of step with the country. But the Church of England would rather be thought bigoted than risk a split with its African congregation. Expedience before morality. I’m not sure that was my dad’s teaching.


Things that should never happen, Part One. Earlier this week, I received a letter from my psychiatrist. “Dear John,” he began. “It has been a great pleasure knowing you for so many years. But I am writing to let you know that I will be retiring in April.” He went on to recommend two shrinks whom he thought I might want to take on. This is the second psychiatrist to retire on me. The first went back to Italy a long time ago. The second I have been seeing on and off for the best part of 25 years. I came to love them both and they knew me better than I knew myself. They could read my moods at times when I was unable to do so for myself. They kept me out of institutions when I didn’t know if I could cope and put me in them when they knew I couldn’t. I owe them both my wellbeing. If not my life. But I had really come to believe that my current psychiatrist would see me out. That we would grow old together and that he would still be seeing me when we were both in our 80s. Now, I must – against my will – form a relationship with a new psychiatrist. No more shorthand. I must spell out my anxiety and depression once more as we work out the right balance of meds. I also worry my therapist might retire as she, too, is in her 60s. I keep asking her but she keeps saying she will be around a while yet. That “yet” concerns me. I guess I must work on my trust issues.

Greg Hands (centre) and Rishi Sunak (left)
Greg Hands (centre) to Rishi Sunak (left): ‘You’ve got to be kidding! Lee Anderson as my deputy!’ Photograph: Simon Walker/No10 Downing Street


Things that should never happen, Part Two. Whoever came up with the idea of getting John Cleese and his daughter, Camilla, to remake Fawlty Towers should think again. There are so many reasons why this should never happen. For a start, Fawlty Towers was the near perfect sitcom. Completely of its time – many of the gags could only have been written for the 1970s – and deserves to be remembered in that way. We might have wanted more, but no one would have dared tread on those postwar sensibilities and the time-specific rage against the machine. You’ve never heard anyone say: “Let’s update the scripts to the 2020s.” Until now. Of course. Then there are the scripts themselves. It’s often forgotten that Cleese didn’t write them alone. Instead, they were written with his then wife and co-star, Connie Booth. To change that dynamic is to change everything. The best part of 45 years on, who would trust Cleese and his daughter to get it right? Too much has changed. Not least, JC himself. Back in the 1970s he was elemental, acting the part of a man increasingly out of synch with the world. Imagining himself as someone more dislikable than himself. Now, to recreate Basil Fawlty, he will need to persuade us that he’s far nicer than we know him to be. At 83, Cleese has become the archetypal bore. Blaming his wives for his own failures and moaning on GB News how no one understands him any more and how the world has lost touch with him. Worst of all, he’s no longer even funny. Time to gracefully retreat.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.