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Digested week: as every night owl knows, a good life isn't all morning larks

Lucy Mangan
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Zalo/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Zalo/Alamy

Monday

A study from Finland has discovered – I paraphrase slightly – that early risers are better than night owls. As I am an extreme night owl writing this at nine o’clock in some morning or other, I dismiss the findings utterly and assume the researchers have to be in the pay of Big Lark.

According to their (corrupt) findings, morning people have a lower body mass index, procrastinate less, are more proactive, less depressive, more cooperative, are all concert pianists, are unassailable recyclers and have never use the word “holibobs” in their lives. Most of that, anyway.

Well, a) don’t they sound like a barrel of laughs? And b) of course they are better adjusted – the whole world is built around them. Getting up at dawn used to be vital – if you didn’t get your farming in during daylight hours, you and your family starved to death – and natural larks have been living off these past glories ever since, pushing their false narrative that it is still the only way to get things done and that getting up at stupid o’clock, if not earlier, is still some kind of moral good.

Let us hope that one good thing emerges from the pandemic. The enforced shift to homeworking with no apparent drop in productivity has surely proved that the larks lie. Work done 6-4 looks just the same as work done 9-5. Cometh the (late) hour, cometh the night owls. Let us take wing and soar.

Tuesday

Since our leader – do we still use that without quotation marks around it? It feels wrong – announced the Roadmap Out of Lockdown, I have spent most of my time counselling my teacher friends who now know for certain (“certain”) that they are returning to their classrooms on 8 March. It’s quite … tricky. One has to get increasingly inventive, y’know?

So when they say things like: “I wish the government considered us important enough to vaccinate as a matter of some urgency,” you say: “Have you thought about being Grant Shapps and receiving cancer treatment 20 years ago that makes you eligible for a jab now?” When they say: “The idea of that press of bodies, often upwards of 30 diseases vectors crammed into an unventilated room with me, is making me very, very anxious,” you have to dig deep and say: “Well, what’s the worst that can happen!” And when they say: “I could die from a novel zoonotic virus that is running rampant across the globe except in countries where they’re doing something about it, which is not this one, we’re doing nothing, dear GOD, why are we doing NOTHING?” you have to say: “Pull yourself together! This isn’t how we won the war!” And when they say: “Fighting a virus is not like fighting a German – that is the most unhelpful analogy you could possibly evoke,” you say …

Well, I’m still working on that one.

Boris Johnson visits a London school
Classroom Boris: ‘Sit up straight, brush your hair, stop dressing out of the lost property box and do some actual work, Johnson.’ Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Wednesday

“Over 31,000 women will be offered kits to carry out smear tests in the privacy & convenience of their own homes in a trial. Cervical screening is life-saving, so this is a great step forward,” tweets Matt Hancock.

“I … have questions,” says every woman who read it without recently graduating from circus contortionist school. “Many, many questions.”

Most of these, fortunately, were answered by the simple expedient of helpful entities like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and doctors pointing out that the health secretary was using the wrong words, thereby conveying – as so often happens in such cases – the wrong thing. It’s not a smear test (which requires a crank, a definite second-party POV and a steady, steady hand) but an HPV sampling test. The latter is a swab that gathers, much more easily, matter that can be tested for the virus (good LORD, is the world is nothing more than viruses at the moment?) that causes more than 99% of cervical cancer cases. Women’s and reproductive health groups laud HPV tests as a good way of prioritising further investigation and resources. But they are not smear tests.

It may help to think of our health secretary as a kind of Eric Morecambe playing all the right notes for André Previn but not necessarily in the right order. But with massive public responsibility and consequences as a result.

The other major question – when will men be offered kits enabling them to stick swabs up their jacksies and test for prostate cancer in the privacy and convenience of their own homes, or are we still going to insist on qualified professionals for that job? – remains unanswered.

The owner of a closed restaurant has placed plush panda bears at the tables in central Frankfurt, Germany
Panda restaurant: You’ll never guess what’s on the menu Photograph: Michael Probst/AP

Thursday

Celebrations! And jubilations! 17 years after the original series came to a much-lamented close, the Frasier reboot is officially in development, at Paramount Plus, and coming to a streaming service near you just as soon as ever it can.

Kelsey Grammer will return to his greatest role as the endlessly pompous yet endearing psychiatrist (David Hyde Pierce – Niles, part-Frasier, part-Lladró figurine – is not yet attached to the project, as they say, but surely … surely) and with any luck we will be able to reimmerse ourselves in a series of exquisitely timed, precision-tooled and masterfully executed episodes again.

If we squint and drink hard enough, perhaps we can pretend for at least 22 minutes plus adverts that the last few years never happened. The only downside is that the surrounding publicity and social media attention has disinterred a fact I had known but consigned to the very darkest, rankest oubliette of memory – that Grammer has the name of his wife tattooed on his crotch to prevent him from cheating on her. Truly, the television gods giveth and the television gods taketh away.

I shall do as doubtless any good psychiatrist would recommend and try to repress this unwanted knowledge as fast as possible once again.

Friday

Once all this – I am gesturing widely here – is all over, we really need to hand out some awards for tempers kept under duress. We’ll call it The Fauci. Most of them will go to the nation’s homeschoolers (I will keep one for myself, as I recently sat through a nine-year-old’s violin practice during which he rejected all my offers of help on the grounds that “not all the scales are supposed to sound nice”) and another load to retail staff dealing with anti-maskers. But the top category will of course be for hospital medical professionals, especially those who have treated Covid-deniers for Covid instead of pressing pillows over their faces. A special commendation, however, to the national medical director for NHS England, Prof Stephen Powis, for urging people not to follow the post-Covid regime advice proffered by Gwyneth Paltrow.

She recommends – God, I can’t even be bothered to list it. She recommends a load of bobbins, beginning with “intuitive fasting” and ending with “infrared saunas”. Equally, it hardly matters what Prof Powis said in response, except that it managed not to be: “Shut your absolute piehole, you absolute imbecile”. Awards. Must. Be. Given.