Few would dispute the view that the once glorious Champs-Élysées has been coasting. In recent decades, it has devolved into a kind of high-end, historic strip mall, along whose tourist-clogged sidewalks—100,000 pedestrians a day, pre-coronavirus—French is sometimes detectable as a second (or third, or fourth) language. As for the cars: traffic volume along the eight lanes has been estimated at 84,000 vehicles daily, with the attendant pollution.
But that will soon change, and—are you sitting down?—for the better. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has approved a $300 million renovation for the boulevard, telling the Journal du Dimanche, “It’s going to be another extraordinary garden.” Although the full greening of the Champs will take until 2030, a redesign of the Place de la Concorde is expected to be ready in time for the city’s hosting of the Olympics in 2024.
A distant cousin of the Queen’s is facing a possible five-year jail sentence after having admitted to sexually assaulting a guest at Glamis Castle, his 16,500-acre estate in Scotland. Simon Bowes-Lyon, known as Sam, is the 34-year-old Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, not to mention one of Tatler’s Top 50 eligible bachelors in the U.K. for 2019. The assault, in which he forced his way into the room of a 26-year-old woman during a travel-P.R. weekend he was hosting at the castle, occurred last February.
The great-great-nephew of the late Queen Mother has found himself in the news before, whether because of the crowd he runs with—model Poppy Delevingne, TV personality Hugo Taylor, actor Oliver Proudlock, foxhunting enthusiast Otis Ferry—or his escapades on Britain’s roadways. “[He] was recently shopped to the police for breaking Covid-19 rules by driving 200 miles to the Barnard Castle area during lockdown after his butler was spotted in the local shops,” reported the Daily Mail. “And in 2010 he was banned from the road for nine months after he was clocked riding his motorbike at 100 mph on a 60 mph stretch of road. It was noted in court, as the then 24-year-old was fined £500, that his licence had already accumulated 23 penalty points due to various speeding convictions.” Let’s be sure to check for his name when the next eligible-bachelor lists are published.
It was Themba Cabeka’s first time on an airplane, and he spent the 11-hour flight from Johannesburg to London secured by an electrical cable inside the landing-gear compartment of a British Airways 747. Unconscious for most of the journey—lack of oxygen—he was found on the ground at Heathrow after the plane landed, miraculously alive. Cabeka’s friend and fellow stowaway, Carlito Vale, was not so lucky: he landed early. His body was discovered on a roof six miles shy of the airport.
This happened in 2015—the two young men were homeless and trying to escape poverty and violence in South Africa—but a just-released documentary, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, means Cabeka, now 30, is talking to the press for the first time. It’s thought that he survived because the minus-140-degrees-Fahrenheit temperatures put him in a state of suspended animation. He spent six months in a coma, and after a period of homelessness in London has settled in Liverpool, having successfully applied for asylum. Cabeka, who still walks with crutches, has been unable to find work because of his injuries, though there were reports he was trying to make a go of it as a hip-hop artist. He now calls himself “Justin” and has applied for a passport. “It takes five years to get a British passport,” he told the Daily Mail, “and then I will be able to fly on a plane.”
It might have been a scenario devised by Poe or Conan Doyle. Kristina Novytska, a 30-ish woman from Kiev, is found dead in her home in Bodrum, Turkey—where she had been living since August—sitting in a chair, her hands cuffed behind her back, a plastic bag over her head. “A rope, scarf and a piece of charcoal [were] close by,” reported The Times of London. “Beside her were sleeping pills and a glass of water. The box in which the handcuffs had been packaged was next to her with the key inside, and the doors and windows were locked from the inside. There were no signs of an altercation … Police are unsure whether her death was murder or suicide but friends said the latter was ‘impossible.’” The newspaper also reported the final message from her phone, “to her married Turkish boyfriend”: “If I die, will you take care of my family?” A full postmortem is pending.
Helen Keller was a fraud, apparently—ask any one of millions of Gen Z TikTok buffs. The sticking point for them, reports Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in The Guardian, is “the fact that she was both deaf and blind, yet still able to write books.” Cosslett says that the screenwriter Daniel Kunka stumbled onto this fascinating conspiracy theory while talking to his teenage nephews and nieces. He tweeted about the revelations, noting that even in the face of considerable evidence—i.e., a well-documented life of accomplishment—“they are sticking to their guns. They believe people around her ‘pumped her up’ and wrote the book[s] for her. The[y] do not believe in Helen Keller. And apparently 15 million others on TikTok feel the same way.”
Weather systems—or, anyway, their names—are for sale in Germany, and the group New German Media Makers, which lobbies for greater diversity in hiring journalists, is making symbolic hay with that opportunity: they’ve gone on a shopping spree and guaranteed that some upcoming high and low systems passing through Bavaria, Bremen, and beyond will have names such as Ahmet, Cemal, Goran, Hakim, Dimitrios, Bożena, Chana, and Dragica—that is, more reflective of Germany’s immigrant population. Now that the diversity battle has been won, maybe it’s time to turn to another pressing issue: climate-shaming. It costs around $440 to name a sunny high-pressure system, while a rainy low can be had for only $290. That sounds like the kind of value judgment—sun is somehow “better” than rain?—that we’re not entirely comfortable with.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail