Madness of crowds: The Who’s 50th anniversary tour

I was talking to a small crowd of doctors a while back and came out with one of my favourite headlines from the US satirical magazine the Onion, which reads: “World death rate holding steady at 100 per cent”. Most of the medics dutifully chuckled at this evidence of their own lack of omnipotence – but one of them objected. “Strictly speaking, that isn’t true,” said the stethoscope-toting pedant. “Given that all the people currently alive constitute half of those who have ever lived, we can only confidently assert that the death rate is 50 per cent.”

60 Degrees North by Malachy Tallack

At the outset of this account of a circum-global journey, Malachy Tallack is at pains to establish the nature of the north: “There is,” he writes, “the tree line, above which the boreal forest gives way to tundra; the southern limit of permafrost; the Arctic Circle; the sixtieth parallel. Other measurements are also made. Temperature, precipitation, accessibility, population density: all are calculated, and a level of ‘nordicity’ can be assigned, according to a scale developed in the 1970s by the geographer Louis-Edmond Hamelin.” Tallack opts to follow the 60th parallel of longitude, which passes through his Shetland home; Greenland; a whole swath of Canada and Alaska; a still greater swath of Siberia; the former Russian capital, St Petersburg; Finland, Sweden and Norway; before eventually depositing him back by the ancient broch – or fortified iron age dwelling – on the Shetland isle of Mousa, which is where he began.

Real meals: afternoon tea at the Savoy

“It’s billed at a flat rate, £50. Steep for a stopgap smackerel, but not quite so appallingly plutocratic if you treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet”

I’ve written before in these pages about the terms of my grandparents’ gustatory existence: born in the late 1880s, they stuck fast to their ­agglutinative Victorian roots by putting away three square meals every day, and a couple of hefty snacks hardly less angular. Even as a child I thought they must be involved in some strange act of religious mortification (my grandfather was a lay preacher and president of the Modern Churchmen’s Union) in so flagellating their own insides.

Madness of crowds: mental health treatment

David Cameron entered office in 2010 as the leader of a coalition government committed to estab­lishing “parity of esteem” between mental and physical illness in the NHS. Five years later, he’s back as PM, presiding over a majority Tory government, and just about everyone in the country who works with the mentally ill – including the patients – are quaking in their boots. Spending on mental health now comprises just 13 per cent of the NHS budget, while its so-called “disease burden” stands at 23 per cent. In other words, a fifth of all those treated by the NHS are suffering from some sort of mental pathology.