Critical Boycott | Charity Kondo | Ticking Clock

What would you give to swap the long, dark January nights and freezing temperatures in the UK for the sun, sea and white sands of the Caribbean?  Quite a lot probably! Yet England's cricket stars might well be wishing they were firmly back on home soil after a chastening first Test defeat to the West Indies in Barbados. Skittled out for just 77 runs in their first innings (the lowest total in a Test match at the Kensington Oval) the usually reserved commentator Jonathan Agnew laid into the team selection and described the team as "underprepared", whilst Geoffrey Boycott (never one to mince his words) described England as "embarrassing" and claimed the top three batsmen are simply "not good enough" to play Test cricket.  Hardly a confidence boost for the rest of the series!  Then again, maybe Boycott is hoping that his stinging criticism from the sidelines spurs the players back into action.  After all, the Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, risked a fall-out by publicly accusing his team of a lack of determination last week, only for his players to overcome a semi-final deficit against Tottenham and book themselves a place in the Carabao Cup final.  Yet player criticism is a risky business. The currently unemployed Jose Mourinho and the seemingly rejuvenated Paul Pogba are prime examples of that!

Over the last couple of years, January has been synonymous with struggling retailers calling in the administrators, restructuring or simply going bust.  This week it was the turn of licensed café chain Patisserie Valerie to admit defeat after rescue talks with banks failed, leaving administrators KPMG to announce that 71 outlets are set for immediate closure.  Come Friday, rumours were also circulating that stationery retailer Smiggle would follow suit as the company revealed it was lobbying landlords for rent cuts in a bid to reduce overheads.  One section of the retail market, however, appears to be bucking the January trend - thanks in no small measure (apparently) to 34 year old Japanese 'organizing consultant' Marie Kondo!  Charities including Barnado's, Age UK and the British Heart Foundation have all reported a surge in donations with many donors referencing Marie Kondo's Netflix series on de-cluttering your home as their inspiration.  The Japanese tidying guru's "KonMari" method encourages people to discard items which no longer "spark joy", promising a clean mind as well as a clean home.  So if you're surprised to see your local High Street charity shop suddenly stuffed full of designer clothing and shoes you now know why. 

In a week when Sir David Attenborough took centre stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos warning that humanity could "wreck the natural world", a group of scientists have set this year's Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight.  That is effectively two minutes to Armageddon!  Citing nuclear arms races, threats of a cyberattack and ongoing climate change, the clock’s minute hand has remained at its 2018 position; a record only rivalled in 1953 at the very depths of the Cold War.  Launched in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Doomsday Clock is used as a visual metaphor for how close the world is to a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe.  Each year, the Washington-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which oversees the clock, consults with a board of sponsors that includes 15 Nobel Laureates to analyse a wide array of threats, including nuclear risk, climate change and emerging technologies (and more recently Donald Trump's Presidency!), then determines where the hands should be set.  Since it was first created in 1947, the time has ranged from between 17 minutes to two minutes to midnight.  The Weekly has extracted two small positives from this otherwise rather doom-laden news.  Firstly, the direction of travel is not pre-determined and there is the possibility of "rewinding the clock", and secondly, we now have more to worry about than Brexit!