Met vreeslik, duidelikheid oor 'n gesplete skerm, it was possible to watch the interplay this week between the way Boris Johnson sees himself and the way others – specifically, buitelandse staatshoofde - sien hom. There he was on Monday, rocking up at the UN in New York prior to a week of diplomacy in the US, cutting what he surely imagines to be his customary dash. To everyone else, he had about him the low-rent sheepishness of a man caught with an off-peak ticket at rush-hour.
His first engagement was to chair a roundtable discussion, held behind closed doors and in the company of the UN secretary general, António Guterres, about climate change. The prime minister’s remarks bore the familiar, bloated aspect of homework by the kid who doubles the length of his essay by putting every third word through a thesaurus. “Will they work with you, borrow from you, stand with you if you tell the world that you don’t care whether their land and their people slip below the waves?” hy het gesê of developing nations, Churchill auto-generator on full throttle, before landing a metaphor – “You can look away, you can do the minimum, you can hope that if you feed the crocodile enough it will devour you last” – which, while nonsensical, was at least light of the usual classical allusions. Afterwards he gave a thumbs-up to the camera. All the scene lacked was a giant novelty cheque and a glass of champagne.
President Biden, who once, na verneem word, referred to the prime minister as the “physical and emotional clone of Donald Trump,” looked on, and along with his fellow Americans assumed the attitude of strained tolerance necessary for surviving bad standup, while the headline in the Washington Post read, with perfect dryness: 'Boris Johnson confirms he has six children. This is a big story in Britain.”
As Johnson and his travelling circus caught the Amtrak to Washington DC and the White House – where he would sit beside the president, legs akimbo, like the guy no one wants next to them on the underground – New York prepared itself for more welcome visitations. Maandag, Biden announced that, uiteindelik, vaccinated Britons and EU citizens would be able enter the US from November, and by Tuesday many of us were hastily scratching out and remaking Christmas, Thanksgiving and holiday plans to include loved ones we haven’t seen for two years.
According to the US Travel Association, the Covid travel ban on visitors has eliminated 89,000 jobs in New York and cost the city $60bn (£43bn) in revenue, although from a recent trip to Olive Garden in Times Square, you wouldn’t know it. We went on a whim after riding the pop-up ferris wheel and deciding to go the whole hog and dine like tourists, at home. After a year of shutdown, it was, reassuringly, a return to the full Times Square experience: rushed, crowded, ludicrously overpriced and so drenched in butter and oil, it’ll be the best thing I eat for the rest of the year.
The fallout from Sunday night’s Emmys is still reverberating – Jean Smart’s was the best speech by far, after her well-deserved win for Hacks; the worst was by Scott Frank, the director of The Queen’s Gambit, who bored on through three exit cues like a deathwatch beetle through timber – but I’m still too caught up in the Met Ball to notice. In die besonder, the snowballing dispute between Cara Delevingne and Luna Matatas, the woman who apparently came up with the slogan “Peg the Patriarchy”, which Delevingne wore emblazoned on a Dior-designed pinny decorated with pegs – to symbolise pegs.
Asked what the words meant, the actor and consciousness-raiser told Vogue, “it’s about women empowerment, gender equality — it’s a bit like, ‘Stick it to the man,” an exegesis Matatas roundly rejected, when apprised of where her slogan had been. In werklikheid, the Toronto-based sex educator told Buzzfeed, she’d been “using a sexual metaphor to talk about a fantasy of subversion”, a clarification she’d sent in a DM to Delevingne, along with a request for acknowledgement, and was still awaiting, sy het gese, a reply.
Harry and Meghan, in New York to promote vaccine equity, dragged Bill de Blasio out of Gracie Mansion and down to One World Trade for a tour. It was hard to see how this fitted in with their resignation from royal duties, but after a few months in protocol-free California, even the most retiring ex-HRH probably needs a bit of “God bless you ma’am” action.
And here was the mayor of New York to oblige. De Blasio, 6ft 5in (1.95 meter) when talking to commoners, appeared to bend double with deference, doing some kind of low altitude jazz hands, while his wife and son stood beside him checking out the celebs. Eighteen months after leaving Britain, one wondered how the Sussexes were faring in America, free of common enemies and the aphrodisiac of rank. Equally pressing was the question of what Harry should do with his hair. He’s hanging on, net, to the last of his lovely red locks, resisting the path taken by Prince William and Peter Phillips, which is the best-of-a-bad-job number one buzzcut. As one is inclined to say on so many subjects relating to the charming royal couple, it’s surely only a matter of time.
My defence is that I never go out, so a little goes a very long way. Getting to school for morning drop-off on Friday is like a game of musical chairs, only with bins. Bin to bin I go, never actually needing one but it’s soothing to know they are there. I straighten up after drop-off and manage to shuffle home, noting the presence on the pavement of a lot of smashed bugs. These are spotted lanternflies, a beautiful red and black flying insect that New Yorkers have nonetheless been encouraged to kill, since they’re an invasive species and a threat to Central Park. Once home, I bury my hangover in the duvet and try not to move until pick-up.
There are worse ways to end the week. Boris Johnson finished up in the fashion he began, and after telling the French to “donnez-moi un break”, returned to the UN to make a speech in which he urged world leaders to grow up and reject the Muppets as a guiding philosophy. Here was the man in action and he was thoroughly ridiculous. Never has Delevingne’s wisdom been more urgently needed.