According to the Foreign Services Institute, the US government body that trains diplomats and soldiers in foreign languages, it takes between 575 and 600 hours to learn Spanish from scratch. Not to be fluent, but to attain level three, ‘general professional proficiency in reading and speaking’. I’ve been wanting to learn Spanish for a while now, so I sometimes think about that number when I’m watching TV, while simultaneously trying not to remember Robert Robinson’s maxim that anybody watching television has taken a ‘conscious decision to waste time’. For instance, I rewatched the first seven series of Game of Thrones, prior to the start of season eight on 15 April. Two complete viewings of Thrones is 146 hours. If I had skipped that, and also The Sopranos (86 hours), Breaking Bad (62 hours), The Wire (60 hours), Battlestar Galactica (84 hours) and Gilmore Girls (153 hours), I would now hablar español.
The first mistake I made when I joined the basketball team in Germany was admitting I spoke the language. It would have been weird not to – it would have been very weird. But sometimes over the course of the year, I imagined what it would be like for people around me (coaches, players) to talk naturally with each other in the expectation that I couldn’t understand them. It would have given me an edge.
The Report of the Children’s Employment Commission, published in 1842, was compiled by Dickens’s friend Richard Henry Horne. The result of a three-year investigation, it was unprecedented, not merely for the level of shocking detail and first-hand evidence, but because it was illustrated. And most of the 26 images were by Gillies.
Saturday’s Times carried on its front page a protracted complaint by the headmaster of Stowe School that Oxbridge was actively discriminating against the beneficiaries of private education, and that any complaint about the staggering overrepresentation of the privately educated in every avenue of British life was born of the same reasoning as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was a particularly inept rendition of a favoured right-wing talking point: that any analysis which talks in terms of groups or classes is already merrily chugging along to the gulag, with precious individuality flattened under its wheels.
On 31 March, Ekrem İmamoğlu of the opposition Turkish Republican Party (CHP) was elected mayor of Istanbul at the head of a National Alliance coalition. He was sworn in on 17 April, but removed from office this week when the Supreme Electoral Council announced that the vote will be re-run on 23 June.
İmamoğlu and the CHP will not have been unprepared for the decision. In a city of more than fifteen million people, he defeated the AKP candidate, Binali Yıldırım, by 23,000 votes at first tally. The government ordered a recount. To protect against tampering, polling station officials – supporters not of İmamoğlu so much as of Turkish democracy – slept next to the sacks of ballots waiting to be recounted. İmamoğlu’s majority was reduced to less than 14,000. But he had still won