Notes and shorts from around the world


British beans make French exit
To grasp the impact of Brexit you could do worse than study the unlikely love affair between Marks & Spencer and France.
It opened a store in Paris in 1975, the first of 18 large French outlets, and despite teething problems (marmalade pots were labelled sans préservatifs – “without condoms”) became an ambassador for the British way of life and underwear. But after a while, the French tired of M&S clothes (“comfortable but not very elegant...
irretrievably English”, as one disillusioned consumer put it), leading the retailer to close all its stores in 2001. Yet the French still retained a soft spot for M&S delicacies, notably baked beans (haricots à la sauce tomate), scotch eggs (viande aux œufs) and mini sausages. Ever since, a small chain of M&S food outlets has done a roaring trade. Thanks to Brexit-induced customs rules, such goodies can no longer roll into France from the main M&S depot in Northampton unimpeded. The French shelves are empty. Brexit was meant to deliver a “new Global Britain,” but one of its first achievements may be the eviction of the British sausage from France.
There’s an app for that...
The world’s biggest plumbing firm has launched a smart lavatory that claims to monitor users’ physical and mental wellbeing by analysing their waste, and scanning their bodies. The Wellness Toilet – unveiled by Japanese firm Toto at the Consumer Electronics Show – then sends its “wellness improvement” recommendations to an app.
Squirrel terrorist
Residents of a neighbourhood in New York are being “terrorised by a highly aggressive squirrel”. At least three people in Rego Park, Queens, have been bitten by the “deranged” animal of late, including Micheline Frederick, who was attacked last month. “The squirrel ran up my leg... the next thing I knew the blood started to fly,” she said. “It was angry, vicious and incredibly strong.” City officials have now hired
a trapper to apprehend the squirrel.
Historic cinema restoration
Paignton Picture House in Devon – believed to be the first purpose built cinema in Europe – is to be restored to its former glory, with the aid of a £200,000 English Heritage grant. First, the hoarding covering the building will be removed, and its stained glass window and stonework will be repaired; then, work will start inside. Opened in 1907, the cinema was Agatha Christie’s favourite. She would book two seats, one for herself, the other for her butler who served her drinks during the film.
Bons mots
“Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.” – David Cornwell (aka John le Carré), British author and former spy


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