Crowdfunding – risky business

I wrote back in November 2015 about my first tentative foray into investing through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.

I’ve now made several small punts on the following businesses, all of whom raised funding through the Crowdcube platform:

  1. Alexi – a curated book app
  2. Vulpine – cycling apparel brand
  3. Chilango – Mexican fast food
  4. Cauli Rice – healthy food
  5. One Rebel – funky gyms
  6. Five Point Nine – coffee subscription
  7. Simply Cook – recipe kits

And one through the Syndicate Room platform:

  1. Lobster – digital photo marketplace

These are all equity crowdfunded investments. Separately, I’ve also put small amounts into a couple of crowdfunded mini-bonds, debt funding for businesses a little further along the growth curve:

  1. The Bondi Bond – a chain of Aussie style cafés (11% interest rate)
  2. Brewdog – craft beer (6.5% interest rate)

I’ve also been to investor events at Crowdcube and Syndicate Room, to meet the management teams and to network (ugh!) with other investors and some of the entrepreneurs pitching their businesses and investment opportunities.

I’m under no illusions about how risky this brave new world of crowdfunding is, as I noted in my November article. But you’d expect Crowdcube – and all the other crowdfunding platforms – to carry out a minimum level of due diligence before putting opportunities in front of investors. Especially as they’re regulated by the FCA.

But stumbling on this blog from Rob Murray Brown – fantasy equity crowdfunding – reveals some serious concerns about this brave new world of crowdfunding. It’s not surprising that he shines the brightest light on Crowdcube – the oldest and largest UK platform – which as of today claims to have raised £148.5m for 378 completed campaigns, from 267,169 investors currently registered with them.

If some of RMB’s accusations have merit, crowdfunding could be the next financial services disaster in the UK. So far, I’ve only invested small amounts that I’m prepared to lose. I hope one or two successes exceed the inevitable losses on most, and I have a bit of fun along the way, but – if I take off my rose-tinted glasses – that’s probably unlikely.

With the current levels of publicity and momentum behind crowdfunding – and historically low interest rates on traditional savings vehicles – there’s a real risk that naive investors might lose a significant proportion of their wealth.

I’m thinking about starting a separate blog myself to dig deeper into this burgeoning world, so that I can understand it better and to try and help others along the way.

What do you think? Potentially interesting and useful….or will everyone just continue to follow the crowd?

Movie review – Midnight Special

Are you one of those people who likes certainty in life….or do you thrive on being surprised?

If you find that elusive, magical holiday nirvana one year, do you return again and again….or do you constantly look for somewhere new, and hopefully even better?

It was time for another Screen Unseen at the Odeon tonight. They gave the usual cryptic clues on Facebook, but what really gave it away was an email from them yesterday saying: we can’t wait to welcome you at ODEON Guildford tomorrow for MIDNIGHT SPECIAL!

So not a great surprise when the credits rolled and Midnight Special was announced by the British Board of Censors. Note to the marketing guys at the Odeon……get your Screen Unseen email distribution sorted!

I’m not normally a science fiction fan, and for the first hour or so the film plays out as a conventional thriller and then as a road movie, a father abducting his son from a weird cult at a remote Texan ranch.

But gradually the other-worldly pieces fall into place: the 8 year-old boy Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has mysterious powers. His adoptive father Calvin Meyer (Sam Shephard) is the persuasive leader of the cult, and they believe Alton is their prophet. The FBI – and other US security forces – become involved when some of Alton’s messages replicate confidential state information.

The plot descends further into sci-fi realms as Alton’s real father Roy (Michael Shannon) reunites him with his mother Sarah (played by an unglamorous Kirsten Dunst), and spooky things start happening to the moody landscape of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.

The dramatic dénouement is reminiscent of Close Encounters, ET and War of the Worlds.

It didn’t float my movie boat, but the cinematography alone was worth the (cheap) ticket price. The writer and director Jeff Nichols elicits good performances from the boy and from Adam Driver, as enlightened Fed agent Paul Sevier, in particular, but overall it wasn’t an out-of-this-world movie experience for me.

Does that mean I won’t risk another Screen Unseen? Of course not. I’ll be there. As long as they don’t spoil the surprise again….

 

Muslim madness

Gill and I went to Paris late in 2015, just two weeks after the so-called Islamic State terror squads had wreaked havoc there through a series of murderous attacks on soft civilian targets, one normal Friday evening.

Outside the Bataclan club, a moving message from a victim's parent

Now further atrocities have been committed in Brussels, by IS suicide bombers linked to the Paris attacks.

These incursions strike at the heart of Europe, developed western economies and non-Muslim religions. But two other unrelated attacks, since the Brussels outrage, have shocked me even more.

Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in the Shawlands area of Glasgow, was by all accounts a kindly man. He was also a Muslim.

Asad Shah

Last Thursday he was murdered outside his shop, shortly after posting a message to his customers on Facebook: “Good Friday and a very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation.”

Tanveer Ahmed, 32, from Bradford in Yorkshire, was accused today of murdering Mr. Shah. Police Scotland had previously described the incident as a religiously prejudiced attack and said both men were Muslims.

The implication is clear: one Muslim took deep offence at another extending the hand of friendship to Christian friends during their own religious festival.

On Easter Sunday, in Pakistan’s Lahore, the city’s minority Christian community was celebrating at a funfair. Suicide bombers detonated their deadly loads and killed at least 72 people, including 29 children and many women.

Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it carried out the attack against Christians celebrating Easter. Ironically, many Muslims were also killed.

It seems that the so-called Islamic State and its far-flung acolytes will not rest until all non-Muslim religions are eradicated.

I fear the war – for that is now what we face – is only just beginning.

Movie review – High Rise

What greater honour can there be for an artist than to have a generic term attached to their life’s work? Apart from awards and royalty cheques, obviously.

Ballardian is a recognised term for the total literary output of J. G. Ballard. Born in Shanghai in 1930, he died in 2009 and achieved a huge amount in between.

Whilst at Cambridge University, he studied medicine with an intention of becoming a psychiatrist. His exposure to art, anatomy and psycho-analysis shaped his thinking, and future writing, as did a love of science fiction, read whilst training with the RAF in Canada in 1955-56.

His book High Rise, first published in 1975, is now the inspiration for a new film, written by Amy Jump and directed by Ben Wheatley.

Tom Hiddleston – the next Mr. Bond? – plays Dr. Robert Laing, a physiologist who has just moved into a 40-storey modernist apartment block. He seems to be alone, having recently lost his sister, and we see nothing of him outside his pristine apartment and work, where he graphically dissects human brains for his students.

We’re introduced to some of the other occupants of his new home. The enigmatically sexy Charlotte – surprisingly well played by Sienna Miller – is Charlotte, immediately above him. Down in the bowels of the building is the manic Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), and his abused, pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men fame, but with an impeccable English accent here).

The premise of the story is laid bare when Dr. Lang is whisked off to the lavish penthouse apartment to meet Anthony Royal, the architect of this brutalist building (played by a God-like Jeremy Irons). The sprawling roof-top gardens, including a beautiful white horse, are a sop to his ice-cool wife Ann (Keeley Hawes). But at a decadent party, the posh inhabitants of the upper floors humiliate Robert, and the die is cast.

As the power fails, so does the social fabric of the building. The block descends into class warfare, and the movie into an allegorical abyss.

If you like to see rape, violence, a severed ear with a dangling ear-ring, a slow-motion suicide jump and much more, you’ll lap High Rise up.

Robert tries to stay semi-detached, even as the mayhem around him escalates. But when he refuses to perform a lobotomy on Richard for the upper-floor aristos, and screws Helen, he is most definitely involved.

This movie works on many levels, but on none of them for me, I’m afraid.

Ballardian literature is hallucinogenic, apocalyptic, dystopian, bleak science-fiction. I’d prefer to remember the undoubtedly brilliant writer more for his auto-biographical Empire of the Sun, than for High Rise or Crash.

 

Book review – The Road to Little Dribbling

The first Bill Bryson book I read was Neither Here Nor There. Actually, it was very good and I really enjoyed it.

Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe

Published in 1992, it was his second travel book, after he had dissected his native America in The Lost Continent.

In NHNT, he rediscovers Europe, replicating a journey he had made as a student 20 years earlier. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, cementing The Bryson Template: witty, episodic and opinionated, yet educational and perceptive, skewering a country’s weaknesses but lauding its quirkiness and achievements.

Notes from a Small Island, published in 1996, used The Template to tell the world why he loved Britain so much…before he decamped with his family back to the US for a few years.

Notes from A Small Island

Another 20 years on – safely repatriated and now more English than a chicken tikka masala – Mr Bryson has written The Road to Little Dribbling. Zig-zagging his way – on foot and by public transport, wherever possible – from  Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, it’s a revealing sequel to Neither Here Nor There.

He still has that unerring ability to weave together keen observation, social history and humour as deftly as an artist mixes paint on a palette.

Salcombe is smart and prosperous and jaunty. Everyone was dressed like a Kennedy at Hyannisport. I had to get a jumper out of my bag and tie it around my neck to keep people from staring. They all had a robust, healthy sea-sprayed look about the. These people didn’t walk from place to place, they bounded.

The main street in Salcombe is Fore Street. The Daily Telegraph has deemed it the sixth coolest in Britain. I have no idea how they make such an assessment, though I suspect, this being the Telegraph, that it has little to do with science or much real thought. The shops were unquestionably upmarket. At the Casse-Croute deli, the special of the day was Brie and asparagus tart made with organic cider, which I was pleased and relieved to see. How often have I had to decline a Brie and asparagus tart because the cider wasn’t organic. 

Call me an unreconstructed savage, but the sooner we get back to a national diet of chips with gravy and that sort of thing the better it will suit me. In my day every restaurant meal started with prawn cocktail and finished with Black Forest gateau and we were all a lot happier, believe me.

But Mr Bryson revels in portraying himself as a bit of a grumpy old git in this book, yearning for the England of old. I suppose his National Treasure status has earned him the right, but I did sometimes feel like he was jumping on his soap box a little too often. Rudeness, poor service, litterbugs, TV celebrities, planning regulations, incorrect punctuation and grammar, gastro pubs, boutique hotels. The list of soft targets wounded by his hard words is almost endless.

“…the boy was gone and the crisp packet was on the ground. There was a bin three feet away. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that if Britain is ever to sort itself out, it is going to require a lot of euthanasia.”

“But then, I suppose, that is the thing about the internet. It is just an accumulation of digital information, with no brains and no feelings – just like an IT person, in fact.”

He loves our countryside, our traditions, our history. He spends more time in pubs and coffee shops than I do. He’s an avid walker. And he has a mastery of the English language like few others. All things about him I greatly admire. I just hope he doesn’t lose his mojo, like a football legend staying on for one season too many.

Tennis equality

Caution – minefield ahead!

I know this is an explosive subject, but I’m afraid I’ll self-combust if I don’t add my fourpenny worth. Which is a whole lot less than any professional tennis player – male or female – gets for lacing up their highly sponsored shoes these days.

The hoary old argument about equal pay in tennis has been reignited by the crass comments from Raymond Moore, a 69 year-old South African and former player himself. As Chief Executive of Indian Wells, the most recent venue on the professional tour, he said: “the women’s game rides on the coat-tails of the men. Female players should get down on their knees every day in thanks to Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.”

He’s no longer the Chief Executive. But he has apologised.

The words he chose to express his opinion were really stupid. The point he was trying to make isn’t.

Serena Williams, the modern game’s most successful female player, and Martina Navratilova, an all-time great, piled in to cut off Mr Moore’s head and stick it on the umpire’s chair, in the midday heat. Martina said his comments were “extremely prejudiced”, and threatened that female players would boycott Indian Wells in future if Mr Moore didn’t resign.

But Novak Djokovic, the Serbian world number one mens player, came out fighting…as he always does.

Winner at Indian Wells again this year, he said: “male tennis players should earn more money than their female counterparts because more people watch them play.”

He also commented: “women fought for what they deserve and they got it”, but he claimed prize money should be “fairly distributed based on who attracts more attention, spectators and who sells more tickets”.

There has been equal prize money in all four Grand Slam events – the Australian Open, US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – since 2007, and combined Masters events such as Indian Wells and Miami pay the same to men and women.

But is that really appropriate…or just another example of political correctness winning out over common sense?

Let’s look at some facts:

  • the UK TV viewing numbers for the Wimbledon finals in 2015 were: mens’ 9.2 million; womens’ 4.3 million
  • in the 2014 Wimbledon finals, another epic battle between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic went the distance – 5 sets – and lasted 4 minutes short of 4 hours; in the ladies’ final, Petra Kvitova defeated Eugenie Bouchard 6-3 6-0 in 55 minutes
  • prices for resold tickets for the women’s match were less than 20% of the men’s
  • Djokovich & Kvitova each won £1.76m – £7,457 for each minute played by Novak, and a whopping £32,000 for every 60 seconds Petra was on court that day in SW19

Sure, I’m being selective with my statistics, but the key point remains: women play a maximum of 3 sets in Grand Slams, men play 5. If women also played 5, an equal job would clearly justify equal pay. Just like it does – rightly so – in the workplace, or any other arena of modern life.

Matthew Syed – the excellent Sunday Times journalist – lays bare the madness of equal tennis pay in his bravely worded article yesterday:

There is a “vast gulf in interest that exists between the men’s and women’s game. The latest WTA (womens’) media deal is worth £365 million over ten years; the ATP (mens’) is estimating £904 million revenues over the same period.”

“Every right-minded person would agree that a woman should earn the same as a man for doing the same job, say in an office. But top male players are effectively doing a different job. They are persuading more of the public to pay through the turnstiles and on TV. Why should they have to cede this income to female counterparts?”

“And what would this mean beyond tennis? Should top-flight female footballers, who secure gates of a few hundred, earn the same as men, who play in front of tens of thousands and have secured multibillion-pound TV deals? And let us look at the reverse perspective too. Would it not be absurd for Gisele Bündchen to give up her income to male models who earn less, just because they have the same formal job title?”

See, I told you it was dangerous ground.

(image courtesy of dreamstime.com).

Ultimately, market forces and common sense should surely prevail. But – in my humble opinion – in the sensitive area of equal pay for professional tennis players in major tournaments, they haven’t. Political correctness has won another game.

Ticket pricing

Australian Open 2016 Men’s final $395 for category 3 seating, Women’s final $195 for category 3 seating

French Open 2016 Men’s final from 130 euros, Women’s final from 85 euros

Wimbledon 2016 Men’s final from £160, Women’s final from £133

 

 

Stella

You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you pull on a favourite sweater in the bleak midwinter? Or slip into a dressing gown one size too big after a long, deep, steamy bath?

Well, have you seen Stella? You know…the gentle, warm, cuddly, funny yet poignant TV series set in the fictitious Welsh village of Pontyberry?

The final episode of the 5th series has just aired on Sky One.

Gill and I feel suitably warm and fuzzy, but also bereft that our weekly comfort blanket has been snatched from our clammy grasp. Especially as there will apparently be a hiatus before the next series.

Conceived by Ruth Jones, she plays the central character Stella Morris, a lovable, slightly overweight Welsh Mum who lurches from one doomed love affair to another. But she’s as different from Nessa – of Gavin & Stacey fame – as David Cameron is from Mr Corbyn. Clever, these actors.

The story lines are funny, sad, preposterously far-fetched and yet somehow totally believable, thanks to the quality of the acting and the always evolving panoply of whacky supporting characters. The writing is as razor sharp as the Welsh rugby team’s back line in the 1970s.

If you’ve never been lucky enough to become addicted to Stella, there are too many story threads and characters to describe here. But – and look away now if you don’t want to know the full time result – this brief summary of the final episode of the latest series should give you a good idea why we’ve fallen so deeply in love with Stella.

Michael – the Arabic-speaking lawyer who was working in London but has now set up a temporary office in the allotment shed back in Pontyberry – has agreed to marry Stella. Is this finally true love?

Rob Morgan – the smooth and successful businessman who is the father of Stella’s oldest child Luke, but who moved to Canada for years – is now back in Pontyberry because of heart problems and is still in love with Stella himself.

Beyonce – the scheming young slapper who slept with Michael one drunken night – has changed her mind about who is the father of her young baby. Michael was going to sue for custody, but is now forced to hear the results of a paternity test live on the Welsh equivalent of the Jeremy Kyle show. Sitting opposite the other contestant, the local unemployed thicko.

Emma, Stella’s daughter – I’ve lost track of who her father is  – has recently returned from India, with her happy hippy “husband” Oak, a spiritual sham. Oh, and she really did marry a local Indian lad while still at school and they had a baby girl.

Ben – the youngest of Stella’s children, from when she was married to lovable, gormless Karl – is still at school and is head-over-heels in love with the girlfriend of his best friend, Little Al. Who’s far from little.

Karl’s wife Nadine Bevan – outwardly a rouged, high-heeled air-head – is sensually awoken by newcomer Ivan Schloss, the mysterious tango-dancing, sentence-reordering, lovelorn undertaker.

And that’s barely scratched the surface of plot or characters.

The end is a beautiful mixture of elation and sadness, tugging at our emotions like the final few minutes of a tight Wales v England game at the Millennium Stadium.

Don’t leave it too long, Stella. We miss you already.

 

Tennis – and drugs

I love tennis.

Watching a close match between two top professionals at one of the Grand Slams is like seeing a gunslinging shoot-out in Dodge City. Or gladiators standing toe-to-toe in the Colosseum, until the death.

It’s raw, almost primeval, entertainment.

Often a draining experience for spectators, for the players it must be as physically – and mentally – exhausting as running a marathon. Or being Boris Johnson’s barber.

In a Grand Slam tournament, spread over two weeks, you should get a free day before your next match. But for Davis Cup ties, and regular tournaments, you could well be out on court the day after a gruelling gun fight.

So the ability of your creaking body to recover becomes critical.

Meldonium is used to treat ischaemia, a lack of blood flow to parts of the body. Particularly in cases of angina or heart failure. It carries more oxygen to blood tissue. It increases exercise capacity for athletes, and improves their recovery time.

Unless you’ve been shacked up at a Nick Bollettieri training camp all week, you’ll know that Maria Sharapova came clean, as it were, on Monday that she had tested positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

As a result, she has been provisionally suspended from the sport and is likely to receive a potentially career-ending ban.

But in a bravura media performance – worthy of an early nomination for next year’s Oscars? – she pleaded her innocence:

  • It was prescribed to me by my family doctor, and I’ve been taking it for 10 years. Really, Maria? Was that for your lifelong heart problem? Oh no, perhaps it was the family diabetes history. My, you’ve done well in the circumstances…
  • I knew it as mildronate, not meldonium. Oh, come on. You have a highly paid team of medics, nutritionists, physios and sports scientists on your Kremlin-sized payroll. They must have known that WADA had pre-warned in September 2015 it would be added to the banned substance list from 1st January 2016

Excuse my cynicism. It is possible that this has all been a terrible, innocent oversight. But Maria Sharapova has been the world’s highest paid female athlete – not just tennis player – for 10 years. She has a PR team that would devour Donald Trump’s…and he’s on the verge of becoming leader of the free world. She controls every aspect of her sweet Sugarpova life. Monday’s performance smacked of damage limitation, from the sombre black outfit, to the subdued lighting, and the mea culpa before the tennis authority’s own outing of her transgression.

Tennis is under pressure. At the Australian Open this year, a report from the BBC and Buzzfeed alleged that widespread match-fixing has been taking place. And that the authorities have been covering it up.

In the wake of the Sharapova Meldonium scandal, Rafa Nadal has had to deny ever taking performance-enhancing drugs. And people have drawn attention to the genteel nature of the sport 20 years ago – all wooden rackets and gentle rallies – compared with the modern game’s full-on, snarling, physical brutality.

I’m afraid I doubt Maria’s innocence. She should – and will – receive a ban. 4 years for confirmed abuse, 2 years if the independent review believes her back-story.

The game will miss her.

The real question is how much wider is performance-enhancing drug abuse.

And how can we now really know if Novak Djokovic’s 5-set victory over Andy Murray at the 2016 US Open Final in September – saving 4 match points in the 4th set before winning in a gruelling, gladiatorial match lasting almost 5 hours – is clean, or substance-enhanced?

 

Book review – I Saw A Man

I’m eternally grateful to Mr Ingram, my English A-Level teacher at Sir Roger Manwood’s school in the early 1970s. For it was he who gave me the lifelong gift of a love of books and literature.

And – minutes after absorbing the final word of I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers – what greater gift can there be?

owen_large_feb-15

Owen is a poet, novelist and playwright. And I Saw A Man is undoubtedly the work of an exceptional talent.

I Saw A Man

Writer Michael Turner returns to London after losing his war-reporter wife Caroline in a US drone attack near the Pakistan border with Afghanistan.

An unlikely friendship with the Nelson family, his new Hampstead neighbours, unexpectedly helps the grieving process. Until the tragedy which Michael unwittingly triggers one sun-baked summer afternoon, entering the Nelson’s unlocked house in search of a lent screwdriver.

This core event of the book doesn’t take place until well over 100 pages of the languorous, but simultaneously taut, story have pulled us towards it, like a patient butterfly collector stalking his fluttering prey.

The characters come to vivid life through backward and forward projection of time and place, the author teasing us into his trap with deliciously poetic prose.

He continued to field their questions, answering Tony, Josh, Janera as fully as he could. He hadn’t talked this much for months. As he did, his imaginings of what Caroline would have said too, had she been there, shadowed his words. And then what she’d have said later too, as they walked home together, or got into bed; what she’d have said about the people they’d met. How she’d have described them, judged them, done impressions of them; Maddy’s imperial stance, Josh’s eager hosting. 

Whenever Michael thought of Caroline like this, projecting their past into an impossible present, although he had trouble seeing her he could always hear her voice clearly. Even now, beneath the crowded talk in the Nelsons’ front room, he could hear her, like a subterranean stream running under a city. Her laugh. Her migrating swallow of an accent, her low whisper in his ear, telling him it was time to go.

I Saw A Man is about love and loss, guilt and redemption, friendship and a blurring of morality and purpose. And much, much more, with every sentence as perfectly constructed as the Nelsons’ opulent north London town house.

The writer gives an interesting insight on his website to the process with which he wrote this outstanding book. It had a gestation period of seven years, during which the plot and characters marinaded gently in his imagination – searching for the book’s voice – before a frenzied three months of writing the first draft, living with the characters in a very intense way.

The process undoubtedly worked. As one reviewer astutely observed: this book is a prize in itself.

Thank you, Owen Sheers.

And thank you, Mr Ingram.

It’s a New Day

I used to enjoy the enforced downtime commuting from Godalming to London. For more than 20 years, I devoured a newspaper during the 45 minute trip on South West Trains.

I could have dozed. Or listened to music. Or just thought. But reading printed news was a good way to absorb the daily machinations of life.

Going home it was the Evening Standard. In the morning the Daily Telegraph was my fix, bought more for its excellent business, sports and features sections – and the cunningly cryptic crossword – than its political views, which are slightly right of Attila the Hun.

More recently, I migrated to the i, an inspired cut-down version of The Independent, responding to the shorter attention-span of readers in the digital age. I could read the i almost from cover to cover – and dash off the crossword – in exactly 45 minutes. And it’s been so successful that that the i has just been sold for £25m.

But of course all print media – whether newspapers, magazines or books – continue to succumb to the digital revolution. If I caught my old 06:44 from Godalming now, I dare say the rustling of the Times and Torygraph pages has been almost completely replaced by the soft swiping of commuters’ well-manicured fingers across iPad & Kindle screens.

So it’s a bit of a surprise that the Mirror Group has just launched its own mini-paper, aping the i and called the New Day. Its USP? It will report with an upbeat, optimistic approach and will be politically neutral.

I headed up to London yesterday – much later in the day than all those commuting years – and Daisy’s Cafe had sold all their copies of the i. What the hell, I thought, let’s try the New Day and see if it perks me up.

At 25p for the 2-week trial period – doubling to 50p thereafter – its 40 pages were disappointing. I’m trying hard to be objective and not too sniffy, but frankly it’s just a bit, well, flimsy. Shallow. Lightweight. And I didn’t feel particularly uplifted after I’d read it.

The explicit feel-good attempts are a 5 Smiles piece, and comedian Justin Moorhouse wittily describing the scary reality of bringing up kids.

The New Day is soft on hard news, but I was grabbed – on International Womens’ Day – by an insightful interview with Gloria Steinem, the iconic 81 year-old feminist. And also by a stunning double-page aerial photo of thousands of hungry war-torn South Sudanese patiently queueing for food in searing heat – the bigger picture.

I enjoyed the duelling opinioneers page on is it time to ban bawling brats from our planes? “In a heartbeat” according to a travel writer, “what nonsense” believes the Deputy Editor.

But coverage of sports, business, foreign news, food and other newspaper staples is as thin as Donald Trump’s hair.

And what was really disappointing were the typos. I expected more from professional journalists, and a brand new paper trying to make an impression. I spotted several cock-ups without really trying:

  • in a nice article on a 40 year-old Mum reluctantly back on the dating scene, she says: “I found the courage up to slip on some sequins and celebrate. At the end of the night I had a epiphany….”
  • in a what-ism sidebar article on the crisis hitting launderettes: “the big fear is that government plans to introduce new permitted development rights would allow launderettes be changed into shops….”
  • and in the opinioneers piece on bawling brats flying, Deputy Editor Dawn Alford quotes Jean Paul Satre. I could have sworn he was Monsieur Sartre...

Alison Phillips is the Editor. In her welcome to Tuesday editorial, she extols the virtues of New Day’s astrologer, Jan Jacques, and her daily Your Stars column. “It’s been one of the biggest hits so far. Turn to page 28 for a different – and very funny – approach to looking into your future.”

So I did.

For Taureans “today may feel unfairly challenged. Whether it’s the canteen running out of cock-a-leekie, or your Sky Box failing to record Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, you WILL persevere. Steer clear of men playing nose flutes.”

If I were still commuting, I probably WOULDN’T persevere with the New Day.