Irritable people

Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate

Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner

Good morning,

My esteemed colleague Paul wrote yesterday about irritability and how our present situation leaves us sometimes without the necessary tools to abate it (you can read more of his fantastic piece here).

I too have been feeling cantankerous. In the absence of structure, I’ve been reaching for makeshift reference points: the Saturday morning trip to the bakery for fresh pain au chocolat, the midweek trip to the supermarket, the glass of wine on a Friday. But the issue with these is that they are wholly inadequate: the bakery is closed, have fun queuing for half an hour and, hello, you’ve had a drink every day but one this week.

To top it off, the social Zoom quizzes around which I hinged my life just two weeks prior have become an insufferable racket, my emotions swinging violently to and fro with every failed interjection like unwieldy saloon doors. Eye rolls, nippy comments and general harrumphs seem the only antidote to saying “oh sorry, you go” 40 times, feeling inadequate and slipping slowly out of the conversation like Homer Simpson retreating into a hedge.  

So yes, churlishness has become an irresistible itch. It is apparent that we can no longer rely on crummy activities and limp analogies to frame our existence in this weird, changed world.

Like the now totally clichéd insistence on referring to the “new normal”. Posed as some kind of shared framework, it implies not only that there exist common terms, routines, and regularities regardless of identity, but also that there was such a thing as a collective normal before this crisis.

If Sally Rooney has taught us anything, it’s that there is no normality; just very personal hopes, fears, needs, worries – and a whole lot of angst. She is spot on (and so is the BBC series, if you’ve not watched it yet).

This moment of intense, scary, precious introspection is probably why a quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown; why meditation app usage has spiked during the pandemic; and why people are increasingly falling back on activities that give them room to think, baking, sewing, painting up a storm.

We’re beginning to realise that real structure and meaning aren’t to be found via Zoom quiz, or at the bottom of a wine bottle. We are truly alone with ourselves for the first time.

How irritating…


Boris Johnson will review the UK’s coronavirus lockdown with his cabinet later, after suggesting some rules could be eased from Monday. By law the government must review the restrictions every three weeks, and Thursday marks the latest deadline. The prime minister will address the nation on Sunday to outline plans for the next stage of lockdown.

Being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for Covid-19, according to research based on data collected from hundreds of thousands of Britons. A team from Glasgow University analysed data from 428,225 people and found that as body mass index (BMI) increased, so did their risk of having a severe case of the disease. (£)

A gas leak at a chemical factory in southern India has killed at least nine people and injured hundreds. Police fear that the death toll could climb higher. The incident occurred during the early hours of this morning when families in surrounding villages were asleep. The leak was from two 5,000-tonne tanks that had been unattended due to India’s coronavirus lockdown in place since late March.

Business and economy

Liberty Global and Telefonica have reached an agreement to combine their British operations, O2 and Virgin Media, in a tie-up worth more than £24bn that is set to reshape the UK telecoms market.

Britain’s biggest banks are on course to report up to £25bn of loan losses this year because of a surge in borrower defaults as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (£)

The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at their current record-low level and stopped short of offering more bond-buying as it weighs up the impact of coronavirus on the economy. The central bank warned that the UK economy could shrink 14% in 2020 and that unemployment will rise sharply to around nine per cent over the next few months. 

Columns of note

Kaitlyn Tiffany explains how “Karen” became a coronavirus villain in this week’sAtlantic.A long-running meme, “Karen” is shorthand for a middle-aged white woman with a fierce bob haircut and a penchant for complaining, usually to restaurant managers. Amid the pandemic though, “Karen” has come to represent someone who is opposed to social distancing. The line between “Karen” and “not-Karen” is becoming increasingly pronounced and politicised – binary opposing groups are forming that didn’t exist before.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Phoebe Luckhurst argues that working from home has set women back years. Virtual meetings and increased messaging have robbed women of real-life verbal and facial cues, leading them back down the path of zealous politeness. Apologetic requests, repeated exclamation marks, and being afraid to interrupt mean that women are struggling to be heard.

Source: The New Yorker


What happened yesterday?

What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 crept 0.07% higher yesterday, outperforming the eurozone, while the FTSE 250 fell 0.69%. The world’s main stock markets brushed off data showing the extent of the economic damage wrought by measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.

Meanwhile the US dollar index was up for a third day in a row, which is putting pressure on both the euro and the pound.

In company news:

Broadcaster ITV has placed 800 workers on furlough following a 40% decline in advertising revenue over the last month. The FTSE 100 group said that it was aiming to cut overheads by £60 million this year — double its previous target — to help absorb the impact of Covid-19.

KKR recorded a net loss of $4.2bn in the first quarter as economic fallout from the pandemic cut in half its carried interest pot. Still, the buyout firm celebrated an 18% quarterly gain on its $3bn global infrastructure fund, which offloaded its largest investment to Swedish rival EQT weeks before the crisis struck.

Ride-sharing company Uber is to cut 3,700 jobs – roughly 14% of its corporate workforce – after lockdowns designed to control coronavirus upended the industry. In a staff memo, Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi warned additional cuts would be announced in due course as the company made “difficult adjustments” to match “the reality of our business”. (£)

Sales at Ocado have surged more than 40% in the past two months, with the grocer admitting that it cannot meet customer demand despite a return to “normal shopping behaviour”. Still, it is not all sunshine and rainbows at the online grocer. Investors expressed growing discontent over executive pay policies at yesterday’s AGM, with almost 30% opposed to the company’s remuneration report.

What's happening today?


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Trading Announcements


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Intercon. Hotel


Rsa Ins.



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UK economic announcements

(07:00) BoE Interest Rate Decision

(08:30) Halifax House Price Index

Int. economic announcements

(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)

(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

(20:00) Consumer Credit (US)

Source: The New Yorker

Did you know?

Greenland sharks have a minimum natural lifespan of 272 years - in 2016, researchers found one that was older than the USA.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

No business scheduled.

House of Lords

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Scottish Parliament

Members' virtual question time

Rural Economy and Tourism

Health and Sport