ANirbnb has just announced the biggest change to its site in a decade. The online accommodation market has redesigned its site to move away from “archaic” ways of booking, encouraging visitors to focus on the type of home they want to stay in rather than the destination. The home page now features labeled icons that connect you to barns, mansions, tree houses, domes, and even islands. It has also introduced “split stays” to make it easier to share your time between two locations.
I’ve just returned from Italy, where I indulged my Airbnb habit, and I hope this change, in part Airbnb’s response to over-tourism in certain places and the site’s role in inflating the cost of local rentals, is helpful. . It has always been a hard pill to swallow that my stays in New York or Paris have somehow contributed to increasing rental costs for locals. And yet, Airbnb has become an integral part of the way I and so many others travel. Frankly, I can’t go back to resorts and hotels, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I can only compromise my ethics for so long to feed my fascination with seeing what other people’s houses look like.
I take truths
like a regular Observer book reviewer, I can read a book in a few days if I have to, but lately I’ve been struggling to start anything other than for work. It seems that I can’t afford to immerse myself in a story without being seduced by a meme or some joke in my WhatsApp group chats.
Like a lot of people, I started reading a lot more during the pandemic. A quarter of UK adults have maintained their reading habits even after restrictions were eased, according to a new survey – but not me. I struggle to stay afloat in an ocean of unread books, but I can’t stop buying them. The ratio of books I am reading and buying is easily one to five.
Still, I’m trying not to feel too guilty about it. I have come to accept that disciplined reading is seasonal. When I worked at a gallery as a caretaker in my early 20s, I pushed the short story collections fiercely during my shifts. When I started a book club with friends, feminist texts were my lifeline. I’ve also gone months without touching a single book.
I put it all down to too much socializing and the fact that it’s been a stellar few months for celebrity scandals. I know the fire in me to finish a novel or memoir will return, if only to smugly share my “favorite books I’ve read in 2022” list on social media at the end of the year. What is the use of reading if it is not to feel that you are better than others?
It was frustrating to read about the West Indian domino players in London’s Maida Hill market square, who were summoned to court by Westminster City Council and accused of being too loud. It was heartbreaking to hear the story of Ernest Theophile, a 73-year-old man interviewed by the guardiantalking about how important the square is to him and how he and others are being threatened with jail time if they are caught “playing loud and amplified music, drinking alcohol and yelling and swearing”.
It’s hard not to see the whole thing as anti-black. (Whatever the reason, on Friday the central London county court found the council’s decision “wrong” and “untenable”.) Remember back in 2015 when a group of black women were kicked off a train ride of Napa Valley wine after they were said to be laughing. too tall? Different atmosphere, same feelings.
Personally, I think these gatherings, noise and all, are what the community is all about. To criminalize gatherings, laughter and fun is to erode the very culture that makes London London.