The Week in Review: Home News

SO THE recession is over. Just like that. In case the 2,940,800 unemployed and those still shackled by negative equity have not noticed, it passed away amid much political posturing on Thursday.

Suddenly John Major was being cheerful, John Smith was trying not to sound unpatriotically disappointed and Paddy Ashdown was probably silently cursing his luck with the Newbury by-election only two weeks away.

A spate of economic indicators brought relief to the Government and produced confident predictions about green shoots turning into hefty great trees. One man in the City even said that companies might regret last year's widespread sackings.

Unemployment has dropped by 26,000, car production is up, so is business confidence and house sales are said to be improving. But the surest indicator of all was the alarming sight of Norman Lamont, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, smiling.

There were no smiles in Waco, Texas, where the FBI bungled the end of the seven-week siege of the headquarters of the Branch Davidian sect even more spectacularly than the authorities had the beginning. Among the 86 members of David Koresh's cult who died were 24 Britons.

A mother and her four children from Manchester were among those who died as the FBI smashed holes in the building and pumped in tear gas before the ranch was engulfed by a so far unexplained fire.

In Britain, religious problems are mercifully of a gentler kind. The Anglo-Catholic incense-swinging wing of the Church of England is finding the move towards women priests unacceptable and is heading briskly in the direction of Rome.

As English and Welsh Roman Catholic bishops discussed how to accommodate the discontented Anglicans, including their married priests, Ann Widdecombe, the social security minister, decided not to wait. She received her first communion as a Roman Catholic in the crypt of the House of Commons. The lesson was read by John Gummer, the Minister of Agriculture, who may soon follow her.

Perhaps the most surprising story of the week was the assertion that cold baths, long recommended for calming the more feverish desires of public school boys, may actually increase people's sex drive.

It is not known whether Bill Wyman, the former Rolling Stones guitarist, has ever adopted the chilly treatment suggested by the Thrombosis Research Institute in London, but there is no sign that the old rocker, now 56, is calming down.

On Wednesday, Mr Wyman married Suzanne Accosta, his third wife, and, in the title of the band's hit song, vowed it would be 'the last time'. Meanwhile, his son from his first marriage is to marry the mother of his second wife.

Quite the most unsurprising story of the week was the news that passenger services through the Channel tunnel will be delayed for another year. Everybody involved blamed everyone else so, as they say on the other side, plus ca change.