Susie Rushton: I'm ashamed by our sneaky, racist press

Urban notebook: One paper had the good grace to print/bury her straightforward thanks
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The Independent Online

We've been invited into their fabulous home, just down the road in Acton, several times over the past few days. Pausing to admire the "what appears to be silk" cushions and the "Persian-style rug", a Nintendo Wii console "complete with extra games costing £40 each", we then gathered around the star attraction, a 50-inch television "worth £1,500 ... [but procured] 'Cheap off a friend'".

This is, of course, the seven-bedroom abode of Toorpaki Saiedi, an Afghan single-mother of seven who fled the Taliban in 2001 and now lives here, on social security. Our hosts on these guided tours? The tabloid press at its inflammatory worst. in case you missed it, hacks inveigled their way into her modestly decorated home, slyly pricing up each item with a precision that suggested a successful future career in repossession. Going by the proud smile on Mrs Saiedi's face, as she posed for photos with her two younger children, she was unaware of the "angle" those newspapers planned to take. The racist, shit-stirring angle.

Never mind that Mrs Saiedi appears to be highly deserving of asylum, and needs a seven-bedroom house because her kids are too old to share rooms; that she is diligently learning English; that she struggles to pay bills; nor that, thanks to the ludicrous property boom in the capital, £1.2m pounds doesn't actually buy "a mansion" – even as prices fall, that'd hardly get you a two-bedroom flat in Notting Hill. it does however buy a pleasant enough family-sized house in a cheap part of west London.

It may be erroneous that a private landlord is paid £12,458 a month for the £1.2m property provided by Ealing Council. But the council workers who should have worked out a cheaper solution weren't doorstepped by hacks. Certainly not; that would be blowing a chance to use the words "handouts", "asylum-seeker" and "plasma television" next to a photo of a woman in a headscarf.

One paper had the good grace to print/bury her straightforward thanks: "We just had the clothes we arrived in. We are grateful to the British." My own feelings are more mixed: proud that we shelter her from the Taliban, but ashamed at the sneaky racism and envy cultivated by our popular press.

Well-timed, bad-mood bailout

Londoners this weekend woke up not to a portent of Armageddon but sunshine and temperatures of 22.9C – higher than LA. The tennis courts were full. Boys in the park with their tops off.

"it's an Indian Summer," announces my boyfriend, in a tone suggestive of the tipping of a Panama hat. But was it? The Met office offers two definitions of this meteorological fillip. "A historical definition is a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in October or November," says a spokeswoman. "But a more modern reference is a temperature reaching 21 celsius for seven consecutive days after the autumn equinox [22 September, calendar-counters]." Not quite a full Indian, then, but well-timed, bad-mood bailout nevertheless.

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