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The crew of the Bristol Leader was lay-
ing out its long cod-catching line well
within U.S. fishing territory in the Be-
ring Sea when a voice crackled over the
VHF radio and began issuing com-
mands: The ship was in danger, it said,
and needed to move.

The warnings, coming in a mixture of
Russian and accented English from a
plane buzzing overhead, grew more spe-
cific and more urgent. There was a sub-
marine nearby, the voice said. Missiles

were being fired. Leave the area.
Other U.S. fishing vessels scattered

over 100 miles of open sea were getting
similar messages. Capt. Steve Elliott
stood dumbfounded on the trawler
Vesteraalen as three Russian warships
came barreling through, barking orders
of their own. On the ship Blue North,
commands from a Russian plane led
Capt. David Anderson to contact the
U.S. Coast Guard, wondering how to
protect his crew of 27.

“It was frightening, to say the least,”
Captain Anderson said. “The Coast
Guard’s response was: Just do what
they say.”

The Russian military operations in
August inside the U.S. economic zone off
the coast of Alaska were the latest in a
series of escalated encounters across
the North Pacific and the Arctic, where
the retreat of polar ice continues to draw
new commercial and military traffic.

This year, the Russian military has driv-
en a new icebreaker straight to the
North Pole, dropped paratroopers into a
high-Arctic archipelago to fight a mock
battle and repeatedly flown bombers to
the edge of U.S. airspace.

As seas warmed by climate change
open new opportunities for oil explora-
tion and trade routes, the U.S. Coast
Guard now finds itself monitoring a
range of new activity: cruise ships
promising a voyage through waters few
have ever seen, research vessels trying
to understand the changing landscape,
tankers carrying new gas riches and
shipping vessels testing new passage-
ways that sailors of centuries past could
only dream of.

Russia’s operations in the Arctic have
meant a growing military presence at
America’s northern door. Rear Adm.
Matthew T. Bell Jr., the commander of
the Coast Guard district that oversees
Alaska, said it was not a surprise to see
Russian forces operating in the Bering
Sea over the summer, but “the surprise
was how aggressive they got on our side
of the maritime boundary line.”

Hostility in Alaskan waters

Russian ships and planes
harass U.S. vessels as
melting ice opens routes



U.S. Exclusive
Economic Zone


Bering Sea

1 0 0 M I L ES








Source: United States Coast Guard


When we first glimpse her, minutes into
Season 4 of “The Crown,” Lady Diana
Spencer is dressed as a tree and hiding
behind a plant, the picture of long-
legged innocence in a foliage-festooned
leotard. “Sorry, I’m not here,” she says
coyly to Prince Charles, the highly eligi-
ble heir to the British throne, who has
arrived at her family’s estate for a date
with her older sister Sarah.

“That’s sneaky of her,” Sarah says to
Charles afterward. “I told her to leave us

Here is Diana in her contradictory
glory, naïve and conniving, full of charm
and full of guile, destined to marry a
prince and wreak havoc on a monarchy.
Everyone already knows the sorry end
to this disastrous love story. But the new
season of “The Crown,” Netflix’s

marquee series, (which comes out Sun-
day, and not a moment too soon, after all
we’ve been through) takes us back to its
beginning, when Charles was a self-pity-
ing bachelor, Diana was an unworldly
earl’s daughter and the world was
thrilled to believe in what seemed like
the happiest of fairy tales.

Fans of the long-running royal drama
have been waiting excitedly for this sea-
son, anticipating the story line they
know best: the emergence of Diana as
the glamorous, attention-sucking vor-
tex around which the royal family
swirled for so many years. Even Prince
Harry and his wife, Meghan, the royal
family’s newest rebels, look wan and
dull in comparison with Diana, who was
not just “the People’s Princess,” as
Prime Minister Tony Blair called her,
but an international superstar for the
tabloid age.

With its intoxicating stew of ingredi-
ents — royalty, beauty, adultery, celebri-
ty, media intrigue — the tale of the
doomed princess has been one of the
most rabidly consumed true-life tales of

Diana’s turn to capture ‘The Crown’

Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin play Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the newest
Netflix season of “The Crown,” about the British royal family, to be released on Sunday.


The Netflix drama
takes on the royal story
the world knows best


The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.

President Trump’s refusal to allow Pres-
ident-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his
transition staff access to government of-
fices, secure communications and clas-
sified briefings have prompted growing
warnings, including some from Republi-
cans, that keeping Mr. Biden in the dark
potentially endangers the United

Several Senate Republicans insisted
that Mr. Biden should at least be given
access to the President’s Daily Brief, the
compendium of the nation’s most
closely guarded intelligence secrets and
assessments of threats like terrorist
plots and cyberattack vulnerabilities.
Their call amounted to an acknowledg-
ment that Mr. Biden would be declared
the victor in the election.

“I don’t think they need to know ev-
erything,” Senator Roy Blunt of Mis-
souri, a member of the Senate Republi-
can leadership, said of Mr. Biden’s advis-
ers on Thursday. “I think they do need to
know some things, and national security
would be one of them.”

“President-elect Biden should be re-
ceiving intelligence briefings right now
— that is really important,” said Senator
Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, a
member of the Intelligence Committee
and one of the few Senate Republicans
to publicly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s vic-
tory. “It’s probably the most important
part of the transition.”

Mr. Biden’s edge over Mr. Trump in-
creased late Thursday as Arizona was
called in the former vice president’s fa-
vor. The narrow win in Arizona enabled
Mr. Biden to extend his lead in the Elec-
toral College, where he now has 20 votes
above the 270 required to take the White

Giving Mr. Biden and his top aides ac-
cess to the daily briefing, as Mr. Trump
got right after his election four years
ago, would address only a fraction of the
problem. Mr. Biden will confront an ar-

Fears grow
as Biden
team is kept
in the dark

Some Republicans say
president-elect urgently
needs security briefings


President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will confront many problems: bruised relationships with allies, a weak economy and getting a coronavirus vaccine to 330 million Americans.

VIENNA Donald Trump’s victory in the
2016 presidential election was experi-
enced by many right-wing populists in
Europe as a momentous turning point.
It was their version of 1989, when the fall
of the Berlin Wall made liberalism
appear unstoppable and triumphant.
Right-wing populists from Hungary to
Britain believed that if Mr. Trump could
become president of the United States,
the future belonged to them. President
Trump’s 2020 defeat may trigger the

rise of a much
darker vision.

Fortified by the
solidarity of a
majority of Repub-
licans, including, it
seems, the secre-
tary of state, Mr.
Trump has wan-
tonly rejected the
outcome of the
recent vote. Invok-
ing allegations of
fraud, he has made

it clear that for him, conceding defeat is
a non-starter. This behavior might seem
pathetic — and it’s not going to keep him
in office — but his decision to ignore the
will of the people has ramifications for
democracy well beyond the United

While most presidents and prime
ministers seem ready to congratulate
President-elect Joe Biden, a handful of
political leaders — Mr. Trump’s allies —
are endorsing his defiant gambit. When
the media announced Mr. Biden’s tri-
umph last Saturday, right-wing broad-
casters across Europe insisted that the
elections were not over. While Emman-
uel Macron of France and Angela
Merkel of Germany seemed more than
pleased to usher in a new administra-
tion, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of
Hungary and President Andrzej Duda
of Poland were in no rush to congratu-
late the president-elect.

In fact, at the same time Mr. Trump
was calling foul, Mr. Orban was propos-
ing changes to the Hungarian electoral
system that should help him to stay in
power beyond 2022 and threatened to
veto the European Union budget if

politics of
the populists
Ivan Krastev
Contributing Writer


By refusing
to concede,
Trump has
sent a message
to his fellow
strongmen that
this is a fight
for survival.


Small cracks have begun to emerge
in Republicans’ support for President
Trump’s charges of voter fraud. PAGE 6

Y(1J85IC*KKNSKM( +.!z!$!&!]

Issue Number
No. 42,819

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Page 2


page two

the past few decades. Even 23 years af-
ter her death, Diana is still a cottage in-
dustry, her story fueling too-many-to-
count books, films, documentaries, mu-
sicals, plays, mini-series and, even now,
tabloid stories. Now the new season of
“The Crown,” under the watchful eye of
its writer and showrunner, Peter Mor-
gan, has to perform its greatest high-
wire act yet: how to make such a famil-
iar story feel fresh and new.

For the part of Diana, the production
cast the unknown actor Emma Corrin,
24, a recent graduate of Cambridge Uni-
versity, who plays the princess from the
ages of 16 to 28. Alert Dianaphiles will
notice that Corrin has gotten the prin-
cess’s seductive signature gesture —
head tilting to the side, eyes glancing co-
quettishly upward through her bangs —
just right. But inhabiting that most-
talked-about of women presented chal-
lenges of its own.

“It’s very difficult; it’s a lot to take on
and a lot of pressure, especially as we
get close to when it comes out,” Corrin
said in an interview. The series is fiction,
she pointed out, and her portrayal of Di-
ana is her own. “I never went into this
thinking I wanted to embody or mimic
her,” she said. “I think of her more as a
character, and this is my interpretation
of her.”

Peter Morgan’s multigenerational
saga, a consistently enthralling mix of
serious history and frothy gossip, has al-
ready spanned more than 30 years. This
new season brings us into the 1980s, the
era of big hair and puffy dresses, of
pleated pants and Conservative govern-
ment. In Britain, it was the decade of
Margaret Thatcher, the country’s first
female prime minister (Gillian Ander-
son, her manner imperious and her
voice full of cardboard).

As always, intimate developments in
the lives of the Queen and her family are
set against the sweep of British politics
and the wider forces of history: the Falk-
lands war; the Irish Troubles; Thatch-
er’s efforts to remake her party and up-
end the welfare state; the subsequent
economic upheaval. As we move closer
to the present, these events seem less
like distant history and almost like fa-
miliar home movies, parts of a collective
past shared by many viewers.

Morgan said that he had approached
the new season in the same way he has
all along, but that expectations for it
seemed higher. “I’m slightly more con-
scious of accuracy as opposed to truth,
and I’m leaning into accuracy as much
as I can,” he said, speaking by phone
from London.

Luckily, the research team had a trove
of firsthand material to draw on. The vi-
cissitudes of the royal marriage were
aggressively covered by the British tab-
loid press, often with the tacit help of Di-
ana (although she denied it at the time).
In addition to endless newspaper ac-
counts, the production turned to Jona-
than Dimbleby’s exhaustive biography
of Prince Charles, written with Charles’s
help and providing an insight into his
difficult relationship with his parents;
and Andrew Morton’s explosive biogra-
phy of Diana, based on hours of confes-
sional tape recordings from the princess
and full of juicy details about her mar-
riage. “In earlier seasons our subjects
were not given to this kind of self-reflec-
tion, so this was very helpful,” Annie
Sulzberger, the production’s head of re-
search (and the sister of The Times’s
publisher, A.G. Sulzberger), said in an
interview from London.

The show had a team of advisers with
direct knowledge of the events, a change
from previous seasons, when “there
were fewer people alive we could talk
to,” said Oona O Beirn, a “Crown”
producer who worked closely with the
research team. (For instance, in the first
season, they had just one surviving
source from Churchill’s office; now
there is a plethora of contemporary ex-
perts, including Patrick Jephson, a for-
mer private secretary to Diana.) “As the
show has become more well known, we
get approached a lot, and then it’s a case
of talking to who we think would be help-
ful,” O Beirn said.

As always, they have taken many cin-
ematic liberties. “Crown” watchers in
Britain are already debating what is ac-
curate and what has been changed for
dramatic purposes. In one episode, for
instance, Diana gets a crash course in
royal-family protocol — where to walk,
where to stand, how to speak in public.
In real life, Sulzberger said, the instruc-
tion came from two members of the pal-
ace staff. But “The Crown” gives the job
to Diana’s grandmother, the harsh Lady
Fermoy, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen
Mother known for testifying in court
against her own daughter, Diana’s
mother, during Diana’s parents’ bitter

divorce. “We had some advice from one
of our advisers that Lady Fermoy was
more of the kind of taskmaster we were
looking for,” O Beirn said. The resulting
scenes are painful: Diana really does
come across as a lamb to the slaughter, a
description she once used of herself.

Sulzberger said that with so many
people alive to remember what hap-
pened, the show was particularly con-
cerned with plumbing the nuances of
the story. That meant acknowledging
potential bias in even knowledgeable
sources. For instance, accounts sympa-
thetic to Diana at the time stressed her
despair over Charles’s infidelity while
conveniently eliding her own adulterous
adventures. But “The Crown” makes it
clear that there were two sides to the
tale, showing Diana promising the
Queen that she will give up her lover,
James Hewitt, and then going back to
him after Charles fails to end his own af-
fair with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Both Corrin and Josh O’Connor, who
returned this season as Charles, said
they tried to not take sides in the million-
dollar question surrounding Charles
and Diana’s operatically disastrous
marriage: Whose fault was it? “The
Crown” gives evidence for both posi-
tions, and neither position.

“The more I’ve learned about the in-
tricacies of this marriage and this rela-
tionship, the harder it’s been to pick
sides,” Corrin said. “People criticize
Charles, but he did love this one woman
this whole life, and it wasn’t the one he
married,” she said, referring to Camilla.
“So many mistakes were made by Diana
and Charles after their marriage, but
the biggest mistake was that the mar-
riage ever happened in the first place.”

Indeed, I was a Times correspondent
in Britain in 2005 when Charles married
Camilla, the woman he had loved all
along, after years of upheaval following
his divorce from Diana and her sudden,
shocking death. I spent the day inter-
viewing the crowds who had lined the
streets in Windsor, where the wedding
took place. Theirs was a mature, low-
drama love between two people who
knew each other thoroughly, and the
public that had once so reviled them
greeted this new chapter in their long
relationship with a muted but respectful
understanding that has deepened over

But the new season reminds us how
the relationship began in scandal, with
the young Charles unable to give up Ca-
milla, even when she marries another
man, and proposing to Diana only after
his family browbeats him into finding a
suitable wife. O’Connor presents
Charles as a kind of Hamlet-on-the-
Thames, stooped under the weight of his
own ennui, by turns annoying and sym-
pathetic. “He can be soft and gentle and
kind,” O’Connor said in an interview. “I
liked the idea that he was a sort of tor-
toise, with a shell over him that protects
him from the world.”

Audience reactions at early screen-
ings, Morgan said, have been emotional.
“I’m inclined to think for the viewer
there is now an increased sense of con-
nection,” he said. “People are feeling it
far more vividly.”

As always, the series skates through
public events, focusing its attention on
the more interesting private dramas.
We see only a glimpse of the wedding,
with Diana all but drowning in her fa-
mously over-pouffed meringue of a
dress, but we are thrust right into
scenes showing her doubts and unhap-
piness beforehand. (As one of her sis-
ters said to her back then, it was too late

to get out of the marriage because “your
face is on the tea towels.”) The produc-
tion also addresses head-on the bulimia
that took hold of her, showing Diana
compulsively gulping down food and
then throwing it back up. The scenes are
hard to watch, but true to the disease
that consumed her for so many years.

The emphasis on behind-closed-door
drama adds a special frisson to episodes
like “The Balmoral Test.” First Thatcher,
new to her job, and then Diana, new to
Charles’s romantic orbit, are summoned
to Balmoral Castle, the Windsors’ estate
in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.
It’s hard for outsiders to break in to what
we see here is a close-knit family with
peculiarly aristocratic traditions: the
muddy, bloody joy they take in hunting;
the incomprehensible parlor games; the
upper-class language conventions that
smoke out who (from their point of
view) is well-born and who isn’t.

Thatcher finds it excruciating and
fails test after test, sitting in the wrong
chair; saying “I beg your pardon” in-
stead of the correct (according to the
snobbish Princess Margaret) “What?”;
wearing city clothes for a day of hunting.
By contrast, Diana, whose family is old-
er and grander than the upstart Wind-
sors, knows how to play it.

It all feels like voyeuristic fun, espe-
cially in every scene featuring Olivia
Colman, who brings a droll, in-on-the-
joke archness to the role of Elizabeth
this season.

Because the real-life Queen is scrupu-
lously dull and anodyne in public, most
of her private conversations are wholly
made up — but true to her character,
said Morgan, who has made a career of
plumbing the personal lives of public fig-
ures and who has studied the queen
from multiple angles in the past.

As always, we return to Diana, who
remains as complicated and unknow-
able in death as she was in life. Was she
the savior of the royal family, dragging a
stultified institution, and a nation along
with it, into the modern age with her hu-
manity and common touch? Or were her
emotional upheavals alarmingly anti-
British and rather unhinged, a debase-
ment of centuries of stiff-upper-lip recti-

It remains to be seen how the final two
seasons of “The Crown,” which are ex-
pected to end in the early 2000s, will
treat Diana’s legacy. But if you leave this
season believing that to be a complex
question — as indeed are the relation-
ships between the Queen and her family,
the Queen and her government and the
Queen and her country — then Morgan
will have done his job. You don’t even
have to be a flag-waving royalist to care
what “The Crown” reveals about the
Windsors and the kingdom over which
they preside.

Morgan himself isn’t a particular
royal fan, he says: he’s much more inter-
ested in his characters’ unique position
as both private and public figures, their
personal lives inextricably intertwined
with the history of their country. “Once
you’ve spent time with these charac-
ters,” he said, speaking of his job as au-
thor of this ongoing drama, “you don’t
pass judgment on them.”

The research team of “The Crown” had plenty of firsthand material and a plethora of contemporary experts to draw on to tell the story of Diana (played here by Emma Corrin) and Charles.

Diana’s turn to capture ‘The Crown’


Top, Olivia Colman, left, portraying Queen Elizabeth II in a scene with Corrin in “The
Crown.” Above, Diana and Charles in 1981, a few months before their wedding.


The new season reminds us how
the relationship began in scandal,
with the young Charles unable to
give up Camilla, even when she
marries another man.

Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa,
who ran Bahrain’s government as prime
minister for nearly five decades while
defending the ruling dynasty and
quashing opposition, died on Wednes-
day. He was 84.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency
said he died at the Mayo Clinic in the
United States without elaborating. (The
clinic’s main campus is in Rochester,
Minn.) He had previously had at least
two heart attacks and undergone heart

At his death, Prince Khalifa, a brother
of Bahrain’s previous monarch and un-
cle of its current king, Hamad bin Isa Al
Khalifa, was the world’s longest-serving
prime minister. He was known by
friends and foes alike as a traditionalist
who had run the day-to-day affairs of
Bahrain’s government since the country
gained independence from Britain in

During those years, Bahrain experi-
enced steady economic development
and forged a close alliance with the
United States. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth
Fleet is based in Bahrain, an island na-
tion of 1.5 million people in the Persian
Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia, next to

Prince Khalifa stood up for his long
tenure at the head of Bahrain’s govern-
ment. When he was asked about it in
2012, he told reporters for the German
magazine Der Spiegel, “So what?”

“Democratic systems are very differ-
ent,” he said. “Why can’t we also be dif-

In the same interview, he criticized
the Arab Spring uprisings, including one
in Bahrain, that erupted in 2011.

“This is not an ‘Arab spring,’” he said.
“Spring is connected with flowers,
happy people and love — not death, cha-
os and destruction.”

Bahrain has been shaken by occa-
sional eruptions of popular discontent,
mostly among its Shiite Muslim major-
ity, who accuse its Sunni Muslim rulers
of systemic discrimination.

On Wednesday, Bahrain announced
that Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad
al-Khalifa, the king’s eldest son, would
become the new prime minister. Prince
Salman, 51, is also the deputy command-
er of Bahrain’s military.

Prince Khalifa was born on Nov. 24,
1935, in Al Jasra, Bahrain, a son of the
al-Khalifa dynasty that has ruled
Bahrain since 1783, including during its
time as a British protectorate before it
gained independence.

His father, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad
al-Khalifa, ruled Bahrain from 1942 to
1961, and Prince Khalifa shadowed him,
learning the affairs of government.

Prince Khalifa’s brother, Sheikh Isa
bin Salman al-Khalifa, took power in
1961 and continued as Bahrain’s emir af-
ter independence.

While his brother served as the diplo-
matic and ceremonial head of state,
Prince Khalifa became prime minister,
giving him oversight of the government
and economy.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979
scared Bahrain’s leaders, who feared
that its revolutionary Shiite ideology
would take root in their own Shiite popu-
lation and challenge their rule. In the
1980s, Bahrain said it had thwarted two
pro-Iranian coup attempts.

In the 1990s, Bahrain’s Shiites rose up
to demand economic development and
political reforms, and Sheikh al-Khalifa
championed efforts to quell the unrest
by locking up thousands of people.

As Bahrain’s economy developed,
Prince Khalifa was dogged by corrup-
tion allegations.

“I believe that Sheikh Khalifa is not
wholly a negative influence,” an Ameri-
can diplomat wrote in 2004 in a cable re-
leased by WikiLeaks. “While certainly
corrupt, he has built much of modern

The diplomat called Prince Khalifa “a
traditional Arab” and predicted that his
conservatism would make him “a drag
on the pace of reform.”

Last month, Bahrain agreed to open
diplomatic relations with Israel, making
it the fourth Arab state to do so.

Prince Khalifa’s health had been de-
clining for years, and he left Bahrain in
August for what the government called
at the time “a private visit abroad.”

His nephew declared a week of
mourning, the state news agency said.
Prince Khalifa will be buried after his
body returns from abroad.

of Bahrain
for 5 decades

Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa in
2012. He was the king’s uncle.



Page 12


International Homes

This circular, artificial island, known as
Spitbank Fort, sits about a half-mile off
the southern coast of England in the So-
lent, a narrow waterway feeding the
English Channel. One of three similar is-
lands built by the British military during
the 1860s and ’70s, the refurbished
fortress has 33,000 square feet of living
space covering three floors, with 12 bed-
rooms, two kitchens, a pool, a central
courtyard and multiple leisure, event
and dining areas.

Spitbank Fort has played various
roles since it was a defense post against
French ships approaching the coastal
city of Portsmouth. Since being decom-
missioned in the 1950s, it has been a mu-
seum, a nightclub and, most recently, a
boutique hotel and event space.

“When you buy into property like this,
you’re buying a slice of British history
which is utterly unique and truly spe-
cial,” said James Mackenzie, the head of
Strutt & Parker’s country department,
which has the residential listing. The
asking price is 4 million British pounds,
or $5.2 million.

The fort, about 150 feet in diameter,
can be maintained as a hotel or con-
verted to a private residence, said its
seller, Mike Clare, an entrepreneur and
developer of unique properties. “It’s like
a huge yacht,” he said.

Mr. Clare bought the island in 2009
and extensively renovated it, building
around its freshwater well and 15-foot-
thick granite walls. A stone tunnel from
the dock leads to the middle deck, where
a central brick-walled courtyard has
stairs leading up and down.

Rooms are arranged in two concentric
rings around the courtyard. The inner
ring has two half bathrooms, a library
and a lounge, while the outer ring has
eight bedrooms with en suite baths that
were once gun rooms, Mr. Clare said. To-
day they have polished, reclaimed oak
floors and windows overlooking the So-
lent. The outer ring also has a bar, a din-
ing room that seats 60, a commercial-
grade kitchen and a functional space for
a crew.

The lower deck houses the fort’s his-
toric kitchen, an intimate wine cellar
and bar, staff quarters with three bed-
rooms and two bathrooms, and several
game and TV rooms. The upper level
has three half baths, a sauna, two sun
decks on opposite sides, a fire pit with
built-in seating, and an elevated crow’s
nest with a bedroom and an adjacent
event room with a bar. The hot pool seats
up to 18 people.

Spitbank Fort is for sale along with its
two sister fortresses in the Solent. The
other two are larger, at 99,000 square
feet, and only one has been renovated.
The trio can be purchased individually
or together for £9.25 million, Mr. Clare

The island city of Portsmouth, popula-
tion some 200,000, has several historic
attractions, including a dockyard with
the 18th-century navy ship HMS Vic-
tory, and the Charles Dickens Birth-
place Museum. Southampton Interna-
tional Airport is about 30 minutes from
the harbor, and London Heathrow is
about an hour north.

Britain’s real estate market had seen a
“general slowdown” in price growth for
a few years heading in to 2020, accord-
ing to the Office for National Statistics,
owing in part to nervousness about the
looming Brexit decision. But it has re-
bounded, with “huge growth” since pan-
demic restrictions were loosened during
the spring, said James Forbes, the head
of sales of the Knightsbridge & Bel-

gravia office of Strutt & Parker.
Portsmouth has experienced its own

surge of interest during the pandemic,
from both local and outside buyers.

Daniel Kemp, the branch manager at
Portsmouth Fox & Sons, part of a na-
tional real estate chain, said residential
properties are selling for 97 percent of
their asking price, which signals a
strong market. “We have seen a lot of
pent-up demand since the housing mar-
ket was given the green light to reopen,”
he said.

Mr. Kemp attributed that demand to a
temporary reduction in the stamp duty
for certain properties, set to last through
March of next year, as well as the exten-
sion of a government program, Help to
Buy, which aims to make homeowner-
ship more accessible. Then there’s the
pandemic, which has “people wanting
more space to work from home or look-
ing to move before a possible second
lockdown.” One damper on the market,
he said, is that lenders have been tight-
ening credit for mortgages.

Christopher Smeed, a client director
of Portsmouth-based NEXA Properties,
said he had seen “high demand for all

types of property” from locals and buy-
ers coming from London, with apart-
ment hunters especially interested in
outdoor space.

Mr. Smeed said the average price for
residential property in Portsmouth is

£242,330, or $316,000, up nearly 4 per-
cent from July’s average, and nearly 6
percent over the last 12 months, citing
data from the real estate portals Zoopla
and Rightmove. Apartments are selling
for an average of £192,271 and “terraced

properties,” or townhouses, for an aver-
age of £230,361.

Portsmouth has long been a cross-
roads for sailors, naval officers and trav-
elers, Mr. Smeed said, noting that it once
had a less-than-sterling reputation.
These days, he quipped, it is seeing a
friendly “invasion” by foreigners drawn
to its redeveloped harbor, with a 560-
foot observation tower and a shopping

Mr. Mackenzie, of Strutt & Parker,
said that England’s southern coast, al-
ready popular with vacationers, is at-
tracting more interest from outside the
region. Traditionally a draw for
“wealthy domestic buyers, many of
whom are buying expensive second
homes,” he said, coastal properties are
currently selling “quickly” and at the
“heady premiums seen in late 2007.”

Demand for country houses and es-
tates across Britain has also skyrock-
eted, he said: “If you compared it to this
time last, year you would be amazed.”

Much of the demand, he added, is
coming from London.

In central London, prices have re-

An island fort for serious hunkering down

All alone
Spitbank Fort, right
and below left, has
three levels. A bar
and lounge are on
the fort’s middle
deck, below right.
On the upper level,
a crow’s nest in-
cludes a bedroom.


“When you
buy into
property like
this, you’re
buying a slice
of British
history which
is utterly
unique and
truly special.”


Plenty of solitude, yet not too far from the city

House Hunting in . . .


As the coronavirus devastates New
York’s retail economy, making it hard for
stores to pay rent, co-op buildings with
ground-floor stores are losing a vital
source of income. Already stressed co-
op shareholders have had to pick up the
slack, in some cases with maintenance
charges increasing by as much as 40

“It’s a huge problem,” said Michael
Wolfe, the president of Midboro Man-
agement, who added that residents
were grumbling about the extra costs as
they also struggled with reduced work,
furloughs and layoffs.

But Mr. Wolfe said that most residents
realized that “anything is better than a
vacancy,” adding that co-ops would face
long odds at finding replacement ten-
ants during the pandemic.

Also driving the decision to accommo-
date stores rather than evict them is a

desire to preserve the convenience of
having on-site shops, board members
say. Other co-ops want to preserve jobs
of employees who have become like
family members after years of operating
businesses under the same roof, as is the
case at 230 West 105th Street, a 14-story

co-op in New York City.
Its board has increased maintenance

fees 15 percent, which for a one-bed-
room apartment means a jump to about
$1,400 a month from $1,200 a month, to
make up for rent breaks and discounts
offered to the four stores that ring the

prewar building’s base. That aid, which
is benefiting a clothing store, a coffee
shop, a deli and a cobbler, is the equiva-
lent of as much as a 50-percent rent cut,
according to the board.

“One shareholder called the move un-
conscionable,” said Robert Chasen, the
treasurer of the 70-unit doorman build-
ing, which because of the pandemic
postponed its annual meeting from its
usual time in May to November. Accord-
ing to Mr. Chasen, about half of the
apartments in the building are occupied
by people on fixed incomes or who are
working class.

“But most neighbors say they are sup-
portive,” he said. “These stores contrib-
ute to our neighborhood.”

The co-op’s largess, however, may
only be postponing the inevitable. “Our
business has been severely, severely, se-
verely impacted and may still have to
close,” said Carolina Conigliaro, whose
father, Fernando Andrade, owns the
cobbler shop, Andrade Shoe Repair.

Speaking on behalf of her father, an
Ecuadorean immigrant who speaks lim-
ited English, Ms. Conigliaro said that a
drop in commuters has led to a decline in
requests for repairs of heels, holes and

zippers. Revenue is now often as little as
$40 per day, she added, down from highs
of as much as $1,400 per day before the
coronavirus slammed New York.

“We have never seen anything so
heartbreaking,” said Ms. Conigliaro
about the shop, which has leased space
in the co-op for four years, and which
was located a block away for 32 years
before that.

Rents cuts are only one consideration.
A punishing retail climate, in which
workers and tourists are staying home
and not shopping, is occurring at the
same time as a major shift in store own-
ership for many co-ops that were creat-
ed in the 1980s.

Because of the complicated methods
by which co-ops are created, third-party
landlords often control buildings’ store-
fronts under long-term master leases.
The co-op apartments upstairs usually
receive some of the retail rent money.
But the amount is usually just a trickle,
compared with what the landlords rake
in, lawyers say.

Many of the master leases date to the
1980s when many of the buildings con-
verted from rentals to co-ops, and after


Trouble on the ground floor spreads upward
Maintenance fees rise
for co-ops, as earnings
fall in hard-hit stores



Fernando Andrade
and his wife, Nilda,
are paying lower
rent at Andrade
Shoe Repair, a
business in a New
York co-op building,
but business has
been so slow that
they might still have
to close, their
daughter said.

Page 13

Pandemic takes compounded toll at co-ops
exhausting all of their renewal options,
the firms that own those master leases
are preparing to relinquish them — al-
lowing many co-ops to finally take over
their retail square footage.

The timing is less than ideal, said Jeff-
rey Reich, a real estate attorney with
Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg At-
las, a New York firm, and a co-op advis-
er. “These buildings wanted their retail
back for years and now no one wants it,”
Mr. Reich said. “It really is ironic.”

The retail economy was deteriorating
even before the pandemic because of
steep rents and competition from online
shopping. In the third quarter, which
ended in September, asking rents in
Manhattan’s main shopping areas fell to
an average of $659 a square foot, the
lowest rate in nine years, according to
the real estate firm CBRE. And the num-
ber of available ground-floor storefronts
in Manhattan increased to 254 in the
third quarter from 235 in the second
quarter, representing a record, CBRE

Only about a quarter of the hundreds
of co-ops in Manhattan are anchored by
storefronts, and managing agents esti-
mate that even with recent turnovers,
co-op boards still control only about half
of the shop-lined buildings.

For boards that have long been sali-
vating about the thought of recapturing
their retail spaces and getting an in-
crease in revenue, the dismal market
statistics can be daunting.

“Frustrating is how I would put it,”
said Charles Sullivan, the president of
the board at 201 West 16th Street, a 110-
unit co-op that will reclaim its storefront
on Jan. 1, after four lease extensions.

The handover has been a long time

In 1980, five years before the buff-
brick 20-story building went co-op, an
entity affiliated with the department
store Barneys New York (once based
across the street) snapped up No. 201’s
retail berth, leasing it from the original
owner of the building, according to Ed
Lewis, the board’s treasurer. The lease
has changed hands a couple times since

In recent years, No. 201’s corner-
wrapping 4,300-square-foot space has
been familiar as the home to an outpost
of Williams-Sonoma, the home-furnish-
ings chain, which declined to pursue a
new lease with the co-op.

And it’s not as if other tenants are
beating down the door. There haven’t

been any takers since the space hit the
market last March, just before the Covid
crisis started in the city, said Mr. Sulli-
van, who said the board may hedge its
bets and renovate the space to make two
stores out of the large space.

The board declined to share the ask-

ing rent. But “it is much, much less than
it was in 2015, 2017 and January 2020,”
said Mr. Lewis, who added, “we won’t be
stupid about the pricing, but we will be
flexible.” Banks, pharmacies and doc-
tors’ offices are under consideration.

If shareholders won’t see an immedi-

ate upside, co-ops like No. 201 are still
well positioned, they say. Collecting all
the rent, instead of just a portion of it,
will make them better off.

And tax laws are more favorable than
before. Rules that once limited retail
revenue in a co-op to 20 percent of a co-

op’s total revenues were relaxed in 2007.
But there’s still that nagging issue of

attracting and retaining tenants, a con-
cern that has gripped 140 Nassau Street,
a wine-red landmark in the Financial
District. The 42-unit co-op, which has
four retail spaces with an eyebrow-
threading shop, a hair salon, a dry
cleaner and a bank branch, has decided
to lower rents and raise maintenance
fees as an act of good will. A committee
is studying the exact amounts now.

“We have chosen to consider this a ca-
tastrophe of global proportions,” said Dr.
Raphael Santore, the dentist who serves
as board president. “We are going to
take the compassionate road even if it
will cost us.”

Even co-ops that have had relatively
good luck enlisting retail tenants are be-
ing cautious.

Consider 260 West End Avenue, a 74-
unit building that went co-op in 1979 and,
a year later, signed over its five retail
units to the building’s sponsor, which ap-
pears to have controlled the storefronts
until this year. In recent years, the co-op
had been receiving about $50,000 a year
in retail rents.

Before the master lease for those
shops expired last month, the co-op se-
cured commitments from four of the five
existing tenants: a diner, a dry cleaner, a
salon, a deli and a shoe repair shop.

Liz Osur-Marcal, the co-op’s treas-
urer, declined to say which tenant was
leaving, despite an offer of a “beyond
generous” rent. Those staying inked
shorter-than-usual five-year leases,
said Ms. Osur-Marcal, who will tuck the
rents into a reserve fund at her building.
(The rents are lower than the co-op orig-
inally sought a year ago when negotia-
tions began.)

“Some shareholders were con-
tentious,” she said. “They wanted main-
tenance to go down right away.” But the
save-now strategy is in part to protect
against the soon-to-be-empty space.
And of course, leases are no guarantee
of future rents.

Still, the co-op is grateful for some oc-
cupancy. “I’m not the kind of woman
who uses the word,” Ms. Osur-Marcal
said, “but I am blessed.”

Hard choices
Clockwise from top:
Stores at 230 West
105th Street, a
co-op that has
offered to cut rent
the equivalent of as
much as 50 percent
for its four stores;
Charles Sullivan,
president of the
co-op board for 201
West 16th Street,
which hasn’t filled a
retail space; and
the co-op at 140
Nassau Street,
which has decided
to lower rents on its
storefronts as an
act of good will.


The retail economy was
deteriorating even before
the pandemic because of steep
rents and online competition.




When your closets are stuffed, and it’s a
struggle to hang even one more shirt, an
armoire or wardrobe can provide relief
with a little extra storage space.

“I end up using at least one in almost
every project,” said Sean Anderson, an
interior designer in Memphis. “It’s one
of those pieces that serves a purpose,
both functionally and aesthetically.”

And a handsome wardrobe can be
used to hold more than just clothes, Mr.
Anderson pointed out. It could contain a
television in a living room, tableware in
a dining room, bedding in a bedroom —
or overflowing work material in a home

Different models come with different
configurations of hanging rods, shelves
and drawers, so think carefully about

how you will use the piece. Or be pre-
pared to make some do-it-yourself

“We do a lot of antique armoires,” Mr.
Anderson said, noting that they fre-
quently need customization, from cut-
ting out shelves to drilling holes for
power cords. “I’m always happy to ad-
just and modify as needed, as long as it
makes sense for the space.”
• How big is too big? If it fits against a
wall, even an oversized wardrobe can
work in a small room when paired with a
minimal selection of furniture: “I like to
play with scale,” Mr. Anderson said.
• What’s the best depth? If the armoire
will be used for hanging clothes, “you
need to be able to put a hanger inside
without squishing everything,” Mr. An-
derson said. That usually requires a
minimum depth of 24 inches.
• How do you update the appearance of
an antique armoire? Change the hard-
ware, Mr. Anderson suggested, and
choose pulls with a clean, modern look.

Storage space with style
Shopping Guide


Armoire available
in a variety of wood
finishes | From
$2,099 at Room &
Board: +1 800-
301-9720 or

Mantra Narrow
Teak Armoire
armoire with
white-varnish finish
| $2,480 at ABC
Carpet & Home: +1
212-473-3000 or

Open bamboo
wardrobe with
sliding door | $249 at
Ikea: +1 888-888-
4532 or

Floyd Shelving
System Ward-
robe Wood and
steel open ward-
robe | From $595
at Floyd: floyd-

Wallace Cane and Oak Armoire Arched with
cane-panel doors | $2,998 at Anthropologie:
+1 800-309-2500 or

mained stable and should remain flat
through the balance of 2020, Mr. Forbes
said. Year over year, transaction levels
in 2020 should be similar to 2019, he said,
but by “historic standards,” remain low.

“Good, quality properties,” he said,
“are still achieving very strong price
points.” These homes are in short supply
and are retaining value, while “compro-
mised assets may have dropped slightly
in value over the past 12 months.”

“Before this year, most buyers were lo-
cal and looking to move up in the mar-
ket,” Mr. Mackenzie wrote in an email.
“Coupled with this, the area was also fa-
vored by Londoners moving to or
around Portsmouth with the intention of
commuting on a weekly or, at a push,
daily basis. Now, the buyers are London-
ers looking to move out of the city full-
time or purchasing big second homes.”

Buyers from abroad are typically
British expatriates buying second
homes, he said. Mr. Kemp said most buy-
ers of investment properties and sum-
mer homes in Portsmouth are British,
with some from Eastern Europe.

Foreigners are not restricted from buy-
ing properties in Britain. They can also

get mortgages.
“It’s never easy,” Mr. Mackenzie said,

“but it can and is regularly done by for-
eign buyers.”

Closing costs paid by the buyer in-
clude the Stamp Duty Land Tax, which
is based on the purchase price and cal-
culated in tiers.

The rate is higher for a second home.
For a second home that costs more than
£1.5 million, the charge is 15 percent, he

English; British pound (1 pound =

The annual property taxes for Spitbank
Fort, were it converted to residential
use, would be less than £3,500, Mr. Mac-
kenzie said.

James Mackenzie, Strutt & Parker, +44


Not far off,
but securely

Breathing space
Top, the 19th-
century fort sits a
half-mile off the
coast of Ports-
mouth, on Eng-
land’s southern
coast. Above,
amenities include a
sunken fire pit with
built-in seating, as
well as a sauna and
two sun decks.

Page 23


living weekend

This past spring, my inboxes began
filling with messages from heartbroken
women. The first came through Insta-
gram: “Hey, I am Lina. I live in Ger-
many. Someone is using your pictures
for scamming!”

Her profile revealed a woman who
looked to be near my age, late 40s,
wearing black-framed glasses. She told
me she had met the guy on Tinder. But
after a few months of exchanging
messages, she grew suspicious of his
motives, so her daughter image-
searched his photos on Google, which
led them to my profile.

“I felt a bit in love with you,” she
said. “But now I know that you are gay.
I thought I have some luck to meet a
wonderful person from England.”

The fake me was “Simon,” an invest-
ment banker from outside London. He
had sent Lina photos of me and my
dog, Agnes, whom he had called Pom

Some basic facts: I’m a single copy-
writer in western Massachusetts who
finds the name Pom Pom embarrass-
ing. Also, as Lina had correctly de-
duced, I’m gay.

“Everything was fake,” Lina wrote.

“I only want to be happy — I think my
day will come. Are you looking for a
partner? It makes me sad that so
good-looking a guy is not interested in

The next week, I heard from a wom-
an in Hungary: “I was fooled by your
photos. He called himself Harvard,
from Colorado. I thought you were the
man. I fell in love.”

A woman in Santa Barbara: “Em-
barrassing, but I kinda became ob-
sessed with ‘you.’ Not sure why I felt
compelled to share this with you, ex-
cept to maybe purge my obsession. I’m
not looking for anything.”

Friends told me I should feel flat-
tered that someone would consider me
attractive enough to use as bait, but it
felt gross that some version of me was
preying upon the vulnerable.

This all started last spring, when
virus fears, mounting unemployment
and the loneliness of digital life com-
bined to create a perfect environment
for online romantic scams. These
women didn’t strike me as being espe-
cially gullible; they were just looking
for love from the confines of their
homes like so many others.

I had been single for years following
a divorce. A stranger glancing at my
photos may have seen someone trying
to look happy. But as one woman from
Nebraska wrote, “You’ve got sad eyes.”

They were generous in letting me
know about the scams, but their mes-
sages held complicated layers. For
months, each woman had built some-
thing with this fake me, and in the
wake of the scam’s collapse, the real
me was all that was left to absorb their
bitterness and provide what they
hadn’t yet received — honesty.

It wasn’t hard for me to relate. Many
years ago, when catfish was still just
known as a fish, I was a 20-something
man in San Francisco who fell for a
fellow blogger many states away. Over
two years, we grew closer and closer
by email and phone, but every plan for
us to meet in person always mysteri-
ously fell through.

In the end, I was able to peel back
the layers of his lies. He was not a
museum curator in Pittsburgh; he
lived in his parents’ basement in Du-
buque, Iowa. That experience devas-
tated me but also helped me under-
stand how these women could fall for a
stranger online, and how he could use
their hope against them.

I told them I was sorry that someone
using my photos had caused them so
much pain. I risked causing them more
pain by telling them they weren’t the
only victims, but I figured they de-
served the truth.

My photos were circulating all over,
creating new personas: a Chicago
stockbroker, an Oregon park ranger, a
dog walker named Larry. I couldn’t
stop it. I couldn’t even confront the
impostor. Or could I?

As spring turned to summer, I kept
thinking about one email from a wom-
an who had shared the number the
impostor had used to chat with her on
WhatsApp. I recognized his area code
as one from my hometown, Minneapo-
lis, but phone numbers can be faked.

I decided I would text him.
This was no small act for me. I’ll do

anything to avoid confrontation. But I
needed to know.

I had a WhatsApp account, but I
crept up to the guy — I assumed it was
a guy — sideways, stripping my profile
of photo and name and texting just one
word: “Hi.”

A minute passed. The word hung like
a baited hook. Then, a reply: “Who are
you please?”

I had intended to scam the scammer
— to pose as a lonely woman before
eventually revealing my identity. But
my motive was to dig for the truth, so I
abruptly decided to come at him from
the same place.

“When I tell you who I am,” I wrote,
“don’t be afraid.” I sent him my photo.

He responded, simply: “LOL.”
“I think you know who I am now,” I

wrote. “I’ll never ask you for your real
name. And I can’t get you into trouble.”

It took several minutes of tense back

and forth for him to believe my iden-
tity. (Yes, the irony.) He asked how I
had found him, and I told him how but
not who. He kept asking which woman
had revealed his number. I told him:
“You’ve hurt them enough.”

“Well,” he wrote, “I’m actually sorry
for using your pictures.”

“I appreciate that.”
“I only did this to get money for my

poor family. Unfortunately, no one gave
me money. I kept trying. But it’s kept
failing.” When I pressed him, he said
he first built a relationship and “made
them love me.” After a few weeks, he
would ask for money for hyperthyroid
surgery: “Two thousand dollars. But
nobody paid me.”

When I asked about the Minneapolis
number, he said he lived in Brazil.

“Are you married?”
“Why do you ask?” he said. “I know

you gay.”
“I guess I was wondering if you were

lonely, too?”
He told me he had a girlfriend and a

2-year-old son, and that he had lost his
cashier job when the pandemic hit.
“We are safe,” he wrote. “But we are
hungry.” He told me he had found my
pictures on Instagram, liked my tattoos
and figured I made a believable lure. “I
hope you are not angry with me,” he

And I wasn’t, not really. But I could-
n’t quite believe him, so I didn’t know
where to hang my feelings.

Then he asked me the question I’d
been dreading: “Can you help me?”

The man who had stolen my photos
to scam lonely people was now asking
me for money. So much of our willing-
ness to help other people depends
upon what we know of their lives.
Without being able to confirm anything
he said, could I believe his story? Of
course not. Still, he had answered my
questions. What was that worth?

I told him I barely made enough to
get by. “It won’t be much. Maybe 25

“Can you send an iTunes card with

“I thought you were hungry.”
“Yes, but 25 dollars is very small, my

Indeed, it is.
I learned he had tried to scam only

one of the women who had contacted
me, though he had a list of 10 others I
knew nothing about. Which, if true,
meant there was more than one impos-
tor using my pictures, in more than
one location.

“I won’t use your pics anymore,” he

I thanked him and closed the app.
Our whole exchange reminded me of
the blogger who had led me on for too
long. Without facts, without trust,
human connection fails. And what is
trust on the internet except a suspen-
sion of disbelief?

I haven’t sent him money, but I keep
thinking about his son, who I believe
may exist. Maybe. I’ve always been
more sucker than cynic, but in any
case, my impostor and I may not be
done with each other.

“So how is life in America?” he
texted recently.

I may still respond. In the meantime,
I’m learning to live with the discomfort
of knowing my images are still being
used in ways I can barely imagine.

I keep in touch with some of the
women. We comment on each other’s
Instagram posts and send occasional
texts. “I hope you find the right man,
too,” Lina told me recently.

Whether I do or not, human connec-
tion during a pandemic may be worth
the heartache, however it finds me.

I try not to obsess over all the things
my stand-ins are saying on the internet
to other lonely people, but it seems
they’ve been busy.

If you find yourself messaging with
one, I hope he tells you you’re beauti-
ful, and that you believe it, even if you
don’t believe him. It’s important, I’ve
learned, to peel back the lies until you
can see the truth.

Michael McAllister works as a copy-
writer in western Massachusetts.


I looked
like dating

Modern Love


My photos
circulating all
over, creating
new personas:
a stockbroker,
a park ranger,
a dog walker.

My new boss started working at the
company in August amid the pandemic.
He has an office with a door that shuts;
I work at an open cubicle in a high-
traffic area. Our employer has told us
repeatedly to work remotely whenever
possible. But my boss has been in the
office every day since he started. Re-
cently, he told me I should increase the
number of days I work in person. But
many of my co-workers do all their
work remotely, as does my boss’s boss. I
understand my boss is trying to make
his way in a new job, but how do I get
him to respect our company’s remote
work policy? I want a good relationship
with him, but not at the cost of getting
Covid-19. VIOLET

Gather the facts before you go up
against your new boss (nicely). You

say your “employer” told you to work
remotely “whenever possible.” But
who exactly do you mean: the C.E.O., a
human resources employee or some-
one else? Contact that person’s office,
without a whisper of complaint, and
verify that the policy is still in place
and includes your position.

Then talk to your boss at a time
that’s convenient for him. Say, “I want
to be helpful to you and the company,
but I don’t feel safe sitting out in the
open. I believe I’m working effectively
from home, and I’d prefer to follow the
company’s policy on remote work. Do
you feel differently?”

With luck (and a semi-reasonable
boss), you may be able to talk through
this issue. But if he believes your pres-
ence is sometimes necessary, which is
also contemplated by the phrase
“whenever possible,” you may have to
appeal to a superior if you disagree, or
change the subject to improving safety
conditions at the office.

My next door neighbor asked me to
consider putting collars with bells on
my two cats. One of them had been
playing with a chipmunk he befriended
in her yard. I told her the cats were
being cats, but I’d think about it. The
next day, two collars with bells on them
were on my doorstep when I got home
from work. I’ve decided not to put them

on my cats. Am I obligated to return the
collars to her, or may I sell them on
eBay? JON

Not so fast, cat dad! You’re probably
right about “cats being cats” — which
also means that they are fierce preda-
tors when they’re outdoors. House cats
have caused the extinction of dozens of
species of birds, small mammals and
reptiles. So, what might look like
friendship between your cats and a
chipmunk is more likely a killing ritual
that can upset local ecosystems.

Short of keeping your cats indoors,
there is no easy way to stop this car-
nage. But several studies have shown
that collars with bells can reduce the
killings by about half. That’s why I

think you should try the bells. You will
learn quickly if your cats can tolerate
the collars or if the jingle-jangling
stresses them out.

As for your neighbor, let’s call her
well-meaning but a tad aggressive.
(Still, how many chipmunk massacres
would you care to witness on your
lawn before springing to action?) If
you are determined not to use the
collars, return them to your neighbor
with thanks. But I really hope you’ll
give them a try.

My fiancé is an avid cyclist who posts
his rides on social media. His ex-wife
frequently comments on them on the
same platform. I’ve told him this makes
me uncomfortable, but he says it’s
harmless. Her comments continue even
when we’re on vacation. I think her
behavior is creepy, and they should limit
their interactions to matters relating to
their adult children. Your view? B.

I think it speaks well of your fiancé
that he is cordial with his ex-wife.
Casual posts about bike rides (includ-
ing those taken while you’re on vaca-
tion) do not strike me as inappropriate
or worrisome. Isn’t this what social
media is for?

I’m more concerned that you feel
threatened by her posts. And I encour-
age you to explore with your fiancé

why this is. We all have pasts. And
moving forward with someone new
doesn’t require pretending that we
don’t (unless the past is flirting with
our fiancé).

My son is in his 20s. He supports him-
self and lives on his own. During the
pandemic, he has partied and behaved
irresponsibly, in my view. When I push,
he says he hopes he contracts the virus
so he develops antibodies and can get
on with his life. Help! MOM

Your son sounds foolish and ill in-
formed, and I sympathize with him
entirely. (Don’t we all want this to be
over?) Still, many young people have
developed serious illnesses after con-
tracting Covid-19. And research on
antibodies and the long-term damage
that can follow the virus is still coming
to light.

By now, he should also be aware of
the danger his risk-taking may pose to
others more vulnerable than he. But
you and I won’t convince your son of
anything. Have him call his doctor for
sound medical advice. (And steer clear
of him until he cleans up his act!)

Covid concerns
and a new boss

Social Q’s


For help with your awkward situation,
send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Face-
book or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.


Page 24


weekend travel

Stubbornly unfazed by warnings of
“soroche,” or altitude sickness, I swung
my legs up onto a donkey and began to
ascend the steep trails. After trekking
for a few dizzying hours alongside hun-
dreds of others, I approached a glacial
basin. The scene began to unfold before
us: an immense valley flooded with so
many pilgrims that it seemed to be cov-
ered in confetti, each tiny speck repre-
senting a huddled collection of tents and

The altitude sickness began to over-
take every inch of my body. Even my
eyeballs ached. Undeterred, I slowly
navigated through the throngs of peo-
ple, trying to take in every sight and

Each year in late May or early June,
thousands of pilgrims trek for hours on
foot and horseback through Peru’s An-
dean highlands — slowly snaking their
way up the mountainous terrain — for
the religious celebrations of Qoyllur
Rit’i, held some 50 miles east of Cusco,
once the capital of the Incan empire.

Practiced annually for hundreds of
years, the celebrations mark the start of
the harvest season, when the Pleiades, a
prominent cluster of stars, return to the
night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.
The syncretic festival, which is on UN-
ESCO’s Representative List of the Intan-
gible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in-
terweaves Indigenous and Incan
customs with Catholic traditions intro-
duced by Spanish colonizers, who
sought to undermine Andean cosmol-

Celebrations were suspended this
year because of the coronavirus pan-
demic, with the route to the valley was
completely blocked off. But when I at-
tended in 2013, the crowds were remark-
ably dense.

The festival takes place in the

Sinakara Valley, a glacial basin that sits
around 16,000 feet above sea level. Cele-
brants swarm in colorful droves with
costumes, enormous flags, instruments
and provisions in tow.

The festivities begin with the arrival
of a statue of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i,
transported from the nearby town of
Mahuayani, to the valley’s small chapel.
For three days, from morning until
night, amid the nonstop sounds of
drums, flutes, whistles, accordions,
cymbals and electric keyboards, the air
is filled with billowing clouds of dust
kicked up from twirling dancers; it set-
tles on the sequins, neon scarves, rib-
bons, tassels and feathers that adorn
people’s traditional costumes and attire.

Pilgrims here are divided into “na-
tions,” which correspond to their place
of origin. Most belong to the Quechua-
speaking agricultural regions to the
northwest, or to the Aymara-speaking
regions to the southeast. The delegation
from Paucartambo has been making the
pilgrimage for longer than any other.

“It’s important to maintain this tradi-
tion, because we have a lot of faith,” said
a young Paucartambo pilgrim dressed
as an ukuku, a mythical half-man and
half-bear creature. Costumed in red,
white and black alpaca robes, the
ukukus are responsible for ensuring the
safety of the pilgrims; they act as inter-
mediaries between the Lord of Qoyllur
Rit’i and the people.

Other participants include the
ch’unchus, who wear headdresses and
represent Indigenous communities
from the Amazon; the qhapaq qollas,
who wear knitted masks and represent
inhabitants from the southern Altiplano
region; and the machulas, who wear
long coats over fake humpbacks and
represent the mythological people to
first populate the Andes.

Hundreds of ceremonies are held
throughout the three-day festival. But
the long-awaited main event is carried
out by the ukukus in the early morning
hours of the last day. Carrying towering
crosses and candles, ukukus from each
nation ascend the Qullqipunku moun-
tain toward a nearby glacier, regarded
as alive and sentient. (The snow-capped
mountains circling the valley are also
believed to be mountain gods, or Apus,
that provide protection.)

According to oral traditions, the
ukukus, after scaling the icy slopes,
once partook in ritualistic battles that
were eventually prohibited by the Cath-
olic Church.

Another tradition was also recently
put to rest, this time by Mother Nature.

Up until only a few years ago, ukukus
would carve slabs of ice from the glacier,
whose melted water is revered as medi-

Pilgrims would eagerly await the
ukukus, backs bent from the weight of
the ice, who would place the blocks
along the pathway to the temple, to be

used as holy water. Sometimes the ice
was even transported to Cusco’s main
square where, as Qoyllur Rit’i draws to a
close, Corpus Christi celebrations kick
off with comparable religious zeal.

Many believed that carrying the ice
was a penance for sins, and that fulfill-
ing this ritual meant the Apus would of-
fer blessings.

But because much of the glacier has
melted, significantly reducing its size,
the tradition of carrying chunks of sa-
cred ice down the mountain has been

Climate scientists say that glaciers in

the tropical Andes have been reduced
by nearly a quarter in the last 40 years.
Some scientists predict that such
glaciers could disappear entirely by

These changes have not only affected
agricultural practices in the Andes, but
also, as witnessed by Qoyllur Rit’i pil-
grims, cultural ones, too.

Although the ukukus now carry only
wooden crosses back down the moun-
tain, they’re still met with great jubila-
tion — a testament to human resilience
in the face of destruction caused by cli-
mate change.

A festival where
snow meets sky


In the Peruvian Andes,
a pilgrimage to
honor an ancient lord


Above, from left:
Pilgrims in
Sinakara Valley in
Peru; Indigenous
and Incan tradi-
tions and Catholic
traditions intro-
duced by Spanish
colonizers are all
featured in the
festival; and the
ukukus, the guard-
ians of the Lord of
Qoyllur Rit’i,
holding their
hands up to catch
holy water inside a
church. Left,
pilgrims walking
through the valley.

Top, en route to
the trail to
Sinakara Valley,
which sits around
16,000 feet above
sea level. Above,
from left: The
ukukus carrying
wooden crosses
down the moun-
tain; and a group
of ukukus wearing
alpaca robes.

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