I am not a vampire, insists billionaire

Peter Thiel looking in a mirror © Rex Features
Proof – the reflection tells its own story

Others have, however, been sucking up the blood of the young. What are they thinking?

I like to take a leaf out of Frank Sinatra’s book and think of myself as “vintage wine” from “fine old kegs” that has “poured sweet and clear”. Others are less eager to grow old gracefully and are taking to extreme measures to find the fountain of youth. At a recent conference in New York, Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, was forced to take the extraordinary step of opening his speech by saying, “I want to publicly tell you that I’m not a vampire,” reports Anthony Cuthbertson in The Independent.

The explanation for the bizarre outburst was that Thiel was rumoured to have signed up to the latest health craze, namely “radical life extension therapies that involve blood transfusions using youthful donors”.

Two years ago the website Gawker (which has since been shut down after legal action funded by Thiel) claimed that he spent “$40,000 per quarter to get an infusion of blood from an 18-year-old”, the idea that this might do any good being “based on research conducted at Stanford on extending the lives of mice”. Thiel has denied these claims, but he has “invested in a number of medical research start-ups set up to look at ways to extend life through his Breakout Labs fund”.

Don’t lose your head

Even if Thiel himself isn’t involved in this latest fad, other people with more money than sense are willing to give it a try. At a gala dinner, participants who had paid “$195 per head” to attend were told by promoter Bill Falloon that transfusions of young blood “offer the greatest potential for everyone in this room to add a lot of healthy years to their life”, says Rebecca Robbins of Scientific American. They were then offered the chance to take part in clinical trials of this latest technique. Of course, such promises didn’t come for free, with potential members being told “they would have to pay $285,000”.

This sounds dubious, especially considering Falloon is not a medical professional but a former mortician who, when flying, “used to lug a thermally-insulated helmet in his carry-on bag” so that, “in the event the plane crashed and burned, his head could still be salvaged and frozen”.

Other companies are already offering similar schemes, at a slightly lower cost. A company called Ambrosia, for example, recently completed a clinical trial that charged about 80 people over the age of 35 a sum of $8,000 to get an infusion of plasma from a donor between the ages of 16 and 25.

One of the ironic things about the attempt by Thiel and other Silicon Valley tycoons to find a way to live forever is that the products that they make their fortunes from “are built specifically to fail after a relatively short period – one year, two, maybe five years”, as Allison Arieff points out in The New York Times. After all, “think about how often you have to replace your smartphone”.

There’s also something self-defeating about it, since our “awareness and acceptance of our own mortality” is not only one of the things “that makes us human”, but also provides the impetus “for living our lives to the fullest”. I intend to do just that. There’s only one red substance that I will be transfusing into my body on a regular basis – and it isn’t blood.

Tabloid money… Theresa May stares into the abyss

Elton John is the unlikely star of this year’s glossy £7m John Lewis Christmas TV advert, says Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. It tells the story of the singer’s rise from rags to sequined britches, from Pinner (the town where he was born) to winner and beyond.

For the past few years, middle England’s favourite department store has led the way when it comes to plucking at the nation’s heartstrings in this moment of peak Christianity, commerce and “£3 off” toasters in the homewares department. Yet, across the country, department stores are closing, profits are falling and this annual television weepathon is starting to look more and more like a colossal waste of money. And besides, what does Elt have to do with Christmas anyway?

You may have picked up on the big Westminster saga last week that left millions in despair and shamed the country, says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror – Jeremy Corbyn’s raincoat. Or as every right-wing bile-spiller called the offending item worn at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, “a cheap and scruffy anorak which insulted our fallen heroes”.

One leading columnist in The Times even penned a diatribe about the man in the “£79 M&S hooded raincoat”. As though most men in Britain would view a £79 coat as cheap. Luckily Tony Blair was on hand to show the way of a true patriot by donning an expensive black, woollen coat, which matched his expensive tan and sombre expression. That’s showing proper respect, you see.

For far too long, we in this country have thought we were richer, more powerful and better than we actually are, says Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. The Brexit negotiations have exposed the hard truth. Why do we hang on to our precious illusions? We are a small, increasingly indebted and poorly defended country off the coast of northwest Europe. What sort of deal did we think such a nation could get from our giant German-dominated neighbour?

Say what you like about Theresa May. But she has borne herself with dignity and integrity, a quiet, unshowy, resolute and very English sort of dogged courage of the kind I was brought up to admire. She has peered over the abyss and knows what is there. Nobody else would have done any better.