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The Guardian Weekend - October 14 2017

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Men’s style
Fashion jury
How to wear
a boilersuit
Liam Gallagher
and the best
coats, boots
and bags
Once upon a time...
Tom Hanks on his secret life
as a short story writer.
By Emma Brockes
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Co t a r t
nt e r s
Men’s fashion special
Food and drink
Body and mind
5 Hadley Freeman
6 Tim Dowling Plus Bim
Adewunmi’s First take
8 Your view Plus
Stephen Collins
10 Q&A Liam Gallagher,
13 Experience
I deliberately crashed
my lorry
44 The gloves are off Our
celebrity panel judges
five stars’ outfits
46 The works Real
mechanics model the
new season jumpsuits
53 Warm fronts From
coats to bags and
boots, the 50 best high
street buys this winter
81 System upgrade DNA
test results. Plus My
life in sex: the swingers
83 This column will
change your life
Plus What I’m really
thinking: the adult
acne sufferer
64 Yotam Ottolenghi
Sweet and savoury
bakes. Plus Wine and
The good mixer
69 Thomasina Miers
Roast mackerel and
horseradish cream
71 The new vegan
Meera Sodha’s bao bun
73 Restaurants Felicity
Cloake at Winemakers
Deptford, London
14 The next chapter
Tom Hanks on movies,
marriage and his new
side-hustle: writing
25 For better, for worse
My wife earns more:
why do I feel a failure?
32 Red, not dead Inside
the last communist
61 Blind date When Joe
met Jess
63 Beauty Sali Hughes
pits high street
moisturisers against
the big brands
76 Here be monsters A
walk in Terry Gilliam’s
fantastical, movieinfluenced garden
79 Alys Fowler In praise
of beautiful brassica
85 Howard Jacobson Plus
Crossword and Quiz
86 That’s me in
the picture
Read Tom Hanks’
short story, Three
Exhausting Weeks,
featuring original
animation and audio
from the author
Berger & Wyse
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 3
I hop on crutches like a pirate, but miss the record attempt for most pirates in one place
here is no weather in hospital. When
I lie in Treliske hospital, Truro, after
breaking my ankle walking on a cliff,
I can only remember the Longships
lighthouse, the storm clouds and the sea. I came
to West Penwith to find freedom in my body
again – the reach and the joy that children have.
I have said I feel unsteady here, like a tourist
who has forgotten to go home, so has no home
at all. But the hospital ward feels like a new
home, a tiny city with its own peculiar clock.
Every time the air ambulance lands, an operation
is postponed.
After a week I return to Newlyn, to the
tumbledown house we are renting with the
orange flowers in the garden. I can hear the river
Coombe from my bed, rushing from heath to
harbour. There was a shipwreck in the harbour for
most of the summer, which I liked to pretend was
a warning to captains who don’t pay their fees,
but it has gone now. The Coombe flooded in
spring 2013 (you can watch it on YouTube), but
the water didn’t reach the house and, even if it
had, it would have survived. You can’t do much
to harm granite but wait.
I have a wheelchair, but it doesn’t fit
inside the cottage. Instead I hop with my
crutches, like a pirate. This means I miss
Pirates On The Prom, when Penzance attempts
to regain the world record for the largest
number of people dressed as pirates assembled
in one place. The dress code is surprisingly
strict: a pirate-style hat, or bandana or
kerchief; rolled-up trousers or pantaloons;
a striped or black-and-white shirt; and
a minimum of two accessories – sword, hook,
musket, eye patch, parrot.
Some people get the date wrong and wander
around Penzance dressed as pirates by mistake.
The record attempt fails, but not by so few that
the pirates who do not leave the pub for the count
can be blamed: the Admiral Benbow on Chapel
Street cannot hold 4,000 pirates, and neither
can the Turks Head. Hastings retains the world
record, which is absurd. You might as well give
it to Switzerland.
But mostly I crawl. I get to know the floors and
the cobwebs very well. My landlady is kindly,
and she wouldn’t want me to vacuum up the
spiders. In any case, they eat the horseflies,
one of which was so sedated with my blood that
I was able to punch it and imprison it in a halfchewed Nicorette, like a trophy: the fly in the
Nicorette mask. Or I sit in a chair watching the
orange flowers and feeling as if I have been
inserted into a painting.
I get bored, and beg to go to Prussia Cove.
It is not accessible, either, and I was too
hopeful to check, because I didn’t want to know
the truth – which is that Prussia Cove is steep
and rocky, and that this is its wonder and its
identity. Halfway down, I tell them to go on
without me. I sit on the path in my black
wheelchair like a ghost. Soon the squire bounces
up in his Jeep, asks me if I am OK, tosses the
wheelchair in the back and drives me to the car
park, where I count sheep. I am not just saying
that, it is true. I have also begun to iron. I haven’t
ironed since I left school.
There is a grass snake in the garden.
My husband informs the Cornwall Wildlife
Trust and they send a letter telling us to place
rocks in piles for basking, and arrange piles of
leaves and logs for eating; the leaves will
attract the slugs and the larvae. The letter
is such a powerful piece of advocacy that
I begin to see the grass snake as a persecuted
minority for which I have responsibility.
My husband is also talking about chickens.
He is going on a beekeeping course. I do
not know what our grass snake will think of
the bees.
When I am well enough to go to the
Morrab Library in Penzance, I can think only
of lunch at the Honey Pot cafe. It got such
good reviews from the critics, who talked
about it as if it was in the Shire, but accessible,
that it was invaded by Londoners, some of
whom apparently clicked their fingers at staff.
When I first discovered the Honey Pot cafe,
they let me leave and return with money –
they didn’t take credit cards - with only my word
as a deposit.
At the time, this amazed me; now I know
better. I know I will not get up the hill to the
Honey Pot cafe by myself, but I also know that
if I sit in my wheelchair outside the library, the
first person to pass will ask me where I am going
and push me there. And so it is.
Hadley Freeman is away.
ack in July, my wife and I spent an
afternoon lying on a series of
mattresses in a department store,
before finally agreeing on one. It was
more than we’d intended to spend, but she
convinced me a good mattress was an
investment. “By the time we need a new one,
we’ll be dead,” she said.
A new bed base was delivered a few days later,
but as summer drew to a close, we were still
sleeping on the old mattress. “It takes ages,” my
wife said. “They make them to order.”
I imagined a team of people hard at work on my
specially commissioned mattress, sewing my name
into it by hand. By this time, I had come to believe
the new mattress was the solution to all my
problems. I believed that when it finally arrived,
my back would stop hurting, my sleep would
improve, my anxieties would dissipate, and my
wife would cease to be angry with me for no
reason on waking.
“Where is my posh bed?” I ask one morning,
staring up at the ceiling. My neck is stiff and the
fingers on my left hand are tingling.
“I was fast asleep,” my wife says.
“You said four weeks,” I say. “It’s been more
than four weeks.”
“I’ll ring them later,” she says, rolling over.
“If you shut up.” She’s not cross with you, I tell
myself. That’s just the mattress talking.
Later that morning, I walk into the sitting room
just as my wife is getting off the phone. She shakes
her head. “Nobody knows anything,” she says.
“They gave me another number to ring.”
“OK,” I say.
“I’m not doing it with you staring at me,”
she says.
The next time I go downstairs, I find the sitting
room door shut. I can’t make out what my wife is
saying, but I recognise her tone: she is very
disappointed in the person she is talking to.
“So,” she says, striding into the kitchen 15
When the new mattress
arrives, my back will
stop hurting and my wife
will cease to be angry
with me on waking
6 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
minutes later, “they never processed our order,
and they’ve since discontinued the model.”
“What does that mean?” I say with a note of
panic in my voice.
“They were apologetic, eventually,” she says.
“They’re sending me a £20 gift voucher.”
“I don’t need a voucher,” I say. “I need a
new bed!”
“This isn’t my fault,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is!” I shout.
“We need to find another mattress!”
“You find a mattress!” she shouts.
We are back on speaking terms within 24 hours,
except about mattresses. My wife will not allow the
subject to be raised again for many weeks. There
are dark circles under my eyes most mornings.
“Where had we got to on mattresses?” I ask one
afternoon, putting a month’s uneasy truce at risk.
“We hadn’t got anywhere,” my wife says,
wheeling around in her chair. “I’m still punishing
you for your outburst.”
I think about my reply for a moment. “Really,
though, you’re just punishing yourself,” I say.
“With continued poor sleep.”
My wife exhales impatiently. “Someone
recommended this website,” she says, typing.
“They’re meant to be good.”
A page of mattresses appears.
“They all look the same,” I say.
“This is more or less what we chose,” she says,
the cursor circling a picture. “Isn’t it?”
“Don’t remember,” I say. “How long does it take?”
“Forty-eight hours,” she says.
“Click buy,” I say.
“We should go down there and lie on it,” she says.
“I’m never doing that again,” I say. “Click buy.”
“It’s half the price of the one we ordered,”
she says. “We don’t want to end up with the
wrong mattress.”
“We’ve had the wrong mattress for nine years,”
I say. “Click buy.”
Sixty hours later, I wake with a curious
sensation of weightlessness and a strange lack of
pain. I turn over; my wife opens her eyes.
“It’s like sleeping on bubbles,” she says.
“I can feel all my limbs,” I say. I am
disappointed to discover that, despite an amazing
night’s sleep, I still retain a certain anxiousness
about the coming day. Never mind, I think, pulling
the duvet over my head, you can just stay here.
First take
Bim Adewunmi
A recent online forage led me back
to a 2015 tweet, wherein I admitted
to being a lifelong member of the
informal (but undoubtedly real)
Frequent Crier Program. I’m not
exactly proud of it (I’m not
ashamed, either; it’s merely a fact)
but I will cry you under a table at
a moment’s notice, and I don’t even
need a good reason.
Most recently, I found myself
shedding tears while reading
Roxane Gay’s short story North
Country. All you need to know is
that I over-identified with the
protagonist, Kate, who is an often
spiky, needlessly difficult and
surprisingly hard nut to crack.
I looked into Kate’s eyes via
those 17 pages and, when
I looked away, mine were wet.
It was navel-gazing, sure, but it was
also recognition.
There were other incidents this
week that brought forth the hot,
salty tang of tears: at my local
subway station, a toddler sporting
a pink pacifier approached me
and waved like we were old pals,
and my smile folded into itself
abruptly. I listened to Freudian,
the new record by Daniel Caesar,
and cried thrice, the loudest at
Get You, on which he sings,
tenderly, “Ooh, who would’ve
thought I’d get you?” On the family
side: my siblings in London sent
me a portrait from their brunch,
and a happy sigh turned into a mild
weep; when I called my dad in
Nigeria, hearing his voice made my
breath hitch, before the trapped air
became a little sob. While frying
plantains, my wrist caught the edge
of the pan and, yup, you guessed it:
iinstant tears.
Is it healthy to cry this much?
Who can say? It almost always feels
good, though.
Our new mattress is missing, and neither of us can sleep
Small data
48% I’ve stopped drinking
Last week, Zoe Williams
wrote about going sober
for October. You said:
32% If you need an excuse
and don’t regret it
for a month off booze,
you’ve got a problem
20% People who don’t drink
are boring
Letters, emails, comments
Good article (Scroll, Refresh, Repeat,
Delete, 7 October), but it makes the
same mistake people have made
for ever when analysing trends:
assuming the trend will continue
indefinitely in the same direction.
The radio was going to kill books,
movies were going to kill radio, and
so on; in truth, it rarely happens.
Most techy people I know got
bored of spending all their time
on the internet years ago. They
now use it sparingly for practical
Stephen Collins
8 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
purposes; the general public is just
a few years behind the curve. Once
a few of your friends leave social
media, it will suddenly become far
less compelling; after a while, only
a few terminal addicts will be left,
fighting pointless wars over photos
of their lattes.
Adam Williamson
Laura Viviano (Experience, 7 October)
says she’ll tell her adopted child,
“You grew in another woman’s
belly and she chose me to be your
mommy, and now we are your
family. It’s that simple.” It’s more
complicated than that. The birth
mother isn’t just “another woman”.
Chris Hughes
The irony of an article about
technological distractions is that it
is distracting me from the very work
I’m meant to be doing.
Ben Coyle
Bozoma Saint John, chief brand
officer at Uber, says the one app
she couldn’t live without is, er,
Delta (Q&A, 7 October). Shurely
shome mishtake.
Ian McTaggart
Editor’s note: you’re right – she was
asked which app apart from Uber.
It won’t be long before gamification
enters our lives (Who Do You Trust?,
7 October). Just like “Sesame Credit”
in China: say positive things about
the government and you get points;
“like” a conspiracy video and you
get points deducted. Life will soon
be one long episode of Black Mirror.
Andy Smith
After all that tech, it was such
a relief to read about conkers.
Thank you, Howard Jacobson
(7 October), for reconnecting us
to the natural world.
Diane Monether
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
After reading My Life In Sex
(7 October), I predict a huge
demand for chocolate mini rolls in
supermarkets across the UK.
June Murphy
Co Kerry, Ireland
So sorry to see Marina O’Loughlin
departing the pages of Weekend
(Restaurants, 7 October). Next
time I see a woman in a restaurant
holding a plate in front of her face,
I will tell her how much I enjoyed
her work.
Gordon Cooper
Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire
Dowling buys dowelling (7 October).
It’s been worth the wait.
Marianne Chipperfield
via email
Email or
comment at by noon
on Monday for inclusion. Submissions
are subject to our terms and conditions:
Liam Gallagher, singer
orn in Manchester,
Gallagher, 45, rose to
fame in the 1990s as
lead singer of Oasis. The
band’s second album (What’s the
Story) Morning Glory? led to three
Brit awards in 1996 and was named
best British album since 1980 at the
awards in 2010. He has just released
his debut solo album, As You Were,
and will tour the UK this winter.
What is your earliest memory?
Being stung by a bumble bee outside
my grandma’s house in Ireland.
I screamed so loud – I think that’s
the first time I knew I had a good set
of lungs on me.
What is the trait you most deplore
in others?
I can’t stand social chameleons:
people who change to impress
whoever they happen to be with.
What is your phone wallpaper?
A picture of my two boys, Lennon
and Gene.
What would your super power be?
What do you most dislike about
your appearance?
I’m very happy with the way
I look. For 45 years, I think I’m
doing all right.
What is your most unappealing
I’m partial to licking my own plates.
What is your favourite smell?
My woman, the inside of new shoes,
my own farts.
What is your favourite word?
Chop suey.
Which book changed your life?
I don’t really read books. The film
Quadrophenia had a big impact on
me – haven’t read the book though.
What is the worst thing anyone’s
said to you?
“Are you Noel Gallagher?”
What is top of your bucket list?
To drive around France in a
Gypsy caravan.
10 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Seventies sitcoms like Rising Damp.
What do you owe your parents?
I owe my mother everything;
she gave me life, guidance and
beautiful skin.
To whom would you most like to
say sorry, and why?
Any sorrys I’ve needed to say have
been said already.
What does love feel like?
Love to me is knowing who you are
and knowing who you ain’t.
Who would you invite to your
dream dinner party?
John Lennon, Nigella Lawson, Keith
Moon, Steve Coogan, Peter Sellers.
Which words or phrases do you
most overuse?
As you were.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
Digging holes in Manchester
in January.
What has been your biggest
Oasis splitting up.
How do you relax?
I run every morning.
What is the closest you’ve come
to death?
When I was about seven or eight
years old, I was messing about
in a brook with my brothers and
a friend of mine, Paul Hewitt, and
I almost drowned. Paul saved me.
What single thing would improve
the quality of your life?
A fully functioning thyroid.
What song would you like played
at your funeral?
Live Forever.
Where would you most like to be
right now?
On a desert island with no
technology, surrounded by friends
and family with endless supplies of
food and booze.
Tell us a joke
I once farted in an elevator. It was
wrong on so many levels.
Rosanna Greenstreet
Worst thing
anyone’s said
to me? ‘Are you
Noel Gallagher?’
hen you work as a
long-distance lorry
driver, you see too
many accidents. In 32
years, I’ve witnessed everything
from prangs to pile-ups. I’ve seen
pedestrians hit and HGVs spin out
of control. Twice, I’ve had vehicles
smash into the back of my truck.
I know how devastating
accidents can be. In 1982, I was
wiped off a motorcycle and left for
dead – fractured skull, broken pelvis,
choking on my own blood – until
a stranger came to my aid. So, I never
thought I would deliberately crash
my own lorry. And I certainly didn’t
think crashing it would save lives.
It was 20 January and I was
driving on the A47 dual carriageway
in Norfolk. I work for a farm
machinery supplier in Norwich and
I was heading back to base. It was
4pm, so the road was pretty busy.
The first inkling that something
was wrong came when, about
300 yards in front, a bunch of cars
suddenly veered into the left-hand
lane. A van had swerved across
the carriageway, crashed into the
central reservation and was still
speeding on, half in the fast lane,
half scraping along the barrier.
I’m not sure how I thought I could
help, but I accelerated anyway.
I drive a 20-tonne truck and
I suppose I felt that, if I could get
level, I could put myself between
the van and other road users.
It became a bit of a race to catch
up. Lorries this size don’t accelerate
too quickly and the van was doing
about 45mph, so it took maybe 10
seconds to get alongside. As I did
so, I saw the problem immediately:
the driver was unconscious at the
wheel. I later learned he had had
a brain haemorrhage.
I know the A47 well and I was
aware we were approaching a place
where the central barrier ends. If
the van was still bouncing along
the reservation at that point, it
would swing into oncoming traffic.
I realised I had to do something.
Instinct took over. I decided
to crash into him. I nosed the
lorry ahead, then steered slightly
across the van’s path so that, as we
travelled along, it became trapped
between my tail and the barrier.
There was a screech of metal
on metal as the vehicles collided.
I remember thinking: that won’t
do the paint job any good. But I was
mainly concentrating on gripping
the wheel, making sure I didn’t lose
control. I felt a bit like a stunt driver,
although stunt drivers probably
aren’t as nervous as I was.
As we continued, I pressed the
brake. I knew that, if I stopped too
quickly, the van would crumple
against the tail, so I was as gentle as
I dared be – 40mph, 30, 20, bringing
us slowly to a stop. It went like a
dream. The lorry was a perfect tool
for pulling off that manoeuvre.
At that point, other motorists
pulled up to help. One was an
off-duty firefighter and another
a paramedic. They were exactly
the people you would want in that
situation. The van driver was still
unconscious when the ambulance
arrived, but because he was taken to
hospital so quickly the haemorrhage
was treatable. It’s ironic: if he had
collapsed somewhere safer but on
his own, he wouldn’t be with us
today, but because it happened on
a busy road, he survived.
The police told me I had saved
his life, and others, by preventing
a pile-up. Then they said they
would have to open a file because
I had deliberately crashed a vehicle.
I received a letter a couple of weeks
later saying I wouldn’t be charged.
Which was nice.
At work the next day, they gave
me a standing ovation. The Royal
Humane Society got in touch, too.
I’m not sure how it heard about it,
because it wasn’t in the press, but it
gave me a bravery award. That was
lovely, but I just did what anyone
would have done.
The biggest thing for me was
being able to help someone. The
stranger who saved my life after
my motorbike accident couldn’t
wait for the police, because he was
driving without insurance. I don’t
know who he was, but it has always
weighed heavily on me that I have
never been able to thank him. In
a way, it feels as if I have paid that
debt forward.
Russell Dagless
Do you have an experience to share?
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 13
I deliberately crashed my lorry
Written in the downtime between movies, Tom Hanks’ first collection
of short stories distils the essence of the actor: urbane and warm,
with a dash of dark humour. He talks books, regrets and fat astronauts
with Emma Brockes. Photographs by Chris Buck
Tom Hanks, photographed in Los Angeles last month
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 15
his is odd,” Tom Hanks says with
a shake of his shoulders, the
international sign of limbering up.
We are in a photographer’s studio in
LA, a setting that is as familiar to Hanks as the
reason for our meeting is strange. He has written
a collection of short stories called Uncommon Type
and, balanced on the edge of the sofa, is exploring
the novelty of giving an interview without “talking
points from the studio”. Hanks-the-actor is
cushioned; Hanks-the-author is not, and after
humbly asking what other writers I’ve interviewed
recently (Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis) barks
with incredulous laughter. “Oh, shit,” he says.
For those of us who came of age in the late 1980s,
Hanks has been around as long as we’ve been going
to movies, and at 61 he is bizarrely unchanged:
hair marginally greyer, face slightly fuller, but
otherwise still Hanks, the boyish energy and
cheerful cadences recognisable from three decades
on screen. He often starts sentences with “Look,
I get it”, or rather, “I-I-I get it”, the mild stutter
synonymous with his brand of almost cartoonish
affability. “Look, I get it,” he says, pushing his
black spectacles up the bridge of his nose, hippy
beads slack at his wrist. “I’m a famous guy and
I wrote a book and all that, but the reality is, how
much does a collection of short stories really
warrant attention?”
This is classic Hanks, appearing to break the
fourth wall of his celebrity to let us all in; and if he
has survived these years in the spotlight
relatively intact, it is through a combination of
good luck and this kind of strategy. Hanks gives
every impression of being sincere, but I get the
feeling he is also rather wily about his famous
good humour. As he must know by now, it can
make it hard to see anything else.
All of which makes Uncommon Type, a set of 17
stories written over many years in the downtime
between movies, a more interesting production
‘As an actor, I think
your job is to
show up on time.
Crazy important to
show up on time’
than it might otherwise have been. There are some
good lines and some ambitious themes, but it is
mainly of interest as an extension of Hanks the
actor; a way of decoding the appeal that has made
him worth an estimated $350m. His success as an
actor relies less on any of the showier A-list
attributes than on what one thinks of as a peculiarly
American decency: the urbanity of his Walt Disney
in Saving Mr Banks, the quiet heroism of Captain
Phillips, the integrity of all those romantic leads –
most notably as Sam, the widower in Sleepless In
Seattle – in the 1990s, in which he appeared not
only as the good guy, but as the good guy with solid
self-awareness. He might exude large measures of
“aw, shucks” bashfulness, but Hanks has just the
right amount of ironic reserve – the suggestion of
some darker humour in check – to make the shine
on his performance that much brighter.
And, of course, the warmth. On the page, as on
screen, Hanks is, simply, a lovely person to be
around. His characters in Uncommon Type are
families disintegrating or coming together,
mismatched couples, immigrants looking for a first
foothold in New York, people at the point of crisis
who tack more towards humour than gloom. In the
story Go See Costas, which he based on the real-life
tale of his father-in-law Al Wilson’s arrival in the
US from Greece, a penniless immigrant tries to
score work at a diner. In the opening story, Three
Exhausting Weeks, a dating couple size each other
up via a lot of perky dialogue. In Who’s Who, an
aspiring actor who once gazed dumbfounded at
the crowds in New York and asked herself “Where
is everyone going?” comes to the realisation that
“Everyone was going everywhere”, one of the
best open-ended lines of the book.
“I just kept asking questions,” Hanks says.
“Like, ‘Well, how long should they be?’ My editor
would say, ‘Well, however long they are.’ ‘OK,
how many do you want?’ ‘Well, you know, 15
would be good.’” It turns out Hanks has almost no
vanity as a writer. “Look,” he says, “in my day job
I provide the raw material and someone else
makes all the decisions; the order, the editing, the
lighting. So I don’t have any problems with
someone coming in saying, ‘I think it should be
like this.’ About six stories in, my editor said,
‘You’re always writing about people who are
stumbling upon somebody, that becomes part of
their world.’ I thought, I guess I am. Son of a gun.”
The best story by a mile is A Special Weekend,
which chronicles 48 hours in the life of a boy called
Kenny, shuttling between divorced parents. Hanks’
own parents split up when he was very young and
he was raised mainly by his father, a jobbing cook,
and a series of stepmothers. In the story, Hanks
captures the child’s-eye view of the world with
pitch-perfect accuracy, integrating the slow
external movement of time with the vast internal
journeys children make at that age, and as a writing
project it nails perhaps the hardest thing of all:
a story in which nothing and everything happens.
“I think it ends up being the need for
connectedness,” he says of his thematic interests.
“Not just humankind, but also the human
condition. Again and again, we’re searching for
that person who’s a magic key for us, makes us
feel connected, secure, part of something bigger
than ourselves. Without it, the world ain’t any fun.”
For Hanks, that person has, for the past 30 years,
been the actor Rita Wilson, his wife and the mother
of his two youngest children, Chet and Truman,
now in their 20s. (Colin and Elizabeth, Hanks’
children by his first wife, Samantha Lewes, are in
their 30s.) Hanks is famously uxorious, and his
reliability as an actor is something that, from his
first marriage at the age of 21, he has pegged to
the stability of his home life. He likes to be regular
in his habits, moderate in his passions and, it
turns out, modest in his assessment of what it is
he does. “As an actor, I think your job is to show
up on time. Crazy important to show up on time.”
That’s really right up there? “Huge. It’s the first
lesson I learned as a professional actor. You must.
Show up. On time.” He beats his hand in time on
the sofa. (In fact, today Hanks startled everyone
by arriving at the studio 30 minutes early. “A fluke
of traffic,” he says, but it’s an indication, perhaps,
of a certain uptight underlay to the “hey, man”
buoyancy of his style.) “Because, if you don’t, you
don’t have the time. It’s as simple as that. Before
the sun goes down, or just to get it right; to get
everybody on the same page, momentum-wise. If
you’re late, momentum can be lost.”
‘As a man, you
can fat yourself
out of some genres.
You can’t play
a fat astronaut’
He can’t bear to look back on his work. I mention
that Saving Private Ryan, the 1998 movie directed
by Steven Spielberg in which Hanks plays a noble
squad leader on a mission to save a mother’s last
surviving son, was on TV the night before.
“OK, well, I can walk you through that [scene
by scene]: horrible, terrible, should’ve done
something else. That worked out. I don’t even
remember doing that, so that’s a good sign. But
they [his films] all end up just being these
lingering examples of individual failures,
somehow. Here’s what I’ve learned: the only thing
you can do is to make it different. OK, you’re
going to shoot something and it’s going to take 47
takes? In the course of those 47 takes, you’ll be
able to do it different, and somewhere in the
course of those 47 takes is the way it needs to be.”
Goofballs don’t age the way other leading men do.
Bruce Willis looks craggy and ancient these days.
John Travolta is stretched tight as a drum. Hanks,
on the other hand, an actor for whom funny was
always more important than buff, is still
recognisable as the guy we love – although, of
course, ageing is less of an issue for all of these
men than it is for their female counterparts.
What’s the male equivalent of the Hollywood
actress considered too old for a lead?
“Unfairly, I don’t think there is one.”
You don’t age out of some genres?
“No. But here’s what you can do: you can fat
yourself out. If you’re fat, you can’t play an
astronaut. Take a look at the guys who are still
working; they’re in really good shape. Otherwise,
they become character guys. So that’s possible.
But it’s not the same as with women. With
women, the biggest problem is that there’s usually
a fraction of women in a movie compared with the
number of men. There’s only ever one girl in an
action movie, and it’s like, ‘Hi, I’m mysterious, but
hot.’ That is literally the template for an awful lot →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 17
of women in film. Television is
not the same – it’s quite diverse –
but in the commerce of motion
pictures, it’s just not fair.
Although Nora was great;
she refused to buy into that shit.”
He means Nora Ephron, the late
writer and director with whom
Hanks worked on Sleepless In
Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, and
whose Broadway play Lucky Guy
he was rehearsing when Ephron
died in 2012. They were great
pals, and Hanks dedicates
Uncommon Type to her.
“Nora was not a soft woman,”
he says, smiling. “You did not
want to cross her. Nora said,
‘Never turn down a front row seat
for human folly.’ And I have
turned down a lot of those front
row seats, but human behaviour
is constantly entertaining.
Watching humans behave in one
way results in a comedy, and in
another way a tragedy, but it ends
up being a constant fascination.
Why in the world do we do what
we do, and how does someone get
to that place where they think
that’s important? The people that
are dicks in showbiz, I always say
to them: ‘Why are you in this?’ I’m
in it because there’s nothing more
fun than doing this. This is like
going to high school and finding out you can take a
drama class instead of calculus. Sign me up!”
Well, they’re in it for the money, no?
“The money can be good. But after that, man,
you just want more money. There’s always
another level of mammon that you require in
order to keep yourself happy. Are you in it for
power? To do what? To have a parking place right
next to your trailer? If those are the talismans,
after a while none of it’s going to be enough.”
The business of handling obnoxious people on
set is one about which, along with everything else,
Hanks appears to be sanguine. “I learned a long
time ago that you don’t have to like the people you
work with,” he says. “But you have to respect their
process. If someone wants to be a dick, it’s OK.
Unless that dickishness is power play, because it’s
fun to beat up on underlings. Then you got to take
them off to the side and have a conversation.”
The idea of being set straight by Hanks is vaguely
terrifying, like being told off by a judge. “If it’s
a dickishness that means everybody else doesn’t
‘I did the same
social influencing
drugs as anybody
else, but it didn’t
become a habit’
as if I have accused him of
something. “I think the kneejerk
reaction is that because you’re
optimistic, you’re naive. Or that,
because you’re essentially
cheerful, you’re ignoring the pain
of the real things that are going
on. And that’s just not the case. I
weigh everything. But I can’t help
it that I wake up in the morning
and think: what good thing is
going to come around?”
I wondered whether part of the
reason Hanks wrote Uncommon
Type was that, after 30 solid years
of success at the box office – the
combined receipts of his movies is
around $8bn, and he has won two
Oscars (for Forrest Gump and
Philadelphia), multiple Golden
Globes and a Tony nomination
for Lucky Guy – he needed a new
challenge. “Not at all,” he says.
“If you’re looking back, yeah,
shoot. I got it. That’s all fine. But
that’s not the reason I did this.”
It’s not a question of getting
‘If you being a dick
on set encroaches
on my process,
there will be
words exchanged’
get to work at their best level – if you being a dick
means you’re going to encroach upon my process,
there’ll be a slug fest in the parking lot. There will
be words exchanged. And I’ve worked with men
and women where I’m like, ‘Are we going to have
to go through this again?’ And, well, yes, because
that’s what’s called for. On rare occasions, people
are insane – but those are really rare.”
His own sanity is something he puts down to
good decision-making and good luck. Certainly
he didn’t come by it during childhood. Hanks
talks about his early years with a kind of bleak
whimsy, the constant moving around from town
to town in California, the disruption of his
parents’ new partners. When I ask if his baseline
cheerfulness is something he might have learned
from either of his parents, he bursts into laughter.
“No. Dear lord. My parents were so busy with all
their own problems, I don’t think they were even
aware of the fact that sometimes we were in the
house.” His father was a cook who hated cooking.
His mother was someone who for many years he
saw somewhat infrequently. In Pollyanna-ish style,
Hanks has tried to salvage good things from this
experience, for example, “the few times I’ve been
afraid of a new environment, I got over it. And once
you learn that it might be bad for a while, then
you’re OK.” You’re an optimist, I suggest, and while
Hanks allows this to be the case, he looks vaguely
sucked into the competitive horse race, either. If he
hadn’t married and had kids early, Hanks says, he
might have had a tougher time handling his fame.
These days, 21 seems very young to have a family,
and I ask him if, when he looks at his own 21-yearold son and imagines him becoming a father, his
mind boggles. “Yeah,” he says. “I had to stop
telling them, ‘You know what I had when I was
your age? I had your older brother!’ It was young.
Other than moments of total terror, what it
provided me with was a nut that I had to provide:
there’s three of us, now, and I need x numbers of
dollars in order for us, literally, to survive.”
It was a limitation he found freeing. “I need to
make enough to be able to go to the dentist and
fix my car, and as soon as I can get on a decent
dental plan, then the rest is the high country. And
that’s what life was like. I avoided all the parties,
the pitfalls. I mean, I did the same degree of social
influencing drugs that anybody else did, but it
didn’t become a habit, and it didn’t become
a reason to live.”
He wasn’t resentful about having to stay in and
provide? “No. I always had more fun just sitting
around talking to people than going out. Look,
I was ridiculously fortunate, but there was never
a plethora of riches and luxury. What I was was
a working guy. I made my nut. Then you rethink
what that nut is. Slowly, you move along. I was →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 19
the most naive and inexperienced and stupid
35-year-old that ever was, but at the time, the
kids’ mom and I had restrictions upon us that
meant we could not spin out of control.” He
thinks for a moment. “If we did, shame on us.”
The year that Hanks and Lewes divorced, 1987,
was also the beginning of his great run of success.
A year later, he made Big, still the movie for which
many of us love him best, and after that the hits
came so thick and fast that, after marrying Wilson
in 1988, his second family had a very different
experience from his first. “I talk about this with
my [older] kids all the time,” he says. “They
remember when life was normal. When we lived
in standard houses and I sometimes had work or
not. And there was not the ballyhoo that goes
along with everything. My younger kids have
always had this other guy who was their dad.”
The other guy is Hanks from his mid-30s
onwards, and he tries hard to own his privilege.
“Look, I’m rich.” He laughs. “I’m rich.” He is also
careful with money. “I read a long time ago that you
can’t have debt. If you’re in debt, you can’t say no.
You have to have what David Niven called fuck-you
money. So, the nut is what do you need in order to
live right now, and that’s finite. My money’s in the
bank, man. My money’s safe. I have all the groovy
accoutrements that go along with being a celebrity,
and it’s really great, but the nut stays where it is.
Our nut is: if it stops tomorrow, we’ll be fine.”
He and Wilson tried to raise their kids in as
normal an environment as possible. “I would say
we lived in a relatively modest home until all the
kids were grown up. I say relatively; if you saw the
house, you would – relatively modest for somebody
who does what I do for a living, and that still takes
in the same security concerns. We didn’t move until
they were older, and that was a conscious decision.
You don’t want to fuck up the kids because, hey,
guess what, we have a new boat in the driveway.
The money was great, but both Rita and I have
communicated to our kids that we really love what
we do. We’re doing it for the sheer-ass pleasure.”
What about the movies that failed? “Oh, I’d go
through horrible doldrums. I’ve made an awful lot
of movies that didn’t make any sense, and didn’t
make any money, but that doesn’t alter the work
that goes into it, or even what your opinion of it is.”
Such as? “Like, I made a movie that altered my
entire consciousness – Cloud Atlas – I thought,
jeez, this thing is so fab; it’s the only movie I’ve
been in that I’ve seen more than twice. And it didn’t
do any business. And there’s nothing you can do
about it. And you must allow yourself a week of
thinking, jeez, I’m so bummed out. But that’s not
the only reason to do it. It’s lovely when it all works
and you get ballyhooed. But if it’s 50/50, you’re
‘I like getting older.
I always felt like
I had a big ass and a
squeaky voice when
I was growing up’
way ahead of the game. In reality, I think it’s more
like 80/20; 80% of what you do doesn’t work.”
Hanks has no qualms about being on the other
side of 60. “I actually like getting older. I always
felt like I had a big ass and a squeaky voice when
I was growing up.” There were other hard things.
“I will tell you, type 2 diabetes was a thing. I just
wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t putting good stuff into
the machine. And my doctor said,
congratulations, you idiot, you now have type 2
diabetes. It’s not like you automatically change
your behaviours, but that was a major signpost
that said ‘This is optional, man.
These are choices. And if you
want to, go ahead. But:
consequences. Dig it?’”
He and Wilson have always
been relatively abstemious.
“In the former firmament of
Hollywood, everyone got
shitfaced at 5pm. Everybody
drank. We just didn’t do that.”
And he doesn’t consider the
longevity of their marriage
strange. Everyone they know is
married, Hanks says; that’s just
how they hang out, with other
married couples who’ve been together as long as
they have. The biggest risk to their equilibrium
right now isn’t marital strife, but Trump. “Every
dinner party you have falls into this black hole of
conversation. How long can we hold off ? It’s such a
huge, magnificent mess right now. Had Hillary
Clinton been elected, and I voted for her, I think
we’d be in some other form of hideous mess. The
nature of discourse has been ‘us’ versus ‘them’ for
some time and I think there was a massive amount
of fatigue from the Bush-Clinton continuum.”
Was his faith in the American people damaged
by the election of Trump?
“Faith in the American people?” He gives me
a very Hanksian look, amused in a wry, senatorial
way. “We still have this thing called the
constitution. Even though it seems as though there
are people hellbent on altering it, or bending it, or
not living up to the oaths of protecting and
defending the constitution, there are an equal
number who are strapping on their brass knuckles.”
In different circumstances, I suggest, he might
Clockwise from above: Hanks with
his wife, Rita Wilson; with his oldest
son, actor Colin Hanks; and with
Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron in 1998
have been a Trump voter; what if
he’d been a 61-year-old
unemployed actor who’d never
had a good part in his life? “Yeah,
and if I’d been earlier, I could’ve
died in Vietnam. I grew up
thinking, hey, it’ll work out; hey,
who cares? Don’t plan too much,
just go ahead and do it. But look,
I’m white. So, right then and
there, I can drive across the
country by myself in 1977 without any difficulties.
I can walk into any store. The ongoing test is one of
empathy. You always have to take into account how
shitty a deal a person has had, along with how
many opportunities they have squandered.”
Hanks is so measured, so committed to the
process of rationalisation that it is impossible to
imagine him losing his temper. How does he fight?
“Well,” he says, and thinks for a moment. “When
I get pissed off, it’s emotional. I can get pretty
complainy. And then syntax is of major importance.
If you write this story and I call you on the phone
and the first thing I say is, ‘Let me get this straight.’ ”
He raises his eyebrows. “That’s bad news,” he
says, and dispenses the broadest of smiles •
Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type is published next week by
William Heinemann at £16.99. To order a copy for £9.99,
go to or call 0330 333 6846.
Read Hanks’ short story Three Exhausting Weeks at, featuring original
animation, plus audio from the author.
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 21
I second that promotion
In a good year, Tom Shone’s wife earns 100
times more than him. He’s backing her all the way –
so why does he still feel like a failure?
Illustration by Iker Ayestaran
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 25
y wife and I are on conference call with our
accountant, Ronnie. Ronnie works from a home
office on 57th Street, looks a little like Larry David
and has the kind of brusque New Yorker manners
that border on the brutal.
“Kate,” he says, his voice tinny on speakerphone, “it looks
like you’ve had another great year. And those pensions are
really starting to look good.”
My wife smiles modestly.
“So, Tom,” Ronnie says with an ominous pause, “I think the
return is good, although we’re in a little danger of the
government taking the position that what you do, essentially,
is a hobby.”
“A hobby?” I say, weakly.
“Yeah, the Hobby Rule, it’s called. You got your stamp
collectors, your comic book collectors, they go to conventions
and then they sell some of their stuff. It’s really just a hobby.
I know yours is not a hobby – you’re a published author – but
there’s nothing stopping them saying, ‘Well, Tom basically is
just writing because he enjoys it.’ If you’re not making any
money, they won’t let you write off losses.”
“I see,” I say, wrestling a mixture of hurt pride and
indignation. “But don’t they understand the idea of the
business that’s just had a bad year?”
“You can have a bad year,” Ronnie tells me. “You can’t have
a consistency of bad years. If you’re in the real estate business,
yes, you can lose money, but you can’t... You can’t live on...
If you were single, on your own….” He is having problems
spitting out the actual amount I earned. “You can’t live on
that,” he says finally.
My wife gives my hand a squeeze. “Come on, you were
writing two books and taking care of business with Juliet.”
Juliet’s our three-year-old. “Do hobbyists write for the
New Yorker?”
I’ve been freelance long enough not to dwell on this setback.
Soon, I am joking about the conversation, taking an inverted
pride in the story with each retelling – a stamp collector! A bad
year, yes, but a bad consistency of years! – until Kate starts to
frown. It’s a familiar ritual for us: me joking my way out of how
wounded I am, my wife keeping a watchful eye to see if the
jokes are going to turn serious again.
Secretly, I wonder if we haven’t turned into one of those
couples where the wife is always making excuses for her
husband: “Oh well, he was never a Master of the Universe
type.” Or: “He’s good at maths.” I know I have no cause for
complaint. Who could ever complain about a wife who earns
six times more than them (actually, last year it was more
like 100 times more than I did, but we’ll leave last year out
of it, OK?). The company where she is vice-president pays
for everyone’s American healthcare; the mortgage is in her
name, because my credit rating is nonexistent, and she
pays more of it than I do. Her hours are brutal: from 9am to
8pm, sometimes later, which means she doesn’t have time
to get our daughter to school and arrives home just in time
for her bath.
That leaves me in charge of getting Juliet ready for nursery,
picking her up mid-afternoon, then running the show – park,
play-dates, dinner, bath – until Kate comes back from work.
When she goes away on a business trip, I take over full time.
We have a thoroughly modern marriage — “post-heroic”, in
the words of historian James MacGregor Burns. I thrill to my
wife’s victories at work as much as I used to thrill to my own,
and offer good advice when it comes to negotiating her office
politics. But as jazzy and loose-limbed and modern as my
marriage sometimes makes me feel – looking after our
daughter while my wife goes to march against Trump on
inauguration day! Pointing out which pink pussy hat is
mommy on the TV! – this only heightens the small pinch of
shame I feel whenever a waiter returns Kate’s Amex card to
me rather than her in a restaurant. Or when our accountant
compares my livelihood to that of a hobbyist. What are these
burps from my reptile brain?
Clearly I do care. On some level, I care deeply. I also know
that I shouldn’t, and this creates a rather volatile dynamic in
me that has taken a lot of handling. I’ve read all those articles
in Forbes and Businessweek about how stay-at-home dads
are the new feminist heroes, illustrated with photographs of
Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s husband, Frank, and
former Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer’s husband, Zachary, all
standing there with their aprons and smiles. That’s the point.
They have chosen this life for themselves: their smiles are
the smiles of men letting you know how OK they are with this,
and how many ideas for start-ups they have had on the school
run every morning. My smile is a little more the strained,
polite smile of a man who may well have chosen this life for
himself, but can’t for the life of him remember when or how
it happened.
There are many of us out there. “One of the things that
I struggle with in terms of how I see myself is that there’s
no real precedent in this role,” says my friend Nathan, who
a few years back let his 13-year copywriting career slide in
order to pursue a career as a photographer. His wife has an
executive position with a large media company. They have
two children, aged five and six. From the moment they’re
awake, he is getting them dressed, making breakfast,
brushing teeth, making lunch, getting them to school, then
he picks them up again mid-afternoon. Introduced to people, →
As modern as my marriage makes me feel, it only heightens the
pinch of shame when the waiter returns Kate’s Amex card
to me instead of her. What are these burps from my reptile mind?
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 27
Tom Shone with his wife, Kate, and their daughter, Juliet
he will describe himself as either a “photographer” or a “stayat-home dad”, depending on the level of trust he feels.
“It makes me want to cringe when I hear that term, because
I haven’t committed 100% to this,” he says. “It’s no big deal in
2017 for a mother to be at home with the kids, but it’s still
murky and weird for a dad. I notice it the most on Fridays.
I don’t want to start a dad club. I don’t want to deal with it.”
The majority of my male friends are in the same boat –
out-earned by their wives and girlfriends, to varying degrees,
which may say something about my social circle, but also
about huge shifts in the way women and men live, work
and marry.
“The post-industrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and
strength,” writes Liza Mundy in The Richer Sex, a book I sought
out in 2012, just a few years into my marriage. “Within a
generation it is likely that more women, married and single,
will be supporting households – especially households with
children – than men.”
Wrestling with a king-sized depression about my work, or
lack of it, I took solace in Mundy’s soothing statistics about
the recent “Mancession” in the US, in which three-quarters of
the eight million jobs lost were lost by men, and the share of
sole male bread-winners declined from 35% in 1965 to 18% in
2009. Women are now the primary breadwinners of 40% in US
households. There are as many as two million stay-at-homedads in the US, nearly double the number there were in 1989.
In the UK, the numbers track in similar proportions: 31% of
British women are the main financial provider in their family,
a rise of 80% in the past 15 years. “For the first time, men will
start thinking of marriage as a bet on the economic potential
of a spouse, exactly as women have done for generations,”
Mundy writes, while women “will place even greater value
on qualities such as supportiveness (a glass of wine at the
end of the day, a chance to unburden), parenting skills and
domestic achievements, not to mention that old masculine
standby: protection. They will use their economic resources
to find men who are good at sex, but also – equally important –
good at washing dishes.”
“Bah!” I can remember thinking when I read that. You try
being in the vanguard of gender-evolutionary change: it’s not
all glasses of wine and fun with Fairy Liquid. It’s painful and
confusing and humiliating in ways you can’t put your finger
on, and find hard to talk about.
“My mother still thinks that me staying home with my kids
and being present, and accountable, is not a worthwhile
effort,” says another friend, Jack, a sculptor and father of two,
a six-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, whose wife is a
lawyer. “She thinks I need to be on an artists’ residence in
Italy for a month. She doesn’t get that I choose to be there for
my children in a way that my father wasn’t. It’s something that
I have to deal with every day, this notion that in some way
I’m not doing anything because I’m not out there earning
money, basically.”
Absent fathers seem to figure a lot in the back stories of
my male friends pushing this trend. In my case, my parents
divorced when I was six; my dad didn’t pay my mother child
support. She raised us, got us through school and university
by herself, even though our finances were a little rocky. We
moved house a lot: 13 times by the time I was 13. I craved
stability, and made up for it with a wild and prolonged burst
of overachievement, first at university and then in my career.
A film critic for one of the Sunday papers by the time I was 26,
a home-owner by 27, my ideas of love and romance were
forged in the heat of that early success. My relationships were
always infused with a slightly condescending gallantry: I was
always falling for slightly lost girls, whose resistance to male
authority kept my own company, but who did not take their
careers anywhere near as seriously as I did mine. An artist, a
poet, a yoga instructor – all women I could woo from a position
of superiority, win over with my achievements, dazzle. →
Women are now the primary breadwinners in 31% of
British homes, a rise of 80% in 15 years. Being in this vanguard
is painful and confusing in ways I find hard to talk about
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 29
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Tellingly, my wife was the first woman I dated who was
my professional equal. I can remember my friends’ surprise
upon meeting her: a job! A good one! For a company they had
heard of! I had come out to New York to work for a new
magazine whose lavish $1m launch party on Liberty Island
was attended by Madonna and Henry Kissinger, the assorted
A-listers lounging on pillows and blankets beneath trees hung
with Chinese lanterns, while George Plimpton narrated a
fireworks show. The evening seems a little phantasmal now,
like the last days of Versailles, or a Gatsby party, the magazine
world artificially buoyed by the last of the pre-internet
advertising revenues and a dotcom bubble that was about to
burst. We didn’t know it but the industry in which we worked,
in which I had found such early success, was about to walk
over a cliff.
The magazine had closed by the time I met Kate. Dozens
more would follow in the next few years, along with hundreds
of newspapers, newsrooms shedding jobs by the tens of
thousands. Her industry, meanwhile, remained firmly
recession proof. “6,000 drop in number of UK journalists over
two years — but 18,000 more PRs” runs a headline from the
Press Gazette in 2015, which could easily be the story of our
marriage. Newly wed, fielding polite inquiries from my in-laws
into “how the writing was going”, I hustled in a newly choppy
freelance market and watched in horror as my income began
its slow, steady descent to a point roughly half of what it had
been when I was 26. It was a little like pedalling furiously on
an exercise bike on which someone is secretly switching up
the difficulty level.
As my wife’s income and mine began to pull further apart,
we began, unsurprisingly, to argue about money: did the
wedding need to be that big? Did we need to get cabs all the
time? How many times could we afford to eat out? She
thought I was penny pinching – her family prided itself on
their largesse and extravagant gifts – and here was I, heading
into my 40s, for many men their earning prime, essentially
budgeting like a student again.
“I don’t care who earns what,” was my wife’s constant
refrain. “It’s not my money, it’s our money. For richer, for
poorer, right?” Once marriage vows came into it, I knew I had
to concede the point, which only made the shame I felt all the
more acute, something to be addressed in private. “I could see
you were in pain, and I wanted to help,” she says now, “but
every time I came near the subject, you were so angry and
down on yourself, it just seemed to make it worse.” In private,
she now tells me, friends of hers were asking, “Why doesn’t
he just go out and get a different job?”
Now, it seems obvious. Why didn’t I? Why does the frog sit
still in a pan of slowly boiling water? It’s amazing how slow
we are to recognise broad, historical forces at work in our
own lives. Pride and a little inverse egotism were at play, as
I’m sure they are for many whose livelihoods have slowly
evaporated, be they blacksmiths or elevator operators: we’d
rather blame ourselves than be seen to complain about the
state of our industry. On some level, I felt this was just
happening to me and me alone, and as such I ought to keep it
to myself. I had started my career in the middle of one
recession, so why start beefing about another now? If I had
looked around, or been in closer contact with my peers,
I would have seen a different story, part of a larger
reconfiguration of the media landscape in the age of the
internet: those jobs weren’t coming back. The profession
that had once given me a mortgage and a pension, and put me
on a private jet to make small talk with Gwyneth Paltrow, was
now something closer to, well, a hobby.
It’s telling that what finally pulled me out of my funk was
the arrival of my daughter. It’s true what they say: a baby
arrives with a loaf of bread under its arm. It’s almost as if
one big change burst the dam and allowed me to take stock
of all the other changes that I had been so resistant to, and
had been sheltering within my marriage to avoid. I got a job
teaching. I started writing summaries of legal briefs for
a non-profit organisation. I wrote and sold the screen rights
to a novel. Money from books would eventually form a more
reliable revenue stream than that from journalism. Most
importantly, I started to believe my wife when she told me
she didn’t care how much I earned. And to do that I had to
stop≈caring myself, just a fraction at first – a crack in the door
that my daughter has pushed fully open. Because I know she
doesn’t care how much I earn. She doesn’t know anything
about tax returns or the internet or mancessions or postheroic marriages. She’s three. When she looks at me, all she
sees is the guy who drops her off at school and makes her
lunch and cooks her dinner. And I have turned out to be pretty
good at those things.
“I just know my kids more than a dad who doesn’t get to
spend as much time with them,” Nathan tells me. “In some
ways, I know them better than my wife does. She’ll always
kind of trump that with her maternal instinct, and that’s cool.
But there are things about their interests, their tics, their
behaviour that I know just from spending the extra hours with
them. That doesn’t seem like something our father’s
generation ever really knew about.”
The slight twinge of shame I still occasionally feel when
going over our numbers with our accountant, or when my
wife pays for a meal, I now shrug off like a phantom-limb
twitch. Another time. Another life. One day, I may tell my
daughter about it •
I started to believe my wife when she said she doesn’t care
what I earn. And I know my daughter doesn’t care about tax
returns or mancessions: I’m just the guy who makes lunch
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 31
Olga Volnina, first
secretary of the
Communist party of
the Russian Federation,
Torzhok, Tver Province
On your Marx
One hundred years
after the Russian
communists are
still flying the flag –
in countries from
Russia to Nepal and
Italy. Photographer
Jan Banning captures
the enduring spirit
of 1917. Interview by
Zoe Williams
Activist Rodrigo Jose
de Silva in the offices
of Partido Comunista
Português, Borba,
Alentejo, Portugal
o two modern communist parties are
the same. In Nepal, the comrades look
quite Ocean’s Eleven, purposeful and
united, glamorous despite their woolly
hats. In Italy, the insistent sun gives them the air of
drinkers in a rural bar with an eccentric owner. The
reds of the Indian state of Kerala carry themselves
with a distinctive authority and have the look of
seasoned medics in a run-down but well-used
county hospital. The Portuguese communists
have an anarchic energy, a bit of versatility, as if
they could be plotting a revolution, or opposing
fracking. The Russians have a complicated,
mournful alertness, as if they’re running a seance.
They share a love of Marx and primary-coloured
paintwork, but differ over their enthusiasm for one
of the biggest mass murderers of the 20th century.
Joseph Stalin, widely held responsible for tens of
millions of deaths, doesn’t get much traction
outside Russia, but there he is major. “Without
exception,” says photographer Jan Banning, “in all
the 50 party offices I visited, they were in favour
of Stalin. They would just deny the bad side of it:
‘There are problems in every country… you have
to realise there were a lot of saboteurs, so he had to
do something.’ Of course, these people have not
experienced the toughest years of Stalin, the 1930s.
He is a war hero for a war they did not fight in.”
Over the past four years, Banning has
photographed communists from five noncommunist countries: Russia, “for obvious
reasons”; India, where they are still a significant
electoral force; Portugal, because even since their
recent electoral collapse they still net one vote in
12; Italy, because they were “interesting
historically”; and Nepal. Banning talks about
Laura Vari, member
of the Partito della
Rifondazione Comunista
(PRC), in Lenci,
Liguria, Italy
them all with a parent’s slightly anguished
affection, almost pained to see them struggling to
make their way in the world. The Portuguese, he
says, “wanted to be seen in a very heroic way:
mass demonstrations and lots of flags, not this
intimate and slightly clumsy representation (as
captured above). They are dreaming of the past,
some form of land reform nobody has been
talking about since 1974. There is not that much
to hope for. I think they would be able to set up
two soccer teams and have a few people on the
bench – they are less than marginal.”
When Banning showed the Portuguese
communists his first set of photographs, they
didn’t invite him back; the Italians, conversely,
asked if they could use the portraits for their
Facebook page. Meanwhile, the Keralans are
much more established than either European
party. “They’re different,” Banning says. “They’re
governing. It’s a social democratic party – there’s
nothing revolutionary about them. They’re in a
communist coalition. They’ve been in power
regularly since the mid-1950s.”
What all the parties have in common is passion
and uncertainty, a desire to persuade and a stoic
preparedness to fail. Politically, Banning
approached the project from a sympathetic place,
though you wouldn’t call him a fellow traveller.
“I’m an anarchist at heart,” he says. “I have never
voted for a communist party – my sympathies have
never been with any real, existing socialism.
Communism as it was in Russia, in China, I have
never been attached to that. But I have always
been on the left side of the spectrum.”
Certainly there is no partisan sugar-coating
in his images. The bogeyman trait of the left is
self-righteousness, but there’s none of that; it’s
hard to look pleased with yourself beside such
dicey plasterwork. The low spec of the interiors,
crumbling concrete and 70s chairs, give a sense of
having been left behind. In Russia, particularly, the
disparity between these sparse meetings and the
USSR’s high-polish, monolithic granite and
aggressively synchronised marching is vertiginous.
From Strugi Krasnye to Alentejo, portraits of
the heroes of communism festoon the party
faithful’s walls. Che Guevara’s face, photogenic
from any angle, at any scale, occupies such
a kitsch, post-political niche in the capitalist
aesthetic that to see him looming heroically for
his politics rather than his cheekbones is a quiet
accusation. The problem with Marx, ran the
Russian saying post-glasnost, is that he was wrong
about communism but right about capitalism. For
this cross-continental communist rump, though,
Marx was so right about the right stuff they’re
prepared to overlook the wrong.
What should we feel when we see Che and Stalin
side by side? What mixture of nostalgia, ambition,
myopia and idealism are we looking at, and in
what proportions? “Of course viewers have to be
attracted to the images,” Banning says. “But then,
if they’re confused by the content, it hopefully
stimulates them to start using their brain, and not
just their hearts and their eyes.”
Many of Banning’s images are very funny, albeit
with a slightly queasy, unwilling humour. “These
circumstances, the situations, the offices – yeah,
I find them funny,” he agrees. “Regularly. But I’m
not trying to make a fool of the people in there.
First of all, who am I to judge them? I can judge the
Continues on page 38 →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 35
Yuri Budylev, chairman
of the Office of the
Council of Veterans of
the Second World War, in
Staraya Russa, Novgorod
province, Russia
Communist party of
Nepal (Revolutionary
Maoist), Pokhara district.
Standing: three youth
party members. Seated:
a journalist on the party
newspaper and, right,
the officer in charge of
the constituency →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 37
Top: activist Maria
Schiavone at the Emiliano
Zapata office of the PRC
in Acerra, Campania, Italy
Continued from page 35
system when it’s in power, but these individuals?
It would be a very cynical series if I went there to
make fun of them.”
Banning is from the Netherlands, and had scoped
out the Dutch communist party first. “The first
thing I discovered was that they were extremely
marginal. The second thing that struck me was that
they seemed to be hardly bothered by it. They were
thinking in the millennium term, in the sense of,
‘These changes are going to take about 1,000 years.
We’re in a dip now, but never mind: we win in the
long run.’ They did not want to be presented as a
group of dinosaurs. I should include the youth,
they said. Now, the youth… I went to a few
meetings and a funeral, and I saw a total of one –
always the same one, a young fellow.”
If you took Banning’s book too literally, you
38 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Above: NP Vidyanadan of the Communist party of
India (Marxist), the main
party in the communistled government of
Kerala, India
Top: office secretary
Ramhari Pokharel of the
Communist party of Nepal
(Unified Marxist Leninist),
in Sindhuli district, Nepal
would see in it an insult to communism,
a depressing dishevelment; you would quibble
with the scope, limited to the oldest building
blocks of local organisations, paying no heed to
more modern and optimistic experiments, the
networked tech lefties and their fully automated
luxury communism.
But it doesn’t claim to be an audit of the
movement, and Banning found some unexpected
parallels outside it. “We drove some 5,000km in
western Russia, saw quite a lot of these villages
and small towns. It’s a disaster. You can clearly
see the effects of neo-liberalism – public space
has been dismantled, the roads are a mess, there
are few shops left, the people are on their own.
“Funnily enough, it reminded me of what I’d
seen in the southern US states. Of course, the
level of development is better there, but I had this
Above: the Che Guevara
club of the PRC in
Verbicaro, Calabria, Italy
feeling of nothing being up to scratch. I remember
laughing out loud when I was driving there and
listening to Obama saying, ‘We have the best
infrastructure in the world.’ It’s utterly ridiculous.
That has nothing to do with communism, but
I think it does have to do with neo-liberalism, the
purest form of it – which we do not have in the
western European continent.”
Banning’s photographs present multiple acts of
resistance, some fruitful, some futile, resisting
everything from modern markets – the Italians
run a not-for-profit vegetable shop – to abstracts
such as sweeping cynicism. It does not leave you
punching the air at the limitlessness of human
potential, but it does leave a lingering sense of
respect – not for the politics, so much as the
bravery of not just jumping on the train that’s
moving the fastest. →
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Georgi Georgievich
Slovtsov at the
Communist party
of the Russian
Federation’s Leningrad
provincial office, in
St Petersburg, Russia
The Sette Martiri club of
the PRC, in the Castello
district of Venice. From
left, party members
Alberto Cancian, Luca
Padoan, Alessandro
Rosso and Massimo
Tagliapietra, Italy •
These photographs
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Red Utopia, published
by Ipso Facto, NL
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€49.95 plus p&p;
40 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘He has
budgies on
his moobs!’
From Harry Styles on the
red carpet to Justin Trudeau
at Pride, who wears it well?
Our celebrity panel shares its
verdict with Alexandra Jones The jury
Reverend Richard Coles
musician turned vicar, broadcaster
and Strictly contestant
Greg Rutherford
British long jump champion
and Olympic gold medallist
Rick Edwards
writer, presenter and
Stephen K Amos
Helen Seamons
the Guardian’s menswear
fashion editor
42 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
John Legend
Harry Styles
RC I always have to wear black – it’s part of the
uniform of being a high church vicar – so I rather
like something patterned. It’s certainly an
interesting look.
GR I love the bomber. I think it’d look better with
a plain black T, but who am I to argue with a bloke
who’s married to Chrissy Teigen?
RE I like the trousers. I’m all about a drawstring
waistband these days: what a treat for your waist.
But then there’s the thorny issue of what the hell
he’s doing with his top half. It makes your eyes
go funny.
SKA I’m convinced that the T-shirt is attached to
the jacket. Like one of those jumper-shirt combos
you might have worn to school.
HS It’s quite Hampton Court gift shop, no?
A tapestry menagerie from Henry VIII’s
banqueting hall reimagined as a men’s twinset.
I don’t hate it, but I am pretty sure my mum has
the tea towel.
RC He has budgies on his moobs: they look as if
they’re flying away from his armpits. I think this is
a wonderful fashion thing that I’m just not getting.
GR I tend to wear a lot of black myself, and you
can’t go wrong with a black skinny jean, but the
shirt gets a thumbs down. I really like birds, but
swallows? That’s been done to death. Now, if it
were a pair of pigeons, I might be on board.
RE I like the shirt a lot. It reminds me of
a souvenir jacket, in shirt form.
SKA With that face and mane of hair, he can wear
what he likes. Just look at the name, Harry Styles:
he’s an originator of trends, not a follower.
HS Full disclosure: in my eyes, Harry can’t put
a foot wrong. The boots are bang on trend and
I love this shirt – it’s quite a meta choice, and
matches his chest tattoos.
Justin Trudeau
RC He looks smashing. Purple was my favourite
colour as a child, but I can’t wear it now because
I’m not a bishop. Still, I do love to see it on others.
GR It’s all too matchy-matchy for me, but I do like
suits in unconventional colours, so props for that.
Childish Gambino isn’t afraid of fashion, so he
(and he alone) can pull this off.
RE He’s wearing something awful, but he looks
fantastic, so I’m confused by this image. He seems
to be taking style cues from the Joker, a natty
dresser but also a comic book villain – not a group
generally renowned for being style icons.
SKA The suit is amazing, the colour complements
his skin tone, it’s very smartly cut; he just looks
incredibly chic.
HS Three cheers for Donald Glover and red carpet
risk-taking. Full marks for his “dress for the
award you want” strategy: nothing sets off gold
better than purple, a regal classic, and what could
be a better accessory than two Emmys?
RC He’s a handsome fellow, but he looks like he’s
wearing the sartorial version of dad dancing.
GR White trousers terrify me. Not just because
they’re very “female divorcee having a moment”,
but because I’d need so much Daz to make sure my
children didn’t ruin them before I left the house.
RE He’s dressed like the world’s most average man.
I guess the belt is interesting. I can never get these
to work, so maybe I’m feeling repressed jealousy.
SKA If you saw Donald Trump dressed like that,
you’d think, “No, that’s not right.” But Trudeau
looks like he’s about to go boating.
HS JT could have tried a bit harder with his Pride
look. The stripy belt wants to be a rainbow, but is
four colours short. White jeans are too highmaintenance for real life, and on a march
everyone’s mobile with refreshments, which to
my mind equates to higher odds of spillages.
RC I adore this look. He looks like a super-cool
undertaker. Sadly, it’s not one I could adopt:
there’s a fine line between compelling and sinister.
GR The sunglasses, the shirt, the coat, the
trousers, the shoes… everything was going great,
until he visited Claire’s Accessories.
RE I really like this. The coat length is perfect, and
I like the cuffs just poking out: it looks fitted and
well-tailored. He looks excellent. I’m quite jealous.
SKA He needs the shades to block out the glare
coming off that brooch. Last time I saw a brooch
that fine was on my grandmother, Constance.
HS Do you know what that crystal brooch is? It’s
the medal for the fastest wearing of a catwalk look
after a show (Burberry). He might even have taken
it off the model’s back as they passed by. Bonus
points for the beret, the on-trend hat this winter.
Interviews by Alexandra Jones.
For the panel’s verdict on Armie Hammer and Noel
Fielding, go to
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 45
Donald Glover
What will a real mechanic
make of the trend for
designer jumpsuits? We ask
five to give them a roadtest
46 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Spencer Wood (left), 33,
prototype mechanic,
Ford Dunton Technical
Centre, Basildon,
Essex, wears
Katharine Hamnett
‘Jumpsuits remind me of
Ghostbusters. I like the
colour and the material
of this one. It fits really
well – and it’s better than
the one Sam’s wearing
[see overleaf].’
Arvinder Singh Marway,
56, laboratory
technician, Ford Dunton
Technical Centre,
wears MC Overalls
‘I love the pink. Had
I known, I’d have
worn my pink turban.
I like to coordinate it
with my outfit.’ →
Photographs by David Newby.
Styling by Helen Seamons
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 47
Sam Haywood, 20,
apprentice prototype
mechanic, Ford Dunton
Technical Centre,
wears Topman
‘This isn’t my usual look:
I normally run into a shop
and grab the first three
things. I’m not sure about
the jacket. I suppose the
denim isn’t too bad, but
the trainers definitely
wouldn’t pass safety
standards in the garage.’
48 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Kieron Stewart, 27,
mechanic, Mike’s
Coachworks, London N1,
wears Maharishi
‘I do dress up to go out,
but would I wear this?
To be fair, it’s really
comfortable, but
I doubt I’d wear it on
a night out, not when
I wear one all day.’ →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 49
Cuthbert Thomas, 64,
director, Transauto Garage,
London NW1, wears Private
White VC
‘This fits perfectly.
Can I keep it? I’ll swap it
for my old one!’
Spencer wears jumpsuit,
£650, and T-shirt, £80,
both katharinehamnett.
com. Boots, £170,
Arvinder wears jumpsuit,
Gilet, £385, by Herno, from Sam
wears jumpsuit, £60, Roll neck,
£90, Bomber,
£890, by Stella McCartney,
Trainers, £65,
Kieron wears jumpsuit,
T-shirt, £200, by Raf
Simons, from
Cuthbert wears jumpsuit,
Jacket, from a selection,
by Balenciaga, from Trainers,
Stylist’s assistant:
Bemi Shaw. With thanks
to Charlotte Ward.
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The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 53
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The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 55
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The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 57
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The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 59
60 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
food mind
space gardens
Blind date Joe, 23, designer, meets Jess, 27, consultant
Joe on Jess
Jess on Joe
What were you hoping for?
A good laugh, free food and
maybe some romance.
First impressions?
Cool dress.
What did you talk about?
She spoke a lot, so most of
the conversation related to
her job or Clapham. We did
speak about my supposed
resemblance to James Dean
for a while, before deciding
it was very slight.
Any awkward moments?
When she told me I wasn’t
allowed the lobster.
Good table manners?
Yes, she managed to eat two
desserts very skilfully.
Best thing about Jess?
Her confidence, humour and
ability to occupy a silence.
Would you introduce her
to your friends?
If the opportunity arose,
then yes, but I don’t see
many similarities between
them and Jess.
Describe Jess in three words
Definitely not shy.
What do you think she made
of you?
I know she wasn’t impressed
with my white T-shirt and
jeans. Other than that,
perhaps a bit dull.
Did you go on somewhere?
We had a cocktail.
And... did you kiss?
Unexpectedly, yes.
If you could change one
thing about the evening,
what would it be?
The lobster.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
Jess has a great sense of
humour, but I think we’re
cut from different cloth.
What were you hoping for?
Good food and casual flirting.
First impressions?
Young, but very cool. Lovely
hair, but very dressed down.
What did you talk about?
The north, university, his love
of Japanese cuisine, rugby.
Any awkward moments?
I made him order a dessert so
that I could have two.
Good table manners?
Yes, but it was very dark.
Best thing about Joe?
He was really quirky, different
and probably cooler than me.
Would you introduce him
to your friends?
Yes, though I’m not sure
they’d be his type.
Describe Joe in three words
Edgy, northern, cute.
What do you think he made
of you?
Probably that I never shut up?
I think he was nervous, but
I broke him down a bit, so I’d
like to think I’m approachable.
Did you go on somewhere?
For a cocktail in Soho.
And... did you kiss?
If you could change one thing
about the evening, what
would it be?
I think it was pretty spot on.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
Probably, but more as friends.
She said
I wasn’t
allowed the
than me
Joe and Jess ate at the Ivy
Soho Brasserie, London W1,
Fancy a blind date? Email
If you’re looking to meet
someone like-minded, visit
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 61
High-street moisturisers take on luxury brands – and win
ith the sheer weight of new products
coming to market, some inevitably get
overlooked – it can be months before
I chance across them. This happened
recently, when a missed late train detoured me to
a friend’s flat, where I had to make do with what he
had in the bathroom. Within seconds of massaging
Superdrug’s Optimum PhytoGlyc Age Day Cream
SPF15 into my hungover face, I knew I needed my
own. This non-greasy cream provides superior
moisturisation, smoothing silkily on to normal,
combination or dry skin, and an exceptional base
for makeup. For a cream containing sunscreens,
it manages that rare feat of staying stable under
slapdash foundation application, without peeling,
and didn’t sting when it wandered into my eyes.
Whatever Superdrug is doing to integrate its SPF,
luxury brands need in on it, because I can barely
remember a more instantly pleasing, no-fuss
cream. I’m sceptical about its long-term “firming”
claims, as I am with those for products at five times
the price, but for £12.99 I’ll take my chances.
This led me to its big sister Optimum
Phytodeluxe Day Cream (£14.99), which is richer
in texture, and for drier, more mature skin, but
just as lovely a texture. The brightening, plumping
Try these
1 Optimum PhytoGlyc Age Day Cream
SPF15, £12.99,
2 Optimum Phytodeluxe Day Cream,
3 Anew Reversalist Infinite Effects Night
Treatment Cream, £25,
effect is instantly noticeable and, again, makeup
lies so cosily on top, you can happily skip primer.
One launch I couldn’t fail to notice is Avon’s
legitimately game-changing Anew Reversalist
Infinite Effects Night Treatment Cream (£25). It’s
the first moisturiser based on key research into
our skin’s tendency to plateau following longterm use of previously effective products. Having
long dismissed women’s claims that a favourite
skincare had suddenly stopped working,
scientists now concede we had a point. Avon’s
solution is to adopt the principles of interval
training, where the body is shocked from an idle
state by brief bursts of high-intensity exercise.
They’ve done this with a double-ended pump
(one side contains a low concentration of retinol)
that’s flipped and alternated weekly, so startling
the skin into a response. The clinical trial (over a
year, rather than the standard 12 weeks, and with
a large sample group, too) had amazing results,
with visible improvements in facial wrinkles in
that half of the testers who were using the cream.
It’s an exciting, affordable development that
should at least encourage women to swap
routines as often as we do a whites wash.
The beauty roadtest
Shaving balms for
sensitive skin
By Weekend’s All Ages model
Marc Goldfinger, 29
I’ve always had issues with shaving,
because I have very pale skin that
shows every blemish, ingrown hair
and cut. I’ve tried all sorts of
combinations of shaving oil, face
scrubs and cream cleansers to prep
the skin, as well as an SPF15 face
cream afterwards; so would any of
these balms deliver – or would I react
like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone?
Nivea Sensitive Post-Shave Balm
(£2.63 for 100ml,,
was thick and gluey, and not fastabsorbing, leaving my skin feeling
sticky. Even after it had absorbed,
when I put on my face cream, it felt
as if I was wearing a mask. I won’t be
trying this one again.
Fire Fighter (£20 for 50ml,, on the other hand,
left my skin felling really nice, with
none of my usual post-shave
sensitivity; but the redness didn’t go
down and my skin was a bit shiny,
too. The scent lingered longer than
any of the other lotions I tried,
though, so I’d give this another go.
Sensi-Baume (£15 for 75ml, absorbed very quickly,
but left a bit of razor burn for a few
hours. I applied my usual face cream,
and it didn’t feel heavy or oily.
I didn’t need to use much MultiTasking After Shave Balm (£22 for
50ml, it spread
easily, absorbed quickly and didn’t
feel heavy. As for the claim it tackles
razor burn, well, it’s true: the skin on
my neck was a bit sensitive, but the
redness went after 15 minutes. My
skin didn’t feel shiny or oily, and my
face cream didn’t feel too heavy,
either. In short, I loved it: I went back
to my old cream once after the test,
and promptly ditched it for this one.
Next week: All Ages model Rachel
Joi Riggall on metallic nail polishes
The Guardian
Weekend | 14 October 2017 63
Sweet or savoury,
a bake brings comfort
to an autumn day.
Photographs by
Louise Hagger
64 114
4 October
ber 2
17 | The
an Wee
t’s a good time of the
year for a bake, a great
user-upper of all that
super-ripe, tail-end-ofthe-season produce. A bake, for me,
is also a delightful catch-all, because
it lets me make something that pays
tribute to, but doesn’t quite follow,
the tradition of another dish.
Today’s sweet bake, for example,
is part friand and part clafoutis.
And with the pissaladière gratin,
I’ve taken the classic flavour
combination of pissaladière (the
southern French take on pizza, with
a caramelised onion and salted
anchovy topping) and simplified it
into a base-free bake. The result is
like a cream-free dauphinoise – so,
again, a dish that nods in two
directions. As for the lamb bake, well,
I’d normally call that a meatloaf, but
that seems to put some people off
from the start.
What unites all these dishes,
whatever you call them, is that they
are perfectly suited to this time of
year. That contrast between the
crisp, browned surface and the soft
filling beneath is like the kitchen’s
answer to how it feels outside –
where it’s increasingly crisp,
before heading indoors to
somewhere soft and cosy. It’s the
combination of those two things
that makes autumn for me. 3 large onions, peeled and very finely
sliced (on a mandoline, ideally)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tsp caraway seeds
2½ tbsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
50g Kalamata olives, pitted and
roughly chopped
750g desiree potatoes, unpeeled and
cut into 3mm-thick slices (again, on
a mandoline, ideally)
20g anchovies, roughly chopped
350ml vegetable stock
Courgette, tomato and pesto gratin
This works as a side dish (to go with
roast chicken or fried salmon, say)
or as a main in its own right with
some bread or rice alongside. Serves
six as a main, eight as a side.
60g basil (leaves and stalks)
60g blanched almonds, lightly toasted
120g parmesan, coarsely grated
70ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
8 courgettes, cut widthways on an
angle into 0.5cm-thick rounds
8 large plum tomatoes, cut into
0.5cm-thick rounds 1 50g slice sourdough, crusts left on,
blitzed into chunky breadcrumbs
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark
6. Put the basil, almonds and 80g
parmesan in a food processor with
four tablespoons of oil, a quarterteaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of
water. Blitz to a rough pesto, then
tip into a large bowl. Add the
courgettes and tomatoes, as well as
half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of
Yotam Ottolenghi
pepper, and mix to combine. Spoon
the vegetables into a 30cm x 20cm
high-sided baking dish, pressing
them down as much as possible, then
bake for 30 minutes. Remove from
the oven, press the vegetables down
again and baste with the juices, then
bake for a further 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs
with the remaining 40g parmesan
and two teaspoons of oil. Once the
vegetables have been baking for 45
minutes, sprinkle the breadcrumb
mix all over the top and bake for a
final 15 minutes, until golden brown
and crisp on top. Leave to rest for
five minutes and serve warm.
Pissaladière gratin
This would make a lovely side for
a roast shoulder of lamb or a roast
chicken, along with a crisp, green
salad. Serves four to six.
60ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark
4. Heat three tablespoons of oil in a
large saute pan on a medium-high
flame, then add the garlic, onions,
lemon zest, caraway, two
tablespoons of thyme and a quarterteaspoon of salt, and fry for 10
minutes, stirring often, until soft and
golden. (If the onions take on too
much colour, just turn down the
heat.) Off the heat, stir in the olives.
Cover the base of a 20cm x 30cm
baking dish with a quarter of the
potato slices, overlapping them
slightly, and season with a pinch of
salt and some pepper. Top with a
third of the onions, then dot a third
of the anchovies evenly over that.
Repeat the three layers twice more,
and top with a final layer of potatoes.
Pour the stock over the top, drizzle
over the remaining tablespoon of
oil, then cover tightly with foil and
bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil
and bake for 40 minutes more, until
the potato is cooked and the top is
crisp and golden brown. Sprinkle
over the remaining teaspoon and
a half of thyme and leave to cool for
five to 10 minutes before serving. Lamb bake with tahini sauce
and grated tomatoes
You can serve this in two ways: just
as it is, warm, as part of a main meal;
or leave it to cool and set, then cut
into thick slices – these are great
piled into a sandwich or warm pitta
with the tahini sauce and tomato
drizzled on top. Makes one loaf (or
eight slices), to serve four to eight.
1 courgette, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tomatoes – 1 roughly chopped, 2
coarsely grated and skin discarded
500g lamb mince, at least 20% fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
80g pecorino, finely grated
50g fresh breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground allspice
100g tahini paste
3 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5 and grease a 20cm x 10cm
loaf tin with a little oil.
Put the courgette, carrot, onion
and chopped tomato in the bowl of
a food processor and blitz until it’s of
a similar consistency to the mince.
Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl
and squeeze out as much liquid as
possible. Put the vegetables in a
large bowl, add the lamb, two garlic
cloves, all the pecorino,
breadcrumbs, eggs, tomato paste
and spices, and a teaspoon of salt,
then use your hands to bring it all
together until well combined.
Transfer to the loaf tin, then put
the tin in a high-sided baking dish.
Carefully fill the dish with enough
boiling water to come halfway up the
sides of the tin, then bake for an hour
and 10 minutes, until golden brown.
While the meatloaf is cooking,
make the sauces. Put the tahini, one
garlic clove, two teaspoons of lemon
juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of
salt in a medium bowl, then slowly
whisk in 80ml water until you have
a smooth sauce.
In a second bowl, mix the grated
tomatoes with the remaining garlic,
a teaspoon of lemon juice, the olive
oil and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.
Once the meatloaf is cooked, lift
the loaf tin out of its water bath and
leave to cool for 10 minutes. Pour off
and discard any liquid and fat in the
loaf tin, then, using a wide spatula,
transfer the meatloaf to a platter.
Pour a third of the tahini sauce over
the meatloaf, followed by a third →
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 65
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5. Put the fruit in a bowl with
the vanilla essence, sugar, bay
leaves and half the cinnamon, and
set aside for 30 minutes. (Don’t be
tempted to leave it sitting around for
too much longer, otherwise the fruit
will release too much juice.)
Put the flour, icing sugar, ground
almonds, the remaining halfteaspoon of cinnamon and salt in
a second large bowl.
Lightly whisk the egg whites for
30 seconds, so they just start to froth,
then stir into the flour mix with the
melted butter, until well combined.
Tip the batter into a 20cm x 30cm
baking dish and top with the fruit
and juices. Bake for 35 minutes,
then cover the dish with foil and
bake for 10 minutes longer, until
the batter is golden brown and the
fruit bubbling. Leave to rest for
10 minutes before serving •
of the tomatoes. Serve warm, with
the remaining sauces alongside,
or leave to cool and cut into slices
to serve in pitta bread with the
sauces drizzled on top.
Plum and blackberry friand bake
Friands are light, moist almond cakes
that are traditionally made as little
individual cakes, but here I cook the
batter in a single baking dish. Serve
with custard, vanilla ice-cream or
a drizzle of cream. Serves eight.
200g blackberries
4 ripe plums, stoned and cut into
1cm-wide wedges
1 tsp vanilla essence
60g caster sugar
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g plain flour
200g icing sugar, sifted
120g ground almonds
⅛ tsp salt
150g egg whites (ie, from 4-5 large eggs)
180g unsalted butter, melted and
slightly cooled
Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of
Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.
Wine Fiona Beckett on white winners from red wine regions
3 Salt cod
Serve with
2 Roast chicken
appellation produces whites as well
as hearty reds, and generally
featuring marsanne, roussanne and/
or viognier. I love Plein Sud 2016 (2),
a peachy blend of viognier and
roussanne from the enterprising
Vignerons d’Estézargues co-op near
Nîmes, which makes wine in a
broadly natural way, using minimal
sulphur; it’s £12 from Robersons, or
£10.25 if you buy an unsplit case.
And, for viognier on its own, snap up
Majestic’s Jaboulet Viognier 2016
(13% abv) at the “mix six” price of
£8.99, assuming your local store still
has some knocking around.
Rioja? Most people immediately
1 Seafood ravioli
o you ever buy white
bordeaux, white rioja or
whites from the Rhône?
I ask because it’s easy to
overlook some real gems by having
it fixed in your head that a region is
purely a red wine area. Dry white
bordeaux is a particular favourite of
mine – the blending of semillon with
sauvignon transforms the sometimes
aggressive edges of the latter into a
much smoother, more sophisticated
white. The aptly named Forgotten
One Entre Deux Mers Sauvignon
Blanc 2016 (12% abv, 1) is a great
deal at £6.99 from Aldi (and in fact
features 45% semillon with a
smattering of sauvignon gris and
muscadelle), as is the more
classically citrussy Château Perrail
Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris
2016 (£8.50 Booths; 12.5% abv).
Another good sauvignon blend
is the lush Domaine de l’Arjolle
Sauvignon Blanc Viognier 2016 (12%
abv) from the Languedoc, where,
barring picpoul, you may rarely go
looking for whites: at £7.50, that’s
another good buy from Booths.
The huge Côtes du Rhône
think of red, but the region also
produces fresh and richly oaked
whites and full-flavoured rosados
that make for good winter drinking.
Try Ramon Bilbao Rosado 2016
(£9.99, Great Western Wine; 12.5%
abv), which I recently found sailed
through some spicy Peruvian food.
Whites from the Douro in
Portugal, better known for its port
and blockbuster reds, repay
exploring, too. Morrisons The Best
White Douro 2016 (3) is quite a find
at £8 a bottle: it’s surprisingly rich
for a 12% abv wine, and much more
interesting than the average
chardonnay at the same price.
Conversely, regions noted for
their white wines can also produce
appealing reds, and Germany is
the prime current example.
Oddbins has a couple of delicious
wines from the relatively warm
Pfalz region, of which I’d pick out
the delectably juicy Weingut Gaul
Dornfelder 2015 (£12; 13% abv) as
a really appealing buy. (Expect more
where that came from: German reds
are on a roll.)
The good mixer
A final blast of sunshine before
autumn takes a firm grip. The
hibiscus adds a backnote of tart,
exotic freshness. Serves one.
70ml apple juice
15ml fresh lime juice
50ml vodka (we use Chase)
1 pinch dried hibiscus flower
(widely available at healthfood
shops and online)
Rose lemonade (we use Fentimans)
Edible flower petals, to garnish
Hard-shake the juices, vodka and
hibiscus flower, double-strain into
a tall glass and top with lemonade.
Garnish with petals and serve.
Adam Reid, The French, Manchester
The quick dish
Rich mackerel, a fiery horseradish cream and a zippy salsa: perfect weekend food
hey love to char a spring
onion in Mexico: in fact,
it’s virtually a national
sport. Normally served
sprinkled with sea salt and wedges
of lime, grilled spring onions make
a delicious snack, an Aztec version
of edamame, if you will; but they
really come into their own served
alongside grilled fish or meat. We
went through a phase of charring
and blitzing them into mayonnaise
at Wahaca, but recently came up
with this lighter salsa. Using only
a few ingredients, brightened with
lime and finessed with olive oil, it is
a simple and great accompaniment
to wheel out at a moment’s notice.
I particularly like it spooned into
a cheese toastie made with
Lincolnshire poacher and
sourdough, but it also works very
well on a humble baked potato.
Just make sure you get those onions
good and black: normal grilling
won’t deliver the same flavour.
Roast mackerel with charred
spring onion salsa and
horseradish cream
Rich, meaty mackerel, bright, fiery
horseradish cream and a zippy little
salsa: this is perfect, fast weekend
food. Serves four.
For the salad
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and tough outer
layer removed
5 radishes
50g watercress
Juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp olive oil
4 whole mackerel, gutted
1 tbsp olive oil
For the spring onion salsa
5 spring onions
3 ½ tbsp olive oil
½ garlic clove, peeled and finely
Juice of ½ lime (you’ll use the other
half in the salad)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the horseradish cream
50g fresh horseradish (or good-quality
horseradish in a jar)
75g creme fraiche
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
To make the salsa, put a griddle
pan on a high heat. Once it’s very
hot, rub the spring onions all over
with half a tablespoon of oil, then
grill for four to six minutes until
well charred and tender in the
middle. Transfer to a board to cool,
then chop finely and toss in a bowl
with the remaining oil, the garlic
and the juice of half the lime, then
season to taste.
Next, make the horseradish cream
by combining all the ingredients in
a small bowl and seasoning to taste
with a little salt. (If you’re using
fresh horseradish, make sure it’s
freshly grated, because it turns bitter
with time.)
Now for the salad. Cut the fennel
and radishes into very fine slices
(use a mandoline, if you have one),
then combine in a bowl with the
watercress. (If need be, you can
prepare the salad veg a few hours
ahead of time, and keep them in
acidulated iced water.)
When you’re ready to eat, cook
the mackerel. Rub a little oil all
over each fish and season
generously both inside and out.
Grill, barbecue or roast the fish for
11-14 minutes, turning once, until
a skewer glides into the thickest part
of the flesh with no resistance.
Dress the salad just before
serving. Squeeze over the rest of the
lime juice, pour over the oil, season
with salt and pepper and gently
toss. Serve alongside the mackerel
with the two sauces.
And for the rest of the week…
If you do get your hands on fresh
horseradish root, freeze what you
don’t eat. Peel it, wrap it tightly in
foil, then bag and freeze. Simply
grate it straight from frozen, either
as here, or into creme fraiche
loosened with lemon juice, and
dolloped on blinis or buckwheat
pancakes topped with smoked
salmon and bundles of watercress.
Or heap on baked potatoes with
fresh herbs (dill and parsley,
especially) and melted butter; some
smoked mackerel wouldn’t go amiss,
either. It’s also a great dressing for
apple and walnut salad – perfect
with wedges of roast beets. The
salsa is delicious with almost all
grilled fish, and seriously good with
a char-grilled steak: add some finely
chopped red chilli to make a great
topping for roast root veg.
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 69
The new
here is genuine pleasure
to be had in things that
feel just right: the
weight of a pound coin,
a bath at the perfect temperature,
the feel of a well-worn wooden
spoon. To this list, I’d add bao: it’s as
if this little bun was ergonomically
designed for eating – it fits snugly
into the nook of a hand; the pillowy
dough gives like memory foam; and
the semi-circular shape slots cleanly
into the mouth.
It’s no surprise that these buns –
thanks to Bao, the Soho restaurant,
a bit of social media hype and our
ever-growing appetite for new
tastes and cultures – have become
popular in the UK. Especially in the
Sodha household.
Ordinarily, the buns are made with
milk and the fillings are porcine, but
this recipe uses neither. The bun is
filled with some of the finest
mushrooms in the land, shiitake,
which are coated in sesame and soy,
covered with sharp cucumbers and
finished with a smattering of salty
peanuts. It’s everything you need
and nothing you don’t.
Mushroom bao
This is a good weekend project,
where the paper can be read while
waiting for the dough to prove.
You’ll need a steamer: the
inexpensive bamboo ones are
brilliant and can be set very easily
over a pan of boiling water, to steam
anything to your heart’s delight.
Makes 10 bao.
Quiz 1 Ms.
2 Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.
3 Zapatistas (Mexico).
4 Joule.
For the bao buns
375g plain flour,
plus extra for rolling
1 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1¼ tsp baking powder
225ml warm water
Rapeseed oil
For the pickled cucumbers
100ml rice-wine vinegar
½ cucumber, halved lengthways,
seeds removed and cut into very
thin half moons
For the mushroom filling
6 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
8 tsp rice-wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves,
peeled and crushed
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
600g oyster and shiitake mushrooms,
cut into 0.5cm slices
1 large handful salted peanuts, ground
or very finely chopped
5 Switzerland (Berne v Basel).
6 Japanese beef cattle.
7 West Wing, as US president.
8 Modern Jazz Quartet.
9 Fictional radio stations: Lenny
Henry; People Just Do Nothing;
Shoestring; Alan Partridge.
10 MEPs.
11 Varieties of date.
12 Gloriana.
13 Cities on the river Elbe.
14 Members of the crow family.
15 Google: founders; original name;
googol, inspired name.
Start by making the dough. Combine
the dry ingredients in a bowl, then
add the water little by little and
bring the dough together using your
hands; you should have a sticky ball.
Turn it out on to a floured surface
and knead for five minutes, until
smooth and bouncy, then place in
an oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm
Crossword See right.
and leave in a warm place to double
in size – an hour to an hour and a half.
Meanwhile, put the vinegar and
three tablespoons of water in a small
saucepan, bring to a simmer over
a low flame, then pour into a bowl,
add the cucumber and leave to cool.
Turn out the dough on to a floured
surface, knead for a minute to knock
out the air, then divide into 10 equalsized pieces. Take one piece, gently
flatten it into a 1cm-thick disc, then
brush one half with a tiny amount
of oil. Fold the bun into a half-moon
and place on a small square of
baking paper on a tray. Repeat with
the remaining dough, then loosely
cover the tray with clingfilm and
leave to rise for 30 minutes more.
Now for the filling. In a small
bowl, whisk the soy sauce, peanut
butter, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil.
Heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan
on a high flame, then fry the
mushrooms hard for six minutes,
until soft and browning at the edges.
Stir in the sauce to coat, then turn the
heat to medium and cook, stirring
regularly, for five minutes, until the
sauce reduces and goes dark brown.
To cook the bao, set a steamer
over a pan of simmering water. Put
the bao in batches in the steamer,
still on their baking paper mats and
making sure they don’t touch, cover
and steam for eight minutes.
Once done, fill each bao with a
generous tablespoon of mushrooms,
three or four slices of cucumber and,
for a little crunch, some peanuts.
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 71
The bao bun is a winner: just load with mushrooms, cucumber and salty peanuts
For the best night life.
03333 201 801
72 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘They take one look and put us in the quiet section. But we’re cool with not being cool’
he closer we get to
Winemakers Deptford,
the clearer it becomes
that I’ve invited the
wrong people to dinner. This
south London high street, with its
happy jumble of bike cafes,
Vietnamese travel agents and
serious boozers advertising rooms
“by the night”, looks and feels as
if it’s in the hipster stage of
gentrification, and I don’t think my
parents would mind me saying we
ain’t no hipsters.
“Is this it?” Mum says doubtfully,
peering into a brightly lit kebab shop.
The dog gamely attempts entry, but
I steer them both next door, where
the music spilling on to the street
confirms my worst fears. The
raucous buzz from the fashionable
young crowd inside doesn’t help
with the noise levels, either.
“There are a couple of other old
codgers here,” Dad announces
cheerfully on his return from the
loo at the back of the woodpanelled dining room (thankfully,
they took one look at us and sat us
in the quieter front section near
the bar). “Well, maybe in their
The walls are painted a
wonderfully lugubrious shade
of green (“I’d have gone for a nice
magnolia”) that glows sage in the
candlelight (though God knows
what it will look like on a winter’s
afternoon), while furniture is of
the dark and sturdy interwar
variety; everything has the
comforting patina of use, although
the Winemakers has been open only
since February.
We are swiftly brought good
bread and an unsolicited bowl of
water for the terrier; even the noise
seems to drop, though that might
just be the softening effect of the
first glass of wine. Not that it’s what
you would call easy-drinking,
exactly; the Winemakers partners
with small producers who make
“regional wines that reflect local
flavours” – just as it does in its first
location in Farringdon.
Our first round includes a
startlingly tannic, nutty orange
wine from Slovenia that the affable
waiter and I agree puts us in mind
of vermouth, as well as an
unfashionably fuchsia-hued
Sicilian rosé that tastes of cherry
drops. The staff are knowledgeable
and chatty – a godsend on a list
studded with so many obscure
names – kindly bringing us a
sample of a favourite inky grolleau,
only for us to reject it in favour of
a more classic, silky southern
Rhône. (As I said, we’re cool with
not being cool.)
I’m relieved to find no mention
of “small plates” on the brief menu,
although I would make the case
for reclassifying the oozy, rich crab
croquetas as bar snacks. As a
starter, served only with a sprinkle
of salt, they feel a bit naked, unlike
a joyous Lincolnshire Poacher
soufflé that comes with a helping
of crunchy, mustardy piccalilli so
lavish, it is more like a salad than
a condiment. Best of all, however,
are soused mussels with sweetcorn
and smoked Tamworth lardo: it
turns out that wafer-thin, melt-onthe-tongue rashers of milky fat
are the perfect gilding for plump,
vinegary bivalves.
Mains are equally generous in
size and spirit: Mersea gurnard
with a delicate tangle of leeks
vinaigrette and crumbled egg is
crisp on top and dense within,
while my Swaledale lamb ragù
with cannellini beans and green
sauce (a Dales sheep would have
Winemakers Deptford
Food ★★★★☆
Atmosphere ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★☆
209 Deptford High Street, London SE8,
020-8305 6852. Open Tues-Thurs
5.30-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-12am, Sun
noon-7pm. About £26 a head for three
courses, plus drinks and service
no truck with anything calling itself
salsa verde) is soft and deeply
savoury, with an earthy sweetness
from hefty chunks of carrot; that
said, a few leaves would have been
a welcome counterpoint to the
unctuous broth.
Good as that lamb is, I can’t help
coveting my mother’s poached
Yorkshire partridge: juicy as you
like, paired with a sweetly meaty,
house-made cotechino sausage,
for which I would happily travel
south of the river, finished with
fine slivers of sharp pickled fennel.
This is seriously assured cooking.
Desserts – a pleasingly squidgy
ivory meringue with plums and
thick vanilla cream; a damp
pistachio cake with creme fraiche
and two slightly mean slivers of
underripe fig – are enjoyable, but
not the kitchen’s strongest suit.
Yet we leave feeling just that little
bit more hip, and wishing we
had somewhere as relaxed but
reliably poised just around the
corner. Watch out, Deptford, the
squares are coming.
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 73
Terry Gilliam’s garden reflects his
cinematic eye – a fantasy of
belltowers, cannons and ghostly
galleons. By Victoria Summerley.
Photographs: Hugo Rittson Thomas
ike his films, Terry
Gilliam’s garden
is a mixture of the
prosaic and the
phantasmagorical. For a start, there’s
the church spire. “We were having
a new kitchen done and one of the
builders said to me that a mate of
his was salvaging a bell tower in
Guildford, and did I want it?” Gilliam
says. “It’s 17th century, the same age
as the house. So they brought it up
here and we put it in the garden.”
Then there’s the immense yew
topiary in the shape of a galleon,
inspired by the poster for his 1981
film Time Bandits; and two cannons
from the set of The Adventures Of
Baron Munchausen.
When the Gilliams moved to this
corner of north London, however,
the garden was “one big boring
rectangle”, according to Gilliam’s
wife, Maggie. Their house is one of
three carved out of a larger property,
and you could tell whose garden was
whose only because each neighbour
mowed their grass in a different
direction. They had a small rose
garden, but there were no features
or boundaries.
With the help of designer John
Plummer, Maggie set about dividing
the Gilliams’ slice of the back garden
into three main sections, including
an enlarged terrace with a curved
balustrade and steps leading down
to the lawn.
The two borders nearest to the
house curve in to form a narrow
entrance to the second part,
where the old bell tower sits atop
a purpose-built summer house.
This, and its circular lawn, dominate
this section, while flowering shrubs,
such as Magnolia x soulangeana
‘Rustica Rubra’ and Clerodendrum
trichotomum provide colour at
different times of the year.
Further along is a large lily pond
with a little wooden bridge. The
edges of the pond are decorated
with a clump of Chilean rhubarb
(Gunnera manicata), which sports
leaves the size of table tops.
Other pond-side plants include
irises, hydrangeas, foxgloves and
Left: Maggie and Terry Gilliam in their
London garden; the lion and rhino
cannons are from the set of The
Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. This
page, from top: a salvaged 17th-century
bell tower; a yellow azalea by the pond
Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’, which
covers the ground with pale pink
spires from late summer to midautumn. On one side, two beehives
are set in a small wildflower
meadow next to a self-seeded yew,
which has been clipped into the
shape of a wedding cake.
Like many plots in London, the
Gilliams’ features lots of mature
trees; at first glance it appears to
be mainly woodland. The trees
are joined in the brighter spots by
a host of flowering shrubs, including
hebes, choisyas, rhododendrons and
roses, but it is only when you take
a closer look that you realise there’s
a dense understorey of perennials,
too, adding another layer of seasonal
colour. Maggie has included beautiful
shade-loving hellebores, euphorbias,
hardy geraniums, pulmonarias and
aquilegias, and brightly coloured
rudbeckias and crocosmias in the
sunnier parts. There is also an exotic
area with bamboos and tree ferns.
At the end of the garden are
a potting shed and huge iron gates,
salvaged from a local hospital, which
open on to the compost heap area.
Along with the galleon and
cannons, the garden is filled with
objects with a previous life, including
a wooden horse, wearing a saddle
and a bucket on its head, which the
couple have nicknamed Rocinante,
after Don Quixote’s long-suffering
steed; after nearly two decades,
Gilliam has finally finished his film
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,
inspired by the 17th-century novel by
Miguel de Cervantes.
The garden is a far cry from
Gilliam’s childhood home in
Minnesota, where he grew up in
what was essentially a summer
cottage with an outside toilet. But
as the seasons change, there’ll
be plenty to remind him of the
American midwest’s harsh winters.
The Gilliams’ garden is at the top of
a hill, and according to Terry it can
lay claim to being one of the coldest
in London. “The wind comes
straight down here from Siberia
without a break,” he says.
This is an edited extract from The Secret
Gardeners: Britain’s Creatives Reveal
Their Private Sanctuaries, by Victoria
Summerley, published by Frances
Lincoln at £30. To order a copy for
£25.50, go to,
or call 0330 333 6846.
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 77
Bring on the brassica: the most beautiful of vegetables
What to do this week
Plant this Colchicums are a curious
bunch of autumn-flowering bulbs
with the name “naked ladies”, due
to their habit of flowering before
their leaves break the soil’s surface.
They make a pleasing display in late
summer and early autumn, either in
a pot or naturalised in grass under
a deciduous tree. Try the splendidly
OTT double pink Colchicum
‘Waterlily’, lilac and white C. ‘Lilac
Wonder’, pink C. autumnale (below),
or pure white C. speciosum ‘Album’.
f I have a true love, it must be the
genus, brassica. I didn’t expect to fall
so hard. It’s hardly a glamorous one:
its members are wide and varied,
and often pungent – think of the sulphurous
tang of boiled cabbage or the whiff of fermented
sauerkraut. But I find that when I look upon
a brassica I see the most beautiful of vegetables.
I love how they look nestled among the flowers
of my garden; I regularly make vases of kales, and
marvel at the packed interiors of cabbages.
The wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea, is a diffuse
and polymorphic species, which is another way of
saying it is good at self-love. A long time ago we
took one wild and wayward species, and selected
and selected and selected until a wildling became
a kale, became a cabbage, became broccoli or
cauliflower or a brussels sprout. For brassica
nerds, there are eight major cultivar groups.
Depending on your taste buds you’re
salivating or are about to turn the page; this is
because you can taste the chemical compound,
phenylthiocarbamide or PTC, which brassicas
are packed with. If you can taste it, you’ll find the
genus, particularly brussels sprouts, bitter; if you
can’t, you really don’t get the aversion. Children
can detect PTC much more readily, which is why
the poor sprout endlessly rolls around a plate
while sweeter-tasting peas are devoured.
Regardless of your tastes, brassicas make up
the mainstay of our winter eating, so it’s worth
paying attention now to those you planted earlier
in the year, particularly if you want to brandish
your own brussels and braise your own cabbages
on Christmas Day. Brussels sprouts will start to
ripen from now until early spring. Pick the lowest
sprouts first as they ripen from bottom to top
and don’t forget to eat the delicious sprout tops,
which are like tender small cabbages. Eat them
last, as they are protecting the sprouts below.
Cabbage heads are ready when they feel firm.
Some cultivars of cabbage bolt quickly after
maturing, others will stand for months. The trick
is the name: ‘Tundra’, ‘January King’, ‘Noelle’,
‘Siberia’, are all long-standing winter types.
Wild brassicas are easy-going and hardy; their
highly bred cultivated offspring are easily upset
and prone to blow out – those much-desired tight
heads of brussels or cabbages grow loose as the
plants go straight to flowering. They produce
superfine root hairs to take in nitrogen and if
the plant rocks in the wind, the root hairs are
damaged and they blow open their heads. Staking
brussels is essential on anything but the most
sheltered of sites. Earthing up around stems of
brussels and heavy-headed cabbages helps to
stop rocking. Feed them bacteria-rich comfrey or
nettle tea (from rotted-down leaves), or mulch
with nitrogen-rich grass clippings. Kales are
closer to their wild relatives and tend to be much
tougher about these things.
Split this As hardy geraniums age,
they can spread and creep, ending up
with a barren patch in the centre of
the clump: a sign it’s time to divide.
Dig up the whole plant and dump it
in a wheelbarrow or on a plastic sack.
Use spades back to back to lever it
apart, replanting only healthy parts
in soil enriched with homemade
compost or slow-release fertiliser.
Visit this Newport House in Almeley,
Herefordshire plays host to the
sculpture show Out of Nature this
month. It’s a chance to see works by
more than 40 artists that celebrate
our bond with the natural world,
displayed against the backdrop of
20 acres of woodland and gardens,
including a lavishly restored walled
organic garden. Until 22 October;
details at
Jane Perrone
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 79
My DNA test results are in. How did I do, asks Zoe Williams
emember my DNA test a few weeks
ago? I got my results back from
FitnessGenes, and spent a couple of
hours awed by my own capacities,
before I realised how to interpret the information.
Starting from the top: ACE is the endurance gene.
You either have two copies of the long version,
II; two copies of the short, DD; or one of each, ID.
The long version is associated with endurance
athletes, the short with being a power/strength
athlete. I’m an II, so my endurance is epic.
I have these endurance genes in spades – in
ACTN3, the gene for speed, I’m an RR, which is
associated, in women, with higher-than-average
baseline strength, and in older women, with
better response to resistance training. (The letters
are just the names of alleles – genetic-sequencing
variations.) With the fat-burning gene, PPARA, I’m
a GG, which is another endurance athlete’s trait.
I slid from self-congratulation to self-hate,
believing I was so genetically superior that the
past 43 years have been a giant waste of my
Herculean bequest. All this time, sitting around
with my thumb up my arse, when I could have
been Ellen MacArthur or Nicola Adams. I could
have been a contender.
Then I spotted the mistake in my analysis:
these traits are pretty common: 61% of people are
GG, and we’re not all endurance athletes. We’re
just a bit better at fat-burning. Following this
realisation, triumph and disaster both receded: as
a CT in the vitamin D-processing gene, I am less
good than I could be, but so are 40% of us.
After that, I concentrated on my rarer genes.
Let’s be honest: none of us is all that interested in
our genetic make-up. We’re only really interested
in being better than other people or, if we’re
worse, in knowing about it.
In the metabolism gene, UCP2, I am a VV, a
slow metabolism, which I share with only 17%. It
is again associated with endurance athletes and,
like a number of genetic patterns – such as the
fat and carbohydrate processing gene – is useful
if you’re lean but makes you worse off if you’re
already fat. VVs’ levels of spontaneous physical
activity are 20% higher than the other types,
which just means fidgeting and being annoying
to spend Saturday mornings with.
My only stand-out result was the slowness of my
caffeine metabolism, which I share with only 7%.
I love caffeine, I have no desire to process it any
faster. Once, in Starbucks, they mistook my name
on the cup for my order, and gave me a 20-shot
espresso. That was the best day of my life.
Advice, based on my results: resistance
training, and lots of it; recovery, and lots of it
(three days a week – I have a slow-recovery gene);
green, leafy vegetables, and lots of them. No shit,
Sherlock. As if any fitness guru ever recommends
anything else.
This week I learned
There’s a variant of FTO, the appetite gene, that
leaves you biologically programmed to eat more.
Being AA is the new ‘big-boned’.
My life in sex
The swingers
We are highly educated, retired
professionals who have been
married for 38 years. We have
always had a great sex life, but 15
years ago we added some spice to
it by swinging. When my husband
first suggested it, I was devastated
– I thought it meant he wanted to
have sex with other women. He
insisted he just wanted to watch me
have sex with other men. I finally
agreed, so he could get it out of his
system. However, as soon as I tried
it, I was sold.
We started by finding couples
online, and from there we were
invited to parties/orgies in people’s
homes. Our swinging friends were
in all sorts of professions – teachers,
doctors, bankers, at-home mums.
There was no polyamory, no falling
in love, no jealousy. We attended
these parties once or twice a
month, and when we went home
afterwards, we had the hottest sex.
We left swinging for a few years,
being busy with our children and
work. After we retired and our
children had moved out, we decided
it was time to get back out there.
The sites had changed, featuring
only young women with perfect
bodies – not exactly what we are
looking for, nor what I have. We
find it difficult to meet couples our
age, and often swing with single,
straight men. We have rules: no
married guys cheating on their
wives, no one too young or too old.
We always use a condom, and we
never have sex the first time we
meet someone.
There’s nothing quite like an
afternoon of sex with two guys,
one of whom is my husband. Our
son would disown us if he knew.
Each week, a reader tells us about
their sex life. Want to share yours?
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 81
82 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
This column
will change
your life
Zen and the art of an empty mind. By Oliver Burkeman
f you spend any amount of time
reading books on Buddhism, or
hanging out with Buddhists, you’re
likely to encounter the mysterious
idea known as the “doctrine of emptiness”. I’ve
never understood it, yet always liked it, probably
because I’m perversely drawn to how bleakly
depressing it sounds. (Buddhism is full of this
downbeat stuff: for example, did you know that
reincarnation, traditionally, was seen a bad thing?
The goal of meditation was to stop yourself being
reborn next time. It’s less a religion of smiles
and flowers, more a death cult.) According to the
doctrine of emptiness, all existence is, in some
sense, empty. I still don’t totally understand what
that means. But I’m a lot closer thanks to Robert
Wright’s superb, level-headed new book Why
Buddhism Is True. And the answer, it turns out,
isn’t even very depressing: it could be a muchneeded antidote to our increasingly angry times.
The basic premise is that we typically view the
world through a screen of assumptions, some
so basic they’re invisible. Most basic of all is the
way we project an “inner essence” on to every
object and person, a shadowy something we
never quite experience. “People have a default
assumption,” writes the psychologist Paul Bloom,
“that things, people and events have invisible
essences that make them what they are.” If I stole
your wedding ring, replacing it with an identical
one, you’d be dismayed if you found out, because
it wouldn’t be your ring. That’s essence. In an
angry confrontation with a driver who is being
a jerk, it’s virtually impossible not to relate to
him as essentially a jerk. People who attend white
supremacist rallies are bad people.
This essentialism has the effect of stoking
animosity, feeding the sense of life as a constant
battle, in which the only viable solution is to
destroy the possessors of bad essences. Yet these
essences never seem to show themselves. In the
confrontation with the driver, were you to look
solely to your experience, you’d find only patterns
of phenomena: the perceptions making up your
experience of the driver; your emotional reactions,
and so on. The white supremacist, likewise, emerges
as a collection of brain activity, thoughts and
actions – each caused by some other phenomenon,
caused by another, and another, all the way back to
the Big Bang. This isn’t to excuse immoral actions,
but to see clearly what’s actually there. “There’s an
important, if subtle, sense in which we attribute too
much form and content to reality,” Wright notes.
We could stop going through life trying to protect
certain essences while avoiding or eradicating
others, and focus on simply reducing suffering.
In a famous Buddhist tale, told in many
versions, a man piloting his boat over a foggy lake
is furious when another boat bumps into his. Itt
keeps happening; his rage at the other navigator
grows. Then the fog clears: the boat was empty.
His anger evaporates. Well, according to the
doctrine of emptiness, the boat is always empty
– even if there’s someone in it. After all, boatmen
are just collections of phenomena, too.
What I’m really thinking
The adult acne sufferer
I’m sitting across the table from you,
eating dinner. The food is good, the
company is good, but all that’s on
my mind is my skin. Do you notice
it? Do you think it looks awful? Can
you see past it? Maybe it’s true what
they say: nobody notices as much as
I do. I am my own worst critic.
When we go home we get ready
for bed. You go into the bathroom
first and get into bed first, I insist.
I need to make sure you are in bed
and the light is out before I can take
off my mask of makeup. Under the
cover of darkness, I can lie with you
face to face and talk freely. You are so
kind and understanding, but this is
something I’d prefer to keep hidden
from everyone, including you.
I wake up in the morning and
look in the mirror. Have the miraclepromising potions made it all go
away? No, they have not. After 15
years, I should know better. My face
has even welcomed a few more on
board. Time to cover up. I cannot
remember the last time I ventured
outdoors in public without makeup,
except for early morning runs
and dog walks.
I visit the doctor, again. I am
supposed to be a solicitor, I tell her.
People don’t want somebody with
acne fighting their case in court. She
laughs at this. She thinks it is funny.
I smile politely but persist. She gives
me some tablets: risk of blood clots,
risk of depression, come back in
three months, if I am still fussing
about this little problem.
I am back with you, and we are
in the car. I am feeling OK; maybe
things are not so bad. Then you look
at me and casually comment that
my skin isn’t looking so great. My
heart is breaking, but I agree, and we
drive on.
Te us what you’re really thinking
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 83
84 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘There is no excuse for a man not to wear a suit. Leisurewear is a curse’
t the opera the other
day, I was suddenly
struck by my
conspicuousness: I was
the only man there wearing a suit
and tie. Or at least the only man
in my row wearing a suit and tie.
I checked out the other men during
the interval and, yep, only me.
Just so there’s no confusion, this
was an evening performance (not
a rehearsal) at a major opera house
(not the back of a pub) of a major
opera – Mozart, for God’s sake! –
in early autumn. So, no special
pleading on the grounds of heat.
The snooker player Alex Higgins
won exemption from wearing
bow ties on account of a skin
condition. It’s possible there were
men at the opera house with a skin
condition, but not 1,128 of them,
assuming a 50:50 audience split on
gender lines. And even if they all did
have a skin condition, that would
have accounted only for the ties.
What excuse did they have for not
wearing suits?
I accept that I happen to like
wearing suits – they become me,
I believe, and perform a number
of functions as to concealment and
discretion that I won’t go into here –
but this is about more than what
a man happens to like himself in.
This is about the efforts one
should make to commemorate the
specialness of an occasion, to ensure
that every hour of the day is not like
every other. Dressing up, we call it.
Up. The preposition tells you all you
need to know. We dress up not to
succumb to down.
The curse that’s fallen on men’s
tailoring is leisurewear. I won’t lie:
I didn’t see a single man wearing
a tracksuit, exactly, but I did see
several wearing trainers. So here’s
a question: why, where the men
were companioned by women,
hadn’t the women forbidden them
to leave home until they’d changed
into something more celebratory
both of the occasion and of them?
For the women hadn’t come to the
opera looking as though they’d just
rolled in from losing again at the
Emirates. No, they strutted in their
feather shrugs, glimmered in their
silky maxi dresses, towered on their
killer heels. They were perfumed.
They were bejewelled. They quivered
in every sequin to the music. The
only bum fashion note they struck
was the man on their arm.
They should learn from Lysistrata,
and refuse their men sexual favours
until they “up” their appearance to
match the event. Or do women like
to see a man wearing jeans and
a short-sleeved shirt made of stretch
cotton piqué with a polo player
embroidered on the nipple? If so, I’m
going to have to consider watching
opera at home on television.
But still in a suit.
Puzzles Crossword by Sy and Thomas Eaton’s quiz. Answers on page 71
1 See 4
4/1A/16 International
news provider based in
Paris (6,6-6)
9 Germany’s public
broadcaster (8,5)
10 Susanna ....,
GMB host (4)
11/18 News
corporation that
bills itself as
“the answer
company” (7,7)
14 Olympic
heptathlete and
broadcaster (6,5)
18 See 11
20 The world’s
most populous
continent (4)
22 Food journalist,
who followed in
the footsteps of her
mother, Jane (6,7)
24 Continent bordered
by the Arctic and
Atlantic Oceans (6)
25 Photo agency
founded by Henri
Cartier-Bresson and
others (6)
1 A stylish hat – or
a Linux-based
operating system? (6)
2 Copper compound
also known as
chessylite (7)
3 The business school
of City, University of
London – or the mama
of the Mamas and the
Papas (4)
5 Ian ..., MP who
was murdered by
the Provisional IRA in
1990 (3)
6 Frasier’s brother? (5)
7 Stage direction that
means “they leave” (6)
8 Flag flown by ships
of the Royal Navy
while under way (5,6)
12 .... Jones, Guardian
columnist (4)
13 Greek goddess
who personifies
victory (4)
15 Pet Shop Boys’ No 1
hit from 1987 (3,1,3)
16 See 4
17 PT ......,
US showman and
circus owner
19 The vamp of
a shoe (5)
21 The capital of
Latvia (4)
23 Acronym for
point used in
scoring at duplicate
bridge (3)
1 What female
form of address
was first proposed
in 1901?
2 Which 1950s
cult novel was
written on
a 120-foot roll
of paper?
3 Which insurgency
was led by
4 What is the SI unit
of energy?
5 Young Boys
v Old Boys was
a 2017 cup tie in
which country?
6 Wagyu is
a term for what
7 Where did Santos
succeed Bartlet?
8 What musical
group was known
as the MJQ?
What links:
9 Crucial; Kurupt;
West; Norwich and
North Norfolk Digital?
10 London (8);
rest of England (52);
Scotland (6);
Wales (4);
NI (3)?
11 Thoory; bahri; deglet
noor; dayri; medjool?
12 Florence
Dixie novel;
The Faerie Queene;
Britten opera;
Jubilee barge?
13 Ústí nad Labem;
14 Raven; chough; jay;
rook; jackdaw?
15 Larry Page and
Sergey Brin;
BackRub; 10 to the
power of 100?
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 85
me in the
Film-maker Jonas Mekas with Yoko Ono and John Lennon, New York, 1970
began taking pictures
in a serious way just
after the second world
war. I had been in a
labour camp and, when the war
ended, a displaced person’s camp
in Germany; so my earliest images
depicted the life of refugees.
I came to the US on 30 October
1949, aged 27. I knew someone in
Chicago and he guaranteed me a job
so I could get my green card. But
when I landed in New York I decided
it would be foolish to go anywhere
else: it was electrifying, exciting.
Everything was changing in the arts
world – it was about to explode,
with Marlon Brando, Ginsberg, the
beat generation.
I didn’t care for the city itself;
I barely noticed it. It was the
intensity of life that caught me:
I immersed myself in poetry,
theatre, ballet and cinema. A few
‘Yoko made two
films for me, to
show in a cinema
I designed myself:
from your
winged seat,
you saw nothing
but the screen’
86 14 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
weeks after I arrived, I bought
a 16mm film camera and started to
make movies. The war had taken my
growing-up period away from me,
so I decided to catch up.
By 1960, I was editing Film
Culture magazine, and that’s
when I first met Yoko Ono. She
was studying in New York and
making her earliest work. In order to
settle here, she needed a green card,
so she came to me for a job. I was
her sponsor.
A few years later, she went to
London and met John Lennon.
They returned together, and on
his first night in New York, we all
met for coffee. In December 1970
they came to the Invisible Cinema,
a specially designed theatre I had
just opened on Lafayette Street.
I organised a little film festival
and Yoko made two films for me
in 10 days: one called Legs, and
one called Fly. Legs consisted of a
camera panning around different
legs, mostly belonging to John and
Yoko’s friends; Fly followed a fly in
close up as it walked over the body
of a nude female.
The cinema was designed for
70 people; when you were in your
winged seat, you saw only the
screen – not your neighbour or the
person in front of you. The walls
and seats were black velvet so that
during the projection everything
was dark but the film. In this
photograph, we’re waiting for
a movie to start.
At the time I saw a lot of John and
Yoko, and I always enjoyed our time
together. He was open, relaxed, very
spontaneous. It felt like anything
could happen, at any moment. Yoko
was more controlled, but she was
very warm and we remain good
friends. She loved New York as
much as I did. She once wrote to me
from Japan, where she was working:
“I’m coming to the end of my wits,”
she wrote. “New York is my only
town. Kiss the pavements... for me.”
It was through her that I came
to dance with Fred Astaire, for
her 1972 film, Imagine: he danced
across a room, and I followed him,
with no rehearsal. It was brief,
but memorable.
I think Yoko is misunderstood.
Those who blame her for the
breakup of the Beatles – that’s not
the woman I know. She and John
were very sweet, very much in love.
I’m lucky to have met them; I was
lucky, too, that I had to leave my
country, and arrive in New York
when I did.
A Dance With Fred Astaire, by Jonas
Mekas, is published by Anthology
Editions (
Interview by Deborah Linton.
Are you in a notable photograph?
The Guardian Weekend | 14 October 2017 87
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