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The Guardian Weekend 09 December 2017

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Adam Driver gets dark in the new Star Wars
e 7
Bumper festive
food guide:
Meera’s vegan
best bakes
Co t a r t
nt e r s
Festive food and drink
Body and mind
7 Hadley Freeman
8 Tim Dowling Plus Bim
Adewunmi’s First take
12 Your view Plus
Stephen Collins
15 Q&A Simon Callow,
16 Experience I saved
a woman’s life
40 ‘Tis the season Yotam
Ottolenghi serves up
mains to feed a crowd
(with minimum fuss)
46 Trad with a twist
Felicity Cloake’s take
on smoked salmon,
turkey, trifle and more
52 How to be a vegan
(and a good guest)
Romesh Ranganathan’s
festive rules
56 Anyone for
aubergine? Meera
Sodha’s vegan feast
62 Forget the figgy
pudding Try Thomasina
Miers’ desserts instead
68 Mix it up Wonderful
winter cocktails
71 Make mine wine 10 top
supermarket bottles
75 Blind date When
Michael met Tom
76 All ages Colour clash
79 Jess Cartner-Morley
Floral frocks in winter
81 Beauty Sali Hughes
picks gifts your mother
might actually want
90 System upgrade
Why Zoe Williams is
a Village Peasant. Plus
My life in sex: the postmenopausal woman
91 This column will
change your life
Plus What I’m really
thinking: the mediator
18 Zen and the art of
acting Adam Driver on
army life, Girls and
surviving Star Wars
28 A tale of two cities Are
baby boomers stealing
millennials’ futures?
Stephen Moss visits
the oldest and
youngest places in
England to find out
85 Alys Fowler Plant the
perfect crab apple
87 Space wishlist Our
pick of the best
seaonal tableware
89 Let’s move to
Kelso, Roxburghshire.
Plus All the places I’ll
never live
93 Howard Jacobson Plus
Crossword and Quiz
94 That’s me in
the picture
Berger & Wyse
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 5
When Harry met Meghan: it’s every Richard Curtis movie rolled into one
ow that we are in the holiday season,
it feels entirely apt that the whole
world is captivated by the most
Richard Curtis storyline of all time,
gazumping even Love Actually. Stop me if you’ve
heard this one before: a charming English posho
wants to find love, but British girls just don’t
come up to snuff. Then along comes a glamorous
American actress: she teaches him to share his
feelings, he teaches her the value of real things,
like roast chicken dinners with one’s friends from
Eton. Ignoring the stuffy naysayers, he declares
that he loves her, the country cheers and end
credits roll. I speak, of course, of Prince Harry and
Meghan Markle. And while I don’t have proof that
Harry proposed in the rain, if he did I’m betting
that Meghan didn’t notice.
Ever since the latest royal engagement was
announced, historians have been dusting off the
Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII references, even
though (a) Prince Harry is not the King and (b) he
probably never will be. But Harry and Meghan
have nothing to do with British history – they are
a British romcom from the late 90s/early 00s. Back
then, almost every movie made in this country
was predicated on the idea that posh British
men can’t resist American women (and hats off
to Guy Ritchie for going the extra mile with his
real-life alliance with Madonna). Hugh Grant
rejected Kristin Scott Thomas for Andie “call the
acting coach” MacDowell in Four Weddings And
A Funeral, and then rejected Emily Mortimer for
Julia Roberts in Notting Hill (Cressida Bonas is
clearly the Mortimer character in the Prince Harry
movie: perfect, but insufficiently American).
Jeanne Tripplehorn made a career playing the
role of the American temptress (notably in Sliding
Doors and Bridget Jones’s Diary) while Samantha
Mathis cracked through Richard E Grant’s stiff
upper lip in Jack & Sarah. But it was Curtis who
jumped the shark with this trope in Love Actually.
We will return to this unseemliness shortly.
As an American woman, I’m fascinated by the
popularity of this cliche – in Britain, anyway.
Because while British movies seem to think
American women find the posh English accent
irresistible, American movies invariably associate
it with absolute evil. Moreover, despite living in
this country for most of my life, I never dated
an Englishman who owned even a dishwasher,
let alone several castles, so if there is a magnetic
pull between me and the British upper classes it
is one I have avoided. But yes, some British toffs
have been lucky enough to marry an American.
Last year, for example, someone called James
Rothschild decided to do America a favour when
he took one of the Hilton sisters off its hands (no,
not that one. I don’t think people called Paris are
allowed in Brexit Britain).
Tatler magazine has been extremely exercised
of late about the idea of American women carting
off their precious poshos. Trying to fathom why
this keeps happening, one heiress suggested:
“American girls will give blowjobs way earlier
than British girls because they don’t consider it
sex.” Well, there’s a marital tip I don’t remember
hearing from Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Stick
that in your next movie, Disney.
The idea that Americans are sluts lies at the
heart of this cliche about American women and
British toffs, from the rumours about Wallis
Simpson’s sexual prowess to Richard Curtis
movies. In Four Weddings, MacDowell wows
Grant by revealing that she’s slept with more
than 50 men. In Notting Hill, Roberts sleeps with
Grant even though she’s in a relationship with
Alec Baldwin. In Love Actually, this idea reaches
its climax when January Jones and her friends
eagerly shack up with Kris Marshall, such is their
love of the English accent and insatiable American
sluttiness. For me, the Special Relationship
officially ended when Marshall tells Jones he’s
from Basildon and she makes an orgasmic yelp.
As flattered as I am by the suggestion that my
sexual skills are so great I could literally seduce
a country, the truth is a lot less sticky-palmed:
to a British toff, an American seems excitingly
untraditional, while for an American, a British
toff seems thrillingly traditional; the two meet,
hopefully, in the middle, somewhere around the
roast chicken dinners. Also, the American accent
is reassuringly classless, so Harry’s family won’t
be able to tell which school she went to from
the way she pronounces “off ”. Thus, the most
class-obsessed people in the most class-obsessed
country in the world, the English upper classes,
can date a far broader range of women than the
blond Sloanes allowed to them here. After all, it’s
only in a Richard Curtis movie that a posh British
man ends up with an English tea lady. In reality,
they can slum it with the Americans.
n the morning I wake up early, get
dressed, pull on boots and tramp
across the frosted ground to my
shed. I unlock the door, turn on the
heat, then walk straight back to the kitchen to
make coffee.
Working at the end of the garden is peaceful,
if a little isolating. Most days I see no one until
lunchtime, sometimes until dusk. The shed – a
glass and timber pod assembled on site – is
absolutely silent with the door shut. For the first
time in months I can hear myself think, and I’m
not sure I like it.
A sharp rap on the glass causes me to jump
out of my chair. The door opens and my wife
leans in.
“You’re a nervy little thing, aren’t you?”
she says.
“Permission to come aboard not granted,” I say.
“I’m busy.”
“It’s like a sauna in here,” she says.
“It’s how I like it,” I say. “Can you shut the door?”
“I’ve got you a present,” she says. “Come
and see.”
I follow her inside. The present is a set of
matching doormats.
“It’s to stop you tracking mud everywhere,”
my wife says.
“Thanks,” I say. “What’s this?” On the table is
a While You Were Out card left by the postman,
with my name on it.
“Dunno,” my wife says. “Were you expecting
“My driving licence!” I shout. I’ve applied to
change the address on my driving licence, but
because I’m not a UK citizen I’ve had to send my
actual passport through the post to prove my
identity. Its continued absence has given me no
end of anxiety.
“Oh,” my wife says.
“It’s because I couldn’t hear the doorbell from
the shed!” I shout.
My wife has seven
keys to my shed.
‘This isn’t acceptable,’
I say. ‘We’re
neighbours now’
8 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
“Calm down,” she says. “Just go down to the
post office with some ID.”
“I don’t have any ID!” I shout. “All my ID will be
in the envelope I’m trying to pick up!”
“This is not my problem,” my wife says.
Defeated, I return to my shed.
An hour later I go to the post office and use my
debit card to pick up a package that turns out to
be a book I ordered and forgot about. When I get
back home there is a mat outside the back door,
and another outside my shed door.
Over the next few days I notice other
changes to my shed. Two pillows appear on
the sofa. One morning I find a small American
flag in a vase on my desk, and some bongo
drums on the book shelf. At lunchtime I lock up
and head off for a meeting. When I return later
the house is empty. Through the back window
I can see my wife in my shed, nailing a picture
to the wall.
“What are you doing?” I say, wiping my feet.
“Looks nice there, doesn’t it?” she says.
“Do you have a key to my shed?” I say.
“I have seven keys to your shed,” she says.
“This isn’t acceptable,” I say. “I need my space.
We’re neighbours now.”
“I got you another present,” she says.
Back in the kitchen she shows me two black
boxes, one larger than the other. When she
pushes the front of one, the other plays an earsplitting snatch of Ode To Joy.
“It’s a doorbell for your shed,” she says. “Up
to 250 metres.” She pushes the box again, and it
plays We Wish You A Merry Christmas, followed
by O Susanna.
“Can you control the volume?” I say.
“Probably,” she says. “I threw away the manual.
Shall we put it up?”
“Tomorrow,” I say. “I’ve still got work to do.”
The next morning I turn the shed heater on
in the dark, and go back to the kitchen to wait,
with the radio for company. By sunrise I am
hard at work; by 10am the shed is so warm
that I drift into a gentle sleep at my desk. I’m
woken by a deafening electronic rendition
of Yesterday Once More, emanating from a
black box mounted to the wall next to my left
ear. A few seconds later my wife appears at the
shed door.
“Did it work?” she says.
First take
Bim Adewunmi
Routines are the things that keep us
in kilter: if you have a system, then
you can feel like you’re clawing back
a semblance of order. And, God, in
2017, don’t we all feel ripe for the
idea of wresting back some control?
I was away from home recently,
and even as I packed a suitcase,
I knew the jet lag and exhaustion
to come would wreck me. Luckily,
I have a “leaving town” routine,
perfected over years of travel, and
designed to keep me sane and rested.
Now, unsolicited, I will share it with
you. Remember: most of it is to be
implemented before leaving town.
1. Do the dishes. It seems like a small
thing, but you know what you don’t
want to see upon dragging your
body back across the threshold?
A stack of dirty plates and pots, now
with concrete-like caked-on food.
Wipe down the sink, friend.
2. Change your sheets before you go.
I assure you that, post-customs and
immigration as well as underground
mass transit, you will want nothing
more than to slide beneath a fluffed
and clean duvet. Whatever you do,
don’t strip the bed and leave it bare
– there is no rage like that which
bubbles up when you return to an
unmade bed.
3. Bleach the loo. Do you realise
how rarely you get to leave the toilet
undisturbed for days? Apply the
pine-scented cleaner of your choice,
flush on your return, and feel like a
domestic goddess.
4. For the love of God, empty
the bin. Fruit flies don’t pay
the mortgage!
5. Pick up some milk on the way
home. Imagine having a cup of
tea all ready, only to find the milk
in the fridge has gone off.
That’s it. Do you know, I
might write a book on this.
In my shed, I can hear myself think. I’m not sure I like it
35% I hate talking to
Small data
Last week, Jessica Pan
reported on her month
of talking to strangers.
You said:
strangers. What’s
the point?
35% It would be different
if a man did this
30% Good on you. This has
inspired me
Letters, emails, comments
achieved in 2010: no Cameron, no
referendum, no tuition fee rises, no
austerity policies, no food banks. Oh,
Nick, how wonderful it is to dream.
Joe Birkin
What I enjoyed about your
conversations (2 December) was that
they’re the sort I have with friends:
there’s no polemicism because we
agree. But looking in that mirror made
me slightly uncomfortable, too.
M Hill
London N20
Nick Clegg says, “All it would take
[to stop Brexit] is a couple of dozen
brave Tories.” Just think what one
principled Lib Dem could have
As a nurse, I want every member of
every clinical team to read the
conversation between Henry Marsh
and Siddhartha Mukherjee. Let’s all
stop being afraid to give patients
and their families the honest truth.
More basically, let’s teach our
children that death is part of life.
Rowena Corbin
Wool, Dorset
While I thoroughly enjoyed all the
conversations, I was left wondering
at what point in his conversation
with Henry Marsh did Siddhartha
Mukherjee take off his socks (or,
conversely, put them on)?
Harry Harrison
London E3
As a white anti-racist, I’d like to join
Stephen Collins
12 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Reni Eddo-Lodge in saying that it’s
going to be fine… eventually. If
racism is prejudice plus power,
prejudice in the white west will fade
out as historical “scientific” racism
fades into deserved oblivion.
Chris Hughes
I am an introvert and have no desire
to become an extrovert (The
Kindness Of Strangers, 2 December).
I can talk to strangers in a one-onone conversation, but don’t do so
well in noisy crowds, and I avoid
conflict whenever I can. Perhaps
the world needs more quiet,
empathetic listeners.
Isobel Hart
We know all our neighbours (Love
Thy Neighbour, 2 December). We
chat often, take in parcels for each
other and have a Christmas gettogether (we are hosting it this year).
Roisin McAuley Lee
Sounds as if Tim Dowling’s new
office shed (2 December) could be
part of Rachel Whiteread’s
retrospective at Tate Britain (Q&A,
2 December).
June Murphy
Co Kerry, Ireland
I get the impression Tom Dyckhoff
quite likes Whitby (Let’s Move To…
2 December). His review is as gushing
as a Dales stream in full flood.
Toby Wood
If Howard Jacobson had to lick
the stamp last time he bought one
(2 December), he may be part of the
reason post offices are so rare.
Louise Wright
Email or
comment at by noon
on Monday for inclusion. Submissions
are subject to our terms and conditions:
Simon Callow, actor
orn in London, Callow,
68, began his career at
the National Theatre box
office and went on to
become an actor, writer and director.
He appeared in A Room With
A View (1985), Four Weddings And
A Funeral (1994) and Shakespeare
In Love (1998). He performs a new
adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s De
Profundis at the Vaudeville theatre
in London from 3-6 January and stars
in The Rebel, on Gold.
When were you happiest?
At drama school, because I started
having relationships with other men
and found a satisfying job.
What is your greatest fear?
I am claustrophobic and find it
terrifying to be totally in the dark.
What is your earliest memory?
Being on a toy horse in Brockwell
Park, south London, wearing
knickerbockers with a unicorn
pattern. I must have been two.
What was your most embarrassing
I was best man at a wedding when
I was 18 and my trousers fell apart.
Property aside, what’s the most
expensive thing you’ve bought?
A sculpture by Glynn Williams;
it cost £7,000 in the early 80s.
What makes you unhappy?
Having disappointed people.
What do you most dislike about
your appearance?
I suppose I least like my face.
Who would play you in the film of
your life?
Robert Downey Jr.
What is your favourite word?
What did you want to be when you
were growing up?
A writer.
What was the best kiss of your life?
With an amazingly beautiful French
actress, Delphine Seyrig. We had
a very voluptuous screen kiss.
What is the worst thing anyone’s
said to you?
When I took my mother into the
retirement home, she called me
a liar and denounced me.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Doing nothing.
What do you owe your parents?
I hardly knew my father; my mother
gave me intellectual stimulation.
What or who is the love of your
ur life?
My husband, Sebastian.
What does love feel like?
Like having a foundation.
Have you ever said ‘I love you’’ and
not meant it?
Which living person do you most
despise, and why?
Well, I am jolly cross with David
Cameron for being so thoughtless
less in
most of the referenda that he called.
Who would you invite to yourr
dream dinner party?
Dickens, Wagner, John Gielgud
d, my
late friend the playwright Simon
Gray, my grandmother Vera and
nd my
old friend Patrick Garland.
If you could go back in time, where
would you go?
Elizabethan London in 1595, to
o see
Shakespeare’s great plays.
How do you relax?
I walk round a bookshop for an
n hour.
How often do you have sex?
On a fairly regular basis.
What single thing would improve
the quality of your life?
What is your greatest achievement?
My books about Orson Welles.
What keeps you awake at night?
Fear of falling apart.
How would you like to be
With charity.
What is the most important
lesson life has taught you?
How much more precious it
is than you think.
Rosanna Greenstreet
moment? I was
best man and
my trousers
fell apart
he Gu
an We
err 2
7 115
I saved a woman’s life
y husband Chris and
I had been on Brighton
beach for only half an
hour and it was deserted.
A week of sunshine at the end of
August this year had abruptly ended
and it had been pelting down all day.
Miraculously, just as we’d reached
the dog-friendly part of the beach, it
had stopped raining.
Rosie had been haring about the
beach, tail up, while Chris and
I walked along the seafront. “This
half hour has made this trip worth
it,” I said. We’d almost cancelled our
plans to go to Brighton for the day as
the weather had been so foul.
When I first saw her, I thought
she was out for a swim in a wetsuit.
But as we got nearer, we saw she
was fully dressed, lying on her back
gently sculling the water with her
hands. We hesitated: we knew this
scene wasn’t right.
Then we heard her: “Help, please,
I don’t want to die.”
We ran to the shoreline. I shouted
over: “We are here, you are not
going to die, we won’t let that
happen. Can you swim to us?”
It quickly became apparent from
her distress that she had gone out
there with the intention of
drowning herself, but had then
changed her mind.
I remember thinking, I can’t
believe this is happening; that it is
down to us to get this woman out of
the water. I looked around to see if
there were other people we
could share the burden with, but we
were alone.
We could see she was disoriented,
exhausted. She kept swimming
away from us and then would
change her mind and try to come
back inland. Chris was getting ready
to jump in, but with no one else
16 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
around, I panicked about how I’d get
them off the beach without help.
I tried one last time. Rather
than being nice, I found myself
getting bossy.
“You asked us for help, you want
to live, now you must swim towards
us,” I said. “Stop swimming away.
Just focus on my green umbrella,
swim to it and don’t stop.”
She seemed not to be moving,
until suddenly she was within
reach and I waded in to catch her
hand. She slumped to the sand.
I sat next to her and asked her
name. She was my age and kept
saying how sorry she was for
wasting our time. I couldn’t imagine
how much pain she must have
been in to feel that desperate.
We needed the woman to get to
her feet; she was so cold, we
couldn’t keep sitting there with her
soaked through. We were worried
she was becoming hypothermic.
“Shall I let you into a secret?”
I said. “Four years ago, almost to this
very hour, I was taken down to an
operating theatre to have a double
lung transplant. My life was saved
by a stranger, and now here we are,
strangers helping you. Please don’t
apologise, we are glad to be here.”
That was the reason Chris and
I had taken the train to Brighton
that day: to mark the anniversary
of my transplant.
Before that operation, I was on
oxygen, using a wheelchair, unable
to wash by myself. It had taken
everything I had to cling to the belief
that a better life was waiting for me
if I could hold on. The woman on the
beach broke my heart when she said
I’d deserved to get better, but that
she didn’t. I told her we were both
just very ill and needed to let other
people help us sometimes.
We got her changed into a spare
windbreaker, and managed to get
her to walk back to her friend’s
house, who was distraught at her
absence. The last I saw of her, she
was sitting on a balcony, smoking
a cigarette, wrapped in a blanket.
She’d asked for one more minute
before she talked to the paramedics
we’d called for help.
The whole episode took 30
minutes, but the odd coincidence
of it still makes it feel like a scene
from an unfeasible movie in my
mind. Every day, I think of the
stranger who saved my life; I never
contemplated that I would be able
to save a stranger in return. That
evening one of my friends texted me
back to say: “Your donor was able to
give yet another gift to this world.”
Sharon Brennan
In the UK, Samaritans can be
contacted on 116 123.
Do you have an experience to share?
A walk
He’s back as the Star Wars
villain, but fame is not
what Adam Driver seeks.
By Emma Brockes
dark side
Portraits by Andreas Laszlo Konrath
dam Driver has a reputation for
being a serious young man, which is
partly a matter of attitude and partly,
I suspect, to do with some aspect
of his physiognomy: he has a large head and
outsize features that somehow combine to give
an impression of gravity. Before the photoshoot,
he let it be known that he finds it uncomfortable
to have a journalist (me) in his sightline on set,
the kind of specification one might expect of
a particularly precious Hollywood star. But this
turns out to be misleading. Driver’s discomfort is
with the entire celebrity aspect of his job, which
makes talking about his role in the latest Star
Wars trilogy somewhat tricky. I don’t even know
where to start with The Last Jedi, I say, as we
settle down after the shoot, and Driver grins, then
looks gloomy. “Me, neither,” he says.
We are in downtown Manhattan, a few miles
from Driver’s Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood
(Lena Dunham lives there, too) and a more
upscale part of Brooklyn than the grungy
Greenpoint location of Girls. That show, the sixth
and final season of which ran on HBO earlier
this year, was watched by relatively modest
numbers, but has had an outsized influence on
the culture. Barely a day goes by without Dunham
being mentioned in a blogpost somewhere, and
it gave Driver, who played her on-off boyfriend,
the kind of career launch twentysomething actors
can only dream of. At 34, not only does he have
his second go as Kylo Ren in the latest Star Wars
movie, but he has just shot The Man Who Killed
Don Quixote, directed by Terry Gilliam, was in the
Steven Soderbergh film Logan Lucky and played
the title role in the Jim Jarmusch movie Paterson.
Pretty good, I’d say, although I assume the two
Star Wars films – The Force Awakens and The Last
Jedi – are the real life-changer.
“No,” Driver says, looking genuinely baffled.
But to be part of a juggernaut that size – wasn’t
he warned it would change his life? “I don’t think
anyone said that, and I wouldn’t have listened
to them, anyway. As a person, I’m the same. The
problems I had before Force Awakens, it didn’t
solve any of them.” He laughs. “For me, the only
noticeable difference is your visibility as a person.
Loss of anonymity is a big thing. I didn’t realise
how I would see that in a billion little ways.”
The fame he had before Star Wars was
somewhat localised. As Driver says drily, “In
my neighbourhood, a lot of people watch HBO.”
He is recognisable
even when travelling
at speed. ‘I got pulled
over by the cops, who
asked for a picture’
Top: with Lena Dunham in Girls, 2013. Above: as Kylo Ren in new film Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars is different: “Seven-year-olds to
70-year-olds.” It is global and almost impossible
to escape. Driver is 6ft 3in and distinctive-looking,
like a child’s drawing of a man brought to life.
He’s even recognisable when travelling at speed.
“I thought, I’ll ride my bike around the city,” he
says, “and within two seconds I got pulled over by
the cops, who said, ‘Hey, can we take a picture?’”
Really? “Yeah. I mean, I also ran a red light, so it
was fair.”
Driver has been in New York since his early
20s, and part of his appeal as an actor has to do
with his background. Before attending drama
school at Juilliard, he was in the Marines. He was
discharged after two years of training, and before
his unit got shipped to Iraq, following an injury
brought on while he was out mountain biking,
a terrible blow at the time.
It is this – the combination of the classical
theatre training and the military experience – that
gives Driver an unusual ruggedness. As with most
things that come up during our conversation,
he is mildly amused and emphatically deflating
about the role of the military in his appeal as an
actor. He already knew he wanted to perform
when he joined the Marines in his late teens,
a move partly inspired by 9/11 and partly by
youthful lack of direction. Driver’s application
to Juilliard had been rejected; he had no other
plans and was listlessly living in his mother
and stepfather’s house in Indiana when 9/11
happened, filling him with what he described in
a recent TED talk as “an overwhelming sense of
duty”. He was also feeling “generally pissed off ”
and underconfident, and for some reason – he
agrees, looking back, that it was in many ways an
odd move – signing up seemed to be the answer.
At high school, Driver wasn’t particularly
macho. “I didn’t do organised sports, not because
I didn’t like them, but because I wasn’t very good
at them. Except basketball. But I was never, like:
let’s play football.”
He mainly hung out with the high school drama
nerds. “I wasn’t someone who was into groups
of guys – we’re men! We’re going to eat meat!” He
looks momentarily wry. “I don’t know what guys
do. Anyway, I would never have talked to those
people before the military. Now you’re stuck in
the epitome of alpha-male territory.”
To everyone’s surprise, he loved it. One can
almost see why: there is an earnestness to Driver
that relished the purity of military life and the →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 21
Before the army,
‘I wouldn’t have talked
to those people. Then
I was in the epitome of
alpha-male territory’
more he talks about it, the more he makes it
sound like a combat version of Buddhism.
“There’s something about going into the military
and having all of your identity and possessions
stripped away: that whole clarity of purpose thing.
It becomes very clear to you, when you get your
freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”
The bonds Driver made with his fellow Marines
were startling to him, given how different many
of them were in terms of background. (In his own
family, his mother is a paralegal, his stepfather
a Baptist preacher and his father works “at the
copy counter at Office Depot”.) In the military,
Driver says, none of that mattered. “You’re in
this high-stakes environment where who you
are as a person is constantly tested. And, in my
experience, a lot of the people I was closest to in
the military were very self-sacrificing. For me, it
speaks volumes, more than how well they were
able to articulate, or whatever front they were
putting on. You get to see them at their most
vulnerable and they’re literally going to back you
up. All pretences dissolve.”
Being discharged on medical grounds before
deployment was devastating for Driver; but the
experience of having been in the military also
made rehabilitation easier. Nothing, he believed at
the time, could be as hard again, and after a period
of working in a warehouse back in Indiana, he
found that he still wanted to act and reapplied to
Juilliard. It was different this time. “Whereas at
17 I just wanted to be liked, and to be funny, and
accepted, later I had a bit more life experience.”
He was accepted and moved to New York.
He has worked almost constantly since then, to
the extent that he took four months off recently
just to hang out at home with his wife Joanne
Tucker. (They met at Juilliard and she is also an
actor.) Most of his early roles – he was in Frances
Ha, the excellent Noah Baumbach movie, and in
the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis – were very
good, but relatively small scale and indie. Even
Girls, his breakthrough role, didn’t look like much
when it first came on screen. The Force Awakens,
on the other hand, became the fastest film to take
$1bn (£740m) at the global box office. I try again:
surely this does something to Driver’s basic levels
of self-confidence?
“No, because that’s not what I was after when
I started to be an actor,” he insists. “It would if that
was my goal. I know people think that if you’re
an actor, it’s your goal to be famous and wealthy.
‘Part of my job is being anonymous, to observe rather than be observed’
Surely you want to be famous and wealthy! And
there are great things about that part of it – it frees
you up to do other things. But part of my job is
being anonymous and I think being able to live, to
observe more than to be observed, is important.
[Being famous] seems counterintuitive to my job.
It’s a weird dynamic when you walk into a room
and there’s an image people project on to you.”
He interrupts himself to say, conscientiously, “My
problems compared with global issues, or anybody
else’s, are very small. Even that I have time in my
day to think about the existential.”
This is how it goes with Driver: he is
assiduously mindful of broader sensitivities and
somewhat embarrassed to air his own. “What it
means to lose anonymity is a bougie problem in
and of itself. And I won’t garner sympathy, nor am
I asking for it. The image of us on our red carpet
wearing expensive suits, where people naturally
assume your life is, is not what I was after when I
started this job. Believe it or not.”
I do believe it, I say. One has only to look at him,
twisting this way and that in his chair. (“I’m not
doing it on purpose to get away from you,” he says.)
So he doesn’t take any credit for, or validation
from, the success of Star Wars? “You mean,
am I, like, yes!” He gives a little satirical air
punch. “I’m excited that people liked it, but do
I think that I got it right? No. If I had directed it,
maybe. But I didn’t write it, direct it, pick out
the costumes. All these decisions – about the
lightsaber, that it’s unfinished and unpolished –
none of those were mine. I know enough about
this job not to take credit.” He looks pained.
“That would be an illusion.”
Driver’s family have no roots in acting, although
his stepfather’s job as a minister might be said
to have some performance aspect to it. Driver
sang in the church choir well into his teens,
which, he says, gives you an idea of how left-field
his decision to enlist was. When he joined the
school theatre, it was because his friends were
doing it and it looked fun. “They auditioned for
Oklahoma!, so I did. And I got a part in the chorus.
I remember being backstage and it seemed like
a community that was a bunch of weirdos, and
I liked that part of it. I also felt that I was kind of
OK at it. I tend to get frustrated with things that
I don’t pick up right away.”
When people in the US think of Indiana, he says,
they think of somewhere “boring and flat”. It is →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 23
‘Lena Dunham is
a great writer. She’s
a good thief, also:
she’s very aware of
her environment’
the Marines, he says. “It is a very egocentric four
years, just sitting around and focusing on what
does the back of my tongue sound like when
I make this sound? What is a Scottish dialect?”
Failure didn’t particularly worry him; he was
still in his early 20s and brimming with the
confidence of youth and the machismo of two
years of hard training. “In the military, you are
put in hard circumstances, so I’m thinking,
I’ll move to New York and be an actor, and if it
doesn’t work out, I’ll just live in Central Park. You
know, compared with the military, it can’t be that
difficult. I’ll dumpster dive. I’ll survive. Civilian
problems compared with the military are small;
that was my thinking at the time. That’s not right.
But at the time, that’s what I thought.”
It wasn’t just the contrast between the two
worlds that gave Driver confidence. There is
something almost fanatical about his belief in the
right and wrong way to do things. When he was
still at school and decided to be an actor, the only
place he applied to was Juilliard; nowhere else, no
backup. He had heard it was the best place in the
US to train, so that’s where he wanted to go.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, he isn’t on social
media. Those kinds of exchanges don’t interest
him. As a result, he missed out on a lot of the
hype around Girls, although even he couldn’t fail
to recognise that the show was a hit. (Driver won
three consecutive Emmy nominations for his role
as Adam Sackler.) It was a strange thing, he says,
to sign up for what felt like a relatively obscure
show – “Something that felt like it was made in the
basement of a friend’s house” – and watch it rise,
while he and his friends rose with it. (We speak
before the controversy over Lena Dunham’s defence
of a Girls writer against an accusation of rape.)
It did not escape Driver’s notice that his own
nudity on the show was less remarked upon and
criticised than that of Lena Dunham, even though
Dunham wrote, produced and directed the show.
“Of course there’s a double standard for men
and women. I don’t think that’s a controversial
thing for me to say. It’s so obvious, and one
of the things that she was fighting against,
which I understood right away, is that it wasn’t
gratuitous. There was always a point behind it, it
was always still storytelling. It just seemed very
natural. We talked just as much about being naked,
and what was the story and the sex scenes, as we
did about scenes where there’s dialogue.”
It wasn’t uncomfortable to film? “If it’s for
no purpose whatsoever, that would be very
uncomfortable. But part of the storytelling is
about our bodies and how they look, and if there’s
something that’s not flattering about it, that was
probably what we were going for. That’s my job,
to tell the story.”
What did he learn from Dunham?
“Um. I mean, Lena is a great writer. She’s a good
thief, also: she’s very aware of her environment
and is very good about processing her experience
of something immediately. I feel like I need more
time to get distance on it, so I can look back and
also deep into Trump country, such that Driver
and his family are careful to avoid talking about
politics when he goes home for the holidays.
Occasionally, his worlds collide. A few years
after being demobbed, Driver set up a nonprofit
organisation called Arts In The Armed Forces,
which puts on theatre performances for personnel
at military bases. His burgeoning celebrity has
made it easier to recruit other well-known
actors to the cause, but it is testament to his
management skills that from the outset, the
company has been smartly and seriously run.
His aim, he says, was to broaden the range of
entertainment put on for the troops. When Driver
was stationed at Camp Pendleton, in California,
the troop entertainment was, “‘The Dallas
Cowboys cheerleaders are going to come and dance
for you.’ Which is great, but there wasn’t anything
like theatre or performance art brought to us.”
Unlike Bryan Doerries’ excellent stage project
Theatre Of War, in which Greek drama is
performed before military audiences as a public
health initiative, there is no therapeutic element to
Driver’s nonprofit. Still, it can have an interesting
impact. “In one of our first performances, Laura
Linney did a monologue from this Scott Organ
play called China, about a female employer
reprimanding a female employee for not wearing
a bra. It’s really funny, that’s why I picked it – not
really thinking it through. It was one of a series of
monologues, and the male Marines were coming
out and saying, we really liked it, but we thought
[that particular one] was an indirect attack on how
we do things in the military.”
When Driver asked why, they replied, “Because
there’s a uniformity and structure and a reason in
the military, and we thought that’s what you were
trying to criticise. I said, OK, that’s interesting.
And then the female Marines were coming out
and saying, I liked the whole thing, especially that
monologue, because I know what it’s like to be
a female in a very male-dominated environment.
That’s the best response we could’ve asked for.
Hopefully they like it and it’s entertaining. But it
also confronts them, and they bring something
to it that a civilian audience wouldn’t think of.”
It can take a little persuasion on Driver’s part
to get officers to allow him on to the base, and
if he is adept at overcoming the military’s initial
scepticism towards theatre, it is thanks to the
experience of having overcome similar prejudice
in himself. Theatre school seemed insane after
Top: in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Above: with wife
Joanne Tucker, whom he met at Juilliard
have an opinion. She is forming opinions as she
does things. Which I think is a rare ability.”
Driver sometimes wonders if he’ll ever come to
firm conclusions about anything. “I never figure
anything out,” he says, winningly. “I do my job.
That’s my goal, to be as economical as possible.
Basically, the only thing I try to do is know my lines.”
His ego is contained, too. “Usually, the mood
of the set is what I adapt to, as opposed to
having a set way of working and imposing it on
everybody else. If you need private time, usually
people give you space for that. But getting set into
one way of doing something seems like closing
yourself off from being wrong.” On the other
hand, “interesting things can come out of being
wrong”. He smiles. “Sometimes.”
Can he let things go?
“No. I don’t think so. Maybe after a while.
I keep replaying scenes in my mind. That’s why
I don’t like to watch anything I’m in – it’s not
my responsibility.” It’s a Zen attitude Driver has
worked hard to perfect and he frowns with the
effort of maintaining it. To be a small part of the
machine is where he has always felt comfortable.
“It’s not about me,” he says •
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on 14 December.
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 25
T he
Duncan Stevens (holding
ball) at Minehead bowls
club. Opposite: Zoë
Padley and Danielle
Lovett in Manchester
28 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
ra t i o
n ga m
Minehead has the
oldest population in
England, Manchester
the youngest. What do
they tell us about
the way we live now?
Stephen Moss reports
Photographs by
Sophie Green
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 29
aby boomers have built an empire
and empires need protecting,” says
Reuben Young, a millennial who runs
the pressure group PricedOut. “When
younger people say, ‘We want our own house,
we want to build more’, baby boomers see their
empire as being under threat. God forbid that
house prices fall and housing becomes cheaper
for young people!”
Young is speaking at the Battle Of Ideas at the
Barbican, close to the City of London, in October.
Part of a panel addressing the question “Have
Wrinklies Cheated Millennials?”, he offers some
compelling arguments that they have: “Millennials
will pay, over the course of their 20s, nearly £50,000
more in rent than baby boomers did at the same
age. Millennials won’t have as big a pension as baby
boomers, they’ll be paying more in taxes to fund
an ageing population, and they are often spending
half of their take-home pay renting homes they
can be evicted from with just two months’ notice.
You would be mad not to admit there is systemic
intergenerational inequality in this country.”
Some of the baby boomers in the audience do
not, however, take this lying down. “The idea
we have created an empire makes us sound like
Bond villains,” one woman says. “I’ve got kids who
are 16 and 18, who I actually care about,” says a
50-year-old man with a lilting geordie accent. “I’ll
fund them through university, and will probably
help them get a house. My mother has helped me
throughout my life. When she was young, nobody
had a house. Wake up! People didn’t have central
heating or fitted carpets until the 1980s. This
fantasy that young people have it hard is really
annoying. They need to stop acting like victims.”
Are millennials Generation Rent or Generation
Whinge? Dr Albert Sabater, a geographer at
the University of St Andrews and a member
of the ESRC Centre for Population Change,
believes these conflicts are just a taste of things
to come. According to Sabater, such divisions
are exacerbated by the fact that the old and the
young now live more physically separate lives.
“The population of the UK is ageing fast,” he says,
“and that ageing is occurring unevenly across the
country. British society has been slowly segregating
in many ways, and one of these is where the old
and young live.” This is, in part, for the reasons
Young identifies: people in their 20s and 30s can’t
afford to live in areas where house prices have
rocketed since the baby boomers bought in the
1970s and 80s. So we are creating ghettoes of
young and old, renters and homeowners.
Sabater worries that this will prove damaging
for society; both last year’s Brexit referendum and
the general election in June showed clear evidence
of a division in attitude and political orientation
between the two groups. The old and the young
appear to be arm-wrestling over the future of
the UK: witness the recent Momentum meme
attacking wealthy homeowners, painting them as
smug and self-interested. Physical segregation →
Fallowfield in Manchester,
home to George Flesher
and Cameron Broome
(above), has been
colonised by students.
Minehead (right) might
appear a paradise for
well-off pensioners, but
one local says some live
in ‘picturesque poverty’
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 31
Helping to make your
Christmas perfect
Visit your local Dobbies or
shop online at
is likely to make that confrontation worse.
This segregation can be seen within parts of the
country – Sabater says central Bedfordshire shows
the most marked separation between old (65-plus)
and young (25-40) districts – and also between parts
of the country. The place with the most elderly
population is west Somerset, where the median
age is 53.9; the area with the youngest population
is central Manchester, where the median is 30.1.
So what does it feel like to live in an area where
the age profile is so skewed? And is the notion of
an intergenerational war real?
Minehead is the largest town in west Somerset,
with 12,000 residents, and is geographically
isolated; you have to take a meandering bus ride
from Taunton to reach it. It is best known as home to
one of the three remaining Butlin’s holiday camps,
and the high street is full of rundown cafes and
charity shops. There are a surprising number of
tattoo parlours for a town of older people.
The stereotype of well-off pensioners living in
multimillion-pound houses and taking frequent
mini-breaks to Florence is based on perceptions
of a relatively small group in the south-east
of England. Pensioners in their £250,000-plus
bungalows in Minehead may be doing OK, but
paradise, it quickly becomes apparent, this isn’t.
That applies to west Somerset generally: life can be
tough, especially in the farms and villages up on the
moors. “People say, ‘You live in such a beautiful
place,’” one farmer tells me, “but you can’t eat
scenery.” Another local describes the conditions in
which some people live as “picturesque poverty”.
One of Minehead’s star attractions is the West
Somerset Railway, a heritage line running to
Bishops Lydeard, close to Taunton. You can’t help
seeing it as a metaphor for this part of conservative,
pro-Brexit Britain: steam trains; staff in oldfashioned uniforms tending litter-free, flowerbedecked platforms; lovely little stations set
among rolling hills. This is England circa 1952,
which is just the way the steam enthusiasts like it.
But it is not how Alex de Mendoza, chairman
of the Minehead chamber of commerce, wants
it. He thinks that, for the economic health of the
town, the proper Minehead to Taunton rail link,
axed in 1971, should be restored to create jobs,
encourage commuters and let visitors to Butlin’s
get to Minehead without clogging up the roads.
A 60-year-old former professional oil rig diver who
runs a hotel, he is frustrated with the heritage
line for opposing the plan, and with residents for
being so resistant to change. “People come here,
they retire and they want the town to remain in
aspic,” he says. “It’s a dormitory for the elderly.”
There are young families in Minehead, but they
live primarily on two estates, made up mostly of
social housing. Minehead exemplifies Sabater’s
point that old and young tend to live separately:
the old in bungalows on the edge of town and, for
the more prosperous, big Edwardian houses up on
North Hill; younger families with low disposable
incomes live on the estates; younger single
‘You live in
such a
beautiful place,’
one farmer
says, ‘but
you can’t eat
The Somerset moors and Minehead, where the median age is 53.9
people, many of them working at Butlin’s, are in
private rented accommodation in the centre.
Growing up in Minehead can be problematic,
despite the allure of moorland and sea. The town’s
secondary school has struggled in the past (De
Mendoza sent his son away to board) and there are
few jobs for school-leavers, other than at Butlin’s
or in a supermarket. The young who do stay can
get bored and restless, and there are problems
with antisocial behaviour, underage drinking and
recreational drug use.
A further problem is that the large number of
retirees has driven up property prices, and younger
people on low incomes find it hard to get on the
housing ladder. “Prices are too high for
youngsters,” one woman living in social housing
with her 12-year-old daughter tells me. “I feel older
people have pulled up the ladder behind them.”
Jean Parbrook, Minehead’s 67-year-old Tory
mayor, has to navigate the competing demands of
past and future, sleepy bungalowland and sleepless
Butlin’s, which makes ends meet in winter with
“adult weekends” frequented by drunken stag and
hen parties that mortify elderly locals. Parbrook
wants the town to prosper, but sees her role
primarily as protecting the interests of residents,
particularly the “anonymous elderly” who in later
old age can feel isolated and insecure. They are also
the ones who have suffered most from cutbacks
in local services, not least in public transport.
Bungalowland is a dreary place to be marooned.
Parbrook accepts that there is some tension,
but defends older people from accusations of
selfishness: “It wasn’t all beer and skittles when
we were young. Yes, you probably could get a
mortgage more easily, but you had to pay 15%
interest.” The street she lives in, she says, is full
of people who bought their houses decades ago,
worked hard, brought up families and paid off their
mortgages. She and her husband paid £25,000
for their house in the 1980s, and it’s now worth
around £200,000. They are not speculators, she
insists; they haven’t made a fortune.
Minehead bowls club has almost 200 members,
with several in their early 30s, the club’s youth
section. I put it to the chairman, 72-year-old Duncan
Stevens, that, with rising house prices, spiralling
tuition fees and now Brexit, the young feel that
the oldies have hung them out to dry. Echoing
Parbrook, he thinks they fail to realise how tough
it was for his generation. “When we were in our
20s, buying a house was still a major undertaking.
Or it certainly was for me. It was never easy.”
Stevens, a retired commercial salesman, needs
two sticks to walk, but that doesn’t inhibit his
bowling – he zips across the green in a wheelchair.
“As far as Brexit is concerned, I can understand that
they might think we’ve pulled up the drawbridge,”
he admits, “but there’s a lot more to it than that.
We’re of an age that we all voted in the original
referendum [in 1975], but what we have now in
the EU is not what we signed up for. Lots of us
feel we were conned into it.” Brexit dominates
many of the conversations I have in west
Somerset, which voted leave by 60% to 40%.
In Porlock, a pretty village five miles west of
Minehead that boasts the most elderly population
in the country, I meet 55-year-old Richard →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 33
Growden, proprietor of Squires, a shop that sells
“pet supplies, retro paraphernalia and quality
antler work”. An ex-army man, Growden stresses
that local people like to live independently, have
a conservative (and Conservative) mentality rooted
in hunting and farming, and were keen to be rid of
EU regulation. “Personally, I wanted the UK to be
back in control of its laws,” he says. Do elderly
people here worry about the impact of Brexit on the
young, I ask. “No, they aren’t bothered at all.” Just
because they’re old, he explains, doesn’t mean
they have to defer to youth: “They’re old and bold.”
With its silent marshes and gorgeous cream teas,
Porlock is a haven for the old, prosperous, content:
a paean to the past. But Watchet, an engaging
harbour town with a population of 4,000, 10 miles
east of Minehead, may point a way forward. In 2013,
a group of locals founded Onion Collective, to help
regenerate the town and provide jobs. Their aim
was to create a place where they could bring up
their children, and where those children would
have everything they needed if they wanted to stay.
Naomi Griffith, a director of Onion Collective,
grew up in west Somerset, where her parents ran
a zoo, but left when she was 18. “Like pretty well
everyone who grows up here, I wanted to escape as
soon as possible,” she says. “As a teenager, it’s not
very exciting.” After a decade away – studying in
London, travelling in South America and working
as a teacher and event manager – she came home.
“I wanted to live somewhere where there was
a sense of community, and that definitely does
exist in west Somerset.” What doesn’t exist is
jobs. “If you’re a woman who wants to be there
for your children, but also wants to have a decent
job, you haven’t got a hope in hell.”
She and her co-founders opened a visitor centre
in Watchet, helped art galleries get off the ground
and encouraged microbusinesses and creative
industries to move in. “We are seeking to create the
kind of vibe and opportunity that exists in Bristol,”
Griffith says. The group is developing a site next
to the harbour, and hoping to get funding for a
bigger gallery, workshops and a cafe. It is also doing
a feasibility study to try to establish an industry that
could sustain hundreds of jobs in the area, to replace
the paper mill that used to employ 170 people
before it closed 18 months ago. “We are trying to
think what a new industry would look like,” Griffith
says. “Something that will employ a couple of
hundred people and last for a hundred years.”
Porlock, near Minehead,
where Richard Growden
(above) sells antlers and
pet supplies, boasts the
most elderly population
in the country. Students
(right) at Manchester
University live in
the area with the
youngest population
One danger that you don’t face in Minehead is
being knocked over in the street by young people
hurrying along while looking at their phones.
Manchester has 100,000 students and exemplifies
New Labour’s attempt to use “studentification” to
boost urban regeneration in the early 2000s. The
old, predominantly white working class has been
pushed out to the north and east of the centre; halls
of residence and flats for young professionals have
moved in. There is a splurge of hipster coffee
shops in the Northern Quarter, near Piccadilly
Gardens, and an area unselfconsciously dubbed →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 35
“New Islington”. The Blairite dream lives on.
In the middle of New Islington is a marina where
I meet Zoë Padley and Danielle Lovett (pictured
on page 29), who come to represent millennial
Manchester for me. They are living on houseboats
because it’s cheaper than a city centre flat and
gives them freedom. “I’ve got solar panels on my
boat,” Lovett says, “and can decide how I live and
be more environmentally friendly.”
New Islington, in the old industrial Ancoats area,
is a stark example of the way the working class is
being squeezed out. Lovett believes it is deliberate
“social cleansing” by the council, and claims she
knows of one elderly resident who was moved to
Rochdale when the council estates here were razed.
Lovett and Padley have archetypally millennial
jobs. Padley describes herself as an artist/designer/
performer; Lovett teaches art to disadvantaged
children. Both are motivated by environmentalism,
personal freedom and protecting their community:
they recognise the creation of the marina was
part of the process of gentrification, but are now
doing what they can, through their residents’
association, to prevent further erosion of the
remaining population’s rights; there are still some
old council estates to the north.
Whether millennials are choosing to be free, or
having freedom thrust upon them by social change,
is a moot point. “I’m 35 and I still have a 25 grand
debt from going to college, and what did it get me?”
Padley asks. “There just aren’t the jobs available
now. My mother did half the training I did and is
working [as a designer] at the BBC and for big opera
companies. The flow of jobs and opportunities was
just easier then. There were fewer people, it was
more relaxed, there was less scrabbling for work.”
Jobs were also more structured, with fewer shortterm and zero-hours contracts. Precariousness
and freedom are different sides of the same coin.
Padley points to the paradox that in a world that
is so fluid and unstable, the opportunities can
seem both boundless and nonexistent.
“A lot of young people feel the older generation
doesn’t understand how hard it is, particularly with
housing costs,” says 23-year-old Stan Platford, who
studied photography at Manchester University
and is looking for a lecturing job. “I do think the
older generation have to take some of the blame.
The vote for Brexit really annoyed young people,
because we’ll be picking up the older generation’s
mess. It’s the same with the banking crash in 2007:
rich old bankers messing around with money and
leaving the younger generation to pick up the bill.
I’d love to own my own house, but that seems
a million miles away. We’re stuck renting.”
Most of the young people I meet think they are
getting a raw deal in terms of housing, tuition fees
and jobs, but rarely blame the older generation as
directly as Platford does, tending to see it more
as societal cock-up than boomer conspiracy.
“Manchester is very deprived and everyone is
struggling,” says Jack Houghton, a 22-year-old from
Barrow studying politics and modern history.
“The system is skewed against youth, but there
‘It’s a good
lesson for us
that, in 50
years, we need
to give the
young a leg-up’
Cameron Broome and George Flesher, who share a house with four other students
are lots of other people who are disadvantaged,
too. Right now, I’m living in a house. I don’t own
it, but some people don’t have a house at all and
are literally living on the streets.”
The students I meet are idealistic. They feel far
more strongly about climate change and social
injustice generally than tuition fees. They are
also determined to be the generation that makes
a difference. “It’s a good lesson for us that, in 50
years, when we are old, we need to give the young
a leg-up,” says 26-year-old geography student
James Shuttleworth. “We need to look to the
future and not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
That idealism fed the support for Jeremy Corbyn
that was so apparent in June’s election. “Corbyn has
excited a lot of students,” says Cameron Broome,
20, news editor of the Mancunion, Manchester
University’s newspaper. “You hear the chant on the
bus, in the club; last week I even heard someone
chanting, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ in the street. He’s
addressing young people’s concerns head on.”
Broome and his housemate, American studies
student George Flesher, also 20, both come from
Dewsbury, west Yorkshire. They and four others
live in a house in Fallowfield, a suburb that has been
colonised by students. “A lot of the properties are
owned by a few companies or a few landlords,”
Broome says, “and they all charge a similar rate.
The ownership is oligopolistic.” It is nonetheless
cheaper, and he thinks less claustrophobic, than
living in one of the nearby halls of residence.
Walking around Manchester, looking at new
apartment blocks advertising “modern city living:
no complications, no compromises”, I start to think
differently about the intergenerational divide. The
young aren’t the only victims of spiralling property
prices and age segregation. As Lovett and Padley
make clear, the old are also suffering.
“There’s always a danger that regeneration
becomes gentrification,” says Rishi Shori, Labour
leader of Bury council. “You’ve got to ask what
it means for the people who already live there,
otherwise they can get pushed to the margins.
Economic growth in Greater Manchester has been
driven by people coming in from outside. The
question is, has it been inclusive growth? And it’s
fair to say that parts of it haven’t been.”
“In the past two decades, we’ve had a massive
influx of young people into the city as the student
population and the economy have grown,” adds
Paul McGarry, head of Manchester’s Age-Friendly
initiative. “Many older people, particularly from
poorer backgrounds, see themselves being pushed
out of urban areas by a young, wealthier, socially
mobile population. If you live in an area where most
of the older population has left, either because it’s
died out or the local housing has been changed
to encourage young people to move in, the social
networks that many older people depend on have
vanished. The services, the shops, the day-to-day
encounters that older people rely on are weak.”
To counter these changes, the city’s AgeFriendly team is redesigning estates to make
them more accommodating to older people,
setting up an “older people’s nightclub” to make
the centre less forbidding and establishing
community hubs, such as film clubs that show
the movies older people want to see, rather →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 37
than the CGI blockbusters the multiplexes favour.
This is an inversion of the intergenerational war
we usually hear about, and is exemplified by the
way different areas voted in the EU referendum.
Central Manchester voted remain by 60% to 40%
– the exact reverse of west Somerset – but seven
of the 10 areas that make up Greater Manchester
voted leave. The older communities with once
strong social bonds feel dispossessed. They miss
the old greasy spoon that is now a bar selling craft
beers to rootless, socially adaptable, young liberals.
McGarry’s team are trying to convince those
often workless fifty- and sixtysomethings that
Manchester still belongs to them, too.
The financial challenges faced by younger
people are manifestly a problem. David Willetts,
executive chair of the Resolution Foundation, and
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal
Studies, have shown conclusively that the young
are being disadvantaged, especially in terms of
housing and income. But to see the new political
landscape entirely as a battle between wealthy
older people and struggling millennials would be
simplistic and misleading.
Sue Heath, a professor of sociology at
Manchester University, believes the disparities
within, rather than between, generations remain
crucial. Yes, some older people have good
pensions and large houses, but there are millions
of poor older people, too. Similarly, for some of
the young, the bank of Mum and Dad will ease
their passage through university and on to the
housing ladder. “At the level of people’s everyday
lives,” Heath says, “there is still a huge amount of
interdependency between the generations.”
Alex Smith, founder of North London Cares and
South London Cares, is extending into Manchester.
His charity aims, through clubs, one-to-one
relationships and community action, to bring
together young and old, middle- and workingclass. He seeks to demonstrate that their ways of
life need not be antithetical, pointing out that the
young and the old are the two groups in society
most susceptible to loneliness and isolation. His
organisation attempts to restore a sense of
community, the perceived absence of which
underpinned the Brexit revolt.
Smith is suspicious of the narrative that pits
old against young. He accepts Sabater’s argument
that there is increasing physical segregation,
and that the young’s reliance on social media
is accentuating that separation. But he doesn’t
believe there is an inevitable psychological gulf.
“Headlines, news stories and statistics don’t
capture the meaning of relationships between
people,” he says. “It’s not a zero-sum game, where
older people are doing well at the expense of
younger people. People don’t perceive that within
families, and I don’t think they perceive it more
broadly in society, either.”
Minehead and Manchester may be different
worlds, but they have many problems in common.
The battle between young and old is part of
a much bigger war •
Minehead (above) and
Manchester (right): ‘It’s
not a zero-sum game,
where older people are
doing well at the expense
of younger people,’
says community charity
founder Alex Smith
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 39
I love
it when
a plan
The secret to cooking
for a festive crowd?
Planning, says
Yotam Ottolenghi,
so you can join in
with all the fun, too
Grilled lamb fillet with almonds
and orange blossom
A great dish for feeding a gang,
because you can get so much of the
work done in advance. Sear the
meat, grill the pepper, prepare the
sauce (hold back on the mint until
serving, because it will discolour if
left to sit around). Then, when
you’re ready to serve, all you have
to do is finish off the meat in the
oven and add the mint to the sauce.
As always with garlic, don’t double
the amount when doubling the other
ingredients: seven or eight cloves
will be fine to feed 12. Serves six.
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
5 lemons: finely grate the zest of 1,
to get 1 tbsp, and juice them all, to
get 150ml
3 tbsp picked thyme leaves
180ml olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1kg lamb neck fillets (ie, about 8 fillets)
170g almonds (skin on)
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp orange blossom water
3 red peppers, cut into quarters,
deseeded and pith removed
20g mint leaves
Put the garlic in a large bowl with
two teaspoons of lemon zest, 90ml
lemon juice, all the thyme, half the
oil, a teaspoon and a half of salt and
a really good grind of pepper. Toss
the lamb fillets in the mix until well
coated, then refrigerate for at least
two hours (or overnight) to marinate.
Heat two tablespoons of oil in
a small pan, add the almonds and
cook, stirring continuously, for three
to four minutes, until golden brown
and evenly cooked. Take off the heat,
40 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
eeding a crowd is fun,
but it requires a fair bit
of organisation. Three
practical tips, then.
First, plan and prepare as much as
you can in advance: marinate meat,
make sauces and dressings, toast
and chop nuts, grill vegetables.
Next, picture the plate you’re
planning to serve: more is not
always more, and you don’t need to
offer 12 different things to choose
from. I often draw a quick sketch of
the dish as I imagine it: does
everything fit on the one plate, and
would I want to eat it? Finally, give a
thought to portion size: if a recipe
says a dish serves four and you have
12 to feed, chances are you’ll be able
to double (rather than triple) the
quantities without your guests going
hungry – especially if you’re making
a range of dishes. Also, bear in mind
that the more guests you have, the
less, proportionately, they’ll eat. So,
plan, picture, portion. Then party.
Grilled lamb fillet with
almonds and orange
blossom (above) and
puy lentils with roast
aubergine, tomatoes
and yoghurt (right)
Photographs by Louise Hagger
leave to cool a little, then roughly
chop and put in a bowl (discard the
cooking oil). Add a teaspoon of
lemon zest, 60ml lemon juice, the
honey, orange blossom water, half
a teaspoon of salt, a good grind of
black pepper and three tablespoons
of oil, stir to combine and set aside.
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas
mark 7. Put a large ridged griddle
pan on a high heat and ventilate the
kitchen. Rub the peppers all over with
a tablespoon of oil and a quarterteaspoon of salt, then grill for about
10 minutes, turning once halfway,
until charred on both sides. Leave to
cool, then cut into 2cm-wide strips.
Put the lamb fillets on the pipinghot griddle (reserve the marinade)
and grill for about four minutes in
total, turning once halfway, until
charred and starting to caramelise
on both sides. Transfer the browned
fillets to a roasting tray, add the
peppers and reserved marinade, and
roast for three to four minutes for
medium-rare (or for a few minutes
longer if you prefer it more done).
You could also hold the meat in the
fridge after its initial griddling, in
which case bring it up to room
temperature before roasting and
give it 15 minutes in the oven.
(Either way, timings will depend on
the thickness of the meat: to tell
how well it’s done, press a finger on
to the meat: the less give it has, the
more it is cooked.) Once the lamb is
done, take it from the oven, cover
with foil and leave to rest for five
to 10 minutes.
Carve the lamb into 1cm-thick
slices and arrange on a platter with
the peppers. Finely chop the mint,
add to the sauce and spoon on top.
Serve any excess sauce on the side.
Puy lentils with roast aubergine,
tomatoes and yoghurt
This is a glorious thing to have in the
fridge, ready for piling on toast or
serving with grilled chicken or fish.
However many people I’m cooking
for, I find it hard not to double or
even triple the quantities given
here, so I can snack on the leftovers
in the days that follow. If you’re
inclined to do the same, hold back
on the yoghurt until serving: you
don’t want to add it to the mix.
Serves four, generously.
8 aubergines (2.2kg), pricked a few times
with a knife
600g cherry tomatoes
320g puy lentils
60ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 tbsp oregano leaves
Salt and black pepper
200g Greek-style yoghurt →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 41
Heat the oven to its highest setting
(250C/480F/gas mark 10). Put the
aubergines on two baking trays
and roast for an hour, turning them
halfway, until the flesh is completely
soft and slightly smoky. Remove and,
once cool enough handle, scoop out
the flesh into a colander (discard
the skins) and leave in the sink or
over a bowl for 30 minutes, so any
excess liquid drains away.
Scatter the tomatoes on one of the
now-empty aubergine trays and
roast for 12 minutes, until slightly
blackened, split and soft.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan
of water to a boil, add the lentils, turn
down the heat to medium and cook
for 20 minutes, until they’re cooked
but still have some bite. Drain and
set aside to steam dry a little.
Tip the lentils into a large bowl and
add the aubergine, tomatoes, oil,
lemon juice, garlic, four tablespoons
of oregano, one and a half teaspoons
of salt and lots of pepper. Mix to
combine, then spoon into a shallow
serving bowl. Top with yoghurt – if
you want, swirl it through to create
attractive white streaks. Sprinkle
over the remaining oregano, drizzle
with a little oil and serve.
Pappardelle with rose harissa,
black olives and capers
eight minutes, stirring every once in
a while, until soft and caramelised.
Add the harissa, tomatoes, olives,
capers and a half-teaspoon of salt,
and fry, stirring often, for three to
four minutes, until the tomatoes
start to break down. Add 200ml
water, bring to a boil, then turn down
the heat to medium-low, cover the
pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, cook for four to five
minutes more, until the sauce is
thick and rich, then stir in twothirds of the parsley and set aside.
Bring a large pot of well-salted
water to a boil, cook the pasta as
per the packet instructions, until al
dente, then drain. Return the pasta
to the pot, add the sauce and an
eighth of a teaspoon of salt, and toss
to coat. Divide between four shallow
bowls and serve hot, with a spoonful
of yoghurt and sprinkle of parsley.
Pappardelle with rose harissa,
black olives and capers
This North African-inspired pasta
is short on effort and big on complex
flavour. The sauce can be made well
in advance – it will keep in the fridge
for at least three days – and can be
happily doubled or tripled. If you do
so, you’ll be able to produce lastminute or unplanned feasts in as
much time as it takes to cook the
pasta. If you can’t get pappardelle,
another wide, flat pasta (such as
tagliatelle) also works well – as does
any pasta, really, or even couscous
or quinoa. Serves four.
Mango and lemongrass dal
with roast cod
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp rose (or regular) harissa
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
55g pitted kalamata olives, torn in half
20g baby capers
15g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
500g dried pappardelle
120g Greek-style yoghurt
On a medium-high flame, heat the
oil in a large saute pan for which you
have a lid, then fry the onions for
Mango and lemongrass dal with roast cod
Serve this sweet and aromatic dish
with flatbread, to soak up all those
flavourful juices. If you want to get
ahead, make the dal a day or two in
advance; keep it covered in the fridge
and warm through gently before
serving. If you go down this route,
leave the cod in the oil and curry
powder mix for only 30 minutes or
so, because fish breaks down if
it’s left to marinate for too long.
Leftover dal is delicious, so there’s →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 43
no harm in scaling up and having
too much. Serves four.
100g yellow split peas, soaked in water
1 large banana shallot, peeled
and quartered
About 10 sticks (70g) lemongrass
(size can vary, so check the weight),
trimmed and cut into small chunks
4cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into
small chunks
60ml olive oil, plus 2 tsp extra to serve
375ml vegetable stock
250ml coconut milk
1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into
0.5cm chunks (270g net weight)
2 tsp medium curry powder 4 skinless and boneless cod fillets
(about 120g each)
Salt and black pepper
5 fresh (or frozen) kaffir lime leaves,
stems removed
⅛ tsp ground turmeric
120g Greek-style yoghurt
10g coriander leaves, roughly torn
1 lime, cut into four wedges, to serve
Drain and rinse the split peas. Put
the shallot, lemongrass and ginger
in the small bowl of a food processor
and blitz until very finely chopped.
On a medium flame, heat two
tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan
for which you have a lid. Fry the
shallots, lemongrass and ginger for
12 minutes, stirring often, until soft
but without much colour, then stir
in the stock, coconut milk, mango,
a teaspoon of curry powder and the
drained split peas. Bring to a boil,
turn the heat to low, cover and
simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring
occasionally, until the peas soften.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix
the remaining teaspoon of curry
powder with two tablespoons of oil,
add the cod fillets, rub all over, cover
with clingfilm and set aside at room
temperature while the dal is cooking.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5. Once the dal has cooked,
transfer the cod to a 30cm x 40cm
oven tray lined with baking paper,
sprinkle with a small pinch of salt
and roast for 10 minutes, until the
flesh is opaque and flaky.
Transfer the split peas to a blender,
add the lime leaves, turmeric and a
teaspoon of salt, and blend smooth.
Spoon the lentils into four shallow
bowls, top with the yoghurt, fish
(whole or broken into large flakes)
and coriander, and finish with
Pork tenderloin with fennel and rocket salad
a drizzle of oil and a grind of black
pepper. Serve with a lime wedge.
Pork tenderloin with fennel and
rocket salad
If you marinate the meat in advance
and are a dab hand at slicing fennel
(a mandoline is your best friend
here), this can be on the table within
10 minutes. All quantities can be
doubled to serve 12 (apart, again,
from the garlic, which you should
take up to only five or six cloves if
doubling the rest). Serves six.
2 pork tenderloin (about 550g each), cut
on an angle into 0.5-1cm-thick slices
1½ tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and
lightly crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1-2mm-thick
slices (use a mandoline, ideally)
1½ tbsp lemon juice
80g rocket
5g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, toss the pork with
four teaspoons of fennel seeds, the
chilli, garlic, 60ml oil, three-quarters
of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind
of pepper, then cover with clingfilm
and put in the fridge to marinate for
30 minutes (or even overnight).
Heat a large frying pan on a high
flame, then fry the pork slices in
two or three batches for two minutes
each, turning them halfway, until
both sides are a dark golden brown
and the meat is just cooked.
Put the remaining oil in a large
bowl with the fennel, lemon juice,
rocket, tarragon, remaining halfteaspoon of fennel seeds, a quarterteaspoon of salt and a good grind of
pepper. Toss to coat, then divide
between six plates. Arrange the
pork alongside, pour any cooking
juices on top and serve warm • The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 45
Photographs by Patricia Niven
It’s showtime!
Tired of the traditional Christmas menu?
Felicity Cloake takes the stock ingredients
and turns them into something way more
exciting – one easy, one that involves a bit
of work, and one knock-your-socks-off
he idea that Christmas
is a season best enjoyed
in a state of abject
exhaustion is one festive
tradition that needs knocking on
the head: if you have to get up at
6am to start cooking, it isn’t worth
it. Here are three ways with five
Christmas classics: one designed
with maximum ease in mind, one
requiring just a little effort, and
one guaranteed to knock their
Santa socks off – and all guaranteed
delicious. Recipes serve six.
Smoked salmon
Smoked salmon’s popularity at this
time of year may be down to the fact
that all you need do is take it out of
its packet and serve with bread and
butter. It’s much more interesting,
however, to combine the two in fancy
little toasted salmon sandwiches.
Toast four slices of dark rye bread
until crisp, leave to cool, then butter
on one side. Beat 30g cream cheese
with a tablespoon or so of chopped
chives. Lay the toasts butter side
down on a board and top two slices
with 40g smoked salmon, trimming
it neatly around the edges. Add
a teaspoon of black lumpfish caviar
(or roe of your choice; optional).
Spread the cream cheese mix on the
non-buttered sides of the remaining
toasts, and sandwich on top of the
salmon toasts. Fry on medium heat
for two minutes a side, until crisp.
Carefully cut each sandwich into
three neat batons and serve at once.
Hardly more effort is smoked
salmon tartare. Finely chop 600g
skinless smoked salmon fillets (from
the supermarket fish counter) and
mix in three tablespoons of capers,
a tablespoon of finely chopped
shallots, four finely sliced cornichons,
a small bunch of finely chopped dill
or parsley, and three teaspoons of
dijon mustard. Season, then divide
between plates. Carefully cut the
tops off six well-washed quail’s eggs
and pour each into your hand, letting
the whites drain away. Return the
yolks to the shells and place upright
in the centre of the tartare. Serve
with lemon wedges and crisp toast.
If you’d rather do the work in
advance, make a smoked salmon,
avocado and beetroot terrine a day
ahead. Line a 21cm loaf tin with
enough clingfilm to fold over the
top, then line with smoked salmon
(about 500g in all). Whizz 300g cream
cheese and three smallish cooked
beetroot until smooth but still stiff
(add cheese if it’s too sloppy), then
add seasoning and lemon juice to
taste. Peel and finely dice three
avocados, then mix with the juice of
two limes, six chopped spring onions
and a small bunch of chopped
46 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
coriander. Spread half the cheese in
the base of the tin, top with a layer
of the salmon and then with half the
avocado. Repeat and finish with a
layer of salmon. Cover, chill for eight
hours and cut into slices while cold.
Even the most chilled-out cooks
blanch at the mention of this word.
The problem is that the breast cooks
far more quickly than the legs, which
means it’s inevitably dry as dust
by the time it gets to the table. The
easiest way around this is to choose
one cut or the other, and roast turkey
crown with lemon butter and fennel
sausage stuffing is simplicity itself.
Heat the oven to 200C. Beat 100g
softened butter with the grated zest
and half the juice of an unwaxed
lemon, plus a handful of chopped
parsley. Dry the turkey skin with
kitchen towel, then lift the skin from
the breasts and spread the butter
over both the flesh and the skin.
Season, put on a rack in a roasting
tin, cover with foil and roast for
45 minutes. Turn down the heat to
180C and roast, basting regularly,
for 30-45 minutes more, until the
internal temperature is at least 65C.
While that’s cooking, cut open four
Italian-style fennel-seed sausages
and scoop out the meat. Stir in 50g
breadcrumbs, roll into 12 walnutsized balls and add to the turkey tin
for the final 30 minutes. Rest the bird
for half an hour before carving.
Alternatively, there’s the much
underrated turkey leg, a fine cut if the
bird has had a chance to use them,
and ideal for leisurely braising. For
slow-cooked turkey legs with figs and
almonds (pictured overleaf), soak
12 dried figs in 200ml sweet sherry or
other fortified wine overnight. The
next day, take two legs (about 1.5kg
each) and brown in a large casserole
with two tablespoons of olive oil.
Remove from the pot, turn down the
heat a bit and fry six shallots (halved
if large), until starting to caramelise,
then lift out and put with the turkey.
Turn up the heat, add the sherry
(hold back the soaked fruit) and
cook until bubbling, scraping any
bits stuck to the base of the pot. Add
800ml turkey or chicken stock, bring
to a simmer and return the turkey to
the pot. (If you don’t have a casserole
large enough, transfer the lot to a
roasting tin.) Cover with a lid or foil
and roast for three hours, until cooked
through (bear in mind that leg meat
will always look pink-ish). After two
and a half hours, uncover, add the
fruit and turn up the heat to 180C for
the last half-hour. Fry a handful of
flaked almonds in butter until golden,
and scatter on top to serve.
You can also get round the →
Smoked salmon, avocado and beetroot terrine
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 47
“breast cooking before the legs” issue
by spatchcocking the turkey so it
cooks more evenly. Lay the bird
breast side down on a board with
the neck end facing away from you.
Use strong kitchen scissors to cut
along one side of the spine from tail
to neck, repeat on the other side, then
lift out the backbone. Turn the bird
over and push down hard on the
breastbone until it’s flat to the board.
To make quick jerk turkey, pound
two tablespoons each of allspice
and black peppercorns in a mortar,
then put in a food processor with
a teaspoon each of cinnamon and
nutmeg, two tablespoons of fresh
thyme leaves, eight roughly chopped
spring onions and four to six scotch
bonnet chillies (to taste), deseeded
and roughly chopped (it’s a good
idea to wear rubber gloves for this).
Whizz to a puree, then stir in two
tablespoons of dark brown sugar, two
teaspoons of salt, four tablespoons
of dark soy sauce and the juice of
two limes. Massage this mix all over
a 2.5kg turkey (again, use gloves),
pushing plenty in between the skin
and the meat, then leave to marinate
overnight. The next day, heat the
oven to 220C, wipe excess marinade
off the turkey skin and spread the
bird out on a rack in a roasting tin.
Roast for 45-65 minutes, until the
temperature in the thickest part of
the thigh is at least 74C (cover with
foil if it browns too much). Rest for
at least 30 minutes before carving.
Slow-cooked turkey legs with figs and almonds
spread out on a baking sheet. Roast
for 15 minutes, until starting to char,
then sprinkle with 50g roughly
chopped hazelnuts and 20g finely
grated pecorino (or parmesan), and
bake for a minute, until melted.
For sheer festive shock value,
however, it’s hard to beat deep-fried
brussels sprouts with chilli salt.
Deseed and finely chop a small red
chilli and pound to a rough paste
with a tablespoon of flaky salt. Stir
in another two tablespoons of salt,
spread out on a plate or tray and put
somewhere warm to dry for a few
hours. Trim and halve 600g brussels
sprouts and heat a large, deep pan
one-third filled with neutral oil to
185C. Deep-fry the sprouts in two
batches for three to four minutes
each, until golden and starting to
char. Serve sprinkled with chilli salt.
Roast meat demands potatoes and,
though I’m not disputing the primacy
of the classic roasties, it can’t be
denied that they’re a bit of a faff.
Roast new potatoes skip a few steps.
Take about 1kg smallish ones, peel
and all, cutting any particularly large
examples, so they’re all roughly the
Brussels sprouts
You can’t do without these on the
25th. Caramelised sprouts with
lemon are quick and easy: cut 600g
sprouts in half (or quarters, if large).
Pour 300ml well-salted water into
a deep, wide pan with a lid. Add the
sprouts, bring to a simmer, turn down
the heat slightly, cover and cook for
four minutes, until the sprouts are
just tender and most of the water
has evaporated. Turn up the heat to
medium-high, add olive oil and cook
uncovered for five minutes, until
caramelised on the bottom – don’t
be tempted to stir them. Season with
the zest and juice of an unwaxed
lemon and a good grind of pepper.
Once the turkey’s out of the oven, it
leaves room for a tray of roast sprouts
with pecorino and hazelnuts.
Coarsely shred 600g trimmed
sprouts (in a food processor, ideally),
toss with 100ml olive oil, season and
Sprouts with pecorino and hazelnuts
same size. Heat a roasting tin with
two tablespoons of goose or duck fat,
dripping or olive oil in a 200C oven,
then add the potatoes, toss well and
roast for about 35-40 minutes, until
cooked through. Season and eat
immediately, while they’re still crisp.
Strangely, our obsession with roast
potatoes is not shared across the
pond, where they prefer mash with
their roast turkey, but silky whipped
potatoes with blue cheese feel
more appropriate for such a special
occasion. Peel 1.5kg charlotte or other
waxy potatoes, cutting up any →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 49
larger ones, and cook in generously
salted boiling water until tender.
Drain and put back into the hot pan
to steam dry. Melt together 200g
butter and 225ml whole milk. Rice or
mash the potatoes, then scoop them
into a food mixer while still hot.
Pour in the butter and milk, and beat
slowly until well incorporated, then
add 200g gorgonzola or other softish
blue cheese (or any good melting
cheese you like), mix until melted,
then turn up the speed and beat for a
minute, until creamy. Season to taste
and serve with a grating of nutmeg.
Alternatively, channel fancy
French and fashionable Scandi
simultaneously in the form of
hasselback dauphinoise. Peel 1.4kg
large waxy potatoes and slice very
thinly (use a mandoline or food
processor, if you have one). Put
350ml double cream and 250ml
whole milk in a large pan with
two small cloves of crushed garlic
and a good grating of nutmeg, and
bring to a boil. Season, add the
potatoes, then turn down the heat
and simmer gently for 10 minutes,
until softened but not quite cooked
through. Heat the oven to 160C.
Hasselback dauphinoise
Butter a baking dish, then tightly
pack in the potatoes, balanced on
their long edges. Pour the liquid
over the top until it comes all the
way up the sides, cover and bake
for about an hour, until just tender.
Uncover, turn up the heat to 180C
and bake for 15 minutes more, until
nicely browned and bubbling.
Everyone knows how to microwave
a Christmas pudding, of course, but
we always have trifle, too, because
you can never have too much custard
on the table. A black forest trifle is
Berry stripy trifle
a simple assembly job: pour 500ml
good ready-made custard into a pan,
add 95g chopped dark chocolate and
stir to melt. Meanwhile, thickly slice
a chocolate swiss roll or yule log, and
use to line a glass dish. Spoon over
cherries in kirsch to cover (I used
most of a 700g jar), then top with
the custard and chill. Before serving,
dollop on 300ml creme fraiche and
grate 10g dark chocolate on top.
Staying in mainland Europe, the
classic French Mont Blanc dessert
loosely fits the trifle bill, too. Heat
the oven to 150C and line a baking
tray. Whisk three egg whites until
frothy, then add a quarter-teaspoon
each of cream of tartar and salt,
and mix briefly. With the mixer still
going, gradually pour in 225g caster
sugar, turn up the speed to high and
mix to glossy firm peaks. Gently fold
in 100g chocolate chips and 100g
chopped hazelnuts. Scoop roughly
5cm blobs of meringue on to the tray
and bake for two hours, until firm
on the outside. Once cool, divide
between six glasses. Whip 600ml
whipping cream to soft peaks, then
fold in 400g chestnut puree, 90g
soft brown sugar and 75ml brandy.
Dollop this in peaks on top of the
meringues, then stud with chestnuts.
Just before serving, spoon over
a little double cream as a snowcap.
Finally, a true showstopper that
takes more time than real effort:
a berry stripy trifle. Thaw 300g frozen
berries. Heat 750ml cranberry juice
and 200g sugar in a pan until warm
but not boiling. Soak 10 gelatine
sheets until soft, pour half the
cranberry juice mix into a jug and
stir in the gelatine until melted. Add
half a bottle of sparkling wine. Pour
into the base of a glass bowl about
20cm in diameter and chill until set.
Meanwhile, heat 900ml whole milk
and 600ml double cream in a pan,
add a split vanilla pod and its seeds,
then turn off the heat and leave to
infuse. When the jelly is almost set,
heat half the cream mixture and stir
in four and a half soaked gelatine
leaves, until dissolved. Leave to
cool, then pour on top of the jelly
once that’s set firm. Repeat with
the remaining cranberry and cream
mixtures (and the same amounts of
gelatine), making sure each layer is
properly set before adding the next.
Just before serving, drain the berries,
arrange them on top and scatter with
lightly crushed amaretti biscuits •
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 51
Avoid invitations, if possible This is always my
first strategy. This might imply I’m suggesting you
invite people to your house. I am not. It’s much
easier for the vegan to remain at home and do
their own Christmas dinner. That way, you can
enjoy your food without someone making some
hilarious comment about your stuffed pepper.
I realise this won’t work for ever, however, in
which case please see my subsequent tips.
Accept you will be asked a lot of questions
Veganism is an unusual thing. Regardless of how
many celebrities take it up, or how large the Free
From section gets at Tesco, the fact is, you have
chosen an extreme standpoint. Morally superior,
without doubt, but unusual nonetheless. For that
reason, you’d do well just to accept that you’re
going to be asked questions such as, “Why are you
vegan? Don’t you miss scotch eggs? What if you
were on a desert island and you had to eat animals
to survive? If we were meant to be vegan, why is
bacon so delicious? Are all your pizzas shit?”
Many vegans will throw up their arms and
complain about being asked the same questions
over and over again, but that only reinforces the
stereotype that we are sanctimonious twats.
What’s much more effective is to wait for the
first question to arrive, then answer it in such
painstaking and mind-numbing detail that
nobody else will even want to talk to you, let
alone ask inane questions.
Accept that you are a difficult guest People don’t
want to invite you round, because having a vegan
round is a pain in the arse. They have to check all
the ingredients and find vegan alternatives to all
the traditional Christmas desserts, and they’re
terrified of giving you something that ends up not
being vegan.
One year, I went to Christmas drinks at the
house of one of my wife’s mates, who went to great
trouble to point out the vegan snack selection to
me. When I commented on how delicious the
vegan sausage rolls were, the colour drained from
her face as she explained she had actually been
pointing to the hummus selection behind the pork
sausage rolls. I then had to pretend I didn’t feel
sick and she had to pretend she cared.
For this reason, it is nice to be a bit considerate
of the challenge you present. If you are invited to
someone’s house, offer to take vegan food with
you, or offer suggestions of good vegan stuff they
could serve. There are loads of accidentally vegan
things that people don’t even think of getting,
such as Waitrose Christmas pudding or Oreos: it’s
in your interests to be forthcoming. Basically,
don’t be a prick about it. Alternatively, be a
massive prick to ensure you don’t get asked back.
Don’t let anyone touch your food In terms of
quantity of food available, you are always at a
disadvantage. There will be less food made for you,
plus there’s the fact that everybody can eat your
food, but you can’t eat everyone else’s. That’s why
it is essential to make it clear what food is vegan,
and therefore yours and off-limits to your moral
inferiors. I will never forget being told how much
trouble a friend’s mother had gone to making me
vegan gravy from scratch, before watching her
dad slather it all over his turkey, leaving me with
a choice of chicken gravy or dry nut roast.
Sometimes, though, you don’t get to decide
what’s yours. One year, we were having Christmas
dinner at my Dad’s pub, and my mum made me
an incredible spread of Sri Lankan curries. My
parents invited a Muslim family round, and Dad
ordered a halal turkey to be roasted by the pub
chef. The chef delivered the turkey, covered in
foil, and my father made a big show of bringing it
to the table and peeling back the silver wrapper.
He revealed a turkey covered in more bacon than
I had ever seen in my life. So my parents and
brother ate a turkey for six, while I shared my
Christmas food with the Khans.
Pretend your food is disgusting I hate sharing.
This is not a dilemma I have to face often, thanks
to vegan food’s terrible reputation. Unless, of
course, you make the mistake of displaying New
Vegan Enthusiasm (NVE). The error that many
vegans make is forgetting that our food has
novelty value. Non-vegans think our food is
awful, but are fascinated by the prospect of
something vegan being delicious. They want to
disprove it. The NVE error occurs when a vegan is
given food that they have not tried before and
announce how delicious it is to the rest of the party.
Every other person then asks to try it, thereby
finishing all of it, before stating, “It’s quite bland
and would be better if it had chicken on it.”
It’s far better silently to eat your food, and
declare it disgusting to anyone who looks in your
direction. For good measure, maybe tell
somebody how messed up the dairy industry is,
to ruin his or her meal.
Avoid vegan cheese Supermarkets and
specialist suppliers will have you believe there
are great substitutes for cheese. There are not.
No vegan cheese tastes anything like decent
cheese, and melting cheese might as well be
alchemy as far as the vegan cheese industry
is concerned. People will tell you different.
In the past year, I’ve spent more than £1,000 to
find a great vegan cheese. I even bought a
vegan “world cheeseboard” for Christmas: it was
like an international tour of disappointment.
There are nut cheeses that taste passable, and
even some that taste very good. But the fact is
they Do. Not. Taste. Like. Cheese. →
It’s not easy being green
Vegans have a reputation as difficult guests.
Luckily Romesh Ranganathan has a handy guide on
what to say, what to serve – and why you need to
pack your own pudding. Portrait by Barry J Holmes
eganism is a point of contention all
year round. So much so that many
vegans cut themselves off from the
rest of society, huddling together for
warmth and smugness, and using online forums to
vent their disgust at the morally corrupt dairy- and
meat-eating savages who make up most of the
populace. But at Christmas, vegans are forced
temporarily to reintegrate into mainstream society,
which can be incredibly stressful for both them
and the omnivores who host them. Here, then, are
some basic guidelines for a happy vegan Christmas.
‘There are no great
substitutes for cheese.
I bought a vegan
“world cheeseboard”
for Christmas and it
was an international tour
of disappointment’
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 53
Take your own dessert There are many vegan
dessert options, particularly at Christmas: there
are vegan mince pies, Christmas puddings, icecreams, cakes. Identify your favourite and take it
to the party, even if the host says there is a dessert
for you. Because if you believe them and turn up
empty-handed, you’ll watch people tucking into
pavlovas and gateaux while you nurse a fruit
salad. And not a good fruit salad, either: it’ll be
mainly diced apple.
Be prepared to discuss isinglass Most people know
Bailey’s isn’t vegan, so, unless you have secured
a bottle of vegan equivalent, which is rarer than
a Trump-supporting member of Mensa, you will
have to endure the sound of creamy slurps and
declarations of how “Christmas isn’t Christmas
without a Bailey’s”. What many people don’t
know, however, is that many other drinks, such as
red wine and some beer, use isinglass in their
production, which is made from the swim
bladders of fish, so rendering them “non-veegs”.
It’s a pretty simple explanation, but you will be
expected to clarify this repeatedly before someone
says something along the lines of, “Next you’ll be
telling me that Quorn isn’t vegan!” Which, of
course, it isn’t (it contains milk and egg products).
Be ready for some terrible jokes One Christmas,
when I was merely a vegetarian, I visited a friend
‘If you’re a vegan, it’s
because you’re morally
compelled or a Beyoncé
fan. But it’s good practice
not to bang on about it ’
who was staying with his parents. His father asked
if I fancied some of the chicken curry, at which
point my friend told him I was vegetarian. To
which his dad replied, “Let him have water then.”
My friend and his dad then laughed for a full
minute. For the next year, every time I went to the
pub, my friends would offer me water and fall
about laughing. Even today, every now and again,
one of them will recount that joke and they’ll all
tell me how I got “owned”. That’s the type of thing
you have to accept at Christmas. Someone will say
something like, “Are you having carrots with your
carrots?” and everybody will fall about in hysterics.
And you’ll know you can’t have the carrots because
they have butter on.
Do not preach If you’ve made the decision to
become vegan, you’re doing so because you feel
morally compelled or you’re a huge Beyoncé fan.
Whatever your reasons, it is pretty good practice
not to bang on about them at Christmas. Most
people are generally aware of the arguments
regarding veganism and vegetarianism, and many
people continue to eat meat and dairy despite
being conflicted about the morality of their
choices. What these people don’t need is a vegan
in their ear, explaining how milk is made up of
mainly pus and cruelty, and how, if you eat
turkey, you deserve to have stuffing inserted into
your anal cavity to gain some perspective. The
truth is, people don’t like being lectured at the
best of times, and they certainly don’t want to
be told about the horrors of animal slaughter
when they’re still dealing with the aftermath of
their behaviour at the office party.
And if you’re hosting a vegan... It’s hard having
a vegan round for Christmas, and your efforts are
thoroughly appreciated, but it’s in both of your
interests for your guest to have ample supplies. In
all likelihood, they are going to be far better
informed than you as to what sort of things you
should provide, so feel free to ask what they’d
like. They will probably be grateful. If not, at least
you know you’ve tried and you can give them
a jacket potato without feeling guilty.
And if you want to encourage a vegan to leave?
Ask how they manage to get enough protein.
They will never speak to you again •
Listen to Romesh’s podcast, Hip Hop Saved My Life,
Photographs by Rita Platts
Pass the pickled squash
hristmas in the Sodha
family is a movable
feast. We usually eat
British or European
food, rather than the Indian we have
every day, because to us it feels
more celebratory. Every year, each
of us chooses something we most
want to eat and, to honour that
household tradition, every recipe
on today’s Christmas menu is
based on one of my family’s
favourite ingredients or dishes.
I love being in the kitchen on
Christmas Day, preparing the
day’s meal while family and
friends wander in and out. That
said, I am well aware that this is
not everyone’s idea of fun, so
I have tried to come up with
recipes in which many of the
elements, if not the entire dish,
can be prepared in advance.
Happy Christmas, everyone.
Pickled squash, sage and
cannellini beans on crisp rye
This one’s for my dad, who loves
beans, crisps and snacking: sweet,
sour, crunchy and creamy. You can
make all the elements beforehand,
but the squash will taste stronger
the longer you leave it in the pickle
(keep the sage and rye in separate
air-tight containers for a day or
two). Makes 20-30 canapés, a
generous serving in case carol
singers come a-knocking.
100g peeled butternut squash (ie, about
¼ butternut)
200ml white-wine vinegar, plus 1 tbsp
extra for the beans
2 tsp caster sugar
200g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp baking powder
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 400g tins cannellini beans in water
56 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Around 40 sage leaves
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas
mark 4 and line two oven trays with
baking paper. Use a vegetable peeler
to shave the squash into thin strips.
Put the vinegar, sugar and threequarters of a teaspoon of salt into
a small saucepan, bring to a simmer,
then take off the heat and pour into
a bowl. Put the squash strips in the
pickle liquor, put a small bowl on
top, to keep the squash immersed,
then set aside to pickle.
To make the rye breads, put the
rye flour, baking
g powder
and two-thirds of a
teaspoon of saltt in
a bowl, whisk to
mix, then
add two
tablespoons of
olive oil. Bring
the mix together with your fingers,
then add 110ml water, little by little,
and knead into a soft, pliable dough.
Lightly dust a surface with rye
flour and cut the dough in two. Roll
out each piece as thin as you can
(the thickness of a 10p piece is
ideal), then put each piece on a
baking tray and prick all over with
a fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until
the bread has hardened enough to
make a sound when tapped, remove
and leave to cool on the tray.
For the cannellini bean spread,
drain the beans over a bowl, to catch
the water. Put the beans, garlic, two
tablespoons of oil,
o a tablespoon of
vinegar and a teaspoon of
salt in a blender, then
add the bean water
llittle by little: how
much you need will
depend on your
beans (I used →
Going vegan needn’t mean settling
for second best: Meera Sodha serves
up a festive feast, from the prettiest
canapes to a sumptuous dessert Pickled squash, sage and
cannellini on rye (left)
and brussels sprouts,
radicchio and caramelised
walnut salad (above)
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 57
about three tablespoons in all) – and
blend to the consistency of
Line a plate with kitchen paper and
heat four tablespoons of oil in
a small frying pan. Once hot, fry the
sage leaves in batches: when they
start to crisp and turn translucent,
transfer with a slotted spoon to
a plate lined with kitchen paper,
to drain. Don’t discard the oil: it
has a lovely flavour, so keep it for
drizzling on bread.
Put the canapes together just
before serving. Crack the rye crisp
bread by pressing down on it so it
shatters into bite-sized pieces.
Smoosh a little cannellini spread
on each shard, top with a strip or
two of pickled squash and finish
with a sage leaf or two.
Red cabbage parcels with
macadamias, mushrooms
and chestnuts
Brussels sprouts, radicchio and
caramelised walnut salad
My second favourite cuisine, after
Indian, is Italian, because in so
many ways it’s the complete
opposite. A lot of the hard work is
done beforehand, to make sure the
ingredients taste fantastic before
they get into the kitchen, meaning
they need very little fussing with.
This salad is a case in point:
crunchy, sweet sprouts mixed with
bitter radicchio and walnuts
caramelised with a few Christmas
spices. You can make the nuts and
dressing ahead of time, but don’t
shred the sprouts and leaves until
just before serving. Serves four.
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 ½ tbsp caster sugar
120g walnut pieces
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and cracked black pepper
5 tbsp walnut oil
3 tbsp lemon juice (from ½ lemon)
200g radicchio (ie, about half a head)
150g trimmed brussels sprouts
First make the caramelised walnuts.
Line an oven tray with greaseproof
paper. Heat the rapeseed oil in a pan
until hot, add the sugar and stir to
pull in the granules from the sides,
until it melts (this will take a
couple of minutes). Add the
walnuts, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg,
a quarter-teaspoon of cracked
pepper and a pinch of salt, stir to
coat the walnuts evenly, then
spread them out on the lined tray.
For the dressing, whisk together
the walnut oil, lemon juice and half
a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
For the salad, trim the end of the
radicchio, cut it into 1cm-thick
slices, then pull these apart into
long, thin strands and put them in
a serving bowl. Cut the sprouts first
in half and next into very thin slices,
then add to the bowl.
A few minutes before serving,
pour the dressing into the bowl
and toss the salad with your hands,
to coat. Roughly smash the nuts
into small chunks (put them in
a bag and use a rolling pin), add
these to the salad, toss through and
take to the table.
Red cabbage parcels with
macadamias, mushrooms
and chestnuts
This is not just any red cabbage. This
is red cabbage stuffed with deep midwinter flavours: festive chestnuts,
mushrooms, creamy macadamias
and sweet red onions all pull together
to form a tight and delicious team.
The parcels can be made in advance
and braised ahead of serving, then
drizzle over the herby, lemony oil at
the last minute, to add some spark
and twinkle. Serve with salad leaves
or roast vegetables. Makes about 12
parcels, to serve four.
180g pre-cooked chestnuts
100g macadamia nuts, plus 30g extra
400g chestnut mushrooms
150g bulgar wheat
Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 red cabbage
300ml vegan stock
1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice
1 large handful parsley leaves,
finely chopped
1 large handful mint leaves,
finely chopped
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark
4. First, prepare the stuffing. Put
the chestnuts and 100g macadamias
in a food processor and pulse until
chopped. Break in the mushrooms →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 59
and process again until finely
chopped (don’t over-process, or the
mushrooms will turn to mush).
Put the bulgar in a bowl, pour over
250ml just-boiled water, cover with
clingfilm and set aside.
Heat four tablespoons of oil in
a frying pan on a medium flame and,
when hot, add the onions and cook,
stirring, for 10 minutes, until soft and
sweet. Add the garlic, cook for
another five minutes, then add the
blitzed nut and mushroom mixture,
the bulgar wheat and a teaspoon
and a half of salt. Cook on a medium
heat, stirring occasionally, for six to
eight minutes, until all the moisture
evaporates, then turn off the heat.
Put a pan of water big enough
comfortably to hold the whole
cabbage on to boil. Being very
careful, remove as much of the core
from the cabbage as you can while
keeping it intact. When the water is
boiling, drop in the cabbage and
simmer for 15-20 minutes (the water
will turn blue). When the outer leaves
start to fall away, lift the cabbage
from the water; leave the water
gently simmering. When the cabbage
is cool enough to handle, gently pull
away the leaves. They should be
cooked enough to be pliable enough
to roll; if they are not, pop them back
in the simmering water for a couple
of minutes, to soften further. Repeat
until you run out of leaves.
Spoon two or three tablespoons of
the stuffing mixture in the centre of
each cabbage leaf, tuck in the sides,
then roll towards the outer edge,
to create a neat cylinder. Place the
parcel seam side down in a heavy
oven dish, and repeat with the
remaining leaves and stuffing. Brush
the parcels all over with oil, pour in
the stock and bake for 40 minutes.
While the cabbage is cooking,
make the herb and nut oil. Put the
remaining 30g macadamia nuts
on an oven tray and roast for five
minutes, until pale gold, then leave
to cool. Put six tablespoons
ons of
oil in a bowl, add the lemon
juice, parsley, mint and a
third of a teaspoon
of salt. Finely chop the
cooled nuts, add to
the bowl and mix.
To serve, drizzle the
herb oil over the hot
cabbage parcels when they
come out of the oven.
Quince trifle
Quince trifle
I don’t remember a single Christmas
without my mum’s famous trifle:
a big, gaudy triple-decker of jellied
sponge, tinned fruit, Bird’s custard
and cream squeezed into a 1980s
crystal bowl, like a portly clown into
a tight suit. I’ve used quince here,
because of how special and rare it
tastes, like the love child of a sweet
pear and tart apple. It can look a bit
intimidatingly hard and furry, but
treat it just like an apple. For a simpler
version of this pudding, buy readymade vegan sponge and skip the
jelly. You can make the trifle in
advance, but bear in mind that
coconut cream will set the longer it is
Serves four to six.
800ml full-fat coconut milk
750g quince, peeled, cored and
cut into 2cm-wide wedges
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
28 caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
extra for
f the nuts
moscatel wine
((check that it’s
suitable for vegans)
80g sunflower spread (such as Pure),
plus extra for greasing
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
200ml unsweetened almond milk, plus
568ml extra for the custard
2 tbsp agar agar flakes
Bird’s custard powder
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 handful flaked almonds
The day before you serve the trifle,
put the tins of coconut milk in the
fridge – this is so the cream in the
milk hardens, so you can whip it.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas
mark 4. Put the quince wedges in
a deep dish and sprinkle over the
cloves, cinnamon and 140g caster
sugar. Pour over the moscatel and
give everything a quick stir. Take
a piece of greaseproof paper large
enough to cover the top of the dish,
wet it and scrunch it up, then lay
over the top of the quince. Roast
for 40-60 minutes, until the fruit
is soft, then remove and set aside
to cool.
While the quince is poaching,
make the sponge batter. Grease
and line a loose-bottomed 18-20cm
cake tin with sunflower spread.
Cream together the margarine and
remaining caster sugar. In a bowl,
combine the flour and baking
powder. Whisk the flour and 200ml
almond milk little by little into the
creamed spread and sugar mixture,
to make a batter, then pour into
cake tin and spread it flat using the
back of a spoon. Bake for 25
minutes, until a skewer comes out
clean, then leave to cool. Once
cool, release from the tin and use
a serrated knife carefully to cut
the sponge into thick fingers.
To make the jelly, strain the
liquid from the poached quinces
(you should have about 400ml) into
a small saucepan. Sprinkle in two
tablespoons of agar agar flakes and,
without stirring, very gently bring
up to boiling point. Simmer gently,
stirring occasionally, until dissolved.
To assemble the trifle, line the
base of a serving bowl with sponge
fingers. Layer the quince evenly
over the cake, then pour over the
quince jelly and refrigerate for at
least an hour, to set.
Meanwhile, using the remaining
almond milk, make up a pint
(568ml) of Bird’s custard according
to the instructions and pour into
a jug. Cover the surface of the
custard with clingfilm and leave to
cool. When the jelly has set and the
custard cooled, pour the custard
over the jelly, cover the dish and
pop in the fridge.
Just before serving, make the
coconut cream. Take the tins out
of the fridge 10 minutes beforehand,
and gently lift the thick, hardened
coconut cream from the top of each
can, leaving behind all the liquid
(save this for smoothies or porridge).
Put the cream in a mixing bowl and
whisk until thick and creamy; take
care not to overwhisk, or it will split.
Fold in the icing sugar, then spread
the coconut cream over the custard
layer of the trifle.
Finally, make the caramelised
almonds. Heat a tablespoon of
caster sugar in a nonstick frying
pan and, as it starts to liquefy, add
the flaked almonds and stir until
all the sugar has melted and the
almonds are evenly coated. Tip
out on to a plate and leave to cool.
Once cooled, scatter the nuts over
the top of the trifle and serve •
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 61
62 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Have your cake
and eat it
For Thomasina Miers,
Christmas baking is
all about keeping the
work to a minimum and
the flavour to the max
Photographs by Louise Hagger
is the season to be jolly,
but while many of us
would love to sit back
and bask in the warm
glow of Christmas, most of us know
that it takes a lot of work to get there
in one piece as we navigate the office
parties, family gatherings and long
shopping lists. So I’ve pulled together
a celebratory collection of festive
puddings that shouldn’t tie you up
in knots and that will, hopefully,
have something for everyone, be
that a tray of lightly spiced roast
pears in port (perfect for using up
last year’s bottle), delicately scented
and flour-free baked cheesecakes,
a decadently moist chestnut and
chocolate cake or a lighter, creamier
take on the minced pie.
Chestnut and chocolate cake
with chestnut cream
Chestnut and chocolate cake
with chestnut cream
This rich, flourless chocolate cake
is a delicious tea cake but, with its
rich chestnut cream, it’s so light
and mousse-like that it doubles up
as an excellent after-dinner
pudding. Serves 10-12.
250g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
3 tbsp mezcal (or a peaty whisky,
or brandy)
200g chestnut puree
4 eggs, separated
1 small pinch ground cinnamon
¼ tsp fine sea salt
For the chestnut cream
200g chestnut puree
2 tbsp mezcal (or peaty whisky)
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g icing sugar
220ml double cream
30g dark chocolate
Heat the oven to 170C/325F/gas
mark 3. Butter a 25cm cake tin and
line it with baking paper.
Break the chocolate into pieces
and put in a heatproof bowl with the
butter. Position the bowl over a pan
of barely simmering water, and stir
until the chocolate has melted. Add
the sugar and mezcal, stir again
until the sugar crystals have melted
and the mix is smooth, then leave
to cool slightly.
In a bowl, beat the chestnut puree
with a hand blender until very
smooth, then beat in the egg yolks
two at a time, to make a smooth
cream. Fold in half the melted
chocolate mix, then add the rest.
Season with the cinnamon and salt.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg
whites to stiff peaks, then use
a large metal spoon to fold a third
of them into the chocolate mixture,
to loosen. Once well combined,
gently fold in the rest of the egg
whites, then scrape the mix into
the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes,
until just set.
While the cake is baking, make the
chestnut cream. Beat together the
chestnut puree, mezcal, vanilla →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 63
and sugar. Gently whip the cream to
soft peaks and fold into the chestnut
puree mix.
To serve, cut the cooled cake into
slices and serve with dollops of cream
and dark chocolate grated on top.
Port, black pepper and cardamom
roast pears
This is a great dinner-party pudding:
it’s incredibly simple to make and
beautifully fragrant. I find roast
pears so much less fiddly than
poaching. Serves eight to 10.
Super-dark ginger whisky
cake with clementine cream
cheese icing
Perish the thought of not having
a cake in the cupboard at this time
of year, but sometimes a Christmas
cake can seem a bit OTT, what with
all the mince pies and everything
else as well. This light and devilishly
gingery whisky cake is the perfect
compromise, with or without the
icing. It will keep for four to five
days in an airtight container.
65g black treacle
65g golden syrup
120g unsalted butter
120g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp good quality whisky
180g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
100ml milk
For the icing
75g very soft butter
200g full fat cream cheese
100g icing sugar
Zest and juice of 1 clementine
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas
mark 4 and line a the base and
sides of a 900g loaf tin with
greaseproof paper.
In a small pan, melt the treacle,
golden syrup, butter, sugar and
whisky over a low heat, stirring
gently, then take off the heat once
the sugar dissolves. Transfer to
a bowl, and sift the flour, ginger and
a pinch of salt on top. Gently fold to
combine, then stir in first the beaten
egg followed by the milk. Pour into
the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes,
until a skewer comes out clean, then
leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes
before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cake is baking, beat
the soft butter in a large mixing
bowl until light, pale and pillowysoft (to save on the elbow grease,
I use an electric beater). Mix in the
cream cheese until thoroughly
combined, then sift in the icing
sugar and fold through. Fold in the
citrus zest and juices, spread the
icing over the cooled cake and serve.
Peel of ½ lemon, plus the juice of
1 lemon
8 not-quite-ripe pears
250ml port
150g soft light brown sugar 8 cardamom pods, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black pepper, gently crushed
Vanilla ice-cream and 100g hazelnuts,
to serve
Ginger whisky cake
San Juan cheesecake
Half-fill a mixing bowl with cold
water and add half the lemon juice.
One at a time, peel the pears, cut
them in half lengthways, and scoop
out and discard the cores. Drop
each pear into the acidulated water as
you go, to stop them turning brown.
You can do this bit a day in advance.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6. Put the port, sugar, lemon
zest, cardamom, bay and pepper
into a large pan and bring to a boil.
Lift the pears out of their lemony
bath and lay them out cut side down
in a baking dish into which they’ll sit
snugly in a single layer. Pour over
the port mixture and the juice of the
remaining half-lemon, then bake for
35-45 minutes, until just tender,
turning them once halfway: the
timing will depend on how ripe your
pears are to begin with, so check
them every 15 minutes, and baste
when you check.
Toast the hazelnuts in the same
oven for about five minutes, until
golden, then roughly chop.
Serve the hot pears and their
syrupy juices sprinkled with
chopped hazelnuts and with scoops
of vanilla ice-cream on the side.
Baked San Juan cheesecakes
with medjool apple jam
Port, black pepper and cardamom roast pears
There is a dark, mahogany-panelled
coffee shop outside the famously
foodie San Juan market in Mexico
City that sells the most decadently
delicious individual cheesecakes,
baked and creamy and filled with
blackberry jam. This is my flourless
take on those cakes, using a delicately
fragrant medjool apple jam, though
there’s nothing to stop you using
any type of jam you fancy. →
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 65
50g unsalted butter
150g ricotta
250g cream cheese
100g double cream
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
The juice of 1 lemon
5 eggs, separated
70g corn starch
110g caster sugar
For the jam
2 apples, peeled and cored (about 220g
net weight)
500g medjool dates, pitted
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 cinnamon stick
250ml apple juice
150ml water
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas
mark 3. Line two muffin trays with
24 large muffin paper cases (the
largest size you can buy; or make
your own using 18cm square sheets
of baking paper, though that’s
admittedly a slightly fiddly job).
Put all the jam ingredients in
a medium saucepan and simmer
gently for 15-20 minutes, until the
apples are soft, then blitz with
a stick blender and push through
a sieve to get a lovely, smooth puree.
Refrigerate until needed (if you
want, make more than you need for
the cakes, because the puree is
gorgeous on morning yoghurt).
To make the cheesecakes, melt
the butter over a very gentle heat
and whisk in the ricotta, cream
cheese and cream. Season with half
the salt, then stir in the vanilla
essence and the juice of half the
lemon. In a separate bowl, whisk
the egg yolks, then whisk in the corn
flour. Pour in the cheese and cream
mixture, and whisk to a smooth,
creamy batter.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg
whites, salt and remaining lemon
juice to soft peaks, then add the
caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.
Use a large metal spoon to fold
a third of this mixture into the
cheese mix, to loosen, then gently
fold in the rest of the egg white mix.
Add enough of the cheesecake mix
to fill each muffin case by a third,
then top with a small teaspoon of
the jam. Add more of the cheesecake
mix until it fills the cases enough to
leave 2.5cm of paper at the top, to
allow for the cheesecakes to rise.
Pour enough boiling water into
two roasting tins to fill them by 5cm,
Orange and sauternes
custard tarts
then carefully place one muffin tray
into each water bath. Bake for 25-30
minutes, until the cheesecakes are
golden and risen, then turn off the
oven and leave the door slightly ajar,
until the cheesecakes cool. They will
shrink back a little.
Once cool, refrigerate for at least
four hours, or overnight. If you
prefer, you can bake one large
cheesecake topped with a thin
spread of jam, in which case cook it
in a greased and lined spring-form
tin and increase the cooking time by
15-20 minutes.
Orange and sauternes custard
tarts with boozy raisins
Not everyone loves a mince pie –
hard to imagine, I know, but true.
Well, these little tarts have all the
lovely booziness of plump, soaked
raisins, but instead of a heavy
mincemeat, they are enveloped in
a light custard and crisp pastry.
They are decidedly moreish.
Makes 12.
75g icing sugar
380g plain flour
1 pinch salt
220g butter
1 egg, beaten
For the custard
400ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split in half
Zest of 1 orange, plus the juice of
½ orange
4 egg yolks
55g caster sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
66 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
3 tbsp sauternes, muscat or other
pudding wine
For the raisins
3 tbsp sauternes
1 star anise
Juice of 1 orange
100g raisins
Put the icing sugar, flour, salt and
butter in a food processor and
blitz to the consistency of fine
breadcrumbs. Add the egg and
a teaspoon of cold water, and blitz
a few times more: the dough should
just come together (if it doesn’t,
add another teaspoon of water and
process again). Roll the dough into
a ball, flatten it out a little, then wrap
in clingfilm and put in the freezer for
half an hour.
Meanwhile, make the custard.
Put the cream in a saucepan and
add the vanilla pod, orange juice
and zest. Bring up to boiling point,
then turn off the heat at once and
scrape the seeds out of the vanilla
pod into the cream (don’t throw
out the pod: wash and dry it, then
keep it in a jar of sugar for some
homemade vanilla sugar). Whisk
the egg yolks, sugar, corn flour and
pudding wine in a bowl, then pour
in a ladle of the hot cream and
whisk well. Beat in the rest of the
hot cream, return the lot to the
cream pan and put on a low heat.
Stir regularly, until the custard
thickens enough to coat the back of
a wooden spoon; be careful not to
let it boil, otherwise the eggs will
curdle. Once the custard has
thickened, leave to cool completely.
Take the pastry out of the freezer,
break off a third, wrap this in
clingfilm and put in the fridge. On
a lightly floured surface, roll out the
remaining larger piece of pastry to
6-8mm thick, then use a round
7-8cm-diameter cookie cutter to cut
out discs. Place these in a 12-hole
muffin tin, gently pressing down
the pastry discs into the holes, then
pop the tray into the freezer for
15 minutes, to firm up. Take the
smaller piece of pastry out of the
fridge, roll that out to 6-8mm thick,
too, then use the same cookie cutter
to cut out 12 lids. Place these on
a plate and put back in the fridge.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to
170C/335F/gas mark 3.
Put the sauternes, two tablespoons
of water, the star anise and the
orange juice in a small pan, bring to
a boil, then turn off the heat, add
the raisins and leave them for
10 minutes, to soak and plump up.
Now you’re ready to bake. Scoop
the raisins into the tarts with a fork
(that way, you won’t risk adding too
much soaking liquid to the filling).
Spoon about two tablespoons of
custard over each (you may have
a little custard left over, but that’s
no great hardship), then gently sit
the lids on top and crimp together
the edges. Bake for 20-25 minutes,
until golden, then leave to cool
completely before serving. These
are delicious with double cream
and will keep in a sealed container
for three to four days •
All shook
Hot t
ry &
in th
e sto
Fancy creating a
stir this Christmas?
Will Beckett and
Hamish Denny
have a cocktail to
suit every occasion.
Photograph by
Stephen Lenthall
he essence of what
makes for a good drink
is basically the same as
what makes for a good
meal: it’s an excuse to get people
together to enjoy themselves. And
that applies at home as much as in
a restaurant. Sure, every now and
then you want to pull out all the
stops and serve something really
special, but most of the time it’s best
to keep it simple and delicious, and
focus on having fun. In our new book,
Hawksmoor: Restaurants & Recipes,
we tell tales of epic nights out with
mariachis and stormtroopers, and
of how we come up with most of our
ideas while drinking with friends.
Along the way, we’ve embraced the
humble boilermaker (beer and a shot)
and championed disco drinks from
old-school tiki classics to modern
marvels such as the nuclear banana
daiquiri. We hope you have as much
fun with these.
e gim
All recipes serve one.
in a blender with a basic sugar syrup)
Ale, to top (we use Fuller’s London Pride)
Hot toddy
The classic hot cocktail, and easy,
too: guaranteed to warm cold nights
– or obliterate colds and hangovers.
40ml scotch, brandy or rum
20ml lemon juice
20ml honey
3 dashes Angostura bitters
100ml boiling water
1 clove, 1 cinnamon stick and 1 orange
twist, to garnish
In a heavy-duty blender (a NutriBullet
would be ideal), blitz the lemon, gin
and syrup with five ice cubes. Pour
into a beer glass and top with ale.
Port in the storm
A twist on the Shaky Pete, for when
the same friends come round twice.
Hamish discovered that amontillado
or oloroso is lovely with tonic.
Simple, yes; delicious, definitely.
50ml sherry (amontillado or oloroso)
Tonic, to top
1 lemon twist, to garnish
Fill a highball glass with ice and
sherry, top with tonic and garnish.
Clementine gimlet
50ml lime juice
50ml ginger syrup
35ml dark rum
3 dashes Angostura bitters
100ml stout or porter
AKA Christmas in a glass.
This turbo shandy is Hawksmoor’s
most popular cocktail.
Blend the lime, syrup, rum and
bitters with five ice cubes, pour into
a beer glass and top with stout.
50ml lemon juice
35ml gin (we use Beefeater)
50ml ginger syrup (whizz peeled ginger
Sherry & tonic
For the cordial
100ml fresh clementine juice
100g caster sugar
½ tsp citric acid
3-4 cloves (optional)
For the drink
50ml gin
25ml clementine cordial
1 slice clementine, to garnish
There’s always undrunk sherry left
over after Christmas, which is how
For the cordial, gently heat the
Mix all the liquids in a warmed glass
or mug, garnish and serve.
Shaky Pete’s ginger brew
68 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
e Ch
est n
on ca
y Pet
e’s g
r bre
clementine juice, sugar and citric
acid in a small pan, stirring until the
sugar dissolves, then leave to cool
(add a few cloves, if you like, to
make it even more Christmassy).
Stir the gin and cordial in a glass
over ice, garnish and serve.
This dates back to the early 1900s,
when much booze may not have
tasted all that great on its own.
It’s a really easy crowdpleaser.
40ml brandy
20ml crème de cacao
20ml single cream
Grated nutmeg, to finish
Shake all the liquids over ice, then
strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Grate a little nutmeg over the top,
and serve.
work here, if you can’t be faffed.
Stir the gin, lemon and syrup
over ice, strain into a flute and top
with champagne.
comes from the wonderful Milk &
Honey cocktail bar in Soho, London.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s
a modern classic.
Champagne Charlie
Late-harvest negroni
Because Christmas means
champagne. This is Hamish’s
take on a French 75.
This nifty twist on an old favourite
is currently on the specials board
at Hawksmoor Borough. There are
all sorts of cherry liqueurs out there,
but for us the best is the kirsch from
a jar of griottine or morello cherries.
40ml gin
20ml dry sherry
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
2 dashes orange bitters (optional)
1 twist grapefruit, to garnish
15ml gin
10ml lemon juice
15ml seasonal syrup (see method)
Champagne (or sparkling wine), to top
Seasonal syrup is a really cool way
to flavour drinks: you can take
almost any fruit or spice, chop it up
and leave it in a jar of basic sugar
syrup for a few days to infuse. Winter
combos can be anything from pear
and cinnamon to clementine and
clove; I even made a Christmas
cake infusion once. That said,
a standard sugar syrup would also
20ml gin
20ml cherry liqueur
20ml Campari
20ml tawny port
1 twist orange, to garnish
Stir everything over ice in a rocks
glass, garnish and serve.
London calling
We’re endlessly inspired by others,
and this fabulous concoction
Hard shake all the liquids over ice,
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
and garnish.
Will Beckett is co-owner of the
Hawksmoor group of restaurants.
His latest book, Hawksmoor:
Restaurants & Recipes, co-written
with Huw Gott, is published by
Preface Publishing at £30 (all
proceeds to Action Against Hunger).
To order a copy for £25.50, go to
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 69
“Dave had juy flown al
the way from Alπha CenVuri.”
heakyon’s Bey Biter πlebe,” he
awed the android behind the bar.
Our hoveryools whooved us to a table
where our pints waited, golden as a
Neptunian sunset. “You kuw, they’ve been
breweg thi cask beer the sae way Ir over
2,875 years,” Dave said. “Bet it yil Vyes juy
b good Yo,” I replied. Dave was now in full
flow. “And they ue the sam lv Zn from
1875. So every πet of cask Theakyon’s e the
evire fiverse ever hb Dm from juy os
lv Zn, eoudeg everyos’s e thi bar
uw.” I looked around the Time Traveller’s
Arms. Rid the Robot was nursing his
pint and busy snading on iron-filing
flavour crisps. In the corner sat Artus
Minor and his wife Debbie from Whitby.
And across the room the Andromeda
twins were playing six dimensional
dominoes. “What you are witssseg, my
friend,” Dave explained, “i eWrgalacic
harony on a grdd scale.” His eyes were
bright with belief. “And it’s al down Y
Theakyons dd their 2,875 year old lv
Zn!” Honeyly, I really do sometimes
wonder what planet Dave is on. [ [
“Boy,wb he thiryy.”
The Talk of The Pub.
Rack ’em up
Fiona Beckett picks 10 supermarket wines that hit
the spot, from reds and whites to fizz and sweet
Booths English Sparkling Wine
£21, Booths Like it or not, it looks as
if we’re going to have to get used to
drinking English bubbly, because we
probably won’t be able to get our
hands on anything else after Brexit.
But that’s no great hardship with
Booths English Sparkling (12% abv),
which is made for them by the
reliable Ridgeview in Sussex. Rich,
full and toasty, and great value, too.
If you’re not near a Booths (though it
does deliver nationwide), Waitrose’s
Hattingley Valley, on offer at £24, is
also first rate.
Paul Roos Die Skoolhoof 2015
£18, Oddbins Take family and friends
out of their Francophile comfort
zone with this swoon-worthy, 13.5%
abv South African white from
Stellenbosch that bears comparison
to a top white burgundy (although
it’s mainly chenin blanc). Perfect for
rich shellfish dishes.
Blandy’s 15-year-old Bual
£24.99 for 50cl, Waitrose Ring the
changes on port with this utterly
delicious 19% abv sweet madeira,
whose refreshing acidity prevents
it being cloying. When the noise
and hubbub gets too much, just
take a glass and a good book off to
a quiet corner.
Vino Tavola Bianco and Vino Tavolo
Rosso both £5, Marks & Spencer
Marks & Sparks isn’t noted for the
sharpness of its prices, but you’d be
hard pushed to beat these basic
Italian wines at £5 (the white is 12%
abv, the red 12.5%). They won’t make
the earth move – this is the kind of
simple, decent carafe wine you’d
expect to find at a trattoria – but if
you’ve got a crowd who threaten to
drink you out of house and home,
they won’t break the bank (even less
so when they’re on one of M&S’s
frequent “buy two six-bottle cases,
get 25% off ” offers).
Château Pierre de Montignac 2012
Médoc £10, Waitrose A really pukka,
smooth, plummy claret to wheel
out for elderly relatives. One of
Waitrose’s special Christmas parcels,
and terrific value at £10. Perfect with
roast beef.
Le Verdier Cairanne Les Garrigues
2016 £10, Morrisons As I’ve recently
written, the Rhône is the ideal
hunting ground for Christmas reds,
and this textbook example comes
from a Christmas parcel bought in by
Morrisons. Gloriously full-bodied,
generous and fruity (14.5% abv), it’s
a perfect match for the bird and all
the trimmings.
Red Boar Bobal £7, Oddbins A suitably
jolly 12% abv red for Boxing Day and
other post-Christmas knees-ups.
From Valencia in southern Spain,
and made from bobal (a grape to look
out for in 2018, incidentally), it’s a bit
like a souped-up beaujolais. One for
the turkey sandwich.
Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon
Blanc 2016 £11, Marks & Spencer
This lush, 12% abv Australian white
has a similar fresh, citrussy character
to sauvignon blanc, but that’s
modified by some smooth, sexy
semillon. A good all-rounder with
buffet and party food.
Grande Alberone Zinfandel 2015
£3.99 for a half-bottle, Aldi The ideal
bottle for someone who’s spending
Christmas on their own: ripe, sweet,
plummy and full of Christmassy
flavours (and 15% abv, to boot). Great
with stilton and crackers.
Vin Santo del Chianti 2009 Societa
Agricola Venatoria Taginaia
£9.99 for 50cl, Lidl It’s rare to find this
sophisticated Tuscan sweet wine at
such a knockdown price. Drink as
you would a tawny port, with blue
cheese and/or dried fruits. This 16%
abv beauty would even go with the
Christmas cake.
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 71
fashion beauty
mind space
Blind date Michael, 27, special educational needs tutor, and Tom,
om, 23, PhD student
Michael (on left) on Tom
Tom on Michael
What were you hoping for?
Someone fun and easy to
be around.
First impressions?
Relieved – he instantly
seemed like somebody
I could get on with.
What did you talk about?
Coming-out stories, politics.
He’s into theme parks, so
I learned about Europe’s
best rollercoasters.
Any awkward moments?
When he mentioned he was
moving to Birmingham the
next day.
Good table manners?
We were sharing tapas and
I’m vegetarian, but he didn’t
moan about being restricted.
Best thing about Tom?
Didn’t dwell on my awkward
sense of humour.
Would you introduce him to
your friends?
I think we’d all have a good
time on a night out together.
Describe Tom in three words
Approachable, good-looking,
What do you think he made
of you?
He might have been a bit
wary of the age difference.
Did you go on somewhere?
To a pub around the corner.
And... did you kiss?
No smooching.
If you could change one
thing about the evening,
what would it be?
I wish I’d known he was
early. I was waiting in a bar
on my own, too.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
That depends on the
logistics of him moving to a
different city.
What were you hoping for?
Good conversation and
a romantic spark.
First impressions?
Very polite and handsome,
although not really my type.
What did you talk about?
Theme parks, bowling, art.
Any awkward moments?
I did start going through his
dating apps and swiping on
his behalf.
Good table manners?
Best thing about Michael?
Good listener.
Would you introduce him to
your friends?
They are similarly politically
minded, so sure.
Describe Michael in three
Interesting, kind, fun.
What do you think he made
of you?
That I have strange interests.
Did you go on somewhere?
For some warm gin and tonics..
And... did you kiss?
If you could change one thing
about the evening, what
would it be?
I would have let him get more
words in.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
As friends. I didn’t feel a spark.
I learned
Europe’s best
I started
his dating
Michael and Tom ate at
Tapas Revolution, London
shoreditch. Fancy a blind date?
com. If you’re looking to meet
someone like-minded, visit
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 75
Kids’ crayons are more than something
to pick up off the living room floor –
they’re the inspo behind the colour
palette of the season. Like the drawings
on the fridge, take a no-rules approach
to clashing. Pink and red (Sylviane) is a
fashion classic, while yellow and blue
(Elee’s skirt) adds pizazz to a quiet
outfit; Joi’s grey and red, meanwhile,
feels sporty. Of course, you can go
grown up with clashing, too: see the
charcoal grey and muted chartreuse of
Lucy’s suit, or the two shades of green
on India’s outfit. All the better to
accessorise with another component
of family life: man’s best friend.
Melanie Wilkinson
Photographs: David Newby for the
Guardian. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson.
Stylist’s assistant: Bemi Shaw. Hair:
Shukeel at Frank Agency using Kevin
Murphy and Lou Box at S Management
using Redken. Makeup: Lisa Stokes
using L’Occitane. Models: Lucy at
Models 1, Elee, Sylviane and India
at Mrs Robinson, Joi at Milk.
Cardigan, £69, and skirt,
£55, both
Top, £55, Coat,
£69, marksandspencer.
com Shoes, £80,
Jumper, £225, josephShirt, £59, Shirt, Skirt, £199,
Boots, £279, by Carvela,
Earrings, £210, by
Claire Barrow, from
76 9 Decembe
er 2
17 | The Guardian Weekend
All ages
Jumper, £190, by MSGM,
Jeans, £40,
Shoes, £183,
au. Bag, £150,
Dress,, £399,
Earrings, £78,
Shoes, £29,
Top, £29, and trousers,
£25, both
Coat, £49.99, reserved.
com. Boots, £139,
Earrings, £58,
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 77
What I wore
this week
Jess Cartner-Morley goes against the seasonal tide
The Measure
Going up
Faux-fur gloves The fuzzier, the
better. Topshop’s are touchscreen
compatible. #winningatwinter
David Lochary in Pink Flamingos
Divine in the red dress is the standout
of John Waters’ 1972 classic, but
Lochary’s flowing blue locks and
waxed moustache is the under-theradar cult reference for now.
EM Forster The turn-of-the-century
high collars and wide sleeves smack
of Victoria Beckham, Alexa Chung
and Rejina Pyo’s spring 2017 dresses.
Cling The best way to pay tribute
to Alaïa is by wearing your best
bodycon. See Linda Evangelista on
the catwalk for inspo.
Crémant Drink this if you’re worried
prosecco is a bit basic. Think
a minimalist party drink choice.
WhatsApp live location Lets your
friends tell you where they are. Like
spying, but with permission..
Going down
Jess’s four best
1 Embroidered floral, £49.99,
2 Red floral, £110,
3 Monochrome and lilac, £119,
4 Flowers and swans, £40,
Jess wears dress, £190, by Ganni, from
Boots, £279, by Carvela, from (Stool,
Smoking Banned from French
adverts. This finally smothers, the
whole Parisian Gauloises aesthetic.
Secret Santa Why pointless brica-brac exists at this time of year.
Donate your fiver to charity instead.
Glitter dandruff Scratchy bits of this
are everywhere this party season.
Sequins are the thinking person’s
light-radiating embellishment.
Christmas quizzes An excuse for
a knees-up and we don’t need to feel
bad about end-of-year amnesia.
Ghost hair Instead, go for a choppy
bob in a washed out pink like
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird.
The OTK boots hemline problem As
bad as the hardest maths equations.
Nicole Kidman can’t crack it.
earing a floral dress only in the
summer months is a bit like watching
a TV show for an hour at the same
time once a week: life just isn’t that
regimented in 2017. You don’t have to be dictated
to by fashion convention any more than your
viewing has to be governed by 9pm appointments
with the television.
I would go so far as to say that it’s not just that
you can wear floral dresses outside summer, but
that outside summer is, in fact, the best time to
wear them. A floral dress in summer is almost
too neat. It is so appropriate that it feels a bit
literal, and I am not a big fan of literal dressing.
That thing where you wear, for instance,
a strawberry-print dress to Wimbledon makes
me kind of itchy. To me, an outfit that makes
such ploddingly obvious connections does not
sell the wearer as a scintillating conversationalist.
Is that mean? Sorry.
Christmas, by the way, is the exception
to my anti-literal fashion diktat. For
December, I operate an amnesty on basic. I am
all for a full-fat festive look. Head-to-toe festive
red? Count me in. Novelty, mistletoe-themed hair
accessory? Not ruling it out.
When you wear a floral dress in the summer,
you mirror the world around you; when you wear
one in winter, you challenge it a little. You are
creating your own aesthetic. It helps that there
is no basic styling option open to you when you
go down the flowery dress route on a chilly day.
You can’t default into a sandal and a neutral
blazer, unless you intend to freeze. You are going
to need a dress with a long sleeve, or to layer
a turtleneck under your dress, either of which
takes the floral dress to a more interesting place.
And you are going to need tights or, may I suggest,
boots, which instantly stop even the floatiest
dresses from looking flighty.
Floral dressing in the cold months has been
made easier with the arrival of the winter floral
print in every high street near you. A winter
floral – you’ve seen it, even if you didn’t know
the name – is a pale, spriggy flower against
a dark background. Which isn’t, the observant
among you may well have noticed, the kind of
floral I’m wearing in the picture to the right
promoting the wearing of florals in winter.
Because as discussed, why be obvious?
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 79
80 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Gifts for Mum? Here are some she might actually want
always thought “Gifts for Mum”
were the dullest pages in Christmas
catalogues, but it’s only now, when
I’m exactly the type of woman at whom
they’re aimed, that I realise quite how unwanted
their picks must have been. Floral hand creams
designed for those who supposedly love weeding
gardens and washing pans, everything scented
with lily of the valley, big wicker baskets full of
toiletries even I wouldn’t know what to do with.
Our mothers should have been handed Olivier
awards for their effusive thank-yous.
I can’t speak for others, but this mum would
always like something either useful and effective
or so frivolous and luxurious that I would be
unlikely to treat myself. Ticking both boxes is
Zoeva’s Rose Golden Vol I set (£65), which has
a comprehensive selection of great-quality brushes
(and a lovely makeup pouch) that work out at
£8-ish a pop. There’s no look I can’t achieve with
them. (Zoeva sells vegan versions, too.)
Shorter on glamour, but big on impact, is
Trish McEvoy Eye Lift (£40; shades for white
or brown skin). I wear this almost every day
and nothing comes close to brightening and
firming tired under-eyes as quickly or as well.
Try these
1 Paula’s Choice trial set, from £3,
2 Trish McEvoy Eye Lift, £40,
3 LED light-up compact makeup mirror,
Just dot on and pat with your middle finger.
If you would like to buy your mum some
honest, effective skincare, but fear expensive
mistakes, Paula’s Choice trial sets (from only £3
for up to six samples; available for different skin
types) make brilliant stocking fillers (full sizes are
also reasonable, should she become hooked).
If those seem too mundane or impolite,
Charlotte Tilbury’s Instant Look Seductive
Beauty (£49) is a useful wardrobe of three
eye shadows, two blushers, a bronzer and
a highlighter in easy-to-wear, flattering, neutral
shades, all housed in a sleek palette that
I routinely chuck in my handbag or suitcase.
If the recipient’s eyesight isn’t what it was
(and I very much speak for myself here), follow
my improbable lead to Maplin, of all places.
Its ingenious LED light-up compact makeup
mirror (£19.99) has an integrated phone charger
and is my new favourite gadget. Of course, you
could always take the path of least resistance
instead and buy mum a Chanel Le Vernis nail
polish (£20): the packaging is beautiful and
indulgent, the shades are inspired and the
formula is a good five times better than it was.
The beauty roadtest
Pore cleansers
By Weekend’s All Ages model Marc
Goldfinger, 29
At castings and shoots, it’s
imperative I keep my skin clean.
I hate blackheads and I get them
all the time, so I was curious to see
whether face masks work.
I had seen Deep Cleansing Black
Mask (£9.99, blackmaskcleansing.
com) on social media, so was
excited to try it. The packaging was
simple and the black goo easy to
apply. It was cool to the touch and
made my skin tingle. I left it on for
the recommended 30 minutes, but
when I started to pull it off, my God
was it painful. I wasn’t sure if it
removed impurities, or just the top
10 layers of my skin, but afterwards
my skin felt smooth, if a little red
and sensitive.
I loved peeling off the Bioré Deep
Cleansing Pore Strips (£8.49 for six,
) – I could see all sorts
o impurities. They were easy to
use and removed a fair bit of dirt.
My skin felt great afterwards; I will
definitely use them again.
I applied T-Zone Charcoal &
Bamboo Black Peel Off Mask (£3, at the end of a long
day. When I started to pull the patch
off, my skin felt as though it was
being ripped from my skull. I was
disappointed to see no impurities on
the strip. All pain, no gain.
Starskin Sunset Strips (£8.05, were the most
well-conceived. There are three
strips: one to open pores, one to
clear them and the last to soothe
skin. I felt a bit indulgent (it took
more than 35 minutes) but the three
strips together made a lovely, easyto-use system. There was no pain or
redness, and my skin looked and felt
great. Definitely one for special days.
Next week: All Ages model
Sylviane Degunst on lip balms
The Gu
Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 81
84 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
A bite of the cherry: how to grow crab apples
hey hang like lanterns or
Christmas baubles,
a whole tree heavily
laden with fruit when all
else is bare. Where many crab apples
have lost their fruit by November,
a few species and cultivars will hold
on to theirs well into the new year.
If you nibble one – and a nibble is
often all you can do as many are the
size of cherries – you’ll find they are
tannin rich, stripping your mouth of
moisture, though sometimes they
have beautiful flavours beneath
that. It takes many cold nights and
sharp frosts before these apples
soften and become desirable to
birds, hence why they persist on
trees deep into winter.
In spring, crab apple trees are
covered in blossom, often scented,
and some have fantastic autumn
colour. They are perfect for front
gardens, offering dappled shade in
summer but shedding so winter light
can flood in when it’s most needed.
Expect to pay about £30 plus
delivery for a four- to five-litre pot,
a tree 40-60cm tall. That 60cm tree
will very quickly catch any semimature tree: I planted a whip, a
single stem about 60cm high, in my
front garden four years ago and it’s
now almost three metres tall.
Plant throughout winter, as long
as you can work the ground. Tree
roots will start exploring the soil as
soon as it warms up, and until the
tree is established you will have to
water throughout dry periods.
Mulching around the base in spring
will help keep weeds down and lock
in moisture.
Larger trees also need staking; any
good nursery will have suitable
stakes. It’s worth asking about
rootstock: many trees are grafted on
to different rootstock to determine
the size of the tree and whether it is
suitable for your garden. If they
can’t give a good explanation,
buy elsewhere.
Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’
is much-loved for its brilliant butter
yellow fruit. ‘Comtesse de Paris’ is
harder to get hold of, but the fruits
are a cleaner yellow and persist even
longer. M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’
(pictured) is popular for its white
flowers in spring and clusters of deep
red fruit that remain long into winter.
M. transitoria is a slender, elegant
tree from China with small yellow
fruit and beautiful autumn colour.
Good if you need a tree that won’t
spread: perfect for front gardens,
courtyards or as a street tree.
M. ‘Indian Magic’ and ‘Liset’ are
some of the best deep-pink-flowered
forms, followed by red fruit that
lingers on in the new year. ‘Indian
Magic’ likes to spread outwards, so
is not good for confined spaces.
M. ‘Jelly King’ from New Zealand
has white flowers and large,
persistent orange pink crab apples
that taste fantastic and make
a beautiful pink jelly. Once
established it often produces so
heavily there’ll be plenty for the
kitchen, and still some on the tree.
Quiz 1 Dewey Defeats Truman.
2 Ambergris.
3 Hats.
4 Leipzig.
5 Karl Lagerfeld.
6 Chiaroscuro.
7 Call The Midwife.
8 Punjab.
9 Plays by Aphra Behn.
10 Plum varieties.
11 Edo.
12 Verdi title characters: Aida;
La Traviata; Il Trovatore; Rigoletto.
13 Known species of orangutan.
14 Sports teams in “foreign”
15 Murdered or executed
Archbishops of Canterbury.
Crossword See right.
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 85
86 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
The edit
Bring comfort and joy to the festive dining table
1 Editor’s pick: retro figurines + a dusting of snow = the perfect nostalgic centrepiece Skiers snowglobe, £60, 2 Felt coaster, £3 for set of
four, 3 Starry Night crackers, £13.50, 4 Folklore cheeseboard and knives, £50, 5 Editor’s pick: bring
a touch of the English country pile to your Christmas table Large pheasant decoration, 57cm x 22cm, £29.95, 6 Christmas tea lights, £45
for two, by Georg Jensen, from 7 Gold angel, £17, by Bloomingville, from 8 Holiday spirit platter, £48,
9 Brass star spoon, £7.50, 10 Reindeer bottle stopper, £8.40,
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 87
88 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
move to
Kelso, Roxburghshire: this is a mighty fine town
hat’s going for it? I’m a sucker for a
bit of Romanesque architecture. Even
the prospect of a half-ruined tower
and a crumbled jamb is enough to
drag me several score miles off my beaten track.
I’m easily distracted. And so I come to Kelso. Like
those in its neighbouring border market towns,
Kelso’s abbey is a shadow of its 12th-century self,
when it was the richest, mightiest monastery in
the region. But even the fragments left behind
still define the town, though the abbey has
competition these days. This is a mighty fine town,
a lovely little place squished where the rivers
Tweed and Teviot say how d’you do. Every street is
an architectural delight. The town hall has grand
columns leaping over the cobbles on the Square.
And the town has not one but two stately homes
in tow. If you think Mellerstain House is fancypantsy, have a gawp at vast Floors Castle, possibly
the turrety-est stately home in the nation, and
definitely not a castle. Those battlements couldn’t
withstand the big bad wolf, let alone marauding
Northumbrians across the border.
The case against Not cheap for hereabouts.
Well connected? No trains, but there are several
daily buses to Berwick-upon-Tweed (one hour) and
Jedburgh and Hawick, plus a few to Edinburgh
(two hours). Driving: half an hour to neighbours
such as Melrose, Galashiels and Coldstream, 40
mins to the coast and Berwick, and more than an
hour (depending on traffic) to central Edinburgh.
Schools Primaries: quality indicators for Edenside
and Sprouston are “good”; for Broomlands mostly
“good”, Education Scotland says. Secondaries:
those for Kelso High are “good” or “very good”.
Hang out at… There’s just one place you need to
know about: the Cobbles. If you can squeeze in.
Where to buy The town’s lovely old stone
farmhouses or manses attract the highest prices.
In town you can’t put a foot wrong for fine stone
town houses and terraces, or little cottages
tucked down alleys. Some nice views over the
river: check out Roxburgh Street heading to
Floors Castle. Lovely stone or white render/
whitewash. The usual assortment of suburbs and
cul-de-sacs. Large detacheds and town houses,
£350,000-£600,000. Detacheds and smaller town
houses, £175,000-£350,000. Semis, £120,000£300,000. Terraces and cottages, £100,000£180,000. Rentals – not much: a one-bed flat,
£375pcm; a three-bed house, £450-£500pcm.
Bargain of the week A two-bed Victorian terrace,
needing a bit of modernisation, yours for £99,995, Tom Dyckhoff
From the streets
Sharon Dalziel “Fine views of the river Tweed
from Rennie Bridge; good local walks past
Junction Pool (one of the best for salmon fishing).”
Tony Reed “Kelso belies its size with a showground,
rugby, cricket, tennis, bowls and curling venues.
Interesting independent shops set along cobbled
streets; the Contented Vine for sublime food.”
All the places I’ll never live
Coco Khan
There are good chores and bad
chores. Washing-up: good. Cleaning
fridge: bad. Watering plants: good.
Vacuuming stairs: bad. But doing
the laundry is a game of two halves.
Few things are as pleasing as shoving
clothes into the machine. The
pile was there and now it’s gone:
minutes of work, massive reward.
But taking the wet clothes out? That
is a bad chore. The worst if, like me,
you have no external washing line,
only rickety clothes horses that fall
over at the first draught and take
up valuable space. Plus there’s the
three-day drying time if it’s winter.
I’ve been thinking a lot about
washing machines recently because
mine, God rest its soul, has died.
This means I’ve been spending a lot
of time in the launderette. Waiting,
waiting, and asking meaningful
questions such as: what does “rinse
hold” mean? And why are there three
compartments: fabric softener,
washing powder and… what?
I also have time to dream of this
five-bed, advertised on rightmove., on the Scottish west coast.
Overlooking the Craobh Haven
marina, its faux turrets give it a
chateau feel, not to mention the
on-site cookery school and outdoor
hot tub. But the real stars are the
five en-suite bathrooms (perfect for
clothes horses), the decking area
for outdoor drying and spacious
laundry room. Imagine how many
washing machines you could get in
there! That really is a “load” of fun.
Do you live in Beverley, East Riding, Yorkshire?
Do you have a favourite haunt or a pet hate? If so,
email by next Tuesday.
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 89
I’m a Village Peasant (and that’s good), says Zoe Williams
here are three broad categories
of microbiome, named by Atlas,
a company that will analyse the
bacterial environment in your
gut: the Urban Citizen, the Village Peasant
and the Indigene. Your type can change if you
significantly alter your diet. Anyone with any
sense wants to be an Indigene, since the Urban
Citizen is associated with the “western diet”
(code for: “some Cinnamon Grahams and a KFC,
what of it?”) and the Village Peasant sounds a
bit, you know, dumpy. However, the Indigene is
most prevalent in isolated tribespeople from the
Amazon and Africa, or failing that, vegetarians.
I got my results back from the £125 test I did in
August, a complicated business of trapping poo
on a piece of paper. I did this because your gut
environment is as vital to your overall health as
your hormonal one, or your brain chemistry; its
health is determined by bacterial balance, which
in turn is affected by your diet.
I’m a Village Peasant. It turns out, now that I
am one, they’re the best. I have bacteria from the
Dorea genus to reduce inflammation of the gut,
making it less likely that I’ll get Crohn’s disease.
I have eubacterium, built by bananas and barley
which, since I hate bananas, I can only ascribe to
my high consumption of Ovaltine. This, apparently,
has a prophylactic effect against various cancers.
The results also break down the “citizenship” of
my gut bacteria – that is, the places whose typical
diets produce biomes like mine: Village Peasant
is the gut environment of the rural Russian
90 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
population, people so strong they can go out in
subzero temperatures wearing only ear-muffs. So
it’s no surprise that I’m 42% Russian; also, 44%
Danish, a little bit Malawian, and a bit Chinese and,
like the Labour manifesto, 0.2% Venezuelan.
Look, nobody said I was perfect: my
recommendations are that I should eat soy,
miso, apples, grapes and porridge to increase the
proportion of good bacteria. I should eat fish oil,
black tea, tomatoes and garlic to guard against
obesity, which sounds like a cocktail so revolting as
to put you off food, and guard against obesity that
way. Artichokes, jerusalem artichokes, asparagus
and more garlic would increase my potential for
fibre metabolism (though anyone who knew me
would say that if I ate any more garlic, I would
smell like a gas leak). Buckwheat, chokeberries and
sweetcorn would be brilliant for maximising my
vitamin B synthesis, or alternatively, if I wanted to
stop being invited to anybody’s house.
My disease risks for everything that can be
measured (atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, colitis)
are low. Having said I wasn’t perfect, it’s hard to
pinpoint the respect in which my digestion could be
better. I actually am perfect. “Then how come,” said
my Mister, weighing his words carefully, “you fart
every time you stand up?” I honestly don’t know.
I guess that’s just bad manners.
This week I learned
It’s important to make your diet inclusive rather than
exclusive: eat in a varied way – don’t cut things out
My life in sex
The 62-year-old postmenopausal woman
Since 2010, my sex life has been 3D,
retro and virtual. It involves Davy
Jones of the Monkees, David Essex
and David Cassidy, all as they were
between 1971 and 1975. They arrive
in my head, resplendent in flares
and tank tops, gazing out through
smoky, heavily lashed eyes and
whispering in deep, dark tones that
can only be detected by the ear of a
teenage girl.
I try to arrange my fantasy
schedule so they don’t arrive at once.
This isn’t always possible, and I am
then presented with the option of
a mix-and-match experience, or
making them queue. We always start
with a date. The cinema, a Chinese
meal or a disco. If Mum and Dad are
at bingo, we stay home and indulge in
a Vesta Chow Mein and Bird’s Trifle.
Although fiercely jealous, each
David has learned to tolerate the
pictures of the other Davids on my
bedroom wall. Each is passionate,
adoring, powerful, sensitive and
generous. Our love-making is light
yet intense, each David taking me
to places only we have shared; our
special places. Each thinks only of
me, always. All songs are written for
me alone, and in every photo shoot
for Jackie magazine, he is looking
down the camera just at me.
Afterwards, we smoke a Player’s
No 6 (without inhaling), and discuss
plans for a honeymoon in Marbella.
I am saving Mum’s Green Shield
stamps for a canteen of cutlery.
I sometimes worry that I am using
them, that spending all this time
with me will prevent them from
meeting others. The guilt passes
quickly, spurred on by the bald,
snoring and whisky-sodden mass
who lies next to me.
Each week, a reader tells us about
their sex life. Want to share yours?
This column
will change
your life
The truth about avocado toast. By Oliver Burkeman
ack in the 1990s, the American
personal finance guru David Bach
coined the term “the Latte Factor”
(these days, it’s a registered
trademark) and a money myth was born. You
could retire a millionaire, Bach promised, just
by forgoing your daily trip to Starbucks and
investing the money instead!
The only problem is, you can’t. In her 2012 book
Pound Foolish, Helaine Olen points out that Bach
assumed a 365-day-a-year latte habit; added a daily
biscotti to increase the cost; rounded up the
annual total by a three-figure sum; assumed
improbably high investment returns; and ignored
inflation and taxes. But the Latte Factor ticked so
many boxes, it didn’t seem to matter that these
didn’t include the one marked “accurate”. It
distracted from systemic problems, made
financial security look like a simple matter of selfdiscipline, and implied that you could get there
without sacrificing anything that mattered.
The 2017 version of the Latte Factor is, of course,
estate agents berating millennials for spending
money on fancy sandwiches or avocado toast, on
the grounds that if they saved it, they could afford
a flat in a pricey city. Naturally, the maths is also
dodgy: by my reckoning, the latest story assumes
an £11 sandwich every working day, plus a £100plus weekly night out. Even if the numbers added
up, though, the Sandwich Factor would still be
questionable, and not only because it looks like
blaming the victims of the housing crisis, but
because it’s not always wiser to spend money on
making your future better, as opposed to enjoying
it now. That’s an individual calculation, based on
how much you love sandwiches, or whether you’d
be prepared to move to a cheaper part of the
country. And it’s easily possible to delay
gratification too much – to fall victim to what the
psychologist Jack Block called “rigid impulse
control”, thereby “spoil[ing] the experience and
savourings of life”. Having less fun in your 20s in
order to feel more secure in your 50s might be
worth it, but it’s far from an indisputable truth.
None of which is to say you’re not currently
wasting your money on upscale sandwiches;
millennial or otherwise, you probably are. The
modern consumer economy is full of spurious
quasi-luxuries, falling into a category the writer
Venkatesh Rao brilliantly labels “premium
mediocre”: not the basics, but not true luxury,
either, and usually overpriced. Premium mediocre
includes “cupcakes and froyo”, Rao explains, along
with “‘truffle oil on anything”, “extra-legroom seats
in economy”, plus any product labelled “signature”.
They’re poor value for money – meaning not that
you should be saving for more sensible things, but
that the pleasure they provide isn’t proportionate to
the extra cost. (One memorable trip to a fantastic
£100-a-head restaurant is clearly preferable to five
£20 meals at premium mediocre places.)
It’s a great idea to wean yourself off this sort of
thing. Not because you’ll magically become a
millionaire in the future, but because they’re
a rubbish way to enjoy yourself in the present.
What I’m really thinking
The mediator
The housing trust is at its wits’
end. Two households are in an
intractable dispute over a small area
of pavement between their houses,
where each feels they have a right to
park. In fact, no one owns the road
outside their house, but each person
feels their circumstances entitle
them to park there. So, a mediator –
me – has been called in. Parking
disputes and noise issues are now
so common that they make up the
majority of my working day.
We meet in a neutral space. Their
body language says it all. Eyebrows
raised in sarcasm and disgust, a lot
of tutting and eye rolling and a fair
few F-words – despite the ground
rules, which ask for respectful
behaviour. Each side makes it clear
that if only these stupid neighbours
could see the unreasonableness of
their position, no one would need
to sit here wasting everyone’s time.
Mediators must be impartial,
non-judgmental and endlessly
patient. I nod and listen
sympathetically. One party doesn’t
see why she should have to reverse
her car to park it. The other refuses to
squeeze her buggy round a dustbin to
get to the boot of her car. I feel like
telling them to grow up and stop
behaving like five-year-olds. In fact,
I’ve seen children sort out playground
disputes with more maturity. They
should realise that tiny houses in
narrow streets often have three or
four cars fighting for space outside.
With so many real problems in
the world, why can’t these people
summon some common sense and
realise that such an inflexible
attitude of entitlement makes life
miserable for everyone? But then
we mediators would be out of a job.
we mediato
Tell us what you’re
really thinking at mind
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 91
‘Jonas Kaufmann has asked me over the same evening Philip Roth wants a game of darts’
ecember is the cruellest
month. You wait all year
to be invited somewhere
interesting, then
December comes along and you
have more invitations than there’s
room for on the mantelpiece. There
are three parties at opposite ends of
London I particularly want to go to
this week, one carol service, one
St Matthew Passion, one Chanukah
dinner and two mince pie happenings
in bookshops. The trouble is, they’re
all on the same night.
I don’t know how this comes about,
but there is always one evening that
everyone fixes on to hold their event,
and it is always the same evening
that Jonas Kaufmann invites you
get your invitation in early. The
human heart, however, is not so
easily stilled. You said yes to people
you quite like, but that was before
you heard from people you like more.
The people you quite like will pour
you prosecco with a tea-towel
wrapped around the label; the
people you like more will pour you
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. I don’t say
considerations of this sort should
trump loyalty, only that at my age,
a man doesn’t know how much
more Krug he’s going to get the
opportunity to drink.
The woman I turn to for advice
when all I owe to other people comes
into conflict with all I owe myself
shakes her head and puts on You
over to his place for a Mahler lieder
singalong and Philip Roth happens
to be in town wanting a game of
darts. This happens too often to be
coincidence. There must be some
herding instinct that explains it, a
memory trace of the day we all leapt
out of the primal soup together. Or
it might be beyond our volition, an
imperative of the non-human
calendar: the transit of Venus, a
volcano erupting in Bali, a bad night
on telly. But the reason for these
clashes isn’t the issue. Etiquette is.
Who does one say no to?
It should be easy. You say no to
whomever you haven’t already said
yes to. First come, first served. If you
want me at your party, you’d better
Can’t Always Get What You Want
at full volume. “And what would
you do,” I ask, “if you’d said yes to a
quiet evening of charades with the
Hepplethwaites, and Mick Jagger
then invites you out to Annabel’s on
the same night?”
“Hepplethwaites,” she says, but
we both know she’s lying.
I might have found a way of
negotiating these moral quandaries:
never accept an invitation to
anything. Hold yourself in suspense.
Don’t, of course, admit you’re
waiting for a better offer, but wait
for it. True, a better offer might not
come. But that’s the chance you
take. There are some things you
have to be grown up about.
Puzzles Crossword by Sy and Thomas Eaton’s quiz. Answers on page 85
6/12 A digital
ingredient of the
witches’ brew in
Macbeth (3,2,4)
7 Common name
for the childhood
condition otitis
media (4,3)
9 The Oscar-winner
who came to dinner?
10 Denis .......,
French enlightenment
philosopher and
editor of the
Encyclopédie (7)
12 See 6
14 Herb that is
often used to
season poached
salmon (4)
15/3 Coolant that’s
essential to the
witches’ brew in
Macbeth (7,5)
17 London district,
home to Queens
Park Rangers (9,4)
20 US state that’s
bordered by
New York and New
Hampshire (7)
21 See 16D
1 Desert that
makes up much
of southern
Mongolia (4)
2 David ........,
name by which John
le Carré is less well
known (8)
3 See 15
4 See 8
5 City at the foot
of Table Mountain
8/4 A visual
ingredient of
the witches’ brew
in Macbeth
11 Body of water
that surrounds the
Isle of Man (5,3)
12 Support for
poor people that
is considered by
Jacob Rees-Mogg
to be “uplifting”
13 Name of character
played by Olivia
Newton-John in
Grease (1978) (5)
16/21 Slithering
ingredient of the
witches’ brew in
Macbeth (5,5)
18 American
predator cat (4)
19 Japanese rice
wine (4)
1 What did the
Chicago Daily Tribune
famously claim on
3 November 1948?
2 What perfume
ingredient comes from
sperm whales?
3 What usually range
in size from 6.5 to 8?
4 The Monument
to the Battle of
the Nations is in
what city?
5 Choupette is
which fashion
designer’s cat?
6 What art term
means “light dark”
in Italian?
7 Which TV
series is based on
the memoirs of
Jennifer Worth?
8 With 110 million
people, what is
Pakistan’s most
populous province?
h links:
li k
9 The Rover;
The Forc’d Marriage;
The City Heiress;
10 Farleigh; Blue Tit;
Czar; Victoria;
11 Capital of the
Benin Empire,
formerly, and Tokyo,
before 1868?
12 Ethiopian princess;
Violetta Valéry;
Manrico; Duke’s jester?
13 Sumatran; Bornean;
Tapanuli, as of 2017?
14 New Zealand
Catalans Dragons;
Berwick Rangers;
Cardiff City;
Toronto Blue Jays?
15 Aelfheah;
Thomas Becket;
Thomas Cranmer;
William Laud?
The Guardian Weekend | 9 December 2017 93
me in the
Aleida Guevara with her father Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, Havana, 1964
n the right is my father,
cigar in hand, talking
to his lifelong friend
Fidel Castro, a fellow
communist revolutionary. The angle
makes it look like my father is
holding out his cigar to me, but that’s
not the case. It was unusual that he’d
smoke around me. I don’t remember
this picture being taken, or by whom;
I was too young. I’d have been around
three at the time. I was born in
November 1960, and I’ve since been
told it was 1964 in Plaza de la
Revolución in Havana.
I’m the eldest of Che’s four
children with my mother. Papi was
known around the world as the
Argentine revolutionary, a guerrilla
leader and major figure of the Cuban
revolution, but we were just a normal
family. I never felt special as his
daughter. Where I did feel special
was as the child of a couple who
loved each other dearly.
‘Papi was
known around
the world as
the Argentine
a guerrilla
leader, but we
were just a
normal family’
94 9 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
As children, we enjoyed Papi very
little. I was only six when he was
executed in Bolivia 50 years ago,
on 9 October, 1967. Our mother
formed our values and kept him
alive in our memory long after he
died. She never used him as a way
to tell us off or threaten us. Papi was
always the good guy.
We never enjoyed any privileges:
my father was opposed to that, and
my mother maintained the line.
When she became a widow with four
small children, my father’s friends
wanted to help. They couldn’t
replace the affection that had been
lost, so tried to give us material
things. My mother wouldn’t permit
anything at all. She told us, “You
must have your feet firmly on the
ground, and let pass everything you
haven’t earned yourselves.” That
was an important lesson.
We went through difficult periods.
In my teenage years, she’d make
trousers for my brothers with
material from her old blouses.
But we were happy: we’d play,
we’d laugh. We grew up like
Cuban children, alongside the
people in our community.
I was close to Fidel and
comfortable with him. I have very
fond memories – I would call him
“mi tío”, which means “my uncle”.
I maintained a relationship with him
right up until the end of his life last
year. He’s holding me and I’m
relaxed, smiling. My father and
Fidel were always happy and joking
together; there was much mutual
respect and confidence there.
Fidel wanted to break the news to
us children when Papi died, but my
mother insisted it was her duty. But
he told us that Papi had written
a letter saying that if one day he fell
in combat, we were not to cry for
him: when a man dies trying to
achieve what he wants to achieve,
one doesn’t need to. The next day,
I was called in to see my mother,
who was in tears. She sat me on the
bed and pulled out the farewell
letter from Papi.
“When you see this letter,” it said,
“you will know that I am no longer
with you.” I started crying, too.
The letter was very short. It ended
with the words: “Here is a big kiss
from Dad.” I understood I no longer
had a father.
I still live and work in Havana, as
a paediatrician, and feel hopeful
for the future of Cuba. Do I have
hope for humanity? None of us has
a crystal ball, but if we want
a different world, we need to work to
achieve it. We can’t wait for it to fall
out of the sky. We have a duty to
forge that future ourselves.
Interview: Sophie Haydock
Are you in a notable photograph?
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