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The Guardian Weekend 16 December 2017

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Close encounter
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u r v iv i n g
ol ly wo od
5 Hadley Freeman
6 Tim Dowling Plus Bim
Adewunmi’s First take
10 Your view Plus
Stephen Collins
12 Q&A David Guetta, DJ
15 Experience
I was Bambi
16 Close and personal
After 40 years in the
acting business, Glenn
Close has seen it all.
Or thought she had…
30 Knowing me, knowing
you The couples who
dress alike every day
38 ‘We are part of a
wider awakening’
Why 2017 was the year
of the activist
48 ‘People think it can
never happen to them’
Erica Buist meets five
people who became
homeless this year
57 Blind date Will Poppy
and Max hit it off ?
58 All ages Play the long
game in a winter dress
61 Priya Elan How to
get suited and booted.
Plus The measure
63 The fashion edit
Party bags
65 Beauty Sali Hughes
on last-minute
grooming gifts for men.
Plus Beauty roadtest
Food and drink
68 Yotam Ottolenghi
Stuffing is so much
more than a side dish
73 Thomasina Miers
Roast winter veg,
75 The new vegan Meera
Sodha turns leftover
Christmas veg into
a stunning Thai curry
77 Restaurants Does
Southam Street,
London W10, rock
Felicity Cloake’s boat?
84 Outside in How
to bring the garden
indoors this winter
85 Alys Fowler Seasonal
scents that make sense
87 Let’s move to Pwllheli,
Wales. Plus All the
places I’ll never live
Berger & Wyse
Body & Mind
90 System upgrade
Plus My life in sex
91 This column will
change your life Plus
What I’m really thinking
80 See the wood for the
trees A log cabin for
the 21st century
83 The space edit Go
bold on the baubles
this Christmas
93 Howard Jacobson
Plus Crossword, Quiz
94 That’s me in
the picture
Co t a r t
nt e r s
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 3
JK Rowling has defended the casting of Fantastic Beasts. Is it time we all moved on?
ere’s a phrase you don’t hear very
often: last week, a short story
went viral. Cat Person by Kristen
Roupenian was published in
the New Yorker and I heard so many people
arguing about it I briefly felt like a member
of the Dickensian public in the heady days of
The Pickwick Papers. It’s easy to see why this
story caught fire: it shows, with heartbreaking
control, how two people can see a relationship
completely differently, telling themselves their
own narratives. Relationships, as the cliche goes,
are complicated.
I’ve been hearing variations of this phrase
a lot recently. Last week JK Rowling issued a
statement defending the casting of Johnny Depp
in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts. Rowling,
who is clearly A Good Thing, has spoken out
frequently in defence of women. Depp, on the
other hand, is decidedly A Debatable Thing,
given that his now ex-wife, Amber Heard, said
in a sworn declaration, “During the entirety of
our relationship, Johnny Depp has been verbally
and physically abusive to me.” Photos of Heard’s
bruised face, bruises she said were caused by
Depp, and a video of him smashing things and
shouting at her, were posted online.
Rowling suggested that she was doing what
Heard and Depp said they wanted, in a joint
statement released last year after their divorce
was finalised: letting them “get on with their
lives”. “Based on our understanding of the
circumstances, the film-makers and I are not only
comfortable sticking with our original casting but
genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major
character in the movies,” Rowling wrote.
Her statement was reminiscent of the one
made by Lena Dunham and her Girls co-writer
Jenni Konner last month, after their colleague,
writer Murray Miller, was accused of sexual
assault: “While our first instinct is to listen to
every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of
Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly
this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases
that are misreported every year,” they wrote.
Relationships are complicated, but apparently
Rowling, Konner and Dunham have a special
insight. Konner and Dunham later apologised,
though Miller still denies the claims, but Rowling
is standing firm.
You don’t need to #believeallwomen, as the
unhelpfully simplistic hashtag has it. But you
should not dismiss them either just because
it’s more convenient or comfortable to do so.
Despite the new wave of wokeness about sexual
assault, attitudes towards domestic abuse
remain stubbornly retrograde: women lie, you
know – and hey, even if it’s true, it’s not like
he was grabbing women off the street, right?
Relationships can be volatile, and we all know
that a woman really knows how to push her
boyfriend’s buttons. As Fantastic Beasts’ director
David Yates put it: “With Johnny, it seems to me
there was one person who took a pop at him and
claimed something. I can only tell you about
the man I see every day: he’s full of decency and
kindness, and that’s all I see.” Much like the (not
Jewish) Kens Loach and Livingstone insisting
they never saw any antisemitism in the Labour
party, therefore it’s not a problem; Depp never hit
Yates, so clearly he can’t be a wife batterer.
Personally, I don’t understand why anyone
would cast Depp in anything, given he hasn’t
looked more than half-awake on screen in a
decade. If you’re going to spend $20m on an
actor, why not hire Brad Pitt or George Clooney, or
literally anyone else? Then you wouldn’t have to
issue all those word-salad statements defending
his casting. Think of all the salad you’d save!
Two women a week in England and Wales are
killed by their partner or ex-partner. Yes, women
do hit their male partners, too, sometimes; but
the numbers pale by comparison and the fight
is not equal. A woman can be at serious risk of
death; these deaths are so common they only
make the news if the man also kills himself,
their children, or both. Maybe one day domestic
abusers will be treated as pariahs in the way
sexual harassers currently are – although given
how many beloved men in the public eye
that would rule out, from Geoffrey Boycott to
Mike Tyson, maybe that would leave too many
job openings.
Cat Person stayed with me because it showed
how resistant people can be to ominous signs in
a male partner, even those apparent right from
the get-go. You’re being paranoid, women tell
themselves. You’re the horrible one, not him! But
in the end, what was always right in front of you
is revealed to be all there is. Some things really
aren’t complicated after all.
t is Sunday evening, and my wife and
I are coordinating diaries. Except I don’t
have my diary; it’s in my shed, and it’s
raining. I’m doing my bit from memory.
“Tomorrow, band rehearsal,” I say. “Also on
Wednesday, I think. Thursday, some Christmas
thing. Friday, Honiton, Saturday, Dorchester.”
“How are you getting there?” my wife asks.
“I’m driving,” I say.
“In that car?” she says. “The brakes are weird.”
“I won’t use them,” I say.
“Also, the MOT runs out Tuesday,” she says.
“Oh,” I say.
My wife inserts a deliberate silence here, to
allow me to reflect on how smoothly my life runs
most of the time, no thanks to me. “It’s fine,” she
says, at last. “I’ll take it to Farouk tomorrow.”
Farouk is in our old neighbourhood. He’s been
repairing our cars for perhaps 20 years.
“OK,” I say.
“You mean thank you for doing everything
always,” she says.
“Yes, that,” I say.
The next day, I have to take a taxi to rehearsal –
from my point of view, a monstrous privation.
I get home late, and rise early to get some work
done. When I cross the garden from shed to
kitchen at 10am, my wife is waiting for me. “The
car failed its MOT,” she says.
“On what, brakes?” I ask.
“Number plates,” she says, “So what you need
to do is…”
“How can it fail on number plates?” I say.
“I don’t know, they’re rotten or something,” she
says. “So what you need to do is, you need to take
your driving licence…”
“I don’t have my licence,” I say. “It hasn’t come.”
“The car is in your name,” my wife says. “It has
to be you.”
“Two weeks, they said.”
“And you have to do it today, otherwise…”
“I can’t possibly do anything today,” I say.
I scrutinise the photo on
my new driving licence:
a haggard old man
with an expression
of boundless sorrow
6 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
“You’re the one who needs the car,” she says.
“I can’t help you with this.”
I stomp back to my shed with a single mission
in mind: to establish the fundamental impossibility
of procuring two new numberplates at short
notice using the documentation currently in my
possession. In this, I fail.
“What’s happening with the number plates?”
my wife asks when I return to the kitchen.
“They’re being made now, just down the road,”
I say. “I can pick them up in an hour.”
“It’s interesting, isn’t it?” my wife says. “Doing
things for yourself.”
“Don’t pretend you like it when I exhibit general
wherewithal,” I say.
On the table is an envelope addressed to me.
Inside is my new driving licence. I scrutinise the
photo: a haggard old man wearing an expression
that speaks of boundless sorrow, but is actually
simple bewilderment caused by the instructions
in the photo booth at Acton Central station.
My wife and I are in the middle of London on
Thursday when Farouk calls to say the car is ready.
We take the tube to our former neighbourhood.
“It’s weird,” my wife says as we walk down the
old, familiar streets. “For a minute, it felt like we
were just going home.”
“I know,” I say. “I was already thinking about
taking my shoes off.”
We stop at the open garage doors of Farouk’s
establishment, where I can see our car still up on
the lift. Farouk, a lean and elegant figure in a
beret, comes out to greet us. “What an honour,”
he says. “I’ve never seen you together before.”
“Haven’t you?” my wife says.
“The car needs some welding,” he says. “One
more hour.”
“Ugh,” my wife says. “I need to go home.”
“Take my car,” Farouk says, pulling some keys
from a drawer. “Go home, come back, one hour.”
As we creep through evening traffic, I think about
the basic, reflexive civility of our longstanding
mechanic-client relationship, a thing of incalculable
value. I also think: Farouk’s car is way nicer than
mine. “Are these seats leather?” I ask.
“He has one just like this for sale,” my wife
says. “He wants five grand for it.”
“Really?” I say, trying to imagine owning a car
this nice. “I guess that’s not a bad…”
“I offered him four,” she says. “He’ll take it.”
First take
Bim Adewunmi
The glamour of Joan Didion, 83,
lies not in the many incredible
photographs of her during her
long life. Nor is it in that horrible
quasi-sheen that we associate with
surviving terrible loss. It’s not in the
lifestyle choices she made – living
in New York one year, relocating
to a home right on a California
beach another – and it’s not in the
interactions she had with Hollywood
royalty, from Warren Beatty (who
had a crush on her) to Harrison Ford
(who worked as her carpenter for
a time). It does not lie in the eradefining work she published in the
1960s and 70s, solo or co-written
with husband John Gregory Dunne.
No, the glamour of Joan Didion is
merely in her willingness to try
things. Truly, there is nothing more
luxe than that: the decision to dip
your toe, your foot, your leg and
eventually your enitre body into a
new endeavour, and just do it.
In Joan Didion: The Centre Will
Not Hold, a Netflix documentary
produced and directed by Didion’s
nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne –
the writer is endlessly watchable.
She is still a sure speaker, and her
hands dance in front of her when
she’s being emphatic. But it’s all the
stories she pursued, the diversifying
of her skill set, from magazines
to screenplays, as well as the
journey into motherhood: all those
opportunities grabbed at, with both
hands, that really seize you. It’s nice,
and useful, when people believe in
you, of course. But it helps if you’re
already packed and waiting at the
door when chances come knocking.
As we move towards a new year,
the urge to take stock grows ever
stronger; arbitrary end points will
do that. So I look to an 83-year-old
and remind myself of my 2018
mantra: just try.
‘Interesting, isn’t it?’ my wife says. ‘Doing things for yourself’
9% Anyone with more than
Small data
Last week, Stephen
Moss reported on
England’s oldest
and youngest towns,
and what they tell
us about how we live now. You said:
one property should
pay more tax
14% Young people need to
stop being so impatient
77% It is neither generation’s
fault. Failed housing
policy is to blame
Letters, emails, comments
My generation (I am 62) did not get
angry, let alone seek victimhood.
We believed we were due a decent
wage, a safe working environment
and a secure old age (The Generation
Game, 9 December). In a country as
wealthy as ours, these are modest
demands, so we organised, worked
to rule and took strike action. I regret
today’s inequality, but now, as then,
there are those who do not. Ageism
will not right this wrong.
Dr Philip Guy
There’s a lot to be said for Adam
Driver’s take on being an actor, not
to display the egocentric affectations
of too many others (A Walk On The
Dark Side, 9 December). He never
seems self-conscious or to be “acting”
– he is just in the scene. I don’t know
how much his training had to do
with his development, but I’m
certain his experience in the military
played an equal role.
David Dickson
Denison, Texas
The area in Manchester
“unselfconsciously dubbed New
Islington” by us bold,
unselfconscious northerners is
called New Islington because that is
its name: it has been so called since
at least the early 19th century.
Linda Fishwick
I’m afraid to be the bringer of bad
news to Romesh Ranganathan (It’s
Not Easy Being Green, 9 December),
Stephen Collins
10 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
but Tesco’s Free From range isn’t
suitable for veggies, far less vegans,
although I can see why he’d think
that: it’s stocked right next to the
veggie/vegan frozen food. I once
made the mistake of buying Free
From burgers without checking the
pack: the reason they tasted so tasty
and meaty was because they’re
made of meat. Free From, in this
context, is free from gluten.
Alistair Richardson
Hadley Freeman’s calumny about
Andie McDowell’s character in Four
Weddings And A Funeral cannot go
unchallenged: she had 33 lovers, not
50 (9 December). The same ballpark
as Nick Clegg, for what it’s worth.
Kevin Denny
Dún Laoghaire, Ireland
I feel so sorry for Howard Jacobson,
having to put up with prosecco
instead of Krug and Kaufman
instead of Roth (9 December),
when most of us only have to decide
which channel we’re going to watch.
Edwin Lerner
London SW2
Bim Adewunmi’s advice to returning
travellers is spot-on (9 December),
but she forgot another essential:
have a clean pair of knickers ready
in your top drawer.
Sue Lloyd
Is Mrs Dowling becoming rather
annoying (see last week’s doorbell/
manual incident, 9 December) or is
it, as I suspect, poetic licence? We
need to cut out the middle man and
have an interview with her.
Nigel Woodcock
Chorlton, Manchester
Email or
comment at by noon
on Monday for inclusion. Submissions
are subject to our terms and conditions:
David Guetta, DJ and music producer
orn in Paris, Guetta, 50,
became a club promoter
and DJ. In 2009 he
produced I Gotta Feeling
for the Black Eyed Peas, which
became one of the bestselling
singles in chart history. He went on
to collaborate with Rihanna, Nicki
Minaj and Usher, as well as Justin
Bieber on the recent hit 2U. The
winner of two Grammy awards,
Guetta has sold more than 50m
albums and singles. In the new year,
he will tour Europe. He is divorced
with two children.
When were you happiest?
When I had my first kid and when
I had my first big success with
I Gotta Feeling.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing inspiration.
What is your earliest memory?
Playing with a record when I was
four – my mum had a turntable.
Which living person do you most
admire, and why?
People worship music artists or
actors but I have a lot of admiration
for doctors, people who save lives.
What was your most embarrassing
When I was doing a live stream
to launch my album. Millions of
people were watching and the
first audio file didn’t work. I was
the biggest DJ in the world and
I couldn’t even play one record.
It was horrible.
What is your phone wallpaper?
A list of chords that work
well together.
What would your super power be?
Teleportation. I have several
homes, in Ibiza (for the summer),
Los Angeles, Dubai (for when I tour
Asia) and London. I used to live in
Paris and every week I would play
Ibiza and Vegas, but that is an insane
life. Now I base myself somewhere
for three months at a time.
What makes you unhappy?
Grumpy people – there are a lot of
them in France, unfortunately.
Who would play you in the film of
your life?
Ryan Gosling.
What is your favourite smell?
The smell of the countryside in
the south of France in the morning.
I don’t experience it a lot because
usually I am sleeping then.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Staying in bed and watching a show.
I could stay in bed for the entire day
watching Breaking Bad.
What does love feel like?
There are types: there is the worldbeing-comfortable type of love and
there’s the lust-and-passion type of
love – I think I like that one better.
What has been your biggest
Every time I put out a record, I feel
like it’s
’s the best. So when a record is
not successful
uccessful it’s very painful.
If you could go back in time,
where would
e would you go?
The hippy
ippy time – oh my God,
I would
ld love to have been there.
When did you last cry, and why?
At my divorce – with good reason.
What is the closest you’ve come
to death?
n years ago, a bacteria went to
my heart.
eart. For three days they didn’t
know if I was going to live or not.
What do you consider your greatest
g DJ culture more respect.
What keeps you awake at night?
My girlfriend
rlfriend [Cuban model
Jessica Ledon].
a Ledon].
What song would you like played at
your funeral?
I Gotta
a Feeling.
How would you like to be
As a nice
ice person,
I hope.
12 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
would play
me in the film
of my life?
Ryan Gosling
t was more than 75 years
ago, but I remember that
call. It came through
on the kitchen phone at
our home in Westwood, California,
and my mother answered. It was
Walt Disney on the other end. He
wanted me to talk about a role in
a new feature he was working on;
a cartoon about a group of animals
in a forest. My mother thought it
sounded terrific.
My agent hated it. I was only five
years old, but I’d been in six movies
and he said he had a bigger part
lined up for me in a western. He
came over and started shouting. He
said the Disney movie would ruin
my career and started speaking
down to my mother. That made me
so mad I fired him. The following
week, Variety ran a story: Five-YearOld Actor Fires His Manager.
Soon afterwards, my mother and
I were driven to the Disney studio in
Burbank. Disney was there to meet
us, all smiles. He was this wonderful,
gracious man. That was my first and
lasting impression of him.
In his office, he had several stills
of me from my previous films. We
talked for a while, then he turned
to my mother and said: “He’ll be
wonderful for this part.”
They had to capture my facial
expressions for the animation, so
I spent hours sitting on a stool with
a semi-circle of artists around me.
I remember thinking, they must
have a million coloured pencils
between them. They’d give me these
instructions such as, “Look left, look
right, hold it!”
There’s a scene where the girl
deer, Faline, kisses Bambi on the
cheek. To get me to pose for that,
one of the men said, “Donnie,
gimme your worst face, like
something awful has happened
to you. Have you had a spanking
recently, or some bad medicine?”
I said, “Sir, my mother gave me
some castor oil. It was disgusting.”
And the man said, “Imagine you
just had a double dose of that castor
oil.” I creased up my face and they
shouted, “Hold it!”
The voice work took about three
months. I was on my own in a little
sound booth, reading lines, with the
artwork in front of me, so I could
see what the deer was doing. People
find it strange but I didn’t work with
Peter Behn, the boy who played
Thumper. We didn’t even meet each
other until a couple of years ago,
when we were both in our 80s and
guests on the same TV show. That
was a great experience.
The premiere in 1942 was packed,
with people standing in the aisles.
I remember the reaction when
Bambi’s mother was shot. There
were gasps and parents covered
their children’s eyes.
People still talk to me about the
movie, and inevitably everyone
mentions that scene. The original
artwork had Bambi’s mother shot on
camera, with a bullet hole and lots
of blood. But because of the second
world war, Disney said that was too
sensitive. He had them tone it down
and instead you hear a bang and she
falls off screen.
By the time the second world war
was over, I was done with movies.
I kept quiet about my acting career
through school, and then I joined
the marines when I was 18. I worked
my way up to major and I kind of
forgot about that little deer.
But there was one incident in
Vietnam that brought it all back.
There’s a scene in the movie where
Bambi is shot and you see his father
appear. He says, “Bambi, get up,
get up, you have to get up.” During
a mission in Vietnam, a grenade
went off, concussing me, and I took
a bullet to the leg. I was down and
dizzy, and then this young sergeant
was standing over me, lifting my
head. He said, “Sir, get up, you
have to get up.” And there on the
battlefield I was Bambi again.
A lot of people don’t know it
was shot on reel-to-reel film and
almost 6,000ft long. By late 1941,
Disney was in enormous debt and
America was entering the war.
He needed to get Bambi out, so
he cut it by over 2,000ft. It’s a
shame, because the film should
be 38 minutes longer, and some
beautiful scenes are missing. But
I hear they recently unearthed that
footage and are restoring it. That’s
something I would love to see.
Donnie Dunagan
Do you have an experience to share?
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 15
I was Bambi
From vengeful mistress to Agatha Christie matriarch: Glenn Close talks to
Lotte Jeffs about Harvey Weinstein, mental illness, growing up in a cult and why
she fought against the final scene of Fatal Attraction. Portrait by Platon
‘You lose power if you get angry’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 17
lenn Close and I sit at the corner of a large
boardroom table in an intimidatingly minimalist
office on the 14th floor of a Los Angeles
talent agency. It’s the kind of environment
in which Patty Hewes, the ruthless lawyer Close played
in Damages for five seasons, would feel at home and I’m
almost waiting for her to stand up, slam both hands on the
table and shout, “I’ll rip your face off ” or any of the other
terrifying put-downs that defined her double Emmy awardwinning performance.
But Close is in high spirits and radiates such warmth
I barely notice the chill from the tower block’s air-con.
After we fiddle with the settings on our swivel chairs, which
are so high they make anyone under six foot kick their
legs like a child on a swing, the 70-year-old, six-time Oscar
nominee and star of stage, television and film starts telling
me about her dreams. “I have had a lot recently, full of this
wonderful love for a younger man. The dreams just keep
coming and I wake up thinking, that was wonderful! It wasn’t
necessarily us doing the sexual act, just the feeling of love.”
With her white hair cut to a sharp crop, and wearing
a relaxed navy blazer, chinos and black scarf on account
of the arctic corporate temperature, she looks stylish and fit.
“I have never felt better in my life, and I am, like, 70,” she says.
“I’m really a late bloomer.”
She says she feels a disconnect between how she sees herself
and how “people may view me when I walk
lk down the street,
like: ‘There’s an old lady.’ You know, there is now this cult
of the model. Everyone on the red carpet is made into
a model. That is very hard to not play into…
… I have
a bit of podge I am trying to get rid of, but it’s hard.
I just think, ‘Oh fuck, I’ve been doing this my
whole life!’ But the irony is, you just get better and better with
age. You don’t feel less alive or less sexy.”
We are here to talk about Crooked House, the Agatha
Christie adaptation debuting on Channel 5 tomorrow,
before its theatrical release, in which Close plays Lady
Edith, a matriarch of a very dysfunctional family. Close
says, “Christie’s grandson came to the set and he validated
the fact that it was her favourite book, and the one that
had never been adapted. He said when she handed it to the
publisher, she was told she had to change the ending, because
it was too upsetting and controversial. She refused. It’s still
pretty controversial.”
This production, co-written by Julian Fellowes, might
not be as spendy as Kenneth Branagh’s $55m Murder
On The Orient Express, but the ensemble cast is equally
starry: joining Close are Gillian Anderson, Max Irons,
Terence Stamp and Christina Hendricks. Close presides
over her co-stars with gravitas and grace, in an understated
performance that finds the humour in an otherwise
bleak setup. But you’d expect nothing less from the actor
whose 40 years in the business started with star turns
in Broadway productions (she won a Best Actress Tony
in 1983 for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing). Her first
film role, at the age of 35, was with Robin Williams in
The World According To Garp, for which she received an
Oscar nomination – as she did for her supporting roles in
The Big Chill and
an The Natural. Her performances in Fatal
Liaisons and Albert Nobbs, about the
Attraction, Dangerous
a transgender butler in late 19th century Ireland, which
life of a transge
she also co-wrote
also co-wro , racked up further Oscar nominations – but
This is seen by many as a travesty: Close brings
still no win. Th
a precision to h
her film work, honed through her years on →
From left to right:
Damages; in Sunset
in Damages
Boulevard in London’s
West End
En last year; in
‘I have a lot
of dreams,
full of this
love for a
younger man’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 19
stage. She has that rare taught quality – Jack Nicholson also
has it – where you believe that beneath the steely control she
is capable of snapping at any moment.
It was this that led Andrew Lloyd Webber to cast her in
1993 as the tragic silent movie star Norma Desmond in Sunset
Boulevard on Broadway. Close reprised the role 23 years later,
getting her old costumes out of storage (she has kept all her
costumes and recently donated the collection to a university
in Indiana) for its revival in London’s West End.
But it was her Oscar-nominated turn as Alex Forrest in Fatal
Attraction in 1987 that proved career-defining. Thirty years on,
Close still counts Forrest as the character of whom she feels
most fond; she has admitted to fighting tooth and nail against
the film’s eventual denouement, which turned the character
into a bunny-boiling psychopath – and Close into the casting
directors’ go-to “woman on the verge” for years afterwards.
“Now we have the vocabulary to talk about these things,
clearly she had mental health issues,” she says.
Close sits regally still as she speaks, emphasising her points
by leaning forward and locking eyes. She’s comfortable
with silences and often takes a theatrical beat or two before
answering questions. She’s all poise and control, but does she
ever lose her temper?
“I express my feelings quietly. I am not afraid of
confrontation, but I am not particularly good at it. If I get
attacked, I am not good at attacking back. There is fight, flight
and freeze – and I tend to freeze. That is not a strength of
mine. I love the fact that my daughter Annie [Starke, an actor]
is more of a fighter than I am. She doesn’t let people get away
with shit.” While she agrees that women have a harder time
being angry, publicly, than men, she says, “I have played a lot
of characters, and actually anger makes you lose power. Patty
Hewes [in Damages] – she hardly ever lost her temper, but
when she did, it was very specific. I have always felt you lose
power if you get that angry.”
The collective outpouring of anger among women in
Hollywood right now is something of which Close is acutely
aware. She says that sexism in the industry has shifted more
slowly than it should have done throughout her career: “It
took Harvey Weinstein and someone calling him out [for real
change to happen]. I know Harvey, and he has never done that
to me, but people would say he was a pig. I never knew that
it was that bad – and I don’t personally know anybody who
has endured that. I would like to think that I would have done
something about it.”
We discuss whether it’s possible to separate the work from
the personalities involved in it. News has just broken that
House Of Cards will be back for another series without Kevin
Spacey, after it was originally canned because of harassment
claims brought against its leading man. Close wraps her scarf
around her chest and fixes me with her electric eyes. “Artists,
to make a huge generality, walk on a very thin line. Sometimes,
like my beloved friend Robin Williams, who was one step away
from madness, whatever makes them a great artist also makes
them very complicated human beings. Again, that doesn’t
mean they can prey on and abuse people.” →
In Fatal Attraction
‘If I get
I am not good
at attacking
back. There
is fight, flight
and freeze –
and I freeze’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 21
My marriage
w kind
o arranged
back on
it. It broke up
when I went
t college’
From left: in The Big
Chill with Kevin
evin Kline;
in 102 Dalmatians;
in Albert Nobbs
bbs with
Mia Wasikowska
At the root of the problem of sexism in Hollywood right
now is, Close says, “biology”. “I think the way men have
treated women, from the beginning of time, is because
they have different brains to women. So I am not surprised
by it at all. I say to a guy, ‘Tell me the truth, if you see
a woman walk into a room, what is the first thought that
goes through your head?’ His answer, always, is, ‘Would
I fuck her?’ It doesn’t mean they act on it. If you can
evolve into a society where men know that they should not
always act on it – then there has been a positive revolution.
But you can’t just say that they’re not going to have the
thought – that is ridiculous. It also has to be the women,
who are not powerful, to be OK to say no and leave the room.
I think it’s unrealistic to say we’re going to change – but we
have to evolve.”
I ask Close who she thinks is a great man today. She is
silent, thinking, for what feels like a full 60 seconds in
which I am so tempted to throw out some options: Barack
Obama, the Pope, the friendly security guard on reception
who let us in…
“Nelson Mandela,” is her final answer, but I’m not sure
she’s convinced. “I guess for me,” she says, “greatness is taking
your humanity and still doing the good thing. It’s sad to say
that there are very few men, who are leaders, who have some
sort of moral code that they don’t deviate from because of
popular opinion.”
She thinks we are undergoing a crisis of masculinity:
“In the public mind, yes. I was outraged when I heard that
there was a war against men – I was like, are you joking?
What do you think has been happening against women
for centuries?”
Close knows all too well about the misuse of power, because
her own upbringing was, as she puts it, “complicated”.
When she was seven, her parents joined a cult. Moral
Re-Armament or MRA was a modern, nondenominational
movement founded by an American evangelical
fundamentalist which extolled “the four absolutes: honesty,
purity, unselfishness and love”. Her father, a physician
working in the Congo, sent Close with her brother and two
sisters from the family home in Greenwich, Connecticut, to
live at the MRA HQ in Caux, Switzerland (Close’s mother,
Bettine, was a socialite).
She is vague on the details but clear on the impact this
experience had on her as a teenager: “I was repressed,
clueless and guilt-ridden.” The timeline is patchy, but
Close travelled with MRA in the 60s as a member of their
musical groups, and spent time back in Connecticut at an
elite boarding school. “I had a wonderful time at Rosemary
Hall, a girls’ school,” she says. “I was in a renegade singing
group called the Fingernails: A Group With Polish.” But she
remained, as she calls it “clueless”. “A lot of my friends knew
boys – you’d have these horrendous dances with boys’ schools
– and they would get the guys they wanted and I would just
stay with the person I was with.”
She was briefly married before going to university.
“It is a complicated story for me. I was married before
college, and kind of in an arranged marriage when you
look back on it, and my marriage broke up when I went
to college, as it should have. I was 22. But my liberal arts
school had a wonderful theatre – that was my training,
my acting school.”
Was that where she finally learned about sex,
popular culture, the ways of the world? “Not really,”
she says. “I still am learning.” →
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 23
‘I know
Harvey, but
I never knew
it was that
bad – I like
to think I’d
have done
From top: with Harvey
Weinstein in 2013; sister
Jessie in 2009; in New
York, 2014; with daughter
Annie Starke in 2010
Close has two sisters, Tina the eldest, and Jessie her
younger sister; and two brothers, Alexander, and Tambu
Misoki, who was adopted by Close’s parents while living
in Africa. At the age of 50, Jessie spent time in a psychiatric
hospital and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a weight
that had been hanging over the family, undiscussed, for
years. “Talking about mental illness just wasn’t done,”
Close says. “You don’t have a vocabulary for it and you’re
also very aware of appearances. You don’t want to appear
a crazy family.”
In 2010 Close founded Bring Change to Mind, a charity
that aims to end the stigma around mental illness by talking
openly about it and its effect on families. “It was my nephew
who was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This
is basically schizophrenia with an ingredient of bipolar. And
when that happened, it was like, ‘What?’ My sister Jessie, his
mother, didn’t know what was wrong. He went to the hospital
for two years and that saved his life. Then Jessie was, finally,
correctly diagnosed herself.”
Close felt a duty to her family to “give them a high-profile
person who is not afraid to talk about it publicly. It affects the
whole family. We always knew my grandmother and mother
had depression – my sister does, I do to a certain extent. But
I didn’t know my great-uncle had schizophrenia. I knew my
half-uncle died by suicide. There was a lot of alcoholism
– addiction, self-medication. Nobody ever talked about it.
I knew my grandmother was depressed, but at first I thought
she lived in a hotel, not a hospital, because she always said
how good the food was.”
Close says she and her siblings are of “one mind”
politically, but admits she does have members of her
family who voted for Trump. “I tried to understand that.
They’re not crazy people who have been brainwashed by
Fox News, but I try to understand the anger, because I
think that has been building up ever since Watergate.” It
was watching that scandal unfold that made her realise
“Americans have always been naive, we just take
for granted what we have, and we always thought of our
leaders as good people. With Watergate, people became
cynical about government.”
Today, she says, Washington is “a bunch of self-serving…”
She searches for an expletive and after a second settles
on “men”. She says, “It’s hard to believe that people are
so out for themselves. It goes against what you would like
to believe about your country. I feel eloquence is incredibly
important for a leader, and we had that with Barack
Obama, who made his initial impact because he gave that
incredibly eloquent speech, but he lost his eloquence in
his presidency. We always need someone to say, ‘I hear you’,
someone who can put their words into unity and hope –
and we don’t have that. I think the last person may have been
Robert Kennedy.”
And now you have Trump tweeting nonsense.
“It’s devastating. Social networks are now like our nervous
system, and if you keep pumping that kind of crap into the
nervous system, it is going to have an effect on a population.” →
Close has two sisters, Tina the eldest, and Jessie her
younger sister; and two brothers, Alexander, and Tambu
Misoki, who was adopted by Close’s parents while living
in Africa. At the age of 50, Jessie spent time in a psychiatric
hospital and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a weight
that had been hanging over the family, undiscussed, for
years. “Talking about mental illness just wasn’t done,”
Close says. “You don’t have a vocabulary for it and you’re
also very aware of appearances. You don’t want to appear
a crazy family.”
In 2010 Close founded Bring Change to Mind, a charity
that aims to end the stigma around mental illness by talking
openly about it and its effect on families. “It was my nephew
who was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This
is basically schizophrenia with an ingredient of bipolar. And
when that happened, it was like, ‘What?’ My sister Jessie, his
mother, didn’t know what was wrong. He went to the hospital
for two years and that saved his life. Then Jessie was, finally,
correctly diagnosed herself.”
Close felt a duty to her family to “give them a high-profile
person who is not afraid to talk about it publicly. It affects the
whole family. We always knew my grandmother and mother
had depression – my sister does, I do to a certain extent. But
I didn’t know my great-uncle had schizophrenia. I knew my
half-uncle died by suicide. There was a lot of alcoholism
– addiction, self-medication. Nobody ever talked about it.
I knew my grandmother was depressed, but at first I thought
she lived in a hotel, not a hospital, because she always said
how good the food was.”
Close says she and her siblings are of “one mind”
politically, but admits she does have members of her
family who voted for Trump. “I tried to understand that.
They’re not crazy people who have been brainwashed by
Fox News, but I try to understand the anger, because I
think that has been building up ever since Watergate.” It
was watching that scandal unfold that made her realise
“Americans have always been naive, we just take
for granted what we have, and we always thought of our
leaders as good people. With Watergate, people became
cynical about government.”
Today, she says, Washington is “a bunch of self-serving…”
She searches for an expletive and after a second settles
on “men”. She says, “It’s hard to believe that people are
so out for themselves. It goes against what you would like
to believe about your country. I feel eloquence is incredibly
important for a leader, and we had that with Barack
Obama, who made his initial impact because he gave that
incredibly eloquent speech, but he lost his eloquence in
his presidency. We always need someone to say, ‘I hear you’,
someone who can put their words into unity and hope –
and we don’t have that. I think the last person may have been
Robert Kennedy.”
And now you have Trump tweeting nonsense.
“It’s devastating. Social networks are now like our nervous
system, and if you keep pumping that kind of crap into the
nervous system, it is going to have an effect on a population.” →
‘I know
Harvey, but
I never knew
it was that
bad – I like
to think I’d
have done
From top: with Harvey
Weinstein in 2013; sister
Jessie in 2009; in New
York, 2014; with daughter
Annie Starke in 2010
Close doesn’t talk politics with her friends because she
doesn’t really have many friends. “I have always forced
myself into situations I am not comfortable in. I am an
introvert, and I was painfully shy as a child. I think I still have
a big dollop of that in my persona. I read a book called Quiet:
The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking
and it was a real comfort to me – I realised I was that person
I had always been. And it was at that point I told myself to
stop pushing myself into situations that I don’t enjoy. I dread
cocktail parties.”
She tells me she’s “pretty reclusive” and can “count her
closest friends on two fingers”. I ask if she’s still good friends
with Meryl Streep.
“I have never been close friends with Meryl. We have huge
respect for each other, but I have only done one thing with her,
The House Of The Spirits.”
I apologise for assuming they were pals, being of a similar
age and stature in Hollywood, and admit this negates my next
question: “Who would win in an arm wrestle, you or Meryl?”
Close laughs. “Oh, I would, because I am very strong.”
The tightest bond Close has is with her only daughter Annie,
29. Annie’s father is the film producer John Starke whom
Close dated for four years from 1987, but never married.
Annie was never a door-slamming, difficult teenager.
Close tells me: “When my Annie was three, she looked at
me, and said, ‘I want you.’ I knew what she meant. I, at the
time, was a single working parent, sometimes even when
I was home, working or producing something, I was there and
not there.”
She doesn’t think it’s any easier for working mothers
today and acknowledges, “I had it easy because I could
afford to have help – think of the women who can’t afford it
and have to put their child in some shaky childcare centre.
No, I think it is incredibly hard for women. Any person,
in any profession, feels that tug [of guilt].” We discuss the
intimacy of the single-parent, only-child bond. “Once,
I went to vacuum Annie’s car seat as we were moving house,
and a lot of life had happened there, so I was crying. She said,
‘Mummy, are you OK?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ And she said,
‘Here I am.’”
She was married to businessman James Marlas from 1984 to
1987 and then, following other relationships, including that
with Starke, she married again, in 2006, to venture capitalist
David Evans Shaw, divorcing him nine years later.
Would she marry again?
“I don’t know.”
Does she think marriage is important?
“I think it is a positive evolutionary component
that we are better with a partner. I think to have
a partner that you can go through life with, creating
a history with, that you can find a comfort with, have
children with – there is nothing better. This is an
opinion I have come to very late in life, at an ironic
moment, where I don’t have any of that. I don’t know
if I will again. But I do think it’s a basic human need to
be connected.”
Despite this, she’s happy on her own right now. “This
is a good time in life. I do think, what would it be like to
have a partner again? But it would have to be very different
from what I had before. Then I have that great dream and
wake up happy.” •
Crooked House is on Channel 5 at 9pm tomorrow.
In Dangerous Liaisons
with John Malkovich
26 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘Who would
win in an
arm wrestle,
me or Meryl?
Oh, I would,
I am very
Do couples that dress
together stay together?
Ellie Violet Bramley
meets five stylish pairs
Photographs by Harriet Turney
‘We’re not matchymatchy – if I’m wearing
a sweater with a cat and
he’s wearing one
with a dog, it’s a bit much’
‘If I wear a vintage sari, he will try to complement
it with a vintage suit in similar colours’
Jimi Phgura, 38, performing artist, and Simran
Dhiman-Phgura, 38, freelance stylist, Hertfordshire
(pictured opposite)
Jimi I’ve always worn classic clothes – I love the
fabrics and weight that old clothes have. Growing
up, I was introduced to them by my older brother,
whom I perform with as the Twilight Players –
we dance to music from ska to Prince to Stevie
Wonder, and we always wear original clothes: the
two-tone brogues, the baggies. I’ve had my quiff
since I was 13; Jimi the Quiff is what they call me.
When I was growing up, I used to get a lot →
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 31
Stockholm | Est. 1976
Close to Nature
of hassle for being into vintage stuff. As I’ve got
older I’ve thought, no, it’s good to be different.
And being with Simran has given me more
confidence to dress that way. It makes it more
exciting to have both of us wearing it, as opposed
to her wearing tracksuit bottoms or something.
I’ve been aware of us dressing similarly since we
got together in 2005. When we went out, people
would say, “Oh, you guys look amazing.” But it
wasn’t until last year, when we decided to start
selling a lot of our stuff to fund a trip to Thailand
and did Portobello market, only then did I think,
oh, people really dig our style. People would see
us together and take photos.
I don’t really see it as couples dressing; it’s not
as if we sit together and think about what we’re
going to wear. Nine times out of 10, we just end up
wearing something that matches or complements
each other. And now that we’ve got a baby on the
way, we’ve started noticing baby vintage stuff;
I didn’t know that existed before.
Simran I’m a secondhand queen, I like to shop on
eBay and all the apps, from Depop to Vinted. The
50s and 60s are my favourite eras, but at the
moment, because I’m pregnant, I’m doing flowy
70s style to accommodate my growing bump.
We influence each other. Jimi has a great eye
and I’ve got a great eye, so we do ask each other
for advice. If I’m going to a wedding or something,
I’ll plan my outfit. We’re of Indian descent and if
I’m wearing a vintage sari, he’ll try to complement
it with a vintage suit in similar colours. But we
never intentionally match. It’s cute sometimes.
It just depends on the mood I’m in – sometimes
you don’t want to look like your husband.
The baby won’t necessarily look matching; but
if I’m dressed in a classic outfit, I might dress the
baby in one, too.
‘It looks like we’re from the same cult or boy band’
Malcolm Mackenzie (in blue top), 43, editor of We
Love Pop magazine, and Matthew Wilkinson, 35,
architect, London (pictured previous page, right)
Malcolm (in blue sweater) Matt and I have been
going out for 13 years, but we probably only started
to dress more similarly when we moved in
together eight years ago. I was more subtle before.
We’ve grown to like the same things. I like
80s-inspired stuff, from Duran Duran to Miami
Vice, Buffalo. Harrison Ford as Deckard in
Blade Runner is a key look, as is Kurt Russell in
Overboard and Richard Gere in anything. I like
clothes that evoke memories, of a holiday, for
instance. We’ve got racks of amazing shirts that
conjure up the Mediterranean or the Riviera, but
through the prism of the 80s. It’s a fun wardrobe.
We’re not matchy-matchy – if I’m wearing
a sweater with a cat on, and he’s wearing a sweater
with a dog, then it’s a bit much. I don’t want us to
go out looking like overgrown twins or a Little
Britain sketch. Sometimes I say, “We can’t both go
out wearing a denim shirt”, like Britney and Justin.
And I don’t want people to think, because I’m a
few years older than Matt, that it’s a Henry
‘I don’t think there’s
really anything
I would wear
that she wouldn’t,
or vice versa.
It’s all quite
Higgins/Eliza Doolittle thing, or Liberace and his
chauffeur. I think it looks like we’re from the same
cult or boy band: we’re not dressed identically but
we do make sure that we look OK together.
We can share clothes only from the waist up –
I have legs like spaghetti, he comes from a family
of rugby players. We don’t share underwear for
the same reason.
Matthew In the 80s, Peter York wrote a book
about different tribes: one of them was Babytime,
or people who like childish things. We might
like a sweatshirt with Bambi on it, or primary
colours. To say that we both like cute things is
a bit simplistic, but we are quite silly. We’re both
happy to be slightly ridiculous.
Colour-blocking is the core thing that describes
how I dress. In terms of what I wear, it’s actually →
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 33
pretty classic. I’m not stirring up fashion madness
with culottes or anything like that – it’s more
about the colours and the textures.
Malcolm is probably a bit wilder than I am,
more daring. He has quite a lot of zeitgeisty
culture statement T-shirts. He’s got a Golden Girls
one that I would never wear – not that he would
ever let me. When I was a kid, I would always get
my mum to buy me things – orange trousers or
stupid rainbow jumpers – and then I would be too
scared to wear them. Malcolm has given me the
confidence to wear what I want.
‘I wouldn’t go back and change if we were
too matching’
Ben Langlands, 62, and Nikki Bell, 58, both Turnernominated artists, London and Kent (pictured
previous page)
Ben We have been collaborating for 40 years, so
I do talk about what we wear as a “we”. We’re
artists, so we’re free to choose whatever we
want to wear; we don’t have to meet other
people’s expectations.
Work is our main priority, so we dress to be
practical and comfortable. We generally wear jeans
and white shirts, occasionally suits, or a jacket
with jeans. We’ll wear a single-coloured shirt, like
pink or blue, with jeans. Neither of us ever wears
dresses – it’s always shirts and trousers.
I remember once, when I first got to know
Nikki, we visited the parents of a childhood friend
of hers and they showed us a Super 8 film of their
daughter’s 12th birthday party. There were about
30 little girls in frocks and one little girl in pink
flared trousers. That was Nikki.
We never attempt to match, it just happens
naturally. But we’re not terribly self-conscious
about it. I don’t think there’s really anything
I would wear that she wouldn’t, or vice versa.
It’s all quite androgynous.
Nikki My clothes are very simple to wear, wash,
pack, maintain. I’ve always been a trousers person.
We met at art school in 1977 and started
collaborating in 1978. When we first got together,
I don’t think I was conscious of the similarities in
the way we dressed. We came together through
our work – a piece called The Kitchen, in two
halves. I made the old kitchen and Ben the new;
they were mirror images of each other.
I wouldn’t try not to match – it’s an individual
decision and I wouldn’t go back and change if we
were too matching. If that’s what we both wanted
to wear, then that’s what we’re wearing.
Langlands & Bell’s Internet Giants: Masters of the
Universe opens at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham
in March 2018.
‘She’s a bit too small for us to share, but I have
worn women’s clothes in the past’
Brittany Bathgate, 27, blogger, and Dean Khalil, 32,
builder/artist, Norwich (pictured above, right)
Brittany We were really different when we
first met. Dean was into DIY clothes – he’d dye
his own T-shirts, cut them up, write on them.
‘Dean’s a bit more
rough around
the edges. His
skateboard style
is too dirty for me.
I iron everything’
I was massively into Alexa Chung, so my style
used to be quite indie It girl – lots of blazers,
brogues, peacoats with miniskirts. It was a little
bit 60s – sometimes I would wear my hair in
a tiny beehive.
In 2013, we went travelling and spent a year in
Australia. Before we went away, we didn’t dress
similarly, but something switched: after a few
months of living near the beach, you give up
on wearing anything nice and just live in shorts
and a vest out of necessity. So by the time we
came home, we had a blank slate, clothes-wise,
and got to start building our wardrobes back
from scratch.
We’re quite aware of our couples dressing – we
do often have to ask what the other is wearing so
we’re not too similar. Sometimes if we’re going →
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 35
were both at art school and I was a bit more
flamboyant. In the early days of our relationship,
I used to wear these black jeggings with bleach on
them. I had some big builder’s boots. Our tastes
have changed, but in the same direction – we’ve
grown together. Sometimes we will literally have
the same outfit on.
Brittany’s a bit too small for us to share clothes,
but I have worn women’s clothes in the past.
I used to wear girls’ jeans – when I was younger
I couldn’t get jeans tight enough.
But I also have a lot of clothes that Brittany
wouldn’t wear. I have Converse that are about
eight years old; once white and now brown. I love
them, but Brittany won’t wear shoes once they’ve
got a mark on them. Every day when the shoes
come off, they are stuffed and go back in the box
on the shelf. Everything gets ironed.
out, I’ll have got dressed and Dean will be like,
“Oh, I was going to wear my blue jacket.”
My style is quite clean and classic. I find it fun
to play around with pairings of classic pieces with,
say, some crazy, wide-legged trousers. Dean’s a
bit more rough around the edges. His skateboard
style is too dirty for me. I iron everything and am
quite particular.
We both have a lot of stripy tops, navy jackets,
the same Levi’s. I’ve always been inspired by
men’s clothes, but look for a women’s version –
because I’m so small I can’t really wear them.
Dean I like a lot of classic British style – labels
like Fred Perry and that sort of 60s look that’s
fitted but not fitted. This Is England is a good
style reference.
Nine years ago, when we first met, we
36 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘I almost don’t
like the idea of
dressing the same
as my partner.
But it’s inevitable
– you take
influences from
each other’
‘We drifted together, but not consciously – I can’t
remember ever thinking, I’d like to dress like Sara’
Joel Bird, 42, carpenter/author of The Book
Of Shed, and Sara Chew, 37, graphic designer/
illustrator, London (pictured right)
Joel I class my style as 30s/40s. My family thinks
that I dress a bit like Indiana Jones. I didn’t set
out to dress like this, but I wanted functional
clothes for carpentry, and the high-waisted
trousers with braces are comfortable. Plus I am
interested in that era – I like jazz, and dance
swing and balboa.
Even at school I dressed quite unusually –
I’ve always been interested in craft. As a lad
in Liverpool, I always had a sewing machine,
and now I do make some of my clothes. I buy
dungarees from eBay or secondhand sites like
Rokit and cut the tops off to make them into
high-waisted jeans. I often buy old army braces
because they’re stronger than fashion braces.
Sara and I have been together for 11 years
and living together for nine. I think until
about five years ago, Sara dressed more vintage
than I did, then we kind of drifted together,
but not consciously. I almost don’t like the idea
of dressing the same as my partner – it’s my
paranoia at the lack of independence. But it’s
inevitable – you take influences from each other.
We do sometimes share clothes. Sara steals
my stuff, and if I’m desperate I can wear her
trousers; but it’d have to be a bad wash day.
Sara I think Joel and I have come to dress the same
because we both like things that are practical and
well made.
I’m different from Joel in that I’m totally happy
for us to dress the same; I’m a graphic designer
and illustrator, and I like things to look right. If
we go out and we look similar, to me that’s good,
because we’re not clashing. I wouldn’t make us go
out in matching shellsuits, though.
I’ve been wearing vintage stuff my whole life.
For me it’s about the way they fit – because of the
type of body I’ve got, I don’t suit a lot of modern
clothes. It’s about the cut, the fabric – and the fact
that they last better •
out, I’ll have got dressed and Dean will be like,
“Oh, I was going to wear my blue jacket.”
My style is quite clean and classic. I find it fun
to play around with pairings of classic pieces with,
say, some crazy, wide-legged trousers. Dean’s a
bit more rough around the edges. His skateboard
style is too dirty for me. I iron everything and am
quite particular.
We both have a lot of stripy tops, navy jackets,
the same Levi’s. I’ve always been inspired by
men’s clothes, but look for a women’s version –
because I’m so small I can’t really wear them.
Dean I like a lot of classic British style – labels
like Fred Perry and that sort of 60s look that’s
fitted but not fitted. This Is England is a good
style reference.
Nine years ago, when we first met, we
were both at art school and I was a bit more
flamboyant. In the early days of our relationship,
I used to wear these black jeggings with bleach on
them. I had some big builder’s boots. Our tastes
have changed, but in the same direction – we’ve
grown together. Sometimes we will literally have
the same outfit on.
Brittany’s a bit too small for us to share clothes,
but I have worn women’s clothes in the past.
I used to wear girls’ jeans – when I was younger
I couldn’t get jeans tight enough.
But I also have a lot of clothes that Brittany
wouldn’t wear. I have Converse that are about
eight years old; once white and now brown. I love
them, but Brittany won’t wear shoes once they’ve
got a mark on them. Every day when the shoes
come off, they are stuffed and go back in the box
on the shelf. Everything gets ironed.
‘We drifted together, but not consciously – I can’t
remember ever thinking, I’d like to dress like Sara’
Joel Bird, 42, carpenter/author of The Book
Of Shed, and Sara Chew, 37, graphic designer/
illustrator, London (pictured right)
Joel I class my style as 30s/40s. My family thinks
that I dress a bit like Indiana Jones. I didn’t set
out to dress like this, but I wanted functional
clothes for carpentry, and the high-waisted
trousers with braces are comfortable. Plus I am
interested in that era – I like jazz, and dance
swing and balboa.
Even at school I dressed quite unusually –
I’ve always been interested in craft. As a lad
in Liverpool, I always had a sewing machine,
and now I do make some of my clothes. I buy
dungarees from eBay or secondhand sites like
Rokit and cut the tops off to make them into
high-waisted jeans. I often buy old army braces
because they’re stronger than fashion braces.
Sara and I have been together for 11 years
and living together for nine. I think until
about five years ago, Sara dressed more vintage
than I did, then we kind of drifted together,
but not consciously. I almost don’t like the idea
of dressing the same as my partner – it’s my
paranoia at the lack of independence. But it’s
inevitable – you take influences from each other.
‘I almost don’t
like the idea of
dressing the same
as my partner.
But it’s inevitable
– you take
influences from
each other’
We do sometimes share clothes. Sara steals
my stuff, and if I’m desperate I can wear her
trousers; but it’d have to be a bad wash day.
Sara I think Joel and I have come to dress the same
because we both like things that are practical and
well made.
I’m different from Joel in that I’m totally happy
for us to dress the same; I’m a graphic designer
and illustrator, and I like things to look right. If
we go out and we look similar, to me that’s good,
because we’re not clashing. I wouldn’t make us go
out in matching shellsuits, though.
I’ve been wearing vintage stuff my whole life.
For me it’s about the way they fit – because of the
type of body I’ve got, I don’t suit a lot of modern
clothes. It’s about the cut, the fabric – and the fact
that they last better •
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 37
From the Women’s March
to Brexit, there came
a point in 2017 when
many people took to the
streets for the first time.
Rosie Ifould reports
Illustrations by Daniel Stolle
38 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
I found
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 39
here is a saying known as the Chinese
curse: “May you live in interesting
times.” Its origins are hazy, and not
rooted in ancient Chinese wisdom,
but it gets repeated in times of turbulence. Robert
Kennedy famously used it in a speech to students
in Cape Town in 1966, when he called on them to
find “common qualities of conscience and
indignation” to “wipe away the unnecessary
sufferings of our fellow human beings at home
and around the world”.
And here we are again, in interesting times,
rediscovering our consciences and indignation.
From the sea of pussyhats that descended on
Whitehall for the Women’s March in January to
the public figures felled by #metoo, this has been
a year of protest. Grassroots movements took on
the establishment in a surprise general election,
driving an even more surprising result. Across the
country, more and more of us decided that this
was the year we would take a stand.
For Eddie Thornton, 34, things changed just
before Christmas 2016. Originally from North
Yorkshire, he had been living in a French
monastery, doing some filming work, when he
heard that the local community had lost their
high court appeal to prevent fracking on the
edge of Kirby Misperton. “I asked permission
from the monks to leave, came back home and
became part of a group who took possession of
a disused field on a strategic site. We hoped it
would become a symbol of resistance for the
local community.”
That site evolved into the Kirby Misperton
protection camp, located about two miles from
fracking company Third Energy’s well, next to the
main access road for lorries. Thornton and his
fellow activists had their Christmas dinner on site
last year, donated by locals and eaten by
candlelight, and he has spent the whole of 2017
living on site. “I’ve got a nice bell tent now with
a woodstove in it, so don’t feel too sorry for me.”
The decision to drop everything and be part of
the protest was “an absolute no-brainer,” he says.
“I’m lucky not to have a mortgage or a family at
this point. And I’ve got family nearby, so I have an
escape when I need it.” His parents live about two
miles away. “We call ourselves a family of
Right: protesters at
the Women’s March in
London, 21 January 2017.
Below: Jeanne Bain at
the march
accidental activists. My dad has been
campaigning in different ways, equally hard. My
mum is a retired nurse and she helps a lot with
the organisation of the camp. Their house has
turned into a welfare place for activists when
they need support.”
The camp began with a handful of residents,
and grew slowly at first. The activists’ focus was
on local outreach – speaking at town hall events,
holding public meetings and training sessions to
help the community understand their rights. In
September that focus changed to direct action,
setting up a community blockade of the gates.
The protest has attracted a lot of attention, not
least because of the demographic of the
campaigners: a significant number are retired,
middle-class, Conservative voters – “geriactivists”,
as one article put it.
“I think for a lot of them this issue has been
a revelation,” Thornton says. “They feel let down
by the people they have supported all their lives,
and there’s a lot of anger.”
A media narrative has formed around the divide
between old and young in the UK, the selfish baby
boomers trying to preserve the status quo and the
idealistic, disruptive millennials seeking change.
In Kirby Misperton, this isn’t entirely accurate.
Is the new mood of protest cross-generational?
“We have these myths, or ways of defining
what an activist looks like,” says Dr SevastiMelissa Nolas, senior lecturer in Social Work and
Social Care at the University of Sussex. “There’s
that quote, often misattributed to Winston
Churchill, about liberalism being for the young.
In fact, the research is inconclusive. We can
take up protest or decide to engage with political
life at any age.”
Jeanne Bain, 63, was a first-timer at the
Women’s March in London this January. “I’d
always wanted to go to Greenham when I was
younger, but then I fell pregnant with my first
child and I never got round to it.” There had been
other things she wanted to protest about, but
somehow it never happened. Then came Brexit
and Trump. “I was very, very angry. Someone
posted something about the march on Facebook,
and I booked my train ticket to London
immediately. I went on my own, made myself
a sash with purple and green ribbon on the train,
picked up a placard when I got there and
marched. I talked to lots of wonderful people. →
‘I went on my
own, made
myself a sash
on the train,
picked up a
placard when
I got there
and marched.
I felt elated’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 41
Afterwards I felt elated that I’d done something.
That I’d said ‘no’.”
She went home and signed up to the Women’s
Equality party. A couple of months later, she went
back to work part-time for a campaigning
organisation in Lincolnshire (mostly for financial
reasons, but the fact that it was a job in the
charity sector helped). “I went on a Reclaim the
Night march in Lincoln a couple of weeks ago.
And as soon as they have set a date for the next
Women’s March, I’ll book my ticket.”
Voter turnout is often used as a way of measuring
our engagement with politics. Although it has
crept up slightly in the last two years, it’s still not
back to the levels of the 70s or 80s. But perhaps it
is not the best way of judging our feelings.
“We often rely on these very narrow categories
such as voting or going on a protest to define
what activism is,” Nolas says. “But if we can get
away from that, it allows us to see other
responses as part of the discourse.” When we look
at it that way, we no longer seem so apathetic.
One person who wouldn’t be surprised to hear us
described as an engaged nation is Robin Priestley,
of the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees. If
you have ever signed an online petition, there’s a
good chance you’ve had an email with his name
land in your inbox. The organisation, founded in
2009, is a good bellwether of our national interests.
“I’ve definitely seen an upwards trend in the
number of people starting petitions on our site,”
Priestley says. “There has been this idea that
people aren’t interested, but we’ve never thought
that. It’s not that people aren’t engaged, it’s just
that they didn’t always have a route through
traditional party politics.”
The demographic of people using the site,
either to start or garner support for a campaign, is
hugely broad, he says. “It’s everyone from
11-year-olds to 89-year-olds, doing everything
from ‘Save my local library’ to ‘Let’s change
government policy’. And there’s a very wide
range of political views.”
What kinds of campaign seem to really energise
people? The NHS, Priestley says. School cuts. But
one of the biggest spikes in activity came straight
after the Brexit vote. →
‘More people are
starting petitions.
It’s not that
people aren’t
engaged, it’s just
that they didn’t
always have
a route through
party politics’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 43
For Liz, 25, the referendum was instrumental
in her becoming part of the Black Lives Matter
movement this year. “In my previous job, I did
a lot of travelling across the country, doing
schools workshops, and I could see the Brexit
vote taking shape. I could feel it. At the
weekends, I’d be in London living in this
Remain bubble, but my Monday to Friday was
full of xenophobia.
“I was following Black Lives Matter on social
media, more as an act of solidarity with what was
happening in the US. But I put off doing anything
more for ages.” Then she saw a meeting had been
called just before this year’s general election and
decided to go.
“A group like BLM has such a global profile, and
they are often portrayed so negatively. I felt
anxious. But at that first meeting I found the
loveliest, most welcoming, intelligent people.
I was really humbled and held by them. We’ve put
on political education events, so that young
people know their rights and what to do if they’re
stopped and searched. Things that are practical
and tangible. There was a march for the United
Families and Friends Campaign in October, and
we ran a sign-making event the week before. It
was such fun being a de facto babysitter for all
these kids for the afternoon.”
Growing up, she says, both her parents were
extremely political. “My mum taught me to
smash the patriarchy before it was a thing on a
T-shirt. She loves that I’m doing this now, and just
hopes I don’t get arrested. She thinks it’s a genetic
thing and I was never really going to be able to
avoid it. And it has become so much a part of my
life that it informs every conversation I have.
I can see my friends’ eyes glazing over when
I start talking about structural oppression, but
this is my happy place.”
Does she feel more optimistic as a result of
joining up? There is a long pause. “I don’t know.
I have to remind myself of what it was like
travelling round the country before Brexit, and
feeling that sense of anger and fear from people.
But the women I’ve met through this, they give
me hope. I went to a meeting for Sisters Uncut
and they were bursting at the seams. People are
getting more involved, and that’s incredible.”
Right: Zac Arnold, 17
(on right of banner),
takes part in a parade
in Chepstow earlier this
year. Below: Liz speaking
at a community event:
‘It has become so much a
part of my life’
With all this passion and energy, shouldn’t we
expect to be seeing more change? “Protest is
often frustrating,” says Dr Kevin Gillan, editor-inchief of the journal Social Movement Studies.
“Look back to the 1990s and the Battle of Seattle
World Trade Organisation protests. They took
months to organise and they were preceded by
a decade of single-issue protests.” Social media
has meant that protests and movements can be
organised relatively quickly, but they are also
more likely to be fragmented. The energy often
dissipates as quickly as it appeared, Gillan says.
Perhaps we expect too much, too soon, of specific
events or campaigns. “People tend to
mythologise certain events when the real arc of
change is quite complex to trace. Yes, there are
iconic protests – but even with something like
Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech,
most people don’t know that he gave that speech
on multiple occasions.
“What we do know is that things are more likely
to change when elites are divided. That’s when
we have generally seen the biggest threat to the
status quo. And when you have the IMF arguing
that inequality is getting out of hand, as we do at
the moment, then you are in an interesting
position. What I don’t see in the realms of protest
is a coherent alternative message. At the moment,
it’s really coming from ‘institutional politics’ in
the form of the Labour party.”
Zac Arnold is 17 and studying for his A-levels.
He is also part of the committee to save the Dilke
Memorial hospital and Lydney and District
hospital in the Forest of Dean. He came to the
campaign through his new membership of the
Labour party. “I signed up in May when the
general election was announced. So did my dad.
We made it a bit of a competition to see who
could get signed up first – I think I beat him by
a couple of minutes.”
Arnold is studying politics at A-level and says he
has always been interested, but Jeremy Corbyn’s
leadership was a deciding factor for him. “I think
he seems really honest, and that he actually cares.”
As a new Labour member, he attended meetings
about the hospital plans and was encouraged by
others to become part of the committee, which is
bipartisan. “We’re all very different ages. I think
because I’m the youngest I’ve been given a lot of
the technology stuff to manage, then I handle
some of the press, and I email our volunteers.” →
‘The women
I’ve met
through this,
they give me
hope. I went
to a meeting
and they were
bursting at
the seams’
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 45
Current NHS plans are to close the Dilke and
nearby Lydney and merge the two hospitals in
a new building. “I’m not against a new hospital,
but we don’t have enough information abut the
new plans. We’re all aware of what happened at
Tewkesbury, where they got a new hospital and
then the floor buckled and they had to close the
ward. We just want to make sure that we don’t
lose out – and it seems like the vast majority
here are in favour of keeping the two hospitals
we’ve got.”
Arnold’s mother is a nurse, so he naturally took
an interest in the campaign (his father stays at
home to look after him and his younger sister).
But he is engaged across a range of issues. The
first time we are in contact he tells me he has to
rush off because he’s going to a demonstration
about universal credit. He writes to his local MP
“at least once a month about whatever’s on my
mind. School cuts, the NHS. I find it amazing that
he always writes back, even if it does read a bit
like a stock response.” His other interests – the
Sea Cadets, creative writing – have taken a back
seat as he tries to go to as many meetings as he
can. “And I like to read about other campaigns
online. Sometimes I’ll spend a couple of hours in
the evening on a site like and I’ll sign
up to 50 petitions. I’ll sign anything I agree with.”
He thinks he is one of only four younger
members who are active in his constituency
(“a 400% increase on this time last year!”) but in
many ways Arnold is also the story of 2017. Back
in 2005, BBC news did a serious analysis of
whether young people were more likely to vote
for the winner of Big Brother than they were in
a general election, such was the panic about
young voter apathy. But as June proved, Arnold’s
generation are looking for a cause they can get
behind. “Doing all these things makes me feel
useful. It makes me feel hopeful, like we’re
making progress.”
Back in Kirby Misperton, it is nearly Christmas
once again. Eddie Thornton is tired, but similarly
hopeful. “The community here is full of such
good people. I don’t know if we’re going to stop
this well, or be able to stop fracking – but it feels
like we are part of a wider, gradual awakening.
And I get very fulfilled by that.” •
Eddie Thornton on a
tower built by antifracking campaigners in
Kirby Misperton
‘The community
is full of such
good people.
I don’t know if
we are going to
stop fracking –
but it feels like
we are part of
a wider, gradual
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 47
Sixteen-year-old John slept here
this year, before going to school.
One of a growing number of
people who found themselves
homeless in 2017, he and others
tell Erica Buist their stories
Photographs by Francesca Jones
No place like home
On any given night in England, there are an
estimated 4,134 people sleeping rough. As the
colder months approach, Big Issue founder John
Bird has raised concerns this could be “the worst
winter for over two decades” for homelessness.
The figures are stark: between 2010 and 2016, the
number of people sleeping rough in England rose
by 134%. Tens of thousands are off the streets but
still homeless, in hostels and temporary shelters,
in tents, cars or sofa-surfing. Crisis estimates
that in 2016 there were 143,000 people in these
categories, including rough sleepers. Many have
linked this year’s rise to Conservative austerity:
Bird cites a combination of local council service
cuts, paltry funding of homeless charities and
inadequate care for those with mental health
problems. We spoke to five people who were
made homeless in 2017, to hear their stories.
Lesley Honey, 41, Chippenham, Wiltshire
I was living in Salisbury with a guy I thought was
very nice, but between Christmas and new year he
started beating me up. I ended up in Bath hospital
with two black eyes, a broken arm and an eyebrow
that had to be glued back together. I went – still
black and blue – to the local police station, and after
three days they said they couldn’t do anything
as there wasn’t enough evidence. He knew I was
vulnerable and he used that. He’s still out there.
The council said that technically I had made
myself homeless by leaving him, even though
I was fleeing domestic violence and had nowhere
else to go. I was put in Unity House (a hostel for
homeless people) for five days, then told they
didn’t have any spaces, after which I was on the
streets for five or six months. I told my family
about my situation, but I don’t get along very well
with my stepfather.
Being on the street wore me down. I slept in car
parks, where boy racers threw rubbish at me. You
wake up freezing, with no public toilets open. I lost
weight; I lost all communication with my friends.
I had a nervous breakdown. When I came to the
Doorway drop-in centre, I was wearing trainers with
the soles falling off. They managed to get me into
a room after the government basically failed me.
I have noticed homelessness going up. Every
other doorway there’s someone sitting there –
people are losing their flats because of universal
credit, domestic violence, not being able to afford
the mortgage; it could be anything. I talk to them
because I’ve been in that situation. It does help
when someone says hello; most days you wake
up with nobody to talk to apart from the pigeons.
But I’m grateful for what I’ve got compared with
six months ago. This Christmas I’ll be in my hostel
room. I’ve got a little shower, a TV and computer
downstairs, and I’m saving up my pennies to get on
the coach to see my nieces and nephews. I’d love to
get back into horse-riding, and have my own little
flat. I want to get back to being me, because you
lose yourself when you’re on the streets. You’ve
got to pick yourself up and do the best you can.
Life’s too short to sit around being miserable. →
Lesley Honey (above) and her hostel room
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 51
Marc Conant and (right) Darryl Lee-Jarman: ‘When someone ignores you when you ask for change, it’s hurtful’
Marc Conant, 27, Prestwood, Buckinghamshire
In 2011 I had a car accident. I was driving
dangerously and didn’t have a licence. My friend
died. My right arm was severed below the elbow,
then amputated. I served two years in prison
and developed PTSD, depression and anxiety.
This happened three months into a relationship.
It lasted six years, but there was an incident when
I was violent. I stopped drinking to make sure
it didn’t happen again, but she wasn’t willing to
follow my lead. I became homeless in February,
after the breakup. I didn’t have a job at the time.
The council was not helpful. The senior housing
officer focused on the car accident and the fact
that I’d been violent to my partner. There are no
excuses, but it was clear I was not in a good
mental state at that time.
I spent a few weeks on my sister’s couch.
Without help from her and Wycombe Homeless
Connection, there’s no way I would have climbed
out of that hole. They suggested I ring round
estate agents; at the time, I wasn’t really able to
think for myself. I’m on benefits, but towards the
end of March I found somewhere.
A lot of people think homelessness can never
happen to them, but it can, in the blink of an eye.
The Conservatives came in after the financial crisis
and made people believe austerity was the only way
forward, and the people at the bottom pay for it. So
many are just about managing to put food on the
table. They’ve no savings; if the main breadwinner
lost their job, it would all go down the pan.
I’m in the last year of a business studies
degree and hoping to set up a business doing
motivational speaking in schools. I’m also
volunteering at the homeless charity, helping
52 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘A lot of people think
homelessness can never
happen to them, but it
can, in the blink of an eye’
others deal with the Department for Work and
Pensions, get their benefits, get registered at a GP
– all the life basics to get back on their feet.
Last Christmas I was at my previous partner’s
parents’ house, doing what we take for granted
at Christmas: having a nice big dinner, receiving
presents. That could be very different this year,
if it weren’t for the help I got. I’ve been fortunate
enough to meet a new partner – a psychiatric
nurse – and I’ll be spending Christmas with her.
Luckily I’ll have dinner on the table again, and
will receive the love and care everyone deserves.
John Hetfield, 16, North Yorkshire
I identify as male but grew up as a girl. When my
brother found out I was transgender, he started
abusing me. Once he shouted at me because I was
wearing shorts: he didn’t like it that I had leg hair.
He kicked me and left a massive bruise on my leg.
I sent the picture to my dad, but my mum told
him I’d made it up and must have got it falling off
my bike. I tried to record him saying homophobic
things, thinking I could play it to my parents or
the police, and he threatened me with a knife.
I couldn’t stop remembering it; I had flashbacks
and panic attacks, and would end up sobbing to
one of my teachers. I was diagnosed with PTSD,
depression and anxiety. My parents are well off;
I could have anything I wanted when I lived there,
but I wasn’t safe, so I went to stay with my
ex-girlfriend’s mum’s friend. One night she got
a bit drunk and told me to get out. I didn’t want to
ask my mates to stay at theirs – I was scared social
services would send me back to my parents – so
I slept in the field behind the local leisure centre.
The charity Sash got me Nightstop placements,
where they put you in someone’s house for the
night. It was a different one pretty much every night
for 43 days; the longest you’re meant to be with
them is 14 days. Now I’m in a lodging placement.
I have to leave at 6.15am to get the bus to school.
The government failed me, but I’m so grateful
for my school – they completely accept who
I am. I attempted suicide twice while living with
my parents, and the only reason I haven’t done
it again is because a teacher made me pinkypromise not to hurt myself.
The homelessness stats don’t surprise me. One
of the women I stayed with left home at 15 and
they were able to get her a flat the same day. I’ve
been put on the waiting list for young people’s
flats where I live; there are only eight places. Last
week they told me it would be over six months.
Last Christmas I was with my parents. I wore
dresses and makeup and plaited my hair because
I knew what my brother was capable of. Now I’m
about to start work experience with a company
that mentors teenagers. I want to do religion,
philosophy and ethics at university, then teacher
training and become an RE teacher.
I was always told that people are homeless
because they’re alcoholics or they’ve been in
prison – that they’ve got problems they could solve.
But I don’t think that’s true. They are people who
need help, and there should be more for them.
People who are homeless are not just nobodies.
Claire Green, 30, Northampton
I’ve been going to the Hope Centre since 2013,
when I lost my kids. I have two boys and a girl,
all under 10. My ex-partner was violent and
went to prison. I asked to be moved to different
supported accommodation, so he wouldn’t know
where I was, but I wasn’t. He came back, and
they took my kids away. They’ve been adopted
now and I’m allowed to write to them only twice
a year; I’m not allowed to sign “Mum”, I have
to put my name. This is why I don’t celebrate
Christmas, because it reminds me of them.
Six or seven months ago, I became homeless.
I was living in supported accommodation, but
my benefits got stopped because I missed an
appointment. I didn’t even know I had it. I couldn’t
pay my rent and got evicted.
I was on the streets for three or four months.
My family let me stay at theirs for a few nights,
but I didn’t want to be a burden. I mostly slept in
doorways. It is scary, especially in winter. You can’t
stay safe as a woman on the streets by yourself.
You don’t get much sleep; you’re always worried
about someone robbing you and beating you up.
I wouldn’t wish homelessness on my worst
enemy. Just under two months ago, I got into
a shared house in supported accommodation.
I’m on tablets for depression and anxiety, though
they don’t seem to be working. But what makes
me happy now is that I’ve actually got somewhere
to live. I’ve got the support I need.
I don’t think about the future; I’m still living in
the past, thinking about my kids, waiting for them
to come back to me. They will. I know they will.
Darryl Lee-Jarman, 30, Canterbury
I became homeless in April, five years after
my life started to fall apart. I worked on the
motorways with the crash-response unit, picking
up bodies, clearing up and doing repairs after car
accidents. I was in a team with my best friend.
We grew up together, qualified together, trained
together and were paired together.
One day in 2012 we were clearing up an accident
on the M2 by Canterbury. A car came and he pulled
me out of the way; it hit him and took him up the
road about 80 metres. I couldn’t go to his funeral
because I couldn’t face his kids. I felt guilty,
because it should have been me. I’m still suffering
from PTSD and anxiety; I get nightmares and
wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
My dad passed away a few years later, in 2015.
It was very sudden. He had emphysema, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, lung disease,
kidney failure; he went into hospital and that
night he passed. We really felt the loss at
Christmas. I started smoking marijuana and my
life spiralled. The drugs and my outbursts were
the last straw for my mum; she kicked me out.
I was on the streets for four months. Some
nights I’d be lucky enough to kip on a friend’s
couch, or in my car, until someone broke the
windows. It was horrible. People on a night out
pissed on me while I was sleeping in a doorway;
all I was doing was trying to keep out of the cold.
I got put in touch with Porchlight in July. My
key worker, Sonya, rang me every day, came out
to see me, helped me get shelter, warm clothes,
food. She saved my life. Now I’m in housing, in
therapy, getting the right help. Having my own
front door key, a warm bed, somewhere to make
something to eat and drink, was like winning the
lottery. Trying to get a job with PTSD, anxiety and
depression is hard, but I would like to become
a key worker for people in my position.
I’m not surprised homelessness has gone up so
much, because there isn’t enough to help people
like me. The government doesn’t fund the support.
If I could tell people anything about being
homeless, it would be that it doesn’t matter what
someone looks like: you can be in a suit and still be
homeless. Don’t be a bastard to us. When someone
ignores you when you ask for change, it is hurtful.
I’m going away with my mum for Christmas.
I don’t know where: she’s planning it. When she
was trying to help me, I refused the help because
I was in a state, but now we’ve had counselling and
we’ve got a better relationship. This Christmas is
going to be great •
Some names have been changed.
This year’s Guardian and Observer charity appeal
supports charities tackling youth homelessness
and asylum seeker destitution. To donate, visit
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 53
In-store and online at
Find your nearest store using our online store finder.
fashion beauty
food mind
space gardens
Blind date Poppy, 31, production manager, meets Max, 29, innovation consultant
Poppy on Max
Max on Poppy
What were you hoping for?
An evening of fine company,
food and wine. And not to
embarrass myself too much.
First impressions?
Warm, engaging, handsome.
What did you talk about?
Literature, the joys of living
alone, Brexit, Max’s sporting
achievements, what’s the
deal with hashtags, falling
off my vegetarian wagon.
Any awkward moments?
When Max suggested I try
the wine. I was desperately
trying to disguise my shaky
hands, but good conversation
soon put me at ease.
Good table manners?
Very much so.
Best thing about Max?
He’s extremely humble for
an overachiever.
Would you introduce him to
your friends?
He’s a smart and interesting
individual – I’m sure they
would enjoy meeting him.
Describe Max in three words
Driven, intelligent, charming.
What do you think he made
of you?
Pretty, petite, funny, with
a slightly nervous disposition.
Did you go on somewhere?
We stayed in the restaurant
until late, then accompanied
one another to the tube.
And... did you kiss?
If you could change one
thing about the evening,
what would it be?
Controversially, nothing.
I genuinely had a very
enjoyable evening.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
I wouldn’t say no.
What were you hoping for?
Someone gorgeous, intelligent,
adventurous, with a great sense
of humour. So not much,
uch, really.
First impressions?
Cute, nervous, down
n to earth.
What did you talk about?
How to stick it to obnoxious
clients. Champagne socialists.
Any awkward moments?
Endearingly, she got the shakes.
Good table manners??
Impeccable. A good food
ood sharer.
Best thing about Poppy?
Her sense of humour.
Would you introduce
e her to
your friends?
Yes. They’d get on famously.
Describe her in three words
Understated. Witty. Petite.
What do you think she
he made
of you?
Hopefully, someone who sees
the funny side of life.
Did you go on somewhere?
We stayed on for a cocktail.
And... did you kiss?
We hugged, on the tube
If you could change one
ne thing
about the evening, what
would it be?
I wouldn’t. There wasn
a spark, but I had a good
od time.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
Yes, among friends with
similar interests.
She got the
He’s extremely
humble for an
Poppy and Max ate at Polpetto,
London W1,,
as part of
Fancy a blind date? Email
If you’re looking to meet
someone like-minded, visit
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 57
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0117 59
What I wore
this week
A suit to suit you, sir. By Priya Elan
The Measure
Going up
Stamps Specifically, Preen’s for the
Isle of Man released in February.
Letter writing is now officially chic.
Pottery Whistles has a collab with
Hackney ceramics company Blue
Grey. And Kettle’s Yard is reopening
next year. Visit for pottery inspo.
Pavement merch See the gloriously
retro T-shirts outside Bananarama’s
recent run of dates.
Vancouver Officially on the fashion
map with Leisure Centre, the new
concept store designed by the team
who did Céline stores. We’re sold.
Hair towels Now the Croydon
facelift has been revealed as bad for
skin, we’re wearing a bath towel on
our head. Ideal for greasy/lank hair.
Jarvis Cocker x Abba The Pulp
frontman is narrating the story of the
Swedish superstars at the Southbank
Centre’s exhibition. Britpop meets
disco? See you on the dancefloor.
Going down
Priya’s four best
1 Flannel blazer, £135,
2 Wool chinos, £79,
3 Green shirt, £45,
4 Tie, £95, by Lanvin, from
Priya wears suit, £120, Top, £30, Trainers, £210,
GHD hair Flat as a pancake feels too
Christina Aguilera circa Dirrty, and
not in a good way.
Paris Colette, fashion’s favourite
shop, is closing its doors for the last
time on Wednesday. Sob.
Cinnamon On, in and dusted over
everything. We’re all for a sweet
tooth, but leave it out.
Longform Twitter Turns out that
people who were insightful at 140
characters are unreadably dull at
280. Self-edit, people.
Jam jars as vases Meghan Markle
instead suggests mint julep cups.
Google them if you’re not posh
enough to visualise.
Botox in your 20s A thing. And one
we would file in the Not OK box.
nderscoring a move into adulthood
is an urge to Tipp-Ex out what came
before, and that extends to your dress
code. If growing up and “joining the
rat race” can be sartorially semaphored by a
business suit, then it is a necessary rite of passage
to attempt to subvert that. When I was a teen,
I had two distinct attempts at doing the anti-suit.
The first was influenced by my favourite film
for many years, Swingers (don’t try to rewatch
it now; it has not aged well), which, though it is
ostensibly about LA actors trying to make it in the
mid-90s, harked back to Rat Pack looks via the
swing revival.
My own attempt to copy the look was
a ratchety, badly photocopied version: flatulent
kipper ties, mothball-stinking shirts with massive
collars and cheap surf shirts that felt as if they
were made from iron wire. It was an odd period.
I’d turn up to a Wetherspoon or Blockbuster in
a full suit and massive tie, as if I’d got lost on the
way to the office. In 1957.
Sub-Mad Men it might have been, but the
second attempt was worse. That involved
mixing a cheap, high-street suit jacket (and
occasionally suit trousers) with other clothes.
At the same time, I’d grown out my fringe and
had taken to wearing sunglasses in the day,
like a celebrity harassed by a hungry paparazzi.
Although, in retrospect, I looked ridiculous,
I didn’t think so at the time. It was what might be
called today a “broken suit”, but only in so far as
I was mainly broke for the entire period of this
clothing experiment.
In the age of hot-desking and “always on”
culture, the loosening up of the traditional suit
is a logical next step; you’re physically all over
the place, so why shouldn’t your clothes reflect
this? That’s not to say this look is about appearing
as if you got dressed in the dark. Lauded British
designer Martine Rose has done the broken suit
in the right way: there’s thrift-shop intent in
her combinations of posh school ties, double
jacketing and shirts in primary colours. It’s
Babies-era Pulp meets Wes Anderson in Trash.
Here, I’ve combined a light grey suit with
a sporty, zip-up polo neck and white trainers.
It’s a look that says, “Hey, guys, can you get
those reports to me asap? I’ve just got to dash
out to my improvisational jazz class. BRB.”
Consider your statement
bag a fun investment
that will look as good
with your tux as it will
sitting on the bar
The edit
Want to finish off a party look? It’s in the bag
1 Gold sequin clutch, £20, 2 Editor’s pick: a party bag should be fun and frivolous. Opt for faux fur in an acid shade to liven up your LBD
Faux fur clutch, £59, 3 Green pouch, £69.50, 4 Tortoiseshell minaudière, £120, 5 Heart bag, £15,
6 Check embellished bag, £32, 7 Sequin drawstring, £317, by Attico, from 8 Editor’s pick: a drawstring bag is the
party pouch to be seen with this Christmas – perfect for cramming in all your essentials, and keeps your hands free for canapes Sequined star bag, £39.99, 9 Perspex star clutch, £45, 10 Shearling crossbody, £129,
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 63
No-nonsense grooming gifts for men
ome male grooming gifts in
this Christmas’s post: umpteen
preparations for the maintenance of
hipster beards; at least three skincare
ranges that smell like a boys’ secondary school
changing room; a cream for smoothing and
deodorising one’s testicles. I’ve no idea why there’s
a pervading assumption that, for men to ablute,
they must first be seduced by novelty products
emblazoned with humorous “bants”, or packaging
got up to look like motor oil, but here we are.
Since this customer bears no resemblance to
my husband, any of my four brothers, two sons
or dozens of male friends, I’m inclined to keep
things simple, elegant and useful. Among my
favourites in the luxury category are Aesop’s gift
sets, such as the Boston (£50): gender-neutral,
but reliably loved by men, these contain several
of Aesop’s wonderful products (in this case,
mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body balm,
shower gel, cleanser, face tonic and moisturiser),
all in aeroplane-friendly doses, very stylishly
packaged and arranged in a black travel pouch.
A less expected, but nonetheless big hit
among men are Bliss Glamour Gloves (£39).
The name is a bit off-putting, admittedly, but
Try these
1 Aesop Boston Grooming
ming Kit, £50,
2 Bliss Glamour Gloves
es, £39,
3 English Oak & Hazelnut
lnut Cologne, £45,
these blue gloves lined with skin-softening and
soothing gels and oils are brilliant for anyone
whose hands suffer at this time of year. Just
pop on for half an hour (the gloves are stretchy,
so fit most sizes, and can be used 50 times),
then apply the accompanying heavy-duty hand
cream to finish.
An easier sell is a subscription to a shaving
club. Harry’s is particularly good, since the
German blades (five per cartridge) come up at
less than two quid a pop. You could start him
off with a razor to house them, and some nice
aloe shave gel, for £14. Jo Malone’s English Oak
& Hazelnut Cologne (£45) is listed by the brand
as strictly female, but I’ve no idea why, since
it’s as sexy, refined and appropriate on men as
it is on women. It’s an outdoorsy type of scent
and perfect for this time of year: spicy, warm
and soft, but sufficiently green and uplifting
to remain jolly. To my nose, it lasts a lot longer
than most colognes, including its Jo Malone
stablemates. In fact, I recently chose this very
fragrance for my groom on our wedding day,
and could still detect it at 2am, as we passed out
in a drunken heap.
The beauty roadtest
Lip balms
By Weekend’s All Ages model,
Sylviane Degunst
I am a lip balm addict. I use it every
day, summer to winter. I like having
my lips smooth, ready for a kiss.
Who knows what could happen?
Rodial Stem Cell lip balm (£17, looks very chic. The
problem is you need your fingers
to apply the pink balm and it’s far
too oily. It melts as soon as it is in
contact with your lips. Wash your
hands straight away otherwise
you will leave oily fingerprints
everywhere. Nevertheless, it does
the rehydrating job.
Filorga Nutri Filler Lips (£26, is sophisticated
and the long pencil stick looks rather
serious, very medicinal. It claims
to be nourishing and repairing,
plumping and smoothing with shea
butter, collagen and a cocktail of
active ingredients. I’m not keen on
the cod liver oil aftertaste, but there
is a chance you’ll get Brigitte Bardot
lips. I would use it more as first aid
on alpine ski slopes rather than
every day.
Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment
(£19.50, is the perfect
size tube, with a film of rubber
packaging (easier to grip when in the
bottom of your bag) and an elegant
screw cap. Unfortunately, there is
no chisel tip, so it’s easy to nourish
more than your lips. However, the
tinted pink balm gives me a mouth
like a rose. My favourite.
The Body Shop Shea Lip Butter
(£4.50, looks like
butter indeed, in a cute little pot.
It tastes like butter, too. I am not
fond of beauty products smelling
like food. In addition, I am not
convinced by its moisturising
property. A good price, though.
Next week: All Ages model David
Yang on scented winter candles
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 65
Just the stuff
A good stuffing
should stand alone
on the festive table.
Photographs by
Louise Hagger
68 116
err 20
017 | T
he G
ian W
Roast chicken with rye
sourdough, caraway and
cranberry stuffing
Any juices and stuffing that fall out
into the pan while the chicken is
roasting are perhaps the tastiest bits
in this dish, so don’t leave them
behind when you serve. Serves four.
For the chicken
1 tbsp caraway seeds, toasted
2 peeled garlic cloves
1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g unsalted butter, melted
1 whole chicken (about 1.4kg)
For the stuffing
60g unsalted butter
Yotam Ottolenghi
2 tsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4-5 large celery sticks, cut in half
lengthways, and then into 1cm dice
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
100g dried cranberries
100g ready-cooked and peeled
chestnuts, soaked in hot water for
at least 15 minutes, drained and
roughly chopped
4-5 slices mixed rye and wheat
sourdough (about 100g), crusts
removed, lightly toasted, then roughly
torn into 2cm pieces
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
10g tarragon leaves, finely chopped
10g chives, finely chopped
120ml chicken stock
in the fridge for at least two
and up to 24 hours. About
30 minutes before you are
ready to cook the chicken,
take it out of the fridge so it
comes up to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5. For the stuffing, put the
butter in a large nonstick pan on
a medium-high heat and, once it
melts, fry the caraway seeds for two
minutes, until fragrant. Add the
garlic, celery, onion, cranberries,
chestnuts and a teaspoon of
salt, and fry, stirring often, for about
12 minutes, until it’s all golden and
softened. Tip the contents of the
pan into a medium bowl, add the
bread, lemon zest, tarragon and
chives, then pour in the chicken
stock and stir to combine.
Transfer the chicken to a small
roasting tray just big enough to fit
the bird, sprinkle all over with half
a teaspoon of salt and a good grind
of pepper, then fill the cavity with
the stuffing. (Depending on the size
of your chicken, you may have some
stuffing mix left over: if so, put the
excess in a small ovenproof dish and
put this the oven half an hour before
the chicken finishes cooking).
Roast the chicken for about 70
minutes, basting the bird in the
juices every 15 minutes or so, until
the skin is golden brown and crisp,
and the juices run clear (test by
inserting the tip of a sharp knife
into the thickest part of the thigh; if
the juices are still a little pink, roast
for five to 10 minutes more). Once
done, remove the bird from the
oven, leave to rest for 10 minutes,
then serve.
Celeriac and prune stuffing
This works well alongside all sorts
of things: roast chicken and turkey,
of course, but also hearty vegetarian
mains such as roast butternut
squash. Chill any leftovers and
reheat them another day. Serves
5 sage leaves
2 green chillies, deseeded and
finely chopped
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
100g pitted prunes, quartered
20g parsley leaves, finely chopped
100ml vegetable stock
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6. Put the celeriac on a large
oven tray lined with baking paper,
then toss with two tablespoons of
oil, half a teaspoon of cumin seeds,
a quarter-teaspoon of salt and
plenty of pepper, until evenly
coated. Roast for 30-35 minutes,
stirring once halfway, until the
celeriac is soft and golden-brown,
then tip it out into a large bowl.
Turn up the oven to 210C/410F/gas
mark 6½. Heat the remaining two
tablespoons of oil in a large saute
pan on a medium-high flame, then
fry the onion, garlic, bread, sage, the
remaining teaspoon of cumin and
half a teaspoon of salt for seven
minutes, stirring occasionally, until
the onion is soft and golden and the
bread golden and crisp. Tip the lot
into the celeriac bowl, add the
chilli, lemon zest, prunes, parsley
and a generous grind of pepper,
and stir to combine.
Transfer the celeriac mix to a 20cm
x 20cm heatproof dish, pour the
vegetable stock over the top and
bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top
is crisp and golden brown. Leave to
rest for five minutes, then serve. Stuffing muffin
Start with the bird. Put the caraway
seeds, peeled garlic, sugar and half a
teaspoon of salt in a mortar, then
grind to a paste. Put the melted
butter in a non-metallic bowl large
enough to hold the chicken, add the
caraway paste and mix to combine.
Put the chicken in the bowl and,
using your hands, smother the paste
all over the bird. Leave to marinate
500g celeriac, hairy roots removed,
scrubbed clean but unpeeled, cut into
roughly 2cm pieces
60ml olive oil
1½ tsp cumin seeds, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
70g sourdough bread, crust on, cut into
2cm pieces
Pictured overleaf: a great alternative
to traditional stuffing, for serving
with any roast chicken. Makes 12.
160g smoked pancetta, cut into
1cm pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper→
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 69
s stuffing still stuffing
when it doesn’t get
stuffed? Even if such
riddles are not the stuff
(sorry!) to fuel your Christmas
conversations, stuffing should
certainly be on the table for your
Christmas meal. And whether or not
you stuff your stuffing inside the
bird is a matter of opinion. The advantage of putting the
stuffing inside a turkey or chicken
before roasting is that it will then
absorb all the flavour and juices that
develop while the bird cooks.
However, this can be to the
detriment of the meat, which runs
the risk of overcooking and drying
out in the time it takes for the
stuffing to cook through properly
and be ready to eat.
This is certainly the case with
denser stuffings that feature, say,
sausagemeat, but it’s not something
that affects the lighter stuffings
I prefer. In today’s chicken recipe,
for example, I give you the best and
greediest (and most controlled
experiment) of all: enough stuffing
to fit inside the cavity with some left
over to bake alone. Generally, though, I prefer to cook
my stuffing separately, be that as
a tray bake or as individual balls or
even muffins. I love the way it gets
crisp all over when cooked that way
and, perhaps even more, I love the
opportunity this provides to
challenge the pre-eminent role of
any big bird at the table. Rather
than playing second fiddle to the
main act, I want my stuffing (along
with all the other side dishes) to be
loud, proud and delicious enough
to stand alone.
pepper for eight minutes,
stirring a few times, until soft and
golden brown. Return the pancetta
to the pan, add the chestnuts,
caraway, prunes and chopped sage,
and fry for two minutes more, then
spoon into a medium bowl. Leave
to cool, then mix in the eggs,
buttermilk and 60g of the stilton. Sift the flour, baking powder,
bicarbonate of soda and a quarterteaspoon of salt into a large bowl,
stir in the basil, then add the
pancetta mix and gently fold
together until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the muffin
cases, filling them right to the brim,
and top each one with a sage leaf
and a little knob of stilton. Bake the
stuffing for 18-20 minutes, until
risen, cooked through and golden
brown on top (to test, a skewer
should come out clean). Serve warm
or at room temperature •
100g ready-cooked chestnuts, broken
in half
1 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and lightly
100g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
8 large sage leaves, finely shredded,
plus 12 small leaves to top the muffins
2 eggs, lightly whisked
250g buttermilk
90g mature stilton, broken into
1-2cm pieces
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
15g basil leaves, roughly torn
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6, and line a 12-hole muffin tin
with paper cases.
In a medium frying pan, fry the
pancetta on a medium-high heat for
five minutes, stirring a few times,
until browned and crisp. Using a
slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl,
leaving behind the fat in the pan.
Pour the oil into the hot pan, then
fry the onion, celery, a quarterteaspoon of salt and plenty of
Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of
Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.
Wine Sweet wine isn’t just for Christmas, says Fiona Beckett
3 Stilton
Serve with
2 Christmas cake
moscatels with my Christmas pud,
which leads me to my sweet wine
find of the year: the gorgeously
marmaladey Adega de Pegoes
Moscatel de Setubal (17.5% abv, 2),
from Portugal. It’s ridiculously good
value again from the Wine Society at
£9.95, or £10.35 from Wine Poole in
Warwick (incidentally, it would be
perfect with a custard tart, too).
Lidl have made a feature of bargainbasement Canadian icewines over
the last few years, and they again
have the delectable Pillitteri Vidal
(£14.99; 11% abv). It’s intensely
sweet, so may be better on its own
rather than with dessert (with the
1 Fruit tarts
udging by the selections
of the supermarkets,
Christmas seems to be
the only time of year
when we give ourself permission to
drink sweet and fortified wine.
Which is odd, because it’s fantastic
with summer fruits, say, plus we eat
pudding, and cheese, all year round.
So now might be a time not only to
stock up for the festivities, but also
to buy for the rest of the year, so you
have something gorgeous to drink
with that apricot tart come August.
Sweet wine comes in very different
styles, from light, frothy moscatos
(lovely with panettone) to rich, sticky
cream sherries (mandatory with
mince pies). Sauternes, while
popular, is not necessarily the best
value. Instead, try one of the other
sweet wines from the Bordeaux
area, such as Château La Caussade’s
luscious Sainte-Croix-du-Mont 2014
(13% abv, 1), from vineyards just over
the river from Sauternes, which, at
£12.95 for a full-size bottle from the
Wine Society, is half the price.
Personally, I prefer the more
orangey Spanish and Portuguese
possible exception of cheesecake).
The elegant bottle makes it a classy
gift, too.
Morrisons has gone big on port
this year, including some rather
showy ones, such as the dinky, 20cl
bottle of Graham’s gloriously treacly
20-Year-Old Tawny (£12; 20% abv) –
perfect for an adult stocking filler –
and Taylor’s 325th anniversary
limited-edition Aged Tawny (£27;
20% abv, 3), which comes in a very
flash, circular bottle. Oh, and while
you’re in there (and if there’s any
left), pick up a half-bottle of Maison
Castel Jurançon 2014 (12% abv), a
delicious sweet wine from southwest France that’s selling for
a derisory £5 a half-bottle.
Finally, Christmas wouldn’t be
Christmas without a cream liqueur,
so let me draw your attention to
Lyme Bay’s award-winning Salted
Caramel Cream Liqueur, which one
retailer aptly calls “bloody
awesome” (£13.28 Master of Malt,
£14.99 Ocado; 17% abv). That’s one
to see you through the umpteenth
repeat of Home Alone.
The good mixer
Mulled wine bellini
The syrup makes 16 servings, but keeps
well – plus Christmas is a great
excuse to use it all up. Serves one.
For the mulled wine syrup
1 bottle red wine (nothing too tannic)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 clementines, cut in half
4 cloves
2 star anise
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
½ lemon
100g white sugar
To finish
100ml champagne or sparkling wine
Put the syrup ingredients in a pan,
bring to a gentle boil, then simmer
for 30-40 minutes, until reduced to
250ml. Strain, jar, seal and chill.
To serve, put 15ml syrup in a flute
and top with champagne.
Chantelle Nicholson, executive
chef, Tredwell’s, London WC2
The quick dish
This classic Iranian sweet-sour sauce works as well with veg as it does with poultry
ichly sweet, subtly sour,
with a satisfying depth of
flavour from ground
walnuts: fesenjan is a
tempting Persian stew traditionally
eaten during the winter solstice.
Northern Iran can get properly cold,
and I suspect the varied climate has
influenced some of the eclectic
variations in Iranian cuisine. Imagine
a place where your traditional winter
dish is inspired by pomegranates –
the sheer luxury of it.
Those jewelled seeds play a vital
role in numerous Iranian dishes, but
it’s hard to think of a more enticing
example than fesenjan. The fullbodied sauce is perfect for dull, chilly
days when you want to forget the
outdoors exists and fill yourself with
food that warms both body and mind
before you have to venture out.
Roast winter vegetables with
walnut and pomegranate sauce
The spiced sauce pairs beautifully
with winter veg, though fesenjan is
traditionally eaten with poultry,
making it ideal for that leftover
turkey in a week’s time. Serves
four to six.
200g walnuts
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut
into 4cm chunks
1 large floury potato, peeled and cut
into 4cm chunks
½ celeriac, cut into 4cm chunks
400g brussels sprouts, trimmed
and halved
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion (or 2 small ones),
peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp turmeric
A little grated nutmeg
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
300ml pomegranate juice
2 tbsp honey
500ml vegetable stock (or water)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
To serve
Greek yoghurt
Seeds from ½ small pomegranate
1 handful fresh mint leaves
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5 and spread out the walnuts
on an oven tray. Toast for seven
minutes, until golden, then set aside
to cool. Turn up the oven to 220C/
425F/gas mark 7. When the nuts are
cool, blitz them in a food processor
to the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
Put the potatoes, celeriac and
sprouts on a large oven tray, add the
thyme, season and toss with three
tablespoons of oil. Spread out evenly,
then roast for 20-25 minutes, until
golden and crisp around the edges.
Meanwhile, warm the remaining
oil in a large, heavy pan and gently
fry the onion with a pinch of salt for
about five minutes, until softened.
Add the spices and half a teaspoon
of ground pepper, cook for a minute
or so, then add the puree, bay,
molasses, juice, honey, stock and
ground walnuts. Season with a
teaspoon of salt, and simmer for 25
minutes, stirring regularly, until
thickened. The sauce will be like a
loose, chunky pesto in texture, dark
in colour, and smell amazing. After
the time is up, add a tablespoon of
lemon juice and taste: it should be
deliciously sweet-sour, so add
another tablespoon if need be. If the
sauce seems too thick – it should be
the consistency of double cream –
add a little hot water to loosen it.
Put three or four tablespoons of
warmed sauce in the base of shallow
bowls and top with a pile of roast
veg. Add a dollop or two of yoghurt,
sprinkle with pomegranate seeds
and roughly chopped mint, and
serve with rice, preferably scented
with a little saffron.
And for the rest of the week…
Make extra sauce and use up the
leftovers by mixing in cooked fava or
butter beans and serving on buttered
sourdough toast – a cut above the
usual beans on toast (keep it local by
trying Hodmedod’s inspiring range
of British-grown pulses). The sauce
also makes a wonderful topping for
chargrilled hispi cabbage (steam or
blanch the cabbage for four or five
minutes, so it’s tender before
grilling). Traditionally, fesenjan is
mixed up in a stew, but I prefer to
serve it separately, so you can see
the shapes and colours of the
vegetables – experiment with your
favourite ones in season.
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 73
The new
Give Christmas leftovers a new lease of life by turning them into a Thai(ish) curry
1 tbsp galangal paste (I use Bart’s)
1 handful roasted unsalted peanuts
1 ½ tbsp tomato puree
For the curry
1.2kg leftover roast vegetables
400ml tin coconut milk
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp caster sugar
Thai basil, to serve
Quiz 1 South Vietnamese army.
2 Mason-Dixon Line. 3 A View
To A Kill. 4 Handled the ball
(now covered by obstructing
curry; but it
o a red curry;
features more aromatics such as
Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves and
galangal, and it comes together
very simply via a blender and a pan.
The result is at once soothing and
enlivening, a meal that even the
most tired cook can muster up
without too much effort.
Christmas veg Penang curry
A perfect home for leftover roast
veg, but salt judiciously, because
they’ll have been seasoned already.
(If you’d like to roast veg specially to
make this, you’ll need about 1.4kg
mixed potatoes, parsnips, carrots
the field). 5 Belgium, 201011. 6 Farthest point from land
(oceanic pole of inaccessibility).
7 KitKat. 8 Zoroastrianism.
9 Played tennis players in 2017
films: Billie Jean King; Bobby
Riggs; John McEnroe; Bjorn Borg.
10 Types of grass. 11 Football
d sprouts, peeled and
roasted in a little oil.) It’s worth
hunting down fresh Thai basil,
because it has a special aniseed
flavour that really pulls the dish
together. Serves four.
For the Penang curry paste
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 birds’ eye chillies, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 banana shallot, peeled and chopped
2 sticks lemongrass, tough outer leaves
removed, chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves
teams making World Cup debuts.
12 Statues topping columns.
13 Pythons. 14 Nobel Peace
prize-winning organisations.
15 British women writers who died
in Florence.
Crossword See right.
In a large frying pan, toast the
coriander and cumin seeds until
golden, then leave to cool. Put the
spices in a blender with all the other
curry paste ingredients, and blitz to
a smooth paste, adding up to four or
five tablespoons of cold water to
help it along.
Put a large pan on a low heat,
then add the curry paste, salt and
sugar (if your cooked vegetables
are pre-seasoned, just season to
taste at the end) and cook out the
paste, stirring, for about eight
minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir the coconut milk into the
paste mix bit by bit, and once the
can is empty, fill it a third-full with
cold water and add that, too. Leave
the sauce to come up to a simmer,
then stir in the leftover roast
vegetables and leave to simmer and
heat through for a few minutes. (If
you’ve made the veg from scratch,
they’ll still be hot, so stir them in at
the last moment.)
Scatter over a handful of Thai
basil leaves, check and amend the
seasoning to taste, and serve hot
with plain rice.
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 75
y mother is the queen
of transforming leftovers
into new wonders, and
she comes into her own
on Boxing Day, the biggest leftovers
challenge of the year.
Christmas, after all, is a game of
two halves. The first is Christmas Eve
and Christmas Day (which I covered
in last week’s Food Special), when
there are plenty of fresh ingredients,
bright-eyed cooks and extravagant
feasts. Then, on Boxing Day and
beyond, the kitchen turns into a
battleground of odds and ends:
pyramids of roast parsnips and spuds,
Tupperware as far as the eye can see,
when all you want is something that
will virtually cook itself.
For my mother, using up leftovers
was an obsession born of necessity,
and she never threw out anything
unless it was growing legs and
about to walk out by itself. Now,
spinning meals out of lonely and
lost ingredients is her own onewoman game show, one that gives
great joy as another piece of broccoli
is saved from the bin. Her past
Boxing Day triumphs include: roast
potatoes hard fried with tinned
chickpeas and lots of chilli and
lemon; sprout and spud curry; pav
bhaji, a sort of Indian bubble and
squeak, piled high into yorkshire
puddings; sweet and crunchy carrot
and cabbage pakoras with a fiery
cranberry chutney.
Today’s recipe is a homage to one
of Mum’s Boxing Day curries. It’s
Thai, not Indian, and not dissimilar
‘The fries with curry sauce and cheese are a slimmer’s fantasy: chips without temptation’
outham Street is not in
that part of W10 made
famous by Richard Curtis
films, all candy-coloured
mews and quirky antique shops.
Huddled beneath the Trellick Tower,
it’s the wrong side of the tracks from
the tagine trucks and Portuguese
cafes of Golborne Road proper, the
same scruffy patch Alan Johnson
once called home. The slums of his
childhood are long gone, and this
corner pub, with its plaque to Kelso
Cochrane, murdered in the
aftermath of the 1959 Notting Hill
riots, is now the sister restaurant to
the much-lauded 108 Garage at the
Portobello end of Golborne. Same
road, different world.
It’s hard not to see it as the
vanguard in the ominous march of
gentrification: glam marble offset by
moody paintwork, and a glossy
crowd. “They’re all so young,” my
friend says enviously. “Have you
noticed?” Those at the table by the
door, drinking champagne, keep
getting up to air-kiss other customers
(I relay this without judgment, being
a fan of both champagne and kissing,
but merely to set the scene).
We’ve come for lunch, but it seems
that means brunch, so brunch we
must have, though it’s the first time
I’ve been invited to break my fast
with steamed edamame beans (west
London, eh?). I decline in favour of
a bloody mary, a far more enjoyable
way to kick off proceedings until the
crushed ice melts and turns it into
a tomato slushy, confirming my
grandma’s claim that no good comes
from ingesting ice before lunch.
Travesties against tomato juice
aside, there are a few breakfast items
on the menu, and I’m relieved to
find that it’s weighted more towards
proper food, or at least wagyu
sliders and their ilk. Though the
minimalist website gives little away,
there appears to be an Asian-
American theme, the ground-floor
space given over to grilling and
smoking, while the upstairs – closed
on our visit, but described by one
glossy magazine as “if Tom Ford
branched out into west London
sushi bars” – is dedicated to the cult
of raw, apparently in the form of
sashimi and ceviche, rather than
dehydrated flaxseed pizzas.
Sadly, the only raw stuff in
evidence today is the fries with
curry sauce and cheese, which I order
against my better judgment because
our sweet waiter is so enthusiastic.
As a southerner, I’m naturally
suspicious of curry sauce in this
context, but I do consider myself
a connoisseur of cheesy chips. So
believe me when I say Hassan’s
kebab van has nothing to fear from
this quarter: pallid underneath a
blanket of congealed cheese, soggy
with sauce, they’re every slimmer’s
fantasy – chips without temptation.
The grill side of things ought to
be more promising if a picanha
steak, soft and juicy with smoky,
dripping-scented fat and a judicious
sprinkling of salt, is anything to go
by. A satisfyingly elastic steamed
spring roll, bursting at the seams with
soft-shell crab and crunchy salad,
hits another bullseye, and crispy
duck leg bao isn’t bad value for £4.
It’s a bit of a blessing that it’s not
over-furnished with flesh when the
flesh in question is so dry but, given
this, and the natural blandness of
the shredded cucumber and raw
mushroom that pad out the bun, it’s
a dish crying out for sauce. (Respect
to the woman at the next table who
demands some, and gets it.)
It feels remiss to come for brunch
in the spiritual home of avocado toast
and not try it, and Southam Street
does it well, topped with a perfect
Southam Street
Food ★★☆☆ (★★★★ for the steak)
Atmosphere ★★★★☆
Value for money ★★★☆
36 Golborne Road, London W10, 0203903 3591. Open Tues-Sat noonmidnight, Sun 11am-6pm. About £28 a
head (in the grill), plus drinks and service
coddled egg and a generous quenelle
of what’s called egg wakame butter,
but tastes pleasingly like Marmite.
That said, we came for lunch, and
lunch definitely includes dessert:
a beautifully molten chocolate
moelleux with an unusually subtle
matcha-flavoured ice-cream, and a
strawberry chawan mushi, described
as “like a Japanese panna cotta with
a layer of sake”. It’s so like panna
cotta, they might be cross-continental
twins, but with characteristically
lovely Japanese decoration, all
strawberry sauce and flowers, and
a cashew and sesame brittle that’s
so far up my street, I forget all about
the elusive sake element.
Southam Street itself, however,
feels a bit like a fish out of water:
a glamorous fish, certainly, in a less
than glamorous locale, a fun fish
with all the gear and big ideas, yet
one for whom food seems to be
a bit of an afterthought. There’s
some good cooking here, and, yes,
the wallpaper’s fabulous – but if
you can’t get chips right, you’re
in trouble.
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 77
This cosy
home keeps
out the worst
of the rainy
By Becky
80 116
er 20
7 | Th
he G
an W
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 81
hen the chance arose
to buy a 1930s wooden
cabin on Washington
state’s Kitsap peninsula,
a strip of wooded land a short hop
from Seattle, architect Alan Maskin
couldn’t resist. He’d fallen in love
with a marine biologist who lived
nearby, and needed somewhere
halfway between his partner’s
place and his office in the city. “My
work and love life were separated
by a three-hour commute, so I
was looking for a small, extremely
inexpensive fixer-upper,” he says.
The one-storey cabin was
uninsulated, with low ceilings and a
cramped attic. “It was in pretty rough
shape, but had nicely proportioned
windows and a stained Douglas
fir interior. The attic, I realised,
would have great views if I rebuilt
it.” Working with his colleagues at
architecture practice Olson Kundig,
Maskin raised the living space roof to
cathedral proportions by removing
the attic, created a magnificent
bedroom with floor-to-ceiling
windows in its place, and built
a ground-floor living space complete
with a 1970s woodburner, kitchen
and open staircase.
The modern interior additions are
made from different types of wood:
old planks butt up against new
plywood walls, while the modern
exterior sections are made from
corrugated recycled zinc and cedar
shingles. From the outside, the 1,100
sq ft cabin seems far larger. Maskin
now lives here full time, commuting
to Seattle during the week.
The original exterior walls became
interior, and the front porch became
a long dining room and home office.
A small first-floor terrace off the
bedroom nestles into the foliage of
an old maple tree. “This, and the
former porch below, have views of
two gardens: a shade garden that
I added under a large tree, and a
sun garden filled with hardy plants
I saw from visits to tropical areas,”
Maskin says.
Inside, the design is minimal,
the wooden walls forming a warm
backdrop to a few key pieces
of furniture and Maskin’s art
collection. Most striking of all is Big
Ed, an oversize bust of conceptual
artist Ed Kienholz, by artist Scott
Fife. “Small spaces cannot handle
a lot of stuff,” Maskin explains.
The peaceful house is an antidote
to Maskin’s busy life at work. But
it’s now ready for its next phase; he
recently bought the cabin next door.
“It’s smaller and in considerably
worse condition, but I’m building
a studio/guest bedroom, connected
to my house through a new garden.”
Friends should expect early starts:
“A very noisy eagle wakes me up
most mornings as she heads out to
find food for her chicks,” Maskin says.
“It’s the most amazing alarm clock” •
82 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Previous pages: an attic
was removed to give the
cabin its 17ft-high ceiling.
The stove and sofa are
both from the 1970s. This
page, clockwise from
top: the bedroom, with
its bust by Scott Fife;
the stairwell; the dining
room and home office
Worst purchase Ordering vintage
chairs online without trying them first.
The chairs are fantastic – as long as
you don’t sit on them.
Most treasured possession An
illustrated letter written to me in
college by Maurice Sendak, author
of Where The Wild Things Are.
Favourite room My bedroom has many
windows designed to provide views
and constant daylight in a region that
doesn’t have many sunny days. I love
drinking coffee in bed as the sun rises.
What would we never see in your
house? My earliest art school efforts.
What are your house rules? Living in
a small house is like living on a boat
– you need to keep it pretty tidy, and
if you get something new, something
old must be recycled.
One thing you’d change I would add
a rainwater collection system. Rain
is a constant resource here, and this
is a perfect place to harvest it.
House rules
The edit
Baubles are bold and bright this Christmas – prepare to be dazzled
1 Blue embellished bauble, £9, 2 Gold glitter and silver spike bauble, £3, 3 Starburst Christmas bauble, £6, 4 Tales of the Maharaja pompom bauble, £6, 5 George Home purple sequined bauble, £2, 6 Peacock swirl
decoration, £13.95, 7 Glitter tree decoration, £10, 8 Editor’s pick: this bright, Aztec-inspired bauble will add punch to any tree
Glitter pattern bauble, £18, 9 Disco bauble, £12, 10 Editor’s pick: a contemporary take on glitter, with a Bowie-style zigzag
Comet bauble, £12 for a set of two,
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 83
This is the month to
bring our gardens
indoors. So, how do you
make a lovely, longlasting foliage display?
Lia Leendertz can help
ver the next couple
of weeks, we drag
bunches of foliage into
our houses as if this
were the most normal activity in
the world. Gardens are hacked
at, bushes snipped and florists
ransacked. Mistletoe, holly and ivy
appear on doors, swinging from
lights and snaking up banisters.
Greenery is as essential to Christmas
as figgy pudding and fairy lights.
This evergreen frenzy has its
roots in the past, and the plants we
now associate with Christmas are
remnants of an older celebration
of the longest night and the
shortest day: midwinter. When
lives and livelihoods depended
on a firm grasp of the changing
of the seasons, the year’s darkest
moment was hugely significant.
After 21 December, the days grow
incrementally longer, a fact thatt
feels worth celebrating.
Midwinter celebrations were
bountiful, fire-filled and optimistic,
announcing the returning of the
light. Evergreens symbolised life
when all around looked dead, and
so became integral to this festival
of continuity and reassurance.
Berries represented fertility, and
were revered at this most barren
of moments. Holly was thought
of as female and mistletoe
male, and were often hung
together – hence the tradition
of kissing underneath.
Wreaths date back to
Saturnalia, the Roman festival
of midwinter, and are thought
to symbolise the wheel of the
year – another reminder that
the darkness will pass.
Here are a few ways to incorporate
evergreens into your decorations,
as vegetative reminders that these
dark days hold plenty of hope.
How to keep evergreens
fresh indoors
Even evergreens start to lose their
sheen and drop leaves (and needles)
after being indoors for a while. The
trick is to condition them before
turning them into decorations.
Plunge freshly cut boughs into
a bucket of cold water and leave
outside or in a cool spot (cellar/
shed/porch) for 24 hours, so their
cells are full of water. If you have
bought greenery from a florist,
recut the base of the stems before
plunging. Paring off the bark around
the bottom of thicker stems will
have the same effect.
Pictured, from top: Evergreen
ice decorations Arrange
evergreens on flexible plastic
plates then flood with water. Place
one end of a piece of string into the
water, then freeze. Hang the frozen
decorations from branches outside,
so you can see them through your
Wreaths Make a simple wreath
by using only evergreen foliage
(this one is made from several
garden conifer varieties). Attach
small bunches of foliage to a ring
or willow wreath using wire.
Make sure the bunches all lie in the
same direction.
Presents and napkins Cut a small
piece of greenery, such as fern
(sprayed gold) and eucalyptus on
this present, tie with ribbon, then
loop around a gift or a napkin.
Bottle decoration Feed a sprig of
such as holly, mistletoe
o rosemary into a bottle, fill it
with water, and push a candle
into the top.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide To
2018, by Lia Leendertz, is out now,
Unleash the sweet scent of winter
What to do this week
Plant this Laurustinus (Viburnum
tinus, below) is a brilliant evergreen
shrub that’s covered with white and
pink flowers in winter and early
spring, followed by blue-black berries.
Left unchecked, it’ll get to 3m x 3m,
but it responds well to pruning after
flowering; you can turn it into
a hedge, or even topiarise it into
spheres or standards. It’s unfussy
about soil and aspect. Cultivars ‘Eve
Price’ and ‘Gwenllian’ are more
compact, ‘French White’ grows
faster and ‘Lisarose’ has red buds.
inter is full of heady scents: anything
that’s going to attract the few hardy
flying pollinators needs to pack a punch
to get noticed, often smelling strongly
over a long distance. But you don’t have to go
outside to enjoy such delights – there are a number
of house plants that will scent your winter.
The smell of citrus flowers starts off innocently,
a little unripe and clean. Then comes the
afternote, a little cloying and distinctly fetid.
It’s a surprising and addictive combination.
I overwinter my lemon and kumquat either side
of the kitchen sink, and then wait for the warmth
of indoors to kick them into blooming again, so
I can wash up bathed in their delightful smell.
If you want reliable flowering over the winter,
the four-seasons lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Lunario’,
is your best bet. It’s widely available and the
fruit are delicious. It’s not hard to get this, or the
kumquat Fortunella margarita (above), to fruit,
but they do require lots of feeding from March to
October. There’s no need to feed over winter itself.
Overwatering in winter is fatal, so allow the
surface to partially dry out between waterings
(ideally with rainwater). However, you do need to
maintain high humidity indoors, grouping plants
together or standing each pot on a large saucer
filled with gravel and enough water to almost
reach the surface. If there are flowers, regular
misting will encourage pollination.
Another great indoor winter scent is the
many-flowered jasmine, Jasminum polyanthum.
Anywhere that sells house plants at this time of
year is usually awash with specimens flowering
over an arch. You can liberate them from their
loop of metal and trail them up through other,
taller houseplants or just allow them to ramble
free. I think they look better let loose.
Plants that are kept cool (5-10C) in winter give
the best displays: if your jasmine is shy about
flowering, it’s probably because it’s too warm,
with too little light. Don’t allow the temperature
to drop below 3C while the plant is in bud,
however; cold draughts will cause bud drop.
And never let it dry out at the roots.
To make jasmine bushier, repot it after
flowering and then start pinching back
the growing shoots. Pinch the older stems
back hard, to within 5-8cm of the base, and
shorten younger stems to any non-flowering
laterals. Make sure not to pinch back any buds
or you won’t see flowers again the following
winter and spring.
You’ll often see Madagascan jasmine,
Stephanotis floribunda, for sale in winter. The
scent is quite something: sweet, with orange
and cherry and a hint of cinnamon, coming from
clusters of perfect white waxy blooms. But plants
need to be tricked to be in bloom now, and in
future years they will flower only from summer
to autumn.
Prune this If you know your apple or
pear tree needs pruning, but you
don’t know where to start, now is
the time to conquer your fear.
Brogdale Farm in Kent, the home
of the national fruit collection,
runs one-day courses in pruning, as
well as orchard design and grafting;
go to
for details.
Wrap this Every year, I lose
a terracotta pot or two – even the
ones marked “frostproof” – to the
extremes of winter. So this year I’ve
vowed to insulate all my containers
with hessian, horticultural fleece or
even old blankets, to save them from
flaking or shattering. Lifting pots off
the ground using pot feet also helps
ent containers from freezing.
Jane Perrone
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 85
1 ST D E C 1 7 - 3 1 ST J A N 1 8
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86 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
move to
Pwllheli and the Llŷn peninsula: a bastion of Welshness
hat’s going for it? Many things
inexcusable today took place in
the 1970s. Among them my futile
attempts as a small boy to pronounce
Welsh words on our summer holidays to the Llŷn
Peninsula. I am ashamed to say Puff-welly was
as good as it got. For which, citizens of Pwllheli,
citizens of Wales, I can only apologise. With
the clarity of adulthood, I can not only manage
a decent Push-elly (that’s vaguely right, isn’t it,
north Welsh readers?), but I can see why Mum
and Dad took us here. It’s a long, long way from
St Albans, in every sense. Which is probably
why the Roman legions never quite quelled the
locals (and the Normans didn’t do much better),
leaving the Llŷn a bastion of Welshness. Only
the intrepid (the pilgrims en route to their final
resting place on Bardsey Island; nature buffs
searching for seals; surfers after the perfect wave
in Hell’s Mouth) popped by. Today, this fabulous
dangle of land, sandy bays and lush, juicy hills is
still one of the most Welsh-speaking parts of the
country – and I bet their tongues trip easily over
Pwllheli, Bwlchtocyn, Llanystumdwy, and make
mincemeat of Rhyd-y-gwystl.
The case against Earthquakes. Yes, really. It’s
quite second-homey, so if you do move, please be
sensitive to the culture and economy. Rain. Lots
of it. There’s a reason it’s so lush.
Well connected? Trains: a slow if beautiful
service every two or three hours to Porthmadog
(22 mins) and then to Machynlleth (2hrs 20 mins).
Driving: half an hour from Pwllheli to Aberdaron
at one end and Porthmadog the other, 40 mins to
Caernarfon and Harlech, 50 to Bangor.
Schools Primaries: among many good, Estyn says,
Morfa Nefyn is “excellent”. Secondaries: Glan
Y Mor and Botwnnog are both “good”.
Hang out at… Ty Coch pub in Porthdinllaen ticks
all the boxes. For posh, Porth Tocyn hotel in
Abersoch and Plas Bodegroes in Pwllheli.
Where to buy Stone and white render are the
vernacular. The south coast is pricier and busier
– Aberdaron is the local Malibu; the north coast,
especially around Nefyn, just as delightful. Large
detacheds and townhouses, £500,000-£1.4m.
Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £150,000£500,000. Semis, £130,000-£450,000. Terraces
and cottages, £80,000-£250,000. Flats, £100,000£250,000. Rentals: not many; a one-bed flat,
£400pcm; a three-bed house, £800pcm.
Bargain of the week Three-bedroom period
detached; needs renovation; £75,000, with Tom Dyckhoff
From the streets
Mike Carran “Beautiful beaches. My favourite
haunt is Tre’r Ceiri on top of Yr Eifl (‘The Rivals’
in English), said to be the most extensive and
complete Iron Age village in the UK – only seven
miles from Pwllheli. Apart from the mindblowing history, the views are stunning: well
worth the 350m climb from the car park.”
All the places I’ll never live
Coco Khan
When I wake up, the first thing I do
is touch my nose. My face is the
only part of my body left exposed
throughout the night, and the nose
acts as my thermometer. A warm
nose means the flat is temperate
enough for me to survive the shock
of pulling off my duvet and heading
to the freezing kitchen. A cold nose
means the duvet is coming with me.
It’s cumbersome, but there
really is nothing as comforting.
I’ve tried all the possible
contenders – Aran jumpers, fleece
dressing gowns – and all pale in
comparison with the 360-degree
feather-down extravaganza.
Of course, there is the option
of setting the heating to come
on before we wake up, but that
would mean enduring a different
kind of chill: the cold shoulder
from flatmates when the shared
electricity bill comes in.
But in some homes, it is possible
to stay warm without spending a
fortune, such as in this huge fivebed, barn conversion in the London
suburbs, advertised on rightmove. It prides itself on energy
efficiency, boasting its own heatloss recovery system, insulation
throughout, and triple glazing. This
means you can take full advantage
of the underfloor heating across all
3,600 sq ft of it, guilt-free. Because
nothing is cosier than a winter
countryside view seen through fullheight glass doors in your toasty
living room. Sign me up.
Do you live in Finnieston, Glasgow? Do you have
a favourite haunt or a pet hate? If so, please email by next Tuesday.
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 87
88 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 89
50 mins of rowing and I feel like Arnie, says Zoe Williams
he rowing studio at fancy gym One
LDN contains maybe 12 ergs. Or maybe
the action is called the erg and the
machine is called “rowing machine”.
Whatevs. There’s a machine, you strap your feet
into it, then you row. You know, like in the 80s.
Laura Hoggins, the trainer taking today’s “engine
row” class, has early morning super-pep. “Jump
on to the space beside you,” she says. “We’re going
to do a quick warm-up.” The first thing I did when
I sat on the machine was strap in my feet,
subliminally thinking that once I was buckled in
nicely, I could go back to sleep. Now I can’t get out.
Everyone else is ready to go. I’ve got one foot out,
but now I’m stuck. I am very lazy, but hypercompetitive, which is about the worst combination
you can devise for an exercise class.
Right. I’ve escaped the machine. I’m standing in
my own personal workout area next to the rowing
machine, doing squats incredibly fast, which
I don’t think is the point. Then the rowing begins.
Like all exercises that involve both arms and legs,
the rule is that you use your legs for the power and
your arms mainly for finesse. The reality is that you
forget you have legs until your arms are about to
fall off. The first exercise is four minutes of rowing
flat out, aiming to cover 1km. I may not be able to
tell my arms from my legs, but I am pretty good at
maths. If 200m takes one minute of rowing so hard
I can barely stay on the seat, 1km isn’t going to
happen, unless everyone else blacks out and I take
a couple of minutes’ extra time before I call them
an ambulance. Never start thinking about
90 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
ambulances during a workout class; the next thing
you know, all you can think about is prominent
public figures who’ve had a stroke while rowing.
I manage 800m, then leap out – I’ve sussed the
foot straps – for slower, more dignified squats,
press-ups, lat pull-downs and a kind of gravityassisted row using two straps fixed to the wall
(a TRX) with which you pull yourself forwards.
I’m doing more maths. If four minutes’ rowing was
that hard, and interim weights take five minutes,
and the warm-up took no time, and there is
nothing else in this room apart from 90s club hits
and elegantly rolled sweat towels, how long will
it be before they let us leave? And will I still be
able to walk?
We spend nine minutes doing interval rowing –
30 seconds on, 30 resting – covering less ground
(or, technically, imaginary water) each time,
against explicit instructions to cover more. Some
more minutes doing more weights; the class is
50 minutes, which vanish like bubbles as soon as
you stop obsessively counting them. Afterwards,
I feel as if I’ve had an organ transplant from
Arnold Schwarzenegger: stupidly powerful and
energetic, and ready for massive socio-political
jobs for which I am not qualified. Finally,
I understand, just a tiny bit and, if only for a few
hours, what makes people addicted to exercise.
This week I learned
Rowing burns probably the most energy possible
for a low-impact exercise
My life in sex
The 54-year-old virgin
I don’t see the point of sex without
an emotional connection (otherwise,
why not just get yourself off ?), and
I’ve never been able to find someone
with whom I’ve felt a connection
who’s been interested in having sex
with me. This is not what I’d ever
intended or expected.
I was a Christian who didn’t believe
in sex outside marriage, a position
I held until my early 30s, sure that
I’d find “the one” eventually. My
weight was a strike against me, as
were my intelligence and career,
knocking out of contention men who
wanted to be the superior earner. In
my 30s, I lived with a man, but we
were never in an official relationship
and, despite sharing a bed, never had
sex. In my 40s, I did the previously
unthinkable and asked a couple of
single men I’d known for at least
a year and with whom I got along
well – and was declined.
Several friends have assumed I’m
a lesbian. Given my lack of luck with
men, I thought about it but, after
a few months of “checking out the
market”, concluded that I simply
wasn’t attracted to women.
These days, the men interested in
me are in their upper 60s. Many seem
more interested in a person still
earning a wage to augment their
pensions than in a romantic partner.
The worst thing is when people
tell me I’m too choosy, including
random men who proposition me at
2.30am as the bars are closing, and
become obnoxious when I decline.
To those who think I need to get rid
of the impractical, old-fashioned
idea of “feeling a connection”, I say
to each their own. I’d like to lose my
V card, but I’m not desperate
enough to sell myself short.
Each week, a reader tells us about
their sex life. Want to share yours?
This column
will change
your life
How do you know if you’re a jerk, asks Oliver Burkeman
o you think it’s possible you might be
a jerk? It’s a rude question, I know,
but not a totally absurd one. After
all, we’re surrounded by jerks – if you
don’t believe me, glance at the headlines, drive
home during rush hour, or check Twitter – so,
statistically, it’s entirely plausible that one of them
is you. I’m sure you don’t feel like a jerk, of course.
But nobody does. Partly that’s because few of us
like to believe anything negative about ourselves.
But, as the philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel has
argued in several essays, it’s also because the
essence of jerkitude (which, he argues, is distinct
from other forms of obnoxiousness) is “to see
the world through goggles that dim others’
humanity”. Jerks view other people “as tools to
be manipulated or fools to be dealt with, rather
than as moral and epistemic peers”. So if you’re
a jerk to people, and they respond in predictable
ways – with anger, irritation or, if you’re lucky,
friendly criticism – you won’t take their reactions
seriously, assuming you’re even listening at all.
Why? Because you’re a jerk.
It gets worse, as Schwitzgebel explains.
If you sincerely aspire to figure out whether
or not you’re a jerk, you’ll probably begin
by asking yourself if you regularly treat others
high-handedly, regarding their desires and
ideas as inferior, valuable only in so far as they
serve your ends. Yet the very act of asking that
question means you can’t, in that instant, be
a jerk. “To the extent one genuinely worries
about being a jerk, one’s jerkitude momentarily
vanishes,” Schwitzgebel writes. “If you prickle
with fear and shame at your possibly shabby
behaviour to someone, in that moment, by virtue
of that very prickling, you are… seeing that
person as an individual with moral claims upon
you.” But don’t get too comfortable: if you take
this to mean that you couldn’t possibly be a jerk,
since you’re the kind of person sensitive enough
to wonder if you might be, then you’ll lapse
back into complacency, which is fertile soil for
becoming a jerk.
This, then, is your awkward predicament:
you don’t feel like a jerk, but this might just be
because you’re such a jerk. And if you introspect
honestly, asking yourself if you’re a jerk, you’ll
find you aren’t, even if you usually are. So is there
any way to determine, objectively, if you’re a
jerk? Schwitzgebel thinks there is: stop looking
inside yourself, and look at how you view other
people instead. Do you find yourself often feeling
besieged by idiots? Since jerks take such a dim
view of others, that’s a red flag. “Everywhere
you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring
nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and
suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only
competent, reasonable person to be found?”
If so, bad news: you’re probably a jerk, at least
sometimes. On those days when you seem to
have an issue with virtually everyone you meet,
it’s a good bet the cause is whatever all those
encounters have in common. And, not to be a jerk
about it… that’s you.
What I’m really thinking
The same-sex IVF couple
We see the way heads turn when
we walk into the waiting area, the
way other people sneak glances
at my more androgynous-looking
partner to check if she really is a
woman. They are making sure they
are seeing what they think they are
– two women at this mainly NHSfunded clinic.
Our treatment over the past five
years has taken us through several
unsuccessful and heartbreaking
rounds of IUI and a round of IVF. We
have been through countless hospital
visits and spent hundreds of hours
in waiting-room limbo. Yet I could
count on one hand the other samesex female couples I’ve seen. There is
always a small flash of recognition,
but nothing more. I wouldn’t dream
of intruding further. You don’t know
what show-stopping news they may
have just received.
At times, the waiting room
feels like the eye of an emotional
storm. Women are often alone.
I wonder why their partners aren’t
there, supporting them. The NHS
forms used to have a section for
“husband/male partner”; now,
many years later, this has changed
to “partner”.
The other couples avoid eye
contact. I can see their curiosity
fizzing: how on earth have two
women gained fertility treatment
on the NHS? Well, since one of
us has infertility issues, we were
not discriminated against. We are
proud to have paid taxes for aeons;
why should we feel as if we need to
explain this to anyone?
The long – and so far unsuccessful
– journey has been just as difficult
for us as for any other couple. The
endless waiting, the frustration and
the tears – none of it is any easier.
Tell us what you’re really thinking
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 91
92 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘Larry David is a warped version of Don Quixote, and his indignation is on the nose’
he Germans have an
expression for that
maddening song or
melody that invades
your brain and won’t leave it. They
call it an Ohrwurm. We translate
that as earworm, but the German
more effectively suggests the
impending insanity, the way a tune
can twist like a drill bit into your
inner ear and lodge for what you
fear will be forever. In my
experience, a single word can do the
same. Take “incommensurate”.
Incommensurate snaked into my
ear during a recent episode of Curb
Your Enthusiasm, the theme tune
of which is pretty Ohrwurmy itself.
I am not the devoted watcher I once
was. The pleasure Larry David takes
in his own comic diabolism can wear
a little thin. The devil isn’t always the
irresistible companion in mischief
he thinks he is. Sometimes, you’d
prefer a quiet hour talking things over
with God. But when he isn’t picking
a fight only for the sake of it, David
is still funny. A case in point being his
assault on the incommensurableness
of things – a philosophical reflection,
by the way, in which he was preceded
by Coleridge, but without the gags.
What, in particular, David found
incommensurate were the paltry
thank yous proferred for favours he’d
done and the paltry apologies made
for offences he’d been caused. Of
course, you have to be thin-skinned
to take the umbrage David does, but
where would comedy, or indeed
philosophy, be without the easily
hurt? He differs from other moral
philosophers in the ill-advised
swiftness of his revenge. Where they
will retire to the calm of their studies
to write a considered treatise on
disproportion generally, he will tell
offenders to their faces that, when it
comes to the language of obligation,
their words are incommensurate.
In an age that has lost the art of
elegant abuse, it is sublimely and
satisfyingly funny to see someone
dressed down for being
incommensurate. (“Who are you
calling incommensurate, you
douche!”) That David’s response to
incommensurateness might be
incommensurate itself is half the fun
of it. He is a warped version of Don
Quixote, in search of wrongs to right
no matter that the victim of those
wrongs is only ever himself. But even
a solipsist can be a moralist. And his
indignation is on the nose: our
admiration is incommensurate with
the things we admire, and our disdain
with all there is to be disdainful
about. We idolise fools and tolerate
scoundrels. Populism runs wild and
we call it the will of the people. Trump
trashes the decencies and we say he
is enacting his promises. Cause and
effect are out of kilter. Is it any
wonder the word incommensurate
is suddenly buzzing in our brains?
Puzzles Crossword by Sy and Thomas Eaton’s quiz. Answers on page 75
7 Upmarket area of
Los Angeles known
for its Fresh Prince?
8 The son of Daedalus
who flew too close to
the sun (6)
9 .... Fitzgerald,
musician (4)
10 Mossack ......., law
firm based in 2 (7)
11/22 Epic poem by
John Milton (8,4)
14 Type of butter
used in cosmetics
– or a former
baseball stadium in
New York (4)
15 African country –
or a hanging cardboard
chip? (4)
17 Rhodesian
politician who
made the unilateral
declaration of
independence in
1965 (3,5)
19 A city found
in ancient Egypt
– or in modern
Tennessee? (7)
21 PC manufacturer
based in Round Rock,
Texas (4)
23 ...... Spring: 1968 in
Czechoslovakia (6)
24 School of mysticism
within Islam (6)
1 English musician
– or a member of the
US navy’s special
forces (4)
2/5 Name given
to a 2016 leak
of information
from the offices of
10 (6,6)
3 Carl ...., composer of
Carmina Burana (4)
4 Irish political
party led by Gerry
Adams (4,4)
5 See 2
6 The capital of
Hungary (8)
12 Palace fortress in
Granada, Spain (8)
13 Body of water
between Anglesey and
Dublin (5,3)
16 1992 film by Louis
Malle starring Juliette
Binoche and Jeremy
Irons (6)
18 Bernie ......, man
convicted of running
the biggest Ponzi
scheme in history (6)
20 Abdel Fattah
el-...., the president
of Egypt (4)
22 See 11
1 Disbanded in 1975,
what was the ARVN?
2 What was originally
the boundary between
Maryland and
3 Which film starts
with a disclaimer about
the name Zorin?
4 Which method
of dismissal in
cricket became
obsolete in 2017?
5 Which European
country went
589 days without
an elected
6 What distinguishes
Point Nemo, at
48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W?
7 What began life
as Rowntree’s
Chocolate Crisp?
8 Fire temples are
places of worship in
which religion?
What links:
9 Emma
ma Stone;
Steve Carell;
Shia LaBeouf;
Sverrir Gudnason?
10 Creeping red
fescue; common bent;
rye; smooth-stalked
11 Panama and Iceland,
next June?
12 Lord Grey,
Wellington, Liverpool;
Nelson and Duke of
York, London?
13 Burmese; Indian;
African rock;
reticulated; ball?
15 Frances Trollope;
Elizabeth Barrett
Muriel Spark;
Magdalen Nabb?
The Guardian Weekend | 16 December 2017 93
me in the
Samantha Lomas in Derbyshire, photographed by her father, Paul Hill, 1975
y father took this shot
when I was nine. It was
just before he set up
the Photographers’
Place, the UK’s first residential
photography workshop, which
featured big names such as Faye
Godwin and Martin Parr.
Photographers were always hanging
around our house, but I considered
them a bit of a nuisance.
Dad and I used to go walking a lot,
and on this occasion we were on
High Tor, a rocky outcrop that
overlooks Matlock Bath and the
river Derwent a few miles from
our home in Derbyshire. Dad said,
“Right, can you just sit at the top
of that rock?”
We were a couple of hundred feet
up, but I’m not scared of heights
and remember being more worried
about him, because he found a far
more precarious spot to take the
photograph, on a ledge with one
foot on an outgrowing tree.
The perspective makes the
situation look much more extreme
than it was, plus Dad made
sure I was completely safe by
getting me to lie back, which of
course you can’t see. I recall him
saying he chose this vantage point
to make it look as if my legs were
touching the river. You wouldn’t
guess I was wearing massive 70s
flares, rolled up so they were out
of the frame. Perhaps he was
looking for a sense of vulnerability.
I was quite a tomboy, but I did
adore those awful shoes and wore
them everywhere.
Dad and I never really discussed
his photographs, so I don’t know
if this image was an idea he’d had
in mind before we went up to High
Tor. I don’t think so, though,
because it felt spontaneous.
Dad has never carried lots of
lenses or equipment; for him, it’s all
about the image – he took family
‘I’m not scared of
heights. I was more
worried about Dad –
he found a far more
precarious spot, on a
ledge with one foot on
an outgrowing tree’
94 16 December 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
photos with a Polaroid back then;
nowadays he uses his phone.
I was in quite a few of his wellknown photographs: as well as
this shot, which is called Legs Over
High Tor, there’s one of me in
a swimming pool, and another
where I’m poking my face
through one of those painted
character cutout boards you find
at the seaside.
I remember sometimes feeling
impatient as Dad waited for the
light or other background details
to change. Looking back, I doubt
I was ever kept waiting more than
a minute or two, but that’s the
child’s perspective. I feel honoured
to be in the photos now – soon after
this was taken, Dad started
concentrating more exclusively on
landscape, leaving people out of
his images altogether.
I used to love watching him
process images in his darkroom,
but I didn’t see this one until it
started appearing in books and
exhibitions. I was once at a show
where I overheard someone say they
thought allowing a child to be in that
position was child abuse. I was too
shy to point out that I was the
subject and that, actually, I’d been
fine with it.
For me, this picture is about
growing up in the 70s, and play,
and the dangerous situations I’d
sometimes get into with my friends
– the freedom many kids don’t get
to experience today. I’ve never been
to the top of High Tor with my own
children, but my daughter’s pretty
brave. Perhaps one day I’ll recreate
the moment with her.
Interview: Chris Broughton
Paul Hill’s Legs Over High Tor
features in the exhibition A Green And
Pleasant Land at the Towner Gallery,
Eastbourne, until 21 January 2018; for details
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