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The Guardian Weekend magazine - 2 September 2017

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02 ee
.0 ke
9.1 n
7 d
And a cherry n top
Russell Brand:
strikes again
Boys’ zone:
the sisters
taking on
Silicon Valley
Jess C-M:
the new suits
Exclusive sweets, treats and cakes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s brilliant new book. Eight-page pullout inside
5 Hadley Freeman
6 Tim Dowling Plus Bim
Adewunmi’s First take
10 Your view Plus
Stephen Collins
12 Q&A Louis Walsh,
X Factor judge
15 Experience I stopped
a terror attack
33 Anyone for pudding?
From knickerbocker
glory to fig tarts,
eight delicious Yotam
Ottolenghi desserts
42 The second coming
Photographer Jonas
Bendiksen meets
modern-day messiahs
around the world
16 Be more me Russell
Brand is back, with
a cure for every
addiction. Does
Miranda Sawyer buy it?
24 The new wild west
Meet the lawyer sisters
suing sexism among the
Silicon Valley giants
53 Blind date What
happened when
Matt met Sumeet?
55 Jess Cartner-Morley
gets suited and booted
57 Beauty Sali Hughes
on the secret to a
great DIY blow-dry
Food and drink
59 Restaurants Marina
O’Loughlin enters a
time warp at The India
Club, London WC2
69 Howard Jacobson
Plus Crossword, Quiz
70 That’s me in the
On Guardian
Facebook live
60 Alys Fowler Forget
the baby stuff: mature
spinach is the way to go
61 Let’s move to
Arundel, West Sussex
Body & Mind
63 System upgrade
Plus My life in sex
68 This column will
change your life
Plus What I’m really
Co t a r t
nt e r s
Berger & Wyse
Watch Yotam
Ottolenghi put the
finishing touches to
Guinness cake and
creme brulee, plus top
tips and a Q&A with
host Felicity Cloake
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 3
There was outrage about my interview with James Cameron – but I’m on his side
have now been a journalist for
a midlife-crisis-inducing 17 years,
and I have learned many things along
the way. I have learned, for instance,
that Sesame Street lied and honesty is not always
the best policy – at least not when it comes to
celebrities asking you what you honestly thought
of their new movie/song/perfume as you sit down
to interview them. One thing I have apparently
not learned, however, is how to spot a story when
it is right in front of me.
Two weeks ago I interviewed, for the second
time in my life, the director James Cameron. We
talked about many things, my old pal James and
I (another lesson: just because you interview
someone, it does not mean he’s your friend). We
discussed why he was so much less of an arsehole
than he was last time we met, and how – most
excitingly, I thought – he could finally admit that
Jack might have shared Rose’s board with her at
the end of Titanic. When it came to writing up
the piece, I wondered if I should even include
his thoughts on the new Wonder Woman movie,
which he described as “a step backwards”,
because, I asked myself, who really cares
what Cameron thinks about Wonder Woman?
Everyone, turned out to be the answer.
When the interview was published, the
internet was suddenly filled with very, very angry
women, with everyone from Lena Dunham to
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins outraged
that Cameron had dared to say Wonder Woman
wasn’t a glorious feminist triumph. And that’s
cool: every journalist wants their work to be
noticed. But guys, did you miss that exclusive
revelation about Rose’s board?
Another good rule about journalism is that it’s
always best to be honest, because readers can
sense artifice. So I’m going to hold up my hands
here and say the reason I totally missed this story,
despite being the person who literally wrote the
story, is that, well, I agreed with Cameron.
The people who got so angry forget where he’s
coming from, which is the 1980s and 1990s. Now,
there are plenty of bad things one can say about
those decades (don’t even get me started on the
jeans), but Hollywood was a lot better back then
at getting female characters on to the screen. No,
it wasn’t all perfect – we are talking about the
era of Pretty Woman, after all, the happy story
of how sexy prostitution is. But there were so
many movies about women back then that Susan
Faludi could dismiss the 1987 comedy Baby Boom
as anti-feminist garbage in her seminal book
Backlash. Today, a movie about a woman in her
early 40s who kicks ass on Wall Street, doesn’t
want a baby, inherits a baby and then builds up
her own business empire sounds, compared
with what’s playing in your multiplex right now,
downright Dworkin-esque in its radicalism.
This is the Hollywood into which Cameron
emerged, in which he wrote original heroines
like the brilliant and prickly Dr Lindsey Brigman
(played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) in The
Abyss, and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton),
a teeny bit wet in The Terminator and then
breathtakingly awesome in Terminator 2.
Which brings us to today, a time when women
have been so neglected by the movies that we
have to get excited about Wonder Woman,
a character Hollywood has been knocking
out since the 70s. It was extraordinary to see
how defensively women reacted to Cameron’ss
comments: do we have so few heroines that we
have to cling to the ones who come along?
Look, I liked Wonder Woman. You’d have to be as
heartless as the Terminator not to enjoy it, and I’m
glad that if Hollywood’s focus is now superheroes,
then someone finally got round to making a movie
about the one well-known female superhero. But
I can also say that a movie in which an objectively
gorgeous woman, played by a former Miss Israel,
kicks ass in her underwear isn’t exactly breaking
down the barriers in terms of representations off
women on screen. It’s not fashionable to say this
now, in an era where strident opinions must be
expressed in fewer than 140 characters, but things
don’t have to be all or nothing.
I get why women would be so angry with
Cameron – a man, and a former arsehole at that
– mansplaining feminism to them; but it can
also be acknowledged that the man does know
a thing or two about female characters. The
truth is, the most interesting female characters
are now on TV, in shows such as, and hardly
limited to, Transparent, Chewing Gum, Orange
Is The New Black, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Scandall,
Fleabag and Game Of Thrones. I hope movies
get more heroines, too – maybe even ones who
spot a news story when it hits them in the face.
But surely only a superhero can do that.
t is Sunday, and my wife is recounting
our Saturday for the benefit of the
oldest one. “We went to Sussex for the
day, which was very nice,” she says.
“Being there was nice,” I say. “The getting there
was a bit fraught.”
“He made me run for a train,” she says.
My wife shifts the story to a point earlier in the
morning and paints an unattractive portrait of me
standing in the garden, sipping coffee and waving
away her appeals for increased urgency.
“This is not an accurate version of events,” I say.
“Yes, it is,” my wife says.
“Ultimately it was your decision to spend 15
minutes dicking around in a shop that caused our…”
“Sip, sip, sip,” my wife says.
“‘Why, yes, I would like it gift-wrapped,’” I say.
“‘Because I have all the time in the world.’”
“Did you miss the train?” the oldest says.
“No, we made it,” I say. “But then I realised we
only had two minutes to make our connection at
Clapham Junction.”
“You know how much your father loves saying
that sort of thing,” my wife says. “Being the
bearer of bad news.”
“Yeah,” the oldest says.
“So I shouted at him in front of a trainful of
people,” she says. “On purpose.”
“What, because that’s his worst nightmare?”
the oldest one says.
“He literally can’t think of anything worse,”
my wife says.
I can think of something worse, and I did: I was
pretty certain that the couple sitting opposite
us recognised me as soon as we sat down. “You
think everyone recognises you,” my wife says.
“They were looking over, and sort of nudging
each other,” I say. “And then all of a sudden your
mother launches into this foul-mouthed tirade
that lasts all the way until the next stop.”
“So they would have been like: that’s definitely
him,” the oldest says.
‘Mum’s like extra
luggage,’ the oldest one
says. ‘A carry-on bag
filled with fury and
impatience,’ I agree
6 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
“I was forced to retreat to a quiet place inside
myself,” I say.
“Feeling ashamed,” my wife says.
“No,” I say.
“Then what happened?” the oldest says.
“Then he made me change trains at Richmond,”
my wife says.
“I didn’t make you,” I say. “It’s the fastest route.”
“How can Richmond be the fastest way to
Clapham?” she says.
“It’s not the distance, it’s the schedule,” I say.
“We weren’t speaking by then,” she tells the boy.
As the train from Richmond rumbled along
between Mortlake and Barnes, I was left to calculate
the distance we’d have to cover between platforms
at Clapham. We already appeared to be behind
schedule and the next train wasn’t for another hour.
“You can see my dilemma,” I say to the oldest
one. “Mum lacks both the patience to wait and
the inclination to sprint.”
“I ran!” my wife shouts.
“She can be a tremendous liability in these
situations, as you know,” I say.
“She’s like extra luggage,” the oldest says.
“I had the wrong shoes!” my wife says.
“A carry-on bag filled with fury and impatience,”
I say.
“What did you do?” the oldest says.
“I made the decision to run ahead,” I say.
“When I got to the platform the train was already
there. The guard was blowing his whistle.”
“Whoa,” the oldest says.
“I put one foot on to the train, and I turned
around,” I say. “Your mother was nowhere to
be seen.”
“There were people with bicycles in my way,”
my wife says.
“I stood there, half in the train, half out,
with the guard waving at me,” I say. “Still she
doesn’t appear.”
“It’s all stairs,” my wife says.
“What do I do?” I say. “I can’t go without her.
Then again, there’s no way I can spend an hour on
a platform with her in the mood she’s in.”
“I got there in the end, didn’t I?” my wife says.
“We made it.”
“Did she shout at you again?” the oldest one says.
“She couldn’t – she was too out of breath,”
h,” I say.
There is a short silence.
“Sip, sip, sip,” my wife says.
First take
Bim Adewunmi
I’m a library person. I don’t know if
that’s an actual type of person, but
I am proclaiming myself one. I think
I joined my first library at four, but it
may have been younger – ours was a
reading household, and my parents
believed in getting us in the habit
early. Years later, we would get into
buying books, but my earliest book
memories are of soft pages worn by
many fingers before mine. And, of
course, the lingering but pungent
scent of the ink stamps marking
return dates for all the eager eyes
who got there first. The library, one
of our great inventions, has always
been a sustaining refuge: it’s a for
ever kind of love.
I moved to New York from
London more than a year ago, but
shamefully joined the library only
in the last couple of months. I now
have a Brooklyn Public Library
card fob on my keyring (I chose the
Maurice Sendak one, because I love
a classic), sitting pretty next to my
New York Public Library fob.
I have read so much since joining:
plays by Lorraine Hansberry, the
novels of Jamaica Kincaid and Teju
Cole, poems by Lucille Clifton.
I have no grand plan when I go
there; I merely search my memory
for old intentions and see what
grabs my eye. Rarely, I browse
carefully curated displays, or ask
the librarians for recommendations.
This week, I took out Roxane
Gay’s recent short story collection,
Difficult Women; Maggie Nelson’s
of a trial, The Red
to give my week an extra
arts; and,
charge, a book of love poems by
Pablo Neruda
Neru .
I also paid $9 in
overdue fines.
Because it tturns out that bad library
travel with you, even when
habits tr
you cross an ocean. @bimadew
My wife shouts at me on the train. People look and nudge
Small data
Last week, Oliver Burkeman
wrote about the divide
between those who are
obsessed with tidiness and
those who just want things to
be clean. You said:
33% I enjoy being tidy
and organised
33% Mess can’t kill
you. Bacteria can
34% I’m both a neat
and clean freak.
It’s exhausting
Letters, emails, comments
Rebecca Solnit nails it with her
eloquent, insightful essay (Parallel
Lives, 26 August). The most free
person on Earth is the white man.
Unfortunately, most squander it, as
the current US administration
illustrates. Men have it easier, but
as a result women are more
complex and interesting. Still, I’d
be willing to trade my complexity
for freedom any day.
Marsha Coupé
Westerham, Kent
I am a 75-year-old man. I thought
Rebecca Solnit’s essay was excellent,
but, at the same time, the women in
my life have done pretty well in a
sexist society. My wife, who came to
the US from Yugoslavia in the 1970s
with a five-year-old daughter, got a
PhD and spent 20 years as a research
scientist. My own daughter – now
46, an engineering professor – is the
breadwinner for her family of four.
She is happy to point out the kind of
slights that Solnit describes, but
I think things are slowly changing.
Paul Regnier
Westport, Connecticut
I was lucky to travel a lot in my 20s,
and staying with the H’mong tribes
in Sapa, Vietnam, was one of the
most special times (The Mother Of
All Rescues, 26 August). The people
are warm and, like their incredible
traditional dress, entwined with
nature. But even back in 2005,
I recall a girl begging me to take her
baby home with me so that her
daughter could have “a better life”.
Stephen Collins
10 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Clearly the availability of cheap
mobile phones has only
exacerbated the threats.
Sarah Potter
Roland Anderson (Desperately
Seeking Darcy, 26 August) quotes
Elinor in Sense And Sensibility as
saying Robert Ferrars doesn’t deserve
“the compliment of rational
opposition”; one could say the same
of Donald Trump and of enablers.
Ben McCrory
Can we have a follow-up to Ismail
Einashe’s article (Hot Town, Summer
In The City, 26 August)? What did he
make of Cambridge University? What
was his path from Somali refugee in
Camden to one of Britain’s most
prestigious universities? He brought
a gently ironic sense of humour to
his teenage experiences which was
delightful. More, please.
Celia Stanworth
I realise it’ll go down as a picture of
its time (That’s Me In The Picture,
26 August), but I see 23 white males
who seem to represent the BBC’s
DJ staff at the launch of Radio 1 in
1967, and almost all wearing ties,
too. It speaks volumes about the
position of women and race at
that time.
Gary Bennett
Radio 1 was awful at the beginning.
It was only on for a few hours a day,
then it merged with Radio 2. There
were severe restrictions on needle
time, so Jimmy Young used to sing
some of the latest hits. They should
never have closed down the pirate
Richard Wood
Toddington, Bedfordshire
Email or
comment at by noon
on Monday for inclusion.
We believe in a
different perspective.
Matilda armchair, £770 Brompton lamp, £140.
Louis Walsh, X Factor judge
orn in County Mayo,
Walsh, 65, began
his career in music
management in 1980,
when he convinced Johnny Logan to
sing at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Logan won and had a No. 1 in 11
European countries. Walsh went
on to create the boybands Boyzone
in 1993 and Westlife in 1998, and
managed Girls Aloud until the band
split in 2005. Since 2004, he has been
a judge on The X Factor: the 14th
series starts tonight on ITV. He has
homes in Dublin and Miami.
When were you happiest?
I’m always happy. Ask Simon Cowell:
he says if I had a tail, I’d wag it.
What is your greatest fear?
Getting old, getting sick, getting
cancer, getting Alzheimer’s disease.
What is your earliest memory?
I grew up in a small village in the
west of Ireland. My father played
things like My Fair Lady, The King
And I, and The Mikado on his record
player, and I remember looking at
the records.
What is the trait you most deplore
in yourself?
I say things I shouldn’t and I can’t
stop myself. It’s called no filter.
What is the trait you most deplore
in others?
Snobbery and bad manners.
What was your most embarrassing
I have one every day: I don’t care
about making a fool of myself at all.
What do you most dislike about
your appearance?
I hate putting on weight. I have to
be very careful.
Who would play you in the film of
your life?
Colin Farrell. He auditioned for
me for Boyzone and I said no. He
couldn’t sing.
Which book changed your life?
My chequebook.
What is your most unappealing
I bite my nails – in fact, I’m doing it
at the moment.
Aside from a property, what’s
the most expensive thing you’ve
I have a Maserati. I love pop art and
I collect Warhol, Hirst and Hockney.
What did you want to be when you
were growing up?
I just wanted to work in music.
I didn’t want a real job.
What is the worst thing anyone’s
said to you?
People always slag me off because
I act the clown, but I don’t care.
I am actually happier than most
of them.
What do you owe your parents?
I’m glad they didn’t spoil me – with
nine kids, it’s first up, best dressed.
Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and
not meant it?
Every day, even to myself.
What has been your biggest
America – there are too many
If you could go back in time, where
would you go?
London in the 60s. I would have
loved to have been around then.
That’s the music I still love.
What single thing would improve
the quality of your life?
More exercise. Maybe I should join
a gym, but I’ve never been to one.
What keeps you awake at night?
The X Factor (wondering about song
choices) and watching TV. I’m a
night person, and don’t go to sleep
until 3am or 4am.
What song would you like played
at your funeral?
Crazy by Patsy Cline.
How would you like to be
I’d like people to say, “Well, he was
a bit odd, he was a bit funny.”
Rosanna Greenstreet
12 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
book changed
my life? My
t’s 10 years since I found
myself in the middle of
the Glasgow Airport
terror attack. It was
30 June 2007. I was at the airport,
picking up my brother, sister-in-law
and niece from holiday. As I walked
through the terminal, I noticed
people being ushered out the way
I’d come in. I wasn’t sure what was
going on – there was no panic – but
I thought that if something had
happened, I wasn’t leaving without
my family.
I carried on walking in the
opposite direction to everyone
else. By the time I got to the doors
at the other end, I was on my own.
I walked outside, and that’s when
I saw a burning jeep crashed into
the building. There was a guy lying
next to it engulfed in flames, a couple
of police officers, and parts of the
road were on fire, too.
At first, I thought it had been an
accident. A police officer used a fire
extinguisher on the burning guy,
then they turned away. I thought
he was dead, and maybe they did,
too. It was when he got up that
I realised he was an attacker. It was
eerie – he didn’t even groan as he
stood; it was as if being on fire
hadn’t affected him. I learned later
he was on morphine.
He tried to get to the jeep’s boot
– apparently, it was full of petrol
bombs. The police were trying to
stop him, but he kept kicking at
their legs. As they fought, they
moved towards me. One of the
officers used pepper spray, and
my eyes were streaming. The next
time I opened them, this lunatic
was coming in my direction.
When you’re involved in
something like that, it’s hard to
remember afterwards exactly how
it went. You just act on instinct.
My partner, Gillian, had recently
passed away, after battling cancer.
I had watched her fight like hell
to survive, and these characters
were trying to take people’s lives
as if they meant nothing. It enraged
me, as did having pepper spray in
my eyes, to be honest. So I went
for him.
As soon as I hit him, I knew that
he was going down. I don’t mean to
sound blasé. He’d been doing these
commando-style moves to fight off
the police, and he seemed well
trained, but I grew up in Glasgow:
it seemed natural to me that a wee
forearm smash would sort it out.
I’m not a street fighter, but I know
how to look after myself.
I threw my full weight into it.
My arm and shoulder met his chest
and he clattered down. I stood on
his legs while the police cuffed him.
One officer shouted at me, “Who
are you? Get out of here.” That
annoyed me. Who am I? I’m the one
who’s just put him on his backside.
By that time, a second terrorist
was out of the car, but the police
had the situation under control,
so I retreated.
They interviewed me on BBC
afterwards, but I didn’t want a fuss;
it was what any half-decent person
would have done. When I heard
that the guy had later died in
hospital, I didn’t really feel
anything. It made no difference to
me whether he was dead or in jail,
like the other man.
I wasn’t the only one to help out.
A taxi driver, Alex McIlveen, and
a baggage handler, John Smeaton,
were both on the scene before me,
as were a couple of others. They got
some kicks in on the terrorists and
helped put out the burning jeep.
John did a few interviews, and that
famous thing he said – “This is
Glasgow, we’ll set about you” –
was just right. It showed Scottish
resilience and humour.
I’m a builder, and went back to
work the next day. I’ve honestly
never lost a moment’s sleep over
what happened.
I got a couple of awards, including
the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. I met
the prime minister, Gordon Brown,
too. He said, “Thanks for everything.”
I said, “Nae problem.”
Probably the biggest buzz came
a few months later. I saw a horse
called Secret Hero. I was looking at
the name, thinking I’d seen it before,
and I remembered that’s what the
Daily Record had called me in
a headline. I stuck £125 on it, it won
and I took home £500. It felt like
a nice ending.
Stephen Clarkson
Do you have an experience to share?
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 15
I stopped a terror attack
16 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
He’s moved to the country, had a baby and stayed
away from politics – but is Russell Brand
ready for a quiet life? Miranda Sawyer finds out
Portraits by Harry Borden
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 17
Russell Brand speaking at an End Austerity Now rally in June 2015; with fiancee Laura Gallacher; performing standup in Berlin in 2014; interviewing Ed Miliband in 2015
he last time I interviewed Russell
Brand was in 2008, around the time of
Sachsgate, and he was a handful. When
I asked him, as a joke, if he was going
for world domination, he replied, “Yes, that is what
I will do. What am I going to stop for? I’ll just carry
on until there’s nothing left.” Nine years on, he has
changed in some ways, and in others, not at all.
He still looks amazing: tall, long-haired, GypsyGeorge-Best handsome; a dandy highwayman in
black leather trousers and goth jewellery. His mind
still fires faster than a machine gun, and his speech
is just as packed with flowery words and detailed
explanations, peppered with references to what
he’s read (Jung, Harari, life coach Tony Robbins).
And he’s still funny. But Brand is different. His ego
is less all-consuming. In 2008, he was difficult with
the photographer (not today, he’s fine) and, during
our chat, he kept moving his head so that, even
when I tried to glance away, he was constantly in
my sight-line. It was as if my eyes were the
spotlight and his face had to be in it. No more.
“Yes, I’m less mad now,” he says, when I mention
this. “I was a needy person. I mean, that condition
abides, but I manage it better now, I think.”
Back then, he was also very much a girl-hound
– “I love fucking,” he told me. “My house has a
hot tub for damned good reasons, and none of
them spiritual.” But these days he’s settled, living
in the countryside with his fiancee Laura
Gallacher (sister of Sky Sports presenter Kirsty),
baby Mabel, two cats, a brace of chickens and
a “maniac” dog. Having burned through his
marriage to Katy Perry in two years, and dated
Jemima Khan, his relationship with Gallacher,
on and off for years, is now settled and domestic.
Career-wise, he’s still a standup – he’s on a
71-date tour that will take him into 2018 – but
seems to have stopped acting, and has shifted
a lot of his public work to activism. In 2014, he
began posting The Trews, his political YouTube
show, garnering more than 1m subscribers. He’s
now studying for an MA in religion in global
politics at SOAS University of London. He hosts
a wordy, thought-provoking podcast, Under
The Skin, where he talks to academics,
politicians and writers about contemporary ideas.
Is this all less mad? It’s an effort to be more
serious, certainly, though his daft performer’s
instinct can send him off course in search of the
joke, so that he gets ridiculed on political
TV shows.
Anyhow, all of this newfound stability and
seriousness, according to Brand, is due to his
12-step recovery programme. Though he’s been
off drugs since 2002, Brand’s addictive nature
meant that his attitude towards sex, porn, money,
relationships, food, fame – everything, really – was
abnormally compulsive and got him into trouble.
So, for the past four and a half years, he has been
applying the steps across the whole of his life. He
has found this transformative, and thinks many
others would, too. In fact, he wants us all to be
12-steppers. “I think that this ideology needs to be
proliferated,” he says, “and I think that the more
access people have to it, the more people could
use it. I’m fascinated by its potential.”
We are chatting in a beautiful hotel in the
countryside west of London, not far from where he
lives. On a side table, several necklaces have been
laid out for Brand to choose from for his photo
shoot. A hotel worker delivers avocado on toast
while we talk before a vista of perfectly appointed
gardens. It’s a setting unlike most representations
of an AA meeting that I’ve seen, but let’s talk the
12 steps. The 12 steps form the basis of Alcoholics
Anonymous and of all other associated groups
(Narcotics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts
Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters
Anonymous). The first step is an admission of
powerlessness over the thing to which you’re
addicted. The steps aren’t hard to find, but there is
a lot of related literature, too, and though this isn’t
a secret, it tends to be passed only between those
who attend AA meetings. This isn’t enough for
Brand. He is so evangelical about the steps that he
has rewritten them, in Brand-speak, for his new
In 2015 he told his
fans not to vote, and
he is unrepentant.
‘I’m a trickster,
a joker – I don’t need
to work out how the
Met should be run’
book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.
Aside from the foreword and conclusion,
Recovery has 12 chapters, one for each step, and
with each Brand takes the step’s essence, rejigs it,
and uses his own life to explain what he means.
So the AA step one, “We admitted we were
powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become
unmanageable”, becomes, in Brand’s reworking,
“Are you a bit fucked?” AA’s step six, “We were
entirely ready to have God remove all these
defects of character”, becomes: “Do you want to
stop it? Seriously?” You get the gist.
The book is entertaining and easy to read.
There’s a chapter about Brand’s daughter’s birth
that is graphically real and very moving: “As if
touched by the finger of creation, her eyes flash
open and life possesses her and exudes from her.
Like seeing behind the curtain as she moves from
life’s shadow to life.” Still, I’m not sure how
necessary the book is – surely, the existing steps
literature works fine – so who is it for?
“For people who have drug and alcohol or sex
or food issues, but find some of the literature too
clinical, or Christian,” Brand says. “But also, I think
it could be applied as a sort of model, because now
my lens for living is this. I think it’s universal.”
He tells me about a professional, non-AA
meeting he recently attended. He asked if anyone
felt they were out of control over anything, and
one person mentioned their phone use, another
how possessive they were about their friends,
another how they behaved when dating. These
are the people he wants to read his book, he says;
addiction is on a sliding scale, and we all, to
a greater or lesser degree, display signs of
addictive behaviour. “Addiction is just an extreme
behavioural pattern, and we all have patterns.”
He may well be right: I just question whether
Brand is the person to take us all through the
steps. Also, there’s a point, surely, to the
anonymous bit of AA? If the support groups aren’t
anonymous, then people don’t feel free enough
to talk honestly.
He disagrees. “That anonymity was necessary
at the inception, I think, precisely because it
was 100 years ago [AA started in 1935; the steps
were written in 1939], and there were different
social attitudes about chemical misuse and →
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 19
alcoholism. The fellowships themselves had a
fragility, and needed to be protected from the
idea that anyone could claim to be a spokesperson
for them. But I think such anonymity now is
preventing a technology that people would
benefit from being proliferated.”
He points out how easy it is to order drugs, or
indeed anything else, from the internet; how
consumer culture is designed to make us think that
if you don’t feel good, “there is something you can
get to make you feel better and you can probably
buy it”. Whether it’s the bump of serotonin you get
from a heart on an Instagram post, or the one you
get from winning an eBay auction, today’s culture
is designed to make you temporarily euphoric
through consumption, rather than fully happy
because you have changed your habits.
“We’re reaching saturation of consumerism,
and the antidote to all this needs to be accessible
as well,” he says. “In a way, this book is
a progression of the last book I wrote.”
Revolution, Brand’s last book, was his call for a
political revolution, based on destroying
capitalism and getting transcendent instead.
(Spoiler: it didn’t work.) John Lydon called it
idiotic, and even his friend Noel Gallagher, on
hearing that Brand was writing another book,
said, “What’s it going to be called this time? The
Revolution That Never Took Place?” Still, Brand is
persistent. “There’s an ongoing sense that this
isn’t working. Really, I’d like to address the
emotional and spiritual causes of dissatisfaction
on a personal level.”
Ah, the Big Idea. It’s easy to forget, when
presented with a comedian who threw away
several careers, not just his own, by leaving offcolour messages on the answerphone of a Fawlty
Towers star, that Brand has always been
interested in the Big Idea. In 2008, he said this to
me: “The material world is a transitory illusion,
and if it is, why organise your life around the
systems that it imposes? Particularly if those
systems have negative consequences for huge
numbers of people, and the planet itself. I wonder
if there are ways that that can change... and
I don’t mean normal things like, let’s wear
a ribbon – I mean the entire economic structure
of the planet or the way we look at religion.”
He’s still thinking along those lines. His Under
The Skin podcast is an attempt to get clever people
such as Naomi Klein, Al Gore, Adam Curtis and
assorted professors to explain their own Big Idea
and unpick the systems we take as set in stone,
whether those systems are economic or social.
He’s searching for the meaning underneath. Brand
used to be a Buddhist; now, he believes in a higher
power, and the steps are his new faith.
“There was an important job that religion was
doing,” he says, “but because of the bigotry, the
outdated acculturation of the time of its
construction, the casual and unaware attitude
towards gender and race, we have, possibly quite
rightly, rejected it. But the secularisation, the
materialisation, the individualisation of the way
20 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
we see the world now excludes us from a life that
has meaning. And I don’t think pop culture can fill
that gap any more. I don’t think art can do it any
more. I think things are getting too serious. People
need to be able to connect with something that is
essential and beautiful and valuable and true.”
This is pretty much what he was saying 10 years
ago, I feel. It’s just that, this time around, Brand’s
solution is different. For him, the 12-step
programme “has the seeds in it, it has the code”.
The meaning of life, the Big Idea. It may well do –
the 12 steps have saved a lot more lives than me –
but I have another issue with Brand’s book. AA
and its associated groups are all free. Though
there are those who pay to go into rehab, there are
many more who just turn up to meetings and pay
nothing at all. Brand will be charging money for
his book. How much of his profits will go to AA?
“Some I’ll give to abstinence-based recovery,”
he says, “but I’ve not made a devout vow to be
a mendicant, you know? My hope is that I’ll
become a person that lives entirely charitably and
entirely philanthropically and entirely spiritually.
And a significant percentage of what I earn – 10,
20% – goes into that kind of thing already; it has
done for a little while. Aside from that, there is
a 12-step message in this book, but it’s coming
through me, it’s using me. It’s still me.”
Exactly, I say. The book is about you. It has
a picture of you on the front.
“I know that. I know I’m narcissistic. I know I’m
no different from anyone with ego problems,
showing off, going, ‘Love me, love me, adore me,
give me attention’, but it ain’t just that. It’s
something else. And that thing, I’ve got to do
something with it.”
I believe he believes this. But I still think it’s his
ego. Brand is working hard on his narcissism, but
not enough to stop him thinking he can save us all.
‘I sometimes feel like
a refugee in my house,
living with this calm
woman who doesn’t
care what I do. She’s
not interested, in the
most delightful way ’
And not enough to stop him making money by
rewriting the programme that saved his life for
free. Still, here we are. Before he decided to work
the 12 steps throughout his daily existence, Brand
spent a lot of time searching for how he should
live. He read innumerable self-help books,
hoovered up philosophy, puzzled away. He has the
phone number of Eckhart Tolle, author of The
Power Of Now, and for a while would phone him
up – “This living saint!” – with his love-life
problems. One time, Brand was banging on about
the troubles he was having with his then girlfriend,
and at the end of his love tirade, Tolle said,
deadpan, “Well, perhaps the relationship will work
out. And then both of you will die.” This made
Brand laugh, and makes me laugh when he says it.
His personal quest means he’s gone through
umpteen therapists, regaling each with his
admittedly eye-popping life story. It got to the
point where it would almost be a performance. He
would rattle through being an only child, his mum
getting cancer three times, being sexually abused
by a tutor, his relationship with his macho stepdad,
his sexually profligate dad who took him to
Thailand and ordered three prostitutes (two for
him, one for 16-year-old Russell), his problems with
crack, heroin, with cutting himself, with sex, with
food. The therapist he liked most listened to it all
and said, “Yes, but Russell, what is it? What. Is. It?”
What is it? In his book, Brand recalls a day he
went to London to meet a theatre director. His
tale is a litany of minor discomforts, the worst of
which is that his phone runs out of juice and he
can’t get a cab. For Brand, though, this series of
very small annoyances is almost catastrophic. He
cannot cope. His mind fires all over the place,
taking him back to when he had nothing, flicking
over his junkie past, speculating about strangers’
jobs, then painfully picking through small talk to
a moment of joy with, of all people, the actor Zoë
Wanamaker. As I read it, I was reminded that, in
addition to his addiction problems, Brand has
ADHD. It must be exhausting being him.
In that chapter, what he’s trying to demonstrate
is how emotional we can be when life bashes us
about, but also how the steps can provide a form of
mindfulness, a technique to deal with the mania
and loneliness and resentment that can easily
sweep through our system and knock us off course.
Or, at least, knock him off course. What his story
makes me feel is that I’m not like that; we all have
days when everyone and everything is a wind-up,
but usually I manage to shrug off the externals and
get on with my life. “Yes, I think addicts are outliers,
we’re so jittery about the external world that we’re
like, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to find something to
medicate and alleviate this.’ I know I’m a nutter.”
No wonder he lives more quietly now, though
quiet is a relative term. He’s still making the odd
Trews show – he’s just put one up about Sinéad
O’Connor, sympathising with her mental illness –
plus there’s the podcast, his MA, the book, and
he’s doing three standup gigs a week. Performing
comedy means his adrenaline is all over the shop;
up late and wired, he has to sleep more during the
day to keep himself steady. He’s trying hard to be
reasonable, because “the more I hear myself
being reasonable, the more difficult it becomes to
transgress those rules and my own behaviour”.
And he likes living quietly. “I’ve never had
domesticity before. Most of my life has been an
extension of the grandiose idea of what glamour
would look like if it had to have a kitchen. And
I feel sometimes like a refugee in my house with
this woman, this calm, beautiful woman, who in
the most beautiful way possible doesn’t care
about what I do. She’s not interested, in the most
delightful way. ‘Oh, that sounds nice.’”
He’s enjoying having a daughter, too, though the
lack of control takes some getting used to. He might
have joked about raising her gender-neutral on
Jonathan Ross’s TV show, but he’s pretty militant
about Mabel’s privacy. He copes better when his
little family are indoors; outside the house, things
can get tricky, because he has trouble moving from
a safe place out into a random world where he is
not in command, but also because “I struggle with
people touching the kid.” Plus, his celebrity can
skew ordinary moments. He writes about being on
a boat on a canal with Laura and getting papped
and then getting into a row with the photographer
– “My unstated plan is to get his camera… I settle
for snatching his spectacles to barter for the film”;
it doesn’t go well – and tells me of a time when he
fell off his bike in Shoreditch and was lying
sprawled on the ground, injured, as a selection of
hipsters took photographs of him. “The fact that
I was a famous person usurped the fact that I was
lying on the floor, clearly in pain.” Only a group of
older ladies bothered to ask if he was OK.
Sometimes I think Russell Brand is a cautionary
tale, almost a mythological figure; a combination of
Narcissus, Big Brother, Keith Richards and Mick
Jagger – actually, all rock stars at once. But then
I remember that, really, he is not like many other
people. He’s not ordinary by any stretch: he’s
a person for whom fame is like sunlight, who
couldn’t have stayed in the shadows without dying.
He is built to show off, and that has consequences.
“Yes, but like a lot of people that have access to
extrovert behaviour and can seem quite loud and
vivid, there’s a fragility also in me. I’ve learned to
manage that differently, and I don’t feel so selfdamning and self-condemning as I once did,
because I’m more aware.” He knows, for instance,
that The Trews began promisingly, but descended
into political point-scoring, culminating with Ed
Miliband visiting his house to be interviewed and
Brand deciding that, actually, we should all vote
after all, as long as we voted Labour. He admits
that the attention the shows generated fed his
always-ravenous ego, and he began to use The
Trews to feel powerful and get approval. So he
stopped. “I still have this tremendous ambitious
drive, but now I know, if I give that drive to my
ego to contend with, it wreaks havoc.”
He should stay out of conventional politics,
I think. “Yes. I’m on the edge of the community –
a trickster, a joker, a playful person – I don’t need
to be working out how the Metropolitan police
force should be run.”
When I remind him how, pre-Miliband chat, he
told his many young fans that there was no point in
voting in the 2015 election, he is unrepentant,
because he felt, back then, that there was no real
difference between the main parties. In the 2017
election, however, he endorsed Jeremy Corbyn,
because he feels Corbyn is genuinely different from
the Tories. But on the whole he doesn’t have much
time for politics, because it gets in the way of
individual spiritual awakening. He thinks Trump is
an idiot, but questions how much he will actually
get done during his term in office; he also
remembers Obama’s failings in Syria. On his
podcast, Brand interviewed Yanis Varoufakis and
what he liked most was Varoufakis saying that
when people are in powerful roles, their roles
form the extent of their power – so that, in the
end, they have no true power at all.
Time is up. Shame. I am enjoying our
conversation. “So am I,” Brand says. “I’m happy
in this conversation. I’m not threatened.” He has
to do big talk, he can’t do small: it makes him
nervous, and then he might act inappropriately.
I say, “Well, you could talk about football, that’s
Esperanto for most men.” But he can’t talk
casually about football, either, or comedy,
because he’s a nerd about both things. He can’t be
casual about much, any more, not even sex.
“No. I want to know what is the mystery, what is
driving us, where is this all going. The only line
you can draw between any of us is between those
that think it’s possible for the world to change and
those that don’t. Those who think it’s possible for
an individual to change and those who don’t.
I can’t think, ‘Well, I’ll just wait out my days, I’ll
do my cluck, I’ll do my rattle, I’ll do my bird, I’ll
wait it out and then put me in the fucking turf.’
I feel it’s possible to change the world.” •
Recovery is published on 21 September by
Macmillan at £20. To pre-order a copy for £17, go to, or call 0330 333 6846.
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 21
From Google
to Uber, Silicon
Valley has a woman
problem. Enter
the Lawless sisters,
the legal duo
taking on
the tech giants.
By Olivia Solon
Winni Wintermeyer
24 2 September 2017 | ThePortraits:
Guardian Weekend
Therese and Barbara Lawless,
photographed at their office
in San Francisco last month
n the wall of Lawless & Lawless’s
San Francisco office is a framed, fullpage newspaper advert with a black
background and just two words in
white text: “Thanks Ellen”. The ad, taken out in
March 2015 in a Silicon Valley freesheet, referred
to Ellen Pao, who had recently fought a $16m
sexual discrimination suit against her former
employer, venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins.
Pao claimed she was passed over for promotion
and excluded from meetings after she accused
a senior partner of sexual harassment.
Although Pao lost the suit, coverage of the case
shone a bright light on Silicon Valley’s gender
problem. More legal suits followed, this time
against Facebook and Tesla. The common
denominator? The lawyers representing the
women: Therese and Barbara Lawless. The
formidable sisters, who have been practising
employment law together since the late 1980s,
have become the go-to attorneys in the battle
against what they describe as America’s “wild
west” of gender discrimination and
sexual harassment.
“For so long, women kept their mouths shut
and did their jobs, and put their heads down
because they were so afraid,” says Therese, 56,
the younger of the pair, speaking from across
a large boardroom table in their unassuming
office. “But more and more women are just fed
up.” In the wake of the Pao case, their phones
haven’t stopped ringing. “I’ll get women in their
50s calling me up and saying, ‘I can’t put up with
it any more’,” Therese says.
The sisters take turns to lead the conversation.
Therese, dressed in a trouser suit and with long,
dark hair, chooses her words carefully. Barbara, 70,
who has a softer voice but equally no-nonsense
manner, punctuates Therese’s sentences, as if →
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 25
£50 PP
Nights in hotel
By Coach
By Rail
£50 PP
Nights in hotel
By Coach
By Rail
Therese and Barbara, originally from Buffalo,
New York, grew up as two of 12 siblings: six girls,
six boys. “It was great – crazy, but really fun,”
Barbara says. She was the second child, born
14 years before Therese, the ninth. “It could be
chaotic,” Therese adds, “but our mother was very
organised – I always likened her job to running
a small business.”
Law is in the Lawless family blood. Their father,
William, a liberal who believed in educating girls
and boys equally, was a judge, lawyer, law school
dean and professor. Both Barbara and Therese
married lawyers (Barbara has since remarried
an accountant), and they have two siblings,
two nieces and a nephew in the field.
Their family name is a frequent conversation
starter. “It’s Irish,” Therese explains. “We don’t
know what our ancestors did, but we’re trying
to make up for it.”
When Barbara, who graduated from law school
in 1972, started out, women represented less than
10% of all law graduates. She would frequently
annotating out loud. “All of this has been going
on for a long time,” Therese says. “For ever!”
Barbara interjects.
At the same time the Ellen Pao case went to
court, Lawless & Lawless filed a discrimination
suit against Facebook, over allegations made by
project manager Chia Hong, who claimed she faced
gender and racial discrimination and harassment
while working at the company. She alleged that
her opinions were belittled in group meetings,
and that a supervisor asked her why she didn’t
just stay at home and look after her child.
Eventually, after a mediation session between the
parties, Hong dropped the case; Therese says the
matter has been “resolved”, but can’t say whether
there was a settlement.
In February, the Lawless sisters squared up to
Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla, on
behalf of 33-year-old engineer AJ Vandermeyden.
She accused the company of ignoring her
complaints of “pervasive harassment” from men
on the factory floor, including inappropriate
language, whistling and catcalls. Vandermeyden
also alleged they paid her a lower salary than men
doing the same work, promoted less qualified
men over her, and punished her for being a
whistleblower – eventually firing her after she
spoke about her experience to the Guardian.
Tesla rejected the allegations; the case is ongoing.
But these high-profile cases represent just
a small proportion of the Lawless sisters’
workload. More than 95% of their gender
discrimination and harassment cases are settled
behind closed doors and involve non-disclosure
agreements. “If companies are going to pay X
amount of dollars [the sisters’ website lists
settlements of between $450,000 and $8m], then,
as part of the deal, our lips are sealed,” Therese
says. “It’s far worse than people know. People
would be appalled at some of the behaviour that
goes on at the workplace.”
find herself the only woman in a room of 100
lawyers. By the time Therese graduated in the late
1980s, it was less of a boys’ club, at least for entrylevel lawyers. However, among trial lawyers and
in leadership positions, the representation of
women was – and still is – very low.
Barbara tells me about an incident in 1975,
when she attended a sentencing hearing while
pregnant. The judge, a friend of her father, took
one look at her and said, as Barbara recounts,
“You are in a family way – go back and send your
[business] partner down to make this argument.”
“I couldn’t believe it, but he must have been
75 years old and was generally a nice man. Still,
I thought, ‘This is what we are dealing with.’”
She adds that this was at around the same time
that schoolteachers were being forced into unpaid
maternity leave in around the fifth month of
pregnancy, over fears that it was dangerous for
the mother and child, and distracting to students.
“I was dealing with the last vestiges of this
going on, and didn’t want to make an example of
him at the end of his career,” Barbara says. “That’s
why women go into business together: it’s almost
as if you have to start your own business because
men won’t give you the opportunity.”
In 1988, Therese found herself in the type of
large corporate law firm she had pledged to avoid.
She stuck it out for nine months, until she found
herself working on a case that was “so repugnant”
she couldn’t take it any more. Two teachers had
been fired from a private school for allowing
students to create a poster about Aids, complete
with a container of condoms – too much for the
Catholic community in Boston.
“I was supposed to represent the school,”
Clockwise from top left: Therese Lawless with Ellen
Pao, who filed a $16m claim against Kleiner Perkins;
Susan Fowler exposed sexism at Uber, while AJ
Vandermeyden’s claim against Tesla is ongoing
she recalls, “but I picked up the phone to
Barbara and said, ‘When can I come?’”
Now the sisters are a force to be reckoned with in
California. “If you have a case against them, you
know it’s going to be serious,” says Donna Rutter,
a defence attorney who represents companies
that the Lawless sisters have sued. “They really
care about advancing women in society and in
the workplace.”
The sisters have become used to facing
aggressive tactics from defence lawyers, who
often trawl through work emails and chats to find
information that will put the complainant off
pursuing a case. “They go into all of the dirt and
try to shame the victims,” Therese says.
“Sometimes they try and say she initiated it, or
she was incompetent at work, therefore [engaging
in a sexual relationship] was the only way she
could move ahead.”
In one particularly egregious case, a company
accused of sexual harassment hired psychologists
to assess the emotional distress of the victim
during the pre-trial phase, and discovered that
she’d had two abortions more than two decades
earlier. “They tried to argue that her current
emotional distress was impacted by the abortions
rather than the harassment,” Therese says. “That
was a little dirty.” She responded by persuading the
judge to let her interview the jurors to screen out
those with strong negative beliefs about abortion. →
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 27
Before the Ellen Pao case, it was rare, if not
unheard of, for a woman in a senior position to
take a tech company or venture capital firm to
court over sex discrimination. Pao’s testimony
was eye-opening, describing a “boys’ club”
atmosphere, including men-only work trips and
inappropriate behaviour by senior male partners
towards junior female colleagues.
“What Ellen did was important,” Therese says.
“She took the lead.”
Therese was approached by Pao’s attorney, Alan
Axelrod, to work with him on the case just three
months before the five-week long trial. She knew
the case was emblematic of something bigger
when they arrived at the courthouse and were told
that they’d have to move to a larger courtroom,
to accommodate all the cameras. But, ultimately,
they were outgunned by Kleiner Perkins. “We
did not have the resources that a VC [venture
capital] firm with billionaire partners has,” Therese
explains. “I don’t have six or seven lawyers
working on the case, preparing my exams or
attending the courtroom with a jury consultant.”
The case was particularly tricky, too, she says,
because being left out of meetings, spoken over
by co-workers or asked to take notes are all very
subtle signs of discrimination; none provides the
kind of smoking gun jurors are looking for.
Then there’s the cultural bias that many people
still have when talking about gender. “I think
misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our culture
that even women perpetuate it,” Therese says.
“We had a lot of female jurors who were willing
to accept what were in my opinion simply untrue
explanations as to why things happened.” Several
witnesses described Pao as having “sharp
elbows” and being “prickly” and “competitive”.
“Men exhibiting the same type of ambition and
wanting to move up in the company are seen as
being assertive, while Pao was perceived as bossy
and aggressive,” Therese says.
It’s a type of discrimination that the sisters
think is pervasive in the tech industry. “It’s also
so much harder to prove,” Barbara says, because
companies can always find alternative reasons to
explain a lack of promotion, or why a woman
wasn’t invited to certain meetings.
In the end, the jury sided with Kleiner Perkins,
but the impact was felt far beyond the courtroom.
Pao emboldened other women to talk, something
other lawyers dubbed the “Pao effect”. Women
shared their experiences of discrimination online
using the hashtag #ThankYouEllen. Trae Vassallo,
a former partner at Kleiner Perkins, who testified
against the firm at the Pao trial, went on to
co-author a survey of women working in Silicon
Valley: it found that 60% had experienced
unwanted sexual advances and 90% had witnessed
sexist behaviour at work. Pao has since launched a
nonprofit venture called Project Include, unveiled
in May 2016, which collects and shares data to help
diversify the tech workforce.
In February this year, Uber engineer Susan
Fowler published a detailed account of →
Taking on the boys’ club:
a brief history of harassment
May 2012
Ellen Pao, venture
capitalist and interim
CEO of Reddit, brings
a gender discrimination
lawsuit against her
employer, Kleiner,
Perkins, Caufield &
Byers (KPCG). She is
represented by
Therese Lawless and
Alan Axelrod. Pao
loses, but the highprofile case encourages
other women to
come forward.
‘It’s more
than other
They might
have studied
but they don’t
understand it’
March 2015
Former product
manager and
technology partner
Chia Hong sues
Facebook for
gender and
race discrimination,
claiming she
experienced a “hostile
environment” and
was belittled by male
colleagues. It was
resolved out of court.
March 2015
Tina Huang, one of the
first 100 employees of
Twitter, submits a class
action lawsuit against
the company, alleging
that its promotion
system discriminates
on gender. Twitter
denies the claims and
hires the same lawyers
who represented KPCG
against Ellen Pao. The
case is ongoing.
September 2015
Computer security
researcher Katherine
Moussouris files a class
action complaint
against Microsoft,
together with two
other female
employees, alleging
that they discriminate
against women in
technical roles. The
case is ongoing.
July 2016
Before an action is
filed, Smartphone chip
Qualcomm pays
$19.5m to 3,300
employees who
accused it of gender
discrimination against
women in tech,
engineering and
science-related roles.
October 2016
Scott Ard and Greg
Anderson, two
former editors at
Yahoo, file separate
suits against the
company, both
alleging that they lost
their jobs because the
performance review
system introduced by
former CEO Marissa
Mayer discriminated
against male
employees. Yahoo
denies the allegations.
February 2017
AJ Vandermeyden
reveals that she has
sued Elon Musk’s
electric carmaker Tesla,
accusing it of ignoring
her complaints of
harassment”,, paying
her a lower salary than
men doing the same
work, and promoting
less qualified men over
her. She is represented
by Therese Lawless.
Tesla refutes her
concerns and in June
2017 dismisses her
from the company.
The action is ongoing.
April 2017
The US Department of
Labor accuses Google
of a “systemic” gender
pay gap, saying it is in
violation of federal
employment laws.
In August, it emerges
that more than 60
current and former
Google employees are
considering a class
action over pay
disparities for women.
May 2017
Former director of
digital at virtual reality
startup UploadVR
Elizabeth Scott files a
gender discrimination
and wrongful
termination lawsuit
against the company’s
founders. She alleges
that they created
a “boys’ club”
environment “marked
by rampant sexual
behaviour and focus”,
including setting up a
room with a bed in the
office referred to as the
“kink room”. Scott
alleges that women
were paid less than
men, and given menial
tasks. The company
denies the claims;
m the
n is ongoing
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 29
unwanted sexual advances and
discrimination at the company.
She alleged that, when she joined, a
manager immediately propositioned
her for sex over the company chat
tool, and that a director explained
the shrinking numbers of women in
her department by saying “the
women of Uber just need to step up
and be better engineers”.
Following Fowler’s post on her
blog, dozens of stories emerged from
Uber, including a report of a trip by
senior employees, including chief
executive Travis Kalanick, to a South
Korean escort bar, and the leaking of
a company-wide email from
Kalanick that set out rules about sex
and drinking ahead of a company
trip. He wrote: “Do not have sex with
another employee UNLESS a) you
have asked that person for that
privilege and they have responded
with an emphatic ‘YES! I will have
sex with you’ AND b) the two (or
more) of you do not work in the
same chain of command. Yes, that
means that Travis will be celibate on
this trip. #CEOLife #FML.”
This summer, a company-wide
investigation into sexual harassment
at the firm led to the termination
of more than 20 employees’
contracts. Soon afterwards, Kalanick
announced he was taking an
indefinite leave of absence, before
resigning in the face of a mutiny
among Uber’s investors.
Since then, several women have
filed lawsuits against less wellknown startups. In an ongoing
wrongful dismissal suit, Elizabeth
Scott accused the founders of virtual
reality firm UploadVR of creating
a “boys’ club” environment
“marked by rampant sexual
behaviour”, including setting up
a room with a bed in the office
referred to as the “kink room”.
Shortly after that, several female
entrepreneurs, including 31-year-old
Sarah Kunst, accused tech investor
Dave McClure of sexual harassment.
Kunst alleged that she had been
talking to him about a possible job
when he sent her a Facebook
message saying, “I didn’t know
whether to hire you or hit on you.”
McClure stood down from his role
at investment firm 500 Startups
and fell on his sword with a blogpost
titled I’m A Creep. I’m Sorry.
Last month James Damore,
a software engineer at Google,
circulated a 10-page memo in which
he argued that there were biological
reasons women were less suited to
jobs in tech. Even the battlehardened Lawless sisters were taken
aback by its language. “That was so
outrageous,” Barbara says. “That
he could even think that way in this
day and age… I was shocked.” The
memo came just months after the US
Department of Labor accused Google
of systematically underpaying
women, in an investigation that is
still ongoing. More than 60 current
and former Google employees are
now considering bringing a class
action, alleging sexism and pay
disparities against women.
Why does the technology industry
have so many issues with
discrimination? The Lawless sisters
point to the way it celebrates rulebreakers, and how it frequently blurs
the lines between social and
professional lives – with long working
hours, a lack of structure and human
resources (HR) departments, and
office fridges full of free beer. “The
entrepreneurial personality makes
people much bigger risk-takers,”
Barbara explains. And that risk-taking
can spill over into unwanted sexual
advances. “They [Silicon Valley’s
entrepreneurs] are more blatant and
less sophisticated compared with
other industries,” Barbara adds,
mentioning certain law firms and
accounting firms. “I really do think
they are cowboys.”
Increasingly, the Lawless sisters
are seeing cases where individuals
have gone to human resources for
help, and not got it. Therese puts this
down to a “lack of attention”: HR is
not usually a priority for startups
founded by a handful of computer
science college graduates. If you’re
building the next Facebook, you’ll
hire software engineers, a sales
person and an operations person; but
you probably won’t invest in human
resources until the company grows.
By the time the company is big
enough to hire an HR person, the
culture will already be embedded,
and other inexperienced managers
may not be able to identify
discrimination. “They might have
studied [sexual harassment and
discrimination], but they don’t know
it,” Barbara says. “When you see it
a few times, you recognise it fast.”
Immature companies and their
‘With the altright, we are
getting these
strange views
we haven’t had
in the open for
a long time’
CEOs will often rally around
a person accused of misconduct if
that person is a key contributor to
the company – the culture Susan
Fowler describes at Uber. When she
took screenshots of her manager’s
sexual advances to HR, she was told
that it was the “man’s first offence”
and that he was a “high performer”,
so would only get a warning.
As technology companies mature
and become more institutionalised,
women will have more protection
and opportunities, Barbara believes:
“The cultures will get more genteel
and the cowboys will no longer rule.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the
Tesla litigation, which is currently
in the pre-trial phase, the firm is
working on a mixture of cases,
from pregnancy and disability
discrimination to sexual harassment,
though Therese is protective over
the details: “I don’t like disclosing
how many cases I have, because
I don’t want my opponents using
it against me,” she says.
The sisters are increasingly
concerned by the normalisation of
hate speech against women and
minorities. After Google fired
Damore, he and other “free speech”
advocates argued that the company
has been subsumed by liberal
groupthink, and is censoring anyone
with different views about diversity
and political correctness. Andrew
Torba, CEO of the social network
Gab, which offered Damore a job,
said, “The message to conservatives
is: if you dare step out of line and
say something outside the status
quo of liberalism, you can expect
to be fired.”
“With the alt-right, we are getting
these strange views that we haven’t
had in the open for a long time,”
Barbara says. “I wonder how many
men really feel that way. I think a lot
do.” Therese adds: “It’s troubling to
see some people thinking that the
workplace is an appropriate forum
for hate speech. I hope he [Damore] is
not the norm for the new generation.”
Either way, the sisters won’t be out
of work any time soon. As Barbara
says, “It’s lifelong employment for
sex harassment lawyers.” •
The sweet spot
From fig tarts to chocolate
cookies, Yotam Ottolenghi
has been perfecting the
pudding since way
back when. Exclusive
recipes from his new book
Photographs by Rita Platts
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 33
250g egg whites (ie, from six large
eggs), at room temperature
375g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp white-wine vinegar
2 tsp corn flour
For the filling
400ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra
for dusting
5 large, ripe peaches, washed but
unpeeled, halved, stoned and cut into
0.5cm-wide segments
300g fresh blackberries
60g toasted flaked almonds
Chocolate, banana and pecan cookies
Chocolate, banana and
pecan cookies
The banana creates moisture and
adds flavour; pecans are the classic
match, but walnuts work, too. The
secret is to slightly under-bake these
cookies, to keep them soft and fudgy.
Once rolled into balls, the dough
keeps in the fridge for two days, or
can be frozen for up to three months
(they cook straight from frozen, too:
just add a minute to the baking time).
Eat within a day of baking. Makes 24.
110g unsalted butter at room
temperature, cubed
110g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
125g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
20g cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
100g 70% cocoa chocolate chips (or 100g
dark cooking chocolate in 0.5cm pieces)
50g mashed banana (½ small banana)
170g pecan halves, finely chopped
100g icing sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer with
the paddle attachment in place, beat
the butter and sugar on a mediumhigh speed until light and fluffy, then
add the egg and beat to combine.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa
powder, cinnamon and salt into a
bowl, then add to the butter mix,
beating on low speed for 15 seconds.
34 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Beat in the chocolate and banana
until combined, then transfer to
the fridge for two hours to firm up.
Once firm, form the dough into
24 3cm balls, about 20g each. Put the
pecans in a bowl, then drop in each
ball, rolling it around to coat and
pressing the nuts in, so they stick.
Put the cookies on a baking tray
lined with greaseproof paper and
refrigerate for at least an hour.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5 and line two oven trays with
baking paper. Put the icing sugar in
a bowl and roll the cookies one by
one in the sugar, pressing it in as you
go, so it sticks. Arrange the cookies
on the trays 2-3cm apart, then
flatten them to about 1cm thick.
Bake for 10 minutes, then remove:
the cookies will be soft to the touch.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then
move to a rack. Serve warm or cool.
Rolled pavlova with peaches
and blackberries
This showstopper makes a real
statement. Don’t be put off by its
size: large pavlovas are much easier
to roll than small ones. We’ve paired
late-summer peaches with the
blackberries of early autumn, but
use whatever fruit you like. The
meringue can be baked up to a day
ahead. Fill it with fruit and cream up
to four hours ahead of time, though
it’s best to leave this as close as
possible to serving. Serves 10 to 12.
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas
mark 7. Line a 35cm x 30cm shallow
baking tray with enough greaseproof
paper to hang 2cm over the sides.
To make the meringue, put the
egg whites in the bowl of an electric
mixer with the whisk attachment
in place and whisk to soft peaks on
a medium-high speed for about a
minute. Add the sugar a tablespoon
at a time, whisking all the time, and
continue to beat for at least five
minutes, until the mixture turns
into thick, glossy meringue. Turn
the speed to low, add the vanilla,
vinegar and corn flour, then raise
the speed to medium and whisk
for a minute, until combined.
Spoon the meringue into the
lined tin and use a spatula to spread
it out evenly. Place in the heated
oven and immediately lower the
temperature to 200C/390F/gas mark
6: it’s this contrast in temperatures
that helps create that crisp exterior
and gooey, marshmallow-like
insides. Bake for 35 minutes, until
the meringue is pale beige in colour
and crusty on top, then remove and
set aside until cool. The meringue
will puff up in the oven and deflate
slightly when cooled. (If you’re
making it a day ahead, once cool,
cover the tray with a tea towel and
keep at room temperature.)
For the filling, beat the cream to
very soft peaks – about a minute
with an electric whisk on a mediumhigh speed; longer if whisking by
hand. Add the vanilla and icing
sugar, and whisk to incorporate.
Place a clean tea towel flat on top
of the meringue (or use the one
already covering it, if you made it the
day before) and quickly but carefully
invert it on to the work surface, so
the crisp top is now facing down. →
y first job in a kitchen was
whisking egg whites. It
was the 1990s, and I was
training by day and
assisting the pastry chef in a fancy
restaurant at night. I spent most of my
time beating egg whites for vanilla
soufflés; three months in, I was a
soufflé expert.
So it must be fate that I made my
name with egg whites, sugar and lots
of air: those giant meringues that
adorn the Ottolenghi shop windows
(even if the truth is, I’m ambivalent
about them: I like meringue, just not
so much of it). But I’ve always had
a serious love of all things sweet.
There’s nothing like a perfectly light
sponge flavoured with spices and
citrus, or a mega-crumbly icingsugar-dusted cookie to raise the
spirits. And, yes, I know about the
adverse effects of too much sugar, but
there’s nothing wrong with a treat.
My long-time collaborator Helen
Goh came to the UK from Australia in
2006. At first, I couldn’t understand
why she’d left a successful career as
a pastry chef (and a psychotherapist)
behind – first cooking savoury food,
then dreaming up cakes and sweet
things in London. Watching her
cook, the penny dropped: she has an
insatiable drive for perfection. We
share the notion that there is no limit
to the number of times you can test
a cake, or to the thought that can go
into a tart to get it just right.
Our Sunday afternoon tastings
were quite something. In just one
session, we’d sample three versions
of two cakes-in-progress (one
flavoured with vanilla, say, another
with pandan, a third with Chinese
five-spice); a biscuit Helen had tried
in the US and wanted to Ottolenghify;
confectionery (Italian nougat and
chocolate nut brittle); three cordials;
and, to round things off, a pancake
or waffle. Those afternoons often
ended in sugar-induced delirium.
These days, our tastings are not
quite the same, because we’re both
now parents. Our deliberations are
shorter, our cakes more childfriendly. Our children are also our
fiercest critics. Just the other day,
I offered my son Max a slice of cake.
“Did Helen make it?” he asked.
“I’m afraid not,” I said.
“No, then,” came his answer.
Having been put so firmly in my
place, all I could do was go back to the
kitchen to whip up some egg whites…
Rolled pavlova with peaches and blackberries
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 35
Knickerbocker glory
Lift away the tin and carefully peel
off the baking paper, then spread the
meringue evenly with two-thirds of
the whipped cream. Cover with 500g
sliced peaches and 200g blackberries,
and sprinkle over 50g almonds.
Now to roll the meringue. Starting
with the longest side closest to you,
and using the tea towel to assist you,
roll the meringue up and over, so it
comes together into a log. Gently
pull away the tea towel as you roll,
then slide the meringue seam side
down on to a long tray or platter;
don’t worry if it loses its shape a bit,
or if some of the fruit spills out.
Pipe or spoon the rest of the cream
down the length of the roulade, top
with the remaining fruit and nuts,
dust with icing sugar, and serve.
30g unsalted butter, soft
½ tsp vanilla extract
A drop or two of food colouring (gel
or paste, ideally)
Middle Eastern millionaire’s
This transforms the famously cloying
biscuit into something much better,
with a slight bitterness and a touch
of salt to offset all the sweetness. The
shortbread can be made up to four
days ahead and stored in an airtight
container; it freezes well, too. The
finished biscuits keep for up to a
week in an airtight container in the
fridge. Remove 20 minutes before
serving, to take off the chill. Makes 16.
For the shortbread
40g icing sugar
35g corn flour
40g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
⅛ tsp salt
For the halva
200g halva, crumbled into small pieces
80g tahini
For the tahini caramel
200g caster sugar
120ml water
100g unsalted butter at room
temperature, cubed
80ml double cream
150g tahini paste
¼ tsp sea salt flakes
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6. Line a 20cm square tin with
baking paper, making sure the paper
comes well over the edges.
For the shortbread, sift the icing
sugar and corn flour into the bowl
of an electric mixer with the paddle
attachment in place, then add the
caster sugar and mix on a medium
speed. With the motor running,
slowly pour in the cooled melted
butter and beat to combine. Add the
vanilla, turn the speed to low, then
sift in the flour and salt, and beat
until the dough comes together.
Tip the mixture into the lined tin
and use your hands to even out the
top. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden
brown, then remove and leave to
cool. This will take an hour – don’t
start the caramel too soon, or it will
set by the time the shortbread is cool.
For the halva layer, put the halva
and tahini in a small bowl and mix
with a wooden spoon to combine.
Spread this over the cooled
shortbread and use the back of a
spoon to smooth it into an even layer.
For the caramel, put the sugar and
water into a small saucepan on a
medium-low heat. Stir occasionally,
until the sugar has dissolved, then
increase the heat to medium-high.
Bring to a boil and cook for 12
minutes, until the sugar is a deep
golden brown. Remove from the
heat and add the butter and cream –
take care, because it will splutter.
Whisk to combine and, once the
butter has melted, add the tahini and
salt. Whisk to combine, then pour
evenly over the halva layer in the
tin, so it’s all covered. Transfer to the
fridge and chill for at least four hours,
until set. Cut into 10cm x 2.5cm
bars, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over
the middle of each bar and serve.
36 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Neapolitan pound cake
We’ve gone for classic Neapolitan
colours with the pink icing (heaven
for a child’s birthday party), but
white or cream icing will also work.
The degree of pinkness (or any
colour, for that matter) will depend
on the type of food colouring you
choose: you’ll need anything from
a whole tube (if you use a basic
liquid gel) to an eighth of a teaspoon
(if you use a concentrated gel).
Always start with a little and take it
from there, because it’s much easier
to add more than to take any away.
Un-iced, the cake will keep at room
temperature for up to three days,
wrapped in cling-film; it can also
be frozen for up to three months.
Once iced, it’s best eaten on the
same day. Serves 10.
90ml full-fat milk at room temperature,
plus 20ml extra for the cocoa paste
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
300g caster sugar
300g unsalted butter, soft but not oily,
diced, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
A drop or two of food colouring (gel
or paste, ideally)
For the icing
45ml full-fat milk, warmed
260g icing sugar, sifted
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6. Grease and flour a 23cm
bundt tin and set aside.
For the cake, put the milk, eggs
and vanilla extract in a medium
bowl and whisk lightly, just to
combine. Sift the flours and salt
into the bowl of an electric mixer
with the paddle attachment in
place, then add the sugar and mix
on a low speed for 30 seconds. Add
the butter and half the egg mixture,
mix until well incorporated, then
increase the speed to medium and
beat for one minute. Scrape down
the sides of the bowl, then add the
remaining egg mixture in two
batches, making sure the first
batch is fully incorporated before
adding the second. Scrape down the
sides of the bowl again, then divide
the batter equally between three
small bowls.
Warm the extra 20ml milk in
a small saucepan, then put it in
a small bowl with the cocoa powder.
Stir to make a smooth and very
thick paste, then mix into one of the
bowls of cake batter. Tint the second
bowl of cake batter with the food
colouring, adding a drop or two at
a time until it’s the colour you want.
Leave the third bowl of batter as it is.
Spoon the three bowls of batter
into the prepared tin in six alternate
blocks, two of each colour, then
use a skewer or knife to make one
zigzag-shaped swirl through the
mix, to create a marble effect (don’t
be tempted to overdo the swirling,
or you’ll lose the marbling).
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until
a skewer comes out clean, then
remove and set aside for 10 minutes.
For the icing, combine the warm
milk and icing sugar in a small bowl.
Add the butter and vanilla, whisk
smooth, then add a drop or two of
food colouring and mix again. Spoon
over the cooled cake, so it drips
unevenly down the sides, leave to
set for a few minutes, and serve.
Knickerbocker glory
This is our go-to happy-making
dessert. The conical glass, the long
spoon, the colours, the connotations:
knickerbocker glory is the definition
of good old-fashioned fun. That →
Neapolitan pound cake
Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 37
said, happiness shouldn’t be
dependent on props, so don’t be put
off if you don’t have traditional
sundae glasses or spoons. To make
things easier, the ice-cream we’ve
gone for is a semifreddo, which
doesn’t need churning. Fresh
raspberries are lovely, of course, but
frozen ones also work well. You’ll
need to freeze the glasses before
assembling. Serves six.
For the semifreddo
600g raspberries (fresh or frozen and
2 tbsp icing sugar
200ml double cream
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 tsp lemon juice
180g caster sugar
⅛ tsp salt
For the candied pecans
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp liquid glucose
1 tbsp caster sugar
120g pecan halves
⅛ tsp flaky sea salt
For the chantilly cream
300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
To finish
About 5 red plums, stoned and chopped
into 3cm chunks
Blitz the raspberries to a puree, then
pass this through a fine sieve into
a bowl, to remove the seeds. (Use
the back of a large spoon to scrape
the fruit through the sieve; you may
need to do this in batches.) Measure
out 260ml of the puree and set aside,
then sift the icing sugar into the rest
(there should be about 100ml), pour
into a jug and refrigerate.
Whip 200ml double cream to soft
peaks, then refrigerate.
Pour enough water into a medium
saucepan to come 2cm up the sides:
you want the bowl from your mixer
to sit over the pan without touching
the water. Bring the water to a boil,
then reduce to a low simmer.
Whisk the egg, egg yolks, lemon
juice, sugar and salt in the clean bowl
of an electric mixer, then place the
bowl over the simmering water and
whisk continuously for about five
minutes, until the sugar has dissolved
and the mixture is very warm. Put
the bowl back on the mixer with the
whisk attachment in place and beat
on a medium-high speed until it is
thick and cool: it will thicken quite
quickly, but takes 10 minutes or more
to cool. Add the 260ml raspberry
puree and whisk on a low speed to
combine. Scrape down the sides of
the bowl and carry on mixing until
well combined. Fold in the cold
whipped cream from the fridge, then
scrape the lot into a large freezerproof container, cover with cling-film
and freeze for at least 12 hours.
Put some tall glasses in the freezer
to chill. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/
gas mark 5 and line an oven tray (with
a lipped edge) with greaseproof
paper. Put the maple syrup, glucose
and sugar in a small saucepan over a
low heat. Stir gently, until the sugar
has melted, then add the pecans and
salt. Stir so the nuts are coated, then
tip on to the tray. Roast for about
eight minutes, until the syrup is
bubbling around the nuts, then
remove and leave to cool. Once cool,
the glaze should be completely crisp
(if not, return the tray to the oven
for a few minutes, then leave to cool
and set again). Break or roughly
chop the nuts into 0.5cm pieces,
and set aside until ready to use.
For the chantilly cream, put the
cream in the bowl of an electric
mixer with the whisk attachment
in place, add the icing sugar and
vanilla, and whip to soft peaks.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
To assemble the knickerbocker
glories, take the semifreddo from
the freezer 10 minutes beforehand,
so it’s soft enough to scoop. Remove
the glasses from the freezer and
divide the chopped plums between
them. Drizzle half a tablespoon of
the sweetened raspberry puree over
each serving, add a tablespoon of
pecans, then spoon a large scoop of
semifreddo on top. Drizzle over the
remaining sauce – about half a
tablespoon per glass – followed by
a small tablespoon of nuts and a
couple of big dollops of whipped
cream. Finish with a final sprinkling
of chopped nuts and serve at once.
The elegance and
svelteness of the
financiers belie quite
how much (burnt)
butter is in them.
It’s the beurre noisette
that gives them that
rich, nutty flavour
38 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Coffee and walnut financiers
Financiers are similar to friands,
another little French cake whose
elegance and svelteness belie quite
how much (burnt) butter is built
into their being. It’s this beurre
noisette that gives them that rich,
nutty flavour. They are typically
rectangular, and at work we make
them in straight, high-sided popover
tins, so the icing trickles down the
sides. These tins aren’t easy to come
by, however, so we’ve adjusted the
recipe to work in a regular muffin or
mini-muffin tin. As mini-muffins,
they’re the perfect end to a meal, to
accompany coffee.
Financiers are best eaten on the
day they’re baked, but these will
keep for up to two days in a sealed
container. The batter can be made
and kept in the fridge for up to two
days. Makes 12 (in a regular muffin
tin) or 24 (in a mini-muffin tin).
80g walnut halves, plus an extra
12–24 halves, to garnish
120g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm
cubes, plus extra for greasing
220g icing sugar
90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
80g ground almonds
230g egg whites (from 6 large eggs)
1 tbsp instant coffee granules,
dissolved in 70ml boiling water
1½ tsp ground espresso coffee
For the icing
250g icing sugar
2½ tsp instant coffee granules
35ml hot full-fat milk
15g liquid glucose
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas
mark 3. Spread the walnuts on
a baking tray, roast for 10 minutes,
then remove and, when they’re
cool enough to handle, roughly
chop into 0.5–1cm pieces.
To make the batter, start by
browning the butter. Put it in a small
saucepan and cook over a medium
heat until melted. Continue to cook
until the butter is foaming, swirling
the pan so the solids brown more
evenly. Leave the butter to bubble
away until it turns a rich golden
brown, then take off the heat and
leave to stand for five minutes.
Strain through a fine-mesh (or
muslin-lined) sieve, discarding the
solids, then leave to cool slightly. It
should still be warm when you fold
it into the mix: if it’s too hot, it will
“cook” the egg whites; if it’s too
cool, it will be hard to incorporate.
While the butter is cooling, sift
the icing sugar, flour, baking powder
and salt into a medium bowl, then
whisk in the almonds. Put the egg
whites in a bowl and use a fork to
froth them up a little – you don’t
need to whisk them. Pour the egg
whites and dissolved coffee
granules into the dry ingredients,
and stir until just combined. Add
the browned butter and mix until
the batter is thick, shiny and
smooth. Fold in the walnuts and
ground coffee, then cover with
cling-film and refrigerate for at
least two hours.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/
gas mark 6. Butter the moulds of
your chosen muffin tin, dust with
flour and tap away any excess.
Spoon the batter into each mould,
filling them three-quarters full, then
bake for about 25 minutes if using
a regular muffin tin, 14 for a minimuffin tin, or until the tops are a
little cracked and a skewer comes
out clean.
Make the icing while the
financiers are baking. Sift the icing
sugar into a medium bowl and add
the remaining ingredients. Mix
until smooth, then set aside. Don’t
worry if there are undissolved coffee
granules in the icing: they look good
in the finished dish.
Remove the tin from the oven,
set aside to cool for five minutes,
then gently tap it against a work
surface, to encourage the cakes to
fall out. Put the financiers on a rack
to cool.
To serve, spread the icing on top
and finish each financier with a
walnut half, a dusting of icing sugar
and a little finely ground espresso.
Fig and pistachio frangipane
Pictured on page 33: when we
posted a shot of these on Instagram,
they got a big thumbs-up from our
followers. These tarts are lovely
just as they are, or with a spoonful
of vanilla ice-cream, soured cream
or creme fraiche. If you can’t get
hold of big figs, use six smaller ones
and cut them in half rather than
quarters. (Alternatively, raspberries
work well, too: put three large
raspberries in the centre of each
tart and bake.) →
Coffee and walnut financiers
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 39
As with many of our recipes that
call for a nip of brandy, don’t worry
if you don’t have an open bottle to
hand: it’s not there for its flavour, but
to draw out the subtle flavour of the
pistachios, so these tartlets work just
fine without. You’ll need only twothirds of the pastry here, so freeze
the rest for another time. Makes 12.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
90g icing sugar
¼ tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut
into cubes, plus an extra 10g, melted,
for brushing
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp)
1 large egg yolk
20ml water
For the pistachio frangipane cream
90g shelled pistachios, plus extra,
blitzed, to finish (optional)
35g ground almonds
35g plain flour
⅛ tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, at room
125g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp brandy (optional)
3 large ripe figs, quartered
To make the pastry, sift the flour,
icing sugar and salt into the bowl of
a food processor. Add the butter and
lemon zest, then pulse a few times,
until the mixture is the consistency
of fresh breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg
yolk and water, then add to the mix:
the dough should feel quite wet.
Process once more, just until the
dough comes together, then tip on
to a lightly floured work surface.
Knead the dough into a ball, wrap
loosely in cling-film and press gently
into a flattish disc. The dough will be
very soft, so keep it in the fridge for
at least an hour (or up to three days).
Lightly brush the moulds of
a regular muffin tin with melted
butter and dust with flour, tapping
out any excess.
If the dough has been in the fridge
for more than a few hours, let it rest
at room temperature for up to 30
minutes before rolling. Tip it out on
to on a lightly floured worktop, tap
all over with a rolling pin to soften
slightly, then roll out to 2-3mm
thick. Using a 10cm or 11cm round
cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles, and
gently ease these into the muffin
60g unsalted butter
80g light brown muscovado sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp dark rum
100g icing sugar, sifted
Rum and raisin cake
with caramel icing
moulds, pressing them down to fill
the moulds. Refrigerate the muffin
tin for at least an hour.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas
mark 4. Line the pastry cases with
baking paper or liners. Fill with
a layer of rice or baking beans, and
blind-bake for 25-30 minutes, until
the pastry shells are light golden
brown around the edges. Remove
the paper and rice or beans, then
leave the shells to cool in the tin.
To make the frangipane cream,
put the pistachios in the small bowl
of a food processor and grind until
fine but not oily. Transfer to a small
bowl, and mix in the ground
almonds, flour and salt.
Put the butter, sugar and lemon
zest in the bowl of an electric mixer
with the paddle attachment in place.
Cream on a medium speed for a
minute or two, until light but not
too fluffy, then turn the speed to low
and gradually add the beaten eggs.
Don’t worry if the mix curdles a bit
at this stage: it will come together
again later. Add the nut/flour mix,
beat on a low speed until combined,
then add the brandy (if using).
Turn up the oven to 200C/390F/
gas mark 6. Using a piping bag or two
dessert spoons, fill the baked tart
cases (still in their tin) with
frangipane to come about two-thirds
of the way up the sides of the cases.
Place a quarter-fig cut side up in the
middle of each tart, and press down
40 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
gently, so it’s slightly embedded in
the mixture. Once all the cases are
filled, bake for about 20 minutes,
until the frangipane starts to brown
at the edges but the middle is still
slightly soft. Leave to cool in the tin
for 10 minutes, then ease the tarts
out of their moulds and place on
a wire rack to cool. Serve sprinkled
with blitzed pistachios, if you like.
Rum and raisin cake with rum
caramel icing
We make this in a 23cm bundt tin.
If you don’t have one, use a 23cm
round springform tin instead – it
won’t look quite as pretty, but it will
still work. The raisins need to be
prepared a day ahead, so they’re
nice and plump from soaking up all
the booze. Iced or un-iced, this cake
will keep for two to three days in an
airtight container. Serves eight to 10.
200g raisins
120ml dark rum
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
250g unsalted butter at room
temperature, plus extra for greasing
250g light brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
200g soured cream
For the rum caramel icing
A day ahead, put the raisins and rum
in a large jar or container for which
you have a lid. Give it a good shake
and leave to macerate for a day.
Whenever you walk past the jar, give
it another shake.
The next day, heat the oven to
190C/375F/gas mark 5, and grease
and flour a 23cm round bundt tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder,
bicarb, cinnamon and salt into a
medium bowl. Put the butter, sugar
and vanilla extract in the bowl of
an electric mixer with the paddle
attachment in place, and beat on
a medium-high speed until smooth
and light. Add the eggs one a time,
beating well after each addition,
then reduce the speed to low and,
with the machine running, add
the flour mix alternately with the
soured cream, beginning and ending
with the flour mix, to stabilise the
mixture and prevent it from
curdling. Finally, add the soaked
raisins and rum, and mix on a low
speed just to combine.
Scrape the mix into the tin,
smooth the top, and bake for 50
minutes, or until a skewer comes out
clean. Take the cake from the oven,
leave for 15 minutes, then invert on
to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Make the icing only when you
are ready to serve. Melt the butter
in a small saucepan over a low heat,
then add the sugar and cook for one
minute, stirring continuously, until
the mix comes together. Add the
milk, increase the heat and bring to
a boil. Remove from the heat, add
the rum, mix well and leave to cool
to room temperature. Once cool,
beat in half the icing sugar using a
wooden spoon. Once incorporated,
add the remaining icing sugar and
beat until thick and smooth. Spread
the icing all over the top of the cake,
letting it run slowly down the sides,
leave to set a little and serve •
This is an edited extract from Sweet,
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh,
published next week by Ebury Press
at £27. To order a copy for £20.25, go
to or call
0330 333 6846. For more recipes,
go to
42 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
have seen t
David Shayler used
to work for MI5 –
now he (and his
alter ego Dolores)
preaches as the son
of God. Photographer
Jonas Bendiksen
meets three modernday messiahs
Interview by Paula Cocozzza
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 43
In-store and online at
F in d yo u r n e are st sto re u si n g our onl i ne store fi nd er.
Previous pages: David
Shayler in a Redcar cafe
(left), and preaching
as Dolores. In 2002,
the ex-MI5 officer
was sentenced to six
months for leaking
secret documents. This
page: visiting a church in
Devon, and watching an
eclipse in Yorkshire, on
the spot where Shayler
delivered a Sermon on
the Mount in 2008
Jonas Bendiksen grew up in a “godless home”
in Tønsberg, Norway, which makes him an
unlikely candidate to photograph the messiah,
let alone six of them. But this is what he has
spent the past three years doing: chronicling the
lives of men – and they are all men – who claim
to be Jesus returned to Earth, from Siberia to
the Philippines, Japan to Devon.
A member of the Magnum photo agency,
39-year-old Bendiksen describes himself as
ardently scientific: “Faith has always been very
hard for me to conceptualise,” he says. He thinks
it might be this lack of preconceptions that has
allowed him “to go and touch divinity itself”. He
has no interest in mocking or defrocking his Jesus
claimants: “My mission was to say, ‘OK, if one
were to accept the prophecy of Jesus’s return,
why wouldn’t it be this guy?’”
But there were a lot to choose from. First, he
drew up criteria. A messiah, Bendiksen decided,
needed to be in the public sphere, to have lived
their revelation (as a Christ) for many years and
to have published scripture. These being modern
messiahs, Bendiksen found them on Google.
After that, some were easier to track down than
others. David Shayler, for instance, the former
MI5 whistleblower turned Jesus claimant, is
what Bendiksen calls “a digital messiah”, and
responded quickly on Twitter. His email sign-off
(and his signature in church visiting books) reads
“David Shayler, the Christ”.
Shayler, and his cross-dressing alter ego Dolores,
cuts a lonely figure in Bendiksen’s photographs.
The revelation that he was Jesus came to him in
2007, he told Bendiksen, which makes him one of
the newer messiahs. Others, such as Vissarion of
Siberia (pictured overleaf), have thousands of
followers; even on Twitter, Shayler has fewer than
350. “You ask him about it and he says, ‘That’s not
a problem’,” Bendiksen explains. “He says, ‘If you
follow me, you’ll only end up at my house. Follow
the way.’ He’s more of a lone operator.”
One of Bendiksen’s portraits shows Shayler →
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 45
on a hill outside Middlesbrough, arms open, his
solitary companion’s orange jumper lit by sunset.
Another shows him alone in a cafe sipping
coffee; his tiny cup does not overfloweth, his
expression is distinctly woebegone. Is this really
what Jesus looks like?
When Bendiksen first met Shayler, the
photographer says, he was barefoot and wearing
a T-shirt emblazoned with a quote from Albert
Camus (“All that I know most surely about
morality and obligations, I owe to football”).
He was staying at a friend’s house in Devon, and
cats wandered through the room while they
talked. A hen idled by. Shayler’s jeans were full
of holes, his laptop keyboard strewn with
tobacco. None of this, Bendiksen points out,
is very far from the gospels’ version of Jesus –
“that idea of someone on the outside of society,
critiquing it”.
46 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Other messiahs fit the familiar iconography of
Christianity more closely. The disciples of
Vissarion, a 56-year-old former traffic policeman
in the Siberian town of Minusinsk, for instance,
are photographed side by side at a long, laden
table, in an obvious allusion to Leonardo da
Vinci’s The Last Supper (overleaf). Vissarion
himself, who founded his Church of the Last
Testament in 1988, wears white and has shoulderlength hair and a beard, like an older, more
earthbound version of the Jesus in Raphael’s
Transfiguration. His off-grid, utopian villages in
the Siberian woods “have attracted a very
creative crowd”, Bendiksen says, “all
these beautiful rituals with choral music and
processions amid these harsh conditions”.
Not every messiah Bendiksen approached
was happy to meet him, however; Jesus
Matayoshi of Japan declined his request. But →
Opposite: followers of
Vissarion in Siberia. Their
messiah, a former traffic
policeman, founded
the Church of the Last
Testament in the early
1990s. Above: Vissarion
greets his flock at a
Christmas pilgrimage.
The festival coincides
with his birthday
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 47
Moses Hlongwane of South Africa was very
welcoming, even offering Bendiksen the left side
of his double bed, because the other two rooms in
his small concrete house in Eshowe, near Durban,
were occupied by disciples. “It was an invitation
to really get to know the messiah,” Bendiksen
says. “Each night we had a nice chat in bed.” They
lay side by side, Bendiksen reading from a King
James Bible, Hlongwane “frantically thumbing
away on his phone”.
While Vissarion was aloof, agreeing to meet the
photographer only on his third visit to Siberia,
Bendiksen’s images of Hlongwane’s headquarters
are suffused with domestic warmth. There are
bedspreads and blankets, patchwork floors and
louvre doors; a woman prays next to a domestic
steam iron. Hlongwane, who used to work as
a jewellery salesman, says he has been fighting
the devil since God first told him in a dream,
in 1992, that he was the messiah. His recent →
Above: Vissarion’s
followers in the
Siberian settlement
of Petropavlovka.
His 5,000-strong flock
have built their own
schools and churches,
as well as an eco-village,
the Abode of Dawn.
Right: Vissarion’s temple
in Petropavlovka
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 49
marriage, he preaches, signals the beginning
of “the End of Days”. It’s a homely, improvised
kind of messiahship. His plain white cap is
embellished with silver studs that spell out
“Jesus” and “King of Kings”. Hlongwane’s
disciples, Bendiksen recalls, “were full of faith.
Full of hope. They saw meaning everywhere.”
He thinks his own godlessness gave him an open
mind and a reluctance to judge; the images
remain staunchly faithful to their subjects.
“People ask me, ‘Did you feel the divine when
in the presence of the messiahs?’” Bendiken says.
And did he? “With Moses, all I can say is I felt a
lot of some things. But what is the divine? I don’t
know.” Did he feel anything physically, if not
spiritually? He thinks. “The disciples were
always breaking into gospel song. In that setting,
with all that energy flowing towards Moses, yes,
I could feel it physically.” He likens it to
experiencing “a great piece of music”.
50 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
But it was his time in Siberia that he found the
most personally confronting. “Ask my wife,” he
says. “Every time I got back from Vissarion’s
land, I was disturbed – and I mean disturbed in
a positive sense. It was very seductive.” The
community builds its own houses, grows its own
food. “I really liked that place. I’m convinced
I could live there and have a very happy life.
Can man create that on his own, or do you need
divine intervention? If it takes faith and belief to
create that sort of community, does it matter if
it’s true or not?”
Maybe faith, these pictures seem to say, creates
its own kind of truth •
The Last Testament, by Jonas Bendiksen, is published
next week by Thames & Hudson at £40. To order
a copy for £34, go to, or
call 0330 333 6846. To see more images, go to
Moses Hlongwane,
known to his disciples
as the Lord of Lords,
overlooking Eshowe in
South Africa (above left),
and getting married
in 2016 (above). The
knife represents the
Bible verse, ‘For the word
of God is living and
powerful, and sharper
than any two-edged
sword.’ Right: Hlongwane
in his car, and the licence
he created for his
permitless driver
and ‘God’s ark’
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 51
fashion beauty
food mind
space gardens
Blind date Matt, 40, NHS social care coordinator, and Sumeet, 33, IT analyst
Matt on Sumeet
Sumeet on Matt
What were you hoping for?
A new experience – I’ve never
had a blind date before.
First impressions?
Friendly, happy guy, but
very nervous.
What did you talk about?
Property prices, the mass
exodus from London,
cooking and food, therapy,
Any awkward moments?
Our sense of humour is very
different, which became
clear as the night went on.
Good table manners?
Best thing about Sumeet?
He has a clear passion for
the arts.
Would you introduce him
to your friends?
No, I don’t think he’d get on
with most of my friends.
Describe him in three words
Talented, creative,
What do you think he made
of you?
Tall, northern (I’m from
the Midlands).
Did you go on somewhere?
And… did you kiss?
No, although there was
a farewell hug.
If you could change one
thing about the evening,
what would it be?
I think we were both a bit
nervous, which did impact
on the evening.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
No – he’s a nice guy, but there
wasn’t a spark and we didn’t
really have a lot in common.
What were you hoping for?
That it would be my last date
before meeting someone.
First impressions?
A down-to-earth man.
What did you talk about?
Relationships, food, politics
and quirky Canadian words.
Any awkward moments?
I shouldn’t have pursued
a goodbye hug.
Good table manners?
He was very polite and patient.
Best thing about Matt?
He has a nice smile. I also
loved his northern accent.
Would you introduce him
to your friends?
Maybe not, because I sense
there is nothing between us.
Describe him in three words
Handsome, considerate, (a bit)
What do you think he made
of you?
He might have thought
I flirted a lot.
Did you go on somewhere?
No, I had a long journey home.
And… did you kiss?
A kiss was not on the menu.
If you could change one thing
about the evening, what
would it be?
I tried too hard. Chemistry just
happens, it can’t be created.
Marks out of 10?
A respectful 7.
Would you meet again?
Who knows?
Our sense
of humour
is very
He might
have thought
I flirted a lot
Matt and Sumeet ate at Thali,
London SW5,
Fancy a blind date? Email blind.
If you’re looking to meet
someone like-minded, visit
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 53
What I wore
this week
Suit up and feel empowered, says Jess Cartner-Morley
The Measure
Going up
Ancient Greek Sandals big buckle
sliders: just the thing to make us
hope for an Indian summer.
Cindy Sherman’s Insta What the
app was made for, surely?
Pom-pom curation Brora allows you
to choose the colour of your beanie’s
pom-pom. Something that almost
makes winter seem not so bad.
Prince Charles in the 70s Skiing in
salopettes = Gucci inspo in waiting. Boden’s petite range New discovery.
Huge range of jeans. A boon to
anyone short of leg.
Belly buttons Back with a
vengeance. To relearn how to do the
look, we advise a rewatch of Britney
Spears in the video for I’m A Slave
4 U. Truly, truly impressive.
Going down
Jess’s four best
1 & 2 Stripe jacket, £65, and trousers, £50, both
3 & 4 Pink jacket, £49.99, and trousers, £25.99,
Jess wears jacket, £135, and trousers, £85, Blouse, £100, by Maison Scotch,
from Heels, £149,
Raindrop cake Vogue-endorsed,
Japanese dessert made from water
and agar jelly which evaporates in
20 minutes. The actual state of it.
The new cultural
appropriation Accessories
“inspired” by Dunkirk, Handmaid’s
Tale-style robes: off-key, much?
Inflatables When they’re appearing
on adverts for credit cards, you
know unicorns and flamingos have
jumped the shark.
Bikinis Swimsuits have been the
only alpha beachwear allowed this
summer. Inspo includes Diana on
the diving board and Baywatch.
Posting loads of photos Totally oldperson behaviour on Instagram.
Teenagers recommend a post every
two weeks.
woman in a trouser suit shouldn’t
be a contentious sight. However, as
Hillary Clinton discovered, this is not
the case: a woman in a trouser suit
is a look that still invites comment. Whether it’s
a politician making a speech in a bright-coloured
pantsuit, a Helmut Newton model in a Parisian
street wearing an Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking
tux, or a policewoman in uniform – a woman in
a trouser suit is always seen as a challenge.
This autumn will be full of challenges,
because trouser suits for women are happening
in a major way. Fashion has a thing for female
empowerment right now, which has moved on
from feminist slogan T-shirts to expressing itself
in corner-office tailoring. We don’t have time here
to debate whether a trouser suit is intrinsically
more empowering than a floral dress. All I’m
going to say on the subject is that fashion means
well by its talk of empowerment – even if it
amounts to a hill of beans – and I don’t see how
wearing trouser suits can do any harm, so long as
we acknowledge that the Céline catwalk probably
isn’t going to smash the patriarchy all by itself.
Anyway, let’s focus on the stuff that truly
concerns us, shall we? In other words: what to
wear said trouser suit with.
The last time trouser suits were a thing, the way
to wear them was with a T-shirt and white trainers.
At first the T-shirt had to be plain white, and then
the look evolved so that the T-shirt had a slogan
half-hidden under the jacket. (Is there something
borderline passive-aggressive about wearing
a slogan T-shirt and then making it impossible to
read? Or is it just me?) This time around, the most
directional look is a trouser suit over a chunky
rollneck jumper. This looks excellent in fashion
shoots, but unless you conduct all business on
a breezy park bench, you will go red and sweaty
and pass out, which is never chic.
So we have come full circle, to wearing
a trouser suit with a blouse. I avoid crisp white
shirting because it never stays crisp or white.
If I looked like Katharine Hepburn on safari in
a white shirt, I would wear one all the time.
But since the vibe on me is more after-school
detention in a grubby classroom, I’m better off
with a patterned silk blouse. OK, it’s not exactly
pushing the envelope – but the trouser suit does
that anyway, whether you want it to or not.
At last, a foolproof home blow-dry
here’s a faintly improbable narrative
in beauty currently, in which the
modern woman is presumed to be
popping constantly into blow-dry bars
en route to a meeting or party, then emerging
with perfect, professionally styled hair. Much as
I recognise that “express beauty” establishments
are booming in cities such as London, Birmingham
and Liverpool, I still can’t imagine the average
woman has either the time or the cash (some
£20-45 a go) to obtain regular professional blowdries outside of weddings, special occasions and
three- to six-monthly haircuts.
I daresay many would like to, since there are few
things as treaty or gratifying as a professional blowdry – all smooth, soft and bouncy, with no stringy
bits pointing wilfully in the wrong direction. This
magic happens when an expert simultaneously
lifts a barrel brush and pushes a dryer nozzle
downwards over it; it’s a maddeningly fiddly and
lengthy process for an amateur to conquer in the
reverse reflection of a mirror at home.
Except Babyliss’ new gadget cheats the whole
thing in minutes. Really. At first glance, it looks
just like a sturdier version of the existing (and
hugely popular) Big Hair
ir model, but unlike its
Try these
1 VO5 Volume Blow Dry Spray, £4.40,
2 Babyliss Sheer Volume, £79.99,
3 L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni Art
Volume Architect, £12.30,
stablemate, Babyliss Sheer Volume Rotating Hot
Brush(£79.99) is used exclusively on dried hair,
and has more in common with the type of spiky
hot brush mums used in the 1980s (mine was
once pulled over by a policeman who’d spotted
her using one to smooth down her demi-wave in
the rearview mirror).
The advantage of this is that you can first blast
your hair any old how, with any dryer and degree
of inexpertise – just spritz with heat protector
first: I like L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni Art
Volume Architect (£12.30) or VO5 Volume Blow
Dry Spray (£4.40). All you need then to transform
it into a sleek style is to switch on and simply
brush through the heated Sheer Volume; or, for
much greater volume, press the button to rotate
the barrel away from your head, lifting it
upwards, and take it from root to tip. This
deliberately slow rotation allows it to handle
much bigger sections than others I’ve used, and
makes it almost impossible to get hair tangled or
stuck. It’s extraordinarily easy and fast (about
four minutes for my whole head) and almost
flawlessly mimics a proper blow-dry – and all for
the cost of only two salon trips.
The beauty roadtest
Conditioners for unruly hair
David Yang, All Ages model, 24
The quest for a perfect conditioner
that will finally conquer my unruly,
frizz-prone hair has been long and
arduous. The following bottles
promised the discovery of
“nourishing secrets”, “ocean silk
technology” and even the “fountain
of youth”, but will any of them
actually make my hair look good?
First up, I tried Dove Nourishing
Secrets (£2.70), which, despite
lathering well and smelling quite
pleasant, left my hair rather lifeless
and shapeless. Mane ’N Tail
Original (£7, for humans) looks a bit
like a bottle of industrial-strength
bleach, and it kind of felt like one,
too. My hair did become thicker,
but also drier and a tad scruffy –
the result was less show pony and
more carthorse.
If you’re in need of some late
summer sunshine, but your bank
balance is a little under the weather,
order a bottle of Shea
n ord
Moisture –
istur Raw Shea & Cupuacu
.99) right now. Seriously. After
wash, my hair looked as if it
one w
had spent
had sp
pen a month at a beach resort
I can’t afford; hell, I even
d like a piña colada, too.
on my list was Oribe Gold
Last o
& Restore Conditioner
Lust Repair
(£48). Did
D my hair feel repaired and
restored? Absolutely. Did the golden
en on
o my locks inspire lust in
I passed on the street?
every mortal
I didn’t notice; I was too busy
calculating the mortgage I’d need
to buy
buy a bottle of this stuff.
considered, Shea
All things
Moisture was my clear winner.
I have a sneaking suspicion it was
cold-pressed from the fruit platter
Carmen Miranda’s head, and
on Carm
boy did my hair feel like a carnival.
Trese-San-Wong on
Next week:
makeup removers
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 57
‘I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster’
Restaurant reviewer of the year
p two flights of what
look like flophouse
stairs, accessed via an
easily missed entrance
at the Aldwych end of The Strand,
is a restaurant that has no business
existing in the centre of one of the
world’s most rapacious cities.
A blackboard announcing Happy
Hour in their “1940s lounge bar”
has collapsed over a cracked lobby
mosaic; I’m not sure if this is
deliberate impediment or an omen.
Since 1946, The India Club
has lived in the Hotel Strand
Continental, an accommodation
where you can rent four-person
dorms “from £20 per bed per night”.
Formerly a haunt of civil servants
and diplomats from the nearby High
Commission of India (including the
Club’s founder, VK Krishna Menon),
this unreconstructed canteen, with
its mustard walls, wood-laminated
tables and scab-coloured linoleum
floors, was formerly a hotbed of
political machination. Lugubrious
oil paintings of Gandhi and Britain’s
first Asian MP, Dadabhai Naoroji,
watch as we peel apart plasticcoated menu pages.
We’re encouraged to order the set
lamb meal by our handsome, doleful
waiter, bringing a succession of
stainless-steel dishes: fresh, crisp
poppadoms with little bowls of
coconut and mango chutneys, a
strident lemon pickle and sliced raw
onion; onion bhajis and vegetable
pakora; a mini masala dosa. Then
rice, dhal, lamb curry, butter chicken
and vegetable curry: there’s not
much by way of messing around
with fancy names here. This largesse
costs a derisory £15 each.
Thin dhal, vegetable curry and
somewhat unperky masala dosa
stuffed with spiced potato and lentil
all share a certain dun-coloured
ennui. These are mournful, languid
dishes, perfectly suited to the
surroundings. Far more startling is
butter chicken, apparently boosted
by the surprise ingredient of a tin of
evaporated milk. Lamb, randomly,
is genuinely fine, a dark brown,
resonant, gingery stew, the sauce
properly reduced, the meat slowcooked until it’s hard to define
where lamb stops and sauce begins.
We order an extra prawn bhuna,
but it verges on nasty: the prawns
with the translucency of the long
frozen, the sauce both syrupy and
harsh with green peppers. Their
greatest culinary crime is naan,
clearly recently liberated from its
supermarket plastic shroud. “Is the
bread ever homemade?” we ask.
The white-coated waiter says,
unconvincingly, “sometimes”, the
shaking of his head suggesting he’s
not being entirely candid.
So no, not overwhelmingly great.
The clientele appears to be mostly
lone men. We’re told by the website
that customers are “barristers from
the heart of London’s legal district,
students and academics from
nearby LSE”. This lugubrious lot,
lost in thought over egg curries and
chilli paneer, seem more Larkin
than Rumpole.
Still, I go back again and again:
once, due to non-specified “works”,
the kitchen offers only vegetable
curry; once, after a day spent
entirely alone, for a solitary meal
that might come to define
“melancholy” in my mental filing
cabinet of memories. I go back
because I marvel at its cheapness
bang in the centre of London. But
mostly I go back out of deep
affection. I love it in the same way
I’m drawn to the novels of Anita
Brookner or EM Forster; to small
films set in run-down Roman
apartment blocks and gloomy
The India Club
Food ★★☆☆
Atmosphere ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★
143 Strand, London WC2, 020 7836
4880. Open Mon-Sun 12-2.30pm,
6pm-10.50pm. About £15 a head, plus
drinks and service. BYO available
Indian call centres; to side streets in
unknown cities where old milliners
and haberdashers miraculously
survive, their windows shielded by
sepia-coloured film.
The only time a scintilla of
modernity creeps in is on the pages
of the visitors’ book, in the scruffy,
atmospheric “Colonial-style” bar
one floor down, underneath a
wooden board listing the former
presidents of The Curry Club.
“Where’s the diversity?” complains
the scrawl. Once you had to come
down here to buy alcohol, but now
the restaurant offers house wine
and Cobra or Kingfisher beer. I can’t
in all honesty recommend that
wine – we bring our own, and
there’s no corkage. They’re also
“now serving authentic south
Indian snack dishes, such as bhel
puri and chicken tikka chapatti
wraps”, but I don’t think Dishoom
needs to start panicking just yet.
The India Club is a curio, a living,
breathing museum piece, a pearl:
even the bill arrives yellowing at
the edges. Stick to the lamb.
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 59
Forget bland baby leaf; mature spinach is the thing to grow for real flavour
am all for tender young
vegetables and have
written much about
growing baby veg, but
honestly, I’ve had it with baby leaf
spinach. It is time for substance, for
the crinkle and curl and the deep,
dark green of a leaf that has lived.
Let’s celebrate mature spinach for the
fine, flavoursome thing that it is.
Baby leaf, the supermarket kind,
in particular, is often bland: an
almost flavourless, vaguely sweet
green. Soft, easily palatable and
over-marketed, in short it is baby
food. Mature spinach, especially the
winter kind, is an altogether different
beast. This stuff is mineral-rich and
tastes it: earthy and metallic.
Its leaves are thicker, so need a bit
more cooking, but you need fewer to
make a meal. So half a dozen plants,
sown now and again later this month,
will keep you in leaves until spring.
The first batch should be ready to
harvest around the end of October.
The early September sowing may
give you a late October harvest, but
the later one is mostly for early
spring harvesting. These plants will
sit almost dormant over December
and January, when light levels are
low, but will quickly resume growth
in February, providing leaves through
March and April, when rising
temperature will cause them to bolt.
Plants need to be spaced apart, so
there is sufficient air circulation,
particularly on those rare warm
December days, so make sure the
leaves aren’t touching. This also
means there are fewer hiding places
for any slugs to try their luck. Space
plants roughly 20cm apart in either
direction in a block, or 30cm between
rows and 10cm between plants.
Winter spinach does, however,
need protection. An unheated
greenhouse/polytunnel is ideal: sow
in modules to plant out once your
tomatoes/chillies/cucumbers have
been harvested. If you grow it
outside, you’ll need fleece or low
tunnels to keep off the worst frosts.
You can sow direct or in modules. If
you go for modules, sow two seeds,
thinning to the strongest one when
they’re 5cm or so high.
Being leafy stuff, spinach loves
nitrogen and does best in fertile soil.
If you are planting where crops have
recently been removed, make sure
you add a bucket of well-rotted
homemade compost to every square
metre, to feed healthy growth. If you
don’t have compost, add a goodquality organic feed, such as chicken
manure pellets, otherwise spinach
grown on thin soil will not bulk up
enough before light levels drop. In
early spring, it’s worth giving a
liquid feed to any late Septembersown plants to jolly them along.
The most well-known variety is
‘Giant Winter’, or ‘Gigante
D’Inverno’, but that can be
susceptible to downy mildew.
Instead, look out for ‘Atlanta’,
‘Scenic F1’, ‘Tetona’ or ‘Astigiana’,
all of which are bred for quick, even
growth in autumn and spring.
Quiz 1 Che Guevara.
2 Borzoi.
3 St Lucy.
4 Volcanic eruption.
5 Bhagavad Gita.
6 Alex Zanardi.
7 L Frank Baum.
8 Save the Children.
9 Facial bones.
10 Depicted in Seurat’s A Sunday On
La Grande Jatte.
11 South Korean women golfers
60 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
(all ranked in the world’s top 10).
12 Willow trees native to UK.
13 Subjects of Philip Glass operas.
14 Countries lying wholly south of
the Tropic of Capricorn.
15 Museums.
Crossword See right.
move to
Arundel, West Sussex: land of turrets and tea rooms
hat’s going for it? Arundel or
Arendelle? Sometimes it’s hard to tell
them apart. Both fairytale towns, with
romantic skylines, turreted castles and
gothic twiddles. Both dominated by benevolent
if powerful rulers: King Agnarr and Queen Iduna
of the Ancient House of Frozen, or the Dukes of
Norfolk, whose castle and Catholic cathedral loom
over Arundel. There’s no escaping the Norfolks
here. They have even given the town its own
saint, St Philip Howard, whose Tudor bones are
enshrined within the cathedral. Arundel feels like
a tiny kingdom unto itself, marooned in the Sussex
water meadows, supported by an export economy
dominated, through its bric-a-brac shops and tea
rooms, by the often overlooked antique goods and
Victoria sponge sectors. All it lacks to complete
the comparison are trolls, Nordic mountains, iceshooting princesses and a deal with Disney. But I’m
sure the current duke is working on that.
The case against Too perfect. Too little. Too quaint.
Too expensive. Too aristocratic. Let it go, Tom.
Well connected? Trains: on the line from London
Victoria (half-hourly, 90 minutes) to Bognor (halfhourly, 18 minutes), via Gatwick (half-hourly, 55);
Chichester 25 minutes, half-hourly, and Worthing
30, half-hourly with a well-timed change. Driving:
Chichester is 20 minutes with a fair wind; 15 gets
you to the beach at Littlehampton or Climping.
Brighton or Portsmouth are 45-60 minutes away,
though you’ll be a slave to the trafficky A27.
Schools Primaries: Arundel CofE and St Philip’s
Catholic are “good”, says Ofsted. No secondaries:
the nearest decent one is St Philip Howard’s
Catholic in Barnham, which is “outstanding”.
Hang out at… The Town House, where Elsa would
dine. Sven would drink at the Black Rabbit.
Where to buy You can do the town in half a
morning – it’s that small. The old town is stuffed
with lovely homes from every period, especially
Georgian, with a few Arts and Crafts lovelies
thrown in for good measure. Excellent Victorian
flint cottages, too. Normal (and cheaper) homes
on the edge, such as the suburbs between Torton
Hill Road and Ford Road. Large detacheds and
townhouses, £500,000-£1.5m. Detacheds and
smaller townhouses, £350,000-£500,000. Semis,
£275,000-£650,000. Terraces and cottages,
£250,000-£450,000. Flats, £550,000. Little for rent:
a two-bedroom cottage might be £1,000pcm.
Bargain of the week The closest you’ll get is a
three-bedroom postwar semi, £299,995 with
Tom Dyckhoff
From the streets
Gaye Barns “Bad things: traffic, tourists, no
decent shops. Inadequate public transport – you
must have a car to live here. Southern rail. Good
things: walks, and the sea is nearby.”
Simon Wootton “The Kings Arms – lovely old pub.”
Bernadette Stokoe “It’s like living on the set of
a 19th-century costume drama. Stultifying.”
All the places I’ll never live
Coco Khan
An old flatmate recently tagged me
in a picture he’d rediscovered,
presumably via that most sadistic of
all social media features, Timehop.
For the uninitiated, Timehop
conjures up old posts from the depths
of the internet, suggesting we might
like to reminisce, when it knows full
well we’d rather archive all cringey
and painful memories to the darkness
of our subconscious. Timehop won’t
allow an acquaintance – one where
the relationship has drawn to a halt
in real life – to continue in silence on
social media, until the point where
defriending each other can be seen
as natural.
Does it really want me to explain
to a kind, harmless ex-flatmate that
I found it a bit much, the way he
always cornered me into boring
conversations I didn’t want to have
at the parties we used to throw?
Wouldn’t it be nice simply to
disappear – both online and in real
life? Perhaps by moving into a
massive open-plan flat where it
would be considerably more
difficult to corner me, or anyone,
into a conversation, because there
just aren’t that many corners.
Take this huge luxury apartment
overlooking the river Trent in
Nottingham – yours for a hefty
£500,000. In this flat, you can glide
through three spaces before hitting a
wall. All I dream of is a way to avoid
awkwardness; but if this place lets
me channel my inner dancing salsa
girl emoji, then aren’t we all winners?
Do you live in Dollis Hill, north London? Do you have a
favourite haunt or a pet hate? If so, please email lets. by next Tuesday.
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 61
Ballet is not just for little girls, finds Zoe Williams
started the six-week ballet course
at Xtend Barre with a robust set of
prejudices, the main one being that
ballet in adulthood, like other little-girl
things – wearing bunches, keeping rabbits, playing
netball – is a step past nostalgia towards fetish.
Plus, I did ballet when I was a kid and hated it.
The sheer preposterousness of it, galumphing
great adults (that’s unfair, only I galumph) doing
pointy toes: how do you get past that? But there’s
something engrossing, even dreamlike about it. I
came out after an hour feeling as though I’d just
been hypnotised.
Barre work is like the Lego of exercise, blocks
planted on blocks, five foot positions (helpfully
labelled first to fifth), five arm positions (brava,
then second to fifth), four basic leg moves (tendu,
degage, grand battement, plié), then front, side,
back. You build them into exercises – a tendu
from first position (pointy toes slid along the
floor), a degage from third (toe slid and lifted),
a plié from second (like a squat only straight
backed, arse not sticking out), many times. It’s
repetitive, precise and mesmeric. It’s whole-body
taxing but breaks no sweat. The class is about
10-strong and an air of prim competitiveness
pervades, everyone checking one another for
neatness. There are no tutus, just standard
Pilates-chic cropped leggings and barre socks.
You can see yourself in a mirror from every
wall, as unlike a ballerina as a bricklayer is
to a stonemason, and yet it is so pleasing – a
sense of perpetual improvement, body beset
by abstruse protocols, hands faking limpness
but elaborately curved, chin up, back erect and
proper as if you’ve just been insulted. There’s a
lot of smiling. You don’t get that in an aerobics
class – “smile, ladies”.
But I didn’t mind it. When you’re a kid, they
play you twangly Bach; when you’re an adult, you
get instrumental versions of Beyoncé hits. Again,
didn’t mind it. Don’t know why. In a shopping
centre, it would drive me bananas.
The barre is half of the class, then you move
to the centre of the room, where the lack of
a balancing aid combines with more difficult
manoeuvres. The arabesque, one leg elegantly
(in theory) lifted behind you, the pirouette, for
which you must choose a spot on the wall and fix
upon it with your eyes, turning your head at the
last possible moment.
I’m three weeks in now, and I feel minusculey
better at everything, but none of it makes me
ache the next day. It wasn’t devised for exercise,
it was devised for beauty. Modern life has
repurposed it for strength and conditioning,
which must be true – you definitely use your
muscles – but it’s not as bracing as Pilates. I think
you have to believe in the beauty of the human
form to commit to it. So far, I move like a fireman
trying to get a wasp out of my boot.
This week I learned
Ballet will help if you are looking for extra poise, but
doesn’t have the same benefits of a Pilates session
My life in sex
The long-term monogamist
It was 50 years ago this summer that
we first had sex together – in a tent
in Cornwall – and it is still something
we enjoy. Monogamy suits us. Apart
from one short and ill-advised
venture off-piste, caused by midlife
angst, we have remained faithful.
We don’t make love so often these
days – three to four times a month
compared with three to four times
a week in our heyday – but our sex
life has matured as we have. As
students, we could, and did, do it in
the back of a Mini; the physical side
of sex is now less carefree. Sexual
activity at our age – we’re in our late
60s – can sometimes seem like a
Pilates class, and we are having to
consider imaginative alternatives.
The missionary position has a lot to
commend it; we like to look at each
other – partly to check in and make
sure the other is OK, but mainly
because it is a relationship activity.
Occasionally we have seen the
absurd side and collapsed into
giggles about what a Martian would
think if it caught us in this
ridiculous pose.
Apart from making babies and
having fun, we have also needed
sex from time to time – as a comfort
in times of stress, as a way of
making up after sulks (we were very
good at those) and as a release at
times of celebration. There have
also been difficult moments along
the way, such as having a house full
of babies or teenagers, which is not
the most congenial environment,
although somehow we managed.
Our relationship could not have
survived without sex, nor would
our sex life have survived without
our relationship. We know we are
extremely fortunate.
Each week, a reader tells us about
their sex life. Want to share yours?
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 63
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The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 65
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 67
This column
will change
your life
Don’t turn love or leisure into work. By Oliver Burkeman
n an old cartoon by the American Roz
Chast, a waiter approaches a woman
with food on her plate. “Are you still
working on that?” “No, in fact, I’m
completely exhausted,” she replies. “Maybe if you
wrap it up, I can finish working on it at home.”
The title is Another Day In The Salt Mines. The
idea that eating a delicious meal – cooked by
someone else! – constitutes work remains largely
confined to the US, mercifully. But the general
enthusiasm for describing things as work is more
widespread. Marriage, we’re endlessly informed
by relationship gurus and divorcing celebrities, is
work. Parenting is “the hardest job in the world”.
Even leisure has been remade in the image of
work, as we strive to reach 10,000 daily steps
on our wearable fitness monitors; or check off
experience after experience on “bucket lists”
– a form of to-do list you’re not even permitted
the pleasure of moaning about, because they’re
meant to be fun.
In recent decades, of course, one major
reason for defining more things as work has
been to call attention to burdens that still fall
disproportionately on women – cooking, toddlerchasing, caring for ageing relatives – and that are
no less arduous, or crucial to the economy, simply
because they’re unpaid. But as theology professor
Jonathan Malesic wrote recently in the New
Republic, there’s a dark side even to that worthy
goal: in extending the logic of the workplace to
life outside it, we implicitly concede that workers
are the only kind of people worth valuing. “If
68 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
everything is work,” Malesic writes, “then talk of
work/life balance is a sham.” And we start judging
parents, partners and others by their work ethic.
“We shame mothers who don’t perform ‘best
practices’ like breastfeeding, or initiating skinto-skin contact with their child within seconds
of birth,” he says, while the childless are seen as
self-indulgent slackers.
The idea of “emotional labour” is an intriguing
case in point. In the 1980s this useful phrase,
coined by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild,
referred to the exhausting requirement faced by
people in certain jobs – again, usually women –
to act smiley or solicitous, how they felt inside.
But in the past few years, it’s been popularised
to include, say, the “job” of listening to your
spouse or friend unburden themselves of their
problems. It’s undoubtedly sexist when men take
it for granted that women will listen obligingly
while they moan. But isn’t it rather strange to
characterise the underlying act – listening to
someone you love – as an imposition from which
you’d rather be free? If something so fundamental
to a relationship counts as work, it’s hard to
imagine what wouldn’t.
It’s hard to disagree with Malesic that, in an
ideal world, we’d value all these interpersonal
activities – and introduce policies permitting
plenty of time for them – not because they’re
jobs, but just because they matter. Things surely
shouldn’t need to be work, and people shouldn’t
need to be hard workers, in order to count.
What I’m really thinking
The woman with a big nose
The hardest moments are walking
into or standing up in front of
a room full of people who haven’t
seen you before. I couldn’t work in
a job as an educator, speaker or
sales person. You know what
people are thinking when they see
you for the first time; there might
even be a visible double take.
Most overcome their initial reaction
and soon accept you as you are.
To family members, old friends and
acquaintances, it doesn’t matter at
all; you are defined to them by your
personality, not a facial feature.
The surgery option comes up in
my mind frequently. I find myself
analysing others’ profiles and
fantasising about the one I want,
removing the superfluous but
leaving enough to retain the original
character. But these dreams are
countered by thoughts of “What if
it all goes wrong and I end up
looking worse, or suffer
complications, or become infected
with a deadly drug-resistant
bacteria introduced during the
invasion into my sinuous cavities?”.
The one time the topic of rhinoplasty
came up in conversation with my
husband, he stated flatly that if
any surgical correction were to be
made, it should be an augmentation
in the chest area instead. End of
discussion – and another thing to
add to my list of bodily
The joy of each pregnancy was
attenuated by the worry that the
child might inherit my aquiline
profile. Luckily, the paternal genes
ruled supreme and both daughters
are be
beautiful, with that particular
featur just strong enough to add
to their
to the attractiveness, rather than
large enough to take away from it.
Tell us what you’re really thinking
at min
‘I don’t tweet or photograph my lunch, so why can’t I stop checking my phone?’
recall my first mobile
phone with a mixture of
fondness and irritation.
I bought it 20 years ago
in Australia in preparation for the
arduous trek from Perth to Broome
in the far north-west. Broome was
known to be a feral place.
Superannuated pearl fishermen
roamed the streets in cowboy boots.
Six-foot goannas broke into kitchens
to rummage through the rubbish.
Brahminy kites patrolled the skies,
waiting for whatever sidled
poisonously out of the mangrove
swamps. Temperatures reached a
thousand degrees in the shade, only
there was no shade. When you’re
that remote, a mobile phone is a
necessity. “Hello, is that air rescue?
Helicopter me out of here. Now.”
It was a chunky Nokia cased in
leather with a waterproof plastic
window and a clip for hanging on
your belt, alongside your crocodile
knife and snake eviscerator. A phone
was just a phone then. It sent a call
and it received a call. Except that in
Broome it did neither. No signal that
far north. I wore it on my belt
anyway, in case I needed to throw
it at a goanna.
Since then, I have owned a dozen
mobile phones, each a little more
sophisticated than the last, though
anyone under the age of 40 would
laugh at what I call sophisticated.
I send emails, I get texts, I visit the
Guardian website to see how Donald
Trump is managing with his sixword vocabulary and I keep up with
the cricket. That’s it. I have no apps.
I play no games. I don’t tweet or
otherwise socially interconnect.
I don’t photograph my lunch, and
I don’t walk into traffic with my head
buried in the screen. All of which,
wouldn’t you say, makes me a lowlevel user. That being the case, what
is the hold my phone exerts on me?
The extent of my dependency
struck me the other evening as I was
sitting on the terrace, drinking
malbec, complimenting my wife on
her best tagine yet (yes, yes, the
metropolitan elite at play) and
eyeing my phone. What for? I was
expecting no call. There was no
cricket being played. Trump was on
a golf course. (Loser.) There was
nothing in the whole wide world
I needed to be informed about.
Arched above me a beautiful late
summer sky: once I would have
looked up for hours, marvelling at
how a charcoal cloud could turn
into a gold one. Ranged before me
a sumptuous supper: once I would
have tried distinguishing taste from
taste, herb from herb, spice from
spice. Once I would have smiled at
my companion.
Finis. Life is now shrunk to
waiting for a little red light to flash.
I am one of the damned and I don’t
even have an app.
Puzzles Crossword by Sy and Thomas Eaton’s quiz. Answers on page 60
7 The majority
ethnic group in
Kenya (6)
8 Indigenous peoples
of the Arctic (6)
9 Syrian city that
was once known as
Emesa (4)
10 1968 cult classic
starring Peter Sellers
and Claudine Longet
11 Canal that once
linked Braunston in
to the Thames near
Oxford (5,8)
14 1991 album by
Tina Turner (6,3,4)
17 Autonomous
territory on
the Pearl river in
China? (4,4)
19 Sir Run Run ....,
17 movie mogul and
philanthropist (4)
21 One of Austria’s
leading beer brands (6)
22 Sergio ......,
Argentine and
Manchester City
footballer (6)
1 Josip Broz ....,
Yugoslav president
1953-1980 (4)
2 River forming the
western shore of
Manhattan (6)
3 The relationship of
Agatha to Bertie? (4)
4 .... .... Nails,
US rock band
whose albums
include The
Downward Spiral
(1994) and The
Fragile (1999) (4,4)
5 Country that
was invaded by Iraq
in 1990 (6)
6 Cowboy hats? (8)
12 Portuguese
footballer who was
nicknamed “The
Maestro” (3,5)
13 American “robber
baron” who made
his fortune in
railroad investments
15 Charlie Brown’s
messy friend? (3-3)
16 ...... country,
area straddling
north-central Spain
and south-western
France (6)
18 Top ....,
cancelled BBC
motoring show (4)
20 Home to the
Taj Mahal (4)
1 Whose body was
identified in 1967 by
Guardian journalist
Richard Gott?
2 Which dog is named
from a Russian word
for “fast”?
3 Which saint is
portrayed carrying her
eyes on a plate?
4 When would
a pyroclastic surge
be observed?
5 What makes up
chapters 23-40 of
the sixth book of the
6 Which ex-Formula
One driver is a fourtime Paralympic
gold medallist?
7 Lyman was the
first name of which
children’s author?
8 Which charity was
founded in 1919 by
Eglantyne Jebb?
What links:
9 Maxilla; mandible;
vomer; zygomatic;
palatine; lacrimal?
10 Forty-eight people;
eight boats; three dogs;
one monkey?
11 So Yeon Ryu;
Sung Hyun Park;
In Gee Chun;
Inbee Park;
IK Kim?
12 Bay; crack;
goat; grey;
white; osier?
13 Einstein; Akhnaten;
Gandhi; Kepler;
Galileo; Columbus;
14 Lesotho;
New Zealand;
15 Pencils, Keswick;
broken relationships,
Zagreb; Abba,
The Guardian Weekend | 2 September 2017 69
me in the
Milliner Stephen Jones at the Blitz Club, London 1980
he Blitz was absolutely
electric. It was the dawn
of the New Romantic
scene and I felt like
I was at the vanguard of something
new. I was in my early 20s. I had
graduated from St Martin’s School
of Art in June 1979 and opened my
first shop in Endell Street, Covent
Garden – around the corner from
the Blitz Club – in September 1980.
Steve Strange hosted and Rusty
Egan DJ’d, and we danced to tracks
by Human League or Visage.
I was first taken there by my
friend, Dinny Hall, the jeweller.
You couldn’t just turn up, no matter
how good you looked. It was a
select crowd, very judgmental – you
would never get away with a look
you hadn’t quite sorted out.
There were popstars in our midst:
Boy George, Marilyn, Duran Duran.
When someone as famous as David
Bowie came down, of course we
were very aware of him; but we
‘I was working
as a truck driver
by day and
living in a squat
with 10 others.
A few years
later, Aids
decimated us’
70 2 September 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
weren’t really interested in other
people’s fame. We wanted to do
new and interesting things, for us.
So, no one wanted to wear a label
someone else had designed because
it meant you couldn’t come up with
your own.
I remember the night this photo
was taken because of my outfit. It
was my father’s suit, but he
certainly didn’t wear it with cream
gloves, a cream beret and a pussy
cat bow. It was quite unusual to
have something from his closet but
it was either that, Oxfam or a
jumble sale. I’d fallen into hatmaking and I remember making
that beret in my friend Fiona’s
kitchen. It had cream silk on the
side with a pale green tip.
I was working as a truck driver by
day and living in a squat in Warren
Street with about 10 other people,
including Jayne Chilkes, who I am
dancing with here. The other couple
are Dick Jewell, a film-maker, and
his girlfriend, Luciana.
The Blitz gave me my first clients.
The hats were homemade; I’d loan
or sell them at a discount. Quite
often we’d do a trade: I’d make a hat
for someone and they’d take photos
for me. None of us had money but
we had a certain amount of talent.
The club was also the reason I
went on to open my first shop, in the
basement of the destination fashion
shop PX, where Steve Strange and
DJ Princess Julia worked. I had no
business plan but I had a wonderful
collection of hats.
I still work from Covent Garden.
It’s right in the middle of everything.
A hat is a central London purchase
and, I’ve always thought: “If you’re
going to be in London, you may as
well be in London.”
For me, the Blitz years were a time
of great unknown; a weird time
of flux where I was at the start of
something new. It was scary but,
fortunately, I met this group of
people and entered the melee of
London clubland. We considered
it our duty to support one another,
like a family. We’d put on a beautiful
costume and it would often hide
insecurities and uncertainties.
We were like any other group of
like-minded people, but what made
us unusual were the times we were
in. We’d come out of the nanny
society of the 1970s and were told
that self-expression was OK. You
could do your own thing.
A few years later, Aids happened
and it absolutely decimated us.
A quarter of the people I knew died.
I didn’t know if I’d be dead within
a year. In this photo, I look back at
a time where we felt happy; almost
invincible. We’re the survivors.
Interview: Hannah Booth
Are you in a notable photograph?
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