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The Guardian Weekend October 28 2017

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w
28 ee
.10 ke
.17 n
d
Everybody fall for
Life after
losing a top job
Yotam’s
lasagne
Experience:
I test sex toys
Diane Morgan
Decca Aitkenhead meets comedy’s bright new star
THIS PRODUCT IS MADE FROM SUSTAINABLY MANAGED
FOREST AND CONTROLLED SOURCES. PRINTED BY ROTO
SMEETS GROUP BV,DEVENTER, NETHERLANDS
COVER: DAVID VINTINER FOR THE GUARDIAN. THIS PAGE: DAYMON GARDNER, MANUEL VAZQUEZ, ALAMY
S
C o ta r t
nt e r s
en
ts
86
82
56
5 Tanya Gold
6 Tim Dowling Plus Bim
Adewunmi’s First take
10 Your view Plus
Stephen Collins
12 Q&A Ashley Jensen,
actor
15 Experience I am
a professional sex
toy tester
Features
18 ‘There’s not enough
weird’ Diane Morgan
talks Philomena Cunk
and alpha parenting
26 Now what? From the
CEO to the judge, life
after a big job
38 Flip side Beck on
Prince, Bono and his
happiest album yet
46 What the counsellor
heard On the frontline
of British students’
mental health crisis
56 My boy Jesmyn Ward
on her fears for her son
Fashion
61 Blind date When Sam
met Sarah
62 All ages Ladies in red
65 Jess Cartner-Morley
The future’s silver
67 Beauty Sali Hughes
on being the bride
Food and drink
70 Yotam Ottolenghi
Lasagne – but not as
you know it
75 Thomasina Miers
Aztec baked eggs for
Day of the Dead
77 The new vegan Rice
is easy, if you do it
Meera Sodha’s way
79 Restaurants Felicity
Cloake visits ‘an
international
embarrassment’ in
London, WC2
91 This column will
change your life Plus
What I’m really thinking
Berger & Wyse
Back
93 Howard Jacobson
Plus Crossword, Quiz
94 That’s me in the
picture
Space
82 Cosy outside
Help garden creatures
make it through
to spring
84 Alys Fowler The taste
of figs to come
86 The Space edit Our
10 best floor lamps
87 Let’s move to Lincoln
Body & Mind
90 System upgrade
Plus My life in sex
Weekend goes live!
Join us for a minifestival on 2 December
in London. Speakers
include Hadley
Freeman, Yotam
Ottolenghi, Sali
Hughes, Jess CartnerMorley, Alys Fowler,
Thomasina Miers and
Tim Dowling. For
details, go to gu.com/
weekend-live
BERGERANDWYSE.COM
Starters
26
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 3
Tanya
Gold
I need a hobby – but do Cornish pasties count?
y husband grew up in a Wiltshire
village with a hunger for broken
pianos. They sold for more than
working pianos, because people
liked to mend them: “There’s fuck all else to do.”
There was also a pond for drowning witches.
It was a sort of hobby. A lorry full of Harveys
Bristol Cream once jack-knifed near this village.
People came out with buckets to fill with
Harveys Bristol Cream: another hobby.
What is my hobby? He suggests the church choir –
I am Jewish, so no – and the WI, where I can
identify myself via gender, like a misogynist. I am,
so far, resisting. The only hobby I’ve ever had is
alcoholism, and that ended badly; and walking,
until I broke my ankle, which ended badly, too.
He has a hobby, though: he is baking, and
behaving like a loaf of bread. Since we moved from
Camden, he is happier and taller. He has, literally,
risen. He really hated north London. He would
drive up Hampstead High Street screaming.
Our house in Newlyn had a four-oven Aga,
and this made him happy. He began by baking
challah – according to Google maps, the closest
kosher bakery is still Roni’s in Hampstead – then
a round granary, then a rectangular granary: he
is moving through the CBeebies shapes. He went
on baking forums – he described them as “angry,
populated solely by men” – and described
himself as an Aga lout. He is allowed an Aga
because he grew up in the countryside, so, by
marriage, I am, too. It is not insufferable
pretension outside the M25.
But we had to move out of the Newlyn house
because the works that were to begin “drekly”
have finally begun. Now we are staying at my
mother’s house in a hamlet so remote that
Cornish people call it “the wilderness”. It has its
own weather system and the wifi works roughly
every second day. We sit under a cloud, and we
cannot see the car from the window; drive east,
and the cloud melts away. As so often in Cornwall
– for instance during the snowfall of 2009, when
the snow stopped, abruptly, at the river Tamar –
it feels vaguely, if pointlessly, enchanted.
This holiday cottage is called Periwinkles,
which is a ludicrous name if you know my mother
well, or at all; she is a historian of modern Jewish
history and she is not twee. It should be called
Leon Trotsky Cottage, but I can’t face the sign
painter’s expression. I am afraid to tell people that
SUKI DHANDA FOR THE GUARDIAN
M
I live in a holiday cottage, even in late October.
My husband, who is a standup comedian, gigged
with Kernow King, the king of Cornish comedy.
When King told the audience they had listened to
“Andrew Watts, currently staying at his motherin-law’s second home!” they glared.
Leon Trotsky Cottage does not have an Aga,
but there is flour on the table and dough on the
floor. I hope he will attempt a Cornish pasty,
because pasties have been in the newspapers all
year. First Historic England said the Cornish pasty
was invented in Devon. Then a Cornish pasty was
launched into space. He will, essentially, bake a
news story.
Recently, when asked to name his favourite
pasty, Michael Gove said, “Whether it is Ginsters
or the Cornwall Pasty Company, I am very, very
happy. But as far as I’m concerned, if it’s got
mince, potatoes, vegetables and pastry, then it’s
perfect for me.” There were two factual errors in
this statement, and one insult. Cornish people do
not eat Ginsters pasties. There is no mince in a
Cornish pasty; it is steak. And it is not the
Cornwall Pasty Company, but the West Cornwall
Pasty Company, whose headquarters are in
Buckinghamshire. When David Cameron boasted
about eating pasties in 2012, he got the name
right; but he was accused of lying anyway,
because the pasty outlet in question (it was in
Leeds) closed in 2007.
The final story was Brexit-related, and this is
Cornish tragedy, because the duchy voted
overwhelmingly to leave the EU; only metropolitan
Truro and yachtie Falmouth voted to remain. (Do
you remember the Newlyn fishing boat that sailed
up the Thames to be greeted by Bob Geldof doing
“the V”? Perhaps he was so moved that words
failed him?) Since 2011, the Cornish pasty has been
protected by an EU Protected Geographical
Indication (PGI), preventing imposter pasties
(from Devon, say) being marketed as Cornish.
Now the PGI is in doubt. Thankfully, Vince Cable
has spoken up for the Cornish pasty, claiming that,
“The government isn’t doing enough to guarantee
the integrity of British brands such as Melton
Mowbray pork pies or Cornish pasties.” I don’t
care about pork pies, but campaigning for the
Cornish pasty’s PGI might be a worthy hobby.
@TanyaGold1
Hadley Freeman is away.
Tim
Dowling
Second
life
y wife has decided to hire a car for a
long-planned weekend away in the
country. Our car has brake problems,
she says, and anyway hiring a car
is still cheaper than buying train tickets for
everyone. This is perfectly true, until the oldest
one decides he can’t go and the middle one says
he’ll need to take a train from university anyway.
“So it’s no longer cheaper,” I say, scrutinising
the bill while we wait for someone to drive the
hire car round from the back lot.
“Never mind,” my wife says, as a gleaming white
vehicle pulls up beside us. “Look, it’s lovely.”
Back at home I am anxious to load up and leave
before our hire car gets a parking ticket, and
flying suddenly starts to make economic sense.
“We’re just waiting for Constance,” my wife says.
“Are we?” I say.
“She’s coming with us,” she says. “I told you.”
Twenty minutes later, Constance arrives and
installs herself on the sofa.
“Tim, you can’t write about me this weekend,”
says Constance.
“It doesn’t work that way,” I say. “You’re here.”
“I’m leaving the column,” she says.
“I’m afraid there’s no procedure for that,” I say.
“Fine,” she says. “Then I just won’t speak to
you the whole time.”
“I’d be happy with that arrangement,” I say.
“Why are you being like this?” she shouts.
My wife walks in with a bag.
“What are you doing?” she says. “Let’s go!”
“I’m in the front,” says Constance.
“No, you’re not,” I say.
A few minutes later we set off, with my wife
driving, me in the passenger seat navigating by
phone, and the youngest one in the back, seated
alongside a mystery person who no longer cares
to be named. My wife pushes a button that causes
a screen to display a warning about not looking at
the screen while driving.
“What’s that?” she says.
M
‘Maybe when we get off
this motorway, we’ll just
come home,’ my wife tells
the oldest one. A pause.
‘I see. How many people
have you invited?’
6 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
“Don’t look at it,” I say. “Left ahead.”
“Lovely seats,” she says. “Should we buy one
of these?”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a white car,”
says the mystery person. “Is this still Acton?”
“Dunno,” I say. “I’ve never actually been this
way before.”
Soon we’re heading west along the M40. Traffic
is heavy but brisk, and we are taking advice on
our overall route from at least three sources,
including the satnav that comes with the hire car.
Once we’re past the M25, the traffic improves.
Then it gets heavy again. Then it slows to a crawl.
Then it stops.
“What’s this?” my wife says.
“Something must be going on,” I say, scrolling
up the map on my phone.
“Major delays,” says the youngest one.
“Should we get off ?” my wife says.
“It’s between us and the next junction,” I say.
“We can’t get off.”
“My phone is saying an hour delay,” says the
youngest one.
“Mine says 90 minutes,” my wife says. “Christ.”
“The M40 is currently closed westbound,” says
the radio.
“Closed?” says my wife.
“Our ETA has now been pushed to midnight,”
I say.
“Two hours 10 minutes,” my wife says, turning
off the ignition. “It goes up every time I look at it.”
My wife texts the middle one, who is waiting for
his train. Then she calls the oldest one at home.
“It’s a parking lot,” she tells him. “People are
getting out of their cars. They’re walking up and
down the hard shoulder, with babies in their arms.”
“Well, this sucks,” says the mystery person.
“It’s possible that when we finally get off this
motorway, we may just decide to come home,”
my wife tells the oldest one. There is a pause.
“I see,” she says. “Exactly how many people were
you planning to have round?”
I begin to feel the first faint stirrings of panic.
I open the window and inhale a mouthful of
cold air. The driver in the next lane looks at
me. Perhaps I should introduce myself, I think;
nk;
we may be spending the night side by side.
As he glances along the flank of my car, I can
n
read his thoughts precisely. He’s thinking:
ugh, white.
@IAmTimDowling
First take
Bim Adewunmi
After a month (and arguably a
lifetime) of seeing and hearing how
men can be the absolute worst,
a deep fatigue has overtaken me.
Perhaps most dispiriting about
the way these things unfurl is the
predictability of the response from
some quarters. Women are directly
(or indirectly) blamed for the
harassment or assault visited upon
them, and tiers that stratify victims
emerge, from those who most
“deserve” our pity to those least
worthy of it. The lessons we thought
were learned keep needing to be
re-taught. It’s exhausting.
To decompress, and expunge
the rage from my body, I have
been cooking a lot more than
usual. Summer is a time for salads
and blush-coloured drinks. As
the temperature drops, I take up
residence in the kitchen, stirring
thick, heavy dishes that look a little
like potions. Encouraged by the
weather, I have begun the wider
process of hibernation. This year, it
started with buying about 57 candles
and scrubbing the kitchen floor, but
culminated in the aromatic smell of
a Lancashire hotpot (I add a scotch
bonnet or two, because my palate
has been shaped by the Nigerian
love of all things spicy and hot).
I have no fear in the kitchen and
the repetitive motions of chopping
and slicing are mindlessly soothing,
the perfect task to temporarily
empty your brain of bad men
and the things they do. The scent
of alliums frying is the perfume
I would dab at my pulse points, if it
were socially acceptable. Crisp but
floury potatoes, and slow-cooked
lamb, tender
tende and almost melting
are like the safety
off the bone,
b
of a friend’s hug. Cooking
Some days we
is sorcery.
so
desperately need its magic.
de
@bimadew
@bim
ALAMY
Constance arrives. ‘I’m leaving the column,’ she says
Last week,
ek, Rosie Ifould
reported
d on jobs that
may soon
n cease to
exist. You
u said:
Starters
Your
view
50% Change happens.
50
We need to retrain
25
25% Embracing tech is the
way forward
25% Universal basic income
25
is the answer
Letters, emails, comments
GETTY
should be unacceptable for a man,
and we should not be afraid of
saying so. To do so is to create the
same culture of silence that has
been brought into the spotlight so
explosively in recent weeks.
Shelley Galpin
London
I enjoyed the interview with
Kit Harington (The Revolution
Starts Here, 21 October), and the
piece by Sarah Solemani (Harvey
Weinstein’s Career Is Over, 21
October). However, Harington
should not have to apologise
for suggesting that he has been
treated inappropriately by areas
of the media. Mistreatment
and objectification are not a
competition. If something is
unacceptable for a woman, it
Stephen Collins
10 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Sarah Solemani – yes! Yours is an
article I would like my children
to read when they have grown up,
and be shocked by, not believing it
was ever like that. I hope it’s read
by the people who can take on
your challenge.
Clare Gillett
London W5
Zanab, Raghda and Akram’s
generation are the future of Iraq
(The Lost Years, 21 October),
but they can’t be expected to
do it on their own. As desperate
families send their children to the
west in the hope of a better life,
our political leaders turn their
backs. The rebuilding of Iraq and
Syria will be a long-term project;
in the meantime, can’t we help
educate their children, so they can
return to offer encouragement for
future generations?
Stuart Carruthers
Lewes, East Sussex
One of the examples of industries
likely to disappear in the next
five years (Are You Being Served?
21 October) was the independent
bookshop. There’s no doubt
that indies have had a hard
time, but the most noticeable
casualties have been the chains
– Dillons, Books Etc, Borders. It’s
great if more customers move
their trade from tax-resistant
internet suppliers to proper
bookshops, but as a sector our
current biggest worries are
gentrification, rapacious landlords
and government policy towards
small businesses.
Ross Bradshaw
Five Leaves Bookshop,
Nottingham
Good on you, Martha (Operation
Smile, 21 October). I spent 40 years
with a severe overbite, hating being
photographed and feeling a freak. It
wasn’t until my mid-40s that I found
the courage to have a jaw operation,
and it changed my life. I went on to
train as a teacher and my confidence
soared. When it became apparent
that my middle son had inherited
my jaw, I made sure he had early
orthodontic treatment that meant
surgery was not necessary, and would
urge other parents to do the same.
Sarah Rickayzen
Rickmansworth, Herts
Has Tim Dowling never heard of
doing a big shop?
Ann Johnson
London NW5
Email weekend@theguardian.com or
comment at theguardian.com by noon
on Monday for inclusion. Submissions
are subject to our terms and conditions:
see http://gu.com/letters-terms
Starters
Q&A
Ashley Jensen, actor
orn in Annan, Scotland,
Jensen, 48, found fame
in Ricky Gervais’s awardwinning comedy Extras,
first broadcast in 2005. In 2007, she
was cast in the American series Ugly
Betty and moved to Los Angeles. Her
film work includes Nativity, Hysteria
and The Lobster. She stars in Love,
Lies And Records, which starts on
BBC1 on 14 November. She is
married to the actor and writer
Terence Beesley, and lives in Bath.
DAVID LEVENE FOR THE GUARDIAN
B
What is your greatest fear?
Technology. I feel as if I am
constantly playing catch up.
What is your earliest memory?
Skipping home from school in
reception, wearing a big stiff brown
duffel coat and slipping in dog poo.
Which living person do you most
admire, and why?
Malala Yousafzai; she’s a wonderful
humanitarian.
What was your most embarrassing
moment?
Walking out of the Mondrian hotel
in LA with my skirt tucked into my
knickers 10 years ago.
What is your most treasured
possession?
My son Frankie’s teddy bear, Big Blue.
What is your wallpaper?
Frankie and me having a wee kiss.
What would your super power be?
Invisibility – I love listening to
conversations, but people get
grumpy at someone staring at them,
or they go, “Oh, you’re Maggie
from Extras.”
What do you most dislike about
your appearance?
I try not to go down that route, I’m
just glad my body still works.
Who would play you in the film of
your life?
It’s difficult to be objective.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Gogglebox. I want to hang out in a
caravan in Hull with Jenny and Lee.
12 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
What is your favourite word?
Instead of saying captured, my little
boy used to say “catchered” which
made total sense to me. So I left it
longer than I should have to tell him
it wasn’t right.
Which book changed your life?
Animal Farm, when I was about
13. It was the first grownup piece
of literature I read; my eyes were
opened and I realised there was
inequality in the world.
What did you want to be when you
were growing up?
I briefly dabbled with the idea of
being a vet until I realised you had to
stick your hand up a cow’s arse.
What is the worst thing anyone’s
said to you?
“See that Ashley Jensen, she’s nowt
without her hair.”
What do you owe your parents?
My mum brought me up on her own
and I owe everything to her.
To whom would you most like to
say sorry, and why?
To anyone who gets into my car,
because it’s such a mess.
What or who is the greatest love of
your life?
My son.
Which living person do you most
despise, and why?
Donald Trump. It’s like having
Ronald McDonald in charge of
a children’s party, but with guns.
What has been your biggest
disappointment?
Hollywood Boulevard, it’s grubby,
sticky and somehow terribly sad.
What do you consider your greatest
achievement?
That my son is kind and he loves
David Bowie.
Tell us a joke:
A chicken says to a dog, “Why don’t
humans eat you?” And the dog says,
“I don’t know, they must really like
us because they go about collecting
our shit in little bags.”
Rosanna Greenstreet
My greatest
achievement?
That my son
is kind and
he loves
David Bowie
Starters
Experience
MYRIAM MELONI FOR THE GUARDIAN
I am a professional sex toy tester
n 2009, I decided to
leave my job in luxury
property in Barcelona
and set up my own sex
blog. At the time, I was doing some
fetish modelling at weekends,
directing my own shoots with a bodypositive message. I had accumulated
a lot of imagery and wanted to share
it with the world, to turn my hobby
into an online business.
It wasn’t a decision I took lightly,
but it was a bad time to be in real
estate. I had a rat infestation in my
flat and having to buy rat poison
instead of food was torturous. So,
when the commission for my final
two sales came through, I left my job,
got rid of the rats and venusohara.org
was born.
I told only a few close friends and
family. Most thought I was chasing
an impossible dream, making a living
from my art, but when it started
I
14 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
working, they were pleased for me.
My blog grew gradually in the
beginning – on a good day, I had 300
visits – so I gradually got used to
online attention. It was when
I started getting interviewed in the
Spanish media that it exploded. And
then I was asked to become a sex
columnist for Spanish GQ.
By 2013, I was hailed as Spain’s
most influential sex blogger, and
adult novelty companies started
sending me sex toys to include in
my column. So I put my growing
pleasure stash to good use and made
a business out of it. My first review
was a jelly vibrator – I wouldn’t
review it now, because I know jelly
is too porous to be cleaned properly.
I now produce video reviews for
my Sex Toy Laboratory on YouTube,
and also work in the development
side of the industry; I have even
designed my own clitoral stimulator.
Lying on my unmade bed and having
orgasms is an obvious perk of the job,
but it’s only a very small part of the
process. Most of it is writing reviews,
then recording and editing videos.
I’m a one-woman orchestra and work
almost every day, but I love what I do.
I want to raise orgasmic awareness
among women. It seems that despite
progress in female sexual liberation,
many women still don’t realise that
having a clitoris means we have
more orgasmic potential. Apart from
the obvious sexual benefits, being
able to pleasure yourself can have a
positive effect on other aspects of
your life, especially your
relationships and body confidence.
Orgasm can be a great insomnia cure
and muscle relaxant, and it can
boost your mood.
When you work online, you can
never really know the true extent of
your influence. It’s only when I meet
my female followers at book signings
that I realise my work is having an
effect. I’ve met several women who
have been inspired to buy their first
sex toy after reading one of my
reviews. The glow on their faces when
they tell me about their first orgasm
encourages me to work harder.
I’ve only ever bought one sex toy –
my first – a battery-operated rabbit
vibrator, but I have acquired
hundreds of pleasure devices that
have been sent to me. I only test
luxury products made from bodysafe materials. I keep them all in a big
cupboard and store them according
to their category: so, there’s the benwah balls drawer, the rabbit drawer…
You can even buy app-controlled toys
that can be controlled by a partner
on the other side of the world. The
most expensive toy I’ve reviewed was
a laser device to facilitate female
arousal. It cost €1,700 and all I can
say is it was like female Viagra. The
best toys are in the “repeat” drawer,
which is next to my bed. One day,
I hope I can exhibit them all.
Explaining what I do for a living
is never dull. Some men find it
intimidating, others intriguing. It’s
a good filter to see who can truly
handle me. It can be annoying if
people don’t take me seriously or
laugh as though it’s frivolous or
scandalous. More often, it
encourages people to tell me things
they wouldn’t dare admit to their
partners or friends. When this
happens, I know my job is fulfilling
a genuine need.
Many women ask me, “How can
I have an orgasm?” It really isn’t about
the toy; it’s more about letting go and
connecting your erotic imagination
to your body. When you finally do,
there really is nothing quite like it.
Venus O’Hara
Do you have an experience to share?
Email experience@theguardian.com
Starters
Experience
MYRIAM MELONI FOR THE GUARDIAN
I am a professional sex toy tester
n 2009, I decided to
leave my job in luxury
property in Barcelona
and set up my own sex
blog. At the time, I was doing some
fetish modelling at weekends,
directing my own shoots with a bodypositive message. I had accumulated
a lot of imagery and wanted to share
it with the world, to turn my hobby
into an online business.
It wasn’t a decision I took lightly,
but it was a bad time to be in real
estate. I had a rat infestation in my
flat and having to buy rat poison
instead of food was torturous. So,
when the commission for my final
two sales came through, I left my job,
got rid of the rats and venusohara.org
was born.
I told only a few close friends and
family. Most thought I was chasing
an impossible dream, making a living
from my art, but when it started
I
working, they were pleased for me.
My blog grew gradually in the
beginning – on a good day, I had 300
visits – so I gradually got used to
online attention. It was when
I started getting interviewed in the
Spanish media that it exploded. And
then I was asked to become a sex
columnist for Spanish GQ.
By 2013, I was hailed as Spain’s
most influential sex blogger, and
adult novelty companies started
sending me sex toys to include in
my column. So I put my growing
pleasure stash to good use and made
a business out of it. My first review
was a jelly vibrator – I wouldn’t
review it now, because I know jelly
is too porous to be cleaned properly.
I now produce video reviews for
my Sex Toy Laboratory on YouTube,
and also work in the development
side of the industry; I have even
designed my own clitoral stimulator.
Lying on my unmade bed and having
orgasms is an obvious perk of the job,
but it’s only a very small part of the
process. Most of it is writing reviews,
then recording and editing videos.
I’m a one-woman orchestra and work
almost every day, but I love what I do.
I want to raise orgasmic awareness
among women. It seems that despite
progress in female sexual liberation,
many women still don’t realise that
having a clitoris means we have
more orgasmic potential. Apart from
the obvious sexual benefits, being
able to pleasure yourself can have a
positive effect on other aspects of
your life, especially your
relationships and body confidence.
Orgasm can be a great insomnia cure
and muscle relaxant, and it can
boost your mood.
When you work online, you can
never really know the true extent of
your influence. It’s only when I meet
my female followers at book signings
that I realise my work is having an
effect. I’ve met several women who
have been inspired to buy their first
sex toy after reading one of my
reviews. The glow on their faces when
they tell me about their first orgasm
encourages me to work harder.
I’ve only ever bought one sex toy –
my first – a battery-operated rabbit
vibrator, but I have acquired
hundreds of pleasure devices that
have been sent to me. I only test
luxury products made from bodysafe materials. I keep them all in a big
cupboard and store them according
to their category: so, there’s the benwah balls drawer, the rabbit drawer…
You can even buy app-controlled toys
that can be controlled by a partner
on the other side of the world. The
most expensive toy I’ve reviewed was
a laser device to facilitate female
arousal. It cost €1,700 and all I can
say is it was like female Viagra. The
best toys are in the “repeat” drawer,
which is next to my bed. One day,
I hope I can exhibit them all.
Explaining what I do for a living
is never dull. Some men find it
intimidating, others intriguing. It’s
a good filter to see who can truly
handle me. It can be annoying if
people don’t take me seriously or
laugh as though it’s frivolous or
scandalous. More often, it
encourages people to tell me things
they wouldn’t dare admit to their
partners or friends. When this
happens, I know my job is fulfilling
a genuine need.
Many women ask me, “How can
I have an orgasm?” It really isn’t about
the toy; it’s more about letting go and
connecting your erotic imagination
to your body. When you finally do,
there really is nothing quite like it.
Venus O’Hara
Do you have an experience to share?
Email experience@theguardian.com
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 15
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From her excruciating
interviews as alter-ego
Philomena Cunk to the
anti-heroine in new comedy
Motherland, Diane Morgan
never plays it straight.
She talks to Decca Aitkenhead
about children (spongers),
sex scenes (ugh) and failure
(works out in the end).
Portraits by David Vintiner
The
he Guardian
Guard
Gu
Guard
ardian
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Weeke
We
ekend
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nd | 28
28 October
Octo
Octo
ctober
be 20
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2017
17 19
‘I’ve never done a sex
scene. No, it’s not for me.
Unless it’s funny. But a
serious sex scene. It would
give me the creeps’
ne of the surprises about actors is how unlike
their public selves they often are in real life. Stars
who sparkle and charm in chatshow studios and
red-carpet interviews can be startlingly flat when
the TV cameras aren’t around. As Diane Morgan’s public
persona is already Eeyoreish – dry, laconic, deadpan – were she
to turn out in person to be much lower key, I wasn’t sure how we
would get through an hour together.
She is posing for photos when I arrive, but breaks off with a
megawatt beam, as if an old friend has just walked in. Her eyes
somehow seem to occupy about 50% of the surface area of her
face, and when she smiles her mouth takes up most of the
other half. The effect is a dazzling blitz of warmth, the kind
that can’t be faked and is found only in people who are
unusually at ease with themselves.
Morgan can’t think why so many actors regard interviews as
a disagreeable duty to be endured. “God, no, it’s fun,” she says.
“I love talking about myself! Why would you not want to talk
about yourself?” Like her heroine Victoria Wood, she likes
to switch between self-belief and deprecation, one moment the
caustic northerner with a keen ear but little time for pretension,
the next a gauche ingenue baffled by anywhere more
cosmopolitan than Bolton. The perspective she chooses appears
to depend entirely on which is likely to be funniest.
There are no rehearsed jokes or well-trodden monologues.
Morgan’s humour is located instead in dialogue, making her an
unusually good listener. Primed to find comic possibilities in
even the most innocuous exchange, she is so generous with
her laughter that I leave under the happy delusion that I’m
much wittier than I actually am. It’s only when I listen back to
the tape afterwards that I realise Morgan was just funny
enough for the both of us.
BBC (2)
O
Fans of her Philomena Cunk character on Charlie Brooker’s
Weekly Wipe of course know all this already. As the bafflingly
dense yet unexpectedly perceptive Cunk, Morgan brings an
absurdist eye to current affairs, and interviews unsuspecting
experts in the idiot-savant style of Ali G. The political
economist Will Hutton looked as though he might never
recover from her furrow-browed inquiry, “Where is the money
in a coin?” She has appeared in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights and
Craig Cash’s Sky sitcom Rovers, and was for years a successful
standup. But at 41 she is about to reach a far wider audience, as
one of the stars in a new BBC comedy, Motherland, created by
Sharon Horgan, Graham and Helen Linehan, and Holly Walsh,
about the hell that is the primary school gate.
Morgan plays Liz, a slatternly, single, chaotic anti-heroine
with a decidedly relaxed parenting style. In last year’s pilot we
saw her very nearly cut her finger off after hacking away at frozen
cheese (Liz stores all food items in her freezer, including eggs),
pick a drunken fight with the flawless alpha mums who accuse
her of sleeping with one of their husbands, and display no
discernible attachment whatsoever to her children. The new
six-part series will, she grins, “Be sort of more of the same, really.
It’s about kids ruining people’s lives. That’s basically the gist of
it. More kids, ruining more people’s lives in different ways.”
I tell her I found the pilot horrifyingly recognisable. “Do you
know what? I think a lot of mums did,” she says. “They will run
up to you in the street and go, ‘Oh, thank God someone’s made
a programme about this, because I thought I was the only
one.’” Morgan chuckles dryly. “You can see the desperation in
their eyes.”
It’s a surprise to learn that she and Horgan hadn’t previously
known each other, for the part feels as if it was written
specifically for Morgan. “No, but I’d admired her from afar, →
Top: in mockumentary,
Cunk On Shakespeare. Left:
in Motherland, Sharon
Horgan’s comedy about
competitive parenting
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 21
BBC (2)
because she’s amazing. She’s lovely and gorgeous and funny –
and she’s beautiful as well.” She curls her lip jokingly. “That’s
the annoying thing.”
Morgan was on holiday with her boyfriend in Dubai when
her agent asked her to audition. “I had just finished filming Cunk
On Christmas, and I was absolutely chilled to the marrow and I
said, ‘Where can we go on holiday that is guaranteed hot? I don’t
need views. I just need a beach and hot.’ And then my agent
says, ‘This script is from Sharon Horgan,’ and I read it and
thought, ‘Oh my God, this is actually funny.’ It’s really rare to
find a script that makes you laugh out loud, and this did.”
She ordered a breadknife from room service and filmed the
cutting-off-her-finger scene on her iPhone in the hotel room,
with her boyfriend reading the other mum’s part. “Then we
went back to the pool and I’m thinking: I won’t get it. But
apparently Graham Linehan said, ‘As soon as we saw the video,
we knew we’d found our Liz.’” She laughs. “Too right you
found your Liz, mate.”
The new series will feature a children’s party complete with
entertainer – a rich comic seam, as any parent can confirm.
Liz’s ex makes an appearance, which does not go well. And
does she get accused of sleeping with any more husbands? Her
smile glimmers with knowing mischief. “I do try and get off
with someone, and that goes badly wrong. I did have to do a
sort of kissing scene, which I’m always embarrassed about.”
She never feels self-conscious about the person she’s kissing
– “Oh no, I’m not bothered about him” – nor does she mind
strangers like me watching. “No, it’s not you; it’s about my
mum and dad seeing it. They go, ‘Oh my God, look at Diane,
argh.’” I ask if she has ever done a sex scene and she stares,
mock-appalled. “No, I’ve never done a sex scene
and never will. No, it’s not for me, no thanks.
Forget it.” She pauses to think. “Unless
it’s a funny sex scene. But a serious
sex scene, I’d feel embarrassed. I’m
just not that good an actor. No, it
would give me the creeps.”
Motherland’s queen alpha
mum is Amanda, played by
Lucy Punch. “Hilariously
chilling,” Morgan grimaces.
“And we’ve all known one…
we’ve all known an Amanda.
I wonder if they recognise
themselves if they’re watching
it. I bet they wouldn’t.”
Morgan doesn’t have children:
“But you come across the
Amandas even if you’re not a mum.” She shudders. “They
move among us.”
Morgan is such a mixture of confidence and vulnerability,
I can’t guess whether she finds the Amandas of this world
intimidating or risible. She considers the question. “I think
they get to me less and less, the older I get.” And the
more successful she gets? “Yes! Absolutely.” She looks relieved
that I’ve said it so she didn’t have to. “Yes, you can go, ‘Oh,
I don’t care’, because,” and she gestures around us at the
photographer’s studio and the Dictaphone on the table,
“I’ve got this.”
Morgan didn’t always have “this”. The daughter of a
physiotherapist and a full-time mother, she grew up with her
brother, now a joiner, in Bolton, “and I suppose, looking back, it
was a working-class upbringing. I still think of myself as working
class, even though technically I’m probably not.” It was a happy
childhood. “But we’re not that close-knit, really. I mean, I only
sort of introduced hugging into the family a few years ago.
Before, it was like” – she adopts a gruff, stiff tone – “Right, bye
then.” How did the hugging go down? “It was, ‘Oh God, Diane’s
been to drama school and now she’s hugging us when she
leaves’, you know?”
On Saturday nights the family would always gather around the
television, “watching comedy, comedy, all comedy. Obsessed
with comedy, all of us.” Did they compete to make each other
laugh? “Yes, yes, but probably me more than others, because I
got such a good response. I loved it, and I loved comedy, and I’d
tape it off the television and repeat it. I was such a lunatic. I think
you need to be like that. You’ve got to be a maniac about it.”
It’s hard to imagine the young Morgan as a precocious stage
school type. “Yes,” she agrees. “I remember telling the school
careers adviser that I’d like to be an actor, and she looked
at me like I’d said, ‘I’d like to be a mermaid, please.’ So
I didn’t tell that many people, and I thought, ‘Well,
I’ll go to art school, because I can paint and I enjoy
drawing, then I’ll try and see if I can get in
through the back door to acting later on.’”
At her art school interview, the
admissions tutor remarked that her
portfolio was excellent, but she
didn’t seem very enthusiastic and
was there something else she’d
rather do? “It must have been
seeping out of my pores.
Stupidly, I said, ‘Well,
actually, I’d like to be an
actor.’ At an interview for
an art school! What a berk.”
When she got the part
of Philomena Cunk
she ‘screamed. I think
I even cried. And it
changed everything’
The interviewer closed her portfolio, slid it across the desk,
and told her, “Well, go and do it.” Morgan’s eyes shine. “That
was the first person who said, ‘Go and do it.’ And I thought, ‘Oh
my God, yes. I’m going to go and do it.’”
She spent the next few years failing to get into drama
school. Meanwhile, she did “lots of horrific, hideous jobs”,
selling makeup for Avon, packing worming tablets in a factory
and peeling spuds in a fish and chip shop. “Called Le
Chipperie. True story.” Another aspiring young Bolton actor,
Maxine Peake, was unsuccessfully auditioning everywhere at
the same time, and the pair became close friends, even taking
elocution lessons together, “thinking it must be the northern
accent they don’t like”. When Peake won a scholarship to
Rada, followed by a part in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies,
“I was so upset and jealous! It was all I’d ever wanted, and
she’d gone and done it. And she knew it, she knew it. We used
to sit on her bed and read Victoria Wood books together and
read out her sketches.” Morgan shakes her head and laughs.
“But it all worked out in the end. Good job, too. I mean, if
I hadn’t had any success, I probably would have hunted her
down and shot her.”
At 20, Morgan won a place at East 15 drama school in east
London, but failed to find work after graduating and spent the
next five years doing telesales. “People were quite rude, so
I would say things back to them, and people in the office would
laugh. I’d slam the phone down and my boss would go, ‘Diane,
you should do standup.’” She thought he was mad. “Not in a
million fucking years. I couldn’t think of anything more
terrifying.” After a couple more years of telesales, however,
“I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life? This is
awful. Do you know what? I might give standup a go. What’s
the worst that can happen?’”
To Morgan’s astonishment, very soon she was earning a living
as a comedian. Inevitably, she had to contend with the
“women can’t be funny” prejudice. “You can feel that the
minute you come on.” She pulls a dejected expression: “‘Oh,
it’s a woman.’ And sometimes I’d do a gig and a man would
come up afterwards and go, ‘I’ve never found a woman funny
before.’ Or, ‘I didn’t think you women could be funny, but you
made me laugh.’ But I suppose that drove me on and made me
want to do it more.”
The buzz was “like nothing else. You feel incredible.” But it
was lonely work, and after nearly 10 years on the road,
“Eventually I felt nothing. If it went well, I felt nothing. If I died,
I felt nothing. I thought, ‘I can’t do this any more.’”
The ennui was well timed, for just then her agent sent her
a script for Wipe. “I was so excited, because I’ve always been
such a massive Charlie Brooker fan. I was like an X Factor
contestant. I was like” – and she mimics a desperate wannabe –
“‘I need this. I need this more than anyone!’”
Philomena Cunk had originally been conceived as a posh
Tim Nice-But-Dim character, but when Morgan rehearsed she
found it funnier in her own voice. At the audition she
dutifully played a vacuous Sloane, then took a deep breath and
asked permission to replay it with Lancastrian vowels. She
thought they looked unimpressed, and afterwards, “I had to
have a bit of a shop. I buy something because I’m like, ‘Oh,
I’ve just made a fool of myself, oh my God, I’ll probably never
hear about that ever again.’” When the call came to say the
part was hers, “I screamed. I think I even cried. I’ve never
wanted a job more in my life – and it changed everything.”
Her dream Cunk interviewees would be Prince Philip or Boris
Johnson, but her character is becoming a casualty of its own →
Top: explaining evolution
in Charlie Brooker’s
Weekly Wipe. Above:
with comedian Joe
Wilkinson in the BBC TV
show, Live At The Electric
REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
‘I never wanted kids.
Couldn’t see any
advantage to having
them, and I’ve always
felt the same way’
success, too well known to dupe unsuspecting subjects. Morgan
herself, however, is thoroughly enjoying her fame, and currently
occupies that happy stratum of celebrity in which her fans are
people she would like. “They’re always lovely. And I’m so
grateful, because they’re the ones that have allowed me to do
this. That sounds so wanky, doesn’t it? But it’s true, isn’t it? So
it’s a lovely level of fame, really. Only nice, intelligent people
come up to you.”
She is currently writing a comedy for Peake and herself,
but has no ambitions to diversify into straight drama. “I’m
generally not interested in Shakespeare or Broadchurch.
I only want to make people laugh, really. I don’t want to play
a copper. I couldn’t do it. I want to play oddballs. I want to
play weirdos. There’s not enough weird. Everything just
seems a bit mainstream to me, and I long for anything that’s
a bit unusual.”
She barely even watches television nowadays. She likes Curb
Your Enthusiasm, Adam Curtis documentaries and Tales Of
The Unexpected. “And I watch weird documentaries from the
1970s about the paranormal. But apart from that, I don’t really.
And once I’ve seen something, I think, well, I’ve seen that now.
I don’t feel the need to get a box set out and watch 47 episodes,
because I can feel my life ebbing away.”
She doesn’t go out much, either. “Oh no, I’d rather stay in.
I’m not a big drinker, you see, so you won’t find me down the
pub very often. I might go to a screening or something, but
I won’t be there at two o’clock in the morning.” She used to live
in Dalston, the hipster heart of London, but when I ask if she
got involved in the social scene, she looks incredulous. “No, of
course I didn’t. I only lived there because someone had a room,
that was it. I’ll live anywhere. I’m from Bolton, you know.
Everywhere seems nice.”
She now lives in Bloomsbury, having moved in with
her boyfriend Ben Caudell, a BBC comedy producer.
“I know, what a jammy sod,” she chuckles. “He lives in
Bloomsbury, so I’ve fallen on my feet. It’s very near a bin
yard where he lives, mind. Perilously
y ne
near
ar a bin yard. Not
vineyard – a bin yard. But still, I do swan
wa
an around
around a bit.
I’ve been known to swan around. Why
hy no
not? Could be
dead next week.”
Today she looks like a rather fabulous
ouss Bloomsbury
B oomsbury set
Bl
beauty in her vintage Frank Usher dress,
ess, with her glossy
y
chestnut mane, but says she’s never normally this
glamorous. She dyed her hair herself – “Out of a
box, mate” – and is starting to regret her pale
pink gel nails. “Bit suffocating, to be
honest,” she admits, eyeing them
doubtfully. “Plus, they look really
Top: Morgan with
boyfriend Ben Caudell
24 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
thick. I said, ‘Don’t put another coat on – that’s enough, mate.’
But I think I’m enjoying them. It’s a bit of fun, isn’t it?”
I’d assumed that by now she must be wealthy, but she
exclaims, “Oh God, no, I’ve got no money. I’ve never had
money. But I’m not that bothered about money. I don’t want a
swimming pool. I’m happy as I am. I don’t need much to be
happy, and I’ve got what I want. I just want to do some good
work now. I just want to do work that I’m not ashamed of.” She
laughs. “That’s all I want.”
One thing she definitely does not want is children. The
irony of landing a breakthrough role on a show about mums is
not lost on Morgan, but she could not be clearer. “No, I never
wanted them. Couldn’t see any advantage to having them. I just
can’t, and I’ve always felt the same way. When I was younger,
I thought, maybe I’ll change when I get older, but I haven’t.”
She starts to chuckle. “Occasionally, people come up to me
with kids and they’ll say, ‘Seriously, don’t have them. They
ruin your life.’ But even if they didn’t say that, I’ve made my
mind up now, and I’m with someone who doesn’t want kids
as well, which is glorious. It’s really good luck.”
having
children, she offers the sort of
When
Wh
en I own
own up
up to h
av
sympathetic
glance
one
symp
sy
mpat
athe
heti
ticc gl
glan
ance
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n might give to someone with an
obscure
medical
condition
you’ve never heard of that
obsc
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doesn’t soun
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Aside from all the pain,
they just sponge off you for the
p
rest
then, don’t they? But then,” she
r st of your life the
re
muses, sudde
suddenly deadpan, “you’ll have someone
to look aft
after you when you’re old. Whereas I’ll
be eate
eaten by my own dogs, won’t I?” •
Motherland starts on 7 November
on BBC2 and on BBC iPlayer.
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Nicholas Phillips
was president of the
supreme court.
Now he spends his
days swimming off
the Dorset coast.
Melissa Viney finds
out how ex-MPs,
senior partners,
surgeons and others
adjust to life
in the slow lane
An
rel
.
.
.
d
ax
Photographs by Manuel Vázquez
eaving a top position can be tough.
Your diary clears, your retinue of
staff vaporises. Suddenly, no one is
listening any more. Ego, hubris,
whatever you call it, as we rise to positions of
power, we too often come to “believe our own
hype”. The inevitable fall can be bruising.
This is especially true if you are an MP. Until
June this year, Neil Carmichael was Conservative
MP for Stroud and chair of the education select
committee. Losing his seat after the surprise
election called by Theresa May in April “came as
a shock”. “It’s brutal,” says Carmichael, 56.
Within a week, he had to clear his office and fire
his staff. “I am still at sea,” he admits as we sit in
a corridor of the government offices at Portcullis
House, Westminster. To get in here, Carmichael
had to pull out his new card with “Ex-MP”
emblazoned across it. It got us through security,
but while we talk, Carmichael is greeted by
a succession of serving MPs who peer
compassionately from the other side of the fence.
Justine Greening makes noises about having
a drink; Meg Hillier sympathises about the lack of
support for those spat out of power.
First on Carmichael’s to-do list is finding a new
job and keeping his family fed. “I also want to make
sure that what I stand for doesn’t get forgotten.” He
feels immensely frustrated that he can’t complete
his “unfinished business” at the education select
committee, such as improving academies and
monitoring the impact of Brexit, about which he, as
a remainer, worries. He rattles off a list of his
achievements. His influence has vanished, but his
drive remains. He intends to stand again.
Carmichael has a farm and woodland in
Northumberland. But for the time being he drives
his red tractor across his moderately sized garden
in Stroud; it otherwise sits underemployed,
rather like its owner. Carmichael suddenly has no
particular place to go. “I found myself getting up
at the same time as I used to without necessarily
needing to,” he says. “I’ve found it emotionally
quite testing. I’ve learned a little bit about myself,
because I discovered that perhaps I overlooked
a lot of things I shouldn’t have overlooked – such
as my relationship with others outside politics.”
He twists in his chair, looking mournful. “You
lose sight of what’s actually important to you in
your own personal life, and that’s what I did.”
A “personal relationship” has taken the toll, he
says, declining to specify further. It’s clear that
Carmichael has suffered more than one loss in the
election. Thankfully his three children were “an
incredible support when I lost, and I was really
quite moved by that”. Much as we are defined by
what we do, it’s how we define ourselves that
matters, and that takes some realignment. “I lost
the election,” a chastened Carmichael says, “so
I have to think about my own person, my own
role and a different purpose.”
“There’s nothing as ex as an ex-MP,” says
a woman at the Association of Former Members
of Parliament. But listening to Carmichael, the
L
‘I overlooked
a lot of things,
such as my
relationships
with others
outside politics’
Neil Carmichael is still struggling to adjust after losing his seat as Conservative MP for Stroud
hardest lesson may not be dealing with the
ignobility conferred by your newfound lack of
status, the really tough bit is dealing with your
newfound sense of self. If you hadn’t already
realised it, you soon discover just how much your
work and your identity are entwined.
Estelle Morris is one who knows. She resigned
from her post as secretary of state for education
in 2002. Although this was her decision, it was
still painful. She felt shut out of the club; her once
packed diary was now empty. “It was like
a bereavement,” she says. “It was in stages. To
begin with, you’re in shock. It diminishes your
feeling of self and you just have to get on with it.”
When she resigned as a cabinet minister, Morris
said with remarkable honesty: “I just do not think
I’m as good at it as I was at my other job.” She
wishes now that she had remained minister of
state for schools, where she had less power but
was able to get the real work done. More power
meant less control. “There’s your relationship
with the education system and managing that –
what I call the real job – then there’s the other job,
managing the politics of it; Whitehall, Downing
Street and the political media.” It was the “other
job” that Morris hated, along with unwanted
press intrusion. “I had a choice. You don’t have to
live with it.” So she left.
“What you don’t realise is that you’ve got to pick
up your sense of self afterwards, and that’s a really
big issue. Eventually, after many years, you get to
a sense of equilibrium.” Now, Morris sometimes
feels she should have stuck it out, for the sake of
the teachers. “I should have been able in my mind
to shrink it down to the importance it was, and
I found that quite difficult to do. That was sapping
my confidence. But what I say is that if I could do
the job again, I’d do it differently and survive.”
Adapting to life outside politics was surprisingly
hard, Morris says. “I’ll tell you a silly thing: it was →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 29
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‘It was like
a bereavement.
To begin with,
you’re in shock.
It diminishes
your feeling
of self’
Estelle Morris, former secretary of state for education, initially found it hard to adapt to life outside frontline politics; she now sits in the House of Lords
a long time before I walked in front of the
Department of Education. Instead, I’d do circuitous
routes. I had not come to terms with leaving,
and I think that’s going back to your ego bit – this is
the building I used to go in and do things. Now
I walk past and would have to go through security.”
Work is her life, she says, and she still loves
politics. She was brought up in a working-class
political household; her father was also an MP. She
is close to her sister and two nieces, but otherwise
lives alone (something the press wouldn’t let go
of all those years ago). “I’m not bad alone. I’m
only all right because I’m very busy.” Now 65, she
works with educational projects, charities and
sits in the House of Lords as Baroness Morris of
Yardley. “I love that, a day where you’ve moved
quickly and there’s that sense of momentum.”
But she still recalls the “fripperies” that
accompanied her cabinet position: never pushing
a button in a lift; two-minute, between-floors
conversations; or meetings scheduled for car
journeys. “There is a danger that people can
think, ‘This is all about me.’ The machine makes
you feel different.”
As Morris did all those years ago, John
Fotheringham, 60, has spent the last two years
trying to find out who he is when he’s no longer in
a position of power. As a senior partner at Deloitte,
he managed the big accounts, HMRC and DWP.
This meant he was away working for most of the
week, meeting his wife and family at weekends or
during holidays. “My balance has definitely
shifted,” he says. “I was what I did five days
a week.” His wife, he says wryly, is “much more
interested in me when I’m not at home”.
Fotheringham was the traditional breadwinner.
In this respect, he overachieved. “We were
incredibly well paid,” he says over a beer in a smart
pub near his bridge club. Six figures? “Seven.”
I pause to sip my orange juice. “You’re encouraged
not to be particularly visible, but you make a lot
of money and you have a lot of influence over
a lot of things. You’re frequently paid massively
more than the clients you’re advising.”
Fotheringham appears affable, but admits having
a senior position can make a person hardnosed.
“You become much more spiky and ruthless
about what you do with your time.”
Partners at Deloitte are required to retire by 62;
Fotheringham bowed out at 58. He hadn’t prepared
for life after. He had no interests and far too much
time. While at work, he felt valued and
competent; at home, he feels adrift in his wife’s
world, left discussing the minutiae of domestic
life. Previously, “We’d only talk about things that
were A or B priority, whereas now you get stuck
into things like the garden, the shopping and the
rest of it.” Fotheringham is not a C-priority man.
“I feel like this new kid on the block in this
domestic environment. Feeling like an
incompetent at home – it’s a strange shift. The
only place where I’m vaguely competent is in the
garden. When I was at home [before retirement],
it was the king returning before he went away
again. It’s very levelling – ie diminishing.”
During the first year of retirement, he threw
himself into finding his father a suitable care
home and establishing him there. He describes
this as a “project”, and when his father died,
Fotheringham says, “suddenly I felt I’d fallen off
this cliff. That was when I felt the most unsettling/
depressing.” The depression deepened, as did his
drinking. “I didn’t feel I was achieving anything
constructive. I was used to a set of things where
you felt you’d done a lot and helped a lot of people,
and when you took that away, you just felt like
you weren’t someone, worthless.” He enrolled for
a contemporary art appreciation course at City Lit,
and is keen to channel his considerable energies
(“50% spare capacity”) into a new project. →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 31
‘I feel like
a new kid on the
block, like an
incompetent at
home – it’s
a strange shift’
When he retired, businessman John Fotheringham (above) had no outside interests with which to fill his time. Lawyer Nicholas Phillips (below) took up outdoor swimming
One such project is his relationship with his wife.
Reflecting on what went wrong when he retired, he
counsels younger people not to become obsessed
with work and to develop constructive hobbies; in
short, spread their identity across a larger field. He
used to write poetry on the train to work, he says.
“You could lose yourself completely, and at the
end of it, you had a relatively good, short poem.”
So why not write now? “You need a bit of angst to
write poetry, and at that time I did.”
Not everyone flounders when their power ebbs
away. Nicholas Phillips, 79, steadily worked his way
up the legal ladder, never applying for positions,
always accepting invitations, eventually becoming
lord chief justice and, finally, the inaugural
president of the supreme court. No further
ascendancy was possible. The next step became
retirement, although the word doesn’t quite cover
it; he still holds a variety of legal offices, which
means he travels a lot. Maybe this, and his love of
Dorset, where he spends much of his time,
accounts for his healthy glow. He does not seem
to be striving for anything more.
He sits, tanned and composed, in his beautiful
north London home, clearly astonished at the
opportunities he has had: “In a way, it’s quite
hard to believe I have held these offices, having
never really set out ambitiously to achieve them.
Now that I’ve done all these things, I’m back, an
ordinary person.” How does that feel? “A great
relief. One of the things about my life in the law is
that you can’t talk about your work. You have to
be extremely careful in expressing opinions.”
I discover that he swims every day, outside,
throughout the year, and hear later that he marched
the photographer five miles over steep cliffs to
reach a secluded cove for a bracing dip before
retiring to the pub in the Dorset village from which
he takes his title, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.
Seeing him so relaxed in his sitting room, I try,
with some difficulty, to picture him at the supreme
court presiding over the most intractable cases. He
was tested to his limits when he was nominated to
conduct the BSE inquiry, and individuals’ entire
futures and livelihoods rested on his interpretation
of events. “I found I couldn’t sleep and was
waking early. I tried hypnosis, but it didn’t work.
I can understand people who break down under
stress, because I reckon I came quite close to it.”
Phillips cites his best skill as “dispassionate
analysis, which is what being a judge or a lawyer
is all about. That is a good thing and a bad thing:
sometimes people get annoyed with you, because
you aren’t expressing passion; you’re coldly
analysing a situation they feel passionate about.”
He chooses his words carefully. “Sometimes, my
family would prefer me to get a little bit more
passionate. I’m still quite a reserved person.”
He is one of those rare people who really seem
unaltered by their position. “I think I’ve got fairly
broad shoulders,” he says, “I’ve been happy in my
skin. I think that’s just personality.”
Choosing to leave a high-powered job earlier in
your career is quite a different matter, however. →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 33
ever worked, drawing day and night, to secure
a place on an MA at the Royal College of Art in
vehicle design. “Being an underdog is quite nice,
because nobody expects anything of you.”
Meanwhile, she enrolled with casting agencies
and won a part as a nurse in Doctor Strange,
teaching Benedict Cumberbatch how to fake
surgery. Gradually, she forged a new identity,
landing an internship and then a job with Land
Rover, where she is now employed as a car
designer. It’s a world where, as an Asian woman,
she stands out. “There are very few women in
positions of authority and influence in this
industry, so that’s where I’d like to work myself
up to.” Status still matters to Safa, but she feels
this time she’s on the right ladder. This doesn’t
mean she can relax, though. “I am anxious every
single day. Because I feel like, can I prove myself,
am I good enough?”
We sit in her minimalist London flat, a futuristic
model of a car at its centre – her degree show
piece. Safa managed to convince a car firm to
spend time and money on moulding liquid metal
to her design. She has performed alchemy in
many ways, not least on herself. A while ago, she
bumped into an old colleague. “I almost felt like
I didn’t recognise myself. I was trying to think of
who he thought I was. I have changed so much in
these last couple of years.”
‘I felt like
I was changing
my name,
because your
job really
becomes
a part of you’
Farhana Safa quit a career as a high-flying eye surgeon to train as a car designer
Farhana Safa, 35, was an eye surgeon, trained at
Moorfields and on her way to the top, a practising
registrar not long to become a consultant. Her
path was defined, her status secure, her parents
delighted. They had arrived as immigrants from
Bangladesh and struggled, taking any job and
living on council estates while they started
a family. It was to much disbelief that Safa
announced she was going to quit her job, and for
what? She didn’t even know.
“I felt like an idiot,” she says. When people
asked why she was leaving, all she could say
was, “I feel like I could be very good at
something else. I just don’t know what.” She
knew only that it had to be more creative. Her
34 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
decision was “excruciatingly difficult on all sorts
of levels: giving up the stability of your job, giving
up your income, being able to say that’s what you
do. I felt like I was changing my name, because
your job really becomes a part of you. I felt like
I was a failure to admit I wanted to leave. I felt
absolutely lost, like I was a nobody.”
Safa signed herself up for a different course
every day of the week: singing, shoe design,
creative writing, photography, piano, samurai
swordsmanship. After six months of liberation,
she panicked and decided to think logically:
what did she love? Cars. “I thought, ‘That’s it!
That’s what I’m going to do!’” With no design
background, she worked harder than she’d
Leaving a top position necessitates change, in
both identity and lifestyle. For most of her life,
Gill Sewell, 57, had been the family breadwinner.
She and her husband, Simon Risley, had three
daughters – now 18, 21 and 22 – and Simon
worked full time, largely from home, before
going part time and eventually retiring. The
family dynamic changed sharply when Sewell
took voluntary redundancy from her job as
assistant director of children’s services at
Hammersmith & Fulham council in July 2012.
“It was a drastic change in the way I lived,” she
says. “I buy much more secondhand and things
like that, but all the things that have changed
have felt like more enriching changes, where
my life feels more grounded, more real. I’m
feeding my ego less.”
Until then, she had a six-figure salary, a staff of
up to 700 and a budget of £25m. “I was a bit of
a terrier. I was driven and worked long hours.
That was the sort of Gill I was.” But she became
disheartened with budget cuts and increasingly
felt she couldn’t “make a difference”. The
services she’d started 10 years earlier she now had
to close; the people she’d employed, she had to
make redundant. Power in and of itself is neither
good nor bad, she says; it’s how you use it. She
does admit, though, that she got a bit too used to
people saying yes to her because of her position.
“That’s never healthy for anyone. I had to learn
to change my behaviours.”
Sewell became a Quaker at the age of 23, and
that has served as a great leveller. In the Quaker
church, voluntary roles are rotated. “There →
isn’t an elevation,” Sewell says: everyone is equal.
Coming from local government, she had to make
a conscious effort to sit and listen in meetings,
rather than “push an agenda”.
Shortly after she left her job, Sewell was
diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She took a year
off, forced to lie on the sofa at home. “I’d been
a pivot, I earned all the money, I paid all the bills,
and that shifted. I then became an at-home
mother, albeit on the sofa feeling sick. I’ve had
to learn to be a different Gill, even in the home
context.” She recovered and took on a full-time
job with the Quakers only to discover, less than
two months in, that she had breast cancer.
“That was when I learned to live more
comfortably with the softer side of myself, to
live with the vulnerability, with that identity
of being a patient.” She was astounded by the
kindness and generosity shown to her when she
was unwell. “Some of them were people I made
redundant. I went out and had tea with them
during my recovery.”
She is back working for the Quakers now. Her
cancer is in remission. “I’ve looked death in the
face several times and I’m just going to ignore it
now. I’ve realised that the best way of changing
anything is by changing myself.”
There are, Sewell now believes, more enduring
ways to gauge personal success than by status.
“I think I’ve started big and got small.” •
‘I learned to
live more
comfortably
with the
softer side
of myself’
When she worked in local government, Gill Sewell earned a six-figure salary and had a staff of 700
38 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Bec k
to t h
e fut
ure
He wrote his sunniest album yet – and then parked it when Trump won
the presidency. Is the world ready for some fun? Gen X singer-songwriter Beck talks
break-ups, Bono and babies with Tom Lamont. Portraits by Rachael Wright
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 39
GETTY (3)
From left: Beck in
1996; in Memphis,
1994; performing at
the SXSW festival in
Austin, Texas, 1994
He recently supported U2, and
was teased for it. ‘So I should hide
in my little corner? I’m more
interested in being in the place
you’re not supposed to be’
eck Hansen has been sitting on his
new album – his gleeful, giddy, whata-wonderful-world-we-live-in album
Colors – for at least a year now. The
Californian, who records as Beck, began writing
tracks for it a while back, “when the biggest song
in the world was Happy by Pharrell Williams”, he
recalls. As the veteran composer of a dozen
albums since the 1990s, some of them classics of
their day, Beck was aware that his modern output
had tended towards the downbeat, the inwardlooking. It seemed an obvious next move to make
a super-duper-happy record. Time to unleash the
fun! Colors was written and recorded and ready to
go by November 2016, just as Donald Trump
secured his place in the White House. Recalling
the timing of this now, while sitting in a London
bar, Beck frowns: “It was coming out literally the
month of the election. And it just felt, uh... It
didn’t feel like the right time for those songs.”
Colors was slipped into the industry equivalent of
a dusty cupboard, its release held off indefinitely
– until this month.
Is the world any more cheerful than it was this
time last year, though? “I hear what you’re
saying,” Beck says. “I sort of had the sense [when
I started writing Colors] that we were going into
challenging times, but I really worked hard to stay
away from anything that was too down, or
negative. I guess I could have gone and made a
different record, but we put so much work into
these songs, it had to see the light of day.”
He is 47 now, a married father of two, but Beck
retains the loose and laconic manner of the
twentysomething he was back in 1994, when his
breakthrough single Loser became an anthem for
those Generation X-ers who were oddly proud to
define themselves by their inadequacy. He still
expresses amusement in textbook Gen X fashion,
not so much laughing out loud as drawing in a
sharp, reluctant breath: Huh. Time has passed,
B
but Beck can still pop a crowd, and the night
before, at an intimate London venue, I watched
him play for a group of British fans. Fresh off
a plane, he eased himself into proceedings with
some of his gentler folk songs, then shook off his
jetlag and ratcheted up the tempo for a wild hour
of discography-trawling that put this musician’s
vast catalogue (two parts rock, two parts folk, one
part dance, one part rap) on splendid display. By
the gig’s end, Beck had the crowd roaring such
loud approval that, 12 hours on, his ears haven’t
stopped ringing.
It must be gratifying, I say, to be 23 years into
a career and still able to electrify a room like that.
Beck smiles. “I think of last night as what I’d
hoped or imagined performing would be like when
I was starting out – which it wasn’t. Because at the
time, my music was so confusing to people that
they didn’t know how to react. Unless it was to
laugh, or throw things.”
As fans might have guessed from his lyrics,
which can recall the smooth, rhythmic nonsense of
Edward Lear poems, Beck is a gently peculiar guy.
One of his hobbies is Instagramming random
appearances of his own name, on billboards, on
passing trucks, in celebration of what he calls
“gratuitous namesakes”. He’s a Scientologist,
something I’ve been forbidden to ask about. (When
Beck has spoken about his religion in the past, he’s
described it as “something personal”, inherited
from his father.) A messily handsome man in
general, he is oddly sensitive about his profile,
which is unexpectedly triangular and about which he
says: “Photographers always ask to do some from
the side. Until they see how I look from the side,
and then they ask to do some more from the front.”
In his 20s, Beck looked barely teenaged and now, as
he pushes 50, his age is only really evident in the
way he moves, especially on stage, where his
dancing (once legendarily silly) has become more
restrained and limited to basic arm swipes.
When I ask about this, Beck speaks, obscurely,
about a recent accident. A fall, he says, without
offering more details: “Hopefully it gets better.”
He can be like this to talk to, veering, like his
lyrics, between the cryptic and the explicit. Our
conversation doesn’t really start to flow until we
get talking about Bono, of all people. At his gig
the night before, Beck took a good deal of teasing
about the fact that he’d recently supported U2
on a tour of American stadiums. “Fuck Bono!”
someone shouted from the crowd, and Beck,
not quite hearing, replied, “Yeah!... Wait...
What did you say?” When the shout was taken up
by multiple voices, Beck seemed a bit flustered
and tried to defend the U2 frontman. But: “Fuck
Bono! Fuck Bono!” Eventually, he had to sigh into
his mic and say, “I mean, I’m not gonna argue
with you.”
Today, he seems baffled by the exchange. But
this was a room full of his diehard fans, people
who, I suggest, might prefer to imagine he exists
a little farther out on the cultural fringes than
Bono. Beck takes the point, but isn’t especially
pleased about it. “So, so, so, should we go and
hide in our little corner? Or should we go and
engage with the world? As time goes on, I’m more
interested in being in the place you’re not
supposed to be. I don’t know what the rules are.”
He sighs. “Believe me, I definitely spent a lot of
time in my music-making feeling very removed or
separate from mainstream culture. But then, after
a while, I realised, y’know, why marginalise an
idea? Let’s just bring it to the centre. Let’s engage.”
Beck was born in 1970 and raised in east Los
Angeles, which in the 70s and 80s could be
a forbidding place: “I grew up in the Area That
Nobody Drives Through.” There were palm trees
near his home, but they were infested with rats. He
had a fake ID he used not to get into clubs, but into
ceramics classes at an adult community college, →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 41
to avoid unwanted attention on the streets. “In that
environment you’re pretty – what’s the word? –
disconnected from things. There wasn’t, like,
a sports centre where you could go and join a team
and meet a bunch of kids and make friends. It was
more like growing up in a warzone.”
And you’re a slender guy, I say. You must have
been tiny as a kid.
“Yeah. So, I mean, it was just survival, really.”
His parents are well-known, to a degree, but
not in a way that brought any glamour to Beck’s
early years. His mother, Bibbe Hansen, is a former
performance artist who as a teenager worked
with Andy Warhol. And though his father, David
Campbell, has gone on to make a successful
career as a composer, when Beck was young he
was a jobbing guitarist. “Anybody who’s lived in
poverty [would recognise it],” Beck says of their
life then. “No space. Sometimes food is there and
sometimes not. Living in an area that’s very
dangerous, and the stresses of that.” His parents
separated and resettled with other people,
a stepfather later describing Beck, as a youth,
as less like a little boy and more like a “little
artist”. When I mention this, Beck says, “Within
those very narrow options, it was probably the
only thing you could really do: create your own
little world.” David Bowie was one of his heroes,
and later in life Beck went to see an exhibition
that featured a reconstruction of Bowie’s
childhood bedroom. It prompted a pang of
recognition. “It seemed like he’d created this
whole little fantastical world for himself, as a way
of transcending his limitations.”
Beck dropped out of school and in 1989, aged
18, rode a bus across the country to New York:
a multi-day journey during which a passenger
advised him, bluntly, he would be “cut” for his
Walkman if he ever fell asleep. He lasted a year or
so on the east coast, plugged into the Manhattan
punk-rock scene and, in the early 90s, returned to
o
LA, where he supplemented the beginnings of
a music career by working in a video shop, sorting
porn, he once claimed. He was with a serious
girlfriend at the time, a fashion designer called
Leigh Limon, and he had a certain fearlessness
that let him get up in front of crowds and sing the
kooky, incomprehensible songs he was writing at
the time. But Beck once referred to this period as
a time of “zero money and zero possibilities”.
Change when it came was rapid. “Early ’94’s most
unlikely overnight-success story!” Rolling Stone
wrote of him after Loser went top 10. He signed to
a major label, DGC, and released his first LP,
Mellow Gold.
Beck has been a hungry and prolific worker ever
since, not only as a musician but as a creator-forhire, publishing sheet music, composing tracks
for PlayStation games, designing spectacles.
Though he comes across as someone who would
be happy in his own company, he has also been
a tireless industry mingler over the years, making
pals of Will Ferrell, Winona Ryder, Spike Jonze,
Dave Eggers, Christina Ricci. He once traded
memories of a misspent LA youth with Tom
Waits, befriended Tom Petty, and duetted with
Taylor Swift (his two kids, Cosimo and Tuesday,
were excited by that last one). Meanwhile, he
concocted a dozen albums, as well as losing more
songs in his day than most have ever written. On
a tour in the mid-noughties, he managed to leave
the tapes of a record-in-progress in a dressing
room; the music was never recovered.
When you have written so many, are some
albums more memorable than others? Beck shakes
his head: “I remember them all. I can put myself
there like I can put myself back to last week. Easily.”
We talk about his break-up album, Sea Change,
which Beck wrote and released in the early 2000s
after his separation from Limon. He played it
straight for once – to profound and wounding
effect. “The
The producer, Nigel Godrich, had just
broken up with his girlfriend [as well],” Beck says.
“So he was really devastated and heartbroken,
too, and we were making the record together in
that sense.” It was Beck’s intended follow-up to
Sea Change that he mislaid in a dressing room
somewhere and, gutted as he was about that
creative loss, he wouldn’t try to make a record in
the same mode for more than a decade. Then,
around 2013, at a time when Beck was happily
married to the actor and writer Marissa Ribisi and
living in Malibu with their two kids, he wrote
Morning Phase, a companion piece to Sea Change
that became its equal in both assurance and
beauty. That album’s reception, Beck says,
“took us all by surprise”.
More often than not, over time, his work has
been nominated for Grammy awards. Beck is only
slightly exaggerating when he tells me that, “I’ve
sat there and lost probably 16 times”: he’s actually
sat there and lost 11 times. With Morning Phase,
nominated for a Best Album Grammy in 2015,
things played out slightly differently.
Prince was on stage that night to reveal the
winner, and dressed for the occasion in shiny
orange pleather and carrying a silver cane. Beck
was back in the stalls. He’d read all the internet
commentary in the build-up, “saying there was
no way, they didn’t even know how I’d got in the
category”. And no wonder, Beck acknowledges,
given the competition: Pharrell Williams
(“untouchable”), Sam Smith (“the most popular
record that year as far as sales”), Beyoncé
(“people loved her record”). So no, Beck says, he
was not expecting to win. Which seemed a shame
on the night, if only because he would have liked
the opportunity to talk to Prince. When the
winner was announced – Beck – he stood, clearly
stunned, and hugged his wife. Pharrell clasped
his hand on the walk to the stage, and Beyoncé
applauded and smiled. Then she was seen to
mouth: “Oh no... Not again.” As Beck was →
m
GETTY (3)
F
From
left: with wife
Marissa Ribisi, in 2008;
M
with Taylor Swift, in 2015;
w
being inducted into the
b
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
R
‘I got jumped at gunpoint
in LA. I had no money
on me, and I told these
guys I’d just had a kid.
They shoved me around
a bit, then let me go’
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 43
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San Miguel have been exploring the world since 1890. Throughout our journey we
have discovered more trailblazers like Belinda who share our thirst for discovery,
creativity and new experiences. This unique collection of inspirational people form
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REX (2); GETTY
Way-out West: Kanye
West invades the stage as
Beck collects his Grammy
award for best album
from Prince in 2015
receiving his award, Kanye West invaded the
stage in protest, just as he’d done six years before
when Taylor Swift won. (On both occasions, West
felt Beyoncé should have won instead. “Come on,
man, I love Beck,” West said later, “but he didn’t
have the album of the year.”)
Beck and I discuss his memories of the quick,
confusing moment that played out on live TV. He
says he didn’t really register what was happening:
that West came and went before he could properly
react. “Afterwards, I thought if I hadn’t been so
nervous, I could have had more fun with it.”
What kind of fun?
“I dunno, it could have played out a lot of
different ways. We could have had a little
conversation. Talked about life.”
Prince could have mediated, I say.
“Yeah! Exactly!” Beck looks off into the
distance. “That would have been interesting.”
It gets him thinking about Prince, an artist who
had always been huge in Beck’s life. “It’s weird.
While it feels incredibly presumptuous, I do feel
that certain artists are like family, in a way. I never
knew Prince, but he was so much a part of my
world. There’s a lot of musicians like that.” Beck
talks about some of them: Bowie, Leonard Cohen,
Tom Petty. “I’ll never forget this conversation
I had with my band a couple of years ago on the
tour bus. I was saying, ‘We’re so lucky! We still
have all these people!’” Not long after that chat,
Beck recalls, they started to go like dominoes.
“It just gets you in the heart.”
I ask if the night at the Grammys was the last
time he saw Prince, and he grimaces. He had just
received his award, he recalls. The speeches were
over and the two men were walking together
towards the wings. Finally, Beck thought, here was
a chance to speak with an idol. “We’re walking off...
I was trying to talk to him. Prince was listening.
I wanted to tell him how much it meant to me that
he was up there. Like, how much he meant to me.
‘I wanted to tell Prince
how much he meant to me.
But then he was gone.
Now, if any artist says it’s
their last tour? I’ll be there’
And it all happened so quickly. Somebody grabbed
me to take a photo, because they always want to
get your photo when you’re coming off stage, and
when I turned back around, Prince was gone.”
Please tell me you caught up with him, I say.
Beck shakes his head: couldn’t find him. “And
that was the last time. He died a year later. So.”
Beck isn’t sure what lesson he learned from
this moment, except, perhaps, not to stop for
photographs again. “But now? After the last few
years?” he says. “If any artist ever says it’s their
last tour? I’m going to be there.”
Will Beck have another run at the Grammys?
After a year such as this one – with its political
infamy, civic protest, natural disasters – will the
blissed-out Colors have enough grit to it? Beck
acknowledges there had at one stage been a more
cynical version of Colors, a version with “a lot of
things that I wrote that were maybe a little bit
darker, or, y’know, were kind of commenting on
things that were negative. But I would take all
those lyrics out.”
Why?
“It’s probably my natural place, things that are
Not Quite Comfortable, y’know? But I wanted to
make something that felt good.”
He is very aware that right now things seem
“untethered”. We talk about the mass shooting at
a concert in Las Vegas earlier this month (“I think
we’re all still processing it”), and about the attack
on the Bataclan in 2015. (Beck shares a manager
with Eagles Of Death Metal, who were on stage in
Paris that night: “It felt close to home.”) Of this
uncertain period in time, Beck says: “There’s
apprehension. There’s a hoping-for-the-best. And
then every month – right? – something else
happens. But I like to think it’s something that as
a society we can grow beyond.” He believes
a musician’s role during difficult times is to
continue trying to unite people. “[We’re in] this
chaotic period, which I think has been growing
for years. It’s like there’s been a storm coming,
and it’s here, and if anything, I feel like it’s
important not to take for granted these moments
we can play music and come together.”
Doesn’t a musician also want to document
those difficult times?
“There is that,” Beck says. He talks about artists
he thinks are doing a good job capturing the
current mood, including Kendrick Lamar. But,
Beck shrugs, it isn’t his style. “Some people are
really good at taking diaristic things and weaving
them into a piece of art. For me, I’m just trying to
get a song to work on its own terms.” Each song
he writes has its own needs, “and sometimes
what it needs is something throwaway”.
He tells me a story about an upsetting experience
he had in 2005, when he was living with Ribisi and
their newborn son in central LA. “I got jumped at
gunpoint. Two young guys. I didn’t have any
money on me and they were going to beat me. Not
having any money was a big offence, which I know
because I’ve been in that position when I was
younger – if you don’t have money, they just beat
the shit out of you. That happened to me several
times. But I told these two guys I’d just had a kid,
that I had to look after my kid. And they shoved me
around a bit, then they let me go.”
The experience meant something to Beck,
though he couldn’t quite articulate what. He
might have tried to weave this diaristic moment
into song, only it felt too heavy.
“Sometimes, something very innocuous just
feels better,” he says. “You might think, ‘It’s about
nothing.’ But, in a way, the songs that we love are
kind of about nothing. There’s power in a song
being non-profound, throwaway. These songs can
have a sort of magic. They can exist beyond the
artist, beyond the genre, beyond the era.” Beck
raises a hand, as if he’s launching a balloon.
“They float” •
Beck’s new album Colors is out now on Virgin EMI.
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 45
Record numbers of British
students are seeking help for
mental health problems.
Why? Moya Sarner hears from the
counsellors on the frontline.
Photographs by Fabio De Paola
Campus confidential
am walking through Nottingham’s
Arboretum park on a bright cold
afternoon with 10 other people, all of
us in complete silence. At first I find
the whole thing so awkward I have to suppress
an embarrassed laugh. But as we make our
wordless way through the dappled shade, I feel
an atmosphere of calm and thoughtfulness
envelop us like a protective cloak.
The others in my group are undergraduate
students, chaplains and other staff of Nottingham
Trent University (NTU), all taking part in
a mindfulness walk, intended to bring some space
and quiet reflection into students’ hectic lives.
Guided by the chaplains (who speak occasionally),
we pause as a group to consider questions in the
booklets we have been handed: “who am I?”,
“where am I going in my life?” and “what brings
me a sense of excitement?” Left to our silence, we
note down our answers. Stopping by a rubbish
bin, we ask, “What rubbish am I carrying with me
in my life?” We tear off our answers and throw
them in the bin. It sounds silly, but weeks later
I still feel lighter for casting off that scribble on
a scrap of paper.
Back in the bustling City Campus of NTU, →
I
‘We’ve got to make sure
mental health becomes
everybody’s business,’
says Alison Bromberg,
student services
manager at Nottingham
Trent University
students and staff weave their way around each
other, a mass of hoodies and headscarves,
skullcaps and backwards caps, hipster beards and
hi-tops. Posters advertise a programme of free
yoga, craft classes and eating-disorder information
sessions: my visit coincides with Wellbeing Week,
designed to raise awareness of mental health and
encourage students who need help to seek it. This
is just one part of NTU’s strategy to meet a
dramatic rise in the need for support.
Last month, the Institute for Public Policy
Research (IPPR) published a report revealing that
nationally, the number of first-year students who
disclose a mental health problem has risen fivefold
in the past decade. A record number of students
with mental health problems dropped out of
university in 2015, the latest year for which
figures are available. In the same year, 134 students
killed themselves, the highest number on record.
Similarly, the number of UK students seeking
counselling has rocketed by 50% in the past five
years, to more than 37,000, according to figures
obtained by the Guardian. This trend is reflected
at NTU: wellbeing services received 38% more
referrals last year than in 2014/15.
There are many reasons mental health problems
may arise at university. It is a time of transition:
people are no longer living in the family home,
but not yet fully independent either. Added to
this, some might experience the big fish – small
pond effect, where teenagers who are used to being
recognised for their achievements find themselves
in a more competitive yet more anonymous
environment. Difficulties that have been
repressed throughout school can bubble up when
students leave their support network behind. As
Glenn Baptiste, a mental health adviser at NTU
says, “Sometimes it might look like it’s a problem
that’s occurred within university, but that’s not
always the case. If students come here with
ongoing issues that they’ve not discussed, the
university environment can make life difficult.”
Even students who have previously sought help
may find the move to university makes access
more complicated, as they move from adolescent
to adult support services. According to a report by
the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health,
a third of students who had access to child and
adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
found their care was interrupted in the transition
to university. Nearly a third more lost access to
their support altogether. →
The student services
area in the atrium
at Nottingham
Trent University
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 49
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In a small office, Sam, a fourth-year student at
NTU in her early 20s, sits twiddling a pen and
jiggling her knee. She comes across as articulate
but nervous, giggling occasionally after speaking.
One day, she was in the kitchen of her shared
student flat, chatting with her housemates, when
out of the blue she felt as if she couldn’t breathe.
The same thing happened again in a lecture, and
again and again. Assuming it was linked to her
existing health problems – migraines and a minor
heart condition – Sam booked an appointment
with her GP. It never crossed her mind that it
might be psychological. “When he told me it was
panic- and anxiety-related, it was a bit of a shock,”
Sam says. At the same time, she noticed
a problematic pattern in her studies: she would do
well in the first term, but then stop going to
lectures and end up failing her summer exams
and having to resit them.
This year, however, she has managed to break
that cycle with the help of Baptiste, who has
a background in community mental health,
counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy
(CBT). An adviser rather than a therapist,
Baptiste’s job is not so much to counsel Sam as to
help her develop strategies to manage her mental
health and studies. Sitting in on their session,
I can see how his calm manner relaxes Sam as she
listens to his practical advice. They work through
her primary anxiety at the moment: an upcoming
presentation. She fills in a worksheet that breaks
down her fears into her core belief about the
presentation (“I won’t be able to answer the
questions”); her thoughts arising from that belief
(“I will look stupid and get a bad grade”); the
feelings provoked by those thoughts (“nervous,
panicky”); and the physical reaction and behaviour
that follow (“I’ll stutter and shake, and I’ll forget to
breathe. Then I’ll want to leave”). At times, Sam
tries to race ahead, to write a feeling in the box for
thoughts, and Baptiste gently corrects her. Finally,
he says, “We know these all feed into each other,
so what do we need here in the core belief box?
Something realistic and balanced: presentations are
difficult for you, so accept that, but you know you
have done them in the past. In the build-up, tell
yourself this healthy core belief, and that will give
you the ability to manage your thoughts, feelings
and behaviour.”
For Sam, this CBT-style approach clearly
works. She smiles with quiet pride as Baptiste
points out that, according to her self-assessment →
Glenn Baptiste,
an adviser at Nottingham
Trent, helps students
develop strategies to
manage their mental
health and their studies
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 51
forms, her mental wellbeing has drastically
improved over the last five months, from a rating
of 20% to 48%. He tells her that such an increase
is, “of huge significance, and that’s down to you.
Historically, in the last three years, this is the
period when you drop out. We’re rewriting
history. Well, you are.” The session is very
practical, positive and solution-focused; there is
no suggestion of delving below the surface and
into her past to explore where these problems
might stem from. Some students I spoke to wanted
therapy to explore these deeper questions and find
the meaning behind their issues; but Sam tells me
she is not interested in therapy that might ask
these sorts of questions: “I’m just interested in
finding ways to deal with it, seeing if I can try to
resolve it, rather than looking at why it started.”
Sam is one of more than 2,000 students who
received help over the last academic year at NTU, an
average of 80 a week; or more than 11 students
every day. Student services manager Alison
Bromberg says this is not just a problem for
universities: “Whatever is happening in society will
happen in university, so whatever you see here is
reflected in the country.” The statistics back her
up: in February, in a survey by the Association of
Schools and College Leaders, 55% of schools
reported an increase in stress and anxiety among
their pupils. A 200,000-strong study found that
young people in the UK have the poorest mental
wellbeing in the world, with the exception of Japan.
Rosie Tressler, CEO of student mental health
charity Student Minds, tells me, “The 2016 Student
Academic Experience Survey provided strong
evidence that [undergraduates] have lower levels
of wellbeing than the rest of the population, with
roughly one-third reporting psychological
distress, and we know that the median age of
higher education students overlaps the peak age
of onset for mental health difficulties.” In other
words, evidence suggests many people with
mental health disorders first experience
symptoms between the ages of 18 and 25.
In September 2016, the thinktank the Higher
Education Policy Institute (Hepi) published a report
stating that some universities needed to treble what
they spend on mental health support, warning that
the number of student suicides was on the rise. ONS
figures show that in the last 10 years, the number of
student deaths by suicide has risen by more than
50%. This is not fear-mongering; it is a deeply
Advice leaflets in the
student services area
at Nottingham Trent
serious problem, says Ged Flynn, CEO of Papyrus,
a charity for the prevention of young suicide: “We
hear daily from young people having suicidal
thoughts and from those who are concerned about
them. University life can add to the pressures that
young people already experience these days.”
When I asked students around the country
about their experiences of mental health, they
talked about stressful deadlines, difficulties
forming new relationships, balancing a job with
studies, financial worries and social pressures.
They also painted a picture of patchy provision:
while some received prompt and effective help,
others described underfunded services,
excruciatingly long waiting times and dismissive
attitudes. One student talked about desperately
trying to get a counselling appointment when
booking opened at 9am, only to find that all the
slots had gone when she got through at 9.03am.
A final-year student at another university wrote
that she is experiencing increasing anxiety and
can’t get help: “A good counsellor I saw in my first
year has left, and they are not recruiting any
more, so there are lots of students chasing very
few appointments. They refer you on or offer
leaflets. It seems very inadequate.”
Alex, 21, was a student at a Midlands university
when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,
anxiety and severe depression. She says services
are able to deal only with the most seriously
distressed students: “Because of the strain on the
service, if you weren’t suicidal at the current time,
you weren’t helped. You had to be five minutes
from death or you had to wait weeks. You had to be
at your worst.”
The counselling she was eventually offered was
helpful, but she felt the eight-week wait was too
long and the six weeks it lasted too short. For
long-term therapy on the NHS, she was told she
needed to wait a year, by which time she would
have graduated and moved home. “So it’s kind of
pointless,” she says. For others, such as George
Watkins, 21, who is at Cardiff and has had anxiety
and depression for eight years, the experience has
been more positive: “It is since coming to university
that I have made the most progress. I came off the
crippling medication, came through suicidal
patches and have now come more or less out the
other side.” After having a breakdown around the
time of his GCSEs, Watkins didn’t leave his house
for six months, and then didn’t leave his small town
in Dorset for three years.
“Going to university was the best thing that could
ever have happened, but probably the hardest thing
I will ever do, mentally,” he says. “All of a sudden,
I didn’t have my support, I was surrounded by
people, it was very intense. There is a massive
prevalence of drink and drugs, and it’s hard not to
feel a bit of an outcast if you don’t take part in all
that.” Watkins benefited from a supportive mental
health service, but says it is bursting at the seams.
“The team here does a fantastic job, but there is not
enough funding to meet the demand.” He points
out that, if one in four people has a mental health
problem, as a recent YouGov survey found, that
equates to 7,500 of Cardiff ’s 30,000 students: “That
is far more than our services here could handle.” He
has now been elected as the university’s mental
health officer, and is campaigning for more funding.
“I’m not going to kid myself that we’re going to
have some kind of utopia. What I’d like to see is
a good level of support that’s accessible to
everyone. That’s the best we can do.”
The 2016 Hepi report notes that in some
institutions the funding for counselling services is
less than £200,000. (The average pay for
university vice-chancellors now exceeds
£275,000.) However, it also notes that several →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 53
institutions, including Imperial College London,
the University of Leeds and Brunel are trialling
new methods for dealing with the ever-growing
need for better support. NTU’s work to develop
specialist training is also mentioned.
Over the last two years, Alison Bromberg and
her team have implemented a new system
designed to make it easier for students to access
help, starting with a single port of call for all
inquiries. Crucially, it’s not just students who can
get in touch: friends, family or staff members can
alert support services if they think a student may
need help. This change in policy was because
“young people in transition don’t always find it
easy to come forward”, explains Bromberg.
A student, or someone concerned about a student,
fills in a simple form on the wellbeing website.
They then receive a call or email within two days
and, where appropriate, then arrange a face-toface meeting. For some students, that might
mean accessing an online system that offers selfhelp modules on managing issues such as
depression, anxiety and body image (this system
is also used by the NHS). Students may also have
the opportunity to work with an adviser such as
Baptiste, receive counselling (usually up to six
sessions) or work with a support officer who can
liaise with academic staff. “It is distinct from a
more therapeutic approach that some students
get solely from counselling,” says Bromberg. “But
we’re quite clear that they are distinctive offers.”
NTU has invested in three new members of staff
on its wellbeing team, including adviser Rachael
Sisson. I sit with her in a small room where large
windows let in the sunshine. She works through
the messages that have come through the online
form, prioritising those most in need and phoning
them first, making notes on her pad as she listens.
She has a warm but professional style that I
imagine would be a tonic for a student in distress.
Sisson phones and leaves a message for one
student who is worried about his flatmate, whom
he describes as being very emotionally volatile.
She cannot contact the flatmate without his express
permission, so, as with most third-party referrals,
she will encourage his concerned friend to raise
the issue directly. She reads about another
student who has written to request counselling
after experiencing issues for a few years. She
makes some notes on her pad before she dials:
GP? Academic staff ? She introduces herself in an
upbeat way and asks questions. “It sounds like
Nottingham Trent’s
wellbeing team, including
adviser Rachael Sisson,
helped more than 2,000
students last year
you’re feeling a bit by yourself,” she says, gently,
and offers him a wellbeing appointment –
a 50-minute, face-to-face session.
This might be the first time these young people
have ever spoken to anyone, and I’m glad that it is
Sisson’s voice they hear on the end of the line.
“I hope I come across as approachable and
interested in their situation,” she says, “and
through that I build a bit of a rapport. They’re in
touch about really personal, sensitive issues, so
I try to make that as easy as possible.” Sisson’s
background in social work means she is well
trained to talk about these kinds of problems; but
Bromberg recognises that the whole university
must be prepared to respond appropriately when
faced with a student who is struggling. Her team
has opened mental health first-aid training to all
staff, to teach them how to listen calmly and hold
silences for longer than feels comfortable. If
universities can intervene at the right time, it can
have a huge impact. Claudia de Campos, a child
and adolescent psychotherapist and visiting
lecturer at the Tavistock clinic in London,
explains: “The things that we can’t talk about
take on a life of their own, and seep through in
ways we are not aware of. If something can be
thought about and made sense of, spoken and
elaborated, it loses its hold – and, depending on
the nature of the problem, is less likely to get
passed on to the next generation.”
For George Watkins at Cardiff, the stigma is
exacerbated by so-called “lad culture”, where
putting on a brave face pushes some to ignore
their feelings. Things may be changing, but as
Midlands student Alex says, with more than a hint
of exasperation: “Reducing stigma is a huge deal,
but even if we reduce it loads, it will be pointless if
there is no money in any services to get anything
done, and people who seek help are told, ‘Go and
have a good sleep – see how you feel.’ ”
At NTU, Alison Bromberg still thinks there is
cause to feel optimistic about the future. “I do.
I actually do. It feels as if we’re embracing a much
more holistic framework across the sector.” She
cites proposed changes to the university
curriculum, such as creating course content for all
students on subjects such as coping with change
and understanding stress and anxiety. “We’ve got
to make sure mental health becomes everybody’s
business. That’s the journey we’re on. And I think
we’ve come a long way.” •
Some names have been changed.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 55
Jesmyn Ward,
photographed at
home in Mississippi
earlier this month
Portrait by Daymon Gardner
Mother courage
Even before her son was born, Jesmyn Ward was preoccupied by one thought:
how would she prepare him for life as a black man in America?
ive years ago, I bore my first child,
a daughter. She was born six weeks
early. She was slow to cry and pale
when she emerged from behind the
tent shielding my stomach. In a response that
I am ashamed to admit, and one that I suspect
was driven by stress, shock and anaesthesia, my
first words to her were, “Why is she so white?”
My obstetrician laughed as she began the work of
preparing to stitch me back up. I lay there quietly,
stunned by facts: I was a mother. I had a child,
a ghostly, long-limbed daughter, who was still
curved from the womb.
On the eve of my daughter’s first birthday, I felt
as if I’d survived a gauntlet. I’d nursed her to
plumpness, become attuned to her breathy cries
as she adjusted to life outside my body, learned to
follow a checklist whenever she was upset
(Hungry? Dirty? Tired? Overstimulated?). When
my solutions to the list sometimes did not ease
her to calm, I learned to carry her and walk, to say
again and again in her ear the same phrase,
F
“Mommy’s got you. Mommy’s got you. It’s OK,
honey, Mommy’s got you.” I said it and felt a fierce
love in me rush to the rhythm of the words, a sure
sincerity. I meant it. I would always hold her, have
her, never let her fall.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I was
happy. I wanted another child. But that happiness
was wound with worry from the beginning: I was
anxious about whether I could manage two
children, about whether or not I would be able to
be a good parent to both my children equally,
whether the thick love I felt for my daughter would
blanket my other child as well. And I was dreading
pregnancy, the weeks of daily migraines, of random
aches and pains.
As the months progressed, I developed
gestational diabetes, and agonised over the
prospect of another premature birth. I wanted my
second child to have the time in the womb my
first didn’t. I wanted to give the second the safety
and time my body failed to give the first. I also
underwent an entire battery of tests for genetic
abnormalities. A bonus of one of the tests was
that I would learn the sex of the child I was
carrying. When the nurse called to deliver my test
results, I was nervous. When she told me I was
having a boy, my stomach turned to stone inside
me and sank. “Oh God,” I thought, “I’m going to
bear a black boy into the world.” I faked joy to the
white nurse and dropped the phone after the call
ended. Then I cried.
I cried because the first thing I thought of when
the nurse told me I would have a son was my
dead brother. He died 17 years ago this year, but
his leaving feels as fresh as if he were killed just
a month ago by a drunk driver who would never
be charged. Fresh as my grief, which walks with
me like one of my children. It is ever-present,
silent-footed. Sometimes, it surprises me. Like
when I realise part of me is still waiting for my
brother to return. Or when I realise how fiercely
I ache to see him again, to see his dark eyes and
his thin mouth and his even shoulders, to feel
his rough palms or his buttery scalp or his →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 57
BEOWULF SHEEHAN
downy cheeks. To hear him speak and laugh.
I looked at the phone on the floor and thought
of the little boy swimming inside me and of the
young men I know from my small community in
DeLisle, Mississippi, who have died young. There
are so many. Many are from my extended family.
They drown or are shot or run over by cars. Too
many, one after another. A cousin here, a greatgrandfather there. Some died before they were
even old enough legally to buy alcohol. Some
died before they could even vote. The pain of
their absence walks with their loved ones beneath
the humid Mississippi sky, the bowing pines, the
reaching oak. We walk hand in hand in the
American South: phantom children, ghostly
siblings, spectre friends.
As the months passed, I couldn’t sleep. I lay
awake at nights, worrying over the world I was
bearing my son into. A procession of dead black
men circled my bed. Philando Castile was shot and
killed while his girlfriend and daughter were in the
car. Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, and the police who shot him were
never held accountable for his murder, for
shooting and killing the man who smiles in blurry
pictures, for letting him bleed out in front of a
convenience store. Eric Garner choked against the
press of the forearm at his throat. “I can’t
breathe,” he said. “I can’t breathe.”
My son had never taken a breath, and I was
already mourning him.
I read incessantly while I was pregnant. Because
I could not sleep, I often woke and read in the
early hours. At the time, I was doing research for
my fourth novel, which is set in New Orleans and
Louisiana during the height of the domestic slave
trade. One day, I read about an enslaved woman
whose master was working her to death to pick
as much cotton as she could on a plantation in
Mississippi. She was pregnant and bore a child.
During the day, she left her child at the edge of the
cotton field where others would watch it, so she
could toil down the rows. She had no choice. Her
child cried, and it distracted her, slowed the
accumulation of cotton bolls in her sack. The
overseer noticed. He told her to mind her row, not
her child. Still, it was as if she was sensitive to the
keening of the baby. She tried to ignore her child’s
cries and focus on the rows, but still she lagged.
The overseer warned her again. The enslaved
woman tried to silence her tender mother’s heart,
58 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
‘I wonder
how old my son
will be when
the immaculate
ladies flinch.
When the ruddy
men will see
a shadow
of a gun in his
open palm’
but couldn’t; her infant’s cries muddled her
movements, bound her fingers. The overseer
noticed for the last time, and in a fit of rage he
stalked to the infant crying for milk at the edge of
the field and killed it. In the overseer’s estimation,
the mother was a machine – a wagon, perhaps,
made to bear and transport loads. The child:
a broken wheel. Something to remove to make
the wagon serviceable again. After I read this,
I couldn’t help but imagine the woman,
speechless and broken. Dragging her way through
the American fields.
In a book about maroon communities who
escaped slavery in the US, I encountered more
children, but these children were free, after
a fashion. Their parents fled slavery, stole
themselves back from the masters who had stolen
them. Often, these parents dug caves in the forests
of the south, along river banks. They dug out
cabin-sized holes in the ground and built rough
furniture from the wood around them. They
surfaced from the cave only at night, as they were
scared of being recaptured. They burned fires
sparingly, built chimney tunnels that stretched
metres from their underground abodes to divert
the smoke from their dark homes. To trick their
pursuers. Sometimes, they bore children in the
caves. I imagine a woman squatting in the dark,
panting against the pain, using every bit of selfcontrol she’d curried in the endless cotton fields
to suppress her desire to scream as her body
broke open and she delivered. The smell of river
water and wet sand under her toes.
The women who’d freed themselves raised
their children in the dark. During the day, they ate
underground, worked underground, amusing
themselves as they worked by telling stories to one
another. Sometimes, their parents let the children
climb above ground at night to play among the
inky trees in the light of the moon. The horror of
that choice stayed with me as my son kicked at
the bounds of my belly. How horrible to fear being
caught and returned to slavery, to torture, to
inhuman treatment; how omnipresent that fear
must have been. How the parents had to sacrifice
their children’s lives to save them. There are
legends that say that after emancipation, their
parents introduced the children of the caves to the
sunlit world, and the children were forever stooped
from learning to walk below the caves’ walls,
forever squinting against the too bright world.
The common thread of my reading and
experience was this: black children are not
granted childhoods. When we were enslaved,
our children were nuisances until old enough
to work and sell. When we escaped to freedom,
black children were liabilities, forced to bend low
under the weight of a system intent on finding
them, stealing them, and selling them. After
emancipation, boys as young as 12 were charged
with petty crimes such as vagrancy and loitering
and sent to Parchman prison farm in Mississippi
and re-enslaved; they worked to collapse in the
cotton fields, laid track for railroads chained to
other black men, fell and vomited under Black
Betty, the overseer’s whip, and died when they
attempted to escape under the eye of the gun,
at the mercy of the tracking dog.
Today, the weight of the past bears heavily on
the present. So now, black boys and girls are
disciplined more than their white schoolmates.
They are suspected of drug dealing and stripsearched. If they fight each other or talk back to
teachers in school, school officials press charges
and call the police. (This is the school-to-prison
pipeline.) They are segregated into poorer
schools. Their schools crumble, starved for funds.
They are issued textbooks that warp history, that
lie to them and tell them their stolen ancestors
were “guest workers”. Police wrestle them to the
ground in classrooms, body slam them at pool
parties in Texas. The state will not afford them
the gifts of childhood, as it marks them from the
beginning as less than: a hooded menace in the
making, a super predator in training with a toy
gun, a budding welfare queen. Perhaps this is
what happens when a child can no longer be
commodified, no longer be bought and sold.
When a nation reinvests through the centuries in
the idea that allows it to flourish: the other must
be subdued, sequestered, constrained. Today, the
stooped children walk in the daylight, but they
die in that daylight, too.
Even though I did everything I could to prevent
a premature birth, my son, like my daughter, came
early. I went into labour at 33 weeks. When my
doctor told me I was in labour, I did what I could to
halt it. I took to my bed, watched movies and read.
My attempts at relaxation didn’t work. I went to the
hospital and delivered by caesarean early the next
October morning. When they pulled my son from
my stomach, he took a deep breath and wailed,
inhaled and wailed again and again. His arms flung
out, his fingers and toes widespread. His body
arched in panic. The nurse briefly paused with him
next to my face, and all I had eyes for were his
tightly closed eyes, his sobbing mouth. “I’m sorry,”
I said. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
My son was four pounds when he was born, and
I worried about him in his incubator, anxious over
his weight, his colour, the flap of his feet over his
legs. I learned how to massage him to help his
development and digestion. He was all stomach
and head, and when I held him to feed him,
I marvelled at how thin his skin seemed. How
fragile he seemed. But he seemed to have little
regard for my trepidation. From his first weeks of
life, he ate voraciously, sucking down bottles of
milk easily, latching even though his mouth should
have been too small, his cheek muscles too weak.
Once I took him home, he gained weight quickly,
armoured himself in fat. He developed fine motor
skills on par with children born on time. My son,
it seemed, was up for the fight to live.
When his face grew to a fat moon, my son smiled
and showed dimples as deep as my father’s. He
charmed. When he flies with me, he stands in my
lap and babbles to everyone boarding the plane.
He leans over to our row mates and caresses the
other passenger’s arms. White ladies with perfect
teeth wearing impeccably tailored clothing smile
at his sure, chubby fingers.
“He’s adorable,” they say.
White men with crew cuts, ruddy necks and
weathered faces, grin at him. “I’m sorry,” I tell
them. “He likes to touch people.”
“It’s OK,” they reply. “He’s so friendly!”
They reach out a finger so he will grab it, so he
will shake their hand. He gives them a high five,
then my boy turns to the window to shriek and slap
the glass, to attempt to converse with the luggage
handlers. I hug his soft bottom, his doughy legs, and
wonder at what age my wispy-haired, social boy
will learn that he can’t reach out his hand to every
stranger. I wonder how old he will be when the
immaculate ladies flinch. When the ruddy men will
see a shadow of a gun in his open palm. I know it
will happen before he turns 17, since this is how old
Trayvon Martin was when George Zimmerman
stalked him through the streets of a Florida suburb
and killed him. I know it will happen before he
turns 14, since this is how old Emmett Till was
when Carolyn Bryant lied that he whistled at her,
and then Roy Bryant and John William Milam
kidnapped him, beat him, and mutilated him
before dumping him into the Tallahatchie river.
I know it will happen before he turns 12, since this
is how old Tamir Rice was when police spotted him
playing with a toy gun in a park and shot him twice
in the abdomen so that he died the next day.
To be safe, I decide I should tell him about his
ghostly brothers by the time he is 10. I should tell
him about Trayvon, about Emmett, about Tamir,
before he enters puberty, before he loses his baby
fat, before his voice deepens and his chest
broadens. I have nine years to figure out how I will
answer his first question about his phantom
siblings: Why? Why did they die? I am grateful for
the time I have to formulate my reply. But I am also
angry, because I know when I answer his question
about all the black people America has broken,
stolen, ground down, and killed, I will be denying
his childhood. Burdening him with understanding
beyond his years. Darkening his innocence. That
the reality of living as a black person, a black man
in America will require me to cut short my lovely,
gap-toothed boy’s childhood. In these moments,
I think I know a little of what it must have been like
for those runaway parents, who bent their children
silent and blind to grant them adulthood. That I
know a little of what it must have felt like to snatch
bolls in the fields, to hear the soft-bellied baby
crying and deny the infant milk. To deny your
child the gift of childhood in the hopes you can
raise them to adulthood.
I hope my boy is lucky. I hope he is never in the
wrong time at the wrong place on the wrong end
of a weapon. I hope he is never vulnerable with
those who wish to harm him. I hope I love him
enough in the time I have with him, that while
he can be a child, I give him the gifts of
a childhood: that I bake chocolate chip cookies
and whisper stories to him at bedtime and let him
jump in muddy puddles after heavy rains, so he
can know what it is to burst with joy. I hope he
survives his early adolescence with a kernel of that
joy lodged in his heart, wrapped in the fodder of
my love. I hope his natural will to thrive, to fight
to thrive, is strong. I hope I never fail him. I hope
he sees 12 and 21 and 40 and 62. I hope he and his
sister bury me. I hope. I hope. I hope •
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, is published
next week by Bloomsbury at £16.99. To order a copy
for £14.44, go to guardianbookshop.com or call
0330 333 6846.
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 59
Space
60 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Weekending
fashion beauty
food mind
space gardens
puzzles
JILL MEAD; SARAH LEE, BOTH FOR THE GUARDIAN
Blind date Sam, 23, software developer, meets Sarah, 23, trainee accountant
Sam on Sarah
Sarah on Sam
What were you hoping for?
A good time and a good story.
First impressions?
She addressed how bizarre
the situation was pretty
quickly, which I appreciated.
What did you talk about?
Work, university, travel, The
Great British Bake Off, how
depressing it must be to work
as an MP, and whether it’s
OK to sacrifice one person to
save a group of others.
Any awkward moments?
There were a couple of lulls
in the conversation.
Good table manners?
Yeah, great.
Best thing about Sarah?
She had great chat. We talked
pretty much the whole
time – the waitress had to
pester us multiple times for
our order because we got
distracted by conversation.
Would you introduce her to
your friends?
Sure.
Describe her in three words
A fun date.
What do you think she made
of you?
We didn’t leave until the
restaurant closed, so I guess
that’s a good sign?
Did you go on somewhere?
Nah.
And… did you kiss?
Nope.
If you could change one
thing about the evening,
what would it be?
I had a good time, so I don’t
think I’d change anything.
Marks out of 10?
8.5.
Would you meet again?
She has my number, so
we’ll see.
What were you hoping for?
Good company, food and
a fun experience.
First impressions?
He was wearing a great shirt
and had a big smile. I was
surprised he had long hair.
What did you talk about?
New Zealand, friends, living in
London, cooking for vegans.
Any awkward moments?
Slightly awkward, but
hilarious – when the waitress
peered over his shoulder and
made him jump.
Good table manners?
His mother would be proud.
Best thing about Sam?
Very easy to chat to.
Would you introduce him
to your friends?
They’d get along just fine.
Describe him in three words?
Interesting, friendly,
easy-going.
What do you think he made
of you?
Probably that I didn’t shut up.
Did you go on somewhere?
Nope.
And… did you kiss?
Nope.
If you could change one thing,
what would it be?
I’d have brought an umbrella.
Marks out of 10?
7.5.
Would you meet again?
Maybe.
The
waitress
had to
pester us
He was
wearing
a great shirt
and a big
smile
Sam and Sarah ate at
Vinoteca City, London EC4.
Fancy a blind date? Email
blind.date@theguardian.com.
If you’re looking to meet
someone like-minded, visit
soulmates.theguardian.com
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 61
Scarlet fever
Be prepared to have Chris de Burgh’s
1986 hit in your head for the next few
months: there will lots of ladies in red
around. The colour dominates the
season, and for a bright, bold shade, it’s
actually pretty versatile. Go classic with
a red dress (Elee) or jumpsuit (Pam). It
also works well as separates: Valerie’s
satin blouse is a dressy way to bring a
bit of pizzazz to a pair of navy trousers,
while
mixes
whil
i e Lavinia mi
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swea
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62 28 October
Octobe
Oct
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2017 | The Gu
Guard
Guardian
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Weekend
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Elee
Dress, £150, aqaq.com.
Jacket, £66,
urbanoutfitters.com.
Boots, £85, topshop.com.
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Flossie
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Pam
Jumpsuit, £125,
cosstores.com. Shoes,
£160, re
rreiss.com
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stories.com.
£65,
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The Guardian
Guard
Gu
ardian
ian Weekend
Weeke
We
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d | 28
28 October
Octo
ccttto
ober
ber 20
2017
017
17 63
63
Fashion
What I wore
this week
Jess Cartner-Morley looks for silver linings
The Measure
Going up
W
PHOTOGRAPH: DAVID NEWBY. STYLING: MELANIE WILKINSON. HAIR AND MAKEUP: SAMANTHA COOPER AT CAROL HAYES MANAGEMENT
Smythson’s Burlington holdall New
luggage goals, since Jane Birkin
named it her favourite travel bag.
Not cheap, but a 10th of the price of
a Hermès Birkin.
Eames chic Eames isn’t just for sitting
on. Get graphic prints on a T-shirt
at Uniqlo or a clutch at Boss.
James Perse T-shirts The brand that
Larry David wears, Normcore fans.
WhatsApp yourself Set up a group,
delete the friend and keep your to-do
list there. Forget bullet journals, this
is a life hack that actually works.
Usha Doshi Teacher at the Royal
College of Art, now collaborator
with Cos. Art chic at its finest.
The Burberry check As in all over.
Preferably on the Harrington that’s
in the net-a-porter collaboration.
Going down
1
2
3
Jess’s four best
1 Blazer, £69.99, zara.com
2 Trousers, £55, topshop.com
3 Dress, £79.99, mango.com
4 Padded jacket, £39.99, hm.com
Jess wears vest top, £80, reiss.com. Skirt,
£30, asos.com. Heels, £225, lkbennett.com.
(Chair, £145, grahamandgreen.co.uk.)
4
Outsiders John Waters says it’s all
about the insider. See his book Make
Trouble for the masterplan.
‘Lewk’ Instead, use “treatment”,
Marsha P Johnson’s word for an
outfit to astonish. Fabalas.
Having a driver Proper street-style
stars walk the last 100m to shows, so
their outfits can be appreciated by
snappers: looking like you don’t have
a driver is the new looking like you do.
Pre-Halloween weekend plans On ice
until we’ve binged on Stranger Things
u
sseries 2, obv. How else are we going
tto perfect the trick-or-treat outfit?
Forgetting that software update New
F
emojis, including a trenchcoat, will
e
make your messages 110% more
m
ffashionable. What you waiting for?
The hand-on-hip pose Officially beta.
T
Now it’s all hands by your sides.
N
HBO; GETTY (2); ALAMY; PA
hen I bought my Carrie silver-foil
midi-length skirt from Whistles,
I remember thinking that a silver skirt
was a slightly ridiculous purchase,
even by my standards, and I was left wondering
if I would ever wear it. That was six years ago, and
I still wear that skirt loads.
Actually, if I remember correctly, the Carrie
turned into a bit of a cult – Whistles even had
to give it its own email address, possibly a first
for a skirt – but the revelation, for me, was the
colour. Before that, I associated silver with
Courrèges-style A-line minis and tiny, shiny
dresses such as the one Elizabeth Hurley wears
in Austin Powers. The kind of clothes, in other
words, that I don’t wear.
Silver, it turns out, is a brilliant colour for
grown-up clothes. An easy silhouette in a standout colour is so much more wearable than
something complicated and uncomfortable in
navy. This summer, I found a pair of loafers in
silver and, emboldened by my gateway-drug
skirt, went for it. A daft loafer has been a thing
for ages, but I’m still not ready to go the whole
furry-mule hog – in fact, I’d say that ship has
sailed – so silver shoes seemed a good toe-dip.
Still, I wasn’t expecting to get much actual wear
out of them. And now, here I am, deep into
autumn, wondering what colour sock I can make
work with them in order to prolong them as my
go-to flat beyond bare-leg season.
Turn clothes silver and you press fast-forward
on them. Silver is futuristic in an almost cartoonish
kind of way. This autumn’s Chanel collection
boasted silver boots, silver tights, silver dresses,
silver coats, along with a giant rocket that zoomed
skywards in a dry-ice “take-off ” for a finale that
was pure sci-fi blockbuster. So a pleated skirt
feels old-fashioned, until you turn it metallic.
The same goes for a pair of loafers or a knitted
sweater. This is useful, because you get to wear
boringly easy clothes and make them look
dynamic and exciting.
In fact, the only silver look to avoid is one that
is too space age. A high-shine jumpsuit in silver
looks positively retro, whereas a pleated skirt
looks current. If you look like an astronaut when
you catch sight of yourself in the mirror, then
you’ve taken a wrong turn. Silver is best when
you bring it down to earth.
@JessC_M
Space
GREAT BRITISH SOFAS
Direct from the Manufacturer
Grosvenor 3 seater sofa was £939
NOW ONLY £699
www.sofasofa.co.uk
For a free colour brochure call 01495 244226
66 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Beauty
Sali
Hughes
How to look your best on your wedding day
y own wedding has caused me to
revisit hundreds of reader emails on
the subject. I’ve always been of the
view that it’s a mistake to engage
too much in the concept of “bridal beauty”,
since by definition it in no way reflects how you
ordinarily like to look. The very white become
tanned, hair goes up for the first time in decades,
poker straight becomes ringlets, red lips and
black liner become demure pastels, and so on,
when something more familiar would be more
comfortable, attractive and confidence-boosting.
That said, I do acknowledge that there are
unique practical considerations. It may be
a sunny day, there’ll be heaps of photographs
taken and so many brides worry about flashback,
the visible effect of a direct flash being reflected
by the SPF in foundation, causing a sort of
ghostly, powdery white cast on the face.
But their fears are mostly unfounded. Wedding
photographs are almost always shot in natural
light, where flashback isn’t an issue, and even
those taken inside are unlikely to be taken under
direct flash. Most SPF foundations will be fine – my
favourite for weddings is Giorgio Armani Power
Fabric (£40) – but if you’re still worried,, y
you can
PORTRAIT: ALEX LAKE FOR THE GUARDIAN. MAKEUP: LAUREN OAKEY. HAIR: ELLA BASHFORD AT BADU
M
1
2
3
Try these
1 Dermablend Total Body
y Corrective
Foundation, £22.50, lookfantastic.com
okfantastic.com
2 Palmer’s Anti-Ageing Smoothing
Lotion, £2.99, boots.com
m
3 PhytoGlyc, £12.99, superdrug.com
perdrug.com
eradicate risk and still remain protected by using
an SPF moisturiser, such as Superdrug’s brilliant
PhytoGlyc (£12.99), under a non-SPF foundation.
I went for a sleeved dress – not because I wanted
to cover my tattoos, but because my arms look
like ham hocks – but many brides tell me they’d
like to go strapless and conceal their inkings,
which can be done. The best tools for the job are
Kevyn Aucoin’s Sensual Skin Enhancer (£38, for
face and small areas) or Vichy’s Dermablend Total
Body Corrective Foundation (for large areas,
£22.50). In either case, the product should be
softened on the back of the hand, then stippled
on to the offending design with a makeup sponge,
set with loose powder, repeating both steps until
covered. For those who are more concerned with
the overall condition of their upper arm skin in
strapless, I always recommend Palmer’s AntiAgeing Smoothing Lotion (£2.99), which works
brilliantly but stinks to high heaven, or Clarins
Renew-Plus Body Serum (£41), which is equally
effective, nice smelling – and much pricier. Each
should be deployed nightly from about a month
before the wedding, to even tone and slough away
dead skin and its associated goosebumps.
@salihughes
@
g
The beauty roadtest
Products for oily skin
By Weekend’s All Ages model
David Yang, 24
Throughout my acne-riddled
teenage years, my skincare routine
was a cycle of bewilderment and
w
exasperation. I conceded defeat to
e
the constellations of spots across
my face. But now in my 20s, in a job
that relies on my face not looking
its worst, the laissez-faire attitude
I had has gone. Activated charcoal
products have been a dependable
p
oil-banishing addition to my
washbag for years. Using carbon
that has been treated to increase
its absorbency, they claim to
attract dirt and oil like a magnet
– unclogging pores and dispelling
acne. But do they work?
a
L’Oréal Men Expert Pure Power
Charcoal Face Wash (£6.35, boots.
com) is effective at stripping away
grease, although the wash can be
rather harsh and leaves skin feeling
dry, so it would be best coupled with
d
a good moisturiser.
A much milder cleanse, Clinique
For Men Charcoal Face Wash (£18,
clinique.co.uk) may not deliver an
immediate sense of oil-relief, but
after a few weeks my skin felt wellbalanced and not at all dehydrated.
The facial sponge has long
been a skincare staple in Asia,
gently buffing away dead skin
cells. Konjac Facial Puff Sponge
With Bamboo Charcoal (£8.99,
konjacspongecompany.com) is
a neutralising, all-natural exfoliator.
A week with the sponge revealed
that I am an impatient scrubber who
has no time for gentle exfoliation.
Luckily, I found Origins Active
Charcoal Exfoliating Cleansing
Powder (£25, boots.com), which can
be a cleanser or a deep exfoliator.
Easy, efficient and portable.
Next week: Elee Nova on
nude lipsticks
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 67
Food
n
e
e
w
Bet sheets
the it comes
w
Whenagne, thro k.
to lashe ruleboo
out t ographs ger
Phot uise Hag
by L o
of salt and take off the heat: the mix
should be quite wet at this stage.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5. Grease a large ovenproof
dish (about 35cm x 25cm) with the
remaining oil, then cover the base
with four sheets of lasagne. Cover
these with half the tomato sauce,
then spread half the greens on top.
Scatter over half the grated cheese,
then repeat with the remaining
lasagne, sauce and greens, finishing
with a layer of cheese. Sprinkle over
the hazelnuts and bake for 30-35
minutes, until bubbling and golden.
Leave to rest for five minutes before
serving, perhaps with a green salad.
T
Seafood lasagne with tomato
and feta
I’ve used frozen seafood, but you can
of course use the same amount of
fresh. Serves four as a main course.
Lasagne with chard, spinach
and hazelnuts
This can be put together well in
advance – even the day before – then
baked when you are ready to eat,
but hold back on the hazelnuts:
sprinkle those on top just before you
put the lasagne into the oven. Serves
six as a main course.
3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g rainbow (or regular) chard, leaves
and stems separated, leaves roughly
chopped, stems finely sliced
600g baby spinach
2 tsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted
60g parsley, leaves and stalks roughly
chopped
50g dill, leaves and stalks roughly
chopped
8 dried lasagne sheets
150g parmesan, finely grated
150g gruyère, finely grated
60g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small
saucepan on a medium flame, then
Bring a large saucepan of water to
a simmer, then cook the lasagne
sheets for three to four minutes,
until soft but still with a slight bite.
Separate the sheets with tongs, then
transfer to a board until you’re ready
to assemble the lasagne. Stir the
seafood into the tomato sauce.
To assemble the lasagne, drizzle
a teaspoon or so of oil over the base
of a 24cm x 24cm baking dish, then
line with two of the pasta sheets.
Top with a generous spoonful of the
tomato and seafood mix, and follow
that first with a sprinkling of the
herby breadcrumbs and then with
a third of the feta. Repeat in the same
order, to make two more layers, then
drizzle over the remaining oil and
bake for 15 minutes, until crisp
around the edges. Leave to rest for
five minutes before serving.
Yotam Ottolenghi
fry the garlic for a minute, stirring
frequently. Add the tomatoes,
tomato paste, sugar and a quarterteaspoon of salt, turn down the heat
to low and simmer for 10 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Turn off the
heat, stir in 90ml water and blitz for
30 seconds (use a stick blender or
food processor), until smooth.
Put a large saute pan for which you
have a lid on a high heat. Add a
tablespoon of olive oil, the chard
stems and a quarter-teaspoon of
salt, and saute for five minutes, until
soft. Add half the chard leaves, cook
for one to two minutes, stirring,
until they wilt, then add the rest of
the leaves and stir until wilted. Add
the spinach and cook, stirring, for
five to 10 minutes, until well wilted,
then stir in the caraway and a good
grind of pepper. Turn the heat to
low, cover the pan and leave to cook
for 15 minutes, then stir in the
chopped herbs and half a teaspoon
75ml olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and
crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and finely
chopped
2 lemons – finely shave the skin of one
and zest the other
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 anchovies, finely chopped
500ml fish stock
40g panko or fresh breadcrumbs
5g coriander, finely chopped
5g parsley, finely chopped
6 fresh lasagne sheets (20cm x 15cm)
500g frozen seafood mix, defrosted
100g feta, roughly crumbled into
1-2cm pieces
Spicy pork and porcini lasagne
The mixed mushrooms bring a
serious savoury depth to this
wonderfully rich lasagne. Serves
four as a main course.
Heat the oven to its highest setting.
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a
large, non-stick frying pan on a
medium-high flame, then fry the
garlic, onion, lemon skin and half
a teaspoon of salt for two to three
minutes, until soft and golden. Turn
down the heat to medium, add the
tomatoes and cook for three minutes,
stirring, until they start to soften.
Add the tomato paste, anchovies,
stock and 100ml water, then simmer
for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally,
until the tomatoes break apart and
the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat
and leave to cool down a little.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the
breadcrumbs lemon zest, coriander,
parsley, a quarter-teaspoon of salt
and plenty of pepper.
30g dried wild mushrooms
20g dried porcini mushrooms
2 dried red chillies (not the extra-hot
small ones), deseeded if you don’t like
too much heat
500ml warm chicken stock
80ml olive oil, plus a little extra to grease
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 carrot, scrubbed clean and finely
diced
2 tomatoes, finely diced
200g shimeji (or any other fresh)
mushrooms, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
600g minced pork
3½ tbsp tomato paste
120ml double cream
10g basil leaves, roughly chopped
350g fresh lasagne sheets
40g pecorino romano, finely grated
40g parmesan, finely grated →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 69
FOOD STYLING: EMILY KYDD. PROP STYLING: JENNIFER KAY
he word “lasagne” is
a bit like “sandwich” or
“pie”: as a descriptor,
it gets you only so far,
because there are so many variables
as to what you can put inside. There’s a common misconception
that lasagne is a pasta dish layered
with meat ragù and béchamel. But
that’s lasagne alla bolognese, which,
while a hugely popular version of
the dish, is still just one version. In fact, the term “lasagne” really
applies only to the flat sheets of
pasta that separate the layers of
whatever else is baked with it.
What those layers may be changes
from region to region, person to
person and season to season.
Mediterranean vegetables,
mushrooms, wilted greens,
meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, fish:
all work well as the filling. As for the
type of cheese you use, and whether
or not to include a rich béchamel,
tomato or pesto sauce, well, again,
that depends on who is making
a lasagne, and where. The only rule is to make lasagne
when you want something reliable,
reassuring and comforting to eat.
Much like a sandwich or pie. Food
n
e
e
w
Bet sheets
the it comes
w
Whenagne, thro k.
to lashe ruleboo
out t ographs ger
Phot uise Hag
by L o
of salt and take off the heat: the mix
should be quite wet at this stage.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas
mark 5. Grease a large ovenproof
dish (about 35cm x 25cm) with the
remaining oil, then cover the base
with four sheets of lasagne. Cover
these with half the tomato sauce,
then spread half the greens on top.
Scatter over half the grated cheese,
then repeat with the remaining
lasagne, sauce and greens, finishing
with a layer of cheese. Sprinkle over
the hazelnuts and bake for 30-35
minutes, until bubbling and golden.
Leave to rest for five minutes before
serving, perhaps with a green salad.
T
Seafood lasagne with tomato
and feta
I’ve used frozen seafood, but you can
of course use the same amount of
fresh. Serves four as a main course.
Lasagne with chard, spinach
and hazelnuts
This can be put together well in
advance – even the day before – then
baked when you are ready to eat,
but hold back on the hazelnuts:
sprinkle those on top just before you
put the lasagne into the oven. Serves
six as a main course.
3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g rainbow (or regular) chard, leaves
and stems separated, leaves roughly
chopped, stems finely sliced
600g baby spinach
2 tsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted
60g parsley, leaves and stalks roughly
chopped
50g dill, leaves and stalks roughly
chopped
8 dried lasagne sheets
150g parmesan, finely grated
150g gruyère, finely grated
60g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small
saucepan on a medium flame, then
Yotam Ottolenghi
fry the garlic for a minute, stirring
frequently. Add the tomatoes,
tomato paste, sugar and a quarterteaspoon of salt, turn down the heat
to low and simmer for 10 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Turn off the
heat, stir in 90ml water and blitz for
30 seconds (use a stick blender or
food processor), until smooth.
Put a large saute pan for which you
have a lid on a high heat. Add a
tablespoon of olive oil, the chard
stems and a quarter-teaspoon of
salt, and saute for five minutes, until
soft. Add half the chard leaves, cook
for one to two minutes, stirring,
until they wilt, then add the rest of
the leaves and stir until wilted. Add
the spinach and cook, stirring, for
five to 10 minutes, until well wilted,
then stir in the caraway and a good
grind of pepper. Turn the heat to
low, cover the pan and leave to cook
for 15 minutes, then stir in the
chopped herbs and half a teaspoon
75ml olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and
crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and finely
chopped
2 lemons – finely shave the skin of one
and zest the other
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 anchovies, finely chopped
500ml fish stock
40g panko or fresh breadcrumbs
5g coriander, finely chopped
5g parsley, finely chopped
6 fresh lasagne sheets (20cm x 15cm)
500g frozen seafood mix, defrosted
100g feta, roughly crumbled into
1-2cm pieces
Heat the oven to its highest setting.
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a
large, non-stick frying pan on a
medium-high flame, then fry the
garlic, onion, lemon skin and half
a teaspoon of salt for two to three
minutes, until soft and golden. Turn
down the heat to medium, add the
tomatoes and cook for three minutes,
stirring, until they start to soften.
Add the tomato paste, anchovies,
stock and 100ml water, then simmer
for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally,
until the tomatoes break apart and
the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat
and leave to cool down a little.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the
breadcrumbs lemon zest, coriander,
parsley, a quarter-teaspoon of salt
and plenty of pepper.
Bring a large saucepan of water to
a simmer, then cook the lasagne
sheets for three to four minutes,
until soft but still with a slight bite.
Separate the sheets with tongs, then
transfer to a board until you’re ready
to assemble the lasagne. Stir the
seafood into the tomato sauce.
To assemble the lasagne, drizzle
a teaspoon or so of oil over the base
of a 24cm x 24cm baking dish, then
line with two of the pasta sheets.
Top with a generous spoonful of the
tomato and seafood mix, and follow
that first with a sprinkling of the
herby breadcrumbs and then with
a third of the feta. Repeat in the same
order, to make two more layers, then
drizzle over the remaining oil and
bake for 15 minutes, until crisp
around the edges. Leave to rest for
five minutes before serving.
Spicy pork and porcini lasagne
The mixed mushrooms bring a
serious savoury depth to this
wonderfully rich lasagne. Serves
four as a main course.
30g dried wild mushrooms
20g dried porcini mushrooms
2 dried red chillies (not the extra-hot
small ones), deseeded if you don’t like
too much heat
500ml warm chicken stock
80ml olive oil, plus a little extra to grease
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 carrot, scrubbed clean and finely
diced
2 tomatoes, finely diced
200g shimeji (or any other fresh)
mushrooms, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
600g minced pork
3½ tbsp tomato paste
120ml double cream
10g basil leaves, roughly chopped
350g fresh lasagne sheets
40g pecorino romano, finely grated
40g parmesan, finely grated →
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 71
FOOD STYLING: EMILY KYDD. PROP STYLING: JENNIFER KAY
he word “lasagne” is
a bit like “sandwich” or
“pie”: as a descriptor,
it gets you only so far,
because there are so many variables
as to what you can put inside. There’s a common misconception
that lasagne is a pasta dish layered
with meat ragù and béchamel. But
that’s lasagne alla bolognese, which,
while a hugely popular version of
the dish, is still just one version. In fact, the term “lasagne” really
applies only to the flat sheets of
pasta that separate the layers of
whatever else is baked with it.
What those layers may be changes
from region to region, person to
person and season to season.
Mediterranean vegetables,
mushrooms, wilted greens,
meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, fish:
all work well as the filling. As for the
type of cheese you use, and whether
or not to include a rich béchamel,
tomato or pesto sauce, well, again,
that depends on who is making
a lasagne, and where. The only rule is to make lasagne
when you want something reliable,
reassuring and comforting to eat.
Much like a sandwich or pie. NE
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simmer for four to five minutes, then
turn down the heat to low. Cover the
pan and leave to simmer gently for
25 minutes, stirring a few times to
make sure the sauce doesn’t catch.
Remove the lid and simmer for 20
minutes more, stirring occasionally,
until the sauce reduces and thickens,
then turn off the heat and stir in the
cream and basil.
To assemble the lasagne, spread
a quarter of the sauce over the base
of the greased dish, then top with
a layer of lasagne. Spread another
layer of sauce on top, then scatter
over a third of the cheese. Repeat
these layers twice more, finishing
with a scattering of cheese, and
drizzle over the remaining 20ml oil.
Cover the dish tightly with foil, bake
for 30 minutes, then remove the foil
and bake for 20 minutes more, until
brown and crisp on top. Set aside for
five minutes before serving •
Put the dried mushrooms and
chillies in a bowl, pour on the stock
and leave to soak for 30 minutes
(and up to two hours). Strain the
liquid into a second bowl, then finely
chop the mushrooms and chillies. Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6 and grease a round 27cm-wide
x 5cm-high ovenproof dish. On a
medium-high flame, heat 60ml oil in
a large, heavy-based pan for which
you have a lid. When hot, fry the
onion, garlic and carrot for five
minutes, stirring occasionally, until
soft and golden. Add the tomatoes,
shimeji, and two and a half
teaspoons each of salt and pepper,
and fry for five minutes, stirring
occasionally, until the mushrooms
are cooked. Stir in the pork, then,
resisting the urge to stir more, leave
it to fry for six minutes. Stir together,
then leave to fry again, undisturbed,
for five minutes: you want the meat
to be slightly crisp and browned on
the bottom. Stir in the chopped
soaked mushrooms and chillies,
tomato paste, stock and 850ml water,
@ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of
Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.
Drink Fiona Beckett on wines for a new generation
3 Grilled prawns
Serve with
2 Grilled pork
DAN MATTHEWS FOR THE GUARDIAN
O
one reason for its 15% abv. That’s
£12.80 from Tanners (or £10.80 if
you buy three or more bottles).
Interestingly, rueda has also
changed character from the pungent,
citrussy, sauvignon-like style of
a couple of years ago to a smoother,
lusher, more textured white that
would appeal to younger drinkers.
If you’ve never tried it, or it never
really appealed to you (me neither),
you could do a lot worse than take
advantage of the last few days of
Waitrose’s 25%-off offer on Beronia
Rueda 2015 (£6.99; 13% abv, 3).
You never know, it may end up
being your default winter white.
1 Roast pheasant
ne of the challenges that
faces wine producers is
the need to adjust to the
tastes of younger drinkers
without losing their traditional
customer base. If you’ve been a fan
of, say, rioja for years, more mature,
oakier vintages such as Booths’
Gran Norte Rioja Reserva 2011
(£12.50; 13.5% abv, 1) may be most to
your taste, whereas if you’re a recent
convert, you may prefer a more
vibrant style such as the Ramón
Bilbao Rioja Viñedos de Altura 2014
(£12.50 Great Western Wine; 13.5%
abv, 2), which went perfectly with
the suckling pig I had at a Peruvian
restaurant the other day. If you don’t
see the words reserva or gran reserva
on the label, chances are it’s a modern
rather than traditional style
New-wave riojas are more likely to
be made by newer wineries or run
by the younger generation who have
made wine in other countries and
are seeking a point of difference
from larger producers who prioritise
consistency. Aldonia, for instance,
specialises in garnacha rather than
the traditional tempranillo, which is
Rosé, too, has been through
various permutations over the past
decade. First, it became darker, to
combat the idea that it was a wine
for wimps – not that Charles
Melton’s Rose of Virginia (£15.47
thedrinksshop.com; 13.5% abv) is
a particularly butch name. Then it
became paler, in response to the
increased popularity of Provençal
rosé. And now, there are rosés that
look and taste more like a light red:
Bull & Giné Rosat (£18 Highbury
Vintners; and a massive 14.5%),
from Priorat, is a case in point.
There’s an element of fashion to
this progression, sure, but also
a question of personal taste. Most
events I host end up with the
room divided 50:50 over the wines
we’re tasting, regardless of price.
If, for example, you like a blanc de
blancs (sparkling wine, usually
champagne, made from white
grapes) that makes a good aperitif,
you may not take to a richer, toastier
blanc de noirs (fizz made from darkskinned grapes), which needs food
to show it at its best.
@winematcher
The good mixer
What the Dickens?
Brandy and tonic water? Good grief!
My friends Harry and Charles at
the Gimlet Bar came up with this
concoction to fulfil your Great
Expectations, even in Hard Times
or the Bleakest House. Serves one.
30ml French brandy or cognac
30ml Benedictine
10ml lemon juice
40ml tonic water
1 wide strip lemon zest
Half-fill a small metal Julep cup or
rocks glass with crushed ice. Pour in
all the liquids, and stir. Top with more
ice, twist the lemon over the drink to
release the oil, then tuck it into the
ice and serve with a paper straw.
From The Sunday Night Cookbook,
by Rosie Sykes (£12.99, Quadrille)
The quick dish
Thomasina
Miers
Celebrating Halloween or the Day of the Dead? These spicy eggs will raise your spirits
t’s that time of year
again when we at
Wahaca call up our
favourite face painters,
bands and artists to celebrate
Mexico’s most popular fiesta, the
Day of the Dead. This annual holiday
encompasses a day for adults on
1 November and a family day on the
second, giving people the
opportunity to remember deceased
relatives and to celebrate the lives
of those they respect or admire. In
Mexico, it is basically an excuse to
party, and great feasts are prepared
to share with friends and family,
taking place either at the graveyards
of the relatives being remembered,
or at home, in front of homemade
altars decorated with sugar skulls
and marigolds, poems and
photographs. The idea is that the
souls of the departed will find the
smells and sights of the mouthwatering dishes and spirits so
tempting that they will come back
to Earth for two days, to hang out
and be together once more.
It’s possibly our favourite time
of year, and we’re celebrating
this year in the Vaults, below
London’s Waterloo station, with
all profits being donated to funds
to support the victims of last
month’s earthquake.
Whether you celebrate this
spiritual and moving celebration, or
Halloween, a comforting, restorative
plate of baked Mexican eggs should
put a bit of vim back into your step
the next day.
Serve with tortillas or crusty bread
to mop up those glorious juices.
Aztec baked eggs
This incredibly simple dish uses
classic Mexican spices, cinnamon
and allspice to give it the deep,
warming flavours that I associate
with much of this country’s food.
Serves two to four.
LOUISE HAGGER FOR THE GUARDIAN. FOOD STYLING: EMILY KYDD. PROP STYLING: JENNIFER KAY
I
2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
7 vine tomatoes, halved
1 red chilli
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, peeled and sliced
4 eggs
1 large handful coriander leaves,
roughly chopped
Warm tortillas (or fresh crusty bread)
1 small pot soured cream (optional)
Heat the grill to high and line a large
oven tray with foil. Put the pepper
and tomato halves cut-side up
on the tray, add the chilli and spices,
then drizzle over two tablespoons of
the oil, a sprinkling of salt and a good
grind of pepper. Grill on a high heat
for 30 minutes, turning the pepper
halves once, until everything is well
blackened – you need a proper char.
Put the pepper halves and chilli in
a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave
to sweat. Put the tomatoes to one
side to cool. Remove the skin and
stem from the peppers, and put
them in a food processor with the
chilli (if you prefer things less spicy,
deseed it first) and any juices in the
bowl. Add the tomatoes and two
tablespoons of oil, then blitz to a
smooth puree. Taste and adjust the
seasoning with salt, pepper and, if
need be, a pinch of brown sugar to
help the tomatoes along.
Heat a large frying pan for which
you have a lid on a medium-high
flame, then add the remaining two
tablespoons of oil and the onion.
Season, then sweat, stirring from
time to time, for 10 minutes, until
softened but not coloured. Stir in
the pepper and tomato sauce, then
crack the eggs into the pan, making
sure they’re spaced well apart.
When the whites start to turn
opaque around the edges, cover the
pan and leave to simmer for 10-12
minutes, until the whites are firm
but the yolks are still runny. Season
to taste, scatter coriander on top
and serve with tortillas and dollops
of soured cream.
And for the rest of the week…
The combination of coriander seed,
cinnamon and allspice is intoxicating.
Bash all three together with olive
oil, a few cloves of garlic and the
zest and juice of a lemon, rub this
mix all over a chicken and/or tray
of root vegetables (parsnips and
carrots are a family favourite), then
roast in a hot oven until golden and
caramelised. All you need alongside
is some yoghurt, fresh herbs and
a bowl of steamed rice.
@thomasinamiers
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 75
Space
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76 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Hearing. It’s all we do.
The new
vegan
Meera
Sodha
Don’t be scared of cooking rice: follow these rules and you’ll nail it every time
200g cavolo nero, leaves stripped from
stalks and roughly chopped (use up the
stalks, chopped, in a soup, say)
1 lemon
M
Solutions
Quiz 1 Jane Austen £10 note.
2 Carrier pigeon. 3 Merlene Ottey.
4 Spam. 5 Bluebell Railway.
6 A headbanger (Ramones songs).
things, rice is
better after it’s had
a rest. So, once cooked,
leave it to steam for 10 minutes, until
the grains magically “stand up like
soldiers”, in my mother’s words.
In today’s pilau, I’ve used some
of autumn’s finest vegetables –
buttery squash, earthy black cabbage
– with smoked garlic, which adds
a glorious and timely bonfirey-ness
to proceedings.
Autumn pilau with squash, cavolo
nero and smoked garlic
This can be used as a vehicle for
leftover Halloween pumpkins.
At this time of year, smoked garlic
7 Apartheid. 8 Twenty-foot
equivalent unit. 9 Psychoactive
plants: opium poppy; coca bush;
tobacco; betel nut. 10 Husbands
of Spice Girls: Mel B; Geri;
Victoria. 11 Rollercoasters: Alton
Towers; Blackpool; Thorpe Park;
Lightwater Valley; Chessington.
iis available in
many larger
supermarkets; failing that,
try thegarlicfarm.co.uk. Serves four.
300g basmati rice
1kg squash, halved, deseeded and cut
into 1cm half-moons
5 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and black pepper
3 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves smoked garlic, very thinly sliced
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander, leaves picked,
stalks finely chopped
12 Gave names to fortifications:
Hadrian’s and Antonine Walls;
Maginot Line. 13 Vaughan Williams
symphonies. 14 Highland land
masses of Venus. 15 Works inspired
by King Lear.
Crossword See right.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas
mark 6. Rinse the rice until the
water runs clear, then soak in warm
water until you’re ready to cook it.
Arrange the squash in a single
layer on a large baking tray, drizzle
over three tablespoons of rapeseed
oil and season with a pinch of salt
and black pepper, then roast for 30
minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan
for which you have a tight-fitting
lid on a medium flame, add the
remaining rapeseed oil and, when
warm, add the sliced onions and
smoked garlic. Sweat for eight
minutes, then add the spices, chillies,
coriander stalks and a teaspoon and
three-quarters of salt. Cook for four
minutes, until the onions start to
brown, then add the cavolo nero.
Gently stir in the soaked and
rinsed rice, add 600ml warm water
and cover the pan. Turn down the
heat to a whisper and leave to cook
for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and
leave to steam with the lid still on
for a further 10 minutes.
When both the rice and the
squash are cooked, gently fold the
squash into the rice and pour out
on to a platter (or spoon on to
individual plates). Serve with
a generous squeeze of lemon and
a scattering of coriander leaves.
@meerasodha
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O B L A
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N
N
S E
W
S
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C H
W
L A
L
T E
S
V
R
I
M
A
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L
E
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G
I
N
S
B
E
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A T V I A
A
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The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 77
PHOTOGRAPH: LOUISE HAGGER FOR THE GUARDIAN. FOOD STYLING: EMILY KYDD. PROP STYLING: JENNIFER KAY
y husband is a gifted cook
– he can transform fridge
scraps into heavenly
meals and cook pasta
dishes that nonna would be proud
of – but ask him to make rice and he
falls apart. It’s not only him: many
people I’ve talked to about rice (more
than you’d think) struggle to cook
fluffy basmati; the fear of turning it
to mush runs deep in Britain’s veins.
At best, each grain can be silky,
plump and rich with flavour; at worst,
bland, clumpy or a sodden mess.
But if a nation of a billion (India)
can cook the stuff perfectly, so can
you: there is no secret, but there are
a few tips to help you master it and
make it part of your weekly toolkit.
The first step is the wash and soak.
Rice has starch in it, which makes
rice grains stick together, but
washing and soaking rice can help
remove it, so wash the rice under
cold water until it runs clear, then
soak for at least 10 minutes.
You can now either boil the rice,
like pasta, in plenty of salted water
until the chalky bite in the middle
disappears; or go for the absorption
method, which is what I’ve used in
this week’s pilau. This involves
cooking the rice in just the right
amount of water (usually, twice the
volume of water to rice) by bringing
it to a boil, then simmering in a
tightly covered pan until all the water
is absorbed, along with any other
flavours you’ve added to the pan.
This way, every grain is flavoured.
The final step is that, like most
Space
78 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Restaurants
Felicity
Cloake
‘The chicken takes me back to the Eat As Much As You Like Chinese Buffet’
n its US homeland, the
“casual dining” chain
PF Chang’s is the kind
of restaurant the real
housewives of New Jersey might end
up in after a hard day at the shops,
for its dependable roster of ChineseAmerican classics, cocktails and
New York cheesecake (intelligence
suggests if you find yourself stranded
in a high-end suburban mall in
Chattanooga, you could do an awful
lot worse). But for its first European
outpost, Chang’s has chosen a central
London location – a former jazz club
on the edge of Chinatown – hired
a Nobu-trained chef and a hip drinks
consultancy, and added a breakfast
menu and on-site bakery. Clearly
they’re hoping to be more than just
the place you go to argue over John
Lewis curtain swatches.
Inside, there’s not a stone horse
or Chinese lantern in sight; instead,
the dining room has the carefully
neutral glamour of a high-end
airport restaurant – though, unlike
any airport restaurant ever, it’s
almost empty. Not that this makes it
any easier to order; most of the staff
(with the honourable exception of
the charming woman on the door,
whose springy enthusiasm may well
stem from her proximity to an escape
route) have the crepuscular air of
people reluctantly working out their
notice in purgatory.
The cocktail list is pleasingly
ambitious (and ambitiously priced)
but, to be honest, I’m not sure
whether I’m enjoying the Xiang
Xiang fizz’s daring blend of pistachio
vodka and soy sauce enough to
finish it – until the food arrives and
dutch courage becomes a matter
of necessity rather than choice.
The food. I can avoid it no longer,
much as I might wish to. The menu
celebrates “local” suppliers, with
a proud list of “purveyors” that
includes one of the UK’s largest
SOPHIA EVANS FOR THE GUARDIAN (2)
I
poultry producers, yet is strangely
silent on the origins of the seafood
that appears in almost half the dishes
listed. Nevertheless, I feel duty bound
to order Chang’s famous dynamite
shrimp: “Always imitated, never
duplicated.” Spilling out of a Don
Draper-sized martini glass in a slick
of sriracha aïoli, the plump prawns
wear their gluey batter like damp,
shrink-fit jeans. Sweet, spicy and
deep-fried, this is food that appeals
to our basest instincts and, soggy or
not, we polish off the lot.
Unfortunately, everything else is all
too easy to push aside. The signature
iceberg lettuce wraps, credited to
co-founder Philip Chiang’s mother
Cecilia, come with a mound of
aggressively smoky chicken mince
that proves mere window dressing
for a mountain of polystyrene-like
“crispy rice sticks” hiding beneath.
Chang’s chicken, the house version of
Chinese-American favourite General
Tso’s chicken, is a pallid pile of dry
pieces of breast painted with an
orange, sugary gloop that takes me
back to the Eat As Much As You Like
Chinese Buffet, while the black cod
and lotus chips is an insult, rather
than a respectful nod, to the head
chef’s former employer, the fish’s
delicate flesh reduced to tempurabattered mush. To give credit where
it’s due, the starchy lotus crisps are
pretty decent. (“Probably bought in,”
my companion says morosely.)
Sichuan green beans are squidgy
not snappy, and egg-fried rice comes
packed with beansprouts and carrot
shavings but no discernible flavour.
Both, however, are preferable to the
Singapore noodles, a matted tangle
of angry orange vermicelli laden with
so much curry powder that each
mouthful has the vicious bite of a
dose of TCP. As we wait for someone
to clear the sorry remains, I ask my
PF Chang’s Asian Table
Food ☆☆☆☆
Atmosphere ★☆☆☆
Value for money ★☆☆☆☆
10 Great Newport Street, London WC2,
01923 555161. Open all week, 8am-11pm.
About £25 a head, plus drinks and service
victim what he enjoyed most. He
scans the table in desperation before
settling on the only empty dish in
sight: “The lettuce leaves.”
Ice-cream, I decide, will right
all wrongs; it always does. Three
blobs eventually appear in a state
of rapid decomposition. Asked to
name them, the waiter flails before
guessing the creamy middle one
might be vanilla. It’s supposed to be,
but isn’t, lemongrass (nor is it, in fact,
vanilla), while the white fright to its
right tastes like frozen quark, not
“wasabi ripple ash”, for which I am
briefly thankful. The only one that
corresponds with the advertised
selection is a brooding black blob
whose gritty texture identifies it as
coconut ash, rather than something
washed up after an oil spill.
Factor in a restorative coffee
and we don’t get much change
from £100. I’m not tearing into PF
Chang’s because it’s a very big fish
in a pool of fry or indeed because
it’s American. Chinese-American
food can be superb, but this place is
a truly international embarrassment.
@felicitycloake
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 79
he pretty autumnal
changes outside your
window – the fiery
colouring of leaves, the
gentle decline of herbaceous plants
– are all about survival. With the
mean months ahead of them, garden
plants are shedding everything soft
and vulnerable, withdrawing their
energies below the earth to a bundle
of roots, or dropping soft leaves so
that only tough craggy bark faces
the elements. They will spend
the next few months in a state of
suspended animation, and they are
not the only ones: garden wildlife is
undergoing the same process, with
each creature finding its own way
of minimising effort and sustaining
life through the gloom. But there
T
are lots of things gardeners can do
– and refrain from doing – to help
them out.
Mammals
Some mammals (hedgehogs, dormice
and bats) hibernate, drastically
dropping their heartbeat and body
temperature to reduce the need for
food while it is scarce. Others (mice,
badgers, foxes and the rest) put on
weight in autumn, then hunker down
and minimise activity when the
weather is bad. Both groups need
plenty of food in autumn, and both
are appreciators of debris.
There is a tendency to tidy the
year away in autumn, to sweep
leaves and clear the slate, but
fallen leaves can be fashioned into
shelters, and piles of rotting logs
and stems will house insects and
grubs to eat. You have full licence
to ignore untidiness. The most
useful mess is that in nooks and
crannies, particularly at the base of
hedges, which are naturally dry and
relatively warm.
Hedgehogs, in particular, will
appreciate regular fresh water
and food put out now: dog or cat
food (not fish-based), cat biscuits,
sunflower seeds, nuts. Don’t give
them milk and bread, though,
because they can cause diarrhoea
and dehydration.
If you don’t think your garden has
the requisite hidey-holes, you’ll find
custom-built hedgehog houses at
arkwildlife.co.uk.
Birds
No such hibernating luck for birds,
which need to find sources of food
and water all through winter. They
need the most help of all wildlife,
and a dependably stocked bird table
can save many lives. Provide highfat foods that will keep birds warm
through the long, cold nights: black
sunflower seeds, grated suet (in cold
weather only, otherwise it melts),
peanuts in feeders, and niger seed
for finches and siskins.
Robins, blackbirds and thrushes
love fruit. There is plenty around
now, but freeze windfalls and you
will have a source of fruit to throw
out on the lawn in late winter. Water
is particularly hard to come by when
n
temperatures drop, and if birds can’tt
Winter is often a tough time for wildlife, but there are lots of things gardeners can do to h
help
elp
Do not
disturb
Gardens
SIMON BELCHER/ALAMY; ALAMY (4); LIZ EVERY/GAP
clean their
thei feathers they become
less waterproof
and less able to
waterp
keep warm.
warm Provide a bird bath and
refresh wat
water regularly.
Clean out nesting boxes now to
get them rea
ready for spring and so
they can be used
for roosting on
u
cold nights.
Pond life
The main hazard
haza for winter pond
freeze of the surface,
life is a full fre
reduces oxygen
which dramatically
dramati
beneath. Float a
levels in the water
wa
pond, which will keep
ball in your pon
around it moving and help
the water aroun
prevent freezing in all but the lowest
temperatures. If the entire surface
does freeze over, boil a saucepan
of water and hold it on the ice to
melt a hole. Make log
piles and stack clay
tiles in sunny spots
near your pond,
for overwintering
frogs and toads.
Insects
Most insects
ensure survival by
overwintering pupae or by
hibernating. Mess and flowers are
what they require. The few insects
that do fly in winter need a source
of pollen, and ivy is one of the best
because it flowers in those cold
months, so don’t cut it back at this
time of year.
Bumblebee nests die out for
winter but the queens hibernate in
holes in banks or below
long grass, so beware
when cultivating or
mulching.
Butterflies and
moths overwinter as
pupae or caterpillars
just below the soil, at
the base of food plants
or in long, tussocky grass,
while other insects overwinter
in hollow stems of herbaceous
perennials, so hold off on the
chopping until spring.
winter, so if you find one, it will
need help. Those under 300g are
very young indeed and should be
kept warm with hot-water bottles
wrapped in towels, then taken to an
experienced wildlife rehabilitator.
Those between 300g and 500g
should be housed indoors and given
water and two heaped tablespoons
of food per day until they have
put on enough weight, when they
can be released to hibernate if the
weather is mild. Provide them with
food, shelter and nesting materials.
Caring for juvenile
hedgehogs in autumn
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide To
2018, by Lia Leendertz, is published by
Unbound at £9.99. To order a copy for
£8.49, go to guardianbookshop.com or
call 0330 333 6846.
Young hedgehogs born late in
the year may not have enough
fat supplies to see them through
creatures survive
sur
the chill – including knowing when to lay down tools. By Lia Leendertz
Bats (far left) and hedgehogs (right)
hibernate in winter, but birds don’t and
need high-fat foods to keep warm (left).
Ivy flowers (centre left) offer insects
pollen, and fallen leaves (below) shelter
animals, so don’t cut back or tidy up
The
Th
T
he
h
e Guardian
Gu
G
uar
ard
a
rrd
dia
iian
an
a
n Weekend
We
W
ee
eke
ek
ke
k
end
en
nd | 28
28 October
Occto
cttto
ob
be
ber
er 2
er
20
2017
017
17 83
83
Gardens
Alys
Fowler
Prepare fig trees for winter (and for next year’s crop, too)
What to do this week
ince the light started to slant and
summer slumber, I have been able to
pick fat, juicy figs almost every day.
But now the leaves are beginning to
turn a buttery yellow, I must put my thoughts
towards pulling off the remaining figs so I get the
same again next year.
At this time, most fig trees will have two types
of fruit: the tiny, pea-sized embryonic figs that sit
in the leaf axis, and larger, harder green fruit. In
the balmy Mediterranean, you get two picking
seasons – early summer and late – but with our
damp, slow summers, only the embryonic ones
tend to ripen. The larger ones will never do
anything other than stay rock hard and sup up
some of the plant’s energy. So, if you have any
hard large figs (a couple of centimetres in
diameter) still left on the plant, pick them off
now, but leave the embryonic ones undamaged.
You’ll notice that nearly all figs are on young
growth. If you leave your tree unpruned and it’s
growing in soil, you’ll soon find all your figs are
out of reach, so you need to prune the tree to
keep it at a manageable size. This must be done
by February; any later, and the sap will start to
rise and it will be a messy job.
Remove branches that spoil the shape, are
crossing or damaged, and remove suckers from the
base. If it has long, bare branches that won’t produce
any fruit, cut back hard to 5cm stubs, to stimulate
new growth from the base of the branch. Then,
ALAMY (2)
S
come next June, pinch out new growth to five or
six leaves, to stimulate the following year’s fruit. If
that sounds complicated, know this: you can cut
a fig tree in half and it will resprout vigorously in
no time at all. They have a great will to live.
If you find you have no figs, not even hard ones,
then your fig is either too young or too happy. Figs
take several years to mature into fruiting; mine is
five and just getting into the swing of things.
A too-happy fig is one that’s allowed to run free.
A fig in the ground without root restriction will
grow handsome and oh-so-tall, but often won’t
give much back in the way of ripe fruit.
This is why it’s essential to restrict your fig’s
roots: the plant needs to feel squeezed by life
a little. If you are planting in the ground, add lots
of grit to the plant hole and use slate, terracotta
tiles or a large plastic pot with the bottom sawn
off to create a tight root run.
Figs ripen best on a south or south-west
position, and the base of the wall often offers
a perfectly tight position due to foundations.
Otherwise, you can grow a fig in a large pot. It
must be at least 45cm in diameter and you’ll need
to feed and water it all summer long if you wish to
get fruit. It might also be necessary to move your
fig somewhere sheltered in the winter, or cover it
with fleece, because pot-grown specimens don’t
fare so well in very cold frosts that often nip the
growing tips of shoots.
@AlysFowler
Plant this The evergreen shrub
known as Bastard senna, aka
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca
‘Citrina’ (above), has far finer
credentials than its silly name
suggests. It produces scented lemon
yellow flowers from late summer to
early spring, and its height and
spread is 1m x 1m, so it suits a patio
pot, or train it against a wall. Needs
full sun and shelter.
Check this If you bought spring bulbs
weeks ago, but haven’t yet planted
them, don’t panic. If they’re now
sweating in the bag, give them
a once-over and discard any going
soft or mouldy. Then use crocus.
co.uk’s brilliant bulb-planting auger
(it fits on an electric drill) to take the
strain out of planting.
Visit this The Higgins Museum in
Bedford is home to an exhibition
celebrating the role of trees in British
landscape painting, featuring works
by John Constable, Edward Lear,
Lucian Freud and others. While
you’re in town, pop across the road
to the Panacea Museum’s pretty
gardens: members of the Panacea
Society, a religious cult formed in the
early 20th century, believed this was
the site of the garden of Eden. For
full details and opening times, go to
thehigginsbedford.org.uk and
panaceamuseum.org. Jane Perrone
Space
Let’s
move to
ALAMY
Lincoln: a small city with chutzpah
hat’s going for it? For more than
200 years, until 1548, Lincoln
Cathedral was the tallest building in
the world, the skyscraper of its day.
Which tells you all you need to know about this
small city in the (mostly) flat lands. It’s got
chutzpah. At the time, Lincoln was England’s
third city, rich on the cloth trade with Flanders.
When its cathedral spire, rotten to the core,
collapsed, it symbolised to many the decline of
the city – indeed, of the nation – after the
reformation. Whatevs. Lincoln’s used to dusting
itself down. Try rebuilding your economy after
the collapse of the biggest empire the world has
ever seen. Twice. First, the Romans. Now,
the British. Lincoln is now reimagining its
postindustrial future, of course, as a (excuse my
language) knowledge hub. That’s the thing about
being 2,000 years old: you’ve seen it all before.
The ups, the downs, the riots, the battles, the
Daily Mail calling it “the city of the walking
dead”. You’ll outlive them all.
The case against All alone on the A15 to
Scunthorpe. Not that that’s held it back before, but
you have to develop a certain tolerance of/love for
Lincolnshireness. It has its share of social problems.
Well connected? Trains: get used to the words
“change at”: either Retford (36 minutes, hourly)
or Newark (30 minutes, twice hourly) for the East
Coast Mainline, making Nottingham an hour and
Sheffield 75-90 minutes away. Driving: half an
hour to the A1 at Markham Moor or Newark, the
same to the Wolds; just over an hour to the coast.
Schools Primaries: many good, Lincoln Carlton,
Mount Street, St Peter-in-Eastgate CofE Infant
W
85 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
and Hartsholme “outstanding”. Secondaries: the
Priory City of Lincoln, the Priory Witham, Lincoln
Castle, Sir Robert Pattinson and North Kesteven
are “good”, with the Priory LSST “outstanding”.
Hang out at… The Old Bakery restaurant.
Where to buy The Lincoln Cliff splits the city into
Uphill and, you guessed it, Downhill. The historic
city is mostly in Uphill, with Victorian and older
on and off Bailgate, Eastgate and Westgate; off
Steep Hill (bring thighs) plus the West End. The old
roads out of town for period property. Detacheds
and town houses, £150,000-£800,000. Semis,
£100,000-£325,000. Terraces and cottages, £75,000£360,000. Flats, £60,000-£450,000. Students
drive a lively rental market: one-bed flat, £400£800pcm; three-bed house, £400-£1,300pcm.
Bargain of the week Five-bed town house with
stupendous views in the old town, currently as
flats, £485,000, with humberts.com. Tom Dyckhoff
From the streets
Mike Neary “Elena’s Kitchen, in the West End,
a part of the city full of Guardian readers.”
Michael Stocks “A tale of two cities: Downhill,
a mostly modern city centre, and Uphill, with the
cathedral, castle (with Magna Carta), ancient Steep
Hill and Bailgate with fascinating shops, Roman
ruins, restaurants and hotels.”
Do you live in Whitby, North Yorkshire? Do you have
a favourite haunt or pet hate? If so, please email
lets.move@theguardian.com by next Tuesday.
All the places I’ll never live
Coco Khan
If someone visits me at home, they
need to get through the main door
to the building and the private door
to the flat itself. But those two doors
aren’t equal. The latter is paper-thin.
The people who usually knock at it
are expected, buzzed through at the
main entrance. Which might explain
why I get spooked by Halloween,
when stranger after stranger knocks.
Maybe it’s the trick or treaters
themselves. There are the cute little
ones who live in the building and,
because they’re with Mummy, are
unlikely to fuss when I dish up nuts
and dried fruits, explaining that
“the palm oil in chocolate is terrible
for the planet”. That’s a win-win
situation: they get treats and I know
they’ll never visit me again.
Then there are the groups of tall,
masked teenagers. You’re not sure
how they got through the first door,
and they want money. And if you
don’t answer the door, they’ll shout
through the letterbox: “We know
you’re home! Your lights are on!”
I’d love to see those smart-arses
try their luck in this five-bed in
Lisburn, eight miles from Belfast
and advertised on Zoopla. Their
first hurdle would be finding the
private lane and getting down the
extensive driveway. Then they’d
have to locate us in the 4,800 sq ft
of accommodation, made up of 23
rooms, including sunroom, gym
and cinema (all for £575,000). But
we’d be cosied up in the dedicated
caravan parking area. A fitting
Halloween trick, if you ask me.
@cocobyname
Space
The edit
As the clocks go back, shine a light with a new floor lamp
p
5
2
3
4
6
7
8
1
9
10
1 Editor’s pick: a thoroughly modern lamp in 80s-style primary colours Bobby metal floor lamp, £75, habitat.co.uk. 2 Li
Linea neon light in fuchsia
fuchsia, £63, am
amara.com.
3 Aria red floor lamp, £330, dunelm.com. 4 Cole black floor lamp, £160, coxandcox.co.uk. 5 Editor’s pick: elegant tripod legs and contemporary shade – what’s
not to like? Madison floor lamp, £169, made.com. 6 Contemporary floor lamp, £335, outthereinteriors.com. 7 Trafalgar lamp in antique brass, £360 (base only),
pooky.com. 8 Truman string floor lamp, £195, johnlewis.com. 9 Smoked floor lamp, £260, frenchconnection.com. 10 Bauhaus floor lamp in ochre, £60, wilko.com.
86 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Space
Let’s
move to
ALAMY
Lincoln: a small city with chutzpah
hat’s going for it? For more than
200 years, until 1548, Lincoln
Cathedral was the tallest building in
the world, the skyscraper of its day.
Which tells you all you need to know about this
small city in the (mostly) flat lands. It’s got
chutzpah. At the time, Lincoln was England’s
third city, rich on the cloth trade with Flanders.
When its cathedral spire, rotten to the core,
collapsed, it symbolised to many the decline of
the city – indeed, of the nation – after the
reformation. Whatevs. Lincoln’s used to dusting
itself down. Try rebuilding your economy after
the collapse of the biggest empire the world has
ever seen. Twice. First, the Romans. Now,
the British. Lincoln is now reimagining its
postindustrial future, of course, as a (excuse my
language) knowledge hub. That’s the thing about
being 2,000 years old: you’ve seen it all before.
The ups, the downs, the riots, the battles, the
Daily Mail calling it “the city of the walking
dead”. You’ll outlive them all.
The case against All alone on the A15 to
Scunthorpe. Not that that’s held it back before, but
you have to develop a certain tolerance of/love for
Lincolnshireness. It has its share of social problems.
Well connected? Trains: get used to the words
“change at”: either Retford (36 minutes, hourly)
or Newark (30 minutes, twice hourly) for the East
Coast Mainline, making Nottingham an hour and
Sheffield 75-90 minutes away. Driving: half an
hour to the A1 at Markham Moor or Newark, the
same to the Wolds; just over an hour to the coast.
Schools Primaries: many good, Lincoln Carlton,
Mount Street, St Peter-in-Eastgate CofE Infant
W
and Hartsholme “outstanding”. Secondaries: the
Priory City of Lincoln, the Priory Witham, Lincoln
Castle, Sir Robert Pattinson and North Kesteven
are “good”, with the Priory LSST “outstanding”.
Hang out at… The Old Bakery restaurant.
Where to buy The Lincoln Cliff splits the city into
Uphill and, you guessed it, Downhill. The historic
city is mostly in Uphill, with Victorian and older
on and off Bailgate, Eastgate and Westgate; off
Steep Hill (bring thighs) plus the West End. The old
roads out of town for period property. Detacheds
and town houses, £150,000-£800,000. Semis,
£100,000-£325,000. Terraces and cottages, £75,000£360,000. Flats, £60,000-£450,000. Students
drive a lively rental market: one-bed flat, £400£800pcm; three-bed house, £400-£1,300pcm.
Bargain of the week Five-bed town house with
stupendous views in the old town, currently as
flats, £485,000, with humberts.com. Tom Dyckhoff
From the streets
Mike Neary “Elena’s Kitchen, in the West End,
a part of the city full of Guardian readers.”
Michael Stocks “A tale of two cities: Downhill,
a mostly modern city centre, and Uphill, with the
cathedral, castle (with Magna Carta), ancient Steep
Hill and Bailgate with fascinating shops, Roman
ruins, restaurants and hotels.”
All the places I’ll never live
Coco Khan
If someone visits me at home, they
need to get through the main door
to the building and the private door
to the flat itself. But those two doors
aren’t equal. The latter is paper-thin.
The people who usually knock at it
are expected, buzzed through at the
main entrance. Which might explain
why I get spooked by Halloween,
when stranger after stranger knocks.
Maybe it’s the trick or treaters
themselves. There are the cute little
ones who live in the building and,
because they’re with Mummy, are
unlikely to fuss when I dish up nuts
and dried fruits, explaining that
“the palm oil in chocolate is terrible
for the planet”. That’s a win-win
situation: they get treats and I know
they’ll never visit me again.
Then there are the groups of tall,
masked teenagers. You’re not sure
how they got through the first door,
and they want money. And if you
don’t answer the door, they’ll shout
through the letterbox: “We know
you’re home! Your lights are on!”
I’d love to see those smart-arses
try their luck in this five-bed in
Lisburn, eight miles from Belfast
and advertised on Zoopla. Their
first hurdle would be finding the
private lane and getting down the
extensive driveway. Then they’d
have to locate us in the 4,800 sq ft
of accommodation, made up of 23
rooms, including sunroom, gym
and cinema (all for £575,000). But
we’d be cosied up in the dedicated
caravan parking area. A fitting
Halloween trick, if you ask me.
@cocobyname
Do you live in Whitby, North Yorkshire? Do you have
a favourite haunt or pet hate? If so, please email
lets.move@theguardian.com by next Tuesday.
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 87
Body
System
upgrade
PHOTOGRAPH: KELLIE FRENCH; ILLUSTRATION: LO COLE, BOTH FOR THE GUARDIAN
Can Zoe Williams keep pace with the millennials? As if…
e don’t just go to the gym any more.”
I’m trying to figure out how millennials
exercise, because I’ve seen them on
Instagram and they look really buff:
all crop tops and abs, like 80s computer graphics.
I don’t want that for myself. I just want to know
how they do it.
Lucy Fry is a fitness journalist and author.
She was once a personal trainer, briefly a boxing
fanatic and can do a handstand in the air on a pair
of bars. Born in 1981, she marks the very start of
the demographic: millennial ground zero. It is not
really a case of keeping up with Fry as she models
power and endurance. She is very into rings and
bars, jumping on the side of things, hanging off
things. Fry can effectively fly. Even just listening
to her makes me feel tired.
“It’s about being badass,” she tells me.
“Strength is a huge thing. Callisthenics is a huge
thing.” This is a form of body-weight exercise,
running, grasping, pushing, jumping, swinging,
usually without equipment, though if there is
a horizontal bar handy, they will haul themselves
up it – that’s a muscle-up – or do a barspin.
Basically, anything you’d see a delinquent nineyear-old trying to do in a playground, you should
now try yourself.
Urban callisthenics is the same, except you
have to wear a bandana and be rude to people.
It’s just, well, it’s just preposterously hard. This
isn’t like an exercise reboot; these people are like
an improved species. “It looks really cool,” Fry
concedes. “I always pretend I’m promoting my
‘W
90 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
coach when I post on social media, but really it’s
just because I think I look so strong.” Wait, what?
What coach? “I have a coach in Australia who
programmes for me. I send him videos of what
I’m doing, and he gives me a view on it.”
For the slightly less hardcore millennial, they
join an online community – Kayla Itsines’ is the
big one. They post pictures of their progress, and
if they make it on to her noticeboard, they have
a huge rejoicing ceremony. “We’re looking for
health hacks. We’re looking to increase output.
We’re trying to be athletes. It helps with the
existential sense of purpose.”
I want to be Fry. I like her staccato delivery and
fearless grunting. But this stuff is not for wimps.
I cannot touch anything with my chin, except
for my own neck.
Next, millennials maximise their recovery
with 20 minutes in a 90C sauna, 10 minutes in
a cold shower, 20 more minutes in the sauna.
They sync their indoor bikes with an international
online community, then race people in India.
They are mad for Pilates. They have nutrition
coaches, too. They self-actualise through fitness
goals. It dawns on me that they’re actually
preparing for life post-apocalypse. I would never
say that to their faces. Just from a huge distance,
and then run away.
@zoesqwilliams
This week I learned
Fitness is a feminist thing, now. Or, rather, not
wanting to be fit enough to pull a car is unfeminist
My life in sex
The woman who lost
her partner to porn
Many thoughts have raced around
my head since discovering my other
half was following a slew of barely
legal sexy Instagram accounts and
downloading porn. We’d been
together a few years. He hadn’t been
all that interested in sleeping with
me in the last couple, but now I knew
I never stood a chance. I mean,
approaching a flesh-and-blood
woman you’ve just talked to about
a savings plan or instant gratification
from a 20-year-old with a come-on
expression in her artfully composed
selfie? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I tried to talk to him about his
needs, but no luck. After asking him
about his preferences: “I don’t need
anyone but you. I don’t need this
stuff.” After finding his porn stash:
“A leftover habit from a previous
unloving relationship. Won’t
happen again.” After finding it again
and making clear I’d leave him if this
wasn’t addressed: “I’ll think about
it.” Worse still, he claims he turned
to porn because I was such a strong
woman who made it difficult for
him to approach me.
I am fit, I am feisty, I am fun. Most
of all, I am real. But he doesn’t want
to explore me. The internet is built
for men, like a never-ending hall of
mirrors, reflecting and distorting
their fantasies from all angles, all
the time. My man got lost in this,
and I don’t think he can get out
without help. I feel sorry for him
and sad for what we lost.
He hasn’t physically cheated on
me, yet I feel betrayed. So this is
goodbye. I wonder how many men
are left who can manage temptation
or at least talk about it honestly.
Next time, I’ll check out their Insta
habits before I go on that date.
Each week, a reader tells us about
their sex life. Want to share yours?
Email sex@theguardian.com
Mind
This column
will change
your life
Lonely? Look at it differently, says Oliver Burkeman
sychologists are regularly berated for
spending their workdays reaching
blindingly obvious conclusions about
the world – an accusation that isn’t
entirely unwarranted. (My favourite recent
finding comes from the journal Psychological
Science: “Depressed individuals may fail to
decrease sadness.”) At first glance, it’s tempting
to respond that way to a new study from the
University of British Columbia, explaining why
people tend to assume that their friends have
more friends, and lead less solitary lives, than
they do. Can you guess? That’s right: because
every single time we see our friends, they’re
socialising. By definition. Assuming you don’t spy
on your friends via telescope from treetops, you
never see them at home alone in their pyjamas,
eating pickled onion Monster Munch while
watching The X Factor and feeling sorry for
themselves. You’re never there when they wake
in the dark at 3am, wondering where their lives
are headed. Or, likewise, consider those happy
throngs you glimpse through the windows of the
bar you pass each day on your way home from
work: doesn’t it seem like they’re always meeting
friends at the bar?
In fact, it’s a mathematical oddity that your
friends do have slightly more friends than you do,
on average. (Essentially, this is because people
with large circles of friends are more likely to
have you as a member of theirs.) But the main
culprit, this new study confirms, is an
observability bias. The more instances of
ILLUSTRATIONS: MICHELE MARCONI, LO COLE, BOTH FOR THE GUARDIAN
P
something we encounter, the more significant we
naturally assume it to be – and though we
encounter our own solitude frequently, we never
encounter other people’s. The distorted
judgments we reach as a consequence have real
emotional effects, the researchers found, leaving
people with lower wellbeing and less of a sense of
belonging. So, yes, the fact that we only ever
experience loneliness when it’s happening to us is
blindingly obvious, I suppose. But blindingly
obvious in an almost literal sense: it’s so selfevident, we barely ever see it.
And the bias isn’t limited to loneliness. It’s at
the core of impostor syndrome: you assume
you’re the only one with a constant inner voice of
self-doubt, because you never hear anyone else’s.
It’s also probably why other people’s problems
seem so much easier to solve than our own: we
see only the main features of theirs, in outline,
whereas we see every tiny complicated detail of
our own, so they seem more unique and
therefore challenging.
This bias may be too fundamental an aspect of
our experience for us ever to overcome it
completely. Still, when faced with almost any
distressing problem, it’s worth asking what you
might be missing not through stupidity, or error,
but because you’re systematically denied certain
kinds of information, as a result of being you,
rather than anyone else. At the very least, it’s
something to ponder on those evenings you so
often seem to spend on your own.
@oliverburkeman
What I’m really thinking
The mother of a redhead
My son and I are frequently stopped
by strangers who comment on his
appearance and make assumptions
about his character. Why? Because
he is ginger.
This happens almost every time we
leave the house.
“Oh, look! He’s a ginger knob.”
“Where does he get his hair from?”
“Does he have a temper to match?”
Mostly, these are followed by, “My
aunt’s stepson’s cat is ginger.” As if
being related to a redhead legitimises
their prying into my child’s genetics.
While these comments are often
well-meaning, they highlight his
difference, and I worry what effect
this repetitive “othering” will have
on a four-year-old who would
ordinarily have no reason to
consider his appearance.
You could argue that these people
are just being friendly or making
conversation. But I would disagree.
Take the lady who chased me across
a car park to tell me about her ginger
daughter’s heartbreak when none of
her four children was born redheaded. Or the midwife present at
his birth whose first words were,
“Look, he’s ginger.”
My son never gets comments on
his good behaviour, he never has the
privilege of choosing his own topic
of conversation, because the go-to
subject is his hair. It isn’t considered
ableist or racist. We are not
supposed to be offended. Yet if you
replace ginger with any other
unusual body part, it suddenly
seems less acceptable.
Only 1-2% of the world’s population
have red hair. It makes my son
special, unique and beautiful. But
it does not define him and it should
not determine your words.
Tell us what you’re really thinking
at mind@
theguardian.com
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 91
Space
Live life in luxury.
www.buttonandsprung.com
03333 201 801
92 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
Diary
Howard
Jacobson
‘Do we need literary festivals? They are an escape from Emojiland’
hree dates of importance
in the history of Cliveden
House. 1666: George
Villiers, second Duke of
Buckingham, acquires estate to build
a house for mistress. Wife not too
pleased. 1961: John Profumo meets
and begins affair with Christine
Keeler. Wife not too pleased. 2017:
I attend inaugural Cliveden Literary
Festival. Wife delighted.
I have loved literary festivals from
the first time I went to Hay-on-Wye
in the 1980s and sat in a pub garden
discussing narrative technique with
four other writers and an audience of
one. University had been a letdown.
No Gitanes-fuelled têtes-à-têtes with
Sartre and de Beauvoir (and me as
T
Camus) on the Boulevard SaintGermain; no absinthe nights talking
symbolism with Baudelaire and
Rimbaud; just cycling to lectures in
the rain and being in bed with a hot
chocolate by 11pm. Now at last, at
a pub in Hay, I was exchanging ideas
with men and women of letters for
whom the impersonal discussion of
a line of poetry was very heaven.
The Hay festival has since grown
into a Byzantium, but that excitement
remains. There are few sights more
cheering, in a naughty world, than
crowds of readers tramping across
a field carrying books, some even by
writers of adult fiction.
There are worse ways of measuring
out the year than going from literary
festival to literary festival – Jaipur to
Bath to Hay to Edinburgh to Mantova
to Cheltenham and now to Cliveden
– whether you’re there to listen or to
speak. For the writer, it’s a revelation
to see your words materialise and
wing their way across a room, giving
that disinterested pleasure that’s the
only justification for writing in the
first place.
The Cliveden festival is remarkable,
all considerations of architecture and
landscape apart, for having arrived
in the world fully formed. First it
wasn’t, then it was. You look out
over the marvellously engineered
gardens into country you hardly
recognise, and count your blessings.
For this isn’t just about being far
from the madding crowd’s ignoble
strife. Where we celebrate the word,
we celebrate freedom from the
aggressive illiteracy and factionalism
that have become the mark of our
times. Beyond is Emojiland, where
the undead exchange malicious
tweets with their own shadows,
gibber and squeak in spite and envy,
hate what they cannot comprehend,
rail at what they do not have the eyes
to see, the ears to hear or the
intelligence to read, and deposit
malignant rumours like dirty needles
where others as bitter as themselves
might find and pass them on.
Do we need more literary
festivals? You might as soon ask if
we need clean air.
GETTY
Puzzles Crossword by Sy and Thomas Eaton’s quiz. Answers on page 77
Across
7 Glacial lake
known for its blue
water in the Banff
national park,
Canada (6)
8 Country whose
capital is Riga (6)
9 A layered
sandwich – or a blunt
instrument? (4)
10 Man who
seduces Trilby in
George du Maurier’s
novel (8)
11 ......... of
the Seven Seas,
the optimistically
named main
settlement on
Tristan da
Cunha (9)
13 Welsh term for
a valley (3)
14 Old money – or
a hallucinogenic
drug? (3)
15 1974 film
directed by Roman
Polanski (9)
18 Co-author
of Tales From
Shakespeare (1807)
(4,4)
19 US university
in New Haven,
Connecticut (4)
21 A lay member
of a monastic
order – or a quality
of a flattened
sphere (6)
22 Wayne ......,
former England
football captain (6)
Down
1 1955 poem by 4 (4)
2 Bell in the
Elizabeth Tower,
Westminster (3,3)
3 The most
populous state in
Australia (3,5,5)
4 Beat poet and
1
2
3
7
5
6
8
9
11
4
10
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
21
activist (5,8)
5 Region of New
Zealand whose
main city is named
for 11 (5)
6 Seafarer’s term
for a sudden
offshore mountain
wind (8)
12 The capital of
19
20
22
Tajikistan (8)
16 ...... Swift,
musician (6)
17 Bob .....,
Nobel laureate in
literature (5)
20 A town in
Staffordshire –
or a symbol of
Wales? (4)
1 Where are the
words of Caroline
Bingley now
in circulation?
2 Who or what was
the first world war
hero Cher Ami?
3 Which sprinter
went to six Olympics
with Jamaica and one
with Slovenia?
4 What tinned meat
was introduced by
Hormel in 1937?
5 What steam service
runs between
Sheffield Park and
East Grinstead?
6 If Sheena is
a punk rocker,
what is Suzy?
7 Hendrik Verwoerd
was the architect of
what policy?
8 In container
transport, what unit
is a TEU?
What links:
9 Papaver somniferum;
Erythroxylum coca;
Nicotiana tabacum;
Areca catechu?
10 Jimmy Gulzar and
Stephen Belafonte;
Christian Horner;
David Beckham?
11 The Smiler; the Big
One; Colossus; the
Ultimate; Vampire?
12 Roman emperors
from AD117 and 138;
French minister of war,
died 1932?
13 Sea (1); London (2);
Pastoral (3);
Antarctica (7)?
14 Ishtar Terra;
Aphrodite Terra;
Lada Terra?
15 Jane Smiley’s
A Thousand Acres;
Edward St
Aubyn’s Dunbar;
Kurosawa’s Ran?
The Guardian Weekend | 28 October 2017 93
Back
That’s
me in the
picture
BARON WOLMAN
Jann Wenner, founding editor of Rolling Stone, with the magazine’s first issue, 1967
n November 1967, the
first issue of Rolling
Stone was published.
I was 21, the co-founder
and editor. I was still a boy. This
picture was taken in our office that
month. I never envisaged what lay
ahead; never had any idea of the
defining journalism we’d undertake
or how we’d be interviewing
presidents. My ambition was
simply to put out a music magazine
for a few years.
If you were to trace our exact
origin, you’d probably go back
further to October 1965, and
a concert at San Francisco’s
Fisherman’s Wharf: the first time
I met my co-founder Ralph Gleason.
I was a 19-year-old student at the
University of California; he was
a 48-year-old pot-loving jazz critic
with the city newspaper. When
I went over to say I liked his work,
he already knew who I was. He said,
“I read you in the student paper,
I
‘The cover was
a publicity
shot of John
Lennon in a war
film. It’s fitting
in hindsight.
It encompasses
music, movies
and politics,
which is what we
became about’
94 28 October 2017 | The Guardian Weekend
kid.” That was a huge deal to me. He
became a great friend and mentor.
By 1967, I’d dropped out of uni,
and had no real idea what I wanted
to do with my life. Ralph and I would
talk about how there were no
magazines writing seriously about
rock’n’roll; not just about the music
but the whole social and cultural
worldview developing around it. So,
we figured we’d start one.
We raised $7,500 (£5,700). My
mum gave us some – she said good
luck and never expected to see it
again. A printing business offered
us free office space in its loft on
the condition we used its presses.
We hauled desks and a couple of
couches up there. It was enough:
in the early months it was just me
and a few part-time contributors.
Initially we didn’t even give all our
stories bylines because we didn’t
want readers realising how few
writers there were. We called it
Rolling Stone as a nod to the band,
but also to both a Muddy Waters and
Bob Dylan song.
The first issue is on the wall
behind me. The lead story was an
investigation into money reportedly
going missing at Monterey pop
festival. That was a statement
of intent: we were showing we
weren’t another fanzine; we were
professional with good reportorial
skills – something like that anyway.
The cover was a publicity shot of
John Lennon in a war film. There
was no special reason for using it,
it was just a good image. But it’s
fitting in hindsight. It encompasses
music, movies and politics, which
is what we became about. And, of
course, we ended up having a long
association with John himself. His
last interview was with us. The
cover picture for that was taken only
days before he was shot.
We had Mick Jagger and Pete
Townshend in our first few issues.
Mick said he agreed because he
knew we weren’t going to ask him
his favourite colour like every other
magazine at the time.
Now my son, Gus, and I are selling.
We’ll still be involved, but publishing
is changing and this is the best way
to stay ahead of the curve.
Over the past 50 years, it’s our
influence on liberal politics, and the
talent we’ve published – Hunter S
Thompson, Annie Leibovitz – that
have made me especially proud.
But that first night we went to print
remains one of my most treasured
memories. We bought champagne,
found some plastic glasses, and
went downstairs to watch it roll
off the press. I felt such elation.
I remember thinking, “We can’t
get better than this. We’ve already
topped out.”
Interview: Colin Drury
Are you in a notable photograph?
Email thatsme@theguardian.com
Everybody
fall for
Decca Aitkenhead
meets comedy’s
bright new star
w
28 e e
.10 ke
.17 nd
Diane Morgan
zzzTrail of
something
worth
knowing
zzTrail of
something
worth
knowing
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