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The Observer Magazine 17 December 2017

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17.12.17
WHAT WE
REALLY
THINK ABOUT
YOUR KIDS
The shocking
confessions of a nanny,
teacher, coach,
clown and many more…
Ethan Hawke Hayley Squires Take That Veggie feasts Top 10 winter sun holidays
COVER ILLUSTRATIONS: AL MURPHY. THIS PAGE: HAYLEY SQUIRES WEARS BLAZER BY PAUL SMITH (FENWICK.CO.UK); T-SHIRT BY BURBERRY.COM
This week’s issue
Every day our little darlings
pass through the hands of
professionals: the doctors,
party entertainers, nit nurses,
teachers, nannies and so on. But
behind the warm smiles and
empathetic eyes, what are these
friendly souls really thinking
about OUR KIDS ? Assuring them
of anonymity, we asked them.
HAYLEY SQUIRES broke
hearts in I, Daniel Blake,
portraying a mother ground
down by the social security
system. The political message in
the film was but one of the issues
she is passionate about, as she
tells Rebecca Nicholson.
ETHAN HAWKE says having
sex is the most romantic act
in This Much I Know; while
TAKE THAT are on the phone in
a Brush with Greatness.
In FOOD Nigel Slater cooks
meat-free feasts and elsewhere
we suggest vegan options for
Christmas. Also, Jay Rayner
questions whether Italian food
in London is actually better than
that found in its homeland.
FASHION suggests cardies
for men and glitter for women;
GARDENS sees James Wong
pick trees and shrubs that will
decorate themselves at this time
of year; and in TRAVEL Joanne
O’Connor selects 10 spots where
you can enjoy winter sun.
Finally MARIELLA FROSTRUP
advises a 16-year-old boy who
has fallen in love with a friend.
20 CHILDCARE SECRETS
COVER
STORY
56 TRAVEL
10 ETHAN H
HAWKE
32 NIGEL SLATER
14 HAYLEY SQUIRES
46 FASHION
ON
53 GARDENS
31 TAKE THAT
42 VEGAN CHRISTMAS
49 BEAUTY
50 HOMES
GEMMA CORRELL
Editor Ruaridh Nicoll Deputy editor Alice Fisher Art director Jo Cochrane Commissioning editors Eva Wiseman, Shahesta Shaitly,
Emma Cook Assistant Juliana Piskorz Fashion editor Jo Jones Menswear editor Helen Seamons Chief sub-editor Martin Love
Deputy chief sub-editor Debbie Lawson Sub-editor Kate Edgley Deputy art director Caroline McGivern Picture editor Kit Burnet
Advertising managers Molly Johnson, Guy Edmunds Colour reproduction GNM Imaging
Printed in the Netherlands by Roto Smeets Group BV, Hunneperkade 4, NL-7418 BT Deventer (+ 31 5 7069 4900; info@rotosmeetsgroup.com)
The Observer Magazine, King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU 020 3353 2000 magazine@observer.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter
@ObsMagazine
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THIS PRODUCT IS MADE FROM SUSTAINABLY
@ObsMagazine
MANAGED FOREST AND CONTROLLED SOURCES
Eva Wiseman
@EvaWiseman
Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or
visit theguardian.com/profile/evawiseman
for all her articles in one place
AN IMAGINARY RESTAURANT!
GIVE IT FIVE STARS
T
here is a raw kind of beauty
to the Tripadvisor review.
Let your eye flow down the
page and poetry emerges.
“Like a plate of blood /
I wanted to scream / The
worst / The worst / The
worst pasty in London.” My
boyfriend runs a deli – they
had their favourite bad
Tripadvisor review printed
on tea towels: “When I’m
lying on my deathbed, I’ll
regret the hour I spent
here.” People email him with threats – if you
don’t give me and my wife a free meal on
Saturday, I’ll post a bad review. Tripadvisor
holds plenty of such secrets in its one star
reviews, while hiding up at the other end, in the
lush grass of its five star hits, are writers paid to
push restaurants up the charts.
It was an earlier job doing just this, at £10
a go, that gave Vice writer Oobah Butler the
idea of going a step further, from creating fake
restaurant reviews to creating a fake restaurant.
The Shed, reads its website, is “an appointmentonly restaurant located in south London”. It’s
not. There are vivid photographs of burrata and
scallops, and miniature chocolate soufflés and
something clever with an egg. Except they’re
shaving foam, toilet bleach blocks and a sponge
covered in instant coffee. As his friends began
posting five star reviews and the Shed climbed
Tripadvisor’s ranks, the phone started ringing.
Do they have a table tomorrow night? Could
a family book a table in four months’ time?
Nope. By the end of August, they were at #156.
By the autumn they were #30. On 1 November,
six months after creating the Shed at Dulwich
website and propping a fried egg jauntily
against a bare foot, they were, according to
Tripadvisor, the best restaurant in London.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to London,
but here we have a lot of restaurants. A LOT
of restaurants. Chicken ones, fish ones, ones
where, as seen in this week’s papers, a waitress
will bite out her exes’ testicle when he refuses
her a threesome with his new girlfriend, ones
where the food is horrific but you don’t want
to hurt the manager’s feelings because of her
extremely sad eyes, ones that are so fancy they
literally rotate, ones that give a menu without
prices to the woman for fear of breaking her
hymen. So this is some accolade, this, the “best
restaurant in London”, and its arrival at the
top of the list is eye-opening, not just because
it exposes the truth about online reviews, but
because it exposes the truth about how we live.
Does that sound a bit grand? A quenelle of
shaving foam fools the internet and suddenly
I’m Jean Paul Fartre? But look at us: we are
a people so cautious, so risk-averse that a call
from an unknown number causes us to throw
our phones into the fire. We are the Tripadvisor
generation, our time so precious that before
going out for lunch we must memorise the
menu like a meaty acrostic, our lives so
expensive that before investing in an attraction
we must educate ourselves with every possible
iteration of events. “Don’t waste your time
hearing about sad things,” says Sergio B on
Tripadvisor about the Anne Frank house, “but
it’s up to you.” “Nothing shocked me, other
than the pile of human hair,” said user Ricky
Thompson, after visiting Auschwitz. “I had
seen much worse on TV and the internet.”
Despite Thompson’s poor review, it is still rated
the number one attraction in Oświęcim.
The big draw of the Shed, of course, was the
combination of excellent reviews and overt
impossibility. You literally couldn’t get a table.
Which made it the perfect restaurant – the
chase to be first to share an iPhone photo of
their moody Dulwich tea, to swagger into
the office with interesting comments on the
plating choices of an ungettable feast. We are
grabbers. We are scratchers. Once something
has been waved in front of us with the promise
of exclusivity and proof of a five-star rating we
will clamber through the internet, we will crawl
through dirt to own it. We are all tourists online,
in the thrall of Sergio B lighting a cigarette
outside an Amsterdam coffee shop before
crafting his Anne Frank review, and we’re all
potential Ricky Thompsons, wanting to be first
to say Auschwitz was crap.
Could this ghost restaurant, that served
pretend food to nobody, be the straw that breaks
Tripadvisor’s back? And with it our gullible
prudence, and our scrabble for only the best? The big
draw of
the Shed
was the
combination
of excellent
reviews
and overt
impossibility.
You literally
couldn’t get
a table
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
5
We love...
LABOURING
THE
HE POINT
It’s the time to celebrate cheery
old guys with white beards who are
into red – so show your love of Jeremy
Corbyn on your Christmas jumper.
Plus, 50% of profits go to Save the Children.
Jerry Christmas jumper
£35, notjust.shop
EAU SO CHIC
Stop buying plastic bottles!
Instead, invest in this
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easy-to-clean stainless steel
reusable bottle made by
a family owned company.
Stainless steel water bottle
£29.95, staysixty.com
VELVET
OVERGROUND
There’s a kind of
comfort here one
has to work up to.
This velvet kimono
gown in glorious
charcoal is partly
made with silk.
Suitable for high
quality lounging,
as well as
fancy parties.
Velvet kimono gown
£325, toa.st/uk
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
7
We love...
KNOW YOUR APPLES
FANCY FELINES TO THE RESCUE
Marni has collaborated with Colombian craftsmen to create this adorable crew of ornamental figurines,
known as the Marni Visitors. All proceeds from the collection go to help disadvantaged children.
Marni Visitors collection from £185 (020 7491 9966)
Enjoy a little taste of the
Temperleys’ delicious cider
brandy. Now available in
miniatures or in a tasting
gift box of the three, five,
10 and 20 year olds.
Somerset cider brandy gift box
£36 for 4 x 10cl bottles,
somersetciderbrandy.com
SHINE YOUR SHOES
Sparkle with a difference – invest in this glittery
collaboration between JW Anderson and
everyone’s favourite trainer brand.
Converse x JW Anderson Glitter collection £120,
converse.com
BOOT BAG
Muddy Puddles does
rainwear for kids. Now
there’s also a rucksack
ns
range featuring illustrations
from Michael Morpurgo’s
Where My Wellies Take Me..
Rucksack range
£30, muddypuddles.com
8
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE
E OBSERVER
CLASHING
C
LAS
COLOURS
Get a lovely limited edition print by
a rock legend. These linocuts by
Paul S
Simonon are calling to us.
Linocuts From £300, paulsimonon.com
Linocu
This much
I know
Ethan Hawke
I have so many bad habits it’s impossible to measure the worst. My son
would say I don’t take enough care with how I dress, my daughter
might say I work too much, and my wife that I can’t seem to help in
the kitchen at all. But in my opinion I have none.
As a former kid actor, I know how hard it is to turn that attention into
anything but self-destruction. The heat of the spotlight makes ordinary
temperatures real cold.
Before the internet, you could do something stupid one night and not be
asked about it forever. I feel sorry for young people who are exposed to
celebrity in the age of the internet. It’s a consuming black hole.
I am a giddy, ludicrous optimist. My team can lose and I’m already thinking
about the next season. You can’t bring me down. My dad is the same and
I think it’s partly one’s make-up and partly how you see the world. You can
gain a tremendous amount of joy from the sun coming up.
My son has learned the quickest way to a woman’s heart. He makes great
pancakes and chocolate soufflé. I did not learn that lesson. I cannot cook.
Anyone who gives pithy advice about marriage is heading straight to the
divorce courts. Marriage is about the dance you do together, but so many
people are disappointed they’re not in a lifelong, happy relationship and
that that is the point of life. We’re made to feel bad about that all the time.
People make me nervous. I feel there is a direct relationship to the amount
of anxiety there is in my body, with the amount of people I have around.
I am an actor at my core. I really enjoy making people happy, telling stories,
making people laugh, but it’s tiring. I usually feel better when I’m by myself.
The most romantic thing I have ever done is have sexual intercourse with
a woman. It doesn’t get any better than that. You talk about candlelight?
Being really connected to another person is about as good as it gets.
My brother gets tears in his eyes with how much he hates Obama. I have
so many Republicans in my family. I voted for Hillary. I cannot get to grips
with the fact that my country elected Donald Trump as the president of the
United States and now we have him walking around with the nuclear codes.
The idea that Hollywood is no longer a boy’s club is simply not true.
I’ve made 50 films and I’ve been directed by woman two and a half times.
I’ve actively wanted to be directed by a woman; Aisling Walsh directed
my latest movie, Maudie, and feeling the female gaze versus the male
behind the camera was subtle but undeniable. I have three daughters and
because of that I see misogyny more clearly than ever before.
Maudie is out on digital download now
Interview NATALIE EVANS-HARDING Photograph ALAN CLARKE
Actor, 47
The most
romantic
thing I have
ever done is
have sexual
intercourse
with a woman.
It doesn’t get
any better
than that
To read all the
interviews in
this series, go to
observer.co.uk/
this-much-i-know
‘I used to
argue with
everyone’
She made her name in I, Daniel Blake –
Ken Loach’s searing indictment of the welfare
state. Now Hayley Squires is stealing the show
in the BBC’s adaptation of The Miniaturist.
But, finds Rebecca Nicholson, there are a few
things she wants to get off her chest first
Photograph PHIL FISK
Hayley Squires wears shirt by Theory (fenwick.co.uk);
sweater vest by Burberry; trousers by Stella McCartney;
and heels by Rupert Sanderson
Hayley Squires
couple of years ago,
Hayley Squires decided
to get a new tattoo.
“I’d been romantically
involved with somebody for a little while,
and it had driven me
a bit nuts,” she explains.
“Then he was out of my life, and it was coming up to my birthday.” She kept thinking up
various symbols and signs that might mean
something, but nothing rang true. Then she
remembered this line. It’s a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it’s tucked nearly
underneath the crook of her left arm. It reads:
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
Squires, 29, is both of those things. She’s also
direct, talks a lot, and quickly, and is a genuine laugh, despite her talent for plumbing
the depths of despair in the Ken Loach film,
I, Daniel Blake. When we meet, she’s wearing
a Tupac T-shirt – one of four Tupac T-shirts
she owns – and a pilot’s jacket, which she
bought because it looked a bit like the one Tom
Hardy wears in the film Dunkirk. “Because I’ve
got a bit of an obsession with him, I walked
into Topshop and saw it and thought: ‘Ahhh!’”
she says, smiling.
She’s about to star in The Miniaturist,
a gorgeous three-part BBC adaptation of
Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel, though she
almost decided not to go for it at all. “My agent
told me: ‘It’s for the part of Cornelia, and
she’s the maid.’ And I went: ‘No. I don’t want
to.’ She said : ‘Just read the script.’ I read
all three scripts in one night, and rung her
and said: ‘I really want to go in for this.’
Because, you know, she’s the servant and she’s
the lady-in-waiting and all of that, but it was
so much more.”
Why was she reluctant to play the maid?
“It’s the age old…” she begins, stops, then sighs.
Squires grew up on a council estate, and that,
combined with I, Daniel Blake, has propelled
her into a role as a sort of spokesperson on
class, and particularly on being a workingclass actor. She’s both happy to take that on,
and weary of the necessity for it. “It’s to do
with class, again – like everything in this country is to do with class, one way or the other,”
she explains. “And so I did sort of go, is it going
to be underwritten? Is it going to be clichéd?
Is it going to be a stereotype? I hadn’t read the
book, and I called my friend who had, and she
said: ‘It’s an amazing part.’ It also taught me a
lesson: not to have such a chip on my shoulder.”
Still, you can see why her instinctive reaction might be to say no. In I, Daniel Blake, she
played Katie, a single mother of two kids who
is moved to Newcastle and driven to starvation
by the punitive bureaucracy of the benefits
system. In one of the film’s most memorable
scenes Katie goes to a food bank and is so hungry she opens a tin of beans on the spot and
16
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
starts to eat them, cold, before breaking down,
embarrassed and distraught at what she’s been
driven to. While promoting the film, Squires
found herself on the sofa at This Morning to
talk about austerity Britain. “That was such a
car crash,” she whispers, her eyes widening.
The interview is on YouTube. It’s fine and
friendly but, towards the end, the presenter
Phillip Schofield expresses mild astonishment that politicians are being told to watch
I, Daniel Blake in order to learn about the real
world. “The Tories certainly don’t [need to],
they’re more than aware of the system they put
in place,” Squires declares. “Well, all parties,”
Schofield interrupts, hastily talking over her.
“We can’t be biased on that one.”
“Nobody had said to me, don’t mention the
Tories,” she says, half-amused, half-cringing at
the memory. “But I’d had a great honest conversation with the producer and I thought,
brilliant, they’re doing something about food
banks. Why are you talking about food banks
existing, if you don’t talk about why they exist?
It’s like pouring water into a boat that’s leaking. There’s no point in me giving the information about what we need to do to help, when
you’re not talking about the root cause of it.”
Squires grew up in Forest Hill, southeast
London, with her mum, dad and brother.
When she was 14, they relocated to Sittingbourne in Kent. It was a difficult age to move.
“It was trouble,” she says. Her brother is 18
months older, so he looked after her a bit at
school, but it sounds like a difficult time.
“People don’t believe it, but I was very,
very shy.” Eventually, she was moved up an
academic band and, in Year 10, started to do
drama. “Then it became very sociable, because
you do plays after school and all the rest of it,
so I came out of myself much more and had
THIS PAGE AND PREVIOUS SPREAD: STYLING BY BEMI SHAW; HAIR BY LIZ TAW AT STELLA CREATIVE ARTISTS USING AVEDA; MAKE-UP BY JUSTINE JENKINS USING MARC JACOBS BEAUTY, ASSISTED BY REBECCA RICHARDS
A
THE FORGE/BBC/ LAURENCE CENDROWICZ; ALLSTAR/EONE FILMS
found my group and had found my people.”
She set about applying to drama schools,
got into Rose Bruford College when she was
18, but took a gap year to work and save money,
though she spent most of it on clubbing. “It
was at that time when Sean Paul first came out,
the early 2000s, a good, decent wave of R&B
and hip-hop.” She loved drama school, for the
most part. “There were a lot of frustrations in
the third year and I grew a little bit tired and a
little bit jaded,” she says. “But I also wanted to
argue with everyone when I was in my third
year of drama school.” About what? “Life!
Anything I could argue about! Absolutely anything. You know when you get to that point in
your 20s where you feel like everything’s a battle? I didn’t have any patience with anything.
Everyone used to say to me, just calm down.”
What was it that finally made that stick?
“It was probably relationships that taught me
that, to be honest. It was relationships that
had an impact, that gave me a bit of calm.”
Romantic ones? “Bit of both, romantic and
friendships. Romantic relationships, mainly –
I look back now and go: ‘If you’d been a little
bit calmer, that wouldn’t have played out like
that.’ Also it’s a little bit in my nature. It’s not
aggression, it’s a care. It’s a care for things.”
That’s why she doesn’t mind being asked
about class all the time, really. “It’s an important conversation to have,” she says, carefully.
“But I get to the point of such frustration with
it. I mean, I get frustrated with it, and my God,
I’m not a black actor trying to work in this
industry. One of my very good friends, Daniel
Kaluuya, was working from the age of 18, and
went through so many struggles just to be cast
as not ‘the black man’, but the leading man. And
then he made a film about race and now people
are putting him in Marvel films which is bloody
brilliant and is right. But it gets to the point
where you just go: ‘Why can’t it be down to how
good we are at our jobs?’ It shouldn’t just be
about the way I sound when I open my mouth.”
Before she got the part of Katie in I, Daniel
Blake, she was acting, but inconsistently. She’d
been in Call the Midwife, and in the drama
Southcliffe in 2013, but was mostly working in
an office in London to get by, and writing plays.
“Any time I went for an audition or to do a job,
there was a ‘major family crisis’. And I had to
have time off work. So bad!” she laughs. “They
thought I came from a very difficult family
where everybody kept dying.” Eventually, she
gave herself a cut-off point for the office job; it
coincided, roughly, with Ken Loach getting in
touch. I, Daniel Blake won the Palme D’Or and
Squires got to take her mother to Cannes.
For the first time in seven years, she’s been
working without a break. When we speak,
her “brain is fried” from a 12-week run in the
West End, where she had a scene-stealing
turn as the glitzy, ditsy and vicious Mae in Cat
on a Hot Tin Roof, alongside Sienna Miller
Class act: (above) Hayley Squires
wears top by Fred Perry. Facing page, from
top: as Cornelia in the BBC’s Miniaturist,
with Paapa Essiedu; and as a single mother
in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake
Why can’t it be down
to how good we are
at our jobs? It shouldn’t
just be about the way
I sound when
I open my mouth
and Jack O’Connell. She’s finished with The
Miniaturist, which looks set to be one of the
BBC’s big festive showpieces, and she’s about
to star in the new film by Peter Strickland.
“On paper it’s about a haunted dress that gets
passed to different people, and their life then
goes into a spiral, but it’s actually about longing and desire and relationships and how you
feel in your own body. It’s bloody brilliant.”
Squires is also getting back to writing, working on a film about three generations of working-class women in Kent. “It’s about feminism
in the women I grew up with, and the idea that
feminism is lacking in their world, because
they haven’t got the education for it, but actually it manifests itself in different ways. The
middle woman, who is my age, makes money
through bare-knuckle fighting,” she explains,
excitedly. Little, and fierce, indeed. The Miniaturist starts on BBC1 on 26 December at 9pm
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
17
POO, NITS AND
What do people who look after children really think about them
– and their parents? From the nit nurse and the nanny, to
the social worker and the kids’ entertainer, 10 frontline workers
anonymously reveal the delights and horrors of their jobs
Interviews JULIANA PISKORZ Illustrations AL MURPHY
THE NIT NURSE
‘WE NEVER JUDGE
THE CHILDREN’
Our whole ethos is to make children
ren
ving
feel comfortable, as if they’re having
nt
their hair done. We use a treatment
ate
to kill living lice and then dehydrate
eggs using heated air. Then we
nit comb and forensically remove
everything. We need to see the kids
he
twice, a week apart, because after the
first time there will be eggs left over
that no one can see.
There’s a narrative that goes
around that everyone gets lice and
there’s a weariness around parents
of, “Oh well, everyone gets them,” but
it’s very different if you are the child.
People forget what it’s like to be a kid
with lice. The child gets excluded,
talked about, bullied. Mums try to
protect their own children so won’t
invite the child with nits to parties. It
makes childhood quite an unpleasant
experience. Most children who
come to us have gone through all the
products and they haven’t worked.
There’s a lot of emotion around
headlice. We’ve seen kids with
20
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
phenomenal infestations, their heads
overflowing with lice. They generally
don’t look well and are withdrawn.
People are talking about them,
avoiding them at school. After the
first appointment, when they’ve had
a big clear-out, it’s as if it’s gone, and
they are a different child when we
see them at the second appointment.
They’ll be smiling, less peaky in
colour, have more energy. We see
a dramatic transformation.
There was a six-year-old girl who
started to wince when
her hair was touched.
H head was covered in
Her
nits, like a helmet and her hair
was falling out. We had to shave
her hair off. We also had a girl last
summer who pulled off bits of her
scalp from scratching so much. There
were thousands and thousands of
nits. We don’t judge anybody, we’re
here to get rid of them and get these
kids’ lives back on track.
We find boys are more needy than
girls, more “mummy mummy” about
getting their hair dealt with. But we
see more girls because they have a lot
of hair. We had a teenager who dyed
her hair pink to get rid of her nits,
but it dyed all the eggs, so when they
hatched all the lice were pink.
Lice don’t like testosterone so adult
males get them less, but that’s also
because they tend to have less hair.
We get plenty of mums with them.
Children are generally a strong
reflection of the parents. If you have
rude kids their parents will be rude
as well. It’s one of the things I find
very interesting about working with
kids – they are so influenced by the
immediate environment they’re in.
We talk about it a lot.
ONE GIRL
DYED HER
HAIR PINK
TO GET RID
OF THE
NITS BUT
THE EGGS
STILL
HATCHED
AND THE
LICE WERE
ALL PINK
HANDSY DADS
THE NANNY
‘DON’T LET THE DAD
TAKE YOU HOME’
What they say about fathers I’ve
found to be completely true. When
their wives aren’t around or once
their children go to bed, they often
become inappropriate. I’ve been
invited on family holidays by fathers
and asked to come days before the
children arrive. I always have to let
them know I have a boyfriend when
I start work to try to put them off.
My main rule is don’t let the dads
take you home. I make a point of
never wearing make-up on the job,
never wearing gym kit. I look like shit
when I’m working. But I think it’s
the youth that men are attracted to.
My friends who are nannies always
get the worst reception at the school
gates. Even when we rock up looking
awful the mums give us death stares.
The richer the parents are the
stingier they tend to be. I have some
parents I’ve worked for for a long
time asking me for “mates’ rates”
when they drive around in Range
Rovers and Porsches.
There was one family that I quit
after a week. They were absolute
horrors and the kid was completely
out of control. Their mum was in
complete denial. I spent every day
trying to stop the cat murdering the
pet rabbit which roamed the garden.
The child was so malicious he was
like Damien from The Omen and the
parents didn’t discipline him at all.
They thought he would grow out of
it. Parents don’t punish their children
any more, they make excuses or
blame you when they act up.
The mums who work have so
much more respect for you, they
really value you. With the mums
who stay at home, I think the reason
why the dads pay so much attention
to nannies is because they come
home from work and see the nanny
cooking, looking after the kids. The
wife is upstairs hungover from lunch.
Mums that I work for have me
because they know I don’t take shit
from the kids and I know a lot of
things that I shouldn’t. They confide
in me, but at the same time they
hate me for it. They tell me about
their relationships with friends
and how they’re not sleeping with
their husbands any more. They
WHEN THE
CHILDREN
ACT
UP THE
PARENTS
MAKE
EXCUSES
OR BLAME
YOU
all seem desperately unhappy.
With the kids, you notice their
innocence is taken away from them
so quickly. They’re all on Instagram
from 10 years old – and they have
boyfriends from year five. There’s
also so much bullying on social
media. I can hear them fighting with
each other on Instagram Live and
Snapchat. Then they won’t go to
sleep because they’re so stimulated
by their iPads and phones.
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
21
Childcare confidential
THE NURSERY
ASSISTANT
‘THE GIRLS ARE
EASIER TO HANDLE’
I always imagined I’d be working
with cute kids who didn’t speak that
much, but two- to five-year-olds are
completely exhausting – they do not
stop talking. I work at an outdoor
forest nursery and one of the threeyear-olds was playing in the sand
pit last week and told a mosquito to
“Fuck off !” We had to have words.
The girls are definitely easier
to handle; the boys can be a bit
disgusting. Last week a little
boy came out of the bushes with
a massive turd in his hands. I thought
he’s just picked up a fox poo or
something, so I asked him where he
found it, and he said: “In my pants.”
Then he went and put it in the toilet.
The biggest part of my job is
changing nappies and cleaning them
up after they poo themselves. The
worst thing about the job is probably
when the children hurt each other.
I’m always shocked by how malicious
little children can be. The boys are so
much more aggressive than the girls
– not all of them, but it’s definitely
more prevalent. Girls tell the teacher,
boys attack each other. Also it’s
interesting that boys and girls are as
vocal as each other at that age.
The parents can be challenging.
They accuse us of losing the kids’
things and get very overbearing about
what we’re feeding them. Having
said that parents notice a massive
improvement in their children’s
e,
happiness when they come here,
ry.
because it’s not a normal nursery.
The kids don’t want to go home..
I CAN’T
RISK
HUGGING
THE KIDS.
I’LL GIVE
THEM A
PAT, BUT
IT’S QUITE
SCARY
TO BE
HONEST
THE CHILDREN’S
ENTERTAINER
‘I’M COMPETING WITH
THEIR PHONES’
There’s always one naughty kid at
each party who ruins it for everyone.
When you’ve got a group of 20 kids
there’s always one or two who want
to be the centre of attention.
The thing I like about working
with kids is they ask you the most
ridiculous questions. Everything has
to be explained. I get asked: “Why
are you standing up?” and “What are
you going to do?” They always want
to learn, but it does get annoying,
especially if you’re hungover or tired.
Sometimes, when they ask too many
questions I just ignore them.
Kids like to do strange things. Quite
often they’ll just shout or do silly
things. I had a kid a few years ago
who halfway through singing and
dancing pulled his trousers and pants
down, which is quite an awkward
thing to deal with as an entertainer.
As a male entertainer one of the
scariest things is being left alone in
a room with the kids. If any
accusation is made against us our
careers are ruined. If the kids want
to give you a hug, or ask to go to the
toilet, or they’re all hanging on to my
leg, it’s very scary for me because I
can’t have them do that. I’m paranoid
that the parents could take it the
wrong way. Disney had a case a
couple of years ago where Tigger
was in a picture with a grown woman
and she complained that Tigger had
his hands on her bum. So now all the
characters have to have their hands
visible in every picture. Presenters
like Rolf Harris have ruined it for
our industry. I can’t hug kids; I’ll give
them a pat sometimes, but it’s quite
scary to be honest.
When I worked in Santa’s Grotto
we used to get kids as young as three
asking for iPhones and very often
they’d get them. I think the worst
thing with kids these days is their
obsession with technology. As a kids’
entertainer I’m constantly competing
with video games and toys. It’s sad,
but they’re just not interested in
magic tricks when they have their
own Nintendos. I did a six-yearold’s party a few months ago and
when I was trying to do my routine
all the kids marched off upstairs to
play on the computer. When I went
upstairs to get them one told me to
fuck off because they wanted to play
on the Wii. These days all parents
can do to punish kids is take away
their computer or the internet.
Any discipline is frowned upon. If
a mother shouts at her child in the
supermarket she’s embarrassed, and
if she hit a child she’d be arrested.
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
23
Childcare confidential
THE SOCIAL
WORKER
‘THEY ALWAYS TEACH
ME THE LATEST LINGO’
THE PRIVATE TUTOR
‘A LOT OF THE KIDS
I TEACH ARE SPOILT’
I often think it’s ridiculous how much
money I get for a job that almost
all parents could do. I teach the
11-plus exams, or the 8-plus exams
to children whose high-powered
parents aren’t UK nationals. It’s all
online – I just Google it, and print
off sample papers. I also get £40 an
hour teaching five-year-olds English.
I teach eight of these sessions a week
at £40 an hour and the kids always
go to the loo for at least 10 minutes
during the lesson. I worked out I get
£30 to wait for a child to take a shit.
Two kids I tutor have cameras in
the room, and the parents don’t tell
you explicitly. I have some parents
who haven’t told their kids that I’m
a tutor. They say I’m a friend because
they can’t let school find out the child
has a tutor. But then they want you
to follow a syllabus, which is hard
when you’re pretending to be their
“friend”. A lot of the kids I teach
are very spoilt. The parents are only
there from midnight to 6am because
they’re at work and when they see the
kids they don’t want to tell them off
for something they did four days ago
involving a tutor they haven’t met.
The nicer kids offer me coffee and
treat me like a person rather than
staff. Kids find it very odd that I have
a boyfriend who isn’t my husband.
Parents get awkward about it as well.
The kids with divorced parents are
more grown-up.
I tutored an eight-year-old who
didn’t pass his 8-plus exams, and
a lot of his friends did. He would say
things like: “What do I need to do to
succeed?” He reiterated things that
his teachers and parents said.
TWO KIDS
I TUTOR
HAVE
CAMERAS
IN THE
ROOM.
THE
PARENTS
DON’T
TELL YOU
I deal with kids from 0 to 18 years
in all areas of child protection, so
I work with kids in care and also
those at home with their families.
I am always shocked at the extent
to which poverty and deprivation
lives next to extreme wealth. People
just aren’t aware of this. Working
with young people and the police in
these communities, I really doubt the
politicians have any understanding
of the experience of young people.
I work with a lot of teenagers who
don’t want to go home and I’m trying
to be the middle man between them
and their parents. It’s like having
responsibility for a difficult child,
with all the worry and sleepless
nights about making sure they are
OK, without all the benefits of being
their parent.
I also work with young people
who are associated with gangs. They
teach me quite a lot about what is
happening “on road” as it’s called. I’m
learning a lot more from them than
I’m ever teaching them. They teach
me all the latest lingo, most recently
a whole host of words meaning blow
job. I try really hard to not listen
when they talk about these things,
but I can’t help it. They always try to
improve my street cred, introducing
me to new grime artists and when
they give me a compliment on my
outfit I’m never sure whether it’s a
good thing or a bad thing.
It’s difficult to know whether the
involvement you’ve had with a family
has made a difference, because you
never find out what happens to them.
I often look back and think about
the babies I have placed in adoption
and wonder whether it was the right
decision. Are they happy? I’m sure we
make a lot of mistakes, but you never
know what the future holds, so we’re
just hoping that what we’re doing is
making a difference in ways that we
will never know.
Often there are some real hard
nuts to crack, but we never give up
on kids. I often get exasperated with
some of the younger teenagers when
I think they have huge potential.
That’s often when I’m most honest
with them. I say: “I believe in you
so much, why are you doing this to
yourself? Why are you purposefully
messing up your life?”
I also get hugely frustrated with
the parents, because I wonder what
on earth they are doing. A big part
of the job is discussing parenting
with parents. But what I’ve noticed
is that, regardless of background, in
some ways every family is the same –
children are the most important part of
parents’ lives and kindness prevails.
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
25
Childcare confidential
THE LECTURER
‘NONE OF US WANTS
TO FAIL A STUDENT’
In this field you’re perceived to be
an expert, but there’s no such thing.
If you’re a day ahead of the students
you’re the expert – and you’d be
surprised how many lecturers feel
like that.
When I started I could be a bit
rude. I wouldn’t let students get
away with talking or taking the piss.
I would just stop the lecture and
tell them to “Shut the fuck up” and
everyone would go completely silent.
You couldn’t do that now, you’d
probably get reported.
The worst thing is cheating. We
have to kick out third year students
who have been caught after all their
hard work. Students come to you
begging and crying and it’s soul
destroying and you feel for them, but
there’s nothing you can do. There are
only two answers – cheat better or do
the work. No matter how annoying
the student is, I cannot envisage any
member of staff, even the complete
wankers, ever wanting to fail anyone.
It’s a reflection on themselves.
I often have parents call me up and
I refuse to talk to them – their kids
are adults. Intelligence has nothing
to do with life, it’s about application.
If you see someone trying to do well
but failing, you do try to help. If you
see a student who is a complete smart
arse and puts zero effort in, you
don’t give them any help. You don’t
give a shit about the ones who think
they are super clever, because in life
there’s no such thing as super clever
– it’s only in that person’s mind.
THERE
AREN’T
MANY
CLUBS
WHERE
MUSLIM
KIDS MIX
WITH THE
LOCAL
WHITE
AND
BLACK
KIDS
THE VOLUNTEER
BOXING TEACHER
‘IT GIVES YOUNG
PEOPLE HOPE’
Boxing tends to attract a lot of angry
young boys, misfit kids. The club
gives them a structure that they
haven’t got at home and they feel
quite cool doing it. People in the sport
who do well are people they don’t
mind admitting they like. Look at
Anthony Joshua or Muhammad Ali –
they look like comic-book heroes.
A lot of young people who come
to the club are from housing estates
in the surrounding areas where
there’s knife crime, drug-related
activities and things that can steer
you in a dark direction. A boxing club,
relatively speaking, is a pretty safe
place to be. The worst you’re going to
get is a bloody nose. If you’re hanging
around a housing estate at 2am you’re
probably going to encounter far more
severe things.
The motivation for me is that it’s
giving a lot of young people hope. We
do simple qualifications with them
in nutrition, health and safety, time
keeping. They are general life lessons
in how to conduct yourself – basic
stuff that they may switch on to in
a different environment.
The hardest part is when you
can see that a kid has a lot to offer,
but you can also see them thinking
that they’re not very good. We want
to give them a sense of their own
self-worth. A lot of them think they
have to get results quickly and that
probably comes from status anxiety.
It’s a mixed club. We have Muslim
kids, white working-class kids,
Afro-Caribbean kids. We have a lot
of Bangladeshi Muslim boys in our
gym and without slipping into cliché
they are really hard-working. They
will do a part-time job, boxing three
times a week, four A-levels and
seemingly balance that pretty well.
Then we have some white workingclass lads who are not doing very well
at school, who are more angry – an
anger that they should be getting
more than they’re getting. A lot of
the foreign kids feel more grateful for
the opportunity. You get a sense that
they’re more respectful of education
and have to work bloody hard to give
themselves a chance.
We’ve had to step in recently
with social media stuff that they get
into. One of our 15-year-olds started
posting right-wing anti-Muslim
propaganda on his Facebook page.
I don’t think the boy actually knew
what he was doing – he didn’t know
anything about Britain First. But it’s
insidious how they hook these kids
up with this stuff. We’ve had to step
in a couple of times with racial stuff.
There are not many sporting clubs
where you would get a lot of Muslim
kids mixing closely with the local
white kids and the black kids, so this
gives them all an opportunity to have
a neutral ground.
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
27
Childcare confidential
THE AUTHOR
‘THE KEY IS NOT TO
TALK DOWN TO THEM’
Being a kids’ author is a dream job.
I feel like I’m cheating at life because
I spend my days drawing and get paid
for it. I spend half my year sitting in
my shed in the garden drawing and
writing and the other half at schools
meeting kids.
It started by reading books to my
children at night and thinking: “I can
do better than this.” I just sort of had
a go. I had no idea how competitive
it was writing children’s books –
everybody says you can’t make a living
from it unless you’re JK Rowling. But
that’s turned out not to be true.
I like being around kids. I think
the key is not to talk down to them.
When I see children in a school, I’m
the fun part. They spend the rest
of their day doing times tables, so
I am a bit of light relief. If someone
is being naughty then the teachers
police them, so I’m never the bad
guy. It’s a bit different when I do
literary festivals. Parents take it as an
opportunity to down tools and stand
at the back chatting over a coffee.
So I have to maintain order and that
can be quite annoying. I can’t tell
someone else’s kids off.
In the main the children are really
good. Once they see I can draw they
28
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
respect me and want to be my friend.
Sometimes one of the kids will break
away from the line and hug my leg
and tell me they love me. It’s very
extreme emotions that they display,
which is funny – they’re just these
pure little souls.
Sometimes, however, the kids will
stand up and announce that they’re
bored – they don’t sugar coat it. They
have no filter and don’t care what
you think of them. Once, when I was
at a school to do a reading, I was
standing at the front during assembly
with about 300 kids in the hall, and
was introduced by the headteacher.
Nobody, apart from me, was looking
out at the children. Then one kid at
the back started giving me the finger
and mouthing “Fuck off !” He was
about seven. It was at the beginning
of my reading and I got completely
tongue tied. I didn’t know what to
do, but I didn’t want to grass him up.
Then, at the end, when the kids were
asking questions, his hand went up,
so I thought: “Come on then, what
are you going to say?” But he asked
a perfectly normal question, so he’d
obviously become engaged at some
point. It’s funny when that sort of
thing happens but it really threw
me at the time. I just remember
thinking it was a very clever way to
be naughty, because no one could see
but me. That said, towards the end,
I did see him getting yanked off to the
side by one of the teachers.
THE PRIMARY
SCHOOL TEACHER
‘I HAVE TO BE A CARER
AND SOCIAL WORKER’
ONCE
THEY
SEE THAT
I CAN
DRAW
THEY
WANT TO
BE MY
FRIEND
My first job was in a big primary
state school in west London. Nothing
had prepared me for the roles I was
expected to fill: teacher, social
worker, carer and support network.
A lot of my pupils were latchkey kids,
their parents working day and night.
One little boy didn’t even get a key,
so had to climb through a window to
get into his house after school. They
craved adult attention because they
literally didn’t see their parents.
A lot of the kids would get terribly
attached to the teachers. Others had
issues because their parents were
addicted to drugs – some kids had
been born addicted to drugs. A lot
of them needed a firm hand because
they would be rude – nobody ever
told them off and they didn’t have any
work ethic. But it’s worth it because
you see how much they appreciate
attention and progress. A lot of
children cry when they change years
and have to say goodbye.
I think the whole system in this
country is so unfair. We don’t put
enough money into schools. Teachers
here are hugely undervalued. The
real brains don’t even want to go into
teaching, or can’t afford to. A lot of
my colleagues have moved abroad
for a better quality of life. Some have
gone to Germany, Spain, Singapore
and international schools, because
the wages are fairer. The ideal system
would be for kids go to their local
school and get a good education.
Sadly it doesn’t work out that way. A brush with
greatness
To read all the articles in this
series, go to observer.co.uk/
a-brush-with-greatness
GETTY IMAGES
TAKE THAT
BY CHRIS HEATH
It is 30 September
1993. Take That are
at the Daily Star
offices, just south
of the Thames,
to answer phone
calls from the
paper’s readers,
and I am there to watch. Outside the
building are at least 100 girls. One of
the Star journalists tells me some have
been there since 3am. Take That are
offered some champagne and pose for
photos, and we chat. The first mention
of Robbie Williams in my notebook,
whose future life I will spend years
documenting, says: “R: I’ve been on
the wagon for a month. I was getting
puffy around here [pulls out cheeks].
If I had one pint I’d have eight.”
Then the five members of Take
That get on the phones, each talking
to different fans, one by one. They act
as though this is a perfectly normal
way to be spending the day. The
Star’s pop columnist, Linda Duff,
mentions she has been trying to
arrange this for the past nine months.
I wander round, listening in.
Robbie: “Who is it? Seedy? As in
Seedy movie? Oh! Sadie…”
Gary: “That’s a lovely name,
Tiffany.”
Robbie: “You’d better get your
smart knickers on to throw at me…”
Howard: “Have you bought our
single?”
Robbie: “I looked at you in
Portsmouth? Have you got
blondish hair? Brownish-blackish?
I remember! Were you with someone
with blonde hair? That’s it!”
Jason: “Mark’s on the phone. Don’t
you like me?”
Robbie: “Hello! McDonald’s! Can
I take your order, please?”
Howard: “Our album is good, but
I bet you thought I’d say that.”
Robbie: “I don’t think I’ll be able
to make it. But just in case bring one
of those double duvet sleeping bags
and I’ll share it with you. You’re not
having any alcohol are you?”
Mark: “We’ll stay together as long
as you want us to.”
Robbie: “I was talking about my
trouser snake.”
Howard: “It’s hard to have
girlfriends.”
Robbie: “You’re through to Robbie.
I’m funny. What do you mean ‘too
young’? Too young for what?”
Mark: “If you make me a nice cup
of tea I’ll come round.”
Robbie: “Are you an alcoholic?
Come on, let’s talk about it. I’ll give
you some counselling.”
Gary: “My favourite song I’ve
written is on the new album, Love
Photograph DAVE HOGAN
Ain’t Here Anymore.”
Robbie: “Corinne? I thought that
was something you get in a curry. Or
is that coriander? It wasn’t that funny.
Calm down.”
Jason: “There’s no pressure. You
have a little think for a minute.”
Between calls, Robbie turns to me.
“Are we nice?” he asks. “We’re not
bitter and twisted,” he adds, but it
sounds more as though he’s talking to
himself than to me, and it also sounds
as though he’s already wondering
whether he believes himself. Reveal: Robbie Williams by Chris Heath is
published by Blink at £20. To order it for £17,
go to bookshop.theguardian.com
I listen into
what Robbie
is saying:
‘Bring
a double
sleeping
bag and
we’ll share it’
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
31
Food
&
drink
Nigel Slater
@NigelSlater
Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/profile/nigelslater
for all his recipes in one place
as a filling for crisp pakoras at Kricket
in Soho, and eaten with pickled
walnuts and raw beef at Noble Rot
in Bloomsbury. The gnarly tubers,
roasted with thyme and lemon, made
into cups of deepest ivory soup, or cut
as thin as a butterfly’s wing, kept me
warm throughout last month’s trip to
Finland.
This week I peeled and shaved
them, gave a brief dip in boiling
water, then baked them as a crust for
a soul warming root vegetable pie.
The pumpkin is always a beacon
of warmth on the Christmas table,
buttered and roasted, mashed with
bacon fat and rosemary, grilled and
dressed with dukkah spices and
pomegranate seeds and, this week,
hollowed and filled with mushrooms
and toasted seeds. An overflowing,
luminous orb, glowing benignly from
the oven to welcome me home.
JERUSALEM
ARTICHOKE HOTPOT
It is the rich, mushroomy, smoky
stock that gives this hotpot its deep,
mellow flavour. The smoked garlic
could be used afterwards, mixed with
butter and slathered on bread.
MEAT-FREE FEASTS
Pumpkins
are always
a beacon
of warmth
on the
Christmas
table
Midwinter calls for something hearty
and wholesome – and there’s no better
place to start than a veggie hotpot
I honestly don’t mind the rain when
there is something in the oven.
A roasting pumpkin, perhaps, with
a dark and bosky stuffing, or a hotpot
of root vegetables in a sauce with
a deep whiff of smoked garlic.
The weather has been rather soggy
in the run up to Christmas and it
32 MAGAZINE
MAGAZINE
| 17.12.17
| 17.12.17
| THE| OBSERVER
THE OBSERVER
has taken every golden vegetable
– parsnips, onions, swedes and
carrots – to fill this kitchen with joy.
The onions have been peeled, boiled
and buttered and left to roast until
caramelised; the roots have been
baked in pies or roasted with thyme
and garlic, filling the house with
a scent of festive but frugal bonhomie.
This is very much the season of
the Jerusalem artichoke, fried as
bubble and squeak at home; starring
Serves 4
water 1 litre
porcini 10g, dried
smoked garlic 1 head
root vegetables 500g (carrots, parsnips)
olive oil 3 tbsp
leeks 2, medium
Jerusalem artichokes 300g
plain flour 40g
lemon thyme 1 tbsp
rosemary leaves 1 tbsp (plus a couple of
whole sprigs)
butter 50g
Directions
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Put
the water into a saucepan and bring
to the boil. Add the porcini and whole
head of garlic to the water, lower the
heat, partially cover with a lid and
leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
Photographs JONATHAN LOVEKIN
Games of squash:
pumpkin with mushrooms
and toasted seed and,
facing page, Jerusalem
artichoke hotpot
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
33
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
The smoked
garlic could
be used
afterwards,
mixed with
butter and
slathered
on bread
WINES
OF THE
WEEK
Great wines
to enjoy
with your
Christmas
dinner
David
Williams
@Daveydaibach
To read all
David’s columns
in one place, visit
theguardian.com/
profile/davidwilliams
Trim the carrots and parsnips,
halving them if they are small, cutting
them into bite-sized chunks if not.
Warm the olive oil in a shallow
pan or flame-proof casserole. Add
the prepared carrots and parsnips
and let them brown lightly all over.
Meanwhile wash and trim the leeks,
then cut them into short pieces, about
2cm in length.
Stir the leeks into the carrots and
parsnips letting them soften without
colour. Put a small pan of water on to
boil. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes
and slice very thinly, then add them
to the boiling water, let them cook
for 5 minutes until approaching
tenderness, then drain.
Add the flour to the leeks and root
vegetables and let it cook for 2-3
minutes, stirring regularly. Remove
the head of garlic from the stock (it
has done its work) then pour 750ml
of the stock, including the porcini,
over the vegetables. Bring to the boil,
stirring regularly. Finely chop the
thyme and rosemary leaves, then add
half to the filling, seasoning as you go.
Transfer to an ovenproof casserole.
Melt the butter in a small pan
and remove from the heat. Add the
remaining chopped rosemary and
thyme and a little salt, then add the
artichoke slices. Toss gently together
then place on top of the filling in
a single layer. Place a couple of
whole rosemary sprigs on top and
bake for 35-40 minutes until the
hotpot is bubbling.
For the crust:
hemp seeds 1 tbsp
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Slice
the tops from the pumpkins. Using
a spoon, scoop the fibres and seeds
from inside the pumpkin and discard.
Rub the insides with a little oil, season
with salt, place in a roasting tin with
their lids, then bake for 25 minutes.
Finely chop the onions, then cook
until translucent in the olive oil over
a moderate heat. Thinly slice the
mushrooms and stir them into the
onions, leaving them to cook until they
start to colour. Pour in the marsala,
leave to bubble for a couple of
minutes, then remove from the heat.
In a dry pan, toast the pumpkin and
sunflower seeds until fragrant then
fold into the mushrooms and onions.
Remove the pumpkins from the
oven and fill with the mushroom and
seed stuffing. Return to the oven for
35 minutes until the pumpkins are
fully tender. Mix the hemp seeds,
mint and parsley together. Remove
the pumpkins from the oven and
scatter with the seed and herb
mixture, and serve. Les Jamelles Mourvèdre
Reserve, IGP Pays d’Oc,
France 2015 (£7.69, Co-op)
When it comes to finding
wines that go with
Christmas dinner, it’s not
so much the meat – or
mushroom wellington or
tofuky – that matters. It’s
more the full-on assault
of rich flavours, sharp and
sweet sauces and savoury
gravy the wine has to cope
with. One way to go is with
something robust – be it
red or white. Two wines
from the Languedoc, both
at the Co-op, do the job of
popular (but expensive) Christmas choice
Châteauneuf-du-Pape and white Burgundy
for less than a tenner. Les Jamelles
Mourvèdre is deep, black-fruited and salty;
Jean-Claude Mas Silène Chardonnay,
Limoux 2016 (£9.99) has nuts and oatmeal
and bright apple and pear underscored
with cool, fat-piercing freshness.
Taste the Difference
Rioja Gran Reserva 2011
(£12, Sainsbury’s)
Rioja is another Christmas
staple in many households.
It makes sense: there’s
a suaveness of texture and
range of flavour – from
berry fruit and coconut
to tobacco leaf and, as
the wines get older, more
savoury flavours – that is
crowd-pleasing and good
with the all-trimmings
meal. Sainsbury’s has just
added a particularly good
example of the longmatured gran reserva style.
Made by the impeccable bodega CVNE,
it has an infusion of spice to go with its
blackberry and strawberry fruit and meltin-the-mouth tannins. The region’s lesserspotted oak-aged whites can also make
a good alternative to white burgundy, as in
the creamy, nutty Navajas Blanco Crianza
Rioja 2014 (from £8.50, The Wine Society).
Dirler-Cadé Pinot Noir,
Alsace, France 2015
(£22, The Wine Society)
My own preference at
Christmas is for pinot
noir. At its best this is the
most silkily caressing
of wines, and the most
aromatically complex.
Burgundy is the king of
pinot, but finding one
that suits my wallet,
even in extravagant
mood, is difficult. In good
vintages Alsace, more
famous for its whites,
is a fine alternative, not
least with the scented
succulence of Domaine Dirler-Cadé’s
2015. Germany, too, has mastered the
grape they call spätburgunder. And while
£28.95 (Berry Bros & Rudd) may not be
everyone’s idea of a bargain, Eymann
Pinot Noir Sonnenberg 2014 from just
across the border with Alasce, would be
a plush Christmas treat.
PUMPKIN WITH MUSHROOMS
AND TOASTED SEEDS
As much as I like putting a little
pumpkin in front of each individual
diner, you could use one large one
instead, cutting it into wedges at the
table. They will take longer to cook so
I’d roast the hollowed out pumpkin
for about 45 minutes before filling
and returning it to the oven.
Serves 4
pumpkins 4, small or other squash
onions 4, medium sized
olive oil 4 tbsp
chestnut mushrooms 400g, small
marsala 150ml
pumpkin seeds 100g
sunflower seeds 75g
oil a little more
mint 2 tbsp, chopped
parsley 3 tbsp, coarsely chopped
Directions
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
35
Food & drink
Nigel Slater
NIGEL’S
MIDWEEK
DINNER
CHIPOLATAS AND
D
BREAD SAUCE
The best bits of Christmas
tmas dinner.
The recipe
Peel, then slice in half,
f, 4 medium
hallow pan
shallots. Set a wide, shallow
over a medium heat, add the
m soften and
shallots, then let them
colour to a pale gold.
by chipolata
Place 8 plump, herby
hallots and let
sausages among the shallots
des. Lift out
them colour on all sides.
p them warm.
the sausages and keep
Pour 600ml of full cream milk
into the pan, add 2 bayleaves,
4 cloves, a few sprigs of thyme
(lemon thyme if you can get it) and
bring almost to the boil. Lower
the heat and leave to simmer for
3 minutes then stir in 150g fresh
breadcrumbs, salt and coarsely
ground black pepper, 1 tbsp of grain
Photograph JONATHAN LOVEKIN
mustard
mu
ustar
sttar
ad
and
d 3 tb
ttbsp
bsp
sp o
off
choppe
ed pa
p
arrssle
ley.
y
chopped
parsley.
Stirring reg
eggul
u ar
a ly
ly, le
llett
regularly,
the bread sauc
ucce thic
th
hic
i ke
ken
n
sauce
thicken
and simmer for ffew
ew
wm
inut
in
utes
es..
minutes.
berr
r y sauc
rr
sa
auc
uce in
Warm a little cranbe
cranberry
sauce
a small pan.
Serve the sausages with the
bread sauce and a spoonful of
cranberry sauce. Enough for 2.
The trick
Creamy, generously seasoned
bread sauce and chipolata sausages
are the highlight of my Christmas
dinner. But the sauce stands or
falls by its seasoning. Soft, sweet
onions or shallots, bay leaves,
cloves and plenty of salt and
pepper are to my mind essential.
Be lavish with them.
The watchpoint here is to keep
the sauce moving in the pan, if you
don’
do
n’t stir
n’
stir aalmost
lmos
lm
ostt co
cont
ntin
nt
in
nuo
uous
uslly
us
ly iitt
don’t
continuously
wi
ill stick
stiick
k aand
nd
db
urn
ur
n.
n.
will
burn.
The twist
Bacon, streaky and smoked, is
a fine addition here, bringing
with it even more of the essence
of a Christmas feast. Add bits of
bacon, cut into stamp-sized pieces,
as you are browning the sausages.
The more crisply you cook the
bacon the better.
A few tough herbs, such as
rosemary and thyme, would work
their magic here, too, finely chopped
and stirred in with the cloves. Email Nigel at nigel.
slater@observer.
co.uk or visit
theguardian.com/
profile/nigelslater
for all his recipes in
one place
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
37
Restaurants
Jay Rayner
@jayrayner1
Palatino, 71 Central
Street, London EC1V
8AB (020 3481 5300).
Meal for two, including
drinks and service:
£60 to £90
WHEN IN LONDON
PALATINO
KAREN ROBINSON
You don’t have to fly to Italy to sample
Roman cooking at its simple best – just
catch a cab to Palatino in Old Street
I am very
happy
here in my
lunchtime
booth
and lovely
things keep
arriving at
my table
Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/profile/jayrayner
for all his reviews in one place
The late AA Gill was once so
infuriated by the quality of the food
he was served at a London Italian
that he left the restaurant, hailed
a cab to Heathrow, jumped on
a plane and a few hours later was
eating the real thing in Rome. It was
a beautiful journalistic stunt, and
a tribute to many things, including
Gill’s shamelessness, but mostly to
the financial resources he enjoyed at
his newspaper. If I tried something
like that at Palatino, chef Stevie
Parle’s Roman-themed venture near
London’s Old Street, expenses would
get me no more than a Boris bike to
an Italian caff in Highbury.
Except I don’t want to leave.
Ever. I am very happy here in my
lunchtime booth, as deep winter
daylight falls, the lovely things keep
arriving at my table and a fug of
contentment settles. If I wanted
to infuriate the partially travelled,
I could now wonder aloud whether
London’s restaurants do a better job
of the regional food of Europe than
the regions do themselves. I could,
for example, suggest that Palatino is
a far better Roman restaurant than
most of the restaurants in Rome.
That would drive people really nuts,
wouldn’t it? So let’s give it a go:
I enjoyed my trip to Rome a couple
of years back. I found a fabulous
place near where the abattoirs once
stood, specialising in offal. They had
an uncompromising way with the
darker, danker organs.
As for the rest, they had identikit
menus, executed with a lethargic
hand, and served by bored-looking
chaps in white jackets who glanced
at their watches come 9pm. They
seemed to know that, when it came
to food in Rome, choice was limited
to same menu, different place. So
you might as well stay here. Palatino
is an altogether perkier affair, as is
London. Restaurateurs here know
you always have a real choice; that
they have to work damn hard to
bring you in and keep you there.
It occupies the front area of one
of those shared working spaces
with which this part of London is
infested. There’s a café area with an
events “arena” where, from time to
time, I’m sure people are tortured
with dreadful PowerPoints even the
presenters don’t understand. The
ceiling is all exposed ducting.
And yet, for all that, Palatino, with
its tall windows, open kitchen and
banquettes upholstered in leather
the colour of English mustard,
retains its own identity. Parle started
as an exceedingly young man
cooking a restless menu at the Dock
Kitchen over in Ladbroke Grove. The
success of the food there depends
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
39
LIFE & STYLE
Restaurants
KAREN ROBINSON
Jay Rayner
upon how deep into the culture
he has gone. It’s clear he knows and
loves the Roman repertoire, and
wants to give it the love it deserves.
From the list of antipasti, we have
sage leaves and pieces of brilliant
orange squash sliced gossamer-thin,
then deep-fried in a frilly overcoat
of the lightest batter, alongside
a dipping bowl of honey-sweetened
vinegar. It’s £4.50 of focus and
sigh and, “Well this is a good start
isn’t it?” As is their cacio e pepe,
that excruciatingly simple dish of
tonnarelli (square-cut spaghetti)
with a creamy sauce of black pepper
and pecorino, whipped up using just
a little of the starchy pasta water. It
is one of those dishes that seemed
to appear out of nowhere 18 months
ago in London and was suddenly
everywhere, but with good reason.
It is soothing, but with a grown-up
mule-like kick from the cracked
black pepper and salty sour cheese.
The version here is a defence against
winter days and despondency.
Rigatoni with veal pajata – the
intestines tied off and long braised;
remember, if you kill it, you eat all
of it – comes in an insistent tomato
and chilli sauce. The offal is deep and
soft without being overly funky. The
sauce stops it all becoming cloying.
It is an intense expression of that
Roman interest in the bits of animals
others overlook. Another starter
of clams with chickpeas comes in
a broth butched up with ’nduja, the
fiery Calabrian salami. It’s a great
vehicle for chickpeas and an even
better one for clams.
We could have moved straight
from there to dessert, but we are
doing things properly, as are they.
The great Roman dish of saltimbocca
– literally “leap into the mouth” – is
precisely as it should be, the veal
beaten out then laid with sage leaves
and wrapped in prosciutto, before
being sautéed off in a sweet marsalabased sauce. If you haven’t tried it
before, try it here.
A fillet of bream, its skin burnished
to bronze, is seasoned with salted
anchovies, rosemary and lemon, and
comes with bitter salad leaves and
roasted fennel. On the side we have
their new potatoes, first boiled, then
crushed a little until bursting out of
their skins, then fried to golden crisp
with garlic. Two days later I will
make these at home. I know I will
keep making them.
Dessert involves both a cheat
and a piece of cleverness. The
cheat is their rum baba. Making
individual babas is tricky and
time-consuming. Usually some
have to be discarded. So they make
a sizeable loaf of brioche and serve
a thick, rum syrup-sodden slice of
it, with cooling mascarpone and
roasted quince. It looks nothing
like a rum baba should. Texturally
it eats exactly right, the dry-looking
slice releasing its ballast of sweet
syrup as you bite in. The beautiful
green pistachio and saffron cake,
£1 from which goes to the charity
CookforSyria, is the clever bit.
It’s a two-stage affair. Half the
moderately dry mix, loosened with
egg yolks, goes into the tin, followed
by the rest, with the whipped egg
whites folded in. The result is a soft,
moist, almost souffléd cake on top,
with its own crisper base.
Starters are £7 or £8 with mains
in the mid-teens, but there’s also
an early-evening set menu offering
three courses for £19. Plus, there’s
the all-Italian wine list on which
everything from the £22 a bottle
Catarratto, to the £500 a magnum of
1996 Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido, is
available by the glass. Admittedly the
latter is £50, but it makes trying these
things much more possible.
So now old Rome hands will tell
me about brilliant places I missed.
They’ll tell me that they are half
the price. And I’ll tell them they’re
also an air fare away. I think I’ll stick
with Palatino. Italian job: (from top) fried sage
and squash; clams with chickpeas;
tonnarelli; saltimbocca; bream;
rum baba; and pistachio cake
NEWS
BITES
■ Palatino feels
like a companion
piece to Radici,
Francesco
Mazzei’s relaunch
of the old Almeida
site in London’s
Islington. It’s
an airy, casual
trattoria with a
cheerfully priced
ch
menu of pastas
m
and wood-fired
an
pizzas, alongside
pi
various small
va
plates. Taglierini
pl
with white beans
w
and pancetta
an
is a substantial
winter plateful for
w
£8. He recently
opened a sibling
op
called Fiume at
ca
the Battersea
th
Power Station
Po
site, with a similar
sit
menu (radici.uk).
m
■ A snapshot
of Britain at
Christmas
2017.
Ch
At time of writing
the top five best
sellers in the
Amazon grocery
section were
French vodka,
a complicatedsounding gin,
rhubarb and
ginger liqueur,
spiced rum
and Aberfeldy
12-year-old
single malt.
Oh, and an
assortment of
retro sweets.
Sounds like
a good night in
(amazon.co.uk).
■ Gary Maclean,
the brilliant chef
lecturer who
won last year’s
MasterChef: The
Professionals,
has been
appointed as the
first National
Chef for Scotland,
employed to
promote the
country’s
produce, both by
demonstrating
recipes online
and at national
events.
Food & drink
To read all the interviews in this series, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/food-and-drink
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY
VEGAN CHRISTMAS
Whether
you’re the
sole vegan
at a feast or
serving up
a meat-free
dinner, it’s
time to step
away from
the stuffed
red pepper
The wide range of festive food available
for vegans means Christmas dinner is
a treat for all, says Rebecca Nicholson
To non-vegans, the idea of a plantbased Christmas dinner may smack
of Scrooge crouched over a miserly
candle, sucking on a single slice of
tofu. There are few holidays more
dedicated to tearing up the five-aday-guidelines than this one, so if
you take away not only the meat but
the cream, then what’s left?
Actually, this year there’s a lot left,
as supermarkets are increasingly
wise to the idea that plenty of
vegans want to stuff their faces, too.
With estimates that between 2 and
12% of British people now follow
a vegetarian diet, it’s unsurprising
that a vegetarian Christmas is well
catered for by shops, but the rise
of the “flexitarian” means that
even non-vegans may buy and try
vegan now, if it’s an option. It takes
a bit of supermarket-hopping and
a familiarity with an online checkout
to do it, but with a little effort, there’s
now a gluttonous array of choice.
Christmas dinner is a roast with
bits added on, and the majority
of a roast is vegan anyway. There
are a few tweaks that may need
to be made – use oil to roast the
potatoes instead of fat; swap butter
for olive oil in the mash, and leave
honey off the parsnips and carrots
y could swap
p in maple
p or agave
g
(you
syrup for sweetness).
When it comes to the star of the
show, the amount of effort you’re
All the trimmings:
(from top) dairyfree Baileys; and
the ‘mheat’ vegan
roast from Sgaia
Meats with mapleglazed rashers and
filled with orange,
hazelnut and
pancetta stuffing
42
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
our
willing to put in will dictate your
centrepiece. The ever-reliablee
w
Linda McCartney range’s new
“roast beef” joint comes with
a boozy-tasting red wine
glaze and a remarkably beeflike flavour, which is great
for vegans who like the taste
of meat but not the methods,
though it may be too meaty
for some.
Fry’s soy and quinoa
Country Roast is a solid
herby veggie roast, while
Tofurky’s turkey and stuffing
is a respectable substitute for
the real thing. At the more artisan
end of the faux butchers – there’s an
emerging meat-substitute industry
that reminds me of the craft brewery
explosion – then Irish company
Moodley Manor offers top-end
luxury in its mammoth meat-free
roast, with a sausage and breadcrumb
stuffing inside that tastes like the real
deal, while Scotland’s Sgaia Meats
is serving up a new and limited
version of their signature “mheat”
vegan roast wrapped in maple-glazed
rashers and filled with orange,
hazelnut and pancetta stuffing.
If you’re a no-meat-substitutes
kind of vegan, the hardy nut roast is
a perennial stand-in and most major
supermarkets have a vegetablebased centrepiece, if you don’t
fancy making your own. Ocado has
a stuffed butternut squash made
by Irish company Dee’s, while
Tesco is pushing the boat out with
cauliflower welli
wellington.
But the real joy of Christmas is in
the tr
trimmings, otherwise
i would just be an
it
o
ordinary
Sunday.
Y can make bread
You
sauc
sauce with a non-dairy
milk, though
tho
most are likely
to be too swe
sweet – unsweetened
almond milk is a good bet. For
pig-fr
pig-free pigs in blankets, pick
a fak
fakon (fake bacon) and a brand
of vvegan mini sausage, and
m
make up your own (I’d go for
M
Moodley Manor’s bacon on
Linda McCartney’s cocktail
sausages). Ocado stocks
Dee’s vegan sausage stuffing;
while on the sauce front,
most cranberry sauces will
be vegan, and for the fancier
m
meat-avoider in your life,
tthere’s also Tideford organic
vvegan gravy with red miso.
It’s surprisingly easy to avoid
f
a fruit
platter at dessert time,
too. Asda’s own-brand mince pies
are vegan, as are Waitrose Essential
mince pies, and today dairy-free
ice creams are available in most
supermarkets. Or, if you’re the kind of
person who pours cold Bailey’s on a
steaming mince pie, then there’s even
a vegan version of that – slosh on the
gluggable Baileys Almande, available
in Whole Foods, while sipping M&S’s
Gold Crème Brûlée Liqueur.
For the determined and brave,
if not foolhardy, it’s even possible
to cook up a vegan cheese platter.
Violife and VBites offer a variety of
“cheeses”, though for this particular
customer they’re a substitute too far.
If you’re really determined, I’d go for
a simple homemade cashew cheese
using online recipes, which makes
a good soft cheese for crackers. You
can whip up an easy mushroom pâté
at home, or Ocado does a VBites duck
pâté if you’re more effort-free.
So whether you’re the sole vegan at
a meat feast or serving up a meat-free
dinner for non-subscribers, step away
from the stuffed red pepper: at last,
food producers, from independent
businesses to big supermarket chains,
have made it possible for everyone
to pig out this Christmas. As long as
those pigs are creative plant-based
versions of the real thing, of course. Photograph ROMAS FOORD
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
43
Fashion
@guardianfashion
To see all the shoots in this series and for more
sartorial advice visit theguardian.com/fashion
REASONS TO...
WEAR A CARDIGAN
Stella McCartney injected cool into cardigans
for AW17 with an oversized fit worn with a hefty
dose of rock’n’roll loucheness. Think Kurt Cobain
in his threadbare grunge cardie.
Choose a plain colour and layer your cardigan
over a contrasting coloured T-shirt, a shirt or
another knit. A fine-gauge base knit will
layer up well minus the bulk: try Uniqlo for
a winter-hued rainbow of shades.
Cardigans are a sartorial hug on a cold day,
perfect over PJs for winter weekends spent
lounging in front of open fires, or on the sofa
reading the paper.
You can take the cardigan to a smarter place
with a mod-inspired zip-up style. We love
Paul Smith’s graphic block-stripe style worn
with dark denim. Malik wears cardigan £690, and jumper £655,
by stellamccartney.com
Skincare Juliana Sergot using Aveda
Hair Jason Crozier at Stella Creative
using SachaJuan
Photographer’s assistant Marv Martin
Fashion assistant Bemi Shaw
Model Malik at Supa
1 Recycled wool with zip £69, arket.com
2 Cream lambswool £39.90, uniqlo.com
3 Aubergine £29.50, marksandspencer.com
4 Grey brioche stitch £39.99, zara.com
5 Red £230, Albam (mrporter.com)
6 Black and blue stripe £175, paulsmith.com
7 Burgundy cashmere-blend £59.99,
mango.com
8 Pink cars £55, weekday.com
9 Brown lambswool £100, jcrew.com
Fashion editor HELEN SEAMONS
Photographer DANIEL BENSON
44
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
1
2
4
7
3
5
8
6
9
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
45
Fashion
To see all the shoots in this series and for more
sartorial advice visit theguardian.com/fashion
GUIDE TO
PARTY
SPARKLE
Hit the party season with an
abundance of sparkle, from
glitter and sequin-coated bags,
boots and shoes to earrings
that put a disco ball to shame.
On the runway at Chanel,
models appeared swathed
in metallic quilted blankets
and silver panel coats. Liquid
shimmering bodycon dresses
were accessorised with
twinkling rope earrings at
Christopher Kane, while
Saint Laurent topped the
accessories wish list with
sparkling knee-high boots that
sent Instagram into meltdown.
This trend doesn’t have to
break the bank: the high
street has enough flashes of
glitz to attract the magpies
on a budget among us.
Switch-up your LBD
with flashes of metallic
and sparkly accessories
and prepare to shine this
festive season. WIREIMAGE
@guardianfashion
BAGS
Glitter lightning
bolt £40, Hush
(johnlewis.com)
Luxe glitter zip
£20, Skinnydip
(urbanoutfitters.
com)
Bug embellished
£225, russelland
bromley.co.uk
Glitter with
clasp drop
£26, next.co.uk
EARRINGS
Lightning
bolt £8,
warehouse.
co.uk
Paillette
£95,
Christopher
Kane
(net-aporter.com)
m)
Dorota
£50, oliver
bonas.com
Reef £520,
celine.com
Rhinestone
£17.99,
mango.com
SHOES
Dorothy
£515,
victoria
beckham.
com
46 MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
Chai boots
with crystal
buckle
£750, jimmy
choo.com
Hiccup heels
£45,
asos.com
Red glitter
fine strap
£29.50,
marksand
spencer.
com
Star light
£216, apples
andfigs.com
Sequin
velvet £110,
stories.com
Saint Laurent
Balmain
Christopher Kane
Michael Kors Collection
Paco Rabanne
Ofia mb20
£95, essentielantwerp.com
Soirée £189, Diane
von Fürstenberg
(matches
fashion.com)
m)
Pink and orange
Pin
glitter £25,
riverisland.com
riverislan
Glitter
Glit
Gli
G
tt drop
rhinestone
h
£9, miss
selfridge.
com
m
Silver and
zirconia
£595,
bottega
veneta.com
Razzle
glitter block
£29,
topshop.
com
Asher £148,
Elizabeth
and James
(shopbop.
com)
Pewter
£34.99,
newlook.
com
Compton
£895, sophie
hulme.com
Night sky
double drop
£70, kate
spade.com
Diletta
tri-colour
£660, Attico
(matches
fashion.
com)
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
47
LIFE & STYLE
5249
5009
NOW’S THE TIME TO…
Beauty
Cleanse yourself of 2017.
Dr Frances Prenna Jones (known for
her cult Formula) has introduced
a series of cute Konjac sponges
designed for different types of skin.
£18, drfrancesprennajones.com
For more advice and tips,
visit theguardian.com/fashion/beauty
CHARCOAL
FLICKS FOR
MOODY EYES
The gentlest of eye flicks
here, a moody charcoal
rather than a fierce black.
At Victoria Beckham they
teased eye shadow across
the lids with a fingertip,
pushing it out at the corner
like an afterthought, with
mascara just at the roots
efinition
of the lashes, for defi
ur. But
rather than glamour.
ull-on
it’s possible to go full-on
sultry by layering with
a pencil or shadow stick,
going day to night with
ey.
another layer of grey.
EVA WISEMAN
Trish McEvoy 24hr
Shadow and Liner
£24, harveynichols.com
Victoria
Beckham for
Estée Lauder,
autumn/
winter 2017
Victoria Beckham for
Estée Lauder Eye Palette
£60, esteelauder.co.uk
Elizabeth Arden Smokey Eye Pencil £17, elizabetharden.co.uk
NARS Velvet Shadow Stick
£21, spacenk.com
B Khol
Eyeliner
in Grey
£4.99,
superdrug.
com
3INA Pencil Eyeshadow
£6.95, asos.com
Korres Volcanic Eyeliner
£9, lookfantastic.com
Guerlain Palette in L’Heure de Nuit
£43.50, selfridges.com
Sisley Eye Liner Brush
£33, sisley-paris.co.uk
YSL Eye Duo Smoker
£25, yslbeauty.co.uk
Homes
For more inside tips, advice and ideas, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/homes
FEELGOOD FABRICS
The bright, retro designs of her grandparents’ home inspired Diane Naested
to follow their lead, finds Anna Lambert
Living history:
(right) Diane
Naested in the
kitchen, with its
retro Formica
surfaces and
1950s English
Rose cabinets;
elsewhere in the
house you can find
more evidence
of her bright and
cheerful charity
shop finds, as well
as midcentury
heirlooms left
to her by her
grandparents
50
Not everyone would consider a pair
of curtains a family heirloom. But for
Diane Naested, the graphic pattern
and warm colours of the 1950s
barkcloth curtains that she inherited
from her beloved grandparents
take pride of place. These curtains
served as a starting point for her
home’s decorative look and inspired
a lucrative hobby, too.
“The curtains, which had hung in
Nan and Gramps’s living room were
left to me along with some furniture
and the contents of Gramps’s
workshop when they died,” says Di.
“They felt like part of my childhood,
but with much of the fabric damaged
I wondered how best to immortalise
them. I’ll have a go at making most
things, so I made a lampshade from
what was left and now it hangs in my
own living room.”
Realising how much she loved the
slubby texture and variety of pattern
to be found in those curtains led Di
to start sourcing more 50s, 60s and
70s fabric from flea markets and
online, which she now uses to make
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
lampshades. “I’m not interested in
working with modern fabric,” she
says. “I like things that tell a story and,
preferably, that make me smile – it’s
harder to find that with new stuff.”
It’s this approach that unites the
hotch-potch of furnishings in the
four-bedroom 1930s cottage, just
outside Lewes, East Sussex, that she
shares with husband Jeff and sons
Thomas, Ben and Jago. “Jeff ’s style
is more subdued than mine but, nine
times out of 10, once I’ve executed
an idea, he likes it.”
A classic case in point was Di’s
plan for a kitchen with history. While
Jeff might initially have preferred
something contemporary, Di was
keen to incorporate the classic
50s English Rose cabinets that she
remembered from her grandparents’
kitchen. Some online sleuthing
led her to Source Antiques, which
refurbishes original cabinets, and
once her choice had been installed
along with a smart glass splashback,
the whole family was delighted.
“It wasn’t about style over
substance either,” says Di. “I trained
as a chef, so I wanted a design that
would function efficiently. English
Rose units have loads of storage
space and the Formica is really hardwearing. That said, of course, their
past life appeals to me – wondering
about the people who once used my
sink in their heyday makes washing
up far more bearable.”
Other key elements in the kitchen
also come courtesy of Gramps: two
metal seats from his office, which
now serve as bar stools, and his
original work bench. “It weighs a ton
and must have seen a lot of action –
my grandfather was Percy Blandford,
a writer, maker and designer of the
Lysander sailing boat. It’s lovely that
his bench, which we now use as a seat,
is at the heart of our kitchen.”
Di also has pieces from her parents’
home, too – Ercol chairs in the
kitchen and a pair of “wonderfully
Photographs GRAHAM HOBBS
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
51
Homes
GET
T THE
LOOK
OK
For more inside tips, advice and ideas, go to
theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/homes
Pendant light
£360, sourceantiques.co.uk
Mexicana
candlestick
£22,
trouva.
com
Pineapple
ice bucket
£24,
etsy.com
50s table £160,
pamono.co.uk
52
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
too bright – but her sense of order
means that chaos is avoided. “The
boys and I do tend to have a place
for everything, which certainly
helps,” she says.
Di agrees that hers is an invigorating
rather than a restful look. “We’re all
different, so while matchy-matchy is
great for some people it doesn’t work
for us. As far as I’m concerned what
matters is that our home is cheerful,
welcoming and makes us happy.” Di’s lamps can be seen at frufrutulip.co.uk.
Percy Blandford’s autobiography, A Life Full
of Hobbies, costs £12.95 including P&P and
is available via diane.naested@gmail.com
Flower power:
midcentury
furniture, and
60s fabrics and
wallpapers dotted
through the house
Storage
canisters
£34 for 3,
Orla Kiely
(johnlewis.
com)
P
Paddington
ccushion £17.50,
ccotswold
ttrading.com
GRAHAM HOBBS
comfortable” 70s leatherette chairs
in the living room. Walls throughout
the house display collectables, from
etched mirrors to Holt Howard
string-holding cats. On pine shelves
handed down from her mother sit
a variety of knick-knacks that Di has
found over the years.
“I never set out specifically to look
for pieces,” she says, “but if I find
something I love, it’s coming home
with me.”
There’s plenty of colour in this
house – though Di admits to having
toned down a dazzling yellow in the
kitchen that even she conceded was
Gardens
James Wong
@Botanygeekk
To read
T
ad
d all James’s columns in
o
ne place,
plac visit theguardian.com/
one
profile/
le/j
/
le/james-wong
After the
leaves fall
the true
drama is
revealed:
a nest of
yellow
stems with
bright red
tips like
the a shrub
ablaze
ALAMY
SELF-DECORATING CHRISTMAS TREES
The people on my street really go
to town with outdoor Christmas
decorations: intricately arranged
frosted willow boughs, great garlands
of fairy lights, animatronic Santas, the
works! However, for lazy gardeners
like me there is a group of trees and
shrubs that will literally decorate
themselves, as if by magic, adorning
their branches with shiny red baubles
every year, perfectly in time for the
holiday season. No struggling with
cables, messing with electrics or
boring clean-up come January. They
are also a magnet for wildlife during
the colder months. You might just call
them a Christmas miracle.
Given that they are easy to grow,
widely available and inexpensive to
buy, it’s a real surprise they aren’t
more common Christmas presents,
especially since now is a perfect time
to plant one. With that in mind, here
are my top three choices for shrubs
and trees that could be part of your
Christmas tradition for years to come.
Walking around my neighbourhood
last week I was stopped dead in
my tracks by the glossy red orbs of
the ornamental crab apple Malus
robusta ‘Red Sentinel’, a stunning
small tree whose scarlet fruit are
so intensely coloured they look
like they are lit from within. With
added bonuses of beautiful, fragrant
white blossom in spring and golden
leaves come the autumn, this variety
really earns its keep. And growing
to just 5m tall, it is small enough to
fit into most pocket-sized spaces
without taking over.
If it is more of a shrub you are
after, Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ in my
experience provides the best of both
worlds. It has lovely bright red fruit,
too, produced in neat little bunches,
set off by leaves that turn crimson
in the autumn, but can be trained
as anything from a neat hedge to a
standard tree simply by how you
choose to prune it. Just like crab
apples, they produce loads of pretty
white flowers in spring that are much
loved by bees as well as providing a
welcome supply of fruit for hungry
birds in winter.
But what if architectural structure
if more your thing? Cornus sanguinea
‘Magic Flame’ does exactly what it
says on the tin. Come the winter this
small, mild-mannered green shrub
starts to show its true colours, with
leaves turning to butter yellow, burnt
orange and fiery red. But it is when
the leaves fall that the true drama is
revealed. A nest of yellow, upright
stems topped with bright red tips
gives the whole plant the look of a
shrub ablaze. With regular pruning
these rarely grow more than 2m,
offering up a whole lot of drama in
a tiny space.
If you have the space, however,
why not plant all three? They’ll give
you loads of material for homemade
wreaths, indoor decorations and gifts
for decades to come in exchange for
mercifully little work. THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
53
Ethical
living
Lucy Siegle
@lucysiegle
Email Lucy at lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/profile/lucysiegle
to read all her articles in one place
THE ECO GUIDE TO...
NOT BUYING STUFF
At the risk of undermining
the work of a certain
Mr S Claus, here’s
a sobering thought: while
the US contains just 3.1%
of the world’s children, its
citizens buy in excess of
40% of the world’s toys.
Kids are effectively
regarded as consumers
in training and we
know where that leads.
According to US studies
the average American
home contains more than
300,000 items.
It’s clear we need
a different answer to the
question, what do you
buy the person who has
everything? Could the
answer be nothing?
Cornell University
researchers investigated
whether it is possible to
maintain the satisfaction
that we get from gift giving
but bypass physical stuff
altogether. They concluded
that receiving experiences
as gifts can provide more
happiness than possessions.
This is corroborated by
neuroscientists from the
University of Pennsylvania
who also conclude that
we find satisfaction in
experiences, particularly if
they’re new and have a link
with the outdoors.
Neuroscience shows
us that the brain makes
new circuits in response
to practice, so researchers
suggest we need to be
taught our experiences and
given encouragement.
This was in my head
when I came across
a gift package from Junk
Hunters titled: “The most
rubbish gift of 2017.” For
£150 you can buy your
loved one a full day of
waste collection and
recycling in a UK city of
their choice. This includes
a 6am start, a uniform
and a day that takes
them through the full
arc of waste: collection,
loading and segregation
in a recycling centre.
The package is billed as
providing “a real insight
into what people really
throw away”.
If anybody is wondering
what to get me, this is just
up my street. THE BIG PICTURE
CLEANING UP AIR POLLUTION
On her first official mission as a UN Environment Global Goodwill
Ambassador, singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding visited the Maasai Mara
and handed out cleaner cooking stoves to a village. Women in the
most marginalised communities are particularly affected by traditional
cooking stoves. In her new role she will advocate for the UN’s targets to
eradicate ocean and air pollution. The latter kills 6.5m people each year.
Cardigan, £129
sheer-apparel.com
54
If you can’t buy secondhand and extend the
lifespan of garments
that have already
been made, then you
need to buy new with
the utmost care.
Paula Haunit,
founder of Sheer
Apparel, says: ‘I’d come
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
to the point where
I’d heard enough
about the awful
labour conditions and
pollution in fashion to
know that I wanted
to start shopping in a
different way.’ She also
felt that sustainable
fashion was often
too experimental,
expensive or boring.
Sheer Apparel is
her solution, bringing
a capsule collection
of basics made in
Europe at affordable
prices (from £25 for an
organic cotton T-shirt).
‘We are a company
exclusively focused
on sustainability,’
Haunit explains. ‘We
have authenticity on
our side. You’ll never
not know where
something was made,
what it was made of,
or why we selected it
for our platform.’
JACKSON KANG’ETHE
WELL DRESSED
SUSTAINABLE FASHION FOR REAL WOMEN
Wheels
Martin Love
@MartinLove166
QUICK AS A FLASH
SUZUKI SWIFT
The new Swift from Suzuki proves that
just because you look like a small car, it
doesn’t mean you have to act like one
Price: from £11,499
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
MPG: 61.4
CO2: 104g/km
If our self-driving future comes to
pass, will we ultimately be left slumped
in the front seat like so many de-skilled
chimps? Possibly, but there’s a lot of
trial and error to get sorted before
then. Here’s my small contribution
towards an understanding of robo
error. Driving through town slowly in
the new Suzuki Swift the other night
the car’s sensors assumed a man
walking along a line of parked cars
was about to leap into my path. The
Swift abruptly initiated a full balls-
out screeching emergency stop.
It was very impressive except for
one thing – the pedestrian turned
the other way. Fine, you might
say, better safe than sorry. But the
system very nearly caused the bloke
following me to shunt into my rear.
He hopped out of his car to shout at
me. I explained it was all the fault
of the advanced safety system. But
I guess from the blizzard of C-words
he wasn’t convinced.
A shame really, as the episode was
a single blot on the very pleasant
week I shared with the car. The allnew vehicle is the fourth generation
of Suzuki’s evergreen Swift. The
Email Martin at martin.love@observer.co.uk
or visit theguardian.com/profile/martinlove
for all his reviews in one place
Japanese carbuilder is now something
of a small car specialist. At the moment
it has four on offer, the Ignis, the
Celerio, the Baleno and now this latest
Swift. Despite their diminutive stature,
each is quite different, from a micro
SUV to a sensible compact hatch. The
Swift is definitely the heart-throb
of the band, and its wraparound
windscreen and “floating” roof effect
give it a funky vibe. The “grinning
mouth” lower front grille, however,
might not be everyone’s cuppa.
The car is wider than before,
making it remarkably spacious.
It’s also been on a diet and has lost
120kg – that’s like leaving 60 building
bricks at home every time you head
out – which massively improves
economy and emissions, as well as
performance and handling. Staying
one step ahead of the dreaded
diesel, the engine line-up is entirely
petrol. It starts off with the fourcylinder 1.2-litre Dualjet, which will
certainly get the job done, but far
more interesting is the three cylinder
109bhp 1-litre Boosterjet. It’s super
snappy for such a small unit; a proper
terrier of an engine.
Interior finishing is bright and
easy to live with. The real test of any
small car is how it treats its back-row
passengers. In the Swift there is plenty
of head, shoulder and knee room –
and the boot is more than big enough.
You can fold the back seats flat, too, if
you need to do some lugging.
All in all, it’s a small car destined to
make a big impact. BIKE OF THE WEEK
SUPER SOCO E-MOTORBIKE
Price: £2,349
(including
government grant)
Motor: Bosch
Battery: Lithium
Range: 30 miles
supersoco.co.uk
The fun and frisky Super
Soco, which comes in five
punchy colours, is a glorious
traffic-dodging, commuteconquering blast of twowheeled joy. Riding to work
was never supposed to be
this much fun. Launched
by the Australian scooter
company V-Moto, the
Super Soco is probably
the most affordable
e-motorbike on sale in
Britain. Its perky Bosch
motor powers it along at up
to 28mph and it has a range
of 30 miles. The pick-up
and acceleration is similar to
a 50cc bike, but because it
only weighs 78kg it handles
more like a bicycle, silently
scything through the traffic.
It also has a keyless start,
anti-theft alarm, wheel
locking and intelligent LED
speedo. Concealed in the
faux fuel tank there’s also
room for two batteries, so
you can double its range,
too. Let’s go, Super Soco!
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
55
Travel
For more inside tips, advice and holiday
ideas, go to theguardian.com/travel
ESCAPING THE COLD
WINTER SUN DESTINATIONS
Whether it’s yoga in Morocco or fine
food in South Africa… Joanne O’Connor
reveals her top 10 seasonal holidays
Best for beach lovers
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Paradise found:
(clockwise from
main picture) Phu
Quoc, Vietnam;
Modus Vivendi’s
apartments in
Psematismenos,
Cyprus; Thalpe
Bungalows, near
Galle, Sri Lanka;
Falesia Beach,
Algarve, Portugal;
and Jaffa Port,
Israel
56
Lying just off the coast of Vietnam
in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is
the kind of place backpackers used to
congratulate themselves on finding.
But for those of us who don’t have
the luxury of taking a gap year, tour
operator Tui has just launched the
first direct flights from the UK this
winter, bringing this remote island
within an 11.5 hour flight on the 787
Dreamliner. Expect powdery white
palm-fringed sands, clear warm
waters and excellent diving. Spend
a week at the Vinpearl Phu Quoc
Resort, perched on the edge of Bai Dai
Beach, with idyllic views of the Gulf
of Thailand from almost every angle.
Accommodation: £859pp all-inclusive at
Vinpearl Phu Quoc Resort, including return
flights, with Tui (tui.co.uk)
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
Best for nightlife and shopping
Jaffa, Israel
The historic port district of Jaffa
has evolved into one of Tel Aviv’s
most exciting neighbourhoods with
cool bars and cafés springing up in
the narrow streets around the Shuk
Hapishpeshim flea market. Next
year two swanky hotels are opening:
the Setai, with a rooftop pool, and
the W Tel Aviv-Jaffa, in a restored
Ottoman-era convent. In the meantime,
book a balcony room at the Market
House Hotel, Jaffa’s original hip hotel.
Its happy hour will set you up for a night
clubbing in Israel’s party capital.
Accommodation: from £177 at Market House
Hotel (atlas.co.il/market-house-hotel-tel-avivisrael). Flights to Tel Aviv cost from £125 return
with EasyJet (easyjet.com)
Best for recharging the batteries
The Algarve, Portugal
It might be better known for its
pile ’em high package resorts and
sprawling golf courses, but the Algarve
is making in-roads into the “wellness”
sector, with a handful of high-end
resorts offering off-season retreats to
revitalise mind, body and soul. You’ll
pay more for your treatments and
accommodation than you would in the
Far East, but this is offset by cheaper
flights and no jetlag. Epic Sana, a fivestar beach-front hotel, with top-notch
spa and fitness facilities, runs regular
retreat weeks in the winter.
Accommodation: a five-night Mindfulness
retreat at Epic Sana costs from £1,675pp,
including flights (healthandfitnesstravel.com)
ALAMY
Best for peace and quiet
Cyprus
The island of Cyprus has one of the
mildest winters in the Med and – if
you stay away from the big resorts
which seem a bit forlorn in low season
– there is much to offer independent
travellers, from Byzantine churches
to ancient mountain villages. In the
hamlet of Psematismenos, Modus
Vivendi’s one-bed apartments make
a good low-key base: a collection of six
stone cottages set around a small pool
and flower-filled terrace. Interiors
are rustic with stone-flagged floors
and beamed ceilings. The coast is
3km away and the bright lights of
Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia within
a 30-minute drive.
Accommodation: from £80 a night at Modus
Vivendi (i-escape.com/modus-vivendi). Flights
to Larnaca cost from £69 return with EasyJet
Best for value
Sri Lanka
If the slick five-star resorts of the
Seychelles and Maldives are beyond
your budget, consider Sri Lanka –
same white-sand beaches and clear
Indian Ocean waters, but for
a fraction of the price. At Thalpe
Bungalows, a short tuk-tuk ride from
the historic fortress city of Galle, you
can stay in one of three immaculate
With its
palmfringed
beaches,
Phu Quoc is
the kind of
place backpackers
used to
congratulate
themselves
on finding
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
57
Travel
Valletta
gets more
sunshine
hours than
any other
city on the
continent
and has
beautiful
Baroque
architecture
and spacious one-bedroom
cottages set around a swimming pool.
The friendly owners are on hand to
give recommendations and Dalawella
beach is a short walk away. Delicious
home-cooked breakfasts and evening
meals are available on request and the
nearby beach resort of Unawatuna
has wonderful, cheap places to eat.
Accommodation: from £71 per night at Thalpe
Bungalows (thalpebungalows.com). Flights
to Colombo cost from £748 return with
Sri Lankan Airlines (srilankan.com)
Best for culture
Valletta, Malta
Europe’s hottest winter sun
destination is Valletta – and not just
because it gets more sunshine hours
than any other city on the continent.
The city will take up the mantle of
European Capital of Culture next
year, giving it a chance to showcase
its beautiful Baroque architecture in
a year-long programme of events,
the highlight of which will be the
opening of a new national art gallery,
Muza (muza.heritagemalta.org). For
a stylish pied-a-terre kitted out with
midcentury flair, check out the
apartments offered by Valletta
Vintage. There are five self-catering
flats each sleeping two.
Best for food lovers
Paternoster, South Africa
Cape Town is the undisputed culinary
capital of South Africa, but for
something a little less frenetic and
altogether more charming, head two
hours up the coast to Paternoster. This
little seaside village of whitewashed
fisherman’s cottages has been making
waves in gastronomic circles for its
selection of first-class restaurants.
Don’t let the sleepy ambience fool
you – you’ll have to book weeks in
advance to bag a table at Wolfgat
(wolfgat.co.za) for the celebrated
seven-course tasting menu, and
Capetonians think nothing of making
a 200-mile round-trip for the Asianinfluenced seafood dishes and ocean
views at Gaaitjie (gaaitjie.co.za).
Accommodation: a nine-night self-drive trip
combining Cape Town, Paternoster and the
wineries of Franschhoek costs from £2,125pp,
including BA flights, with Rainbow Tours
(rainbow tours.co.uk)
Best for families
Lanzarote
With a flying time of just 4.5 hours
and temperatures averaging a balmy
20C, Lanzarote is a great winter
sun destination for families – and
nobody caters for them better than
58
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
Lanzarote Retreats , which has an
ever-expanding portfolio of quirky
accommodation, ranging from
yurts to fisherman’s cottages, in the
island’s less touristy corners. The
latest addition is the Eco Cabin,
a traditional Canarian stone building
which has been converted into
cosy accommodation for up to
five. Guests can enjoy a private
gated garden, a solar-heated pool,
trampoline and play area at the Finca
de Arrieta, and even the option of
“off-grid” living. There’s also a raft
of baby and toddler kit available on
request. The helpful owners can
arrange babysitting and recently
introduced a meal delivery service in
partnership with a local deli.
Accommodation: from £1,100 for four nights
at Lanzarote Retreats (lanzaroteretreats.com)
for up to five people. Flights to Lanzarote from
£44 with Ryanair (ryanair.com)
ALAMY; GETTY IMAGES
Accommodation: from £58 per night at Valletta
Vintage (i-escape.com/valletta-vintage). Flights
to Malta cost from £82 return with BA (ba.com)
Best for off the beaten track
Jericoacoara, Brazil
In 2004, Lonely Planet voted
Jericoacoara the best beach in the
world, but until now only the most
dedicated travellers got to find out
if this was true since the village had
no road access. Paradise hunters
had to endure a lengthy five-hour
transfer from the nearest city,
Fortaleza, by car, then 4x4 or boat.
But that’s all set to change this
winter with the launch of direct
scheduled flights from São Paulo
into Jericoacoara’s newly built
airport. Many locals and “Jeri”
devotees will despair that this could
threaten the laid-back character
of this fishing village-turnedwindsurfing hangout, so if the white
powder beaches, vivid blue lagoons
and towering sand dunes of northern
Brazil have been on your travel
wish-list for a while, it’s advisable
to go sooner rather than later. Stay
at Pousada Carcará, a friendly
guest house which has hammocks,
a small pool and bar.
Accommodation: from £97 a night at Pousada
Carcará ( pousadacarcara.com). Flights to São
Paulo with BA cost from £743 (britishairways.
com), and from São Paulo to Jericoacoara cost
from £232 with Gol (voegol.com.br/en)
Best for activities
Taghazout, Morocco
The fishing village of Taghazout on
Morocco’s Atlantic coast is something
of a well-kept secret among surfers,
but the opening of two boutique
hotels in the past 12 months looks
certain to broaden its appeal.
Laid-back Amouage on the ocean
front offers inclusive surf and yoga
packages (from £714pp per week).
Enjoy an early-morning vinyasa flow
on their rooftop yoga garden and relax
in their infinity pool. There’s also the
hippy-chic Munga Guesthouse with
driftwood furniture, hammocks and a
rooftop sushi restaurant. Surf lessons,
horse and camel riding, fishing and
golf can all be booked locally. Accommodation: from £336pp per week at
Amouage (surfmaroc.com) and from £32 a night
at Munga Guesthouse (mungaguesthouse.com).
Flights to Agadir from £52 return with EasyJet
Gold standard:
(clockwise from
main picture)
church roofs in
Valletta, Malta;
Costa Teguise,
Lanzarote; riding
the dunes at
Jericoacoara,
Brazil; Amouage
atTaghazout,
Morocco; and
fishing boats
in Paternoster,
South Africa
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
59
Inner life
To read all the articles in this series,
go to observer.co.uk/inner-life
Creativity doesn’t come out of the blue,
it starts by remodelling the past, say
David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt
Beethoven
didn’t write
symphonies
because
he thought
there was
anything
wrong with
Mozart’s
To understand one of the
secrets of creativity, just peek
into an art classroom in Denver,
Colorado. The teacher asks her
pupils to imitate the style of
Vassily Kandinsky. The students
mimic Kandinsky’s geometric
abstractions, mastering brushwork
and learning colour theory.
If that was all there was to the
lesson, it would be a hands-on class
in art history. But the art teacher asks
the students to cut up their paintings
and build 3D sculptures out of the
pieces. They have all started with the
same source, but their works all end
up looking extremely different: some
rise straight up in a column, while
others are a jigsaw of different forms
and angles. The students learn to
treat the past not as a landing point,
but as a launching pad.
Creativity does not emerge out
of thin air. Instead, it is a process
of derivation and extrapolation. No
idea is ever wholly original; there is
always a link from the known to the
new. We rely on culture to provide us
with a storehouse of raw materials
which we then transform. Each
generation adds another layer to the
cliffside of history.
One of the keys to fostering
inventiveness is not to treat the past
as sacred. Artists and musicians
sometimes earn reputations as
provocateurs for their irreverent
treatment of history – but they are
actually doing what is necessary:
putting culture on to the workbench
and remodelling it.
Beethoven didn’t write
symphonies because he thought
there was anything wrong with
Mozart’s. Picasso didn’t paint
variations on canvases by Velásquez
and Manet because he rejected the
old masters, but rather because he
revered them. While we sometimes
tinker with the imperfect, we also
remake what we love, showing our
admiration for the past by passing
down its DNA.
Sometimes inventors attempt
to cover their tracks. Stravinsky
denied that The Rite of Spring, his
revolutionary ballet about pagan
Russia, included any actual folk
tunes, but scholars found a volume of
them in his library after his death.
It took Apple seven years to
acknowledge that the iPod was based
on schematics created by inventor
Kane Kramer two decades earlier.
But whether it’s obvious or obscured,
new ideas always have a family tree.
Creative minds always start from
a precedent and move from there,
but how far should they go? The
challenge is that staying too close
to the familiar can dissatisfy, while
wandering too far can fail to find
followers. As a result, inventive
people cover the spectrum from
the incremental to the disruptive.
Thomas Edison made small
changes to the telephone,
dramatically improved the
lightbulb – and at the far end
imagined underwater cities
powered by solar energy.
The designer Norman Bel Geddes
designed a host of practical products,
such as cocktail shakers and
furniture – but he also ranged much
further, sketching flying cars and
houses in which the walls rose up
into the ceiling like garage doors.
Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations
illustrate the same principle of
covering the spectrum from familiar
to novel: the first few variations stay
recognisably close to what’s come
before, and then Beethoven gradually
drifts further away until we barely
recognise the theme any more.
The DNA of the original is still
there, but by the end it has evolved to
something new. The Runaway Species: How Human
Creativity Remakes the World by Anthony
Brandt and David Eagleman is published by
Cannongate at £20. To order a copy for £17,
go to guardianbookshop.com
A NEUROSCIENTIST EXPLAINS
DANIEL GLASER ON OUR HABIT OF HIDING PRESENTS
In homes across the country,
cupboards and high shelves
are being pressed into service
as secret stores, where
small parcels of joy are being
accumulated in preparation for
Christmas or Hanukkah.
The essence of hiding
something is a social not a
practical problem. It doesn’t
60
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
matter where you put a present
as long as the eventual recipient
doesn’t see you put it there. To
succeed in this you’ve got to be
very aware of whether or not
you’re being observed.
Amazingly, we’re not the only
species to navigate this complex
domain successfully. Birds from
the crow family exhibit ‘caching’
behaviour that uses social
cognition, the ability to read the
minds of others, to decide when
to hide a piece of food for future
consumption.
If, by looking at others
behaviour, they suspect
they’ve been observed they’ll
even return later and move
the cache to a new location.
Some of these birds can hide
and then retrieve thousands of
items – which would put even
the keenest human seasonal
gifter to shame. At least for now,
wrapping presents is something
that we alone have mastered.
Some of us, at least.
Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science
Gallery at King’s College London
SNAP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; OLEG KUCHAR/MUSEUM ULM; VERONICA GRECH/GETTY IMAGES/IKON IMAGES. ILLUSTRATION BY PXLENS/NOUN PROJECT
BRILLIANT IDEAS BUILD ON THE PAST
PERSONALITY QUIZ
BY BEN AMBRIDGE
Do opposites attract? The old cliché
says they do. But is it true, or do
we prefer partners who are similar
to ourselves? And if so, similar in
what way? To find out, take the
quiz below and if possible ask your
partner to as well.
On a scale of 1 to 7, to what extent
are you:
a extremely left wing (1) to extremely
right wing (7)?
b extremely liberal (1) to extremely
conservative (7)?
c a worrier (1) to happy go lucky (7)?
d conscientious (1) to slapdash (7)?
e introverted (1) to extroverted (7)?
Virtuoso performance:
Tom Hulce as Mozart in
1984’s Amadeus
NOW’S THE TIME TO…
Repent of your sins! The British Museum is hosting a
kaleidoscopic exhibition on the most controversial of
topics: religion. Specifically focusing on how we believe,
not what we believe, it examines the thousands of
stories, objects, rituals, prayers and icons that make up
the colourful tapestry of today’s religions. Highlights
include the oldest known religious icon still in existence
– a 40,000-year-old mammoth ivory sculpture known
as Lion Man. Living with Gods: Peoples, Places and
Worlds Beyond is at the British Museum, London, until
8 April 2018 (britishmuseum.org)
If you and your partner were within
a point or two of one another
on questions (a) and (b) then
congratulations. A recent Finnish
study found that couples with
similar political views reported
higher levels of relationship
satisfaction (though, of course,
there are always exceptions).
But what if you’re very different
on personality traits such as (c)
neuroticism, (d) conscientiousness
and (e) extroversion? Don’t worry
– it doesn’t seem to matter. This
study found little to no association
between shared personality traits and
relationship satisfaction. So, when
it comes to personality, there’s no
evidence that opposites attract (or,
for that matter, repel). But if one of
you is a Corbynite, while the other
prefers May, watch out. Order Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee?
by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for
£11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com
THE OBSERVER | 17.12.17 | MAGAZINE
61
Dear Mariella
@mariellaf1
If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to
mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk. To have your say on this
week’s column, go to observer.co.uk/dear-mariella
I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH
THE FRIEND WHO SAVED MY LIFE
Thanks for writing. I’m
sorry to hear about your
struggles but so pleased
that you have sought
professional help and
are on the mend. Aren’t
you the lucky one to have
a friend who’s been so
supportive and kind? Mates
like her certainly don’t
grow on trees. Yours is an
example of how, at their
best, platonic relationships
between men and women
are a beautifully balanced
combination of yin
and yang. We grow up
expecting romance or
adversity between the
sexes, but in a brave new
liberated world we should
perhaps be celebrating
how friendship is the best
bridge for crossing our behavioural divides.
Naturally the fact that you are boy and girl
has the potential to complicate matters. There’s
always the possibility of confusing signals
and acts of friendship being misread as acts of
love. Then again, the opposite can also be true.
Two of my best friends spent years as bosom
buddies before they realised they were actually
a perfect couple. I don’t want to fuel your
passion so it’s worth mentioning they waited
a decade before they mooted the possibility and
even then they both had to get very drunk to
summon up courage!
I mention it less for the romantic conclusion
than the duration of their preceding friendship.
At your age, time is definitely on your side.
A hasty declaration of love might well hit
the mark, though I wouldn’t offer enormous
odds at the moment. There’s actually far more
chance of a successful union if you take a more
leisurely pace.
After your bout of depression the most
important thing is to build up your resilience
and putting your heart on a plate will make
you more vulnerable. You don’t want to be
forever cast as the patient to her nurse, even
if your love for her is reciprocated. Equality
I am a 16-yearold boy and have been struggling
with anxiety and depression, for
which I have sought counselling
and support. In my darkest
moments, a friend of mine has been
there for me unwaveringly and
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration
to say she has saved my life.
My dilemma is that I have fallen
in love with her. I would love to
tell her, but haven’t been able to
because I worry that if she has
to tell me she doesn’t feel the
same, her help and support will
go – and that is something I can’t
lose at the moment. She has so far
responded with amazing support
to everything I have disclosed to
her, but I am still very torn as to
whether or not to speak to her.
THE DILEMMA
62
MAGAZINE | 17.12.17 | THE OBSERVER
in a relationship is paramount for its survival
and that means that even if one of you is in
a more vulnerable place when you get together,
the ingredients must exist for that role to be
reversed over time. She’s been nursing you back
to health and I suspect she’d prefer a boyfriend
to a patient – caring for a friend can be deeply
rewarding, but it’s rarely sexy.
You wouldn’t want her to feel compelled to
date you for pity’s sake. The best relationships
enjoy a balance of power that tips from one
partner to the other, but most frequently finds
itself levelled out. You need to be sure you’ve
found that perfect position before you declare
your feelings. Putting yourself in an emotionally
vulnerable position with someone you can ill
afford to lose certainly won’t calm down your
tendency toward anxiety.
You are both still very young and whatever
happens now will be unlikely to last out your
school days let alone your 20s. That’s why you
have everything to gain by not rushing things.
Naturally you have developed strong feelings
for this girl, she’s been your saviour and
anything less than elevated emotion would
be verging on ungrateful. But if you really
are meant to be together then time is your
friend, not your enemy. You can afford to grow
up, grow stronger and become emotionally
independent, which is when you’ll have
enough to offer her.
At the moment it feels a bit like you’re
standing there empty handed and requesting
further investment, which isn’t fair or likely
to work out in the long run. Both you and
she probably need to make some bad choices
so you know how to recognise good ones,
so don’t panic if she starts dating someone
hopelessly unsuitable. She’s offered you the
hand of friendship, accept it and appreciate
it – don’t grasp it. Instead, enjoy her proximity,
try taking the initiative outside your current
comfort zone and when the moment comes
that you are compelled to declare your
feelings, make sure it’s because you really
want her, not because you can’t imagine
surviving on your own.
Help her see that you can thrive without her
and I’m sure it will only be a matter of time
before she slips willingly into your arms. She’d prefer
a boyfriend
to a patient.
Caring for
a friend can
be deeply
rewarding,
but it’s
rarely sexy
LIFE & STYLE
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