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The Sunday Times Magazine 16 July 2017

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JULY 16 2017
My Fair Ladies
Ascot, Henley, Chelsea ... what’s become of the Season?
Katie Glass joins the bunfight
JULY 16 2017
Your guide to
modern living
… come to terms with losing
a child, by Kerry Parnell
Jeremy Clarkson and his
blogger daughter Emily
Emma Barnett counsels a
twentysomething whose mum
has a thing for married men
Who is the woman in the red headscarf?
Johannes Laubmeier reports on the grim
quest to identify drowned migrants in Sicily
Dubbed the Trump Whisperer,
the star author of Hillbilly Elegy
explains why working-class
America voted for change
When civilisation as we know
it collapses, how will we cope?
Matt Rudd steps into the
future in Warwickshire
So, dragons are cool now? Looks
as if Game of Thrones is another
thing the nerds got right
Summer weddings galore —
but not a drop of action for
our singleton in New York
From Ascot to Glyndebourne,
Katie Glass goes on a safari of
“the Season” to find out if class
barriers have been smashed
Matt Rudd joins a handstand
class, Simon Barnes meets a
fly in wasp’s clothing, and
Lorraine Candy asks: should
lateness be punished at school?
Bondi classics by Bill Granger
paired with Will Lyons’s
favourite Aussie wines, Candice
Brown’s zingy muffins, while
Lisa Hilton reviews Madame D
Smart ovens: who really needs
them, asks Helen Lewis
Alistair Weaver reviews the
F1-like Ferrari 812 Superfast
The Welsh fashion designer
Julien Macdonald
Emma Barnett on how she
answers Tough Love questions
and the biggest dilemmas so far
The Sunday Times Magazine • 3
People who turn up their noses at Game of Thrones for
being too geeky should remember this: geeks rule
India Knight
he 1984 comedy film
Revenge of the Nerds was
part of a genre that neatly
inverted everything that,
in those days, seemed
glorious about American teendom
— cheerleaders, quarterbacks, huge
square white teeth, frat houses with
Greek initials — and focused instead
on the geeks and misfits. Through
various machinations involving their
superior intelligence, the geeks,
ridiculed at the start of the film, had
triumphed magnificently by the end.
It was a low-rent sort of movie and I
don’t imagine time has been kind to it,
but its existence serves as a neat
encapsulation of how deeply, tragically
uncool geekdom was then. It went with
thick specs, buck teeth, tank tops
knitted by your mum and eternal,
agonising virginity. Geeks were reviled,
from how they dressed to the music
they listened to, from their hobbies
(which involved dressing up to play
Dungeons & Dragons) to their reading
matter (novels set in fantasy worlds,
with Tolkien the gateway drug). Most
of all, they were reviled for being
interested in computers. A mere year
after that film, Bill Gates launched the
first commercial version of Microsoft
Windows. I think we all know who had
the last laugh, geek-wise.
The decades since have seen
everyone not naturally geeky trying
desperately to geekify in order to keep
up. Everyone dreams of inventing the
app that could change their life;
children learn coding as a matter of
course; we’re all on social media; and
even the most initially recalcitrant
elderly person can usually work a
smartphone. The handful of people
who still call themselves Luddites do
so with embarrassment, not pride.
We’re all geeks, to an extent — or at
least, the currently middle-aged are
shockingly geekier than we could have
ever imagined as teenagers.
Plus, the things that used to make us
laugh unkindly at geeks have all
become cool. That tank-topped, slightly
too short-trousered look has been the
rage in fashionable east London for
years. People with 20/20 vision wear
huge thick specs as accessories.
Dressing up as a Tolkien character is
now called cosplay, and people don’t
find it funny any more (I still do, a bit).
Only one real sticking point is left:
fantasy fiction. Huge sales, obviously,
but zero sales to people who like taking
the Booker shortlist on holiday. I have
friends who have embraced everything
they spent their teendom deriding, but
here they come to a screeching halt.
Books with dragons? No, they say.
Completely out of the question.
That is exactly the point. Life is too
short to read rubbish books, or books
you have to force yourself to finish. But
I guarantee you would not ever put
down George RR Martin’s A Song of
Ice and Fire series, on which Game of
Thrones is based. There’s only one
Read Under the Sun by Lottie Moggach.
Spanish idyll goes very wrong
Buy weatherproof recycled outdoor rugs
from Fab Hab (Amazon)
Sit on a flatpack attractive garden chair
caveat, which is that — as with the TV
adaptation that resumes tomorrow —
you need a strong stomach. That aside,
the cycle of novels is a masterpiece, as
is the TV series. Both are misogynistic
and sexist, but there we are: they may
be set in imaginary worlds, but they’re
clear-eyed about human nature.
What I like best about Thrones, as
well as the sex and violence, is that the
series captures the amorality of history,
which we normally have presented to
us through a moral prism. I also like the
idea of the good baddie and the bad
goodie, which seems much closer to
real life. The world is grey, not black
and white, and Thrones knows it.
I like how bluntly the series shows
that religion is politics. I like its dark
jokes. And I love how it is set in a world
where magic is commonplace, and
where everything hasn’t been explained
away by science. On top of that, there
isn’t a single intellectual concept in the
entire thing: the story is complex but
ridiculously easy to understand. It is
pure escapism. It’s the best. Watch the
series, read the books, and your summer
will be immeasurably improved. The
nerds were right about everything ■
The Sunday Times Magazine • 7
Lurching between the wedding’s free bar and his former love
interests, there’s a teary-eyed singleton, a few socks short ...
Josh Glancy
in New York
t every wedding, there’s
always someone who
makes a tit out of
themselves. Sometimes
it’s an uncle who’s been
pounding the Glenlivet and starts
hitting on the maid of honour.
Sometimes it’s a teenage cousin,
overexcited by access to a free bar,
who ends up with their head over the
loo. And occasionally it will be a
bridesmaid, overcome by her own
romantic failures, who breaks down
in noisy tears as the speeches reach
peak schmaltziness.
And you know the rule: if it’s not
clear to you who the person making
a tit out of themselves is, then it’s
probably you.
This happened to me last summer,
when I managed to play all three roles
at once: sleazy uncle, giddily pissed
teenager and inconsolable friend. The
wedding itself was a perfect storm
worthy of a Richard Curtis film.
I counted three former romantic
interests in my pew at the church,
including my ex of many years, whom
I hadn’t seen since we broke up. The
crowd was smart, clipped and very
English, which always seems to bring
out my inner delinquent.
Far better men than me would have
gone too hard at the champagne that
evening. Some might even have shed
a drunken tear or two at the party.
But few would have ended it all by
storming into their ex’s bedroom
and accusing them of stealing their
socks, while rummaging through the
underwear drawer to prove the point.
(There were no socks.)
It was important for me to learn the
lessons of Sockgate: not just because
several people stopped talking to me
for some time afterwards, but also
because, since moving to America,
flying home for weddings is now the
sum total of my holiday activity. I have
five this summer alone.
In my head, it always goes really well.
You step off the plane, suit carrier in
one hand, passport in the other. You
strut into the wedding, to gasps of
excitement. A crowd of friends
gathers round to listen to your gonzo
anecdotes from America: riding pillion
with the Bikers for Trump, or strolling
along Venice Beach boardwalk with
Orlando Bloom. You meet a winsome
cousin of the bride. Bliss ensues.
Of course none of this comes close
to reality. The only celebrities at
a wedding are the happy couple (or any
actual celebrities). People ask you,
“How’s America?” but are eyeing up
their next bellini before you’ve even got
past nearly meeting Donald Trump. The
bride’s beautiful cousins have better
things to do, and seeing all your mates
serves mainly to remind you how little
you get to see of all your mates.
It’s quite an embarrassing thing to
admit, but the truth is I find friends’
weddings quite emotionally difficult.
Instead of waltzing about like the
Read The Force by Don Winslow —
a gritty New York cop thriller
Listen to I Had a Dream That You Were
Mine by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
Watch The Big Sick — the best
romcom in years
dashing transatlantic bachelor I clearly
aspire to be, seeing the elevated
togetherness of the bride and groom
often makes me feel rootless and moves
me to question my life choices.
It’s a troubling emotion. You want
to feel nothing but warmth and joy.
And I do feel those things, but all too
often it’s polluted by fear and perhaps
even a shade of envy.
It’s funny, because the rest of the
time I don’t much think about these
things. I’m not desperately seeking to
settle down and have kids; the very
thought makes me feel slightly queasy.
But something about a wedding, its
public, uncompromising declaration of
just how in love two people who aren’t
you are, temporarily turns the joys of
unattached freedom into bitter ashes
of eternal solitude.
Upon reflection, then, it seems that
I’m the crying, self-pitying bridesmaid,
lamenting lost love and wondering
where it all went wrong. Fortunately,
since Sockgate, I’ve cut back heavily
on wedding indulgence. So the crying
happens inside, where it belongs,
under the dead weight of some good
old-fashioned English repression ■
The Sunday Times Magazine • 9
“ Trump’s on a long
leash … people will
judge him on whether
their lives get better”
JD Vance
Bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy
hen JD Vance enters a room, you
don’t gasp or stare. He doesn’t
look like a living embodiment of
the American dream, or indeed
a man who could one day run for
president, a path that many in the smoke-filled
political back rooms have already marked him out for.
When Vance stood up recently to give a
commencement speech at Zane State College in Ohio,
there was no soaring rhetoric or Steve Jobsesque
exhortations for students to follow their dreams. This
was a hardscrabble community college, where many
of the female undergraduates were already working
mothers. Few in the audience could dream of following
his path from the Rust Belt to Yale, Silicon Valley and
even the UK bestseller list — as his memoir, Hillbilly
Elegy, has managed.
Yet Vance, earnest, authentic, measured, held the
room rapt. “Don’t do something you love, do something
you like. Find a vocation,” he said. In summary, life may
have dealt you a bad hand, but play it for all it’s worth.
Later, he told them tales of his own childhood: how
his mother started feeding him Pepsi aged nine
months, and once asked him as a young boy to pee
into a cup for her so she could pass a drugs test. Today,
he told them, he still likes to spend his downtime
sitting around in his underpants eating ice cream and
playing with his German shepherd. But for a spot of
intellectual polish, he could easily have been plucked
from the redneck audience to speak.
“I’d be proud to raise a son like that,” said Berenice
Litt, a pensioner in the crowd who had driven hundreds
of miles just to watch Vance speak. “He needs to run
for governor.”
What exactly Vance, still only 32, will do with the
fame and influence that has followed the release of
Hillbilly Elegy, which became a runaway bestseller in
2016, is a subject of no small speculation in the
10 • The Sunday Times Magazine
American media. The book phenomenon is still
growing. It sits atop The New York Times bestseller list
an astonishing 48 weeks after its release. Its narrative
power has carried it to Britain, too, where the paperback
edition is also in The Sunday Times top 10. It was
recently announced that Ron Howard will direct a film
adaptation of the book, which documents Vance’s
remarkable journey out of a struggling Midwest
community, and crucially explains why so few others
are able to follow the same path.
Even more interesting than Vance’s extraordinary
personal story, though, was the way his book chimed
with the political moment. The 2016 election was
in part the revenge of a white working class long
ignored and neglected by the establishments of both
political parties. This America turned out in large
numbers for Trump.
Vance knows these people. He’s one of them. So he
became the Trump whisperer, the voice of a forgotten
tribe that rather impolitely had the gall to reassert itself
on the national stage. When Trump won, Vance became
a permanent fixture on CNN’s pundit couch, explaining
to puzzled liberals “what these people think”.
When I first sit down for coffee with Vance, he
nervously checks his watch every five minutes. He’s
worried about being late for the US celebrity news
anchor Megyn Kelly, who later arrives in a fleet of sleek
black executive cars to record a special programme on
his recent move from California back to Ohio, where he
was born and spent much of his childhood. He’s come
a long way in a very short space of time.
Vance is one of two new prophets who emerged in
America last year, each blessed with an uncanny ability
to diagnose the illnesses afflicting a great nation. The
two men both spoke of abandoned factories, vanishing
jobs and hollowed-out communities ravaged by drug
addiction. They described a pervasive sense of decline
and a nation’s desperate desire to be great again.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 11
Donald Trump on
the campaign trail
in 2016. Vance hails
from the Rust Belt
state of Ohio, which
was key in securing
Trump’s victory
One of these men rode his analysis all the way to the
White House, where he now sits in his dressing gown,
tweeting furiously and learning some sharp lessons
about the realities of life in the Oval Office.
The other was Vance, whose life story fascinated
readers. He was born into a “hillbilly”, or white-trash,
family — a sometimes derogatory label given to the poor
rural residents of the Appalachian Mountains that run
through Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Many
of the stereotypes used about hillbillies are present in
Vance’s book — poverty, poor education, clannish
hostility to outsiders and appalling diet, which often
consists of fried chicken and fizzy sodas that give the
young children rotting “Mountain Dew mouth”.
Violent argument was casual and common.
“As a child I didn’t learn very effective conflict
resolution, especially within the context of a marriage,”
he says, recalling an occasion when his grandmother
threatened very seriously to kill his grandfather for
getting drunk. “I didn’t know how to disagree without
turning it into an earth-shattering argument.”
Vance, however, also paints a picture of a ferociously
loyal community, with its own complex moral code
and value system.
He was brought up between the aptly named
Middletown, Ohio, and the hills of eastern Kentucky,
As his own family fell apart, he battled his way through
school, after which he enrolled in the Marine Corps
and served in Iraq. Later he excelled at Ohio State
University, won a scholarship to Yale Law School, and
ended up as a venture capitalist working for the
controversial tech mogul Peter Thiel, who taught him
how to “think the opposite of what everyone else is
thinking”. He wrote Hillbilly Elegy following
encouragement from his favourite law professor, Amy
My fears thus far have
been confirmed. Trump
understands the
problems, but he isn’t
articulating a way out”
Chua, also known as the “Tiger Mother” on account of
her own bestselling book about strict child-rearing.
So what does he make of America’s bizarre
president? “My fears thus far have been confirmed,”
says Vance, who is a Republican but voted for the
third-party candidate Evan McMullin. “He understands
the problems, but there’s no evidence he’s actually
articulating a way out.”
So what would it take for the much-discussed
“Trump base”, which Vance hails from, actually to
desert their man? He points out that the president
gained a lot of trust by telling people things no other
politician would say.
“People voted for someone unconventional,” he adds,
pointing out that most Americans don’t watch cable
news all day and obsess over the latest Kremlin
conspiracies. “They will give him a long leash, and
judge him by whether their lives have got better in
two or three years.”
Some have called Vance the white Obama: a boy
from a broken home who pulled himself up by his
bootstraps and wrote a stonking bestselling memoir
about it. He’s even written about how the former
president’s moral and familial rectitude inspired him,
despite their political differences.
You can see why Republican power brokers salivate
over him. He has a compelling personal story; he
understands the Trump phenomenon, but is clearly a
person of intelligence and integrity; he’s a brand name
who spans the country’s great social divide — working
class and donor class alike can identify with him.
Vance is big, though not fat, with piercing blue eyes
and an awkward but charming manner. His gait and his
accent both betray his hillbilly origins, which he’s
anything but ashamed of, but his grey woollen blazer
tells you that he’s moved up in life since then.
So does he plan to follow Obama’s path and aim for
high office? “I certainly am not leaning into the
biographical comparison,” he says. “That would be
weird for me.” But he has “thought a fair bit” about the
pros and cons of entering public service.
Quite sensibly, though, Vance recognises the
current toxic political environment as one he might be
best out of. “The Republican Party has a lot of work to
do before it can achieve the things I want it to,” he adds.
Politics can wait, then, at least for now. Instead, he
has moved away from the start-ups and soju shakes of
San Francisco and settled in just a few miles from
where he grew up.
So why did he move home? “Ohio is close to
everything I care about,” he says. “I always felt a bit
weird in San Francisco.” In the split between
“somewheres” and “nowheres” that has underpinned
so many debates about globalisation, Vance is
definitively a somewhere, a person who finds
meaning in place: how the grass in his home town
feels underfoot, or the street corner where he once
kissed a girl goodnight.
Though he likes San Francisco, he found the stark
inequality between rich tech workers and impoverished
homeless people difficult to live with. “San Francisco
is sort of a dystopian view of what middle America
sees in the future,” he says. “Two fundamental subsets
of the population that are completely separated by
culture and wealth, and don’t really interact with each
other or feel any kinship with each other.”
Now he’s back in Ohio, Vance has started a non-profit
organisation that seeks to address some of the
The Sunday Times Magazine • 13
Vance met his wife,
Usha, at Yale Law
School, where he
was influenced by
the Tiger Mother
professor, Amy Chua
problems he faced growing up. His family were
typical Scots-Irish Appalachian mountain folk. His
grandparents moved from the hills of Jackson,
Kentucky, down to the plains of Ohio in search of
decent blue-collar work. As America boomed, so the
fortunes of the Vances rose, and they joined the lower
rungs of the middle class.
Something held them back, though. Violence, drug
addiction, ill-discipline and profligacy haunted
successive generations. When his mother abused
and neglected him, becoming addicted to opiate
painkillers, it was his grandmother “Mamaw” —
stern, ferocious and determined — who stepped in
and put Vance through high school. Mamaw was no
angel, though: after she died, they discovered 19
handguns in the house.
This was the story that really chimed with
contemporary America. One of advancement and
mobility, a move to the suburbs, then decline: old
habits returning and once-flourishing communities
falling apart. What is it that has held Vance’s family
and so many others back?
There are many factors, of course, but one that
Vance keeps returning to is personal failures. A culture
that refuses to look in the mirror; where people use
welfare cheques to buy new TVs and then blame the
government for their problems. Unsurprisingly, this
endears him to conservatives, but troubles many on
the left (the New Republic magazine called him a
“false prophet”).
“There are a lot of understandable frustrations for
the white working class,” he says, “but if the only
response to that is to blame other people, and there
isn’t a recognition that our own communities and
families need to think a little bit more constructively
about our role in the problem, then I think our politics
has missed something quite fundamental.”
His non-profit venture, Our Ohio Renewal, seeks
to address the issues thrown up by his family and
examined in the book. Child welfare, helping extended
families to bring up children more easily; employment
retraining, so that the working class adjusts better to
globalisation and technological change.
And, of course, the opiate crisis — arguably the
greatest epidemic of modern times, which kills more
people than crack or HIV did in the 1980s; even more
than guns do in America today. The statistics around
opiate abuse are simply remarkable. In 2015, more
than 20,000 people overdosed as a result of taking
prescription painkillers. Some 13,000 more died from
heroin overdoses, which many graduate to once their
opiate prescription runs out.
Opiates blighted Vance’s childhood, and they are
blighting the lives of thousands in his home state.
Lax regulations, corporate greed and a culture of
overuse have led to the astonishingly addictive pills
being handed out like cheap candy. But Vance is also
As a child, I didn’t
learn very effective
conflict resolution —
especially within the
context of a marriage”
14 • The Sunday Times Magazine
seeking to address the underlying malaise driving
these desperate addictions.
During the presidential campaign, Bill Clinton
described opiate addicts as “dying of a broken heart”.
Vance, too, sees the overdoses as deaths of despair.
“Instability, unemployment, imprisonment — all these
indicators are going the wrong way,” he says. “It creates
this sense among a lot of people who grew up in the
neighbourhoods I grew up in that the world is falling
apart. A disconnection from institutions of work and
family drives this isolation and eventually has to find
an outlet. For a lot of people, it’s opiates.”
Vance is hoping that his venture can help prevent
some of the familial breakdowns caused by the crisis.
One early proposal is to make it much easier for
non-parental family guardians to be given legal control
of children who they are already bringing up, just as
Vance was raised primarily by Mamaw.
His experiences as a child have also made him
utterly determined to succeed as a father and husband.
He met his wife, Usha, at Yale. She is glamorous,
ferociously bright, of Indian heritage and due to take up
a clerkship at the Supreme Court (no Michelle Obama
comparisons, please). What’s more, she’s patient,
because living with Vance isn’t always easy. “Thankfully,
Usha has seen enough good in me that I have had time
to learn. I’m getting better,” he smiles.
The pair have just had a baby son, Ewan, but Vance
is still haunted by fear that the curse of his
Appalachian relatives will strike him, too. “That’s
definitely still with me — that I’ll get dragged back,”
he says. “I hear about friends and family struggling,
and my immediate thought is: ‘My God, are we ever
going to escape this? Is this just the life cycle of our
family until the end of time?’”
Slowly, though, as his remarkable achievements
stack up, he is starting to trust that it won’t all fall apart.
As Vance talks to parents and children at the Zane
State commencement, another Bill Clinton line occurs
to me: “There’s nothing wrong with America that can’t
be cured by what is right with America.”
Vance seems to be part of the cure, an example of
America fixing itself. He came from nowhere, rose
through hard work and great institutions, and is now
turning around to help others do the same. The
problem is that his case is so vanishingly rare, it made
for a bestselling book. He knows this better than
anyone. And if he really wants to change things, then
ultimately, for all its flaws, politics surely awaits n
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by JD Vance is published by William Collins at £9.99
A right royal knees-up
What has become of the Season? Once bastions of gentility
and the preserve of toffs, the likes of Royal Ascot and Henley
Regatta are now a free-for-all. Katie Glass goes on a riotous safari
to learn the new rules of society. Photography by Peter Dench
Ladies’ Day at Ascot — dubbed Chavscot
— that first made me curious about what
the Season had become. Looking through
snaps of ladies in stripper heels and
diamante-flecked dresses, drinking,
snogging, cavorting and generally having
unbridled fun made me wonder if this
reflected a fundamental change in English
society. Could it be that the Season was
now accessible to everyone? And if so, was
that proof that the class hierarchies that
have divided and defined Britain for so long
were finally disappearing?
The Season has been always an excuse for
the crème de la crème to show off their social
status. Debutantes desperate to take part
(crucial, given the Season was a marriage
market for the blue-blooded) were first
required to “come out” by being presented
to the Queen in a ceremony where they
curtseyed in the direction of an enormous
cake — a ritual that Prince Philip rightly
labelled “bloody daft”. Following his remark,
Buckingham Palace stopped being involved
in 1958, but the “coming out” ball remains:
indeed, the Queen Charlotte’s Ball has
enjoyed something of a renaissance among
rich debs in recent years. The Season as a
whole is in rude health, as is the notion that
attendance is proof that one has “arrived”.
Now that Britain is home to more
billionaires than ever before and has
become a playground for the mega-rich,
“It’s still the event of the
year, but it’s changed.
In 1977 it was full of nice
cars. This year I only
saw one Rolls-Royce”
people are drawn to the Season for a spot of
social climbing and networking. But has it
become more about money than class? To
find out, I ordered some smart Asos dresses,
borrowed a hat and took the plunge.
To many people, Royal Ascot is the
Season. A melange of pomp, patriotism and
pageantry, it is still attended by the royals
on each day — and why not? Windsor
Castle is only seven miles away. In the
musical My Fair Lady, the rich people sang
that Ascot attracts “ladies and gentlemen/
ev’ry duke and earl and peer”. To some
extent it still does. Sir Benjamin Slade, a
multimillionaire baronet who owns two
castles in Somerset, has been coming to
Royal Ascot since 1953.
“It’s royal, it’s horses, it’s Windsor, you
have to go,” he whoops, gesturing with a
glass of merlot. Mind you, he thinks “it’s
gone downhill. Now they let anyone in.”
“It’s still the event of the year, but it’s
changed,” agrees one former “debs’ delight”,
n the dancefloor, men in shiny
Moss Bros waistcoats and tight
white jeans are dancing the
funky chicken, sockless in
tassled loafers, to the refrains
of Dizzee Rascal. Beside them, girls with
fake St Tropez tans and plasticky fascinators
affixed to Rapunzelesque hair extensions
are swigging champagne from the bottle.
In an exclusive marquee on the banks of
the Thames at Henley Regatta, the party
started at 3pm. Within an hour it has
erupted into a scene that looks like the
Towie cast remaking Brideshead Revisited.
I pass girls in nylon body-con dresses with
tattoos visible, then I notice some men in
white linen man-from-Del Monte suits with
Stewards’ Enclosure badges, and I am
reminded why we are here — for a 150-yearold boat race that was once the preserve of
the upper classes, the height of decorum
and the apex of summer’s smart society .
I have come to Henley today as part of an
investigative safari into the English Season.
For the uninitiated, the “Season” is the
merry-go-round of social events that
evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries as an
aristocratic celebration of elitism, privilege
and gentility. Today, it includes such events as
The Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Ascot,
Henley Royal Regatta, the Cartier Queen’s
Cup polo and the Glyndebourne Festival.
It was pictures I’d seen of last year’s
— posh-speak for a young unmarried man
from an affluent family — casting a rheumy
eye over women in violently coloured
dresses and giant tentacle hats who look
like tropical fish. “The first year I came to
Ascot in 1977 it was full of nice cars. This
year I only saw one Rolls-Royce.”
It’s true that on the surface there has
been a shift in Ascot’s demographic. After
a £185m redevelopment of the course,
completed in 2006, admission to the Royal
Enclosure relaxed. Name tags once
reserved for Hugos or Peregrines now read
Keith, Gary or Artem (you still have to be
recommended by a longstanding member to
get in, unless you pay for a fine-dining
package — prices start from £550). I take
a wrong turn through a hedge and find
myself inside. The Royal Enclosure smells
of cigars and Chanel. It is a mix of slim
Slavic women, estuary accents and dumpy
dowagers. I speak to a lady regular of the last
30 years ,who complains the aristos are now
outnumbered: “It is much more of a money
place now — lots of foreign people wanting
to show off,” she drawls.
Eva Lanska, a Muscovite, tells me that
Ascot appeals to the Russian taste for
British tradition. “I appreciate, coming from
Russia, the behaviour, the etiquette,” she
explains from beneath a pink hat. She hosts
a YouTube channel of British etiquette
videos for fellow Russians. One tells you
how to put clotted cream on a scone and
has had more than 25,000 views.
“Ascot is our assimilation into British
culture,” she purrs.
Yet despite admitting some new faces
into the Royal Enclosure, in truth Royal
Ascot remains as obsessed with class as
ever. Even its layout is hierarchical. To the
left of the grounds, past the marquee for
Her Majesty’s official guests, is “clubland”,
where private gentleman’s establishments
such as White’s and Brooks’s host
members-only bars. I hover around
listening to men in morning dress
chomping on cigars.
“I hear you’ve bought a place in Ireland?”
one booms.
“Two, actually,” his chum replies.
The middle of the grounds, behind the
Royal Enclosure, has a Real Housewives of
Cheshire vibe — those with cash to flash
but without the right contacts to get in. At
the red-carpeted Bollinger bar they’re
serving Nebuchadnezzars of champagne
for £1,700. Men who look like estate agents
loudly discuss how good business is, beside
women in gem-dotted organza dresses with
immaculate blow-dries, Christian
Louboutins heels and Chanel bags. These
days, Ascot loves bling. In the gift shop they
sell £250 diamante horseshoe necklaces.
LURCH Left: a
mass etiquette
fail at Epsom
Downs Racecourse
at the Investec
Derby Festival
Above: this season,
gentlemen at
Epsom were mostly
wearing stubble
and questionable
To the far right of the grounds is the
grandstand lawn. It’s here that I see women
in high-street dresses and sparkling
flip-flops or, by 4pm, no shoes at all. It’s here
that men in novelty-print top hats chow
down on hot dogs and boys scream, “I’m
absolutely bolloxed!” as they wobble to the
bar. And it’s here that I witness a man whip
off his shirt and start a bare-knuckle fight.
I am disappointed that Ascot doesn’t
smash the class system in the way I had
suspected it might. I am more optimistic
about the Chelsea Flower Show.
Alan Titchmarsh takes pains to
promise that “anybody who wants to grow
things can and anyone who grows things
well will be invited to exhibit”. Yet when
Juliet Sargeant became Chelsea’s first
black designer last year and bemoaned
the dominance of “middle-class white
people” with “double-barrelled” names
in gardening, Titchmarsh shot back,
saying: “Gardening is not a preserve of
anyone. Lords, dukes and duchesses
The Sunday Times Magazine • 19
can talk about it on a level playing field with
ordinary folk.”
This sounds promising to an upstart who
doesn’t know her delphiniums from her
dowagers. Still, Titchmarsh’s claim that
“nearly everybody has a front garden” might
cause a sharp intake of breath in a millennial
struggling to get on the housing ladder.
Padding around the Royal Horticultural
Society (RHS) grounds are crowds of
people — middle-aged and upwards — in
comfortable shoes looking very comfortably
off. Tickets, although allegedly available to
anyone, are impossible to get. Monday is
reserved for royalty, media and sponsors.
Tuesday and Wednesday for RHS members.
Tickets for the rest of the week change
hands on eBay for thousands.
I wander past stalls such as Forever
England, where women with red manicures
finger £100 quilted bedspreads; past £2,000
pots, giant silver stag’s heads and shepherd’s
huts like the one David Cameron has at the
bottom of his Cotswolds garden.
Attempts to make Chelsea more
accessible are met with extreme
snobbishness by regulars. One told me she
was shocked that Chelsea had partnered
with Radio 2 this year to create “Feel Good”
gardens inspired by presenters such as Jo
Whiley, Chris Evans and Jeremy Vine.
“Radio 2! Why not Radio 4 or Classic FM?”
she tutted. She was similarly shocked to
note that the RHS has expanded “up
north”, holding shows at Chatsworth and
Tatton Park, and that its director general,
Sue Biggs, used to work with — gulp! —
Thomas Cook holidays. “She’s really
bringing it downmarket.”
Chelsea’s elitism isn’t just horticultural
snobbery, though; it also has a pecking
order based on hard cash. For years it has
been a networking hotspot for workers
from the City. Its opening gala (for which
tickets cost £500-£1,000) attracts scores of
bankers and FTSE-100 CEOs. American
investment banks are said to fly in global
heads of mergers to schmooze with
regulars such as the Bank of England
governor, Mark Carney, Lord Myners and
the WPP boss, Sir Martin Sorrell.
“The flower show has been a big deal for
City workers for the last four years,” says
Sam Williams, a director at the consultancy
Economic Insight. “They go to network,
but in practice it’s another forum for
showing off. There is real kudos to be had as
to who can purchase the most expensive or
most rare plant.” He’s heard of bankers
collecting plants like fine wines. Apparently
galanthus (snowdrops) and the saguaro
cactus score maximum points — the most
valuable of which merit tailored garden
security and specialist insurance policies.
olo, should, in theory, be the
most accessible event in the
Season, given that tickets to
even the prestigious Cartier
Queen’s Cup start at £30. But of
course normal people don’t go to polo,
because it is a sport so wildly expensive that
only people who live in stately homes and
keep horses know the rules. The Uber driver
who drops me in Windsor Great Park by the
Guards Polo Club’s manicured lawns knows
so little about polo, he asks if I am playing.
In the car park, people from minor
public schools sit beside Range Rovers
Top: the beige chino
appreciation society
during their annual
meet-up at Henley
Right: a gentleman
kindly offers a
helping hand at
Royal Ascot
Left: no matter how
much this reveller
drinks, he’ll always
know where he lives
20 • The Sunday Times Magazine
and under Union Jack bunting, picnicking
on the contents of the Waitrose’s deli
counter. One group feasts next to a giant
silver ice bowl cooling bottles of Laurent
Perrier. “I think I just saw Prince Harry!”
someone squeals.
I wander through a members-only gate
and find myself on the clubhouse lawns in
what looks like a Ralph Lauren ad —
surrounded by men wearing panamas and
women in white-pleated skirts, one petting
a shih-tzu on her lap. Inside the clubhouse,
predominantly black waiting staff ferry jugs
of Pimm’s. I sit down beside a Hispaniclooking nanny, who is wrestling kids.
Everything here feels expensive. Even the
loos have an original Crapper mahogany
throne. Someone soon spots I don’t have
the right pass and asks me to leave.
I head to the Cartier marquee, where
I have been invited, but only after 3pm, after
the very important people have finished
their truffle-laden lunch. Inside I feel like
I am at a wedding where I don’t know
anyone. White-linen tablecloths are laid
with flower arrangements to rival Pippa
Middleton’s. Chisel-cheeked waiters glide
past ferrying silver trays of champagne.
Air-kissing guests squeal, “Dahrling! So
good to see you.” Somewhere beyond the
white picket fence, the world’s best polo
player is winning. I plonk myself down on
a sofa and wonder if I might be the fattest,
poorest person here.
Grayson Perry observed that being upper
class predominantly involves not having to
try. Here, you can tell the really posh girls are
the ones who haven’t even bothered to brush
their hair. Henrietta Tiefenthaler — whose
father is the banker Horst Tiefenthaler and
mother is the Unilever heiress and former
Bond girl Erika Bergmann — appears
looking like she’s slept in a stable, her faded
pink bob messily scrunched on her head.
Other girls pair scruffy boots and trainers
with floor-length designer dresses. Still,
On the surface there has been a shift in Ascot’s demographic.
Hugos and Peregrines have been replaced by Keiths and Garys
In an age when posh people prefer Glastonbury to Goodwood,
it’s now the interlopers who are giving the Season life
there is another clique of girls here looking
immaculate. In an age of social media where
image is everything, the beautiful people’s
game has found a new audience — a
fashion-forward set of Instagrammers. Star
attractions today are the supermodels Lara
Stone (in semi-sheer metallic) and Lily Cole
(colour-clashing in an orange and pink
Temperley dress), both invited to the royal
box, where the Queen is dressed like a
rainbow blancmange. The press is offered
cheat sheets on the celebrities in
attendance, highlighting the size of their
online audiences. Stone and Cole, we are
told, have 661,000 and 79,900 Instagram
followers apiece. We are not told how many
the Queen has.
Pride of place in the Cartier enclosure is
a giant topiary arch, manned by two
bellboys in red jackets with gold buttons,
calculated to appeal to snap-happy guests.
I spot Skepta, a rapper with 1m Instagram
followers — and who appears to be
Cartier’s only black guest — posing for
pictures. Following suit is a parade of girls
who turn out to be tastemakers, lifestyle
bloggers, online fashion and food
influencers. Among them are the wellness
guru Jasmine Hemsley (19.5K followers), in
a fluttery tiered floral dress; the lifestyle
blogger Kelly Eastwood (84.8K followers),
in jungle print; and the Singaporean
fashion stylist Karen Ng (23.5K followers),
in pink, feathery Prada and Gucci. All duly
pose and upload pictures, adding the
#Cartierpolo hashtag.
The entry of the Instagram elite into the
polo set signals how important the currency
of social media has become to the Season.
Arguments about snobbery remain,
however, and whether polo is willing to let
everyone in. Back in 2008, the glamour
model and horse fanatic Katie Price claimed
that she had been refused entry to the
Cartier Polo International because the
organisers of the Chinawhite enclosure
Left: the spirit of the
Swinging Sixties
finally hits the
Cartier enclosure in
time for the polo
Opposite: the
mother of a
bride-to-be enjoys
a day at Epsom
Below: performers
stroll past a guest
at Glyndebourne
didn’t feel she was the sort of person who
should attend. (Chinawhite denied this,
explaining that the event had sold out
before it received Price’s booking.)
Opera at Glyndebourne remains the
most expensive event of the Season.
Tickets in the stalls cost up to £260. Set in
the grounds of a grade II listed mansion in
East Sussex, it is easiest to chauffeur in.
Some regulars used to prefer arriving by
chopper until the owner, Gus Christie,
banned them because, like all toffs since
Prince Charles started talking to plants,
he’s very eco-aware. Last year,
Glyndebourne’s general director, Sebastian
Schwarz, laid out his intentions to attract a
new, more socially diverse audience. He
wants to introduce American musical
theatre and has already loosened up the
dress code. “I would never turn away
someone in jeans and a leather jacket,” he
said. I return for one of Glyndebourne’s
under-30s nights and find an audience
taking him at his word. There are
twentysomething girls in jeans and Dr
Martens taking selfies on the lawn, showing
off nose rings and full back tattoos. Yet
Schwarz’s moves to open up the event
seem only to have resulted in the old guard
becoming more dedicated to distinguishing
themselves from the riff-raff.
When I attend on the opening night, I
find the lawns awash with opulent displays
of wealth — white tuxes, taffeta ball gowns
and three-string pearl necklaces, even
though the black-tie dress code is allegedly
optional. Picnics also have their own
hierarchy. The grander regulars hire tables
in prime positions, with silver cutlery and
butlers to pour champagne. I wander past
one and overhear a conversation about how
“to survive in the Home Office you’ve got
to have a real bunker mentality”. A rung
down, I find a couple who have brought
their own picnic, sitting on a bench beside
silver candelabra with a tea towel from the
House of Lords.
Of all the events I attend at the Season,
the one that comes closest to breaking
down some class barriers is Henley Regatta.
It was there, in Bo-Jo’s old constituency of
Henley-on-Thames, that I found the
riverbanks bursting with a mix of Hooray
Henrys in rowing blazers and dressed-up
local girls dipping manicured toes in the
water. The Season, a dated institution from
another age, should be dead. Yet at Henley,
I watched it throng to the beat. In an age
where posh people prefer Glastonbury to
Goodwood, it’s now the interlopers giving
the Season life. It is the competitivegardening bankers, the Instagram
influencers, the Russians playing at being
lords and ladies and the scruffy students in
their DM boots on whom the future of the
Season depends. Not least for their cash.
And yet the old guard, desperate to
cling to their position, remain intent on
keeping them — if not completely out
— then at least on the other side of the
velvet rope. Henley’s Chinawhite marquee
throngs in the glory of English summer
and I smile at the men with diamante
earrings as I leave feeling optimistic. But
then even that scrap of hope is tainted
when a few days later the media is full of
reports of a young woman raped in the early
hours after leaving this very place.
My bittersweet safari is over n
The Sunday Times Magazine • 23
JOURNEY’S END The mortuary at Catania cemetery in Sicily where the bodies of 22 migrants await burial.
Right: victim #13 in a photo recovered from her mobile phone
Vittima #06
Vittima #07
Vittima #08
Vittima #09
Vittima #10
Vittima #11
Vittima #12
Vittima #13
This woman is one of 14,000 migrants who have died trying to cross
the Mediterranean to reach Europe since 2014. Johannes Laubmeier reports
from Sicily on the grim quest to identify her — and thousands like her
The Sunday Times Magazine • 25
was wearing black when she drowned. A
black top under a black long-sleeved shirt,
black jeans and black leggings. She had
dyed her dark hair lighter. Her socks were
multicoloured. She was between 30 and
40 years old — but that is all that is known
about her. It is believed that she was
Eritrean, but no one knows for certain
where she came from, nor how she came
to board a small wooden vessel, packed
with hundreds of people like bottles in a
bathtub, near the Libyan town of Zuwara
in the summer of 2014.
She is one of the thousands of nameless
individuals who have perished on the
perilous crossing from North Africa to
Europe over the past three years.
What we do know is as follows: on
Sunday, August 24, 2014, a light-blue boat
named Abdol Rahman, meaning
“worshipper of the merciful” — 50ft long,
double-decked and crammed with at least
376 souls — capsizes in the Strait of Sicily
after taking on water. An image of the
stricken boat before it overturns is taken
from an Italian coastguard helicopter. It is
the third migrant vessel to sink that
weekend. Italian navy ships rescue 352
survivors and recover the bodies of 24 dead.
An Italian navy corvette, the Fenice, takes
the corpses to the port of Augusta, a town
near Syracuse in the southeast of Sicily.
A video from a local news channel shows
the Fenice’s arrival two days later: a truck
delivering coffins to the harbour; forensic
investigators wearing white boilersuits and
facemasks carrying them on board;
members of the Red Cross tending to the
survivors, Italian police — the carabinieri
— making notes and taking photos of the
migrants holding numbers in front of their
chests. Some of them are searching for lost
relatives — one, a woman from Eritrea,
#224, is frantically searching for her sister.
Behind blankets held up by policemen,
the bloated dead are placed in the coffins.
More photos are taken. Like the living, the
corpses are given numbers. The woman in
black is “Cadavere #13”.
After another two days, the files on the
numbered, nameless dead are brought to
A photo showing #13 in a dark red headscarf
(above) was retrieved from her phone (below).
The woman in the blue scarf is believed to be
survivor #224 (left), who police cannot locate
Angelo Milazzo, a police chief inspector
stationed in Syracuse. Fourteen men, six
women, four children — “persone
sconosciute”, unknown persons. Milazzo is
tasked with giving their identities back to
them — returning to them a shred of
dignity in death that was denied them in
life, and providing their families with the
solace of at least knowing what became of
their missing loved ones.
That was three years ago. Today,
Milazzo, a big man with a grey ring of hair
and piercing black eyes, seldom smiles, as
though rationing his happiness. Until
recently, he was part of a unit investigating
human trafficking and has experienced first
hand the crisis that has been overwhelming
southern Europe — and especially Italy
— for the past few years. According to
the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), more than
180,000 people arrived in Italy via the
Mediterranean in 2016. So far this year,
another 85,183 have arrived — 20% more
than in the same period last year. So
besieged is the country that, at the time of
going to press, it was threatening to close
its ports to international rescue ships.
It is not only the living that the Italian
authorities have had to manage. Some
14,000 refugees and migrants have died
trying to reach Europe by sea since 2014 —
more than 2,000 of them in this year alone.
The most dangerous journey is the “central
Med route” from Libya to Lampedusa and
Sicily. Eighty-eight percent of all people who
The causes of death are mostly the same. The identities:
mostly unknown. Migrant boats don’t have passenger lists
26 • The Sunday Times Magazine
drown are recovered here, where Africa and
Europe are separated by just 90 miles.
From his fifth-floor office window in the
Palazzo di Giustizia — the Palace of Justice,
a beehive of a building sandwiched between
apartment blocks and sunburnt plots in the
north of Syracuse — Milazzo, 58, cannot see
the sea. His office has become overgrown
with furniture over the years. Filing
cabinets are wedged in, all from different
decades. A poster hangs on the wall above
his desk, showing Italian navy ships in
formation — the same vessels that are now
rescuing migrants off Sicily. His bulletproof
vest hangs on a coat hanger in a corner of
the room, under a plastic cover, as if it was
cleaned some time ago and then forgotten.
Folders are stacked behind Milazzo’s
desk. They contain the files on each of the
victims of August 24, 2014. Among them
is the file on the woman in black. Milazzo
has written “Vittima #13” on the top —
victim number 13. Three years after her
death, her identity remains unknown.
The first time he saw the victims in 2014
was in the photographs taken by crime
scene investigators at the harbour. He still
has them on his hard drive. Chewing one
mint after another, he scrolls through the
harrowing images. Their faces are bloated,
their stomachs burst due to heat and
decomposition. Milazzo opens the file of
Vittima #13, betraying no emotion. People
in facemasks are standing behind a
discoloured, disfigured body in black
clothes. Milazzo quickly realised that these
photos wouldn’t help him. Two days in a
body bag on the deck of a ship destroy any
hope of identification. A dead end in the
investigation, early on.
ince the start of the migrant
crisis, Sicily’s forensic scientists
have been working without
pause. One of them, Antonella
Argo, a coroner at the general
hospital in Palermo, says the
post-mortem examinations she has
Above: the Abdol
Rahman was carrying
at least 376 people
when it capsized on
August 24, 2014.
Left: the police examine
photos of #13’s body
undertaken in the past few years have
almost exclusively been on the bodies of
migrants who perished at sea. Her
laboratory is in the basement of the
polyclinic. In the corner is a fridge.
“Migranti” — migrants — has been written
on it in black marker pen. It contains blood
and tissue samples. “The dead from the sea,”
Argo says, “have changed everything.”
During the first 22 years of her career,
Argo performed post-mortems on 300
bodies. Back then, she remembers, they had
a few accidents and murders a year. The
worst events were plane crashes, but she
only ever had to work on two of those.
Today, Argo and her team regularly have to
perform post-mortems on more bodies than
can fit in the morgue. When that happens,
they work outdoors in cemeteries. She does
not know exactly how many corpses she has
worked on since 2011. “Must have been
200,” she says, with a tired laugh. Her
assistant, Antonietta Lanzarone, has only
been working as a coroner for six years, but
has worked on as many corpses. Catastrophe
has become a part of their daily lives.
The causes of death are mostly the same:
drowning, crushing, suffocation. The
identities: mostly unknown.
Argo points at a desk in the low basement
room. On it is an aluminium bowl that holds
numbered plastic bags. They each contain
human bones, a piece from the wrist, a piece
of femur — 52 bags for 52 dead. “We will
have to test them all for their age,” Argo
says. Whether it will help put a name to the
dead, she does not know. “We just try to
collect as much data as possible.”
To identify corpses, post-mortem data
has to be compared with ante-mortem data
— information from before death. After a
plane crash, relatives can be contacted via
passenger lists. They are then invited for
a DNA test or asked to send in samples:
toothbrushes or locks of hair.
Migrant boats don’t have passenger lists.
On top of that, many of the dead come from
countries where relatives cannot be easily
reached. In 2015, a forensic team began to
identify the dead from a shipwreck off the
coast of Lampedusa in 2013 that cost the
lives of more than 350 people. The coroners
asked relatives of missing migrants to come
to Italy. Around 70 people came from France,
Germany and Switzerland. Twenty-eight
victims could be identified. No relatives
made their way from Eritrea or Syria.
After receiving the files, Milazzo went to
visit the survivors in a refugee shelter.
They were from 13 countries, including
Syria and Eritrea. Milazzo read out to the
survivors the descriptions of the dead
provided by the forensic investigators:
height, age, clothing, scars. Since Milazzo
only speaks Italian, interpreters had to
translate. It took three hours to read all
The Sunday Times Magazine • 27
the forms. He didn’t have much luck. Many
of the survivors had already moved on,
making their way to northern Europe. By
the end of the first week, Milazzo was able
to identify only three of the 24 victims.
A few days after the post-mortem
examinations of the victims from the Abdol
Rahman, a memorial was held at Lentini
hospital, close to the port of Augusta. Priests,
imams, a few policemen and journalists
attended. After the ceremony, the dead
were buried in cemeteries in the region,
depending on where there was space.
The migrants’ arrival has changed the
world of the dead as much as the world of
the living. The cemetery of Catania, a city
north of Syracuse, is the size of a borough.
Broad asphalt streets lead past graves
covered in flowers, guarded by images of
saints. Those rich enough own family
Right: Angelo Milazzo,
a police detective from
Syracuse, Sicily, has
tirelessly searched to
identify the dead.
Below: the unnamed
graves of refugees in
Catania cemetery
mausoleums the size of small houses.
Employees are buried in company
mausoleums, buildings that resemble
apartment blocks, with the employer’s sign
above the entrance. The migrants’ graves
are at the back of the cemetery, in a stony
area just behind the company mausoleums.
Long rows of small, plain mounds protrude
from the ground, next to stacks of freshly
cut branches. Some of the graves are
overgrown with weeds, others look as if
they have been filled only a few days ago.
On most of them, small brass signs indicate
that they contain three coffins.
More than 100 migrants are buried in
Catania cemetery, but only one grave has a
headstone with a name on it. The others are
numbered: PM 3900 06, PM 3900 07,
CT24, CT 23, CT 22. The cemetery worker
standing next to the graves doesn’t know
what these numbers mean. “The city
delivers the signs. I just stick them into the
ground,” he says. When I ask who visits the
graves, the man says that, so far, only
journalists have come to look at them.
Walking through Sicily’s cities, there is
little to remind you of the catastrophe that
is taking place off the island’s shores. This
stands in stark contrast to the way Sicilians
mourn their own dead. The death of a
Sicilian is a public affair. Over the entrance
of one house in Catania we find a banner
the size of a bedsheet. A young man who
lived here died recently. Now his face
beams down on the street he used to live in.
Mourning here is a civic duty.
hen Milazzo began
his investigation
into the people who
drowned aboard
the Abdol Rahman,
he worked full-time
— but only for a few days. After that, he was
made to move on to other cases. More
refugees were arriving every day, each one
of them a new case for the human trafficking
unit. But the fates of the drowned haunted
the detective, so he kept working, afterhours. It became an obsession. Some nights,
he slept for less than an hour.
After a while, he discovered that an
earlier set of photos had been taken of the
dead. Right after they were pulled from the
sea, the Italian navy had taken pictures of
the drowned. Milazzo opens another folder
on his computer and starts scrolling again.
In these pictures, the faces of the dead are
less decomposed — pale, framed by green
body bags. Milazzo is bending a paperclip
between his fingers. In one photo, a woman
stares into the camera, eyes open wide,
empty. She has foam around her mouth. The
body bag frames her face like a headscarf.
Milazzo bends the end of the clip, twirling
it between his fingers. Another image shows
a body bag containing two people: a man,
stretched out, a baby on his shoulder.
Milazzo bends the clip back. The photos
are similar to the pictures of saints you find
in roadside shrines all over Sicily: the
Madonna in prayer, St Christopher carrying
the baby Jesus. Milazzo only lets me look
for a short while. “You mustn’t stay inside
the pictures,” he tells me. The paperclip is
lying on his desk, twisted out of shape.
Milazzo also received the mobile
phones of the dead — including a red
Nokia from the woman in black — and
discovered that some of their memory
cards had not been destroyed by the sea.
More than 100 refugees are buried in Catania cemetery.
Only one grave has a name on it. The others are numbered
28 • The Sunday Times Magazine
Lives adrift: the central Med route
St ra
it o
Since the fall of Colonel
Gadaffi in 2011, Libya
has become a failed
state and a haven for
people-smuggling gangs,
who force their human
cargo — fleeing war and
poverty in the Middle
East and Africa — onto
rickety boats, in the
knowledge that they will
likely be rescued by
humanitarian ships or
naval vessels and taken
to Sicily. Last month, Italy
threatened to close its
ports to aid ships in a
crie de coeur for more
international support
Mediterranean Sea
He read the phones’ Sim cards and called
any recently dialled numbers. He made lists
summarising his findings — call connected,
no response, no connection. Number 13’s
list alone fills more than one page.
Milazzo searched the phones for photos,
selfies — frozen moments, evidence of life
before death.
He opens yet another folder on his
computer. The woman in black had indeed
taken photos on her phone. The first one
shows her in a living room. Under a red
headscarf she looks into the camera, head
angled, selfie pose, looking serious.
Another one shows her with friends or
relatives, five women in headscarves and
three men smiling at the photographer.
Milazzo pored over photos such as these
for clues, comparing them with the photos
given to him by the navy.
And then — a breakthrough. He thought
he recognised one of the women in the
picture as survivor #224, a photograph of
whom had been taken at the port; whom the
crime scene investigators had said had been
looking for her sister. Why had she not come
forward when Milazzo visited the refugee
centre? Perhaps she hadn’t understood what
was happening, perhaps she had already
moved on. Milazzo returned to find out, but
#224 had vanished. “Probably gone to
northern Europe,” they told him.
He believes survivor #224 was the sister
of #13 — and that she may still be
somewhere in northern Europe. He also
believes that another woman in the group
photo was aboard the Abdol Rahman and
survived — #323 — perhaps a cousin of
the victim. But he hasn’t been able to track
either of the women down.
The crisis
in numbers
migrants and refugees have arrived in
Italy via the Mediterranean since 2014
migrants have arrived by sea so far this year
migrants have died trying to reach Europe
by boat since 2014
migrants have died at sea so far this year
of all refugees and migrants who drown
are recovered on the central Med route
Over the course of his investigation,
Milazzo looked at these photos almost daily.
He kept searching the internet for missing
persons reports, monitoring Facebook
feeds and news websites from Syria, Libya
and Tunisia. On a Syrian website, he found
a list of 109 missing persons. He sent
questionnaires to those searching for their
loved ones, and received 170 answers,
complete with pictures and names.
He created a Facebook page with the
blue boat for its cover photo. He posted
snippets of photos, cropped in on details
such as clothing and jewellery. He learnt
a little Arabic, to communicate with
relatives. “Who knows someone with
a scar on their right arm or on their right
shoulder?” “Who knows the person who
wore this green, striped shirt? Please
contact via private message.” More than
500 people are following his page.
In November 2015, Milazzo wrote his
final report. He had been able to identify
21 out of 24 dead: 19 of them were from
Syria, one each from Morocco and Egypt.
He has written their names on their
folders. Following DNA analysis, one
more victim, a Syrian man, has since been
identified. He turned out to be the father
of two of the dead children. Another man,
whom he thinks he has identified, was not
recognised by his family. The only victim
whose identity remains a complete mystery
is #13, the woman in black.
Milazzo had worked more than 3,000
hours of overtime, and has since been
transferred out of the migration unit, but
his Facebook page is still there, and he still
checks it for any leads.
Asked whether it was all worth it, he
smiles for the first time. He takes his
phone out of his pocket and swipes
through a WhatsApp conversation.
Pictures of flower bouquets, one after
another. A Syrian lawyer sends them to
him every week since he was able to
identify his brother as one of the 24 dead.
Written below, in Arabic: “Thank you.”
But that is not what drove Milazzo.
“Searching for the names is an act of
humanity,” he says. Without certainty
about what happened to their relatives,
families cannot mourn them. Women
need their husbands’ death certificates to
remarry. Milazzo calls it “limbo”.
In the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
uses the word to describe the first circle of
hell, a prison for those who are neither
allowed into heaven nor into the
underworld. What Milazzo does not say:
the limbo he is talking about, the
uncertainty, has been his prison as well n
To hear Johannes Laubmeier discuss the
quest to identify #13, visit Magazine at
The Sunday Times Magazine • 29
It’s 2057. The global economy has collapsed.
Welcome to an experiment in Warwickshire
that imagines the worst. Matt Rudd spends
a week living in the dystopian future
30 • The Sunday Times Magazine
he year is 2057 or thereabouts
and the apocalypse has just
happened. It wasn’t the full
Hollywood apocalypse.
There were no zombies or
aliens or fast-mutating
viruses. This was a more
realistic end to civilisation as
we knew it. For one reason or other, the
global economy has collapsed.
There are no cars, no planes, no internet,
no ready meals and, worst of all, no electric
kettles. I am trying to come to terms with a
world where Mars bars, Nespresso capsules
and MasterChef no longer exist. It’s not all
bad. There are no traffic wardens either.
My home is a geodesic dome by a lake
somewhere south of what used to be the
cosmopolitan metropolis of Birmingham.
The dome is made entirely from materials
foraged from our recent hi-tech past. The
outer skin is a patchwork of metal triangles
cut from car panels. The inner skin is
recycled chipboard. I have an ancient wood
stove for warmth and cooking. I have a solar
panel to power a disappointingly small light.
I have a stockpile of tinned food salvaged as
the factory lines ground to a halt. I have a
mini-mountain of out-of-date Mr Kipling
cakes that are still more or less edible.
There is no iPlayer or Netflix or Amazon
Prime, so I read books on self-sufficiency.
There are no radiators, so I chop wood.
There is no whisky, so I’ll have to ferment
There is no Facebook, so I will have to
talk to actual people in actual person.
The dome is real, even if the apocalypse
isn’t. It is called the Clearing and it is one
of this year’s most ambitious social
experiments. The brainchild of two artists,
Tom James and Alex Hartley, it shows what
we might lose and what we might gain if
things go awry for humanity.
Set in the grounds of Compton Verney,
a splendid 18th-century mansion now open
I wake at 3am to the
sound of an owl. If the
world breaks down,
you’ll all be looting the
baked beans aisle. I’ll
be stockpiling earplugs
to the public, it’s quite the juxtaposition,
as if Mad Max just made camp on your
croquet lawn. Over the year, it will offer
tens of thousands of visitors the chance to
step into the future for an hour or two. But
I’m here for longer. I’m one of the project’s
caretakers, installed for a week at a time
to keep things running. In my time here,
I must survive without the technology
we’ve all come to rely on. It might be hell.
Or it might not …
When I arrive, the Capability Browndesigned gardens are closed to visitors, so
I have the place to myself. I open a tin of
beans, sit on the dock of the lake and relax.
Apart from the occasional honk of a passing
goose, it is quiet, blissfully quiet.
Inside, I find the ultimate hobbit hole,
a hotchpotch of homemade furniture,
freecycled old cupboards and cabinets, and
a comfortable bunk at the top of a bespoke
ladder. As night falls, I happily sweep my
new home clean (no Dyson, only a broom)
and fire up the miniature stove. It seems
unlikely that such a small heat source will
warm the place up, but within minutes it’s
snug. This is why igloos are dome-shaped.
It’s why all new homes should be, too. It is
remarkably efficient. As I drift off to sleep
at 9pm (no phone screen to mess with my
melatonin), I’m thinking, happily, if this is
how the end of times will be, bring it on.
It doesn’t last.
I wake at 3am to the sound of a nearby
owl twit-twooing. I wake at four to the
sound of pheasants mating or fighting or
both. I wake at half four to the sound of
something, not a zombie, snuffling around
the deck. If and when the world breaks
down, you’ll all be looting the baked beans
aisle. I’ll be stockpiling earplugs. I wake at
five because I went to sleep at nine. The
dome is cold. It takes 20 minutes to build
up the courage to leave my sleeping bag, 20
more minutes to get the stove going and
another 30 to semi-boil the kettle and make
a cup of tepid tea. There is no sugar. Maybe
the apocalypse won’t be so great after all.
On my first full day in residence, a
constant stream of day trippers flows in and
out of my hobbit hole. The reaction to the
apocalypse falls broadly into three groups.
The children, of course, love the idea of
living in a dome with a wooden ladder
leading to a “supercool” bunk bed.
“Even if you can’t have your iPhone?”
I ask a boy taking a picture on his iPhone.
“Yes,” he says, teacher’s-petishly.
“They’re bad for you anyway.”
The Sunday Times Magazine • 31
“Would there still be school?” asks
another and is visibly disappointed when
I tell her there probably would be.
The greyer-haired visitors also react
positively, drawn out of pure nostalgia to
the idea of a post-tech age. They regale me
with tales of ye olde days of butchers,
bakers and candlestick makers. They fondly
remember a time when there were two TV
channels, two lanes on a motorway and two
pints of milk on your doorstep each morning.
“Technology hasn’t made life easier,” says
one chap in a splendid blazer and panama
hat. “You can have your internet banking,
your Kindles and your call centres. I’d be
happy sitting by this lake with a good book.”
The third group of visitors is everyone in
between and their response is generally
more sceptical. Catastrophe will always be
averted. If fossil fuels do run out, we’ll find
alternative energy sources. Elon Musk will
come to the rescue. Nuclear power isn’t
going to run out any time soon. Keep calm.
Everything will carry on.
When Tom James, one half of the brains
behind the Clearing, drops in to check on
his installation, I pass on this scepticism.
“This is just one version of the future,” he
suggests. “It might not happen. But as we
saw in the financial crisis, it doesn’t take a
lot to cause a crisis. The more globalised we
have become, the more interdependent.
The result is that systems are fragile. One
malfunctioning cog in the machine could
be enough to bring it all crashing down.
“If Russia turned off the gas to Europe,
for example. Or if one of our nuclear plants
flooded. Or if, during the next financial
crisis, the government didn’t have the cash
to bail out the banks.”
James argues that the complex structures
of modern food production are also
BARE NECESSITIES Matt Rudd takes a breather in his “hobbit hole” with a cup of tepid tea
vulnerable to relatively unapocalyptic
events. “In February, aubergines and
courgettes disappeared from supermarket
shelves because of a bit of inclement
weather in Spain,” he says. “What would
happen if Spain had a more significant
flood? It could be far worse than a few
weeks without eggplants.”
He is adamant we can’t go on consuming
at the rate we are. He uses headphones to
illustrate his point. In July 2016, Apple
celebrated the sale of its billionth iPhone.
If its products lasted a lifetime, it would
now be struggling to find new customers
that could afford £700 for a phone. But
Apple expects each of its phones to be used
for three years. Then, please upgrade. One
of the main innovations of its latest model
Could we survive on other planets? Eight
people lived in a sealed mini-world for two
years to find out. Anthony Sattin reports
32 • The Sunday Times Magazine
is the jackless headphone set. Overnight, the
millions and millions of plug-in headphones
that had been perfectly fine the day before
were rendered, if not entirely obsolete,
then certainly outdated. “One step closer
to landfill,” as James puts it.
In the Clearing’s version of the future,
small low-tech factories will develop to
manufacture basic, supremely durable items:
the 100-year torch, the indestructible radio,
the run-flat bicycle. The things that we used
to throw away will be kept and prized.
There is already enough Ikea cutlery to
keep us in knives and forks for millennia.
We’d be all right for Allen keys, Lego and
Colman’s mustard, too. Cliff Richard
Christmas albums would be passed down
through the generations like heirlooms.
n September 1991, four
women and four men
wearing dark-blue boiler
suits climbed through the
sort of steel door you see
on submarines. On the other
side lay Biosphere 2, the
largest sealed environment ever
built (Earth is Biosphere 1). This
engineering triumph, a soaring,
curvaceous glass-and-steel
structure in the mountains
beyond Tucson, Arizona, was to
be their home for the next two
years. A 3.14-acre mini-world
divided into different biozones
according to their proportions
on planet Earth. There was
rainforest, savanna, desert,
mangrove swamp, an ocean with
a coral reef and a farm where
they would grow their own food.
They were hoping all the
greenery would produce oxygen,
or it wouldn’t be long before they
were gasping like landed fish.
The eight people survived two
years inside and, in the process,
proved that it is possible to
recreate our world elsewhere —
on the moon, for instance, or Mars.
The generation who lived
through the Cold War had a very
real sense, as we do now, that our
world might be destroyed or
become uninhabitable. While
Nasa had devoted resources to
putting men on the moon, John
Allen, a dreamer from Oklahoma,
understood that the next step
would be Mars, because humans
were more likely to be able to
survive there. But how? To create
a laboratory to study how nature
works, and investigate the viability
of closed-system living, he
secured funding from a Texan oil
billionaire for the $150m structure
unchtime on day three. Beans again.
I’ve spent part of the morning
fishing — unsuccessfully, hence
beans — and part of the morning
reading. One huge advantage of the
collapse of modern society appears
to be that we will have more leisure time.
There will be work, of course. Chores will
be undertaken without the convenience of
dishwashers, washing machines, toasters,
waffle makers or Nutribullets. And over
the year, the Clearing will evolve to mimic
the evolution of a postmodern society.
Composting loos will be built (for now, I get
to sneak off to the visitor centre), food will
be grown and reared, water-filtration
systems will be implemented, and so on. It
won’t all be fishing and reading, but no one
will be pulling a 50-hour week.
Instead, we will return to something
approximating to the preindustrial work/life
balance when, as the sociologist Juliet
Schor has argued, “the tempo of life was
slow, even leisurely; the pace of work
relaxed. Our ancestors may not have been
rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.”
A medieval working day stretched from
dawn to dusk: eight hours in the winter,
16 in the summer. Ouch. But the toil was
intermittent. Your average peasant would
have a long breakfast, a long lunch, a long
dinner and a long afternoon nap, with extra
breaks in the morning and the afternoon for
good measure. Holiday entitlement was
generous: Christmas, Easter, midsummer,
copious saints’ days and “ale weeks” to mark
weddings, christenings, deaths and harvests
added up to at least a third of a year bunking
off. From the 21st-century perspective of
desk-based slogging (those who sit the most
have a 17% higher mortality rate than those
who sit the least), it sounds marvellous.
(the same project would cost
more than $1bn today).
The eight-person crew
included serious scientists and
ecologists. Training included
installing the marshland, ocean
and wilderness in their new
home. Two British women, Sally
Silverstone and Jane Poynter,
ran the farm. An American, Taber
MacCallum — the youngest at
But before we all start praying for the
apocalypse, there are a couple of low-tech
spanners. If the world’s multinational
manufacturing systems collapsed, so too
would our multinational pharmaceutical
companies. Medicine and medical
treatment would not revert entirely to
the gory days of the Dark Ages, but you
wouldn’t be able to pop a couple of
Nurofen the morning after the homebrewed vodka. Fillings would be tricky
(some clove oil and a hand drill?). Hip
replacements, pacemakers, statins, brain
surgery, keyhole surgery, chemotherapy
and vaccines would all go because they are
too high-tech. We would die younger.
“Yes, but generally we would be
healthier,” says James. “Diets would be
much better. We’d be more active. There’s
a lot about progress that is not good for
our health.”
As the days pass pleasingly slowly, I settle
into a more natural, monkish ebb and flow
of time. It helps that it’s so picturesque,
that I still have the comfort of knowing
that dentists still exist, that I could pop out
to KFC if I ran out of Mr Kipling supplies.
I would be twitchier if that had all gone.
And, of course, this whole vision is wildly
One advantage is that
we will have more
leisure time. It won’t all
be fishing and reading,
but no one will be
pulling a 50-hour week
27 — set up an analysis lab.
The oldest, Dr Roy Walford, 67,
was a medic, responsible for
everyone’s health — and sanity.
Each crew member had their
own apartment and outside
interests from yoga to chess to
making music. No wonder the
creators of Big Brother cited
Biosphere 2 as an inspiration for
the show. The crew spent much
Biosphere 2’s
ocean zone was
designed to
simulate a
Caribbean coral
reef ecosystem
optimistic. The idea that there would be
an orderly transition in the event of global
catastrophe is extremely far-fetched.
In April, Japan experienced a potato
shortage. Within hours of the news
breaking, crisps in Tokyo were selling for
£8 a packet and then the shelves ran
empty. Some people had lots of crisps.
Others had none. The same thing
happened with iceberg lettuces here in
February. In times of fear, we react
selfishly. Billionaire preppers are already
buying large swathes of New Zealand and
filling their underground bunkers with a
life’s supply of luxuries. If and when
everything unravels, it would be simply
smashing if we switched seamlessly to a
futuristic, co-operative version of The
Good Life. But it’s a long shot.
On my final evening, a security guard
comes to say goodnight. It’s 7pm and I’m
about to be all alone again. I’m looking
forward to it. I’m more relaxed than I’ve
been in months, possibly years.
“Not completely alone,” he says,
helpfully. “There’s a headless lady who
roams the grounds at night. We’ve all
seen her.”
This time, I don’t fall asleep at nine. I lie
there wide-eyed in the weak light of the
solar-powered lamp, listening out for the
footsteps of the decapitated Compton
Verney ghost. I don’t believe in ghosts, but
there’s something about living in this
strange place and time, 40-odd years into
the future, alone, that gives me the creeps.
At midnight, there is a noise, a definite
noise. I clamber down the ladder and arm
myself with an Ikea fork. I finally drift off in
the small hours thinking it might be easier
if we avoided the apocalypse after all n
of their days farming: raising pigs,
goats and chickens, and growing
vegetables, grains and fruit.
Two weeks in, Poynter lost the
tip of her middle finger hulling
rice. Walford reattached it, but
the graft didn’t take and she was
taken out for surgery. The press
cried foul, insisting that they
wouldn’t be able to do that on
Mars. There were other problems:
the coral reef was attacked by
algae, many of the pollinating
insects died, the potato crop was
wiped out by mites, a bush baby
escaped and was electrocuted.
But oxygen levels were the big
problem: they lost seven tons of
oxygen. As Poynter explained:
“We had put too much carbon in
the soil in the form of compost. It
broke down. It took oxygen out of
the air, it put CO² into the air.” The
crew panted through the sort of
oxygen levels usually found on
mountain tops.
Farming required up to 20 hours’
labour a week from each member,
but they managed to produce
only about 2,200 calories a day
by their second year. So they lost
weight. But during their two years
inside, cholesterol, blood sugar,
insulin and blood pressure all
decreased significantly.
Biosphere 2 revealed many
things. Some, like the viability of
closed-system living, were
intentional. Others, including the
way coral regenerates, were
unexpected. The most important,
the interconnectedness of all life
on Earth, was revolutionary. The
crew left in September 1993.
Today, the structure still stands,
housing science experiments
by its current owners, the
University of Arizona n
The Sunday Times Magazine • 33
Your guide to moder
The sting
Simon Barnes on
nature’s big con
Shrimp on
the barbie
Bill Granger shows how
to grill like an Aussie
Alto ego
The jazz saxophonist
YolanDa Brown wants
to be a racing driver
Ferrari isn’t kidding
with the 812, says
Alistair Weaver
n liv
The Sunday Times Magazine • 35
How it feels to...
infants (under one
year) die in Britain
36 • The Sunday Times Magazine
… come to terms
with losing a child
When her 10-month-old son, Teddy, died from a rare genetic
condition, Kerry Parnell refused to dull the pain — or throw her
own life away. Instead, she fought to become a better person
know exactly how Charlie
Gard’s parents felt as the life
of their 10-month-old son hung
in the balance last week. Like
Charlie, whose parents have been
fighting a legal battle for him to be
given an experimental treatment
in the US, my son, Teddy, was
born with a rare genetic condition
that was diagnosed when he was
a few days old.
We lost Teddy, our muchanticipated first-born child,
when he was only 10 months old
— in 2013, after an unsuccessful
heart operation.
Teddy had an aggressive form
of infantile Marfan syndrome,
which affects the connective
tissue in the body, the most
serious being that found in the
heart. Without a clear prognosis,
we began a torturous journey over
the next 10 months of endless
hospital visits and tests. We were
determined to do everything,
contacting experts in the US —
just as Charlie’s parents, Chris
Gard and Connie Yates, have done
— until, little by little, our hope
faded away.
But this is not about Teddy’s
medical journey. This is about
what happens afterwards. After our
existence and his had shrunk to
the four walls of a tiny hospital
room. After the hope slowly
drained away, along with the life of
my beautiful boy. After I looked out
of the window on that last sunny
morning of the day he would die,
and noticed the wind gently
blowing the leaves in the trees. He
would never see them, never feel
the breeze, the warmth of the sun
on his skin. Instead, I would walk
out of that hospital without him,
and the revolving door would spit
me into a too-harsh light that
threatened to sear my soul.
Losing a child is against the laws
MOMENT OF JOY Kerry (right) and Antony look on as their son, Teddy,
is entertained by clowns in Sydney Children’s Hospital, Australia, 2012
of nature. It is not meant to
happen. And it’s a sorrow almost
too acute to articulate.
“I can’t imagine what you are
going through,” was the stock
response of people offering
condolences. I hated that phrase.
It made me feel alienated, as if
I were experiencing something
otherworldly, alone.
So here it is: this is what it’s like
to lose a child. And this is what it’s
like to carry on living.
Any bereaved parent will tell
you they would have sacrificed
everything for just one more day
with their child. If saving their
life meant torching your house,
your possessions, your job, you’d
do it in an instant. Never will you
Never will you
have so much
clarity about the
meaning of life
than when you
are at your
child’s deathbed
have so much clarity about the
meaning of life than when you are
at your child’s deathbed. Nothing,
absolutely nothing, is worth more
than the love of your family.
And if, in that black vortex of
pain immediately after his passing,
there had been a big red button
presented to me saying “Press for
death”, I would have done, so that,
like the actress Debbie Reynolds
— who died last year the day
after losing her daughter, Carrie
Fisher — I could hold my child
again in heaven.
There are vials to help you fall
down the rabbit hole, of course;
a choice of medication to dull
the pain. But I didn’t want to
drown out Teddy’s memory in a
sea of shiraz. And I couldn’t give
up. Because after fighting so hard
to give him one more day of life, it
seemed wrong to throw mine
away. So, instead, I started again.
Teddy’s legacy was to make me
a better person. He changed my
life by showing me what
unequivocal love is.
My partner, Antony, and I were
living and working in Australia
after moving there from Britain
for the second time in 2004.
We first met there in the 1990s,
when we had both stayed in
Sydney after travelling.
Before Teddy, I cared about
such fripperies as having the
right car, clothes and shoes.
After he died, we returned to
our house in Sydney’s eastern
suburbs, with our brand new car,
designer clothes and bloody
Bugaboo, but not him. It was like
a veil had been lifted and for the
first time I could see life clearly.
I was surrounded by soulless,
meaningless “stuff ” that we’d
mistakenly thought provided
the structure of our life. None of
it would make a life raft through
that tidal wave of grief.
And so the lessons I learnt
were how to find happiness in
the everyday, not to stress over
unimportant things, and how to
find a level in life where you can
just “be”. I became a harder yet
kinder person. I went on to have
two daughters, even though, as an
older mum, I’d thought that Teddy
would be my only child.
I resigned from my senior job as
lifestyle editor on an Australian
newspaper and we moved our
little family back to the UK, into
a cottage in the countryside, in
search of a simpler life. I work
from home, so I can spend this
transient time with my daughters
before they grow up. Every day
we go for a walk and look at the
leaves on the trees.
One of the first things I did after
Teddy died was start a charity in
his honour. Having never been in
any way philanthropic, I felt driven
to do something to help families
like us, suspended in a twilight
zone between life and death.
Team Teddy supports critically
ill children and their families in
hospital in Australia, by showing
them someone is thinking of them.
We’ve bought sleeper chairs for
parents on wards, renovated a
room in a Ronald McDonald
House (sponsored accommodation
for families near hospitals),
provided iPads for children having
operations. But one of the simplest
and most profound ways we help
is to send cardiac babies beautiful
bunny soft toys to cuddle, of the
type Teddy loved so dearly.
Although the charity is for
Australian hospitals at the
moment, I hope to extend it to the
UK this year.
As for my stupid designer shoes,
I threw them all away. I don’t need
those for the path I walk now n
To donate, search for Team Teddy at
Top: the writer Kerry
Parnell’s charity
supports babies
born with congenital
heart defects. Above
centre: Chris Gard
and Connie Yates
with their son,
Charlie, in April
The Sunday Times Magazine • 37
The journalist and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, 57, and his
daughter Emily, 23, a blogger, on growing up with Top Gear,
clubbing with Dad, her stalker and how to sweet-talk an irate cop.
Interviews by Clare Conway. Photograph by Anna Batchelor
38 • The Sunday Times Magazine
and leapt into the car to help with
Lisa [Clarkson’s girlfriend — he
split with Frances in 2014]. She
even threw in her ball gown. Trust
her to think that would be useful.
The centre had too many clothes
anyway and wanted bedding and
toiletries, which we didn’t have.
Em lives in London now, but she
was raised in Chipping Norton.
It was an idyllic place to bring up
kids. There was a big garden with
a stream and lots of pets to ignore.
There were visits to London every
now and then where Em would
stare with wonderment at city life
and I’d think: “Oh dear, I have a
daughter who points at taxis.
She’s got to get out more.”
We’d often get stopped in the
street, though I’d use the children
as an excuse not to engage. Now
it’s selfies, and I still say, “Sorry,
I’m with the kids,” and they look at
Emily and must think, “But she’s
23!” Each selfie is three minutes by
the time you’ve got their backstory
and heard about their cars. Just get
the f****** camera out.
Emily is the oldest of three. It
Emily at her London
flat with Jeremy and
her dog, Bua. She
says her dad is the
“funniest person I
know”. Left: Jeremy,
his then-wife, Frances,
and baby Emily, 1995
Fatherhood didn’t seem all that
complicated to me. I thought,
“I’ll be able to do that,” because
everyone else does. But when
Francie [his then wife] went into
labour, I was stuck in Iceland
with only two flights out a week.
Luckily it was the world’s longest
labour, so by the time I eventually
got home, Emily still hadn’t been
born. I was asleep when Francie
called at 2am to say there would
be a caesarean section. “Are
they doing the operation
imminently or immediately?”
I asked. “Imminently,” she said,
so I went to the loo, cleaned my
teeth, showered, stopped to put
petrol in the car — and then
discovered that, actually, she
meant “immediately”. Emily was
halfway out when I got there.
She was a little mouse of a
thing and utterly perfect. The
world’s most stubborn human had
been born. She gets it from her
mother, who is quite immovable.
We were going to call her
Boadicea, but we decided at the
last minute that it would be unfair
to call a child Boadicea — too
pretentious. Now I think Boadicea
would have suited her better.
Emily is really outspoken, and
you’d never believe it, but her
natural instinct is to be shy. But
then I am shy too. She covers it up
well. I always used to say to her the
most important thing is to make
people laugh, because it means
you’re thinking of other people
and want to make them happy.
She’s got a huge heart. When the
Grenfell fire happened, she cleared
out her wardrobe, filled five bags
makes me cold inside to think
the kids’ childhoods were affected
by me being on a car show, but
I suspect they probably were. They
wanted to be normal children and
would change their names when
we went away on holiday so people
wouldn’t know they were
Clarksons. Em wouldn’t tell
anyone she was my daughter until
they became friends.
She worked her socks off in
school and got good grades, then,
in her usual stubborn way, she
refused to go to university. Instead
she said she would move to
London and write a blog [Pretty
Normal Me, which focuses on
women’s fashion, beauty and
health]. I know plenty of thin
women in Chelsea who run blogs,
but I didn’t think an 18-year-old
could do it. I was wrong about that.
I am incredibly proud of her. My
heart is 16ft across with pride for
how well she’s done. She is a
hilariously funny writer, with a
great ability to be flippant at the
end of a sentence.
The trolls can be brutal. As a
father, knowing there are people
lashing out at your children online
and in the comments sections of
papers for no reason is just
hideous. The Mail chose to put a
picture of Emily in a bikini in the
paper recently. Did they have to
do that? They did it to Francie as
well. Why does she deserve that?
Then of course Lisa gets “Mmm,
money”. When I read the barbaric
things they say, I am consumed
with the need to find them all
and bludgeon them to death. In
my mind they are greasy-haired,
fat men living with their mothers.
I used to feel very sorry for Em,
but she has worked out a way of
dealing with it.
The big difference between Em
and me is she likes to obey rules,
whereas I was appallingly badly
behaved when I was young, broke
every rule and got expelled from
school. I love being in trouble.
Of course I embarrass her. At a
New York airport once, I decided to
address the security woman at the
same volume she was talking to me.
I assumed she was hard of hearing
when she bellowed: “Name?”
So I bellowed back: “Clarkson.”
Emily obeys rules,
whereas I was
appallingly badly
behaved when
I was young
“Daddy stop!” “Jeremy!” I shouted.
That said, Em isn’t always well
behaved. There was a marvellous
time when she turned 18 and
I took the family to Nevada for
a holiday. Of course, she couldn’t
drink — the age limit is 21 — but
she could smoke. On the way
home, we were having a cigarette
in the smoking lounge at Las
Vegas airport. A woman came in
and said: “I need to see some ID,
ma’am. There’s a gaming machine
in this room.” Em listened to
this and said: “Oh, f*** off.” And
I thought: “This is not going to
end well.” The next thing, three
policemen had carted her off and
she was in a bit of a panic. I had to
step in. I did my usual “Our young
men and your young men” speech,
where I go on about our great
countries having fought together
for freedom — even the freedom
Emily on Jeremy
He breathes very
loudly in lifts. Like
Darth Vader. I don’t
hear it anywhere else.
It’s really weird
Jeremy on Emily
I’m not in a position
to criticise, but she
smokes more than I
do. There’s a nervous
energy that goes into
her smoking. It’s sort
of her shyness
to have a cigarette. It always works
with policemen. They put their
hands on their hearts, stand upright,
and then they let you go. I’ve got
away with lots of speeding tickets
with that speech. But telling
anyone in America to f*** off when
they’ve got a uniform on never
ends well. She knows that now.
Em worries about me and my
job, which is nice, but there is no
need — it’s just driving and
talking. It’s no more dangerous
a job than a man with a ladder and
it’s only ever Richard Hammond
that crashes. I’ve never had cause
to lie awake at night worrying
about her. My mother always
used to say, you can only ever be
as happy as your least happy
child, which is a clever thing.
Em’s never been the least happy
child. She’s been a perfect child
and I’m very, very lucky.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 39
His only rule
has been that
I can’t date
someone who
drives a motorbike
40 • The Sunday Times Magazine
From the outside, anyone would
want to be Dad’s daughter. Boys
would say: “Jeremy Clarkson
would be the best dad ever.” But
I was happier being me and doing
it on my own. At my prep school,
a girl would sit next to me and I’d
think: “Yes! I’m in with the cool
kids.” Then she’d say: “Did you
know me and Jeremy Clarkson
have the same birthday?” And I’d
think: “Oh, that’s what this is.”
I’ve got my own career, and have
a book coming out [about absurd
expectations on modern women],
so when it comes to trolls now,
I say: “Come at me!” But there was
a time when all I’d done was be
born a Clarkson. The day of my
school-leaver’s ball, Dad wanted to
buy me a dress, which was really
sweet. We went shopping and
afterwards we were in Notting
Hill having a coffee and a fag. He
didn’t force the cigarette into my
mouth, he doesn’t like that I
smoke, but I was nearly 18 and it
was my choice. The next morning,
paparazzi photos came out and
the top-rated comment was:
“It looks like Jeremy Clarkson’s
daughter has eaten Richard
Hammond.” I was 40lb heavier than
I am now, so insecure — and also
hungover from the ball. I thought:
“Good God, hello world!”
I see the flak Dad gets on Twitter
and it doesn’t bother him. He
laughs at the haters. I couldn’t do
that for ages, but I’m much better
now. Maybe it’s because I’m in my
twenties, I have lots of friends and
a boyfriend, Alex, whom I adore.
I am happy with myself.
There was a crazy time when
I was 15 that I’ve tried to block out.
My family had been at a carnival in
the Isle of Man. Someone had seen
me and must have thought, “That
life looks nice, I’m going to befriend
Frances, Jeremy
and Emily in 1996
I’m the oldest of three, born at
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
When I was still a baba, we moved
to Chipping Norton. It was a
lovely life in the country; the
house was open to everyone. We
were always in the garden, even
though my dad and little brother
had crippling hay fever.
I was the classic oldest child:
among my family I have the
nickname Saffy, from Ab Fab,
because I’m the sensible one. I’m
really bossy, but also shy and
conscientious, which is an odd
combination. I think that’s my two
parents. They split me down the
middle. I am stubborn and
opinionated like my dad — but
hopefully share his funniness too.
Dad is much more shy than
people give him credit for. He was
quieter at home than he is on TV,
but probably because he was tired.
He’d go off to work in London on
a Sunday night, filming, writing
scripts and newspaper columns,
and would be back on a Thursday.
My friends were surprised he
wasn’t always cracking jokes and
that he’d listen to you. He’s also
surprisingly good at shopping and
appreciates fashion more than
Mum. He would take me and my
sister Kat to buy cowboy boots and
leather jackets. We’d leave shops
feeling like the dog’s bollocks.
I went to school in Oxford and
then to boarding school at Rugby.
I wasn’t bullied, I had friends,
but I also felt left out a lot, which
I think happens to most teenage
girls. I hated the sound of my own
voice and was nervous about
sticking out.
When I was 15 — and this still
makes me want to cry — I went to
a party back in Oxford where I
didn’t know anyone. I had some
heels that were too high and I felt
great. I walked in and the Top Gear
theme tune started. I thought:
“Oh my God, they’re all talking
about me.” The whole night, I sat
with the mum of the guy whose
party it was, trying to brush it off.
I don’t blame people. And bless
Dad, it would kill him to hear that.
her.” I had a message on Facebook,
from a guy who said he’d gone to
school with me and was now in the
army. We messaged all the time.
Mum was suspicious. She asked
around and found out that this
person wasn’t in the army. So she
read the messages between us.
Imagine your flirty attempts to
impress someone becoming your
mum’s business. Then she said,
“Your dad’s reading them too,” and
I needed the ground to eat me.
Mum found out who the person
was: a female student. It was so
weird. Mum suggested I go to
schools to discuss being safe online,
but I haven’t wanted to face it.
When you’re a child you think
your parents are indestructible.
I do worry sometimes about Dad.
After Richard’s crash the other
week, I spoke to Dad and at the
end of the call said, “Be safe,”
which I never do. The time when
Top Gear went to Argentina, with
the angry mob outside the hotel,
was scary too. He rang me to say,
“Love you.” He was fine in the end.
He adores cars and he’s happy
making other people happy.
It was really sad when Dad left
the BBC because Top Gear was
his baby. He was so stressed about
that. We’d go for lunch once a
week and not talk about anything
too heavy. Mainly, Dad was
unemployed and bored. One time,
he and my brother decided to cook
a complicated Vietnamese soup. It
had 46 ingredients — and tasted
like chilli dishwater. Thank God he
landed on his feet with the Amazon
show. It is different to Top Gear,
more grown-up. It’s going so well
and I’m really proud of him. Dad is
so talented and I wanted him to be
proud of me when I wrote my
book. He texted me to say he was
enjoying a chapter called Dear
Boys. I thought, “Oh God!” It’s
very personal. Our relationship
has always been pally, though.
I’ve been with Alex for 4½ years.
Dad was quite awkward the first
time Alex came to stay with the
family in the Cotswolds. He said,
“OK, cool, great,” when I told him
on the phone, and, “Gotta go now,
bye.” He likes Alex. His only rule
has been that I can’t date someone
who drives a motorbike.
Deep down, Dad’s really soft and
kind. And although he’s got a big
enough ego already, I still tell him
he’s the funniest person I know n
Can I Speak to Someone in Charge?
by Emily Clarkson is out now
(Simon & Schuster £12.99)
Tough love
Upset that his mum keeps dating married men,
a young man seeks advice from Emma Barnett
You need to talk
am in my twenties, and
Q Ihave
a terrible relationship
of divorces are
granted on the
basis of infidelity
Emma wants to hear
from you. Write to
her with any problem
across work, love
and life — tough
love will be doled
out accordingly.
Email askemma@
or send her a message
via the Sunday
Times Magazine
Facebook page
with my mother. We argue.
She shouts and cries. I am
“emotionally removed”. She
cannot understand why I treat
her the way I do. The truth is,
I do know why. I am aware of
her several relationships with
married men and I have little
respect for her because of it.
She was a single parent and
I’m her only child. I became
aware of her relationship with
a married family friend when
I was 14. I have since learnt of
three subsequent relationships
with married men who have
young families. I have said
nothing. It disgusts me that she
can risk fracturing a family like
our own has been fractured, or
that she can do that to the poor
wives. And of course there is the
natural repulsion from learning
of your mother’s sexual exploits!
It is beginning to tear away at
me. Do I tell her I’m aware of her
transgressions? I don’t think
I can ever forgive them, so what
would be the point?
I think she knows you know.
Deep down. Well, at least
about the relationship that
happened while you lived at home
— perhaps not the next three.
She’s not stupid, far from it —
especially if she managed to nail
caring and providing for you as
a single mother while holding
down these “secret” relationships.
Have you ever thought that she
could be waiting for you to do the
mad and brave thing and ask her
about her actions? She may not
want to raise it herself because
she’s ashamed, wants to protect
you, or is still holding out a naive
hope that her only son doesn’t
know about her other life.
You are both obviously highly
skilled at keeping secrets. I am
struggling to comprehend how,
in the heat of these regular
emotional jousts, you haven’t
blurted out your knowledge.
I would have done so by now —
I just couldn’t have helped myself.
And while it would be icky to talk
about one’s parent’s sex life, that’s
not what’s really bothering you,
but the idea of your mother as a
homewrecker. And I get that.
Parents are meant to protect us
and all children. They are meant
to set an example and live some
kind of pure life devoid of
scandal. Plus, none of us wants to
have a mistress for a mother.
I deliberately use that word, as
opposed to “adulterer” — the
word you used in the subject line
She could be
waiting for you to
be brave and ask
about her actions
of your email — because mistress
is a more accurate description of
her role. It is the men cheating on
their wives who are the adulterers,
and I make that point only to
remind you that they are the ones
actively choosing to cause harm
to their family unit. Your mother
is firmly single; technically, she is
doing no wrong. But morally you
feel that, by not telling you, she
has cheated on you. That’s why
you loathe her — just like a
scorned wife or husband.
So what to do? You need to tell
your mum that you know. And
that it has been the pressure of
this knowledge that has eaten
away at the goodness of your
relationship. You actually don’t
need to say much more than that
because it’s her time to talk.
Chances are the truth will be
better than your fears. Or perhaps
it could be worse. But you need to
hear her side of the story. I don’t
know her, but I will make this
appeal on her behalf: let her speak
and please listen. She doesn’t need
to explain herself, but from your
description of how upset she is
about your rows, she’s obviously
a woman full of feeling.
If she accords you with the
respect of an adult-to-adult
account of her experiences —
hopefully sparing the gory details
— you can either choose to be
childish or work on forgiving her.
Perhaps you will never be OK
with her actions, but I bet they
were never designed to hurt you.
If you can swallow your hurt and
disappointment, I think you will
be able to take your mother’s
private choices less personally.
She obviously loves you
enormously (you don’t fight if
you’re indifferent), which isn’t
something to chuck away,
especially when you’ve been such
a tight unit of two all these years.
Being the bigger person, even
when you’re the child, can be the
kindest and most cathartic thing
you can do for yourself ■
Emma presents BBC Radio 5 Live
Daily, Wed-Fri, 10am-1pm
The Sunday Times Magazine • 41
The record distance
a person has walked
on their hands in an
eight-hour period, set
by Sarah Chapman, in
Glastonbury, 2002
A handstand class helps develop core strength and
balance. Matt Rudd feels vertically challenged
Downward trend
he last time I attempted a
handstand, it was the summer
of 1997 and my arms buckled.
I came round to the sight of a
girlfriend trying and failing not
to laugh at my misfortune.
Handstands require strength,
stamina, flexibility and balance,
attributes I am unlikely to have
developed in the intervening
decades. Yet here I am, in a
hand-balancing class, about to
attempt a handstand.
We have already spent half an
hour building up to the moment.
The class had begun with a variety
of stretches, as if that’s going to
help. Then there was a plank, then
a plank with your feet against the
wall, then a plank with your feet
walking up the wall and your arms
walking towards the wall to a point
where you’re as close to vertical as
you can manage.
Some of my classmates got very
close. I made about 60 degrees
before the flashbacks started.
I must have looked as if I wanted
to leave, because the instructor
came over to offer encouragement.
I hate it when this happens.
Sammy Dinneen is a circus
artist. He is as specifically
impressive as you’d expect a man
who has “made a career in
handstands” to be. He looks more
at ease on his hands than his feet.
If these were medieval times, the
villagers would have thrown him
in the river long ago.
“You’ll be fine,” he says when
the class partners off to begin
wall-free handstanding. “I won’t
let you fall.”
I try to remember all the
techniques he’s taught us —
anchor leg, straight arm, lunge,
kick. And then, bravely, I go for it
and I’m up. Sammy is holding me
like I’m a pre-iceberg Kate
Winslet, but I don’t care. I’m
handstanding. I’m young again.
“You weren’t straight,” says
Sammy, unimpressed.
He holds his arm on a depressing
diagonal. “Your brain is so worried
about going all the way over, it
makes you think you’re vertical
when you aren’t. Try again.”
This time, I give it the full
Cirque du Soleil. It feels as if I’m
way, way past the vertical, but he’s
right. It’s my chicken brain playing
tricks. This time, I’m straight.
“Hold it for 15 seconds,” says
Sammy. He counts the seconds
very slowly. My shoulders, arms,
hands, fingers and fingernails burn,
but then it’s over. I feel elated.
I could cry, but I don’t because it’s
time to have another go.
Four longer handstands later,
I’m getting the hang of it. Sammy
is holding me less like a doomed
lover, more like a rapidly cooling
third date. The fear is evaporating.
By the end of the class, I can see
why this is such an effective way to
exercise. From now on, I shall be a
regular handbalancer. By the time
I get home, the rush of blood is
over. I have a cup of tea instead ■, £20;
Simon Barnes Black and yellow stripes: nature’s warning sign
42 • The Sunday Times Magazine
ave you ever set off a car
alarm by accident? Paaarp!
Paaarp! Paaarp! Keep off, keep out,
don’t touch, go away! Makes you
jump. Makes you wary of ever
laying your hand on a car again.
The horrible warning has drilled
itself into your brain.
There are insects all around us
that work the same trick. But they
do it visually. They shout in black
and yellow stripes: keep off, don’t
touch, go away! And whether
you’ve been stung by a wasp
before or not, you give the insect
instant respect.
We have a vast bed of catmint
in the garden, planted for its
mesmeric attractiveness to
insects, and it’s constantly in
motion from the visits and
revisits of flying things — so
many of them flashing black and
yellow messages at you.
And here’s the wonder of it:
they’re not all the same. Not the
same species, not the same family,
many not even closely related.
Wasps, of course, but also
honeybees and bumblebees and
solitary bees and spider-hunting
wasps and digger wasps and more
and more and more.
Some animals avoid danger by
hiding, these avoid danger by
flaunting. The bright, unmissable
of children aged
11-16 walk to school in
England. For journeys
under a mile, it is 87%
Shaming tardy teenagers is draconian. Schools need to
understand what makes them tick, says Lorraine Candy
Behind the times
ho knew we had a behaviour
tsar for schools? Not me —
until he was interviewed recently
for this newspaper. Tom Bennett
says he believes in introducing
punishments for pupils who are
continually late for school. He
advocates making persistent
offenders mop floors or clean up
chewing gum. And teenagers
arriving at “a hundred o’clock” —
as mine are wont to say when they
are catastrophically late — should
be made to walk to school with
their parents (oh, the shame!).
Many local authorities are even
preparing fines for parents of late
arrivals — drastic measures that
get results, says Bennett. But
surely such dictatorial tactics are
destined to backfire? I fear this
“whatever it takes” teaching
culture contradicts new thinking
on positive discipline for ever
more anxiety-prone children. It
feeds a reward/punishment cycle
that produces short-term gains,
but ignores the underlying causes
of some behavioural problems.
I am the parent of a consistently
tardy teenager. My 13-year-old
daughter has even been late for
the detention she got for being
late. Our other three children are
good timekeepers, so this is a
curious conundrum. Even
personally delivering my daughter
to the school gate does not
guarantee punctuality in the
classroom. Rewarding her for
being on time or punishing her for
being late has proved ineffective.
Now, after reading about the
theory of positive discipline, we
have started to explore her daily
procrastination more thoroughly.
The psychology is to make
children feel more responsible for
themselves, while engendering a
sense of belonging at home and at
school. You provide them with a
structured chore rota, encourage
teamwork and a “we’re all in this
together” spirit. Based on the
work of the Austrian psychologist
Alfred Adler in the 1920s, you sign
up for “four steps for winning
co-operation”. Empathy is the key:
instead of blaming a child for bad
behaviour, ask what they are feeling
and express understanding. The
most useful solutions may come
from the child themselves. It also
suggests you should stop doing so
much for your child. I used to pack
my daughter’s bag in the morning;
now I let her organise herself.
Research shows that treats for
good behaviour create approval
junkies, motivated by self-gain,
whereas punishments only serve
to create punishers. The rise in
suicide, self-harm and depression
among children in the UK
suggests the prevailing teaching
culture that prizes instant results
is not as effective as it could be.
And what of the children who are
perpetually late due to a myriad of
upsetting family reasons rather
than because they are simply lazy?
Humiliating punishments such as
floor-mopping seem like a step
backwards, not forwards, to me ■;
that there’s a sting in the tail (unless you’re a hoverfly)
patterns send out a message: I’m
dangerous. I sting.
All these dangerous species
looking just the same, it’s called
Müllerian mimicry, named after
the German naturalist Fritz Müller,
who proposed the concept in 1878.
And here is the most nimble
flyer of them all, also black and
yellow, landing for a moment on
the back of my hand — and I move
not an inch. Certainly, he’s clad
as if he’s spoiling for a fight, but
underneath those frightening
colours I know he’s as gentle a soul
as you could wish to meet.
This is a hoverfly, a master of
flight, which acts as if the air is
something you can perch on.
A feeder on nectar and pollen
that travels boldly about the world
with no more weaponry than
Mother Teresa. Hoverflies wear
black and yellow, but it’s a bluff.
When a harmless species pretends
to be a dangerous one, it’s called
Batesian mimicry, after the
19th-century English naturalist
Henry Walter Bates, who first
spotted the trait — not entirely
unknown in human life — in
butterflies in the rainforests of
Brazil. So there you are: not one
but two of nature’s marvels, no
further away than a flowerbed ■
The Sunday Times Magazine • 43
The Dish
Fire up the barbecue for these five dishes from an Aussie expat
A blast of Bondi in
your back garden
Bill Granger
You can share and
save recipes from
our digital editions
44 • The Sunday Times Magazine
fter living in Britain for eight
years, I’ve come to have
reasonable expectations of summer
barbecues. I refuse to let the
weather stop me, though, even if we
don’t always eat outdoors. I like to
use a barbecue as an extension of
my stove, just like I do in Bondi.
In the restaurant world, too,
grilling over fire is all the rage. At
Kiln, in Soho, everything is cooked
on an open flame. In Sydney, there
is Firedoor, where the British chef
Lennox Hastie burns different
woods for different flavours. All of
this is wonderful in a restaurant,
but for the home cook, barbecuing
is about getting flavour into your
food as conveniently as possible.
While purists might be horrified,
I love the ease of a gas barbecue.
These recipes feature marinades
and dressings that complement the
charred flavour from a barbecue.
They also suit the warmer weather
and remind us of all those Asian
influences we so adore back in
Australia. While we don’t always get
the hot, dry weather in Britain, what
we do get are those long summer
evenings that really can’t be beaten.
Eat your heart out, Bondi.
Granger & Co is now open in
prawns with rice
noodle salad
To serve
¼ daikon, peeled and finely sliced on
a mandolin (optional)
1 large fennel bulb, sliced crossways
on a mandolin
1 small red onion, sliced crossways
on a mandolin
A handful of dill, leaves picked
A handful of Thai basil,
leaves picked
A handful of roasted cashews,
01 Leave the heads, tails and shells
on the prawns and snip along the
back of each one to allow the
marinade to penetrate.
This is a play on that Vietnamese
classic — Hanoi turmeric fish.
It uses a little of everyone’s
favourite anti-inflammatory
superfood: fresh turmeric. If
you can’t find any, a teaspoon
of powdered turmeric will do
the trick. Watch your summer
whites, though.
02 Place the prawns, turmeric,
agave and olive oil in a bowl.
Stir to coat the prawns, cover
and chill in the fridge for 30
minutes. Place the vermicelli in
a bowl and cover with boiling
water. Soak for 6-7 minutes, then
drain and refresh under cold
water. Stir through the sesame
oil and season with salt.
03 To make the dressing, pound
the chilli, garlic and ½ tsp sea salt
in a pestle and mortar to a rough
paste. Add the lime juice, olive
oil, vinegar, agave and 1 tbsp
water and whisk until combined.
Alternatively, put all the
ingredients in a blender and blitz.
4 people
16 large raw tiger prawns
2 tsp fresh turmeric, finely grated
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tbsp olive oil
125g rice vermicelli
1 tbsp sesame oil
For the dressing
1 green chilli, deseeded and
roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
04 Thread the prawns lengthways
onto skewers (if using wooden
ones, soak them in water
overnight). Barbecue until cooked
and lightly coloured. Serve the
noodles topped with the daikon,
shaved fennel and red onion, and
pour over the dressing. Top with
prawn skewers and sprinkle over
the dill, basil and cashews.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 45
broccoli with
yoghurt and
chilli oil
Kohlrabi is one of those
underused vegetables. I love it
because it has a mild flavour for
a radish and provides a fresh
textural counterpart to the
smoky grilled broccoli.
4 people
100g yoghurt
2 tbsp olive oil
400g tenderstem broccoli
1 small kohlrabi, peeled and shaved
with a mandolin (about 100g)
2 tbsp pistachios, toasted
Zest of ½ orange
The Dish
For the chilli oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, roughly chopped
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
01 To make the chilli oil, place the
garlic, chillies, olive oil and a pinch
of salt into a blender and blitz to a
paste. Set aside.
02 Season the yoghurt with a
pinch of sea salt and 1 tsp olive oil,
then set aside.
03 Toss the broccoli in the
remainder of the olive oil and
add a pinch of salt. Barbecue for
2 minutes each side, until
charred. Spread the yoghurt over
a serving dish, then add the
broccoli and kohlrabi. Sprinkle
over the pistachios and finish
with a drizzle of the chilli oil and
some orange zest.
Fish burgers
with green
chilli mayo
Barbecue season is not complete
without a burger, but this fish
burger is a bit more Bondi-body
beautiful. If you’re really watching
your carbs, serve with big cups of
iceberg lettuce instead of the buns.
4 people
46 • The Sunday Times Magazine
For the green chilli mayo
100ml good-quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp tinned jalapeno peppers,
roughly chopped
A squeeze of lime juice, to taste
For the fish burgers
30g fresh ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, base and outer
layer removed
30g coriander stalks
650g firm white fish
350g raw prawns, shelled and
Zest of 2 limes
1 large red chilli, deseeded and
finely chopped
To serve
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin
40g watermelon radishes (or use
candy-striped beetroot), shaved
with a mandolin
4 brioche rolls
½ iceberg lettuce, cut into quarters
A handful of coriander leaves
01 Mix all the mayo ingredients
together in a bowl and set aside.
02 To make the burgers, place the
ginger, lemongrass, coriander and
white fish in a food processor and
blitz until finely chopped but not
quite smooth. Stir the prawns,
lime zest and red chilli into the
mixture and season with salt and
pepper. Shape into four patties,
cover and place in the fridge until
ready to cook.
03 Lightly oil the fish patties.
Griddle on both sides for 4
minutes, remove and allow to rest.
Combine the rice vinegar and
mirin and lightly dress the radishes
or beetroot. To serve, lightly toast
the brioche rolls. Spoon on the
green chilli mayo to the base of
the bun and sit the burger on top.
Add a helping of lettuce, coriander
and radish to the burger, then top
with the lid of the brioche.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 47
Chopped salad
with miso
This is my go-to lunch, which we
serve in Granger & Co. Add some
barbecued tofu or halloumi and
you have a complete meal in one.
4 people
For the baked chickpeas
440g tin of chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp za’atar
Char siu-style
pork ribs with
maple chilli glaze
The glistening red barbecue pork
in Sydney’s Chinese barbecue
restaurants is always enticing. The
glaze is a good all-purpose pork
marinade that’s perfect for chops
or leaner pork fillets and steaks.
The Dish
4 people
48 • The Sunday Times Magazine
For the pork ribs
4 cloves of garlic, crushed with the
flat of a knife
4 tbsp gochujang (red chilli paste)
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1kg pork ribs (about 2 racks)
For the salad
8 breakfast radishes, finely sliced
1 small green courgette, finely sliced
A handful of mint leaves
A handful of coriander leaves
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped red chilli (optional)
01 Combine the garlic, gochujang,
hoisin, maple syrup, soy sauce,
rice vinegar, sesame oil and
five-spice powder in a large bowl.
Divide the mixture in half and
toss the ribs through one half to
coat. Cover and leave to marinate
in the fridge for 2-12 hours.
02 Heat the oven to 160C (non-fan
180C). Line a deep roasting tray
with foil, place a wire rack on top
and add 1cm water to the tray.
Place the ribs on the rack and cover
securely with foil. Roast for 2
hours, brushing with the reserved
marinade every 30 minutes.
03 Remove the ribs from the tray
and finish them on the barbecue,
turning and basting until the meat
is caramelised. Alternatively, you
can finish the ribs in the oven by
removing the foil lid 15 minutes
early and cooking uncovered.
04 Meanwhile, put all the salad
ingredients in large bowl and
toss to combine. Lift the ribs
onto a board and chop into pieces
to serve alongside the salad.
For the dressing
50ml tahini
1 ½-3 tbsp white miso
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
For the salad
3 cobs of grilled corn, kernels removed
3 medium courgettes, cut in half
lengthways, grilled and chopped
200g cabbage, shaved with
a mandolin
200g broad beans, shelled and
blanched, or use edamame beans
200g cooked beetroot, diced
3 Lebanese cucumbers, cut at an angle
1 punnet of pea shoots
1 punnet of yellow tomatoes, halved
01 Heat the oven to 220C (non-fan
240C). Toss the chickpeas in the
olive oil and bake on a tray for
15-20 minutes until they start to
brown. Place in a bowl, season
with za’atar and sea salt and
leave to cool.
02 Combine all the dressing
ingredients in a bowl with 40ml
cold water and whisk together.
Serve the vegetables on plates
with 3 tbsp dressing on top and
finish with 2 tbsp chickpeas n
The Sunday Times Magazine • 49
The Dish
A perfect blend of
zingy spices and
fruity flavours
only get
Candice Brown
You can share and
save recipes from
our digital editions
Rhubarb and
plum muffins
I’ve always loved muffins and
these are particularly flavoursome.
Cooking some of the rhubarb first
with cardamom and fresh ginger
gives the muffins a gorgeous
moistness as well as an amazing
scent. I think plums are
underrated and this recipe gives
them a starring role alongside the
rhubarb. You can also sprinkle
some oats on top if you’d like a
crumble texture.
9 muffins
200g rhubarb (half chopped into
1.5cm pieces, half diced)
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cm piece of ginger, grated
100g soft unsalted butter
200g golden caster sugar
1 egg
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp baking power
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
200ml whole milk
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
50 • The Sunday Times Magazine
2 large plums, destoned
(1 diced, 1 sliced)
Plain flour, for coating
1 tsp demerara sugar
01 Heat the oven to 175C (non-fan
195C). Place 9 muffin cases into a
muffin tin.
02 Put the 100g chopped rhubarb,
crushed cardamom pods, freshly
grated ginger and 2 tbsp of water
into a small saucepan and cook
over a low heat for about 5 minutes
until the rhubarb has softened,
then allow to cool. Remove the
cardamom pods.
03 In a large mixing bowl, beat the
butter until light, then add in the
salt, the cinnamon and ginger,
add the milk and yoghurt and
then the rest of the flour. Mix
well, but do not overmix.
07 Fold the flour-coated fruit
through the mixture, then
distribute evenly between the
9 muffin tins.
04 Add the cooled, cooked
rhubarb and mix through.
06 In a small bowl, put the
chopped rhubarb and plum
and sprinkle over 1 tbsp flour.
Toss together until they are
08 Fan out 3 slices of the plum,
place on top of the muffin and
sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen
and golden brown ■
05 Sieve in half the flour and the
bicarb, baking powder, a pinch of
caster sugar and continue to whip
until very pale and fluffy. Add in
the egg — if it starts to curdle, add
an extra tablespoon of flour.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 51
Madame D
London E1
Lisa Hilton
eirdre the Swedish sommelier
and I went to the Venice
Biennale recently. We saw a picture
of some yetis protesting against
CO2 emissions at the Latvian
pavilion, silhouette puppets from
Mexico, a film of a witchy lady
creeping spookily round a church
pew from Ireland and a pine
playhouse from Uruguay. In the
Danish pavilion, we were invited
to pretend that we were seeds
growing into plants, just like
primary school, except we didn’t
have to wear our vests and pants,
while in the Shaman installation
we were given a variety of musical
instruments to experiment with.
Deirdre was excited about the
Icelandic pavilion, where we were
hoping to meet two giant trolls, but
she had to leave early to organise
the wines for a funeral wake. I said
I’d make it up to her by taking her
to lunch at Madame D’s, a new
Himalayan place in Shoreditch.
“Legend has it,” I read eagerly
from the website, “that they drove
her out of her home in China ...
She reached India using the only
currency she knew, opium. She sold
her last batch to the smuggler she
met in Tangra, Calcutta, so he
would smuggle her to London.”
Yet I was so distracted by her
adventures that I didn’t read the
52 • The Sunday Times Magazine
The Dish
76 Commercial Street, London E1 6LY;
020 7247 1341,
Tue-Sat: 6pm-11.30pm
Naga chilli beef puff
Haka chilli paneer
Himalayan fried
Tiffin masala lamb
noodles with fried egg
Date pancakes with
stem ginger ice cream
Two scoops of
ice cream
For two, including
12.5% service
site properly, and we turned up to
find the place is closed at lunch.
Deirdre was not amused. “Why
have you dragged me to the East
End, anyway? It’s just like the West
End, only further from my house.”
Madame D is the second
restaurant by Devina and Harneet
Baweja, the founders of nearby
Gunpowder, so the manager
suggested we went over the road
to eat. “It will be like crossing the
Himalayas,” he said encouragingly.
“You can have the Indian side
now and the Chinese side later.”
Installed at Gunpowder, we
ordered a spicy venison doughnut,
which looked like an albino sea
urchin stuffed with mince, a bhuna
aubergine and crispy kale salad,
a delicious pulled-duck pancake
popping with zingy coriander
seeds, an egg masala, and aloo chat,
which resembled a potato pudding
striped with caramelly tamarind
sauce. Apart from the duck, the
food ranged from dull to disgusting:
the kale was inoffensively dreary,
the chat actively horrible. The
same sauce appeared to have
been glooped indiscriminately
over most of the dishes, rendering
them as uniformly unappealing
as spicy cat food.
Deirdre refused to accompany
me back to Madame D, even when
I offered to treat her to a Solero on
the way to the Tube.
Rather like the biennale, which
has stopped even pretending to
show art and has instead become a
sanitised playground for grown-up
toddlers, restaurants don’t seem
to be just restaurants any more.
We need a narrative, a backstory
to coddle us into playing Let’s
Pretend. Sometimes one can
simply ignore this — the Zetter
bars in Clerkenwell and
Marylebone are respectively the
lairs of “eccentric Great Aunt
Wilhelmina” and “Wicked Uncle
Seymour”, but they still serve great
drinks, while the Beaumont in
Mayfair, purportedly the creation
of a fictional chap named Jimmy
The pompous
conceit of Madame
D’s invented
history substitutes
for any ability in
the kitchen
Beaumont, who fled Prohibition
Manhattan in 1926, remains as
seamlessly elegant a place to dine
as one could wish for.
In the case of Madame D,
however, the pompous conceit
of its invented ancestry, which
apparently substitutes for any kind
of ability in the kitchen or effort in
the decor, is infantilising to the
point of insult. Like the “fungus
garden” grown from mouldy
coffee at the Israeli pavilion, you
just feel they’re taking the mickey.
Madame D is a walk-in on
Commercial Street, with a cocktail
bar downstairs and an enticing
sign to the Dining Den upstairs.
The den obviously took less time to
decorate than it took to come up
with Madame D’s crappy history.
There’s Anaglypta-effect stucco
on the walls and a goldfish bowl
behind the standard stark modern
bar, with an exotic touch added by
one of those paw-waving cats you
can buy in Chinatown for £2.
Louche and cosmopolitan it is not.
The wine list appears to have
been carefully selected from the
cold fridge at the Tesco Metro
checkout. I glimpsed Gunpowder’s
head chef, Nirmal Save, carrying a
plastic tub of what I think was the
same sauce I’d tried earlier. At least,
it seemed to appear on every one
of the monotonous, inept plates
dumped before me at the bar.
I’ve had better Pot Noodles than
the fatty, high lamb masala with
fried egg, while the sauce rode
again behind the broccoli in garlic.
I think they’d boiled it in the
dishwater from the masala plates.
Fried chicken — a desiccated claw
with an oily lime vinegar — at least
offered variety, but the sauce
turned up for an encore inside a
flabby beef dumpling. It was just
about edible, and if I’d had it for
a tenner off Leicester Square after
a night on the lash, fair enough, but
the bill, with drinks, came in at
nearly £100, at which point the
price and pretension choked me.
The staff were nice enough —
as nice as they might have been in
Wahaca, Honest Burgers or
Ottolenghi, all of which can be
found in what used to be London’s
epicentre of cool. I asked the
manager what he knew of the
mysterious Madame D. After
some thought, he informed me
brightly that she was a refugee.
That’s all right then: the migration
crisis solved in a dim sum.
In Venice, the artists’ collective
inability to confront reality was
sublimated into play. We live in a
scary world, so here are some giant
building blocks to fiddle with. In
place of art that communicated
independently, we were offered
endless convoluted explanations
as to why inflatable swans were a
lucent and meaningful comment
on the present. The press pack for
the Central pavilion alone weighed
about 6lb. Madame D is trying
the same trick: substituting
narrative for content. It’s easy
enough to laugh at the arrogance
of the biennale, since we have
become accustomed to
absurdity in art galleries, but the
regressive conformism of the
pavilions has found its parallel in
the gastronomic nadir that is
Madame D. Its patronising inanity
is tasteless in every sense n
An unassuming Indian
restaurant near Epsom
serving knockout food
at out-of-town prices.
The chef and owner,
Sanjay Gour, worked at
the Michelin-starred
Gymkhana and
Tamarind, having
trained with Angela
Hartnett at Murano.
This stellar heritage is
apparent in Dastaan’s
menu, which includes
“all-time favourite”
curries and dishes
such as duck-andguinea kebab — but
without Mayfair prices.
447 Kingston Road,
Epsom KT19 0DB;
020 8786 8999,
Aussie rules the
pommy palate
Will Lyons
e drink more wine from
Australia than from any
other country. In 2016 we got
through an astonishing 300m
bottles — even more than we
drank from the United States
and France, according to the most
recent figures from the Wine and
Spirits Trade Association.
Australia is a vast country, with
varying climates, and its wines
come in a huge range of styles.
Lately, the country has made
enormous strides in the fine wine
market — bottles that cost £15
and upwards — and the quality
has never been better.
This week, I urge you to save
your pennies and trade up, because
there are some truly fascinating
wines to sample. It’s little wonder
we drink so many n
CO-OP, £10
Margaret River
Great value for money, this is packed
full of ripe blackcurrant, but doesn’t
overwhelm with too much alcohol.
About as elegant a Margaret River
cabernet sauvignon as you can get
your hands on in this price bracket.
3 2011 TYRRELL’S VAT 1
Hunter Valley
I have long been a fan of Bruce
Tyrrell’s fresh, racy semillon. Subtle
top notes of lime and citrus combine
with lively acidity and it finishes
deftly, dry and clean. This wine will
improve with age for many years.
Margaret River
Vanya Cullen has been farming her
family estate since 1983 and is one
of the most sought-after producers
in Australia. Her sensational semillon
abounds with citrus and floral
aromas, with a long and dry finish.
Margaret River
One of the priciest Australian wines
I’ve recommended, but Moss Wood
is an all-time great. Deep, velvety
red in the glass, with notes of
blueberries, blackberries and violets,
it has a rich, generous mouthfeel.
The Sunday Times Magazine • 53
The oh-so-smart devices
that need dumbing down
Helen Lewis
My old PC died and I
now have a Windows
10 machine that will
not play my game
disks. Can I get them
running once more?
CS, Bristol
Windows 10 will run
most programs for
older versions of the
operating system,
but because they
were written for lower
resolutions and fewer
colours, it can take
a little trickery. If you
load a disk and autoinstall fails to launch,
view the disk contents
— you’ll see the option
when you insert it —
and find the installer
software (it will end
in “.exe”). Right click
this, select Properties,
open the Compatibility
tab and click the
troubleshooter button
or select the correct
version of Windows.
Expect to do the same
to run each game.
Matt Bingham
Email your tech
queries to dontpanic@
54 • The Sunday Times Magazine
he tech industry is
understandably keen to
promote its successes, but can be
less keen to own up when it gets
things wrong. That’s a shame, says
Samuel West, director of the
Museum of Failure in
Helsingborg, Sweden, because
innovators need to learn from
their mistakes. Not least because
they seem to make the same ones
again and again.
West unofficially sorts his
exhibits into two categories: “silly
products”, such as an electric
beauty mask that applies shocks to
your face; and good ideas where
something went wrong in the
design, execution or marketing., a failed clothing site
launched in 1999, falls into this
group. It burnt through £80m in
venture capital, but its site was too
complicated to work on most
people’s computers. “The internet
wasn’t fast enough,” says West. “It
wasn’t possible to buy anything on
the site.”
West gets his ideas from
innovation conferences, where
there are always plenty of mad,
bad and strange ideas. Take the
repeated attempts to launch 3D
TVs, even though consumers are
unconvinced. Or the “smart bra”
— a fitness tracker built into your
underwear that was seen at the
Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas last year. It cost $169
(£130), rather limiting its appeal.
The word “smart” — meaning
“connected to the internet” — has
been misused time and again by
tech companies. Take, for
example, ovens that download
recipes, or fridges that tell you
when it’s time to buy more milk.
Not so much smart as
unnecessarily complicated. They
are also prone to being hacked
— think of all those baby monitors
turned into a botnet.
More than a fifth of Britons
surveyed recently said they did
not want a smart energy meter:
half blamed security concerns.
That’s a big challenge for the
government, which wants to offer
every household one of the
devices by 2020.
The moral: test the reaction of
real customers — as opposed to
focus groups — before you take
the plunge. West’s favourite
product in the museum is the
supposedly hi-tech “calorie-free
snack”. He adds: “You could eat as
many as you want, but it caused
loose bowels.” n
Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the
New Statesman. @helenlewis
Apps to change your life Learn to play songs by ear
£9.99, Apple
Learn to play any
uploaded track by
running it through
this app, which
analyses the audio
and creates chords for
what it hears.
Includes pro playback
and editing features.
Free, Apple
One way to learn a
song by ear is to slow
it down without
altering the pitch.
This app does just
that. Use it to break
down your favourites
or share your own
work with bandmates.
£4.79, Android;
free, Apple
This app has tabs and
chords for more than
500,000 songs (the
writers get royalties).
On Android, there is a
one-off fee; on Apple,
£3.99 a month gets
you all features. MB
From 3D televisions to too-clever ovens, innovators repeatedly
roll out ideas that either fail or ignore what customers want
Sleek and stylish all-in-one desktops beat
laptops for home working, says Matt Bingham
Living it large
Luddite’s guide to . . .
virtual reality headsets
Virtual reality (VR) promises to make gaming
more immersive, let surgeons operate
remotely and train pilots in lifelike settings.
But what does it cost?
Feeding similar but separate video to each
eye fools the brain into seeing a 3D world. The
view moves as you turn your head, adding to
the illusion. A headset the size of a scuba mask
houses a pair of video displays and lenses to
focus the images on your eyes, and an optional
controller lets you interact with objects.
apping away on a laptop might bring
kudos in the coffee shop but
portable computers are full of
compromises, including small screens
and keyboards, temperamental
touchpads and low-power chipsets to
prevent overheating. So, if you do your
computing at home, a desktop machine
is a wiser choice, and it doesn’t have to
look like a black box. These all-in-ones
look slick, use full-size, wireless
accessories, and add extras such as USB
sockets and the option of a more reliable
wired connection rather than wi-fi.
APPLE iMAC From £1,049
The computer that created the
all-in-one concept, the iMac, has
gained speed and hardware boosts for
2017. But it’s the screen — whether at
21.5in or 27in — that remains the star:
eye-poppingly sharp and bright, in
brushed aluminium, tapering at the
edges and with only a slight bulge at
the rear to give away that that is
where the actual computer lives, it
is sleek enough to fit into the
trendiest living space.
From £2,999
The Studio’s hardware lives in the stand
that holds a 28in touchscreen display. It
sounds expensive but you’re paying for
versatility. Pivot it flat and you’ve created
an electronic drawing board for use with
a stylus and a wireless control wheel;
push it upright, attach a regular keyboard
and mouse and you have a PC.
From £949
Based, like all here, around Intel’s latest
Core family of microprocessors, the
910’s hardware lives in the base, while
the 27in touchscreen can tilt more than
90 degrees. It’s a powerful PC in its own
right but can also do double-duty as a
second screen for a laptop or even a TV
replacement thanks to an HDMI socket.
Not if you use a smartphone
and Google’s Cardboard (£15, Cardboard
(by name and by nature) holds
an iPhone or Android phone
running a free app that splits
the screen into two feeds. Use
the app to find free VR content,
such as 360-degree videos on
YouTube. Google’s Daydream
View (£69,
works with selected Android
handsets. Use the wireless
controller to browse a virtual
art gallery or play games such
as Raptor Valley (£2.89).
Then welcome the Oculus Rift
(£499, and HTC
Vive (£759,, which
display high-res video from a
computer and let you move and
interact in startlingly real virtual
worlds using controllers and
wireless sensors. PlayStation
VR (£349,
works with Sony’s PS4 console
for gaming, with dozens of
big-budget titles available. And
Microsoft’s HoloLens (£2,719, imposes digital
objects on top of a view of the
real world — this is known as
augmented reality. Try opening
a spreadsheet by waving your
arms — it’s a real joy.
Hazardous inspections in space, under water or
on tall buildings could be done by robots sending
360-degree video to a VR operator safe in a
bunker. A doctor could operate a robo-surgeon
remotely. You could try on a virtual pair of shoes
before buying. Or, more likely, we’ll use the
technology to spend our time in virtual racing
cars thrashing a virtual Lewis Hamilton. MB
The Sunday Times Magazine • 55
The Weaver Review: Ferrari 812 Superfast
No turbos, but a
whoosh of F1 magic
Write to us at
driving@sunday-times., or Driving,
The Sunday Times,
1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF
for daily news and
reviews, plus more
than 450,000 new and
used cars for sale and
free vehicle valuations
56 • The Sunday Times Magazine
Alistair Weaver
urn off the stability control.
Pull a paddle to select first
gear. Kick the throttle with as
much force as you can muster.
Grab the steering wheel as the
Ferrari’s computer summons
maximum revs. Feel the rear
wheels start to spin. Glance in the
rear-view mirror as tyre smoke fills
the air. Then marvel at the
madness of it all — a £253,000
Ferrari with a “hooligan” mode.
Fiorano, Ferrari’s private test
track, is at the heart of its
Maranello headquarters. It’s
where Enzo Ferrari had a house,
where Michael Schumacher
did thousands of laps in a Formula
One car and where the
development driver Raffaele de
Simone and his team honed the
812 Superfast. Today it’s our
playground as the company
throws open its gates for the
car’s official launch.
Hooligan antics over, it’s time to
get serious. Fiorano offers a
challenging mix of corners and
undulations designed to highlight
a car’s bad behaviour as well as its
good. It’s the sort of place you
need if you’re to explore the
dynamic repertoire of a V12
Ferrari with 789bhp, which is not
far off what an F1 car produces.
Ferrari reckons that raw
performance is still the biggest
draw for its customers. And while
0-62mph times remain a talking
point (the 812 will reach 62mph
from standstill in 2.9 seconds, for
the record), in the rarefied world
of the supercar it’s the 0-124mph
figure that is the biggest source of
pride. The 812’s time is 7.9
seconds, which is more than six
seconds faster than the 550
Maranello managed in the 1990s.
For comparison, the 720S of the
British upstart McLaren covers
the same sprint in 7.8 seconds.
The 720S relies on a pair of
turbos to help the 4-litre V8
develop its thrust, but the Ferrari
has no such affectation. The 812’s
V12 is a gargantuan 6.5 litres, up
from the 6.3-litre unit in the
F12berlinetta the car replaces.
It won’t win prizes for ecofriendliness, but if you can afford
the juice, it’s a dose of old-school
charm. Ferrari reckons the V12 has
only a few years before it’s
overtaken by the rush to
hybridisation, so enjoy it now.
Nothing, but nothing, sounds
like a Ferrari V12. This engine
will rev to 8900rpm with a
cultured Italianate howl from the
quartet of exhaust pipes. If
anything, it sounds even better
outside the car than in, which is as
things should be: aficionados
reckon a Ferrari should be enjoyed
by everyone.
It’s old-school in other ways too.
There’s no four-wheel drive, but
The Weavometer
Ferrari 812 Superfast
thankfully there is no shortage of
electronic aids. The 812 offers five
driving modes, with varying
degrees of support. For example,
CT Off (that’s Italian for hooligan
mode, or, strictly speaking,
traction control off ) is designed to
let the car slip and slide, but not to
the point where you lose control.
This is the sort of trick Ferrari
learnt in F1, at least until such
systems were banned in the
interests of improving the show.
Not even McLaren, the firm’s
closest British equivalent, can
boast the heritage and F1 chic of
Ferrari. Buying an 812 won’t make
you Sebastien Vettel, but it will
make you feel part of a club. That’s
always been crucial to the appeal
of the Prancing Horse badge and
helps classic Ferraris sell for
millions at auction.
The technology found in
today’s machines is a match for
anything else on the road. For
exmple, this is the first Ferrari
with electrically assisted power
steering. When Porsche
introduced such a setup in the 911,
the owners’ club went into
meltdown. Ferrari admits it’s been
sitting on the technology for years,
until it could be certain it wouldn’t
provoke the same reaction.
The new system has a couple of
novel features, including a means
of adding weight to the steering to
let you know when the maximum
level of grip is about to be
exceeded. It’s even supposed to
encourage you to countersteer if
the rear end starts to slide.
6496cc, V12, petrol
Fuel / CO2
19.0mpg / 340g/km
789bhp @ 8500rpm
529 lb ft @ 7000rpm
0-62mph: 2.9sec
Release date
Early 2018
Top speed
Alistair’s rating
Head to head
Ferrari 812 Superfast v McLaren 720S (pictured below)
Top speed
I have to admit I found it hard to
detect. Anyway, if you need the
steering wheel to tell you that the
car is about to swap ends, then you
and your supercar are heading for
a costly excursion.
Don’t imagine, though, that
the 812 is difficult to drive. Even
with all the systems switched off
at Fiorano, it’s as benign as any
789bhp rear-wheel-drive car has
any right to be. Its sheer speed
demands respect, but you can
feel what’s going on. Whereas
the mid-engined McLaren
demands to be driven with
racing-car precision, the Ferrari
is a bit of a hoot.
Feel the nose bite, give the
throttle a prod and indulge in a
power slide. It won’t do much for
tyre life — I saw Ferrari changing
the boots after half a day on the
circuit — but it will make you
smile. You get the impression that
this was a car developed con amore.
The ride quality’s good, too,
especially in the comically named
Bumpy Road suspension setting,
while in Sport the paddle-shift
gearbox is unerringly smooth.
It’s in this duality of character
that the Ferrari scores over its
rivals. In a 720S or a Lamborghini
Aventador you’re forever
reminded you’re in a mid-engined
supercar. In the Ferrari, should the
mood take you, you can settle back
and be propelled with serenity to
the French Riviera. And you can
even take some luggage. A decent
boot is supplemented by a shelf
behind the seats.
If you’re thinking, though,
that it looks a bit familiar, that’s
because it does. Ferrari has
The Sunday Times Magazine • 57
adopted the habit of producing an
all-new model and then following
up with a sort of halfway house
after a few years. The 488 GTB is
thus an updated 458 Italia, and the
812 is a revised F12berlinetta, with
a bit of the F12tdf (Tour de France)
special edition thrown in. Car
makers have not always proved
adept at taking scalpels to their
beloveds, but Ferrari has
developed a knack for making
second-generation cars more
beautiful than the first.
Numerous scoops and intakes
are needed to cool the engine and
keep the car on the deck at the
211mph top speed, but it still
manages to look more elegant and
considered than the F12berlinetta,
especially if you avoid a lurid
colour scheme.
Inside, it’s the usual Ferrari
blend of posh leather, understated
good taste and eccentric layout;
even when you’re familiar with it,
it’s still far too easy to indicate or
turn on the windscreen wipers
when you least expect it.
As always with Ferrari, the
cockpit can be enhanced by an
options list that’s a work of art,
and most customers will spend at
least £50,000 on personalisation.
Our favourite extra is a screen in
front of the passenger that shows
the selected gear, speed and revs.
Like most Ferrari add-ons, it’s not
cheap, but what’s an extra £3,360
when you’re spending £250,000?
Like so much of the 812, it is
gloriously over the top. Viewed
objectively, a Porsche 911 does
almost everything the Ferrari does
for a third the cost, but that’s
never been the point of a V12
Ferrari. It’s an indulgence that will
give you a permasmile, whether
you deploy the hooligan mode or
not. You’re not buying a car; you’re
buying a piece of Italy’s cultural
heritage and one that won’t be
around for ever n
Jeremy Clarkson is away
Helpful additives and missing wheels
Air apparent
Anne Webster asks whether you
can avoid breathing in exhaust
fumes from other cars by setting
the cabin fan to recirculate
(“Exhaust note”, Letters, July 2). If
no exterior air is brought in, then
after a while the driver will run out
of oxygen, which is why a trickle
of new air is always fed in.
Jeremy Haworth,
Aldermaston, Berkshire
Added incentive
Despite the furore over diesels,
the emissions-reducing additive
AdBlue seems rarely to be
mentioned. If diesels emit less
CO2 than petrol engines, as was
claimed, then surely, with AdBlue
suppressing nitrogen oxides, they
are the better option.
Bob Langton, Middleham,
North Yorkshire
Email letters for
publication to driving@,
or write to Driving,
The Sunday Times,
1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF,
including your name,
address and phone
number. Letters may
be edited
Send your motoring
queries to
Compare notes with
readers who’ve had
car problems at tinyurl.
Spare a thought
I’ve just bought a new(ish) Honda
Civic and was disappointed to
find there is no spare wheel or
space-saver. I understand that, in
case of a puncture, you fill the tyre
with some gunk, pump it up using
the 12V compressor supplied and
drive to the nearest tyre fitter, who
will fit a new tyre and throw the
damaged one away. If you want to
take some control over your fate
by purchasing a spare, you hit a
problem: these cars don’t come
with a jack and a wheel brace. To
become truly self-sufficient, you
need to buy £70-worth of kit that
should have been supplied as
standard. Manufacturers are
making savings but customers are
having to find the solution.
Kevin Platt, Walsall
Tuning division
Several years ago it was
announced that Volkswagen had
collaborated with the band
Underworld on an app called Play
the Road, which uses data from
the Golf GTI’s on-board computer
and the user’s iPhone to create
music to match the driving. Does
anyone know what happened: will
the app be released?
Adam Dziuba, via email
The Driving Editor writes: Go to
to read about the project
Car Clinic
Your motoring problems solved
I’ve not had good reports about
the tyre sealant supplied with
my Mazda6. Is there a different
spray that would not mean the
tyre needed replacing after use?
GG, Ormskirk, Lancashire
Try Holts Tyreweld, which costs
£5 for 300ml or £7 for 500ml
(for 17in wheels and up) from It is approved by
the National Tyre Distributors
Association and, being waterbased, can be rinsed out before
the tyre is repaired. National
Tyres ( is one
company that is happy to repair
“foamed” tyres where safe and
legal, but some firms will not.
Sealant is no use on a large hole,
so you might prefer Mazda’s
temporary spare-wheel kit at
about £330. Dave Pollard
My Citroën C3 is sounding three
warning beeps after about two
miles of driving. Any ideas?
MD, Buxted, East Sussex
Beeping usually indicates a fault
but should be accompanied by a
warning light. As it isn’t in this
case, it suggests a problem with
the unit sounding the alarm (it’s
called the “BSI body control”).
First, try a sort of reboot; find out
how at Or
ask a Citroën garage. If that fails
and a garage thinks the unit is
faulty, it can be fixed by firms such
as BBA Reman (
It is also possible that a poor
connection or intermittent fault is
producing the beeps. Causes have
included the alarm switch in the
bonnet lock and poor contacts to
rear-light clusters. Tim Shallcross
The Sunday Times Magazine • 59
Me and
My Motor
Saxophonist YolanDa
Brown first tuned
into racing as a child
ith her fusion of jazz, soul
and reggae, the saxophonist
YolanDa Brown has won two
Mobo awards, and performed at
the Royal Albert Hall and the
Winter Palace in St Petersburg.
Yet all the time, she was secretly
dreaming of being a racing driver.
“Whenever anyone asks me
what I wanted to be growing up,
that’s always what I say,” laughs
Brown, 34, who is working
towards a racing licence and was
once described as “the Lewis
Hamilton of jazz” by Ron Dennis,
founder of the McLaren Formula
One team.
Born in Barking, east London, to
Jamaican parents (her mother was
a head teacher; her father worked
in advertising), Brown learnt to
play the piano, violin, drums and
oboe, before settling on the
saxophone. She also learnt to drive
a go-kart on Menorca, where the
family had a holiday home. “I’d be
there once a week or more in the
holidays, and I was always beating
my uncles and my younger
brother. I was fascinated by racing
lines. In the end it wasn’t like a
race; it was more strategic. Then
I’d finish and realise I had the
fastest time as well, as a bonus.”
She finally found her way into F1
in 2012, when she shot a music
video in a Formula 3 car at Brands
Hatch that caught the eye of
Dennis, then boss of McLaren.
Brown performed at his birthday
party and spent a day behind the
scenes at Silverstone, meeting F1
teams and drivers. Over the years
she has tried her hand at singleseat racing cars and racing Minis
and she often goes on track days.
Brown got her provisional
driving licence and a Rover Metro
for her 16th birthday and passed
her test at 17. Just hours after the
test, she collided with another car
at a junction, writing off the
Metro. “It was an awful moment.”
She replaced it with a Citroën
AX. “I was extra, extra-proud of
that car — it had alloy wheels and
sports seats. I loved it — until it
died on the M2, when the timing
belt snapped, on the way back to
university in Canterbury.”
Her next car, a Peugeot 307,
died the same death a few years
later. “I work my cars hard.”
By that time Brown was
studying for a PhD in business
management. Music, however,
which had been a way of boosting
her student finances, began to take
centre stage. The PhD was put on
hold. “In the early days, I was the
one driving the tour bus,” she
recalls. “It was me and my band
— a group of fairly muscly men.
When we were supporting the
Temptations, we pulled up at the
venue and they gave all the guys a
telling-off for making me do all the
driving. After that we used to swap
seats just before we arrived.”
Brown won Mobo awards in
2008 and 2009 and played for
Dmitry Medvedev, then president
of Russia, in 2011. A year later her
debut album, April Showers May
Flowers, shot to No 1 in the iTunes
jazz chart. Her new album, Love
Politics War, also mixes jazz, soul
and reggae, with slightly more
emphasis on the last — a style she
dubs, jokingly, “posh reggae”.
Brown and her music promoter
husband live in north London
with their three-year-old daughter.
“Since having my daughter, I’ve
bought a Volvo XC60. I’ve never
felt fear on a racetrack but I
remember the first time I drove
after having my daughter, and just
having this tiny feeling, which
I had to put down to fear. All of a
sudden you have responsibilities.”
That said, if McLaren-Honda
ever needs someone to fill in for
Fernando Alonso again, Brown is
your woman. “I’m there like a
shot,” she grins n
Interview by Emma Smith
YolanDa Brown’s album Love
Politics War is out now. For tour
dates, see
Rover Metro
Citroën AX
Peugeot 307
Volvo XC60
(main picture)
Porsche Cayenne
Turbo S
The Sunday Times Magazine • 61
Karl Lagerfeld told
me: “Forget about the
past, always focus on
the future and your
dreams will come true”
Be nice to everyone
because some day
that person could be
a high-profile editor
Being a fashion
designer is not enough,
you need a good
business mind as well
as creativity
66 • The Sunday Times Magazine
The Welsh fashion designer on knitwear,
his sweet tooth and tea at Kim and Kanye’s
orn and raised in Merthyr
Tydfil, Macdonald, 46, was
taught to knit by his mother and
by the age of 13 had redesigned
his uniform at Cyfarthfa High
School. He caught the eye of
Karl Lagerfeld while studying
fashion knitwear at Brighton
University and was soon made
head designer of knitwear at
Chanel. In 2001, he became
creative director at Givenchy.
He runs his own label, has many
celebrity clients and also designs
for Debenhams. He lives in west
London with his dog, Jake.
I wake at 7am, have
a coffee, check my
emails and Instagram.
Then I run to Hyde Park with my
miniature doberman, Shaky Jake.
After 40 minutes, we stop at the
Italian water gardens for porridge
and fruit. I grew up close to the
Brecon Beacons and the sound of
the water reminds me of home.
On the way back I’ll go to Barry’s
Bootcamp. That’s a hell of a
workout. My mother and sisters are
all big, so I’m a bit of a health freak.
My boyfriend, Andrew, and I
were together for 14 years. When
we split, I got the house and the
dog. It’s all fine, nothing lasts for
ever. My best friend, Mark, from
Wales, lives with me now. The
only problem is having to watch
him eat a packet of biscuits in
front of the TV every night.
Anything sweet is my downfall.
My studio, in a mews house, is
a five-minute walk from home. It’s
all white, like a pretty beach house,
full of people knitting and sewing
beads on dresses, and celebrities
running round for something for
a dinner or an awards ceremony.
I’ve been called the “king of
bling” because my clothes are so
glamorous, but the majority of
my clients are strong, curvy, Latin
women — Jennifer Lopez, Kim
Kardashian, Beyoncé — they’re not
A life in the day
Julien Macdonald
twigs. Clients of all ages, shapes
and sizes come to try things on,
so we’re always adjusting waists
in or out and hems up or down.
They have a million questions.
How shall I do my make-up? How
shall I wear my hair? Which shoes?
I grew up in a knitting circle.
My mother would be watching
TV, drinking gin and orange and
speed-knitting for everyone in the
street. I thought that was the norm.
My knitted dresses have become
really popular, so we take on a lot
of students. Bella Hadid wore a
knitted dress to Cannes this year,
and they were all going: “I made
the back!” “That’s my sleeve!”
If I’m being good, lunch is a
salad from Ottolenghi. On a bad
day, I’ll eat rubbish chocolate
— anything that comes in a bar. I
get that from my mother: breakfast
used to be a piece of cake, dinner
was something tinned on toast.
She worked in a lightbulb factory
and looked like Bet Lynch —
super-glamorous. Loads of
jewellery, fabulous hair and nails.
Dad worked in the washingmachine factory and went to the
working men’s club. With my dyed
hair and weird clothes, his friends
thought I was bonkers. They’d
shake their heads and go: “Glyn’s
son ... He’s not right, is he?”
I love it when families come in. I
dress the mother, daughter, baby ...
Recently, I delivered a dress to
North, Kim Kardashian’s daughter.
It was white, covered in Swarovski
crystals. Kim loved it. Kris opened
the door, gave me a cup of tea,
then said: “Do you mind staying?
Kanye’s just driving up the road.”
I get home most nights around
9pm and have something simple,
like a stir-fry. I call my mother
every night at 10pm. My friends
think it’s hysterical. She’ll tell me
what she’s been doing, who was at
the market, and she loves hearing
about my life. The whole family
has been to every one of my shows.
Twice a year, the Merthyr minibus
hits the road for London Fashion
Week. I go to bed around 11.30pm
and I always sleep well.
One of the wonderful things
I love about my job is not knowing
what’s going to happen next.
The other day I was woken up by
a phone call from Celine Dion,
saying she’d be wearing my
clothes on her world tour.
It sounds such a cliché,
but dreams really do
come true n
Interview by Caroline Scott
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