Every year in Provence, the start of summer is marked by the flowering of lavender fields, much to the delight of tourists but especially for bees coming from far and wide to forage this sacred flower.Beekeeper Jerome Payen, based in the Alpes-Maritimes for 19 years, practices the transhumance of bees, which consists of transporting beehives to the Valensole plateau, renowned for its lavender fields stretching as far as the eye can see.
A girl sits at the edge of her dorm room, staring at the construction site outside her window. A boy plays the violin, for an audience of the few people still around him. Elsewhere, a set of hands carefully writes in a notebook.These are some of the moments captured by Vamika Sinha, a final-year student at New York University of Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), where she and her peers decided to remain, as life went into lockdown. With the pandemic spreading across the globe, universities worldwide were confronted with a dilemma: should students remain on campus or should they leave, immediately, for home? No institution was saved from having to make this decision. Classes began to move online, students booked flights back to their home countries, and many campuses closed their doors indefinitely.
The affordability of clothing coupled with ootd culture leads many of us to think we need a new outfit whenever we leave our homes. And when it comes to fast fashion, we all plead guilty to it one way or another – either by buying Zara’s polka dot dress last summer or copping Mango's Bottega Veneta inspired clutch bag.The thrill we get after finding a cheap dress or dupe of a designer piece is undeniably problematic. And we needn’t look far to know that the price tag of many of our fashion buys frequently does not reflect the item's true cost.
Back in the swirling mists of prehistory, sometime in 2003, I moved to London straight from university. I didn’t have any contacts in the city or a family flat. But I did have the huge privilege of a graduate journalism job that let me rent a room with offensive curtains in a shared house in Zone 3, and still have spare change for too much bad house white wine. Through my twenties, I gradually clawed my way up to buying a flat with my partner. We complained about the price of rent and the cost of a deposit, looking enviously back to older peers who had had it easier – not realising quite how lucky we were to squeak through before the gates of opportunity swung shut for anyone except the rich in London.What has happened to London house prices in recent decades is nothing short of a soul-crushing calamity. In 2020, you would need to have saved an entire average salary for 12 years just to get the deposit for a starter home in Hackney, once home of the hard-up hipster, according to Which?. Meanwhile, the poor are displaced, rattling to insecure shift work on endless night buses, as public services from youth clubs to libraries are shut. And it’s a trend that’s accelerating. A new book, Alpha City: How London was Captured by the Super-Rich, by Rowland Atkinson, explores how the high end of the London property market became a place to invest in rather than to live, with corrosive effects trickling through to the rest of the city.
In March 2020, as the UK and much of the United States went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was hard not to feel stuck in a horror novel. The pandemic subgenre of horror, in fact, enjoyed an angst-driven surge in popularity. The 2011 movie Contagion became a hot topic again. Stephen King shared a chapter of his novel The Stand for free, to help readers understand how viruses spread.Somewhere in suburban Massachusetts, Paul Tremblay, one of the foremost names in contemporary horror fiction, found himself in a strange position. That horror novel we all feel stuck in? He wrote it, by chance, months before his imaginary scenario became reality.
The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn bailout for the culture sector is an acknowledgement – if somewhat belated – of the vital importance of the arts in our national life. “The beating heart of the nation,” boomed the prime minister. And if that’s hardly the subtlest of metaphors, for once Johnson got it essentially right.There’s a tendency to think of theatres, art galleries and concert halls as optional luxuries in the wider struggle of life: frivolous add-ons that societies can afford to enjoy once they’ve paid for the really important things: health, education, infrastructure, defence. In fact, the arts, culture – whatever you want to call it – performs a vital function in our society, just as essential, in my opinion, as any of the so-called essential services we’ve been hearing so much about.
Pioneering film star Earl Cameron, one of the first black actors to break through in British cinema, has died at the age of 102.The man “with the voice of God and the heart of a kindly prince” passed away at his home in Warwickshire on Thursday.
Three powerful memoirs out in July are part of what is more like the usual monthly publishing avalanche. Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray writes about her own battle with obesity in Fat Cow, Fat Chance (Doubleday). Murray admits to the pain she’s suffered after getting vile abuse about her size. Her candid book is an eloquent reminder that “fat-shaming is hate speech”.Fragments of My Father (4th Estate) by Sam Mills is a poignant memoir about being a carer for a father who suffered from mental illness. Mills melds her own touching story with reflections on the literary figures – including Zelda Fitzgerald – who have been through similar struggles. The third bitingly honest autobiographical tale is Terri White’s Coming Undone (Canongate), in which the Derbyshire-born editor-in-chief of Empire movingly documents how she rebuilt her life after incidents of physical and sexual abuse.
Peter Beard’s illustrated diaries, which he kept from a young age, evolved into a serious career as an artist and earned him a central position in the international art world.He collaborated with Francis Bacon and Salvador Dali, made diaries with Andy Warhol, worked on books with scientists such as Dr Norman Borlaug and Alistair Graham, and toured with Truman Capote, Terry Southern, and the Rolling Stones – all of whom are brought to life in his work.
At the height of the Covid-19 crisis 1.6 billion children from around the world were sent home and the school gates were closed. But this figure excludes the 258 million children who were already out of school with no access to education – 59 million at primary level, according to Unesco’s Institute for Statistics.The effects of school closure on child safety, wellbeing and learning are well documented. This also has long-term consequences for economies and societies resulting in a perpetual cycle of multi-dimensional poverty. A survey conducted by Unesco in 2017 discovered that 56 per cent (617 million) of children in classrooms around the world are not achieving minimum proficiency levels.
Amazon has released a mysterious teaser for a TV adaptation of Fallout, the popular video game.The clip, unveiled on Thursday, lasts just 23 seconds and contains the mentions “Amazon Original” and “Please stand by”.
Who doesn’t love a cocktail? Whether it’s a jug of Pimm’s at your summer barbecue, an after-dinner martini garnished with an all-important olive or a retro snowball at Christmas, there’s a drink for every occasion.And the market is certainly booming, especially with the continued rise in popularity of gin, plus a renewed interest in spirits such as vermouth and Campari (negroni, we’re looking at you!).
Brighton residents know the sound well – the stentorian rattle of engines, as a fleet of Vespas and Lambrettas zip down the promenade. It feels odd for a moment, as if there’s been a rip in the space-time continuum and a little of the Swinging Sixties has trickled out. But it’s tradition here. On sunny weekends, mod aficionados gather in the city to fraternise, evangelise, and compare the number of mirrors on their scooters. Brighton was a favoured hang-out spot for the original mods, who’d travel down from London to the south’s seaside resorts, eager to ruffle the feathers of middle-class daytrippers.Trouble came in the form of the rockers, their rivals. It was like the Capulets versus the Montagues – divided not by blood, but by the way someone might wear their hair. The mods (short for “modernist”) embraced continental style, with their crisply tailored suits and Italian scooters. To protect said suit while on said scooter, parkas became a staple. The girls wore miniskirts, as popularised by Mary Quant. The rockers, meanwhile, were bikers. Their “tough guy” attitude complemented their black leather jackets, Doc Marten boots, and Elvis pompadours.
In June 1986, a now-famous photograph was taken of a group of young people out on the town in New York. These were not your everyday revellers, but some of the greatest innovators and creative upstarts of the era, all miraculously caught in a single frame. Taken by Andy Warhol – because, who else? – the picture features the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, wearing a suit and staring impertinently into the lens, as if to say, “Why yes, I am beautiful. Drink me in.” To the left of him is the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, looking glamorous, if a little lubricated, in an embroidered shirt-and-trousers combo. Next to Kuti is model and singer Grace Jones, all cheekbones and hard stares. She is deep in conversation with a goofy white man with sticky-out ears and glasses, and whose eyebrows are comically raised.This man, who looks startlingly like the boy in the Where’s Wally? books, was the US artist Keith Haring. Many won’t recognise him now, but in the mid-Eighties he was every bit as famous as his new celebrity playmates. His joyful cartoon images of crawling babies, barking dogs and dancing men were on walls, billboards and in galleries everywhere – for a time, a Haring baby even lit up Times Square.
I was raised by an overprotective single mother. She did her best to prepare me for the realities of being a black man in America, but she also made sure to let me know that not everyone white was a racist. Still, she was terrified of one group of people: the police. And of her son encountering them.She warned me that the police would treat me differently because, as she put it affectionately, of the “beautiful ebony hue of my skin”. She implored me to never do anything that would raise their suspicions, and, above all, never to drive at night with a white woman in the car. I would nod my head. Yes, yes, yes. But I was a teenager and not given to listening. Her warnings went in one ear and exited the other. I just did not take her seriously. It was the Nineties in Oklahoma, and I was ignorant of the world around me; of what had happened in Los Angeles in 1992. To me, things had gotten better. Then I saw a Spike Lee movie. And I began to understand. It was the first of many lessons his films would teach me.
Ever since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series aired in 2017, as a nation we’ve sat up and listened. How could we not after seeing the shocking images of an albatross feeding its young bits of plastic which they’d mistaken for food – and yet this was just a snapshot of what is happening around the world today.It’s been widely reported that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight – so there really has never been a more urgent time to act.
Virginia Woolf’s Orlando fell into a deep sleep for two days and when they woke up, they were no longer a man. “The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. Their faces remained as their portraits prove, practically the same.” These two sentences might have been written by Woolf in 1928, but their proposition of gender fluidity still proves controversial today, 92 years later. Though “she” quickly replaces the non-binary pronouns, Orlando continues to call into question the category of “sex” as something rigid and marked. How long will it take before society catches up to the novel’s casual insistence that “in every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place”? Considering JK Rowling’s reductive assertion of women as “people who menstruate”, it seems some of us will never make it.Orlando was inspired by Woolf’s real-life 10-year affair with cross-dressing, gender-bending noblewoman Vita Sackville-West – or “Julian” – whose own son described it as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature”. Many interpret Orlando as a coping mechanism for the sense of instability Woolf endured as a result of Sackville-West’s unfaithfulness. One letter sent in 1933 saw Sackville-West threaten Woolf with the consequences of her not returning from Italy. “I miss you very very much,” Sackville-West began. “In order to console myself, I am thinking of taking up with Marlene Dietrich. So don’t linger too long at Montepulciano if you value the touching fidelity of your old sheepdog.” In authoring Orlando, Woolf was able to create a more idealised version of Sackville-West – one that would belong to her forever.
There are at least four good reasons why Naoise Dolan is certain to be described as “the new Sally Rooney” this summer. One: she’s Irish and has written one of the most talked-about novels of the year, Exciting Times. Two: they were at Dublin’s Trinity College together. Three: not only are the characters in Exciting Times and Rooney’s debut Conversations with Friends young and liberal, with complicated sex lives, but both authors explore modern female self-loathing. Four: like the adored BBC adaptation of Normal People, Exciting Times has just been snapped up to become a TV series.The comparisons may prove to be superficial, however. Dolan had just finished writing Exciting Times when she was formally diagnosed with autism, but she’d always known she wasn’t like most people. “As a kid, I was broadly pretty cool with being different, until I started school, then I hated it,” she tells me over Zoom from her parents’ attic in Dublin. The 28-year-old was flagged as being on the spectrum aged 16, but “understood the whole thing so poorly that I thought everyone was on the spectrum line, which is completely untrue”.
Finn Wolfhard came close to quitting acting shortly before his life-changing audition for Stranger Things.The actor, who has played Mike Wheeler for three seasons of the hit Netflix show, recounted in a new interview with The Guardian how he scored the role at a critical moment in his budding career.
Whether you’re a bibliophile or not, visiting an independent bookshop is a calming and enjoyable experience. There’s a real joy to surrounding yourself with unread stories – old and new, pre-loved and ready-to-be-loved, first editions and classics – you never truly know what you might find and fall in love with. The quietness and tranquillity also make them an easy place to pass the time.Amazingly, considering the availability of cheap books online, independent bookshops started to pop up increasingly more last year – with the Booksellers Association reporting that the number of independent bookshops increased for the second year running by 16 per cent.
Glastonbury photographer Emma Stoner has created a crowdsourced photo series in tribute to this year’s cancelled edition of Glastonbury Festival. The People’s History Project contains hundreds of submitted stories from past attendees throughout the festival’s 50-year history.The images tell a varied story of the Glastonbury experience: some are of families with children, others young people at their first festival – some of all-night partying at Block9 and others of peaceful recollection in the Green Fields.
In 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a blog post titled “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”. In 2017, after finding virality, that blog post became a book of the same name. Last week, it topped the UK bestseller list, making her the first black Brit ever to occupy the position. Since the book’s publication, Eddo-Lodge has often joked that the avalanche of publicity that followed her blog and consequent book deal means she talks about race more than ever before.“I did what felt like dozens of press interviews on publication of the book and I would often speak to white journalists, and they’d say, ‘So, here you are talking to me about your book!’” Eddo-Lodge told Lola Olufemi during a conversation in Cambridge in 2017.
The creator of Bojack Horseman has reflected on the show’s portrayal of a Vietnamese-American character, saying a “racist error” was made in her depiction.Raphael Bob-Waksberg addressed the topic on Twitter, after someone asked why Diane Nguyen, the character in question, was voiced by Alison Brie, a white actor, on the Netflix show.
Regina King has shared an update on whether she’d consider returning for season two of Watchmen, should the show get a second chapter.The actor spoke to Reese Witherspoon in a video chat for Variety.
When Notes from an Apocalypse came out last month, a copy was delivered to its author’s Dublin home by an essential worker wearing latex gloves and a mask. But Mark O’Connell shrugs off any flattery of prophetic sensibility as “sheer coincidence”. True, if recent history is anything to go by, any book that takes the end of the world as its subject has a pretty high probability of a fitting publishing date. “I’d actually like it to be less timely,” says O’Connell. “I think it’s too timely; the context that it’s coming out in is in every way horrific.”The Kilkenny-born writer is best known for 2017’s To Be a Machine: Encounters with a Post-Human Future. That book’s investigation into the techno-utopian pursuit of dodging death won him the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature last year and the Wellcome Book Prize the year before that. Evidently, O’Connell remains just as preoccupied with humanity – or more accurately its absence – than ever.