Guilherme dos Santos was 36 when he first noticed clumps of his brown hair falling out in the shower. His father had gone bald as a young man, and a panicky dos Santos became convinced he would meet the same fate. After some gentle encouragement from his wife, he began stocking up on hair-thickening shampoos and, when they failed, he took to Google and came across a clinic in Turkey advertising “miracle” hair transplants. They even offered to pick patients up from Istanbul airport, plus a night of recovery in a five-star hotel, all for £2,000 – significantly less than the £6,000 to £13,000 charged for similar procedures at UK clinics. “It was so cheap, it stunned me,” remembers dos Santos, a taxi driver who lives in Bracknell, Berkshire, with his wife and nine-year-old daughter. “It doesn’t feel great when you look at your hands and see your hair falling out. I didn’t think twice.” He flew to Turkey last year and, as you may have predicted by this point, did not receive the swanky, professional service he had been promised. The nurses at the “clinic” smelled strongly of cigarettes and did not wash their hands, he remembers, and the transplant itself was fairly rudimentary. He remembers blood dripping from his anaesthetised scalp during the procedure; afterwards, the back of his head turned a strange blue colour. He was left with severe scarring – “I couldn’t go outside without a hat, I looked like a monster” – and now has to pay a further £2,000 to have his scalp returned to normal. It is easy to roll your eyes at a story of such apparent foolishness. The dangers of getting cosmetic treatment ‘on the cheap’, at an unregulated clinic in a poorer country than the UK, have become so well-known that it is almost a cliche. But it is an easier mistake to make than you might think, it seems, and it is not just those who travel abroad who are complaining. Doctors now report a worrying rise in British clinics offering similarly shoddy treatment. Many of them look and sound far more reputable than the average Turkish “miracle” clinic you might see advertised online, but they still leave patients with unnatural-looking hairlines and serious scarring, in some cases. This week, a London clinic offered £15,000 in compensation to a Royal Opera House actor who claimed he was left with a wonky hairline following a procedure in 2015. Ivan Luptak, 38, paid £5,000 for the 11-hour operation, which involved the replacement of 3,000 hair grafts, at Rejuvenate Hair Clinics on central London’s Harley Street, one of a number of clinics in that area that uses ‘Harley Street’ on its website, although none have any connection to The Harley Street Clinic, a well-respected trichology specialist that has treated various leading lights, including footballer Wayne Rooney. Luptak hoped that “thicker hair” would give him confidence, but he emerged from surgery to find his hairline was “obviously higher” on one side, according to court papers.
In mid-March, Dr Xand van Tulleken contracted Covid 19. The TV doctor was unwell for a week or so – with the classic symptoms, cough, fever and loss of smell – but didn’t see much cause for alarm. He and his brother, Chris – identical twins who have become familiar faces, fronting programmes like Operation Ouch! and How to Lose Weight Well – were among many at the time who saw coronavirus as little more than “a cold that could kill old people”. Xand (Alexander) would never have predicted that, four months down the line, he would still be suffering debilitating symptoms from damaged heart tissue, nor that his brush with Covid-19 would provide a moment of (literally) heart-stopping TV. The van Tulleken twins’ documentary, Surviving the Virus: My Brother and Me, to be shown on BBC on Wednesday, is a sobering reminder of how unpredictable Covid 19 can be. A few weeks after “recovering” from the virus, Xand’s pulse began to race. He was dizzy and disorientated and arrived at London’s University College Hospital, where his brother was filming, with a resting heart rate of 170; for a fit 41-year-old, that should be around 80. Doctors had no choice but to stop his heart and give it a huge electric shock with a defibrillator, in the hope that it would start again at a normal rate. The whole thing was caught on camera, and to say it is a tense moment is an understatement. If you are watching, have a box of tissues to hand. One minute, the brothers are joking around, trying to reassure one another, then the camera focuses in on Chris’s face as he watches his brother being sedated and electrodes placed on his chest. In the seemingly endless seconds after the shock, waiting for Xand’s heart to restart, all doctorly distance vanishes, and terror gives way to tears.
Oh to be a celebrity. Unlike us mere mortals, who spend life drearily trudging through the slow lane worrying about bills and what not, famous lives move fast. Indeed, they say it takes one to keep up with one. That's why - once we’d gotten over the shock of how incredibly old it made us feel - Brooklyn Beckham’s ‘turbo engagement’ didn’t come as much of a surprise. Although it seems like only yesterday he was being paraded around on Posh’s hip as a baby, the 21-year-old recently announced his engagement via Instagram to the American heiress Nicola Peltz. It seems wedding day plans are already under discussion. Rumour has it that Brooklyn is keen to set a date as soon as possible - despite only announcing his engagement on July 11 - to ensure that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can attend the nuptials. Who else might make the guest list? As someone who agonised for months over the guest list to my 21st birthday party, I can't fathom what it feels like to have to chisel away hoards of celebrity connections – and then deal with their busy schedules to find the perfect date. Brooklyn's conundrums will be made a little easier by the fact that the couple are having two ceremonies - one in Florida for Peltz's family, and one in the UK. As for who could make the 'turbo guestlist', here's a speculative guess... 1. Elton John It’s no secret that Elton John and the Beckham clan are close acquaintances. In 2018. David shared an Instagram post of the pair lounging on a boat to commemorate 25 years of friendship with the singer. The footballer captioned the image: “Uncle Elton…. We have known each other now for 25 years .. Fun times with each other.” Indeed, Elton is godfather to Brooklyn, so it’s likely that he will pay a key role in the proceedings.
8am I like it when Fruitcake [Fred’s nickname for his fiancée – he’s never revealed her real name] stays in bed, so I have time to do whatever I want. I make coffee using my Nespresso, with soy milk, and then cook scrambled egg and salmon, with sourdough (I get a lot of my bread from Ayres Bakery, in Nunhead). I make my eggs the way Albert [Henri Roux, the French restaurateur] taught me when I was working at Le Gavroche, with double cream and butter. 10am
Tyler Mitchell broke the glass ceiling at just 23. Only a year after graduating from film school, he became the first black photographer – as well as one of the youngest – to shoot the prestigious September cover for US Vogue. With the help of Vogue’s creative team, Beyoncé picked him for the cover shoot (he was well known to her circle, having photographed her sister Solange). She was drawn to him, knowing what his hiring would mean historically – and in fact, the shoot became so famous that only a year later, one of the images was acquired by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington. When Mitchell, now 25, met Beyoncé, he was surprised by her warmth. ‘When she sat down for me, there was immediately the kind of comfort level you’d have with a friend,’ he told Vogue at the time. ‘You’d imagine someone as famous as Beyoncé to be protective of her image, but she was an open book – that’s exactly what you want as a photographer.’ Mitchell’s photographs and films, an exploration of black identity and beautifully curated works of art, have what insiders call a light-hearted, exuberant style – and what he calls a ‘black visual utopia’: ‘My photographs visualise what joy could look like for black people, if we weren’t denied certain freedoms historically.’ This feeling of optimism informs his recent exhibition and book I Can Make You Feel Good, shown in Amsterdam at Foam last year and later at New York’s International Center of Photography (the name comes from a Shalamar song he overheard on his way to discuss the exhibition). As well as Vogue, he has produced work for several other high-fashion magazines, such as i-D and Dazed & Confused, and labels including Prada, Marc Jacobs and Givenchy. He takes inspiration from his personal experiences, but also from history, although he notes that he doesn’t speak for his entire race. ‘I don’t pretend to be globally altruistic,’ he says, acknowledging his middle-class upbringing. ‘I am just coming from the vantage point of being a young, black man who grew up in the South, in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, and who moved to New York.’ Like most people his age, he grew up with social media as a huge part of his life (he has over 300,000 followers on Instagram and in the early days eschewed an agent for showcasing his work on the platform) and has translated this style into his photography. He hopes this allows his work to be seen more and talked about in a deeper, more critical way. Most of all, he hopes that, in the age of Black Lives Matter, his pictures will challenge society to question the way black people are depicted – too often, he says, they are used in shoots because they are black, not because they are people: ‘For so long, black people have been considered things,’ he has said. ‘The current question is for folks who are white in power in all industries, systems and governments worldwide to reconsider how they operate.’ However, he doesn’t think his images have the power to give any answers. ‘It’s not like photographs talk at you, photographs don’t even necessarily have any role in anything, it’s only up to the viewer what role a photo has.’ One just has to hope that that role is outlook-changing. All American Family Portrait, 2018
First it was handshakes. Then pubs and choirs. Now, after a long but patient wait, queueing itself is under threat. What key part of British life will Covid-19 try and strike down next, the Prime Minister himself? Oh... This week, in news that shouldn’t necessarily be dispiriting but somehow is, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis are reportedly ready to launch apps that will allow shoppers to wait in cars or cafés until it is their turn to enter, instead of standing, at least 1m apart, outside. It will, they say, be safer and more convenient. But it will also bring an end to what is perhaps the closest thing to Britain’s national sport. “An Englishman, even if he is alone,” the humourist George Mikes famously wrote, “forms an orderly queue of one.” Not on his phone in the nearby Starbucks, he doesn’t. We are experiencing an identity crisis in the new normal. What kind of country will we be after this? Where do we go from here? What is important to us now? I can’t help you with those, sorry, but I can pay tribute to the things that Covid has taken from us. For better or for worse, we may never see their like again. Handshakes
It is three years since Meghan Markle used a Vanity Fair interview to tell the world that she and Harry were “two people who are really happy and in love”. The magazine’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, remembers it possibly for all the wrong reasons. “I’d never heard of Meghan Markle”, he tells me from Provence, where he now lives. Casting his mind back to 2017, he recalls the day a member of his staff strolled in to the office and announced: “I was thinking of trying to get Meghan Markle for our cover.” “I said: ‘I don’t know who she is.’ She said: ‘She’s on a TV show called Suits.' ‘Never seen it,’ I replied.” Carter pauses, frowns, then gives a small smile. “The issue didn’t sell particularly well. Maybe it was too soon, maybe it hadn’t settled in peoples’ minds yet that this woman was going to marry an English Prince. Today, public opinion seems to have settled – and not necessarily in the Duchess of Sussex's favour. Which doesn’t surprise the Toronto-born 71-year-old. “British people are clearly just saddened that this star, in their eyes – and I mean Harry, not Meghan – has left the country and gone his own way. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of them.” Does he think Harry will come back to the UK to live? “He’d be crazy not to. Los Angeles is not a place for people who don’t have a part in the professional firmament. Meghan was on a middling TV show that a lot of people didn’t see, and as for Harry: being a soldier and liking football are just not saleable talents out there. You can get it right if you stay on message in LA,” Carter points out. “But I think it’s very hard to start telling people about the fate of the planet when you’re flying in private planes, living in a 14-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion and living off the state. I really don’t think you can lecture people from that position.”
The word 'diet’ conjures a thousand images of women counting calories; of slimming clubs and weight loss shakes, and the need to get ‘swimsuit ready.’ Yet for men, so long left out of the weight loss conversation, a reckoning may be close. Following Boris Johnson’s Damascene moment on the matter of obesity - reportedly caused by how badly he suffered from coronavirus, the critical risk of which is 40 per cent higher among the obese - a strategy is to be launched next week, seeking to reform Britain’s waistline crisis. The 56-year-old Prime Minister might just be the posterboy larger men - notoriously the hardest demographic to reach - need. It’s a battle the creators of Man v Fat, a six-a-side football league where players lose points both for winning games and weight loss, have been fighting since their inception in 2016: participants must have a BMI above 27.5 to join (the healthy range is 18.5-24.9) and pay £25-30 per month to play matches and receive support from a health coach, as well as peer support via forums and WhatsApp groups. Now hosting 90 leagues nationwide, it has helped around 4,000 chaps torch over 113,000kg of fat - no mean feat, given that around 80 per cent of weight loss programmes are currently attended by women. “A lot of my issues were male issues,” recalls Andrew Shanahan, who developed the Man v Fat concept after finding the slimming groups he had tried “were female-focused and didn’t address the things that were pertinent to me.” Some 67 per cent of British men are obese; the 42-year-old's own weight had topped 18 stone - a combination of work stress and a diet of beer and curries - by the time he set up Man v Fat in 2014. Then an online magazine, it shared health advice tailored for bigger men, from why fatherhood triggers weight gain to how to make a healthier pizza. “I knew it wasn’t just me feeling this way,” Shanahan was sure, and he was right: his own four-stone weight loss proved to readers that the system worked, and he went on to launch a website, a forum and a book.
When I logged on for my first Zoom date in lockdown, I got a shock. She was sitting naked in a bubble bath, drinking champagne. “Hiya, Ben,” said Valentina, a 40-year-old communications director with sculpted eyebrows and hair pulled back in a fierce ponytail, her head leaning against a backdrop of white marbled tiles. “Pleased to meet you.” She explained that Covid-19 had led to her approaching life more adventurously. “We all might die tomorrow,” she lamented. “Why don’t you come round and jump in with me?” When I suggested that it wasn’t a good idea, given we were supposed to be social distancing, she replied: “Don’t be a bore…” I said: “I think I’m going to go.” “Oh, whatever,” she replied, and promptly logged out. In the first two weeks of lockdown, I scanned 1,000 faces and had five video dates, and was just considering giving it all up when I connected with Candice, a 44-year-old art director and painter from north-west London on Hinge. She was divorced, with a five-year-old son. She had narrow eyes, a thin mouth and pronounced cheekbones. “Those cheekbones look sharper than a scalpel,” I said to her, as my opening line. “Thanks,” she replied. “I’m making extra cash during lockdown – as a bread slicer.” Apart from her wit, what attracted me to her profile was the fact that she was smiling in her photos (she’s happy); she had no semi-nude images (she’s classy); she talked about art (she’s cultured); and she didn’t have a moustache (phew!). When we progressed to a video date, finally here was a woman with the best Zoom curation I’d seen. In the background, she had a mixture of paintings, wild plants and big art books. On a table next to her was a glass of Vionnet, and a wooden sculpture of a seagull next to a Santa snow globe. She had done her hair and make-up, and wore an amazing vintage dress with silver chainmail epaulets that glistened under the light. I was mesmerised. As we signed off, we were both smiling at each other. I continued setting up Zoom calls with other women, but no one impressed me like Candice. After a month of activity, I’d looked at 2,000 profiles and gone on 11 video dates. But with Candice, it felt different. I began to wonder if I had a hope of forging a real offline connection. Was this simply to be a digital version of a holiday romance (or pandemic romance) — a fantasy love affair that runs on the fuel of the current heightened circumstances — that starts and finishes online? Is there a danger that what happens in corona stays in corona? When the lockdown rules suddenly changed, we met up in person – a “walk-n-talk” in Hyde Park, now the number one venue for first dates in London. When she arrived, my heart bumped a little in excitement, and I took a step toward her, to give her a hello hug, but then I remembered the protocol and stepped back again. We stared at each other silently, and then started giggling like children. It took all my willpower not to try to hug and kiss her. We spent two hours walking around on the grass, staying off the busier pathways, and also out of each other’s orbit. Thanks to our long Zoom chats, it already felt as if we knew each other quite well, and so in this regard it was not like a first date — although physically it was. Many times as we walked she caught me scanning her form, but she pretended not to notice. As time went on, resisting the temptation to touch her actually got easier. Under lockdown, avoiding human contact means that, like many, I have now deprogrammed myself from the instinct to touch. Nevertheless, as we parted, saying goodbye from a distance felt rude, almost disrespectful. We didn’t quite know how to do it. “When this is over, things are going to get seriously physical,” I said. She smiled. “I am really looking forward to that.” She got on her bicycle and rode away. Video dating and physical isolation have made me value human interaction more than ever before in my life. Have I met a new partner? I hope so. Even when lockdown is fully over, there will still be a place for video dating with Candice. Between her busy work schedule and having a young child, she won’t always have time to meet. For us, Zoom will now form part of our modern romance. My Terrifying, Shocking, Humiliating, Amazing Adventures In Online Dating by Ben Arogundade (White Label, £9.99) is out now
Steven Pinker, the celebrated social psychologist and linguist, believes we are threatened by “a regime of intimidation that constricts the theatre of ideas” – otherwise known as “cancel culture”. He should know. It came for him. Several hundred academics, mostly graduate students and lecturers, recently signed a letter asking for Pinker to be removed from the list of distinguished fellows at the Linguistic Society of America – an assault on his reputation that could have had a chilling effect on his field of study. Pinker, a 65-year-old Canadian-American and best-selling author, was accused of “drowning out the voices of people suffering from racist and sexist violence”, “misrepresenting facts” and even “moving in the proximity” of “scientific racism”. The accusations sound terrible; the evidence was thin. The letter quoted just six tweets dating back to 2014 and two words from a book he wrote in 2011 – a classic example of “offence archaeology”, digging through someone’s past to find something, no matter how small, to use against them. Often the aim isn’t just to prove a personwrong but to get them sacked – to take their career as a scalp. On July 7, more than 150 prominent thinkers – including Pinker, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling – wrote an open letter against cancelling, warning that it has become “all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought”. This “stifling atmosphere” will “ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.” One could say that some of those being cancelled deserve it: few of us would die for the right of Katie Hopkins to spout nonsense. Sometimes, people who get cancelled for a genuine mistake deserve a second chance: Alastair Stewart, the ITN journalist, in a Twitter argument with a person of colour, used a line of Shakespeare that referred to an “angry ape”. Stewart admitted “a misjudgement” and resigned against the protests of his many admirers; even the offended party called the resignation “regrettable”. Then there are the cancellations that are an obvious assault on the Right by the Left, revenge for Brexit and Trump – a case of “if we can’t beat you at the ballot box, we’ll drive you out of the debate”. The author Lionel Shriver claims she was dropped by her Swedish publisher for her politics; the philosopher Roger Scruton gave an interview to the New Statesman* that reported his views inaccurately and cost him a government job. His interviewer posed with a bottle of champagne on Instagram (the New Statesman later admitted fault). Increasingly, however, cancelling has taken on the appearance of an internecine conflict on the Left, what Pinker describes as “the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea” vs “the Judean Popular Front of Liberationists”. The Harry Potter author JK Rowling, for example, would insist she is all for transgender rights, yet has been sucked into an epic online battle with trans-rights campaigners for whom she is not righteous enough. A turning point in this civil war was the resignation of a senior editor at the New York Times for having published a piece calling for a military response to urban riots. One of his former colleagues, Bari Weiss, quit the paper last week after submitting her own resignation letter for the ages, accusing the “paper of record” of being edited not by staff but by Twitter: “As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space.” Intellectual curiosity has become a liability; ideas that could be articulated a few years ago could now get someone “in serious trouble, if not fired.”
Captain Sir Tom Moore has achieved a lot of landmarks in the last six months. Global fame at the age of 100, a charity appeal that raised tens of millions, a number one single, book deals, and now an audience with the Queen. Today, Captain Sir Tom will visit Windsor Castle to be knighted. It will be Her Majesty’s first official engagement with members of the public since lockdown began. Royal investitures were put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, with those scheduled to take place at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in June and July postponed. But the Queen is making a special exception for Captain Sir Tom. “On occasion,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said this week, “the Queen invests individuals privately during audiences.”
It has become a bit of a cliché to reflect on what your “July 2019 self” would never have believed about the state of the world 12 months later. So much of what has happened this year – the global shutdown, the cancelled events, the demonstrations, the ‘new normal’ – is unprecedented that the observation feels trite, even if it is true. But I’ll make an exception for myself, because the next sentence is one I really never thought I’d write. At this moment, the United Kingdom can be divided into two distinct camps: those who are for BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker’s lockdown hair, and those who are against BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker’s lockdown hair. “I think ‘divided the nation’ is a slight exaggeration,” says the man in the eye of that storm, before admitting: “It’s… weird – my hair as never been any point of discussion before, ever, because there was nothing spectacular about it, and all of a sudden all these messages started coming in.” That was mid-May. At the start of lockdown, in March, the 41-year-old had his usual closely cropped, unfussy helmet – a style he’d worn since he was about 6 years old. Then the salons closed, along with everything else, but the weather continued, as it tends to, leaving Schafernaker with a three options: let it grow, join the clipper race and have a hack at it himself, or find a kind of bootleg barber. The latter was out of the question: Schafernaker may be cool by the standards of TV weathermen, but he is not about to break the law. He ruled out buying clippers, too. “I absolutely was not going to do that. I’d rather have a really bushy haircut than a bad DIY job. Because on TV by the weather map, the green screen and bright lights pick everything up. I’d have been trolled more,” he says.
He’s been described as one of the most prominent figures on the internet; one of the world’s key influencers (though he hates the term); and a social media phenomenon – which is hard to argue with. But unless you are under 30, or are watching the current series of Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox in which he appears, you may be unfamiliar with KSI. Ask a young person and they’ll tell you exactly who he is. Real name Olajide Olatunji and known to his friends as JJ, the British 27-year-old is one of the most popular YouTubers in the world. And also a boxer. And a singer. Oh, and an actor. In short, he defies categorisation, though YouTube is where his career started and continues to flourish. His main YouTube account, where he posts videos of his music, of himself reacting to other stuff on the internet, and of himself playing video games and doing skits and pranks, has 21.6 million subscribers. His videos have racked up some seven billion views. Sound impressive? We're just getting started. Last month he released his debut album, Dissimulation, which shot to number two in the official UK music charts. This surprised even him: “If you told me two years ago I was going to have a number two album in the UK, I would have laughed,” he says. But YouTubers doing music – and, in cases like his, doing it well – seems to be a crossover that's here to stay. The boundaries and barriers to entry have been well and truly broken. “Back in the day there would be gatekeepers when it came to movies or music,” he says. “If they [didn’t] like you... you [couldn’t] enter that industry. YouTube has bypassed all of those gatekeepers and allowed you to create your own fanbase and essentially be whatever you want.” It’s democratic and, for some, extremely lucrative. KSI’s net worth is estimated at somewhere between £12 million and £20 million. But he attributes his remarkable success to hard graft more than talent. “I’m a normal hardworking person who has taken opportunities in my life,” is how he modestly puts it when we chat via video call before the release of his latest single, Killa Killa. “I don’t see myself as anyone special. I don’t see myself as made for this.”
Just three months ago, Steve Cummings was enduring the commute from hell – or, to be more precise, from Kings Sutton near Banbury in Oxfordshire to Brighton. Rising each day at 5am Steve, 48, would throw on some clothes and take his dog Bella, out for a short walk. After a quick breakfast he’d head off to get the train to London’s Marylebone station before jumping on the tube south to Victoria station and then getting on the Gatwick Express. Two and a half hours later he would finally arrive at his office in Brighton to begin his day as Director of Product Support for Avalara, a global VAT automation software company. “I did try driving,” he says, “But that was even worse. Sometimes I’d stay over one or two nights a week.’ None of it was ideal and life now couldn’t be more different. Today, Steve’s daily commute takes him from his bedroom to his kitchen (or his dining room depending on his mood). The Covid-19 lockdown has given him a glimpse into a future where the life/work balance is reset. Whereas before he would rarely be home dinner, now he sits down with his family at the beginning and the end of the day. Bella is also getting much longer walks. “We’ve had weeks of the family just really enjoying each other’s company. I’m really grateful for that time. It makes you realise what’s really important,” he explains. For better or worse, we have all reacted to the lockdown in different ways. Some people used the time to lose weight and get fitter, others have learned new skills like languages or musical instruments and turned their hand to DIY. For all the many restrictions that the lockdown placed on the British population, there have been plenty of positives; less traffic on the roads, cleaner air and, perhaps most importantly, more time with the family. Research from BritainThinks, compiled in part by lockdown diaries written by surveyors, has found 12% of people want life to return 'exactly as it was before'.
Meeting Johnny Depp is never dull. I’ve spent time with him on various film sets, in a penthouse suite overlooking the strip in Las Vegas, in Cannes and Venice, during the film festivals there, and once, surreally, on the Isle of Man where an eight-foot tall, bright orange phallus was propped precariously outside his Winnebago. Well, he was playing the Earl of Rochester, a 17th century sexual adventurer, wit, poet, war hero and legendary exponent of debauchery in The Libertine. Depp welcomed me into his trailer, offered a glass of wine and asked if I’d noticed the – for want of a better phrase – giant prop. It was impossible to miss it. “It’s impressive, don’t you think?’ he smiled. “I think they should keep it here, like a tourist attraction.” Depp is softly spoken, intense, unfailingly polite, other worldly and very funny. He loves the Brits and our sense of humour – he popped up on The Vicar of Dibley and The Fast Show, don’t forget – and he’s lived here, happily, for months at a stretch whilst filming. Many famous actors, when you meet them, are disappointingly dull. Spending an hour trying to get some of them to say anything interesting can be as much fun as filling in a tax return. Depp carries with him the characters he has played – the loners and outsiders, the freaks and oddballs, like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood (the cult film director) and yes, the hedonistic Earl of Rochester. There’s a sense of vulnerability coupled with dangerous excess. He was adorned with tattoos long before they became as ubiquitous as denim jeans, dressed like the rock ‘n roll star one suspects he always wanted to be, and relentlessly undermined the heartthrob label that Hollywood desperately tried to pin on him. It’s telling that his major mainstream role – Captain Jack Sparrow, from the Pirates of the Caribbean multi-billion dollar franchise, inspired by his friend Keith Richards – is yet another celebration of a misfit. Depp was never going to play the action hero, no matter how much they offered him. [He turned down the roles in Speed, Legends of the Fall and Interview with a Vampire that did so well for Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, respectively.] Our early encounters were over-shadowed with tales of excess; an interview postponed in Cannes after rumours of a late night with his then-girlfriend Kate Moss. When he did show up, a day later, he was monosyllabic and withdrawn.
On the very same evening the Second World War was declared, on September 3, 1939, John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway was awoken in the officer’s mess and ordered to get his aircraft ready for action. As the then 20-year-old sprinted across the runway of RAF Debden in Essex towards his Hurricane, he remembers coming to the sudden and startling realisation that he must learn to cope “entirely on my own, no matter the circumstances”. It was a survival mechanism that served Hemingway well, not least during the Battle of Britain which started the following summer, on July 10, 1940, and where for almost four long months he and his fellow airmen operated as the last line of defence against the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s near total domination of Europe. Soon to turn 101 and still sporting the neat moustache he grew at the start of the war for a bet to lampoon the Nazi leader, Group Captain Hemingway is now once more alone – the very last of ‘The Few’ anointed by prime minister Winston Churchill to have flown in the Battle of Britain and who changed the course of the war. Back in May, it was announced on the morning of the 80th anniversary of VE Day that John Hemingway was now the last surviving of the nearly 3,000 airmen who flew in the Battle of Britain, following the death of 101-year-old air gunner Terry Clark. Speaking to the Telegraph in the first newspaper interview he and his family have agreed to since then, Hemingway admits it is an unwanted honour bestowed upon him and one that has drawn him closer to the ghosts of his fallen comrades. “During the war, all my closest friends were killed and my memories and thoughts about them I have always regarded as a private affair,” he says. “But being the last of the Battle of Britain veterans has made me think of those times 80 years ago.”
As compelling, lurid, headline-grabbing dramas go, it’s proving to be his biggest blockbuster in years. Over four astonishing days this week, Hollywood A-lister Johnny Depp, once the highest-paid actor in the world, took the stand at London’s High Court in a libel trial against The Sun over accusations of domestic violence. In suing the newspaper for labelling him “a wife beater”, the 57 year-old actor has already provided thousands more column inches of intimate, grisly revelations about his short, tempestuous marriage to 34 year-old fellow actor, Amber Heard. And she's not yet taken the stand, herself. Their divorce (which she filed for after 15 months of marriage) was finalised in January 2017, with Heard receiving a reported $7 million settlement, which she donated to charity, and both parties signing a non-disclosure agreement, barring them from talking about their marriage. Now, however, in front of the world’s assembled media, the bombshells have been falling thick and fast: Depp’s alleged epic drink and drug binges – including one 24-bender with rock star Marilyn Manson, after dropping his then 15-year-old daughter at school – and domestic violence on both sides.
For decades, the most frequently seen signature in the world was probably that of Walt Disney. The swooping, cloud-like capital letters – the whirling ‘W’, the squiggly circle on the ‘I’, the late strike through the ‘D’ – appeared before and after all his films like a stamp of calming, paternal authority. These days, though, it’s probably Rishi Sunak’s. The MP for Richmond (Yorks) has been Chancellor of the Exchequer for less than six months, but over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, as he’s doled out cash left, right and centre, he has risen from ‘Rishi who?’ to ‘Dishi Rishi’ to ‘Robin Hood in a slimfit Topman two-piece’ to ‘both Boris Johnson’s greatest asset and gravest threat’. And through it all, he’s personally signed off on every penny. Literally. Everything about Sunak is slick, from the immaculate hair to the £180 travel mug, but nothing is quite as manicured as his personal brand. With every announcement of a new round of fiscal stimulus – be it the furlough scheme or the arts bailout – an accompanying Twitter card has been created.
My heart is pounding, my mouth is dry and my fingers are shaking as I type these words. As a recovering online gambling addict – a habit that derailed my life for three years and left me in deep despair – the prospect of spending months in lockdown was always going to be a challenge. My fear was that the isolation and boredom of it all, being stuck at home with my laptop for company, would undo more than a year of progress and drag me back to self-destructive behaviour that had already cost me tens of thousands of pounds. In fact, the opposite is true. Our collective “Great Pause” has allowed me to take stock and decide, finally, to talk about a problem that affects so many people in the UK, young men in particular – and which the coronavirus pandemic has only made worse. This week, the Gambling Commission revealed that, against the odds, gambling increased in lockdown, in spite of there having been no sporting events on which to place a bet. The rise can be put down to a surge in online slot bets placed at the UK’s biggest online casinos, which increased from £4.5 billion in March to £5.3 billion in May. I never dreamt I would suffer from addiction. I’m in my 30s, don’t smoke, hardly ever drink and never touch drugs. In 2016, however, I travelled the world and stopped off in Las Vegas, where I spent hours on The Strip. It was the first time I had seriously gambled, and it was intoxicating. I found myself feeding dollar bills into the slot machines. I knew right then that this could become a problem for me, and was relieved to tear myself away. The trouble really began later that year amid a relationship break-up. Which is typical for gambling addicts; young men are generally at higher risk of addiction, particularly those suffering isolation and depression. According to recent figures by YouGov, there may be up to 1.4 million problem gamblers in the UK. Suddenly alone in a big house, with disposable income and work as a freelance journalist giving me plenty of spare time, all the ingredients were there. I signed up to my first online casino. Gambling websites make it so easy for you to join – in most cases, registration takes under two minutes and requires just your name, address and contact details. There are no background checks and dozens of casinos to choose from, each with hundreds of games, from poker and blackjack to a vast selection of slots. Within weeks, I was spending hours every day on the apps. Casinos usually offer new customers a welcome bonus, allowing them to gamble with twice or three times the amount they deposit. The catch is wagering, a process through which you must gamble your deposit a certain number of times before you can withdraw winnings. It upsets me now to say this, but most of 2017 and 2018 are a blur. I know for a fact that I gambled every single day, virtually all my free time, pausing only to eat, drink and sleep. I would wait impatiently for wages to drop into my account, then immediately gamble away half of them or more. Huge losses were met with despair and frustration that I could not control my urge to gamble. Huge wins left me numb. Gambling addicts focus on the thrill of the chase, not the size of the win. I have since been told by a psychologist that online gambling addiction is particularly difficult to control because the rushes of dopamine – a neurotransmitter released by the brain during enjoyable activities – are so frequent, they become almost constant, leaving the gambler permanently seeking the next high. Unlike in a real casino, there are no distractions online, nothing to break the habit. It is just you, your laptop screen and five spinning reels. As 2018 wore on, I found myself cancelling social engagements, and those I could not get out of I escaped early to return to my laptop screen and the comfort of the casino. I drifted from friends and became distant with my family. I became a nightmare to live with. Somehow, probably through a deep inner guilt, I managed not to fall into debt. While I am grateful for that, it made the addiction no less shaming, and I still look back with regret at the thousands of pounds I gambled away. I don’t how much I lost between September 2016 and January 2019, but even a rough calculation tells me it’s more than £50,000 – and closer to £100,000. I cannot honestly say whether my addiction impacted upon my career. I do know that it helped send me into a severe depression that only months of counselling and the support of close friends finally dug me out of. I know, also, that revealing I had a gambling addiction to my employers felt like a step too far. That is why so many gambling addicts live secret lives, hiding their habit from even those closest to them. And it is why, tragically, some feel they have no alternative but to take their own lives. Online gambling addiction is called the ‘invisible addiction’ for a very good reason. My lowest moment arrived in December 2018. After losing hundreds of pounds in an afternoon, I didn’t have enough money to buy my family Christmas presents. It was then that I decided to take action to make it stop. I signed up to Gamstop, an online service launched in 2018 that allows addicts and problem gamblers to self-exclude from every UK-licensed casino. That was when I took control of my addiction. I cannot say I have conquered it, and I’m still angry at myself for hiding this problem for so long – but I’m strangely grateful for the 100-or-so days of lockdown, which showed me that I can live without the thrill of spinning virtual slots. Has lockdown helped you to let go of an unhealthy habit? Let us know in the comments section below.
The only life sentence handed out after Daniel Morgan was murdered in 1987, with an axe blow to the head in the car park of a south-east London pub, was for his bereaved family. For more than three decades, his brother Alastair fought tirelessly to expose corruption that he believed led to the cover-up of who killed Daniel, a 37-year-old private investigator. “Even now, many years later, when I find out a new aspect of what took place, it brings it all back,” says Alastair, 71, who lives in Wales with his wife. “You either have to swallow it and accept the dirt, or fight back. If you do fight, you get a [personal] life sentence.” Alastair is speaking ahead of the concluding episode of Murder in the Car Park tonight, a Channel 4 documentary about Daniel’s death and what he saw as the ripples of corruption that spread through the police, private investigators and journalists, all the way to the doors of Downing Street. It is the most investigated murder in British history, with five inquiries totalling tens of millions of pounds, but there is yet to be a conviction. The documentary unpicks the complicated web, with which Alastair is all too familiar, having dedicated his life to justice for his brother. He has co-created a podcast and co-written a book about the case, both called Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder (untoldmurder.com). Even so, there are still revelations that were news to him in the documentary. Alastair remembers Daniel, who was younger by a year, as a gregarious man who enjoyed being around people. He went to agricultural college, worked in Denmark and in the UK as a tour guide, before starting Southern Investigations, a small detective agency in Thornton Heath, with Jonathan Rees. Both men were married, Daniel to Iris, and had children: Alastair one son, Daniel a boy and a girl.
Designed to offer better grip on wet, slippery decks, boat shoes have moved on from their original maritime purpose. Smarter than a trainer and less dressy than a loafer, they bridge the gap that separates casual from formal. Sperry, Timberland and Sebago are brands synonymous with the boat shoe, and still carry great kudos. If you are a purist, the Sperry Top-Sider is the most authentic style of all – invented in 1935 by Paul A Sperry, who scored out the soles of his own casual shoes with a knife to stop them slipping on wet surfaces. The best Top-Sider in my opinion is the two-tone, olive and brown cowhide style with cushioned rubber soles and contrast suede laces. Docksides is the definitive design from Sebago; the tan suede and chestnut leather bi-colour style is very versatile. For something you can wear with a suit, Timberland’s classic full-grain boat shoe with a moccasin stitched toe is a nod to the traditional penny loafer. If you mean business, Prada’s contemporary spin on the classic deck style, in tan and black, marries fashion with function. Lacoste has a sportier style in red, white and blue that would look good with a slim-fit chino, and Zara offers one with traditional styling, in four contrasting materials, that benefits from a skate-shoe sole. Perforated fabrics are on trend, too; M&S; Collection and Dune have great examples. Read: The best online clothing stores for men Boat shoes should never be teamed with socks and should never have a black sole. White and traditional gum coloured are the most authentic. The more worn in, the better they look. 10 of the best