Can a DIY fertility test help you plan when to have a newborn?

A new wave of tech startups is promising women detailed insights into their ability to conceive. But experts are sceptical

Can a DIY fertility test help you plan when to have a newborn?

Herb Alpert:’ If person needed my father’s assistance, he was always there for them’

The trumpeter talks about growing up in a musical family, why his first marriage went wrong, and being a grandfather

I grew up in central Los Angeles . My father was born in Russia. He was a survivor. He had come to the US in 1915, when he was 16 , not speaking a word of English, on his own, at the insistence of his family. He landed in Ellis Island and made a life for himself. My mother was from the Lower East Side of New York. She was a secretary, she was good with numbers and played the violin, but not professionally. One of my earliest memories is from when I was eight . In school, in a music appreciation class, there was a table filled with instruments and I happened to pick up a trumpet. It had a profound effect on my life. At home, Id be playing it, and the neighbours would scream, Shut the window! while my mother screamed back at them. My brother played drums; “were in” a musical household. My parent could play the mandolin, although he didnt read music. As my fathers fortunes improved , he brought the rest of his family from Russia to live near us. My grandpa stayed there. I recollect my paternal grandmother, but she only spoke Yiddish so communication is a point. My mother wasnt close to her own parents so we didnt insure much of them. I had an elder brother, David, who was five years my senior. We used to play outside or in the street, but I was super-shy and followed him around, but he wasnt so interested in hanging out with me. I guess “were in” middle class . My dad earned a reasonable living manufacturing womens suits and garment as a business; we didnt struggle and had a vacation now and then.

I didnt have a strong notion about what career I wanted. I knew I liked playing the trumpet. My friend and I played together at parties and events. At high school, I was in a little group, with piano, bass, drums and cornet. We entered a TV talent competition that pitted groups from local high schools against one another. Even though few people had TV sets in the 1950 s, we won the indicate for eight consecutive weeks and that built us a name, so we got gigs around the city on the back of that.

I got married when I was 21. At the time, Id been drafted and was playing with the Sixth Army band in San Franciscos Presidio. I was also working part-time in a gym, and tried my hand at acting for a while, but that didnt work out. I was too young to get married, as evidenced by my getting divorced. I likely didnt understand what was expected of me at that age. Then I get famous and started touring the world, so I wasnt around much.

When I got married the second time, I felt so lucky. Lani is my dream girl. We have been married for 42 years now and had a child together.

Im not sure what my parents taught me . My father didnt articulate much, but led by example. He was generous to his family and very open-hearted. If person needed his help, he was always right there for them, and I saw how people responded to his generosity. Im now a grandfather several times over . My youngest is two-and-a-half years old. I love the experience and we find household as much as we can. They are scattered across the nation, but we have Skype so that helps us remain connected. Family is the part of my life that gives me comfort . I am very aware of, and sensitive to, my familys needs and Ill always be there for them, but household is not something I entirely live for. You get one chance to do your thing in this life and I am doing my thing. My ingenuity drives me I dont have any control over it. I know I have made a lot of people happy with my music, and that gives me an enormous energy and pleasure.

Herb Alperts new album, Human nature, is out now, along with 24 of his albums remastered: herbalpert.com

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Yotam Ottolenghi’s peach recipes

There are few things as, er, peachy as a ripe peach( and even unripe ones have their utilizes)

I went to a party earlier the summer months and took a tray of ripe peaches instead of a bottle of wine. I would never have dreamed of taking a tray of, say, avocados or a bunch of bananas. Its not that those fruit are any less special; its only that they dont have quite the same wow factor, that tempting, feed me now look of a perfectly ripe peach.

The difference between peaches and avocados is all to do with the way the fruit ripen. Bananas and avocados( along with pears and tomatoes) are climacteric and often store their sugar in the form of starch. Once picked, a simple hydrocarbon gas called ethylene triggers the process that converts that starch back to sweetness. This constructs such fruit a logistical dreaming for those who grow and sell them: they can be picked unripe and shipped hard( so theyre not prone to bruising ), and ripened once the travel is done.( On a smaller scale, you can achieve a similar impact at home by putting an unripe fruit in a paper bag with a ripe one. The ripe fruit will emit ethylene, which helps ripen the unripe fruit .)

Peaches, on the other hand, are not such a peachy logistical dream. Along with other non-climacteric fruit such as pineapple, citrus, most berries and melons, they dont store starch, so they dont go across the same process of converting it into sugar. Theyll continue to soften once picked, sure, and also develop an odor, but their sweetness wont develop any more post-picking.( The cold temperature at which the objective is stored when shipped and stocked, to prolong shelf life, also means the flesh often turns very mealy .)

Thats why I regard a tray of ripe peaches as something of a gift: feeing them right there and then, and hitting that sweet spot, really is worthy of a festivity. Its also why I reserve firmer fruit for cakes and tarts; overripe ones go into jams, compotes or todays shrub. Hard peaches may absence some natural sweetness, true, but you can draw that out depending on how you cook them. They also have the advantage of being robust enough to hold their shape: chargrill wedges and pair with slices of salty corpuscle or pork belly, spoonfuls of creamy cheese or a hard herb such as rosemary.

Peach, rosemary and lime galette

This makes good utilize of firm , not-so-ripe peaches. By macerating them in sugar and lime juice, you not only soften the fruit, but you also make a beautiful syrup to pour over the dish at the end. Rosemary, which Ive utilized both in this dish and in the shrub, is a fantastic match for peach. Its a combining I detected only recently, and now I cant get enough of it. Serves four generously.

2 limes 1 peeled in 7 long strips, the other grated, to get 1 tsp, then both juiced, to get 1 tbsp
80 g caster sugar
2 large firm peaches, stoned and cut into 0.5 cm-thick slice( 300 g net weight)
2 large sprigs rosemary, plus tbsp picked leaves
150 g creme fraiche
Plain flour, for dusting
200 g all-butter puff pastry
10 g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm pieces
1 egg, beaten
tsp cornflour

Heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4.

Mix the lime juice with 60 g sugar in a large bowl, add the peaches, strips of lime scalp and rosemary sprigs. Stir and set aside to macerate for at the least 40 minutes, and up to a couple of hours. Strain the peaches through a sieve set over a small saucepan, and discard the rosemary and lime peel: you should end up with about 60 ml peach syrup.

Mix the grated zest and a teaspoon of sugar into the creme fraiche and refrigerate until ready to serve.

On a lightly floured run surface, roll out the pastry into a 26 cm-wide circle just under 0.5 cm thick, then transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Arrange the strained peaches haphazardly in the middle of the pastry, leaving a clear 6cm perimeter all around the edge, then fold this outer 6cm rim up and over the peaches. Dot the butter over the exposed peaches, then brush the pastry all over with beaten egg. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar evenly over the pastry and bake for 20 minutes, until its golden and the fill is beginning to bubble.

While the galette is baking, whisk the cornflour into the reserved peach syrup. Simmer over a medium-high heat until it thickens to the consistency of honey( about two minutes ), then pour over the peaches. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves on top and return the galette to the oven for 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown and the fill bubbling.

Leave to cool slightly, then serve with a bowl of the lime creme fraiche on the side.

Peach and rosemary shrub

Shrubs( basically, sharp, sweet syrups) are traditionally used to flavour soft drink and cocktails. Theyre also great drizzled over desserts. In making this shrub, youre left with the bonus of 400g cooked peach pulp, which is delicious over yoghurt and granola( find next recipe) or ice-cream. Makes 600 ml.

1kg very ripe yellow peaches, stoned and approximately chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
120 ml apple cider vinegar
150 g caster sugar

Put everything into a large saucepan on a medium-high hot, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has broken down and is the consistency of a thick compote.

Line a large sieve with muslin, then set it over a large bowl or container( make sure the sieve does not touch the bottom of the container, so the liquid can drain through ). Tip the peach mix into the lined sieves and leave to drain for one to two hours, until all the liquid has strained through. Discard the rosemary.

Store the shrub and the strained fruit in separate airtight receptacles in the fridge: the shrub will maintain for up to a month, the fruit for a week.

Strained peaches with granola and yoghurt

This is a great breakfast, but by all means convert it into a pudding by swapping the yoghurt for whipped cream or ice-cream. Serves four.

600 g Greek-style yoghurt
350 g-4 00 g strained peaches from attaining the shrub( assure previous recipe )
100 g granola
60 ml peach and rosemary shrub( ensure previous recipe )
4 tsp honey
tsp Chinese five-spice
1 tsp roughly chopped rosemary foliages

Divide the yoghurt, strained peaches and granola between four serving bowl, dishing it up so that you can see each element. Pour the shrub over the strained peaches, then drizzle honey evenly over everything. Finish with a sprinkling each of five-spice and rosemary.

Peach and rosemary bellini

My ideal summer drink. Makes four.

120 ml peach and rosemary shrub( insure previous recipe )
Finely shaved scalp of 1 lemon (8 strips )
4 small rosemary sprigs
About 400 ml prosecco

Pour the shrub into the bottom of four champagne glasses. Add two strips of lemon peel and a rosemary sprig to each glass, top with prosecco and enjoy.

Grilled peaches and athlete beans with goats cheese

Yotam
Yotam Ottolenghis grilled peaches and athlete beans with goats cheese. Photo: Louise Hagger for the Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay, assisted by Agathe Gits

This is an unusual, and delectable, combination. Serves four as a starter.

400 g runner beans, stringy edges removed and cut on an slant into 8cm-long pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
2 firm peaches, stoned and cut into 0.5 cm-thick slices
5g mint foliages, roughly torn
tbsp lemon juice
80 g young, soft goats cheese, approximately broken into 4cm pieces
20 g roasted salted almonds, chopped
tbsp honey

Toss the beans in two tablespoons of oil and a half-teaspoon of salt. Heat up a barbecue or a ridged griddle pan on high hot, and cook the beans for three to four minutes on each side, until they get clear grill marks all over and are nearly cooked. Transfer to a bowl and covering with a plate for five to 10 minutes; the residual heat will softened the beans, so leave on their covering depending on how crunchy you like them.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the peach slicings and grill for one to two minutes a side, until they take on visible char marks.

Add the peaches and the mint to the bean bowl, then transfer to a platter and season with the lemon juice, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Dot the cheese and almonds around the plate and finish with a drizzle of honey.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/ patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Identity is the issue of our age: so why can’t we talk more honestly about trans women?

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, acknowledging changes and being supportive are not mutually exclusive

Should you be struggling with a gift idea for that special person in your life, heres a suggestion: how about a home DNA kit? These are all the rage in America, I recently read in the New York Times, with 3m sold by ancestry.com alone in the past five years. At last, Americans can find out how Irish they actually are.

On the one hand, this builds sense: identity is the hot issue of our age. On the other, it constructs no sense at all, because your identity is, we maintain being told, whatever you want it to be. And, indeed, the New York Times writer stoutly concluded, Whatever research results, Ill still come from a large Irish family. Top o the morning to you, sir: why let a blood test ruin your St Patricks Day?

Nowhere is the discussion about identity more passionately felt than within the transgender motion. If you feel you are a woman, you are a woman is the rule, although some females are querying this. Last week, the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was asked by Channel 4s Cathy Newman whether trans girls are real females. My feeling is trans females are trans females, Adichie replied, a reply not so much tautological as nearly palindromic. I dont think its a good thing to conflate everything into one.

This was a clearer way of saying what Jenni Murray had written in an article that clumsily argued trans girls are not real women. And as with Murray, the online opprobrium quickly rained down on Adichies head. The next day she posted a clarification on Facebook, but stood her ground: Acknowledging differences and being supportive are not mutually exclusive, she wrote.

The fear of being on the wrong side of history is a strong persuader, and it was clearly behind much of the reaction to the news that the BBC had slapped down Murray. Instead of exclaiming foul at the broadcasters palpably nervy excuse that their presenters must remain impartial on controversial topics( while having no problem with Gary Lineker sharing his political views ), female commentators dedicated Murray a kicking. Let all women be women, was the verdict.

This kumbaya approach is an increasingly popular one. Why cant we ladies all just get along? Hakuna matata! Yet no one is asking why more females than humen are raising objections here. Perhaps people think this is just what females are like: uniquely catty. Lifelong feminists, especially older ones, who convey any reservations about eliding the experiences of trans and cis girls are dismissed as bigoted ol bitches and maybe some are. But there are real ethical issues here, and they overwhelmingly affect women.

Sport is one obvious example. Male-born bodies have had different testosterone levels and muscle distribution from female ones. No one knows what the solution is but feigning there isnt a difference is ridiculous. Then there are prisons. Its easy to cheer on Chelsea Manning, but Ian Huntley who now reportedly wishes to be known as Lian Huntley and be transferred to a women prison is a tougher sell. Should a man with a history of crimes against women and girls actually be in a female prison?

In January, it was reported that the British Medical Association advised that instead of referring to expectant mothers, health providers should talk about the less exclusionary pregnant people. Some young feminists are even asking if its OK to use the words female and girl yet men are not being urged to avoid mentioning their gender. Is it any wonder some girls are calling bullshit?

Just as the fringe elements of the “politicians ” have taken centre stage, so the most extreme aim of the trans movement which insists there are no differences between trans and cis women has moved to the frontline. Some will call this progress; to me, it seems more a suit of throw away the commonsensical newborn with the transphobic bath water. Trans activists say the idea that biology should determine who is and isnt a woman is misogynistic. Yet far more simplistic gender debates are advanced by the trans motion. On Radio 4s PM last autumn from the impartial BBC a mom ran unchallenged when she claimed she realised her three-year-old daughter was a trans boy when she asked for volumes about pirates instead of princess. In another BBC interview last year, Eddie Izzard said he love manicures because hes trans.

That trans people have long suffered from hideous prejudice and violence, and continue to do so, is without question. But as Adichie told, acknowledging changes and being supportive are not mutually exclusive. If anything, they go hand in hand, because they allow females, trans and non-trans, to talk honestly and ensure each other as people, instead of reducing themselves to manicures and menstruation.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The art of being Azzedine Alaia, darling decorator of fashion insiders

A stunning indicate at the Design Museum presents the master couturiers own vision although sadly he wont see it. By Kate Finnigan

When Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian master couturier, succumbed of a heart attack in Paris last November, aged 82, the Design Museum in London was seven months into preparing a big depict dedicated to his run. It was to be the first style exhibition in the museum’s new building in Kensington and the choice of Alaia had been carefully attained.” The museum has very special architecture ,” says Alice Black, co-director.” What Azzedine Alaia created over his career is also striking statue. We felt that his work against the backdrop of the museum would be amazing .”

Black had come to know the tiny and charismatic decorator over the previous few months. The team had been working closely with Alaia himself, a man known for his perfectionism and hands-on approach.” Azzedine was the heart and soul of his label. For a while I wondered if the exhibition could still go ahead ,” tells Black.” But because he had really wanted it, everyone took it on themselves to make it happen. It was his concept, his idea, so we hadn’t been left to second guess .”

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier, curated by Alaia’s long-term collaborator and friend, Mark Wilson of the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, opens this Thursday. The museum has defied the temptation to turn it into a retrospective and has stayed with the designer’s original vision for it to be a study of technique and craft, with more than 60 examples of couture pieces. It is the first-ever UK show dedicated to Alaia, who is less well known here than in his adopted France. But those who know style revere Alaia almost like no other. The industry loves a secret and there has been a cult surrounding Alaia for five decades, inspired not only by his unique- although much-imitated- style but by his passion for perfectionism( a dress could take five weeks or five years ), his refusal to be dictated to by commercialism and his personal style of business, largely conducted in his atelier-cum-apartment in the Marais around a kitchen table, where Alaia served guests with his own cuisine.

Turning
Turning heads: Azzedine Alaia with Tina Turner, Paris, 1989. Photograph:( c) Peter Lindbergh( Courtesy Peter Lindbergh, Paris)

The Alaia aesthetic is so powerful that, to those who know it, merely uttering the name will summon up a vision- a living, inhaling woman, her form enhanced by textiles that sculpt and mould, clinch and cling.” He’s the master of cut and fit, a sculptor,” tells Wilson.” He didn’t do describes that somebody else translated. He designed everything directly on to the body. That’s how he made things .” In both his couture and ready-to-wear collects his materials were Lycra bandages, smooth velvet, stretch woolen and leather- lots of it, moulded or cut like lace by laser or riveted with silver eyelets. Wilson is proving the couture garments, choice with Alaia, in themed clusters- velvet, African-inspired, bandage dress.” You get to see everything in 360 degrees and the groupings mean the viewer gets a better understanding of the craft and the technique ,” says Wilson, who has now curated six Alaia indicates.” If you looked at these pieces separately, you would insure less how each of them is very special “in ones own” route. You can really find the cuts and seaming and building, which in other exhibitions you might not be able to appreciate .”

Alaia insured the exhibition as an installation and asked artists to induce screens as a backdrop to his work.” I came up with the idea and Azzedine selected the artists, who include Marc Newson, Tatiana Trouve and the Bouroullec friends. Wrapping around the walls is a series of pictures taken by Richard Wentworth, who expended two years documenting Maison Alaia.

” I build clothes; females construct style ,” the designer told. For Black, the sorcery of the Alaia look is that it is timeless.” They are garments that you look fantastic in today, much as you would have done 20 years ago, or will do in 20 years’ period ,” she tells.” It’s that craftsmanship, the perfection. In the exhibition you do watch patterns and garbs that he’s been working on and reworking throughout his career, but in parallel you insure very interesting variations of cloth. He’s always bringing innovation in there- the laser-cutting or working with a glass powder that gives fabric an iridescence. There’s innovation as well as a respect of a certain tradition .”

When Michael Jackson induced the 1992 video for In the Closet– directed by Herb Ritts, co-starring Naomi Campbell and with a voiceover by Princess Stephanie of Monaco- Alaia Campbell’s barely there clothes, white crop top and flippy skirt. This was the glitzy stratosphere he occupied. The designer was induced more famous by a line in the 1995 cinema Clueless when Alicia Silverstone’s fashion-obsessed Cher is robbed at gunpoint and refuses to get to the ground with the immortal terms:” You don’t understand, this is an Alaia !”

But Alaia himself was not a flashy person. The word most used about him is “humble”. He was kind and empathetic, a friend and guide to many people, including Mark Wilson who knew him for 22 years.” Oh, he was a sweetheart. I loved him ,” says Wilson.” We were family. He was my favourite artist and he also opened his home to me .” He was a father figure for Naomi Campbell, who knew him as Papa, and moved into his apartment in Paris when she was 16. The model made a compassionate speech about him at the British Fashion Awards after his death last year:” Back in the day, our fridges weren’t stuffed with food: we bought what we eat on a daily basis and if there was one egg left in his fridge, Papa would offer it to me to make an omelette .”

Born in Tunis, the child of wheat farmers, he studied statue before transfer, self-taught, to fashion. He moved to Paris in 1957 and got a job at Christian Dior, but was dismissed after five days for not having the correct papers. After working with Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler he set up on his own, but it wasn’t until 1979 that he opened his own atelier, where he garmented Greta Garbo and Marie-Helene de Rothschild.

He is perhaps most recognised for garmenting the supermodels who bestrode the 1980 s and 90 s- Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell- as well as the awesome frames of Grace Jones and Stephanie Seymour. The height of these women and his lack of it often demonstrated irresistible to photographers; images of the 5ft 3in Alaia, towered over by some 6ft super-beauty, possess something of the fairytale. But his clothes were not only for Amazons. The Kardashian sisters, with their curves and gloss, look like they were conceived to wear Alaia and are devotees. So, too, is his friend the gallerist Carla Sozzani, as was her late sister Franca, who was editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue . Pale blonde Italian waifs, they slipped their slim frames into wide-tiered skirts with flat black shoes so that the architecture of the attires swung around them like kinetic sculpture.

” He was at the service of women ,” tells Black.” Some have been his couture clients for a lifetime- once you start wearing Alaia you simply never stop. But even with his ready-to-wear he put so much attention into the structure. They don’t crumples and don’t fall the wrong way. A lot of the women we’ve talked to mention this feeling of empowerment they have while wearing his clothes. When you feel so beautiful, you feel confident and you can go out and take on the world .”

The museum will exhibit a few outfits in the public foyer, alongside photography, as a taster for a wider audience. With a new flagship three-storey Alaia store lately opened on London’s New Bond Street, this is perhaps the biggest year ever for the once tiny label. Alaia may have left us, but his legend will endure.

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is at The Design Museum from 10 May to 7 October ( designmuseum.org )

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Pirelli’s all-black calendar:’ Any daughters should be able to have their own fairytale’

Diversity takes centre stage as Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyongo, Whoopi Goldberg and Sean Diddy Combs feature in Tim Walker and Edward Enninfuls twisted version of Alice in Wonderland

I chop off people heads and I like it. Naomi Campbell appears up from her telephone to tell a group of journalists about her role in the most recent Pirelli calendar. It is inspired by John Tenniels original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, and Campbell is on set in a photographic studio in north London, surrounded by a twisted fairytale scene of mouldy jam tarts and scorched doll houses.

She plays the Royal Beheader of course she does and is joined by Lupita Nyongo as a dormouse, Sean Diddy Combs as Campbells fellow beheader, South Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot as Alice, Whoopi Goldberg as the Royal Duchess and Sasha Lane as the March Hare. Fashions woke poster-woman and feminist activist Adwoa Aboah has been shot as Tweedledee. And RuPaul will also appear, as the Queen of Hearts.

RuPaul,
RuPaul, Duckie Thot and Edward Enninful backstage at the shoot. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

This is a staggeringly talented and eclectic cast. It is also all black, with the calendar styled by Edward Enninful, the newly appointed editor of British Vogue, the first person of colouring to have held the post. That said, the concept is the work of a white photographer, Tim Walker, who explains his motivation by saying its never been did before. Alice has never been told like this.

This is not the first time Pirelli has featured an all-black lineup in 1987, a 16 -year-old Campbell posed topless for an edition that featured only black models. This time, however, the tone is wildly different. And it feels precision-engineered to strike a chord in an epoch in which way ultimately seems to be addressing its diversity problem, with Enninfuls appointment, the autumn/ wintertime 2017 runway collectings in just about every city featuring their most racially diverse cast ever, as well as Guccis recent campaign that featured merely black models all being presented as green shoots of change.

Adwoa
Adwoa Aboah. Photograph: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But reflecting, even leading, cultural conversations is what the Pirelli calendar does these days, which may seem bizarre given that it is essentially a promotional exert for tyres.

This was not always the way. For much of its history the calendar, launched in 1964, was most famous as a place where supermodels took off their kit sometimes artily for photographers ranging from Terry Richardson to Herb Ritts.

Alpha
Alpha Dia and King Owusu. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But in 2016 Pirelli commissioned Annie Leibovitz to shoot females known for their professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment, including Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer, without the male gaze in mind. Earlier this year, Peter Lindberghs instalment continued in the same vein, presenting portraits of women with their clothes largely on: Uma Thurman was snapped in a rib-knit roll-neck. Both calendars inspired thinkpieces aplenty.

Thando
Thando Hopa and Whoopi Goldberg. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

The cynical might question Pirellis motivatings for using an all-black cast, and whether its nod to manners vogue for diversity is a little too on the nose. With that box ticked, will Pirelli forget about diversity for its 2019 edition? Will the rest of the fashion industry, for that matter?

None of these concerns are at the fore on decide, however, where models wearing vinyl skirts and platform shoes mill around to a soundtrack of Aretha Franklins Respect and Otis Reddings( Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher& Higher. The dark detritus of fairytale is strewn about cakes with plastic hands erupting out of them, burnt toast and a looming, giant stuffed hare that refuses to stay upright.

South African Thando Hopa plays the Princess of Hearts. She is a law graduate who worked as a prosecutor specialising in sex offence examples, and only got into modelling because she wanted to have a greater level of representation for someone who appears so different( she has albinism ). Expended in the power of images you find someone portrayed in a particular way and it gives you inspiration and motive

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Ssshhh! How the cult of quiet can change your life

Silent retreats, silent eateries and even silent dating events are on the rise. Now a new film aims to quietly spread the word

Once the preserve of monastic retreats and hardcore meditators, simply being quiet is growing in appeal. Whole businesses have sprung up to meet a rising demand for quiet hour, from silent weekend getaways to silent dining, silent read parties and even silent dating. This month watches the release of documentary In Pursuit of Silence, a meditative film about our relationship with noise, promoted with a delicate two-minute trailer in which not a word is uttered.

Silence can, as the movie attests, mean different things to different people. It can be a space for quiet reflection or a nation fraught with discomfort. There is a certain intimacy inherent in being silent with other people we usually do so merely with those closest to us. So there is something almost radical about the recent trend for enjoying stillnes with strangers.

Mariel Symeonidou started a regular silent reading party in Dundee simply under a year ago, in a moment of uncharacteristic extroversion. Readers bring their books and meet in a bar, where they read together in silence for an hour or sometimes two, then put the books away to chat and have a drink.

Meditating
Meditating in Australia. Photo: Fairfax Media/ Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The concept began in the dimly lighted, retro-furnished cafe and bars of Seattle. Devised as a literary hangout for those who dont like spoken-word nights or discussion groups, the premise was simple: show up, just shut up and read. The trend has spread to New York and since found a home in the UK, in London and Edinburgh as well as Dundee.

When the read starts, everything runs quiet, says Symeonidou. Its a little bit surreal, especially in what is usually a bustling bar. However, there is something special about sharing that silence with others. It offers an opportunity for escapism; everyone is so busy with work and with technology being ever present. An event like this gives people the opportunity to escape these things for a while.

While the readings are now tranquil and relaxed, Mariel confesses initial iterations were a little awkward. This discomfort is precisely where the radical power of stillnes lies, tells Matthew Adams, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Brighton. Silence is often something we experience as uncomfortable, as a rupture in the social fabric, an awkwardness we want to cover over with our voices.

Adams has a long-term interest in the social, cultural and psychological implication of stillnes, and particularly in shared silence and electing to share silence. Collective silence is about connecting with others in a way that gets underneath social conventions. It tackles us with what it feels like to be in the physical presence of other human beings without any games, strategies, reading or misreading of intentions. It is a temporary suspension of our reliance on talk.

The absence of chatter can have social advantages. Londons silent speed-dating event organisers Shhh! say that we are instinctively better at communicating and choosing the right partners when we have the chance to put aside words and consider one another as we really are.

Shhh! hosts regular speed-dating conferences and singles events, featuring non-verbal flirting games and eye-gazing; neatly side-stepping all the what-are-you-watching-on-Netflix topics. Claimed to be a favourite with creative professionals in their 20 s and 30 s, Shhh! boasts a busy its own programme of events until the end of the year. The conferences begin with games to break the ice, including jumping around in front of a potential mate and attaining paleolithic noises. Then goes a somewhat standard speed-dating set-up; attendees are paired off for a limited window of day, communicating merely with gestures, before engaging in 60 seconds of uninterrupted eye contact. After the event you are dutifully furnished with the contact details of interested parties and if youre lucky enough to land a second date, you can maintain the established embargo on chit-chat, whisking them off for a silent dinner date or a mute trip to the pictures.

Honi Ryan is an artist based in Berlin who began hosting silent dinners back in 2006. An otherwise ordinary dinner party setup, albeit with a ritzy vegan menu( regular dishes include baked almond soy mushrooms and Lebanese beans ), the rules of the dinner are: no talking , no employing your voice , no reading or writing, to continue efforts to make as little noise as is practicable, do not interact with technology, and bide for at least two hours.

Ryan describes the silent dinners as social statues engaging with the changing nature of communication and the space between people. So far she has taken her silent dining project to Mexico, the US, Australia, Lebanon and China. The global reach is fundamental to the project, as is the inclusive and international menu. Its evident that the age-old connections we make over food do not depend on the words around it. Silence creates the space for the people and places involved to fill with whatever is needed; it strips away our rehearsed social behaviours.

In
In Pursuit of Silence the art of seeing stillness within yourself. Photograph: PR Company Handout

Perhaps the most well-known silent social is the silent retreat. Recently featured in an episode of BBC comedy Fleabag, silent retreats vary in tone and intent, and are more popular than you might imagine. The retreats often have a religious or spiritual component, with Buddhist, Christian and Catholic retreats constructing up the majority. They can last anywhere between a couple of days to a few weeks, set in places that are usually fittingly pastoral, in old farm buildings or country piles.

Silent retreat regular Peter Cadney first discovered the power of stillnes on a 10 -day vipassana silent meditation course, in 2013. The technique emphasises developing a connection with stillnes and accessing the stillness within yourself.

There had been a number of events in my life that I hadnt been able to deal with very well; things like relationship breakups and the death of a close friend. Id spent years working at a computer and was feeling the effects of muscle tension, nervousnes and stress. I felt drawn to finding somewhere quiet to sit in order to discovery peace within myself.

Cadney tells silent meditation has helped to improve both his mental and physical health. When I first sat down in silence, it felt very peaceful. I started noticing just how many guess were coming and going in my mind, it was as if there had been no space for silence.

Cadney has since given up his office job and now runs as a holistic therapist. As soon as I sat down in that meditation hall I thought: this is where I am supposed to be.

Swiss Artist Salome Voegelin also detected a purpose in silence. However, rather than determining stillnes soothing or nulling somehow, it instead opened her intellect to the revolutionary potential of hearing. She describes stillnes , not as the is a lack of audio, but as the beginning of listening, though she has some reservations about the egotistical propensities of the current trend for silent getaways.

While these events are contemplative and respectful, I wonder how much of the silent listening is expended preoccupying about ones own silence rather than hearing others and the environment, she says.

Voeglins book, Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art posits stillnes and noise not as opposites but as different objectives of the same spectrum. “Were not receiving” true silence. Its a state that allows me to hear my breathing in tandem with yours, the rumbling of my belly, the gurgling of the radiator. It provides a time out. Its when we start to listen to each other.

Silence assumes a new meaning in an era in which we are consuming information and engaging in dialogue with one another endlessly, without ever opening our mouths. While we may watch The Pursuit of Silence and enjoy the absence of audio, how many of us will be seduced to check in with our emails, tweet our thoughts on the film? While we might find pleasure in those rare and cherished moments of peace and quiet, when it comes to stillnes and stillness, can we muster up the self-restraint at all?

In Pursuit of Silence is on release now .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavors well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to stimulate ricotta hence its Italian name, which entails recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow renders more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was induced in Italy use raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started constructing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might gues. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit merrily next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will be dependent on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last 5 minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of simmering water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until simply al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colouring, then add the chard stems and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mix well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

How Beyonce’s Ivy Park attained sportswear sexy

The vocalists fitness label rebrands bodycon by merging style and functionality. But can a gym-friendly version reclaim this unforgiving trend?

The hype surrounding Beyoncs new sportswear line, Ivy Park, is already off the scale. Its not even launched yet, and it has already violated the internet, or at least photo-sharing sites such as Instagram. No surprise, you might tell, she is very famous, and very zeitgeist. But that Ivy Park is, to an extent, a niche fashion genre fitnesswear as opposed to, say, shoes, suggests something is brewing in fashion. Why would the worlds most famous pop star( not to mention bellwether of style and fourth-wave feminist) undertake sportswear if it wasnt a trend sleeper, mass or otherwise? The brands manifesto has a go at answering this My goal with Ivy Park is to push the boundaries of athletic wear to subsistence and inspire women who understand that beauty is more than your physical appearance but equally, this feels at odds with what youre looking at: here is Beyonc, in the rain, outdoors rather than in the gym, appearing purposeful in a leotard, and wet. Could it be any sexier?( And: how am I meant to crosstrain in this ?)

This looks like sportswear, but sportswear that you would also wear to a gig. Its not really on the catwalk at the least not overarchingly so and while sportswear and athleisure have always included tight-fitting pieces for various ergonomic and aesthetic reasons , none of it has really been in fashion. Athleisure, a very close way has come to accepting sportswear, tends to be loose-fitting, minimal and sometimes comes in cashmere. Its also lucrative athleisure is worth 6.4 bn and looks set to increase over the next three years. Ivy Park is, arguably, more than sportswear. Its a sideways take on bodycon or bodycon 3.0 as were calling it, given that its not new sitting somewhere between sportswear and fashion-tight. And, like bodycon, its sexy as hell, even if retailers arent selling it as such.

A
A Herv Lger dress, 1992. Photo: Associated/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Short for body conscious, in laymen terms bodycon is clothing usually a dress defined by its tightness. Historically, its one of the few tendencies that has leapt between catwalk and mass marketplace. Theres version one: Jean Paul Gaultiers outer-corsets; Herv Lgers bandage-style bodycon outfits which were, ostensibly, couture spanx; and king of cling Azzedine Alaas creations, which predominated the tight market in the 90 s. Version two, a slightly more formal take, was more about structure and tailoring than cling( find Roland Mourets galaxy dress and Victoria Beckhams first collections ). It was bodycon taken down a notch, but bodycon all the same.

Sitting simultaneously on the catwalk and in red-tops, bodycon has given us some memorable celebrity imagery: Liz Hurley safety-pinned into Versace at a movie premiere; Eva Herzigova vacuum-packed into a lilac dress on the 1993 Herv Lger catwalk; Victoria Beckham for the best part of the 2000 s.

So, in all regions of the 1980 s, 1990 s and early 2000 s, bodycon became the gold-standard of red-carpet fashion. This was status wear and power-dressing combined the acme of sexiness, designed to giftwrap the body.

But for whom the wearer? Unlikely. Bodycon was, arguably, womenswear designed for the male gaze. As style historian Amber Butchart explains, its a sign of the corset morphing from actual to internal, with bodies being shaped through diet and workout instead. This increased throughout the 20 th century and reached an apex with the rise of bodycon, she says.

Eva
Eva Herzigov, Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham do bodycon. Composite: Rex Features

If you think this feels at odds with new, gym-friendly bodycon not to mention Asos bodysuits and Calvin Klein bralets( a bestseller at Selfridges) then youre right. This version is as tight as its forebears but is more focused on fitness and leisure, constructed with technical textiles and with mesh detailing, for example. Is it simply a example of bodycon sexy, tight and unforgiving being skewed and rebranded back to us as something else solely?

Instagram hasnt helped: in the past few years, tight fitnesswear worn in or, increasingly, outside the gym has become acceptable to post. Ditto the way we post it usually in the mirror, usually with the wearers iPhone camera in shot, so as to reclaim ownership of the image. It says: I am wearing this and I am photographing this and you, the spectator, are secondary. Concurrently, bikini shoots appear to be on the decline, especially ones taken by your mates which objectify the wearer by default. And yet, in terms of body coverage and flesh-flashing, they are one and the same, even if the latter focuses on celebrating women bodies rather than fetishising them. The internetification of self-image might have changed but the clothes havent.

In the past 10 years, the catwalk moved away from tight-fitting clothes, with brands such as Cline, Stella McCartney and The Row going for extreme minimalism. Kenya Hunt, fashion features director at Elle, supposes the demand shifted to more volume and a more casual stance because it was easier to wear. The wide-legged trouser. The oversized cocoon coat. Various boyfriend-adjectived blazers, jeans and shirts. Cerebral fashion if you are able to. Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab and Saint Laurent leant towards fitted rather than loose, suggesting there is also appetite for this look, but on the whole, bodycon sat in the shadows of late 2000 s minimalism. Until now, that is.

Roland
Roland Mourets galaxy dress, 2005. Photograph: Fernanda Calfat/ Getty Images

Butchart guesses the recent resurgence of feminism might have contributed to the phasing out of bodycon. Not that there is anything unfeminist about these styles by any means, she says, but that there is much more debate now around identity politics and representation in the media, and creating spaces for previously unrepresented bodies. The change is palpable and the updated bodycon is aimed at all body kinds, with a focus on functionality and movement.

This is the thinking behind Selfridges brand-new Body Studio, a cavernous series of rooms dedicated to undergarments( swimwear, lingerie, hosiery) designed to be shopped by females. The designers, too, half of which arent household names, are predominantly females: The Upside, Michi, Lisa Marie Fernandez, Varley, Monreal are all designed by women and based on what they want to wear. Butchart tells: This underwear, sleepwear and bodywear is intended to be seen. Were insuring a shift away to a small extent from dictatorial beauty standards that the bodycon gym body of the past seemed to represent.

Liz
Liz Hurleys famous Versace dress, 1994. Photograph: Dave Benett/ Getty Images

Aside from sportswear( for the gym or, at best, the tavern ), high fashion is wading in, from the tight-fitting negligee-style garbs at Cline, Givenchy and Balenciaga, to the knicker and bra shapes at JW Anderson, Marc Jacobs, Dries Van Noten and Saint Laurents AW16 collecting. Hedi Slimanes swansong for Saint Laurent, and the fact that Anthony Vaccarello, monarch of the tight, high hemline, has moved to the French style house, both suggest that this seem may stick around for a while. The current issue of Vogue has a whole shoot geared around super-tight underwear worn outdoors, often caveated with a Dare you? caption.

If this is bodycon( and it almost certainly is ), it smacks of the commercialisation of feminism, a savvy intersection between retailers and purchasers that endorses tight garment by not branding it overtly as sexy. Bodycon with a different narration. Cynically speaking, it could be interpreted as health and wellness being sold back to us, a rebranding of sportswear as sexy but functional. Of course you can wear it to the gym and doubtless people do but, as the Vogue shoot testifies, its also designed to be seen: Paco Rabanne heralds the return of the corseted playsuit with a new athletic spin. Do you dare to sport it alone? The answer may well be no, but, as Heather Gramston, buying manager for Body Studio explains: Who would have believed girls would so espouse the pyjama trend?

Yet fashion commentator Caryn Franklin remains unconvinced: The latest bodycon look from Beyonc is a believable offering of 21 st-century womanhood despite the unnecessary smoulder and sulk in the marketing suggesting the male gaze is still paramount. Still, she concedes, sweat, grit and healthy body ideals signal modernity. Either way, even if bodycon is back, the women who buy into it are more interested in looking good for themselves. If they look sexy, too, well thats just a bonus.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

WhataEUR( tm) s the secret of good penning?

If you find yourself procrastinating, or stifled by anxiety, or writers block, I can reveal that the solution to your difficulties is

I first encountered Robert Boices name about three years ago, somewhere online; after that, it started popping up every other month. Boice, I learned, was a US psychologist whod cracked the secret of how to write painlessly and productively. Years ago, hed recorded this wisdom in a book , now out of publish, which a handful of fans discussed in reverent tones, but with a title that seemed like a deliberate bid for oblivion: How Writers Journey To Comfort And Fluency. Also, it was absurdly expensive: employed transcripts sold for APS1 30. Still, Im a sucker for writing advice, especially when so closely guarded. So this month, I succumbed: I determined a transcript at the saner( if still eye-watering) cost of APS6 8, and a plain green print-on-demand hardback arrived in the post. So if you hunger to write more, but instead find yourself procrastinating, or stifled by panic, or writers block, I can reveal that the solution to your difficulties is

Look, you knew this would be anticlimactic, didnt you? The kernel of Boices advice, based on writing workshops conducted with struggling academics, isnt merely old. Its the oldest in the world: write, every weekday, in brief scheduled conferences, as short as 10 minutes at first, then get longer. Reading that, I nearly flung my APS6 8 volume across the room in impatience. But that wouldnt surprise Boice. Because impatience, for him, is aA huge part of why writing causes so much grief.

His students, he explains, tell him they cant afford to restriction their writing to short conferences, or try his other workouts: theyve got deadlines to meet! But that proves the phase. They want to have already written and its precisely that manic importance that triggers panic and procrastination. As I kept reading, a realisation dawned: the non-excitingness of Boices volume from its title to his step-by-step advice, which youre meant to implement gradually, over months is itself training exercises in cultivating patience. Its slow running because slow is the only style forward.

This gets clearer when it comes to one of Boices favourite tips: when your daily writing hour is up, stop dead, even if youve get momentum and could write more. Maybe you could. But youd be reinforcing the notion of writing as a mysterious force, to be harnessed when it was shows up, rather than a monotony activity you choose, undramatically, to do. The exhort to continue, Boice writes, includes a big component of impatience about not being finished, about not being productive enough, about never again determining such an ideal period for writing. Stop when the timer goes off, and youll build self-discipline. Keep going longer, and youre just indulging your insecurity.

Boice would have helped nobody, then, had he offered a quick fix because wanting a quick fix is the essence of impatience. Instead, decelerate. Make writing only a middling priority in their own lives. Dont binge-write. Aim for mild happiness as you work , not blizzards of passion. And if all this ten-strikes you as a waste of time, ask yourself: could that very reaction are some of the problem? Gazing paralysed at the screen is an all the more important waste, after all.

oliver.burkeman @theguardian. com.

Read more: www.theguardian.com