Field of dreams: heartbreak and heroics at the World Ploughing Championships

On 31 August, the night before the first day of the World Ploughing Championship, the bar of the Hotel Fortuna in the small German town of Reutlingen was crammed with the global ploughing elite. The scene resembled a low-key United Nations afterparty – Swiss, Kenyans, Australians, Latvians, Canadians and French, all slugging back long glasses of German beer. The top flight of international ploughing is a limited pool, the same faces recurring every year, and so the atmosphere was jovial, like a school reunion, 50-odd ploughmen and two ploughwomen (the sport has historically been dominated by men) hailing each other affectionately across the room.

My love-hate relationship with Instagram

Alexa was choosing a dress for a party. It was taking a while. This always happens, she gets carried away with every little thing. She was late, but she wasn’t worried because everyone’s always late, apart from her boyfriend Olly, who is always on time and was already there, which she felt bad about because he was only going to the party to support her, just like he always did. The decision about what to wear was painful because she had to figure out what would look right.

From Game of Thrones to The Crown: the woman who turns actors into stars

Earlier this year, the casting director Nina Gold sat at the back of the stalls of the Criterion theatre in the West End and watched a group of students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland perform their showcase. After three years at drama school, each actor had a couple of three-minute scenes to impress a silent audience of agents and casting directors on their lunch hour. Gold slid down in her seat, as if wanting to remain unseen. Every now and then, she scribbled something next to a name

Tavi Gevinson

On 21 April last year, Tavi Gevinson turned 21. The date happened to be the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death, so to mark her birthday, Tavi rented a cinema at the Anthology Film Archives in New York’s East Village and screened a 35-millimetre print of Purple Rain for her friends. If this sounds like an untypical celebration, rest assured: afterwards they ate cake and partied in bars. The evening’s divide is classic Tavi. Since her career began nearly a decade ago, when she was 11 and launched her fashion blog, Style Rookie, Tavi has been half normal young person – going through high school, leaving home, moving to New York, eating cake on her birthday – and half entirely exceptional young person, famous from childhood, apparently old beyond her years. The kind of person who screens Purple Rain on her birthday.

Philip Pullman Returns to His Fantasy World

On one of my first meetings with Philip Pullman, he led me to the crenelated tower of Exeter College, in Oxford, and pointed out the room he lived in as a student. More than 50 feet up from the ground was a tiny attic window. To visit friends living in rooms on the adjacent staircase — accessible only at ground level — Pullman, a tall, sturdy man with a head like a boulder, would clamber out his window, shimmy along a gutter and propel himself through a window into a bathroom. From where we were standing, the feat looked unlikely, and unwise. Pullman was self-deprecating. “It was less precarious than it seems because it’s actually quite a large gutter, and it’s quite deep,” he said. “And I was drunk. So.”

Andrea Arnold’s Immersive Cinema

The Kenwood Ladies’ Pond, on Hampstead Heath, a patch of wilderness in North London, is surrounded by trees and populated by ducks. Regulars bathe year-round, breaking the ice with their toes in midwinter. On a surprisingly hot September afternoon, the British film director Andrea Arnold lowered herself into the water. She’d driven from the other side of the city, where she lives in Greenwich with her daughter, for a cold plunge. As she swam, she kept veering off the conventional counterclockwise course around the edge of the pond to try to get nose to nose with one of the passing mallards. One let her float up close, almost touching, before scooting across the water.

Zadie Smith: cover story

1. Paris, late June, and le Jardin du Luxembourg is overspilling with tennis players and pushchairs and ice-cream-coated small children in various stages of euphoria and collapse. Among them are two belonging to the author Zadie Smith - Kit and Harvey, a girl and a boy, six and three - who are in the playground in the middle of a truce negotiation with their mother, identifiable from across the gardens by the bright red wrap tied around her hair. A babysitter, hired for a few hours each day, hovers. Zadie has to work; the children don't want her to go. The everlasting debate.

Review: Golden Hill

Not long after arriving in New York, fresh off the London boat, our hero Robert Smith goes to church. In 1746, the town is still in miniature, populated by a mere “six thousand souls”, many of whom are also saying their prayers. The scene allows author Francis Spufford to lay out his wares, presenting a dissection of New York society taking their places in the pews, from the Governor and his two African footmen “with wigs powdered to the colour of icing sugar”, to “a choir of blue-coated orphans

Long Read: The clean, green and slightly bonkers world of CBeebies

The feeling of despair that descends on hearing the theme tune of the CBeebies television show Me Too! is unmistakable. At 6am, it is the first show on the schedule of the BBC’s dedicated channel for the under-sixes, and if you find yourself watching it, a series of bleak assumptions can be made. First, you’re up too early. Second, you’ve capitulated, turning on the TV in the hope of silencing your offspring and going back to sleep. Third, even if you do manage to lose consciousness again, your

Long Read: What should we do about paedophiles?

A photograph of Aaron Collis regularly appeared in the press while he was on trial. It showed a young man in a crowd of friends, whose faces have been pixelated to preserve their anonymity, and it appears to capture a moment of celebration. The group are bunched together, arms in the air, all wearing the same white shirts and roughly knotted blue-and-red striped ties. They could be in school uniform, or party costume. Collis is looking up at the camera, a wide smile exposing a top row of pointed

Review: The Sunlight Pilgrims

The temperature drops by 50C over the course of Jenni Fagan’s new novel. The Sunlight Pilgrims begins, in the autumn of 2020, at a chilling minus six, and by late March and the end of the book has descended to an unsurvivable minus 56C. There’s a giant iceberg looming off the coast of Scotland, schools have closed and people are freezing to death in their homes and their cars, lost in snowdrifts that rise up above windows. This is climate change made palpably, physically real: not a policy issue

Review: The Portable Veblen

Once, love stories led up to a ring. Elizabeth McKenzie’s new novel begins with one: “a diamond so large it would be a pill to avoid for those who easily gag”. The metaphor speaks for itself. Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, who has just been proposed to by her boyfriend Paul Vreeland, has mixed feelings about marriage. Veblen, named by her impossible and hypochondriac mother Melanie after the anti-consumerist 19th-century philosopher Thorstein Veblen, is as unconventional as her name suggests. She is a

Rachel Weisz: cover story

There is a circus in Chiswick, says Rachel Weisz, to beat all circuses. It's not your average big-tent affair – morose animals, sparkly leotards – but a wonderland. There are Middle Eastern funk bands and African acrobats, clowns (proper clowns, not the disturbing, flower-squirting imitations). It's the best live show she's ever seen, she says. Weisz is utterly seduced. Sitting in a comically oversize chair in a Camden pub near her London home, drinking milky breakfast tea, she is momentarily seized by a desire to juggle. 'I'd love to join the circus,' she says.

Sue Webster's second course

First, make a bed: chives, spring onions, peas, asparagus, lettuce. Rip the leaves apart with your hands. Chop the vegetables. Then, place the skins of two gray squirrels on top of the bed, facing each other, their pulpy entrails arranged so it looks like their stomachs are conjoined. Stuff their heads with radishes to make their eyes glow red. Finally, christen your work. “Two Lovers Entwined,” says the British artist Sue Webster, looking down with fondness at the squirrels, purchased from a nearby butcher.

Saoirse Ronan: cover story

The twelfth edition of The Gentlewoman brings together a scintillating line-up of charismatic and cosmopolitan women, all interviewed in locations of their choosing. We spend a day on the Irish coast with actor Saoirse Ronan, the luminous cover star of this season’s issue, an afternoon at a south London snooker hall in the company of prodigious cross-genre musician Mica Levi and teatime on the Upper East Side of New York, chit-chatting with the renowned astrologer Susan Miller. Then it’s straigh

Long Read: Is Richard Dawkins destroying his reputation?

In Dublin, not long ago, Richard Dawkins visited a steakhouse called Darwin’s. He was in town to give a talk on the origins of life at Trinity College with the American physicist Lawrence Krauss. In the restaurant, a large model gorilla squatted in a corner and a series of sepia paintings of early man hung in the dining room – though, Dawkins pointed out, not quite in the right chronological order. A space by the bar had been refitted to resemble the interior of the Beagle, the vessel on which C
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