“Is it from your life? Did this really happen?” Trusted readers, dependence, afterwardsness and re-visioning, culinary anhedonia, artists' kitchens, having a baby on one's own, Instagram is dead.

The house tour that made me buy red pendant lights instead of white..!

Hi friends,

Many newsletters from lockdown this year but my first from proper isolation, a fully closed-up house for two weeks. (We are all fine.)


“The questions, “Is it from your life? Did this really happen?”, along with the self-contradicting observation, “Nothing happens in your novels,” have greeted my fiction from 1991. How you can ask “Did this really happen?” while at the same time claiming nothing has happened in unclear to me.”

“Most of the time, before a friend even gets a chance to open the document, I write to them, Don’t read it! It’s not done! It was enough to have sent it. Then it hits me—suddenly and completely—how good or bad my book is, and I see the book anew, and am able to work on it with new energy, for several weeks.” The importance of trusted readers. (I sent this to two Whatsapp groups with the smug caption: this is us.)

“afterwardsness” in this profile of Annie Ernaux. | In a review of a new book about Adrienne Rich: “Her goal was not to reject or repudiate her past but to ‘re-vision’ it, a term of her own coinage. She defined the concept, in a 1971 speech, as ‘the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entertaining an old text from a new critical direction.’”

“I decided some time ago that I was someone who could withstand any degree of harm without the need to be soothed, because it was the only way to protect myself from the people who refused to soothe me.” 


Substack allows me to see the most-clicked links. It’s invariably something about sex or (as when I made a very out of character recommendation about an SPF tinted moisturiser) skincare. This is my bet for this edition’s most clicked link— from studio to dining table: artists’ kitchens.

If you’ve ever been to the second hand furniture place above the Narrow Way in Hackney, this is the owner’s mildly extreme and stunning home.

The pink octagonal tower house in Canonbury is for sale for a mere five million GBP!

Beautiful riso print: Growing a Garden is a Beautiful and Radical Act. (Via the photographer Sophie Davidson.)

300+ year old secret passage found in Westminster.

Nigel Slater’s Christmas breakfast recipes: I might make the oat thing with Jude’s marmalade.

BBC’s Roadkill was fine but the soundtrack is great — it’s on Spotify. I just single-handedly set up streaming on our new TV so we are going to watch Small Axe, which sounds amazing.

Beautiful children’s books featuring protagonists who are Black or people of colour.

Another Helen Garner podcast interview! Emily is insisting I listen to this podcast Appearances, so I will.


The joylessness of cooking. | “Because the primary measure of culinary knowledge is whether it brings pleasure to the body, and to what degree, it is inherently erotic, and has no authority in a text-only format. As with kinks, everyone has their preferences – a ‘special way’ to prepare toast, eggs or rice (or whatever) that amounts to an irrefutable insight, a piece of information that endures because of how it makes them feel.” (Emma and I have had a Gabrielle Hamilton week. Her essay about Prune closing at the start of the pandemic. A very EYES EMOJI interview with Nigella: do they hit it off or not? From the archive: Nigella’s first Vogue column.)

“In the labour room, a triumvirate of women circles me: my doula, my student midwife and the hospital midwife. “You can do it, you can do it,” they incant through every contraction. I feel more present and less alone than I have in my entire life.” Beautiful and inspiring piece about choosing to have a baby on one’s own.

“I think we actually sabotage our own happiness with this unrestrained anger. And I have to honestly ask: Why are you making choices to make the world crueler than it needs to be and calling that being ‘woke’?”

Pods. Instagram is dead.