No Complaints #83: Brogues, Bananas and Bagehot

It’s a fact: podcast people are the nicest people on the internet. Since the first instalment of my new podcast column was published, I’ve been flooded with messages from people telling me they’re excited to read it, or suggesting things I should cover. Thanks everyone! Of course, it’s all just a cunning plan to allow me to wear headphones all winter and therefore have nice warm ears. But please read it anyway. It’ll be appearing on every Thursday.

Things to read

“The brogues were my mother’s proof of membership, a swipe card, a badge which gained her entrance to a certain way of life – a certain caste, if you like. Like a way of saying things, they located her. They fitted snugly, and gave her grounding in her new home; they expressed her English husband’s designs on her and her acceptance at this stage of the freedom she had achieved from the Fascist-stricken, war-torn Italy that had been her whole life until she left. Yet for me the sight of her crafted brogues from Peal & Co is soaked with the sorrow of the accommodation she made; the shoes were a kind of trick, a disguise.”

This is such a feat of writing – personal memoir, a gentle prod of argument about immigration, and a discussion of language and accents all combined in an essay about a pair of shoes. Email to Pocket.


“Dark chocolate now has an image to maintain. Dark chocolate reads The Economist, and regularly quotes Bagehot to make all that reading worthwhile. Dark chocolate was totally into the restaurant before it was cool. Dark chocolate stopped liking the restaurant once it got cool.”

This should be the final word in the chocolate wars, imo. Nobody likes someone who quotes Bagehot repeatedly. Email to Pocket.


“In the White House and out of it, navigating social mores has historically been the domain of women. But now there is an opportunity here for us to consider – really publicly consider – what a support system looks like when a man is doing the supporting. For that to happen, the first gentleman will actually have to do the work (the seating charts, the tours, the interviews about what it’s really like to be married to the president, perhaps even the careful calibration of patriotic fashion) that first ladies have done before him. And we’ll have to judge his success in those roles as we judged them.”

I'm persuaded by this. If Bill Clinton actually does being “First Dude” properly, he could do more to unravel modern ideas about masculinity than anyone has for a long, long time. Email to Pocket.


“I’m not sure how well I’m expecting any of this to turn out, but the result is not good. When I peel my banana, there is subcutaneous haemorrhaging. (Again: not a sentence I want on my medical record.) This happens time and time again, jam weeping everywhere.”

I always enjoy reading Rhik Samadder’s “Inspect a gadget” column, but this one about a device that is essentially a jam catheter for bananas is absolutely excellent. Email to Pocket.


“Brett pulled his tank top up over his head and stared at himself in the full-length mirror. He pushed down his jeans, then his boxers, and imagined the moment when Jennifer saw him nude for the first time. His feet were average-sized, and there was hair on his toes that he should probably take care of before tonight. He liked his legs just fine, but his thighs were wide and embarrassingly muscular. He tried standing at an angle, a twist at his waist. Some improvement. In that position, it was easier to see his ass and notice that it was not as pert as it had been at 22. He clenched both cheeks, hoping that tightened its look. He sucked in his tummy and pulled his pecs up high, trying to present them like pastries in a bakery window. Would she like him? Were the goods good enough? He pouted his lips and ran his hands over his thighs, masking their expanse. Maybe.”

If women wrote men the way men write women. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

Just because I’m now writing about podcasts during work hours as well doesn’t mean I’ll stop throwing out my audio recommendations here! This week, I binged my way through the adaptation of Emma Donaghue’s new novel The Wonder that BBC Radio 4 has been running on its “Book at Bedtime” strand. It’s a slightly spooky story about an English nurse (a pal of Florence Nightingale’s) who gets hired by an Irish community to verify whether a young girl in a remote rural village is actually existing without food, sustained only by God, or if there is foul play at work. It’s read by Carey Mulligan, and I found it really gripping (as well as interesting on the topics of women, food and faith).


Things to watch

In sorrow at the demise of Vine, here are some of my favourites:


Things to attend

A couple of IRL things I’m doing in the next month:

22 November – The SRSLY Gilmore Girls Quiz! Our first podcast live event! To celebrate the release of the new Gilmore Girls episodes on 25 November, we’re running a pop culture pub quiz. It’s already sold out, but there is a waiting list for tickets if you want to come.

30 November – Women in Journalism seminar: “How to start – and grow – a successful podcast. Other speakers: Helen Zaltzman, Fiona Symons, Helen Lewis.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

These beautiful friends don’t care that everyone else does it the other way round.

The guest gif

Gifcities ftw. (Thanks to this piece by NC’s first ever subscriber, Alex Hern.)

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THE END. See you next time!