In surrendered areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian villagers like Martinios have five days to pack and leave before Azeri forces arrive. The district where he lives, Kalbajar, was given up by Armenia as part of a ceasefire deal, which brought a brutal six-week war with Azerbaijan to an end. War here has been generational, and in the 1990s it was the Azeris who fled these villages in a ceasefire handover. Martinios himself moved here soon after to escape the persecution against Armenians in Azerbaijan. Now that peace has been brokered, and after decades of bitterness and mutual distrust, can he bear to leave behind the home he built?
Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, as federal troops battle rebels in the northern Tigray region.
The Guardian’s Jason Burke explains what sparked the conflict, why it threatens to destabilise the Horn of Africa – and examines how the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, the continent’s youngest leader, has gone from winning a Nobel peace prize to presiding over a bloody conflict against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)
The ghostwriter behind the memoirs of the Rolling Stones guitarist and David Bailey on difficult subjects, the pain of the 60s and why he’d like to write about a woman next
Since co-writing Keith Richards’s award-winning, bestselling 2010 memoir, Life, James Fox, 75, has become one of Britain’s most successful ghostwriters. He became a journalist at 19, working for the Daily Nation in Kenya and the Drum in South Africa in the 1960s, before exploring culture, politics and celebrity for the Observer, the Sunday Times and Vanity Fair. He has also written two novels: 1982’s White Mischief and 1998’s The Langhorne Sisters. Look Again, his biography with photographer David Bailey, came out last month.
In 2014, the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary called you “the wild man’s ghostwriter of choice”. How does that sit with you?
Did they really? I guess that started with Keith, and although I’ve known him now for over 30 years [Fox wrote a profile for the Sunday Times in 1973, the first ever with the guitarist], he actually was a wild man back then. I’d been obsessed with guitar playing since I was 12, so I approached him wanting to speak about that, which worked as a way in. We then became friends, which was quite dangerous at the time, for various reasons.
O2 Brixton Academy, London; via MelodyVR live stream
The Dublin band’s eerily empty livestreamed gig perfectly suits their alienated second album
Certain artists fall over themselves to embrace technological innovation. Some other bands have technological innovation thrust a little awkwardly upon them. So it is that Fontaines DC – an intense post-punk band whose oblique poetics and disdain for showbiz could easily be mistaken for passive aggression – find themselves livestreaming a show in which there is nowhere for them to hide.
The venue is London’s Brixton Academy, where this Dublin band played a rapturously received set back in February. The world was still young then. Fontaines DC’s second album, A Hero’s Death, would not be out until the summer. It had not yet been kept off the UK No 1 album spot by a rejigged Taylor Swift release, or chalked up 20m streams worldwide. It had not yet been nominated for a Grammy award. Back then, livestreaming was something mostly reserved for gamers and narcissists.
Ears aside, Josh O’Connor wasn’t the obvious choice to play the heir to the throne in The Crown. The Labour-supporting republican talks lucky breaks, lockdown and life after Charles
When we meet at 4.15pm on a Saturday in late October, Josh O’Connor is in the middle of one of those hot streaks that British actors occasionally enjoy when everything comes good at once. A new series of The Crown, in which the 30-year-old plays Prince Charles just flawlessly, is due out on Netflix. A day ago, he finished production on Mothering Sunday, an awardsy adaptation of Graham Swift’s novel that should reach cinemas next year. And first thing Monday morning, O’Connor is meant to clock in at the National Theatre to begin rehearsals on a filmed, big-ticket Romeo & Juliet opposite Jessie Buckley. As hot streaks go it’s sizzling, with no obvious end in sight.
At 4.16pm, O’Connor checks his phone and discovers the streak is over. “Hmph,” he says, hunching low over the screen and reading out the government’s announcement of an imminent winter lockdown. “Starting next week. So who knows what will happen now.” He looks up, neutrally – then the freckled face opens into a wide, goofy smile, the expression of somebody essentially good-humoured and easy-going taking life as it comes.
The pianist’s American songbook-inspired album is an all-year-round keeper
For my money, London-born Gabriel Latchin is the best straight-ahead jazz pianist to appear in the past few years. Polished technique we now take as normal, but there’s a particular crispness in his playing and a lucidity that grips the attention. I was a bit taken aback to learn that Latchin was about to release a Christmas album, but this is no festive quickie. As he points out in the CD notes, the best Christmas songs were mostly the work of American songwriters of the 1930s and 40s, who also produced many of the tunes which are now jazz standards. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to give them the jazz treatment too. And while he was about it, why not give each a flavour of one of his own favourite pianists?
So we have the title number with a touch of Bill Evans, and others giving a nod to Ahmad Jamal, Barry Harris etc. Latchin leaves us to guess most of them. Thelonious Monk is easy, and Herbie Hancock; after that I’m not so sure. But all 11 tracks are a delight to listen to anyway, and not just at Christmas.
As film and TV deal with a rapidly changing world, it’s becoming harder to tell who the real villains are
If pop culture is any guide, we tend to be more honest with ourselves through our villains than our heroes. In crimefighters and caped crusaders, writers invest humanity’s most aspirational qualities, creating an ideal against which we can measure our own efforts to be and do good. In their antagonists, however, we see the flawed shadow-selves that we can’t help being. Jealousy, pettiness, vanity, selfishness: our commonplace mortal frailties undergird even the most megalomaniacal of super-foes.
To renovate her parents’ home, one French designer insisted they throw everything out and start from scratch
After graduating from architecture school, Marine Bonnefoy decided it was time to get her hands dirty. “My studies were very intellectually oriented and had no link to actual construction,” she recalls. “By the end of them, I hadn’t even been taught what holds a wall up.” To find out, she decided to spend a year working for a building firm. “I demolished facades with a pneumatic drill, learned plastering, electricity and plumbing, and made concrete. It was fantastic!” she says.
That kind of pragmatic approach has certainly stood her in good stead. She recently completed a 95 sq metre apartment in Paris’s elegant Palais-Royal and is currently building houses from the ground up in both Marseille and Bordeaux. With each project, her approach is the same. “I don’t do anything immediately,” she says. “I simply go about my daily business and it matures in my mind. It’s only after about three weeks that I start drawing.”
Every evening at 8pm and 8.15pm, two ferries leave the port of Naples and cut their way across the inky Tyrrhenian Sea to Palermo. The one that leaves second arrives first, at 6.45am, while the other docks at 7.30am, or thereabouts. We are always late booking travel for our annual summer trip to my partner’s hometown in Sicily, so take whatever we can get. And 45 minutes is unimportant when summer is before us. Also it means we can sleep longer in the cabin, we tell ourselves. Of course, we don’t sleep longer. We are up on the deck watching the day arrive and the port, with its backdrop of heaving mountains, get bigger. Our appetites grow, too, as we near the island, and for one thing – arancini.
And not just any arancini, but those from a bar a couple of kilometres from the port on Via Simone Gulì. Our car, an old boxy Fiat Panda, knows the route well, and scuttles down the ferry ramp, past the prison and port workshops to the yacht harbour, Marina Villa Igiea. On a main road, near the busy port and surrounded by apartments, Bar Turistico is, at 8am, as bright and angular as a 1980s hairdo, full of locals, port workers and tourists, the air thick with the scent of coffee.
As garden centres report brisk trade during the lockdown, we looks at the options for the festive season
It will be a Christmas quite unlike any other this year. Yet putting up and decorating the Christmas tree remains one of our most treasured festive rituals and in the quest for “normality” we are buying them earlier than ever.
During the second lockdown, garden centres have been allowed to open and have enjoyed brisk business, while sales have soared for specialist “farmgate” sellers in England since the government last weekend relaxed restrictions and deemed them to be “essential” retailers.
Kate, 25, whisky marketing associate, meets Maz, 24, charity worker
What were you hoping for?
A lovely evening, or a funny anecdote.
The designer, 71, on seeking nirvana, swerving death in India and benefiting from being surrounded by a gifted team
Our Halifax home was bourgeois and idyllic. Mum and dad bought this elegant manor house after the war and split it up to make rooms for us kids. Mine started out as a tiny cabin. When each of my four sisters left, walls were knocked down and my space expanded. Eventually it was vast and empty, which I loved.
I went to boarding school at seven, like my father. I protested for a while but soon gave up. On my second day the whooping cough broke out and all the boys were sent home again. It was good news, except there was some confusion over who was collecting me. I was left there alone, which made me mildly insecure.
Three noodle dishes for maximum winter comfort: sambal crab, homemade biang biang and coconut and pineapple vermicelli
Everyone (still) sitting comfortably? Still eating well? November, hey? Eating-wise, the month has, for me, increasingly become about turning to food that comforts. Comfort food means different things to different people, of course. For some, it suggests something that can be happily slurped or that has to be eaten from a bowl. For others, it’s a meal that can be thrown together quickly or, conversely, that requires a bit of time to perfect. For others still, comfort food is always something sweet. My general answer to this search for comfort is noodles, and my specific answer is this week’s recipes.
A Kent couple love their new car – but their experience suggests there are problems with the charging network
A couple from Kent have described how it took them more than nine hours to drive 130 miles home from Bournemouth as they struggled to find a working charger capable of producing enough power to their electric car.
Linda Barnes and her husband had to visit six charging stations as one after another they were either out of order, already had a queue or were the slow, older versions that would never be able to provide a fast enough charge in the time.
With its supercharged sole, the Nike Vaporfly bounced on to the winner’s platform at nearly every major marathon last year, smashing world records. Can its rivals keep up?
Natasha Cockram never really cared about shoes. When the Welsh runner entered her first marathon in 2017, she wore a pair of two-year-old Nike racing flats that cost her £15 at an outlet store. And she was a talented athlete: a former junior cross country and middle distance champion, she had won an athletics scholarship to the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. She studied psychology and raced hard.
“What I’ve always loved about running is that it was so accessible,” Cockram, who is 27, says when we first speak in early September. “All you needed was a pair of trainers. It didn’t matter what they were – anyone could just do it.”
Moving away from a white- and male-dominated party is the only way for it to survive, pollster says
Kat Cammack was raised on a cattle ranch by a working class single mother. She was the third generation of her family to go into business as a sand blaster. And at 32, she is about to become the youngest Republican woman in the US Congress.
“I think a lifetime of experiences has shaped me to be a Republican and a conservative,” said Cammack, elected to an open seat in Florida. “There has been a stereotype about the Republican party, that it was the Grand Old Party, that it was your grandfather’s political party of choice. The election in 2020 has definitely helped push back on that narrative.”
Fashion tycoon’s empire is on the brink of collapse but his reputation was tarnished years ago
He was once seen as the king of the UK high street, but the likely demise of Sir Philip Green’s fashion empire comes long after that crown slipped to the floor.
Green’s image was tarnished irreparably when he sold his ailing BHS department store chain for £1 to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt with no retail experience.
The Middle East is on edge as the Trump administration enters its final weeks
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may be the most senior Iranian nuclear scientist to have been assassinated but he is certainly not the first, joining at least four others during the past decade.
In killings Iran said were aimed at sabotaging its nuclear energy ambitions – it does not acknowledge using the technology for weapons – the country has consistently pointed the finger at Israel, its regional arch-foe.
Film director recalls the long and rocky road to meeting the mercurial subject of his film
Football is a huge part of my life. I was 14 when Diego Maradona scored the two goals against England – the hand of God and the wonder goal. Despite the first goal, I always thought he was the best player in the world. I’ve always been a fan of outsiders, rebels.
Everyone wanted to be Maradona. He was the global phenomenon. The pope wanted to meet him. Fidel Castro would sit and listen to Diego tell a story.
Johann Christoph Volkamer was a 17th -century Nuremberg silk merchant with passion for gardening that defined his life. He was obsessed with citrus fruit at a time when the genus was largely unknown in northern Europe. In 1708, he commissioned 256 plates of 170 varieties of the fruit – images collected in a new book by Prof Iris Lauterbach called JC Volkamer. Citrus Fruits (Taschen, out 2 December).
Lauterbach, an art historian, understands his devotion. “Citrus trees are beautiful. The trees that bloom and fruit at the same time in orangeries evoke the idea of a timeless paradise of blissful happiness.”
The death of Diego Maradona, migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, the aftermath of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the enduring impact of Covid-19: the most striking images from around the world
Slowthai, Small Axe and letting off steam – the best photography commissioned by the Observer in November 2020
The experience of black frontline workers in the Covid crisis is brought to harrowing life in these plays based on interviews with a teacher and mental health worker
As the Covid-19 crisis raged this summer, Talawa theatre company began talking to black frontline workers. They interviewed the people we encounter most days, whose stories we rarely hear: teachers, train workers, hospital and supermarket staff. The first two plays to be released, for an online series based on those verbatim interviews, are quite often pained and sometimes bitter. A mental health worker is riled by the weekly clap for NHS workers (“it’s just a performance”); a teacher is dismayed by the lack of black doctors or nurses seen in news footage when there are so many in the workforce. Both speak of everyday racism.
But the monologues are not just about expressing anger at systemic injustice. They are miniature character studies, rich in insight and individual detail. They reveal a person and a life, as well as giving a depth of meaning to the high rates of Covid-related deaths among people of colour in Britain.
The Londoner has spent years slogging away in hardman movies, but his latest film is a darkly funny exploration of masculinity. He discusses branching out – and the film’s unsimulated sex
Craig Fairbrass has made a career from giving a certain type of person exactly what they want. His films have titles such as Deranged and Hijacked and St George’s Day. There are gangsters. There are guns. There are posters that look like a recently divorced dad’s experiments with Photoshop.
His characters have nicknames that come in inverted commas, like Freddy “Dead Cert” Frankham and Malcolm “Mental Fists” Wickes. The films are usually released to little fanfare and lapped up by a small but dedicated crowd, unnoticed by the rest of the world.
Fairbrass’s new film, Muscle, is different. It is extraordinary: a black-and-white exploration of toxic masculinity that is as darkly funny as it is outright horrifying. Fairbrass is remarkable in it, playing a hulking personal trainer who sniffs out a lost loner at a squalid gym and immediately sets about exploiting him for everything he is worth. It is an incredible, committed performance that goes to some unthinkably gruesome places. Remember the shock of seeing Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler after his wilderness years? We are in that sort of territory.
Two auctions this week will sell off items from Liam Gallagher, Nick Cave and more, to benefit venues and roadies whose livelihoods have been destroyed by Covid-19
If you’re the wealthy offspring or partner of a prog rock fan, the ultimate Christmas present idea has appeared: a £10,000 box set by the scene’s current king, Steven Wilson, limited to a single copy.
Proceeds from the one-off item will go to Music Venue Trust, the charity lobbying for the UK’s grassroots venues under threat amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is the second high-profile musical fundraiser launching on Friday to help struggling stage crews and venues hit by the coronavirus crisis, the other being the #ILoveLive prize draw: Nick Cave, Liam Gallagher, Florence Welch and Eric Clapton are among stars who have donated eye-catching memorabilia to Stagehand, the charity dedicated to providing hardship funding for live events industry workers.
The award-winning American standup on the things that make him laugh the most
Patrice O’Neal’s Elephant in the Room. There wasn’t a wasted joke. A lot of comics, when a set is going well, we can be self-indulgent, and do some shit that we know only makes us laugh. But he didn’t do that. It was efficient. It was hilarious. About as high as the artform can go.
Her forthcoming solo album is a love letter to formative years of queer clubbing and 00s Euro-dance, as the singer swaps black clothes and bleak moods for Technicolor euphoria
The problem with being an introvert writing dance music is that eventually you will have to dance in front of other people. “I’m definitely quite a shy dancer,” says Romy Madley Croft over a video call from the home she shares with her girlfriend, the photographer Vic Lentaigne, in north London. In lockdown, with no prospect of live shows, this wasn’t a problem, but now she’s starting to nervously ponder how she will perform her upbeat, house-indebted new music. “It’s taken a long time to get to the place where I really enjoy being on stage.”
Fifteen years, in fact. The familiar image of Madley Croft is as guitarist and singer with the xx, the band she formed with London schoolfriends in 2005: dressed in black, shielded by her guitar, expression ranging between pensive and troubled. Even performing a sparkling dance track on stage, such as Loud Places by her fellow wallflower and bandmate Jamie xx (“I go to loud places to find someone to be quiet with,” she sings on the chorus), she stayed largely rooted to the spot. Yet on the cover of her debut solo single, Lifetime, in an acid-hued image captured – like the ones accompanying this article – by Lentaigne, she is caught in motion, arms raised high, hair swooshed.
Highland resorts introduce Covid-safety measures in readiness for skiers missing usual trips to the Alps, but local restrictions mean they cannot cash in
The future of Scottish ski resorts hangs in the balance as they confront two starkly different scenarios for the winter to come. On the one hand, they might see record visitor numbers as British skiers head north as an alternative to the Alps; on the other, continued local restrictions could leave them facing prolonged closure and financial struggles.
This week the French, Italian and German authorities announced they would not open their ski resorts until January at the earliest, and called for other European Alpine nations to make the same commitment. Scotland’s five resorts could be beneficiaries of this but travel restrictions currently forbid residents of England, Wales and Northern Ireland from travelling north of the border. And those in Scottish areas categorised as “protection level” – which includes Edinburgh and Glasgow – are not allowed to leave their local area for tourism, so would not be able to visit the Highland resorts. Scottish operators hope the restrictions will be lifted soon, but Nevis Range has already announced it will remain closed until at least February.
‘I’ve given up trying to control anything now,’ I announced last Tuesday while breakfasting on a packet of jelly babies
Food has lost much of its meaning for me. Well, its meanings, to be more accurate. A typical late autumn of eating has its rhythms: shortly after decorative gourd season and past toffee apple weekend (both cancelled due to lurgy), many of us move seamlessly into pre-Christmas hoarding and restraint mode. The hoarding begins with a casually snaffled box of stollen slices or a little bag of Lindt chocolate Christmas tree decorations, chucked into the shopping basket “just to get things started”. Then a shufti around Marks & Spencer’s food hall, where the displays of shortbread in commemorative tin boxes (those nice ones your mother used for her sewing kit) always bring a sense of minor panic that holidays are comin’ and I am unprepared. Begin the lists, open the iCal, commence the slightly terse intra-family emails. Panic!
I do not have a yuletide shopping delivery slot. That dodgy shelf in my chiller will not survive a fortnight of festive season fridge Jenga, and a better woman than me would have made her own figgy pudding by now. But, as I say, the hoarding won’t happen this year. The big Dent jamboree is cancelled. And the restraint – which runs in parallel from about now to late December – is off, too. About now, I generally have in the diary at least two festive gatherings where I envision myself slinking in wearing some frock that will require me to be a bit hungry for at least 22 days and say things like, “No, I love running five miles pre-dawn dodging flashers – it centres me”, and, “Toast is too filling and carby. I’m so happy with this bircher muesli.” The only thing most of us will be wearing this party season is slightly smarter pyjamas.
Life is quite bizarre now that the usual run-up to New Year has been steam-rollered. How empty does late November feel without a low, bubbling, passive-aggressive email chain between siblings about how much room a nut roast takes up in an oven? I feel oddly bereft without any invites to a mock-Bavarian Christmas market where I can drink £8 glasses of glühwein and eat a reheated wurst on the waltzer while listening to David Guetta. This week I noticed the first of the “What to do with Christmas day leftovers” tips and tricks in the papers. The notion of having so many visitors that you might be caught with a glut of food already seems oddly archaic.
Buying, planning and hoping for things to run like clockwork is a mug’s game. The rules are that there are no rules. “I’ve given up trying to control anything now,” I announced last Tuesday while breakfasting on a packet of jelly babies. I think it was Tuesday. It may have been Thursday. The Gregorian calendar feels so meaningless these days. Anyway, each baby was so chunkily delicious, and their pudgy little lightly frosted bellies slid so soothingly down my throat, that they felt momentarily like love and order. This one lemon, yum yum. This one raspberry, schlurp. I rarely ate sweets before the pandemic, but now, in the blur of news about possible vaccines, permanent restaurant closures and the millions of wonderful hospitality workers who will no doubt need to retrain in cyber, they’re the only thing that piques my attention some days.