The Sunday Times Magazine: Driving: I’m a millennial… Get me through my driving test


It was as we cut up the other learner driver on the roundabout that I knew for sure I’d failed my test. What was really frustrating is that we were only 10 minutes in. I assumed then, once again, I’d never learn to drive. But in the end it took me only a week.

Like Brexit, cannabis and Love Island, driving has divided the generations. Something that was once cool and aspirational — a rite of passage for our parents — has fallen from fashion like Jeremy Clarkson’s wardrobe. Unlike dad jeans, though, driving shows no sign of making a comeback.

We have passed peak car. Fewer young people than ever are driving. According to recent statistics, while in the 1990s almost half (48%) of 17- to 20-year-olds and 75% of 20- to 29-year-olds had licences, by 2014 29% and 63% respectively did.

There are plenty of reasons why people can’t be bothered with driving. And not one of them is that the trains are so good. Today many people have Uber accounts and live in cities with public transport. For once, driving is less convenient. There’s the traffic and the cost — of the car, the speeding fines and the insurance.

Research by Oxford University and West of England University Bristol suggests driving has become less appealing now that digital interactions trump face-to-face meetings. Personally, I’ve always just preferred being driven. Or getting drunk.

Still, I reckon driving’s biggest turn-off is that it’s no longer as sexy as it was. Once it was dangerous, rebellious, phallic and phwoar. Now buying a car is about as edgy as choosing a sofa from DFS. Dirty talk about choking and handling has been replaced by discussions about safety features: airbags and antilock braking.

Driving doesn’t whisper excitement. It says commute. Or car-boot sale. Or school run. Like every celebration of sex and capitalism, driving fell out of fashion in the 1980s, which is why no one’s written a better driving song than Little Red Corvette.



The Sunday Times: Review: Born Lippy: How to Do Female by Jo Brand — but is she out of date?


I really like Jo Brand. Growing up, I admired her as a feisty comedian. Now I love seeing her as a witty, curmudgeonly host on Have I Got News for You. All of which makes it tricky admitting that I dislike her book. But, I do.

Presumably in a marketing meeting it sounded brilliant: advice on “How to Do Female” from a mental-health nurse turned feminist comedian. The reality is more confused. The advice is scattergun, messy and disjointed — so one minute we’re talking about Princess Diana, the next bucket lists. One moment we’re on fly-tipping, the next parties.

The book often feels outdated, too (there’s a lot of talk about “in my day”). Brand’s claims that the female body is a site of “anxiety” and “shame”, and her dismissal of high-heels as “uncomfortable”, aren’t just boorish, but ignore the current empowering sexy-feminist wave. I don’t recognise her image of women desperately calling men, or being shamed for sleeping around. I don’t think her claim that periods are taboo is still true, given the run of tampon companies making “blood-normal” campaigns and tampon tax making endless headlines. At one point, complaining about the legal treatment of rape cases, she cites a judgment from “as recently as 1983”.


The Sun: Princess Eugenie’s wedding — ITV hosts Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford struggle to whip up enthusiasm

YOU wait for ages, then two royal weddings come along at once.

But this time there was no argument over the TV remote. The BBC and Sky turned down the chance to show it, leaving Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford on ITV’s This Morning to oversee the whole shebang.


It meant coverage was relaxed, which suited Eamonn and Ruth, who admitted they had no idea how to pronounce the bride’s name.

When we cut to Windsor, guests were thin on the ground. Just a smattering of overzealous royalists and tourists waving flags.

“It’s not the same as Meghan and Harry,” Eamonn was forced to admit.

As we waited for the couple to arrive, Alison Hammond was sent to interview superfans who had waited since 5am. Only they didn’t seem to know why. Asked what she loved about Eugenie and Jack, one royalist shrugged: “I don’t really know anything about them.”

Another, Anita Atkinson, 61, was a bit more fun and “really, really, really excited” about the wedding.

She then divulged a wee bit more than we wanted to know by confessing: “When you get to a certain age things happen, you know.”

Even the royal pundits ITV had wangled on struggled to convey much enthusiasm for the whole thing.

“Remember that she is a blood Princess,” one said.

“She’s ninth in line to the throne and Harry is only sixth, so there’s not a lot of difference,” another offered.

In an interview before the shindig, the couple promised Ruth and Eamonn a wave. But it didn’t happen.

A disappointed Eamonn wailed: “He promised us a wave, Ruth. He lied!”

THE SUN: WE’RE BISEXU-ALL Millennials are driving the bi-revolution as number of Brits who date both men and women soars by 45% — but is it easier to discuss?

PEOPLE used to joke that “bisexual” was just a label for people who were desperate – or indecisive.

But now more and more young people (especially women) are embracing bisexuality, resisting the need to limit their sexuality, or who they might go home with.


A recent YouGov survey found half of young people, and almost a quarter of the overall population, defined themselves as something other than 100 per cent heterosexual.

The last ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey into sexuality discovered the number of people in the UK openly identifying as bisexual had jumped 45 per cent.

When I came “out” as bisexual a few years ago, it was seen as so normal it was almost disappointing how little fuss anyone made. If I hoped to shock my friends by presenting them with my new girlfriend, they could not have seemed less fussed. Later, when they saw me dating a boy, they seemed equally unsurprised.

Now, in a nod to how mainstream bisexuality has become, two bi-focused TV shows have launched this month: Courtney Act’s The Bi Life on E! and drama The Bisexual, starting on C4 this week.

rita ora

To many, these will not even feel shocking (almost too little, too late). After all, in the worlds of pop and film, celebrities have been coming out as bi for ages: Jess Glynne, Megan Fox, Miley Cyrus, Mel B, Gillian Anderson and Drew Barrymore all keenly confess they swing both ways.

Long after Katy Perry Kissed A Girl And Liked It, Rita Ora’s trilling about necking red wine and copping off with girls; singing she’s “50-50 and never going to hide it”.

Meanwhile, in her recent memoir, Lily Allen confessed to affairs with female dancers and escorts.

There may be fewer bisexual male celebs who are “out” but Tom Daley (before deciding he was gay) announced he was bisexual in 2013, Made In Chelsea’s Ollie Locke — who announced his engagement to fiance Gareth this month — came out as bi in 2011 before saying he was gay in 2016.

lily allen

And Frank Ocean revealed his first love was a man, then crooned rather eloquently: “I see both sides like Chanel.”

Harry Styles, meanwhile, positioned himself as bi-friendly.

You could argue for pop stars being bisexual is just good business: Widening their target market by broadening their sex appeal. I like to think it suggests a freedom in creative industries that indicates the direction we are all moving in.

As actress Kristen Stewart, who has dated men and women, says: “In three or four years, there are going to be a lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s, like, just do your thing.”

Or as Cara Delevingne, also bisexual, said: “Someone is in a relationship with a girl one minute, or a boy is in a relationship with a boy, I don’t want them to be pigeonholed”.


Scientists have long argued that sexuality is a spectrum. Nobel prize nominee Umberto Veronesi once attracted controversy for suggesting the future was bisexual, proposing that as sexual interaction lost its reproductive significance, bisexuality would become the norm.

I suspect the rise of bisexuality is not so much down to biology but cultural change. After all, bisexuality has long been around. Historical accounts stretch back to Ancient Greece. It is said Queen Anne of Great Britain (1665 to 1714) was bisexual and had a passionate affair with the Duke of Marlborough’s wife.

Before that, there were rumours about Richard I of England (1189-1199) and Philip II of France.


Now, we have not so much evolved into bisexuality, rather it has become more socially accepted. As Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong once considered: “I think people are born bisexual. It’s just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of ‘Oh, I can’t. They say it’s taboo.’ Now that’s changing.”

It is notable the bi-revolution is most pronounced among Millennials and Generation Z, who are both keen to reject binaries in any part of their lives. A 2016 YouGov poll found 43 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds did not identify as entirely gay or straight. Now it is easier than ever to experiment, with queer dating apps such as Scissr and Her (for girls) and Grindr (for boys). And dating apps like Tinder let you opt to connect with both genders, so you don’t have to decide.

Haven’t we all dabbled?


When I first saw ads for The Bi Life, I cheered. I also thought: “About time!” I have long been frustrated by the heteronormativity of shows such as Love Island.

My favourite bisexual moment this year came on Vietnam’s The Bachelor, when one girl made the gorgeous confession she had fallen not for the eligible man she was there to meet, but for another female contestant.

That is hardly surprising. Research from the US suggests women are three times more likely to become bisexual than men. A 2015 project found 74 per cent of “straight” women were “strongly aroused” by videos of attractive men and women.

A survey by LGBT charity Stonewall found 49 per cent of bisexual men were not out at work, compared with just seven per cent of gay men.


That doesn’t mean in private they are not interested. According to research by YouPorn, straight men watch gay porn a quarter of the time.

A couple of my exes have had same-sex flings, which is good news for me, given Australian researchers found that “women in relationships with bisexual men say their partners are better lovers and fathers than straight men”.

As bisexuality becomes ever more mainstream, I hope it will only get easier to discuss. After all, haven’t we all dabbled? Or wouldn’t we, given the chance?

The Sunday Times: Review: Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention by Cathy Newman/Yes She Can: Why Women Own The Future by Ruth Davidson — female trailblazers

cathy newman

There will be some, and I might have been one of them, who will roll their eyes at these titles. Not more bloody feminism! But now I’ve finished them, I could hug Cathy Newman and Ruth Davidson for writing these two books.

Together, they tell a collective history that feels urgent and exciting, with Newman, the Channel 4 News presenter, exploring women’s past, and Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Tory party, tackling our future. Both books rebrand Herstory, a horribly hemp-and-hessian concept, and do so in voices that are modern, punchy and fresh.

Newman’s title misquotes, and reclaims Theresa May’s quip that she is a “bloody difficult woman” (as Ken Clarke suggested). The book’s chronology of exceptional women spans several centuries, from the 1800s to today. The style is poppy and informal, but the information is densely packed.

across the gender bar

Bloody Brilliant Women is full of fascinating stories about revolutionaries and pioneers: the first female journalists, the first policewomen, the first fighter pilots, the first computer programmers, politicians, writers, scientists and artists. There are determined individuals such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, one of the earliest female doctors, who in the 1860s had to learn French to obtain her qualification because the only medical school that would admit a woman was in Paris. There are gutsy women, such as 18-year-old Dorothy Lawrence who pretended to be a man so she could see action on the Western Front during the First World War, and the aeronautical engineer Beatrice Shilling, whose contribution to the Spitfire and Hurricane’s Rolls-Royce Merlin engines saw her receive an OBE.

And there are lawyers such as Dr Ivy Williams, who in 1922 was the first woman called to the bar (she went on to teach), and Helena Normanton, who followed suit as the first practising female barrister. Jane Drew, the modernist architect and town planner, is just one of the many women who helped shape modern society, in everything from the National Trust, to the welfare state and CND.


The Sunday Times: Review: My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen — the dark side of sex, drugs and fame

the sunday times

The most shocking thing about Lily Allen’s autobiography isn’t that she hired female escorts for sex while on tour, a story that’s already leaked out to the tabloids before the book’s released. If it’s titillation you want, it’s lap dancing off the page here. Allen doesn’t shy away from documenting the sex, drugs and pop that have accompanied her rise to fame. She names celebrities she has slept with — Liam Gallagher (in first class on a flight to the Fuji Rock festival), the art dealer Jay Joplin, Mike Skinner from the Streets. She writes about touring with Miley Cyrus, going to American strip clubs, having affairs with female backing dancers and consuming the amount of drugs you’d expect from someone who’s music A-list. She tells stories about going to Kate Hudson’s Halloween party and flirting with Orlando Bloom.

In someone else’s hands, all this would make for a rollicking hedonistic pop romp. But the most shocking thing about her book is how unhappy Allen is. My Thoughts Exactly is less rock’n’roll romp than misery memoir.

We have the nightmare of attending posh boarding schools. The tragedy of growing up as the comedian Keith Allen’s daughter. The indignity of finding early success that catapults her into the limelight at 22. The endless rows as she falls out with siblings, parents, manager, stylist, band.

It would be unfair to suggest she hasn’t suffered. She felt isolated and unnurtured as a child. She is scathing about her narcissist father; she says she rarely saw him between his philandering and drug-taking. She describes how her mother, the film producer Alison Owen, was so busy working or taking drugs she’d forget to collect Lily from school.

At a time when women are revealing the shadowy side to success, it’s honest to hear Allen’s raw account of the darkness behind the glitter. At times her experiences were “pitch black”. She was sexually assaulted by a record-company executive. She went through the horror of miscarrying her first son at 28 weeks. She suffered the terror of waking up to find a stalker in her bedroom (the police dealt with it appallingly). All these hardships she endured with little family support.


The Sunday Times: The super-rich are taking up showjumping


Since the Old Season (Ascot, Henley, the Cartier polo) has lost its cachet, the mega-rich have had to find new sports around which to build their social lives. To fill the gap, showjumping, which used to be synonymous with muddy fields and dodgy burger vans, has lavishly reinvented itself.

At the extreme end of this transformation is the Longines Global Champions Tour, which rolled into London this weekend with a price tag few would believe and even fewer can afford. The tour started in March in Mexico City and runs until December in Prague, and will cover 17 of the world’s most glamorous locations in total.

This weekend, the event is at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in west London.

It is shocking even to contemplate the cost for competitors to transport themselves, their horses and entourages around this worldwide event. But these are billionaires, so nobody cares. Besides, the total prize fund is €35m (£31m).

Among the riders — and guests — are some of the world’s richest people, which these days means Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Russian businessmen and rock stars.