What’s the key to sharing a bed? Photograph: Gpointstudio/Getty Images/iStockphotoSomebody in this incompetent government failed to tell the Prince of Wales that this was not the time to visit Cuba (Photo, 26 March), which provides much of the security that maintains Venezuela’s dictatorial Maduro regime. This confirms my view that among those who aspire to rule Global Britain, no one has the least idea of a coherent diplomatic strategy towards Latin America. Malcolm Deas St Antony’s College, Oxford• When I was a child in Oxford two roads were barred by the Cutteslowe Walls. These prevented the people in council houses walking to the main road past privately owned houses. They were demolished when I was 20. As I approach 80, I am ashamed to live in a country that stops poor children playing safely outdoors with their peers (Report, 26 March). Michael Harrison Oxford• The answer to “How to share a bed and be happy” (G2, 26 March) is to listen carefully to your partner. Having been widowed for six years, I still only use the third of our king-size bed that my wife allocated to me; perhaps I will dare to move over towards the middle in time. Trevor Holland Pitsea, Essex• No Regrets deserves to be in any list of outstanding breakup songs, and Scott Walker’s version is excellent (Letters, 26 March). But it was written by the much underrated Tom Rush, whose 1968 original is sublime. Mike Pender Cardiff• Alex Hern (Five ways to cut your phone use, G2, 25 March) neglects to mention the sixth and most effective way: switch it off. Barry Korzeniewski Dewsbury, West Yorkshire• Join the debate – email firstname.lastname@example.org• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition
Lovingly handcrafted ... cocktails. Photograph: Rob White/Tastyart Ltd/Getty Images I’ve been invited to a party at a bar that offers draught cocktails. Can they be any good? Surely a proper cocktail (my own favourite is a strawberry daiquiri) has to be lovingly handcrafted. In fact, I’m worried: does the cocktail on tap signal the end of civilisation as we know it? Jenny Simpson, Manchester Post your answers – and new questions – below or email them to email@example.com
Whistling up a storm ... strong winds on Westminster Bridge. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire Why and how does the wind whistle? Meg Hill, Kendal, Cumbria Post your answers – and new questions – below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
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‘Fingernails should be given a curve, while toenails should be cut straight across, to prevent ingrowth.’ Posed by a model. Photograph: 4FR/Getty ImagesNails should be kept fairly short. The longer they are, the more easily they are damaged – especially your fingernails, if you work with your hands. If they are fine, you can use a normal clipper; for anything thicker – usually toenails, but sometimes fingernails – you will need a heavy-duty version. Use a nail file for shaping, or if it hurts when you clip your nails. You don’t need to use it in just one direction, but do file gently to avoid damage.Fingernails should be given a curve, while toenails should be cut straight across, to prevent ingrowth. You can cut a little down the sides of your toenails, especially if you are prone to ingrowing toenails, to take them away from the skin. If you have persistent problems with an ingrowing toenail, you will need to see a doctor.Your nails will be softer after a bath or shower, so if you have thicker nails it may be easier to cut them then. With brittle nails, however, cutting them when they are soft may make things worse.There is no harm in giving your cuticles a gentle trim, but don’t overdo it – they protect your nail bed from infection by keeping out debris.You should moisturise your hands and feet, including your nails and cuticles, every day. The thicker the cream, the better. If you use polish, give your nails a break from time to time so that air and moisturiser can reach them and prevent discolouration.Dr Sweta Rai is a spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists
Heaven scent: gardenias thrive outdoors, then give joy indoors right into winter. Photograph: Naoki Uehara/Getty ImagesIt’s that time of year when garden centres first start filling up with tray after tray of bedding plants, ramping up for a season of summer growing. Despite often being considered terribly out of horticultural fashion, planting tropical or subtropical species such as fuchsias, begonias and pelargoniums outdoors for the warmer months is an effective way of providing a full season of interest that extends far beyond what many temperate plants, with their comparatively short flowering season, can ever hope to provide.However, it is a shame that so few of us venture beyond traditional favourites, for any cool-weather-tolerant indoor species can be treated in the same way. With the extra light and humidity, many houseplants positively revel in a summer holiday outdoors, plus you’ll save yourself a couple of quid in the process by getting a two-in-one option. And, as these plants can then be brought indoors when the first autumn frosts are expected, they can be a more sustainable choice than buying a new batch of bedding every year.The best multifunctional plants will thrive outdoors all summer and then continue to give you joy indoors into the depths of winter. All have a long flowering season and white flowers, so will fit into most planting schemes, and are powerfully fragrant to boot. Probably my favourite scent of all is the gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides); I find the fragrance from its double white flowers incredibly uplifting. I sit mine in a bowl on a patio table so they can be enjoyed up close, as they tend to be small, slow-growing plants. If you are buying a new one, gently tease apart the three or four plants that have been crowded in a small pot to give a fuller, lusher appearance for retail. Most often when people find them hard to grow, it is due to the competition between over-densely planted specimens, and nothing the unwitting home-grower is doing at all. Definitely worth a second try if you have failed before!If it is larger statement shrubs you are after, try Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac). If you think you hate the smell of jasmine, perceiving it as overtly sweet and cloying, please do not be put off. Arabian jasmine is a different species to the more familiar garden form (J officinale), exchanging intense sweetness for a cleaner, brighter, more refreshing note. They love the full sun of a summer patio outdoors and a bright conservatory in the winter. Keep vigorous new growth frequently pinched back to promote flower formation and also to make plants more compact.Finally, there’s stephanotis, an exotic climber from Madagascar with bunches of trumpet-shaped flowers. You’ll find this trained on hoops in garden centres, but that is not how they are grown. The beautifully long, single strands of vine are wrapped over metal hoops for transport and retail display, but lose much of their wild Rapunzel look this way. Carefully unwind their coiled stem from the hoop and plant them in sheltered spot. They look incredible cascading from hanging baskets down fences or walls. Email James at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Botanygeek
Struggling to cope: Mike Thalassitis, who took his own life recently after appearing on Love Island in 2017. Photograph: Ken McKay/Rex/ShutterstockWhat was it about Love Island that got you? Because, odds on, there was something. If not the girls, marinated in coconut oil, unfolded on sun loungers, then maybe it was the boys, sculpted and brown like pollarded mulberry trees. Or maybe it was the fantasy of the thing, as if, having been invited to list your Desert Island Discs, for your luxury item you’d chosen simply: “The eight fittest people in Dudley, shaved!”Maybe it was the romance. The oldest story, performed in swimwear, pleasingly drunken and fast, like love itself. Maybe it was the drama – the tears, the fury, the twists. Or the new language of attraction, cobbled together hastily from the internet. Was it the philosophical implications, or its irresistible political bonfires? The multiple occasions when intimate interactions between contestants exploded into mainstream commentary, in turn alerting Love Island’s young audience to truths about coercive control and the intersections of race and sexism? Or maybe it was the way on-show relationships became news, slithering into your daily scroll. Politicians tweeted about their favourite contestants, charities used them as case studies. Once home they were briskly wheeled out to talk about Brexit, and body image and the state of Britain. And then, what? Then, like a thousand before them, they were left alone to focus on their new careers, as “ex-reality stars”.Like all jobs, this requires a routine, but theirs relies on performing new narratives from their lives between ITV2 offshoots, without the help of an editor or producer. Typically, a relationship must falter and break, a body must inflate and then narrow, and a photographer must catch them on their way to Tesco’s looking rough. There might be a birth, there might be a death.> Instant reality show fame is like a drug. A short-term high with a terrible comedownI was unprepared for how unsettled I felt last week, reading that 2017’s Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis had killed himself. It came a year after the unexplained death of a contestant from 2016, Sophie Gradon, who’d discussed how the show had had an impact on her mental health. Following Thalassitis’s death, his reality show peers started talking about life when they got home. “Shows offer you ‘support’, but realistically it’s only while you are in their care,’ tweeted Jessica Shears. “Minute you get home & are no longer making them money it’s out of sight out of mind. There should be ongoing support and also financial advice. Life after these shows isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Dom Lever, who appeared alongside Thalassitis, said: “You get a psychological evaluation before and after you go on the show, but once you are done you don’t get any support unless you’re No 1.” The Only Way is Essex’s Maria Fowler tweeted: “I attempted suicide because of the newspapers and lack of support I got post Towie. Something has to change, this is wrong. They have a moral duty to support cast members.” Ben Fogle discussed the “lack of aftercare,” admitting he had a breakdown after appearing on the BBC1’s Castaway 2000. “Instant reality show fame is like a drug,” he said. “A short-term high with a terrible comedown.”Thalassitis’s death has enabled his peers to come out about the reality of life post-reality TV and, as the guileless consumers of their love affairs and screaming rows, we really should listen. Love Island’s spokespeople assure us that they provide psychological support before, during and after the show. But while Towies and Chelseas have shown elements of the stumbling sponsored afterlives on MailOnline, until recently, even the producers responsible for these contestants’ fame had no idea about the derailed rollercoaster they’d board over a single evening on social media.These are people who have been cast as angels or villains straight out of school, encouraged to have sex with strangers beneath night-vision cameras, then evicted from house or island to live forever shadowed by a month that was broadcast to all potential employees, all potential partners, with clips likely to surface long after the club gigs have finished. On Instagram they’ll continue the well-lit story of the show that made them famous-ish and on Twitter they’ll toggle between fans that adore them and enemies that want to rip their hair out or laugh at their failures. For our entertainment.Undoubtedly, the producers of these shows that carpet our culture, quietly shaping our expectations of beauty and success, need to radically improve their after-care provision. But we, the audiences, the people engaged by the drama or politics or brand of moisturiser they wear to bed, have responsibility, too. To make sure we don’t dehumanise them with the characters they play. To come to terms with the knowledge that reality shows are a construct. To remember some responsibilty that Saturday night’s heroes and last summer’s losers are also young people, flung into friendly fire. If you have been affected by any of these issues, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 One more thing…It’s happened again, the curse of the playground hoax, and this time I was cc-ed. A photo in my daughter’s class WhatsApp group, of a letter apparently sent home from another school, saying the police are warning of a cereal bar called Astrosnacks being sold to kids that makes them hallucinate. They’re not; it isn’t; onwards.Deliveroo has just launched a ‘futuristic fully automated ordering experience’ in Singapore, where customers don’t have to bother themselves with small talk or humanity by interacting with another person. They get a digital alert that their lunch is ready, then collect it from a locker. Brrrr.Emily Maitlis has revealed what she was writing when she dropped that iconic eyeroll, interviewing politicians about their Brexit position on Newsnight. She was (she told BuzzFeed News) ‘crossing out all future dates and holiday plans’.Email Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter@EvaWiseman
From my shed window I can see my wife unpacking a load of shopping. I cross the wet garden and pull the back door open.“Wow,” I say, looking at all the stuff.“It’s not for you,” she says. “It’s book club tonight.”“Here?” I say. “It’s not even the right day.”“This is a different book club,” she says. “My other book club.”“Who’s in it?” I say. She names four women.“But they’ll be here all night!” I say. “What am I supposed to do?”“That’s not my problem,” she says.“I just don’t understand why a person would need two book clubs,” I say.“This one is for people who’ve never been in a book club before,” she says.“I’ve never been in a book club before,” I say. “What’s the book?” She tells me.“I’ve actually read that,” I say. My wife gives me a hard stare.“Obviously you’re welcome to join us,” she says, through gritted teeth. “And you’re also very welcome to stay away.”At 7pm, when the doorbell rings for the first time, I am watching parliament vote on something I have been promised will be Meaningful. So far it does not mean much to me. My wife and the first book club member, Caroline, walk into the sitting room and stand in front of the TV.“Have they voted yet?” Caroline says.“They’re about to,” I say.“We’re in the kitchen,” my wife says.“So excited about book club!” says Caroline, pointing in my direction. “Is he coming?”“No,” my wife says. “He’s not allowed.” The doorbell rings.“Awww,” Caroline says. “Poor Timmy!”“I have actually read the book,” I say. The second new member, Emma, walks in.“Have they voted yet?” she says.“Any minute,” I say.“Wait,” Emma says. “Is he in the book club?”“No,” my wife says. “He isn’t.”My wife leads Emma and Caroline away. The next arriving member is ushered past the sitting room, straight into the kitchen. I watch the vote, which is followed by a series of talking heads speculating about what will happen next. By 7.20pm my wine glass is empty. Another vote looms, but I’ve lost interest in politics. I want more wine. The sound of bright laughter reaches me through two closed doors. The bell rings. There is more laughter. At 7.25pm I stand up.I twist the knob as gently as I can, but the kitchen door is wedged snugly in its frame. When I give it a shove with my shoulder it opens with a sharp little bark. Everyone at the table turns to look at me. I find myself responsible for a brief, perplexed silence.“Sorry I’m late,” I say. I sit down in front of the cheese, and refill my glass.“What are you doing?” my wife says.“Let him stay!” says Caroline.“How do we start?” Sasha says. “Do we go around and say what we thought?”“The first rule of book club is we never talk about the book,” I say.“He has no idea,” my wife says.“I think the main order of business is to elect a club captain,” I say. “I’d like to put my name forward, just to get the ball rolling.”“If you’re going to stay,” my wife says, “you can’t speak.”I drink my wine. The discussion turns to the book’s treatment of larger cultural forces of the period, and whether they are rendered in sufficient depth.“Ooh,” I say, raising my hand.“Christ,” my wife says. I lower my hand and talk about the enforced isolation of the main character, what’s his name.“So the lack of historical depth is maybe part of the point,” I say.“Interesting,” Fran says.“No, it isn’t,” my wife says.I wake up the next morning with a terrible headache. My wife is sitting up in bed, thumbing her phone.“I love book club,” I say, my voice creased and crackling. “Who knew?”“From now on, you’re officially barred,” my wife says.“That’s not going to be very popular,” I say. “Unlike me, in book club.” My phone pings on the bedside table: the unmistakable sound of Sasha adding me to their WhatsApp group.