Digitalis sown now will bulk up before autumn and be ready to plant out next spring. One of the many joys of foxgloves is that they appear just as spring’s flurry of blooms has disappeared and the garden is waiting for summer to take off. It can be a surprisingly dull moment in the garden, with all the yellowing leaves of tulips among the tired aquilegias. But the spires of foxgloves unfurl to raise your eye away from the dying back below. Combined with ferns, astrantias, dusky cranesbills and cultivated cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, they make the most of dappled shade and please the bees with it. This moment is long gone. In fact, many will now be setting seed. If you don’t have your own plants, this is the moment to start sowing. Digitalis sown in the next month or so will bulk up before autumn and be ready to plant out next spring. They are surprisingly easy to grow from seed, for a fraction of the cost of mature plants. If you have the common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, tap it as you pass by and it will scatter itself where it pleases. If, however, you want to sow some of the many and glorious cultivars, or try your hand at some of the perennial foxgloves, you will need to buy seed. Digitalis seed is tiny and needs light to germinate. Whether you are scattering in the garden or on to a seed tray, it is very important the seed does not get buried. With seed trays, it is best to pre-water and then sow on top. Gently press the seeds into the damp compost and leave the trays somewhere bright, but slightly shaded. Seed germinates between 15C and 18C, but if the seed tray is left in full sun, the temperatures may soar and scorch the germinating seedlings. Seeds should germinate in 14 days. When they are large enough to handle, prick them out into modules or 9cm pots. Go for D. purpurea and the lovely, pure-white D. purpurea forma ‘Albiflora’ – or, if you want both colours, D. purpurea ‘ Pam’s Choice’, with its white flowers and purple insides. D. purpurea and cultivars are biennial, so they need to be sown or allowed to self-seed every year, so there is a fresh batch next spring. They prefer light shade, so if your garden basks in a little more sun, try the perennial Mediterranean species such as D. grandiflora or D. lutea, which are shades of buttery pale-yellow. Then there is also the cross between D. purpurea and D . grandiflora, D. x mertonensis, which is soft strawberry-pink, or D. ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ which has whipped cream added to its colour scheme. All digitalis are very toxic if eaten, so wash your hands after handling if you want to use them as cut flowers.
Please make it be the right answer… Photograph: Getty Images Photograph: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images/iStockphoto The questions1 Which Nazi leader died in Paddington in 1981? 2 What are produced at La Masia and La Fábrica? 3 In publishing, what does ISBN stand for? 4 Adopted in 1625, what symbol is the Dannebrog? 5 Gabriele Münter was a founder member of what expressionist group? 6 What was nicknamed the Honourable John Company? 7 Which country separates Guyana and French Guiana? 8 In what novel is Constance unhappily married to Sir Clifford? What links: 9 Asgard and Midgard, in the form of a rainbow? 10 Singer O’Dowd; outlaw McCarty; slugger Ruth; bank robber Nelson? 11 Statant; sejant; rampant; passant; dormant? 12 Victoria Embankment; Cardiff City Hall; Colchester station? 13 Khumbu icefall; Kangshung face; Hornbein couloir; Hillary step? 14 Prayers at 6am; 0 degrees longitude; 2, 3, 5, 7, etc? 15 Prince of Morocco (Au); Prince of Arragon (Ag); Bassanio (Pb)?Blue sky thinking. Photograph: Getty Images Photograph: yupiyan/Getty Images/iStockphoto The answers1 Albert Speer. 2 Footballers (academies of Barcelona and Real Madrid). 3 International Standard Book Number. 4 Danish flag. 5 Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider). 6 East India Company. 7 Suriname. 8 Lady Chatterley’s Lover. 9 Bifrost (bridge in Norse myth, linking gods’ realm and Earth). 10 Young nicknames: Boy George; Billy the Kid; Babe Ruth; Baby Face Nelson. 11 Attitudes of animals in heraldry: standing; sitting; rearing; walking; lying down. 12 Statues of Boudicca. 13 Parts of Mount Everest. 14 Prime: canonical hour of prayer; prime meridian; prime numbers. 15 Caskets chosen by Portia’s suitors in The Merchant Of Venice: gold; silver; lead.
I’ve been on a hen weekend with old pals, drinking through penis straws on a chilly beach in a world of our own. I had been thinking about my friends from secondary school, about how rare it is to have lasting friendships and how some relationships that I thought mattered had folded under the feeble pressure of an awkward conversation or a missed party. Yet here we were, together. The Girls. A miracle, I thought, before a question popped in: do I really like these people? A hen weekend is a testing environment. There are some experiences you can’t row back from, and shivering on a British beach in a cape, drinking through a penis straw, is one of them. I can see these friends for what they are: despots. There’s the Organisational Despot, the dictator who tightly follows the schedule no one asked her to make; the Fun Enforcer, the mafiosa who is never far from a prop, with an expression that reads, “Have fun! Or else.” And the Obscure Dietary Requirement Tyrant, who keeps us all eating lettuce through sheer fear of her gluten-induced rage. Obstinate, unreasonable autocrats, I think. How do they survive in this world? The truth is, the world of our friendship is not like the real world. Our patch of reality has different rules. In our bubble, we’re allowed to be our worst, our most human. This is rare. Why do we put on an act for so many people? Why do we behave less fussy or pretend we’re busy when we just don’t want to go out? Perhaps we fear that the love might not last if we show them our true selves. Although I sometimes long for the pleasantries of fairweather friends, I’ve learned that it’s a gift to have pals who feel they can be so freely irritating. That is the sign of a deep friendship. Truly, I wish annoying friends on everyone. In some ways, it is a tyranny, although I think I have a better word for it: family.
"I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member, but here I am #endometriosisclub."
My kind of colours: Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag, in Key West, Florida. Photograph: Getty ImagesThere’s a Mary Quant exhibition on at the V&A at the moment, which, if you’re able to, I would urge you to visit. If not, and you are more talented with a sewing machine than I am, the website has downloadable sewing patterns.I would find it difficult to muddle through life without pattern; not in the sense of routine, but actual beautiful, artistic patterns. Once, aged 18 and roaming around Moscow, I spotted an older man wearing an almost exact replica of the blue argyle sweater I had on. I bounded over and suggested a photograph together, and it is now one of my favourites: these two strangers beaming. Neither of us speaking the other’s language, but also 100% conversing sartorially. I think of him sometimes and look at that photograph like one with an old friend.I went through a strong Pringle phase (and suffered many golfing jokes). Then there was a tie-dye era, but that was probably because I was living too close to London’s Camden Market at the time. I’m obsessed with damask wallpaper, but too poor to buy Osborne & Little, so I order samples and create collages in the hallway. Also, are you truly an adult until you’ve bought well-cut houndstooth trousers?A girlfriend gave me a beautiful Persian rug which, as The Big Lebowski’s The Dude would have it, really ties the room together. I marvel at it daily. There is a blog dedicated to one man’s quest to document every single one of Wetherspoon’s carpets (there are 950), which are differently and interestingly patterned, and created on old-fashioned looms.I love design classics: the Memphis Geometric pattern dominated the 1980s (see Mr Motivator’s leotards). Think brightly coloured, random squiggles and triangles, dizzy with the fun of it all; the Pride flag, even if Hannah Gadsby did describe it brilliantly as: “A bit busy. No rest for the eye.” (The original flag was designed in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker and the colours were coded. Hot pink – not in the current version – was for sex; yellow for sun.) There are the patterns nature gifts us. The glittering, shimmering sun on the surface of the lido. The insane plumage of a Mandarin duck. And, my God, what did we do to deserve giraffes, leopards and tigers?As a kid, I was transfixed by Magic Eye picture books, making marbled paintings and kaleidoscopes. As an adult, it’s the rose windows of cathedrals and the work of Matisse. I’m not Scottish and have no blood ties to France, but is a life lived without tartan and Breton stripes really a life at all?
Amanda Seyfried is the latest to take aim at Arielle Charnes after she posted a photo of her post-baby body.
Too many female employees are forced to wear high heels, or skirts, or even a particular type of bra. But the resistance is growing. It was at the beginning of a shift at Harrods that Georgia Brown told her manager where to go. Brown, then aged 22, was working for a temp agency that supplied shop assistants to the department store. She cannot remember the name of the manager. But she does remember why she lost her cool: she had had enough of being forced to wear heels on the job. “Not just a mini-heel, but proper black stilettos. Bear in mind, you’re on your feet in Harrods all day – you can’t sit down,” says Brown. When she arrived at work, there was a mandatory uniform check, after which she would slip into flat shoes. This time, she got caught. “I said: ‘My feet hurt; who are you to tell me I have to work on stilts?’,” says Brown. After Brown’s outburst, Harrods notified her agency, and she was fired. This all happened 10 years ago – and Harrods says that Brown’s experience does not represent the situation for workers now. The store’s current policy is that staff adhere to high standards of personal grooming and “dress appropriately for their day. This means that they are empowered to express their personal style, and are very much trusted to represent our brand to the highest of standards.” Still, Brown’s situation will be all too familiar to many women. In May, a row erupted after British Airways flight attendants were warned not to wear bras in certain colours or shapes under their blouses. “It’s a bit extreme, saying you must wear a white bra under a white shirt,” says Claire Simpson of Unite, the union that represents most cabin crew, who is herself a former flight attendant. Whether or not you agree with Mary Beard’s statement to shoe designer Manolo Blahnik this week that high heels are a “symbol of women’s oppression”, the fact remains that if men do not have to wear them, nor should women. Bunion-inducing stilettos, skirts so tight you are forced to walk with a coquettish wriggle, or gossamer-thin blouses in fiercely air-conditioned offices: women are often the victims of workplace dress codes, whether or not they wear uniforms. But as women’s workwear increasingly becomes a more public battleground in the fight for equality, this may change. Simpson is pleased that Virgin Atlantic now gives female crew the choice of trousers or a skirt and they no longer have to wear makeup. She points out, though, that while airlines are increasingly allowing women to wear flat shoes, progress is slow. It is not illegal for employers to impose dress codes on women alone. “We haven’t yet got to the position where you can say: ‘Having high heels in a dress code is unlawful,’” says the barrister Harini Iyengar, who specialises in employment and discrimination law. This issue was brought to the fore by the receptionist-turned-Coronation Street actor Nicola Thorp – arguably the champion of the new workwear movement. She made headlines in 2016 after being sent home from her agency job at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for refusing to wear heels. A petition calling for the mandatory wearing of high heels to be made illegal received more than 152,000 signatures, and prompted a parliamentary inquiry into workplace dress codes. It concluded that further work was needed to strengthen the Equality Act 2010 and protect workers from discrimination, including increased financial penalties for employers that break the law. The problem, says Iyengar, is that it is hard to prove that being forced to wear high heels is discriminatory on the basis of sex – unless it is in a job that requires heavy lifting. “In a workplace where it’s the norm and all your colleagues are wearing heels – aside from the heavy-lifting example – it’s much harder for somebody without a medical certificate to say to an employer: ‘High heels are bad in general.’” The same applies for being made to wear makeup or skirts at work: unless you can show it is contrary to your gender identity or sexual orientation, there is not much you can do. Whatever the law may say, though, women are increasingly refusing to put up and shut up. In Japan, the #KuToo movement has called on the government to ban employers from forcing women to wear heels. Employers are also seeing it as simply good PR to keep up with the times. “In recent years, there has been a relaxation in the uniform codes as far as hair and makeup are concerned,” says Simpson. “It’s about choice – and modern values being reflected in the uniform standard.” Obviously, our wardrobes reflect the changing status of women in society. The fashion historian Deirdre Clemente says that, as women become more emancipated: “They push the boundaries of prescribed work-environment clothing.” The compulsory wearing of tights, she says, changed in the 1990s: “Women wanted bare legs.” Especially in the summer. Throughout the decade, dress codes were steadily relaxed, as casualwear brands such as Gap redefined corporate attire. “We started to see things like trouser suits, more casual dresses, maybe trousers and a matching sweater,” says Clemente. If in the 80s, women wore power suits to project an image of masculine strength – the women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred wore hers in red for the first 25 years of her career – as today’s women feel more settled in the workplace, they adopt a relaxed, athleisure-inspired silhouette. “Women are wanting to wear tank tops to work now, or yoga pants to a meeting,” says Clemente. But, she says, a double standard still persists: “Women are held to such a different public standard in their appearance to men. That will not change until there’s full equality.” Even the most slovenly man is generally considered OK, provided he wears a suit and tie and remembers to shave. But, for women, corporate dressing is often full of obligations that may not be set out in formal dress codes. It took more than a decade before Iyengar felt comfortable wearing flat shoes to work. “Definitely at the beginning of my career, when I struggled to fit in, I wouldn’t have dared not to wear heels. I regret that I went along with it when I was younger, but it’s difficult to swim against the tide,” she says. Women of colour are disproportionately policed when it comes to complying with written or unwritten dress codes. When Tara Williams worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia from 2010, she usually spent Sunday nights frowning at her wardrobe, trying to figure out which outfit would not get her into trouble the next day at work. Williams used to wear J Crew suits in black, navy pinstripe, charcoal tweed, light grey, and navy cotton, but she kept being told by her superiors that her outfits were brash or unprofessional. “There was this constant belittling and implication that I was not playing by the norms.” The problem seemed to be the colour of the shirts she was wearing. “If I wore anything other than a light blue shirt, like a white or a red, I would receive these comments,” Williams remembers. “They’d say: ‘Oh, that’s loud.’” Once, when she wore a berry-coloured coat, she was ridiculed by a senior associate, who told her she looked “like Mrs Claus”. When she was being chastised, Williams would often look around the office and see another woman wearing the same J Crew outfit. “When you’re a brown person, particularly if you have dark skin, you’re seen as over-the-top when you reach outside of grey or black.” Her experience is not uncommon. Dr Janet Ainsworth, a professor of law at Seattle University, says: “White employees do not have their hairstyles policed in any way, but employees of African ancestry are told they can’t wear braids or Afros.” Ainsworth wrote a 2013 paper that looked at 73 cases in which employees were sacked for dress-code violations. Her conclusion was disturbing. “[Employers wanted] women to look ultra-feminine, wear makeup, feminine-looking clothing and so forth. And African-ancestry women should look as white as possible.” Some women get ahead by rejecting the double standard entirely. One medical researcher tells me that when she started wearing jeans and T-shirts to work, people stopped asking her to make coffee in meetings, because only a scientist would dress so casually. (This approach is backed up by a 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research into the so-called “red-sneaker effect”, which found that employees who deviate from standard dress codes are perceived more favourably by their peers.) Kate Rosh Bertash, 32, who works in cybersecurity and lives in LA, has revolutionised her wardrobe with the help of the eight identical black wrap dresses that she has worn daily since January 2017. Part of Bertash’s motivation for adopting a uniform was her struggles to find work-appropriate clothing as a plus-sized woman. “Things would pull and gap in strange places.” It is also more environmentally friendly. But wearing the same dress is about more than just convenience or sustainability. It is a feminist act. Bertash says: “There’s this stress that women put ourselves under to either be noticeable, or novel, or fashionable, and look like we’re always trying, whereas men wear the same thing pretty much every day … I think most of us have parts of that process and the trappings of femininity and professionalism that we don’t like, and don’t bring us happiness, and suck up a lot of time.” She still dresses up for special occasions – she recently wore a blue evening gown to a wedding – but not having to think about her wardrobe on a daily basis is freeing. “I expend a lot of creative energy on my work. It’s nice not to have to expend it on my clothing.” Her advice to anyone thinking of doing the same thing? Make sure the outfit has pockets. “That in itself is very life-changing.” Why does it matter what women wear in the workplace? Because what we wear matters. Women chafe against sexist dress codes for the same reason we protest against the rolling-back of abortion rights; because, like regulation polyester blouses, they make us itch. “Don’t tell me how I should control my body, or how I should present myself. That’s my personal choice,” Clemente says. The pushback is particularly pronounced right now, because we’re living in increasingly feminist times. “It’s a big culmination of all of those years where women didn’t have a voice to say: ‘I’m not wearing this outfit’, and they silently either had to suffer, or band together a little bit and say: ‘We’re not wearing pantyhose.”’ Williams ended up transferring to a different office after the negative comments got too much. She gave the berry-pink coat to charity, but now she wears all the colour she wants. “I have a dress in the exact same colour, and I’m very proud of it,” she laughs. “So that’s the replacement.”
A whole new ball game … the all-conquering US women, who employed a menstrual cycle adviser. Photograph: Brad Smith/ISI/Rex/ShutterstockUntil relatively recently, sports scientists simply applied the research they had done with male athletes to female ones. In fact, according to research scientist Georgie Bruinvels, it is only since the 1990s that it has been “appreciated that women are different”. There is still a long way to go. In 2014, researchers looked at sports studies published between 2011 and 2013; where performance was concerned, once they removed one study that heavily skewed the result, they found that just 3% of participants were women.One particular growing area of interest is the impact of menstrual cycle and hormones on female sports performance – and this is where Bruinvels specialises. This week, the Times reported that after, advising the World Cup-winning US women’s football team, she is in talks to work with British female tennis players.In the past, an athlete’s period was merely something to be endured, usually in uncomfortable silence, when in fact, a menstrual cycle can have consequences for performance. “Hormonal fluctuations can affect things like biomechanics, laxity of ligaments and muscular firing patterns,” says Bruinvels.It has been shown that, for anterior cruciate ligament injuries (that is, damage to the knee), “the first half of the cycle and particularly the build-up to ovulation is the key risk window”. That is not to say don’t exercise then, Bruinvels adds. “It’s more about being proactive around warming up properly or recovering properly, at certain times.”It is also about understanding how your body responds to training. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, Bruinvels says, your body uses carbohydrates more efficiently (depending on the exercise’s intensity); in the second, it is better at using fats. “There is a body of research emerging that highlights that strength training is more advantageous in the first half of the menstrual cycle – the body adapts and recovers better.” Tracking your cycle with apps (including FitrCoach, which Bruinvels developed) can help tailor training and diet to work with your cycle, rather than against it.The England women’s hockey team have been tracking their periods since before the 2012 Olympics, the team’s former captain Kate Richardson-Walsh has said. Their strength and conditioning coach found a pattern with soft-tissue injuries: “We would send a text on day one of our cycle, so he could mark it on our training calendar. He tried to monitor – as much as you can with a squad of 28 women – our training loads depending on our menstrual cycle.” The British tennis player Heather Watson was widely praised in 2015 for being a rare athlete to talk about her period and the symptoms that led her to crash out of the Australian Open.As research and support for the needs of female athletes lags behind, the English Institute of Sport launched its SmartHER campaign this year to educate coaches, physios and athletes. Do most female athletes track their cycles, then? “You’d think so,” says Bruinvels, “but I’ve been really surprised that they don’t.”
Loud noises can be “overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable” for those with autism.