Being a parent plunges you into a sort of unrequited love, writes Eleanor Gordon-Smith, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong. My only son is very successful. He owns five properties, is self-employed, and due to inherit from a family member soon. He buys top-brand watches and cars. But l feel he is quite miserable towards me, his hard-working mum. I’ve never had big bunch flowers from him or wee present off the cuff. Am l wrong? It upsets me to not be appreciated. I heard a story not too long ago about a father talking to his daughter. She was on the edge of the decision about whether she would have children and he was talking to her about what he’d learned when he became a dad. He told her that if he had his time again he wasn’t sure he’d have children. He wasn’t being unkind; it wasn’t because he didn’t adore her. It was because he hadn’t understood the way that being a parent plunges you permanently into unrequited love. Your whole life and heart become structured around someone who won’t return your calls; you would take a bullet for someone who forgets your birthday. So no, you’re not wrong. He’s wrong. He’s wrong to take you for granted, though for him, you are the only thing that has ever been totally granted. You are the constant from his first day on Earth. The cruel twist is the better a parent you are, the more constantly and immovably you show up and provide love and reassurance, the easier it is for him to see your constancy as a metaphysical fact about the universe instead of the product of your effort and love. And who thinks to be grateful for the things we see as natural order? You mustn’t take it to heart. It’s not a referendum on you or your value as a parent. It’s just the betrayal all of us ultimately level at our parents, which is to leave them behind. It’s a betrayal we have to move through on the way to adulthood, but if our parents have been good to us we could at least buy some flowers on the way out. I wonder whether there are people in his life who could quietly have a word. You could be explicit with his sibling or spouse or father – or even with him. The “dear old mum” card is a tough one to resist. In the meantime, or if he doesn’t shape up, perhaps there’s some comfort in knowing that your hurt is the proof that you’re still a loving and hopeful person. Being able to be wounded by another person is the sign that we’re still vulnerable and open to them, that we’re living a life that’s awake and soft and full of hope. Not all those hopes get repaid, but I hope for your sake this one does. And Mum, I’ll call you soon. ************************************* Ask us a question Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s questions and puzzles, big and small. Questions can be anonymous. If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here.
Getting used to the newly built Berlin Wall in August 1961. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex FeaturesWhy did so many people try to cross the heavily guarded and fortified Berlin Wall instead of the presumably less well guarded and fortified border between East and West Germany?Richard Parmenter, EnfieldPost your answers – and new questions – below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Is bamboo best? ... the bamboo forest at Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph: RichLegg/Getty ImagesWhen planting trees to combat CO2 emissions, is it better to plant fast-growing evergreens rather than slow-growing native trees? And what about planting bamboo, which is evergreen and grows really fast? Which is the most effective “absorber”?Michael MellersPost your answers – and new questions – below or email them to email@example.com
Harley Bond, from Sheffield, was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome at just three years old.
For a standard-strength wine of 13% alcohol by volume (ABV), just under half a glass - 76ml - is one unit.
Step-parents are much maligned in pop culture, but many children develop lifelong – and life-affirming – bonds with their parent’s new partner. What’s the secret of making the relationship work?. Tales of wicked stepmothers may be common in storybooks, but they are often a far cry from reality. Despite the potential challenges with step-parenting, many children develop close bonds with their mum or dad’s new partner. The actor Dakota Johnson, now 30, is still on great terms with her stepfather, Antonio Banderas, who divorced her mother, Melanie Griffith, in 2014. At the Hollywood Film awards this month, the Spanish actor revealed just how close they still are. “She calls me Papi, and I love that, you have no idea.” The Fifty Shades of Grey star described her childhood growing up with him as “the most fun a kid could have”. They may present a contrast to the evil step-parent stereotype we see depicted in movies, but they certainly aren’t alone. Since divorcing her husband six years ago, Frances Rose has maintained a close friendship with his daughter, Louise. “I first met her in 2003 when she and her siblings were very young,” she says. “Her mum handled the breakup extremely well with a lot of maturity, which made it easier to get to know her children.” Aged five at the time, Louise didn’t realise there was anything unusual about her situation. “We would go to Frances’s house with Dad and it felt normal to me. I grew up having two houses, two support systems and a more varied upbringing.” She quickly formed a strong relationship with her new stepmother, and the family was close. When Frances’s marriage broke down 10 years later, she was devastated at the prospect of losing the connection with her stepchildren. “You’re not biologically related, so you don’t have any rights,” she says. “I couldn’t have my own children, and they really felt like my family. After we split up, I had no idea what was going to happen.” She needn’t have worried because maintaining that relationship was equally important for Louise. “I think it’s good for any couple splitting up to put children first. Dad was supportive of my decision to stay in touch with Frances, which made the divorce easier. Knowing I could see her whenever I wanted without anyone being upset was great.” After the breakup, Louise’s mother regularly took her to see Frances before she got her driving licence. “She knew how important she was to me. I am very close to my mum and feel really lucky to have two incredibly strong female influences in my life.” In the past few years, she has been on regular trips to festivals and galleries with her former stepmother, where they bond over their shared love of music and fashion. For her 18th birthday three years ago, Louise was treated to a trip to Thailand with her mum, followed by a break to New York with Frances. “Ever since I was young, both sides of the family have made an effort to do things with us. It’s almost like my family time gets doubled.” Frances also stays in touch with Louise’s younger brother and sister, but says she never wants to force a bond with her stepchildren. “I’m always here and available for them if they want me.” It’s something that resonates with Andy, who split up with his wife in 2003 after a 10-year relationship. Although Andy was close to his stepdaughter Helen (not their real names), he was reluctant to push their relationship too hard after the divorce. “When my ex-partner and I got together, Helen was 16 and quite grown up,” he says. “She’s a wonderful person, so laid-back and respectful. We got on very well.” The couple had been living in South Africa, but Helen was based in the UK when they separated. “I was really disappointed at the thought of not being able to spend time with her again, but I didn’t want to risk coming between her and her mum or damaging that relationship.” However, Helen was keen to reach out to her stepfather. A few years after the split, she visited Durban to see him. “She made a point of coming to see me, which was wonderful,” he says. “I was so happy to spend time with her and properly reconnect.” The visit wasn’t long after the death of Helen’s father, who Andy had been friends with throughout his marriage. “Years earlier, I had lent her dad some money. After he died, Helen not only reimbursed me, but also gave me some extra money from her inheritance. She didn’t have to give me anything and it wasn’t something I was ever expecting.” They now chat regularly on WhatsApp, and Helen goes to visit Andy whenever she is in South Africa. “She is just a fantastic person to be around,” he says. For stepfamilies, making the choice to stay in contact after a breakup is important. “Even though I don’t speak to my ex-husband, Louise and I have formed a better friendship on our own terms since we split up,” says Frances. “She is such a go-getter, and really career focused. We may not be related but I see parts of myself in her.” While they were always close, Louise believes that the lack of pressure to spend time together has helped their relationship. “I don’t think we would be as close as we are now if she hadn’t split up with my dad. I am grateful to her for supporting me and making me feel like I can be independent and strong.” When Frances remarried in 2017, all three of her former stepchildren joined the celebrations. “It was really nice to have them there with me. I’ve now got two adult stepchildren with my new partner and I get on well with them, too.” Like Frances, Amanda Kane loves spending time with her stepson Daniel, despite splitting up with his father in 2011. “The first time I met Dan, he travelled with us from his home in Ipswich to his dad’s house in Preston. He was only six at the time, so it must have been a bit daunting.” As soon as they were introduced, she invested time in their relationship, taking him on walks and trips to the cinema. “I remember being really excited to go up north,” he says. “When I first got to know Amanda, we did lots of fun activities together. I really appreciate the effort she made with me while I was growing up because it benefited me so much.” As Daniel got older, the couple moved to Norwich so they could spend more time with him. Over the years, their bond continued to develop, and he became closer to Amanda than his biological dad. By the time the couple split up, Daniel was in his early 20s. “There was never any doubt that I would carry on seeing Amanda. It’s like I’ve grown up with two mums, and I am really close to them both. My mum offers me lots of emotional support and Amanda has always helped to drive me to succeed in what I do.” Although she was initially worried about not seeing Daniel and his grandparents, Amanda has kept in touch. Since the divorce, she has enjoyed plenty of nights out with her stepson, and even took him to his first Download festival. Eight years on, Daniel has a child of his own, and she and her new partner regularly go for meals with his family. “We treat him and his partner to dinner and go to see his son. I am really proud of him. He’s such a lovely dad.” Many people who form close bonds with their stepchildren say that amicable relationships with their biological parents are important. “I was lucky because Daniel’s mum was always amazing,” says Amanda. “She made me feel included in his life, and we could talk through anything. I will never take him away from her, but I do see him as my son, too.” For her, positive stepfamily relationships can only enrich a child’s life. “I think more people should be forward-thinking about step-relationships after marriages fall apart. The more people there are in a child’s life to love and care about them the better.”
A new study predicts age-related macular degeneration will increase by at least 15% over the next 30 years as we continue to live longer.
When I’m on my period, my sex drive goes through the roof, but he is unable to perform at the thought of the mess – it’s very frustrating. I am a 24-year-old woman. My boyfriend and I have been together for ages and enjoy some amazing sex. However, there is one area we cannot seem to reconcile – the dreaded period. While I am on my period, my sex drive often goes through the roof, but he is unable to perform at the thought of the inevitable mess, particularly the blood itself. I find this highly frustrating and I’m sure he does, too, although he’s too polite to say it. Am I unreasonable to expect him to put up with a little mess? My previous boyfriend never had this issue. Different people have different views, feelings and boundaries regarding many aspects of physical intimacy and these are often non-negotiable. It is important to respect each other’s limits generally, and it would be very unwise to push for penetrative sex during menstruation since that is obviously a turn-off for him. But you could surely find creative ways to have highly erotic, non-penetrative sex that could avoid “messiness” and be comfortable and satisfying for you both. Examples might be erotic conversation, touching, massage, role playing and playing with sex toys. Reassure him that you will respect his comfort level, then reframe your menstrual period as an opportunity to explore new erotic options and fantasies. You may find that setting the necessary limits and embarking on daring experimentation could lead to thrilling rewards for both of you. .Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders. .If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms . .Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.
Flying Fantastic has me wrapped in large loops of fabric while swinging, spinning and flying through the air. It’s glorious and exhilarating, but it isn’t all nirvana. It is weird how the little mermaid is called Ariel, isn’t it? She has access to water and a bit of land, but definitely not the sky. No wonder she is frustrated. I have many thoughts like this as I hang upside down, blood rushing to my brain. Despite the fact I am wrapped in and suspended by the thinnest material, I feel safe and my mind is free to roam. Such is the paradox of aerial yoga (Flying Fantastic, three classes for £45, flyingfantastic.co.uk/buy-credits). Restorative and beginner-friendly, it is suitable for people with mobility issues, and also me; it would not be unfair to describe this as yoga in hammocks. Iyengar yoga has long made use of slings to push positions further, but aerial yoga is different – derived as much from the circus as the subcontinent. Tutor Edel Wigan shows us how to wrap ourselves in large loops of fabric suspended from a rig, and trust them with our weight. It is a bit like trapeze. (Wigan devised her company, Flying Fantastic, with her husband, Chris, when they lived in Argentina – where circus schools are 10 a penny.) The class starts gently, leaning on ropes, swaying in circles to learn to trust them with our weight. We jump inside and expand the cloth. Farcically, my fabric keeps swinging around so I am facing the back of the class. I have to crane my neck to see the teacher, flailing to spin back around. I look like a buffoon. But I feel incredible. The loops of red fabric act as a hanging seat, hammock and harness, offering the chance to swing, spin or fly. It’s exhilarating. As well as freedom, there is a security to aerialism. Whether looped around one’s arms, or enveloping us completely, the fabric “has always got you”, as Wigan says. One can do yoga poses that would be too challenging for a novice in another setting, pulling oneself up into a vertical sit-up, or being gathered into an assisted toe-touch, or back-bend. A weightless shoulder-stand is relatively easy, especially with one’s entire body supported. It feels glorious, too, akin to being a silkworm in its cocoon. Isn’t this what we all want? A chance to let go of adult cares and simply pupate? When we come to the shavasana, lying horizontal and completely enveloped in material, it is the most peaceful floating experience imaginable outside of a Trainspotting heroin sequence. Speaking of which, my experience isn’t all nirvana. After the class, I feel ropey. I mumble an excuse and make my way downstairs, past people I barely see. My brain is on rollerskates. I kneel down at the nearest bin and vomit copiously. A roaring rain dance of half-digested banana, in front of a waiting class of trapeze students. As I upchuck my guts, one of the students sadly remarks: “It’s my birthday.” I attempt to wish her the best, but all that leaves my moaning hole is a fleck of quiche. I can’t really blame the class. Taking pictures for this column requires me to swing around upside down for inadvisably large amounts of time. (In the class, everyone works to their ability, taking breaks whenever needed.) I didn’t eat a proper breakfast, and am still recovering from a cold. I also hate to get up before 7am. And to be honest, my pants were too tight. So: the media, physical frailty and bad pants. It’s a perfect storm. Recovering at home, I stop thinking about the tsunami of vomit and remember the joy of the silken cocoon. The class was thrilling: a way of moving I had never known, or known I could try. (UK circus schools are geared to professional qualifications more than recreation, which seems ironic.) For me, the yoga element was neither here nor there. And anyone of delicate constitution should swing with caution. But how often do our bodies get to experience a different relationship to gravity? I felt sick watching the film Gravity, too, but it was still an amazing experience. I feel leaden on the ground – perhaps it’s time to fly again. Darling, it is better, flying unfettered! But I might eat two bananas next time. Birthday blues. And yellows Apologies to the student whose joyeux anniversaire I ruined. Given a choice, I’d rather have vomited in the recycling bin – proof we don’t always get what we want. Wellness or hellness? Wellness, hellness, wellness again? Swings and roundabouts. 4/5
Welsh border towns | Paolozzi statue | Christmas songs | Brexit metrics. The Harp ( 50 of the cosiest places to stay around the UK this winter, 9 November) is indeed a worthy winner of the country pub of the year but to suggest that the place to visit is Hay on Wye when much closer are the two brilliant little towns of Presteigne and Kington is madness. The glorious walk to the latter along Hergest Ridge will improve your wellbeing so much more than plodding around bookshops. Also, remember there’s no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes. Janis Bell Old Radnor , Powys . What a pity that the Arts Council didn’t think of relocating the Eduardo Paolozzi sculpture from outside Euston station ( Historic sculpture stranded in middle of building site, 11 November) to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Ann Newell Thame, Oxfordshire . I’m sure the British Library, a few yards down the road, would happily act as foster parents for the Paolozzi statue. A suitable position could be found in the piazza until a permanent location is decided. Angela Barton Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire . I note your report (11 November) that a shop in York is stopping the playing of “cheesy Xmas songs” for “the sake of staff morale”. Perhaps it would be possible for all shops to avoid cheesy Christmas songs – for the sake of all of us. Peter Duckers Shrewsbury, Shropshire . Since a litre is already a volumetric measure, I think Marina Hyde ( Journal, 9 November) has her metrics in a twist when she says that, in the Brexit hoohah, “millions of cubic litres of demons have been released in the past three years”. Brian Stokoe Fulford, York . Join the debate – email email@example.com . 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
All proceeds from sale in Switzerland go to research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A Patek Philippe watch has sold for a record 31m Swiss francs (£24.2m) at a charity auction hosted by Christie’s in Switzerland. It is by far the highest price ever paid for a wristwatch, and all of the proceeds will be donated to research into muscular dystrophy. The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010, which was created specially for the charity auction Only Watch, was bought by a private telephone bidder following a five-minute auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, in Geneva, on Saturday. It had been expected to sell for SFr2.5-3m. The watch beat the previous record, set by a Daytona Rolex once owned by Paul Newman, which sold for $17.8m in 2017. Sabine Kegel, the head of Christie’s watch department in Geneva, said the watch was “the most complicated wristwatch ever made … it does nearly everything except making coffee”. She said the watch had attracted “a lot of interest from new clients because it was a charity auction”. The watch has four spring barrels driving 20 complications and features a reversible case with two dials in rose gold and black. It has five chiming modes, two of which are patented world firsts: an acoustic alarm that strikes the pre-selected time and a date repeater sounding the date on demand. Kegel, who had been on the phone to a rival bidder during the auction of lot 28, said the room erupted with applause when the gavel came down. “It was really very exciting, and there was such a great atmosphere in the room with standing ovations after each sale,” she said. “So much money was raised that the scientific research can now go ahead to clinical trials.” Fifty watches created specially for the Only Watch charity sale raised SFr38.6m for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition that affects one in 3,000 male births. The biennial auction was founded in 2005 by Luc Pettavino, the former chief executive of the Monaco Yacht Show, after his son, Paul, was diagnosed with the disease and died aged 21 in 2016. “Breaking records is obviously a source of pride and happiness,” said Pettavino, who is president of the Monégasque Association against Myopathies. “What a beautiful moment and emotion shared together. And what matters most today is the difference we are going to be able to make in research against muscular dystrophies and for hundreds of thousands of patients and families around the world for their lives to get better.” The Earl of Snowdon, the honourable chairman of Christie’s, said: “It has been a fantastic 12 month-long project, 10 cities and thousands of catalogues, it is amazing to see such an enthusiastic response across the globe. We are thankful and thrilled to have contributed to raise SFr38.6m that researchers will put to immediate use.” Christie’s did not charge a buyer’s premium, which can be as high as 25% of the sale price. All of the watches were donated by brands including Hublot, Montblanc, Richard Mille and Louis Vuitton. Christie’s will sell a further 214 rare watches in a sale on Monday. A Patek Philippe Henry Graves is expected to sell for SFr3m.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of the 2,000 men surveyed put their hands down their boxers at least 10 times a day.
‘Nad’a opens my eyes’: Luke and Nad’a. Photograph: Image provided by Luke ShannonWhen Nad’a stopped at Luke’s food stall along the river embankment in Prague in summer 2015, she wasn’t expecting sparks to fly. “I was surprised to see that he was selling Middle Eastern food, because he looks about as Irish as you can get. I thought I’d go over and try it to see if it was any good.” As a vegan, she couldn’t eat his speciality chicken dish, but he made her a plant-based version. “It was amazing. I also noticed he had really nice eyes – but I couldn’t stay. I had to pack for a summer in Spain.”Luke says that Nad’a was “the best-looking person I’ve ever seen” and he hoped to bump into her again. “For the next few months, she kept popping into my head at random moments. It was very strange.” Although she returned to the food market when she came back to Prague, she did not see Luke. “I was at a wedding so I didn’t get to see her,” he says.Early the following year, they bumped into each other at a party. “I heard someone say: ‘What are the odds that two people would bring the same dish to a party?’” says Nad’a. She turned around to find Luke holding za’atar and maqluba, one of her favourite Palestinian dishes. “It sounds cheesy, but it felt inevitable that we’d meet again,” he says. They began chatting, and made arrangements to meet for coffee. Although he liked her, Luke was worried about misreading the situation.“In the end, I had to make the first move,” Nad’a says. “I put my arm around him when we were out on a coffee date. He didn’t seem to mind.” A few days later, she invited him over, and he kissed her. “I was nervous. It took a leap of faith,” he says. Nad’a laughs: “Then he immediately started rambling about how he was going to mess this up.”They have since had some unusual dates. “Once we went to a deserted graveyard that used to belong to a hospital prison for the criminally insane,” says Luke. “That was interesting.” Not all their dates have been plain sailing. “Once we climbed the bottom of a bridge to do some silly handstands for a photograph,” Nad’a recalls. “Luke ended up falling over on top of me and breaking my arm.” Despite the disaster, the pair have continued to explore Prague. “We love doing things you wouldn’t find in a tourist handbook,” says Nad’a.The couple have plenty in common, but they also appreciate each other’s differences. “Nad’a opens my eyes,” says Luke. After growing up in Ireland and moving to England when he was 12, he had always been cynical about religion. “I understand more about spirituality now, and I try much harder to think about things from a different perspective.”Nad’a, who was born in Libya, grew up in the United Arab Emirates with parents from different religious backgrounds. “My mum is Czech and was Catholic and my dad, who was a Marxist, was from a Palestinian Muslim family. It meant I was exposed to lots of different influences. Spirituality has always come naturally to me, and I think it’s important.”They share many of the same values, and Nad’a loves Luke’s kindness and respect. “He treats everyone equally, no matter who he is with. It’s a really lovely quality.” What does Luke love about his partner? “Hang on, I’ll get my spreadsheet,” he says. “It changes on a day-to-day basis, but one of the things I love most about Nad’a is that she always tries to make the right decisions for the people around her. She is very caring.”The couple, who work as translators, have recently moved in together. They live with Luke’s pet tortoise, Stamper, and spend lots of time cooking together. “Luke is a better cook than me,” says Nad’a. “I am definitely being treated to some really great food.”Want to share your story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org