Newsletter 1 – 20 September 2019

Friends! Hello! This is the first newsletter and I don’t have the slightest idea what I’m doing, so I’m relying on you to tell me what you like and what you don’t. I’ll be experimenting with different formats, and hopefully the next one will look a little less home-made. If one newsletter every antentwig is too much, let me know. Too little? I doubt that, but all feedback will gratefully be pounced upon. It’s terribly fun for me to do this with you, and I’d love us to do it together.


1.  This week’s post:

A letter about letters.

A letter is something shared and serious. It takes effort and that effort opens a door in the universe to a room in which only the writer and recipient can sit …”


2.  This week’s pick from the archives:

On foot with Gorillas in Rwanda.

One of my favourite travel stories, not least because of the photographs and companionship of the splendid Teagan Cunniffe.


3.  This week’s recommendations:

I am listening to:

Giles Coren Has No Idea with Giles Coren and Esther Walker. Giles is a columnist for the Times of London, and the podcast is in essence a weekly kitchen conversation with his wife Esther while they anxiously scan the papers to figure out what to write. A very funny and very truthful exposure of the columnist’s dark arts.

I am reading:

One Day in Bethlehem by Jonny Steinberg, who is indispensable, even when the story he’s following reveals itself to be more complex and less emotionally satisfying than he might have hoped when he began.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari. What if, asks Hari, depression and anxiety isn’t an imbalance of brain chemicals, but a very reasonable response to a life lived out of balance, in a world that makes balance impossible?

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Perhaps better known for My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout is one of the most extraordinarily powerful writers of fiction today. Olive herself is maddening and moving and frustratingly real.

I am watching:

Succession: Set among the upper 0.1% of the 1%, this is one of the most enjoyable shows on television at the moment, and an extraordinary technical achievement by the writers to make a cast of universally dreadful characters such very good company.

Barry: Barry’s a contract killer who finds his humanity in a Los Angeles acting class. Come to admire the technical challenge of making rotten people lovable, stay for the best new character of the year: Anthony Carrigan’s Noho Hank, the hilarious hairless Chechen mobster.

The Rugby World Cup. I’ll be on the Greek islands of Milos and Poros for the next two months, and it’s hard to be unhappy about that, except when the game is afoot. In Greece when you smile the world smiles with you; watch rugby and you watch alone. I’ll be closely following Oom Rugby for his analysis and humour and humanity and Squidge for, well, everything.


4.  A moment that made me happy this week:

I promise this is the last time I’ll be sappy, but I finally put up the website this week, after months of berating myself for being so worthless and slow, while simultaneously not expecting anyone to care, and the overwhelming generosity of your response really did make me a little weepy.

(A second happiness, but more than just a moment’s worth: the technical department of Joanna Simon, the salamander in the basement, for all her loving unpaid labour in making this site and making it possible.)


5.  This week I discovered …

… what an antentwig is. It’s a word signifying a period of three weeks, as “fortnight” signifies two weeks. It’s made up of the Old English word “ant” (1), and “tentwig” (twenty). 1 + 20 = 21 days, or three weeks. It’s an excellent word that I will use more often, and was entirely invented by Mike Pesca, the host of my favourite daily podcast, The Gist.

Thank you, I love you, I’ll see you in three weeks, and hopefully next time there’ll be pictures.