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From the archive: a nation of gamblers, 1972 | Life and style

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The Observer Magazine summed up the gambler’s fallacy – the belief that random past events have an effect on future outcomes – in its cover headline of 10 September 1972, the first part of an investigation into Britain’s gambling mania: ‘Tomorrow I’ll Win It All Back’.

‘Nine Britons out of 10 now gamble,’ revealed Des Wilson and Joe Steeples, ‘and those who don’t are frowningly referred to by sociologists as “deviant oddities”… the law has given up any attempt to ban it and is now satisfied if it can keep it under control.

‘This year we in Britain are staking more than £2.1bn on the turn of a card, the fate of a horse, or the result of a football match – more than we invest in education or in hospitals and 2.5 times what we spend on bread and cereals.’

An astonishing 9 million people went to greyhound races. ‘An evening at the dogs can be fun,’ it was argued. ‘When the grandstand lights dim and the gaily dressed dogs are led on to the track, it is like a form of theatre.’

Gamblers Anonymous said there was evidence that ‘some gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves’. They even quoted Freud: ‘The fluttering movements of a card dealer’s hands, the thrust and withdrawal motions of the croupier’s rake, and the shaking of the dice box can all be identified with the sublimations of copulation or masturbation.’

These days, gambling has largely moved online and become ever more niche in what one can bet on, but one thing remains constant: ‘The gambling empires are being built upon the one inescapable truth in a business full of myths and theories: the profit in gambling is for the promoter, not the punter.’

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Design Review: get the newsletter for the way we live now | Life and style

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‘Design’ is a word used to describe architecture and products, ideas and visual arts. Design makes your sofa comfortable, but it can also save the planet if you’re developing innovative building materials. In this age, every aspect of design is considered by a switched-on reader, so the Design Review newsletter focuses on thinking and process as much as products to buy.


The way we think about lifestyle is changing. As our focus turns to sustainability and away from the short fix of fashion and trends, we have updated our lifestyle journalism to reflect this. Following on from our quarterly Design magazine, we’ve launched a monthly newsletter to bring you more of these features and stories.

If you want to read more about the world of underground parks, post-modern cakes and algae T-shirts, sign up now. The future is waiting.

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Explore all our newsletters: whether you love film, football, fashion or food, we’ve got something for you

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The Guardian’s newsletters include content from our website, which may be funded by outside parties.Newsletters may also display information about Guardian News and Media’s other products, services or events (such as Guardian Jobs or Masterclasses), chosen charities or online advertisements.


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We need to keep talking about miscarriage – and share the pain | Suzanne Moore | Opinion

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You know something is wrong when they pause and say: “I am just going to get a colleague.” It was a 20-week scan. The baby was dead. They thought it had possibly died a couple of weeks earlier, and sent me home to “let nature take its course”. The idea of a dead thing inside me, black stuff leaking out of me, was horrible. My GP was sympathetic, the risk of infection was high and she got me back into hospital. I had a new job so I made up some story about an ovarian cyst, as I found the whole experience very hard to explain. After all, I had two healthy children, so I shouldn’t be sad. Some women have repeated miscarriages. One medic told me I should think myself lucky.

The next time was way more dramatic. In a normal pregnancy, the level of certain hormones climbs slowly. The blood tests showed mine were zigzagging. This meant the pregnancy was ectopic – the embryo was stuck and growing in the fallopian tube. The baby would never be born. Again I was “lucky” as, during one checkup, everything happened very quickly. A floaty feeling came over me. The danger of ectopic pregnancy is that, if the fallopian tube ruptures, there is severe internal haemorrhaging. Weirdly, you feel the pain in your shoulder.

I was banged on to a trolley and rushed along underground tunnels that stretched beneath the hospital, with people shouting: “Get plasma in her”, “She is tachycardic”, “Tell theatre we are getting her in now”. It really is like ER, I remember thinking; they do get very excited.

Haemorrhage is a strange experience, in that you don’t much care. (Once I went round to see a friend who was miscarrying and found her sitting in a huge pool of blood, apparently feeling no real urgency to get to A&E.) When I woke up, my throat hurt, I had bruises everywhere: emergency surgery is necessarily violent. There were catheters and tubes and, opposite, an old guy was staring at me. I was on a mixed ward. “Heart attacks, mainly,” the nurse explained. At least I had a diamorphine syringe driver, but it was making me throw up constantly. A close friend visited and burst into tears at the sight of me. Someone came and asked if I wanted counselling. “Yes I do,” I replied. He wrote down a number, but the phone was at the end of the ward and at that point I couldn’t walk.

These are tales of average loss. This is what it is like to think you are to be a mother and then have that taken away. The veiled, secret mourning. Miscarriage is extremely common and we talk about it a little more now than we used to, as we do menstruation, so that the shame and pain of it can be shared and hopefully slightly dissipate.

In having that conversation, it’s important to be clear about our terminology. On Twitter this weekend, there was consternation when a month-old ad from Tampax resurfaced that read: “Fact: not all women have periods. Also a fact: not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed.”

In our world of alternative facts, it sometimes seems women cannot be named. Women and trans men have periods. Why not just say that? It then emerged that, two weeks ago, Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal-death charity, had tweeted: “Often the focus of support and comfort is on the birthing parent, which can leave partners or non-birthing parents feeling isolated and alone. Sands is here for you.” It later apologised, as bereaved mothers were rightly appalled.

Now, whether we are talking about menstruation or miscarriage, mother as well as woman is considered by some to be exclusionary language. Women have been told our fear of being erased is something we just have to suck up. But I’m genuinely sure that most trans people have sympathy for grieving women. Men are never required to make space or to change their language. Meanwhile, women die in menstrual huts in Nepal; in the US, the infant mortality rate for black women is shockingly high; and all over the world we still have period poverty.

When I went back for my checkup after my ectopic pregnancy, I fell in love with the doctor because a) he was gorgeous, b) he saved my life and c) he was the most pro-women doctor I have ever met. As I wept that, at 41, I was too old to have another child, he said he could help. Most of his female colleagues didn’t want children until they were consultants, he said, which was usually in their late 30s, so he considered it his job to aid the process if necessary through IVF or other medical means. “Impregnate me now!” I had to stop myself screaming. The pregnancy hormones were still running around my brain. “I am so glad to see you,” he said as we parted. “The last woman I opened up in your condition, I lost on the table.”

Language matters. As Andrea Dworkin – a trans ally – once said: “Men have defined the parameters of every subject.” They still do. It is not transphobic for women to name our experiences as females and mothers. To insist our bodies matter and that our losses are real. It is a matter of life and death.

Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist



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How we met: ‘I had been prejudiced about dating divorced men. John made me realise that was silly’ | Life and style

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A soup kitchen isn’t the obvious setting for romance. But when John Warren decided to volunteer for the homeless charity Caritas of Austin in January 2006, it wasn’t long before he spotted Laura Thomas. “I was working in the kitchen when I watched her walk across the room, so I tried to make eye contact. She immediately told me to put gloves on,” he says, laughing. As soon as she left, he put on the latex gloves required for hygiene reasons and, the next time she passed, waved to show that he was wearing them.

Laura, who was responsible for arranging music events at the shelter, thought John was “cute”. “A month later, we met again and started chatting at the kitchen,” she says. Although there was a spark, the volunteer coordinator told Laura that John had a girlfriend. “I thought he was a jerk. I didn’t understand why he was flirting with me if he was with someone.” In reality, he had separated from his partner. Due to the misunderstanding, John and Laura started dating other people. “He brought a date to the benefit fundraiser event I was organising,” says Laura. “I thought that was his long-term girlfriend.”

When his profile popped up on a dating website that Laura was using, it prompted her to ask about his relationship status. “We finally realised we were both single and liked each other,” she says. In April 2006, they went on their first proper date, to a wine bar in South Austin, followed by dinner at a restaurant. “I was really interested in everything she had to say,” says John. “There was something special there.” She felt he was different because he asked so many questions: “On previous dates, most men had just talked about themselves.”

Laura had never married, but discovered that John was divorced and had two daughters, aged 17 and 20. “I had been prejudiced about dating divorced men but John made me realise that was silly,” she says. The couple bonded over their shared love of travelling, their passion for nature and their strong family values.

John and Laura on a trip to Chile in January 2020



John and Laura on a trip to Chile in January 2020. Photograph: Image provided by Laura Thomas

“We both love camping and hiking. I think I knew Laura was the one when I went to her house and realised she had more camping gear than me,” John says, laughing. The relationship became serious quickly and the pair discussed marriage. In October, they went to a music festival in San Francisco, where John popped the question. “I knew he was going to ask because he was acting weird,” she remembers. The couple had a barefoot wedding the following May in a Catholic church. “I’d previously done volunteer work in India and it was a mark of respect to remove your shoes in religious places,” says Laura. “We offered our guests the opportunity to do it too if they wanted.” It was followed by a DIY party at John’s home, where they turned the garage into a dancefloor. Instead of wedding gifts, they requested donations to the soup kitchen where they had met.

Laura moved into her husband’s house shortly after the wedding, which she admits was a “learning curve”. “It was a bit of a shock to the system as I had to move to a different part of the city, and we had not lived together before we married. But it worked and now I have a great relationship with his children, too. We spend a lot of time with our families.”

Since the pandemic started, John has worked at home as the director of a technology company, but Laura’s career as a music booking agent is temporarily on hold. She became unwell with thyroid cancer earlier this year, but has since made a full recovery after having surgery. Despite the challenges of the past few months, they enjoy spending more time together. “We bought a small ranch a three-hour drive from our home, and we hope to spend weekends there,” says Laura. And they continue to raise funds for the soup kitchen.

John is grateful that his wife keeps him grounded. “Laura has an immense sense of social justice, which I love. It was wonderful to meet someone who puts family first.” She describes her husband as incredibly intelligent. “He is Mr Fix-It and makes anything work. John is always able to laugh and gets along with everyone.”

Want to share your story? Tell us a little about you, your partner and how you got together by filling in the form here.


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