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Let’s flip again: skateboards take off for a new generation | Life and style

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Millfields Park in Hackney, east London, is filled with the sound of tiny wheels gliding on concrete after the nearby schools finish for the day. Children in checkerboard shoes and hoodies have come to skateboard at dusk. It is a few days before the start of the second lockdown.

Nieko, aged eight, tells me he took it up a few months ago because he just “likes riding around”. His mother, Joanne, a product designer, says she is pleased to get him off the internet. It is, she says, like the old-school days when people would knock on your door and invite you to the local park.

Finnbar, 10, says he started in August: “I find it fun to skate everywhere [and] practise my ollies [jumps]. I’m getting all right at them.”

Similar scenes were being repeated around the country, with a surge in skateboarding since the start of the pandemic. “We expected it from when the Olympics started,” says Neil Ellis, head of digital engagement at Skateboard England, but we didn’t expect this increase that’s come through Covid. The skateboard shops have had their best sales ever.”

Zuleha Oshodi, who has been skating for two years. ‘You can lose yourself for a few hours... it made me feel alive again.’



Zuleha Oshodi, who has been skating for two years. ‘You can lose yourself for a few hours… it made me feel alive again.’

Ellis has been skateboarding for 23 years and has never seen a situation where you couldn’t get hold of a board. “But this year there’s a worldwide shortage.” Although skateparks are now closed again during the second lockdown, it has been the same story everywhere. “They’ve just had their best summers ever,” he says.

This huge uptick can partly be explained by the surge in interest in outdoor activities because of the pandemic. “It’s a sport that you can do on your own,” says Ellis. Plus it’s unusually accessible. “You just need a flat bit of ground – car parks are ideal,” says Danni Gallacher, who has been skateboarding for the last 13 years and runs Girl Skate UK.

But it goes deeper. Ellis believes the community around skateboarding is a benefit in a bumpy year. “Everyone supports each other … skateboarders have rallied together.”

The focus involved in the act of skateboarding is a draw for many – and something that has become particularly precious during the pandemic. From quilting to colouring, activities that require mindfulness have been blossoming.

Liisa Chisholm, layback frontside bluntslide.



Liisa Chisholm, layback frontside bluntslide. Photograph: Rich West

“It’s escapism,” says Ellis. “You go skating with your friends and everything feels normal.”

For Zuleha Oshodi, 24, who works in fashion and has been skateboarding seriously for the last two years, “it’s that ability to go and lose yourself for a few hours”. She came to it when she was “in a weird place – I’d just lost my job, I’d just finished uni, I was a bit, like, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”

Skateboarding was, she says, “that thing I could do that made me feel alive again”.

Many relatively new skateboarders, such as Annie McCormack, 28, agree. She has been skating for about two months, and has set up a girls’ skating collective in Hull. “I’ve had a history of mental disorders, and skating makes you remove any of those thoughts because you have to concentrate on that skill,” she says. “For those moments or hours, you skate, you’re in another zone.”

Patience – another quality that is proving particularly useful in 2020 – is also encouraged by the perseverance needed to skate. An antidote to the instant gratification of social media, it takes time, effort and hundreds of tries to successfully land tricks, something that Gallacher describes as “humbling”.

Much of skateboarding’s recent growth has been thanks to women and girls finding their way to the sport. Once associated with lad culture, skateboarding’s inclusivity has been growing over the last five years, according to Gallacher, who has been running skateboarding workshops for women in Sheffield over summer.

According to Ellis, the number of female skateboarders has grown by 24% over the past 12 months, to about 112,000. He, and some of the 11-year-old girls skating in the local park, namecheck Sky Brown, who will be 13 when she represents Britain at next year’s Olympics, as a source of inspiration.

Annie McCormack, who has set up a girls’ skating collective in Hull.



Annie McCormack, who has set up a girls’ skating collective in Hull. Photograph: am_cormack_/Instagram

It was finding another female skateboarder that encouraged Oshodi. The fear of falling and being laughed at has kept many away from the sport in the past. But “it was a lot easier if you had one other safe-space type of person. I’d fall over, she’d fall over, we’re both girls, we’re doing this.” Now, she says, “go to any skatepark and there will be girl skaters. Sometimes there will be more girls than guys.”

In a difficult year, many are finding peace on ramps and in parks. For 27-year-old illustrator Liisa Chisholm, who has been skating for seven years, “skateboarding is all about love, and that’s something we could all use a little bit more of.”



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Boozy poached pear trifle by Ravneet Gill | Christmas food and drink

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Christmas is for decadent food and enjoying simple traditions, like watching classic films, catching up with family and playing games. When you have a million other things to do, putting together a trifle is such an easy option. I mean, who doesn’t like a bowl of custard, cream and fruit? The best thing is you can adjust and adapt to suit your taste, no booze? Less cream? Different fruit? Totally fine!

Makes enough for 1 x large trifle for 8, or individual glasses
For the trifle custard
double cream 850ml
vanilla extract 1 tsp
egg yolks 3
whole eggs 3
caster sugar 125g

For the poached pears
pears 4 large, peeled
caster sugar 150g
water 700ml
star anise 1
cloves 2
cinnamon 1 stick

To assemble
sponge fingers 1 pack (200g)
sherry to your taste
double cream 500ml
caster sugar 20g
flaked almonds 20g, roasted

Begin by making the custard so it has enough time to chill. Gently warm the cream and vanilla until it begins to steam. Remove from the heat. Whisk the yolks, whole eggs and sugar together. Pour over the warmed cream and whisk. Pour the combined mixture into a large bowl, and sit it on a saucepan of gently simmering water on the stove, making sure it doesn’t directly touch the water. Stir with a whisk frequently until thickened. Transfer to a container and allow to cool completely before placing in the fridge.

Place the pears, sugar, water and aromatics in a large pan making sure the water is covering the pears. If not, top it up. Place a circular piece of parchment directly on the surface of the water to keep the pears submerged. Bring to a gentle simmer until the pears are cooked, around 25-30 minutes, until a skewer placed in slides straight out. Allow to cool before cutting – slice the pears into strips, removing the core, or dice up, depending on how chunky you want the fruit. Keep the liquid to poach more pears.

To assemble, place the sponge fingers into the bottom of the chosen dish. Drizzle over the sherry, being as generous as you like – but not TOO much or it will be too wet. Place the cooled sliced pears on top. Spoon over the cold custard. Gently whip the cream and sugar to soft peaks and top the custard. Finish with a sprinkling of roasted flaked almonds. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for 2 days.

Ravneet Gill is a pastry chef and the founder of Countertalk


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Nigel Slater’s recipe for pappardelle, mushrooms and harissa | Food

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The recipe

Put a deep pan of water on to boil. As it boils, salt generously then lower in 150g of pappardelle and cook for 8 minutes.

Thinly slice 300g of chestnut mushrooms. Warm 6 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the mushrooms. Let them fry for 4 to 5 minutes until they start to toast, then add 2 very finely mashed cloves of garlic. Thinly slice 4 spring onions. Let the garlic and mushrooms cook for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant, then add the spring onions and continue cooking for another couple of minutes until soft. Stir in 3 tbsp of harissa paste.

Lightly drain the pappardelle, toss with the mushrooms and serve. Grate a little parmesan over at the table. Serves 2

The trick

Mushrooms drink an amazing amount of oil. Be prepared to add a little more as they fry. It is important to get them to the right colour – a deep, toasty brown – before you add the mashed garlic.

The twist

This is the sort of recipe that can take a bit of tinkering. Add some crumbled sausage to the pan before you add the mushrooms or perhaps a handful of chopped streaky bacon.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater



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My stunning wife makes no effort with our sex life – and I’m losing all interest | Life and style

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My wife and I have been married for several years. Over the past six months, I have felt my overall sexual attraction to her diminishing to the point that, even though she is absolutely stunning (she could be a model, which I am reminded of by strangers almost every time we go out together), I no longer find myself sexually attracted to her at all. At the start of our relationship, the sex was OK and we were very sexually active for the first two years. I have explained to her that she lacks passion, no matter how much energy I bring. She rarely initiates sex, and when she does, she simply says: “We should have sex tonight,” which is a turn-off. In our last conversation, she said she is just shy. After several conversations, she said she understood what she needed to do and would work on it, but shortly afterwards she asked for sex outright without any real effort with mood or energy, so I just didn’t feel up to it and turned her down again. Two months on, she has settled back into just avoiding it. She is a lovely, caring woman, but my patience has worn thin, which sucks in such a young marriage. I don’t know what to do.

When a person feels judged – especially as frequently as you have described – they can lose confidence and withdraw. As a rule, positive reinforcement is the best way to teach a person. In your situation, that would mean praising and rewarding even small achievements and never again finding fault. I suspect she is feeling confused – especially if you have not been sufficiently specific with her about what you like. It is not enough to complain: “You never initiate sex!” Instead you could, say, mention a video you once saw, where a woman unexpectedly walked through the living room wearing “X” or “Y”, then invited a man to follow her upstairs – and ask her to consider doing something similar. Your wife cannot read your mind, and I believe she does not really understand how to be seductive the way you would like. So, she may need very specific requests such as: “Would you mind doing this, saying this, wearing this?” If she addresses any of your requests in even small ways, be sure to praise and reward her amply. Eventually she will regain confidence. But in terms of her own libido, it is up to you to kindly and non-judgmentally encourage her to share her own interests and tastes with you. This might be uncomfortable for her, so do not push – again, praise her and act on anything she does reveal. Your job is to discover how she likes to be pleasured – that is the best way to fix this.

  • 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 [email protected] (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.


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