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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 1 June, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: I met my boyfriend 12 years after our child was conceived...

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/Hananeko_Studio

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Learning to swim taught me more than I bargained for

A young woman navigates coming out and learning to swim.

(New York Times Magazine, approx 20 mins reading time)

A few minutes later, as we scooched our way down the wall over to the deep end, Paul told me that my brain was not used to being in the water and that the reluctance I felt was real and physiological — my brain protecting me from a perceived threat. Somewhere around a depth of seven feet, I switched into a visceral terror, gripping onto the wall tightly; by the time we arrived at the end of the pool, nine feet, I was so convinced that my life was over that I felt compelled to confess all my secrets to him, as if we were seatmates on a nose-diving plane.

2. Lessons from my grandma on art, sex and life

The author of this piece’s grandmother was Annette Nancarrow, an artist who was friends with the likes of Frida Kahlo.

(New York Times, approx 8 mins reading time)

She was a cultural boundary-breaker in an age of fearfulness and isolationism. She was a sexually confident woman who fell in and out of love with impressive, sometimes domineering men, while never allowing herself to become dependent on any of them. Above all, she was a productive and independent artist who lived by Miles Davis’s creed that “an artist’s first duty is to himself” — or herself — come what may. And, for the most part, she has been almost entirely forgotten — like so many other women who lived lives that were a generation or more ahead of their time.

3. Navigating self-isolation

A lovely piece about how Irish musicians and other people in the music community are navigating self-isolation and social distancing.

(The Thin Air, approx 167 mins reading time)

The other thing I’d say is forgive yourself if you end up spending a day in your PJs binge-watching a TV show, when you intended to be so productive. It happens to the best of us. If you feel the day going that way, embrace it, decide to do things tomorrow and enjoy your day off. When you work from home you can constantly feel like you shouldn’t be relaxing, you can end up beating yourself up into a spiral of sadness if you don’t achieve everything on the list. It’s hard to focus. Forgive yourself with slip ups, move on, tomorrow is a new day.

4. London Fog

The London Review of Books has been making some pieces from its archive available for free lately, and this fascinating review of a book about London Fog is a great read.

(London Review of Books, approx 17 mins reading time)

That was the very last London fog. Children in Bow had to sleep in their classrooms. Thousands of empty cars were left blocking the North Circular. The Duchess of Kent was unable to reach her flight at Stansted; the prime minister failed to get to a dinner at the Savoy. A monkey got lost in Oxford Street, and a Slavonian grebe – trying to migrate without sight of ground or stars – made a forced landing in Regent Street. At Richmond, a man cycled into the river. There was a wave of burglaries. There were 750 deaths attributed to the fog. This was low compared to the penultimate ‘Great Fog’ of ten years before, which is supposed to have killed more than four thousand people.

5. I met my boyfriend 12 years after our child was conceived

A lesbian couple have a baby with a sperm donor. Years later, they break up. Then their daughter goes to find her dad…

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

Because I was writing a doctoral dissertation at home, I would carry the first baby. We matched the donor to my partner – who was by now my wife – choosing someone of average height and weight who had studied literature, had wavy brown hair, and liked sports. The donor listed his profession as a writer, musician, and taxi driver. My wife and I romantically imagined he was refusing to get a desk job, but instead collecting the stories of those he’d pick up in his cab, readying to write the Great American Novel.

6. The hijacking of Flight 1320

(This requires an email or Facebook sign-up to read.)

A story about the hijacking of a flight to Boston 50 years ago, and its impact on the airline industry.

(Boston Globe, approx 25 mins reading time)

Within minutes, the plane, with its 68 passengers and five crew members, was in the air. It was scheduled to land in Boston in under an hour. When the no smoking sign went off, passengers were free to light their Winstons and Marlboros. Others flipped through magazines to pass the time, including one who perused a Reader’s Digest article titled “Is There a Substitute for God?” The man in the window seat next to Lloyd and Al dozed. Lloyd eyed him enviously — he was always too anxious to sleep on flights.


Time for something lighter to read: The Airplane! guide to joke delivery, from 2016.

(Vulture, approx 15 mins reading time)

David Zucker: It was a radical concept. We were doing a comedy without comedians. I think the studio most likely green-lit it thinking this was Animal House on an airplane, and it turned out to be totally different than what they imagined.
Jerry Zucker: It’s a line that a lot of different people could have said, and it would’ve been funny — people would’ve gotten it. But I don’t think it would be remembered in the same way if it hadn’t been said the way Leslie Nielsen says it.
David Zucker: That’s a good point. We love Bill Murray and people who do comedy well, but it wouldn’t have been the same if a comedian had said that line.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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