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Friday 9 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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# 7 deadly reads
Sitdown Sunday: 'I'll keep searching for missing Esther'
Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. Strange seeds

People started receiving strange packets of seeds out of the blue – what was going on?

(The Atlantic, approx 30 mins reading time)

It was the seeds that Miller wanted to speak about. By then, news of the seeds had been circulating for several days. Packets were turning up at homes across the United States; residents of every state would eventually report receiving them. Their address labels and Customs declarations indicated that they had been sent from China. The contents were usually described as an item of jewelry—something like “rose stud earrings”—but inside would be a small packet of unidentified seeds. There was no evident reason why particular people were receiving particular seeds, or why people were receiving seeds at all.

2. A personal history of the C-section

Leslie Jamison on the Caesarean section – its history, how people have viewed it over the years, and her own experience of it.

(The New York Times, approx 21 mins reading time)

Whenever I told my birth story, I noticed myself stressing that it was an emergency C-section — wanting people to know that there wasn’t any other option, that I didn’t choose to forgo labor, wasn’t coerced into the procedure by an intervention-happy, efficiency-obsessed, liability-avoidant medical establishment. At first, I was mainly just relieved that my daughter survived the delivery, that I could wonder at her little burrito of a body in the swaddling blanket or her impossibly tiny fingernails. My C-section was simply the intervention that had been necessary; now it was just a set of physical inconveniences. 

3. The shocking experiment

In the late sixties, neglected children were placed in foster homes run by paedophiles in Germany. Why and how did it happen?

(The New Yorker, approx 42 mins reading time)

Nentwig had assumed that Kentler’s experiment ended in the nineteen-seventies. But Marco told her he had lived in his foster home until 2003, when he was twenty-one. “I was totally shocked,” she said. She remembers Marco saying several times, “You are the first person I’ve told—this is the first time I’ve told my story.” As a child, he’d taken it for granted that the way he was treated was normal. “Such things happen,” he told himself. “The world is like this: it’s eat and be eaten.” But now, he said, “I realized the state has been watching.”

4. ‘I’ll keep searching for Esther’

Dan Colegate writes about his partner of 20 years, Esther Dingley, who went missing in the Pyrenees last year and still hasn’t been found.

(BBC, approx 7 mins reading time)

When Esther didn’t get in touch on the day she’d specified as the latest possible return, I tried to tell myself it would be OK. I’d been worried for days, ever since our last conversation when she was at the top of the Pic de Sauvegarde on 22 November, but I also respected her abilities and independence. Worrying was part of the deal when living with such a free spirit.

5. The hidden world of cats

What on earth are cats doing when they’re not at home? A journalist tracks five cats with GPS trackers to find out. (The Guardian, approx 11 mins reading time)

Over in Brixworth, Pablo’s hunting has ramped up. “This morning he went out without breakfast,” says Franklin. “He’s obviously getting his food somewhere else.” She watched in real time as Pablo spent the morning hunting in the allotments near her house. “He nipped home at lunch and brought a dormouse with him.”

6. Herbert Simms

Donal fallon writes for The Journal about the enduring legacy of the city architect Herbert Simms. (The Journal, approx 6 mins reading time)

In recent years, there has been significant public interest in the story of Herbert Simms, Housing Architect to Dublin Corporation from 1932 until his untimely death in 1948. Undoubtedly, some of that interest is motivated by contemporary concerns and questions around housing. In his time, remarkable leaps forward were made – the population of Cabra increased from 5,326 in 1926 to 19,119 in 1936. Still, it was his fundamental belief that people could and should live in the city that makes Simms such an interesting subject. 


Here’s a really interesting article about Dublin’s first gay-friendly bars. (Come Here To Me, approx 14 mins reading time)

The place was (full) of theatrical old queens, with the barmen clad in bum-freezer uniforms. While not being gay themselves, as far as I know, the Dunne brothers were quite theatrical in their own way. Barry would hand out little cards, bearing the legend ‘Bartley Dunne’s, reminiscent of a left bank bistro, haunt of aristocrats, poets and artists’. Whatever about that, Saturday night certainly resembled an amateur opera in full swing. There only ever seemed to be two records played over the sound system: ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ by Edith Piaf, and Ray Charles’ ‘Take These Chains From My Heart’.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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