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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: How Chuck Berry invented rock n'roll

Grab 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. Winter and sadness

shutterstock_386645752 Source: Shutterstock/Kichigin

When you live in some parts of the world, the sunlight can sometimes feel out of reach – or it can be dark for months at a time. This can lead to seasonal affective disorder – so how do countries tackle it? Here’s what they’re doing in parts of Scandinavia.

(Mosaic Science, approx 22 mins reading time)

When Anna’s pupils enter the classroom at 8.10am, the lights are a bright bluish-white to wake them up. They then grow gradually more intense as the morning progresses, dimming slightly in the run up to lunch to ease the transition to the gloomier light outside. Immediately after lunch the classroom is intense whitish-blue again – “to combat the post-lunch coma,” jokes Strandberg – but then the lights gradually dim and become more yellow as the afternoon progresses.

2. Gardening is my therapy

In this moving extract from his memoir, Alan Jenkins writes about how gardening helped him deal with the aftermath of neglect and children’s homes.

(The Guardian, approx 27 mins reading time)

There is a photo of my brother and me with Lilian as young boys. Christopher is lopsidedly smiling, proudly holding his new ginger kitten. It almost matches his hair. Lilian is crouched with Tonka, her Siamese cat. I have my arm around her, looking a little warily into the camera. The boys’ clothes are comically big. Not “you will grow into them” big, but clothes bought while the intended children aren’t (have never been) there. We were small for our age. But these are new clothes for a new life in our new home with our new family.

3. London Bridge is down

shutterstock_333466262 A waxwork of Queen Elizabeth. Source: Shutterstock/Bangkokhappiness

A few months ago, rumours surfaced that the Queen of England was dead. She wasn’t – but here’s a look at the secret plans for when she does pass away.

(The Guardian, approx 42 mins reading time)

The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, “Hyde Park Corner”, to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out. For Elizabeth II, the plan for what happens next is known as “London Bridge.” The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say “London Bridge is down” on secure lines.

4. Death is real

Musician Phil Elverum’s wife Genevieve died of cancer in 2016, an incredibly short time after being diagnosed with the disease. Now he has an album out that explores the depth of pain he and his young daughter have experienced.

(Pitchfork, approx 25 mins reading time)

In the past, words usually came second for Elverum, but this time he sat down at a desk in the room where his wife had passed, across the hall from his daughter’s bedroom, and wrote lyrics out, longhand; some of them came directly from notes he had scribbled for himself in between hospital appointments or chemotherapy treatments. He recorded these songs in Geneviève’s room, too, mostly on acoustic guitar and with just one microphone and a laptop, at night when his daughter was sleeping or in stolen moments when she was at play dates with neighborhood friends.

5. Stranger in the woods

shutterstock_347772227 Source: Shutterstock/Poprotskiy Alexey

Would you – could you – ever abandon life as you know it? That’s what Christopher Knight did, living a hermetic life for 27 years. Here’s his story.

(The Guardian, approx 22 mins reading time)

Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. “I had no one to tell,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers.” He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels – “the cheapest I could find”. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.

6. Is Trump trolling the White House press corps?

We’ve all been fascinated with how Sean Spicer has conducted himself at the White House press briefings. And then there’s Trump’s own approach to the press and reporters. But is Trump… trolling people?

(New Yorker, approx 39 mins reading time)

A TV correspondent told me that calling on front-row reporters first isn’t just about appealing to their egos: “It’s also about maintaining a sense of predictability, a sense that eventually the substantive questions will be answered. Throwing that into chaos—‘Maybe you’ll get a question, if you shout loud enough, who knows?’—makes everyone desperate and competitive and makes us look like a bunch of braying jackals. Which I don’t think is an accident.”


Chuck Berry: Father of Rock 'n' Roll 1926-2017 Source: Globe Photos

Chuck Berry died yesterday, aged 90. Here’s a look back at his influential and incomparable career.

(Esquire, approx 17 mins reading time)

His first single, “Maybellene,” was built out of an old white hillbilly country song, then fed through the blender of Berry’s guitar and Willie Dixon’s bass until something entirely new poured out. And whatever that was, that new sound, that white-black hybrid, Berry ran with it, and the rest of the world did, too.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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