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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 5 December 2021

Sitdown Sunday: The dark and dangerous world of chemsex

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. So flattering on you

shutterstock_97094303 Source: Shutterstock/Ollyy

Do you wonder about what a ‘flattering’ outfit really is, and question whether it means ‘covers your flaws’ or ‘makes you look your best’? Then this essay is for you. It’ll certainly make you think twice about telling someone their outfit is ‘flattering’. But it’ll also make you realise that sometimes our concept of flattering needs to be thrown out the window.

(Racked, approx 15 mins reading time)

We both agree that “flattering” is a nuanced word — and how it’s interpreted comes down to the person receiving it as much as the person saying it. “If it comes from someone who knows me, I know they understand that I want to look nice, and that’s a gentle way of saying ‘I know you hate your tummy/thighs/butt, et cetera, and I want you to know you shouldn’t worry about it in this garment,’” she tells me. “But a salesperson saying it… that comes with a tinge — or a load — of condescension. If someone who doesn’t know me says it, they’re probably saying ‘you’re fat, but it’s not as noticeable here.’”

2. Plastic island

We all use plastic every day – in fact, it’s quite hard to avoid using it. But as plastic is incredibly hard to break down, what happens to the plastic we discard? A lot of it ends up on this island, and the impact is devastating.

(CNN, approx 15 mins reading time)

When you tear open the fragile ribcages of the birds who did not survive — as US Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent Matthew Brown did in front of us — the sheer volume of plastic waste now in our world becomes apparent. Inside the slight skeleton of one albatross, we found bottle tops and a cigarette lighter amongst seemingly endless tiny shards of plastic. It’s as if plastic actually was the bird’s diet. These brightly colored plastic fragments were picked out of the sea by the bird’s parents, who mistook them for food, then fed them to their offspring

3. The dangerous world of chemsex

shutterstock_405977956 Source: Shutterstock/serpeblu

In the wake of the prosecution of Stephen Port for the drugging and murder of four young men, Patrick Strudwick of Buzzfeed has looked into the world of chemsex. This shocking read details how men are frequently raped and assaulted, often unable to report the incident to the police.

(Buzzfeed, approx 20 mins reading time)

“I’ve seen guys with scars all over their shoulders because they were on crystal meth and they were convinced they had something under their skin; I’ve seen people with huge burns on their face where they’ve dropped a Tina pipe on their face; I’ve seen people so paranoid that they’re ripped their whole kitchen out looking for a camera. I’ve seen people almost sexually assaulted and the only reason they weren’t was because I stopped it.”

4. Thirty years in captivity

Rosie spent 30 years in a London commune run by a man who called himself Aravindan Balakrishnan. She was told she had no parents, and affection was forbidden in the home. This is the story of her escape.

(The New Yorker, approx 35 mins reading time)

Pattni lived in the Clapham house, as did Sian Davies, who had studied law in Wales before moving to London, and Wahab, who was originally from Malaysia. There was also Josie Herivel, the well-off daughter of John Herivel, one of the Bletchley Park scientists who helped to break the Nazis’ Enigma code during the Second World War. A wunderkind violinist, she had abandoned her career in 1976, after attending one of Balakrishnan’s lectures. “I grew up with my father, who was supposed to have one of the best brains in Britain, but my mind was not excited,” [said] Herivel

5. I’m still alive

Ian Martin was told that he’d be dead by Christmas 2006, with the best case scenario that he’d still be alive 10 years later. Well, he’s alive – and as he says, 2016 may have been a shit year, but there are reasons to be happy.

(The Guardian, approx 13 mins reading time)

I was 53. My cancer had been sudden and aggressive. To complicate matters, it then triggered mass hysteria among my antibodies. Rather than address the tumour, the useless panicking minion antibody dickheads went nuts and started eating my nervous system, creating genuinely impressive levels of pain and putting me in a wheelchair. 2006 was rubbish. Although to take a balanced view, I’m sure in the world outside Lancaster Royal Infirmary people were clinking glasses, laughing like donkeys and agreeing that 2006 was a really bloody tremendous year.

6. Missing presumed dead – and then found

In 2011, a Syrian protest song by Ibrahmi Qashoush did the rounds. But then he was reported dead, his neck seen cut in a video shared on YouTube. But as GQ reports, he was not, in fact, dead at all.

(GQ, approx 25 mins reading time)

The most complete account was filed from nearby Beirut. A reporter from the Associated Press, presumably with the help of sources he’d reached over the phone or via new media, had located a “close friend” of the singer who revealed Qashoush as a 42-year-old fireman and the father of three boys. “All the poems and songs he wrote were by instinct,” remembered Abu Yaman. “He used to be sitting with his friends and then start reciting a poem.” He’d been walking to work one morning when a white vehicle had stopped and simply bundled him into a car.


shutterstock_427368412 Source: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

This quite moving New Yorker profile from 2011 is about Don Colcord, a pharmacist in the small town of Nucla. There are no hospitals nearby, and no department stores – and Dr Don is the only pharmacist. That means he’s the first call when anyone feels sick.

(New Yorker, approx 20 mins reading time)

Don Colcord has owned Nucla’s Apothecary Shoppe for more than thirty years. In the past, such stores played a key role in American rural health care, and this region had three more pharmacies, but all of them have closed. Some people drive eighty miles just to visit the Apothecary Shoppe. It consists of a few rows of grocery shelves, a gift-card rack, a Pepsi fountain, and a diabetes section, which is decorated with the mounted heads of two mule deer and an antelope. Next to the game heads is the pharmacist’s counter. Customers don’t line up at a discreet distance, the way city folk do; in Nucla they crowd the counter and talk loudly about health problems.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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