Fish and chips: the fast food that made me

The last meal my parents had before I graced the world with my presence was fish and chips, so I like to think it forms part of my origin story. Growing up on the coast, fish and chips featured in all its forms: bags of chips clutched on windy beach walks; takeaway fish suppers brought home by Dad, steam escaping from cardboard boxes; and the ultimate luxury, a sit-in experience at Colmans, the South Shields king of fish and chip restaurants, accompanied by a slice of bread and butter and a cup of tea. I was built on fish and chips; salt and vinegar course through my blood. Battered fried

Forget cod – there are plenty more fish in the sea

When it comes to seafood, Britain is a curious place: surrounded by water, in which you can find some of the best fish and shellfish money can buy, and yet so often we are averse to eating it.   There have been numerous campaigns promoting British fish led by just about every chef on television. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is one. It seems almost every month that the River Cottage fellow is trumpeting the virtues of our fish stocks. Rick Stein is another; a little more successfully, from his empire in Cornwall. When was the last time you spotted a John Dory in Tesco or a fresh megrim sole on ice in Sainsbury’s?

Close to extinction: Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman, reviewed

Ned Beauman’s novels are like strange attractors for words with the letter ‘Z’. They zip, zing, fizz, dazzle and sizzle. They are a bizarre bazaar of pizzazz. Some readers no doubt might find his form of literary hyperactivity exhausting. Personally, I find it exhilarating. In part this is because the novels do not just have propulsive plotting but the ideas are high-octane as well. Venomous Lumpsucker does not pause for breath, yet simultaneously induces a weary, melancholy exhalation. The venomous lumpsucker in question throws together two very different characters and works as an effective McGuffin for the novel. Mark Halyard is the environmental impact coordinator (Northern Europe) for the Brahmasamudram

A playful version of the universe: Pure Colour, by Sheila Heti, reviewed

Readers familiar with Sheila Heti’s work, most notably How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood, in which she examines both the possibility and implications of choosing one’s life and dealing with the consequences, will be familiar with her apparent capriciousness. Her prose — freewheeling, elliptical, a tangle of jokiness and jeopardy — seems to capture the puzzle of proportionality: how seriously should we take this one life we have, and how can we hope to balance our opposing urges towards levity and gravity? In Pure Colour, we appear to be in similar territory, immediately introduced to a playful version of the universe in which humans are the critics of God’s

The real ‘scallop’ war: how do you pronounce it?

‘You say scallops and I say scallops,’ sang my husband in his best Ginger Rogers accents. Since we both pronounce the bivalve to rhyme with dollop, there was a certain lack of contrast. There has been a scallop war with France in past days. Though both French and English enjoy them on the plate, it is the French in the 15th century who provided us with the name, escalope. We just knocked the beginning off the word. Our cockle too, from at least a century earlier, is from the French word that gives them coquilles St Jacques. (Mussel is from Latin musculus, ‘muscle’, which also gave the word mus, ‘mouse’,

Winning a knife fight with a fish: Newlyn Fresh Fish reviewed

It’s a good day to stab something and tear out its heart. Elaine Lorys is the only female master fishmonger in Britain. She stands in an apron in the Stevenson fish shop in Newlyn amid the brightness of the autumn sun and signage offering mussels, oysters and clams; bass, bream and red mullet; crab and scallops; fish cakes and fish pies. Much of the fish is caught by Stevenson boats and landed at Newlyn, and is available for delivery across the UK during lockdown. The harbour is across the road, looking fine and functional, apart from the mossy medieval pier that the Mayflower may have sailed from: a local tale

How to stop trawling from trashing the North Sea

Recently Greenpeace dropped a boatload of granite boulders on to Dogger Bank, a permanent threat to any boat that attempts to drag a trawl net across the sandy sea-bottom. One of the biggest boulders had my name painted on it, because Greenpeace asked and I said yes. And in saying yes, I crossed a line that I have never crossed before in 40 years of writing about the environment. I joined the activists, in I hope a measured way, because it’s so very important to give the North Sea a chance to revive itself. Dogger Bank is the ecological heart of the North Sea and it played a large part

Letters: the NHS shutdown is hurting patients and costing lives

Poor treatment Sir: My recent experience supports Dr Max Pemberton’s view that the NHS is letting down thousands of patients (‘Nothing to applaud’, 30 May). I am a 71-year-old living alone, with no symptoms of coronavirus. For several weeks I have, however, been experiencing severe pain in my left hip. A consultation with my GP diagnosed that I needed a shot of cortisone to reduce the inflammation, but I was told that the NHS was unable to offer clinical consultations due to a focus on the crisis. I was unable to cope with the pain any longer, so my daughter arranged a private consultation and an injection at a cost

Britain’s strange aversion to seafood

Last week’s Brexit negotiations, conducted by video conference, failed to come to an agreement on fisheries. Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator (and former French fisheries minister), insisted that continued European access to British territorial waters was a prerequisite of any deal, and David Frost, his British counterpart, replied that this was ‘incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state’. If there is going to be no deal as a result of fishing, as seems increasingly probable, we are going to have a lot more fish to eat, but we’re also going to have to eat a lot more fish. For an island surrounded by fish, Britain has never really