No nonsense in the kitchen

I rather bristle at newspaper column collections. They strike me as a bit lazy, a cheat’s way of getting another book under the belt, often just in time for the gift-giving season. When it comes to Rachel Cooke’s Kitchen Person, however, I have to eat my words. It draws from the 14 years of monthly food columns Cooke wrote for the Observer from 2009. Each comes with a postscript from the author looking back on her thoughts at the time, ensuring that the pieces hold their own as a collection, as something cohesive. You sit down to read one essay, and look up 75 pages later. The tone, too, is

Violence overshadowed my Yorkshire childhood

We might be twins, Catherine Taylor and I. We were both girls growing up in Yorkshire in the same decades – I in the West Riding (where an alley is a ‘ginnel’), her in the south (where it’s a ‘gennel’). We are children of the Yorkshire Ripper years, conditioned to be constantly scared of the murderer, the dark, and our independence. We were both fatherless too young – mine dead, hers departed to another household; and we both had strong mothers keeping the remaining family afloat and forced to take in lodgers – in our case, Polish, German and French, in hers, Japanese and Senegalese. Much of this bookis familiar

Claude Vivier ought to be a modern classic. Why isn’t he?

April is the cruellest month, but May is shaping up quite pleasantly and the daylight streamed in through the east window of St Martin-in-the-Fields at the start of I Fagiolini’s latest concept-concert, Re-Wilding The Waste Land. The centenary of Eliot’s poem is the obvious hook. But whether you’re counting from the Rite of Spring riot in 1913, Schoenberg’s Skandalkonzert the same year, or further back to Strauss’s Salome or Debussy’s Faune, music’s modernist moment occurred some time earlier. Which is helpful, in a way, because it freed the group’s director Robert Hollingworth from the limitations of chronological programming and gave him scope to do something a bit more interesting, and

The snobbery of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown’s critics

In a few hours’ time, comedy fans in Sheffield will take to the streets in protest. Their cause? Not Brexit, or climate change, but the decision to ban Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown from performing a gig in the city. Chubby, who is not to everyone’s taste, is best described as the North’s answer to Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson. An earthy stand-up comic from Middlesbrough, he is perfectly prepared to talk, joke and trade raillery about race, religion and sexuality in a way few other performers are. This week, after 30 years of performing in Sheffield, he was told he is no longer welcome. Sheffield City Trust, which runs various leisure sites on the local

Why is Sheffield Cathedral’s choir being disbanded for ‘inclusivity’?

The Dean of Sheffield, the Very Revd Peter Bradley, comes across as a likeable man of sound mind and brisk sense of humour. Of his own liturgical tastes, he assures me, ‘drums and guitars are not my tradition. The London Oratory is more my world, musically speaking. I cannot say too strongly how committed I and the cathedral are to the Anglican choral tradition and evensong.’ As for his current portfolio, he says, ‘I’m Acting Precentor at the moment. I wish I’d been paid for it. God knows I’ve earned it.’ Thursday was a frantic day for the poor man, as he fought to explain to the nation’s outraged press

Marina Lewycka’s The Good, the Bad and the Little Bit Stupid is completely bonkers

Faced with Marina Lewycka’s new novel, it’s tempting to say that The Good, the Bad and the Little Bit Stupid is also a pretty serviceable description of its contents. Yet, in the end, that feels far too neat a formulation for a book that goes well beyond the uneven into the realms of the completely unhinged. For one thing, its elements — among them suburban social comedy, the horrors of Brexit, money laundering, geriatric sex and the international trade in human organs — seem not so much disparate as random. For another, they’re never remotely blended, but simply allowed to co-exist. The novel begins in Sheffield, and in territory familiar