Five Great Reads: the Ronaldo show, sex with Tracey Emin and cookbooks in The Bear

<span>Screengrab from Disney series The Bear, S3 Ep 9, featuring the cookbook collection in Carmy's apartment.</span><span>Photograph: The Bear/Disney</span>
Screengrab from Disney series The Bear, S3 Ep 9, featuring the cookbook collection in Carmy's apartment.Photograph: The Bear/Disney

Good morning and happy Saturday, as we catch our breath from a big week: political turmoil and change in France, the US, and of course the UK (I recommend going to those sections to read about it all in depth and at your leisure). Closer to home, debate continued in Australia’s parliament about how to respond to the situation in Gaza – where, as UN secretary general António Guterres said just days ago, “no place is safe” for civilians.

There’s a lot to take in at the moment (such as that AI might be bad but also fantastic?). So meanwhile, for today’s edition of Five Great Reads, a lighter selection …

1. The dying poetry of the Ronaldo show

Regular readers may know I don’t often turn to our (magnificent) football pages in this newsletter – but oh my God, Jonathan Wilson: you had me at “eternal human battle with mortality”. His piece about the ego of a fading star is sublime, in every sense of the word.

The pain: “Decay and decrepitude have their allure; what the romantics saw in a ruined abbey, so others will see in the dwindling figure of Cristiano Ronaldo.”

The glory: “The Ronaldo free-kick is one of the great set pieces of the modern game. There’s never a doubt he’s going to take it. Somebody goes and fetches the ball and hands it over. The wall steels itself. Ronaldo sniffs then puffs out his cheeks …”

The blow-by-blow: “Ten minutes before half-time he flicked a return pass to the surging Rafael Leão. The reaction was tumultuous: the man they had come to see do tricks had done a trick.”

How long will it take to read: less than two minutes. And if you’re so inclined (good for you!), there’s lots more on the Euros too.

2. A history of laughing gas

Nitrous oxide, discovered in the 18th century, has gone “from vaudeville gimmick to pioneering anaesthetic to modern party drug”. And Mark Miodownik has laid out the whole story.

The cast: There’s the dedicated chemist who tried so many gases on himself he almost died, the poets who enthusiastically adapted his “delightful” new product (why is it always the poets), the gun engineer who pretended to be a doctor, and the dentist who met a tragic end.

Predictable but grim: Scottish obstetrician John Simpson was elated to find he could use this new anaesthetic to help women through childbirth. The mostly male medical establishment were, however, not elated – not for safety reasons but because of a view that alleviating labour pains was morally wrong. Unexpected hero Queen Victoria, of all people, eventually turned this around.

How long will it take to read: about 15 minutes.

3. ‘To be totally the focus of someone, who was really into sex, was fantastic’

The musician, painter and writer Billy Childish was artist Tracey Emin’s first love. A friend of Childish has told has told Ted Kessler (author of a new “unauthorised history”) that the pair “should never have been together, romantically”.

“You will not find anybody who knows either who disagrees with this assessment,” Kessler adds. But still. He speaks to them both – 40 years later, “somehow still friends”. The complicated portrait he draws out, replete with resentment, tenderness and flashes of creative respect, is raw enough to feel real.

***

“Now the relationship between us is really good. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t.” – Tracey Emin

***

“Since we’ve been in contact again, I keep her at arm’s length.” – Billy Childish

How long will it take to read: less than five minutes.

Further reading: Want to read more about sex? Course you do. Spy on bedroom habits around the globe, investigate the secret lives of porn addicts – or, if you find sex just leaves you sad and “homesick”, find out more about post-coital dysphoria.

4. Frodo, Superman and Star Wars: the spectacular life of Kiran Shah

Kiran Shah did the Superman stunts for Christopher Reeve, doubled for every hobbit in Lord of the Rings and EVERY SINGLE CHILD IN TITANIC. The 67-year-old spoke to Steve Rose about his mind-boggling career as “the world’s shortest stuntman”, now getting on for 50 years.

Shah more or less stopped growing when he was about 10 due to a hormone deficiency; his parents helped him accept it without too much stress. His west London school peers were less kind, so he enlisted the protection of “local skinheads” … then toured Italy, then broke into the film industry, right as attitudes were changing and the sci-fi and fantasy boom was kicking off. Extremely cool.

Inside word: Marlon Brando doesn’t come off well in this. Freddie Mercury sounds wild.

Last word: “Things happened to me that shouldn’t have really happened, but they did,” Shah says. “And it’s been fun.”

How long will it take to read: six minutes or so.

5. Look at all the Australian cookbooks in The Bear

Have I watched this show yet? No. Do I cook much? Also no. Do I still for some reason care about all the Australian cookbooks on Carmy’s shelf? Very much. The eagle-eyed Lee Tran Lam has gone deep, speaking not just to The Bear’s set decorator but to the chefs, writers and publishers involved. Fun.

Prime cut: She discovered that the 2014 edition of one book, Quay chef Peter Gilmore’s Organum (now out of print in its physical form), now goes for more than $900 online.

How long will it take to read: about two minutes.

Further cooking: a caesar salad.

Lastly, to everyone who wrote in about that rooster sculpture a couple weeks ago, thank you! I agree. Today I would like to know what you make of New Zealand architect Roger Walker’s Noddy houses.

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