Inside Yarl’s Wood, Britain’s most notorious detention centre

Susan wrings her hands and twitches as she speaks, jerking her head from side to side. She is clearly not well. “I ate washing powder to try and kill myself,” says the nervous woman in her fifties. Her eyes flash wild. “It was all I could find. I wanted to die. I would rather die than go back.”

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Face To Face With The Body Of Nelson Mandela

So the long journey is nearly over. The body of Nelson Mandela will be buried at last today, in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, the place he always thought of as home. Security will be tight and the location is remote. For most South Africans, the last chance to say a personal goodbye was in Pretoria, where his body lay in state for three days.

To see it was both a privilege and a shock. One young black man who was overcome by tears rubbed his face with his cloth cap as he walked away, and used the Xhosa word for father when he said to himself: “That was not Tata.”

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Saving The Life-Savers of Beachy Head

There is a man on the edge of the cliff who looks distressed. He’s pacing up and down the line, just a few steps from the drop.

This is Beachy Head, where the ground falls away suddenly, hundreds of feet down to the rocks and sea below. These bright white chalk cliffs are beautiful but deadly.

“We need to get to him fast and see if he’s okay,” says Mark Pybus, director of the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team which patrols here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The chaplains don’t mince words: they say they are looking for the lost and the broken-hearted and trying to prevent suicide.

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Looking For A New England – In A Full English

The Full English is the one meal England does well, with fat bangers, sizzling rashers and eggs oozing sunshine, strong tea and two buttered toast. This is food that makes you feel good just thinking about it, a platter that pulls on the heartstrings (as well as straining the heart).

It’s an icon of Englishness, as much of a symbol as the flag of St George, but here’s the thing: who really eats it these days?

Less than 1% of the population starts every day with a cooked breakfast, compared to the 1950s when it was more than half of us. I was thinking about this the other day, chewing (and chewing) my compulsory muesli while dreaming of bacon and eggs. If the full breakfast is so representative of the English, what does it say about us? And if our attitude to it has changed so much, what does “the Full English” really mean — not just in the sense of what is on the plate, but in terms of being fully English?

Those questions inspired a mad, bad, saltsoaked road trip from culinary heaven to hell and back, and from one end of the country to the other. Come with me, if you want to see what the English are really like now. But prepare for some very strong and surprising tastes. Continue reading “Looking For A New England – In A Full English”

Wrestling Kendo

I’m choking. Kendo Nagasaki, the most frightening wrestler this country ever produced, has got me in a three-quarter nelson: my head is in the crook of his elbow; his forearm is tight against my throat and he’s lifting it. I can’t breathe. I’m seeing stars, hearing popping sounds in my neck and trying not to pass out. So I bang my palm against his leg, which feels like steel cable under his red leggings, but he won’t stop. When he does let me go I am in agony. And it’s all my fault. You’ve got to expect pain if you’re stupid enough to climb into a ring with a masked man so vicious he was kept off the television early in his career, before becoming a superstar of Saturday afternoon wrestling in its heyday. Nagasaki was voted the Wrestler of the Millennium. His ritual unmasking was watched on television by 12 million people in 1977, and shown again last Tuesday as the climax of a show about the best of World of Sport. He wore lenses that turned his eyes a scary red. They sent a chill into the camera and forward down the years into my living room. And here he is, hurting me. “Can’t say it’s fake now, can you?” crows his manager, the motormouth Lloyd Ryan. “Nothing fake about that.” Read on