HTSI editor’s letter: Lily Allen’s latest act
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The funny thing about Lily Allen is that, for all her sass and vinegar, the woman so often heralded as brash and irrepressible is incredibly vulnerable in real life. She’s also unapologetically honest, someone with the rare preparedness to “go there” when talking to the press. That generosity hasn’t always been met kindly. Allen found global fame at a time when the media were at their most intrusive and, like so many female stars who came of age around that era, she paid a heavy price.
Allen’s metamorphosis in recent years, however, has been quite something: gone is the gobby, lager-swilling enfant terrible and in her place a svelte, sober, gym-loving actress has emerged. It’s part of a reinvention that began when she took her last drink in 2019. She has moved to Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, the actor David Harbour, and her children, and repositioned her career.
This month will see her in Martin McDonagh’s play The Pillowman, her second leading role on a West End stage. As with so many things in Allen’s life, the decision seems to be both an act of masochism and the kind of challenge she has always set herself. She seems to thrive in environments that terrify her. And yet despite the scrutiny she invites, she invariably takes her critics (and herself) by surprise.
In conversation with Alex Bilmes, she talks about sobriety, failure and her current state of mind. Right now, she’s not ready to put out any music. I hope she reconsiders soon: in our house she’s considered one of the best songwriters ever, and we hope dearly she will record again.
Elsewhere in this issue, Victoria Woodcock explores the unlikely relationship between Enzo Enea and his landladies, a convent of Cistercian nuns. The Italian landscape architect approached the sisters 15 years ago about leasing land adjacent to theirs, which back then was then a boggy swamp. He has since planted it with dozens of bald cypresses, turning the area into a lush agricultural grove. He has also reconfigured the gardens so that they are easier to tend. As a partnership, the nuns and the gardener make for a charming team. “Enea is a little bit like a monk”, says Sister Andrea of her thoughtful tenant, which presumably means she holds him in the highest esteem.
Lastly, my favourite subject: which is the best butter in the world? It’s a question that was prompted by the celebration of the Irish classic Kerrygold (by numerous Aesthetes, among others). As I have an Irish husband, the assertion that Kerrygold is the king of butters has never been in contention, but I was curious to know what the “experts” thought. Ajesh Patalay turns to chefs, bakers and his own palate to find out which tastes best. (Spoiler: it’s Kerrygold.)
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