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The Dolly Mail #32: I'm The Bishop of Southwark, It's What I Do by Dolly Alderton and Fuck Steve by Agnes Frimston 

This week's piece is based on a news story from 2006 that you can read about or re-familiarise yourself with here. This is the first and last time an article of mine will require any background reading, this much I can promise. 


Ten years ago this month, my favourite story of all time took place. It had all the makings of a perfect British news item: a man of the cloth, too much alcohol and a literal fall from grace. I was gripped by it in 2006 and I remain gripped by it now. 

 

Like The Beatles, Withnail And I, Taylor Swift and Tabasco - you’re either completely obsessed with this story or you’re not. The world is divided into three camps: those who haven’t read the story, those who have read the story and found it faintly amusing and those who have read the story and thought of little else for every waking hour since. I find myself extremely drawn to the latter group of people. 

 

Me and my friend and fellow journalist Helen have been talking about how we mark the anniversary of The Bishop of Southwark’s Big Night Out since last spring and ultimately decided the only way we could do it justice was by recreating the evening itself, by piecing together the snippets of information we have about the night. And so, earlier this week, we turned Helen and her boyfriend Ross’ flat into The Irish Embassy and we drank Guinness while wearing cassocks and mitres. 

 

At one point, in what Helen now calls a “real Road to Damascus moment”, we had to explain to a guest - who had no idea about the theme other than being told to it was essential to bring Portuguese wine - the whole Bishop of Southwark thing from start to finish. I was left wondering: what is it about this story specifically that I can’t let go of? Why, for example, did I love it so much aged 18 I changed my pouty Facebook profile photo to one of Tom Butler with a black eye for a full month? Why has my obsession grown even deeper with age? Why do Helen and Ross love it too? Why do so many people know exactly what I am referring to when I say “it’s what I do”?  

 

I think I finally realised the poignant appeal of this tale when I was discussing costumes prior to the anniversary party with Helen. 
“Who do we all come as?” I asked her in a panic. “We can’t ALL come as bishops, that doesn’t make any sense. We could find out who else was there that night?”
“No, I think it’s perfect,” she said. “I think the message is, at some point in our lives, we are ALL the Bishop of Southwark.”

 

And that’s exactly it - the various accounts of The Most Reverend Tom Butler’s behaviour that night is the most recognisable reflection of my own drunkenness I have ever seen in a public sphere. Drinking too much because the wine is free and it’s Christmas; repeating myself incessantly; overstepping conversational boundaries; raising myself up with embarrassing boasts that I think are subtle. In Hollywood movies, drunk people sing into a hairbrush or dramatically tell someone they are in love with them or make a truthful, affecting speech to a captivated audience. But in real life, getting rip-roaring drunk is less about showing everyone how great you are and more about convincing everyone, including yourself, that you’re perhaps not completely awful. Which is why each and everyone one of us, at some point, have been or will be The Bishop of Southwark. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the person in the pub lecturing everyone on various conspiracy theories involving The Notorious B.I.G, calamari in chain restaurants or Prince Philip.

 

The Bishop of Southwark is that feeling when you check your emails the morning after a night out and receive five “thank you for traveling with Uber” emails one after the other between the hours of one and five AM. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the person who says: "I've got a game, why don’t we all go round and say our favourite and least favourite thing about each other?” at a dinner party. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is a misspelt sext you read the next morning in which you talk about wanting to “duck” and “kick” the genitals of an indifferent recipient. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the most sacred and solemn secret in your family which you tell to the new woman from accounts in the smoking area of a pub to make her feel more relaxed. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the party goer who gets so drunk they make up completely unimpressive claims that they then have to defend; filling in the narrative holes of brags such as: “my dad owns a dairy farm near Fife” or “I played county badminton as a teenager” or “I’ve never drunk a cup of tea in my entire life”. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the man who commandeers the Spotify and speakers at a house party to play Beenie Man, telling everyone else they have “shit taste in music” and that none of them are being “real with each other”. He is the man who cites a childhood spent in a mews house in Notting Hill as the source for his passion for Dance Hall and reggae. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the woman who has lost weight and tells every barman and fellow patron exactly how much to the pound, then demonstrates why everyone is squatting incorrectly. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark demands you leave one bar to go to another then gets to the new bar and says the vibe isn’t right and you should’ve stayed in the previous bar. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark stops the party to ask everyone to help him look for his phone or his credit card in the dark then finds it in his coat pocket two hours later. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the woman who wants attention from her boyfriend so she tells the pub landlord who looks like Bruce Forsyth in the heyday of Play Your Cards Right that he looks like Bruce Willis in Armageddon. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the man who wants attention from his girlfriend so, in front of her, announces to a group of friends that he’s decided he doesn’t really believe in monogamy anymore. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is the 10.30 AM Dominos Pizza order you place when you wake up with a brain-frying hangover, because you know that it will be at your door at the stroke of noon. 

 

The Bishop of Southwark is human fallibility; he is the knot in a piece of wood and the Imperfect Stitch in a Persian rug. He is the grit in an oyster and the Isle of Wight shaped birthmark on a lower back. He is you and me. And we are more than our gravest mistakes and soaring triumphs. We are the way we tie our shoelaces and the song we sing in the shower. We are how we take our tea and the side of the bed we sleep on. We are a million fragments of light and dark and big and small pulled together with the best of intentions. We are all The Bishop of Southwark. It's what we do.

The Guest
In times of intense and varied political discourse, there's a temptation to sit and watch from the sidelines and leave the experts to it. But writer and editor Agnes Frimpton thinks it's essential we educate ourselves until we're experts too. Because that mouthy bloke in the pub is no more qualified than the rest of us. 

2016’s been a cluster-fuck of a year. David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen – Leonard fucking Cohen – are dead. The UK voted for Brexit, the US voted for Donald Trump and populism is on the rise across Europe. And the pollsters got it wrong. Everyone got it wrong. “People in this country have had enough of experts”, said the charming Michael Gove, and many people agreed.

Throughout history, and up until very recently, “authority” has had an almost exclusively white, male voice. Knowledge and expertise around politics and international events have come from white Western men – and as a result, many women feel nervous talking about these topics. We still often feel like we don’t know enough to contribute to the conversation because we do not have 15 years of experience, or couldn’t explain the 1976 British IMF bailout in detail. But experts are only experts because they’ve read things, and thought about them. And you can read things and then think about them too! I mean you’ve probably at some point had to organise a hen party for 25 people with different schedules or gone through the rigmarole of changing internet provider. A lot of that is harder than understanding what being a member of the single market does actually do for Britain. I only really wear 4 shades of Mac lipstick, couldn’t tell you much about all the others, yet have very strong, and I believe valid, views on those 4. Not knowing everything about a topic does not bar you from having important views on the stuff you do know a bit about. And this stuff does affect you. It is important. And politics is getting more and more scary and more and more gendered.

I am lucky enough to work in a foreign policy environment, and have done for 6 years. And yet, so so often, I presume the person I am speaking to knows far more than me because they are male. Picture this: you get talking to a guy in the pub. Let’s call him Steve, because they so often are called Steve*. Steve starts bleating about the US election, and how Trump won because the white working class man has been left behind, because it’s an economic issue, and because those guys were so affected by the 2008 crash. Steve sounds like he knows what he’s talking about (spoiler alert: Steve doesn’t, Steve does marketing for a fintech start-up and has read two newspaper articles). But, you think, I’m sure I read somewhere that over 80 per cent (it’s 88 per cent btw) of African Americans voted for Clinton. And I don’t imagine life’s been a rosy, well-paid dream for the whole of that sector of society. (As an aside: average household wealth of a white American is $144,000, for a black American it is an astounding $11,000). But you let it go. And then Steve says, don’t worry though, he won’t be able to do anything he’s promised anyway. And you want to scream: FULL REPUBLICAN CONTROL OF CONGRESS, OF THE SENATE, FILLING UP THE SUPREME COURT WITH INDIVIDUALS WHO WANT TO REPEAL GAY MARRIAGE AND OVERTURN ROE vs WADE! But you don’t, because Steve’s a nice guy really, just a bit obnoxious. And you don’t really know anything about this, you’ve just listened to some podcasts and read a couple of articles.

But oh my God you have to now speak up. Because you do know things, you do have views, and your views are important. Steve needs to be challenged. Because there are Steve’s everywhere, and he’s probably not thought about the fact that US women were running to get IUDs fitted the day after Trump was elected, genuinely fearing for their reproductive and contraceptive rights. Steve doesn’t have to think about that, and think about the fact that if that can happen in the US, it can happen here.

Orwell once said that fascism would not wash in England because people would laugh at the goose-stepping. But, to paraphrase the great Michael Rosen quote – fascism doesn’t arrive in uniform. It starts with governments making companies keep lists of their foreign workers. It starts with Green Identity cards being given out to EU citizens. It starts with child refugees having their teeth checked when they land on our shores. We can no longer rely on our politicians and leaders to be decent, and police this shit for us. We have to educate ourselves, and speak out. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe or a disablist. But everyone who voted for Trump was prepared to overlook racism, misogyny, homophobia and anti-disabled statements because they thought that he would be better for them. Because they believed that they would not be affected by those things.

I’ve been in round tables with very senior policy experts, and the women, who have just as much experience and insight as the men, do not speak as much, and are far more easily dismissed. There have been some great studies done into how more often women are interrupted than men, both in social and professional scenarios. It’s something I constantly have to check myself for. And something we all need to keep checking ourselves for. We need to give women and people of colour’s voices the weight they deserve. We need to listen to them. But equally, we need to have our voices heard when it comes to politics and policy, and the only way to do that is to speak out and feel confident challenging views you disagree with. If you feel you don’t know enough, read a couple of articles on it. Get sucked into a Wikipedia wormhole. Educate yourself, and then don’t let Steve make you feel he knows more than you. He doesn’t.

*Absolutely no offence meant to any Steve’s – I’m sure you’re great.
 
Agnes Frimston is the Deputy Editor of Chatham House’s magazine, The World Today. She’s also quite angry about a lot of stuff. Follow her on Twitter: @agnesfrim
The best bit of a new year is buying a new diary. This would make a great present for someone. 
I know I go on about this, but I think trouser suits are the coolest thing you can wear to a party. I am in love with this one from Sister Jane. I want to wear it with a silk black camisole and tomato red stilettos. 
Women who don't have any facial hair at all - miss this one and scroll straight down to the fancy dress. 

Oh, hello you! Don't worry, I have it too. Most of us do. Upper lip waxes leave me with a rash and I no longer favour my adolescent method of Jolene, as when I look back in photos from this period I can't stop staring at my faint yellow downy moustache. So imagine my DELIGHT when my friend got me hooked on this little gadget she brought back from Japan - it's a tight coil of metal that you bend over the "affected area", which traps any hair, then you straighten it and roll up and it pulls the hairs with it. It's highly addictive, very cheap and less painful than threading. I've got all my girl friends onto it. ENJOY.
The perfect winter maxi from Ganni. I tried this on in Copenhagen a couple of months ago and fell in love with it - it took all the will in the world not to buy it so I could save the money for a ton of rye bread. 
This bed linen from Zara Home comes in a range of really elegant, muted shades that look far more expensive than they are. I've got my eye on the blush. 
I love a pom pom, I love a tassel and I love anything in navy. So I'm screwed when it comes to these Zara ankle boots
I've loved writing three pieces for Boden in conjunction with Christmas and being photographed in different looks for each (you can read the first one here, the second one here and the third one is up at the end of the week). The item I've been asked most about is this beautiful, super-soft round-neck plaid coat in teal and burnt orange. It makes my boring go-to uniform of poloneck and jeans look instantly chic and it also looks lovely in the evening over an LBD and black knee-high boots. (Photos by the absolutely brilliant and positively ethereal Xanthe Berkley, whose work is well-worth a follow on instagram). 
Finding out what food was served on that famous night at The Irish Embassy ten years ago was nothing short of a fucking nightmare. Helen and I were keen to get it historically accurate, but the only reports we could find hinted vaguely at miniature Yorkshire puddings and roast beef and little else. 

After a brief Twitter campaign ("I think this is what investigative journalism is," Helen said, after following a 'lead' who knew someone who was there that night and had an eye-witness account of "smoked salmon blinis and Irish folk music") we settled on a beef pie for the meat eaters and a bloody delicious stilton and leek Pithivier (a puff pastry pie) for the veggies.

Ross baked and served it alongside new potatoes with butter and wholegrain mustard and crunchy green beans and it was absolutely delicious. A perfect hearty winter dinner for a group. And a feast fit for a bishop. Ross' River Cottage-adapted recipe below. 

Ross' Ecclesiastical Pithivier 

INGREDIENTS
30g butter
1kg leeks, washed, white bits in small chunks and green bits finely shredded
100g cream cheese
200g stilton (adjust to personal taste)
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt & pepper
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg yolk, mixed with a little milk and a pinch of salt

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 180.
2. Melt butter in a large pan and cook the leeks on a low heat until they're soft - about fifteen minutes. About halfway through add some sprigs of thyme and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Stir in the cream cheese until its melted, then take off the heat and crumble in the stilton. I ended up using way more than I intended to, so it may be worth doing this is stages and tasting to see when it's nice and when it tastes like feet. Leave to cool completely so it doesn't cook the pastry.
4. Flour a work surface and use a large dinner plate to cut out a circle of pastry. Make another one, but then roll this one out a bit so its slightly larger - it's going to cover the filling as well and you don't want to stretch and break it.
5. Put the filling in the middle of the smaller one, leaving about two inches around the edge. Brush the edge with water and then lay the other pastry circle over the top and seal with your fingers. Trim the edge with a knife so it looks neat and make a small incision in the middle of the pie to let steam out.
6. Decorate the pithivier by using a knife to draw curved lines in a circle from the centre to the edge, then brush with the egg yolk and milk mixture.
7. Put in the top of the oven and bake for 25-30 mins until it looks browned and delicious, then leave to cool slightly before serving.
This week's Dolly Mix Tape can be listened to on Spotify here
Fellow Camden lovers (*taps mic* is this thing on?), here's a nostalgic but informative piece on Camden market's imminent regeneration.

40 years since The Last Waltz - the greatest concert film of all time and one of my favourite films of all time. 

The End of The Traditional Stag Do, by my friend and Dolly Mail contributor, the writer and celebrated Beta Male Ed Cripps. 

All illustrations are by the brilliant Polly Crossman, whose work you can view through her website, where you can also commission her. Do it! Look how pretty she made my website look recently. (She's also selling Christmas cards). 

IMPORTANT: the definitive guide to London's best Christmas trees

This will soften even the most calcified of cynical hearts - a couple who have been married for 70 years finally get round to having some wedding photos taken, by their granddaughter. 

A strange and fascinating interview with "America's far-right poster boy" Milo Yiannopoulos. "And the stupid thing is that I don’t think he particularly even wants to radicalise a load of young white men online. I think that what he really wants is to be famous and for people to think he’s very clever. If anything, Yiannopoulos has been radicalised by his audience: in chasing followers and fans and people who will carry him on a golden throne, he’s found himself playing to the gallery as a means to this end."

This really should not have made me laugh as much as it did. 

Watch Domestic Policy - a brilliant satirical short film by my friend Alicia MacDonald in which the beginning of the beauty industry is re-imagined. Think 12 Angry Men meets Black Adder with a dash of Amy Schumer. 

Only a woman as self-aware and razor-sharp as Nora Ephron could write so succinctly and graciously on writing a flop.

As a woman who is glued to her phone, I found this an uncomfortable, moving, thought-provoking piece on how technology is diminishing us, by Jonathan Safren Foer. 

Catch the latest episode of The Pandolly Podcast - The Sunday Times Style's weekly pop culture podcast hosted by me and Pandora Sykes - on UTIs, the Victoria's Secret show and the pressures of masculinity. 

Rainy Night - a beautiful poem I recently discovered by my beloved Dorothy Parker. 

Dolly x 
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