Tag Archives: Hadley Freeman

On doing the impossible

The good thing about the Edinburgh International Book Festival is how impossible it is. The many famous and wonderful authors it will be impossible to see there, simply because they have so many such people coming.

The 2016 programme was unveiled yesterday and I have scanned it for the best and most interesting events. Of which there are a lot. So to begin with I will plan not to see quite a few tremendously big names in the book business, since even at a distance I can tell I can’t possibly get them on to my wishlist. Then comes that list, and then comes the more realistic list, and finally comes the actual list I will actually be able to do.


Best of all would be to have no opinion, but to go along one day, or two, and pick something off that day’s menu, where tickets are still available. That would be excellent.

I can’t do that.

There is a follow-on from last year’s YA debate with Daniel Hahn, and Anthony McGowan and Elizabeth Wein among others. Chris Riddell will deliver the Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, making it unmissable, and Michael Grant is back in town with his WWII alternate history.

Meg Rosoff will be talking about Jonathan Unleashed, and Francesca Simon is ‘doing away with’ Horrid Henry! Cornelia Funke and Vivian French have things to say about dyslexia, Nick Sharratt will talk nonsense (poetry), and Theresa Breslin and Debi Gliori and Lari Don and all those other lovely Scottish authors are coming.

Debut writer Kathy Evans is talking to Jo Cotterill, and Lucy Coats has some more Myths up her sleeve. And so does Kate Leiper, I believe.

Jackie Kay is doing stuff, and many of our finest crime writers are coming along to kill and thrill, and there are Swedes and other Nordic authors; some expected, others more unexpected. Quite a number of children’s authors are doing adult events, which I think is a good idea. Politicians will be there, talking about all sorts of things.

I know I’ve already mentioned Daniel Hahn, but as usual he will be doing so much that he should try and get a rest in now. Just in case. Hadley Freeman is coming, which makes me quite excited. Lemn Sissay.

Who have I forgotten? You see, it’s impossible. There are so many!

OK then; speaking out

Fainthearted male readers can go away now and come back tomorrow. You won’t want to know. After yesterday’s sex and Monday’s thoughts on criticising people – or not – we’ll mix the two and forget that we’re mostly about books.

I’m going to have a go at Hadley Freeman in the Guardian. I love Hadley, and she writes beautifully, with forceful and funny thoughts on all kinds of things. The fact that she’s wrong about what constitutes good clothes is something I’m willing to forgive her. The fact that she’s anti homeopathy is also fine. It’s less fine that she uses her clever, and therefore influential, writing to belittle and ridicule homeopathy.

Had I not been convinced otherwise, I may well have taken her word for it.

I was once totally unknowing about the subject too, but in such desperate straits that I grasped the straw. Had I not, then Daughter would have embarked on a very sudden diet at the age of five months. Now, it could have been the placebo effect that made me better that time. But if so, why didn’t I placebo my way to painfree ‘babyfeeding equipment’ after the course of antibiotics from my GP? I believe in them, and they had helped before. Or surely the second lot of antibiotics should have done the trick, and not had me wait until I poured sachets of caster sugar down my throat? Very expensive caster sugar, I may add.

Being quite anti anything new or strange, and fully expecting to find myself in the hands of a mad, and for some reason white-coated, scientist type homeopathic doctor, I was relieved to be sitting in Doctor Finlay’s surgery, spilling out everything about me and my life. £35 later I went home with my caster sugar, wrapped very deftly in small white pieces of paper by Doctor Finlay, and took some the first week, phoned him back, and then took the next the following week.

If that’s placebo, then I’m happy with it. Daughter should be, too, as she could continue to dine every day.

The fact that my Doctor Finlay was also a ‘real’ doctor is reassuring. I sent the Resident IT Consultant there, and he was so unwell that the good DF muttered that he ‘may sink so low as to prescribe some penicillin’.

DF took care of quickly disposing of Daughter’s food supply when the time came. I’d rather have placebo hocus pocus, than months of dribbling and discomfort. And it was straight into the world of Anne of Green Gables when DF provided something for croup. We crouped a lot for a few years, and it felt strangely literary to be getting familiar with Ipecac after all these years. Poor Offspring were easily duped and placeboed their way through not only croup, but car sickness (and if sugar sachets means less vomit in the car, that is surely a Good Thing?), the repercussions of tooth extraction (only with the second remedy tried), insomnia due to very bad tummy bug (teething powders, of all things), and even the acne responded. (SO sorry for mentioning that in public my dears.)

Mother-of-witch spent all her visits succumbing to colds accompanied by high temperatures, so I threw Belladonna at her with good results, although it never worked on me. And that Saturday afternoon when she coughed and could barely breathe? I read up and found two likely remedies, both of which I had in the house. Tried the familiar one first, being the unadventurous type, and it didn’t work. The second one did. The placebo effect works in mysterious ways.

One Spring I was boasting to another parent of the reduction in colds we had all experienced after taking Doctor Finlay’s ‘winter prevention’ caster sugar, when I started worrying about it having been less true that winter. My next immediate thought was dismay when it dawned on me that I had forgotten my September phone call to Lochgilphead (DF retired) and we had never taken any that year. Oops.

I now have half a shelf full of books on homeopathy, and I consult them whenever it feels like homeopathy is the right thing to go for. The rest of the time I’m satisfied with antibiotics and cocodamol. Oh, and I’ve paid for every single sugar grain of placebo effect myself. No such happiness as sugar on the NHS around these parts.

Hadley boasts of taking an overdose of homeopathic pills, to prove they are useless because they caused her no harm. It is possible to overdose, Hadley. You just didn’t do it right.

Still love you, Hadley. (And some of the clothes in Weekend are less horrendous, these days, btw.)