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Romola Garai Q&A: “When am I happiest? With my family, in the bath”

The actor talks Aneurin Bevan, dancing to Kelis and wondering whether she should have been a teacher.

Romola Garai, 34, has starred in acclaimed TV dramas such as “The Hour” and “The Crimson Petal and the White”, and in films including “Atonement” and “Suffragette”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting cross-legged on the stairs in our house when I was five, trying to make a plait the way I’d seen my sister do it . . . and failing.

Who are your heroes?

My siblings, who have always been much cooler and more interesting than me.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?

Aneurin Bevan is an all-time hero for the creation of the NHS. I also think Gordon Brown is a great man, a great orator and a better PM than we deserved. I’m loving Angela Rayner right now – and Jeremy Corbyn, of course. But Barack Obama will probably go down as the greatest politician of our era.

What was the last book that made you envy the writer?

The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood. One of the most extraordinary novels I’ve ever read. The final pages in my paperback are smudgy with tears.

What TV show could you not live without?

I think The Wire is without doubt the finest TV that’s ever been made. But right now it’d have to be This Country on BBC3. I grew up in a small town in the West Country, so I laughed so hard I thought I was going to lose an eye in the episode where Kez has her house “plummed”.

What would be your Mastermind special subject?

Paw Patrol. I’d want them to ask me, “Why are there not more girl dogs?” so I could scream I don’t know. It’s f***ing annoying.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?

The pre-invasion US. So I could see the majesty of untamed America before it was covered in Burger Kings.

Who would paint your portrait?

No one, I hope! But I’d love Nan Goldin to photograph my children.

What’s your theme tune?

“4th of July” by Kelis is my favourite song to dance to.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

If you’re about to get angry, ask yourself if there’s any way you could laugh instead. I try. Sometimes I end up just laughing in a crazy angry way. Either that or: “Anything you buy that needs ironing is like paying someone to shackle you to a radiator.”

What’s currently bugging you?

Tories pretending to care about society’s most vulnerable in order to win a fake election and impoverish our country by a Brexit born out of xenophobia. So looking forward to their hook-up with the DUP!

When were you happiest?

With my family, all in the bath.

What single thing would make your life better?

The absence of any mobile technology. It’s eating away at my soul.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A teacher. I love kids and I still wonder if I’d have been happier spending my life working with children. Either that or a professional walking guide, making a living wandering around in beautiful scenery.

Are we all doomed?

Doomed to what? The universe has already done its worst. Michael Gove exists. 

“Queen Anne”, starring Romola Garai, is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1, until 30 September. rscqueenanne.com

This article first appeared in the 29 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit plague

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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.