In the ‘Appetiser’ to my memoir Food of Love: Cooking up a life across Gender, Class and Race, I include a photograph of an unusual sculpture being placed in a roof in Headington. I only give two pieces of advice in my book and one is inspired by the Headington Shark. That is ‘to expect the unexpected’. I had the privilege of casting away, on my imagined island of Oxtopia, both the artist who made it, John Buckley, and the owner of the house, Bill Heine. Bill Heine’s son Marcus now owns it and is in this youtube video summarises what happened.

Bill was a presenter on Radio Oxford and was able to invite on guest presenters. He invited me on and, several times, asked me to review the papers on a Sunday as well as interviewed me on subjects as diverse as libraries and overseas aid. The question then was, ‘Should Charity begin at home?’  prompted by a  local UKIP politician campaigning against our meagre overseas aid budget.  I agreed that charity should BEGIN at home but asserted that it shouldn’t END there. Love should not be stoppered in a bottle but should flow like a river which grows bigger as it makes its way to the sea. What I didn’t say then is that our wealth was built on the profits of the trans- Atlantic slave trade and from our opium trade in the East. That too was triangular and the result of compelling Bengali farmers to grow opium  instead of food crops was famine in Bengal.

Bill’s castaway choice of object was another John Buckley sculpture titled Embrace See pic below. Their aim with this sculpture was to put it on the Berlin Wall but that came down. When I saw it,  I suggested they put it on the Belfast Wall and wrote this poem about it.

Embrace by Sylvia Vetta


Joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.

whatever the tension, whatever the pain

Be bound -wrapped around -inseparable.


In tender embrace you struggle.

you ask why and how  you became

joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.


From different communities you blame

the other, you fight, you cry, you soften,

you are bound – wrapped around -inseparable.


One from the church; the other the chapel.

A fateful kiss and God willing amen

joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.


With distrust and hate you wrestle

as your bindings stiffen.

You are bound – wrapped around – inseparable.


Stand upon the wall and be a symbol.

Bask in sun, survive the rain and remain,

joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.

Be bound – wrapped around – inseparable.


John is a much underestimated artist so I was glad to celebrate him in Oxford Castaways . Here is his story

John Buckley

In April he was a speaker at the Oxford Indie Book Fair .

The next fair is on November 26. Here is the speaker list. I’ll be talking Memoir with Ray Foulk who stole Dylan from Woodstock which also led Ray to meet the Beatles .

and my publisher’s CeO Katie Isbester about the memoirs and memoir inspired books they have published.