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 describing what happened.

Bill was a presenter on Radio Oxford and was able to invite on guest presenters. He invited me 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.

One question  was ‘Should Charity begin at home?’ I agreed that charity should BEGIN at home but asserted that it shouldn’t END there. Love should not be corked in a bottle but should  be allowed to expand like a river which grows bigger as it makes its way to the sea. The same with our culture . I don’t believe anyone regrets that our food culture has  changed from the restricted diet of the fifties. We are the richer for being able to taste the world.  I hope the recipes in Food of Love are good examples of that brilliant diversity.

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 storyJohn Buckley