On a major TV channel broadcast in this country, on an evening drama show, two characters are looking up at a tree. When the camera pans up to the top of the branches, the viewer sees a hanging, blackened corpse, realistically human and dead. On the ground, it shows a patch of gloopy fluid that has supposedly dripped from the decomposing body. A crow is shown, pecking at the body's head. Then it pecks an eyeball. The camera spares no detail. Within a few seconds, the head falls off and hits the ground.
A very old essay on death
“We need black blood.”
I didn’t know what to say to this, not least because it had been said by the head of donor services at England’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant. The interview was for a book I was writing on blood, a topic I knew a little about by then, but the baldness of his statement still shocked me. Surely we’re all the same under the skin?
Race and blood: New York Times
I go running around a lake and brambles scratch me. The wounds should heal quickly on my legs, but they don’t, because I scratch the scratches, and I scratch and scratch. I can plot every fell run, every fall, from the white lines. I know this, yet still I scratch. And I ask myself, why do I like to see the blood?
Blood tales: Observer magazine
There are few things that science doesn't yet know about the menopause: what it's for, how it works, and how best to treat it. While heading for my second menopause (really), I spent a year trying to understand why treatment and knowledge and care of something that affects millions of women is still so unsatisfactory.
On menopause: Mosaic Science
On-screen depictions of sex show women coming again and again, yet in reality many women never climax during sex. My piece on the surprising truths about orgasm, the clitoris and the G-spot.
The truth about multiple orgasm: The Guardian
In 2010, after a hundred-year absence, cholera returned to Haiti, brought by UN peacekeepers from Nepal. Since then, 10,000 Haitians have died. It is the worst outbreak of cholera in modern history. I travelled to Haiti in 2015 to ask a simple question that has a difficult answer: why can't we beat cholera?
Why we still haven't stopped cholera: Mosaic Science
Older people have sex too. And they also get HIV: nearly 20 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the US are in the over-50s. In 2006, I travelled to Florida to meet Miriam Schuler, better known as the Condom Grandma.
The Condom Grandma and why old people get HIV: The Sunday Telegraph
Khushi knew it was cancer. Ankita thought she was injured. None of the girls knew why they were suddenly bleeding, why their stomachs were “paining,” as Indian English has it. They cried and were terrified and then they asked their mothers. And their mothers said, you are normal. You are menstruating. You are a woman now.
The taboo of menstruation: New York Times
Twenty years ago Maurice Ward invented a material that could resist the force of 75 Hiroshimas. Why haven't we all heard about it? This is the story of Starlite.
The most mysterious material: TheSunday Telegraph
Aqila leans over and whispers in embarrassment that she was imprisoned for four days by the Taliban for working for a foreign organisation, and that on the way to jail, she had to scrape off her nail polish (also illegal) to prevent more punishment. "There were 25 women in prison with me," she whispers. "And every single one was there for stupid things."
The women of Afghanistan: Glamour
Human excrement can carry up to fifty communicable diseases. Diarrhea, 90 percent of which is caused by food and water contaminated by excrement, kills a child every fifteen seconds. That’s more than AIDS, malaria, or measles, combined. Human feces are an impressive weapon of mass destruction. Working with the Gates Foundation, I travelled to Mozambique to see how to save with world with sanitation.
Shame villagers about toilets, save a child's life: Scientific American
Saddam's birthday cake is limegreen and pink and shaped like a flower. It sits in the middle of a parade ground painted with lurid pastel designs, like my primary school playground, except St. Johns C of E Infants didn't have a line of dancing sheikhs, or two balconies full of sinister men in black moustaches.
Saddam's Cake: Arena magazine
Dracula Park was first announced in April by Romanian tourist minister Dan Matei Agathon. Foreigners were obsessed with Dracula, he reasoned, so why not build them a theme park?
Inside Dracula Park: Independent on Sunday
Not just a flash in the pan: in 2012 I returned to Liberia to interview President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about her mission to save lives with toilets. She was rather stern.
Dirty little secret. The loo that saves lives in Liberia: The Guardian
Worse things happen at sea: I wrote for about why two ships still sink every week, why two thousand seafarers lose their lives every year, why shipping is the second most dangerous job on earth, and what can be done about it.
Worse things happen at sea: The Guardian
A year ago, I wrote an article in Guardian Weekend about gang rapes, "tournantes", in France. In interviews, I confidently told people that nothing similar was happening in the UK. I was wrong.
They don't see it as rape: they just see it as pleasure for them. The Guardian
In deprived, out-of-town estates in France, teenage girls have become targets, victims of a code that labels them easy game for gang rape. Now the fightback has begun against "les tournantes," where a woman is passed around like a joint or a beer.