The antidote: your favourite reads beyond coronavirus

Chris Moran

After a short hiatus, today’s list is a little different, covering the top 20 pieces from the whole of last week.

1. World Cup questions: why did gifted England not beat Argentina in 1998?

‘It’s a moment of jaw-drop, of dead air. Owen runs past the Argentina end, arms wide, grabbing the night into his chest, cresting the perfect high. This is what he was born to do. Freeze that frame for ever.’

2. The man in the iron lung

‘Three days later, Paul woke up. His body was encased in a machine that wheezed and sighed. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t cough. He couldn’t see through the fogged windows of the steam tent – a vinyl hood that kept the air around his head moist and the mucus in his lungs loose. He thought he was dead.’

3. Britt Ekland: ‘I was put through emotional and psychological warfare’

‘Two days after their first date – which was also their first meeting – the comedian Peter Sellers gave Britt Ekland a dachshund puppy called Pepper. Ekland had just arrived in London from Sweden to be 20th Century Fox’s next big star. She was 21 years old and living at the Dorchester hotel; a dog was a ridiculous gift, she says. Just 10 days after their first date, Ekland and Sellers were married, and the puppy was lost in the whirlwind. “All these years, I always wondered: what happened to Pepper?”’

4. Bobby Moore and the mystery of the missing Bogotá bracelet

‘Entangled in myth, lies and political intrigue, dragged through the criminal underworld and spat across the international press, the tale of Bobby Moore and the missing Bogotá bracelet threatened international relations and very nearly left England without their main man for the 1970 Mexico World Cup. But why would he have pinched it? Could it have been a prank? Did a bracelet even exist?’

5. ‘Do I really care?’ Woody Allen comes out fighting

‘There are a thousand things one could discuss with Allen: his 70 years in comedy, his 55 years of making movies. But, at this point, there is really only one thing to discuss – and he knows it. “You can ask me anything,” he tells me down the phone from his home in (of course) Manhattan. So, even though our interview is supposed to be about his latest film, A Rainy Day in New York, we spend the hour talking about the scandal that has overshadowed his career for the past 25 years and, for many, obscured it.’

6. Lauren: ‘No one wanted to ref in training. Wenger hid. Pat Rice was the bravest’

“Wenger didn’t say much. He listened. He knew about the football; he knew perfectly what you could do. He wanted to see the person: the character, whether you could handle it. They saw I was mature, I could take that step.”

7. Sandi Toksvig: ‘I came out, and the tabloid press thought I was Cruella de Vil’

‘By the mid-90s, thanks to the tabloids, she was mostly famous for being gay. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, until you remember how unusual it was then for women in the public eye to come out. And then it feels like centuries ago. The prejudice was extraordinary: Toksvig was stood down by Save the Children, as compere for its 75th birthday celebrations, but a direct action protest by the Lesbian Avengers led the charity to apologise.’

8. Courtney Love in Liverpool: the Scousers who taught the grunge icon how to rock

‘If you were in Liverpool in 1982 and had a habit of wandering down Mathew Street, perhaps on your way to Probe record store, you are likely to have seen Courtney Love. She was 17 and living in the city, having been invited there by Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope. Probe was one of her favourite places to go – if not to buy records, then to sit outside on the steps, drinking cider with her friend from back home in America, Robin Barbur.’

9. Desert, drugs and fatal desperation: the true story behind Alice Springs trio’s miraculous rescue

‘It was initially reported as a camping trip gone awry, and a miraculous rescue from the remote outback. But a police investigation, prepared for the Northern Territory coroner, has found that Hockridge, McBeath-Riley, and Tran had ventured into the bush in a drug smuggling operation that went wrong, looking to find methamphetamine they had hidden.’

10. When Nottingham Forest retained the European Cup 40 years ago

‘Winning the 1979 European Cup was hardly a fluke. Defeating Liverpool and Cologne on their way to the final in Munich, Nottingham Forest could not be accused of having things easy. Admittedly, Malmo were not the most testing of opponents in the final. But a year on, Forest’s opponents in the final at the Bernabéu could not be dismissed so lightly.’

11. The final farewell: Alan Jones signs off with climate change apology amid plaudits from celebrities

‘One of the many celebrities who lined up to farewell Alan Jones this week had some people scratching their heads. Why would tennis great Roger Federer record a personal video message for a shock jock who has a shameful history of verbal abuse of women in power and of vilifying Lebanese Muslims?’

12. Video of white woman calling police on black man in Central Park draws outrage

‘Footage of a confrontation between a black birdwatcher and a white dog walker in Central Park in New York has gone viral, reigniting national debate over everyday racism and a social media storm.’

13. How We Made: Airplane!

‘We took the story seriously. We did all these ridiculous jokes, but always come back to grave danger. It makes the jokes more unexpected. On some moronic level, people do care whether the plane lands and whether Ted and Elaine get together.’

14. I thought I could fill out the jobkeeper form in a day. Optimism is always a mistake

‘I am to blame! Not Treasury, but me. I am one of the 1,000 businesses that, according to the government, don’t know how to fill in a simple form, and are to blame for the $60bn jobkeeper error. Except, I am not. And I have the Australian Taxation Office to thank.’

15. The Consequences of Love by Gavanndra Hodge review – blighted past of a Chelsea girl

‘To the outside eye, Gavanndra Hodge’s childhood must have seemed impossibly glamorous. Her father, the celebrity hairdresser Gavin Hodge, was a man about town and spinner of near-mythic tales; her mother, Jan, a former model. They lived with their two children, Gavanndra and Candy, in a mansion flat in Battersea, not far from Chelsea’s stylish Kings Road. Yet appearances are all too often deceptive and Hodge’s childhood, as this fine memoir makes clear, was an altogether more precarious affair.’

16. Blind Date: ‘He was raiding his dad’s booze cabinet’

‘I definitely wasn’t expecting my date to dance for me, but he did a whole Lady Gaga routine, which was very impressive.’

17. My favourite game: Britain upset the USA with 4x400m gold at Tokyo ‘91

‘Pettigrew’s rolling style became a flail, his desperation to reclaim the lead depriving him of all rhythm. Though the slowest of the four British legs, every one of Akabusi’s glorious, unthinkable 410m provided plenty for his latterday motivational speaking career.’

18. Dispatch from Minneapolis: the night the city cracked down on George Floyd protests

‘But not long after the curfew kicked in, any such illusions were quickly dispelled. A line of state police in riot gear appeared from a side street. A call for the protesters to disperse was swiftly followed by teargas, flash bombs and baton rounds. As the crowd surged away, the police moved rapidly forward in line, driving people back with more gas and rounds.’

19. The Chaser goes viral with provocative post mocking Zuckerberg’s position on Facebook factchecking

‘An Australian satirical news site crashed on Friday after it went viral for mocking Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to fact-check social media with a deliberately provocative post.’

20. Beware jeans, avoid the gutter, keep your saddle dry … 10 tips to make cycling a delight

‘It’s no good getting a posh road racer if your home is surrounded by potholes, which applies to most of us who live in post-austerity Britain. Meanwhile, those picturesque Dutch sit-up-and-begs are hard work if you live on a hill (you may not even know you do until you start riding up it), while mountain bikes are best saved for mountains.’

How we create the antidote

Every day we measure not only how many people click on individual stories but also how long they spend reading them. This list is created by comparing the attention time with the length of each article, to come up with a ranking for the stories people read most deeply.