Idler Book of the Week: THE UNEXPECTED TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS by Lucy Cooke


People say, what’s in a name? Well, quite a lot when it is a synonym for a deadly sin. The poor old sloth was damned from the moment it was branded with one of the world’s most wicked transgressions – a pretty damaging public relations blow by anyone’s standard. But even before the sloth acquired its infamous tag, its inscrutable nature inspired some of the harshest words ever heaped upon an animal. This was an especially low blow for an animal that is not exactly bothering mankind, but is a quiet vegetarian pacifist – the original tree-hugger, no less – simply trying to live a tranquil life in the forests of Central and South America.

He has bright pink hair, is on the spectrum, and is transforming gardens across the country


Alan mirrorAlan Gardner is “a gardener”, literally, as he reminds us at the beginning of his Channel 4 programme. He is the autistic gardener, no less — a man with neon pink hair and fingernails, and a brain wired to create amazing gardens.  The second series of The Autistic Gardener is back on Saturdays at 7pm and instead of working with trainees to rescue boring gardens, as he did in the first series, this time he’s going solo.

Sand and vision… beach hut works on so many levels

CF Hut

FROM the outside it doesn’t look much — a beach hut like any other, if a little smaller. Inside, it’s a different story, with two underground floors featuring a sitting room and children’s playroom.

Colin Furze, 37, spent 12 hours digging 8ft down with a pal on Six Marshes Beach, near Skegness in Lincolnshire. ‘I go to the beach every year with my family and we always dig a big hole, so I came up with the idea of an underground beach hut,’ said Mr Furze.

Saviour of the urban garden: His autism has given him a uniquely quirky take on horticulture – and Alan Gardner uses it to wage war on soulless back yards

Alan mirror

Alan Gardner has something Charlie Dimmock and Monty Don simply don’t. And it’s not his trademark pink hair and matching nails, although his maverick appearance gives you a clue. 

It’s Alan’s autism that gives him the uniquely quirky horticultural skills that have helped him create off-the-wall garden designs inspired by jet engines, wind turbines, symmetrical flower petals and even mathematical sequences.