Notes on…

The joy of rude place names

25 September 2021 9:00 am

Last week a gentle Norfolk waterway got into trouble with Facebook. The problem was its name — Cockshoot Dyke. Facebook’s…

The flaw in vaccine passports

18 September 2021 9:00 am

The Egyptologist Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson interprets drawings in a tomb in Thebes as persons queuing up to have passports…

Our fascination with treehouses has deep roots

11 September 2021 9:00 am

You can’t (and probably shouldn’t) design a treehouse. Treehouses should grow organically, in every sense: they must be made of…

The daring young man who gave his name to the leotard

4 September 2021 9:00 am

Jules Léotard was blessed in his name. It might have been quite different had he been called, say, Jules Droupé.…

Save our eels

28 August 2021 9:00 am

The migration of European eels is one of the miracles of nature. They start life in the great deeps of…

My strange submergent in a sensory deprivation tank

21 August 2021 9:00 am

Hidden below St George’s Wharf in Vauxhall, down the road from a now defunct gay sauna, is Floatworks, a wellness…

Will Sizewell C see off the avocet?

14 August 2021 9:00 am

There are many reasons why birds disappear — and why they return. The avocet, however, is probably the only one…

The awe-inspiring appeal of aquariums

7 August 2021 9:00 am

Fish tanks were probably first conceived in the distant past by the Chinese, but in many respects, aquariums are a…

Why are bidets the butt of so many jokes?

31 July 2021 9:00 am

In December 2019, and in keeping with our tradition of perverse birthday gifts, some friends gave me a bidet device.…

The curious mythology of the Gosforth Cross

24 July 2021 9:00 am

In the small Cumbrian village of Gosforth, in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, there is a sandstone cross which…

The politics of eating lobster

17 July 2021 9:00 am

Lobsters like to live in gullies on the sea floor, or under sand, and I understand how they feel. But…

I was a skateboarding pioneer

10 July 2021 9:00 am

I was 12 when I got into skateboarding: the same age as Sky Brown, the youngest member of Team GB’s…

The mysterious world of pigeon racing

3 July 2021 9:00 am

Pigeon racing isn’t much of a spectator sport. Race birds are driven to the ‘liberation point’, where they’re released to…

The problem with the Pride flag

26 June 2021 9:00 am

Last month, the Pride flag was updated by the Intersex Equality Rights UK campaign group — the simple rainbow was…

Why it’s boom time for bitterns

19 June 2021 9:00 am

Bitterns are booming, both literally and metaphorically. These handsome brown birds from the heron family make a noise quite unlike…

What makes a pasty Cornish?

12 June 2021 9:00 am

This week, world leaders are doing what countless Brits do every summer: unpacking their bags in a charming corner of…

Do you speak Viking?

5 June 2021 9:00 am

Supposedly 5 per cent of words in English are borrowed from Old Norse. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but…

Crunch time: why has Walkers changed its salt and vinegar crisps?

29 May 2021 9:00 am

Henry Walker might never have got into the crisp business were it not for the fact that his Leicester butcher’s…

The grim roots of ‘refusenik’

22 May 2021 9:00 am

‘Vaccine refusenik’ is the latest catchphrase used to disparage anyone unwilling — for whatever reason — to roll up their…

The strange magic of the mountain hare

15 May 2021 9:00 am

The numbers of the dear old mountain hare in England are becoming perilously depleted. A researcher, Carlos Bedson, has suggested…

In defence of dandelions

8 May 2021 9:00 am

Dandelions are one of the cheeriest wild flowers. They are loved by children for their ‘clock’ seed heads, are entirely…

The humble heroes of London’s Watts Memorial

1 May 2021 9:00 am

Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole died last weekend saving a woman’s life. Hearing her cries as she fell into the Thames from London…

‘Walking football’ is in a super league of its own

24 April 2021 9:00 am

As a footballer, I’m elderly not elite, meaning that I’m one of 60,000 or so 50- to 92-year-olds (yep, 92!)…

For Queen and country: the joy of Land Rovers

17 April 2021 9:00 am

The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin will be carried in a Land Rover. Not any old Land Rover, but a Defender…

The cruelty and cunning of the cuckoo

10 April 2021 9:00 am

St Tiburtius’ Day, on 14 April, is traditionally when you will hear the first cuckoo. Since at least the Middle…