Notes on…

The secrets of chicken soup

22 January 2022 9:00 am

Catherine Chicken is sickly. She has swollen up like a barrage balloon with an evil face and dinosaur feet. She…

The bittersweet truth about homemade marmalade

15 January 2022 9:00 am

The spectrum of ‘bestowing homemade gifts on one’s friends’ ranges from giving to foisting. Pure giving is when you make…

Gold

8 January 2022 9:00 am

After taking James Bond hostage, Auric Goldfinger does what all Bond villains do when in a position of power —…

Why do we bother with Christmas trees?

18 December 2021 9:00 am

The closest thing we have to a native Christmas tree is the often broccoli-shaped Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). But the…

Why do we kiss under mistletoe?

11 December 2021 9:00 am

Give us a snog. Pucker up at the Christmas party. Kiss me quick at the Nativity play. Will you be…

The enduring appeal of Baileys

4 December 2021 9:00 am

For many, the first Baileys of the year heralds the start of the festive season; to others, it’s a drink…

The secrets of being a Christmas elf

27 November 2021 9:00 am

I was 19 when I became a Hamleys elf. The closest thing I can compare it to is military service.…

The hellish return of the mullet

20 November 2021 9:00 am

The mullet is back in fashion, which is proof that true evil never dies. What’s more, the trend is being…

How to get drunk on tiramisu

13 November 2021 9:00 am

You can get drunk on tiramisu. I have done it. It takes two portions at least. You drink (I mean…

In defence of bagpipes

6 November 2021 9:00 am

Many people love to hate bagpipes. Everyone from William Shakespeare to Alfred Hitchcock has held them in contempt. For some,…

How the pumpkin hijacked Halloween

30 October 2021 9:00 am

You see them everywhere in vast orange mounds: pumpkins, piles of pumpkins, large enough to be turned into a coach…

The simple pleasures of sloe gin

23 October 2021 9:00 am

The gin craze of recent years has reached a scale that would have horrified Hogarth. You can now buy strawberry,…

What makes a conker champion?

16 October 2021 9:00 am

Last weekend, for the 54th time, hundreds of competitors met to compete for the title of world conker champion in…

Lateral thinking: the beauty of bungalows

9 October 2021 9:00 am

We keep hearing about the importance of levelling up. Architects tasked with the responsibility of building new homes, however, might…

The cult of Irn Bru

2 October 2021 9:00 am

There aren’t many countries where Coca-Cola isn’t the most popular drink. Scotland is one of them. And unlike some of…

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…