Mark Mason

Tricks of the trade…

Notes on Davenports Magic Shop, an emporium for serious conjurors

20 October 2018 9:00 am

It’s a very fitting place for a magic shop. Hidden away in the maze of pedestrian tunnels that lead from…

Pete Conrad, one half of the second Apollo 12 team, on the moon in 1969

Second best: Why runners up are more interesting than those who come first

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Who was the second prime minister? Everyone knows Robert Walpole was the first. Firsts get all the fame and glory.…

Breaking the bank: The impregnable BoE

How easy is it to break into the Bank of England?

21 July 2018 9:00 am

‘Safe as the Bank of England.’ So goes the old phrase. And yes, with walls 8ft thick, the Old Lady…

Why will the myth of the yeti just not go away?

Climbing Everest with Brian Blessed is the nearest anyone will get to encountering the yeti

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1969 the body of an ape-like creature, preserved in ice inside an insulated box, came to light in Minnesota.…

Pace and quiet: walking can be therapeutic

The highs – and occasional lows – of long-distance walking

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Long-distance walking is all the rage these days. There are all-nighters staged by charities, for instance the annual MoonWalk in…

A nose for trouble: the beagle

Playful, adorable – and with a real nose for trouble: In praise of the beagle

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Harvey’s finest moment, he would tell you, was the chicken kiev. I’d just made the garlic butter and inserted it…

Compulsory subtitles? I read ‘em and weep

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Subtitles are taking over the world. It’s increasingly rare these days for a video clip to be free of those…

Much fun: Usain Bolt and Wenlock the mascot

Which town directly inspired the revival of the Olympics? Clue: it’s not in Greece

18 November 2017 9:00 am

There were two mascots for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One was called Mandeville, obviously because Stoke Mandeville’s games…

The great unknowns

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Have you heard about the invention that cures your smartphone addiction? Whereas normally you can’t go more than a minute…

Tales out of school

7 October 2017 9:00 am

In 1952, the five-year-old Michael Rosen and his brother were taken on holiday along the Thames by their communist parents.…

School of thought: the site of the first college in Bishopsgate

Gresham College

23 September 2017 9:00 am

How many people need to gather together before it becomes more likely than not that at least two of them…

Diary

12 August 2017 9:00 am

No sympathy from me for the Brits stuck in the European heatwave. I’ve never understood people who go abroad for…

Fighting talk — but little action — from Ernest Hemingway

29 April 2017 9:00 am

On 11 May 1937, at the Gare St-Lazare in Paris, Ernest Hemingway said goodbye to a friend who was leaving…

Confess your guilty displeasures

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Strawberries. Ella Fitzgerald. Lying on the beach. They’re three of my ‘guilty displeasures’. You haven’t heard of the guilty displeasure?…

The Heckler: love your music, Macca, just not sure about you

7 May 2016 9:00 am

It’s slightly galling, after years of sticking up for Paul McCartney, to read a new biography of the bloke and…

The famous rip tide in French Pass, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Across the river... and into the trees

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Water accounts for 70 per cent of your planet, and 60 per cent of your body. Yet when do you…

How baby names got so weird

23 April 2016 9:00 am

You have to pity the Welsh woman who was last week prevented by the Court of Appeal from naming her…

Keith Moon’s wedding-night abseil and other marvellous false memories

27 February 2016 9:00 am

It’s the only thing Bianca Jagger and I have in common: we’ve both been victims of false memory. You almost…

Girl about town — on a bicycle

23 January 2016 9:00 am

The old ditty got it wrong: it should have been ‘Maybe it’s because I’m not a Londoner that I love…

Nessie’s enduring attraction

12 December 2015 9:00 am

It wasn’t until I drove past Loch Ness a couple of years ago that I realised just how enormous it…

Sir Ian Botham is a hero – and a fool

28 November 2015 9:00 am

In 1981, when I was ten and Ian Botham was 26, I thought he was God. Now, the week after…

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, from the east, painted by the Flemish artist Jan Siberechts in 1695. In the foreground the D-shaped bowling green sits on a raised terrace with a banqueting house on its southern side

Discover your inner nerd

7 November 2015 9:00 am

There’s a curious thing about the bowling green in my Suffolk village. The footpath running alongside it is on a…

From Spike Milligan — and Marge Simpson — with love, light, peace and great respect

24 October 2015 9:00 am

This book is a serious bit of kit. Its hard covers measure 28.9 by 21 centimetres, and it weighs 1.62…

Why isn’t it creepy when women phwoar at Poldark?

3 October 2015 9:00 am

Stand by your remotes, girls: the second series of Poldark is under way. Filming has started — yes, he’s out…

She knows who’s next

Six rules for a perfect pub

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Whenever one of those news stories appears about how many pubs have been forced to close in the last year,…