Notes on…

Everyone hates Maggi Hambling’s ‘Scallop’ – but I love it

23 February 2019 9:00 am

Benjamin Britten was adamant that he did not want any memorial sculpture of himself in Aldeburgh, the Suffolk coastal town…

The deserted platform 1 at Aldwych

The eerie beauty of London’s abandoned Tube stops

16 February 2019 9:00 am

If you’ve ever travelled on London’s Piccadilly Line, you may have noticed that on the stretch between Green Park and…

The big chill: Few winter swimmers bother with wetsuits

The teeth-chattering joys of cold-water swimming

9 February 2019 9:00 am

The woman on the path has come to a dead stop. She’d been shuffling along in that bunched-up posture we…

Cairn on Beinn Eighe in the Highlands

The big difference between a pile of stones and Piles of Stones

2 February 2019 9:00 am

There are piles of stones and then there are piles of stones. Anyone can place one rock upon another, but…

Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ (1821)

In Constable’s ascension, Jesus just looks quite awkward

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Constable painted only three religious paintings, and when you see the one in St Mary’s Church in Dedham you realise…

The first Booths — the north’s answer to Waitrose

In praise of Booths, the north’s answer to Waitrose

19 January 2019 9:00 am

If you mention the word ‘Booths’ anywhere south of Knutsford, you will usually be met with a blank expression, followed…

A cure for homesickness: Shakespeare & Co

The homesick Brit’s guide to Paris

12 January 2019 9:00 am

‘Yes, it’s here!’ says the sign above the English épicerie in Paris. ‘Yes, at last,’ thinks the starved expat wandering…

Julie Burchill: Why I’ve given up cocaine

5 January 2019 9:00 am

It always amuses me at this time of year to observe the fuss people make about quitting booze for a…

Time and Twitter seemed to stop

After five days of being snowed in, awe and wonder starts to wear off

15 December 2018 9:00 am

It took three hours for cabin fever to set in. Last Christmas, snowed in at the Oxfordshire homestead, my brother…

Light fantastic: Shirazeh Houshiary’s east window

St Martin-in-the-Fields: the ‘Church of the Ever Open Door’

8 December 2018 9:00 am

St Martin’s really did once stand in the fields, just as nearby Haymarket was a market selling hay. But the…

It is the sky that dominates on the Isle of Grain

The Isle of Grain

1 December 2018 9:00 am

Perched on the edge of the Medway about 15 miles from Rochester is the Isle of Grain, a mass of…

Friendly and modest: Patricia Highsmith

In defence of Patricia Highsmith

24 November 2018 9:00 am

A new play, Switzerland, which opened in the West End this month, seems to have demonised Patricia Highsmith once again.…

The defeat of Boudica is believed to have been fought on Watling Street

The Roman road that came to define Britain

17 November 2018 9:00 am

All roads lead to Rome, the saying goes. Well, all roads except for the Roman road of Watling Street, which…

Everything always tastes so much better in a car

The guilty pleasure of the McDonald’s drive-thru

10 November 2018 9:00 am

My wife and I have a set routine after landing back at Gatwick. We collect our bags, clear customs and…

St Peter-on-the-Wall, one of England’s oldest churches

The Dengie Hundred

3 November 2018 9:00 am

J. A. Baker, an arthritic and short-sighted birdwatcher from Chelmsford, compared the British wilderness to ‘the goaded bull at bay,…

Parson Hawker in c. 1869

The beauty – and eccentric parsons – of Cornwall’s wild north-east coast

27 October 2018 9:00 am

The first time I encountered Morwenstowe on Cornwall’s wild north-west coast I was alone. It was early spring and the…

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…

St Peter-on-the-Wall, one of England’s oldest churches

Break out the daiquiris, home bars are back in vogue

13 October 2018 9:00 am

When I mention to people that I have written a book about home bars, the most common response is, ‘my…

Mountain spa: Plombières-les-Bains

Discovering Thomas Mann by motorbike

6 October 2018 9:00 am

In Thomas Mann’s astonishing novel The Magic Mountain the indolent young Hans Castorp visits his brave, terminally ill soldier cousin…

From dirty old town... to New Age nirvana

The Yorkshire town that’s gone from dirty old buildings to New Age nirvana

29 September 2018 9:00 am

Bernard Ingham once told a story about a reporter from the Financial Times who went to cover an election in…

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.…

There’s a reason Unst is called the island above all others

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘I’d like a copy of the Times,’ said the visitor from the south. ‘Yesterday’s or today’s?’ the shopkeeper asked. ‘Today’s,…

Pye Green tower looms over the landscape

Tales of UFOs and mysterious big cats come as standard in Cannock Chase

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Cannock Chase is the long, low range of hills that’s visible to your right as you drive north up the…

The power plant before its makeover

Battersea Power Station deserves its glossy makeover – but I’ll miss its crumbling glamour

1 September 2018 9:00 am

Battersea Power Station once generated nearly a fifth of London’s power. It must have hummed and clanked almost as much…

Let’s go fly a kite...

The highs – and lows – of learning to fly a kite

25 August 2018 9:00 am

I’ve flown only three kites in my life. My stepfather bought me the first. I remember seeing him from a…