Mark Mason rss

Local bomb squad checks the wicket area for land mines, Baroda, India Photo: Getty

Mortar fire, weddings, camels, the French revolution: all kind of things get in the way of cricket

5 April 2014
Elk Stopped Play and Other Tales From Wisden’s Cricket Round the World Charlie Connelly (ed)

Wisden, pp.140, £9.99, ISBN: 9781408832370

It isn’t just the elk, either. Also bringing proceedings to a halt in this wonderful anthology are camels (Bahrain), cows and donkeys (Botswana), unexploded landmines (Rwanda, silly mid-on), people learning… Read more

The actress Bessie Love, whistling while cooking

Whistling is a bloody nuisance

29 March 2014
A Brief History of Whistling John Lucas and Allan Chatburn

Five Leaves, pp.196, £9.99, ISBN: 9781907869884

Paul McCartney says he can remember the exact moment he knew the Beatles had made it. Early one morning, getting home from a night on the tiles, he heard the… Read more


What other job lets you swear in front of your parents?

15 March 2014
Odd Job Man Jonathon Green

Cape, pp.336, £17.99, ISBN: 9780224097581

There aren’t many jobs that allow a nice middle-class Jewish boy to say ‘fuck’ in front of his parents. But Jonathon Green found one: compiling slang dictionaries. This memoir of… Read more


The comedy club theory of dictatorship

8 February 2014

Have you ever wanted to know how dictators stay in power? Try visiting a comedy club. I went to one the other night. The acts varied in quality. No one… Read more


Eton gets the reality TV treatment

30 November 2013

These must be strange times for Eton. You spend centuries building a reputation as the school for the nation’s elite, only to see ‘elitism’ become a dirty word. Famed as… Read more

(Photo: Hal Jeayes)

Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, by Count Arthur Strong - review

16 November 2013
Through It All I’ve Always Laughed Count Arthur Strong

Faber, pp.328, £16.99, ISBN: 9780571303380

Fans of Count Arthur Strong (and yes I know he’s so Marmite you could spread him on a cheese sandwich) love the failed performer because he does what we all… Read more

Arsenic and old lace

When 'drop-dead gorgeous' women actually dropped dead

19 October 2013
The Antiques Magpie Marc Allum

Icon Books, pp.224, £12.99, ISBN: 97819848316034

No one watches Antiques Roadshow for the antiques. Instead we’re hanging on the punter’s reaction to his three-grand valuation. ‘It was very precious to Aunt Mabel; we’d never dream of… Read more


Chaps, if we want grandchildren, we need to stop the skinny jeans fad

5 October 2013

Are you a man? Do you have legs wider than the average pipe cleaner? Then this article is for you. You’ll need something to read as you sit at home,… Read more

Ruin near Kelso, Mojave Desert, California

Walking in Ruins, by Geoff Nicholson - review

5 October 2013

Geoff Nicholson is the Maharajah of Melancholy. The quality was there in his novels, it was there in his non-fiction book The Lost Art of Walking, and it’s there in… Read more


A modern take on Victoriana

28 September 2013

Britain is still an essentially Victorian country (see Daily Mail for details). So it’s no surprise that we keep returning to the period for inspiration. Victoriana: The Art of Revival… Read more


Is the City of London really turning into Manhattan?

21 September 2013

The Square Mile is turning cubic. The sky above London’s financial district has already been scraped by Tower 42, the Gherkin and the Heron, while next year the Cheesegrater and… Read more


In defence of binge drinking

24 August 2013

Such an ugly word, ‘binge’. Why can’t we talk about ‘spree drinking’ or ‘frolic drinking’ or ‘extravaganza drinking’? But no, it has to be ‘binge drinking’, a term loaded (pre-loaded?)… Read more

It's not just about the bike. (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty)

Land of Second Chances, by Tim Lewis - review

27 July 2013
Land of Second Chances Tim Lewis

Yellow Jersey, pp.304, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224091763

This is a book about Rwanda. It’s a book about cycling. But it’s not, in the end, a book about Rwandan cycling. Well, it is. Tim Lewis gives us the… Read more


Last orders at the Death Café

20 July 2013

The coffee and walnut cake was excellent. As was the chocolate cake, and the tea and biscuits. The conversation was wonderful too. We talked about death. We were here, we… Read more


The Authors XI, by The Authors Cricket Club - review

13 July 2013

We were never going to get ‘come to the party’ or ‘a hundred and ten per cent’ from The Authors XI by The Authors Cricket Club, with a foreword by… Read more


The Outsider, by Jimmy Connors - review

22 June 2013

As a teenager in the 1980s I liked Jimmy Connors. This meant parking my not inconsiderable jealousy that he’d once had Chris Evert as his girlfriend. Magnanimously, I agreed to… Read more


Men who propose in public should be shot

1 June 2013

Never mind all this gay stuff — when is parliament going to get on with the marriage legislation we really need? I’m talking about the law banning men from proposing… Read more

A Sting in the Tale, by Dave Goulson - review

25 May 2013
A Sting in the Tale Dave Goulson

Cape, pp.255, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224096898

We need more conservationists like Dave Goulson. Cack-handed animal killers, that is. As a child in the 1970s Goulson tried to dry out some ‘bedraggled’ bumblebees which had got caught… Read more

Betfred.com World Snooker Championship

Snooker is the world's most skilled, absorbing, tactically subtle sport. Give it a break!

20 April 2013

The greatest event in the sporting calendar is on us once more: the World Professional Snooker Championship. With an opening sentence like that you’re probably expecting one of those ironically… Read more


‘A Slow Passion’, by Ruth Brooks – review

6 April 2013

Snails are supposed to hate eggshells. Not the ones in Ruth Brooks’s garden. They clamber over the barrier as though it’s ‘a new extreme sport’. Ditto hair. And grit. She… Read more


In praise of rude nerds

9 March 2013

The call centre problem — I’ve solved it. I now know how to get good service. The secret is to keep ringing back until you get a rude operative. Because,… Read more

gavin_corbett 3

Down to a T

2 February 2013

There are normally three problems with reviews of books which, like This is the Way by Gavin Corbett (Fourth Estate, £14.99), concern the Traveller community. The first is that while… Read more

Train Robbery

How not to steal a million

12 January 2013
The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account Nick Russell-Pavier and Stewart Richards

Weidenfeld, pp.441, £20, ISBN: 9780297864394

‘You’re not going to believe this,’ crackled the voice over the Buckinghamshire police radio in the pre-dawn light of Thursday 8 August 1963. ‘They’ve stolen a train.’ Fifty years on,… Read more


The tao of washing up

15 December 2012

Christmas isn’t about giving. Or receiving. It’s about washing up. And for some of us that’s its greatest joy. You think men hide from housework? Not when it comes to… Read more


Rock solid

15 December 2012

Rod Stewart once tried to convince his mother that he had made a lot of money, and wanted to buy her a really big Christmas present. After much thought, she… Read more