Mark Mason rss


London's new owners are Chinese

28 March 2015

It used to be just the ducks in the windows on Gerrard Street. But now Chinese investment in London is on a whole different scale. And some of it’s threatening to annoy the… Read more

A print of girls in a gym from 1884

2,5000 years of gyms (and you’re still better off walking the dog)

7 March 2015
The Temple of Perfection: A History of the Gym Eric Chaline

Reaktion Books, pp.272, £20, ISBN: 9781780234496

My favourite fact about gyms before reading this book was that the average British gym member covers 468 miles per year and the average British dog walker 676. Eric Chaline’s… Read more


Attack of the personal space invaders

21 February 2015

It’s the shoulders you have to watch out for. If he’s pressing them back as his hand comes out to shake yours, then beware: you’re about to meet a Space… Read more


Soon, parents will stop wanting their children to go to university. And they'll be right

24 January 2015

Could the current generation of parents be the first ones who won’t want their children to go to university? Until now that mortarboard photo on the sideboard has always been… Read more


Check yourself: have you succumbed to this corporate speak epidemic?

10 January 2015

You know how it goes with corporate speak. A strange new habit grows and spreads, creeping largely unnoticed into the language, until one day you hear a sentence so bizarre,… Read more

Incredible shrinking county: the tides at Freshwater Bay

A museum of dirty postcards and Britain’s coolest bulldog: visit the strange side of the Isle of Wight

10 January 2015

Every day the Isle of Wight becomes England’s smallest county: when-ever the tide comes in, the island steals the crown from Rutland, if only for a few hours. Taking the… Read more


Get through airports hassle free

29 November 2014

You know how it is. You’re on holiday in the south of France, soaking up the rays and the fizz, reading all the books you never get round to and… Read more

La Marocain restaurant at La Mamounia

Mark Mason avoids S.A.D. in Marrakesh

29 November 2014

Sorry, T.S. Eliot, you got it wrong — January, not April, is the cruellest month. Post-Christmas torpor mixed with back-to-work blues bring you down, making January the calendar’s Monday morning.… Read more


Did you do something for the last time today?

22 November 2014

The end of the year seems a good time to think about lasts. Not many of us ever do. Firsts are always landmarks: the first time you taste alcohol, drive… Read more

Bing and Bob on the Road to Singapore. One had talent; the other tried harder

Did anyone ever really love Bob Hope?

22 November 2014
Hope: Entertainer of the Century Richard Zoglin

Simon & Schuster, pp.486, £20, ISBN: 9781439140277

Why does everything these days have to be a superlative? Why must writers scream for our attention, yelling that the guy in their book blows everyone else out of the… Read more

Getty Images

The deep Britishness of fish and chips

1 November 2014
Fish and Chips: A History Panikos Panayi

Reaktion Books, pp.176, £18, ISBN: 9781780233611

During the D-day landings, members of the parachute regiment, finding themselves behind enemy lines at night, needed a way of telling whether someone nearby was friend or foe. Their solution… Read more


The five most depressing words in the English language? ‘And now, You and Yours’

11 October 2014
For the Love of Radio 4: An Unofficial Companion Caroline Hodgson

Summersdale, pp.208, £9.99, ISBN: 9781849536424

When you think about it, Radio 4 is mostly a pile of old toss. Money Box qualifies as an anaesthetic, the dramas couldn’t act their way to the nearest street… Read more

Space odyssey: Ed White walking in space over New Mexico, Gemini 4, June 1965 Image: James McDivitt

The images from the Apollo missions will reduce you to tears

4 October 2014

When people ask why I’m obsessed with the Apollo moon missions, I always want to reply using the same phrase: ‘Because they were out of this world.’ I never do,… Read more

Kylie Minogue on stage in Sydney. Image: Getty

Don’t reach for the stars

20 September 2014

‘Meeting Kylie at her intimate gig,’ runs the Mastercard ad. ‘Priceless.’ Wrong: vaguely unfulfilling. And that’s at best. At worst you’ll be cruelly disappointed. Not the fault of poor Kylie,… Read more


Switching on to a new generation gap

30 August 2014

I was recently talking to an intelligent 24-year-old Cambridge graduate. The conversation turned to TV comedy, and I mentioned Vic Reeves. The graduate had never heard of him. Nor had… Read more

Activity break: Nira Alpina also offers kite-surfing

Nira Alpina, St Moritz: A cool Alpine hotel that's perfect for the under-tens

16 August 2014

It’s a terrible moment, the realisation that you’ve spawned a monster. Parenthood, it becomes clear, has wiped stylish holidays off the agenda for a good few years. Somewhere like St… Read more


What’s wrong with sunglasses

26 July 2014

A question to ask yourself on sunny days: are you, as you conduct your conversations with people, trying to convince them that you are Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix? You’re… Read more

A Pearl by any other name: the Rosewood hotel

From prisons to offices to police stations – London's turning everything into hotels

21 June 2014

The test of a truly great city is reinvention. Does it have the courage to change? London holds a PhD in meta-morphosis — just look at the buildings it converts… Read more

Frank Keating with cricketer Ian Botham Photo: Getty

When Geoff Boycott was a DJ in a Sydney nightclub

21 June 2014
The Highlights Frank Keating

Guardian Faber Publishing, pp.336, £17.99, ISBN: 9781783350193

Sport isn’t about putting a ball into a net or over a bar or into a hole. It’s about the people who are trying to do those things. Frank Keating,… Read more


You're never alone with a Kindle

14 June 2014

The Kindle has changed reading in so many ways. A library in your pocket rather than the hulk of a hardback. Uniform pixels where once dust motes rose from an… Read more

C.B. Fry of England Photo: Allsport/Hulton Archive

When the English cricket team toured Nazi Germany – and got smashed

7 June 2014
Field of Shadows: The English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany, 1937 Dan Waddell

Bantam, pp.272, £16.99, ISBN: 9780593072615

Why have the Germans never been any good at cricket? This entertaining account of the MCC’s 1937 tour to the Fatherland gives some clues. Any country po-faced enough to have… Read more

'The Great Escape' Film - 1963

Subterranea is sexy

26 April 2014

‘Sometimes when I’m down here,’ says Harry, ‘I get them to stop the train in the middle of a tunnel. Just for a minute or two, so I can savour… Read more

Campbell’s Platform, a private unstaffed halt on the Welsh narrow guage Ffestiniog railway

The train stations that don’t really exist

26 April 2014
Tiny Stations Dixe Wills

AA Publishing, pp.352, £16.99, ISBN: 9780749575618

In 1964, as part of his railway cuts, Dr Beeching ordered the closure of Duncraig, a small, little-used station in the Scottish Highlands. The train drivers working the line simply… Read more

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