1 February 2014

The political life of Walter Mitty Nigel Farage attacked the ‘Walter Mittys’ in his own party. A few of the many uses of James Thurber’s daydreaming character in politics: —… Read more

25 January 2014

One for the road Road safety campaigners were angered by the opening of the first pub at a motorway service station, on the M40 in Buckinghamshire. — Drink-driving campaigns pre-date… Read more

18 January 2014

Fat chances The National Obesity Forum said that Britain is reaching a ‘doomsday scenario’ where half the population is obese. What happened to previous government campaigns to tackle obesity? —… Read more

11 January 2014

The test of a wave Waves measuring 27ft from peak to trough were seen off Land’s End as the stormy weather continued. How do these compare with the highest waves… Read more

4 January 2014

Centuries of conflict 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the war which was supposed to end all wars. Has the toll of war since 1918 been lesser or greater than… Read more

14 December 2013

Whose year is it anyway? Some things which 2014 has been declared to be the year of: — Year of the Horse (China) — International Year of Family Farming (World… Read more

7 December 2013

The darkest day Several people were injured on ‘Black Friday’, a day of retail discounting imported from the US, where the fourth Thursday of November is the Thanksgiving holiday and… Read more

30 November 2013

Third-class thinking A report by the Institute of Economic Affairs recommended standing-room-only third-class carriages as an alternative to longer trains and platforms. What was third-class rail travel originally like? —… Read more

23 November 2013

Brave new words ‘Selfie’ was declared to be Oxford Dictionaries’ ‘word of the year’. It hasn’t, however, yet been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. These are some of the… Read more

16 November 2013

Whose tattoos? David Dimbleby, 75, has had a scorpion tattooed on his right shoulder. Some more tattoo-wearers who perhaps ought to know better: —  Lady Steel, 71, wife of former… Read more

9 November 2013

Dog’s dinner A Canadian hiker rescued in Quebec was reported to have killed and eaten his German shepherd dog in spite of it having saved him from a bear. Who… Read more

2 November 2013

What can they do? Saudi women took to the wheel in defiance of laws preventing them from driving. Some recent freedoms Saudi women have gained: — From this year they… Read more

26 October 2013

National statistics Some lesser-known facts about the National Theatre: — 26 per cent of its income comes from box office sales on the South Bank, 33 per cent from commercial… Read more

19 October 2013

Union dispute Pedants suffered a blow as the chief vexillologist of the Flag Institute declared that the Union Jack and Union Flag are interchangeable terms, the latter being just as… Read more

The soon-to-be-lost village of Imber in 1394

12 October 2013

Lost property The second-to-last surviving resident of St Kilda — a small archipelago 40 miles off the Outer Hebrides which was abandoned in 1930 — has died. There are more… Read more

5 October 2013

Does workfare work? George Osborne announced a ‘work for benefits’ scheme. ‘Workfare’ schemes have been attacked by the left. Do they work? Wisconsin Works The introduction of the scheme, which… Read more

21 September 2013

Vitamins and the veil A judge at Blackfriars Crown Court allowed a niqab-wearing defendant to identify herself only to a policewoman, and a Birmingham college reversed a ban on students… Read more

14 September 2013

Trust us The National Trust opened the Big Brother House at Elstree Studios at the weekend. Some other less grand National Trust properties: — 575 Wandsworth Road, Lambeth. 19th-century terraced… Read more

7 September 2013

Shining examples The ‘Walkie Talkie’, a new tower block in Fenchurch Street, was blamed for partially melting the interior of a Jaguar parked in a spot where the sun’s rays… Read more

7 September 2013

Market price Independent schooling versus private tutoring: which is the biggest market? Some 579,700 pupils are educated at independent schools, for an average annual fee of £13,788, making for a… Read more

31 August 2013

Your name here Supporters of Merthyr Town Football Club objected to having their ground renamed the Cigg-e Stadium in a £60,000 sponsorship deal with a manufacturer of electronic cigarettes. Some… Read more

24 August 2013

We will remember them A German diplomat called on Britain to commemorate but not celebrate the centenary of the Great War. Some of the events planned so far: — Candle… Read more

17 August 2013

Ward ceremony There have been 29 health secretaries since 1948. How many have wards that — though not necessarily named after them — bear their surname? NYE BEVAN Hillingdon, Harlow,… Read more

10 August 2013

Other people’s rocks Spain threatened to introduce a €40 border-crossing charge and find other ways of making life difficult for people of Gibraltar. A reminder of some Spanish colonial possessions:… Read more

3 August 2013

Art by the seaside The Kent seaside resort of Herne Bay staged the parade of a urinal through the town to celebrate its connection with Marcel Duchamp, who spent a… Read more