Notes on…

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…

Home is where the bar is

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…

Tilbury Docks seen from across the river

Tilbury Docks, where cranes meet Joseph Conrad

18 August 2018 9:00 am

The great grey river stretched into the horizon. The sun was big and low in the sky. The air was…

Church Walk: short, simple, unpretentious

British street names: short, simple and unpretentious

11 August 2018 9:00 am

You know where you are with a British street name. I don’t mean literally. I mean there’s a tacit humility…

Lofty ambition: The High Line public park

The perfect way to spend two days in New York

4 August 2018 9:00 am

In Britain I never drink cocktails, but on arrival in New York it has become a ritual that my first…

In name only: Hastings’ beautiful Old Town

Hastings is pretty – but it’s the people who make it special

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Kevin Boorman loves Hastings, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He was born here, he’s lived here all his life and…

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…

Furry foe: Don’t get within spitting distance

Alpacas – the latest must-have wedding accessory

14 July 2018 9:00 am

Of all the window displays in Amsterdam this spring there was just one that stopped me in my tracks. I…

Guests of honour: Just don’t let kids do this

Tip the staff – and don’t bitch by the pool: how to be the perfect house guest

7 July 2018 9:00 am

Come to our house in France, say generous friends, come to Italy, come fishing. ‘How wonderful, what shall we bring?’…

Girl power – or groupthink in written form?

Who really wants to read feminist children’s books?

30 June 2018 9:00 am

A friend of mine who commissions book reviews has added a sub-category to the list of titles coming up: ‘femtrend’,…

The real America: NJ’s clapboard houses

Big cities are all alike – it's in New Jersey’s small towns that you feel like you’re really travelling

23 June 2018 9:00 am

When my American friends invited us to stay with them in New Jersey, my 13-year-old daughter was thrilled. She’d never…

Going it alone: The Tibbets cottage on Lundy

No wi-fi, no TV and no neighbours – staying with the Landmark Trust is bliss

16 June 2018 9:00 am

About halfway across Lundy, if you’re trudging from the landing bay towards the north lighthouse, there’s a tiny holiday cottage…

The nuclear plant at Dounreay

Notes on... Nucleus, the shiny new slightly secret nuclear archive

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Doubtless Spectator readers based in Caithness will scoff when I say that the old fishing port of Wick (top right…

How to silence Henry James: the Pont du Gard

Only the south of France could silence Henry James

2 June 2018 9:00 am

‘Saint-Tropez?’ said the French mother of a friend. ‘C’est un peu… “tacky”.’ She was distressed to think of our taking…

Inspired touch: Asterix creators René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (seated) in 1967

Asterix and the sheer brilliance of his creators

26 May 2018 9:00 am

A sterix, te amamus! For those not lucky enough to learn their Latin from the dazzling René Goscinny and Albert…

Back to the 1950s: You can’t beat an English beach scene

Nothing quite beats a British beach

19 May 2018 9:00 am

‘May I take a picture of your snake?’ I asked the tattooed man with a python around his neck, regretting…

Shirtmaker Simone Abbarchi

12 May 2018 9:00 am

The Premio Rezzori literary prize — held every May in Florence — is named after the Austrian writer Gregor von…

Hot spot: ‘The Switzerland of Derbyshire’

Welcome to Matlock Bath, the ‘Switzerland of Derbyshire’

5 May 2018 9:00 am

Revisiting cherished childhood memories can be dispiriting; everything appears diminished and one leaves questioning the nature of perception. Were we…