Notes on…

The joy of University Challenge

21 April 2018 9:00 am

One programme that still shines out as a beacon of intellectual rigour among the sea of dross on television is…

Pace and quiet: walking can be therapeutic

The highs – and occasional lows – of long-distance walking

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Long-distance walking is all the rage these days. There are all-nighters staged by charities, for instance the annual MoonWalk in…

Barren, windswept beauty: the town’s beachfront

Southend-on-Sea has long been a running joke – until now

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Standing at the end of Britain’s longest pier, on a cold and misty morning, looking out across the Thames Estuary,…

‘Waterloo Bridge, Overcast Weather’ (1899-1903)

Monet painted London not brick-by-brick, but light-by-shade

31 March 2018 9:00 am

The Savoy was too sumptuous, complained Claude Monet, returning to the hotel in 1904. His rooms — one for sleeping,…

Magdalen College Chapel

The joy of evensong

24 March 2018 9:00 am

When Palestrina wrote his Mass settings and motets, or J.S. Bach his cantatas and passions, they could not have imagined…

Contessa Teresa Guiccioli

Notes on… Lord Byron in Venice

17 March 2018 9:00 am

‘I want to see Venice, and the Alps, and Parmesan cheeses.’ So wrote Lord Byron in 1814, some two years…

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) in about 1920

The Katherine Mansfield House

10 March 2018 9:00 am

One of the more surprising attractions of Wellington, New Zealand’s small but perfectly formed capital city, is what might be…

Moorish: Otmoor’s beautiful, desolate landscape

Why Evelyn Waugh, Lewis Carroll and the Romans loved Otmoor

3 March 2018 9:00 am

‘Don’t sit down too long my duck, you might be doing nothing,’ reads the inscription memorialising Barbara Joan Austin (4…

Night at the museum: the city’s skyline

Majestic Vienna makes a point of selling the right kind of celebrity

24 February 2018 9:00 am

Two things always strike me when I visit Vienna. The first is how easterly the city lies. This was more…

Founded by Constantine: the Catholic cathedral

Marx in Trier

17 February 2018 9:00 am

‘Trier hates you,’ reads the graffiti outside the Karl-Marx-Wohnhaus in Trier. Actually, that’s a bit unfair. Trier doesn’t hate Marx,…

For ever France: the Abbaye Saint-Michel

Abbaye Saint-Michel, a little corner of England that’s forever France

10 February 2018 9:00 am

‘A little corner of England which is for ever France, irreclaimably French.’ That is how the Catholic priest Monsignor Ronald…

A nose for trouble: the beagle

Playful, adorable – and with a real nose for trouble: In praise of the beagle

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Harvey’s finest moment, he would tell you, was the chicken kiev. I’d just made the garlic butter and inserted it…

Superfood: Salty shellfish straight from the sea

The salty charms of Leigh-on-Sea

27 January 2018 9:00 am

I have fallen in love with the c2c, a whisker of a train that is never delayed. It operates between…

No strings: padel is played with a solid racquet

Padel power! But will this crazy new sport ever be a hit?

20 January 2018 9:00 am

When we arrived, we discovered that our villa had a padel court. Few of us had seen one before and…

Canals and calm: Enjoying life in the slow lane

Britain’s real-life canals are as mystical and marvellous as Philip Pullman’s books

13 January 2018 9:00 am

Philip Pullman’s latest missal, La Belle Sauvage, once again features the boat-dwelling Gyptians. Rough and honourable, they emerge from the…

A cure for wanderlust: 23 hours in economy

Spending 23 hours in economy class will cure anyone’s wanderlust

6 January 2018 9:00 am

For some reason, I decided to go to the other side of the world for Christmas. I may never do…

Forman smokes wild salmon, too — for a price

Why smoked salmon doesn't taste anything like it should

16 December 2017 9:00 am

I’m just about old enough to remember when smoked salmon was a rare treat. Then, around 1986 or 1987, suddenly…

The Watford Locks on the Grand Union Canal

The truth about The Watford Gap

9 December 2017 9:00 am

In a shallow dip between two unremarkable Northamptonshire hills you will find a road, a motorway, a railway and a…

Improbable: a Sri Lanka grey hornbill

Forget temples and tea – Sri Lanka is all about its birds 

2 December 2017 9:00 am

Standing in sweaty silence for an hour on a precipitous sliver of muddy footpath above a waterfall may not be…

The best kind of poem: England on two wheels

The English countryside on two wheels is like the best kind of poem

25 November 2017 9:00 am

No seat belts. No airbags. Just air, and coming at you as fast as you like. Motorcycling shouldn’t be allowed,…

Much fun: Usain Bolt and Wenlock the mascot

Which town directly inspired the revival of the Olympics? Clue: it's not in Greece

18 November 2017 9:00 am

There were two mascots for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One was called Mandeville, obviously because Stoke Mandeville’s games…

Irish chic: the Duchess of Cornwall with Dubarrys

Why does the Duchess of Cambridge wear French wellies when British is best?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

‘Foot – foot – foot – foot – sloggin’ over Africa — / (Boots – boots – boots – boots –…

Modigliani’s ‘Les deux filles’

Dinner at Modigliani’s

4 November 2017 9:00 am

When you arrive for dinner and your host is massaging a purple cauliflower, you know you’re in for an interesting…

Notes on Lewes

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Autumn is upon us, and the streets are full of families in fancy dress. People of all ages are dressing…

My new forté: shimmering Ravel on a shining sea

Cruise ship pianists

21 October 2017 9:00 am

When Crystal Cruises invited me to join their flagship as the guest classical pianist for a springtime voyage around the…