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The internet is taking the joy out of quotations

‘Quotation (n.) — The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.’ Ambrose Bierce said that, or at least wrote it in the Devil’s Dictionary. That was in 1906, and those are words for the ages. In his Rhetoric, centuries before the birth of Christ, Aristotle identified one of the most common and effective ways

Why have so many of our recent diseases come from bats?

I’m no Nostradamus, but 20 years ago when I was commissioned to write a short book about disease in the new millennium, I predicted that if a new pandemic did happen it would be a virus, not a bacterium or animal parasite, and that we would catch it from a wild animal. ‘My money is

Northern lights: Seven steps for levelling up Britain

If you ever need a reminder of what northern Britain has achieved, I’d recommend a trip to York. The National Railway Museum brilliantly evokes the local creative energy that produced Stephenson’s Rocket which ran on the world’s first inter-city passenger railway and ushered in the railway age. Just over the River Ouse is the chocolate

My Parkinson’s diagnosis has shown me how kind society really is

Like Ozzy Osbourne, I was last year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative condition that impairs the functioning of the body. In a series of recent interviews, Osbourne has spoken frankly about the impact of the neurological disorder. ‘That thing has knocked the shit out of me,’ he said, Brummie-style. I’m with Ozzy. It’s done


Notes on...

How political is your bread board?

It’s not known which inspired Victorian first had the idea to take a chopping block and carve it into a circular ‘bread-platter’, as they were called, with a raised centre and decorated rim; but William Gibbs Rogers was the one to turn it into a craze. In the mid-19th century Rogers was considered one of