The secrets of London by postcode: WC (West Central)

Our journey around London’s postcode areas has reached its final destination: WC. One of Evelyn Waugh’s female friends always insisted on referring to it in full as ‘West Central’, because she said ‘WC’ had ‘indelicate associations’. We’ll learn what happened at Spike Milligan’s memorial service, why Agatha Christie married an archaeologist and where you can find the official definition of an inch…

The secrets of London by postcode: E (East)

How Walford in EastEnders got its name, why Isaac Newton visited bars in disguise and what happened when the IRA parked on a double yellow line. Our tour of London’s postcode areas has reached its penultimate stop – who fancies an E?

The secrets of London by postcode: SE (South East)

Our tour of the trivia behind London’s postcode areas has reached SE, where we find rock stars being embalmed, P.G. Wodehouse reporting on cricket and Westminster Bridge being painted green for a very specific reason. Oh, and Winston Churchill gets a hat-trick of mentions…

The secrets of London by postcode: W (West)

It’s the area that unites James Bond, Rick Wakeman and both Queen Elizabeths. In the first of our series looking at the quirky history and fascinating trivia of London’s postcode areas, we explore the delights to be found in W (West) – everything from fake houses to shaky newsreaders to dukes who are women… Answer: the other Tube station whose name contains all five vowels is Mansion House.

Elephants walk on tiptoes — but can they dance? This year’s stocking-fillers explore such puzzles

It’s almost a shock to admit it, but this year’s gift books aren’t bad at all. It’s even possible that, should you be given one of these for Christmas by the aunt who hates you or the brother who merely despises you, you might actually enjoy it — more than the acrylic scarf or the comedy socks that I always get from my least favourite relatives, anyway. What with one thing and another, there are roughly four million new books by comedians, all written during lockdown when there was nothing else to do. The best I read was Bob Mortimer’s sweet, elegiac memoir And Away… (Gallery Books, £20), which tells

We columnists have never been more useless

It takes some agility to shoot yourself in the foot and saw off the branch you’re sitting on, while hoisting yourself with your own petard, all at the same time; but that is what I shall now attempt. In this analysis of general election commentary I shall argue that over the last two months Britain has been all but choked by a surfeit of comment and analysis on the general election. Can any reader remember when there was an election that produced so much? Or, in the end, produced it to so little useful purpose? If last Christmas Day one had fallen into a coma only to awake on 8 May, thus

The 10 best loo books of 2014: why we sing so much better in the shower and what became of Queen Victoria’s children’s milk teeth

Nancy Mitford would not call them ‘toilet books’, that’s for certain. Loo books? Lavatory books? One or two people I know favour ‘bog books’. And having written one or two books myself that teeter on the edge of frivolity, I know that for your book to be kept in what Americans call the ‘bathroom’ is essentially a compliment. As long as it’s there to be read, of course. Oddly enough, the two best loo books of the year I have already and separately reviewed in these pages. The Most of Nora Ephron (Doubleday, £20, Spectator Bookshop, £16.50) is an immaculately chosen compilation of the late American humorist’s journalism, blogs, meditations