Mark Mason

Mark Mason talks about trivia via books, articles, guided walks and the pub.

A beginner’s guide to buying a guitar

Thinking of adding another six strings to your bow? You wouldn’t be alone – lockdown inspired plenty of people to learn the guitar. The trend may have lessened as people return to the office, but it has still meant UK and European sales for the guitar maker Fender are £5 million higher than before Covid.

So long, Crooked House: a guide to Britain’s oddest pubs

Farewell then, the Crooked House. The 18th-century pub, in the West Midlands village of Himley, hasn’t just stopped being a pub – it’s stopped existing, full stop. Just days after its sale to a private buyer for ‘alternative use’, the famously wonky building – where coins and marbles appeared to roll uphill – was gutted

Stress Test: some cricket fans can’t cope with the Ashes

The current Ashes series is proving a once-in-a-generation classic, one of those contests that cricket fans spend decades dreaming about. How are some of those fans reacting? They’re refusing to watch. I’m talking about the ‘I just can’t stand the tension’ brigade. The ones who, when the run chase gets down to 30 with three

How instant communication killed conversation

We live in an age of instant communication. But communication has never been less certain. Once in a while, WhatsApp takes several days to deliver a message to me. The first I know that someone contacted me on Friday is when my phone pings on Tuesday. Like when a friend let me know he and

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

Why I’ve built my own coffin

I have inadvertently built my own coffin. I’m rather chuffed with it. It wasn’t meant to be a coffin. It’s actually a boat. My son found a YouTube video on how to make one, and although these videos are normally created by practical men for other practical men (I am the world’s most impractical man),

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 joy of slow sport

Fans of long-form sport, rejoice. April is here, and it is our month. Not only does it see the first four-day matches of the county cricket season, it’s also when snooker stages its world championship. Long-form sport is always the best. A four-day cricket match (five for Tests) has way more scope for drama than

The secrets of Highgate Cemetery

Things are hotting up at Highgate Cemetery. Or they’ll need to if the grander tombs are to survive. During one cold spell last year, the huge mausoleum to Victorian banker Julius Beer froze on the inside as well as the outside, breaking some of the glass tiles. Lead lettering is another weak point – water

Why we’ll miss ‘Motty’

There’s a sheepskin coat hanging just inside the Pearly Gates. Yes, John Motson has died. That appears to be the case, Des. Very much so, in fact. Of that. There can be. No doubt. It’s normal, when a beloved commentator of Motty’s vintage dies, for viewers of a certain age to mist over and fondly

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…