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Horsing Around

Horsing Around
By Mark Mason on 01-12-15 11:05. Comments (1)
Tis the season to be merrily writing to Santa, the one time of year children are guaranteed to employ their best handwriting. Even though Mail Obsession features general British trivia (postcodes are just the device for splitting the country up), I still included a few gems of postal history - like this Edwardian boy's letter to the man in red ...

Whistling at the Burlington Arcade

Whistling at the Burlington Arcade
By Mark Mason on 21-09-15 10:02. Comments (0)
A schoolboy has become only the second person in the world who's allowed to whistle in the Burlington Arcade. Chatting the other day to one of the beadles (the Piccadilly shopping arcade's beautifully-uniformed security force), I learned that Paul McCartney - until now the only person allowed to break the ban - has been joined by a young chap from East London.

The Name Game

The Name Game
By Mark Mason on 16-09-15 11:39. Comments (0)
Today is the 50th anniversary of David Bowie assuming his current name. On September 16th 1965 the man who had been born David Jones decided that his current stagename of Davie Jones might lead people to confuse him with Davy Jones of the Monkees. So instead he adopted the surname of Jim Bowie, he of knife fame. Here are some other ‘name change' facts:

Craze for the Krays

Craze for the Krays
By Mark Mason on 15-09-15 13:50. Comments (0)
All those reviews of Tom Hardy in Legend are right: he's terrific - twice. You completely forget that it's the same man playing both Kray twins, not just because the ‘in shot simultaneously' trickery is used sparingly (though when it is it's brilliant), but also because Hardy has put in two majestic performances, either of which would have stolen the show. So for two hours you watch a man trying to steal from himself. Given the subject matter, this is fitting.

Ringo at 75

Ringo at 75
By Mark Mason on 07-07-15 09:32. Comments (0)
Dear old Ringo Starr turns 75 today. Three-quarters of a century of peace signs, curious vowel sounds that sit halfway between Liverpool and LA, and an inescapable sense of naffness. Here are five facts about the man who was once accused (by Jasper Carrot, though you often see it credited to Paul McCartney or John Lennon) of not being ‘the best drummer in the world - in fact he wasn't even the best drummer in the Beatles' ...

Never in the field of human trivia ...

Never in the field of human trivia ...
By Mark Mason on 23-01-15 12:46. Comments (1)
The 50th anniversary of Churchill's death has produced some very moving pieces about the great man's role in history. Quite right too, of course - but we shouldn't forget that he was also a one-man trivia factory, leading a life crammed full of fascinating details. Here, in no particular order, are a dozen of my favourite Churchillian facts:

Who was Mr Lidl?

Who was Mr Lidl?
By Mark Mason on 18-11-14 16:21. Comments (1)
As a nation changes, so does its trivia. Traditional supermarkets - your Tescos and Sainsburys and Asdas - have been joined in recent years by those cheeky young upstarts Lidl and Aldi. The latter gets its name from Albrecht (the family who started it) Diskont (meaning, of course, ‘pricing policy that has people flocking out of Tesco when a recession hits'.) But where does the name ‘Lidl' come from?

Cashmere jumpers for goalposts

Cashmere jumpers for goalposts
By Mark Mason on 04-09-14 17:14. Comments (0)
The football transfer window closed this week, prompting the usual comments on how the modern game has been ruined by money.

A better way to win a bet

A better way to win a bet
By Mark Mason on 03-06-14 20:45. Comments (0)
The World Cup is on its way, so bets are being made left, right and centre-half. You might pick the right two teams for the final, perhaps even the right score - but when it comes to beating the bookies, you'll never match Ray Spiller for sheer front.

It is not every day you see smokers dressed like that

It is not every day you see smokers dressed like that
By Mark Mason on 03-03-14 11:38. Comments (0)
Since the Tube strike a few weeks ago, several people have told me that being forced to walk reminded them just how great London is for people-watching. You see sights that no other city's streets would offer. Thought I'd round up a few that the Tube walks offered me ...

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Books


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Walks

Inspired by my book Walk the Lines: the London Underground - Overground, each of these trivia-packed walks uncovers London’s history by following a section of a Tube line ... at street level.
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Quizzes

Tailor made quizzes
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Podcasts

Aural delights from the world of trivia
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Content

Rubik's Cube

A Rubik’s cube has more combinations than light travels inches in a century. This is my favourite illustration of how a very small number of factors can produce an absurdly complicated situation. A silly little toy, with only three squares in each of its three dimensions. How can that get complicated? Well, as anyone who's ever tried to solve one just by guessing will tell you, it gets very complicated. The number of possible combinations is 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Forget billions - that's 43 quintillion and change. (In fact the cube's manufacturers just said ‘billions' in their advertising, figuring that no one would know what a quintillion was. It's a billion billion.) The number of inches light travels in a century, meanwhile, is a mere 37,165,049,856,000,000,000. Or thereabouts.