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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 ...

Walking the walk

Walking the walk
By Mark Mason on 04-02-14 11:55. Comments (0)
As the Tube strike looms, I've been reminded of my District Line walk. Its second day coincided with a strike by Underground workers, so I was far from the only one treading the pavements. In case it provides any inspiration for those of you lacing up tomorrow, here's the relevant section from the book ...

How Chas and Dave ended up on an Eminem track

How Chas and Dave ended up on an Eminem track
By Mark Mason on 30-10-13 11:56. Comments (0)
Some sniffy reactions to Chas and Dave's appearance on the Today programme this morning, but I don't care (I don't care, I don't care if he comes round here …) The doyens of pub rock can do little wrong in my opinion. And if you don't trust that, maybe you'll trust the opinion of Eminem. He sampled their work for his first hit ‘My Name Is …'

Beautiful game, beautiful trivia

Beautiful game, beautiful trivia
By Mark Mason on 25-10-13 13:20. Comments (0)
150 years ago tomorrow, in a pub in Covent Garden, a group of men got together and founded the Football Association. So started a century and a half of arguments about such crucial issues as whether the one-handed throw-in should be outlawed (it finally was in 1882) and what the minimum height of a corner post should be (it's currently 1.5 metres). But the world's most popular sport also gives us some of the world's most compelling trivia. To celebrate the anniversary, here are 10 of my favourite footie facts:

No more Local Hero

No more Local Hero
By Mark Mason on 18-09-13 10:52. Comments (0)

*This post dates from September 2013. What I hadn't realised then was that the English people it mentions all have votes in the referendum.*

One year to go, as you may have noticed in The Media, until the independence referendum in Scotland. I'd hardly been north of Edinburgh before my Land's End to John O'Groats trip, so was amazed at something I encountered in the fishing villages past Inverness. It made me realise that, whatever certain politicians and commentators might say, the question isn't as simple as ‘England vs Scotland'. Here's the relevant bit from the book:

Who was J.D. Wetherspoon?

Who was J.D. Wetherspoon?
By Mark Mason on 16-08-13 11:20. Comments (0)
Who was J.D. Wetherspoon, the founder of the pub chain? Or the Mr Dixon of electronics store fame? Or the Mr Bailey who invented the Irish whiskey liqeur? The answer is that none of them ever existed.

Boys wearing pink, the invention of the equals sign and why we all talk French

Boys wearing pink, the invention of the equals sign and why we all talk French
By Mark Mason on 23-07-13 12:30. Comments (0)
You always miss the stuff on your own doorstep. With dirt-cheap flights to far-off lands, we Brits have got used to exploring the rest of the world. But how much do we know about our own country? Not nearly as much as we should - in my case, at least. So I solved that by travelling from Land's End to John O'Groats in a deliberately slow fashion: by local bus. It took 46 journeys (Land's End to Penzance, Penzance to Truro, and so on) - and it taught me a hell of a lot along the way. Here are my 8 favourite discoveries about Britain:

A pilgrimage to Lord's

A pilgrimage to Lord's
By Mark Mason on 09-07-13 10:22. Comments (0)
After the incredible first Test at Trent Bridge, the Ashes roadshow now heads south to the capital. The second Test is being hosted by the venue that, whenever I'm pushed to name a favourite place in London, often gets the nod: Lord's.

The backhands of time

The backhands of time
By Mark Mason on 02-07-13 09:58. Comments (0)
As you watch the games rack up at Wimbledon this week, do you ever wonder why the scoring goes 15, 30, 40, rather than 15, 30, 45? I remember watching my first ever game as a child, confused as to why a player's third winning shot was deemed less valuable than their first two. One of those things you just learn to ignore - but it turns out there's a very timely explanation ...

Showing 11 - 20 of 49 Articles

 

Other pages in this section...

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

Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.