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How do you go to the toilet on the Tube?

How do you go to the toilet on the Tube?
By Mark Mason on 15-06-12 10:33. Comments (0)
The Tube map inspired me to walk the whole system overground. But it's also inspired many people into another obsessive pursuit - breaking the record for visiting all the stations in the fastest time possible. Using the trains, that is. Using the system as it was intended to be used. (Well, sort of.) I recently had a chat with the one-time holder of this record (don't worry, he's trying to get it back), a wonderful man named Geoff Marshall. Never again will I look at a Ribena bottle in the same way ...

At sixes and sevens - where truth becomes cloudy

At sixes and sevens - where truth becomes cloudy
By Mark Mason on 30-05-12 15:31. Comments (0)
I recently wrote about the disappointment you feel when you discover that a favourite piece of London trivia isn't true. Peter Watts has mentioned this on his blog too (concerning the claim that Phyllis Pearsall walked every London street to compile the A to Z). And yes, it can be disappointing to see a much-loved ‘fact' come tumbling down. But perhaps help is at hand from our old friend coincidence ...

A Beatle at the Burlington

A Beatle at the Burlington
By Mark Mason on 17-05-12 11:53. Comments (0)
It's horrible when cherished bits of trivia turn out to be untrue. The web has recently been fizzing with pieces pointing out some famous London facts that aren't facts after all. The ever-excellent Londonist had this list of impostors, while Peter Berthoud has debunked the ‘cells under the Viaduct Tavern' story. Well, I'm afraid I've got another one for you - BUT the reason for the fact not being true is just as delightful as the fact itself. Actually you could say it's even more delightful. It concerns the old custom that you're not allowed to whistle in the Burlington Arcade.

State Opening of Parliament - the rehearsal

State Opening of Parliament - the rehearsal
By Mark Mason on 08-05-12 12:12. Comments (0)
Tomorrow sees the Queen popping down from her home to the other famous palace in SW1, the Palace of Westminster. Yes, it's State Opening of Parliament time. Black Rod knocking on the door, the Lord Chancellor walking backwards and all that. (Unless you're Ken Clarke a couple of years ago - he forgot to walk backwards, and therefore turned his back on the Queen. Oops.) All very silly, and not really that interesting. What I found fascinating, though, was watching the rehearsals for the State Opening, which took place in the dead of night last Friday.

Acting up - why Parliament relies on goats

Acting up - why Parliament relies on goats
By Mark Mason on 01-05-12 12:10. Comments (0)
It's comforting to know that in these days of tweeting MPs and office-hours sittings, Parliament still has a few of its quaint old traditions in place. Perhaps the quaintest of all is the custom of printing each new Act passed by MPs and Lords on parchment. These are then rolled up and stored in the Parliamentary Archives, housed in the Victoria Tower (the one at the far end of the building from the Clock Tower, aka Big Ben).

How beer shaped the Eurostar

How beer shaped the Eurostar
By Mark Mason on 26-04-12 12:37. Comments (0)
The reason London continues to be such a great city, the reason it still captures people's imagination, is the way it marries the new and the old. A perfect example of this is the story of how the Eurostar boarding lounge at St Pancras station owes its layout to Victorian beer barrels ...

Six Degrees of Celebration

Six Degrees of Celebration
By Mark Mason on 17-04-12 21:07. Comments (0)
Fancy a game of the Six Degrees of Celebration? One of the most beautiful things about trivia, I think, is the way it works along tangents. One fact reminds you of another, which reminds you of another, and so on until within a few short steps you're on a completely different subject. That's why conversations with another trivialist are always such fun. One of you mentions, say, that Carlsberg Special Brew was invented for Winston Churchill ...

The bells, the bells ...

The bells, the bells ...
By Mark Mason on 10-04-12 18:01. Comments (0)
Had a splendid time on Sunday's Central Line walk. A great group of people, who made the journey through part of the red line's City section a real pleasure to lead. And as with all the best walks the flow of information wasn't in just one direction ...

A Walk the Lines walk

A Walk the Lines walk
By Mark Mason on 08-03-12 12:01. Comments (2)
Fancy a stroll along a Tube line? At street level, that is. The idea comes from my book ‘Walk the Lines', in which I walked the whole London Underground system overground. Some very kind people have told me how much they liked the book, and one or two have even responded favourably to the notion of me leading a stroll along a short section of one of the lines. So here goes - we're off and walking.

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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

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.