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Lennon and McCartney - the 60th anniversary

Lennon and McCartney - the 60th anniversary
By Mark Mason on 05-07-17 16:23. Comments (0)
It's 60 years since John Lennon and Paul McCartney met each other. On July 6th 1957, at St Peter's church fete in Liverpool, the 15 year-old McCartney watched the 16 year-old Lennon play with his band The Quarrymen. He soon joined the group himself, and nothing was ever the same again. Here are eight facts about the pair's relationship:

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.

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 …'

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.

Just how down-to-earth was Princess Margaret?

Just how down-to-earth was Princess Margaret?
By Mark Mason on 26-04-13 11:08. Comments (0)
Princess Margaret, according to papers released today, had very ‘simple' tastes, and didn't like a fuss being made about her. ‘Simple' here seems to be a relative term - five courses at dinner, for instance, were ‘quite sufficient'. But the detail that really caught my eye was Margaret's taste in literature: she would only accept gifts of books from authors who were ‘of reputable character'. Not sure whether Michael Caine falls into that category, but the Princess might have been interested in a story from the actor's 1992 autobiography. Because it's about her - and reveals that perhaps she did like a fuss being made about her after all ...

The best Boat Race story ever

The best Boat Race story ever
By Mark Mason on 31-03-13 11:30. Comments (0)
So there's another change to London's sporting calendar - this year the Boat Race is on a Sunday rather than its traditional Saturday. Never mind: the history's still there to enjoy. Everything from the race originally being from Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge, through Hugh Laurie being one of the Cambridge rowers in 1980, to the event's role in Cockney rhyming slang (‘go wash your German bands, your Boat Race too'*). But surely the best story is the one about John Snagge and the flagpoles ...

Saturday night with the Unknown Warrior

Saturday night with the Unknown Warrior
By Mark Mason on 09-11-12 07:45. Comments (0)
In case you're looking for something to do in London tomorrow night, could I recommend platform 8 of Victoria Station at 8 o'clock? It won't be your usual Saturday night jollity, but you'll be free by 8.40pm, and you'll have witnessed one of London's least-known and most moving traditions: the commemoration of the Unknown Warrior. Why does it take place at Victoria Station?

Water water everywhere

Water water everywhere
By Mark Mason on 31-08-12 12:35. Comments (0)
It can get pretty hot in London during the summer (though perhaps not this summer). It's easy to forget in these days of Evian and Buxton in every newsagents that clean drinking water was once a rare commodity in the capital. That's where the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association came in. Their beautiful monuments are still dotted around the city.

An indoor marathon

An indoor marathon
By Mark Mason on 03-08-12 10:49. Comments (0)
The Olympic event I'm looking forward to most is the marathon - the women's one takes place this Sunday (5th August), the men's a week later. Having hobbled one myself, in over twice the world record time of 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds, I'm constantly amazed at the effort it takes to run that fast for that long. The other reason I love the marathon so much is it reminds me of one of my favourite bits of bizarre London history - the indoor marathon staged at the Royal Albert Hall in 1909 ...

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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

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.