03 Jul 2020

Downton Dining Disturbance

Q. What would it take to throw a wrench into the rigid world of Edwardian dinner parties? . A. Revenge is a dish best served backwards. In the fastidiously ritualistic world of Edwardian Britain, it was easy to exact revenge on one’s nemeses at dinner. Want to mortify the hosts?

22 Jun 2020

Fairy Tale Famished

Q. Why are there so many starving characters in Grimm’s Fairy Tales? . A. As you grit your teeth through Grimm horrors and triumphs, you’re constantly faced with extreme hunger, be it in tatty children wandering too far from home or a behooded villain out for a human snack. The

09 Jun 2020

Conjunction Junction

Q. As beleaguered teachers work to enliven their lessons and fill online learning hours, it begs the question: which school time learning songs best caught your attention, helped you learn concepts, then actually stayed in your head? . A. When edutainment songs don’t work, they really don’t work. RIP awkward

29 May 2020

Controversial Royal Portraits

Q. What have been some of the most controversial royal portraits over the years? A. This whole business of painting portraits – let alone royal portraits – is not for the faint-hearted. What if your all-powerful subject hates what you create? What if the royal trusts you, likes the portrait,

11 May 2020

Classical Darlings

Q. Which classical pieces are most widely beloved? A. It’s Ralph Vaughan Williams for the win. After 110,000 votes, Classic FM compiled their 2019 Hall of Fame Top 300 list of our favourite classical pieces. Reigning at Number One? Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. It’s a piece that Vaughan Williams

23 Apr 2020

The Sweetest Flower

Q. Which flower has the most entrancing scent?   A. ‘The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem For that sweet odour which doth in it live….’ So writes William Shakespeare in Sonnet 54. Does the rose have an uncommonly sweet odour? Do we deem it fairer because of

16 Apr 2020

Reading Lies

Q. Which books are people most likely to pretend they’ve read? . A. In a 2013 Telegraph study of 2,000 Brits, 62% of respondents admitted to telling others that they had read classic books they hadn’t so much as skimmed. 42% confessed to hunting down the film or TV version

11 Apr 2020

Signs To Keep Them Honest

Q. Is there anything you can do to inspire people to pay up when they’re not being monitored? . A. Well, you might start by painting some eyes in the vicinity. In one study, University of Newcastle researchers Melissa Bateson, Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts kept their eyes on an

11 Apr 2020

Songs For The Future

Q. Which songs and pieces from recent decades will people be able to enjoy well, well into the future? . A. We know of at least 25 more songs that are being actively preserved for future ears. Every year, the United States’ Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board chooses