Viking Centre

With this summer’s school holidays almost upon us, here’s a trip from last summer. We’d long been tempted by the idea of a city-break in Copenhagen—during winter, perhaps, for the full Killing effect—but with young children in tow had put the idea on hold. But now it was the perfect time to visit Denmark, with a (then-) five-year-old and nine-year-old, to combine a city-break with a Lego City break. We started with a few nights in Copenhagen, then rented a car and drove across Zeeland, over the longest bridge in Europe and the island of Funen, to the Jutland peninsula. After two nights in the old Viking town of Jelling, half an hour from Legoland, we made our way back to Odense in Funen for a night, before driving through to Copenhagen Airport on our last morning.

Read More · 27 June 2017 · Travel


In the February school holidays we spent four nights in Madrid, which I’d first visited in 1986 but hadn’t since. We stayed in an Airbnb in the Lavapiés district, handy for Atocha station, the Prado and other downtown sights. In the Prado I caught up with my 18-year-old self’s doppelgänger, hanging right next to Las Meniñas. Later we wandered around Retiro, the royal park near the Prado, and visited Plaza de San Miguel to hop from stall to stall for tapas.

Churros at El Brillante

Read More · 22 June 2017 · Travel

Rear Window

Sunset over Edinburgh, 19 June 2017.
The view from our rear window last night around 10.30. Mouseover for more orange.

20 June 2017 · Journal

The End of Coffee


A vaccine could reverse Type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.

Britain: the end of a fantasy.

Anatomy of a doomed campaign.

The Republican defense of Trump is built on a massive lie.


What’s wrong with bribing millennials?

No time like the present.

Where Brexit will hurt the most.

Give nothing to racism.

Going with the cheaper, flammable cladding saved five grand. Unbearable.

The end of coffee.

20 June 2017 · Weblog

Make Your Own Yoghurt in a Slow Cooker

Inspired by my brother-in-law doing the same, and by eating pots and pots of Skyr in Iceland, I've taken up the yoghurt-making challenge. Although you can buy kits and commercial starters to make your own yoghurt, I found a method that uses tools I had to hand. All you need is a slow cooker, a digital thermometer, a blanket, a small pot of your favourite Greek yoghurt, and two litres of milk.

Read More · 15 June 2017 · 4 Comments · Food

The Lost and the Spurious

The horrible news of Grenfell Tower makes any talk about politics seem frivolous, although it’s clear that the disaster was itself a product of political failures, but I wanted to post a couple of my comments from MetaFilter on the ongoing self-inflicted disaster of Brexit before events overtake them. After taking a bad hit with the declaration of Article 50, my own personal reckoning of the chances of Brexit ever happening is being revised positively (as in, it won’t) with every passing day.

Read More · 15 June 2017 · Politics


The weeks march on, and I haven’t had the right moment to write about our trip to Iceland at the start of April. But I wanted to post the rest of the photos before it got to the start of July, so here’s the story at last...

Read More · 13 June 2017 · Travel


Time for an update on U.S. politics. Events are moving faster than any occasional-links-posting blog, so I’ve skipped the more ephemeral links and focussed here on some more lasting ones.

Read More · 13 June 2017 · Politics

The Pavement Biplane

“A popular and healthful exercise is furnished by a new toy which has taken the British boy by storm...”


1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5

Mouseover to see more pages and the cover of this 1921 volume spotted in an East Lothian country house.

11 June 2017 · Books

Ancient and Modern

A jade bracelet made millennia before the Stone Age, and not by modern humans.

Humans were in California 130,000 years ago.

Submerged landscapes of the North Sea.

Shoreline erosion in Tasmania.

38 million pieces of plastic on an uninhabited South Pacific island.

Where oil rigs go to die.

Where have all the insects gone?

Europe’s last primeval forest is on the brink of collapse.

American climate change refugees. U.S. conservatives’ incoherence over climate change.

Australia’s first wooden office building.

11 June 2017 · Weblog

Scallop Gallops

An air-powered car—made of Lego.

The Lego Apollo Saturn V has exactly 1969 pieces.

How online shopping makes suckers of us all.

Torching the modern-day library of Alexandria. How eBooks lost their shine. UK readers return to print. The fall and rise of physical book sales worldwide.

The demographic inversion.

The best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper and the 40th of Star Wars.

The 200-word RPG challenge.

Roger Moore, in memoriam (a two-parter—make sure you click through to the epilogue).


Fun with Atoms: The Radium Girls. Starfish Prime.

How do you count without numbers?

Here comes the galloping scallop.

11 June 2017 · Weblog

Looks Like it’s Fears

After waking to such hopeful news this morning of Tory losses, the awful realisation dawns that they will be governing with the support of a far-right party: if anything, a worse outcome than an outright Tory victory. “Sure, you can have your Dementia Tax and human rights restrictions, as long as we get to keep our homophobia and anti-abortionism.”

Maybe we’ll get a softer Brexit out of it, but who knows? The DUP heartland was the pro-Leave part of Northern Ireland.

9 June 2017 · 2 Comments · Politics

Looks Like it’s Hope

Never have I been happier for my preemptive pessimism to be proven wrong.

Newcastle-under-Lyme was the scene of much drama yesterday when hundreds of newly-registered students were turned away at polling stations; they persisted and eventually got to vote later in the day, and Labour has won the seat by 30 votes.

The big story of this election has been the return of young voters, which is fantastic news. Now all the parties will have to start paying attention to them again. Seems that having your future stolen in an unnecessary referendum has a galvanising effect.

Even though a Tory minority government with DUP support seems the most likely outcome right now, the Tories have been directly responsible for putting the Good Friday agreement and therefore the future of Northern Ireland within the UK at risk, by calling the EU referendum and by doubling down on a hard Brexit. Even if the DUP are natural Tory allies, that must complicate the negotiations. Owen Jones wrote of the DUP in 2015: “The idea of these bigoted throwbacks to several centuries ago holding the balance of power should surely frighten even moderate Tories, let alone the rest of us.”

For anyone feeling confused about Scotland’s swing to the Tories: it was always unlikely that the SNP could hold its 2015 win of 97% of Scottish seats. Under first-past-the-post, the Tories can beat a divided anti-Tory vote, and so they have done in a dozen seats. But they’re still under-represented relative to their vote share in Scotland—and Labour even more so—just as they were in 2015. As disappointing as it is to think that Scotland’s Tory gains could help prop up a Conservative minority government, it isn’t some sort of Scottish betrayal of progressive Britain; the Scottish vote remains 70%+ anti-Tory.

9 June 2017 · Politics

Hopes and Fears

I couldn’t vote this morning as I usually try to, and have had a vague dread all day of being hit by a bus before I can get to the polling station this evening.

Despite my bitterness over the line Jeremy Corbyn has taken over Brexit, and being convinced in the early weeks that we’re doomed, I’ve found myself caught up in hope borne out of recent opinion polls and my Twitter bubble that he, and the decent Labour policies he brings with him, might get over the line, or over enough of a line to form a minority government, or something, anything. Anything other than the bumbling, evasive, heartless, smug authoritarianism of Theresa May and her party, which promises to ramp the past seven years up into an exponential curve of awful.

But we’re probably doomed.

Here are some links I’ve been neglecting to post here in the interim.

Read More · 8 June 2017 · Politics

Your Consumer Rights

Spring into summer with this sunny offer from Theresa May! Just click below to indicate which human right you would like to relinquish, and you’ll be in the running for 1000 Nectar points or a £20 Amazon gift voucher. Renounce three rights and you’ll get 2000 Nectar points or £40 at Amazon. Sign away all your rights and be in the running for a holiday for four in Florida! Offer expires 8 June 2017.

[ ] Right to life
[ ] No torture
[ ] No slavery
[ ] Right to liberty
[ ] Right to a fair trial
[ ] No retroactive criminalisation
[ ] Right to privacy
[ ] Freedom of thought
[ ] Freedom of expression
[ ] Freedom of assembly
[ ] Right to marry and establish a family
[ ] No discrimination
[ ] All rights in the European Convention on Human Rights*

*Exchange the full ECHR for a holiday for a family of four to Orlando, Florida, with two-day passes to Walt Disney World® Resort. Also included are 4 nights accommodation on a room-only basis in an Orlando hotel, return flights from the UK and 4 days economy car hire up to the value of £200.

7 June 2017 · Politics

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