Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

19-20 August

Desert Island Discs

“The Humphrey Bogart of South Yorkshire”

When Michael Parkinson was at grammar school, he wanted to be a cricketer, he told Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs, originally broadcast in 1972. “Very much.” But the only thing he learned apart from the rules of the sport was how to smoke, and he became “a very good smoker”. When this started to hamper his sporting ambition, he came up with another plan: to be “Humphrey Bogart in one of those films where he wore a snap brim”. He kept up wearing the hat even when he got his first job as a district reporter. “The only problem was, I couldn’t cycle and wear my trilby hat with a snap brim. So I got some knicker elastic, and I tied it into the rim and under my chin… like the Humphrey Bogart of South Yorkshire.”


One thing I don’t understand about the row over small boats, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, is why British liberals are so keen on welcoming refugees. Don’t they think Brexit Britain “is a hateful, backward, crumbling, economically doomed dump”, and the EU a progressive “earthly paradise”? Surely there should be tens of thousands of them forming a human barrier along the Kent coast, bellowing at approaching dinghies: “Do not, repeat not, seek sanctuary in Britain! This country is a failing, bigoted, corrupt, austerity-ruined, sewage-sodden, virulently Islamophobic hellhole populated by ghastly Tory-voting gammon who worship statues of slave traders and despise anyone whose skin is any colour but crimson! So for pity’s sake, turn your boats around, and enjoy a glorious new life in elegant, cultured, joyously cosmopolitan France!”


If you suffer from insomnia, says Genevieve Gaunt in The Spectator, you’re in very good company – among literary figures, at least. As Marie Darrieussecq details in her new book, writers who grappled with sans sommeil include Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Haruki Murakami and Jorge Luis Borges. Immanuel Kant joined their ranks in his later years, “besieged by ghosts”. Proust said lack of sleep was a “sort of death”, and complained that sleeping pills “make holes in my brain”. Ovid wrote: “But I am wakeful, my endless woes are wakeful too.” One of the pleasures of literature is realising that “others in times long gone have felt what we are feeling now”. For anyone who struggles with sleep, Darrieussecq’s book may prove a real tonic.

Sleepless by Marie Darrieussecq (translated by Penny Hueston) is available to buy here.


Wine buffs have long dismissed rosé, says The Economist. Some call it “bitch diesel”, because it is pink and often marketed to women. One top French producer recalls that when he first approached distributors, the door was slammed in his face. Traditional folk think it’s “not a real wine”, he says. “They think that it’s a Coca-Cola wine.” But things are changing. France, which accounts for 35% of the world’s rosé supply, has become a “leading consumer”: a third of bottles drunk there are pink. Exports of Provençal rosé have increased 500% in the past 15 years. In America, the most popular French wine of any colour is a pink number called Whispering Angel. Stuffy oenophiles will no doubt see all this as heresy. But the rest of us should welcome the fact the “ultimate summer tipple” is finally gaining the appreciation it deserves.
😎🍷 The wine seller Majestic says there’s an “exact point” at which sales of rosé outpace those of red and white: when temperatures outside hit 26C.


quoted 19.8.23 Hepburn

“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.”

Audrey Hepburn


“What fate awaits a spy whose cover has been blown?” ask Jamie Dettmer and Annabelle Dickson in Politico. The “expendables” tend to end up rotting away in jails, but the lucky ones are traded in high-profile prisoner swaps – and some get a taste for celebrity. Take Anna Vasilyevna Kushchenko (aka Anna Chapman), whose “flame-coloured hair” captivated Western tabloids in 2010 after she was exposed as a Russian sleeper agent in the US and sent home. Life after spying has been a lucrative whirl of “fashion shows, television and business opportunities”: she worked in Moscow as a catwalk model, and now hosts the aptly-named TV show Secrets of the World. The Cambridge Five didn’t enjoy quite the same “life of glamour” in the drab Soviet Union. Kim Philby wrote of his “boredom and homesickness”, saying he particularly missed cricket, Harrods, and Fortnum & Mason”.


Cities may seem random, says Tristan Gooley in The Sunday Times, but “there is a reason everything is where it is”. Expensive shops tend to be on the sunny side of the street, because people like walking in the sun so the rents are higher. Cafés do well in east-facing premises, as they catch the early rays; “bars do better” in west-facing spots. Mews houses are converted stables where horse-drawn carriages once stayed, “which means you’re probably near a road that leads in and out of town”. If you want to buy flowers, look for a hospital – there’ll be a nearby florist to cater for people visiting patients. And the west of a city tends to be more salubrious than the east, because most of our winds blow from the southwest – carrying pollution across town. “There’s a reason the soap opera isn’t called WestEnders.


The country apartment

This 4,500 sq ft property is set in the Grade II listed Redlynch House on the outskirts of Bruton, Somerset. Recently featured in Architectural Digest, the four-bedroom flat has marble countertops in the kitchen, an antique French château bathtub in the principal bathroom, and access to a heated swimming pool, tennis court and 25 acres of grounds. Castle Cary station is a 15-minute drive, with trains to London Paddington in 1hr 20mins. £1.85m.

The townhouse

This elegant, Grade II listed house is at the end of a Georgian terrace in Ramsgate, Kent. Spread across three floors (and a cellar), it has four bedrooms, a sun-drenched living room and a kitchen-diner that leads out into a courtyard garden. Ramsgate train station, which has 75-minute services to London, is a 15-minute walk away, while the beach can be reached in 10 minutes. £590,000.



Quoted Murray 19.8.23

“Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you’re donating blood.”

Bill Murray