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5-6 August


How Ian Fleming fooled the Nazis

The Allies’ 1943 deception campaign known as Operation Mincemeat was a “bonkers” idea “borrowed from the pages of a cheap thriller”, says Dan Snow on History Hit. The aim was to deceive the Germans about where Allied forces might land in Italy, and the idea came from Ian Fleming – then a lieutenant commander, later the author of the Bond novels – who stole it from a 1930s paperback. Fleming proposed dressing up a corpse as a British airman, stuffing his pockets with misleading intelligence, and then making sure the enemy found him. Charles Cholmondeley, an MI5 operative, was tasked with putting the plan into action.


quoted Mead 5.8.23

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead


quoted Trollope 5.8.23

“Success is the necessary misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it comes early.”

Anthony Trollope

Quirk of history

If you were a female beachgoer in Victorian times, says Messy Nessy, a trip to the seaside would likely have had “all the fun sucked out of it” by an invention known as the bathing machine. Under the strict social etiquette rules of the time, it wasn’t considered proper for women to frolic in and out of the water wearing just a swimsuit. The answer was a wooden hut on wheels, which would pick women up, fully clothed, from the shoreline and cart them out into the water. Once deep enough, the bather could change into her suit and slip out of the cart via an exit facing away from the “prying eyes” on the beach. For inexperienced swimmers, some bathing machines came with a “dipper”: a strong female swimmer who would essentially push women into the water “and yank them out when they were done”. 🌊👙

Gone viral

TikTok has a new group of rising stars, says Elizabeth McCafferty in The Cut: men, often topless, “trying hard (maybe too hard) to whet your appetite and seduce your stomach”. They post videos of themselves preparing food, interspersed with shots of their “bare, muscly arms hornily kneading and slapping dough”, their mouths “tonguing some dripping piece of fruit”, and their eyes gazing longingly into the camera. Gianluca Conte rustles up pasta dishes while pulling out parsley from his trousers and “cracking eggs with his mouth”. Cedrik Lorenzen puts together “decadent, expensive-looking” fare before “running his tongue over the finished plate”. One sensual chef says the videos can take up to 10 hours to film and edit. “It’s like a hot and sweaty battlefield in the kitchen,” he adds. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”


Mental Floss has compiled a list of the 10 most unusual castles around the world. They include Kelburn in Scotland, a highland fortress that has been covered in cartoon-style graffiti; the Swallow’s Nest in Crimea, which stands proud on a rocky outcrop over the Black Sea; and the white marble Taj Lake Palace, which appears to float magically on Lake Pichola in India. Perhaps the most bizarre of all is Burj al Babas in Turkey: the abandoned luxury housing development is an eerie ghost town of fairytale turrets and Disney dream homes. See the full list here.


The cottage

This Grade II listed thatched cottage is on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The three-bedroom home has been updated to suit modern family life, but still has plenty of traditional features, including a decorative fireplace and exposed beams. Cheltenham Spa station, with direct trains to London in two hours, is just over a mile away. £400,000.

The townhouse

This detached Victorian house near Lewisham, southeast London, is just a few steps from Hilly Fields Park. Designed by Gruff Architects, its 4,000 sq ft interior includes six bedrooms, a cinema room, and a stunning kitchen with a large marble island. There’s also a gym and steam room, multiple fireplaces, and bi-fold doors that open on to a private terrace and lawn. St John’s station, which is a short walk, has direct trains to London Bridge in nine minutes. £3.25m.