May 9 marks the anniversary of what many have regarded to be the first motor trade show; but was it really the first motorcar show, wonders Martin Fone?

We take the motor car so much for granted that it is hard to imagine at this distance how transformational and liberating a form of transport it would have seemed in the last decade of the 19th century.

It offered the very real prospect, albeit for those who could afford it, the opportunity to travel where they wanted, at speed, and without the constraints imposed by the stamina of a horse or…


Scientists only discovered the humble pollinator’s secret in 2005, says Martin Fone.

A spell of late-winter sunshine encouraged several bumblebees to explore the delights of the flowering heathers and crocuses in our borders.

More disconcertingly, one of their number took such a liking to a garden chair that it lay there for twenty-four hours, quivering, but showing little inclination to buzz off.

My own Babbity Bumble had allowed its body temperature to drop below the critical tipping point of thirty degrees centigrade needed to allow its flight muscles to operate.

To regain the requisite body temperature, it disengages muscles in…


Martin Fone discovers nothing is quite as it seems in the world of Jaffa Cakes — including whether they are a biscuit or a cake or whether chocolate sits at the top.

In these grim and unsettling times, a temptation few of us can resist is to seek comfort in a warming beverage and a few biscuits. It is remarkable how often such a simple pleasure can put a smile back on our face.

According to a report in Grocer magazine last October, biscuit sales in the United Kingdom had increased by £160.8m over the last twelve months, a year-on-year…


The tax-year calendar is not as arbitrary as it seems, with a history that dates back to the ancient Roman and is connected to major calendar reforms across Europe.

As with Oscar Wilde, many a sagacious or witty aphorism is wrongly attributed to Benjamin Franklin. In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789, he speculated on the longevity of the new American constitution, a concern that recent events may have shown was well-founded, by noting that ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’.

True as that may be, he was not the…


Martin Fone dives into the world of pongy fruits and discovers why durian could be at the charging end of your mobile’s battery.

Looking like a cross between a pineapple and a cantaloupe, with a prickly outer skin that demands careful handling, the durian is highly prized as a delicacy in its native Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

There are thirty recognised species of the genus Durio and the tall evergreen trees regularly top one hundred feet. Fruiting once or twice a year, they take three months after pollination to produce a ripe fruit. …


Martin Fone investigates the behaviour of dogs as they grow up and reminds prospective owners that a dog is a lifetime commitment.

A successful advertising slogan must be catchy, convey its message succinctly and insert itself into the public’s consciousness like an insidious earworm. Crack that and, rather like De Beer’s ‘A diamond is forever’, first coined as far back as 1948, it can stand the test of time. One that has firmly lodged itself into the British public’s psyche was created by Clarissa Baldwin in late 1978 in response to a very specific problem.

The National Canine Defence League…


As the UK prepares to compile this decade’s census, Martin Fone retraces its history.

On Sunday, March 21st, all residents in England and Wales will be legally obliged, under the amended Census Act of 1920, to complete a census form for the Office for National Statistics or face a fine of up to £1,000. Northern Ireland will hold its own census at the same time, but the Scots have deferred theirs until 2022. A decennial event, it provides an invaluable snapshot of the nation on that day and a treasure trove for future generations of social historians and genealogists.

The…


Martin Fone investigates the scientists so intrigued by cloud formations that they decided to sort them out into different types.

As a child, I was fascinated by cloud formations and often spent my time gazing into the far distance, imagining that I could see the shape of an animal or a face in one of the clouds.

In later life, I regarded the habit as a harmless form of pareidolia, perhaps even a sign of some latent streak of creativity within me, as some neuroscientists seem to think.

I was gratified to find that I shared this quirk with Shakespeare’s…


If you thought it was Edward Jenner, think again: Martin Fone discovers that the practice of inoculating against the smallpox disease has much older origins than you’d have believed possible.

It was not the Valentine’s Day treat we really had in mind, but my wife and I were more than happy to visit the local vaccination centre — appropriately sited at the former venue of the BDO World Darts Championship — to receive the first of our two Covid-19 injections. The sense of hope it brought gave me a metaphorical shot in the arm.

When I listen to the debates…

Martin Fone

Martin is a blogger and writer. His blog can be found at https://windowthroughtime.wordpress.com and his website at https://martinfone.wordpress.com

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