After a turbulent start to the year, welcome to what I hope may be a calmer February.
The changes haven’t all been alarming though. First off, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve now signed my second book deal with John Murray, the publishers that brought ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ to vivid life. This time I’ll be telling stories about fabrics both ancient and as yet unrealised. Those who follow me on Instagram will know that I’m currently researching spiders and spider silk; I spent a fascinating morning 10 days ago talking to the wonderful staff at London Zoo about some of their eight-legged charges.
Another project I’m working on has also taken a leap forwards. Always Take Notes, a series of live events and podcast that I am hosting with Simon Akam, now has a shiny new website. We’ve recorded three episodes, which are being edited down by our wonderful producers, Olivia Crellin and Ed Kiernan, and will be released in the next month. Our next live Q&A will be with Stig Abell, the editor of the TLS and former managing editor of The Sun. Future guests include the historian Peter Frankopan and Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors.
Below, as ever, are a selection of things that caught my eye this month and some of the pieces that I’ve worked on. Enjoy.
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Decoding the mediocre aesthetics of the Trump presidency
In these think-positive-or-anything-negative-that-happens-is-really-your-fault times we are not supposed to have regrets. Even so I’d be willing to bet most people have a memory of an incident or decision they’d quite like a second run at. This short film, by Canadian director Trevor Anderson, revisits the time he was given a sparkly red dress to wear in a photograph with his father, but didn’t dare put it on
Fifty-two places to visit this year, as recommended by the New York Times
6.2m years ago otters the size of leopards romped through China
G.F. Smith, makers of the world’s most colourful paper, have created a website to try and discover the world’s favourite colour. (Traditionally blue has won by a landslide; when I last visited it looked as if green might be edging a shock victory.)
A true tale of a 1970s Soviet spy and his stormy relationship with his fake mother
How taking micro-doses of LSD saved this novelist’s marriage. And, for Aeon, Cody Delistraty argues that we use and create drugs that suit the peculiar needs of our time
The empowering new use Amit Patel, a blind British man, found for his GoPro
I spoke to Monocle about the significance of kit colours
The majority of fruit-bat communication is tetchy. When scientists analysed the noises made by 22 Egyptian fruit bats over 80 days and ran it through voice-recognition software, they found they could group 60% of the bats’ calls into four categories. All four boiled down to bickering, whether over unwanted sexual advances; food; another bat sitting too close; or positions in the sleeping huddle
For the March issue of Homes & Antiques, out today, I wrote a visual history of the colour purple
Netflix now have a global audience of 94m; their success stems in part from their willingness to take risks on high quality original content
An illuminating, sensitive profile of two people over the year after drastic bariatric surgery
Success might come from forgetting about “priorities” to focus on a “priority” instead. At least that’s the advice Steve Jobs gave to Nike
The scandalous 19th-century countess who became her own muse
MI6′s “Q” is actually a woman