Jake Wallis Simons is a features and comment writer for the Telegraph. He has also written three novels and broadcasts for BBC Radio 4More >
"Meet the Settlers: A journey through the West Bank". An award winning multimedia feature by JWSMore >
Jake's fourth novel, "Jam", which is entirely set in a traffic jam on the M25, is coming out in spring 2014More >
BBC Radio 4
Jake is a regular contributor to From Our Own Correspondent and presents Radio 4 documentariesMore >
Jake's cartoons have appeared in the Times, Telegraph and elsewhereMore >
It is a universal truth that there are certain things that are best in white. Such as bridal dresses. Or fridges. Or swans. Especially if you’re Natalie Portman. Or snow. Which, let’s face it, loses much of its glamour when it is, say, yellow.
But on the other hand, there are some things for which white is disastrous.
For men, mobile phones come into this category. Never trust a man with a white phone, that’s what I say. All the more so if it was produced by Apple.
Also included are limousines; if you really must, at least have the decency to make it black. And teeth. Particularly if your skin happens to be orange. Which, if you are considering a teeth-whitening procedure, is likely.
After seeing coverage of the Oscars this week, to this latter group I would add the dinner jacket. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
No village fête or local football match was complete without St John Ambulance volunteers in their smart black uniforms, who did as much to bind communities together as they did to dress their wounds.
Now the charity is being dragged away from its localised, volunteer-based roots, and towards a more corporate future — and many volunteers are upset.
The traditional bottom-up ethos, with each county in charge of its own affairs, has been scrapped; old divisions have been amalgamated into eight centralised offices, each headed by a professional managers on £80,000-a-year salaries.
Regional assets, paid for originally by local fundraising, have been sold off, and the money channelled to central office. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Begg – who won compensation from the British taxpayer after suing the Government – was held on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp, and facilitating terror overseas.
Begg is a longtime associate of Amnesty International. As the founder ofCAGE, a charity that seeks to raise awareness of the plight of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, he has campaigned on a joint platform with Amnesty International and has spoken at its events.
Amnesty also sponsored his lecture tours of Europe.
An Amnesty representative told me that in spite of Begg’s arrest, the charity stands by him. He added that Amnesty may not relinquish its links with Begg even if he was convicted of terrorism offences. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
But since being cast in a Frankenstein remake, he has been forced to have long hair. And now, whenever he pops up on television or in the news pages, his ridiculous Dougal-from-Magic-Roundabout locks tenting his boyish face, blushing and scrambling for witty remarks to diffuse the tension, one cannot help but feel a frisson of pity. And – dare I say it – schadenfreude.
“I do have a whole new sympathy for women,” he said recently, desperately trying to find some dignity in the situation, before adding: “I wouldn’t be growing my hair this long in my own time.” Then he turned, ruffled his hazelnut tresses, and crooned, “because I’m worth it”.
OK, so he didn’t do that last bit. Ha ha ha. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Of all the urban myths, the notion that a baby will become more intelligent if it is exposed to Mozart is one of the most persistent. This vampire myth – so called because it refuses to die – largely derives from a misinterpretation of a 1993 study, and has been generally discredited.
But an extensive body of evidence, drawn together for the first time in a new book, suggests that if a child is actively involved in music-making for as little as 30 minutes to an hour a week (as opposed to being passively exposed to it), their intelligence, wellbeing and academic performance can be enhanced.
Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay, 30, Finnish author of The Music Miracle, believes that she has found the key to enhancing a child’s development. “In Finland, most children go to a music playschool until the age of seven,” she says. “They teach the children music in a very child-centred way. The benefits of this are so amazing that when I moved to Britain, I wanted to bring them to British children.”
According to the PISA international league tables, Finnish children are 14 places above Britain in maths, sixth in the world in reading, and fifth in science. The country has become something of a cause celebre among educational experts, who have long searched for the secret of this success.
Henriksson-Macaulay’s six-year-old son, Toivo, has been having piano lessons since he was four. She also has music sessions with him for half-an-hour a week, and for Christmas she gave him a drum kit. “He is exposed to music of all different types,” she says.
In her book, she concludes that musical practice can produce nothing short of a “a full-scale brain upgrade”. She has also developed a system of music tuition called Moosicology, which is intended to be used by parents to maximise the benefits to their child’s development.
According to a collation of peer-reviewed studies quoted in the book, benefits of early engagement with music include improved performance in mathematics and languages; higher levels of IQ; better emotional fluency; greater self-esteem; a more powerful memory; and physical health and fitness.
Such elaborate claims might sound far-fetched, especially as they are made by a non-scientist. But the book has been verified by a number of leading academics at the Institute of Education and elsewhere. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Ooo, but it was quite delicious. Well, in a Roald Dahl sort of way. Lots of things that slithered, things that wriggled, things that went squazzle and squidge. Things that sucked blood, things that ate tongues, things that wormed their way into the eyes of snails and puffed them up to look like maggots so that they would be eaten by the birds, thus enabling the parasite to infiltrate a bigger host…
I speak, of course, of Infested: Living with Parasites (BBC Four), the scrumdiddlyumptious documentary in which – as part of BBC Four’s Natural History Season – Dr Michael Mosley deliberately infected himself with some of the most whoppsy-whiffling parasites known to man.
And ooo, but Dr Mosley was a brick. What a presenter! If you’re feeling rather jaded, and sick to the back teeth of confected, squeaky-clean lens candy, get a load of Mosley. He was magnificent. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Henry & Anne: the Lovers Who Changed History (Channel 5), was nothing short of painful.
For a start, could you think of a period of history, or a pair of historical figures, that have been more done to death? No, didn’t think so.
But this was, I suspect, an idea dreamed up by a group of Channel 5 pointy heads who, after charting the recent trend of interest in Tudor England, decided that another programme on the topic would be a shoo-in. These people should be sent to the Tower.
The documentary was only mitigated by the dramatic reconstructions of “Henry” and “Anne” (who was wearing lip gloss), which were so hammy that they gave us a good laugh. The incessant, faux-Tudor music was pretty funny, too, at least for the few minutes before it became suicide-inducing. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Mammismo. That’s what it’s called, apparently. The Italian bond of love between a man and his mother that “chokes romance, inhibits sexdrive, and even has the power to slow the economy”.
On Sunday, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the archbishop of Genoa, warned that the phenomenon is “one of the biggest risks to marriage in the country today”.
And Gian Ettore Gassani, president of Italy’s matrimonial lawyers’ association, claimed that 30 per cent of marital breakdowns were caused by “interfering mothers-in-law”.
“Many women separate because of their mother-in-law and the immature behaviour of their husbands who depend totally on their mothers,” he said.
“They wind up their spouse with lines like ‘Mamma irons better than you, she makes ragu sauce better than you’. This shows an absolute dependence on their mother.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Let’s face it: deep down, men want to be secret agents. Is that too much to ask? The whizzy gadgets. The high speed chases. The pistols with silencers on them. It all just feels so right.
Which, if I’m honest, is the reason that I find myself walking 10 miles on the streets of central London, in the pouring rain, without a mobile phone, wristwatch or wallet, and with only my brolly for company.
But let’s begin at the beginning. There was once an SAS soldier called Eddie McGee, popularly known as “Jungle Eddie”. Before his death in 2002, he had become known as Britain’s foremost expert in survival, evasion and tracking, training the armed forces and working with police to locate notorious criminals.
After his death, the mantle passed to his son Perry, 50, who spent three decades working in specialist police units combatting organised crime and terrorism.
Not only does Perry now train the police and the military in tracking and evasion techniques, but he also runs the National Tracking School, which introduces these skills to civilians. Which led to my one-day crash course in “urban evasion”.
“In the military world, pal, you need these skills if you get separated from your unit behind enemy lines,” says McGee. “We teach you to be very aware of your surroundings at all times, and to use your initiative. Those are skills that are useful for people from all walks of life.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Now not a lot of people know this: Brian Pern, former frontman of the Seventies prog rock outfit Thotch, was the person who invented world music. He was also the first musician to use Plasticine in his videos and record with animals; he has the distinction of creating the song with the lowest bassline ever; and he once wrote a song with the lyric, “why are there no black folk in Jersey”.
Clearly we are in This is Spinal Tap territory here. And while no mockumentary can ever better that 1984 classic, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern (BBC Four) certainly brought no shame upon the genre, and was quite entertaining at times.
To be honest, it would have been outrageous if it hadn’t been good. Among the big names attached to the programme are Matt Lucas,David Baddiel, Roger Taylor, Jools Holland and Michael Kitchen, not to mention The Fast Show ‘s Simon Day and Paul Whitehouse.
As we all know, the mockumentary – like all po-faced comedy – works best when it is just two degrees from reality. Bearing that in mind, some sections of Life of Rock were a touch too hammed-up to be funny, such as when Pern discovered some prehistoric musical notation on on the wall of a cave and had it transcribed and played by Holland, only to discover that it was the theme tune to EastEnders. Nice idea, but there was too much pantomime in the execution. Continue reading on the Telegraph website