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The Birth of the RAF 1918 by Richard Overy

The Oldie

Against the backdrop of extraordinary technological changes and the First World War, Overy looks at the institution building and controversy surrounding the nascent RAF. Though the popular perception of the fighter ace is not acknowledged, the book reveals some fascinating nuggets of history.

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Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris 1940-50 by Agnes Poirier

The Oldie

Left Bank explores the intellectual life of Paris between in the Forties. Particularly interesting is the examination of the survival of Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir among others during the Nazi occupation.

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Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford by Barbara Cooke

The Oldie

Of the five major English writers born between 1900 and 1910 who went to Oxford – Connolly, Powell, Green, Quennell and Evelyn Waugh – only Waugh writes fondly of it. Brideshead Revisited’s view of Oxford is tinted by a yearning for youth, which renders Cooke’s book an interesting study of memory.

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Meghan: Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton

The Oldie

Andrew Morton’s recent biography of Wallis Simpson was followed by an updated version of his book about Meghan Markle. Though a fascinating insight into the life of the – now – Duchess of Sussex, it has been called by some an exercise in ‘uplifting fiction’.

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After the Party By Cressida Connolly

The Oldie

In the summer of 1938 Phyllis Foster returns to England from many years on the Continent. Coming back to a privileged life, she makes seemingly innocent friends and falls in with an idealistic and ideological crowd – Mosley’s crowd. A fascinating study of the all-to dark part of British history.

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Dictator Literature: A History of Despots Through Their Writing by Daniel Kalder

The Oldie

While the writings of Gaddafi, Mao and Hitler are not in the least bit funny, Kalder manages to mock them all the way through this book. A book without which, we would likely not know which dictator stressed the importance of washing one’s derriere – after nature’s call – with water not paper.

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Break a Leg!

The Oldie

Gyles Brandreth is back for another of his splendid shows, at the Pleasance Theatre during this year’s Edinburgh Festival. His performance, ever awash with wit and wonder, will be a one-hour show about the theatre, with a hint of tasteful namedropping thrown in for good measure.1st-26th August.

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The Lives of the Surrealists by Desmond Morris

The Oldie

Morris’s new book, rather than looking at surrealism as such, examines the lives of 35 of the most influential surrealists: their personalities, their tastes and, interestingly, the extent to which they were surrealists – whether they lived as surrealists or were only such on canvas.

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Prefabs: A Social and Architectural History by Elisabeth Blanchet and Sonia Zhuravlyova

The Oldie

Prefabs have been around since the end of the Second World War. They were considered a temporary solution for those who had lost their homes in the Blitz. Housing policy is certainly of the moment, and this book provides an insight into it, but also newer solutions to the housing crisis.

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France: A Short History from Gaul to de Gaulle by John Julius Norwich

The Oldie

The late John Julius Norwich’s final book covers the history of France. The subject is well delivered – not too heavy and pleasantly readable. It does make an effort to solve the age-old problem – a lack of knowledge of the history of Britain’s arch-rival.

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A Short History of Drunkenness by Mark Forsyth

The Oldie

Forsyth looks at our relationship with the demon drink – from America to China and from prehistory through to the present day. A principal focus is the cultural impact of booze: from the ritual drinking of Egyptian religious devotees to the importance of being able to hold one’s drink.

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Shouting in the Street: Adventures and Misadventures of a Fleet Street Survivor by Donald Trelford

The Oldie

The book examines Trelford’s record on Fleet Street: his survival of coups from underlings such as Tony Howard and the Observer’s owner – Tiny Rowland. But it is also a book of fascinating anecdotes. For instance, when Trelford had to share a tent with a Libyan dictator suffering from indigestion.

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The Mural of Doom, Church of St Peter and St Paul

The Oldie

The mural depicts the Last Judgement. Naked figures make their way out of hell, through purgatory, into Christ’s embrace. Flame-licked cauldrons are guarded by demons and threaten appalling torment to wrongdoers. A terrifying portrayal of hell, giving an look into the realities of medieval worship.

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Languedoc Rousillon: The Wines and Winemakers by Paul Strang

The Oldie

This new edition features up-to-date profiles of nearly 700 winemakers in this region of France, whose wineries are rarely as slick and well-organised as their counterparts in Bordeaux and Champagne. With contact details, you will always catch an owner.

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Parmesan Cheese Ice Cream

The Oldie

A festive favourite, found on many a grand Victorian dinner table, it is a sweet and savoury treat that is deliciously rich. The best place to find the recipe is Caroline and Robin Weir’s Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati.

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Paddington 2

The Oldie

This film is pretty close to cinematic perfection. Michael Bond’s bear is brought to life by Ben Whishaw and beautifully animated by hundreds of compositors and artists. The cast is excellent, particularly Hugh Grant’s fantastic villain. That said, the lack of mobile phones is somewhat bizarre.

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Murder on The Orient Express

The Oldie

It might seem odd to go and see a film of a story that you have seen so many times but it is actually rather good. We know the story, but the process of Poirot’s journey is brilliantly executed. That said Branagh’s moustache is a little silly.

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Britain’s Hundred Best Railway Stations By Simon Jenkins

The Oldie

Railway termini are to the 19th century, what monasteries and cathedrals were to the 13th, to quote the Building News of 1875. Jenkins’s book explores the battle of the styles from the Gothic of St Pancras to the totally French station in Slough. Stock images abound but beautiful they remain.

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Italy: Como – Villa del Balbianello

The Oldie

Villa del Balbianello is excellently positioned, beside Lake Como. It was once the home of the late businessman and explorer Count Guido Monzino. It houses a library dedicated entirely to mountaineering, hidden passageways designed to allow the Count to escape kidnapping, and an array of motorboats.

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The Diary of Two Nobodies by Giles Wood and Mary Killen

The Oldie

The Diary of Two Nobodies is the story of The Oldie’s very own Country Mouse, Giles Wood, and Mary Killen and their Gogglebox fame. It looks at their married life, Giles’ unadulterated loathing of prime-time Saturday television, and the drawbacks of late-onset fame.

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On Christmas by Gyles Brandreth

The Oldie

Gyles Brandreth’s seasonal anthology of Christmas anecdotes from some of the world’s finest writers. Dostoevsky, Truman Capote, AA Milne, PG Wodehouse and many others share their thoughts on Christmas. Full of joy, wit and delight.

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Blue Planet II

The Oldie

Following the roaring success of Planet Earth II, David Attenborough and his brilliant team have created yet another look at our planet’s seas and the extraordinary flora and fauna that lies within them. Be you expert or amateur, it is beautiful to watch.

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Who Killed the Circus?

The Oldie

In this documentary Oldie contributor Dea Birkett – a former circus artiste herself – interviews the performers preparing for the last performance of the world-famous Barnum & Bailey circus. An intriguing insight into the lives of those who performed in what was once the greatest show on earth.

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Razzouk Ink, Jerusalem

The Oldie

Claimed to be the oldest tattoo shop in the world, it has decorated Christians and pilgrims visiting the holy sites since 1300. You might not want a tattoo, but visit this shop for a fascinating insight into an age-old tradition.

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Italy: Campania: Atrani

The Oldie

Atrani is one of many towns on the Amalfi’s legendary coast, but for Laura Gascoigne it is the most beautiful. The commune of Atrani boasts just under a thousand occupants, and its quiet life is completely unpretentious. The food is exquisite to boot, particularly the caponatine of local veggies.

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