Beauty Queen: What perfume did Cleopatra dab behind her ears to

The combined efforts of Liz Taylor and the British Museum have done a good job of familiarising us with Cleopatra's make-up techniques, namely kohl and more kohl; and we've all heard that she softened her skin by bathing in asses' milk. One element of her ancient beauty routine is missing, however. What perfume did she dab behind her ears to impress Mark Antony and Caesar?

My secret life: Ed Byrne, comedian, 36

Born in Dublin in April 1972, Ed Byrne is a Perrier Award-nominated stand-up comedian. Following six sell-out shows at this summer's Edinburgh Festival, Byrne is currently on his fourth national tour. He lives on the Hertfordshire/Essex border with his wife, Claire. He will be appearing tonight at the Corn Exchange, Brighton. For more tour details, visit

Twingo Renault Sport 133 Cup

"I've got boobs, you know." Thus spake my front seat passenger as the Twingo crested another speedbump. She – I should make clear that it was a she, perhaps – made me only too conscious of the extreme effect that the "Cup" (no pun intended) chassis, as fitted to the sporty version of the Twingo, can have on even a well-supported bust. This is important. Somewhere along the line the manufacturers, or most of them, decided that, in order for a car to be taken seriously as a performance machine it had to be endowed with unforgiving, uncomfortable suspension.

Jaguar XF 2.7 litre V6 diesel

Few car-makers have a history as distinguished as that of Jaguar, but for recent custodians of the brand that glorious past has been a burden rather than an asset. Faced with the impossibility of bettering the perfect curves of the Mark 2 and XJ saloons from the 1960s, for example, Jaguar timidly chose, with the fuddy-duddy mid-sized S-Type and compact X-Type, simply to copy them – although not very successfully, as the underlying proportions of the donor cars provided by Jaguar's then parent company, Ford, didn't conform to the "long, low and wide" look traditionally associated with Jags.

My secret life: Nina Wadia, actress, 39

The home I grew up in... was a one-bedroom, ground-floor space that regularly flooded during the monsoon season in Mumbai. My brother, sister and I squeezed together on the bed and my mum and dad slept on a mattress on the floor. Aged nine, we moved to a two-bedroom flat in Hong Kong. It was like moving to a mansion.

How do I look?: Tawiah, singer, 21

My clothes are a reflection of me. If I'm feeling down, I'll be wearing black from head to toe. If I'm up, I'll be donning all the colours under the sun. There are people whose style I admire, but I pretty much do my own thing. If I see something and love how it looks on me, I'll just run it. I love granddad style. Those boys look gangsta in their little outfits.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: Hymns to the joyful

Ever come across fifty-quid bloke? A phenomenon of the baby-boom generation, he's not uncommon. You may have one for your dad or have the dubious pleasure of being married to one. Fifty-quid bloke is a middle-aged music fan who hasn't got to grips with downloading and therefore drops £50 or thereabouts on CDs whenever he enters a big record shop. Since I can't stand big record shops, I have fifty-quid bloke moments on Amazon. My most recent splurge was prompted by a long article in The New Yorker about American folk music. Near the start, it mentioned that an Atlanta record producer called Lance Ledbetter had issued "what many consider the greatest gospel compilation ever made: a six-CD set called Goodbye, Babylon". Not being a great gospel fan, this did not lure me.

Will Self: Frozen music

PsychoGeography: If Brutalism is heavy metal, then what of postmodernism? Can it be equated with drum’n’bass?

My Secret Life: Andrea Riseborough, Actress, age 27

The home I grew up in... was the house that dad built. He was not, in fact, Jack, but George. There was no one else living on the street when we bought our cheap plot of land; everything grew around us.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: Something fishy

The whiff of the kipper is perhaps the most alluring of culinary aromas. In an extreme example of this fragrant potency, some particularly fine kippers recently attracted me from a distance of 40 miles. I was irresistibly drawn to Whitby from our base further down the North Yorkshire coast. Packing cool box plus Mrs W and two friends from London into the Weaselmobile, we tooled along the meandering road from Scarborough through moors made psychedelic with flowering heather. Since it was a sunny Saturday, Whitby was packed to the gunwales. Wedged like grouting into a V-shaped cleft carved by the River Esk, the town has little space to accommodate the hordes drawn by its kippers and its other assets.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: The ghost writer

The most evocative writer's home in the UK is owned by the city of Paris. "No house ever said so much about its owner," declares Graham Robb in his masterly biography of Victor Hugo. "Hauteville House gives one the distinct impression of being swallowed alive by Hugo." During our recent visit to Guernsey, Mrs W and I puffed up the steep street in St Peter Port to the four-storey dwelling of this titan of letters for 14 years from 1855. After we rang on the bell, a doorkeeper brusquely inquired, "French or English?" When this had been sorted out, we had to give our names and were told to present ourselves half an hour later for a tour in English. It was all a bit bureaucratic considering the former owner's disdain for authority. During the wait, we explored the garden, which, like the house itself, is immaculately maintained by its Parisian curators.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: Channel hopping

We have just spent a week lolling on beaches, disturbing the innocent rest of periwinkles in rock pools, relishing the eggy pong of ageing seaweed and eating unfeasible quantities of crustaceans. Nothing so unusual about that, since the Weasel household normally passes August on the Yorkshire Riviera. Except we weren't. Our littoral rambles took place on a nibbled triangle of granite 75 miles from Weymouthand 40 miles from Cherbourg. It may seem strange to take a holiday from a holiday, but I was summoned to Guernsey to act as witness at the wedding of dear friends. After my onerous matrimonial duties ("Can you ensure that no confetti is thrown? Rose petals and rice, yes! Confetti, no!") and droll speechifying ("Act in haste, repent at leisure"), we tacked on a few days to explore an island that, according to Perry's Guide to Guernsey, "was voted in one international survey 'the happiest place in the world'."

My Secret Life: Emilia Fox, Actress, age 34

The house I grew up in... was my parents' holiday home in Dorset. I remember it for happy summers in the garden and surrounding fields, and for rock-pooling at the beach. It was quintessentially English.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: Currant affairs

Putting weather on one side, it's the little things you miss when you switch from taking les grandes vacances in Charente-Maritime to having your hols in Filey, North Yorks. By little things, I mean, of course, comestibles. Over the decade that we've been coming to the Yorkshire coast, it has become increasingly possible to persuade one's palate that it is on the Ile de Ré. The sourdough bread from Driffield farmers' market could not be matched at most boulangeries and the same goes for the butter croissants from our village Co-op. It is even possible to get rillettes de porc from the Ginger Pig butchers in Pickering, though the French would find both price and texture on the stiff side. But certain items remain elusive.

My Secret Life: Sadie Jones, Novelist, age 40

The house I grew up in... was a small house in World's End [in Chelsea, London], with black and white tiled front steps and a dark green living room where my parents played Al Green and Buddy Holly. It always smelled of Gitanes.

Christopher Hirst The Weasel: High spirits

A couple of Saturdays ago in the paper that enfolds this magazine, you might have seen this intriguing Thought of the Day: "A man shouldn't fool with booze until he's 50; then he's a damn fool if he doesn't – William Faulkner, American author (1897-1962)." Admirably lacking in the sanctimony and Pecksniffery that tends to afflict similar maxims when they appear in other newspapers, this tribute to the life-enhancing qualities of grog produced a cheer in Weasel Villas. It would have been hypocritical, not to mention out of character, had any tutting emerged from my lips. It was not so long ago that I contributed a column entitled "101 Cocktails that Shook the World" that ran in this magazine.