The Saturday Miscellany: How to max out a city break; Oscars applause; Henry Dimbleby's fridge; Ides of March

  • @benross01

How to: Max out a city break

By Ben Ross

You've squeezed on to the no-frills flight, endured the hour-long transfer and checked into your surprisingly characterful boutique hotel. Now what?

Get up early. Sure, you're here to have fun and recharge your batteries, but all the cultural stuff you promised your mum you'd do is best ticked off well before 11am, when the selfie-taking tourist hordes will arrive, complete with umbrellas.

Never, ever, eat on the main square. The goulash may look attractive on that laminated menu, but it'll be twice as tasty a couple of side-streets away – and half the price.

Look up from your guidebook occasionally. Forming your own opinions and making the odd mistake is part of what travel is about. (Cue hilarious anecdote about how you got lost for three hours on the public transport system.)

Ben Ross is Travel Editor of The Independent

Rotating column: Applause by Pavlov

By Jane Campbell

That Matthew McConaughey won the Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club came as no surprise.

When has a nominee whose role includes a scene in which he is roundly applauded ever lost out*? Think of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, Colin Firth in The King's Speech – all beneficiaries of this insidious cinematic trope.

Therein, all those on screen rise up to clap the courage/bravery/ resilience of the main character, plucky surmounter of long odds. Where the cynical film-goer sees lazy storytelling and shameless manipulation, the Academy sees a man in need of a gold statuette.

There's little hope of this disappearing. The best we can hope for is an expanded ratings system: WARNING contains nudity, drug references and internal applause.

"A brain surgeon's life is never boring and can be profoundly rewarding but it comes at a price. You will inevitably make mistakes and you must learn to live with the occasionally awful consequences. You must learn to be objective about what you see."

From 'Do No harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery' by Henry Marsh (£16.99, Orion)

Instant Ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. I've moved to a crap town, can I lie to my friends about how good it is, so they join me?

A. Yes. Don't you know Rome wasn't built in a day? Romulus and Remus had to tell loads of lies about the good schools in the River Tiber catchment area. This is the noble lie upon which great civilisations are built.


Four play: Unwary on the Ides of March*

1. Julius Caesar

2. Joseph Bazalgette, Engineer

3. HP Lovecraft, author

4. Bud Freeman, musician

*those who met their end on 15 march