Off Piste

Nicolas Gompel explains how his pet obsession has inspired his investigations into biological diversity

17 October

To many in the West, Central Asia is a bewildering array of indistinguishable nations. But if you take the time to get to know them, argues David Mould, the ‘stans’ are fascinating individuals

3 January

A childhood spent near the coast sparked Frances Ashcroft’s lifelong passion for biology. It also meant she caught the sailing bug early on, and she has been captivated - and frequently capsized - ever since

1 November

A young Nick Hillman chose Manchester less for the university’s eminent historians than for the city’s glorious music scene - and despite the latter’s loathing for his Conservative heroine

27 September

With cycling enjoying huge popularity after the successes of Bradley Wiggins and other Olympians, Thomas Docherty explores how the pain, endurance and concentration demanded by the sport’s premier event, the Tour de France, find parallels in academic life

23 August

Can useful parallels be drawn between apiculture and running a university? Ruth Farwell does both and isn’t sure, but one thing’s for certain: in both pursuits, losing your cool can sting

26 July

Scholarly links introduced R.C. Richardson to the Republic of Korea. His sole regret, in an ensuing 30-year love affair with its land, culture and people, is that so few of his fellow Britons choose it as a travel destination

21 June

The ebb and flow of time has served only to deepen Ray Dolan’s passion for Van Morrison’s restless musical journey into the mystic

24 May

Valerie Sanders has overcome her fear of water - as long as it's the indoor, chlorinated variety - to discover a love of swimming that brings out the worst and the best in her

26 April

Circling hilltop castles and seeking out thermals, occasionally shadowed by a sociable buzzard - Paul Nurse attests to the joys of taking to the skies on the slenderest of wings

29 September

When an anthropologist and her partner were arrested on the eve of the royal wedding for planning an anti-monarchy mock execution, the incident ended up on YouTube - and the footage revealed concern over who would feed Flopsy, their pet rabbit. Here, Camilla Power explains that our long-eared friends are not just cuddly, they're cat-taming, fox-outwitting, police-baiting natural born rebels, too

8 September

A Dance to the Music of Time offers profound insights into life's contingencies and the nature of Englishness in the 20th century, writes Vernon Bogdanor

9 June

Martin Cohen, a long-term resident of Normandy, presents a gourmet repast of his 11 favourite myths about the French, from barefaced fibs to insouciant self-deception and charming vérité

12 May

Stuart Anderson, whose love of ships launched early and never foundered, still delights in combining work travel with visits to historic vessels globally

10 February

Peter Hill recalls his time as a lighthouse keeper, a profession since snuffed out by technology. He misses the arduous hours, grand meals, avian migrants and tall tales in the coal fire's glow

13 January

After four decades of listening to, reading about and reflecting on classical music, Roger Brown points the way to fine-tuning true appreciation

9 December

Robin Dunbar has to confess he never learned to play an instrument. But that doesn't stop him believing that music should be at the heart of education

11 November

For years, Valmagne in the South of France is the place Bernard Ramanantsoa has escaped to for light, freedom and a reminder of Christian morality

14 October

Taking a leaf out of the River Cottage cookbook and fermenting it, Chris Jones lauds the foraging lifestyle and encourages his own 'Generation Roadkill' to reconsider their place in the food chain

19 August

The British landscape and representations of it in art give rise to a happy patriotic glow in many people. Fred Inglis shares that fervour

22 July

Gallifrey's most famous son offers enjoyment to millions, his intelligent and compassionate approach to crises is a welcome relief in a violent, cynical world. David Sheff takes a trip on board the Tardis. Destination? Anywhere...

8 July

If you are a connoisseur of fortified wines, you are likely to be over 50. Enthusiast Aldwyn Cooper has enjoyed expanding his knowledge of the finest wines and can't understand why the young haven't cottoned on

24 June

Rick Rylance finds the enquiring attentiveness to what one might discover while diving is similar to the process of conducting research - without the corresponding need to write about it

10 June

Michael Bérubé on the life lessons to be found in uncompetitive sport - and a fiercely competitive son with Down's syndrome

27 May

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? David J. Gunkel mourns the betrayal of his Cold War boyhood's dreams of jetpacks, lunar adventure and the futuristic allure of the metric system

29 April

...or, why cars have speedometers. 'Persistent violator' Lou Marinoff on nirvana in the fast lane, governmental highway robbery and the dazzlingly effective absent-minded-professor defence

1 April