Off Piste

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

Austin Williams on the possibilities and limitations of ‘taking a line for a walk’

Chris Hackley on his moment of sporting triumph

Helen Bynum on the rewards, delight and egg-citement of dabbling in duck-keeping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physicist Athene Donald's pleasure in people-watching may owe something to a childhood spent observing birds of all kinds as they soared over city heaths and icy coastal mudflats

Jeremy Black extols the physical - and psychological - benefits of a country stroll

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

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

Helen Fulton is unrepentant about her addiction to Glyndebourne, where high-end opera meets country-house garden to the delight of those of the English bourgeoisie who have secured tickets

Thom Brooks is living the American Dream, not in the US itself but among the Geordies. And unlike Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee, coming to the UK feels like a journey to the future, not the past...

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

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