The Full English is the one meal that England does really well, but what does it say about us? I undertook a road trip around the country exploring the meaning of modern Englishness through the medium of breakfast, from silver service to the Full Muslim in Bradford, for the Sunday Times. Very revealing it was, too.
“He won’t talk to anyone, he never has,” said the manager of British wrestling superstar Kendo Nagasaki when I requested an interview. So I asked if I could get into the ring with him instead. “Are you sure?” The manager was surprised and I was seriously spooked when Kendo turned up in full mask and regalia, with good reason. He took me apart. It still hurts.
The Sistine Chapel Choir was about to release its first album and a British man was among its ranks. That meant the rare chance to be inside the chapel during a concert and gaze up at the famous ceiling, reflecting on what life must be like for the man who had become Pope.
I was so moved to turn on the television and see Panorama telling the story of a little boy who was badly burned by napalm in Iraq many years ago, reunited with his long-lost mother at last, having grown into a man. That boy was the subject of the first piece I ever wrote for a national newspaper, back in 1993.
The new heavyweight champion Tyson Fury is said to be related to a legendary figure called Bartley Gorman who was for decades the bare-knuckle champion of the world. I was at Gorman’s funeral in 2002, a day that lives long in the memory. This is what I wrote at the time.