skip to content skip to search skip to navigation Listen Live skip to logon
Tuesday 1st December 2015
Max 13°C | Min 11°C

The Mystery Hour - Culture

<a class='autolink' href='/james-obrien-3537'>James O'Brien</a>Thursdays 12-1pm

Every week, James O'Brien enlists the help of LBC listeners to solve the questions you've always wondered the answer to.

It's all about shared human knowledge. Call up with a question and then another listener around the country will know the answer.

But we're strict - no reptition and no dullness (so leave the motoring questions out!). If it's something that most of the audience would say "yes, I've wondered about that", then we want to hear from you.

Browse the archive by subject:
Animals & Nature Culture Human Body Science & Technology
Sport & Games Words Random  


 St Pauls Cathedral thumb 2011

How much do vicars get paid?

Does it depend on the size of the church? Is there a sliding scale? There are a lot of anti-social hours.


 william kate kiss

Can anyone attend a celebrity's wedding?


In churches anyone can attend so if they have an objection they can raise it. How does this work for celebrities and royals?

kew bridge

What are the bulletholes on Kew Bridge?

On the side of Kew Bridge, I noticed what appeared to be a row of about 12 bulletholes. What are they?

If you commit a crime in space, would you get arrested?

Can you commit an offence in space? If you do, who would prosecute you?

What do deaf people use for alarm clocks?

What do deaf people use as an alarm? How do they have alarm clocks or smoke alarms?

Why does Good Friday move so much?

If Good Friday is the day Jesus died, why does Easter move around so much?

How is postage money shared abroad?

I send a lot of packages abroad. How does the postage money I spend on the parcels get sent to Austria?
Bay of Islands Thumb

How much water around an island do you own?

If I win £68million on the lottery this weekend and I decide to buy an island, how much of the water around the island would I own?
cinema small

Can child actors go to premieres of their 18-certificate films?

Are child actors allowed to see the premieres of their films if it is a 15 or 18-rated film?

When does a boat become a ship?

What's the difference between a boat and a ship? When does a boat become a ship?
cameron pmqs

Why do MPs keep standing up at PMQs?

At Prime Minister's Question Time, why do MPs keep standing up and sitting down without asking a question?

Why don't cigarettes have use-by dates?

Why are there no use-by dates on packets of cigarettes?

Why isn't a surgeon called doctor?

When a man qualifies to be a doctor, he titles himself Doctor. But when he gets a promotion to a surgeon or consultant, he reverts to Mister. Why?
Marks and Spencer

Why were M&S clothes branded St Michael?

When I was a little girl, I had Marks & Spencer vests and the label said St Michael. Why? Why not M&S?

What happens to ambassadors when war is declared?

What happens to diplomats when we declare war? In World War II, what happened to the German diplomats?

What do the signs "Ancient Lights" mean?

Above the old alleyways of Soho, you can see old signs saying "Ancient Lights". What do they mean?
Osama Bin Laden

What's the difference between murder and killing?

One from my 5-year-old after hearing about Bin Laden: What's the difference between being murdered and being killed?

Where does the superstition around Friday 13th come from?

Why is this day so unlucky? What sparked this superstition?

Why is one side of the road even numbers and the other odd?

Why don't they go up one side and then the other? Why is one side all odd and the other even?


Chinese New Year London small.jpgHow do the Chinese determine which animal goes with which year?

This year is the Year of the Rabbit - how was that decided?


How do you insure priceless items?

How can you work out the value of something that has no set value?



Can the Queen be arrested?

If the Queen committed a serious crime, could she get arrested and if so, how would the hierarchy change?

Why are dead people buried six feet under?

Why do we bury our dead six foot down in this country? Why is that particular depth used?

In the song, what is the "Aintree Iron"?

What is the Aintree Iron in the song by Mike McCartney and The Scaffold saying "Thank you very much for the Aintree Iron".

What was BC called before Christ was born?

We live in 2010 AD, and before that, it was BC. So what did they call BC years during those years?
Tower Bridge at night small

How much does it cost to raise Tower Bridge?

If I had a tall ship on the Thames, how much would it cost to raise Tower Bridge?

Why don't bakers list ingredients on loaves?

Why don't bakers have to list ingredients on their loose loaves of bread?
townctown crier

When does a village become a town?

A city is a city because it has a cathedral, so what is the difference between a village and a town?

Where does the weight "stone" come from?

A stone in weight: is there a stone that weighs exactly 14 pounds and is that where the measurement comes from?

Why do some WW1 memorials say 1914-1919?

Who do some World War 1 memorials say 1914-1918 and some say it finished in 1919?
London bus small

Why don't London bus drivers wear seat belts?

Why do London bus drivers not wear seat belts? I see it regularly on the roads.

Does the Queen have a passport?

Does the Queen have a passport when she travels around the world?

Why does is the V-sign considered rude?

Who decided that first and second fingers are the victory sign and the rude one?

Why do records play at 33 1/3 rpm?

How were record speeds worked out? Why 33 1/3, 45 and 78 revolutions per minute?
Army training

Why is a Lieutenant General higher than a Major General?

Miltary ranks: A Lieutenant is a lower rank than a Major, so why is a Lieutenant General a higher rank than a Major General?

Who are Western Countries in debt to?

Both the Western World and Third World is in debt. So who are they in debt to and what would happen if they decided not to pay?

Where is Ham in between East and West Ham?

You've got West Ham and you've got East Ham, so what is Ham? What are they West and East of?

What are 10 Downing St's black bricks made of?

Ten Downing Street has black bricks, but I donít know any other buildings that have black bricks. How come? What are they made of?

Why is fried fish cheaper than grilled fish?

I ate grilled fish last week and noticed that the same fish grilled is more expensive than fried. Why is that?
10 downing st

What is engraved on the 10 Downing St door?

What is engraved on the letterbox of the door of 10 Downing Street?

Why do Freemasons have square briefcases?

Outside the Freemasons' Grand Hall, you see people carrying strange-shaped square briefcases. What is in them?

Does the Royal Family pay inheritance tax?

Does the Royal Family pay inheritance tax on all the goodies they've been passing down through the ages?

What happens to your postal vote if you die?

I just placed my postal vote for the election. What would happen with that vote if I died between now and the election?

How do films avoid the smoking ban?

Smoking is banned in public, so how do they get around that ban in films and theatres, which are obviously inside?

Why don't Navy stand guard at Buckingham Palace?

Why do we never have the Royal Navy standing guard outside Buckingham Palace? The Army and the RAF regularly do.

What is a hung parliament?

What exactly is a hung parliament? What does it mean?
gordon brown

Do MPs get paid once Parliament is dissolved?

On 12th April, Parliament is dissolved. Do the MPs still get paid during that time?
wedding ring

Why do we wear wedding rings on the left 4th finger?

Why do we have to wear our wedding rings on the fourth finger of your left hand?

Why do some buses have numbers on the roof?

Some buses have numbers painted on the roof and some don't. Why is that?

Why did fascist armies goose-step?

Why do generally fascist governments do the goose-step? What is the point of it?
Tube train - new

Why do tube trains have unused door buttons?

On the London Underground, why do they have buttons to open the doors, as they open automatically?

What is the origin of shoe sizes?

What is the origin of shoe sizes? I'm a size 8, but my foot is 10 inches long. How was it created?

What happens to old police cars and ambulances?

What happens to service vehicles when they are no longer needed?

What happened to the sirens on police station roofs?

On the top of police stations and government buildings, there used to be red or green sirens to give the four-minute warning for war, but they were taken down. Has anything replaced them?

How deep into the Earth do I own?

I have a small rear garden. How far down in the Earth do I legally own?

Where do the Taliban get weapons from?

Where do the Taliban get all their weapons from? How do they afford them all? How much do bullets cost?

Why do we launch a ship by smashing a champagne bottle?

When you launch a ship, why do we smash a bottle of champagne against the side?

Why is the US flag backwards on army uniforms?

The American flag always has the stars in the top left, but on military uniforms, itís on the top right. Why?

Why is Colonel Gaddafi still only a Colonel?

Why is Colonel Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, still a colonel? Why hasnít he promoted himself to a general?

Who owns the number plate 1LBC?

Last week, I saw a number plate 1LBC on a black Audi. Who owns it? Is it you?

Do you have to wear a seatbelt in a police car?

You have to wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle.  So when you get arrested and hand-cuffed, are they breaking the law when they drive away?

Why are elections held on a Thursday?

Why are all elections in this country held on a Thursday?

Why are knives longer than forks?

One from my five-year-old daughter: why is a knife longer than a fork?

How do Chinese use Morse Code?

In the olden days, we used to tap out letters in messages using Morse Code. So how did the Chinese use Morse code?

Why do we think Humpty Dumpty is an egg?

Why do we think Humpty Dumpty is an egg? It doesn't say anywhere in the rhyme that he is.

Why do charities ask for used stamps?

Why do charities ask for used stamps? What do they do with them?

Why do we eat turkey at Christmas?

One from my 11-year-old: why do we eat turkey at Christmas?


What makes a White Christmas?

Is there a test to determine whether it is a White Christmas? Where is it based?


Did Hitler ever come to Britain?

After watching Valkyrie, it reminded me of a question I've always wondered: did Hitler ever come to Britain?


Why didn't Virgin Mary call baby Emmanuel?


The Christmas Story says that "a virgin will have a baby and he'll call it Emmanuel". So why did she call it Jesus?


Why is Charlie Brown's roundabout so called?

My stepson asked me this: Why is Charlie Brownís roundabout so called?

How deep into the Earth do I own?

I have a small rear garden. How far down in the Earth do I legally own?

What does the "2nd Lord's Cricket" plaque mean?

Near Lord's Cricket Ground, 500m down the road there is a plaque saying "Here stood the 2nd Lord's Cricket Ground". What was that?

Why is there only one Woolwich Ferry?

Why does the Woolwich Ferry only have one boat running? What's happened to the other two boats?

Why does Somerset House have a grey Union Jack?

When I walked past Somerset House last week and they were flying a Union Jack, but it was in black, white and grey. What does that mean?

How does a guide dog know where to go?

How does a guide dog know where to go when it directs a blind person? How do they find their way? Are they like sat-navs?

Why is hay suspended under Barnes Bridge?

Barnes Bridge is being renovated at the moment and we were wondering why a bale of straw is hanging under each arch. Why is that? Is it traditional?

Why is Canary Wharf so called?

Why is Canary Wharf so called? Was it a wharf full of canaries?

What will this period of history be known as?

What period will this be known as? There is an Elizabethan age already, so what will we be now?

Why is the Army not The Royal Army?

We have a Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, but a British ArmyÖ why is it not the Royal Army?

Why is a wink seen as being affectionate?

Why is a wink seen as being affectionate? It is the same globally?

Why do cobblers also cut keys?

Why do cobblers also cut keys? Is there any connection between shoes and keys?

Why are men's soles wider than the shoes?

Why is the sole of a man's shoe wider than the shoe, but it isn't for trainers or women's shoes?

Does 2nd class post just sit on a shelf for 2 days?

What happens to second class post? Do they just put it on a shelf and leave it for two days?

Why didn't we speak French after Norman Conquest?

Throughout history, when two cultures fight, the winners give their culture to the losers. So after the Norman Conquest in 1066, why donít English people speak French?

How do Chinese people type on a keyboard?

How do Chinese people type on a keyboard? Their alphabet has hundreds of characters.

Do German people watch WW2 films?

I was watching a Second World War film on Saturday. I wondered, do German people watch World War Two films?

Why are classical music terms all Italian?

Why are classical music notations all in Italian? Terms such as Allegro, Adagio etc.

Why is Wal