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Having peeked behind the doors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in True Brits, the BBC is now training its cameras on the Ministry of Defence. Broadcast in five parts on BBC1 from 8 August, Defence of the Realm explores some of the country's most secretive organisations. Series producer Richard Bradley has filmed the nuclear bunker below Whitehall and the firing-room of a Trident submarine. Nicholas Soames MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces and apologist for Prince Charles on the night of Diana's Panorama interview, gives another typically robust performance. "We are blessed by our armed forces," he says. "If British industry was run by the armed services, we'd be bloody Japan!"

site unseen The Customs House, King's Lynn

Arguments over the European Union, a single currency and tabloid xenophobia can obscure the fact that, for centuries, we have happily traded with the towns and cities of what is now Germany. Imports, exports - we both benefited.

More than child's play

Suzanna Drew-Edwards takes the rollercoaster trip of a lifetime, and guides us through the best children's activities this summer

pick of the week

STAR TREKKING

Jake Slack on clubs

Any large club worth its salt these days has a movie room, although it usually consists of little more than a dodgy video projector and the organiser's bedsheet hanging from the ceiling. And if there's any soundtrack at all, you can never hear it over the bleed from the techno being pumped out next door. But at Blue Fluid, a new monthly slot at the Forum - described as a "soiree" rather than just another club - they're putting the complimentary movie (tonight, it's Priscilla Queen of the Desert) at the top of the bill, with good sound and cinemascope guaranteed.

James Rampton on comedy

Jimeoin (below), an Irish comedian based in Australia, got his big break on a Down Under daytime TV programme called The Midday Show. "It's just like Pebble Mill," he reveals. "I really enjoy daytime TV. Nightime TV can be a bit too hip for its own good. Daytime TV is like doing comedy in a supermarket, nobody really notices you're there. When you get to the punchline, the audience just knit quicker." He soon graduated to hosting Tonight Live - "a direct rip-off of Late Night with Letterman" - and has since become the biggest thing in Australia this side of Merv Hughes's moustache.

Angela Lewis on pop

Black British soul music might be microscopic in influence compared with its monolithic American counterpart, but when it works in mysterious ways, it's satisfying stuff. Gabrielle (below right) and Mark Morrison illustrate the point. Both took up residency in the Top 10 earlier this year. Gabrielle's "Give Me a Little More Time" was a south London Motown oddity, while Morrison played strictly by the slick, US R&B rules, and was blander for it. Gabrielle didn't have a Number one, but had the raw earnesty to hit where it hurts. And so, too, does her eponymous album. Her songs of emotional wear and tear, plus gritty insight in "Forget About the World", come from someone who takes from inside rather than production- line soul techniques.

David Benedict on theatre

"Three handkerchief weepie" is a phrase usually associated with a Bette Davis movie of more than usual excess. But it also covers audiences crying with laughter at performances by Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding, better known as Lip Service. How, then, to explain this deranged cross between a demented bumble bee and an outraged lacrosse stick?

Iain Gale on exhibitions

Even in the current climate of renewed enthusiasm for Victorian painting, spearheaded by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's seemingly tireless bidding at auction on the pre-Raphaelites and late Romantics, certain themes and artists of the golden age of narrative painting continue to remain out of fashion or relatively unknown. One such example is Harold Swanwick, currently re-investigated at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.

For better, for worse

If you're having doubts about tying the knot, then Brian Hill's documentary, The State of Marriage, could confirm your worst fears. James Rampton reports

John Lyttle on film

Female buddy-buddy movies - what a relief. No car chases, no heads being blown off in slow motion, no machine-tooled one-liners that are meant as a hymn to the hero's masculinity but instead highlight his insecurity. Not that female buddy-buddy movies can't be about girls with guns. Thelma and Louise, the classic that revived the genre once known - and derided - as the "women's picture", starred two pistol-packin' mamas, with a much- praised guest appearance by a would-be rapist's corpse. But what the women's picture invariably has is what most action flicks and all summer blockbusters studiously avoid: a sense of life lived, choices made, ordinary detail, the psychological interior. You know, the girlie show...

site unseen The first Lord's Cricket Ground, Dorset Square, London

The smell of cut grass and the sudden appearance in newspapers of long lists of cricket scores - baffling to the uninitiated - herald the arrival of summer.

pick of the week: GREYHOUND DERBY

The country was going to the dogs long before Blur's Damon Albarn revealed his penchant for greyhounds, and today, callow, mockney pretenders can rub shoulders with old-school sheepskinned enthusiasts for one of the high spots of the canine calendar (above). For the best views, head for the Stadium Grandstand. But if you fancy reclining in comfort, repair to the Diamond Room for a pint and a flutter. Races last around 28 seconds, as the Kate Mosses of the dog world break from their traps and dash after those rabbit rags in a bid for doggy glory.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
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Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment