On Valentine's Day, John Walsh looks at the history of billets doux - and wonders whether they can survive in the digital age
With less than a week until Valentine's Day, it's still not too late to treat your sweetheart to a romantic escape. Rhiannon Batten recommends some British breaks to warm the heart
Yet another example this week of the fatally divergent galaxies inhabited by men and women. While the latest trend reports have women hotfooting it to the local salon to get their hair dyed grey, a survey reveals that 51 per cent of men find encroaching silver strands one of the scariest prospects in the canon of depressing inevitabilities.
Boleyn's is a bloody tale, but oh, what a spring in its step
Henry VIII is notorious as the play which burned down the original Globe when its thatched roof was set on fire by the cannon shot saluting the entrance of the King in an early scene. To modern taste, that disaster has come to look like a shrewd critical verdict on the play. It's no surprise that the reconstructed Globe has only now got round to presenting the play in a vivid, robust, and winningly well-conceived production by Mark Rosenblatt.
The history writer Alison Weir tells me no sooner had she finished her latest novel on Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Captive Queen, than she started work on a biography of Mary Boleyn (the "other" Boleyn girl). What she will do first is argue that the portrait of Anne Boleyn's sister that is labelled as "Mary Boleyn" at Heaver Castle is not Mary at all. "I just think it's been accepted that it is. In the 18th century, the subject of the painting was regarded as Mary Boleyn but before that they thought it was Anne Boleyn." Her research on Mary began in the 1970s, but put to one side until now. Due to be published in autumn 2011, the book will be called Mary Boleyn – The Great Infamous Whore, is, according to Weir, what the king of France called her. "She was his mistress as well as a mistress to King Henry VIII". It sounds as if the book is a radical reappraisal of Anne Boleyn's sister. "There are a lot of misconceptions about her in film, TV and novels. I'm giving some preliminary lectures on my findings in May. These will be a teaser for what's to come. I think [the book] will change our views on her."
This season delivers a bumper crop of excellent thrillers. In William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms (Whole Story Audio, £24.46), Adam Kindred, wanted for a gruesome murder of which he is innocent, goes to ground in London. He lives rough, creating a new identity for himself and gradually unravels a huge pharmaceutical fraud. Boyd visits and forensically examines virtually every level of contemporary society, from prostitutes and hellfire evangelists to scientists, corrupt City types and an ex-soldier turned hired gun. Compellingly read by Martyn Ellis, it is a serious, thoughtful and provocative novel. And it speeds along faster than a cheetah.
It's summertime, but the living ain't easy. Yes, the sun might (sometimes) shine and temperatures might climb but school's out, and that means six relentless weeks of kids, kids and more kids. Don't despair: you can survive. It's all about attitude – and having a few aces up your sleeve to preserve your sanity. Here, Joanna Moorhead offers to share hers
Adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel, this period romp concerns the rivalry between Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary for Henry VIII's amorous attentions. Having no interest in politics, the tale operates only as historical romance. That would be fine, if the love triangle were firing on all cylinders. It isn't. While Scarlett Johansson shimmers as Mary, a vowel-chewing Natalie Portman makes us wonder why Henry took on the Pope for Anne.
Forgery, forgotten evidence and mouse-droppings – Tudor expert John Guy has made all sorts of unsavoury discoveries down in the National Archives. He tells Mark Bostridge why he's on a mission to bring Tudor history to the masses, and where David Starkey got it wrong
James Blunt's military days may be well behind him, but his second career still provides the odd professional injury.
From Beowulf to Philip Larkin, poetry's past haunts its present. Below, Andrew Motion, Bonnie Greer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Culture Secretary on the poems that changed their lives