Life and Style

Modern London is a city in turbulence, a cosmopolitan cauldron in which more things change than stay the same, where all the world comes to throw a tantrum, get rich through property and complain about schools. Its restaurant scene has generally kept up.

A Lot to be said for it

COUNTRY MATTERS

My driver takes the Daimler home at night and leaves me the Mini

FIRST-HAND Jeffrey Archer deplores Rover's plans to redesign his favourite car

RACING : Master Oats gives Bailey memorable double

CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP: First partnership for 45 years to take Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

Dawn run that fires the excitement

Greg Wood finds that the Cheltenham experience can be as much about early-morning exercise as late-night sessions

FOOD & DRINK: Elbows on the table OK

It's fine to pass on the pudding, but don't forget to pass the port Michael Bateman takes advice from an expert on etiquette

London Walks: A royal retreat to the deer and swans: Michael Leapman escapes the Hampton Court bustle for a peaceful wander in Bushy Park

Hampton Court is popular with walkers, but this weekend they will be impeded by the annual flower show. A good alternative is Bushy Park, just across Hampton Court Road from the palace. This short walk will also provide relief for flower show visitors feeling oppressed by the green-fingered crowds.

Food & Drink: Go with the grain to soak up flavour

There are lots of things you can do with polenta. But unless you're aware of its high slime content, the one thing you're guaranteed is problems.

Travel: Dreamtime on the Dordogne: Simon Vickers and his family bought a wooden boat and floated off downstream for a fortnight of peace and quiet

Everyone said, 'C'est impossible,' about our dream of descending the Dordogne in a gabarot, the traditional wooden boat used on the river since time immemorial. The Dordogne was too fast, the rapids too dangerous and the boat too heavy. Besides which, no one made gabarots any more.

Small ad, big adventure: Three girls, two bottles of wine and a thesaurus came up with the perfect advertisement. Now all they are looking for is a reply, writes Lynette Ross

What are three gorgeous girls like us doing in on a Saturday night?' mused Claudia, pouring another glass of Sancerre and switching off the video.

TRIED & TESTED / Taking a crack at it: We sample seven nutcrackers. The hard shell won when it came to the crunch

Most of us would probably eat a lot more nuts - and they are now sold loose in supermarkets all the year round - if cracking them were made easier. It can be off-putting, when your nutcracker sends minute pieces of kernel flying all over the room, or if you spend more time excavating stubborn fragments from the shell than you do eating the nuts. So to find a nutcracker that is really easy to use, and effective, we asked four regular nut eaters to try out a selection. We gave them a supply of walnuts, brazils, hazelnuts and almonds to test each one against. Read on, to find out which would crack even the toughest nut.

REVIEW / Picking up the fine threads of connection

MIDDLEMARCH (BBC 2) opened with a sort of Cecil B De Mille footnote, a lavish bit of spectacle which suggested that the adaptor had worked from a Penguin edition, or at least one with plenty of helpful essays on social context. A post-coach garlanded with frock-coats and felt hats bowled past the camera which then panned down into a railway cutting full of labouring navvies. Out of a nearby tunnel puffed a replica of an early locomotive. 'The future]' exclaimed Lydgate from the coach, in case you hadn't got the point of this didactic camera movement. For a while it looked like the most expensive adaptation of a Coles Notes pamphlet ever mounted.

BOOKS / Medusa's Ankles: A Short Story

SHE HAD walked in one day because she had seen the Rosy Nude through the plate glass. That was odd, she thought, to have that lavish and complex creature stretched voluptuously above the coat rack, where one might have expected the stare, silver and supercilious or jetty and frenzied, of the model girl. They were all girls now, not women. The rosy nude was pure flat colour, but suggested mass. She had huge haunches and a monumental knee, lazily propped high. She had round breasts, contemplations of the circle, reflections on flesh and its fall.

Rugby League: Books for Christmas: Heretics roast old chestnuts: Dave Hadfield finds old battles still being disputed among the pages of this year's rugby league reading

THERE is little doubt which book the zealots of the traditional school of rugby league history will be roasting their chestnuts upon this year.

Arts: A stack of Christmas crackers: Panto doesn't rule - OK? Jenny Gilbert chooses her Top 10 shows for kids, with a special offer on every one

'LET's take the family to a show for Christmas.' But what kind of show? Once the choice was simple: pantomime or a circus. Recently both have fallen prey to chocolate advertising and gameshow culture. But there are alternatives. More theatre companies are devoting the season to children, and what follows is a selection of the best, plus two unusual circus events. To take up any of the 10 offers, give the relevant password to identify yourself as an IoS reader when making your booking. (Offers subject to availability.)

Letter: Philistine reactions to our city trees

Sir: The new policy of some councils and developers (Section II; 'No place for a tree', 12 November) of removing the old large trees from our cities' pavements is outrageous. The large chestnut, elm and plane trees are a cultural institution in many large towns, and in London are as much part of the city as the Underground or the red buses.
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
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War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?