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.

How the horse chestnut conkered Britain

It is sometimes pointed out to the British that they have wonderful things growing wild which they completely ignore. We read about French chefs combing our woods for rare fungi. We see fishermen catching langoustines and spider crabs to be exported to places where they like eating these things better than we do. The Romans introduced the sweet chestnut tree into Britain 2,000 years ago, and we are still not particularly grateful for its fruit.

Paperbacks: Reviewed by Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst

Blake by Peter Ackroyd (Minerva, pounds 7.99) The assiduous Ackroyd has conjured up a wonderful life of the ''Cockney visionary'', as vivid and eidetic as the work of Blake himself. Biographer and subject are ideally matched, both ardent believers in the ''infinite London...seen within mundane London''. This impassioned portrait of an angry, transcendental genius will send enthralled readers to Blake's vast poetic output - but how many will make it to the end of Vala or the Four Zoas is a matter for conjecture.

A coming-together of ensembles

The way people write menus evolves as fast as the way cooking evolves, perhaps even faster.

Racing: Branston Abby equals record

Branston Abby equalled the post-war British record for the number of wins by an equine female when gaining her 22nd career success in the listed Dallmayr Delikatessenhauses Grosser Sprint Preis at Munich yesterday.

Where have all the woodlands gone?

Britain was once covered in trees. But today natural forests occupy a tiny proportion of our land area.

BOOK REVIEW / Suburbia's lonely hearts club band

Emma Hagestadt enjoys a spooky tale of mating rituals and dating nightm ares; Dance with Me by Lousie Doughty Simon and Schuster, pounds 9.99

Christmas dinner: facing up to the uncomfortable facts

It really is possible to enjoy all the trimmings without succumbing to unhealthy overindulgence. Sarah Edghill explains what not to eat. Right: expert advice on how to deal with a hangover

Solitary joys and crosswords

THE BURNT CHAIR 5 Duke Street, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1HP. Tel: 0181-940 9488. Open for dinner Mon-Sat, 6-11, and for lunch by arrangement. Two-course set menu, pounds 12.50; average a la carte, pounds 18 for three courses. Access and Visa accepted

A waxy crassula isn't just for Christmas

Anna Pavord suggests presents for the green of finger

Escapes

Nuts; It began with the pilgrimage to the sweet chestnut tree...

A little local trouble

A weekly round-up of rural rumpuses

Conkers plonkers

First there was the sprinkler ban, which reduced grown gnomes - sorry, men - to tearful mourning for their raddled lawns. Then the car's weekly wash and polish had to go, turning Saturday morning into an empty wasteland of waiting for the start of Grandstand. Now the long hot summer of '95 has made a final assault on masculine pleasures: the nation's supply of conkers is in crisis.

Harris the guiding light for a revelation named Vindaloo

When he goes into Vindaloo's box, Jimmy Harris can tolerate the gelding nibbling at the tyres of his wheelchair. He has had worse. "I used to have this thing called Pollock Fair," he said. "When I wasn't looking the bugger used to grab hold of a handle and tip me out."

Pennies from heaven: Golden Hand brings Devon townsfolk news of the season's first fruit

Joseph Lake (above, right), the town crier of Honiton, Devon, carrying the Golden Hand through the streets to the start of the Hot Pennies ceremony, in which heated coins are thrown from upper windows of the town's inns (above left) in a tradition dating back to the 13th century.

Portrait of the artist as a young horse

KINGSLEY AMIS: A Biography by Eric Jacobs, Hodder & Stoughton pounds 17.99
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Day In a Page

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
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?