The stellar explosion is the closest to be spotted since 1987 and will provide a 'galactic yardstick' for astronomers judging distances across the universe

Indoor: Backgammon

In the box playing Black was the Tempestuous Turk (TT). Minus 20 on the scoresheet and having a bad night, he finally thought his time had come when playing against The Doyen and myself. We had been doubled early and then got involved in a massive back-game. At the height of this game we had made our 1-, 2- and 3-points with an extra man on the 2-point, and our other 8 men were in or around TT's home board.

Secret papers: Castro's gift turned down by Wilson

Secret papers: Castro's gift


As we prepare to practise dating things with a '98 instead of '97, it is a good time to look back on the records of the past year:

An Eye On ... fags, drink 'n' drugs

Geneva: A box of 25 Cuban "Trinidad" cigars was sold at auction to an Asian buyer for 23,000 Swiss francs (pounds 10,000). The average price of pounds 400 per cigar makes them the most expensive ever. The cigars were from a special selection normally reserved for heads of state.

Racing: Skip Away aimed at breaking Cigar's record

Skip Away, brilliant winner of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic in California, has arrived in Florida for a rest before being aimed at the Gulfstream Park Handicap in February.

The Knack: How to smoke a cigar, by Gordon Mott

"Select the cigar and roll it between your fingers to make sure the wrapper has not become cracked or that there is some flaw. There are three ways to cut a cigar - guillotine, V-cutter and a piercer - but the best is a double-bladed guillotine. This cuts all sides of the cigar, allowing the smoke to travel the entire length. When I was learning to smoke cigars in Central America, I had a friend who was adamant that you could not light a cigar with fewer than three four-inch cedar matches. Anything less and you clearly had not lit your cigar properly! Actually, you can use anything from a cedar spill - that's a thin slice of cedar that you light with a match - to a disposable lighter. My preference is a long match, preferably cedar, and it will take more than one though I don't know about three! You hold the cigar about a half-inch to an inch from the top of the flame and roll it slowly so that the flame lights the outer edge. Once the outer ring is lit, then you can bring the cigar to the mouth and draw in lightly.

Our man with Havana

How do you smoke the finest cigars? To separate puff from bluff, John Windsor fires up in a London shop dedicated to chic cheroots

Hollywood's cigar-toting stars begin to get up people's noses

A stogie is the accessory of choice in Tinseltown. But the health puritans are on the case, reports Tim Cornwell

Update on ... ... records

A review of recent developments in an area of general interest.

Cigar to relax in seclusion to overcome infertility

new tactics to help the world's top racehorse over his problems

SMOKING Cigars can reduce cancer risk

igarette smokers who have difficulty giving up can halve their risk of dying of lung cancer or heart disease by switching to pipes or cigars.

There's no room for yesterday's men on the CBI platform

People & Business

People & Business: There's no room for yesterday's men on the CBI platform

Steven Norris: The nearest thing to a Tory at the CBI

Smoke-ban commuter's light relief

A long-running legal campaign by a commuter against a smoking ban on the London to Brighton line descended into farce yesterday, amid claims that the rail company would permit him to smoke cigars. Peter Boddington, of Brighton, and Connex South-Central said they had resolved their dispute after Mr Boddington agreed to abide by the terms of an order drawn up by their lawyers. But later in the day it transpired that they had different views on what the deal meant.

Strike a light! Cigars - and humidors - are back in fashion

Collect to invest: John Windsor on the enduring enticements of Cuba
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