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
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas