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Since the Second World War, when the BBC provided news and comfort for a nation in great peril, it has played a central role in British life and culture. That is why any proposals for radical change at the Corporation, or any sign that its standards might be slipping, deeply disturb its loyal admirers.

DVD: Life, For retail, (2entertain)

What would life be like without David Attenborough?

The Week In Radio: When poetry becomes an adventure

If I had a fiver for everyone I've heard say, "I never watch any television apart from the news and David Attenborough", well, it would probably cover my licence fee. But while there being Nothing on TV has been a staple moan of British cultural life for some time now, radio is in far happier shape. The Rajar figures for the third quarter of the year were good for the BBC, especially Radios 3, 4 and 5 Live. There were all sorts of explanations, including the Ashes and the Proms and global economic meltdown to explain why people were reaching for the radio. Yet perhaps it comes down to the fact that radio simply does some things better.

David Lister: Hirst's £250k (gift)

There's no need for me to comment on the quality of Damien Hirst's new paintings at London's Wallace Collection. The art critics have delivered their verdict (see Performance Notes below) and it's a damning one. Anyway, I'm rather more interested in – and worried by – what went on behind the scenes to get this particular show on the road. What worries me is the £250,000 that Hirst gave from his own large pockets to the Wallace Collection.

Terence Blacker: Britain's green and pleasant divided land

Because politicians only occasionally take into consideration what is happening in the British countryside, rural policies and initiatives, when they do come, often have an other-worldly, Alice in Wonderland feel to them.

Wildlife films: Flights of fancy

Feature-length wildlife films are taking off on the big screen, but this soaring success isn't a result of the usual formula of pretty pictures and earnest commentary. The secret is storytelling, says James Mottram

Prom 76: The Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

So it’s come to this: Jiri Belohlavek, Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, demoted to playing vacuum cleaner while his Principal Guest Conductor, David Robertson, gets to preside over “Land of Hope and Glory”? Allow me to explain.

A life on the wild side: What makes wildlife presenter Simon King tick?

Simon King's first memory is of an animal – an ostrich – trotting ahead of his mother's car. "I was sitting on my mother's lap, and she was saying 'bloody ostrich!', because it wasn't getting out of the road." He has come a long way since then, but he has never stopped at wildlife with rapt fascination.

The butterfly that came back from the dead – thanks to the red ant

Michael McCarthy celebrates the 25th anniversary of large blue's reappearance

Electric Ink, Radio 4<br>David Attenborough's Life Stories, Radio 4

What's funny about the perilous state of the press? Quite a lot, actually

Herts is where the home of butterflies is

Within earshot of the M25, a giant dome is being built to house thousands of insects and birds. Michael McCarthy reports

Last Night's Television: How Reading Made Us Modern, BBC4<br />Nature's Great Events, BBC1

Here's a nagging thought I'd never encountered before. What do you do if you're a beluga whale and you get an itchy back? There you are, stuck in mid-ocean with the nearest scratchy rock hundreds of nautical miles away, and there's not a lot of point in asking your neighbour to help you out because flippers don't have a very high coefficient of friction anyway. The answer, it turns out, is that you have to wait until the Arctic ice melts and you can roll around in the shingle of a fresh water estuary. We saw a group of belugas doing just that in Nature's Great Events and David Attenborough assured us that they were having a whale of a time. They "whistle with pleasure," he said, which made me wonder where the Natural History Unit had found a fluent speaker of Belugese. It's true that they looked to be enjoying themselves, but can we be sure that they aren't saying, "Bloody hell it's crowded... I know I say this every time but I'm definitely going to a quieter estuary next year"?

Last Night's TV: No one lifts the spirits like Attenborough, and nothing lowers them like children left alone to reveal the horridness of our species

Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, BBC1<br/>Boys and Girls Alone, Channel 4<br/>La Boh&egrave;me Backstage, Sky Arts

What's in a name? In TV, quite a lot

UKTV has put painstaking effort into rebranding its channels. Ian Burrell finds out why

Letters: Britain's museums

Museum failure shows our lack of a grand narrative

Trials of life: Deborah Ross meets a prickly Sir David Attenborough in his natural habitat

David Attenborough is one of our best-loved broadcasters, and Deborah Ross is one of his greatest fans. She&rsquo;s watched all of his landmark series, and she loved every one. You&rsquo;d have thought they&rsquo;d get on like a house on fire ... wouldn&rsquo;t you?
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
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General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers