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Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford in 'Birdsong'

The war story that inspired Birdsong

More than two decades ago, Sebastian Faulks wrote for The Independent about a group of First World War veterans searching for the burial places of their fallen comrades. The experience lingered – and ultimately led him to write a novel beloved of millions, now a major BBC drama. This is the piece that inspired a modern classic

Former captain Lewis Moody was accused of putting commercial
activity before the team but you could never say he lacked commitment

David Flatman: England captain must lay down law – and make sure he doesn't break it

From the Front Row: There is a new element to the role now that can't be ignored: commercialism

So, which is the fairest rose of them all?

Yorkshire

Christopher Hirst

There is much to be said for the Yorkshire Dales becoming bigger.

Spirit: Revellers gather in Caffè Florian

Trail of the unexpected: Casanova's Venice

With a month to go until Valentine's Day, Nick Boulos traces the path of Italy's legendary lover

Me Before You, By Jojo Moyes

Listen and learn from an odd couple

Le Cordon Bleu, the French cookery school par excellence, is opening a vast new 'international flagship institute'

Have a delicious New Year: The best foodie events in 2012

From cool cocktails and foodie festivals to hotly anticipated restaurant openings, it's shaping up to be a tasty 2012.

Natalie Haynes: Why water-cooler television still counts

A large chunk of the internet is not that important to most people, it seems. This week we were told that CD sales are still falling fast, while digital album sales are increasing – all of which you might expect. But the actual figures are more surprising: 26.6 million albums were sold digitally in the UK in 2011. Meanwhile, 86.2 million actual shiny silver discs were shifted in the same year.

Natalie Haynes: Water-cooler television still counts

Most of us don't want to learn about Pat Butcher's death the day after it happened
English cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle at his work desk in 1956

Ronald Searle: Illustrator and cartoonist who created the anarchic world of St Trinian's

It is tempting to make a casual connection between the horrors that Ronald Searle suffered as a prisoner of the Japanese during the Second World War and the black humour of his most famous cartoon creation, the gothic girls' school St Trinian's.

Jamie's School Dinners, which led to the introduction of nutritional standards in schools

Dinner ladies told to take on the takeaways with cut-price deals

The school meals service was launched some decades after Charles Dickens put the words "Please, sir, I want some more" into Oliver Twist's mouth.

David Cameron has launched his own investigation into the event attended by Aidan Burley, right

Tory MP who attended Nazi stag night faces French inquiry

David Cameron urged to remove whip from Aidan Burley as prosecutors consider charges

Ready To Wear: It's Christmas, of course you can over-indulge the festive style

There are certain occasions in life that bring out the larger-than-life size fashion gesture in even the most sensible dresser.

Cooking for Claudine, By John Baxter

This beguiling book concerns a single meal cooked by the author. No great hardship there since Baxter announces that "a capacity to cook will see you across more frontiers, make you more friends, win you more admiration – love even – than any language or skill."

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the editor of the News of the World dined together at The Ivy in London while the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was missing, official diaries show

Ex-Met chief's dinners with Brooks

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the editor of the News of the World dined together at The Ivy in London while the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was missing, official diaries show

Luke Blackall: Ambassador, you are spoiling us... despite the lack of Ferrero Rocher

They could serve you dinner on a wet white cardboard plate, and because it was the French embassy, you would presume it was correct
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Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam