Life and Style

Is there anything more festive than a magnum? Apart from a double magnum perhaps, a magnificent magnum is the most generous way to celebrate a great day with friends and family. It also keeps better than a bottle, so squirrel one away.

Festival Guide 2012: A spotter's guide to festival excess

Smug Tweeters. Gurning Techno stilt loons. Naked am-dram mums. Bewildered teens. Key parts of any festival, says Nick Moore

Book Of A Lifetime: A Confederacy of Dunces, By John Kennedy Toole

So I had left Istanbul with its colourful chaos and ended up in a place in America where the wind blew hot as a hair dryer, huge thorny cacti greeted newcomers and Spanish was the official language. What was I doing in Tucson, Arizona? Teaching, writing a new novel... The part of me that couldn't settle down, always a nomad, an outsider, East and West, and yet precisely because of that at home everywhere, that stubborn part was holding the reins. It was as if I had taken a plastic globe, given it a real good spin, and randomly put my finger on a spot.

Starling numbers fall fast

The number of starlings seen in people's gardens has fallen by almost four-fifths in the past three decades, the RSPB says today.

When the Killing's Done, By TC Boyle

Conservation thriller with no end of rats

Goldfinches are now found in 58% of gardens, up from just 12% in the mid 1990s

Goldfinches thrive in UK gardens as song thrushes dwindle

Goldfinches are now found in almost five times as many gardens as they were 16 years ago, latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show.

Honey-roast duck with flowering chives and black fungus

Divine duck: Mark Hix cooks with the most succulent of birds

It's the perfect ingredient with which to create these warming winter dishes.

Slow-roast duck leg with bashed neeps and haggis

Slow-roast duck leg with bashed neeps and haggis

Serves 4

Honey-roast duck with flowering chives and black fungus
Population numbers for the robin have increased by 49 per cent since 1970

Robins revel in warmer winters

Populations of the festive favourite soar, but not so for its fellow red-breasts

<p><strong>Chateau D'Angles La Clape Classique Rouge 2008</strong></p>
<p>Robust, herby red, from typical southern French varieties of syrah, grenache and mourvedre. Good with all roasts. </p>
<p><em>£9.99 Wine Rack (down from £11.99)</em></p>

Wine: Reds for roasts

Terry Kirby picks three wines to accompany the best meal of the week

Roast duck with apples and cider brandy

Festive feast: Mark Hix's tempting Christmas roasts will amaze your guests

It's time to start thinking about what to prepare and serve to your family and guests on Christmas Day. As many of you will have discovered over the years, I am somewhat resistant to cooking a turkey for the main meal. The principal reason is that because the legs take longer to roast than the breasts, the latter invariably end up getting a bit dried out and the whole thing can become a logistical nightmare.

Scrambled egg and smoked salmon crumpets

Toast of the town: Mark Hix's crumpets with a twist

Elevate these toasted treats to an altogether higher level with a variety of luxury toppings.

Use good-quality butter puff pastry for quince and cinnamon tart

Quince charming: Mark Hix celebrates this under-appreciated fruit

We don't really grow quince in this country on a commercial scale, so it's always nice to get a call from friends who have quince trees and want to see the fruit go to a good home.

Wild duck and quince salad

Wild duck and quince salad

Serves 4

Super soups: Mark Hix whizzes up some warming and thrifty autumn broths

I love making warming autumnal soups and broths – they cost next to nothing, they're a great way to use up leftovers and they are healthy, too. By this I don't mean chucking a load of leftovers in the blender and hoping for the best, but you may have a few vegetables in the drawer of your fridge for example, or a bit of your Sunday roast left, or game bird carcasses; for me, it's a culinary sin to throw them away.

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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
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn