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Conservative halve Labour’s poll lead

I is an Other, By James Geary

We say one thing but mean another far more often than we realise, and, paradoxically, rely on this figure of speech to make ourselves clear

At large in Thailand: Trunk callers

The setting is stunning, the spas superb, the Thai cuisine tasty – but the elephants are what make this the perfect family holiday

Ten UK Summer Cottage Deals

1 Cornwall: Take a late-summer break from 26 August at Dove Cottage, sleeping four. It's available through Classic Cottages (classic.co.uk) for £450 for a seven-night stay.

It's Wind in the Willows Part II

Radio 4 is to broadcast a sequel to the children's classic The Wind in the Willows. A Change in the Willows, by Ian Buchan, will star Stephen Mangan as Toad, Andrew Sachs as Badger, Tim McInnerny as Toad and Julian Rhind-Tutt as Ratty.

Midwife toads under attack from deadly fungal disease

A rare species of toad in the French Pyrenees is the latest variety of amphibian to be threatened by a deadly fungal infection that scientists have so far been unable to cure.

Business Diary: A new dividend at Bank of America

Who needs real dividends when you can have peace dividends (otherwise known as a period of enhanced returns thanks to afailure to conduct misguided M&A)? That appears to be the message from Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of struggling Bank of America, who welcomed analysts to an investor day at the bank with this little gem ofwisdom: "I can't stress enough to you how much of a peace dividend we'll get without mergers; that peace dividend is effectively apermanent dividend."

It's a right carry on ... up the jungle

Explorer Benedict Allen reveals that nature documentaries are as tricksy as any other kind of filming, and we collude in the deceit

Migrating toads to disrupt Bundesliga game

Migrating toads will force thousands of Freiburg fans to find a different way home when they leave their stadium after Saturday's Bundesliga game against VfL Wolfsburg.

Letters: multiculturalism

I am alarmed that David Cameron denigrated multiculturalism, to the applause of European Union ministers, some of whom are from right-wing parties. It was in Munich that Hitler held fascist rallies.

Hella Jongerius: Misfit, Phaidon £29.95

Misfit is an impressive monograph celebrating the work of the contemporary Dutch designer Hella Jongerius.

The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age, By Jane Shilling

I felt like a soft-boiled egg, a dissected frog, a jellied blob of sea anemone pecked by the cruel beaks of seabirds": Jane Shilling's memoir is an exuberant epitaph on youth, a girlie chat, an album of memories and reflections on identity, memory, the ageing female body and that other woman over there in the mirror who is not myself. Just cannot be. And is. Je est un autre. The book is a lovely, easy read: Shilling's style, dashingly cavalier and artfully artless, bubbles with wit and brio. Never was a lament less lugubrious.

Outside the Box: Cold comfort as Bradford set club record – 73 days without a home game

Now it is official that last month was Britain's coldest December since details were first collated, how many unwanted new football records will be set because of this winter's weather? One already created, which may be further extended this week, is at Bradford Park Avenue, the Evo-Stik (former Northern Premier) League club, who have not played at home since losing to Frickley Athletic on 30 October. They have suffered seven consecutive postponements from snow, frost, waterlogging – everything bar plagues of frogs – and in so doing they set a new club record. A League Challenge Cup derby at home to AFC Halifax Town is due on Tuesday, which would be 73 days since the previous home game. The previous record was set in the long winter of 1962-63, when Avenue went 61 days without a home game, between Third Division home fixtures against (coincidentally) Halifax Town on 4 January and Peterborough United on 6 March. The pile-up proved costly and they were relegated on goal average, joining neighbours Bradford City in Division Four. Replaced as a League club in 1970, they went into liquidation before reforming in 1988.

It's raining birds and frogs: Animal phenomena are surprisingly common but why do they happen?

Worm showers, falling fish – these animal phenomena are surprisingly common. But why do they happen?

Bagpuss, Soho Theatre, London

This season's crop of Christmas shows proves that most inner-London venues are seriously under-used in the rest of the year. There is a plethora of under-age party fun in the West End and now the Soho, home to right-on drama and cutting-edge comedy, has cleared the decks for Bagpuss.

Michael Bywater: Meet the real Dirk Gently. It's me...

I was on the telly. BBC4, last Thursday, 9pm. Didn't watch it, of course, and it wasn't really me anyway. But I read the book. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Actually I'm in the book. Didn't you know? I'm him. Dirk. Douglas told me. Told everyone else, too, whether they asked or not. Lots of people have been put in books but not quite so blatantly. Who was it who said an author is someone who sells out his friends? But at least they usually deny it absolutely.

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This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
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Vladimir Putin fixes a GPS satellite transmitter onto a tiger in 2008
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Animals found with 'puncture holes the size of a human finger'

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Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
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Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

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The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
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booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
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Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital