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Conservative halve Labour’s poll lead

Win a state-of-the-art laptop and a bestseller writing course

To celebrate the launch of its brand new game Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle on PC, Relentless Software has teamed up with the Independent to launch an exclusive competition for all budding writers.

Harriet Walker: 'We've thrashed out the terms of our divorce - I'll keep the kids but he can have custody of the leftovers'

Sometimes it makes sense to run before you can walk, so last weekend my boyfriend and I thrashed out the terms of our divorce. "If it was your fault, I'd keep the house and kids," he insisted. "But I'd be their mother," I countered, enjoying the fact that arguing in the conditional tense means you're pretty much unbeatable. (Unfortunately it means the other party is also unbeatable, but there's nevertheless a brilliant sense of righteousness that comes from putting "would" in front of any given verb.) "They would need me to look after them."

Pet of the week: The Frog Beetle

Beetles are quite fascinating members of the insect world. There are more than 350,000 different types of beetle, more than any other species on the planet, and they are crucial to the life cycle of their natural habitats. They may be small, but they have a huge impact on life on earth.

English Literature: A Very Short Introduction, By Jonathan Bate

What a relief that Jonathan Bate's lively entrée to EngLit does not kick off with Beowulf. Instead, we have Mr Toad's estate agent-like description of Toad Hall: "Up-to-date sanitation. Five minutes from church, post-office and golf links." This is because "Once Upon a Time", first of the essays in which Bate tackles his huge topic, explores the works where most people start.

Full moon: Ill met by moonlight

It makes wolves howl, toads frisky and cats crazy. The full moon also gets the blame for all manner of human bad behaviour. But are these just old wives' tales – or is there a rational explanation? By Roger Dobson

Les Gibbard

Les Gibbard (obituary, 23 October) was a friend, esteemed for his old fashioned niceness, good humour and lack of malice or sharp professional elbows, writes Edward Pearce.

Ranavirus: It's a frog's life

As a new virus cuts a swathe through their numbers, Gillian Orr discovers that we are only starting to unlock the secrets of these alluring amphibians

New virus causing mass deaths of frogs

Common frog populations around the UK have declined by more than four-fifths because of a virus which causes their internal organs to haemorrhage.

Boiling Frogs, Southwark Playhouse, London

It was an inauspicious start when an audience member spilled a glass of red wine down the back of playwright Steven Bloomer before the curtain was even up on the opening night of his new play, Boiling Frogs.

Boiling Frogs uphold their reputation as the coolest company around

Is The Factory the best-connected young theatre company in town? Their upcoming production of Boiling Frogs comes with the stellar backing of Mark Rylance, Tracey Emin and Ewan McGregor.

Pea-sized frogs found in Borneo carnivorous plants

One of the world's tiniest frogs — barely larger than a pea — has been found living in and around carnivorous plants on Borneo island, one of the scientists who made the accidental discovery said today.

This moor was once a hive of industry

Walk of the month: Dartmoor - Its mines are now ruins and Dartmoor is better known for sparse, rocky tors. But it blossoms in summer. Mark Rowe steps out

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Big ambitions for Britain's small ponds

Sometimes it dawns on you why you love your country, and I had one of those moments the other day in contemplating the fact that Britain has a full-time organisation devoted to the welfare of ponds. I may be wrong, but I simply cannot imagine that France or Germany or Italy, still less Albania, Paraguay or Ghana, has a charitable body, employing a full-time staff, which focuses entirely on the health of small bodies of standing water.

My life in ten questions...The Stranglers’ Jean-Jacques Burnel

‘As a child being called Jean-Jacques was like being a boy named Sue.’

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New documents from the late Robin Williams' estate stipulate a restriction on his image, or any likeness of it, being used until 2039
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Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
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Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
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Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
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War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?