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Conservative halve Labour’s poll lead

Mischief-makers, misfits and mums: the bloggers who'll keep us plugged in

That guy. The one opposite you on the train, hunched over his iPhone, stabbing away at the virtual keyboard and making ssllp-spittle noises. He's probably at it. That other guy, the one in Starbucks with the black Moleskine, the MacBook Pro, skinny latte, Oliver Peoples spectacles and intermittent finger-to-chin pauses for "thought": he's at it. Cube Girl over there is at it, and the Mumsnet brigade are at it, both on and off Mumsnet.

Errors & Omissions: Animals aren't human, much as we like to pretend otherwise

There is nothing wrong with a striking opening, but the attempt to grab the attention of the supposedly somnolent reader can become silly. Here is the opening of a news story published on Wednesday: "The common toad may be ugly, warty and squat, but it is blessed with an extraordinary gift. It has an uncanny ability to predict earthquakes several days before they occur."

Toads with a super sensitive side hopped it before L'Aquila quake

Colony of amphibians vanished from Italian lake five days before disaster, then returned to breed when it was safe

Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (21/03/10)

First cuckoo of spring

Dress code: Erin O'Connor

What are you wearing right now?

Some black leather shoes with brass toe caps by Miu Miu, funky frog Topman socks, black tailored trousers from Acne, a vintage Russian sailor’s top with a metallic polka-dot jacket by Victor and Rolf, and a classic Jaeger handbag.

Minor British Institutions: The MG Midget

They haven't made any of these for more than a quarter of a century, but you still see a few around, they are all cherished and seem set to be with us for ever.

Extreme safari: Rhino, wildebeest, whistling frogs &ndash; there's a new species to discover around every corner at the Phinda game reserve

The adrenalin coursing through my body takes me back to the feeling I had jumping out of a plane – only this time I'm not at 14,000ft but firmly on terra firma, sat in the back of a car. The hairs on the back of my neck are on end, my pupils dilated and my heart thumping over the rustle of the breeze.

Letters of Ted Hughes, Ed. Christopher Reid

In dreams, as another poet wrote, begin responsibilities. Whatever else happens in the lurching trajectory as poet, critic and national icon that these addictive letters record, Ted Hughes stays a serious dreamer.

Travel challenge A new year get-together in England

Every week we invite competing companies to give us their best deal for a specified holiday. Today: a self-catering break over the new year. Prices are for seven nights' rental (commencing 28 December) for properties that sleep at least 10 guests.

Pandora: Former Sun editor to pen parable of booze

David Yelland, the former Sun editor turned high-flying publicist, is to try his hand at fiction. He has announced his intention to publish a children's novel, telling the tale of a boy with an alcoholic father.

Red alert: scientists identify 17,000 endangered species

Conservation groups warn of 'alarming' loss of biodiversity as thousands of animals face imminent extinction

Gadget of the week - Philips Wake-up Light, &#163;130

As winter darkness – and seasonal affective disorder – looms, bring a bit of light into your mornings with this clever device, which is a combined bedside lamp, alarm clock and digital radio. It can be programmed to wake you up by simulating dawn (by slowly illuminating), along with a chorus of natural sounds, from chirping birds to croaking frogs to the gentle crash of waves on the shore. Having tested it out on a very heavy sleeper who hates stirring before 11am, I can confirm that this is rather a splendid way to be woken up. Shop.philips.co.uk

Rodney star to play his father in prequel

Nicholas Lyndhurst is set to play his own dad in a prequel to Only Fools And Horses, it was announced today.

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Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
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'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
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Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
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Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea