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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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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created