Arts and Entertainment Hair time: Colin Wilson breaks another literary rule: don't pose for silly pictures

For ambitious would-be authors, the life of Colin Wilson presents itself as a cautionary tale. Here, Terence Blacker explains where the self-proclaimed genius went wrong

Diana Raymond: Writer whose novels were infused with wit and metaphysics

Diana Raymond was the author of 24 novels, a memoir, theatre criticism, a number of lyric poems and a play about one of her heroes, John Keats.

Howard Jacobson: Our bankers could learn a thing or two from the Victorians – namely honour

They had the moral refinement to do away with themselves when the game was up

Our day in the snow...

Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: Do you think I'm a repressed gay?

Dear Virginia,

I've got a fixation that I might be gay. After a wretched life, and ending up in rehab, I married an amazing man, and we had a son, now four. We had a great sex life – but now he's left me. Then my mother died and my business failed. Now I'm obsessed by my sexuality. I've never had sex with a woman, and don't fancy them, but when I see nudes in photos I shudder, and blush at the word "gay". I don't feel gay or straight, I feel inhuman and isolated. Do you think I'm a repressed gay?

Yours sincerely, Sandra

Splashing out: Getting down to the bare essentials in the Baltic Sea

I am stark naked. On the edge of a northern sea. In the depths of winter. It is, unsurprisingly, freezing. The body of water beside which I am shivering and goose pimpled is the Baltic. Or at least it's where the Baltic ends and merges with the North Sea, on that stretch of grey, flat water bisecting the coasts of Denmark and Sweden: the Oresund. To the north, on the opposite shore, are the battlements of Elsinore, where Hamlet fought with insanity. Here in Malmö , in the south of Sweden, I'm beginning to doubt my own state of mind. What was it about going swimming at this time of year that seemed like a good idea? And in chilly Scandinavia, at that?

A random act of Christmas kindness

What's wrong with doing good? Four housemates decided it was time to forget recession, cast off the gloom and start to make a difference

Great Works: Study Of Clouds (1822) by John Constable

Clouds are all sorts. They are a medium of revelation, through which the gods show themselves. They're a playground for human imagination, where we can see any number of forms and creatures ("Very like a whale!"). They are mood music, the emotional backdrop to a scene. They are complex natural phenomena, which challenge our capacity for accurate observation.

The 50 Best Picnic Spots - Urban

Rhiannon Batten finds the perfect places to lay your blanket this summer

Philip Hensher: The classical allusion makes a comeback

"You see? You see?" Zaved said, pointing at the headline. "I warned you about your friend the Mayor. Look, he only won the election two days ago, and he's already talking about the Aryans. I told you, it was all a terrible front for –" "Never mind what it was a front for," I said. "Show me that."

Sian Berry: We Ask The Questions

Such as, 'How will you cut crime?' and 'What is your favourite joke'

Steve Richards: Boris or Ken? There is no doubt who would be better for London and the rest of Britain

In my late youth I have become indecisive, suddenly incapable of making up my mind on big things or small. Until recently, decisions came and went and I was always confident like our former Prime Minister about what was "the right thing to do". Now I dither, as our present Prime Minister is accused of doing.

Charlotte Mendelson: Inside the novelist's ideal home

Charlotte Mendelson thought that houses in the London enclave where she set her novel were all out of reach. Then she found the perfect doer-upper...

Pets' corner: Teenage Mutant Ninja Terrapins

Your questions answered by Chamois Rose-Wood

Dominic Lawson: I went to Eton - and absolutely hated it

The atmosphere of the place was oppressive. After a year, I asked my parents to take me away

Brian Viner: Country Life

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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
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform