News Arms deals fixer Ziad Takieddine has been refused entry to Britain

A controversial fixer for arms deals linked to an alleged corruption scandal that engulfed Nicolas Sarkozy has been refused entry to Britain.

Spot on: Cath Kidston sales polka past £100m for the first time

The thirst for polka dots and floral prints has pushed sales at “yummy mummy” accessories and homewares chain Cath Kidston past the £100 million mark for the first time, the firm said today.

Lady madonna: Natalya Romaniw stars in I gioielli della Madonna

Classical review: I gioielli della Madonna - Incest and insanity... what an Italian job!

The first British staging since 1926 of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's mafiosi opera takes the crown for lurid incident and spectacle

Opera Holland Park - I gioielli della Madonna dir Martin Lloyd-Evans

Classical review: I gioielli della Madonna, Opera Holland Park, London

The action is grittier, the stakes (and skirts) raised higher, and the orchestral noises louder than anything else of its time: if Puccini’s realist operas are verismo then Wolf-Ferrari’s 1911 I gioielli della Madonna is verissimo.

Classical review: Les pecheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), Holland Park Opera, London

Powered by some of the lushest arias and duets in the canon, Bizet’s pearl-fishers have become synonymous with Oriental chic. But one could argue – as Penny Woolcock did in her 2010 production for ENO – that this opera’s ‘savage’ backdrop has more relevance today than it did in 1863.

Video: The best outdoor cultural events

Watch the videos below for a taster of some of the outdoor events taking place this summer:

New house price figures show London continues to be a driving force

Annual house price increases in England were driven by a 7.6% rise in London and a 3.3% increase in the South East

House prices up 1.3%, says Halifax

Significant regional differences around the UK still apparent

All ears: Michael Volpe’s daughter, Fiora

The birth of a new opera: Children know the score when it comes to songs

In his latest dispatch, Michael Volpe reveals how music is crucial to Alice

The 9-bedroom mansion in London’s sought-after Holland Park area

Hard-up Greece sells house in London for £23.3m

Greece has sold the luxurious British home of its former consul for £23.3m in a bid to reduce its mountain of public debt.

Amanda Echalaz (right) and Kristine Opolais (left) take on the role of Tosca in turn at the Royal Opera House

Highly strung sopranos reach diva pitch

Do you have to be a diva to take on Tosca?

The Holland Park house

Calm down, dear. It's only a £60m mansion

At least, that's what Michael Winner hoped it would be worth. That now looks unlikely

Opera Holland Park, London.

Michael Volpe: ‘I want us to put on an opera – and in we plunge’

The first of a monthly report from Michael Volpe on the trials of staging a show

Why this dated duo are out of the running

Ab Fab is back (again) for an Olympic special but Twenty Twelve is the real comedy winner, says Gerard Gilbert
On the wrong track

Absolutely Fabulous: Why this dated duo are out of the running

Ab Fab's Olympics special trails behind Twenty Twelve

Not always great outdoors: Opera Holland Park

Walk on the wild side

Stag beetles, bats and rainy days are among the many hazards of outdoor performances, says Michael Volpe, of Opera Holland Park

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Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas