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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A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

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Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
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Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
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In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

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Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

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The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

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