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.

Opera singer Boe bites the (tiny) hand that feeds him

The star of La Bohème picks rock classics over classic arias, to the dismay of others in the musical world

Cooper Brown: Running

Brian Viner: No one holidays quite like the British

With a bank holiday weekend almost upon us, followed in most schools by a week of half-term, tens of thousands of British families will, Icelandic ash clouds permitting, be jetting off today and tomorrow for some guaranteed Mediterranean or perhaps more distant sunshine. At the same time, tens of thousands of others will be risking the vagaries of the British weather, and setting off for hotels, rented houses, B&Bs, caravans and campsites in our own islands. The latest edition of The Good Beach Guide, published yesterday, shows that no fewer than 461 British beaches now meet the guide's gold standard, so unpolluted seas at least await those brave enough to wade in.

No black tie, no tea-towels on heads – meet the populisers

The men behind the rise and rise of Opera Holland Park are proud of their diverse repertoire – and their diverse audience. Anna Picard reports

Excess and the exorcist: Edward St Aubyn brings the Melrose family saga to an end

St Aubyn has spent two decades writing acclaimed tragi-comic novels about the abusive, aristocratic Melrose family, modelled on his own.

Elizabeth Llewellyn/ Simon Lepper, St. John’s, Smith Square

The first thing you notice about Elizabeth Llewellyn’s voice is the bloom – a plushy, covered quality that extends pretty much throughout the range and only hardens under pressure at the top.

The Afterparty, By Leo Benedictus

Celebrity satire with lots of style

The Cult of Beauty: Beautiful Dreamers

A new exhibition at the V&A showcases the work of the 19th-century Aesthetic Movement. Arifa Akbar explores the enduring allure of art for art's sake

Cooper Brown: Television

I spent the day filming a TV pilot in Holland Park. You, dear reader, are not the only person to spot my potential. It seems that with OMG With Peaches Geldof now looking like history there may need to be a replacement.

Home to roast: Are designer chickens worth the money?

Forget the £2.99 broiler. Christopher Hirst discovers how gourmet super-birds are carving out an appetising – and lucrative – niche

Must You Go?, By Antonia Fraser

Some of Antonia Fraser's memoir of her decades with Harold Pinter does consist of lustrous names dropping in an avalanche of well-connected badinage onto Notting Hill lawns and Caribbean terraces. But not much.

Fables: A Film Opera, Spitalfields Winter Festival, London <br/> The Messiah, Wigmore Hall, London

Stories of survival, rebellion, greed and love come to life in a remarkable marriage of music and film

Diary: Best to avoid the scrum, Gavin

Never afraid to embrace the big issues of the day, High Street Ken sprang into action on behalf of his old mate Gavin Henson, after the occasional rugby player announced he was once again ready for romance.

'Writing really can change lives'

A project that brings authors into inner-city schools, inspired by the novelist Dave Eggers, is empowering young people &ndash; and writers themselves &ndash; in ways they never expected.
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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