News

Retailers enjoyed a "spectacular" Christmas, official data showed, with total sales growing at their fastest rate in years.

The News Matrix: Wednesday 3 October 2012

Plan for 'poor' to go to private schools

The Jimmy Savile abuse scandal means men across Britain will sleep uneasily, remembering past 'conquests'

Instead of faux-outrage and arse-covering about history, I’d be happier to hear strident plans to protect and listen to young women in the future. More of that, please

The Metro front page showing women removed from Ikea images

Ikea airbrushes women from its Saudi catalogue

Swedish furniture giant criticised for removing images in bid not to upset Arab customers

Winckler's Wacky World: All ears

Did Deep Blue have a bug?; why men bond with 007, bin head, magic allergy-curing cow, holocaust tattoos and Ikea: not so ethical, after all.

Step into my office

More of us are working from home than ever before, but it doesn't have to mean documents on the dining table or conference calls over the cornflakes.

My Edinburgh: Mark Watson, Comedian

I've been to the past thirteen Edinburgh Fringes as a punter, student, director, aspiring stand-up, actual stand-up, 24-hour marathon man and - my current incarnation - jaded old veteran. There are various tricks you learn, when you've been in the game as long as I have.

Ikea to launch budget hotel chain in Europe

Best known for its budget flat-pack furniture, Scandinavian retailer Ikea is planning to launch a chain of budget hotels in Europe.

'Are you a Gypsy?' Ikea tells camper van owner that Travellers are barred from its car parks

Furniture giant Ikea has been caught up in a racism row after insisting it was lawful to employ security guards to stop Gypsies entering its car parks.

Ikea aims to provide all the features of a home entertainment system, but without the fuss

Design: Tangled cables be damned

Ikea's foray into the world of home entertainment is not just an attempt to change the market, but it could also spell an end for that most modern of problems – dastardly cable tangle.

<p>1. GLTC Fire Engine Toddler Bed</p>
<p>£124, gltc.co.uk</p>
<p>Few toddlers can resist a fire engine, so what better way to persuade them that bedtime is fun?</p>

The 10 Best children's beds

Sweet dreams, whether they're in a bunk cot or with an MP3 docking system

Ikea accused of using East German political prisoners to manufacture furniture

The Swedish flat-pack giant Ikea is today reeling from potentially scandalous allegations that it used scores of political prisoners in former communist East Germany to manufacture its affordable furniture products in the years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Julian Baggini: Is Osborne's dad worth a £19,000 desk?

The one thing you would never do at the desk Sir Peter Osborne has his eye on is write at it

Ghostly: The dining-room is a whiter shade of pale

Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, Bucks

Late-night visitors to Marlow have often been shocked by the chilling apparition of the Grey Lady of Danesfield Park, a solemn-faced ghost holding a lantern, who glides around where the chapel once stood, before disappearing. We had a broadly similar experience on driving into the hotel grounds – seeing the chilling apparition of Danesfield House, a great white whale of a late-Victorian Gothic folly looming in front of you like Moby Dick. It's an extraordinary sight, with its tall chimneys, its clock tower and elaborately terraced gardens, and it carries an air of melancholy – the result, perhaps, of too many owners, speculators and changes of use. It was built in 1899 by the heir to the Sunlight soap fortune, who sold it the moment it was finished. It housed evacuees in the war and was requisitioned by the RAF. It was once home to the Hellfire Club of Medmenham, a bunch of crazed desperadoes from the nearby village. Since 1991 it's been a hotel. And in the past four years, it's picked up a reputation as home to one of the country's finest chefs, Adam Simmonds.

From Pasty Tax to Bubbly Tax: After a strange week in the news it wouldn't be at all surprising if readers fell for this Daily Mail effort. It claims: 'The Government is planning to mitigate the damage caused by adding VAT to pasties by introducing a new ‘green’ tax on chilled champagne.' - and quotes, amongst others 'Frank Beers', MP for Theakston South...

Were you fooled? The best of the April Fools' Day jokes

The newspapers have outdone themselves with an eclectic collection of April Fools' Day japes, but were you taken in?

<p>1. John Lewis Winter Snow Goose Down</p>
<p>£150, johnlewis.com</p>
<p>A supremely comfortable pillow using down from geese native to Russia's glacial mountains.</p>

The 10 Best pillows

1. John Lewis Winter Snow Goose Down

£150, johnlewis.com

A supremely comfortable pillow using down from geese native to Russia's glacial mountains.

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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 17 April 2015
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
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Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own