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

Not too shabby: Because the distressed look needn't mean worse for wear

1. Loose fit urban sofa cover

Ship building: Titanic Belfast approaching completion

Titanic endeavour: Simon Calder previews Belfast’s newest attraction

A century after Titanic set sail from Belfast prior to her tragic maiden journey, a £97m tribute to the ship and her makers is almost ready.

Martin Creed's Sketch show is a feast for the eyes

Can a fork be a work of art? Well, yes. Especially if it happens to be on one of the tables at Sketch. The Turner Prize winner Martin Creed has taken over a room at the London restaurant and has transformed it into a work of art. Or rather, into several works of art.

Album: First Aid Kit, The Lion's Roar (Wichita)

First Aid Kit are Johanna and Klara Soderberg who, in 2008, while still in their teens, posted a video on YouTube of them singing a Fleet Foxes song in the woods near their Stockholm home. Next thing you know they were sharing a stage with the band they'd covered, getting a single produced by Jack White and winning fans from Patti Smith to Conor Oberst.

Out cold: The King’s Trail crosses some spectacular and savage terrain

Sweden: Go wild in winter

An extraordinary trek on cross-country skis across the Swedish tundra leaves Simon Birch dazzled by the Arctic landscape

Ikea finds gloomy Britain is a drag as its global profits rocket

Ikea, the flat-pack furniture giant, has posted a leap in global profits and sales, driven by market share gains in most of the countries in which it operates.

Ikea

Ikea profits up 10%

Ikea's flat-pack furniture empire found a growing number of fans in emerging markets last year, helping to boost profits by 10% and offsetting tougher conditions in the UK.

Penguin Books-themed sheet, £1.75, nottheusual.co.uk

The Insider: How to make your own art

I never again want to spend my entire Christmas break redecorating. Especially as an easier way to update a space is with some new artwork. But if your January budget doesn't stretch to that...

John Walsh: Like the music they played, life after radio for the ex-DJs is a tale of hits and misses...

It's no joke being a Radio 1 DJ. After storming the airwaves in your 20s as a silver-tongued cavalier, astounding the kids with your edgy repartee, thrilling the laydeez with your saucy banter, making a fortune talking motor-mouth piffle for three hours a day and hosting "roadshows" for listless radio fans in muddy Berkshire fields on Saturday afternoons, the only way is down.

Ikea alert over faulty high chairs

Parents who bought a certain batch of high chairs from Ikea are being urged to get in touch after several children were injured due to a faulty belt.

Ikea reports UK sales drop

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea has became the latest retailer to feel the pinch as low consumer confidence and a poor housing market hit sales.

Lisa Markwell: Satisfied with life? When a Christmas tree costs £50!

So, we are imbued with "Blitz spirit".

 

Flatpack city: Ikea to assemble an entire London district

One can only hope that nobody loses the instructions.

IKEA founder had Nazi Youth ties for years, author claims

A new book has claimed that the founder of the IKEA chain, Ingvar Kamprad, had youth ties with Nazi groups for longer than he admitted, saying Sweden's intelligence agency even set up a special file on him.

What Works, By Hamish McRae

This cheering and readable book by The Independent's economic commentator deftly analyses the reasons for the success of 20 phenomena from the City of London to mobile telephony, Harvard to Ikea. It deserves a readership far beyond the ranks of suits.

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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 15 May 2015
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks