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EDWARD VII by George Plumptre, Pavilion £19.99

One more cup of coffee

Caf life began in London, not Paris. Now, reports Charlotte Packer, it's here again

SOMETHING NASTY IN THE AIR

IT MAY have been a mild winter so far, but it has been a hard one - and a hard year - for the millions of Britons who now suffer from asthma and other breathing difficulties. For smog has returned to our cities.

Site Unseen: Soho's "Tudor" potting shed

There will always be something special about Soho, something which brings a spring to the step and a tingle to the cheek. Even if the district was bulldozed tomorrow and built over with concrete bunkers housing an army of DSS officials, Soho would still be different.

PEOPLE BORN ON NEW YEARS EVE AND DAY

New Year's Eve Born on this day: Jacques Cartier, explorer and navigator, 1494; Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, 1720; Pierre-Charles Jean-Baptiste Silvestre Villeneuve, admiral, 1763; Sir Edward Augustus Bond, librarian of the British Museum,1815; Sir Will iam Withey Gull, physician to Queen Victoria, 1816; Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, 1830; Henri-Emile Benoit Matisse, painter, 1869; Caradoc Evans, novelist, 1878; George Catlett Marshall, general, 1880; Sidney Strube, political cartoonist, 1891; Ernest John Moeran, composer and violinist, 1894; Jule Styne (Julius Kerwin Stein), songwriter and composer, 1905.

Site unseen: THE GARRISON CHURCH, PORTSMOUTH

This is where Charles II, "the Merrie Monarch", finally got married. One of England's randiest kings actually had a headache on his wedding night and failed to rise to the occasion. How do we know? Did a housemaid listen outside the door? No. It was the King himself who let the cat out of the bag. Writing to Lord Clarendon, his adviser in May 1662, Charles II was explicit: "It was happy for the honour of the nation I was not put to the consummation of the marriage last night, for I was so sleepy, by having slept but two hours in my journey, that I was afraid that matters would have gone very sleepily."

DANCE / Ashton: lest we forget

Ashton Celebration - Royal Ballet

The Rake's Progress

Poet, boozer, bisexual and now a play. Paul Taylor on the Earl of misch ief

BOOK REVIEW / Sailor who knew how to serve two masters: Cromwell's Earl: A Life of Edward Mountagu, Richard Ollard; HarperCollins, pounds 20

IT IS widely believed that the restoration of Charles II in 1660 saw the total rout of the republicans and the triumphant return of the Royalists to power and office. As old Cavaliers were the first to complain, however, this is too simple. Edward Mountagu exemplifies that group of grandees who made a successful transfer from office under Cromwell to the Restoration court.

Inside Parliament: Hurd defends contacts with neo-fascists: Foreign Secretary angered by attacks from Labour - MP's Bill to remove hereditary peers from Lords

Douglas Hurd's legendary sang-froid deserted him temporarily yesterday as he defended his contacts with neo-fascists in the new Italian coalition government. The five ministers from the fascist-led National Alliance were democratically elected, the Foreign Secretary told the Commons - only to be reminded that so were Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

The list

MAINLY FOR WORSE: Eve (there was no alternative); Penelope (Ulysses never at home); Lady Macbeth (husband a wimp); Octavia (Cleopatra's nose just the right length for Mark Anthony); Eva Braun (Hitler so territorial); Mrs Jack Sprat (probably did prefer lean to fat); Charles II's Catherine of Braganza, (tolerated seven mistresses and a dozen bastards); Desdemona (it was only a handkerchief); Mrs Micawber ('I will never desert Mr Micawber' despite his debts and failures); Jane Clark (but 'below stairs' dalliances could be the last straw).

'Playful' portrait expected to fetch pounds 1.2m

THE great-grandson of the artist William Holman Hunt is selling a portrait of his grandfather by the illustrious Pre-Raphaelite painter.

Property: The agent's deceptively spacious CV

YOUR WORST fears about estate agents are confirmed in a survey by the organisation responsible for their training. Only 17 per cent of negotiators and 23 per cent of valuers have any relevant qualifications, according to a report by the Residential Estate Agency Training and Education Association. The odds are therefore at least four to one against the person selling your home having learned from anything other than his or her mistakes.

House used by first cabal to reopen

WHEN THE Dutch Old Master paintings at Ham House near Richmond were taken down recently, neat vellum labels were discovered on the backs valuing the pictures for the pawnbroker.

RADIO / Short, but truly sweet

ON THURSDAY morning, my car became a hovercraft. Huge arcs of yellow flood-water found holes in the roof, the wipers gasped and panicked and I could have been at Thorpe Park, rather than aquaplaning along the lane to my daughter's school. I was really late. Michele Stephens on Morning Edition (R5) had just proffered a thought for the day: 'God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now, I'm so far behind, I'll never die.' With cruel emphasis, schools programmes began immediately, with Let's Make a Story. A male Joyce Grenfell called Simon Davies, breathless with excitement, made a wildly adventurous suggestion: 'Shall we imagine it's pouring with rain?'
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