The latest stories and all the transfer rumours on Thursday 8 January

Opinions: Do you prefer a pub or a wine bar?

JEFFREY BERNARD, journalist: I prefer pubs. Wine bars play the bloody Four Seasons in the background all day long and the people who go to them are awful - advertising people, producers of TV commercials. Pubs have a better mix of people and they are for drinking in, not sitting around talking business.

Travel: Joyeuse unbridled, via Leicester Square: In the second of our series on France, Paul Newman delights in the freedom of self-catering in the mountainous Cevennes

OUR holidays to France always begin at the same place. Not at the hoverport at Calais, or the airport at Nice, but at a shop near Leicester Square in the centre of London. A trip to Stanfords map shop at least a month before we set off has become such an enjoyable ritual that I have come to regard it as part of the holiday itself.

A bloke's life: Stephen Frears served his time at the BBC, made a few right-on films, and then got drawn into the dreamy, golden world of Hollywood: big budgets, big hair, valet parking. He now commutes on a grand scale, and hangs out with Geena and Anjelica. This makes him, what? Unsound? A traitor to the cause? Or just a bit jammier than the British can bear?

'HERE, LOOK]' Stephen Frears said, pretending to be awe-struck. 'Here's my producer] A real-life, Hollywood producer]' We were loitering on the pavement outside his house in Notting Hill Gate: Frears was unshaven and dressed, much as the actress Glenn Close once described him, 'like a stadium after the game'. He was about to have his picture taken. On the other side of the road, a taxi had just drawn up, and a harassed-looking woman with a blonde crop was getting out. This was Laura Ziskin, producer of No Way Out and Pretty Woman and Frears' latest film, Accidental Hero. She wore round, green-tinted spectacles, with customised, green-tinted flaps.

Casino robbed

A casino in central London - the Napoleon Club in Leicester Square - was robbed by two men masquerading as police officers. After showing fake warrant cards, they produced handguns and escaped with an undisclosed amount of money.

Coales' Notes: Hitting bottom: A week in the art of Gordon Coales

TUESDAY: This is definitely interesting, though best not to have any feelings in advance.

Allied Leisure in pounds 12m cash call

ALLIED Leisure, the bowling hall and nightclub operator, has joined the growing list of companies asking shareholders for money. It has launched a rights issue to raise pounds 12m.

Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest

(Photograph omitted)

Derwent Valley remains cautious

JOHN BURNS, managing director of the London property investor Derwent Valley Holdings, remains deeply pessimistic about the sector, despite posting interim profits up 29 per cent.

ROCK / Rai, smiles and the devil's croon

ALGERIAN superstar Khaled is not too sexy for his shirt: he's too sexy for his homeland. He lives in Paris, where his dissolute lifestyle - incorporating a fondness for a drop of the hard stuff, and not being ashamed to live with his girlfriend - is less contentious. There are commercial reasons too for his exile; and the French music scene, as we never tire of reminding ourselves, is not exactly awash with charisma.
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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 1 May 2015
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