Cuttings: Bring up the birch

ANY TIME now, the pale mauve flowers of Crocus tommasinianus will be through and opening up with the first hint of sunshine. They seed and multiply furiously, even in root-riddled grass under lime trees, but must have direct sun and warmth to open. Birches give the lightest shade, and the white trunks look splendid with crocuses.

Travel: Lime chaser

FOR those keen to join the hunt for Harry Lime (20 November), Brigitte Timmermann's Third Man tour leaves the underground station at Friedensbrucke every Friday at 3.30pm or 4pm (check by telephoning Vienna 220 66 20; fax 210 33 40). The cost is 105 Austrian Schillings (pounds 6.15) or 50 (pounds 2.95) for children under 14.

BOOK REVIEW / Mary, Mary, quite contrary: Writing dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World by Carol Brightman: Lime Tree, pounds 20

IN HER story 'C'est le Premier Pas qui Coute', Mary McCarthy describes her fictional self as 'one of those cowards who are afraid not to be brave'. But it is that fearful knowledge of necessity which creates bravery, and her courage, as much as her intelligence, formed and sustained her remarkable life.

Castle combats crumbling mortar with lime spray: Oliver Gillie watches volunteers trying out a new conservation skill on their local heritage

THE CRUMBLING mortar of Odiham Castle in Hampshire is being restored, 700 years after it was built, using a fine spray of lime water - a new method of conservation which goes back to first principles.

BOOK REVIEW / Audio-visual display in the 1970's

An audio-visual display from the pre-video era - each head contained a specially built slide projector pulsed to match the commentary - devised for a 1970s exhibition and included in James Gardner: The Artful Designer. This fat, quirkily written, copiously illustrated memoir from one of British design's most enduring figures gives full weight to the big, prestigious commissions - work on the Festival of Britain, the interior of the QE2 ('the biggest toy in the world') - but delights equally in trifles - tiaras, bicycle pumps - and pays due tribute to the long- suffering secretaries Gardner persisted in calling 'Mehitabel'. ( pounds 19.99 from Lavis Marketing, 73 Lime Walk, Oxford OX3 7AD)

A-Z of treats: Key lime pie

K is for Key Lime Pie, a flagship of America's intensely rich desserts (like Pecan Pie and Mississippi Mud Pie). It achieved notoriety in recent years when novelist Nora Ephron selected it as a dinner party custard pie to bring her novel of marriage and betrayal, Heartburn, to a tragi-comic climax. In the film, Jack Nicholson, as the adulterous husband, gets it in the face.

City: Of fear and loathing in Lime Street

HERE ARE two very different stories about being a Lloyd's name on the loss-making Gooda Walker syndicates. The first concerns a woman I met at a party last month. Recently separated and going through a messy divorce, she had been put into some of the worst-hit syndicates by her husband in the late 1980s. When she signed the documents, she had little or no idea what she was letting herself in for. With the benefit of hindsight she suspects that her husband was trying to set her up with an income for life so he wouldn't have to worry about her livelihood after he ran off with his secretary.

Pembroke: Lime Street blues

The hurling of empty champagne bottles at the chairman of Lloyd's of London, David Rowland, at the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth halls on Tuesday will have to stop smartly at 2pm, due to the intervention of Louis Armstrong and Beethoven, whose twin delights are on offer to a wider audience that same evening.

BOOK REVIEW / The camera obscurer: Robinson - by Christopher Petit, Cape pounds 8.99

'I AM a camera.' Isherwood's catchy opening has a lot to answer for: encouraged by it, generations of writers have told stories with deadpan amorality. The line must have been haunting Christopher Petit when he wrote this novel. He is, after all, a film-maker.

GARDENING / Borders on the splendid: Feeding: The gardener makes living pictures with shape and colour, foliage and flowers - and time, as well. In the final part of our beginners' guide, Mary Keen and Michael Leapman look at how to choose plants for a border, and how to feed and care for them over the years

GARDENING is an intensive business and in time even the best soils get exhausted. Unless you have decided to go completely native and grow only those plants which would naturally survive in your plot, or you are growing things which actually prefer a poor soil and plenty of sun, you will need to think about feeding.

Racing: Cecil aims his horsepower

TENBY and Armiger, who head the ante-post betting for the Derby, are among the entries for next month's two principal meetings at Chester and York. Each is engaged in the Chester Vase on 4 May and the Dante Stakes at York on 12 May, recognised trials for Epsom.

Classic culture can be so improving: Be it strained or made of sheep's milk, Greek yoghurt is the creme de la creme, adding richness to simple sauces, fragrant curries and exotic desserts

THERE'S enough yoghurt and cheese in the house to feed an army. This is not a deliberate tactic on my part; we're not expecting the hordes to descend. It's just something that seems to happen almost of its own accord whenever we arrive in France.

Racing: Grand National - Aintree

The Martell Grand National, is the highlight of the Aintree meeting. Run over 41 2 miles, a combination of 30 fences and a large field make this race the world's greatest steeplechase. For atmosphere, Aintree's natural amphitheatre, the embankment in the Steeplechase Enclosure, affords close views of Becher's Brook, the Canal Turn and Valentines. Similarly, the Central enclosure, with its views of The Chair fence, the water jump and the finish, also offers great value.

Book Review / Man, woman and Satan make three: 'The Well of Life' - Nawal El Saadawi, Tr Sherif Hetata: Lime Tree, 13.99

A MOTHER abandons her new- born baby beside a river. He stretches out his tiny hands in an image of supplication that is to haunt her for the rest of her life. Another infant, conceived in violence and ignorance, dies at a milkless breast, forcing her mother closer to disintegration.

BOOK REVIEW / If this is a woman: memories of Birkenau: There is a place on Earth - Giuliana Tedeschi, Tr. Tim Parks: Lime Tree, pounds 9.99

IT IS a commonplace that war, plague, famine and other manifestations of hell on earth spawn art. You could argue that this is the only good thing that comes of them. But it has taken many years for the Holocaust to send forth its voices. Even Primo Levi's If This Is A Man, although written immediately after the war, was not granted a proper print run until Einaudi resurrected it in 1958. There Is A Place On Earth, Giuliana Tedeschi's account of her incarceration in Birkenau, appeared in Italian in 1988, more than 40 years after her ordeal.
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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
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?