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When was the last time you had a first time.....?

Album: Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour De Loin, Harmonia Mundi

Kaija Saariaho's first opera will surely become one of the emblematic works of the decade, its theme of cross-cultural relationships holding up a mirror to our own atomised, divided times.

Observations: Tête à Tête's Lite Bites provide little voyages and big discoveries

As the company that pioneered the 15-minute opera form, and scored a world first by staging an opera inside a zorb ball, Tête à Tête has always been at the cutting edge. For its 2009 festival, one of its strands, Lite Bites, will take place in streets, Tube stations and local parks.

Cyclotherapy: Road to Ventoux - Top of the World

He was lying flat out on his back, his bike by his side, about halfway up Mont Ventoux. I was put in mind of a medieval knight, fallen in battle, memorialized in stone alongside his trusty steed. His eyes were closed and he actually looked quite content.

Recognition for medieval soldiers on web database

The service records of medieval soldiers have been made available in an online database.

One Minute With: Bidisha

A Time to Dance, a Time to Die, By John Waller

It is hard to imagine a more compulsive opening than Waller's vivid account of how, on 14 July 1518, Frau Troffea of Strasbourg began a violent, joyless dance that continued for six days. Even more oddly, she infected others with the same bewildering malady.

Clean, By Katherine Ashenburg

For much of post-medieval history, the East scrubbed and the West stank. The twain met one early 18th-century day, when the "notoriously grubby" traveller Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had to shed her stays in the women's baths in Turkey.

Andrew Keen: Digital feudalism

I'm in London this week. Tonight I recorded a programme for the BBC tv show "It's Only A Theory" hosted by the comedians Andy Hamilton and Reginald D. Hunter.

Making a Living in the Middle Ages, By Christopher Dyer

A work of medieval economic history may not sound the most riveting read but Dyer's erudite, sweeping account of Britain's finances between 850 and 1520 turns out to be endlessly fascinating and often relevant to our own plight. As Dyer remarks, economic history is "the only branch of history which gives pride of place to the whole population".

Forgotten Authors No.27: Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is not entirely out of print but, for someone who was one of the most popular writers in the country, she has fallen into a strange and rather airless niche market. Heyer was a literary phenomenon who wrote bestsellers throughout her career, without ever giving an interview or making any kind of public appearance. A recluse in her private life, she was driven to communicate with her readers through a series of light Regency romances for which she had scant regard, saying only that "I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense". Her novels received no critical acclaim, but sold so well that her name alone was enough to guarantee success. In total, 51 novels, short story collections and mysteries were published, appearing at a rate of one or more a year throughout her life.

Faintheart (12a)

A British underdog comedy of no great distinction.

A Secret Alchemy, By Emma Darwin

A rousing War of the Roses tale that fails to bloom

Chivalry and carnage: After decades of neglect, medieval themes are more popular than ever

Two weeks ago, as swift and sure as an arrow fired from an English longbow, a novel about the battle of Agincourt shot to number one in the hardback fiction chart. Nicholas Hook, the latest of Bernard Cornwell's protagonists to take up arms, stands in a long line of fictional Englishmen marching off to have a crack at the French. Just as Richard Sharpe, the hero of Cornwell's prodigiously successful series of novels set in the Napoleonic wars, owed much to CS Forester's Hornblower, so does Hook have an even more venerable pedigree.

Preview: East Neuk Festival, various venues, East Neuk, Fife

Medieval music with a modern soul

Jousting: 'Chivalrous' jousters keep damsels at bay

It was the first sport of kings: where the medieval knight could make his fortune or lose his life with a single horseback charge and the thrust of a lance. And now it's back.

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The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?