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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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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital