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Early years in Liverpool gave him the perfect voice for John Lennon in the animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ film

Noël Coward: In His Own Words, Compiled by Barry Day

In his introduction to this slim volume, editor Barry Day tries to argue the case for Coward as a weighty thinker, deeper and more profoundly political than his lightning one-liners have led us to believe. Wit, Coward said, should be "a glorious treat like caviar", not "spread about like marmalade".

Brian Viner: Let me tell you about Mr Barker

Country Life: 'A man of enormous charisma, kindness and rectitude, Mr Barker was pivotal in the life of the school'

In the Bath, By Tim Fitzhigham

What can you say about a man who sets to sea in a bath? Being unkind, it's the sort of comic caper that suggests an imminent rendezvous with Jeremy Clarkson; a grandiose lunge at absurdity that's actually monstrously dull. Fortunately, while Tim Fitzhigham may be halfway to Clarkson via a Richard Hammond quote on his book's jacket, the story of how he spent two summers trying to be the first person to row the English Channel in a bath is actually rather absorbing.

Paperbacks: Bambi Vs Godzilla, by David Mamet

This master class on the movie business will undoubtedly be avidly read in the Hollywood Hills. It is equally certain, however, that Mamet's views will be utterly ignored. His admirable view, "If you think you should cut, cut", runs counter to the sprawling epics of tedium that currently dominate mainstream cinema.

Humphrey Lyttelton: A Celebration, Radio 4<br />Composer of the Week, Radio 3

No Humph, no 'ISIHAC'. But who's next?

You write the reviews: Noel Coward's Brief Encounter, Cineworld Haymarket, London

The wondrous thing about the new version of Brief Encounter by Kneehigh Theatre, now playing in a cinema (converted into a theatre) in London's Haymarket, is the way the director, Emma Rice, has taken the main themes from Noël Coward's play Still Life and David Lean's classic film version and added her own statement about the times in which the original drama surfaced, without imperilling the original structure.

Hedda Gabler, Barbican, London<br />The Vortex, Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue, London<br />Artefacts, Bush, London

Three hysterical women and tragic fate &ndash; but it's not all doom and gloom

Paperback: New Faber Book of Love Poems. Ed. James Fenton

Did your Valentine disappoint? Fenton's dashing and original anthology of a "half millennium of song" – Thomas Wyatt to Wendy Cope – will not. Still, like all the hottest dates, it has decided preferences. Same-sex love gets a gentle boost, as do the peaks of pop culture (nine pages of Noël Coward!). DH Lawrence rubs against "Lesbian Blues Lyrics of the 1920s". From Donne and Burns to Hardy and Yeats, it rounds up lots of old romantic favourites, too.

101 Star Bars: Farquhar's Bar

Singapore has Raffle's; Bangkok has the Hilton; Penang, less famously, has the Eastern & Orient hotel, which deserves to star in a film or a book as much as any of them. Built in the days of the East India Company, the grand hotel is a masterpiece of colonial mix and match. Its original owners were the Armenian Sarkies brothers. Its bar is named after an Aberdonian Colonel. It serves "English Pub Grub" and its own take on the Singapore Sling, but it will also do you a bowl of the world's best seafood soup to eat on the blindingly sunny verandah overlooking the Strait of Malacca. You end up not knowing which country you are in – but wanting never to have to leave it.

What's inspiring the Noël Coward renaissance?

After falling out of fashion, No&euml;l Coward's work is reaching a whole new set of admirers. By Ciar Byrne

Putting class into the Xmas playlist

Anna Picard tells us how to avoid the Christmas schmaltz this winter

Leading article: Status symbol

Insurance? Don't get your fingers burnt

'He smoked all the cigars and then claimed for them on the grounds they had been destroyed by fire'
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There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
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A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
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J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
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Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
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Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
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Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
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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
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick