Dead Ringer

A STORY FOR CHRISTMAS: He was playing the big race in his head when a gloved hand clamped around his mouth

Travel: There's no excuse for getting lost

Matthew Brace and his compass join the orienteers finding their way in the New Forest

Country & Garden: Weekend Work - Nymphs in pink tights

FEW PEOPLE have bonfires of leaves any more, I am glad to say. But, although leaves can be put on the compost heap, it is worth considering raking them up and putting them into a double thickness plastic bin-liner, tying the top up tightly, and keeping the bag in a shady, out of the way place for a couple of years. By then, the leaves will have rotted down into delicious leaf mould which makes an excellent planting mixture of mulch for woodland plants.

Tip Of The Week: Painting Wood

Pine shelves are cheap and useful, but if you want a change of image it's easy to paint your existing pine:

The Style Police: Find it on the mean streets

If your bank account doesn't stretch to this season's luxury fabrics, never fear: the high-street retailers are on the case. And it doesn't matter if your cashmere isn't really 'shmere', no one will know the difference, promises James Sherwood

Theatre: If at first you don't succeed, kill, kill and kill again

SERIAL KILLING, one would imagine, is a serious business. And an actor playing a serial killer would have his work cut out preparing for the role. But what about an actor playing an actor playing at serial killing? In a musical? Well, in Douglas J Cohen's 1997 off-Broadway musical No Way to Treat a Lady, Tim Flavin is having a ball. As Kit Gill the role-playing murderer, he gets to sing, dance, laugh maniacally and dress up as a priest, a flamenco dancer and a stiletto-heeled woman. He gets the best tunes in a weak score, and, perversely, he's just about the most credible character in the whole show.

The big picture: The angel who fell to earth

CITY OF ANGELS DIRECTOR: BRAD SIBERLING STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, MEG RYAN, DENNIS FRANZ RUNNING TIME: 114 MINS

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

THE LITTLE WHITE BUS had a Mission Statement on the back. Well it would. Everything has a Mission Statement now. I'm thinking of getting one myself. I don't know what it could be, but that doesn't matter. You just go down to a Mission Statement Consultancy and they do it for you.

Love thy neighbour, just don't talk to him

I DON'T know what happened to Andrew Boulton. I think he went off to be a doctor, just like he'd always wanted to when we were at school. He's probably respectable now, and won't like to be reminded that once he hung around with the likes of me, people who sit around in our shirt- sleeves, giving off a pleasing aroma of Bois du Portugal and Latakia while a couple of hired Latvian danseuses exotiques squirm attractively by their pretty heels from the rafters. "I wonder," we say to ourselves, giving one of the girls an absent-minded twizzle, "what it would be like to be respectable?"

Weather: Beavers feel warmer than weasels in winter

Biometeorology is the science that deals with the effects of the atmosphere on living organisms. Research has even revealed the relative insulating capacities of the winter coats of different animals.

Shopping: Ecstatic punters lap up the business of sex

It was drizzling yesterday outside the Erotica exhibit at Olympia but it was hard to find even one man wearing a raincoat. Purple boas and codpieces, yes. Leather, yes, lots of it and a bit of silver lame too. But very few raincoats indeed. "Inevitably we will get a few sleazeballs but most of the dirty raincoats will stay at home," said Erotica organiser Brian Wiseman. "That type of man is easily frightened."

Hanged man's case reopened

A man who was hanged 45 years ago for allegedly slitting the throat of a shopkeeper is to have his case re-examined by the Court of the Appeal.

Sermons in white stones

THE HUNGRY SPIRIT by Charles Handy, Hutchinson pounds 14.99

Treetop Animal protests in a concrete overcoat

After the re-emergence of Swampy, it was the turn yesterday of another well-known eco-warrior to step into the limelight when 17-year-old Animal was lowered from a treetop in one of the most dramatic episodes so far of the two-week eviction near Manchester Airport.

After Bridgewater: Four more 'murderers' join British courts' list of shame

The case of the Bridgewater Three is not the last of its kind, writes Chris Blackhurst. Four more alleged miscarriages of justice are expected to be referred to the Court of Appeal within the next month, before officials at the Home Office hand over this task to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (see above).
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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
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?