Life and Style

Q. I'm a single mother in my forties and I think I've begun to develop some kind of social phobia. People think of me as quite a confident person. I'm fine dealing with people in my work and at the school gate (I have two sons aged 11 and 14), but I dread any social event.

Don't look back in hunger: Musicians reveal their favourite foods in Rockstar Cookbook

Who would have thought that bad boy musician Noel Gallagher once had a Yorkshire Tea habit? Or that Razorlight partly chose to sign with Universal because the label took them out for a better dinner than their rivals? Both feature in Love Music Love Food – the Rockstar Cookbook, published in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Pop's gender war: Sexism dictates the media profile of female stars

It was the weekend when it was announced that women were responsible for each of the UK's top five albums that finally pushed me over the edge. Let me be more specific. It wasn't the fact that Amy Winehouse, Adele and Beyoncé were occupying those top spots that I took issue with – it was the predictable flurry of media reporting, proclaiming that women in music were having some sort of moment.

WOW Bikes: Ron Arad reinvents the wheel

Londoners have become used to their distinctive blue "Boris bikes", but from today, a much more outlandish fleet of two-wheelers will be available. Called WOW Bikes, they have been customised by top creatives and after being used by visitors to a West End hotel for the next 10 weeks, they will be auctioned to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Meltdown: Ready Steady Go! Royal Festival Hall, London

Ready Steady Go! may be the most fondly remembered 1960s pop TV show. It lasted barely three years, fading out, at the end of 1966, before it could outstay its welcome – like the sharp singles it helped to promote. Ray Davies and the producer Vicki Wickham's one-night-only revival for Meltdown can't resurrect the social club the studio became for the Beatles, Stones and Kinks, or the young dancing Mods who were almost trampled by careening cameras. The minimal set – a couple of period photo-decorated signs – is a letdown. But somehow, the spirit of pop at its most warmly creative catches light again.

Women of the World, Royal Festival Hall, London

"Women of the world, take over," the whimsical Scots bard Ivor Cutler once urged, his advice taken last Friday at a concert featuring women performers from different strata of the musical spectrum.

Paloma Faith & the Guy Barker Orchestra, Barbican, London

In the Guy Barker Orchestra, Paloma Faith has clearly met her perfect match: a bunch of talented musicians with as deep and sincere a love of big-band jazz and blues as she has, led by a gifted musical director whose arrangements subtly and ingeniously update the standard period tropes. There's an obvious rapport between singer and musicians, who doubtless had fun planning tonight's show, Down at the End of Lonely Street, a quote from "Heartbreak Hotel" signifying the melancholy, lovelorn tenor of the torch-song material.

Paloma Faith: 'It took seven years to become an overnight success'

The Independent Online caught up with the multitalented pop singer Paloma Faith ahead of her gig at London’s HMV forum last week. She explains why she abandoned her plans to dance professionally for a job in a pub singing with her mates. Even though she's a major star she's still keen on the X Factor - so much so she confesses she'd like to write a song for contestant Rebecca.

Dom Joly: I'm at the Albert Hall and it's rubbish

I played the Albert Hall last week. I was on stage for all of 30 seconds but still... box ticked. It all started with a call from Dave Arnold, the overly talented film-score composer. He was organising a concert for Care, a charity he is passionate about. The idea was for a night of some of the greatest film music ever composed, all played live with full orchestra – all bells and whistles. In between the music some light relief was wanted and Dave asked if I could do something. I agreed – after all, unless you're Eric Clapton, it's not often you get the chance to play the Albert Hall. The problem was, what to do? I am not a stand-up comedian, so don't have 10 minutes of lighthearted patter to do before moving on to my next three gigs of the evening: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen and can I say how exciting it is to be at the West London Photocopying Awards.... Sorry I'm late, but I've just been playing the Albert Hall."

Forget Radio 2: In five years' time, we'll all be going Smoooth

Former BBC DJ Mark Goodier tells Matthew Bell why BBC executives have reason to fear

Sarah Kennedy denies drink problem rumours

Presenter Sarah Kennedy today hit back at rumours her departure from BBC Radio 2 was due to a drinking problem, insisting she was always "stone cold sober" on air.

Mo Coppoletta: "If you want to succeed in tattooing, you need to breathe, eat, drink and smell tattooing."

One of the world’s most respected tattoo artists shares his inspiration and an insight into his work in the new book ‘Tattooed By The Family Business’.

Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: alcoholism

Dear Virginia,

Yurtel: They even put eye masks on the pillows here

When Katy Guest decided to take her parents to the Big Chill, there was only one style of camping that would do. Cue Yurtel
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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
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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