Harriet Walker: 'I'm heading home for the holidays - household tips at the ready!'

It still feels odd not to have a proper "end of term"' before the Christmas holiday. The way I separate work from the gluttonous hiatus these days is with the journey from London to my parents' house in Sheffield.

Michael Sharvell-Martin: Perennial supporting actor who worked with Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson

The actor Michael Sharvell-Martin was the perennial supporting player, most often seen in television sketches alongside comedians such as Benny Hill, Dave Allen and Les Dawson – and on stage as a long-running pantomime dame.

Starter's orders: A beginner's kit of plants and bulbs for creating your first garden

When I was young (despite Freud's credo), the thing that I most envied my brother was his Meccano set. The first kit contained most of the basic struts, screws and other components necessary for simple skeleton constructions. Subsequent sets added cogs, axles, wheels and arcs to fill in the gaps and put together more complicated creations.

Dennis Skinner backs David Miliband for Labour leader

David Miliband's Labour leadership bid received a boost today when he was backed by veteran left-winger Dennis Skinner.

First Night: Simon Rattle / Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Albert Hall, London

A rapturous response to Rattle's return

Strange fruit: The secrets of the River Cottage garden

As head gardener at River Cottage HQ, Mark Diacono grows all kinds of things you can eat. But it's in his own backyard that he really branches out, as Anna Pavord discovers.

Sucker Punch, Royal Court, London

A swipe at the legend of the ring

Ah, the Clary Sage, I presume: On the hunt for the rarest plants

You don't need to be a snob to take a delight in plants no one else has ever heard of. Emma Townshend heads to the spring fairs to search out the weirdly wonderful

Star players: Anna Pavord looks back on the gardening trends and treats of the noughties

Whenever there's a new nought in the year, retrospection takes over: the best of the decade, the worst of the decade – B-listers rush to tell us what they remember of the past 10 years. I remember very little, but that's because gardeners are hard-wired to look forward, not back. My impression is that we've been force-fed with grasses and green roofs, that grow-your-own has a new gloss on it and that there has been a lot of rain. Shrubs have got less and less attention while hellebores, dahlias, alliums and snowdrops have reinvented themselves in surprising and lucrative ways. Who would ever have thought that a single snowdrop bulb would sell for £100?

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea