Taking the plunge in male world: A radical firm of female plumbers wants to change the trade's macho image

People who think that women aren't strong enough to be plumbers should think again. "Anyone who can give birth is stronger than they look," says Hattie Hasan.

Boiler scrappage scheme hits its target

The Government's boiler scrappage scheme – where people are given vouchers towards the cost of replacing their old unit with an energy-efficient "A-rated" one – has reached its target of 125,000 households in double quick time.

Nintendo's biggest brain

You may not recognise this man, but you'll know his work. From Super Mario Bros to Nintendogs, Shigeru Miyamoto is the brains behind some of the best-selling video games of all time. By Tim Ingham

Wolseley puts units under review as profits dive

Wolseley is prepared to sell some of its struggling units after disclosing a 34 per cent drop in interim trading profits, the company said yesterday.

Isa and May, By Margaret Forster

The narrator of this curious novel has an unusual name. Her parents, James and Jean, have called her Isamay, after her paternal grandmother, Isabel, and Jean's mother May. Isabel, or Isa, lives in some splendour, with Mrs Roberts to clean for her and the obliging Elspeth to bake the cakes that accompany afternoon tea. She also has a gardener on call. May, by contrast, lives alone in the two-up, two-down terraced house in which she shared her life with her husband Albert, a plumber of beloved memory, and raised four children, only one of whom, Jean, remains in London. Isamay is devoted to her widowed grannies, whose very different kinds of courage and tenacity are a source of both irritation and inspiration to her. Throughout the novel, she is working on a dissertation for an MA in Women's Studies, taking as her subject the importance of the grandmother in the family. Her supervisor, the forbidding, middle-aged Claudia, advises Isamay to examine the way certain figures from history have behaved towards their grandchildren - the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, for instance, and Queen Victoria. There are others, but it is really Isa and May with whom she is chiefly, and deeply, concerned.

'Appalling' conditions at young offenders' institute

A prisons watchdog has criticised "appalling" conditions at a young offenders' institute (YOI), it emerged today.

McCain ruined my life, says Joe the Plumber

He became the the square-shouldered mascot of John McCain's campaign for the White House in 2008, but all these months later the man they christened "Joe the Plumber" has suddenly lashed out at the veteran US senator from Arizona for "screwing up" his life.

Gordon Brown woos first-time voters

Gordon Brown today wooed first-time voters in a constituency where Labour holds a 3,000 majority.

How to protect your home from burst pipes – and other domestic disasters

Chiara Cavaglieri offers a few simple tips, and looks at the best cover

After the freeze comes the thaw – and risk of a flood

Flood damage could end up costing you tens of thousands – and with a big thaw just round the corner it is crucial to be prepared.

Ganges braced for 60 million bathing pilgrims

As millions of Hindus prepare to descend on the holy city of Haridwar, the authorities have urged people to avoid dirtying the Ganges – India's most sacred river yet one of its most heavily polluted.

Insurance claims leap as big freeze continues

Insurers today said they had seen a sharp increase in home and motor claims as a result of the freezing weather.

Mighty Mario is Europe’s favourite

Forget the spiky charms of Sonic the Hedgehog, the masculine might of Master Chief and the lithe limbs of Lara Croft. The gamers of Europe have chosen their all-time number one hero and it’s a fellow who’s pretty handy with a plunger, rather than a plasma cannon.

The Company They Kept, Edited by Robert Silvers & Barbara Epstein

"A memoir of a talented friend risks sentimentality," warns Robert Silvers, (editor of The New York Review of Books who edited w ith its co-founder, Barbara Epstein, until her death in 2006) in his preface.

Closer Look: New Super Mario Bros Wii

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University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
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Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz