Travel

Lose yourself in the enchanting scenery and crystal waters of this historic chain of islands – perfect for relaxation and activity alike

Sophie Heawood: Women rarely say, gosh, I've had the baby

I'd never given the American pop star Jessica Simpson much thought before. Nice blond hair, reality TV show origins, some songs I can't remember. Until last week, when she became so fully gestational that all her famous friends started banging on about it. "Has Jessica Simpson had that baby yet?! I'm getting anxious," tweeted fellow pop star Katy Perry. TV presenter Chelsea Handler, recently voted one of the world's most influential people by Time magazine, asked much the same thing, only worse: "How has Jessica Simpson still not given birth to this baby? I'm getting frightened." At the risk of suggesting that a woman who hasn't had a baby might not know as much about the subject as one who has, it is clear that neither Perry nor Handler know what it is to be very, very pregnant.

Rail union urges passengers to protest over ticket office closures

Thousands of rail passengers were today urged to back a union campaign to save hundreds of smaller ticket offices from closure.

From the Hans-Peter Feldmann exhibition at the Serpentine

Jester has the last laugh

The Serpentine Gallery's retrospective of Hans-Peter Feldmann proves that this prankster's work is playful but far from puerile, says Adrian Hamilton

From the Hans-Peter Feldmann exhibition at the Serpentine

Hans-Peter Feldman: Serpentine Gallery meets anarchic conceptual art

The Serpentine Gallery's retrospective of Hans-Peter Feldmann proves that this prankster's work is playful but far from puerile, says Adrian Hamilton

Harriet Bridgeman: The first lady of fine art

She owns more than 300,000 works by great artists from Da Vinci to Monet – or, at least, she retains the rights to reproduce their images. As Harriet Bridgeman's incredible art library celebrates 40 years, John Walsh meets its charismatic chief curator. Plus, she picks her favourite 'acquisitions'.

Zoe Leonard, Camden Arts Centre

The world usually rushes at us so quickly – its perfume, noise and changing weather, the skewing angles of our emotions and thoughts – that we find it hard to see.

How Soon Is Now?, By Richard King

To the younger generation of music fans, "indie" is a genre, a ubiquitous term used to describe artfully scruffy purveyors of white-boy guitar pop. In the late Seventies and Eighties, however, it was an abbreviation of "independent", used to distinguish the small, self-financed, artist-friendly record labels - the type started in garages, garden sheds and behind the counters of record shops - from their corporate counterparts.

Sporting glory: The opening ceremony of the 1924 Paris Olympics

Forgotten field of dreams: Visit the scene of Britain's triumph at the 1924 Olympics in Paris

You probably know the place, at least on screen. If you have seen either Chariots of Fire or Escape to Victory, you will have seen the centrepiece of those sporting thrillers: a stadium in the north-western reaches of Paris. Or, rather, you will not have seen it. Because the Stade du Matin is represented in the former feature by Bebington Oval in the Wirral, and in the latter by a stadium in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Yet by some miracle of neglect, the venue for the most celebrated 400m race in Olympic history – not to mention the 1938 World Cup Final – is still there, buried in the banlieue, and all yours to race around.

Chill factor: The splendour of the Grand Canyon in winter

A wintry, ice-draped Grand Canyon? Cool!

Presidents have praised the magnificence of this geological scar in the south-west US, yet most people only see it in summer. To enjoy this landmark in solitude – go with the snow, says Chris Leadbeater

Album: Pugwash, The Olympus Sound (Lojinx)

With the Seventies back in guilty-pleasure fashion, The Olympus Sound could be the album to bring Thomas Walsh's Pugwash the success he deserves.

No mod cons: Soneva Fushi in the Maldives offers guests
neither phones nor TVs. It's one of a new breed of
destinations where less (distraction) is more (relaxing)

'Black-hole' resorts: Turn up, tune out, log off

'Black-hole' resorts where mobiles are banned and the internet is anathema are set to be huge this year

A place of the beautiful and damned: Aerial view of Mauritius

The Prisoner of Paradise, By Romesh Gunesekera

It is 1825. Lucy Gladwell, a callow young Englishwoman, arrives in Mauritius to live with her aunt and uncle in a grand plantation house. She is, of course, ardent and plucky, idealistic and hopeful that here, away from stuffy England, she will be emancipated, find her true self and an all-consuming love.

A Card from Angela Carter, By Susannah Clapp

Dear Angela, wish you were here

Troubled Clinton Cards and JJB fight back with strong festive figures

Two of the high street's most embattled chains, JJB Sports and Clinton Cards, gave their battered shareholders cause for hope yesterday with an improvement in their trading over Christmas.

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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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Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
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File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
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Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
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Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
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Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
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X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
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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
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
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'