Arts and Entertainment

Given our national obsession with property prices, Tim Walker’s novel is bound to hit a nerve. His fictional couple, the Manvilles, bought their large north London home at a knock-down price in the 1990s, and it became the key to two aspects of their family life. Jerry, a successful advertising executive, undertook all the original plumbing, electrical and redecoration work; Pen devised a series of popular children’s books, The House on the Hill, whose “cheeky brat with the ridiculous schemes” is modelled on, and named after, her real-life son Conrad: 15 years on, they have done a loft conversion, and divorced.

A two bedroom semi detached new house for sale with Seddon Homes for £115,950 at The Tarvin, Mosaic, Off Brackendale, Halton, Runcorn, Cheshire

Materials and skills shortage is damaging housebuilding progress

Bricks and concrete blocks are in particularly short supply.

G4S and Serco could have to pay the government between £3m and £4m in rebates for 'poor performance'

G4S and Serco face £4million penalty over 'substandard' accommodation for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are being crammed into overcrowded and substandard accommodation by G4S and Serco, according to a watchdog.

Bill Grimsey to advise Labour over high streets and business rates

The former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland Bill Grimsey has been made an adviser to the Labour party and will help draw up the opposition’s strategy over business rates for small businesses – one of the hottest topics for retailers.

The South Downs National Park

Come home to the country

First-time buyers can enjoy village life as commuters, says Ruth Bloomfield

Moving house? Why you should talk to your solicitor earlier than you think

Sellers that instruct a solicitor when they first list their property for sale move on average up to 11 days faster

Benefits Street: House for sale in James Turner Street, Birmingham

It's the street that’s split opinion all over Britain... and now you can buy your very own house on it.

Proposed sell-off of Government land and property could pave the way for thousands of new homes

New property search engine will allow everybody to search the government’s £330 billion property portfolio by town and postcode

Halifax predicts that house prices are set to rise across 2014 at a similar pace to last year

House prices rose 7.5% in 2013 but faltered in December, reports Halifax

Building Society forecasts an increase of between 4-8 per cent across the UK over 2014

The housing market varies greatly across the country

Number of people planning to move home has doubled over the last 12 months

"New Year is traditionally a time for planning and looking ahead, and moving home is again becoming a priority for many people"

He was often compared to The Great Blondini

Henri Rechatin: Tightrope walker who traversed Niagara Falls and once spent six months 66 feet above a supermarket

Henri Rechatin was a celebrated French tightrope walker and chair-balancer who was known professionally as Henry's and was often compared to The Great Blondin. Over a long career he balanced high above the Alps, Niagara Falls and for months over a supermarket in his home town of Saint-Etienne.

Millennium Dome, London: The Dome, now the O2 arena, opened in Greenwich in December 2000. Resembles a large circular marquee or giant 'Big Top'. Supported by 12 yellow towers – one for each month of the year. The largest structure of its kind in the world. Made of glass-fibre fabric, it weighs less than the volume of air inside. Greenwich prime meridian passes through its western edge.

The O2 Arena plans to host a designer outlet which will rival Bicester Village

Could the London-based venue become the new luxury shopping destination?

People outside an estate agent's window in London

First-time buyer numbers up nearly a quarter

Latest figures suggest the largest annual increase since 2001

London named 'best city in the world' for foreign property investors

London has been named the best city in the world for foreign property investors.

Making do: One in three poor families in rented homes live in bad conditions

Back to Rising Damp? One million rented homes in private sector are substandard

Taxpayers' money is going to private landlords who keep their housing benefit tenants in slum-like conditions

Buyers at auction are often in the market for a wide selection of cheaper, quirkier properties than the average estate agents

Majority of people think it's a good time to sell their home

However, one in eleven facing rent or mortgage trouble in January

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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