News Fireman Christian McClean comforts colleague Alex Badcock (right) after they both finished the last ever shift at Clerkenwell fire station in London.

There were emotional scenes as firestations across the capital closed their doors

Freedom proves fatal to eagle owl of St Paul's

An escaped eagle owl which had been nesting in the roof of St Paul's Cathedral for the last two weeks was found dead by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals yesterday.

Cue: storm scene ... the heavens open on Britain's outdoor theatricals

It's an ill wind ... the open-air theatre season has opened to the most unseasonable weather in living memory. But not everyone is counting the cost.

A zoo romance ...

London Zoo's two-year-old pygmy hippopotamuses making their debut in Regent's Park yesterday. Hope, from Edinburgh, and Nicolas, from Rome, are the zoo's first hippos since 1988. At only 1m tall, the web-footed pygmies are one twentieth the size of their common cousins

Theatre / All's Well That Ends Well Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London

In the theatre, as in life, there are two ways of approaching a problem: either you can try to solve it, or you can plough merrily on and hope it will go away. Helena Kaut-Howson favours the second approach, if her production of All's Well That Ends Well is anything to go by; and on this showing, there is something to be said for it.

Bouquet of Bard wire

Helena Kaut-Howson doesn't go in for traditional tourist-pleasers. Her latest production, 'All's Well That Ends Well', for the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, is no exception. It is set in a contemporary war zone.

CHEAP OR CHIC?

Is a good wine all in the taste or is the label equally important?

Cricket: Ramprakash leads the centurions

Middlesex 400-2 v Northamptonshire

THEATRE: Something in the air

A Midsummer Night's Dream Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London

Theatre With David Benedict

Hot news: David Hare is to direct Heartbreak House. His bold, rigorous translation of Chekhov's little known Ivanov swept audiences off their feet at the Almeida earlier this year (I know, I saw it twice). And Heartbreak House - a Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes is George Bernard Shaw's most Chekhovian play. So enticing is the combination of Hare and the Almeida and this terrific text, that a dynamite cast has already signed up for the pounds 260 per week wage. After playing Galliano there in Hare's Brecht Translation, Richard Griffiths returns to play Captain Shotover. Malcolm Sinclair will play the idealistic Mazzini Dunn, with Emma Fielding as his daughter Ellie and there's the altogether alluring prospect of a sister act by the illustrious Penelope Wilton and Patrica Hodge as Hesione Hushabye and Lady Utterword.

Profile: Acting the fool - Jim Broadbent

Actor Jim Broadbent talks with James Rampton

Good news in Blair country

Under the massed ranks of cameras last weekend, Islington enjoyed its finest hour. All over the world, people were given pictures of New Labour's spiritual heartland basking in glorious sunshine. No wonder that estate agents were counting the landslide in pounds rather than votes. They are hoping that the Prime Minister will do for Islington what Margaret Thatcher did for Chelsea.

An urban sanctuary for bears or cynical showbiz?

Animal welfare campaigners yesterday condemned London Zoo's reintroduction of bears to its newly refurbished Mappin Terrace, which opens to the public on Saturday.

Doing what comes naturally

Fashions come and go but Ian Mankin's natural fabrics are always in demand, reports Hester Lacey

Obituary: Sir Victor Pritchett

For surprisingly many years V. S. Pritchett (Sir Victor Pritchett) was the best short-story writer and, equally, the best impressionistic literary critic in Britain. He was also the author of a very distinguished travel-book, The Spanish Temper (1954), five estimable novels, and a memorable two-volume autobiography (A Cab at the Door, 1968; and Midnight Oil, 1971). But the fact that his reputation was always high and suffered no great fluctuations tended to obscure the real distinction and importance of his achievement.

Prophet and loss account

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

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Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
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Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
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!

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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

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Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

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