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Tune Hotels offers a budget pre-Christmas stay in the English and Scottish capitals, with double rooms for £50 at some London properties and £25 in Edinburgh. These rates apply on a few nights between now and Christmas, with availability good on 23, 24 and 25 December.

Obituaries: Derek Stanford

I feel bound to add to James Fergusson's scholarly obituary of Derek Stanford (9 January), since I had been acquainted with Derek since the early 1970s, when I joined his Poetry Writing Class at the City Lit in London, writes Julie Whitby. He didn't merely "subsist" in this capacity; as tributes from some of his ex-pupils avow, he was a brilliant lecturer, working by encouragement rather than overt criticism. James Berry (one-time winner of the National Poetry Competition) and dozens more benefited from his inspired instruction.

Betty Freeman: Arts patron and champion of modern classical music

Betty Freeman was a significant photographer, whose portraits of artists, composers and musicians have been exhibited internationally, including a 1996 show, "Music People & Others: 99 photographs from the contemporary music world" at the Royal Festival Hall in London. But she will be remembered by history as a Maecenas, the single most important sponsor of contemporary serious music of the latter half of the 20th century.

Child's play: Austria's scenic slopes are a hit with families

It may lag well behind France in terms of its popularity with British skiers, but Austria's scenic slopes will always have admirers – particularly among parents, says Stephen Wood

Susie Rushton: Know your London tourist

Urban Notebook: Spotted (and lesser spotted) on the Tube

Thomas Sutcliffe: If only they'd listened to me...

Artists and writers justifiably hate it when critics review the work they wished they'd seen, rather than the one they actually did. It's understandable, really. Just imagine it. You spend months carefully crafting a table and then you open the paper to find that someone is moaning that the seat is too high for comfort and there are no arm rests. "It's not meant to be a chair!" you would shriek, "It's supposed to be a bloody table!" And one of the things that aggravates the artist's irritation, rubbing salt into the paper cut, is the sense that critics are betraying themselves at such moments – revealing their envy for the act of creation.

Webb admits his mistake – allowing Poland's goal

In case he was in any doubt as to Poland's sentiments yesterday, the first question fired at Howard Webb came from a Polish reporter who asked the English referee what it felt like to be "public enemy No 1". Speaking for the first time about awarding Austria a last-minute penalty against Poland on Thursday, Webb said that he stood by his original decision and was not affected by death threats against him from, among others, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk.

The hosts with the least hope to spring surprise on Croatia

Host nations are always nervous, but few have as good reason to be so as Austria. The recent 5-1 demolition of Malta may have lifted them back into the top 100 in the Fifa rankings (they are 92nd, just behind Mozambique) but the Austrians know they are rank outsiders at their own party. That was only their second win in 16 matches.

Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra/Bolton, Cadogan Hall, London

Mozart's music sat well in the Cadogan Hall, particularly performed by the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. Founded in 1841, this is one of Austria's oldest orchestras. It plays at the full strength of a symphony orchestra, but for this short tour of the UK, numbers were reduced to the proportions of a chamber orchestra.

Norman Lebrecht: The clapped-out legacy of Karajan that impoverished classical music

The centenary of the conductor's birth is no occasion for genuine music lovers to celebrate. Hitler's poster boy offered nothing to art while ruthlessly crushing creativity

One dead in mass pile-up on Austrian motorway

At least one person was killed and several seriously injured in a pile-up of around 100 vehicles on Austria's main east-west highway today, local authorities said.

Ireland happy to break bank to land Trapattoni

Accepting a job to spend more time with your family is not always the greatest endorsement, but with Giovanni Trapattoni being unveiled as the new manager of the Republic of Ireland yesterday it undoubtedly amounted to an astonishing coup.

Trapattoni to take over as Ireland manager

Giovanni Trapattoni is set to become Ireland manager once his contract with Salzburg ends in May after agreeing in principle to a deal, the Irish Examiner reported yesterday.

La Traviata, Royal Opera House, London <br /> LSO/Gergiev, Barbican Hall, London

Overstuffed sets and buttressed costumes do their best to squeeze the life out of Verdi's doomed heroine, but it's worth fighting for a ticket for this Covent Garden revival just to see Anna Netrebko

Editor-At-Large: Natasha may be a nitwit but unlike you, Jack, she's worth it

If you want entertaining and Big Brother starts to pall, I suggest tuning in to television coverage of Parliament. Last week we enjoyed top-notch comedy when John Prescott attempted to justify his two free grace-and-favour homes and hefty salary, by giving MPs the rundown of all the committees he has been ordered to chair. This was Les Dawson-style slapstick at its best, and I can only presume that Mr Prescott had the help of the same nine speech-writers he was alleged to have used to finesse his technique when he had to deputise for Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions the other month.

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