Voices Flooded fields around the River Tone seen from Windmill Hill, Somerset. Some parts of England have suffered the wettest January since records began

Three Independent letter writers covered the issue superbly

In Wales: Little England holds the key

Devolution

ENVIRONMENT Surfers at higher risk of hepatitis

Surfers are three times more likely to get the liver disease hepatitis A than the general public, a scientific survey has revealed.

Real men don't wear togs

Simon Calder joins the gentlemen bathers in Ireland's Forty Foot Pool

Flipper with a foot fetish

At Florida's Dolphins Plus, it's the humans who provide the entertainme nt, as David Sandhu found out

Sunset boulevards

Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux, Hamish Hamilton, pounds 16.99

Sellafield discharges `have more impact than Chernobyl'

Radioactive discharges from a British nuclear processing plant are having a bigger impact on the Arctic than the Chernobyl disaster, it was claimed today. Data compiled by Canadian researchers showed that a plume of radioactive seawater from the Sellafield plant in Cumbria - said to be "between two and three times" the contamination from Chernobyl - had reached northern Canada at a depth of 200 metres, New Scientist magazine reported.

The nation famed for its rainfall may soon take water from the sea

One of Britain's largest water companies is planning to build the country's first desalination plant, to turn large quantities of sea water into drinking water.

postcard from languedoc

Before we embarked on our journey, we kept asking: "What happens if the children get ill?" Luckily, our first-aid book is among Tallulah's bedtime reading. We pore over methods of preserving amputated digits and rescuing an electrocuted woman by standing on a telephone directory and prodding her with a broom. I like the way the victim looks so absurdly content and clean. Of course, the answer to the question is obvious. We would call a doctor. But what if you are parked in the middle of nowhere? Oh, hypothetical - phooey.

Into something rich and strange

SALT WATER by Andrew Motion, Faber pounds 7.99

Book reivew / Painting pictures on land and sea

Salt Water by Andrew Motion, Faber, pounds 7.99, A Painted Field by Robin Robertson, Picador, pounds 6.99

Shell floats a greener future for the North Sea oil platform no one wanted

The first and most difficult step is to raise the Brent Spar (main picture) out of its deep-water, vertical position so that it can be brought ashore. This could be done by gradually pumping in compressed gas (1), which will in turn pump out the oily sea water inside into a nearby tanker. Slowly, like a huge bottle, the Spar would rise to float on its side - but the danger is that the structure would split and sink, because it was weakened when it was first placed in the vertical position after construction 20 years ago.

Seasonal bullshit and humbug in the House

You stagger into the House, Christmas lunch congealing in your digestive system

The not-so-funny farms; fishing lines

Fish farming has moved some way on from the days when monks scraped leftover beans-on-toast into their stewpond to fatten up the resident carp. The pounds 20bn industry has trebled in the past 10 years alone and is growing at more than 10 per cent annually. Many familiar sea fish - halibut, turbot, bass and bream - are becoming modern aquaculture's equivalent of battery chickens.

The happy reaper of the bullrushes

Felicity Irons has grown used to attention during the summer bullrush harvest. At six foot, the 29-year-old actress-turned-furniture maker cuts a striking figure among the pleasure boats on the Great Ouse. "People call me the wild woman of the Fens," she laughs, before shouting at passing river day-trippers to slow down. For the last three summers she has propelled her wobbly 17-foot punt alongside the river banks, chopping the clumps of dark-green bullrushes with a seven-foot scythe.

The Black Crowes Three Snakes and One Charm American 74321 38484

It'll probably grow on me over time, but for the moment this sounds like the most turgid offering yet from the Atlanta rockers. On their day, they're the best live band in the world, but here the layers of guitar and keyboards seem too densely packed to achieve lift-off, leaving several tracks straining to rise above their riffs.
Voices
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
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
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X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
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James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
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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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Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
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Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
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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
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick