Sport Richardt Strauss could return to the Ireland squad for the Six Nations following his rapid recovery from heart surgery

Schmidt coached Strauss at Leinster and believes that his return is a bonus for Ireland ahead of the Six Nations campaign

Rant & Rave (09/12/12)

Rant

Anthony Rose: 'Maurizio González Gordon is sherry royalty'

An invitation to join in the blending of González Byass' new Palmas range doesn't come along every day, so when Martin Skelton, who heads up the UK office, invited me, it didn't take me long to say yes please. Imagine a game-loving monarchist being invited on a shoot at Balmoral with the Queen. Maurizio González Gordon, who runs the traditional family Jerez firm of González Byass, is sherry royalty, so the opportunity to join in the blending was not to be missed.

Five-minute Memoir: Michael Holroyd recalls a mischievous feline lodger

I grew up in a house that was crowded with dogs. Most of them belonged to my aunt, though a few of the less popular ones were passed on to my grandmother. As head of the household, my grandfather had to summon the vet from time to time, an excruciating business as he did not trust the telephone and, being unable to see whom he was speaking to, would raise his voice, making him sound very rude.

Legal highs... Jimmy Greaves - a meal of roast and veg

Need a boost? Try glands and brandy on the menu

England clearly needed a pick-me-up in Poland. Steve Tongue looks at what history has to offer

Grounded: Racing's Olly Barkley is tackled by Doug Howlett of Munster

New boy Barkley puts the boot into Munster

Racing Metro 22 Munster 17

Eric Hobsbawm

Further to yesterday's obituary of Eric Hobsbawm, in 1952 and 1953 it was my privilege - a word he often used in various contexts – to be supervised by Eric, as an undergraduate, a raw youth straight from a tank crew in the British Army of the Rhine. Unlike a number of distinguished don colleagues, he required one's essay to be delivered to his rooms at least three days before the submission date. The result was that he had time to read it more than cursorily and knew exactly the points he thought it was worth pursuing. No tutor could have been more dismissive of irrelevance or cant, and more direct in getting to the substance of any historical issue.

The spectacular New York City skyline

The travel agency of mum & dad

Recession-hit adult children are being forced to holiday with their parents, survey shows

Mandela Trilogy, Cape Town Opera, Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Since its foundation in 1999, Cape Town Opera has heroically fostered the growth of opera in South Africa, while spreading the word internationally about the wonderful voices which thrive in that country’s soil. And its close connection with the Wales Millennium Centre made this the perfect venue for the European premiere of Michael Williams’s biographical ‘Mandela Trilogy’.

Baked potato Madame Fort

Baked potato Madame Fort

Serves 4

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney

Uncapped Irish trio earn chance

The Ireland head coach, Declan Kidney, is set to finalise his 29-man squad for the New Zealand tour after tonight's game against the Barbarians at Kingsholm.

Solear Manzanilla, Barbadillo, £4.99, half-bottle, Waitrose, Tesco.com

Sunshine in a bottle: The freshest, lightest vintages to sip this summer

Solear Manzanilla, Barbadillo

Terence Blacker: Time to put email, Twitter and texts in their place

The landline telephone rings only occasionally these days and, when it does, it often brings a call-centre hustle of some kind. Yet every day passes in a blur of staccato communication with the outside world: can you do this? Have you seen that? Nudge, link, like, follow. The rhythm of online correspondence provides an easy sort of company, and can sometimes – not always – make life more convenient, but there is a price to be paid. We are losing the art of conversation.

Terence Blacker: Don't confuse talk with genuine conversation

The landline telephone rings only occasionally these days and more often than not, when it does, it brings a call-centre hustle of some kind. Yet every day passes in a blur of sustained, staccato communication with the outside world: can you do this? Have you seen that? Nudge, link, like, follow.

Pizarro says: 'I have a problem, which is that I love alcohol. I really like a glass of sherry'

José Pizarro: 'People ate anything they could get their hands on under Franco'

My earliest food memory...Seeing my mum and grandmother cooking – although growing up as a boy in rural Spain at that time, you weren't supposed to be in the kitchen. If there's one thing that evokes childhood for me, it's partridge. My grandmother would cook it at Christmas, and I still remember the smell of the burning feathers.

Anthony Rose: 'Something is happening: it's called the tapas bar revolution'

I was propping up the bar at José's eponymous tapas bar in London's Bermondsey when before you can say Rozinante, the barman offered me two red wines to taste, a bobal and a mencia. Not rioja, please note, but two relatively obscure yet delicious Spanish reds each with their own distinctive personality. I couldn't resist a glass of Gramona, a cava that's so refreshing it almost single-handedly redefines Spanish sparkling wine.

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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
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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

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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

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