Arts and Entertainment

Stand up if you're in a mid-life crisis

Pixie Lott has landed her first television acting role in Inspector George Gently alongside Martin Shaw.

Pixie Lott to join cast of BBC1 drama Inspector George Gently

Chart-topping star Pixie Lott is joining the cast of BBC1 drama Inspector George Gently.

Tuscan sun: the terrace at the Castello di Casole

Room service: Castello di Casole, Tuscany, Italy

Country life goes lux in Tuscany

If the dress fits: On Oscar night, 1955, Grace Kelly set the standard for red-carpet style

On Oscar night, 1955, one actress set the standard for red-carpet style, argues Susannah Frankel

Blessed (right) says: 'We both feel the greatest danger in life is not to take on adventures'

How We Met: Matt Dickinson & Brian Blessed

Matt Dickinson, 46

El Palace's sumptuous public rooms have been opulently revamped as part of the hotel's £27m refurbishment

Stay The Night: Hotel El Palace, Barcelona

A facelift that took two years and cost millions has put this luxury landmark back on the map, says Simone Kane

Barcelona: Cram in the sights, then hit the beach

City Slicker: Catalonia's capital is always changing. But its cool factor is ever present. Simone Kane offers tips for new and returning visitors

Charlie Chaplins hit London en masse

A troupe of Charlie Chaplins took to London streets to shoot a short film to launch Virgin Media Shorts 2011, the UK’s biggest short film competition and the only one which champions undiscovered UK film talent across four screens - at cinemas, on TV, on mobile and online.

The Hedonist: London

What to see and where to be seen

The good prince guide

Now William Windsor is spoken for, which other royal boys might a girl set her sights on? Alice-Azania Jarvis surveys the field

Why are Asian women aspiring to Western ideals of beauty?

Asian and African women are aspiring to Western ideals of physical perfection – and the results are far from pretty

Diary: A pair of Blow-Up models

Last week David Gandy D&G's favourite budgie-smuggler, kept us guessing as to the details of his first acting role, in a film he's shot with fellow model Helena Christensen. Cornered at the Triumph Inspiration Awards, Christensen, was more forthcoming than her co-star. Turns out the short is a tribute to Antonioni's 1966 classic, Blow-Up. Its director is Edoardo Ponti, son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, who produced the original movie about a fashion photographer embroiled in a murder. Gender roles reversed, the tribute features Christensen (herself a snapper) as the photographer, with Gandy in the blessedly unchallenging role of one of her models. "I have huge admiration for actors; it is one of the strangest places you can go with yourself," said Christensen airily. "I wanted to push myself into a situation where I'm pulled out of a comfort zone and put in a very challenging place... It was an amazing experience." Essex-born Gandy's description was somewhat earthier: "I haven't had a single acting class," he told me, "[so] I was really bricking it."

Magnum photographer's UK exhibition

Works by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt have gone on show in the UK at the Magnum Print Room in London.

Observations: A Visual History of Cookery is a feast for the eyes

Many of us buy cookery books not for the recipes, but for the mouthwatering imagery that accompanies them. How many copies of Jamie, Nigel and Nigella's numerous tomes rest not on the shelf next to the cooker, dog-eared and spotted with grease, but immaculately preserved on the coffee table? Why cook a recipe when you can salivate over the photograph instead? A Visual History of Cookery takes this thinking to its logical conclusion in a beautiful new book that is a feast for the eyes.

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Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
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Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
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The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

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Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
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Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
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Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
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Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
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Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
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Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
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Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

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Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

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The Open 2014

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