Arts and Entertainment

Literary prescriptions for modern ailments

Picture of the Day: The bride wore snakeskin

Hundreds of villagers flocked to a wedding ceremony yesterday between a 16-foot female python and her slightly smaller mate – both believed to be magic snakes that bring prosperity and peace.

Minor British Institutions: New Year's Day

Apologies if your head, like mine, is feeling a little tender, but New Year's Day is a slightly complex Minor British Institution. Anciently, the New Year began with the Spring equinox in March (which explains September, the seventh month, October, the eighth, etc).

On the road: Festivities go off with a bang in the shadow of Vesuvius

It's Christmas Eve in Napoli and the rush is on to get ready for the main family feast. In the shadow of brooding Vesuvius, the sacred and profane overflow in a city both blessed and cursed by nature. Fatalism and ancient superstitions run alongside Christian mores. Via San Gregorio Armeno, home of the presepe (nativity-scene) craftsmen, twinkles with rustic tableaux teeming with wise men, shepherds, hams...

Unholy Awakening, By Michael Gregorio

Prussian bloodsucker has real bite

An ungodly row: Dawkins sues his disciple

Evolutionist's charity accuses protégé of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds

Nevin's Notes

Doomy times for the Royal Navy: powder running low; sails flapping; and old sea dogs stirring, waiting for the beat of Drake's Drum.

Cambridge to Ely: Not a hill in sight – that's what I call cycling

Joanne O'Connor gets pedalling along The Lodes Way, the National Trust's new cross-country route between Cambridge and Ely

Ian Holloway: This is biggest game of my life. The plan? Squash them!

We have got a nice, easy day today – Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. I still have to stop and pinch myself when I think about it.

Last Night's TV: Greatest Cities of the World with Griff Rhys Jones, ITV1<br />Autism, Disco and Me, BBC3<br />Outnumbered, BBC1

Right. So. Last night's television. No, not the election coverage – you'll find that in news. The other stuff: the soft stuff, you know. I've spent the past three weeks writing reviews of programmes that hardly anyone watched (clashing as they did with the election debates and then, last week, one debate and two football semi-finals). And now I'm reviewing stuff that virtually no one watched. Still, you were one of the select few that did, congratulations: far better to cast your ballot, go to bed at a sensible hour, and remain blissfully unaware of one's fate until the morning. Or, depending on how hung things turn out to be, in a few mornings' time. Either way, with matters of state on one's mind, what one needs is some light relief, isn't it? Or, even better, an escape plan just in case someone you really can't bear winds up at No 10. In which case, I'd suggest Hong Kong. It looked great in last night's episode of Greatest Cities of the World.

Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe, London

The play hasn't started and you're already saying, with Marlowe's Mephistopheles, "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it." The smoke is billowing, the bells are tolling, the bagpipes are wailing and, down below in the pit, the heads of the groundlings are peeking through a black tarpaulin like the lost souls on Judgment Day.

Leading article: Hearts of oak

The oak, along with the rose, is one of the great symbols of England. Reports that they face decimation as a result of a bacterial condition called Acute Oak Decline, or AOD, which makes the trees bleed to death, therefore, are bound to prompt comparisons, however illogical, in the minds of some, with the state of the country itself.

May Day: Ushering in summer with bells, flowers and dancing

For those of you who think May Day is a distress signal, May 1st is a marvellously hotchpotch day of festivities which combines traditions and superstitions from Paganism, Gaelic, Christianity and even chimney sweeps.

Leading article: That sinking feeling

It might sound morbid to some that the menus from the Titanic should have been compiled into a book, including those from the infamous evening of 14 April 1912, when it really was last orders all round.

A tale of two wars, and their youngest victims

In the week that the death toll in Afghanistan surpassed the 255 fatalities in the Falklands, Terri Judd tells the story of two teenagers whose sacrifice belied their youth

Zardari sacrifices goats to 'ward off evil'

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has a black goat slaughtered at his house almost every day to ward off "evil eyes" and protect him from "black magic", it emerged yesterday.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

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Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future