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
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head