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
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?