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As drug fiends usually know, peyote is a Mexican cactus with hallucinogenic properties; the visions it conjures are so strong that a religious cult once sprang up to worship it. And a pretty hefty restaurant cult has appeared in the UK that worships simple Mexican cuisine.

Cornwall: Act natural

Ben Ross and family discovered Cornwall's wild side by staying in a luxury log cabin in magical woodland and then a tipi set beside a lake. Now all they needed was a fire...

The Fox and the Child (U)

Luc Jacquet, who scored a hit with March of the Penguins, now tries to melt our hearts with this paean to foxes.

Fern Britain: Anna Pavord has frond memories of a garden favourite

Giant fronds, instant shading, exotic shapes ... no wonder the fern is a popular plant. But why is the home-grown variety still such a rarity?

The man who said 'no' to bank charges

When Marc Gander was charged £150 for going into the red, he launched a fightback campaign that could cost the banks billions in compensation and refunds

Terence Blacker: Season of renewal – and renewed anxiety

It has been a difficult few days: silence in the hedgerows where there should be song, followed by the publication of a profoundly depressing survey into the decline of migrating birds. But today has brought relief. The cuckoo is back, calling from his normal spot across the field from where I write.

Miles Kington Remembered: If you want to write a nature column, live in London

When I wander through the country, my mind tends to be elsewhere, and I can come home without having noticed anything in particular

Last Night's TV: A tragicomic postcard from the edge

Poppy Shakespeare, Channel 4; Marty Feldman – Six Degrees of Separation, BBC1

Time to get tough: How being nasty can improve your life

Being nice can ruin your life, according to the authors of two new books. Their advice? Stop being so pathetic!

Restaurant that served Jean-Paul Sartre and Victor Hugo stripped of Michelin star

Its lavish dining rooms and Parisian delicacies have attracted French politicians, writers and artists for 200 years, but the gilded mirrors of Le Grand Véfour lost their lustre yesterday after the eatery was stripped of its prestigious third Michelin star. The restaurant, founded in 1785 and frequented by Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, is the only three-star establishment to have been downgraded in the revered food guide's latest edition.

On a gilt trip: Vermilion, Hulme Hall Lane, Lord North Street, Manchester

Its opulent interior cost millions. But will Vermilion bring the crowds to an industrial estate in east Manchester?

Diamonds, Gold and War, By Martin Meredith

In the 1860s, despite over a hundred years of effort, the European colonial presence in Southern Africa was a fragile thing. The Cape colonists, British and Dutch, had managed to wipe out the San and push back the Xhosas, but this small agrarian incursion clung to the fertile coasts of the south. To the north-east the voortrekkers had stolen and defended enough land to establish two wafer-thin republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

The rudest Christmas letter ever written by Roger Lewis

Each Christmas, the critic and biographer Roger Lewis sends friends a seasonal'suicide note'. In hilariously caustic prose, it details family crises, the true awfulness of his celebrity acquaintances, and the dreary reality of a writer's life in the British provinces. This year's was his rudest and most outrageous ever...

Blair in surprise Baghdad visit

Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into Baghdad today for a surprise visit to mark the formation of a new Iraqi government pledged to defeat terrorism.

The Conjuror'S Bird, by Martin Davies

Biologist turns sleuth in quest for mystery bird - and its DNA

The Conjuror's Bird, by Martin Davies

Biologist turns sleuth in quest for mystery bird - and its DNA
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game