Life and Style

If you are reaching for your handkerchief it might be too late to stop the spread of flu, research suggests.

Great Works: Leda And The Swan (circa 1515) after Leonardo

Wilton House, Salisbury

Best of the west: Australia's largest state offers superb diving and the nation's finest wines

You look for omens on any sea voyage, and the cheeky young seal that was our escort to the sunken HMAS Swan's final resting place in Western Australia's Geographe Bay seemed to suggest a fine day's diving. Gambolling along the surface, flippers stretched towards the spring sunshine, he revelled in the calm seas and blue sky every bit as much as us. He came right alongside just as we reached the mooring buoys, fixed us with his big brown eyes and carefully preened his whiskers before sliding away into the depths.

Errors & Omissions: Once upon a time, people could distinguish fairy tale from reality

I hate to break this to you, but Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Pinocchio are fictional characters. Somebody made them up. When you watch a Disney film – indeed any film – the people on the screen are not really there. You are choosing to suspend disbelief in an illusion created by artifice.

Ain't life fadtastic? The A to Z of fads

From boob-tubes to Tamagotchi, human history is littered with ill-advised crazes. Rhodri Marsden looks back in wonder – and imagines what our future holds

Dom Joly: This cow row is causing a rift in my marriage

Stacey picks up the kids and sprints for the gate, while I dissolve into fits of giggles

Dinosaurs, the giraffes of their day

Ever since palaeontologists pieced together the many bones of lumbering sauropods they have argued about how these largest of dinosaurs would have held their immensely long necks.

The Wrestler (15)

Let's hear it for the fall guy

Ali Smith: Do you call that a Christmas present?

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me: a whole month whose daylight ended at roughly half past three. I looked out the window and watched it fall.

Swans stay in 'warm' Siberia

The late arrival in Britain of migratory birds from Russian region is being blamed on global warming, Ian Johnston reports

Ask Martha: Should I kick my flatmate out?

Got a social dilemma? Martha Arthur has the answer...

Album: Polar Bear, Polar Bear (Tin Angel)

A third album for Seb Rochford's jazz rats, and by far their best. Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart are the frontal tenor sax lobes, but what makes this their most accomplished, coherent recorded work is the LP's unitary vibe: by the sound of it, the group now constitute a single brain, a listening one.

Swan, By Peter Young

When contemplating the serene splendour of the swan, one may be disagreeably surprised by its hissing reaction to friendly approach. The swan has fascinated humanity for aeons – a fascination provoked not by its mere loveliness, but by the contrast between its appearance of perfection and its somewhat perverse nature. Peter Young's study of the bird involves ornithology, but also covers poetry, science, philosophy, and even the movements of markets.

Bird flu tests on two more swans

Tests were continuing last night on birds found close to the reserve where three wild swans have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Poultry curbs as bird flu is found in Dorset swans

Restrictions on the movement of poultry were in force last night after three mute swans tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there