Travel

My stomach has endured the full scope of awful foods this planet has to offer Trying adventurous food is a big part of travelling, but India, where I'm travelling through now, has more problems with [food] hygiene than anywhere else in the world. It's a cultural problem, as eating meat is a rarity in rural areas, so they treat it like a vegetable, keeping it in a cupboard. So when the occasional Westerner passes through, by the time it's pulled out, it's been in there for a few months. When travelling across poorer parts of India now, I try to survive off rice and dahl.

Benteke celebrates his goal for Aston Villa
Dale Steyn took six wickets for eight runs in eight overs last week

The Last Word: Savour Steyn, the virile throwback to a hostile age

Seldom has such speed been hitched to such accuracy – or such ferocity

Paul Gascoigne, who used to be the toast of a nation, needs a counsellor more than a dentist

Oh how we chuckled indulgently at this great footballer's high jinks years ago. Now he desperately needs expert help if his story isn't to have a terrible ending

Ambergris from whales is quite rare

£100,000 for whale vomit? That’s sick

Why is ambergris worth so much money? Simon Usborne holds his nose and finds out

What you can learn at X Factor school

Mickey Mouse degree? Nah, I'm taking the X Factor

Grace Dent on TV: Mrs Brown's Boys, BBC1

Irritating relatives, terrible jokes, mindless banter: the perfect accompaniment to a family Christmas

Robert Green reacts after putting the ball into his own net

Djibril Cisse slams decision making of Chris Foy

Controversial decisions were made in QPR's defeat to West Brom

2012 breakthroughs: Curiosity rover landing system

Scientific breakthroughs: From bone fragments to Higgs boson, the tiny finds with huge consequences

Winners of this year’s best breakthroughs revealed

Burberry Prorsum a/w12

He wore blue velvet

The most tactile of fabrics comes into its own for the party season – just be sure to avoid cheap imitations, says Lee Holmes

Portrait of a Lady: the life and passions of Lady Barber, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

This is one of those good/bad exhibitions – good in so far as it tells us an interesting story about the foundation of an important institute of fine arts in Birmingham eighty years ago within the precincts of the university; bad in so far as a fair number of the works on display here – notably the paintings of Lady Barber herself - are of an indifferent quality. Not the lace and the tapestries though.

Bupa in £244m dental deal in Australia

The private healthcare group Bupa has agreed to take over Australia and New Zealand's largest dentistry chain for £244m.

Oscar Niemeyer

Further to the obituary of Oscar Niemeyer by Jay Merrick (7 December), I saw a number of his earlier buildings in 1953, when I was in Brazil with an oil company. I was overwhelmed by his "shock of the new", in Merrick's words. His break from convention was breathtaking. The Department of Education building in Rio was built in the 1930s, before air conditoning. With Rio's high temperatures and high humidity, the conventional approach was a veranda on the ground floor, with mini roofs over the windows on the floors above. This cools the air, but darkens the inside, so that electric light sometimes had to be employed during the hours of daylight.

<p>1. Lakeland</p>
<p>£19.99 for one, lakeland.co.uk</p>
<p>This is vast. It has two party wigs, funny noses, teeth, moustaches, glasses, eye patches, paper hats, jokes, charade cards and balloons.</p>

The 10 Best Christmas crackers

Make sure your crackers don’t put a dampener on your festive feast by picking up one of these sparkling sets

Peter Crouch (L) of Stoke City celebrates scoring his second goal with Michael Kightly (R)

Stoke hopeful Peter Crouch will be fit for Aston Villa meeting

Premier League team news

All the wrong moves: Radio 1 DJ Vernon Kay

The Week In Radio: Vernon Kay is Strictly out of step with this dancing debacle

"It’s saturday morning and it’s just gone 10 o’clock,” bellowed Vernon Kay. “and we are here! We are here! We are live!” Where, Vernon? I bellowed back from my kitchen.

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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
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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick