News Christmas Day 2013 was all about the battle for the other most worthy yuletide delivery: the alternative Christmas message.

While Channel 4 located the alabaster NSA whistleblower, several other household names came out of the tinsel

Roundhouse: the cover version

Long filled with volumes of noise, Chalk Farm's monument to rock and rolling stock will soon house rare books and drawings. Jonathan Glancey reports

Soul meets the abstract space

Annie Lennox's new album is a set of covers. Here she introduces them; below, Tim de Lisle reviews them

Preacher's prophesies become all too real

Ian MacKinnon explores a rock star's controversial career in search of a reason for his mystery disappearance

ROCK / Burning and barking in Berks

ANY BAND that risks third-degree burns in the name of entertainment is all right by me. At the Reading Festival, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were all right by everyone. Their Sunday night performance packed the field fuller than it had been for the entire weekend, so you could be sardined in the first 500-odd rows, or stand so far from the stage you might as well have been watching the show on TV through someone else's sitting-room window.

Tired of London? Far from it: Taylor Parkes wonders what's got into a lot of young boys' heads

Right now, nothing is more fashionable in pop than the cockney accent, the dandy flourish; the whole devalued currency of London pop. Perhaps as a reaction to all-American grunge more and more young groups are adopting a nostalgic vision recycling the precious sepia-tinted imagery of The Kinks and Madness.

In an English city garden ..

A small war is rumbling around the sedate garden squares of Notting Hill. On my morning walk in the breathtakingly beautiful, but totally empty, Ladbroke Square, more of a park at seven acres, a notice barks:

COMEDY / Fat and other feminist issues

THE ECSTATIC reception that greets Jo Brand at the Bound and Gagged Comedy Feast confirms that television has sent her star into orbit. Her series, Through the Cakehole, may have had the occasional jotted-down-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet element, but that did not stop it riding high in the Channel 4 ratings, or being all the talk on Saturday morning trains into town. And her domesticated cockney cop-show spoof, 'Drudge Squad', was the stuff of which legends are made. Striding into the Bloomsbury Theatre spotlight with her electric-shock hair and sweet-wrapper trousers, she has certainly come a long way from the sad figure who used to creep on stage as the Sea Monster on Friday Night Live.

Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger: It started as trashy television sport, now it's an extravaganza. Lyndsay Russell muscles in on the hunt for the world's strongest man

The giant staggered forward, carrying a 2CV car. 'Why ride, when you can walk?' he grunted. His head and shoulders were stuck through the roof, his feet through the floor. Seventy stone - 445kg - was suspended from his torso via straining shoulder-straps.

RIFFS / Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff clears a hangover with the Clash's 'Complete Control'

I JUST played this track again and even at this time of the morning with a hangover it still makes me dive round the room. CBS had put out the second Clash single, 'Remote Control', without asking them while they were on holiday. The Clash were so cross they wrote 'Complete Control', which starts: 'They said release 'Remote Control', / But we didn't want it on the label'. The bass gives the track a good rumble and it's got this great guitar intro which stays there all through - typical punk, messing around with the different notes of one chord. I always found the Clash quite tuneful, and it's perfect pop in the spirit of delivery - the forcefulness and the energy. The subject is nailed in three minutes. It ends with the classic chanting - that Pistols thing of making a new chorus up by the end of the song. Mick Jones is going 'C-O-N trol', and over the top Joe Strummer's ad libbing 'You're my guitar hero' to Jonesy, which is a laugh. I always put this on, or 'Beat Surrender' by the Jam, whenever I feel I'm doubting music.'

ROCK / It's no longer so cool for cats: Stray Cats - Town & Country

IN 1981, the Stray Cats were a lively antidote to the over-produced new romantic pop of Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and the like. Relying on the bare bones of the semi-acoustic guitar, snare drum and stand-up double bass, the US trio of Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker came on with a sound and a look Gene Vincent would have been proud of.

ROCK / A tough act to follow: After 15 years, The Stranglers have a new line-up. Mark Wareham met the men who replaced Hugh Cornwell

Hugh Cornwell first left The Stranglers in 1980 when he visited Her Majesty for a few months in Pentonville. For a couple of nights at the Rainbow the band replaced him with some seven lead singers, including Toyah Wilcox, Ian Dury, Wilko Johnson, Billy Idol and Jake Burns. Ten years later, Cornwell left for good and the band settled on a mere two replacements, the lesser-known guitarist John Ellis (The Vibrators) and the completely unknown vocalist Paul Roberts (Big Wheel, as distinct from Jake Burns' Big Wheel).
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor