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To buy a ticket for a hotly tipped play, within seconds of booking opening, requires perseverance and nerve as websites falter, payments vanish and a confirmation finally limps through. The goal is to see a top cast, whose fluency and fluidity is testament to years of determination – getting to drama school, being noticed at the end-of-year shows, getting an audition, getting a part and nailing it.  

Sugar snap curry makes a lovely spring or summer vegetable accompaniment, starter or part of a cold buffet

Sugar snap curry

Serves 4

Feast in the East: a sushi bar in the Japanese capital

My life in travel: Yotam Ottolenghi

'In Tokyo, I spent nights sitting in bars, eating noodles, raw fish and fried foods'

Tomatoes and crab on toast

Tomatoes and crab on toast

Serves 4

Blood feuds are becoming a theme of Aminatta Forna’s work

Review: The Hired Man, By Aminatta Forna

Step-by-step DIY guide to ending a Balkan blood feud

Barley: Planting is down 19 per cent. Seed for spring planting is in short supply

Beleaguered farmers' third poor harvest in a row means British shoppers will rely on imported food - and prices will rise

Crops from potatoes and peas to cereals are being hit, leading to increased reliance on imported produce

Bohemian charm in Tulum

The Hedonist: What to see and where to be seen

Ruth Rogers: 'You can tell a chef’s skill from the way they make a pasta pomodoro'

My life in food: Ruth Rogers, chef-owner of the River Café

Rogers is chef-owner of the River Café in London. She co-founded the restaurant with the late Rose Gray, with whom she also wrote books (the million-selling River Café cookbooks) and shared a Michelin star. Although her protégés included Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, Rogers is not a trained chef herself. Last year Rogers was a finalist for Veuve Clicquot's Business Woman Award last year and now sits on the awards panel, which recognises successful female entrepreneurs worldwide.

This joker's wild: a liberated Russell Brand

Russell Brand hails 'perfect' anti-addiction concert acts

Russell Brand said he had put together the "perfect bill" for his anti-addiction concert with acts including Noel Gallagher, Rizzle Kicks, and Nicole Scherzinger.

Pitta bread pizzas 

Six delicious dishes you can make in halls on the cheap

Beat the kebab cravings and the nights spent spooning spaghetti hoops from the tin with these six incredibly simple-to-make recipes

Despite countless varieties many Britons like their baked beans too much to experiment

There’s more to beanz than Heinz

Think beyond the can and try your hand at cassoulets and Boston baked beans, says Christopher Hirst

The Mater Ecclesiae and its extensive ground will be the new home for Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI: the monastic life awaits – with plenty of time for his cats

Pope had his eye on a retirement home within Vatican City for some time

From horse to lasagne: Findus, supply chains, and why buying local is the answer in an ideal world only

Labyrinthine supply chains exist for a reason - to fill a demand for cheap meat

Butter is made by churning fresh cream or milk whereas margarine is made of vegetable fats

Margarine's not bad - but butter's better

Remind me again why butter is so bad? Oh, that’s right. It’s high in fat. Newsflash: we need fat. Good old natural fat, in moderation.

Flapjacks are a quick and easy snack or dessert - it might not come out looking quite as perfect as this, though

Five quick and easy dessert recipes for students

Why not treat yourself to a nice dessert sometimes? We've gathered some recipes for you to try out if you want to impress...

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There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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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
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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
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'