Life and Style Only 3.4 per cent of the Solihull area is covered by housing

It isn’t hard to find an architect who will tell you that vast swathes of the British urban landscape are ugly, grey and unappealing – nor would you struggle to find people who agreed with them. But could it be that the look and the layout of our cities is actually bad for our health?

Statesman or salesman? Why Cameron's speech failed to inspire

The Tories had a good conference – and appear set fair for the general election. But there are nagging doubts after their leader's address

Mary Dejevsky: St Nicholas and Soviet-era brutalism

Potsdam Notebook: Shops and houses have been restored to their former pastel elegance, but vacant plots are everywhere

Inside Cadbury: Kind hearts and chocolates

Cadbury is the target of a takeover bid by its US rival Kraft. Andy McSmith examines the history of a company that is far more than just a confectioner

Pastures new: A garden can be a poignant reminder of the person who tended it

Adrian Padfield made a most generous bid for me in The Independent's Christmas auction. He intended it as a present for his wife, Gillian, a keen gardener and expert flower arranger, but tragically, in early January, she died. The garden became a painful thing for him to confront, stitched through with the plants his wife had chosen (many of them specially for her flower arranging) and which she, over the 20 years they had been in their home, had looked after. For her sake, Dr Padfield wanted the garden to continue. But, though he had been involved in its planning and construction, the actual plants in it were in many cases a mystery to him. Before he could learn what needed to be done with them, he had to know what they were.

Book Of A Lifetime: The Poetics of Space, By Gaston Bachelard

In a tumbledown cottage the wood-cutter's daughter dreams of life in the palace; in the palace the young prince believes that in a forest hut lives the woman he is destined to love and marry. Folk tales – with their Gothic illustrations - endure through the romance of mountain turrets, forest interiors, lonely cottages, magic casements and secret doors. This is what the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard called "the poetics of space", and his highly original study of the magical "cosmos" of the childhood home and its imaginary spaces is one of the few literary texts that architectural students are required to read.

Plan for tourist theme park raises Jerusalem tensions

Demolition orders served on Palestinian homes

Ready to Wear: The term ‘fashionista’ has always been a pet peeve in this neck of the woods

We all know that fashion terminology changes as regularly as, well, as fashion itself. How else would people be persuaded to invest in clothing that, basically, they already own?

Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London<br/>Rambert Dance Company, Sadler's Wells, London

Monica Mason's choice of Wayne McGregor as the Royal's house choreographer bears its first fruit

Games Review: SimCity Creator

FDS/Wii, EA, &pound;29.99 - &pound;39.99

Our Times, by AN Wilson

An edgy elegist for our divided kingdom

Design: Logan's run

Why would one of the grandest names in British art choose to live down a dingy, south-London backstreet? Esther Walker finds out. Photographs by Andrew Hayes-Watkins

Janet Street-Porter: Don't blame Kate. It's the fashionistas who love skinny models

Despite all the hand-wringing, nothing has been done to stop women starving themselves for the catwalk. It's all about money

Dr Feelgood: Indian massage - worth the dosha

Your weekly health and beauty check-up
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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