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Last night games:

It's a quiet life in Benidorm

Cheap, warm and quiet, Benidorm isn't so bad out of season. And when you tire of the third-rate entertainers you can always escape to the nearby mountains. Matt Fletcher joins the fiftysomethings on the Costa Blanca

Woman dies in `satanic ritual'

A BELGIAN woman aged 35 died near the town of Alicante in southern Spain after being subjected to ritual satanic abuse in her own home, Spanish police said yesterday. Her Spanish husband was among four suspects detained in connection with the death, apparently caused by a ritual attempt to drive evil spirits from her body.

Letter: Battle of smoke

Sir: Jean-Marc Evans (letter, 10 October) complains that not paying one's fare on a bus incurs only a pounds 10 fine, whereas smoking is penalised with a pounds 1,000 fine. He ignores the fact that cigarette smoke, unlike fare- dodging, can be fatal to other people as well as the smoker.

Letter: Cannabis trials

Sir: In the 1960s, when I was in bed with flu, four of my sixth- form pupils arrived to ask how I was. They put four large, beautifully rolled joints on my bedside table and wished me well.

A pair of playas

One traveller, two trips. Simon Calder visited the Costa Blanca's star resort as a package tourist, and independently

Shena Mackay

It's crushingly hot, 40C, and the children look like little legionnaires in their pink-and-yellow caps with flaps to protect the backs of their necks. We are staying in one of a row of six blindingly white Moorish houses on the beach, with pillars supporting the flat roofs over the tiled verandas. There are six of us, Gill and Juan, their bilingual daughters Gabriela, 5, and Rebeca, 3, another friend and I. Gill and Juan, who live at Rocafort, a few kilometres from Valencia, have rented this house on the Playa Almarda for a couple of weeks. Three steps down from the veranda, and you are on burning sand glittering with mauve flowers, sea holly and white, empty snail shells so light that a breath blows them from your hand. A prickly pear, succulent and spiky, sprawls its fruit and orange- red tufts against a wall at the back, and palm trees catch the setting sun. The sea, shelving sharply from smooth oval pebbles of purple and agate, pulls to the left, so that anything it takes is cast up farther along the shore. At least, beach balls, flip-flops and plastic detritus are; my spectacles, falling when I bent to wash sand from my legs, seem lost for ever. Gabriela, a video buff and word-perfect on The Little Mermaid, thinks a mermaid has got them - so, somewhere on a rock off the Spanish Main, there is a person with a scaly tail in a pair of Varilux lenses.

city slicker Valencia

Valencia is currently celebrating the annual Fallas Festival, one of Europe's most important festivities. There are parades and fireworks, with the climax tomorrow night at midnight

Leading Article: Valencia's message to Brighton

Britain's political parties, not to mention its bemused voters, may wish that the tortuous issue of a single European currency would simply go away. Until this weekend that outcome seemed possible. Amid German fears of losing the mark's stability, French difficulties in meeting the requirements of monetary union and British Euro-scepticism, time travel a la Stephen Hawking might seem as likely as sterling's disappearance.

Hijack ends

Three Algerian policemen who hijacked an airliner to Spain yesterday to get out of their own country surrendered to authorities after almost five hours of negotiations, officials said, Reuter reports from Alicante. The Alicante civil governor, Alfonso Chave, said the three men would face normal legal procedures for their actions. Because of international agreements there was no question of them being given political asylum in Spain, he said.

Travel: Seatless down in Alicante: Last week Simon Calder got lucky. This week the bucket-shop bogey took revenge

IT WAS too good to last - and, sure enough, the bogey of bucket-shop travel took a swift and harsh revenge. Frank Barrett's column last week reported my surprise and immense good fortune at having a wad of crisp pounds 20 notes pressed into my palm by British Rail. I had missed my flight from Stansted to Paris because of a substantial train delay - and the money was BR's immediate response.

Valencia crowd cry 'Bully for Gitanito'

MADRID - 'Once upon a time there was a little white bull . . . ' Anyone old enough to remember Tommy Steele's tear-jerking hit will be happy to know that, even in real-life Spain, a bull can sometimes walk away if not victorious, at least with a noble draw, writes Phil Davison.
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
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Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
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Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
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i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
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Day In a Page

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
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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
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The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
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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'
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Marian Keyes

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Rodgers fights for his reputation

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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

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