Voices Rant and everyone soon tends to ignore you (a 1936 orator seeking a crowd at Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park)

Favoured topics are matters of practical morality, dress sense, litter – that sort of thing

Postcard from... Montejo de la Sierra

Locals sometimes claim that the centuries-old grove of beech trees in Montejo de la Sierra in Spain is the most southerly in Europe or indeed the world. Not true – that honour goes to a beechwood on the slopes of Mount Etna. But even so there is little doubt the  beech grove running alongside the edge of the River Jarama just north of Madrid is among Spain’s most beautiful and ancient, as well as being very rare for these latitudes.

A British Shorthair kitten plays with a toy mouse

People who write about their cats used to make my eyes roll. How things change

The hidden philosophical appeal of cat literature

Badgers being vaccinated against TB near Stroud

Farm minister resolute about badger cull despite death threats

Farming minister David Heath has vowed not to be intimidated by opponents of the badger cull after revealing he has received death threats for his part in the controversial scheme.

Badgers being vaccinated against TB near Stroud

How do you vaccinate a badger? Very, very carefully

A curious Tom Bawden joins David Heath, the Farming minister, on the front line of the battle against bovine tuberculosis

Good hair day: Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman: A whisker away from a superhero

Hugh Jackman's X-Men alter-ego is about to get a solo outing. The Australian actor tells Gill Pringle how he became the Wolverine

Bovine TB has risen dramatically over the past few decades and badgers have been implicated in the rapid spread of the disease

As well as cull, contraceptives lined up for badgers in battle against farm TB

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson pledged to eradicate disease from English cattle within 25 years

Eddie practises in his training pool

Eddie the basketball-playing otter fights arthritis one hoop at a time

Keepers at Oregon Zoo have come up with a novel way for an arthritic otter to improve the movements in his joints - basketball.

Facts that prove life is beautiful

So January's over: and here's why it's now OK to feel chipper. Spring is coming. Maybe tonight's the night you'll break a month long detox. It's Friday. And these facts, collected by Ink Tank blog, will (temporarily) make you feel like the world is a brain-meltingly wonderful place (which it might be).

Jack Harvey, winner of the 2012 World's Biggest Liar contest spins his tale at the Santon Bridge Inn, Wasdale

The World's Biggest Liar: the art of fibbing

“Now you're not going to believe this,” said Glenn Boylan as he took to the stage at the Santon Bridge Inn in the Lake District valley of Wasdale. But, of course, that was the whole point. Glenn was defending his title of World's Biggest Liar in the competition that is held annually in the pub.

July 30, 2012: Niger's Hamadou Djibo Issaka is pictured after competing in the men's single sculls semi-finals of the rowing event during the London 2012 Olympic Games, at Eton Dorney. He finished last by a distance.

'Issaka the Otter' receives huge roar as he finishes 33rd and last in rowing event at Eton Dorney

Niger's Hamadou Djibo Issaka received the roar of a home gold medallist from the Eton Dorney crowd as he finished 33rd and last in the men's single sculls.

Badger cull to halt rise of TB in cattle 'will in fact spread the disease'

Caroline Spelman’s proposed badger cull to halt the rise of TB in cattle will in fact spread the disease, campaigners will tell the High Court tomorrow.

I've been made a pariah says Cairns

Chris Cairns' lawyer has called on the International Cricket Council to censure Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi over "defamatory" comments which he claims have jeopardised Cairns' future earnings.

The incredible journey of an intrepid otter

Discovery on Northumbrian island means animal swam three miles in North Sea, to amazement of naturalists
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003