News Winging it: The shrill carder bee is thriving in Kent

Conservationists stunned by the insects’ rapid recovery

Nature Club: Calling amateur naturalists

Britain has an extraordinary tradition of wildlife-watching – and our new Nature Club is a chance for readers to get up close with flora and fauna

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The rosy charms of the red helleborine

Excitement is an emotion supremely prized by our society, a sensation infinitely in demand, certainly if we judge by the unending stream of blow-'em-up action movies pouring out of Hollywood, or moving closer to home, by the recent jamborees that were the Glastonbury festival and the World Cup. War films, rock music, sport: these seem to be legitimate exciters of our age. Any of them can leave you with an elevated heart rate and no one will think you peculiar for mentioning it. But what about being excited – being very excited – by a flower? Does that mean you're as normal as a Glastonburygoer or a football fan? Or are you just a teeny bit on the idiosyncratic side?

The Word On: Mojo, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

"'Mojo' is the strongest set of songs from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in over a decade and a half." esdmusic.com

Book Of A Lifetime: Ulysses, By James Joyce

He is always there, the genius who spun the meanderings of a handful of fictitious nobodies into the greatest novel in the history of the form. The city of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' is long dead now – it was already disappearing when the book was published in 1922 - but somehow the ghost of Joyce still haunts the margins of world literature like a wanderer yearning to come home.

The Song House, By Trezza Azzopardi

The great challenge when writing a memory novel – in which a narrative of now frames or entwines with a narrative of then – is that both the present and historic storylines need to be equally compelling. Each must have its internal logic, its believable characters and a denouement that is emotionally satisfying. All too often in such novels the account of the past carries a greater charge than that of the present; inevitably, perhaps, since there is usually some horror festering in the past narrative's most shadowy corners. As in many biographies, accounts of childhood have an awkward way of making adult material seem bland or predictable by comparison.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Chalk – the great giver of wildlife richness

I have a great fondness for maps. I buy a map whenever I travel anywhere and I keep it, and I can browse through maps like you can browse through magazines, letting the imagination wander over this river and that wood, or this village and that lane; but my favourite map doesn't have rivers or woods marked on it, or villages or lanes, although, very faintly, it does have major towns.

Album: Jakob Dylan, Women and Country (Columbia)

Bob's boy heads out into the American wilderness with a posse of notorious henchmen – Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz among them.

'So there you are!' Britain's rarest wildflower the ghost orchid returns from the dead after 23 years

It is the most mysterious wildflower in Britain, the strangest, the rarest, the hardest to see, and it was given up for lost. But like a wandering phantom, the ghost orchid has reappeared.

Leading article: Hide and seek

Has ever a flower been so aptly named? The ghost orchid was presumed to have disappeared from these islands some 20 years ago. But now it has reappeared almost like, well, a ghost.

Rains bring life to Australia's burning heart

Water cascades down Uluru and desert turns green after rare summer downpours

Best poetry books for Christmas

The renaissance in British poetry is surely one of the best-kept cultural secrets of the Noughties. Unafraid to deal with the big topics – war, mortality, the search for meaning in the everyday – contemporary writing is accessible, memorable and often strikingly beautiful. John Burnside's The Hunt in the Forest (Cape, £10) exemplifies this new generosity. Meditations on the numinous and transitory segue into dreams of escape, a cloud-landscape where "the dog shape that worried the fence line / flickers away through the grass / to the last grey of dawn." In mid-life reality, love is "The one thing that no one would choose / and it's back, like a knife at a wedding". Burnside is renowned for haunting imagery, but it's impeccable musical judgement that binds his lyrics together.

The Harwood Arms, Walham Grove, London SW6

I think gastropubs tend to be best when they remember to be pubs as well as gastro, and don't forget they're also supposed to be down-to-earth boozers as well as purveyors of chorizo and purple sprouting broccoli. But really, there are limits. Standing outside the Harwood Arms, you feel your heart sink. The pub is situated at the end of a dispiritingly bricky suburban street. As pubs go, you're surprised this one hasn't gone long ago: it's so tired-looking, so bored, so uninterested in having anyone come through its doors. There's nothing about it that shouts, or even murmurs, "Trendy eating-house!" The colour scheme is mostly a flat matt magenta, over which the dust of years seems to have settled. Can this be the joint recently voted London's best gastropub? Have we come to the wrong address? As for that awful colour ... "If I remember the Farrow & Ball paint swatch," said my date, Madeleine, "this is a darker version of their Dead Salmon ..."

A short-break safari in Sussex

I recently turned 30, and in a bid to escape the inevitable party, my husband decided to whisk me away on a safari. For the night.

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Day In a Page

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
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star