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Lady Runcie

As a former member of the secretarial staff at Lambeth Palace, whose office window looked out over the back of the building,I should like to add an additional note to the obituary of Lady "Lindy" Runcie, widow of Robert, the former Archbishop (l7 January), writes Stella Taylor.

A Summer of Drowning, By John Burnside

Kingsley Amis wanted to write poems. Philip Larkin wanted to write novels. Amis did write quite a few poems, and Larkin did write a couple of novels, but Amis’s poems weren’t as good as his novels, and Larkin’s novels weren’t as good as his poems. It’s very, very rare for a writer to be equally good at poems and novels. John Burnside is. He’s a brilliant poet, a brilliant memoirist, and a brilliant novelist.

Honey, I saved my first swarm...

... or rather watched, as the professionals stepped in. David Randall reports that bees are in trouble – but there is a way to help

A spotter's guide to a wild orchid summer

In the tropics, they're outlandish: huge, exotic blooms ranging in colour from tangerine to puce, from snow-white to maroon, the world's most spectacular flowers.

Wild Flower Society: Floral fixation

While twitchers are dedicated to spotting birds, the Wild Flower Society, founded in 1886, is just as obsessed with sighting rare blooms. Peter Marren meets them

Wild Britain: Week 2. The best of the Woodland Trust's sites

Woods have always held a special place in our collective imaginations. In the second of our two-part series on the wild places on your doorstep, David Randall highlights the work of the Woodland Trust, which plants new trees and looks after old ones. Here are 50 of the trust's most glorious sites

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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.