Alexandra Burke and the trouble with reality TV and race

Few contestants have dominated the Strictly Come Dancing dancefloor like Alexandra Burke has this year. She received the first 10 of the season for her jive to Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, performed a flawless, Mary Poppins-themed charleston and impressed the judges with her salsa and her Viennese waltz. Despite her technical brilliance, Burke has found …

Blind date: ‘I was desperately trying to disguise my shaky hands’

What were you hoping for?An evening of fine company, food and wine. And not to embarrass myself too much. First impressions?Warm, engaging, handsome. What did you talk about?Literature, the joys of living alone, Brexit, Max’s sporting achievements, what’s the deal with hashtags, falling off my vegetarian wagon. Any awkward moments?When Max suggested I try the …

Our Christmas of excess has forgotten its handmade and homely past | Ian Jack

History is complicated. Prince Albert usually gets the credit for introducing the Christmas tree to Britain, though it would be truer to say that he popularised a custom pioneered in royal circles 40 years earlier by Queen Charlotte, the German wife of George III. In 1800, she erected a yew tree covered with baubles and …

Tim Dowling: ‘The car failed its MOT,’ my wife says. ‘So what you need to do is…’

It is Sunday evening, and my wife and I are coordinating diaries. Except I don’t have my diary; it’s in my shed, and it’s raining. I’m doing my bit from memory. “Tomorrow, band rehearsal,” I say. “Also on Wednesday, I think. Thursday, some Christmas thing. Friday, Honiton, Saturday, Dorchester.” “How are you getting there?” my wife asks. …

Ovid’s exile to the remotest margins of the Roman empire revoked

More than 2,000 years after Augustus banished him to deepest Romania, the poet Ovid has been rehabilitated. Rome city council on Thursday unanimously approved a motion tabled by the populist M5S party to “repair the serious wrong” suffered by Ovid, thought of as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature along with Virgil …

Vatican says royal commission findings deserve to ‘be studied seriously’

The Vatican and Australia’s Catholic leaders say they will seriously consider the royal commission’s call for sweeping reforms, although archbishops refuse to break the seal of confession to reveal child abuse. It will be up to the Pope and his advisers to consider many of the inquiry’s far-reaching recommendations, including changes to canon law and …

Pharma billionaire and wife found dead in ‘suspicious’ case

Canadian police are investigating the mysterious deaths of the billionaire founder of Canadian pharmaceutical firm Apotex, Barry Sherman, and his wife, Honey, who were found dead in their Toronto mansion on Friday. The couple was found dead after police responded to a medical call just before noon local time at their home in an affluent …