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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 07:00 am

Posted by Ian Jack

It’s hard to reboot a city when history is against you, so perhaps West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee is right – concentrate on the cosmetic stuff

Trade missions tend to be more noticed in their country of origin – more by the supplicant than by the supplicated. Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Beijing this week, for example, was a story in Scotland and no more than a comma (if that) in China’s public attention span. The case is likewise for Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, who arrived in London last weekend on a five-day trip that, among its scheduled highlights, included tea at Buckingham Palace – though only with Prince Andrew – and a meeting at the Foreign Office with the employment secretary, Priti Patel. The visit wasn’t without incident or interest: impromptu, Banerjee announced that she wanted her government to buy the Hampstead house where the greatest-ever Bengali, the poet Rabindranath Tagore, had stayed for a few months in 1912. But only in India was any of this reported. In London, not a jot or tittle appeared. Anyone who encountered her on of one her brisk strolls through London would have seen a small 60-year-old woman in a sari, a tourist perhaps, and not understood her as the political leader of a state of 91 million people, where the population of a single district, with a name you’ve never heard before, can easily outnumber that of Scotland, Ireland or Wales.

The state capital is Kolkata. The chief minister, who is known as “Didi” or “big sister”, has made a significant impact on the city since her party, the Trinamool [grass-roots] Congress, replaced the state’s long-serving Marxist government in 2011. Unlike the Marxists, the Trinamool party has no obvious political ideology other than the obligatory nod towards helping the poor. On the other hand, it cares passionately – and expensively – about how things look. Railings, gateposts and public buildings in Kolkata have been repainted in Didi’s favourite colours, blue and white, while an enormous programme of street lighting has installed three-stalked lamp standards in settlements all the way from the Bay of Bengal to the Himalayas. Like columns did for ancient Rome, they mark the reach of Didi’s empire – on an overnight train journey, you can fall asleep to the dim light of these tridents through your carriage window and wake up 300 miles later to find yet more of them shining palely in the morning mist. They must have cost billions of rupees and made someone, or perhaps several people, very rich.

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 07:00 am

Posted by Thomasina Miers

A smoky, spicy Mexican tomato soup, plus grilled or barbecued mackerel with a tart sauce and sharp salad

At the height of summer, there is no fish I would rather eat than fresh mackerel, especially if it’s cooked under a grill or on a barbecue – that succulent, meaty, oily flesh really lends itself to a blackened exterior. I’m giving that gutsy flavour some silky body in this week’s second recipe by pairing it with a sesame-and-lemon-laced dressing, while adding some welcome freshness with a pomegranate-dressed tomato salad. But first, to make the most of summer toms (I can’t get enough of them in August), a simple version of a traditional Mexican soup that involves roasting tomatoes to concentrate their flavour before blending and thickening the mix with corn or flour tortillas.

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 06:12 am

Posted by Kate Shuttleworth in Jerusalem

The 17-year-old was shot by Israeli troops at Atara checkpoint near Ramallah, Palestinian officials said, amid unrest over death of 18-month old boy

A Palestinian youth has been killed by Israeli forces in Ramallah in the wake of violent West Bank clashes that erupted after an 18-month-old toddler was killed in an arson attack in Duma yesterday morning.

According to Palestinian medical officials Laith Fadel al-Khaladi, 17, from Jifna, a village near Ramallah died early on Saturday after he was shot by Israeli sniper fire during clashes at Atara checkpoint near Bir Zeit .

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 06:00 am

Posted by Alastair Sawday

’Tis the season for a long alfresco lunch – and these boozers have lovely gardens or outdoor spaces to enjoy the great pub grub on offer

In a pretty spot down by the river, beneath the Black Hill of Bruce Chatwin fame, the 16th-century Bridge started life as a house. Walkers descend on the pub via a footbridge lined with willows weeping, so do dogs, and families and shooting parties. Inside, hops hang from dark beams, there are solid wooden pews and scrubbed pine tables. It’s properly pubby. Pints of Butty Bach slip down nicely with seafood stew, barbecue brisket or Escley-side pie. Four super country bedrooms lie in the farmhouse a minute away.
Lunch £8-£22, dinner £12-£22, rooms from £95 per night, 01981 510 646,

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:45 am

Posted by Stella Grey

Stella Grey likes the look of his mischievous smile and their online flirtation heats up

The next morning, just after 6.30am, Martin messaged again. “Really early, in a rush, teaching summer school and going for a run first, but just wanted to say, what a delight to meet you last night. Very much looking forward to talking more. See you at the usual place at around 8pm? If you’re free that is. If you’re not out on a date with some young hunk.”

“Date? What’s that?” I asked him. “Hereabouts, it’s a middle-eastern fruit eaten at Christmas. I’ll see you around 8pm at the usual virtual corner. Wait, this does sound like a date.”

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Friday, July 31st, 2015 11:52 pm
It's a theory, or a perspective, I've been kicking around for a while.

I think that humans, like our cities, are fractally interesting. A person or a community can be quite bland and boring when viewed large, but that surface impression is not the same thing. The closer you look, the more you find things that are complex and fascinating and amazing.

We spend a lot of time wanting to sum up, to label, to take people in at a glance. To write people off. The same with the places they live, I muse as I spend time this summer in small no-account towns in an extraneous province of an ignorable country. I was sitting in a friend's back yard tonight, watching apples fall from her tree, thinking about all the secret hidden places you don't see if you look quickly, roughly, from a distance; they only open up to patient and careful eyes.

People don't always show you from the outset the way they peel vegetables, the way they learned to spell, their moments of grace and resilience. Those things are learned slowly and often they're hidden pieces of knowledge. There are things you'll never know about people and places until you, say, meet a local scientist who can tell you that the local variety of dandelion shows genetic drift from the variety that grows in the sidewalks of a city fifty minutes down the road. The most interesting parts are hidden away in unreadable alphabets or in houses or in skin. and it takes work to find and decode them.
Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:54 am
Australia captain Michael Clarke has lost his confidence and could be playing his last Test series, says Jim Maxwell.
Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:00 am

Posted by Ruby Tandoh

The Portuguese make a religion of their pastries, celebrating saints’ days with little cakes of all kinds, filled with custard or scattered with flaked nuts, such as these two heavenly confections: the Jesuit pastry and the bread of God. Amen

Treacly honey cake topped with walnuts; a tart full of shredded, syrup-drenched squash; an orange-scented cloud cake; glazed palmiers; old-fashioned rice cakes, smart in their iconic white-and-blue paper cases – these are just a few of the things I ate in Lisbon on a short trip last month. There’s a strong history of patisserie in Portugal dating back to the middle ages, where nuns would supplement convent incomes by baking, quite literally, religiously. You can see that history sprawled across the counters of every neighbourhood coffee shop in shades of cake, biscuit, bread and bun.

The history of Portuguese pastry sprawls across the counters of coffee shops in shades of cake, biscuit, bread and bun

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:00 am

Posted by Eve O'Sullivan

The old faithful of the dessert menu is endlessly adaptable, lending itself to perfumed fruit, salted caramel and savoury notes

The next theme will be honey. Send us your ideas via or upload them to GuardianWitness by noon on Wednesday 5 August. We’ll publish the winners on Saturday 15 August. Conditions apply

Cheesecake is the stalwart of the pudding world, often found on menus somewhere between chocolate fondants and seasonal pavlovas. It’s the ultimate make-ahead dessert, and one that we thought our readers would have some cunning ideas for. We weren’t wrong …

For a no-bake number with a little texture, Charlene F’s double berry and coconut cheesecake was less rich than most, and I’m sure would work as well with baked rhubarb in cooler months. Withmustard’s cherry ripple cheesecake had an attractive boozy edge; if you can’t find sour cherries, try soaking dried cranberries in a little lemon juice before adding the amaretto. For a savoury spin, the fig and rosemary cheesecakes from ColonialCravings make an elegant light lunch, while alittlelusciousness’ salted caramel cheesecake had my cohort of willing tasters reaching for the knife before they’d finished their first portion. So too with the strikingly bright and light matcha cheesecake from TwinnyDip; made with whipped egg whites, it had none of the cloying texture that can be off-putting for some.

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:00 am

Posted by Sali Hughes

‘I do accept that it’s sometimes fun to pair strong, smoky eyes with an entirely flawless base, and that some women do just feel better with a face full of foundation’

I only recently discovered that Estée Lauder’s Double Wear – Britain’s bestselling foundation – is such a huge seller that it could be classified as an entire brand in itself. Though very good at its job, and extremely long-lasting (its lesser-known quality), it did make me stop and speculate as to how many of its consumers genuinely have such noticeable acne and pigmentation that they feel the need to cover their entire face in heavy makeup. This is my reservation with full-coverage foundation in general: in covering the entire complexion – the good and the more problematic – it throws the baby out with the bathwater.

I mostly opt for something a tad lighter, to allow the nicer bits to show through, then focus on standout areas by dabbing on concealer. (I speak as someone with several large brown blotches that arrived in pregnancy and never left. For serious cover-ups, like birthmarks, tattoos or heavy scarring, try specialist products by Keromask and Dermablend.)

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Saturday, August 1st, 2015 05:00 am

Posted by Tim Dowling

‘Should we do, like, a mercy killing?’ the youngest one says, pointing to his mother. ‘To put her out of her misery?’

We’re on holiday in France, spending a week with Constance’s mother, and Constance, and Constance’s sisters. We’ve been here before, and I am practised at adjusting to the dramatic shifts in volume. In the mornings, when everyone under 25 is asleep, it’s so quiet that I can hear a horse sneeze a mile away. After supper, with 10 people seated around the kitchen table, the conversation becomes deafening.

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