Chinese children in Beijing wait for their train to set off  to their home town for the spring festival, or lunar new year. The auspicious Year of the Monkey begins on February 8th. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

It’s spring festival in China, and the country resounds with firecrackers as people noisily celebrate the start of the Year of the Monkey, always an a(...)

Vinny made it to Howth harbour but he was forced to take the Dart home. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

The guy looking back at Vinny Fitzpatrick in the mirror was no longer middle-aged; he was officially old. Not as aged as Methuselah perhaps but defini(...)

In a time when DVDs are more likely to be gathering dust in your living room than being used, there’s one subgenre of discs that often survives a cul(...)

Maghaberry houses about 1,000 prisoners, some of them on remand. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

A damning report published on Thursday has found that the high-security Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim is in “crisis” and is “unsafe and unstable” for(...)

Philip Astley was awarded the second Dublin theatre patent in 1788. His circus extravaganza, left, as aficionados may be aware, comes in for attention in Jane Austen’s Emma and Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop

Stage censorship and rioting in the auditorium – topics well covered in the existing literature – by no means exhaust the subject matter of law in reg(...)

Illustration by PJ Lynch from his book The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune

A dragon is flaring his nostrils at me. A demonic little boy glares gleefully from the front carriage of a ghost train. A young man stretches his a(...)

Jimmy Deenihan TD has backed a call for the establishment of a substantial memorial to the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell in the UK. Pictured is the O’Connell street statue. Photograph: Eric Luke

Former Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD has backed a call for the establishment of a substantial memorial to the Liber(...)

A late 19th century “South American bird-feather fan” adorned with taxidermy of a hummingbird

The Victorian novelist Charles Dickens was also a prolific – and wonderful – journalist. He was the founder, in 1859, and editor of a weekly magazi(...)

Lismore Castle, Co Waterford, former home of Sir Walter Raleigh, where you can now stay in aristocratic splendour

An invitation to dinner and an overnight stay in Lismore Castle, the opulent Irish seat of Britain’s Duke of Devonshire prompted concern. What to b(...)

Manual workers are the most likely to be off sick, followed by desk-bound workers, the very ones who spend all day sitting at a desk.

Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times, Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities using one; Winston Churchill in the years after the second World War used one t(...)