HOW about this for a story containing plenty of Christmas cheer?

According to The Independent, The Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, London, is offering a free pint of beer and a Christmas dinner to anyone who is on their own this year.

A statement on the pub's Facebook page reads: “I've been asked by a few people now if we are doing the 'free meal for anyone who is on their own' thing on Christmas day this year. The answer is that of course we are, and we're doing it exactly the same as last year.

“Free means free, once you've eaten it and drank it you can toddle off home if you want, you are not obligated one per cent to buy anything at all. We don't want your email address, it doesn't matter if you never set foot in the pub again, or if you never came here before, as long as you leave here happier than you would have been if you hadn't walked in on Christmas day, we've done our bit.”

A portrait of a Spanish writer which has hung in Penrhyn Castle in Wales for nearly 150 years has turned out to be a lost masterpiece, reports The Guardian.

It seems that distinguished art scholar Benito Navarrete Prieto made a trip from Seville to Wales on a hunch that the painting, assumed to be a copy, might just be the real thing

And Prieto concluded that the painting was indeed a lost masterpiece by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, one of Spain’s great painters.

“It is an absolute masterpiece,” Prieto said. “Magnetic.”

This article in the Daily Mail is perfect for cat lovers. They report that runaway pet, Fudge, who went missing for six weeks, has been found 300 miles away after travelling from Cornwall to Hertfordshire in the back of a van.

Owner Parisa Jenkins, from Newquay in Cornwall, said: “I can't tell you all how happy and grateful I am. I'm still in shock to be honest about the brilliant outcome.

“He's a big part of our lives and he's a survivor who somehow managed to scavenge food for six weeks.”

More pet news...Rottweiler dog Jessie has given birth to 15 puppies, reckoned to be one of Britain's biggest ever litters, says the Daily Mail.

Owner Eleanor Usher, from Telford in Shropshire, commented: “They are absolutely adorable, it makes me smile every time that I see them.

“They've all grown a bit, and are starting to get their own distinctive personalities.”

Worrying statistics appear in a story in The Independent: The rate at which babies are being born in the UK has fallen to its lowest level for a decade.

There were 774,835 live births in the UK in 2016, the lowest rate since 748,563 live births in 2006 and down from a peak of 812,970 births in 2012, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics.

The Daily Express salutes retired window cleaner Nigel Ford, of Hardingham, Norfolk, who has spent the last seven years repairing hundreds of ancient milestones in the English countryside.

Many of the stones, which largely date from the early 1800s, were hidden as a security measure during the Second World War in case the Germans launched an invasion. Others were found buried under brambles or smashed to pieces.

Nigel said he was inspired to take up the personal project after seeing one of the neglected limestone markers crumbling by the roadside.

The Independent tells us that many of the UK's water companies have admitted that their engineers use the ancient practice of using dowsing rods to detect leaks or find pipes.

This is despite that that there is no scientific evidence for their efficacy.

In dowsing – regarded as a form of magic dating back hundreds of years - a practitioner holds either two small rods or a single larger, forked one, which should lead them to water sources.

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