Arts and Entertainment

Nina Stibbe moved to London in 1982 to work as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books. In the years following, she wrote letters home to her sister in Leicester, and Love, Nina is the result.

Philip Hensher: Gaffes that can be a boon to Cameron

Peter Hobbins is a member of the Conservative association in Orpington, Kent, and a local councillor. In the past, he was a Conservative Party candidate, failing to win the Rhondda seat in the 2001 General Election. He was struck by the changing nature of aspiring Tory politicians, and put his thoughts in a series of e-mails to fellow Orpington conservatives. Candidates included, he said, "a Mr Dilon Gumraj and a Zerha Zaidi and others ... not one of them has a 'normal' English name ... Maybe I should change my name to something foreign – how does Petrado Indiano Hobbinso sound to you?" Startling stuff, and Mr Hobbins has been suspended from the party forthwith.

The Habit of Art, NT Lyttelton, London<br/>Cock, Royal Court Upstairs, London<br/>Public Property, Trafalgar Studio 2, London

Alan Bennett&rsquo;s hugely entertaining drama tells us much about Auden and Britten &ndash; and just a little about the playwright

Alan Bennett reveals that his lover, 'Café Anne', is dead

Playwright talks about housekeeper who was his clandestine 'crazy mate'

The Habit of Art, Lyttelton, National Theatre, London

Bennett the maestro returns with a multi-layered masterpiece

David Lister: Great writers don't need a helping hand

There's an unusual story about the new Alan Bennett play, The Habit of Art, which opens at the National Theatre next Tuesday. I gather that the National's artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, found the manuscript just pushed through his front door at home. Bennett had worked on it alone without telling anyone and, shy man that he is, just delivered it unannounced and unexpected – and departed without ringing the bell.

A very English playwright: The return of Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett stages his first play for years this month, at the National Theatre. Paul Taylor, who has met him many times, looks at how the butcher's son from Leeds became Britain's best loved playwright, and tries to unravel his complex personality

Bennett and Gambon to form dream team

Alan Bennett, arguably Britain's greatest living playwright, is to team up with Michael Gambon, one of the best actors of a generation, in the National Theatre's new season.

Tim Lott: Growing older &ndash; it's our reward for getting through youth

Life when you're young is supposed to be great. It's a myth. Let's stop pretending

My Life In Travel: Stephen Frears

'I thought Calcutta was the most exciting place in the world'

The Word On...Alan Bennett

Bennett's gift, and his reasons for it, draw attention to the indisputable fact that for millions of ordinary British people in the years between 1945 and 1980, state power was an overwhelmingly benign force... Those who set out in the late 1970s to trash that welfare state... and to disparage its motives and its outcomes had their reasons, of course. But theirs was never the only story about the evolution of post-war Britain. Joyce Macmillan ( news.scotsman.com/comment )

Mark Shivas: Film and television producer who worked with an unmatched range of writers and directors

The producer Mark Shivas was a man of privacy but with a captivating gift for friendship. He was eventually to become Head of BBC Drama and then BBC Films, and his career in film and television illuminates 40 years of British culture.

Paperback: The Book of Life, edited by Eve Claxton

It's a shame that the editor of this generous and teeming collection of memoirs gives away each writer's name at the start of their extract; it would be fun to guess-the-author, as unique voices such as Wole Soyinka ("I wondered if it was going to be possible to squeeze the blood out of the dansiki and back into the gash... beneath my hair") and Alan Bennett ("life was not going to live up to literature") rub shoulders. Some, such as Nabokov, show the influence of beginnings: "My earliest impressions... led the way to a veritable Eden of visual and tactile sensations". Endings ("When you are in your middle seventies you have passed your peak as a cat-catcher", PG Wodehouse) are just as varied.

Howard Jacobson: I don't believe that if Eton was closed down then every school beneath it would improve

Does the fault lie in the social attitudes of those who administer and teach at comprehensives?

Boots merger costs come to &#163;42m

The health and beauty retailer Bootsrevealed yesterday its planned merger with Alliance UniChem is likely to cost about £42m.

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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee