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 ( )

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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Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

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Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

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King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

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60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

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Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

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Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

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Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

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Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

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