Voices

Moving house really brings you up to speed with the state of customer service in modern-day Britain. For the past two weeks I have been waging an almost constant war, via Twitter, email and phone, to get companies to do the simplest things like turn up on time (or even on the right day), deliver the correct item or offer help over the phone in something resembling human. I am fortunate in that I am a very minor celebrity with a healthy amount of Twitter followers. Time and again, the moment I tweeted my grievances the managing director or head of customer care would be in touch within 15 minutes promising to solve the problem. This is brilliant for me, but it's a sad state of affairs that problems that are easily solved can only be dealt with because I once dressed as a large squirrel.

Cover Stories: Peter Leonard; Alastair Campbell's new novel

* The debut crime novel by Peter Leonard, Quiver, will be launched by Faber on 2 October and is already being touted as one of their books of the year. But why has the author waited until he is 57 to publish a book? Early criticism from his dad can't have helped: he once described his son's early characters as "like strips of leather drying in the sun" – and when your dad is Elmore Leonard, the "Dickens of Detroit", that's hard. Fortunately, early reviews of Leonard Jnr's first work are much more positive: it has "a filmic style that is reminiscent of the Coen brothers and Tarantino", says one.

Rebecca Tyrrell: 'It's a JFK/Diana moment in our home. Yes, Carol Vorderman has departed from Countdown'

I don't think I will ever forget Matthew's animal yelp of distress as he read a two-day old English newspaper in a Greek taverna on the tiny, peaceful island of Poros. "Sweet Lord Jesus, no," he wailed. "What have they done? God damn them all to hell, what have they done?"

Weakest Link's Anne Robinson banned from driving

Weakest Link television presenter Anne Robinson was banned from driving for six months today after admitting her fourth speeding offence.

Sooty: his place in history

He was bought last week for £1m. But did you know his birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela is the most popular? Or that he always has a hand in the key moments in our national life? By Cole Moreton

Sport on TV: Life in the fast and furious lane of swinging Sixties

A certain young Englishman may have got us all watching Formula One again, but it's hard not to conclude that the golden era was the Sixties, when Graham Hill bestrode the world like a cross between Ayrton Senna and, er, Leslie Phillips.

If women ruled the world

With Spain's government now female-dominated, the proposition no longer seems hypothetical. Six writers imagine what life would be like

Fond farewell to the genius of Miles Kington

The difference between wisdom and knowledge, according to the late, great humorist writer Miles Kington, is that knowledge consists of knowing that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Bong! A change of tune at Westminster

Today, the bells that chime the quarter hours at the Houses of Parliament will fall silent for the first time in 50 years in order to undergo repairs. Cahal Milmo talks to the Keeper of the Great Clock

Accept rescue plan or face bankruptcy, warns Eurotunnel chief

Eurotunnel, the debt-ridden Channel Tunnel operator, finally unveiled its latest rescue plan yesterday, coupled with a warning that unless shareholders and bondholders backed the deal it would mean bankruptcy.

Prescott quits grace-and-favour residence

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, bowed to growing pressure over his use of a grace and favour residence last night and announced that he was to give up Dorneywood.

Philip Hampton & Bryan Sanderson: The constitution is dead, but the EU moves on

We have set up a group to articulate pro-European business sentiment in Britain

Giles' fortunes revived after 'breakdown' of Weakest Link

The battling left-armer was delighted to prove his critics wrong in England's Ashes success, says David Llewellyn

Dom Joly: Kate Bush may like hamsters, but I believe the world is the poorer for it

I loved the whole Babushka, Heathcliff, Peter Gabriel hugging thing she had. She's wasting her life down here

What's wrong with a little indolence?

There is, at time of writing, an even-money chance that you will not read these words. Evidently I have started, but lacking the resolve of an Icelandic-born quiz master there is no guarantee that I will finish.
Sport
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Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
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Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

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scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
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Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?