Counting the Stars, By Helen Dunmore

Catullus was early Rome’s most revered and reviled poet. From the first page of this intriguing new novel about his love affair with the woman whose identity he encoded as “Lesbia”, Helen Dunmore captures vividly both the poet’s tone and the heightened, overheated world of Julius Caesar’s Rome.

One Minute With... Kate Williams

Leading article: Offal tasty

Depending on your point of view, offal is either a heavenly delicacy which no serious diner could spot on the menu and forgo, or it constitutes the suspicious smelling parts of an animal that no sane eater would willingly thrusting between his or her lips.

Prom 20: BBC SO / Robertson, Royal Albert Hall, London

Considering that an accurate performance of its intricate interactions seemed barely possible when Stockhausen completed it in 1957, Gruppen for three orchestras (1955-7) has done rather well here, periodically drawing rather large audiences.

The Cherry Orchard, Festival Theatre, Chichester

An orchard that bears little fruit

Barry Douglas, Cadogan Hall, London

One of Barry Douglas's tutors once gave me a revealing character-sketch of his pupil. If you were approaching a narrow passage with him, he said, Barry would be impeccably considerate and courteous. But then you would discover that he had somehow got through first: he always had to be out in front. Which is where this Belfast-born pianist has been ever since he won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, 22 years ago.

Exclusive: Campbell on the couch

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's spin-doctor and "the second most powerful man in Britain", as he was once dubbed, knew something was desperately wrong when he found himself driving a hire car endlessly around a roundabout.

Miles Kington: Ug, prehistoric detective, is on the case

The people called Ug to come and see the body as he was well known to be interested in death

Lancashire the losers with Symonds close to Australian call-up

Yorkshire 417 & 323-6 Lancashire 537 Match drawn

James Lawton: Eriksson more eloquent than tokenism

Sven Goran Eriksson spoke with great feeling and delicacy when he described the emotions provoked by the visit he made with his players to Auschwitz a few months ago.

Hartlepool gets stuck into MP who cashed chips for gravy train

It is said that Peter Mandelson never endeared himself to his Hartlepool constituents after a story ­ perhaps apocryphal ­ emerged that he confused the fish and chip shop side order of mushy peas with guacamole, a rather more metropolitan delicacy.

Hallé Orchestra / Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

No one in the audience at the Hallé's Maundy Thursday performance of Bach's St John Passion was able to compare Mark Elder's interpretation with that of Hans Richter when this orchestra last programmed it. The St John has been a particularly long time in coming round again - 103 years, in fact - but was well worth the wait. Sometimes a performance speaks from the heart, directly to the heart. This was one of those rare occasions. Elder secured performances of humanity, intelligence and intensity, allowing the Passion story to take shape at a pace that was lively enough to keep the attention focused yet never at the expense of the smallest detail. The coughers were silenced, the rustlers and restless stilled, and the large, responsive, audience was drawn in, from the opening chorus to the final chorale.

MPs in plea to save dolphins

How to be liberal with the truth

Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, dramatises a shadowy side of US history in Americans
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How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

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Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

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Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

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The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
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Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
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Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
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Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

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Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

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Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

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Mad Men returns for a final fling

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