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Revelling in the latest growth figures, George Osborne lifted Balls-baiting to a new plane. He was asked an unusually long list of super-friendly questions by euphoric Tory backbenchers. Ones that in the secret dreams of the MPs involved, invite the answer: “Yes. My honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head with that spiffing question correctly mentioning our long-term economic plan, allowing me to lay into the Opposition, and qualifying him for early promotion.”

The Murderess, By Alexandros Papadiamantis trs Peter Levi

Alexandros Papadiamantis, regarded as the father of modern Greek literature, first published this remarkable novella in 1902. Set on the island of Skiathos, where the author spent much of his life, it tells the story of Hadoula, a middle-aged healer.

Uefa ban vuvuzelas from European matches

Vuvuzelas have been kicked out of European competition after UEFA said that the plastic trumpets drowned out supporters and detracted from the emotion of the game.

Living Souls, By Dmitry Bykov, trans. Cathy Porter

Dmitry Bykov's ambitious and sprawling book (abridged in English with the author's consent) caused a furore in Russia when published in 2006. Blending a novel of ideas with a fairy-tale and satire with lyricism, Bykov in Living Souls gives a picture of Russia in the near future and - as so many others before him - tries to understand the eternal contradictions of his country.

Clarets urged to start great escape with Rovers victory

The Burnley manager Brian Laws has called on his players to beat the odds and make Premier League history this season. The Clarets are in a perilous position after claiming a meagre four points from a possible 33 since Laws took the helm, yet they remain only three points adrift of safety.

Philip Hensher: Silence can be golden in our critical world

Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, Love Never Dies, a sequel to Phantom of the Opera, opened in London last week. The original Phantom opened in 1986, and since then an enormous phenomenon has transformed our lives: the internet. In 1986, strange to say, if you wanted to find out what a theatre production was like, you read a critic's view, or you called a theatre-going friend and asked what he thought about it.

Old Trafford Centenary: 10 games that define 'Theatre of Dreams'

Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, has been open for 100 years.

Old Trafford: 100 years of the iconic Manchester United stadium

Old Trafford celebrates its 100th birthday tomorrow, its place in the folklore of British sport firmly established in a century when it has become the most famous landmark in Manchester.

Grand finale blurs view of game of Parks' life

"I put my cock on the block and I guess it paid off." So Ryan Jones gave this most jaw-dropping of finishes the jaw-dropping quote it deserved. The Wales captain elected to go for the three points with seconds left on the clock and the score at 24-21 to Scotland. Everyone watching thought that the overwhelming favourites had been forced to accept the draw. They had not.

Sandy Paton: Traditional singer who helped lead the Sixties folk revival in Britain and the United States

In 1962 in the Western States Folklore Society's journal Western Folklore the critic John Greenaway declared Sandy Paton to be "the best interpreter of traditional singing in the English-speaking world, with the possible but not probable exception of Ewan MacColl." The American folklorist, folksinger and Folk-Legacy founder's dedication to traditional music played a vital role in the post-war upswing of folk music in both North America and Britain.

Why does it always rain on us?

In parts of Scotland, it has rained every day for almost two months. Mark Hughes finds out how Kirkcudbright has coped with a summer of biblical weather conditions

Book Of A Lifetime: The Diaries, By Francis Kilvert

The sheer verbal sorcery of WG Sebald's The Rings of Saturn bewitches me. He brilliantly describes a walking tour of East Anglia, etching the effects of class war, nationalistic conflict, genocide, exploitation and loss. Everywhere is an opening to hell. His wonderful, unexpected narrative teaches us about the desolation and terrors of modern life, his vision akin to classical tragedy.

Archie Green: Folklorist and musicologist

In August 2007 Archie Green received the Library of Congress's Living Legend Award. It has been conferred on individuals such as Madeleine Albright, B.B. King, Alan Lomax, Martin Scorsese, Pete Seeger and Tiger Woods who have made a significant contribution to American life. Explaining how he had earned the honour, James H. Billington said, "Archie Green has devoted his life to studying the creativity of ordinary, working Americans, and he was also one of the most significant figures behind the formation of the Library's American Folklife Center." The musicologist, folklorist and staunch unionist is credited with coining the neologism for his particular field of interest: "laborlore" or the folklore and folkways of workers and working-class communities.

Leading article: Crashing boar

Where would our imaginative lives be without boars? Hercules hunted the Erymanthian beast during his 12 labours; Odysseus was mauled by one when out hunting. In Celtic folklore, Finn McCool lured a rival to his death on a boar hunt. And, of course, fans of Asterix the Gaul know the stories would not be the same without Obelix's inexhaustible appetite for the roast variety.

Minor British Institutions: Mince pies

Unlike so many of our Christmas traditions, mince pies are not a Victorian invention but can boast a genuinely medieval origin, and indeed some say they can trace their lineage back to pagan festivities. Mince pies were first baked with minced meat (hence the name) and the fruit and spices that we associate with them today. According to folklore, they were first made in oblong casings to represent Jesus's crib, with three spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, to represent the three gifts given to the infant Christ by the three wise men. But in 1644, that old killjoy Oliver Cromwell went so far as to denounce mince pies as "abominable and idolatrous things to be avoided by Christians".

Sophie Morris: Men have such suspicious minds

There's only one reason why the guys identifed more cheaters
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