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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all