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.”

Football: Babby should never Kop the blame again

Alan Edge longs for the return of a sadly-missed Anfield tradition

Iona mourns a lost son and three missing victims of boat tragedy

BITING WINDS and unanswered questions lashed the island of Iona in equal measure yesterday as the community buried the first of last week's boating accident victims.

Classical: Madness thy name is Boris

In Francesca Zambello's Boris Godunov at ENO, Russia's past is its present.

Right of Reply; Patricia Morgan

A fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs answers Christine Hardyment's essay on the family

Right of Reply; Michael Right of Reply: Michael Cantlay

The chairman of Hector Russell, a kilt-making firm, replies to Philip Hensher

Vampires just had bad dose of rabies

COUNT DRACULA wasn't a vampire - he had rabies, according to a Spanish doctor who says ancient European legends about the blood-drinking undead were actually descriptions of people with the illness.

King Arthur's sleepless knights

Dramatic and brooding, Tintagel is set on one of the wildest and most savagely romantic coastlines in Britain. The legendary birthplace of King Arthur is saturated in folklore ... gift shops, hordes of visitors and piles of plastic Excaliber swords. What, asks Liverpool poet Brian Patten, would Merlin and the original Knights of the Round Table make of it all if they were around today?

Letter: The point of prayer

THE Bishop of Norwich worries "that we are in grave danger of losing ... the concept of learning prayer by heart" (report, 12 February).

Music: Re-programmed for folk-fusion

Terry Callier

Net Gains: Have you heard the one about...?

In the era of the X Files, conspiracy theories and urban myths abound. But the Internet has taken this paranoia to previously unscaled heights

Friday's book: Black & Blue by Ian Rankin

Last night, in the apt surroundings of the Law Society, Ian Rankin won the coveted Gold Dagger of the Crime Writers Association for his ninth Inspector Rebus mystery, Black & Blue. Now here's one judging panel that knows how to please its patrons. "The aroma of the whisky was fine," muses Rankin's bibulous Edinburgh detective in a typical bar-propping moment, "smoky, filling nostrils and lungs." The CWA awards are sponsored by The Macallan.

Trees: The sacred power of trees

Caroline Allen explores the mythological roots of trees.

Musical review: Swiss cheese: no bite

William Tell Ustinov Studio, Bath

Out of step

When people learn that my stepfather, John Wellings-Longmore (1917- 1982), was a West African, they jump to several false conclusions. They imagine that he must have sparked my great interest in African and West Indian folklore. Not so. My mother remarried in 1953, when I was eleven and my brother Martin ten. At the time, marriages between white and black people in England were rare. My passion for folklore had been stimulated by my mother's interest in the subject: it began when I was four - at most.

Firepower of Jarvis threatens Swansea

Cocksure as they come, Lee Jarvis will today endeavour to reassure his Welsh countrymen of the continued existence of that legendary outside- half factory buried deep in the valleys of the principality, writes Chris Hewett.
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