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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.”

Bingo! The academic whose number is up

Have you ever wondered why 66 is "clickety-click' or 11 is "legs'? There will soon be a scholarly answer from the newly appointed holder of Britain's first bingo research fellowship.

Are we nearly there? A weekly round-up of outings for children

This is National Tree Week, and communities all over the country are planting forests and showing children how trees contribute to our health and environment.

Obituary: John Lorne Campbell

John Lorne Campbell of Canna was a Scottish patriot of unique stamp, a scholar of exceptional quality, and a generous friend to many both at home and beyond the shores of Scotland. His roots lay in the old heartland of the Scottish Kingdom, in Argyll, where his pedigree of the Campbells of Craignish and Clann Thearlaich bear witness to the single-mindedness and fierce independence of spirit which was Campbell's own mark.

Hitch-hiker's guide to the Channel

Getting a lift via Le Shuttle is the easy part. Landing in France is another story. By Simon Calder

Letter: Britspeak, a folly of yoofitis

HAVING read "Can you talk Britspeak?" (Real Life, 24 March), I diagnose a classic case of yoofitis.

The folklore of a genuine folk hero; BOOK OF THE WEEK

Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey by Thomas Hauser (HarperCollins, pounds 14)

LETTER: No flag-waving in Massachusetts

From Mr John Davies

'I'm as sharp as a razor, but I can't hear a thing'

Richard Lloyd Parry discovers how it feels to be deaf and infirm in a suit that simulates the effects of advanced age

Theatre PEER GYNT RSC, Young Vic, London

It's doubtful whether any production of Peer Gynt can be entirely satisfactory: the play is so fragmented, so wildly varied in style and tone - so bloody long, if we're going to be completely frank - that no one staging it is ever going to get all its parts right. There will always be longueurs, passages where the tone jars or that seem to bear no relation to what's going on around them - what varies from production to production is which particular parts don't fit. (The corollary of this is that you have to work hard to make a production with no redeeming features.)

No Stone unturned

It's a place. Brian Jones went there in the Sixties. It's also a type of music. Now Joujouka is back, in more ways than one. It's all very confusing. By Philip Sweeney

Aslef's militant 'wrecker' prepares to enter the fray

Barrie Clement talks to Lew Adams, the train drivers' leader, as strikes loom over pay

LEADING ARTICLE:Call out the waste-busters

If you want to save lives, who are you going to call? The Audit Commission, that's who. Today's report issued by the commission on Britain's fire service could lead to fewer lost lives and less lost wealth through fires. Our fire service, as the report points out, is much loved. Fire-fighters are wholly positive role models. The image of the wartime fireman, standing alone, silhouetted against the light of the incendiary blazes caused by Hitler's bombers, is part of our visual folklore. But, says the commission, this respect may have had the effect of cushioning the service from some of the hard questioning that it needs. "National decision-makers," says the report, "consistently prefer to avoid major changes."

Which institution would you like to abolish? : REAL LIFE : OPINIONS

MALCOLM HARDEE, comedian: Beefeaters. Tragic waste of time, they are, only good for sticking on the front of bottles of gin. We ought to have vegetarian versions and call them Potato-eaters or something. We should abolish fish and chip shops too, becauseyou really can't get good fish and chips any more. We should get rid of them, start again and make them like they used to be.

A disease that lingers in our imagination

THINKING about the plague in India, I turned to a perhaps surprising book, Boccaccio's Decameron, to see why plague should be, or should have been, held in such particular horror. The Decameron is a collection of amusing, somewhat saucy, tales. But these are told by a group of young men and women who have left Florence in time of plague; if they are saucy, Boccaccio says, that is because well-bred women in those hard times would speak more freely than in a later, more strait-laced age.

BOOK REVIEW / Thorfinn the thunder god: Beside the ocean of time - George Mackay Brown: John Murray pounds 14.99

GEORGE Mackay Brown's new novel, which was last week voted on to the Booker shortlist, begins thus: 'Of all the lazy useless boys who ever went to Norday school, the laziest and the most useless was Thorfinn Ragnarson.' This is pure Mackay Brown: an Orkney setting, an ugly duckling hero, the blindness of society to the qualities of the poet, a nudge of humour. The novel is obliquely autobiographical, the story of an unfolding imagination woven into an island's experience of change. It has the magic, but none of the fey rococo, of Virginia Woolf's Orlando.
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Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent