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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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In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible