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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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The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003