Howard Jacobson: A test too far even for a Rabelaisian

I go one of two ways when I'm asked about my literary antecedents, depending on my mood.

I'm human, not a punchbag, pleads Clegg

The strain of 11 months in government is starting to show on Nick Clegg, who has pleaded that he is a "human being", not a "punchbag".

Portfolio: Alain Delorme

Shanghai's totems of consumerism

Benda Bilili! (PG)

The term "life-affirming" has lost its significance through overuse; this documentary restores us to its real meaning.

Brian Jacques: Writer best known for his 'Redwall' series of fantasy novels

James Brian Jacques had the blue collar CV of a hard-boiled novelist: his jobs included merchant seaman, truck driver, dock worker, boxer and policeman.

Dad's diary: 'It really does seem like only the other week that I was changing his nappies'

"They really do grow up fast..." Experienced child wranglers often delight at dropping these incendiary bon mots into casual conversation with wide-eyed mothers and fathers. And I - like many other new parents I'm sure - have been quick to dismiss the phrase as another cliche tossed around by sour-faced folk with brains reduced to jelly by their burgeoning broods. But, as I sit and write this column, I really do find it hard to come to terms with the fact that my little boy Krishan will be starting primary school at the end of the summer.

Jim Devine denies lying in TV interview

A former MP accused of fiddling his expenses today denied in court that he lied in a television interview to give an "air of authenticity" to his claims.

Expenses MP 'fiddled stationery orders'

A former Labour MP accused of fiddling his parliamentary expenses asked a stationery company to confirm he had paid for orders when he never did so, a jury heard today.

Old vase is £1m Ming

An old vase taken to a Dorset auctioneers in a cardboard box has turned out to be a Ming dynasty porcelain moon flask worth £1m.

Book Of A Lifetime: Bleak House, By Charles Dickens

Walking into the wrong lecture theatre at the University of York in the spring of 1974, I found myself listening to a dramatised reading of Dickens's 'Bleak House' by a bearded lecturer who took the parts of Mr Chadband and Little Jo the crossing sweeper. Having "done" 'Oliver Twist' and 'David Copperfield' at school, I had no idea that later Dickens novels were masterpieces of attacks on hypocrisy, religion and the charitable classes. I went straight home and read the novel, which came with an introduction by the American academic J Hillis Miller.

The ten best stationery items

Whether it’s a thank-you card to Auntie Joan or an RSVP for a New Year’s Eve bash, you’ll need some neat notelets to send your seasonal messages...

Click on the image on the right to launch the gallery

The album covers that made it hip to be square

Richard Evans has designed albums for a huge range of musicians, from Abba's Agnetha to The Who. Here, he celebrates great sleeve art through the ages

Out of the Woods but not Over the Hill, By Gervase Phinn

Good work, but must try harder

Make yourself a cardboard home

Traditionally used for packaging, and often associated with the homeless, in recent years cardboard has climbed the ranks to sit alongside more traditional materials, such as wood, glass or plastic, as a respectable substance from which to create innovative design for the home and office.

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Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum