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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Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

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Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

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Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

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Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

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'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

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Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

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The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

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He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat