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Police found the woman only had a provisional license and was accompanied only by a parrot

On the agenda: Chinese New Year; Jonathan Groff; August: Osage County; Beatles reunion

Middle-class problems: Going to a football match

The Parrots, By Filippo Bologna. Pushkin Press, £14.99

Every week another literary shortlist is announced, a judging panel revealed, a couple of longlists named, with a juicily controversial omission or a tediously predictable inclusion. But if The Parrots is to be believed, none is more significant than The Prize, the loftiest of all literary accolades, for which there are just three men in contention. They are The Beginner, The Writer and The Master. And for each of these men, the outcome really, really matters. In the Italian writer Filippo Bologna's smart new novel, we watch the three finalists in the countdown to the big announcement.

Costa Rica set to close public zoos and release the animals back into the wild

Officials plan to close the country's public zoos, open the cages where animals have been kept and release them back into the wild

Hell depicted in an engraving by Gustave Dore, illustrating Canto XXV of Dante’s Inferno, written circa 1310

What the Hell? Vatican caught in two minds over damnation for non-believers

The ‘infallible’ Pope’s proclamation that atheists will go to heaven has led to a rebuke from officials who declared they will go to hell. Jonathan Owen reports on the controversy

Andy McSmith's Diary: The police need a better class of sponsors

Martyn Underhill, a former detective chief inspector who is now Dorset’s elected Police Commissioner, has announced on his blog that he is trying to organise commercial sponsorship to help all five police forces in the South-west cope with cuts in their budgets. “The police family in Dorset is living in austere times with a shrinking budget and workforce,” he complains. “We are the lowest funded force and have seen the worst cuts. This is wrong, and I will continue to fight this…. I see huge potential benefits to forming appropriate sponsorship relationships with reputable organisations.”

Misjudged dress: Ahoy there WI mateys, tha’s no olde time pirate

Members of a Women’s Institute who thought it would be fun to dress up as pirates for a meeting were left feeling embarrassed when their light-hearted gesture went wrong.

Kris Marshall from My Family has been cast in Death In Paradise

Death In Paradise role for My Family star Kris Marshall

My Family star Kris Marshall is joining the cast of Caribbean crime drama Death In Paradise, taking over from Ben Miller.

Water fern (Azolla filiculoides): Native to the Americas but has spread to most continents. Thrives in ponds, lakes and ditches

UK bans sale of five 'alien' aquatic plants commonly bought for ornamental garden ponds

This is the first time that non-native plants have been banned from sale in Britain

The Cave – Review

Ron Gilbert takes us on an adventure of puzzlement, sarcasm and spelunking in Double Fine's latest release.

Dejected Sale Sharks players facing defeat against Toulon on Saturday

Quins fly lonely flag as English clubs face more humiliation in Europe

It has not been a happy time for English clubs in Europe – in the last three Heineken Cup campaigns, the Premiership fraternity have filled only four of the 24 quarter-final places available – and if results go the wrong way this weekend, another humiliation will be on the cards.

US man jailed for six months after 'depraved' fork attack on ex-girlfriend's parrot

Man didn't remember what happened and claimed he may have mixed anti-anxiety medication with whisky and slipped into a blacked-out rage

More than just a pretty boy, then: After Noc the talking beluga whale, and Koshik the talking elephant, here comes Figaro the tool-making parrot

The latest human-like ability from the animal world is being displayed by a cockatoo in Vienna, who is the first member of the parrot family to exhibit tool-making ability.

Great Works: Two Women in the Street (1914) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf

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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

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Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

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