Arts and Entertainment

Of all the subjects for a thrilling tale of espionage, war and diplomacy, ping-pong seems an unlikely contender. All the more intriguing then is the story behind a détente between America and China in 1971, which occurred seemingly out of the blue after 22 years of hostility.

21 years for ex-headteacher jailed for child abuse

A former boarding school head who sexually and physically abused boy pupils during the late 1970s and early 1980s was today given a 21-year jail term.

Former headteacher convicted of abusing boys

A former boarding school head was today facing a lengthy jail term after being convicted of abusing boys during the 1970s and 1980s.

Best temp job in town: Pop-up gardens are appearing across London thanks to one pioneering enthusiast

Trundling along to buy a lunchtime sandwich the other day, admiring the floral bedding in my local park in Ealing, I spotted a little sign: "Pop-up Kitchen Garden". Now, we've heard of pop-up shops, restaurants and art galleries, but a pop-up vegetable garden? Exploring a little further, I found that a set of kitchen garden beds, neatly edged in wood, had materialised out of nowhere. It was a gorgeous surprise.

Mark Steel: But did Tony run it by Cherie first?

I should think when the British Legion appears at the International Court in The Hague, they'll claim they had no idea the £4.6m "gift" they received from warlord Mister Tony Blair was blood money from a criminal. "We just thought it was a charming present from an admirer", they'll say, although Mia Farrow will contradict this by suggesting she'd warned the Legion about the origins of the donation, and add she'd witnessed them being "flirtatious" with Mr Blair on a number of occasions.

Peter Bills: France Top 14 was bog-standard

The evening sun softened into an exquisite light, the temperature was balmy. Ground conditions were perfect.

Peter Bills: English clubs could learn from the Tri-Nations

Last weekend in Australia witnessed a quite extraordinary statistic, one of the most remarkable the old game can ever have known.

Whiff! Whaff! The beautiful game may be coming home

Ping-pong tables are about to spring up all over London. Howard Jacobson celebrates an overdue sporting and social revolution

Maradona rather than Cruyff is the idol behind Van Persie's ambition

As a football devotee, Robin van Persie can tell you the exact moment when, as a child, he fell under the spell of the game. It was when he watched the footage of Diego Maradona lifting the World Cup in 1986, and on Tuesday night he sounded like a man who could scarcely believe that he was one game away from doing the same himself.

Government pledge to revive competitive school sports

The coalition will today pledge to revive competitive sport in schools with an Olympics-style contest.

England arrive in South Africa

England have arrived in South Africa safe in the knowledge that manager Fabio Capello remains fully committed to the cause after he pledged himself to the role until after Euro 2012.

Capital's open air ping-pong festival

Plans are being finalised for more than 100 ping pong tables to be set up at landmarks around London in July, including at Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, Soho Square, the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park and Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Travel challenge: May half term in France

Every week we |invite competing companies to give us their best deal for a specified holiday. Today: a family holiday in the South of France. Prices are for a family of four departing for seven nights during the May half -term holiday...

£6m for after-school Olympic sport clubs

Teenagers will get the chance to try out Olympic and Paralympic sports through a £6 million network of after-school clubs, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced today.

Howard Jacobson: Come to an American university and be instantly promoted to professor

Their courteousness can get in the way of your knowing what they think

It was boring for us too, admits Easter

The legions of England rugby supporters who spent big money travelling to one of the more expensive capital cities on the planet, paying £6 for a beer as well as £70 apiece for the privilege of watching their side stumble past Italy at the speed of sludge, were not remotely persuaded by the more extravagant descriptions of the Red Rose performance – "fantastic", "sensational", "outstanding" – from the likes of Steve Borthwick, the captain. Nick Easter's words were a different matter entirely. "God, it was boring," said the Harlequins No 8 with characteristic candour.

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Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor