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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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 17 April 2015
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

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But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

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The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

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Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

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Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
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Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence