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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Independent Travel
Vietnam & Cambodia
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Bruges
India & Nepal
Japan
Berlin, Dresden, Meissen & Colditz
Prices correct as of 17 October 2014
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

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Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

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A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
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KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker