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
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee