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.

First Night: Derren Brown: The Event Live, C4

Come in Derren Brown, your number's up

Boys 'planned Columbine anniversary massacre'

Court told teenagers intended killing spree at Manchester school

Adrian Hamilton: Two-party politics is doing us no good

On the big questions the Tories and Labour seem determined to avoid any debate at all

Travel Challenge: A peak-season family camping holiday in France

Every week we invite competing companies to give us their best deal for a particular holiday. Today: a one-week campsite holiday in France. Prices are for departures on 1 August for a family of up to six people and include return Dover-Calais ferry crossings for one car.

Ping-Pong: The latest hip Hollywood pastime

Forget its nerdy past – table tennis is now officially cool, with Hollywood A-list stars among its new army of fans. Emily Dugan reports

Alan Hubbard: Olympic shame as 'minority' sports miss out

The Last Word: Target-obsessed Government in firing line as ethos of what the Games are all about is shot to pieces

Triumph of the bumbarrel (aka the long-tailed tit)

Run of mild winters propels tiny bird into top 10 of British garden birds

Brian Viner: The whole thing was what you might call a baa-baa ha-ha hoo-hah

As usual, we awoke on Tuesday morning to the sound of bleating, although it was not the "where is my rugby shirt/history homework?" kind of bleating to which we are so accustomed in the tumultuous hour between 6.30am and 7.30am. No, this was definitely ovine bleating, which was not in itself a surprise – not with the perimeter of a 1,000-acre sheep farm all of 30 yards from the marital bed. But this bleating seemed more insistent than usual, and sure enough, there were half a dozen lambs trapped on our side of the fence in what we grandly call the ha-ha, all going ballistic, in their woolly way. It was what you might call, although not after too much Herefordshire cider, a ha-ha hoo-hah. Indeed, a baa-baa ha-ha hoo-hah.

Irish can raid Midlands with Badgerlaw

It's back to the day job this afternoon for the week's gallant gladiators, with Uttoxeter the main arena and the Midlands Grand National the top prize. Run over nearly four and a quarter miles, this is a contest which requires as much stamina as a four-day Cheltenham Festival and produces a similar attrition rate. Over the past six runnngs 101 horses have taken part; just 42 have lasted to the finishing post.

How hard is it to move house?

Very, says Jonathan Christie, who has kept a diary of his struggle to sell up

Snow Patrol - a band of brothers

Most rock stars hate being cooped up on the tour bus. But for Snow Patrol it's all fun and games, as Elisa Bray finds out

Banks rescue bill set to become law

A "ping-pong" between the two Houses of Parliament was avoided today, when peers accepted a Commons change to the Banking Bill, which now goes for Royal Assent.

Inside Lines: Gordon gets volley of protest from forgotten sports of 2012 funding

Pleas to Downing Street usually get short shrift – ask the friends of still plain Mister Bruce Forsyth – but the lower echelons of British sport are hoping that their protest to the PM over the absence of pre-2012 funding won't be given the seasonal Scrooge treatment by a grumpy Gordon. Organised by the volleyball player Lucy Wicks, a petition set up on the No 10 website has over 2,000 signatures from representatives of the eight Olympic sports, including volleyball (in whichBritain make their world championships debut in Sheffield this weekend), table tennis and shooting, that have missed out on a share of the £292 million given to other sports featuring in 2012. Not until the end of the month will they know if they will get a few crumbs from the table – if anything, says Wicks, 26. "All sports for which funding has not been clarified find their programmes threatened, and we are now in danger of being unable to pursue our dreams of competing in 2012. Our dedication is being ignored. We want the Government to keep its promises to help us provide a legacy."

Graeme Swann: 'It all went a bit crazy. My head spun when I took the second'

Graeme Swann is considering forming an exclusive club after his remarkable introduction to Test cricket. The dinner table will not be particularly crowded when the star attractions eventually get together, as Swann became only the second bowler in the history of Test cricket to take two wickets in his first over when he dismissed India's Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid on the stroke of tea.

Net gains: How table tennis improves pupils; health and behaviour

Children's work, behaviour and even health can be improved by getting them involved in playing table tennis. Could the transformation seen in Glaswegian schools be replicated elsewhere?
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz