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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On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
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Prices correct as of 17 September 2014
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week