Arts and Entertainment

Given our national obsession with property prices, Tim Walker’s novel is bound to hit a nerve. His fictional couple, the Manvilles, bought their large north London home at a knock-down price in the 1990s, and it became the key to two aspects of their family life. Jerry, a successful advertising executive, undertook all the original plumbing, electrical and redecoration work; Pen devised a series of popular children’s books, The House on the Hill, whose “cheeky brat with the ridiculous schemes” is modelled on, and named after, her real-life son Conrad: 15 years on, they have done a loft conversion, and divorced.

Let's go to the hops, everybody

It used to be a working summer holiday for impoverished Eastenders. But a determined bunch of assorted characters still descends on Kent every September to pick hops. By Mark Piggott

UCAS Listings: `It was designed to cover a lot of ground - it was hard work'

Economics, conservation, marketing and animal science were all covered in Diana Pritchard's agricultural degree

Travel: Competition - Literally Lost No 38

The following excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will supply pounds 30 of book-tokens each week to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, "Independent on Sunday", 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday.

How Serbs made a village vanish

THE SERBS made sure they removed the dead and wounded before they let the outside world see Prekaz, the village in Kosovo that they had bombarded for three days. But the evidence of destruction was all too evident: houses peppered with bullet marks and what looked like shell holes, whole walls ripped down, doorways and roofs blasted to pieces and reduced to black, smouldering wrecks.

Archers star designs his own death

THERE WAS a distinct whiff of Thomas Hardy about the Archers last night, writes Paul McCann. John Archer had given up his wild ways - by Archers standards - to propose to his loved one Hayley. A happy ending looked in the offing. And then it was John himself who was offed by a tractor.

The kiss of death in Ambridge

YOU could tell John Archer had it coming to him. It wasn't his affair with a single mother and a recently cranked-up social life - admittedly more spoken about than actually heard on air - that cursed him. Because it is not moral retribution Archers characters need worry about - it is moving centre stage that gets the Tippex hovering over their name on scripts.

Letter: Vain plea

Am I supposed to take placards imploring us to save British farming, mounted on imported tractors, seriously?

Letter: Changing countryside

This country-dweller is sick of having his views "represented" by others. First it was the hunting lobby. Now I see that the Country Landowners Association and the National Farmers Union are claiming to speak for me ("When the wrath of the country people will be set ablaze", 7 February).

Safety: Sharp rise in farm accidents

Safety inspectors called for a change in culture on Britain's farms after a survey revealed that workers risk their lives by using defective machinery.

Farmers vow to block Dover with tractors

Farmers protesting against beef imports plan to step up their blockade of ports today, one of the busiest days for meat imports from the Irish Republic.

Games: Odd Books

After much deliberation, The Bookseller has awarded its annual "Diagram Prize" for the Oddest Title of the Year. The prize has gone, rather surprisingly, to The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition, ahead of The Prostate: A Guide for Men and the Women who Love Them, and Method for Calculating the Size of Stone Needed for Closing End-Tipped Rubble Banks in Rivers. This year's short-list had displayed an unusual level of sensitivity by including Interpersonal Violence: The Practical Series, and Attractive and Affectionate Grave Design, though there was considerable surprise that the strongly tipped From Coherent Tunnelling to Relaxation was not featured among the top three.

Woman in parachute terror

A woman was suspended from power cables for 90 minutes when she drifted off-course during a charity parachute jump at Netheravon, Wiltshire, yesterday.

Science: Farmers to field a driverless tractor

A driverless tractor steered by satellite that can find its own way around a crop field with pinpoint precision could help to usher in a "third agricultural revolution", it was claimed yesterday. Researchers at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, expect the tractor to be the first of a new generation of fully automated farm and construction vehicles.

Obituary: Jimmy McGinley

Albeit they had had a good result the year before in the by-election at Glasgow Bridgeton, it was the 9,750 votes in the by-election in West Lothian in May 1962 that launched the resurgence of the Scottish National Party. (Dr Robert McIntyre, the then SNP chairman, had represented Motherwell for a fleeting period at the end of the Second World War.)

Stone coffin holds Roman remains

A stone coffin thought to contain the remains of a high-ranking Roman official has been unearthed on the site of a housing development in the West Country.
Sport
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Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
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Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
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Curtain calls: Madani Younis
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Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?