Social affairs

A nativity play for our times

All the fairytale-land characters have come together to put on a nativity show. Little Red Riding Hood is playing the part of Mary, Goldilocks is Gabriel, the Three Little Pigs are the wise men and watch out for the innkeeper - it's the big bad wolf!"

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Michael Cunningham

Heller was synonymous with Catch-22; the same might be said of Michael Cunningham and The Hours. After two well received but slow-selling novels, A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood, published in 1990 and 1995, The Hours transported Cunningham into an elite league where critical and commercial success go hand in hand. The subsequent film, starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman, with a hypnotic score by Philip Glass, served merely to confirm the arrival on the block of a new literary superstar. He won a Pulitzer and enough credit to pursue his own dream.

The result is Specimen Days, which borrows the title of Walt Whitman's Civil War diaries.

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Life without the car

Welcome to the slow lane, the slow life. When my car collided with an 11-ton farm vehicle on a dangerous corner and spun off the road, my children and I became carless or, as we like to say, car-free.

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McDonald's suffers from court grilling

THEY turn everything upside down," says Dave Morris, sauntering home through north London from court 35 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London's Strand. The case, the longest libel trial in British legal history, will have been running for one year by Wednesday.

Morris continues: "We might have said that McDonald's creates lots of polystyrene rubbish which is environmentally wasteful but then they will say something like McDonald's waste is environmentally useful because it is filling up empty holes in the ground."

He is half of the McLibel Two, environmental martyrs taken to court by the American multinational burger chain which by now almost certainly regrets its heavy-handed tactics.

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'This is a fiendish area for legislation'

Allison Pearson
Evening Standard, London, January 19

"[On Tuesday] the government announced plans to improve the way access to children after divorce is handled. Parents will be given more practical and emotional support. Community service orders and electronic tagging could be imposed on those who deny former partners contact with their kids.

"The plans, though well-meaning, sound both blundering and inadequate. How are kids going to feel towards their father if mum ends up wandering around like a convict with a shackled ankle? This is a fiendish area for legislation: how can you punish an uncooperative parent without hurting her child? ... Every child deserves a childhood: it's battling parents who need to grow up fast - not their innocent kids."

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