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Anna and Sharland

November 25, 2013

25 November 2013 Anna and Sharland

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are testing a new navigation system and its even worse than Lesley Priceless.
I go and pick up Anna, Liz is not feeling well, have lunch so tired
Scrabble Mary wins but get just more than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling – Obituary
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling was a defuser of UXBs who emerged victorious in a five year battle of wits with Hitler’s bombmakers

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling 
6:08PM GMT 18 Nov 2013
43 Comments
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling, who has died aged 93, had several narrow escapes from death in the course of his work as a bomb disposal officer.
During the Second World War the men of the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal (BD) Companies risked their lives almost every day, often without ever leaving the shores of Britain. Some 45,000 unexploded enemy bombs (UXBs), as well as 7,000 live anti-aircraft shells and 300,000 beach mines were made safe. In all 394 BD officers and other ranks were killed, and more than 200 were wounded, mostly in the early years of the war when disposal techniques were in their infancy and developed by an often deadly process of trial and error.
On the night of June 13 1943, in addition to the usual high explosive bombs, more than 2,000 German SD 2 anti-personnel bombs fell on Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Known because of the rotating vanes which armed them in flight as “butterfly bombs”, they caused havoc and near panic in Grimsby in particular.
The bombs had never been dropped in such numbers before in Britain and the town’s police force was overwhelmed by the emergency. Wakeling, a section commander serving with 3 Bomb Disposal Company, was drafted in from Nottingham with his section and every available officer and sergeant in the company.
Bombs were found lodged in railway wagons, at sewer junctions, in organ lofts, in the projection-room of a cinema, in chimney stacks and in the ceilings of bedrooms. Others hung from the branches of trees, from gutters or telephone wires and even garden gates. The slightest touch would set them off, and when detonated remotely to render them harmless, there was always the danger that they would set off a “sympathetic” explosion from another one nearby that had not been found.

Second World War bomb disposal poster from one of Eric Wakeling’s books
When a bomb was discovered in the open, a circle of sandbags was built around it. After looping one end of a long length of string over the device, the BD men retired to a safe distance and the string was pulled. Where a bomb had fallen inside a house, in an effort to minimise the damage, a pulley and twine system was devised whereby the bomb was drawn across the room and up to the window space before being dropped into a sandpit below. If it had not already exploded, it could then be destroyed.
Wakeling, who was only aged 21, had dealt with a group of five successfully. Then, as he wrote afterwards, “I pulled a bit of string around the sixth. It didn’t go off so I pulled it again and it still didn’t go off.
“I was in a ditch with my driver and he said: ‘If you pull it much more, it will be in the ditch with us’. So I went and looked at it. It was ticking. That was the stupidest mistake I ever made. It would have gone off on its own accord if I had left it. It only had a few ounces of explosive, but it [was still deadly].”
Twelve “butterfly bombs” were found in a pea field and marked at the time by poles two feet high. Wakeling wrote afterwards: “By the time we had got round to trying to locate them, the peas had grown to two feet, six inches, and we had a devil of a time finding them.”
During the three months that it took to clear Grimsby of the menace, it brought the town to a virtual standstill. As a result, the incident was hushed up for fear that the Germans would realise how effective the raid had been; in fact, it was never repeated.
The raid formed the basis for a memorable episode of the 1970s TV series Danger UXB starring Anthony Andrews. In 1993 Wakeling received a Civic Award from the town.

Eric Edgar Wakeling was born at Deal, Kent, on August 1 1920. His father managed a food processing factory and Eric was educated at Sir Roger Manwood’s School, Sandwich. He enlisted in the Army in 1936 and served in the Army Apprentices’ College for three years before being commissioned in 1940.
When he joined No 3 Bomb Disposal Company, two of its sections had just returned from Birmingham, where there had been heavy raids. They were leaderless; their officers and sergeants had been killed.
Wakeling was in no doubt that he was a replacement. Officers at first had little training and, as a subaltern and section commander, in the early part of the war life expectancy was about 10 weeks. The odds improved once BD units acquired more experience and better equipment to help them tackle the devices.
It was lonely work. Officers were often working on their own and much of the time there was no way of telling why one of them had been killed and so avoiding fatal mistakes in future. A “Category A” UXB, such as one which had halted production at a tank factory or was buried under the runway of an RAF station, had to be dealt with at once. It might be on a time delay fuse set to go off at any moment. The death of a BD officer in those circumstances was regarded as an acceptable risk.
Wakeling would reconnoitre the site and then the BD squads would work around the clock to dig out the bomb, which might be up to 50ft underground. The slightest vibration — a passing train or breaking up concrete — might re-start a clock or explode a bomb with a sensitive fuse.
On one occasion, working on an unexploded bomb in a brewery, Wakeling had great difficulty in extracting a fuse that he had not encountered before. As soon as it had been removed it was rushed to the Directorate of Bomb Disposals. It turned out that the device was equipped with mercury switches so sensitive that the slightest movement in any direction would explode the bomb – a deliberate attempt to kill any bomb disposal officer unfortunate enough to handle it.
“It was only by the greatest luck that I was still alive,” Wakeling wrote later. “The fuse had a slight manufacturing fault in the system.”
From 1943 minefields which had been sown when Britain was threatened with invasion began to be cleared. This was a hazardous task as few accurate maps had been kept and, as many mines had been placed on beaches, wind and water had often moved them or rendered them unstable. Detecting mines amid shifting shingle was a nerve-shredding task. Wakeling was posted to 14 BD Company which had the job of clearing the Yorkshire coast and was then based at Shoreham, Sussex.
After 14 BD Company was disbanded in 1946 he moved to 12 BD Company at Horsham, Sussex, as second-in-command. He was in the War Office for a spell before being demobilised in 1947.
In civilian life Wakeling worked for Heinz and then for the pharmaceutical and household products firm Johnson & Johnson. In 1951 the Army Emergency Reserve was formed and, the following year, he became adjutant of 142 Regiment.
He commanded it in 1965 and retired from the Army in 1967. He was awarded the Emergency Reserve Decoration. Settled in a village in Buckinghamshire, he was a volunteer driver for the elderly and disabled and for the county’s ambulance service. After his wife died, he moved to Kent. He was regarded latterly as one of the last living links with wartime bomb disposal.
He published several books including The Lonely War (1994); Photographic Story of Bomb Disposal (1995); Danger of UXBs (1996); and A Short History of Bomb Disposal (1998).
Eric Wakeling died on Remembrance Day. He married, in 1945, Nicky Hopper. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two daughters.
Lt-Col Eric Wakeling, born August 1 1920, died November 11 2013

patkirk
• 4 days ago

A fine man, one of the finest generation. re the Butterfly bomb, about 25-30 years ago one was discovered in Belton House near Grantham. it was being used as a door stop while the public toured the house. Someone with UXB training realised what it was and alerted the authorities. Yes, it was live and a miracle it had never exploded! It was taken away and safely disposed of, by more brave men.

Guardian:

My heart sank when I read your headline (Israel: No birth certificates for children of foreigners, 21 November). This contravenes article 7 of the UN convention on the rights of the child (relating to every child’s right to a registered name and nationality) and article 8 (relating to the preservation of identity through an official record of who they are). The ideas behind the convention originate with Janusz Korczak, heroic paediatrician in the Warsaw ghetto. He and his orphanage children did not live to see the UN agreement. They all perished in Treblinka.
Professor Woody Caan
Duxford, Cambridge
•  It was my weekly treat to be allowed on a Friday night to stay up and watch Take Your Pick, followed by The Army Game. So I’ve good reason to remember that the gong-banger on the yes/no interlude was Alec Dane, not Bob Danvers-Walker (Letters, 23 November). Bob’s talents were more usefully deployed in describing in detail the multitude of prizes available.
Phil Harvey
Leicester
• As far as nudity on stage is concerned (Letters, 22 November), it rather depends on who it is. Some years ago I saw Warren Mitchell play King Lear. He was naked in the storm scene. I’m still in therapy.
Pam Wells
Addingham, West Yorkshire
• Settled down with the reprint of JFK-related Grauniad pages from 1963 (22 November), hoping to have a nostalgic 20 minutes counting typos. Could’nt find one. When did it all start to go wrong?
Mark Bristow
Oswestry, Shropshire

The three women found in conditions of forced labour (Freed after 30 years: the women held as slaves in London house, 22 November) are merely the tip of a very large iceberg. Our research suggests that there are at least 5,000 people, some of them UK nationals, many EU nationals, in forced labour in the UK.
The home secretary has expressed her desire to introduce a simple modern slavery bill very quickly. We hope she does not confuse speed with effectiveness and comprehensiveness. In particular she will need to confront the fact that many of the labour market policies introduced by her government have created the conditions under which forced labour is more, rather than less, likely to occur.
These include cuts in the scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (which need to be reversed, alongside giving the GLA a wider remit); introducing further barriers to justice for vulnerable workers, such as the huge fees required to access employment tribunals; deregulating or limiting the powers and resources of many other agencies that might help to identify forced labour; failing to police existing legislation such as the minimum wage provisions; removing visa protections afforded to domestic workers; and undermining attempts to make the supply chains linked to major businesses, especially food retailers, as transparent as possible.
A flexible, informal labour market equates to one in which modern slavery will flourish. Modern slavery is an issue of criminal justice and not one of immigration control and it would therefore, in any case, be more appropriate for the justice minister to present this bill.
Gary Craig
Professor of social justice, Durham University

Andrew Brown (A church that is sick of itself, 20 November) may be correct in citing George Carey’s response to the failure of the “Decade of Evangelism” to restore church attendance as a major factor in the current decline of the Church of England. It was, however, a foreseeable expression of his churchmanship, and ironically of the conviction widely held in the church that it needed to be “up to date”. The emphasis was all on tweaking worship. The almost exclusive attention to the saying of “Lord, Lord” had the effect of diminishing the overriding Christian duty to “do the will of the Father”.
As churchgoing Anglican since my youth and active in Christian Aid for all that time, I was astounded recently to be advised by a clergyman that the church was not an ethical association; and by a churchwarden that Christian Aid was too political. If the church seems irrelevant to the under-40s, in a society and a world riven with flagrant economic injustices – the antithesis of Christ’s teaching – it is because, with several notable exceptions, the clergy chooses to make it so.
Maurice Vassie
Chair, York Christian Aid
•  The coverage of Lord Carey’s alleged claim that the Church of England is “one generation from extinction” offers support to a familiar, but probably false, story about its inevitable generational decline. Recent analysis by Ipsos Mori of attendance at religious services shows that by 2011 Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) were almost as likely to attend once a month or more as those born pre-1939. They have overtaken both Generation X and the baby boomers. Young people are less likely to claim affiliation but recently look like they are more likely to attend.
The decline in Christian affiliation is largely among those who were only nominally connected, and the decline in overall attendance exaggerated because it’s seen solely through the lens of the Church of England and “mainline” denominations. In 2011, 21% of the population claimed to attend a religious service once a month or more, the same as in 1989. Even if the Anglican church has fallen on hard times, other expressions of Christianity are flourishing.
The Christian church in the UK is certainly changing shape but it’s far from doomed. A smaller, more fully committed church, including the Anglican one, may be a very good thing.
Elizabeth Oldfield
Director, Theos 
•  Andrew Brown vastly exaggerates the importance of the Church of England’s last three archbishops of Canterbury. Their qualities have had only a marginal effect on the declining popularity of organised religion in contemporary society. Personal praise or blame is relevant to their media image but does little to explain why the Christian heritage is in retreat throughout Europe. The Church of England is not a special case.
It is in Africa that folk religion still works. Our younger generation is, on the whole, ignorant of the tradition and simply cannot see the point of churchgoing. A thoughtful minority who are religiously literate, including many children of the clergy, believe they have good reason to opt out of a religious establishment that falls so far short of its ideals. That leaves those who, often but not always despite the churches, have been lit up and inspired by the remarkable personality of the radical young rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, who confronted the religious and secular powers of his day with all-embracing love and paid for that with his life. Those who follow him on stony paths, however few, are the seed bed of tomorrow’s church. Archbishop Carey need not worry.
Paul Oestreicher
Brighton
•  Empty pews and ageing congregations are, at least in part, the reaction of a bemused, despairing world to a church riven by faction and tainted by misogyny and homophobia. Ed Milliband’s concern for “the squeezed middle” might equally apply to the dear old C of E. The liberal progressive centre has been on the diminishing defensive for 30 years, caught between Reform and Forward in Faith. Thank heavens for Archbishop Welby, who is clear-eyed enough to see the church as society sees it. A crucial first step.
Ian Barge
Ludlow, Shropshire

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, expresses concern about corruption among “minority communities” who “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic” (‘Wake up’ to corruption in minority communities, 23 November). Apparently, they “come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture”.
A cursory look through other reports the same day suggests that he must be referring to his fellow Conservatives. The Greenwich School of Management, a private education provider which consumed one-fifth of the BIS’s alternative provider spend last year, is owned by a private equity firm co-founded by Lord Nash, the education minister. Another story outlines how the Conservative party has received over £1.2m in donations from private members’ clubs since David Cameron became party leader, including £870,000 from the Carlton Club, of which he, among other leading Tories, is a member. Of course, there is no political corruption in this country: we’re British!
Sarah Cave
London
• A “favour culture” is undoubtedly prevalent within the upper middle classes from which Dominic Grieve comes. His father, Percy, was Oxbridge-educated, called to the bar by Middle Temple in 1938, and made a QC in 1962. Dominic was Oxbridge-educated, called to the bar by Middle Temple in 1980, and made a QC in 2008. I am sure he advanced due to the qualities he brought to the job, but the odious and debilitating nature of the English class system means we’ll never know.
Mick Hall
Grays, Essex

Independent:

The Archbishop of York has said that the Church of England is one generation away from extinction. His solution was more evangelism, more God. He is completely wrong. 
The solution is for the church, as in the  past, to move with the times and now drop the outmoded belief in God and a conditional afterlife, but keep the moral and ethical thrust of its founder, as well as of other good people of philosophy and science both earlier and later.
In the UK the C of E still retains the affections of many people. There are still church infrastructure and networks throughout England and Wales, which make the C of E well placed to become again the centre of the communities; but the communities served would be people of all faiths and of none, no longer divisive but inclusive. Fundamentalists of all faiths would be sidelined.
A good many churchgoers including some clergy would, I am sure, breathe a sigh of relief at no longer having to say things they, in reality, don’t believe in. 
Chris Beney, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Poor arguments for press regulation
Every time I start thinking that maybe there is something in the arguments for press regulation (or at least the royal charter), I see or hear repellently disingenuous words by its supporters which drive me back to the other side. 
Recently we have seen repeated claims that no paper would be forced to join the royal charter, without mention that any paper that didn’t would be made bankruptable by any group of people who chose to, by launching trivial and vexatious lawsuits at their target’s expense; and claims that the royal charter couldn’t be tampered with by politicians because it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without mention that it would only need agreement between the leaders of the two main parties and such a majority would easily be obtained. 
When you decide on your attitude to something, it is fair to take into account the honesty of its proponents’ arguments, and the proponents of press regulation are not scoring well at the moment.
Roger Schafir, London N21
Without the support of the press many astonishing successive government failings and public health scandals would never have been exposed. For example, in the case of pesticides, rural residents at risk of adverse health impacts from pesticide spraying have been failed at every turn by the state, parts of the judiciary, even certain NGOs. The only sector that has been prepared to help expose this scandal from the outset is the media, predominantly the print press. As a result the issue has been highlighted to millions of citizens worldwide.
Although there have been, without a doubt, genuine victims of appalling treatment from certain sectors of the press, such as the experiences of the McCanns, the Dowlers, and Christopher Jefferies, what about the many other genuine victims of establishment cover ups, corruption and collusion, who have only had their voices heard because we have a free press? A strong independent media can expose disgraceful injustices and is able to shine the light in places which, no doubt the state, along with many politicians, would prefer to remain in darkness.
Restrictions on the free press would no doubt make battles such as mine that much harder.
Georgina Downs, UK Pesticides Campaign, Runcton, West Sussex
 
With reference to your recent article on the press regulation charter receiving Privy Council approval, I sympathise with the media because, again thanks to a few bad apples, a similar regime is being proposed to regulate businesses that help clients minimise their tax liabilities.
The proposed framework gives HMRC sufficient powers to determine who is carrying out what it considers to be unfair tax mitigation. It could, in practice, be used to put many firms out of business. We are told that this is not how the legislation will be operated in practice, but as the detail is so vague and the framework so flexible, we do not know that.
In both cases we are being asked to trust that the state will not unfairly abuse the powers at its disposal. The problem is that when it comes to politicians there is no confidence they can be trusted.
Richard Jordan, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, London EC2
Stick to the old school languages
A report recently published by the British Council (“Languages for the Future”) recommends that schools in the UK should introduce into the curriculum Arabic, Chinese and Japanese – these languages being perceived to be of greater value in the context of trade than the traditionally taught European languages, in particular French and German.
So far as Arabic is concerned, this is a difficult language to learn by any standard. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that, during the course of many years spent working in the Middle East, I have only come across a handful of British nationals who spoke Arabic with any degree of fluency, or indeed at all. In every case, these Arabic-speakers were graduates of Oxford, Cambridge or other elite universities and/or trained by the British Army or British diplomatic corps.
More to the point, in my experience Arab businessmen, and indeed Arabs in general, do not these days wish to converse in Arabic with “Westerners” and are inclined to regard efforts to address them in their own language as somewhat patronising.
As to Chinese and Japanese, I cannot speak with any authority concerning these languages. However, I should not imagine that either of them are especially easy to learn.
Given these considerations, perhaps  – notwithstanding the pronouncements of the British Council sages – children in UK schools should continue to apply themselves to the  study of French, German and Spanish. Whatever commercial value a knowledge of these languages may or may not have nowadays, there is surely a cultural reward to be gained.
The study of more “challenging” tongues, and more remote and exotic cultures, can come later, I would suggest.
Alexander McGeoch, Dubai, UAE
The music as Mahler intended
There is a simple solution to Andreas Whittam Smith’s problem – that listening to the adagio from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony too often had spoilt its enjoyment for him (22 November).
The Fifth Symphony comprises five movements that take the listener through a range of emotions, from the funeral march of the first movement, to the roller-coaster of the second and the beer-cellar exuberance of the third, before the “mystery” (to quote Whittam Smith) of the famous adagio. But even that merely introduces the rondo-finale, with its turbulent climax.
We should listen to symphonies in the way the composer intended – as complete musical journeys, not as extracts to accompany films or adverts. If Mr Whittam Smith listens to all 70 minutes of the Fifth rather than just the 10 minutes of the adagio, then I am sure he’ll be moved all over again by its stunning emotional complexity.
Michael Gold, Twickenham, Middlesex
A Sideways look at cyclists
As a motorist who does not want to have a collision with a cyclist (letters, 22 November), could I ask for better sideways lighting on cycles and riders?
They are often lit up like a Christmas tree front and back, but these lights are not always visible from the side, particularly on unlit or poorly lit roads, leaving both cyclist and motorist vulnerable on junctions.
Penny King, Thurlton, Norwich
For nine years in the 1970s and 1980s I cycled to work and back between Harrow and Marylebone up and down the Edgware Road, clocking up 25,000 miles.
The worst that happened to me was the occasional puncture. One day, after two inches of snow had fallen, I enjoyed passing all the motorists who were stuck in it. It was by far the best and quickest way to get around London, as long as I remained vigilant.
Graeme Jackson, Gloucester
Still just plain Mr flowers
Your detailed account of how Paul Flowers was able to bob and weave his way through indiscretions, incompetence and a lack of relevant experience or qualifications to gain the top job at the Co-operative Bank (23 November) leaves one important question unasked. How on earth did he manage to miss out on a knighthood?
David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
England expects
To accommodate the various independent movements of some home-nations, could England take the drastic step of leaving the United Kingdom and continue as an autonomous state called “England”? This would allow all other stakeholders to remain in the United Kingdom, saving a lot time and resources. I am confident that England will somehow cope.
Rob Rogers, Falmouth, Cornwall

Times:

Sir, Why is anyone surprised that people who are monitored on the basis of statistics that they themselves publish are found to have manipulated the figures (“We fiddled our crime numbers, admit police”, Nov 20)?
Long ago it was established by statute that financial figures provided by companies and public sector organisations have to be audited. Part of the audit process is to look to see that the organisation has robust systems of internal control in place and that these operate reliably. Internal control processes separate those who prepare information and publish it from those who carry out transactions. Audits have their failures, particularly where there is collusion or fraud at the highest levels but, in general, most financial accounts reflect the true position of the entities that report them.
Now we have the police, the NHS, schools, etc, gaming the systems by which they are judged and the results of which are used to inform decision making. Instead of blaming those who rig systems, we should use this as a lesson and install robust internal control and independent audit processes for non-financial figures reported by public bodies.
Jake Claret, FCA, FCMA
London SW1
Sir, Gaming of crime statistics is a danger to public trust in policing. With that in mind, a programme of inspection was initiated on recording of violence and published by the Inspectorate in 2009. This was extended in 2012. While an improvement in the accuracy of violence recording is evident in the published report, the average was too low (84 per cent) and the range too wide. On crime overall, the bulk of forces were estimated to be operating at 90 per cent accuracy or better, but the range was 86-100 per cent. This prompted detailed feedback to 12 police forces and a full 43 force HMIC inspection which will be published next year. Crime statistics need constant vigilant sampling .
Sir Denis O’Connor
Chief Inspector of Constabulary, 2000-12
Sir, It is bad enough that the police have been “cooking the books”, but given the Plebgate admissions, the consequences for justice are severe. We now have evidence of the police issuing on-the-spot cautions to avoid paperwork and improve conviction statistics. To issue a caution, the police perform the role of judge and jury, both of which require the highest levels of honesty, integrity and morality. I suggest the only way to get the police to understand the level of public distrust is to urgently review police powers.
Ron Mobbs
Barnet, Herts

‘The difficulty is finding legislation that will satisfy those who want this to happen and those who in conscience cannot accept this ministry’
Sir, Part of the blame for the vitriol poured out on the Church of England when General Synod failed to approve the legislation for women bishops last year must be laid at the door of the media for its inaccurate reporting of the situation. Your report “Church embraces women bishops” (Nov 21) would lead anyone to assume that the legislation has been approved — but it hasn’t. The article gives exactly the same impression — “The Church of England turned its back on decades of division yesterday and voted overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops.” No, it didn’t. It did that many years ago in accepting the principle that women should be ordained as bishops. The difficulty is finding legislation that will satisfy those who want this to happen and those who in conscience cannot accept this ministry. That legislation has not yet been found.
Everyone hopes that the current legislation which was referred by the General Synod to the Revision Committee will be finally approved, but no one should take that for granted, nor should the media give the impression that it is a fait accompli. As even your correspondent points out, there are still issues to be resolved. Let us hope that they can be resolved, but please don’t give the impression that the legislation for women bishops is somehow already accepted.
Prebendary Brian Tubbs
Exeter

If we adopted Central European Time there would be a marked reduction in the amount of energy we would use as a nation
Sir, A few years ago you published an article on an investigation by University of Cambridge scientists on the benefits that would accrue to Britain if we adopted Central European Time, thus synchronising our clocks with the rest of Western Europe. Among the many benefits listed was that there would be a marked reduction in the amount of energy we would use as a nation leading to much lower fuel bills for domestic and commercial energy consumers. Another benefit was that there would be a significant reduction in the amount of CO2 gas emitted.
At a time when politicians are trying to reduce fuel bills, why do they not take this simple step? There would be no cost involved other than people would have to endure slightly darker mornings in the midwinter months — a derisory price to pay for the benefits that would be gained.
Stanley Jones
Loughton, Essex
Sir, We recently received an annual energy statement stating that: “It feels better when you’re in control. That’s why we’re sending you this statement”. The statement shows that our electricity usage has decreased by 3 per cent compared with the previous year, but our cost has increased by 9 per cent.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of control.
Graham Plant
Wadhurst, E Sussex

Christian outrage about the depth of poverty in the world is not motivated by the politics of either Left or Right, liberal or conservative
Sir, You are concerned about Pope Francis getting a “good press from the Left” (Tim Montgomerie, Opinion, Nov 21). However, Christian outrage, whether Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, about the depth of poverty in the UK, and the rest of a wealthy world, is not motivated by the politics of either Left or Right, liberal or conservative. It is motivated by empathy with the suffering of poor people reinforced by Christian teaching which originated in the Jewish faith more than 4,000 years before those relatively modern political labels.
Secondly, addressing the plight of the world’s poor is a priority which must not be diluted by disagreements such as abortion. Emphasising disagreements when there is a fire to put out lets the house burn down.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
London N17

Many drivers mistakenly believe that they are entitled to continue driving as soon as the lights turn to amber
Sir, It is not the timing of the green light at pelican crossings (letter, Nov 23) nor indeed the speed at which pedestrians, elderly or otherwise, cross the road which is the problem, but the fact that the relevant section of the Highway Code is routinely flouted by impatient and aggressive drivers after the green light has changed to flashing amber. Rule 196 clearly states: “When the amber light is flashing you MUST give way to any pedestrians on the crossing”.
It appears that drivers mistakenly believe that they are entitled to continue driving as soon as the lights turn to amber. Knowledge of and compliance with the relevant rule would allow pedestrians of whatever age and speed to cross without fear.
Adrian Brodkin
London N2
Sir, A colleague once told me of a competition to find the most arcane, but legal, definition of speed. The winner was barleycorns per fortnight. A barleycorn is 1/3 of an inch. A speed of 2 miles per hour (or 54 metres per second) can legally be expressed as 128 billion barleycorns per fortnight, a reassuringly large number to those of us who are slower across the road than we used to be.
Robert Pennant Jones
London SE1

Telegraph:

SIR – Iain Martin quotes Adam Holloway, the Tory MP for Gravesham, as saying “I’m not sure that many people in my constituency are for Better Together.”
I am sure that many English people would be quite happy to see an independent Scotland because it would mean never having a Labour government again. We should grasp the thistle and look forward to a Labour-free future.
Stephen Davidson
Frizington, Cumberland
SIR – The Institute of Fiscal Studies has said that an independent Scotland would require either a sharp rise in taxation or cuts to public expenditure. Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, has argued against this by claiming that a planned reduction in corporation tax would bring increased investment to Scotland and provide thousands of additional jobs to create revenue.
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Mr Salmond is being somewhat disingenuous. Any jobs thus created would merely help to balance those lost in defence and the public sector which would need to be relocated to the remainder of the United Kingdom.
Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent
SIR – Iain Martin writes: “MPs for Scottish seats also get to vote on legislation that affects England…while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish affairs. This is the legacy of the lopsided form of devolution that Tony Blair introduced after coming to power in 1997.”
In fact the situation is even more lopsided than that. Not only can MPs for Scottish seats vote on legislation that affects England; they, like English MPs, cannot vote on domestic (devolved) Scottish affairs. In effect the Scottish electorate votes for two representatives: one to vote on Scottish matters, and one to vote on English and non-devolved matters.
It is amazing that nationalist Scots should even consider looking such a gift horse in the mouth. As things stand, Scotland exerts a quite disproportionate influence in the governance of its larger neighbour.
Dugald Barr
London W8

If Scottish Independence is sanctioned, by the Referendum, and the split becomes legal, at some time after the general election in 2015, then one of the two must happen
1. No Scottish Constituency MPs can be elected to the UK Parliament at the 2015 Election
or
2 If the Scots are allowed to vote, and return MPs, a further General Election must be held, one month prior to the split, with only those constituencies remaining in the UK returning votes.
Any other way and the English voter remains disenfranchised. The way ahead, must be made known soon,
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thisday
• 13 hours ago

Just look back to our darkest days. No I don’t mean WW2, we had a leader then.
I refer to the 13 years of Blair. He set up devolution and the break up of the UK. He knew he’d lose his crony seats in Scotland. So he set up his vote importation plan. He cynically turned London into a non-British swamp where he could fish for votes.
A lot of people were locked into the Tower. Many were harshly treated, but they frequently had windows. When Blair goes there he does not deserve a window.
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thisday
• 14 hours ago

This debate is turning on trivial dross. Future generations will look back on this with incredulity. We are talking about the destruction of the country we have shared for 400 years. Did we stand and die against the Kaiser and Hitler only to let a bumptious home grown ego maniac do the wrecking?
Lets get focussed here. The UK is now an integration of nations. Salmond wants a divided Island with Scotland dependent of English gifts. Specifically English underwriting of defence, the currency, the monarchy and business contracts.
My Kiwi relatives look on this squabble and keep asking me when Great Britain will get its act together.
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ilpugliese thisday
• 9 hours ago

I don’t know what Cameron’s game is. Essentially he has put knowing which country we are on hold for two years.

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neoloon thisday
• 13 hours ago

Many atrocities have been committed under the auspices of the union flag.
Scotland should admit to its role in the application of such brutal British imperialism – brutal and miserable for millions of innocent people around the world.
Scotland should renounce the poisonous union with England.
It’s time for Scotland to regain its independence.
It’s time to throw away the Butcher’s Apron.
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Irish Times:

   
Sir, – My eldest son had three bicycles stolen in as many years. He reported it to the Garda Síochána and they were able to advise him that bicycle theft was rampant at the moment, at an all time high. Nothing they could do to help. Try to claim on your house insurance.
Imagine my relief to read that the Garda Síochána are now prosecuting at least five tax-paying cyclists every week for breaking a red light. What a useful way to spend scarce resources. I imagine when they reach a point where most of the cyclists are non-taxpayers, cycling stolen bikes, they will divert their resources to prosecuting tax-paying jay walkers. Follow the money lads, you’re playing a blinder! – Yours, etc,
CIARAN SUDWAY,
Crannagh Way,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I refer to the correspondence from Pádraig McCarthy and Rev Marcus Losack about where St Patrick was from (November 18th and 19th). Rev Losack is sure he was from Brittany, and Pádraig McCarthy is not sure where he was from. It all turns apparently on the meaning of the place name Bannavem Taburniae. I have a solution to their problem. St Patrick was from Crosshaven, Co Cork.
The current Irish form of the place name Crosshaven is Bun an Tábhairne. The earlier name apparently was Cros tSeáin, ie “John’s Cross”. I believe the current name to be a simplification of Bun Abhann tSabhrainne. An tSabhrann was the old name for the River Lee. It looks curiously like the name of the Welsh river, the Severn. In Welsh that is Afon Hafren and in Latin, Sabrina. Bun Abha or Bun Abhann is to be found all around Ireland. When it precedes the name of a river, it means the place where the particular river runs into the sea. In Irish the principal stress would have been on tSabh- of tSabhrainne. I’m suggesting that because the principal stress would have been on tSabh-, and because Bun Abha/Bun Abhann is so common all around Ireland, Abhann could have been reduced to an, as happens with the prepositional pronoun ann in Munster dialects. An then would have been understood as the masculine article, and in ordinary pronunciation an is reduced to a’ before a consonant. For example, fear an tí is ordinarily pronounced fear a’ tí. The word tábhairne in Munster Irish is pronounced tá-irne.
So there you have it. St Patrick was a Corkman! No wonder they couldn’t understand him up north, or down the west, and he never ventured into Kerry. I think he may have been the first Corkman to make it big in Ireland. He was “from it” as they used to say in the civil service. Eat your heart out Wales and Brittany! – Yours, etc,
SÉAMAS de BARRA,
Beaufort Downs,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – We welcome World Philosophy Day, as well as your stimulating features on how philosophy can challenge and change us (Education, November 19th).
As you rightly recognise, philosophy has not received due attention in Ireland, which is a crying shame, a scandal even, considering the salutary influence and impact it can have on people’s lives. Your contribution shows that things are slowly changing.
The Philosophy Clinic, which we set up, aims to offer support and facilitate change with regard to this situation. Last Saturday we held our inaugural workshop on the practical philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, showing how stoicism can help us to lead happier and more fulfilling lives, which was a great success.
We will continue in the New Year with a series of seminars which aim to address the contemporary crisis of the loss of meaning in our society. Philosophy is pre-eminently placed to offer a path of practice for such existential exploration. – Yours, etc,
Dr STEPHEN J COSTELLO & BARRE FITZPATRICK,
C/o Dartmouth Road,
Ranelagh,
Dublin 6.

On Wednesday morning (November 13th) I waited on Lower Drumcondra Road at 8.30am for a bus to take me to the city centre. Over the next 20 minutes, five buses passed but none stopped, all were full. At 8.50am a bus did stop for me and the other seven passengers. Surely whoever designed this timetable is worthy of a Nobel prize? The bus staggered along ostensibly into Dublin city centre, but it felt more like deep space as my 9am meeting drifted further and further into the distance.
I’m no expert, but I suspect Dublin Bus was utilising string theory to make this short journey feel interminable. One time-stretching device is the crafty way Dublin Bus funnels passengers on and off only through the front door. Then there is the “dark matter” of each passenger searching pocket and purse for exact change before dropping it into the chute.
The rest of us on the bus watch the traffic lights ahead go from red to green to red. Is the Luas system of prepaid tickets the propriety of another galaxy? But the tour de force of Dublin Bus time-bending is the black hole of the driver changeover. When this occurs, the entire bus must wait for up to 10 minutes until the next driver shows up, has a chat, and then starts up the bus.
When I finally got off the bus, I felt like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and I could echo her sentiments: it was one hell of a ride. – Yours, etc,
PAUL STUART,
Drumcondra Park,

Sir, – By way of response to John Robinson (November 15th), EirGrid under its licence as the transmission system operator is obliged to plan the electricity transmission network in the most safe, secure, economic and reliable way possible.
We fully understand people have concerns and questions about power lines, including health concerns. EirGrid’s position on electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and health is based on the authoritative conclusions and recommendations of established national and international health and scientific agencies that have reviewed the body of scientific research and studies. These panels have consistently concluded that the research does not indicate EMF cause any adverse health effects at the levels encountered in our everyday environment and that compliance with the existing International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection standards provides sufficient public health protection. EirGrid has produced an information brochure for the public on this issue (www.eirgridprojects.com/yourhealth/).
In March 2007, the Department of Natural Resources assembled a panel of independent scientists to review EMF and radio frequency research. In relation to EMF, the report states: “No adverse health effects have been established below the limits suggested by international guidelines”.
This position was re-stated by the office of the chief scientific adviser in a report into possible health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields published in July 2010: “It is simply not possible for the level of energies associated with power lines to cause cancer”.
In relation to undergrounding: the majority of the transmission systems in Europe are AC overhead lines because they are the most efficient way of transporting electricity over long distances. The percentages of 400kV lines that are underground in some other EU countries, by way of example, are as follows: Austria, 1.94 per cent; Belgium, 0 per cent; France, 0.1 per cent; Germany, 0.34 per cent; Britain, 1.91 per cent; the Netherlands, 1.43 per cent; Spain, 0.28 per cent; Switzerland, 0.45 per cent. The longest AC cable in the world is 40 kilometres in Japan, where the cable is installed in an air-conditioned tunnel. Undergrounding AC cables over the distances required for the GridLink Project (circa 250km) is not technically feasible.
EirGrid follows best international practice in designing the transmission system and, like our counterparts around the world, constructs the majority of the network as overhead. This means that consumers do not pay more nor do they suffer from extended power outages. The European 10-year network development plan includes the installation of almost 27,000km of high voltage overhead lines in Europe, but only 420km of underground cable. – Yours, etc,
JOHN LOWRY,
Grid Link Project Manager,
EirGrid, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Not counting prescription and dispensing costs, my family spends around €120 per month on eight different medications for relatively common medical issues. Exactly the same medications or their generic equivalents are available in Spain for €55. None of these generic equivalents are listed on the HSE web site. This, while the HSE is running a deficit of over €600 million a year, is truly astonishing. Who is in charge of the generic medicines programme and what have they been doing for the past five years?. Perhaps I could make a few bob by setting up an import business myself! – Yours, etc,
JOE HACKETT,
Sir, – Not counting prescription and dispensing costs, my family spends around €120 per month on eight different medications for relatively common medical issues. Exactly the same medications or their generic equivalents are available in Spain for €55. None of these generic equivalents are listed on the HSE web site. This, while the HSE is running a deficit of over €600 million a year, is truly astonishing. Who is in charge of the generic medicines programme and what have they been doing for the past five years?. Perhaps I could make a few bob by setting up an import business myself! – Yours, etc,
JOE HACKETT,
Charlotte Terrace,
Dalkey Co Dublin.

Sir, – A short article (“Rector reveals theology behind Drogheda Mass”, November 18th) refers to a book by Church of Ireland rector, Rev Michael Graham, in which he “explains his understanding of the differences between Anglicans and Catholics in the Eucharist”. Given that an important part of Rev Graham’s theology is that Anglicans are Catholics, this seems a little unlikely. – Yours, etc,
SÉ d’ALTON,
Palmerston Road,

   
Sir, – It is gratifying that the blaa, forever associated with my home town and eagerly sought after on my occasional visits there, has been given European recognition as to its source. But I must take issue with Eddie Hearne (November 21st) when he says it was introduced by French immigrants.
There are a number of problems with this theory. For a start, there were much bigger Huguenot communities in other Irish cities, most notably Dublin, and the unique and tasty bap never appeared anywhere other than in Waterford. Also, when I was a cutter in Waterford Crystal (better known locally as “The Glass” in those days) I was told by another cutter, one McEvoy, that the blaa had been started in the Gold Crust bakery, now also sadly defunct, by bakers who wanted what would, in the present day, be called a mini-loaf to have with their tea in the middle of the night, when all the bread was baked.
McEvoy knew this because his father was one of the bakers. – Yours, etc,
SEAMUS McKENNA,
Farrenboley Park,
Windy Arbour,
Dublin 14.
Sir, – Well done to Waterford for getting EU recognition for its blaa. Let there be no more pun fights involving dough, the Rising, proving or even having the Powers to do it. With the revival of the economy, Dublin will ready to play its jumbo breakfast roll with its Blaa Cliath. Incidentally, whatever happened the giant cookies, “Connie dodgers” in Cork, said to have been named in honour of Bishop Lucey, which were used to circumvent the strict Lenten rules pre-Vatican II? – Yours, etc,
PATRICK JUDGE,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire,

Irish Independent:

* There are those who view the haka in a flippant way, and those who see it as a ‘fun thing’. I view it differently. Seen as a quaint, mildly entertaining event in the early days of global rugby, the traditional haka has been misused, abused, fine-tuned and transformed by the All Blacks into an effective declaration of warfare on the sports arena. I don’t need to enlarge on the proven subliminal effects of psychological warfare. Many a battle has been won, and lost, due to the psychological factor.
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Further, what gives the All Blacks special rights to be allowed extra pitch time to perform a menacing ‘war dance’, designed to get their ‘blood lust’ up? And while they perform this ritual, the opposing team is expected to stand quietly, watch respectfully, wait patiently, be silent – and, rendered impotent, ‘accept’ the haka! What a farce!
A retired New Zealand rugby coach recently informed me that the haka has reached proportions whereby if a member of the opposing team is seen to be ‘disrespectful’, inattentive, smiles, laughs, looks away etc while he should be ‘accepting’ the haka, he will almost certainly be singled out for attention during the game. More than a few were punished accordingly yesterday, it seems.
Let no one deny the concealed power of such warlike ‘hoot and holler’. Just as it has won many a tribal battle, it wins many a game of rugby for the All Blacks. The haka is a very powerful accessory that gives the All Blacks a huge psychological advantage, while at the same time having a subtle ‘draining’ effect on those at the receiving end, both during the spectacle and during the game. It’s hard to believe it has been tolerated for so long.
If we accept the importance of the psychological element in sport, then we must also accept that the haka facilitates a grossly unfair advantage to the All Blacks. Ban the haka, I say, let’s just play rugby and witness the All Blacks lose their psychological advantage and the false image of invincibility they currently enjoy.
Players and supporters are subjected to sensationalism that when confronted by the All Blacks, we are up against a superhuman force. The sooner we stop seeing them this way, the sooner we will beat them. This was clearly evident yesterday. It is my belief that without the haka, Ireland would have won yesterday’s encounter with ease.
The All Blacks are not invincible. The haka is there, it seems, to give them an edge beyond the normal parameters that the game allows!
James Kenny
France
Held to ransom by ESB
* No energy trade union or supplier should be allowed to hold an entire country to ransom with power cuts. Every time the old guard at ESB – this country’s only distributor – has a gripe, everybody must pay with blackouts. It is not the fault of the people that their bloated pension fund went sour, is it?
Like so many others, employees at the ESB have to accept the pros and cons of capitalism. Workers at the ESB are some of the most highly paid blue-collar workers in the country, with the steadiest employment imaginable, not to mention massive bonuses at Christmas time.
The Army should be brought in to counter these tactics by workers who did enough to cripple this country in the past. The days of putting a shotgun to the heads of the Government and the people should be a thing of the past.
Maurice Fitzgerald
Shanbally, Co Cork
TOM GILMARTIN BRIDGE?
* Although the name for the new Liffey bridge has been decided, Dublin County Council might consider a change to Tom Gilmartin Bridge, a patriot who, fearlessly and at great personal cost, exposed the corruption in the heart of our capital city and nation!
K Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
TOUGH ON ALL CRIMINALS
* The reports in your paper (Irish Independent, November 22) concerning crime shocked me, and I agree with your coverage that the perpetrators must be dealt with severely. But, as your columnist stated, we seem to have a tolerance line when it comes to crime.
A nod and wink from a politician to a businessman seems to be okay. A rich man gets a few months in prison for a serious sex assault while a poorer man gets six years. Don’t even get me started on the white-collar crime that has become part of business culture.
If we turn a blind eye to any crime, we turn a blind eye to it all.
Darren Williams
Dublin 18
DANGERS OF WIND ENERGY
* Eamon Ryan (Irish Independent, Nov 20) puts his argument forward for renewable wind energy and uses Denmark as our example for moving forward. He fails to explain why local communities reject this form of energy, and what their concerns are.
Unfortunately, Eamon does not mention that there is huge opposition in Denmark to onshore industrial turbines. Eamon also forgets to mention that Denmark is now undertaking an 18-month study into health concerns regarding wind turbines, in recognition of all the research coming forward supporting communities’ claims of ill effects.
But Eamon thinks it is for the greater good and we could solve all our energy problems. May I suggest that, rather than choose the quick, cheap option, we research other, less intrusive options that do not sacrifice whole communities’ welfare. Solar energy may have a higher initial cost, but in the long run it will be lower.
Breege Loftus
Co Offaly
CASE OF HYPOCHONDRIA
* What I find surprising is that Micheal O Muircheartaigh, who warns us of sickness and afflictions on countless radio advertisements and has such a personal knowledge of all ailments great and small, hasn’t fallen victim to one or all of them himself. Lucky man.
Not so much ‘crying wolf’ from Mick, but he does manage to have me feeling for lumps and bumps on a regular basis. Thank goodness for the nanny state – where would we be without it. . .
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
IRISH NAMES ON SIGNAGE
* I refer to Liam Fay’s comments (Irish Independent, November 23) regarding Transport Minister Leo Varadkar’s support for giving equal status to Irish in motorway signage. Fay dismisses this idea as “bonkers”.
Liam Fay is a reputable and smart journalist and it is disappointing to see him joining the ranks of the ignorant in dismissing a proposal that gives Irish language place names equal status.
I always advise politicians and other commentators who reject giving equal status to Irish to take an opportunity to attend Brian Friel’s wonderful play, ‘Translations’. In it, Friel shows how the place names in majority usage, often mistakenly regarded as being in English, are a corrupted form of the Irish language original, usually without meaning.
There are many good examples in my own county of Dun na nGall. Donegal as a name means nothing; it is only when we use the original that we discover that it is Dun na nGall (The Fort of the Stranger).
Liam Fay knows, only too well, that his own surname means nothing; however when he reverts to the original meaning, he can discover that he is from a worthy and highly celebrated Gaelic clan; as in O Feich, and, by ‘translation’, ‘descendant of Fiach’ (raven), a variant of O Fiaich.
Many countries have languages used and spoken in parallel and are comfortably accommodated in public places. It is time for Liam O Feich and others with this tunnel view of language to shed some baggage.
Liam O Cuinneagain
Stiurthoir, Oideas Gael, Gleann Cholm Cille, Co Dhun na nGall
Irish Independent

50th year

November 24, 2013

24 November 2013 50th Anniversary

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are automated by Fred Computicals. Priceless.
Paz pops round with apples lots of apples
No Scrabble today watch An Unearthly child and The Day of the Doctor.

Obituary:

Jack Lynn – obituary
Jack Lynn was an architect whose Brutalist masterpiece proved to be the perfect haunt for gangs and drug dealers

Jack Lynn 
6:50PM GMT 21 Nov 2013
3 Comments
Jack Lynn, who has died aged 86, was one of a pair of idealistic young architects responsible for the Park Hill housing development in Sheffield, a huge Brutalist masterpiece which is as admired by architects as it came to be loathed by many of those who had to live there.
The context of the building of Park Hill was the acute post-war shortage of housing in the city. In December 1940 two nights of German bombing had wrought devastation, destroying many of the Victorian terraced streets. The city was left with a major homelessness problem, further exacerbated after the war as what remained of its Victorian housing was condemned as unfit for habitation. Land was also in short supply as much of it was green belt.
In a desperate bid to solve the problem, Sheffield City Council sent a party of dignitaries to look at housing projects in Europe. They returned full of enthusiasm for the modernist developments they had seen.
The inspiration for Lynn, his colleague Ivor Smith and the city architect Lewis Womersley, was the work of Le Corbusier, whose concrete “streets in the sky” were all the rage in France. The idea was to replace Sheffield’s slums with ultra-modern flats and facilities, recreating the communities that had flourished in the back-to-backs of the pre-war era.

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The new development was also conceived (ironically, in view of its later reputation) as a response to what were considered, even in the 1950s, to be modern architecture’s failures: empty spaces, isolation, a lack of street life, a middle-class “we know what’s good for you” ethos.
When the estate was formally opened by Hugh Gaitskell in 1961, Park Hill was hailed as the perfect expression of a utopian vision of social housing. Conceived as a town within a town, it consisted of 996 flats that would house almost 3,000 people and was equipped with every sort of facility — shops, a doctors’ surgery, dentist, clinic, nursery, school, four pubs and a police station.
While most tower blocks of the era were being built around narrow, claustrophobic corridors, Park Hill’s flats were arranged in a snaking warren around interlinked “street-decks”, wide enough for a milk float — communal areas where children could play and families socialise. Its concrete blocks were fitted to the undulating terrain in such a way that they rose from four storeys to 13 while maintaining a level roof line.
A survey of residents conducted by the housing department a year after the flats had been officially opened was overwhelmingly positive, and awards were heaped on the designers. “When one looks out from some part of it and sees another of its limbs swinging across the view,” enthused the architectural critic Reyner Banham, “the effect is like that of suddenly realising that the railway lines on the other side of some valley in Switzerland are the same that one’s own train has just traversed a few moments before.”

Park Hill, where the ‘streets in the sky’ were inspired by Le Corbusier (ALAMY)
The vision of Park Hill as a living community also seemed vindicated. Of the walkways, Banham wrote: “Toddlers play on them, teens mend bikes and swap gossip, Teds occasionally brawl, heroic Sheffield grans, legs akimbo at the street door, are backed by tableaux of floral wallpaper and aspidistras in pots on spindly wooden stands.”
Fired by a deep social commitment, Lynn and his colleagues did everything they could to ensure that the new residents felt at home in their new environment. Cobbles from the old terraced streets surrounded the flats and paved the pathways down the hill to Sheffield station; brick infill panels were made of the same material as the houses they replaced, and there were traditional front doorsteps. Each floor was given an old street name and neighbours were rehoused together.
But Park Hill did not age as well as its admirers hoped. The concrete in which it was built proved less suited to the damp climate of Sheffield than the dry heat of the south of France, and as the years passed it began to stain and splinter or “spall”.
By the 1970s problems were accumulating. Cockroaches invaded the estate and a spate of sex attacks led to headlines in the papers. In the 1980s, as unemployment soared, social problems multiplied. There were burnt-out cars, boarded-up shops, rubbish and graffiti. The council was accused of dumping “problem families” there, while the “streets in the sky” proved an ideal haunt for gangs of lawless youths and drug dealers. Deliverymen found that they often had to dodge milk bottles and other missiles, while older inhabitants who had once chatted and gossiped with their neighbours began locking their doors.

Park Hill in 2013, after its renovation (ALAMY)
The cost of refurbishing the flats and of maintenance was also getting out of hand as a cash-strapped council battled to keep on top of the escalating problems. By the 1980s Park Hill had come to be regarded as a dangerous no-go area, an embarrassing blot on the face of the city .
In the 1990s the council faced growing demands that Park Hill should be demolished, and in the early 1990s some parts of neighbouring estates were bulldozed. But despite making it to the top of Channel 4’s Demolition, which set out to find Britain’s most-hated building and have it knocked down, in 1998 Park Hill was given Grade II* listed status by English Heritage.
The decision presented Sheffield council with a seemingly irresolvable dilemma: it could not afford to maintain the estate and it was not allowed to demolish it. Eventually, in 2004, the council signed a deal with Urban Splash, a Manchester-based urban developer which is now involved in a scheme with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments for sale, business units and social housing.
The renovation was one of the six shortlisted projects for this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize, though it remains controversial. Lynn, who retained a strong social conscience throughout his life, regretted the fact that two thirds of the original council flats will, with the help of public subsidy, be for private sale.
The youngest of eight children of a coalminer, Jack Basil Lynn was born at North Seaton, Northumberland, on October 30 1926. The family fell into poverty when his father had to leave the pit due to ill health.
After graduating in Architecture from King’s College, Durham, and stints with the East Anglia Health Board and Coventry City Council, he joined Sheffield Council in 1952. In 1966, after King’s College became Newcastle University, Lynn was appointed to produce the master plan for a programme of expansion, and subsequently established his own practice, Kendrick & Lynn Associates, with Donald Kendrick.
Lynn had been brought up a Methodist, but in 1968 he converted to Roman Catholicism. He was a strong supporter of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which is dedicated to serving the poor and disadvantaged, and did much work to rehabilitate offenders.
Lynn’s wife, Mari, died in 2001, and afterwards he found companionship with Fiona Manzeh-Longbone, who died last year.
He is survived by his son and daughter.
Jack Lynn, born October 30 1926, died October 15 2013

Guardian:

Five cyclist killed in two weeks on London’s roads calls for action, as your article (“Two weeks, five deaths, more grief: do we need to find a smarter way to protect our cyclists?”, News, last week) and the comment by Christian Wolmar rightly seek.
In reducing road deaths in Britain, let us not forget the 5,000 per annum killed by toxic traffic fumes in London, with the carcinogen PM10 the prime target – 20% of inner London PM10 comes from taxis and nearly 80% from 8,000 buses. To meet air standards means using non-polluting transport such as cycles.
The comparison with Amsterdam, which also has narrow streets, is apposite, since trams are the backbone of Amsterdam’s transport. As well as being fume-free, trams don’t kill cyclist, since they stick to their tracks.
Plans for supertrams in Southwark could show the way to a central London network and sort out the black spots of Oxford Street and other fume-choked roads.
Professor LJS Lesley
President of Merseyside Cycling Campaign, Liverpool
According to the Department for Transport, more than 540,000 cycling journeys are undertaken in London every day. That’s nearly 200 million a year. A dozen or so fatalities are a tiny proportion of these.
Every death is unfortunate, but when cycling is as safe as it is, I have to question Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, spending a billion pounds trying to improve this number. He’s doing it by taking vehicle lanes away and allocating them to cyclists, thus dramatically increasing the overcrowding on roads, which are already close to capacity. This is going to heighten the risks for all road users, including pedestrians, who die at a rate some 600% that of cyclists – where’s the hand-wringing for them?.
Paul Harper
London E15
If Johnson really wanted to save cyclists’ lives he would be lobbying for a law like that in the Netherlands where, in any collision with a cyclist, the motorist is automatically held to be liable unless they prove otherwise.
Is this just British inability to learn anything from the continent or is Boris too scared of losing the motorist vote?
George Appleby
London NW5
The truth is that, as any road user in central London and other cities will see every day, many cyclists ride unsafely and without much care for anyone else either. “Cycle super-highways” and the like might give cyclists a false sense of safety, but the reality is that paint on a road means little, even if you can see the colour.
I used to travel from Swiss Cottage down to the Holborn area via Camden, and in the years I did this had no serious encounters with vehicles.
I “rode high”, making sure I was visible at all times; I never went “undertaking” long vehicles (there is a clue in the word, cyclists!) and always wore a helmet. Cyclists have to realise they are the most vulnerable road users, possibly even ahead of pedestrians who, usually, are protected by controlled crossings (when the road users obey the rules!).
Or, as my dad used to put it, as a cyclist, they are out to get you and he was a bus driver!
Cycle defensively, obey the rules of the road, don’t take risks, wear a crash helmet and don’t expect anyone else to look out for you: it’s your life.
David Reed

Your leader “The state we need: not smaller but smarter” (Comment) encapsulates the current underlying problem in British politics. Shifting the debate from one of size and numbers to one that addresses humans first seems now to be a task beyond our representatives’ grasp. Mired in the market, competition, privatisation, the myth of choice and the illusory trickle-down effect, our politicians have contributed to the alienation of people from the political process.
Not bothering to protest, many escape into the glamour of popular technology and the promise of celebrity. We might begin by seeking a rebirth in local democracy where successive national governments have marginalised local government and where local authorities have often contributed to their own devaluation.
Howard Layfield
Newcastle upon Tyne
Spain shows the way for Roma
Thank you for the special report on the plight of the Roma community in Britain (“The real story of Britain’s Roma: excluded, ignored and neglected”, News). In Britain, as elsewhere in Europe, the Roma issue is linked to difficult questions of ethnicity, race, social exclusion and political gamesmanship.
The only glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma. Nearly all Roma children there finish primary school. In 1978, three-quarters of Spain’s Roma lived in substandard housing; today just 12% do. Isidro Rodriguez, the director of Fundación Secretariado Gitano, cited access to free education, healthcare and social housing following the anti-Roma repression of the Franco years.
Tara Mukherjee
Chairman, European Multicultural Foundation (EMF)
Brentwood, Essex
Privatisation hasn’t worked
It is as clear as can be that the experiment of letting the private sector deliver the services essential to a reasonable quality of life for the public has failed (“Energy firms hike prices 37% in three years”, News ).
At privatisation, we were told that yes, the private companies wanted to make a profit, but the companies would want to improve services to customers in order to increase those profits. Competition and innovation would keep prices down. This is not the case. Huge profits are made because people have to buy the services no matter what the price charged. Competition is cosmetic and technical innovation often just increases profits further.
The challenge for our politicians is to take the greed out of essential service delivery and to restore public services to public ownership without restoring the bureaucracy and unwieldiness that persuaded the public to give up ownership of their services in the first place.
Meurig Parri
Pontypridd
Tactics to cope with disasters
Responding to disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan involves “fiendishly complicated logistics” as you report (“‘The strain of fighting bottlenecks that refuse to budge is showing among relief work veterans'”, News). Having visited Indonesia in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, I’ve seen how things can go badly wrong if the aid effort is not co-ordinated. If one lesson can be taken from past efforts, it is that, despite these huge challenges, co-operation and co-ordination between aid agencies is essential.
Leigh Daynes
Executive director, Doctors of the World UK
London E14
Contesting this ‘competition’
Your story on how competition-based arguments are affecting outcomes in the NHS misses the wider point (“NHS ‘competition’ policy blocks improved cancer treatment centres”, News). Notably, since the Enterprise Act of 2002, the Competition Commission has placed itself at the core of the economy.
It is astonishing that this rise to power – founded on privatisation and deregulation – has generated so little debate. We could start by asking how one narrow vision of competition was chosen. There is also some amusement to be had from querying why the Competition Commission itself is, in effect, a monopoly.
Alan Hallsworth, professor emeritus
Portsmouth Business School
Portsmouth

The world needs to grow up
Henry Porter is right to challenge the image of a “kindly old man” in a corridor behind the powers of state (“No more evasion and prevaricating – Britain’s elite must be held to account”, Comment).
Many of us will recognise in ourselves a residual faith in someone, somewhere up there, who may put things right for us. Often, it allows us to defer decision where only individual and collective action can change things. In matters of war, we march in our millions, but fail to stop the war, or even stop paying for it. When it comes to climate change, we give quite generously after a typhoon but leave unchanged the practice that makes such climate chaos inevitable.
We’re torn between a cheeky disrespect for them up there and an infantile reliance on human science or superhuman providence to save us in the nick of time.
Greg Wilkinson
Swansea

Independent:

There is much more in common between David Cameron’s Sri Lanka visit and his Tahrir Square walkabout than is evident in Joan Smith’s engaging article “Dave does abroad, but as arms dealer or avenging angel?” (17 November).
Shortly after leaving Sri Lanka, Cameron stopped in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he spoke before a selected audience at the BAE Systems stand at the Dubai Air Show, due to open the following day. This was followed by a private dinner with Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this little publicised stopover was to lobby for UAE to enter a billion-pound deal to buy a fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons.
The UAE was rated at 149 out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2012, and in July saw a mass trial and jailing of dissidents linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, with a similar trial starting in November. In both cases, the accused said that they had been subject to torture. There are also questions over the poor treatment of expatriate workers in the country. There is no evidence that Mr Cameron has taken up the cause of these groups as he has the Sri Lankan Tamils. When it comes to the oil-rich Gulf states the promotion of arms sales is seen as far more important than support for human rights.
Kaye stearman
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
London N4

The moves by internet search engines to make it harder to find child-abuse images online do not go far enough (“PM to demand better online protection for children”, 17 November). The measures will do little to stop the people sharing these images, which is done through private peer-to-peer networks. Every illegal image is a crime scene but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, find and protect every victim, nor to identify and charge every abuser. More resources must be provided.
The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix to protect victims – it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.
Dr Martyn Thomas
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2

Professor Robert Plomin (“Mr Gove and the question of genetics in schooling”, 17 November) can only argue that the ability to learn is more influenced by genes than experience if he can find students who have similar experiences. But we all know that the sensation of experience varies from one child to another even if they are identical twins. Children take away different things from school life, home life and recreational life. It’s what makes them human.
Kartar Uppal
West Bromwich, West Midlands

I read with interest the interview with Ingrid Newkirk (“It’s bizarre to kill animals for a sandwich”, 17 November). However, her mention of cosmetics testing, without referring to medical experiments on animals, implies that the latter do not come within her scope. This is a pity. The medical or scientific angle on vivisection should be scrutinised for its validity by medical and veterinary people who disapprove of animal experimentation. Yes, such people do exist.
Henry Turtle,
London SW14

This adulatory piece (“Please keep shoving the royal oar in, Your Highness”, 17 November) misses the point. We are all entitled to our opinions but we don’t have access to government ministers.
This secretive way to influence policy is playing on Prince Charles’s power and privilege and undermines democracy. When we have an elected head of state, Charles will be able to stand for election; until then he should stop abusing his position. Or he could leave public life and then he would be free to voice his opinions publicly.
Jenny Bushell
London SW19

If we hadn’t privatised the utility companies, energy prices could have been kept down in the first place, as there would have been no shareholders to please in preference to customers (“The big switch”, 17 November).
Tim MickleburgH
Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Times:

NHS management out of touch with ward staff
CONGRATULATIONS to Camilla Cavendish for her excellent article “I saw what needs to be fixed in the NHS. Let’s get on with it” (Comment, last week).
Her observation regarding the “senior nurses” who “did not know where their wards were” is redolent of when Richard Baker took over as chief executive of Boots: he allegedly made a habit of pitching up at the desks of middle managers and asking to be introduced to their staff. It quickly became clear to Baker that the middle managers apparently didn’t know their staff. Cavendish says: “Many of the problems in the NHS are management issues.” In the NHS, as with any other organisation, all problems are managerial ones. 
Dr John Chamberlin, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
What the doctor ordered
I worked as a clinician and a manager, and the clinical staff were always keen to provide the best possible service, and resented being plagued by administrative bureaucracy. The best results will only be achieved when managers work with clinicians rather than try to regulate them.
Robin Illingworth, London W13
Inside information
Cavendish tells us Toyota’s Stop the Line quality assurance process helped save a patient from leaving the operating room with a swab in the abdomen. Since the days of the 18th-century surgeon John Hunter, staff in operating rooms have as a matter of procedure always counted all the swabs — clean and bloody — at the start and at the end of the procedure to make sure none are left inside the patient.
Roger Dunshea, Whitchurch, Shropshire
Job share
I was surprised to read that Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, is appealing to colleagues who work in other hospital departments to help out doctors struggling in casualty (“Call for volunteers to ease A&E crisis”, News, last week).
When I was a junior surgeon in training in the 1960s and 1970s it was compulsory to spend six months in A&E as a senior house surgeon. A period in A&E should be mandatory training for all specialities. 
Hugh Evans, Retired consultant surgeon, Ferryside, Carmarthenshire
Safety in numbers
As 10 experienced leaders of nursing teams in some of the largest hospitals that care for many patients with complex conditions, we are pleased to see that the government has prioritised nurse staffing levels as an issue to be addressed with urgency. However, we are cautious of achieving this by instigating a minimum ratio of nurses to patients.
There is a danger that a mandated staffing level may be perceived as an optimum one, when the number of staff required may differ according to patient need and may be in excess of the mandated level. A safer approach would be to enforce use of a recognised tool at a local level to calculate staffing requirement based on the needs of the specific group of patients.  The Shelford Group Chief Nurses, London SW1H

Cycle lanes impeded by design flaws
THE rant by Thomas Bewley about cyclists not using dedicated cycle lanes highlights the sense of motorists’ entitlement (“Cyclists are a law unto themselves”, Letters, last week). I find many cycle lanes are poorly designed, badly built and not maintained. When cycle lanes are busy it’s much safer to cycle on the road, even if it does mean “getting in the way” of motorists. As usual, the minority of idiot cyclists are perceived as the majority. I’m guessing that Bewley doesn’t cycle very much.  
John O’Connell, Hertford
Sensor and sensibility
One of the main spurs for overhauling fire safety was not regulation but changes made in the interests of lower fire insurance premiums. A number of the recent deaths related to cycling have been collisions with lorries and buses, most of which are not fitted with the cyclist sensors we now see on newer London cabs and commercial vehicles.
The devices are not that expensive, and adding them would bring a net reduction in accidents, both vehicular and otherwise — so insurers would see a reduction in claims. One would also hope to see a drop in cyclists’ deaths. 
Peter Bousquet, Barnes, London
Junction judgment 
The correspondence ignores the fact that there are red lights and there are red lights. Many junctions are far too busy to be jumped but there are others where one can clearly see traffic and pedestrians. More than 30 years ago in Nairobi many city traffic lights would flash amber at night. In Bath there are plenty of examples where this practice would be sensible and safe. Stuart Andrews, Bath 
Way forward
Mary Clark (“Saddle sore”, Letters, last week) is wrong about cyclists and one-way streets. On the Continent they are rapidly becoming two-way for bicycles. It’s time the UK followed suit.
Colin Stone, Oxford

Paying for risks of rich
IN YOUR article “Richest pay 30% of income tax” (News, last week) and the editorial “The wealthy show that less tax means more” you did not explain the one key reason why Britain’s financial services are so lucrative  for these masters of the universe.
In all other sectors of the UK economy there is a balance between opportunity (making money) and risk (losing money). This balance is reflected in the pay and conditions of those industries. However, the same balance does not exist in the financial services sector.
There the individuals are able to take advantage of these “upside opportunities” and — quite rightly — they make lots of money. Then they pay lots of personal income tax on these earnings.
However, when their huge gambles fail and financial services companies lose vast sums of money their “downside risks” are — because of government bank bailouts and quantitative easing — actually being taken by us, the general public.
It is the rest of us — the average taxpayer, small saver and pension fund beneficiaries — who pay when these “too big to fail” banks spectacularly and suddenly do so.
Peter Bryson, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Archbishop leads from the front on spirituality
THERE are encouraging signs that the Archbishop of Canterbury will prove to be as effective a leader of his church as Pope Francis (“Welby can take heart from the Francis effect”, Editorial, last week).
Justin Welby has affirmed that “a deep spiritual base” is needed as much as economic recovery for a healthy society, while his call at Christmas is to eschew consumerism and value loving relationships.
Above all, the Church has recently launched a “pilgrim” course designed to deepen the spiritual life of its members.
The Reverend John Brown, Middleton-on-Sea, West Sussex
Counted blessings 
You report that the congregations in Catholic churches in Britain have increased by about 20% (“‘Francis effect’ pulls crowds back to church”, News, and “Pope idol”, Focus, last week). I suggest this is down to immigrants from central and eastern Europe rather than anything the Pope has said.
The Catholic Church is one of the most reactionary faiths, which thrives on the ignorance and poverty of its followers. The power of the churches is weakening and the numbers of believers falling.
John Antill, Darlington, Co Durham

National Trust plays fair with rents
WITH universal increases in property values and rents there will be painful pressure on family budgets everywhere, not just for tenants of the National Trust (“‘Strong-arm’ National Trust ramps up rents”, News, last week). As a charity the trust is obliged to maximise income from its assets, but it is also required to maintain old buildings. It spends millions on those occupied by tenants. Moreover, many of those who rent live in enviably nice places.
Pat Morris, Ascot, Berkshire
Unhappy tenants
Your article barely scratched the surface of the issue. A very large number of the properties would not meet decent home standards and much of the rental income is used for conservation work elsewhere. Tenants on the protected leases are frightened that if they push for repairs, or improve the property, their rent will be hiked up beyond what they can afford or they will be evicted.
Linda Baharier, by email
Good landlord
The National Trust always aims to be professional and fair in the way we work with our 8,000 tenants. We’ve recently joined the most recognised independent benchmarking service within the sector, which told us that we charge average market rent for our residential holdings. On farms, we are below market rates.
We can and will adjust rent where we and our tenant can agree to do so. We rent properties to raise vital funds, which we pump back into our core charitable purpose of looking after special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people. 
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director, National Trust

Points
Human voice 
Congratulations to AA Gill for his article on the female victims of the war in Congo (“My family name means ‘I had to go through a lot’”, Magazine, last week). He was incisive, and sympathetic to those to whom he spoke, while also illuminating their dire conditions. It brought back memories to my wife and me of when we saw the evil of the Lord’s Resistance Army during its operations in north Uganda.
Richard Winn, Bristol
Wronged hero
As head of The Sunday Times’s Insight team I wrote Scandal ’63, the first investigative book on the John Profumo affair. In “Notes on a scandal” (Culture, last week) Bryan Appleyard traduces the Labour MP George Wigg, quoting the words of Lord Hailsham. It was Hailsham who was the bad guy, not Wigg, who was a prime source for the book and the real whistleblower hero — the Edward Snowden of his day — but he was exploited by the devious Harold Wilson.  
Clive Irving, London EC1
Housing perk 
The new homes bonus is not to boost house-building — it is rewarding councils and communities for 400,000 new properties they have already constructed and 50,000 empty ones they have brought back into use (“New homes cost £1m each”, News, last week). Local authorities can choose to spend the money however they like: opening a new library, protecting frontline services or freezing council tax, which doubled under the previous administration. We have other policies to help people onto the housing ladder and to get Britain building. 
Kris Hopkins MP, Minister for Housing
Birds going for a song
As usual there are reports of the high cost of free-range, fresh or organic turkeys (“Pricier turkeys gobble up our Christmas cash”, News, last week). In fact a good-quality, frozen, mass-produced Norfolk bird will taste just as good, possibly be more tender and require less work while in the oven, for about one third of the price. And in my experience guests will never notice the difference.
Linda Miller, Dereham, Norfolk
Growing concerns
In “Rocketing population is making typhoons more deadly” (Focus, last week) Jonathan Leake says that “policy-makers will try to  pin the blame on climate change . . . but the biggest factor by far will be our own inability to control our population”. Just before the international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 the United Nations issued a report that said the obvious way to reduce the impact of climate change was to reduce the number of climate changers (1m more people on earth every five days). Despite thousands of people jetting in from around the world there was no mention of rapid population growth on a planet with only finite resources. The climate change conference in Stockholm earlier this year was also silent on the matter.
Eric McGraw, Author: The Human Race
Making an entrance
Did Oxford University’s director of undergraduate admissions really say that he was on a mission to weed out the “thick and rich” (India Knight, last week)? To imply that Oxbridge and other top universities rely solely on the Ucas points system for entrance is incorrect. All potential entrants are interviewed and there are other assessments in most subjects. This system allows latitude in making offers.
Clare Luscombe Yelverton, Devon

Birthdays
Pete Best, original drummer in the Beatles, 72; Bev Bevan, drummer, 68; Sir Ian Botham, cricketer, 58; Billy Connolly, comedian, 71; Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, 55; Shirley Henderson, actress, 48; Stephen Merchant, comedy writer and director, 39; Arundhati Roy, novelist, 52; John Squire, guitarist, 51; Edward Stourton, broadcaster, 56; Russell Watson, singer, 47

Anniversaries
1642 Abel Tasman becomes first European to discover Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania; 1713 birth of Laurence Sterne, novelist; 1859 Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published; 1963 two days after assassinating President John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald is shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby; 1995 divorce, banned in Ireland since 1937, is legalised through a referendum

Telegraph:

SIR – Two items caught my attention in Thursday’s Telegraph. On the front page, you report British survival rates against the rest of the world: we are 24th in stroke mortality, 27th in cancer mortality and 25th in infant mortality (with one being the lowest).
On page 10, a headline reads: “GPs ‘best paid of 22 countries’ ”.
John Powell
Ruckinge, Kent
SIR – Why does our NHS rate so low on stroke mortality? Is it our failure to start treatment early enough?
Gordon Galletly
Sevenoaks, Kent
Related Articles
The Church of England must demonstrate its values with action
23 Nov 2013
It’s a miracle that the Conservative vote holds up, when so many feel let down
23 Nov 2013
SIR – Jon Law suggests that those requiring A&E treatment due to excessive alcohol consumption should be either denied care or charged a fee on the spot.
Upon my arrival on the ward last year from casualty following a tumble down my pub stairs just after closing time, I was in no fit state to remember my Pin to pay by card and had no cash on me. Smokers, motorcyclists, balloonists, mountaineers, sailors, rally drivers and myriad other extreme(ly dangerous) sport enthusiasts engage in activities that endanger their health and then rely on the NHS if it all goes wrong.
The only truly safe thing I can think of doing is to sit at home writing letters complaining about the costs of the consequences of enjoying a beer or several.
Kevin Henley
Crewe, Cheshire
SIR – Last week, I fell in the street in Cuenca, in Castile-La Mancha, breaking my ankle. I was admitted to a very busy Urgencias department at the Virgen de la Luz hospital at 3.48pm and was documented, assessed, triaged, examined, X-rayed, plastered and discharged at 5.30pm, complete with a prescription and letter for my GP. Not one word of English was spoken. I was sore but impressed.
Perhaps NHS staff should be seconded to Spain. Even with the language barrier, they could learn a lot about how to treat patients efficiently in an A&E department.
Norman Aers
Alberic, Valencia, Spain
SIR – While waiting for an orthopedic appointment at Poole Hospital, I picked up the nearest magazine to have a read. It was This England, from spring 1974.
Jonathan Rawsthorn
Poole, Dorset

SIR – Lord Carey has said that Christianity is “a generation away from extinction” in Britain.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Church is that people need to see the point of Christianity. When the Church can be shown to demonstrate Jesus’s teaching in action, it will have every chance of growing.
I both work and volunteer at a church-based drop-in centre in Coventry. We supply free breakfasts several times a week, offer help finding homes, run skills classes to enable people to be ready for work, and offer a hand of friendship.
We don’t evangelise much; we just try to meet a need where we see one. Christianity preaches love for all, particularly the disadvantaged and poor. Where the Church serves the community, it is on the front foot: we’re moving forward.
Julia Faire
Coventry, West Midlands
Related Articles
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23 Nov 2013
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23 Nov 2013
SIR – I can’t find a Church of England church anywhere that preaches the Gospel according to the Bible. The priests all pander to what they think people want to hear. It stops me going.
Dr John Gordon
Lancaster
Retiring the milkman
SIR – I have remained loyal to doorstep milk delivery on the basis that it creates jobs, encourages entrepreneurship and has traditionally provided regular social interaction for the lonely.
But nowadays, I pay my milkman by bank transfer and he delivers our milk at 6am, so I have never spoken to him and have no idea what he even looks like.
Now that milk delivered to the door has risen to 75p a pint, when it can be purchased from the supermarket at less than 50p a pint, and front-door deliveries can be arranged for anything you care to mention (Business, November 22), should I consider, as I am retired and need to economise, that I am supporting a pricey anachronism and desert my milkman?
Margaret Hancock
Yateley, Hampshire
Liquid lunch for slugs
SIR – On our local walks, we frequently collect discarded, nearly empty beer cans. These often contain slugs which, once inside, are unable to get out, probably due to intoxication. The cans can then be disposed of without risk to other wildlife.
We do not use slug pellets in our garden, and we do have thrushes that use our front doorstep as an anvil.
David King
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Brian Keen asks gardeners to help the song thrush by not using slug pellets. This is equally relevant for toads, which are also in decline. Toads eat slugs too. A toad-friendly garden would similarly help to keep Mr Keen’s nocturnal slug-slaying sojourns to a minimum.
Rodney Butler
Broadwindsor, Dorset
Doors to manuals
SIR – Ivor Williams bemoans the abundance of buttons in his car.
A flight manual for a Lancaster bomber, from 1943, was approximately 20 pages long, with minimal text. My family saloon’s handbook, from 2009, has more than 300 pages. I cannot figure out how to programme the radio – let alone get it to fly.
John Bowe
Walkington, East Yorkshire
Ruinous business rates
SIR – Rates on vacant buildings cause bankruptcy. In order to avoid this, landlords demolish perfectly good empty commercial properties. New tenants are not forthcoming because of the onerous obligation to fund the business rate.
This swingeing tax on ownership cannot be sustained. This vindictive notion is yet another product of a sterile economic philosophy that does nothing creative but will plunder the accumulated assets of the prudent until they are gone.
Victoria Edge
Farningham, Kent
City cycling danger
SIR – The dangers of cycling in city centres are not new.
On October 5 1898, the members of the United Wards’ Club of the City of London debated the propositiont: “It is the opinion of the members that cycling through the City between the hours of 9 and 6.30 is both dangerous to the cyclists themselves and a great annoyance and danger to the pedestrians and traffic and that cyclists should be compelled to dismount and walk through the City during the above mentioned hours.”
The motion was carried overwhelmingly, there being only three dissensions.
Andrew Dyke
London N21
For whom the bell tolls
SIR – The lucky bell-ringers who emerged unscathed at Kilmersdon probably know the 1694 Stamford change ringers’ rule: “All you that do intend to ring, / You undertake a dangerous thing.” Danger from a collapsing bell is rare, but there is truth in this adage. More than 700 ringers may expect an injury each year, according to an article in the British Medical Journal.
Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire
Communications
SIR – I have just received this text from my mobile service provider: “We’re building a better network, working 24/7 investing £1.5 million, every day so that you can chat, text surf and – some text missing.”
Perhaps my provider should concentrate on the existing network, which is appalling in my area.
Steve Ramsay
Newton Longville, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Ministers say that “the young see the Tories as aliens”; older voters are alienated by the undemocratic way the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was hustled into law; droves of EU sceptics have defected to Ukip. Is it not a miracle that “the Conservatives average 33 per cent in the polls”?
Which staunch sections of the population can make up this sizeable remnant?
John M Overton
Buxton, Derbyshire
SIR – The young can change old ways of thinking and should be welcomed to the Conservative Party. I’m over 70 myself and I don’t agree with anything Ukip stands for.
We are the only party persuading the rest of Europe to think as we do: to honour sovereignty for each nation while sharing our nation’s wealth with those who need it.
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Tell the young: join the Conservative Party and put two fingers up to Ukip. It’s full of blustery stinkers prejudiced against a basic Conservative belief in freedom of choice for education, employment and health – along with a determination to encourage self-reliance, while protecting those who can’t fend for themselves.
Liz Beeson
Broadstone, Dorset
SIR – Many pronouncements by Nick Boles lack any trace of conservatism, and his clumsy attempts at outdated political triangulation do him little credit. Mr Boles fears that many young people dislike Conservatives. There is no change here, then, over the past 50 years. It was never cool to be Conservative and never will be, no matter how hard Mr Boles tries.
As they grow older and wiser, many rational young people become Tories. Anyway, pandering to the young, who often do not vote, is a waste of time if it drives long-term party supporters, who definitely will vote, into the arms of Ukip. Calling them “aliens” may increase this risk.
Gregory Shenkman
London W8
SIR – Nick Boles’s suggestion that the old National Liberal Party should be revived is absurd. A splinter group, it was the product of the specific political circumstances of the Thirties. In permanent alliance with the Tories, it never succeeded in establishing a distinct identity of its own. It had only three MPs when it was wound up in 1968.
No one doubts that the Conservative Party is infused with strong liberal instincts. It needs to make clear it has not discarded other elements of its tradition – above all, its sense of nation.
It could make a start on that by using its full name once again: the Conservative and Unionist Party. Patriotic pride in nation, not liberalism, made the party dominant in Liverpool and other northern towns in the late 19th century, when it was known as the Unionist Party.
It took its cue from Disraeli, who defined Conservatism as “an instinct for power and love of country”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – So now the Private Insolvency Practitioner who was lambasted for saying that in assessing reasonable income he would have to take into account the status of professional people (Gene Kerrigan, Sunday Independent, November 17, 2013) has been proved at least partially right.
Also in this section
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
Bertie’s own fault
If anything, he understated the position by limiting it to the liberal professions. The High Court has confirmed that if you run into serious financial trouble your family may still be able to access income in keeping with the “lifestyle to which you have become reasonably accustomed”.
It decided that the family of one of the developers of Priory Hall was entitled to an allowance of €108,000 a year to meet living costs (including, notably, golf club membership of €2,000!).
No one wants to see any family destitute. But there should be limits. Cases such as this are an affront to any sense of equity. They must be resented bitterly by those who are struggling to eke out a living, never mind a lifestyle.
The fact that the allowance is legitimate because it comes from assets, the ownership of which is disputed, will be of no consolation. Cases of this sort reinforce the view that the wealthier classes remain protected.
During the boom we heard a lot about the prospects for upward mobility. That would imply that there would be a corresponding degree of downward mobility. Our laws and practices tend to rule out the latter for some, even in times of recession.
It is ironic that within 24 hours of that court decision, the Governor of the Central Bank warned on national TV that “people will not get back to the living standards of five years ago”. Presumably he was referring to ordinary people.
John F Jordan,
Killiney, Co Dublin
Sunday Independent

Madam – Just finished reading a very topical and sobering article by Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). Quite an appropriate date.
Also in this section
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
Bertie’s own fault
The quotes from Brendan Smith, TD, were quite poignant and Mr Harris’s thoughts were very complementary and worth reading a few more times – which prompted me to think that it might be about time that we convened a forum for reconciliation and forgiveness, to include the full lifetime of the country.
None of the horrors of our history touched me or my family, but we were greatly touched by the horrors inflicted by all sides, on all other sides. And it continues to be painful to see the Civil War being played out every other day in Dail Eireann.
In another Sunday newspaper, the Junior Minister for Finance, Brian Hayes, is quoted as saying something like “let’s leave the past behind” (not verbatim) while his boss, on his first day in office, took the time to climb up a ladder and take down Dev’s portrait and replace it with Mick’s. (By the way, that routine repeats with every change of government.)
If there was a settlement of reconciliation and forgiveness, all the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael stuff could be confined to the archives and we could get on with the business of getting women into the priesthood and running the country.
RJ Hanly,
Wexford
CAN ADAMS DO A VANISHING ACT?
Madam – I wish the leader of Sinn Fein would just disappear. End of.
Paul O’Sullivan,
Donegal
MOVE ON AND LOOK TO FUTURE
Madam – When will the Sunday Independent stop attacking Irish republicans? The ranting from Eoghan Harris and Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) would make Murdoch blush. O’Hanlon says that Sinn Fein is toxic, that political parties in Dublin will find it difficult to deal with the party after the next election and she dreads the thought of Sinn Fein in government. Yet she ignores the fact that political parties in the British establishment have been dealing with Sinn Fein for decades, and loyalists have been in government with Sinn Fein since the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement. The British Queen formally met Martin McGuinness, yet according to O’Hanlon, political parties in the south are so precious that they would be unable to work with Sinn Fein. Is this serious journalism?
It is time to look forward, move on and seek ways to bring communities together and address the challenges we now face, including the crisis in the health service, the growing inability of people to pay their mortgages, failing businesses and the crisis facing the elderly.
Joe Feeney,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
NEW SINN FEINERS MUST COME CLEAN
Madam – Your editorial about Sinn Fein (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) stated it was time for Adams to go before he tainted “a new generation of politicians such as Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald with the inglorious odours that continue to emanate from the nether regions of Sinn Fein’s even more inglorious history”.
However, it will take far more than Adams or McGuinness retiring to draw a line under their past actions.
The ‘new’ generation of Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald, by their own admissions, have been involved with Sinn Fein since they were teenagers, which is well over 20 years ago during its terrorism campaign. It begs the question of why, out of all the political options available, did Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald choose to join an organisation with murderous links. They gladly signed up to the ethos of that organisation and have never expressed any qualms about the people they were involved with then, or their actions, and who they continue to be involved with, such as people like Mr Ferris.
If the price of peace is that people who committed sickening terrorist atrocities against innocent people never see the inside of a cell that is a bitter price to pay, but perhaps a necessary one. However, such people should never receive clemency without admitting to their past.
Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald cannot pretend they too are not already stained by their silence on the actions of their colleagues, who they defended so robustly and continue to defend. If people in Sinn Fein want to make a genuine claim to be part of a new generation, they must make a clear break in their links to the people who do not.
If Sinn Fein genuinely wants to be accepted as part of the parliamentary democratic process then it needs to abide by the same rules as every other party in that process. Obviously this requires all past participants in its campaign of terror to admit their role.
Desmond FitzGerald,
Canary Wharf, London
LAME INTERVIEW WITH FERGUSON
Madam – I’m writing regarding Niamh Horan’s review/opinion piece on Alex Ferguson’s interview (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013).
I would like to express my delight that it was brought to the attention of the public how lame Friday’s ‘Q&A’ was. No matter how loyal to the ‘Boss’ – as Eamonn Holmes continuously put it – there’s no hiding from the fact that this book tour is a complete money racket. Mr Holmes fell way below expectancy level, even little things like apologising for coughing into his mic on a number of occasions and also not making eye contact with his interviewee after asking a question, instead scrolling down his list of questions. For all that Ferguson has done for Manchester United, I personally felt this was most unlike the man who will be remembered as one of the greatest managers to ever live.
Mark Colgan,
Celbridge, Co Kildare
MOORE IS CREDIT TO NEWBRIDGE
Madam – I feel a Christy Moore song about Newbridge Credit Union will enter the charts any day now.
Robert Sullivan,
Bantry, Co Cork
DON’T BE FOOLED BY BAILOUT ‘EXIT’
Madam – According to recent reports we are about to exit the bailout. But I for one am questioning if this is so. Some years ago, Pope Francis, as the then archbishop of Buenos Aires, stated: “The economic and social crisis and the consequent increase in poverty, has its causes in policies inspired by those forms of neo-liberalism that consider profits and the laws of the market as absolute parameters to the detriment of the dignity of people and nations.”
Unfortunately this kind of analysis has not been mentioned in recent times in Ireland. We would benefit if this were taken seriously. Let us not be deceived by the illusion that everything will be OK when it is business as usual.
Padre Liam Hayes, SVD
Argentina
FUNERAL COSTS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD
Madam – Louise McBride stated that funeral costs in Ireland are out of control (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). It’s no wonder, if the funeral businesses are unregulated. Its about time the Irish Association of Funeral Directors examined this issue.
The price of a typical funeral varies from €4,000 to €6,000, and a grave with a headstone could come to €10,000. Cremations could set you back more than €2,000. I am sure this will come as a surprise to many people. We have no choice but to pay.
Bernard Rafter,
Berkshire, England
Sunday Independent

Floor

November 23, 2013

23 November 2013 Floor

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are being fitted with the latest navigational aid, will they ever get back to Pompey? Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves Peter does the carpet tiles. I go shopping.
Wee watch Vanity Fair, variable.
Scrabble Mary wins get more than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow?

Obituary:
Olivia Robertson – Obituary
Olivia Robertson was a daughter of the Ascendancy who ran an order devoted to the ‘Divine Feminine’ from her Irish castle

Olivia Robertson with her brother Lawrence presiding over ceremonies in their temple Photo: ALAMY
5:32PM GMT 22 Nov 2013
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Olivia Robertson, who has died aged 96, was the co-founder, archpriestess and hierophant of the Fellowship of Isis, an order devoted to the worship of the “Divine Feminine”, which she ran from her haunted ancestral pile, Huntington Castle (also known as Clonegal Castle), in Co Carlow, Ireland.
A member of an old Irish Ascendancy family, Olivia Robertson had immersed herself in psychic and spiritualist studies from an early age, and had become convinced that God was a “She” after a series of visions.
About the first of these — which occurred when she was 29 – she was evasive, explaining that describing the experience to a non-mystic was like “trying to explain colour to someone born blind or a symphony to someone who’s deaf”. Whatever the details, the experience convinced her that she was “clairaudient, clairvoyant and telepathic” and set her on a religious quest.

Olivia Robertson with acolytes of the Foundation of Isis
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She continued to believe in a male God — until the Egyptian fertility goddess Isis paid her a visit. “She seemed to be made of crystallised white light,” she recalled. “Her black hair was parted in the middle and she wore a violet and pale green dress, very modern, I thought. She seemed a cross between a queen, a ballet dancer and a gym mistress… We had a long conversation, but afterwards I couldn’t remember any of it.”
Later she was visited by an Irish goddess called Dana and felt an intense happiness: “Those visions made me realise that patriarchy had taken over religion, once the domain of matriarchs… and patriarchy had led to wars, greed and exploitation of the earth.”
By coincidence, around the same time that Olivia had her realisation, her brother, Lawrence “Derry” Durdin-Robertson, “21st baron of Strathloch”, an ordained clergyman in the Church of Ireland, had also become convinced that God was a woman. An honourable man, he at once proffered his resignation to his bishop, who assured him that “there was no need”.
In 1976 Olivia, Lawrence and Lawrence’s wife, Pamela, set up the Fellowship as a movement to worship “Isis of the 10,000 Names” . “At the end of an Aeon and the beginning of the space age, the Goddess Isis is manifesting as the feminine expression of divinity,” Olivia declared.
Huntington Castle was the ideal headquarters. Built as a garrison in 1625 on the site of a 14th-century abbey, Huntington became the seat of the Esmonde family, ancestors of the Robertsons. A rambling, castellated pile, complete with suits of armour and the heads of an array of wild beasts (including a crocodile shot by Olivia’s mother), it soon attracted a following of what Olivia called “ordinary Irish psychics”. Running out of room upstairs, she and Lawrence created an underground temple in the castle dungeons, with 12 shrines (one for each sign of the zodiac) and five chapels (each consecrated to a different goddess).

Huntington Castle, Co Carlow
There Olivia and her brother would perform elaborate rituals (with an extempore liturgy described by one witness as “the kind of thing you sit through at weddings when couples insist on writing their own vows”), he in blue robes, crook and tall blue hat, she in fetching pink, glittering golden or multicoloured gowns, her wild mane of dyed black hair topped with a brass coronet; she also brandished a sacred “sistrum” — a rattle made of small cymbals set in a wooden frame.
At first locals in the tiny village of Clonegal were horrified. “They thought we were all witches. It absolutely freaked them,” Olivia recalled. “But we left the outside door of the castle open at every ceremony so they could come round and participate. We never had any secrets.”

A painting by Olivia Robertson in the temple at Huntington Castle (DENNIS MURPHY LOGIC REALITY)
It no doubt helped that the strange happenings at the castle began to attract curious tourists to the village, as well as bands of New Age spiritualists who, several times a year, converged on the castle to pray, meditate and perform in pagan dramas and tableaux. Visitors included Van Morrison, Hugh Grant and Mick Jagger, while Brigitte Bardot’s sister made two stuffed canvas dragons for the temple.
The movement did not ask too much of its followers. “Some religions preach poverty, obedience and chastity,” Olivia explained. “We believe in love and beauty and have no truck whatsoever with asceticism.” By last year the group was said to have between 20,000 and 30,000 members in 90 countries, including (surprisingly) 46 Muslim nations. “The point about the Fellowship of Isis is that we don’t interfere with anybody’s religion, they have all got something to offer,” she explained. “The only thing we don’t like is people being boiled alive or burned or having their heads chopped off, that type of thing.”

Trailer for Olivia – Priestess Of Isis, a documentary made in 2010
One of four children, Olivia Melian Robertson was born in London on Friday April 13 1917. Her father, Manning Durdin-Robertson, was an architect and a member of a distinguished Anglo-Irish family with estates in Ireland; her mother, Nora, was the daughter of Lt-Gen Sir Lawrence Parsons, a cadet of the family of the Earls of Rosse who, disappointed that she was not a son, brought her up as a boy; she shot big game, invented a fishing fly known as the Black Maria, and wrote a book of memoirs, Crowned Harp.
Family ancestors were said to include Scota, legendary queen of the Scots, and Cesara (also known as “Mrs Benson”), a niece of Noah who, watching the Ark sail past from the top of Mount Leinster, called to Noah: “It’s a soft day.” Other notables to whom the Robertsons claimed to be related included Grace O’Malley, known in Irish folklore as Grainne Mhaoil, hereditary queen of Connaught; and the Wicked Lord Rosse, founder of the infamous Hellfire Club outside Dublin, where he and his fellow clubpersons were said to have roasted his butler.
Despite these connections, for the first eight years of her life Olivia Robertson led a somewhat humdrum existence in suburban Reigate. This all changed in 1925 when her paternal grandmother died and left Huntington Castle to her father. It was not long after the Civil War — a risky time for an Anglo-Irish family to return to Ireland. “The IRA had occupied the castle, and treated it very well,” she recalled, “although they locked the cook in the dungeon, and court-martialled the butler.”
It was a confusing time for Olivia and her three siblings: “Suddenly you didn’t wear a red poppy and you didn’t do Guy Fawkes. Everything was painted green. But we children didn’t mind a bit. We decided to be Irish!”
Surrounded by literature and paintings, antique-filled interiors, and plenty of parlour spirituality, the children were able to give full vent to their imaginations. Visitors to the house included Robert Graves, WB Yeats and the nationalist mystic George Russell (or, as he liked to be known, “Æ”). Olivia remembered Maud Gonne striding around the castle like “a statue of the goddess Demeter”, but was less impressed by Æ who “just sat there and spoke about skyscrapers”.
Olivia was educated at Heathfield School, Ascot, and the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, she served briefly as a VAD nurse in Bedfordshire before returning to Ireland, where she enrolled at University College Dublin to study Art History.
After the war she did social work with families in Dublin tenements, work which inspired her to write her first book, St Malachy’s Court. She went on to write five more books, one of which — a novel, Field Of The Stranger — won the London Book Society Choice award. She also had some success as a painter: she had her first exhibition in 1938, aged 21, and would later adorn the Temple of Isis with her own visionary work.
As an Archpriestess of the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia Robertson travelled to distant temples around the world. In 1993, when the Parliament of World Religions met in Chicago, she was chosen as the representative of “neopagans” and walked in procession at the opening ceremony alongside Chicago’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Olivia Robertson never married. Her brother Lawrence made his “transition to spirit” in 1994. Announcing her death, the Fellowship of Isis website enjoined the Goddess Isis of 10,000 Names to “bless and keep her as she makes her journey into the next Spiral of the Cosmic Web”.
Olivia Robertson, born April 13 1917, died November 14 2013

Guardian:

In our brave private new world, who is now responsible for maintaining pillar boxes (Report, 21 November)? No one seems to paint them any more. Around here, most have faded to pink; only the rust is red. Will they soon be scrapped – or replaced, as telephone boxes were, in fashionable plastic? (I believe scrap metal prices are quite high at present.)
Professor John Holford
University of Nottingham
• My iPad is already frantically defining words left, right and centre as I’m battling through Will Self’s article (The permanent present, Review, 16 November) without you then misprinting global as glocal and sending me off on a wild goose chase to define another weird word I never learned on account of being off that day we did really obscure terminology. Unless glocal is actually a word. It’s not is it? Damn, it is…
Paul Simpson
Southsea, Hampshire
• It was upsetting in 1982 to hear that I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue had been replaced (Letters, 22 November) on Radio 4 by the emergency Saturday Commons debate on what to do about the Falklands invasion, until you realised that it hadn’t really.
Jonathan Taylor
Fowey, Cornwall
• The gag about Take Your Pick ran thus: Did you know Michael Miles was dead? No. Bong! The little fellow clutching the gong in the yes/no interlude was none other than Bob Danvers-Walker, the voice of Pathe News. His commentary for the newsreel issued 28 November 1963 must have been a far heavier duty than hitting the gong on Take Your Pick.
Rick Hall
Nottingham
• Why did God invent economists (Letters, 21 November)? So that weather forecasters could feel better about themselves.
Paul Spray
London
• Let’s hope that your article (This is the age of the wall, 20 November) doesn’t give Alex Salmond any ideas.
David Abbey
Egham, Surrey

Can anyone deny that Shaker Aamer is being abused and tortured in Guantánamo after hearing him call out to CBS reporter Leslie Stalh on Newsnight on 18 November? “Either you leave us to die in peace – or tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what is happening … you cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal.” This is a man who has been incarcerated in Guantánamo for 12 years without charge. Six years ago he was cleared to leave by the unanimous decision of six US security agencies, including the CIA and the FBI. David Cameron has said the UK government wants him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency. So why is Shaker still in Guantánamo? Please protest to President Obama and support the demand for Shaker’s immediate return. Tell your MP to press for the release of this brave British resident. We have to act now, to stop this gross injustice. The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign is marching in Battersea today to demand Shaker’s return to his home and family in London. We will be marking the day in November 2001 when Shaker Aamer was unlawfully abducted in Afghanistan and his nightmare in US custody began.Will he live to see it end?
Joy Hurcombe
Worthing, West Sussex
• Over the past eight years, I have used every legitimate method, including a five-day hunger strike, to highlight the abuses and torture Shaker Aamer has faced. Organisations from Amnesty to the Vatican have labelled Guantánamo a disgrace – yet all politicians lack the ability to close it. There are many difficult areas in politics, but surely releasing a man you have cleared for transfer, Mr Obama, has to be one of the easier ones?
This week also marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, delivered by Barack Obama’s hero, Abraham Lincoln. Mr Obama should reread Lincoln’s words: “A new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” These fine words which heralded the beginning of America’s long road to deal with its slave past are especially poignant for a man like Shaker, held as a 21st-century slave. Lincoln was a true leader who brought his country from being a slave state to an abolitionist one.
The question is whether Obama has Lincoln’s courage to lead his country to do the right thing. Sadly in the over six months since his most recent announcement to speed up prison transfers, we have seen precious little action by the president on this matter. That is why I, along with others, will march and rally today to call for Shaker’s immediate release to his family in south London. Yes, you can, Mr Obama. Yes, you can release Shaker.
Dr David Nicholl
Hagley, Worcestershire

In your report of prime minister’s questions (Cameron’s crack at Labour’s liaisons, 21 November), Michael White refers to the question I asked the prime minister and opines that I “had read somewhere that UK business investment lagged behind Mali and Paraguay. If you can believe that, you can believe anything. Meacher does. Cameron’s contempt was understandable”. The source I had quoted was the Economist. On 6 July it ran an article headed: “Britain’s economy: Let’s try to catch up with Mali: Why being 159th-best at investment is no way for a country to sustain a recovery.” The magazine also appended a table showing British investment levels just behind Mali, Paraguay and Guatemala, exactly as I had stated. Politicians have a lot to answer for in making PMQs no longer fit for purpose in its present form, but sketch-writers carry responsibility too by obsessing on the trivial and the personal.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West

For singing a “punk prayer” against Vladimir Putin in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, of the collective Pussy Riot, were sentenced in August 2012 to two years’ detention in a “prison colony” for “vandalism motivated by religious hate”. After having denounced the inhuman prison conditions and begun a hunger strike, Tolokonnikova, 24, mother of a five-year-old girl, was transferred 4,000 kilometres from Mordovia to the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s prison letters to Slavoj Žižek, 16 November).
According the Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Loukine, “serving her sentence in this region would contribute to her resocialisation”.
Now there is language we had not heard in Russia since the Soviet era and its hunt for all deviants. In fact, the singer of Pussy Riot has become a symbol of those repressed by the regime: gays hounded in the name of the now legalised struggle against homosexual “propaganda”, immigrant workers exploited and brutalised on the construction sites of Sochi and elsewhere, penalisation of anti-religious speech, significant ecological damage caused by construction projects undertaken without consulting local residents, the opposition muzzled, NGOs persecuted. In the face of these increasingly numerous human rights violations, Europe has remained shockingly silent.
In a letter addressed from her prison cell to the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Nadia Tolokonnikova criticises the complacency of western governments towards Vladimir Putin’s repressive and freedom-destroying policies. In particular, she writes in Philosophie magazine (November 2013): “The boycott of the Olympic Games at Sochi, in 2014, would be perceived as an ethical gesture.” As called for by Philosophie magazine, we, European intellectuals, call on our governments and all of Europe to break with their attitude of culpable tolerance and put pressure on the government of Vladimir Putin to immediately release Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina.
Russia is a constitutional republic and permanent member of the UN security council. It has signed the European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. With the Olympic Games approaching this February, it is time to give them a reminder.
Elisabeth Badinter, Pascal Bruckner, Alain Finkielkraut, Marcel Gauchet, André Glucksmann, Agnès Heller, Axel Honneth, Claude Lanzmann, Edgar Morin, Antonio Negri, Hartmut Rosa, Fernando Savater, Richard Sennett, Bernard Stiegler, Gianni Vattimo, Slavoj Žižek

Illustration by Gary Kempston
I survived cycling in London for 16 years and now I mostly drive, so I can see both sides. But Boris Johnston, Chris Boardman and the police are wrong about the causes and solutions for the recent spate of cyclist deaths (Report, 20 November). The most common scenario is when trusting cyclists (often women) advance from junctions and are poleaxed by left-turning vehicles, often lorries. Boris says wearing headphones is instrumental, without statistical evidence. Others demand that lorries have warning sounds, which would be confused with reversing alarms. And police safety officers unfairly advise cyclists to wait until the vehicles have gone ahead.
What’s clear is that commercial drivers, under massive time pressure, are prone to careless manoeuvres in cities which often kill cyclists and pedestrians. The only way to stop such deaths is to rigidly enforce the Highway Code at all levels: during driving instruction, during the driving test, and on the roads. But the presumption of guilt for the least vulnerable road user in any accident (mandatory in Europe) is essential. Only when drivers and lorry owners fear prosecution for unlawful death will they begin to take the extreme care to which cyclists and pedestrians are entitled.
Bruce Whitehead
Edinburgh
• A few days ago the Met police, checking HGVs at Vauxhall in London, found a half of them – half! – shouldn’t be on the road, mostly because the drivers had worked for more than their allowed nine hours or hadn’t taken the legally required break after four hours. Tired drivers are a danger to themselves let alone cyclists. So perhaps the current focus on improving cycle safety through traffic engineering might be missing at least some of the point. Why are commercial drivers doing this? Perhaps the intensification of work, the loss of rights and the casualisation of employment involved in the current gung-ho deregulated labour market means that they don’t have much choice. Take the stressed-out courier who arrived to collect a faulty item I was sending back the other day; she hardly had time to breathe before she rushed off in a van. She was probably paid per job, however long it took her. I’m sure she wasn’t looking out for cyclists. It’s the deregulated rat-race economy, with diminishing workers’ rights, that’s killing all of us.
Bob Reeves
London
• The idea that a rush-hour ban on lorries in city centres should come into effect is not the answer to reducing the number of cyclists being killed on our roads. As a triathlete, I regularly train on busy roads and see cyclists undertaking lorries, running lights or squeezing through tight spaces. However, in my day job I also see evidence of lorry drivers not always paying attention or simply being unable to see cyclists in blind spots. My company specialises in driver behaviour training using CCTV-based evidence. I’ve seen many cases where it is not the driver’s fault and recorded evidence has prevented numerous drivers from being blamed for accidents they did not cause.
Road safety needs to be addressed both for cyclists and drivers alike. It is not a one-way problem and both parties need to work together in order to keep safe. We need a combined effort from both sides to reduce fatalities.
Glen Mullins
Director, VUE CCTV
• Andrew Gilligan worries that recent road deaths have put people off from cycling in London. What worries me is that it was ever thought a good idea for unprotected cyclists to share the same space as heavy lorries. There will always be a small cohort of (mainly) 20-35-year-olds who live within 10 miles of their place of work or study and for whom commuting by bike is a viable proposition. If I was still a Londoner, I would be appalled that £1bn was being spent (and not very effectively) for the benefit of this minority.
The experience in other countries (G2, 21 November) shows that extending cycling beyond this core group is only really possible if there is plenty of space to totally separate cyclists from other traffic (which we do not have in our crowded city centres) and/or a law-abiding cycling culture (not!).
John Griffin
Newquay, Cornwall

While preaching to others to be accurate, John Abraham is himself inaccurate in his critique of me (Global warming and business reporting – can business news organizations achieve less than zero?, 18 November, theguardian.com). In correcting one mistake he made – by changing 3.6C to 3.6F – you only exacerbate the problem. Far from it being “unbelievable” that up to 3.6F of warming will be beneficial, this is actually the conclusion of those studies that have addressed the issue, as confirmed in recent surveys by Professor Richard Tol. Mr Abraham may not agree with those studies, but in that case he is departing from the consensus and should give reasons rather than merely stating that he finds them unbelievable. Rather than shoot the messenger, he should invite readers to read Professor Tol’s most recent paper. It is published in an excellent book edited by Bjørn Lomborg entitled How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?
As for Andrew Dessler’s critique of my remarks about feedback by water vapour and clouds, his actual words confirm that I am right that these issues are still in doubt, as confirmed by the latest report from the IPCC. Most of your readers are probably unaware of the fact that doubling carbon dioxide in itself only produces a modest warming effect of about 1.2C and that to get dangerous warming requires feedbacks from water vapour, clouds and other phenomena for which the evidence is far more doubtful. This is an area of honest disagreement between commentators, so it is misleading of Mr Abraham to shoot the messenger again.
Matt Ridley
House of Lords

Independent:

It is profoundly depressing to read that The Independent supports “giving the natural world a value” (“The price of nature”, 22 November).
The natural world has a value that is incalculable. But your editorial means backing a monetary value for it.
Already we have put up for grabs – by the world’s oligarchs, bankers, hedge-fund managers, and diverse rip-off merchants around the planet – much of our precious inheritance.
These individuals and corporations, who have managed to amass, for their private indulgence, a disproportionate part of the common weal, are using it to buy up our water, our land, our most attractive streets and squares in our capital city, and much more. Even our power has been surrendered to the Chinese.
We use animals as if they were things, with our battery farms. Plants are treated as biological mechanisms by agri-business, and our sacred Mother Earth is smothered in an obscene mound of soiled pound notes and dollar bills.
Whatever is given a monetary value is eventually sold to the highest bidder.
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham
 
Perhaps it is time for Gaia to put a price on the human race – one that emphasises what a myopic liability it is.
Michael McCarthy, London W13
The clamour of aid agencies for strategies to cope with humanitarian disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines distracts attention from the wider context that, as so often, underlies human tragedy.
This is a part of the world where relentless population growth and commercial exploitation of the natural environment have destroyed the habitats of countless species with merciless disregard, driving many to the point of extinction.
Nature is now reminding us that there are consequences to such naked self-interest and that we spurn respect for the natural order at our peril.
A Greek dramatist or biblical prophet would no doubt add that overwhelming human ambition blinds us to our own vulnerability and invites destruction.
We reap what we have sown.
Dominic Kirkham, Manchester
 
Cuts make divorce more stressful
We wish to highlight a worrying lack of awareness about the alternatives to going to court for separating couples. Despite the fact that these alternatives often reduce the stress and cost of divorce, new polling shows that the British public remain sceptical about non-court-based processes which help avoid conflict.
The problem has been exacerbated in recent months by the Government’s cuts to legal aid. They have directly resulted in fewer people having access to free legal advice, with the result that far fewer are being directed by legal professionals towards solutions other than court.
The numbers speak for themselves: publicly funded mediations are down by 40 per cent – a trend that urgently needs to be reversed.
Solutions offered by family law professionals can take away some of the difficulty of separation. So what a tragedy it is that so few people appreciate the huge benefits of these alternatives to court.
We all have a responsibility to ensure people are far better informed about these options, and minimise the stress for the couple, for their children and for their family and friends.
Rt Hon Lord Falconer  of Thoroton, Lady Butler-Sloss, Liz Edwards, Chair, Resolution, Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Relate, Bob Greig, Director, OnlyMums and OnlyDads
The reason we have ‘no wars on’
“We have the disadvantage that we actually have no wars on,” Paul Pindar told the Public Accounts Committee. What he meant was perhaps: “We have the disadvantage that Tony Blair sent soldiers to wars that were none of our business and with little public support. We have discovered that people do not like to die for lost causes.”
Simon Allen, London N2
 
Army recruitment is apparently being hit by the disadvantage that we have no wars on.
This is a bit like saying that we need more crime in order to encourage recruits to the police force, or that we should scrap health and safety to encourage recruits to the fire service.
Fewer wars: less killing and bereavement, fewer lost limbs and lost minds, less post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some disadvantage!
Sue Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Azerbaijan on journey towards democracy
I wish to express my concern about the claims in the article “The Independent is banned from Azerbaijan’s Baku World Challenge for wanting to look beyond the marketing hype”, 20 November).
First, Azerbaijan is an open country for all foreign travellers, including journalists. However, organisers of events such as Baku World Challenge have their own policy on whom to invite, which I think needs to be respected.
Regarding the media and human rights environment in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan’s strategic choice is establishing mature democracy in the country.
We are members of a range of European institutions, including the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and a strong partner with the European Union.
One of the key areas of our cooperation involves strengthening democracy and human rights.
We welcome criticism that is constructive and helpful; however, our critics should take into account the progress Azerbaijan has made in its journey towards democracy, as well as its recent achievements.
Azerbaijan has turned into a reliable member of the international community, and the government maintains its commitment to strengthening democratic standards in the country.
Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, London W8
Somali people also victims of violence
I am sorry to hear that Mark Buckmaster’s relative was killed by Somali bandits (letter, 21 November) but am saddened that his anger is as indiscriminate as the cyclone that recently hit Somalia.
The Somali people are desperately poor and most are not pirates or warlords but are themselves  victims of the terrible wars that have riven the country and led it to its failed-state condition.
Mr Buckmaster may believe their misery is deserved, but punishing them by withholding humanitarian aid when they desperately need it won’t stop piracy or terrorism.
Jonathan Wallace, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne
Failure to understand how hard life can be
I found the letter from Dan Dennis (21 November) disgusting. Doubtless, as a member of the University of Oxford, on a good salary, he can afford a nice house with a bedroom big enough for a large bed, a dialysis machine and room to swing a couple of cats as well.
Most people live in small places, with tiny rooms and often have room only for a small bed. Lack of imagination makes it impossible for people like him and those wealthy members of the Government to understand how hard life is for the majority of the nation.
I have never needed welfare – in fact, I have a degree from “the other place” and I’ve had well-paid jobs all my life – but I’ve seen enough to know how other people suffer.
Remember, “there but for the grace of God go I”.
John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire
Parable of the financial services
John Dakin writes (21 November) to profess his shock at Sean O’Grady’s supposed mea culpa on mobile phone use while driving, but that is a clear misreading of the piece. It is obviously intended as a modern parable: a metaphor for the behaviour of financial services workers.
There is the reckless  risk-taking, selfishly focused on personal gain at the expense of others; the refusal to accept complicity when it all goes horribly wrong; and the repetition of the same behaviour, even after penalties have been applied.
It’s got it all: what a wonderful article.
David Gould, Andover, Hampshire
Pleasure of shopping is disappearing
Visiting my local Asda, I was repeatedly asked if I would like to use one of its self-service tills. When I said that I preferred to be served by a real person, they looked at me rather pityingly, as if I was mad or just odd.
I realise I am probably fighting a losing battle, but it does seem sad that one of the pleasures of shopping – having a chat with a friendly member of staff – is rapidly disappearing, presumably so that these chains can employ fewer staff. 
Perhaps it is a metaphor for modern life; convenience and profit becoming more important than human contact.
Andrew Lee-Hart, Wallasey, Merseyside
An eternal problem?
Has there ever been a time when the climate was stable?

As I grew up in the Sixties I understood that I was not allowed to have sex (“do it”) until I was 16. I and my peers understood “it” to be vaginal sexual intercourse.
That gave us the freedom to experiment with sexual touching and exploration short of intercourse; to begin to enjoy and relish the feelings, get an idea of the powerful urges involved  (for both girls and boys), but still be in a position to say no with authority. Because, at least for a girl, there is a vast difference between sexual touching and intercourse.   
It would appear that the way the age of consent is now interpreted is that any sexual touching below the age of 16 is unlawful. That is unhelpful in so many ways.
It infantilises boys and girls by assuming that they are unable to trust themselves (and their choice of boy/girlfriend). It assumes that they are incapable of self-control.
It removes a girl’s chance to learn how to handle the conflict between her own immediate engendered desire and a sense of her own worth and greater destiny (because any intercourse could result in a pregnancy).
If, as seems to be argued, the current implementation also inhibits the provision of proper sexual and relationship education, then society is making problems for itself rather than reducing them by taking such a narrow attitude.
The mechanics of reproduction can be understood much earlier than the mechanics of sexual activity. Both can be understood much earlier than a young person can appreciate the role and power of sex.
Relationship education may well be better left to English and language and arts teachers – a proper reading of any worthwhile book will yield plenty of material for discussion and with a deal more subtlety than following a course in an ill-defined and vapidly expressed field entitled perhaps “communications studies” might provide.
For the record, I was raped at 12, started dating at 15, but delayed having consensual intercourse until I felt ready at 18. 
Julia Cadman, St Helens,  Merseyside
 
I was shocked and appalled to hear Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston declare that the age of consent must remain at 16 because “it is there to protect children from predatory old men”. Is there any evidence that the problem of child sexual abuse is restricted to elderly males? Are there no young males, or for that matter females, committing these crimes?
With absurd, injudicious prejudices like this on the Government benches, how can the public have confidence in efforts to deal with such damaging criminal behaviour, especially as Wollaston also garners credibility on this subject by being a medical practitioner?
Henry Page, Newhaven,  East Sussex
 
Greenpeace should learn its lesson
John Sauven of Greenpeace really should be asked to justify the risks involved in sending young passionate activists into such a dangerous situation (“Greenpeace tells of ‘huge relief’ as activists are freed”, 21 November).
International waters are very dangerous places, and from the expressions of relief from those people released on bail, they must seriously question  repeating such actions. Alexandra Harris and Kieron Bryan were clearly terrified.
No doubt Mr Sauven would have briefed them about the risks, but youthful zealotry doesn’t do rational thinking.
Surely Greenpeace could have attacked Gazprom’s actions in a safer, more public location – and created a much better effect. Gazprom has taken up sports sponsorship; why not campaign in that arena  without risking young lives?
Greenpeace has laudable objectives but does tend towards often using dangerous methods. Like all provocative pressure groups, it has its extremists; don’t let this element undo all its good work.
Greenpeace should give each of its supporters a copy of Rose George’s book Deep Sea and Foreign Going. It describes the complete lawlessness of the high seas. Contrary to current thinking that the absence of law is limited to Somalian waters, and that international maritime organisations seek out perpetrators, merchant ships are regularly attacked in many parts of the world, and crews are seized, tortured and killed.
The sea is a dangerous place; use it as your stage at your peril.
Rees Martin, London SW8
 
Wrong time to ask for an amnesty
I wonder if Northern Ireland’s Attorney General had any foreknowledge of the scheduling of the Panorama programme detailing the activities of the British Army’s Military Reaction Force (MRF).
Probably not, but it illustrates why a de facto amnesty is the very opposite of a good idea. The absence of any meaningful acknowledgement that the Army operated outside its own rules of engagement in targeting unarmed citizens not involved with paramilitary organisations continues to this day.
That a unit of the British Army was given licence to operate in such a way will surprise no one who has looked at the history of the Troubles in any depth.
This policy reflected the view held by many in the security forces that the Catholic/Nationalist community was the “problem” that needed to be solved, that the whole Catholic/Nationalist community supported the IRA, and that the best way to address terrorism was to act like a terrorist.
This led to a whole community being labelled as terrorists and to innocent men and women being killed by the forces of the state for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who served in Northern Ireland, although not while the MRF was operating, has credited their actions with being so effective that the IRA was forced to the negotiating table. Really?
And this from a man who commanded the British Army in Afghanistan, another arena in which it has been argued that the actions of foreign military forces have radicalised local communities, leading in turn to the deaths of our own forces.
Robert Hall, Stone, Staffordshire
 
Not the only one to say ‘bloody cyclists’
The plight of Emma Way, out of pocket to the tune of £637 and with over 50 per cent of the points needed for disqualification, aptly demonstrates that today’s youth are severely disadvantaged.
We old idiots fire off stupid letters to newspapers and, luckily, some kind editor saves us by simply binning the nonsense. But youngsters, instead, tweet and find themselves in a world where there is no guardian angel.
The clue is Twitter: you have to be a twit to tweet. Many motorists, myself included, complain about “bloody cyclists” but we draw the line at boasting about knocking them down. Maybe the youth of today are just too honest.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
 Boris Johnson’s latest comment (“Boris turns on cyclists with threat to ban headphones”, 20 November) is typically inane. I have cycled, on average, 100 miles a week for the best part of the past 20 years with headphones on. I can still hear the traffic, probably better than most car drivers. The major elements I use to preserve my safety are my eyes and my brain. Would Boris ban deaf people from cycling?
Jim Alexander Maidenhead
 
If cyclists should be able to hear the traffic, the same rule should apply to pedestrians and other road-users. Motorcyclists’ all-encompassing helmets must be banned. Motorists must drive with their windows open and not be allowed to have the car radio on.
Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire
 
Andrew Charters (letter, 21 November) notes the difference in attitudes towards cycling in Britain and the Netherlands. It’s well known the Dutch have much better facilities for cyclists; but perhaps not so well known is the ANWB.
The ANWB is the nearest Dutch equivalent to the AA. ANWB stands for Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond – the General Club for Everyone on Wheels – and “everyone on wheels” includes cars and cycles.
The ANWB doesn’t exhibit the selfish lobbying for motorists that the AA does, because it also represents cyclists, and that is part of the reason why there isn’t this antagonism between bike and car that we find in Britain.
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
 
Driving in heavy rain at night, on a road with long pools of darkness between streetlights, I came within a shaved inch of hitting a weaving cyclist. He was wearing dark clothes from head to foot and had no lights on his bike. Some  of these idiots really do court death.
Richard Humble, Exeter
 
Is the invisible condom a good idea?
Steve Connor (21 November) tells us the miracle of graphene is going to allow the manufacture of a condom that the wearer (and, one assumes, his partner) can neither see  nor feel. Am I alone in thinking that some small visual identifier might be in order? Or would that entirely ruin the experience?
Manda Scott, Abcott, Shropshire

Times:

New proposals will include the removal of the restricted visa for foreign domestic employees. All parties should support the Bill
Sir, Your report ( Nov 22) about the three women who have been freed from a situation of domestic servitude makes grim reading, but I believe that the practice is widespread, even if this might be an extreme case. Since last year the UK has restricted the right of domestic workers who are brought here to work for one employer by denying them the right to seek alternative employment: the visa is valid for one employer only.
This measure makes such workers vulnerable to exploitation because they have little or no bargaining power with an employer upon whose goodwill they are utterly dependent. They cannot look for another job. The victims in this case do not appear to have been affected by this particular problem but their plight was in any case very serious.
The UK has an obligation, under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which under the Human Rights Act is part of English and Scots law, to take all reasonable steps that it can to ensure effective protection against slavery, forced labour and servitude.
In the case of Ranstev v Cyprus and Russia (2010), the European Court of Human Rights made it clear that this duty entails not only having in place effective, enforceable legislation to provide the basis to protect such persons, but also to take practical steps to assist and protect such persons when their situation comes to the attention of the authorities. This appears to be happening in this case.
The Government plans to introduce a new law on slavery. I very much hope that the proposals will include the removal of the restricted visa for foreign domestic employees and that the Labour Party will support the Bill.
Professor Ryszard Piotrowicz
Member, Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
Aberystwyth University
Sir, Not only is there a visa prohibition on domestic workers changing employers, but the Government has refused to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention. A lack of rights, and enforcement of those rights, for domestic workers means a higher likelihood of extreme exploitation.
Dr Kendra Strauss
Forced Labour Monitoring Group
University of Cambridge
Sir, This was undoubtedly a horrific ordeal but what is less well understood are the ramifications for the victims. Their ordeals leave them in an extremely vulnerable position with no home, no possessions and no place in the world. Many victims of domestic slavery, who Housing for Women works with, have no recourse to public funds and are often dealing with post-traumatic stress to the extent that they may not be able to testify against their perpetrators.
The Government must appoint an anti-slavery commissioner to provide vital support for victims of slavery, and eliminate this human rights atrocity. Only with expert support such as ours, offering safe and secure accommodation, can such women reclaim their lives.
Jakki Moxham
Housing for Women
London SW9

Roma come from Hungary, Slovakia and other countries as well as Romania and represent a very small percentage of the population
Sir, Jenni Russell writes about the immigration issue (Opinion, Nov 21) and yet again in prominence is the question and impact of the Roma community. As an Englishman living in Bucharest I would confirm that the Roma have the same problem here.
The name Roma is misleading. Roma come from Hungary, Slovakia and other countries as well as Romania and represent a very small percentage of the population. It’s just unfortunate that Roma and Romania seem synonymous.
Many of the Romanians who want to emigrate are not Roma. They are hardworking, educated and ambitious and recognise that it will be many years before their country will provide the opportunities they are seeking. Wages are poor, the health service relies on bribes, teachers are badly paid and the government is failing to develop a proper infrastructure.
If I was working in the UK I would always give preference to an Eastern European for a job if they are suitably qualified. They appreciate the chance to improve their economic position.
Jonathan Youens
Bucharest

Even elderly persons walk much faster than the two miles per hour suggested by our Transport Correspondent
Sir, The photograph of Katherine Jenkins (Nov 20) was a distraction from the article to its left, “Traffic lights change ‘too fast for the elderly’ ”.
Even elderly persons, of which I am one, walk much faster than the two miles per hour suggested by your Transport Correspondent. (90cm a sec = 54m a min which is a fraction more than two miles an hour.)
Peter L. Banks
London SW15

‘Centralism will prevail as long as councils are so dependent for their resources on central government’
Sir, Philip Collins ( Opinion, Nov 22) asserts: “There is not a multitude of ways to make large service systems responsive to their citizens”. But his list omits the main one: decentralisation to elected local government.
Centralism will prevail as long as councils are so dependent for their resources on central government. Their single tax, council tax, provides only 18 per cent of their revenue, so they become supplicants for funding from central government rather than engaging in a dialogue with their citizens about local priorities. This country needs a local-government financing based on the principle of financial accountability, with decentralization of local taxation, so that local authorities would draw the bulk of their resources from their own voters through taxes whose rates they determine.
Emeritus Professor George Jones
London N19

There is a parallel with the returning International Brigade members who are now celebrated for their fight against fascism in Spain in the 1930s
Sir, Of course we need to keep an eye on returning British Muslim fighters from Syria and watch for those who would seek to harm our citizens (report, Nov 21). But I would suggest there is a parallel with the returning International Brigade members who are now celebrated for their fight against fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Many were communists and the authorities did not look on their fight with favour. But they were not out to blow us to bits in their homeland. Perhaps most Muslim fighters coming home are of a similar frame of mind. Fine for the authorities to be wary but history tells us there are many gradations of belief and it is unwise to tar all with the same extremist brush.
Peter Norman
East Grinstead, W Sussex

Telegraph:
SIR – The British Trust For Ornithology suggests that the decline in song thrushes – one of our most delightful garden birds – is due to loss of habitat. If so, why has the blackbird population not similarly declined?
I believe the decline has been caused by the vastly increased use of slug pellets during the past 40 years. Molluscs are an important part of the thrush’s diet (though they are not favoured by blackbirds), and comatose molluscs, which have ingested molluscicide, make an easy as well as a poisonous meal.
I would entreat gardeners to stop applying slug pellets and use biological control. Molluscs are nocturnal, so I go out after dark and cut them up with a knife. An increasing thrush population would help keep slugs and snails at bay.
Brian Keen
Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

Catqueen27
• 6 hours ago

A couple of hens or ducks in the garden works too. Slugs go in and eggs pop out!

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richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Sorry, I misread the headline with a lisp. So it is not about an itch from underwear?
I agree that poisons must be used cautiosly, but we have reached a stage in the far north where insecticides have been weakened so much by legislation, that it becomes very hard to control little pests.

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Ped
• 2 days ago

The greenest solution is beer traps. Slugs die happy and, if you empty the pots regularly onto the garden, the birds can have a treat as well. More work than pellets but kinder all round.
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Astrantia
• 2 days ago

If you really need to use slug pellets, put a few in a plastic bottle and lie it on its side near your hostas etc, with the bottle mouth touching the ground. The slugs will crawl into the bottle and remain there. They are out of reach of the birds and can be disposed of. I’ve given up using pellets and now grow my hostas in pots. A thick smear of Vaseline around the lower rim of the pot forms a barrier that the slugs won’t cross. Just wear plastic gloves while you’re doing the job as it’s messy to say the least!
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toots Astrantia
• 2 days ago

Astrantia: I’d prefer that people didn’t use slug pellets but if they do… yours is an excellent suggestion.

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ladyofthelake Astrantia
• 2 days ago

I have heard that a hollowed out grapefruit half works as well. The slugs are supposed to crawl under and then the grapefruit can be dumped in a bucket of water.
We don’t get a lot of slugs here so I’ve never had to try it.
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thatIIdo ladyofthelake
• a day ago

I’m totally bemused.
Is it half a grapefruit or does it half work?
Does the grapefruit poison the slug?
Does the slug suffocate inside the hollowed-out grapefruit?
Does the slug drown in the water or do you hit it over the head with the bucket?
And where do you dump the offending bucket?
If it works with a grapefruit, would an orange or lemon or lime do the job?
Do slugs crawl or do they slither?
Fortunately the answers are of no consequence to me – I don’t have a garden.
On the subject of thrushes, I saw big fat birds walking around eating scraps outside Luton airport. They looked like song or mistle thrushes, or starlings. Anyone know?
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One Last Try thatIIdo
• 19 hours ago

Could have been illegal immigrants, a lot of them live around there

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

As I said I’ve never tried this but what I gather is that you put the hollowed out half on the ground, peel side up. The slugs are attracted underneath.
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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• a day ago

OK, half of this comment has gone! What can distress anyone about a slug solution?
I originally said that when the grapefruit is full of slugs you put it in a bucket of water and the slugs drown or do the backstroke. Grapefruits are bigger than other citrus and so can collect more slugs.
Salt also kills slugs as it dries them out. Other citrus juice, especially lemon will get rid of ants.
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thatIIdo ladyofthelake
• a day ago

Slugs get a really bad time of it all round, so perhaps they were distressed. Nobody buys snail pellets do they?
And slugs are only homeless snails, when all is said and done. Slugs don’t get to ride on that nice lady’s wing mirror either.
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One Last Try thatIIdo
• 19 hours ago

I have the slug pellets, but cannot get a firearms licence for the gun to shoot them. When I said it was to shoot slugs, Mr Plod said they would be gone in 2015 anyway

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

You have made me chuckle. i can picture all the snails and slugs queuing up for a ride! :)

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crosscop
• 2 days ago

As an old bird-nester I can say that the Song Thrush has one of the most easily found songbird nests in the country. They start building before the leaves cover the hedges and therefore their eggs and young provide easy meals for the burgeoning number of magpies and crows.
Cambridge University did a study into the decline in House Sparrows and (surprise, surprise) found that 60% of the losses were explained by the rise in numbers of Sparrow Hawks. If they do a similar study into Song Thrushes they would no doubt find that predation on eggs and young is a major factor. But the British Trust For Ornithology will not admit that predation has any effect. They just love those predators.
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toots crosscop
• 2 days ago

crosscop.
I understood that a definitive reason for Sparrow decline hasn’t been established.
The one that seemed most plausible to me was…. unleaded fuel.

http://www.independent.co.uk/e…

Our suburban Sparrows vanished with no apparent help from Sparrow Hawks. I suspect the BTO are right about that.

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One Last Try toots
• 18 hours ago

i had to remonstrate with a Sparrowhawk. Icaught him in our garden taking a pigeon, not allowed under the bird desciption act

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peddytheviking toots
• a day ago

I have the National Collection of house sparrows visiting my garden.

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grizzly crosscop
• 2 days ago

I think you’re getting the BTO confused with the RSPB. The BTO exists to monitor the fluctuations and distribution in bird populations. They have no vested interest in any bird families over any other.
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Buzzard
• 2 days ago

Farmers also use molluscicides to keep the snails and slugs down, but these are also eaten by mice, which are eaten by barn owls and many other creatures. Poisons kill indiscriminately. Full stop.
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unimpressedone
• 2 days ago

Sharp sand, crushed eggshells and nematodes – all perfectly good alternatives.
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oldgit13
• 2 days ago

Mr Keen is undoubtedly correct. Slug pellets are often on display by the checkouts in places like B&Q so that they can be easily purchased and scattered with abandon. To my shame, I used them once, in some flowerpots. A few days later, bird droppings stained with blue dye were all around the pots. Slug pellets should be banned.
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One Last Try oldgit13
• 19 hours ago

B&Q please note that there are other slugfest retailers

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Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

Hedgehogs like slugs as well, and where did they all go to? Torremolinos, for the sun?
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phrancofile Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

Badgers eat hedgehogs among many other things and the population of badgers has increased considerably in recent years.
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toots phrancofile
• 2 days ago

That’s funny… With no hedgehogs for food… how have the guilty badgers thrived so ?

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One Last Try phrancofile
• 2 days ago

Feed slugs to badgers?

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peddytheviking One Last Try
• a day ago

Badgers also eat slugs….& earthworms.

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peddytheviking Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

‘Morning OL
I had a hedgehog sow in the garden for several years; one year she produced 3 youngsters. It was intriguing hearing them crunching snail shells nearby as we sat on the terrace to finish a bottle of wine on a summer evening. Unfortunately they all perished in one of the recent harsh winters.
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SIR – Benedict Brogan is right to conclude that Labour’s consistent poll lead is attributable to the Tories’ failing political message, not confidence in Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Since September, the Conservatives have given Labour a free pass on energy prices and failed to capitalise on Britain’s economic transformation from intensive care to the fastest growth in the West. Having successfully implemented neo-Thatcherite public-sector restructuring, aggressive deficit reduction, immigration curbs and radical education reforms, many Tories seem embarrassed to proclaim their achievements and reluctant to attack their opponents’ vapid soundbites.
The Conservatives average 33 per cent in the polls; while electorally precarious, this figure could recover. The Tories should approach the election offering to share the proceeds of growth and to make audacious, targeted tax cuts that raise the living standards of swing voters. This would be paid for by further public-sector efficiencies, welfare cuts and politically popular tax hikes on wealthy foreigners resident in Britain.
Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – Benedict Brogan is right when he lays the relative success of the Labour Party at the feet of the Tories. It doesn’t matter that George Osborne is right and Ed Balls is wrong. What matters is that the Tories have no story to tell because every story is negated by the Lib Dems.
Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire
Rates relief for pubs
SIR – No sector has been more burdened with business rates than Britain’s pubs.
With declining turnovers in the trade, business rates now form an ever greater part of a pub’s costs. Securing a reduction in an excessive rates bill remains far too difficult. We need greater flexibility, so that, following a material change in their turnover, pubs can apply for a review of their bill. Local authorities could also do more to help, through the wider use of discretionary rural rate relief. And small business rate relief should be extended, at least to the end of this parliament, with a saving of £27 million for the pub trade.
The Government has already cut beer duty, but more changes are needed to ensure that these community hubs thrive.
Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive, British Beer and Pub Association
London EC2
White-collar tattoos
SIR – While on holiday in Spain, I encountered an elderly gentleman by the swimming pool in what appeared to be an elaborate T-shirt (Letters, November 20). On further examination, it was a tattoo covering his body up to his neck, and down to his kneecaps and elbows. He had been a staff officer in Burma in the Second World War, and the tattooing had been done then. This gentleman had also been the senior partner in a leading accountancy company.
At a party, I met a partner in the firm who had no idea of the artistry on her fellow partner, as he never rolled up his sleeves and always wore a tie.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
Original selfie
SIR – Looking at my mother’s collection of photographs from the Thirties, I see she captioned them as: “self at”, or “self with”.
David Priscott
Lavant, West Sussex
Seven-day health care
SIR – The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges raises important issues around the implications of introducing seven-day services. The British Medical Association has also warned about the dangers of the varying quality of patient care at weekends.
Many hospitals already deliver seven-day services under the existing consultant contract; rules on doctors’ working hours are not the roadblock to extending care. Better diagnosis, social care and administrative support will be needed to deliver a fuller range of seven-day services.
Given that the NHS has finite resources, it is impossible to provide every service 24 hours a day, which is why we believe that delivering consistently high-quality emergency, urgent and acute care around the clock should be the priority.
We are committed to working with stakeholders across the NHS to make access to seven-day services a reality.
Dr Paul Flynn
Chairman, Consultants Committee, BMA
London WC1
Teenage drinking
SIR – Rosie Boycott’s account of her relationship with alcohol reflects the experience of many people who morph from social drinkers to dependent drinkers.
Ms Boycott suggests that her story might have been different had she been better informed about alcohol in her twenties. Hope UK, the drug and alcohol education charity for which I work, believes that that is already too late. Attitudes towards alcohol are entrenched during the teen years, when clever marketing and peer pressure make regular and even excessive alcohol consumption seem like the norm.
With drug and alcohol education not a high priority for many schools, it is left to the voluntary sector to ensure that young people know the down side of alcohol consumption.
Marolin Watson
London SE1
Keep smoking cool
SIR – Peter Read demands a reason for banning electronic cigarettes in his favourite coffee shop. Allowing him to play with his dummy while grown-up smokers are not permitted is to rub salt into already stinging wounds. He should be made to stand outside, like us, in the snow, rain, fog and wind.
Michael Gannon
Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire
The Church has abandoned its role in society
SIR – Whenever a fall in church attendance is mentioned, the standard establishment response is that it is a “sign of the times”. Instead, the Church should look in the mirror to see where its problems are.
The local church and priest traditionally offered counselling, guidance and comfort to parishioners. In recent years, our society has seen rises in divorce, broken homes, crime, unemployment and stress. People need help. Yet the Church seems to have abdicated its leadership role.
The needs of the people haven’t changed, but the Church has.
Phil Williams
Buckland, Buckinghamshire
SIR – A N Wilson joins Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury in fearing the extinction of the Church.
But rumours of the death of Christianity in Britain are an exaggeration. The recent London Church Census showed that church attendance in greater London grew by 16 per cent between 2005 and 2012, from 620,000 to 720,000. The number of places of Christian worship in London rose during these seven years, by 17 per cent, from 4,100 to 4,800. Churches rooted in minority ethnic communities are at the forefront of such growth. Outside London, there is both growth and decline.
There are causes for concern, but there are reasons to be cheerful, too.
Revd Dr David Goodhew
St John’s College, Durham
SIR – I go to a charismatic modern church with an ever-increasing attendance, including a large number of children. There are many interesting activities for young people, who come to church to enjoy themselves, as well as learn about Christianity. In these difficult times, many people are returning to Christianity.
Helen Piechoczek
Horsham, West Sussex

wattys123
• 10 hours ago

not hitting their immigration promise will cost the Tories – is getting to a number that is over twice what the average figure for the 90s was, really that difficult

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shirehorse
• a day ago

“I go to a charismatic modern church with an ever-increasing attendance, including a large number of children. There are many interesting activities for young people, who come to church to enjoy themselves, as well as learn about Christianity. In these difficult times, many people are returning to Christianity.”
That’s a message that should be ‘shouted from the rooftops’. The Cameron/Boles modern gay conservative party would prefer to shout about homosexuality… and take Britain further into the sewer.
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cynicalm
• a day ago

I am pleased to know that many children are attending evangelical services. They might be able to brain wash their parents into such quaint beliefs.
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JackFrost27
• 2 days ago

I notice the Bulgarian and Romanian smash and grab has already started (‘Student loans to Bulgarians and Romanians frozen’). No comments allowed on that article, perhaps the fear is that we might be ‘unpatriotic’ in our views!
The ineptitude of an organisation (Student Loans Council) to hand out loans to applicants without first establishing whether or not they are entitled them and then to have to claw the money back afterwards from three-quarters of them because they are not, is beyond belief.
Cameron encouraged pupils from India, and Osborne the Chinese, to study here, yet my son faces possible discrimination in his own country because he attends a private school. No wonder he’s applying to US universities where they want the best students at all costs.
Thanks Cameron for driving him and no doubt many other talented English pupils away!
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shirehorse JackFrost27
• a day ago

And if they keep a slave they get a bonus.

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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Michael Gannon,
I’ve invented and applied for patent protection on a cigarette complete with umbrella, windshield, wipers, de-mister and heating system. I have the design here – on the back of a fag packet, somewhere.
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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Paul Flynn,
Wasn’t Professor van Hellsing a ‘stakeholder’?
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spencerisright
• 2 days ago

One of the church’s problems is its clever idea of “reaching out”, in a very real sense, to “other faiths”, particularly islam. Of course it should be a tad more robust about these matters. For example, our church leaders could tell us exactly what the koran is, a book of lies and hate. Come on boys you can do it.
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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

It’s a disgrace, and our politicians are to blame!
Steven Finn – a talented and highly clever Hertfordshire fast bowler – developed a fiendishly clever tactic in order to take two wickets with one ball. He would knock down the wicket at the bowler’s end, to run out the batsman backing up, and simultaneously bowl out the on-strike batsman at the other end. Ingenious! The Australians were quaking in their boots.
Then along comes the ICC(SSR) and changes the Laws so you can’t do that anymore and Finn is ‘rested’ from the England line-up for the all-important first test in Brisbane.
Any political party worth its salt should knock this outside meddling with our sovereign right to make up our own Laws on the head forthwith.
After all, we invented this game didn’t we? Its OUR game!
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danielfg thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

We invented most games, but cricket seems to be the only one which we can beat anybody in. Apart from rugby of course.
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thatIIdo danielfg
• 2 days ago

… and golf.
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danielfg thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Yes. I suppose if I stopped to think I would find more.
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oldgit13 danielfg
• 2 days ago

Sailing and cycling.
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danielfg oldgit13
• 2 days ago

As I said before, more time required for thinking!
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thatIIdo danielfg
• a day ago

And darts and cribbage.
Just think how many medals we could win if only the IOC would include our sports.
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Fairy_Hanny thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

and snooker
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grizzly thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Broadly speaking, you’re right! ;º)
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thatIIdo grizzly
• 2 days ago

There you have the proof! Finn would have taken 10, not 5.
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mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I’m glad someone else agrees with me that people with electronic cigarettes in public look look totally stupid – like overgrown babies with dummies, and he, Michael Gannon, a smoker himself!
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mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I wonder if Phil Williams has ever bothered to go to his local CofE and ask for “counselling, guidance and comfort”??
If he has ever done so and been turned away I would more than a little bit surprised.
Maybe he just doesn’t want to go to church and thinks that the vicar should go round the whole parish every day knocking on every door and asking if everything is OK?
Admittedly some churchmen (not just CofE) make themselves more visible than others to non-attendees, but if Phil started to attend church every week the vicar would get to know him and have some chance of judging when he needs help.
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ilpugliese mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I don’t think Phil Williams was seeking help for himself. I’m not a religiously involved person, mogulfield, and Mr Williams doesn’t say what sort of counselling he expects the church to provide, although he talks about issues of divorce, broken homes, crime, unemployment and stress. But my view is that religion should be concerned with helping people to be more comfortable with the mysteries of life – e.g. why we’re here, happiness or lack of it, death – with reference to the beliefs of that faith. And not politics, economics, climate change, dealing with crime, etc.
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mogulfield ilpugliese
• 2 days ago

You are right. I too see religion is an aid to coping with life, helping individuals not get into a mess in the first and helping them deal with the aftermath when they do get in a mess. Religion should not be setting the rules for wider society to follow; on such matters they have only the same right to comment and try to influence things as you or I as individuals.
William’s rather confused letter seemed to be laying the blame for all society’s ills on the church for not stretching beyond its remit and setting firm rules for all.

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Rodney G James
• 2 days ago

The main problem with the church in the UK is it has been badly infected by political correctnes and has forgotten its role of strongly and fearlessly preaching thegospel. When, for example did you last hear a sermon based on St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians preaching the virtue and necessity of hard work? Instead we get all kind of fuzzy right on stuff about ‘relationships’, women bishops and so on.
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mogulfield Rodney G James
• 2 days ago

What church do you attend?? The Gospel message features very strongly in the sermons in my CofE parish church and I have never heard “fuzzy right on stuff” from the pulpit or anywhere else in the church.
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plum-tart
• 2 days ago

At seven years old I went to Sunday School where they told me I was a sinner.
I never got over it………….
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ilpugliese plum-tart
• 2 days ago

I got put off when I read that I should pluck out my right eye if I looked on a woman lustfully.
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plum-tart ilpugliese
• 2 days ago

…and did you?

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ilpugliese plum-tart
• 2 days ago

No and yes respectively.
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lordmuck
• 2 days ago

The ‘church’ regularly attributes falling attendances to it’s ‘failure of presentation’.
Another possible explanation is that fewer (or less) people believe in the essebtial tenets that God made the universe or that there is an afterlife….but I’m unsure how this failure of belief can be addressed by eternal promises of a second coming, revelations etc.
Any ideas Justin ?
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mogulfield lordmuck
• 2 days ago

My name’s not Justin, but I’ll have a stab at helping you.
If you are unsure about the existence of God, I suggest that you start with what the Greek philosophers had to say on the matter, Parmenides of Elea, Heraclitus of Ephesus and, of course, Plato.
Look far and wide outside the scope of the Bible at what others have to say about God and when you do return the Bible, read it alongside an good guide book such as Bowker’s “Complete Bible Handbook” if you don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming that it is intended as a science manual or a pure history book.
When you have surveyed all the evidence for and against you will soon realise that it a subject beyond the scope of empirical evidence and that you simply have to believe, or not.
If you choose not to believe you have nothing more to do. If you choose to believe then a whole new world opens up to you to discover the true nature of God and His relationship with us. Then you should visit your local church for further guidance, possible through Alpha or for general guidance on the Gospel.
Let us know how you get on.
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Fairy_Hanny mogulfield
• 2 days ago

There’s no religion which is based on fact
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mogulfield Fairy_Hanny
• 2 days ago

Not just that, but philosophers have been arguing for at least 2500 years as to whether or not there is any such thing as “fact”!

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manonthebus mogulfield
• 2 days ago

There is one tiny little flaw in your very sensible comment. There is no evidence at all for the existence of God. None, nada. There are a lot of religious books written about certain people who have claimed to know God and to have received his word. There is no existing evidence of the actual words spoken or actions taken or things seen at the time those people apparently made their claims. Their stories were, in all cases, written up by adherents at least one and often several centuries later, having been passed on, made up or misunderstood by word of mouth. There is plenty of evidence of evolution and we are beginning to have a tiny understanding of the origin of the universe. So, I agree with you. You have to base your belief about the existence of God on pure faith. That’s the choice. Best of luck.
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cynarch manonthebus
• 2 days ago

In archaeology we have a little saying ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The same could apply to God.
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manonthebus cynarch
• 2 days ago

A very wise saying. However, the original commenter was suggesting that books claiming that God exists could be used as evidence that he existed. Oh my goodness, where is Wittgenstein when you need him?
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thatIIdo manonthebus
• a day ago

Hiding in a box?
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davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Marolin Watson: I’ve never met anybody who had a ‘relationship with alcohol’. I have, however, known quite a lot of people who drank too much.
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Naomi Onions davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Alcoholics choose alcohol over their jobs, their lives, their health, their friends and their families.
They are convinced that alcohol is the answer to every problem, and that while they have alcohol they need nothing from anyone or anywhere else. Alcohol becomes their solace, their comfort and their love. They would rather die themselves than have it taken away.
All that matters is them and the bottle. It is one of the strongest attachments they will ever make in their life.
In this respect, a “relationship” is the perfect description.
I’ve met hundreds of people who have a “relationship with alcohol”. They are, of course, very different from the people you have known, who simply drink too much.
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danielfg davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Related is the modern buzzword. Alcohol related, drug related you name it. It’s as annoying a word as community.
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toots danielfg
• 2 days ago

Daniel, How do you like the term “recreational” as applied to drug use?
I wonder what other criminal activities we can excuse by adding the word “recreational”. “Recreational mugging” perhaps. Or “recreational child abuse”. Perhaps the BBC should say that’s why they helped Savile do it.
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danielfg toots
• 2 days ago

I drink whisky recreationally. I think I’m recreating my younger days :-)
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Naomi Onions toots
• 2 days ago

Toots
“Recreational” is usually used to mark the difference from “medicinal”.
Lots of drug use, even addictive and dangerous drug use, is not “recreational” but prescribed.
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toots Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

Naomi,
Oh… but you know what I mean. They say “recreational” in a calculated attempt to make them sound wholesome and innocent.
If they only wanted to differentiate them from pharmaceuticals, (never necessary), they could call them what they are… “Illegal drugs”… (fewer syllables).
I prefer the term “narcotics” (fewer syllables again.. and accurate).
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kiki toots
• a day ago

Its usually down to the BBC or some newspaper promoting crime, as in “Joy Riders” for car thieves.
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The Central Scrutiniser davidofkent
• 2 days ago

I had a long-term relationship with alcohol – my partner being a cherished bottle of Lagavulin 16 y.o. – but she ran out on me.
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kiki The Central Scrutiniser
• a day ago

How long can it be if you only have the one bottle? Or did you mean barrel?

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peddytheviking The Central Scrutiniser
• 2 days ago

On sale in WR at £48 at the moment – that is not a special offer.
I have just discovered a whole case (6 bottles) of an unknown single malt in the garage, whilst checking my stocks of loo-rolls.
My late father must have bought them in Germany, judging by the labels.
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kiki peddytheviking
• a day ago

Lucky devil!

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toots peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Peddy.. “WR”… ?
West Ruislip ?
Wait Rose ?
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peddytheviking toots
• 2 days ago

Waitrose
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SIR – The debate on whether sexual images should be automatically disallowed from homes unless families specify otherwise is beside the point. Filter or no filter, it will make no difference if children are not educated about pornography’s influence, along with the usual topics of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Phil Robinson and Anna Maxted appear to think this is only an issue for families with teenage children, but secondary school is too late to start to speak to them about this. Whatever age you think is the right age to talk to children about sex, you are probably two years too late.
Regardless of our efforts, any electronic blocks and checks will fail, and we must accept this. The only solution is education, at the heart of which should be unbiased information to ensure that pupils understand that it is all right to say “no”.
David Hanson
Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
SIR – I work with a small charity delivering lessons on sex and relationships in secondary schools in Gosport, which has pockets of huge deprivation and one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country.
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A significant number of youngsters are accessing material that would horrify most adults were they to see even a fraction of it.
Those who want to prevent measures designed to make this access more difficult in the name of freedom should accept that they have some responsibility in allowing one of the most pernicious attacks upon our young people to continue and thrive.
Eve Wilson
Hill Head, Hampshire
SIR – Changes to search engines will help stop children seeing images of child abuse, but they will do little to prevent people sharing these images, which is being done through private peer-to-peer networks.
Every illegal image is a crime scene, but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, locate and protect victims, nor to identify and charge abusers. More resources must be provided.
The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix that will protect victims – it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.
Dr Martyn Thomas
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2
SIR – I live with my wife of 39 years; we have no children or grandchildren, and no young people would ever access the computer in our house. A declaration that this is the situation should be sufficient.
Why, then, will the Government, via my internet service provider, force me to make a declaration about pornography which is an unwarranted intrusion into our personal life?
John Frankel
Newbury, Berkshire

After the Internet police, the lunch box police will not be far behind them, followed by the fashion police, how many coffees you drink in a day police, make sure you sit upright police, chew your food properly police, make sure you brush your teeth in the
morning police, etc
LEAVE US ALONE
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One Last Try
• a day ago

I watched a Jason Statham film last night, very bloodthirsty, he had a knife driven, graphicllly through his hand, but continued fighting. This allowed to be shown, albeit at a cost, as it is a 2013 film.
Certain parts of a lady’s (there are other sexes available) anatomy is deemd too risque for me to view, as is the initiating act (unless you are cohabiting with one other the sexes available) of the procreation of children.
So I can see a knife driven into a hand, but not…….
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manonthebus
• 2 days ago

I have only one word to say: PARENTS.
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One Last Try manonthebus
• a day ago

Pay Rents are ok. DHSS Pay Rents not OK

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peddytheviking One Last Try
• a day ago

I’m not sure how you rendered that – Ok or not OK?

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One Last Try peddytheviking
• a day ago

I think the Pay Rent Parents, will be more interested in the well being of their children, than the DHSS ones, in general
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richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Get a proxy server based in some third rate country, then search through that address to view all of the naughty bits you want. Out of the window go the UK ISP filters. It is like a recent Canadian ruling that demands that images are “removed from the internet”. Not going to work by technologyalone.
It is absoluely no different to using a UK proxy IP if you are overseas and want to watch BBC. It is how I get to watch the Omelette Cooking Channel, even though copyright prevents it being shown over here.
You don’t know how to? I bet the kiddies can work it out by teatime.
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Don’t tell Peddy about the Omelette Cooking Channel!
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 2 days ago

What the ‘egg is that?
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richardl_on_disqus peddytheviking
• a day ago

http://www.cookingchanneltv.co…

they have two cupcake shows, so surely there is a place for the egg cracking exploits of the omelette set!
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• a day ago

Do you get the Food Network up there Richard? There are some good shows on that. Lots of Thanksgiving tips right now.
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richardl_on_disqus ladyofthelake
• a day ago

Do keep up, our thanksgiving was a month ago.
Yes we do get that channel, no I don’t watch.
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• a day ago

Yes, I know when the Canadian T-giving is. I was just making a comment.

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flexico
• 2 days ago

DT: Please can we have ONE page for AlLL the day’s letters? The only exception should be that where a letter has multiple signatories, signatories 2 to n should be listed on a linked page
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plum-tart flexico
• 2 days ago

I don’t know why they bother with a letters page at all.
Toast anyone?
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ladyofthelake plum-tart
• 2 days ago

Special K and a banana for me this morning. Plus coffee.
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danielfg plum-tart
• 2 days ago

Comments on the letters pages are usually more civilised and polite than elsewhere – even to dear old Johnny Norfolk.
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JDavidJ flexico
• 2 days ago

On the other hand, having a quirky subject, with a photograph, is quite pleasing.
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One Last Try JDavidJ
• 2 days ago

was thinking that: Snap
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 2 days ago

Now sugar-snap peas are one thing I would not put in an omelet.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Try cooked spinach – delicious.
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thatIIdo danielfg
• a day ago

Why cook it? Just ends up soggy.
You can eat spinach raw, but if you must, then just steam it for 1 minute.
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danielfg thatIIdo
• a day ago

It’s better soggy as the omelet is soft so the two go together.
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peddytheviking danielfg
• a day ago

No, you run the risk of ending up with scrambled egg. The steamed spinach must be squeezed firmly to remove as much moisture as possible, chopped, a little lemon juice & just a suspicion of olive oil given to it before adding it to the omelet.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 20 hours ago

Sorry. That would totally ruin it. I have used the frozen spinach so it needs no chopping. And my omeletes have never turned into scrambled egg. They turn out of the pan beautifully.

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

Have you ever had spinach salad? That’s delicious. Raw spinach, sliced raw mushrooms, chopped hard boiled egg and crumbled crispy bacon. Serve with a sweet and sour dressing. So good and it goes well with fish, steak, pretty much anything.
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peddytheviking danielfg
• 2 days ago

Yeah, that sounds good.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

But not for breakfast. For lunch or dinner when you’re tired of everything else.

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wakeuptheworld
• 2 days ago

When ever a society looses its morality,crime and pornograhy, sexual deviations, child abuse and prostitution runs wild. It is time to stop all internet porn, that at least would be a start.
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Naomi Onions wakeuptheworld
• 2 days ago

I don’t think consensual prostitution, pornography or even many sexual deviations have anything to do with morality. Just because people enjoy different things in bed doesn’t make them immoral.
People worry far too much about sex, whilst gory horror films depicting violence and terror, often with only a 15 certificate, barely get a tut.
We have a very warped sense of what is acceptable, and of what we allow our children to watch.
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danielfg Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

Some years ago I came across a porn film late at night in Nice on Canal+. I mentioned it to a middle aged French teacher and his wife the next day and he, grinning, said he loves watching them and then to bed!
As for me I watched the first three f***ks in the first ten minutes and became totally bored and switched off.

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One Last Try danielfg
• a day ago

With a performance like that, 3 times in 10 mins, it must have been acting!
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danielfg One Last Try
• a day ago

They were different “teams” :-)

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bazzerman danielfg
• a day ago

So you were looking at the faces then?

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danielfg bazzerman
• a day ago

There was no need. They were a mixture of blacks and whites. In any cases their faces were probably more interesting than what was going on :-)

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grizzly Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I have long thought that the opinions of modern humans on such topics are either weird or, at best, selective. Watching two people having sex is far less threatening than watching them hack each others’ heads off or being blown to smithereens by a bomb! For some bizarre and perverse reason the latter is seen as being acceptable whlst the former is frowned upon.
This probably goes back to the Victorians’ odd sense of perspective. For example; why is it acceptable to show humans shoving food into their mouths, whilst it is considered disgusting to show the same product emerging at the other end? No such prissiness is evident when animals are shown defæcating in real life or on television! I am not, for one moment, advocating that such things should be shown on our televisions or in our cinemas (too many sensibilities would be outraged) but it does go to show how twisted our priorities have become when showing a human having a poo is considered taboo, but it is quite acceptable to show him being disembowelled by a sword!
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durnovaria grizzly
• 2 days ago

Never mind the sex act itself, and I wouldn’t find human defaecation at all entertaining, but television seems to be shying away ever more from nudity, even after the watershed and with prior warning.
And what is the point of a programme on midwifery, when the critical moment is blurred out? It never used to be.
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Fairy_Hanny grizzly
• 2 days ago

Morning Grizz, I for one don’t find it acceptable showing humans shovelling food in their mouths because inevitably they start speaking immediately afterwards unless they’ve been brought up proper like wot I was
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One Last Try Fairy_Hanny
• a day ago

like wot I wuz. Yoom posh, yo yam
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geniusloci grizzly
• 2 days ago

I don’t know what you eat, grizzly, but in my view “what emerges at the other end” is not the same product at all.
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Fairy_Hanny geniusloci
• 2 days ago

It is at MacDonalds
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grizzly geniusloci
• 2 days ago

Now you’re being mischievous, Genius. Perhaps I should have confirmed that it comes out in a ‘slightly altered’ state. But this recycled product is still nutritious: I know that garden plants and vegetables would rather have this for dinner than a steak and kidney pud! It’s all about recycling.
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zaharadelasierra grizzly
• 2 days ago

Slightly altered state, Grizz? Have you never eaten sweet corn?
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meerschaum
• 2 days ago

only 4 letters ? really ? Time for Weisswurst and coffee.

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JDavidJ meerschaum
• 2 days ago

Look again – Thrushes and Labour’s poll lead beckon.
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peddytheviking meerschaum
• 2 days ago

‘Morning Meerschaum
I make the count 7 at the time of your writing.
Weisswürst & coffee? Together? Wow!
I’m just going down for my cheese omelet.

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Meerschaum peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

cheese omelets are nice too : hope the morning has been going well.

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peddytheviking Meerschaum
• 2 days ago

Thank you it did, as I’m sure your’s did, powered as it was by Weisswürst.
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One Last Try peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Yo Peddy
You need to join COA
Cheese Omletttes Anonymous, where you can chat to similar addicts
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 2 days ago

Hi OLT
Slightly more important might be a society for the prevention of cruelty to eggs – see my exchange of notes on the subject with David below.
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SIR – Now that our clocks have had to revert to Greenwich Mean Time, we are suffering from the loss of daylight hours in the afternoon.
The roads are dangerous for children coming out of school at 3.30pm in the dusk. Of course, it is also dark when they arrive in the morning, but brighter afternoons would allow for healthy outdoor after-school activities. Cyclists and walkers are at far greater risk in the evening rush hour. And pity the poor doggies – some left at home alone all day – who have to be exercised after dark, on leads, wearing high-visibility clothing.
What has stopped the Government from extending British Summer Time year-round? Is it still the fear that Scottish cows would not like to be milked in the dark in the morning? Do the cows read clocks?
Christine Morgan-Owen
Farnham, Surrey

jp1000
• 14 hours ago

Darn it, it’s only a 1/4 past 3 and it’ll be getting dark soon, If we had quadruple summer time it would stay light till 7pm or later – fantastic!

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JohnSc jp1000
• 13 hours ago

And it wouldn’t get light in the morning until 11/12 am. Durrr!!!
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jp1000 JohnSc
• 12 hours ago

ah you cottoned on ……
Had a holiday in Yugoslavia back in the 70’s which was on same time zone as UK, it was August so it got light about 3am and got dark around 6pm, a really crazy way of setting up the clocks.

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peddytheviking jp1000
• 8 hours ago

I drove a Morris Minor all the way down that Adriatic Highway as far as Korcula in ’70, then home inland via Mostar, Sarajevo, Graz, Vienna.

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thatIIdo jp1000
• 12 hours ago

I was there this September/October.
One distinct advantage is that it is pleasantly warm already when you venture out at about 9am.

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thatIIdo
• 15 hours ago

I think the clocks should be set to one, year-round, standard time. The earliest winter sunset time should be approx. 6pm, after which people are mostly not travelling. In the summer you get lots of daylight to enjoy your evenings.
Travelling on dark mornings is not such a problem because there is no need to ‘acclimatise’ after the nighttime.
People who work outside, or people who want to save energy costs when working indoors, can adjust their working times to suit, if they wish. (Note: offices usually have all the lights on even in the brightest daylight and farm/construction machinery generally carries its own lights.)
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kiki
• 16 hours ago

Its the usual story, five million Scots are more important than all the rest. Its always been like that, roll on the referendum.
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Shoyad
• 16 hours ago

I have two main issues with retaining BST all year roound:
Firstly, there is a greater incidence of ice on the roads in the early morning, which would make the ride to work on my motorcycle more dangerous if I had to leave home before it was light (or getting light).
Secondly, I have to check on the pheasants on our small shoot on my way to work; this would be impossible/pointless in the dark.
As for the dogs – they would be walked in the dark twice a day, not just once (we do not have any street lights).
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betonkopf
• 17 hours ago

I refer readers to a website page which shows the line of sunrise across Britain at 8am on 1st January. This is, near enough, the morning of latest sunrise.
Kent is in daylight. England, Wales, and southern Scotland are in twilight. Most of Ireland and Scotland are in darkness. Yes, most of Europe is in daylight, but most of Britain is not. Britain needs GMT in winter.
The maps are at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/m…
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Fairy_Hanny betonkopf
• 17 hours ago

I understood the 21st Dec was the shortest day
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Nagsman Fairy_Hanny
• 15 hours ago

It is and whilst the night begin to get lighter immediately the mornings do not change until around the 28th December as I understand it – although heaven know why.

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betonkopf Nagsman
• 12 hours ago

Molamola is right.
There are two reasons for this:
1. The tilt of the earth’s rotation axis means the sun’s apparent motion through the sky is not uniform.
2. The earth’s orbit round the sun is elliptical, introducing a further variation.
So December 21st is the shortest day, but January 1st is at or near the latest sunrise.

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molamola Nagsman
• 15 hours ago

It’s in connection to the differences between solar noon (the highest point of the sun where you are) from day to day not being 24 hours.
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zaharadelasierra Fairy_Hanny
• 16 hours ago

It’s my birthday, too, Spikey. So I like to think of it as The Longest Night. ;-)
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betonkopf zaharadelasierra
• 12 hours ago

Thirty one nights hath December
Plus six others we remember
Jan, July, Aug, May, Mar, Oct
The rest to thirty nights are docked
Save Feb, which twenty nine hath clear
And twenty eight each unleap year.
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kalafrana
• 17 hours ago

As stated below by several people, the basic problem is the paucity of daylight hours in Britain in winter. Changing to BST throughout the year will not create any more daylight hours, but simply mean that it will remain dark much later in the mornings. Some years ago, I spent a week in January in Granada, on roughly the same longitude as Plymouth, where I live now, but significantly further south. It was not light thee until well after 9am. Here, in January, even on GMT, it is not fully light in January until around 9am, and Plymouth is almost as far south as you can get on the British mainland,
What would make a difference is to confine GMT to the November-February period, to get the maximum benefit as the days start to lengthen.
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Gaz
• 18 hours ago

GMT all year round ! So in late June in Manchester sunrise will be 3:40am so it will be coming light at 3am !!! Don’t talk rubbish, who needs daylight then ?
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grizzly Gaz
• 18 hours ago

Do keep up!
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Gaz grizzly
• 17 hours ago

Keep up with what?
It would still be daylight at 3am even if business adopted your policy ….
BTW, who works 9-5 (8-4) these days ??
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danielfg
• 18 hours ago

Sod the bloody doggies. During the last experiment it was horrendous leaving the house while it was still dark, pouring with rain, blided by headlights, trying to get the children and to work on time.
As for the claim that it saved hundreds of lives, I asked the Department of Transport what figures they had. They sent me calculations based on traffic volumes twenty years after the experiment and then calculated the possible deaths saved. There were no actual figures about deaths.
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ladyofthelake danielfg
• 12 hours ago

The change in time doesn’t bother my dog. The only thing that puzzles him is his dinner. He shows up at the bowl an hour late/early for the first few days- then he adapts.

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danielfg ladyofthelake
• 8 hours ago

It is probably thinking like a human – oh well what can I do about it :-)
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Naomi Onions
• 19 hours ago

Every bleedin’ year!!
If you want to really worry…

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/…

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grizzly Naomi Onions
• 19 hours ago

I predict that if it rains, those who refuse to wear suitable weather-proof garments … will get wet!
You mark my words.
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grizzly
• 19 hours ago

When the clocks are artificially altered (i.e. put forward) in March for the Spring and Summer periods, all we are effectively doing is supplanting a 9–5 working day for a 8–4 one for that entire period. What was 9 a.m. under GMT becomes 8 a.m. when the clocks move forward.
All this country needs to do is adopt a policy of having a working day of 8–4 all year round (instead of just in the summer months). That way we retain GMT but effectively have the synchronisation of daylight hours that we enjoy in the summer. How difficult is that to achieve?
Scotland, which naturally has a longer period of darkness in the autumn/winter period, could choose whether to remain with a 9–5 working day or join the rest of the UK in an 8–4 day.
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Julyan Coe grizzly
• 16 hours ago

100 up votes
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caerperis
• 19 hours ago

Does Christine Morgan-Owen not remember the experiment of all-year BST which took place between 27 October 1968 and 31 October 1971?
Analysis of accident data for the first two years of the experiment, published by HMSO in October 1970, indicated that while there had been an increase in casualties in the morning, there had been a substantially greater decrease in casualties in the evening, with a total of around 2,500 fewer people killed and seriously injured during the first two winters of the experiment, at a time when about 1,000 people a day were killed or injured on the roads. However the period coincided with the introduction of Drink-Driving legislation, and the estimates were later modified downwards in 1989.
The trial was the subject of a House of Commons debate on 2 December 1970 when, on a free vote, the House of Commons voted to end the experiment by 366 to 81 votes.
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kiki caerperis
• 16 hours ago

I remember the general opinion was that mothers had to take the kids to school, it being dark, instead of just shoving them out of the door and going back to bed. Not surprising, it was the mothers that got the time changed back.

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Fairy_Hanny caerperis
• 19 hours ago

That increase/decrease might have happened anyway – it didn’t prove anything
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Geoffrey Woollard
• 20 hours ago

‘Changing the clocks’ is complete and utter nonsense for there are no extra hours of anything to be had in either the Spring or the Autumn. There are twenty-four hours in every day and there are more daylight hours in the Summer and less in the Winter. I agree with Christine Morgan-Owen. GMT all year round, please.
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PeteGreen Geoffrey Woollard
• 18 hours ago

Geoffrey. I think she wanted BST all year round.
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Geoffrey Woollard PeteGreen
• 18 hours ago

GMT or BST: I don’t care, Pete, as long as the b****y clocks aren’t ‘changed’ twice a year.
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zaharadelasierra Geoffrey Woollard
• 16 hours ago

Geoffrey, the nuisance of “changing clocks” is a real nightmare for Dr Who. If only he’d realise that all he has to do is oil the gears before changing years and that sound of chalk against a blackboard would disappear instantly.
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Geoffrey Woollard zaharadelasierra
• 15 hours ago

Dr. Who?
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thatIIdo Geoffrey Woollard
• 16 hours ago

I don’t change mine anyway. This is on the basis that they will be right at least half the time. And even if they stop altogether, they are right twice a day.
I’m not kidding – I know what time it is without looking at a clock – always did. Don’t need an alarm clock either.

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Geoffrey Woollard thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

Try Sandringham time, thatlldo. It was half an hour ahead of everybody else. Gawd knows why.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…

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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 13 hours ago

So the King could shoot more animals!
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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

Very likely, my Lady.

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peddytheviking Geoffrey Woollard
• 19 hours ago

Would we use more or less winter fewerl?
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Geoffrey Woollard peddytheviking
• 19 hours ago

As Henry Crun on The Goon Show (before your time, peddy) said, ‘You can’t get the wood, you know.’
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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 13 hours ago

Hail and well met, fellow Goon fan!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

Our memories date us, don’t they, my Lady?

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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 12 hours ago

I am too young to remember the Goons when they were broadcast. Over the years we have collected tapes and CDs. We kind of got onto them because we were/are big Peter Sellers fans and it started as a result of that.
Sorry to let you down but I will only be 60 in a couple of months. First time I’ve admitted that!!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

59 going on 60, my Lady: you surprise me!
Well, if you want it kept quiet, don’t tell anybody else. I won’t breathe a word.
BTW, don’t tell anybody else, but I’m 75.
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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 11 hours ago

Why are you surprised? Do I sound older? And your secret is safe with me!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

I was surprised, my Lady, to learn that somebody so much younger than me could (as I had thought) remember the Goons. But you can’t actually remember the Goons – or rather their original broadcasts – so you have collected tapes, etc., instead. Very wise – as well as very young!
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SIR – My son’s school has just asked for a copy of each pupil’s passport. Apparently, as a Tier 4 visa sponsor, it is required to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that every child has the right to be in Britain.
This, despite assurances by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, in a letter to concerned organisations earlier this year, that he had “no plans to require schools to conduct nationality checks on their pupils”.
Employers, doctors and now teachers: is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?
Richard Williams
Brighton, East Sussex
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22 Nov 2013
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Gambling on The Rock
SIR – David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, has condemned Spain’s intrusion into Gibraltarian waters and promised that Britian “will do whatever is required to protect Gibraltar’s sovereignty, economy and security”.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that the Government is proposing new “point of consumption” licensing and a new tax regime which will have a devastating impact on Gibraltar’s economy, specifically its thriving online gambling industry, which employs 2,500 people and constitutes a quarter of Gibraltar’s GDP.
The proposals would likely cause job losses of around a third of the industry’s employees, and significant revenue reductions to the Gibraltar government.
According to analysis by Deloitte, it will also cause 27 per cent of our customers to migrate to the online gaming black market.
This would be the worst possible time for the Government to undermine a bulwark of the territory’s economy.
Peter Howitt
Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association
Gibraltar
Language of Flowers
SIR – My distress at the Paul Flowers debacle (I am a Methodist) has been increased by the BBC and others referring to “the Reverend Flowers”. As your paper, at least, is aware, this man is the Reverend Paul Flowers or Mr Flowers, but never Reverend Flowers. Even our Eton-educated Prime Minister seems not to know this.
Lesley Barnes
Henfield, West Sussex
Turkish delight
SIR – How sad that so much time is given to rating the best shop-bought Christmas fare, such as mince pies. Living in Turkey, I love the fact that, if you want certain things, it’s up to you to create them. My mince pies include real suet, which even has a trace of meat when I get it from the butcher.
Offering guests baked goods that aren’t readily available to buy creates an air of excitement that cannot be beaten.
Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey
Stuffed symbolism
SIR – Cushions are theatrical shorthand for sex: scattered around a Royal Shakespeare Company set, enhanced with red-filtered lights (suggestively dimmed), they indicate that we are in either a bordello or Cleopatra’s Egypt, all sensuality and voluptuousness.
When guests enter a hotel room they are, in effect, taking the stage, agreeing to take the leading parts in a fantasy, a fleeting illusion. Cushions create an ambience suited to discovering anew the passion of one’s courtship. Make the most of it.
Dr Lawrence Green
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Alienating Tories
SIR – I don’t know why Nick Boles, the Conservative planning minister, thinks it is only the young who see the Tories as aliens. As an ageing lifelong Conservative voter, I can’t possibly support a party that would introduce restrictions on the press.
Simon Longe
Beccles, Suffolk
Italian lesson for NHS
SIR – While on holiday in Italy, my partner fell ill. He was taken to hospital in Penne, where he was given first-class medical treatment.
We noticed that Italian families looked after their ill relations, which freed the nursing staff to do other jobs. Of the three men sharing my partner’s room, one man’s housekeeper looked after all his needs all day; another’s wife and son took turns sleeping on a truckle bed by his side; and the third man’s family brought in all his food, staying to feed and care for him.
After five days, my partner was discharged with a six-page report (in Italian, on the results of the tests, etc) and we flew home. On receiving the report, our GP’s manager said she had no funds to cover the translation (though if I had needed an interpreter, funds were available). We had the translation done ourselves, presented it to the manager, and heard not another word from the doctor. We changed doctor.
Letitia Sykes
Rainham, Essex
A stab in the dark
SIR – Brian Keen recommends “cutting up” slugs at night as an alternative to using harmful metaldehyde-based slug pellets. This is cruel: far from being an inert lump of jelly, the slug has a nervous system and can feel pain.
In my experience, no alternative slug remedies work, though where clumps of slug eggs are found, these can be dispersed on lawns to provide food for hungry birds.
In any event, the decline of songbirds in recent decades surely has more to do with the alarming rate of destruction of front and back gardens to make way for extensions and front-of-house parking. There is no place for wildlife in this vision of potted, half-dead conifer and wooden decking. The de-greening of suburbia is surely the biggest factor driving the plight of the thrush. To remedy this situation, why not plant a tree in 2014?
Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex
Meeting the man tried for Kennedy’s murder
SIR – In “The truth about John F Kennedy’’, Gerard DeGroot mentioned the reissue of Crossfire by Jim Marrs, about a “conspiracy” in New Orleans in which Clay Shaw (the only person ever tried in connection with the assassination) figured.
As the article noted, the book formed the basis for Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which seemed “intriguing” in the days when we “knew almost nothing” about Shaw.
Well, I knew Clay Shaw for a short while, having met him in 1956, when I was a 26-year-old accountant working and travelling in the United States for a year. I was on a Greyhound bus bound for New Orleans when a tall, distinguished-looking white-haired man got on. Sitting next to me, he introduced himself as Clay Shaw, CEO of the New Orleans International Trade Mart.
During the two-hour journey, we struck up an acquaintance, and he invited me to see him in his office during the week. I did, and one night had dinner with him.
About 25 years ago I was in New Orleans again, wandering the lovely streets of the old French Quarter with my wife, when we noticed a plaque. It was headed: “In tribute to Clay Shaw 1913-1974”. The inscription said that as “an invaluable citizen, he was respected, admired and loved by many”.
I was proud to have been a friend of Clay Shaw, even for a short time.
Ivan Benjamin
Northwood, Middlesex
SIR – With all that has been said about Kennedy’s assassination, I have never understood why he flew from Fort Worth to Dallas that morning, when it would have been easier by car, taking perhaps half an hour. I have driven between the two cities myself.
If he had come from a different direction and not passed the book depository, the murder might never have taken place.
Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

Comparethemarxists
• 3 hours ago

“SIR – Brian Keen recommends “cutting up” slugs at night”
I have it on good authority that this particular method also works very well on politicians, and of course they are inert lumps of jelly so will feel no pain.
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antoncheckout
• 6 hours ago

I can see a good reason why schools are required to act as visa sponsors. Parents send these children to school from the other side of the world.
We have no ID card system. The Border Agency wants to make sure the little darlings aren’t going to suddenly claim refugee status followed by influx of remaining family members (right to family life enforced by ECHR).
Vetting and rating schools for sponsorship-worthiness means the schools are really really keen that shouldn’t happen.
The scandal with English language ‘colleges’ and lax London ‘universities’ allowed a lot of immigration abuse.
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antoncheckout antoncheckout
• 6 hours ago

If they have asked for a copy of Mr Williams’s child’s passport as well, that is probably the EU eedjit-equality legislation at work – Mr Williams should just write back saying they don’t let the child have one, as they don’t want him to take off for the Bahamas on his own; and explain that the Williams’s are fine old Sussex stock who can trace their ancestry back to the times of pre-Christian King Æðelwealh, to whom they were pledged liegemen and from whom they received 73 hides of land and a vill.
He could even offer to show the headmaster the very vill itself, or maybe just a hide or two. That should clinch it.
Alternatively, tell him that the Norman motto of that proud city Brighton is ‘Je faix comme je veulx.’ (It’s not, but frankly, it might as well be.)
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noxofan
• 7 hours ago

“…is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?”
Whatever it takes.
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django7
• 13 hours ago

I wonder why Richard Williams is so surprised – “Employers, doctors and now teachers: is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?” – when so many parents these days appear to want to relinquish their parental role.
Whether it’s imparting sex education or social skills, keeping offspring occupied in the evenings or summer holidays, looking after them if teachers go on strike, paying for their care until school age, too many parents look to outside agencies to help bring up their children so they can hardly object if they are subject to the rigours of the outside world.
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Ped
• 17 hours ago

“School demands copy of pupils’ passports”
It is part of the European Union’s citizen information and control system. I have been ordered by my French bank to produce my passport and utility bills for my holiday home. As pupils don’t generally have a bank account their parents are required to produce proof of identity to the school authorities.
The EU is fast becoming ‘Le Quatrième Reich’,- the Fourth Reich – and we all know how the last one ended.
Continued membership of this malign organisation is unthinkable. We must get out at the first opportunity.
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ilpugliese Ped
• 16 hours ago

For a bank, it’s part of the anti-money laundering measures which are international and wider than the EU. For schools and employers, it’s part of the UK anti illegal immigrant/employment measures and I doubt that it is mandated by the EU. There are good reasons to reduce or remove the EU mantle, but these measures would still be required.
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Ped ilpugliese
• 16 hours ago

“For a bank, it’s part of the…”
And Jews were herded into ghettos for their own protection.
Nineteen years since the books were audited properly. Unelected heads of banks, police and military organisations and literally billions of Euros given to individuals and organisations with close links to a small coterie of self electing gauleiters.
It is not an exaggeration to say that were are being subjugated – slowly but surely enslaved!
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zaharadelasierra Ped
• 15 hours ago

Now there’s an interesting set of headlines: “Three women enslaved for 30 years in a London house”. In other news, “60 million people enslaved for 40 years in a corrupt unaudited European Union”.
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Gubbedefekt zaharadelasierra
• 6 hours ago

Yes and we’re also being thoroughly shafted for good measure.

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thatIIdo
• 17 hours ago

Dr Lawrence Green,
I have always been wary of other people’s cushions, using them only after wrapping them in a clean towel.
It seems from your comments that I have been fully justified in my idiosyncracy.
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ericthehalfabee thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

on first glance I read your name as thatlldildo, which seemed apt regarding the topic.
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ilpugliese thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

You’ve found a use for them?
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thatIIdo ilpugliese
• 16 hours ago

I need a very big pillow, or lots of little ones, when I sleep – can’t stand laying flat.
If the pillows are not my own I wrap them in a clean towel or bedsheet.
Things like cushions, pillows, duvets and blankets rarely get washed, that’s why they need covers, cases or wrappings.

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peddytheviking thatIIdo
• 10 hours ago

You can’t stand laying flat….what?
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cynicalm peddytheviking
• 6 hours ago

Carpets perhaps.

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peddytheviking cynicalm
• 6 hours ago

Like a nodding dog in a rear window. Very good.

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ilpugliese thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

Ah I see. I like a small cushion for the small of my back when seated. If I should fall asleep on one then it would be my own.

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antoncheckout ilpugliese
• 6 hours ago

Given the bullet-like toughness, knobbly pins, sharp edges and spavined dimensions of the average hotel cushion, there really aren’t many positions of the Kama Sutra they could be used for.
I suppose they could be turned into instruments of corporal chastisement in an SM game, but presumably a consent form would need to be completed beforehand and left at the hotel reception desk…

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danielfg
• 18 hours ago

What is a Tier 4 Sponsor?
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zaharadelasierra danielfg
• 15 hours ago

I think it’s a wedding cake for poor people. The bakery wraps advertising banners around each of the four tiers and the little model bride and groom on top of the iced cake are holding up a miniature banner saying “Baked by Bloggs the Bakers”.
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Gubbedefekt zaharadelasierra
• 5 hours ago

Proof if ever we needed it that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.. ;)
This totally gratuitous comment was made possible by Santa Tescosa Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon £3.99 a bottle this week only while stocks last.

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Fairy_Hanny danielfg
• 18 hours ago

not passed the exam for Tier 3
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grizzly danielfg
• 18 hours ago

Pretentious gobbledegook!
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danielfg grizzly
• 17 hours ago

I thought you were talking to me until I looked at my comment :-)
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grizzly danielfg
• 16 hours ago

I would never dream of talking to you like that, Daniel.
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danielfg grizzly
• 14 hours ago

I know. I just thought, momentarily I would add, that you were having a bad day.
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mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Dr Lawrence gets my vote for most entertaining letter of the week.
I will however carefully check for one-way mirrors and hidden cameras next time I find myself in a hotel room with cushions scattered about.
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One Last Try mogulfield
• 17 hours ago

Too late, I saw the film, with my Nice French neighbours and with Ms Olive Stuffed-Cushion, disgusting!!!!
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Naomi Onions mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Too late. We got you last time!
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peddytheviking mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Shouldn’t you refer to him either as Doctor Lawrence Green or Mr Green?
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One Last Try peddytheviking
• 16 hours ago

Is he a relation of Olive Green-Cushion?
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plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey
Life is full of ‘if onlys’.
If Franz Ferdinand’s driver had not taken the wrong turning the archduke would not have been assassinated.
Maybe we should blame the motor car…..
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antoncheckout plum-tart
• 6 hours ago

I believe the Archduke’s last words were ‘Scheiss-Navigationsgerät!’ ['Bloody Satnav!']
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ladyofthelake antoncheckout
• 4 hours ago

Followed by “Duck!”

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oldgit13 plum-tart
• 17 hours ago

I read that he’d been found alive and the First World War was all a mistake.
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plum-tart oldgit13
• 12 hours ago

No that was Bin Laden …..


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One Last Try plum-tart
• 8 hours ago

Surely Bin Swaffham………

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One Last Try plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Or the inventor of the wheel…….. and the seat……..
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plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey
Do you make your own porridge………….or toast?
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grizzly plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Plum-Tart,
If she’d followed my lead and made her own mince pies (I even make my own candied peel, so much tastier than the shop-bought muck), then she could have taken the ‘Pepsi Challenge’ with the inferior stuff sold by Fortnum & Mason and Aldi!
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ladyofthelake grizzly
• 15 hours ago

I make my own mincies too. I have a great pastry recipe that is just for mince pies.
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zaharadelasierra grizzly
• 15 hours ago

Gosh Grizzly, you shop at Aldi AND Fortnum & Mason!

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plum-tart grizzly
• 18 hours ago

Do you make your own halal suet grizz?

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grizzly plum-tart
• 18 hours ago

No. Mine’s pretty kosher, though! ;º)
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peddytheviking grizzly
• 6 hours ago

I bet it koshyer a packet.
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mrsbimble
• 19 hours ago

With immigration being the second highest concern for most people in the UK I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect employers, landlords, doctors and schools to help in the fight to stem illegal immigration. Border control are not able to cope and in many countries (USA and Australia) it is not possible to get a job or do many things without proof of entitlement to be there. If would-be illegal know this it acts as a deterrent in itself. For the general public to just shrug and say “I’m very worried about immigration but it’s not my job to help combat it” is unhelpful and hypocritical.
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One Last Try mrsbimble
• 16 hours ago

I wonder if our ‘border guards’ have watched the TV programme featuring their counterparts in Australia. Why are they not following the Australian one’s example. Alll ours do is direct them to safe houses, to join the Uncle Tom Route, after they have been given full details on benefits etc, of course
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Wuffo the Wonder Dog mrsbimble
• 18 hours ago

It would not be unreasonable if, and it is a show-stopper of an if, the Border Agency acted to deport illegals immediately, instead they take their name, tell them to go somewhere and then let them go.
What’s the point in assisting an agency that doesn’t want to know because it acts for a government that doesn’t want to know?
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durnovaria
• 19 hours ago

There is a fundamental point of priciple at stake here: Parliament has positively rejected ID cards, and passports are optional, and not in the gift of the child.
Nor are they likely to have three utility bills, that banks ask for when opening an account for a child, nor a National Insurance number if they are still at school.
So if the school turns the child away, how does a British national parent discharge their legal duty to ensure that that child receives an education to the appropriate standard?
More and more, it is becoming clear that membership of the European Union is fundamentally incompatible with the British Way of Life. So the choice is clear:
either give in gracefully (lie back and think of England), or join UKIP, fight for UKIP and vote UKIP.
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SIR – Christianity will survive for many generations. What seems more likely to me (as a retired church warden) is the demise of the Church of England, due in part to its leaders’ remoteness from congregations “worn down by heaviness”.
I am hopeful that the present Archbishop of Canterbury understands, better than his predecessors, the feelings of the ordinary communicant, in the way that it appears the new Pope does. If not, then I, like many others, will seek spiritual food elsewhere.
Nicholas Fowle
Neatishead, Norfolk
SIR – A N Wilson claims that the faithful no longer really believe in the Incarnation. Of course he knows that the central mysteries of Christianity, the Incarnation and Resurrection, are at the heart of the “splendid liturgy and intelligent sermons” he has enjoyed, but many just do not get it.
For most Christians it is not a one-off choice to subscribe to such extraordinary doctrines. Their depth is explored daily in company with others heading in the same direction. The entire Bible and the whole of history contain signs of the love and truth to which these wonders point.
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22 Nov 2013
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22 Nov 2013
That this teaching is not just “spiritual” but stems from events involving a real man in the Middle East 2,000 years ago is too much for many. How could it possibly be true? But a line of witnesses cannot be ignored; and A N Wilson confesses to being among those who will always feel their hearts are restless until they rest in God.
John Capel
Reading, Berkshire
SIR – Why, if the Christian message fails to grab the “me” society, are independent evangelical churches booming, and with young congregations? In east Oxford alone, during the recent long vacation (no students), I came to a quick count of 14 such churches, meeting in hired halls, in less than a square mile. Could the Church of England’s problem be related rather to fatuous politically correct and multi-faith agendas, while the independent churches can preach the Gospel uninhibited?
Dr Allan Chapman
Oxford
SIR – Lord Carey and A N Wilson make interesting bedfellows – both predicting the Church’s extinction. As G K Chesterton wrote: “On five occasions in history the Church has gone to the dogs, but on each occasion it was the dogs who died.”
Christians need to rediscover the life of the early Church. Those Christians were in a more hostile environment yet they turned their world upside down.
Alex Ross
Burford, Oxfordshire
SIR – The Church has always been one generation away from dying out.
Rev David Hoskins
Emeritus chaplain
Harrogate District Hospital
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

tiddles
• 2 hours ago

The idea that God created the universe 13 billion years ago purely for the benefit of humans , many of whom are not the brightest, is pretty hilarious . Is religious belief a form of mental illness ?

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pentagua tiddles
• 2 hours ago

I do not know of any religious belief which has the idea that the universe was created purely for the benefit of humans. It is certainly not part of Christian belief.

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Hugh_Oxford
• 10 hours ago

If the Church of England cared less about being behind the times, and concentrated more on being beyond the times, it might have a future.
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Guest
• 11 hours ago

.
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sweetalkinguy Guest
• 4 hours ago

God moves in a mysterious way.

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Peteko
• 13 hours ago

How do people go through their lives believing in nothing? What an astounding arrogance and conceit not to be thankful to a creator who made the world and all that is in it. Agnosticism I can understand though not agree with, but atheism no – is life, love, music, poetry, beauty, truth, all an accident? Have atheists had their brains taken out?
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manonthebus Peteko
• 10 hours ago

You ridiculous person. To start with, love, music, poetry etc have nothing to do with belief in God. Have you never heard of evolution? Secondly, the arrogance and conceit appears to be all on your side. If I wish not to believe in a God, your God presumably, that is my business. You look to yourself before criticising others.
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ladyofthelake Peteko
• 11 hours ago

What a very insensitive and intolerant remark. It is an example of the very thing we have been talking about.
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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• 8 hours ago

This should have been under the comment when he asked if atheists had their brains removed.

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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

Some of you can dish it out but you can’t take it. Just an anonymous down vote. Sad.
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oldgit13 Peteko
• 11 hours ago

So, this god you believe in. Is it the same one which Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Rastafarians and many other religions believe in?
If so, why are all you followers endlessly fighting one another – even within the same belief system, eg Protestants and Catholics, Sunni and Shia? While atheists do fight about some matters, religion certainly isn’t one of them.
If it’s not the same god you all worship, how do you account for the existence of several gods? Which one did all the miraculous stuff, or did they all have a go? Which one is the one true God?
Ah hang on a minute, now I’m beginning to see the answer to my second question.
Have you actually considered the possibilty that you’re all barking mad?
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pentagua Peteko
• 12 hours ago

Darwin does not explain how life was created. There are significant gaps in his theory. Scientists are finding that genes are complex in their structure and that it is highly improbable that gene networks, and the creatures that depend on them, were invented by mutations. There is nothing in science that comes anywhere near to contradicting the “theory” that God created life. Atheists have not had their brains taken out but they have mutated into stubborn mules!
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JDavidJ pentagua
• 10 hours ago

The difference between science and religion, is that science is prepared to change it’s mind in the light of new evidence – even if this can be a difficult change. The progress of Evolutionary Theory is an excellent example, where changes are made all the time.
Religion on the other hand doesn’t have evidence that it can refer to, apart from ancient and little-changing texts.
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pentagua JDavidJ
• 9 hours ago

Nobody can alter the words of Shakespeare or Milton. Presumably you reject all ancient writings as nonsense or you are just prejudiced.
There is more evidence to support religious belief – a google search will lead you to some of it but I suspect you have no time for religion and never have had any..

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 6 hours ago

“There is more evidence to support religious belief”
Such as? You must be genius if you’ve found some because theologians have been searching for centuries and have failed.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 6 hours ago

I am not a genius but I wonder if you are talking about proof rather than evidence.

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 10 hours ago

“There is nothing in science that comes anywhere near to contradicting the “theory” that God created life”
There is no need to invoke God in Science. And if you were to invoke God you would have to explain how he came into existence – which would be a great deal harder to explain than how simple self-replicating proteins came in to existence.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 9 hours ago

Where did I say there was a need to invoke God in science? You seem to be referring to God as a physical object. You seem very limited in your understanding.

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 6 hours ago

“You seem to be referring to God as a physical object.”
Where? You seem very limited in your understanding of science.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 6 hours ago

Yes I am limited in my understanding of both science and religion.

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litesp33d pentagua
• 5 hours ago

Indeed you are and you show your ignorance for all too see. And not only are you wrong but you are wrong at the top of your voice.

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pentagua litesp33d
• 5 hours ago

Please tell me what is right then.

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SimonNorwich Peteko
• 12 hours ago

This creator that we’re supposed to be thankful towards, is that the same creator that committed genocide in the past and will let people suffer for eternity for the purile reasone that they happen not to believe in it, or is it a totally different creator?
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Fairy_Hanny Peteko
• 13 hours ago

Instead of spouting drivel why don’t you prove that there is a God and he created the universe?
No? well there’s a surprise!
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Peteko Fairy_Hanny
• 12 hours ago

There isn’t any proof. If there was the world couldn’t be as it is, and people could not – completely unfettered – find God for themselves.
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Fairy_Hanny Peteko
• 12 hours ago

If you’d have said “If there was, the world would not be as it is” then that’s feasible
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

” people could not – completely unfettered – find God for themselves.”
People are always finding Gods! There are hundreds of the damn things – Thor, Zeus etc ad nauseam.
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One Last Try Chris Ranmore
• 11 hours ago

Dave Cameron, God of Sodomites
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 13 hours ago

There’s no point in believing something which is fraudulent. With so many competing religions to choose from almost all of them (if not all of them) must be fraudulent.
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Peteko Chris Ranmore
• 13 hours ago

I don’t think fraudulent is the right word – religious leaders are usually sincere but are as weak and doubtful as everyone else. They are trying to understand life and its meaning. A lot of people are happy not to bother. The major world religions agree on many things and Jesus is a prophet in Islam.

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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“I don’t think fraudulent is the right word”
That’s sophistry.
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LingoStu Peteko
• 13 hours ago

“How do people go through their lives believing in nothing?”
I am not an atheist because I “believe in nothing”.
I am an atheist because I do not see any compelling reason to believe in a God.
“Have atheeists had their brains taken out?”
That is arrogant, rude and uncalled for. Many, of not most, of the brilliant minds of our age have doubted the existence of God – from scientists like Einstein to philosophers like Nietzsche.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 13 hours ago

We all have doubts about it, but there is plenty of evidence – which you don’t seem to find compelling enough.
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LingoStu Peteko
• 13 hours ago

Peteko – it is a question of what you consider to be evidence and how you interpret it.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 12 hours ago

I can only suggest you consider why you are different from the rest of the animal kingdom – Christians say it’s because you are made in God’s image. He knows you and wants you to do his will.
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oldgit13 Peteko
• 10 hours ago

We’re not that different from some of the rest of the animal kingdom. We share almost 95% of our DNA with apes and indeed 50% of it with bananas. Would your god have designed it that way, and if so for what purpose do you suppose?

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LingoStu Peteko
• 12 hours ago

OK. Personally, I find Mr Darwin’s explanation rather more compelling.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 12 hours ago

Unfortunately that’s not the full story. Try reading some CS Lewis.
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ladyofthelake Peteko
• 11 hours ago

CS Lewis experienced periods of great doubt and despair with religion.
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thatIIdo Peteko
• 12 hours ago

What’s Alice in Wonderland got to do with it?
Now you mention it though …
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grizzly Peteko
• 12 hours ago

Good afternoon, Peteko,
I’ve been reading all the pros and cons on this argument today and it seems that nothing ever changes: you will always get those who believe in a deity and those who do not, that much will never change, despite the constant preaching from both sides of the equation.
My colours are already nailed to the mast, so I don’t need to repeat them here, but there is one burning question that I would love an answer to, and that comes in response to your earlier remark. That question is: why do I need to ‘believe’, in anything? It seems to me that all other life forms: plants; animals; fungi; protozoa etc, live fulfilling lives without the need to ‘believe’ in anything. To me, beliefs are nothing more than a chain around our necks; a monkey on our backs; a spanner in our works; the cause of much misery and warfare.
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JDavidJ grizzly
• 10 hours ago

A couple of your options do seem attractive.

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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“Try reading some CS Lewis”
What, I’m going to learn about the origins of the universe from reading “The Chronicles of Narnia”?
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bluesman1950 Peteko
• 13 hours ago

I happily experience life, love, music, beauty without any imaginary being to be grateful to. Have you had your brain replaced with fairy tales?
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Peteko bluesman1950
• 13 hours ago

You experience it but have no explanation of/for it, except for the nothing argument.
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“You experience it but have no explanation of/for it”
Better to have no explanation than the wrong explanation.
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thatIIdo Peteko
• 13 hours ago

I believe in myself and to a certain extent in my surroundings (including people).
If you have a problem with that then the problem is yours alone.
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Fairy_Hanny thatIIdo
• 11 hours ago

I believed I had flatulence…..I was wrong
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Peteko thatIIdo
• 13 hours ago

A severely limited outlook I think.
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 13 hours ago

If you think reality is “severely limited” then yes. If you think believing in fantasies is better then no.
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Irish Times:

Sir, – The current feeding frenzy with regard to the remuneration of hospital CEOs is not easy for health professionals to understand. The CEO of a large hospital is responsible for the utilisation of a budget of perhaps €200 million. He or she has to execute board and policy directives covering hundreds of complex interlocking activities relating to safe patient care. The simplistic neo-liberal business approach to health care has led to a focus on costs and targets at the expense of optimal patient care and indeed compassion. The CEO of a €200 million business is concerned with profit and loss. He or she is unlikely to face management decisions that are even remotely as challenging as those facing a hospital CEO who is responsible for the complexities of patient-centred and coordinated health care as well as finance.
At the same time our hospital CEOs are expected to deliver more efficient and safer care with shrinking resources. Do we or do we not want people of the highest competence to deliver health care to our loved ones? Pay peanuts, etc. – Yours, etc,
IAN GRAHAM,
Rocky Valley Drive,
Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Earlier this month the chief executives of four major hospitals, including Crumlin children’s hospital, wrote to the HSE to warn it that health cuts were starting to threaten patient safety. Prof John Crown commented at the time that it was “extremely significant that the CEOs would put their necks out” as they would “tend to see themselves on the same side of the power equation as the HSE and the Department of Health”.
Fast-forward to this week, and in a move that would surely have Sir Humphrey purring with approval, the Department of Health just happened to release scandalising top-up payments relating to, among others, the CEO of Crumlin hospital. Regardless of the issues in regard to breaches of pay policy, I would say the department has made its policy on necks and parapets abundantly clear. – Yours, etc,
DONAGH McTIERNAN,
Lakepoint, Mullingar,
Co Westmeath.
Sir, – It may help to put these figures into perspective to note that the basic salaries of many senior hospital executives are only marginally higher – in some cases lower – than what the High Court recently ruled were the minimum expenses of a bankrupt person. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK NOLAN,
Cherbury Gardens,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – As good Christians, should we not accept that this is the Lord’s will. Mark 4:25 “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”. – Yours, etc,
COURTNEY MURPHY,
Applewood Heights,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Denis Staunton’s interesting article (JFK, 50 Years after Dallas supplement, November 22nd) on JFK’s presidency rightly credits his “patience, caution and willingness to compromise with his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev” as helping to avert a nuclear war over the Cuban crisis in 1962.
It would, however, be wrong to give Kennedy all the credit for saving the world from nuclear war 50 years ago. His diplomatic skills were hard-learned. Only six months in office and still a novice in international politics, the US president faced the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, in a summit meeting in Vienna.
The summit’s main issues were the Soviet threats to close off Berlin to the Western powers and to locate nuclear weapons in Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida. Deadlock on both matters culminated in the world’s two most powerful leaders threatening nuclear war, Kennedy warning of “a long, hard winter” and Khrushchev adamant that “If the US wants war, that’s its problem”.
As the Irish Press’s London editor, I was covering the meeting and succeeded in getting an exclusive interview with the White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger. His version of the meeting was that Khrushchev gave Kennedy a frightening picture of the likely consequences of a nuclear war, with the major American cities being flattened like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a picture that the gung-ho US military top dogs had hidden from him .
That evening Kennedy told the New York Times top reporter, James “Scotty” Weston, that “he (Khrushchev) beat the hell out of me . . . the worst thing of my life”. It was Kennedy’s real introduction to diplomacy. – Yours, etc
DESMOND FISHER,
Roebuck, Dublin 14.
Sir, – The American essayist Gore Vidal was once asked what difference it might have made had Khrushchev been assassinated instead of Kennedy, to which he replied, “With history you can never tell but I am pretty sure Aristotle Onasis  would never have married Mrs Khrushchev!” – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN CASSERLY,
Abbeybridge,
Waterfall, Near Cork.
Sir, – I was very surprised to read in your Editorial “Remembering our JFK” that ” There is still despite the forests felled in his name no great biography . . .” I would highly suggest anyone who agrees with that statement hasn’t read the superb (and revealing) JFK An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek. – Yours, etc,
DAVID CLOHESSY,
Westbury, Co Clare.
Sir, – As the world remembers the tragic events of November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, we can only wonder why the US did not see it as an opportune moment to introduce strict gun control. How many lives might have been saved over the 50 years if it had? It would have been a fitting legacy. – Yours, etc,
DAVID McCLEAN,
Lisdarragh Lodge,
Hollystown, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I refer to Ciaran Hancock’s article “That sound you hear is the glass ceiling starting to crack” (Business, November 20th).
Hancock refers to the coalition negotiations currently taking place in Germany and highlights specifically the welcome news that it appears that both the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats have agreed on a 30 per cent quota for women on boards of listed companies from 2016. He adds that it would be hard to imagine any issue forming part of coalition negotiations in an Irish programme for government.
In fact the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil in the 1992 Programme for a Partnership Government, agreed to establish a minimum of 40 per cent representation of each gender in direct appointments to the boards of semi-State bodies. And in 2011, Labour and Fine Gael included a commitment to tackle the gender imbalance on State boards in the Programme for Government, again with a target of 40 per cent.
While Ireland still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality in the commercial and political spheres, approximately 34 per cent of positions on State boards in recent years have been held by women. It’s not only in Germany that this issue is being discussed. – Yours, etc,
SINEAD AHERN
Chair Labour Women,
Ely Place,

   
Sir, – Like March in her encounter with the fox in DH Lawrence’s novel The Fox I was spellbound.
When I entered my office at Lower George’s Street, Dún Laoghaire on Thursday morning I was confronted by an adult fox who had apparently entered through a rear door which had been left ajar.
We sized one another up: him with cold calm eyes and me so transfixed that I couldn’t reach for my iPhone to capture the moment. Then with an air of confidence, he turned and showing off his black glinted brush sauntered back towards the door and made his exit. The only evidence of our encounter was his fetid smell which prevailed over xerox paper and ink.
Methinks the forthcoming Dún Laoghaire Business Improvement District project is generating interest from strange quarters. – Yours, etc,
Dr DAVID JAMESON PhD,
York Road,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Dr Roy Flechner’s support for his colleagues (Letters, November 20th) is noble and very humorous and he is right in saying that I am not qualified as an academic historian – neither was I qualified to translate St Patrick’s Confessio from the original – I confess – I have never studied Latin!
That Trojan task was very graciously and professionally done by the late John Victor Luce, professor of classics at Trinity College Dublin, an exceptional Latinist and close personal friend who also wrote his own fascinating and controversial piece in which he claimed to have located the lost city of Atlantis.
In his retirement, he enthusiastically translated for me St Patrick’s Letters, along with other Latin texts published in Louvain by Fr John Colgan in 1647 that were essential to my research. He insisted the phrase “in Britanniis” was open to interpretation and that “in the Britains” or “among the Britons” would be an appropriate literal translation but he also accepted a proposition put to him during our discussions, that it could possibly be a reference to Brittany and not the island of Britain, exclusively.
If Dr Flechner or any of his colleagues would like a copy of that translation, so they can assess its accuracy and potential historic value for their archives, I would be more than happy to share it with them. – Yours, etc,
Rev MARCUS LOSACK,
Via Roma,

Sir, – Neither of us is an expert on the aesthetic, financial or practical issues surrounding the suggested building of a large number of electricity pylons in Ireland. However, we are aware of the debate surrounding the proposals and are troubled by the assertion that electricity pylons are implicated in the cause of leukaemia.
As haematologists who spend a lot of time diagnosing and treating leukaemia we are not aware of any causal relationship between low-energy electromagnetic fields and leukaemia. Although laboratory studies have indicated that electromagnetic fields may produce adverse biologic effects they do not release sufficient energy to damage DNA and therefore it is not surprising that the majority of studies of electric and magnetic field exposure have not shown an association with increased risk of childhood leukaemia. Furthermore, it should also be remembered that an association between childhood acute leukaemia and radiation from nuclear fallout is also quite weak, as numerous studies have failed to show an increase in the incidence of leukaemia in the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl reactor accident. It is fair to conclude that the cause of leukaemia remains unknown in the vast majority of cases.
A constructive debate on the pros and cons of a new electricity grid should not be confused by spurious health claims. – Yours, etc,
SHAUN McCANN,
Prof Emeritus of
Haematology & Academic
Medicine, St James’s
Hospital and TCD,
Clanbrassil Terrace,
Dublin 8 & OWEN P SMITH,
Prof of Haematology,
Consultant Paediatric
Haematologist,
Our Lady’s Children’s
Hospital and TCD,
St Laurence Road, Dublin 4.

   
Sir, – It is very hard to write a newspaper article that does its job for the day but is still worth reading for its own sake decades later. Your supplement (November 20th) shows Fintan O’Toole has done so again and again.
To a university scholar, it is obvious from his other publications, as well as the quality of his Irish Times work, that Fintan O’Toole would be right at the top of any number of disciplines in Irish or US universities: English literature, soc/pol, drama and theatre, non-fiction writing, or history. The range of his talent is unmatched by anyone in contemporary English language journalism. He clearly has long been fitted to serve a turn as artistic director of the Abbey Theatre. That he has put his gifts, along with any writer’s desire to exercise his literary gifts for literary and personal purposes alone, at the service of the daily needs of his country. That is a sacrifice worthy of public gratitude.
His effort to correct the course of the ship of state (one man in a dinghy in front of a supertanker) has a Greenpeace kind of nobility, futility, and Don Quixote quality to it, and a tragic quality too. Hats off to him. The country is in a different place because of his work. – Yours, etc,
ADRIAN FRAZIER,
Henry Street, Galway.
Sir, – If we could endure 25 years of Fintan O’Toole columns (Conor Brady has a lot to answer for!) we can survive anything. Long may your esteemed “opinion-monger” continue to inform, entertain and infuriate in equal measure. I suppose it can only be a matter of time before you publish “25 years of Irish life through the columns of John Waters”? – Yours, etc,
PAUL DELANEY,
Beacon Hill,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Fifty years on from attending secondary school, I can still recall the feeling of gloom that descended, every week, when my homework assignment included the writing of an essay. So let me say, at the outset, and in all sincerity, that it is no mean feat to keep a newspaper column going for 25 years. Congratulations to Fintan O’Toole on this achievement. Personally, however, I am uneasy with Fintan O’Toole’s brand of journalism. While he writes very well, he has been extremely selective in his choice of targets.
This is especially true of his coverage of abortion. Anti-abortion activists are presented by him as inconsistent, hypocritical and prone to the use of dodgy statistics; pro-choice activists are never, ever, criticised. In Fintan O’Toole’s world, no pro-choice politician ever bullies or lies, no woman ever dies from an abortion, psychiatrists can predict a pregnant woman’s suicide, and abortion is a treatment for suicide. Also, while a lot of scientific evidence has been discovered, in the past 25 years, about the development of life in the womb, Fintan O’Toole continues to ignore the baby entirely in this debate.
There may also be a wee problem with political and religious bias. Like so many others in The Irish Times, Fintan did not have a lot to say when a Labour Minister for Education, shortly after taking office, announced a cut in the number of special needs assistants in primary schools. Was he too excited by the simultaneous announcement, by the same Minister, of a cut of 50 per cent in the number of Catholic-controlled schools? – Yours, etc,
JIM STACK,
Lismore, Co Waterford.
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s column has grasped our attention vividly for 25 years. The pin-sharp clarity of his prose still illuminates each topic that concerns us. He has the soul of a writer and no doubt athwart the grain: otherwise he would be mediocre. May he always provide us with a fresh and sometimes necessary acid portrait of ourselves. – Yours, etc,
JOSEPHINE LINEHAN,
Garryvoe,
Castlemartyr, Co Cork.

   
Sir, – I find it slightly amusing that a timepiece on the facade of Clerys, where Dubliners have met for decades (Front page, Frank Miller, November 21st), came from the People’s Republic of Cork – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL GEARY,
Ballyagran,
Co Limerick.

Sir, – By the end of 2013 the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, an independent voluntary charity, will have made grants totalling about €17 million for the period 2011-2013 to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. We rely totally on the generosity of the donating public, who have shown magnificent support to the cause for almost 50 years.
I wish to state unambiguously that not one cent of this has gone to pay top-ups or any salaries in the hospital.
We are dedicated to helping sick children, and their families, through the provision of funding for improvements to hospital infrastructure such as the new Children’s Heart Centre, the new Cancer Ward (St John’s), equipment and patient/parent well-being , and through supporting critical paediatric research at the National Children’s Research Centre (its grants also amount to €17 million over 2011-2013).
The point that has been lost in this controversy is our sick children. Crumlin hospital cares for the country’s most seriously-ill young patients. These children are still sick and we do them no service by potentially putting at risk the fundraising that is needed to upgrade and improve what are wholly inadequate and inappropriate conditions in some parts of Crumlin hospital, through any suggestion that fundraised income is funding salary top-ups, or by our donors deciding to stop donating to our programmes in protest. This is not to dismiss the debate, but we need to ensure, above all else, that some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens – the patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin – do not suffer as a result of the decisions of grown-ups.
Don’t punish sick kids. – Yours, etc,
JOE QUINSEY,
Chief Executive,
Children’s Medical &
Research Foundation,
Our Lady’s Children’s
Hospital,Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Sir, – I can clearly remember my first day in the Post & Telegraphs. The new entrants assembled in a room heated only by a turf fire, in Exchange Court. Heralding our arrival into State employment, an cigire produced a lot of documents for signing. Among them, one which carried a “sanction” of dismissal, was a commitment not to hold down any other paid employment – I was glad to make it.
So many years and so much of taxpayers’ money later, we discover that such commitments did not extend to all.
Now we discover that government employees are receiving “secret payments” – “top –ups”. How does that happen?
If we have learned enough but accomplished nothing, we have discovered that some animals don’t change their spots. – Yours, etc,
ROY STOKES,
Limekiln Park, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Two eminent economists, Paul Krugman (Business, November 19th) and Martin Wolf, cite Larry Summers with approval when he suggests that our economic future may be depressingly like our present. They agree substantially on some of the causes: excessive savings; low effective demand; increasing inequality. But neither seems able to go one step further and suggest the unmentionable. Marx was right. Left to its own devices monopoly capitalism will lead to increased concentrations of wealth, a decline in the workers’ ability to consume and a dearth of productive investment.
Fifty years of social democracy managed to hold this tendency at bay but with the triumph of transnational capitalism, and no counterbalancing democratic force on a global or even regional level, capitalism is back to working as normal. Workers’ share of GDP is declining in most countries. Rights of global capital are enforced by the WTO but no equivalent force defends the global workers’ right to organise and negotiate a larger share.
Badly paid and insecure workers don’t borrow, don’t buy and don’t consume. Overpaid monopolists can’t consume all they produce. The inevitable result is stagnation; social decline and, according to Marx, revolution.
Perhaps he was too optimistic. Cyber-fantasy may be the new opiate of the masses and, with monopoly control of both state power and intellectual discourse, stable stagnation might last a very long time. Not a cheering thought. – Yours, etc,
Dr KEVIN T RYAN,
Castletroy Heights,
Limerick.

   
Sir, – Colin Manning’s letter (November 13th) is to be commended. Prevention of plagiarism requires the establishment and comprehensive implementation of effective preventative procedures along with effective anti-plagiarism software.
A willingness to take strong action against offenders is also needed. Whistleblower protection for staff and students should be included in Quality and Qualifications Ireland’s forthcoming white paper in relation to quality assurance guidelines for third-level education. – Yours, etc,
CILIAN Ó SÚILLEABHÁIN,
Friars Walk, Cork.

Sir, – I am a little bemused by the furore over the remarks by John Larkin, the Northern Ireland Attorney General (front page, November 21st) when there is a very pertinent precedent. As long ago as 1979 the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher at the Lancaster House talks on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe independence included provisions for a full general amnesty for all acts committed during the war there.
This freed Ian Smith and the UDI government and forces of any charges arising from “any act done in good faith for the purpose of, or in connection with, resisting or combating any organisation”. It likewise gave the opposing Patriotic Front forces immunity for “any acts in resisting or frustrating the administration purporting to be the government of Southern Rhodesia”.
It would be of interest to hear why a full amnesty was regarded as essential to the Rhodesian Lancaster House ceasefire agreement but was not considered as part of the Belfast Agreement. – Yours, etc,
TIMOTHY HORGAN,
Weimar Street,

Sir, – I greatly enjoyed your Fintan O’Toole supplement (November 20th). He has upheld the proud journalistic tradition of voicing views that challenge those who hold power, the politicians, and those who grant them that power, the people. Having recently become involved in student journalism I have learnt that this role is important at all levels as it in effect puts a much needed check on power. This role challenges the culture of impunity and other societal failures. I know that like Fintan O’Toole, student journalists across the country have the same zeal for challenging such failures and championing fundamental democratic principles. – Yours, etc,
SEAN CASSIDY,
Opinions Editor,
The College View,
DCU, Dublin 9.
Sir, – Thanks Fintan O’Toole. You said it all! – Yours, etc,
DERMOT FAGAN,
Llewellyn Grove,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – As I face into my 60s, I share Fintan O’Toole’s sense of frustration (Supplement, November 20th) that after a quarter century and more of struggle, we may have altered many things (particularly on the social front) but failed to change the fundamentals, eg the economic system.
For sustenance I frequently recall the words an elderly woman comrade spoke to me during the 1980s: “You may lose many battles but you will only be defeated when you give up!”
Personally, I would like to express my appreciation to Fintan O’Toole for his contribution to the gay rights cause. In particular, I recall that after GLEN (Gay & Lesbian Equality Network) was founded in 1988 we wanted to raise the profile of the issue; one of the ways we did so was by organising public meetings with prominent speakers. Fintan O’Toole accepted our invitation to participate in one such meeting sharing a platform with his colleagues Mary Holland and Emily O’Reilly; all three gave freely of their time.
I remember well how important and vital to us then was the sense of uplift and energy their contributions gave us gay activists that winter’s night in the Clarence Hotel. – Yours, etc,
CATHAL KERRIGAN,
Convent View,
Strawberry Hill,
Cork.
Sir, – Patrick Donohoe (November 19th) repeats the claim that the 1916 Rising was democratically approved retrospectively by the 1918 Sinn Féin election victory.
The Sinn Féin party elected in 1918 survived only four years as it broke apart on the incompatibility of democratic decision-making with the “right”, 1916 style, to impose one’s views violently.
A small majority of the votes cast in the 1918 election were for parties other than Sinn Féin. Unionist representation increased in that election.
Of the seven signatories of the proclamation only one, Connolly, had ever stood for election. His efforts to be elected to Dublin Corporation were rejected by the electorate.
All the violent organisations of the last 100 years – up to the present day – which claim inspiration from 1916 imagined or imagine that they too will be accorded retrospective democratic approval some day. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN Mc DONAGH,
The Court,
Bettyglen,

   
Sir, – I would like to thank Niall Crowley (Opinion, November 21st) for highlighting the One Percent Difference website http://www.onepercentdifference.ie and I would urge readers to visit the site, calculate their 1 per cent, but more importantly, look at some of the more than 690 organisations that have signed up to the campaign and the work they do. In doing so, readers will gain a new appreciation of the immense contribution civil society makes to life in Ireland.
Civil society organisations and the volunteers and donors who support them, do everything from helping vulnerable children to supporting the cultural and sporting organisations, not to mention funding overseas development projects. In short, they are the primary generator of social capital in the State and are richly deserving of public support.
That said, Mr Crowley’s reading of the One Percent Difference campaign is somewhat surprising. The campaign is not “deliberately tapping into our very unhappy relationship with tax”; in fact the central insight which drives the campaign is that Irish people are highly empathic, if shown a need they will respond to it. The campaign is trying to tap into basic decency, which is one of the characteristics of the Irish.
Philanthropy and charitable giving are neither substitutes for paying tax, nor for government investment, and no one I know is arguing they can or should be. The reason is mathematics. The most generous philanthropist this country has known, will have donated, in a lifetime of giving, approximately €1 billion to good causes in Ireland North and South. In comparison, the Irish State spends well over €1 billion every week. The resources philanthropy and charitable fundraising can tap into are tiny compared to the resources of the State, but can nevertheless play a major role in unleashing the talents and energies of thousands of volunteers for the public good, and in funding initiatives which government will never fund, such as advocacy. A vibrant and independent civil society is critical to the health of any nation, without funding from the public it will be neither.
Mr Crowley references an entirely separate proposal by Frank Flannery to encourage investment in the social sector by allowing those individuals who are non-resident for tax proposes to stay in Ireland up to the internationally recognised limit of 183 days on the payment of €5 million to a Government-designated fund or funds, and €1 million a year to the exchequer for 10 years. This is an interesting idea, but it is neither charity nor philanthropy as the funds are not controlled by the investor and the investor is receiving a benefit. Nor is it part of the One Percent Difference Campaign.
If Mr Crowley is uneasy about the campaign, I would be equally uneasy about his suggestion that simply paying your taxes is the limit to the contribution you can make to your community or your country. Thankfully, hundreds of thousands of people are willing to give generously of their time and money to supporting civil society, and to making Ireland a better and a fairer country. – Yours, etc,
SEAMUS MULCONRY,
Executive Director,
Philanthropy Ireland,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s article (“Church watchdog surprised by diocese’s child safeguard review”, Home News, November 18th) could lead to a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Devaney Review of Child Safeguarding Structures and Processes in Down and Connor. To clarify, the Devaney Report did not examine cases and has a distinct and different remit to the forthcoming audit from the National Board for Safeguarding Children.
My sole aspiration in commissioning Dr Devaney was to benchmark the safeguarding work of the Diocese of Down and Connor on an ongoing basis. The first Reynolds-Devaney Review was published in October 2011. As Bishop of Down and Connor, I welcome the audit from the National Board for Safeguarding Children as it will provide further insight into how we ensure the highest standards for the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
To ensure the independence of their work, the Devaney report could not be published until the National Board for Safeguarding Children completed its review. The Devaney report follows the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland’s own recommendation that a diocese should “develop a plan of action to monitor the effectiveness of the steps it is taking to keep children safe”. I share and unite with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in promoting the primacy of child safeguarding in the church. – Yours, etc,
Bishop NOEL TREANOR,
Down and Connor Diocese,
Somerton Road, Belfast.

Sir, – There once was a challenge offered by Irish captain Willie Anderson when the All Blacks performed their ritual at Lansdowne Road in 1989. My take on his action of approaching the visitors’ line-up, ahead of his team, showed some defiance with a hint of menace while almost face to face with the Kiwi captain, Wayne Shelford. Willie was not to captain an Irish side again; it seemed his action, which I enjoyed, was too provocative!
As for counter-active proposals, I submit that such action in future should be better rehearsed, perhaps immediately following the playing of Ireland, Ireland. But it’s only a game and the All Blacks are always welcome here and around the world of rugby. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN BRADY,
Geashill, Co Offaly.
A chara, – There is a simple response to the haka: the troika. Let us send the troika into the All Blacks dressing room before kick-off. The players will then appear on the pitch totally disillusioned, with their heads bowed and with no self-belief. They will have the added disadvantage that their match tactics will be announced in the German Bundestag before kick-off. – Is mise,
EF FANNING,
Whitehall Road,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – I love the haka and the South Sea Islanders’ variants. I am looking forward to bringing my son to the Aviva to see it in person for the first time. I travelled around New Zealand in 1999 and remember clearly the significance of the haka being explained by a Maori elder. It is a greeting (a dubious welcome) to another tribe visiting the home of the tribe performing the haka. It is a challenge to the visitors, a not-so-veiled threat of violence if they misbehave. The visitors do not perform the haka!
Therefore while I love the theatrics of it, it should not be performed by the All Blacks for away games. I agree that the best response, now that we are not allowed to repeat Willie Anderson’s march up to the noses of the Kiwis, is for the crowd to sing their lungs out – I for one will be doing so. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN McENIFF,
Leinster Road,
Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Sir, – I have always believed the haka gives the All Blacks a very unfair advantage over their opponents. If they really need this practice to perform their wonderful rugby, I would like to suggest they do it during their warm-up at the end of the pitch. – Yours, etc,
CLAIRE CONNOLLY,
Kilgarve Court,
Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

   
Sir, – Further to Richard Scriven’s excellent observation of a new season, Pristmas (Letters, November 19th), will January now be known as Postmas? And when large credit card bills arrive, will the memories of Christmas shopping excess they evoke be an instance of Proustmas? – Yours, etc,  
NIALL McARDLE,
Wellington Street,
Eganville, Ontario, Canada.

Irish Independent:

* I learnt today with great sadness of the death of Fr Alec Reid, the low-key Redemptorist priest who paid a pivotal role in ending the Troubles, and also in bringing an end to the Basque conflict in Spain. Fr Reid was the epitome of a man of God.
Also in this section
Don’t punish sick children in row over pay
Remembering JFK
Misplaced antipathy for religious intelligence
He kept out of the limelight and relied on his unshakeable faith in the Holy Spirit to move mountains.
He believed that the spirit moved in dialogue; as long as people spoke to one another there was hope. Where others said ‘no’ he said there was no choice; when others asked ‘why’, he said why not? He was steely only in his determination to make peace.
He was a man of extraordinary integrity and a passionate believer in the primacy of right and wrong. When he was pitted into the tumult of the North, he felt the pain and injustice suffered by parishioners personally. He wept with and for them.
He held the hand of broken-hearted mothers who had lost sons in the violence. He gave succour to dying British soldiers who were beaten, later shot and stripped of all dignity.
Only God and Fr Alec stayed by them. His compassion and innate understanding of, and sympathy for, the human condition made him unique.
The greater good was always his driving force, and he gave his whole life to its service. Much, no doubt, will be said about this fiercely courageous yet ultimately humble Tipperary man in the coming days.
Fr Alec would wear his customary quizzical smile and say, “they can’t be talking about me surely”, for he was not one for plaudits.
People may come and go from the political stage, but the quiet man from the Clonard monastery who bore the concerns of the community on his heart as if they were his own, will be sorely missed and never equalled.
His life was living proof of the words of St Francis that: “Nothing is as kind as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as real strength.” Where there was darkness he brought light.
T G Gavin
Killiney, Co Dublin
BEING A ‘SANDWICH MUM’
* When I read about the ‘sandwich generation’ (Irish Independent, November 13), I was shocked as it described, exactly, my life.
The only difference was that you said some of these women worked part time. I work full time and have three children living at home.
My weekends are spent catching up and preparing for the week ahead. Nobody cares. I am in my late fifties. I work hard at work and in my home with my family.
I do it all with no help. If I ask the children to do something I am told “yes, will do” – but I have to ask. Two hours later, it is not done – even though I might have asked several times – so, in the end, I do it. Then I get screamed at because I make them feel bad or ‘I love to play the martyr’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them but I am tired as I am the only one who shops, cooks, cleans, washes, and irons. I am also a taxi service at the weekend. My husband divorced me years ago and while he was ‘finding himself’, I held our family together.
He was never a hands-on father, and is not much better at this stage, but the kids are adults today so, of course, he spends time with them now. He gets the best of them on his terms, whereas I have no terms.
I am just ‘Mum’ who is always there, seven days and seven nights a week. During the day I smile, but at night I can be myself when I go to bed. I have my mother who has helped me and who cares, thank God.
It is hard and I am lucky. Retirement does not even enter my mind except how in God’s name will I support myself? Or my children?
Name and address with editor
DAVE GALLAHER SHIELD?
* There are many things that link Ireland and New Zealand, including the latter’s sizable proportion of people with Irish heritage and the fact that we are both island nations with near-identical population sizes.
Arguably the most profound connection is personified by Dave Gallaher, the Donegal emigrant who captained the Originals which, during the years 1905-06, were the first New Zealand rugby team to tour the northern hemisphere and were the first to be known as the All Blacks.
Given this incredible Irish connection, I find it remiss that there is no perpetual trophy in rugby contested between our two countries. The connection between, for example, England and New Zealand is celebrated quite colourfully by the awarding of ‘The Hillary Shield’ (named after Edmund Hillary).
In order to commemorate Gallaher’s death on French soil when fighting for New Zealand during World War I, there is a perpetual trophy contested between France and New Zealand known as ‘The Dave Gallaher Trophy’.
Why not establish a perpetual shield between New Zealand and Ireland and call it ‘The Gallaher Shield’?
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
NOT GREEN WITH ENVY
* Many thanks for your timely reminder of some of the rubbish with which we had to put up with during the last government’s tenure. I refer to the totally pie-in-the-sky piece by Eamon Ryan, leader of one of the political parties which oversaw the collapse of our country’s economy.
Apparently, all that has to be done to make Ireland “one of the best clean energy locations in the world” is to shut down all coal and peat-fired generating stations. Problem solved, as far as Mr Ryan is concerned.
But how are we to replace them? Simple – wind, solar, hydro, and flexible gas-fired power stations.
Surely gas is also obtained from fossil fuels? We don’t have sufficient sunlight to make the solar option viable. The only untapped waterfall with sufficient strength for hydro power would appear to be in Powerscourt. And, during a cold snap, wind strength is zero due to the ambient high pressure.
Mr Ryan then suggests interconnections with Britain and France. As an avowed detractor of nuclear power – the only truly viable option – what guarantee would Mr Ryan have that none of this imported power would have been generated in such a fashion? Or would it be a case of ‘not in my back yard’?
Truly, we have more to fear from the possible return to power of Mr Ryan and his cohorts than the worst that Brendan Ogle and his members can throw at us.
DK Henderson
Clontarf, Co Dublin
GOING NUCLEAR
* There seems to have been much fuss made of Iran’s nuclear programme in recent years, and especially now as multinational talks continue. However, personally, I don’t see why there should be such controversy.
If you consider that Iran had its democratically elected leader overthrown by the US in 1953. Then, during the Shah’s reign, it was offered nuclear weapon technology.
Then it saw the US arm Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Since then, it has seen its neighbours Iraq and Afghanistan invaded, and is now surrounded by US bases.
If ever a nation needed such a weapon as a genuine deterrent then Iran is that nation.
And yet Israel – which has violated international law for decades, militarily occupies Palestine and has attacked many countries – possesses nuclear weapons.
The nations that have nuclear weapons (US, UK, France, Russia, Pakistan, India and so on) are obliged under treaty to reduce their arsenals, and yet they continue to violate their own agreements.
So I ask: who is more of a threat, nations with thousands of warheads who refuse to disarm or a country thinking of getting a nuclear weapon?
Colin Crilly
Tooting, London
Irish Independent

* The thought process behind decision-making at government level would surely make for a riveting thesis for some PhD student because it is so utterly baffling to normal people.
Also in this section
Priest with rock-like faith pivotal to peace
Don’t punish sick children in row over pay
Remembering JFK
Take two different examples, which are both linked to Brendan Howlin’s role as Minister for Public Expenditure.
Firstly, he attempted to insert a last-minute amendment to freedom of information (FOI) legislation that would apply a fee of €15 for each question.
Secondly, we hear that if the ASTI votes to accept the Haddington Road agreement, its members will get an incremental payment backdated to July. But the Department of Education, which requires approval for such a payment from Mr Howlin, refuses to confirm how much this will cost because the public have no right to know the cost.
It seems the concept that the taxpayer should have an automatic right to know the cost of things such as backdating increments, genuinely never occurred to Mr Howlin. It is precisely that type of attitude, where an actual member of the Government refers to the Government as ‘them’ instead of ‘we’ that adds to the dysfunctional gap between the process of Irish governance and the public’s ability or will to hold it to account.
This in turn feeds into why the public sector fails so frequently to make long-term decisions in the public interest.
This attitude of fighting any effort at transparency shows that Mr Howlin and the Government he is part of have failed to make the reforms required so that the failures of the last government will never be repeated. A government and public sector afraid of embracing transparency and accountability are not capable of delivering the reforms that are still required for Ireland to reach its potential.
The proof of this is that three years into its term this Government hasn’t even bothered to apply a standard values message across the entire public sector.
Something along the lines of ‘the public is not the enemy and has a right to know…’
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
AUTUMN TESTS TO RELISH
* This year, not only does autumn in Ireland bring its customary crisp freshness in the evenings (which I, for one, always find energising and hopeful), but it also brings a fresh start for Irish rugby.
The Autumn International Test-match window is my favourite period in the sporting calendar, as it traditionally has been the period where we schedule matches to compete against the first-tier rugby nations of the world. It offers the most truthful gauge of where the standard of Irish rugby ranks in the world, not merely of where it ranks in Europe.
It is for this reason that I continue to suggest that we should find the will to play the “big three” southern hemisphere nations on a more regular basis than we currently do, to aid our desired improvement to their level.
Playing Australia and world champions New Zealand this month will represent a step-up which, sadly, is not likely to be repeated until the southern hemisphere returns to Dublin in autumn 2014.
Therefore, Irish rugby must take this all-too-rare opportunity to show the world what we are made of.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
SICK OF THE DART
* This week I witnessed a young woman vomiting at the side of the platform at Monkstown Dart station, a direct result of yet another case of extreme over-crowding on the service. It is the third time in as many months I have witnessed fellow passengers either vomiting or collapsing as a result of the dangerous over-crowding that is now an everyday occurrence on trains.
Contrary to public assurances from Iarnrod Eireann that reduced carriage capacities would ‘only affect non-peak time trains’, the issue of over-crowding has become critical – in particular at peak times.
A large part of this is due to Iarnrod Éireann’s definition of ‘peak time’. I would argue that peak time should encompass the hours of 07.00-09.30 and 16.30-18.30 and not merely 08.00-09.00 and 17.00-17.30.
Secondly, whether by accident or design, many trains during peak hours have clearly been ‘unofficially’ cancelled.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that if there are roughly half the number of trains serving the same number of commuters then said trains will be twice as full.
Name with editor
Monkstown, Co Dublin
RIGHT TO DECLARE?
* In her letter (November 8), Susie Glynn invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in support of a right to same-sex marriage.
It’s worth pointing out that when the UDHR was drawn up in 1948 the concept of same-sex marriage, as generally understood nowadays, was non-existent.
Therefore, to interpret the UDHR as establishing a right to same-sex marriage would be questionable, to say the least; and would be highly controversial, especially outside the Western world (most of the world simply doesn’t share the views of Western liberals on matters such as same-sex marriage and is highly unlikely to do so anytime soon, if ever).
Such an interpretation could well lead to the UDHR being perceived in much of the world as being little more than a vehicle for the advancement of a certain type of Western cultural imperialism and could destroy whatever moral force and claims to universality the declaration has outside the West.
Hugh Gibney
Athboy, Co Meath
OUT OF TUNE
* I sentenced myself to a minute (no more, please) listening to Justin Timberlake’s version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. I now fear I may have splinters in my ears.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont D9
FOR THE CHOP
* This week’s business section reports the sad news that world famous French piano makers Pleyel are to shut down after 200 years.
Having supplied Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin, the company are now unable to compete with competition from China. So, “chopsticks” has come back to haunt them!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Co Waterford
LIFEBELTS AT THE READY
* The news that Ireland will be exiting its bailout from the troika on December 15 is to be welcomed on a nationalist and morale level.
But it will not be negotiating a financial back-up package in case of setbacks or mishaps.
With an economy that has a debt of approximately 120pc of GDP, high unemployment and low growth, Ireland is heading out on to the great ocean of world finance on a prayer and a load of optimism – while waving the Tricolour of imagined independence.
It’s a very big risk given the volatile state of the world financial markets.
Surely it would be prudent to have as much protection as possible against financial upheaval. Ireland is a very small country in financial terms and with an open economy is really at risk in the present circumstances.
I think we should all have our lifebelts handy and our places booked in the lifeboats.
We may be getting our feet wet.
Liam Cooke
Coolock, Co Dublin

Even more leaves

November 21, 2013

21 November 2013 Even More Leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are moved from their beloved island. Will they ever get back again? Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves Peter does conservatory and the front light. I sweep leaves.
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Frederick Sanger, OM
Frederick Sanger, OM, who revolutionised science and medicine through DNA and protein sequencing, was the only Briton twice to win the Nobel Prize

Sanger in 1999 
1:37PM GMT 20 Nov 2013
12 Comments
Frederick Sanger, OM, the biochemist, who has died aged 95, was the only Briton — and one of only four people in history — to win the Nobel Prize twice.
His work unlocked the chemical secrets that underlie genes — the basic building blocks of life — and laid the foundation for genetic engineering and the Human Genome Project, a unique effort to spell out the chemical structure of every gene in the human body.
Sanger was awarded his first Nobel Prize in 1958 for work carried out with colleagues in the early 1950s. Toiling away in a small hutlike laboratory buried in Cambridge University’s department of biotechnology , Sanger deduced the sequence of amino acids (chemical building blocks) in the hormone insulin, the first complete protein sequence ever to be determined.

An introduction to protein sequencing
His second Nobel, in 1980, was awarded for related work carried out at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he developed an ingenious method of working out the basic chemical “grammar” of DNA that has enabled scientists to “read” the chemical sequencing — the long chains of DNA molecules — that form our genes. The technique he developed, known as “Sanger” sequencing, was still used decades later.
The DNA sequencing method Sanger pioneered, with Alan Coulson, involves manufacturing a replica of the gene under study. The next step is to add a specially coloured “killer chemical” that terminates the replication once it hits a particular chemical link, or nucleotide, in the gene (DNA chains have four types of chemical links, and the order of these determines what the genes do).
The process is repeated with different killer chemicals which stop the replication at different sets of links. This gives a mixture of DNA fragments of varying lengths, each finishing with one of four different fluorescent dye molecules corresponding to the four nucleotides of DNA. The fragments are then driven by an electric field through a slab of gel or hair-thin capillary tubes filled with polymer. This sorts them by length. The order of colours that emerges — corresponding to the sequence of nucleotides in the original piece of DNA — is scanned by laser and displayed on a computer screen.

An excellent and simple video explaining DNA mapping by “Sanger sequencing”
This method made it possible to sequence several hundred DNA bases in one day, a process that previously took many years. It enabled Sanger and his colleagues to map the sequence of links of simple structures such as proteins and viruses, leading to far greater scientific understanding of the chemical basis of genetic defects and the processes that lead to disease — work that has led to an explosion in drug and vaccine development.
Frederick Sanger was born on August 13 1918 into a Quaker family at the village of Rendcomb in Gloucestershire, where his father was the local doctor. Under his father’s influence and that of his elder brother Theodore, Fred became interested in biology and set his heart on following his father into medicine.
From Bryanston he won a place at St John’s College, Cambridge, but even before going to university he decided he would be best suited to a scientific career — albeit one which he hoped would have clinical applications. At Cambridge he became interested in the emerging field of biochemistry, convinced that it offered a way to develop a more scientific basis to understand many medical problems. But he did not appear to be a particularly promising student, and took three years to complete the first part of his degree when normally it took only two.
Sanger was a conscientious objector, and after taking his degree in 1939 remained at the university for a further year after the outbreak of war to take an advanced course in Biochemistry, surprising everyone by obtaining a First. From 1940 to 1943 he worked with Albert Neuberger on the metabolism of the amino acid lysine, and at the same time became involved in a government-sponsored research project looking at the protein content of the potato.
When AC Chibnall was appointed Professor of Biochemistry in 1943, Sanger joined his research group working on proteins. This was an especially exciting time in protein chemistry: new chromatography techniques had been developed by Archer Martin and Richard Synge; and Chibnall and Sanger believed that there might be a real possibility of determining the exact chemical structure of proteins.
This idea was controversial at the time as, although the 20 or so amino acids that can go to make up proteins were known, most scientists believed the arrangement of different amino acids in a protein to be random. One professor had even produced a complex mathematical formula that would express this random function. Thus, when Chibnall tried to get Sanger a grant from the Medical Research Council to work on protein structure, the grant was refused because “everyone knew” that the pattern of amino acids in a protein was random.
Nevertheless, Sanger scraped together enough money from various sources to start work. From 1944 to 1951 he held a Beit Memorial Fellowship for Medical Research; and in 1951, by which time the Medical Research Council had come to recognise the importance of his work, he became a member of the MRC’s external staff.
The protein which Sanger chose for his research was insulin which, as well as being relatively small in size and available in large quantities, had strong clinical implications in the understanding of diseases such as diabetes. He developed a method of marking the end amino acid and splitting it off from the insulin. The end amino acid was then identified and the process repeated. By this painstaking method, Sanger showed that a molecule of insulin contains two peptide chains made of two or more amino acids that are linked together by two disulphide bonds. It took eight more years finally to identify the 51 amino acids that make up insulin.
The award of the Nobel Prize in 1958 had an important and stimulating effect on Sanger’s subsequent career, enabling him to obtain better research facilities and to attract the brightest young scientists to work alongside him. In 1962 — with Max Perutz’s unit from the Cavendish Laboratory, which included Francis Crick, John Kendrew and Aaron Klug — Sanger moved to the MRC’s newly-built Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.
Surrounded by researchers interested in DNA and genes, Sanger was struck by the challenge of determining the order of bases in DNA — known as DNA sequencing. It was by this time clear that DNA was a linear code, and although the code was being unravelled, no methods existed to read the code in even the simplest genome. To Sanger, though, the problem was simply a natural extension of his work on protein sequencing.
Over the next 15 years he and his team developed several methods to sequence nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), eventually developing the method for which he won his second Nobel. The Sanger method is capable of “reading” genomes as much as 3,000,000,000 base-pairs long — 500 bases at a time.
Sanger shared his second Nobel Prize with Walter Gilbert, who had carried out independent research into the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids, and Paul Berg, for his work on recombinant DNA.
A courteous, serious-minded man of strong socialist opinions, Sanger’s thin, bespectacled figure, habitually dressed in academic-casual v-necked sweater, open-necked shirt and rubber-soled shoes, was a familiar sight in Cambridge for many years.
Though he was one of only four people ever to have won two Nobel Prizes (the others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen and Linus Pauling), he remained modest about his achievements, putting them down to hard work and team spirit rather than genius.
The walls of his simply-furnished house at Swaffham Bulbeck, a fen-side village outside Cambridge, were bare of plaques, certificates or citations: “You get a nice gold medal, which is in the bank,” he explained. “And you get a certificate, which is in the loft. I could put it on the wall, I suppose. I was lucky and happy to get it, but I’m more proud of the research I did. There are some people, you know, who are in science just to get prizes. But that’s not what motivates me.”
After retiring in 1985 Sanger devoted most of his time to working in his garden. In 1992 the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council established the Sanger Centre, for furthering the knowledge of genomes. Located 10 miles outside Cambridge, it became one of the main sequencing centres of the Human Genome Sequencing Project.

A guide the Human Genome Project
Among many honours and awards, Sanger received the Corday-Morgan Medal and Prize of the Chemical Society in 1951; the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1969; the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1977; and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1979. He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1983.
In 1954 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He was an honorary member of many foreign scientific academies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Sanger was appointed CBE in 1963 and made a Companion of Honour in 1981 — but he turned down a knighthood, not wanting to be called “Sir”: “A knighthood makes you different, doesn’t it, and I don’t want to be different.” He did, however, accept the considerably more distinguished Order of Merit in 1986.
Frederick Sanger married, in 1940, Margaret Joan Howe. She was not a scientist, but he described her as having contributed more to his work than anyone else by providing a peaceful and happy home. They had two sons and a daughter.
Frederick Sanger, OM, born August 13 1918, died November 19 2013

suchan104
• 8 hours ago

One of the true greats of British science and my biochemistry hero as a young undergraduate. I’ll never forget first learning about the Sanger method for DNA sequencing and being stunned by its elegant simplicity and also its power in revolutionising molecular biology. As a graduate student I occasionally encountered him at Cambridge where I was always impressed by the time he had for young scientists and how modest he was about his own achievements. RIP Fred Sanger.

paige_follett
• 9 hours ago

“Though he was one of only four people ever to have won two Nobel Prizes (the
others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen and Linus Pauling), he remained
modest about his achievements”
This really understates the matter.
Curie, Bardeen and Sanger should be grouped together, as they were the only ones who achieved the truly monumental, winning two Nobels each in the hard sciences.
Pauling, meanwhile, earned only one scientific Nobel. His other prize was the Peace Prize, which he was awarded for rather bog standard peacenik piffle of little actual intellectual substance.
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PdoffbyPS
• 11 hours ago

“Toiling away in a small hutlike laboratory buried in Cambridge University’s department of biotechnology …”
As an undergraduate reading biochemistry at Cambridge in the early ’60s, I well remember the hut and often refer to it anecdotally when I hear modern academics wanting millions for their laboratories!
And, by the way, Telegaffe writer, it was the Department of Biochemistry, not biotechnology.
RIP, Fred – and thanks for all your contributions to biochemistry.

John Mark
• 11 hours ago

How amazingly complicated is and, before Sanger, was the DNA molecule.
It required the genius of Fred Sanger and his teams of people over years, decades, to experiment again and again to discover that proteins each possessed their own order of amino acids, such as insulin.
Then he, and they, sequenced the nucleotide order to make the amino-acids to form the protein.
Great science and two very well-deserved Nobel Prizes.
His genius was to unravel the Design that was incorporated into the DNA molecule.
Since the unravelling of a pre-existing Design was brilliant, then the original Design from an idea in the mind of an Intelligent Being was even more brilliant.
Yet, Evolutionism tells us that “Clay Crystals” gradually built up the Design of the DNA molecule over billions of years.
This is sheer lunacy!
If the unraveller of the DNA Design had to be so intelligent, as Sanger was, then how could wholly unintelligent “Clay Crystals” have designed the molecule that Sanger took years to comprehend?
It’s impossible!
Yet, Evolutionism is based on just this!
Developmental biological evolution requires natural selection;
Natural selection requires mutations;
Mutations require DNA.
So, NO evolution occurred before DNA was in existence. How, then, did DNA come into being in all its splendid brilliance of Design?
Mankind is wholly deluded in believing in Evolution, yet it is the atheists’ bible that there is no God, no Designer.
How much longer will God have patience with the human race?
And what happens after death to those who have put their faith in such impossible beliefs so that they have denied the God and Father of Jesus Christ, who brought it all into being?
“What can be known about God is spread out in front of them. God has DISPLAYED it to them! What is invisible about God, about his everlasting power and his Deity, are seen clearly from the created world, They are understood from the DESIGN of things.
“They suppress the Truth in their unrighteousness” (EpRom).
But the Messiah, the Son of God, came into the world to take away the sin of false belief by his death on the cross.
see more

lyndon666 John Mark
• 7 hours ago

So, who designed God then?

Bonzodog John Mark
• 10 hours ago

Google ribozymes and then sod off.

Tony R.
• 12 hours ago

Place of death? This article reads like it was prepared well ahead of time and just whipped out for the occasion, without updating salient details.

Bonzodog
• 14 hours ago

Sad news. One of the true greats of British science

JJ
• 14 hours ago

“She was not a
scientist, but he described her as having contributed more to his work than
anyone else by providing a peaceful and happy home. They had two sons and a
daughter.”
Read this and weep feminists. How many brilliant inventions have been missed due to a lack of such women these days.

John Evans JJ
• 10 hours ago

I don’t see how this doesn’t map to a brilliant female researcher being supported emotionally by a male partner who stays at home raising the kids.

writerr John Evans
• 7 hours ago

Indeed, a rather weak analysis and demonstrates the folly of allowing inappropriate commentary. An obituary about an incredible scientist, belittled by irrevelant drivel.

JJ
• 14 hours ago

I’m pretty sure it’s Rendcomb not Rendcombe.

Guardian:

Touching though they were, the photographs of Licia Ronzulli with her daughter in the European parliament (Eyewitness, 20 November) raise an even more important question than the right of women to bring their children to work. When will we see photographs of a man caring and committed enough to take his child to work?
Richard Denton
London
• The out-of-control college course subsidy (Report, 19 November) is an uncanny re-run of the 1996-2001 independent learning accounts fiasco. Both were driven by ministerial dogma that private provision was best and the system needed a shake up. Both ran wildly over budget, no one monitored what was going on and in both there was a failure to anticipate the possibility of fraud (£100m in the earlier instance).
Dr PW Overstall
Hereford
• I’ve just looked at my Co-op Bank cheque book. On the cover it says “good with money”.
Hilary Perraton
Cambridge
• You refer in your editorial (19 November) to the defusing, by Justin Welby, of “an existential crisis” over women bishops. Are others as bewildered as I am by the increasingly frequent use of the word existential? It hardly ever seems to add meaning.
Tim Nicholson
Bristol
• An economics student notices that the same questions have been set every year for finals papers and challenges her professor (Letters, 20 November). “Yes it’s true,” he admits. “In economics the questions are always the same. All we ever do is change the answers.”
Dr Ken Bray
Bath
• Never mind missing Doctor Who because of a funeral in the US (Letters, 18 November). Imagine my disappointment when the broadcast visit by Wilfred Pickles and his radio show, Have a Go, from my village, Bethesda in north Wales, was cancelled in 1952 because the king had died. It started my lifelong republicanism.
Wyn Thomas
Swansea

Zoe Williams (Childcare is about so much more than economics, 20 November) rightly draws attention to the need to recognise that mothers value their time spent with their children. It is also important to value childcare workers’ time. This means paying and training them properly.
The introduction of the minimum wage in 1999 doubled the pay rates of half of all childcare workers. In 2006, Labour started to invest seriously in the skills of the early years workforce at every level. Now, as a result of austerity cuts, the children’s centres that are managing to survive are losing qualified and experienced staff as well as having to privatise the support services offered to childminders. Overall, budgets for staff development are disappearing and the government-commissioned Nutbrown report, recommending further improvements in training, is largely ignored. The market cannot deliver good-quality and affordable childcare for all who want and need it. Childcare is a public good, and our children and those who look after them deserve better.
Hilary Land
Emeritus professor of family policy,University of Bristol
• Zoe Williams reminds us of the inhumanity of our governing classes: whether it’s Liz Truss’s proposed testing of pre-school children or Ed Miliband’s 10-hour school day, all want to sacrifice family life to the greater economic good. The unanswered question is: whose economic good? Is it going too far to compare our current leaders to those of the Mayan and Incan civilisations who sacrificed thousands to their malevolent deities? Our leaders seem indifferent to the needs and wants of their people and are prepared to sacrifice the incomes, health and wellbeing to the malevolent deities of economics, whether they be named fiscal rectitude or economic progress. The difference is not intent: both groups are prepared to impose any suffering necessary on their peoples to appease their gods, to benefit themselves; the difference is in method of sacrifice: impoverishment instead of death.
Derrick Joad
Leeds
• The Guardian’s roundtable report on motherhood and mental health (20 November) provides clear analysis of the dislocation of health provision, reiterates the solid case for agencies and individuals to work across professional boundaries, but looks insufficiently at the lack of parity in policy, strategy and practice between mental and physical health services as a root cause of poor and tardy responses to need.
Whole-person care cannot be delivered without equal consideration of mental and physical health. A recent paper from the Royal College of Psychiatrists provides coherent recommendations that mesh to form a useful template for a government or hopefully successive governments willing to deliver that objective; to move in the words of the report from rhetoric to reality.
Efforts to achieve parity need to be driven consistently across all government departments – education as much as health – begin before conception and continue through life; considering the mental health needs of infants equal to their physical health needs, and adopting approaches to their wellbeing that prioritise the quality of relationships between parents and infants.
Alan Coombe
Independent consultant, child protection and early intervention policy and practice

I share Lord Falconer’s  view that the framework for intelligence oversight is not “fit for purpose” (Report, 18 November), but the former lord chancellor does not seem to appreciate that “bulk surveillance” was legalised by the Interception of Communications Act 1985. As well as warrants in relation to named persons or premises, section 3 provided for warrants where the minister certified “the descriptions of intercepted material the examination of which he considers necessary… “. This was the legal basis for the Echelon system of trawling through satellite communications before the internet, exposed during the 1990s. This same provision was carried forward into section 8 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The chances of persuading governments and their intelligence agencies to give up this broad surveillance power are remote, but its exercise must be subject to greater oversight than hitherto.
Peter Gill
Honorary senior research fellow, University of Liverpool

Simon Jenkins is right to call for the regeneration of England’s provincial cities as a better solution to the housing crisis than building yet another soulless new town (Why build new towns when we already have great cities?, 15 November). However, this will require changes to much more than just housing policy.
It will mean giving our cities the right – and, crucially, the funding – to control their own affairs, rather than being micro-managed by civil servants in far-off London. It will mean abandoning the longstanding policy of concentrating the overwhelming majority of public transport investment in the south-east (think Thameslink, CrossRail, new Routemasters, etc), and instead funding high-quality light rail systems in regional centres. In most developed countries, cities such as Bristol or Leeds would have extensive tram and metro networks; in England, they are told to make do with a few grotty buses.
It will mean dropping the automatic assumption that any “national” projects (think the Olympics) must always be in London, and that any such expenditure in the provinces is a luxury to be cut at the first hint of austerity.
Crucially, it will mean focusing on industry across the country, rather than always favouring finance and the Square Mile. Housing demand and employment are intrinsically linked, and until more jobs are created in the regions the pressure to cover the Home Counties in concrete will continue.
New Labour ran the country as if it were the United Kingdom of London and Scotland; with the Tories it is the United Kingdom of London and Surrey. Neither approach has worked. Westminster and Whitehall need to discard their prejudices and start regarding beyond the M25 as being part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Allan Dare
Cromford, Derbyshire
• Unlike Simon Jenkins, I welcome Lord Wolfson’s prize of £250,000 for a plan for a new garden city. His view that “the Tory peer is only trying to help his developer friends push through volume housebuilding where it would otherwise not be allowed” is unduly cynical.
I came to live in Crawley in 1957 when it was very young and the press ran stories of “the new town blues”. These stories were based on a few instances of “miserable married women”, which was later recognised as a national problem of young mothers trapped at home with young children and no support. I found a young community and people with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
For more than 55 years I have watched our town move to flourishing maturity, rejoicing in sound planning, parks and gardens, abundant trees and good living space.
But the need for more housing is recognised. We need planned communities more than ever so that people can live near where they work, have open spaces for active leisure, schools that children can walk to without crossing main roads, local medical centres and convenience shops. I hope that town planners will grasp the opportunity Wolfson’s competition gives to think imaginatively about the future and find suitable sites within the 92% of Britain not currently built on.
Gillian Pitt
Crawley, West Sussex
• Writing for the London Evening Standard recently, Jenkins had the audacity to compare the moving of BBC workers to their new offices in Salford to that of “the Pilgrim Fathers… settling New England among the savages”. In other words, don’t bother investing in a northern brownfield site, London’s where it’s at and always will be.
Now, Jenkins believes the cure for Britain’s sclerotic provincial cities is to embrace them, using Germany, among others, as a role model. The Germany I know is one of wealth-creating, medium-sized cities crisscrossed by world-leading public transport networks and linked to one another (and Europe) by a network of high-speed rail lines. Berlin alone may not be a as big a deal as London is, but linked to Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt it is.
Transport-wise, Manchester fought hard to build its Metrolink and extensions, only for similar schemes planned for Leeds and Liverpool to be scrapped (make do with your buses and two-car trains instead, said Whitehall mandarins).
Daniel Crowther
Preston, Lancashire
• Has Simon Jenkins ever tried living in the nightmare fringe of settled cities in England, more especially London? If he had, he’d have found precious little “vitality and social support” – in fact, much of the time the reverse: social isolation and instability. All places have their problems and their advantages, including big cities. But those aren’t made any better by continuing over-expansion. Starting a new town, and designing it well, physically and socially, makes a lot of sense sometimes. Like now, when we are needing masses of new homes built.
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex
•I read with fascination about a 74-storey private residential block that will tower over Canary Wharf and provide yet more buy-to-let flats for the rich (London is a property developers’ paradise, 18 November). It’s appalling that we no longer have a duty to provide affordable housing to the poor.
I was just researching the speeches my great-grandfather, James Ranger MP, made to parliament in 1949 about a different housing crisis. He read out letters from the “displaced”, many of whom were living in overcrowded accommodation in Ilford as there was no suitable accommodation in the East End. They struggled to survive without support from family and friends. This was a few years after the war.
We cannot say the same today. There has been no war, but simply a failure by successive governments to provide for all. We now need new legislation to build the social housing that honest taxpayers need rather than create another housing bubble that will help only the rich.
Mark Murton
Wallington, Surrey

Your front-page story that the police spied on the political activities of students at Cambridge University (Undercover police target students, 15 November) fits in with the way the police have prosecuted students protesting over the last few years. Following the 2010 demonstrations against tuition fees, counter terrorism police were used to process cautions in the police station. The police went on to charge more than 60 students of good character with violent disorder, the second most serious public order charge, which carries with it an almost inevitable prison sentence on conviction. Thankfully, Alfie Meadows’s acquittal earlier this year and the acquittal of the large majority of those who went to trial, have gone some way to undermine the use of excessive charging by the police and prosecution.
Matt Foot
Solicitor, Birnberg Peirce & Partners
• We the undersigned unreservedly condemn the arrest of University of London union president, Michael Chessum, for allegedly organising a demonstration apparently contrary to the Public Order Act (G2, 19 November). This arrest coincides with the revelations that Cambridge police have been attempting to pay students to inform on fellow student “activists”, and follows the arrest of a student activist in the 3Cosas campaign in the ULU building itself. We believe it is time to reiterate the basic position that universities are centres of learning and we condemn the increasing role of the police on university campuses to stifle legitimate protest.
All names in a personal capacity
Molly Cooper Unison Greater London women’s rep service group executive Max Watson Unison NEC and London Met Uni Unison branch secretary, Sandy Nicoll SOAS Unison branch secretary and London region general seat, Unison higher education service group executive, Simon Deville Branch secretary, Birkbeck Unison, Sean Wallis President, University College London UCU, Secretary London HE UCU, UCU NEC, Louise Lambe Unison HE member, Yassin Benserghin UCL Unison vice-chair, Gyta Nicola Branch secretary IOE Unison, Des Freedman Secretary, Goldsmiths UCU, Ulrike Sommer UCU departmental rep for the Institute of Archaeology, Tom Hickey Chair, UCU co-ordinating committee, David Hardman London Met UCU membership secretary, Jacqueline Sheehan Branch chair UCL Unison, Dr Laurie Stras Southampton University UCU exec committee member, Marian Mayer Vice chair BU UCU, Dr John Fry Department of physics, University of Liverpool, Mark Campbell London Met UCU (chair), UCU NEC, Daragh O’Reilly Manager, marketing and cultural industries division, Management School, University of Sheffield, Sophie Hope UCU Birkbeck branch secretary, Mike Lammiman VP University of Hull UCU, Dr Karen F Evans Senior lecturer, department of sociology, social policy and criminology, University of Liverpool, John Baxter UCU co-ordinating committee member, Sheffield College, Mark O’Brien Membership secretary, University of Liverpool UCU, Marian Mayer Vice-chair, BU UCU, Javed Khanzada Unison HE member, Lesley McGorrigan UCU, NEC member and Yorkshire and the Humber regional secretary, Ciara Doyle UCU, Kath Owen Yorkshire & Humberside Unison service group executive, Dr James Chiriyankandath Senior research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Dr Geoff Williams UCL UCU Immediate past (joint) president, Dr Andy Higginbottom Principal lecturer, international politics and human rights, Kevin Moloney, Cliff Snaith UCU London Met secretary & UCU London region secretary, Louis Bayman Department of film studies, Oxford Brookes University, Richard McEwan UCU NEC, Dr Sue McPherson Sheffield Hallam University UCU branch officer, Pauline Croft Professor of early modern history, Royal Holloway, University of London, Professor John Newsinger, Andy Coles UCU study coach at University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, Graham Mustin Joint branch secretary, Barnsley College UCU, Dr Julie Hearn Department of politics, philosophy and religion, Lancaster University, Dr Jennifer Fraser UCU Birkbeck branch, joint president, Linda Milbourne Birkbeck UCU, Dr Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick Senior lecturer, department of management, Leo Zeilig, Hewal Sores UCU equality officer, Bradford College, Dr Mark Abel UCU University of Brighton, Allister Mactaggart UCU branch chair, Chesterfield College, Laura Miles Chair, Yorkshire and Humberside regional council UCU and UCU NEC, Anthony Leaker Lecturer in humanities, University of Brighton, Matthew Raine Birmingham University Unison branch secretary, West Midlands region general seat, Unison higher education service group executive, Dr Chris Cocking Senior lecturer, Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia Vice-president, UCL UCU, David Graeber, Jonathan Gilhooly Lecturer, Brighton University, Professor David Oswell Head of department, department of sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, Alex Colas Birkbeck UCU, Professor Raphael Salkie School of humanities, University of Brighton, Louise Purbrick UCU member, University of Brighton, Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya UEL, Alberto Toscano Department of sociology, Goldsmiths, Patrick Connellan Branch secretary, Nottingham Trent UCU, Helena Reckitt Senior lecturer in curating, department of art, Goldsmiths, University of London, Kalbir Shukra Goldsmiths UCU

Independent:
I’m pleased that Emma Way’s “bloody cyclists” tweet and Boris Johnson’s callous comments were covered (“Boris turns on cyclists with threat to ban headphones”, 20 November).
Statistics suggest it’s careful cyclists who are killed. In contrast, the aggressive behaviour of boy racers protects them.
I’ve cycled to work for 35 years but, like most adults, I’m also a driver and pay as much road tax as anyone. I agree that I shouldn’t creep up on the inside of a lorry, but usually that lorry has just overtaken me before it cuts me up.
A nurse who knocked me off my bike said she thought I was turning left because I was on the left side of a road with no left-turning lane. A driver who knocked two cyclists flying (just one broken back) had been blinded by sunlight.
My colleague’s ex-partner, who was killed, was a man in his sixties. He didn’t jump lights or wear headphones. Another local cyclist was killed by a car that reversed back over his body. A van driver recently drove straight at me because he wrongly thought I’d gone through on red. Being pelted with snowballs by car passengers was a regular experience in Manchester.
You never get treated like this in the Netherlands or Germany, because a higher proportion of drivers are also cyclists.
To end on a positive note, when I was knocked off my bike in Park Lane by a motorcyclist weaving between lanes, although he didn’t stop, all the cars stopped dead. Very impressive.
Dr Andrew Charters, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire 
 
The promotion of cycling and road safety for cyclists isn’t something that has been evident, despite both the boom in the activity and the recent tragedies on London’s streets.
As a London cyclist, I feel it would be encouraging to see a multifaceted approach, bringing safe cycling to the forefront of the minds of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.
Signs that clarify rules of the road that are commonly neglected or misunderstood would be a great relief for many cyclists, such as those who have been cut up by drivers turning left without checking their mirrors.
Similarly valuable would be reminders for drivers not to edge out at junctions, drifting into the sights of oncoming cyclists, who must brake suddenly or dangerously swerve.
A campaign would also have to focus on the responsibility of the cyclist to respect the rules of the road and adhere to every safety precaution, in terms of clothing and lights. And there needs to be a further step: to encourage all road-users to respect each other, show humility and slow down.
I know that my own arrogance and pride have been as dangerous as bad driving to my safety while on my bike, and this is something that I have to address and need to be reminded of. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
There must be changes to encourage non-cyclists to get on their bike, including a real improvement of road quality. There’s nothing more frustrating than riding down a “cycle lane” littered with potholes. Equally annoying are cycle lanes that suddenly disappear.
Lastly, promoting affordable cyclewear, and explaining how to ride through all the elements in comfort and how to become involved in bike-to-work schemes will help move us towards a more bike-friendly, sustainable and healthy society.
Sam Edwards, London SW8
 
I am shocked by Sean O’Grady’s moaning about being penalised for using a mobile phone while driving a car (“Look, no hands”, 19 November), and by his sneeringly referring to the younger policeman who gave him three points and a fine as a “rookie”.  Having been penalised twice, he still does not seem to get it.
As a result of using a phone while driving, his attention is distracted from the road, and one of his hands is not free to control his car. This applies even when driving “at no great speed”. The fact that an intelligent man such as O’Grady does not understand this, despite being fined twice, is worrying.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
 
Somalia does not deserve a penny
David Waldrop’s complaint that “poor old Somalia” (letter, 18 November) isn’t getting any money from the rest of the world is tripe.
Somalia’s pirates and government are no friends of the British public. I dare say they still get lots of money in overseas aid despite this. But I will not give to a country that kidnapped and killed a relative of my family.
Perhaps you will, Mr Waldrop – but until this happens to you, stop acting the do-gooder and think about who deserves our  country’s money.
We give to people who deserve it, not just anyone. Look at Children In Need or the Philippines crisis.
If you wish to give to this disgraceful country, you can. In the meantime, my family and I will continue to grieve. Let’s hope you are never in the same position, having to tell young boys why their Grandpa won’t be coming home, or why Mummy is crying so much.
This letter is for my dead father-in-law, killed while trying to help out some people in Somalia.
Mark Buckmaster, Reading
 
Why I am not a ‘follower’ on twitter
John Rentoul (“One-Way tweets”, 20 November) is touchingly concerned that I “follow” nobody on Twitter.
Of course I don’t. Twitter is a left-wing electronic mob, and I visit it only to promote my Mail on Sunday blog, and to respond to and correct the ignorant attacks that are sometimes made on me there.
This activity is like unblocking the sink: necessary, disagreeable – but satisfying when you succeed and positively enjoyable when you hear the waste gurgling away down the drain.
As John rightly points out, I debate with readers on my blog, where there is room and time for intelligent discussion.  
Peter Hitchens, London W8
 
The many problems of condom use in africa
Finger-pointing at African women and especially sex workers for not using condoms (“The condom conundrum”, 19 November) is misguided and at odds with what people in the article said.
The problem with condoms is not that sex workers (or women) do not want to use them – condom use is high among sex workers – but that condoms are often not available, that women and men do not want to use them for various reasons, that sex workers carrying them face the threat of arrest and violence from the police, and that religious leaders do their best to prevent their use.
As for new prevention technologies such as gel and pills, the intention is certainly not for these to be used secretively, as it would foil their purpose.
HIV prevention is a shared effort by both men and women. Though it is encouraging to see articles on the HIV epidemic as we approach World Aids Day, these should be an opportunity to dispel myths and misconceptions rather than perpetuate them.
Roger Tatoud. Senior Programme Manager, International HIV Clinical Trials Research Management Office,  Imperial College London
 
That bedroom could be for children
Rivers Pound’s story (“Forced to pay the bedroom tax – even if the room is used for a kidney dialysis machine”, 19 November) elicits sympathy, but the fact is he could move to a one-bedroom flat, and if he comes to need dialysis, he could put the dialysis machine in the bedroom or lounge.
Then housing benefit would cover the full cost of his flat, and a family could move into his two-bedroom council flat.
Surely it is better that children have their own bedroom than that he has a spare room in which to put his dialysis machine?
Dan Dennis, Philosophy Tutor, Department of  Continuing Education, University of Oxford
 
You reported (“Every little helps Nadhim Zahawi”, 11 November) that a Conservative MP claimed almost £6,000 in heating expenses for his estate, but was to repay the part that was accidentally claimed related to heating his stables.
There is a severe housing shortage in this country. For the state to pay the heating bills of MPs is surely a form of housing benefit. As such, it should surely reflect the genuine needs of those affected.
To encourage recipients to move to properties  more in line with their real needs, I suggest their housing expenses should be reduced by £14 per week for every unoccupied bedroom.
Ken Gofton, Tonbridge, Kent
 
Who is innocent in financial services?
Is there anyone in financial services, anywhere in the world, who doesn’t deserve to be in prison – and what’s her name?
Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire
 
Make a royal  meal of horses
Would sibling solidarity be enhanced by marketing stallion steaks and filly burgers as Duchy Originals?
Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon
 
Man with the perfect CV
Should not the Mayor of Toronto become the next chair of the Co-op Bank?
Philip Goldenberg, Woking, Surrey

Times:

All road users should be made to obey the same rules, and pay the same penalties if we deliberately refuse to do so
Sir, News of yet another death of a cyclist on London’s roads is sickening (report, Nov 19), particularly so because no one appears willing to spell out the unpalatable truth. I live, work and drive in Central London and it is fast becoming a battle zone. With angry cyclists fighting angry drivers there can be no winners.
While cyclists continue to ignore all the rules that the drivers have to obey, including crossing red lights and driving with no lights, motorists will inevitably tire of having single fingers stuck up at them and having abuse hurled at them, so the polarisation will only get worse. Truck and bus drivers don’t stand a chance if cyclists insist on driving alongside their nearside.
By all means please build more and better cycle ways. Do everything and anything to protect cyclists not only against us but equally against themselves. At the same time please license the bicycles and the cyclists, make them obey the rules of the road and stop playing the blame game. Car drivers, lorry drivers and bus drivers are all genuinely scared of killing someone and we are getting little or no support from the Mayor or the Government. We should all be made to obey the same rules, and pay the same penalties if we deliberately refuse to do so.
Anthony Stanbury
London SW3
Sir, Chris Boardman’s proposal to ban lorries from Central London following the deaths of several cyclists (report, Nov 19) quite simply fails to address the root cause of this problem. The problem is not the vehicles, nor the cyclists’ behaviour. It is the very poor layout of certain road junctions in our capital city.
Almost all of these fatal incidents with cyclists in London occur at the same few accident blackspots — among the most notorious of which is Blackfriars Bridge. The underlying reasons have been known to highways design engineers for decades. The road junctions which regularly kill cyclists need to be redesigned and replanned in accordance with the best highways engineering design practices.
Peter Bryson
Addingham, West Yorks
Sir, Karen Oldridge (letter, Nov 19) suggests that drivers of all vehicles involved in accidents with cyclists should be held legally responsible. Whether or not such a law is in force elsewhere in Europe and whether or not it is an “easy, simple and cost-effective change”, I suggest that justice is the paramount issue as in any road accident. Justice can only be served by examining the circumstances in each case. Some motorists put cyclists at risk by driving too close or overtaking dangerously. Some cyclists risk their own lives by shooting red lights, cycling down one-way streets, and cutting suddenly and without warning across the path of cars.
Why should an accident involving a vehicle with a cyclist be an exception to this principle of justice?
Susan Band
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks
Sir, Karen Oldridge is quite right. As a cyclist in England I have lost count of the number of times vehicles have passed within a whisker of me. I have twice been hit by the rear-view mirrors of cars. What makes it worse now is the depth of potholes in the cyclist’s path, which often cause one to swerve at the last moment or risk serious damage to the bike.
Ivor Blight
Guildford, Surrey

A number of cases settle because the evidence obtained by both parties indicates that the claimant has suffered harm as a result of negligent treatment
Sir, M.C. Bishop (letter, Nov 20) is wrong to assert that a settlement in a medical negligence case rarely equates with genuinely poor practice. Save in the most obvious cases, the first step for a lawyer is to obtain a medical report from an independent expert. The expert is asked whether the treatment provided fell below the standard of any reasonable doctor and, if so, whether this made any difference to the patient’s outcome. Only if the answer to both questions is yes will the case proceed. In all but the most straightforward cases the expert’s opinion is tested by counsel in a legal conference.
A huge number of cases settle because the evidence obtained by both parties indicates that the claimant has suffered harm as a result of negligent treatment. Many other cases settle because each party has supportive expert evidence and it makes sense to compromise with an appropriate discount to reflect the risk to each party of losing. Given the complexity of medicine it is not surprising that there will be legitimate differences of opinion between experts. There are some cases where an opposing expert’s opinion appears unsustainable. If those cases are not abandoned we fight them to trial.John de Bono Serjeants’ Inn Chambers London EC4

‘History cannot be changed but is always a rich source of enlightenment in myriad miracle ways’
Sir, Leave the good old golliwog where he is and let people see the truth (report, Nov 20).
History cannot be changed but is always a rich source of enlightenment in myriad miracle ways. For us Africans and blacks of the diaspora, our sad history is a source of inspiration, as we slowly and painfully plod our way into modernity.
As I pen a tale of my own region — southern Africa — the exchanges between black, white and brown over the centuries make for everything that is enthralling in literature and the arts in general. God, golliwog and savage are all in the mix. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry — such is the perennial human experience.
sydney martin
Honiton, Devon

‘The masterly Counter-Offput of Graeme Smith in demolishing irritating wicket-kicking by Stephen Finn is likely to rank as a classic’
Sir, As mind games go, the exchanges preceding the Ashes Tests are pretty poor stuff. Subversive remarks on Twitter have a lack of subtlety, acute timing or original creativity that would appal a true gamesman.
Stephen Potter, in The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship (1947), surely established that the best ploys are those used during, or shortly before, play, and at close quarters.
Modern examples include the bowler discombobulation which some call Trottmanship. The masterly Counter-Offput of Graeme Smith in demolishing irritating wicket-kicking by Stephen Finn is likely to rank as a classic.
Potter’s researchers identified 8,400 instances of gamesmanship in one and a half days of county cricket at Hove. The latterday tweeters have much to learn.
John Barrons
Belfast

‘Church schools should make parents and children aware that the example of Jesus is our inspiration’
Sir, My formal education began in a church school (letters, Nov 18, 20). My family were not regular attenders at worship. I have no doubt that my current role was partly due to the inspiration I received from those who helped nurture me in my early years. Their motivation as Christians was clear as was their commitment to a rounded education.
I serve as a governor in a Church of England secondary school. Previously I was chairman of governors in an ethnically diverse church school. I hope and trust we can reflect some of the commitment that I saw from my teachers to achieving a diverse, yet gospel-centred community.
I make no apology for suggesting church schools should make parents and children aware that the example of Jesus is our inspiration. Equally, any faith school should see itself as part of the wider community and should seek to serve its interests.
David Picken
Archdeacon of Newark
Edwinstowe, Notts

Telegraph:

SIR – I was extremely disappointed to learn that David Dimbleby, the Question Time presenter, recently had a tattoo inscribed on his shoulder. I used to admire him for his grey hair and dignified looks. My only consolation is that the younger generation will no longer see tattoos as trendy.
Susan Honnor
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – I read your report about mis-spelled tattoos and the “think before you ink” campaign launched by a translation service, which aims to help people avoid them.
A tattoo parlour in Brighton advertised its wares until recently with a sign in its window reading: “1,000’s of desings”.
Barbara Aston
Brighton, East Sussex

Presumably this is Dimbleby’s attempt to be with it. Thank God he’s not a woman or we would all be treated to sights of bony old legs in a mini.

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Geoffrey Woollard
• 10 hours ago

“The Question Time presenter’s embrace of the scorpion may not inspire the youth.”
There’s no fool like an old fool. I hope that this man’s action will put off all young fools thinking of using him as a guide.

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peddytheviking Geoffrey Woollard
• 5 hours ago

Have you been reading Johnny’s comments, Geoffrey?

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Archie_Douglas
• 10 hours ago

I’ve never understood why people should want a tattoo.
As to why Mr Dimbleby chose to publicise it can only be guessed at. Luckily I will never meet the man and choose to watch the other channel or switch off altogether if he appears on TV.

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Ped
• 15 hours ago

I should have thought toidI tattooed across his forehead would have been more appropriate. We know what he is but a reminder every time he looks in a mirror, which I imagine is quite often, would be a salutary lesson to the old duffer.
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molamola Ped
• 8 hours ago

“toidI tattooed across his forehead would have been more appropriate”
So that every time you looked in the mirror it would remind you that you were an Ibiot who couldn’t spell.
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Ped molamola
• 5 hours ago

So why haven’t you reversed the ‘t’ then clever clogs?
You are obviously closely related to Fabian Solutions.
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molamola Ped
• 4 hours ago

I notice you have edited your reply to add “You are obviously closely related to Fabian Solutions.”
I was just pointing out a humorous error. I just looked up “Fabian Solutions” and see an I.T. company, Je ne comprends pas.
Listening to TMS, so eagerly awaiting any response.

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molamola Ped
• 5 hours ago

Shush, it reflects badly on you.

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peddytheviking Ped
• 14 hours ago

Look everybody, this is the real Ped. He looks a bit like me in real life but I’m peddy.
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Ped peddytheviking
• 14 hours ago

The clan motto should be ‘Best foot forward’.

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peddytheviking Ped
• 12 hours ago

‘….& the Devil take the Hindmost”.

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plum-tart
• 17 hours ago

http://www.express.co.uk/news/…

;-)……say no more
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One Last Try
• 19 hours ago

I have heard, that a scorpion tattoo walked into a tattoo parlour and demanded the man underneath him be removed, as the scorpion was fed up of always going to the Left
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 3 hours ago

…of always being a top.

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bassetedge
• 20 hours ago

A quick glance at the photo at the top got me to wondering if anyone has a full tattoo of a nice clean shirt and tie.
It would certainly be ‘different’, a new way of saying ‘look at me’..
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One Last Try bassetedge
• 12 hours ago

I had a dinner-suit T shirt, confused the ‘ell of od people til they got close
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JDavidJ bassetedge
• 19 hours ago

But it would be a devil to iron, on the older figure!
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phrancofile
• 20 hours ago

I don’t care whether or not Dimbleby has a tattoo, what worries me about the man is that he chose to go public on it. What a pillock.
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JDavidJ phrancofile
• 19 hours ago

It was done in the course of a TV series, so this was perhaps inevitable.

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JohnnyNorfolk
• 21 hours ago

There is no fool like an old fool. I find them repulsive.
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Geoffrey Woollard JohnnyNorfolk
• 10 hours ago

Snap. We agree, JN.

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hantshog JohnnyNorfolk
• 20 hours ago

Old fools or tattoos?
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chezz
• 21 hours ago

Dimbleby’s tattoo is one of those subjects that are discussed in earnest solemnity and at great length in national newspapers, and about which the rest of us couldn’t give two hoots.
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ilpugliese chezz
• 19 hours ago

Two hoots, no. But it just seems odd, so it gets talked about. Particularly by those who have no idea why anyone would want to have a permanent drawing or writing on themselves.
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JDavidJ
• 21 hours ago

“I was extremely disappointed to learn that David Dimbleby, the Question Time presenter, recently had a tattoo inscribed on his shoulder.” – Susan Honnor.
Why? he took the trouble to place it so it will be covered in polite company.
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One Last Try JDavidJ
• 19 hours ago

Would you be polite to Dumbleboy?
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JDavidJ One Last Try
• 19 hours ago

Generally no, but I was surprised how much I am enjoying his series about Britain and the sea. Lets hope he doesn’t return to current affairs.

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One Last Try JDavidJ
• 12 hours ago

I would love to see him swept away by the Gulf Stream, that is a current

SIR – Music remains a statutory subject for children aged five to 14 (“We’re turning a deaf ear to our musical youth”, Comment, November 19). But that in itself is no guarantee that children will receive a
first-class music education.
This Government’s plan will make the difference. It includes a guarantee that all parts of the country will get fair funding for music on a per-pupil basis, with a weighting for deprivation.
Music hubs will ensure that every child has the chance to learn a musical instrument and sing, as well as perform as part of an ensemble or choir.
We are providing funding of more than £200 million for music between 2012 and 2015 to support these hubs, as well as partnerships with In Harmony, National Youth Music Organisations, and Music For Youth. In addition, we continue to support the Music and Dance Scheme, which provides money for exceptionally gifted young people to attend the highly specialist music and dance schools and Centres for Advanced Training.
Related Articles
Will Dimbleby’s tattoo put young people off?
20 Nov 2013
Elizabeth Truss
Education Minister
London SW1
Freezing rates
SIR – The pressure on the Chancellor to freeze business rates is growing, but what actually is needed is a reduction and a freeze. It is, moreover, unfair to charge a property owner rates when there is no rent coming in.
G G Garner
Ravensden, Bedfordshire
Steam-age science
SIR – I was surprised to read your report that a team of scientists working at Cambridge University has “discovered” what makes a kettle whistle.
It has been known for a very long time that fluids or vapours accelerating through an aperture produce vortices, which make a noise; steam whistles were in common use in the 19th century; primitive man made musical sounds by blowing through a hole in a piece of wood; and most children are able to whistle before they reach adolescence. Ways to reduce or eliminate noise from air trapped in heating pipes are also well established.
If scientists at one of our leading universities are investing time and energy on “research” like this, it’s not surprising that we are falling behind in global technology.
Richard Jones
Goostrey, Cheshire
SIR – It’s a pity that the Cambridge scientists weren’t in my physics class at grammar school in 1957; it would have saved them a lot of time and money.
Geoff Jones
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Button bonanza
SIR – The remote control on my first video recorder had seven buttons. The one I have now has 54, plus another 39 on the television control. Still, I can sit on the sofa and fiddle with it without endangering anybody’s life.
My first car had a choke control, starter button and light switch. My present car has 37 buttons of various types at the centre of the dashboard, plus eight on the steering wheel, which has a stalk either side, each containing five switches and levers. I could have an accident if I don’t de-mist the screen, but I also could have one while looking for the right button.
Should I stay at home?
Ivor Williams
Okehampton, Devon
Getting your facts right
SIR – Britain’s independent schools have long been a beacon in an otherwise depressing educational landscape, but this won’t last long if Hilary French has her way. As the president of the Girls’ Schools Association, she argues that it is a waste of time teaching pupils mere “facts” in the internet age.
However, facts are the basis of all knowledge and understanding. How well we can think about any subject depends upon how much we know about it. We would never want to be operated on by a surgeon who lacked an exact knowledge of the human anatomy. Nor would we want to be represented by a lawyer who lacked specialised knowledge in the relevant field.
And so it is in any profession. Just being able to use the internet to extend one’s knowledge depends upon being able to ask the right questions and to judge the veracity of the information one finds.
Prof Tom Burkard
Easton, Norfolk
Planning system failure
SIR – The Prime Minister’s intervention on planning rather misses the shortcomings inherent in the system.
Test Valley is a case in point. Its planning committee has a broadly liberal approach to new housing and has given approval for tens of thousands of new homes on greenfield sites around Andover in line with its plan. However, a recent application for 21 homes was unanimously rejected after being “called in”, as the very specific site was inappropriate in the eyes of all the councillors, who had local knowledge.
The developer didn’t like this answer and appealed to the “Secretary of State”, in reality an unelected surveyor from hundreds of miles away with no local knowledge. He approved the scheme and there can be no appeal other than on the grounds of legal technicality.
Decisions need to rest with those we elect if we want sensible building in the countryside.
Toby Gunter
Weyhill, Hampshire
Tea time, all the time
SIR – I was pleased to read that three cups of tea a day can cut the risk of a stroke by 20 per cent. I drink around 15 cups of tea a day. That must mean that I will never, ever have a stroke.
Sarah Allen
North Newton, Somerset
Protecting the countryside from speed and signs
SIR – Cathy Cooke states that lower rural speed limits would require reminder signs at frequent intervals.
As the senior transport campaigner for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, I share her concern about the impact of signage clutter on the countryside, but fortunately, following our work with the Department for Transport, there is another way. Since January, new guidance on speed limits enables the creation of 40mph zones on minor rural roads that, like 20mph zones in built-up areas, do not require repeater signs. Currently only used in national parks, these are now options for all highway authorities.
Ralph Smyth
London SE1

Bill Thomas
• 19 hours ago

As comments are not allowed on the front page item about the weather – could I make a plea to the DT to STOP having hysterical headlines about “winter weather”. It is November – almost December. It is the time of year – every year – where the weather becomes colder and of ten snowy. I have lived through 72 such years – and for most of that time, we just had a simple weather forecast. The DT is implyig that the moment the temperature drops below 20º C we should all stay indoors….. Get a grip!
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ilpugliese Bill Thomas
• 11 hours ago

There’s something about winter arriving, but you can comment on that. What article are you talking about?

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Astrantia Bill Thomas
• 15 hours ago

Cold weather in November. Who’d a thunk it?
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richardl_on_disqus Bill Thomas
• 15 hours ago

No pleses keep them coming.
Nothing helps us deal with a real winter than being able read UK stories about a light frost causing travel chaos.
Maybe the EUocrats will discover Quebecs law that mandates winter tyres on all cars and bring in something similar for all of Europe.
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• 14 hours ago

Indeed! We had some winter weather “up north” in US that would have caused hysteria in UK. One time, after digging for half an hour, I still couldn’t find my mailbox. Called the guy who ploughed our drive to come and excavate it for me. We had snow still melting sometimes in May.
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danielfg Bill Thomas
• 16 hours ago

The trouble is that they have got all jittery about us oldies.

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peddytheviking danielfg
• 14 hours ago

Shivering, are they?

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Hugh Janus
• 19 hours ago

Toby Gunter – your example of an undemocratic planning decision is just another example of Cameron’s promise of ‘localism’, ie just another empty headline and a broken promise. Like all the rest.
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One Last Try Hugh Janus
• 19 hours ago

Spelling Error: The word is Locoism
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 14 hours ago

Isn’t that what we used to call train-spotting?
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One Last Try
• 19 hours ago

Should I stay at home? Ivor Williams
I was going to say that you should get out more… But it will be safer for us all if you stay in and help with music teaching!
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Nickr
• 20 hours ago

I’m surprised that there is no EU edict that children should be able to play Ode to Joy on at least one instrument. I suggest the kazoo.
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nicolsinclair Nickr
• 19 hours ago

Or, vuvuzela?
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ladyofthelake nicolsinclair
• 10 hours ago

You should have been over here during the world cup and listening to the US sports people trying to pronounce that word. Hilarious and I don’t think there were two the same!

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One Last Try nicolsinclair
• 17 hours ago

surely you will be moderated for that word
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nicolsinclair One Last Try
• 17 hours ago

Not yet…

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peddytheviking nicolsinclair
• 14 hours ago

Nor yet.

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One Last Try peddytheviking
• 11 hours ago

How do you, or where blow into a volvo to make it play a tune?

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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 6 hours ago

I don’t know. I’ll have no truck with that because I’m feeling rather tyred.

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thatIIdo One Last Try
• 9 hours ago

How do you … blow into a volvo …?
Stop being daf!
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peddytheviking thatIIdo
• 3 hours ago

If you do succeed in producing music from one of those Swedish cars, do you get the “Trumpet Volvntary”?

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One Last Try Nickr
• 19 hours ago

My musical aptitude is Zero. My singing prowess is such, that when joining in the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events, people move away.
Being made to stand up and sing infront of a class at school, to me was degredation and an infringement of my ‘uman rites. No child should have to undertake such punishment.
Music teachers may drive cars, they are not forced to repair them infront of a class and have vicious comments made about their prowess. Ban all musical education.
Before you Musicnazis complain, perhaps the pupils should be involved in whether they want to have their educational time wasted, as failed ‘artistes’, try to live their ambition to perform at the Albert Hall, or Hammersmith Pally, forced upon them
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ladyofthelake One Last Try
• 14 hours ago

Music appreciation classes would be ok. Just listening and enjoying various types of music.
It is said that George V was tone deaf and only recognised the National Anthem when everyone stood up.
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Fairy_Hanny ladyofthelake
• 14 hours ago

He wouldn’t these days as the ignoramuses don’t
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ladyofthelake Fairy_Hanny
• 13 hours ago

So the poor man would sit through his own song. Shame.

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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 14 hours ago

We had those in the 6th form, especially the 3rd year 6th. The plan was to turn us into cultured gentlemen, so I told the headmaster that if that were so, we should learn to play bridge. After that it was the only card game allowed in school.

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Astrantia One Last Try
• 15 hours ago

Oh dear. You surely shared my experience of music teaching. I arrived new to a Junior School and was made to stand at the front and sing Shenandoah in front too the whole class. I was mortified. Then, because the others had already started to learn the recorder and I hadn’t, I was told to bring a book and sit at the back for those lessons. As you can imagine, I hated Music lessons.
Contrast these with my daughter’s lessons, where it was a fun, participating subject with all sorts of instruments, and all sorts of songs to sing. She went on to join the local Music Centre, playing clarinet and bassoon. This helped her through Music AS which she did for pleasure, and then to join the ‘no audition, just come along and play’ orchestra at Uni. The difference in teaching was huge, as were the results.
I still resent the fact that I had such poor Music teaching and find the thought of trying to learn an instrument in my advancing years just too unpleasant to contemplate as I’m sure the feelings of humiliation would all come flooding back. How I envy those who had a different experience. However, when I went into teaching myself, such dreadful experiences made me mindful of how not to treat children.
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betonkopf Astrantia
• 12 hours ago

It is my secret ambition to learn the trumpet. It could not be any worse than the bell-clanging from my local church.
On second thoughts…

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ladyofthelake Astrantia
• 14 hours ago

I had piano lessons as a child and when it became obvious that I would never be any more than adequate, I moved onto singing lessons. I did well at those and had a strong voice. My downfall was competitions as my nerves were terrible and my singing teacher and accompanist was often late and on one awful occasion had forgotten to put in her false teeth. That was it. Singing for fun only now and in private!!

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Fairy_Hanny ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

We had a music teacher who had a huge mouthful of teeth and some were bad – when he smiled he looked like the keyboard
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ladyofthelake Fairy_Hanny
• 8 hours ago

Oh horrors. This lady wore knee length bloomers as well which were on display far too often. In all fairness she was an elderly spinster trying to make ends meet but she wasn’t half distracting when you were trying to concentrate.

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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 3 hours ago

I suspect those ends were trying to meet at her ankles.

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JDavidJ ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

LoL,
What was the problem with the toothless accompanist (I am guessing they were a pianist)?

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ladyofthelake JDavidJ
• 10 hours ago

You try standing on a stage trying to sing in front of an audience and a panel of judges when your pianist is gumming encouragement at you. How I got through it without wetting myself laughing I will never know.
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 3 hours ago

LOL!

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richardl_on_disqus One Last Try
• 15 hours ago

Are you me?
I remember back at primary school being singled out because I was only miming the words and then I was forced to sing on my ownsome in front of the class. It only happened once.
Despite that, I like to listen to music and can sing along (an ode to my joy, not my wifes) to music on the radio.
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 18 hours ago

I hated music lessons in primary school. The form mistress was an amateur operatic chorus member & she made us sing scales every bloomin’ day. Unfortunately the wooden front of her upright piano was so highly polished it was like a mirror & although she had her back to the class, she didn’t miss a thing. One day she caught me mucking about, hauled me out of my back seat & caned me viciously on the back of the hand in front of the class. I hated her.
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Fairy_Hanny Nickr
• 19 hours ago

More appropriately the anal sphincter
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Oberstleutnant Fairy_Hanny
• 17 hours ago

Ah, the butt trombone. A favourite in my household, to the distress of Frau Oberstleutnant.
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ladyofthelake Oberstleutnant
• 14 hours ago

Here as well. Lord Lake trumpeted his way out of the house this morning. My fault for making sausage and cheese quiche for dinner. He likes it so has a big slice and then we sit back and wait for the bassoon concerto in F!
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Fairy_Hanny ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

isn’t a trumpet and small trump

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ladyofthelake Fairy_Hanny
• 8 hours ago

More than likely if you mean a small trump. Looks as though you didn’t quite finish your thought.

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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 3 hours ago

Maybe the topic caused Spikey to make a dash for it.

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Fairy_Hanny ladyofthelake
• 6 hours ago

That’s what I meant – well spotted LotL
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 6 hours ago

Chicken is what gets me going, sometimes within minutes.
For the second time – pathetic troll!
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This comment was deleted.

Fairy_Hanny peddytheviking
• 11 hours ago

Why are you eating so many omelettes then Peddy?

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peddytheviking Fairy_Hanny
• 6 hours ago

Because I like them & they’re easy to do in my wonderful new omelet pan.

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JDavidJ peddytheviking
• 12 hours ago

Ped,
Mrs JDJ says that whatever I eat does it – I have no special needs.

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ladyofthelake JDavidJ
• 10 hours ago

As they say, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.”
What cracks me up is when the old man tries to blame it on the dog. We never hear the dog do it, just gradually become aware of an eye watering pong. You could hear the old man from over there probably!!
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SIR – If your leading article, “Sykes and Ukip could put Labour into No 10” (November 18), does become a reality, it is because the electorate rejected the Alternative Vote (AV) proposed in a referendum. The adoption of AV would have consigned that fear to history.
Under AV, Right-wing voters could have voted for their main choice, either the Tory or Ukip candidate, while giving their second preferences to the other candidate of the Right, with no risk of handing the seat to a minority Labour candidate.
Peter J Taylor
Louth, Lincolnshire
SIR – There is an alternative scenario to the one espoused in your leading article.
Ukip does not just take votes from the Conservatives; it takes votes from across the political spectrum from people who are disillusioned with the three main parties. A situation could arise at the next election where votes for Ukip do not necessarily mean a Labour government but a coalition of Conservatives and Ukip, however unpalatable that may be to the upper echelons of Conservative Central Office.
This would mean, of course, that the electorate would get a referendum on EU membership sooner rather than later.
David Samuel-Camps
Eastleigh, Hampshire
SIR – By consistently pursuing policies that are not conservative, the Tories have created a vacuum at the centre of British politics. One can hardly be surprised that another party, in this instance Ukip, seeks to fill that vacuum.
Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
SIR – Your leading article repeated the argument used for the past 40 years by Conservatives: support us so we can make the EU better, or the other lot will land us with more of what you don’t want.
Over those years the Conservative Party has forced us to become citizens of the EU, whether we like it or not, and handed swathes of law-making to Brussels. Why trust them to change next time?
Andrew Smith
Epping, Essex
SIR – Many donors who supported the Tory party are now giving to Ukip because of the significant difference between the two parties over Europe. While David Cameron has promised to offer a referendum, he will campaign to stay in the EU. Ukip’s aim is for Britain to leave the union and restore our national sovereignty.
Jonathan Grant-Nicholas
Brassington, Derbyshire
SIR – The Deputy Prime Minister thinks that wanting to leave the EU is unpatriotic (report, November 19). Nick Clegg should take heed of Mark Twain: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
George Sullivan
Cubbington, Warwickshire

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meerschaum
• 17 hours ago

Hammond says it will harm morale, if the vote goes against his plans for a part – time army.
Not half as much as getting a P45 from a desk jockey, when you have served on the front line.
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danielfg meerschaum
• 11 hours ago

I like the “desk jockey” bit. Very original.
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Fairy_Hanny danielfg
• 11 hours ago

It’s not really Daniel – it’s an old RAF expression
2

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danielfg Fairy_Hanny
• 7 hours ago

I only did two years National Service in the RAF so I didn’t get to hear it. And I didn’t get off the ground!

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thatIIdo Fairy_Hanny
• 10 hours ago

My dad (ex-RAF Coastal Command) calls them ‘Hooray Henries’ or ‘stumblebums’ – the ones who write the rules.
The people who forbid you from landing with more than 1% fuel load on board (I don’t know if he means 1% of total fuel load or 1% of total aircraft weight – he’s not clear about that).
But of course the Engineer always makes sure there’s a few hundred gallons spare, so they can get home.
Then the Hooray Henries banned dumping excess fuel in the sea.
So the only trick left up your sleeve is to fly ‘wind checks’ all the way home, to expend excess fuel. That involves flying in a triangular path to measure wind direction and speed accurately.
Then Hooray Henry says you can only fly a maximum of one wind check per hour.
Needless to say, about 90% of Coastal Comand aircraft losses were due to running out of fuel.
I think if I’d been there I would have spat my dummy out on the first patrol.
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jp1000
• 17 hours ago

I’ve pinched this from elsewhere, but worth repeating in a slightly different format
Mr Farage is recovering from an operation on his spine, proving he has one, unlike anyone in the LIB/LAB/CON camp
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betonkopf jp1000
• 12 hours ago

Sir Alec Douglas Home explained in his memoirs how he had undergone a spinal operation. “Congratulations,” he said to the surgeon, “you have put backbone into a politician”.
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danielfg betonkopf
• 11 hours ago

Alec did have a sense of humour. But he wasn’t a real politician – I think he was drafted in in an emergency.
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Fairy_Hanny jp1000
• 17 hours ago

brilliant jp
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nicolsinclair Fairy_Hanny
• 16 hours ago

recommends – loadsa of them
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Oldboy65
• 18 hours ago

UKIP will be the kingmakers after the next so called election in 2015. There is nothing to chose between the existing groups of people who sit in various parts of the house of commons. What a shower!
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durnovaria Oldboy65
• 13 hours ago

William Hill are offering 40-1 with a £25 free bet against the next government involving UKIP in a coalition. So stake £25 yourself to get odds of 80-1.
Must be worth a punt – your winnings are only 18 months away!
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toots
• 18 hours ago

Presumably the advocate of AV, Peter J Taylor, is a LibDem. It’s LidDems like the convicted liar Chris Huhne who want AV … to ensure that their middle-of-the-road party is never out of government.
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grizzly toots
• 16 hours ago

Morning Toots,
I see you have accrued a ‘down’ vote. I wonder where that might have come from! ;º)
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ladyofthelake grizzly
• 15 hours ago

Don’t know about you but some of these comments are wearying. A comment line should be for people to air their opinions and, of course, not everyone will agree. Some of the belittling remarks are quite off putting. Surely you can air your thoughts without being insulting to those who may hold a different view?
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grizzly ladyofthelake
• 13 hours ago

Hi, LOL,
I couldn’t agree more. They say an empty vessel makes the most noise: today’s thread is relatively (and thankfully) free of one particular empty vessel that makes far too much noise.
A few of us, on here, have been plagued for a number of years by unwarranted troll activity: sometimes by the random (and cowardly) pressing of the ‘report’ button, and sometimes by insulting remarks in place of proper debate. A bit of humour and banter is always welcome, unfortunately some think they can dish it out but turn nasty when on the receiving end. Occasionally threats have been made, but the moderators are either loathe, or too spineless to do anything about it. This means that the trolls are given carte blanche whilst ordinary commentators’ wishes are ignored.
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ladyofthelake grizzly
• 13 hours ago

Yes, I’ve noticed that there are a few that like to blow their own trumpets and put others down as well. You will notice that I don’t comment on a lot of the UKIP stuff because I live out of the UK, and although I read about it, I feel I am not well enough informed to pass a useful comment. I will vote up something that seems sensible or right.
It’s a shame that “grown ups” can’t express themselves without resorting to insult.
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 4 hours ago

I find it’s also a shame that some of the “grown-ups” on here seem incapable of reading an article or others’ comments without misunderstanding them (I’m not talking about irony here). Some don’t answer original questions or answer questions which simply aren’t there or respond by trying to divert attention to something which wasn’t formerly there.
Isn’t/wasn’t comprehension taught in most schools?
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ladyofthelake peddytheviking
• 4 hours ago

When I was teaching it certainly was. Everyone is fully entitled to their own opinions but it’s when people start to get nasty and insult others simply because they don’t think the same way that I, and I’m sure others, find unsettling.

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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 4 hours ago

I find it unsettling when others jump down your throat & shout WRONG! when their own view is only a bagatelle, whether it’s a shade of grey, 2mm, a component, a few mph, a traffic lane, or whatever, away from your own, if you can pin them down, that is.

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JDavidJ ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

Hi LoL,
Not knowing about something doesn’t stop many of us from commenting on it!
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ladyofthelake JDavidJ
• 10 hours ago

So I’ve noticed but some are not as pleasant about it as others. Not suggesting for a moment that you should all be boy scouts but a little courtesy goes a long way.
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thatIIdo ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

LotL,
If you don’t mind me saying so, courtesy to ladies at my dad’s servicemens’ club involves barring them from the snooker room. For their own good of course – they wouldn’t want to hear the comments when someone flukes a red or inadvertently hides the cue-ball behind the black.
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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• 8 hours ago

I don’t just mean courtesy to ladies…the other chaps as well. I’m fully aware of what goes on when “gentlemen” are on their own in clubs or rugby trips!! More power to them. Women can be just as naughty when the boys aren’t around.
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 4 hours ago

I attend the monthly meetings of a book-reading club, where the members are all retired & only 2 of us are men. If one of (us men) forgets himself & comes out with a fruity expression all the other members without exception cackle like hens.

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grizzly ladyofthelake
• 13 hours ago

Thank goodness for people, like your good self, who are a breath of fresh air on these threads. :-)
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ladyofthelake grizzly
• 12 hours ago

Thanks Grizzly. I do try to keep a sense of perspective and keep the old humour button active!
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Fairy_Hanny toots
• 17 hours ago

I must admit I voted against AV but I can see the attraction now if it meant UKIP had a greater voice, as it surely would.
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zaharadelasierra Fairy_Hanny
• 16 hours ago

Can’t agree with you, Spikey. Despite UKIP’s policy of voting for AV to give them a “fairer” representation, I did not, for the simple reason that AV leads to constant coalition government. UKIP will continue to grow until a tipping point is reached when they will become one of the two main parties at General Elections. When that happens and they are voted in as the Government they will become a strong government thanks to the “first past the post” system and not have their power diluted by having to work in a coalition-style system.
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mrsbimble zaharadelasierra
• 16 hours ago

I thought UKIP advised against voting for AV as it would ensure the Lib Dems were always in the running. I voted against for this reason, even though it seemed to make sense to help UKIP.
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zaharadelasierra mrsbimble
• 2 hours ago

You are mistaken, Mrs. Bimble, as the following shows:
“UKIP formally supports the Yes to AV campaign, a decision made by its National Executive Committee on 10 January and confirmed on 7 February. Its principal spokesmen on the campaign will be William Dartmouth MEP, and the party leader, Nigel Farage MEP.
The National Executive also resolved that UKIP members who do not agree with this position are entitled to express their personal views. However, it reiterated at its meeting on 7 February that UKIP members are expected not to actively campaign against the party’s policy, to seek publicity for the contrary view or, in particular, to be involved in any direct opposition to UKIP’s spokesmen and representatives in the course of the campaign.
Steve Crowther, Executive Chairman,
16 February 2011″

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danielfg mrsbimble
• 11 hours ago

Farage advised against voting for AV even though UKIP may have benefited. He was thinking more of the country than UKIP. An honest politician, and the media ridicule him.
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Fairy_Hanny zaharadelasierra
• 16 hours ago

Fair point Z
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YamalDodgyData toots
• 17 hours ago

Australia has AV, the middle of the road party “The Democrats” were marginalised and never gained a seat in the House of Reps because of it.
AV favours the National Party (a UKIP-like party) that prevents the other conservative party from veering to leftist ideologies (like Dave Camoron has and Kim Campbell did in Canada)
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richardl_on_disqus YamalDodgyData
• 16 hours ago

Kim Campbells defeat was truly spectacular, going from power to having only 2 seats in parliament.
Not all her fault, she took over at the last minute from a PM with the popularity of Brown and there were two regional parties who took a lot of the vote.
However, it was quite an achievement to reduce a majority of 169 to a phone box sized caucus, while keeping a significant number of the votes.
Hopefully an extreme example of what happens with first post the post and a new party.
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oldgit13
• 19 hours ago

One thing’s certain, there’s far more debate about UKIP and its chances now than at any time in the past and in itself that is welcome publicity. That can only grow as the borders are opened on 1 Jan and the EU elections follow next year. By the time we get to 2015 the whole scenario may have shifted dramatically and the political landscape could well change for ever.
That must be good compared to the near dictatorship we have at present, in which all three main parties aided by the media collude to deny the electorate their true wishes and the voting system actively works against smaller parties.
I’m sure LibLabCon would welcome the sort of apathy which marked the PCC elections but UKIP will ensure that doesn’t happen.
Wouldn’t it be good if the first thing which happened on the first day of the new government in 2015 were to be the cancellation of all standing orders payable to the EU and the issue of redundancy notices to all British MEP’s and their staff?
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Geoffrey Woollard
• 20 hours ago

There’s a lot of discussion about and some support for UKIP. Has anyone thought what might have happened had Mr Farridge not survived his ‘plane crash in 2010? I know of no other significant person who could or would have taken his place.
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mrsbimble Geoffrey Woollard
• 16 hours ago

I think the whole episode was very suspicious and if I were Nigel I would watch my back.
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Geoffrey Woollard mrsbimble
• 16 hours ago

Well, I was many miles away when it happened, mrsbimble.
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Oberstleutnant Geoffrey Woollard
• 17 hours ago

Its a good point, Geoffrey: Is UKIP a one-horse party? I only know of one other UKIPper, and he seems to be a Yorkshire buffoon who tells dodgy jokes at the expense of women at their conference. Can’t remember his name. Maybe UKIP need to get some more noticeable (for the right reason) people at the top?
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oldgit13 Oberstleutnant
• 13 hours ago

But then, given that UKIP has no MP’s and gets little coverage from the media, it’s not easy for them to gain publicity for anyone other than Nigel Farage.
How many prospective, as yet unelected, candidates can you name from any of the three main parties?
In the event I don’t see it as a problem. Support for UKIP will come for what they stand for, not for the personalities of those standing – and that’s as it should be.
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Geoffrey Woollard Oberstleutnant
• 16 hours ago

Thank you, Herr Oberst. Others don’t seem to see what they don’t wish to see.
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peddytheviking Geoffrey Woollard
• 4 hours ago

….while others see things which aren’t there & then make issues out of them & that isn’t restricted to politics.

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flexico Geoffrey Woollard
• 17 hours ago

Mmm, I think I see what you mean. If anything happened to Cameron there are a dozen or more career politicians ready to jump into the saddle. A dozen or more EU-ophile traitors ready to sell this country down the river to further their own careers.
People with courage, conviction and their country’s best interests at heart seem thinner on the ground. Or maybe they are just denied publicity by the blatantly biased BBC and (sadly) Telegraph.
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glentoran Geoffrey Woollard
• 17 hours ago

I would have thought that Paul Nuttal would have been quite capable of taking over as leader if necessary. Jonathan Arnott is also very capable.
I understand your concern though given that the Conservative party have failed to find anyone who can take over from Lady Thatcher so far.
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durnovaria Geoffrey Woollard
• 19 hours ago

Had you attended the hustings, you would be aware that there were other excellent candidates, such as Professor Tim Congdon CBE, a renowned economist. Then, there are our MEP candidates: Paul Nuttall, Nigel’s deputy, Roger Helmer (energy), Gerard Batten and Patrick O’Flynn, as well as rising stars such as Diane James and Margot Parker. All have acquitted themselves well on radio and TV, and whilst they may not have Nigel’s charisma, they would give anyone in the Lib/Lab/Con a run for their money.
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Geoffrey Woollard durnovaria
• 19 hours ago

Pull the other leg, durnovia. They’re pygmies.
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oldschooltie Geoffrey Woollard
• 18 hours ago

Geoffrey
You appear very adept at criticising but very reluctant to support you criticisms with alternatives?
Who, in your opinion, are the political ‘giants’ strutting the stage in Wasteminster?
The ‘big beasts’ of the LibLabCon are the very people who have brought the UK to where it is today – a bloody shambles!
Support the Harrogate Agenda for real change!

http://harrogatedeclaration.or…

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Geoffrey Woollard oldschooltie
• 17 hours ago

“4. all legislation subject to consent: no legislation or treaty shall take effect without the direct consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded, and that no legislation or treaty shall continue to have effect when that consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people;”
We’ll be having a referendum every few days if we follow that one (from the so-called Harrogate Declaration).

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oldschooltie Geoffrey Woollard
• 17 hours ago

Geofffrey
You mean a Referendum every week like Switzerland has?
A grand Total of 8 in 2013 with 3 of those held on the same day in March 2013!
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Irish Times:

Sir, – While it is understandable that private companies will want to head-hunt and retain the best staff to lead their organisations, as a health care worker, I am disappointed to learn that many of our respected managers and lead clinicians are being paid additional payments to agreed salary scales with the knowledge that these were in breach of Government policy, and funded from income that could have been used to improve patient care or hospital facilities.
Hopefully all concerned will return these over-payments as a means to restore their reputations and relevant hospital boards will appreciate that while there is a risk talented people may leave the country, creating a bidding war within our health services for talent is hardly affordable or wise in the current economic climate. – Yours, etc,
FRANK BROWNE,
Ballyroan Park,
Templeogue,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – The hysteria over supplementary pay for CEOs of voluntary hospitals is unreasonable and unfair. These are exceptional and very hardworking individuals who make our public hospitals work as best they can in very difficult circumstances. As such they are poorly paid compared to private industry and certainly compared to the baying politicians who now attack them. – Yours, etc,
JOE DUIGNAN,
Orwell Park, Dublin 6.
A chara, – I was horrified to read your article regarding the pay of senior managers in voluntary hospitals, in particular that of the Central Remedial Clinic, €242,865, of which €116,949 was funded solely by the CRC. The CRC was founded by Lady Goulding and began treating disabled children, on the top floor of No 6 Hatch Street, in the 1950s. I was one of those children who attended the clinic twice a week for three years. A large amount of running of the establishment and the transporting of children to and from the clinic was carried out by volunteers.
I am not suggesting we return to those distant days, but simply question the justification for paying such a substantial salary with “top-up payments” to a senior manager of what is after all a charitable organisation. How can an organisation as important as this, and which relies on Government assistance as well as the generosity of the public through donations and flag days, etc, pay its senior manager such an obscene amount of money? – Is mise,
JOAN PARSONS,
Gurteen,
Bantry,
Co Cork.
Sir, – James Reilly is about to tackle the breaking of the salary cap in the health services. Might he also walk down the hall in the Dáíl and demand that his Taoiseach and Tánaiste obey the salary cap for their for advisers. Four advisers on nearly twice the current salary cap of €92,000, averaging €165,000 each. This is our money being thrown around. – Yours, etc,
CONAN DOYLE,
Pococke Lower,
Kilkenny.
Sir, – Following the latest revelations about hospital salaries and the funds from which they are paid many of my friends and acquaintances have said that they will not give a red cent should they be approached for “charitable” donations by these institutions.
I disagree and, in mitigation, will write a cheque for precisely that amount to the first hospital that applies to me. Please specify whether I should make it payable to the hospital’s account or the CEO’s. – Yours, etc,
PAT Mc QUAILE,
William Street,
Drogheda,
Co Louth.
Sir, – I was both horrified and disgusted to read your article regarding the top-up allowance paid to the chief executive of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin.
While we the general public listen daily to the heartfelt pleas asking for a contribution towards the upkeep of Crumlin from our meagre salaries, which would be a far cry from the chief executive’s, perhaps the hospital should look closer to home. – Yours, etc,
MARY KELLY,
Ardmore Park,
Bray,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – As we deal with the ludicrous revelation that hospitals were quietly topping up CEO salaries with tuck shop profits, the Swiss are preparing to vote on the “1:12 referendum”. This is a proposal that the best paid in an organisation should be paid no more than 12 times the pay of the lowest grade in the same organisation. Essentially the proposal would roll back the widening gap back between pay at the top and bottom of society to what pertained before neo-liberalism took hold in the 1980s.
For 30 years we have been told there would be increased growth if we unleashed the risk-taking gifts of a new meritocratic aristocracy by throwing money at them. The increased growth never materialised and instead the proceeds of ordinary growth went to this new aristocracy.
The Swiss have copped on that this new aristocracy takes no risks and generates no wealth except for their own enrichment. There is a striking parallel with the way their ancestors came to a similar revelation when they invented modern democracy in the 1400s. Then the Swiss peasants copped on that the aristocrats they lavished with wealth in supposed return for their protection, actually retreated to their castles when enemies approached and simply let the invaders slaughter the peasants. If by chance an aristocrat was captured in battle, his fellow aristocrat would simply wine and dine him till a ransom was paid, while his unfortunate foot soldiers would generally be slaughtered. The Swiss simply got rid of its indispensable aristocracy and never looked back.
We can learn from history, that is if Ruairí Quinn will let children study something beside basic programming. – Yours, etc,
TIM O’HALLORAN,
Ferndale Road,
Dublin 11.

Sir, – Like many commentators, Fiona Reddan focused on the tiny number of public servants who retire on large pensions before concluding that public service pensions are “very generous” (“Are public sector pensions justified?”, Pension Focus 2013, November 19th). However, official figures show 78 per cent of civil servants retire on pensions of less than €30,000 a year. For most this is their entire retirement income as those who joined the public service before 1995 are not entitled to any State old-age pension.
The same figures show that just 6 per cent of retired civil servants have pensions of more than €50,000 a year. So, while it’s regularly cited as an example of public service generosity, former secretary general Dermot McCarthy’s extravagant pension is so vastly untypical that it fails to inform the wider debate on pensions.
Furthermore, a new public service pension scheme was introduced this year, which is expected to slash the public service pension bill by a third by the middle of the century. Among other changes, new entrants to the public service will now have their pensions calculated on the basis of career average earnings instead of earnings at the time of retirement, while pension increases will be linked to inflation rather than the pay of the grade from which a pensioner retires. – Yours, etc,
BERNARD HARBOR,
Head of Communications,

Sir, –   A private pension fund of €1 million will provide about €40,000 per year at age 60. The pension levy over four years will reduce this by fund by €25,500 (Three years at 0.6 per cent and one year at 0.75 per cent). Using these figures for ease of reference a person about to retire will have their pension reduced by €1,000 per year for the rest of their life while not being in a position to rebuild the fund at such a late stage. This compounds any significant losses in recent years and is very unfair.
Government employees should have similar reductions applied rather than escape as usual. The levy is unfair to people about to retire and has been largely ignored in the media. –  Yours, etc,
JAMES EIVERS,

Sir, – Kitty Holland’s article on landlords retaining deposits (News Agenda, November 20th) includes comments from the CEO of Threshold that the average rental deposit represents a low-income family’s life savings.
He might reflect that the average rental property represents a typical landlord’s life savings and then some (mortgage, property tax and negative equity). – Yours, etc,
JOHN BARNEWELL,
Sir, – Further to coverage of the assassination of President John F Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, it may be of interest to you to know how hundreds of Dubliners, including myself, first learnt of the shooting of JFK.
On the evening of Friday, November 22nd, I attended an early showing of the movie film Days of Wine and Roses in the Adelphi Cinema on Middle Abbey Street, Dublin. Mid-way through the film, the lights went up in the cinema and the projectionist stopped showing the film (at a highly dramatic moment in the plot) and the manager of the Adelphi walked onto the stage and addressed the audience. He told us news had just reached Ireland by TV and radio that President Kennedy had been shot and injured and had been taken to a hospital in Dallas, Texas. He said it was not known yet how serious were the president’s injuries, or whether he had been killed. He apologised for interrupting the showing of the movie, but said that he thought we would like to know this very dramatic news.
Of course, it was nearly impossible then to concentrate on the film. When we emerged from the cinema at the end of the showing, newsboys carrying bundles of evening papers were running around Abbey Street and O’Connell Street calling out ‘“President Kennedy shot, President Kennedy shot, read all about it, Evening Press or Herald, Herald or Press”. Ever since, my memories of the shooting of JFK have been indelibly linked with the movie Days of Wine and Roses. – Yours, etc,
HUGH McFADDEN,
Clareville Road, Dublin 6W.

Sir,– Of the suggestions to date re finding a match for the haka, those involving an element of Irish dancing à la Riverdance seem appropriate. I would suggest having a few trial runs in forthcoming inter-provincial matches, eg Munster could put The Siege of Ennis or The Walls of Limerick up against Ulster’s Waves of Tory or Connacht’s Galway Reel. Unfortunately, I can’t think of an appropriate title which might be chosen by Leinster. Any ideas? – Yours, etc,
AIDAN COOKE,
Mullaghconnor,
Dungannon.
A chara, – How about the Angelus? – Is mise,
LOMAN O LOINGSIGH,
Kiltipper Road,
Dublin 24.

   
Sir, – McAlpine’s Fusiliers were not the only the Irish navvies who rebuilt Britain after the second World War (Frank McNally, An Irishman’s Diary, November 16th).
A rival army was mustered by Wimpey – commonly believed to be an acronym for “We Import More Paddies Every Year”. – Yours, etc,
Dr JOHN DOHERTY,
Cnoc an Stollaire,
Gaoth Dobhair,
Co Donegal.

Sir, – As someone who on occasion agrees with Fintan O’Toole and on other occasions uses four-letter Anglo-Saxon in reaction to some of the stuff he writes, may I congratulate him on his excellent contribution to Irish journalism (Opinion, November 19th).
One of the things I disagree with him is when he says that journalism is “old fashioned” or “an anachronistic trade”. It will never be replaced by “social media” which is mostly just one step removed from the brain dead on the one hand and the lynch mob on the other. – Yours, etc,
ANTHONY LEAVY,
Shielmartin Drive,
Sutton, Dublin 13.
Sir, – I put your supplement of “25 years of Irish life through the columns of Fintan O’Toole” (November 20th) to good cheerful use, this cold and wintry morning. I made paper sticks to light the fire. – Yours, etc,
KEITH NOLAN,
Caldragh,
Carrick-on-Shannon,

Sir, – I see the blaa – introduced to Waterford by French immigrants in the 17th century – has been granted pan-European protection (Home News, November 20th).
It just goes to show that when it comes to getting your way with the EU, it’s not what you know, it’s Huguenot! – Yours, etc,
EDDIE HEARNE,
Grove Avenue,
Rathmines,
Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

21 November 2013
* On September 28, 1963, I saw President John F Kennedy at the Las Vegas Convention Centre. At that moment, he became a hero of mine. Up until then, I had the usual heroes, such as John Wayne, Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright of the TV show ‘Bonanza’), Sean Connery’s James Bond, Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia and Elvis Presley – the usual assortment of a 10-year-old growing up in America.
Also in this section
Misplaced antipathy for religious intelligence
Martin and Roy were well taught by Cloughie
It’s about time for reconciliation
He only spoke for 17 minutes but the crowd went crazy. My mother and my friends’ mothers were calling out: “Mr President, Mr President.” It was pandemonium.
I saw The Beatles at the same venue less than a year later and they had the same effect on the young kids that JFK had on the adults.
One of the saddest days of my life was the day that JFK was killed, November 22, 1963. I remember the exact moment. I was in fifth grade and in sixth grade reading class.
A kid named Kenny, who just got back from the dentist, and who was a bit of a jokester, burst into the room and yelled to the nun that someone had shot the president.
The nun immediately slapped Kenny across the face and yelled at him for saying what he said.
Kenny was shocked; he told the sister that he was not lying and then she began to cry. She knew Kenny was telling the truth.
About 30 seconds later, Fr Baldus came over the loudspeaker and told everyone to go to the church across the street to pray for the president, who had been shot. While we were on our knees praying, Fr Baldus, from the pulpit, said that the president had died. Darkness!
Later that day, at home with my misty-eyed and distraught parents, we sat in front of the TV.
I could understand my mom being affected but not my dad. My mom was a great supporter of JFK and my dad totally disliked him.
I asked my dad why he was crying. He told me it was because “he was one of us”. I’ll never forget that day.
Kevin Devitte
Mill Street, Westport, Co Mayo
‘COMPENSATION’ CRISIS
* I love the term applied to the “top-ups” paid discreetly to senior hospital management, namely “compensation”. My own word for it is a lot harsher but neither I nor you wish to be sued!
I am disappointed, too, given the dire state of the nation’s health resources, at the very muted tone of statements like “. . . picture reveals a complex pattern of pay rates, which evolved over years”. Evolved? Like organic growth? More like a cancer.
I am so angry. And apparently, “auditors found at least 36 types of allowance and benefit . . . were being made by voluntary hospitals and agencies to managers from HSE funds at a cost of €3.224m”.
Why has it taken auditors until now to ‘discover’ such behaviour? Are audits not carried out annually?
And the HSE’s response? Dismissals? Fines? Repayments demanded? Oh no! The HSE will continue to “. . . allow agencies to make a case to retain non-standard allowances for five years”. Ah no, lads, keep the money and sure keep paying yourselves way over the odds, too.
And why not? Sure it’s not like the HSE is short of cash, is it? Sure didn’t it lose €90m in the accounts somewhere – what’s a few million between friends, after all? What makes it okay (apparently) is the fact that “the compensation does not involve any public funds or any funds from the foundation or other donated funds”. It came instead from hospital car parks, etc. Oh, that’s alright then.
William F (Liam) O’Mahony
GraigueNAMAnagh, Co Kilkenny
* I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but now we learn that the profits from buying gifts and necessaries for patients in hospital shops and possibly feeding the voracious parking meters on the hospital grounds are being used to top up the already-inflated salaries of the hospital bosses.
We will now possibly have to endure power cuts during the run-up to Christmas because the pampered ESB public sector unions are worried about their over-generous pensions – and we mustn’t forget the teachers!
The Celtic Tiger has gone septic.
Keith Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
* It is extraordinary that minister Brendan Howlin and junior minister Brian Hayes in the Department of Public Expenditure did not know that funds to top up the already-obscene salaries of senior hospital managers were being paid from the till. How were these payments accounted for in the hospital accounts .
But then again, these are the same politicians who themselves are in receipt of thousands of euro in tax-free unverified expenses and allowances every year.
Aside from the horror that patients may have gone without treatment when funding was diverted to these management payments, it is equally depressing that, despite everything that has happened in Ireland since we went into meltdown, these people did not turn down this money.
And what does the fact we will just shrug when nothing is done about it say about us?
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME BID
* A country our size will never have the necessary infrastructure to hold the Olympics or the Soccer World Cup, so I was delighted to hear we are preparing to make a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. This would, without doubt, be the largest sporting event Ireland is capable of holding.
As well as being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it is also reputed it would boost the economy by €800m. Let the governments on both sides of the Border get behind the IRFU and make this happen.
John Bellew
Paughanstown, Dunleer, Co Louth
PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
* Last week, the British government’s minister for faith, Baroness Warsi, highlighted the growing crisis of Christian persecution around the world and called for an urgent international response. She is not Christian but Muslim.
The previous week in the House of Commons, MP Fiona Bruce listed the increasing prevalence of anti-Christian violence in the world.
Surely the time has come for the Irish Government and people to add their voice and efforts to protect and help persecuted Christians.
Religious freedom is part of civil liberty and is a basic human right. It is being horribly denied to thousands of Christians across the globe.
Fellow Christians and people of good will cannot stand idly by.
Fr Billy Swan
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
A FATEFUL DAY
* When jfk used to go visiting, he would usually descend the stairs from Air Force One clutching a hat in his right hand – this was especially the form if he was travelling without his wife – then the hat would be slipped to an aide as he stepped on to the apron to do the handshakes.
It was strange to see a man carrying a hat that he never put on his head, a bit like those car owners who place a ‘baby on board’ sticker in the rear window of the family car.
It would have been much smarter if he had donned something a little more protective on that fateful sunny day in Dallas. If he had, it’s most likely that he would have survived the gun attack on the limousine and that he would have gone on to win the ’64 election. But the gods decreed that it was not to be, and the gods, as we know, sometimes do work in very strange ways.
Paddy O’Brien
Co Dublin
SEANAD REFORM
* Seanad reform: make senators ineligible to run for the Dail for 10 years after they leave the Seanad.
JP McCarthy Annascaul, Co Kerry
Irish Independent

More leaves

November 20, 2013

20 November 2013 More Leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have to patrol some fishing waters off Batawanaland. But there is a relative of Pertwees fishing away. Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves Peter does conservatory
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Professor Anne Barton – Obituary
Professor Anne Barton was an American academic who illuminated Oxford and Cambridge with her studies of English drama

Anne Barton Photo: RAMSEY AND MUSGRAVE
5:34PM GMT 19 Nov 2013
Comments
Professor Anne Barton, who has died aged 80, was a leading authority on Shakespeare and English comedy and had a considerable impact not only on literary scholarship but also on theatrical productions — not least those of her husband, the theatre director John Barton, co-founder with Sir Peter Hall of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
A Professor of English at Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College, Anne Barton was best-known for her first book, Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play (published in 1962 under her previous name Anne Righter), in which she examined the context and significance of Shakespeare’s frequent references to plays and players, his use of such devices as the “play within a play”, and his fascination with the relationship between actors and their audience.
The book described how, in the centuries before Shakespeare, the relationship between actors and audience had undergone a gradual but dramatic shift. The “mystery” plays of the old medieval guilds had developed somewhere between ritual and art: “The people who crowded about the pageant on the feast of Corpus Christi formed an audience, certainly, but an audience actively involved in the performance of a community rite,” she wrote.
With the emergence of “morality plays” in the 15th and 16th centuries, however, this began to change. Reality was now the audience and illusion — in the form of a play with a central “Everyman” protagonist and supporting characters personifying good or evil — was on the stage.
But the relationship between actors and audience remained ambiguous. Anne Barton recounted a fascinating experiment in 16th-century Rome in which two groups were invited to see a play, each entering a large hall divided by a closed curtain — from opposite ends. When the curtain was drawn back, both groups thought the other was on stage and waited for the performance to begin. It was only after about 15 minutes that the joke dawned.
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So by the Elizabethan period, drama had reached a precarious equilibrium whereby the “play world” excluded the audience at the same time as recognising its presence. Shakespeare, Anne Barton argued, exploited such ambiguities in order to explore the relationship between art and life, actor and audience, pretence and reality, reminding us that “elements of illusion are present in ordinary life and that between the world and the stage there exists a complicated interplay of resemblance that is part of the perfection and nobility of the drama itself as a form”.
Such insights had a huge influence on stagings of Shakespeare’s works. For many years RSC productions were informed by Anne Barton’s erudite programme essays; she also contributed introductions to new editions of Shakespeare’s works — most notably to the comedies in the extremely influential Riverside edition, aimed at, and still heavily used by, students in Britain and America.
In her introduction to the 1980 New Penguin edition of Hamlet she noted that the play was “unique in the density and pervasiveness of its theatrical self-reference”. In the same year an RSC production, directed by her husband and starring Michael Pennington as the Dane, featured benches around the side of the stage upon which actors would sit to watch the performance as it took place, while rows of props and costumes were visible at the back of the stage.
In fact, though, in academic circles Anne Barton was equally respected for her work on English comedy — the theme of a festschrift dedicated to her in 1994. Describing herself as “very much an Odyssey person, not an Iliad person”, she had an influence on critical thinking about comedy across a wide range of texts, and was the author of Ben Jonson, Dramatist (1982), The Names of Comedy (1990) and Byron: Don Juan (1992).
In her younger days Anne Barton cut a strikingly elegant and glamorous figure. As a young lecturer at Cambridge in the 1960s and at Oxford (where she became the first woman Fellow of New College) in the 1970s, her penchant for miniskirts and thigh-length leather boots left a lasting impression on generations of male undergraduates.
But, just as she was never neutral about literature, Anne Barton was never neutral about people, and was given to intense likes and dislikes — not always rational. Intimidating to undergraduates who failed to get their essays in on time, she applied a coruscating wit to scholars with whom she disagreed and could be a difficult colleague. But those whom she liked and who responded to great literature were treated to great learning, great eloquence and boundless generosity. She gave loyalty and inspired loyalty. She observed the highest standards in her work and expected no less of others.

Anne Barton, in a portrait by James Lloyd (COURTESY OF THE WARDEN AND FELLOWS OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD/BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY)
An only child of wealthy parents, she was born Bobbyann Roesen on May 9 1933 in New York and attended Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, moving to Britain after graduation to do a PhD under Muriel Bradbrook at Girton College, Cambridge. As an undergraduate she had won a prize for an essay entitled Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play. At Cambridge she developed it into a thesis about the legacy of medieval theatre in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama — and later into her best-known book.
After taking her doctorate Anne Barton became a lecturer, a Fellow of Girton College and director of studies in English, before moving to the University of London, where she spent two years as Hildred Carlile Professor of English and head of department at Bedford College. In 1974 she moved to New College, Oxford, where she spent 10 years before returning to Cambridge to take up a post as Professor of English.
During her years at Oxford she and her husband John Barton lived in some style in an Elizabethan manor outside Stratford-upon-Avon, restored by Michael Reardon, the architect of the Swan Theatre and a close friend. After returning to Cambridge, she bought a Jacobean manor house near Wisbech, while her elegant rooms in Trinity, overlooking Nevile’s Court, were furnished with an exquisite collection of art and antiques.
A superb cook, she entertained on a lavish scale, hosting house parties where favoured academic colleagues, struggling through piles of undergraduate exam papers, could relieve the tedium with excellent food, wine and company.
Anne Barton served on several academic editorial boards and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1991. Her last book, Essays, Mainly Shakespearean, was published in 1994.
Anne Barton is survived by her husband, whom she married in 1969 after her previous marriage to William Righter was dissolved. She is also survived by her two cats, the last in a long series, which arrived from the cattery answering to the names Robin and Batman and were promptly, and very typically, renamed Damon and Pythias.
Professor Anne Barton, born May 9 1933, died November 11 2013

Guardian:

It can hardly be a surprise that private colleges have rushed to expand their student numbers on the back of state-funded fee loans (College course subsidy spirals out of control, 19 November). This open goal has arisen from the government’s decision to incentivise the higher education market by preferential treatment of private providers. While universities have limits on student numbers and are required to sign up to a national quality assurance system and an independent student appeals process, private providers have been allowed to operate and expand without such restraints and protections for students. The real tragedy is that students at private colleges may be prevented from finishing their courses. Meanwhile universities and colleges are likely to face further reductions in their already depleted teaching grant and access to HE course funding as ministers try to claw back the overspend.
Pam Tatlow
Chief executive, million+
•  How we can have “over-recruitment” in an area that has no limit on recruitment is unclear, but, that aside, the problem is not with the private providers. Private providers, both not-for-profit and profit-making, are a positive introduction to the higher education sector. They provide quality alternative, and often innovative, provision and choice for students.
The government has actively pursued a competitive market place for higher education in Britain but this is now coming at the expense of social mobility and financial support for working-class students. This was predicted by the sector years ago.
The reductions in spending on higher education fall disproportionally on the funds for teaching and student opportunity, which are key to both the prime minister’s and deputy prime minister’s goals of a fairer society. What would make a difference is for the government to alter its course to ensure the parts of society who will lose out most in the current reforms are protected.
Geoff Layer
Vice-chancellor, University of Wolverhampton
• As universities minister, David Willetts has persistently advocated competition from allcomers on the grounds that this would sharpen the oldcomers. The colleges of further education, where most HNC and HND courses are delivered, are now for funding purposes private and so, in effect, business corporations, touting for business wherever it can be found. EU nationals who have lived in the UK continuously for three years by the September of the beginning of their HND/HNC courses are indeed entitled to apply to Student Finance England (soon to be privatised). So competition is running riot…
Bruce Ross-Smith
Oxford
•  As a graduate from a poor working-class background David Cameron’s words about the poor working-class of Britain having “low” aspirations make my blood boil (Report, 15 November). Over the past 20 years hundreds of thousands of “poor” people went to university on the advice of politicians to secure a future in what politicians called the knowledge-based economy. What about 90% of them actually got were huge loan debts but no proper graduate job.
The poor of Britain have always had mountains of aspirations and hopes for a better future. And many have worked hard for that future only to find more poverty at the end of the road to social immobility. We are also acutely aware of the high aspirations that greedy politicians have clawed for themselves out of Britain’s crumbling economy. It is no coincidence that at recent general elections about 17 million did not vote.
Paul Kilfoyle
Cannington, Somerset
•  Today On Wednesday 20 Novemberwe are taking action against the government’s plan to sell off the student loan book before the next general election. As a secret report for the government has made clear (Money, 14 June), in order to make student loans more profitable for private companies, privatisation of student debt will be accompanied by an increase in the burden of debt placed upon graduates. This amounts to a retrospective hike in tuition fees.
We are building a movement on campuses across the country to stop this grossly unfair and unjust policy. Today’s national day of action co-ordinated by the Student Assembly Against Austerity is just the start.
Aaron Kiely NUS Black Students’ Officer
Shelly Asquith President, University of the Arts London Students’ Union
Sam Dathi Student Assembly Against Austerity
Clifford Fleming Young Greens co-chair, campaigns and citizenship officer, Manchester University Students’ Union
Matt Stanley NUS National Executive and President, Midkent College Students’ Union
Amy Gilligan NUS National Executive
Adnan Pavel Deputy president, London Met University Students’ Union
Fiona Edwards Student Broad Left and Student Assembly Against Austerity
Marienna Pope-Weidemann Counterfire
Kelly McBride President, Sussex University Students’ Union
Charlotte Bennett Women’s officer, Midkent College Students’ Union
Barbara Ntumy NUS Black Students’ Committee
Tom Richards President, Norwich University of the Arts Students’ Union
William Pinkney-Baird President, Durham University Green Party Society
Mostafa Culture and diversity, University of the Arts London Students’ Union
Rosie Black Activities and Volunteering, University of the Arts London Students’ Union
Hannah Roberts University of the Arts London Students’ Union
Tom Barker Socialist Worker Student Society at Durham University
Miguel Costa Matos Undergraduate social sciences faculty representative, Warwick University
John Beckingham Student academic representative, University of Chester
Kate Hurford Black students’ officer, Goldsmiths Students’ Union
Ben Hayes Goldsmiths College Student Assembly Against Austerity
Lily Waring Gloucestershire Students Against the Student Debt Selloff
Emily McDonagh Charity and fundraising officer, Essex University Students’ Union
George Venizelos Participation and involvement officer, Essex University Students’ Union
Harriet Pugh Humanities representative, University of Manchester
Josiah Mortimer Young Greens National Committee
Jasmin Lukasz Green Party Society events coordinator, University of Sussex
Nick Devlin Chair, Green party, University of York
Duncan Davis President Young Greens, Nottingham University
Richard Mashiter Activities officer, Sussex University Students’ Union
Sophie van der Ham Welfare officer, Sussex University Students’ Union
Imogen Adie Communications officer, Sussex University Students’ Union
Juliette Cule Education officer, Sussex University Students’ Union
Emily Holliday Operations officer, Sussex University Students’ Union
Megan De Meo Counterfire Society, Liverpool University
Hannah Ellen Clare Co-convenor, Young Greens North
James Elliott Oxford University
Ally Rooms, Tom Costerton and Ruairi Paton SOAS Student Assembly Against Austerity
Tabetha Bhatti SOAS Stop the War Society

An experiment in times of austerity-sponsored need. I work for a charity supporting adults with mental ill health and facing or experiencing homelessness. I like my job and earn 16K a year, resulting in a scrape to stay afloat. My employers are also constantly having to economise to stay alive. All housing-related county council contracts are being cancelled in March 2014, and a retendering process is under way. April 2014 will see a 60% cutback in housing support, despite screaming out for extra funding to respond to the increasingly desperate circumstances of so many people’s lives. I could be qualifying for such a service myself in a few months, if any exist to apply to. So is there any person or organisation wishing to donate to myself, my employer or both? As part of the experiment, you can suggest or decide how the money gets spent. We’re all jumble-saled, coffee-morninged, skittle-eveninged, fun-runned and quizzed out. We’re all knackered.
Stuart Bryan
Worcester

Tristram Hunt (Interview, 16 November) said he opposed a “crazed, burned-out investment banker model of teaching”. Has he been reading Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed? High time we looked again at Friere on the “banking concept” of education, which, he suggests, has the “capability to minimise or annul the student’s creative power and … serves the interests of the oppressors” by inhibiting critical thinking.
Rowena Dawson
Kegworth
There are not many jokes in the “dismal” science of economics (Report, Letters, 19 November) but consider the plight of three academics adrift in a boat, with no scarcity of tinned food but no tin-opener. The engineer tries levers etc, the physicist heat and pressure. The economist’s solution: “I would assume we had a tin-opener.”
John Launder
Winchester
Earlier this year, I saw Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss at the Hampstead Theatre. The first act opened with both male and female nudity and the second consisted of little else but male nudity (Unthinkable: Get ‘em back on, 16 November). There was much swearing and drinking of alcohol. For those of a sensitive nature, there was a notice warning that smoking would take place during the performance.
Dr Peter B Baker
London
Over 40 years ago, Savormix (Ian Jack, 16 November), along with Nuttolene and Sausalatas, helped me survive university; students were compelled to buy tickets for meals “in hall”, but vegetarians were not catered for, and so I needed to supplement the poor diet that was provided. I, too, regret the passing of the former, but thankfully, after a brief disappearance from the shelves the latter two have returned.
John Petrie
Leeds
Whether or not George Osborne wears hard hats because he wants to be in the Village People (Letters, 19 November), it is shameful that no cabinet minister has grown a November moustache. A Zapata might be the one thing that could save the image of Iain Duncan Smith.
Keith Flett
London

Your writers (Letters, 18 November) raise important issues in relation to the government’s proposal to introduce a criminal offence of wilful neglect in the NHS. However, they miss the main point. We know from the aviation industry that true safety cultures rest on true no-blame cultures. The government has used a highly selective focus in choosing one of many recommendations from the Berwick report. What is genuinely interesting is what they have chosen to ignore. That is, Berwick’s firmly held belief that patient safety can only be improved by a true no-blame culture in which each mistake and each compliment is treated as an opportunity to learn and so improve clinical care. The likelihood that our current secretary of state will adopt these truly progressive concepts seems close to zero. And more is the shame. We will have missed an historic opportunity to change the culture of the NHS radically, and it is only patients who will suffer.
Drs Peter Hindley and Anna Pilkington
London
• So, five years for wilful neglect of patients. How long one wonders for wilful neglect (or is that destruction) of an entire health service? On the assumption that our elitely educated government cannot possibly be simply incompetent, there must be a reason for the continuing assault on the NHS. All I can come up with is that by the next election they will, in all honesty, be able to say that the NHS is no longer worth saving.
John Main
Clinical director, renal medicine, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough
• Simon Wessely’s fears on scrapping GP practice boundaries are correct (Will your GP choose you?, 19 November). This is another inevitable step in the progressive marketisation and privatisaton of the NHS. The concern for many GPs is how this puts a commercial value on patients, creating a competition for high-value, healthy patients who rarely attend, while complex patients, who bring in the same capitation fee, will be shunned. The consequence of this little-discussed change, along with the market environment introduced by the Health and Social Care Act, will be to open the door to large private health corporations hoovering up the healthy, leaving the “frequent fliers” to the unviable traditional family practices, paradoxically favoured by Hunt.
Dr Brian Green
Yarnton, Oxfordshire
• Polly Toynbee has indeed exposed the scandal of the “infection of the NHS with competition law” as a consequence of the 2012 Health Care Act. As an NHS foundation trust governor, I have been  dismayed to discover what can happen when services are put out to tender. The clinical commissioning group awards the contract to a body – private or public or a mixture of the two. That body can then subcontract elements of the service to another provider, who can then subcontract elements to a further provider. The consequence  of this is a plethora of legal contracts, invoicing and accounting  and employment of non-clinical administrators, all at the expense of money that should be spent on patient care. As an NHS finance director remarked to me: “Yes, it is crazy but at least it keeps the accountants busy.”
Ian Arnott
Peterborough

The 50th birthday of the National Theatre has provoked much celebration, programmes, books, the parade of successive male artistic directors, anecdotes from star performers, a lot of mutual back-slapping and, in some cases, back-stabbing.
Simon Callow had high praise for Michael Blakemore’s book Stage Blood (Review, 16 November), which raises the curtain on some nastier aspects of theatre life. However, Blakemore is too preoccupied fighting the bigger boys for the limelight to notice that there are no women’s parts in his drama. Jocelyn Herbert has a bit part and Gillian Diamond a walk on. When it comes to two outstanding dames, he deals with them briefly, describing a farewell party at the Old Vic: “Peggy Ashcroft impersonated Lilian Baylis … it was a complete surprise to see her being so funny, sketching with a sure hand Miss Baylis’ cockney accent and physical peculiarities”.
Baylis ran the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells. She engaged Ninette de Valois and thereby was responsible for the founding of the National Theatre and the Royal Ballet. I believe it was her legacy that was being fought over and which Olivier had inherited. She launched the careers of Olivier, Richardson, Gielguid, Ashcroft, Redgrave, Thorndyke, Edith Evans, Guinness and many more. She died in 1937, aged 63. There is no memorial at her grave and none at the National Theatre, other than a terrace named after her, and there has been no programme about her as part of the celebrations. It is time this remarkable woman was awarded the tribute due to her. A word from Blakemore or Callow might have helped.
Liane Aukin
London

Why is it bank chief executives do not need banking qualifications (Co-op Group plans overhaul after allegations about chairman, 19 November)? I seem to remember that Royal Bank of Scotland’s board – including Fred Goodwin – had not sat a banking examination between them. Yet we are to believe they are uniquely qualified – which justifies their uniquely generous remuneration packages. Now Euan Sutherland, new head of the Co-operative Bank, has been “appointed from B&Q”. So he supposedly knows all about the nuts and bolts of banking.
Jennifer Rees
Cardiff
• So the Co-op Bank got into a mess because it had an unqualified and inexperienced chairman. So were all those other bank chairmen equally unsuited for their jobs, too?
Graham Oakley
Halifax, West Yorkshire
• Presumably, had Paul Flowers had the necessary senior banking experience, the failure at the Co-op Bank would have been spectacular enough for a taxpayer bailout.
Ross Martin
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire
• Never mind the chairman of the Co-op Bank, is the chancellor of the exchequer suitably qualified for his job? After graduating in 1992, Osborne did a few part-time jobs, including as a data entry clerk, typing the details of recently deceased into a NHS computer database. He also briefly worked for a week at Selfridges, mainly re-folding towels. In 1993, Osborne originally intended to pursue a career in journalism. He was shortlisted for, but failed to gain, a place on the Times trainee scheme, and instead did freelance work on the Peterborough diary column of the Daily Telegraph. Some time later, an Oxford friend of his, journalist George Bridges, alerted him to a research vacancy at Conservative central office.
Roy Barratt
Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire
• Hopefully the cocaine Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers is alleged to have bought was Fair Trade.
Dave Hanson
Hull

You cite California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein’s “spectacular about-turn” after her history of supporting the Iraq war and blanket surveillance of US and world citizens presumably as a way to pressure Britain’s politicians (Leader comment, 8 November). She has done no such thing, according to other sources, since the “reform” she proposes would codify and pretty much legitimise the current practice – her way of appearing to change and control what she doesn’t wish to.
Meanwhile, on page one of the same issue, Suspicion fragments the web, which is “leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private emails and phone records from UK and US security services”. Now aren’t over 90% of the servers based in the US – and in California? Perhaps if the Guardian explored the economic consequences to these servers and Google, Facebook, Amazon and to the tax-collecting consequences of this potential breakup, the California senator might take notice. (Another potential story is the economic tie-in between the US and contracts with private companies, such as the one Snowden worked for, and difficult-to-get information on the campaign contributions of those secret firms).
It is depressing but expected that some world leaders sit up and take notice when they are spied on, but are at peace with the massive spying on their citizens: such distrust democracies have of their citizens erodes democracy itself, which doesn’t exactly bother actual terrorists.
Stephen Petty
Bendorf-Stromberg, Germany
• If the US (or Britain, for that matter) said they would reduce surveillance of their citizens and others around the globe, who in their right mind would believe them? Their reviews and protests are not credible. Thank you, Guardian, for continuing this story.
Rosemary Proctor
Toronto, Canada
Nature’s shock absorbers
The havoc wreaked by typhoon Haiyan has been brutal and heartbreaking (Typhoon Haiyan’s aftermath, 15 November). But we have been warned to expect such severe weather events to occur with greater frequency as the impacts of climate change become ever more difficult to deny. Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are causing sea temperatures and levels to rise and the acidity of their waters to increase. The roots of the alarming rise in atmospheric pollution with GHGs are largely anthropogenic, but so too is the destruction of the natural barriers that reduce the severity of impact of savage weather events.
Natural wetlands absorb wave and storm-surge energy and protect inland areas; mangrove swamps and coral reefs do the same. But what do we find? Wilful destruction of wetlands by drainage and canal construction for shipping; the disappearance of mangroves for fuel wood and coastal development, and the demise of coral reefs through ocean acidification, physical damage and overfishing.
Protecting and enhancing these natural shock absorbers will go a long way to reducing the destructive impact of the ever more ferocious storms that we can expect in the future. Meanwhile we must, of course, continue to emphasise the pressing urgency of reducing levels of GHG pollution. There are lessons here for tropical coastal countries and also for the UK government, which seems curiously reluctant to promote the creation of marine reserves around our coasts. This is all the more bewildering as we begin to fully understand the vital importance of a healthy marine environment to our very survival.
Brian Sims
Bedford, UK
Orwellian ideal in Spain
What most strikes me about Dan Hancox’s excellent account of the idealistic Spanish communist village, Marinaleda in Andalusia (8 November), is that it exemplifies the ideal for which George Orwell quite literally risked his neck in the late 1930s. Tragically, that ideal was defeated in Spain – and the world – by both the right, and hardline left, in the civil war of those years.
Marinaleda resembles the kind of liberated socialism that flowered briefly in Catalonia before it was suppressed by Republican Stalinist hardliners in 1937.
In Orwellian terms, the story of Marinaleda is important now because it is a reminder of the need to protect the essential true spirit of socialism from neoliberal conservatives on the one hand, and doctrinaire hardliners of the left on the other.
While so much of the broader left is bogged down in futile theorising, and remains generally paralysed by inaction, the villagers in Marinaleda are actually doing something to make bottom-up socialism a reality.
As Hancox indicates, we need lots of Marinaledas around the world if the flame of true socialism is to be held aloft in the face of the current economic ascendancy.
And we need fair and balanced reporting of it when it happens – reporting of the fine calibre that characterises the Guardian Weekly today, and which, as Orwell himself pointed out in 1938, characterised the contemporary reportage of the Spanish civil war by the Manchester Guardian.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
Russian hypocrisy is clear
Hypocrisy is evident in the statement of Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev “that he could not support acts that endangered the environment or human life” (Greenpeace’s Arctic 30 moved to St Petersburg, 8 November). It is the Russians who are doing both. The Greenpeace team had no weapons: it was the Russians who came down from a helicopter carrying guns.
The purpose of the Greenpeace team was to protect the Arctic and global environments from destruction. Russia plans to drill for oil, which could not only cause severe pollution that could not be cleaned up in the case of an oil spill, but any oil extracted would contribute to global warming, which has already brought about the melting of the Arctic sea ice that now permits access to the Arctic oil fields. This vicious circle must be stopped, and the Arctic 30 were peacefully trying to do just that.
Eva Novotny
Cambridge, UK
Documentaries can help
Issue documentaries do good box-office business but do they change anything, Steve Rose asks (8 November), to which the answer is obviously, no.
But they do, of course, serve a purpose. They draw public attention to serious anomalies that exist within our current primitive system and prepare hearts and minds for its radical transformation.
So, nothing wrong with that. But surely mainstream media, including this newspaper, could then also start looking at the alternative evolutionary ideas of change for a more advanced society that are now emerging, especially from the new spirituality movement. Or, is there some obstacle standing in the way of such investigations?
Colin Millen
Sheringham, UK
Nefarious applications
The mind boggles at nefarious applications of Professor John Rogers’ new water-soluble silicon/silk substrate for tiny electronics – funded under the aegis of the Darpa Pentagon consortium (Discovery, 8 November). Introduced into the body, eg subcutaneously, a microchip could serve to torture or assassinate by slowly disrupting the biochemistry of endocrinology or neural networks, thus mimicking natural pathology. It could lie dormant until triggered remotely or its materials dissolve – latent and “cleaner” than the polonium-210 that allegedly finished Yasser Arafat or the ricin particle jabbed into Georgi Markov’s leg via umbrella tip. Just supposin’, mind you.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
Briefly
• I read your article on converts to Islam (8 November) with interest, especially for the reasons given. Quite a number of Muslims convert to Christianity, but I appreciate that you could not print anything about them because popular Islam pronounces a death sentence on those who convert away. It is good that we live in a society where we are free to worship or not as we choose.
Robin Minney
Durham, UK
• Suzanne Moore’s question (1 November) “Can you name me one inter-generational space you visit regularly?” may have been rhetorical, but I want to answer it anyway.
Yes, the local Methodist church, and – I suspect – a great many, maybe a majority, of congregations in this country. I can’t speak for other faiths, but I think they escape the problem by their social/cultural patterns.
Geoffrey Bending
Prince Risborough, UK
• There is a strange pairing of statistics in the article Japan’s flight from intimacy (1 November): “61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship”. Are we to conclude that some of the women are married but, nevertheless, not in a romantic relationship?
Keith Stotyn
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
• In view of the various belligerents who have been awarded the Nobel prize as champions of peace (Reply, 8 November), perhaps other more worthy and realistic nominations would include Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK
• I assume the Guardian was being deliberately silly in preceding an article on the dangers of inflated expectations (25 October) with the claim that “This column will change your life.”
Phil Ryan
Ottawa, Canada

Independent:

I note with amusement that, when asked to comment on the study showing that climate change has not, as previously thought, slowed over the past 15 years (“Sceptics on back foot after climate change revelation”, 19 November), the arch climate change sceptic Lord Lawson of Blaby replied that “it needs to be reviewed by other scientists”.
With this newfound confidence in the opinion of the scientific community, can we look forward to his acceptance of the 97 per cent scientific consensus on climate change?
Nigel Tuersley, Tisbury, Wiltshire
 
Given the recent Overseas Development Institute report on the extent of government subsidy to fossil fuels (six times the subsidy to alternative energy), together with the devastating reports of the crushing of lives and livelihoods in the Philippines – due to climate change caused by fossil fuels – why are we not out on the streets?
Why is there not a mass uprising against the use of our taxes to subsidise the destruction of our future? Where is the mass support needed to effect some genuine movement in the climate talks taking place in Warsaw – where the Filipino delegate himself has undertaken a hunger strike to draw attention to the desperate need for this?
Judy Hindley, Marlborough, Wiltshire
 
The devastation brought by Haiyan is going to become the new norm due to conditions brought about by climate change.
There is  a link between climate change and increasing storm intensity: as the planet and particularly the oceans heat, simple physics indicates that the energy stored is likely to increase the intensity and frequency of devastating storms such as Haiyan, at great cost to coastal communities.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
 
Nigel Farage does not explicitly declare himself a climate change denier, though as he blames green taxes as the cause of energy bills and rails against the “green lobby”, he makes it clear enough.
The question you ponder when someone carries on like this is: why does he suppose all these ghastly greens exist and have the influence he deplores, even on conservative politicians?
Does he really believe climate change is a set of lies got up by an international conspiracy for some undeclared, though obviously left-wing, purpose? And since it is so omnipresent and nefarious, why hasn’t it silenced the few brave crusaders for truth like him?
Green taxes are one contribution to energy bills, there’s no denying it. But believe it or not (and some won’t, even as water rises above their knees), there is a reason why we have to pay them.
Roger Schafir, London N21
 
Nigel Farage bases his arguments solely on price, which is hardly surprising given his background in commodities trading. 
He doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that fossil fuels, once used, cannot be replaced. As they get scarcer, they will be more expensive and eventually will be uneconomic as fuel for the masses.
Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce our reliance on them as quickly as possible, and to develop alternatives that are not going to run out.
Obviously, the cost of these alternatives is high now but will tend to stabilise and even decrease as we develop technology to harness wind, solar, hydro, waves and other power sources more efficiently, and to reduce, or at least control, demand by reducing waste. Bringing the EU into this debate as a sort of all-purpose bête noire does nothing for the quality of the discussion.
Geoff S Harris, Warwick
 
Thanks to the ever-brilliant Dave Brown and his cartoon (19 November) for making me realise who Nigel Farage reminds me of; Mr Toad from The Wind in the Willows.
Peter Henderson, Worthing, West Sussex
 
Households in Britain are being ripped off by the profiteering energy industry. Energy prices have soared by 152 per cent in the past 10 years and many people are now being forced into fuel poverty because of the avarice of a parasitic oligopoly which knows that everybody needs energy to live.
How can six firms delivering energy to 90 per cent of households be considered “competitive”? The Big Six bosses rushed to blame higher prices on green taxes but their profits still haven’t been dented
Meanwhile, it’s been widely reported that Centrica CEO Sam Laidlaw said he would be turning down a £1.7m bonus – but he trousers a £950,000 basic payment on top of his shares, and only last year was handed a £5m remuneration package.
Daniel Pitt, Mountain Ash,  Rhondda Cynon Taf
 
Bedroom tax – help and support available
While I can’t discuss individual cases, I must take issue with Stephen Pound’s claim (“Forced to pay the bedroom tax – even if the room is used for a kidney dialysis machine”, 19 November) that there is “no wriggle room” or “any local ability to look at this humanely”.
The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea contacted everyone affected by the new housing benefits rules to explain what help and support is available, including discretionary housing payments. There was nothing perfunctory about this: we spoke to many people and made special efforts in cases where the impact was likely to be greatest.
On the face of it, anyone in the circumstances described in your piece would be highly likely to qualify for a discretionary housing payment, and we would urge Mr Pound to get in contact so that we can discuss his case.
Councillor Nick  Paget-Brown, Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Higher prescription charges a false saving
We are against the proposal from Reform (“Extending NHS charges ‘could raise £3bn’”, 19 November) which would make it harder for a wide range of people to afford life-saving medicines.  
Evidence shows that one in three people in England already doesn’t collect all their medicines because of the cost. If people don’t get the medicines they need, they become more unwell – which leads to greater Government spending in the long term.
Increasing prescription charges runs counter to initiatives to improve the health of people with long-term conditions and reduce health inequalities. Higher charges would place additional pressure on the NHS, as people become ill because they aren’t able to afford all their medicines.
We do support the need for prescription charges to be looked at again, but we need a solution that enables people with long-term conditions to get their medicines without having to make decisions about whether to heat their homes, eat or treat their condition.
The debate the Government in England needs to have with the public is whether prescription charges are fair. Prescription charges are effectively a tax on hard-working people unfortunate enough to get a lifelong condition that can’t be cured.
We would like to see greater exemptions from the charge for people with long-term conditions, creating more equal access to better health.
Howard Duff, Director for England, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, London SE1
The old and grumpy are always with us
“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is
foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress.”
Who wrote that? Could it be The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (18 November)? No. It has been attributed to a sermon by the medieval saint Peter the Hermit.
I am 57 and fortunate to know lots of admirable people below the age of 25. They give me great hope for the future. There is nothing wrong with “young people today”. There probably never has been. There have been problems of ignorance, poverty, greed, inequality, discrimination, and injustice since time began – evils largely perpetrated by those with wealth and power (usually over 30). And there has always been the problem of growing old and getting grumpy and taking it out on the “youth of today”.
Stuart Tunstall, Windsor
 
The accent is on discrimination
The Cumbrian teacher who was told to speak “more southern” must be furious (“School ‘told teacher to sound less northern’”, 19 November). Has teacher-bashing escalated into ethnic cleansing? Should all diverse-accented teachers head to the border or else risk dragging their schools into special measures?
Ian McKenzie , Lincoln
 
Thank you for the latest contribution to my “northern-bashing” file – which is rapidly expanding. As an unwilling (born and bred northerner) resident of Kent, I am subjected to this sort of diatribe on a daily basis. All my qualifications (degree, MSc, PGCE etc) count for nothing against my “uneducated” northern accent. Of course, it is entirely my fault, as I refuse to erase my flat vowels. I hope this teacher’s union puts this up for a long overdue debate – in which  all accents are welcome.
Susan Whitworth, Herne Bay, Kent
Obvious solution to badger problem
Maybe the Government will consider taking all the West Country’s badgers and putting them on bicycles in London?
Mike Shearing, Southall, London
Talk about the old generation
Roger Daltrey’s reported reactionary comments on immigration prove some people should die before they get old.
Sasha Simic, London N16
Turn off and tune out…
The 10 best meditation apps (18 November)? The first step is to turn off your phone.
Yours in prayerful meditation.
Sister Catherine CHN, Peterborough

Times:

While special advisers may fill gaps in Civil Service expertise, an influx of more political appointees would not be in the public interest
Sir, I was surprised to see the suggestion that the “top tiers of Whitehall” would resist the Government’s Civil Service reform programme, designed to ensure our priorities are delivered effectively (report, Nov 19).
Our plans to allow ministers to establish extended offices were agreed by the leadership of the Civil Service. The Civil Service Commission has put in place new rules on appointments into these offices and to protect Civil Service impartiality. Any new appointments, other than special advisers, will be subject to the same rigorous requirements for political impartiality as other civil servants.
Far from being a move towards a Washington-style administration, the creation of extended offices is a partial move towards the kind of support that ministers in Canada and Australia take for granted. This year’s report by the centre-left think-tank IPPR found that British ministers are woefully under-supported by comparison with those in Westminster-derived systems.
The sources sniping anonymously at agreed government policy are themselves endangering the very reputation for impartiality that they claim to be so concerned to protect.
Francis Maude
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Sir, While there is a case for special advisers to fill gaps in Civil Service expertise, an influx of more political appointees would not be in the public interest.
It is not difficult to be a good Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour supporter. What is difficult is to provide dispassionate advice based on objective evidence. When that is not available, public money is likely to be wasted on the pet projects of ministers, since the snags will not be pointed out until too late.
Effective ministers do not blame their officials or accuse them of obstruction, because they know what they want to achieve and by and large succeed. It is only the insecure who seek to be bolstered by a horde of political advisers.
During the war Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was accused of being too rough with Churchill, and of hating the Prime Minister. Brooke denied the charge, but said: “The first time I tell him that I agree with him when I don’t will be the time to get rid of me, for then I can be of no more use to him.”
That is the relationship that ministers should seek to cultivate with officials.
Vernon bogdanor
Professor of Government, Centre for Contemporary British History
King’s College London
Sir, The news that central government is seeking to expand its staffing with “cronies” is staggering. The pressure on central and local government to reduce its expenditure and its staffing has been considerable, but by all accounts central government has just not done its share of the cutback.Local government has been forced to economise because its annual grant from the Treasury has been steadily reduced and legislation has prevented it from raising its income in council tax. My own local authority is so strapped for cash that it has had to reduce its staffing by nearly 2,000. Schools and libraries have been closed, land sold off, services to the elderly and disabled cut and the involvement of the public and councillors in planning and licensing all reduced.
Alan B. Shrank
National Organisation of Residents Associations, Shrewsbury

‘What distinguishes a non-culpable complication from an adverse outcome due to negligence is often unclear’
Sir, Nobody doubts the justification for damages awarded to patients who have been genuinely harmed by substandard medical care (letter, Nov 15). However, the public, which must ultimately foot the bill, should understand that the process by which a claim for negligence is settled can be unsatisfactory.
No medical treatment can be administered without risk and what distinguishes a non-culpable complication from an adverse outcome due to negligence is often unclear. In law it is determined whether “on the balance of probability” the management by the clinician under investigation would have been acceptable, or otherwise, to a body of competent and reasonable practitioners. The lawyers acting for the defence on behalf of the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA), and for the claimant, are guided by individual “experts” who should represent and define standard practice. However, their expertise and accountability are rarely scrutinised. Less than 5 per cent of medico-legal claims are tested in open court, and many settled beforehand are on a basis of no-fault compensation. Agreement is often achieved after an arbitrary assessment of the evidence that the probability of success in the litigation will not reach 51 per cent.
The presiding judge will rarely have had experience of the medical speciality, and the rules of legal procedure can be counterproductive to the court reaching a balanced assessment of the medical evidence as opposed to the statements of fact. So the NHSLA is reluctant to allow a case to be subject to the uncertainties and costs of advocacy and judgment in court except when the likelihood of success is assured. Settlement in favour of the claimant rarely equates with genuinely poor practice.
M. C. Bishop
Howletts Loke, Norfolk

Protecting children from online exploitation and abuse is best addressed by parents, who must use the advice available from experts
Sir, The moves by internet search engines to make it harder to find child abuse images online do not go far enough to solve the problem (report, Nov 18).
The measures will help to protect young children from accessing such material, but they will do little to hinder the people sharing these images, which is being done through private peer-to-peer networks.
Every illegal image is a crime scene but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, locate and protect every victim, nor to identify and charge every abuser. More resources must be provided. That is the top priority.
Protecting children from online exploitation and abuse is best addressed by parents following the excellent advice provided by GetSafeOnline and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency CEOP, and teaching their children to do the same.
Universal blocking of websites, search terms and content is a blunt and ineffective tool and can easily be circumvented.
The serious offenders are already using encryption and other technical means to hide their activities, which blocking by internet service providers will not affect.
The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix that will protect victims — it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.
Dr Martyn Thomas
Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2

The good the Commonwealth does in improving the lot of ordinary people rarely hits the headlines
Sir, “The Commonwealth has evolved into a disparate collection of nations, and sometimes seems perilously close to an anachronism.” Thus begins the last paragraph of your fiery but muddled leading article (Nov 18).
It is precisely because it has evolved that the Commonwealth is not, nor will be, an anachronism. The difficulties it cannot but encounter in proclaiming and pursuing high standards of government behaviour all too often speak for themselves. The good it does in improving the lot of ordinary people, especially of women and the young, and in the smaller and more vulnerable member states, rarely hits the headlines.
Sir Peter Marshall,
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General 1983-88
London W11

The Government should encourage older people to move abroad, rather than stopping their pensions if they do
Sir, I could never understand why the Government chose to discourage pensioners from moving to certain countries by freezing their state pension. Once abroad, these old people would cease to block hospital beds or take a disproportionate share of GP time and of prescription medicines. They would not need bus passes, would not take up the fast diminishing space in graveyards, and, best of all, would free up housing for the younger generations. It would be so financially advantageous to the Exchequer that I am surprised the government does not offer to buy our visas for us.
Dorothy Clifton
Middle Aston, Oxon

Telegraph:

SIR – The correspondence on new GP contracts frequently mentions the difficulty for patients in obtaining an appointment with their local practice.
In the ward that I represent, some 161 homes are under construction. Many local people were concerned about the impact this would have on access to doctors. Prior to planning permission being granted, the local authority wrote to the two GPs’ practices closest to the proposed estate and asked for their comments. One said it could “happily accommodate” the new patients and the other said it did not have a finite number to reach before closing its lists. It would appear that the doctors themselves do not perceive there to be a problem.
Cllr Eithne Webster
Caterham, Surrey
SIR – I fail to see how the new government contract to bring back “proper family doctors” will work in my local practice. There are four doctors, all of whom are part-time within the practice and are clearly unavailable for several days a week.
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How can these doctors be held personally responsible for ensuring care for their elderly patients round the clock?
A R Mills
Wrexham, Denbighshire
Cause of the typhoon
SIR – David Cameron has stated that he believes that Typhoon Haiyan was probably caused by man-made climate change.
May I suggest that Mr Cameron remembers the wise advice that on any subject of which one has little or no knowledge it is far better to keep quiet and let others think that you are an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt.
Terry Truebody
Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire
SIR – Am I alone in thinking that members of the Disasters Emergency Committee should not be making comments on global warming? Its job is to collect and distribute aid to disaster areas, not make statements as to the causes.
Howard Stevens
Stockton on Tees, Co Durham
Translation services
SIR – Regarding translation services for migrants who don’t understand English, perhaps we should take the stance of the Spanish health authorities on this matter.
In Tenerife, I noted on visiting a typical local health clinic in an area where many English people reside, a notice at the reception, which read: “We do not speak English. If you do not understand Spanish then you must bring an interpreter with you.” This is strictly enforced. The local health service clinic in Benidorm has a similar policy. On a television documentary a patient at the private hospital said: “I tried the health service hospital and no one would speak English.”
I think we have something to learn from our European neighbours.
John Hague
Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Border bargains
SIR – My Chinese wife recently completed a UK visa application, and paid the fee. She received an email confirming the payment, which included, in large, bold type: “Thank you for shopping with UK Border Agency.”
We fully expect to be notified from time to time of offers and promotions.
Richard Walker
London W7
Horrors of Bacon’s art
SIR – I was fascinated to read Mark Hudson’s article about Francis Bacon’s portrait of Lucian Freud fetching nearly £90 million.
That I would burn this painting rather than be forced to look at it every day is not the point. The alarming thing to me is that the art world values this hideous work so much more highly than the kind of sublime paintings by the great masters that most of us appreciate. Artistic beauty and the ability to move us spiritually is second now to a hideous “cosmic bleakness and existential despair”.
Perhaps this is a vision of what some would call hell, and is worshipped by the rich as being more desirable than the alternative. In other words, no redemption is accepted as the norm, and its loss is preferred to the more hopeful future that many of us believe in, however foolishly.
Edward Brett
Brancaster, Norfolk
E-smoking ban
SIR – I have recently been informed by my favourite coffee shop that they will no longer permit me to use my electronic cigarette on their premises. These devices emit a vapour that is odourless as well as harmless, and even the British Medical Association has declined to recommend government restrictions on their use.
What legitimate objection can there be to their use in an environment where the enjoyment of nicotine and coffee was once inextricably linked?
Peter Read
Clevedon, Somerset
Shock at JFK’s death
SIR – The assassination of John F Kennedy occurred on my eighth birthday. That evening, my parents had taken me to see a double bill at the cinema that ran from 5.30pm until 9pm, during which time the assassination took place.
When we came out of the cinema, we went to a local fete, where I saw a friend and proudly showed him the toy gun I’d received for my birthday. “That’s just like the one that killed President Kennedy”, he said. I repeated the words to my parents, who looked horrified, and immediately announced that we had to leave.
At home, they turned on the television and stood watching the news. These memories are very vivid, not because of the effect the assassination had on me, but due to the shock it evinced in my parents.
Paul Merrick
Kew, Surrey
Too many cushions do not attract paying guests
SIR – I agree with Alan Baker that cushions in a hotel bedroom serve no purpose, and get in the way. I look at a hotel website and if the beds are laden with cushions, I do not book there.
I stayed in a hotel in Devon which had nine cushions on the bed, and nine on the sofa. Before long the floor was covered in cushions.
Diana Broun
Oxford
SIR – When I was stationed in Hong Kong, the commanding officer’s wife decided that my battalion’s officers’ mess would benefit from cushions decorating the sofas.
The cushions ended up providing a new sport: after dinner they were thrown into the air so that one of the ceiling fan blades would catch them and propel them along the ante room. The winner was the person who achieved the longest range.
Jeremy Tozer
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

SIR – Ukip is playing one of two games: acting as a pressure group and forcing the Conservative Party to adopt a referendum before 2015, before winding down its electoral presence; or being incredibly sadistic, and wanting to destroy the Tories’ hopes of winning against a revived Labour Party because of past betrayals on Europe.
Standing by the railway track playing chicken isn’t very responsible when there is a genuine socialist threat on our doorstep.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
SIR – By bankrolling Ukip, Paul Sykes will be helping to bring in a Left-wing Labour government, which will definitely remain in the EU and probably not even offer a referendum. Those voters tempted to follow him should look at France before deciding where to place their crosses.
John Sorrell
Paris
SIR – If Mr Sykes can highlight those things that fall within the competence of the European Commission, and over which our government has no say, such as the influx from Eastern Europe, he will be doing the British public a great service.
Ken Wells
Felpham, West Sussex
SIR – There would be no Ukip if David Cameron and his party had adopted firm Tory policies and kept their promises. It is futile now to blame Mr Sykes and Ukip for upsetting the three-party system.
Joe Emery
Standlake, Oxfordshire
SIR – As neither Labour nor the Lib Dems will offer a referendum on the EU, David Cameron should effectively turn the 2015 election into an in/out referendum by pledging to serve notice to quit the EU immediately if he wins.
Richard Bayliss
Salcombe, Devon
SIR – Ukip supporters are wrong to believe that new contracts with Arab nations, India and China can immediately replace our current trade within the EU and the trade that results from foreign investment due to our EU membership. Of course we need to revise our relationship with the EU and restore control of many areas of government to our own Parliament. But robbing the Tories of votes in 2015 will only let Labour in by the back door.
Ukip will eliminate the chance of an EU referendum by fouling the nest. Perhaps that is really what Nigel Farage does best.
Harry Porter
Birlingham, Worcestershire
SIR – Isn’t it ironic that democracy gives us a rich man who uses the people’s money to do what we don’t want to do (stay in the EU) and another rich man who uses his own money to help us to do what we do want to do (leave the EU)?
Michael Smitten
Shifnal, Shropshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I would like to thank Frank McDonald (Home News, November 16th) for emphasising in his article on EirGrid’s plans to install several hundred pylons in the southeast, that the Comeragh mountains are an EU-designated Special Area of Conservation.
This special attention has been given due to the unique beauty of this area and it is therefore patently obvious to all, those living in the area and the thousands of tourists that visit each year, that hundreds of alien-looking, massive pylons strung across this beautiful countryside would be detrimental to and a denial of this special designation given by the EU.
Ireland is known for its stunning, green and, at times, dramatic countryside. Except for a couple of towns and cities, tourists visit Ireland because of its wild and beautiful countryside. The countryside is Ireland’s major asset without any doubt and this brutal proposal to place these pylons over such a beautiful country is madness and will surely have a permanent and adverse effect on people’s health and future tourism.
If it costs more to place these electric cables underground then so be it. It will cost us but it will be worth the extra cost to preserve something that is so vital to Ireland, namely its beautiful countryside. – Yours, etc,
JOHN ELWES,
Nr Rathgormack,
Carrick-on-Suir,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – Nothing has and nothing will destroy this beautiful island of Ireland more than EirGrid’s preposterous pylon plan
All the work and funds over the years dedicated by the National Parks and Wildlife service to establishing Ireland’s ecological biodiversity will be eradicated by this plan.
The proposed 45 to 60 metre pylons would not only be an unimaginable eyesore on our naturally beautiful land, but would also wipe out hundreds of fauna and flora. The one major attraction for visitors and tourists – our naturally beautiful country – would be destroyed completely and forever.
Great motorways built through Ireland have made travel from city to city, and town to town more convenient, but the cost to natural heritage was huge. If we allow this decimation of kilometre upon kilometre through our rural areas, we will pay a price of destruction which can never be reversed. Once the rural natural heritage is gone, it’s gone.
Hundreds of families whose homes and livelihood lie in the pathway of the route of these proposed monstrous pylons, are already burdened due to our economic downturn. However, they will now have what little they have managed to survive on destroyed.

   
Studies by Oxford University have proven that children living nearer to overhead high voltage electrical cables, have a substantial increase in the incidence of the life-threatening, terminal disease of leukemia. Several other serious illness are also linked to electric pylons and overhead electricity of this high voltage. Do we really need to add to our health burden? Do we not care about the future health of our children and their children?
If the powers that be do not stop this destruction in its tracks, Ireland will be facing a very bleak future. How can we be so shortsighted as to even contemplate a project that will have so many diverse and catastrophic consequences? – Yours, etc,
BARBARA BARRETT,
Pier Road,
Kinsale, Co Cork.
A chara, – Why are we talking about putting our high voltage main connectors on pylons or underground when we could be putting them offshore with no disruption to the countryside or its residents?
We are a small island and all our main cities in both the North and the Republic are also ports.
The technology for laying cables at sea is well established.
We could put a cable all around Ireland with links to the land at Waterford, Wexford, Dublin, Drogheda, Belfast, Derry, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Tralee and Cork and as these cities are already connected to the national grid, the connection could be both ways. Connections from these cities to the power generation stations already exist as does the local distribution network.
Any existing and future development of wind and wave energy generation could be linked directly into an offshore system.
I would like to see this alternative discussed and any reasons for dismissing it aired. – Yours, etc,
RÓNÁN de PAOR,
Annestown,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – I refer to Frank McDonald’s article (Home News, November 16th). The proposed EirGrid plans to build pylons in the Comeragh Mountains and beside Sliabh na mBan defy any common sense and Minister Pat Rabbitte’s approach to the issue is out of touch with public opinion. Can you imagine the reaction there would be nationally if a series of pylons were routed through Killarney’s National Park? The Comeragh Mountains and Sliabh na mBan are of similar value to the nation. If this project is allowed to go ahead with pylons supporting overhead cables it will be an act of vandalism and a national disgrace. – Yours, etc,
EAMONN WALSH,
Limekiln Green,
Dublin 12.

Sir, – Your Editorial (November 18th) on Europe’s far-right parties refers to “Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (VB)”. It would be more correct to refer to it as belonging to Flanders. Outside of Flanders, there is no support for this party whatsoever. The rest of Belgium is distinctly left-wing. Flanders also has another extremely right-wing party named NVA, which deserved a mention in your article. Many communes (local administrative areas) in Flanders do not allow their staff to speak French, although they have no problem with English being used, a policy which NVA promotes and supports.
It is Flanders that has a problem with bigotry and racism, not Belgium as a whole. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL FINLAN,
Avenue du Geai,
Watermael Boitsfort,

Sir, – Your report (Home News, November 19th) that so many publicly-funded healthcare institutions are flagrantly breaching public pay policy, with impunity, by making secret top-level remuneration payments in a manner that is not decipherable to taxpayers, conveys an impression that these institutions are operating at the behest of feudal aristocrats who are accountable to nobody.
These practices also provide an insight into the prevailing standard of corporate governance where these practices prevail and will prompt grave public concern that, if secret deals can be made with respect to top-level pay, what other corners are being cut, perhaps with devastating consequences for patient care, welfare and the cost-efficient treatment of patients.
Advocates have strongly recommended that tax evaders living overseas might be granted longer periods of residency in Ireland without incurring any Irish taxation liability, or penalty, if they provided substantial philanthropic donations to unspecified charities. The public now has some insight into how such donations might be spent and the opaque standard of accounting and oversight associated with them. – Yours, etc,
MYLES DUFFY,
Bellevue Avenue,
Glenageary,

   
Sir, – In response to Myles McSwiney’s call for an antidote to the New Zealand haka (Letters, November 16th), may I suggest we send out six Lambeg drums onto the pitch. In the interests of preserving the neutrality of the team’s composition, three to be drummed by the Ancient Order of Hibernians and three by the Orange Order. As a further incentive to inspire our team, could we also make Phil Coulter take up a position close to the drumming action as an act of penance for the dreadful dirge which I see causing every head to drop at present. – Yours, etc,
MELVYN WILCOX,
Dundanion Road,
Ballintemple, Cork.
Sir, – I thought that the New Zealand haka was their response to Ireland’s Call! – Yours, etc,
DERMOT RYDER,
Foxrock Avenue,
Dublin 18.
Sir, – While the All Blacks can choose to greet opponents as they wish on their own territory, they have no right to express their contempt, as they so obviously do, in performing the haka on visiting other countries.
As long as this inappropriate charade continues to be accepted by the IRFU and other host unions, Alexis Neeson’s suggestion that it be ignored is valid (November 19th) but does not answer the provocation. An appropriate response by Irish supporters would be to sing Amhrán na bhFiann and drown out the haka.
All other European rugby nations have similarly patriotic anthems which could be effectively employed, even if they have been “officially” sung moments before. – Yours, etc,
RORY O’GRADY,
Olcovar,
Shankill, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The late esteemed educator James J Carey would assuredly have expressed displeasure that the classroom profile of Socrates (Education, November 19th), offers students the off-key pronunciation “Sock-rah-tays”. In his scholarly and refined way he drew deviant O’Connell Schools’ pupils to the proper style in a short rhyming verse that ended “. . . and all of these”. So for next print-off, just as in Herculees, it’s Socratees, if you please. – Yours, etc,
OWEN MORTON,
Station Road,

Sir, –Niall Gillespie’s criticism of an Garda Síochána for doing their job (November 18th) is unwarranted. The issue of begging, drug abuse and alcohol consumption in the public domain is a problem pedestrians have to face at all hours in Dublin city centre. Many of them are intimidated, particularly at ATMs.
While this is not unique to our wonderful capital, I have just returned from short visits to Melbourne and Sydney, Australia where I enjoyed the cafe culture, spotless streets and boardwalks. The contrast between this and O’Connell Street and the Liffey boardwalks could not be starker.
The answer to the problem lies with politicians who need to provide the legislation to allow the Garda to get tough with this antisocial behaviour and manage this growing problem. – Yours, etc,
IAN DUFFY,
Ballygoran View,
Celbridge,
A chara, – The revelation by Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes (Home News, November 13th) that Loyaltybuild stored customer information in unencrypted form beggars belief.
While recognising that encrypting and decrypting data has an associated cost, the retention of any personal data, including credit card details, in unencrypted form seems to be highly irresponsible and runs the risk of discouraging consumers from participating in any form of e-commerce. – Is mise,
GREG SCANLON,
Technical Team Lead,
CGA Software Ltd,

Sir, – A proposal to construct Traveller accommodation in salubrious south Dublin is counterbalanced with the planned demolition of 40 partially-built housing estates (Home News, November 18th). Does this take irony to a new level? – Yours, etc,
FRANK BYRNE,
Cormac Terrace,
Terenure, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I really enjoyed Eileen Battersby’s very warm and personal tribute to the late Doris Lessing (News Agenda, November 18th). My favourite Lessing anecdote is how she rejected John Major’s invitation to the appellation of “Dame”. Replying to Major’s private secretary, she wrote, “Dame, Dame of what?” adding that when young she had done her best to undo that bit of the British empire she found herself in, old Southern Rhodesia. She wrote, “Surely there is something unlikeable about a person, when old, accepting honours from an institution she attacked when young?” A true lady of principle. – Yours, etc,
CORMAC MEEHAN,
Main Street,

Sir, – On St Patrick’s Day, 2012 the front page of The Irish Times reported the publication of an academic article I wrote about St Patrick’s Romano-British identity. The article argued, among several other things, that Patrick might have been a Roman official who traded in slaves. This provocative hypothesis caused quite a stir, and was covered by written and electronic media worldwide, from CNN to TV New Zealand. Not everyone agreed with me, and this is fine. I was, and still am, happy to debate with those who offer informed and constructive criticism, academics and members of the public alike.
But some people find it more difficult to cope with criticism. Recently, when my colleague Dr Elva Johnston (Letters, October 31st) criticised Rev Marcus Losack’s Rediscovering Saint Patrick (Columba Press, 2013) for drawing on flimsy evidence in claiming that St Patrick originated from Brittany, Rev Losack responded (Letters, November 18th) with an uncalled-for personal retort. According to him, “the extremist position she takes in refusing to countenance any alternative theory reflects a certain academic arrogance and authoritarianism”. Rev Losack got one thing right: Dr Johnston is an academic historian. But to argue that a historian’s legitimate criticism of Rev Losack’s use of evidence “reflects a certain academic arrogance and authoritarianism”, is a bit like denouncing an astronomer for rejecting Immanuel Velikovsky’s hypothesis that the Book of Exodus preserves the vestigial record of great natural disasters wrought by a close encounter with Venus. The millions who bought Worlds in Collision (Macmillan, Doubleday, 1950) believed he was right, but I would prefer to trust an expert.
Rev Losack chooses to end his rebuttal with an aphorism by a modern-day sage, Dan Brown, whose popularity, it appears, is not confined to the ever-widening circles of anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists. “The translation or mistranslation of one single word”, Brown says, “can re-write history”. If this is so, then my advice to Rev Losack would be to read St Patrick’s own words carefully before he translates them. Oh, and he would also do well to read more recent (academic) scholarship on St Patrick before criticising academics for not taking him seriously. – Yours, etc,
Dr ROY FLECHNER,
School of History
and Archives UCD,

Sir, – There are hosts of sparrows in our garden in Darndale (Liam Cronin, November 18th). – Yours, etc,
NED QUINN,
Presbytery,
Darndale, Dublin 17.
Sir, – A friend of mine has at least 30 sparrows eating from her feeders at Sarto Lawn, Sutton, as well as a pair of coal tits, and a pair of blackbirds feeding from apple and pear cores. There is also a robin. There is very good cover in the garden and the surrounding area; but maybe the northside weather is better. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL O’REILLY,
Bayside Square East,
Sutton, Dublin 13.

   
Sir, – For the months of January and February this year, I was targeted with a penalty charge for “low usage” of electric wattage on my holiday home. A VAT charge was applied on top of the penalty amount. The charge was specific to the two months in question and apparently cannot be credited with excess usage in the following months. But irony of irony, included in my Electric Ireland bill, I receive literature urging me to fit low voltage light bulbs and insulate the attic in order to conserve energy! – Yours, etc,
BOB WADDELL,
Sandycove Road,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Since our Minister for Communications is already jettisoning our excess of cumbersome place names in favour of postal codes, it seems a bit retrograde to be highlighting dual language place-name signs. After all, who needs Cnoc na gCaiseal/Knocknagashel where we could have the perfect mathematical solution K25 T6KG! – Yours, etc,
TARLACH DE BLÁCAM,
Inis Meáin, Árainn,
Cuan na Gaillimhe.

Irish Independent:
* I have noticed in responses to the letters section a growing antipathy towards any contribution that is indicative of religious belief. This would seem to be based on the assumption that Ireland could be a free-thinking paradise of clear-headed citizens if unencumbered by the alleged infantile utterances of religious believers. I, for one, see no rational ground for repressing the view that there is more to life than meets the eye or mind.
There is a crass assumption that believers are essentially dim-witted, despite the fact that intelligence shows itself among believers and non-believers in equal measure.
One of the sources of disdain has been some ill-conceived religious education that unwittingly eliminated critical engagement with what is on offer, undermining rather than illuminating the faith of many.
For example, the notion of original sin when badly presented implied that God had wilfully made us defective; thus flying in the face of the fact that we have emerged from millions of years of evolution.
We are beings in the making; we all have a stake in what we become and have a voice in determining it. The creation of the world is in our hands.
A recent bout of anti-religious sentiment followed the sex abuse scandal. There was fully justified outrage but it seemed to be irrationally and unjustly directed towards all priests and religious.
Religious understanding provides part of the debate about how we can conceive of a way of life that works equally to the advantage of all. There are numerous attempts to keep religious commitment in a subjective world of preference, rather than in the public realm of rational negotiation and debate where it belongs.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
PROSTITUTION AND RAPE
* We can talk about sex trafficking but the only people who can really protect these women are the men who live in Ireland, whether they are born here or not.
They say prostitution is the oldest profession, that we should not criminalise those who use it. But to be non-criminal, you need to behave in a non-criminal manner.
If you have sex with a woman who does not provide consent, even if she is a prostitute, it is criminal behaviour. It is rape.
Your payment does not nullify your responsibility to gain consent or your responsibility to ensure the person is willing to have sex with you for monetary gain.
If this woman is there unwillingly, you, not the trafficker, are the rapist.
Pauline Bleach
Wolli Creek, NSW, Australia
MODERN MARSHALL PLAN
* Given the time that’s in it, perhaps the next time Enda Kenny jets off cap in hand for his customary pat of approval from Angela Merkel, would it not be opportune to remind her that over 60,000 Irish citizens were slain in the killing fields of Flanders, the Somme, Ypres and the many other locations at the hands of the German military in the two world wars?
At the same time, he could remind her of the extraordinary generosity and vision demonstrated by the American people through the Marshall plan which, while also protecting against the advance of Communism, pumped $130bn in today’s values into Europe and Germany, resulting in a remarkable resurgence of the German economy in a few short years.
It is probably equally significant that the expansionary and far-sighted Marshall plan afforded Germany the gift of hope and confidence to successfully emerge from its most savage and destructive epoch.
When extending the begging bowl for some generosity of spirit in the retrospective capitalisation of Irish banks, Enda would do well to demand a similar gesture for today’s hapless Irish citizens, who, apart from a coterie of politicians, the rich and the elite, are again being brutalised and humiliated by the inhumane and destructive austerity policies, mainly driven by and insisted on by Germany and German unyielding fiscal ideology.
John Leahy
Wilton Road, Cork
HIGH STANDARDS IN AID
* Watching the unfolding disaster in the Philippines, let’s hope that the arrival of aid and assistance is based on the same high standards of evidence that we now expect for health care in more routine circumstances.
The concept of evidence-based health care is widely accepted in routine care and should apply in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need to know what works, doesn’t work and is unproven.
Good intentions are not enough. Evidence on the likely effects is required and it needs to influence decision and choices. In that way the response, whether at the level of communities or individuals, is likely to do more good than harm.
Mike Clarke
Founder and director, Evidence Aid,
Queen’s University Belfast
TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
* As of now, like many of my fellow citizens we are still awaiting the beginning of the long-overdue banking inquiry. I say this after reading the article in your paper that, the British Treasury did receive prior knowledge of the inclusion of Anglo Irish under the blanket guarantee bailouts.
Even more astonishing is the fact that democratically elected members of the Cabinet were left completely unaware what was about to unfold.
Moreover, the holding to account of public representatives is now a priority for this Government.
I find it incredible that the late Brian Lenihan, RIP, and Brian Cowen were the only two public-elected representatives present during the time when one of the most important decisions in this entire country’s history was being decided on.
Mattie Greville
Killucan, Co Westmeath
THE POPE’S A HEANEY FAN
* The best news and picture of recent days has come to us from Rome. The Pope has become somewhat of a hero. Whether one agrees with organised religion or not, this man, and he is that first and foremost, has displayed hints of character that does the message his religion is founded upon great service.
Firstly, it seems the Cosa Nostra, or the Mafia, is thought to have Pope Francis in their sights. It would appear that the Pope is being a most annoying cat among the pigeons of the Vatican Bank. His work is causing a highly secretive financial institution’s customers to become worried. Well done, Mr Pope!
Secondly, there is a picture of the Pope going through Rome in a vehicle that is not hemmed in by bullet-proof glass. In a move that contrasts with the visit of Mr Obama behind glass in Dublin; the Pope has, it would seem, found the courage of his faith. It would seem that Pope Francis is prepared to face his enemies without fear. He has nothing to hide or fear.
Thirdly, the Pope mentioned that Jesus indicated that sinners should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. What the reportage in some areas has failed to mention was that this was a reference to a certain type of sinner committing a certain type of sin. The sin that Fr Brendan Smyth was guilty of and a certain type of sin that the previous incumbent of the title of Pope had, according to some, a hand in covering up. One wonders if Pope Benedict is perusing the fashion houses of Italy for a designer life-jacket?
“Don’t be afraid” are the reported last words of our poet Seamus Heaney – perhaps the Pope is a fan!
Dermot Ryan
Athenry, Co Galway
Irish Independent

Peter

November 19, 2013

19 November 2013 Peter

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have to pick up the admirals barge which has just had a refit can they do it without wrecking her? Priceless.
Peter comes and sorts window in garage, I go to bank and supermarker sell 2 books.
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Stan Paterson – Obituary
Stan Paterson was a glaciologist who mined ice cores that charted 100,000 years of the world’s climate

Stan Paterson 
5:44PM GMT 18 Nov 2013
Comments
Stan Paterson, who has died aged 89, was a leading glaciologist with the Canadian Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), whose work on ice cores has helped scientists gain a better understanding of past climate change.
The motives behind the establishment of the PCSP in 1958 were mainly political. An International Law of the Sea agreement had given countries control over the resources contained in their adjacent continental shelves up to a depth of 200 metres. With Soviet satellites orbiting the Arctic and American submarines poking around under the ice, the issue of sovereignty over the Arctic wastes assumed major importance in the Canadian general election held the same year.
The campaign saw a huge outpouring of public support for the Progressive Conservatives, whose leader John Diefenbacher had used his opening rally to call for “new vision. A new hope. A new soul for Canada” and pledged to open the largely uninhabited Canadian North to economic development and settlement. In March 1958 the Conservatives won what is still the largest majority (in terms of percentage of seats) in Canadian federal political history.
The original purposes of the PCSP may have been political and economic, but its achievements over the past 50 years have been scientific. Paterson joined the PCSP as its glaciologist in the early 1960s and built up a team which spent many summers drilling ice cores to be analysed for structure, chemistry and oxygen isotopes, including one of the earliest cores extending from surface to bedrock, drilled on Devon Island in 1974.
This and subsequent cores drilled on Devon, Ellesmere and Baffin Islands, encompassed 100,000 years of climate history, covering the whole of the last ice age, though not the previous interglacial period. Among other things the cores showed cold summers between 1600 and 1860, with an exceptionally icy period from 1820 to 1860 — a time when various British expeditions were trying but (perhaps not surprisingly) failing to force a way through the Northwest Passage. This work contributed hard data about past climates that has been used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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Fourth edition of The Physics of Glaciers
While working for the PCSP Paterson wrote The Physics of Glaciers, first published in 1969 and now in its fourth edition, for which he won the WS Bruce Memorial Prize, and which remains a foundation text in the field of glaciology.
William Stanley Bryce Paterson was born in Edinburgh on May 20 1924 and educated at George Watson’s College and at Edinburgh University where he read Mathematics and Physics and became a keen student mountaineer.
In 1953 he was invited to join the 1953-54 British North Greenland Expedition as a surveyor and his meticulous measurements of the thickness of the Greenland ice cap helped to provide a clear benchmark for subsequent measurement of ice loss. In 1956 he joined the Shackleton expedition to South Georgia, where he and his colleagues made the first surveys of the major mountain ranges on the island.

The following year he emigrated to Canada for a job involving radar in Montreal and in 1958 participated in the Scottish East Greenland Expedition, whose discovery that one of Greenland’s coastal glaciers was moving faster than expected is thought by some to have been an early indication of man-made climate change.
The following year he enrolled at the University of British Columbia to take a PhD in Glaciology, carrying out field work on the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies.
Paterson left the PCSP in 1980 and moved to Quadra Island, British Columbia, where he did consulting work, prepared revised editions of The Physics of Glaciers, and took sabbaticals to work and teach in Copenhagen, Seattle, Melbourne and China.
Stan Paterson was awarded the Richardson Medal for Outstanding Services to Glaciology in 2012 and the same year established a scholarship in the discipline, the first of which was awarded earlier this year.
He is survived by his wife, Lyn.
Stan Paterson, born May 20 1924, died October 8 2013

Guardian:
What is it with George Osborne and hard hats? Not a week goes by without the chancellor appearing on the news clad in the outfit of a manual worker. Is he going through a crisis about his masculinity, or is this an attempt to divert our attention from his Bullingdon background? Perhaps the headgear is to protect him from the flak being hurled in his direction by critics who think that his Help to Buy scheme is economically misguided. Or does he just want to be in Village People?
Geoff Lavender
Chichester
•  The current anniversaries have reminded me of that terrible November day, 50 years ago when I was seven. Distraught, my brother, sister and I realised that we would have to wait a whole week to find out what had happened in the second episode of Doctor Who. And all because some American had been shot and there was a boring funeral on TV that Saturday afternoon. The adults around us seemed pretty upset too.
Theresa Munford
Bath
• Jennifer Coates (Letters, 16 November) says that “dominant patriarchal (and heteronormative) discourses” make feminism difficult to understand. Perhaps. But for most people, impenetrable jargon also plays its part.
Nick Fiddes
Edinburgh
• When actors and royals tell us “nobody works harder” than they do (Comment, 16 November), perhaps they are only communicating political allegiance. As the party keep reminding us, the Conservatives are “for hardworking people”.
Dr Alex May
Manchester
• Regarding talking animals, Jeff Lewis says to remember Mister Ed (Letters, 12 November). In our local flea pit in the 50s the big animal star was Francis the Talking Mule, voiced by Chill Wills.
Dave Lindsay
Aberdeen
• Great to learn about “listicles” and their constituent “particles” etc (Top nine things you need to know about lists, Review, 16 November). Might exam papers with their lists of questions thus be “testicles”?
Ian Shaw
Dunoon

We urge the government to bring back plans for minimum unit pricing and follow the example of Ireland, which has announced its intention to press ahead with this measure. With Ireland joining Scotland in taking bold action to protect the health of their most vulnerable and the Welsh government voicing strong support, England will be left behind on one of the most important health issues of our time if the British government fails to bring back plans for minimum unit pricing (Britain faces liver disease ‘epidemic’, Society, 13 November).
Alcohol misuse costs dearly. Every year thousands of lives are lost and our health service is straining under the burden. Alcohol is linked to 60 different health conditions. A&E admissions have increased to crisis level and liver disease is the only major cause of death increasing year on year. Approximately half of all crime is alcohol-related and one in three people won’t visit their local high street on a Friday or Saturday night because of alcohol-fuelled disorder. Alcohol is related to a whole host of other issues such as teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and child protection cases. The government has estimated the cost of alcohol to the UK to be more than £21bn a year.
The public health community will continue its campaign to persuade Westminster of the need for minimum unit pricing and we hope that it will follow the lead of colleagues in the Scottish and Irish parliaments in acting to break this cycle of alcohol harm. They must act now to save lives.
Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology and special adviser on Alcohol to the Royal College of Physicians
Eric Appleby Chief executive, Alcohol Concern
Katherine Brown Director of policy, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Dr Nick Sheron University of Southampton
Colin Shevills Director of Balance
Dr Evelyn Gillan Chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
Andrew Langford Chief executive, British Liver Trust
Dr Kieran Moriarty British Society of Gastroenterology
Hazel Parsons Director, Drink Wise North West
Dr Cliff Mann President, College of Emergency Medicine
Tom Smith Chief executive, British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Zul Mirza College of Emergency Medicine
Jonathan Shepherd Professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and director of the Violence Research Group, Cardiff University
Professor Colin Drummond Chairman, Medical Council on Alcohol
Professor John Ashton President, Faculty of Public Health
Professor Linda Bauld UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Dr Dominique Florin Medical director, Medical Council on Alcohol
Dr Peter Rice Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems
Paul Lincoln Chief executive, UK Health Forum
Dr Chris Record Consultant hepatologist, Newcastle upon Tyne
Dr Peter Carter Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Dr Adrian Boyle Chair, clinical effectiveness committee, College of Emergency Medicine
Dr Francis Keaney Vice-chair, faculty of addictions, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Susan Fleisher Executive director, National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Terry Martin Trustee, alcoHELP
Dr Peter Rice Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems
Shirley Cramer Chief executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Dr Helen Toal Consultant psychiatrist in addictions, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Dr J-P van Besouw President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
I was not surprised to hear of the Israeli army’s military exercises involving Palestinian civilians (Report, 13 November). The soldiers have plenty of practice intimidating Palestinians with nightly raids and daily checkpoint duty already. They may regret the little boy who has to watch his father humiliated by Israeli soldiers, while the family stand shivering in their nightclothes. I was recently asked to photograph the evidence after one such nightly raid in the small village where I was living. The front door and windows were pockmarked with bullet holes, the living room trashed and the computer broken. In the kitchen they had emptied the food store, crushed the vegetables underfoot, scattered the dry food over the floor then poured the olive oil over the mess. It was spiteful, vicious destruction. As a parting insult, a soldier had smashed the windscreen of the car outside with his rifle butt. There is seldom evidence for such arrests and never compensation for damage.
Maggie Foyer
London

Sentiment expressed in your editorial (18 November) will do little to improve the plight of the Roma in Britain. In France, as elsewhere in Europe, the Roma issue is linked to difficult questions of ethnicity, race, social exclusion and political gamesmanship. One glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma, nearly half under 25. Nearly all Roma children there finish primary school. In 1978, three-quarters of Spain’s Roma lived in substandard housing; today just 12% do. Isidro Rodríguez Hernández, the director of Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, cited access to free education, health care and social housing following the anti-Roma repression of the Franco years. Roma question: is it poverty or culture? 
Tara Mukherjee
European Multicultural Foundation
• Gary Younge (Slandering Britain’s Roma isn’t courageous. It’s racist, 18 November) is timely. Hitler tried to exterminate the Roma just as he tried to exterminate the Jews. But the post-Holocaust reaction to the two peoples has been very different. I suggest that on each Holocaust Day special attention should be paid to the attempt to exterminate the Roma. Then we might start to rectify the imbalance in attitudes towards the two peoples who were equally the victims of Hitler’s wicked racism.
Malcolm Pittock
Bolton
• Gary Younge and your editorial are both right about the Roma settlers in Britain, but ignore the elephant in the room: the EU’s abject failure to do anything about the racist persecution the Roma face in the east European member states. Gary Younge says “securing minority rights for the Roma was a precondition for countries from the region joining the EU”. But those countries have done absolutely nothing to comply and the EC makes no attempt force them to do so. The Europhile claim that the EU stands for human rights is something of a joke.
John Wilson
London

We have followed your coverage of student-led calls for more pluralist teaching in economics with great interest (Report, 12 November). We understand students’ frustration with the way economics is taught in most institutions in the UK. Contemporary economics is shaped by the neoclassical approach, which regards “microfoundations” based on rational and selfish individuals as more important than empirical plausibility. This dogmatic commitment contrasts sharply with the openness of teaching in other social sciences, which routinely present competing paradigms. Students can now complete a degree in economics without having been exposed to the theories of Keynes, Marx, or Minsky, and without having learned about the Great Depression.
There exists a vibrant community of pluralist economists in the UK and elsewhere, but these academics have been marginalised within the profession. The shortcomings in the way economics is taught are directly related to an intellectual monoculture which is reinforced by a system of public university funding (the Research Excellence Framework), based on journal rankings that are heavily biased in favour of orthodoxy and against intellectual diversity.
The Post Keynesian Economics Study Group is committed to economic research and teaching with real-world relevance. The post-Keynesian approach emphasises the central importance of aggregate demand in the macro-economy, the challenges posed by financial instability in a world of globalised capital flows, the impact of inequality on economic growth, and the effect of uncertainty on expectations. In our view, these themes, which hold so much relevance at the present historical moment, cannot adequately be encompassed within the standard teaching models that treat the economy as rapidly self-adjusting towards an efficient state of full-employment equilibrium. We applaud the students’ initiative and suggest their criticisms be heard. The solution to the irrelevance of the economics curriculum is not to write off the discipline, but to insist on the renewal of its core historical concerns with the nature of growth, underemployment and financial instability and the distribution of income and wealth.
Professor Engelbert Stockhammer Chair, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group and Kingston University London
Professor Gary Dymski University of Leeds
Dr Mark Hayes Secretary, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group, University of Cambridge
Dr Annina Kaltenbrunner University of Leeds
Dr Jo Michell University of the West of England
Professor Özlem Onaran University of Greenwich
Dr Jonathan Perraton University of Sheffield

Zoe Williams is on the right track when she finds the behaviour of the big six energy companies, and the government, hard to comprehend (Want an energy revolution? 13 November). It only begins to make sense when you delve into the implications of a showdown between a system based on big centralised energy generation and one based on a huge number of small producers using a very large number of local but interconnected distribution grids.
As things are, it is clear how big money can be made, taxes (if not off-shored) levied and pension funds boosted. Not so if households and businesses start setting up local generation schemes via charities and other community benefit vehicles that channel money back into local schemes.
I am involved with a small fund that focuses on deprived areas, lending for renewable energy projects with social as well as environmental benefits. It is not short of applications. The way the money circulates in this sort of “distributed” system is the stuff of nightmares for the Treasury. So “greed” is indeed an unhelpful diagnosis of what is going on right now. Fear is the emotion gripping the big six and the government.
Sara Parkin
Founder director, Forum for the Future
•  Surely the time for decentralising our energy market has come? Many local councils, responsive to those severely affected by fuel poverty, want to see a microgeneration revolution and the opportunity to develop local energy schemes for the local community. The Feldheim experience in Germany (Report, 30 May 2012) could be translated across the British Isles. So instead of a big centralised renationalisation of energy, which isn’t likely to happen, government should be encouraging local councils, parish councils, schools, businesses and communities to take control of their own energy needs. A co-ordinated approach of energy efficiency, community consultations and a wide renewable energy mix can power our communities in a far more efficient and responsive way than a £16bn nuclear power station ever will.
Councillor Mark Hackett
Chair of UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities
• Former energy secretary Chris Huhne is right to link the increased frequency of extreme weather events with man-made climate change (Comment, 18 November). But he is wrong to suggest that the solutions lie in either nuclear power or carbon capture and storage. We already know the answers: more clean renewable energy generation and better energy use and energy conservation measures. I hope the world leaders meeting in Warsaw this week will commit to making rapid progress on reducing emissions in the next few years, using technology that has been around for decades .
Jean Lambert MEP
Green, London
•  ”With cheap batteries in the loft, home heat and light using low-carbon electricity will be attractive,” Chris Huhne writes. Over the past 12 months my solar panels have put 2,142 kWh of electricity into the national grid (in the hours of daylight) and in the evenings I have drawn 2,177 kWh from the grid. So, if I had effective batteries I could be self-sufficient in electricity. As Huhne says, we need a massive research drive into storage batteries.
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
•  Plug-in electric vehicles could help local authorities achieve healthy, prosperous and sustainable communities. The key issue is around having the infrastructure in place so that electric vehicle owners can charge their cars. The Department of Transport’s £37m funding of charging points represents a step forward in this respect. Ensuring that charge points are installed correctly and are safe to use is essential to gaining consumer confidence. This is why the IET has published a code of practice for electrical vehicle charging equipment installation.
To stimulate investment in this area the IET will shortly be making its guidance freely available to UK local authorities.
We must integrate electric vehicle recharging with transport planning, network development and fleet procurement, to ensure that electric vehicles are a major part of future transport strategy.
David Evans
Chair, standards committee, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London

All suspicious child deaths have to be reported to the Department of Education, which also collates the numbers of all non-accidental child deaths each year. So Edward Timpson is being disingenuous in demanding answers to his questions about the serious case review into the death of Hamzah Khan (Report, 14 November). He will know non-accidental child deaths have been stable for many years at about 55 deaths a year. In a population of 11 million children, this is a rate of 0.0005% or one in 200,000. He knows that these cases are extremely rare, but regular occurrences. More than 100 other children have been killed since the discovery of Hamzah’s body in September 2011. What possible answers could there be, except that the professionals involved in Hamzah’s case made judgments based on their experience and the information available to them, as they did in relation to the thousands of other children they were dealing with over those years who were not later killed by their mother. Could the real reason for raising a controversy be to back up the government’s call to privatise childcare social work?
Jeremy Kearney
Newcastle upon Tyne

Independent:

In the Philippines, the Royal Navy’s HMS Daring has joined US naval forces led by the aircraft carrier George Washington to deliver urgent aid following the recent cyclone.
Last week, a fierce cyclone devastated the Puntland region of Somalia. Roads have been washed away, livestock drowned, coastal villages isolated and, with hundreds dead, tens of thousands are at risk. So why is the giant naval armada stationed close by doing nothing to assist them?
The European Naval Force, Nato’s Ocean Shield and Combined Task Force 151 have between them ships from more than a dozen nations, all carrying helicopters. They include the RFA Lyme Bay, equipped for “crisis-response operations, natural disasters and evacuations”.
Which of these forces will take leadership in this much-needed humanitarian initiative? And who can fail to see how goodwill thus generated can help in the fight against al-Shabaab?
David Wardrop, Chairman, United Nations Association, Westminster Branch, London SW6
 
I find it disturbing that charities waste so much money in their efforts to raise funds for good causes. Yesterday, I received through the post three requests for donations to the Philippines disaster funds from well-known charities. Two were from the same charity, but differently presented. Both charities are members of the Disasters Emergency Committee. Surely the DEC exists to prevent wastage of effort and money, so why is there separate fund-raising by its members?
Anne Burrows, Ashton under Hill, Worcestershire
 
I take great pride in the fact that we British must be among the most, if not the most compassionate people in the world. Our response to tragedies such as that in the Philippines is always out of all proportion to our size and economy.
The British Government has pledged £50m, in addition to which the British people have already donated in excess of £30m – and that in the same week that we also set a record by raising £31m for Children in Need.
Britain comes in for a lot of stick over its colonial past – but it sets an example to the rest of the world when it comes to lending a hand wherever tragedy strikes.
Robert Readman, Bournemouth
 
Am I the only one who views the alleged fact that the British public have been generous in response to the disaster with disbelief? Last week, around £30m had been raised, which is less than £1 per head of population. I know it has risen since. But the money so far would only just buy a house in The Bishops Avenue, north London. Useful, eh?
Purely as a matter of fact, I gave £50 and will probably find a bit more. If there are 20 million adults who could give that amount, that would make £1bn. I also know a lot of poor people who are struggling, yet I know they have given money.
Could it be that this £30m is made up of a lot of the “widow’s mites” commended by Christ, some rather modest donations from the middle classes, and a whopping, hideous great absence of money from the really rich?
It has already become plain that the more money people have, the more painful they find it to pay tax, so I don’t think I am being unduly sceptical.
Mary Nolze, Rusthall, Kent
 
I was out collecting for ShelterBox last Wednesday and Saturday. I live in a market town in Devon and was expecting a parochial response, as described by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (18 November). I had rehearsed good arguments why the Philippines needed our help.  I didn’t have to use one.
All of us out collecting were staggered by the generosity of those who gave. They felt great sympathy for those people who now have nothing. I have never seen so much paper money before when out collecting.
Many people who gave were clearly not well off, but I frequently heard the comment that it is never the rich who suffer, and they wanted to help, however small the donation. This included a number of young people and children who gave what they had in their pockets.
Yes, there is selfishness, narcissism and horrendous indulgence of children, but there are many compassionate, unselfish children who give to or volunteer for all kinds of charitable work. They are our future too.
Kerry Larbalestier, Newton Abbot, Devon
 
One of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s charges against the “youth of today” is that while some do give to overseas causes, others are concerned about the levels of corruption associated with overseas aid and prefer to support ex-servicemen and  ex-servicewomen at home.
Is Ms Alibhai-Brown sure that her distaste for them is not simply because they are more patriotic and less left-wing and internationalist than her generation of university Trotskyites and Maoists was?
R S Foster, Sheffield
 
In health and social care, the use of evidence-informed knowledge in decisions and choices is widely accepted. We need something similar in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need access to reliable information on what works, what doesn’t work, and what is of unproven benefit or harm.
It’s difficult for governments, humanitarian agencies, charity workers, doctors and nurses to discover this amid the chaos and urgency of a crisis. They are faced with an overwhelming amount of information, scattered among tens of thousands of reports, spread across thousands of scientific journals, books, reports and websites.
Responders often do not have the time or skills to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information.
Routine care is solving this by drawing on the findings of systematic reviews, which bring relevant information together in a single place. The same could happen in disasters. These reviews avoid undue emphasis on single studies or opinions, and help clarify whether a treatment or procedure is likely to be beneficial or harmful.
At this time of desperation in the Philippines, using reliable and robust evidence should lead to more good than harm. Since the tsunami of 2004, Evidence Aid has been working with national and international agencies and responders to help, putting information in a single place at http://www.EvidenceAid.org.
Mike Clarke, Founder and Director, Evidence Aid, Queen’s University Belfast
 
Just look at the facts on Kennedy
In response to Tim Walker’s piece (“In Dealey Plaza, it’s forever 1963”, 18 November), why is it only those who question the official verdict on the Kennedy assassination who merit the epithet “theorist”?
Have we lost sight of the fact that what happened in Dallas was a crime for which there is an enormous amount of factual evidence in the public domain?
The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the proposition that Lee Oswald (or whoever) had an accomplice or accomplices. More than 50 of the closest witnesses thought so; the police outrider splattered by Kennedy’s brains thought so; the man who picked up a piece of his skull (30ft behind the limousine) thought so; as did doctors, nurses and pall-bearers at Parkland Hospital and all the independent witnesses at the autopsy. And surely anyone who has seen the Zapruder film and observed Mrs Kennedy climb on to the boot of the limousine to retrieve part of her husband’s skull must know that the fatal shot could not have been fired by Oswald.
The real fantasists are those who insist that Oswald was solely guilty. He  was never brought to trial (he was bumped off by a mobster under suspicious circumstances), so his guilt or innocence becomes almost academic. Those who peddle the idea that we can only choose between a lone mad gunman and a labyrinthine conspiracy are the ones dealing in “theories”. 
Chris Forse, Snitterfield, Warwickshire
 
Don’t send ‘coals to Newcastle’
Why suggest moving the Royal Opera House to the North when we have an excellent opera company, Opera North, providing us with wonderful operas? What we need is more Arts Council money going to opera, ballet and theatre in the North. We have plenty of talent here which only obtains a tiny proportion of Arts Council funding.
Jill Osman, Hebden Bridge,  West Yorkshire
 
We see a growing UK economy with most of the growth in the South-east, supported by a property-price boom. And interest-rate increases are not far away, with the potential to strangle growth in the rest of the UK before it has begun.
What is the answer – a hike in interest rates in the South-east and no increase for the rest of us? If only it were so simple.
Jim Stanley, Dunfermline
 
How UK could have real democracy
People will not vote when they know that their vote will not have any effect. We all know that the decision to vote in the next prime minister will be taken by the floating voters in the 50 or so marginal seats.
Mr Cameron is right to claim that austerity for some is here to stay; the cost of reversing the measures will be too great for any parliament to contemplate in our divided society.
Our society will remain divided while the two dominant parties recognise it is in the best interests of their leaders to propound policies that best serve the faction they support.
Is it inevitable that our country remains divided? No. There are unified democracies, but they share a more democratic form of election. Can it be achieved here? It can but it will need a sustained campaign – which will be opposed by all three major parties. Would it be worth the effort? Of course. Compare the success of Germany with the relative failure of the UK. The only change that would achieve this result is the adoption of an alternative vote (AV) method of voting. Other forms of voting reform would only give perpetual balance of power to the Lib Dems, and they have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted.
This change could only be achieved if a sufficient body of independent candidates would stand with this change being the only commitment on their manifesto. Will it happen? Yes, but not in my lifetime. Not before the divisions, widened by this Coalition, become so great that there is risk of a breakdown in the structure of society.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshir

Times:

‘Music should not be an elite pursuit, yet it is becoming another facet of British society dominated by privately educated people’
Sir, The decline of music in state schools is a national tragedy (report, Nov 15; letter, Nov 16). Despite music having the potential to be as beneficial to children as sport, the latter gains preference in schools due to the myth that music is more difficult and less relevant to young people’s lives.
I benefited hugely by learning music from the age of 7 because an inspirational teacher set up a private but affordable weekend music school near my home. This improved my life socially, academically and culturally. I was also fortunate that the comprehensive I attended had a wonderful head of music, Miss Wrenn, who ensured that music was given as much prominence in school life as sport.
Learning music broadens horizons and improves concentration, teamwork, intellectual stamina, emotional development, mathematical skills and creativity. Music should not be an elite pursuit, yet it is becoming another facet of British society dominated by privately educated people.
We must not allow this dumbing down by those who share Mr Gove’s ideological “3Rs” approach. Music can improve the lives of all our children, but to do so requires investment of money and long-term political support. The Department for Education has much to learn from people like my inspirational music teachers. John Slinger Rugby, Warks
Sir, John Arkell (letter, Nov 16) asserts that a decline in the number of students taking GCSE music is as a result of the recent introduction of music hubs.
Most students who took GCSE music in May would have chosen to study these courses in the spring of 2011, before the first music hubs came into force.
As I know from 20 years as a teacher, including ten within senior leadership, the provision of music and arts is determined by the wishes of the senior leadership team. Senior staff who recognise the value of the arts to the wider development of their charges will ensure that music remains part of the curriculum.
As an educational consultant and a professional musician, I have worked with a number of the new music hubs, some of which are working very creatively and imaginatively in building and developing local music. The fact that their funding is, in many cases, less than that given to the music services that went before, is a concern. However, many young people thrive under the auspices of the music hubs in what are very early days for the possibilities presented by this initiative.Steven MaxsonSchool Improvement Consultant Caistor, Lincs
Sir, John Arkell’s reference to the inclusion of music in the medieval university curriculum is a welcome nudge for Mr Gove. Plato observed: “musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul . . . imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.” It is no coincidence that countries such as Finland, where music features prominently in the curriculum, produce more respectful, considerate and civilised societies than our own seems to be. Susan Sturrock London SW19

Warm sea temperatures can cause typhoons to strengthen, and the North Pacific has been heating up, like the rest of the Earth’s surface
Sir, Those of us from the UK research community who are attending the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw welcome David Cameron’s decision to highlight the growing evidence that global warming is affecting the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as super-typhoon Haiyan (report, Nov 16).
The most recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that there has been a weak upward trend in the overall destructive power of typhoons in the western North Pacific, which threaten countries such as the Philippines, since the late 1970s.
Warm sea temperatures can cause typhoons to strengthen, and the North Pacific has been heating up, like the rest of the Earth’s surface, as a result of the rise in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. In addition, the global sea level has risen by about 20cm as a result of global warming since the start of the 20th century, which is making storm surges generated by typhoons worse.
While the UK can use overseas development assistance to help vulnerable countries to become more resilient to the impacts of disasters, and provide emergency relief to alleviate the suffering that results from them, it also needs to lead efforts to limit the future worsening of extreme weather through a sharp reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases.Bob Ward Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSELondon WC2
Sir, So Bjørn Lomborg (Opinion, Nov 18) wants to rely on economists to sort out global warming. But economists did not forecast the 2008 economic disaster. Thomas Crowley (Retired climate scientist) Maryfield, East Lothian

The gradual erosion of general medical practice has been as the result of successive health ministers repeatedly trying to leave a “legacy”
Sir, In 1976 I became a family doctor in a North East ex-mining town. The practice did all its own on-call and night visits. It also carried out monthly visits on the vulnerable elderly who had a history of illness. Urgent patients were seen as extras in surgeries, and patients with minor and non-urgent complaints were generally happy to wait to see their own doctor.
Now if this sounds amazingly like the situation desired by the Health Minister today (report, Nov 13), I would have to point out that the gradual erosion of general medical practice has been as the result of successive health ministers repeatedly trying to leave a “legacy”, without understanding the consequences.
I found my work very satisfying for the first 15 years, and then more and more frustrating, with less patient contact and more paperwork. By 2006 I was happy to take retirement. When I visit my old practice I find morale distressingly low. Most of my colleagues will retire as soon as they can. The family doctor has now been consigned to history and no amount of political input will revive him.John A. Clarke Crook, Co Durham

Let us not vacillate on a minimum requirement of nurses, which by any reasonable definition means safe
Sir, The leading nurses urging caution when it comes to mandating minimum staffing numbers and ratios (letter, Nov 18) are confusing the minimum, safe and right numbers. While the right number of staff may well depend on the sickness and dependency of the patients and the skill of the staff, the minimum numbers must not. By all means gather the evidence on safe staffing levels for challenging wards with a view to augmenting the minimum numbers to the right level, but let us not vacillate on minimum, which by any reasonable definition means safe. Minimum levels are indeed required nationally and as soon as possible. Malcolm Watson Welford, Berks

This great church was built by Orthodox Christians and served that community, as its mother church, for almost 1,000 years
Sir, I was saddened to read that pressure is mounting in Turkey again to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque (report, Nov 18). This great church was built by Orthodox Christians, long before the Great Schism, and served that community, as its mother church, for almost 1,000 years.
May I suggest that the Orthodox and Catholic communities consider holding a worldwide collection among their faithful, giving the proceeds to the Muslim community to enable them to build, on a prime site in Istanbul, a fine mosque of similar area and volume to that of Hagia Sophia. In return Hagia Sophia would then be given back to the Orthodox Church to serve once more as the Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
This would be of real ecumenical value and serve as practical evidence that Islam is as tolerant as most Muslims claim it to be.Francis BaileyKilliney, Co Dublin

Telegraph:

SIR – Kirsty Craig (Letters, November 16) suggests lower speed limits on country roads. This would mean speed reminder signs at the required intervals, affecting the visual enjoyment of the countryside.
The national speed limit is the maximum permitted on the road. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.
Cathy Cooke
Kingston Bridge, Somerset
SIR – The Institute of Advanced Motorists recommends that drivers travel at a speed that allows them to stop in the space that they can see to be clear.
Related Articles
Sophie Raworth as a replacement for Alan Titchmarsh
18 Nov 2013
Sam Kelly
Oldham, Lancashire
SIR – The creation of ever more speed limits is now part of the local politician’s routine to show he is doing something. I would argue that all speed limits should be removed in favour of educating drivers to decide on a safe speed for themselves.
Ian Eyres
Llanyblodwel, Shropshire
Teenage sex
SIR – Some children have sex under the age of 16; so lower the age of consent to 15. Some people exceed 30mph speed limits; so increase them to 40mph. Some men beat their wives; so . . .
Mike Keatinge
Sherborne, Dorset
SIR – We now live in a crazy would where children are reported to the police for fighting at school but not for having under-age sex.
Mervyn Vallance
Maldon, Essex
Bart’s Great Hall
SIR – It is the Friends of the Great Hall and Archive of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, not the Queen’s Gynaecologist, who oppose the positioning of a new Maggie’s Centre patient-support building in a totally unsuitable place, namely appended to the Grade I listed Great Hall of Bart’s (“Fight to preserve hospital”, report, November 13).
This charity plays an important part in providing support and counselling in a relaxed environment removed from the cancer treatment areas of hospitals. If a more suitable site could be found at Bart’s, the Friends would have no objection.
Should the plan to append a structure of 21st-century design to the end of the 18th-century Great Hall be successful, it would prevent the restoration and improvements needed to make James Gibbs’s magnificent building self-sufficient for the next century.
Marcus Setchell
Chairman, The Friends of the Great Hall and Archive of St Bartholomew’s Hospital
London EC1
Kennedy’s Latin primer
SIR – Unforgettably, I listened to the news of the death of John F Kennedy (Letters, November 16) under my bed, struggling with unfinished Latin prep, by torchlight, my Dansette transistor close to my ear. Puella columbam amat! Subsequently, I achieved excellent results in O-level Latin.
Alison Mackay
Pinner, Middlesex
Stand and deliver
SIR – I personally prefer to visit the supermarket and choose the food I buy. However, it occurs to me – who is paying for the pickers and delivery lorries for
online shoppers? Surely it must be me.
David Blackford
Seaview, Isle of Wight
Respect for Sri Lanka
SIR – As a Commonwealth citizen, I am outraged at the stand David Cameron has taken against the people of Sri Lanka.
For many years the government of Sri Lanka fought a bloody war against the separatist Tamil Tigers, and in the end it prevailed. The Tamil Tigers did not take their loss graciously. Lose the war, and raise an army of external, Left-leaning, liberal democrats around the world to reach your goals by political pressure.
Mr Cameron disrespects the long-suffering Sinhalese people and their elected government by going among them and making threats about war crimes and UN action. (The UN – that ragbag mob in New York that cannot tie its shoe laces without external direction?)
Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation. It is the height of ignorance and bad manners to visit a nation by invitation, criticise its people and government and dispense threats.
W L McCall
Bonnells Bay, Australia
Memory hole
SIR – Has Labour developed amnesia about its past actions (Leading article, November 16), or is it simply hypocrisy?
On all sides, Labour politicians demand government action to stop the very things they subjected Britain to: massive debts (Ed Balls); energy prices (Ed Miliband); open-door immigration (David Blunkett and Jack Straw); and A&E waiting times (Andy Burnham).
Labour took 13 years to get us into this mess. It should not expect miracles from the Coalition or think the electorate has a short memory when the time comes to apportion blame at the next election.
Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey
All those cushions
SIR – We use the proliferation of cushions on hotel beds (Letters, November 16) as padding for the nether regions of the unlucky one of us who has to sit on the floor to watch the television, because there is only one easy chair in a double room.
Hilary and Peter Ives
Nicosia, Cyprus
Labour dispute
SIR – How on earth did French midwives stage a go-slow?
Chris Mastin-Lee
Calne, Wiltshire
The Bletchley codebreaker who came to tea
SIR – I met Mavis Batey, the Bletchley Park codebreaker in 1991, when I was involved in restoring a small neglected park opposite the Regency crescent where I live. I had sketched a design for its possible restoration, and, knowing nothing of garden history, was amazed to learn it had been forwarded to the Garden History Society, whose president asked to visit me.
We asked her to tea. I made cucumber sandwiches, and expected a grand and formidable lady. Mavis arrived, laden with carrier bags, an unintimidating, smallish lady. Research notes and copies of plans – mine included! – tumbled out of the bags, and a whole field of learning was opened for me.
Her help continued for years. No mention was made of her wartime achievements, until a tulip tree, seeded from an ancient specimen, was looking for a home. Mavis suggested we might take it to Bletchley Park, as part of an American memorial planting. This we did. Now it feels like a satisfying link between the two remarkable careers of a true friend.
Wendy Osborne
Alverstoke, Hampshire

SIR – You report that doctors and nurses will face the full force of the law for neglect. Does that apply to administrators and managers, and to the ministers responsible for the NHS?
Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
SIR – Though doubtful, I hope that any offence of “wilful neglect” will also apply to managers who fail to staff wards adequately. On admission to a cardiac unit, my wife, a retired nurse herself, found that only one nurse on the ward of over 20 patients was trained to administer drugs.
The nurse, incidentally, was still on duty doing paperwork at least two hours after the supposed end of her shift.
Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
SIR – Published statistics show that Matthew Norman (Comment, November 16) is mistaken to suggest that, in health care, “it is hard cash … that determines quality.” NHS net expenditure increased by 84 per cent, from £57.049 billion in 2002-03 to £105.254 billion in 2012-13. In the same period numbers of beds in NHS hospitals fell by 26 per cent, from 183,679 to 136,487, to reach the present crisis level of 2.6 per 1,000 of population. The EU average is 5.3.
Dr Max Gammon
London SE16
SIR – Matthew Norman is right: without more funding, health care will not improve. The GP contract changed 10 years ago is a red herring. GPs did well financially for a short time, but that has been clawed back.
GPs’ workload has increased hugely but their numbers are the same. Can Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, explain why GPs are queuing to retire, why recruiting new GPs is almost impossible and why young doctors are leaving Britain in droves?
Tinkering with the GP contract will, at best, make a small difference. It appears we cannot afford a first-class NHS and funding is failing to keep up with demand. This winter the cracks are going to show.
This is an inconvenient truth for a Government facing an election, which is why GPs and the 2004 contract are being used as a convenient scapegoat .
Dr Ian Rummens
Oswestry, Shropshire
SIR – A GP with knowledge built up over time can avoid hospital admissions for patients or A&E attendances. If we GPs opened all hours and worked through the weekend, visiting potential emergencies and checking the frail and elderly, pressure on emergency services would be reduced.
Instead of funding phone lines to non-clinicians and suggesting that GPs talk to patients by email, it would be better to give our surgery a couple of extra doctors.
I work 60 hours a week, so if I work Sunday I’ll want Monday off. Apologies if I’m your named GP and you ring on Monday.
Dr Jeremy Lockwood
Burton on Trent, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

   
Sir, – Stephen Collins (Opinion, November 16th) reports that the Legal Services Bill, “instigated at the behest of the troika . . . to cut exorbitant legal costs”) has been stuck at committee stage for more than 18 months.
He wonders what “powerful forces” might be at work and whether these could succeed in eventually having the Bill “neutered”.
Could someone in the Government be called to account for this, in these pages, this week? Or if silence reigns, do we really need to call the troika back, to babysit again because our Oireachtas hasn’t the teeth (or the will?) to follow through on these much-needed changes. – Yours, etc,
CATHERINE TIERNEY,
Dalkey Avenue,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – So, the Troika are exiting the stage and leaving us to our own devices. Are we now going to go back to the bad old days in Irish politics? Is the Government now give us “easier” budgets in advance of the European elections and, perhaps, the next general election which could be held in 2015?
After each troika review of our economy during the bailout they expressed much concern over our lack of action in relation to enormously high salaries in our health system, the legal profession and banking/financial services.
It is patently obvious little or nothing has been done to address these issues and, unfortunately, it is also obvious that the Government does not have the will or the inclination to do anything.The so-called elite, or golden circle, appears to be still alive and well. The politicians, lawyers, accountants and medical profession are intent on looking after each other and “to hell” with the rest of us.
The obvious result of this inaction is that the vast majority of the austerity burden has been borne by the ordinary citizen. Will we ever learn? – Yours, etc,
GERRY McCORMACK,
Ashbrook Gardens,
Ennis Road,

A chara, – In Mark Hennessy’s article (“Howlin plays down troika concerns over price of Irish drug prices”, November 2nd), Brendan Howlin adroitly changes subject from drug pricing to a subtle jab at GPs. His sleight of hand is inaccurate and misleading.
His assertion that “all we are doing is transposing onto those who provide services for the State the same cuts we have imposed on people who work directly for the State” is fallacious at best. He is well aware that he is not comparing like with like.
I challenge Mr Howlin to name publicly any department or agency, whose staff work directly for the State, who have suffered cuts to pay of 40 per cent in the past five years. Furthermore, those who work directly for the State, unlike general practitioners, do not pay for their heating, lighting, insurance, office rent, colleagues’ salaries or PRSI.
The current contractual relationship between GPs and Health Service Executive is based on a contract negotiated in 1972. Doctors who work under the GMS (medical card) scheme independently contract their services to the State, and for this reason the GMS scheme is a public service commitment. Unfortunately the relationship between GPs and the HSE is being significantly undermined.
In stark contrast to funding, the costs of providing the service we provide are not being cut. It is simply not possible to provide/maintain existing services in the context of relentless cuts. Unfortunately, as usual, it is the Irish people who will suffer. – Is mise,
Dr DONAL PUNCH,
Secretary,
National Association

Sir, – I am not a Fine Gael voter, and judging from his comments, neither is Paul Doran (November 14th). However, unlike Mr Doran, I think the Taoiseach and his Government have done a very good job considering the mess bequeathed to them by the Fianna Fáil/Green administration. I think, from Mr Doran’s tone, that Mr Kenny would not have his approval no matter what gaisci he might have achieved; so, Taoiseach, just carry on, you’re doing fine. – Yours, etc,
PEADAR O’SULLIVAN,
Highfield, Carlow.

A chara, – Rev Marcus Losack is not correct (November 18th) when he writes: “the [Royal Irish] academy has obviously given its full and unqualified support to the traditional theory of origins in its most recent publication of St Patrick’s Confessio (Pádraig McCarthy (transl.), My Name is Patrick . . . Dublin: RIA, 2011).”
That “traditional theory” is that Patrick was from Britain. Where Patrick wrote, “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon, his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae”, the first end-note in My Name is Patrick states: “There are various theories about the whereabouts of Bannavem Taburniae; none is conclusive.” I do not give unqualified support for any one theory. We simply do not have enough information to be sure of Patrick’s place of origin, whether Brittany, as Rev Losack argues, or Britain, as others hold. Either is possible.
What we can agree on is the significance of Patrick and his faith and his work for the people of Ireland at that time and today, as we approach the 1,600th anniversary of the traditional date of his return to Ireland in 432. I would like to see Christians of all churches showing united action in showing a new life and hope in our own day. – Is mise,
PÁDRAIG McCARTHY,
Blackthorn Court,

Sir, – Your Saturday cartoon (Martyn Turner, Opinion) showed a merry Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan, released from the control lines of the troika puppeteers but still chained to a large ball labelled “the markets”.
The metaphor is all wrong.
Enda and Michael are free of the troika. But it is the rest of the people of Ireland that are chained . . . to a ball that should be labelled “debt – other people’s”.
And the size of the weight is still increasing, partially so that Enda and Michael’s pensions will be large enough to ensure they feel no constraints in their later years. That ball and chain isn’t tied to them at all. – Yours, etc,
HUGH SHEEHY,
Marine Drive,
Sandymount, Dublin 4.

A chara, – It seemed inevitable that our ghost estates would have to be demolished (Breaking News, November 18th). Might I suggest that at least one such estate be retained as a stark warning never to allow such foolishness again. – Is mise,
SEÁN O’CUINN,
Gleann-na-Smól,

Sir, – Isn’t it ironic that the State spends €10 million in an advertisement campaign to encourage consumers to save money and energy (Home News, November 16th) while at the same time a semi-State company, Electric Ireland, charges Irish consumers a low usage charge for not using enough energy! – Yours, etc,
MARTIN CAREY,
The Elms,
Athlone, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – In response to frequent complaints at the arrival of Christmas decorations and paraphernalia in November, might I suggest that they actually reflect the emergence of a new season: pre-Christmas or Pristmas? – Yours, etc,
RICHARD SCRIVEN,
Ballinlough, Cork.

A chara, – Paddy McEvoy’s suggestion (November 14th) that we should remember the 1916 Rising in its centenary by, well, lambasting it, is laughable.
He asserts: “The Irish people should have been consulted about “ ‘armed struggle’ in 1916”.
By what means could they have asked anybody? We didn’t live in a democratic country to ask anything of our British masters. We had already “asked” twice for Home Rule (something far short of independence) and had been denied it by the undemocratic House of Lords in London.
Just as we didn’t know if the people thought we were “better together” because they were never asked. We lived under British rule and we could like it or lump it – but the people did ratify the 1916 Proclamation in the 1918 general election, which saw Sinn Féin win 76 per cent of the seats in the all-Ireland general election. Instead of taking the obvious hint, the British continued to rule a country it knew did not want them. So who were the anti-democrats in that period? It certainly wasn’t the “guardians of the threshold” as he so eloquently refers to us.
So the implication that the men and women of 1916 and the republicans of that period were anti-democratic is insincere in the extreme. Our own idea to honour the great men and women of 1916 would be the implication of democracy that has been so long denied – the Irish people as one unit – by way of an all-Ireland referendum – deciding the issue of Irish unity, just as was denied to the men and women of 1916 that they felt the need to assert themselves in arms.
One Ireland, one vote. Surely all democrats can agree to that? And surely no better time to implement democracy back in Ireland than 2016. Now that would really would be a suitable tribute to the men and women of freedom and liberty. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK DONOHOE,
Chairperson,
Seán Heuston 1916 Society,
Moorfield Grove,

   
Sir, – Des McKernan of the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland says of those who have Asperger’s  syndrome: “They can’t put their feet in the shoes of other people and understand where they are coming from” (Sheila Wayman, Health + Family, November 5 th). He suggests those who have Asperger’s often bore neurotypical people by droning on for hours about trains.
It is most regrettable that someone involved with an association which is meant to support those who have Asperger’s should have given your paper such an absurd and offensive caricature of the characteristics of the syndrome.
I was diagnosed as having Asperger’s seven years ago. I hope that I try to understand other people. I know it is hard for me to express such an understanding – though it is easier for me at least to do so in writing than it is orally; I hope that I am not untypical of those who have the syndrome in this respect. We are not all consumed by a monomaniacal interest in trains; I know that I am not. Many of us have other interests; not a few among us even have a wide range of such interests.
I am sure I am not alone among those who have Asperger’s in having experienced a lack of understanding among some neurotypical people in the difficulties I experience in coping with life. It is a pity Mr McKernan appears to display that lack of understanding himself. – Yours, etc,
CDC ARMSTRONG,

Sir, – Mark McGrail (November 18th) wishes to exclude theological considerations from the debate on what he calls “marriage equality” on the basis that it will only affect civil marriage as defined in this Republic.
The institution of marriage pre-dates Bunreacht na hÉireann by several thousand years. It was not created by our Constitution, but recognised by it. It would therefore seem to be legitimate, if considering radical amendments to an institution considerably older than the State, that one might debate it in the broadest possible terms, particularly given that the great majority of marriages in this country, while civil, are also sacramental. – Yours, etc,
CHRISTOPHER
Mc CAMLEY,
Forest View,

   
Sir, – The anti-Semitic virulence in Charles Bewley’s report is “unique” among the diplomatic dispatches, according to the exhibition curator Christian Dirks (“Disgraceful’ Irish report on Kristallnacht goes on display”, World News, November 9th). Bewley was appointed to Ireland’s mission to Berlin in September 1933, but what is extraordinary is the fact that in January 1922 he was involved in an incident at the “Tauenzien Palace” in Berlin which exposed his extreme anti-Semitic views. He had arrived in Berlin in early December 1921, being appointed as Irish trade representative and used abusive and filthy language when Robert Briscoe’s name was mentioned. He was chucked out of the “Tauenzien Palace” by the proprietors and forbidden to ever enter their premises again.
According to my mother’s cousin, Nancy Wyse Power, who was part of the Irish team in Berlin, Mr Briscoe was there for the purposes of purchasing arms. She thought it better not to make any contact with him as it appeared to her better that the open and underground movements should not come together. She says that Mr Bewley had an office of his own and was bitterly anti-Semitic. She remembered William Binchy, who was a student at the time in Germany, saying it was an extraordinary thing in a country where Jews were so influential that the waiting-room of a foreign trade representative should be filled with anti-Jewish publications. Mr Binchy himself became Irish representative for a short time in 1929. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK O’BYRNE,
Shandon Crescent,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.

Sir, – In response to Myles McSwiney’s call (November 16th) for an adequate response to the haka, perhaps the Irish team should simply continue with their warm-up while the New Zealanders perform their dance. To paraphrase the apocryphal Eamon de Valera quote, we defeat the haka by ignoring it. – Yours, etc,
ALEXIS NEESON,
Charlesland Wood,
Greystones,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Myles McSwiney seeks an antidote to the New Zealand haka (November 16th). May I suggest the Irish team perform the finale from Riverdance as this would surely would surely antagonise the opposition. It certainly does me! – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN REID,
Rosses Point Road,
Sligo.
Sir, – The only way to intimidate the All-Blacks (Myles McSwiney, November 16th) is to reveal our newly imposed Germanic identity. The team should burst into song, namely, Erika, (as gaeilge of course, as a sop to the past). It could be accompanied by the spoons – wooden, no doubt. – Yours, etc,
EUGENE TANNAM,
Monalea Park,
Firhouse,
Dublin 24.
Sir, – Regarding Myles McSwiney’s request (November 16th) for suggestions to neutralise the grisly haka of the All Blacks, may I mention that Frank McNally in An Irishman’s Diary on the same page has pointed a way forward.
Why not have the Irish rugby team marching onto the field chanting Dominic Behan’s song McAlpine’s Fusiliers, making imaginary shovel movements to some Riverdance choreography.
The Irish labourers who invaded Britain in the 1950s were indeed the men who built Britain.
Failing that, after our pathetic performance against Australia, why not have our players walk barefoot onto the Aviva pitch with either a Rosary or a Bible (or both!). – Yours, etc,
JOE RICE,
My Lady’s Mile,
Holywood, Co Down.
Sir, – In response to Liam Cronin (November 18th), I too have noticed as dramatic decline in the sparrow population in Dublin 2. I have been told that birds are particularly sensitive to the micro-wave radiation signals which emit from all the wifi and mobile phone boosters across the city.
It is a sad irony that in order to facilitate a generation of self-absorbed “tweeters” we are depriving our children the joy of real tweets. – Yours, etc,
JOHN DEVLIN,
Erne Terrace,

Irish Independent:

* I have noticed in responses to the letters section a growing antipathy towards any contribution that is indicative of religious belief. This would seem to be based on the assumption that Ireland could be a free-thinking paradise of clear-headed citizens if unencumbered by the alleged infantile utterances of religious believers. I, for one, see no rational ground for repressing the view that there is more to life than meets the eye or mind.
Also in this section
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It’s about time for reconciliation
Commercial rates cut year on year
There is a crass assumption that believers are essentially dim-witted, despite the fact that intelligence shows itself among believers and non-believers in equal measure.
One of the sources of disdain has been some ill-conceived religious education that unwittingly eliminated critical engagement with what is on offer, undermining rather than illuminating the faith of many.
For example, the notion of original sin when badly presented implied that God had wilfully made us defective; thus flying in the face of the fact that we have emerged from millions of years of evolution.
We are beings in the making; we all have a stake in what we become and have a voice in determining it. The creation of the world is in our hands.
A recent bout of anti-religious sentiment followed the sex abuse scandal. There was fully justified outrage but it seemed to be irrationally and unjustly directed towards all priests and religious.
Religious understanding provides part of the debate about how we can conceive of a way of life that works equally to the advantage of all. There are numerous attempts to keep religious commitment in a subjective world of preference, rather than in the public realm of rational negotiation and debate where it belongs.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
PROSTITUTION AND RAPE
* We can talk about sex trafficking but the only people who can really protect these women are the men who live in Ireland, whether they are born here or not.
They say prostitution is the oldest profession, that we should not criminalise those who use it. But to be non-criminal, you need to behave in a non-criminal manner.
If you have sex with a woman who does not provide consent, even if she is a prostitute, it is criminal behaviour. It is rape.
Your payment does not nullify your responsibility to gain consent or your responsibility to ensure the person is willing to have sex with you for monetary gain.
If this woman is there unwillingly, you, not the trafficker, are the rapist.
Pauline Bleach
Wolli Creek, NSW, Australia
MODERN MARSHALL PLAN
* Given the time that’s in it, perhaps the next time Enda Kenny jets off cap in hand for his customary pat of approval from Angela Merkel, would it not be opportune to remind her that over 60,000 Irish citizens were slain in the killing fields of Flanders, the Somme, Ypres and the many other locations at the hands of the German military in the two world wars?
At the same time, he could remind her of the extraordinary generosity and vision demonstrated by the American people through the Marshall plan which, while also protecting against the advance of Communism, pumped $130bn in today’s values into Europe and Germany, resulting in a remarkable resurgence of the German economy in a few short years.
It is probably equally significant that the expansionary and far-sighted Marshall plan afforded Germany the gift of hope and confidence to successfully emerge from its most savage and destructive epoch.
When extending the begging bowl for some generosity of spirit in the retrospective capitalisation of Irish banks, Enda would do well to demand a similar gesture for today’s hapless Irish citizens, who, apart from a coterie of politicians, the rich and the elite, are again being brutalised and humiliated by the inhumane and destructive austerity policies, mainly driven by and insisted on by Germany and German unyielding fiscal ideology.
John Leahy
Wilton Road, Cork
HIGH STANDARDS IN AID
* Watching the unfolding disaster in the Philippines, let’s hope that the arrival of aid and assistance is based on the same high standards of evidence that we now expect for health care in more routine circumstances.
The concept of evidence-based health care is widely accepted in routine care and should apply in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need to know what works, doesn’t work and is unproven.
Good intentions are not enough. Evidence on the likely effects is required and it needs to influence decision and choices. In that way the response, whether at the level of communities or individuals, is likely to do more good than harm.
Mike Clarke
Founder and director, Evidence Aid,
Queen’s University Belfast
TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
* As of now, like many of my fellow citizens we are still awaiting the beginning of the long-overdue banking inquiry. I say this after reading the article in your paper that, the British Treasury did receive prior knowledge of the inclusion of Anglo Irish under the blanket guarantee bailouts.
Even more astonishing is the fact that democratically elected members of the Cabinet were left completely unaware what was about to unfold.
Moreover, the holding to account of public representatives is now a priority for this Government.
I find it incredible that the late Brian Lenihan, RIP, and Brian Cowen were the only two public-elected representatives present during the time when one of the most important decisions in this entire country’s history was being decided on.
Mattie Greville
Killucan, Co Westmeath
THE POPE’S A HEANEY FAN
* The best news and picture of recent days has come to us from Rome. The Pope has become somewhat of a hero. Whether one agrees with organised religion or not, this man, and he is that first and foremost, has displayed hints of character that does the message his religion is founded upon great service.
Firstly, it seems the Cosa Nostra, or the Mafia, is thought to have Pope Francis in their sights. It would appear that the Pope is being a most annoying cat among the pigeons of the Vatican Bank. His work is causing a highly secretive financial institution’s customers to become worried. Well done, Mr Pope!
Secondly, there is a picture of the Pope going through Rome in a vehicle that is not hemmed in by bullet-proof glass. In a move that contrasts with the visit of Mr Obama behind glass in Dublin; the Pope has, it would seem, found the courage of his faith. It would seem that Pope Francis is prepared to face his enemies without fear. He has nothing to hide or fear.
Thirdly, the Pope mentioned that Jesus indicated that sinners should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. What the reportage in some areas has failed to mention was that this was a reference to a certain type of sinner committing a certain type of sin. The sin that Fr Brendan Smyth was guilty of and a certain type of sin that the previous incumbent of the title of Pope had, according to some, a hand in covering up. One wonders if Pope Benedict is perusing the fashion houses of Italy for a designer life-jacket?
“Don’t be afraid” are the reported last words of our poet Seamus Heaney – perhaps the Pope is a fan!
Dermot Ryan
Athenry, Co Galway
Irish Independent

Leaves

November 18, 2013

18 November 2013 Leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have an inspection by the Inspection Officer can Pertwee replaces all the ‘missing’ stuff in time. Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Doris Lessing – Obituary
Doris Lessing was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist and feminist flag-bearer whose controversial bestsellers stretched the boundaries of realist fiction

Doris Lessing Photo: JUSTIN SUTCLIFFE
5:17PM GMT 17 Nov 2013
Comments
Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, who has died aged 94, was one of the towering figures of modern literature; in the course of a writing career that spanned the latter half of the 20th century, she commented on its grand sweeps and shed light on its many absurdities.
She was a prolific writer, producing approximately a book a year for nearly 60 years. They included plays, poems and short stories but her novels, in particular The Golden Notebook, remained her best known, best loved and most controversial work.

A generous, open minded character, she was, at various stages of her life, a communist, socialist, feminist, atheist, Laingian and finally a Sufi. To each of these beliefs, she brought a tireless enthusiasm that sometimes obscured judgment. She fell for ideas, digested then, outgrew them and then moved on. While she still believed, she wrote novels out of the experience. Her interests were varied but her ability to make fascinating fiction out of life was constant.
If she had written nothing else, The Golden Notebook (1962) would have secured Doris Lessing a place in the hall of fame. With it, she wrote about “new women” in a new kind of novel, one that stretched the boundaries of realist fiction.
Through the story of the novelist Anna Wulf, working her way through writer’s block, Doris Lessing commented on the form of the conventional novel. By dividing the narrative between four notebooks, she mirrored her portrayal of breakdown and mental disintegration. At least that was what she thought she was doing. Much to her surprise, The Golden Notebook was hailed as a trumpet blast for women’s liberation and Doris Lessing found many of her female friends avoiding her in case they were thought man-hating.
She was simply unable to understand it. After all, she argued, she had only written in public the sort of things women were always saying to each other in private. In 1989, 27 years after its publication, Doris Lessing was amused to receive letters praising The Golden Notebook from a genteel North London girls’ school. The “ball breaker” had become a bestseller.
In 1950 she caused a sensation in the literary world with her first published novel, The Grass Is Singing. It told the story of Mary, the wife of a poor white farmer in Southern Rhodesia who, driven mad by loneliness and poverty, begins an obsessive — and eventually fatal — relationship with her black houseboy. It was immediately popular, reprinted seven times within five months. From then on, Doris Lessing was established and the other books came swiftly.
The Children of Violence series, published between 1952 and 1969, followed the adventures of one Martha Quest through adolescence, marriage, motherhood, divorce, communism and finally to the apocalypse of a Third World War. Doris Lessing always sternly denied any autobiographical basis for this series, but her own experiences were too similar to those of Martha’s for anyone to be convinced. She even borrowed her second husband’s middle name, Anton, for her heroine’s second spouse.
In The Four-Gated City (1969), the last in the Children of Violence series, Doris Lessing moved her writing away from the sturdy realism of her earlier novels into the realms of the fantastic and the paranormal. She made telepathy a common occurrence and brought the shadowy world of mysticism and madness into focus. At the same time, she was discovering science fiction.
It was a new genre of literature for her and she found its possibilities exciting. The Four- Gated City was the springboard for her own launch into space fiction. Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) traced the internal journey of a madman and The Memoirs of a Survivor (1975) the external travels of a woman in a post-holocaust London. The Canopus in Argos: Archives series, published between 1979 and 1983, represented Doris Lessing’s most determined attempt to chart new territories.
But there were many who wished she had stuck with the old map. Some readers loyally followed her on her galactic mission; others grumbled and waited for her to return to her senses and realism. This she did, but in a wholly unexpected way.
In 1984 Jane Somers, a new writer with only two books and a few tepid reviews to her credit, turned out to be the famous and highly regarded Doris Lessing. Jane Somers’ novels The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) and If the Old Could (1984) had initially suffered a series of rejections including one from Doris Lessing’s own publishers. It was an elaborate hoax and one that gave her a great deal of pleasure.
She considered herself thoroughly successful in proving the literary world’s uncourageous response to new writing. The rejection slips proved something else, the sagacity of publishers. A bad Doris Lessing was odd enough to be desirable, a bad novel by an unknown was just a bad novel.
The Jane Somers books were Doris Lessing’s back door return to realism. The Good Terrorist followed in 1985. Inspired by the Harrods’ bombing, it described the posturing politics of demonstrations and riots and the unhappy Alice Mellings, who becomes caught up in that world. With The Fifth Child (1988) she resurrected the myth of the changeling to paint a merciless picture of ruined family life.
As well as being a formidable novelist, Lessing was also a talented short story writer, publishing collections alongside her other works. The success of her novels tended to overshadow her other achievements but she remained stubbornly loyal to the short story genre. “Some writers I know have stopped writing short stories,” she once said, “because, as they say, ‘there is no market for them’. Others like myself, the addicts, go on, and I suspect would go on even if there really wasn’t any home for them but a private drawer.”
The best among her short story collections, for example, The Habit of Loving (1957) and To Room Nineteen (1978), are tantalising glimpses into the hearts and lives of many different kinds of people, described with a vision accentuated by the demands of brevity.
Her novels were not uniformly good. Some critics have called her style “plodding” and “flat-footed” and her space fiction was often dismissed out of hand. She continued to defend it and claimed: “I’ll be damned if I can see any difference between some parts of The Grass Is Singing, my first novel, and some parts of Shikasta” (her worst novel). As a literary critic, she was inadequate; as a writer, she stood alone.
She was born Doris May Tayler on October 22 1919 in Kermanshah, Persia, to British parents. Her father, Captain Alfred Cook Tayler, a First World War veteran, had married his nurse, Emily McVeagh, “which, as they both said often enough (though in different tones of voice), was just as well”.
In the mid-1920s, the Taylers moved to Southern Rhodesia where home was a 3,000-acre maize farm on the veld. There they settled down to a life of quiet but persistent economic failure. In later life, Doris Lessing was to recall the beauty of the land. While growing up, she was depressed by its loneliness. To annoy her mother, she left school at 14. To the end of her life, she remained immensely pleased with her lack of education.
By her own admission, she was the archetypally tiresome adolescent, irritating her parents with her outspoken dislike of Rhodesia’s “colour bar”. Towards the end of her life, she spoke admiringly of her tough teenage years, describing her younger self as a girl “who bulldozed her way through pieties”. In Martha Quest (1952), she drew a fascinating picture of a similar girl, restless, dissatisfied, bored, “tired of the future before it comes”.
At the age of 22, she left her father’s farm for the small town of Salisbury, where she earned her living as a telephone operator and clerical worker. In 1939 she married Frank Charles Wisdom. The marriage lasted five years and produced a son and a daughter. A year after the divorce, she married Gottfried Anton Nicholas Lessing. That marriage also lasted five years and she bore another son, Peter.
She was less than enthusiastic about marriage, once remarking: “I do not think marriage is one of my talents. I’ve been much happier unmarried than married.”
During the early 1940s, Doris Lessing was active in organising a Communist group. Later she was to dismiss youthful politics as a way of creating a social life, but for many years, a great deal of her considerable energy was devoted to meetings, delivering pamphlets and drumming up supporters.
In 1949 Doris Lessing left Rhodesia for England. She had her son, Peter, in her arms, £20 in her handbag and the manuscript of The Grass Is Singing in her suitcase. While waiting for it to be accepted and published, she lived a somewhat precarious existence in some of the seedier parts of London.
These down-and-out-in-London experiences became the subject of In Pursuits of the English. With her wryly funny take on post-war London and its working class inhabitants, Doris Lessing, in the tradition of the outsider, held up a mirror to England and English values. Among the galaxy of oddballs and misfits was the dim-witted landlady who thought Lessing might be black because she came from Africa. “Do I look like one?” replied an astonished Doris Lessing. “I’ve known people before calling it suntan” came the confused and confusing answer.
Nevertheless, this grim and gloomy London was to be Doris Lessing’s home for the rest of her life. Fortunately, the dingy 1950s gave way to the much brighter 1960s and she came to regard the capital as “a lovely place to live”.
Shortly after arriving in England, Doris Lessing formally joined the Communist Party, a decision she subsequently dismissed as “crazy”. Her outspoken views on apartheid led to her being declared a banned person from South Africa and Rhodesia. The ban was lifted 30 years later and she was able to return “home”. It was a visit which revealed how much she had changed and how much she owed the African continent. “Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature among other creatures in a large landscape,” she observed.
During the 1960s, she became more and more disenchanted with formal politics and more interested in psychology and the metaphysical. In her books as well as in life, she explored the possibilities of psychoanalysis, telepathy, meditation, déjà vu and dreams. Like many enthusiasts, she displayed a canny ability to adopt selectively any new theories or beliefs. Thus she could find spiritual satisfaction in Sufism, an aspect of Islam, while at the same time calling Islam itself one of “these bloody, bloody religions”.
In 1986, her love-hate relationship with Islam was reinforced by a visit to Afghanistan as a guest of Afghan Aid. She supported the cause of the Mujahadeen, embarked on a flurry of fundraising activities on their behalf while at the same time loathing and deploring the treatment accorded Muslim women.
Doris Lessing’s greatest strength lay in her apparently inexhaustible facility for chronicling what one critic called the “inner experiences of unhappy women”. Martha Quest (1952) was an exceptionally fine description of the wilfulness and vanity of an adolescent; Summer Before The Dark (1973), sadly less well, examined the middle years of a family woman, subject to her children’s tyranny and in mourning for her lost good looks; and The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) looked at old age with a rather distressing emphasis on defecation.
She continued to produce novels until her 90th year, and wrote two volumes of autobiography, Under My Skin (1994), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize the following year, and Walking in the Shade (1997). She was made a Companion of Honour in 2000 and a Companion of Literature the following year.
Informed by a reporter in 2007 that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, she replied: “Oh, Christ”. She devoted her acceptance speech to a denunciation of the Internet, in what amounted to an elegy to the lost art of reading.
Doris Lessing’s achievements and versatility as a novelist won her many loyal readers whose devotion was tested but unshaken by her eccentricity, perversity and fickleness. Sometimes she wrote in styles that did not suit her, about ideas that did no credit to her intelligence, she even on occasion wrote badly. Yet she remained a writer whose exuberant spill of ideas overcame these lapses and whose energy and perception kept her admirers enthralled until the last page.
Doris Lessing’s first marriage, to Frank Charles Wisdom, was dissolved in 1943. Her second marriage, to Gottfried Anton Nicholas Lessing, ended in divorce in 1949.
Doris Lessing, born October 22 1919, died November 17 2013

Guardian:

David Cameron’s pathetic attempt to criticise the government of Sri Lanka deserves to be seen for what it really is – colonial, paternalistic and playing to an ill-informed home audience (Editorial, 16 November). There can be no condoning of the Sri Lankan regime. It’s clear they are criminal. It’s also clear that our prime minister would not dare to criticise Russia, China, India or the US for their human rights records. There is too much money at stake. If he is to be a champion of the human cause, let him stand against abuse, torture, imprisonment and death wherever it occurs. Britian can no longer allow itself to be seen as a colonial power and only raise its voice where there is little risk to British business interest.
Anish Kapoor
London
• My memories of Savormix go back further than Ian Jack’s (16 November). I recall my mother cooking with it in the 1930s. The trademark, I believe, was invented by my grandfather JH Goring, who for many years handled the advertising for Mapleton’s Nut Food Co.
Jeremy Goring
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
• May I add to Judith Martin’s suggested speakers for John McDonnell’s “People’s Parliament” (Letters, 16 November): Bob Holman (welfare), Ha-Joon Chang (economic policy), Richard Murphy (taxation) and Laurie Penny (gender equality)?
Michael Somerton
Hull
• Anyone dealing in paper ephemera finds the Guardian plastic wrappers invaluable (Letters, 16 November).
Sheila Coe
Skipton, West Yorkshire

Today is the first day of Global Entrepreneurship Week – the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship. To mark the occasion, we have come together to create the Entrepreneurs’ Alliance: a pressure group to stand up for Britain’s wealth creators. Together we represent more than 2.5m small and micro businesses. We are pooling our power and understanding of the small business community to remove the obstacles constructed by an economy too focused on the demands of big business. Entrepreneurs have proved to be the lifeblood of this recovery: the number of VAT-registered businesses is already back to pre-2008 levels, startup rates are at an all-time high and bankruptcies at a six-year low. Big businesses can’t yet boast such an impressive comeback.
To date, there has been no pressure from a single body to rival the lobbying power of big business. Whenever policy-makers are gearing their efforts towards the richest and the loudest, we will combine to point out the unintended consequences to the wider economy. Through this union of entrepreneurial expertise, we want to see an environment in which self-starters are free to challenge established business models, without being bound by the regulation and red tape that reinforces traditional monopolies. Our first action will be to pressure government to ensure proper statistics on the contribution of small businesses. At present, the data are divided and contradictory. This is just the first of many interventions in the public policy debate. We welcome ideas from small business owners the length and breadth of Britain on other ways that we can work to make Britain more entrepreneurial.
Emma Jones Founder, Enterprise Nation
Clive Lewis Head of enterprise, ICAEW
Megan Downey Manager, School for StartUps
Alex Jackman Head of policy, Forum of Private Business
Dawn Whiteley Chief executive, National Enterprise Network
Matt Smith Director, Centre for Entrepreneurs
Dan Martin Editor, BusinessZone.co.uk and UKBusinessForums.co.uk
Graeme Fisher Head of policy, Federation of Small Businesses
Philip Salter Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

I work in a care home in Cambridge, where I live with my British husband. I came over two years ago from Tacloban City, Philippines, which was severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Reports, 16 November). My whole community of the Fisherman’s Village, where my mother is chairman, has been decimated. My family, neighbours and school friends lost their homes and many their lives. Those who have survived the typhoon need food, water and medicine. They desperately need shelter too. I would ask the good readers of the Guardian if they might help with donations to the British Red Cross (www.redcross.org.uk). Even £1 would help.
Jennelyn Carter-Woodrow
Cambridge
• Four years in the Philippines has convinced me that the horrific casualty rate of the regular typhoons owes as much to human as natural causes. Mainly, the unequal distribution of wealth and the influence of the Catholic church. Almost 90% of the country’s wealth is controlled by 9% of its population. In their concrete houses, they are safe from the storms which devastate the flimsy shelters of the less fortunate. The Catholic church’s resistance to birth control has ensured a massive population explosion, further poverty and more typhoon victims.
Brendan Lynch
Dublin
• In a Philippines without food, clean water, shelter or transport links, how are the world’s reporters and cameramen finding all these things?
Godfrey Holmes
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

As researchers in the final stages of a project on the criminal law and healthcare practice, we have argued since 2011 that there is a need for legislation that will make wilful neglect or mistreatment of all patients a criminal offence (NHS staff face jail for neglect, 16 November).
In no way do we wish to burden professionals who seek to do their best with the threat of jail if they make a mistake, even a serious mistake. The offence should be limited to those rare but alas real cases where a health professional deliberately acts without regard for the welfare of their patients. The offence of wilful neglect is currently limited to patients who are mentally ill or mentally incapacitated. It should protect us all. We are all vulnerable when sick.
The challenge will be to draft legislation that applies to managers as much as to professionals on the frontline and protects all patients in the public and private sector.
Professor Margaret Brazier
Neil Allen
Sarah Devaney
Danielle Griffiths
Hannah Quirk
School of law, University of Manchester
Amel Alghrani
University of Liverpool
• From internal and independent NHS research, it appears that about 20,000 reasonably preventable premature deaths could be avoided each year by complying with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This applies to patient health and safety while undergoing treatment – although not even the Francis report seemed to properly understand the point. The act has not been promoted, complied with nor regulated. By law preventative actions must be reasonable, so as well as preventing harm this would be cost-effective and address the source of medical negligence claims.
I am a former regulator in this field, and have been pursuing these issues, particularly in Scotland, where there is no independent healthcare regulation, only Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which is part of the NHS. It “scrutinises and provides assurance”; it does not regulate NHS Scotland.
Roger Livermore
Linlithgow, West Lothian
•  The outrage expressed in respect of the abuse of people who are frail or vulnerable is something we can all agree. But it is equally morally outrageous to pass the blame for structural deficiencies and government choices that have engendered the conditions for such abuses to take place to overstretched and pressured individuals. Time for Jeremy Hunt to take a moral lead rather than tinkering with the fabric of our great NHS cloth.
Professor Jonathan Parker
Bournemouth University
It is sad to see the latest guff from the coalition regarding the NHS – now we are told that we should be jailing doctors and nurses if they don’t cure our ills. It is not surprising that the idea came from an American.
• I write as an American lawyer and one who suffered from the US medical system, such as it is, for 26 years before returning to the NHS. Here is what the proposed law will achieve. First, virtually nobody will actually be prosecuted. Despite this, doctors will contract an American paranoia of litigation (a New Orleans surgeon videotaped my knee operation – necessitated, I am ashamed to say, by an injury at French cricket – and the experience was more like being deposed than treated). Finally, there will be a huge increase in insurance for everyone in the medical professions, diverting money that should be spent on health.
When will politicians recognise that there are already more than enough laws to deal with the NHS’s relatively infrequent blunders?
Clive A Stafford Smith
Bridport, Dorset
• As Tristram Hunt points out (‘Zealot’ Gove’s model for schools has lost its way says Hunt, 16 November), the education secretary has made thousands of schools directly accountable to him through a contractual system. By contrast, the health secretary has been shuffling off responsibility for the NHS to the point where he is no more than its nominal head. The NHS is not run by the department of health but through a plethora of quangos, with the process set to continue through extensive privatisation. Jeremy Hunt’s proposal to criminalise wilful neglect by health professionals should be seen as simply a further way of evading his responsibility. And it is a fair bet that the GP contracts being announced this week (Report, 16 November) will not be with his department.
Robin Wendt
Chester
•  Will the proposed crime of wilful neglect apply to a minister who with smug evasiveness presides over the wrecking of the NHS through unnecessary expensive reorganisation, enforced competition and financial austerity?
David Webb

Independent:

You quote the Director of Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards that produced the fracking report (1 November), saying: “The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.”  The minister responsible for fracking in England states: “The UK has the most robust regulatory regime in the world for shale gas and companies will only be granted permission to frack for shale if their operations are safe.” Low risk is of course not the same as safe.
There are major questions too about how a government committed to a deregulatory and reduced regulatory agenda, along with chopping budgets – and the resulting major job losses in agencies that have oversight of environmental pollution – will be capable of guaranteeing that fracking companies operate safely.
Also extraordinary is the minister’s unsubstantiated statement that the UK has the most robust regulatory regime for fracking. In other countries the exact chemicals used in fracking have been covered by commercial confidentiality and are not disclosed fully. So how can their risks be fully assessed and cleared for UK use?
The draft review itself does not provide information indicating it is a systematic review and provides minimal information about its method, rigour and results. Public health practitioners look for high-quality systematic reviews before accepting any conclusion about a lack of public health risk.
The review also notes many gaps and specifically excludes consideration of occupational health and safety and climate change. This is a very odd way of assessing public health threats and could for example lead to the impression that climate change does not impact on public health: something strongly refuted by those working in the field.
All in all, the report raises as many questions as it attempts to answer and most certainly does not show that fracking is safe, as the UK Government tries to assert.
Professor Andrew Watterson
Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research
University of Stirling
Impact of criminal law on the NHS
Wilful neglect of patients under NHS care must be prosecuted (report, 16 November), but what about care failings when the system is at complete overstretch? When does fewer nurses on a ward become a criminal act? Reactionary politics on healthcare or welfare may grab the headlines, but services can’t be threatened beyond their capacity into working even harder as a fix for funding or staffing gaps.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
 
Why should everyone be allowed to vote?
You have mis-represented what I said regarding universal suffrage (News in brief, 14 November). I said more electoral power should be given to “wealth creators”, not simply “the wealthy”. As I wrote in the original piece:
“Is the system fair when a shopkeeper pays rates on his house and his business, not to mention a heavy VAT and income tax bill, and gets one vote? Some of his neighbours have contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all, and maybe never will, and they get one vote too”.
Godfrey Bloom MEP, (Yorkshire and the Humber)
 
Here’s a good idea. When MEP Godfrey Bloom (who wants to strip the vote from the unemployed) stands for re-election, all his constituents, employed or not, can vote against him. Thus he would join the ranks of those he seems to despise. This would not stop him spouting drivel, but at least he would no longer be doing it at our expense.
William Roberts, Bristol
 
Nothing wrong with eating horsemeat
I see that Princess Anne is urging Britons to consider eating horsemeat (report, 15 November).
Well, during the Second World War, we ate whatever we could get – horsemeat, whalemeat, etc – and a couple of times we may have suspected that a meal described as, say, “rabbit meat” could have been something else. However, as long as it was tasty (and horsemeat was) we enjoyed it!
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
 
The idea that slaughtering horses for the UK dining table would somehow reduce the suffering of these animals is fanciful. What would happen is that horses would become a commercial product – just like pigs, cattle, poultry and sheep. Yet another livestock animal to be bred, fattened and slaughtered for the pot.
Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent
 
Icebergs and archimedes
Your caption accompanying the picture of an iceberg separating from Pine Island Glacier in the Antarctic on  16 November claims:  “If it melts, it would increase global sea levels.”
Archimedes would weep! The ancient Greek philosopher recognised that a floating body displaces its own weight of water.
Thus once floating, an iceberg is already causing a sea level rise proportionate to its weight. The same notion applies to that portion of a glacier or ice-shelf which is wholly supported by the sea.
To minimise sea-level rise, we need to take steps to slow down movement or melting of ice still supported on land – Greenland and the Antarctic continent being of chief importance here.
Roger Knight, Swansea

Times:

Times readers consider whether holding the Commonwealth summit in a country accused of war crimes will be bode good or ill for democracy
Sir, Last week I would have agreed with Philip Collins (Opinion, Nov 15) about the Prime Minister attending the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka but I have changed my mind.
Thanks to the courage of the British media, unmistakeably supported by the British delegation, we are witnessing a compromised Sri Lankan President and his government being hounded and cajoled by journalists who are free to report to the rest of the world, and being visibly hindered and intimidated as they attempt to do so. There is no “cloak of respectability” on view here: quite the opposite.
It is useful that some Commonwealth countries have boycotted the summit, but a total boycott would have been a blunt instrument at this stage.
The Prince of Wales was right to say that the Commonwealth represents an opportunity for healing. This is a more constructive position than a total boycott, and, though Philip Collins may be ultimately correct that “there is no prospect that Mr Rajapaksa can be cajoled into democratic decency”, we probably stand more chance by making him squirm in the glare of world publicity than by staying away.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent
Sir, The least the Commonwealth could have done was to suspend Sri Lanka for its war crimes against women and children. Why do we suspend countries such as Fiji, which strives to meet its democratic obligations in a racially divided society, for constitutional infractions.
Another cogent reason why Britain chooses to tread lightly on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the human rights issues which dog the Commonwealth is that it is for the Commonwealth countries to choose a successor to the Queen as head. It is not necessarily limited to the Prince of Wales who by all accounts has been placed in a most appalling defensive position as he represents Her Majesty at the summit. Agreeing to hold such a summit in Colombo against the backdrop of its recent civil war has been an own goal.
Vernon Scarborough
Copthorne, W Sussex
Sir, The alleged war crimes perpetrated by members of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in the closing stages of a war against one of the most ruthless terrorist groups the world has seen should be viewed in proper perspective.
Violations of human rights, wherever they occur, call for proper inquiry, but the situation is blurred when both sides of a conflict are involved in such transgressions. The visitor to Sri Lanka in the four years since the war ended will easily see the enormous progress the country has made in this time. There is security as there was never before, and the Sinhalese and Tamils go about their business everywhere with no visible sign of tension or conflict.
These changes are surely to be welcomed, and rather than dwell on failures of the past it is preferable to build on a hard-won victory. In the words of the Buddha, “Hatreds do not cease by hatred but by love”. There are signs that the Sri Lankan Government is making every effort to make this come true and to rebuild the nation where the two ethnic groups live in peace and harmony.
Give them the chance.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
Cardiff

Lord Waverley, who held an impressive variety of posts, had a knack of turning up everywhere, according to one reader
Sir, A popular story in political circles in the 1950s (“perhaps only ben trovato”, according to his biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett) paid tribute to the prestige and ubiquity of Lord Waverley who held an impressive variety of posts (Opinion, Nov 7, letters, Nov 11,13 & 16).
A high-level delegation from a totalitarian country was greeted on arrival at the Westminster Stairs by the Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Lord Waverley. Later in the day they had a meeting with the Chairman of the UK Advisory Council on Atomic Energy, Lord Waverley. Later still, at a Buckingham Palace party, they encountered Lord Waverley prominent among the Sovereign’s guests. The following day, issues of coastal defence against flooding were on the agenda and, to their amazement, they found themselves again in consultation with Lord Waverley, who was conducting an inquiry into the problem. Finally, to their absolute confusion, when they arrived at a gala performance in their honour at Covent Garden, they were received by the Chairman of the Board, none other than Lord Waverley. In his report the leader of the delegation was said to have expressed total bewilderment: “This is not, as we thought, a democracy: it is an autocracy run by a man named Waverley.”
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

The distinction between hills and mountains has always been a matter of degree and not of mathematical calculation
Sir, The distinction between hills and mountains (report, Nov 14 & letters, Nov 15, 16) can be misleading. In the first edition of his tables of Scottish mountains of 3,000 feet and over, published in 1891, Sir Hugh T. Munro distinguished between “separate mountains” and “tops”, describing the former as those which might fairly be reckoned distinct mountains. The distinction has always been a matter of degree and not of mathematical calculation.
Tom Drysdale
Dirleton, East Lothian

Don Bradman, who wore a cloth cap to face England, admitted that he would have upgraded to a helmet had he been facing the West Indies
Sir, John Stone (letter, November 16) is right to point out that when Don Bradman faced Harold Larwood, notably in the infamous “BodyLine” tour to Australia in 1932-33, his head protection amounted to no more than his treasured Australian baggy green cap.
However, when asked, some 50 years later, if he would have worn a helmet against the might of West Indies and its bowling attack of Roberts, Marshall, Holding, Garner, Croft et al, the Don’s answer was a categorical “Yes”.Michael ClaughtonWisden Ashford, Kent

The Gjallarhorn, blown by the Norse god Heimdall to signal the onset of Ragnarök, had an alternative use as a drinking horn
Sir, How pleasing to see a Bronze Age-type lur being sounded in York (Photograph, Nov 15). However, the reference to Ragnarök, the “Viking apocalypse”, suggests that a drinking horn would have been a more apt type of trumpet. According to Norse mythology, the god Heimdall would blow the Gjallarhorn to signal the onset of Ragnarök, this instrument being described as having an alternative use as a drinking horn.
Clare Gibson
London W4

Children should be taught to walk, ride, then drive in one road safety continuum, so they will have greater awareness of the dangers of each
Sir, You correctly diagnose road user behaviour as a principal cause of cycle collisions (“Think Bike”, leading article, Nov 15).
One approach would be to train youngsters to walk, ride, then drive in one road safety continuum. This would create a generation of new drivers more accepting of their two-wheeled brethren. Collisions, so prevalent in that age group, would be reduced and more would find the confidence to saddle up.
Encouraging people to share the road may be less politically seductive than paint and concrete, but would have greater effect and at far less cost.
David Love
London SW15

Telegraph:

SIR – I don’t think many of us can imagine the horrors experienced by our forces in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Our Forces do a job that most of us could not stomach. To do this day after day while witnessing comrades suffering horrific injuries or being killed would unnerve the strongest of us. Wars brutalise those involved and, although I do not condone the killing of the Taliban insurgent, I would hope a degree of leniency would be applied during the sentencing of the marine, given the circumstances.
Norman Hill
Aberdeen
SIR – Marine A is guilty, but, allowing for what he had seen and endured, it is not entirely surprising that his judgment warped and he snapped. The Helmand campaign was a dirty, barbaric affair and certainly, the Taliban did not always stick to the letter of the Geneva Convention. This is no excuse, but could you predict how you would react to finding body parts of comrades hung on trees?
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Reg Wilson
Woking, Surrey
High-speed rail
SIR – Contrary to the assertion of David Smith, reopening the Great Central for freight trains would not release useful capacity for extra passenger trains on the existing network.
Precisely because of capacity constraints, very few freight trains now run at the times of peak passenger demand. For instance, the first freight train of the morning towards London on the West Coast Main Line does not pass Watford until 08:35, well after most commuters are on their way to work.
If anything new is to be built, it should be for high-speed inter-city trains, to reap the benefits of speed and avoid the loss of capacity that results from mixing trains of different speeds on the same tracks. The existing lines could then serve local travellers and freight very well indeed.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – If reopening the Great Central Railway is such a good idea, why hasn’t a private syndicate undertaken a feasibility study?
I’m sure it could easily get Government approval for a privately funded, profit-making, freight-only railway. I don’t see any reason why taxpayers’ money should be involved.
Tim Bochenski
Bramhall, Cheshire
SIR – Stephenson and Brunel succeeded because their railways were financed by private capital; not by increasing the public debt, as with HS2.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
Conservative policy
SIR – If the Tories are to have a chance of winning the next election, they need to offer some concrete, popular policies in their next manifesto. May I suggest that they 1) Abolish, or drastically cut, the BBC licence fee; 2) Put an end to all further subsidies for wind and solar energy, together with the removal of all other green levies; 3) Repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights; and 4) Halve the budget for overseas aid.
Matthew d’Ancona will doubtlessly label these proposals extreme and Right-wing. They are not. They would attract widespread public support across the political spectrum.
Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire
Grammar of success
SIR – Most British children are subject to the “one size fits all” egalitarian project of comprehensive education – social engineering on a grand scale.
The academically talented ought to be encouraged in the best interests of the country. A post-Cameron Tory party must pledge to restore grammar schools to give children from any background the freedom to fulfil their potential.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – I was born illegitimate, adopted by a working-class couple and was on my fourth mother figure by the age of seven. I took the 11-plus and was in the top academic grammar school stream during my secondary education. I worked up to becoming a senior lecturer in electronic engineering at an institute of higher education.
My career hinged entirely upon passing the 11-plus and attending an excellent grammar school. I am concerned that such opportunities are increasingly restricted for young people with academic potential.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
Television advertising
SIR – Julian Mounter is not correct to suggest that commercial television interests would love to see the BBC lose the licence fee. They wish to preserve the status quo to ensure that the BBC has no case for muscling in on television advertising.
Those of us who would happily survive with just commercial and subscription television accept the mostly bearable, often useful and sometimes even entertaining adverts as the means by which the programmes are provided. They are preferable to the “plugs” one is subjected to on the BBC, which mostly take the form of smug own-trumpet-blowing.
Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey
Paxman’s voting facts
SIR – Martin Bell was a fine reporter in his day. But he seems to have lost the habit of checking his facts.
I have never said that I did not bother to vote at the last election. I did once not vote – and, as I said in the piece which he imagines he’s referring to, I felt very uncomfortable about it later.
As I pointed out in the same piece – and to Russell Brand – those who cannot be bothered to vote (if only to write “none of the above” on their ballot paper) disqualify themselves from passing comment on the state of the country. People died for the right to vote, and it ought to be respected.
Jeremy Paxman
London W1
Flying chalk
SIR – Jack Elliot pointed out that former members of the Forces who were emergency-trained after the Second World War were excellent teachers. Indeed they were. They brought with them strong discipline and an expectation that pupils would want to learn.
Their task may have been made easier by their being free to exercise control via a range of methods that educationalists would not accept today: well-aimed chalk and board rubbers and cutting sarcasm were among their armoury.
Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
SIR – I was taught by Royal Army Education Corps sergeants in Benghazi in 1948-49. They were brilliant teachers. Our school consisted of a number of rooms above an Arab warehouse. Because there were so few British children there to make up teams, we girls had to learn how to play football and cricket, and the boys had to learn how to play netball and rounders. These were played on a dirt “playground”.
Beverley Battey
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
Bring home the Bacon
SIR – I read with amazement that a Francis Bacon painting was sold this week for £89 million. How someone could watch the news of the typhoon destruction in the Philippines, with its thousands of starving and homeless people, and then go and spend £89 million on a picture, is beyond me.
Neil Ross
Kirkton of Maryculter, Kincardineshire
Secret of fresh carrots
SIR – Where is John Mills buying and storing his carrots? Buy them loose and store in a dark place. They will last for weeks.
David Edwards
White Roding, Essex
SIR – I always put carrots into a brown paper bag to keep them fresh, and to prevent them from going limp. However, I ensure that they are not bought already polywrapped.
Penelope Heeley
Keyworth, Nottinghamshire
SIR – Simply wrap them tightly in aluminium cooking foil, place in the salad drawer of the fridge and voila, they will remain fresh for at least two weeks.
June E Powell
Greasby, Cheshire
SIR – I put them all in green bags and store them in the fridge’s salad box. These bags are available at supermarkets and can be used many times.
Patricia Carter
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
SIR – Do as my wife has done: make a double-layer fabric bag, lined with bubble wrap and secured at the top with string or Velcro. Store in the fridge and, hey presto, perfect carrots for a considerable period.
Frank Sanders
Allestree, Derbyshire

SIR – If the Prime Minister accedes to the demand of Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, that any reductions in green subsidies be offset by funding inefficient renewable energy from general taxation, the resulting pledge would be just as much of a con trick as the price freeze proposed by Ed Miliband.
This latest disagreement in the senior ranks of government emphasises the futility of the Coalition. While it made some progress during its first couple of years, in reducing the massive deficit left by Labour and slowly moving the economy in the right direction again, the past year has seen more and more conflict that has prevented the Government from making progress in a number of vital areas.
It is time for the Conservatives to make it clear to Nick Clegg and his colleagues that there can be no further concessions to Lib Dem sensibilities at the expense of what is right for Britain.
John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
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SIR – Where are the performance figures to tell us how wind farms will affect global temperature, and when? What effect did Kyoto have?
In the present economic environment, attempts to control the climate need to be not only effective but also cost-effective if they’re going to continue to be funded by green taxes. Shooting in the dark to convince people that “something is being done” is too facile a ploy.
David Tong
Southampton
SIR – The wholesale price of electricity is presently some 5p per kwh. Standby output would normally fetch more and unpredictable output less.
Thanks to the Green lobby, the unpredictable electricity generated by photovoltaic panels is accorded not just a premium price but an extravagantly subsidised one of 14.3 per kwh.
Needless to say, the tab is picked up by electricity consumers, many of whom are poor, live in flats, lack south-facing roofs or are too far north.
Much the same can be said of “free” but erratic wind power. In addition to needing standby power facilities, it will require a considerable investment in the national grid. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
SIR – This Government must dictate a national strategy for energy production from all resources before the lights go out. Mr Cameron must replace Ed Davey with an energy secretary who can think clearly and act sensibly. His strategy must override devolved parliaments and prevent Alex Salmond’s ridiculous ideas for energy production in Scotland.
Peter J Fitch
Elgin, Morayshire
SIR – Ed Davey calls for improved energy efficiency. In economic terms, efficiency means achieving the most cost-effective solutions – doing more with less. Mr Davey’s pursuit of renewables is the exact opposite – doing less with more.
Doug Landau
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – Your leading article claims that “Wind farms receive at least £100 per megawatt-hour in subsidies, twice the market price for electricity”. This is not correct.
Onshore wind farms receive a subsidy in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates; 0.9 of a ROC per MWh generated. Each ROC is worth roughly £46, equating to a subsidy of roughly £42 per MWh, which is significantly less than your claim of £100.
Jeffrey Corrigan
Broadview Energy
London W1
SIR – Ed Davey insists that we must pay an extra 5 per cent tax on our fuel bills to invest in greener technology for the future. However, the Government to which he belongs puts out tenders and takes the best ship-building deals it can get for the Royal Navy. Does it take into account the energy policies of the countries where these will be built?
If the environment is so important that every one of us has to pay more tax, then it should also figure in decisions on procurement, both to create a level playing field commercially and to save the planet.
Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

Irish Times:

   
Sir, – The recent calls that Berlin should “face up to its historic responsibility” and speed up the return of the recently uncovered stolen treasures, can give the impression that the looting of art and cultural artefacts was a uniquely Nazi phenomenon. Fintan O’Toole’s excellent article (Culture Shock, November 9th) on the looted treasures in Ireland, stemming from our time of active participation in the British empire, puts paid to that notion.
The long-held Chinese view of the West as “barbarian” was reinforced by the frenzy of looting and destruction of some of that civilisation’s oldest shrines as, for example, in the burning of the Old Summer Palace and Garden (the “Yuanmingyuan”) by the British-led Anglo French expedition of 1860. They estimate that 1.6 million looted objects from this event alone are still extant abroad and are calling for their restoration.
The Egyptians, perhaps, have been the most vociferous of all in seeking the return from the former colonial powers, of their priceless heritage. Their calls, too, are being ignored.
Ireland’s relatively high standing in the UN and in the “non-aligned” world derives in part from its perceived tradition of resistance to colonialism over a long period of time. It might be a fitting gesture, therefore, to the men and women of 1916 if an Irish government were to direct its museums and galleries to begin the process of repatriation of all identifiably stolen treasures, as and from that centenary date. More importantly, such a gesture would put pressure on London, Paris, Berlin and other former imperial capitals and help bring to a close one of the more visible and shameful reminders of Europe’s colonial past. – Is mise,
BILLY FITZPATRICK,
Ashfield Park,

Sir, – One would imagine that in the wake of the many recent scandals concerning the leaking of sensitive personal information that have broken this year (WikiLeaks, NSA surveillance, financial, etc) there would now, more than ever, be a massive clamour for more openness and transparency.
It is, at the very least, surprising that the Freedom of Information Bill 2013, Schedule 1, Part 1 (pp 72 -75) lists 23 “partially included agencies”, and Schedule 1, Part 2 (pp 75 -76) lists no fewer than 38 “exempt agencies” – mainly State and semi-State bodies (including An Post, Bord Gais, CIÉ, Coillte, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, ESB, Irish Aviation Authority, National Oil Reserves Agency, Irish Water, Waterways Ireland, VHI, the various airport authorities and port companies).
These bodies receive substantial State funding, which derives from taxpayers’ money, and provide services to the public. Why are we, thus, not privy to freedom of information from these bodies?
Can this be something for this Government, which has championed a return to transparency, to be proud of? – Yours, etc,
MARTIN KRASA,
Sunday’s Well Road,
Cork.
Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones (Health + Family supplement, November 13th) claims “no one needs vitamin D supplements unless they stay indoors all day or wear clothes that completely cover every inch of skin”. This dangerous advice contradicts the reality of vitamin D sources for populations of northern regions, including Ireland, where during winter months 55 per cent of the adult population are deficient or at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is critical for the healthy functioning of the human beyond just bone health (ie osteoporosis, as discussed in Dr Jones’s article, and rickets). In recent years, studies have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and cancer, and autoimmune (eg multiple sclerosis), infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with poorer prognosis and survival in some cancer patients.
The main source of vitamin D is the production in skin following exposure to UVB from sunlight. However, in northern regions (including Ireland) the intensity of UVB is insufficient to induce skin synthesis from October to April, a period referred to as “vitamin D winter”. During this time very little (if any) vitamin D can be synthesised – even if one were to sunbathe for the whole day.
In Ireland, users of vitamin supplements have significantly higher Vitamin D levels compared to non-users. Dietary sources of vitamin D are scarce and insufficient to maintain healthy vitamin D levels; therefore, vitamin D supplements are by far the most important source for populations living at high latitudes – particularly in winter months. I, for one, took my supplement this morning. – Yours, etc,
LINA ZGAGA,
Associate Professor of Epidemiology,
Trinity College Dublin,

Sir, – Robert Gerwarth writes a mostly excellent review of Richard Overy’s book The Bombing War (Weekend Review, November 9th) whose thesis is that allied bombing was useless, ineffectual and brutal particularly in the use of incendiary bombs.
However, Gerwarth states the British were the first to “systematically bomb civilians”. He is wrong. Much worse than the initial bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam, was the unprovoked bombing of Belgrade for three days, ordered in a fit of pique by Hitler after the overthrow of Paul’s government that signed a pact allowing German troops to transit Yugoslavia to attack Greece. The bombardment against a defenceless city without a declaration of war lasted 72 hours without a break (April 6th-9th, 1941) until Belgrade was wiped out.
The Maltese nation endured such relentless bombing (1941-43) that the country was awarded a collective George Cross and the aerial bombing was systematically undertaken by the Germans to terrorise the highly strategic island into surrender.
The destruction of Guernica in 1936 by German bombers was the very first test of the effects of systematic bombing on innocent civilians and the RAF barely existed on paper that year. With one year to go before the end of the second World War, Germany was systematically bombing the UK with V1 and V2 rockets and more lethal weaponry was in the offing including rockets that could be fired from E-boats.
The debate is worthwhile, but as moral inferences will be drawn all the facts need to be aired systematically. – Yours, etc,
ROLAND EVANS,
Sir, – Peter Craven (November 14th) states he has managed to reduce his monthly bill for prescription medicine from €144 per month to €90 per month. Well done Mr Craven, but I can go one better.
For the past few months I have been getting my medicines in Newry. I have reduced my cost from €144 per month to €20 per month. I do have to make the drive to Newry but this is only about one hour each way and costs around €30 for petrol and toll charges. The pharmacy in Newry will supply six months’ worth of drugs at a time as long as I can provide the appropriate prescription so I only have to make the trip twice a year. I calculate my annual saving at €1,428. – Yours, etc,  
TIM O’SULLIVAN,
Maywood Avenue, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Wouldn’t you think that to celebrate our exit from the bailout, we could manage to send a bit more than a paltry million and a half euros to the Philippines? The United Nations is seeking at least €300 million in aid for that devastated country. Someone paid half that amount for three pictures of a fellow sitting on a chair . . . It costs a family €9,000 a month to live in south Dublin. Meanwhile, in downtown Tacloban . . . – Yours ,etc,
JOHN QUINN,
Stradbally North,

Sir, – Dr Elva Johnston (October 31st) categorically dismisses any alternative theory concerning St Patrick’s origins and holds fast to the traditional view that he came from Roman Britain.
In the book Rediscovering Saint Patrick – A New Theory of Origins” (Columba Press, 2013) to which Dr Johnston indirectly refers, I have argued that St Patrick’s “Britanniis” which is the name given for his homeland in the oldest surviving copy of Patrick’s Confessio, preserved in the Book of Armagh, is a reference to the region we now call Brittany and not to the island of Britain, exclusively.
I have taken this view on the basis that the name “Britannia” or “Britanniis” may have been applied to Brittany at the time of the rebellion of Magnus Maximus (who ruled as emperor of the west from 385-389 AD) as a result of a strategic settlement of the ancient Britons in that region, which was known to the Romans as Armorica.
This gives an historical context to St Patrick’s early life and captivity and perhaps sheds light on the true meaning of this key geographical reference since if he had been born in Brittany or settled in that region as a child, he would have grown up understanding “Britanniis” to be his homeland. All this pre-dates by several hundred years Dr Johnston’s so called “Cult of St Patrick” which I understand was never as significant or widespread an influence in Brittany as she claims it to be.
Contrary to what Dr Johnston claims in her letter, none of the key geographical references mentioned in the Confessio have ever been securely identified. She is right that many scholars (like herself) consider St Patrick’s origins in Britain to be an indisputable historical fact, while the evidence, in my view, suggests that it is not.
Several of the early “Lives” of St Patrick published by Fr John Colgan in 1647, contain references to a region on the continent known to the ancient Irish writers as Armoric Letha or Lethania Brittania, which they identify as the place where St Patrick was taken captive. This is clearly a reference to the coastal region which surrounded the ancient Roman port at Aleth (now St Malo) where the Legio Martenensis or Legion of Mars was stationed at the close of the fourth century.
The notion that St Patrick was taken captive from Brittany is a view shared by the majority of early Breton historians and recorded by several Irish and continental writers, ancient and modern.
I must, therefore, share with you my sense of dismay and disappointment at the tone of Dr Johnston’s letter. In my view, the extremist position she takes in refusing to countenance any alternative theory reflects a certain academic arrogance and authoritarianism which does not do justice to the complexity of the subject. M Charles de Gerville, a Breton antiquarian writing in the 1840s regarded the established theory of Britain, to be “a gross historical error” and I agree with him. Contrary to what Dr Johnston says, there is much about St Patrick that remains a mystery and it is incumbent upon her as an academic historian not to close the doors to further inquiry.
The Confessio website, hosted by the Royal Irish Academy, to which she refers, is indeed a magnificent resource for the study of Patrick although it is interesting to note that the academy has obviously given its full and unqualified support to the traditional theory of origins in its most recent publication of St Patrick’s Confessio (Pádraig McCarthy (transl.), My Name is Patrick . . . Dublin: RIA, 2011) where the name for St Patrick’s homeland “Britanniis” is again translated as Britain, removing the plural form of the original and still referring to the island of Britain, exclusively.
Dan Brown once said, “sometimes the translation or mistranslation of one single word can re-write history”. Could the experts in Dublin have possibly got it wrong? – Yours, etc,
Rev MARCUS LOSACK,
Holy Cross Church,

   
Sir, – On Friday, in a short walk up Grafton Street, in Dublin, I saw separate cases of gardaí booking beggars at ATMs. If the gardaí had shown, or showed, such diligence as to our bankers, lawyers, clerics, oil companies, accountants and politicians, there would be fewer poor for them to harass.
The curriculum at Templemore needs an urgent overhaul, as do the criteria we apply to select our guardians of the peace. – Yours, etc,
NIALL GILLESPIE,
Newmarket Square,

Sir, – I have been waiting for someone in the media to comment on the lovely photograph of Michael O’Leary on the front page of your Business and Innovation supplement (November 11th). There he is in a beautiful suit, double-cuffed shirt with links and well-matched tie. He looked wonderful, surely an augury of the future image of the airline? Long may he look so well. – Yours, etc,
DONAL MORRISSY,
Ballyvaughan,

Sir, – I understand that the peoples of Sweden and Switzerland were the only Europeans to suffer less from violence than the people of Ireland these past 100 years; and Ireland’s good fortune stems from the actions of Pearse, Connolly and their comrades.
Had those comrades not fought in 1916 polite ladies would have offered them white feathers. It should be recalled that the first shots fired in anger in Western Europe in 1914 were fired at unarmed civilians in Dublin’s Westland Row by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and that before Tom Clarke, Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh faced a British firing squad in 1916, Ireland’s best known pacifist, Francis Sheehy Skeffington had met the same fate before a British firing squad.,
Paddy McEvoy (November 14th) does violence to the historical record, apparently deliberately. He may, however, have been made a sucker for the historical poppycock peddled by unscrupulous merchants. There are some of them still about but a stone’s throw from Bachelor’s Walk, and as ill-willed as ever towards the people of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
DONAL KENNEDY,
Palmers Green,

Sir, – We have been informed that there is to be a referendum to allow marriage equality in 2015. This will only affect civil marriage as defined in this Republic. Can I suggest that you stop including theological discussions ( Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh, November 14th and others) in this debate.
I do not expect to find sports reporting in the business pages, so I would expect that you should at least set the tone for church/State separation and afford theological debates their own space away from debates on our Constitution. – Yours, etc,
MARK McGRAIL,
Highland Avenue,

Sir, – It has been suggested that Sligo County Council will be required to pay in excess of €7 million in legal costs in the Lissadell case.
It might be deemed unfortunate that with some foresight, for this sum, it could have bought and restored the house and estate itself, on behalf of the people of Sligo, and thus allowed public access to remain? – Yours, etc,
W ARTHUR TANNER,
Orwell Road,

Sir, – What has happened to our little sparrows? I haven’t seen any in the past 18 months. I used to take great delight in watching those birds eat from my bird feeders as I enjoyed my breakfast. I also had robins. I would like to hear the views of the readers who seem to be more interested in TDs and banks. Money did not make this world. – Yours, etc,
LIAM CRONIN,
Dromore Road,
Drimnagh,

Irish Independent:

Madam – Just finished reading a very topical and sobering article by Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). Quite an appropriate date.
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Anyone for a debate?
The quotes from Brendan Smith, TD, were quite poignant and Mr Harris’s thoughts were very complementary and worth reading a few more times – which prompted me to think that it might be about time that we convened a forum for reconciliation and forgiveness, to include the full lifetime of the country.
None of the horrors of our history touched me or my family, but we were greatly touched by the horrors inflicted by all sides, on all other sides. And it continues to be painful to see the Civil War being played out every other day in Dail Eireann.
In another Sunday newspaper, the Junior Minister for Finance, Brian Hayes, is quoted as saying something like “let’s leave the past behind” (not verbatim) while his boss, on his first day in office, took the time to climb up a ladder and take down Dev’s portrait and replace it with Mick’s. (By the way, that routine repeats with every change of government.)
If there was a settlement of reconciliation and forgiveness, all the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael stuff could be confined to the archives and we could get on with the business of getting women into the priesthood and running the country.
RJ Hanly,
Wexford
CAN ADAMS DO A VANISHING ACT?
Madam – I wish the leader of Sinn Fein would just disappear. End of.
Paul O’Sullivan,
Donegal
MOVE ON AND LOOK TO FUTURE
Madam – When will the Sunday Independent stop attacking Irish republicans? The ranting from Eoghan Harris and Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) would make Murdoch blush. O’Hanlon says that Sinn Fein is toxic, that political parties in Dublin will find it difficult to deal with the party after the next election and she dreads the thought of Sinn Fein in government. Yet she ignores the fact that political parties in the British establishment have been dealing with Sinn Fein for decades, and loyalists have been in government with Sinn Fein since the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement. The British Queen formally met Martin McGuinness, yet according to O’Hanlon, political parties in the south are so precious that they would be unable to work with Sinn Fein. Is this serious journalism?
It is time to look forward, move on and seek ways to bring communities together and address the challenges we now face, including the crisis in the health service, the growing inability of people to pay their mortgages, failing businesses and the crisis facing the elderly.
Joe Feeney,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
NEW SINN FEINERS MUST COME CLEAN
Madam – Your editorial about Sinn Fein (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) stated it was time for Adams to go before he tainted “a new generation of politicians such as Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald with the inglorious odours that continue to emanate from the nether regions of Sinn Fein’s even more inglorious history”.
However, it will take far more than Adams or McGuinness retiring to draw a line under their past actions.
The ‘new’ generation of Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald, by their own admissions, have been involved with Sinn Fein since they were teenagers, which is well over 20 years ago during its terrorism campaign. It begs the question of why, out of all the political options available, did Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald choose to join an organisation with murderous links. They gladly signed up to the ethos of that organisation and have never expressed any qualms about the people they were involved with then, or their actions, and who they continue to be involved with, such as people like Mr Ferris.
If the price of peace is that people who committed sickening terrorist atrocities against innocent people never see the inside of a cell that is a bitter price to pay, but perhaps a necessary one. However, such people should never receive clemency without admitting to their past.
Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald cannot pretend they too are not already stained by their silence on the actions of their colleagues, who they defended so robustly and continue to defend. If people in Sinn Fein want to make a genuine claim to be part of a new generation, they must make a clear break in their links to the people who do not.
If Sinn Fein genuinely wants to be accepted as part of the parliamentary democratic process then it needs to abide by the same rules as every other party in that process. Obviously this requires all past participants in its campaign of terror to admit their role.
Desmond FitzGerald,
Canary Wharf, London
LAME INTERVIEW WITH FERGUSON
Madam – I’m writing regarding Niamh Horan’s review/opinion piece on Alex Ferguson’s interview (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013).
I would like to express my delight that it was brought to the attention of the public how lame Friday’s ‘Q&A’ was. No matter how loyal to the ‘Boss’ – as Eamonn Holmes continuously put it – there’s no hiding from the fact that this book tour is a complete money racket. Mr Holmes fell way below expectancy level, even little things like apologising for coughing into his mic on a number of occasions and also not making eye contact with his interviewee after asking a question, instead scrolling down his list of questions. For all that Ferguson has done for Manchester United, I personally felt this was most unlike the man who will be remembered as one of the greatest managers to ever live.
Mark Colgan,
Celbridge, Co Kildare
MOORE IS CREDIT TO NEWBRIDGE
Madam – I feel a Christy Moore song about Newbridge Credit Union will enter the charts any day now.
Robert Sullivan,
Bantry, Co Cork
DON’T BE FOOLED BY BAILOUT ‘EXIT’
Madam – According to recent reports we are about to exit the bailout. But I for one am questioning if this is so. Some years ago, Pope Francis, as the then archbishop of Buenos Aires, stated: “The economic and social crisis and the consequent increase in poverty, has its causes in policies inspired by those forms of neo-liberalism that consider profits and the laws of the market as absolute parameters to the detriment of the dignity of people and nations.”
Unfortunately this kind of analysis has not been mentioned in recent times in Ireland. We would benefit if this were taken seriously. Let us not be deceived by the illusion that everything will be OK when it is business as usual.
Padre Liam Hayes, SVD
Argentina
FUNERAL COSTS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD
Madam – Louise McBride stated that funeral costs in Ireland are out of control (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). It’s no wonder, if the funeral businesses are unregulated. Its about time the Irish Association of Funeral Directors examined this issue.
The price of a typical funeral varies from €4,000 to €6,000, and a grave with a headstone could come to €10,000. Cremations could set you back more than €2,000. I am sure this will come as a surprise to many people. We have no choice but to pay.
Bernard Rafter,
Berkshire, England
Sunday Independent

Stef and Sharland

November 17, 2013

17 November 2013 Stef and Sharland

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have an inspection by the admirals. Priceless.
Quiet Stef and Sharland come to call
The Scrabble game collapsed half way through my fault

Obituary:

Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor – Obituary
Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor was a scholar who wrote a popular guide to the Holy Land and was not afraid to question the Gospels

Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor 
5:51PM GMT 15 Nov 2013
Comments
Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, who has died aged 78, was a Dominican priest, a leading authority on biblical archaeology and Professor of New Testament studies at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, the oldest Roman Catholic graduate school in the Holy Land.
A first cousin of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, “Father Jerry”, as he was always known, was the author of more than a dozen books and numerous papers on theology and archaeology, including the concise and witty The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700. First published in 1980 as part of the Oxford Archaeological Guide series, the book ran to five editions and became a bestseller.
Murphy-O’Connor also distinguished himself among foreigners living in Israel as someone who brought archaeological sites in the Holy Land to life, somehow managing to strengthen believers in their faith while challenging some of their most cherished assumptions about the life of Christ where they conflicted with the scholarly evidence.
Thus, for example, he poured cold water on the biblical account of the journey undertaken by Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, pointing out that although St Luke claims that they travelled to take part in a Roman census, Jesus was born in Herod the Great’s time, before the Romans took power, and probably about 11 years before the census.
Nor was news of the birth of Jesus spread by angels: “Angelos in Greek means messenger. It is much more likely that Joseph and Mary had friends in the area who were shepherds and they knew of the impending birth from kids shouting to their dads,” he explained. Such stories had survived because “people prefer good yarns to the truth”.

Murphy-O’Connor also claimed that the modern-day pilgrims who follow Jerusalem’s “Via Dolorosa” – Jesus’s journey to the Cross – are probably going the wrong way. The traditional route begins near the city’s eastern edge, where the Antonia Fortress once stood (according to tradition this was where Pilate condemned Jesus to death); it was more likely that Pilate judged Jesus from a platform in front of what had been Herod’s palace, near the Jaffa Gate on the western extremity of the Old City, which served at the time as the residence of the Roman procurators when they travelled to Jerusalem from their headquarters in Caesarea. As a result Jesus would have had to take a completely different route to the site of the Crucifixion.

Roman Catholic pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa (ALAMY)
Meanwhile, although there was nothing implausible about the general story of the Crucifixion, in Christian iconography some of the details had been “prettied up” to make it more palatable in a way which, Murphy-O’Connor felt, downplayed Jesus’s essential humanity.
In reality, the Way of the Cross would have led through cramped passages where it was “part of the game” for bystanders to strike at the prisoner’s kidneys and genitals, and where, since the prisoner could only struggle through sideways, he would have been unable to see potholes or steps in the route. With His arms strapped to the crossbeam, Jesus would not have been able to protect His face when He fell. Nor was Calvary the lonely hilltop that is so often depicted, but a stone outcrop at the corner of an abandoned rock quarry.
But the cave where Jesus is said to have been born, and which now lies beneath the main section of Bethlehem’s 1,600-year-old Church of the Nativity, was, Murphy-O’Connor believed, probably His true birthplace. Although the New Testament account of Jesus’s birth makes no mention of a cave, the fact that the site had none the less been revered since at least the second century gave the strongest indication that it was the actual spot. “It’s pre-Constantinian, which means a local tradition,’’ Murphy-O’Connor explained. “You’re not inventing stuff to make tourists happy, which is what happened in the Byzantine period when you had millions of pilgrims coming here.’’

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (ALAMY)
Murphy-O’Connor was sanguine about such commercialism, noting that it had uses for scholarship. For example, what is believed to have been the original tomb of Christ was destroyed by an Egyptian conqueror in 1009, and it is only because of early commercialism that it is known what that tomb looked like. Pilgrims of the 6th century brought back to Europe oil from the sacred lamps and water from the Jordan in little silver flasks which were etched with a tiny replica of the tomb. Some are still preserved.
The eldest of four children of a prosperous Irish wine merchant, Father Jerome was born James Murphy-O’Connor in Cork on April 10 1935, and educated at the Christian Brothers College in Cork, and at Castleknock College in Dublin, where he decided to train as a Dominican priest.
After graduating from a seminary in Ireland he chose scriptural studies, gaining a doctorate at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, under the Dominican biblical scholar Ceslas Spicq. His doctoral thesis was later published as Paul on Preaching (1964).

Murphy-O’Connor was ordained in 1964. After taking his doctorate he embarked on post-doctoral work on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the universities of Heidelberg and Tubingen. When he arrived at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem at the age of 28 he continued the work of interpreting the Dead Sea Scrolls and the theology and writings of St Paul. He was appointed Professor of New Testament in 1967.
Tall, heavily built and with a clipped white beard, Murphy-O’Connor had something of the Old Testament prophet about him, and during his 50 years in Jerusalem he built an international reputation as one of the world’s leading biblical scholars.
He lectured around the world and made numerous television appearances, most recently in Britain on Channel 4’s eight-part Christianity: A History (2009). For many years he led parties of diplomats, UN staff, journalists, priests and sundry expats on weekend hikes around such sites as Qumram, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Caesarea — the only stipulations being that participants should not hold Israeli or Arab passports and that they should keep their tour guide supplied with gin and tonic.
Regular attendees became known as the “Sunday Group”, and it was as a result of their adventures that Oxford University Press asked Murphy-O’Connor to write his archaeological guidebook to the Holy Land. He donated all the royalties from this and other books (mainly about the life, letters and theology of St Paul) to his Dominican institute.
While he lived in Jerusalem until his death, Murphy-O’Connor returned to Cork most summers and kept closely in touch with his extended family.
He never lost his zest for theological controversy. In his last book, The Keys to Jerusalem, published last year, he addressed several problems to which he felt there had been no satisfactory answers, including what really happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, where, according to all four Gospels, immediately after the Last Supper Jesus took a walk to pray. “How do we know the words of Jesus’s prayer?” he asked. “If the disciples were asleep and they had no time with Jesus after he was arrested and before he was put to death, how does anyone know what Jesus prayed? Where is the source for the content?”

The Garden of Gethsemane (ALAMY)
His answer was: “They made it up!”
Father Jerry Murphy-O’Connor tended to dismiss criticism that such questioning might undermine belief, arguing that those whose faith is shaky would lose it anyway, whereas those looking for spiritual refreshment rather than crude proof would come away strengthened.
Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, born April 10 1935, died November 11 2013

Guardian:

Rory Stewart is right to note that we fail as a society to value and use the skills, knowledge and experience of older people (“Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute”, Comment).
One of the best ways for older people to contribute is through volunteering and working for charities, nationally and locally in their community. The voluntary sector needs to mobilise all these potential contributions to meet the growing needs in Britain and abroad.
But we also need to tackle the ageism that fuels suspicions and stereotyping across generations. Everyone would benefit if we created a Britain that is truly for all ages.
Stephen Burke
Director
United for All Ages, Childcare Champions and Good Care Guide
Happisburgh
Norfolk
Rory Stewart rightly highlights our society’s wasteful neglect of the talents and energies of older retired people but suggesting only that elders are given more power and responsibility unwittingly risks reinforcing the divisions between the generations.
With effective national and local government backing, community groups could be encouraged and formed, giving people of all ages an opportunity to mix socially and give mutual support for their various needs.
Loneliness, for example, is not restricted to the elderly. Many people who complain about loneliness are from the growing group of divorcees.
Many older people would willingly play a significant part in setting up and running community groups – with a little money and some practical advice and help from local authority community support workers. This “empowerment” of communities would enhance the lives of older people while fostering contact and understanding between the generations.
We cannot transfer the inter-generational culture of Kabul that Rory Stewart mentions to Britain, but we could make a start by reviving the spirit of community.
Derek Heptinstall
Broadstairs, Kent
Breath of fresh air, that young Rory Stewart. Little green shoots of one nation Conservatism possibly, except for the remarks about youth. I recently asked a 19-year-old why he wasn’t wearing a poppy and he said because he didn’t know what it was all about. But he has his “statutory” three A-levels and his driving licence.
We seem to have established a rift between the old and the young. Schools are responsible for youth, the NHS for the aged. What seems a bit out of kilter is that we seemingly now rely on the state for imbuing what used to a natural family responsibility – respect for the wisdom of age and the joy of broadening the minds of the young.
Keith Gallon
Fairford
Glos
Recently, in the week of my 80th birthday, I was bemused to receive from Age Concern: “Had I thought of arrangements my funeral?”, an inquiry about prostate cancer, an inquiry for Alzheimer’s and an invitation to an end-of-life seminar at my local hospital. Best of all, the state pension folk wrote saying that on my 80th birthday my pension would be increased by 25p a week. Are they all trying to tell me something?
Brian Wilks
Stroud
Thank you, Rory Stewart, for your just tribute to the elderly. There is just one problem: we (I am 76) are living off the young in the form of unsustainable pensions funded by, among other things, taxation. I suggest that people draw a full pension for (say) 10 years, and it then decreases proportionately to what society can afford over the generations. To compensate, we could adopt the Confucian model in which offspring must look after any parent unable to look after themselves.
Antony Black
Dundee
ecember 1975 Photograph: Tony Mcgrath
In the many generous tributes paid to John Cole, it was perhaps inevitable that his period as deputy editor of the Observer from 1975 to 1981 should have been overshadowed by his previous two decades at the Guardian and, more especially, by his subsequent fame as political editor of the BBC, where he became a national figure.
It is worth recording, however, that John played an important role at a critical time in the Observer’s history. He helped me and the paper’s other journalists to resist the embrace of Rupert Murdoch in 1976 and, having failed in our efforts five years later to persuade the Monopolies & Mergers Commission that Lonrho was an equally unsuitable owner, John helped to create the conditions of sale that made it harder for Tiny Rowland to interfere with the paper and impossible for him to dismiss the editor without the approval of a group of genuinely independent directors (a condition that was to prove crucial in stopping Rowland sacking me in 1984).
I have other reasons to be grateful to Cole. I was a young editor, only 37, and a rather naive and inexperienced replacement for the legendary figure of David Astor. John became my political mentor and although we had our disagreements we remained good friends.
John added muscle to the Observer’s political and economic coverage. The respect in which he was held by politicians of all parties gave the paper an access and trust that was immensely valuable. There was one occasion, on the eve of the 1979 general election, when the printers refused to publish the paper because they objected to what we had said about trade union reform. I was arguing with them in my office when John came in and passed over the telephone. He had rung his old friend Len Murray, then general secretary of the TUC, and pointed out that the Observer was about the only paper supporting Labour and it was ridiculous that the electorate should be denied its views by Labour supporters. Murray told the men in fairly fruity tones to get back to work, which they did.
Primarily, though, John Cole should be remembered as a fine human being who brought honour and distinction to the somewhat tarnished trade of journalism.
Donald Trelford
Editor of the Observer, 1975-93
Blackadder showed the facts
I agree with Barbara Ellen (“Blackadder has a cunning plan to tell us about war”, Comment) that the series is actually a good place to start in teaching children about the First World War.
But I would go further. Being satirical, Blackadder is based on fact: there were indeed generals such as Melchett who ordered repeated and pointless attacks; there were naive junior officers such as George; there were pen-pushers such as Darling; and there were working-class Tommies such as Baldrick who joined up just because everybody else did. It was only professional soldiers, represented by Captain Blackadder, who knew that war was anything other than dulce et decorum. Much of the humour derives from the fact that the First World War was such a shock to the system (the military system, the class system, you name it). 
Steve Till
Alton, Hampshire
Muzzled dogs don’t bite
Catherine Bennett is right to question why dogs are subject to very little control in this country (“Oh don’t worry, he really doesn’t mean you any harm”). One simple way partly to resolve the problem is to make it compulsory for all dogs to wear muzzles in public. This would no doubt provoke waves of hostility from dog owners and prompt court cases to test the notion of “in public”. Above all, it would be an election issue. An easy answer to a serious problem but which party would support it?
Michael Penney
Dronfield, Derbyshire
Let the debates be televised
If, as Andrew Rawnsley says, the Tories are seeking to stall negotiations for TV debates in the run-up to the 2015 election on the basis of imagined partisan interests (“Miliband’s momentum confronts Cameron with a sharp dilemma”), we should be asking whether this opportunity for the electorate to evaluate the positions of the main contenders to lead a government should be left to politicians to determine. After all, no democracy could accept a situation in which elections were only ever held if and when politicians felt confident enough to compete in them. I propose that televised debates, which proved so valuable during the last election, should now be embedded in the system.
Stephen Coleman
Professor of political communication
University of Leeds
Martha Lane Fox and prisoners
Bravo to Martha Lane Fox, who talks passionately of “these 100,000 people in prison in this country costing us so much and destroying lives” (Observer Tech Monthly). She gave what to us was a sizable sum at a crucial stage in our development. The Prison Video Trust has, for nearly 20 years, been making educational films for distribution in our prisons. We are now on the cusp of a radical transformation: the creation of Prisons Learning TV (PLTV), which aims to tackle the deplorable literacy and numeracy deficiencies of so many prisoners. We will be soon be appealing for donations.
Benedict Birnberg
Antonio Ferrara
Prisons Video Trust

Independent:
The fact that “An end to ageing?” made it on to the front page (10 November) emphasises the anxiety people have about growing old. Dr Richard Walker pointed out that “biological immortality is in my mind possible, but improbable.”
Overcoming the fear of ageing might be something that we can tackle. At the moment older people are being shunned and finding themselves isolated, lonely and depressed, or placed in ghetto-like settings where their only companions are other older people. We are not respecting older people, and are wasting the experience and desire to help others that many of them possess. Our fear of ageing is so pervasive that even older people themselves are becoming ageist, feeling that they do not deserve help, have no meaningful rights and do not complain about poor care.
We may be able to delay ageing and improve quality of life, but fear of ageing we should try to conquer. It would produce a better society for us all.
Dr Chris Allen
Consultant clinical psychologist
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
So some churches wants to stop 16-year-olds from joining the Army do they? Why would a disaffected and utterly unqualified youth with no interest in education want to join? What would he do?
At 15, I left the useless job I had, sawing planks on a machine for eight hours a day, and found myself driving trucks, map reading, walking all over Snowdonia, experiencing the discipline that stopped me from carrying on down the borderline criminal path I had been treading, firing machine guns and canoeing.
It taught me the basic maths and English that school had failed to, and gave me the confidence to think that I could, as I did, go to a university and gain a degree. Why on earth would anyone want young people to go down that road?
Vaughan Thomas
Usk, Monmouthshire
Janet Street-Porter seems to have suffered a touch of metropolitan parochialism in asking “when is Zaha Hadid going to build a landmark building in a UK city?”(10 November). Glasgow, a biggish sort of place not far north of the M25, is proud host to Hadid’s amazing Riverside Museum. A tourist magnet. And, so far, still in the UK.
Ian Taylor
Edinburgh
While I think that cynicism towards voting in elections is understandable I agree with John Rentoul (10 November) that to take scepticism as far as not voting hardly helps any kind of democratic process.
There are specific occasions when it may be appropriate to boycott a particular election of course, but that is a rather different matter.
At the same time voting is not enough. Voting and taking to the streets in protest is the ideal democratic combination.
Keith Flett
London N17
I was astonished to find, in “Quinoa” (10 November), the sort of opprobrium normally reserved for dictators and despots directed towards a harmless cereal (or “pseudo-cereal”).
If people who choose to eat well are “tossers”, as the anti-quinoa wag seems to assert, we must assume that the keys to continual and repeated sexual satisfaction lie in consuming vast amounts of pies, a fiction which is no doubt perpetuated by butchers and validated by the England squad in its previous incarnation.
Veggies always attract criticism, but we will have the last laugh – when the production of meat becomes unsustainable, we will be more than happy to share our recipes with the pie-eating tossers.
Andrew Gow
Glasgow
What excellent advice to M&S from Katy Guest (Comment, 10 November). Some years ago I was invited to a preview of the Classic Range where we gave our opinions of the designs shown. To a woman, we told them that their designs were old-fashioned, ageing, and would not tempt any of us. When we said we did not like elasticated waist-bands, the young man seeking our advice told us that his grandmother always chose them. And he was supposed to be a fashion adviser!
Brenda Robb
Keighley, West Yorkshire
Have your say

Times:
Cyclists are a law unto themselves
I AM a car driver, a cyclist and a pedestrian (“1 cyclist in 10 jumps rush-hour red lights”, News, last week). As a driver, I am regularly infuriated by those on bicycles who spurn the dedicated lanes provided, preferring to hold up the traffic on a road where safe overtaking is difficult. As a pedestrian, I have narrowly avoided injury from cyclists riding aggressively on pavements or over crossings.
Most recently, at a lights-controlled crossing I waited for the green light to walk across, only to have to leap back to avoid a woman cyclist going through on red. When I protested, she left me in no doubt as to what I could do with myself.
Thomas Bewley, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Saddle sore
We live on a one-way street that is in daily use as a wrong-way rat run by lazy cyclists who refuse to ride the extra 150 yards to go the correct way.
On the occasions I try to ask the cyclists why they choose to break the law I get sworn at and, worse still, one once bellowed back, “Why are you being so old?”
Mary Clark, Victoria, London
Back to school
London mayor Boris Johnson announced plans to allocate spending to improve road safety in a week that saw the fifth cyclist killed on the capital’s streets in nine days. It is clear that action is long overdue, but it is very disappointing that none of the allocated £35m is going to be put towards cycle training programmes.
The playgrounds of most London schools lie idle at weekends, so it wouldn’t take much effort to make them available for cyclists for that period. Adding training to in-school activities is a no-brainer and it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some basic bicycle maintenance advice.
Douglas Ponsford, Woking, Surrey
Shooting spree
Only 10% of cyclists “shoot” the red lights? Taking my life in my hands trying to cross the road in deepest London N16, I would say it’s at least 30%.
Barry Borman, Edgware, London

Excess new builds may slam door on Tory votes
IT IS not a Nimby revolt that threatens the government’s electoral prospects: towns and villages throughout the country are prepared to accept housing of the type and in the numbers proposed, provided that they are actually needed by the local community (“Nimby revolt hits PM in his own back yard”, News, last week).
Our own council resolved in 2011 to pursue a prudent and sustainable housing target, but since then its planning officers have used consultants to prepare a succession of overcomplex demographic reports to justify a target for new homes that is between 50% and 100% higher.
Our local councillors are acutely aware that if residents believe that the authority’s plan is clearly not sustainable, their anger could overturn many Conservative seats at the next elections.
Mike Turner, Chairman, on behalf of the Villages Action Group for Aldingbourne, Eastergate and Barnham, West Sussex
Healthy option
It is widely recognised from scholarly studies as well as from everyday experience that green spaces and contact with nature make a significant contribution to human wellbeing.
If authorities take the National Planning Policy Framework seriously they will pay attention to arguments in favour of the preservation of the green environment wherever it is of particular value to local people — now and in the future.
Henry Haslam, Taunton, Somerset

UK’s military veterans not damaged or broken
IF Jonathan Foreman (“America cares for its veterans; we betray ours”, Comment, last week) had looked at data from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research it would have been evident that while operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, there is not an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder or suicide affecting our service personnel and veterans.
Foreman’s portrait suggests the majority of UK veterans are psychologically and socially broken. This is not the case. In fact, most service-leavers who were deployed in high-threat roles do well in civilian life.
Set against the poorly painted picture of UK veterans is a rosy image of their US counterparts. This is just not the case. American research has repeatedly shown that the prevalence of social, medical and psychological problems in US veterans is not at all good.
In contrast to this, the proportion of UK veterans who do poorly is small.
Professor Neil Greenberg, Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead on military and veteran mental health
In the line of fire
A few years ago I joined a tour of Windsor barracks. This included a talk by a veteran of several tours of Iraq and Afghanistan (“Marine A: now officers face inquiry”, News, last week). Our guide explained that all troops who had seen active service were affected emotionally by their experiences, and we should bear this in mind during the talk.
The soldier spoke of his time on patrol, being sniped at from all directions. Such details have to be taken into account when one is judging the actions of the Royal Marine who was found guilty of the murder of a Taliban prisoner.
Gerald Gilbert, Weybridge, Surrey
Double standards
The leader article on the disturbing Marine A affair stated that “our armed forces must set a standard even when their opponents do not. Otherwise we descend to their level” (“A tale of two soldiers for Remembrance Day”, Comment, last week).
How twee. When we stuck our noses into Afghanistan we blew away the concept of “standards”. And now we are contorting ourselves to prove what sporting warmongers we are.
Michael Blair, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Hailing taxi heroes
We should like to comment on the marvellous door-to-door free transportation service extended to veterans on Remembrance Sunday. London black cab drivers deserve a huge thank-you for making themselves available for no monetary reward, from an early hour, for a large part of the day.
Dr S and Mrs J E Vasan, Sprotbrough, South Yorkshire

Unions are still stuck in the past
LEN McCLUSKEY and his colleagues seem to belong to some horrible theme park based on the 1960s and 1970s (“Union boss ‘elected by phantoms’”, News, last week).
Times have changed: most employees now have mortgages and cannot strike and claim benefits as they did in earlier days. McCluskey and his cronies need to represent their members — not Marx, Lenin and Stalin.
Ken Cameron, Vienna, Austria
Vote of no confidence
My involvement with trade unionism ended when it was announced at a branch committee that the candidate (favoured by the national leadership) who had “won” in an election had actually come fourth. We were asked not to tell the members of this.
Gordon Clarkson, Edinburgh
Out of interest
I admire The Sunday Times for pursuing this dreadful shower — McCluskey, Stevie Deans et al — but ask the average voter about Falkirk and Ed Miliband sailing along with no true inquiry, or the Chilcot report on the Iraq War, or Andrew Mitchell and Plebgate, and you will be greeted with a dead-eyed stare that combines a lack of interest with an absence of knowledge about any of them.
Brian Watson, Verwood, Dorset

On song
I was interested to read about Harry Williams, the co-writer of It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary (“A big, big cheque from Tipperary”, News, last week). Harry was a resident of Temple Balsall in the West Midlands where his grave is to be found close to the parish church of St Mary. I am sure he would be amazed to see this popular song transformed into a poignant reminder of the young men who marched off to the unimaginable slaughter of the Great War.
Steve Hill (St Mary’s churchwarden), Solihull, West Midlands
Credit where it’s due
Jack Judge was the real composer of the song. He wrote it in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, and is a local legend — he has a statue there to prove it.
Barbara Boardwell, Dukinfield, Greater Manchester
Reality check on quality of teachers
THE education secretary’s attempt at improving academic standards with free schools was analysed in “Glad you’re listening, Mr Gove” (Focus, last week). A key factor cited in such discussions is the quality of teaching; in an ideal world all in the profession would be educational high-flyers, be gifted at dealing with young people and have a vocational dedication.
However, in the real world can we expect to find half a million such people to fill all the country’s teaching posts?
David Cooper-Smith, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire
Grade expectations
Gove’s view that teacher training is the problem rather than the solution is one with which I totally agree. How can we possibly have a first-class teaching force when we ask for only GCSE grade C for mathematics and English?
Tony Hutchings, Pontypridd 
No second chances
The quote in the article that “children get only one chance at their education” rings true, and yet the UK is trailing among developed countries. There are plenty of state schools failing the one chance children get at education, but what is being done about this?
Perhaps the teachers’ unions could comment on how to raise educational standards instead of criticising every step towards improving the system.
Sarah Turner, Horsham, West Sussex
Equal pay claim
Now Gove regards the best teachers as being on a par with doctors and barristers, presumably he will ensure their salaries are commensurate.
E Fogg, Chessington, London

Points
Burning issues
I am appalled at the suggestion by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director for England, that GPs can look after “minor injuries such as fractures and burns” (“Reforms to end myth of A&E care”, News, last week). Fractures and burns are not minor. It takes a wealth of experience to assess and treat these conditions. I plead with the Royal College of Surgeons to resist this.
Hugh Evans, Retired consultant surgeon, Ferryside, Carmarthenshire
Loud and unclear
David Conway seems unaware that incoming flights are not locked onto a specific path until they are within a certain distance of Heathrow (“Noises off”, Letters, last week). Until this point their routes vary, meaning they sweep across most parts of central London. It is therefore possible to predict flight noise only within a certain radius of the airport. Further afield, where planes are still incredibly loud, it is impossible to ascertain the extent to which properties will suffer from noise blight.
Tony Jackson, Southwest London
Altitude slickness
We have flown with Ryanair a few times and have never experienced any horror stories (“Too late, O’Leary — ‘mugs’ like me have clipped your wings”, Rod Liddle, last week). The flights have always been on time, the cabin crews very friendly and professional, and the planes clean and tidy. Are we alone in this?
Kevin Dunne, Tyne and Wear
Feeding frenzy
China’s continuing movement of people from the land to the city is the largest wave of urbanisation in human history, yet rather late in the day the nation fumbles to reform its agriculture (“China sows seeds of new revolution”, News, last week). The catastrophic increase in food prices that may result has the potential to bring the rest of the world to its knees.
Hugh Morgan, Wimbledon, London
Busted flush
India Knight (Comment, last week) is so wise — there’s nothing I like more than saving for months to have a slap-up meal in a posh restaurant and then being guided through all the good-looking people before being seated by the toilets.
David Prothero, Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Corrections and clarifications
Information about working hours in a graphic with the article “Relax, Boomers, the kids won’t be bust” (News, last week) should have read “typical working year” instead of “typical working week”.
The advert for Philippines tourism in Travel last week went to press before the extent of the humanitarian disaster became clear.
■ Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays
Eunice Barber, heptathlete, 39; Danny DeVito, actor and director, 69; Fenella Fielding, actress, 86; Sarah Harding, pop singer, 32; Lauren Hutton, model and actress, 70; Roland Joffé, film director, 68; Rem Koolhaas, architect, 69; Rachel McAdams, actress, 35; Sophie Marceau, actress, 47; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, actress, 55; Nani, footballer, 27; RuPaul, drag queen, 53; Martin Scorsese, film director, 71

Anniversaries
1558 Elizabeth I accedes to the throne; 1800 US Congress holds its first session in Washington; 1855 David Livingstone becomes the first European to see the Victoria Falls; 1869 Suez Canal opens; 1970 the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 1 becomes the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on the moon; 1997 62 people are killed by Islamist militants outside the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt

Telegraph:

SIR – I live down a series of narrow lanes with passing places. You get used to them, and learn to drive with care because in places the banks are high, there are trees, blind bends, gateways, tractors, joggers, cyclists, horse riders and dog walkers.
The other day, I came round a bend to find a neighbour in a head-on collision with another vehicle. Because he’s a young man with quick reflexes, he had time to break and slam into reverse as the other vehicle, skidding out of control, ploughed into him. The other driver defended his high speed, saying: “I wasn’t breaking any law: you can drive at 60mph down here.”
Why is it that on straight, wide, well-lit suburban roads, where the surface is well maintained, strict speed limits of 30 or 40mph are enforced, while on muddy, poorly maintained, narrow lanes we allow vehicles to travel at 60mph? In the past 40 years, the number of cars on the road has increased exponentially. Satnav has encouraged people to seek out “short cuts” through rural areas. It is time that speed limits on all rural roads were changed.
Kirsty Craig
Hindford, Shropshire

SIR – I resigned from general practice in 2004, in protest at the “new contract”. I believed it to be wrong and dangerous to patient care.
Now I see that the billions of taxpayers’ money wasted over this past nine years in the NHS are finally accepted as a failure. We will now move back to a system where the shortcomings of A&E departments and providers of out-of-hours care can be laid at the feet of GPs with 24-hour responsibility.
The NHS, led by career politicians, is in a shambles, with a massive and inefficient management structure. The years since the previous, 1990, contract should have proved that a long-term structure like the NHS is unsafe in the hands of short-term politicians, to whom a vote is more important than a life.
I feel that the NHS should be removed from politicians’ hands, since they have proved so disastrous in its control, and put in the care of those who are primarily responsible for its provision.
Dr David Hanraty
Hankham, East Sussex
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16 Nov 2013
SIR – The GPs of St Helens declined to “opt out” of out-of-hours provision for the most recent version of the GP contract. We are one of the few boroughs in England to continue 24-hour, seven-day responsibility.
We are one of the most deprived boroughs, with a high prevalence of chronic diseases and high morbidity in the frail elderly. We work closely with local-authority colleagues to support our frail elderly population.
A big concern about the new GP contract from 2015 might be the shift towards per capita funding without appropriate allowances for deprivation and morbidity.
Dr Stephen J Cox
St Helens, Lancashire
SIR – In 2004 the Labour government renegotiated the GP contract and enabled GPs to stop offering out-of-hours care for the loss of around £6,000 income. For the front-line out-of-hours service, NHS Direct was introduced. This was essentially a call-centre system using protocols to decide if a doctor needed to visit or the patient should be taken to hospital.
Since general practice is all about managing uncertainty (which protocols cannot deal with), there has been an increased number of hospital admissions.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, is quick to blame the present Government, but curiously quiet about the role played in this mess by the previous government of which he was a member.
Mr Burnham also complains that, once admitted, the elderly are hard to discharge. Again, the government of which he was a part was instrumental in adding to NHS chaos by requiring hospitals to abide by the European Working Time Directive.
Clearly this has damaged continuity of patient care in hospital as well as having other deleterious effects on the training of doctors, as the Royal College of Surgeons has frequently indicated. Mr Burnham is notoriously quiet on this aspect too.
J P G Bolton
Taunton, Somerset
Model human rights
SIR – A British Prime Minister is in Sri Lanka lecturing the country on its human rights record.
Yet he has thrown himself from the moral high ground just days before by his Government’s trampling all over historic democratic principles by forcing Her Majesty to sign a document that lets politicians regulate our press with chilling consequences for free speech throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
I respectfully suggest that he jumps on the first flight home.
Professor Richard Shannon
London W1
Dimming street lights
SIR – It is very interesting that two thirds of councils are dimming their street lights or switching them off. The Campaign to Protect Rural England has long attempted to persuade councils of the case for reducing street lighting and ensuring that the right lights are used.
A great deal of street lighting is unnecessary, excessive or poorly targeted. Councils spend a collective £592 million on street lighting each year and the lights can account for around 5 to 10 per cent of a council’s carbon emissions.
A survey by the Campaign to Protect Rural England in 2010 revealed that 89 per cent of respondents named road lighting as a source of light pollution, 79 per cent named domestic security lighting and 77 per cent street lights that are more than five years old.
It is difficult to strike a balance between councils wanting to save money and energy, the perceived safety implications, and light pollution. The range of lighting technology available now means that lighting can be tailored to the requirement of the location, so that the right type of lighting is used, where and when needed.
Emma Marrington
Campaign to Protect Rural England
London SE1
Cost in translation
SIR – Southwark Council is not freely translating service information into anyone’s language of choice. Even if we thought it would help us communicate messages about health, fire safety or other important issues, we couldn’t afford it, thanks to the crippling funding cuts we’ve experienced.
We support residents in learning English and I’m pleased that the Government is following councils’ lead in offering English lessons to those who need them. But let’s be pragmatic about this. The majority of our translation costs go on social services, particularly in relation to safeguarding vulnerable people. If a social worker needs to communicate with a mother over the safety of her child, that social worker can’t say: “Go away and learn English and I’ll come back in six months.” The issue needs to be dealt with immediately, and I make no apology for finding a way to communicate with that parent, regardless of what Eric Pickles might think.
Cllr Richard Livingstone
Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Southwark Council
London SE1
Cushioned to sleep
SIR – Cushions left on hotel beds do have a useful function. Placed along the bottom of the door they block out the pervasive corridor light, thus coming to the aid of a light sleeper.
Nigel Milliner
Tregony, Cornwall
Rating Moody’s
SIR – The Governor of the Bank of England has said that Britain is enjoying “one of the strongest recoveries in the advanced world”.
Given his optimism for the future of this country’s finances, should the decision of Moody’s to downgrade Britain’s credit rating in February cast doubt on the agency’s competence? This downgrade was used by the Labour Party to give weight to its criticism of the Government’s ability to deal with the country’s financial problems.
Did the Moody’s announcement harm Britain’s standing with the rest of the world?
Roger Dean
Witham, Essex
SIR – As Jeremy Warner points out, there is a clear link between quantitative easing and an increase in the cost of living. Both Eds have been banging on about this cost-of-living crisis. Will either Ed commit Labour to ending quantitative easing in the (unlikely) event that Labour wins the next election?
Bharat Jashanmal
Fairford, Gloucestershire
Where were you?
SIR – I heard on the radio this week a letter from the Queen to President John F Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, in which she helped cement the bonds between Britain and America by referring to the love of horses that she shared with Jacqueline Kennedy. It jogged my memory that the Kennedys’ visit to London had coincided with the sun coming out after a chilly spell.
My memory of Kennedy’s assassination needed no jogging, though the associations are again mundane. I was washing up, and listening to a transistor radio. When the grave-voiced news report of the president’s death came on, I leant over to adjust the volume and the radio fell from the window sill into the sink full of suddy water. Silence ensued. The absurdity didn’t make the news any less serious.
Are other readers’ memories of the occasion similarly characterised by the solemn and the trivial?
Lucy White
Dorking, Surrey
Chow
SIR – The Princess Royal rightly supports eating horses. Which royal will be the first to announce dogs are pretty yummy too?
Robert Warner
West Woodhay, Berkshire
Cameron’s alienation of the white working class
SIR – David Cameron’s late embrace of Sir John Major’s call for greater social mobility seems hollow. The Prime Minister’s policies have consistently reinforced the social divide.
A list of candidates for parliamentary elections ensured that well-promoted disadvantaged groups were preferred, whereas a white male candidate with no old-school-tie contacts was effectively ostracised, relegated to unwinnable seats.
Mr Cameron has moved the party conferences from cheap seaside resorts in the off-season to places where accommodation is relatively expensive, making attendance difficult for all but those with deep pockets.
Mr Cameron’s much trumpeted attempts at diversity, such as promoting women in the party, have had a predictable result: he and his privately educated, middle-class male colleagues have championed privately educated, middle-class women.
Mr Cameron is, I believe, well-meaning, but he needs to rethink his views and his actions before the Conservative Party cuts those vital but now tenuous links to the non-privately educated, non-middle-class that it relies on to be in power. It is no surprise that it is precisely this group that is increasingly moving to Ukip.
Steve Male
Highampton, Devon
SIR – David Cameron should follow Michael Portillo’s initiative and spend two weeks with an unemployed family in Liverpool or Wigan, preferably with one of the many that has experienced three generations of unemployment.
Jim Mercer
Euxton, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

* The ‘Good Book’ tells us that there is a time and season for all things. Cycles come and go: boom bust, broke, flush, imposed austerity, and then a return to financial autonomy. All in the blink of a biblical eye.
Also in this section
It’s about time for reconciliation
Anyone for a debate?
Conor shows help is at hand
You might be inclined to wonder what all the hue and cry was about. Especially if you have the mindset of one of the highly paid mandarins in either Brussels or Frankfurt – who with a grandiose ho hum, decree that a serious round of economic hardship is just the tonic to soften our coughs. Or maybe not. For it seems that this will no longer do.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has secured her next term in office, which will keep her in power until 2017, so the fashion for belt-tightening of the lederhosen has flashed by faster than you can say fiscal rectitude. All the same, the alacrity with which our Government dispensed with the masochistic fetish of economic flagellation was startling.
No doubt it will keep a switch or two in the closet – along with the handcuffs, PVC hair shirts, and the other paraphernalia that its ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ economics has depended on – to keep us all subservient and compliant, should the need arise.
For those of us who cannot look forward to the cosy comfort blanket of a state pension, it severs the link with ‘public service’, so the scars may take a little longer to heal. The European project was once a noble alliance that fostered solidarity.
It did not serve the ends of the big players to beggar the little guys, forcing them to surrender sovereignty to casino-capitalists who traded their futures on a roulette wheel.
And yet, we have lived to roll the dice again; and Mr Noonan is betting everything on black.
Ed Toal
Dublin 4
MEDICAL CARD FAIRNESS
* Dear Mr Howlin: I am writing this open letter to you in reply to what you said on the RTE news recently regarding children with Down syndrome. You said that not all children with the disability needed medical cards because they may come from wealthy families.
Well, what about all the healthy, wealthy under-fives?
My son, aged eight, is on 16 meds daily and six other PRN meds. He is peg-tube-fed 24 hours a day; wears nappies, a hearing aid, Afos and eye patches; he needs oxygen therapy from time to time; he has a heart condition and chronic lung disease; and he has recently been diagnosed with scoliosis and hip dysplasia.
He has spent more than three years in Crumlin, and has had to go to Great Ormond Street hospital in London on two occasions.
He cannot walk and is non-verbal. He attends a special school, and we need nursing for him if we are to go anywhere. He uses a wheelchair, a special cot, special seating, and a special standing frame.
One of his drugs costs €1,500 per week. His feed costs €160 per day. He attends 12 different consultants in Crumlin for his various conditions.
So, Mr Howlin, can you now understand why he would need a medical card? All children with Down syndrome need a medical card. Indeed, all children with disabilities need medical cards.
Aisling McNiffe
Straffan, Co Kildare
OUR WILY MINISTER
* Now and then Michael Noonan pulls a stroke that illustrates just what a wily old fox he really is. His consignment of the promissory note to the indefinite future, where all impossible debt should be dispatched, was masterful and his exit strategy from the bailout shows a touch of similar genius.
His guarantee that he will have a back-up line of support is by not arranging one in advance. Mr Noonan knows the EU desperately needs an economic success story; this country is the shining light at the moment.
Ireland’s weakness and danger of slipping back into bailout mode is its great strength – such a catastrophe could herald the twilight zone for the euro within a year. Mr Noonan will brandish that possibility to ensure the ECB follows through on the retrospective recapitalisation of our banks. The Irish debt will drop from the impossible to the improbable and bring much needed relief.
When it comes to outsmarting the dour bureaucrats of Brussels, Mr Noonan is still the maestro.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
UNDERSTANDING TRUST
* Two articles in the Irish Independent (November 11) deserve to be considered together. One dealt with our high level of pay inequality relative to our EU partners. The second was based on a Today FM survey which showed, again unsurprisingly, that only one in eight people trusted the Government.
When you look at comparisons across the EU you find that Portugal, Spain and Greece have similar statistics to Ireland. It is hardly coincidental that these are the bailout countries. This highlights that inequality fuels mistrust of government and that together they contribute to a negative effect on economic and political performance.
John F Jordan
Killiney, Co Dublin
PADDLES FOR THE CREEK
* So, Angela has cut us free to float on the high seas. Let’s hope Enda has managed to hold on to a few paddles… just in case.
H Swords
Co Mayo
TROIKA NOT GONE AWAY
* The self-congratulatory tone in Enda Kenny’s announcement regarding Ireland’s decision to exit the bailout without precautionary funding was disconcerting and, perhaps, a little premature.
Whether the decision is foolhardy or not, time will tell. I am glad to hear, though, that Angela Merkel approves. I would dread to think of the consequences if she didn’t.
Sometimes when our Government looks towards Germany for approval, I often get the impression it mistakenly thinks we have become Germany’s 17th federal state.
Yes, we may have secured the last tranche of our bailout loans, but the troika will never be far in the background as long as there are repayments to be made.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
FOI FEE WOES
* I agree with your correspondent who says it would be better if politicians cut their expenses to save money rather than raising Freedom of Information (FOI) fees.
However, our citizens are no longer allowed under FOI to get the documentation relating to money spent by politicians under the Public Representation Allowance.
The ‘justification’ for this, I understand, is that 10pc of politicians are asked each year to produce their paperwork to an independent auditor. It is shocking that citizens, even if prepared to pay a huge fee, cannot get this information concerning their local TDs.
John Wolfe
Malahide, Co Dublin
TELLTALE SIGNS
* The Department of Transport is planning to erect new motorway road signs. Perfectly good, fairly new signs are to get a fresh design.
We are being told that our country is broke and vital services have to be cut back. Lately, I’ve noticed tiny signs every 500 metres on the motorways showing the distance to the next intersection.
I counted 400 of these signs between Kilkenny and Waterford in both directions – but at what cost?
The word ‘toll’ on the new signs is also smaller – another ‘gathering’ on foreign motorists? Have we learnt nothing? Is waste going to be a constant factor within government?
Conan Doyle
Co Kilkenny
Irish Independent

Seeds

November 16, 2013

16 November 2013 Seed

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble the are to assist a film company in making a film about the Royal Navy. Priceless.
Quiet day sell a book go t some soil for the seedlings
No Scrabble today too tired.

Obituary:

Glafcos Clerides – obituary
Glafcos Clerides was President of Cyprus and steered his nation into the EU but failed to unify his divided island

Glafcos Clerides Photo: REUTERS
7:26PM GMT 15 Nov 2013
Comments
Glafcos Clerides , the former President of Cyprus, who has died aged 94, was earmarked from the earliest days of independence as the natural successor to Archbishop Makarios, first President of the new Republic; however, he only succeeded to office in 1993, at his fourth attempt.
Cyprus was still under British rule when Clerides first became involved in politics. During the 1955-59 uprising he served with the guerrilla group Eoka under the nom de guerre “Yperides”. Although he claimed never to have been directly involved in any violence, as a lawyer he defended numerous Eoka fighters arrested by the British.
As a member of Eoka, Clerides had been committed to its rallying cry of “Enosis” — union with Greece. But after Cyprus achieved independence in 1960, he was said to have stood aloof from the intrigues which weakened the new government; nevertheless, as Makarios’s closest adviser, he bore some responsibility for the constitutional violations by the Greek Cypriot majority against the Turkish Cypriot minority that provoked the outbreak of inter-communal violence in 1963.
During the years of unrest that culminated in the partition of the island following the Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, Clerides acted as Makarios’s chief negotiator in the inter-communal talks with the Turkish Cypriots. He won the trust and respect of Turks for his humanity and common sense — though both he and Rauf Denktash, his opposite number on the Turkish Cypriot side, were prevented from achieving anything of any substance by Makarios’s byzantine machinations.
After Makarios’s death in 1977, Clerides’s realism and his pro-American sympathies counted against him and denied him the presidency for many more years. Memories of the Turkish invasion meant that few Greek Cypriots were minded to heed calls for compromise.
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Clerides greeting the Queen at Larnaca in 1993 (IAN JONES)
Clerides’s election in 1993 was welcomed by the international community as a hopeful sign that a settlement might be reached on the island’s future. But despite the prospect of eventual EU membership, not even he could overcome decades of hatred and suspicion. A final settlement of the island’s constitutional future remains elusive.
Glafcos Yiannis Clerides was born in a mountain village near Nicosia, Cyprus, on April 24 1919, the eldest son of a distinguished lawyer, Yiannis Clerides, QC. His father, a political moderate, became Attorney General with the Governor’s executive council under the British and would stand unsuccessfully as a moderate presidential candidate in the 1959 presidential elections, against his son’s mentor, Archbishop Makarios.
Glafcos studied at Nicosia’s leading Greek college, the Pancyprian Gymnasium, but was suspended for writing to a newspaper in defence of demotic Greek and against the “mandarin” variety he had been taught. He asked his father to let him study in England.
After studying Law at King’s College, London, he trained as a barrister at Gray’s Inn. There he became friends with the young Rauf Denktash, who was studying at Lincoln’s Inn. The two men remained friends, despite their political differences. Following the Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, there were widespread rumours that Clerides had helped Denktash’s family escape from the Greek sector to the Turkish-occupied part of the island.
Clerides’s studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war and he volunteered for the RAF, one of 30,000 Cypriots who joined the British armed forces. He became a bomber pilot, but in 1942 had to bail out when his Wellington was shot down over Germany. He broke a leg in the parachute drop; in prison he hacked the plaster off with a pair of stolen shears and escaped by cutting through two barbed wire fences.
Recaptured a week later, he tried again within the year, breaking out of Stalag 5B and heading for Yugoslavia. But he was again picked up. A third escape in 1944 was successful. He broke away from a column of prisoners on a forced march ahead of the Allied advance, found an American tank and climbed aboard. He was mentioned in despatches.
Clerides was called to the Bar in 1951, subsequently joining his father’s chambers in Nicosia. In the 1955-56 uprising he defended political prisoners in court and found himself acting as courier between Eoka and its jailed members, once helping to arrange the escape of Polycarpos Georgadjis, who would become interior minister of the new republic before being assassinated.
He participated in the 1959 London Conference on Cyprus, and during the transitional period from colonial administration to independence (1959-60) served as Minister of Justice. During the same period he was head of the Greek Cypriot delegation in the Joint Constitutional Committee which agreed a democratic power-sharing constitution for the new republic.

Clerides with Prime Minister John Major in London in 1996 (AP)
In July 1960 Clerides was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming its first president, a position he held until July 1976. He liked to recall how, out canvassing during the election, he had been approached in a local taverna by a large, belligerent man who challenged him to drink zivernia, the local firewater. Since he had been brought up on the stuff, Clerides cheerfully accepted and left the challenger under the table. It was this feat, he claimed, that earned him a handsome majority.
As Makarios’s right-hand man, Clerides often stepped in as acting President during Makarios’s absences from Cyprus. But it was clear from the early days of the new republic that Makarios and the Greek Cypriot majority in the House of Representatives had no intention of implementing constitutional provisions which did not suit them, and intended to replace the bi-communal republic which gave a veto to the Turkish minority with a unitary state in which their voting power would be paramount.
As violence broke out between the two sides, Clerides led the Greek Cypriot delegation at the 1964 London Conference called to find a way out of the crisis. But Makarios continued to press for Enosis and brought back the former Eoka terrorist leader, the notorious General Grivas, to command the National Guard.
In 1967, after a massacre of 27 Turks at Kophinou, the Turkish government threatened to invade unless Greek irregular forces were withdrawn from Turkish areas and Grivas exiled. Under American pressure, the invasion was called off; but the crisis apparently convinced Makarios and Clerides that further attempts to grab Enosis would almost certainly provoke a Turkish invasion. Instead they sought to negotiate on the basis of an independent Cyprus, distancing themselves from the ruling junta in mainland Greece.
Makarios appointed Clerides representative of the Greek Cypriot side to the inter-communal talks that began in 1968. On several occasions over the next six years Clerides seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough, only to find his position had been undermined by the Archbishop and by unofficial advisers such as the hawkish Dr Lyssarides, Makarios’s personal physician.
On July 23 1974, following the short-lived coup orchestrated by the junta which gave the Turks the pretext for an invasion, Clerides temporarily assumed the duties of the President pending Makarios’s return.
But he found himself in an almost impossible position. While the 40,000-strong Turkish army steadily increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta and the rich citrus-growing region of Morphou, causing 200,000 Greek Cypriots to flee their homes, he had to try to maintain order between rival Greek militias while avoiding further provocation of the Turks.

A Turkish army tank in the Turkish section of Nicosia during the 1974 invasion (AP)
Though he refused to negotiate under duress, Clerides sought to delay Makarios’s return to Cyprus, fearing that it might provoke the Turks to further military action. He thus found himself attacked from all sides for passivity in the face of the Turkish advance: from Right-wing supporters of Eoka B still committed to Enosis, and Left-wingers campaigning for the return of Makarios.
Moreover, he found himself increasingly at odds with the new democratic leadership in Athens. Clerides believed that American pressure would be the key to persuading the Turkish army to withdraw, and that it would therefore be advisable to remain on good terms. However, the invasion and the toppling of the military junta on the mainland unleashed a tide of anti-American hysteria during which the new Greek government announced its withdrawal from Nato. When the American ambassador to Cyprus was murdered in August during violent rioting, Clerides personally donned a gas mask to get through tear gas to the embassy and help carry out the ambassador’s body. It was a gesture that was personal as well as symbolic.
When Makarios returned to Cyprus in December, he pointedly omitted to pay tribute to Clerides during his first public address; but he again appointed him chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side during peace talks convened by the UN.
Makarios continued to make Clerides’s task difficult, with belligerent talk of a long struggle to oust the Turks from Cyprus, and in January 1976 Clerides resigned from the talks.
He founded a new Right of centre party, the Democratic Rally Party, to fight the parliamentary elections the same year, but the party won no seats; and when Makarios died in 1977 Clerides was out of office. It was the centrist Spyros Kyprianou who stepped in as acting President.
As the most Right-wing grouping, the Democratic Rally Party attracted support from members of Eoka B. Clerides found himself unwillingly portrayed as sympathetic to the hated junta, an impression confirmed in Greek eyes by his avowedly pro-Western stance. Though the party fared better in the 1981, 1985 and 1991 Parliamentary elections, Clerides failed to achieve his ambition of becoming President.
The Right-wing tag was exploited for all it was worth by his opponents. On the eve of the 1988 presidential elections (won by the Socialist millionaire George Vassiliou), forged documents were published in a Greek newspaper purporting to show that Clerides had been recruited as a Nazi agent in Hamburg during the war.
He was finally successful in February 1993, winning a slender majority over Vassiliou. In his acceptance speech, Clerides pledged to be a leader of all Cypriots irrespective of their class or political persuasion. In 1998, despite his earlier intention to retire after one term as President, he won a second five-year term.
Over the next five years Clerides was credited with getting Cyprus ready for its accession to the European Union, which took place in 2004, but he lost much of his popularity over the strong backing he gave to a UN peace plan, promoted by the UN’s Secretary General Kofi Annan, that would have made Cyprus a federation of two states with a loose central government. In a referendum held in April 2004, 65 per cent of the Turkish Cypriot community voted in favour, but the Greek community rejected it by more than 75 per cent. Clerides was defeated in the 2003 elections by Tassos Papadopoulos.
Clerides was no demagogue, and was always far more comfortable talking to small groups than addressing mass rallies. Yet from the early 1960s onwards he was the only Cypriot politician who was capable of winning the respect and trust of both sides.
He married, in 1946, Lilla Erulkar, who died in 2007. Their daughter survives him.
Glafcos Clerides, born April 24 1919, died November 15 2013

Guardian:

The forthcoming vote in a Swiss referendum which seeks to limit the salary ratio in any company to 1:12 is an interesting example of a way in which citizens can play an active role in both initiating and approving legislation (Report, 15 November). Their constitution provides that, once 100,000 supporting signatures have been collected, the government is obliged to organise the referendum. The outcome of the vote will be binding, the positions taken by the political parties or any other organisations are irrelevant.
Karl Gehring
Sheffield
• No need for Dave to despair just yet (Letters, 15 November). All he has to do is lose the next election and then the PM and most of the cabinet will have been to comprehensive schools.
Michael Pyke
Lichfield, Staffordshire
• It is an excellent idea for pensioners who can afford the donation, to give their £100 fuel allowance to the Hayian appeal (Letters, 15 November). However, for those of us who’ve watched in frustration while Royal Mail has been sold off, we can both contribute to the fund and remind the government and the overseas financial investment companies that our spending power in stamps cannot be counted on. This year all my Christmas greetings will go via email and the £75 saved in stamps is already on its way to MSF for their work in the Philippines.
Joyce Brand
Ludlow, Shropshire
• Hurray for Hadley Freeman (G2, 13 November). There is nothing complicated about feminism – it just means treating women as equals. But dominant patriarchal (and heteronormative) discourses mean people find this difficult to understand.
Jennifer Coates
London
• The horses of Achilles speak in the Iliad. Whatever view one takes of the date of Homer, that is some time before Babe in 1995 (Letters, 12 November).
David Harvey
Exeter
• I use them in the potting shed (Letters, 12 November). They cover the seedling trays beautifully and prevent drying out.
Ian Garner
Keighley, West Yorkshire

It’s not often the International Plant Protection Convention, hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, gets to hang out with Katy Perry. But thanks to Katy Perry’s new album Prism (Review, 18 October) we now have a chance to attract some attention to the things we do. Regrettably, the album was manufactured and sold internationally along with seeds of unidentified origin, which has caught the attention of the IPPC and our member national plant protection organisations around the world. Although the distribution of seeds by Ms Perry, as evidenced by her Twitter account, was to “spread the light”, our work focuses on ensuring the safe trade of plants and plant products and, most importantly, protecting plants from harmful pests and diseases to protect food production and the environment.
We cannot turn a blind eye to Prism and its possible repercussions. Seeds could easily introduce an invasive new species to an environment, like the wood-boring beetle, resulting in widespread destruction. Depending on the species of flower inside Prism’s seed paper, the risks may be small, but commercial movement of seeds into many countries is subject to assessment of those risks, restrictions and prohibitions. The introduction of pests can results in millions of dollars in damage, and some pests can never be eradicated. As the northern hemisphere prepares to celebrate the bounty of agriculture at Thanksgiving, and those in the southern hemisphere are sowing seeds to provide new crops, we would encourage people to learn about protecting plants, and support efforts to make the trade safe.
Craig Fedchock Co-ordinator
Yukio Yokoi Secretary
International Plant Protection Convention

I joined the Labour party when it was obvious Gordon Brown was going to lose the 2010 election, in order to have a vote on the next leader. I wanted to vote for John McDonnell, but in the end, I voted for Ed Miliband – which I hope I got right. Now John McDonnell invites people to suggest specialist speakers for his People’s Parliament (Letters, 13 November). Monbiot is a good start. I would suggest also: Anne Power on housing; Anna Minton on urban planning and home ownership; Peter Melchett on the environment; Andrew Simms on alternative economics; Frances Crook on prison policy; David Nutt on drugs policy; and Jeremy Deller on culture, with a sideline in William Morris. Listen to them and society can only be better. They are all published writers and/or public figures. The shocking thing is that successive governments have stuck their fingers in their ears.
Judith Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

A wholly predictable result of the obsessive imposition of academies is the fragmentation of school music provision. Setting up music education hubs (Shakeup in children’s music education has failed to bring significant benefits, 15 November), with vastly less money, does nothing to replace the strategic approach to music education previously championed by the best local education authorities. Most hub provision explicitly promotes a lowest common denominator approach, offering nothing to students who can achieve up to and beyond grade 8. Instead, parents are “signposted” to suitable provision with no funding support.
In London we are fortunate to have the fantastic Centre for Young Musicians, enabling talented young people to take part in a vast range of individual and ensemble activities on Saturdays. However, many local authorities refuse to provide financial help for poorer students to attend and bursaries are limited. Ministers would never expect their own children to make do with the level of music provision now available to most families in this country; it is they and not teachers who have low expectations of talented young musicians from ordinary backgrounds.
Alison Higgs
London
• Ofsted’s criticism of the progress made in music education shows that the government needs to do more to implement the National Music Plan. The completely unrealistic timeframe which was imposed on music services to recreate themselves as music education hubs last year, compounded by cuts within local authorities alongside the statutory grant, has made it impossible for hubs to fulfil the aspirations of the plan. Although many music hubs are making great efforts to make the new system work, until the government ensures that all schools engage with them, musical opportunities for young people will continue to be a postcode lottery.
John Smith
General secretary, Musicians’ Union
• Music hubs are aimed primarily at children aged five and over, even though research supports the idea that children should be exposed to musical activities at a much younger age, and ideally from birth. Singing, combined with active music-making, can aid educational development in many areas. Music also benefits communication and speech, listening skills, physical development, balance and co-ordination, and memory. So why is this limited to the over-fives? Good music education is a fundamental ingredient for inspiring the self-confidence of children.
Caroline Crabbe
UK general manager, Jo Jingles
Toby Mottram is wrong to claim that we should intensify farming to keep prices down (UK needs ‘mega farms’ to keep food prices down, say experts, 13 November). This ignores the scientific evidence from the US, where large-scale intensive farming systems have become the norm, showing there are real risks to human health from mega farms because of their routine use of antibiotics. There is also new evidence from the Netherlands, where a strain of MRSA was found more frequently and in higher concentrations in the air within 1km of intensive pig and poultry farms. The UK’s chief medical officer recently stated that the problems of antibiotic resistance in humans means we are facing a human health crisis, and that this is linked in part to antibiotic use in intensive livestock farming. This was raised at the recent G8 meeting.
The solution is not to create huge-scale, intensive, indoor livestock operations that threaten our landscape, farming and rural communities. Large-scale industrial farms may be able to produce food a little more cheaply in the short term, but we risk ending up paying a high price in terms of the loss of antibiotics that save millions of lives, to say nothing of the cost to the animals themselves. We need to eat less but better-quality meat, from farming systems that respect animals and allow them to enjoy natural behaviours.
Emma Hockridge
Head of policy, Soil Association
• Despite high levels of support from the public purse, our current food system is leaving growing numbers in food poverty and is leading to widening inequalities in health. It is also exerting a heavy toll on the environment and preventing many farmers from receiving a fair price for their produce. Rather than further intensification of livestock farming, we need a resilient, diverse approach to food and farming. We need an approach that will halt and reverse the decline in all the things that people love about our countryside: plentiful wildlife; a varied landscape; farm animals enjoying life out of doors; and fresh, seasonal, local food which can be bought at fair prices, while providing a reasonable livelihood for the people who produce it. Farming and food are not just issues for academics and vested interests – we all have a stake in getting this right. The first step is moving food, farming and the countryside right up the political agenda, and reconnecting people with where their food comes from, and how it is produced.
Sue Armstrong-Brown RSPB, Dan Crossley Food Ethics Council, Sue Dibb Eating Better, Vicki Hird Friends of the Earth, Tim Lang Centre for Food Policy, Jeanette Longfield Sustain, Paul Wilkinson The Wildlife Trusts
• Your article states “only 2% of dairy farms keep their cattle indoors all year round, compared with as many as 90% in the US”. Having seen first-hand the terrible impact of mega dairies in California on the environment and on farmers trying to make ends meet, I can say that following the US down the road of intensification and ever-larger indoor only dairy farms would be a huge error. In the debate around feeding our growing population, we should be very clear that the consumer only picks up part of the bill. Someone, or something, has to pay the price for cheap meat and dairy products and all too often the unsustainable burden falls on the environment and the animals that provide them. We must be more effective at putting food in people’s mouths by reducing food losses and wastes; by getting farm animals off human-edible grain and fishmeal and feeding them on grass, forage and food wastes; by returning to mixed farming which restores soils and by avoiding the over-consumption of meat and dairy.
Philip Lymbery
CEO, Compassion in World Farming
• Last week the headlines were about Brits and our wanton wastage of food (Report, 7 November). We slaughter approx 1bn animals each year – most are farmed in fetid sheds. Animals suffer and die for us to eat yet each day we trash 1m eggs, 1.5m sausages and 6m glasses of milk and the equivalent of 86m chickens are trashed each year too. This week we have “influential farming experts” telling us we need even more intensive livestock farming to “keep food prices down”. No doubt so we can trash even more animals without a financial care.
Sara Starkey
Tonbridge, Kent

Independent:
Simon Usborne gives what is probably useful advice about avoiding injuries while cycling (14 November), but after the horrific toll of five deaths on bicycles in the space of nine days, we should be taking a closer look at the reasons why they occurred. All incidents involved either buses or trucks, a common theme in London’s cycling deaths. A cluster of fatalities like this warrants detailed investigation.
The problem is that although we get information about these high-profile catastrophic tragedies, we know next to nothing about the larger parts of the iceberg of cycling injury which lie underneath. A&E departments in England and Scotland do not collect useful data on injuries which means a proper epidemiological analysis of the cause of cycling injuries, the type of injuries sustained, and even their location, is impossible.
The UK lags behind many other European countries in its injury-surveillance capabilities; only Wales has a decent system in place. All hospitals in England and Scotland should be routinely collecting data on every A&E attendance for injury, including where it occurred, what the person was doing at the time, how the injury happened and whether it was intentional or unintentional, combined with patient characteristics and diagnostic information.
Until this is done it is hard to see how evidence-based planning of cycling safety can take place.
Graham Kirkwood, Research Fellow, Professor Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy;  Co-director,  Global Health, Policy & Innovation Unit Centre for Trauma Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1
 
Government funding for cycling infrastructure remains paltry compared to elsewhere in Western Europe. The Dutch spend £30 per head, the European average is about £4 per head, while in the UK we’re spending less than £2. It’s not that there’s a shortage of money; the problem is road planners are putting it in the wrong place. In an attempt to reduce congestion they continue to pour vast sums into schemes designed to squeeze more vehicles through junctions. This is completely unnecessary. In Britain, as elsewhere in the west, the number of car journeys is dropping. Young people in particular are turning away from the car – in the past five years the number taking the driving test has fallen by 10 per cent. If transport planners do nothing, journey times will drop as fewer drivers take to the roads. Instead of persisting with their 1980s attitude to road infrastructure, transport chiefs should look to the future and start diverting money into making the roads safe for everyone.
Martin Gorst, London W13
 
Cycling home in a bus lane recently, a bus passed me, far too close for comfort. So I stopped beside the driver’s window to let him know he had nearly hit me.
His reply that “you shouldn’t have been in the bus lane anyway” left me dumbfounded. It is clearly marked as a a shared bus lane with a large blue sign. Although in other cases I have noted that – perhaps in order to avoid confusion – the white cycle symbol is removed from the large blue bus-lane signs. Most disappointingly, First Bus have yet to reply to my 14 October letter to them.
George Jamison, Bristol
 
Unite is the voice of working people
Unite in Falkirk acted entirely within the laws of the Labour party at that time (editorial, 13 November). Both the Labour Party and Police Scotland looked at events and found no rules were broken.
Yes, Grangemouth was a very bruising dispute; certainly there are brutal lessons for our country to learn from a situation whereby one company can shut down an essential facility. But I answer to the wishes of this union’s members exclusively; it was they who, in Grangemouth, wanted their union to defend their representative and also to take whatever steps were needed to save their jobs, which we did without question – indeed at the mass meeting following the dispute, 100 per cent support was given to the union. 
You are correct to highlight the role of “trade unions working closely with management to minimise job losses” yet you praise the action without acknowledging the actor. Unite members worked tirelessly and creatively to help our major companies like Jaguar LandRover and Vauxhall weather the storm and emerge as the successes they are today.
Unite does not seek “war, not dialogue”, just as workers do not seek strikes. The vast majority of our day-to-day work is resolving problems, and my door is always open to employers who want to work with us constructively.
In a world where power increasingly rests in the hands of the few, I make no apology for the desire of my union and its members to strengthen the voice of working people.  Because that is the path to social justice, and that is a service to us all. 
Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite, London WC1
 
The regeneration  of Southwark
“End of an area for notorious Heygate estate” (8 November), trotted out the same old rhetoric about what a dreadful thing Southwark Council is doing by regenerating a run-down part of south London. Yes, there are a few people who owned their own property on the estate and didn’t want to leave, and who may have to move a little further out to find an equivalent property (although at the time the initial offer was made there were many similar properties on Southwark estates available for a comparable price).
However, the council did offer them assistance to stay in the area – for instance they had the opportunity to enter into a shared ownership deal at the Strata Tower in the heart of the Elephant. And of course they were a small minority on the estate – most of its residents were council tenants, all of whom have been rehoused in the borough and offered the right to return once the new homes are complete. Most do not want to return – they are delighted with their new homes, in comparison to the dreary, brutalist blocks they left behind.
Your article failed to explain why Southwark is regenerating Elephant: not to bring in lots of expensive housing, but to use those housing deals with developers to fund brand new affordable housing, a new leisure centre, a huge new park, and to bring 6,000 jobs to the borough.
Elephant and Castle  has been crying out for change for decades. We have no intention of driving anyone out of Southwark,  and a few lone voices should not be the only ones heard  in this debate.
Cllr Fiona Colley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Corporate Strategy, Southwark Council, London SE1
 
Why relocate cultural institutions?
The think tank Civitas has suggested that institutions such as the British Museum and Royal Opera House should relocate to cities in the north of England (report, 13 November).
Surely a more realistic way forward would be for each London-based museum or concert hall to be required to be linked with a similar body in the north as a condition of future government funding.
The V&A, with its splendid ceramics galleries, could join up with the wonderful, but disgracefully underfunded, Gladstone Museum in Stoke. As far as I am aware, Stoke council are doing their best in the face of massive cuts from central government. Only last week it was announced that the Royal Academy was awarded £12m of lottery money. How much went to galleries in the north?
Miriam Mazower, London NW11
Time to turn non-urgent cases away from A&E
Surely it’s about time that A&E departments took a stance and refused to treat non-emergency people arriving at their doors and referred them to their GPs?
George Smith
York
 
Breastfeeding  requires courage
No one would want to go back to the days when, if a baby was not breastfed by someone, their mother or wet nurse, he or she died. But it is worth reminding ourselves how far removed we have become from what nature intended. We are the only species that gives the milk of another species to our young. Parents of sick babies are only too aware of how vulnerable babies can be if they become allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk. And yet Grace Dent insinuates that breastfeeding is the thing that is not normal.
It takes a lot of courage, confidence and support to successfully breastfeed in Britain today, particularly within deprived areas of the country. Anything that tries to redress the balance has to be a good thing, even if it is a drop in the ocean; £200 might mean quite a lot to a breastfeeding mother, struggling to do the right thing for her baby.
Jackie Martin
Witham, Essex
Many women do not wish to breastfeed and are happier bottle feeding. They do not have to be mothers in deprived areas or lacking in education or parenting skills. It could be that they weren’t supported sufficiently in hospital, hadn’t the confidence to do so or simply didn’t want to. None of these reasons is wrong or means that the mother is less caring and capable of bonding with a happy, healthy and successful child. There may also be other children in the family and a husband who wants to be part of this special time.
I am concerned that what is a personal choice will be muddled by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Judith Phillips
Wigston, Leicestershire
Where in Grace Dent‘s article was there mention of the pernicious and aggressive global marketing by formula milk companies that, over years, has successfully persuaded women living in poverty that formula milk is a better choice for their babies? Or of the hostility that mothers meet when they expose their breast to try to feed their baby in public?
Rebecca Evanson
London SE15

Times:

Money spent wisely before emergencies on disaster preparedness pays huge benefits in mitigating the effects of natural calamities
Sir, The argument put forward by Ross Clark (Opinion, Nov 12) that aid spending should be recalibrated away from long-term projects in favour of emergency relief will resonate strongly in the light of the terrible images of destruction in the Philippines. However, it is important to be clear about exactly when and how the money should be spent.
All the evidence shows that money spent wisely before emergencies on disaster preparedness, risk reduction and resilience pays huge benefits in mitigating the effects of natural calamities and building the capacity of local people to respond. There are countless examples, from Bangladesh (cyclone preparedness) to Ethiopia (food security safety nets), where money invested in the longer term has saved countless lives and helped to restore livelihoods.
Unfortunately, finding aid money to invest before a disaster has always proved to be far more difficult than raising funds for emergency response itself. Figures on global development spend (provided by UK based Development Initiatives) show that for every US $100 spent on aid less than $1 is spent on disaster risk reduction (DRR). For the last entire decade DRR expenditure equalled only 1 per cent of Official Development Assistance.
Ross Clark is right that we need to be more careful in the way that aid money is spent — and spending proportionally more before a disaster strikes will surely bring benefits for all.
John Mitchell
Director, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action
Sir, As British and US forces assist in aid efforts after Typhoon Haiyan, the thought arises that such efforts could become the most valuable work of our Armed Services, and in the process become part of their salvation.
When spending of money on the Armed Services is reviewed there is always pressure to cut costs. What if our Armed Forces were to be reconfigured as “peacekeeping and rescue” services? Expenditure on them would then surely be seen as unarguable.
There would be fewer people opposed to the building of aircraft carriers if their main purpose was seen to be the transport of personnel and equipment to regions devastated by natural disasters. And few would begrudge expenditureon helicopters and fast aircraft whose main function was todeliver medical aid in such circumstances.
David Lindsley
Hampton Wick, Surrey
Sir, The dispatch this week of the destroyer HMS Daring to provide emergency relief in the Philippines had a notable parallel 60 years ago. After a major earthquake in August 1953, an earlier HMS Daring, also a destroyer, brought aid and medical support to Cephalonia. A street in Argostoli was later renamed HMS Daring Street in gratitude for the ship’s help. Another earthquake hit Cyprus the following month and Daring was rushed from Port Said to land tents and other emergency supplies at Paphos.
The young men and women of today’s HMS Daring, and from the carrier HMS Illustrious which is also on her way to the Philippines, will face immense challenges in these coming weeks. They will do well; they always do, and the nation should be proud of them.
Lt-Cdr Lawrie Phillips
Author, The Royal Navy Day by Day
Northwood, Middx

The idea of having music ‘hubs’ nationally is already taking a heavy toll on music provision around the country
Sir, Despite publicly voicing the importance of the arts in education and culture in speeches and interviews, Michael Gove seems to have managed to pull the plug on music in schools (“Gove’s music reforms ‘falling short’,” report, Nov 15). The idea of having music “hubs” nationally is already taking a heavy toll on music provision around the country. Music GCSE numbers are falling year on year, and the subject has started to slip off the academic timetable.
If Mr Gove seeks inspiration in his musings he would be wise to take a
look at the medieval university curriculum, where the academic study of music was one of the seven liberal arts that included grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, astronomy and geometry.
John Arkell
Head of Academic Music, Oundle School, Northants

GPs should be left to explain medical conditions to their patients, not be forced to justify their salaries
Sir, I struggle to see how disclosure of individual doctors’ salaries (“GPs told to reveal their pay”, report, Nov 15) will improve the health service. It will surely lead to resentment between GPs and some of their patients. Even the disclosure of average earnings of £103,000 per annum is simplistic as it’s not clear if this is net of expenses or not.
Doctors should be left to explain to their patients their medical conditions, which in many cases is no doubt difficult enough, rather than having to account for their remuneration.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey

The main issue with mandatory life sentences is that the prisoner remains on life licence and is subject to recall to jail for misbehaviour
Sir, Richard Oerton (letter, Nov 15) refers to the “flexibility” of the mandatory life sentence. Yes, the judge may set the minimum sentence but this is no guarantee that the prisoner will be released; that is a decision that is left to the parole board.
However, the main issue is that the prisoner remains on life licence and subject to recall to jail for misbehaviour. For a determinate sentence the prisoner is on licence for a determinate period of time. That is a major difference and has potentially very serious consequences for the life prisoner. It is perhaps this difference, together with the lack of an automatic release date, that the senior legal figures talking to Lord Bramall (letter, Nov 13) are rightly concerned about.
Alisdair A. Gillespie
Professor of Criminal Law and Justice, Lancaster University

Would keeping London’s parks open longer help to ease the problem of cyclists using the roads at dark and therefore more dangerous times?
Sir, During the light evenings of spring and summer, many cyclists (report & leading article, Nov 15) use paths through some of London’s parks. These provide safe, traffic-free places and often avoid busy junctions. Unfortunately, once the clocks have gone back, most of these parks close at dusk, forcing cyclists back on to busy and now dark roads. Would it not be possible to keep some of these parks open until a little later, giving commuting cyclists a chance to get home safely?
Hilary Thorniley-Walker
Bingley, W Yorks

Telegraph:

SIR – In his review of the final episode of the excellent Poirot, James Walton suggests that the only other impersonations of fictional detectives on television to compare with David Suchet’s interpretation are Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, John Thaw’s Inspector Morse and Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison.
Only a lapse of memory (or possibly youth) accounts for the omission of Jeremy Brett’s definitive portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes.
David Salter
Richmond, Surrey

SIR – The critical factor in emergency medicine is the time it takes to get to medical care. Fewer than one in four British emergency hospitals has a helipad. With 35 air ambulances in Britain, there is barely one hospital helipad for each of these machines. By contrast, many American hospitals have multiple helipads.
For only about £25 million, all major trauma centres in Britain could be equipped with a helipad. This would provide a better return on investment, in lives saved and enhanced recovery times, than almost any related proposal. Demountable, fully equipped aluminium helipads can be constructed in weeks and start saving lives immediately. Southampton General Hospital is an excellent example.
Tony Bateson
Oxford
SIR – With local A&E closures, and moving units into specialist hospitals, outcomes may improve. However, as a paramedic, I am concerned that, under the new plans, the ambulance that has to do the transfer will be out of its area for a longer period, thus depleting local cover. The A&E to which the patient is taken will be dealing with local people as well, thus increasing the workload on the already-near-breaking-point staff and hospital. If the department is full, then this will further delay the ambulance, as it won’t be able to off-load.
Adrian Gilbert
Hereford
Related Articles
In memory of the finest detective of them all
15 Nov 2013
SIR – Apparently, pressure on hospitals can only be relieved if patients are confident they can get help from their GP when they need it. However, officials say that the amount of bureaucracy placed on GPs must be reduced so patients can have same-day access to their family doctor.
I am a GP with more than 23 years’ experience, yet in order to continue offering learning disability health checks, a service we have been providing for the past two years, I have been told that I, my practice nurse, and practice manager must attend a half-day training session on a weekday morning. These health checks involve asking patients and carers basic questions about their health and doing some routine checks, including blood pressure, BMI and vision – nothing beyond the expertise of all GPs and practice nurses.
I hope that my patients who try to get an appointment on that day will understand and hope they do not feel the need to attend A&E.
Dr Karen Haworth
Rainham, Kent
SIR – Surely the A&E crisis could be solved in an instant if all those requiring treatment due to excessive consumption of alcohol were either denied treatment altogether or charged a fee, say £100. The money could be reinvested in the NHS.
Jon Law
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Fighting heart attacks
SIR – You report that “millions more are to be told to take statins” if they are at risk of having a stroke.
Next week at my twice-yearly check-up with my GP for my mildly raised blood pressure, he will, as always, offer me statins, an offer I have refused for years due to the numerous side effects.
As you also report (November 14) that drinking three cups of tea per day will reduce the risk of a stroke by 20 per cent, I intend to ask my doctor for a prescription for PG Tips.
Dr Martin Henry
Good Easter, Essex
SIR – Cholesterol-reducing drugs (statins) are among the most widely prescribed on the market, and are the number-one profit maker for the pharmaceutical industry, largely thanks to relentless direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns. Yet their adverse effects run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.
Anthony Jakeman
Gympie, Queensland, Australia
SIR – Isn’t it true to say that obese Americans are more at risk from stroke and heart disease? The latest research recommending broader use of statins takes into account symptoms, not causes, advantaging drug companies over promotion of a healthier lifestyle.
Neil McEwan
Folkestone, Kent
Rural infrastructure
SIR – I was delighted to read that BT is to spend £900 million on broadcasting football matches. I live in a rural community and receive broadband at 1.4 mbps download, and 0.37 upload speeds. I pay the same price as those in urban areas, who receive a vastly superior service, but with these speeds it is impossible to view matches via a broadband connection.
Spending money on infrastructure for rural communities (don’t get me started on mobile reception) would be appreciated.
Sylvia Smith
Great Moulton, Norfolk
SIR – I, for one, will never return to BT, having suffered poor service and indifferent customer care on my land line account.
A sweetener of free or discounted sports will not make me change my mind.
Win Draper
Stafford
BBC appointments
SIR – The BBC is to replace as lead commentator at next year’s Chelsea Flower Show the professional and experienced horticulturalist Alan Titchmarsh with Sophie Raworth, who “grew up in a family of keen gardeners”.
Jenny Walker
Felpham, West Sussex
SIR – As the “fantastic” Sophie Raworth is to fill Alan Titchmarsh’s presentation role at the Chelsea Flower Show on the BBC to “keep things interesting”, should we now expect Russell Brand to replace Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight?
Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Ageing rockers
SIR – If a professional aunt, no kids, is a pank, does that make me, at the age of 57, a punk (professional uncle, no kids)?
David Watkins
London SW17
Philippines disaster
SIR – Aid and assistance are pouring into the Philippines, slowly, one week after the onset of Typhoon Haiyan. Why cannot the nations of this modern world set up an organisation, maybe under the UN, which is funded with food, equipment and a reserve of qualified men already trained to move instantly to the seat of a disaster? Instead, a lot of time is wasted getting the equipment and help together.
Terence G Dunham
Enfield, Middlesex
Reforming education
SIR – It was excellent to read Allister Heath’s well-argued piece on the role the private sector could play in state-funded education. A move in this direction would release a huge investment in buildings, equipment and high-level teaching. It would also take education out of party politics. Schools would be selected by families in the same way they make choices in housing, travel, luxury goods and entertainment. In a free market, we would see more innovation and a genuine competition in quality.
It is time for the state to withdraw from an area that it has meddled in for too long.
Alastair Graham
Bagshot, Surrey
Sharing the roads
SIR – Commenting on one of the recent cycling deaths in London, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “We should have cycle super highways to physically separate cyclists from roads.”
This is a very dangerous idea. It is education and the standards of driving that need to be addressed, as well as correct cycling procedures in traffic.
Separating drivers and cyclists only creates an “us and them” situation where there is no understanding between the two parties. It will inevitably cause more problems.
Marcus Kenyon
Whitby, North Yorkshire
Cushioning the blow
SIR – I wonder if any of your correspondents can explain the fairly recent proliferation of cushions on beds in hotels, inns, guest houses and B&Bs. They serve no purpose, get in the way, and have to be placed on the floor prior to getting into bed. Decorative they may be, useful they are not.
Alan Baker
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire
Technology only adds to the pleasures of bridge
SIR – If Roger W Payne is taken aback by bidding boxes in bridge, then what would he make of electronic bridgemates that post your running score on a screen throughout the match? Or even worse, participating in international online games or the challenge of playing against robots on your iPad?
Bridge is a glorious and brilliant game that is being made ever more dynamic and accessible by the introduction of technology. No longer can the tipsy kitchen player keep the secret to themselves.
Mary Sharp
Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Modern bridge players are not less subtle, but more so. Bridge is a game par excellence, a multiple skills game brought to me forcibly when, as a reasonable player in the London league, I watched a match in a London hotel in the Seventies between an Italian team, introducing the Blue Club system (conventional in that bids did not mean what they seemed to), against a visiting young American university team which played simpler “straight” bridge.
When one American player, on being asked why he played a particular card, replied “it was 76.8 per cent odds”, I quickly realised my inadequacies and mediocrity.
Bridge is a game of gradations, where one can never reach the pinnacle, only steps, improvements and plateaux. Its many conventions require an extraordinary memory: one has only to look at the bridge games in The Daily Telegraph to see this.
The bidding and the play require many skills, the ability to compute, awareness of inferences and implications of bids made and cards played, and even a Machiavellian delight in misleading opponents.
A top player needs all this, plus a driving ambition, a partner of equal standard and a highly toned intellect.
Leslie Thorogood
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – When I rule the world, anyone using the weak no trump opening bid will be summarily executed.
Colin Akester
Richmond, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Vincent Browne (Opinion, November 6th) is absolutely correct in his analysis of “Ireland regaining her sovereignty”, once we exit the bailout. The Lisbon Treaty ensures that we are governed by the EU forever. That treaty has reduced this State to the status of a county council. No matter who we elect at the next election: the rules of the game and the budgets will be decided by the EU. Therefore, is it not time to signal our intent to withdraw from this new empire as we did from the British empire?
There is another reason for departing this rich man’s club: that is the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” currently being negotiated by the EU and US. This agreement is a highly dangerous neoliberal piece of legislation. If it were passed into law it would hand over all our public services to multinationals. The Irish people need to understand the dangers we face. We need to get away from the “private good, public bad” approach. The public sector needs to be protected for the common good. The EU empire is offering nothing but perpetual austerity. It’s time to depart. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL O’DONNELL,
Old Youghal Road,
Cork.
Sir, – It was with mirth sprinkled with cynicism, that I read the articles and editorials on Ireland exiting the bailout. So the Germans in five years have achieved in Ireland what British colonial power failed to do in 700. I suggest, if ever there was a case for the pen been mightier than the sword, this is it. – Yours, etc,
JOHN POPE-SHEPARD,
Doora,
Ennis,
Co Clare.
A chara, – “Never again will our country’s fortunes be sacrificed through greed and short-term gain,” proclaimed Enda Kenny on Thursday after deciding to exit Ireland’s bailout without a precautionary credit line. However, I honestly believe that these words will come back to haunt Mr Kenny once the details of Budget 2016 are announced just a few months shy of General Election 2016. – Is mise,
JASON POWER,
Maxwell Road,
Rathgar,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – Listening to Government Ministers these days, like them or loathe them, it’s wonderful to understand what they are saying, although we might not like what we hear. At least dreaded phrases such as “moving foward in time” appear to have vanished from our radar screens. – Yours, etc,
KEN BUGGY,
Ballydubh Upper,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has often been harshly criticised for his obsession with austerity and cutbacks, but every now and then he pulls a stroke that illustrates just what a wily old fox he is. His consignment of the promissory note to the indefinite future, where all impossible debt should be dispatched, was masterful and his exit strategy from the “bailout” shows a touch of similar genius.
His sure guarantee that he will have a back-up line of support is by not arranging one in advance. Mr Noonan knows the EU desperately needs an economic success; this country is the shining light in that category at the moment. Ireland’s weakness and danger of slipping back into bailout mode is its great strength.
Such a catastrophe could herald the twilight zone for the euro, so within a year or possibly two Mr Noonan will brandish that possibility to ensure the ECB follows through on the retrospective recapitalisation of Irish banks so casually mentioned and forgotten at a financial conference last year. The Irish debt will drop from the impossible to the improbable and bring much needed relief.
Mr Noonan may not yet fully grasp that the root cause of economic upheaval is technological rather than fiscal, but when it comes to outsmarting the dour bureaucrats of Brussels he shows he is still the maestro. – Yours, etc,
PADRAIC NEARY,
Tubbercurry,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – Now that the ECB/EU/IMF team has departed our shores can Ireland be said to be in its “Gorbachev” era, ie, perish-troika? – Yours, etc,
PATRICK O SULLIVAN,
Delford Drive,
Rochestown,
Cork.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article (“Never mind the Nazis. What about our own stolen treasures?”, Culture Shock, November 9th) raises questions around the ethnographical collections in the National Museum of Ireland in the context of the discovery of a collection of paintings amassed by the German dealer and collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt in a Munich apartment, much of which is suspected to have been illegally confiscated.
O’Toole compares the two, stating the National Museum’s collection “has been out of sight for a very long time”. While he is correct in saying the museum’s collection has not been on public display since 1979, unlike the Munich hoard, this was not in an attempt to conceal or deny its existence, but rather was to make space available to re-display the museum’s Irish archaeological treasures.
He is right in highlighting the need for a full survey of the collection. Between 2003 and 2007 the museum engaged an ethnographer to produce an inventory of the material in question as a first step. As a result, we now have a clearer picture of its range and extent, but only in outline. It was intended, at that time, that the museum’s world-class collections would form one of the key displays in a new central block to be built as part of an expansion of facilities at Collins Barracks. Unfortunately, funding for this development never materialised and the necessary resources to fully catalogue the collections are as yet unavailable.
O’Toole’s second point is “that at least a significant amount of it [ie the museum’s ethnographical collection] is loot, pure and simple.” He cites cases in which some objects were clearly acquired as war trophies and as the result of punitive raids by colonial military men and civil servants. However, the number of such instances and the precise circumstances pertaining in each case remains to be established. Further research does need to be undertaken on the collections, particularly around provenance; only then can the question of legal possession be addressed.
The article raises the wider question of the presence of ethnographic objects in Western museums, and the existence of “ethnographic” museums, both of which issues have involved much soul-searching and reflection in the last several decades. These are complex matters which also need to acknowledge that this material forms part of Ireland’s history and its relations with the wider world.
The repatriation of these objects also forms part of this on-going debate, as does engagement with indigenous communities. The return of such cultural property is something which the museum has been responsive to over the years and requests have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In this regard, the museum has entered into formal negotiations with representatives of the Maori and of the Native Americans. In 1990, for example, the museum permanently repatriated two toi moko (tattooed Maori heads) to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) and agreement was reached on the retention of the Maori holdings by the museum. This followed formal discussions with representatives of the Maori in the context of a special exhibition Te Ao Maori in Kildare St which was opened in accordance with Maori ritual. In other cases, requests for the temporary loan of material have been granted.
Ethnographic museums in Europe are changing and evolving (an example is Paris’s Musée de l’Homme which has become the Musée du quai Branly) in ways that reflect changed understandings of what constitutes the ethnographic in museum terms. Some are reconstituting themselves as museums of world cultures.
This is a debate that is open-ended and one which the National Museum of Ireland welcomes. Indeed, the museum hosted, participated in and part- funded a conference in 2007 on the subject of ethnographic collections in Irish museums, the proceedings of which were published in 2012 under the title Exhibit Ireland, to which Fintan O’Toole refers in his article. – Yours, etc,
RAGHNALL Ó FLOINN,
Director,
National Museum of Ireland,
Collins Barracks,
Benburb Street,

Sir, – For more than a decade we have heard nothing but praise for the Filipino immigrants who first came to our shores around 2000. Initially, it was mostly nursing professionals who came and brought a new dimension of care to our hospitals. These were followed later by family members and others who began to make a positive contribution to the communities where they made their new homes. Their benign presence is reflected nowadays in schools, the service industry, our churches and, particularly, in church choirs. They have been a breath of fresh air to our country.
Now, with the almost indescribable disaster that has cruelly struck their home country and relations, we Irish, who know something of emigration and suffering ourselves, can rise to this awful occasion and show our gratitude and acknowledgment of the Filipinos’ wonderful contribution to our society by contributing money to the Red Cross or any of the established Irish aid agencies. I know that members of local Filipino groups, whether they lost loved ones or not, are fundraising at their work places and beyond. It behoves us as a nation not to stand idly by but to help our friends and newer citizens in this time of absolute need. The time for our action is now.– Yours, etc,
FRANK RUSSELL,
Main Street,
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.
Sir, – The aftermath of natural disasters, such as the recent passage of Typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines, provokes the usual criticism that not enough is being done. What purpose does the United Nations serve if it cannot put in place provision for an immediate international response team for situations such as these?
The leading nations of the world, with their standing armies replete with so much search and rescue equipment, must surely see that being part of such an internationally recognised standby force would, more than anything, serve to validate their place in the world. US, UK, Germany, France, China, Russia, etc: stand up and be counted! – Yours, etc,
STEVEN C SMYRL,
Sydenham Terrace,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – So now the personal insolvency practioner who was lambasted for saying he would have to take into account the status of professionals has been proved partially right.
If anything, he understated the position by limiting it to the liberal professions. The High Court has confirmed that if you run into serious financial trouble your family may still be able to access income in keeping with the “lifestyle to which you have become reasonably accustomed”. An allowance of €9,000 per month (including golf membership at about €2,000 per annum!) would far exceed even the lifestyle affordable by former Ministers’ handsome pensions.
No one wants to see any family destitute. But there have to be limits. Cases such as this are an affront to any sense of equity. They must be resented bitterly by those who are struggling to eke out a living, never mind a lifestyle.
The fact that it is legal because the allowance comes from frozen assets will be of no consolation to anyone. Laws and cases of this sort reinforce the view that in our society the wealthier classes remain protected.
It is always a little tasteless to express things in terms of status in society. During the boom we heard a lot about the prospects for upward mobility. That would imply that in purely relative terms there would be a corresponding degree of downward mobility. Our laws and practices tend to rule out the latter even in times of recession. – Yours, etc,
JOHN F JORDAN,
Flower Grove,
Killiney,

   
Sir, – The heading on Brian Hanley’s article reads, “Part of the remembered interest in the Great War in Ireland is based on a desire to promote reconciliation” (Opinion, November 9th).
I agree with this sentence entirely and would go further. My father, Bruno E Werner, served and thank God survived at the Somme as a young lieutenant in the German Royal Saxon regiment in this terrible, terrible war.
The Great War marked the introduction of the mass killings in the 20th century. My reason to “sport” a red poppy is to wear it in remembrance of all people who died because of it.
It should be worn once a year by everybody in the whole world! – Yours, etc,
IMOGEN STUART,
Sandycove Avenue,

Sir, – When I saw the photograph of Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore holding goofy job-creating T-shirts bearing the words: “I help people get jobs”, I couldn’t wait to see the reverse side (Business Back Page, November 15th). So I turned the page and there it was: a large advertisement for the position of chief financial officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Been there, done that. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK O’BYRNE,
Shandon Crescent,

Sir, – Exiting the bailout programme is all very well, but what about facing the All Blacks?  They should have been told by everyone years ago that the grisly haka had no place in sport.  As they were not, one would expect opposing teams to devise an effective response, but most of them submit weakly and are psychologically beaten before the kick-off.
Proposals are now required quickly from brilliant Irish Times readers for an Irish response by the team and/or the attendance which shows defiance but which is not so provocative as to incur severe punishment for such daring. – Yours, etc,
MYLES McSWINEY,
Cricklewood Park,

Sir, – We share the concerns regarding EirGrid’s Grid Link project raised by Kieran Hartley (November 4th); and would like to add some more.
EirGrid acknowledges the lack of national landscape mapping in Ireland is a “data challenge” and we have unearthed inconsistencies in EirGrid’s mapping of constraints for the Grid Link project. It is not working from a single, comprehensive map of Ireland, instead EirGrid has pieced together what is in effect a patchwork quilt of Ireland’s landscape.
They have collected landscape information from each local authority, however there are massive inconsistencies in how landscape value is mapped between local authorities. This lack of a whole Ireland map of landscape value is a known problem in identifying and protecting our landscape “resource” for proper planning and development throughout Ireland.
To give a specific example; this inconsistency is clearly visible in EirGrid’s constraint mapping in the Barrow and Nore river valleys. The Kilkenny County Development Plan protects the landscape of east Co Kilkenny with a “high amenity area” designation. Whereas across the county boundary which is formed by the River Barrow, south Co Carlow, containing the monastic settlement of St Mullins, the historic designed landscape of Borris House, and the architectural conservation area of Borris, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains, has no such designation in the Carlow County Development Plan. Two of the potential pylon routes are located in this precious landscape.
High amenity areas are mapped as a primary constraint by EirGrid, to be avoided if possible in selecting pylon routes, the absence of high amenity areas from the Carlow County Development Plan has clearly disadvantaged Co Carlow in EirGrid’s route selection process. All four potential pylon routes pass through the “unconstrained” landscape of Carlow. A search for objective whole Ireland mapping of scenic value uncovered the 1977 Inventory of Outstanding Landscapes by an Foras Forbatha and the 1994 National Scenic Landscapes Map by Bord Fáilte – both of which contain the Barrow and Nore River valleys.
We were unable to find anything more recent, nor have we been able to get answers to the following questions.
What Government body currently has the remit for identifying and protecting Ireland’s landscapes of high scenic value? Given the importance of the Irish landscape to our national identity, our tourism industry and to the sustainable economy of rural Ireland is it reasonable that a strategic infrastructure project of the scale of the Grid Link project be undertaken without such a map in place?
Does its absence allow for proper planning and sustainable development in this strategic infrastructure process, executed in the common good?
Isn’t the identification and protection of the scenic landscapes of Ireland also in the common good? – Yours, etc,
PAT ENGLISH,
HELENA FITZGERALD,
MELANIE FOOT,
CORNELIA McCARTHY,
GERARD WHELAN,
On behalf of
Save Our Heartland Group,
Borris, Co Carlow.
Sir, – Colm Kelly (November 13th) points out some of the technical issues associated with the installation of underground cables. However, the long term benefits to the Irish people cannot be overlooked.
First, the sterilised corridor above the underground cable is just 10 metres wide as opposed to a 200-metre spread from overheads. Second, the underground cable has a life expectancy of 40-plus years before renewal. Overheads need to be replaced every 15 years. Third, more than 90 per cent of the Irish people are opposed to ruining our countryside (and possibly our health too) with the installation of hundreds of EirGrid’s massive pylon monstrosities.
EU environment policy states that environmental and human health protection should be based on the precautionary principle that “prevention is better than cure”. The most progressive countries throughout Europe are now putting these cables underground, in a cost-effective manner. Why cannot we do the same? – Yours, etc,
JOHN ROBINSON,
Knocktopher,

Irish Independent:

* The thought process behind decision-making at government level would surely make for a riveting thesis for some PhD student because it is so utterly baffling to normal people.
Also in this section
It’s time for a dose of European solidarity
Still the most beautiful place on earth
There’s no good reason not to wear the poppy
Take two different examples, which are both linked to Brendan Howlin’s role as Minister for Public Expenditure.
Firstly, he attempted to insert a last-minute amendment to freedom of information (FOI) legislation that would apply a fee of €15 for each question.
Secondly, we hear that if the ASTI votes to accept the Haddington Road agreement, its members will get an incremental payment backdated to July. But the Department of Education, which requires approval for such a payment from Mr Howlin, refuses to confirm how much this will cost because the public have no right to know the cost.
It seems the concept that the taxpayer should have an automatic right to know the cost of things such as backdating increments, genuinely never occurred to Mr Howlin. It is precisely that type of attitude, where an actual member of the Government refers to the Government as ‘them’ instead of ‘we’ that adds to the dysfunctional gap between the process of Irish governance and the public’s ability or will to hold it to account.
This in turn feeds into why the public sector fails so frequently to make long-term decisions in the public interest.
This attitude of fighting any effort at transparency shows that Mr Howlin and the Government he is part of have failed to make the reforms required so that the failures of the last government will never be repeated. A government and public sector afraid of embracing transparency and accountability are not capable of delivering the reforms that are still required for Ireland to reach its potential.
The proof of this is that three years into its term this Government hasn’t even bothered to apply a standard values message across the entire public sector.
Something along the lines of ‘the public is not the enemy and has a right to know…’
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
AUTUMN TESTS TO RELISH
* This year, not only does autumn in Ireland bring its customary crisp freshness in the evenings (which I, for one, always find energising and hopeful), but it also brings a fresh start for Irish rugby.
The Autumn International Test-match window is my favourite period in the sporting calendar, as it traditionally has been the period where we schedule matches to compete against the first-tier rugby nations of the world. It offers the most truthful gauge of where the standard of Irish rugby ranks in the world, not merely of where it ranks in Europe.
It is for this reason that I continue to suggest that we should find the will to play the “big three” southern hemisphere nations on a more regular basis than we currently do, to aid our desired improvement to their level.
Playing Australia and world champions New Zealand this month will represent a step-up which, sadly, is not likely to be repeated until the southern hemisphere returns to Dublin in autumn 2014.
Therefore, Irish rugby must take this all-too-rare opportunity to show the world what we are made of.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
SICK OF THE DART
* This week I witnessed a young woman vomiting at the side of the platform at Monkstown Dart station, a direct result of yet another case of extreme over-crowding on the service. It is the third time in as many months I have witnessed fellow passengers either vomiting or collapsing as a result of the dangerous over-crowding that is now an everyday occurrence on trains.
Contrary to public assurances from Iarnrod Eireann that reduced carriage capacities would ‘only affect non-peak time trains’, the issue of over-crowding has become critical – in particular at peak times.
A large part of this is due to Iarnrod Éireann’s definition of ‘peak time’. I would argue that peak time should encompass the hours of 07.00-09.30 and 16.30-18.30 and not merely 08.00-09.00 and 17.00-17.30.
Secondly, whether by accident or design, many trains during peak hours have clearly been ‘unofficially’ cancelled.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that if there are roughly half the number of trains serving the same number of commuters then said trains will be twice as full.
Name with editor
Monkstown, Co Dublin
RIGHT TO DECLARE?
* In her letter (November 8), Susie Glynn invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in support of a right to same-sex marriage.
It’s worth pointing out that when the UDHR was drawn up in 1948 the concept of same-sex marriage, as generally understood nowadays, was non-existent.
Therefore, to interpret the UDHR as establishing a right to same-sex marriage would be questionable, to say the least; and would be highly controversial, especially outside the Western world (most of the world simply doesn’t share the views of Western liberals on matters such as same-sex marriage and is highly unlikely to do so anytime soon, if ever).
Such an interpretation could well lead to the UDHR being perceived in much of the world as being little more than a vehicle for the advancement of a certain type of Western cultural imperialism and could destroy whatever moral force and claims to universality the declaration has outside the West.
Hugh Gibney
Athboy, Co Meath
OUT OF TUNE
* I sentenced myself to a minute (no more, please) listening to Justin Timberlake’s version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. I now fear I may have splinters in my ears.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont D9
FOR THE CHOP
* This week’s business section reports the sad news that world famous French piano makers Pleyel are to shut down after 200 years.
Having supplied Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin, the company are now unable to compete with competition from China. So, “chopsticks” has come back to haunt them!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Co Waterford
LIFEBELTS AT THE READY
* The news that Ireland will be exiting its bailout from the troika on December 15 is to be welcomed on a nationalist and morale level.
But it will not be negotiating a financial back-up package in case of setbacks or mishaps.
With an economy that has a debt of approximately 120pc of GDP, high unemployment and low growth, Ireland is heading out on to the great ocean of world finance on a prayer and a load of optimism – while waving the Tricolour of imagined independence.
It’s a very big risk given the volatile state of the world financial markets.
Surely it would be prudent to have as much protection as possible against financial upheaval. Ireland is a very small country in financial terms and with an open economy is really at risk in the present circumstances.
I think we should all have our lifebelts handy and our places booked in the lifeboats.
We may be getting our feet wet.
Liam Cooke
Coolock, Co Dublin
Irish Independent

Hair

November 15, 2013

15 November 2013 Hair

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble the are to takw Sir Willowby Todd-Hunter Brown to Shanghai but there is no one there to meet him? Priceless.
Quiet day sell a book go and get our hair done get icon books.
No Scrabble today too tired.

Obituary:

Charles Mosley – Obituary
Charles Mosley was an irreverent genealogist of mordant wit who charted the bloodlines of the British aristocracy

Charles Mosley with his Dalmatian, Fleur 
6:29PM GMT 14 Nov 2013
Comments
Charles Mosley, the author and genealogist, who has died aged 65, was an authority on the codes of etiquette and ancient bloodlines that once defined who was who in Britain.
His niche was overseeing the rarefied world described in Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, that vast tome which details the lineages, arms, crests, mottoes, court and political appointments, seats and titles (historic, hereditary or lifetime) of the “leading families” of these Isles. This was the stock, as Burke’s publisher, Brian Morris, put it, that “played a formative role in shaping the civilisation of the entire English-speaking world”. About such matters, Morris admitted, Charles Mosley had “a knowledge and attention to detail that are equal to none”.
Not that Mosley, a fan of the satirical cartoon The Simpsons, was motivated by snobbery or social ambition. In his introduction to the wholly revised and updated 106th edition (1999, the first since 1970), he noted that some earlier editions of Burke’s had been “obsequious” and characterised by “a tendency to treat family legend as historical fact”. Though well-connected, particularly to the Tory party, Mosley was unencumbered by such deference, and vowed to prune the “fantasy” from “what was supposed to be a work of non-fiction”.
Nor was he afraid of embracing the juicier details of the aristocratic world. On the contrary. When detailing the lineage of Burke’s itself, he noted with relish that in the 1970s the rights to the title had been acquired “by Baron Frederick van Pallandt, who is better known as the ‘Frederick’ of the 1960s singing duo Nina and Frederick and who was murdered in Thailand a few years ago”.
Like Hugh Massingberd, the creator of the Telegraph obituaries page (and himself a one-time executive editor at Burke’s), Mosley’s tastes and outlook were more Bohemian and inclusive than hidebound and prescriptive. Shortly before he died, for example, he jokingly identified in his blog a blood tie between Charles II and the supermodel Cindy Crawford (“thru shared descent from Charlemagne”). The long-dead king was, he noted, “a true appreciator of distaff pulchritude”.
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Mosley himself was appreciated for his mordant, mischievous wit. In his introduction to Burke’s he pointed out that the branches of noble family trees sprouted in unlikely places. Thus he traced Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, to the Baron Mackie of Benshie.
Yet Mosley was not averse to the trappings of aristocracy. In particular he was very partial to a castle – living in one in Ireland for seven years and in a château in France for eight.
Charles Gordon Mosley was born in west London on September 14 1948 to Gordon Mosley and his wife Christine (née Dowland), and grew up in a bucolic house at Wraysbury, Berkshire. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow soon brought runways to the end of the garden. “At least there are not so many Luftwaffe flights as there used to be,” Mosley would later muse, looking up at the jets taking off.
He was educated at Eton and elected a King’s scholar before going up to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read English before changing to History. Fond of dressing up, he spent much time at university garbed as Rupert Bear, complete with yellow check trousers and scarf. At one party – not fancy dress – he went as Rudolf Nureyev, sporting ballet shoes and heavy make-up.
On coming down he worked as a supply teacher in East Sussex before joining the staff of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first of what he would later call his “Gutenberg-type books”. He remained as sub-editor and librarian until 1973, at which point he joined the Foreign Office Research Department (FORD).
He was not always the model employee. When asked what the FORD did exactly he would reply: “They plot for Abroad and against England.” Having decided to quit and go to Rome, he found himself detained by customs on suspicion of stealing Foreign Office files on the Italian Communist Party to sell to the “Spaghetti Reds”. Mosley was enraged, claiming: “I just took a few old press clippings.
“Anyway,” he fumed, “the Italian Communist Party could not fly a kite on Hampstead Heath.”
In Rome from 1977 to 1979 he taught English and sent many friends (some of whom went on to become leading political figures) shrewd dispatches about life in the Eternal City before returning to Britain, where he joined Debrett’s. There he edited Debrett’s Handbook (1981), before, in 1983, returning to the staff of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1989 he became Editor-in-Chief of Burke’s Peerage, where he remained until 2004.
In his long association with Debrett’s and Burke’s, Mosley sought to expand the traditional remit of such publications with books such as Debrett’s Guide to Entertaining (1994) and even Debrett’s Guide to Bereavement (1996). However, his suggestion that Debrett’s publish a Nouveau Riche De Luxe Edition met with less favour. Shortly after he proposed it he was fired.
Sociable, erudite, a talented pianist and bridge player, and blessed with a spectacular memory, Mosley was a louche figure who proved a welcome houseguest. With friends he was a frequent visitor to Tuscany for summer gatherings at what became known as the “villa libido”.
His early girlfriends had included a Uruguayan opera singer. Then he married Alice Hyde, with whom he remained on good terms even after they split up in 1987.
He subsequently moved to Ireland where, with his partner Grace Pym, he bought Ballaghmore, a castle in Co Laois which comprised a Georgian house and an ancient stone keep. It was an eccentric arrangement. Grace Pym would on occasion lead her horse into the dining room, and the pair fought to the extent that Mosley once locked her in the keep. It is said that she subsequently escaped, furious, armed with a garden strimmer.

Ballaghmore Castle, where Charles Mosley once locked his partner (INTERFOTO/ALAMY)
He fled in the early 1990s and moved back to Wraysbury. He then bought the Chateau de Mauprevoir, near Poitiers. He set about restoring it and renting out rooms; he sold it in the early years of the last decade.
Mosley returned to London to live with Lesley Lake, the PR who helped set up Biba, and whom he had met when he was brought along as a “spare man” to a New Year’s Eve dinner party at her house. They married, and Mosley dedicated himself to freelance writing projects, which included a screenplay and much-valued contributions to this page. He attended the launch party of his debut thriller, The Daffodil Party, only a few days before his death.
Lesley latterly suffered from ill health, and Mosley helped care for her. Shortly after his 65th birthday, however, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Lesley died on November 1. Charles Mosley died four days later. He had no children. His first wife survives him.
Charles Mosley, born September 14 1948, died November 5 2013

Guardian:

At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I was in a supermarket where two minutes’ silence was observed. I doubt more than 5% of shoppers were wearing Remembrance Day poppies. On the same day and for weeks before, 100% of BBC presenters and interviewees wore poppies. Now it transpires that a brave news presenter on ITV declined to wear one to appear “neutral and impartial” on-screen and is being vilified with racist and sexist abuse (Report, 14 November). It seems the nazis won after all.
John Holland
Herne Bay, Kent
• I feel for Charlene White. I was approached at a church service on Sunday for not wearing a poppy and offered a spare one. I declined and explained. I had donated but said that what a person wears in his heart is of greater importance than worn on his chest. As the lord said, “what you do in secret, God will you reward you openly”. We are so quick, to rush to judgement. So sad, so unkind.
Roy Woolmans
Conwy

Eighteen months ago my wife had a heart attack, diagnosed as indigestion by the GP. Last Sunday morning she started having similar symptoms. With the anxiety index through the roof, we phoned 111. She was advised to use her GTN spray and take a soluble aspirin and they called an ambulance. Her blood pressure crashed as the ambulance crew were assessing her. They did an ECG, which showed abnormal activity, probably due to her previous heart attack. The paramedics took the decision to take her to A&E where the ECG was repeated and they took blood for analysis.
Nearly four hours later, with her blood tests normal, she was discharged without treatment. At no time did we insist she should be taken to A&E, yet she is one of the 40% discharged without treatment that, according to your report (Real issues behind the emergency care shakeup, 13 November), “should have been offered other help”. She was, presumably, also one of the 7m ambulance journeys that “could have been managed at the scene”, although how they could have done a full blood screen to rule out a further heart attack escapes me. Having apparently “wasted” all sorts of NHS money and resources, perhaps someone could advise me what we did wrong.
Name and address supplied
• When our walk-in centre closed a few months ago, there was no warning, no consultation. One day there was a notice on the door saying it was closed and that instead there was a replacement service in the hospital, next to the A&E. A few months later that closed in the same way. No one asked us what we wanted. They never do. Patients complained to each other, but there didn’t seem to be anyone we could officially complain to; no replacement for the old community health council. I sent a letter to our MP, which was pointless. It was a good walk-in centre. It saved the A&E from pressure and saved people a lot of discomfort – and probably a few lives. I wonder what part of our NHS they’ll cut next?
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex

Thank you, Jake Bowers, for speaking out on behalf of the Roma people with the voice of reason and tolerance (Blunkett’s Roma rubbish, 14 November). I have been working with Romanian immigrants, some of whom are Roma, for over two years. They come to me for help with their English, because they are keen to make a go of their new lives in the UK. They are honest, respectable, hard-working people, full of good cheer in spite of their difficult circumstances and deeply appreciative of the opportunities offered them in our country.
I’m shocked by David Blunkett’s ill-informed and prejudiced comments about Roma migrants. We live in a multicultural society and our lives are generally richer for that. We have lived through decades of increasing prosperity and rising standards of living, and we pride ourselves on our human rights standards. Studies show that immigrants contribute more to our economy than they take out. Are we about to display the same ignorance and lack of tolerance as the good citizens who have driven these poor folks to migrate to our shores? In any society there are good and bad citizens. Let’s show these persecuted migrants that we are enlightened enough to deal with them in an even-handed way.
Lynda Newbery
Bristol
• Jake Bowers, who calls for empathy for people who might wish to live in a multicultural environment, should note that here in my doctor’s surgery there is already a Romanian and other translators, while I sit with one other “white English” person among perhaps 50 people waiting. The point is that the communities in which the Roma are arriving have already seen huge change from migration over the past two generations and now have endured five years of austerity (I have not had a pay rise for five years).
People arriving, who often can barely speak our language, require resources such as housing that are scarce, and thereby raise rents of existing tenants. It is the issue of migration that is tearing the EU apart as migrants arrive in communities with the least resources to cope. It is well-resourced people that can afford tolerance and David Blunkett’s U-turn is welcome, for how Europe responds to this migration challenge will probably decide its coherence.
Peter Hack
Bristol
• Can we knock on the head this nonsense about the inaccuracy of New Labour’s estimation of the size of potential Polish immigration (Labour make a mistake letting in the Poles too early, 13 November). The Polish population was about 42 million; fraction of Poles 20-30 years of age, about one-seventh of this, ie about 6 million. Number coming to Britain if 10% decided to travel, around 600,000. What research did the Home Office need?
The eastern European countries should have been given a Marshall plan, access to western markets and protection from western predation. When the economic gap had narrowed, only then should free movement of Labour have been considered. New Labour hubris and intellectual shallowness lie at the root of this policy mistake.
It says a lot about the sterling qualities of the Poles that they have been absorbed with so little friction and tension. Do the same calculation for Turkey to see the impossibility of it being granted full accession status to the EU. A finer recipe for igniting an explosion of the far right I can’t imagine.
Alan Sharples 
Liverpool

Fact: Denmark’s economy has expanded 70% since 1980, with absolutely no increase in total Danish energy consumption (source: How to be Danish, by Patrick Kingsley). Energy UK, by warning “that household bills could rise by 50% over six years” (Report, 13 November), is just putting in place another future round of profiteering. It does so in concert with the government that says there’s no alternative. But there is, and it’s working perfectly well, barely two hours’ flight away.
Richard Cohen
London
• Speculation that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by polonium-210 is a reminder that the radioactive element was so-named as a political act (Report, 9 November). Its discoverer, Marie Curie (born Maria Skłodowska), called it after her native Poland, at that time under Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian control. She hoped that the publicity would help her homeland regain its sovereignty.
Dr John Doherty
Vienna
• At the same time as the UN was setting aside $25m for the Philippines disaster, a few streets away, at Christie’s, someone was paying $142m for a triple portrait by Francis Bacon (Report, 14 November). I don’t know much about art but I know when something feels just plain wrong.
George Steel
Liverpool
• What an excellent idea of John Saunders for pensioners who don’t need their winter fuel allowances to donate them to the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal (Letters, 13 November). My £100 is on its way there today. Hopefully more will follow suit.
Jenny Jones
Connah’s Quay, Flintshire
• The use of sewage for gardens in Bolton (Letters, 13 November) reminds me that when I had an allotment in Doncaster in the 1960s I could order sewage sludge from the council. It was supplied free and was dry, odourless, friable and grew excellent runner beans. The only downside was having to remove stubbornly non-degradable rubber rings from the fork tines.
Chris Weeks
Beaworthy, Devon

The prime minister is right in wanting to see greater diversity in public life. However, he should be wary of embracing a top-down approach to improving social mobility when there are already good grassroots models making a difference (PM’s despair at private school grip on top jobs, 14 November). The independent charity IntoUniversity has made great strides in helping disadvantaged pupils aim higher, supporting children as young as seven via long-term mentoring programmes which encourage them to dream big and aim for the top academic institutions. It has grown from a local project to a national charity in under 10 years, and has been hailed as an example of best practice for universities to follow. Organisations that know underprivileged young people the best are the most important foot-soldiers in the fight to widen professional opportunity.
Patrick Derham
Deputy chairman of trustees, Into University, and Headmaster, Rugby school
• Edward Pearce’s assertion that modern “public” schools largely achieve academic excellence is widely believed (Letters, 13 November). However the OECD has found that, once account has been taken of the socio-economic background of pupils, state-funded schools in the UK outperform private schools by a considerable margin. In fact, the gap in this country is much greater than it is across the OECD as a whole, where state schools have only a slight performance advantage over private schools. Our differences are social rather than educational in character and have contributed to the decades of entrenched elitism and deep-rooted inequality.
Ron Glatter
Emeritus professor, the Open University
• Many of us despair at David Cameron’s lack of a grip on reality about social mobility. Hasn’t he read The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett and seen the international evidence linking low social mobility to high income inequality? Making the living wage a universal minimum for every employee and heavily taxing the rich is one obvious step towards greater social mobility. But Mr Cameron focuses on education.
He says: “Our education system should help children out of the circumstances in which they were born, not lock them in.” The way to do that is to abolish private education and send every child to the local comprehensive school to make the opportunities easier for everyone “to fly as high as their luck, their ability and their sheer hard graft can actually take them” (his words). This would, of course, “unlock” the children of privilege and lead many of them into more mundane jobs than those of their parents. Social mobility is an up and down stairway.
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
• Alan Milburn is right to recognise that growing inequality of earnings distribution amounts to a “social failure” (Report, 13 November). Inequality has grown in Britain since 1979 following an ideological shift towards a more market-driven economy. One outcome has been that individuals have become conditioned to strive to better themselves, rather than wishing to change society for the better. In the “selfish” rather than the “selfless” society, the most important prerequisite of social mobility has once again become, as it was in the 19th century, income and wealth. Those with the greatest resources benefit most from life-enhancing opportunities, an outcome which bears all the hallmarks of social engineering. For this reason, the pronouncements on improving social mobility by both John Major and David Cameron are empty rhetoric.
All governments, in theory at least, claim to strive for equality of opportunity, but in a country as unequal as ours, the gap between the aspirations of the poorest and opportunities for social mobility have widened. The current government has (and is) doing more than previous administrations to increase inequality. For a start, you do not improve the life chances of the poorest by reducing welfare payments or by removing early childhood provision such as Sure Start.
Dave Coppock
Northampton
• Prime ministers caring about social mobility do not scrap educational maintenance allowances, do nothing about limiting the ability of so-called “top” universities to recruit high percentages of their students from private schools, do nothing about private school fees being exempt from VAT, do not give their education secretaries carte blanche to return school assessment back to the 50s, and do not appoint their chief ministers from Eton and the Bullingdon club.
Bernie Evans
Liverpool
• Is Cameron completely incapable of joining two dots? One day it’s small-state austerity for all but the gilded, the next it’s a tortured acknowledgment of government’s role in promoting social mobility. Since he has no plans to mitigate either those aspects of austerity or those behaviours on the part of the corporate kleptocracy which directly impede social mobility, this role will presumably be acted out, yet again, by telling those who can still afford socks to jolly well pull them up.
Root Cartwright
Radlett, Hertfordshire
• People who can afford to pay more in private school fees in a year than some get for working full time need to pay a lot more tax. That would increase social mobility and make the lucky few accept their responsibilities.
Cllr Andrew Beere
Labour, Cherwell district council
• The chancellor has, in his autumn statement, the ideal opportunity to tackle one part of the problem by removing the charitable status of the public school sector.
Simon Harris
Wrexham
• So, the PM has the solution: we need to “raise aspirations”. Again, the victim is to blame. Those oiks just don’t work hard enough at aspiring.
John Weeks
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Independent:

Throughout my working life (including 21 years as a headteacher) politicians like John Major have failed to grasp the real truth about social mobility in our country, preferring prejudice and bar-room anecdote to empirically researched evidence (report, 13 November).
At the end of the Labour government in 2010, youngsters in the poorest areas of England were 30 per cent more likely to go to university than in 2004 (see 2010 report by the Higher Education Funding Agency for England). Second, 20 per cent of students educated in state schools between 2009-11 achieved first-class degrees in our top universities, against 18 per cent of those educated in private schools (see study by Bristol University in 2013). Third, despite this, only 58 per cent of state-school educated graduates secured a professional job compared with 74 per cent of their privately educated counterparts (see report by the charity upReach  in 2013).
Or, to put it another way, even though Labour did take measures which closed the attainment gap, and even though state-school students performed much better at university than privately educated ones, when it came to getting the best jobs, networking trumped achievement. It’s called the English class system and sadly it remains as pervasive as it ever was.
Sir John is right to rail against the domination of the upper echelons of power by a privately educated elite. It is however quite disingenuous, not to say cheap, of him to blame this on the Labour Party; he must know who the real culprits are and if he really wanted to show some elder statesmanship he would name them.
Chris Dunne, London E9
 
I don’t understand all this fuss about social mobility. It is quite clear that through all ranks of society parents have one main aim: that their children should not end up lower in the ranking than themselves and ideally should end up ranking the same. If they are doctors they aspire for their children to become doctors and if they are hereditary landowners they aspire to sire hereditary landowners. When we had coal miners, they wanted their sons to follow them down the pits.
The mistake of many failed systems was to suppose that you need laws to keep people in their place. Here in Britain we have shown that we are perfectly capable of maintaining the social order of our own free will.
Trevor Pateman, Brighton
 
Terence Blacker writes (“The lost generation,” 12 November) that the idea that a child from a modest background can today break the cycle of generational underachievement is absurd. I agree, but in  the same breath he approvingly quotes  Alan Milburn to the  effect that low expectations by schools and parents  are a curse blighting lives all over the country. 
If, as the rest of his article and much else clearly demonstrates, mobility between classes has all but ground to a halt, for disadvantaged children to have low expectations is the merest realism, and to encourage high expectations is to set them up for severe disappointment.
The expectations we really need to address are those of the political class which thinks it can preside indefinitely over a deeply class-divided society, and indeed deliberately increase inequalities.
Michael McCarthy, London W13
 
Fixing A&E isn’t going to be that easy
Sir Bruce Keogh’s review is another example of failure to address the current situation adequately. There is insufficient resource in the NHS to meet the demands made of emergency and unscheduled care by a public that expects a service-industry approach to a professional role. The introduction of walk-in centres met a supply-driven demand and had little impact on arrivals at A&E. The same with NHS Direct and more recently the 111 service. The demand for healthcare out of hours outstrips supply no matter how many tiers of supply one creates.
As an emergency-medicine consultant I discharge a proportion of patients, after assessment, without any ongoing treatment. Some I discharge without any laboratory investigation or X-rays, including at weekends. Does the lack of a prescription or other formal treatment mean they did not need to be seen by me at all? If that were really true one would have thought the efforts made (by various governments) so far to reduce A&E attendances would have had a tangible impact: it has not.
I am glad Sir Bruce is confident that NHS 111 and paramedic practitioners will successfully identify those patients whom I would diagnose as neither requiring investigation nor treatment if I were to see them and, as a result, be able to avoid bringing them to my attention. Forgive me if I do not share that confidence – but my background is in emergency medicine, not cardiac surgery.
Dr Sarah Spencer, Consultant in  Emergency Medicine, Nr Llanharry, Pontyclun
 
It is a scandal that the NHS is spending £482m insuring against medical-negligence claims (8 November). Why does the NHS feel the need to cover against such claims? Why not settle any claims out of the money it would save by not insuring? Surely £482m would go an awfully long way in settling the claims that should arise.
Norman Crossley  Harlow, Essex
 
How the EU could help Egyptian women
The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s ranking of Arab states’ treatment of women makes for depressing reading (“Egypt – worst Arab country to be female”, 12 November). Independent readers in the UK might well ask themselves what they or the British government can do about this.
It’s true to say that legal and social changes in countries like Egypt to overcome gender discrimination and sexual harassment will be led primarily by Arab women’s rights activists. There are many of them bravely struggling for this in street protests, the workplace and the home already. But the UK can, and should, do more.
CARE International supported research led by women’s rights activists in Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territory. This pointed to two opportunities. Firstly, the UK and other rich donor nations should integrate women’s rights alongside other benchmarks on corruption and freedom of expression into their trade and aid relations with governments of the Middle East and North Africa. Second, they should let women’s rights and other activists who were at the forefront of the popular uprisings have a voice in setting those benchmarks and monitoring them. The EU already has such a framework on paper called More for More – more trade and aid for more reform. The problem is the EU isn’t implementing its own policy.
Howard Mollett, Senior Policy Adviser, CARE International UK, London SE1
 
You report that Egypt is the worst Arab country to be female (12 November). The overthrow of Mubarak and the “democratic election” of Mohamed Morsi has surely raised the question of what is the appropriate form of democracy to follow the removal of a dictator.
The first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system clearly assists a minority organised grouping. Proportional representation is more appropriate and would undoubtedly help women to have a powerful and rightful voice in the future of that country.
Jack Penrose, Bristol
 
Outrageous block on Chilcot findings
First we learn that the Chilcot inquiry is being blocked by the refusal of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Heywood, to release key documents. The refusal is by a civil servant! Now we are told that it is being blocked by the US government! (Report, 14 November.)
Who runs Britain? Should the alleged foreign accomplices of those who allegedly lied to the British people and Parliament to start a murderous and illegal war be allowed to veto a British enquiry into the alleged crime?
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
 
The strange case of Hercule Poirot
Gerald Gilbert is mistaken when he suggests Agatha Christie wrote the final Poirot novel a year before her death (14 November). Curtain was completed in the 1940s, when Christie was at her creative peak. She wrote it then to ensure she alone had control over the character’s destiny. The great dame then asked that the novel should only be published posthumously.
I suspect there’s an off-colour joke to be made about Mr Gilbert’s little grey cells, but I’m far too well brought up to make it.
Trevor Lambert, Shurlock Row, Berkshire
 
Crazy American  movie ratings
How wrong-headed is an American movie rating system that means that there’s more gun violence in PG13 films than in those that are R-rated (report, 13 November), and that slaps an R-rating on the critically acclaimed film Philomena because of two non-sexual uses of the f-word? In this country Philomena received a 12A rating from the BBFC.
Only in America. . .
Martyn P Jackson, Cramlington, Northumberland
 
Respect the local culture
How ironic that Tessa Bennet (Letters, 14 November) should have to remind an Italian how to behave when abroad. Presumably he had never heard the phrase “When in Rome…”
Stan Broadwell, Bristol

Times:

Sir, Professor Nicol (report, Nov 13 ) makes the surprising claim that a free-range laying hen enjoys a lower standard of welfare than one kept in a cage. The professor and her colleagues at the University of Bristol are working with the Soil Association and the RSPCA on the AssureWel project — a pioneering system of welfare outcome assessment.
Another Bristol University scientist has done research which identifies the key elements of what makes a good life for a chicken and found that free range and organic farming systems provide birds with the element of choice and freedom that allows them to express natural behaviour.
As Professor Nicol says, farms do vary, but that is true for factory farms too, and is why organic and Freedom Food farms are strictly inspected every year. But the professor’s claim that chickens in cages enjoy higher welfare is based on questionable assumptions. The idea that dull, immobile, caged chickens that cannot stretch their wings, scratch and peck in the soil, take dust baths and feel the sun on their backs are better off than free-range and organic chickens defies common sense.
Peter Melchett
Policy Director, the Soil Association
Bristol
Sir, In 1949 the Ministry of Agriculture decided that pullets not in the Poultry Health Scheme could not share the same pasture as birds in the scheme. My employer as a farm student decided to house such birds in the first “twin-bird cages”. He asked me to care for them and record their performance. The caged birds performed much better than their “free range” sisters.
In 1953 I was asked to go to Reading University, where they had been given the task of increasing protein production from poultry and eggs. The unit was equipped with various types of cage and the birds soon told us that they preferred to be in small groups (3-5), not 1 or 2, nor groups of 6 or 7 or more.
The high-quality research we carried out could not have been conducted without cages, which were continually improved and modified. Egg quality also improved. By 1990 cages were responsible for 90 per cent of UK egg production and most of the rest were for hatching purposes, for which no one designed a satisfactory cage. The success of the cage was always due to its reduction of mortality.
Several million hens have gone to an early death because of a mistaken definition of animal welfare called the “five freedoms”. The cage provided “protection”, not complete freedom. My contention is that the battery cage was the greatest advance in animal welfare during my career.
Dr Lou Marsden
Clitheroe, Lancs
Sir, Y ou can protect some animals from harm by locking them in a cage or keeping them indoors all day, but most of our customers don’t see that as natural or desirable.
Animal welfare is paramount to the way our business works with farmers and suppliers.
We believe good animal welfare is based on a system that provides the animal or bird with the freedom to express natural behaviours. Our evidence shows that the planting of woodland trees encourages the birds to roam farther and to express their natural behaviours.
James Bailey
Sainsbury’s
London EC1

Negligence requires (by definition) the making of an error which would have been avoided if reasonable skill and care had been exercised
Sir, I note another correspondent complaining (letter, Nov 14) of the high cost of negligence claims against the NHS. To lawyers like me who work in the field it is dispiriting to note the lack of comparable concern about the fact that the cost of these negligence claims is because of negligence.
Negligence requires (by definition of the term) the making of an error which would have been avoided if merely reasonable skill and care had been exercised. And high damages awards are necessarily made to meet the needs of those seriously and irreparably harmed by that negligence.
Is it unreasonable to ask that your correspondents’ outrage be diverted to the alarming incidence of serious avoidable harm done by failures of reasonable standards of care in our health services? The total combined annual cost of damages and legal costs incurred by the NHS has been shown to be significantly less than the insurance premiums payable by commercial companies with a comparably huge turnover.
James Badenoch, QC
London EC4

A knowledge of language opens up the possibility of literature and, equally, good literature can help with language
Sir, Alice Thomson (Opinion, Nov 13) speaks of English language and English literature as if they were distinct subjects. They are examined as separate subjects but that is more of a convenience than a matter of significance. I am sure that she appreciates that some basic language opens up the possibility of literature and that good literature can help with the language.
I have taught and examined English language and literature together at O and A level and for the international baccalaureate and I have always been convinced of this. When I select exemplar material for students I look for the best literary qualities to teach how best to use the language.
And then there is D..H. Lawrence’s ebb and flow of the imagination, helping us to understand others or, as Thomson puts it, “increasing their empathy and becoming more alert to the inner lives of others”. What can be more important than this for human existence?
In my classes there was half an hour of private reading each week. Tell Mr Gove.
Peter Inson
Colchester, Essex

Most people believe that there are more urgent priorities for spending the North of England than a high-speed railway line
Sir, Your report (Nov 13) that “the North is cool on HS2” has a poll that shows 56 per cent of voters in the North are against the project. I suspect that number would increase if more people realised that the Government does not appear to have enough money to provide a guaranteed electricity supply in the winter or sufficient water during a dry summer. Improvement in those utilities is where the money should go.
Guy Godfrey
Pishill, Oxon

In the UK the life sentence is the most flexible sentence we have, and its imposition is replete with judicial discretion
Sir, Field Marshal Lord Bramall (letter, Nov 13) says that the mandatory life sentence “cannot take into account extenuating circumstances” and pleads for judges to be given “discretionary powers”, adding that “senior members of the legal profession ….. feel equally strongly that something needs to be done to rectify this situation”.
In fact, the life sentence is the most flexible sentence we have, and its imposition is replete with judicial discretion. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 leaves it to the judge to recommend the minimum term of imprisonment which a convicted offender should serve. The lowest starting point is 15 years, but the Act expressly allows the judge to reduce this in the light of “mitigating factors”. Only in the rarest cases does a life sentence involve imprisonment for an offender’s natural life. It is hard to believe that the senior lawyers to whom Lord Bramall refers are unaware of these facts, even though he himself may be.
Richard Oerton
Cannington, Somerset
Sir, I agree wholeheartedly with Field Marshal Lord Bramall that the mandatory life sentence for murder needs to be re-examined in the sort of case he has in mind. Where there are extenuating circumstances as, for example, where a soldier fires and kills “in the agony of the moment”, a life sentence serves no purpose. It should be open to the court to impose such lesser sentence as the case requires.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick
House of Lords

Telegraph:

SIR – My wife and I have been playing social bridge since we were teenagers, before we knew each other. We do not play in clubs or tournaments, but gain pleasure from good company in a mildly taxing intellectual environment, often with a glass of wine beside the table.
In the past decade, we have noticed two trends that reduce our enjoyment: the introduction of “bidding boxes” and of the Chicago scoring system. The first seems to imply that the players have no memory (or are dishonest), and the second eliminates the pleasure of making “one diamond” with a poor hand, when one has a game and 90 on the card.
Are modern players less subtle or are we getting old?
Roger W Payne
Over Peover, Cheshire

SIR – The decline of Britain’s standing in the educational league tables has prompted calls for the return of grammar schools. As someone who benefited from a state primary, a northern grammar school and a Cambridge scholarship, I was shocked later to discover the bitterness of some of my contemporaries who, having achieved a coveted place at grammar school, were then unable to compete at the top levels.
It is true that Melvyn Bragg, John Major and many others such as myself benefited both ourselves and the nation via this channel of upward mobility, but the failure of British education will not be resolved by returning to a system that only selects a tiny minority for special treatment.
Other nations have a wider perspective –Germany’s technical schools offer entry into a rewarding and fulfilling career. And I haven’t even mentioned the 80 per cent who failed the 11-plus examination.
Comprehensive education may be regarded as a failure but it is a failure of execution, not principle, brought about by a misguided educational establishment espousing ineffective teaching methods combined with a unionised, low status and badly educated teaching force. My inspirational teachers were mostly ex-Second World War Oxbridge graduates.
Dr A E Hanwell
York
Related Articles
Making a bid for better standards in bridge
14 Nov 2013
SIR – My father was born in the East End of London to working-class parents and attended a grammar school through a funded scholarship. I went first to RAF Changi Grammar School, in Singapore, which included children of junior
non-commissioned officers and those of commissioned officers. I later attended East Grinstead Grammar School, in Sussex, where many of the children came from working-class and lower-middle-class backgrounds. Most of them, from both schools, did well in professional careers.
Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Every successful country in the developed world has based its progress on a comprehensive school system, aiming to raise the attainment of the whole population, not just an elite. Only in Britain has this faced such obstinate opposition.
With a clear understanding of the facts of educational attainment and social mobility, Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph oversaw the closure or conversion of so many grammar schools. As David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, observed in 2007, there is “overwhelming evidence that academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it”.
Chris Dunne
London E9
SIR – Sir John Major should read all the definitions of “elite”. They include “superior wealth”, which can be applied to some of our leaders, but it also implies superior intellect, which cannot.
Ken Wells
Felpham, West Sussex
Breastfeeding support
SIR – Before having my baby, I thought that women made a choice whether to breast- or bottle-feed, and that breastfeeding would come naturally.
Now, as a new mother, I have realised that breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. The only reason I am continuing to breastfeed after four months is as a result of support from my local breastfeeding network, which is charitably funded and gets no grants from the NHS or any other government body.
Rather than provide an “incentive” in the form of shopping vouchers, the NHS should increase the availability of support to enable women who are facing problems to continue to breastfeed.
Elizabeth Ramsden
York
SIR – Breast milk is free. If that is not enough incentive to breastfeed, then nothing is.
Judith Naden
Matlock, Derbyshire
Learning English
SIR – I applaud the fact that new projects will be put in place to help non-English speakers learn the language. I volunteer in two English classes, one for literacy (which is attended by both English speakers and non-English speakers and which is free) and another for speakers of other languages, which is paid for by the students, who often study in order to receive a permanent British visa.
This course concentrates on real-life situations, such as doctors’ appointments. More than half of the students are women from Arab or Asian countries who have children attending British schools who are no doubt fluent in English. Some have been here more than 10 years and still have minimal knowledge of the English language. These women largely remain within their own communities and maintain their own cultures and traditions. Any project put in place to enable them to integrate better can only be a good idea.
S M Freedman
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
M&S priorities wrong
SIR – Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, says he wants “to have 80 stores in India by 2016”. Only a week ago he announced a 1.3 per cent fall in clothing sales following the disastrous million-pound “Leading Ladies” advertising campaign, which features Tracey Emin, Helen Mirren and other notable British women, but has apparently failed to lure customers to M&S. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, it must be one of the most dismal and lifeless campaigns ever.
Mr Bolland should forget arty photographers and the lure of international markets and get his own high street stores back on track first.
Geoff Chessum
London EC2
Eight-legged travellers
SIR — Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s story about the snail travelling on her car’s wing mirror reminded me of a similar occurrence. While flying as a passenger in a light plane, I noticed a spider’s web, complete with occupant, suspended between the starboard wing’s Vee lift struts. Though it quivered in the 120 mph slipstream, the web remained intact for the entire journey and the spider was unharmed.
It also survived the return journey.
Richard Riding
Radlett, Hertfordshire
Engineering PR
SIR – One reason for the shortage of engineers in Britain is that most people don’t know what an engineer actually does.
An engineer is a professionally qualified individual (a graduate with additional training and experience, and a member of a chartered institution) capable of designing, building and managing the most complex things that support our lives. These include vehicles, white goods, buildings, refineries, computers, smart phones and many others.
Many people generally identified as engineers are actually technicians, who install and repair the things that engineers have created.
There is a place for both, but until the distinction is understood, engineering will not seem to many of the brightest children to be the interesting, seriously challenging and often very rewarding career that it is.
Stuart Gillies
Christleton, Cheshire
Country house model
SIR – Regarding the identical designs of Melton Constable Hall, Uppark, Pynes House and Stansted Park, there is little doubt that all were copied from Raynham Hall in Norfolk (best known for the legend of the Brown Lady), built between 1622 and 1637.
Sir Roger Townshend took his master mason William Edge on a 28-week tour of Britain and the continent to get ideas for the sort of country seat he wanted. The resultant Italian style with Dutch gables and large windows was once thought to be indicative of the work of Inigo Jones. But the blending of styles was unique.
It wasn’t until the time of Queen Anne and the rise of Sir Charles Townshend to political prominence that Raynham was “discovered”, its radical practicality becoming a template for many new country houses built to complement sumptuously landscaped estates.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire
Joys of maidenhood
SIR – Jane Austen was one of the original “panks” – professional aunt, no kids.
“I have always maintained the importance of aunts as much as possible,” she wrote to her niece, Caroline. From all accounts, she was a favourite of her lucky nephews and nieces.
Joan Moore
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
British shipyards should exploit civilian market
SIR – Now that military shipyards are being closed and many skilled workers being made redundant, perhaps our ship designers and builders should explore the civilian market. Tankers and container ships, oil and gas support vessels, cruise ships and ferries are being built elsewhere in the world. Surely this country has a place in that market.
The London Gate container port has just started operation to discharge and load huge numbers of international containers, which will fill our roads and railways. A better method of transporting containers around Britain and the rest of Europe would be on smaller ships, using the free coastal highway and the smaller ports. Our ship designers and builders could lead in the production of such classes of ships.
Brian Farmer
Chelmsford
SIR – Duncan Redford says it is not important that we can’t build our own warship hulls, because we can buy them abroad. It is this attitude that has left us unable to build our own nuclear power stations, leaving us dependent on foreign governments and companies and leading to job losses in Britain.
The Government should be spending tax money to maintain and create jobs in areas such as shipbuilding, rather than spending it on unemployment benefit for out-of-work shipbuilders.
T M Banks
Knutsford, Cheshire
SIR – Do the Prime Minister or Defence Secretary know how many surface escorts are required to provide the anti-submarine and anti-air screen of a carrier task group? If they did they would order more Type 45 destroyers and advance the build programme for the Type 26 global combat ships, especially as the latter have good export potential.
Cdr Carl Graham RN (retd)
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – We share the concerns regarding EirGrid’s Grid Link project raised by Kieran Hartley (November 4th); and would like to add some more.
EirGrid acknowledges the lack of national landscape mapping in Ireland is a “data challenge” and we have unearthed inconsistencies in EirGrid’s mapping of constraints for the Grid Link project. It is not working from a single, comprehensive map of Ireland, instead EirGrid has pieced together what is in effect a patchwork quilt of Ireland’s landscape.
They have collected landscape information from each local authority, however there are massive inconsistencies in how landscape value is mapped between local authorities. This lack of a whole Ireland map of landscape value is a known problem in identifying and protecting our landscape “resource” for proper planning and development throughout Ireland.
To give a specific example; this inconsistency is clearly visible in EirGrid’s constraint mapping in the Barrow and Nore river valleys. The Kilkenny County Development Plan protects the landscape of east Co Kilkenny with a “high amenity area” designation. Whereas across the county boundary which is formed by the River Barrow, south Co Carlow, containing the monastic settlement of St Mullins, the historic designed landscape of Borris House, and the architectural conservation area of Borris, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains, has no such designation in the Carlow County Development Plan. Two of the potential pylon routes are located in this precious landscape.
High amenity areas are mapped as a primary constraint by EirGrid, to be avoided if possible in selecting pylon routes, the absence of high amenity areas from the Carlow County Development Plan has clearly disadvantaged Co Carlow in EirGrid’s route selection process. All four potential pylon routes pass through the “unconstrained” landscape of Carlow. A search for objective whole Ireland mapping of scenic value uncovered the 1977 Inventory of Outstanding Landscapes by an Foras Forbatha and the 1994 National Scenic Landscapes Map by Bord Fáilte – both of which contain the Barrow and Nore River valleys.
We were unable to find anything more recent, nor have we been able to get answers to the following questions.
What Government body currently has the remit for identifying and protecting Ireland’s landscapes of high scenic value? Given the importance of the Irish landscape to our national identity, our tourism industry and to the sustainable economy of rural Ireland is it reasonable that a strategic infrastructure project of the scale of the Grid Link project be undertaken without such a map in place?
Does its absence allow for proper planning and sustainable development in this strategic infrastructure process, executed in the common good?
Isn’t the identification and protection of the scenic landscapes of Ireland also in the common good? – Yours, etc,
PAT ENGLISH,
HELENA FITZGERALD,
MELANIE FOOT,
CORNELIA McCARTHY,
GERARD WHELAN,
On behalf of
Save Our Heartland Group,
Borris, Co Carlow.
Sir, – Colm Kelly (November 13th) points out some of the technical issues associated with the installation of underground cables. However, the long term benefits to the Irish people cannot be overlooked.
First, the sterilised corridor above the underground cable is just 10 metres wide as opposed to a 200-metre spread from overheads. Second, the underground cable has a life expectancy of 40-plus years before renewal. Overheads need to be replaced every 15 years. Third, more than 90 per cent of the Irish people are opposed to ruining our countryside (and possibly our health too) with the installation of hundreds of EirGrid’s massive pylon monstrosities.
EU environment policy states that environmental and human health protection should be based on the precautionary principle that “prevention is better than cure”. The most progressive countries throughout Europe are now putting these cables underground, in a cost-effective manner. Why cannot we do the same? – Yours, etc,
JOHN ROBINSON,
Knocktopher,

Sir, – Brendan Howlin’s decision to withdraw a proposal which would have made Irish Freedom of Information (FoI) the laughing stock of Europe is to be welcomed (Home News, November 14th). But despite his promises of reform, he still intends to retain one key part of the clampdown imposed by Charlie McCreevy a decade ago: the €15 up-front fee for requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
This penalty on information is no “token charge” as the Minister has suggested. It’s a serious disincentive for freelance journalists to pursue potential stories. Most freelances work on very tight margins. If they were able to do their jobs properly, they ought to be able to make two or three requests a day. Of course that’s impossible with these charges.
It’s the public that suffers as a result of this and that fact has been recognised throughout Europe. Mr Howlin seems unaware that, far from normal practice, such charges are the absolute exception.
FoI actually saves the public purse large sums of money in the long run, as the NUJ and others have repeatedly shown. Of course those savings don’t matter to the bureaucrats who draft penalties like this one. They only measure the height of paper in their in-trays.
Over the decades, Labour’s commitment to transparency seemed strong and sincere. In 1997 it faced down the bureaucracy. What a pity Brendan Howlin isn’t Eithne Fitzgerald! – Yours, etc,
RONAN BRADY,
(Journalism lecturer,
Griffith College Dublin),

   
A chara, – Pat King, the general secretary of the ASTI claims the proposals to come from the recent negotiations with the government were the “best” they “could produce” (Home News, November 13th).
From where I stand, that is in front of the class, their “best” is not good enough. Perhaps if Mr King and his co-negotiators had been in the classroom for the last few years they too might come to that realisation.
I only hope that teachers, who meet on Saturday as members of the ASTI central executive council, reject these proposals. Further, I trust they will send Mr King and his team back to the negotiating table with one simple instruction: negotiate on behalf of teachers and not the Government. – Yours, etc,
KRIZAN VEKIC,
ASTI member,

   
A chara, – While Jacqueline O’Toole (November 14th) may despair that she now cannot walk her dog freely on the Lissadell estate, I think it time to present some facts on this case.
First, the restrictions that are now in place provide a minor barrier to walkers – several miles of stunning coast and beach are there, free for all (Ms O’Toole’s dog included) to use.
Second, amid all this talk of public rights of way, attention to the work that the Walsh-Cassidy family have done at Lissadell has been lost. I grew up in this area and watched the outbuildings, grounds and even the house itself, falling into dilapidation and ruin under the absent eyes of the remaining Gore-Booth relatives. Soon after the Walsh family purchased the estate, restoration began on the grounds and gardens (including the walled garden and alpine garden); the tumbledown coach house was also restored to include a café and art gallery – all this providing employment and enhancing the tourism value of the area.
While I am uneasy in general about speaking for such privatisation of access, especially in light of the current issue of fencing on hilltops, in this case, certain members of the north Sligo community have shot themselves in the foot and cost the taxpayer a great deal in the process.
Instead of, as many reasonable people in the locale did, considering the luck that brought owners to the house who retained its character with due consideration for the environment (they might have, for example, established a golf resort), they have embarked upon a Quixotic (and costly) quest to prove their right to walk their dogs on a half-mile stretch of avenue, when the public spaces of north Sligo are among the most accessible and pristine in Ireland. In doing so, they have harmed the local community and the local tourism industry.
I support the fight for public rights of way in Ireland fully, but would ask that, in future, we might choose our battles more carefully. – Is mise,
TRISH McTIGHE,

Sir, – How many more families must tell their stories in The Irish Times before Minister for Health James Reilly and the HSE sort homecare packages for children such as Josh Knowles and Dylan Gardiner who remain trapped in hospital beds (Home News, November 13th)?
We echo the call from Colm Young of the Tracheostomy Advocacy Group for a national strategy and central funding to make this happen. Furthermore, the HSE must step out of the shadows and stop hiding behind this cloak of “spokesperson” when commenting on this most serious issue. – Yours, etc,
JONATHAN IRWIN,
CEO, Jack & Jill Children’s

   
Sir, – I would suggest that recent letters about the wearing of the poppy reflect the fact that the lesson of the first World War has still not been understood.
The arguments about the poppy are related to the unresolved issue that a ruling elite made disastrous decisions that created a situation where other people had to sacrifice their lives for those decisions. The past is the present. There is still a refusal of the ruling elite to sacrifice their pride for the common good.
The issue is not the poppy but rather the hubris of decision-makers. – Yours, etc,
ELAINE BYRNE,
Broadford Drive,
Ballinteer, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I have spent a lifetime’s teaching in Trinity College Dublin trying to explain the difference between England and Britain. Is it so very difficult to understand this distinction or is it simply anti-English racism with which we are contending?
In response to the letter on the poppy from Nigel Newling may I say for what must now be at least the thousandth time that there has been no English imperialism since 1707. It is British imperialism.
At present there is not even an English parliament. At Westminster there is still a British parliament, alongside a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh and a Welsh assembly in Cardiff and a Northern Irish assembly in Belfast. The English are now oppressed by the British as the Irish have been.
Perhaps you would be so kind as to publish this letter for the benefit of your readers still struggling with the concept of Southern Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Dr GERALD MORGAN,
The Chaucer Hub,
Trinity College,

Sir, – Within a month the Government and other European Union member states will decide whether to limit the amount of land-based biofuels used in our transport energy. The importance of these negotiations – which will impact on European and world food price rises, land rights and world deforestation rates – is critical.
Almost all biofuels are made from food crops, such as wheat, soy, palm oil, rapeseed and maize. These are essential food sources for a rapidly expanding global population, of which 800 million is going hungry. Without the EU’s current biofuels targets – which are being reviewed – the price of foodstuffs such as vegetable oil would be 50 per cent lower in Europe by 2020 than at present, and 15 per cent lower in the rest of the world. The World Bank, OECD, WTO, IMF, FAO and five other UN agencies have all warned “prices are substantially higher than they would be if no biofuels were produced”. These same agencies have called for a global end to subsidies and targets for biofuels on the basis of their impact on food price volatility.
Most biofuels do not even deliver the carbon emissions savings that they are subsidised to provide. And the demand for additional land to accommodate EU biofuels, an area the size of Ireland, puts great strain on the environment, wildlife and local communities.
EU citizens supporting our work understand the impact that biofuels policy is having on hunger, land grabs and climate change, while costing governments and taxpayers billions every year, and pushing up prices for consumers. Yet the EU Council is considering weaker measures that would neither limit the use of damaging biofuels nor capture their full climate impacts.
We are calling on the Government to urgently step in and play its part in fixing the EU’s failed biofuels policy. It can do this by strongly and publicly supporting an immediate halt to the expansion of biofuels that compete for food, by pressing for full accounting for their real climate impacts, and by phasing out subsidies. We urge the Government to show leadership in the EU negotiations and back the Commission’s proposal for a cap on land-derived biofuels of 5 per cent or lower to stop further increases in the use of food for fuel. – Yours, etc,
OLGA McDONOGH, CEO, ActionAid Ireland; JIM CLARKEN, Chief Executive, Oxfam Ireland; ÉAMONN MEEHAN, Executive Director, Trócaire; OISIN COGHLAN, Director, Friends of the Earth; JAMES NIX, Policy Director, An Taisce; & ROSAMOND BENNETT, Chief Executive, Christian Aid,
C/o Parnell Square,
Dublin 1.

Sir, – Michael Austin (November 13th) makes the rather remarkable claim that marriage “has always, at least implicitly, included the procreative goal of the union of a man and a woman”. By this rationale, a heterosexual couple cannot or should not marry where either the man or the woman is knowingly infertile, or both are, whether by reason of age or otherwise. Mr Austin, albeit it is not his intention, makes a persuasive one-man argument for teaching philosophy, in particular logic, in our schools. – Yours, etc,
THEO DORGAN,
Moyclare Park, Dublin 13.

   
Sir, – If John T Kavanagh (November 13th) were to crash his car on the way to Muckanaghederdauhaulia, Co Galway, he would at least have the satisfaction of having crashed in English. Personally speaking, I’d rather take my chances with the original Irish-language placename: Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile. Each to his own, perhaps . . . That aside, equal billing is important when it comes to placenames. It proclaims to the world that both versions are valid and valued. Perhaps this is what Mr Kavanagh really fears? – Yours, etc,
CORMAC Mc MAHON,
Tweed Street,
Highett, Victoria,

Sir, – The Irish Times (November 14th) runs eight articles over three full pages (3, 18, 19) on the Roy Keane press conference the day before. Your coverage of this event (a media briefing by an assistant manager before a friendly soccer international) is excessive. Disappointingly, it is indicative of a dumbing down of standards in print media in general recently.
Meanwhile, the world championship chess match between the defending champion Viswanathan Anand (India) and the highest rated player of all time, Magnus Carlsen (Norway) continues in Chennai, India without mention by the “paper of record”.
Chess may not be as sexy as football and undoubtedly, Grandmaster Roy Keane is box-office gold, but please keep things in proportion. – Yours, etc,
DENIS O’CONNELL,

Sir, –   It’s heartening to know that the cost of living has reduced so greatly from the Celtic Tiger days that a family in Dublin could now (if they trimmed their outgoings) be expected to survive on a mere €9,000 per month (“Judge allows bankrupt family €9,000 a month”, Front page, November 14th). – Yours, etc,  
COLM WHELAN,
Forrest Road,
Swords, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:
* From the mines of Australia to the endless crowds on the New York subway, a temporary subterranean people surge forward to make life above ground the reality that sprang from dreams below it.
Also in this section
Lack of transparency at heart of government
There’s no good reason not to wear the poppy
Unbearable pressure on country’s youth
Fleeting hopes abound again in the digital imagery of what life should be on every device that can talk, dance, and tell a story, and the imagination knows no bounds.
Yet it all remains so distant, as distant as if they were not a person but an observer without learning much at the end or at its beginning, becoming an instinctive ant that once thought it was more than that. It is only when they leave it all, its subservience to that dream that was fast becoming a nightmare, to be at one with what is so natural, so spiritual, was when it could be understood of why they were there, or where it was worth going. This place can only be nature.
In the west of Ireland, rains make hidden paths all the more hidden, melancholy bogs protected by sparse trees lie in splendid isolation and within a day all the seasons can come at once. It is here, without having to look very hard, lie angry oceans that come to perfect calm before your eyes and where to be outdoors is the only door you need to walk through. Storms can come out of nowhere and days seem to reward now and again with sun that paints a landscape anew. It is the best place to be heard above the distant memory of the crowd.
This place and how it affects its people, and those that are new to here, to return, and yet to come, will often find the soul is soothed and a journey at its end, where the ambition is somehow to stay, for nothing will ever be the same again.
Barry Clifford
Oughterard, Galway
POLITICAL EXILES RETURN
* The rumours of a new political party have spread with the recent meeting in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, of Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley.
We Irish will always complain about the party in power but essentially we are a politically conservative nation. The emergence of a new party would almost certainly be centre-right in nature. Here, Ms Creighton and Mr Ganley perfectly fit the bill. Although they have locked horns in the past, each is both economically and socially conservative. With Lucinda at the helm we could finally have a centre-right party with a conscience. There also are many more than competent political ‘exiles’ who could form the nucleus of a new party.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
WHAT PRICE INFORMATION
* The Dail is currently examining an amended FOI bill which will, in practice, greatly increase FOI charges and bring Ireland even more out of line with international best practice in this important area.
The Government claims the average cost of an FOI request is €600 and says our economic state is the reason for increasing charges. I suspect this figure is as spurious as the €20m cost of running the Seanad.
Surely the staff in the various FOI units are permanent civil servants and get paid anyway, regardless of the number of FOI requests? The only costs relating directly to FOI requests are postage and photocopying and sometimes that won’t apply when the material is sent by email.
If the Government is so concerned about balancing the books may I suggest the abolition of tax-free ‘turning up’ money for TDs and senators who live within normal commuting distance of the Dail.
Enid O’Dowd
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
GAY PARENT FEARS
* David Quinn’s concern for children is laudable (‘Denying a child’s right to have a mother has become state policy’ Irish Independent, November 8) but his piece misses a few important facts.
First of all, there is the reality of the adoption process. With legislative change, gay couples won’t have the right to adopt – like every other applicant, they will have the right to be considered for suitability for adoption.
The adoption agencies will rightly continue to have the challenge of matching the needs of the children to prospective adoptive parents. With the pool of children available for adoption, I suspect very few children will actually end up in same-sex parent households.
When parents resort to surrogacy it must be remembered that these children are desperately wanted. They are not conceived on a whim, not the results of drunken one-night stands. It involves very careful planning and consideration.
Again, Quinn would argue that this arrangement would deliberately deprive these children of one of their natural parents. What he seems not to have considered is that without this arrangement, the child would never be conceived. So is it better never to be born at all than be raised by loving gay parents?
He concludes by urging readers to confront Enda Kenny on the “creation of motherless or fatherless children”. We must assume, therefore, that he is opposed to those lives being created at all, since they would not be created otherwise. How does this square with his firm pro-life stance?
Tony Kavanagh
Dublin 7
POPPY OF ‘HYPOCRISY’
* ‘Time the poppy’s wilted petals of hypocrisy were thrown away’.
I think Robert Fisk misses the point completely in this article (Irish Independent, November 9).
Not only are we honouring the dead and dead heroes, but it is a national outpouring of grief. Freedom is worth fighting for. The poppy is a symbol of that.
Vincent Murray
Rathcoole, Co Dublin
* In reply to Colin Crilly (Irish Independent, November 7) the money from the sale of poppies goes to the welfare of ex-soldiers. Remembrance Day is to keep in mind that righteous people gave their day for our tomorrow. The tomorrow that we now enjoy is universal human rights in a world made safe for democracy.
I wear a poppy so others have the freedom to criticise me for doing so.
Noel Flannery
Limerick
* The impressive journalist and author Robert Fisk exposes the “poppy’s petals of hypocrisy”. His anti-war article confronts militarism and its symbolism. Hence his call to “cast poppies aside”.
Fisk warns readers that “patriotism is not enough”. Above all nations stands humanity. Weapons of war, alas, offer a worldwide threat. “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”. (President John F Kennedy)
John A Barnwell
Dublin 9
SILLY SEASON NEVER ENDS
* Silly season in Irish media land used to end around the end of September, but not anymore; we now get it all year round. Someone shakes a stick at Bertie Ahern in a pub and the media goes ballistic.
Actors from ‘Love/Hate’ are paraded all over the place as if they were some kind of VIPs.
Meanwhile, in the real world we must be the global laughing stock when the gardai and social services decide a conwoman aged 25 is just 15; and a Roma family are questioned because one of their children has blond hair.
But all is not lost, on the brighter side we’re having a soft winter; the church seems to now have a leader who is actually a Christian, who refuses all Vatican luxuries and cooks his own meals in the scullery. Finally, the troika have departed our shores.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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