27 July 2013 books
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Captain Povey’s sister inlaw has come to stay and she is even worse then Mrs Povey. So Pertwee gets an old flame of Mrs P to make Henry look good, but Heney is accused os spying Priceless
Warmer today, sweep the drive
We watch Lets Dance red Astaire
Scrabble today Mary somehow loses the game too tired to re-start. The new update is awful
Virginia Johnson, who has died aged 88, was, with William Masters, her research associate and sometime husband, the author of Human Sexual Response, a study of the physiology of sexual arousal which has been described as the book which “taught America how to love”; its publication in 1966 made the pair famous, controversial and rich in almost equal measure.
Virginia Johnson and William Masters Photo: TIME&LIFE/GETTY
6:05PM BST 26 Jul 2013
Masters’s and Johnson’s work followed on from that of Alfred Kinsey in the 1930s and 1940s; but where Kinsey had relied on interviews with men and women to gather data about sexual behaviour, his successors made use of ingenious scientific monitors to make clinical observations of the act of coitus in the laboratory, with each pulse and quiver painstakingly recorded.
It was Masters, a gynaecologist and fertility expert at Washington University, St Louis, who began the project in a small way in the mid-1950s by spying on male and female prostitutes (conscripted with the help of the local vice squad and with the blessing of the local Catholic archbishop). When one of his subjects suggested he find a female partner, Masters settled on Virginia Johnson, an unemployed, thrice-divorced mother-of-two with no relevant qualifications. Initially hired as his secretary, she soon became his scientific collaborator.
After recruiting more than 400 volunteers, and with the help of tools such as a “motor-powered Plexiglas phallus” called “Ulysses”, they observed and recorded approximately 10,000 orgasms over 11 years.
At the time they published their results in the mid-1960s, the word “pregnant” was routinely censored on television and there was a huge unmet demand for sex education, which was generally regarded as a matter for the fulminations of the pulpit. Though billed as a piece of scientific research, Human Sexual Response sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months, its readership apparently undeterred by such passages as “This maculopapular type of erythematous rash first appears over the epigastrium.”
Masters and Johnson were credited with making the physical side of sex something that could be openly discussed, and with demolishing some entrenched myths. Notable among these was the idea that women were not as sexually voracious as men. Masters and Johnson claimed that women could achieve five or six orgasms in as many minutes, while men had to leave the field for a “refractory” period of an hour after every performance.
The news was welcomed not only by hedonists (Hugh Hefner was one of the study’s biggest funders) but also by feminists, who were inspired by the findings that large numbers of women enjoyed their best sex alone, and concluded that, in their ability to produce “multiple orgasms”, they were not just sexually equal, but superior, to men.
The book made Masters and Johnson celebrities. They were interviewed widely, wrote for Playboy, and built on their fame by embarking on a new career as sex therapists. At the Masters and Johnson Institute, founded in 1968, film stars, politicians and others unsure of their performance in bed could, for a fee of $3,000, perk up their sex lives with male-female therapy teams to guide them through Masters’s and Johnson’s four-stage “Human Sexual Response Cycle” (excitement phase, plateau phase, orgasmic phase and resolution phase). In 1968 they published Human Sexual Inadequacy, which prescribed remedies for such problems as premature ejaculation, impotence and inability to achieve orgasm.
But there were those who had doubts about the scientific credentials for their research, pointing out that their human guinea pigs, recruited via a highly skewed selection process, were people who were able to masturbate, or copulate with complete strangers, in a laboratory setting in front of cameras and camera crew while attached to various monitoring devices. To use them as a template for “normal” sexual function, as one critic observed, was rather like judging normal singing ability by the standards of international recording artists. In particular, subsequent research suggests that the ability to achieve multiple orgasms is far from normal for most women.
In 1979 Masters and Johnson offended all sides when they published Homosexuality in Perspective. They concluded that the best sex they had observed was that between gay and lesbian couples who “took their time”, and took pleasure in their partner’s responses, which “goal-orientated” heterosexuals rarely did; and they debunked the idea of homosexuality as a mental illness. Yet at the same time they suggested that some people become homosexual because they are emotionally and socially stunted, and they reported “curing” 67 homosexual men and women with a specially designed “conversion therapy”. Supported with phoney case studies, the book’s findings were quickly denounced by the medical establishment.
The couple’s most controversial book, however, was Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of Aids (with Robert Koldny, 1988), in which they argued that the virus was rampant in the heterosexual community, and claimed that it could be contracted by casual contact with contaminated contact lenses, lavatory seats or from salad prepared by an infected individual. But they refused to endorse the “safe sex” recommendations of health authorities. The book had not been submitted for peer review and was widely condemned as irresponsible.
Mary Virginia Eshelman was born in Springfield, Missouri, on February 11 1925. An accomplished pianist and singer, as a young woman she performed country music under the name Virginia Gibson on local radio, studied music at Drury University and sang with a band during the Second World War.
But, as she explained much later, she had been brought up to believe that the highest goal for a woman was marriage, and by the time she began working with Masters in the late 1950s, she had embarked on three, of which the most long-lasting was her marriage to George Johnson, a bandleader with whom she had two children but divorced after six years in 1956.
Shortly after she began her collaboration with Masters he persuaded her to have sex with him — but only, he explained, “as a way of further comprehending all that they were learning through observation”. They remained together for more than a decade of late-night participant-observer sessions and, in 1971, embarked on 22 years of marriage, even though they “weren’t emotionally tied at all”, as Virginia Johnson later confessed.
The marriage ended on Christmas Eve 1992 when the 76-year-old Masters suddenly announced that he was leaving Virginia Johnson to marry a widow whom he had privately considered the “love of his life” since 1938, when they had gone out together for a single summer. For some, the story of the Masters-Johnson relationship served to illustrate one of the main criticisms of their approach to sexual fulfilment: that it concentrated too heavily on physical performance at the expense of the emotional and psychological side.
The Masters and Johnson Institute closed in 1994, and Virginia Johnson subsequently founded and ran the Virginia Johnson Masters Learning Center at Creve Coeur, Missouri, which provided advice on overcoming sexual dysfunction.
Virginia Johnson is survived by her son and daughter. William Masters died in 2001.
Virginia Johnson, born February 11 1925, died July 24 2013
As Hadley Freeman (G2, 24 July) rightly supposed, there was little chance of the new prince being given the name of Charming. However, the little lad does have a near ancestor called Cinderella. Diana Cinderella Mildred Bowes-Lyon, who died in 1986, was a cousin of the Queen, being a daughter of the Hon John Bowes-Lyon, an elder brother of the Queen Mother.
• The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are uniquely placed to help Britain’s wealthy break their tradition of sending their children away to be raised by strangers. This is a development that is long overdue and would do a great deal for the health of British society.
Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada
• Congratulations to Will and Kate, not just for a producing a healthy baby boy, but also for deciding he’s a Gal (George Alexander Louis).
Hove, East Sussex
• Re odd shoes on motorways (Letters, 25 July), the American singer-songwriter Terry Allen also noticed this, as he sang the words “Old shoe on the highway” as part of his song Wilderness of this World from the album Human Remains.
• The commonly seen roadside shoes are not the result of a secret shoe-slinging society. Some of us in the know realise they come from an alternate universe which is trying to compensate for the number of odd socks, paperclips etc which keep arriving in their world. Anywhere like a fast road or a spinning washing machine is likely to create an interface.
• “What’s Gove got to do with it?” (Letters, 26 July). The answer is in the next line: “What’s Gove but a secondhand emotion?”
• This can’t be Gove because I feel too well, no sobs, no sorrows, no sighs.
It is reported that Shaker Aamer has been threatened with transfer from Guantánamo Bay to Saudi Arabia, a country he fled nearly 30 years ago. Shaker reported to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that Saudi government officials recently visited him and warned him he faces prison on his return to the country. There have been previous attempts to forcibly transfer Shaker to Saudi Arabia, which he has always resisted. Shaker told his lawyer: “They will hear me screaming in London if they try to drag me away from here to Saudi Arabia. I will resist them every step of the way. I wish to be with my wife and my kids in London. I need to go back to them.”
He believes he may be transferred there this month. I fear the US has encouraged the Saudis to take Shaker. The US may wish to punish him for speaking out about the abuses in Guantánamo. It is possible that UK security services, M15 and M16, have also lobbied for Shaker to be transferred to Saudi Arabia. There he would be silenced. The UK agents would no longer have to face Shaker’s allegations of torture in Afghanistan in their presence. The US appears to have no regard for the many appeals made by the UK government. The US would seem to have no regard for Shaker’s human rights or safety, or the rights of his British family. The UK government must speak out publicly and demand Shaker’s immediate return to the UK, especially in light of this latest shocking information. Shaker Aamer must be returned from Guantánamo to the UK. He has been cleared for release, he faces no charges. He has suffered over 11 years of illegal imprisonment. He must not be sent for further abuse or even death in Saudi Arabia.
Worthing, West Sussex
The cigar-smoking CB (Charles Burgess) Fry (Letters, 25 July) was indeed a most remarkable man. He was, and remains, Britain’s greatest athlete. He was a shot putter, hammer thrower, long jumper, sprinter, golfer and ice skater. He played cricket for England, Oxford University, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. At football he represented England and Southampton and played rugby for Oxford University, Blackheath and the Barbarians.
His party trick was to leap from a stationary position on the floor backwards on to a mantelpiece; he would face the mantelpiece, crouch down, take a leap upwards, turn in the air and bow to the gallery with his feet planted on the shelf. Persuasion would occasionally get him to perform this turn at country houses, much to the amusement of the guests.
The quotation from Miss Bingley in Pride and Prejudice on the proposed Jane Austen banknote, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading”, is, to put it mildly, an unfortunate choice (Report, 25 July). Miss Bingley – an unpleasant woman who is set on marrying Mr Darcy – says this during what is, for her, a very boring evening spent reading. She is trying to distract Darcy from his book and is “perpetually either making some inquiry or looking at his page”. She has only chosen this book “because it was the second volume of his”.
Finally, she tries to goad a response out of him by declaring, in an ironic paean of praise, how much she enjoys reading (when, of course, in reality she is thoroughly bored by it). “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything other than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
This still gets no response, so she “yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement”. And then she perks up immediately when a ball is mentioned. It would, I think, be difficult to find, given the context, a less appropriate quotation in praise of the pleasures of reading. (And Jane Austen, I think, would have found this highly amusing.)
• I’ve been an ardent Austen fan from the age of 13, Pride and Prejudice being on the O-level syllabus when I sat it in 1955. She has lasted because of her putting down of aristocratic/genteel arrogance and of buffoons who played to that arrogance; because of her recognition of true rogues in society – conscienceless exploiters of others (today we call them bankers, corporate executives and psychopaths); because of her recognition of what is ultimately good about people, often after hard experience of being fooled by the tricks of the less than good. Her message: be sardonic, at all costs keep your sense of humour, but allow decency to prevail. In my profession as probation officer I would have regarded Jane Austen as a valued colleague indeed.
• Caroline Criado-Perez is to be congratulated on her campaign but, as she says, Austen was not at the top of her wish-list. Austen’s delicate social commentary may have contained the odd barb, but it’s hard to imagine she ever created waves or wrought change on the scale of Elizabeth Fry. How about a campaign for the £20 note with Mary Wollstonecraft, Emmeline Pankhurst, or even Octavia Hill?
We are dismayed to see the response by a very small group of Green party members to Natalie Bennett’s bold speech on the toxicity of the immigration debate (Letters, 25 July). We are migrants, the children of migrants and people whose families have lived in Britain for centuries. We reject the attempts by government and the media to divide us. We welcome the vital contribution made to our country, our lives and our public services by immigrants and the children of immigrants
National leaders have shamefully scapegoated migrants as the cause of the housing shortage, wage stagnation and increasing pressures on the benefit system. It is disappointing to hear the false narrative repeated that mass migration is a driver of societal ills. Bennett was correct to say “the government is scapegoating immigrants instead of acknowledging its own failings”. It is also true to state that this rhetoric drives discrimination, violence and disadvantage. Too many of us have experienced such prejudice.
Green party policy is emphatically on the side of a fair and humane migration policy. Our policy recognises that current governmental policy would rather generate inflammatory headlines than treat migrants fairly. We oppose current policy that separates families, drives away international students and that deports vulnerable asylum seekers back to places of danger. Migration is an easy scapegoat for when government is failing in its duties; we as Greens reject that mentality.
Benali Hamdache, Manishta Sunnia, Charlene Concepcion, Peter McColl, Romayne Phoenix, Caroline Allen, Sarah Cope, Deyika Nzeribe, Maggie Chapman, Noel Lynch, Hannah Ellen Clare, Sebastian Power, Stuart Neyton, Joe Lo, Ryan Coley, Matt Hawkins, Clifford Fleming, Samir Jeraj, Mark Burkwood, Jamie Whitham, Deborah Fenney, Juliette Daigre, Pete Murry, Thom French, Gina Dowding, Mike Williamson, Laura Shepherd, Eliot Folan, Martin Francis, Ben Bradley, Keith Baker, Alex Rendall, Sarah Marks, Chris Jarvis, Rob Telford, Lewis Coyne, Fee Ferguson, Gary Dunion, Alife Van Den Bos, Josiah Mortimer, Simon Hales, Dave Taylor, Andy Chyba, Richard J Armstrong, Stephen Little, Margaret Westbrook, Lesley Graheme, Jim McGinley, Lynton North, Andrew Rossall, Simeon Jackson, David Mottram, Anne Vivienne Power, Jill Perry, Sam Hollick, Karl Wardlaw, Jonathan Clatworthy, Stephen Linnott, Steve Dawe, Hazel Dawe, Alwynn Cartmell, Steve Hayesa, Chris Hart, George Heron, Lee Burkwood, Glen Glencowski, Steven Durrant, Siobhan MacMahon, Ryan Cleminson, Paul Cohen, Casper Drake, Douglas Rouxel, Steve Hayes
• When Natalie Bennett stands up against immigrant-bashing rhetoric, she represents the democratically agreed policy of our party and is quite right to do so. Chris Padley et al present the idea that immigrants are a burden on our public services as a fact, when the figures show the opposite to be true – immigrants tend to contribute more through taxes than they take in services. They express the view that immigrants are an environmental burden – demonstrating an outdated 70s environmentalism obsessed with population while ignoring vast inequalities in consumption levels. They claim it is Natalie’s rhetoric which is shifting blame onto immigrants as vans tour London telling them to go home.
The rhetoric used by Labour, Tories and now even Lib Dems shifts blame for the mistakes made by these parties on to immigrants. The vast majority of Greens are proud that our leader is becoming the loudest voice calling on them to stop this dangerous scapegoating.
• I don’t often agree with Nigel Farage, but he is right that the billboards being driven around some areas with high immigrant populations are “nasty” and “unpleasant” (Anger at ‘go home’ message to illegal immigrants, 26 July). The government’s choice to adopt a slogan similar to that used by racists in the 70s is deeply disturbing, particularly at a time when the Muslim Council of Britain has expressed fears about a “dramatic escalation” of attacks against British Muslims. However, it is predominantly the rhetoric of Ukip that has caused immigrants to be so causally demonised by the government and other political parties. Mr Farage has spoken of “opening up our borders” to 28 million Romanians and Bulgarians, as though the entire populations of those nations were about to uproot themselves and move to the UK.
The government is clearly guilty of scapegoating immigrants for Britain’s problems with housing shortages, low wages and unemployment. The fault clearly lies with its own policies, and those of the former Labour government.
Green party leader
• Your correspondents are right to decouple environmental issues from personal prejudice against immigrants. However, the key driver for migrant labour is economic: greater exploitation means greater profits, and employing people from lower-wage economies is cheaper and more flexible than drawing on the standing army of reserve labour known as the unemployed. The left too often mistakes the economic liberalism of the right with its own social liberalism, and sings the same tune as the neoliberals.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is right to take on payday lenders (report, 25 July). It’s terrifying to think that each month, one million families turn to high-cost, short-term credit and 400,000 use it for essentials such as putting food on the table and preventing the gas and electricity from being cut off.
Crisis loans were the last line of defence for families in financial crisis and offered an alternative to expensive loans. But as part of the Government’s drive towards greater localism, they have been abolished and responsibility for delivering the replacement schemes passed to councils. But research by the Children’s Society shows that almost two-thirds of local authorities are no longer providing interest-free loans, and funding for the replacement schemes has been cut in half. This could drive some of the most vulnerable into the arms of legal loan sharks.
Surely it’s common sense for a decent society to ensure that the little money low-income families have goes to supporting their children, rather than paying off extortionate interest rates. That’s why we are calling on the Government to support local authorities to help vulnerable families get access to interest-free – or very low-cost – credit in a crisis. This will reduce the risk of them being forced to turn to high- cost money lenders and becoming trapped in a vicious spiral of debt and despair.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society, London WC1
The Archbishop of Canterbury should be praised for his plans for an alternative to payday lending. On our toxic high streets, debt and vulnerability can often walk hand in hand. Being in debt can make a person vulnerable to developing a mental-health problem. Indeed, if you have debt problems, you are twice as likely to develop major depression as someone without. Equally, having a mental-health problem can make a person vulnerable to taking on debts.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is providing training to the financial sector to help their staff treat customers at risk of mental-health problems more fairly. The Financial Conduct Authority is also planning to take steps to address this, and we strongly urge them to take into account the needs of customers at risk of poor mental health. All financial-service companies, including payday lenders such as Wonga, need to prioritise the needs of vulnerable people.
Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London SW1
I am delighted with the Archbishop’s campaign on credit unions. How sad, then, to hear that the Church lives in the real world and has to make concessions to it with slightly flexible ethics in its investment policy. It could almost have been George Osborne speaking.
We create the real world, the world we live in, by everything we think and say and do. I believe that this will be a wake-up call for the Church, and that it will now scrutinise very carefully its investment policies.
Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon
North-South divide shown up by Olympics
In answer to James Ashton (18 July), I would have preferred the 2012 Olympics to have taken place in Paris or Berlin rather than London. It wasn’t worth spending over £9bn for a little over two weeks of top-class sport, especially at a time when the Government was making spending cuts elsewhere.
But that isn’t the only reason. Your columnist argues that “The Games marketed London to the world in a way that no series of trade missions could have managed”. To me that is the main reason for my Olympic scepticism. For this country is already too biased towards the capital, and the sporting jamboree only served to exaggerate this fact. What we need is investment in less affluent parts of Britain, and a realisation that the world doesn’t end at the Watford Gap.
I’m afraid, however, that the Olympics only served to boost London, and confirm people’s prejudices about the North-South divide.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
Phil Sherwood, head of Olympic Volunteers, claims 40,000 Sport Makers as evidence of the enduring legacy of the Olympic Games (17 July). The figure is from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launch in 2010. Last May, the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, told Parliament there were then 50,704 Sport Makers. He did not add that the number recording 10-plus hours was 23,323.
That total, too, may be misleading. For example, in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent a total of 688 completed 10 hours of “making sport happen”. A request for examples produced only one – a successful jogging group.
The paucity of information is not surprising. Sport Makers are asked to log their hours spent. Some do, some don’t; they are volunteers so there is no coercion. As a result no one knows how many of them are still active. Mr Sherwood argues that the volunteering legacy needs time and commitment to build. One wonders if he is aware that the flawed Sport Makers project ends in September.
Gerald Sinstadt, Tittensor, Staffordshire
Steel’s the antidote to baby madness
The Independent should be applauded for publishing the piece by Mark Steel (26 July) regarding the recent birth by a member of the Royal Family. For four days we have had to suffer the intellectually bankrupt scrum of some journalists generating a flow of mindless drivel surrounding the perfectly normal bodily function of giving birth.
Steel’s article (though tongue in cheek) beautifully highlights the absurdity of much of the British media, in particular in its treatment of royal affairs.
While Nicholas Witchell may appear to be the crown prince of royal sycophants, he is not alone. There are many who continue to force-feed the public with inconsequential class-ridden profanity. Thank heavens for contributors like Steel who attempt to promote a balanced and humorous antidote to the mind-numbing sludge presently on offer.
Mike Bellion, Sedbergh, Cumbria
OK! magazine has rightly been lambasted for its disgraceful front cover of the “Duchess of Cambridge diet regime” published the very day the duchess left hospital with her new son (report, 25 July). This is, however, just a high-profile example of the sort of images and issues which niggle away at girls’ and women’s self-esteem every time they look at the images of celebrity women on the newsstands.
As head of a girls’ school, I am all too aware of the effect on young women of insidious headlines and pictures which, day in, day out, suggest that women have improved themselves with the latest diet/exercise regime, or, conversely, let themselves down by putting on a few pounds. Image is all important is the message we all receive loud and clear.
I therefore applaud those who took to Twitter to take a stand. These women and men give me hope that we can halt this crazy, relentless drive for perfection which is doing so much harm to young minds.
Jo Heywood, Ascot, Berkshire
Taking risks with alien invaders
Daniel Emlyn-Jones (letter, 26 July) says he has obtained 500 live African field crickets and released them into his garden in order to enjoy their chirping in the evenings, and exhorts other readers to do the same. This action is highly irresponsible, and encouraging others to do the same even more so.
Daniel says they are “unlikely to naturalise” due to our cold winters. “Unlikely” is not good enough. Our winters have been very variable of late, and some species that don’t normally overwinter here have been doing so. Even if they don’t last the winter, if this thoughtless activity became popular it could result in severe disruption of our ecosystems, putting a range of our native insect species at risk.
Perhaps, though, we should thank Mr Emlyn-Jones for drawing attention to the easy accessibility of live alien insects in large numbers – even if he doesn’t know, or care, about the possible consequences of releasing them into the wild.
Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon
Technology’s effect on childhood
Jane Merrick (25 July) recounts the evident danger of parents more involved in tweeting and Facebooking than in looking after their children. On page 39 we read of the suicide of a Swiss telecoms boss whose life became totally dependent on his smartphone. In both cases, interaction with real people and the real world is replaced with an attention-sapping and trivial “connectedness”.
To some of us it is self-evident that the child of a parent wearing earphones or constantly using a smartphone will be missing out on social-development opportunities and perhaps even basic care.
Brian Mitchell, Cambridge
Where’s the women’s sport?
Once again you have failed to report on women’s sport. In the paper of 25 July there was not even a mention of the score of the previous night’s semi-final of the Women’s Euro 2013.
The Independent is constantly commenting on sexual equality, especially in business. Why don’t you practise what you preach as regards to women’s sport?
Rosemary Gill, Yateley, Hampshire
The Royal Albert Hall has indeed been very hot this week, but at least the Proms audience has the ability to dress suitably in shorts or the equivalent. The main victims were the men of the Berlin Staatskapelle who were playing in full evening dress. Surely no one would have minded if they had worn, say, black trousers and black open-necked shirts. They would then have been more comfortable and perhaps would have played even better (though the latter is hard to imagine).
Gordon Elliot, Burford, Oxfordshire
I cannot be the only grammar pedant to suspect that the 25 July front-page headline about Stephen Hawking – a “brief history of myself” – is a thoroughly unwarranted reflexive. It should have been a “brief history of me”.
James Hutchinson, London W6
Can anyone think of a new product the world needs less than the vanity product announced yesterday, the forthcoming Bentley SUV?
Bernard Payne, Chester
Sir, Last summer my son and his wife, who were returning to this country from Ireland, spent many fruitless days viewing so-called “family” houses where there was not enough space for a table with six chairs around it, or an oven in the fitted kitchen big enough to take a large casserole or a turkey. The bedrooms intended for children had space for a bed and either a chest or a small wardrobe.
The agents said most families eat microwaved meals seated on the sofa. Where can children do their homework let alone have room for hobbies? Unless houses have larger accommodation families will live in very stressful circumstances — it is not surprising that so many split up.
Sir, Your correspondents who advocate mandatory space standards for new homes (“Bigger houses”, letter, July 23) ignore the adverse consequences of such rules.
The average floor area of Britain’s homes is low by European standards, and certainly lower than in North America and the Antipodes. So space is not just a new-build issue but a reflection of historic influences on our housing stock. We live in a crowded, highly urbanised island.
New-home floor areas and plot sizes are an inevitable consequence of having one of the most restrictive planning systems in the world which rations the supply of land and has resulted in an acute, long-term undersupply of housing If space standards were imposed, building even the same number of new homes would require more land. I doubt our planning system would readily respond by releasing more land for the same number of homes.
Mandatory space standards would raise costs and make new homes more expensive, so to pretend they would have no adverse impact on viability or affordability is fantasy.
The Home Builders Federation
Sir, Until we focus on building homes which people can afford to buy, millions will be forced into a lifetime of rental — which will cause yet more financial pain for future taxpayers as these tenants will have few assets to pay for their care in old age. The size of a property is a legitimate matter for the free market; if smaller dwellings enable wider ownership and a foot on the housing ladder, then so be it.
Sir, In urban development there may be a need for rules but here in rural Worcestershire there are already too many large houses, largely bought by rich retired people. The effect of this is that the price of smaller houses in the villages is forced up, and so there is a total imbalance in the social structure of the villages.
What is needed is more two- or three-bedroomed terraced or semi-detached affordable houses to restore this balance.
Sir, I suggest that the authors of the letter “Bigger Houses” look again at the 1961 Parker Morris standards for local authority housing.
These were never mandatory for private builders, and were withdrawn in 1980. In 2013 an increase in storage space would be advisable, because greater prosperity has led to a greater volume of possessions since 1961.
The editorial presents liberation theology as over and done with. The obituary would appear to be premature
Sir, Your leading article on the Pope’s visit to Brazil (July 24) does less than justice to the liberation theology that has been influential in Latin America. You accuse it of causing divisions which Pope Francis must now heal. But it was the liberation theologians who did so much to establish the “option for the poor” espoused by the bishops of Latin America in Colombia in 1968 and in Mexico in 1979. Pope Francis himself is now cementing that option in his own remarkable way.
You say that liberation theologians “uncritically used Marxist ideas”. But of course they differentiated between Marxist analysis of “savage capitalism”, which they thought was applicable to the Latin American situation, and the deductions Marxists drew from that analysis.
The question is whether that distinction can convincingly be made. Rome did not think so, and the Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, often described as “the father of liberation theology”, responded. I recall attending a brilliant lecture he gave in London in 2005. Marx was not mentioned. Every quotation in the lecture, of which there were many, came from the Bible.
The editorial presents liberation theology as over and done with. The obituary would appear to be premature. The head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, wrote in a 2004 essay that he was convinced Gutierrez was right. No wonder, then, he said this year, that Pope Francis uses terms that are also used in liberation theology.
You say, fairly, that capitalism and globalisation have brought millions out of poverty. This is the way to go, you say, but Pope Francis would not echo any triumphalist endorsement of these systems.
A legacy of the Games should be that the Government helps all schools to co-operate to share the best sporting facilities and coaches for all
Sir, For me, as an educationalist and sportsman of more than 60 years’ standing, one of the legacies of the 2012 Olympic Games is straightforward (July 19 & 25). Only 7 per cent of our children attend independent schools, yet half of all Olympic medals were won by them.
One of the long-standing dilemmas in our country is the separation of teenagers educated in the independent schools from the rest of their generation. So, one legacy of the Games should be that our Government helps all schools to co-operate to share the best of their sporting facilities and coaches for all children to use. While some schools are already achieving this, it requires governmental support for it to be widely successful.
Throw a ball on to a beach and quickly children of all ages, nationalities, denominations and classes will be united — simply by playing a game. It is time for this to be done on a wider scale by all our schools.
The laws of succession and the Act of Union have given readers some meaty issues on which to cogitate and offer their reasoned opinions
Sir, I fear that Alastair Muir (letter, July 26) is incorrect regarding direct succession — unless the law has been changed in the past 250 years. In the 18th century George II was succeeded by his grandson George III, not by his second son William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.
St Just in Roseland, Cornwall
Sir, It is not true that the Act of Union (July 23) gave British royals “a considerably bigger kingdom”. Their kingdom had covered both England (and Wales) and Scotland since the accession of James I a century before.
The result of the Act of Union was the combined UK Parliament and the (temporary) disappearance of the Scottish parliament.
After one reader suggested that lido should rhyme with Fido, other correspondents write to disagree, and offer their reasons why
Sir, As a user of the Guildford Lido in the 1950s I was pleased to see it in your 30 Best Lidos list (July 20). However, I think David Terry (letter, July 23) may have been mistaken when he suggests that lido should be pronounced to rhyme with Fido. We always called it the “leedo” — and the inhabitants of that distinguished Surrey town could hardly be a “pretentious minority”.
Bexhill-on-Sea, E Sussex
Sir, Happily no less a personage than Bryan Ferry agrees, as the peerless Roxy Music’s Do the Strand makes clear: “We’re incognito / Down the lido / And we like the strand”.
Sir, It is all very well for David Terry to say that lido rhymes with Fido, but my first pet was a French poodle named Fido, pronounced “feedo”, because he was French. Does this make me pretentious? I was 9.
SIR – Were Peter Oborne’s picture of a future Europe (Comment, July 25) to materialise, with the EU’s “inner core” mutating into a Greater Germany, and the rest reverting to a trading relationship, then Britain’s task, as a historic oceanic nation, would be to take the initiative in developing the Commonwealth as a trading community.
Here is a worldwide group of independent nations, linked by a common language and a history of peaceful co-existence, that would be an increasing force for good in the world.
SIR – Peter Oborne’s vision of a post-referendum Britain adds an unnecessary level of complication to a straightforward issue. The alternative to being in the EU is not being in the EU.
Once we have regained our independence we can decide whether or not we wish to enter into free-trade agreements with other nations. But we must have no truck with joining any other supranational bodies, which are nothing more than job-creation schemes for politicians and bureaucrats.
Will the new heir to the throne become George VII or George VIII?
26 Jul 2013
SIR – How sad it is to note that the recommended solution to the inadequacies of our A&E departments is to bribe doctors with increases in pay to do more than should be expected of them (report, July 25). More money doesn’t resolve inhuman working conditions in critical situations. People in many walks of life work unsociable hours and do shift work but, rather than being paid excessively to do so, they are managed effectively.
Would I rather see an over-paid, over-worked, exhausted doctor attend to my
life-threatening circumstances, or one from a properly resourced team working within reasonable expectations?
SIR – As a teacher with decades of experience, I couldn’t disagree more with Andrew Turnbull’s letter (July 24).
It is most definitely the responsibility of a caring state to protect children – and especially unsupervised and consequently vulnerable children – from being able to access unsuitable material via the internet.
Hatch End, Middlesex
Out of the box
SIR – We did not have a “Rule of 17”, (Letters, July 24), but a “Four hour box”. My father would place a cardboard box in the centre of the room and throw into it all the items that we had left strewn about the house.
We children had four hours to remove things from it and tidy them away. Anything left in the box went straight into the dustbin.
SIR – My late mother’s rule for clearing the plates was “never leave the dining table empty-handed”.
SIR – As the mother of four boys who all loved watching football, the lavatory seat being left up meant a yellow card.
Church CRB checks
SIR – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that “the Church is to be utterly ruthless” in insisting upon Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for all volunteers (report, July 25).
Can I remind the Archbishop that under the new Freedoms Act of 2012, it is against the law to ask people to undergo a CRB check unless they work intensively, regularly or overnight with children or vulnerable adults? CRB checks are only as good as the day they are done and do not stop or detect the perpetrators of abuse.
There is a danger that organisations may feel a false sense of security by insisting on these checks. In reality the best defence remains constant awareness and vigilance.
Learning about sex
SIR – Antonia Tully (Letters, July 22) is somewhat misguided on the issue of sex education. My experience preparing couples for marriage tells me that families generally still treat sex and sexual matters as taboo subjects, so that children learn from talking to their friends and get a rather warped sense about the subject.
Sex education should be a gradual progression; schools can contribute by covering the biological side while parents should cover the social aspects. But we are going to have to educate parents if they are properly to fulfil that role.
SIR – Bring out a new £100 note with Baroness Thatcher on it.
I know I’d like a wallet full of “Maggies”.
Andrew P Clayton
The frustrating background noises in television
SIR – Michael Simkins expertly discussed actors’ propensity to mumble (Comment, July 17) but paid less attention to the added background noise that viewers have when trying to comprehend television programmes.
From the Twenties, when loudspeakers were first used, until just after the war when the problem was solved, electronics engineers were preoccupied with eliminating extraneous noise (mostly mains 50 cycle hum) from radios, with the object of obtaining purer sound.
Consequently, television benefits today from the absence of any unintroduced background noise. But this is a pleasure usually experienced during news programmes only.
It is outrageous that viewers should be irritated and frustrated when attempting to follow serious programmes by the dreadful, inappropriate incidental noise that accompanies even scientific material.
Perhaps most of us engineers now think that we wasted our time in eradicating the inherent noise element in television reception, and that the hum was preferable to its annoying “musical” equivalent.
Moving Heathrow will attract businesses to London
SIR – No one denies the economic benefits that accrued to Hong Kong when it moved its airport from a constrained urban site to a new location where there was room for a modern, fit-for-purpose airport (“Firms ‘could quit UK’ if Heathrow was shut”, report, July 24). The same has been true in other cities that have made the move, such as Denver, Munich, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
London could reap similar business advantages if Heathrow moved to a site with room to grow, which, despite the proposed contrivance of diverting or tunnelling the M25, it no longer can at its current location. Naturally, in all cases, firms near the legacy airport site suffered some anxiety at the prospect of seeing the established airport move. But the key was providing first-rate accessibility to the new airport by road and rail.
The proposals submitted by the Mayor of London last week to the Airports Commission include fast access to the new airport that will allow west London businesses to get there very rapidly.
There is no need for panic. The new airport will attract many businesses to London, not drive them away.
Chief advisor on aviation, Greater London Authority
SIR – It is very tempting to assume that all three major London airports are “ripe” for an extra runway, but it is false. The decision is political and not market-led.
Each of the airports should be free to build a new runway and all ancillary engineering works at market cost, including a full compensation scheme for residents affected by noise over and above the EU standard of 54Leq. The airports would be required to purchase any house within this noise contour at open market prices with no right to compulsory purchase.
We should not be fooled by the Gatwick and Stansted proposals. They currently have plenty of spare capacity and they could not afford full compensation to residents as they will not be able to charge sufficiently high landing charges to get an acceptable return.
A T Brookes
SIR – I am not so certain that the new royal baby will become King George VII (report, July 25). There has already been speculation that the Prince of Wales will take this as his regnal title (he is named Charles Philip Arthur George), partly to honour his grandfather and partly because (according to some) Charles is considered an “unlucky” name for an English king.
This raises the interesting prospect of a line of British monarchs in which for nearly two hundred years every other sovereign is called George.
SIR – Hurrah for the choice of names for the new addition to the Royal family.
George and Louis both signify their respects to recent ancestors. I am not too sure about Alexander.
However, what has not been noted is that a previous HRH Prince George of Cambridge lived from 1819 to 1904, during which time he was head of the Army.
Long may Prince George reign.
Jeffery L Shaw
Notre Dame-de-la-Rouvière, Gard, France
SIR – Six King Georges have worn the crown since German-born George I, the first Hanoverian king of Great Britain, acceded to the throne in 1714.
It seems we have always been Europeans, including our Royal family.
SIR – As Prince George will one day succeed to the throne of Scotland as well as England, Wales, Northern Ireland and around 16 other countries, it is entirely appropriate that his parents have chosen Alexander as his second name.
Not only is Alexander a very popular boy’s name in Scotland, but it was the name of three Scottish kings, Alexander I (The Fierce), 1107-1124, Alexander II, 1214-1249 and Alexander III, 1249-1286.
Ironically, it is also the name of Alex Salmond, the man who, if he has his way, would ensure that the kingdom George inherits will be a sadly disunited one.
SIR – There is no requirement for Prince George of Cambridge to call himself “King George” if and when he becomes King.
In fact, his great-great-grandfather, King George VI was actually called Albert, or Bertie, to his friends and family.
SIR – The new heir is now equipped to prompt the greatest introductory line from ladies – “Louis, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – Are the new arrival’s initials intended to placate those who wanted to test the old order by the firstborn being a “gal”?
Andrew C Pierce
Sir, – Would Charles Darwin regard the decision to replace him with Jane Austen on the £10 note (World News, July 25th) as evidence for or against the survival of the fittest? – Yours, etc,
Pembroke Lane, Dublin 4.
Sir, – I was shocked to read in Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s column (July 20th) that he had been waiting at the “Five items or less” line in Donnybrook Fair.
It should, of course, be “Five items or fewer”.
If Donnybrook Fair cannot get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us? – Yours, etc,
FRANK E BANNISTER,
A chara, – The solution to Donald Clarke’s hot weather wardrobe woes (“Hot under the collar”, Opinion & Analysis, July 20th) might be a man bag for his listed stuff, and a “mcarf” (male scarf) for his “big red Armagh head”. – Is mise,
MÁIRE NÍ FHÉINNE
Co na Gaillimhe.
Sir, – Your editorial of July 20th described Ken Ring as a “weather expert”.
Mr Ring’s predictions have been wrong in the past but anyone who predicts a hot July will get it right sometime.
If weather can be predicted using “moon and tidal activity” then accurate predictions could be made for summer 2113.
I have an old watch in my drawer which is right twice a day. – Yours, etc,
Tulla, Co Clare.
Sir, – I can see Clerys now the rain has gone. – Yours, etc,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Leap Card is wonderful and the choice of the frog logo is inspired. Those of us who use Dublin Bus are familiar with the lakeland that occupies the space between pavement and bus lanes in wet weather. One must be frog-like or – as the Leap Card says – hop, skip, jump — to negotiate this wetland while walking to and from bus stops.
A new clause should be added to roadworks contracts to the effect that, before signing off on a job, the contractor, the site engineer and the council roads engineer must walk the entire length of newly surfaced roads on a wet day and in their best frocks. Then maybe, at some future time, the rest of us will not need to be amphibious to move along a Dublin pavement after a shower or two of rain. – Yours, etc,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Geraldine Mitchell Devlin (July 24th) protests that “priests who live out the teaching of the founder of the Christian faith are invariably labelled ‘rebel and maverick’ when surely the very opposite is the case. Or am I missing something?”
Perhaps she is. In my experience priests dubbed “rebel” or “maverick” are so labelled by journalists, predominately in the so-called red tops. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Geraldine Mitchell Devlin asks why “the very priests who live out the teaching of the founder of the Christian faith are invariable labelled ‘rebel’ and ‘maverick‘ when surely the very opposite is the case”. The writer was referring to a report on the church of San Carlos Boromeo in Madrid (World News, July 20th).
The Rev Leonardo Boff was one such who endeavoured to live out the teaching of Jesus Christ and was quickly perceived by the Vatican as a rebel and a maverick.
Boff’s crime was to bring back to South America the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Progressive leadership had emerged in the Latin America church and following a meeting in Medellín in 1968, the bishops had formulated a programme of preferential option for the poor and a repudiation of unjust structures that restrict the benefits of society to the few and maintain the vast majority of its people in poverty and powerlessness. Liberation theology was born and quickly perceived by the United States and Rome as Marxism.
In 1984 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, led by Josef Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict, accused liberation theology of departing “from the faith of the church and in fact constitutes a practical negation of it”. The rebels and mavericks were under threat.
Silenced in 1985 and banned from his position as theological lecturer in Rio de Janeiro, Boff accused the Vatican of being afraid of change.
Later in his book Church: Charism and Power, Boff wrote that the church “follows the criteria of pagan power in terms of domination, centralisation, marginalisation, triumphalism and human pride, all under a cloak of divine power”. He was eventually forced to resign. – Yours, etc,
JOHN T KAVANAGH,
Sir, – Over time, the State has responded to threats to its existence and to its wellbeing. The Special Criminal Court was and is one such response, the Commercial Court is another. Is it not time to consider a “Special Commercial Criminal Court”? The many difficulties of prosecuting fraud and other complex financial cases are widely acknowledged.
Successful prosecution requires an expert team, appropriately resourced, and tasked with acting rapidly. A non-jury court is used where the security of the State is threatened – no additional argument for its use in the current environment need be advanced.
It seems that any money spent in this area would be better devoted to enhancing and expediting criminal prosecutions, rather than, for example, into an inquiry into banking practices that will neither enjoy the confidence of the population, nor trouble the perpetrators unduly. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I agree with Geoff Scargill (July 25th) that we should avoid engaging in begrudgery and sarcasm in relation to the birth of the royal baby.
In that spirit, may I say that, should domestic chores prevent Prince William from engaging in any of his onerous royal duties involving taxpayer-funded premium seats to major sporting or music events, then I am fully prepared to step into the breach. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – I enjoyed Ann Marie Hourihane’s article (“Some of us aren’t too proud to say we enjoyed it immensely”, Features, July 23rd) on the birth of Prince George.
“Royal watchers” in Ireland have long been a silent minority, although Queen Elizabeth’s visit did much to change that.
Could it be possible that our numbers now exceed those of secret Fianna Fáil supporters? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is ironic that Ian d’Alton (July 25th) should on the one hand want students to be taught how to think, while on the other decry subjects that do precisely that. I refer to Latin and Greek in particular. Both these subjects require precision in the use of language and this comes from prior precision of thought.
I would have believed it obvious that these skills could be applied to science and technology with profit. At the very least, precision in language would help us to avoid using the grandiose to describe the ordinary.
If education does not teach students to identify the real from the artificial, the profound from the superficial, the permanent from the temporary and the important from the trivial, then it has failed and no amount of entrepreneurial spirit or knowledge will make the slightest difference or make up the deficiency. – Yours, etc,
* ‘Male candidate awarded job instead of better-qualified female candidate.’
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Dail equality debate shouldn’t ignore men
If this headline appeared in this paper, it would justifiably stir up a torrent of criticism, letters and comments denigrating the relevant institution and signalling disapproval at the blatant sexism and unfairness of the award. But it would be the lack of logic that would ultimately indict the awarding body: if one candidate is stronger than the other, then surely the job should be awarded to the former? The principle that emerges from this example is that the sex of the strongest candidate should be irrelevant. Most people would agree that this is correct.
‘Female candidate awarded job instead of better-qualified male candidate.’
Now take the above hypothetical headline. If we accept the above logic – that the strongest candidate should prevail and the sex of the strongest candidate should be irrelevant – then we should find this headline equally repugnant. No?
This brings us to the introduction of gender quotas. Could the introduction of these result in a stronger candidate losing out to a weaker candidate on the basis of gender? Would this be right? A better-qualified woman should not lose out to a lesser-qualified man. Similarly, a better-qualified man should not lose out to a lesser-qualified woman. They are both examples of sexual discrimination, plain and simple.
For the record, I would welcome a greater female complement in the Dail, but we should leave sex out of it, focus on ability and be consistent in our use of logic.
THINKING FOR OURSELVES
* During my childhood, not one of my peers was an openly practising Christian. The majority do not go to Mass, they pray only at the behest of their parents or at funerals. We have not read the Bible, nor has it been forced down our throats.
The abortion debate makes no sense to us. How do these religious people know the things they seem to know? They make claims about the value of a human life and the suffering of an aborted foetus and in no sense provide any evidence, yet they seem to expect that their words will be seen as holding some weight.
The majority of us are not so sure of the existence of a soul as they are, and we do not know what the implications of having a soul would be in this debate.
Why do these foetuses have a right to life in a way that animals don’t? How can you know that they suffer during these procedures? What gives you the right to tell others what they should think about abortion when your beliefs seem to basically stem only from a religious perspective?
Being pro-choice does not even mean that you would have an abortion yourself if it came to it; it only means acknowledging the rights of others to weigh up the consequences themselves.
Is it right to bring a child into an environment of poverty due to the age and financial position of its parents/parent, to be neglected and resented because of the burden it has placed on its parents/parent, or to be abandoned by its parents in full knowledge that it was not wanted?
There is a perspective that says abortion is like digging up a seed before it lays down roots. Is this the same as chopping down a tree? This perspective of asking questions and expressing doubt is at complete odds with the sureness and faith claims that this debate has seen so far.
Is it more humble to tell people what to think or to let them weigh up the options themselves?
Nenagh, Co Tipperary
* I agree with Sorcha Farrell (‘Slaying Sexual Mores’, Irish Independent, July 25) in condemning the attitude that “if a man sleeps around, he’s cheered on. If a woman does, she’s called a slut”.
Paddy O’Brien (‘Feminists Out Of Touch’, July 15) drew attention to the fact that “women are routinely flogged and sometimes beheaded for the ‘crime’ of adultery in some Islamic countries” but, apparently, the man with whom she consorted goes unpunished.
Such unequal treatment is utterly despicable, but the general tone of the feminist narrative, that women should have the same sexual liberty as is currently ‘permitted’ to men, is much more questionable. Perhaps the correct attitude should be that male sexual laxity should be treated in precisely the same way as that of women, not the reverse.
Martin D Stern
* This is the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, one of the biggest strikes in Europe at the time, with much hardship for the strikers and their families. Some 20,000 employees of powerful businesses in Dublin went on strike for not being allowed to join the new national trade union for skilled and unskilled workers, the ITGWU.
The employers did not object to small craft trade unions, but they did not want the national ITGWU as led by James Larkin, who they feared could cause havoc in their businesses.
There was an earlier lockout in Wexford, in 1911, with a more positive outcome. The foundry and engineering firms in the town did not want employees joining the ITGWU, and a strike involving more than 700 men followed. As in Dublin later, it was bitter and lasted six months, with replacement labour brought in locally as well as from Dublin, England and Scotland and protected on their way to and from work by 150 police.
The strikers were condemned as troublemakers in the papers and by the Catholic Church and got little support from the main Irish political party of the day.
Eventually, Labour Party socialist James Connolly was asked to help and stayed in the home of Richard Corish, one of the strike leaders. He negotiated a compromise settlement in two weeks and the employees were allowed to set up the Irish Foundry Workers’ Union as an associate of the ITGWU. The men returned to their jobs, but Richard Corish lost his and became secretary of the union.
Reasons for the settlement were employers’ fears that negative publicity could cause a loss of contracts, the fall-off in public support and the increasing departures of replacement labour who were seen as scabs.
A feature article by Kieran S Roche in the July/August special issue of ‘History Ireland’ concluded: “The voices of the Wexford foundry men were heard despite the objections from the pulpit, the wielded baton, the political cold shoulders and the alien scabs. The Wexford lockout marked a victory for workers over the established pillars of Irish society.”
James Connolly was executed four years later after the 1916 Rising. I think an appreciation of history can be of value as it gives us a sense of identity and roots, and shows what others endured to achieve progress.
* Buttons from the uniform of Michael Collins sold for more than €4,000. They didn’t sell for buttons.