Sun and rain

Sun and rain 28th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Captain Povey is fed up with Pertwee and Taffy wants promotion. Taffy turns over Pertwee’s room before inspection and even goes so far as to steal the lead off the Admirals roof and plant it on Pertwee. But the Padre takes Pertwee under his wing and provides the perfect alibi, and Taffy is unmasked. Priceless.
Sun!, rain sun rain I fix an old computer hurrah it works!
Upstairs Downstairs James back from the US and commits suicide
Mary wins at Scrabble today and get just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Robert Prentice
Robert Prentice, who has died aged 98, won an MC in Italy in 1944; after the war, he had a successful career in industry.

5:57PM BST 24 Apr 2013
On September 18 1944 Prentice, a major in command of a squadron of 142 Regiment RAC (142 R), was ordered to attack and capture a feature near Serravalle, north of San Marino. The ground was held by German units armed with self-propelled guns and bazookas. The occupation of this territory in daylight hours was essential in order to open the way for the infantry to advance during the night.
At 10am Prentice launched his attack. He took the feature but had one tank knocked out by a bazooka and others by shelling. Throughout the day, in a highly exposed position, open to attack from the front and on both flanks, he and his unit were subjected to intense, accurate and heavy shelling – but they held on.
After dark the infantry came up. They dealt with those of the enemy still in the area, took a large number of prisoners and advanced several thousand yards. The citation for the immediate MC awarded to Prentice paid tribute to the dash and determination which he had shown in carrying out a very hazardous task.
Robert Oliver Prentice was born in Ipswich on August 18 1914. He was aged two when his father died and he was brought up by his mother and grandfather. Childhood holidays were spent on his uncle’s farm . He was the envy of his cousins because he was the only one allowed to feed the bull, a creature of unpredictable mood swings.
Bob was educated at Ipswich School and, aged 17, joined R&W Paul Ltd, manufacturers of animal feed. Trainees had to do several weeks in each department. They worked standing up or sitting on a very high stool. It was a tedious apprenticeship which his fellow trainee John Mills, later to become celebrated as an actor, could not wait to leave.
At the outbreak of war, Prentice went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards. In 1940, however, he transferred to the Suffolk Regiment and was posted to the 7th Battalion. This was subsequently converted into an armoured unit and became 142 R.
In January 1943 the regiment embarked for Algiers and, in April, Prentice took part in fierce fighting at the battle of Medjez-El Bab, Tunisia. April 1944 found the regiment in Italy. In May, they broke through the Adolf Hitler Line and in June their reconnaissance troop made the link between the 8th Army and the US 5th Army at Valmontone.
Early in 1945, 142 R was disbanded and Prentice moved to Palestine as a training officer. His grandfather, a keen angler, wrote to him to ask whether the fishing in the Sea of Galilee was any good. Later that year, Prentice was demobilised and, after returning to R&W Paul, was promoted to sales manager.
In 1960, R&W Paul was floated on the Stock Exchange and Prentice became managing director of the animal feeds business. After his retirement, he worked tirelessly for the WRVS and also acted as treasurer for a number of care homes in Ipswich.
He married, in 1946, Lois Ennals, who survives him with their three daughters.
Robert Prentice, born August 18 1914, died January 13 2013


Ed Vulliamy shines a light on a dark story (“Residents fight to save Ringo Starr estate from the wrecking ball”). A council representative says it’s economic to demolish, but that’s only true because grants from Eric Pickles’s department are paying for it. Any rational analysis must conclude £34m to create a net loss of 280 houses is eye-wateringly wasteful. There are far better and cheaper answers that are solving the same problem. In Accrington, 200 empty homes are being renovated to tip-top condition for £10m. In Stoke and elsewhere in Liverpool, empty houses are being sold for £1 on condition the new owners do them up. These answers are much kinder on taxpayers, don’t squander valuable housing and help heal, not divide, communities.
David Ireland Chief executive, Empty Homes
London SE1
The Welsh Streets Community Champions Group was set up to champion the voices of the real residents still living in homes in the Welsh Streets in Liverpool and nearby areas and who desperately want to see new homes built for our community. We have been working hard for 10 years to campaign for the demolition of the current buildings, which are riddled with damp and subsidence and have no gardens or adequate parking. 
Once again, the arguments put forward were not those of Welsh Streets residents, but those of lobbying groups with their own agendas who don’t live here and have no understanding of how desperate the vast majority of local people are for this scheme to happen. There are many misleading figures being put forward by these groups about what this scheme will actually deliver. The area will not be losing 280 homes – it will be gaining 225 high-quality new homes with outside spaces, homes that we are crying out for. 
The funding secured to take these plans forward is underpinned by private investment and not public subsidy, and represents £15m of investment for our community. We find it staggering that people who don’t live here and don’t represent our views feel that they know better than we do about how to regenerate our neighbourhood.
Mary Huxham
Welsh Streets Community Champions
So building 150 houses to replace 440 in Liverpool’s Welsh Streets will cost £15m, plus the cost of demolition and site clearance. On the other hand, Share the City says that a house can be transformed to modern standards for £30k. Channel 4 showed that a larger terrace house in Liverpool could be brought back from dereliction for £25k. At £30k, the 440 houses will cost £13.2m, assuming no economies in modernising the whole estate. This compares to the £15m Plus Dane housing association claim. Is this a case for a judicial review based on irrational spending ?
Prof Lewis Lesley
The piece painted an entirely misleading picture of the real views of local people and of Liverpool City Council’s overall approach to demolition. Liverpool is not a city hellbent on the demolition of “sound Victorian homes”.
We refurbish empty properties wherever possible; indeed, the mayor of Liverpool has set a target of bringing 1,000 empty properties back into use over the next three years. In the Princes Park renewal area (within which the Welsh Streets sits), 80% of the 2,500 properties are being retained.
Demolition is never carried out lightly. In the case of the Welsh Streets, the “three-up, three-down” terraces were built in the 1880s, quickly and cheaply, without foundations. We are proposing the demolition of these homes because we have worked with, and listened to, the community for the past 10 years and this is consistently what the vast majority of them have told us they want. They do not wish to be forced to live in such properties, when their desire is to move to new homes with gardens and driveways.
Councillor Ann O’Byrne
Cabinet member for housing
Liverpool City Council

Shaker Aamer’s revelations about the consequences of his detention in Guantánamo are moving (“I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow”). What makes them doubly so is that he has been cleared by the US authorities.
The government “insists it is dedicated to extracting the father of four, a position it has publicly adopted for the past six years”. One has to question how dedicated the government really is after six years, particularly when compared to the effort expended to extradite Abu Qatada. With Shaker Aamer surely nearing death after his prolonged hunger strike, it’s time the government put in the same amount of effort to secure his return to the UK.
Neil Macehiter
Cut work, not school holidays
Does Stephanie Merritt (“Shorter school holidays work for me”, Comment) want the school day more closely matched to a standard working day as a step towards parity of opportunity for women in the workplace? Since UK working hours are the longest in Europe and our children’s wellbeing is already bottom of the latest Unicef list, such an open-ended idea will only fuel our general unhappiness. By all means reorganise school timings and holidays, but calibrate work with them. Turn things round, as the Dutch have done, and shorten the working week and there would be less stress and better work-life balance.
Sue Ledwith
Local elections’ vital role
Andrew Rawnsley views the local elections as “very important in setting the weather” that will prevail in the Westminster bubble (“It’s not just the Tories who should beware Ukip in the local elections”).
But they are important for the future of local communities, too, given a profound shift in decision-making to local authorities in a period of austerity. The significance of these elections is as much about the continued availability of local services as their interest “as a litmus test of the national mood”.
Marcus Roberts
Care work needs a new image
Katharine Whitehorn was right to call attention to the low status of care work (Magazine). Part of the problem has been the relatively low visibility of social care until recently. Although social care is roughly the same size as the health sector in terms of the workforce, it’s been an invisible river running beneath healthcare. But it is coming more and more to the fore, not least because demand is growing at the same time as resources shrink. Although the Skills Academy has a graduate scheme for social care, the status of care – and both paid and unpaid carers – won’t be solved solely by bringing more graduates into the sector, although this will help.
It needs a rethink at all levels and proper recognition of the degree of complexity and thoughtfulness that goes into good social care, so that it can become a career of choice .
Debbie Sorkin
Chief executive, the National Skills Academy for Social Care
London W1
This myth of trade union power
William Keegan (“Lady Thatcher: the woman, the legend… and the myths”) brilliantly exposes the economic myths that have characterised the Thatcher era. However, he fails to examine the myth of overweening trade union power, still persisting in the popular imagination.
Compare trade union power to the long-term strategic decisions taken behind closed doors by the managers of private and public capital. Highly paid executives will decide to make a new product, change the nature and delivery of a service, open or close a factory or office, locate their activities in a different country, use suppliers with highly dubious labour practices and so on. These decisions will have future and possibly permanent repercussions for workers and consumers. Unions, at the margins, attempt to restrain this exercise of huge corporate power and ameliorate its worst consequences.
Michael Somerton
The wrong end of the stick
For those who only read the front page story (“Blunkett urges Labour to look beyond ‘selfish’ public sector”) and not the online extract of the speech I made the following Tuesday in the House of Commons, I would be grateful if they would reflect on the following. In the article itself, I made it clear that I was disparaging, not promoting, the idea of one group of people being played off against another. The front page gave exactly the opposite impression. I think this was deeply unfortunate and I hope that those who were misled and therefore were critical might read the full article or get in touch .
David Blunkett
London SW1
It all feels a bit men only
Reading the letters I was amused to spot that four printed adjacent to one another were from David, David, David and Dave. Widening my gaze, I was less than amused to realise that every letter in the page was from someone with a male name.
Jayne Lingard



It’s not difficult to understand the people of Boston entering a state of terror when surrounded by heavily armed police dressed for war telling them to stay in their homes (“Fugitive shot dead was on FBI radar two years ago”, 21 April). But the message that sends to terrorists, and potential terrorists, is that similar tactics could close down 10 or 20 major cities in the US.
Intelligence services that rely too much on modern technology leave themselves wide open. In its reaction to the Boston bombings, the US has demonstrated to the world how weak and frightened it is, rather than how strong. It has shown how quickly its security services and government are liable to panic. Little wonder people panic in their turn when they see how ineffective these agencies are against the most amateur bombers.
Europe has suffered far more terrorist attacks without locking down cities. In many countries of the Middle East, they are a daily occurrence. They don’t lock down. Nor do the places Americans send drones to every day. They can’t, even though they know who the people terrorising their neighbourhoods are. The US has to stop looking inwards all the time, at the same time as trying to exert so much power beyond its own shores.
Bryan Hemming
posted online
It may have been reassuring to people put into such a state of fear by the bombing that they accepted the shutting down of an entire city so that one 19-year-old could be pursued. But that lockdown actually delayed the apprehension of the suspect, discovered by a householder when the curfew was lifted.
The sight of thousands of Americans chanting “USA” on the streets of Boston after one arrest was made is one of the most bizarre images of recent years and demonstrates how fearfulness has been used so effectively that Americans are mindlessly scorning their freedoms in the vain belief that they can be protected.
Bernard Thompson
posted online
It’s all very well suggesting longer jail sentences for motorists who kill or maim cyclists, but some of the responsibility rests with cyclists (“Call to curb cycle deaths”, 21 April). How about making it illegal to sell a bike without lights? Then, cyclists, put the lights on. Don’t sneak up between my car’s nearside and the kerb. Don’t veer off the footpath (where you should not be riding anyway) into the path of my car with nary a glance or a signal. And those red traffic lights apply to you, too.
Pamela Hibbert
Crowthorne, Berkshire
The energy of hate is nothing new, but it’s a word so frequently used every day that for most people it’s not even a strong thing to say any more (Katy Guest, 21 April). Sometimes we’re indifferent or unhappy, but I doubt that there are many who truly hate. Real hatred leads to action, not antagonistic name-calling. If anything, society today is full of indecision and inaction.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Why is going to “Ryde Pier (the oldest in the world)” one of 10 “more unusual ones” which didn’t make the cut of tourism chiefs’ 101 things to see and do in England (“Curry, the O2 and Banksy – the very best of England”, 21 April)? Piers have played an important part in our seaside resorts, and almost 200 years since the first opened in 1814, in Ryde, they are still significant tourist attractions today.
Tim Mickleburgh
Hon vice-president, National Piers Society
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Although the human race daily subjects unimaginable numbers of animals to lives of suffering and fearful deaths, The IoS seems to treat animal welfare as if it were beneath the notice of serious people. In your leading article about the political advertising ban (21 April), you sneeringly refer to animal campaigners as “cuddly”. Like John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Einstein, Schweitzer, Lincoln and Gandhi?
Julie Harrison
It is not only the BBC that portrays historical inaccuracies in its costume dramas (D J Taylor, 21 April ). In Endeavour, the unhappily named Superintendent Bright is five foot nothing and bespectacled. When I was a PC in the Sixties, the minimum height was 5ft 9in and no officer was allowed to wear glasses.
Mike Baker
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire


Charitable giving needs rewarding with honours
I ASKED Mrs Thatcher before David Cameron became Tory leader what her greatest failure was in government. She replied that she had cut taxes in the expectation that a giving society would emerge. It hadn’t, was her judgment.
The 25th edition of The Sunday Times Rich List hints that perhaps her judgment was premature. The trends you report on charitable giving are most welcome but they need to be validated, rewarded and built upon. If a trickle-down in wealth is to work, the gaining of great riches has to be used to promote the common good.
One of the advantages of the newly established foundations you report on is that each can pursue its own meaning of that goal. We need to audit charitable giving: to officially recognise generosity — in terms of giving both money and time — in the honours system. We may then truly establish that giving culture that Mrs Thatcher thought would become established.
Frank Field MP, House of Commons
Wealth of nations
Businessmen who have signed up to the Giving Pledge should be praised, not for donating their wealth, but for having created it (“Tory Ashcroft to give away half his £1.2bn fortune”, News, last week). It is the ability to produce that deserves our admiration — the economy and livelihoods depend on it. The benefits of philanthropy are marginal. 
DSA Murray, Dorking, Surrey

False riches
You say we should be proud the rich base themselves in Britain (“No longer born with a silver spoon”, Editorial, last week). The assumption is that their wealth is gained by effort, that they invest a lot here and the money benefits us. The fact that they reside here proves none of those things.
Nigel Toye, Kendal, Cumbria

Alms race
As a pensioner who has to make a decision between eating and keeping warm, I shall be writing begging letters to all those on your Rich List.  
Sandra Laverton, Innsworth, Gloucestershire
Nourish culture of hot school meals
WE WERE concerned to learn that only around 40% of schoolchildren now take a hot cooked meal and that parents prefer to send their children to school with packed lunches, even though school meals are often healthier and cost less (Better School Meals campaign). The low take-up of school dinners appears to have resulted in a service that is uneconomic.
Building on what the best schools already do, we therefore call on every head teacher to take greater responsibility for the food served in their school canteen. Children would be assured of a hot, healthy, tasty and affordable meal at lunchtime. Parents might then be willing to spend the money they set aside for making packed lunches on paying for school dinners.
We also back the call for every child to be taught to cook at school so that they leave school with a repertoire of dishes. There is much at stake here. With an obesity epidemic looming, this is about the way that future generations think about food.
Gary Rhodes, Annabel Karmel, Rachel Khoo, Tom Parker Bowles, Luke Thomas, Bruno Loubet, Raymond Blanc, Galton Blackiston, Anton Mossiman, chefs; Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust, Anthony Seldon, Wellington College, Berkshire, Clarissa Farr, St Paul’s Girls’ School, London W6, Richard Dunne, Ashley Primary School, Surrey, Lesley Powell, Shotton Hall School, Co Durham, John Casey, Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School, Portsmouth, Kenny Frederick, George Greens School, London, Joe Lewis, Haileybury, Herts, Gary Lewis, Kings Langley, Herts, Andy Schofield, Wellington Academy, Wilts, Paula Martin, Ravensdale Junior School, Derby, David Horrigan, Maltby Redwood Infant and Junior School, Rotherham, Lynne Pepper, Herringthorpe Infant School, Rotherham, Jane Fearnley, Herringthorpe Junior School, Rotherham, Pat Dubas, The Samworth Enterprise Academy, Leicester, Eugene Symonds, West Kidlington Primary and Nursery Schools, Oxon, Sue Hopkinson, Dore Primary School, Sheffield, Lisa Hillyer, Crookesbroom Primary Academy, Doncaster, Ann Wise, Heather Garth Primary School, Rotherham, Jane Bland, Prudhoe Castle First School, Northumberland, Helen Acton, Hatfield Woodhouse Primary, Doncaster, Ann Jones, Anston Greenlands Junior and Infant School, Rotherham
Once bitten, twice shy: beware of the dog law
THE Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs does not believe the police would arrest a person whose dog, in their absence, attacked an intruder breaking into their home, and no  owner “would ever face prosecution” (“You’ll be in the doghouse if Fido bites a burglar”, News, last week).
If that’s the case, why not legislate for that exemption? We’ve been here before with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was used inappropriately by local authorities to spy — I use the word advisedly — on people.
Russell Schofield, London N2

Feeling your collar
Let me assure your readers that if a burglar complains that he was bitten while robbing your empty house, you will be arrested, as the police will be obliged to act or face a complaint of neglect of duty. A file will be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, which may or may not prosecute.
The burglar is more than likely to sue, aided and  abetted by a no-win, no-fee lawyer. Why the government wants to introduce a law that it then claims will not be acted upon by the authorities defies belief. And, yes, I am a dog owner and I did serve 33 years in the police until fairly recently.
Bob Pattison, Bedlington, Northumberland

A bone to pick
The latest proposed legislation is surely the most barking mad to date. A criminal who invades your property to steal your possessions and trash your house has more rights than your postman. If your dog attacks said burglar while you are out, they will be entitled to compensation and you the dog owner will face a two-year prison sentence. How in the Lord’s name does this conform to justice or common sense?
Jo and John Spence, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Ruff justice
It is nonsense for Defra to assert that a dog owner would not be prosecuted in the circumstances described, as history is littered with instances of similar parliamentary and departmental assurances, only for the precise opposite to occur. This is simply a case of sloppy drafting by parliament.
One cannot imagine a police force keen to meet its clear-up targets passing up the opportunity of such easy prey.
Michael Morris, Haverhill, Suffolk


SIR – The French tourist industry is issuing maps of the Normandy invasion zone that do not include Sword beach (report, April 25).
As an 18-year-old Royal Marine, I was sent to Sword beach in a landing craft to assist in the D-Day offences. I was lucky to return home to England. Many of my friends did not.
The French tourist board would do well to remember that without the likes of me and my friends, they would not have any tourism. They should put us back on the map immediately.
R W Blake
Sutton, Surrey
SIR – I was a gunner and radio operator in the 13/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own). We were in Sherman amphibious tanks, and at 5am slipped into the sea from tank landing craft, 5,000 yards from Sword beach, in force five winds.
We hit the beach at 7.20am, the very first there. Of the 36 tanks in our two squadrons, 20 left the beach to penetrate some four miles inland, destroying formidable gun emplacements, but with many losses to mines and defences. Five even reached Pegasus Bridge, to the delight of the glider troops.
Peter (“Cosy”) Comfort
Deal, Kent

SIR – The issue of access to primary care out of office hours (Letters, April 26) is very interesting.
GPs are currently keen on picking up non-acute services that have always been expertly provided by their local hospital, as they attract a decent tariff and can be provided from nine to five during the day.
Given that many GPs who work on the new clinical commissioning groups have been shown to have a financial interest in companies that will tender for this work, we can expect to see the finances of secondary care providers (local hospitals) badly destabilised in the next few years.
However, there is very little chance that GPs will be persuaded to pick up the 24-hour provision of good-quality, easy-to-access primary care that they were so quick to drop a few years back. It attracts a lower tariff than elective work and means you have to work out of hours, leaving less time for more profitable pursuits.
The net result of all this is that patients will get less expert care for a range of non-acute conditions and find it hard to get appropriate care if they fall ill outside office hours. Meanwhile, hospitals will be lost because they will no longer be going concerns financially.
I am unclear as to how all that adds up to a better NHS.
Dr Jenny Jessop
Sprotbrough, South Yorkshire
SIR – For 30 years as a GP, I provided patient care for my 2,000 patients 24 hours a day. When I delegated care to locums I remained morally and legally responsible.
When the last government gave GPs a new contract they “valued” the out-of-hours work at £6,000 a year. Naturally most GPs found the offer of new-found freedom tempting, especially at that price.
Ministers then negotiating the new GP contract didn’t realise how much work we did for how little. This failure has meant that patients have paid the cost ever since.
Peter Sander
Hythe, Kent
SIR – Allison Pearson (Features, April 25) is right to be concerned about how patients are treated in hospitals.
But in Worthing Hospital, patients who have problems eating are given a red tray, and nurses know to keep an eye on them. There are also notices above beds reminding staff to check that water, spectacles, hearing aids and call buttons are in reach. Such measures cost almost nothing but can make a huge difference to the well-being of patients.
Geraldine Blake
Worthing, West Sussex
SIR – I had an MRI scan on my metal hip replacement at the National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore on April 16. I have just heard that my appointment for the results is July 31, three and a half months after the scan.
The good news is that I am on a waiting list for an earlier appointment.
Rona Wakefield
Luton, Bedfordshire
How many migrants?
SIR – A Foreign Office report on the “potential impact” of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration has merely found that it is “not possible to predict”.
How about a “back-of-an-envelope” calculation then? The population of Poland between the ages of 15 and 60 is about 25 million, of Romania 13.7 million and Bulgaria 4.7 million.
If half a million Poles in total moved to Britain following Poland’s entry into the European Union, then, pro-rata, one might expect a gradual influx of 275,000 Romanians and 94,000 Bulgarians once restrictions are lifted at the end of this year.
However, gross domestic product in Poland is around $13,850 per head, against $9,300 in Romania and $6,550 in Bulgaria. The extra incentive that this lower income provides might suggest that we could see as many as 409,000 Romanians and 198,000 Bulgarians.
This is all very rule-of-thumb, but it does suggest an urgent need to face up to the consequences of the decision taken to open up our borders in this way.
John Ingram
Sevenoaks, Kent
SIR – I live in Minehead, and many Eastern Europeans work here. They come from Poland, Hungary and other countries, and work in most hotels and, of course, Butlins.
They are hard-working and more than happy to be employed in jobs that many of our young would not consider.
I have spoken to many over the years and they love this country. There are married couples with children. They speak good English and are keen to learn more.
Jean Jones
Minehead, Somerset
Scots want it both ways
SIR – Alex Orr (Letters, April 25) argues the case for the pound sterling to be retained in Scotland if it votes for devolution.
It’s like a divorced man wishing to retain conjugal rights after his wife has left him.
Ron Hughes
Harlow, Essex
Life after soap
SIR – Johnny Hill (Obituaries, April 20) was not the only member of the Armed Forces to be embarrassed by being a poster boy for Pears soap.
The model for Millais’s Bubbles was his grandson, William James (pictured). William went into the Royal Navy, and had a brilliant career. As Admiral Sir William James, he was Commander in Chief, Portsmouth, in the Second World War.
That did not prevent his being known as “Bubbles” James throughout the service.
Rodney Bennett
Richmond, Surrey
Unwanted Eurocracy
SIR – It is heartening to read the critical report from MEPs on the work of the European External Action Service (report, April 25).
This costly department was nothing more than an act of self-aggrandisement by our European masters, and I am not remotely surprised that, under the doubtful leadership of Baroness Ashton, such a verdict has been delivered.
We didn’t vote for it, we can’t afford it, and we certainly don’t need it. Please, someone, close it down and see if anyone, other than those it employs, even notices.
Rev Jamie Taylor
Sonning on Thames, Berkshire
Taxing moral issue
SIR – I am thinking of using a tax avoidance product – an ISA. By doing so will I be guilty of going against the spirit of paying my fair share of taxes?
Moira H Brodie
Bourton, Wiltshire
Silent TV on demand
SIR – BBC3 has been putting out a new drama online before broadcasting it for televisions. This adds impetus to the trend for online viewing through such services as BBC iPlayer, which is included in Sky TV’s Catch Up service.
Catch Up is part of Sky’s new On Demand service which does away with the need for a satellite dish for users who plug their televisions into their computers.
However, On Demand does not cater for subtitled programmes because of file size issues. So those who rely on subtitles, having impaired hearing, cannot yet enjoy this new world of online television.
One can but hope that the new developments will embrace the need for subtitles in the near future.
Richard Byrnes
Maidenhead, Berkshire
Plastic trailblazers
SIR – The problem of poo bags is not confined to Ashdown Forest (Letters, April 22). Every canal towpath, country park pathway and even the high moorland footpaths in this part of Lancashire are littered with abandoned dog-poo bags.
Even on a recent visit to the beautiful Leutasch valley in Austria we found walks along otherwise pristine snow trails to be waymarked with red, blue and black bags.
John and Janet Clark
Leyland, Lancashire
Toast racks can bring most surprising benefits
SIR – Toast racks can be very versatile. Back in the Fifties when ITV was first introduced, it needed a special aerial.
I remember my dad fiddling in the back of our television set and successfully picking up the ITV broadcasts by connecting the toast rack.
Yvonne Rowe
London SW5
SIR – My toast rack has not seen a piece of toast for years. However, it serves as an excellent receptacle for letters and memos.
Shirley Copps
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – Historically, only two sections of society ate toast that had been allowed to cool – institutions that could not manage to provide toast speedily (large hotels, hospitals and prisons) and the classes whose servants made their toast for them.
To prefer cold toast suggests either that one is hidebound to an institutional outlook or that one believes the upper classes always enjoy the best of everything.
John M Overton
Buxton, Derbyshire
SIR – In Spain they toast little baguettes cut in half. Depending on how far south you are, you are offered butter, oil and tomato, or lard favoured with garlic to spread on it.
I don’t know what kind of rack would benefit this item of breakfast food.
Joan Anderson

Irish Times

Irish Independent

Good to see Taoiseach Enda Kenny leading with a left and a right at the leader of the Soldiers of Destiny as they enter their ard fheis.
I admire what Micheal Martin has done with the burnt cinders of a once-great party.
He has blown on these embers and revived a spark, but whether it is enough to ignite the public’s interest is another matter.
Enda, as all wily old dogs in the bloodsport of politics might expect, saw no percentage in giving a sucker an even break.
He tore into the FFers as they prepared for their annual bout of backslapping and glad-handling.
Will they apologise for the crippling debt they have burdened the nation with, Enda wanted to know, and will they also make atonement for the dire unemployment levels? I think he knows the answer to both questions.
However, the real question which Enda was not bold enough to ask is: are the public prepared to forgive and forget and allow the successors of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen another go on the bridge? The country, after all, is still in the stormiest of economic waters having been left on the rocks by the previous shower. It is still too early to assess whether or not any potential rising tide will save us.
All the same, Mr Martin has nonetheless done a remarkable job in rehabilitating a brand that many thought should be taken off the shelves for good.
The fact that Mr Kenny, the master of the Dail in terms of experience, thought it necessary to give the young pup such a sound thrashing suggests that he feels they haven’t gone away, you know.
Writing in 1924 in the ‘Illiterate Digest’, Will Rogers noted: “The more you read and observe about this politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that’s out always looks the best.” Quite.
B W Daly

 Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said: “If the State was a private sector company, there would be a lot of jobs at stake.” So let us start at the top. By the European average for parliamentary representation there should be 60 TDs in Dail Eireann.
Minister Pat Rabbitte said: “Our purpose is not to try to solve this problem by getting rid of people who are badly needed in the public service.” Well we have an enormous body of evidence gathered over a prolonged period that these people are not badly needed in the public service.
Thus by implementing this cut we would satisfy the criteria of at least two ministers and the approval of a voting population tired of the protection racket being run by the political elite.
Deirdre MacDonald 
Co Wexford  

I have just been told that it takes five working days for my (Irish) bank to receive funds from a cheque I lodge, drawn on another (Irish) bank.
In 1973 when I first opened a bank account, it took the same amount of time to clear. In those days, there was no internet and no computerised data entry. All pieces of paper were posted and there was no scanning or recognition software.
So why does it take this long? The answer is simple. First, let’s be aware that the funds are virtually immediately removed from the payee’s account for a different bank group – it is instantaneous within the same group. This is a fact. It is also a fact that over €6bn sits in Irish banks overnight, every night. This figure has been consistent for years and, if anything, has only increased.
So, regardless of time frame, this means that for an average of three working days that sum is “in limbo” – ie removed from the drawer’s account, not yet in the payee’s – and is thus available to the banks. Even at the annual LIBOR rate of 0.72pc this becomes seriously big money.
James O’Brien 
Name and address with editor  

Conor George (Irish Independent, April 23) believes that it could be an option for the IRFU to insist that current Ireland defensive (and attack) coach Les Kiss join Joe Schmidt’s coaching team when Mr Schmidt (please God) takes over as the new head coach of Irish rugby.
Joe Schmidt must be allowed to bring his own team with him to the Ireland job, and do it 100pc his way.
Too many cooks spoil the broth! Mr Kiss was quite prominent and forthright when it came to the decision-making and game strategy under the Declan Kidney regime, and under the next head coach he would probably try to be the same which would not be good for the transformation and revolution that Joe Schmidt will be determined to undertake. Mr Schmidt should not have the remnants of the Declan Kidney management regime imposed upon him.
John B Reid
Co Dublin 

Regarding the suggestion, proposed on this page, of providing lawn-cut grass from urban areas to alleviate the fodder shortage might I say that I appreciate the sentiment.
However, as a large-animal vet I must disagree with your suggestion.
When cattle graze, they selectively leave weeds behind in the field which may be noxious or toxic.
Unfortunately, grass cuttings from a lawn mower are too finely chopped, and so will not allow the cow to separate out the good feed from the potential bad, and may lead to serious problems.
But I commend you on your idea.
A Loughran
Address with editor  

Co Wicklow


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