Spring 5th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is sent off to take the Tod Hunter Browns to the Island. They have been thrown out of everywhere else. Is this a chance for our heroes to return to a life of bliss back on their old stamping ground out of sight of Captain Povey? Priceless.
A warm day so tired sweep a bit of drive.
We Watch Forsyke Sage fourth episode James daughter gets engaged.
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just over 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Chi Cheng
Chi Cheng, who has died aged 42, was the bass player with the heavy metal band Deftones.

6:26PM BST 30 Apr 2013
Cheng contributed to the Sacramento group’s first five albums, and featured on their best-known song, Change (In The House Of Flies). Recalling the recording of the song, Cheng said: “The producer said, ‘Oh no, you’re not going to play that goofy dub-reggae bass-line, are you?’ And I said, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to play!’ That song became really big for us, so I told them, ‘OK, now let me write the way I write!’” Of Deftones’ seven albums, three — Adrenaline, Around the Fur and White Pony — went platinum, and one (Deftones) went gold; Cheng performed on all of them.
Although Deftones fell solidly into the nu-metal subgenre of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cheng was never entirely comfortable with the term, explaining: “ We’ve distanced ourselves from any other band, intentionally, so we don’t have to worry about being compared to a scene or a category. I think it’s a necessary evil for journalists, because they have to use the medium to describe the band.”
Born in California on July 15 1970, Chi Cheng went to California State University in Sacramento, where he became a vegetarian and practising Buddhist. He was a poet as well as a musician, self-publishing a collection of poems called The Bamboo Parachute in 2000.
On November 8 2008, a car in which Cheng was travelling was involved in a serious accident in Santa Clara, California. The bassist, who was in the passenger seat and was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car, suffering severe injuries. In hospital he lapsed into a coma and never regained full consciousness .
The heavy metal community rallied, and over the next four and a half years concerts and other charitable events were organised to raise the necessary money for Cheng’s continuing treatment. Prominent among his supporters were Deftones, who recruited a stand-in bass player, Sergio Vega, and played a star-studded benefit to raise funds. Another notable supporter was Korn bassist Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu, who released a track called A Song For Chi.
Hopes remained high for some time that Cheng would emerge from his coma: he fought off a near-fatal bout of septicaemia in April 2009, and underwent surgery four months later to replace a section of his skull which had been removed to relieve intracranial pressure. The following May it was reported that he had improved to the point where he was able to follow people with his eyes and make occasional vocal responses. In July 2012 he was released from intensive care and moved to his home.
He is survived by his wife, Colleen, and by a son from a previous marriage.
Chi Cheng, born July 15 1970, died April 13 2013


Your article “Helmet cameras expose daily perils of cycling” (News) shows only one side of the picture. Sadly, I did not have a camera set up in my car to capture the irresponsible behaviour of cyclists in Nottinghamshire recently, where I witnessed a cyclist constantly weaving at speed across three lanes of traffic in a one-way street, after which he ignored a red traffic signal. This was followed by a group of Lycra-clad Olympic wannabees, cycling three abreast on the A606 who selfishly disregarded the cars held up behind them.
Similar behaviour occurs on the A6 in Derbyshire, where cyclists use the highway as a racetrack, delaying traffic unable to overtake them. The failure of cyclists to look over their shoulder and give clear signals before overtaking a parked vehicle or making a right turn gives particular cause for concern, because their sudden manoeuvre puts them and other road users in danger.
With the appalling standard of cycling, it is evident that there is an urgent need for cyclists to pass a test, adhere to the highway code and be prosecuted when cycling in a manner prejudicial to the safety of others.
Charles Tyrie
We’re all old Etonians now
Heads and others shouldn’t be too hasty in ridiculing old Etonian Jesse Norman’s view (“Heads mock claims that Eton breeds the best public servants”, News) that Eton instils in its pupils a rare and lifelong “commitment to public service”. This commitment could surely be instilled by old Etonians into the rest of us through the formation of cadres of old Etonian volunteers who could and would make David Cameron’s big society into a vibrant social reality.
These cadres could teach us all how, in effect, to become Etonians through an access diploma in becoming proto-Etonians, with credits awarded at level 3, as happens with existing access courses.
Bruce Ross-Smith
Bob Dylan’s mystery muse
In your article on Pauline Boty (“Mystery of the missing art by tragic star of 1960s London”, News), you mention that the painter escorted the young Bob Dylan around London during his short visit in December–January 1962-63, after he had been brought over by her then married lover, Philip Saville, to feature in the BBC play, Madhouse on Castle Street. Dylan stayed with Saville, but Boty – so far as I am aware – does not feature in previous accounts of the visit.
What is intriguing, though, is a song that was written during the visit by Dylan or perhaps shortly after, entitled Liverpool Gal and which Dylan uncharacteristically made no attempt to record or copyright and which remains all but unheard.
The lyrics of the song (available on the internet) are cryptic, but describe the snowy London of the time, the girl herself, the house they stayed in and the parting of the couple. Boty did not come from Liverpool, but there is much in the song’s portrait of the independent-minded and beautiful girl to suggest that Boty might just have been the model for the song. What we do know is that Dylan and Boty remained friends, meeting during Dylan’s later visits, including one where she picked him up from the airport.
John Hughes
University of Gloucestershire
Let’s do business with the arts
Will Hutton’s article, “It’s fine to boost the arts but first we must redefine them” (Comment), argues for a redefinition of the creative economy. Hutton’s broad brush neglects to take into account that the arts predominantly operate in niche markets. The arts also operate with “old technologies” – a band on the road playing live every night will always be the “shock of the old”. The arts have a continually impressive record in research and development. What they need is a collective cohesive policy – a business plan that states where they are now and where they want to be.
A business plan that embraces the “shock of the old” with the “shock of the new”, that exploits new technology and ensures intellectual property is not ripped off. What is needed is investment to attract, export and enable the arts to get on the digitalisation curve and stay there.
Chris Hodgkins
Director, Jazz Services
London SE1
Ode to an oak
What a shame this magnificent old tree was toppled in a gale (“Revered, loved … now mourned: the oldest of old oaks is no more”, News). It did strike me, though, that if each of the 6,000 signatories to the petition (to put in place safeguards for the tree) had donated a mere £1 at the same time they would have raised more than the £5,700 that was needed.
Pete Lavender
Topshop alert? No thanks
The day I walk past Topshop (or indeed any shop), receive an alert on my phone offering me an in-store discount for that day and regard this as “a bit of joy” is the day I will shoot myself (“And how would madam like to pay – cash, credit card or mobile phone?”, Business).
Richard MacAndrew

Andrew Rawnsley’s thoughtful overview of the putative reasons behind the welcome overall reductions in the crime figures have, he notes, confounded criminologists and policy-makers (“A crime mystery. It’s going down, but no one really knows why”, Comment). His piece did, however, omit any reference to the attested success of the probation service over recent years in contributing to reducing reoffending. Ministry of Justice data between 2000 and 2010 demonstrates reductions in adult reoffending of over 3%.
According to most informed opinion, justice secretary Chris Grayling’s planned reforms of the probation service will, if implemented, lead to it being effectively dismantled.
To paraphrase Mr Rawnsley, the probation service now looks like it is going down; perhaps he could tells us why.
Mike Guilfoyle
London SE4
I was glad that Andrew Rawnsley noted that not all crime is going down, citing credit card fraud as an example. However, what all the surveys on crime fail to consider is the real extent of other sorts of crime – fraudulent behaviour in the City, for example; scams that deprive old people of their savings; business crime (the man who sold millions of pounds’ worth of “bomb detectors” in court recently); advertisers persuading children to eat unhealthy and potentially killer food and the rest.
None of these is on local crime maps. While I may find out whether there have been muggings in my street, I don’t know whether or not I’m living in proximity to a guilty banker or other sort of fraudster. As ever, it depends on what you mean by crime.
Gillian Dalley
London N4
The report that the rate of serious violent crime is falling is surely to be welcomed. However, the trend in family violence appears to be in the opposite direction, with serious pressures on child protection services and women’s refuges. Could it be that violence, like other aspects of social life, is becoming “privatised” within the family?
David N Jones (Dr), independent chair, Leicester Safeguarding Child Board
One reason for falling crime that Andrew Rawnsley did not mention is that there are more private security contractors operating in the UK than ever before. For every state police officer, there are now two private security guards protecting our life, liberty and property.
The effectiveness of private security contractors was evaluated by two American criminologists in the 1980s. They studied Starrett City, a 153-acre, open complex home to 20,000 low- to middle-income residents in the high-crime 75th precinct in New York City.
The site had its own separate security department, employing 54 private security guards. The service operates 24 hours a day and officers are deputised with nearly full police powers. Crime rates on the complex were (and still are) far lower than the national average.
James Paton
Billericay, Essex
A recent academic study in America concluded that there is a straightforward link to lead in petrol and the rise in crime over a generation, and the gradual decline since it was stopped 20 years ago.
Lead is a poison that particularly affects the brains of children, so the generation that is now coming up to 20 has not been affected in the same way.
Katerina Porter
London SW10
The mystery of falling crime is no mystery. Apart from domestic violence and incest, crime is an outdoor pursuit. With a nice cheap takeaway, pizza or curry, and Midsomer Murders on the box, who wants to go out?
David Manson

The hunger strike by our former fellow prisoners at the Guantánamo prison camp should have already been the spur for President Obama to end this shameful saga, which has so lowered US prestige in the world.
It is now in its third month and around two-thirds of the 166 prisoners there are taking part. They are sick and weakened by 11 years of inhumane treatment and have chosen this painful way to gain the world’s attention. Eighty-six of these men have been cleared for release by this administration’s senior taskforce. Who can justify their continuing imprisonment? This must be ended by President Obama.
Since the opening of the prison camp, numerous prisoners held at Guantánamo have sporadically taken part in hunger strikes to protest their arbitrary imprisonment, treatment and conditions. This, however, is the first time the overwhelming majority of the prisoners are taking part – and for such an extended period.
It will, in a few months, be 12 years since the first prisoners were sent to Guantánamo by the Bush administration to avoid fair treatment and fair trials. At first the world was shocked by the images of shackled kneeling men in orange jumpsuits wearing face masks, blacked out eye-goggles and industrial ear muffs – in order to prevent them from seeing, hearing and speaking. Then they were mostly forgotten.
However, over time their voices did get heard as recurrent and corroborative stories of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment came out when some of the men who endured it were released. Of the 779 prisoners once held at Guantánamo, 612 have been released – without charge, or apology. We are among these men and it is through our testimony – and that of the prisoners left behind, via their legal teams, – that the voices of those who know the evil of Guantánamo are finally being heard.
Last week, a report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, which included two former senior US generals, and a Republican former congressman and lawyer, Asa Hutchinson, who served as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency from 2001 before being appointed in January 2003 as Undersecretary in the biggest division of the Department of Homeland Security, described the practice of torture by the US administration as “indisputable”. The report also stated bluntly that the treatment and indefinite detention of the Guantánamo prisoners was “abhorrent and intolerable” and called for the prison camp to be closed by next year. Despite these findings the US administration continues to employ tactics that include:
■ The abuse of the prisoners’ religious rights, such as the desecration of the Qur’an
■ The use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets to “quell unrest”
■ Regular and humiliating strip searches
■ Extremely long periods in total isolation
■ Interference in privileged client/attorney relationships
■ Lack of meaningful communication with relatives
■ Arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial
The present hunger strikes are a result of the culmination of over a decade of systematic human rights violations and the closing of every legal avenue for release. The appalling methods of force-feeding several of the prisoners in a crude attempt at keeping them alive, by strapping down their arms, legs and heads to a chair and forcing a tube through their nostrils and forcing down liquid food into their stomachs, demonstrates the absence of any morals and principles the US administration may claim to have regarding these men.
President Obama claimed he wanted to close Guantánamo and promised to do so. Four years after his initial promise, he has again acknowledged that Guantanamo is not necessary and must close. Speaking on 30 April 2013, the US president reaffirmed his commitment as it was, “not necessary to keep America safe, it is expensive, it is inefficient … it is a recruitment tool for extremists; it needs to be closed.”
We hope that on this occasion, such words are not mere empty rhetoric, but a promise to be realised.
We make the following recommendations:
1 For the American medical profession to stop its complicity with abusive forced feeding techniques.
2 For conditions of confinement for detainees to be improved immediately.
3 That all detainees who have not been charged should be released and
4 That the military commissions process should be ended and all those charged should be tried in line with the Geneva Conventions.
Signed, former prisoners,
Moazzam Begg, UK; Sami Al- Hajj, Qatar; Omar Deghayes, UK; Jamal al-Hartih, UK; Ruhal Ahmed, UK; Richard Belmar, UK; Bisher al-Rawi, UK; Farhad Mohammed, Afghanistan; Waleed Hajj, Sudan; Moussa Zemmouri, Belgium; Adel Noori, Palau; Abu Bakker Qassim, Albania; Adel el-Gazzar; Egypt, Rafiq al-Hami, Tunisia; Salah al-Balushi, Bahrain; Sa’d al-Azami, Kuwait; Asif Iqbal, UK; Shafiq Rasul, UK; Feroz Abbassi, UK; Jamil el-Banna, UK; Murat Kurnaz, Germany; Sabir Lahmar, France; Lahcen Ikassrien, Spain; Imad Kanouni, France; Mourad Benchellali, France



Lord Woolf and others are right to warn that Chris Grayling’s proposals on legal aid could lead to miscarriages of justice (“Reforms end ‘justice for all’, lawyers warn”, 28 April). The plans to introduce competitive tendering for criminal legal aid work will destroy community legal services, and herald a race to the bottom which will only favour large corporations that can absorb the losses and deliver criminal defence services at rock-bottom cost. There is a real risk that fixed fees will result in poor quality legal advice and representation, so that people may be convicted of crimes that they did not commit.
Chris Grayling plans to cut civil legal aid as well. Cuts to civil legal aid rates, coming on top of previous cuts in payment rates and removal of legal aid for advice on welfare benefits, employment law, consumer rights, most family disputes and immigration cases, raise the possibility that there will no longer be specialist legal aid lawyers. Civil legal aid might be technically available, but anyone entitled to it will be hard pressed to find a lawyer offering it .
In 2009, the average salary for a legal aid lawyer was £25,000. If Grayling’s proposals go through, those who cannot afford to pay for lawyers will find themselves unable to protect their rights.
Liz Davies
Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
London WC2
The Olympic games always felt like a London affair (“We have wasted the Olympic legacy”, 28 April). City centre screens were great – they got people together, even if they saw Prince Harry yet again rather than competitors giving their all. As to legacy, sadly the Games haven’t changed much in England, football with its wall-to-wall coverage still rules as the only game in town. The cost of sport, if you can find somewhere to train and can afford the kit, is prohibitive to most. A few determined kids will, as they always have done, find a way to fulfil their sporting dream. Far from encouraging the rest to join in anything, London 2012 was an expensive elite exercise in how to put them off.
Mary Hodgson
What an excellent statement by Janet Street-Porter (“Who will close the tax loopholes?”, 28 April). Over many years, Christian Aid and others have campaigned about tax avoidance and tax evasion by multinational companies. Aid internationally could be made virtually unnecessary if this was resolved, and tackling it as fiercely as benefit fraud is tackled would dramatically change the economic situation – far more money is lost to the Government this way than in any other.
Ernest Cruchley
Halesowen, West Midlands
Janet Vaughan was not Margaret Thatcher’s “patronising tutor” (“The Tories have had an arts bypass”, 28 April). She was the principal of Somerville, a physiologist and haematologist, who specialised during the Second World War on the effects of starvation, and was the first woman into Belsen after its liberation. It would be hard to find anyone less patronising. Her comment that “nobody thought anything of her” has the bemused admiration of a university don for an unpromising student – and as a chemist, Margaret Roberts was not Nobel Prize material, unlike her real tutor Dorothy Hodgkin – who succeeds unexpectedly in an alien world.
Meg Twycross
via email
Pamela Hibbert makes several good points regarding cyclists (Letters, 28 April), but spoils it with her last one about red lights. Before moving to Devon, I cycled in London for 20 years and was knocked off my bike twice at a red light – where I had waited at the front of the queue – by the car behind accelerating and turning left when the lights changed. The Department of Transport could amend traffic lights to allow cyclists to go five seconds before the rest of the traffic, as they do on the Continent. Ministers and senior civil servants should be made to cycle in London for two hours, twice a week. They would soon come up with the right solutions.
Jonathan Dumbell
Torquay, Devon
Susan Bordo is unhappy with Anne Boleyn’s portrayal by English writers (“Anne Boleyn was no soap seductress”, 28 April), but it’s unfair to criticise Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. It was a novel. You can’t expect history and historical fiction always to match.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire


CAMILLA CAVENDISH reflects the propensity of the media to find a scapegoat for a system that is failing and is thereby helping politicians avoid responsibility (“The GPs’ cushy deal means we’re all left to suffer in casualty”, Comment, last week). GPs indeed got a cushy deal in 2004 that has since been clawed back to more or less pre-2004 level but with a far higher workload.
The deal was brought in to attract doctors into general practice as both morale and recruitment had plunged — a situation we are arriving at again. Cavendish talks about 24-hour care as if it were possible to work 11 or 12-hour days and be available at night and weekends. Do we really want to go back to the dark days when junior doctors worked 110 hours a week and GPs seven days?
If GP appointments were not clogged with the “healthy worried”, or patients who refuse to self-manage minor ailments, it would be possible to look after the sick and the elderly better. Politicians, often abetted by the media, use fear, flogging and demoralisation as tools to boost productivity.
Sanjay Singh, West Malling, Kent

Bedside ill manners
My 30-year-old daughter was recently rushed to hospital with suspected encephalitis — a potentially life-changing condition. Thankfully she is on the road to recovery but we experienced the very best and worst of the NHS. Contrast the swift and well-co-ordinated actions of the A&E team with the chaos on the medical assessment ward to which my daughter was later admitted.
There was no shortage of staff, just a distinct lack of interest in even the basics of good patient care. How sad that most of the ward staff made the family feel such a nuisance. Unless employees across the wider NHS can be inspired genuinely to care for their patients, the billions spent on healthcare each year will continue to be inefficiently utilised.
Carole Nossiter, Fareham, Hampshire

Peak practice
For most of my 30 years in general practice I, along with with my partners, covered my patients 24 hours a day. It was a demanding, though sustainable, state of affairs, facilitating all the benefits of continuity to which Cavendish refers. This was replaced by a co-operative of local GPs, all of whom knew each other — if not their patients — and worked extremely efficiently.
This in turn was replaced by a much larger nationwide organisation with vastly increased workloads to achieve cost reductions. All senior GPs have inevitably stopped working for that group.
There is an assumption that GP services are in meltdown, but given the increases in demand and rising expectations — and lower thresholds of personal responsibility — the profession has responded well. In our own practice, any patient contacting us can speak to a doctor and be seen in the same session if required.
As an aside, my daughter is a paediatric registrar who is often called from treating very ill children to attend and give advice to parents visiting A&E inappropriately with children suffering from minor ailments.
Dr Roger Sage, Whipsnade, Bedfordshire

Duty of care
Cavendish appears to have no evidence to support her case, apart from comments from the GPs she knows. We used to cover our patients out of hours and then work 11 or 12-hour days, until given the chance to drop this unsafe practice.
GPs carefully monitor the A&E attendances from their practices and work hard to reduce the need for the chronic sick to attend A&E. We also see patients on the same day, if necessary. We are the highest- paid primary care practitioners in the world because we have the best primary healthcare system in the world.
Anna Kaye, Sutton, London

We need faster access to new drugs
WE SUPPORT Les Halpin and the Empower: Access to Medicine campaign, which is calling for a change in the processes governing how drugs for people with serious and life- threatening conditions are developed and prescribed. More than 3.5m people will be affected by uncommon diseases and many of them will have significant unmet clinical needs.
The risk ratio for patients with life- threatening conditions is different and regulations should be adapted to allow such people to try out new drugs at an earlier stage of development, as well as innovative new combinations of existing drugs.
All clinical trials data should also be shared publicly as this is the only way we are going to speed up evidence-based research and innovation. The government has announced significant initiatives, including an updated life sciences strategy that will help to accelerate the drug development process. Yet there is much more that can and should be done now to drive this agenda forward.
For many patients, these essential changes will not come in their lifetime. But we applaud individuals such as Halpin, who has catalysed this debate, and we hope they will leave a legacy of progress in the years to come.
Professor Stephen Hawking, Sir Bradley and Lady Wiggins, Tom and Sara Parker Bowles, Alastair Kent, Genetic Alliance UK, Leslie Galloway, Ethical Medicines Industry Group, Emily and Nick Crossley, The Duchenne Children’s Trust, Professor Sir Peter Lachmann and Tony Levene, Duchenne Now, Andy and Alex Johnson, Joining Jack (Duchenne), Professor Charles Craddock and Graham Hampson Silk, Cure Leukaemia, Geoff Thomas, Geoff Thomas Foundation, Oli Rayner, Patient Advocate (Cystic Fibrosis), Alex Bilmes, Dr Ben Goldacre, author, co-founder of AllTrials.net, Alan Thomas, Living with Ataxia, Brad Drewett, former head APT Tour, Nicolas Sireau, Chairman, AKU Society, Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham, Baroness Masham of Ilton, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Lord Smith of Clifton, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, George Freeman MP, Government Adviser on Life Sciences, John Pugh MP, Laurence Robertson MP, Mark Garnier MP

State waste is not a spur to charity
FRANK FIELD says that we should recognise charitable giving with honours, but individuals who donate their time and money to charity are not looking for recognition from the government for their selfless actions (“Charitable giving needs rewarding with honours”, Letters, last week).
We should take advice from Richard Cobden, the 19th-century liberal statesman: “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.” Back then the state was small and the middle classes donated 8% of their incomes to charity; today it is less than 1%. A charitable and mutual aid culture flourishes when the state is small, not when it spends vast tax revenues on state welfare.
James Paton, Billericay, Essex

Outrageous fortune
You claim that Boris Johnson’s family were driven by a historic lack of fortune to match their sense of grandeur (“The Johnson Four finally get a No 10 hit”, Profile, last week).
I am a senior NHS consultant and well into the top 5% of income nationally. Yet it would take half my post-tax, pre-mortgage disposable income to send one child to Eton. The fact that multiple Johnsons were able to attend this school or equally selective ones tells me that the family were hardly struggling. Do get a sense of perspective.
Professor David Oliver, By email

No easy antidote for sarin
I AGREE with Dominic Lawson that it is illogical to state that being killed by chemical means is much worse than by physical means (“Forget sarin — Assad committed a war crime with his first murder”, Comment, last week). However there is no “ready antidote in atropine” to sarin, as is suggested. Atropine is used in treatment but it only has some effect against the relatively minor consequences of poisoning — excess salivation, bronchospasm and suchlike.
It has no effect at all on the main cause of death, which is muscle paralysis, causing fatal asphyxia and convulsions. Other drugs are used to try to counteract these but in severe cases death is inevitable. I am very familiar with the use of these types of drug, which have similar but obviously well-controlled effects, as I use them every day in my practice.
Dr Andrew Lamb, Consultant Anaesthetist

Do the maths on school meal costs
SO THE glitterati of the culinary world are worried about the low uptake of school meals, saying parents prefer to make packed lunches, even though they are more expensive (“Top chefs urge more pupils to start tucking in”, News, and “Nourish culture of hot school meals”, Letters, last week). Poppycock. Work out the cost of school meals for two or three children against bread and cheap fillers and you’ll soon realise which is more economical.
Pauline Scutt, Hayling Island, Hampshire

Let’s do lunch
I agree with Henry Dimbleby that the benefits of excellent school food go well beyond improved nutrition (“Releasing school dinners from the grip of junk food and prison trays”, News, April 21). Adventurous menus help to educate, and well-fed students — and teachers — work better in the afternoon.
It isn’t just armies that march on their stomachs. However, £2 a lunch sounds steep: our chef offers four hot choices a day for £1.40 a head. A favourite is salmon en croûte with apple and ginger, though the pupils also look forward to the more familiar favourites.
Clarissa Farr, High Mistress, St Paul’s Girls’ School, London W6

Top table
Fewer and fewer children are having the experience at home of sitting at a table with their parents and eating a meal. School dinners could provide a valuable opportunity to add to pupils’ social education. These meals ought to be compulsory, and teachers should eat alongside their students.
Table manners could be taught, such as how to use a soup spoon, and polite conversation could be engaged in — both invaluable in future careers. Language teachers should head tables where their linguistic specialism should be spoken exclusively.
Jane S Haworth, Thames Ditton, Surrey


SIR – I was pleased to read that young people are likely to benefit from proper cycling training (Letters, April 24). May I suggest three subjects which should be included in any such training?
First, explaining that the word pavement has French and Latin roots which refer to walking. Secondly, that, according to the Highway Code, the pavement is the sole preserve of pedestrians, and, finally, that bicycles should be ridden on roads or cycle tracks.
David Costigan
Gosport, Hampshire
SIR – Of course motorists need to understand cyclists’ behaviour (Letters, May 3). For example, when teams of cyclists ride two abreast along B-roads at a speed that makes overtaking a hazard, or when a cyclist appears out of nowhere just as traffic lights change.
The driver also has to watch out for the cyclist who dashes across the highway to the safety of the pavement on the other side, regardless of right of way. Any understanding should be a shared venture.
Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
SIR – Surely evidence of cycling proficiency, such as Bikeability certificates, should be a prerequisite for a provisional learner’s licence.
Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset
SIR – It is naive to claim an urban 20mph speed limit would allay parents’ fears about their children cycling (Letters, May 3).
I live and cycle in a city with a considerable number of roads having a 20mph speed limit. In my experience this is rarely observed by the majority of motorists.
Mick Walters
Portsmouth, Hampshire
SIR – Pat Lacey (Letters, April 29) should bring his cycles to Cheshire, where we have designated Cheshire cycle routes.
Most weekends will see many cyclists, from individuals to families to cycle clubs, travelling these lanes. Even the all-conquering Olympic team trained here.
Terry Fones
Prestbury, Cheshire
A royal feast
SIR – What is it about archaeologists and cannibalism (“British settlers in America resorted to cannibalism”, report, May 2)?
We had that sort of nonsense about the Franklin expedition of 1845. That was started by a Hudson’s Bay Company employee and eagerly picked up by archaeologists desperate to sensationalise their work, when all the evidence points to a native attack with edged weapons.
Now we have the early 17th-century remains of a girl said to have been a victim of cannibalism. The evidence? Hacking marks on the skull and a single leg bone.
How long will it be before we learn that the marks on Richard III’s skeleton was a sign of his being fricasseed and served with fondant parsnips and blueberry jus?
E C Coleman
Bishop Norton, Lincolnshire
Offline surgeries
SIR – It would be a boon to patients if we could contact our GPs’ surgeries by email.
Dr Laurence Scott
Poole, Dorset
University admissions
SIR – Research shows that independent school pupils are more successful in securing places at leading universities than state school pupils with identical grades.
However, this is not due to discriminatory policies by universities but to a failure to advise state school pupils to study subjects at GCSE and A-level that prepare them best for a demanding degree.
This is why I and a number of colleagues established the London Academy of Excellence, a free school for young people with ambitions to win top university places.
Richard J Cairns
Headmaster, Brighton College
Brighton, East Sussex
Legless and driverless
SIR – Allister Heath (Business, May 1) misses a winner when cars become driverless – the country pub. “One for the road” will take on a whole new meaning.
Oliver Blount
Camelford, Cornwall
SIR – Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, has said: “People have sent a message. We get it, we hear what people are saying.” Unfortunately, he then proved that this isn’t the case by adding, “people are concerned that we get on with the big issues facing hard-working people in this country, like fixing the economy, sorting out the welfare system, helping hard-working people to get on.”
I don’t think that’s what people who voted Ukip are saying. They want a return to conviction politics, to politicians and parties that stand for something other than trying to please all the people, all the time.
Naturally, the Conservative Party in coalition is less able to steer a direct course, but it is only in coalition because it failed to make a clear statement of values at the last general election.
Current policies show that it is afraid to stand up for the millions of people who have lived their lives sensibly, responsibly and conservatively. My guess is that it is mostly those people who voted for Ukip where they had the opportunity.
Crispin Edwards
Related Articles
If cyclists keep off pavements we’ll all be happy
04 May 2013
SIR – The Coalition is trying to dismiss the success of Ukip as merely a protest vote, but surely it is much more than that, as Ukip offers the voter a firm direction, with its rudder set firmly to the Right.
Labour, after a few hiccups, seems to have set its rudder to the Left again. The Coalition’s rudder fell off into deep water some time ago. Its mechanism couldn’t survive the constant changes in direction.
Peter Amey
Hoveton, Norfolk
SIR –Professor John Curtice, who holds the chair of politics at Strathclyde University, has put his finger on the reason for the spectacular performance of Ukip.
He points out that much of the Conservative core vote comprises the older section of the community, whose concerns are increasingly divergent from those of the Conservative hierarchy, and in particular, of the Prime Minister.
Professor Curtice cites two issues that particularly vex this important (to Conservative survival) body of opinion: immigration (from new EU countries in particular) and same-sex marriage.
On both these topics, Ukip mirrors the feelings of the “grey vote”. No amount of desperate tinkering with the In/Out referendum Bill timetable will make the slightest difference – this has been amply proven by the recent election results.
What David Cameron badly needs now is a face-saver to allow him to withdraw gracefully from his extraordinary and self-imposed position on legalising same-sex marriage, which was never a manifesto proposal. It is to be hoped that the House of Lords will give him the opportunity to row back (“regretfully”, no doubt) from a position which seriously threatens his party at the next general election.
He should make no mistake – the departure of so many life-long Conservative voters is not just a protest vote. It is a warning that they are serious in their determination to bring him back to the sort of Conservatism they have always supported, even at the risk of letting Labour back into power by splitting the Conservative vote.
T Martin Johnson
Pathhead, Midlothian
SIR – Listening to Radio 4’s Today after the elections, I was astonished that representatives of the major parties still do not understand the significance of the shift to Ukip. One said that it was due to concerns about the economy.
But decent, “liberal-minded” people are voting for parties such as Ukip because they are concerned, not about the economy and welfare, but about the massive demographic changes that have taken place in their country without their consent over recent years, and the continuing influence of the central EU bureaucracy.
Alexander Stilwell
Godalming, Surrey
SIR – I’m intrigued about how Ukip councillors will be orchestrating the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union.
Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire
SIR – The by-election result in South Shields shows that, were the Conservative Party to enter into an electoral pact with Ukip, they could together win enough seats in the North of England to defeat Labour and form a Right-wing coalition government.
If David Cameron had the interests of the country at heart, he would enter into negotiations with Nigel Farage now and so save us from five years of Labour destruction of our economy and culture.
Richard Duncan
Guildford, Surrey
SIR – Once again the Tories are misleading us about Britain’s perilous finances. Grant Shapps, the party chairman, in response to the rise of Ukip, said: “We have seen that we have managed to get the deficit down by a third, immigration down by a third and we are working to make sure that in this country work always pays.”
This talk about getting the deficit down obscures the fact that our indebtedness is now vastly greater than it was when the Coalition took office.
Jack Baker
Bexleyheath, Kent
SIR – David Cameron has seen the light, and promises yet again that he will give the electorate a referendum in 2018. Judging by the results of the local elections, it is unlikely that he will be in power to do this.
Deirdre Lay
Guildford, Surrey
SIR – At last the country has a vehicle in Ukip to tell politicians, who so often tell us they are listening, that they are not. The contempt with which people of this country have been held by career politicians over many years is coming back to bite them.
For me it isn’t just broken promises, particularly over a referendum on the EU, the controversy of gay marriage and policy U-turns, all of which seem to indicate a death wish by the Conservative Party. It is the scandalous lack of experience of the world outside Westminster that appals.
Anne Taylor
Barton-on-sea, Hampshire
SIR – Those turning to Ukip to “give the Conservatives a kick up the backside” will rue the day if it results in a Labour victory in 2015. Vote in anger; repent at leisure.
Peter Sharp
Billericay, Essex
SIR – New Ukip councillors are now under scrutiny. The voters can judge whether Ukip is a professional party that can deliver for residents.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
SIR – The other parties do not appear to appreciate that, although Ukip may seem at this point not to have the experience, expertise or credibility for government, they might quickly acquire those if, once critical voting mass is achieved, major figures from other parties switch to them.
Alan Hetherington
Stillington, North Yorkshire
SIR – Now will you listen Mr Cameron?
Andrew Sturmey
Selby, North Yorkshire

Irish Times

Irish Independent
In a recent report, the doctors from the Royal College of Surgeons are asking the Government to ban drinks companies’ sponsorship of sports events, as the French and other governments have done.
Billy Keane (Irish Independent, April 29) asks where the replacement sponsorship is to come from.
The GAA ended drink sponsorship of the All-Ireland Championship and had no problem finding a replacement sponsor.
The fact is that sport is such an indelible and intrinsic part of our culture, potential sponsors would be more than willing to step into the breach. This is why drink companies want to be associated with these sports.
Due to the detrimental effects of excessive drinking on our health service and on society, I propose that drink companies divert the money they would have spent and make a donation to our hospitals. They could even have hospital wings named in their honour.
Drinks companies target and groom young drinkers; they would not be sponsoring these events if it did not achieve results.
Pub names emblazoned on junior club jerseys should also be banned. What message is this giving kids? Alcohol and sport are the antithesis of one another.
Sinead Walsh
Knocknacarra, Galway
Irish Independent

Instead of having to choose between the UK and Ireland for the next Olympics in Rio, Nike should buy a small, existing country, rename it McIlroy and let Rory be the monarch of a new nation full of birdies, eagles and albatrosses.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo

The abortion issue
04 May 2013
Congratulations on a well-balanced, reasoned article written by John Bruton (Irish Independent, April 29) on the constitutional and legal implications of the abortion debate.

However, debate could be the wrong description of an issue covered in this paper through constant hysterical diatribe by some of your columnists. People deserve better than this, whatever side you are on.
Christopher Woolven
Victoria 3806, Australia
• I have been campaigning on the rights of mental health patients for a number of years and wish to make the following comments on the issue of legislating for the X Case in regard to abortion.
There is absolutely no need for more than two doctors to determine whether a pregnant woman is suicidal or not. A mentally ill person can be sectioned by two doctors in a psychiatric unit if it is felt they are in crisis and a danger to themselves, including suicide, or a danger to someone else.
The lack of willingness on behalf of successive governments since 1993 to legislate in line with the X Case, which, obviously, due to the risk of suicide, has a significant mental health aspect to it, is of no surprise.
It took 20 years for the Mental Health Act 2001 to be passed, though it took another five years for it to become operational. A common feature in both cases was that conservative elements within the professional psychiatric establishment were to the fore in attempting to block progressive human rights legislation.
Finally, even if this legislation on the X Case is passed, it still means Ireland will have one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the developed world. Before long, it will once again be hoped that the more than 5,000 women who travel abroad for abortions each year can be forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind.
Kieran McNulty
Tralee, Co Kerry
• Legislation is to be passed in the Dail by July on limited abortion in this country to implement the Supreme Court ruling on the X Case of 21 years ago, that if a pregnant woman is suicidal because of an unplanned pregnancy, then abortion is allowed under the Constitution, where a woman’s life is at risk.
Our last two referendums years ago supported the Supreme Court ruling. I think the new legislation proposed by FG/Labour is a good compromise and is better than expected.
The Health Minister has said this week, though, that if a woman is refused a termination because the medics don’t believe she is suicidal, she may have to spend the rest of her pregnancy in a psychiatric ward. This must be a deterrent to put off any woman trying to abuse the legislation, which I think will be very few.
The main purpose of the legislation is to give certainty to our doctors, to know when they can intervene to end a pregnancy putting a woman’s life at serious risk.
I think Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore have achieved a good compromise on it, reflecting the views of Fine Gael and Labour.
I can’t see, however, how any female would put herself through a panel of three doctors to see if she is telling the truth that she is suicidal because of an unplanned pregnancy. Suicidal cases are said to be rare. Pregnancy by rape or incest, which are serious crimes against women, are not included, and these can’t be rare in comparison.
Irish people do say in private that they would understand if a woman or girl were to have an abortion as a result of rape and incest.
What can also be said in private, in this year of 2013, is that it is a woman’s decision.
Unwanted pregnancies ideally shouldn’t happen, but they do, because people are careless or the contraception fails or it is the result of a sexual assault.
The termination of pregnancy legislation is an improvement for women’s human rights.
Name and address with editor


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