Garden 6th 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 get them stuck on a sandbank and damage their engines purely by accident of course. The limp off to their old island base and Pertwee orders enough spare parts to make another frigate. Priceless.
A warm day so tired sweep a bit of drive and back of the house
We Watch Forsyke Sage fifth episode Soames wife fancies his architect.
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just unde 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Bob Leakey
Bob Leakey, who has died aged 98, was a potholer and cave diver once described as the “the Edmund Hillary of Potholing”; he also founded his own political party, the Virtue Currency and Cognitive Appraisal Party, and stood for Parliament in 2005 and in 2010, becoming the oldest candidate ever to stand in a general election.

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Bob Leakey in the Mossdale Caverns, 1940 
5:56PM BST 03 May 2013
In potholing circles, Leakey was best-known for his discovery and exploration of the Mossdale Caverns in the Yorkshire Dales, near Grassington, notorious as being Britain’s most testing cave system. Classed as “Super Severe” because it involves crawling and squeezing along narrow and often submerged or flood-prone passages for much of its nine-kilometre length, its further reaches are said to have been seen by fewer people than have walked on the Moon.
Leakey came to caving to overcome the chronic claustrophobia from which he suffered, and stumbled on Mossdale during the Second World War when he was working in a reserved occupation as an aircraft designer. With most cavers at war, he recruited some unsuspecting aircraft-factory girls as aides. Few, he recalled, came twice.
Leakey’s solo exploration of Mossdale Caverns in 1941 was a feat of extraordinary courage and endurance which has been compared to the conquest of Everest or the South Pole. For trip after trip, using primitive equipment, candles and bicycle lamps, and clad only in a boiler suit and often sleeping in the mud in tiny flood-prone passages, he wormed his way slowly to the furthest extremities of the cave system, free-diving through several short sumps (flooded passages) along the way. As Martyn Farr observed in his book The Darkness Beckons, Leakey was “seemingly oblivious to the cold”.
Leakey returned to Mossdale Caverns in June 1967 after six young cavers from Leeds University went missing in the system, presumed drowned. He was called in after the bodies of five had been recovered to try to locate the sixth member of the group. At the age of 53 he led a search party into the caves to a place he believed the young man might have survived, but was forced to retreat due to the risk of flooding. The body was found some time later.
It was Leakey’s last caving trip.
Robert Dove Leakey was born on June 23 1914 in Kenya, where his family had moved at the turn of the 20th century to work as missionaries. His elder brother, Nigel, a sergeant in the King’s African Rifles, would be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his bravery near Colito, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), in May 1941. A younger brother, Rae, won a Military Cross and became a major-general. Bob’s cousin, Louis, was the eminent archaeologist and anthropologist whose fossil discoveries in Kenya and Tanzania proved that man was far older than previously thought.
Bob was educated at a government school for boys in Nairobi until the age of 14. He then moved to England, where he studied at Weymouth College and at the College of Aeronautical Engineering in London.
After working in the early years of the war as an aircraft designer with Vickers Aviation, in 1942 he was called up to fight, and subsequently served as a paratrooper in India and Burma. During this time he climbed in the Himalayas, making two unsuccessful attempts (one solo in 1942 and one with colleagues in 1946) on the then unclimbed 20,720ft peak of Bandarpunch. Later he would climb the Matterhorn. Back in England one January, he solo free-dived naked into a sump in a cave called Disappointment Pot and dug out a blockage with his feet to convert it into a “duck” (a passage with water nearly to the roof) with one inch of airspace.
After the war Leakey returned to Yorkshire, moving to Settle and later to Giggleswick. He continued to be active in the caves of the Yorkshire Dales throughout the 1950s, participating in several rescues.
He established himself as an engineer and inventor, with 20 patents to his name, finding success with a folding lobster pot. In the 1960s he established a small business (R&B Leakey) manufacturing and selling inshore fishing equipment and “Leakey boats”.
At the same time he espoused a range of causes, mainly in opposition to pollution, war, capitalism and the “military-industrial-financial complex”. He launched campaigns, among other things, “Against Moneytheist, Amentia, Psychosis and Censorship”; “Against Tobacco & Drug Inverse Promotion”; “Against the Chemical Industry”; and “Against Corrupt Planning”.
For several years Leakey served as a magistrate on the Settle bench, but in later years he was fined £50 for common assault after he had used his umbrella and stick on a council workman who was cutting down a diseased sycamore in Giggleswick. “We have got people from North Yorkshire County Council pinching all our best trees,” he explained. “It’s been going on for years.”
Though he was an inveterate letter-writer to government ministers, Leakey seldom received a reply: “It’s the civil servants, you know,” he told an interviewer from the Yorkshire Post. “They intercept them. Never get to those they’re intended for. Apart from my correspondence with Tony Benn, it’s largely one-way traffic.”
The ideas he set out in a self-published book, Money, Mind & God – How to Make Them More Efficient, inspired the founding of his political party, which advocated, among other things, the elimination of money (an “evil brain-stunting disease”) and the establishment of a “virtue currency” based on the “good works people do for others”. He denied being an eccentric.
He stood for the local council and as a candidate for the Craven parliamentary constituency in 2005 and 2010. On the last occasion he polled 190 votes.
Bob Leakey is survived by his wife, Barbara, whom he married in 1947, and by two sons and a daughter. Another daughter predeceased him in 2010.
Bob Leakey, born June 23 1914, died April 22 2013


I read with interest and relief “the loose canon” on dying (4 May). Having worked in palliative and terminal care most of my life, I commend his thinking – the need for us to care for those we love at the end of their lives. This can mean taking on uncomfortable, messy tasks, but this caring is a marvellous antidote to the materialistic, uncaring world in which we live.
Gillian Ferguson
Grovesend, South Gloucestershire
• Lovely though Angela Hartnett’s midweek supper sounds, it isn’t a carbonara (G2, 2 May). An authentic carbonara should only have six ingredients: spaghetti, eggs, pancetta, pecorino (not parmesan!), olive oil and black pepper. It is perhaps one of the tastiest, quickest, easiest and most satisfying suppers.
Genevieve Whittle Ford
• Friday 3 May 2013 – a historic day. The first day since 8 April, when John Crace so brilliantly set the ball rolling with his “digested read” forecast of the weeks of hagiography to follow, no mention of That Woman in any of your pages. Rejoice thrice. It seems we really do have our paper back.
Sean Day-Lewis
Colyton, Devon
• If badgers are indeed responsible for the decline of hedgehogs and bumblebees (Letters, 4 May), they are clearly cunning and devious enough to play the waiting game, living in balance with these species since the ice age, biding their time and waiting to launch their attack just as we began to spray pesticides and pave over our gardens.
Stuart Darmon
Theddingworth, Leicestershire

I am appalled to learn that Film Education, the charity that provides curriculum-based teaching resources, teacher training and cinema-based events across the UK, has closed (Report, 23 April). Film Education has been a vital resource for me during seven years heading a media department at an outstanding north London comprehensive girls’ school.
Every September I launch the Young Film Critic of the Year Award as part of my induction into the UK film industry and introduction to journalism courses. In October I take my AS and A2 students in lesson time to National Schools Film Week, an astonishing network of morning film screenings that take place for a fortnight throughout the whole of Britain.
While my daughter’s Lambeth primary class – many of whom have never been to the cinema before – were watching A Shark’s Tale in Leicester Square, my AS students attended a marketing event on Dear Wendy and my A2 students were unravelling depictions of torture with Danny Boyle before a screening of Slumdog Millionaire.
In November the DVD InsideView case study of The Boat That Rocked popped into my in-tray in time for a showing of the film. In spring I attended a teacher’s conference with inspiring talks by producer Paul Trijbits (Jane Eyre, This Is England, Andrea Arnold’s films) and the head of marketing of The Woman In Black.
And how much did Film Education cost the government? Nothing. It was funded by the film industry. “Film Education closes” could equally be an epitaph for media education in schools.
Vanessa Raison

The Institute of Alcohol Studies claims evidence from Canada shows minimum unit pricing for alcohol brings significant health benefits (Report, 1 May). Using their own estimates of population attributable fractions, researchers in British Columbia say between 2002 and 2009 a 10% increase in average minimum price was associated with a 32% fall in alcohol-related deaths. But actual hospital records show that the number of alcohol-related deaths in British Colombia in that period went up – from 1,073 to 1,169.
There is another problem. One state, Alberta, does not have controls on the sale of alcohol, but shows no discernible difference in drinking patterns and health harms compared with the rest of Canada. This shows there is no simple link between alcohol price and harm, and that cultural factors are the most likely indicators of consumption patterns. Dr Perry Kendall, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, acknowledges that provincial governments in Canada have introduced a minimum price “mainly to bring in money rather than to protect public health”.
Miles Beale
Wine and Spirit Trade Association
• The perfect bloody mary (G2, 2 May) certainly does need a superior tomato juice. The very best, with absolutely no additives, comes from The Tomato Stall on the Isle of Wight. Not only does this classic mix continue to provide the perfect pick me up, but also stabilises blood pressure and contributes generally to good health. As an islander I’m biased, but plenty of mainlanders who’ve tasted the red nectar will rush to my support.
Graham Benson
Ventnor, Isle of Wight



Given the mess that conventional politicians are making of the economy, the sooner we get some fresh air into politics, the better
Sir, Surely UKIP should be compared with the Tea Party in America rather than to the SDP (report, May 4). Both have stumbled on the feeling that conventional politicians have got their economics all wrong. Conventional politicians have chased after false gods — particularly that of J. M. Keynes. They have pursued the Keynesian dream that it is possible for governments to control the economy by the voodoo of “demand management” — in essence, borrowing money — and as a result, governments around the world are bankrupt. Both UKIP and the Tea Party and their supporters sense this — vaguely — and believe that “something should be done about it”.
We are thus seeing a fascinating realignment. Instead of Left versus Right, it is going to be big government versus small government, Keynesians versus Austrians, UKIP and the Tea Party versus the rest. And seeing the dreadful mess that conventional politicians are making of the economy, the sooner we get some fresh air into politics, the better.
Andrew Selkirk
London NW3
Sir, The time has surely come for the Conservatives to confront head-on the issue which has dogged the party continuously for over 20 years. It would be folly to dismiss UKIP’s election success as being simply a timely wake-up call or a mere protest vote. It is the clearest sign yet that the electorate is frustrated, disenchanted, disenfranchised and inadequately represented on the issue of Britain’s relationship with the EU. The clamour for the promised referendum is now deafening.
Mr Cameron cannot lead people where they are unwilling to go. Better he shows the necessary courage to resolve the issue once and for all before the next election and face up to the consensus than find himself ousted from office, Labour returned as a result of a split Conservative vote, and the prospect of no referendum at all.
Neil Protheroe
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Sir, Hitherto it was universally assumed that UKIP would do well at European parliamentary elections and might make headway at Westminster elections, but could not make much of an impression at council elections because of the apparent irrelevance of an anti-EU policy to local government. Yet it is at that grass-roots level that UKIP has broken through. So how much more successful will they be at the next general and European elections?
Vivian Linacre
Sir, UKIP’s modest success at the polls should not be blown out of proportion. With only about one third of the electorate voting, UKIP picked up some seats and it’s safe to assume that anyone who wanted to vote UKIP did so; apathy once again ruled the day. However, UKIP does deserve to be taken seriously. They are not clowns, just the typical pub bore who knows what’s wrong with everything but has no realistic suggestions.
The evidence all over Europe is that spend now, pay later doesn’t work. So, however unpleasant, austerity is the price to be paid. The Conservatives need to be more robust about making it stick and need to forget gay marriage, cigarette labelling and drink pricing, and the majority of electors realise it.
Get the economy sorted and the next election will be a no-brainer.
Colin Fuller
Bishop’s Cleeve, Glos
Sir, Philip Collins (May 3) rightly notes that the overall share of the combined Conservative and Labour vote has followed a long downward trend since the peak of the 1950s. However, these votes probably won’t translate to seats in 2015. The decline of the Lib Dems, combined with UKIP winning lots of votes but few seats (if any), could result in fewer MPs from the smaller parties, not more. In that sense the general election could herald a shift back towards two-party politics.
Nevertheless, as a consequence of more diverse voting there could be a stalemate between the number of Labour and Tory MPs, with no third force to form a coalition. Would Labour then form a coalition with the SNP? Would the Conservatives look to Northern Ireland? Perhaps, like 1974, we might end up with more than one general election.
Paul Hackett
Director, Smith Institute
Sir, The outcome of local elections nearly always reflects voters’ opinion of the performance of the national government, with the policies of local candidates being largely ignored. As a district and county councillor who has fought five elections, I have always felt that my suitability was of far less consequence to many electors than the current reputation of my party nationally.
This situation could be rectified. With the coming of fixed-term Parliaments the dates of general elections are known years in advance. A gradual move towards synchronising the dates of general and council elections would encourage electors to base their decision on local policies when voting in the latter.
Ronald Forrest
Lower Milton, Somerset

Poor old Reese Witherspoon. More than two weeks after the Hollywood actress and Walk the Line star was arrested for disorderly (and, frankly, ludicrous) conduct during her husband’s drink-driving stop in Atlanta, Georgia, the machinations of modern media coverage have ensured that her subsequent humiliation is both profound and complete.
First, celebrity websites were treated to “leaked” transcripts of the arrest, swiftly followed by leaked video, taken from the dashboard camera of arresting officer Trooper First Class J Pyland’s patrol car. Both appeared to show Witherspoon in a less than flattering light, seemingly berating Pyland for arresting her husband, for arresting her, for not recognising her starry greatness (Yes, she says, “Do you know who I am?”), and for apparently daring to arrest an American citizen on American soil. Unfortunately for Witherspoon, that’s not as bad as it gets. For Pyland’s “cop cam” is the gift that keeps on giving, with newer footage released on an almost daily basis.
The most recent batch includes a post-arrest audio sequence from the back of his patrol car, in which the handcuffed couple bicker about the relative merits of Witherspoon’s confrontational approach — “It just turned really bad is all I’m saying,” says the crestfallen hubby, a talent agent named Jim Toth.
On the positive side, however, and in the interests of fairness, there are salutary lessons to be learnt from Shouty Spouse-gate, if not for Witherspoon, then for the rest of us. And they are:
1. Sometimes celebrities need to be arrested. Contrary to the commonly held view (recently opined in these very pages) that the police can get a bit witch-hunty when it comes to famous suspects, sometimes the cops really need to get the handcuffs out. From the moment that Witherspoon emerges from her car, and launches herself at Pyland with, “I am a US citizen, and I am allowed to stand on American ground … You better not arrest me!”, you just know what’s coming.
2. There’s an answer to the question, “Do you know who I am?” In this case it’s, “Yes. You’re the one who was fabulous, eight years ago, in the Johnny Cash film, but has pretty much struggled ever since to find the right role, bouncing from dud to dud while trying to shake off the perception that you can only ever play feisty Southern gals with a heart of gold.”
3. Playing a law student in the film Legally Blonde does not make you a lawyer. In the latest cop cam tape, Witherspoon says, “I am an American citizen. I can say whatever I want on free ground. He [Pyland] does not have jurisdiction over the ground that he speaks on. He does not.” Right.
4. Being an American citizen is not the same as being innocent. Maybe the 2.2 million people currently in American prisons should try lodging an appeal based on the “Witherspoon Defence”?
5. Sometimes, hubby knows best. The most poignant part of the Shouty Spouse-gate tapes is just how quiet, calm and, well, ashamed, Toth appears. “Reese, please!” he says, during Witherspoon’s rant. “Reese, can you please just stop!” Later, with Witherspoon cuffed and quiet, Toth and Pyland share a moment. “I’m sorry,” Toth says. “I had nothing to do with that.” Pyland nods. “I know,” he says. And men everywhere nod too. We’ve all been there.
Connors volley hits right spot
Talking of ructions in the world of celebrity, tennis royalty Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert are in the news thanks to the imminent arrival of Connors’ memoir The Outsider. Apparently, Connors reveals within that the game of competitive tennis ultimately drove a wedge between the pair, and the question that tormented him during his time with Evert was “Can two number ones exist in the same family?” Tell me about it, Jimmy. I’ve just entered an annual mixed doubles tennis tournament with my wife, and, man, there’s nothing that puts a strain on a relationship more than when your other half leaps into your service box, poaches your incoming volley, and misses!
Or, when the ball goes down the middle and she’s, like, “Mine”, and I’m, like, “Mine”, and then she goes, “Yours”, and I go, “No, yours”, and then we both miss it. Oh yeah, I feel you Jimmy. I feel you.
It’s DIY, or a drive-by shooting
A new survey has confirmed what we’ve suspected all along about so-called “young Britons” (18-24 year olds): they are rubbish at DIY. Many don’t even own a screwdriver and are dependent on their parents to change plugs and fix shelving.
There is a reason for this: DIY is really hard. I’ve lost track of the number of drill bits that I’ve broken and the gallons of filler that I’ve used during my shelving misadventures. And I blame the walls, too. One minute you’re drilling through cream cheese and the next it’s as hard as kryptonite — nothing is giving, the plaster’s flying, the drill bit snaps, and your beloved daughter’s bedroom wall looks like it has been in the front line of a drive-by shooting.
Of course, I know that the real reason is time. The speed of life now dictates that spending six hours on a Saturday fixing three or four wooden shelves to a wall is just unfeasible, if not incomprehensible.
My own father is a DIY whizz. But he measures, and re-measures, and re-measures, and then, just before he lifts out the drill from its case, he stops, and then he re-measures again.
Me,I drill first, and ask questions later. In fact, I’ve been known to open a flat-packed Ikea box with a drill in my hand and already plugged in, while barking excitedly, “What am I drilling? What am I drilling?” You should see my face when a lone, sad, Allen key drops to the floor.

SIR – A scientific study entitled “Are Horses Lazy?”, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, reveals that horses may not be a willing workers (report, April 28). Anyone who rides and enjoys horses will want to know who wastes money on this type of research.
Of course, all horses show signs of reluctance in the same way as a child will when forced to do something unpleasant. Equally, horses become highly motivated when trained to perform enjoyable tasks, for which they are constantly encouraged and rewarded.
The problem in riding horses is that pain can be unknowingly applied by novice riders, for example pulling on the bit and pricking with spurs.
All around Britain there are thousands of happy horses enjoying what they do, whether it be jumping, hunting, hacking or dressage. Equally, there are just as many at the opposite end of the scale. At the end of the day, it is all down to the rider.
Sylvia Loch
International Dressage Trainer
Kelso, Roxburghshire
SIR – I read with interest Jasper Copping’s article “Horses prefer life out of harness”. I am astonished that in this modern age where horses are concerned, they are still controlled by the bit in the mouth – a method devised thousands of years ago.
No wonder horses prefer life out of a harness. Surely it is not beyond the wit of modern man to find a less uncomfortable form of control?
Barbara Brice
Bath, Somerset
SIR – A scientific study has concluded that horses prefer not working, to working. Not so different to us, then.
Brain Checkland
Thingwall, Wirral

SIR – Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, says in response to Thursday’s drubbing at the local elections, that the party is listening to the people, and he is aware that they need to be clearer on economic recovery policies, and its stance on immigration.
He must be listening with cheese stuck in his ears because these are not the issues for the core Conservative voter who has switched to Ukip.
Votes have been lost because of endless broken promises over Britain’s involvement in Europe and referendums, and the farcical matter of rushing through a gay marriage Bill that wasn’t even on anyone’s agenda. These are the issues that former Tory voters don’t like.
Alastair Griffiths
Middlewich, Cheshire
SIR – All David Cameron needs to do to hold on to his own position as Prime Minister is to hold referendums on EU membership and immigration. The results would almost certainly be a British exit from Europe and immigration reduced to a minimum.
Mr Cameron has the power of incumbency. He has already won the Alternative Vote referendum, and is likely to defeat Alex Salmond’s nonsense proposals for an independent Scotland.
Hold these dual referendums before 2015 and the Tories will win the general election. Thereafter, Ed Miliband will be given the boot, Nick Clegg can retire to Spain, and Nigel Farage can look for gainful employment at a local circus.
Dominic Shelmerdine
London W8
SIR – Ukip’s electorate should be respected not despised; they are students of history not closet racists or clowns, as Ken Clarke, the pro-European MP, has branded them.
As will soon become apparent, David Cameron’s politics of appeasement towards Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, will yield nothing and he will be obliged, under democratic duress, to grant the voters their wish for a referendum.
What a pity that so many within the British political establishment have chosen to play an active role in the break-up of Europe’s nation states by clinging to the erroneous belief that Germany does not harbour naked hegemonic ambitions.
The only way to stop Ukip and the continued destruction of European nation states is for the Prime Minister to stop hiding behind sound bites and the Coalition agreement and start to show leadership, as both Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher did when their country needed them.
Jean Maigrot
Diss, Norfolk
SIR – After the local election results, the Conservatives are not quite dead in the water. They have a deadly, Right-leaning weapon in their arsenal to keep Ukip at bay. By promoting Theresa May to become Britain’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Cameron could bring some much-needed steel to his flagging government.
With Labour’s performance less than spectacular, Thursday’s poll suggests that the next general election is anyone’s for the taking. One thing is clear, the Conservatives need to start winning back hard-working women and the “white van man”, without falling into Ukip’s trap with a counterproductive lurch towards the Right.
Promoting the new Iron Lady to the Treasury might just prevent that fate.
Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex
SIR – Ukip can thank Conservative politicians like David Cameron and Ken Clarke for their spectacular performance in the elections.
Perhaps, in future, Mr Cameron will remember the old adage: “It is better to say nothing and look a fool, rather than speaking up and proving it”.
Don Roberts
Birkenhead, Wirral
Judges are to blame for human rights farce
SIR – Hesham Mohammed Ali, a convicted drug dealer, has won the right to stay in Britain because of “family life” – despite abandoning his children (report, April 28).
It is not the immigrants who are abusing our human rights legislation, it is our judiciary.
Phil Harris
Crewkerne, Somerset
SIR – The convicted Iraqi drug dealer’s appeal not to be deported as he is in relationship with a British woman should have been dismissed. If the woman in question genuinely loves him, she would be prepared to go with him to Iraq.
With the ultimate penalty for drug crimes in Iraq being execution, he might have turned over a new leaf and become a model citizen of his country.
Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Robert Readman asks (Letters, April 28) why we cannot deport undesirables, while countries like France, Italy and Spain can, seemingly without penalty.
The answer is that successive governments have spent hours poring over the minutiae of proposed EU legislation before signing up to it, and then applied it rigorously through our courts.
Meanwhile mainland EU countries nod the new measure through, then ignore it.
Until our politicians learn how to play the game, we will be lumbered with increasing amounts of restrictive measures, which will be flouted with impunity by the rest of the EU.
Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex
SIR – I agree with Mr Readman’s exasperation with Abu Qatada’s successful attempts to avoid deportation.
However, the Human Rights Act 1998 is not a creature of the EU. It incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights, which this country, together with the other countries making up the Council of Europe, has been a signatory to since 1953.
We were instrumental in drafting the original convention, in an attempt to ensure that the horrific breaches of fundamental human rights inflicted during the Second World War aren’t repeated. The Human Rights Act makes it possible for people to seek redress for breaches of these human rights through our own courts, rather than the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The reason why this country appears to have more difficulty in opposing judgments made by the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg may be related to the fact that the Human Rights Act imposes a legislative duty on judges to take into account decisions made in the Court in Strasbourg.
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
Crisis in Syria
SIR – Thank you, Sir Andrew Green (Commentary, April 28), for your accurate and perceptive analysis on the Syrian crisis.
I left Syria just a few weeks before the insurrection broke out. What Sir Andrew says, unpalatable though it is to many in the West, I can confirm: across the religious tribal, and political spectra, the majority of ordinary Syrians agreed that Bashar al-Assad was the least bad option to avoid the nightmare of civil war. Often quoted to me was the Arabic proverb: “Better 40 years of tyranny, than one night of anarchy.”
Sadly, once again Western ignorance of foreign cultures,
refusal to listen to ordinary people, and self-serving political ambitions have condemned another Middle Eastern country to years of misery: our disingenuous interference will come back to haunt us.
Rev R C Paget
Brenchley, Kent
An iconic figure
SIR – Charlotte Rampling, the actress, is described as exuding “iconic wattage” (Seven, April 28). These days, anyone who has been on the television becomes a celebrity, but what does it take to become an icon?
In the fullness of time, she will become a “national treasure”, and then what?
Anthony White
London N16
Dogs behaving badly
SIR – Like parents, dog owners always believe their “little darlings” are well-behaved and blameless (Letters, April 28).
Often, dog owners ignore signs telling them to keep dogs on leads, especially when near cows, sheep and ground-nesting birds. They allow their dog to do whatever it wants. Irresponsible people are responsible for the problems caused by a loose dog.
Maybe a dog-free environment in some areas is one solution.
J Magee
Tarporley, Cheshire
Another bank holiday
SIR – We are in the period when there are a number of public holidays: Easter, the May bank holiday and the Spring bank holiday. But between the late August bank holiday and Christmas there is nothing, a period of nearly four months.
What about moving one of the two May dates to the Monday nearest October 21, and calling it Trafalgar Day?
Glenn Waltham
Sevenoaks, Kent
Pensioners paying back benefits
SIR – Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, asks better-off pensioners to return voluntarily their taxpayer-funded benefits (report, April 28). However, those relying on income from savings are already living with the consequences of the Government’s policy of low interest rates that has led to a significant reduction in their household budgets.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – Would Mr Duncan-Smith define “well-off”, to enable me, as a pensioner, to know what I should do with my benefits.
John Lunn
Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire
SIR – I agree that pensioners should return benefits they don’t need; these benefits have not been paid for by the recipients.
Bus services, especially in rural areas, are threatened as they have few paying passengers, and are simply not cost effective. I know many pensioners who move to second homes in the sun during winter, yet they still benefit from the fuel allowance.
Why should people who are really struggling have to bail out those who can afford transport and heating?
Kate Graeme-Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – The Government is wasting far more than the £200 pensioners are paid for their winter fuel allowance in subsidising useless wind farms.
If the Government pursued a sensible energy policy to maintain fuel bills at a reasonable level, then there would be no need for the money.
Paul F Shipman
Astley, Leicestershire
Queen Maria’s exile
SIR – Queen Maria and her sons spent part of the Second World War in a small village in Huntingdonshire (“Yugoslav queen of Windsor goes home at last”, report, April 28). Her son, King Peter II, lived in one house and the Queen and the rest of the family lived, for security reasons, in a different house.
On Christmas morning all the village children went to school and Queen Maria gave each of us a book, which she had signed. I was chosen to give her a posy of flowers. My mother went to a sewing party, set up by Queen Maria, to make shirts for charity.
Audrey Bullock
Staplehurst, Kent
Misery of midges
SIR – My garden is plagued by swarms of midges; it’s impossible to work or sit outside.
Is there any reason for this, and is there a solution?
Barry Hawkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times

Sir, – I agree with Prof William Reville’s point that debates about abortion and related issues should be scientifically informed and based on “a coherent philosophical position” (Science, May 2nd). However, terms such as “personhood,” “essentialism” and “philosophical functionalism” are used here as if there was scholarly consensus about what these terms actually meant. This is not so.
For example, there are at least three different types of essentialism and the concept of personhood is notoriously difficult to define. Philosophy, as applied here, only serves to confuse the issues in question.
Prof Reville contends that personhood, as seen through the lens of essentialism, is present from the zygote onwards. On this basis one can argue against – not only human embryonic stem cell research – but also against birth control devices such as intrauterine devices and medicines that prevent the implantation of early-stage embryos. This is not consistent with the rational analysis that Prof Reville aspires to.
A pre-implantation embryo is not sufficiently developed to have a nervous system. Given the absence of a brain, surely a pre-implantation embryo cannot be regarded as a person?
If this is acknowledged then it seems that the concept of human rights in this context is meaningless. – Yours, etc,
Co Cork.
Sir, – Last November Ireland was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Announcing the election, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described the council as “the most important international human rights body”.
He added that, as a member of the Council, the focus of the Government would be on a number of issues among which he included “freedom of religion”. The heads of the proposed abortion legislation would suggest the Government has abandoned this focus on freedom of religion, at least in Ireland.
The proposed legislation would require Catholic ethos hospitals to facilitate the performance of abortions in their operating theatres. Not even the ultra-liberal abortion laws in place in the UK place this obligation on Catholic hospitals. This is nothing less than a calculated attack on the freedom of religion of the Irish people. The credibility of the Government’s efforts, through its membership of the UN human Rights Council, to promote freedom of religion and other human rights internationally will be seriously undermined if it persists with this draconian measure. –Yours, etc,
Brackenbush Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – In reference to the planned Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, Muiris Houston (Home News, May 1st) correctly questions how an expert in obstetrics can offer an opinion on suicide risk when it will be outside of their accepted skills and expertise? Without specific ongoing education and training in the area it will be a personal rather than an expert opinion and will need to be recorded as such.
Competent hospital risk managers will be soon minded to advise their obstetricians to continue to practise only within their established competencies so as to avoid likely legitimate complaint (and litigation) by a patient or family of a patient. This is likely to mean that obstetricians will not, and should not, offer a psychiatric or non-expert opinion on suicide risk. The Medical Council is also likely to have an opinion on any doctor opining outside their area of expertise. The proposed legislation as structured is fundamentally flawed and will need to be changed. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Unfortunately President Higgins missed a good opportunity for a new discussion (Front page, May 2nd). Instead of repeating the some old mantra that we need (material) growth he could have demanded that European leaders should think about job creation without material growth. Or creating and increasing welfare without growth. We cannot grow indefinitely. Our growth now will deplete the chances of future generations. Or indeed the chances of the present generations in developing countries. Perhaps he would have achieved more if he had demanded discussions on post-growth models – especially as a poet-philosopher President. – Yours, etc,
Parkview Drive,
Tuam, Co Galway.
Sir, – I wish to express my pride and delight in our President’s recent contributions to the debate on Europe’s response to the recession; his remarks, informed by intellectual power and compassion for the ordinary people, were very welcome in this grossly materialistic world we now inhabit (Front page, May 2nd). Let us hope that other voices will join his. Maith an fear! – Yours, etc,
Woodlands Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – It really warms my heart to see that at least one person who wore the Labour colours in the past has not forgotten his roots nor his commitment to social equality and is willing to vocalise these beliefs.
Keep it up Michael D. He is a breath of fresh air compared to the majority of his stagnant former party colleagues currently in Government. – Yours, etc,
The Park,
Skerries, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would like to thank Rosita Boland for her report about the Women in Media weekend in Ballybunion (Home News, April 30th) held in honour of the late Mary Cummins, and paying tribute also to Maeve Binchy (who had links with Ballybunion). But for the sake of the historical record, I would like to add a relevant point.
Miriam O’Callaghan said, rightly, in her short speech that women should encourage other women in the media, but it is a historical fact that the generation of women writers represented by Mary Cummins and Maeve Binchy were greatly encouraged and helped by men in the media. Mary Cummins was an inspirational feminist, but she would not have broken into journalism if it hadn’t been for Donal Foley of The Irish Times , who was outstanding about encouraging women to write, in the 1960s and 1970s: Mary Maher and Nell McCafferty were also among those he promoted and admired, as was Maeve Binchy herself, under the aegis of Douglas Gageby. Mary Holland, too, although she had experience at the Observer before coming to The Irish Times , always spoke about how supportive Donal Foley was of women writers. He was encouraging to me, too, even though I was working for a rival paper at the time. Donal had a way of expressing his confidence in a writer.
Other men in the Irish media at the time were genuinely proactive in promoting women: at the Irish Press group, Sean McCann opened up opportunities for a generation of women writers, including Clare Boylan, Nuala Fennell and Terry Prone, and Tim Pat Coogan was hugely supportive to me, to Rosita Sweetman and to Anne Harris, now editor of the Sunday Independent .
CP Scott famously said that “comment is free, but facts are sacred” and if some historian or archivist should be writing a thesis about women in media in our time, this is a fact that should not be omitted: that a generation of women in media were encouraged, helped, supported and promoted by men in media. I did say this in a speech at Ballybunion, and although I perfectly understand there isn’t room for everything in any newspaper report, nevertheless it is a point of historical truth and fairness that should be put on the record. – Yours, etc,
The Reform Club,
Pall Mall, London, England.

A chara, – Duncan Morrow admitted the truth about the peace process that not many people want to admit (Opinion, May 3rd). The peace process has not solved anything. It has merely put a lid on top of things. The rioting and protests about the British flag being removed from Belfast City Hall prove deep tensions remain and are likely to worsen unless real change occurs.
The reason there was conflict in the northern statelet and why there is likely to be in the future is because far too many people were included in a jurisdiction they never wanted to be part of. The obvious solution would be to change the Border so that it more accurately reflects the wishes of the people living near it. Irish and British governments have baulked at this since the 1920s.
Things are going to get very interesting in the next few years with the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 and the Easter Rising commemorations in 2016. It is likely unionists will feel very uncomfortable at these times and this could easily spill over into violence.
Nationalist political leaders should look beyond the Belfast Agreement and promote the idea of changing the border as a better solution to solving the problems of division in the North. – Is mise,
Rue William Turner,
Bonnevoie, Luxembourg.
Sir, – I eagerly sought Richard Corrigan’s recipe card ( Irish Times , April 27th) . Is Mr Corrigan for real? Leg of Lamb with Rosemary . . . too boring? He decides to throw in a small amount of lavender and honey and rub it all over. How original! What’s the next recipe? Perhaps a little roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing? I hope the remaining chefs have some more adventurous, original and challenging recipes for readers to try. – Yours, etc,
Kincora Park,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – In these straitened times, it is good to see you are catering for those with lots of time on their hands. With 22 ingredients, Dennis Cotter’s recipe card for “Deep- fried courgette flowers” ( Irish Times , May 1st), would suit someone who is unemployed. He or she would need time to find ingredients such as rice flour and “Spanish paprika”, and might have to travel far to get courgette flowers. For the rest of us, I wonder could the chef give an estimate of the time involved in preparing this fine dish, and also some outlets, preferably in Ireland, where we might find some of the more recherché ingredients? – Yours, etc,
Cabinteely Green, Dublin 18.
Sir, – How impressive that we can now drive from Belfast to Cork without having to stop at a single traffic light (Home News, May 1st). How much more impressive if we were allowed to stop at some class of a facility between Dublin and Cork, a distance of 250km. This is a especially important for older people or those with children. Currently there are two or three lay-bys in each direction with not a single litter bin between them. Time for the Government to come into the 20th century. I know this is the 21st, but let’s not be over-ambitious. – Yours, etc,
Offington Drive, Dublin 13.

Irish Independent

Madam – I witnessed this morning what has been an unusual sight for some years now: a young mother, wheeling her baby, in a buggy, along the footpath – and she was talking to the child.
Yes, she was actually talking to the infant, and smiling at him. And the baby, was replying, in its baby talk.
The mother had a lovely sunny smile. And both mother and baby were a picture of contentment and happiness.
For some years now, when I saw a mother with a pram or buggy, she was always yapping, on a mobile, never talking with the baby/child.
And I used to wonder what effect it was having on the children, listening to their mammy yapping away to an invisible source, or to themselves. And ignoring them, the baby.
So I thought it was a lovely sight, a healthy sight, a welcome sight, to see, this young mother communicating with her child, in preference to yapping on a mobile. And the baby communicating back, in its baby talk. A more normal, more human, healthier way.
Margaret Walshe,
Dublin 15
Irish Independent

Madam – In a recent article, it was suggested by John-Paul McCarthy, in relation to Margaret Thatcher, that “Kenmare could surely spare a small plaque for her ancestors”.

Kenmare did unveil a plaque on Easter Saturday, two weeks before the death of Margaret Thatcher. Along with the Minster for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I unveiled an exact replica of the 1916 Proclamation which was blessed by the Church of Ireland reverend. A colour party of the Irish Army attended the ceremony in Kenmare to show respect for those who had served before them. Also unveiled was a monument to commemorate all those who took part in the War of Independence. Engraved forever in Valentia slate are the names of the members of the Kerry No 2 Brigade who participated in the Headford Ambush.
The organising committee of the Kenmare ‘Easter Week’ Gathering included the local secondary school, chamber of commerce, those of all religious beliefs and all political shades. The group had as its core principle that the Proclamation, Easter Week and the War of Independence can best be defined by what we were fighting for – not who we were fighting against.
The people of the area attended in their hundreds to show pride in and respect for those who had brought such honour, by their courage and commitment. However, given the legacy in the northern part of our island, a legacy which did not meet her own aims of harmony, truth, faith and hope, it is easy to understand, with such a record, why we would not have the same pride for our distant native daughter as we have for others from our community. May she rest in peace.
Senator Mark Daly,
Leinster House, Dublin 2
Irish Independent

Madam – Permit me to chide your excellent paper. The Letters Page, that last bastion of freedom of speech for the great unwashed, that vital organ for the little man/woman, was besmirched last week.
The Sunday Independent published seven letters and two of them were from coalition TDs. Mr Hogan was given a generous thousand words to waffle about what will be done down the line. The other TD who sits in power waffled about the Senate. Do something constructive about it within the corridors of power where you dwell, not pilfer the little space the ordinary Joe is allocated to voice his opinion.
Mr Hogan tells us about local government reform. It is big on bullshit and unspecific, unmeasurable targets and idealistic aims.
People elected to the Dail and Senate, particularly those in power are afforded many means of disseminating information and obtaining forums. I as a reader draw the line when a sitting minister uses the Letters Page to run another red herring out to sea. If it was news that people really believed, I have no doubt that the editors across the nation would have run it as a story.
So, Madam editor, can I beseech you on behalf of the common man? By all means afford Phil and his cronies the inner pages. But please keep the Letters Page for the unvoiced.
John Cuffe,
Dunboyne, Co Meath
Irish Independent

Madam – In the context of the debate on the Senate, may I point out that democracies like Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, and the UK all practise bicameralism. Properly functioning second chambers diversify representation, and provide checks and balances to fortify democracy and human rights.
Ireland’s second chamber was never designed properly and needs reform. How about a chamber of 26 directly elected county mayors? Citizens’ first contact with democracy is at local level, whether it be potholes or libraries or water provision. Or has any thought been given to a federal structure devolving most powers to Ulster, Leinster, Connacht and Munster? All six federal states in Europe are bicameral.
Ireland’s microscopic debate has focused on the cost of the Seanad. Democracy deserves more than that. Slow down, step back and widen the angle of vision. Reformulating the Seanad should take other factors into account, such as how members are selected, the total number of representatives, terms of office, financial, legislative and oversight powers.
Andrew Lally,
Strasbourg, France
Time to dust off the hiking boots
Madam – Great to see the good weather, with summer coming and longer days. Time to get out and about and enjoy our beautiful countryside and coast.
Wherever we live in Ireland, there’s sure to be a good walk nearby. Those of us lucky to live near one of our six wonderful national parks are particularly blessed. No better way to spend a good day than rambling happily in the open air.
Sean Quinn,
Blackrock, Co Dublin
Irish Independent

Madam – If this letter was anonymous you would almost certainly decline to print it. However, you have printed the contents of illicit tape recordings made by an anonymous woman (Sunday Independent, April 28, 2013). Perhaps it was to sell more newspapers or to influence public debate. Most members of the public with any sustained interest in the abortion debate would have learned nothing new from these tapes. The views of the two TDs are not secret. What kind of conviction requires anonymity?
I am not a public figure but in the past I have put my head above the parapet as being basically pro-choice. I have received nasty, anonymous literature and anonymous and inaccurate telephone messages. I do not wish to send letters or make telephone calls to the anonymous woman, but I would like to know who she is. After all, if you print this, she will know who I am.


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