Quiet

Quiet 12th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge has damaged an unmanned lightship, and when they go back to repair it they find a half eaten meal aboard is it the Marie Celeste all over again?
Priceless.
Rain at last, a fine excuse for not doing anything in the garden. So I loaf around reading Doctor Who, back sore.
The Fosdyke saga. Soames divorces Irenie and marries someone else and has a baby girl oh tragedy.
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Michael Harrison
Michael Harrison, who has died of cancer aged 65, was director of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge for 19 years, from 1992 to 2011, presiding over what many regard as the happiest and most productive period in the gallery’s existence.

Michael Harrison at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge Photo: KETTLE’S YARD
6:03PM BST 08 May 2013
He was highly regarded by curators, directors and, most importantly, artists, and was able to bring in shows from all over Britain, the rest of Europe, and America. Reflecting his achievement, last weekend, Kettle’s Yard featured in a Times list of “the World’s 50 greatest galleries,” compiled from nominations by art connoisseurs, above the likes of Washington’s National Gallery of Art, the Wallace Collection and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
Kettle’s Yard had been created in the 1950s by the former Tate curator Jim Ede as a “haven of rest in an over-complicated life”. It was both his home and an aesthetic space in which to showcase his collection of art, including works by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Alfred Wallis and Henry Moore, as well as big names from the continent including Braque, Brancusi, and Picasso. Every afternoon, between two and four, he opened the house to callers. In 1966 he gave his life’s work to Cambridge University and in 1973 he and his wife Helen returned to her home town of Edinburgh, where she died in 1977 and he in 1990.
Harrison had first met Ede in the 1970s when working for the Arts Council, and he was under no illusions about the commitment he was taking on at Kettle’s Yard. Ede’s preoccupation with visual detail was such that he left precise specifications about the positioning of his artworks in relation to furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects (such as carefully arranged pebbles, shells, and items of fruit), with the aim of creating a harmonious whole. He observed that it would be difficult to fill the post of director unless the chosen candidate “is entirely dedicated, counts no cost, finds nothing a trouble, and just lives to make it live”.
Harrison proved ideal for the job – committed to the gallery and intuitively sympathetic to Ede’s vision. But while life continued to revolve around the routine established during Ede’s tenancy, the atmosphere under Harrison’s leadership was notably more relaxed. His shrieking laugh could frequently be heard throughout the building, and if visitors turned up outside opening hours, he always found it hard to resist showing them round.
Harrison established excellent relations both with the university and the town, encouraging local artists (who had felt excluded) by staging open shows in the summer in which they could participate (though he established a judging panel to separate wheat from chaff). He also curated many notable exhibitions, including sensitive appraisals of important British artists such as Alan Reynolds, Roger Hilton and Prunella Clough, as well as such ambitious projects as the first British survey of work made at Black Mountain College, the experimental art school in North Carolina, which he co-curated with Caroline Collier in 2005. It included works by, among others, Robert Motherwell, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.
To mark the museum’s 40th anniversary in 1997, Harrison staged an exhibition called “Within These Walls”, in which he invited nine contemporary artists to make work specifically for the spaces at Kettle’s Yard. As a result Jim Ede’s cool sanctuary was invaded by pieces from the likes of Patrick Caulfield, Bridget Smith and Michael Craig-Martin. Though this drew objections from some quarters, Harrison was convinced Ede would have approved, intending that Kettle’s Yard should always remain a living, breathing creation.
Harrison also oversaw a flourishing music programme, with well-attended Thursday evening chamber concerts, and established successful New Music and student concert series. Intervals would find him manning the till in the gallery shop and persuading even the most conservative of concertgoers to get to grips with the cutting-edge contemporary art on display.
On top of this work, he built up an intensive programme of educational activities, and towards the end of his tenure raised £5 million to build a new education centre, next door to the gallery on Castle Street. A grant from the National Lottery went part of the way to covering the cost, but a great deal of the money required was raised by an “Artists for Kettle’s Yard” exhibition, featuring works donated for sale by household names including Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley.
By the time he retired two years ago, Harrison had doubled visitor numbers to 75,000 and established the gallery’s international reputation. With typical diffidence , he insisted that he did not want a present to mark his departure, but friends and colleagues ignored him and he was presented with a porcelain piece especially made for him by Edmund de Waal, a great admirer and friend. Harrison’s last show at Kettle’s Yard was a stunning exhibition of work by another great friend and ally, Bridget Riley.
Michael Anthony Harrison was born in Pinner on April 30 1947. His father, from Sunderland, was an accountant. The family moved back to Sunderland when Michael was young, but when he was 13 the family moved again, to Quaniton in Buckinghamshire, where he attended Aylesbury Grammar School. After doing an arts foundation course at Oxford College of Technology (now Oxford Brookes) he went on to take a degree in Sculpture and Art History at Nottingham University.
Harrison began his career as a technician at the Tate Gallery in 1970, moving the following year to the Arts Council, where he rose from regional arts officer in the north-east to the post of Assistant Director of Art, responsible for touring exhibitions and the Arts Council collection, from 1977 to 1987, when the exhibition-making part of the Art Department (and Harrison himself) transferred to the South Bank Centre. During his three years as head of touring exhibitions at the centre, Harrison oversaw the production of 57 shows, including The Private Degas (1987), Sculpture of the 20th Century (1988) and The British Art Show III (1990). Also in 1990 he moved to become Head of Fine Art at Winchester School of Art, before becoming Director of Kettle’s Yard.
Michael Harrison married, in 1973, Marie-Claude Bouquet, who survives him with their daughter and three sons.
Michael Harrison, born April 30 1947, died April 25 2013

Guardian

It was disappointing that in Lucy Siegle’s piece headlined “Fashion still doesn’t give a damn about the deaths of garment workers” (Comment) on the tragedy of the Bangladeshi factory collapse and the failure of the industry to improve conditions for workers, the single word most relevant to their plight went unmentioned: unions.
Incredibly, “collective action” in Lucy Siegle’s account referred to the collaboration of corporations in corporate responsibility initiatives. Are corporations, consumers and NGOs the only actors in this drama? Each has their role to play. But as corporations well know (some to the good, some to the ill), the solution to improving the conditions of workers lies in the collective action of organised labour.
Dan Welch
Manchester
London calling? Not to me
Peter Preston writes that London-based journalists aren’t in touch with the rest of the country (“London no longer looks for northern lights like Harry Whewell,” Media). He says: “London, reaching for its newspapers or clicking online each morning, gets no consistent sense of what non-metropolitan life is like.” Good point, well made.
On the facing page is a huge article about how parents pay up to £800 for children’s parties, and the average cost is £300 (“Clever tricks to do your child’s birthday party on the cheap,” Cash). How much? What parents? Where? Read on and you will find that these are parents who took part in a survey in London and the only person quoted is a mother who lives in Wimbledon.
To quote a famous northern singer, this says nothing to me about my life.
Janet Bennett
York
Misunderstanding the UN
Your editorial (“Yes, the UN has a duty to intervene. But when, where and how?”) wrongly equates the internationally endorsed “responsibility to protect” (R2P) principle with what was once termed “humanitarian intervention”, and misunderstands the underpinnings of a concept that was endorsed by the international community at the 2005 World Summit.
When quoting Sergei Lavrov’s comment: “Foreign intervention into domestic matters is unacceptable”, you ignore the fact that R2P was conceptualised as reinforcing a state’s sovereignty, but iterating that sovereignty demands responsibility, crucially, a responsibility to protect populations within a national boundary. This is the first of R2P’s three founding pillars.
Where a state lacks the capacity to protect civilians comprehensively, pillar two tasks the international community with supporting that state. It is only in pillar three, when a state is unwilling to protect civilians, or is perpetrating crimes against them, that collective international force is sanctioned and, only then, after other means have been exhausted.
R2P is thus as much a tool for prevention as it is for intervention and, like the United Nations itself, is only as effective as the member states that support it. Syria is a case in point.
James Kearney
Head of Peace and Security Programme
United Nations Association UK
London SW1
Judges stand up for your rights
According to Nick Cohen, “the reason why you’ve never heard of Article 10 [the freedom of expression protection in the Human Rights Act] is that the judges never enforce it”. (“Read all about Knox – except in neurotic Britain”, Comment).
In fact, in between the passing of the Human Rights Act and its coming into force, UK judges were already adapting our libel law to provide a defence for material written on matters of public interest, precisely to ensure consistency with Article 10.
More recently, Article 10 of the HRA has been used by the BBC to overturn a ban on the broadcast of an interview with terror suspect Babar Ahmad, by the Independent to secure access to hearings in the Court of Protection (which adjudicates on mental capacity) and to protect an investigative journalist who was under pressure to reveal the source of a story about the Moors murderer Ian Brady.
It is simply not true to say that our domestic courts have “done nothing to enhance our rights to speak, argue and investigate or, indeed, to protect the rights we once had”.
Professor Francesca Klug and Amy Williams
LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London WC2
Hurrah for idiots on bikes
Charles Tyrie’s rant against cyclists (Letters) could equally apply to motorists who also block the roads (holding up cyclists), fail to indicate (causing dangers to pedestrians) and ignore the highway code (ie: not giving cyclists adequate space when overtaking).
The difference is that transgressions by drivers of high-speed, heavyweight vehicles lead to thousands of deaths each year. Most adult cyclists drive. Drivers and cyclists are the same people.
But better an idiot on a bicycle than an idiot in a car. They do far less damage.
Lucy Taussig
Bournemouth

You headline your piece on the Ukip surge in local elections in England “What a hoot! How one man has changed British politics” (In Focus). In a sidebar, Ben Page notes that “Ukip and its leader have turned Britain into a four-party state – at least in the media”. Let’s be clear, it’s English politics we’re talking about here, though this does have consequences in Scotland, which has been a four-party nation, if not yet a state, for several decades. I accept that one of those four Scottish parties, the Tories, has become a rump at anything other than local elections. I also accept that there are Ukip members in Scotland .
From north of the border, however, what is of greater interest and concern is that the political contest for the heart and soul of England is between two rightwing parties where the argument is moving increasingly rightwards, whereas in Scotland it’s between two parties of the centre-left. This acute political and, one would have to say, philosophical divide between Scotland and England is one of the core issues at the heart of the independence movement. The strains induced by a continued move to the right in England, as was seen in the Thatcher years, can only increase the tension.
You should not assume so much about “Britain” on the basis of English election results without taking into consideration the effect of those English results on Scotland and on the nature of the relationship between our two nations.
Roger Emmerson
Edinburgh
The thing that will halt the “Farage surge” is not adopting Ukip policies but the restoration of the economy to health. Ironically, austerity policies are weakening the economy and so contributing to the rise of Ukip. What is needed is a change of policy to promote growth and fairness. Ukip will then wither on the vine. A panicked shift to the right will convince no one and only add impetus to the surge.
Roy Boffy
Walsall
Ukip’s appeal is easily explained. Our mainstream parties pretend to differ on the EU but much unites them. They remain committed, as do many Eurosceptic Tory MPs, to the free movement of labour within an ever-expanding, albeit looser, EU.
It was unprincipled, nay immoral, of Labour to have imported cheap labour with the aim of driving down unskilled wages. As for Conservatives, the lure of cheap labour blinded them to the economic burden of a growing underclass.
A necessary condition for getting both the poorly paid and chronically unemployed off benefits is a rise in the minimum wage. Simply curtail immigration and unskilled pay will rise. Achieving a living wage is a small price to pay for anyone concerned about national cohesiveness. It will require stopping immigration from within the EU as well as without.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton
Dorset
The success of Ukip means we have four-party politics but with an electoral system that poorly reflects the way people vote. I am not a Ukip voter but I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society and if we really believe in democracy Nigel Farage is right when he suggests a change to a more proportional voting system . More and more MPs and councillors will be elected on 30% of the vote and governments will have majority power with the support of around a third of those who voted.
Many people want real political choice. We need a multi-party system where every person has a vote that counts and representatives are elected in relation to their party’s percentage. I wish parties and candidates would stand for what they really believe in and not just what focus groups and polls suggest “Worcester woman” wants in a marginal constituency. Under a different system, candidates could speak with honesty about their principles and have distinct policies. Turnouts will increase and after each election the parties can compromise if they need to form a coalition.
Martin Peters
Taunton

Independent

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Any of the benefit built up by our military intervention in Afghanistan has been undermined by the incomprehensible attitude of our government towards the interpreters, without whom the job of the soldiers on the ground would have been impossible.
The Taliban are simply waiting in the wings for our departure, and no mercy will be shown to anyone who has helped the British forces. They and their families genuinely need asylum, and should be offered it, without a moment of hesitation, as a gesture of gratitude.
When David Cameron indicates that he is, in essence, willing to abandon them to their fate, it erodes all faith in the integrity of the British nation, and shames the soldiers on the ground who must walk away from their colleagues, at the behest of their government, knowing full well what reprisals await the men who have risked their lives beside them in the hope that their country will benefit in the end.
Public outrage brought about a change of heart regarding the Iraqi interpreters, and, with the help of the press, may be brought to bear to do the same for our Afghan helpers.
Sierra Hutton-Wilson
Evercreech, Somerset
While the first phase of the High Speed 2 rail line from London to Birmingham has been given the go-ahead by the Government with the announcement of a hybrid Bill in last week’s Queen’s Speech, there is still no certainty on the second phase of the project from Birmingham further north or to Heathrow.
Progressing with the HS2 project in this piecemeal fashion creates a large amount of uncertainty and risks Phase 2 never getting further than the drawing board. This risk is important to minimise, as only in Phase 2 will the main benefits of HS2 be delivered.
The Government must commit itself to the entire route if HS2 is to have any chance of being the much-needed spine for successful transport integration.
Prof Phil Blythe
Chair, Transport Policy Panel
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2
John Rentoul says that the recent local election results suggest that “Labour is doing less well than the polls would have predicted”. But that’s because of the lower turnout at local elections, which always benefits the Tories whose supporters are more likely to go out and vote.
Here in the constituency of North East Lincolnshire, this was shown most clearly at the general election of 2010. Labour’s Austin Mitchell saw his 7,654 parliamentary majority cut to just 714, while at the same time the higher turnout saw the number of Labour councillors jump from four to 10, despite only a third of the seats being up for grabs. I don’t think Ed Miliband needs to be worried yet.
Tim Mickleburgh
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Amol Rajan explains that he has converted to only part-time vegetarianism because he has to write restaurant reviews (The New Review, 28 April). Amol could be 100 per cent vegetarian and still do restaurant reviews, by observing how well restaurants cater for vegetarians. That would encourage those who don’t cater for vegetarians so well to pull up their socks.
Sandra Busell
Edinburgh
In Margareta Pagano’s article last week on tax avoidance by Google, she stated that it is not as easy to boycott Google as it is to avoid buying coffee from Starbucks. That’s true, but it is possible to significantly reduce one’s use of Google’s search engine. I use search engines quite a lot, and I find that for two-thirds of my searches DuckDuckGo does the job perfectly well. I’m not sure about Bing, as that is owned by Microsoft which I believe is also accused of tax avoidance. I’m sure readers will have other suggestions.
Patrick Cosgrove
Chapel Lawn, Shropshire
Amused and entertained as I usually am by Janet Street-Porter, I wonder whether she got her Boots confused with her colourful footwear last week (Editor at Large, 5 May). I think she’ll find that Kate Swann has just stepped down from WH Smith rather than Boots. Boots is headed up by Stefano Pessina.
Alan Dorey
Verwood, Dorset

Times

UKIP in step with public mood on immigration
DAVID CAMERON is clearly out of touch with popular feeling (“Tories demand early EU vote to spike UKIP guns” and “UKIP: We would strike a deal with Boris Johnson”, News, and “The rise and fall of the political class”, Editorial, last week).
The public at large are primarily concerned with the imminent prospect of yet more immigration, not a referendum on Europe that is a way off kicking it into the long grass. It makes no sense to ban Afghan interpreters while allowing a potentially large influx from eastern Europe. Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader, is the only politician with the commonsense approach.
We are among the biggest contributors to Europe and this should be a strong negotiating factor. Trade with the EU will not be seriously affected if we renegotiate terms, as business depends on demand and value for money. We could also still co-operate on major projects.
Brian Hardy, Gravesend, Kent

Losing end
If UKIP succeeds in its various objectives, what Brussels-led backlash awaits the 1.4m British people resident within the EU who currently receive the various health, tax and social benefits from their respective host countries? Having newly sold up in the UK to spend our retirement in Brussels, we have more than a passing concern UKIP policies will cast us all to the wind.
Peter Macnab, Brussels

Back to the UKIP future
The rise of UKIP is not as significant as the political commentators think. If the party really is a “game changer”, in the words of Farage, why did only 31% turn out to vote, despite much talk of disaffection?
UKIP made no impact at all in many areas (for example, no candidates were elected in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Bristol). UKIP councillors do not even have to follow their own party manifesto — except to take us back to the 1950s.
Iain Phillips, Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire

Imperial measure
UKIP has tapped into the tribal instincts of the British people. While I understand the need for proper immigration management and for EU reforms, I think the reason for the rise of UKIP is that it is leading the willing and the gullible on a merry dance, singing an idiotic song with the words, “We don’t need the rest of the world to survive.” They should be reminded that Britain would not be the sixth richest economy in the world were it not for its former colonies.
Rowell Wilkinson, London E10

Comedy double act
I suppose it was inevitable that UKIP would say it would do a deal with Boris. Depending on your political allegiance, it will be seen as either a case of clowns link up with a buffoon, or a Eurosceptic meeting of minds.
John Stockham, Folkestone, Kent

Against the wind
The Sunday Times’s reporting of UKIP’s election gains was comprehensive. However, what was missed is the correlation between these gains and the areas where public opposition to wind farms is very high. Of all Britain’s main political parties, UKIP is the only one to have a published policy that opposes wind farms.
Dr Philip Sullivan, Lutterworth, Leicestershire

Union address
The message to Cameron is clear. If you want to stay in power after 2015, engineer a coalition with UKIP, however unpalatable that may seem. Banish all talk of “fruitcakes” and “clowns”, as the public are increasingly seeing it as the pot calling the kettle black.
Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Dementia thwarts best-laid plans
I DARE say many people would rather end their lives than suffer the pitiful state of later stage dementia, when no matter how good, kind and expert the care, every shred of one’s dignity is ripped away (“I miss her terribly”, Culture, and “Bragg vows to kill himself rather than succumb to dementia”, News, last week). I know my own mother (nearly 95 and having suffered from dementia for 10 years) would be appalled if her former self could see what she’s turned into.
However, what Melvyn Bragg should realise is that by the time people are showing signs of dementia, it is often the case that they don’t accept there’s anything wrong with them. It is very common for people with dementia to insist to any professional that they’re fine when family members are all too painfully aware that they’re not.
So however much one may have intended and planned to end one’s own life before dementia advances, one is unlikely to remember wanting such a thing, let alone possess the memory or mental capacity to carry it out. I might add the painful truth that in the majority of cases the realities of dementia are nothing like the recent television ad: a gentle old soul gradually fading away. Oh, would that they were.
Liz Young, Kingston upon Thames, London

State schools cannot pick and choose
INDEPENDENT — and to some extent grammar — schools can recruit and reject anyone they like for any reason, and can rid themselves of anyone who seems to be letting the side down with little more than the flick of a pen; state comprehensives cannot (“Chumocracy”, News Review, last week).
Anthony Seldon fails to address the two vital differences. Even when there are pupils who deliberately and systematically undermine every lesson they attend, the school finds it almost impossible to exclude them. Even successful teachers in the independent sector would struggle in the state system.
Peter Edwards, London SE25

Cabinet makers
I do not believe it is an inherently bad thing that the cabinet is made up of a number of Old Etonians. The real injustice, however, is that state education cannot produce people to challenge them.
William Urukalo (aged 15), Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Time to turn tide on ME therapies
MY DAUGHTER was diagnosed in 1999 at the age of eight with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) by the late Dr Alan Franklin, a paediatrician specialising in children with this illness (“Scientists under siege”, Magazine, last week).
Dr Franklin travelled the country supporting families threatened with removal of their severely ill ME children, most of whom were housebound — and many bedridden and tube-fed such as my daughter — with symptoms that included, among others, paralysis, nerve and muscle pain, nausea and loss of speech.
These children were suffering from what the World Health Organisation classifies as a severe and chronic neurological — not mental — illness. Sadly, families with such children are still being pressured today to make them undergo inappropriate and invasive treatments precisely because the prevailing view is that the chronic element of ME is psychological. Too many of my daughter’s friends remain bedridden with horrendous symptoms because of the misguided use of “therapies”.
Kathleen Goodchild, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Positive action
Far from “skewing a whole branch of medicine”, responsible activism in ME is directed at promoting and encouraging scientific research and its funding. Activism has been pivotal in improving research and treatment for many diseases, including Aids, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer and malaria, with the government bringing up the rear.
Jean Harrison, Salem, Massachusetts, USA

Help, not hinder
Unfortunately your article will reinforce the idea that ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) is a mental health disorder and can therefore be dismissed. I am the sister of a severely disabled sufferer for 26 years, and we are desperate for the cause, whether psychological or not, to be found and for an effective treatment.
This can only happen with far greater funding for research into this devastating condition. The misguided actions of a small minority will only hinder this and thereby prolong the agony of sufferers.
Debbie Gilbert, Watford, Hertfordshire

Cause for collaboration
The UK’s leading ME/CFS charities deplore the harassment or abuse of researchers undertaken by a tiny but vocal minority of people. Many sufferers are living without treatment or support, or even a proper diagnosis — this should be the real headline news.
We wish to support researchers to help us better understand the causes and to improve treatments. The future for many thousands of patients will depend on constructive collaboration between patients, charities, funders and scientists.
Mary-Jane Willows, Association of Young People with ME (AYME), Action for ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Foundation, ME Association, ME Research UK

Joining forces
Thankfully these days there are a good number of specialist NHS services for those affected across the UK by CFS/ME. These services deal with 9,000 new referrals a year in England and since being established in 2004 have seen 70,000 cases.
We are much encouraged by collaborative research led by experts in the field and supported by the Medical Research Council and national charities that is looking at ways to improve and expand research into this life-changing illness, which affects about 1-2% of the adults and teenagers in Britain.
Michelle Selby, British Association for CFS/ME, Dr Alastair Miller, Consultant Physician in Infectious Disease, Liverpool CFS service
Therapist support
There is another understanding of ME that sees it as neither a result of a virus nor a mental illness. Therapies that find the roots of ME in primary, fundamental emotions see the physical condition as essentially a symptom of these.
These approaches (which are not cognitive behaviour therapy or otherwise psychotherapeutic) say that the key lies in recognising these fundamental emotions, their sources, and taking constructive actions based upon them, raising the consciousness of an individual and so empowering them.
Crucial to this, of course, is the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client, as my wife has discovered in her own practice.
Andrew Whiteley, Consett, Co. Durham
Research moves on
Legitimate requests for further information, missing data and clarifications (FoI or otherwise) should not be conflated with the reported “extremist” behaviour. Michael Hanlon’s article did not appear to be particularly fresh or current. An article in The Times in 2011 featured most of the same protagonists, claims and counter-claims. Thankfully serious scientific research has moved on, as reported in The Times (April 23), “Scientists have found compelling new evidence for an underlying biological cause”.
Duncan & Lesley Cox, Rugby, Warwickshire
Majority report
What a pity that you devote an entire article on ME to publicity for the 50-80 activists engaged in an abhorrent hate campaign and ignore the 550,000 ME sufferers, who wait patiently for some effective treatment for this dreadful disease. I have had ME for 21 years after catching a virus on holiday and it has robbed me of any kind of normal life.
All I, and most sufferers, want is some effective treatment which at present does not exist (I have tried them all!). We do not care what our illness is; we just want someone to find out the cause and hopefully a cure.
Two weeks ago, a report in The Times, “Biological breakthrough offers fresh hope for ME sufferers,” featured the work of the dean for clinical medicine at Newcastle university, who has discovered “very real abnormalities” in the cells of ME sufferers — proof that it is not “all in the mind” . It’s a pity that you did not focus on the newer more hopeful biomedical research such as this.
Rosey Lowry, Saxmundham, Suffolk
Activists miss the target
My wife was diagnosed with a severe case of CFS some months ago. As there is no medical cure as yet, we had to tackle the disease head on if she were going to have a life of some normality. We gleaned all we could from the book by Jacob Teitelbaum and are making good but slow process towards recovery.
The emotional and mental fatigue is as debilitating as the physical side, and we both wonder just how the “activists” are able to spend so much time and energy in their vitriolic and pathetic pursuits. Sufferers from ME/CFS require much patience, long term care and understanding; a cure is much needed from wherever it may emerge. Those researching the illnesses are to be applauded.
Jeremy Rugge-Price, Orford, Suffolk
Points
Health drink
Your article “‘Natural’ food has more sugar than Coca-Cola” (News, last week), while emphasising the need to minimise our dietary sugar intake, makes a mistake in comparing Coca-Cola with cranberry juice, ignoring the important health qualities of the latter. The constituents of cranberry can effectively protect women and children against urinary tract infections, and lower blood pressure and the risks of heart disease in adults. Low-sugar cranberry juices are available and in the recommended daily quantities of 400ml should be comfortably below the recommended government guidelines.
Stuart L Stanton, Emeritus Professor of Uro-Gynaecology, London SW19

Making allowances
I read about the suggestion that comfortably off pensioners should return their free allowances. May I suggest that members of the House Of Commons and Lords who are comfortably off or wealthy refuse to accept their parliamentary allowances? Think what an example this would set.
Deirdre Doyle, London SE15

Appliance of science
The Royal Society was founded in 1660 and given its royal charter by Charles II, the “Merry Monarch”, whose behaviour was truly colourful (“Royal Society bust-up over Andrew”, News, last week). It was the most important act of patronage of his reign, and Charles’s genuine interest in scientific experiments made such pursuits fashionable and contributed to our national development. The Royal Society owes too much to past royal examples to insist, so late in the day, that its patrons must be paragons of every virtue.
Jennifer Miller, London SW15

Meal deal
Clarissa Farr, high mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London, writes that they serve lunch there at £1.40 a head (“Let’s do lunch”, Letters, last week). Although that is undoubtedly commendable, it would be fair to mention the fees charged to attend her school. We might then see how it can afford some subsidy for school meals.
Pihuan Chin, London N20

Goose step
Dog owners should swap their pets for geese (“Once bitten, twice shy: beware of the dog law”, Letters, April 28). They make much better guards and there would be no risk of prosecution.
Joan Freeland, Colyton, Devon

Naming convention
I enjoyed your Style article about an appropriate name for a live-in partner (“Say my name”, April 21). The most useful is the Scottish term “bidey-in”, which is affectionate and apt. I hope it gets into the Oxford English Dictionary soon.
Kate Marjoribanks, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

Corrections and clarifications
The article “‘Natural’ food has more sugar than Coca-Cola” (News, last week) included a graphic that did not compare products proportionately. We apologise for the confusion this may have caused.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays
Burt Bacharach, songwriter, 85; Gabriel Byrne, actor, 63; Emilio Estevez, actor, 51; Sir Terry Farrell, architect, 75; Mark Foster, swimmer, 43; Susan Hampshire, actress, 76; Daniel Libeskind, architect, 67; Jonah Lomu, rugby player, 38; Dame Jenni Murray, broadcaster, 63; Lord Patten, BBC Trust chairman, 69; Catherine Tate, actress, 45; Deborah Warner, theatre director, 54; Steve Winwood, musician, 65

Anniversaries
1820 birth of Florence Nightingale; 1937 the coronation of George VI — the subject of the BBC’s first live outside broadcast; 1971 Rolling Stone Mick Jagger marries Bianca Perez-Mora Macias in St Tropez; 1994 John Smith, the leader of the Labour party, dies of a heart attack; 2008 an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province kills 90,000 people

Telegraph

SIR – Having read your report on “skimpy” uniforms on Virgin Trains (May 8), I was reminded of the introduction of uniforms to Barclays front-of-desk staff.
They were made after much discussion with female staff by Windsmoor, a major British manufacturer of women’s clothing. The customers loved them, and the company’s image was much enhanced – the staff looked smart and confident.
Recently I travelled Virgin Atlantic. The garish red uniforms made the staff look as though they should be working in another employment altogether. When moving around the small-spaced aircraft they appeared to be less than comfortable.
Throughout the 10-hour flight I could not help feeling sorry for the attendants. My thoughts about their employer were otherwise.
Brian Coomber
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

SIR – The crisis in the NHS is being attributed to the longevity of the elderly who are accused of over-taxing hospitals with their occupation of beds.
But to suggest that the elderly are responsible for the overwhelming pressure on A&E departments overlooks the fact that they only make up a proportion of those who have recourse to these departments, the rest consisting of the young, often accompanying children.
The cause of this development is the irresponsibility of most GPs, who use a telephone appointment system that limits their accessibility during surgery hours, while they cannot be contacted at night or at the weekends, forcing patients to rely on a locum, superficial online advice or the local A&E, in which they have the most confidence.
Barbara Goodman
London NW11
SIR – David Prior, the head of the Care Quality Commission (report, May 9), is right to say that emergency care is under intense pressure. The roots of the problem are more complex than he suggests.
Related Articles
Uniforms ought to please staff – and customers
11 May 2013
All parts of the NHS face rising patient demand and diminishing resources. There is an increase in conditions that require intensive treatment such as hypertension, diabetes and mental health issues.
Hospitals are under strain from blockages in the flow of patients through the health service, which can lead to emergency admissions. This is all at a time when the Government has forced the NHS through a pointless reorganisation.
It is therefore wrong to point the blame solely at primary care and out-of-hours services. GPs work harder than ever and undertake more consultations per patient each year, despite successive funding freezes. Out-of-hours care has suffered from historic underfunding, with a static budget in recent years.
Health-care professionals, ministers and government agencies must work together to deliver holistic solutions which benefit patients. Attacking hard-working NHS staff and services does not produce results.
Dr Mark Porter
Chairman, BMA Council
London WC1
SIR – It is suggested (Letters, May 10) that those who can afford it should contribute to the cost of their care. By far the biggest users of the NHS are the old, the very young, the unemployed and people suffering from such conditions as cancer, all of whom would presumably be exempt.
As many of the wealthy can afford private insurance, the burden would fall mostly on the middle and working classes, and to make much difference to the finances, it would have to be a very substantial burden.
This mirrors the situation in America, where working people have the least access to health care and avoid seeking medical care even when it is essential.
Robert Courteney-Harris FRC
Stone, Staffordshire
British migrants
SIR – Discussions of the Queen’s Speech (report, May 9) have overlooked a bizarre consequence of changes in immigration law introduced almost a year ago.
The Government has no power to restrict movement from other EU member nations, and so it has decided to clamp down on the only EU citizens who do fall directly under its power, namely, British nationals.
I am a British citizen, currently resident in the United States, and for almost 30 years I have been married to a New Zealand citizen, who has lived and worked for a total of more than 15 years in Britain.
On retirement we plan to return to Britain, where all of my family, including my parents and our children live, but under current law I have no automatic right to move back to Britain with my husband.
How can the Government defend this?
Judith Feeney
Princeton, New Jersey
Bullying over Tibet
SIR – Beijing’s bullying of Britain (report, May 6) because the Prime Minister and Nick Clegg saw the Dalai Lama in St Paul’s last year for 40 minutes is extraordinary.
Britain is not the only EU country coerced in this manner. Surely, the EU can understand that the Chinese government is playing member states against each other.
As long as Beijing can get away with such pressure, it will do nothing to address its policies in Tibet.
Thubten Samdup
Representative of H H the Dalai Lama
London NW8
Solar panel farm
SIR – Your report on a proposed solar panel farm near the village of Willersey (April 2) records the opposition of some villagers, but others support it.
Being no more than 6ft to 7ft high and well fenced, it will scarcely be visible to anyone except from the upper storey of a very small number of houses.
As for the views from the nearby Cotswold Way and the escarpment, these are already dominated by large expanses of white plastic polytunnels and glasshouses. By comparison the solar project would be relatively unobtrusive.
It is only by promoting projects of this kind that it will be possible for the UK to meet the legally binding EU target for the reduction of carbon emissions by 2020.
The Rev Dr Anthony Harvey
Willersey, Gloucestershire
Jollier Queen

SIR – I have been writing to a prisoner on death row in Texas for 10 years. He has no access to paint, so grinds crayons into a powder, mixed with water to make a paste.
This is a recent portrait he sent me of the Queen (Letters, May 10), looking, I think, particularly jolly.
Lesley Fernandez-Armesto
London NW8
Backward glance
SIR – Your report of Leirum Street in Islington (May 10) reminded me of the story of Rednaxela Terrace, in Hong Kong.
An official was refused the honour of a road being named after him so his subordinates went ahead more subtly.
John Dunkin
London W11
Stubbed-out Bill
SIR – As a smoker, I am subject to punitive taxation. I am forbidden from enjoying a legal product in a public house. I have to ask an assistant to open a cabinet before I can select my preferred brand. As I open the packet, I enjoy images of cancerous lungs and open heart surgery.
I applaud the Government’s decision to abandon legislation for plain packets. Plain packaging would stimulate an already vibrant black market, which would, in turn, affect the viability of many small shops.
Christopher Barlow
Worcester
SIR – Cigarettes kill one in two of their regular users, a conversion rate unrivalled by any other consumer product.
Such a deadly product requires unusually strong action. Most smokers become addicted before the age of 18.
We are therefore hugely disappointed that the Government has not acted to stop tobacco companies selling cigarettes in bright alluring packages. It makes cigarettes more attractive to children and makes the health warnings less salient.
Standardised tobacco packaging has been demonstrated to reduce these effects, and emphasises cigarettes’ unique danger.
The Coalition Government is caving in to lobbying from the tobacco industry, and will, in all likelihood, be responsible for the future ill-health and premature death of a significant proportion of the 200,000 children each year who take up smoking.
Ann McNeill
Professor of Tobacco Addiction
John Moxham
Professor of Respiratory Medicine
John Strang
Professor of Addictions
King’s College, London
Unfriended
SIR – Like others I learnt a lesson when trying to delete my Facebook account.
A grandfather with grown-up children, I no longer wanted to be a member of Facebook. After encountering a very long list of people, most of whom were strangers, I thought I had deleted the lot.
A few days later my son told me that a female friend had asked him who Jeremy Shaw was and why did he want to befriend her 10-year-old daughter?
My lesson was that I should not click on things I did not understand.
Dr Jeremy Shaw
Petersfield, Hampshire
SIR – The answer? Ask a child to do it.
Dulcie Porter
Pocklington, East Yorkshire
Holding cyclists to account for traffic offences
SIR – If a cyclist causes a road accident and is uninjured he or she can ride off and never be identified.
Is there any objection to requiring bicycles to carry a number plate?
Malcolm Bowman
Fordingbridge, Hampshire
SIR – John Morris (Letters, May 6), suggests that cyclists should pay the same road tax as car drivers.
I am a car driver and a cyclist and pay the same Vehicle Excise Duty for my Mini and my bike. Since they both emit less than 99g of CO2, the annual cost is £0.00.
Martin West
Cobham, Surrey
SIR – In 2008, Bristol spent £22 million to encourage residents to ride bicycles. This money went to converting lanes on roads normally used by cars into cycle lanes. This was instead of cycles using acres of unused footpaths. Parts of the main A4 trunk route, as wide as any A road in the country, have been reduced to a single track road, but with a cycle lane as wide as a lorry.
Since 2008, the number of bike users has increased from 25,000 to around 33,000, which works out at nearly £3,000 per additional bike user. It’s no wonder the council cannot afford to mend any of the potholes in the city.
Geoff Gibbs
Bristol
SIR – I too cycle on the pavement (Letters, May 6). If a police officer attempts to issue me with an on-the-spot fine I will rely on guidance issued by Paul Boateng, the former home office minister: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other users.”
Penni Aron
East Molesey, Surrey

Irish Independent

In 2010 we were assured by all parties in the EU that Greece would not default – subsequently it did default as the debt burden was finally recognised as completely unsustainable.
The current Irish parallel is the personal-debt burden – it is completely unsustainable but we seem content to pretend otherwise. We are repeatedly being told by banks and politicians that a blanket debt writedown is not possible and that debt forgiveness will only be considered on a “case-by-case” basis.
Operating a case-by-case personal-insolvency model is very expensive and time-consuming. It serves to extend the duration of the crisis without reaching resolution.
Furthermore, the financial burden on households is set to significantly increase when interest rates return to more normal levels – whilst all the pressure on rates is downward at the moment, they will revert to more ‘normal’ levels over the coming years. We need to act now if we are to prevent a crisis becoming a catastrophe.
There is a simple solution. A structured blanket writedown, coupled with a change in the rules regarding the treatment of negative equity on residential sales, would reduce the cost of the debt overhang and would free up the residential property market.
The spin-off would be an increase in consumer spending as the debt writedown would reduce the monthly mortgage bill across hundreds of thousands of houses, literally, overnight.
The capital cost of this (€10-20bn) could be funded directly into the banks out of the ESM – indeed, as this would represent a ‘future’ and not a ‘legacy’ debt issue, we would likely get more support for this idea than for the current plan to have the ESM ‘over-pay’ for our bailed-out banks.
Solutions such as this are somewhat radical and require a willingness to take a risk. It’s time to bring some respite to households in Ireland and bring this credit crisis to a conclusion now rather let it drag on for a decade.
Brian Molloy
Ballinderreen, Co Galway
Irish Independent

Saul Bellow’s ‘Irish Huguenot’ Dean Albert Corde in ‘The Dean’s December’ muses: “We couldn’t ourselves observe the dulling of consciousness, since we were all its victims. The genius of these evils was their ability to create zones of incomprehension.” I’d suggest one of these zones of incomprehension in The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is its reference to the European Court of Human Rights’ Tysiac v Poland decision.
Commenting on Tysiac v Poland, Professor William Binchy noted on March 24, 2007, that the court’s “one-sided concern for protection of rights will surely have a chilling effect on doctors who might be disposed to decline to authorise an abortion”.
Another Dean, Jonathan Swift, has a well-known critique of lethal euphemisms. Did the drafters of the current modest proposal for the protection of life intend to dull our consciousness when they wrote, “the judgment in Tysiac v Poland is of particular relevance in setting out the detailed requirements envisaged by the court”?
Tysiac v Poland’s particular relevance for reducing protection of the unborn lies in its noting that “the legal prohibition on abortion, taken together with the risk of their incurring criminal responsibility under . . . the Criminal Code, can well have a chilling effect on doctors when deciding whether the requirements of legal abortion are met in an individual case.
“The provisions regulating the availability of lawful abortion should be formulated in such a way as to alleviate this effect. Once the legislature decides to allow abortion, it must not structure its legal framework in a way which would limit real possibilities to obtain it.”
Are those who drafted their modest proposal anticipating further appeals to the ECHR based on the logic of its Tysiac v Poland decision?
Dr Brendan Purcell
St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia
• The Catholic bishops have stated that the proposed legislation on abortion is morally unacceptable.
Would the bishops find it morally acceptable if the current Coalition simply sat on its hands and did nothing, as was the case with previous governments? That arrangement seemed to sit comfortably with churchmen and politicians alike.
It meant that officialdom could close its eyes to the reality on the ground, just as it did when young children cried for help in Catholic-run institutions – say nothing and hope it goes unnoticed. Politicians left it to the bishops to put their house in order and all would be well. But they didn’t – and it wasn’t!
Decent people are no longer prepared to look the other way, or sheepishly place their faith in the rhetoric of authority figures. Crisis pregnancies must be tackled head on, at home – not exported to England or anywhere else.
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 is restrictive in the extreme, but it does help address an ongoing ethical dilemma where it should be addressed – in parliament.
Niall Ginty
Killester, Dublin 5
• Despite all of the division amongst pro-life and pro-choice people, surely it can be agreed that many of those alive today would not be had the current bill been enacted as legislation prior to their birth.
Or as Ronald Reagan once said: “. . . I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”
Dr Damian O’Maonaigh
An Ghallbhuaile, An Clochan, Tir Chonaill

Michael Dryhurst (May, 8) has gone a little off the rails in his ‘model railway’ analysis of passenger transfers at the new Luas Cross City interchange. The arrangement, which is similar to many of the modern street-based, light-rail systems throughout the world, is that the passenger gets off one tram and gets on the other.
In this case the walk is about 150m between the O’Connell stop and the Abbey stop, and 100m between Abbey Street and Marlborough Street. Hardly too onerous.
In relation to his somewhat offhand comment about cost, I am happy to reassure him that the original Luas lines and the three extensions have all come in within budget.
I would suggest that 40 million passenger journeys is a pretty significant proportion of the population too.
Tom Manning
Railway Procurement Agency
Parkgate St, Dublin 8

I have just discovered US President Obama is really a Clareman, and that we are related through DNA. We are both distant cousins of the first human, Adam. Obama can be traced back to its original O’Bama. An old Druidic name from a tribe that populated The Burren just after the last ice age.
They inhabited the great dolmens scattered around the lunar landscape. They used the land bridge to walk the few thousand miles, as they migrated to the then New World of America.
Unfortunately, no birth records exist, as the dinosaurs ate them before the big bang wiped them out!
If Cousin O’Bama would like to pay a visit to the old ancestral home, I would be happy to share a pint of mead, as we watch the sunrise over The Great Dolmen located west of the Burren Atlantic View.
I would be proud to present him with an honorary Druidic Magic Wand, made from Hollywood, as a token of his links with the old sod.
Cousin Anthony Woods
Ennis, Co Clare

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