Still gardening

9 June 2013 Still Gardening

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear. There is a new Wren while Heather has gone away on leave. Heaver gave her five pages od description of Leslie boiling down to Lovable Nit. Meanwhile Pertwee and Fatso are also off on leave staying with Fatso’s mum Min. Priceless.
Another quiet day awfully tired get a little more gardening done book trip to Edinburgh.
We watch The Pallaisers The rise and rise of Mr Finn MP
Mary wins at scrabble but she gets under 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Jack Vance
Jack Vance, who has died aged 96, was a highly prolific and successful writer of pulp fiction during what fans later identified as the Golden Age of science fiction, and was described, by the New York Times magazine, as “one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices”.

5:03PM BST 05 Jun 2013
As with others who took their first steps in popular magazines devoted to “scientific romance” – from HP Lovecraft to Philip K Dick – not all of Vance’s prodigious output could serve as an exemplar of the finer points of literary style, nor even of basic competence in plotting; and since he regarded himself above all as a jobbing writer satisfying an audience, he never claimed more.
In fact, Vance was a much more capable artist than most of his contemporaries, and had an enormous influence, particularly in the nebulous area where science fiction and fantasy collide. The “Dying Earth” sequence, which began with a short story in 1950 and expanded into a huge series in which technology collapses as the Sun dies and magic becomes more significant, blurred the lines between the two, while attracting adherents of both traditions.
He was arguably the first post-war writer to rival HG Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs in influence; notable authors inspired by his work include Ursula K Le Guin, Michael Moorcock and George RR Martin. The last, whose series A Song of Ice and Fire (currently being televised as Game of Thrones) owes an obvious debt to Vance’s synthesis of science fictional world-building and sword-and-sorcery romance, said: “Dying Earth ranks with [Robert E] Howard’s Hyborian Age and Tolkien’s Middle-Earth as one of the all-time great fantasy settings.”
John Holbrook Vance was born on August 28 1916 in San Francisco, the middle child of five in a well-to-do family. But his father decamped to Mexico when his son was about five, and the family was taken in by Jack’s maternal grandfather, who had a ranch near Oakley, on the delta of the Sacramento River.
In his memoirs, published in 2009, Vance wondered if this rural exile had been “a licence to be taught to read”. If it had, he took full advantage, becoming especially devoted to the work of Jeffrey Farnol, whose baroque style had an influence on Vance’s own prose. He also developed an obsession with Dixieland jazz, and later took up the ukulele and harmonica with great enthusiasm.
But while he was at junior college his grandfather died, and Jack was obliged to take a series of jobs, first as a bellhop and then working at a cannery and operating a gold dredge (the huge machines which sifted silt from small particles of gold).
He eventually returned to university, at Berkeley, but found it hard to settle, studying Mining Engineering, Physics, English Literature and journalism before leaving to enrol in the US Navy. He quit his job as an electrician at Pearl Harbor a month before the Japanese attack on the base, and graduated in 1942.
Vance’s poor eyesight meant that he was ineligible for active service, but, after abortive spells as a rigger in shipyards and vainly trying to learn Japanese for the OSS, he memorised an optician’s chart and found employment in the Merchant Navy, where he was twice torpedoed, and wrote his first story, published by Thrilling Wonder Stories.
After the war he married Norma Ingold and began submitting work to pulp magazines. For several years (as John Holbrook) he concentrated on mystery stories, and was eventually commissioned to write three serials under the portmanteau pseudonym Ellery Queen. But he also produced stories featuring Magnus Ridolph, an interstellar adventurer , which produced his first lucrative sale when they were optioned by Twentieth Century Fox. The studio also took him on as a scriptwriter for the Captain Video television series.
For much of the 1950s and 1960s, Vance ploughed away for the pulp market without significant recognition . But when his stories set on a far-future Earth, in which science has been replaced by magic, were brought together in (often garishly illustrated) book form, he began to win an audience for his brand of science fantasy.
The Dying Earth (1950) was followed by several other books set in the same universe and featuring Cugel the Clever, including The Eyes of the Overworld (1966), Morreion (1979), Cugel’s Saga (1983) and Rhialto the Marvellous (1984). They influenced not only the blend of science fiction and fantasy produced by authors such as Moorcock and Gene Wolfe, but also the structure of the Dungeons and Dragons games.
Vance also produced, in Big Planet (first published in the 1950s, but in book form in 1978) what the critic John Clute has described as a distinct model for “planetary romance”, in which the appeal rested on world-building and a sophisticated approach.
He won three Hugo awards; the first for his short novel The Dragon Masters (1963) and the last for his memoir This is Me, Jack Vance! (or More Properly, This is “I”) (2009). The Last Castle (1966) managed the rare trick of also winning the Nebula Award. He received a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 1984 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.
His wife, whom he always credited as a major contributor to his work, died in 2008.
Jack Vance, born August 28 1916, died May 26 2013


Your story showing the rise of the super-rich, while those on low and middle incomes see their living standards squeezed, was a powerful reminder of the growth of economic inequality in the UK (“Super-rich on rise as number of £1m-plus earners doubles”, News).
I would question the use of the phrase: “18,000 people now earn at least £1m”. Words such as “earn” and “earners” suggest that these incomes are deserved. Numerous polls tell us that most people think the average full-time worker is worth rather more than 2.6% (£26,000) of someone paid £1m; that such a gap is far beyond what would reasonably reflect differences in effort and talent. The Observer has shown great leadership in highlighting the damaging effects of economic inequality. Can I suggest it takes a similar lead on the language of inequality? The UK has some of the starkest pay gaps in the developed world and we should not talk in a way that suggests this situation reflects “due deserts”.
Duncan Exley
Director, Equality Trust
London SE1
EU not the fishermen’s friend
Will Hutton is right that it’s surprising the EU fisheries deal wasn’t more widely reported (“At last, a deal is done on fishing – proof the European project works”, Comment). However, he is too kind to the EU.
The EU created the overfishing crisis by subsidising the Spanish and Portuguese “fishing factories”. Also, the deal applies only to European waters. The EU has used its economic power to force governments in Africa and Asia to give European fishing fleets access to their coastal waters, destroying the livelihoods of fishermen and the food supplies of coastal peoples. Britain, by its contribution to the EU budget, is forced to subsidise this looting of developing countries’ vital resources.
John Wilson
London NW3
Transsexual and proud
Congratulations for giving a serious voice to a transsexual who so eloquently has highlighted the difficulties all trans people face and the fact that some parts of society are accepting and can be very supportive (“If the RAF can accept my gender transition, why can’t the media?”, Focus). At long last, we are being able to put out the message that we wish only to be judged by the kind of person we are and not by outward appearances, to have respect and live as full participants in our communities.
I am a 77-year-old-male cross-dresser who came out two years ago and moved to my new home in Birmingham last August. The support, acceptance and kindness shown to me have been very moving. I have been very open and always willing to discuss my situation with people in order to widen public perceptions. Sadly, there is still a great deal of bigotry. Much more needs to be done to bring more employers to the admirable position of the RAF.
David Hawley
Germany is not a paradise
Although your article on Germany was well written and accurate, it failed to mention some of the serious problems there (“So how did Germany become the new champion of Europe?” Focus).
One in eight Germans is living in poverty and one in six is threatened by poverty, according to a recent government study. For the first time, Germans are talking of an underclass. There is no minimum wage in Germany. There are serious problems in the education system. Violence in big cities has become a serious problem. Care for the elderly has come in for severe criticism. Some banks are in difficulty because of irresponsible lending to Greece and Spain.
Germany is a good country in which to live but is not without its problems.
Eddie Ross
It’s all just a load of ballots
You quote “Westminster’s lack of efficacy and accountability” and “democratic drift” in your leading article (“Party politics needs mending – and quickly”, editorial). Surely, better than the “direct democracy”, which you also cite, would be a proper electoral system. The reason why most people don’t go to the polls is that their vote will have no bearing on the outcome. Meanwhile, politicians conduct a cynical game masquerading as a democratic election. It is to the credit of our population that they treat this process with the contempt it deserves.
Anthony Cosgrave
Totnes, Devon
Play fair? I’ll just take Mayfair
As an NHS psychotherapist, I can see the rationale for Barbara Ellen’s fears about families playing Monopoly in strict accordance with the rules (“A game changer? Well, I wouldn’t put money on it”). However, as a highly competitive game-player – notoriously so among family and friends – and a communist and feminist politically, I recall no greater joy than thrashing my siblings in day-long sessions of Monopoly during school holidays. This despite long-held anti-capitalist sentiments formed during teenage years of revolutionary consciousness.
Rachel Strange

To place Andy Burnham and his Labour crew back in charge of the NHS would be akin to appointing Tony Blair peace envoy to Iraq (“A&E crisis leads to surge in cancelled operations”, News).
Labour took hundreds of millions of pounds that should have been used for fortifying our health services and stuffed it into the pockets of what are now the richest doctors in Europe. Not surprisingly, a lot of them preferred to work a lot less while still being well paid and the out-of-hours service (in many hospitals as well as GPs) became a sick joke.
The last Labour government removed any semblance of responsibility for NHS coalface achievement from government by creating a gross pretence of “local accountability” through trust boards that were neither local nor accountable. It was Labour that destroyed the country’s community health council network. They replaced this with a “care quality commission” that was so under-resourced and poorly managed that it could do its own job with neither care nor quality.
It was Labour that wasted billions on private finance initiatives within the NHS while at the same time forcing NHS trusts to privatise a percentage of their work, even when, in some cases, no patients were treated at all.
Tony Dawson
As a GP, I often hear complaints from my patients that their surgery has been postponed. Secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt already has found someone to blame: it must be the GP who is no longer available 24/7. Quite unimaginative, and absolutely untouched by any knowledge of the workings of the NHS and medical practice. I would like to put a few questions to Mr Hunt.
If a human being is so ill that he or she needs to be admitted to hospital urgently, how can the GP act any differently from the casualty officer? On the contrary, in A&E there is the possibility of a few basic tests to determine whether the patient is really as ill as it seems, an option not open to a GP, neither in the surgery nor on a home visit.
If a patient is sent to a ward, then that is probably because the medical officer saw this as the appropriate thing to do. If a patient is sent inappropriately to a ward, why would he or she have to stay? Perhaps it is because this person cannot just be sent home either? And if patients stay in hospital because there is nowhere else for them to go, what does Mr Hunt intend to do about that?
Could it be the cuts in funding for social care that lead to a number of people being sent to hospital because they cannot stay at home safely? Could it be the targets that demand that anyone attending A&E has to be either admitted to a ward or sent home within four hours that are responsible for an increase in admissions? Could it be the relentless pressure on GPs not to refer patients to a specialist in order to save money that has led to an increase in patients reaching a crisis where emergency admission is the only course of action left?
Mr Hunt may argue that these problems stem from policies brought in by the previous government, and he would have a valid point. But his party has been in power for three years and that excuse is wearing very thin.
Michael Meinen
Newcastle upon Tyne
I was struck by how Jeremy Hunt has accused Labour of causing the crisis by “allowing GPs to opt out of offering out-of-hours care”. Previously, he had “blamed doctors’ contracts … allowing GPs to opt out of offering out-of-hours services”.
I suppose it is easier to get away with blaming a previous government than the GPs themselves. Still, I look forward to a decade or so hence when a future education secretary blames the current government for “allowing” schools to become academies. I wonder, will headteachers be blamed first?
Ingrid Warren



It is all very well for John Rentoul to state that “Miliband dare not duck an EU referendum” (2 June), but there are palpable reasons why all serious parties should oppose one. In the midst of the politicking, no one appears to focus on the evident truth that no referendum ever answers the question put.
More than anything the voters are influenced by their current view of the government in office. The narrow loss of the May 2005 referendum in France was shown to be down to the low standing of the Chirac government, rather than to a rejection of the European constitution.
Voters always say they want a referendum but they do not vote in them. Every British referendum has had a lower turnout than at the corresponding general election. The risk is the further undermining of parliamentary democracy. It is salutary that Hitler held no election after coming into office in 1933 but governed by plebiscite.
Michael Meadowcroft
Why do we need lobbyists at all? (“Lobbying scandal grows as peers are snared”, 2 June). Their very existence suggests that, for money, they can open doors to the corridors of power that are closed to the ordinary citizen.
But any individual or organisation has access to Parliament. They can write to their MP or attend their surgery, and they can also write to the appropriate minister or secretary of state to present their case.
Malcolm Morrison
Swindon, Wiltshire
A register of lobbyists is not nearly enough for the arms trade. Given the financing of relentless lobbying by obscenely wealthy arms makers, there must be a register of every meeting between cabinet ministers and arms lobbyists. And the Government must commit to the same number of meetings with representatives of the millions of citizens who object to their wealth being spent supporting the merchants of death. Vince Cable should be held to account for the appalling bias of his exports department.
Jim McCluskey
Twickenham, Middlesex
Several years ago I persuaded my husband not to cut the lawn until the end of July (“Let our verges run wild”, 2 June). Now, beginning with snowdrops, our glorious garden progresses through exquisite, ghostly crocii, daffodils, fritillaries, primroses, cowslips, bluebells, speedwells, forget-me-nots, violets, viper’s bugloss, common daisies and sun-gold dandelions to, last week, a riot of buttercups, ragged robin, fraises des bois and ox-eye daisies. The ragwort (with its cinnabar moth caterpillars) will surely follow. As will delicious, tiny strawberries. All of you who think nothing beats a tidy lawn, consider what you’re missing!
Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Alan Mitcham blames “farming practices” for the loss of habitat, but it is overpopulation that is at fault and the resulting increase in cars on the road (Letters, 2 June). To those who want the right to have more and more children, I say, what about my right to walk in the countryside, and what about the rights of tigers and polar bears to have a home?
Sue Crossley
Via email
The Vatican has collected so many artefacts and paintings over the centuries, and it is still willing to pay vast sums for contemporary art (“Vatican to pour millions into new churches”, 2 June). This is exactly how the Catholic Church lost its way; it became a financial institution instead of a religious one. Spirituality has nothing to do with fancy cathedrals and financial wealth, and, if he did exist, Jesus was perfectly clear on that.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Earlier this year, Didcot power station, which covered 300 acres, and provided power for two million homes, was closed (“Clean power is good…”, 2 June). What acreage would be required for a wind farm of similar output? Is there any way excess output can be stored, ready for when there is no wind, or demand is high? Or should we stop wasting money on green-lobby ideas and put it into nuclear power? Sixty years ago, we were leaders in this technology; now we are a long way behind and will have to buy it in.
Adam Abbott
Swindon, Wiltshire


‘Mystery shopper’ could catch out slippery lords
IT IS strange to think that any person who has been elected to parliament or elevated to the House of Lords would, knowing that they were being “set up” and make claims that could expose them and our politicians to further ridicule (“Cash for access: Lords exposed”, “‘Getting to see ministers is part of the package’”, News, and “High time to clean up the House of Lords”, Editorial, last week)?
Rather than whips emailing their MPs and peers to warn them to be careful and not get caught, should not the whips’ office (or indeed the parliamentary commissioner for standards) conduct a programme of mystery shopping to identify, expose and weed out all such politicians from public life?
Alistair Nicoll, Sheffield

Clean-up needed
The Sunday Times has achieved quite a feat of investigative journalism, but there is a case for a further clean-up of the whole parliament, not just of the House of Lords, since in the past week we have had a Conservative MP who has resigned the party whip.
Dr Nigel Paterson, Southampton

Councils are better run
It is apposite to compare the standards regime for lords and MPs with the far stricter and more transparent regime in local government. Councillors cannot lobby for any organisation from which they receive money, and have to declare an interest and withdraw from discussions relating to such an organisation.
This may be a reason why there is far less slipperiness in the local authority world. Unfortunately this regime (while still far stricter than the one in parliament) has been seriously weakened by Eric Pickles’s emasculation of the external standards regime.
George Krawiec, North Thoresby, Lincolnshire

Too many peers
The many attempts to reform the House of Lords have been unsuccessful and most of  those who play an active role are still placemen and women who are affiliated to one or other of the main political parties. The rest appear to  use their membership simply to enjoy the privileges it  gives them.
Membership should be reduced by natural wastage and no new entrants allowed until the number is halved. Eventually all members should be independents, unaffiliated and free from a party whip to vote as they wish on every issue. They should retire at 70.
Kenneth Wood, Exeter, Devon

Little effort required
The sickening reality is, these individuals are very well off. Added to that, they get paid a substantial tax-free allowance for merely attending.
Without a constituency to worry about, very little effort is required of them. The only word to describe this practice is greed. 
Edward O’Brien, Coaley, Gloucestershire

Once bitten, not shy
A sting operation is not incitement. It seems to be the only way the public will ever get to know what’s going on. The really staggering thing is that after previous exposés reporters can still catch the lords this way. This shows it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
David Edwards, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Lessons not learnt
Was nothing learnt from the MPs’ expenses scandal? In the meantime, we need a free press to keep all politicians in check.
Melissa Roy London
A bit rich
It is not as though the lords are short of a bob or two, as most have huge pensions from one or several sources as well as their £300 tax-free daily allowance. 
Sky Rivers, Ewell , Surrey

Carole Middleton is a hard-working, loving mother — why knock her?
I AM no fan of the Middletons, the royals or any form of “Berkshire merc” but is it necessary to be so unpleasant (“HRM — Her Royal Middletonness”, Magazine, last week)?
What did Carole Middleton do? She climbed a social ladder, developed a successful business and raised a family within an emotionally stable environment; she wears a particular uniform of clothes, chooses to be discreet about her daughter’s relationship and does not flirt with the media. Hardly a crime.
Catherine Walker, Milton Keynes

Bright and shrewd
Carole Middleton appears to be a perfectly pleasant woman who is bright enough and sufficiently shrewd to have amassed a great deal of money through business endeavours. She is not royal, so why describe her grandmother as  “a fallen woman” and  mention that she comes from a long line of consumptives and cannon fodder (that is assuming that being either consumptive or cannon fodder is something of which she and her relatives should be ashamed)?
Lindsey Scudder, Watford

Missed opportunity
I am not a fervent royalist but I have great respect for our Queen and was disappointed by the front cover of the magazine on the very day that commemorates the coronation. I love Camilla Long’s incisive writing and regard Carole Middleton as someone who has conducted herself extraordinarily well through difficult times.
Jane Sacks, Rossendale, Lancashire

Queasy reading
Long’s piece struck such a fine balance between rank snobbery and even ranker bitchery that I had to lie down in a darkened room. It was a queasy start to an unusually sunny Sunday.
Emily Fergus, London SW10

Happy families
What happened to the British sense of fair play? The Windsors are blessed to be associated with the Middletons.
Angela Keane, Bushey, Hertfordshire

Tin ear
Many readers are not public school educated. To write an article in your usually top-class magazine on how horrendous Middleton is because of her non-silver-spoon upbringing will do nothing to increase your readership.
Caroline Williams, Cardiff

American dream
In America Carole Middleton would be applauded. 
Katharine Horrocks, Towersey, Oxfordshire

Class action
Leave the woman alone and stop being so classist. Carole too common, Dave too posh — can no one get it right?
Sally England, London W8

Great expectations
I expect so much more of my favourite newspaper.
Diane Mckenzie, By email

Hard work? You can bank on it
Sir Mervyn King says that working as a supply teacher was “the most exhausting job I have ever done in my life” and that he had to lie down when he returned home at five o’clock “to recover from the exertions” (“Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, run the Bank of England”, News, last week).
Had he been a full-time teacher, he would also have had to allow for meetings before and after school, marking and lesson preparation on weekday evenings and at the weekend, completion of time-consuming records and the nerve-racking experience of periodic Ofsted inspections. King will no doubt counsel those fallen bankers who have evinced a desire to relocate into teaching that this is no easy option.
Barry Borman, Edgware, northwest London

For King and country
King was lucky that national service ended five years previously, as he would have found out what exertions really were, with no opportunity for an hour’s sleep to recover either.
John Henesy, Maidenhead, Berkshire

Children’s diets lack vital minerals
I AGREE with many of the issues raised by Camilla Cavendish (“Ban the addictive sugars and fats. Not the poor shopkeepers”, Comment, last week) but surely a causative factor in rising levels of teen obesity and a host of other illnesses is that our kids are suffering deficiencies in key minerals that regulate blood sugar, metabolism and reduce cravings for sweets and fats.
They also suffer from a deficiency of essential fatty acids, which stop cravings for sweets and help provide healthy fats to give energy and support healthy weight management.
The key is surely some sort of basic parental education coupled with a return to the simple, fresh, wholesome diet of our great-grandparents.
James McDonald, Southampton

Chips, lard and lots of exercise
Cavendish made only a passing reference to the benefits of exercise. In the 1940s and 1950s I started each day with porridge and a generous dollop of condensed milk. My diet consisted mainly of bread, butter and jam and chips, which my mother cooked in lard. At 17 I weighed 9st 7lb without an ounce of fat on me because I burnt off the calories chasing balls around football pitches, cricket fields and table tennis tables. By contrast, for the past 30 years, local authorities, egged on by the loons of political correctness and the “all must have prizes” brigade, have sold off thousands of playing fields. 
Tony Hubble, Burntwood, Staffordshire

Oh, sugar
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and advised to avoid foods with added sugar. My glucose readings went very high after just two slices of wholemeal bread from a leading company. Politicians seem to be reluctant to put pressure on the food industry.
Philip G Bell, Redbourn, Hertfordshire

Fowl taste
I tried to buy some cooked chicken from an upmarket food chain recently and found every packet had sugar added, for “taste purposes”.  We wouldn’t add sugar to chicken at home.
Lee Adley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

A year to remember
Reading “1953 and all that” (Focus, last week) brought back the happiest of memories. At the age of 10, after undergoing two successful brain operations, I was discharged on May 30. Everest had been conquered, the Queen was about to be crowned, the flags fluttered and the lemonade flowed, all for the Queen and for me. Shame they don’t make years like that any more.
Alan Millard, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

Road cull
A great deal of taxpayers’ money can be saved by not bothering to kill badgers (“We will brock you”, News, last week). Judging by the vast numbers dead by the roadsides in mid-Wales, badgers here are self-culling.
VA Curtis, Llanymawddwy, Powys

It’s a goldmine
Just so I’m clear about your article “Now that’s what I call a palace” (News, last week), the Newbolds buy a house in 1999 for £1.5m, a ridiculously small sum relative to the size of the property because it is in serious need of restoration. They then sue the Coal Authority, ie, us taxpayers, for the money to restore the house. If successful they will turn it into a hotel, spa and conference centre, a privately owned business worth many times their investment. It would seem Prince Charles is of the opinion that in these times of austerity this is a good use of public money and is once again lobbying ministers. Are the Newbolds laughing (at us) all the way to the bank?
John Atkins, Chelmsford, Essex

Face cream
You report the impending demise of the cupcake (“Crumbs! Icing’s on the wall for cupcake craze”, News, last week). Has anybody solved the problem of biting into one without taking a cream and icing bath from chin to hairline?
Becky Goldsmith, London SW11

Artful dodgers
I was dragged to galleries as a child and was bored silly, particularly when I had to queue for hours to see the Mona Lisa (“The kids are all right”, Culture, last week). Most children don’t want to be in the gallery, stand still and talk quietly. I have had numerous visits to galleries disturbed by kids running up and down or babies screaming. Children who are interested in art deserve to be there, but they are the exception. If it were up to me, galleries would have set times where they welcomed children under 12. 
Marcia MacLeod, London NW6

Home truths
Harriet Sergeant (“Couldn’t care less”, Focus, May 19) highlighted the challenges of children’s homes but offered no way forward for those children who cannot live at home and who cannot be fostered or adopted — either because of the shortage of people to take on this task, or the complexities of their needs. The homes are too often staffed by people who have limited or no qualifications. Adopters and foster carers who are willing to take these young people into their homes are few and far between. Residential care is here to stay — we need to make it better by investing in the staff. 
Bridget Robb, The British Association of Social Workers

Corrections and clarifications
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Matt Bellamy, Muse front man, 35; Tony Britton, actor, 89; Patricia Cornwell, crime writer, 57; Johnny Depp, actor, 50; Michael J Fox, actor, 52; David Koepp, screenwriter, 50; Iain Lee, comedian, 40; Natalie Portman, actress, 32; Charles Saatchi, advertising executive and art collector, 70; Steve Smith Eccles, jockey, 58; Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter, 52; Charles Webb, author of The Graduate, 74

1549 first Book of Common Prayer comes into use; 1781 birth of George Stephenson, railway engineer; 1870 Charles Dickens dies; 1873 original Alexandra Palace burns to the ground 16 days after opening in north London; 1891 birth of Cole Porter, songwriter; 1934 screen debut of Donald Duck; 1958 the Queen opens revamped Gatwick airport; 1983 Margaret Thatcher wins second general election

SIR – On Tuesday I watched Town on BBC2, which featured the large town of Huddersfield in Yorkshire. There was extensive coverage of the town’s football and rugby clubs and also generous mentions for Harold Wilson and why Sir Patrick Stewart returned to his roots after spending well over a decade in America.
There was, however, absolutely no mention at all of one of this country’s greatest film stars, James Mason. Surely, Huddersfield hasn’t forgotten its acting gem, even if the BBC and Nicholas Crane have?
Frederick Reuben Parr
Tyldesley, Lancashire

SIR – As a GP with a family who has worked in the NHS for the past 35 years, I was shocked to read the comments of Anna Soubry, the public health minister, on women doctors (“Female doctors with children strain the NHS, agrees minister”, report, June 6).
I, like many of my colleagues, have dedicated my life to serving my patients, often facing obstruction from successive governments. To have an MP describing female doctors as a “burden” and seeing her comments acknowledged by a minister as “important” is not just insulting, but a display of sexism that is simply not acceptable in this day and age.
What does Anna Soubry propose to do about this “burden”? Prevent women from becoming doctors?
To blame the problems of the NHS on women doctors is simply fantasy and the minister should know better than even to entertain this.
Dr Sharon Bennett
London N5
Related Articles
Has Huddersfield forgotten its great acting gem?
08 Jun 2013
SIR – The response by Dr Clare Gerada, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), and others to Anna Soubry’s comments are as predictable as they are misconceived.
If it costs £100 to train a doctor and he (or she) moves to 50 per cent part time, another doctor needs to be trained, at the cost of a further £100, to work for the other 50 per cent of the time.
Presumably there are continual training costs which need to be borne by each part-time doctor, which would only need to be borne by one full-timer.
Part-time working is fundamentally inefficient, not only in the health service but in any industry where there is a high cost of training and compliance. It’s not very complicated.
It is disappointing that someone as supposedly well-educated as the chairman of the RCGP doesn’t appear to understand these fairly simple economic facts of life.
Paul Goodson
Plaxtol, Kent
SIR – GPs account for one third of the total medical workforce, but undertake more than 90 per cent of all consultations. Looking at my practice’s data, the number of consultations has doubled in the past five years, with an average rate of 66 patients per day per doctor.
If I work only 10 hours a day, I would have nine minutes to see a patient, although I would have to find time within that to use the lavatory, eat and drive between housebound patients.
I would also need to find time for the growing administration relating to patients’ clinical conditions, the local GP consortium, the Department of Health, the Department for Works and Pensions, and the Care Quality Commission.
I do not believe that my practice is an exception, which suggests that many GP practices are endeavouring to provide a service under difficult conditions.
Dr Philip Morgan
Charities’ rights
SIR – Your leading article (“Politicising charity”, June 5) attacks a fundamental pillar of British democracy.
Political campaigning by charitable organisations has been a force for good in our country for centuries, from the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’s petition to parliament in 1787, to the establishment of societies for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals in the Victorian era.
Political advocacy by charities arose from the desire of like-minded people to do all they can for the beneficiaries, communities and causes to which they dedicate themselves. There can be no justification for restricting this ability.
Any restriction on charities’ right to campaign would represent an assault on the principle of freedom of speech. It would also reduce the level of political representation of many vulnerable and under-represented groups in society.
Last but not least, it would undermine one of the fundamental freedoms of British political life: the right of ordinary people to join together in order to seek political change for the public good.
Sir Stephen Bubb
CEO, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
London N1
SIR – The vast majority of charities are run at a local level by unpaid trustees (or directors in the case of charitable companies).
I cannot understand how large charities are allowed to function effectively as businesses, paying their executives generous salaries and employing other firms to encourage people to donate, while enjoying charitable tax advantages.
Why should the hard-pressed taxpayer be expected to fund these expensively run “charities”? It is hardly surprising that such fortunate businesses may lose sight of what charity means.
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
Cameron on Syria
SIR – Peter Oborne (“Can Cameron explain why he has put us on al-Qaeda’s side?”, Comment, June 6) writes with clarity and sense about the international alignment over the tragedy in Syria and David Cameron’s strange utterances on the matter.
They are indeed a reminder of the simplistic parroting that we heard in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. If, next, we hear a well-rehearsed chorus of Cabinet ministers speaking daily about our “moral and humanitarian duty to intervene”, we may assume that Mr Cameron has crossed the line into Blairyland.
Mr Oborne knows, I imagine, that the real-world answer to his question is “yes”, and the reasons he would be given are the old ones of oil, arms, financial power and “traditional links” that together make up the West’s “regional interests”.
This is not a position from which we can expect to bring hope to Syrians or the wider region.
Patrick Staines
Evesham, Worcestershire
Tooth-combing Everest
SIR – Before the conquest of Everest I ran the army dental centre at the Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow.
Colonel John Hunt was also stationed there and before their departure he brought several of his expedition team to me for exceptionally close check-ups to avoid high-altitude toothache.
Later I always proudly regarded myself as one of the “conquerors”.
Dr Hans L Eirew
Drink driving
SIR – In 2011, David Cameron commendably vowed to “tackle the menace of drug-drivers”, referring to illegal substances. He should note that only one drug causes 10,000 road casualties a year in Britain: alcohol.
By Christmas, Wetherspoons will be serving pints at motorway services (“Next exit for motorway services and pubs”, Business, June 4), in a taste of things to come as the Government seeks to erode licensing regulations on the country’s favourite legal drug.
Deep within the Government’s own impact assessment for allowing motorway sales is mention of a 2008 Highways Agency study which found that more drivers in motorway accidents were over the limit when nearby services serve alcohol. Reasons for the new policy draw “no clear conclusions” from this and focus instead on the foretold £2.4 million a year in increased profits.
Scientists see inconclusive evidence as a sign to stop and collect more, not as a green light to speed on past while drink-driving leaves approximately five lifeless bodies a week on our highways.
Professor David Nutt
Chairman, Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs
London SW8
Servicemen teachers
SIR – A similar scheme post-1945 to that proposed for ex-servicemen (“Fast track into teaching for ex-members of Armed Forces”, report, June 7) saw disciplined, enthusiastic and fit young men making a magnificent contribution not just to the classroom, but to the sporting life of primary and secondary schools country-wide.
With more thought, the Government could use today’s equivalent to work in conjunction with the Forestry Commission, National Parks and councils in schemes to get young unemployed people into the countryside, in order to work for their benefits in projects of value to the national environment.
Cmdr Alan York, RN (retd)
Man in the mirror
SIR – I am 67 going on 68 and spend most of my week in jeans, and I care not what I look like. If it is painful for others to observe me then they can do what I do when I pass a mirror – avert one’s gaze.
Colin Wilkinson
Aughton, Lancashire
The production systems of pick-your-own farms
SIR – I find it incredible that Victoria Moore (Features, June 4) can consider that it was ever permissible for pick-your-own customers to “eat their body weight in berries before taking a couple of punnets to be weighed at the cash desk”.
Eating without paying is surely stealing and an insult to the many hard-working fruit growers whom I have had the privilege of helping during my 35 years as an independent horticultural consultant.
These growers have invested considerable time and capital in modern production methods – being the innovators of table-top systems to ease picking, and quick to adopt a range of new varieties to provide customers with high-quality fruit.
To lose this fruit to a minority who fill themselves with free strawberries must be demoralising and heartbreaking.
George Ellis
Pershore, Worcestershire
SIR – The presumption that pick-your-own farms (PYOs) are not using the most up-to-date varieties of fruit and production methods is both misleading and inaccurate.
PYOs often offer the most modern varieties alongside some of the older and more distinctive ones. I speak from my own experience in running a PYO. Our priority in the production method is flavour, unlike the producers in your article whose primary concern is shelf life.
A lot of this is achieved through the nutrients we feed the plants. Calcium helps firm the fruit, whereas potassium enhances the flavour. On a PYO production system, we feed considerably less calcium and more potassium, thus focusing on flavour and not a firm, crunchy fruit.
Matthew Grindal
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I graduated from the National University of Ireland in 1973, which entitled me to a vote in Seanad elections. I have never exercised that entitlement because I never believed senators should be elected by a privileged minority who were given votes because of schooling or political position.
How anyone can argue for the retention of an elitist, undemocratic institution is beyond me.
If the Seanad is to be retained – and I don’t believe it should be – let everyone who is on the electoral register have a vote and let Seanad elections be held on the same day as Dáil elections, thus putting an end to the practice of using it as a step up to or down from the Dáil. – Yours, etc,
Muine Bheag, Co Carlow.
Sir, – In opening his campaign to kill off An Seanad, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny demagogically proclaims that “Ireland simply has too many politicians for its size”, that we must “question the very relevance of a second chamber”, and that modern Ireland cannot be governed effectively by “a political system originally designed for 19th century Britain”.
Eighty years ago the Blueshirt duce Eoin O’Duffy called for “changes in the parliamentary system which will bring the constitution of the State into closer harmony with national needs” (July 20th, 1933). A year later, on July 4th, 1934, that same first president of Fine Gael demanded to know: “What country in the world today had stood by the parliamentary system? Not one country except John Bull. It is gone all over Europe. ”
Unlike his predecessor as Fine Gael Party Leader, Eoin O’Duffy, or his predecessor as taoiseach, John A Costello, we should take comfort in the fact that Enda Kenny has never been a fascist, that it is only one parliamentary chamber he proposes to kill off, and that when history tends to repeat itself, it is usually as farce. But, with all the deep-rooted problems facing Ireland at the moment, should not the electorate treat this Fine Gael circus of constitutional convulsion with the contempt it deserves – as a distracting, self-indulgent farce which we should not be asked to stomach? – Yours, etc,
Finglas Road, Dublin 11.
Sir, – Should the Seanad be abolished? No need. Much TV footage of the Dáil proceedings shows many empty seats – could they not all sit together? – Yours, etc,
Merrion Court,

) sought to morally exculpate the SDLP from his party’s calculated decision this week to rubber-stamp the passage of anti-Agreement unionist Jim Allister’s Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill through the North’s power-sharing Assembly.
The Irish Times Editorial (June 5th) was accurate in observing that the SDLP have done themselves, and the 1998 Belfast Agreement, significant damage.
Mr Allister’s Bill is an affront to the agreement, to its essence, its values, its terms, its conditions and, not least, its ground-breaking equality and human rights agenda under constitutional and public international law.
It is a matter of historical record that when the conflict erupted in August 1969, shortly before they founded the SDLP, senior nationalist politicians like Paddy O’Hanlon and Paddy Devlin came to Dublin pleading publicly and privately for weapons to defend their community against wholesale pogroms by unionist mobs and state forces.
By its actions this week, the SDLP has now hypocritically singled out for immediate redundancy a political ex-prisoner currently employed as special adviser to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who, as a teenager, had personally suffered those very pogroms on his own streets in west Belfast before becoming involved in the armed conflict raging around him.
It is also a matter of record that, throughout the past 15 years since the agreement, republicans and political ex-prisoners have repeatedly served as special advisers to executive ministers – including when Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan were respectively the deputy first minister.
Only now, at Mr Allister’s behest, has the SDLP leadership suddenly decided to support an exclusion agenda despite facing significant internal opposition in its own Assembly group.
The reality is that Mr McDevitt could have made a difference this week by taking a stand for human rights and the agreement, and voting for equality and inclusion through signing a Sinn Féin Petition of Concern. This petition would simply have ensured the agreement’s power-sharing voting mechanism was triggered, taking weighted account of cross-community opinion. That is the essence of power-sharing which the SDLP has now thrown on the scrap-heap.
Instead, on this occasion, the SDLP tried to cynically damage Sinn Féin by disgracefully abusing the rights and needs of selective victims, and by introducing a new “pecking order” of supposed deserving and less-deserving victims.
Yet, in so doing, the SDLP has merely ensured that political ex-prisoners will face even greater institutionalised exclusion and discrimination than at any stage since the agreement.
It is to the SDLP’s shame, and long-term detriment, that not one MLA had the courage to support the basic checks and balances of the agreement in order to protect its long-term values of inclusion and equality. – Is mise,

Sir, – In the sunny Leaving Cert days it is heartwarming to see the benefits of the Irish educational system. Where once we had brain-dead, self-consumed graffiti vandals (whose best efforts might possibly rise to “Pozzer is a woz” on several flyovers), we now have individuals who can actually spell the words “supremacy”, “destruction” and “indigenous” and spray them on the walls of a derelict rogue-bank property (Home News, June 6th). They might even spell “xenophobia”, I imagine, before realising that “accommodation” is a better term.
Whatever these spoilers of morals and walls hope to achieve, I don’t think it will be a question of “Banksy, eat your heart out”. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Carol Coulter’s article (Opinion, June 7th), while rightly calling for the need for minimum standards for anyone providing care to children or older people, displays a serious misunderstanding of the regulatory issues affecting the private providers of health care by blaming the motivation of providers. Regulation is needed for all providers of care be it HSE, not-for-profit or for-profit providers.
Poor care is not caused by the profit motivation or otherwise of providers, but rather by poor management, training and lack of oversight. In the home care sector, this week Pamela Duncan highlighted in this paper (June 4th & 5th) the impact of the lack of inspections in 80 complaints made about the HSE’s home help service in 2012. Home help provision is provided entirely by the HSE, or HSE-funded non-for-profit organisations. The private sector is not eligible to tender for home help care provision.
An exposé by Prime Time in November 2010 found poor practices in the delivery of care. Half the programme was dedicated to a not-for-profit provider, based out of a HSE health centre. A follow-up Prime Time programme in April 2012, focused on two not-for-profit care providers. A recent Home and Community Care Ireland report highlighted that nearly one third of the HSE budget spent on not-for-profit providers is compromised by some form of investigation into the providers.
It is clear that in the Irish home care sector the profit motivation or otherwise of providers is not a determinant of whether issues exist with the provision of care.
Home and Community Care Ireland, an association of private providers, was the first to call for regulation of home care in 2006. Standards enshrined in legislation are needed, and the supervision of these standards should be done independently by a body such as Hiqa. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I note the recent statement from the bishops of 11 countries, including those of Ireland, urging the G8 leaders to clamp down on tax avoidance, stating in uncharacteristically clear terms that “It is a moral obligation for citizens to pay their fair share of taxes for the common good”.
As the second-richest asset-owner in the country after the state itself, a miraculous condition reached without the burden of the taxation that afflicts the rest of us, perhaps the church and the religious orders might like to practise the “moral obligation” they preach to others? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Bord Bia should be congratulated for its excellent work with the new “Origin Green” campaign, fronted by Saoirse Ronan, celebrating the fact that “we are known for the food and drink that we make in harmony with nature” and that “we are natural and we can prove it . . . come see us we are open for inspection”.
Bold claims and a fabulous vision, but somebody obviously forgot to send Teagasc the memo . . . as it implements its plan in the next two to three weeks to plant genetically modified potatoes in open ground.
There may be GM food in the chain here, but to openly plant GM crops seems to go against everything that could have made us different, unique and offered that premium which Bord Bia is celebrating as its platform for growth. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:


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