Still Joan’s legs

12 June 2013 Still Joan’s feet

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear. Leslie is to have a test on Navigation because Troutbridge keeps on hitting things. But the tester is an old Flame of Mrs Povey’s Priceless.
Another quiet day Joan’s feet still bad. Mary rings the Doctor and the Carers I email Sandy and test and talk to June.
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.


Aubrey Woods
Aubrey Woods, who has died aged 85, was a versatile actor as much at home on the musical stage as he was in films and on television.

5:18PM BST 10 Jun 2013
He appeared in several popular series, including Z-Cars, Doctor Who, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Blake’s 7, but perhaps his most notable role was that of the sweetshop owner who sings The Candy Man in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). In that film, starring Gene Wilder in the title role, Woods played Bill, the man who sells Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) the Wonka bar with the golden ticket.
On the stage Woods appeared in many successful productions, including the 1991 revival of Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat with Phillip Schofield and Jason Donovan. Cast as Potiphar, he was praised by the critic Milton Shulman for “a disdainful, funny” portrayal. On television he was in the “Day of the Daleks” adventure in Doctor Who (1972) as the Daleks’ puppet-governor after they had taken over the Earth in the 22nd century.
For three years in the 1960s Woods was a memorable Fagin in the musical Oliver!, having taken over the part from Ron Moody . For BBC radio, Woods wrote and appeared in numerous plays. A vice-president of the EF Benson Society, he adapted Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels for the Corporation, narrating a radio version of Queen Lucia which was released as an audio tape.
Aubrey Harold Woods was born on April 9 1928 in Palmers Green, north London. After the Latymer School in Edmonton, where Bruce Forsyth was a contemporary, he studied at the Hornsey College of Art with intentions of becoming an architect, but on reflection determined on a stage career and, in 1945, won a scholarship to Rada.
His debut on the London stage came in 1947, in Peter Brook’s production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Men Without Shadows (Lyric, Hammersmith). In the same year he was cast as Smike in Alberto Cavalcanti’s film Nicholas Nickleby. During his career Woods would return to Dickensian character roles: on television he was Toby Jobling in an adaptation of Bleak House, and in 1962 played Mr Chuckster in The Old Curiosity Shop.
On stage at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1952, he appeared fleetingly in Macbeth, directed by John Gielgud, and in 1955 joined a touring production of Hamlet in Moscow.
Woods’s first part in musical theatre was in Sandy Wilson’s Valmouth (Lyric, Hammersmith, and later Saville, 1958), followed by The Lord Chamberlain Regrets (Saville, 1961), a revue about censorship that misfired in spite of a strong cast headed by Joan Sims and Millicent Martin. After taking over as Fagin in Oliver! (Albery, 1963-1966), he played Cardinal Richelieu in The Four Musketeers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1967) starring Harry Secombe as D’Artagnan.
Woods was a friend of the composer Julian Slade, with whom he wrote Trelawny, a musical version of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s Trelawny of the Wells. First produced in 1972 at the Bristol Old Vic, it transferred to London, to Sadler’s Wells and then to the Prince of Wales, where it was one of Cameron Mackintosh’s earliest West End shows.
Also in 1972, Woods appeared as both Palmerston and Gladstone in I and Albert (Piccadilly), a musical about Queen Victoria and her German consort; the music was by Charles Strouse, whose later scores included Annie. Woods’s other musical credits from the 1970s included the flamboyant role of M Le Grand in Mardi Gras (Prince of Wales, 1975), and Strouse’s Flowers for Algernon (Queen’s, 1979), which starred Michael Crawford.
In 1981, at Chichester, he played Sir Edward Carson cross-examining Tom Baker as Oscar Wilde in Feasting with Panthers.
Woods continued to make television appearances into the 1990s, in series such as My Honourable Mrs (1975), Blake’s 7 (1979), Nice Work (1980), Till We Meet Again (1989) and London’s Burning (1995).
Aubrey Woods is survived by his wife, Gaynor, whom he married in 1952.
Aubrey Woods, born April 9 1928, died May 7 2013


Following the speeches on the economy and welfare given by Ed Balls and Ed Miliband over the past week (Labour ponders further rise in retirement age, 10 June), I would be grateful if anybody could explain to me in what respects, if any, the Labour party could be considered as being to the left of the coalition.
Glyn Evans
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
• Like many others, I have adopted the strategy of boycotting companies that fail to pay corporation tax (Report, 11 June). How can I boycott the latest miscreant – Thames Water – which has a monopoly in supplying my water?
John Geleit
Epsom, Surrey
• Plans to commemorate the first world war (Report, 11 June) include a “large-scale cultural programme funded by £10m of lottery funds” (poor people’s money) “matched” by fundraising (even more poor people’s money). Didn’t they give enough with their lives? I will remember quietly but cheaply reading my copy of the war poets.
Anne Orton
• Interesting to read that Israel “reclaimed” the Western Wall in 1967 (Victory for Israel’s women of the wall, 10 June). I’d been under the impression that Israel illegally occupied the area.
Alan Gray
Brighton, West Sussex
• With the much improved weather, my daughter and I took the opportunity on Saturday to visit the last remaining snow patches on Cheviot. 
Gordon Dalziel
Kelso, Borders
• Has anyone actually seen a lawn being manicured (Letters, 10 June)? Yes, I have. When my daughter was a child she lost a precious complex-prescripion contact lens in the garden. Her father spent several hours on his knees cutting the grass with nail scissors in an attempt to find it. He didn’t.
Gabriella Falk
Dulverton, Somerset
• Provincial civil servants are, at best, faceless, while the ones in Westminster are always mandarins.
Steve Vanstone

On Wednesday, 12 June, the Drone Campaign Network will deliver a petition, signed by 10,000 people, calling on the UK government to end the secrecy surrounding the use of British drones in Afghanistan.
According to Ministry of Defence figures, the RAF has launched at least 365 drone strikes in Afghanistan since May 2008 (the month of the first attack). Yet its claim that only four civilians have been killed is literally unbelievable, eg an analysis of 350 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan put the civilian death toll there at at least 475.
What proportion of weapon firings by UK drones are pre-planned and how many are done on-the-fly? How does the UK confirm that its targets are not civilians? And does it ever launch strikes against people not directly participating in hostilities?
We simply don’t know, and attempts to use the Freedom of Information Act to get such information have been rebuffed on the spurious grounds that its release would be “likely to prejudice the defence of the British Island”.
As the RAF starts launching drone strikes from British soil (Report, 25 April), the British government must lift the veil of secrecy surrounding this deadly new form of remote-control warfare.
Joanne Baker Child Victims of War, Warren Bardsley Friends of Sabeel, West Midlands, Chris Cole Drone Wars UK, Andy Cope SPEAK Network, Rona Drennan Hastings Against War, Helen Drewery Quaker Peace & Social Witness, Maya Evans Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK, Ann Feltham Campaign Against Arms Trade, Pat Gaffney Pax Christi, Javier Garate War Resisters’ International, Jill Gough CND Cymru, Richard Johnson Leicester CND, Millius Palayiwa Fellowship of Reconciliation, England, Dr Stuart Parkinson Scientists for Global Responsibility, Lindis Percy CAAB, Dr Tomasz Pierscionek Medact, Milan Rai Peace News, Harry Rogers Bro Emlyn For Peace and Justice, Professor Noel Sharkey International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Uma Sims Cardiff Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Dave Webb CND

I have never picked out problems with the GP contract as the only reason for pressures on A&E (Report, 6 June). I have always been clear that there are many different factors that led to problems in A&E this winter. The lack of trusted out-of-hours care is one. The ageing population, the lack of integration between health and social care services and the lack of ability to make information about the patient flow around the system are also problems we must address. I am by no means the first to highlight the fact that out-of-hours care needs attention. Eminent experts from the College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of GPs and the Family Doctors Association have said the same. By highlighting the problem with out-of-hours care – a problem put to me by many in the health service – I am accused of playing politics, but if I did not, I would be failing in my duty to respond to the real issues the NHS faces.
Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of state for health

What is most interesting about the reaction to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report giving warnings to pregnant women is the way in which important academics and officials leap to the defence of the chemicals industry instead of supporting the precautionary principle (Royal college’s advice to pregnant women fails commonsense test, says health chief, 8 June). Reporting has also trivialised the content by focusing on shower gels while ignoring much more serious chemicals such as fire retardants. Ensuring good indoor air quality by reducing emissions from chemicals in the home should receive far more attention in the UK. In other European countries emissions levels are monitored and measured and regulated, but in the UK we seem happy to breathe in a toxic cocktail everyday. The Royal College should be congratulated for raising these issue and encouraged to go further in protecting the health of future babies and pregnant mothers.
Tom Woolley
Downpatrick, Co Down
• The row between Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about whether pregnant women should avoid chemicals in processed food and canned drinks also shines a spotlight on the risks posed by chemicals used in cosmetics, such as moisturisers, shower gels and perfumes.
The advice that pregnant women should avoid these products is right, given that the ingredients in non-organic cosmetics are often also found in antifreeze, oven cleaners and car oil. Many cosmetics contain parabens and phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that could have negative impacts on human fertility and foetal development. Phthalates have been banned in children’s toys because of the dangers they pose, but pregnant women are also particularly vulnerable. Although these ingredients are covered by EU safety regulations, as European consumer groups recently pointed out, each chemical is looked at separately, and most users are exposed to higher than permitted levels of these chemicals on a daily basis, because they regularly use more than one product at a time.
The chief medical officer says she will not be avoiding cosmetics, but common sense suggests both she and pregnant women would be better off buying certified organic health and beauty products, where such ingredients are prohibited.
Peter Melchett
Policy director, Soil Association

The human right to a family life is recognised in domestic and international law. Strong and stable families are central to our society. The cross-party report into the impacts of recent family migration rules, however, shows that hundreds of British citizens and permanent residents have been kept apart from their family members since July 2012 (Report, 10 June). The rules now require that people wishing to bring a spouse, partner or child to the UK from outside the EU earn at least £18,600 a year – higher than the income of almost half the UK working population.
Many children, including British children, have been indefinitely separated from a parent, with implications for their wellbeing and development. In addition, skilled professionals, including NHS consultants, wishing to care for an elderly relative at their own expense in the UK are now unable to do so. These rules are unfair and damaging, and we urge the government to reconsider them.
Paul Blomfield MP
David Ward MP
Pete Wishart MP
Bishop Patrick Lynch Archdiocese of Southwark
Dr Maggie Atkinson Children’s Commissioner for England
Professor Vivienne Nathanson British Medical Association
Peter Carter Royal College of Nursing
Don Flynn Migrants Rights Network
Shami Chakrabarti Liberty
Jasvir Singh City Sikhs Network
• We are stunned by the Ministry of Justice’s proposal that abused and neglected children must in future satisfy a one-year residency test or else be legally unrepresented in their own care proceedings. Our family justice system is founded on the principle that the child must be independently represented in child protection proceedings. Since the death of Maria Colwell in 1973, it has been recognised that the child’s welfare can too easily come second to the needs of parents or councils. There are 67,000 children in care. Hundreds currently in care proceedings would not be able to satisfy the new test because they have arrived here too recently, or because their carers’ relationship to the child or immigration status is in question.
Victoria Climbié would not have qualified under the new test. She was brought to London in April 1999 by Marie-Therese Kouao, who falsely claimed to be her mother. Victoria was starved, neglected and tortured by Kouao and her partner Carl Manning until she finally died in February 2000, aged eight. The Laming inquiry into her death found terrible failures by four local authorities as well as by the NHS. If just one of those agencies had taken protective action, Victoria would have been removed from Kouao and care proceedings would have been initiated, with Victoria represented by a specialist solicitor who was a member of the Law Society’s children panel. If the residency requirement for children is introduced, another Victoria Climbié would not be entitled to legal aid, as they would be here unlawfully.
Maud Davis
Nicola Jones-King
Martha Cover
Association of Lawyers for Children
• The requirement under the proposed legal aid changes to be here for 12 months will automatically exclude all children who are under one year old as, of course, they cannot have been anywhere for 12 months. This will cover all UK citizens’ children. That will mean that no baby will be represented in care proceedings or in any other family or clinical negligence case until they are at least one year old. Even if the child or adult can show that they have been here 12 months, they still have to prove they are British citizens. The government is proposing that solicitors will have to have proof on their file before they can apply for legal aid. Many UK citizens may struggle to prove this if they live on the margins and do not have any documents to prove who they are. It will affect women fleeing from domestic violence who have left their paperwork behind. It will affect children of all ages where there simply may be no paperwork at all or it is in the hands of an opponent. Therefore, the likelihood is that it will prevent many UK citizens from accessing the law for their protection.
Jerry Bull
Member, Law Society’s children panel

While undoubtedly of public interest, the focus on the civil liberties issues surrounding the NSA revelations seems to miss a more important point (Europe demands answers from Obama over surveillance by US, 11 June). I have no illusions that the US government or GCHQ have any interest in my personal activities. Indeed, governments have always employed espionage and it is probably, to some extent, necessary for the public good. What is truly disturbing is when the revelations are placed in the wider context of the US administration’s conduct. The extrajudicial killing of political opponents, drone strikes and the pursuit of terrorist suspects and whistleblowers through all available means shows a disregard for human rights and international law. Whether guilty or not, terrorist suspects deserve due legal process and the protection that it entails.
Simon Samuroff
• William Hague (Report, 10 June) says “law-abiding citizen[s] … have nothing to fear” from the security services – the slogan of tyrants everywhere. Why worry if unnamed agencies log your every call, every email, open your post, film you on CCTV, track your movements via your mobile and ANPR, bug your computer, infiltrate your political group – after all, only the guilty have anything to fear (a statement with which the families of Mr De Menezes or Mr El Masri, and many victims of MI5/CIA cockups, might take issue). Privacy is dead, learn to love Big Brother! Terrorists want to subvert our liberty, our law, our values – the things that set us apart from them. Sometimes it feels like they have already won.
Julian Le Vay
•  The revelation of secret NSA surveillance practices is also a revelation of the actions of a whistleblower and the journalists through whom he chose to speak. Instead of readily becoming admirers of these newly proclaimed defenders of a transparent society, it might be useful to ask pertinent questions about their conduct and motives as well. For not asking such questions would imply that we leave unaccountable any individuals with self-declared motivations of not having done anything wrong and acting only on behalf of their understanding of what is in the public interest. Should we really have a healthy distrust in government lead us to a blind faith in individuals of whom we know so little? It may be more than a not so clever pun to ask who is guarding the Guardian and how we can guard ourselves from whistleblowing becoming just another avenue to achieve celebrity status, whether intended or not.
Mathieu Deflem
Columbia, South Carolina
• In their prolonged attempts to secure the extradition of Gary McKinnon, the argument put forward by the US government was that the actions were against the laws of the US, and so the person responsible should be tried by a US court irrespective of the fact that the alleged offence had been perpetrated from another country. If it appears likely that the NSA has accessed personal information of UK citizens in contravention of UK laws, I hope our government will pursue those responsible with equal vigour.
Nik Randall
•  Now we know that governments can get any information they need by eavesdropping, it would be of huge benefit to taxpayers around the world if they could put this to good use by providing the information that the same governments claim to lack – namely, the identity of companies lurking in tax havens.
Rod White
Uley, Gloucestershire
• Like Michael Burgess (Letters, 10 June), most of us would not worry much if the government knew how often we visited the B&Q or John Lewis websites. We would worry if the NSA trawled the emails of British companies and leaked them to US competitors. We would worry if GCHQ gave our government email correspondence of the shadow cabinet or trade unions. Unaccountable power always corrupts, in time.
Michael Hurdle
Woking, Surrey
•  It is good to know that our email letters to the Guardian that do not make it into your paper are at least being read by somebody, somewhere, sometime.
Rod Logan
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Michael Adler writes: I had the great pleasure of working with Sir Patrick Nairne as a fellow trustee of the National Aids Trust. Even though he had many calls on his time, he was a diligent attender of the trust’s meetings; he read every paper in detail and always offered sharp analytical comments. I subsequently became the chairman of the trust and relied on him as a friend and adviser.
I particularly looked forward to Patrick’s beautifully crafted post-meeting letters discussing what had happened and what should happen. His italic script was a joy and put my doctors’ writing to shame. Patrick offered wise advice with charm and could see through difficult problems with ease. I treasured the time we worked together and proudly own one of his watercolours, which he gave to me as a wedding present.
Richard Jameson writes: Sir Patrick Nairne was responsible for the 1975 referendum on our future membership of the European Union. As an undersecretary from the Department of Education, I was seconded to head a referendum unit of six people under Nairne’s supervision in the Cabinet Office, responsible to Ted Short (then lord president of the council), for the four months between Harold Wilson’s decision to hold a referendum and the vote itself. The work included passing an act through parliament and supporting secondary legislation, as well as a host of administrative decisions. Without the leadership of Short and Nairne, the vote would not have taken place on 5 June 1975.
Derek Wyatt writes: Sir Patrick Nairne was a brilliant master at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. He was uncannily ahead of most curves, unfailingly courteous, generous with his time for students and clever at putting different people together; above all, he was so approachable. And yet he still had time to do so many others things too. A brave man and a rare treasure.

It’s all too typical of Australian PM Julia Gillard that, when faced with annihilation at the upcoming election, she should prioritise ridding herself of the independents and Greens who put her into office (Gillard asks for a chance, 31 May).
A quintessential political careerist, her professed “Labor vision for Australia” has never meshed with her performance, which has regularly poached on the ideological territory of her Tea-Party-ish Liberal party opposition. She has attracted UN opprobrium for her government’s callous treatment of seaborne refugees, her virtual abandonment of a meaningful carbon tax and her capitulation to mining industries over protection of the World Heritage-listed Barrier Reef.
It would probably not be unfair to describe her as a typical conservative careerist, attracted to the power and advancement offered by machine politics, but without any real allegiance to or understanding of the original progressive values of the now decrepit Labor party she chose as a vehicle for her ambitions.
John Hayward
Weegena, Tasmania, Australia
Solutions for Afghanistan
In your leader Transitional relief you accurately describe the current situation in Afghanistan (17 May). You are less persuasive when advocating solutions. Beefing up the UN, sustained mediation, neighbourhood guarantees, a lesser role for Washington and impartiality have been tried before and rely largely on the goodwill between participants that has previously been lacking. They form part of the smart bombs/stupid policy of Kabul – fed to us incessantly by the regime in power.
Afghanistan has always been a federation of gun-wielding, poppy-cultivating, greedy, feudal warlords bound only by religion. New ways must be found to break their grip.
Education appears to be one way out of the impasse: a system of boarding schools in regional centres where security can be guaranteed by coalition forces. The brightest children from across the country would be offered fully paid scholarships. Studying with their peers from other regions would promote friendships, networks and common goals, which would last far into adulthood, eventually undermining feudalism.
Of course, this will take time and should have begun years ago. Money would be needed to operate such a scheme but the costs would be minuscule compared to that already spent on armaments. Will it ever happen? Probably not: it is far too simple a proposition for global powers intent on enhancing their spheres of influence.
It seems the Afghanis are left with the same old choice between nationhood and feudalism.
Graham Allott
Perth, Western Australia
Who defines aggression?
The repeated justification of Toru Hashimoto, the rightwing mayor of Osaka, that the terrible treatment of the comfort women by the Japanese in the 1930s and 40s is explainable in terms of the realities of war, while otherwise objectionable, does have some basis in truth (Mayor says war brothels were necessity, 24 May). We pretend it’s otherwise but, regrettably, prostitution on all sides involving women being forced into it by economic or physical coercion has long been a feature of wars.
On a broader front, the mayor’s claim aligns with the recent questioning of whether Japan’s wartime conduct in Asia could be described as aggression by the nationalist Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe: “The definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established in academia or in the international community. Things that happened between nations will look different depending on which side you view them from” (Japan backs off revision of war apology, 17 May).
Again: unpalatable though it is, there is something in this claim. The Tokyo trial, the biggest and most important allied war crimes trial arising out of the Pacific war, tried and failed to arrive at a clear and authoritative assertion of what constituted “aggression” and “defence” in that conflict. It was a victors’ trial that lacked moral authority.
Our definitions of aggressor and defender still vary according to which side we are on. Still, as we look to our future we mustn’t be misled by these extremist Japanese pronouncements on the reality of war. They are self-serving and as such we need to be wary of them.
In an increasingly fractious Asia, we must temper realpolitik in international relations and do our utmost to avoid wars by using diplomacy to settle our differences.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
Zimbabwe’s bad old days
Bill Mathew’s letter reminded me of the story about the Egyptologist who had never been to Egypt (Reply, 31 May). He ignores the corruption, the innumerable deaths, Mugabe’s part in the war in Congo that cost so many lives and only enriched his henchmen, the disappearance not only of people but most of education and development in rural Zimbabwe, to mention just a few things. The system Mugabe replaced with a one-party set-up had opened up voting for blacks, the first university was multiracial then and closed most of the time now because the students are vigorously against him.
The white farmers had bought their farms from the Mugabe government, after having done all the development in the first place, the same as in Kenya, where they were not been evicted afterwards; nothing like the kind of murderous violence and destruction that was done by Mugabe’s thugs occurred there.
During one post-independence visit some years ago, when one independent (black) newspaper was still allowed and its (equally black) reporters had not yet fled the country to save their lives, as most of the others had had to do, we bought one copy that we have kept since. The front-page headline reads: The Good Old Days. Guess when that was deemed to be in the article? The time of Ian Smith, of all things.
Observations based on nothing but blinkered prejudice surely should have no place in a paper like the Guardian, which claims to bring the truth.
Ellen Pye
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
• Simple mathematics and the opportunity costs are missing from Bill Mathew’s letter justifying Robert Mugabe.
A loss of, say, 90% of the productivity of white farmers is not the same as a gain of 9% on what was left, even if the west is now pleased that there is a turnaround.
Only a fatalist would argue that other strategies could not have been implemented, including by Mugabe, without destroying the existing farm base.
Darian Hiles
Adelaide, South Australia
French language is in decline
Andrew Gallix pretty well sums up the debates that we have been reading in the French press about a possible revision of the Toubon law to allow a few university classes to be taught in English (31 May). I agree: the French language has been under threat lately, but not from the borrowing of any foreign word. Any language will shine by and dazzle with what it produces, but sadly, we have made nihilistic literature our speciality, to cite only literature.
I still cannot figure out why our critics bask in such books as the ones by Michel Houellebecq or Christine Angot, to name but two authors. Reading the last by Angot, the depiction in minute detail of an incest, one realises that Marcel Pagnol and the nostalgia of his childhood are definitively over, as is the wit of Astérix. The enthusiasts of the French language, like Claude Hagège, mainly regret that French is not in the dominant position – our lost American future. Hagège states that English implies economic liberalism, and hence the capitalism bias. But this thesis forgets that English also was the language of Henry David Thoreau and Emily Dickinson.
Now, with the possible new law, I would rather be concerned about the poor English that French university professors might soon impose on their students: oh no …
Marc Jachym
Paris, France
• The historical irony of the French tongue is that, were it not for imperialistic Latin, it would have turned out something like Breton or Gaelic (or even possibly German, judging from appropriated nouns). Romance French began as a Latin superimposed on the subjugated (and preliterate) Celts. And, were it not for Julius Caesar’s scribe’s ear, we would have no first record of Celtic culture: no Lutetia (Paris), no plucky chieftains like Vercingetorix and Dumnorix, nor any British Boudicca, druids and naked warriors in woad. And alas, no Astérix and Obelix, sprung from Goscinny’s head.
Andrew Gallix (delightfully Astérixesque name, that) formidably defends besieged French as a medium of instruction against the steamroller of American English, but quixotically. Even former African colonies are beginning to relinquish French pedagogy for English. Like Latin, French is fated to become an antiquarian, literary language, a historical cul-de-sac, its vestiges living on through English (as Latin lives on through French).
Marianne Faithfull saw it coming on in the 80s: “Don’t say it in Russian, don’t say it in German, say it in – broken English.”
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
Humans are the real danger
Your article on New Zealand’s attitude to cats highlights the fact that “pests” have become the villains for continuing loss of both fauna and flora (Not so cool for Kiwi cats, 24 May). It diverts attention from the true exterminator: people.
Though cats are a serious predator, their contribution to species loss pales compared to the damage caused by the human race. Gareth Morgan himself highlights the issue; he has organised a campaign called The Million Dollar Mouse to rid the Antipodes islands of mice. The intention is to saturate the islands with the most deadly rat poison of all, brodifacoum; it will be spread by helicopter as mouse-sized baits, just the right size for birds. The programme uses questionable techniques condemned by the US Ornithological Council following the Rat Island eradication programme in the Aleutians, which was supervised by New Zealand department of conservation “experts”.
That programme destroyed 46 of the resident bald eagles, showing people could achieve something on those islands that cats cannot: extinctions of birds found nowhere else in the world.
W F Benfield
Martinborough, New Zealand
• The spread of US drone technology to other countries, fanatics and enemies is only a matter of time (31 May). Already unmanned aerial vehicles have spread from war zones to toy shops. Now anyone can use a drone to point a camera into your private spaces; laws can’t stop them.
From good purposes, such as surveillance of surf beaches in Queensland, to attacking the innocent, no holds are barred. Drones are like boomerangs in this respect.
Valerie Yule
Mount Waverley, Victoria, Australia
• Kory Stamper evidently believes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was “the monster”, but he was not (31 May). Frankenstein was the wretched doctor discovered constructing a gothic monster from various bits and pieces. But a combination of the dreaded collective unconscious plus the neologisms of popular culture have melded monster and doctor into a grotesque unity represented by Boris Karloff, but unrecognisable to those who have read Shelley’s book.
Paul Lindsey
Seville, Victoria, Australia



Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article (10 June) ends: “The historical truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth matters.” She precedes this with three canards about the conduct of the First World War which cry out to be answered now, in the hope that they will not be repeated as the juggernaut of the Great War centenary looms into view.
First: “After 1916, soldiers were conscripted from the poorest of families.” There is no evidence for this, but there is evidence that the vast majority of the volunteers (pre-1916) came from the working classes. Enlistment meant regular wages and an escape from drudgery and a weak economy. In fact conscription was introduced in 1916 partly because the Government previously had no method of controlling the flow of working-class volunteers from vital industries.
Second: “The officer classes saw them as fodder.” Over the decades since the Great War, this view that the troops were treated with contempt has swollen to include not only the General Staff, secure behind the lines, but the officers in the trenches. Neither the generals nor the subalterns deserve this. There are numerous instances of senior officers’ concern to ensure that their battalions were not uselessly sacrificed, and of junior officers (who could expect to be casualties within six weeks) caring tirelessly for their men.
Third: “Traumatised soldiers … were shot.” In all, 3,080 British soldiers were sentenced to death for desertion, cowardice, and mutiny, but only 346 were shot (266 for desertion). The reality was that more and more traumatised men would be diagnosed as suffering from shellshock (neurasthenia) as the war continued. Special Neurasthenic Centres were set up and, as late as 1938, disability war pensions were being paid out to 25,000 men suffering from nervous disorders.
Ms Alibhai-Brown is right – nothing but the truth matters. We owe that to the 1.8 million casualties of the Great War.
Liz Wade, Oxford
Should we not remember the First World War as the ultimate dreadful warning against over-reaction to an act of terrorism?
Richard Humble, Exeter
Speak out about depression
Thank you to Stephen Fry for highlighting, yet again, mental health issues (6 June). We so need to educate the whole population so that those around us can help. I now feel well enough to share this publicly.
I had prepared what I needed to commit suicide, and faltered. I told my husband, who gave me a brief hug and said he would talk to me later about it. He never did (he walked out for another woman six months later) and it was another instance of him not coping with what I now know was a long depression which started after the birth of my third child. It needs to become common knowledge that this is an illness, not a state of mind, and being told to get over it, or to stop crying, is not a remedy; nor a help. Those symptoms are signs that the sufferer needs some medical attention. There is also no shame in being ill.
I am now fully recovered – I went into therapy once my husband left, and was on anti-depressants for some years. I keep in touch with my mood swings carefully, and return to counselling irregularly, but as often as I need it to keep on an even keel. Speaking about it can only be of benefit to our communities.
Sue Stewart, Horley, Surrey
Thank you to Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell (8 June) for giving us an insight into their lives with depression. I read the articles with a pounding heart, as I discovered many familiar situations. 
My husband suffered from a very severe episode that started last October. He did get professional help and just as we thought that he was over the worst he took his own life four weeks ago. Depression killed him and even our two children aged 19 and 13 couldn’t prevent that.
Depression affects many people; we need to talk about it more frequently in an open and informed way. Alastair Campbell’s last sentence was the exact words my husband had said to me only recently.
Dorothea Seibold, York
Targets of  the snoopers
William Hague claims people can “have confidence in the work of UK security agencies and their adherence to the law and democratic values” and that “law abiding citizens have nothing to fear” from invasions of our privacy by US and British Security Services on the grounds that it “had saved many lives”. In the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, “He would say that wouldn’t he?” There are two reasons why ordinary citizens need to fear these abuses by Britain’s security services.
First, there is no guarantee these powers will not be used against anyone opposing government policies, or anything security chiefs think is against the interests of the country – even if they are not involved in any terrorism or violence. This could apply to protesters against new roads, HS2, wind farms, or nuclear power-stations; trade unionists, or even political parties – but probably not employers’ organisations such as the Consulting Association.
Second and more important is that abuses by the security services undermine the legitimacy of Britain’s criticism of other governments’ abuses of human rights, from African and Middle Eastern dictators to Russia and China. This abandoning of the “moral high ground” drives a small number of people, even some in this country, into the arms of terrorist extremists, and this increases the threat to our security.
Julius Marstrand, Cheltenham
It’s all very well being assured by William Hague and David Cameron that any surveillance is perfectly legal, and law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear. We don’t have to go very far back in history to remind ourselves that information is power, and can be misused.
The question is not whether we citizens are law-abiding, but whether the Government and its intentions are  – and can be trusted to remain – benevolent.
Christine Lehman, High Ellington, North Yorkshire
Just imagine that it had been a European security agency spying on the communications of British citizens. The howls from Ukip would have been deafening and Nigel Farage would have been on every possible news programme. So can we presume from his silence that UK independence stops at Europe? We can be subservient to and ruled by the US without any qualms. 
This is obviously far less important to Ukip than the shape and size of our bananas.
Peter Berman, Wiveliscombe, Somerset
Worried drivers in the middle lane
Perry Rowe and Ray Chandler (Letters, 10 June) use the same argument to defend their proprietorial use of the middle lane. Mr Rowe cites the “risk”  of “moving from lane to lane” and Mr Chandler’s states: “Staying on the middle lane is good because  it avoids constantly moving in and out of the slower-moving inside lane” which “road safety experts tell us … is hazardous”. 
By such curious logic Messrs Rowe and Chandler should drive in the outside (overtaking) lane for their entire journey, where they wouldn’t have to manoeuvre to overtake anything at all. If they find overtaking so worrying they can avoid it by driving in the inside lane at a lower speed and by taking  lessons in motorway driving. There’s no shame in either course and everyone would be happier.
Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey
I wonder if the traffic police are going to be able to cope with the proposed reforms. Yesterday evening around 4.45pm I drove from junction 26 to junction 25 on the M5. It seemed to me that a huge number of drivers were offending. People driving at outrageous and illegal speeds on the outside lane, people hogging the middle lane, people tailgating and lorries passing each other taking up two lanes. I was quite relieved to arrive in Taunton.
Have we enough police to correct these misdemeanours?
Nick Thompson, Cullompton, Devon
Will those readers who advocate driving in the middle lane please include their number plate rather than their address?
Hugh Burchard, Bristol
Can I hog the outside lane?
John Naylor, Sunningdale, Slough
Mothers who work
The very question, do children whose mothers work suffer academically (report, 11 June), is based on a profound misunderstanding. Mothers have worked ever since we came out of trees – very, very hard.
The salient feature of human parenting is that it is a team activity; in the village, human babies attach to multiple adults. The idea that mothers alone are responsible is a product of the industrial revolution, which created a highly anomalous situation of small family units and labour separated from the domestic domain. That is now history.
Children do suffer if they don’t get enough care from any adult, but if the care is shared around, the child is fine – and how much mothers provide is simply not the key question.
Also, to get right through your article without a single reference to all the fathers (like me) who have changed their whole lives to care for their children and support their partners’ careers is an insult.
Duncan Fisher, Crickhowell, Powys
In an article on 11 June about the departure of creative director Emma Hill from Mulberry you helpfully described her as “42-year-old mother of one”. Yet on the preceding page, when writing about the pay rise of Thames Water’s Chief Executive Martin Baggs, you completely failed to tell us either how old he is or how many children he has.   
Prue Bray, Wokingham
Trust in politics
The lobbying scandal reminds me of a conversation I had at the time of the expenses scandal. As a lay preacher, I was visiting a church in a community which had just voted in a BNP county councillor. I discovered that my godly and devout friends had voted for this person. Very surprised, I asked why they had voted this way. They told me – quite sincerely, I think – that it was out of disgust for the goings on at Westminster. I don’t suppose these further revelations of bad behaviour by the elite will change my friends’ voting behaviour.
Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Middlesex
Pippa pipped
Is Pippa Middleton a front? What really went on concerning Deborah Ross, The Independent and Howard Jacobson’s wry Jewishness? Please let us know and end the speculation. Could be the scoop of the week.
Joy Helman, London W8


We should not be trying to fit children into a one-size-fits-all educational philosophy when it comes to GCSEs and A levels
Sir, The bright new future Mr Gove sets out in his changes to the GCSE system (Opinion, June 11) is based on prejudice and will be destructive. Giving greater emphasis to final rather than modular preparation will make little difference to the “cram-and-forget” teaching the minister criticises. There is no such thing as an exam which does not foster cramming and swift forgetfulness. The system encourages teaching to enhance performance at the inevitably superficial level anyone is capable of producing in the timed silence of an examination hall.
The only worthy alternative is to lay greater emphasis on coursework. I can attest that coursework at both GCSE and A level was crucial in preparing me for an English degree: it teaches research, structuring and redrafting skills, and permits deep consideration without the pressure of a time limit.
I took my GCSEs in one of the last years that coursework still featured significantly. Contrary to Mr Gove’s wild claims, I read and interpreted an entire Shakespeare play. I have since sat in on a class where only shards of Macbeth were required in order to survive controlled assessment — it was feared that attempting to consider the whole work would distract from the focus of the exam.
Hattie Induni
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Sir, As a young head of English in the early 1980s, I introduced coursework-assessed O-level English literature and language papers, a pilot scheme approved by a Conservative government.
Students could submit their best pieces of work, repeated as often as they wished to ensure that their work was of the highest standard. Results improved dramatically.
Coursework is a less reliable measure of success than traditional exams in subjects such as maths and science where the learning of factual knowledge is central to measuring a student’s understanding of those facts. In other subjects, such as English or history, a strong element of coursework should be retained to allow students to refine and redraft their work to produce a considered response to the question.
The unspoken problem is that teacher and parental assistance in coursework has made objective assessment very difficult.
Hence the demise of coursework and the return of the terminal examinations — and a one-size system that will not fit all students.
Jonathan Forster
Principal, Moreton Hall
Oswestry, Shropshire
Sir, Michael Gove is to be commended wholeheartedly for his determination to ensure that children should be challenged rather than constrained by GSCE programmes. It is good to know that the low hurdles races which have characterised our examination system will be replaced by more demanding courses which emphasise the academic qualities that our students should be developing.
It is also encouraging to see, with his recognition of the importance of practical and technical subjects, his apparent willingness to break free from the one-size-fits-all philosophies which have restricted the education of our children for far too long. All that many schools and the examination boards will need is a little time to help them prepare for this courageous new world.
Dr Chris Ray
High Master, Manchester Grammar School
Chairman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference

After decades of neglect and over-exploitation, the seas surrounding England are in a state of serious decline
Sir, We have united as leading nature charities to submit more than 350,000 pledges to Downing Street today (Wednesday, June 12), calling for the urgent designation of Marine Conservation Zones and the establishment of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. After decades of neglect and over-exploitation, the seas surrounding England are in a state of serious decline, highlighted in the recently published State of Nature report.
A two-and-a-half-year consultation process involving a million stakeholders recommended the establishment of 127 Marine Conservation Zones in English seas. However, the Government is currently planning to designate a first tranche of only 31. This is far from sufficient to make up the ecologically coherent network so vital to ensure the future of our seas. The sites put forward so far do not protect some of our best-loved sealife such as whales, dolphins, basking sharks and seabirds.
There has never been a better opportunity to put in place the protection our seas so urgently need. A healthy marine environment will also have significant long-term economic, social and environmental benefits. We, therefore, call on the Government to commit itself to a clear timetable for the swift designation of Marine Conservation Zones, in order to meet the UK’s international obligations to reverse biodiversity loss and protect our marine wildlife for the future.
Mike Clarke, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Sam Fanshawe, Marine Conservation Society; Stephanie Hilborne, The Wildlife Trusts; David Nussbaum, WWF-UK

Clean power is the best option for bill payers, and is also the way forward for creating jobs in the energy industry
Sir, While it is flattering that Matt Ridley (Opinion, June 6) thinks that with just two lawyers on staff Friends of the Earth is “really just a big law firm”, he has got four things wrong.
First, a clean power target is the best option for bill payers — the Committee on Climate Change says it could save consumers up to £100 billion on fuel bills in 2020-2030, compared to relying on gas.
Second, it’s not a question of green jobs versus non-green jobs. Rather, as the world transitions to low-carbon energy, we can either create skilled jobs in Britain or lose them abroad. Why not make turbine parts and solar panels here instead of importing?
Third, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland relies on the support of individuals and charitable trusts for more than 95 per cent of our income — EU funding accounts for less than 1 per cent. So the EU did not pay for our legal challenge over solar power.
In addition, while we have argued to the Environment Agency that water remaining in wells after fracking should be regulated as waste — it contains harmful chemicals which could pollute drinking water — we have not lobbied the European Commission on this at any stage. Neither is there any conclusive evidence that shale gas will provide cheaper energy in Britain.
Our best hope for affordable fuel bills long term is through clean power and energy saving.
Andrew Pendleton
Friends of the Earth

This reader was always given a simple answer when asking one of the age-old questions: “who is your favourite?”
Sir, My mother, who lived to be 99, knew she had a favourite among the four of us (report, June 11). It was, she firmly stated, the one she was with.
Iona Wake-Walker
Bemerton, Wilts

We must eradicate the idea that dogs are fashion accessories and can be picked up and put down again as style dictates
Sir, It is a great concern that French bulldogs are the latest to join the long list of dogs seen as “… the real must-have accessory of the season” (“Short, fat and out of breath: why everyone adores the Frenchie”, June 8).
From huskies to Chihuahuas, the attitude that dogs are fashion accessories to be picked up and put down again as the seasons’ style changes has led to ever increasing numbers being abandoned at Blue Cross re-homing centres. Dogs are dogs, not the latest must-have off the catwalk.
Kim Hamilton
Chief Executive, Blue Cross
Burford, Oxon


SIR – Christopher Howse’s article about Oliver Bernard (Comment, June 7) reminded me of my first encounter with his brother Jeffrey back in the late Seventies, when I went to the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, Soho to buy him a drink. This came about because of my love of his weekly column, “Low Life”, in the Spectator, in which he painfully exposed his exploits.
Jeffrey was initially wary of me (as I was bedecked in pinstripe, he thought I was an Inland Revenue inspector), but after a couple of large vodkas, he warmed to me.The afternoon descended so much so that he mentioned our encounter in his next Spectator entry. It was then that I realised that it was dangerous to mix with his clan.
Vincent Shanahan
Northwood, Middlesex
SIR – Christopher Howse’s lament over Oliver Bernard and Soho was superbly evocative and accurate, until the final sentence: “Now he is dead, and so is Soho”. In my opinion, he is quite wrong about Soho being dead.
While we all cherish a memory of a time when for us, Soho was truly golden, its abiding joy is that it always somehow manages to reinvent itself without apparent fundamental change, in order to charm and seduce successive unsuspecting generations, while still continuing to sustain the diehards.
In that sense, it is much like Rome: eternal, a glory to behold, and not without its ruins.
Joseph Connolly
London NW3

SIR – The state pension is not a welfare benefit (“Labour to cap state pension”, report, June 10). It is a system based on National Insurance contributions from both employees and employers over the pensioner’s working life. No contributions, no pension.
No doubt there is now a shortfall, as successive governments have raided the NI receipts for other purposes, but that is no defence against the shadow chancellor’s proposed breach of contract. No private insurance company would be allowed to behave in this way.
Barry Hughes
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
SIR – Work pension and state pension are now added together for tax purposes. I pay roughly 25 per cent of my pension to the UK Treasury – so I am still contributing.
Capping pensions is just another way of targeting the middle classes.
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Dangerous encounters in Soho’s strange world
11 Jun 2013
Robert Parker
Taunton, Somerset
SIR – Labour are now proposing a cap on “unsustainable” state pensions.
Perhaps Ed Balls would like to consider the other state pensions that are also unsustainable: over-generous public-sector pension schemes. These are paid for out of taxes and pose no risk for the recipients, while the rest of us have to take our chances on the financial system.
Privatise public-sector pensions, then we are all in it together.
Bill Parish
Bromley, Kent
SIR – A woman born on the same day as me will already be receiving a state pension, while I, and all other men of my age, will have to wait until 2018.
A woman on a full state pension will receive £28,500 before I receive a penny, even though on life expectancy she will live considerably longer than me. So much for equality.
Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey
SIR – My wife and I worked full time in Britain from 1945 to 1975, and then moved to Canada. Our British pensions were frozen when we reached retirement age in 1992. We have cost Britain nothing in health care, housing allowances or other benefits received by our fellow pensioners who are still living in Britain.
The Exchequer should put us on to the current pension scale. After all, we paid into the government’s pension scheme throughout our working lives.
Maurice and Shelagh-Ann Hedges
Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada
SIR – If £63.1 billion was paid out last year in basic state pensions, how much was paid in?
Pam Maybury
Bath, Somerset
SIR – Will this cap also apply to the pensions of politicians?
Dr Peter Islip
Sanderstead, Surrey
State surveillance
SIR – Am I alone in thinking how great it is that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and other services are monitoring us so closely (“MPs fear US could be snooping on Britons”, report, June 8)? I have nothing to hide and nor do 99.9 per cent of the population, so we should be grateful that they are actively seeking out threats to our country.
Only those who are paranoid or who have an inflated opinion of the importance of what they say have any need to be concerned.
Russ King
London N11
SIR – What bothers me about all this snooping is: who’s watching the watchers? Can they all be trusted, or are some likely to set people up to make themselves look good?
It’s all right claiming that honest people have nothing to fear from GCHQ, but I think everyone should worry about loose cannons rolling about the decks – the surest way to lose freedom, and a back door to authoritarianism.
Joseph G Dawson
Chorley, Lancashire
SIR – The security and intelligence services were criticised for allowing the Woolwich suspects to “drop off their radar”. Now these same services are being criticised for snooping. You can’t have it both ways.
Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
Improper umbrellas
SIR – There is a time and a place for umbrellas. I was appalled to see the selfishness of the spectators at the French Open. Rain did not stop play, yet umbrellas went up, blocking the view of those behind them who had paid a considerable sum for their seats.
Hats and hoods are more than adequate to keep oneself dry. Surely an umbrella must be an offensive weapon where health and safety are concerned, and for that reason alone they should be banned from sports arenas.
Miriam Bolger
Bath, Somerset
Facing the music
SIR – Peter Daggett (Letters, June 10) claims that people attending Benjamin Britten concerts are trapped in a hall and can’t walk away from the “cacophony”. He could always attend one of the performances of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach this month.
Not only could he walk away, but if he took his swimsuit he could take a jump in, or bury his head in the sand.
Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk
SIR – A year ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase tickets for a performance of Billy Budd at the Met in New York – I had never attended a Britten opera before, preferring older, more melodic structures from Europe.
I left the Met at midnight choking back tears wrought by the emotional intensity of this work. In fact, I cannot remember being more moved by a piece of dramatic music.
There is more to music than being able to whistle a pretty tune.
Peter Maddox
Swansea, Glamorgan
SIR – I agree that Britten’s music is less than tuneful. However, I long ago found the solution. When I see that a programme includes a piece by Benjamin Britten, I find I somehow fail to buy a ticket. This leaves me free for other things.
Jinny McLeod-Hatch
London SW6
Seven ailments…
SIR – Tesco’s current lacklustre economic performance (report, June 6) has spawned its “customer first” policy.
Recently, after a visit to my GP, the only place I could get a prescription processed at 8pm was in my local Tesco store. Perhaps an “out-of-hours” GP service could be a good way of putting some flesh on to the bones of this policy?
Such a service would have wide electoral appeal, as voters of all political hues seem to shop at Tesco. GPs are self-employed so a bit of extra work on a Tesco rota might seem to be more socially manageable than any out-of-hours “call-out” system.
It might even take the heat off accident and emergency departments if minor injuries could be treated as well.
David Gray
Wimborne, Dorset
SIR – Last week, my wife telephoned our doctors’ practice for a repeat prescription, only to be told that this was not possible. She was advised to ask our local chemist to request one on her behalf.
I reminded my wife that you could in fact email the practice, which would then allow our chemist to collect and indeed deliver her prescription. She did this and it was sorted out within 24 hours.
My wife has been registered with that practice for 41 years – but an anonymous email made all the difference.
J Eric Nolan
Blackburn, Lancashire
Reigning cats and dogs
SIR – Maybe Andrew Copeman (Letters, June 10) doesn’t know that cats were brought to this country by the Romans in their ships carrying corn, especially to kill rats and mice and other vermin, which here in the countryside, they still do.
However, one thing cats don’t do is attack and kill human beings, as has happened recently with dogs. They don’t bark incessantly either.
Julie Juniper
Bridport, Dorset
SIR – The oft-quoted numbers of song-birds killed by cats is neither believable nor, I think, relevant: bird numbers in my garden are much more closely related to the amount of food my wife puts out than the number of cats patrolling.
Christopher Heneghan
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
SIR – As is well known, dogs have owners but cats have staff.
Hilary Jarrett
Faith schools are an asset to a diverse society
SIR – I was disappointed to read about the Fair Admissions Campaign (“Call to end faith school ‘discrimination’”, report, June 7). Today’s society is multicultural and we are proud of that. Faith schools play a hugely positive role in ensuring that we as a society are able to preserve the individual cultural identities that make up our diverse way of life.
Education is something that the Jewish community has had a strong commitment to for thousands of years. Indeed, the school where I am head teacher, JFS, opened in England in 1732, almost 150 years before primary education became compulsory in this country.
Within our school, one of the vital messages we promote to our students is to be respectful, thoughtful and caring to others and their faiths, and they are more likely to do this due to their strong Jewish identity.
The educational quality we are able to offer our students is only enhanced by the school’s faith status and many parents recognise and value this. The special nature of faith schools is the reason thousands of parents and students choose to attend them every year. How fair would it be to deny them this choice?
Jonathan Miller
Harrow, Middlesex

Irish Times:
Sir, – The Question 8 in Paper II (Leaving Cert higher level maths) was unanswerable, and hence all students will be given full marks. This guarantees all those who sat the paper an extra five points which, with the bonus marks now available for an honour in higher level, could even correspond to a gain of 30 points for some students. However, despite this seemingly good news for students, there are two points I would like to raise.
First, students were supposed to spend approximately 15 minutes on this question. How many spent significantly longer, in an attempt to solve a problem with no solution, and were left unable to finish the rest of the paper due to this time was ted? Second, seeing such a question, and trying to decipher it could certainly cause students to panic, and unsettle them enough to affect their performance in the rest of the paper.
It seems inconceivable such a mistake could be made, as surely countless checks and rechecks of the paper are carried out before it is issued. It seems a horrendous oversight by the Department of Education, and one which is completely unacceptable.
We can only hope that only a minority of students suffered from their problems raised above, but I fear that that may not be the case. – Yours, etc,
Ferguson Road,

This Government’s readiness to use its huge majority – the largest in the history of the State – to foreshorten debate and to short-circuit the time for deliberation of legislation is a recipe for bad law.
In recent times, there has been a significant number of Bills passed by the Dáil with real defects and, as a result, these Bills have had to be subsequently amended in the Seanad. This list includes the Personal Insolvency Bill, the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill, the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill, the Nurses and Midwives Bill and the Credit Union Bill.
So far, in the lifetime of the current Oireachtas (up to May 2013), the Seanad has made a total of 529 amendments to 14 different Bills that had been passed by the Dáil in an inadequate or incorrect fashion.
The Government is now trying to persuade people to abolish the Seanad on the basis that they will fundamentally improve the way the Dáil does its business. This is despite the fact that the Government’s own chief whip has admitted that its track-record in relation to Dáil reform is, in fact, “deplorable” (Irish Times June 10th).
This hardly inspires confidence; indeed, on the contrary, it highlights the stark reality that there is little credible basis to believe that the Dáil will suddenly stop making mistakes or show a new-found capacity for properly vetting legislation.
Bad law affects everyone in our society. It damages trust in politics, it undermines economic renewal and it impacts negatively on the way we all lead our lives.
Before voting to abolish the Seanad, I would urge people to ask themselves a couple of fundamental questions – who will monitor and, where necessary, amend the legislative work of the Dáil?
And who will correct the next 529 mistakes? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – One does not need to be a signed-up conspiracy theorist to wonder about the steady stream of stories about Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness that have appeared in the media in recent weeks.
This has all the hallmarks of a well-orchestrated attempt by inconvenienced vested interests to rid themselves of this turbulent priest – to borrow Eliot’s words. Fired up by the joy of the witch hunt, certain media pundits are all too happy to help.
It seems that for some people, even raising the question of whether the State should pay for spouses to accompany ministers on government trips is a hanging offence.
Hopefully Micheál Martin will have the courage to face down the self righteous outrage of some commentators and politicians on this matter. – Yours, etc,
Morehampton Terrace,

Sir, – Sarah Glennane (June 11th) complains of the possible impact of “gardaí in full riot gear” on some of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh’s grandchildren at his funeral.
I knew Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (not terribly well) but well enough to have occasionally played cards with him about 60 years ago when he lived beside Croke Park in Jones’s Road. At that time, he was a pleasant, if single-minded, young man.
I am compelled to contrast Ms Glennane’s concern with that of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh himself. Many years later I heard him being asked on radio for his reaction to the fact that some innocent children had just been killed in a savage and, no doubt, cowardly bomb outrage in Northern Ireland. My earlier impressions of him plummeted when he informed the country that there always were “inevitable casualties in war”. Is it possible that those dead children might have been somebody’s grandchildren? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – What a debacle with the maths Paper 2!
No, I do not refer to the mathematical error on the Leaving Certificate honours maths paper – but to the spelling mistake in the first nationwide Project Maths Junior Certificate Paper 2.
Question 2 (c) reads, “What other measure of central tendancy could have been used when examining this data?” I won’t insult Irish Times readers by pointing out the error, but let’s just say that there is usually a tendency to spell accurately in public examination papers.
Who is writing these new Project Maths papers? And haven’t they heard of SpellCheck? Or don’t they approve of the Department’s National Strategy to improve literacy in young people? – Yours, etc

Sir, – We have received the final payment in the mobility allowance we are going to get and I think it a disgrace that nothing else has been put in its place.
We are being messed around by these cuts and we are going to be prisoners in our own homes.
I was in receipt of the mobility allowance (about €200 a month) and that money was used for taxis to get us from A to B. I am very angry over this cut and the cut in our phone rental allowance and the ESB units as well. I need the phone and I need my heating on 24/7 because I have very bad circulation as I suffer from cerebral palsy. I used to get home help five days a week, but this has been cut down to three days a week.
We are all trying to cope in our own ways – the best ways we can. Life is hard enough for us and we do not need this from this government. From a very angry young man. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – As a Chernobyl worker, I found myself agreeing with John Gibbons (“Science does not support critics of nuclear power”, Opinion, June 5th).
There was as a increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer for the first few years, but no evidence of major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 25 years after the event. This is not a popular thing to say, but its based on scientific fact.
Our charity was founded in 1993 to aid Belarusian children who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster. However over a period of 20 years we came to the realisation that the illnesses affecting many of the children of Belarus were primarily due to the consequences arising out of poverty, deprivation and the ignorance of basic hygiene standards to maintain a healthy standard of living. Poverty is the big problem in Belarus in 2013: I have seen children with physical and intellectual disabilities (whose parents sometimes are ashamed of them), living in appalling conditions, with mothers in dire straits. They have no home help, no respite, no hoists, and very little assistance from the state.
I am neutral in the nuclear debate. As a nurse in care of the elderly, I see the results of breathing air contaminated by fossil fuel burning. My final point is that all Chernobyl charities should be realistic, and tell it as it is. – Is mise,

Irish Independent:

* The forthcoming referendum on the abolition of the Seanad is a good illustration of the type of insidious politics we have to deal with in Ireland nowadays.
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Soviet power was a mirage
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Seanad is in dire need of reform – even senators admit as much.
Yet the Government, in its determination to centralise power in the Dail, is refusing to consider reforming the upper house.
The proposal being put to the people is a stark choice between abolishing the Seanad altogether, or retaining it in its current form.
I suspect this is a very deliberate attempt on the Government’s behalf to take advantage of the public disillusionment with the Seanad in order to increase support for the abolition amendment.
In the absence of a true democratic choice with regard to the future of the Seanad, I believe we should opt for the safest course of action and reject its abolition.
Especially when one considers the proposal that was mooted briefly last week, whereby a group of ‘experts’ – handpicked by the Government – would effectively replace the Seanad.
Even though that proposal appears to have been abandoned, the fact that it was even discussed is a disturbing development.
Such centralisation of legislative and executive power in an ever-decreasing number of individuals is a serious threat to healthy democracy. Retaining the Seanad is important for democracy in the State.
Once we have ensured its existence, it must then be reformed to make it fit for purpose.
Simon O’Connor
Crumlin, Dublin 12
* Under a blue sky, with the sun on my back, while walking through the streets of the capital this weekend, I witnessed a strange phenomenon.
It came about through a strange configuration of muscles in a beautiful woman’s face. It was transformational, something akin to what we once called a smile. Alas, it has been so long since I have seen such a positive display of emotional contentment I could not be sure.
This is post-crash Ireland after all.
I wonder might any of your readers be in a position to confirm similar sightings?
Ed Toal
Monkstown, Co Dublin
* Only two reasons have been given by recent contributors for retaining the Senate: it provides a platform for influential public voices and future leaders; and we also need it to contain a “dysfunctional Dail” and a “discredited political system”.
If it is abolished, then Dail reform becomes a “vital priority”, with special attention to the disconnection between the Executive and Parliament.
Realistically, Dail reform should precede the Senate referendum. The final solution must include electoral reform. Conforming to the constitutional requirement to elect one TD per 30,000 people has turned reform into superficial, regressive patchwork.
Multi-seat constituencies – by crossing local authority boundaries – downgrade local government. Ministers should not be burdened by local duties or be appointed on the basis of local voting success rather than suitability. Many suitable candidates – including some senators – are deterred from contesting.
A properly reformed Dail could lead to a new definition of the purpose, function and structure of the Senate, as an alternative to its abolition. Reform remains within the gift of career politicians. We may have to ask them to take back and don the green jerseys they gave us in 2008 and 2010.
Tom Martin
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
* I have just taxed my car for three months.
In a time of huge financial difficulty for Irish people, our Government is creaming profits from folk like me who can’t afford to pay for 12 months. It costs me €90 extra a year to pay quarterly. There is no justification for this since I logged in and did the administrative work myself.
When I printed the payment page to place on my dashboard until the disc arrived, the page was set up to print over two pages. I know how to print only the page that I want but my mother, for example, wouldn’t know how to do this.
It is inconceivable at a time when austerity and eco-friendly are the buzzwords that every person who taxes their car should print two pages instead of one. The public system is still so out of touch with the needs of the ordinary citizen. It is incredible.
Sarah Nic Lochlainn
Ardee, Co Louth
* A recent letter writer observed that the words of Aesop, from ancient Greece, are still relevant today. May I add that ancient Rome still applies – the senators are in revolt and the lions still bite!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Waterford
* A first indicator of hope appears on the horizon as the IMF and European Commission squabble about action taken on the Greek collapse. Each questions the other’s diagnosis and remedial action of the problem and both are actually correct. The diagnosis was wrong then and is still wrong, and perhaps logical thinking is at last about to break out.
The economic problems of the 21st century are basically not financial at all. They derive from a transformation of production capacity that is unprecedented and unrecognised.
There is now an ability to produce more than the world can consume, which is causing chaos in markets, investment, banking, employment, growth and practically every aspect of economics.
Technology has taken economic activity to a new place, where sterile economic policies of a bygone age are futile, counterproductive and no longer fit for purpose.
Employment will not be restored until it is understood that work is diminishing as every hour passes and jobs must be reconsidered as a means of distributing wealth rather than creating it.
Advancing technology can and will produce more wealth; indeed more of everything than the world needs or can consume.
It must be the task of the IMF and the European Commission to devise methods of administering such phenomenal and unprecedented technological success for the benefit of humanity. Instead they treat the crisis as financial failure because their obsolete philosophy is unable to keep pace with the phenomenal technological advances. Perhaps the developing spat between two very powerful but misguided heavyweights of world administration will force them to rethink their fundamental misjudgments and begin proper administration of the best economic time there ever was for the benefit of all.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
* I am curious as to whether I am the only person who is cutting back entirely all the hedging/greenery that I am (was) fortunate enough to have growing in my garden? The reason that I am doing so is that the cost of disposing of the off-shoots when cutting back has become too expensive, with the ‘green bins’ being weighed by the waste management companies.
I felt particularly bad yesterday when I discovered an empty bird’s nest in the Butterfly bush I totally cut down – but I can no longer afford to have the privilege of growing such wonderful greenery. Next job: concreting over the grass.
Name and address with editor
Irish Independent


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