M still in hospital

27 June 2013 Still Hospital

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Its CaptainPovey is off on Troutbridge to South America, little does he know that Mrs Povey has followed him, Priceless.
Mary still in hospital for a tests I hope all will be well.
I watch The Dominators its not bad
No Scrabble no Mary


Bert Stern
Bert Stern, the celebrity photographer, who has died aged 83, became one of the highest-paid talents in the American advertising industry, and famously took more than 2,000 pictures of Marilyn Monroe in an intimate three-day shoot — the so-called “Last Sitting” — shortly before her death in 1962.

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Bert Stern Photo: GETTY
6:48PM BST 27 Jun 2013
Many showed the actress naked, or posing through diaphanous scarves. “She was so beautiful at that time,” Stern recalled. “I didn’t say: ‘Pose nude.’ It was more one thing leading to another: You take clothes off and off and off and off and off. She thought for a while. I’d say something and the pose just led to itself.”
Although self-taught, Stern helped to revolutionise Madison Avenue and the world of 1960s advertising, recently depicted on television in Mad Men, by transforming simple commercial photography into a branch of conceptual art. With contemporaries like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, he reinvented the vocabulary of glossy magazines (which had hitherto regarded pictures mainly as a means of illustrating advertising copy) by the use of clear, uncluttered and arresting images.
His first assignment, for Smirnoff vodka in 1955, for example, featured a simple close-up of a martini glass in the heat of the Egyptian desert with the Great Pyramid at Giza shimmering in the background. One American critic called Stern’s photograph “the most influential break with traditional advertising photography” of its era.
As a portraitist he photographed some of the world’s most beautiful women, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot. Stern also shot pictures of the then 13-year-old actress Sue Lyon in heart-shaped red sunglasses — one became the poster image for Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film Lolita (1962).
An obsessive womaniser, Stern admitted that he “fell in love with everything I photographed”. But it was the so-called “Last Sitting” of Marilyn Monroe for Vogue magazine that was to furnish his most enduring portfolio. He confessed to trying to get the actress into bed as she peeled off layers of clothing during the shoot at a Hollywood hotel. Whether or not he succeeded was never clear, though he later suggested: “I could have hung up the camera, run off with her, and lived happily ever after.”
The son of Jewish immigrants, Bertram Stern was born on October 3 1929 in Brooklyn, where his father worked as a children’s portrait photographer. After dropping out of high school at the age of 16, he landed a job in the post room at Look magazine, where he met Stanley Kubrick, the magazine’s youngest staff photographer, with whom he shared “a mutual interest in beautiful women”; the pair formed a close and lasting friendship.
Despite his lack of training, Stern became assistant to Look’s art director Hershal Bramson. This led to a position as art director at Mayfair magazine, where Stern bought a camera, learned how to develop film and make contact sheets, and started taking his own pictures.
In 1951 Stern’s career was interrupted by the Korean War, and he was drafted into the US Army. But instead of being posted to Korea, he was diverted to Japan and assigned to the photographic department, where he learned to use a film camera, shooting news footage for the Army while taking stills for himself.
After his discharge his old boss Bramson, then working for a small advertising agency, offered Stern a photographer’s job on a new campaign for Smirnoff. Walking down Fifth Avenue with a martini glass filled with water for inspiration, Stern noticed the Plaza Hotel was inverted in the glass that acted like a lens and turned the image upside down. This gave him the idea to photograph the Pyramid of Giza upside down in the glass, and in 1955 he flew to Egypt to capture the image.
After a brief detour into documentary film making — he directed Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959), a much-admired record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival — Stern returned to stills photography. By 1962 he had begun photographing personalities as well as advertisements and, having joined Vogue magazine, was invited to Rome by Twentieth Century Fox to photograph Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra.
Richard Burton, whom Stern had already photographed at his studio in New York, was playing Mark Antony and began an affair with Elizabeth Taylor. Stern became friends with both and was able to shoot “more candid, fun pictures” of the couple when they were together off set.
Stern’s contract at Vogue gave him a free hand to photograph what he liked, and in June 1962, when he realised that Marilyn Monroe had never been photographed for the magazine, he arranged a shoot at the Bel-Air Hotel, where he adapted one of the spacious suites as a studio. “You’re beautiful,” he exclaimed as he greeted her in the corridor, and she replied: “What a nice thing to say”.
At Monroe’s suggestion, she posed naked, draped in scarves, pearls, paper flowers and bedsheets during the 12-hour session, which ended at dawn. The editors at Vogue were ecstatic , and sent Stern back to photograph Monroe for a further two days, during which he shot the black-and-white images that became some of the most intimate celebrity portraits ever taken.
When Stern submitted his pictures — he had shot 2,571 over three days — Vogue decided to use the mono pictures rather than the colour nudes. “They called me up to see the layouts,” Stern recalled. “There was something haunting about them. That Monday, she died.”
But as his career flourished through the 1960s, Stern’s personal life fell apart, particularly as he underpinned his exhausting work schedule — he booked as many as seven shoots a day — with heavy use of amphetamines. Eventually his marriage to the beautiful New York City Ballet prima ballerina Allegra Kent collapsed, along with his health and his finances.
Recovering in Spain, he had the idea for The Pill Book, a photographic compilation of different pills which he shot as simple still lifes. The book sold more than 18 million copies, and by the late 1970s Stern had returned to America to photograph portraits and fashion.
In 1983, through a friend, he met Shannah Laumeister, then 13, whom he photographed. After a second sitting four years later, she became his girlfriend and muse, and the couple secretly married in 2009. In 2012 Shannah Laumeister directed a candid film documentary, Bert Stern: Original Madman, which was released earlier this year.
In 2000 Stern’s photographs of Monroe were published in a mammoth book, Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting. He latterly sought to duplicate his Monroe success with Lindsay Lohan, and while the pictures proved a tabloid sensation, they were widely criticised as tawdry and exploitative.
Stern and Allegra Kent, with whom he had a son and two daughters, divorced in 1975. Shannah Laumeister survives him.
Bert Stern, born October 3 1929, died June 26 2013


One point which has been missed in your letters on rail privatisation (27 June) is how taxpayers’ money flows to state coffers in Germany, Netherlands and France. Not only have we lost most of our rail manufacturing base, but now German state railways (DB) controls Arriva group, which provides train services in Wales and the Cross Country franchise, as well many bus services. DB also controls our major rail freight operator (DB Schenker). Dutch Railways (NS), through its subsidiary Abellio, is the Greater Anglia franchisee, and has a part interest in Merseyside and Northern trains, and some buses in London.
Finally, the French, with their state-owned transport interests in Veolia, Transdev and the Paris Transport Authority (RATP), have a presence in running buses in London, Bournemouth and other places. Although most of these publicly owned operators are doing a good job, needless to say there is no reciprocal British state interest abroad.
Barry Moore

The Business, Innovation and Skills committee recently called on the government to do more to tackle female under-representation in science, technology, engineering and maths (The girl gap, G2, 27 June). We are delighted to see this issue discussed at a national level and support the recommendations. But we should go further to ensure that gender inequality is properly addressed. First, more emphasis should be placed on mentoring scientific careers. Mentoring plays a key role in helping create a more nurturing, encouraging and transparent working environment, and should be made available to any scientist at any career stage.
The power for change also lies with men. Currently, it is not perceived as socially acceptable for men to work part-time or take substantial parental leave. So, to increase the representation of women in Stem, we need to make these working practices more acceptable for men by amending legislation on parental leave and rights. Changing social norms to reduce the loss of women from science is perhaps the most challenging yet important and wide-reaching change needed.We are championing a change in female under-representation in Stem through “Soapbox Science” on 5 July at London’s South Bank.
Dr Nathalie Pettorelli
Institute of Zoology, London
Dr Seirian Sumner
University of Bristol
• Girls at secondary school may not think of engineering as a career because there is no one to encourage them: successive governments have fallen down on this and schools are little better. Our elder daughter is a successful electronics engineer and the great breakthrough for her was in the sixth form. I noticed in Education Guardian an advert for a week at Aston University entitled “Women in Engineering” – I promptly booked a place for her. She came home treading on air! Needless to say, the scheme no longer operates. The blokes don’t help of course – girls can have a tough time. But it could be so much better than it is if only there was enough vision and encouragement, and less prejudice.
Ruth Baden
Seer Green, Buckinghamshire

To reduce the national debt, we need an expanding economy and tax base (The cuts that keep coming, 27 June). Expanding production and employment is the natural result of expanding demand, which is lacking. The government is in the unique position of being able to initiate investment directly and of creating the money to finance it. A sustained commitment to public investment, creating incomes and the ensuing demand for mass-produced goods, would unlock private investment and a process of growth, and ability to slowly begin deficit-reduction from a position of economic strength.
Francis Westoby
Hitchin, Hertfordshire
• When faced with over 2.5 million unemployed, yet only half a million vacancies, it is surely obscene for a chancellor to lecture the unemployed about how they must attend jobcentres every week, must have CVs ready before attendance, wait seven days before benefits and so forth. However pretty the handwriting, however eloquent at interview, however strong the motivation, at least 2 million people would be without work, were all vacancies filled. That’s the hard fact that the government should stop seeking to evade. It should recognise the plight of the unemployed instead of blaming them for being unemployed.
Peter Cave
• The flickering light at the end of the tunnel is the banking industry coming – unintentionally – to the rescue. In recent months there has been unexpected buoyancy in retail activity and a boom in sales of new cars. Both of these trends can be explained by the drip-feeding into consumers’ pockets of about £14bn in compensation payments to be spread over two years or so for mis-sold payment protection insurance. That is approaching 1% of GDP and probably accounts for much of the small improvement in GDP in the first quarter of this year.
Harvey Cole
Winchester, Hampshire
• Why is it politically taboo even to consider raising income tax? Labour and Conservative governments did this regularly when faced with budget deficits in the past. The case would need to be well made. But for Labour and the Lib Dems to continue to assume that most people are so soaked in individual selfishness as to refuse to vote for a party that would contemplate raising taxes, particularly for the better off, to protect vital services is surely to go down a mistaken and politically cowardly path?
John Gordon
Wallingford, Oxfordshire
• Growth the chancellor wants, and growth he will get. Food bankers up and down the country will expect his latest set of measures to produce fairly spectacular growth in the numbers of those in food poverty, and accelerated growth in the number of food banks. Serving a largely rural area and without a central “shop” where clients can collect their parcels, we deliver them. It is in those brief encounters that we see the gut-wrenching needs of some people – needs which a parcel of food, however substantial, comes nowhere near satisfying. George, during your summer recess, would you and Dave care to join us in making some deliveries?
Patricia and Peter Simmons
North Berwick, East Lothian

I’ve often wondered how victims of fraud or environmental damage feel about huge “compensation” packages for senior executives. I recently visited a lively 100-year old who, I suspect, is more generous than wealthy. He told me he’d just received a letter telling him he had been “awarded a reduction” in his pension following the death of his wife (of 74 years). Reduced pension, fair enough. But the language.
Rev James Ramsay
• Schadenfreude is all very well (Pass notes, G2, 26 June), but the “gag”, as the Germans also say, is on us. We can revel in Chinglish, Spanglish and now Denglish but unless we can help more of our own kids to master Mandarin, Spanish and German, the UK’s up the proverbial creek without a “paddel” when it comes to competitiveness.
John Worne
Director of strategy, British Council
• UK Brünnhildes may be losing weight and gaining stature (Letters, 27 June), but the gold standard is set by the svelte Swede, Nina Stemme, who’ll sing the role in next month’s Proms. If you can’t wait that long she is a transcendent Isolde at the Vienna Staatsoper this month.
Dr John Doherty
Vienna, Austria
• Your review page (24 June) shines an interesting light on your perception of the Guardian’s readership. The Killers, Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen will, I’m sure, be known to some of your readers. What I guess many more were hoping for was comment on Sunday’s superb final of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition which did not receive a mention in any part of the paper.
David Gillan
Knutsford, Cheshire
• When offered the choice between a free Daily Mail or Telegraph in my local supermarket (Letters, 27 June), I decide which looks the thickest and then take it home and shred it. They both absorb my cat’s wee equally well.
Kay Ara
Trinity, Jersey
• I have noticed for some time that cricket sides get “bundled out”, as with Somerset against the Australians (Sport, 27 June).
Rev Tony Bell
Rochester, Kent

Falkirk constituency has been put into special measures by Labour’s NEC following “stitch up” claims (Report, 25 June). But the transparency of Unite’s political crusade belies any intended malpractice: they have campaigned in good faith; their well-meaning socialist goals have been there for all to see. No, the issue at stake is the lack of strategic direction from Labour’s leadership. Old Labour and New Labour are not compatible and never will be. Socialism is the very antithesis of capitalism and no end of relabelling will make old values electable. If this severe and visible rift persists, 20 years of rebuilding credibility will have been wasted.
Labour has already had its modern revolution. Blair won our arguments in the country, and those that mattered within the party. Remember, New Labour was conceived as a “programme for a new centre and centre-left politics” (see Labour’s 1997 manifesto). The underlying assumption (then) of a Liberal coalition, in the event, gave birth to unexpected landslide Labour majorities and to what surely became the most successful and influential popular political movement in modern history. These populist New Labour principles are still as relevant as ever. Pendulum politics will now likely exclude extremes, and even more likely reward centrist coalitions. If the price of Labour’s paymaster is to require us to withdraw into the ideological comfort zone of our core activists (in order to re-engage in our old internal battles), then Labour’s generals will have perversely snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (well in keeping with our party’s Old Labour traditions). A party with discipline, clarity and pledgecards wins elections. Not a party that follows the line of least resistance.
Mike Allott
Eastleigh, Hampshire
• On Wednesday, George Osborne introduced proposals that will push desperate families into the arms of payday loan sharks and throw thousands more hard-working public servants on the scrapheap (The cuts that keep on coming, 27 June). Ed Balls’s reaction to this was to score cheap political points. What else could he do? Labour has already said it won’t be reversing any cuts planned up to 2015-16. This decision marks the final descent of the Labour party from a popular working-class movement to being just another middle-class conservative political party.
As somebody who now feels completely disenfranchised by the main parties, I call on the trade union movement to withdraw funding from Labour as a party that no longer represents its interests. Instead, funding should be directed to a new party formed from the membership of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. This would be a party that seeks to improve the living standards of all people whether working or not. The shape of society is changing and full employment no longer a possibility. The unemployed should be encouraged to live stimulating lives and be valued rather than being scapegoated for economic problems created by reckless bankers.
The economy is said to be recovering when the rich are getting richer at the expense of a victimised underclass resorting to food banks. The way economic success is measured is seriously flawed. However obnoxious Ukip’s policies, they have at least demonstrated an appetite in the electorate for real political alternatives. A genuine people’s party should be formed without delay, to reverse the cuts and give the poor, the low-paid and the jobless a real political voice.
Tim Matthews
Luton, Bedfordshire
• Cherry Weston asks why we should vote for Labour if they are keeping to the same spending limits as the government (Letters, 25 June). Having the same overall level of public spending doesn’t mean sharing it out in the same way. You only have to read the Guardian or Private Eye to see how this government has squandered money through incompetence or ideology or a mixture of both. There is plenty of scope to shift spending priorities, as well as to raise more money through a determined crackdown on tax evasion. And some measures – such as tighter regulation of privatised utilities – don’t require extra spending.
John Bourn
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
• The prospects for jobs and services in local government look increasingly frightening. Not all Labour representative and affiliated unions such as Unison and Unite share the shadow chancellor’s acceptance of these cuts. Many Labour councillors are torn between obligations to their communities and workforce and feeling obliged to back the policies of the leadership. But an increasing number of councillors are realising that it is not only morally wrong to carry through these devastating cuts but also politically suicidal for the party. The Councillors Against Cuts campaign calls on unions and Labour councillors to oppose together all cutbacks in local government expenditure. Only last week Unison, at its national local government conference, overwhelmingly agreed to work with us for this objective. Osborne’s complacency that no one has fought back against him will have to be answered over the coming year. There must be a fight. Our campaign is working to ensure that there will be.
Pete Radcliff Secretary, Councillors Against cuts, Cllrs Gill Kennett and Dean Kirk Hull City Council, Cllr Greg Marshall Broxtowe Borough Council, Jon Rogers Unison NEC (personal capacity), Marsha Jane Thompson Vice-chair, Labour Representation Committee
• One can agree with everything Green MP Caroline Lucas says (Letters, June 25) but also have the need to add in what she did not say – which bears down very heavily on the politics of the case she is making. The People’s Assembly was heavily sponsored by the trade unions. But we all know that, with a few honourable exceptions, come 2015 most of those unions will be spending money and deploying members to elect an, essentially, New Labour government that is now committed to everything they were attacking last Saturday. Time, I feel, for the unions to have a serious rethink about their Faustian pact with rewarmed Blair/Brownism.
Simon Sedgwick-Jell
An important point not mentioned in your article on the problems with ‘chugging’ is the simple fact that there are a lot more people living on or below the bread line as the economic squeeze continues with no end in sight.
I must admit that I personally dislike this form of fundraising and consider it to be one of the worst ways to raise awareness for any charity, the only one worse than this is the ‘knock on the door’ at teatime with the same ‘guilt trip’ message hammered home by the young person in the charity shirt.
What many of these charities using guilt and bully tactics overlook is what happens during the course of an average day for some of us – I’ll use myself as an example. I buy goods that support growers and farmers from the local shops to support local business; my change goes into the charity tin on the counter or to the quiet folk simply standing with a tin at the doorway. I will pay for someone to pack my goods to support a local charity and sponsor friends and family doing things to raise money for good causes. All of this is done whilst juggling bills and day to day expenses, just to get by. Then I am accosted by someone with a clipboard demanding my bank details, while saying to me: “But it’s only X amount per month…”
It is ironic that even some of the larger charities have not learned anything from the TV, where huge fundraising happens every year. Those campaigns entertain, educates and make people laugh and cry, and they raise millions in a matter of hours. It works because it does not simply expect you to put your hand in your pocket or give your bank details. It works because it engages you without the bully tactics. I am not saying that this is the perfect way to fundraise, as I know there have been scandals, but to me it is far better than accosting strangers in the street.
Peter Dean
Partner and web design consultant at Debayne Web Design



Is there not something obscene in the way in which George Osborne deals with the unemployment misery? He trumpets that the unemployed must attend job centres every week, must have CVs ready before attendance, must wait seven days before benefits, and so forth – as if it is the fault of the unemployed that they are unemployed.
He conveniently forgets to highlight the fact that there are about 500,000 job vacancies, yet at least 2,500,000 people looking for work. However pretty the handwriting, however strong the motivation to work, however eloquent at the interview, at least 2,000,000 people would be without work, were all vacancies filled – and it is shameful for ministers not to come clean about that.
Peter Cave, London W1
Making people sign on weekly instead of fortnightly is a pathetic little measure from a pathetic Chancellor who doesn’t understand the problems faced by the jobless in a country with 2.5 million out of work. Mind you, they will need extra staff at the Job Centre to deal with this extra workload, something I’m sure that hasn’t crossed Osborne’s mind.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
The bloated public sector needs cutting; it’s a pity George Osborne didn’t cut overseas aid, or even stop it, until our country can afford to send our taxes abroad.
We shouldn’t be cutting our services while sending money to countries which will always have disease, famine and conflict.
T Sayer, Bristol
Oh dear! Mr Osborne’s clumsy joke about the Battle of Waterloo will upset his swivel-eyed right-wingers. Victory in 1815 was confirmed by the arrival of Blucher and his Prussians. Will the Bones and their chums envisage General Merkel riding over the hill to our aid?
Peter Metcalfe, Stevenage
Justice for disabled fans at live gigs
Through my parliamentary work with the young people who make up the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network, I am very aware that access and inclusion at many live music events is still far from perfect for disabled fans (“Gigs ‘humiliate and isolate’ disabled fans”, 26 June).
It is important that the music industry understands how they can improve their service for young disabled people who want to enjoy live music and buy their tickets in the same way as everybody else. I met with representatives from the live music industry and members of the Trailblazers network in Parliament yesterday to see if we could come up with some solutions to the problems disabled people face when watching their favourite band or artist.
Our group is in the process of its second inquiry into the issues of social justice that affect young disabled people and we will be publishing our recommendations next year.
Paul Maynard MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Young Disabled People, House of Commons
I have MS and regularly go to gigs and festivals, so I fully understand the need for improvements, particularly when accessible tickets are only available via the venue and there are restrictions with companion seats. But let’s hear it for the tremendous efforts that have been made by the major festivals such as Glastonbury and Womad.
Accessible camping, toilets, viewing platforms, accessible showers, access for caravans and  motorhomes and even volunteer helpers for pitching tents. Sadly mud does not discriminate, but help is always at hand.
Recent good venues for thoughtfully placed wheelchair accessible seating: Newcastle Radio Metro Arena (Neil Young and Crazy Horse); and – always the best – Manchester Bridgewater Hall.
Brenda Lynton-Escreet, Carnforth, Lancashire
Why doctors can look scruffy
I was interested to read Mary Dejevsky’s view on the dress code in hospitals (Notebook, 26 June).
I have worked within the NHS, and would agree that some doctors’ dress sense has been lost latterly. It is generally required that clinical staff should be naked up to the elbows, and ties, if worn, should be stuffed down the front of the shirt. White coats have been banned as they were rarely washed.
Some older consultants try to subvert these rules, working in their smart shirts with cufflinks, but beware if they are caught by eagle eyed infection control nurses!
Younger doctors are more compliant in this area, but as a result do tend to “dress down” rather more than their older colleagues, with the result that they could be seen as rather scruffy in appearance.
Perhaps Mary Dejevsky would prefer them to appear in the operating theatre scrubs beloved of our American cousins. Personally I would prefer these, to indicate that the doctor is in a newly laundered outfit, fit to be used when carrying out sterile procedures.
On the matter of nurses uniforms, rules are strictly enforced. Unfortunately some nurses may appear “unkempt”, as hospital laundries stopped ironing uniforms some time ago. The alternative is for nurses to wash their uniforms at home, after every wear, at 60 degrees or above. Difficult in modern ecological washing machines.
There is, however, no excuse for them to do their shopping in uniform, unless they work in the community and are carrying out purchases on the behalf of patients.
Liz White, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire
Tackle the worst mutilation first
Ian Quayle asks: “Is it not time that all genital mutilation – on boys as well as girls – was treated as a criminal offence?” (Letters, 22 June). The moral case against parents having a licence to lacerate their children’s genitals without consent is unassailable. Such a law could be consistent and subject to no misinterpretation.
However, as in the days of the slave trade, the campaign for abolition of these barbaric practices is likely to take decades, and will have to square up to some fierce opposition. In the short term, alleviation of the worst excesses also needs to be aimed at, as was the case with conditions on the slave ships long before emancipation. It is important to insist that when a girl is circumcised, no more is taken away from her than the foreskin or prepuce which covers the clitoris, analogous to male circumcision.
It is important to keep talking about this, even if it makes some people feel ill.
David Hamilton, Edinburgh
Syria bleeds as the world bickers
It is a damning indictment of international diplomacy that no date has been set for the proposed Syria peace conference (“Hopes for Syria conference fading”, 26 June).
A political solution is desperately needed to end the conflict, which continues to claim a staggering 5,000 lives a month and has left more than eight million people in need of aid. Further delays will only increase the bloodshed and suffering. Yet the promised Geneva peace conference seems farther away than ever.
A timetable for the peace negotiations must be agreed immediately and all sides of the conflict must be involved, as well as non-military representatives including refugee and women’s groups. The people of Syria cannot continue to suffer as the world bickers about the solution.
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam, Oxford
In memory of Thatcher
I was somewhat bemused on reading Donald Macintyre’s article on the Tory right’s “alternative Queen’s speech” (25 June). Even to a lifelong leftie like me many of the items seemed far from “loony”.
What did (initially) have me grinding my teeth was the idea of making August Bank Holiday into Margaret Thatcher Day. That, I thought, fully deserved its five-rosette loony rating. Then I had second thoughts. With the continuing decline in the observation of Guy Fawkes Night we could do with an alternative excuse to light bonfires and burn someone in effigy. Mrs T as an alternative to Fawkes would go down great in the post-industrial wastelands she helped to create.
Derek Haslam, Colne, Lancashire
Publicity for a murderer
I find talk about giving Ian Brady “the oxygen of publicity” worrying; it reminds me of the Thatcher Government’s ruling that the voices of members of Sinn Fein should not be heard on TV.
Surely the point at issue is: is Brady’s mental health review tribunal newsworthy? It is the job of newspapers to inform us about events in the world, however unsavoury.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Big villages
Following your report on less-civil country dwellers (17 June), I do wonder what the population of the “string of Wiltshire villages” will have to say. Devizes is a substantial market town; Trowbridge is the administrative capital of the county of Wiltshire; and Salisbury has been a city since 1226. Village dwellers? This will certainly give them something to be irritable about.
Martin Holloway, Honiton, Devon
Tragic fate
Ben Francis (Letters, 27 June) writes that mistaking Aristotle for Aeschylus is “an outstanding example of tragic irony”, but it isn’t. It’s an example of hamartia, a tragic error. Of course, mistaking hamartia for tragic irony is itself an example of hamartia. And both our letters are examples of hubris. Which only goes to – sorry. Must dash. Couple of Furies at the door…
Michael Bywater, RLF Fellow, Department of English & Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick
Gender bias
I would support Hannah Pool in her quest to remove sexist anti-female material from Tesco and other family stores (Voices, 27 June). Perhaps she would also like to support my campaign to ban publications aimed at women with features like, “How to manipulate your man”, and TV commercials where incompetent male characters are portrayed as having only two working brain cells.
Nigel Scott, London N22, Unforced
Satanay Dorken, talking about Muslim culture (letter, 25 June), makes the mistake that most people in the UK seem to make: she talks of forced marriages being common also among Sikhs and Hindus. What is common among Hindus is arranged marriage, which is entirely different.
Ramji Abinashi, Amersham, Buckinghamshire


Funds are tight, but far better to invest for growth than spend £8.1 billion maintaining these same people out of work
Sir, The announcement that the Government will be committing more than £100 billion towards UK infrastructure projects is certainly a much-needed long-term boost for the construction industry. But it will not benefit the industry for at least two years. The sector needs growth now.
The recent Office of National Statistics figures and the Construction Industry Training Board’s own labour market intelligence report show that the UK’s output fell 9 per cent last year and is unlikely, without help, to attain 2007 levels until 2022. Some 60,000 construction jobs were lost in 2012 with a further 45,000 expected to go this year.
“Shovel ready” projects in the repair and maintenance sector should be receiving similar investment with their ability to create jobs in the shorter term. Every £100 million invested in repair and maintenance takes 3,200 construction workers off the dole. Yes, funds are tight, but far better to invest for growth than — as at present — spend £8.1 billion of government money maintaining these same people out of work.
Judy Lowe
Construction Industry Training Board
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Sir, The announcement of a trebling of roads investment over the next six years recognises the importance of efficient road communications to our economic productivity, competitiveness and growth. Businesses and road users will be delighted to see projects such as the A14, linking our manufacturing heartlands to major east coast ports, being given the priority they deserve.
Potentially transformational is the commitment to stable planning and budgeting, to be guaranteed in legislation. Longer-term commitment is essential to support jobs, skills and innovation in our civil engineering sector.
Spending guarantees imply funding guarantees. The Government should consider dedicating a significant element of motoring taxes to spending on roads. This would command wide support. A dedicated fund could also facilitate direct investment by global capital funds, matching what happens in other infrastructure sectors.
The Government has set off on the road to investment, growth and jobs. We must press on, with good speed.
Brian Wadsworth
Director, The Road Ahead Group
London SW1
Sir, The economy still faces unprecedented challenges and credit formation is still subdued. The costs of quantitative easing in reduced income on savings and the risk of inflation are far outweighed by the benefits in lower interest rates for borrowers and in encouraging banks and others to lend. But because QE has been limited to gilts, its direct impact on the real economy has been muffled. Why not use it to create new bonds, underwritten by the Treasury and held on the Bank of England’s balance sheet, but used to fund revenue-generative infrastructure projects, in particular social housing?
In addition to the social benefits, such an initiative would have a multiplier effect on the economy. Funding social house building in this way would not risk artificially inflating house prices as the lend-to-buy scheme does. Moreover, by funding revenue-generating projects, the interest and repayment of the bonds would be self-funding. Exceptional times provide the perfect opportunity.
Nick Green
London SW6


The most fundamental principle of fairness is at stake when discussing the Government’s proposed reforms to the legal aid system
Sir, The full effects of Government reforms to legal aid are in danger of being lost. We should be talking about the availability of universal access to justice if the proposed reforms aren’t altered.
The family battling to resolve a custody dispute; the employee unfairly dismissed; or the tenant dealing with an illegal housing contract will be the ultimate victims of constricted access to legal advice. As a result of reforms implemented earlier this year, our Citizens Advice Bureaux are being forced to turn away people who have nowhere else to go for advice on legal matters.
At stake is the most fundamental principle of fairness. As Lord Neuberger said earlier this week, the rule of law demands “an accessible and effective court system; and an accessible, high quality, independent legal profession”.
Gillian Guy
Chief Executive, Citizens Advice

‘Since the Lancaster House agreement Mugabe ruthlessly did everything to manoeuvre himself into power at the expense of Joshua Nkomo’
Sir, Matthew Parris’s article “Mugabe — a great warrior and, yes, a great leader” (June 26) places a favourable comparison between Robert Mugabe and Cecil Rhodes.
There is no doubt that Rhodes, and the four generations of settlers since, created a modern well-functioning country with all the material benefits that this brings to the whole population. They also created food for the whole population and exported the surplus to southern Africa.
Since the Lancaster House agreement Mugabe ruthlessly did everything to manoeuvre himself into power at the expense of Joshua Nkomo and has kept himself there at all costs. He has no regard for democracy or the good of anyone except his cronies who manage the levers of state control, whom he bribes with privileges and other people’s possessions, such as farms. The casualties have been a broken economy, widespread destitution, poverty, famine and 20,000 Matabele murdered by the Korean Brigade. And he has refused to take part in constitutional reform and representative government.
Bryan Coode
Grampound, Cornwall

Privatising the probation service without first trialling the proposals will put the public at risk and destabilise the current system
Sir, As one who works closely with the Probation Service and is a former Ministry of Justice civil servant, I see huge risks associated with the transfer of probation services to the private and voluntary sectors (report, June 25). To mitigate these risks, it would be sensible to trial this programme in one or more regions, privatising a number of Probation Trusts. In this way the risks (and they are considerable) can be better determined, problems identified and solutions found before moving to full privatisation of low-risk offenders and centralisation of the most violent within a smaller national core probation service.
Privatisation without first trialling the proposals will put the public at risk and destabilise the current efficient and effective national probation service. For a ministry unable to let a contract for court interpreters and which had significant problems when it changed the court escort service for prisoners, privatisation on this scale is tantamount to disaster.
It will be interesting what the Public Accounts Committee says when another MoJ project goes off the rails.
John Berry

Comparatives and superlatives were not Jane Austen’s only grammatical fault. She was prone to mistakes in her plurals, too
Sir, Robin Thompson (letter, June 26) cites, with no apparent censure, Jane Austen’s use of the superlative when comparing the ages of Emma Woodhouse and her sister.
Yet is it really safe to regard Miss Austen as a paragon of acceptable grammar?
In Persuasion, she refers to the “Miss Musgroves”; and in Mansfield Park to the “Miss Bertrams”. She should surely have said “the Misses Musgrove” and “the Misses Bertram”.
In the hypothetical case of two brothers, it is hardly felicitous to refer to them as “the Mister Smiths” — they are surely “Messrs Smith”. The use of a particular construction by a great author is no guarantee of its soundness.
J. R. G. Edwards
Birchington, Kent

SIR – Richard Dorment (Arts, June 25) attributes autism and Asperger’s syndrome to L S Lowry, but not talent. I wholeheartedly disagree. The north of England, with its rows of terraces and dark satanic mills, is indeed geometric.
We have a print of Coming from the Mill and my wife’s father never fails to point out some tiny detail which can be happy or sad, but always interesting.
Mark Downs
Leigh, Lancashire
SIR – May I suggest that Richard Dorment missed the point? The empty, moronic figures in Lowry’s works have become just that: dehumanised cogs in their industrial world.
Shirley Freeman
Northwood, Middlesex
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A & E systems should be redesigned to put patients’ needs first
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SIR – I wonder if Richard Dorment is familiar with the work of Helen Bradley? She was contemporary with Lowry and came from the same area. Her style is very similar but with a great deal more warmth and humour.
I own a print of Bradley’s painting of the bandstand in Alexandra Park, with Miss Carter, a recurring figure who always wears pink, trying to avoid the attention of the curate – or is it the other way round?
John Oliver
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – The deepening crisis in accident and emergency departments and, in particular, the treatment of the elderly can be tackled through system redesign. This requires a holistic reassessment of how we organise services. Anything short of this is just tinkering around the edges.
The Health Foundation recently published a report called Improving Patient Flow, which followed two NHS Trusts’ journeys towards improving their emergency services for adults and the elderly. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent two years redesigning its systems around elderly patients’ needs rather than its own. It focused on how it could get older people to hospital more quickly, how to assess their needs promptly, put care plans in place and get them back home again.
Older people waiting in hospital beds for treatment or to be discharged lose their independence and are exposed to unnecessary risks. Removing these delays makes care safer and more efficient. The team in Sheffield did this by matching consultants’ working hours with the predictable patterns of service demand, linking up with local authority teams.
Rather than assessing people for discharge, the team now “discharges to assess” – once a patient is medically fit for discharge they are taken home by a therapist, assessed in their own environment, and community support is swiftly put in place.
Dr Jo Bibby
The Health Foundation
London WC2
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Lowry’s work is filled with interesting detail
27 Jun 2013
SIR – My recent experience at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton may shed light on the problem of overcrowding in A & E.
Our daughter was seriously ill and recuperating with us. When she deteriorated at the weekend, we had no choice but to call an ambulance. We spent a long time in A & E until we were told a bed was available, whereupon we waited for two hours before porters were available to move her. The following day she was to be moved to palliative care, where a room was waiting for her. Again it took more than two hours for a porter to be available.
When I queried the problem I was told that the hospital does not employ porters, as they have been privatised. The company that runs the porters clearly does not have enough of them.
Deborah Cameron Moore
Newick, East Sussex
SIR – The British Medical Association protests it is not Tesco (report, June 25). But if being open 24 hours a day is what it takes to minister to the sick then so be it.
Is it not in the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors should keep their patients from “harm and injustice”?
Angela Sykes
Malmesbury, Wiltshire
SIR – The BMA and Tesco are completely different. Tesco is customer-led.
Peter Sharp
Ascot, Berkshire
Qatar’s hand-over
SIR – Your report (June 25) in relation to Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad, handing power to his son, says that most leaders in the region hold on to their position until they die. This may be the case in other countries, not, however, in Qatar.
When I moved there in 1989, the British Embassy’s welcome pack noted that no leader of Qatar had died while in power in its recorded history. Most were deposed when they became old and were seen to be weak. Indeed Sheikh Hamad deposed his father, Sheikh Khalifa, in a bloodless coup in 1995. What is almost without precedent is a voluntary ceding of power, and for this Hamad should be applauded.
Tim Manns
Plymouth, Devon
Nuisance calls
SIR – Ofcom intends to implement an EU directive that will alter the pricing rules on calls made over the fixed line. This will lead to consumers getting many more spam calls (telegraph.co.uk, June 17).
As chairman of Resilient Networks, a company that specialises in managing incoming calls made to large organisations, I fail to understand why Ofcom is rushing through these changes when other countries have taken a more considered approach. France, for instance, is taking 18 months to implement these changes, while Italy has announced a three-year “glide” path. Here, the plan gives less than six weeks’ notice. This is another example of Britain adopting EU directives more ardently than our European partners.
Geoffrey Paterson
London W1
Arming Syrian rebels
SIR – During the Second World War, the British supplied arms and ammunition to the resistance forces in Malaya, who were mainly communist Chinese. At the Japanese surrender, these arms should have been surrendered too, but they were “lost”. In 1948, they were turned against us in the Malayan Insurgency, requiring the deployment of a strong military force for some five years.
To arm the multi-faction rebel movement in Syria must increase the risk of arms falling into the hands of terrorist groups opposed to this country, and thus increase the risk of terrorist activity.
Edward Studd
Sherborne, Dorset
SIR – Why haven’t we heard a public pronouncement by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, on which side he intends to arm in the Brazilian crisis?
Tom Byrne
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
It’s a numbers game
SIR – With all the letters (June 25) about birthday coincidences, I remember my “hat-trick”. My first telephone number was CLE 1363 (Clerkenwell); my best friend’s was NOR 1363 (North); and the first job I had was ARC 1363 (Archway).
Lilian Gordon
London W1
SIR – My younger siblings were born on October 4, 5 and 6 in 1949, 1952 and 1955 – possibly the results of a triennial celebration of my birthday (in January).
Melvyn Cooper
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
SIR – My wife’s first husband had the same birthday as me. What is the chance of that happening?
Brian D Freestone
Brent Knoll, Somerset
Patent protection
SIR – David Cameron has announced a £1 million prize for the inventor of the “next penicillin”, or for the “plane that can fly carbon-free to New York” (report, June 14).
I am sure that all who participate will be informed that, should they take out a British patent, their work, if it is radical and valuable, will be infringed by the multi-national corporations. Soon after, we will be importing the technology, and the inventor will get nothing.
This is because, unlike our competitors, we do not impose a penalty for wilful infringement of our patents. In Germany, for example, an infringer can be imprisoned for up to five years and heavily fined.
The only protection a British patent holder has is the right to sue an infringer. For this, according to the Government’s own figures, the inventor needs at least £750,000. At least the winner will have change from the prize money, unlike almost all of our innovative small and medium enterprises.
Michael Wilcox
Public inconveniences
SIR – Here in Melton Mowbray, we spend thousands every year trying to attract visitors to the town, but keep the public lavatories firmly locked, unless it is a “special occasion” (Letters, June 19).
One would think that a three-day arts festival, a St George’s Day parade and the finish of an international cycle race, all on the same day, might be a special occasion. Requests that the loos be unlocked were ignored. The council should ask volunteers to keep a keen eye on the loos, for the benefit of all who have the need on a “special occasion”.
Brian Hodder
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
The last gooseberry
SIR – For years now, our family and friends have had to be dragooned into picking the gooseberry crop (Letters, June 26).
When hands are all scratched and enthusiasm wanes, I pause in front of a bush and solemnly declare: “I’ve found the last gooseberry”. That always revives flagging spirits, and precipitates a dash to find the final fruit.
Geoff Milburn
Glossop, Derbyshire
SIR – Never mind the gooseberries, where can I get fresh bilberries, when in season, or tinned ones when not?
Howard Bishop
Ballaugh, Isle of Man
Preventing texts and tweets at the dinner table
SIR – Alan Hall (Letters, June 21) should insist on my “no toys at the table” rule, which I instigated 30 years ago and have in place to this day for both my husband and my now adult children.
Hilary Jarrett
SIR – At school I use a signal-jammer with a range of 30 metres to prevent “phone-fiddling” and to ensure full concentration in class.
I am sure a similar thing would work for Mr Hall’s dinner parties.
Lewis Darke
Ovingham, Northumberland
SIR – I make my children place their mobiles in a tub by the dining room door, likening the process to removing one’s guns before eating, as in the Wild West.
It seems to humour them.
Peter Rosie
Ringwood, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I’m an innocent casualty of the Non Principal Private Residence late payment trap, having only recently been made aware of the tax.
While registering and attempting to pay, I was astounded to discover a bill for €3,240 of which two-thirds is the “late payment fee”. Discussions with the NPPR team, and my local authority have left me dismayed and dumbfounded introduction, and frustrated with it’s administrative inflexibility. Despite having a genuine reason for not knowing of the NPPR (living abroad), I was not informed by letter in the first instance, nor of any late payment penalties, and subsequent anniversary payments. It’s nothing but a disgrace that such stealth fees are charged, with no contact with the household, or warning of late charges.
Should a commercial enterprise act in this way, there’d be a public outrage, with consumer groups and government bodies closing it down immediately.
I do not have the means to challenge this, but if taken to the highest court, I’m sure the NPPR late payment system would fail.  Anyone in a similar position could eventually face a late fee charge of over €15,000, which might be the incentive to mount a challenge.
I have raised my situation with councillors, the Minister, the Ombudsman, lawyers, and many others; most agree that the late payment charges in this case are unfair, should be waived, or at a minimum adjusted. My attempts to pay all the back NPPR (€1,000) was refused, as was a proposal to pay the total amount by instalments.  The excuse being that the legislation does not provide these options. Just because “its in the legislation” doesn’t mean it is right in practice.
The law of common sense and fair play have failed. Such inflexibility is infuriating, and the inability to negotiate a satisfactory result most disappointing. The late payment fee is substantial; it is money that won’t be spent in local shops, supermarkets, and restaurants, which I believe is badly needed in today’s flaccid economy. Nor will I see the benefit of street lighting, rubbish collection and the like in my local, island community. Unfortunately this has turned out to be a tax on the honest, paying for this Government’s laziness and gross incompetence.
I’ve been a homeowner in Ireland since 2003, and cannot believe they don’t know where I live. –   Yours, etc,

Sir, – How sad to learn of the Leinster House sweet shop closure (Front page, June 27th).
If our elected representatives were in need of a boost after a marathon session, they could always take some time out and revel in a new topic, do a twirl or just flake out. Now, after eight, they must forget the fudge, learn new twix or perhaps even find a new galaxy beyond the milky way. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – What a spineless lot are the TDs and Senators from the Labour Party who have resigned.
When they were elected, they knew full well the state of the country and the economy and they were well aware that difficult decisions would have to be taken. They were elected under the Labour banner and then proceeded to act like spoiled children. If they had even a modicum of the courage of their convictions, they would resign their Dáil seats and put themselves forward as Independents. They might well all be re-elected, but at least voters would know what they were getting.
Any TD who chooses to resign from a party between general elections should automatically have to resign their seat and a by-election should then follow. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – David Robert Grimes (Opinion, June 26th), while extolling the scientific method, writes of “several needless deaths following the X case”. The actual scientific evidence for these tragedies, however, seems to have gone missing from his published article. It was also missing from reports of the recent Oireachtas hearings.
I attempted a scientific analysis of my own, as follows. About one in 500,000 pregnant women take their own lives, and about 75,000 births occur here each year. In the period since the X case, therefore, probably three of these tragedies have occurred. How many of these three tragedies would have been prevented by abortion being available? This is where I get stuck. I think the answer is 0. If there had been 300 such tragedies, I think the answer would still be 0. I take this position because no one – not Dr Grimes, not any psychiatrist – has provided me with data suggesting otherwise.
Also, as probably the only person in the country who has waded through the 2011 report of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH), I can say to Dr Grimes that, in his article, he is over-stating the findings, and over-simplifying the contents, of the NCCMH report. The relationship between abortion and mental health is statistically complex, and it is simply ludicrous to explain away conflicting findings as misrepresentation by people with a religious agenda.
Yes, I am Catholic and yes, I abhor the intentional killing of babies, but I also oppose the proposed X case legislation because, scientifically, it does not have a leg to stand on. – Yours, etc,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – In his recent article (Opinion, June 26th), David Grimes accuses Breda O’Brien of misrepresenting research and cherry-picking facts regarding the mental health impact of abortion on the basis of her religious views. Ironically, in doing so he manages to conveniently ignore some key facts.
Dr Grimes criticises her “championing of the Fergusson report” but then completely fails to identify any substantive problems with that study, instead going on to cite others that he seems to believe refute O’Brien’s point.
Even here, rather than addressing O’Brien’s argument directly, Dr Grimes does what many advocates of abortion legislation have done in this debate – he subtly shifts the ground. He tries to give the impression that her primary argument is that abortion has a deleterious effect on women’s mental health. But in her column (Opinion, April 27th), she merely says there is no evidence that having an abortion improves a women’s mental health, when compared to carrying a pregnancy to term. All of the studies cited by Dr Grimes agree with this conclusion. It is also true to say, as Breda O’Brien has in the past, that some categories of women, such as those with a history of mental illness, appear to suffer worse mental health outcomes after having had an abortion.

A chara, – I feel compelled as a 23-year-old Irishman to register my alarm at what headlined our nation’s airwaves and print media this past week.
As a nation, we spent last week fawning over what an American mother and her daughters ate in a Dublin pub, and reminiscing about a glorious June in 1963 when the most powerful man on earth deemed us worthy of a four-day visit.
It is with great regret that I noticed the 250th anniversary of the birth of our own Founding Father passed by without the briefest mention in a national paper, let alone some class of commemoration.
Wolfe Tone encapsulated all that is good and positive in Irish nationalism, patriotism and statehood. “And would to the kind heavens, that Wolfe Tone were here today”.
Heaven forbid that we Irish celebrate our own heroes. – Is mise,

Sir, – It struck me as odd that in your Editorial (“Talking to Turkey”, June 26th) you make no mention that more journalists are imprisoned in Turkey for what they have written than in China or Iran. In addition, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has recorded hundreds of cases there involving the regular harassment of journalist and writers.
Then there is the treatment of women in Turkey. Channel 4’s Unreported World reported on the prevalence of “honour killings” and “forced suicides” of girls and women in Turkey. Its reporter Ramita Navai discovered that even in supposedly advanced Istanbul there was an average of one “honour killing” per week.
Given that it borders such bastions of peace and happiness as Iran, Iraq and Syria, surely Turkey is not, as you suggest, “an important bridge to the Middle East” but rather a potential bridgehead for chaos and extremism into the EU? – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:


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