Jam jars

21 July 2013 Jam jars

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark nice to hear Pertwee again. Its the one where Nunkie plants a listening device on Pertwee, but pertwee turns the tables on them all. Priceless
Cooler today just a touch lady does not come to pick up my jars
We watch Are you being served not bad
Scrabble today Mary win’s but gets under 400 perhaps I will get my revenge tomorrow?


Mel Smith
Mel Smith, who has died of a heart attack at the age of 60, was part of one of television’s best-known comedy double acts as well as a successful actor and director in his own right.

Mel Smith has died of a heart attack at the age of 60 Photo: Getty Images
6:12PM BST 20 Jul 2013
His comedy sketches on Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O’Clock News turned him into a household name.
Often he played the role of world-weary know-it-all, but also thrived as a lovable rogue.
He enjoyed long and varied career, which saw Smith appear in and direct Hollywood films, introduce Queen at Live Aid and score a top-five chart hit.
Born in Chiswick, west London, it was perhaps inevitable Smith – the son of a bookmaker – would enter the world of entertainment as even at the age of six he was directing plays with his friends.
He went up to New College, Oxford, to study experimental psychology, having chosen the university especially for its dramatic society.
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Smith’s involvement in the society led to him becoming its president, and he directed productions at the Oxford Playhouse and performed at the Edinburgh fringe festival during his university days.
His directing career saw him first working at the Royal Court in London, before moving on to the Bristol Old Vic and the Sheffield Crucible.
It was after being invited by producer John Lloyd to join the Not the Nine O’Clock News that Smith met Griff Rhys Jones, who would go on to become his comedy sidekick for decades to come.
When the programme, which also featured Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson, came to an end, Smith and Jones decided to continue their comedy partnership with their own sketch show, its name being taken from American Western series Alias Smith and Jones.
Its trademark became the pair’s head-to-head chats, which have been compared to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s Dagenham Dialogues.
The conversations saw Smith play a know-it-all, while Jones took on a dim-witted persona, and they would engage in discussions on every topic under the sun. Over the next 16 years, there were a total of 10 series of the show.
In addition, Smith and Jones made films and radio shows together, and performed in plays, clip shows and Christmas specials. The comedians’ many charity appearances included taking to the stage at Wembley to introduce Queen at 1985’s Live Aid.
They founded production firm Talkback in 1981, which was responsible for comedy hits including Da Ali G Show and Knowing Me Knowing You. The firm was sold in 2000.
The last Smith and Jones series aired in 1998, but the pair stayed in touch and in 2005 collaborated on The Alas Smith and Jones Sketchbook, a showcase of their past shows.
Smith directed films including Bean – The Ultimate Disaster Movie, which starred fellow Not the Nine O’Clock News comic Atkinson, and Richard Curtis romantic comedy The Tall Guy. His acting credits included Babylon in 1980, the 1987 hit The Princess Bride and Sir Toby Belch in Trevor Nunn’s 1996 production of Twelfth Night.
The comic also took the title role in Raymond Briggs’ animated Father Christmas in 1991, in which he sung the song Another Bloomin’ Christmas.
He had previously demonstrated his vocal talents in 1981, releasing the single Mel Smith’s Greatest Hits, and in 1987 when he teamed up with Kim Wilde for the Comic Relief song Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree which reached the top five.
Smith worked with Jones again on a sketch show for BBC One only last year.
He leaves wife, Pam, with whom he lived in north west London.


Ever since Alex Salmond emerged in the early years of Blairism, I’ve been a fan (“Salmond sets out his vision for a bold Scottish identity”, In Focus). I’ve admired his plucky vision of a progressive, non-nuclear Scotland, a “beacon of social justice” yet one grounded in the realities of independence.
But his image has, for me, been tarnished in the past two years by the shameful way in which, as illustrated in a recent Panorama, over the heads of local planners and against local opinion, he “called in” the decision to approve Donald Trump’s arrogant golf complex plan on the Aberdeenshire coast in an area of special scientific sensitivity, riding roughshod over environmental concerns.
It seems he did so because he bought Trump’s promise of commercial benefits for Scotland, which were grossly oversold, sadly putting his judgment in question. This does not augur well for an independent Scotland under Salmond’s aegis.
Benedict Birnberg
London SE3
Readers in England should not be fooled by Alex Salmond’s protestations of friendship. He tells you we’d all be family together in a union of British nations, but he doesn’t mention one of his few clear policies – to undercut England in corporation tax so as to draw away jobs and investment. Anyone who values social justice should logically not support a cut in corporation tax at all, in Scotland or the UK, because the consequent shortfall in government income means either higher taxes for the rest of us, or cuts in social welfare. There is no evidence that a cut in corporation tax creates jobs in the nation where the tax is cut. A race to the bottom between England and Scotland is neither neighbourly nor social democratic.
Another favourite trick is to talk about the current Tory-led government as though it were going to be with us for a long time, rather than facing a general election a few months after the referendum. The referendum date has been held off because the SNP hope that increasing misery will persuade people to vote for independence. How convenient to forget that this is a coalition: the Tories did not win a majority.
Salmond wants voters in the referendum to think short-term, but if Scotland votes for independence that decision will be with us for perhaps centuries to come, and future generations will never have heard of Salmond or Cameron.
Thankfully, a large majority of us, as opinion polls over the years have shown, are against breaking up Britain. We don’t believe we can have Scandinavian social policies on Irish taxes. We are Scottish and British, and want to stay that way.
Maria Fyfe, (retired former Labour MP, Glasgow Maryhill, 1987-2011)
Alex Salmond’s intriguing assertion that Scotland will not be a foreign country should it vote for independence surely makes sense to him considering how little of the union he wants to discard.
He blithely states that Ireland does not feel like a foreign country. Really? Next time he flies into Dublin he should look out for passport control, a different currency, a different flag, its own head of state and the word “Republic” everywhere. That should give him some clues, and perhaps discourage him from such patronisingly asinine comments in future.
Rob King

Why this continuing agonising about fertility (“Everything you know about fertility is wrong”, Magazine)? Every environmental ill we face is mainly due to the average human’s insistence on having more than one child each. We are out of space and resources. Having more children is not the way to deal with the demographic shift caused by people living longer. Those of us fit enough to continue working will have to accept that retirement is not an option. After all, 65 was chosen as pension age on the basis that most working men would not reach it. Population levels can either be maintained by act of will or by resource wars and I know which I would prefer.
Dr Ralph Houston
We sell off assets at our peril
On a recent visit to Germany, a friend asked a local what he thought was the difference between the German and British economies. The German responded by saying: “In Germany, we sell products; in the UK, you sell assets.” As Will Hutton (“This privatisation of the Royal Mail would be a national disaster, Comment,” ) says, the chances are that the Royal Mail will end up, like many of our airports and utilities, owned by foreigners. This poses the question of what we will have left to trade when we have sold off all our assets.
Geoffrey Payne
London W5
Asthma deaths are avoidable
Hilary Cass is right to call the British child death rate a “major crisis” (“‘I care passionately about children’s health. It’s time to say: we’re not getting it right'”, News. It’s sobering to see how many more children die from asthma in the UK than in other parts of Europe, especially when it has been estimated that up to 90% of asthma deaths could be prevented with better care and management.
We urgently need to build a better understanding of why the health of the 1.1 million children with asthma in the UK is lagging behind that of their peers elsewhere in Europe. A national clinical audit of children’s asthma services is long overdue. Only then can we find out where we’re going wrong so that, in the future, no child dies from asthma in the UK.
Emily Humphreys
Head of policy and public affairs
Asthma UK
London EC2
Marriage still matters
Tracy McVeigh (In Focus) and Bertie Brandes (“It’s parental love that children value, not marital status”, Comment) both bang on that marriage is unnecessary nowadays. A friend nearing retirement has just learned that her man has a condition with a very poor prognosis. There is no will and his grown-up child from an earlier marriage has appeared on the scene. Marriage is not necessary to produce children, or to buy a home together, but legally enforceable rights for both parties are very desirable indeed.
I spent some years as a Citizens Advice adviser and could relate numerous such tales with unhappy outcomes. Usually, the woman loses, but men suffer too. Requiring a witnessed signature on a legal document ensures that actions that might produce children are more likely to be given proper consideration.
Please don’t confuse marriage with weddings.
Bill Hyde
A sensible use of Trident
Surely no conflict in which the use, or the threat of use, of nuclear weapons is going to arise overnight or even within a few days. On this basis, even if we decide we need to have a nuclear deterrence capability it does not need to be at sea 24/7 (“Report on alternatives to Trident could mean end of 24/7 nuclear shield”, World News).
Would not a sensible option be to keep all Trident submarines at base with at least one directly ready to go to sea at all times? This would remove the need to “replace” Trident. Operational wear and tear would be greatly reduced. Naval staffing and maintenance costs would be usefully reduced and the marine engineers “needed” to design and build a Trident replacement could be used on more socially useful marine projects.
John Chubb
Written while in your cups
For many years, journalists have used a standard set of comparators for size, volume, weight etc, to help readers understand big numbers. For example, how big something is compared to the size of Wales, how many double-decker buses will fit in something and how heavy something is compared to an elephant.
Lucy Siegle (Ethical Living column, Magazine has breached the JI (“Journaliste Internationale”) system by comparing the electricity required to power a Facebook account to the power required to make lattes.
The correct journalistic measure for power is surely 60W light bulbs. Please provide a conversion ratio (light bulbs to lattes) to enable me to be suitably impressed/awestruck/amazed by the statistic quoted.
Yours, a tea drinker with no Facebook account.
Michael Green

In 1974 I lived with my husband, Joe, daughter Deborah and baby son Saul in a small terraced house in a cul-de-sac in Muswell Hill, north London. Children tended to play football in the cul de sac to the irritation of residents concerned about their cars and windows, but the only safe play space was accessed via a very busy road. I became the chair of a group of residents (all women) who wanted to turn a nearby council-owned green patch into a play area.
We wrote to local councillors, and contacted the council. The councillors did not bother to reply and the council turned us down.
We had made friends with a reporter on our local paper, the Finchley Gazette, and he reported on our campaign and our efforts to obtain a playspace. We even climbed up a ladder and stretched a sign across the road between two lamp-posts with “let our children play” on it.
As we had had no luck with councillors we wrote to our MP, Margaret Thatcher. With local elections looming, she duly arrived at my house one evening with her party manager and when I came to the door, she suggested we go and look at the site. This we did and she assured me that she would support our campaign. She was just about to leave when I told her that half the street was sitting in my living room and they wanted to meet her. She sprang into action and was soon shaking as many hands as she could reach in the very crowded room. Someone had brought a huge kettle and was making tea for everyone. The Labour candidates were also present to answer questions.
In the middle of the room was a cane-sided chair with cushions for Mrs Thatcher. She promptly sat down and charmed the house. She presented herself as just another housewife having to get home to make a cold supper for Denis (I think she was minister of education at the time). She seemed to enjoy herself hugely and promised to speak to the leader of the council.
I don’t know what she said but shortly afterwards the (very reluctant) chief engineer called and came to see me to agree suitable fencing for the playspace we had identified. One of the Labour candidates was elected. I never found out if the playspace went ahead because I moved shortly afterwards.
The chair that Mrs Thatcher sat in has been covered several times and moved with us to several houses, but it is still known in the family mythology as Mrs Thatcher’s chair. The chair now sits in my son’s new home.



Thank you for publishing the correspondence between journalist Miles Goslett and IoS journalist John Rentoul on the controversy surrounding the death of the weapons expert Dr David Kelly. (“Foul play vs suicide”, 14 July).
I followed this story at the time, and, although I realised that there was some controversy still rumbling on, I thought it had been cleared up to most people’s satisfaction. Now I’m not so sure. I thought that Mr Goslett put his well-balanced and considered case for an official inquest intelligently and eloquently. On the other hand, Mr Rentoul came across as aggressive, dismissive and insulting with no real argument to counter Miles Goslett’s case. For me, John Rentoul’s argument, or manner, actually made the case for an inquest more pressing than I had previously thought.
Penny Joseph
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
John Rentoul says that any reasonable person would have ruled out the possibility of foul play after a cursory review of the facts! This is a shockingly complacent attitude for an investigative newspaper. I’m sure there must be a position for him in the Russian legal system.
John then invents a ridiculous scenario to prove murder would be impossible, yet Dr Kelly could have been murdered at the end of his walk and not kidnapped from his home.
I believe that any reasonable person should be worried by the lack of an inquest, lack of fingerprint and DNA evidence and lack of blood at the scene, as expressed by many eminent experts. John can only continue his insults.
Mike Wardle
Chatham, Kent
Under the 1944 Education Act, the minister of education’s very few powers and responsibilities included securing the provision of sufficient school places and the removal of air-raid shelters from school play grounds – two duties successfully undertaken despite a near bankrupt country and a baby boom.
Seventy years later, and in a less dire economic climate, the current Secretary of State has accrued for himself a very large number of powers and responsibilities but is failing to secure that most basic provision – with an unprecedented shortage of 120,000 places in England. He has also presided over a doubling of the number of children in infant classes over 30 (“Fresh crowded classes scandal – now it’s infants, 14 July). He should consider his position.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
I was astonished to read that “one in four 11-year-olds [are] unable to read and write” (“Read all about it, 14 July). It turns out that one in four 11-year-olds do not achieve the expected level for writing, fewer than one in six for reading. That does not imply that these children are unable to read and write, and it is completely wrong to make that rather sensationalist assertion.
Ondine Sherwood
London NW2
I was sad to read of the bombing of Crac des Chevaliers, the great medieval castle near Homs (“Syrian air strike damages 12th-century castle of the crusades”, 14 July). Some years ago I travelled from Crac on a bus with workmen who had been restoring the castle. They asked me how much I was paying for my small hotel in Homs, and on hearing the amount (to me very modest!), they were horrified that I was being overcharged and insisted on paying my fare back to Homs. It’s the people I really grieve for, not the stones.
Jane Jakeman
Sandhills, Oxford
The inadequacy of targets as a means of enhancing services is demonstrated by Mid Staffordshire. The hospital trust had resources to achieve waiting-list targets or to care properly for acutely admitted patients but not both. Its quality observers saw the targets being met and thought it was doing well.
The four-hour waiting target helped emergency departments to compete well for support within a hospital’s economy. Meeting targets is great for those who immediately benefit from them but the costs to others are often excessive. Goodhart’s law is valid; when a measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure.
Dr Michael crawford
Airedale General Hospital


Joining the fight to curb NHS weekend deaths
BRAVO to The Sunday Times for launching a campaign to rectify the appalling deficit of care in the NHS at weekends (“Scandal of NHS deaths at weekends”, News, “We deserve a 24/7 health service”, Editorial, “Why we need a seven-day NHS”, Focus, and “What the NHS needs is a degree of kindness. The rest can be taught”, Comment, last week).
How would the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) feel if his house caught light on a Friday night and he had to wait until Monday morning for the fire brigade to show up? The weekend hospital death statistics paint a very bleak picture but the reality may be even worse.
Neglect over the weekend might be expected to increase the risk of premature or avoidable deaths over the following weekdays. This happened to my father at a university hospital in the east of England two years ago.
The only response I received to my expression of grave concern was, “We only have two doctors on duty and you will have to wait until Monday,” and, “Well, he is quite old.” As if that were remotely acceptable.
Professor Mel Greaves, Barnes, London
Dissatisfied customer
Congratulations on your much-needed initiative. It is extraordinary that in this day and age doctors feel they should adopt a Monday-to-Friday timetable. Everywhere, services are bending to customer needs: hotels and airlines do not operate a weekday-only policy and their employees are expected to work shifts.
The trouble is that the NHS has never thought of patients as customers. Its belief is that people who are ill should receive whatever advice is given out by the doctors and be grateful for it. That, I fear, is the drawback of a product that is free to all at the point of delivery.
Nurses are expected to work shifts, and though your focus is rightly on hospitals, the same principle should apply to GP surgeries. There has been much talk of late about the dramatic increase in accident and emergency patients, but regardless of your political views, this is clearly in part a response to the failure of GP surgeries to provide care outside normal hours.
Duncan Pring, Guildford, Surrey
Close call
One Saturday in August 2009 I was admitted to hospital with the symptoms of appendicitis. I lay in a surgical assessment ward all weekend, my condition deteriorating, with no diagnosis and with heavy doses of morphine. I was told CT scans were only available at weekends “for emergencies”.
On Monday morning my appendix burst, a CT scan was arranged and I was operated on in the late afternoon. The surgeon told my husband I was less than an hour away from death, and my recovery was long and extensive. I took the case to a formal complaint meeting, and was told that my life had been saved and there was no case to answer.
Christina Shewell, Bristol
Emergency services
I am an intensive care consultant and agree that the NHS needs to provide a seven-day service. However, this would require an expansion in the numbers of doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals — all at a time of budgetary constraint.
The NHS delivers emergency care 24/7, 365 days of the year. I work in a hospital where diagnostic imaging is available for emergency cases 24 hours a day, and have never worked in an NHS facility where that was not the case.
My consultant colleagues are present at the weekend beyond the laughable 1pm on Saturdays quoted in your article, and the tragic cases you listed are probably more about decision making and pattern recognition than the availability of diagnostic imaging. I witness compassionate care on a daily basis from healthcare workers.
Our managers are, however, ultimately judged on their ability to deliver their targets, which are tied to budgetary cuts. To avoid another Mid Staffordshire our government needs to recognise that the key to good secondary care is a well-staffed hospital.
Dr Robin Berry, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth
Private equity
I have first-hand evidence of the lack of care by doctors at the weekend, having sat by my father’s bedside in hospital for more than a week. Could the fact that many consultants have lucrative private practices play a part in their reluctance to work Saturdays and Sundays?
Bernie Green, Birmingham
Open all hours
I have just read your assertion that “consultants have negotiated contracts that exempt them from work over the weekend”. If only this were true. I spent Sunday morning conducting a ward round and assessing and treating critically ill patients in the intensive care unit and then others on the wards.
In the evening I was back in for a serious emergency. My sleep was then disturbed by four phone calls during the night. On Monday morning I was in early for another emergency admission, followed by routine work. This is hardly my idea of being exempt from working at weekends.
Dr David Niblett, Turvey, Bedfordshire
Routine excellence
My husband was in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne recently over a weekend period. He was seen regularly by his senior doctor and a consultant. He also had x-rays taken and at the same time received the results, thanks to a very dedicated medical team. Please celebrate excellent work alongside the poor service elsewhere.
Evelyn Weightman, Corbridge, Northumberland
Queuing system
My son was kept in hospital from Friday to Monday purely so he would be first in line for an MRI scan on the Monday morning (inpatients take priority, unless there is an emergency). This makes no sense and the practice must surely have a bearing on the costs of weekend working.
Stephanie Barnes, Exeter
Comfort zone
I agree with Camilla Cavendish’s Comment article. A few years ago I had an unpleasant and painful procedure but had an excellent nurse who gave me real comfort. Targets and box-ticking are now so ingrained that some people in the NHS are beginning to forget why their organisation is there. The public feels like something being processed on a conveyor belt. A smile and a pleasant greeting mean so much.
I recently retired from the police after 30 years and used to constantly remind officers I was training that each incident they dealt with was the most important thing in the world for the person they were meeting.
Stephen Town, Bradford
Sinking feeling
I served in the NHS as a GP for 45 years, and am in despair about the state of the health service. The trouble started when the state enrolled nursing qualification was abolished, and then in 2004 when the BMA renegotiated doctors’ contracts with the Labour government.
I have been a lifelong supporter of the BMA, but I did not think absolving GPs of out-of-hours care was a wise move, as has been proved. As Cavendish pointed out, many of the problems are down to an increasingly aged population and a lack of funds to meet greater demands. I am greatly encouraged by what has been achieved in Salford.
Dr Bruce Conochie, Linton, Cambridgeshire
Good health
I had a heart attack on a Friday evening and one hour and two stents later I was sitting up in bed, pain-free, annoying the wife. Over the entire weekend my experience was that the NHS staff were all unreservedly caring and professional. No system as vast as the NHS is perfect but it is worth noting the good stuff.
Colin Myers, Adderbury, Oxfordshire

Prosecute to end female mutilation
WHILE Ayaan Hirsi Ali is right that the screening of girls at risk of genital mutilation would help save them from this abominable procedure (“School’s out and the knife awaits”, News Review, last week), any British politician who mooted this would be committing career suicide. In France all children are regularly examined, regardless of ethnicity and gender, up to the age of six. Although this has a deterrent effect, in some cases parents wait till the girl is over six before subjecting her to female genital mutilation, but the real prospect of criminal charges will make them think twice. The only solution in Britain is a successful prosecution. Here again the French lead the way, with more than 40 successful indictments of cutters and parents.
An alleged victim will be taken into the care of an appropriate adult to protect her from pressure to withdraw the charge. This is crucial. Our Crown Prosecution Service is currently reviewing eight cases of FGM. It will get nowhere unless it ensures that girls who have had the courage to come forward are able to testify in court.
Vera Lustig, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Our saintly cyclists are no angels
SO WE have yet another article seeking to portray cyclists as paragons of virtue (“It was time to stop cycling when a taxi driver mimed slitting my throat”, Comment, last week). Pedestrians have to avoid being run down by Lycra-clad riders on two wheels. Walk in any traffic-free shopping area and you have to look out for them zigzagging between the elderly with their shopping trolleys and mothers with children and prams.
Jim Winkley, Shipley, West Yorkshire
Saddle sore
I suggest Tanya Gold takes a trip with the cab driver and allows him to point out those cyclists who ride down one-way streets or on pavements, ignoring traffic lights, and cycling without lights. She may reply that it’s the naughty minority — it probably is — but that will not stop the motorist taking the blame for flattening a cyclist going the wrong way down a one-way street. She should try drawing attention to the errant cyclist’s misdemeanours and see what response she gets.
Richard Thomas, Bath
Free wheeling
Motorists and motorcyclists pay vehicle excise duty and have insurance. Why should cyclists be able to use our roads free, demand their own lanes and flout the Highway Code?
Conrad Sandler, London NW3

Rowling’s magic touch
What a remarkably level-headed woman JK Rowling seems to be (“Whodunnit? JK Rowling’s secret life as wizard crime writer revealed”, News, last week). Having taken abuse about various aspects of her first non-Harry Potter book, she has neatly turned the table on us all with a deft piece of deceptive anonymity. More power to her elbow.
Peter Wyton, Longlevens, Gloucestershire
Trauma fallout
As an ex-soldier now working in the criminal justice system I see many people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (“Suicide film reveals soldiers’ despair”, News and News Review, last week). The number of prisoners who have served in the armed forces and later fallen foul of a system that is ignorant of how to recognise the disorder is shocking. The other tragedy is the many ex-servicemen living rough. Without organisations such as Soldiers off the Streets, the figure for those in custody would be twice or three times what it is. This is a sad state of affairs for our great nation.
Steve Porter, Brigstock, Northamptonshire
Mormon good works
Your article “‘God will guide us through’” (Magazine, July 7) portrayed Mormons as thoroughly decent people but failed to reflect their cultural diversity (there are more than 100 nationalities across UK congregations), and neglected to make any mention of their donations of more than $1bn in assistance to 167 countries. The 188,000 Mormons in the UK would not recognise how their faith was characterised. Nor would our community partners, which we work with on everything from family history (free access to genealogy) to London clean-up projects (we were one of the first to offer our services after the 2011 riots in the capital).
Malcolm Adcock, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
With merit
Not content with rubbishing the efforts of A-level pupils with claims of grade inflation, you are turning your fire on graduates (“Universities bend their rules to award more firsts”, News, last week). As students now have to pay large sums for their degree courses, is it not possible that they generally work far harder? When I look at how hard my daughter worked to earn her first, there is simply no comparison with my own and my wife’s time at university, when it was free.  
Adrian and Jane George, Barton-under-Needwood Staffordshire 
Squeezing out Pippa
Isn’t it about time someone reined in Pippa Middleton (“Prickly Pippa tries to ban spoof book”, News, last week)? Almost daily there is a picture of her posing at some venue or other. Charming though she looks, let us see less of her. 
Wendy Abbott, Kingston upon Hull East Yorkshire

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

Michael Connelly, crime writer, 57; Wendy Cope, poet, 68; Paloma Faith, singer, 32; Charlotte Gainsbourg, actress, 42; Josh Hartnett, actor, 35; Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), singer, 65; Norman Jewison, film director, 87; John Lowe, darts player, 68; Sir Jonathan Miller, stage director, 79; Juno Temple, actress, 24; Garry Trudeau, cartoonist, 65; Sarah Waters, novelist, 47; Robin Williams, actor, 62

1796 death of Robert Burns, poet; 1816 birth of Paul Reuter, founder of Reuters news agency; 1897 National Gallery of British Art, now Tate Britain, opens in London; 1899 birth of Ernest Hemingway, novelist; 1969 Neil Armstrong becomes first man to walk on the moon; 1972 Bloody Friday, when the IRA detonates 19 bombs in 80 minutes in Belfast, killing nine people and injuring 130; 1994 Tony Blair becomes leader of the Labour party


SIR – We travelled on a Thames clipper today with our dog and were surprised and delighted that one of the staff gave our dog a drink.
It was very hot and both our dog and we were delighted with the gesture.
Mary Wright
Farnham, Surrey
SIR – Living in Egypt, Kenya and Tanzania, I evolved a simple and effective method of dealing with crippling heat. Where possible I kept in the shade on outdoor treks, and when having to negotiate the full glare of the sun I immediately switched my mind to thinking I was inside a refrigerator.
Ronald Stein
Brackley, Northamptonshire
SIR – It is widely known in many parts of the world that running cold water over your hands will keep you cool in hot weather.
Leslie Watson
SIR – Go to one of our great cathedrals or abbeys: at Tewkesbury I spent the heat of the day reading and soaking up the wonderful atmosphere. But don’t forget to pay for the privilege.
David Wiltshire
SIR – The heat wave will end soon, as I have just purchased a splendid sun hat.
Claire McCombie
Woodbridge, Suffolk

SIR – I am a serving Metropolitan Police officer, having joined in 1991. The claim that officers are too busy carrying out duties that would normally be allocated to specialists (report, July 19) is fanciful.
The duties of a warranted police constable have always been many. Before the office of constable began to be eroded 20 years ago, a beat Pc routinely carried out basic investigation, particularly at scenes of burglaries or assaults. He or she would also be expected to respond to emergency calls, on foot or by vehicle.
None of this prevented officers from being posted, daily and nightly, to a beat for which they had ultimate responsibility – they would patrol that beat on foot until their shift finished or they needed to deal with an arrest or report a crime.
Police community support officers and other community wardens have served to dilute the potency of visible policing, and allowed the Government to save money.
The rank and file of police officers and the public at large want a return to proper, robust, visible patrols by fit, well-educated men and women. This surely is the beginning of crime prevention.
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20 Jul 2013
Recorded crime may well be down, but if victims of crime believe contacting the police is fruitless, they won’t pick up the telephone, will they?
Simon Crowley
Kemsing, Kent
SIR – The disappearance of bobbies on the beat – years ago – had little to do with cutbacks or paperwork. Police no longer walk the streets because they don’t want to.
Instead they routinely spend their time in police stations using computers or simply being there, largely unsupervised by sergeants and inspectors, who are a product of the same culture.
When did you last see a policeman or woman on the beat? I don’t mean a fleeting appearance, but on the beat, the same beat, every day, so that they knew the local hooligans and criminals, and were themselves known to the community.
As for supervision on the streets, there isn’t any. The last time I saw a uniformed inspector on the street was my own reflection in a shop window in the Eighties. I’ve not seen one since – anywhere.
Paul Heslop
Keswick, Cumbria
SIR – Our area, covered by West Yorkshire Police, seems to be bucking the trend on local policing. During the hot weather, community police have made themselves visible by patrolling on bicycles and chatting to residents whose windows and doors are open to keep cool.
Brian Hartley
Otley, West Yorkshire
SIR – Of course crime figures are down. Many offences are no longer regarded as crimes by the police, and it is virtually impossible to get a response to a telephone call to the local office.
Frank Shaw
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
NHS tea-shop model
SIR – One day this week, I visited a magnificent National Trust property in Derbyshire. In perfect weather my wife and I looked forward to afternoon tea on the terrace.
There were plenty of tables, mostly cluttered with used crockery, of which, it seemed to me, both staff and customers were oblivious. I’ve seen the same thing in well known coffee chains.
With the shocking reports of neglect in our hospitals, I am convinced that we in Britain simply do not like messy jobs, and tend to put them to the back of our minds. The NHS will never solve its problems without a major shift in British culture.
Henry T Harrison
Melbourne, Derbyshire
SIR – Yesterday I attempted to become one of the new hospital inspectors for the CQC (Care Quality Commission).
As a State Registered Nurse with long experience of working throughout the NHS, I considered myself ideally suited for the job.
Unfortunately I was unable to understand most of the application form, as it had been written in a strange and complicated “management speak”.
How many others will be defeated by the incomprehensible language of such application forms?
Georgie Buxton
Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – Tony Blair was forever debating the fox and David Cameron gay marriage. Under both, people were dying unnecessarily in NHS hospitals. Priorities.
David Le Clercq
Bournemouth, Dorset
What goes up
SIR – Aircraft, or bits of them, do fall to the ground. Planes are most at risk while taking off and landing.
It is an uncomfortable truth that Heathrow airport is in a densely built-up area close to the M25. There is a risk of widespread carnage and destruction when an aircraft does come down anywhere close to Heathrow.
Enlarging Heathrow airport with third and fourth runways seriously increases this risk. The relatively low population density around the proposed Thames Estuary site must be an overwhelming argument in its favour.
Anthony Hoskins
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Powers that bee
SIR – Your leading article “Oh, to bee in England” (July 18) reminded me of some verses by my late father:
According to a scientist
The bumblebee should not exist
Because his weight exceeds his lift.
I’m glad I’m not a scientist.
Nigel Thompson
Sugar and medicine
SIR – Dr Leah Totton has successfully won the Apprentice award. Perhaps she will use her £250,000 “winnings” to repay her medical training costs, so that someone else may take her place in a few years’ time.
Paul Lear FRCS
Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Tested to distraction
SIR – Yesterday I spent five-and-a-half hours on the M25. The only thing that kept me sane was Test Match Special.
Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire
Double-decker trains
SIR – Keith Ferris (Letters, July 18) asserts that raising bridges and widening tunnels to accommodate double-decker trains on main lines to the North would cost more than the £43 billion HS2 project.
This is unlikely, in view of the modest cost of the programme of works recently to increase clearances for freight trains on certain main lines. This was to enable high “cube” containers to be shipped between the Midlands and the deep-sea ports of Southampton and Felixstowe.
David Starkie
London SW8
SIR – The problem of capacity is made worse by buying trains as fixed units. When ordering new equipment, operators should specify a requirement for variable length; then add or remove coaches according to demand at given times of the day.
John Lavender
Port Erin, Isle of Man
Saving stamps
SIR – Thankfully, the auction result at Sotheby’s, on July 11, of philatelic material from the British Postal Museum & Archive (Letters, June 10), was a victory for stamp-market common sense, enabling the pile of unsold items to be taken back to the museum, where they belong.
Only 29 of the 191 lots sold; and the auction realisation was just £334,100 from a total low estimate of about £5,750,000.
Gavin Littaur
London NW4
Downwardly mobile
SIR – Having to enter a mobile phone number to fill in online forms may be an inconvenience (Letters, July 15), but customers without mobile phones (or mobile phone reception) will now be unable to use online banking.
Santander is introducing into its online banking system a requirement for a one-time password, which is sent as a text message and so demands the use of a mobile phone.
When I complained, I was told that this was “popular with the majority of our customer base” and that those without a mobile phone would have to use a telephone banking service instead.
This takes us back a decade, and is another example of Hutber’s Law (named after Patrick Hutber, the Sunday Telegraph city editor of the Seventies): “Improvement means deterioration.”
Roger Viles
Plymouth, Devon
The radio voices that say they’ll see us later
SIR – Patrick Williams of Canterbury (Letters, July 19) is disturbed by being told, “See you later,” by people he neither knows nor expects to see again.
Perhaps, as we learn more about the ability of various agencies to monitor our daily activities with modern technology, we should be even more worried by radio announcers who sign off with those words.
Can they really see us? I think we should be told.
Fr Anthony Churchill
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
SIR – Mr Williams will be aware that the modern English “See you later”, as a valediction to complete strangers, is widespread beyond Canterbury, with very long-standing precedents in many languages, starting just over the Channel.
Some might think the sentiment carries an innate courtesy that the more terminal “Goodbye”, with its capacity to be delivered with menace or contempt, does not.
Peter Hardy
Loddon, Norfolk
SIR – Young people’s use of “Laters”, for “See you later”, has been extended in these parts. They say “Laters ’taters”, to which you reply: “Be good, spud.”
I need to stay in more.
Philip Saunders
Bungay, Suffolk

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Government’s proposal to abolish the Seanad seems a populist move with few logical arguments – unclear consequential financial gain, spurious claims of not serving a useful purpose and comparison with some other unicameral countries whose local, regional and national political systems differ greatly from ours. Furthermore, the Government appears quite unwilling to countenance the alternative of any reform of the Seanad and, most curiously, has not even included the Seanad for consideration in its comprehensive constitutional review. Why?
Previous attempts to reform the Seanad, although accepted by the Seanad itself, have been voted down by the Dáil. So much for the claim of 75 years of the Seanad’s unwillingness to reform! The Dáil is to blame, not the Seanad.
It suffices for some to check the lists of countries with one chamber, as the models of Denmark and Sweden are trotted out by the abolitionists. There are many, but a wider range of countries could be cited such as Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, China, Georgia, Israel, Ivory Coast, North Korea, Nicaragua, Somalia, etc.
Money saved as a result of Seanad abolition will more than likely be absorbed by redistribution of most costs into additional Dáil committees and associated resulting expenditure.
If the Seanad is to be abolished, this should be part of a clear, concrete constitutional reform package and not the vague promises or references to subsequent reform measures. We are still awaiting more than the cosmetic measures that have so far come into existence in the operation of our national and local government.
Whilst much criticism is being levelled at the recent rowdy behaviour of Seanad members and the quality of debates in the Seanad, there is far more to be said of the dreadful quality of speeches and debating in the Dáil, with the constant heckling and tomfoolery, the never-ending shouting-down and point-scoring and the lack of meaningful discussion. How are we expected to take the Dáil seriously when its members are seen to behave in this way? – Yours, etc,
Sunday’s Well Road,
Sir, – It is amazing how the threat of extinction has awoken the (toothless) beast that is the Seanad. But despite all the thrashing about, this institution now appears destined to go the way of all the dinosaurs that failed to evolve. I wonder if we should donate the fossil to the natural history museum next door. – Yours, etc,
Beaumont Road,
Sir, – Fianna Fáil has accused the Government of endangering Irish neutrality by raising questions about the triple-lock procedure in the Green Paper on defence (“Fianna Fáil accuses Shatter of ‘picking open’ triple lock”, Home News, July 16th).
The triple-lock procedure gives any one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which invariably vote in their own national interest, a veto on when or where we deploy our troops on international missions. As is pointed out in the Green Paper, our traditional policy of military neutrality was formed in an era when the risk of inter-state conflict was the key issue of national security for most nations. The international defence and security environment has changed considerably and many of the threats that now arise do not fall into this traditional category of military neutrality.
The Green Paper simply poses the question as to whether the advantages to the State in retaining the triple lock, in particular in ensuring the international legitimacy of peacekeeping missions, outweigh any possible disadvantages?
It is probable that the existence of the UN element of the triple lock has inhibited a fuller participation by Ireland in international security arrangements.
It would seem to me that we could rely on the discretion of the Irish government and parliament to judge the appropriateness of participation in international military operations and that giving the ultimate power of sanction to flawed UN decision-making structures is unnecessary and is the antithesis of an independent foreign policy.
It is unfortunate that Fianna Fáil should continue to worship the sacred cow of an outdated concept of “neutrality” and rule out any possibility of its redefinition or abandonment in the light of a hugely changed and volatile international security environment. – Yours, etc,
Hermitage Close,
Sir, – I welcome and concur with the comments of my colleague Dr Brendan Kelly (“Psychiatry cannot provide neat solutions on suicide”, Opinion & Analysis, July 17th).
He is absolutely correct in pointing out that psychiatrists cannot predict suicide. He rightly points to the poor record of psychiatrists when placed in a position of dealing with society’s problems. He is correct also in saying that studies have not been carried out to show whether abortion has any effect on pregnant women who are suicidal.
He goes on to say that this question could only be definitively answered by a large randomised study in which suicidal women requesting an abortion were randomly allocated to having an abortion and compared to those not having one.
As he points out this would be grossly unethical, as well as impracticable.
Most of the major discoveries of the harm done to our health by social and environmental factors have not been arrived at using this experimental method due to these difficulties. For example, the finding by Richard Doll that smoking caused lung cancer was not established using this method but by following and examining, over time, the health of cohorts who smoked. These observational methods are well established in medical research and are ethical and achievable. So it is possible to answer questions about the role of abortion in reducing suicidal behaviour using observational studies of different types, although this would take longer than the experimental method described by Dr Kelly.
Regrettably the Government has proceeded to enact abortion legislation as though there was evidence that abortion helps suicidal pregnant women. Psychiatrists are being asked to gatekeep this in the absence of any evidence to support it. The Government clearly believes that, just as we willingly oversaw the incarceration of those whom society regarded as social misfits in the past, we will now provide a “neat solution” to another complex social problem as mentioned by Dr Kelly. Time will be our judge. – Yours, etc,
Consultant Psychiatrist,

Sir, – Further to Gerry Moriarty’s article (Weekend, July 13th) and Éilis Ní Anluain-Quill’s letter regarding Catholic unionists and nationalist Protestants (July 18th), I wondered as a member of the Church of Ireland where might my loyalties lie. I, for one, am a Catholic (Reformed not Roman), but I am not a unionist as I live in the Republic of Ireland. I am also a Protestant and a nationalist, being proud of the place this nation used to have among these islands and hoping for a closer north-south and east-west re-union. So, nationalist Protestants do exist. Oh wait, I’ve just realised, I’m actually a Reformed Catholic Protestant re-unionist! – Yours, etc,
Mill Road,
Sir, – There have always been Catholics in Northern Ireland who support the union with Britain. However, as was evidenced during the recent violent loyalist protests, which included attacks on Catholic churches and the placing of a statue of Our Lady on a July 12th bonfire, there are unionists that don’t want them. – Yours,etc,
Delaford Lawn,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – The notion of Catholic unionists and Protestant nationalists is indeed a worthy issue for analysis. So too is the proposition that we, in this Republic of Ireland, should acknowledge the integrity and legitimacy of our “26 county” State. Quite simply, I am browned off at the notion that this State is somehow incomplete or lacks sufficient statehood. If, some day, others on this island, by majority vote, wish to join us, I would be among the first to welcome that. In the meantime, the Republic of Ireland has my loyalty. – Yours, etc,
Beech Hill Drive

Sir, – I refer to Rosita Boland’s colourful and interesting feature concerning the pattern of Kilmakilloge, Co Kerry (“Repeating pattern: A tradition carved in stone”, Summer Living, July 18th) .
On the somewhat vexed question of the identity of the local patron saint, I have to state, even at the risk of offending local piety, that the patron is highly unlikely to be St Kilian of Würzburg. Of the latter’s historicity and Irish origins there is no doubt, but his particular Irish roots (Rathmullen, Co Cavan) are shadowy in the extreme.
The most likely candidate for the claim to be patron of Kilmakilloge is the west Kerry saint Mocheallóg Mac Uíbhleáin, after whom the island of Inishvickillane (now more closely associated with the late Charles J Haughey) is thought to be named.
It has been suggested that he is a pre-Patrician saint, which, if true, would make Kilmakilloge one of the earliest Christian sites in Ireland.
But all this is mere academic speculation. Much more important is the fact that the pattern continues to flourish, both at the site of the original hermitage and holy lake, and also within the hospitable precincts of Helen’s Bar! Is not life all about participation and continuity?
Whoever the patron saint, long may the pattern of Kilmakilloge endure. – Yours, etc,
Whitehall Road West,

Irish Independent:

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Or, in simple English, who polices the police? Better question, but not in Latin – who protects the police? When Sgt Patrick Morrissey knotted his tie on that fatal morning of his death, little did he know that in the carrying out of his duty he would be summarily executed later that day.
Also in this section
Nuns should demonstrate charity and pay up
Troika will get pound of flesh in final Budget
Seanad still has a lot to offer our democracy
Yes, “summarily executed” was the description given at the time by an eminent broadcaster in describing the brave officer’s death. His killer was subject to the state death penalty then on the statutes.
In its stead, he was given 40 years’ imprisonment for the “execution” of a state official. The State and society’s thinking was that the death penalty and execution were barbaric. Sgt Morrissey would no doubt concur, had he been given the chance to live a normal life.
Now his killer, according to dry law and learned men and women, is to be granted remission and will soon be released – slate clean, and a reasonable expectation to live a normal life.
The court heard his killer was a “model prisoner”, as if that alone justified 12 years being lopped off the sentence.
When the sergeant was executed, the situation was thus. In return for the abolition of the death penalty, an uninterrupted 40-year sentence was put in its stead. The balance was struck. In exchange for one man’s brutal death, the perpetrator was to serve four decades in jail.
Now we see that it ain’t so, Joe. That a prisoner wishes to minimise his jail time is a norm. That the State and the judiciary are so far apart in the protection of the law-abiding citizen is a damning disgrace.
The Supreme Court used the word “nonsense” in rebutting a state argument. The only “nonsense” in this is that one man who woke up to do his duty was butchered and another, “a model prisoner”, gets out to enjoy the summer sunshine, slate cleaned and a reasonable expectation of a normal life ahead of him.
Another point: can we remind the courts and their officials that the law-abiding citizen also has rights and occasionally would like to see them upheld?
The perpetrators of crime are adequately represented.
J Cuffe
Co Meath
* Reading through the Irish Independent this morning, it struck me that the supposed separation between church and State is non-existent.
Enda Kenny declaring his faith – which should have nothing to do with his job – and the constant referral to the Catholic Church in the debate on abortion sidelines all those of different or no faith.
Yet in the same paper we read about the outcome when religious power is given over the most vulnerable – those who were sent to the Magdelene laundries.
The debate is so clouded with mawkish behaviour from some politicians that it makes the whole thing a puerile exercise.
And then we have all the talk of protecting the unborn child, while at the same time saying that the born child does not deserve protection from the pornography abounding at the touch of a button.
Would it not occur to the Government that these are the young people going forward who will be affected by the abortion bill?
No joined-up thinking in the Dail, then.
J Donnelly
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
* I am deeply saddened that anyone should try to encourage Catholics to boycott Mass. The Mass is the pinnacle of the Catholic faith. The abuse within the church was wrong and deserves to be condemned by all, including church-going Catholics. Anyone who tries to dissuade me from attending Mass shows little understanding of what it means to be a Catholic.
I am not writing to condemn those who suggest a boycott, but I wish to state that I believe in Jesus Christ and, at Mass, he is truly present, regardless of the actions of any individual or group, religious or otherwise.
Perhaps if those who perpetrated the abuse really believed this and had heeded the teachings of Jesus, the dreadful abuse and lack of love and caring may not have happened.
Walter Robinson
Drogheda, Co Louth
* The C**T club night is not a “debasing and misogynistic attack on young women”. As a 26-year-old post-graduate female student who has recently attended the night, I found it to be a particularly pleasant place to socialise.
The queue was orderly, my friend and I chatted to a couple of very polite male patrons in front of us, and once inside we weren’t subjected to any form of (sexual) harassment, which is more than can be said for other clubbing hotspots.
The c-word in itself is certainly not a “misogynistic slogan”, and it is only relatively recently that it has come to be used as such.
There is currently a feminist movement wishing to reclaim the c-word, in a manner similar to the African-American community reclaiming the n-word and the gay community reclaiming the word “queer”.
As the C**T night is also a particularly gay-friendly gathering, it seems highly unlikely that they would propagate misogyny.
Words don’t create misogyny, society creates misogyny, and I feel that it is deeply unfair and harmful to have this hysterical reaction towards a business completely undeserving of the slurs.
I may have woken up with “C**T” stamped on my arm, and I certainly had a more-than-mild headache, but I definitely didn’t feel debased, objectified or demeaned.
Emer Fanning
Athenry, Co Galway
* There was one particular aspect of your article about errant cyclists that seriously wound me right up, and it was in relation to imposing an on-the-spot fine on cyclists found riding on footpaths.
In the name of sanity! Talk about living in a nanny state – it’s completely absurd.
As a keen cyclist, I have often used the footpath because certain roads can be pretty treacherous.
Is the minister planning to install cycle lanes on every road and main street across the country.? I don’t think so. Considering that most of our main streets are restricted by space, this would not even be remotely practical.
This €50 fine is trivial compared with the investigation costs of road accidents.
On the flip side, 99.9pc of pedestrians have been very courteous in moving aside to make way for the cyclist using the path and, vice versa, we do the same.
It is certainly no big deal. It is good common sense – nothing more, nothing less.
I would like to ask Leo Varadkar one question. Is he planning to impose fines on young children innocently playing on their bicycles on the footpaths in housing estates throughout the country?
Safety strategy, my backside. I mean, who do they think they’re codding?
This is all another pathetic attempt to by the Government to boost the nation’s ailing coffers.
Barry Mahady
Leixlip, Co Kildare


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