4 August 2013 Sandy
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark The dear old Troutbridge crew is send on a pecial training course and Leslie is the only one who passes and is promoted Priceless
We are both tired but Sandy comes to visit with birth pressies for Mary
We watch Yes Minister quite good
Scrabble today I win but I get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
John Amis, who has died aged 91, had a walk-on role in many of the most important musical events and institutions of his era. He sold records to Sacheverell Sitwell; organised Myra Hess’s lunchtime concert series at the National Gallery; managed Anatole Fistoulari’s financially-challenged London International Orchestra; and formed an endearing stage duo with Donald Swann following the death of Michael Flanders.
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Portrait of John Amis by June Mendoza Photo: JUNE MENDOZA
5:57PM BST 02 Aug 2013
Amis was at the first Summer School of Music at Bryanston in 1948, before moving with it to Dartington five years later. He spent some 15 years as London music critic of The Scotsman, and latterly had his own one-man show, recounting anecdotes of concerts he had attended and musicians he had met.
He was a friend to many composers and performers, including for a time Michael Tippett. Amis visited the composer when Tippett was incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs for disobeying the terms of his exemption from military service as a conscientious objector. When Tippett was released the pair travelled with friends for a break at Mevagissey, in Cornwall, where Tippett was almost arrested again for having no papers. Britten, Peter Pears and Alan Bush were also among his colleagues. When Amis’s marriage broke down he lodged with Neville Marriner.
John Preston Amis was born in Dulwich on June 17 1922, the younger of two children. His father, James, worked for the merchant bankers Seligmann Brothers, and his mother, Florence, was a model at Harrods. Kingsley Amis was John’s first cousin.
At Dulwich College prep, John developed mastoiditis, losing the hearing in his left ear. He struck up a friendship with Donald Swann, a fellow pupil, and left under a cloud after being implicated in a botched raid on the tuck shop by another boy. Nevertheless, he continued his studies at Dulwich College.
Having escaped military service owing to his partial deafness, Amis joined EMG Handmade Gramophones in Grape Street, tucked away behind the Prince’s Theatre, where the staff were encouraged to take records home in order to familiarise themselves with the stock. His customers included Peter Ustinov, TS Eliot and Vivien Leigh, as well as Sitwell.
Felix Aprahamian, of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was another customer. When Amis was sacked, Aprahamian got him a job as secretary of the London Philharmonic Arts Club, bringing him into contact with figures such as William Glock and Tippett.
He soon moved to the National Gallery to work on Myra Hess’s lunchtime concerts. Hess insisted on calling him “Robert”, claiming that he bore a resemblance to Schumann. At the same time he was helping Tippett to organise concerts at Morley College, and in late 1947 he joined Sir Thomas Beecham’s newly-formed Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where his duties included running the concerts and printing posters and programmes. In his spare time he organised the first Hoffnung Festival at the Royal Festival Hall with the irascible cartoonist Gerard Hoffnung.
Like all good musical administrators, Amis was occasionally called in to substitute for a missing performer. In 1947 he was dragged along to Prague as an extra tenor with the Workers’ Music Association Choir conducted by Alan Bush, a musician of communist persuasion; during one of their Czech concerts, Amis managed to fall off the stage. He was also involved for a time with the Apollo Society, a poetry and music organisation founded by Peggy Ashcroft and Natasha Litvin (the wife of Stephen Spender).
In 1959, at the age of 37, Amis began taking formal singing lessons with Frederick Husler in Germany, and maintained them for several years, commuting every fortnight by ferry between Harwich and the Hook. On one occasion he travelled more than 1,000 miles by train to Graz for an audition at the opera house. Only three minutes into his performance the Intendant interrupted: “Do I understand that you have done music criticism? Ja? Then why don’t you stick to it? Goodbye.”
Even his friend Pears could not muster much enthusiasm for Amis’s singing, dismissing him with the words: “Well, my dear, it’s a useful voice.”
Bryanston (1948-52) and Dartington (1953-81) Summer Schools of Music, where amateur musicians spent the summer coached by professionals such as the Amadeus Quartet, absorbed on average a quarter of Amis’s year from the ages of 26 to 59. There he worked closely with William Glock to develop the special musical atmosphere that pervades to this day. He was in charge of the “trogs” — the unpaid volunteers who keep the show on the road and were christened “troglodytes” by George Malcolm.
Amis’s memoirs, Amiscellany, published by Faber & Faber in 1985, are a jumble of (sometimes anodyne) anecdotes and score-settling interspersed with some useful historical facts and pen-pictures of famous musicians. In particular, he used the book to criticise his one-time mentor, Glock, with a list of petty grievances that had simmered since their days together at Dartington.
Throughout his career Amis dabbled in broadcasting. In the 1950s he contributed to the Sunday morning radio programme Music Magazine; his first television appearance was a film for Monitor in 1961 about Paul Tortelier, directed by Humphrey Burton. He spent a year editing the magazine programme Full House, before making a series of television documentaries: one on the Amadeus Quartet; one on Holst, with the composer’s daughter Imogen; and, in 1972, a programme to celebrate William Walton’s 70th birthday. He was also kept busy by the BBC’s Transcription Service. For many years he appeared as a panellist in My Music alongside Steve Race, Denis Norden and Frank Muir.
An habitué of London concert halls and summer festivals around the country, Amis was an instantly recognisable figure with his large round glasses, shock of flowing white hair, and ill-fitting striped blazer.
John Amis married, in 1948, the violinist Olive Zorian, founder of the Zorian String Quartet, which gave the premieres of Tippett’s first three string quartets. They divorced in 1955, and there were no children. There followed a complex assortment of lovers and companions from various countries, including Dagmar, a German girl; their courtship waned as her level of interest in women began to match his.
He is survived by Isla Baring, his partner of the past six years, who, he once said, gave him his “Indian summer”.
John Amis, born June 17 1922, died August 1 2013
Sadly, more than half a century after the onset of the cold war and at a time when we should be adopting a less emotional stance, Robert McCrum (“The traitor, the newspaper editor and the world of establishment spies” In Focus) helps to perpetuate the hysteria of those times, something for which the editor David Astor, for whom I acted professionally for the last 20 years of his life, would not have done.
Far better to view things as the “spies” and “traitors” themselves did then. The Cambridge Five and others with similar sympathies had lived through the horrors of the rise of fascism and the brutality of the Nazi war machine and saw the Soviet Union as the only bulwark for civilised existence.
However misguided they may be thought to have been in retrospect, were they so wrong at the time? After all, Soviet Russia was engaged in a life or death struggle with the Wehrmacht and, were it not for the Red Army in the early years of the war before the Allies had the atom bomb, it is highly conceivable that Britain would have succumbed.
Certainly, that is how one of the five, John Cairncross, whom I also briefly advised in the last year of his life and who, at Bletchley, decrypted German codes and smuggled the transcripts to the Russians, thus being instrumental in enabling the Red Army to turn the tide of the war at Kursk in 1943, saw it. Can we please begin to view those traumatic years in a more historically balanced perspective?
Use full names on social media
Until very recently, anonymous communications (poison pen letters) were seen as contemptible (“Fury at Twitter as Jane Austen banknote campaigner is the target of rape threats”, News).
I have been baffled for some time as to why it is now perfectly acceptable to write anonymous messages across the broadest ever field of communication, the internet.
All social media should demand that everyone on their network writes only in their full and legal name with attributable contacts. Anything less than this is cowardice. If you have things to say, have the guts to say who you are – and this must be enforced by law.
Our shameful arms trade
Mark Townsend’s well-researched article on the Central African Republicwas a real revelation (“Raped, plundered, ignored: central Africa state where only killers thrive”, World News. I had simply no idea how involved we are in selling arms to the warring factions across the whole region.
Since 2005, the fourth largest European exporter of arms to the CAR? The third largest to the Democratic (really?) Republic of the Congo? Not to mention Chad and Sudan. The list goes on. I am appalled that some of the wealth of this country contributes to the misery of the civilians in these countries, particularly women and children and that I, in my ignorance, have been complicit.
I would like this letter to be an open letter to David Cameron and his government, including Vince Cable, who is my local MP, as my protest against these exports.
I wish to hear from them that the government’s arms exports policies to regions of extreme conflict will be reviewed as a matter of urgency and that we, as a country, will live up to our so-called international reputation as a principled provider of aid to people whose lives have been torn apart by war.
Newspapers need public trust
A blurring of fact and speculation by Peter Preston (“August will be no holiday as reform becomes reality”, Business) creates the impression of a newspaper industry united behind the regulator proposed by proprietors in defiance of the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. There is no such unity. Neither the Guardian nor the Independent has signed up to the proprietors’ scheme – and neither has the Observer.
Preston also fails to acknowledge that any successful self-regulator will have to enjoy the trust of the public, and by every credible measure the proprietors’ scheme cannot pass this test; the most recent poll (YouGov/MST, July 2013) shows the public overwhelmingly against it.
Notably, YouGov found that 79% of Guardian readers wanted to see their newspaper join instead the Leveson-based self-regulation scheme that has the backing of all parties in parliament.
Director, Hacked Off
Long may they reign over us
I can’t help feeling your leader on the monarchy was out of touch; predictable and strangely old-fashioned (“Monarchy is at odds with a modern Britain”, Comment).
Republicans are interested in democracy. Democracy is about asserting the will of the majority. The majority clearly want a monarchy.Need I go on?
Applying openly for a job regardless of background is not a criminal offence (“Dangerous criminals caught trying to get school jobs”, 21 July). Not all “serious ex-offenders” are or have been a threat to children. Some of these people are well educated and are now caring parents themselves.
Supposing a person convicted of bank robberies in the 1970s, educated himself while in prison and went on to become the chief executive of a national charity. This is how the charity Unlock was founded. Should the CEO of Unlock be barred from working in schools? The current thinking would suggest yes.
Should the youth who committed robbery offences and was sentenced to several years in youth custody, who then went on to graduate with first-class honours and achieve a higher degree as an adult while working with vulnerable people for 15 years, now be categorised a “dangerous criminal”? The current thinking is yes.
If society recognises reformed people, perhaps media reporting will stop constructing negative identities that in turn reinforce limited life opportunities.
Congratulations on highlighting the way progress in the promotion and development of women’s sport is “dissipating” (“Women’s sport has far to go”, 28 July). You rightly identify that elite women competitors need, and deserve, more media attention, which would help to attract sponsorship and encourage participation. The final of Euro 2013 was a great showcase. But, with girls now less active from the age of eight, we need to see far more activity at grassroots level.
Schools have a major role to play in this, but the bodies administering sports also need to do more. Far too many continue to be havens of misogyny, with few women in senior positions. Sport and physical activity need to be clearly for, and clearly available to, everyone. A modest investment can have a major return in terms of lifelong health and wellbeing.
Leader, Green Party London NW1
Since you devoted hundreds of words to the lack of respect for women’s sport, I turned to your sports pages for a player-by-player preview of the European Championship football final later that day and a full report on the Hansa Ladies’ Masters golf tournament, the final European Tour event before the Women’s Open. The wheels certainly turn slowly when you don’t report female sport on your own pages.
FGM is so deeply ingrained in some Muslim countries that it could be many decades before the nasty procedure dies out (Letters, 28 July). Girls in the UK have legal protection now, but boys, who also suffer genital cutting, do not. My late husband lost his foreskin for no good reason. When genital cutting is openly discussed, and exposed as the crime it really is, all children will grow up whole.
In vitro technology will spell the end of lorries full of cows and chickens, abattoirs and factory farming (“Meat: the future”, 28 July). It will reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and make the food supply safer. Mock meat made from nuts, soya, beans and grain exist already and offer the taste of meat without cholesterol or cruelty. But lab-grown meat will provide people who were addicted from childhood to the saturated fat in flesh with the “methadone” for their habit.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
I think “our new obsession with the Seventies” is not because the key social changes of the Sixties began to take affect outside central London (D J Taylor, 28 July). Rather, it’s that those in the media are now too young to remember the 1960s, having come of age in the 1970s, as I did.
Your leading article is right (“Online bullying is still abuse”, 28 July). Online bullying should be more robustly patrolled. On the other hand, would I trust ex-Bullingdon Club member David Cameron to do this? No.
FOR Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chairman of the public administration select committee, to conclude that survey-based data provided by the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office is “little better than a best guess” defies belief (“Official statistics on migrants ‘just guesswork’”, News, last week).
Since I retired from the immigration service 16 years ago I have been concerned at the deterioration in border control. Serving former colleagues tell me that the
sole responsibility for this lies with the politicians, and to a much lesser extent senior immigration management.
Somewhat bizarrely this deterioration has coincided with a costly expansion of the service. The main problem is the ludicrous decision — taken as long ago as 1993 by a Tory administration and based on economic considerations — to scrap embarkation controls. Back then details were taken of arriving non-EU visitors and matched with their departure information, thereby providing a reasonably sound record of those who had failed to leave the country.
I can only assume that with elections over the horizon, MPs are addressing what is clearly a matter of public concern.
Tony Adams Deal, Kent
Breaking the law
I read the sensational article (“We’ve added a vanload of shame to the silence on immigration”, Comment, last week) with amazement. I agree with India Knight that the wording on the Home Office van’s billboard — “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070” — was stark but she seemed not to accept that illegal immigrants are breaking the law and working for a pittance, which means that many UK citizens are unable to obtain jobs at the minimum wage.
I have sympathy with the fact these immigrants have paid large amounts of money to enter the country, and have been duped about the benefits of being here, but that does not justify them staying illegally.
William Brown Saffron Walden, Essex
Knight’s article totally misses the point. People living in areas affected by unmanaged immigration and struggling to gain a fair share of the stressed social services will see the van campaign quite differently. They do not see it as a “vanload of shame”. Our politicians and bleeding hearts should get out more and meet people who can discuss immigration without “going red in the face, and calling everyone a racist”.
Henry Sherrington Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
Losing the battle
Knight was spot on regarding the vans. The Tories seem not to have any other war chants as UKIP gains ground and pulls the rug from under their feet.
Patrick Penilla Manchester
Knight told readers more about her metropolitan prejudices than illegal immigration. Even Britons who were immigrants themselves want tough but fair border policies, which include deporting those not legitimately in the UK.
Tony Devenish London SW1
Unfortunately Jane Hutchison is viewing London through rose-tinted spectacles (“Capital bane”, Letters, last week). The city she left in 1993 is, thank goodness, long dead and bears no resemblance to the vibrancy of the capital in 2013.
Back in the early 1990s we were languishing in an economy with double-digit interest rates and a stagnant property market. London has now become the centre of Europe, and that has brought wealth and talent from all over the world, in all areas of business, sport and the arts, to this amazing city.
Martin Betts London SW6
Planning a strategy for Afghanistan
HAVING veered from doing far too much to doing far too little, British strategy in Afghanistan seems to be getting on track just as we prepare to end combat operations (“Army fights secret war in Helmand”, News, last week).
Philip Hammond’s deployment of a strike force from Camp Bastion into Sangin for a limited but decisive period is precisely the approach that should have been adopted several years ago, and is founded on the use of one or more strategic military bases. By waging an infantry-intensive, boots-on-the- ground war all over Afghanistan we laid our troops open to unacceptable rates of attrition. Yet by announcing in 2010 that British combat operations would finish before 2015 we sent a signal to the Taliban that patience alone would yield them victory.
If Afghanistan is not to revert to extremist control, with safe havens again offered to al-Qaeda, the West must retain strategic bases from which military sanctions can selectively be applied. The retention and use of these bases by America, if not by the UK, would minimise western casualties while maximising pressure on the Taliban to compromise politically once they realise total victory will not be theirs.
Dr Julian Lewis MP Conservative Defence Spokesman, 2002-10
Pharmacy cure for our overloaded A&E wards
YOUR article “NHS helpline sends ambulances to tackle coughs and sneezes” (News, last week) describes yet another failure to align demand to capacity in the health service. People turn up at A&E with sprains, minor burns, eye infections and all manner of complaints that a pharmacist can sort out — saving perhaps 1.5m hospital visits a year.
Calls that would once have been directed to a community pharmacy — as they were under the old system — are now referred to GPs or emergency care services.
Hiten Patel St Albans, Hertfordshire
Always on call
Jan Sitkowski (“Frequent flyers”, Letters, last week) states that pilots work 24/7 and implies that NHS consultants should do the same. In reality pilots’ hours are strictly regulated and airlines only provide the service they do by employing adequate numbers of flight crew.
In contrast, few NHS hospitals have sufficient consultants to provide 24-hour resident cover, along with their other commitments. Most, however, do work beyond their contracted hours for no extra remuneration. In my 23 years as a consultant my team knew it could call on me at any time whether I was on call or not — truly 24/7.
Dr Charles Breeze Liverpool
Our doctor (now retired) was contacted by a mother whose student son had a sore throat. He paid a house call, diagnosed the sore throat, recommended gargling and then asked the woman to find another doctor. That was his way of dealing with time-wasters.
Chris Yorke Chislehurst, London
Nothing positive at the polls
SO David Cameron and George Osborne’s team has extended its lead on economic competence over Ed Miliband and Ed Balls’s team from 34-31% to 39-26% (“Tories winning on economy”, Focus, last week). That leaves a constant 35% with no confidence in either side, with 61% having no faith in the Tories, compared with the earlier 66%, while those having no confidence in Labour are 74%, up from 69%. Is that positive news for either party?
Neil McGeown Penrith, Cumbria
Feast or famine?
Several articles, including “Osborne’s moment in the sun” (Editorial, last week), would have us believe that the economy is on the mend and the UK is now wallowing in a “feelgood” factor. I then read in the church notes at Beverley Minster last Sunday: “Beverley food bank needs you!”
David Middlemiss Beverley, East Yorkshire
Riding roughshod over road tax myth
CAN we please put this “Cyclists don’t pay road tax and thus use the road network for free” notion to bed once and for all (“Free wheeling”, Letters, July 21)? Most cyclists are also car drivers.
Chris Down Bristol
Although comfortable and convenient, cars are inefficient, polluting, 1½-ton potential weapons that damage road surfaces. Drivers rightly pay for the privilege of using them. Bicycles, by comparison, are 26lb of efficient transport, taking up little space and using a fraction of the raw materials to make. Far from complaining, motorists should be glad to share the road with cyclists: every bike that passes by means one less car ahead of them in the traffic jam.
Giles Henshaw Blackpool
Moor the merrier
Freda Bennett complains about towpath cyclists (“Barging in”, Letters, last week), but how does she know that a cyclist — or indeed a walker — is not from another boat and just on their way to the shops? We have cycled hundreds of miles along canals and never once have we got in anyone’s way. Give us a wave instead of a snarl, Freda.
Stefan Sliwinski Rossendale, Lancashire
With regard to your article “Britain welcomes Chinese spooks” (News, last week), our centre was asked among a number of UK organisations to hold a few seminars for the Chinese delegation. The topic of an introduction to the intelligence agencies in the UK was taken from a list of possible subjects drawn up by the Chinese. Our centre takes a legal approach to research and does cover human rights from a legal perspective. Indeed we held a seminar earlier in July for the Chinese Ministry of Justice on the rule of law in which we covered human rights law. We found Professor Anthony Glees’s suggestions too political and not in line with our centre’s legal, non-political approach. As a consequence of your report, the centre has chosen to cancel our proposed seminars for this delegation as part of their 20-day visit to the UK.
Dr Rosamund Thomas Centre for Business and Public Sector Ethics
Egypt’s cautionary tale
The military intervention in Egypt may not be a mere interlude (“A chill over the Egyptian spring”, Editorial, last week). If the turmoil worsens, the army is likely to take over. Post-monarchal Egypt has been ruled by former military officers. Similarly in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, an autocratic president, was an air force pilot. The Middle East has always been ruled by clan chiefs and theocrats. The West has been looking at the Arab spring through rose-tinted glasses. It is hard to imagine the establishment of liberal and secular democracies in the Middle East, with equal rights for women and religious pluralism, in the near future.
Sam Banik London N10
Eating for two
You report that Jo Swinson, the minister for women and equalities, has put together a group of midwives, health visitors and other experts to spot signs of depression as new mothers are being put under pressure to lose weight they have gained in pregnancy (“Lay off Kate’s baby bump, says minister”, News, last week). She ought to know that health visitors such as myself are ahead of the game and already encouraging mums to eat well after childbirth rather than worrying about losing weight, especially if they are breastfeeding.
Joanne Martin North Yorkshire
Giving cats the bird
Based on Philippa Gibson’s feline insights (“A tale of five kitties and the city”, Letters, last week) that some humans kill for pleasure, all of us are enjoined not to criticise cats that do likewise. The latter are further absolved because those in her household are rather poor hunters. Time to pass on the news to the songbird population (and those species found canned in the pet food aisles) that the slaughter won’t be ending any time soon. If any value were placed on our native wildlife, we might be able to start a sensible conversation on whether we can afford the unregulated and uncontrolled expansion of the cat population.
Professor Alan Hallsworth Portsmouth
Adrian Wooldridge’s article (“Our black and white TV needs to learn the art of blurring”, Comment, last week) was alarming. Although the enigma that America can produce great films but poor television has been addressed in the past few years, it still has a long way to go to compare with the sheer quality and variety of British television. We are the envy of most countries, with innovative programmes made by producers who do not pander to elitists or populists. To suggest that we lobby for the Americanisation of British television beggars belief.
Mike Swallow Newcastle upon Tyne
Colon cancer alert
I am one of this year’s crop of 23,000 men with colon cancer (“Table Talk”, Magazine, last week). I am 10 years older than AA Gill and, having spotted the symptoms as a result of an NHS poster campaign, went to my GP. Nine months on, after a serious operation — eight hours long — I am free of cancer but wearing a bag to collect waste. I hope in due course to have an operation to bring me back to normal. Please thank Gill for bringing this to the attention of the public. I was lucky — many others die.
Phil Hewitt Southport, Merseyside
Ian Broudie, singer-songwriter, 55; Mary Decker, athlete, 55; Reg Grundy, Australian television producer, 90; Martin Jarvis, actor, 72; Dennis Lehane, author, 53; Barack Obama, president of the United States, 52; Robin Peterson, cricketer, 34; Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, 83; Billy Bob Thornton, actor, 58; Frank Vincent, actor, 74; Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former prime minister of Spain, 53
1900 birth of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother; 1902 Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames opens; 1914 Germany invades Belgium. Britain declares war on Germany; 1944 Anne Frank and her family discovered hiding in Amsterdam by the Nazis; 1954 maiden flight of Britain’s first supersonic fighter plane, the English Electric Lightning P-1; 1958 Billboard Hot 100 chart is published for the first time
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (email@example.com or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
SIR – Under new regulations, we are obliged to tell the counter assistant in the post office exactly what is in a parcel before it will be accepted for transit.
This is to be enforced even though the relevant leaflet states that “You are responsible for checking whether or not an item is prohibited or restricted.”
This often means announcing to a busy post office queue what should be a private matter. The reason given for this intrusion is – you guessed it – health and safety.
SIR – Michael Fallon has clearly seen the need to inform the wider public about fracking, but in a way that does not give sufficient assurance (“Our potential prize from fracking is huge”, Comment, July 31).
I worked in the oil industry so I am not wholly ignorant, but fracking is a new process. Several weeks ago, I attended a meeting in Balcombe with the intention of getting more information, but it turned out to be a propaganda exercise by the Greens and their acolytes.
A highly slanted film was shown that catalogued disastrous consequences of fracking in Pennsylvania and Poland, but did not mention the many instances where oil and gas had been produced successfully in America.
At the same time, Mr Fallon’s statement that there was no evidence from America that fracking caused groundwater contamination is optimistic to say the least.
There needs to be a proper consultation exercise with each side’s evidence subjected to independent and expert scrutiny, and detailed information provided for the public.
Passing the parcel publicly at the post office
03 Aug 2013
Unconventional oil and gas is a vital resource for Britain. The Government needs to get a move on or it will lose the fracking war.
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
SIR – Mr Fallon’s article has several shortcomings. First, that fracking will deliver “cheaper bills for everybody” has been refuted by everyone from Bloomberg to the International Energy Agency.
Second, suggesting that “there’s nothing new about onshore oil and gas production”, including fracking, is deeply misleading. Fracking has indeed been used for decades to stimulate recovery in conventional wells, but fracking for “unconventional” gas in impermeable rocks like shale is altogether different (and very new). It requires masses of wells at regular intervals, each involving thousands of gallons of water and chemicals.
Third, he dismisses concerns over countryside damage as “nonsense”, because well pads are “little larger than a cricket ground”. But that’s quite big. And there will be dozens of them within relatively small areas.
Finally, Mr Fallon studiously avoids mentioning climate change – arguably the most compelling case against fracking.
SIR – The term fracking is industry shorthand for “hydraulic fracturing”, a technique whereby water mixed with sand and other agents is injected at sustained high pressure into an oil or gas well.
This opens up existing fissures in the rock strata and improves the flow of production fluids to the wellhead.
It is not new and was introduced in the Fifties specifically to overcome the need for explosives.
C W Maude
SIR – The appointment of peers has become more than a joke. I used to have some respect for peers, even hereditary ones who, through no fault of their own, were elevated by birth.
There are very few I respect now.
SIR – We talk of spreading democracy, and still have the House of Lords making the laws of the land. At least Morsi in Egypt was democratically elected.
SIR – Stuart Wheeler donated £5 million to the Conservative Party during the 2001 election campaign – the largest single donation ever made to a political party. His name failed to appear in the latest list of “working peers”. But, then, he is now treasurer of the UK Independence Party. David Cameron has no time for those “fruitcakes and closet racists”.
Badgered into claiming
SIR – A recent experience might help to explain the increase in claims for personal injury. I was telephoned by a very helpful lady who wanted to discuss the road accident I had had this year.
She stated that the “other party” had made a claim for personal injury and received several thousand pounds in compensation. I was apparently also entitled to make a claim.
I was obliged to point out a serious problem. The “other party” was a badger that I had unfortunately run over, and I felt it unlikely that it had made any such claim. (It was dead.) I was not too sure, either, how I could claim against its insurance.
SIR – Eric Pickles’s suggestion of short-term parking on double yellow lines (Letters, August 1) would only cause problems, leading to frayed tempers.
When will councils realise that the only way to resurrect high-street shopping is to provide the nearby car parks with free parking for an hour or two?
R F Sanderson
Southend on Sea, Essex
The chips are down
SIR – The price of potatoes is predicted to rise this winter. This news reminded me of a notice that appeared in the window on my grandparents’ Yorkshire village fish and chip shop around 1940.
Owing to Hitler,
The chips will be littler.
And owing to Himmler,
The fish will be similar.
Dr Paul Roebuck
SIR – Peter Foston (Letters, August 2) calls taking holiday snaps featuring the holidaymakers “ussing”.
We find that when shown to others the word quickly changes to “boring”.
SIR – Individuals who brag about their holidays are known to us as “when-we’s”, as their conversations are too frequently peppered with: “When we were in…”
SIR – Mark Harland’s suggestion (Letters, July 31) that a 99-year lease for Gibraltar would provide a suitably strategic buffer is flawed.
The Battle of Trafalgar occurred 92 years after the treaty that ceded it to Britain. The strategic implications of surrendering Nelson’s forward operating base just seven years later, three years before Waterloo, do not bear thinking about.
As Margaret Thatcher was to discover, 99 years isn’t a long time in politics but it certainly offers enough time to repent at leisure.
Lumut, Perak, Malaysia
SIR – I lived in Gibraltar in 1944 while serving with Cable & Wireless, and have visited it on holiday since.
The loutish behaviour described by Andrew Woodhouse (Letters, August 2) comes not from the native-born Gibraltarians but from the English people who have moved there as an alternative to Spain, in order to bypass the problem of coping with a foreign language.
The vast majority of Gibraltarian people are intensely loyal to Britain and have no wish to become part of Spain. Unlike many of the new residents, they also speak grammatically correct English.
SIR – I resent the idea of monkeying around with the boundary of the European Parliament constituency in which I live, which has included Gibraltar since 2004, following appeals by its citizens for the right to vote in European elections – ineffectively resisted by Spain, of course. Curiously, we return two Ukip MEPs.
Cardigan and trousers
SIR – Your feature about the current fashion for wearing red trousers
(August 1) referred to a historic French army uniform.
But surely the most famous wearers of red trousers were the Light Brigade – Lord Cardigan referred to his men as “my cherry bums”.
Gateshead, Co Durham
SIR – I have recently deduced that the larger the pension, the ruddier the face and the paunchier the stomach, the pucer one’s trousers.
Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk
How to stop the spread of poisonous ragwort
SIR – Your leading article on ragwort (July 31) was a reminder that these brightly coloured daisies are lethal to horses.
In this part of the country, the plants are seen flowering on roadside verges, marginal land and in uncultivated fields. Their seeds are spread not only by wind but also by road traffic.
There is a simple way to prevent this. The plants need to be pulled, roots and all, from the ground, where they can be left to shrivel and die allowing nutrients to return to the soil. This is a simple task that requires no special equipment or training – a perfect job for youngsters seeking work.
Is there a minister in Whitehall who could get this idea up and running before the ragwort seeds have ripened and been disseminated?
SIR – We find that where sheep graze there will be no ragwort. They eat the young shoots without any ill effects. Horses do not readily eat the growing weed, but will take it dried, with hay, and this is fatal.
I grew up in Ireland, where to have buachalán growing on your land was a criminal offence.
A F Humphreys
SIR – Although spraying is the most effective way of controlling ragwort, this should never be done where grazing animals are present.
Likewise, cutting and conserving infected grass as hay or silage will result in ingestion and fatalities.
Pulling and burning is the only option.
J B Randle
Fletching, East Sussex
SIR – Couldn’t there be a “win-win” solution to the problem of controlling ragwort? If councils used zoological pest control, by breeding ragwort-devouring cinnabar moth caterpillars in large numbers and releasing them where ragwort was prevalent, not only would we see the yellow peril controlled each year but we would also see a wonderful black and red moth protected.
Sir, – So the group of five Labour TDs proclaim they are not “austerity junkies” (July 2nd) and will only do as much of it as is needed and “not a cent more”. Another way of putting this is committing to borrow as much debt as possible to finance day-to-day living and not a penny less. For, in the Labour philosophy, there is always somebody in the future to pick up the bills. – Yours, etc,
Dr MAIT O FAOLAIN,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The five Labour TDs who wrote to The Irish Times (August 2nd) regarding budget 2014 were simply reflecting the political ideology of their party. Labour as a party of the left must strive to uphold its values: there are limits to compromise.
If budget 2014 goes further than needed, then Labour must leave government, any other action is unconscionable. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I note with interest the letter from the Labour TDs (August 2nd), especially the line: “We will do as much austerity as is needed to secure the recovery”. So, can we look forward to large cuts in the number of TDs, their salaries, pensions and expenses? – Yours, etc,
Killurin, Co Wexford.
Sir, – The reported “clash” between Fine Gael and Labour backbench TDs over the fiscal plan for 2014 is a clear signal that the silly season is upon us (Front page and Letters, August 2nd, and Opinion, July 31st). This is nothing more than a phoney war waged between the two Government parties in the lead-up to the next austerity budget. The Labour Famous Five TDs, in particular, are throwing shapes when they write “we are not austerity junkies. We will do as much austerity as is needed to secure recovery. Not a cent more”. These are the same TDs who had no problem voting consistently for austerity in the Dáil since they embraced power in 2011 and callously reneged on their election promises. To borrow some words from George Bernard Shaw, the electorate will not quite appreciate the very clever way in which they systematically humbug them. – Yours, etc,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.
Sir, – While I disagree strongly with the opinion piece written by the group of Fine Gael backbenchers (Opinion, July 31st), I take particular exception to the idea that Ireland has a progressive tax system. This lie is constantly uttered by those on the right. A top rate of tax that kicks in at €32,800 for a single person is anything but progressive. This means that those earning about €32,000 or €32 million pay the same tax rate. While the USC does add more to high earners, this is still not good enough.
A truly progressive tax rate would begin at zero per cent and increase incrementally up to maybe 60-65 per cent. That is a progressive tax system that would ensure all make a contribution, but particularly those at the top. This assertion by these TDs is nothing more than right-wing ideology, not out of place in the Tory or Republican parties. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It would seem that “New Politics”, long promised by the Taoiseach is a budget debate between the coalition government parties courtesy of the Letters page of the paper of record. Most assuredly, it is certainly cheaper than running a second house and potentially as effective, but hardly what the electorate expected from either party. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The situation at Letterkenny General Hospital is very serious – life-threatening. We do not have an A&E department in Co Donegal. And we will not for a long time. The risk of cross-infection from raw sewage is off the scale. Patients in the hospital cannot receive visitors and yet we have a daily troop of politicians trailing through the place.
To all politicians, including ministers and party leaders across all party lines: Stop wasting management and staff time. They are too busy to be dealing with a political circus. The local media is more than capable of informing you of the daily situation. If you know where extra funding is available go and source it – do not stop at the media first. Get the funds to the hospital management. We need a fleet of ambulances. One extra ambulance is not enough. If there is a team of advisers anywhere in the world that can help sort out this situation to the highest standard fly them here now.
We could ask, “Would you want to be treated in Letterkenny hospital?” but Kathleen Lynch’s helicopter ride out of the place answered that question. We are in a disaster situation, but we are not a third-world county. Wandering around Letterkenny hospital with one arm longer than the other is not helping. When the hospital is equipped and fully functioning again you may all come back, cut ribbons and take a bow. In the meantime do not stand there telling us what you are going to do – go do it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As a daily reader of The Irish Times for over 40 years, I always regarded your paper as the leader of Irish journalism, but I have been totally disgusted by your almost complete lack of coverage of the recent flooding of Letterkenny General Hospital and the absolutely devastating consequences of the flooding.
The fact that a major hospital catering for the needs of a population of 140,000 has been made essentially inoperable did not warrant a single article in your newspaper this week, suggests either sloppy journalism, a complete absence of interest in the north west, or, worse still, the suppression of news.
Given that essentially the entire radiology department, the entire emergency department, much of coronary care, oncology department, the entire kitchen department and large parts of pharmacy, pathology and medical records have been utterly destroyed, with the cost of reinstatement, of one of those departments alone being of the order of at least €7 million, I find it extraordinary that this event has received so little coverage.
I very much doubt if an event of similar magnitude had occurred in any Dublin hospital that there would be so little coverage. I think that the people of Donegal deserve better and I would hope that even at this late stage that appropriate coverage of this disaster (which it truly is for the people of Donegal) would be provided by the supposed paper of record. – Yours, etc,
Mac a BHAIRD,
Sir, – I hope Minister of State Kathleen Lynch is feeling better (Home News, August 1st), but surely there are nearer hospitals than Cork University Hospital to Letterkenny at time when emergency services are totally stretched here? – Yours, etc,
Dr CIARÁN A KELLY,
Sir, – It was the early 1970s and young Colm Murray was cutting his teeth as a French teacher in Ballymun Comprehensive School, never famous for being a sedate kind of place, especially the first years.
For some reason the “bold boys” were particularly obnoxious this day, and were preventing the good boys (like me) from learning. Colm threw the head a few times, but control just drifted further away. “Ah feck ye all”, says Colm eventually, “I’m going to play golf.” He left.
Worse mayhem ensued and it attracted the attention of the headmaster, Tom Kilraine. He burst in the door, furious, “Where is Mister Murray?” he yelled. One of the braver messers spoke up: “He’s gone playin golf, Sir. Did he not tell ye first?”
Over 30 years later I met Colm at Longchamp the day Hurricane Run won the Arc and reminded him of the story. He said Mr Kilraine’s feedback the next morning was still ringing in his ears. “Ye little bastards,” Colm said. Ever the gentleman, he still bought me a pint. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In reaction to AIB assertions about “strategic defaulters”, may I please ask what the difference is between a strategic defaulter and a tax avoider? I would suggest a good tax lawyer and an accountant. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Hilary Minch’s assertion “No Israeli government has even been prepared to halt settlement-building temporarily while negotiations with Palestinians proceed” (August 1st) is incorrect.
In September 2009 Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month freeze on construction in the West Bank settlements in a bid to restart stalled peace talks. Sadly this was to no avail as the Palestinian leadership chose not to return to the negotiating table. – Yours, etc,
DAVID M ABRAHAMSON,
Sir, – The review by Rachel Collins (Magazine, July 27th) of the restaurant Dublin City Food, was very positive, giving it 8/10.
“Good food, great service”; the only negative seems to be no wheelchair access. I was surprised to see it had a “single bathroom on the top floor”. If a customer arrives carrying a full change of clothing, should they have a bath before, during or after their meal?
I recall circa 1980 that developers of a new cafe/restaurant in central Dublin, if they had accepted the hygiene/toilet requirements of city officials, would have had to devote at least 50 per cent of their floor space to toilets and wash-hand basins. This silliness was changed on appeal, allowing the business to operate. But even they did not require a bathroom.
I’m aware the word bathroom is sometimes used very differently in some other far-off places, but this is a restaurant in Ireland. Many restaurant operators in Ireland, most struggling with large overheads, will be worried that a bathroom might become a requirement for all. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As the holder of a British passport, but having lived between Ireland and England for the past 25 years, I have always maintained (from first-hand experience) that if I couldn’t get back to the UK for any medical treatment that I’d rather be taken to a vet in Ireland that visit a hospital.
Now I’m married, with an American wife who needs to be within an hour’s driving of acceptable medical facilities, this is just one reason for deciding to leave Ireland to live in France as our main European home. Others include day-to-day living costs (30 per cent less, with freshness and choice – horsemeat is advertised!), education, proximity to London, door-to-door on Eurostar and, er, climate. – Yours, etc.
* Radio is a strangely intimate medium, we relate to the disembodied voice more personally, long-term presenters become like old friends.
Also in this section
We are not mediocre – we can inspire change
More women will not make system fairer
Colm Murray was always smiling – and always had a tip
Therefore the decision of Pat Kenny to decamp from the reservation to new and hopefully happier hunting grounds in Newstalk, invoked a bout of national separation anxiety.
There, there. We will be all right; Pat is a pro, and he hasn’t really gone away you know.
But what he has left behind him is a national station sorely in need of a talent transfusion.
I do not believe for one moment that there are not dozens of hugely gifted personnel waiting in the wings, but I am far from confident in believing that we will ever get to hear from them anytime soon.
The national broadcaster is creaking with conservatism and is in danger of atrophy. ‘New faces’ generally make their breakthrough after languishing in the shadows for decades, until one of the golden oldies falls off their perch.
The station is in something of a time warp. It needs an edge and spark if it is to continue to innovate and reflect our rapidly changing country. Bland programming from the musty vaults betrays a sense of decay, and licence payers won’t subsidise this indefinitely.
MAKE MORTGAGES ‘REAL’
* During the late, lamented boom, bankers shovelled lunatic loans at (in many cases) nitwits with ridiculous notions – with the whole doomed saga being enthusiastically aided and abetted by lax – or even non-existent – official oversight.
Now all the pain is to be dumped, not just on the nitwits but also on innocent, already overburdened taxpayers, plus the many thousands of financially unsophisticated borrowers bamboozled by financially astute lenders fully aware of the fact that all such booms inevitably end in a bust.
So is there a fair and feasible long-term solution now that the property tax has attached the true value to every home? Well, why not attach the mortgage repayment to the ‘current’ and ‘real’ value of the mortgaged property for the full remaining term of the mortgage?
That way, if there is any improvement in the market the original lender will also benefit. Meanwhile, a reliable and long-term – if somewhat reduced – stream of revenue will be established.
The alternative would be to litter the country with thousands of empty, market-distorting unsold houses, all just waiting to be vandalised while producing no revenue of any kind for anybody.
George Mac Donald
Gorey, Co Wexford
PUT RTE TO SLEEP
* Martina Devlin was, predictably, first out of the trap to demand that ‘RTE must grasp opportunity to launch a strong new female voice’ (Irish Independent, August 1) to take over from Pat Kenny.
Female indeed? Presumably on a salary of zillions? Paid for by Paddy and Patricia taxpayer. A much better idea would be to close this white elephant down and sell it to somebody from the real world who knows how to make a profit without having to run to the State seeking – and getting – millions each year.
* Further to the letter ‘Onus lies with Israel’ (Irish Independent, August 2) regarding the so called peace talks between Israel and Palestine, I am always amazed when the world pretends these periodic meetings are going to be a ‘breakthrough’.
These talks will consist of the US and Israel telling Palestinians what percentage of their own land they are willing to ‘grant’.
There is no real plan for Palestine becoming a state with the parity of esteem which Israel enjoys. These talks have more to do with trying to isolate Hamas and Hezbollah than any serious attempt to enshrine the rights of a Palestinian nation.
Bantry, Co Cork
* Here’s an example of the utter disconnect between government (local and national) and those in the private sector desperately clinging on against an ever-burgeoning tide of taxes, charges and levies to fund the former’s surreal pensions and guaranteed jobs: Louth County Council will, next week, remove a parking concession for the recession-ravaged town of Ardee, giving an hour’s free parking to shoppers.
Swathes of retail outlets in Ardee are empty and this isn’t going to improve; Carrickmacross and Dunleer – with which Ardee competes – are not shackled by such a strict parking regime.
This is slowly choking the life out of the town, but the council refuses to budge. Why? Because, instead of looking inwards to deal with its own shrinking income and making the necessary savings and economies (as everybody in the private sector has had to do for the past five years), it simply looks outwards and seeks to make up losses by taking more taxes from the public.
This is a mirror image of what is done on a national scale. The default position of the Government for dealing with gross inefficiencies and losses in the public sector is not to make the necessary internal adjustments but to raise taxes on the already reeling private sector while continuing to give itself ‘increments’ and huge pensions.
Truly, we live in parallel universes.
Market Square, Ardee, Co Louth
* John Boland clearly wasn’t watching the same Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor biopic as me on BBC Four (Irish Independent, July 27). How he could label it a complete let-down is baffling.
Personally, I was riveted by the performances of Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter in the eponymous lead roles. They were both superb in their respective interpretations of Burton and Taylor.
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
IT’S ECONOMISTS, STUPID
* Ruairi Quinn’s speech at the MacGill Summer School is full of little gems. My own personal favourite is: “… in equipping our young people for the future, we know that the acquisition of knowledge itself will no longer be a key skill.”
In other words, why learn history or any general knowledge when all you will need to know is how to use Google or Wikipedia? Use that extra time to bulk up on maths and technical stuff.
He then goes on to talk about mass unemployment and how a reformed education system will somehow cure this. The corollary of course is that the unreformed education system in some way contributed to the plight of the unemployed.
Actually, our unemployment is not caused by a sudden deficiency in the mathematical or technical abilities of the unemployed, but by a crash caused by the incompetence of a very mathematically and technically proficient economics profession.
The only economist who made any serious attempt to warn of the impending disaster was economic historian Morgan Kelly.
Hundreds of trendy economists with their scientific mathematical proofs could not match the simple logic of a single economist with history as his major interest. Mr Kelly famously avoided all trendy pseudo-scientific equations in his public arguments and was derided for it.
We have been ‘fetishising’ practical and technical education over arts for decades. Look where it got us.