4 August 2013 Sandy
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Dear old Leslie newly promoted is bing a right pain, but whats this the Admiralty computer keeps on promoting him till he Sea Lord, a computer error. Priceless
We are both tired but Micheal Fielding comes to visit.
We watch Yes Minister quite good
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Snoo Wilson, who has died aged 64, was the author of bizarre and eclectic plays that combined social and philosophical themes with a dark strain of comedy.
Snoo Wilson (left) in 1997 with Simon Callow Photo: Simon Norfolk
6:19PM BST 04 Aug 2013
In Pig Night (1971), his first major work, a disturbed soldier becomes convinced that pigs are going to take over the world; while in Blow-Job (1971), an Alsatian dog explodes on a darkened stage, having got its jaws around a stick of gelignite. The Times declared such works, which eschewed conventional narrative structure in favour of visual spectacle and the theatre of the absurd, to be a marriage of “physical outrage and savage farce”.
An associate of David Hare, Tony Bicat and Howard Brenton, Wilson was a founding member of Portable Theatre, an early and influential fringe company first conceived by Hare and Bicat in 1968. Portable Theatre toured England for the next four years, performing experimental socialist plays. But while Hare and Brenton had both emerged into the mainstream tradition by the mid-1970s, the bulk of Wilson’s output remained stubbornly uncommercial. The actor Simon Callow, meeting him in 1975 , recalled a man “full of inner preoccupations”, his mind a “very weird kind of crucible out of which curious things emerge”.
In later life the curious became more deeply entrenched, as Wilson deliberately set out to bait his critics and confound audience expectations. He often incorporated ideas from history, myth and science fiction into a single work, uniting a disparate cast of characters. Darwin’s Flood (1994), for example, has Charles Darwin converse with Friedrich Nietzsche, a wheelbarrow-bound syphilitic invalid, and Jesus, represented as a Northern Irish bicyclist who seduces Darwin’s wife.
Stranger still was Moonshine (Hampstead Theatre, 1999) which put a science fiction slant upon the spiritualist life of Arthur Conan Doyle. In search of fairies in the English village of Cottingley, Doyle is transported into an alternative reality ruled over by Abraxas, the Lord of Heaven, who is locked in a cosmic battle with his son Moloch. The play received largely scathing reviews, with Michael Billington in the Guardian dubbing it “guaranteed to empty the theatre faster than a powerful laxative”. In typically bullish spirit, Wilson made a public offer of a refund to anyone who walked out.
Andrew James Wilson was born in Reading, England, on August 2 1948, the son of two teachers, Leslie and Pamela. “Snoo” was an nickname from early childhood – “the nicest thing my family called me”, according to Wilson. After Bradfield College in Berkshire he attended the University of East Anglia, where he read English and American Studies.
He graduated in 1969 and joined Portable Theatre as associate director until 1971. When the company declared bankruptcy the following year he became a dramaturge for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which had commissioned him to write The Beast (1974) as part of its experimental season, and later worked as a script editor on the BBC’s Play For Today.
He wrote numerous radio and television plays for BBC and ITV, and also turned his hand to various adaptations, translating Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld for the English National Opera in 1985. A musical version of Around the World in 80 Days opened in California three years later. “It was meant to be the toast of Broadway,” Wilson later recalled, ruefully, “but the toast got burnt.”
HRH (1997), his only West End play, followed hard of the heels of Always, William May and Jason Sprague’s much-slated musical about the romance between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, and dealt with broadly the same subject matter. Wilson shifted the focus to the aftermath of Edward’s abdication, with the Duke now ensconced as Governor-General of the Bahamas, distracting himself from his misfortunes by playing George Formby on a ukulele. The play’s contemporary, colloquial dialogue and descriptions of bizarre sexual acts between the two leads – detailing an intimate hiding place for Queen Mary’s jewels – perplexed many critics.
Later Wilson worked for the National Theatre’s youth programme, adapting Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Bedbug for a musical in 2004, and scripting another musical two years later about the life of Felix Powell, author of the lyrics to Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag. His last work to premiere on a London stage was Reclining Nude with Black Stockings (2010).
He married, in 1976, Ann McFerran; she survives him with their three children.
Snoo Wilson, born August 2 1948, died July 4 2013
Martin Kettle does a disservice to Lenin who was no philistine or disparager of culture (Sadly our politicians are all Leninists – culturally, that is, 2 August). The quotation he refers to is taken out of context. Lenin was simply pointing out that listening to a Beethoven sonata makes him “want to do sweet, silly things” and distract him from the all-consuming struggle for justice and socialism at that historical juncture. He wasn’t in any way suggesting that therefore politics were more important than music and the arts for everyone. He, more than anyone, stressed the importance of culture for a full life and even recommended the comrades take cognisance of the “bourgeois” arts and not dismiss them. Without economic justice, of course, enjoying the arts does become merely a pleasure to which only an elite have access.
Brunhild de la Motte
• Germany’s capacity to connect the arts and politics in a shared public space was demonstrated on Richard Wagner’s birthday, two months ago, in Leipzig. In the opera house, there were speeches in praise of Wagner from the mayor of Leipzig, the president of Saxony and Angela Merkel’s defence minister. All spoke with wit and erudition. The Gewandhaus Orchestra performed Wagner music in between each. The wicked fairy, in the form of Kathryn Wagner, almost spoilt the civic ceremony by her heated denial that “Wagner ist Leipziger”, preferring instead, “Wagner ist Bayreuther”. She then departed rather quickly. It is difficult to think about how one of our great British composers could be similarly celebrated. As Lenin said: “What is to be done?”
Yet again, we face the endless heart-searching and recrimination about why a young child was left to die in dreadful circumstances (Life for couple who tortured boy of four to death, 3 August). Whenever these terrible events occur – be they child neglect, a hospital scandal, a maternal death, a suicide or a homicide – a lengthy inquiry is launched. These inquiries all identify the same problems (failure in communication, unwillingness to report risk and failure to act) and invariably result in the same recommendations we’ve heard numerous times before. But experience shows us that these recommendations are rarely implemented. The solutions may be complex and involve more resources, time and money, but we need to take start taking action. Instead of wasting more money on inquiries, let’s get the whole of social care, medicine and all public-sector agencies working together. We need people to stop being fearful of raising concerns, and we need systems to respond in an appropriate way when they do. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to happen.
Professor Sue Bailey
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
• That different professionals find it hard to communicate with one another is a recurring theme of serious case reviews, undertaken when a child dies or is seriously harmed following abuse or neglect. But a more striking finding of these reviews is that all kinds of adults who are paid to protect and care for children consistently ignore the child’s perspective. The law requires social workers to give due consideration to the child’s wishes and feelings when considering action to protect them. Our learning from the death of Daniel Pelka must therefore start with the question: did anybody listen to him?
Your leader (Editorial, 2 August) on the House of Lords is entirely correct in describing the present method by which one house of parliament is selected as “constitutionally enfeebling”. The solutions currently offered are, however, just as corrupting as the problem. The house is clearly overpopulated, but dispensing with those who do not attend solves nothing. Empowering the political parties to decide which peers should be made redundant is just as objectionable as continuing their present patronage. Sacking those who reach a specific age would be as unreasonable as it is discriminatory in other walks of life, and some older members give robust, regular and well-informed service.
The key issue remains the method of entrance, not that of exit. Surely, in principle, those who help to make the laws of the land should be elected – and unelected – by those who live by those laws. Just 12 months, ago the coalition’s bill to create a basically democratic House of Lords received a record majority of 338 votes in the Commons: 193 Tory MPs voted for it (against 89), as did 202 Labour MPs (against only 26) and 53 Liberal Democrats (against none). Had the Labour leadership not played politics, by refusing to agree to any timetabling of the subsequent committee stage, we would by now either have an act introducing democracy to the Lords, or the latter would be faced with that outcome after a set delay.
The only way in which the scandal to which you refer can be tackled will be for the 2012 bill to be reintroduced immediately after the next general election. It is unlikely that the next Commons will be more resistant to reform than the present one. In the meantime, recognising the parallel objection to the link between large donations and nomination to the Lords, I and colleagues from the other two parties have drafted a bill to fulfil the manifesto promises to “take the big money out of politics”. In both cases, tinkering would simply delay real reform.
Liberal Democrat spokesperson on constitutional reform, House of Lords
• It is time to separate the title and the frippery that goes with membership of the Lords from the political power. The treatment of hereditary peers provides a precedent – the majority lost the right to participate in governance but kept the title and some of the perks. If each party group of the 785 current peers voted to select 50% who would retain the right to participate in governance for 10 years from their appointment, the numbers would become manageable. Future appointments would be specified as either working or honorary peers. The proportion of all party vacancies filled by each party should be based on the proportion of votes in the general election, so that the membership would come to reflect the long-term view of the electorate. Crossbench peers play a very important role, so their numbers should be reduced by less than 50%, and could reflect the proportion of the population that did not vote for any party in the most recent election. New crossbench appointments should be agreed by all parties.
The Lords is becoming a joke; giving enough money to a party so that you can become a member of the legislature is not an image that should belong to a modern Britain.
• Am I being cynical in thinking that the announcement of the new lords when parliament is in recess is to keep it quiet? So that we won’t notice the addition of 30 new lords (of whom only 12 are female) to the 700 who already enjoy the best club in the country? What I want to know is how many of the new lords are committed to a fully elected house and how many will use their new positions to argue for it.
• Patrick Wintour (Report, 2 August) parroted the coalition parties’ complaint that they received 59% of the vote in 2010 but hold only 41% of peerages. This calculation is misleading as it includes the lords spiritual and crossbenchers. Of the main parties, the coalition actually has 58% of the seats in the Lords. There’s a good way to solve this ongoing question of proportionality: abolish the upper chamber altogether.
Nuffield College, Oxford
• I was scandalised to read that a seat in the Lords has gone to “a refrigerator magnate”. We have several of these in our kitchen, all of them equally if not better qualified to perform this role.
While agreeing with Will Hutton that “let us build homes of which we can be proud” (“Political cowardice stops us from solving our wretched housing crisis”, Comment), he might have mentioned one word: productivity. Office blocks and flats use components made off-site on an industrial scale, which can be assembled by crane, while houses are still made by methods going back to the Romans, brick upon brick, tile upon tile. These methods are very labour intensive, yet labour is a significant element in the total cost of a house. Prefab was a derogatory word after the Second World War, but good and affordable houses have been made using pre-fab units, of which we can be proud. Examples from the early 1960s are in Dulwich (Wates) or Blackheath (Span). Someone, eg the Prince of Wales, should offer a prize for an affordable house, which is a pleasure to live in, as well as a pleasure to look at.
William Robert Haines
Will Hutton is right to conclude that under the coalition “almost every dial on housing policy is on the wrong setting”, but his comment that “social housing is in gentle decline” is odd and wrong-headed, comparable perhaps to saying that Niagara Falls is just a trickle or that the principal’s lodgings at Hertford College, Oxford, are a roadside shack. Today, social housing, whether in the form of housing association, council or private provision, represents about 14% of the UK’s housing stock, probably less. There’s been nothing gentle about the savaging of social housing in the UK since 1979. Mr Hutton need look no further than his adopted home city of Oxford to discover what this means in practice.
Will Hutton’s article needs to be read by all members of parliament, and considered with Riddell’s view of George Osborne as the alchemist relying on a flask of house price inflation to provide “growth”!
Then they need to be challenged to implement a proposal from their Matthew Taylor report on “Living and Working in the Countryside”: to give the local planning committee the right to determine change of use of a property from residence to holiday let or second home, with a pilot project here in the Lake District national park, where the sustainability of some communities is a problem.
This proposal, if implemented nationally, could provide a bridge the north-south divide, especially if this were to be coupled with extra council tax for second homes for use locally for affordable housing. Perhaps this is an opportunity for real growth and even for a Lab-Lib coalition to work for a fairer world.
Will Hutton blames political cowardice by successive governments for the mess that passes for a national housing policy. He might also have noted the malice and political partiality that leads the present government to criminalise squatters and penalise claimants with spare bedrooms while Kensington mansions lie unoccupied as investments or for occasional holiday use.
Will Hutton’s assertion that the council tax freeze announced in the spending review is “subsidised from general taxation” is somewhat misleading.
It is subsidised by top-slicing the grant councils would have received under the local government finance settlement.
Jeremy Beecham, Labour
House of Lords
Your leader “Politics of fear” (3 August) could not have had a more apt title, for it appears that the powers that be are set on a course of law enforcement by intimidation. The current policy of stopping people to check their residential status is but one such measure.
Another which appears to have spread throughout our law enforcement agencies is intimidation through appearance. I witnessed recently an unmarked police car stopping a car, in itself not unusual; what attracted my attention was the uniform worn by the policeman. While I appreciate the need to be able to pursue and defend oneself, is it necessary to have military-style, high, lace-up boots, combat trousers and skin-fitting T-shirt, all in black?
Combined with the gear officers now carry over a stab vest, including what appeared to be a side arm, this can only create a sinister and intimidating appearance.
When did our police become a paramilitary force? Such “uniform” is also worn by Border Agency staff, presumably having the same impact on the public at large. Perhaps I am being oversensitive or even nostalgic for the old days, but such an appearance by the security agencies does nothing to create a good relationship between them and the community they serve.
Without that relationship, law and order soon break down, which could lead to even more draconian laws. It is therefore in the interests of us all that the police take note of how they are perceived by the public at large. Walk down any high street and if you do see a policeman on foot patrol, the chances are that he will not wear the traditional bobby’s helmet but be dressed as if about to tackle an assault course.
Peter Stevens , Broadhempston, Devon
So now it’s clear. The Conservative Party is prepared to risk 50 years of progress in race relations in order to get itself re-elected.
For Tory MPs to gloat that Nick Clegg has walked into the trap of objecting to the Home Office’s latest tactics shows exactly what is going on.
Lynton Crosby appears to be dictating policy. I respect Owen Jones’s view that Conservatives aren’t evil (“Demonising the Tories only hides the real problem with our society”, 22 July) but I find it difficult to avoid using that word to describe the deliberate stirring up of hatred in order to hold on to power.
The parallels in history are obvious and frightening.
Derek Chapman, Warnford, Hampshire
The report that immigration officials have allegedly been racially profiling commuters at Tube stations ought to cause concern (“Home Office may have broken law in hunt for immigrants”, 3 August).
It seems unlikely that the Metropolitan or British Transport police forces would engage in such a legally dubious practice.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is investigating. But it is incomprehensible that the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration does not appear to consider reviewing the UK Border Agency’s recent activities as a priority.
Jon Mack, London EC4
I’m an immigrant and I teach law at Oxford. My closest colleagues are black and brown immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. The last free act of 26 of my Lithuanian family members was to show their papers in 1941. Theresa May, search my papers and make my day.
Andrew Shacknove, Oxford
Assisted dying is far from easy choice
I have an experience of the NHS, in relation to the death of an elderly parent, opposite to that of Ruth Hair (letter, 3 August), but one that has left me with a lasting legacy of equal emotions.
I sat with my 92-year-old dad (a man who was afraid of dying and didn’t want to go) for a whole week while he faded away from kidney failure.
When he was admitted, the consultant told us there was nothing more they could do, having tried to kick-start his kidneys for over an hour. He said he would die in about a week. We asked if he could have a room on his own to die in. They found one. They let us stay with him 24/7 and we talked to him and told him we loved him. The staff were kind, caring and efficient.
After three days, the doctors talked of the Liverpool Pathway; the following day we put him on it. For another three days, our maddening, frustrating, know-all of a dear, old dad faded gently and peacefully away. And it was sheer hell. It crucified me to watch him die, assisted by us and our decision; and for the rest of my life I will feel like we had him put down, albeit slowly, like a dog – even though he would have died anyway.
Be careful what you wish for, because when it comes to ending a life, I’m not convinced you can ever know what is the right thing when “assisting” comes into it. Those who oppose “helping” people to die do it because they feel it is wrong, and I will forever support their ability to keep the debate alive.
Katy Lane, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Brian Crews (letter, 3 August) suggests “doctors have been assisting patients to die by putting them on the Liverpool Care Pathway [LCP]”.
I am a junior doctor and this is not the case. The LCP is used when patients are not responding to treatment and are dying. It does not attempt to hasten death. It aims to make a patient (and their family) comfortable in the last hours/days of their life.
The LCP does not “deprive” patients of food or water. An assessment is made as to whether artificial nutrition or hydration should be continued or not. Patients are not stopped from drinking or eating if they are able.
If the LCP is used appropriately, it is a valuable tool to assess, act upon and document a patient’s and their relatives’ needs at the end of their life. It is not assisted dying.
Dr Jennifer Mahoney, Manchester
The times they have a-changed
If someone is of a technical bent and has a computer and free time, they can take high-quality online courses for free. You can get everything you need to create web pages, web applications, mobile apps or desktop apps.
If you are of a more artistic or engineering bent, you can attempt to get funding for your projects through crowdsourcing at such places as Kickstarter, completely avoiding traditional venture capitalists.
If you are a performer of some sort, you can put your showreel on YouTube or create your own channel for your productions, then promote them on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
You can write and self-publish books on the Amazon Kindle platform. If you have other skills, you can go to such sites as PeoplePerHour and pitch for work editing, proof-reading, illustrating, translating, sewing, painting or photographing.
All of these things can be done for free.
Onto this scene walks Steve Ormrod (letter 3 August) announcing that youth has “new, relevant ideas”. Steve is thinking in an old paradigm, evincing ageism, while falling back on clichés regarding “higher-ups” having “no idea”, because they are “removed from regular society”, while evoking a stereotype about youth’s “desire” and “passion”.
Not only does he appear blind to the amazing new world of opportunities that has opened up over the past 10 years, but he isn’t saying anything new at all.
Xavier Gallagher, London SE13
Servant of the UK
I have always admired the Duchess of Cambridge for the way she has handled herself, therefore I am disappointed that she chose to list her occupation as “Princess of the United Kingdom”. Wouldn’t it have sounded much more modest and graceful if she had put down “Public Service” as her occupation?
Ramji Abinashi, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Cycle race discrimination
Yesterday Surrey was in lockdown. Tens of thousands of residents were imprisoned in their homes, unable to move around to visit family, get to work, visit relatives in hospital or go out for the day. Many businesses had to close.
This loss of freedom was not caused by an emergency but by a sporting event that is supposed to be fun, as 20,000 cyclists ride around roads that have been specially closed for them. What happened to equality, diversity and freedom of choice? Elitism and divisiveness are not the Olympic legacy that many people want.
Jenny Desoutter, Dorking, Surrey
The banks messed up big time in 2008. We bailed them out and they, like the economy, now appear to be showing green shoots. Lloyds reports great profits, despite the fact that we are always told that the private sector can do things better. So now the corner is turning, what do we do? Sell the banks back to the bankers who messed up in the first place and let them reap the benefits? Why?
Chris Evans, Teddington
Fixed and faulty
Andrew Grice (Inside Westminster, 3 August) writes: “If the fixed-term parliaments law had not been introduced, the media would now be speculating about an election next spring, and the two Eds would feel under more pressure to spell out what a Labour government would look like.”
In other words, this law has lessened the influence of the electorate on the political process. The fixed parliaments law is bad for democracy and is a major constitutional change; yet it has received hardly any discussion.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Life of PI
Colin Burke’s prediction of Ofpis (letter, 3 August) reminds me of a period I spent in Kisumu, Kenya, where property guarding was done by an outfit called Octopus Private Investigation and Security Services. I am not making this up.
David Boggis, Matignon, France
Let’s shoot cats
As farmers are allowed to shoot dogs worrying sheep on their land, why can’t I shoot cats worrying wildlife in my garden?
Dr Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Anyone who thinks cricket is the preserve of a certain class owing to lack of equipment and facilities ought to visit India
Sir, I do not agree that football is better than cricket in answering problems of inactivity and obesity (letter, Aug 3). Neither sport will cure obesity, but cricket demands far more physical and mental activity than football, at least where school and casual play are concerned. Indeed, the stamina required by cricketers far exceeds that of the footballer. The batsman’s concentration, while defending the stumps and trying to score, is probably unequalled in any sport. And each fielder must be ready to respond within a fraction of a second. As to the bowler, his every delivery will be watched and judged by one and all. Football is easier to stage and less expensive, but let us not forget the significance of the phrase “That’s not cricket”, and despite misgivings about some umpiring, as a lesson for pupils in later life, there can be no better. And anyone who thinks cricket is the preserve of a certain class owing to lack of equipment and facilities, ought to visit India where mile after mile of land plays host to the game, often with improvised implements but never lacking in enthusiasm.
Sir, Your coverage of the dominance of the English test cricket team by privately educated players overlooked one possible contributory factor for the lack of players coming through from the state sector. The last year that live Test cricket was shown on terrestrial television was 2005. Since then Sky has enjoyed a monopoly of live TV coverage. Laudable though its coverage is and notwithstanding the revenues it generates for the game of cricket and in particular the England set-up, many families unable to educate their children privately are also likely to baulk at the expensive subscriptions one now has to pay to watch live cricket on television.
Without this exposure, many children will not have the chance to see a Test match from its genesis to its climax and hence be less likely to take up the game to the highest level.
Sir, I cannot accept that the decline in facilities for cricket in state schools is good news in any context (letter, Aug 3). When I took up cricket at the age of about 2 some ninety-odd years ago, I had no thought for my physical development, I was concerned only with intense physical and intellectual pleasure I received from a wonderful game which I still enjoy. Of course, I also played football, but largely on the grounds that it might marginally improve my fitness for cricket the following summer. Games should be played for pleasure, not to improve health. Of course, if we want to improve our children’s fitness, we could take up choreographed marching along North Korean lines. You don’t need a ball, and you don’t even have to think.
Sir, My experience at school was that we looked forward to playing cricket in summer after two terms of football. Games were not looked upon as being a means to physical fitness but rather something to be enjoyed with one’s schoolmates. Our fitness was specifically provided for by daily gymnastics known as Swedish Drill.
I hate to think we should have been playing football on a sweltering summer day.
Ministers’ accountability to Parliament — and a free press — should ensure that the Government listens to “objections and other views”
Sir, Judicial revue is not a “fundamental right” as Dr Winstone-Cooper claims. Rather it is a 1970s judge-made extension of their own powers to intervene in what is properly political; the duty of Parliament to hold ministers, and through them their civil servants, to account. We do not live in a dictatorship and do not need the Rule of Lawyers, whatever left-wing paranoiacs might believe.
Neither the abolition of slavery nor votes for women were decided by judicial review but precisely by the political process.
The personal accountability of ministers to Parliament, especially that of the Prime Minister at question time, together with a free press, is quite adequate to ensure that the Government listens to “objections and other views” and it is almost absurd to pretend otherwise.
I notice that the proudly-separate power-brokers of the Supreme Court nonetheless still don’t turn down life peerages when they are offered.
Currently it costs around £18,000 to have the privilege of sitting Bar exams, without which a career as a barrister is impossible
Sir, Gabrielle Turnquest deserves all credit for becoming — aged 18 — the youngest person ever called to the Bar in England and Wales (“American teenager is youngest to be called to the Bar”, July 31), but her achievement should remind us of an important fact: qualifying as a barrister is not on a par with becoming a vet or a doctor.
The exams are practical, perfunctory and very often multiple choice. And yet currently it costs around £18,000 to have the privilege of sitting these exams, without which a career as a barrister is impossible.
If we want to attract a wider cross-section of society to the legal profession, allowing students to sit the exams for a much smaller fee, and then gaining the valuable experience they need as trainees in chambers (even if unpaid), would be a huge advance.
The current system asks students to stump up far too much cash before they have a realistic prospect of earning a living in the profession.
W. Sydney Robinson
The wall has never been a barrier between England and Scotland, besides which, most of Northumberland and part of Cumbria lie north of it
Sir, It was wrong to equate Hadrian’s Wall with the border between Scotland and England (“Company boss fined £1m for destroying woodland”, Aug 2). Most of Northumberland and part of Cumbria lie north of the wall. Scotland does not touch it. (And apart from that, when it was built, the Scots were still in Ireland and the English still in Germany.)
Dunvegan, Isle of Skye
Neville Chamberlain was racked with gout during his disastrous months in Downing Street, reduced to being carried into the Cabinet Room
Sir, I am profoundly grateful for Michael Deakin’s sympathy for my attack of gout (letter Aug 1).
He is right about the pain. Neville Chamberlain was racked with gout during his most disastrous months in Downing Street, reduced on occasion to being carried into the Cabinet Room in a chair by burly servants.
Might things have worked out differently if he had retained a clear mind?
Those in Downing Street today expressed concern that I should have developed gout after barely two years in the Lords. I suspect it is my memory rather than my gout they should be worried about. I had forgotten to take my pills.
House of Lords.
SIR – On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, the presenter Jeremy Vine gave vent to a loud snigger after reading out The Sunday Telegraph’s headline “The Royal family can reign over us forever”.
Perhaps Mr Vine’s snigger would have been somewhat muted if he had bothered to interest himself in other aspects of the story; notably that, in a survey done for the newspaper, just 9 per cent of those questioned think that the newborn Prince George will not become King because Britain will have become a republic, and that only 17 per cent wanted Britain to be a republic anyway.
SIR – Given that support for the British monarchy is at an all-time high, it must be asked why republicans want to abolish the ancient institution in favour of an elected head of state?
The decline and fall of the EU empire is inevitable – let’s get out
04 Aug 2013
Republican governments usually have a partisan head of state who divides public opinion by setting the political agenda, engaging in tit-for-tat arguments with the opposition party and acting within the interest of the party rather than the country as a whole.
Presidents change regularly and can always decide to resign as they are not bound as firmly to the notion of public service as an hereditary monarch is. There is little continuity under such a system. The British monarchy, by contrast, is a non-political, unifying institution bound by family lineage and long-standing tradition.
Citizens of republics such as the United States love our monarchy for these reasons. It cannot be bought or recreated.
James Adam Paton
SIR – It would be interesting to ask supporters of a republic who they would prefer to be head of state.
Would they suggest Tony Blair? David Beckham? Richard Branson? Miranda Hart? The only person I can think of who could possibly be trusted to hold the position is Prince Charles. Back to square one.
SIR – Could someone please explain why the Gloucesters are always missed off Royal family line-ups or pushed to the back of the photographs – see the balcony picture in last Sunday’s Telegraph (News Review, July 28).
Surely they have precedence over the Kents, who always seem to get in the picture.
SIR – I enjoyed the photographs of little Prince George in last Sunday’s Telegraph but surely I was not alone in noticing a degree of thinning on top.
SIR – How refreshing it was to read “Enough is enough – let’s leave the EU” (Business, July 28).
As Helena Morrissey argues, more integration is anathema to the people of Europe. It would seem that our unaccountable leaders are digging an ever-deeper hole. Have they not learnt from history that top-down, centralised empires are not responsive to change and will eventually fail? Perhaps the only democratic model that continues to succeed is America.
David Cameron’s target of repatriating many of our competences will prove insufficient. Mrs Morrissey is confident that Britain and the British people could thrive outside the EU. There are many of us, from all parts of society, who have the same confidence.
We love our monarchy, whatever the BBC may think
04 Aug 2013
SIR – Is there not a basic inconsistency in Helena Morrissey’s calm and courteous article?
On the one hand, we are told that the EU “project” is beyond reform on the somewhat oversimplified grounds that it “has a life of its own above and beyond nation states”. On the other hand, we are, quite rightly, urged to have faith in “the outward-looking entrepreneurial spirit that has long defined us”.
Why should we not continue to deploy that same spirit in the quest for a reformed EU, rather than declare at the outset that it is a hopeless case? The events of the past year strongly suggest that it is not.
Sir Peter Marshall
SIR – As long as we remain in the EU on current terms, there is an entirely unknown quantity over which we have no control.
The biggest imminent threat is the commitment made by Labour to open our borders to as many Bulgarians and Romanians as may wish to come here. Not even the Conservative part of the Coalition has either the desire or the courage to defy EU rules in the interest of the British people whom they were elected to serve, so what hope is there?
Even if Mr Cameron does survive as Prime Minister after 2015; and even if he were to negotiate an opt-out on free movement of labour (unlikely, since he probably doesn’t want to and Brussels would be virtually certain to send him away empty-handed if he did), it would be too late. The sad fact is that our politicians, thanks to their political cowardice, are powerless to protect us.
SIR – Many major trading businesses from America, Canada, Australia and Japan, as well as from the fast-growing, emerging economies of Asia would not give Britain a second look if we left the EU.
As part of the EU, Britain provides a business “hub” (for example, for VAT registration) to enable businesses from these countries to trade goods and services freely into, within and out of the EU.
If Britain were removed from this equation, these businesses would instead look to using another EU country (Germany, France or the Netherlands) as their European base. The resulting nose-dive in international trade coming to these shores would be catastrophic to Britain’s economy and to jobs here.
SIR – Anyone who had to work behind the Iron Curtain realised that the laws and regulations were so contradictory that we had no real idea of what was allowed, particularly as those who enforced them all seemed to interpret them differently.
Now, thanks to the EU and the hapless John Prescott, things here are little different. When it comes, say, to home improvements, tradesmen (for example, plumbers, electricians or window fitters) and their suppliers seem to have different ideas of what the latest regulations specify. Even searching for answers online gives conflicting opinions.
Such regulations, along with those created by health and safety, have now become little more than a way of conning us out of our money.
Culling badgers is the only way to stop TB
SIR – I have great sympathy with Angela Sargent, whose situation as a dairy farmer in Derbyshire is intolerable (report, July 28).
Tuberculosis (TB) causes terrible suffering to badgers. In the worst affected areas, between 50 and 90 per cent of the population is infected. All will eventually die of TB. This cannot be right.
If Derbyshire County Council really cares about its badgers, it will aim to achieve a TB-free badger population. Informed veterinary opinion has established that this will never be achieved by vaccination and certainly not with the BCG vaccine, which has proved its ineffectiveness so conclusively that it is no longer used for humans. Culling of infected setts to achieve a balanced population is the only sensible solution. Of course this must be done in as humane a way as possible. Vaccination only exacerbates the problem.
North Elmham, Norfolk
Digging a Howell
SIR – Lord Howell has decided it is the North West of England, rather than the North East, which has “desolate and unloved areas” that could be fracked without upsetting people. Is he suggesting that we spare Durham Cathedral, Bamburgh Castle and Hadrian’s Wall but mine under the Lake District instead?
There is nowhere in this small island that is desolate and unloved. Everywhere is someone’s home. Having found himself in a hole, Lord Howell should have stopped digging.
SIR – Mike Brett (Letters, July 28) is naive to think that paying MPs more would place them beyond the “financial blandishments of companies, foreign powers and even organised crime”. The richer they get, the greedier they become, as history has shown. Sadly, only those who have a strong sense of public service might resist such temptations – certainly not the professional politicians in Parliament today.
Halifax, West Yorkshire
SIR – Having admitted to major failures, senior Government and public sector top management dismiss all responsibility for their actions, or intention to correct or reveal those responsible, by saying “lessons have been learnt”.
Two examples I heard were from the Director General of the BBC and the head of the National Health Service. It has to be the most meaningless saying of the 21st century.
SIR – I can assure Hadrian Jeffs (Letters, July 28) that the words Achtung Spitfeur – or something very similar – were uttered over the airwaves during the Second World War.
In his superb book Spitfire Pilot, David Crook of 609 Squadron relates that on August 13 1940, in action over Weymouth, he “began to hear a German voice talking on the R.T. …by a curious chance, this German raid had a wavelength almost identical with our own…we all heard the German commander saying desperately, time after time, ‘Achtung, achtung, Spit und Hurri’ – meaning presumably ‘Look out, look out, Spitfires and Hurricanes’”.
Barry M Marsden
Eldwick, West Yorkshire
Debt to society
SIR – Before becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron pledged to disincentivise debt, which he described as morally reprehensible, and to encourage savers. Yet he has presided over a government that by 2015 will have borrowed more in five years than Labour did in over a decade.
A toxic combination of ultra-low interest rates and the printing of money has devalued savers’ capital. Not for the first time, Mr Cameron’s delivery has fallen well short of his rhetoric.
SIR – While few of his supermodels might have expressed gratitude for what John Casablancas did for them (News Review, July 28) I will always be grateful to him.
My business moved to the first floor above the Elite model agency in 1993. Client numbers increased and invariably they opted to hold meetings at our premises rather than theirs. The only downside was that when supermodels appeared, our staff took extended coffee breaks.
William Maunder Taylor
It’s not a crime to preach God’s Word
SIR – I was pleased that The Sunday Telegraph reported the approach by the Christian Legal Centre to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to secure a fair deal for Christians (“Stop silencing Christians, police told”, report, July 28).
Believing in Jesus and telling others about Him (a New Testament requirement) should not make us criminals in the eyes of the police. Since becoming an evangelist at the age of 24, I have experienced intimidation, including death threats and violence, from members of the public who did not appreciate my telling them about Jesus.
I hope that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, will instruct his officers to respect our reverence for the Bible. We are only seeking to be followers of the Son of God.
Rev Robert Weissman
SIR – The news that Church of England schools are to drop selection by faith is to be welcomed (report, July 28).
Children should be brought up and educated in the real world where they can meet students of other faiths and those of none. Let us hope that Roman Catholic schools do likewise.
SIR – Among the characters in the Eighties BBC sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles were Howard and Hilda, a married couple who always appeared wearing “his and hers” matching outfits.
Perhaps the appearance of Mr and Mrs Mugabe on the campaign trail in Zimbabwe wearing similar matching attire (report, July 28) indicates the return of this striking fashion.
Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire
Sir, – For years now the non-RTÉ media have been telling us that the stars of the State broadcaster were overpaid. “Where else could they go?” was the oft-voiced argument for lowering their pay. After the news about Pat Kenny, it seems now that the answer was a simple one – they could go to Newstalk and other commercial rivals.
Therefore, could the whole campaign to undermine the salaries of RTÉ’s star performers have been nothing more than a subtle way of poaching the best talent at the semi-State body? Or am I being too cynical? – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Jim Jennings, acting MD of RTÉ Radio, “rejects the notion that audiences tune in to listen to specific ‘presenter talent’ such as (Pat) Kenny or Marian Finucane” (News Agenda, August 2nd).
What then, I wish Mr Jennings would tell us, is the justification for the huge salaries that RTÉ has paid to its “top” presenters in the past and which it continues to pay to Ms Finucane? – Is mise,
Palmerstown, Dublin 20.
Sir, – Congratulations to Pat Kenny. Other than the achievement by leaving RTÉ and joining Newstalk of simultaneously increasing the financial viability of two small broadcasting stations in Europe, I don’t see any coverage warranted in a newspaper such as The Irish Times. – Yours, etc,
ULTAN Ó BROIN,
Sir, – Why all the fuss? Don’t we all know,as the poet Saxon White Kessinger says, “There is no indispensable man”! – Yours, etc,
Hill of Rath,
Drogheda, Co Louth.
Sir, – Barnardos’ Back to School Cost survey suggests that the cost of dressing and equipping a child for school ranges from €350 for an infant to €785 for a first year secondary student (Dick Ahlstrom, Home News, August 1st). The pressure this puts on struggling parents is appalling. It is also infuriating that so little is being done by the Department of Education and the school authorities generally to address it. I suggest that, given the choice, most struggling parents would prioritise this issue over anachronistic ideological concerns such as religious patronage.
Why the department cannot standardise texts for three to five years at a time, support the courses with online material to obviate the need for each student to purchase everything individually, and tackle the unutterable waste that constitute single use “workbooks” is baffling. With a little ingenuity and planning it is perfectly possible to go through university in Ireland and not buy more than a few second hand books – lectures, articles and chapters from books are put online for students through Moodle or Blackboard. Libraries usually provide access to all the necesary texts and references. Shared photocopying, scanning and downloading can minimise costs. If there was a will to do so, it is hardly beyond the ability of the educational authorities to extend this to first and second level – or for individual or groups of schools to take the initiative.
Whatever about the issue of books, intellectual property and copyright, there seems no excuse for inaction on the matter of school uniforms. One supermarket chain (Aldi) advertises a complete school uniform for €6.47 – a pleated skirt (€1.99) or trousers (€2), two plain polo shirts (€1.99) and a sweater (€2.49). They come in all the usual school colours and sizes. Marks & Spencer’s website on the other hand offers school skirts starting at €12, trousers €11-19, polo shirts from €4.00 and sweaters from €10 to 20. In other words even at this high end retailer one could kit out a child for little more than the cost of one crested sweater that Barnardos’ Back to School Cost Survey says starts at €45.
Were Ruairí Quinn to insist that schools unilaterally drop the “crested” branding of their uniforms and allow parents shop around for equivalent products from high street stores and supermarket chains, he would make a serious and welcome contribution to the welfare of parents and children. He might even salvage some votes for Labour. – Yours, etc,
Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Sir, – Here’s an example of the utter disconnect between government, both local and national, and those in the private sector desperately clinging on against an ever-burgeoning tide of taxes, charges and levies that fund the former’s surreal pensions and guaranteed jobs.
Louth County Council will, next week, remove the concession granted a year ago to the remaining retailers in the recession-ravaged town of Ardee of an hour’s free parking for shoppers before the conscientious wardens begin to pounce.
Swathes of retail outlets in Ardee are empty, shackled by a parking regime whereby large numbers of people find themselves paying substantial fines for infractions – sometimes only minutes long – vowing never to return to shop in Ardee. This is slowly choking the life out of the town (and of course greatly exacerbating an already chronic unemployment problem) because the council refuses to remove this intolerable burden.
The council, instead of dealing with its own shrinking income and making the necessary savings and economies from within (as everyone in the private sector has had to do for the past five years), seeks to make up losses by taking more taxes from the public.
This is an example of what is being done on a national scale. The default position of the Government in dealing with gross inefficiencies and losses in the public sector is not to deal with the necessary internal adjustments, but to increase taxes on the already reeling private sector while continuing to give themselves “increments” and spectacular pensions. Truly, we live in parallel universes. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly refers to a “perversity” whereby the brightest and best in Ireland that are trained as doctors are then pushed out of the country by the way they are treated by a system that he describes as “immoral and wrong” (Front page, July 26th).
This perversity appears to evoke strong emotions in the Minister. I wonder are these emotions confined to his own profession or is he capable of feeling similar emotions for other healthcare professionals who have the same experience, ie, nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists? – Yours, etc,
RGN BSc MSc,
A chara, – Not to dismiss Steven Lyndon’s suggestion that philosophy should be included in the Leaving Cert curriculum (Opinion, August 1st), but perhaps in such a difficult period in Irish history it would be better to focus on more practical endeavours.
The absence of a computer coding module in the Leaving, and indeed, in the Junior Cert, is passing up an opportunity for Ireland to get into stride with the rest of the world. An especially pertinent suggestion given how important the Facebooks, Googles, and other businesses on the inter-tubes have become to the Irish economy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Our friends from California, plus two children (11 and six years old), spent a week in Dublin recently. They did the usual things, including seeing the Book of Kells, The Dead Man in the National Museum, the dead animals in The National History Museum; Christ Church and its vaults. They had a great time. The best things however were, Merrion Square and Palmerston Park, where the children played, met other kids, and joined a gang. “Bliss”, said the parents. Congratulations to Dublin city parks! – Yours, etc,
Madam – The article by Robert Childs on the sale of his family home (Sunday Independent, Living Section, July 28, 2013) really struck a chord.
Also in this section
Parents have to take responsibility
‘Poster Boys’ to get Frankfurt reward
Stop focus group rule
All too often in these recessionary times we tend to simply look on these dwellings as bricks and mortar, to be disposed of at anonymous auctions to clear debts.
But as Robert Childs so aptly described it, the family home holds the memories of that family’s entire history.
Often at least some of the children have been born there. They have been photographed there on their first day going to school. They have also left for their debs dances, had wedding photos taken in the garden. They have often celebrated the christening of their own children there. Sadly the parents have often died there.
The walls guard the secrets of teenage misdemeanours over the years, the dining room table that was glued back together after a 21st, the red wine stain on the drawing room carpet, the hook for the car keys inside the cloakroom which were sneakily removed for illicit midnight runs… I could go on forever.
Let’s try to keep all these things in mind when we next read about one of these auctions of repossessed houses. It is not just bricks and mortar we are talking about but a lifetime of memories, both happy and sad.
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
MONEY WILL NOT HEAL MAGDALENES
Madam – Eilis O’Hanlon’s opinion piece, (Sunday Independent, July 28, 2013) leaves me with the quandary of who appointed her Minister for Justice regarding the nuns and the Pope.
Her presumption of reading the Pope’s mind and heart is a brilliant Freudian projection. It shows her prejudice. It is a mistake to prescribe a material solution (money) to the spiritual and psychological pain of the Magdalenes. Money does not redeem a hurting soul any more than money heals cancer in a hurting body.
More healing and peace are wrought by forgiveness than O’Hanlon dreams of. For all her valid observations “me thinks the lady doth protest too much!”
Clonmel, Co Tipperary
04 August 2013
Madam – Parents appear to be the untouchables when debating many of the ills in Irish society. We constantly read of incompetent social workers, inept gardai, negligent doctors and abusive religious.
Also in this section
If walls could talk
‘Poster Boys’ to get Frankfurt reward
Stop focus group rule
How many times do we see children travelling in front seats of cars or vans without adequate safety protection? Yet if such a child travelled in a State-supported vehicle, imagine the outcry. A child falling in a creche or an elderly person tumbling out of bed in a care home can make national news.
The vast majority of parents do everything in their power to protect and provide for their children and their predicaments should always be considered in the context of their time and place in history.
So is it not time to treat parents as we do our public servants and hold them responsible as and when necessary? We should remember that we do not live in a perfect world – we have all made mistakes, but is it not hypocritical to lump the overwhelming guilt of human frailties on the shoulders of the State?
Shankiel Road, Cork
CULTURE IS AN EVOLVING PROCESS
Madam – Sean MacCann’s notion of culture is not scientific (Letters, Sunday Independent, July 28, 2013). Culture is the sum total of the environmental effects on an individual. Therefore culture is evolving and changing as globalisation changes the social environment. Culture is multi-layered and multifaceted. Diversity helps us to be creative, and society without diversity can only move sideways. A mixing, open society is more creative than a closed monocultural society. The big oppressive forces in the world are ignorance and fundamentalist religion. There is a mutual gain in pushing out the frontiers of knowledge.
A creative, scientific community is a meritocracy that values intellectual capital, not race or religion. Positive revolutions are from a closed society to an open society. Nationalist revolutions are negative, depending on the degree they bring back isolation in a closed society. Britain and the United States are examples of open, creative communities and are the source of major technical innovation. Irish people have made major contributions to innovation – William Rowan Hamilton in physics, Ernest Walton in splitting the atom and Charles Parsons in developing the steam turbine. You cannot eat freedom. Freedom is beneficial to welfare when we use it to keep pace in the hi-tech race. We should value people that bring us new knowledge and increase welfare. Where men of violence are glamorised, the wild are elected and the wise rejected. The wild live by taking, bringing poverty; the wise live by trading, bringing prosperity. William Martin Murphy was an innovator and James Connolly a Marxist conformity man.
South Circular Road, Limerick
ENDA OUT OF TOUCH WITH GREY BRIGADE
Madam – I wonder if Enda Kenny’s speech passed unnoticed at the MacGill Summer School, when he said “we will become the best small country in the world to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect”.
What utter rubbish: old people are dying because they cannot heat their houses and are on €238 which is the maximum old age pension. One would not have much left after paying levies and charges.
We pay government ministers huge salaries and pensions, etc.
We could see the ‘grey hairs’ taking to the streets again, only this time it could be even more serious.
Peter M Brady,
Skerries, Co Dublin
SUPERB SINDO ARTICLES UPLIFTING
Madam – God bless us, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Eilis O’Hanlon, Gene Kerrigan and all your journalists are superb. I only got to read a bit of Kerrigan’s take on Mr Haughey and Mr Kenny – I’ll read every inch of the Sunday Independent this week. No matter what dumps you were down in, you will be uplifted. I can’t say it often enough. It may be the monsoon or the heatwave but reading Gene Kerrigan, I’m laughing like a hyena.
Cootehill, Co Cavan
NAVY SERVES OUR ISLAND NATION
Madam – I refer to Eoghan Harris’s analysis praising the excellent work of the Army on UN service. However, when he gets to the nub of the question: the question of the Defence Forces, he appears to have forgotten that we have a Naval Service and an Aer Corps. The Naval Service, for instance, patrols our sea area, now 12 times our land area, every day, in all weathers.
Winter in the North Atlantic (WNA) is recognised by the Classification Societies as the worst continuous bad weather in the Northern Hemisphere. The skills which have been developed in areas such as covert boarding at sea are well recognised by other navies, such as those of New Zealand and Canada, who have sent officers to study our Navy’s methods.
So, while we applaud the Army, let us not forget that we are an island. Perhaps Eoghan Harris might like to spend a few days at sea with the Naval Service, preferably in winter.
Dunboyne, Co Meath
MAKE SURE TDS HAVE TAX CERTS
Madam – For some strange reason, I have always assumed that in order to become and remain on as an elected member of Government, one must have two important requirements: Find enough people to vote for you to get elected, and be tax compliant.
There are many other jobs that require one to be tax compliant. For example, if you wish to retain your taxi licence or bar licence, you have to be tax compliant each year.
Now to most simple people like myself, if you cannot pay what you owe you are, by definition, a bankrupt and as I understand things, bankrupts cannot sit in Government.
I am, of course, fully aware that things are never quite as straightforward as they seem and the term bankrupt has to be established in court. However, could it not be taken that the least we can expect of our elected politicians is that they pay their taxes.
If they are found wanting in this matter, they should be given a period of three months to comply and failing that, they should lose their seat.
When the normal working person sees what those elected are earning in salaries and expenses, it is hard to believe that they have financial worries. However, in hindsight, I seem to remember a certain elected member coming on television some time ago and telling us how difficult it was to maintain the three residences that he required for his position. When one looks at our present situation, just how they can justify their inflated salaries is very hard to contemplate.
So to keep it simple, perhaps the tax people might issue tax clearance certificates to those elected who pay their taxes each year and those who do not comply should leave their office.
They could frame a copy on the walls of their constituency offices to prove that they have paid their taxes
It is fine for these people to preach from on high about the common people needing to pay water rates, household charges etc.
Should they not look at their own situation before preaching to others?
Killarney, Co Kerry
NEGLECT OF JUSTICE AND CONSCIENCE
Madam – Recent political decisions, concerning same-sex marriage and abortion, indicate that a collective social conscience has arisen, in which ill-defined love of neighbour is purchased at the cost of neglect for the individual love of God.
Justice and conscience are ignored, because one is fighting for equality and social justice. So the only sins are social sins. Ordinary Christians succumb to the belief that evil lies only in society.
Neither can the body of the Christian church answer the same challenge the world hurled at its Head on the cross: ‘Come down and we will believe.’ The present shout is: ‘Come down from your belief in the sanctity of marriage. Come down from your belief in the sacredness of life’.
Like sin, grace is unique to each person. It is a double gift of the truth of conscience and certainty of redemption. For politicians it is also freedom from the tyranny of party whips.
Downpatrick, Co Down