17 August 2013 Sandy
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Troutbridge hits a customs launch giving Pertwee the idea of dredging for all the smuggle thrown overboard by the Royal Navy, but the dredge up a customs officer instead Priceless
We are both tired but I potter around and get some things done, Sandy pops around
We watch Dads Army quite good
Scrabble today I win but I get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
Arline Usden, who has died aged 75, was editor for 18 years of the weekly magazine The Lady, which became required reading for those seeking nannies, carers and domestic servants in general.
Arline Usden Photo: GEOFF PUGH
5:44PM BST 16 Aug 2013
Founded in 1885 by Thomas Gibson Bowles (grandfather of the Mitford sisters) as “a journal for gentlewomen”, The Lady is England’s oldest women’s magazine. Women wishing to employ help in the home — and those seeking such employment — became a staple of its classified advertising, and it was read as eagerly “downstairs” as it was “upstairs”. Jane Andrews — later convicted of murdering her boyfriend — was recruited as the Duchess of York’s dresser through an ad in the magazine.
The upheavals of the Sixties passed by the staff of The Lady, and, as the title’s eighth editor, Arline Usden eventually tried to modernise its stuffy image, introducing computers, full colour and breezier interviews and features. “We were feminist without being strident,” she said. “We promoted women of achievement, we had a cartoon and a website. We had joined the 21st century.”
Despite her determination to update the magazine’s image, however, Arline Usden did not turn her back on its long tradition, declaring in 2001 that The Lady “seldom panders to popular publishing trends”. To the end of her reign she was adamant that “there will be no sex or celebrity gossip — this is something we feel very strongly about and believe it really sets us apart from the other women’s weeklies.”
By 2008 the magazine was said to be losing £20,000 a week, and the average age of subscribers was 78. The following year Arline Usden was replaced as editor by the more high-profile Rachel Johnson, the sister of Boris Johnson, although in the role of “editor-at-large” Arline Usden continued to contribute to the magazine, writing on subjects such as opera, beauty and travel.
Arline Usden was born in Manchester on October 14 1937; her father was a tailor’s machinist, her mother worked in a button factory. Her older brother, David, would go on to play trumpet with Ronnie Scott in the 1950s. Arline left Manchester Central High School for Girls aged 16 for a reporting job with the Yorkshire Evening News.
She then migrated to the Evening News in London, later securing the post of beauty editor at Petticoat magazine. There followed spells as assistant fashion editor at Honey and writing about beauty for Woman before she was appointed fashion, knitting and patterns editor at Family Circle. She was editor of Beauty Plus magazine, then went back to Woman as beauty editor. In the 1980s she became editor of Successful Slimming, where she emphasised the importance of women’s self-esteem alongside the possible benefits of losing weight. Her appointment as editor of The Lady came in 1991.
Arline Usden was an industrious freelance writer, and also wrote a dozen books on beauty and health, the most successful of which was In Great Shape: A Guide to Diet and Exercise, published in 1981. Other titles include Top to Toe Beauty, The Body Beautiful and The Vitality Diet.
She was a gifted seamstress , and enjoyed gardening, opera, playing bridge, and painting.
Arline Usden married, in 1963, Swavek Pogorzelski, a Polish portrait painter and cartoonist 16 years her senior who had come to Britain during the Second World War. The marriage was dissolved in 1985, but they remained friends until his death in February this year.
She is survived by two daughters, one of whom, Janina Pogorzelski, is also a journalist.
Arline Usden, born October 14 1937, died August 3 2013
As anyone who has taught in both the private and public sector will know, parental support and motivation plays no small part in a young person’s response to educational opportunity (Private pupils still have higher chance of place at Oxford, 15 August). Those educated privately are aware their school fees can top £30,000 a year. As a result, they are under enormous pressure to fulfil their parents’ hopes and investment. But their educational prospects are outstanding, and they look forward to a university education with continued financial support from their families.
Young people whose parents have low incomes or who rely on benefits, also face huge pressures, but of a different kind. They know how necessary it is for them to find any kind of job in order to supplement the family income. The iniquitous withdrawal of council tax exemptions for those on benefit will worsen this situation. As poor families become poorer, so will the educational prospects of their children. Fifty years ago, Tory-backed grammar schools and grants gave hope to many of the least well-off of my contemporaries. They went to university and found jobs worthy of their potential. The coalition seems determined to reverse this concern for disadvantaged young people, and turn its back on the most needy. Harold Macmillan would have considered this a shameful dereliction of duty.
Rev EJ Penny
• It is untrue to state of classics courses at Oxford that “admissions in most cases requires previous study of Latin and Greek”. All courses involving linguistic study – classics, classics and English, classics and modern languages, classics and oriental studies – offer a full range of pathways so that students can be admitted whatever their previous educational opportunities. All applicants for each course are assessed as part of the same process. The criterion that we employ is the same for all: what can this student achieve after four years of intensive and committed tuition?
Professor Matthew Leigh
St Anne’s College, Oxford
• Applicants for courses at Oxford who then get three A* grades or more at A-level will have different permutations and combinations of subjects, and so it would be unfair to infer bias using this simplistic measure. Perhaps because Earth sciences insist their geologists study A-level maths (rather than weaker combinations), rather than supposedly acting as a barrier, the fact that they interview a very high proportion of applicants means the department has a high proportion of state-educated students. Indeed, they have an average success rate of 32%, as opposed to 19% for the independent sector, and make up three quarters of their undergraduates. Such efforts should be applauded. In France, those with outstanding baccalaureate results face a further two years swotting at an elite lycée before sitting winner-takes-all exams to study at the grandes écoles and polytechnique without any wider considerations.
Sadly this debate about entry bias fails to consider postgraduate students, for whom we have no data about their schooling or university backgrounds, as selection panels cannot be expected to always get it right. Given this, Oxbridge has got to stop favouring their own graduates, including abolishing closed scholarships, and be equally aggressive in seeking out those they missed first time round.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
• A young person with an over-developed sense of personal entitlement will be far more confident than one with self-doubts. What is sad is Oxford’s unwillingness to address the systematic bias in their processes. Oxford continues to blame the schools and the state system. Getting their academics to change their mindset and behaviour would meet with resistance and require too much effort.
Professor Martyn Sloman
Kingston Business School
• Research has repeatedly shown that state-school students with given A-level grades perform better at Oxford than private-school pupils with the same grades. Perhaps those doing the selection at Oxford need to reconsider the reliability of the interviews and aptitude tests which they use to supposedly choose the students with the best potential.
Dr Catherine Wykes
Heather Stewart (Report, 15 August) mentions, as many others have, the Bank of England governor’s policy statement linking interest to unemployment rates. He stated that unemployment would need to fall from 7.8% to 7% (to trigger his policy), and also said this would call for 750,000 new jobs. I found this result surprising as it implies a national total of 93.75m jobs. Is this possible? Elsewhere, Ms Stewart quotes ONS figures which equate 7.8% to 2.51 million (unemployed). This leads to just over 32m jobs (not 93m) as the national jobs total, and about 250,000 (not 750,000) as the number of new jobs required to meet the governor’s target. On the face of it, both cannot be right – or is there a more subtle explanation?
• Richard Smith (Letters, 15 August) may regard Stephen Fry’s comments on the Sochi Olympics as “patronising neocolonialist posturing”, but this posturing has brought global attention to the Russian anti-gay legislation. The Russian state has been squirming under the scrutiny. Everyone should applaud Stephen Fry for turning the spotlight on to the oppressive situation there, regardless of whether they consider a boycott to be appropriate.
• Thames Water wants to raise prices again (Water industry: can’t pay won’t pay, 12 August). Wessex Water has been quietly raising prices by roughly 10% a year since 2006. I have no mains drainage. My 2013-14 bill is £454.26 for a three-bed house. In 2006-7? £257.
• What a pity a new mammal has been “found” (Report, 16 August). It’ll be in zoos quicker than you can say “conservation”, and no doubt the zoo photos will be in the Guardian on a regular basis.
• Currently, as a clean-shaven reader, I feel disenfranchised from contributing to the hirsute correspondence (Letters, 15 August) but keep it going for a few more days. Like Flute in Midsummer Night’s Dream, “I have a beard coming”.
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
To ascribe the dereliction of West Bromwich to the construction of a ring road is beyond trivial (Letters, 15 August). Black Country manufacturing, which made the West Midlands the UK’s richest region in the 60s, was devastated by the monetarist policies of the 70s and 80s and has never recovered. The biggest industry became factory demolition as jobs and livelihoods were destroyed in their tens of thousands. Darlaston, a town of 30,000, employed 90,000 and now appears to subsist on state benefits. Household names in manufacturing – Rubery Owen, GKN, FH Lloyd, Sankeys, Stewarts & Lloyd– vanished, battered by high interest rates and a high pound, along with the well-paid employment they provided. North Sea oil was no blessing to the Black Country. No government since has shown any inclination to follow policies designed to replace these skilled, well-rewarded jobs. Hence the devastation and disillusion with politics generally.
Walsall, West Midlands
Xan Brooks’s account of his emotional engagement with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale (A pilgrim’s progress, Review, 10 August) captures beautifully what many feel about this evocative film. Unfortunately, he plays down two important elements that make the film what it is. Most important is the contribution of Pressburger, who was much more than Powell’s “regular collaborator”, but a full partner in all departments except directing on this and 16 other features.
Having organised the first full retrospective of their work for the BFI, I can testify that they considered the film a “failure”, but were gratified when the BBC’s restoration of the truncated original premiered to acclaim at the NFT in 1978. Emeric later introduced the film at MoMA in New York and spoke about trying to create the conditions for “magic” to happen on screen – his contribution shouldn’t be downgraded. The other vital ingredient was the non-professional Sgt John Sweet, who played a version of himself: an American soldier in England. Powell had been moved by him in a US army production of Wilder’s Our Town and his homely presence anchors the film in wartime, even if it flatly contradicts stereotypes of randy US servicemen. Sheila Sim and Eric Portman, as the land girl and the squire, may not have been Powell’s first choices for the roles, but their edgy relationship gives the film much of its lasting appeal.
Video and DVD have largely created the film’s modern reputation, and allow us to see much that wasn’t obvious on the cinema screen in 1944. The pictures and pamphlets in the squire’s study were clearly planted personally by Powell, and reveal Culpepper to be a pioneer ecologist – part of his persona as a magus figure who eerily bridges the past and the future.
• Seven years ago I went with other Powell and Pressburger aficionados on the annual August walk organised by Paul Tritton around the Kent locations of A Canterbury Tale. Like Xan Brooks, it was, for most of us, our favourite P&P film, and we paused at each location – including the interior of the Chilham watermill – taking it in turns to act out the relevant scene’s dialogue. Brooks mentions that Powell wanted to cast Deborah Kerr and Roger Livesey for two of the lead roles. He had used them before in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp with Kerr taking three roles, and he went on to use her again in Black Narcissus, and Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death and I Know Where I’m Going!. But Kerr would have been too glamorous for the film’s land girl and so the more believable Sheila Sim convinces us and enables us to sympathise with her tragedy: similarly Livesey always projected too genial a personality for the film’s misogynistic and sadistic “glue man”, a role perfectly suited to Eric Portman’s natural antipathy to women and cold-eyed diffidence. So Powell got the right actors after all!
And Brooks could have mentioned the film’s “coup de théâtre” and the most perfect segue in cinema – when a medieval yeoman on his pilgrimage to Canterbury is transformed in the blink of an eye into a 1940 Home Guard soldier (by using the same actor in the same pose) with his hunting hawk changing in mid flight into a Spitfire. Stanley Kubrick tried a similar trick in his 2001: A Space Odyssey when a thrown bone famously changes into a space station, but this just seems puzzling as they lack the connectivity of the hawk and the Spitfire – both being birds of prey.
It is ironic, in an article that objects to changes in language (How language is literally losing its meaning, 15 August), that John Sutherland talks about “communication – verbal and written”, thus losing an important distinction between oral and verbal, which used to mean “in words” in whatever form. We can’t stop language changing, and many changes don’t make much difference or enhance it, but we sometimes lose value, as in this case or when disinterested is used instead of uninterested.
Sale, Greater Manchester
• John Sutherland bemoans the peeves one encounters in modern communication – verbal and written; it was ever thus. My old boss, despite the dictionary, felt that verbal should limit itself to words in general, not to spoken as opposed to written. He would have considered verbal sex a bit off the boil.
Stockport, Greater Manchester
• It’s all very well complaining about modern usage, but language has no meaning other than what we agree it means. Colloquial usages are almost always ugly when they first appear, and most of them don’t last. Some words even reverse their meaning, so I could describe John Sutherland as a nice man, as long as I don’t mean it in the 18th-century sense.
• I too am concerned about the breaking up of the English language. This is something about which we should all be, er, passionate.
• Where does Mr Sutherland live? “Like” has been used for generations on Merseyside – yu know warr I mean, like, wack.
Dr Paul Yeo
I was interested to read about “the growing gender divide opening up in the country’s schools”, with girls opting for English and creative subjects, and boys increasingly studying science and maths (“The new boys’ club: A-levels reveal fast growing gender gap”, 16 August).
It is important to note that this trend is being bucked in all-girls’ schools. Girls face external pressures to conform to gender stereotypes, which are stronger in the presence of boys.
These pressures can be checked and challenged in an all-girls school, where they have a space in which to develop their full potential, and to make informed but unconstrained choices about interests, subjects and careers.
Studies have shown that women who went to girls’ schools are more likely to study stereotypically “male” subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry, both at school and university.
We know this to be true from our own experience, with girls at the 26 Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) schools and academies over twice as likely to study A-level physics or chemistry than girls nationally, and nearly half the students in GDST sixth-forms taking at least one science A-level.
The question is: how can we take this lesson and apply it to all schools?
Dr Kevin Stannard, Director of Innovation and Learning, Girls’ Day School Trust, London SW1
Economic prosperity could be at risk if more students, particularly females, do not study and successfully complete maths and physics at A-level. Maths and physics are crucial gateway subjects to engineering and vital to industry and the economy.
With the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s recent Skills and Demand survey showing only seven per cent of the engineering and technology workforce are women, action is needed at an early stage, encouraging females into these subjects.
Students are aware of the importance of A-level maths to starting a career in engineering, but the perceived importance of physics is much lower. It is vital that we encourage more students, particularly females, to study these key enabling subjects.
Jayne Hall, Policy Advisor, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2
Egypt massacre as bad as crimes of Saddam
In the age of the smartphone with its array of apps, world leaders are obviously using the “invisible mummy” filter when checking the newsfeed from Egypt.
The hideous sight of hundreds of dead protesters with their bodies wrapped in shrouds should have attracted more than a mild finger-wagging from Obama and Co.
The aftermath of the Cairo massacre was apocalyptic, with myriad abandoned shoes and watches only hinting at the scale of the slaughter.
Never mind a slap on the wrist and a hissy fit over war games, this was a war crime, as appalling as anything committed by Saddam or Gaddafi.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
I listened with amazement to President Obama’s speech on Egypt. His most outrageous statement was telling the world that force is unacceptable, even when national security allegedly trumps personal human rights – nothing is more important than personal freedom.
I agree. Would he now like to condemn the Egyptian military for mounting a coup against a democratically elected president? Of course not.
I did not like Morsi’s politics and was disappointed when he was voted in. But the essence of democracy is that no matter how unpalatable an elected politician is, the voters, and only the voters, throw them out.
Dr Faysal Mikdadi, Dorchester, Dorset
Robert Fisk (15 August) made a rare mistake by failing to see the fear that Mohamed Morsi had engendered, not only in Egypt but the rest of the world.
Mr Morsi, democratically elected, had started down a path of non-democratic measures. He was restricting freedoms in accord with his party’s religious beliefs. He tried to use the mandate of a free election to deliver the removal of freedoms.
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Monmouthshire
Debts that will never be repaid
Owen Jones (“My message to today’s A-level students: seize the future”, 15 August) tells us that student loan debt “will leave today’s university leavers paying off £60,000 in many cases for the rest of their lives”.
This overlooks the fact that loan repayments (including interest) are capped at nine per cent on earnings over £21,000, and that any money still due after 30 years is written off.
So, this means to a pay a debt of £60,000, you would need to earn £1.3m over 30 years – an average of £43,000 a year. Not many will have that much income, and much of the original loan, and nearly all the theoretical interest, will not, in practice, be paid back.
Harvey Cole, Winchester, Hampshire
You underestimate the size of the debt graduates now face (“The cost of not gaining a 2:1 degree? Around £80,000”, 16 August). For those who do a three-year course with fees of £9,000 a year, their debt on graduation (according to the Government’s own calculations) is not £27,000 but £30,723, because the amount borrowed accrues interest.
If they also took out a maintenance grant and lived at home while studying (£4,250 a year), the initial debt would be £45,232; if they lived away from home, they could borrow £5,500 a year, producing an initial debt of £49,499; and if they studied in London, they could borrow £7,675 a year, producing an initial debt of £56,924.
If they then start on the average salary for a graduate (£25,000), the total repayments if they borrowed £27,000 for the fees would be £57,526; if they took out the maintenance loan too, they would pay back £110,899 if they lived at home, £132,211 if they studied away from home but not in London, and £158,899 if they studied away from home in London.
These are the Government’s figures against which potential students should assess the costs and benefits of a degree.
Professor RON JOHNSTON, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
Northerners do vote Conservative
Andy McSmith (12 August) argues that Government welfare reforms “will keep the Tories out of Northern cities for years”. I disagree. Of course, as Conservatives, we would prefer to have much more representation in Northern towns and cities, but McSmith’s argument assumes that the Coalition policies are more unpopular with Northern voters.
I would suggest that as greater numbers move from welfare to work, as a result of an improving economy, they will appreciate the changes that reduce their income-tax burden, freeze council tax and abandon Labour’s petrol-duty increases. McSmith seemed to ignore millions of hard-working Northerners and seeks to stereotype them as dependent on the state. The vast majority of my Cleethorpes constituents support the Government’s initiative to transform a welfare system that, under Labour, trapped claimants in a cycle of poverty. There is overwhelming support for the £26,000 benefit cap – a figure higher than many of my constituents earn.
The Government has also shown its willingness to support the local economy in areas such as northern Lincolnshire and the wider Humber region by investing in infrastructure projects.
From Blackpool and Carlisle, through the Yorkshire and Humber region to Brigg and Goole and my own Cleethorpes seat, voters have elected Tories. We were elected to speak up for the North and support policies that will create jobs and opportunities; and we are delivering. Just as not everyone on benefit should be categorised as a “shirker”, the impression should not be given that everyone in the North is “welfare dependent”.
Martin Vickers MP, House of Commons, London SW1
No trouble at Mill for Tories
Is Channel 4’s harrowing Sunday-night series The Mill really a historical drama, or a portent of what many Conservatives want to reintroduce in Britain today?
I can readily imagine many ministers eagerly viewing the long working hours and lack of employment protection as a wonderful example of “labour market flexibility”, while the dangers posed by the unguarded machines would doubtless be venerated as a welcome absence of health-and-safety nonsense and costly red tape for employers.
Pete Dorey, Bath
Sorry need not be the hardest word
Every day we read or hear someone in politics, the media, sports or business make a guarded, hypocritical or self-justifying apology that invites further criticism rather than approval. That is, if any apology at all is forthcoming.
So, congratulations to Daniel Emlyn-Jones (letter, 16 August), the field cricket man, who has graced your pages with what must be regarded as a template for how to make a wholehearted and well-reasoned apology.
Roger Smith, Ipswich
Let there be less light
On the 1.4-mile stretch of the A34 between Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent there are 10 sets of traffic lights. They interfere with traffic every 246 yards. I think this is a national record.
John Ramsay, Stoke-on-Trent
Bella Bathurst asks if bikes will ever truly belong on Britain’s roads (Voices, 13 August). The answer is, in my experience, “no” because they use the pavement instead. Here, in Bath, I have seen no more than three or four cyclists on cycle lanes in four years; it seems to be far easier to use the pavements and harass pedestrians.
Kathy Elam, Bath
Before Jeremy Paxman revealed his now infamous beard, I’d never heard of pogonophobia. Does this mean that I suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – the fear of long words?
Stan Labovitch, Windsor
‘In the past three decades we have installed managerialism in education, which is essentially the expression of a tick-box culture’
Sir, Anna Maxted finds a large disparity between the numbers of girls and boys receiving special needs treatment in secondary schools (“Boys, are they really double the trouble of girls?” Times2, Aug 14).
This is one of those tiny anomalies about which we may need to be very curious. Is it, as many have being saying for a long time, that the culture implicit in our current education system is slanted towards girls? The superior performance of girls at GCSE and A level suggests the same.
In the past three decades we have installed managerialism in education, which is essentially the expression of a tick-box culture. Evolution and centuries of rough civilisation have hardly prepared boys for this. They have always been expected to range widely, think intuitively and take risks — the opposite of playing safe, learning the rules and ticking boxes.
Perhaps we need to question managerialism at a deep level, and find a culture for schools which restores the female-male balance.
Sir, The English education system expects children to sit still and try to learn to read much too young. Girls find this much easier than boys, largely because they identify with the teacher, who is usually female. The boys’ self-esteem suffers, and “bad” behaviour ensues. Too soon they are labelled “special needs”.
Boys need to be allowed to move around, explore their environment and interact with each other. These are vital parts of education too. Both boys and girls need to be stimulated and excited by what they are discovering at school.
In continental Europe, Israel, Australia and North America no attempt is made to teach children to read until they are 6, by which time they are ready, and learn much more quickly.
Sir, Simon Barnes (“Toff at the top until nurture took its course”, Aug 2) echoed some of my own opinions about the pursuit of sporting excellence. Some people, mainly over 45, still admire the all-rounder, the chap who can turn his hand to anything, sporting or otherwise and be annoyingly good. Not quite as good as “the best” (the single-minded individual) but always better than “the rest” (everyone else). I have never been brilliant at anything but I will have a go and I still enjoy several sports in my late forties.
My dilemma concerns my 11-year-old son. It is a dilemma that all “have a go” and “all-rounder” parents will have these days: should he specialise, and if so, when?
He is pretty good at every sport he turns his hand to and I encourage participation in as many as time will allow. He enjoys sport and I enjoy watching and encouraging and coaching him and his teammates.
I would love him to be an all-rounder, but what if he wants to make a living at sport? Do I tell him to focus on cricket, say, and cast aside all other pursuits, in the hope that he will one day be paid a few quid for hitting boundaries at New Road?
It seems to me that our sporting heroes these days simply achieve their heady status by being focused and dedicated.
I admire Andy Murray, Steve Redgrave et al but I just wish they could have achieved their success without being so single-minded.
Jon R. Hoult
Wordsley, W Midlands
When the figures are actually worked out, the claim that student fees are ‘fair and progressive’ starts to look less and less likely
Sir, David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister (letter, Aug 15), states that the combined rate of tax for new graduates will be 29 per cent (20 per cent basic rate of income tax plus student loan repayment of 9 per cent), but he leaves out NIC tax at 12 per cent. Add on compulsory occupational pension contributions of about 6 per cent and this results in a marginal rate of 47 per cent. He says this compares favourably with when he left university, I assume in about 1979. The combined lower/ basic rate and NIC tax was then 36 per cent.
Graduates will also pay about 30 per cent of their income on rent or mortgage, due to a shortage of housing where the jobs are, and commuting costs of about 10 per cent. That’s more than 85 per cent of their pay before food, clothing, heating, council tax and other essentials. This leaves little for any leisure activities, holidays, presents, children or fun without incurring a large amount of debt.
To say that young people getting A-level results should not be pessimistic is typical of a multimillionaire from a privileged background, not having paid a penny for his Oxford education. In other words, a member of this Government.
Chartered financial planner
Sir, David Willetts continues to argue that the Government’s student loans repayment scheme is “fair and progressive”.
However, information for students on the Government’s own website (gov.uk/student-finance/overview) shows that students who borrow £27,000 to fund the fees for a three-year degree pay back £67,783 if their starting salary is £21,000, whereas those starting on £25,000 pay back only £57,726.
If they take out a maintenance loan as well (£7,675 for those living away from home in London) then those with starting salaries of £25,000 pay back £159,899 over the next 30 years (when they will have an unpaid debt of £26,664 to be written off); those starting on £28,000 (ie, slightly above the current average) pay back £148,548; and the lucky few who start on £35,000 clear their debt in 19 years, paying back £115,807.
Is that “fair and progressive”?
Professor Ron Johnston
University of Bristol
Pedestrians are sometimes forgotten in all the talk of making life safer for cyclists even though they are vulnerable and need protecting too
Sir, You have given much publicity to your manifesto for safer cycling. May I put in a plea for the safety of pedestrians. Most days I walk along the towpath of the Kennet & Avon canal, and since the opening of “the two tunnels” in Bath linking cycle routes the towpath has lost its peace and tranquillity at weekends and some weekdays. Clusters of bikes, sometimes 20 in group outings, whizz along, not slowing for walkers. Of course some are polite and slow down but many are aggressive and cause potential collisions with walkers.
Cyclists have as much responsibility for safety as every other road user and pedestrian, and this needs much more emphasis.
Mrs Andy Lloyd Williams
Proper recognition should be given to the heroism of the Ross Sea party who survived on scraps left by Shackleton and Scott from previous expeditions
Sir, While it is right to celebrate Shackleton’s leadership in rescuing the crew of Endurance from a fix he should never have led them into, I hope the celebrations led by the James Caird Society (letter, Aug 15) will give proper recognition to the amazing heroism of the Ross Sea party.
While Endurance was drifting, they struggled to lay depots for their leader who never came, and three of them died.Their ship, Aurora, with their overwintering supplies had been blown out to sea (and was beset in the ice for months, and brought back to New Zealand by a feat of seamanship) and the shore party survived, just, on scraps left by Shackleton and Scott from previous expeditions. Shackleton never gave them sufficient credit, perhaps because their plight reflected on his over-optimistic and underfunded planning.
Kincraig, by Kingussie, Highland
Perhaps there is some truth to the old wives’ tales about dark and mysterious happenings on the nights when the moon is full
Sir, My late husband was a volunteer with the organisation Victim Support (Saturday Interview, Javed Khan, Aug 10), and it was a custom to hold a summer barbecue to get the volunteers together. He asked the lady who ran the local women’s refuge whether she would attend, to which she replied: “Oh no. It’s the night of the full moon, and that is when we are overrun with new clients.”
She assured him that this was always the case.
SIR – Bernard Richards (Letters, August 13) denigrates the historical accuracy of The White Queen, the BBC’s War of the Roses drama. I found history a dull subject at school, with names and dates seeming to be the sole purpose of lessons. Thanks to The White Queen, and access to the internet, my enthusiasm for the subject has been ignited. I would like to think that I am now able to distinguish between fact and fiction as a result of my research.
SIR – Philippa Gregory’s novels are meticulously researched and her characters are convincing. Bernard Richards’s red button would be far more appropriate for Shakespeare’s travesty Richard III, borne straight out of Tudor misinformation.
Barnburgh, West Yorkshire
SIR – People see historical dramas and whine about inaccuracy. Why? They are dramas, not documentaries, and The White Queen is based on a novel. If viewers are unhappy after nine episodes, I don’t know why they are still watching.
SIR – Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), has warned of the alarming drop in Britain’s food self-sufficiency (report, August 14). But is there not a whiff of hypocrisy here? Farmers are falling over themselves to stop growing food and instead grow alternative crops to fuel our dash for green energy.
Thousands of acres are being used to grow willow for burning at power stations or given over to solar farms. Wind turbines are popping up all over the place. The worst abuse of agricultural land is anaerobic digestion. There is a plant proposed near here that would require 2,000 acres to feed it. I understand that 100 of these plants are being planned.
Farmers grow perfectly good wheat and maize that could be used for human food, but destroy it in the name of green energy.
The historical drama igniting interest in the past
16 Aug 2013
SIR – Britain’s lack of food security is just one part of a major issue. It goes hand in hand with overpopulation, which none of our failing politicians or conservation charities will address. The inevitable consequence is less productive land and an intensification of food production (as opposed to agriculture).
What will this mean for our wildlife? Why are the voices of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Trusts not being heard?
Together, these issues make up Britain’s biggest and most urgent environmental challenge. By placing them in separate pigeonholes, the challenge becomes even greater.
The Countryside Restoration Trust
SIR – As expected, the NFU presents a farmer-centric view of the fact that Britain imports 38 per cent of its food. But Africa, for example, is capable of producing more food than ever, at a lower cost. This includes transport to the markets of Europe, America and Asia.
If we in Europe would embrace some of the powerful new biotechnologies, many of our farmers in return could switch from low-value commodity crops to an increasing range of industrial crops that would yield them far higher profits and at the same time stimulate rural employment.
SIR – I live in one of the largest villages in Cheshire, where there are large tracts of land that have lain fallow for decades. In spite of many applications and there being a waiting list of villagers wanting an allotment, the local authority refuses to release any of this land.
In these difficult times, when we are encouraged to “grow our own”, this is totally unsatisfactory.
Anglicans and fracking
SIR – If fracking puts at risk God’s glorious creation (report, August 14), why haven’t Anglicans previously questioned mining, oil and gas extraction, deep wells, diverted streams and canals and the use of highly polished jewels in Christian ceremonies?
Surely, it couldn’t be that the Blackburn diocese is confusing politics with worship.
SIR – As a retired Church of England clergyman, I find the Church’s pronouncements on fracking deeply embarrassing. There has been not a word of objection to wind farms, which truly wreck the environment, but instead it objects to fracking, which will truly help the poor and leave no trace.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – How strange that the Church should come out so vigorously against fracking while at the same time the Church Commissioners are bombarding landowners of all sizes, from smallholdings to estates, with notices establishing their rights over all minerals.
Does this mean that the Church intends to exercise its mineral rights purely in a preventative fashion, and not in order to realise any material benefit?
Howden, East Yorkshire
Turmoil in Egypt
SIR – There are hundreds of us who, between 1951 and 1954, were shot at by the Muslim Brotherhood as we defended the Suez Canal from an unauthorised takeover by Colonel Nasser. When pushing animals in front of our trucks to slow us failed, they started pushing children into the road.
They were a group whose sole intent was not just to get rid of the “colonialists”, but to bring about “the great Caliphate” – to take over the world for Islam. They have not changed their intent. The secular democrats are right to challenge them.
EU birth certificates
SIR – Your report on EU-format birth certificates (“EU puts its flag on British birth and death certificates”, August 10) misses the point. The EU Commission’s proposal is just that at this stage. To enter into law it has to be agreed by ministers and MEPs, which is unlikely before 2016. Most importantly, the European certificate would be purely optional: people would be free to choose the format that suited them.
Anyone who has gone through the hassle of translating and “legalising” certificates will welcome this proposal. It cuts bureaucracy rather than creating it, and will save time and money for the millions of Brits who live, travel and work in the EU, as well as British businesses trading in Europe.
Steyning, West Sussex
SIR – There is speculation as to why men grow beards (Letters, August 15). In my case, the main spur to growing hair below my face was that, from a comparatively young age, I was no longer able to grow hair above it.
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
SIR – My grandmother always warned me not to trust a man who hadn’t shaved by 11 o’clock in the morning.
SIR – It’s ironic that at a time when many are struggling to afford a home and make ends meet, a rise in house prices is seen as a sign of recovery (report, August 13). True recovery suggests a return to health. However, when in the past 20 years has Britain experienced a healthy housing market?
A healthy housing market is one where everyone has a secure, affordable home, whether renting or buying. Our collective memory must be very short if we have already forgotten the previous house-price bubble, which played a major part in the financial meltdown of 2008.
Yes, we need to build homes for people to buy, but we also need to build 10,000 new social homes a year to end Scotland’s housing crisis for good. This will bring hope to the 157,000 households on council waiting lists as well as much-needed jobs to our construction industry.
Director, Shelter Scotland
SIR – The unwelcome truth is that Margaret Thatcher’s policy of throwing money at the mortgage market was not, as she constantly boasted, good for the nation.
For banks, for the newly demutualised building societies and for individual home owners, it was a money-making pot of gold. But for the nation, and, eventually, the Western world, disaster followed.
Failure to avoid fuelling another mad dash in the housing market would be catastrophic.
A worthy education
SIR – Harold Macmillan (who read Greats at Oxford), when opening a lecture course in 1914, recalled the philosopher J A Smith thus: “Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life – save only this – that if you work hard and diligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education”.
Rev David Johnson
First cut is the deepest
SIR – In my operating theatre (Letters, August 13) there is one strict rule: no karaoke.
Robert Kirby FRCS
The attention-deficit Bible: a book of quotations
SIR — If I were to appear on Desert Island Discs I would trade in both Shakespeare and the Bible for a dictionary of famous quotations. Sadly, we now live in a world of one-liners, texts and tweets and we have a minimal attention span.
Fortunately, the answers to life, the universe and practically everything can be found in memorable quotations — all short, sweet and to the point. Why, even a dictionary of the quotations of Mark Twain would keep me happy — such insight, wit and wisdom: “The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.”
SIR – William Tyndale (c.1494–1536) was an underappreciated genius whose English translation of the Bible was the first to work from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and formed the basis of the King James version. Tyndale made the Bible accessible to “every ploughboy” and, with his ear for the poetry and rhythm of the language, invented countless phrases that we still use daily, such as “Let there be light” and “the powers that be”.
For his pains, he was hounded through Europe, betrayed and finally put to death. But his work remains inextricably woven into English culture and we all would be the poorer without it. Because of this, and despite being an atheist, I would insist on taking the Bible to my desert island.
Sir, – We wish to express our disappointment at your coverage of the CSO’s Survey on Income and Living Conditions in Ireland. In particular we were disappointed Economics Editor Dan O’Brien (Analysis, August 16th) failed to look at the full picture.
He did not mention that the 48 per cent rise in income for older people between 2004 and 2011 was in the context that pensioners were coming from a very low income level. The State Contributory Pension rose from €167.30 in 2004 to €230.30 in 2009 (and has not increased since). The over-65s had an average income of €289 in 2004, compared to €503 for 18-64 year olds and €433 for under-17s. Seven years later the increases meant that gap had closed, but older people still had the lowest average income (€150 a week less than 18-64 year olds and €88 behind under-17s).
In his news report he states the average incomes of over-65s fell by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2011 “less than the rest of the adult population”. Those who did not read the CSO document would not have realised this was marginally less, with incomes for the 18- to 64-year-olds falling 6 per cent, the income for the entire population down 5.2 per cent and under-17s down 2.1 per cent.
But our greatest point of contention is that while the CSO report looks at income, we believe Dan O’Brien’s article should have looked at the increasing demands on older people’s dwindling incomes as part of his article before reaching his conclusion about older people’s incomes.
As a charity that works with older people, we were shocked when we consulted members earlier this year, while preparing our pre-budget submission, and asked about the impact which austerity measures were having on them.
People spoke of struggling from the impact of multiple cuts to supports, new taxes and charges, and soaring prices for essential items such as energy and medication. It was not the impact of any one cut, but the cumulative effect of a succession of austerity budgets that was causing so much difficulty.
Many people on low (and falling) incomes are struggling to pay their property tax (which equates to two or three weeks pension in some cases), the trebling of the prescription charge and soaring energy prices. Meanwhile there have been cuts to the household benefits package, the loss of bin waivers, respite care grant, loss of the Christmas bonus, and an increase in Fair Deal take for a nursing home bed from 15 per cent to 22.5 per cent.
Dan O’Brien states, “Lobbyists for the elderly will, no doubt, do what they are paid to and take to the airwaves claiming this mitigating circumstance and that exceptional issue.” This flippant dismissal of the serious impact that austerity measures are having on older people is hurtful to those who are struggling.
Finally, the headline on the analysis piece, “Young carry the can for the elderly in recessionary squeeze” suggests an inter-generational tension which we have not detected. As a generation which has lived through a number of previous recessions and paid their taxes during their working life for the pensions of previous generations of pensioners, they understand what others are going through.
Despite the tough economic times, older people are continuing to play their role in society as parents and grandparents, supporting their families where they can. They are volunteers in their community. They are doing their bit to ensure we all get through the current economic crisis. – Yours, etc,
Head of Advocacy and
Sir, – The proposed accommodation closure at Wexford Women’s Refuge drives home a simple truth, which is to our collective shame in this country and globally: women who suffer violence at home must just put up with it, because we are not willing to protect them.
I am just back from Uganda, where 60 per cent of women experience physical and sexual violence, most often from their partners at home. There are virtually no services for women in abusive relationships in Uganda. They are often sent back home to live or be killed in an abusive environment. This is in a country which is recovering from war and where the average person lives on an income of just over €1 per day.
Leaving Ugandan women without the protection of a refuge from violence is morally wrong. In Ireland, it is simply inexcusable. It highlights how we choose to share the resources we have and who we are prepared to leave out.
Let’s stop making the economy an excuse for denying women and children protection from the most appalling of abuses, at home or abroad. – Yours, etc,
CAOIMHE de BARRA,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – It is a testament to the healthy diversity of our media that you find space for John Waters (Opinion, August 16th) to rail against ideological uniformity in Irish journalism.
The truth is that John Waters (and others regularly in your columns) provide much to annoy those of your readers with a “feminist, left-wing, liberal, secular etc” viewpoint – and long may it be so. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Project Maths has been heralded as a linchpin for our so-called high-tech economy, as it aims to encourage a greater uptake in higher-level maths. Should the Leaving Certificate mathematics exam be reduced to a mere popularity contest?
Imagine how strange it would be if we taught students how to multiply, but decided that division wasn’t worth pursuing! Project Maths has done something similar, as the amount of calculus in the course has been significantly reduced in the pursuit of greater relevance. This decision is ironic, considering that calculus directly explains many common science and engineering problems.
Let us not forget that we already have a very solid Applied Mathematics course as an optional subject for students who wish to explore the links between abstract and physical mathematics in greater detail.
The mathematics course should, however, aim to make students proficient in the mathematical concepts they need in a clear and precise form. Project Maths has failed in this regard. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The crisis in Egypt is quickly escalating into a civil war with each side becoming more and more hardened in its resolve.
The fault rests among all parties, but for me it is largely the United States and the western powers which are to blame. These self-proclaimed protectors of democracy cautiously welcomed the coup as they waited to see what administration would be most beneficial to them regardless of the effects on the Egyptian people. America’s refusal to call a spade a spade led supporters of democracy to take matters into their own hands. Their blood is on Americas hands.
It’s time to wake up and realise Americas foreign policy only benefits America’s imperialist aims. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your Front page article quoting an “expert” reports that Ireland will experience “huge temperature rises”, but fails to point out that these predictions were based on the output of 29 runs each of the RCP2.6 and RCP 8.5 scenarios of the Climate Model Intercomparison Project Model 5 (CMIP5) as part of a potential contribution to the upcoming IPCC Fifth assessment (AR5). A study of the underlying paper shows that only in one scenario is there any significant deviation of temperatures from historical temperature trends, and then only after the year 2040.
Perhaps you should have read the publication itself where caveats made by the authors are contained in its abstract and conclusions and say (inter alia): “widespread ESM-errors, like a systematic warm bias in the middle-troposphere, too-strong wintertime westerlies over Europe and a two-weak African Easterly Jet during the monsoon season, were found”; “significant distributional differences remain after correcting the mean error”; “the limitations and recommendations for working with GCM data in a downscaling context remain valid”; “The final message is that many of the errors found in the CMIP3-GCMs are still present in current model generation” and “the shortcomings remain valid for the new model”.
Of course spectacular headlines sell newspapers better than the turgid prose of scientific publications.– Yours, etc,
Sir, – Brendan O’Donnell (August 13th) reminds us that on entering the Dáil in 1927, Eamon de Valera dismissed the oath of allegiance as an “empty formula”.
But what if he had regarded it as such in 1922? – Yours, etc,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
Irish Ind* Exams such as the Leaving Cert should never be seen by anybody (especially the student) as a reflection of their potential. They are often merely a rough snapshot reflection on the day of the exam of a student’s accumulation of information, their ability to convey it and their skill in applying fixed problem-solving techniques (particularly in maths and science). A student’s real potential is never accurately measured by such exams.
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Continual assessment is a much better approach. Memory and luck play a very large role in the performance and results that are obtained in once-off written or oral exams. Even those who mark their papers vary in the results they can give. In essence, it can be something of a cruel lottery.
So to any student who does badly or not as well as they had expected, I (as someone who managed to fail a lot of my exams, yet eventually went on to successfully reach PhD level later, largely due to that 99pc perspiration factor) say to them, never give up, keep at it.
There is no shame in repeating – and I should know. If necessary, try other avenues to reach your goals.
Also take note: before exams were ever invented, people succeeded anyway and many successful people have even been illiterate. Moreover, since exams were invented, many if not most successful people have never passed an exam in their life, many having dropped out of school very early.
Also take heart from the genius Einstein himself, who, although he did well in school maths and science, only earned mediocre results in his other subjects.
Exams are not the be-all and end-all of anything. It’s how you live your life and treat others that count as the real results.
Name with editor
Rathfarnham, Co Dublin
SO GOOD I TOOK IT TWICE
* I got such a great Leaving that I was invited to do it again the following year.
TARGETING THE NEEDY
* As I sat down on my bed on Wednesday with the laptop on, I noticed in the latest news articles an item about an elderly Irish couple.
John and Angela Young’s plight had been broadcast on Eamonn Holmes’s morning show on Sky News and also in the Irish Independent. John is 65 and his wife, who is in poor health, is two years his junior. In other words, two people who should be sitting down and relaxing on a decent income, enjoying their retirement.
However, there is one problem, they live in Ireland. Here, elderly people, most of whom have grafted for 50 or 60 hours a week since they were much younger than I am now at 22 years old, receive a despicable payment of €207 a week.
John is one of those recipients and his wife Angela, who is wheelchair- bound, receives €188 a week. As a couple they have a combined total of annual income of €20,540. How can anyone or any couple be expected to run a home on that pay? Impossible.
Now the lawmakers of this country are threatening this elderly couple, one of whom, let me stress, is in very poor health, with prison for up to 30 days for not refusing, but being unable to pay a fine of €1,200 for not having a television licence.
If they, along with every other pensioner or person with a long-term illness or disability, were given that extra little support, I’m sure that as people “who have never been in trouble in our lives” Mr and Mrs Young would have paid the original television licence bill of €160 in the first place.
Having a close family member with a disability, I know of the struggles that people in a situation such as that must endure to get as much as a wheelchair. The treatment of the two most vulnerable sections of society is absolutely appalling.
At the present time, I can honestly say that this country disgusts me and unfortunately it is only getting worse.
Lucan, Co Dublin
WOMEN ARE VICTIMS
* Colette Browne reported (Irish Independent, August 14) on the disgraceful refuge problem. But then Ireland was never very good at looking after its women, as can be gleaned from girls being dumped into the Magdalene Laundries.
The Government has an obligation to look after the welfare of its citizens, particularly the victims of domestic violence where children are involved. If they are unable or unwilling to protect the vulnerable in a modern society, the country is in the category of third-world status.
Similarly now, 3,000 women and goodness knows how many children are overlooked in favour of investment gamblers and bankers.
Banks should be made to contribute to rebuilding a decent social structure by donating repossessed homes and other empty properties lying unoccupied on their books. This gesture would bring some hope to the unfortunate women driven on to the streets by violent spouses.
Pinner, Middlesex, England
NEW LEADERS NEEDED
* James Gleeson, in his letter of Wednesday, August 14, asserts that nobody said ‘stop’ in relation to Fianna Fail losing the plot “for a bit in the hectic euphoria of the Celtic Tiger era”.
I beg to differ. Respected commentators in the media questioned the destination of the good ship Ireland as it sailed full steam ahead in uncharted waters.
Who remembers Bertie Ahern’s infamous aside when he wondered aloud why the doubters did not go away and commit suicide?
Sadly, there have been suicides by good people as a result of the economic meltdown. Many “ordinary citizens” who were forced to emigrate to the UK in the last bout of Fianna Fail-inspired emigration in the 1980s witnessed at first hand a similar boom-to-bust collapse in less than a year and wondered could the same happen to our Celtic Tiger.
We were constantly assured by those supposedly in the know that there would be a soft landing. Does anyone know what country/economic model the FF/PD government was basing its predictions on?
We assumed incorrectly that the government and its senior civil service advisers had the best interests of the whole country at heart but really they were motivated by self-interest and feathering their own well-insulated cocoons.
Fine Gael, in opposition at the time, clung gleefully on to the gravy train and has proved inept since it assumed power claiming to be at the mercy of the troika. There appears to be little or no difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, so a coalition/merger between the two could well be a possibility.
We need new radical thinkers, not the stale old relatives/descendants of Civil War politicians and their policies who have failed this country miserably.
Ballinasloe, Co Galway
WHEN IN ROME . . .
* I have just returned from visiting my two adult children, who have happily lived and worked in Canada for many years. They find Canada a progressive, welcoming country and have become Canadian citizens, while retaining Irish citizenship.
The matter that Ian O’Doherty writes about (August 13), Irish journalist Michael McAteer refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Queen, was reported in the media when I was in Toronto and the overwhelming consensus was: “Well, pal, if you do not like our conditions for becoming a Canadian citizen, go back to where you came.”
If Mr McAteer, his Israeli/US friend Dror Bar-Natan and Jamaican Simone Topey dislike Canada’s constitutional monarchy and go as far as taking legal action, then they should decide to live elsewhere.
Killiney, Co Dublin