16 September 2013 Rain?

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Leslie the Admiral wants Troutbridge to move his barge, you would think he would know by now. It gets sunk. Priceless.
It supposed to rasin so a quiet day doing nothing much
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Alun Hughes
Alun Hughes, who has died aged 92, was by turns a ship’s greaser, spy, linguist, lecturer, translator, librarian, lawyer and journalist – a patchwork career path forced on him by the academic establishment’s suspicious view of his Left wing sympathies.

Alun Hughes in 1952 
5:45PM BST 15 Sep 2013
A highly talented linguist, Hughes could translate from at least 16 languages, among them several Polynesian tongues as well as from Romanian, German, French, Czech, Welsh, Gaelic, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Russian, Yiddish and Hausa, one of the predominant languages of West Africa. He could speak and write in Czech, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
He did not confine himself to the cloistered halls of academia. In 1950, while working as a lecturer in linguistics at the University of London, Hughes embarked on an extensive field trip to the remote islands of the Pacific. In the Gilbert Islands, then a British colony straddling the Equator, he collected many stories and songs in Gilbertese and assisted in compiling a dictionary and grammar in that language. He overcame the “localisation” of Gilbertese culture, in which much traditional knowledge remained the private, secret possession of individuals and clans, and persuaded dozens of islanders to contribute.
He moved on to study the phonology and grammar of the nearby Ellice Islands, and laid the groundwork for a dictionary of the language of Samoa. Lugging a heavy Soundmirror tape recorder, Hughes recorded 22 reels of tape, including traditional stories and chants, songs, conversations and speeches, readings, texts and single words.
Hughes returned from the Pacific to find that his wife had moved their “best friend” into the marital home at East Barnet and emptied their joint bank account, obliging him to start divorce proceedings. That was only the start of his troubles. In the Communist witch-hunt era of the early 1950s, Hughes, a self-confessed revolutionary, was asked to leave the University of London on account of his political sympathies, a ruling that excluded him from academic posts but which was to determine his future career.
After several months on the dole, he retrained, and in 1956, having taken a degree in librarianship, was appointed language specialist and international librarian at Liverpool public library. Under the city librarian, the “aloof” Dr George Chandler, Hughes created, in the magnificent circular Picton Hall, gutted by wartime German bombs, a huge library of the literature, languages, history and cultures of all the countries in the world.
He spent some time as a senior lecturer at two universities in Prague before returning to Wales as acting vice-principal at Colwyn Bay technical college. His administrative duties weighing heavily upon him, he planned his liberation by moonlighting as a barman and a taxi-driver and saving to buy a Volkswagen camper van, in which he returned to central Europe.
In Czechoslovakia he took a job with the national press agency editing its daily press bulletin, until being summoned to the headquarters of the secret police and told that his tourist visa had expired. With his new wife, Zuzana Dvorakova, a Czech interpreter, he returned to Wales where he survived a bout of pleurisy (he was a heavy smoker), and in 1966 took up the post of borough librarian for Flint, building two new libraries and establishing a mobile library service. Having achieved chief officer level, he took early retirement with local government reorganisation in 1974.
Another career beckoned after Hughes taught himself law, and he qualified as a solicitor, joining a successful legal practice at Mold. In retirement, he applied his skills and training to helping people win compensation for industrial injuries
Henry Goronwy Alun Hughes was born at Pontlottyn, Glamorgan, on July 15 1921, the second son of the Rev Robert Gwenffrwd Hughes, a noted Baptist minister. Alun’s brother, Arwyn, was 12 years older and blind, and Alun learned much from reading to him aloud. After his father became the minister of a chapel near Pontypridd, Alun attended Pontypridd County School for Boys. Books and magazines about language, found at his aunt’s house during summer holidays, stirred an early interest in linguistics.
His Left wing beliefs also developed early, and in 1936, when he was only 15, he hitchhiked to Spain in the hope of joining the Republican side in the Spanish civil war. Questioned by a Republican commandant, young Hughes swore at him in fluent Catalan and served for nine months in the Republican army before returning to school in Pontypridd.
In 1939 he won a scholarship in modern languages to Jesus College, Oxford, an experience he regarded as a cultural and social revolution. What he described as the “rich man’s university” stood in stark contrast to the poverty and community solidarity of the Rhondda Valleys, and while he found Oxford collegiate life “exotic and somewhat absurd”, the friendship of a few like-minded socialists made it tolerable.
But his studies were interrupted by the war. In 1940 Hughes, a lifelong pacifist, joined the Merchant Navy, sailing as a fireman and greaser on British, Swedish, Norwegian, Greek and Latvian ships, helping to bring in vital supplies and twice surviving being torpedoed and sunk. As “Henry Hughes, mess boy” he was one of a 31-man crew aboard the Norwegian freighter Christensen when she was sunk by a German U-boat off Bermuda in June 1942: all survived after drifting for three windless days in two lifeboats.
To escape the tedium of the Merchant Navy Reserve Pool, he became a counter-intelligence agent, reporting on the movement of German merchant and military shipping and taking part in other, covert, operations, often based in Lisbon, under the cover name Gladys. When his eyesight started to fail under the strain of this double life, he returned to the Reserve Pool and a routine job at Cardiff docks before being discharged in late 1944 as no longer fit for sea service.
Hughes returned to Oxford, taking degrees in French and Portuguese in 1946. The following year, after a teacher-training course at the University of London Institute of Education, he became research assistant to Professor Margaret Reade in the Institute’s Colonial Department (later renamed the Department of Education in Tropical Areas).
From 1947 to 1953 he was a linguistics lecturer at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, specialising in oceanic languages, especially Gilbertese (Kiribati), Ellice (Tuvalu), and Sikaiana.
In 1950, while working in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, he was invited by the US Department of Interior to visit the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands . He equipped himself with suitable clothing, including a colourful Polynesian skirt known as a lava-lava and several tasteful Hawaiian shirts which later proved de rigueur evening wear in the Samoan capital Pago Pago, where, in 1952, he carried out a survey of languages on behalf of the American and New Zealand governments.
He was a prolific writer on the Pacific, publishing several books about Samoa, including The Linguistic Situation in Samoa in 1952 (1991) . He founded the Alun Hughes Graduate Scholarship, tenable at Jesus College, Oxford, to support research and fieldwork on the languages, culture, and history of Micronesia or Polynesia.
In 1966 he was awarded a doctorate by the Oriental Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.
Many hundreds of his translations, reviews and other works have been left to libraries around the world, including that of the University of Adelaide in Australia, which specialises in Pacific and Polynesian studies.
A committed supporter of Welsh and Irish independence, Hughes was secretary of the Communist Party of Wales and of the Tenants’ Defence Union. His memoir, The Tools Are On The Bar, appeared in 1994.
He married three times, firstly, in 1946, to Allison Mair; secondly, to Brenda Cross; and, thirdly, to Zuzana Dvorakova, who died in 1995. Their only child died in infancy, and he is survived by two stepsons of his second marriage.
Alun Hughes, born July 15 1921, died August 1 2013

Your editorial (Unthinkable?, 14 September) advises ministers: “Above all, consider how history will judge you and your ambition.” Meanwhile, Oliver Burkeman (This column will change your life, Weekend, 14 September) advises: stop caring about how history will judge you – you really don’t matter that much. One rule for them, one rule for us?
Dr Alex May
• Martin Kettle’s speculations (This Lib Dem wipeout? My hunch is it won’t happen, 12 September) do not take account of the possibility of the election resulting in a Conservative-Ukip coalition government. That would leave the Lib Dems as the feeblest part of a feeble opposition in the worst of all possible parliaments.
Léo Burton
Penvénan, France
• If Scotland votes yes in 2014, all Polly Toynbee’s analysis (Labour looks likely to win, but victory could be hollow, 13 September) is worthless.
Paul Green
Jemimaville, Highland
•  As an irreverent but committed Christian, I hope some of the deconsecrated church buildings now used by the Sunday Assembly are haunted (Atheist churches go forth and multiply, 14 September).
Sherwyn Atkins
•  When Mrs Thatcher was presiding over the decline of manufacturing, someone said we’d all end up cutting each other’s hair. Wrong. We’ll all end up selling each other houses (Letters, 14 September).
Cyril Duff

Russell Brand (‘Subsequent to my jokes, the evening took a peculiar turn’, 14 September) has no reason to be coy about his Hugo Boss jest at the GQ awards. After all, the late Mr Boss did not just “flog uniforms to the Nazis”, as Russell observed, but, as reported in detail in Channel 4’s excellent documentary Hitler’s Rise (Part 1, Sunday 8 September), he was an early member of the Nazi party who personally designed the uniforms both of the Brownshirts and the SS. Carry on, Russell!
Brian Pollitt
• Russell Brand is the best thing since the sliced brown bread in plastic bags that my local Waitrose stocks on the bottom shelf, so that this fast-approaching 80-year-old has to crawl to see if there is a “Mixed Grain” hiding at the back. However, being a vegetarian, brown-bread-eating political activist means I can stagger upright again and shout: “Keep leaping, Russell.”
Anna Cheetham
• Russell Brand on most of the front cover and all of page 3? After two decades as a Guardian reader, I am seriously considering switching allegiance.
Matt Lewis
Macclesfield, Cheshire
• It is good to see Mr Brand promoted from the back page of Sport to the front page of the main paper. I agree with him. He is no oracle. He does, however, reflect the views of a substantial number of sane, intelligent and decent people in this country. I look forward to reading his views on the pernicious bedroom tax.
Kathleen O’Neill
Hayling Island, Hampshire

As a sector that has had a long-standing shared interest with the Guardian in changing the lives of the most vulnerable, we were rather taken aback to find our carefully crafted reflections on the risks and possibilities of Frontline described as venomous (Society, 11 September). Our response was rather a real attempt to alert those concerned with the needs of vulnerable families and communities to the risks that are being taken with the education of social workers by the pursuit of a project that is not evidence-based.
There have been a number of comprehensive reviews in the last period that pointed to the need for reform in social work education to support best practice and to address the learning needs of staff. These were welcomed by the sector, and the changes sought are being implemented by educators, practitioners and managers currently.
Frontline is a different matter, however. The following are just some of our concerns. Our research reveals social workers must work with families and communities across the life span and service divides, but Frontline proposes a narrow specialist route. It focuses on qualifying training at a time when it is clear that recruitment is not the issue but rather the need for good post-qualifying education to support retention and resilience. It uses a model from teaching, but social work and teaching are very different and require very different skills and knowledge. It distracts at a time when the implementation of reforms is gathering pace. Finally, its funding base is unclear (who funds Frontline and why?) and the government money it has secured has been accompanied by a reduction in sources of funding elsewhere in the sector.
We look forward to securing responses to the concerns from those engaged with Frontline.
Professors Sue White, Brid Featherstone, Jane Tunstill, June Thoburn, Dr Anna Gupta and Dr Kate Morris

I fear that your future scenario for Royal Mail (Editorial, 13 September) is over-optimistic. My guess is that by 2020 the company will have fallen into the hands of private equity who, by 2023, will have burdened it with debt to line their pockets so that by 2025 the company is struggling to provide the universal delivery service. Next the owners will go to the government and request a subsidy and, since government believes that the country still needs such a provision, they will reluctantly agree.
If this government believes the UK must have a universal postal delivery service, they will, in the last resort, have to guarantee it. If that is their belief then they’re crackers to privatise Royal Mail because at sometime in the future the government of the day will be had. Better to turn Royal Mail into a guarantee company, transfer all the assets and hence the company can borrow against those assets. In any case, if it is currently making money, does it really need to borrow? The decision to privatise is just an ill-judged move to raise a few quid.
Tony Ward
Loughborough, Leicestershire
•  Not only are Vince Cable and his fellow Lib Dems in government lending weight to this questionable and potentially destructive policy, but they are acceding to the pernicious provisions of the Postal Services Act 2011, which facilitates the abandonment of the universal service obligation by 2021. That such a course is likely to provoke a potentially counter-productive and suicidal strike by members of the CWU adds a further twist to this unfolding tragedy. For those of us who were once members of the Liberal party, and who have extended electoral support for Cable in his Twickenham constituency through four elections, it seems like the final act of betrayal. Whatever happened to the 2010 manifesto aim “to hard-wire fairness into national life”?
Paul Velluet
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Please don’t let Vince Cable get away with the claim that the privatised postal service here in Belgium is a success (Comment, 13 September). Large numbers of post offices have been and are being closed. Postal workers are being offered very short-term contracts, and lumbered with increasing workloads. This is disastrous for the workers, and for anyone hoping for post to arrive, since many mistakes are made when deliverers are overworked, rushed and often unfamiliar with the delivery area. There is nobody here I’ve spoken to who is happy with this privatised service. Cable must have been speaking to someone who is profiting from it.
Kate Read
Kraainem, Belgium
• When I read that Michael Fallon said Royal Mail must be sold so it could borrow private money (Report, 13 September), I thought: “Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise a scheme where they could do this and still remain in public ownership.” Then I moved on to the next article (Five years on from Lehman: ‘We had almost no control’) and realised that, yes, it could be beyond the wit of the men who run our country.
Laurie Moye
Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire
• I don’t understand why the Royal Mail can’t access the capital markets and enjoy true financial freedom yet remain in public ownership. The same clearly doesn’t apply to RBS and Lloyds, and didn’t while Northern Rock sojourned at the taxpayer’s pleasure. Can someone explain?
Josh Berle
• Financial pundits are already predicting “big dividend cheques” for investors in the Royal Mail privatisation. For what? Parking money in a share account? With low-paid postal workers’ wages subsidised by tax credits and housing benefit, and pension-fund liability remaining with the state, this natural monopoly, buoyed by internet fulfilment business, could hardly fail to make a profit. Previous privatisations – such as British Gas – saw small investors’ shares quickly acquired by big funds happy to collude with whatever the board desired. Expect big bonuses, the “rationalisation” of assets, including sorting offices, and people in rural areas forced to collect their mail from post offices in distant towns, as is the case in parts of North America. Meanwhile the Post Office’s current £80m contribution to the exchequer will flow into private pockets. This is simply white-collar theft.
Dave Young


Even if emissions were significantly reduced, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase
Sir, Mark Walport, Sir John Beddington, Sir David King and Lord May (Thunderer, Sept 14), say that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to global warming and climate change and quote President Obama’s scientific adviser who has said that we must mitigate, adapt or suffer as we respond to climate disruption.
Improving energy efficiency and generating electricity from renewable sources will help to a small extent, but the reality is that global consumption of coal, oil and gas is on track to increase by 30 per cent over the next 30 years, mostly in the developing world. Does anyone really believe that wind farms and solar panels can power the growing economies of the world and massively reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the same time?
Even if emissions could be significantly reduced, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would continue to increase, albeit more slowly. So global warming would continue. We can’t do much to mitigate climate change but we can adapt and that must be the priority.
James Allan
Sir, Mark Walport and his fellow authors are wrong in saying that “warmist” is a derogatory term used to describe climate scientists who forecast man-made global warming. It is normally used to describe people like me, who do not question the science that CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to warm our climate, but question the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) arguably alarmist projections of the climate’s high sensitivity to the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is because the projections of the IPCC are based on computer models that I believe are demonstrably failing to take account of natural variations in our extremely complex climate system.
I and other “warmists” hope that the IPCC will have the objectivity and courage to recognise what some see as the failure of these models and reduce the projections of climate sensitivity to CO2 in their forthcoming report. Among other things this will give governments more time to think through the economics of mitigation policies and avoid calamities such as the UK’s current energy policy.
James Snook
Bowdon, Gtr Manchester
Sir, In any form of exact science or engineering, having a discrepancy of a factor of two between theory and experiment would be a source of grave embarrassment. This is not so with climate science where the climate models have overestimated the effect of increasing CO2 on the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere by a factor of two over the past 25 years.
For this reason, the divergence between the predictions of theoretical models and real-world data is growing. If the forthcoming fifth assessment report does not address this problem and its implications in an open and candid manner, the validity of the report will be widely questioned.
Professor Michael J. Kelly
Prince Philip Professor of Technology, University of Cambridge
Sir, Who will provide the reduction in emissions that has been targeted? Not Government scientists, but hard-headed engineers. Can we have a Government Chief Engineer to work alongside the scientists?
Professor Andrew Porteous
Wellingborough, Northants

Rental charges for book loans in the late Fifties in Bombay encouraged fast reading to avoid another day’s fees
Sir, Growing up in the late Fifties in Bombay, with no public libraries, our access to books was via a tiny local bookshop literally the size of a broom cupboard which was jam-packed with books from floor to ceiling (Times2, Sept 12, and letter, Sept 14). The proprietor ran a thriving business importing books from Britain and America and loaning them out on a daily rental charge. Thus we became proficient not only at reading but reading fast, lest we incurred another day’s rental. Happy days.
Amir Shivji
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey


Who was really the greatest polar explorer of all time: Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen or Ernest Shackleton?
Sir, Sir Ranulph Fiennes says that Scott was the greatest polar explorer of all time (letter, Sept 12), but as a “Shackleton” man I think the wording on the back of the T-shirt I bought in the museum in Grytviken sums up the three Antarctic heroes best:
Scott for scientific method
Amundsen for speed and efficiency
But when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton
Chris Frayne-Johnson
Stevenage, Herts

It should be noted that privately rented accommodation has its own bedroom tax called a Local Housing Allowance
Sir, While agreeing with some of the arguments about the bedroom tax put forward by Janice Turner (Opinion, Sept 14), we need to look at the bigger picture. Large waiting lists for social housing have several causes but one key reason is that individuals and families were encouraged to stay in their three-bedroom house even though they only needed one bedroom. It should be noted that privately rented accommodation has had for some time, its own bedroom tax called a Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which limits the housing benefit to the number of bedrooms that the family needs. Nobody is campaigning against the LHA system.
It seems to me that the current policy is right for the majority and the discretionary housing payments can help the genuine cases of hardship.
Graham Paine
Bournemouth, Dorset

Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s churches and mosques have been restored and new ones built
Sir, In addition to the despotic atheist regimes that Brendan Forde mentions (letters, Sept 13 ) there is Albania which in 1967 under Enver Hoxha’s rule was declared officially atheist. Religion was banned, many religious artefacts were destroyed and church buildings were used for other purposes. However faith did not die and since the fall of communism in the early 1990s churches and mosques have been restored and new ones built. Daily Mass is held at St Paul’s Cathedral in Tirana, consecrated in 2002, which I attended recently. According to the 2011 Census, nearly 60 per cent of Albanians are now Muslim and 10 per cent are Roman Catholic, which must represent a reversal for atheism in its war against faith.
Sonia Gable
Ilford, Essex

SIR – Christopher Booker (Opinion, September 8) repeats the old Kitty Muggeridge quote about David Frost having “risen without trace”. Not so – I watched him do cabaret turns at student parties and he was funnier than Peter Cook.
He went on to seize his moment and graduated from stand-up to grown-up stardom. Some of David’s contemporaries resented the rise to lifelong fame of someone who (blimey!) sometimes wore a blazer.
Philip Priestley
West Horrington, Somerset
SIR – I recall an episode of That Was the Week That Was when David Frost appeared on screen as a newsreader. He announced: “It has just been reported from the Élysée Palace that President de Gaulle has finally agreed that Great Britain can join the European Common Market, but only as a second class power – just like Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.” Very prescient!

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

SIR – Rory Stewart’s article “A negotiated peace is the best solution” (Comment, September 8), was extremely interesting and made good sense. I hope that the Government pays attention to it, and changes its gung-ho attitude to this more sensitive approach.
A principled, cautious, humanitarian intervention is the only type of military action that can work.
Ken Bate
Saxmundham, Norfolk
SIR – It seems to me that, having learnt the lessons of Iraq, an increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable public demand cogent and credible evidence, rather than exhortation, from their politicians before agreeing to an intervention that could exacerbate a conflict.
Related Articles
As a student comedian, Frost was hotter than Cook
15 Sep 2013
I have yet to read a credible account of what President Obama’s “shot across the bow” will accomplish or why it will necessarily end as that.
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – For the first time ever I find myself disagreeing with Janet Daley (Opinion, September 8).
The vote on Syrian intervention reflected the mood of the country, and was democratically correct. It needs no defence, and should receive no criticism.
David Cameron is reaping the consequences of Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell’s duplicity in suborning us into joining G W Bush’s shambolic Iraq adventure and then marching with eyes tightly shut into Afghanistan.
W G Sellwood
SIR – Surely when the G20 leaders met recently to discuss the crisis in Syria, they might have joined together to bring the whole weight of unified world opinion to bear on the combatants and compel them to negotiate an end to this awful civil war?
Then by all means take Assad to the International Criminal Court at The Hague where, if found guilty, he could be suitably punished. That would be the grown-up way to behave.
Arthur Quarmby
Holme, West Yorkshire
SIR – There were so many letters for and against military action in Syria last week (September 8).
However I am surprised that not one of them looked at the situation from the Christian position. We may not judge, condemn or sentence anybody in this situation. Our one true, moral role is to offer shelter to those who want to escape the horrors. No one has appointed us the policeman of the world.
Certain politicians are all too willing to send in the troops, but are not offering to risk their own lives. The West has too often interfered in Arab politics, for example in Libya and Egypt, only to find that the rebel forces that we have supported are just as bad as those we have helped to oust. Our reduced Armed Forces are maintained to defend our realm – nothing else.
Richard Bateman
Walsall, Staffordshire
SIR – Public opinion has at last influenced our politicians by stopping the Government’s intended military intervention in Syria.
The electorate should now flex its muscles on other issues. The next objective should be forcing our so-called representatives in Parliament to abandon their mass immigration and open-door policy for asylum seekers.
This betrayal of our country has been going on since Tony Blair was prime minister.
Hugh Jones
SIR – There is no definitive evidence that the Syrian government gassed innocent civilians.
In fact, on May 6, Carla Del Ponte, speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, stated that “there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated”. She added: “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
Therefore, any military attack on Syria would be a war crime.
Mark Richards
Brighton, East Sussex
The BBC has forgotten its most loyal listeners
SIR – How I agree with your correspondents (Letters, September 1) about how unbearable Radio 2 has become. The BBC expects us to follow all the DJs from Radio 1, but few are even worth considering.
DJs on holiday are replaced with the fast-talking Zoe Ball and Janey Lee Grace. We do not want that kind of music or presentation. We are not stuck in the past but that doesn’t mean that we care for the present.
And now we have lost David Jacobs – many of us used to sit up every Sunday night to hear Our Kind of Music. Luckily I have Radio Devon which does help to fill in some of the gaps.
We are the generation the BBC has forgotten and yet we have been there the longest.
Valerie Clewley
Paignton, Devon
SIR – In the latter days of Wake Up to Wogan we heard that the controllers wanted to attract younger listeners. Consequently, it seems that the breakfast time slot now is a satellite of Radio 1.
We do not need all the rapid-fire, inane talk, and it would be nice to have news bulletins and headlines on time.
Tony Logan
Richmond, Surrey
SIR – Are we witnessing such poor programme output as a result of the BBC paying far too much in the way of salaries, redundancy and retirement pensions?
Given that we now pay fees to various media companies in order to receive other TV and radio stations, it is now time to scrap the TV licence and privatise the white elephant.
Michael Leigh
Wollaton, Nottinghamshire
SIR – I listen to Radio 2 most days and tend to agree that some of its content is a bit banal. I would certainly like to see more variety, big bands and jazz.
However, please do not knock Chris Evans. I was disappointed when Sir Terry Wogan left the morning slot and wary of his replacement, but in fact I was very pleasantly surprised. The programme is varied, vital, energetic and lifts me on my way to work. I enjoy the music, the backchat and the spontaneity.
Peter Burgess
Horsham, West Sussex
Gas storage capacity
SIR – It is a pity that Michael Fallon, the energy minister, has decided that, for the sake of £750million over 10 years, he will refuse to subsidise new gas storage facilities in depleted North Sea gas fields, while waiting over the next decade for cheaper alternatives (Business, September 8).
Britain has only 15 days’ worth of storage capacity at present, so this parsimonious minister is willing to risk the country running out of gas in a severe winter.
I would suggest that this is too great a risk for what amounts to little in the grand scheme of things. No wonder the negotiations for the Hinkley Point nuclear power station are dragging on. For the sake of the country, the energy department needs to stop counting beans, listen to its own experts and get on with making progress.
B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset
Labour unions threat
SIR – Even after Tony Blair curbed trade union power within Labour, the unions have been able to plant hundreds of Trojan horses in the party by manipulating constituency selection processes (report, September 8).
Union-backed candidates will therefore invade the corridors of Parliament in 2015 if Labour wins the next election. Labour is broke without union funds, and the unions have no influence without the Labour Party. The unions are therefore going nowhere. The electorate should take note. We cannot afford to allow socialism to rear its ugly head again.
James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex
Parking permits
SIR – S H Carpenter of Bradford (Letters, September 1) urges Eric Pickles to abolish residents’ parking permits. I know little of Bradford however in London W1, without the facility of residents’ parking, life would be impossible, especially in the evenings and at weekends when parking restrictions are lifted.
Local politics should be just that. You cannot have a national policy on parking when circumstances differ so much from place to place.
Mike Dunn
London W1
EU weariness
SIR – Helen Andrews’ description (Letters, September 8) of Britain’s unnecessary excesses (the benefits culture, mass immigration, employment laws, etc.) resonates with millions of us.
But her plea to David Cameron to wake up and start working for the people who elected him is sadly unworkable.
Neither he, nor Nick Clegg, nor Ed Miliband, nor Parliament, nor the Sovereign have a hope against the forces of Europe. That fact is now understood by a weary majority of us, who may vote accordingly at the next general election.
David Jones
Darnick, Roxburghshire
On the money
SIR – It is entirely appropriate that the life of the great composer Benjamin Britten is to be celebrated with the inclusion of his full name on the new 50p piece (“Centenary Britten is first subject to share 50p with the Queen”, report, September 1).
He may indeed be the first person other than the Queen to appear on a coin in this way. However, from my less exalted position as musical director of the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra I could claim to have got there first, albeit in abbreviated form.
A J Penny
Hull, East Yorkshire
Germany’s role in the First World War
SIR – Even Professor Saul David is too easy on Germany (First World War Supplement, September 1).
Only Germany had a long-established plan of aggression (the Schlieffen Plan) which it implemented on August 2 1914: to defeat France in six weeks, then attack Russia and the Slav states before winter. In mid-July, Lloyd George still thought peace could be preserved.
That unprovoked attack on France, declaration of war on Russia, and attacks on American shipping in 1916-17, converted a limited Balkan conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a World War.
Germany manoeuvred Turkey into the war, forging the current Middle East agonies, and facilitated Lenin’s Bolshevik coup, destroying Russia’s fledgling democracy and spawning the USSR which then created Mao’s China.
Imperial Germany created our modern world. Federal Germany should acknowledge this; the war must not remain “Germany’s forgotten war”, nor should its commemoration be an excuse to promote the EU (“German embassy: Don’t celebrate Great War victory”, report, August 18).
John Birkett
St. Andrews, Fife
Radar operators
SIR – I read your article “Window of the Past Remembering the Few” (report, September 8) with interest.
I was a WAAF filter plotter at Bentley Priory at the beginning of 1941. The filter room was 80ft underground and not in the priory itself. We entered by a long staircase which was quite basic and had wires hanging along the walls by its side.
The purpose of the radar stations on the coast, which were primitive at that stage, was to pick up aircraft over the sea, not over the land. This was why it was top secret.
We plotted and filtered the tracks until they reached the coast, at which point the operations room took over, along with the observer corps and others. The importance of the radar operators to the war effort has been greatly underestimated.
Joan Frazier
Horley, Surrey
Off the rails
SIR – When we moved into our new house late one winter’s afternoon, the curtains had been left for us, as negotiated as part of the sale (Letters, September 1). They were in a neat pile on the floor of the conservatory.
The vendors had taken all of the curtain rails.
Sandra Turner
Hadleigh, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Your headline; “37% of children aged nine ‘bullied’” (Home News, September 11th), is disingenuous and dangerous. If it were true it would mean nine children in a class of 25 (11 in a class of 30) were to be regarded as bullied. That number of children may tend to be teased, taunted, shunned, pushed or kicked but not in a way that ought to be defined as bullied.
The risk is that “true” victims remain under the radar. I spent five years as part of a research group commissioned by the Swedish government to investigate effective measures against bullying. Part of the strategy required developing a new assessment procedure where 10,000 children (aged nine to 16), in three waves, were asked if certain things (pushed, picked, shoved, teased, excluded, cyber-taunts) had happened to them, with certain degrees of frequency. They were never asked if they were bullied. The word was never mentioned in the questionnaire. Instead, a follow-up question asked if they thought the thing(s) had happened “for a laugh”, “because they were fighting” or because they understood the perpetrator(s) was “trying to hurt them/make them feel bad”. We deemed a child bullied if intentional harm was perceived and that the harm had occurred with a frequency of more than once “in the last couple of months”.
This strategy (see Flygare, Gill & Johansson, American Journal of Evaluation, 2013) yielded an estimate of about seven to eight per cent of children (equal for boys and girls) being bullied at any one time, that is, about one or two children in any school class – a long way from nine to 11. Uniquely, for a study of this size, we sought and were given permission to use the participating children’s personal identification numbers. This meant that we were able to follow their bullied status over an 18-month period. We were able to show that schools intervened successfully (using various strategies) for about four to six per cent (ie, in about 70 per cent of cases). New victims were recruited at about the same rate (less in the most successful schools). The crucial finding was that about 1.5 per cent of the 10,000 children were to be regarded as victims of persistent bullying – this corresponds to about one child in every second class. It is within this cohort (15 children in a school of 200) that life-long trauma occurs and school-shooters may nourish their hatred.
Here “the system” may be deemed to have failed these children utterly and will continue to fail them if teachers and parents think that 74 children of 200 are being bullied. Of course schools should have strategies against teasing and taunting but conceptualisations of the problem should see it as the horror of the few rather than the shared experience of many. – Yours, etc,
Professor Emeritus,
Clare Island,
Co Mayo.
Sir, – I had long been sceptical of the virtue of proposed industrial action by the medical profession.
A recently qualified medic, I joined the army and began soldiering. Put in the hours, worked the days, the nights and made the sacrifices. I soon felt the impact; weight loss, fatigue and general quality of life deterioration. Peers and seniors smiled assuring me it was par for the course.
I ignored my own well-being, even criticised myself for not being tough enough. I was shocked when I fell ill and was acutely admitted to a Dublin hospital with newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes just eight weeks into the job.
A senior physician later assured me that the “symptoms” of working in the Irish health system directly mirror those of this serious illness and that I wasn’t to know.
Within hours of returning to work last week I found myself apologising for the system which leaves patients in their 90s waiting on trolleys for days, assuring families their relatives were safe in our care and there was no need for worry. But is this the case?
The safety of any job whose conditions mimic a serious and chronic illness must be questioned. Particularly when that position serves the most vulnerable and requires clear thinking and intense energy.
Never before had I considered joining a picket but this lunacy must end. It is with great regret that I intend to take part in the looming doctors strike.
The status quo puts both the service user and provider at unnecessary risk.
No more. – Yours, etc,
Sullivan Street,

First published: Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 01:07

Sir, – John Waters makes some good points in his column about the soul-destroying vitriol that one encounters when reading internet comments sections (Opinion, September 13th). However, I thought the issue of online comment nastiness was dealt with far more effectively and knowledgeably by Waters’s colleague Jennifer O’Connell recently (“Goodbye anonymity: let’s unmask the internet”, August 28th). She was able to address the issues without insultingly stereotyping her readers as a “lurking mob” or “a pack of rabid rottweilers”.
It’s not surprising that Waters should publish this piece a week after he was subject to much criticism and mockery, both online and offline, after his obstinate stance against the Dún Laoghaire parking wardens. He then used his weekly column as a platform to compare his actions with the dissident actions of Václav Havel against genuine totalitarianism. What did he expect? – Yours, etc,
Bracken Gardens,
North Circular Road,
Sir, – I am glad to read to Sr Eileen Linehan’s letter (September 12th) wishing Catholics were “Free to voice their present concerns regarding the church”. It is primarily the responsibility of all the People of God to replace fear with the freedom of the daughters and sons of God.
We, as Catholics, have allowed ourselves to be cowed down into servility by structures where oppressive power has been gradually concentrated into the hands of the Vatican few, headed by the Pope. Fr Flannery has been unafraid in voicing these concerns ; he has suffered greatly because of the silence and fear of the rest of us Catholics. – Yours, etc,
The Moorings,

Sir, – Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and his officials refer to the proposed replacement for the TV licence as a public service broadcasting charge which is to be payable by all households. The level of the charge it would seem is to be set such as to keep the existing status quo in broadcasting with the national broadcaster in pole position. Many people, rightly, in my mind, are affronted by this and question its probity. However, I believe that in opposing this charge the wrong approach is being taken: should we not first define what public service broadcasting is before a fee is set for it?
News, weather and certain current affairs programmes are clearly public services. However, what about programmes such as CSI, Fair City, EastEnders, Kitchen Hero? Can they be classed as public service? Are the ancillary “services” of RTÉ, such as the various orchestras and choirs, the additional radio stations, also public service? Not to my mind: these are all entertainment services. A more progressive approach would be for core services – news, weather, current affairs and others required by and beneficial to the public – to be clearly identified and segregated from entertainment services.
These services would then be funded by a much-reduced public service broadcasting charge. Everything else should be self-funding via advertising, subscription or sponsorship, the level of which would be defined by market forces, and it would be a case of sink or swim for these entertainment entities. Such an approach would put choice clearly into the hands of the consumer and lessen the effect of what is essentially another tax on the people of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Kinvara, Galway.
Sir, – Reading the letters to you from “cavemen” in recent weeks, I have reached the conclusion that our distant cousins must have been a witty lot indeed. – Yours, etc,
Beech Hill Court,
Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Dublin City Council’s response to the NTA traffic plan for the city centre is sadly misjudged (Home News, September 13th). It doesn’t take an expert to appreciate that there are huge commercial and tourist benefits to creating a pedestrian-friendly corridor linking Grafton Street with Henry Street. Currently College Green, one of the finest public spaces in the State, is a glorified bus terminus and Westmoreland street is a retail desert. The reactionary response from the city officials reminds me of the negativity that greeted the first proposals to ban cars from Grafton Street followed more recently by the naysaying surrounding the Luas proposals which resulted in a costly gap between the two tramlines.
The sad state of the public infrastructure of our beautiful historic city core should be a source of shame for these officials and rather than attempting to strangle a forward-thinking proposal at birth, they should be apologising to the public and not the councillors for their own lack of vision. – Yours, etc,
Friarsland Road,

First published: Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 01:03

Sir, – It is hard to believe that fluoride is still being discussed. In 1960 the average 16-year-old had 16 teeth that were decayed, missing or filled. Today if a 16-year-old has one filling it is a matter of regret. For that reason alone those involved with dentistry should be justifiably proud. It’s time to move on. – Yours,e tc,
Co Cork.
Sir, – Having voted on the third amendment to our Constitution (1972) and at every opportunity since then, I have to acknowledge that I have been hanging around this shrinking Republic, albeit outside Leinster House, even longer than Enda Kenny has been hanging around inside. I have seen a succession of constitutional amendments whereby we traded off some autonomy/sovereignty in consideration of European Union membership benefits, whether real or aspirational. I have seen successive general elections where up to a million people vote for 166 people and then watched as all but 15 or thereabouts are marginalised into opposition or whipped backbenchers. With virtual Cabinet meetings, an Economic Management Council of four and a supervising troika, I may even be understating the erosion of our representative democracy.
We the citizens are now being asked to trade off a further part of our power and influence over our political affairs for a saving of an amount that probably equates with what Enda Kenny’s pension would cost on the open market. We might not always have a mild-mannered Mayo schoolteacher. I well remember the “Una Duce Una Voce” style of a predecessor of his.
Of course it is an imperfect undemocratic, part-time, nursery/retirement home. With a resounding No vote the flaws can and must be fixed. With a Yes vote, like that awful advertisement “When they’re gone, they’re gone”. – Yours, etc,
Aughrim Street,

Sir, – I was fascinated by Labour TD Kevin Humphreys’s revelation in pre-budget submissions (Home News, September 12th) that high taxes on tobacco are forcing smokers to go without food. Maybe if the Government increases taxes on food, then eaters might stop smoking? – Yours, etc,
Shamrock Street,
Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

Madam – When the remains of Jean McConville were discovered some years back there were some people, Chris Andrews among them, who said that Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein quite clearly had questions to answer with regard to the unspeakable punishment meted out to this unfortunate woman.
Now that Mr Andrews has joined SF it must be safe to assume that he’s been furnished with the answers. Would he care to share them with us?
Eddie Naughton,
The Coombe, Dublin 8

Madam – Michael O’Leary shouldn’t be running Ryanair. He should be in charge of Dublin Bus.
His innovation would be double-decker “bendy” buses. It would be standing-room only because all the seats would have been removed.
There would be a ladder so that hardy souls could stand on the roof. There would be a notice to say that the company would not be liable, should a passenger not duck when the bus passed under a bridge.
There would only be one standard fare for everyone, €10, for a journey of any length. Passengers would be expected to print their own tickets.
Each ticket would be invalid without a photo of Michael O’Leary. Should the bus run out of fuel, passengers would be expected to push it to the nearest petrol station.
Michael Highton,
Sunderland, UK

Derek Behan,
Co Carlow
Sunday Independent

Madam – Maybe, just maybe, William Barrett’s claim (Sunday Independent, Letters, September 8, 2013) that Yeats’s poem gave “an aura of romance, glamour, respectability and authenticity to the 1916 debacle” is justified.
Also in this section
Questions for SF
Were flats not checked?
Well done on KBC bank story
However, his attack on the work of Seamus Heaney is a gross insult. The fact that he spent “an hour trying to interpret the meaning of one line from a poem” indicates that the fault was “at the receiver and not the transmitter”.
To say that Heaney “failed spectacularly to rise above his time” is worse than what Eamon Dunphy wrote 18 years ago. At least Dunphy had the good grace and humility to, eventually, admit that he was wrong.
Mattie Lennon,
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Madam – Why has there been so much fuss about Seamus Heaney? His ‘poetry’, for the most part, neither scans nor rhymes. Even a resident of his home town of Bellaghy says that Heaney wrote poetry for analysis. In other words, it is often incomprehensible. There is an image or message in it somewhere, which, whilst it may have been clear in the mind of the writer, is by no means conveyed clearly to the reader. The over-egged Heaney hype should now be relegated to history and his poetic pretensions be seen in proper perspective.
Where, in reality, is the evidence that Seamus Heaney was the great poet that he was cracked up to be?
It seems, by all accounts, that he was a great family man, a good friend, courteous, modest, decent, humble, kind, considerate, and a great Irish patriot. These fine attributes far outweigh any false considerations that he may have been a great poet.
Neil C Oliver, Newtownards, Co Down
Sunday Independent
Madam – Maybe, just maybe, William Barrett’s claim (Sunday Independent, Letters, September 8, 2013) that Yeats’s poem gave “an aura of romance, glamour, respectability and authenticity to the 1916 debacle” is justified.
Also in this section
Questions for SF
Were flats not checked?
Well done on KBC bank story
However, his attack on the work of Seamus Heaney is a gross insult. The fact that he spent “an hour trying to interpret the meaning of one line from a poem” indicates that the fault was “at the receiver and not the transmitter”.
To say that Heaney “failed spectacularly to rise above his time” is worse than what Eamon Dunphy wrote 18 years ago. At least Dunphy had the good grace and humility to, eventually, admit that he was wrong.
Mattie Lennon,
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Madam – Why has there been so much fuss about Seamus Heaney? His ‘poetry’, for the most part, neither scans nor rhymes. Even a resident of his home town of Bellaghy says that Heaney wrote poetry for analysis. In other words, it is often incomprehensible. There is an image or message in it somewhere, which, whilst it may have been clear in the mind of the writer, is by no means conveyed clearly to the reader. The over-egged Heaney hype should now be relegated to history and his poetic pretensions be seen in proper perspective.
Where, in reality, is the evidence that Seamus Heaney was the great poet that he was cracked up to be?
It seems, by all accounts, that he was a great family man, a good friend, courteous, modest, decent, humble, kind, considerate, and a great Irish patriot. These fine attributes far outweigh any false considerations that he may have been a great poet.
Neil C Oliver, Newtownards, Co Down
Sunday Independent
Madam – Maybe, just maybe, William Barrett’s claim (Sunday Independent, Letters, September 8, 2013) that Yeats’s poem gave “an aura of romance, glamour, respectability and authenticity to the 1916 debacle” is justified.
However, his attack on the work of Seamus Heaney is a gross insult. The fact that he spent “an hour trying to interpret the meaning of one line from a poem” indicates that the fault was “at the receiver and not the transmitter”.
To say that Heaney “failed spectacularly to rise above his time” is worse than what Eamon Dunphy wrote 18 years ago. At least Dunphy had the good grace and humility to, eventually, admit that he was wrong.
Mattie Lennon,
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Madam – Why has there been so much fuss about Seamus Heaney? His ‘poetry’, for the most part, neither scans nor rhymes. Even a resident of his home town of Bellaghy says that Heaney wrote poetry for analysis. In other words, it is often incomprehensible. There is an image or message in it somewhere, which, whilst it may have been clear in the mind of the writer, is by no means conveyed clearly to the reader. The over-egged Heaney hype should now be relegated to history and his poetic pretensions be seen in proper perspective.
Where, in reality, is the evidence that Seamus Heaney was the great poet that he was cracked up to be?
It seems, by all accounts, that he was a great family man, a good friend, courteous, modest, decent, humble, kind, considerate, and a great Irish patriot. These fine attributes far outweigh any false considerations that he may have been a great poet.
Neil C Oliver, Newtownards, Co Down
Sunday Independent

Madam – Regarding the scandal of Priory Hall in Dublin, I can understand how a scoundrel like Tom McFeely, having somehow received permission to build his apartments, would do so to such low standards that they would be considered death traps. But what I find it hard to believe is that they were passed fit for whole families to live in.
Did Dublin City Council not send in its housing experts to examine these apartments before allowing people to take up residence in them?
Did any of these experts sign a document stating that the apartments were suitable for habitation? If so, that person, or persons, should be publicly named and properly dealt with.
William Rocke,


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