Astrid and Michael for lunch

19 September 2013 Astrid and Michael for lunch

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They have to go and pick up Sir Flattley the self made tycoon and take hime home Leslie gets lost of course. Priceless.
Astrid and Michael come for lunch and give us their bookshelves, and I order a pallet of books.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and gets just under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.

Charles Coles

Charles Coles 
6:48PM BST 18 Sep 2013
Charles Coles, who has died aged 96, bracketed active war service with a professional life devoted to game management and conservation, in particular the survival of game in the era of intensive farming; from 1960 to 1981 he was Director General of the Game Conservancy Trust (now the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust).
He embarked on his career in the 1930s, when he became personal assistant to Major HG Eley, a cartridge manufacturer who had established the ICI Game Research Station at Knebworth, Hertfordshire, to investigate a serious outbreak of the disease strongylosis in grey partridges .
The war interrupted this work, but afterwards Eley and Coles set up a new base at Burgate Manor, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire, leasing a 4,000-acre estate and running it for 14 years as a demonstration and experimental shoot. Alongside this, the Game Research Association was formed at Burgate in 1960, and much of its early work was on the effect on wildlife of organochlorine pesticides; Dieldrin, Aldrin and heptachlor seed dressings were later subject to restrictions.
In 1969 the two organisations merged to become the Game Conservancy, with the Duke of Edinburgh as president, the author Peter Fleming as chairman, and Charles Coles as director. In April 1980 it was registered as a charity as the Game Conservancy Trust.
Under Cole’s aegis, the Trust looked at the ways in which birds — particularly wild grey partridges — were harmed by intensive farming. Its research in Sussex (on the Duke of Norfolk’s estate at Arundel and elsewhere on the South Downs) revealed that pesticides were having a severe effect on insects in cereal crops. In the first weeks of life, grey partridge chicks feed almost exclusively on insects, and between 1952 and 1962 the chicks’ survival rates had fallen from an average of 45 per cent to less than 30. Also, the introduction of herbicides in the early 1950s had eliminated many crop weeds that provided food for insects. The economics of game management were imperilled.
In the 1970s the Trust’s scientists developed so-called “beetle banks” (havens for insect-eating ground beetles, consisting of strips of grass planted across fields whose hedges had been uprooted) and “conservation headlands” (similar “wild” areas on the edges of fields, where pesticide use is restricted). Such initiatives are now commonplace under schemes by which farmers are paid to encourage wildlife.
In 1973, when it seemed that the Sussex Partridge Study would have to be wound up due to a lack of funds, Coles organised an open meeting at King’s College London, chaired by the Duke of Edinburgh, and the money was raised to finance the work, which continues to this day. Coles also instigated research on woodcock, red-legged partridge, red grouse and waterfowl.
Charles Leslie Coles was born in Australia on June 20 1917, and spent his early years in southern India, where his father was a director of a cotton business. Educated in France and at Radley, he was destined for Cambridge, but when his father lost his money in the slump he spent a year doing commercial studies at Regent Street Polytechnic before, in 1936, finding work in the publicity department of ICI. It was there that he met Major Eley, whose research on grey partridges was funded by the company.
Coles joined the RNVR as a midshipman in 1937, and on the outbreak of war was sent to the 1st MTB Flotilla in Malta. “Forty knots on a moonlit night — who’d be in the infantry?” he later observed.
For a few months in 1940 Coles was liaison officer to the Royal Norwegian Navy MTB flotilla. He rescued Dutch officers from the Hook of Holland, landed agents in Belgium, and took part in Operation Lucid, Churchill’s scheme to use fireships to destroy the German invasion barges in northern France.
Coles returned to the Mediterranean as commander of MTB 216. In early 1941, forced to take shelter behind the island of Gavdo, south of Crete , he ran out of food for his crew and had to shoot two wild kid goats. At first his men were horrified, but they came round when he presented them with his own concoction of goat cutlets, minced liver and kidneys, and ground-up ship’s biscuits.
In May 1941, MTB 216 was destroyed during a German air raid on Suda Bay, Crete, and Coles was one of the last to embark in the destroyer Kandahar. After a period as liaison officer in a Yugoslav MTB, he was given command of MTB 262 (10th Flotilla), a fast American-built boat in which he served off North Africa.
In June 1942 he was operating out of Tobruk when Rommel attacked the garrison. On June 20 (his 25th birthday) Coles was in the port waiting for his boat to be fitted with new propellers when he was told that the divers detailed to do the work were on the sick list. He put on a diving suit, with brass helmet and weighted boots, and did the job himself.
When MTB 262 came under shellfire, the boat’s aerial was sliced in half and Coles was knocked off his feet and deafened. Eventually the evacuation order was given, and Coles watched as a motor launch, sailing past him towards the harbour boom, took a direct hit: “One second I was looking at the boat: the number painted on the bow, the officers standing rigidly on the bridge, the crew on the two-pounder. And then suddenly she was gone, and there was nothing but a patch of oil spreading out over the water, a small area of wreckage, and an officer’s cap floating on the surface like a floral tribute after a committal at sea.”
Having successfully escaped from Tobruk, Coles was laying mines off Tunisia when his boat suffered a battery failure. Unable to start the engines, he was forced to abandon ship and tried to row to the African coast. He was taken prisoner and interned in PoW camps in Italy and then Germany. After being liberated he was promoted to lieutenant-commander and appointed to Naval Intelligence . He was demobbed at the end of 1946, and resumed his work with Major Eley .
During his career Coles made numerous documentary films about game and wildlife, and participated in more than 200 radio and television programmes, among them The Living World; Wild World; and Country Questions .
He lectured in many countries, and wrote or edited a number of books, including Shooting Pigeons (1964); Game Conservation in a Changing Countryside (1968); The Complete Book of Game Conservation (1971); Game and the English Landscape (1980, with Anthony Vandervell); and Shooting and Stalking — a basic guide (1983).
In 1958 he organised, with Nigel Gray, the first Game Fair. He was a co-founder of the International Union of Game Biologists in 1954, and played an active role in the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.
He was appointed OBE in 1984.
Coles was an excellent raconteur and had a wide range of interests, including the arts and music — he was a fan of jazz, and played the flute and the tenor saxophone. His private letters were punctuated by little drawings of red wine glasses at various stages of depletion.
Charles Coles married, in 1948, Wendy Ellis, who survives him with their son and daughter.
Charles Coles, born June 20 1917, died August 27 2013


For someone with such an impeccable academic record, Richard Grayson’s apologia for joining the Labour party (Comment, 16 September) is perversely superficial. It is plausible to applaud Labour’s positions on the economy, the media and even social policy but, important as such issues are, they are not reasons for joining a party. Liberals have always opposed Labour because its basic philosophy is flawed and illiberal. Labour has always been economically determinist, centralist and hegemonic. Political liberalism is precisely the opposite, supporting human values, devolution and pluralism. Professor Grayson shows all the signs of a need to convince himself. Had he had experience of politics in Labour’s northern fiefs, rather than only the Conservative south, plus a life in academia, he might well have had a clearer perception of the chasm between the two parties’s basic beliefs.
Michael Meadowcroft
• Seumas Milne articulates what many think of this economic “recovery” (Comment, 18 September). I continue to be astonished by the cynical insouciance of the Lib Dems, whom I formerly supported, as they smugly pat themselves on their backs, for propping up a Tory-led government and for being the midwife to a battery of ultra-rightwing policies that are beggaring Britain. My own Tory-governed county council has just announced more massive cuts as counterproductive austerity grinds on. Many services will now be privatised and profits syphoned off, resulting in a lousy, reduced service, staffed by workers on rock-bottom wages. As a retired state schoolteacher, I despair at this continued destruction of high-quality public services.
Philip Wood
Maybe the Scottish referendum (A quiet start to something amazing in Scotland, 16 September) will prove an exception to the fashion for voting No to change, whether defending nimby enclaves, opposing HS2, updating the voting system or reforming the House of Lords. Maybe Yes to independence will be a welcome signal that we can tackle the future with determination and enthusiasm. I certainly hope so. Seventeen-year-olds will be discussing the question and preparing to cast their votes. They can bring the energy and optimism of the young to our ageing society as we face the tasks ahead together. We all in the British Isles look ahead to years of economic stringency. With our separate areas having full responsibility, while co-operating fully, looks better to me than the present muddle that history has bequeathed us. I am a 92-year-old, first-generation immigrant whose parents came south to farm before the first world war.
Alan Laurie
Ludlow, Shropshire

We reject Lib Dem Jeremy Browne’s proposal for a national debate on the right of Muslim women to choose to wear the veil and other forms of religious dress (Report, 16 September). This whips up fear and anxiety and undermines all of our rights to pursue our faith, culture, conscience or other preferences, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. The decision by a tiny minority of women to wear a veil hurts no one’s rights.
The right of each person to dress, worship, pray, eat, or pursue other cultural and religious preferences as they choose has been at the core of the cohesion of our multicultural society and has allowed the integration of waves of migrations from across the globe – Irish, Jewish, Huguenots, Chinese, African, Caribbean, Asian and Muslim people. This issue has been raised before and on each occasion these values that bind British society have been defended against those who use this issue to whip up Islamophobia and hostility towards the Muslim community. It is completely false to claim to be liberating veiled women by excluding them from education, or public places and society in general. Women have the right to wear what they choose. Therefore we call on those of all faiths and none to defend these freedoms and reject such divisive politics.
Aaron Kiely NUS Black Students’ Officer
Diane Abbott MP
Rabbi Lee Wax
Farooq Murad Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Kate Hudson General secretary, CND
Steve Hart Unite the union
Salma Yaqoob
Malia Bouattia NUS NEC and Muslimah Pride
Azad Ali Director, Engage
Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu Joint secretaries, Unite Against Fascism
Jude Woodward One Society Many Cultures
Matt Stanley NUS NEC and president, Mid Kent College Students’ Union
Arianna Tassinari NUS NEC
Edmund Schluessel NUS NEC
Kirat Raj Singh NUS NEC and National Sikh Students Alliance
Shelly Asquith President, Students’ Union University of the Arts
Sarah Pine Vice-president (women), Oxford University Student Union
Sebastiaan Debrouwere President, King’s College London Students’ Union
Becca Anderson President, Gateshead College Students’ Union
Jason Jackson President, London Metropolitan Students’ Union
Tom Richards President, Norwich University of the Arts Students’ Union
Katie Badman President, Chester Students’ Union
Cari Davies President, Cardiff University Students’ Union
Jay Stoll General secretary, LSE Students’ Union
Mike Anstey International students’ officer, York University Students’ Union
Areeb Ullah Vice-president, King’s College London Students’ Union
Zarah Sultana NUS black students’ committee
Barbara Ntumy NUS black students’ committee
Shabina Raja NUS black students’ committee
Kelechi Chioba NUS black students’ committee
• Millions of Muslim women worldwide oppose the full veil and some object to headscarves and cloaks too. I am one of them. We believe these are Saudi-driven reactionary customs which damage lives and imperil our shared futures, points I made in my column in the Independent this week. Kira Cochrane (G2, 17 September) did not include these widely and deeply held views. Worse still, without any evidence, former Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob impugned the motives of British objectors. Liberal censorship?
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

As a Jewish Spurs supporter who regularly attends Tottenham games, I was disappointed by David Baddiel’s article (Yes David Cameron, ‘Yid’ is really a race-hate word, 18 September). Simply put, his argument is that the Y word is the antisemitic version of the racist N or P words. This ignores the fact that yid is the Yiddish word for Jew and that in the US there is a Yiddish paper called Der Yid. So it’s not the word that is the issue, but the way it is used. Just like the way calling someone a Jew for the way they behave is clearly a derogatory comment.
I do recall visiting White Hart Lane in the late 90s and was startled on hearing the chants of “Yid”, “Yid army” and “Yiddo” echoing around the ground. But since then I have grown to find pride in those very chants. At a game a few years ago I overheard someone ask their neighbour what the supporters were chanting. The fan explained the chants and added: “I am not Jewish but these chants relate to the club, its heritage and its historic links to the Jewish community.” This has stayed with me. How nice to be in an environment where being Jewish and its symbols were recognised, valued and a visible part of a football club’s heritage.
In all these discussions, what I find disturbing is how the victims of the antisemitic slurs are now the ones standing accused. Somehow these chants are now meant to be the reason why Chelsea and West Ham fans sing songs about Auschwitz and make hissing sounds. So the logic goes, ban the Y word and the problem is solved. There is nothing new in the victims being accused of inciting others to hate them – and that is something Jews do know a lot about.
Ashley Harshak
• I am Jewish. I have had a season ticket at Spurs for nearly 50 years. I really do not mind Spurs fans chanting “Yiddo”. It is others using this word that is objectionable.
Colin Ettinger
• Why is David Baddiel being given a platform to talk about prejudice? Baddiel and his partner Frank Skinner spent the mid-90s ridiculing the ethnic appearance of the black striker Jason Lee. For the crime of choosing to not look white, and instead embracing the combination locks and cornrows iconography of his ethnic heritage, Lee was ridiculed as a “pineapple head”, as looking “like an ancient Egyptian” and – incredibly – via Baddiel “blacking-up”. Viewers were even encouraged to send in pictures mocking Lee’s appearance.
God knows how much damage this did to a generation of young black school children. Professor Ben Carrington in Football’s coming home but whose home? and do we want it? P108 noted how this abuse “transcended the normally insular world of football fandom and entered into the public domain as both a descriptive term and a form of ridicule for any black person with dreads tied back”. Taking its lead from Baddiel and Skinner, the Sun even pictured Lee with bananas growing out of his head.
The myth of black primitivism is an enduring racist theme. The assumption that black identity exists to be performed for white people’s amusement only goes back to the minstrel tradition. Both racist tropes permeated Baddiel’s mockery of Lee. Yet we’re now supposed to take lessons in anti-racism from the man?
Dr Gavin Lewis

Care workers are the unsung heroes of the care system (The cost of caring, 17 September). Without them (and the millions of unpaid carers), the system would collapse. My mother had three wonderful, kind, thoughtful care workers visiting four times a day. They never left without finishing the job and ensuring that my mother was safe. They rang me if anything worried them, they joined in the jokes and tears of dementia, and they mourned with us when my mother died. They deserve huge respect and financial support. We would never have managed without them.
Joanie Speers
• Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, has acted boldly and admirably in protesting at the spying activities of the US National Security Agency. Congratulations are due to her, and to the Guardian for placing the story on its front page (Brazil’s Rousseff snubs Obama over NSA surveillance, 18 September).
Penelope Maclachlan
• As an answer to our declining manufacturing, in addition to cutting each other’s hair and selling each other’s houses (Letters, 16 September), should we add minding each others’ children?
Tony McDermott
Widnes, Cheshire
• If Mr Sandle (Letters, 18 September) was to go on the excellent backstage tour of our beautiful Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, he would also learn why it is bad luck to whistle backstage. The “crew” on ships raised and lowered sails by commands that were whistled, as the sound carried further in bad weather than the human voice. In the theatre, the former sailors continued the practice as they flew in the scenery. An actor whistling in the stage area might find themselves brained by a backdrop, or an unfortunate Peter Pan.
Richard Stainer
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
• I think you’ll find a 20-year-old Renault is more eco-friendly than a Prius, with its manufacturing costs and limited life of environmentally harmful batteries (Letters, 17 September). It was even found an old Jeep is more environmentally friendly over its lifespan than a Prius.
Andrew Britsch
Eastbourne, East Sussex

At a time of economic plenty, the coalition announcement of £600m to be spent in free school meals for all five- to seven-year-olds would be a welcome piece of benevolence (Report, 18 September). All the evidence points to improvement not just in diet, but in alertness and educational progress from youngsters who have a healthy meal inside them. However, as with so many of the coalition’s contradictions, there is in this announcement a terrible paradox. At a time when local government services are experiencing disastrous cuts for the poorest, and the very fabric of deprived neighbourhoods is being undermined, once again it will be the better-off who mop up a provision which they were already happily paying for.
My Sheffield constituency is 15th worst of all UK constituencies in respect of unemployment. Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam is 553rd. The children of his constituency, whatever their income, will benefit and their parents save hundreds of pounds a year. In my constituency, the same parents face the disaster of moving their children out of their home under the pernicious bedroom tax. Support for special educational needs is being pared to the bone and library closures forced on local government. And in two weeks’ time, apparently as a quid pro quo, the Tories have been given the go ahead by Nick Clegg to give away more of the money we should be spending on the most disadvantaged in the much-vaunted married couples tax relief.
David Blunkett MP
Lab, Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
• I’m pleased that Lib Dems have followed our lead in Tower Hamlets in promising to provide free school lunches for children at infant school. My authority introduced school meals for reception and year-one pupils this month. While he is at it, perhaps he might also consider restoring university grants to some students as we have done and follow our lead in restoring the education maintenance allowance, which the coalition abolished.
The government acknowledges that our schools are performing extremely well in what is one of the poorest boroughs in the country. So I’m glad Nick Clegg can see how important providing the basic building blocks for success for pupils can be, and how results can improve substantially when they’re put in place. We would also like him to commit to repealing more of the pernicious policies that his party has supported while in government, such as the unjust bedroom tax.
Lutfur Rahman
Executive mayor of Tower Hamlets
• Does not the pledge to provide free school meals for all infants, rather than represent a triumph of politics demonstrate the paucity of political action taken to address the real problems in society? A dysfunctional economy is leaving millions in poverty and dependent on food banks to survive. Rather than take action to alleviate the problem of increasing poverty in the UK and its negative impact on the lives of our children, he opts for a minor amelioration that will play well with the headline writers. I understand the report on which his action was based recommended free school meals for all primary school children. Why did he fail to follow its recommendations? I presume it’s because what is beyond the pale is any increase in taxes on the better-off, which adopting these policy recommendations in full might have made necessary.
Derrick Joad
• The promise of universal free meals in infant schools is very welcome. But how about reversing the coalition’s decimation of Sure Start children’s centres? Comprehensive, integrated, local services for the first 1,000 days is the top priority for giving young children “the best start in life”.
Professor Paul Bywaters
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
• As private companies may be running school canteens, how will the government ensure they do serve healthy meals? UK governments are not known to be skilled negotiators of contracts and usually get outsmarted by private companies, such as in the PFI hospital agreement, which continually drains money from the NHS.
Ann Wills
• Scandinavian kids get free meals all through school, always have. The week’s menus are in the local paper and online.
Jane Sjögren
Chesham, Buckinghamshire


The wearing of the niqab assumes that women are one-dimensional beings, that their only purpose is sex. Men, under this assumption, cannot be friends, colleagues or even benign strangers to women. 
The men I encounter every day are 99 per cent completely benign and treat me the same as any other human being. They may offer to help carry something heavy or hold a door open. They may give directions if I’m lost. This is all part and parcel of what makes society work; there is no need for an exaggerated sense of paranoia about what men feel towards women.
The slutty dress of girls like Miley Cyrus is the opposite side of the same coin. They also assume that men only relate to women sexually, and rather than cover it up they rock the look and go with the power buzz that comes from doing that. 
Both extremes of this one-dimensional thinking are offensive both to men and to women. That is why I find the choice to wear the niqab an incredibly sad one for society.
Frances Lothian, Ludlow,  Shropshire
When I see a woman in a niqab, I simply assume her to be hostile to my cultural beliefs and determined to shun contact with me personally – I am happy to oblige by ignoring her, but certainly do not feel threatened.
However as a student (graduate, post-graduate and professional) I would have been very perturbed about her clear determination to opt out of formal and informal discussions and collective working – and bitterly  resented her turning  up in disguise at competitive public examinations.
How on earth are either examining bodies or fellow students to know that the person who apparently studied the course actually sat the exams – or even that the same person appeared from week to week?
R S Foster, Sheffield
The topic of the niqab attracts bad arguments as jam-making attracts wasps. Roy Spilsbury (letter, 18 September) argues that the niqab will harm Islam on the basis of an encounter which he witnessed between a child and a veiled woman on a bus journey; does everyone respond to children on buses who want to play peek-a-boo?
Penny Reid, meanwhile, finds “the sight of black-enveloped women both scary and morally offensive”; and to Phil Edwards, (letter, 17 September) it is “a two-fingered gesture aimed at my background and my culture”. 
What happened to the British principle of “live and let live”? Is their sense of Britishness so fragile that it is threatened by a small number of women wearing the niqab?  British people pride themselves on their tolerance, and support the tolerant, moderate attitude of David Cameron and Theresa May.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Who knew that the value of not attaching shame to women’s faces was the preserve of “our elites” (Letter, 18 September)? To hold the rights of women “of other ethnicities and societies” hostage until all the wrongs done to British women are resolved is little-Englandism and whataboutery.
Perhaps Gavin Lewis would, in the best of British colonial tradition, like to remind some of those uppity bare-faced women in campaigning groups like the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan that these are “our” values, and they should keep to “theirs” . 
Peter McKenna, Liverpool
If the Ku Klux Klan resumed their original name as the “Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” and declared themselves a religion, I doubt if the liberal left would support their right routinely to conceal their facial identity in public.
Facial recognition is an essential component of  open societies like ours. Female mask-wearing can only be regarded as a matter of personal choice in societies based on gender separation, where women have no public role. It is incompatible with one where gender equality is a central value.
Roger Martin, Wells, Somerset
Disruption along nuclear waste routes
Your environment editor rightly highlighted the fact ministers have chosen to remove the troublesome layer of democracy that thwarted plans to secure a site in West Cumbria for the nation’s nuclear waste, by excluding the County Council (“Lake District threatened by nuclear waste again,” 14 September)
I was invited two years ago to sit on the Government’s Geological Disposal Implementation Board (GDIB).  As the programme was moving ahead, we met about every six months to review progress. Since the programme was halted at the end of January this year, the GDIB has not been convened, nor has the board been consulted on its views on what should happen next, a situation I have found puzzling.
Had I been asked, I would have suggested far from reducing the key decision-making  bodies to district councils, those covering the specific land footprint that would host the above-ground servicing facilities for any deep repository for emplacing the  waste, the scope of key interested bodies should include the local authorities through which the radioactive waste would have to  be transported by rail or road the repository site.
Communities along the route could face significant community disruption for many years as the national nuclear waste stockpile is transported across the country to the repository.
In my view, these communities will face an impact, especially those living close road or rail line along which the waste is shipped, and geographical equity requires these stakeholders have access to the same level of community compensation as any host community for the repository.
When the GDIB is next reconvened, I hope to be able to discuss this and other relevant matters with the energy minister who chairs the meeting.
Dr David Lowry, Environmental policy and research consultant, Stoneleigh,  Surrey
Neglected masterpiece
I find it sad that Professor A J Pointon appears to have such a reductive attitude towards some of our finest dramatic creations (letter, 16 September).
Vittoria in John Webster’s The White Devil may only have “304 lines, many of them monosyllabic” compared with (as the professor tells us) Shakespeare’s Rosalind (736), Cleopatra (591) or Portia (571), but Vittoria is certainly more than a match for these female characters in terms of her stage presence.
She steals the scene of her arraignment, one of the best court scenes in all English theatre, and is formidable in her death scene. Some of our finest actresses (Geraldine McEwan and Glenda Jackson to name but two) have valued the role highly enough to commit to it.
Three cheers to the Royal Shakespeare Company for a timely revival of this under-performed masterpiece.
Dr John Buckingham, Hounslow,  Middlesex
Cat-owners’ responsibility
Our children’s pet rabbit was killed yesterday by a neighbour’s cat. It wasn’t pretty. Why do people who don’t own cats have to go to so much effort and expense to protect the wild and domestic animals in their gardens from other people’s pets?
If it was a dog that had jumped in and killed our rabbit, by law it would be deemed dangerous and be put down. Licensing cats would bring responsibility and accountability to those cat owners who for far too long have excused the behaviour of their lovely pets by the phrase “It’s just in their nature. They need the freedom to roam.”
If spending time on everyone else’s property eating and viciously attacking whatever they feel like is how they are, then they must be owned responsibly.
Jonathan Allen, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
NHS money thrown away
I am glad you published Terry Duncan’s letter (14 September) drawing attention to the way perfectly good medicines and equipment prescribed on the NHS are jettisoned.
Recently my husband died of cancer. With excellent help from the NHS he was nursed to the end at home. I offered unopened medicines, emollient creams, food supplements and catheter tubes to our local hospice. They told me they were sorry but they were not able to accept the items. 
“Health and Safety” gone mad?
Shirley Leuw, Stanmore, Middlesex
Long lend
I had a similar experience to Professor Foster (16 September). I was saved from having to pay £976.40 when returning the book Memories of Perth In Verse and Prose to my local library in Scone in 2001. It had been borrowed 27 years earlier in 1974, although I had no recollection of borrowing it or how it came into my possession. The kind librarian said: “It would have been draconian to demand the money. We’re just delighted to see the book back after all this time.”
Donald P McDonald, Scone, Perth
Swatting idea
A further improvement on John Naylor’s method using a flexible ruler to swat a fly (letter, 17 September) is to use a similar device but broader and with holes in it. A solid object can create air movement blowing the fly out to the side, whereas a permeable device splats the fly more reliably. Obviously, the holes should be smaller than the fly.
Richard Bell, Cadeleigh, Devon
Phantom station
In your story about Brompton tube station and London Underground history (17 September), you stated that Aldwych station was only open for eight years from 1907 onwards. The millions of people who travelled through the station until its closure in 1994 will have wondered whether they imagined the experience.
Nigel Scott, London N22
Vote for Clarkson?
I would love Jeremy Clarkson to stand as a parliamentary candidate in Doncaster. It would be wonderful for tens of thousands of people to give the arrogant ass the message that he is less popular than Ed Miliband!
Phil Wood, Westhoughton, Greater Manchester


Hospitals are not hotels – private rooms require more staff, to ensure appropriate patient care and supervision
Sir, There are many reasons for the shortage of nurses on NHS wards (report, Sept 18). A major factor is the design of wards. A Florence Nightingale ward of 20 or more beds enabled fewer nurses to observe many patients at a glance, patients to see nurses and patients to see patients, but at a cost to patient privacy. Patient privacy and single ensuite rooms have apparently become the way forward (it needs to be remembered that single rooms can give poorly patients a feeling of isolation).
To man these areas properly, with an appropriate degree of surveillance and care, involves a huge investment in staffing. In the current economic environment, and for the foreseeable future, the necessary funding is simply not available. Patients need to remember that hospitals are not hotels and hotel-style facilities are not usually conducive to good care on any budget. Taxpayers, the government, hospital managers and architects need to remember this.
Penelope Holt
Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancs

Sir, The report of the King’s Fund survey (News, Sept 18) will come as no surprise to nursing leaders. The problem has escalated over the years, but it is not new. As a senior nurse in the 1980s, I campaigned for better staffing levels. The time has come for senior nurses to advise health authorities of the number of patients they can safely care for with the numbers they are allowed or can recruit. They should also adjust the ratio of qualified to unqualified staff which is skewed to the unqualified.
Pamela Bendersky
Former regional director of nursing
Shipston-on-Stour, Warks

Sir, The call by the Health Select Committee for hospitals to publish nurse staffing levels on a daily basis shines a light on the importance of appropriate staff-to-patient ratios. But understanding the factors that can prevent these being maintained is equally important. Simply recruiting more nurses won’t be sufficient if poor management leads to high levels of stress, absence and staff turnover. This is why NHS Trusts need to also focus on understanding what underpins a positive staff experience and drives employee engagement.
Research shows that employee engagement is directly linked with patient satisfaction and mortality rates. Data on actual and required staff numbers on wards needs to be coupled with smarter use of wider “human capital” information such as employee engagement levels, stress, absence, staff turnover and investment in training and development, as well as better use of qualitative anecdotal data from staff. Only through consistent measurement and reporting can we be sure that the necessary improvements in leadership and management are being delivered to support better patient care.
Ben Willmott
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
London SW19

Submarines with unarmed missiles are not a credible deterrent to any nuclear threat – and potential aggressors know it
Sir, We feel moved to agree with Baroness Falkner of Margravine, the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat backbench international affairs committee, that a UK nuclear posture based on deploying submarines with unarmed missiles does not constitute a credible deterrent capability.
The UK’s current posture of continuous at-sea deterrence means that it is ready to respond instantly to any nuclear threat, and any potential aggressor knows this to be the case. Unarmed missiles clearly do not provide such deterrence.
The Liberal Democrat policy endorsed at their party conference seems to assume that the UK would be given enough advance notice of a crisis to bring its warheads out of storage, while its enemies waited. Then, in the middle of an international crisis, the UK would put nuclear armed missiles on its submarines, in full view of whichever adversary we were facing, a move which would surely be seen as a dangerous escalation and which could provoke a pre-emptive strike against us. This is not nuclear deterrence, but a reckless gamble with the UK’s national security driven by a Lib Dem desire to scupper Trident at any cost.
If the UK is serious about nuclear deterrence, it must do it properly, and if the Lib Dems want a policy of unilateral disarmament, they should come out and say so rather than hiding behind various hare-brained schemes for a part-time deterrent, which in reality is no deterrent at all.
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary-General of Nato
Lord Hutton of Furness, former Secretary of State for Defence
Dr Liam Fox, MP, former Secretary of State for Defence
Admiral the Lord Boyce, former Chief of Defence Staff
General Sir Michael Jackson, former Chief of the General Staff
Bernard Jenkin, MP
John Woodcock, MP
Lord Moonie, Former Defence Minister
Admiral the Lord West of Spithead, former First Sea Lord and Home Office Security Minister
Julian Lewis MP
Professor Sir David Omand, former Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office
Sir Kevin Tebbit, former Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence
Sir Keith O’Nions, Former Chief Scientific Advisor, Ministry of Defence
Professor Paul Cornish, Strategy and Security Institute, University of Exeter
Dr David Fisher, Department of War Studies, King’s College London Commodore Tim Hare RN
Former Director Nuclear Policy MOD 1999-2002

The developments in military technology are to blame for Barack Obama losing America’s role as world policeman
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Opinion, Sept 16) shouldn’t blame Barack Obama for the loss of America’s effective role as world policeman. He should blame developments in military technology.
The nuclear bomb is a great equaliser (it deterred the Soviet Union which had vastly superior conventional forces). Nuclear technology is well within the grasp of any moderately advanced country. The US would be crazy to risk nuclear strikes from even so weak a state as North Korea. The hand-held missile launcher, roadside bomb technology and suicide bombers have made military occupation of hostile territory untenable. Witness the Russian experience in Afghanistan, American experience there, in Vietnam, in Iraq and Somalia and Israeli experience in Lebanon. Putting American boots on the ground in Syria or Iran would be a case of the flies conquering more flypaper.
Positive engagement while maintaining a strong defence worked against the Communist bloc. East European countries are now our allies and China and Vietnam our trading partners. It can work in relation to the Islamic world. Obama is right to follow this course.
John E. Jackson
Keswick, Cumbria

Ali-G put the town on the map, but it is the river that ensures the world knows the whereabouts of Staines-upon-Thames
Sir, The Thames does not “saunter aimlessly through the industrial estates of Staines” (report, Sept 17 ). There are no industrial estates near the river in Staines-upon-Thames, to give the town its correct name. It is the picturesque focal point of this green and leafy town to the west of London. Ali-G put the town upon the map, but it is the river that ensures the world knows more precisely the whereabouts of Staines-upon-Thames, thus making it a small part of an urban wonder of the world.
Alex Tribick
Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ – this is an assertion of a morality independent of politics, religion or the state
Sir, David M. Wood-Robinson (letter, Sept 18) denies the existence of an objective morality applying to the whole world. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which begins, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This assertion of a morality independent of politics, religion or the state is surely that which Sophocles refers to in the words of Antigone in her appeal to the “unwritten laws” which are eternal, absolute and can not be cancelled by man-made edict.
Dr John Doherty

Sir, Morality must be objective to exist at all, save as an abstract concept. If morality is purely subjective, then what is right conduct for one can be wrong for another, and there can thus be no morality. Morality must logically be objective: the difficulty lies in determining
what it is.
J..R..G. Edwards
Birchington, Kent

SIR – As chairman of the education committee of Waterloo 200, a charity set up to attract public attention to the battle’s bicentenary, I thank Charles Moore for his apposite review of the recent conference at King’s College, London, called “Waterloo: The Battle that Forged a Century” (Comment, September 17).
What few realise, with the passing of two centuries, is the sacrifice the country made in the long conflict that preceded the battle. The wars (1792 to 1802 and 1803 to 1815) cost Britain a greater proportional population loss than the First World War, a national debt of £52 billion and a huge amount of sacrifice and suffering.
In 2014, there will be a surge of interest in the First World War. After this has subsided we should reflect on the battle that ended a harsh war 200 years ago.
Michael Crumplin
Wrexham, Denbighshire

SIR – It is disingenuous for Muslims to claim that wearing the niqab or burka is Islamic. The requirement to conceal the face does not feature anywhere in the Koran. It is an archaic, aristocratic custom originating in ancient Persia that spread to Byzantium and was later adopted by misogynistic Muslim society.
Many Muslims have been conditioned to conflate culture with religion and befuddle liberal Britain that this is a principle of religious freedom and human rights when it is neither. It is against Islamic law for masked women to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca or to perform their daily prayers. If women are prevented from hiding their identity at Islam’s holiest shrine, why is it necessary for them to do so here?
Britain must join France and Belgium in outlawing all public anonymity. Anything less would amount to sexist discrimination against British men, who are not permitted to conceal their identity in public.
Imam Dr Taj Hargey
Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford
SIR – Wearing the niqab as a defendant in court should not be permitted at any time.
Related Articles
The Battle of Waterloo had a far-reaching impact
18 Sep 2013
It is not only during the giving of evidence that it is important to see the face of the defendant, but also during the evidence of the witnesses – juries may learn much by a person’s demeanour and reaction.
Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey
SIR – Jeremy Browne, the Lib Dem MP, assumes that the veil is an oppressive and submissive mode of dress (report, September 16). I have encountered many ladies who wear the veil and each one of them adopted it freely. The vast majority of them see it as a source of empowerment.
Most women who wear the veil are quite comfortable with removing it at a hospital, in court or with a doctor. Islam exempts women from wearing the veil whenever necessity requires them to remove it.
Zafar Imran
London SW2
SIR – I’m a German-born Muslim and have been living England for nearly 10 years.
My parents came to Europe from Pakistan so their sons and daughters could gain an equal education and the best chance of a good life. They escaped harsh cultural oppression so that their children could enjoy freedom. My love for education will go on, but I will not give up my religious beliefs and one of these is the covering of my head, body and sometimes face. Some girls might be oppressed and they should speak out. But I will not have politicians impose their beliefs on me; I have the right to dress the way I choose.
Madiha Umar
London SW19
SIR – As I understand it, Muslim women are required to wear the veil so as not to arouse lustful feelings in men. Perhaps men should practise more self-control so that women might dress as they like.
Kathleen Walker
Cromer, Norfolk
Unfair mansion tax
SIR – Boris Johnson (Comment, September 16) criticises the Liberal Democrats’ proposal for a mansion tax by arguing that it will hurt Londoners and asset-rich, income-poor pensioners. But he misses the strongest argument against this tax.
This is that it will hit the lower and middle income earners who do not own a house. The price of the houses they wish to buy will rise when property investors move from the top end of the market into their end of the market so as to avoid the tax.
If you don’t think a mansion tax will affect you because you will never buy a £2 million pound home, think again.
Michael Schewitz
London N2
SIR – The mansion tax is a strange animal. It is not a tax on wealth because it is not concerned with the payer’s wealth outside the mansion. It is not concerned with the payer’s wealth related to the mansion because the property may be mortgaged and the equity held may be substantially less than the notional value. It is not related to income because the income of the payer may be no more than a modest pension. Like the infamous window tax, it applies simply to bricks and mortar.
So it appears to be no more than opportunistic and arbitrary confiscation.
Quentin de la Bedoyere
London SW19
The education debate
SIR – Not everyone may agree with the letter entitled ”Playing is learning’’ (September 12), but it is important to encourage informed debate. The response of Michael Gove’s office was to refer to the signatories as “those who bleat bogus pop-psychology”. This kind of language is dangerous, ill-informed rabble-rousing, in which a minister’s “gut feeling” is assumed to trump decades of research and experience. It does not.
Recently, I went to a conference, attended by over 400 specialists, on the topic of cognitive development. One of the key conclusions we reached was that we must seek to get ourselves heard by the policymakers. What hope can we have in the face of such language?
Graham Schafer
Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Development
University of Reading
SIR – To develop into people with personality, independence of thought, social skills and confidence, children must be allowed to grow up. Of course, starting formalised teaching before children are six is wrong, but this does not mean allowing children just to play until that age.
Maria Montessori recognised more than 100 years ago that a learning environment – whether at home or at school – in which children were surrounded by the tools and love that allowed them to grow as people was essential. It equipped them with the ability to learn the 3Rs with far less difficulty than just demanding they learn by rote.
Philip Bujak
Chief executive
Montessori St Nicholas Charity
London W1
Flying the flag
SIR – A flag is a flag. What went into the design may be of historical interest, but changes are not necessary if Scotland goes it alone (Letters, September 17).
Its flag will be the saltire and the British flag will remain the Union Flag. May I be so bold as to suggest that the saltire be changed to incorporate the Union Flag in the corner to show it is part of the Commonwealth?
Brian Wallis
Favourite play
SIR – If the recent quest by the English Touring Theatre to find the nation’s favourite play makes people interested in theatre, then I’m all for it (Comment, September 17). But why do we like a particular play? Did we see it on the day “he” proposed? Had we studied it for
A-level and thus know it in depth (in which case it was probably Shakespeare)? Were we for once not put off by the production (Hamlet in a lunatic asylum) or the fact that the actors mumbled?
I have a very good reason for knowing my favourite play – I saw it five times during its first run and loved it so much that I even paid for friends and family to see it. The play? Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.
I suspect you cannot truthfully have a favourite play that you have only seen once.
Doraine Potts
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Fighting loneliness
SIR – It is accepted that loneliness and isolation in our society is debilitating, and Esther Rantzen (Comment, September 14) and Cristina Odone (Comment, September 16) are right to focus on it.
At my Rotary Club in Chichester there is a group of volunteers who identify lonely people in the city and run a regular meeting called “Bridging Generations”. It brings together students from the local college and isolated elderly folk for discussions. This helps to address the problem of loneliness within our local community and both generations enjoy it.
Mike Harvey
Chichester, West Sussex
Africa calling
SIR – Having lived in Africa for 30 years, I can empathise with Prince William and Horatio Clare (Features, September 11). I still miss the place after 13 years of being back in Britain. I even have the African fish eagle’s call as my mobile ring tone, which sends a thrill every time it sounds.
Roger Harris
Dorking, Surrey
University challenged
SIR – Why do most team members on University Challenge look so weird, with even weirder hairstyles? Is this a prerequisite of representing their university? That said, I really do envy their combined intelligence.
Alan J Eyre
Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
The art of telling imaginative stories to children
SIR – I have been trying to persuade my retired father to collect together the stories he told me as a child, which he illustrated with beautiful watercolours, into a form that could be published.
My favourite was The Torpophaunt, the tale of a narcoleptic elephant’s journey to Blackpool with his guardian, Phelum XVII, the last of a dynasty of fez-wearing mice.
As an adult, I now find travel irresistibly soporific.
Patrick Jordan
Echt, Aberdeenshire
SIR – I would regularly tell my daughter Ellen, now 14, improvised bedtime stories. She can remember in vivid detail characters and plots, even though I have forgotten many of them myself. The stories clearly made a strong impression on her young mind.
Aside from the element of parental bonding, I also recall being surprised at the richness of my own imagination. Characters such as the “Robot Queen Victoria” and “Merkin the Green Genie” made regular appearances in plot lines.
Ellen and her Daddy featured in these stories too, but, of course, it was mainly the latter who managed to save the day.
Adrian Debney
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
SIR – Selwyn Carter’s letter (September 16) lauding bedtime stories as an aid to children learning the art of the spoken word reminded me of reading Winnie-the-Pooh to my children.
I would embellish the stories by conjuring up an appropriate accent for each of the characters.
One night my daughter interrupted me to complain that Eeyore did not speak like that. When I asked how she knew, she said: “Well, he didn’t sound like that when you told the story last night.”
Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight

Irish Times:

Sir, – Reading the text of the rather convoluted 32nd Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill, I was surprised to see a provision that raised the requirement for a charge of impeachment against the President from two-thirds of the membership of either House of the Oireachtas to four-fifths of the membership of Dáil Éireann.
Similarly, the provisions for removing the Comptroller and Auditor General, or a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, which currently only require resolutions passed by both Houses (with a simple majority), will in future require the support of “not less than two-thirds of the total membership” of Dáil Éireann.
While these provisions of the Constitution have never been exercised, these changes are significant, and should be highlighted, because they go well beyond what most people might understand by the abolition of the Seanad. – Yours, etc,
Capitol Road East,
Sir, – While I do not necessarily agree with anonymous contributions to the media, I have always found the series “To Be Honest” in your Education section on Tuesdays to be very useful, in that one gets an insight into what is really happening in our schools.
The contribution on September 17th (“Junior Cert science is too easy – at all levels”) touched on the question of project work for Junior Cert science, which is worth 25 per cent of the examination.
It is well known that project work in subjects where it is required is not always done by the student. People who have expertise in the field in question are often asked “to give a hand”. This gives a distinct advantage to middle-class children whose parents know the people with expertise and have the means to remunerate them. This, in turn, makes a mockery of the notion of equal opportunity in education. However, I read with utter dismay in the contribution of September 17th that a science teacher admits that some teachers “do the project” for their students. As a famous line in Scripture has it, ‘What further need have we of witnesses?’”
This question has been seriously addressed in the UK and has resulted in a move away from project work as part of public examinations.
I sincerely hope that when the Minister for Education finished reading his own article on page 14 (“Pupils should learn to read so that they can read to learn”), he then turned to page 15 to discover why the reading and numeracy skills of our students might not be all that he expects them to be. – Yours, etc,
Rail Park,
Sir, – Thanks to Joe Humphreys (“Dermot Rooney left prison with nowhere to go. Days later he was dead”, News Agenda, September 17th) for once again highlighting the problems of vulnerable people who end up in prison. In this instance, the aftercare and prison discharge systems show a glaring gap that needs to be addressed. However, it is worth noting that many of these problems might not arise if appropriate accommodation and healthcare were available. Issues addressed at an earlier stage would ensure that vulnerable people do not end up prison in the first instance.
Pressure to achieve success and measure outcomes can at times blind us from the pain of living for those who find themselves on the outside. Labelling, too, has the capacity to ignore the human condition.
Dermot Rooney was known to us in TRUST over many years, calling from time to time, his courtesy at all times and quiet way of dealing with the world his trademark.
On his last visit one day as we were about to leave, the smell of burning wood off his clothes was suffocating. Black from smoke, he was almost unidentifiable apart from his unforgettable blue eyes. He told us he had spent the previous nights and days sitting over a fire.
For too long people known to us who are labelled homeless and mentally ill find that a bed in prison is all too often the only one available to them. This is a problem that needs to be addressed realistically, not in isolation from other services and not just when people are in prison.
Dermot once said to us when we advised him on seeking accommodation, “I would need a lawyer because we are asked so many questions”. Sadness is the word to describe how we felt on hearing of his death from his sister. May his gentle soul rest in peace. – Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder

Sir, – I note the recent correspondence about the draft proposed traffic plan. We seem to have a history of taking a very narrow view – previously it was about the car, about easy access. Now it seems the car is the number one enemy, but the private car has a use, albeit a reduced one. For many with a disability, or mothers with small children, the car is their mobility, their security and their accessibility.This group should not be excluded.
If car parking charges were more expensive at the start of the day and during lunchtime, it could encourage people who can to leave the car at home – unless it was necessary to transport a large purchase. Equally, flexible and cheap delivery services from the larger stores might encourage people to come into the centre. The big advantage of non-internet shopping has to be that you can browse or try an item on.
While the prospect of larger pedestrian areas is attractive, it takes more to make a viable and lively area. It needs mixed use – mixed age groups and easy access for all. If public transport is universally accessible, reliable and cheap, it will be used. However, the destination also needs work – turning the city centre back into a living, desirable hub.
A combination of poor access, security issues, high rents and vacant units have meant that the city centre is less than desirable as a place to live and shop.
There have been huge improvements in some areas but much more needs to be done. Currently there are a number of “destination” restaurant and bars being developed – easy and secure access to these is vital to encourage more mixed use in areas such as Henry Street, which is predominantly retail.
The plethora of signage which obscures the streets does not help wayfinding and signs are often contradictory .
Tourism is another vital factor in the revitalisation. We have so many wonderful places of interest which also need to be developed as accessible destinations . A transport plan is an opportunity to include all of the interested groups to encourage the use and development of the city centre as a living/working/ retail “An Lár”. – Yours, etc,
Dartmouth Square,

Sir, – The point is made by Steven Long (September 16th) that the term “public service broadcasting” should be defined before such services are taxed. Mr Long’s point is a welcome step forward in this debate but the views of the one in 25 home occupiers in this country who do not have a television (as estimated by the Minister for Communications’ own department) are still being ignored. We do not want to pay a tax for a “service” we do not choose to avail of. In fact, a better term for this grossly unfair and arbitrary tax is the word “tithe”. The last tithes in this country were abolished in 1869 – by the British. A progressive tax, Mr Rabbitte? My eye. – Yours, etc,
Greenville Place,
Clanbrassil Street,

Irish Independent:

Average class sizes in Ireland have returned to 2002 levels following successive budget cuts. Ireland now has the second largest class sizes in the EU, with almost a quarter of children (120,000 pupils) in classes of 30 or more.
Also in this section
No moral consensus on Ireland’s future
A question of leadership
Questions for SF
We have an average of 24 children in our primary school classrooms (the same level as 2002), which is four more children than the EU average of 20. Portugal and Greece, who like Ireland have both suffered major economic turmoil, have average class sizes of 20 and 16 respectively.
The Scandinavian model is presented to us as an example of what we should be aspiring to and, after firsthand experience in Norway and Finland, it is easy to see why their pupils are performing better. I visited Nodnes School in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway.
The school has 254 pupils with 74 staff, including 32 teachers and 27 classroom assistants. My school has 200 pupils with 12 full-time teachers and four special-needs assistants. The contrast is stark and brings into focus how much our teachers are doing in overcrowded classrooms with fewer resources at their disposal.
Do our children have to suffer because of the gambling of financial institutions?
Must the legacy of the greatest economic growth since the formation of the State be overcrowded classrooms in crumbling, under-resourced primary school buildings?
Staffing cuts including the loss of Traveller teachers, English-language teachers and special-education teachers have placed increasing pressure on schools that possess a much more multicultural population than that of 2002.
Larger classes mean less individual attention for pupils, less opportunity for teachers to cater for individual learning styles, less space in the classroom, less opportunities for pupils to contribute. The time has come for the Government to realise that the key to recovery is the education of its youth and that the next generation should not be the ones to pay for the greed of bankers, property developers and politicians.
Paul Moroney
Mallow, Co Cork
* Our international soccer manager has departed after earning in excess of €8m during his time here; and he leaves our world ranking down 15 places to 59. The jewel in the crown of Irish rugby, the Heineken Cup, is under threat from greedy foreign clubs and the IRFU have warned that its demise would be disastrous for the professional game here. This shows how dependent on outside forces Irish rugby is.
Let’s acknowledge the outstanding entertainment the GAA have provided in hurling and football this year. The GAA is the outstanding success in Irish life by any measure. There have been record attendances in 2013 in the midst of the great recession and despite massive emigration from GAA strongholds.
In Croke Park, they have one of the finest stadiums in Europe. It is fully paid for and will be filled to capacity twice in the next two weeks. The GAA is a solvent sports body that caters for hundreds of thousands of male and female players in almost 2,300 clubs.
It is an an organisation that threw open its doors to competitor sports in their hour of need; an organisation built on volunteerism, community, sharing and vision. Let us give credit where credit is due.
David Kavanagh
Annaghdown, Co Galway
* First and foremost, let me send thanks to Majella O’Donnell for raising a phenomenal amount of money for cancer research by shaving her head on the ‘Late Late Show’ on Friday. Her (and her husband Daniel O’Donnell’s) public profile were undoubtedly instrumental in bringing €400,000 in donations in under 48 hours.
I cannot help but wonder, however, if human nature has something to do with this huge total. Cancer and heart attacks almost always come as a shock, and when shocked by tragedy our instinct is to do what we can to help. All of us either have been or will be shocked by these conditions, and are powerless to help beyond throwing a few bob at the problem.
Chronic conditions do not seem to elicit anywhere near as much monetary response. Donal Walsh, who posthumously won Person of the Year last Saturday, inspired the foundation established by his parents to not only improve hospices for teenagers, but also to combat teenage suicide. It has taken over a month for this foundation to raise €160,000 – certainly a respectable total but a far cry from what Majella was able to achieve with three minutes of her time.
Once you step out of the realm of public personalities, you will find many organisations trying to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic conditions.
These chronic conditions are not as shocking to us; we seem to have determined that they are just “part of life” and are therefore not worthy of the “big bucks”.
How many of us do not have family members affected by diabetes, kidney disease, sight loss, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s or asthma? Do many of us not know coeliacs or those with hemochromatosis? People with Down syndrome? Cystic fibrosis? Multiple sclerosis? Epilepsy? How about just the elderly who need an extra hand with their shopping and chores?
We can be all but certain that the Budget will bring further threat of cuts to home carers and quangos that have been specifically established to help manage these conditions.
Taxpayer funding and subsidy of these conditions is how we seem to have determined is the best way to manage them. What does it say about our society when we allow our elected leaders to cut this funding?
Phil Miesle
Roslevin, Ennis, Co Clare
* The general public are very relieved that the West has not yet bombed Syria and that discussions are now taking place instead. There is, however, something else that should be considered.
In threatening to attack Syria, Britain, the US and France are themselves committing acts of terrorism. In the dictionary, the definition of terrorism is “force, or the threat of force to bring about religious or political aims”. It’s a crime under international law, and there was never proof that the Syrian regime committed the attack.
This leads me to chemical weapons. With John Kerry negotiating with Russia, does this mean he will push to enforce the chemical weapons convention in the Middle East? If so, he’ll need to pursue a nearby country that also possesses them, that occupies part of Syria, and that hasn’t signed up to the convention – Israel.
I am delighted that they haven’t bombed Syria yet, but I fear it may happen down the line. I just feel that they’ll try to weaken them (as they are also doing to Iran), and will try again later. Just as they did with Iraq.
Clive Collins
Wandsworth, London
* It was with no surprise I read of the recent Fine Gael meeting in south Dublin which reportedly descended into a sustained attack on the independently minded TD Peter Matthews. Apparently, for an hour-and-a-half, Fine Gael members lined up to bait Mr Matthews. His offence? To stand by the party pledge on which he was elected and to abide by his moral principles. This behaviour is indicative of the groupthink mentality all too prevalent in Irish politics, where, sadly, the dogma of party before principle still prevails.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
Irish Independent


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