Meg and Ben Friday

5 October 2013 Meg and Ben

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee has arranged to sell electricity from Troutbridge’s generators to a local fun fair, then they are ordered to put to sea Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put books on Amazon
We watch Happiest Days of Your Life v good.
No Scrabble today I fall asleep


Norman John Gillies
Norman John Gillies, who has died aged 88, was one of only two remaining survivors of the 36 islanders evacuated from St Kilda in 1930, when the privations of life far out in the North Atlantic finally became too much for them.

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Norman Gillies and wife Ivy  Photo: SAT FEATURES
7:26PM BST 02 Oct 2013
Between 1976 and 2005 he returned four times to the home he had left when he was five years old, becoming something of a media personality thanks to his outgoing nature, his facility with words and his rich recollections of life in Scotland’s most remote and inhospitable outpost.
Norman John (Tormod Ian in Gaelic) Gillies was born on May 22 1925 in House No 15 in the village on St Kilda’s only inhabited island of Hirta. The son of John Gillies, a fowler and crofter, and the former Mary MacQueen, he was named after two uncles lost when their boat foundered in a storm. He appeared stillborn, and even his grandmother was giving up when the midwife smacked him on the back and he drew his first breath.
Life on St Kilda was extremely harsh. The weather was ferocious; little would grow apart from hay and corn; there was no proper harbour; and the islanders subsisted mainly on a diet of fulmars, gannets and puffins rather than the fish in which the seas were rich — having concluded from the numerous wrecks of fishing boats that the Almighty disapproved. The birds were killed by the men of the island, who gained access to their nesting sites by using ropes to scale the cliffs of St Kilda that rise up to 1,300ft above the sea. Sheep provided the wool for clothing and for weaving into tweed, which was bartered to pay rent to the laird and to buy supplies from the mainland.
The population had halved in a generation, partly through emigration and the loss of men in the Great War but also because, up to the late 19th century, the island’s unwitting midwife had coated each new baby’s umbilical cord with a poisonous paste based on seabird droppings.
Norman John was only four when, in February 1930, his mother developed suspected appendicitis during pregnancy and — a month after a passing fishing boat had been asked to have help sent from the Hebridean mainland — was taken to a hospital in Glasgow. He remembered waving from the jetty as she was rowed out to the boat in Village Bay; his father accompanied her. A baby girl was delivered by caesarean section in May, but within a fortnight both mother and daughter were dead. Norman John was not told that he had had a sister until 1991.
On August 29 1930, three months after his mother’s death, Norman John and the other 35 remaining islanders boarded the steamer Harebell when the government evacuated St Kilda; most would never see their birthplace again as, for the next three quarters of a century, its only occupants were conservationists and small detachments of the military.
Most of the islanders were settled on the Morvern peninsula of Argyll. Norman John (who on the way there saw his first tree), his father and grandfather moved into a remote cottage at Ardness, but it flooded repeatedly and they relocated to Larachbeg, a mile from his school, where he responded in Gaelic to questions in English. Leaving at the age of 14, he worked in a sawmill, in a sand pit, and with the Forestry Commission until being conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1943, one of three St Kildans to serve in the Second World War.
Trained at Skegness and at Ayr, he was assigned to a motor torpedo boat patrolling the Channel from Felixstowe. Stationed briefly at Ostend, he was back at Felixstowe for V-E Day, when the MTBs took the surrender of two E-boats and escorted them into port. After signals training at HMS Ganges, when he met his future wife, he served on signal stations at Alexandria and Port Said. After serving briefly in a minesweeper based at Trieste, he was demobilised in September 1945 and settled at Chelmondiston, Suffolk, where he became manager of a builders’ merchant, retiring in 1993.
St Kilda was never out of Gillies’s thoughts. He first returned in 1976 (with a National Trust for Scotland working party) by boat from Oban, an 18-hour crossing during which most of the passengers were seasick. He went back in 1980 with his wife and six other St Kildans for the 50th anniversary of the evacuation, making the voyage from Benbecula in eight hours.
He went twice more in 2005, first with the presenter Ben Fogle to make a Countryfile programme for the BBC, and to contribute his recollections to a moving documentary on Radio Four; this journey was in Orca, a high-speed boat which now offers something like a regular summer service from Harris. The second trip was by helicopter from Benbecula to mark the 75th anniversary of the evacuation, and took just 23 minutes. The same weekend, Scotland’s Tourism Minister Patricia Ferguson unveiled a plaque on St Kilda commemorating the evacuation and St Kilda’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.
His first cousin, Rachel Johnson, who is 91, is now the last survivor of the evacuees from St Kilda.
Norman John Gillies married, in 1948, Ivy Knights, who survives him with their two daughters and one son.
Norman John Gillies, born May 22 1925, died September 29 2013

“Safe in their hands.” Oh, yes. And the front-runners for the leadership of NHS England are Simon Stevens, “an enthusiast for expanding the role of private providers’ (Who will get the top job at the NHS?, Society, 2 October) and Mark Britnell! Britnell, the man who told private-sector executives that “the NHS will be shown no mercy”. You couldn’t make it up.
John Airs
• In East Anglia we have fields full of immigrants working the crops. I’ve no way of knowing whether they are controlled by “shady gangmasters” (Jonathan Freedland, 28 September). It does seem, however, that they are welcomed for their labour – at the “where the buck should surely stop” end of the chain – by farmers and landowners. I wonder whether these are the same farmers and landowners who display gigantic Ukip and Tory party banners at election time.And I wonder what happens then; are they required to lie in a ditch and hide until the results come out?
Julia Wildin
Wells next the Sea, Norfolk
• I very much agree with Michael Berkeley’s ideas on appointments to the House of Lords (Comment, 1 October). I wonder if it might restrict the number of political patronage candidates if those selected no longer had the term “lord” attached to their names and were simply dubbed second house representatives or something similarly mundane.
Wally Smith
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
• While agreeing with Tristan White’s argument about dumbing down of grammar (Letters, 4 October), I am not sure whether he illustrates his case or undermines it by referring to the subjunctive mood as a tense, and by its inappropriate use in expressing an opinion rather than a proposed course of action (“May I propose that the Guardian … be not the most authoritative…”).
Tim Lidbetter
Kingston upon Thames
• Cameron admits he doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread and has a machine to make it for him it (Report, 2 October). Does this mean he’s never kneaded dough?
Sally Warren
Yapton, West Sussex
• Boris calls plans to rebuild Crystal Palace “a brilliant, simple and original (sic) vision” (Report, 4 October). What – to build a copy of a building first put up in 1851?
Ken Thomson

In Berlin on 7 October we are holding a concert, To Russia With Love, in support of the innocent victims of violence and human rights violations in Russia, and to show solidarity with all those who hold dear Russia’s future. On 7 October 2006, the renowned journalist and human rights activist, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in Moscow. Over the past decade the death toll and list of dubiously convicted people in Russia have grown exponentially. They include not only journalists and human rights activists, but business people, lawyers and musicians. The names of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, Sergei Magnitsky (the lawyer who died in prison), Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina are known worldwide. These names have become symbols of resistance to arbitrary power and unjust jurisprudence.
The trials are underway of the so-called Bolotnaya prisoners – the young people who dared take to the streets to demand their constitutional rights. An unprecedented harsh sentence has recently been imposed on the rural schoolteacher, Ilya Farber, who fell victim to corrupt officials. And there’s the latest arrest of 30 Greenpeace activists accused of piracy for their attempt to attract world attention to ecological distractions caused by Gazprom in the Arctic.
We are musicians. We are a peaceful people. It is naive to believe that our joint action can dramatically change something and justice will prevail. Dostoevsky’s famous words that “beauty will save the world” evidently also sound naive. But we do choose idealism and do believe in miracles. Our goal is not only to create wonderful sounds, but also to bring effective help to all those who are in real need. We are asking musicians and artists to send words of encouragement or messages of support which will be published in the programme notes of the concert. Contact us at
Gidon Kremer

It would be hard to have found a more inappropriate moment to churn out that old stalwart about the demise of soap (Has the soap bubble burst?, G2, 2 October). For a while now, my morning coffee has been sweetened by the arrival of the ratings showing as they do that for the whole year to date Coronation Street is up 7% and Emmerdale up 3% on last year. Up until now (and, boy, is there more to come this autumn) Coronation Street has grown its audience by 330,000 to an average of 9.4 million committed viewers.
What is far more important than facts and figures is that many of your readership will also be viewers of our shows and will be just as passionate about the health of our soaps as they are about the health of the Guardian. And anyone who actually watches our soaps will tell you that they are in particularly rude health right now and that the reason for their growth is stories that are modern, relevant and, above all, dramatically compelling.
In fact, if I have a worry as I sip that morning coffee, it is that the pin sharp writing and nuanced acting that goes into our shows can make the stories almost too compelling. Seeing long-loved characters such as Hayley Cropper face up to illness with humour and unfussy nobility can be painful. But it is true to the character and true to life, which is why it resonates so deeply with our growing audience. So far from being on their last legs, as your article suggests, our soaps are currently teeming with life and teeming with viewers.
John Whiston
Creative director, ITV Soaps
• It could be worse. With my cold-addled brain I was convinced, on first seeing the headline on the BBC website, that Danny Dyer was taking over the Old Vic. Stone the bleedin’ crows, my liege.
Antony Brewerton

Talha Ahsan is a British poet and translator. Born in London, he attended Dulwich College and graduated with first-class honours from the School of Oriental and African Studies. Until last October, he’d never set foot in America.But, one year ago today, that’s exactly where he was flown. And that’s where he’s remained in solitary confinement, at a so-called “supermax” prison, ever since – waiting for trial. Another life torn apart. Another family missing a member.
The scandalous Extradition Act 2003 has made this possible. No prima facie evidence was required when Talha was first detained. He’s never been questioned by British police. No British judge has ever examined the allegations against him. Yet the activity for which he is allegedly suspected is supposed to have taken place in the UK. There’s been much promise of extradition reform from politicians of all stripes, but little change. As Talha’s ordeal shows, removal can still be ordered without a basic case being made in a UK court – even where the alleged activity took place here. Worse still, the government now seeks to dilute existing protections; slipping a clause into the antisocial behaviour, crime and policing bill which would scrap the automatic right of appeal altogether. We urge MPs to drop this proposal for good when they debate the bill this autumn.
Talha, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has already been sent halfway across the world, separated from his loved ones, imprisoned pre-trial and forced to navigate a completely alien legal landscape. This is punishment in itself, irrespective of the end result. Serious overhaul of our rotten extradition system is surely the very least he now deserves.
Hamja Ahsan Talha’s brother
Shami Chakrabarti Director of Liberty

Ed Miliband spoke wonderfully at the memorial meeting – not service – to celebrate the life and the contribution to medicine and to the NHS made by my brother, Harry Keen, who died on 5 April (Report, 4 October). Harry, who married Ralph Miliband’s sister, was known internationally both for his contribution to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and for his unflagging battle for the NHS. Born in London in 1925, he was a life-long socialist and internationalist. It has been distressing to me and to other family members that the occasion of Ed’s movingly tribute to his uncle, also on his brother David’s behalf, was marred by the vile behaviour of the Rothermere press.
Mary Blumenau
• In a story, in print and online, the Guardian yesterday appeared to suggest that Paul Dacre had prevented Geordie Greig from apologising promptly to Ed Miliband for a Mail on Sunday reporter intruding on his uncle’s memorial service. This is entirely untrue. In fact the first Mr Dacre knew of the incident was when Ed Miliband released his letter to Lord Rothermere the following morning. He immediately advised Mr Greig to issue a full apology and helped him write it.
Peter Wright
Editor emeritus, Associated Newspapers
• The bullying rightwing press forget they’re a rump in their death throes. Every Pixar film and children’s programme preaches co-operation and caring for others, with bullies as scaredy losers, and nasty selfishness losing out to Shrek, superheroes etc. The young I meet are tough-minded and pragmatic, can be misinformed, but are good-natured and kind. The dim, half-aware terror the Tories and their press have that history is against them make them more rabid, but won’t change their fate. This week is a turning point – with widespread repulsion at the Daily Mail’s intrusion on Ed’s family in private grief.
I don’t share Polly Toynbee’s worry about online media (Comment, 4 October). Besides the huge presence of Guardian online, the Huff Post and Daily Mash are hugely popular, and most of the pop and film stars kids tweet and blog about preach progressive messages; there aren’t crowds of kids reading the Mail with their smoothies and cappuccinos. Now is Ed’s time. People’s visceral dislike of unfairness and cruelty is such that Ed’s stance against powerful vested interests is the one thing the people admire and will listen to.
I very much doubt words like Stalinist, red or even the 70s are the dog whistle words Mail still absurdly hopes they are.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire
• As a German I am impressed by the quality of the debate about the accusations of the Daily Mail against Ralph Miliband. The unambiguous statements in his defence above party lines show there is still a deep-rooted commitment to decency and personal respect in prominent political actors of British society. I cannot imagine a German politician of some prominence coming forward in an explicit defence of a member of the opposing political camp. Lords Moore and Heseltine and Boris Johnson set an example for democratic culture. When Ralph Miliband risked his life to save Britain from Nazi occupation he also contributed to free Germany from this monstrous regime. I am thankful for that.
Willi Brand
Bremen, Germany
• Although Labour did overcome a formidable press red scare in 1945, it was not the last occasion it did so, as Polly Toynbee suggests. In the 1966 election Labour proposed among other things, a land-value tax, price controls, fair rents, half a million new houses, nationalisation of the steel and aviation industries, strengthening the welfare state and the NHS, integrating the public schools into the state system, creating the Open University and expanding arts provision. Harold Wilson and the Labour party faced a vicious and bitter onslaught from the Mail and the rest of the rightwing press. Result: a Labour majority of 97.
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex

If nothing else the Daily Mail’s criticism of David Miliband’s father has reminded us, if we needed reminding, that the class war is alive and kicking in Britain.
At the Conservative Party conference the 50,000 people demonstrating outside against the Tory political agenda were summarily dismissed as “the enemy”. Margaret Thatcher described the miners as “the enemy within”. So much for our much-vaunted “democracy”. 
In France, in the Seventies, when De Gaulle and Sartre were at loggerheads and held diametrically opposing views, at least De Gaulle could say: “Sartre, c’est aussi la France.” Compare this with the mean-spirited, hate-ridden stance of our government and its supporters.
John Tilbury, Deal, Kent
In protest at the Daily Mail’s “all time low” in accusing a dead man of hating Britain, Malcolm Howard (letter, 3 October) urges a boycott of Waitrose while they continue giving it away free through their “My Waitrose” card.
Surely it is wrong for supermarkets to give away any newspaper titles whatsoever on a selective basis. This draws them into the political arena and interferes with the fair marketing of news and views. Waitrose also holds two Royal Warrants which I am sure it would not wish to lose by inadvertently associating the Royal Family with political controversies launched in the newspapers it promotes.
Carolyn Lincoln, Edinburgh
I can’t help feeling that there is a whiff of xenophobia coming from the Mail.
A former Lord Rothermere, owner of the paper, thought that Moseley’s crew were a jolly good thing. Perhaps today’s Daily Mail is affected by the views of its spiritual ancestor (the Mail seems to think that this is how it works) and Ed Miliband, as the son of an immigrant, is therefore persona non grata – ostensibly for not agreeing with the upright and laudable standards of such a revered and respectable publication as the Daily Mail. Who do they think they are kidding?
Angela Peyton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
It is thanks to the Daily Mail that I can now truly appreciate the personality and achievements of Ralph Miliband, and the moral and intellectual force that he represented for friends, students and family; an unintended, but not unusual consequence of any Mail attack on a public (or private) individual about whom I may have previously felt some ignorance or ambivalence.
Christopher Dawes, London W11Young want work not dole
David Cameron’s idea of a new “earning or learning” policy would deny young people under 25 the right to claim benefits. His depiction of unemployed youth as people who opt for a life on benefits is an outrageous offence to many who – not only in the UK but all over Europe – are suffering from the impact of the economic crisis, struggling to find a job, and not “opting” for their situation at all.OECD statistics show that, since 2007, the youth unemployment rate in the UK has risen from 14.3 per cent to 21.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2013. Do we have to assume that, since then, young people have become significantly lazier? If so, why wasn’t that the case in Austria, Norway, Switzerland or Germany, where youth unemployed rates remained mainly unchanged or even went down?
Youth unemployment rates have risen because the British government has failed to implement measures to tackle the effects of the economic crisis, not because young people have simply decided to live an easy life on benefits – which, in fact, does not exist. If David Cameron had to live on benefits for a few months he would realise that this is something hardly anyone would ever choose.
Fiona Costello, Federation Of Young European Greens, Brussels
The Prime Minister’s instinct that young people should be earning or learning is the right one, and the majority of young people want this too, but this as yet unclear proposal cannot come at the expense of taking the roof from over a young person’s head.
The thousands of vulnerable young people and families which our organisations support are often in a position where benefits, at first, are the only way they can survive, and offer a safety net at a critical time. They often do not have families they can move back in with, and more than half of housing benefit claimants under 25 have families of their own. Withdrawing benefits because they currently can’t engage in training or can’t find a job would leave many homeless again and even further from the labour market.
In addition, around 66,000 young people under 25 who claim housing benefit are working, but on low wages, and without housing benefit could well be forced to leave their job and home.
Yes, we need to get the benefits bill under control. And yes, we need to get young people into work. But penalising young people for the failures of the economy is no way to go about it.
Seyi Obakin
Chief Executive, Centrepoint
Jeremy Todd
Chief Executive, Family Lives
Rick Henderson
Chief Executive, Homeless Link
Jean Templeton
Chief Executive, St Basil’s
London E1
Don’t blame social workers, back them
The recent cases involving the death of vulnerable children highlighted the catalogue of errors and failure, by different agencies, to communicate with each other. However, over the past 20 years various inquiries have pointed to other reasons for systemic failure, including: the massive caseloads that social workers have to manage; high turnover of staff; the use of short-term agency staff; lack of experienced staff; low morale and a high proportion of newly qualified social workers who are not given guidance about how to prioritise cases.
There are also wider questions about the rates of pay for frontline staff and high levels of stress that have led to a nationwide shortage of social workers. Sensational press reporting has led to a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” culture. Social workers are inhibited from challenging decisions, even if they fervently believe it is in the child’s best interests.
Against all the odds, social workers safeguard the vast majority of vulnerable children. They have to make difficult decisions in complex cases where parents may be manipulative, obstructive or aggressive. Let’s all give them a round of applause? Without giving them adequate resources and lower caseloads, particularly in child protection, this is just patronising nonsense.
Richard Knights, Liverpool
If you’ve never heard of Hoagy . . .
In a story about James Bond being played by Daniel Day-Lewis (26 September) you report: “Ian Fleming … describes his character in three novels as looking like Hoagy Carmichael, a singer-songwriter who was famous at the time of the Second World War.”
This is a bit like saying Robert Burns was a ploughman-poet famous at the time of the Jacobite uprising.
Hoagy Carmichael was indeed famous at the time of the Second World War. But he was also famous 10 years before it began, when Louis Armstrong recorded his “Rockin’ Chair”, the same year Carmichael wrote “Georgia on My Mind”. And he was still famous 200 songs later, when in 1971 he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York at the same time as Duke Ellington. He was still famous in 1979 when the jazz elite of the day packed Carnegie Hall in New York for a concert to honour his 80th birthday and Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed 27 June Hoagy Carmichael Day. The previous year Willie Nelson’s new recordings of “Star Dust” and “Georgia on My Mind” were in the American charts.
Indeed, Carmichael was still famous when he was buried in January 1982 and President Reagan was among those who sent flowers; and in 2002 when his biography, Stardust Melody, was published.
And he’s still famous in 2013 because the world still sings and plays his songs as they have done since the 1920s (see Nora Jones’s new album, The Nearness of You)…
Jim Crumley, Stirling
Schools: look at what works
I do agree largely with your leading article of 4 October, but doesn’t the success of the assisted places scheme for motivated working class pupils just serve to raise the grammar school option again? And what are free schools and academies but poor substitutes for the tripartite educational system? You are right, it’s well past time to forget the self-defeating ideology and look at what works.
Anyone who has taught in a comp will know just how impossible it is to go against the dominating ethos that often exists there among pupils. Forget about all the “excellence for all” nonsense: motivated kids know when they are beaten.
Are we happy to allow political squeamishness over the 11-plus exam to paralyse our educational thinking forever? 
Martin Murray, London SW2
War on drugs has been lost
The argument for the decriminalisation of currently illegal drugs and the control of their distribution (letter, 1 October) is to remove the drug dealers from the equation and so protect the next generation from being drawn in to addiction.
To dismiss the argument for decriminalisation as wishy-washy liberalism flies in the face of the hard economic facts that the “war on drugs” has been lost and it costs less to provide drugs in a controlled outlet than to deal with the devastation caused by pushers and dealers.
Patrick Cleary, Honiton,  Devon
Climate challenge
So climate change is happening, and it is, at least in part, humankind’s doing.
All we need to do is reduce the human population and accept the unpalatable fact that environment-damaging economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.
No problem then.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
Just tedious
Has anyone noticed the similarity between tweeting and The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith? Both describe the tedium of everyday life, but at least the latter is amusing rather than tedious.
Raj Kothari, Bridport,  Dorset

‘Such ham-fisted branding of Mr Miliband senior as “Mr Nasty” may appeal to Mail readers but that is preaching to the converted’
Sir, Being a Marxist is not anti-British any more than being a Hayekian is. Marxism aims to reveal and to celebrate the role played by workers in the economy and to thwart attempts to exploit them. So far, this is not so removed from Ed Miliband’s own progressive policies. Indeed, progressives have in the past learnt much from Marxism: it was clear to the American New Deal progressives that allowing the market to do what the market does results in the proliferation of new financial property forms which undermine the real economy. The progressive solution was not to abolish capitalism but to contain its anti-social tendencies with clear legislative reform. Progressives then were able to learn from Marxism, without being Marxists. Rather than lambasting the Daily Mail for its personal and childish attack on his father, Ed Miliband should take the opportunity to examine the intellectual approach to the economy offered by Marxism.
Dr Lorraine Talbot
Associate Professor in company law and corporate governance, University of Warwick

Sir, As we approach the centenary of the First World War, it strikes me that the Daily Mail could run up quite a distinguished list of men who hated Britain and who also fought for their country. Wilfred Owen was far from alone in risking everything for his country by fighting in the trenches, while expressing ambiguous feelings about the kind of Britain he was fighting for. It was a common feeling among soldiers on the Western Front that they loved their country, while criticising it bitterly for the state it was in. I mention Owen, who won the Military Cross for outstanding bravery and leadership on the battlefield, because the “England” he hated was precisely the one defined by the Mail itself. In his poem Smile, Smile, Smile written just a few weeks before he died in action in 1918, Owen satirises the hypocrisy of that newspaper’s reporting of the war, while lamenting that the best of England was now lost, buried in a foreign field.
Professor Paul O’Prey
London SW15

Sir, In a prophetic letter to The Times 30 years ago (August 18, 1983), Ralph Miliband bemoaned the media coverage of left-wing activism, particularly the “red-baiting” language that suggested a new type of “treason” which could be almost impossible to disprove.
Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks

Sir, If one assumes that the aim of the Daily Mail’s criticism of Ed Miliband’s father was to persuade voters to vote Conservative, this could be counterproductive. Such ham-fisted branding of Mr Miliband senior as “Mr Nasty” may appeal to Mail readers but that is preaching to the converted. The wider voting public will perceive such a campaign as unfair and instead will lend sympathy for Mr Miliband junior. We are all shaped to some extent by the opinions of our parents but to imply that an Oxford graduate doesn’t have a mind of his own is ludicrous.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey

Michael Gove is right to reduce the frequency of exams so that today’s pupils have a chance of being taken on a journey of discovery by inspirational teachers
Sir, The influence of one’s own great teachers is rightly cited by David Brancher (letter, Oct 1) as an important factor in teacher education.
In my schooling, an A-level physics teacher stood out. His approach was to walk into the classroom, say “Now where were we up to?”, check on the notes of a pupil in the front row, and then deliver comprehensive theory, explanations and examples without reference to any notes. He may secretly have been a thoroughly prepared teacher, but the impression given — of a man so in command of his subject that he did not need even a vague lesson plan — had a lasting impact on me.
In the age of modular exams, such a teacher is likely to meet resistance from pupils who are insecure unless they can see the script the teacher is working from, and where the lesson fits in the syllabus even before it has been taught. Michael Gove is surely right to reduce the frequency of exams so that today’s pupils may have a greater chance of being taken on that journey of discovery by inspirational teachers who can give broad insight into their subjects without being a slave to the syllabus.
Graham Cramp
Malvern, Worcs

Sir, Ignorance of English grammar (“Teachers ‘don’t know enough grammar to teach curriculum’ ”. Oct 4) was brought home to me in my first few months as an Oxford bursar when an undergraduate studying English said to me, “You are the only person I dare ask what an adverb is.”
Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor
(Bursar, St Edmund Hall, 1988-2007)
Norburton, Dorset

In 2011 a high-level report calling for the repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality was accepted by Commonwealth heads of government
Sir, Matthew Parris, perturbed to discover that “more than three quarters” of the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuals (My Week, Oct 2), may be heartened to know that a cross-party group in the Lords, of which I am a member, is pressing for action to secure full respect for the human rights of all gay people throughout the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.
It is intolerable that in Sierra Leone, for example, gay people can be sentenced to life imprisonment, or in Malaysia to 20 years’ imprisonment with flogging. In 2011 a high-level report calling for the repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality was accepted by Commonwealth heads of government. The Commonwealth’s collective strategy for the future, however, includes no commitment to work for the elimination of criminalisation. The forthcoming heads of government meeting in Colombo must put that right.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

Come the next general election, this reader would like to vote for another combination to get the best of both worlds
Sir, As Mr Miliband is offering to freeze our energy bills, and Mr Cameron our train, utilities and bank charges (News, Oct 2 and Sept 25), the ideal solution would be a Con-Lab coalition.
How do we vote for this?
Peter Davies
Caldy, Wirral

The majority of Romanians arriving in the UK are respectable, hardworking people, who have taken advantage of their right to move within the EU
Sir, As a minor member of the Romanian Royal Family through marriage, I find the headline “Romanians use cheap flights for crime spree” (Oct 2) unfair. It contributes to an increasing stereotype of Romanians. Organised crime, as you say in the article, is endemic in the former communist states of Eastern Europe, which are now members of the EU. The majority of Romanians arriving in the UK are respectable, hardworking people, who have taken advantage of their right to move within the EU to seek employment. It is most unfortunate that organised crime rings have that same mobility, and I respectfully ask that you use headlines that do not use generalisations about one particular nation.
Alexander Nixon
Haswell, Co Durham

SIR – Anyone who is labouring under the delusion that parakeets have disappeared from the Home Counties need only visit Richmond Park on any day of the week (Letters, October 3). There they will find noisy and destructive parakeets in abundance. They have become almost as great a nuisance in the capital, and its environs, as feral pigeons.
The park authorities organise an annual deer cull, so why not include the parakeets? If they are short of shotgun-licensed personnel, I am sure they would find an adequate number of volunteers from among the local residents.
Duncan Cavenagh
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – Pam Ledger wonders where the parakeets have gone (Letters, October 2).
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A country practice shows how GP reforms must meet local people’s needs
04 Oct 2013
On looking through my grandmother’s cookbook by Mrs Beeton, there is a recipe for parakeet pie. It suggests six parakeets, or in their absence, a medium-sized parrot. The recipe is included in the Australian section.
Could it be that others have come across this magnificent cookery book?
Brian R Fokes
Rottingdean, East Sussex
SIR – The parakeets that have disappeared from Coulsdon (Letters, October 2) appear to have all gone to the Addington Golf Club.
I have never seen so many in this country together at one time.
Michael Lyons
Tenterden, Kent
SIR – The Paseo del Prado in Madrid is thick with them.
Leonora Sánchez Palmero
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid

SIR – I hope Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will avoid the mistake of insisting that all GP surgeries conform to an urban, high-density model. Here in rural Westmorland, where our small practice is under threat of closure from the withdrawal of funding, it is not practical for our two doctors to provide 24/7 cover, or to employ enough staff to do so.
The nature of the geography and the scarcity of rural public transport make it difficult for our ageing population to travel to urban centres. What we need is support for our excellent doctors to enable them to improve their facilities and offer more services. Were our surgery to close, many people who are currently cared for in their own homes would have to go into hospitals or care homes.
May I suggest that Mr Hunt listens to the views of local people, before he sweeps away our excellent surgery in his desire to introduce a “one size fits all” regime.
Rachael Milling
Ambleside, Westmorland
Related Articles
When pretty parakeets become perfect pests
04 Oct 2013
SIR – Malcolm Allsop (Letters, October 2) is naive in his analysis of surgery opening hours. The veterinary practice is open late because it is paid for by the people who walk through the door. GP funding has been reduced, while targets to achieve enhanced payments under the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) have been raised. The burden of administering QOF has also greatly increased.
As the husband of a GP, I know that when the surgery door is closed, the doctors will remain working long into the evening.
John Carr
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – Malcolm Allsop concludes that vets love their customers more than doctors because they are still open at 8pm. He presumably takes comfort in the knowledge that his local 24-hour Tesco must love him very much.
Ernie Waddell
Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire
SIR – John Ashworth (Letters, October 2) highlights the real problem facing the NHS: the public’s expectations of the institution and how they use it.
The fact that Mr Ashworth’s family and friends consult their GP with colds, bruises and other minor ailments beggars belief. Is it any wonder the NHS is in the state it’s in when its resources are misused in this way?
Robin Peters
Bath, Somerset
SIR – Emailing a GP does not save the doctor’s time (Letters, October 2). The time spent on a brief email exchange is the same as a normal GP consultation: the patient’s medical records will have to be consulted and an entry made in the file.
If the doctor enters into such correspondence as well as seeing patients face-to-face, then he has increased further his workload.
Dr Michael Barrie
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Private schools
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw demands that private schools should do more by way of teaching or providing facilities for government-funded schools (report, October 2). This seems to me no more than another variation on the taxation debate.
The top 1 per cent of taxpayers already pay about 27 per cent of all income tax in Britain, while the lowest 50 per cent pay just 11 per cent. Private school parents are already donating their own children’s places in the state system to others, while also paying a significant share of the country’s education costs.
Sir Michael also draws attention to the unsatisfactory government control of most universities, which facilitates the annual threats to, and bullying of, the private sector.
Would that more of them, too, were privately funded, so that the Department of Education could be ignored.
Edward Vale
London SW19
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments smack of inverted snobbery and of our country’s unpleasant tendency to criticise, rather than celebrate or take pride in, institutions and individuals that do well.
Attention should focus instead on improving state schools so that they all have adequate facilities and sufficiently high standards.
Private schools should not be held responsible for these failings.
Hilary Weale
London SE11
Poetry in uniform
SIR – Harry Mount writes that the poet-artist Isaac Rosenberg is a little-known exception to the rule that First World War poets of significance tended to be of the officer class (Comment, October 2).
Rosenberg is not the only such poet: the name of Private David Jones, a printer’s son from south-east London, also appears on the War Poets’ memorial in Westminster Abbey. Jones’s great poem, In Parenthesis, is grounded in his wartime experience as a private soldier in the Royal Welch Fusiliers; and his art is held by the Tate and other significant public and private collections.
Ian Williams
Faversham, Kent
Not so strong suit
SIR – Your photo of George Osborne walking in Manchester with his wife (report, October 1) reveals an unfortunate trend in natty gents’ suiting whereby an indiscrete, untidy glimpse of shirt and tie appears at waistband level rather than being concealed by the jacket.
This is not, surely, by design?
Peter Harvey
Jolimont, Perth, Western Australia
SIR – Am I alone in speculating that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has mislaid his belt while expecting us to tighten ours?
One has only to compare the squeezed cut of his jacket, which appears to show his trousers falling down, with the proportionate elegance displayed by the Duke of Edinburgh in the same issue.
Patrick Williams
Canterbury, Kent
Breast-cancer gaps
SIR – Following your report that 180,000 women are at risk unless breast-cancer gaps are tackled (October 1), it is important to acknowledge other life-saving factors that are being ignored when discussing breast awareness. The lack of focus on these factors could have devastating effects.
I have been working as an academic adviser to Avon UK on its “Avon’s Breast Promise: The Second Generation” campaign. Our research shows that breast- cancer awareness must begin at home and the earlier the better.
There needs to be a focus on building women’s knowledge and confidence and encouraging them to form earlier breast-checking habits. If we build this knowledge at an earlier stage, women, particularly those with daughters, can pass this information on, which will ultimately lead to earlier detection and higher survival rates.
Women can do much to help themselves through awareness and self-monitoring in addition to what the medical community can offer. Early detection and an increase in knowledge is imperative.
Professor Janet Reibstein
Exeter University
US shutdown
SIR – The American political system will routinely break down in decision-making vital to America and the world when the House of Representatives is dominated by party affiliation not shared by the President (“Services blackout as US fails to agree deal”, report October 2).
This fragile situation could easily be corrected by adopting a system similar to our own, in which governments are formed from parties or coalitions that elect their own leader, in this case the President.
It would also avoid the costly, over-personalised and never-ending round of preliminaries, primaries and election for the presidency that so amazed Charles Dickens on his visit to Washington in 1842.
Barry Bond
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
The sound of lip-synch
SIR – Last weekend, I watched a television programme about ghost singers in major films and discovered that Christopher Plummer did not, in fact, woo Julie Andrews with his rendition of Edelweiss in The Sound of Music.
I am devastated.
Lynne M Collins
Hadleigh, Essex
Will higher alcohol prices curb student excess?
SIR – I find the views put forward by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association difficult to swallow (Letters, October 2).
My niece has just started university and there are numerous bars on the campus where a double gin and tonic costs £1.50. Supermarkets are selling a litre of gin for £10 and cider is cheaper than fizzy water.
I’d rather pay more for alcohol if it relieved pressure on the emergency services and kept our streets vomit-free.
Kate Graeme-Cook
Tarrant Launceston, Dorset
SIR – Of course the Government wishes to specify a minimum price for alcohol, since this will bring in increased tax revenues. But it knows that it will have no real impact on consumption.
To reduce consumption, alcohol must be made less easily available by restricting the number of places where it is sold (for example, supermarkets) and hours in which it can be sold (no more all-night drinking establishments).
David Broughton
Woodborough, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I am appalled to learn that my son, who has been living and working abroad for the past three years, will now be treated as an international student if he wishes to return to Ireland to study.
He, like many of his contemporaries, emigrated to find employment when none was on offer in his own country. He was not a burden on the State and never claimed social welfare. Instead he went to China where he has been teaching English. Next year he had hoped to come home, go to college and improve his job prospects. But the fees for international students are beyond his means. Engineering fees in the Dublin Institute of Technology, for instance, are a whopping €12,250.
There must be thousands of young people in a similar position who were scattered around the world in the past few years. I think the State owes its young citizens a better deal than this. – Yours, etc,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Thank goodness it’s over at last. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Never in the history of Letters to the Editor has so much hot ink been expended by so many on so little”.
Can we have our paper back now and once more enjoy the myriad opinions of its diverse readership on a variety of topics? – Yours,etc,
Albert College Lawn,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I have just returned from the very satisfying experience of voting to abolish the Seanad.
Shortly, Naas Town Council, the local authority covering the area where I live in, will also be abolished.
It seems the only further actions necessary to facilitate the emergence of democratic representation of the people and effective government institutions is the abolition of Kildare County Council and Dáil Eireann. – Yours, etc,
Caragh Green,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – RCSI regrets the non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) felt compelled to take industrial action, but we understand their concerns and the urgent need to have the issue of long working hours addressed, in the interest of patient safety and the health and well-being of NCHDs. RCSI supports the view that there should be a limitation of hospital-based working hours to 24.
The introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is very challenging in disciplines such as surgery. The EWTD rightly seeks to ensure a safe and healthy work-life balance for all people at work. In our view, the parties should work together towards agreeing a more creative application of the EWTD which would balance the need for continuity of patient care and the training requirements of junior doctors.
Feedback from our trainees indicates the overall length of the training programme, the uncertainty around employment prospects and the quality of the training experience in some training posts is making a career in surgery less attractive.
To address these concerns we are launching a new training programme which shortens the period of training required and enhances the training experience.
Because the EWTD will reduce the amount of on-site work by NCHDs, innovative approaches are required to achieve a high quality consultant delivered service. This will involve some routine work being reassigned to other grades to allow training time within hospitals to be used for the most important tasks.
The RCSI has undertaken to maximise the level of surgical skills training and didactic teaching which takes place outside of the hospital setting so as to minimise the training impact of any EWTD restrictions.
For the past four years the college has worked with the HSE through the National Surgery Programme to address the needs of elective and emergency surgical patients. We have also worked to improve the safety and efficiency of the operating theatre environment.
It is vital healthcare frontline staff, hospital groups, HSE, the Department of Health and RCSI – continue to work together to implement these plans. – Yours, etc,
Royal College of Surgeons in
St Stephen’s Green,
A chara, – I am amazed Anthea McTeirnan (Opinion, October 4th) seems not to have heard the news that women now have the vote in this country. She must not have; why else would she think the only reason that abortion isn’t as normal as a tooth extraction here is the dastardly oppression of history’s “great men”?
I imagine it may also come as a shock to her to learn that modern women actually think for themselves and refuse to be bullied by either the great men of the past or the radical ideologues of the present. The reason we don’t have her dental clinic termination model in place is the simple fact that killing one’s child in the womb is not normal. Most people, men and women, know that. But clearly that notion will also be news to her. – Is mise,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – Anthea McTeirnan claims that abortion is “normal’ and that it is a “procedure that many women can and do access easily and in a perfunctory way”. It is very unlikely most reasonable people believe ending a child’s life is either normal or an action to be taken in a perfunctory way.
A recent poorly-attended March for Choice shows very little public support for such a callous attitude. The arguments as to the harm caused by abortion to women and babies will be familiar to readers of The Irish Times. Perhaps there is one other to consider: that in a modern, progressive society we can do better for women than the medieval solution of abortion. The online version of this article provided a link to a campaigning video by international abortion providers. – Yours, etc,
Youth Defence,
Capel Street, Dublin 1.
Sir, – Bravo Anthea McTeirnan for a clear and sensible view on abortion. It always amazes me that men feel they have the right to dictate what a woman does or does not do with her body. Accidental pregnancy happens, mistakes are made, we are only human after all. In my view it is a very responsible decision not to bring an unwanted child into the world. I am not ashamed to admit I travelled to England to have an abortion when I was 19. My feeling was one of huge relief after the procedure, and I have never regretted that decision. – Yours, etc,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – It is difficult to imagine words more bitterly expressed than those of Anthea McTeirnan (Opinion, October 4th). To equate abortion as being as “normal” as pregnancy itself is a travesty of everything that is honest and decent. Her regular use of the words “great men” reek of bitterness. Although she denies it,  McTeirnan equates having an abortion with a tooth extraction in an attempt to somehow find a connection. Her exaggerations in this Godless diatribe are insulting to everyone, regardless of gender and are designed not to contribute, but to provoke. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange,
Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Society, for good or ill, has decided that young people lack the maturity required to vote, marry, drive, sign legal contracts, have sex and join the army. There are age restrictions on all of these, and probably many other activities. Why then does nobody question the possession and use of smartphones? We are giving young people unfettered access to the internet and to all it contains. Is this wise? – Yours, etc,
Enniskeane, Co Cork.
Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 01:10
First published: Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 01:10

Sir, – The situation in the US is beginning to resemble a classic manoeuvre to seize power. First, you destabilise the government. Next, you allege a plot or organise a few assassinations. Then you get the military to take over in order to “restore government”. The military promise to restore democracy within a year. They make an alliance with Big Business and fundamentalist Christians to run the country their way and settle into power for the long term.
It may sound fanciful, but it is a formula used successfully by the Americans themselves in foreign countries. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Lynn Cronin (September 27th) highlights an important issue. Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services relies on supporters, such as her, to organise coffee mornings in their home, school or workplace as part of the Ireland’s Biggest Coffee Morning campaign. For 26 years now this method has worked well and this year over 800 coffee mornings were held in support of Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, with thousands more taking place nationally for other hospice organisations.
However, if banks are going to make it difficult for people to conveniently lodge event proceeds, there will be serious implications for its future success and indeed for any charity community-based campaign such as this that relies on cash and coin donations. Banks need to work with the charity sector to come up with viable solutions to resolve this issue. – Yours, etc,
Head of Fundraising &

Sir, – Having served on select vestries for two decades, I am well aware of how the Church of Ireland works. Therefore it was no surprise that it took 25 years, after the enabling legislation was passed, for the church to appoint its first woman bishop, and the world didn’t end (Home News, September 20th). Well done to the house of bishops. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 50 years for the next development, a gay bishop. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – As someone who, as a child, met Hurd Hatfield on several occasions, the article on Ballinterry House brought back many fond memories (Property, October 3rd).
I do recall on one occasion when Mr Hatfield came to dinner at our house and asked my father if my mother was his “second wife”, adding she looked far too young to the be the mother of six children. Of course my mother was delighted with his comment and so the evening commenced with greater frivolity than originally planned. Dorian Gray would surely approve. – Yours, etc,
Boleybeg, Galway.

Sir, – I agree with TD Maureen O’Sullivan’s remarks concerning the memorial for survivors of institutional abuse (Home News, September 26th), particularly when she states it is demeaning to survivors to have a memorial setting alongside a memorial erected to the men of 1916. Both should be completely separate: I have reiterated this on a number of occasions.
Sadly, to the best of my knowledge no survivors except those on the committee were made aware of the decision until the launch in May 2012. For those of us who have fought so hard on behalf of fellow survivors for decades, it is sad that our proposal to have a memorial adjacent to the GPO was undermined and, even worse, ignored. – Yours, etc,
The Aislinn Education and

Sir, – It is unusual to see Louis Spohr mentioned in the columns of The Irish Times. But as the author of the 28-page Conspectus of the Recordings of Spohr’s Symphonies, published by the Spohr Society in 2009, I must take issue with Martin Adams’s view (Classic Music, Arts & Ideas, October 2nd) that “J W Davidson was proved wrong” in his declaration that Spohr’s music “will survive until art is on its deathbed.”
Perhaps we are mistaken to concentrate so much on outward “reputation” (Adams’s word) rather than inner integrity and meaning beyond the fickleness of public perception.
How many of those who casually now dismiss Spohr have actually studied his music for themselves in detail? If only they would do so, they would find themselves set before a feast beyond reckoning.
I suggest for a start Symphony No 9, the Mass for soloists, two five-part choirs and orchestras, and the Nonet, which are masterpieces of genius in their respective genres. And perhaps too, before judgment is so dismissively cast, Clive Brown’s 1984 book Louis Spohr: A Critical Biography should be read and taken to heart. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I am perturbed that a Minister of the Labour Party, a party with its roots in the trade union movement, threatens ASTI members with redundancy for rejection of the Haddington Road proposals. Last time I checked I thought that in this democratic country one could not be dismissed for being a member of a trade union; and pay and conditions and refusal to recognise a trade union constituted grounds for a legitimate trade dispute. Parallels could be drawn with the Orwell novel Animal Farm. – Yours, etc,
Enniskerry Road,
A chara, – “State is failing the needy” states your headline over Barry Roche’s report of Brendan Dempsey’s comments concerning the St Vincent de Paul struggle to help those who have fallen on hard times (Home News, October 3rd).
I would prefer “State is flailing the needy”. Many of these people are victims of State irresponsibility during the Celtic Tiger years. And the flailing continues. People in nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme have now to pay for dressings and dressing equipment. What happens when their meagre savings are exhausted? Of course, I forgot. They may not live that long! – Is mise,
Leinster Park,

Sir, – A recent suggestion in these pages (Isolda O’Connor, September 27th) for a “Mrs Doyle Day” could have wider cultural implications. Just think, Mrs Doyle meets Beckett: “I can’t go on”. “Ah, go on!” – Yours, etc,
St Agnes Park,

Irish Independent:
* As an Irish citizen who has lived abroad for a number of years, I was dismayed to hear that a poll suggested the campaign to abolish the Seanad is likely to be successful.
Also in this section
Seanad has done nothing for our democracy
Noonan doesn’t ‘get’ the pain of emigration
We need a TV debate on Seanad referendum
While the electorate’s reasons for disbanding the Upper House are clearly justifiable based on short-term logic, this move would pose a long-term risk that we as a democracy cannot take.
I feel that the enthusiasm shared by the main parties for a successful vote has not been counter-balanced by some thought on what this Constitutional move would ultimately entail. While punishing an electoral class for their role in allowing the economy to collapse would seem perfectly fair, this move will of course only lead to further power and authority being given to the Dail.
While Ireland has always been run by centre-right parties, we cannot be certain that this trend will continue. The future does not necessarily need to be rational and mainstream. Who’s to say that there will not be a rise on the ultra-right or indeed ultra-left in 20 to 30 years’ time, as recent continental European history has shown on numerous occasions?
Without an Upper House to provide a safety net against ultra-radical laws and reforms being passed, we leave ourselves open to extremists, who could implement a whole host of dangerous repressions of our liberties.
A referendum on reforming the Seanad would be perfectly justified. However, disbanding this institution merely because of electoral revenge and the notion of saving €20m is shortsighted. In a country that was running up debts of €65m a day at one stage, this saving is a mere drop in the ocean.
After all, is it really worth risking our children’s and grandchildren’s freedom and liberties for €20m?
Robin Wyers
Arnhem, The Netherlands
* There is a tree in our community centre. It was looking rather unhealthy. One day the community got together and pruned all of the dead wood. Today the tree looks much healthier indeed! October 4 is a great opportunity to do some “pruning”.
Tom Quinn
Castlebar, Co Mayo
* I am surprised at the number of naive commentators who believe that the Seanad is a necessary democratic safeguard. Something like a smoke alarm which is there just in case. In reality, the Seanad is more like a locked and barred fire door.
Equally surprising is the number of naive commentators who believe that voting No will lead to Seanad reform. In 1979, the Irish people voted to expand the university franchise, but the political class never implemented it. That is what happens when you innocently believe in the promises of reform – nothing happens. We have been peddled so many lies and false promises over the last few decades, it is appalling that there are still people who fall for a pig in the poke.
The Seanad is an elitist and undemocratic anachronism from the 19th Century when an upper house of intellectuals and nobles was required to keep the peasant commoners in the lower house in line. It was not required when we became independent, and is even less so now.
The 99pc of commoners who finally get a Seanad vote should vote Yes to the only reform that matters; its abolition.
Jason Fitzharris
Swords, Co Dublin
* The Netherlands has a population of 16.8 million. Its lower house has 150 seats, while its upper house has 75 seats. Here in the Republic of Ireland, our population is approximately 4.6 million with 166 TDs in the Dail and 60 members in the Senate. Given the four-fold difference in population demographics between Holland and Ireland and the referendum bluster of saving money and getting rid of politicians, we should therefore have approximately 42 TDs. Now wouldn’t that be real reform… or simply a case of quadruple dutch?
Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
* During the week, Philip O’Neill wrote to your letters page expounding the notion that we as a society are, if I may put it in Biblical terms, concentrating on the worship of the Golden Calf in the hope that we will all be able to eat if the calf gets fatter.
A society is not bound by wealth. Wealth generation, its worship, its lavish displays, its lure, its conferring of self-imagined status etc are actually what deconstructs a society. The excellent and oft-quoted line that “I live in a society not an economy” is an expression of our humanity, of what we are; a social animal.
When one considers that money is a functional item, a tool for trade and for measuring time, then as rational people we must ask ourselves what is this fascination with money?
Time is money! Fair enough, so let’s accept and expand this notion.
The most accurate clocks in our known universe are pulsars. These rotating stars emit radio signals from deep space with stunning rhythmic accuracy. Regardless of where one is on or floating above planet Earth, these signals will count time at the same rate for every living human born on the planet, regardless of the financial disposition of the individual.
This suggests that time is a universal and free gift which we call life. It is, if one thinks about it, a gift that no one, be they rich or poor, can remember asking for. You are born; get on with it!
Before the collapse, we were fed wonderfully politically popular notions of “jobs” and a “soft landing”.
So how could we have lost €64bn of time into a black hole that was meant to be a forever blazing sun called “Celtic Tiger”? Strange stuff money; a very poor Golden Calf!
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
* The economic commentators are at it again – “at times like this, the black market gets going again”.
What planet are these guys living on? Friends of mine tell me that over the past 50 years, they have never been offered a receipt by a window-cleaner, a TV or washing machine repairman, a house-painter or indeed any other tradesmen.
My friends have lived through busts and booms but the cash-in-hand system never seems to change because that’s just the way it is and, the funny thing about it is the cash-in-hand merchants are no cheaper than the legit operators.
So things must be getting very bad when the economists start blaming the black marketeers, because these guys are on the go all the time.
RJ Hanly
Screen, Wexford
* Norman Walsh (October 2) is worried about what would happen if another Charles Haughey made it to the Taoiseach’s office with no Seanad. One way or the other a Seanad won’t make a jot of difference, just like it never did when Haughey was in power.
But if another person like Haughey were to make it to the Taoiseach’s office again, they’ll have got there because of the stupidity of the Irish people who voted for them and who will deserve everything they get because of it.
When will the penny drop for Irish people that the reason the calibre of people in politics, both at elected and decision-maker level, is so low is because voters keep returning the same low-calibre people time and again and never more strongly when the voter knows for a fact that the person is unfit for office.
Haughey didn’t take office through a coup, the Irish people chose to put him into office not once, but three times and I’m sure there are plenty who’d vote for him again if they could. Just like there are plenty of people who prefer to wallow in denial about their role in returning all the other cronies in all parts of the country again and again.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
Irish Independent

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