13 October 2013 Another Quiet day
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they were foolinh enough to buy some theatre tickets from Pertwee for the wrong show, Heather was not pleased. Priceless.
Books tidy up the garage, so tired
We watch There was a Young lady
No Scrabble today
Ron Burton, who has died aged 91, was captured by the Japanese in 1942 after the fall of Singapore and became a spokesman and champion for fellow PoWs who had suffered as he had.
7:29PM BST 09 Oct 2013
In November 1940, Burton was serving with 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery (125 ATR) in Scotland, undergoing “desert training” in the snow.
During the worst period of the Blitz, many months were spent doing the work of civilians in Glasgow and Liverpool, and it was almost a year later before Burton was able to embark with his regiment for India.
After a few weeks at Ahmednagar, they sailed from Bombay in Empress of Asia, bound for Singapore. On the morning of February 5 1941, no sooner had the island been sighted under a pall of black smoke than a formation of 27 Japanese aircraft swooped down on the convoy.
Nine bombers concentrated their attack on Empress of Asia, which was almost cut in two and was soon burning furiously. Hoses were run out, but the pumps had been damaged and there was no water.
The hospital was cut off and the Medical Officer was forced to evacuate his passengers by pushing them through the portholes into the sea.
All the men were ordered up on to decks on which it was almost too hot to stand. Those able to swim were ordered to leave first. Burning wreckage was falling into the sea among the heads bobbing in the water, and small arms ammunition was exploding all the time.
The survivors were picked up and taken ashore. Some 60 per cent of them had burns or wounds. One troop had four anti-tank guns. The rest of the equipment had been lost and, on February 9, when 125 ATR took its place in the line, it was deployed as infantry.
By the morning of February 15 they were being shelled from all sides. At 4pm the order was given to “cease fire”. Burton managed to get away to Java with some of his men, but he awoke one morning in their jungle camp to find that all the commissioned officers had abandoned them.
He was taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent to Changi jail before being put on a boat for Kyushu, the southern island of Japan. There he was forced to work in a coal mine in the Fukuoka Prefecture.
He suffered from beriberi, dengue fever, malaria and dysentery, and on one occasion, when part of the mine collapsed, he was buried alive.
There were few British officers in the camp and, as a sergeant, Burton took it upon himself to stand up for the men as best he could. This involved making numerous complaints to the commandant and was resented by the guards, who took their revenge by beating him.
Ronald James Burton was born at Wantage, Berkshire, on November 28 1921 and educated locally. He enlisted in the Army in April 1939 and was posted to 125 ATR.
After the war he worked for the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell and, subsequently, at their site at Winfrith, Dorset, where he was responsible for the stores.
He was a founder member of the South Dorset Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOWS) and campaigned with great determination to force the British government to give the veterans the pensions they deserved.
The disabilities of the former PoWs included loss of limbs, deafness, blood disorders and, heart, lung and neurological problems. Burton fought and won more than 400 cases and was appointed MBE in 1990 in recognition of the contribution he had made in obtaining justice for the claimants.
Settled at Weymouth, Burton worked on his allotment until his late 70s. He died from a lung condition caused by the coal dust that he breathed while forced to work in the mine, but he never allowed himself to hold a grudge against the Japanese people.
Ron Burton married, in 1947, Wanda Brown, who survives him with their son and daughter.
Ron Burton, born November 28 1921, died August 27 2013
The Khan family was clearly in need of support, moral guidance and, most importantly, decisive action. (“For our children’s sake, the social worker’s role must be reinvented”, editorial). It is blatantly obvious that the Khans were imploding: a large family in the care of an alcoholic mother (Amanda Hutton) who had suffered at the hands of an abusive husband.
If it seems clear to me, a disconnected newspaper reader, that this was a family “at risk”, why did the immediate community not step in sooner? I am not singling out one section – it is easy to wave a clenched fist at beleaguered social workers – but all the stakeholders who should be looking out for the interests of the most vulnerable.
Family members, neighbours, health visitors, doctors, teachers, the police – they must all work together to protect children; that means instigating direct contact with families who are not coping, at every opportunity. Before tragedy strikes, we must all take the initiative and talk to these families, listen to their problems but, ultimately, we must take proactive steps to help them before “hate” and “wickedness” take a hold.
Every serious case review (SCR) on the death of a child is quite properly written from that child’s perspective and usually catalogues the occasions when he or she was in contact with one of the agencies having a statutory duty to safeguard children and the missed opportunities to remove him or her from harm.
The recommendations are duly translated into procedures that the staff of each agency must follow – a new recording form or assessment procedure, more meetings – Mashs (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs), the Laming report’s safeguarding children boards, child protection plan meetings and so forth.
However, from the point of view of the duty social worker daily receiving initial reports of concern about a child from all sources that the official guidance encourages, things are not so apparent. One of the referrals made tomorrow to a children’s service department somewhere in the country will concern a child previously unknown to the department at risk of serious harm.
The duty officer triages each referral. But which child does the social worker visit? She or he will be presented with indicators that any later SCR will highlight but don’t apply in every case. And so it goes on.
So how to “reinvent the social worker’s role”? Thousands of children living in poverty have reduced chances of leading successful lives; their educational and physical development are impaired and very often too their emotional formation. We live with this; social workers have no capacity to reduce the number of children abused in this almost systematic way.
Concerns about a child should be translated into inquiries about a potential crime – assault, wounding, murder, rape. Not of compromised parenting requiring a welfare assessment but examined by an investigative agency having police powers with a view to prosecution.
In discussing child protection, your leader highlights recent social work that adopts a community approach.
Memories are short. In the 1980s, numbers of social services departments moved staff into deprived areas and called them community social workers. Studies showed that they got to know their whole patch and utilised local resources. Far from ignoring child abuse, they usually spotted it at an early stage. Despite its successes, a new breed of highly paid managers eventually abolished this form of social work as it did not fit with the new gods of centralisation and bureaucracy
Few would disagree that a nation’s children are one of its most precious assets. They need to be nurtured, respected and supported to find their way in the world. Draconian new antisocial behaviour laws going through parliament will punish children over the age of 10 simply for being children.
Any behaviour judged by the police or local councils to be “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance” could result in a legal injunction that will restrict where children can go and what they can do. And if they flout any of these restrictions they could face imprisonment. Everyday teenage activities– from skateboarding to ball games – risk attracting an injunction under this new law. Yet play, youth and other services are being cut across the country.
We acknowledge that antisocial behaviour can blight lives but this bill is not the answer. It promotes intolerance of youth, is a blow for civil liberties and will damage children’s relationship with the police.
Dr Hilary Emery National Children’s Bureau Penelope Gibbs Standing Committee for Youth Justice Dr Maggie Atkinson Children’s Commissioner for England Matthew Reed Children’s Society Chris Nevis Play England Shauneen Lambe Just for Kids Law
Science not a matter of opinion
I disagree with Peter Preston (“The BBC must keep an open climate”, Media). Science is not a matter of democracy. If you have the data and can convince your knowledgeable peers of the validity of your arguments, you win. Good science is not necessarily how people would like things to be, nor is it determined by popular ballot.
There are many areas of science where some people would like there still to be uncertainty – evolution and creationism, Aids and HIV, unconventional treatments for cancer and the merits of vaccination, for example. But the arguments have been settled and the contrarians have lost. I hope you wouldn’t claim that in a story about a significant new fossil find that in the name of democracy you need to give significant airtime to a creationist.
Where there should be democracy is working out how we respond to what the science is telling us.
Hellish plan for Heathrow
As someone who lives near the end of one of Heathrow’s proposed runways, I very much hope that your business leader’s prediction is wrong (“Whatever the airports commission’s flight plan, the only way is likely to be Heathrow”). Any of the proposed options suggested by the airport would, if put into effect, cause unimaginable social and environmental problems. This is not to say that more runway capacity is not needed. But it certainly can’t be round here!
A fine way to govern
Social democracy succeeded where socialism and our present capitalism have failed (“This character assassination was a political act: it damages democracy”, Will Hutton, In Focus). For 30 years after the war it was the norm in the west under names of different shades of left and right.
Mixed economies and welfare states transformed lives and brought the greatest increase in prosperity we have known in spite of countries taking on huge debt. There was high taxation. It was most successful in countries where there was good strategic planning by governments. Scandinavian countries have kept to the idea more than most and don’t do too badly even now. It was lost in the 70s with the oil crisis and political/ideological divergences and now we have globalisation, but surely there is something to be learned from its original success.
Rivals for Under Milk wood
I was much enthused by Tracy McVeigh’s article “Wales prepares to resurrect the reputation of Dylan Thomas”, (News), having discovered Thomas through the possibly dubious claim that Bob Dylan borrowed his name from the Welshman.
Some, however, might take issue with Ms McVeigh’s reference to Laugharne as “the setting for Under Milk Wood”. Thomas’s play for voices is set in the fictional village/town of Llareggub, but the source of inspiration for the topography, inhabitants and details of Llareggub is claimed by both Laugharne and New Quay, the latter on the west coast of Wales. I try to give equal weight to both claims in my 2012 book A Map of Love: Around Wales With Dylan Thomas (Iconau/Fflach). As a neutral Irishman, it’s not a dispute in which I’d want to take sides!
Killinick, Co Wexford
I want my own gang, thanks
Great to see Wales being included in the Northern Soul tribe, if only on the dodgy grounds that the Welsh cheer for their rugby team (“What makes modern Britain great? It depends on which tribe you’re in”, News). While I have great affection for both Cheryl Cole and Peter Kay, I would prefer to be part of the Welsh Rising tribe with Leigh Halfpenny and Cerys Matthews as icons. After all, the first Britons were Celts, weren’t they?
Nobody, however “super” they may be, comes into social work without areas of weakness to be worked on (“Social workers: the good news”, 6 October). Super selection will work only if it goes hand in hand with super training pre- and post-qualification, super supervision and super workload management. In today’s climate, where their successes are never heard of and their failures can lead to death threats online, the wonder is that so many people are still choosing the tough job of child-care social work.
One year ago two social workers came into my life. I have no idea how; I was that messed up. Gerry literally saved my life one day. Together, the two of them gave me my life back and have moved on to help others. Whenever I read about their tragic failures, I think about social workers’ myriad unsung successes. I wish them all the best.
Vince Bridle (Letters, 6 October) points out there must be a trigger or tip-off point to stopping smoking. I stopped there and then, cold turkey. Within weeks of denying myself tobacco I was dating rather smarter girls than previously. Cinema and fish and chips became theatre and dinner. My health improved. I had money to spend; that was good enough reason.
When I met Robert Fisk, it was with great pleasure and admiration, but I must correct the most dangerous part of his article (“The man with Assad’s ear”, 29 September) – his conclusion that I met the French-Algerian terrorist in order to find out what the prisoner told Fisk during their closed meeting. He made this worse by accusing me of reporting this meeting back to the President.
The President of Syria has no need of a civil activist like me to assist him.
I met the French-Algerian person a few days after Fisk spoke to him, not as an interrogator but during an interview with the BBC, which you will find in the link (bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20649670).
Fisk’s portrayal of me as a dangerous man and interrogator made me a potential target to the fundamentalist groups. This false accusation put my family and me under direct threat from armed fanatic groups.
As a civil activist and socio-economic developer, I have been working in parallel on two objectives. The first is reconciliation, and the second is empowering the middle-class society with zero-carbon footprint development programmes. An example can be seen on the following link: youtu.be/bqG0kW3o_dE
I work for the enlargement of the Syrian secular middle-class society by stopping the bloodshed with the power of reconciliation and low-carbon green socio-economical development.
A longer version of this letter can be read HERE
The Greenpeace protesters do not “face up to 15 years in jail for objecting to Arctic drilling” (“Vivienne channels the green T-shirt… 6 October). They were arrested for attempting to board an oil rig, an illegal act anywhere, and many countries would have detained protesters for similar acts. Like many of your readers, I am concerned about grossly disproportionate sentencing by the Russian authorities, and the environmental impacts of Arctic drilling, but that does not excuse a lack of objectivity in reporting.
Holly Williams writes in “The king of cool” (The New Review, 6 October) of the impressive collection of contemporary art filling the walls of fashion designer Raimund Berthold’s flat, “with works by everyone from Cindy Sherman to Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois to Damian Ortega, Jake and Dinos Chapman to Rob and Nick Carter”. The accompanying photo, meanwhile, is dominated by a large, typically exuberant, painting by my husband, the late John Hoyland.
Hoyland Studio Ltd, London EC1
Arctic protest blind to cold reality of fuel needs
IN HER article “The Arctic 30 try to stop the dance of destruction, we choose to sit it out” (Comment, last week) Camilla Cavendish writes: “Mankind’s desperation to chase fossil fuel reserves has led us to the edge of technology and the edge of reason.”
The Greenpeace protesters were clearly taking a huge risk and personally I have little sympathy for them. Vladimir Putin’s Russia was unlikely to welcome them as heroes and it is difficult to see the risk was acceptable. The world needs oil and gas and is willing to pay for it. A small party of protesters and a lot of people who have never been to the Arctic bemoaning the fate of polar bears will have little effect, just as campaigns in English villages threatened by large-scale housing projects will be ignored.
I am not a supporter of the development of wild places, but am a realist and know it will happen if the rewards are great enough. As with all our troubles, the root cause is gross overpopulation. Activists would be better advised to work towards birth control programmes, which need not be coercive.
Kent Brooks, Kendal, Cumbria
What an excellent article by Cavendish — and very important. We have a battle here between soft power and moral right on the one hand and hard power and corporate greed on the other. I won’t predict the outcome, but I know on which side I stand.
Martin Porter, Glossop, Derbyshire
Stuck on green
It is sad to see an accomplished journalist such as Cavendish join the environmental doomsayers. Worthy people have been telling us since at least the 1973 oil crisis that we are destroying the planet, and yet when these individuals are not pontificating, they continue to drive cars, take flights and generally pollute as much as the rest of us. One does not deny that climate change and carbon emissions matter, but let’s keep calm about the problem.
David Harris, London SW1
No sense or sensibility in rewriting Jane Austen
WHY are the novels of Jane Austen being rewritten (“Vampires drive stake into Austen”, News, last week)? Surely the point of reading these works is to experience her glorious, inimitable prose. If pupils need to be taught how to understand early-1800s writing, then it is the job of their English teacher to engage them by explaining the text and firing their imagination.
By reducing Austen’s rich books to the reading level of a 21st-century children’s fantasy novel the entire social mores of 19th-century life is lost, as is evidenced by the extract from Joanna Trollope’s reworking of Sense and Sensibility.
Kay Bagon, Radlett, Hertfordshire
Sign of the times
If schoolchildren cannot understand Austen at the appropriate reading age, then there is something wrong with them, their parents or their teachers. It is up to these tutors to show them the author’s relevance, and not for Trollope and others to update her with “Aston Martins, iPods and upmarket party planners”, along with sex scenes, like a Mills & Boon novel.
Isn’t that why Shakespeare speaks so profoundly, because his situations and characters are timeless and allow us — with our imaginations and life experience — to make modern connections? If Trollope is unable to see it — and from the published extract, she can’t — teachers must.
It’s not so much Austen’s plots that make her novels classics as her writing style, wit, characters and indeed the very absence of gadgets and pre-marital sex.
Joyce Glasser, London, NW3
It seems an excellent idea for six authors to be given the task of rewriting Austen’s novels to make them more attractive to 21st-century children, many of whom probably rarely venture beyond a diet of comics and poorly written books.
However, Trollope’s reworking has a basic grammatical error in “You’re the only person in my life who [sic] I trust”. Teaching children correct grammar and spelling goes alongside encouraging them to read “good literature”.
Margaret Ross, Drayton Beauchamp, Buckinghamshire
Masters of delusion
These writers are deluded in thinking they can improve on Austen’s work. They would do better to read and learn.
Sue Tenniswood, Via email
Councils in sin bin
MONTHLY bin collections seem an appalling prospect (“A load of rubbish: waste collections go monthly”, News, last week). I would not want the smell of rotting food on a hot summer’s day, and “pay as you throw” charges would be unfair to a large family with more unrecyclable waste than a couple.
Karina Brown, Oswestry, Shropshire
As a Cardiff taxpayer I was dismayed to read your article. Perhaps the council could suggest ways of removing the grease and food residue from fast food packaging. And disposing of the contents of animal litter trays will present a challenge, especially to those living in flats.
Peter Ellis, Cardiff
The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, huffs and puffs a lot but delivers nothing. As each month goes by, more and more Conservative councils have implemented alternate-week collections.
Howard Knight, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Malala’s brave example
I HAVE much admired Malala Yousafzai’s courage and vision (“Queen invites Malala to palace”, News, and “You saved my life”, News Review, last week). She is no armchair agitator for girls’ right to an education but one who stood up to the fanatics and paid a high price. The cynics should hang their heads in shame.
Stephen G Spence, Birmingham
Congratulations on the uplifting articles on Malala. What better example on education and how it should be used than this brave girl.
Barry Mahy, Cork
Making a stand
Whether or not Malala wins prizes is almost immaterial. We must ensure that what she stands for is not brushed aside with the next news hero or heroine. I fear the Pakistani government does not value her as the international community does, and when she returns home she will fade from view.
John Trew, Serangoon, Singapore
Out for justice
Malala must not be allowed to be the victim of a media frenzy — and the thug who shot her and any of their backers should be put on trial by Pakistan.
W Brown, Penzance, Cornwall
I can’t help but feel that this is all a little manufactured.
Jason Smith, Via email
Worst of health
Having read with admiration about the work of doctors helping Malala I also noted the spat between health secretary Jeremy Hunt and one of his predecessors, Andy Burnham (“Labour sues Hunt for NHS ‘libel’ tweet”, last week). Please remind me what it is that they do that makes them so special?
John Bishop, Lickey End, Worcestershire
I’ve just finished reading India Knight’s article “Bridget, love, fiftysomething women just aren’t broken any more” (Comment, last week). I loved it — what a great reminder that “girls just want to have fun”, regardless of their age and levels of responsibility.
Sandra Simpson, Via email
On the town
As a Chipping Norton resident, may I say thank you to the writers of “Lands of glory” (Home, last week). If nothing else, the comments about the gloss having come off my home town — apart from being untrue — should now mean we will be spared any further influx of City financial and service sector blow-ins who jack up the house prices and make it impossible for locals to buy in the area.
Peter Longhurst, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
City and urban-dwellers who install wood burning stoves may well increase the value of their property by 5% but it is their neighbours who have to look out onto ugly flues and be annoyed by the sun reflecting on their shiny surfaces (“Burning wood: the hot new city trend”, News, last week).
Ann Dunn, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Corrections and clarifications
Our story “Twitter will pay watchdog just £5,000 to fight child porn” (News, last week) said the company was insisting it should not raise its contribution to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to £75,000 because it did not make a profit, and that it argued Facebook would have to pay £375,000 if fees were based on regular users. Twitter tells us that it has only asked the IWF for more information on how increased membership rates were being calculated.
In his report on Julian Fellowes’s Romeo and Juliet (Culture, last week), Ryan Gilbey misattributed quotes by one of the producers, Ileen Maisel, to another producer, Nadja Swarovski, whom he also wrongly described as the originator of the project. We apologise for the confusion.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (email@example.com or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
Sacha Baron Cohen, comedian and actor, 42; Gareth Batty, cricketer, 36; Edwina Currie, politician, 67; David Haye, boxer, 33; Nancy Kerrigan, figure skater, 44; Nana Mouskouri, Greek singer, 79; Marie Osmond, American singer, 54; Pharoah Sanders, American saxophonist, 73; Paul Simon, singer-songwriter, 72; Ian Thorpe, Australian swimmer, 31
1884 Greenwich becomes world’s prime meridian; 1923 Ankara replaces Istanbul as the capital of Turkey; 1925 Margaret Thatcher born; 1943 new Italian government declares war on Germany; 1958 first Paddington Bear book published; 1972 sixteen people survive plane crash in Andes; 2010 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days 2,300ft underground
SIR – In your photograph of a “well-known” person (report, October 9) I recognised a handbag which I also own in several colours. No, not Samantha Cameron’s various totes but the Princess Royal’s small, practical suede bag.
It is available for a thrifty £15 at most country and Christmas fairs.
SIR – I object most strongly to the planned law to make landlords responsible for checking the right of tenants to live in Britain.
In my experience, overseas students are the best to have as tenants. What expertise will I need to obtain to enable me to check the validity of documents that I am to inspect?
To my mind this law is poorly thought through, and will cause more problems than it will solve.
K J Barry
Englefield Green, Surrey
SIR – Illegal immigrants are to be kept off the road by refusing to let them have a driving licence.
The thrifty attraction of a royal handbag
12 Oct 2013
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
SIR – The report for the years 2011-2013 to come from the Independent Complaints Assessor of the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency is to reveal a six-fold increase in the number of complaints against the DVLA in Swansea during the last three years.
How can an agency in such disarray now be expected to double up as a part-time immigration control office?
Will that other under-performing government agency down the road in South Wales – the Passport Office – be asked to lend a hand?
SIR – If, as reported, anti-fraud databases “hold government data on ‘tens of thousands of illegal migrants’,” it seems pathetic that the best the Coalition Government can do is pass legislation to stop these people obtaining driving licences or opening bank accounts.
SIR – As a retired senior manager from
HM Customs and Excise and a former director of the Immigration Service, it came as no surprise that controls on the importation of drugs and other prohibited goods are not being pursued because immigration checks are being given priority.
It was predictable, from the moment that the Labour government decided to amalgamate customs and immigration border-control staff, that resources would be put towards immigration rather than customs controls.
Complaints are quickly forthcoming from passengers and airport operators when delays occur in the immigration hall, but the same does not pertain when there is a failure to check baggage – quite the opposite.
It was a major mistake to merge Customs and Immigration, which operated in very different ways, with departmental cultures poles apart.
West Wickham, Kent
Blame for energy prices
SIR – The 8.2 per cent price increase by the SSE energy company is made up of three components: the wholesale cost of gas and electricity rose by 4 per cent, distribution and grid costs by 10 per cent and last, and certainly not least, government levies by 13 per cent.
Much of the increase in grid cost is caused by the huge expenditure put on National Grid to bring power excessive distances from remote wind farms.
Government levies are a catalogue of costs imposed on the suppliers by previous governments’ green agenda. It is blatant hypocrisy or ignorance of the effect of their policies for senior members of the Coalition and Labour to blame suppliers.
We have a disastrous energy policy, or lack of one, which very soon will leave us short of power with outrageously high prices.
Elderly out of hospital
SIR – It’s important that we attempt to tackle the “revolving door” of people often returning to hospital. Some of the solutions lie outside hospital.
Many things can be done in the community to avoid unnecessary
re-admissions, such as making sure that care-home residents can get a choice of GP, one they choose, or one that the home already works with.
Medication and infection control should also be top of the list of care staff who visit people in their own homes.
Some hospital admissions are necessary, but sub-acute conditions don’t always need in-patient treatment. The skills, knowledge, and co-operation of health and social care staff are crucial if the system is to cope.
Chairman, Social Care Institute for Excellence
Rising fear of flying
SIR – Malcolm Watson suggests that some knowledge of the principles of flight would help people with a fear of flying. I beg to differ.
In my early twenties, when I thought myself immortal, I was content to fly in a single engine helicopter, over the jungle, sitting in an open doorway, and secured solely by a canvas harness. I subsequently became a flight safety officer and published seven books dealing with aircraft accidents.
I am now the world’s most nervous aircraft passenger and always seek to sit at the back. That is where the black box flight recorder is lodged and we all know it usually survives the accident.
Wing Commander Colin Cummings
SIR – Simon Crowley extols the virtues of Sprite as a hangover cure. I agree – a quick spin in my Austin-Healey with the top down cures any headache.
SIR – Eddie Grundy put me straight back in the Nineties when he recommended “cornflakes, very cold milk and a hefty spoon of sugar”. It worked every time.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – I was in bed suffering one Sunday morning when my sympathetic infant daughter said: “Never mind, Daddy, have some of my gripe water.” It worked.
H F Smith
SIR – I wonder whether, in writing a rape into the plot of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes was inspired by the smash-hit serial The Forsyte Saga, which in 1967 captured British televisions to the detriment of churches and pubs on Sunday evenings. The rape of Irene (Nyree Dawn Porter) by her husband Soames Forsyte (Eric Porter, no relation) was shocking. But the serial had won its huge following before this development, which had been part of John Galsworthy’s original book.
SIR – Having learnt that the cast of Downton Abbey were moved to tears by the beautiful singing of Dame Kiri te Kanawa, I eagerly anticipated her performance. Alas, it was interrupted by snippets of conversation and poor Anna’s screams. Might Dame Kiri be persuaded to sing again?
Dr Janna de Vere Green
SIR – Since the producers of Downton Abbey clearly feel that a dame enhances the genteel tone of the programme, might they consider Dame Edna in the future?
SIR – As the only place in Britain where the king of rock ’n’ roll set foot, might I propose that rather than renaming Prestwick Airport after Alex Salmond, “Elvis Presley Airport” would be a more popular choice?
Michael B Smith
SIR – Martin Bailey’s assertion that Van Gogh’s sunflowers would have been too heavy for the pot (report, October 11) is interesting but it is just a theory.
Maybe Van Gogh did as I have done in the past and simply put a heavy weight in the bottom of the vase. He may also have propped up the vase in some way but, obviously, not included this in the painting.
Don’t call investors in Royal Mail speculators
SIR – I’m someone of modest means who has only worked in the private sector. In spite of the best efforts of successive governments I have built an equally modest £200,000 self-invested pension fund over the last 40 years. I don’t agree with Royal Mail privatisation but I do need to look after myself at a time when all other investments are flat-lining.
I thought I’d use 10 per cent of the fund to buy shares in Royal Mail, but I was unsuccessful. I understand it’s far more important to reward overseas sovereign wealth funds but for Vince Cable to call people like me “spivs and speculators”; that hurts.
SIR – The vast majority of postmen are enjoying their new-found wealth after being given free shares in Royal Mail. Their planned strike will only ruin it. Funny old world.
SIR – Royal Mail needs to sustain long-term attraction for private investors while sustaining the universal service principle. To meet these challenges the VAT on extra Royal Mail services such as special delivery should be abolished in order to give the service a clear advantage over rivals.
Such a tax-free status would help provide the “juice” of the universal service while attracting vital investment.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – I find it astonishing that the Government can sell off the Royal Mail cut-price – something that is distinctly British. Yes, it is the land of opportunity – for foreign investors and the well-to-do. What will they sell off next? The National Health Service?
SIR – How long before postal charges become as incomprehensible as rail fares, gas prices and electricity tariffs?
SIR – Now that the Royal Mail has been sold off, how about the BBC?
* A Rape Crisis Network survey published recently says that almost 40pc of sexual violence against children is perpetrated by children.
Also in this section
Reflections on the referendum results
Cat furore raises questions about our morals
Animal lovers should watch how we kill hares
In an interview, a spokesperson from the Rape Crisis Network cited the availability of pornography as a probable influence on the behaviour of sexual assailants. We are indeed raising a generation of children on a diet of porn.
I was interviewed in 2001 about the early sexualisation of children. Britney was busy spanking her leather-clad bum wanting to be a slave. Things have progressed. Two words: Miley and Cyrus.
I work with a lot of teenagers in the area of sex education. These teenagers, like us, are being bombarded daily with images of sexualised women and pornography.
Both genders are learning that “this is what women are for, this is what men do, and that this is what sex is”. Many young girls genuinely believe that their value is in how they look and how much pleasure they ‘give’. Some young boys believe that their value is measured in how ‘hot’ their girlfriend is and what they “get out of her”.
We’re not sitting them down and telling them this – but then, we don’t sit down and teach them how to speak English either.
Alarmingly, some parents are complicit, albeit unconsciously. I’ve seen Facebook posts and Twitter posts, and heard jokes told by adults in front of children that normalise inappropriate words and behaviour. I know this is true. You know it, too.
The average sexual abuser of the teenage girl is now her peer, the guy who says: “If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll tell everyone you did it anyway.” Both of them are being raised in a culture that allows this.
Don’t make the assumption that this could not happen to your child.
This is an appeal to parents to talk to your boys about consent and what it means. If you don’t know how, seek advice. Talk about the difference between porn and real sex. Talk to your girls, teach them that boys’ pleasure is not their responsibility.
If we don’t do this, I have no doubt things will get even worse.
Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist & Supervisor
COUNSELLORS IN SCHOOLS
* Your report on the research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland showing one in six young people aged 11-13 was experiencing mental health problems should alarm us all. International research indicates many youth mental health problems do not go away. In order to tackle this problem, may I suggest that every primary and secondary school has a counsellor on site for one afternoon each week?
Assuming a counsellor’s fee of €150, the cost per school for a 40-week year would be €6,000. The annual cost for 4,000 schools would be €24m.
A counselling service in each primary and secondary school would yield academic and psychological benefits. Counsellors could identify issues ranging from abuse and bullying to suicidal ideation. They would help relieve the pressures on existing services and also on teachers trying to cope with pupils who are communicating their emotional distress through disruptive behaviour.
Dartry, Dublin 6
WOMEN’S ABUSE ON TV
* I am writing in response to the latest ‘Fair City’ episode featuring Paddy Bishop viciously beating his wife Vivienne with a belt.
First of all, let me say I am in no way playing the ostrich; I am familiar with the facts. In 2012, there were 14,792 incidents of domestic violence disclosed to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline. Research by the National Crime Council found that one in seven women has experienced severe abusive behaviour of a physical, sexual or emotional nature from a partner at some time in their lives.
I find it worrying that we have almost become numb or passive to these scenes in the media (including films, TV shows and video games). It is almost hard to find an action or thriller film without some sort of token rape or abusive scene against women. We must ask ourselves: what is the point of these? Who is the target audience? Does this sort of violence against women boost ratings? As a 33-year-old woman who enjoys films and TV shows, I can say with certainty I feel nauseous watching these scenes.
Yes, I am aware there is choice, but why is there a need in so many drama shows and films to portray women in these roles?
When considering the tremendous and continued growth of video-game sales, and the resulting proliferation of sexual objectification and violence against women in some, it is very worrying that a study in 2012 found that a video game depicting sexual objectification of women and violence against women resulted in an increase in rape.
Our world today is increasingly driven by a combination of information and entertainment values. Given the recent saturation of violence against women in TV dramas, films and video games, I feel it is critical we explore the impact of this and what messages are filtering into our society.
Address with editor
WHAT’S UP, ‘DOC’?
* Isn’t it about time we stopped using the title ‘junior hospital doctor’ (or the even more cumbersome ‘non-consultant hospital doctor’) and use the term ‘hospital doctors’ and ‘hospital consultants’.
And while we are at it, let us dispense with the archaic “Master” to describe the lead doctor in our maternity hospitals, especially as their patients are all female and the lead doctor in The National Maternity Hospital (Holles Street) is a woman.
Blackrock, Co Louth
1D’S GOD-GIVEN TALENTS
* I am a retired primary school principal teacher. I am a practising Catholic and would have a strong faith. I am also a pragmatic person with a sense of justice and fair play.
God has given us many gifts and talents. Some of us have talents to become teachers, lawyers, carpenters, plumbers, doctors, news reporters, TV presenters, etc. He gave those fantastic five members of One Direction the talent to make music, to sing, to entertain and to make people happy. Some of the parents and children from the First Communion Class in Raheen Gaelscoil, Limerick, happen to enjoy the brilliant talent the members of One Direction have. Which is more important: First Communion Day or a One Direction concert? No doubt it’s First Communion Day. No contest, but . . . if both can be accommodated, why not? What is wrong with moving a date? It can be done so easily and everybody is happy.
I love all kinds of music, from traditional Irish music, ballads, rock ‘n’ roll, opera and so on. And, even at my age, I enjoy the music of One Direction.
Listening to their songs makes me feel young and lively. I am not going to their concert but I know I would enjoy it if I did.
I can understand how children get excited with their music. And isn’t one of the band members an Irishman?
We should be proud of him. I always told my pupils that the three big events in your life – days that you will never forget – are your First Communion Day, your Confirmation Day and your Wedding Day. Why? Because on those special days you are the complete centre of love and attention of your family, friends and relations.
Something you will always look back on, hopefully with joy. (Not forgetting the spiritual side of those sacraments as well.)
Why not throw in a One Direction concert as well. Give the children an experience to enjoy the God-given talent of other people. It would be the Christian thing to do.
Rathcoole, Co Dublin