10 November 2013 Computer picked up
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble Leslie has been replaced by a very rude automatic navigation system. Priceless.
Quiet day post books old computer picked up
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets well over 400. Perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
James van Sweden – Obituary
James van Sweden was a garden designer whose prairie-inspired ‘New American Garden’ waged war on the well-trimmed lawn
James van Sweden Photo: ROGER FOLEY
5:49PM GMT 07 Nov 2013
James van Sweden, who has died aged 78, was one of the most important landscape and garden designers of the last half century; reacting against the ubiquitous American lawn that links house to house for miles and miles of suburbia, he and his business partner Wolfgang Oehme created “the New American Garden”, a revolutionary new style which has influenced designers and gardeners around the world.
Inspired by the wild beauty of the prairie, the New American Garden is defined by bold sweeps of herbaceous perennials, grasses and ferns evoking the plant and grass associations of the wild rather than the manicured regimentation of traditional planting. The result, according to van Sweden, was gardens that “move in the breeze and sparkle like stained glass”.
With clients ranging from the US State Department to Oprah Winfrey, their firm, Oehme, van Sweden, based in an old bank building on Washington’s Capitol Hill, became the most famous firm of garden designers in America.
Water feature at the Shumpf Garden in New York State (GAP PHOTOS/ANDREA JONES)
30 Jan 2006
26 Nov 2004
25 Sep 2009
Self-confident and extrovert, van Sweden was the architectural genius and frontman of the duo, becoming a regular on the international lecture circuit. His more taciturn partner, Wolfgang Oehme, a former nurseryman and émigré from communist East Germany, was the plantsman. Although they seldom socialised outside the office, they shared a commitment to ridding America of the British-style manicured lawn, boxy shrubs and borders of annuals that represented the typical municipal park or private garden.
The citizens of Washington were among the first to become aware of the pair’s vision, in 1977, the year their partnership began, after a severe winter had devastated the formal two-acre public garden adjoining the Federal Reserve building. Van Sweden recalled that when he received a phone call from the Reserve inviting him and Oehme to a lunch meeting, he told his partner: “Wolfgang, this is our big break. You’re going to have to wear a tie.”
Commissioned to repair the damage, Oehme and van Sweden unfurled a vivid canvas of flowering grasses and border perennials, the plants arranged in bold, sculptural, interlocking swirls within an abstract, sharp-edged, geometric ground pattern — creating a garden that continues to provide interest and beauty in every season.
James van Sweden (right) and and Wolfgang Oehme
The pair designed on a huge, American scale (for Oprah Winfrey’s garden near South Bend, Indiana, they ordered 200 trees, 70,000 perennials and 45,000 bulbs), and it was van Sweden’s attention to architectural detail that made their designs so stunning. Ground patterns executed in simple shapes — for example, clean rectangles of terrace or a swimming pool cut in the shape of a nautilus — would set up a sharp tension with natural forms which, as well as drifts of sculptural planting, might include waterfalls, ponds and vast structures of natural stone, interspersed with modern art works to provide focal points.
Van Sweden reckoned that good planting involved bold colour and plant concentrations that could be read by the eye at 50 miles per hour. “Don’t put in three, put in 300,” he would urge audiences. The principles involved applied just as much to the small garden. “You have to think big,” he explained in 1998. “Think huge leaves, enormous grasses and flowers big as dinner plates. The worst thing you can do is be ditsy.”
Although expensive at the design and planting stage, Oehme and van Sweden’s gardens were not high maintenance, as they took care to ensure that chosen plants were suited to site and climate and were as self-reliant as possible. The only large, regular task demanded of their grass and perennial landscapes was (given the absence of grazing bison) an annual strimming in early spring.
Design for a small city garden (GAP PHOTOS/NICOLA BROWNE)
The son of a builder, James Anthony van Sweden was born on February 5 1935 in the Dutch community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After taking a degree in Architecture at the University of Michigan, he did postgraduate work in city planning and landscape gardening in the Netherlands at the University of Delft. He then spent 13 years as an urban designer in Washington.
In 1970 he bought a house in the city’s Georgetown district and commissioned Wolfgang Oehme, a Baltimore-based landscape architect whom he had heard about through Dutch friends, to transform his back garden — “to make the rose bushes and grass, which required a weekly crewcut, disappear”.
He was so pleased with the results that he invited Oehme to join him in a professional partnership. For the next 30 years they worked together on everything from large parks to small city spaces.
Of all their designs, van Sweden was most proud of their plantings for Washington’s National Second World War memorial on the Mall, dedicated in 2004, where they softened the hard edges of the granite plaza with a variety of plantings and shady borders where people can retreat for quiet reflection.
Van Sweden was the author of several books, notably Gardening With Water (1995); Bold Romantic Gardens (1990, with Wolfgang Oehme and Susan Rademacher); and Architecture in the Garden (2003, with Thomas Christopher).
James van Sweden’s marriage to Linda Nordyke was dissolved. There were no children. Wolfgang Oehme died in 2011.
James van Sweden, born February 5 1935, died September 20 2013
I write as former marketing director of the Electricity Council, a position I held until 1990, when the industry was privatised (“Do Britain’s energy firms serve the public interest?”, Comment, 27 October).
The Electricity Act required the council to produce a specified return on capital, employed by taking “one year with the next”. If we had a cold winter, electricity sales went sky high and the excess profit was clawed back by lowering prices the following year.
With the present system, the companies pocket the excess and are not obliged to put any money into building new power stations. Not a single power station worthy of the name has been commissioned since the design-and-build facility in the Generating Board was disbanded on a whim of free market philosophy in 1990.
We are now told that we should shop around for cheaper prices. Surely we should be able to rely on politicians to legislate for a continuous and economic electricity supply? That’s their job. They need to stop the electricity companies’ simplistic profit maximisation of a variable energy market, which older and wiser predecessors recognised could never work without constraints.
Caring could be a real career
It was with great interest and agreement that I read Maddy Gray’s letter on caring (“Caring is demanding, skilled, vital – and sadly undervalued”), Letters). In fact, her letter points to the greatest anomaly in the social-care sector in the UK.
In order to progress in one’s career, it would be advisable for any employee to spend as little time as possible with people who need care and support. The money, prestige and opportunities lie elsewhere, often behind a computer or attending endless meetings.
Care workers do the work no one else wants to and are often treated as disposable nobodies for their efforts. Training and conditions of employment are often poor, staff turnover high and staff morale low.
There needs to be a revolution in social care, its priorities and its value base, so that care work becomes a real career option with reasonable pay, enhanced status and resources aimed or diverted towards this vital sector. Only then will the experience of vulnerable people who need care improve.
Colwyn Bay, North Wales
Our toxic education system
What are the chances of our maintained schools, colleges and universities introducing the type of innovations described in your second leader last week (“The education debate is too rigid…”)? Almost nil, because of the barrage of constantly changing government pressures, such as the national curriculum, backed by national testing, policed by Ofsted and measured by targets, test scores and league tables.
The atmosphere in these institutions is now routinely described by tutors as “toxic” and yet this is the atmosphere in which our children have to learn.
All governments since 1988 have created a culture of fear, which is inimical to the creative, independent thinking that society and business so desperately need.
This oppressive system damages everyone within it, especially the 50% every year whom it writes off as failures, but even the successes are becoming better at passing tests and poorer at learning.
Emeritus professor of education
University of London
Gielgud and a gay witch-hunt
Rachel Cooke, in reviewing Mary Renault’s The Charioteer (New Review, last week) imagines John Gielgud “having endured the humiliations of a trial” for persistently importuning, when in reality he simply pleaded guilty.
The number of indictable homosexual offences known to the police between 1945 and 1953 increased inexorably year by year. A witch-hunt was under way, orchestrated by the home secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, fortified by assize judges, magistrates, Conservative politicians, some national newspapers – especially the tabloid editor, Hugh Cudlipp.
All over England, high court judges sentenced men to prison for gay offences and suggested the country was gripped by an infectious epidemic of homosexuality.
The then editor of the Observer, David Astor, took a brave, historic stand in 1953 when he published a piece accusing some newspaper commentators of writing about homosexuality “in the rabble-rousing tone of the witch-hunt”.
Nicholas de Jongh
Mind the gap, girls
How amazing! It is now a good thing for a woman to have a gap between her thighs! (“How the ‘thigh gap’ became the latest pressure point on a woman’s self-image”, In Focus. When I was young, a defect pointed out to me once was that my inner thighs were not touching in one straight line all the way down. And I was a fashion model.
I now understand why so many photos of models and celebrities look as though they are bow-legged. They want their femurs to curve outwards. Do they not see that this spreading apart is a sign of ageing?
Are they not afraid of looking in a mirror and facing the unlovely shape known as grande arche syndrome?
Thank you for the interesting feature “How does the beleaguered BBC confront the future?” (Comment).
Eamonn Butler dismisses the BBC as a taxpayer-subsidised entertainment business, which is a bit rich, but his description of the licence fee as a poll tax is not entirely unfair. Nevertheless, while advertising or pay per view are all very well for large-audience channels, can anyone think of a way to generate significant revenue from, say, BBC4? And what of Radio 4, World Service or, in the background as I write, Radio 3?
Dispensing with the channel concept altogether only makes the problem harder for minority-interest programmes. Also, in his narrow value-for-money approach, Butler ignores the spin-off of licence-fee funded production skills and communications R&D, mentioned by Will Hutton and Jemima Kiss. Both Hutton and Mark Damazer dwell on the ever-swelling background of political denigration of the BBC and both point out that it started with the previous government. However, the present lot seems hellbent on destroying the BBC.
The BBC needs to respond to the bullying criticism it receives more robustly. It should point out that when people complain of bias, what they really mean is that they disagree with some of the BBC’s independent coverage of issues. It follows that the bias resides in the listener and viewer rather than the BBC, which bends over backwards not to approach issues with a preconceived political agenda.
The BBC should also remind people at every opportunity that broadcasting funded by advertising is not free. Every time we purchase products from companies that advertise on television or radio, we are paying for the programming.
The cost to consumers is as much, if not more, than the licence fee. Also, if the BBC were to be funded out of advertising, the increased opportunities for advertisers would certainly result in reduced revenue for all media content suppliers and an inevitable reduction in the quality and range of programmes.
The rightwing media seem to be winning their propaganda war, whether it be on immigration, people on benefits or the BBC. It’s time to fight back if we want to preserve a broadcasting institution that is admired throughout the world for its objectivity and quality.
Will Hutton points out that ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt justify policy because of their “feelings” and “beliefs”, blithely undeflected by absent or contrary evidence.
The BBC is threatened by Hunt because of the tendency to broadcast facts instead. This is so, but it feels as if I have not been able to listen to a programme such as Today since 2010 without a Tory or Liberal Democrat saying they needed to tax and cut as they have because of the mess Labour left them.
Has anybody any idea how to stop this? I know people who do not read the Observer who just do not know that a recovery was under way three years ago, until Osborne’s measures aborted it, that a number of distinguished economists have been critical of the policy and that the bulk of the increase in public-sector debt was caused by the need to cope with the crisis caused by the banks, not by Labour profligacy.
I don’t mind politicians being given the opportunity to argue otherwise, but surely they must do that.
Snapshot: Dad’s last march, for the war dead
Remembrance Sunday November 1996. I smile whenever I look at this photograph as it was the perfect reminder that Dad never quite conformed. Yes, he was marching proudly but, unlike the other men, he wasn’t wearing the official uniform of the British Legion but a blue jacket and a striped jumper, showing that this was an impromptu idea on a bright and sunny Sunday in November.
Dad was not a person for church services or religion, but something must have made him want to march with others on that day in 1996. Was it knowing he was being treated for lung cancer that made him step out for perhaps the last time?
I like to think he had a list of things he wanted to do before he died. Being part of this special day and paying his respects to his uncle Charlie who perished at Ypres in 1917, or indeed a cousin who died during the second world war, was his way of showing he cared.
Dad always surprised us in life and some months after he died in 1997 he managed to surprise me one final time, when a friend of my aunt sent me this photograph, which was taken as the men marched passed her house. Heads held high in memory of the fallen.
These same men, with whom he’d marched on that special day, stood, flags and heads bowed, paying their respects as his funeral cortege passed into Eltham crematorium nine months later.
Playlist: My son choking on stage
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
“Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah / Roma, Roma, ma / Gaga, ooh, la, la la / Want your bad romance”
There is nothing like the school talent show for keeping you on the edge of your seat. Standing at the front of the stage stood our darling Milo with a gobful of tap water. His much anticipated a cappella gargle of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance was about to begin.
It started well. So well that my wife and I gradually slid back up our seats. For gargling it was not too bad. Not exactly tuneful – but the “Roma, Roma” part was recognisable. One or two other parents even glanced over and we exchanged smiles. Then things took a turn for the worse. The gargling was replaced by a serious of suppressed choking convulsions. After a valiant effort to hold them back, an explosive cough burst from Milo’s mouth.
This was particularly unfortunate for the headmistress who was sitting opposite in the front row. She took the full force of Milo’s oral tsunami. I remember being surprised at just how wet her blouse was as she ran past. As I slid back down my seat I noticed the same parents nervously glancing over. This time we were exchanging grimaces.
Milo, meanwhile, stood rooted to the spot smiling sweetly. Someone clapped timidly followed by one or two others. After a quick bow, Milo skipped joyfully from the stage and was replaced by a girl with a recorder in one hand and castanets in the other. It was time for the spotlight to fall on another family.
Labour wants to temporarily subsidise employers into paying more than the minimum wage (“A One Nation policy”, 3 November). But such a “living wage” would attract even more unskilled migrants from within an ever expanding European Union.
There is an unwillingness across the political spectrum to acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Either curtail immigration, in which case the market will raise unskilled wages, or let business decide how many to let in.
An end to importing cheap labour from within as well as without the EU has a “democratic” cost. There will be a transfer of purchasing power from the majority “haves” to the minority “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for all who espouse One Nation cohesiveness.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
The best and most productive way of helping all workers to achieve the “Living Wage” is by raising the personal allowance to £12,000 while abolishing National Insurance contributions for such earners. It would be simple, effective, reduce the tax burden for the low paid, and does not need “Make Work Pay Contracts” that would require parliamentary committee time and bureaucratic enforcement.
No doubt many of us are happy to join Archie Bland (3 November) in sneering at the fact-distorting bigotry of Richard Littlejohn. But it is surely an indictment of the British public that the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday have a bigger circulation than any other “newspaper” except The Sun/Sun on Sunday – almost certainly bigger than all the centre-left-liberal leaning nationals put together.
Littlejohn is one of their star writers, with a tone and content that typifies the Mail’s output. Are we a nation of bigots? I don’t believe so, but it seems that a huge section of the press is trying very hard to turn us into one.
“Ethics” can be defined as a civil code of behaviour considered correct. This must encompass honesty and integrity. Given this I would be interested to hear why Paul Vallely (3 November), the visiting professor of public ethics at the University of Chester, believes that Sharon Shoesmith should have resigned. He might explain why she should be singled out and yet the head of the police service and the head of the NHS should remain in post. Maybe he could explain why the Minister for children should not resign when we all know the real problem is that social services are grossly under-funded and social workers are stretched to exhaustion. Maybe he has forgotten that honesty and integrity go hand in hand with ethics.
We’re told “Mitchell police to face further investigation” (3 November) but if the original investigation into “Plebgate” had been conducted correctly then so much time and attention would not have been wasted.
Andrew Mitchell is guilty of swearing at the officers who dealt with him in Downing Street, the officers are guilty of lying that he called them plebs, and the media are guilty of blowing the story out of proportion over one word. Being verbally abusive to police would be enough for anyone to be arrested and charged with verbal assault. You’d think “pleb” would go unnoticed.
DJ Taylor’s article on 3 November got two facts wrong. The 67,000 inhabitants of King’s Lynn voted in a poll against the incinerator in March 2011, hardly recently. The incinerator has not been built yet, planning permission given by Norfolk County Council is under review by Eric Pickles. The decision is due next year.
Planning for such schemes is very high risk, yet Norfolk did not set aside monies to cover a planning failure costs of possibly £20m, leaving them considering bankruptcy last week.
NHS miracle workers’ gift of life
HAVING recently undergone open heart surgery I was very pleased to read India Knight’s article “Hallowe’en magic: the NHS team that fixed my little girl’s heart” (Comment, last week), which reflected my modified views on the NHS.
We are all aware how eye-wateringly expensive it is — and it is sure to become more so. It is also terribly easy to lose sight, among all the scare stories, of the miraculous work these exceptional people do and the degree to which it affects ordinary people’s lives, especially when children are involved. How does one factor this into the public spending debate? Thank you for an uplifting article.
Chris Hughes, Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Giving their all
Knight’s article made me weep with joy for her. Sadly we lost our son two years ago — his cancer couldn’t be cured but the NHS did everything and more for him and we will always be grateful for having its help.
Liz Shaw, Belfast
I was both touched and heartened by Knight’s article. Last December, on a routine day at work, my wife fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a potentially fatal head injury. So began 14 days of a life-changing experience at King’s College Hospital in London.
As Knight says, every nurse and doctor stays with you. Their humility, strength and utter professionalism will never be forgotten. For a family whose life was on hold, they made a lasting impression. Thanks for reminding me of the excellence of the NHS — as Knight’s experience and my own proves, when it really matters, it is world class.
Chris Knott, Sevenoaks, Kent
Those of us who work in critical care are familiar with the good news never making it to the front page — we only hear about the bad. Knight’s praise of NHS staff is greatly appreciated.
Ian Bennun, Chudleigh, Devon
Give homeowners an incentive to downsize
I OBJECT to being called a “home hogger” because, having brought up my children in my house, I am now failing to move to a smaller property (“Got a room to spare?”, Home, last week). It is surprising that Savills estate agency is joining in this condemnation.
Winchester may well have one of the highest under-occupation levels, but this is because the prices of houses, irrespective of size, are universally high so there is little incentive to move.
Nick Boles, the minister for planning, has complained about those who object to landscapes being destroyed by large developments. The government has got its way in Winchester, though, and 2,000 houses are to be built within two decades on farmland on the outskirts of the city. This could, of course, entice the home hoggers to try something new.
Vera Bruty, Winchester, Hampshire
With historically low annuity rates, the stock market crash and minimal returns on investments, many people who own large homes are property rich but cash poor. For those in the position to downsize, the prospect of releasing cash to pay for life-improving operations, or exotic holidays, could be encouraged by government initiatives — for example, stamp-duty exemption on such deals. Think what the release of such capital would generate for the economy.
Frank Neal, Hannington, Northamptonshire
Business blueprint for EU reform
THE EU has been a force for economic and political revival on our continent. But today it is at a crossroads. With more than 5m young Europeans out of work, the eurozone crisis, economic stagnation and a growing gap between voters and the governing elite we are confronted with a stark choice: reform or decline.
As businessmen and businesswomen from successful enterprises large and small, employing hundreds of thousands of people, we are joining business leaders and entrepreneurs in Sweden and Germany to call on policymakers in national capitals and Brussels to embrace a bold reform agenda. We want an EU that:
■ Promotes growth and encourages free trade, recognising the single market as the true core of the EU
■ Regulates less but better, protecting businesses from red tape
■ Is cost-effective with a budget that spends for the future rather than funds the past
■ Is transparent and accountable to its citizens, with national parliaments remaining the lifeblood of democracy
■ Does not interfere in areas better — or equally well — handled locally or nationally.
The EU’s share of world trade has fallen by a quarter over the past decade. It’s time to raise our game. We must ensure the EU’s international competitiveness. We have tremendous strengths and skills we can still build upon.
Ahead of the European elections in May we will be mobilising business leaders and entrepreneurs everywhere to add their voice to our Open Europe agenda. Europe owes it to the next generation to reform, giving millions of Europeans a chance to fulfil their potential.
Charles Allen-Jones, Edward Atkin CBE, Founder, Avent, John Barton, Chairman, Easyjet, Peter Barton, Neville Baxter Director, RH Development, Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Chief executive, Odgers Berndtson, Karren Brady, Vice-chairman and former managing director, West Ham FC/ Birmingham FC, Dominic Burke, Group chief executive, Jardine Lloyd Thompson, Sir John Craven, Dr Peter Cruddas, Chief executive, CMC Markets, Ian Durant, Chairman, Capital & Counties Properties and Greggs, John Fifield, Chairman, Fifield Glyn, Lord Fink, Former chief executive, Man Group, Adam Fleming, Chairman, Fleming Family & Partners, Doug Flint, Group chairman, HSBC Holdings, Haruko Fukuda, Non-executive director, Investec, Dr Hermann Hauser CBE, Co-founder, Amadeus Capital Partners, Alexander Hoare, Managing partner, C Hoare & Co, John Hoerner, Former chief executive, Tesco Central European Clothing, David Hunter, Director, Investment Management, Smith and Williamson, Michael Jackson, Chairman, Elderstreet, Luke Johnson, Chairman, Risk Capital Partners, Michael Julien, Former chief executive, Storehouse, Stephen Lambert, Chief executive, Studio Lambert, Greger Larson, Partner, Stella Capital Advisors
Lord Leach of Fairford, Chairman, Open Europe, Tim Martin, Chairman, JD Weatherspoon, Sir Peter Michael CBE, Founder, Classic FM, Dale Murray CBE, Angel investor and entrepreneur, Sir Torquil Norman, President, the Roundhouse Trust, Richard Oldfield, Executive chairman, Oldfield Partners, Neil Passmore, Chief executive, Strand Partners, Sir John Peace, Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank, David Peake, Former chairman, Kleinwort Benson Group, Karl-Johan Persson, Chief executive, H&M, Olga Polizzi, Designer and hotelier, Sir Willie Purves, Former chairman and chief executive, HSBC, Nigel Rich CBE, Chairman, SEGRO, Sir John Rose, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, KG President, J Sainsbury plc, Joanna Shields, Chief executive, Tech City Investment Organisation, Charles Skinner, Chief executive, Restore
Michael Spencer, Chief executive, ICAP, Adrian Swire, Chairman, John Swire & Sons, Eldar Tuvey, Chief executive and founder, Wandera, Lord Vinson, LVO DL, Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, Chief executive, Next, Mark Woolfenden, Managing director, Afonwen Laundry.
All sign in a personal capacity.
Vilifying migrants hurts war on slavery
GEORGE ARBUTHNOTT quotes the abolitionist William Wilberforce about looking the other way on slavery (“Holy Father, we pray you grant slaves sanctuary”, Comment, last week). However, we have preferred to look the other way. Indeed the “innocence through ignorance” claimed by all in the food supply chain is part of the problem. The supermarkets at the end of that chain know the facts full well but their phoney clean paper trail gives them cover.
If your exposure is to have more impact than just finding “support in high places” the media must stop vilifying, denigrating and demonising economic migrants, and stop using them as the convenient and defenceless scapegoats. Blaming EU migrants for the failings of the NHS and the education system, or for problems relating to crime, employment, housing and the social services has meant that little priority has been given to effectively tackling criminal exploitation. However, it’s us, not them, that are to blame.
The unmanageable national debt is of our own making; its repayment may only be possible with the engagement and productivity of migrant workers.
Waclaw Slezak, Cambridge
Cats are as guilty as dogs of foul play
I QUITE agree with criticisms of dog owners who allow their pets to foul public places and leave the mess behind (“Crying foul over selfish dog owners”, Letters, last week). We are plagued with cat mess on our garden and lawns. I know that cats and their owners are not generally subject to the laws of nuisance but these pets are allowed to roam with impunity. Their habits are just as disgusting as those of their canine counterparts. Ron Naylor, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
Making a mess of things
Two types of dog walker leave excrement where it falls — the very old and the very young. The elderly, often walking with a stick, simply can’t bend down to pick it up and are from a generation that never worried too much about such things. The young, often doing the walk as an errand for their parents, have not been taught how to pick it up. Both feign deafness if you shout advice.
Katharine Long, Sevenoaks, Kent
Cat owners should remember that contact with soil contaminated by their pets’ faeces is potentially a cause of toxoplasmosis, which is especially dangerous to children in the womb.
Penny Clarke, Norwich, Norfolk
Top marks for school-run cameras
I USED to live in a London street with a primary school that my children attended (“Cameras to target mums on school run”, News, last week). During the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up the road was a no-go area for residents, with cars parked on both sides of the street and on zigzag lines by the school entrance. A child trying to cross on their own stood a good chance of being knocked over. More cameras and enforcement will help to cut down on these selfish drivers. Given that many children in London travel less than half a mile to school, the walk would do them good.
Graham Sharp, Leek, Staffordshire
Schools frequently have a small no-parking area outside their main gates in the interest of child safety, yet selfish and lazy parents choose to ignore them. Perhaps “Schools use cameras to protect children” would have been a better headline.
Martyn Beardsley, Nottingham
I have a solution for school-run parents complaining about cameras photographing their vehicles while they are dropping off children. It’s called public transport.
Simon Kenward, London SE16
Watching the BBC programme on 50 years of the National Theatre I was impressed by the output, but saddened that only a small fraction of those outside London might have been able to see the productions (“Stars fill stage for theatre’s fiftieth”, News, last week). So National it is not, although funded in part by the nation. Why cannot the BBC, another national institution, record these productions? They could be broadcast after their theatre runs are over, so as not to dilute attendance. I expect most actors would accept small royalties — compared with some BBC stars — knowing they are spreading their craft.
Ken Joy, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
A reader complains about her son’s £50,000 starting pay as a GP (“Flying doctor”, Letters, last week). Such a salary would sound very good to my daughter, a Cambridge engineering graduate who has studied for 10 years, gaining a second master’s degree and a PhD. As soon as this GP becomes a partner — possibly in two years’ time — he can look forward to £100,000 a year, and if he takes on extra work the remuneration can exceed that. And a pension awaits him in retirement.
June Clarke, Sheffield
One way to get fairer water bills would be to abolish the standing charges (“Miliband fights water firms for fairer bills”, News, last week). They are levied no matter how little water we use and do nothing to encourage economy. They can also inflate the bill by at least 10%.
Anthony Roberts, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Your correspondent Gerald Edmonds should be aware that Heathrow has been a commercial airport since 1946 (“Plane crazy”, Letters, last week) and people have bought homes on the flight path knowing that they were getting a lot more property for their money. Their protests at noise levels must therefore be balanced against their choice to live there in the first place.
David Conway, Prestwood, Buckinghamshire
There is no point in arguing that I was taught by an untrained teacher who was brilliant, or conversely that I was taught by a trained teacher who was useless (“So what if I’m 27, I got the school built”, News, last week). In the majority of cases, trained teachers are better than untrained ones. To argue otherwise is to try to get education on the cheap.
Bob Clay, Kettering, Northamptonshire
I find it very hard to believe that Helen Mirren does not appear in the first 55 names on a list of British actors most popular in America (“Old timer Bond outguns the kids”, News, October 27). Did the Americans not award her an Oscar for her role in The Queen?
Bob Hargreaves, Bury, Greater Manchester
Corrections and clarifications
The article “Camilla Long goes inside the English Defence League” (Magazine, last week) suggested that the campaign group Women Against Groomers was a “splinter” organisation of the English Defence League. This is not the case, and we apologise for the error.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to email@example.com or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
Hugh Bonneville, actor, 50; Roland Emmerich, film director, 58; Neil Gaiman, writer, 53; Eddie Irvine, racing driver, 48; Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of AK-47, 94; Greg Lake, guitarist, 66; Ennio Morricone, composer, 85; Tim Rice, lyricist, 69; Wilfried Zaha, England footballer, 21
1871 Henry Stanley finds Dr Livingstone in Tanzania; 1958 Donald Campbell raises his world water speed record to 248.62mph on Lake Coniston; 1980 Michael Foot becomes Labour leader; 1982 death of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev; 1995 the writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa is hanged in Nigeria
SIR – On Tuesday, the Gibson photographic archive of shipwrecks goes under the hammer. It is unparalleled as an archive of one family’s coverage of 125 years of maritime life and death, on a supremely dangerous part of Britain’s coast.
There has been too little recognition of how much will be lost to the nation if it falls into private hands or is sold overseas. This is not simply because of the images themselves but because of the intrinsic value of the physical archive and its unique accompanying documents.
The archive belongs in this country – most obviously, it belongs in the South West, where various museums would love to own it. In particular, the excellent Isles of Scilly Museum has been trying hard to find a benefactor to bid for the photographs. But no museum currently has that kind of money – though it might indeed be able to raise the necessary sum if given more time.
What is needed is a benefactor, someone with the imagination and generosity to buy this collection and then donate it – or at least secure it, with a view to a museum subsequently raising the money to purchase it.
Can anyone rise to this challenge?
Chairman, Steamship Shieldhall
South West Maritime History Society
Captain S R New
National Maritime Museum of Cornwall
Vice Chairman, South West Maritime History Society
Vice President, International Association of Cape Horners
Trustee, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
SIR – Sue Cameron is right to remind those wanting a future for Britain outside the EU that we would find a referendum difficult to win.
Putting to one side the inclination of voters to support the status quo, the anti-EU movement has not yet come up with a coherent picture of how a post-EU Britain would trade and operate internationally. So, together with our over-dependence on the Right of the political spectrum, we come across as a backward-looking force. In a contest between the past and the future, the latter will always win.
The anti-EU alliance must spell out that the future for Britain lies with the faster-developing world beyond Europe. As the EU becomes more centralised, Britain, being globally connected, will be subject to job-destroying demands from Brussels.
To win the referendum, we must present ourselves as a positive force for the future.
Priceless maritime archive should stay in Britain
09 Nov 2013
SIR – The CBI and leading businesses – Virgin and Nissan, to name but two – have said that leaving the EU would damage the economy. In some cases, there is a thinly veiled threat that companies might relocate operations and investment elsewhere in Europe.
But it seems that the majority of people want to be freed from the political and bureaucratic diktats of the EU. This could be achieved without compromising open borders for trade by our joining the European Free Trade Association, as four countries outside the EU already have.
SIR – Listen to Nissan.
Gustard Wood, Hertfordshire
SIR – I fail to see Nissan’s problem with being outside the EU. My new Fiat was built in Turkey.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Those undecided about membership of the EU may be becoming bewildered. Industrialists and politicians warn of dire consequences if Britain should leave. Others say Britain would be better out, because of a lack of leadership in Europe. Britain, they say, does not have to be in the EU to trade successfully, and would benefit from losing EU bureaucratic restraints.
David Cameron’s promised referendum on a “reformed EU” looks doubtful. The 2015 election is by no means safe, and José Barroso, the President of the European Commission, says negotiations will fail.
It is no wonder, then, that disillusioned voters are attracted to a party that offers an unconditional hope of a return to full democracy and home rule, even if voting for it means another Labour government.
This mess is the fault of successive governments. Even if the 2015 election is decisive, the loser may be democracy, with little hope of a referendum any time soon.
Shipbuilders grow rusty
SIR – The jobs at BAE Systems shipbuilders in Portsmouth and Glasgow could have been saved if the Ministry of Defence had placed the £452 million order for four Royal Navy tankers in Britain instead of South Korea. We have exported jobs and let highly skilled British workers lose theirs.
I wrote to the MoD to ask why they had given the order to Daewoo in South Korea. The minister responsible said that a tanker “didn’t qualify as a warship”, therefore they had to be put out to tender.
These ships are designed to “operate within theatre”, they fly the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ensign and they are fitted with a helicopter pad. If this doesn’t qualify them as warships, then weld a machine-gun to the bow and recategorise them.
Only Britain wilfully lets its manufacturing base wither by ordering foreign products. We have procured trains from Germany, ships from Korea, and RAF Chinooks from the United States, instead of building them under licence in Somerset.
The lack of an industrial policy over the last generation has seen Britain turn from a high-skills, high-wage economy to a zero‑hours, low-pay, low-skills one.
SIR – The real reason for closing BAE’s yard in Portsmouth and concentrating work on the Clyde is the Government’s cutting of the defence budget.
The Royal Navy has only 19 destroyers and frigates to meet global commitments. When the two aircraft carriers are commissioned, they will need three or four destroyers and frigates for each of their task groups. This will leave a mere 11 destroyers and frigates to meet the rest of the Navy’s commitments. Our ships can only be in one place at a time.
There will be no increase in numbers to this force when the new Type 26 frigates are operational, as they will replace the current 13 Type 23 frigates.
In our current economic plight it would be hard, but the Government should bite the bullet and put extra money into the Navy. It could then increase the number of Type 26s to at least 18. Meeting this programme would occupy all three shipyards in Portsmouth and on the Clyde.
SIR – We will never have decent private-sector pensions until MPs have to make their own arrangements.
Squash in the schedule
SIR – I played squash for years and it is one of my favourite games. But it has the televisual qualities of watching paint dry.
So what on earth is the dear old BBC doing televising an hour’s worth at a time? It seems like an effort to support a minority sport, but it just does not make good viewing. Few will know what is going on. Yet another cookery show would be better.
Gavin M Gordon
SIR – It is not only clothes that are bought, used and then returned to the shop.
As a student I worked in the carpet department of a well-known store. It was not uncommon for a customer to buy, or take away on approval, an oriental carpet, only to return it the next day after it had served its purpose at the dinner party.
SIR – The initial public offer for shares in Twitter was set at $26, and by the close of the first day’s trading they had risen to $44.90, valuing the company at $31 billion.
The company has never turned in a profit during its existence.
SIR – The rush to buy Twitter shares reminds me of an episode of Sergeant Bilko – “The Empty Store”. Bilko buys an empty shop and people fall over themselves to buy a share in it.
Marple Bridge, Cheshire
Innocent but jailed
SIR – Having corresponded regularly with Susan May and visited her during her imprisonment for the murder of her aunt, it was obvious to me that she was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice. Yet she never displayed any bitterness or self-pity. Instead, she bore an air of disbelief about her situation.
Susan’s family and friends must be hoping that the new scientific evidence regarding her case will clear her name sooner rather than later.
Susan, who always put others first, would want the lesson of her case to help prevent innocent people being convicted of crimes through flaws in police investigations.
Hove, East Sussex
How to wear a poppy
SIR – There is no “correct” orientation of the leaf on a poppy, as proved by the various orientations of the leaf on the Royal British Legion’s own website. It even has a helpful and amusing video to show you how to wear one.
SIR – The unpleasant smell emanating from some Dell laptops probably has its origin in components made from urea/formaldehyde plastic.
This problem is also met in some white lampholders, especially with tungsten filament bulbs. People have been known to take up floorboards looking for dead rats.
D I James
A fussy feline wastes more food than humans
SIR – The biggest waster of food in our house is the cat. I throw away much more than she eats. If I open a packet and she loves it, I think “Yippee”. Next time she is given it, one sniff and she runs off. I have tried giving her human equivalents such as tuna, but even that wasn’t successful.
Do other readers relate to this?
* A number of incidents in recent months show the extent to which we have come to accept huge divisions as the natural state of our society.
Also in this section
Adams, apologise to West Belfast
Poor effort from Enda
Forgotten hero of My Lai
We had the case where the parties in a broken marriage disagreed as to whether a child should go to a fee-paying or national school. The judge decided the boy deserved the best possible education and should go to the former. There seemed to be an acceptance that the state system could not provide such an education.
This was followed by a Personal Insolvency Practitioner blandly stating that practitioners (oh, how I love that word) would have to accept that professional people needed houses in keeping with their status. What really scared me most was that many of my friends felt the PIP was right.
Then we had the elderly protesting about health insurance costs. There was one poor man who explained he couldn’t afford to pay but at his age he couldn’t afford not to pay. He was clearly terrified, as if the poor houses were beckoning again. I empathised fully with him, knowing that I have good health cover myself. But later it struck me that those of us who have health cover see the public health service as a spectre without recognising that it is the only option available to the majority of our citizens.
Our society is broken and nothing will change unless we elect politicians whose fundamental belief is one of solidarity involving equality of opportunity and social cohesion. A group of such like-minded politicians should have as their first objective the provision of enough resources to see that all our children truly have the best possible education.
This should happen regardless of the cost of re-organising our educational system and of the resources required. This will not fix our society but it should in time stop it from deteriorating further.
It is in this area of solidarity, equality of opportunity and social cohesion that a gap exists for a new political party. Let’s call it ‘The New Republic’ and provide an alternative to a structure of parties which originated from a civil war or from emphasising the divisions in our society.
John F Jordan
Killiney, Co Dublin
GIVE 16-YEAR-OLDS A VOTE
* I am writing to you to express my views on the suggested change to the Constitution to lower the voting age to 16, as suggested by the Constitutional Convention.
I, for one, am extremely pro this amendment. As mature citizens, why should 16-year-olds not have the right to vote? So far, 17 nations have lowered the minimum voting age to 16 and many more, including the UK, are considering following suit. Ireland has a chance to become one of the pioneer countries in this exciting development, like we were with the smoking ban.
Sixteen is recognised by nations worldwide as an age of maturity and with it comes new entitlements. In Ireland, 16-year-olds may leave home, leave school, seek employment and pay taxes on their earnings. Is it not bizarre to be paying government taxes and to have no say in how the country is run?
I recently discussed this proposal with someone and their response was: “Sixteen-year-olds are so easily influenced that a politician could throw them a pizza party and they’d give them their vote.”
Let me ask you, how many 18-year-olds, the current legal voting age, could be swung in the same way?
Forty years ago this year Ireland lowered its legal voting age from 21 to 18. The campaign for this came under much scrutiny, with people saying 18 was far too early to vote.
According to various government websites worldwide on the development of a child, by the age of 16 they are physically and cognitively developed. So, why not?
‘TELLING TALES’ IN DAIL
* Now TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s bill to legalise cannabis has been defeated in the Dail, will he carry out his threat to report TDs who have previously used cannabis? As I see it, there is little to be gained from this bar to highlight the hypocrisy of some of our parliamentary members. But then aren’t we already aware of the hypocrisy, nepotism, and self-interest prevalent in our political system. No, it would only come across as being petty and ‘telling tales’. Article 15.13 of our Constitution which allows members to speak freely in the Dail without fear of prosecution is often used too freely and is better left for the expose of more serious matters.
Dunleer, Co Louth
* So, Ming’s a ‘grass’ now, I wonder will he do his public duty and name the lads he bought the gear from in the past.
REFORMING THE BULLIES
* Your editorial on November 5 noted that the chief schools inspector’s recent report on education found problems relating to maths and Irish and widespread parental dissatisfaction at the response to the problematic area of bullying.
You conclude the editorial by stating that reforms are needed and suggest that maths and Irish would seem like a good starting point. Perhaps maths, Irish and bullying would be an even better starting point.
Dr David Joyce
Malahide, Co Dublin
THE TROIKA BLEW IT
* I doubt I am alone in being negative about life post-troika. I certainly don’t share Michael Noonan’s enthusiasm to wave goodbye to Ajai.
As long as they cast a stern shadow over our errant parliamentarians there was always a chance of institutional reform. Sadly they limited their brief to meeting crude spending reduction targets but, a lot of our misspending is structurally embedded in the dysfunctional apparatus of the State and allied sectors. While the troika criticised these fully and publicly, they did not insist on reform even though they were the paymasters.
This was an opportunity to uproot all the chaos and self-interest and start all over again with a blank page.
A SOCIETY THAT ‘CARES’
* With the autumn rugby internationals about to begin, this might be a good moment to ask do the banks still have their corporate boxes in our two major stadiums. If they do, why?
In the next couple of days, free tickets will be awarded to those who can already afford to pay for their own tickets, while Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital advertises on the radio for funding for its hard-pressed services. Makes you proud to be part of a caring society.
Sandyford, Dublin 18
LET US DREAM OF FRANCE
* So the FAI has announced to the world of soccer its dream team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. A pairing of unparallel diversity, one can’t stand still, while the other can’t stand still in a job for too long.
Gentlemen, you have both accepted the top positions in Irish sport but be warned, soccer can be a wicked, soulless mistress whose scorn brings misery and abandonment to her blind, pitiful minions.
Behold O’Neill and Keane, bring us back to the path of football righteousness. Wipe away the stains of sadness and despair with the glory of the magic sponge and deliver us with empathy to the European championship in France 2016.
New Ross, Wexford