14 November 2013 Hedgehog

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble Lt Murray has a rival for Ritakins affections Priceless.
Quiet day sweep leaves we spot one or perhaps two hedgehogs.
Scrabble today Mary wins though just under 400 Perhaps I’ll win tomorrow


Mavis Batey -obituary
Mavis Batey was Bletchley Park codebreaker whose Enigma breakthrough proved crucial to the success of D-Day

Mavis Batey with the Enigma machine in 2004 Photo: IAN JONES
6:58PM GMT 13 Nov 2013
Mavis Batey, who has died aged 92, was one of the leading female codebreakers at Bletchley Park, cracking the Enigma ciphers that led to the Royal Navy’s victory at Matapan, its first fleet action since Trafalgar.
She was the last of the great Bletchley “break-in” experts, those codebreakers who found their way into new codes and ciphers that had never been broken before.
Mavis Batey also played a leading role in the cracking of the extraordinarily complex German secret service, or Abwehr, Enigma. Without that break, the Double Cross deception plan which ensured the success of the D-Day landings could never have gone ahead.

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Mavis Lilian Lever was born in Dulwich, south London, on May 5 1921, the daughter of a postal worker and a seamstress. The family always went on holiday to Bournemouth, but after passing her German O Level, Mavis persuaded her parents to take her to the Rhineland.
It was this that encouraged her interest in the German Romantic poets. She was reading German at University College, London, when war broke out, and decided to break off her studies and become a nurse; but she was told that the country could make more use of her as a German linguist.
“So I thought, great,” she recalled. “This is going to be an interesting job, Mata Hari, seducing Prussian officers. But I don’t think either my legs or my German were good enough because they sent me to the Government Code & Cipher School.”
She initially worked in London, checking commercial codes and perusing the personal columns of The Times for coded spy messages. After showing promise, she was plucked out and sent to Bletchley to work in the research unit run by Dilly Knox.
Knox had led the way for the British on the breaking of the Enigma ciphers, but was now working in a cottage next to the mansion on new codes and ciphers that had not been broken by Hut 6, where the German Army and Air Force ciphers were cracked.

Mavis Batey and her husband Keith (ANDREW CROWLEY)
“It was a strange little outfit in the cottage,” Mavis said. Knox was a true eccentric, often so wrapped up in the puzzle he was working on that he would absent-mindedly stuff a lunchtime sandwich into his pipe rather than his tobacco: “Organisation is not a word you would associate with Dilly Knox. When I arrived, he said: ‘Oh, hello, we’re breaking machines, have you got a pencil?’ That was it. I was never really told what to do. I think, looking back on it, that was a great precedent in my life, because he taught me to think that you could do things yourself without always checking up to see what the book said.
“That was the way the cottage worked. We were looking at new traffic all the time or where the wheels or the wiring had been changed, or at other new techniques. So you had to work it all out yourself from scratch.”
Although only 19, Mavis began working on the updated Italian Naval Enigma machine and, in late March 1941, broke into the system, reading a message which said simply: “Today’s the day minus three.” “Why they had to say that I can’t imagine,” she recalled. “It seems rather daft, but they did. So we worked for three days. It was all the nail-biting stuff of keeping up all night working. One kept thinking: ‘Well, would one be better at it if one had a little sleep or shall we just go on?’ — and it did take nearly all of three days. Then a very, very large message came in.”

The Italians were planning to attack a Royal Navy convoy carrying supplies from Cairo to Greece, and the messages carried full details of the Italian plans for attack: “How many cruisers there were, and how many submarines were to be there and where they were to be at such and such a time, absolutely incredible that they should spell it all out.”
The intelligence was phoned through to the Admiralty and rushed out to Admiral Andrew Cunningham, commander of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. “The marvellous thing about him was that he played it extremely cool,” Mavis said. “He knew that they were going to go out and confront the Italian fleet at Matapan but he did a real Drake on them.”
The Japanese consul in Alexandria was sending the Germans reports on the movement of the Mediterranean Fleet. The consul was a keen golfer, so Cunningham ostentatiously visited the clubhouse with his clubs and an overnight bag. “He pretended he was just going to have the weekend off and made sure the Japanese spy would pass it all back,” Mavis recalled. “Then, under cover of the night, they went out and confronted the Italians.”
In a series of running battles over March 27/28 1941, Cunningham’s ships attacked the Italian vessels, sinking three heavy cruisers and two destroyers. Without radar, the Italians were caught completely by surprise, and 3,000 of their sailors were lost.
“It was very exciting stuff,” Mavis recalled. “There was a great deal of jubilation in the cottage and then Cunningham himself came to visit us to congratulate us in person.” She and another of the young women working in the cottage rushed out to the local pub to buy some wine to celebrate the victory with the admiral: “The cottage wall had just been whitewashed. Now this just shows how silly and young and giggly we were. We thought it would be jolly funny if we could talk to Admiral Cunningham and get him to lean against the wet whitewash and go away with a white stern. ”
The battle ensured that the Italians never sailed close to the Royal Navy again until Cunningham took their surrender in 1943. It remains the last fleet action to have been fought by the Royal Navy.

Mavis Batey’s photograph on the cover of Michael Smith’s book about Bletchley (ROY LETKEY)
The unusual training techniques adopted by Knox − he would ask new arrivals which way the hands of a clock went round and when they said clockwise, reply: “Not if you’re inside the clock” − ensured that Mavis Batey and the other leading woman codebreaker working for Knox, Margaret Rock, had the ability to think laterally.
Mavis Batey recalled how she reconstructed the wiring of one of the wheels from the updated Italian Enigma system from a mistake by an Italian operator who was sending a dummy test message.
The main flaw of the Enigma machine, seen by the inventors as a security-enhancing measure, was that it would never encipher a letter as itself: “I picked up this message and thought: ‘There is not a single L in this message.’ My chap had been told to send out a dummy message and he had just had a fag and pressed the last key of the middle row of his keyboard, the L. So that was the only letter that didn’t come out.”
Arguably her most important role, however, was in the collaboration with Knox and Margaret Rock on the breaking of the Enigma cipher used by the German secret service, the Abwehr.
MI5 and MI6 had captured most of the German spies sent to Britain, and those in the neutral capitals of Lisbon and Madrid, and turned them back against the Germans, feeding them false information designed to deceive them in an operation known as the Double Cross system.
But they had no idea whether or not the Germans believed this intelligence, as the Abwehr Enigma was so complex that Hut 6 had been unable to break it. It had four rotors instead of the standard three, and unlike other machines they rotated randomly with no predictable pattern.

Mavis Batey in wartime (ANDREW CROWLEY)
Knox took over the task of breaking it, using Mavis Batey and Margaret Rock as his assistants, to test out every possibility. On December 8 1941 Mavis Batey broke a message on the link between Belgrade and Berlin, allowing the reconstruction of one of the rotors.
Within days Knox and his team had broken into the Abwehr Enigma, and shortly afterwards Mavis broke a second Abwehr machine, the GGG, adding to the British ability to read the high-level Abwehr messages and confirm that the Germans did believe the phoney Double-Cross intelligence they were being fed by the double agents.
This allowed the XX Committee, which was running the double agents, to send a stream of small pieces of false intelligence that would build up a complete picture of a fictitious First US Army Group, which was forming up in East Anglia and Kent to lead the main Allied invasion force.
The false intelligence led the Germans to believe that the main force would land on the Pas de Calais rather than in Normandy. As a result Hitler insisted that two key armoured divisions were held back in the Calais area.

Mavis Batey in 1999 (ROY LETKEY)
Brigadier Bill Williams, Montgomery’s chief intelligence officer, said that without the break into the Abwehr Enigma the deception operation could not have been mounted. The forces in Calais would have moved to Normandy and could well have thrown the Allies back into the sea.
Mavis fell in love with her future husband, Keith Batey, himself one of the Bletchley “break-in” experts, after he helped her with a particularly difficult code breaking problem: “I was alone on the evening shift in the cottage and I sought the help of what Dilly called ‘one of the clever Cambridge mathematicians in Hut 6’. We put our heads together and in the calmer light of logic, and much ersatz coffee, solved the problem. Dilly made no objections to my having sought such help and when I told him I was going to marry the ‘clever mathematician from hut 6’ he gave us a lovely wedding present.”
After the war Mavis Batey brought her indefatigability to the protection of Britain’s historical gardens . Her interest began in the late 1960s, when her husband was appointed the “Secretary of the Chest”, the chief financial officer of Oxford University. They lived in a university-owned house on the park at Nuneham Courtenay and she set about ensuring that the overgrown gardens were restored to their original landscaped state.
She became the driving force behind moves by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, English Heritage and the Garden History Society to protect historical gardens. Working with the Historic Buildings Council, she instigated the formal recording of historic gardens which led to the publication of English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England in 1984. She had taken a leading role in the Garden History Society since 1971 when she became its Secretary, and was its president from 1985 until her death.
In 1977 Mavis Batey lobbied successfully for the National Land Fund, which became the National Heritage Memorial Fund, to grant-aid historic landscapes. She also led the Garden History Society’s campaign on the plight of urban parks .
She was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1985, and in 1987 was appointed MBE for services to the preservation and conservation of historic gardens.
Her books included Jane Austen and the English Landscape (1996); Alexander Pope: Poetry and Landscape (1999); and an affectionate biography of Knox, Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas (2011).
Keith Batey, with whom she had two daughters and a son, died in 2010.
Mavis Batey, born May 5 1921, died November 11 2013


It is heartening to hear Michael Gove acknowledge that his life was transformed through the skill of the social workers involved in placing him for adoption (Gove calls for radical reform of social work, 12 November). Like David Cameron’s recognition in his conference speech that social work is “a noble and demanding vocation”, Gove’s statement is in welcome contrast to the vilification of social workers in which politicians and the media too often indulge.
It’s difficult to escape the conclusion, however, that Gove’s praise amounts to little more than a cover for attacking the social science and ethical basis of the profession. He suggests, for example, that “idealistic students” are being encouraged to see service users as having been “disempowered by society” and as “victims of social injustice”. In fact, the promotion of agency, self-determination and independent living continue to be at the heart of social work education and social work practice, not least in relation to current personalisation agendas. Social work is an evidence-based profession, however. When highly respected research studies such as Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level show the extent to which inequality contributes to social problems – and when even a former Conservative prime minister laments the lack of social mobility in the UK – then social workers need to recognise this in their practice. The alternative is the kind of victim-blaming and scapegoating of poor and disabled people that too often characterises current government attacks on people on benefits.
The main problem facing the social work profession at present is not dogma, but reduced funding, low political priority, excessive caseloads and growing client demand. When the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that austerity policies will push an extra 200,000 children below the poverty line, and when more than half a million people are forced to rely on food banks, then to suggest that social problems are primarily the result of people making “the wrong choices” underlines the extent to which the world inhabited by Gove and his public-school colleagues is a very different one from that inhabited by most of us, especially those needing social work support.
Professor Iain Ferguson University of the West of Scotland
Professor Susan White University of Birmingham
Emeritus Professor Ann Davis University of Birmingham
Professor Brid Featherstone Open University
Professor Vivienne Cree University of Edinburgh
Professor Nigel Parton University of Huddersfield
Professor Imogen Taylor University of Sussex
Professor Mike Fisher University of Bedfordshire
Professor Brigid Daniel University of Stirling
Professor Tim Kelly University of Dundee
Professor Ian Butler University of Bath
Emeritus professor John Harris University of Warwick
Professor Peter Beresford Brunel University
Professor Michael Lavalette Liverpool Hope University
Professor Stephen Webb Glasgow Caledonian University
Professor Jim Campbell Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Ravinder Barn Royal Holloway, University of London
Professor Jane Tunstill Royal Holloway University
Professor Jonathan Scourfield University of Cardiff
Professor Margaret Holloway University of Hull
Professor Jonathan Parker Bournemouth University
Professor Aidan Worsley University of Central Lancashire
Professor Nigel Thomas University of Central Lancashire
Professor Hugh McLaughlin Manchester Metropolitan University
Professor Brian Littlechild University of Hertfordshire
Professor Kirsten Stalker University of Strathclyde
Professor Shula Ramon Anglia Ruskin University
Professor Nina Biehal University of York
Professor June Thoburn University of East Anglia
Professor Roger Evans Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Jan Horwath University of Sheffield
Professor Elaine Sharland University of Sussex
Professor Kate Wilson University of Nottingham
Professor Marion Brandon University of East Anglia
Dr Terry Murphy Teeside University
Mo McPhail Open University (Scotland)
Linda Walker University of Dundee
Mark Smith University of Edinburgh
Di Bailey Nottingham Trent University
Ailsa Stewart University of Strathclyde
Neil Quinn University of Strathclyde
Beth Weaver University of Strathclyde
Evelyn Vrouwenfelder University of Strathclyde
Barrie Levine Glasgow Caledonian University
Vasilios Ioakimidis University of Durham
Di Bailey Nottingham Trent University
Simon Cardy Advanced social work practitioner, Wolverhampton
• Having run into near-disaster with education reforms based on trying to create the conditions he benefited from, it’s alarming that Michael Gove is using the same recipe for social work. Having worked in both education and social work over 40 years, I know that assuming everyone responds as you do is generally naïve and stupid. We all have our own preferred ways of learning and developing, and the skilled worker has to uncover the right approach for each individual. Let those who understand the work define the necessary skills, while Gove meets his political obligations to supply the necessary resources. A good starting point would be to find out the size and complexity of the caseloads of the social workers he admires from his past. As resources become increasingly scarce, each worker takes on more cases. At the same time, authorities ration resources by taking on fewer clients overall. While this can sound like an attempt to rebalance, in reality only the more complex and time-consuming cases are left. I wonder how much time social workers get today to spend on placements that are going well.
Roy Grimwood
Market Drayton, Shropshire

David Cameron is to be congratulated for being the first British prime minister to visit the north of Sri Lanka since the country’s independence in 1948 and seeing for himself how it has developed following the end of the long civil war there (Report, 12 November). As an organisation which has worked with communities here since 1989, we know he will see a country which is rapidly lifting itself out of poverty, but also one where there are still allegations of human rights violations from the war which need to be investigated.
The Commonwealth People’s Forum has now concluded its reflections on equitable growth and inclusive development beyond 2015, and some delegates will be visiting the north. However, in the next 55 years the greatest threat to Sri Lanka will be not be from war, but from climate change. Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and weather-related disasters have the potential to set back any gains made in agriculture, fisheries and even services such as tourism. It is therefore essential that progress is made in agreeing a legally binding climate-change treaty at the UN talks in Poland and that adaptation rises up the political agenda of the conference. As the devastating typhoon which has hit the Philippines has shown, the need for global action to combat the effects of climate change on islands has become urgent.
Margaret Gardner
Practical Action, Colombo, Sri Lanka
• Given the terrible situation in the Philippines, I have emailed the BBC asking that they give over all the money raised by the Children in Need appeal on Friday to the children and people of the Philippines. I hope there isn’t a child in Britain as needy as they are.
Gary Staniland
Timperlay, Cheshire

Jonathan Jones is, I fear, rather simplistic in his brief accounts of artists’ political sympathies (We’d rather side with bankers than vegans, G2, 7 November). The value of an artist’s work can seldom be related to their political views; they are creatures of their time. Degas expressed the anti-semitic views common in his social circle, but apart from his Bourse paintings, his art is no more redolent of anti-semitism than Pissaro’s is of his anarchism. As for poor old Gilray, in a time of economic hardship for caricature engravers, he was a hired lackey of the government, whose anti-democratic fervour matched his equally savage psychotic state, to which he eventually succumbed. Friedrich’s art was fundamentally religious, but he shared the idealist Germanic romanticism of his contemporaries, whose bastard child, in return, fathered Hitler. I think Anselm Kiefer, a great and thoughtful artist, was demonstrating how the Nazis corrupted Friedrich’s imagery, as they corrupted everything they touched. Nolde, a believer in this corrupted German romantic nationalism, escaped it by resorting only to brooding northern landscapes.
Jones’s account of the case against Goya is almost a caricature. Goya was a salaried court painter, dependent on royal and aristocratic patronage, just as his contemporary Beethoven was. Goya had no political views, in the modern sense, but his entire oeuvre might be summed up in the caption to one of the so-called Disasters of War: “This I saw.” Some of the tapestry cartoons and the Burial of the Sardine, painted to reflect court taste, are an exception, but when one examines the Caprichos, for example, we find an acute observer who excoriated the ills of society. It was in his old age, utterly disillusioned by the hopelessness of the situation in Spain, that he executed the black paintings and sought leave to depart to Bordeaux.
As for Jones’s handful of other reactionaries, I would say that I find their art tainted and damaged by their views.
Lionel Burman
West Kirby, Wirral

• I revere Martin Scorsese, but a list of the scariest films without Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter? Sacrilege! This is the film which gave me nightmares and which I have never dared to see again. Think again, I implore you.
Gerald Kaufman
Lab, Manchester Gorton 
• Your article on Professor James Tooley (12 November ) referred to Pearson’s involvement in low-cost private schools. While we do indeed believe that private schools can play an important role, we believe firmly in the need to strengthen public education in all countries. We work in countries where we think low-cost, private schools make a tangible improvement to the life chances of many young people who would otherwise be denied a good quality affordable education. But we also continue to work positively to improve education with governments..
John Fallon
Chief executive, Pearson
• If the projected cost of building a new six-runway airport in the Thames estuary is £47.3bn (Shortcuts G2, 13 November), surely this represents far better value for money than the similar cost of HS2. Or did I miss something?
David Prothero
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
• Edward Pearce has indeed undergone a Damascene conversion (Letters, 13 November) since 1966 when he contested Blackpool South as the Labour party candidate on a manifesto that promised the abolition of both the public and grammar schools.
Tony Judge
• The article about paramedics (People are surprised at what we can do, 13 November) captured their wide range of skills. When my aged dad needed help with my mum who had fallen, he thanked the paramedics. One of them looked at a picture on the wall, which he had remarked on earlier, of a Wellington bomber, my dad’s plane in the second world war, and said: “Nothing compared to what you did for us.” At a very difficult time, that sentiment made my dad feel better. Practical skills and kindness: what a valuable combination.
Lesley Morrison
Peebles, Scottish Borders
Your article (Public sector paid big four outsourcing firms £4bn last year, NAO reveals, 12 November) highlights the need to renationalise public sector work and to take the politics out of their delivery. The Public and Commercial Services Union is the biggest union that Atos deals with in the UK. We are involved in a pay dispute conditional on our IT members giving away longstanding terms and conditions. Healthcare workers have been offered 2%, a real-terms wage cut.
Atos is a living wage employer, but it is refusing to pay the 2% to those on the living wage. Instead of being a floor that workers shouldn’t fall below, the living wage is being used as a ceiling that workers can’t get above. Atos healthcare admin staff with 20 years’ experience earn as little as £16k. Atos chief executive Thierry Breton got a 14% rise of £279,992 last year. His wage and reward package is now £2,329,250.
The company is hell bent on increasing its profit margins and satisfying “the market”. It wants to drive down the wages of already low paid staff and attack terms and conditions. From the contents of your article, it would appear that they also do this by paying no corporation tax, too.
This race to the bottom needs to stop. On 5 November, PCS members embarked on action short of strike. That action will be escalated if the company don’t see sense.
Alan Brown
Public and Commercial Services Union
• There is a new opportunity to turn the tables on the outsourcing crisis facing public service markets. New EU laws offer an important opportunity to loosen the stranglehold a small number of large firms have on public services. Those responsible for awarding contracts will be given the freedom to take into account the social and environmental value created by providers and even reserve some contracts for social enterprises – businesses that put people before shareholder profit. Crucially, commissioners will also be encouraged to consider poor performance, to stop a company winning a contract if it has a track record of delivering failed services.
The rules equip the government with the tools to dismantle these dangerous oligopolies. They must be embraced to ensure profiteering is not the driving force behind public services.
Peter Holbrook
Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK
• Zoe Williams (Want an energy revolution? Think beyond the big six, 13 November)suggests we take control of our energy ourselves. But once we had only one supplier of gas and one supplier of electricity and they did belong to us and we controlled them. Margaret Thatcher and her cronies assured us that selling them to private companies would ensure better and cheaper energy. In a fairly successful attempt to bribe a lot of people into accepting this policy, shares were sold off cheaply and those people made a quick profit by selling them on.
So gas and electricity became commodities sold at prices, not dependent on cost, but on what the companies could squeeze from people who have no choice but to pay. Williams solution of individual or community renewable schems would leave the Big Six in place. Does she believe that any of the companies work honestly and independently in an open market; that the pricing structure is really set to help us all find the best tariff; and that they are all trying their best to supply cheap energy, not to make obscene profitnd even more obscene bonuses for their executives.
Colin Tarrant
Ashbourne, Derby
• George Monbiot (Comment, 12 November) analyses how corporations have captured government through embedded lobbying. The captive, “self hating” state creates a tollbooth economy dominated by cartels such as the energy companies where we are serfs. There is also the cognitive capture of the political elite by the neoliberal ideology that pushes more “market solutions”. But recognising we live in a corporatocracy rather than a democracy is the crucial first step. Then civil society and government can push back the market, for example, by opposing the transatlantic trade and investment partnership which would cement our corporate serfdom.
Martin Large
Stroud Common Wealth

I am so grateful to John Crace for pointing out the omissions and distortions of Dominic Sandbrook’s patronising Strange Days: Cold War Britain (Last night’s TV, G2, 13 November). I was married to an ex-communist for 31 years – Professor Harold Rosen (Obituary, 8 August 2008) – who, like many others, rejected the party when Stalin’s activities were revealed. However, he never, never rejected the fundamental humanity and morality of Marxism. I remember about 20 years ago asking his lifelong friend, the late Maurice Kaufman, the polymer scientist, why he still held on to communism – a lost cause in this country. His reply: what else is there? Times haven’t changed.
In passing, I wonder what Sandbrook would have to say about my onetime neighbour Hetty Bower, a lifelong communist campaigner, who died on Tuesday night aged 108. When her obituary appears in your pages, it will sound a very different note from his discord.
Betty Rosen


Behaviour that frightens people should be taken seriously — but sufficient legal remedies are already available
Sir, It is right that behaviour that scares people from going out on to the streets should be taken seriously, but sufficient remedies are surely already available, contrary to your leading article (Nov 12). Lord Macdonald and Jacqui Cheer, Chief Constable of Cleveland (report, Nov 12), are right to query the provision in the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which replaces the ASBO test of conduct causing or likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress” with that of being merely “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance”, while also lowering the burden of proof to a balance of probabilities.
This proposal is just one of several indications that Britain is in danger of becoming a more authoritarian state. Theresa May’s intention to give herself the power to strip British passports from our own citizens even if that makes them stateless (report, Nov 12) is another.
Another of Mrs May’s proposals is for police to be empowered to apply for a Sexual Risk Order from the courts which would impose onerous restrictions on persons merely suspected of posing a risk to children but against whom there is not sufficient evidence for a prosecution (report, Oct 10). The restrictions are apparently likely to include a ban on foreign travel, a limit on internet use and a ban on being alone with a child.
Though we all wish for those who prey on children to be speedily brought to justice, such restrictions are tantamount to a serious penalty, and run contrary to the principle that no one should be punished without the offence being proved beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Similar onerous restrictions are regularly imposed for months on end by the terms of police bail on suspects against whom nothing has yet been proved. For a long time the police have also tended to make arrests far too readily. The public should put a firm brake on all this repression.
Edmund Gray
Iffley, Oxford
Sir, The timely intervention of Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer highlights the fact that much of the boisterous behaviour of teenagers can be attributed to them “growing up”. We must also recognise that these days they have fewer places where they can meet. To criminalise young people for being noisy would place a stigma on their record.
I met a man working as a jobbing gardener who told me that on leaving school all of his efforts to get a job had been in vain because he had a criminal record. Today when most employers do an automatic check on job seekers, even a minor offence could blight a young life for ever.
David Housden
Elton, Cambs
Sir, A passport is not the possession of the individual, it is the property of the Crown and may be withdrawn at any time in order to prevent them from leaving the country. This rule applies to United Kingdom native-born subjects. If someone takes United Kingdom citizenship after entering the country and behaves in the wrong way by our laws, that privilege can be removed. This does not mean that they become stateless because they still retain the nationality they were born with. That is international law. The Home Secretary does not have special laws made to do this. Those laws already exist.
Ronald Roe
London W13

David Dimbleby would not ‘have laid back and thought of Churchill’ — the war leader had a scar not a tattoo
Sir, I very much doubt that Mr Dimbleby would “have laid back and thought of Winston Churchill” as he was being tattooed (report, Nov 12). Churchill did not have any tattoo but rather a scar on the inside of his forearm. This was as a result of his providing a skin graft to a fellow soldier who was injured after the calvary charge at Omdurman.
John Seigal
London WC2

In the first episode of Dr Who, we learnt that the Tardis was broken and had stuck in the form of a police box
Sir, With the BBC under attack, I raise a concern about the threat of court action over copyright for Dr Who’s Tardis (report, Nov 11, letter Nov 13). Many will recall that, in the first episode, the Doctor said that the shape-changing mechanism in the Tardis had broken and it had settled on the form of a police box. Any claims for infringement of copyright should be made to the manufacturers of the Tardis and not to the BBC.
Antony Hurden
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

During the war, my parents could not afford school lunches so I ate bread and dripping, plus a bottle of milk
Sir, Children shunning school meals for sandwiches (report, Nov 12) raises the issue of sandwich composition. Between 1939 and 1946 my parents could not afford 6d for school lunches and I had bread and dripping sandwiches and, in season, bread and beetroot, plus a bottle of milk. The dripping came from a fatty meat ration and the beetroot from our garden. The bread was not white but “brownish” because of enrichment with grain and vitamins. This did not stop me cycling 9-10 miles daily, playing in the first XV and first XI, running a paper round and competing with those eating school lunches.
John Kirkup

I remember a childhood episode when we burnt a powder beside the bed to combat asthma — and the bed caught fire
Sir, Your letters (Nov 8, 12 & 13) evoked memories of my childhood of asthma attacks. There was another remedy which had to be ignited called Dr Schiffmann’s Asthmador. The powder was stramonium. Invariably, the attacks took place in the middle of the night. My parents would place the powder in the lid of a cocoa tin or saucer. There were two problems: the metal lid would become red hot, and the saucer would disintegrate with the heat. I vividly remember when the saucer broke up and the bed caught fire.
John J. Adams
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Litigation could destroy local health services: we should not underestimate the impact of rising financial settlements
Sir, Michael Carter (letter, Nov 12) is correct to warn that litigation could destroy local health services. As a former NHS chief executive, I recall my alarm during a study scholarship visit to the US. A lawyer displayed a poster on the office wall which read: “Help support a lawyer. Send your son to medical school”. We should not underestimate the impact of rising financial settlements.
Stuart E. Smalley
Ashbourne, Derbyshire

SIR – Rupert Christiansen describes Melton Constable Hall as a “Dutch-style mansion”. Its exterior is identical to Uppark, in West Sussex, which has been described as being in the “Christopher Wren style” and, although built in 1689, its design is attributed by the National Trust to William Talman. Stansted Park, in Hampshire, and Pynes, in Devon, are also similar in external appearance.
One wonders whether the wooden model in the Masterpieces exhibition travelled around the country in those days to be used as a pattern for these great houses.
Is there anyone who knows the full history of these places?
Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3

SIR – Sir John Major’s comments on the dominance of a private–school elite in public life are correct, but he could go further.
I lectured at one of Britain’s newer universities where almost all the students had been taught in state comprehensive schools. I was shocked by the low standards of English and grammar; many students did not understand where they were going wrong because they had not been taught the right way by their teachers. These students had been badly let down.
Interestingly, when I interviewed young people for places on higher education courses, the best applicants tended to be from local authority grammar schools in Lincolnshire, Kent and Buckinghamshire.
This should not be a surprise, and a mass return to grammar schools ought to be a priority. Why shouldn’t our children have the same quality education that benefited our former prime minister?
Guy Williams
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire
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SIR – More important than where you went to school or university is what you did when you were there.
I attended a variety of schools – mostly state, and some independent – which varied widely in quality, size, ethos, facilities and staffing. The parents of the pupils also varied widely; the idle dunces and hard-working swots came from a diversity of backgrounds.
The essential factor was whether the schools were able to motivate the students to achieve their potential – be this in the arts, practical skills, science, music or sports – rather than produce stereotypes from a standard mould.
Some attempt to spread opportunities, particularly via appropriate entrance policies, would stimulate aspirations and eventually increase social mobility. But in the end, the pupils’ output is more important than input, which is why having good teaching staff is so important.
Geoffrey Wyborn
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
SIR – Dan Hodges writes that “the gap between the richest and poorest in Britain is at its lowest level since 1986”. That’s true – up to a point. The Office for National Statistics figures to which he refers compare the average household incomes of the top and bottom 20 per cent in society. But the top 20 per cent includes a great many people who are not remotely rich.
The problem of the wealth gap actually lies in the chasm opening up between the normal 99 per cent and the ultra-privileged 1 per cent at the very top. It is the fact that this tiny economic elite is doing so well at a time when everyone else is struggling that is the cause of so much resentment towards the idea of enterprise. David Cameron’s calls for us all to “support, reward and celebrate enterprise” will fall on deaf ears unless the public feel that a fair share of the rewards will end up in their pockets, too.
David Thomas
Chichester, West Sussex
Energy market excess
SIR – I write as a former marketing director of the Electricity Council, a position I held until the industry was privatised. The 1989 Electricity Act required the chairman and members of the Electricity Council to produce a specified return on capital, obtained 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, and do not, put any money into building new power stations. Instead, we are told that we should shop around for cheaper prices for the electricity to keep us warm this winter.
Surely we should be able to rely on politicians to legislate for a continuous and economic electricity supply. They need to stop the exploitation of the population by the electricity companies’ simplistic profit maximisation in a variable energy market.
Jack Taylor
Ipswich, Suffolk
SIR – Ed Davey warns the big six energy companies that the “public are not cash cows”. Perhaps he should offer the same advice to the Coalition. Motorists, for example, pay taxes on a par with the cost of their energy bills.
Stefan Reszczynski
Margate, Kent
SIR – Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland – all countries in receipt of eurozone bail-outs – have the highest excess winter mortality in Europe. Arctic Finland has the lowest. Chilly Germany and Austria are significantly below the average.
Would leaving the eurozone be a quicker fix for the worst affected countries than global warming?
Dr John Doherty
Vienna, Austria
British engineering
SIR – In light of the Perkins review of engineering skills, the fundamental question we should be asking is: “Why aren’t we producing enough of our own engineers?”
The answer is simple. No longer required by law to teach design and technology, head teachers are choosing to drop it for cheaper, more easily staffed subjects. Over the past eight years we have seen the number of pupils taking design and technology GCSE fall by more than 200,000. Only 5 per cent of academies, 19 per cent of independent schools and 38 per cent of maintained schools now teach the subject at that level.
Our failure to produce enough home-grown engineers stems directly from ill-judged changes to our education system.
David Baker
Director, Design Education CIC
London NW11
Typhoon aid
SIR – The Government has increased its aid to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan from £6 million to £10 million. The foreign aid budget has soared from £8.5 billion in 2011 to £11.5 billion this year. Besides funding India’s space programme, what are they doing with it, if only £10 million can be found for a disaster of this magnitude?
Ian Goddard
Wickham, Hampshire
A Time Lady, please
SIR – Seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, can anyone advise me when a lady Doctor will emerge to end the male domination of the species?
Peter Dimery
Newport, Monmouthshire
Work drinking checks
SIR – It would be wrong for employers to carry out alcohol tests; staff should be encouraged to check for themselves how much they are drinking and whether this is harmful to their health. This approach is proved to help many people avoid drinking problems at an earlier stage.
About one quarter of the British workforce drink at hazardous levels, causing 40 per cent of workplace accidents. This results in 17 million lost workdays a year and costs the economy £7.3 billion. It therefore makes sense for employers to promote our voluntary self-awareness checks. This makes good business sense, as staff will be healthier and more productive if their drinking is kept within moderate levels.
Don Shenker
Alcohol Health Network
London SW1
Spontaneous presents
SIR – My wife and I ceased buying Christmas and birthday presents for each other years ago; being forced into gift-buying at a particular time misses the point of giving presents.
We still give each other gifts, but at odd times of the year. The fact that one of us has thought enough of the other to buy them a present reinforces the affection that exists between us, and the gift is appreciated all the more.
Chris Brain
Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
On the trail of snails
SIR – Hugh Bebb asks what snails are searching for when they are found in unusual places. In the summer, I replaced some old putty on my garage window. Since then, many snails could be seen eating the fresh putty. There cannot be great nutritional value in putty, but the snails must surely by now be waterproof – unlike my garage window.
Steve Revill
SIR – On my way upstairs, on a hot summer night this year, I was surprised to encounter a snail on its way down. Following its trail back up the five carpeted treads it had negotiated, I discovered it had journeyed across the landing from an open door, along a bedroom carpet and down a wall from an open front window.
I don’t know what it was looking for.
Patrick Tracey
Carlisle, Cumbria
Don’t blame Baldrick for the Great War’s image
SIR – You report that we are in danger of losing touch with the First World War because of its trivialisation by programmes such as Blackadder.
When I taught music, I collaborated with the history department on its First World War project. I regularly played the pupils extracts from Derek Jarman’s wonderful film War Requiem, set to Benjamin Britten’s composition of the same name, and parts of Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.
I recommend these pieces to anyone who needs to convey the full emotional horrors of war to a young generation.
Christopher Pratt
Dorking, Surrey
SIR – My father joined the Royal Scots regiment in 1914, was badly wounded at Ypres, spent nine months in hospital and was lucky to survive.
On returning home to Edinburgh, he wrote: “In those months, I had seen human nature stark and bare, had found courage where least expected, had witnessed the horrible and magnificent things which are done in the name of humanity, and learnt to appreciate more fully my fellow man – above all the British Tommy.”
Sheila Evill
Ingatestone, Essex
SIR – A group in our village is researching the lives behind the names on our First World War memorial. We have come across many examples of Tommy humour, in particular in relation to the anglicising of Belgian names: Wipers for Ypres, Plug Street for Ploegsteert.
At first glance the three casualty-clearing station names of Mendinghem, Dozinghem and Bandaghem appear to be Belgian names, but look again: Mending them, Dosing them and Bandage them.
Was somebody, somewhere, fooled? Are we in Stramshall the first to notice?
Howard Orme
Stramshall, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – It is with some sadness and much regret that I have observed once again the closing of gates at Lissadell House and grounds. This most famous of historical houses that gave us Eva and Constance Gore-Booth is indeed set amid beautiful lands.
I and many others have had the pleasure of walking through this estate for years. We have done so with respect and dignity. This evening I drove down to my usual spot, parked my car outside the boundaries of Lissadell, let my dog bound excitedly from the boot, only to be stopped in our tracks by a closed gate.
In years to come, the people of Sligo and elsewhere will look back to November 11th, 2013 and ask how could our legal system and the State fail to preserve the rights of the people to bask in “the light of evening, Lissadell”? To the victor the spoils, but what a hollow victory for the owners of Lissadell. – Yours, etc,
Ballinfull, Co Sligo.

Sir, – In response to Fintan O’Toole’s article (Opinion, November 12th): it gets worse. Hill sheep farmers intending to fence the uplands are not being advised by the Department of Agriculture of the requirement to apply for planning permission. We are satisfied that this is a deliberate ploy on its part.
As hillwalkers will only be too well aware, the hills are already festooned with wire. In few, if any cases, has planning permission been applied for, thus rendering virtually all this fencing illegal. The EU is monitoring the situation and is most concerned with Government’s failure to protect our landscape.
Unless we change course we could be facing huge fines. For the unfortunate hill-sheep farmers, the phrase “rock and a hard place” comes to mind!
Keep Ireland Open is calling on the Government to immediately reverse this crazy decision before any more damage is done. – Yours, etc,
Keep Ireland Open,
Butterfield Drive, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I am on regular cardiac medication and was surprised this month to find that, in spite of the drop in the price of Atorvastatin, my monthly drugs came to the usual magic €144. (Above this the DPS kicks in.) So I put my medication “out to tender” and found some surprising results.
My usual supplier wanted €144 per month, the cheapest supplier wanted €112 per month, while cherry picking the lowest price for each drug came to €88 per month. I don’t want to traipse around four different chemists so I’m settling on two suppliers at a total of €90 per month to save myself a whopping €658 per annum. Caveat emptor! – Is mise,
Springhill Park,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Stephen Collins’s thoughts on how 1916 should be commemorated should be welcomed. (“Present-day politics has no place in 1916 remembrance”, Opinion, November 9th). It is going to be a feat of high-wire casuistry for a nation looking back ruefully on a century of hardship and mismanagement – does anybody really know how many Irish people have been “disappeared” by emigration in that period, for instance – to appear to be upbeat about an event that begs so many questions.
The Big Bang of 1916 has fuelled division and discord on this island, and further afield, ever since. It is by no means established that anything like a majority of the Irish people wished to leave the union, in that particular way, and at that particular time. What is even more certain is that only a small fraction would have chosen the route hacked-out by Pearse, Connolly, and latterly Adams, et al. If “Better Together” is true for Scotland in 2013, it was true for Ireland in 1916.
Violence has been a curse on our people and those who have been its godfathers need to be constantly apprised of the cloud they have brought down on all of us. There were civilised alternatives, whatever “republican” propagandists say.
Had the people been consulted about a precipitate lurch out of the union, it is unlikely that the leaders of the carnage would have got away with the thorny way they proposed.
But no such consultation was offered. Rather than go through a hollow travesty in 2016 which puts those who oppose(d) violent methods, then and now, in the position of having to appear to be faking enthusiasm, (so as not to be accused of being West Britons, by the usual “guardians of the threshold”), for an event many wish hadn’t happened in the first place, I propose that a plebiscite be held on the role which guns, bombs, and intimidation, have played in this distressful country over the past 100 years.
Violence, and its justification, have become a cancer in our society and those who have taken any act or part in it, and the many grisly forms it which has manifested itself, have made the rest of us pay a heavy price for their two-faced and delinquent recklessness. But for the Irish people to be asked to celebrate the bitter fruits sown by the gunman is surely too much, considering the other charades they are currently being forced to go along with?
The Irish people should have been consulted about “armed struggle” in 1916.
Ask them now, in a belated bid to collectively turn a corner, and in an overdue attempt to clean out our stinking stables. – Yours, etc,
Ardmore Road,
Holywood, Co Down.

Sir, – It is Gordon Davies (November 9th), and not Rev Fr Patrick Burke (November 8th), who is breathtakingly wrong about the evolution of Catholic doctrine. His list of supposed changes in Catholic teaching is merely a misrepresentation of the fact that the church – far from being the authoritarian institution it is made out to be – often takes a very long time to make a definitive decision on a matter of controversy, during which time differing views are permitted.
He should know the celibacy requirement for priests is a matter of discipline rather than doctrine. The Vatican could choose to remove this requirement, though I think it would be a mistake to do so. The teaching of the church never allowed for abortion – he is thinking of the controversy around ensoulment, which St Thomas Aquinas believed occurred after conception. (Even the Angelic Doctor was sometimes wrong). This did not affect the fact the church always regarded abortion to be a grave moral evil. The role of Mary as the Mother of God was a matter of lively controversy in the early centuries of the church; the doctrine was only proclaimed definitively at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Other Marian doctrine such as the Immaculate Conception and her Assumption into Heaven were declared later. Although the idea that unbaptised infants could not be saved (that is, could not attain the beatific vision) was commonly held until recently, it was never a declared doctrine. The controversy over Easter is complicated and often obscure, but here again church practice evolved rather than zig-zagged.
Quite simply, when the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church solemnly declares a belief to be required as a matter of orthodoxy, she never revokes this, no matter how much pressure is put upon her to do so. This, I would argue, is one of the many signs that the church is divine in origin. – Yours, etc,
Woodford Drive,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Sir, – Delighted though I am to hear of Fergus Browne and David Jordan’s plan to reduce car traffic in Dublin City Centre (Home News, November 9th), I am dismayed to read that the mature trees lining the Liffey “would have to go”.
O’Connell Street has never recovered from the loss of its trees in 2003. I hope planners will come to recognise that trees are not merely ornamental extras to be added as an afterthought, but an integral part of the value, beauty and sustainability of a city. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – An Taoiseach celebrates his 38 years in the Dáil on Tuesday, and the question must be asked of him, what has he achieved? What legacy can he say he has left behind? I’m afraid the answer could be written on a postcard. He would have achieved more if he had stayed on as a schoolteacher – a far nobler profession. – Yours, etc,
Monastery Walk,
Dublin 22.

Sir, – A telephone conversation to a successful bidder, reputedly overheard at Christie’s the other day, “Come down and get it. Your Bacon’s Freud”. – Yours, etc,
Orwell Park View,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – $142 million at a New York auction for an Irish Bacon (Home News, November 14th). An Bord Bia must be pleased! – Yours, etc,
Meadow Vale,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

* From the mines of Australia to the endless crowds on the New York subway, a temporary subterranean people surge forward to make life above ground the reality that sprang from dreams below it.
Also in this section
There’s no good reason not to wear the poppy
Unbearable pressure on country’s youth
Now put real power in Seanad’s hands
Fleeting hopes abound again in the digital imagery of what life should be on every device that can talk, dance, and tell a story, and the imagination knows no bounds.
Yet it all remains so distant, as distant as if they were not a person but an observer without learning much at the end or at its beginning, becoming an instinctive ant that once thought it was more than that. It is only when they leave it all, its subservience to that dream that was fast becoming a nightmare, to be at one with what is so natural, so spiritual, was when it could be understood of why they were there, or where it was worth going. This place can only be nature.
In the west of Ireland, rains make hidden paths all the more hidden, melancholy bogs protected by sparse trees lie in splendid isolation and within a day all the seasons can come at once. It is here, without having to look very hard, lie angry oceans that come to perfect calm before your eyes and where to be outdoors is the only door you need to walk through. Storms can come out of nowhere and days seem to reward now and again with sun that paints a landscape anew. It is the best place to be heard above the distant memory of the crowd.
This place and how it affects its people, and those that are new to here, to return, and yet to come, will often find the soul is soothed and a journey at its end, where the ambition is somehow to stay, for nothing will ever be the same again.
Barry Clifford
Oughterard, Galway
* The rumours of a new political party have spread with the recent meeting in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, of Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley.
We Irish will always complain about the party in power but essentially we are a politically conservative nation. The emergence of a new party would almost certainly be centre-right in nature. Here, Ms Creighton and Mr Ganley perfectly fit the bill. Although they have locked horns in the past, each is both economically and socially conservative. With Lucinda at the helm we could finally have a centre-right party with a conscience. There also are many more than competent political ‘exiles’ who could form the nucleus of a new party.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* The Dail is currently examining an amended FOI bill which will, in practice, greatly increase FOI charges and bring Ireland even more out of line with international best practice in this important area.
The Government claims the average cost of an FOI request is €600 and says our economic state is the reason for increasing charges. I suspect this figure is as spurious as the €20m cost of running the Seanad.
Surely the staff in the various FOI units are permanent civil servants and get paid anyway, regardless of the number of FOI requests? The only costs relating directly to FOI requests are postage and photocopying and sometimes that won’t apply when the material is sent by email.
If the Government is so concerned about balancing the books may I suggest the abolition of tax-free ‘turning up’ money for TDs and senators who live within normal commuting distance of the Dail.
Enid O’Dowd
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
* David Quinn’s concern for children is laudable (‘Denying a child’s right to have a mother has become state policy’ Irish Independent, November 8) but his piece misses a few important facts.
First of all, there is the reality of the adoption process. With legislative change, gay couples won’t have the right to adopt – like every other applicant, they will have the right to be considered for suitability for adoption.
The adoption agencies will rightly continue to have the challenge of matching the needs of the children to prospective adoptive parents. With the pool of children available for adoption, I suspect very few children will actually end up in same-sex parent households.
When parents resort to surrogacy it must be remembered that these children are desperately wanted. They are not conceived on a whim, not the results of drunken one-night stands. It involves very careful planning and consideration.
Again, Quinn would argue that this arrangement would deliberately deprive these children of one of their natural parents. What he seems not to have considered is that without this arrangement, the child would never be conceived. So is it better never to be born at all than be raised by loving gay parents?
He concludes by urging readers to confront Enda Kenny on the “creation of motherless or fatherless children”. We must assume, therefore, that he is opposed to those lives being created at all, since they would not be created otherwise. How does this square with his firm pro-life stance?
Tony Kavanagh
Dublin 7
* ‘Time the poppy’s wilted petals of hypocrisy were thrown away’.
I think Robert Fisk misses the point completely in this article (Irish Independent, November 9).
Not only are we honouring the dead and dead heroes, but it is a national outpouring of grief. Freedom is worth fighting for. The poppy is a symbol of that.
Vincent Murray
Rathcoole, Co Dublin
* In reply to Colin Crilly (Irish Independent, November 7) the money from the sale of poppies goes to the welfare of ex-soldiers. Remembrance Day is to keep in mind that righteous people gave their day for our tomorrow. The tomorrow that we now enjoy is universal human rights in a world made safe for democracy.
I wear a poppy so others have the freedom to criticise me for doing so.
Noel Flannery
* The impressive journalist and author Robert Fisk exposes the “poppy’s petals of hypocrisy”. His anti-war article confronts militarism and its symbolism. Hence his call to “cast poppies aside”.
Fisk warns readers that “patriotism is not enough”. Above all nations stands humanity. Weapons of war, alas, offer a worldwide threat. “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”. (President John F Kennedy)
John A Barnwell
Dublin 9
* Silly season in Irish media land used to end around the end of September, but not anymore; we now get it all year round. Someone shakes a stick at Bertie Ahern in a pub and the media goes ballistic.
Actors from ‘Love/Hate’ are paraded all over the place as if they were some kind of VIPs.
Meanwhile, in the real world we must be the global laughing stock when the gardai and social services decide a conwoman aged 25 is just 15; and a Roma family are questioned because one of their children has blond hair.
But all is not lost, on the brighter side we’re having a soft winter; the church seems to now have a leader who is actually a Christian, who refuses all Vatican luxuries and cooks his own meals in the scullery. Finally, the troika have departed our shores.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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