Floor

23 November 2013 Floor

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are being fitted with the latest navigational aid, will they ever get back to Pompey? Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves Peter does the carpet tiles. I go shopping.
Wee watch Vanity Fair, variable.
Scrabble Mary wins get more than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow?

Obituary:
Olivia Robertson – Obituary
Olivia Robertson was a daughter of the Ascendancy who ran an order devoted to the ‘Divine Feminine’ from her Irish castle

Olivia Robertson with her brother Lawrence presiding over ceremonies in their temple Photo: ALAMY
5:32PM GMT 22 Nov 2013
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Olivia Robertson, who has died aged 96, was the co-founder, archpriestess and hierophant of the Fellowship of Isis, an order devoted to the worship of the “Divine Feminine”, which she ran from her haunted ancestral pile, Huntington Castle (also known as Clonegal Castle), in Co Carlow, Ireland.
A member of an old Irish Ascendancy family, Olivia Robertson had immersed herself in psychic and spiritualist studies from an early age, and had become convinced that God was a “She” after a series of visions.
About the first of these — which occurred when she was 29 – she was evasive, explaining that describing the experience to a non-mystic was like “trying to explain colour to someone born blind or a symphony to someone who’s deaf”. Whatever the details, the experience convinced her that she was “clairaudient, clairvoyant and telepathic” and set her on a religious quest.

Olivia Robertson with acolytes of the Foundation of Isis
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She continued to believe in a male God — until the Egyptian fertility goddess Isis paid her a visit. “She seemed to be made of crystallised white light,” she recalled. “Her black hair was parted in the middle and she wore a violet and pale green dress, very modern, I thought. She seemed a cross between a queen, a ballet dancer and a gym mistress… We had a long conversation, but afterwards I couldn’t remember any of it.”
Later she was visited by an Irish goddess called Dana and felt an intense happiness: “Those visions made me realise that patriarchy had taken over religion, once the domain of matriarchs… and patriarchy had led to wars, greed and exploitation of the earth.”
By coincidence, around the same time that Olivia had her realisation, her brother, Lawrence “Derry” Durdin-Robertson, “21st baron of Strathloch”, an ordained clergyman in the Church of Ireland, had also become convinced that God was a woman. An honourable man, he at once proffered his resignation to his bishop, who assured him that “there was no need”.
In 1976 Olivia, Lawrence and Lawrence’s wife, Pamela, set up the Fellowship as a movement to worship “Isis of the 10,000 Names” . “At the end of an Aeon and the beginning of the space age, the Goddess Isis is manifesting as the feminine expression of divinity,” Olivia declared.
Huntington Castle was the ideal headquarters. Built as a garrison in 1625 on the site of a 14th-century abbey, Huntington became the seat of the Esmonde family, ancestors of the Robertsons. A rambling, castellated pile, complete with suits of armour and the heads of an array of wild beasts (including a crocodile shot by Olivia’s mother), it soon attracted a following of what Olivia called “ordinary Irish psychics”. Running out of room upstairs, she and Lawrence created an underground temple in the castle dungeons, with 12 shrines (one for each sign of the zodiac) and five chapels (each consecrated to a different goddess).

Huntington Castle, Co Carlow
There Olivia and her brother would perform elaborate rituals (with an extempore liturgy described by one witness as “the kind of thing you sit through at weddings when couples insist on writing their own vows”), he in blue robes, crook and tall blue hat, she in fetching pink, glittering golden or multicoloured gowns, her wild mane of dyed black hair topped with a brass coronet; she also brandished a sacred “sistrum” — a rattle made of small cymbals set in a wooden frame.
At first locals in the tiny village of Clonegal were horrified. “They thought we were all witches. It absolutely freaked them,” Olivia recalled. “But we left the outside door of the castle open at every ceremony so they could come round and participate. We never had any secrets.”

A painting by Olivia Robertson in the temple at Huntington Castle (DENNIS MURPHY LOGIC REALITY)
It no doubt helped that the strange happenings at the castle began to attract curious tourists to the village, as well as bands of New Age spiritualists who, several times a year, converged on the castle to pray, meditate and perform in pagan dramas and tableaux. Visitors included Van Morrison, Hugh Grant and Mick Jagger, while Brigitte Bardot’s sister made two stuffed canvas dragons for the temple.
The movement did not ask too much of its followers. “Some religions preach poverty, obedience and chastity,” Olivia explained. “We believe in love and beauty and have no truck whatsoever with asceticism.” By last year the group was said to have between 20,000 and 30,000 members in 90 countries, including (surprisingly) 46 Muslim nations. “The point about the Fellowship of Isis is that we don’t interfere with anybody’s religion, they have all got something to offer,” she explained. “The only thing we don’t like is people being boiled alive or burned or having their heads chopped off, that type of thing.”

Trailer for Olivia – Priestess Of Isis, a documentary made in 2010
One of four children, Olivia Melian Robertson was born in London on Friday April 13 1917. Her father, Manning Durdin-Robertson, was an architect and a member of a distinguished Anglo-Irish family with estates in Ireland; her mother, Nora, was the daughter of Lt-Gen Sir Lawrence Parsons, a cadet of the family of the Earls of Rosse who, disappointed that she was not a son, brought her up as a boy; she shot big game, invented a fishing fly known as the Black Maria, and wrote a book of memoirs, Crowned Harp.
Family ancestors were said to include Scota, legendary queen of the Scots, and Cesara (also known as “Mrs Benson”), a niece of Noah who, watching the Ark sail past from the top of Mount Leinster, called to Noah: “It’s a soft day.” Other notables to whom the Robertsons claimed to be related included Grace O’Malley, known in Irish folklore as Grainne Mhaoil, hereditary queen of Connaught; and the Wicked Lord Rosse, founder of the infamous Hellfire Club outside Dublin, where he and his fellow clubpersons were said to have roasted his butler.
Despite these connections, for the first eight years of her life Olivia Robertson led a somewhat humdrum existence in suburban Reigate. This all changed in 1925 when her paternal grandmother died and left Huntington Castle to her father. It was not long after the Civil War — a risky time for an Anglo-Irish family to return to Ireland. “The IRA had occupied the castle, and treated it very well,” she recalled, “although they locked the cook in the dungeon, and court-martialled the butler.”
It was a confusing time for Olivia and her three siblings: “Suddenly you didn’t wear a red poppy and you didn’t do Guy Fawkes. Everything was painted green. But we children didn’t mind a bit. We decided to be Irish!”
Surrounded by literature and paintings, antique-filled interiors, and plenty of parlour spirituality, the children were able to give full vent to their imaginations. Visitors to the house included Robert Graves, WB Yeats and the nationalist mystic George Russell (or, as he liked to be known, “Æ”). Olivia remembered Maud Gonne striding around the castle like “a statue of the goddess Demeter”, but was less impressed by Æ who “just sat there and spoke about skyscrapers”.
Olivia was educated at Heathfield School, Ascot, and the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, she served briefly as a VAD nurse in Bedfordshire before returning to Ireland, where she enrolled at University College Dublin to study Art History.
After the war she did social work with families in Dublin tenements, work which inspired her to write her first book, St Malachy’s Court. She went on to write five more books, one of which — a novel, Field Of The Stranger — won the London Book Society Choice award. She also had some success as a painter: she had her first exhibition in 1938, aged 21, and would later adorn the Temple of Isis with her own visionary work.
As an Archpriestess of the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia Robertson travelled to distant temples around the world. In 1993, when the Parliament of World Religions met in Chicago, she was chosen as the representative of “neopagans” and walked in procession at the opening ceremony alongside Chicago’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Olivia Robertson never married. Her brother Lawrence made his “transition to spirit” in 1994. Announcing her death, the Fellowship of Isis website enjoined the Goddess Isis of 10,000 Names to “bless and keep her as she makes her journey into the next Spiral of the Cosmic Web”.
Olivia Robertson, born April 13 1917, died November 14 2013

Guardian:

In our brave private new world, who is now responsible for maintaining pillar boxes (Report, 21 November)? No one seems to paint them any more. Around here, most have faded to pink; only the rust is red. Will they soon be scrapped – or replaced, as telephone boxes were, in fashionable plastic? (I believe scrap metal prices are quite high at present.)
Professor John Holford
University of Nottingham
• My iPad is already frantically defining words left, right and centre as I’m battling through Will Self’s article (The permanent present, Review, 16 November) without you then misprinting global as glocal and sending me off on a wild goose chase to define another weird word I never learned on account of being off that day we did really obscure terminology. Unless glocal is actually a word. It’s not is it? Damn, it is…
Paul Simpson
Southsea, Hampshire
• It was upsetting in 1982 to hear that I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue had been replaced (Letters, 22 November) on Radio 4 by the emergency Saturday Commons debate on what to do about the Falklands invasion, until you realised that it hadn’t really.
Jonathan Taylor
Fowey, Cornwall
• The gag about Take Your Pick ran thus: Did you know Michael Miles was dead? No. Bong! The little fellow clutching the gong in the yes/no interlude was none other than Bob Danvers-Walker, the voice of Pathe News. His commentary for the newsreel issued 28 November 1963 must have been a far heavier duty than hitting the gong on Take Your Pick.
Rick Hall
Nottingham
• Why did God invent economists (Letters, 21 November)? So that weather forecasters could feel better about themselves.
Paul Spray
London
• Let’s hope that your article (This is the age of the wall, 20 November) doesn’t give Alex Salmond any ideas.
David Abbey
Egham, Surrey

Can anyone deny that Shaker Aamer is being abused and tortured in Guantánamo after hearing him call out to CBS reporter Leslie Stalh on Newsnight on 18 November? “Either you leave us to die in peace – or tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what is happening … you cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal.” This is a man who has been incarcerated in Guantánamo for 12 years without charge. Six years ago he was cleared to leave by the unanimous decision of six US security agencies, including the CIA and the FBI. David Cameron has said the UK government wants him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency. So why is Shaker still in Guantánamo? Please protest to President Obama and support the demand for Shaker’s immediate return. Tell your MP to press for the release of this brave British resident. We have to act now, to stop this gross injustice. The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign is marching in Battersea today to demand Shaker’s return to his home and family in London. We will be marking the day in November 2001 when Shaker Aamer was unlawfully abducted in Afghanistan and his nightmare in US custody began.Will he live to see it end?
Joy Hurcombe
Worthing, West Sussex
• Over the past eight years, I have used every legitimate method, including a five-day hunger strike, to highlight the abuses and torture Shaker Aamer has faced. Organisations from Amnesty to the Vatican have labelled Guantánamo a disgrace – yet all politicians lack the ability to close it. There are many difficult areas in politics, but surely releasing a man you have cleared for transfer, Mr Obama, has to be one of the easier ones?
This week also marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, delivered by Barack Obama’s hero, Abraham Lincoln. Mr Obama should reread Lincoln’s words: “A new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” These fine words which heralded the beginning of America’s long road to deal with its slave past are especially poignant for a man like Shaker, held as a 21st-century slave. Lincoln was a true leader who brought his country from being a slave state to an abolitionist one.
The question is whether Obama has Lincoln’s courage to lead his country to do the right thing. Sadly in the over six months since his most recent announcement to speed up prison transfers, we have seen precious little action by the president on this matter. That is why I, along with others, will march and rally today to call for Shaker’s immediate release to his family in south London. Yes, you can, Mr Obama. Yes, you can release Shaker.
Dr David Nicholl
Hagley, Worcestershire

In your report of prime minister’s questions (Cameron’s crack at Labour’s liaisons, 21 November), Michael White refers to the question I asked the prime minister and opines that I “had read somewhere that UK business investment lagged behind Mali and Paraguay. If you can believe that, you can believe anything. Meacher does. Cameron’s contempt was understandable”. The source I had quoted was the Economist. On 6 July it ran an article headed: “Britain’s economy: Let’s try to catch up with Mali: Why being 159th-best at investment is no way for a country to sustain a recovery.” The magazine also appended a table showing British investment levels just behind Mali, Paraguay and Guatemala, exactly as I had stated. Politicians have a lot to answer for in making PMQs no longer fit for purpose in its present form, but sketch-writers carry responsibility too by obsessing on the trivial and the personal.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West

For singing a “punk prayer” against Vladimir Putin in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, of the collective Pussy Riot, were sentenced in August 2012 to two years’ detention in a “prison colony” for “vandalism motivated by religious hate”. After having denounced the inhuman prison conditions and begun a hunger strike, Tolokonnikova, 24, mother of a five-year-old girl, was transferred 4,000 kilometres from Mordovia to the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s prison letters to Slavoj Žižek, 16 November).
According the Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Loukine, “serving her sentence in this region would contribute to her resocialisation”.
Now there is language we had not heard in Russia since the Soviet era and its hunt for all deviants. In fact, the singer of Pussy Riot has become a symbol of those repressed by the regime: gays hounded in the name of the now legalised struggle against homosexual “propaganda”, immigrant workers exploited and brutalised on the construction sites of Sochi and elsewhere, penalisation of anti-religious speech, significant ecological damage caused by construction projects undertaken without consulting local residents, the opposition muzzled, NGOs persecuted. In the face of these increasingly numerous human rights violations, Europe has remained shockingly silent.
In a letter addressed from her prison cell to the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Nadia Tolokonnikova criticises the complacency of western governments towards Vladimir Putin’s repressive and freedom-destroying policies. In particular, she writes in Philosophie magazine (November 2013): “The boycott of the Olympic Games at Sochi, in 2014, would be perceived as an ethical gesture.” As called for by Philosophie magazine, we, European intellectuals, call on our governments and all of Europe to break with their attitude of culpable tolerance and put pressure on the government of Vladimir Putin to immediately release Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina.
Russia is a constitutional republic and permanent member of the UN security council. It has signed the European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. With the Olympic Games approaching this February, it is time to give them a reminder.
Elisabeth Badinter, Pascal Bruckner, Alain Finkielkraut, Marcel Gauchet, André Glucksmann, Agnès Heller, Axel Honneth, Claude Lanzmann, Edgar Morin, Antonio Negri, Hartmut Rosa, Fernando Savater, Richard Sennett, Bernard Stiegler, Gianni Vattimo, Slavoj Žižek

Illustration by Gary Kempston
I survived cycling in London for 16 years and now I mostly drive, so I can see both sides. But Boris Johnston, Chris Boardman and the police are wrong about the causes and solutions for the recent spate of cyclist deaths (Report, 20 November). The most common scenario is when trusting cyclists (often women) advance from junctions and are poleaxed by left-turning vehicles, often lorries. Boris says wearing headphones is instrumental, without statistical evidence. Others demand that lorries have warning sounds, which would be confused with reversing alarms. And police safety officers unfairly advise cyclists to wait until the vehicles have gone ahead.
What’s clear is that commercial drivers, under massive time pressure, are prone to careless manoeuvres in cities which often kill cyclists and pedestrians. The only way to stop such deaths is to rigidly enforce the Highway Code at all levels: during driving instruction, during the driving test, and on the roads. But the presumption of guilt for the least vulnerable road user in any accident (mandatory in Europe) is essential. Only when drivers and lorry owners fear prosecution for unlawful death will they begin to take the extreme care to which cyclists and pedestrians are entitled.
Bruce Whitehead
Edinburgh
• A few days ago the Met police, checking HGVs at Vauxhall in London, found a half of them – half! – shouldn’t be on the road, mostly because the drivers had worked for more than their allowed nine hours or hadn’t taken the legally required break after four hours. Tired drivers are a danger to themselves let alone cyclists. So perhaps the current focus on improving cycle safety through traffic engineering might be missing at least some of the point. Why are commercial drivers doing this? Perhaps the intensification of work, the loss of rights and the casualisation of employment involved in the current gung-ho deregulated labour market means that they don’t have much choice. Take the stressed-out courier who arrived to collect a faulty item I was sending back the other day; she hardly had time to breathe before she rushed off in a van. She was probably paid per job, however long it took her. I’m sure she wasn’t looking out for cyclists. It’s the deregulated rat-race economy, with diminishing workers’ rights, that’s killing all of us.
Bob Reeves
London
• The idea that a rush-hour ban on lorries in city centres should come into effect is not the answer to reducing the number of cyclists being killed on our roads. As a triathlete, I regularly train on busy roads and see cyclists undertaking lorries, running lights or squeezing through tight spaces. However, in my day job I also see evidence of lorry drivers not always paying attention or simply being unable to see cyclists in blind spots. My company specialises in driver behaviour training using CCTV-based evidence. I’ve seen many cases where it is not the driver’s fault and recorded evidence has prevented numerous drivers from being blamed for accidents they did not cause.
Road safety needs to be addressed both for cyclists and drivers alike. It is not a one-way problem and both parties need to work together in order to keep safe. We need a combined effort from both sides to reduce fatalities.
Glen Mullins
Director, VUE CCTV
• Andrew Gilligan worries that recent road deaths have put people off from cycling in London. What worries me is that it was ever thought a good idea for unprotected cyclists to share the same space as heavy lorries. There will always be a small cohort of (mainly) 20-35-year-olds who live within 10 miles of their place of work or study and for whom commuting by bike is a viable proposition. If I was still a Londoner, I would be appalled that £1bn was being spent (and not very effectively) for the benefit of this minority.
The experience in other countries (G2, 21 November) shows that extending cycling beyond this core group is only really possible if there is plenty of space to totally separate cyclists from other traffic (which we do not have in our crowded city centres) and/or a law-abiding cycling culture (not!).
John Griffin
Newquay, Cornwall

While preaching to others to be accurate, John Abraham is himself inaccurate in his critique of me (Global warming and business reporting – can business news organizations achieve less than zero?, 18 November, theguardian.com). In correcting one mistake he made – by changing 3.6C to 3.6F – you only exacerbate the problem. Far from it being “unbelievable” that up to 3.6F of warming will be beneficial, this is actually the conclusion of those studies that have addressed the issue, as confirmed in recent surveys by Professor Richard Tol. Mr Abraham may not agree with those studies, but in that case he is departing from the consensus and should give reasons rather than merely stating that he finds them unbelievable. Rather than shoot the messenger, he should invite readers to read Professor Tol’s most recent paper. It is published in an excellent book edited by Bjørn Lomborg entitled How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?
As for Andrew Dessler’s critique of my remarks about feedback by water vapour and clouds, his actual words confirm that I am right that these issues are still in doubt, as confirmed by the latest report from the IPCC. Most of your readers are probably unaware of the fact that doubling carbon dioxide in itself only produces a modest warming effect of about 1.2C and that to get dangerous warming requires feedbacks from water vapour, clouds and other phenomena for which the evidence is far more doubtful. This is an area of honest disagreement between commentators, so it is misleading of Mr Abraham to shoot the messenger again.
Matt Ridley
House of Lords

Independent:

It is profoundly depressing to read that The Independent supports “giving the natural world a value” (“The price of nature”, 22 November).
The natural world has a value that is incalculable. But your editorial means backing a monetary value for it.
Already we have put up for grabs – by the world’s oligarchs, bankers, hedge-fund managers, and diverse rip-off merchants around the planet – much of our precious inheritance.
These individuals and corporations, who have managed to amass, for their private indulgence, a disproportionate part of the common weal, are using it to buy up our water, our land, our most attractive streets and squares in our capital city, and much more. Even our power has been surrendered to the Chinese.
We use animals as if they were things, with our battery farms. Plants are treated as biological mechanisms by agri-business, and our sacred Mother Earth is smothered in an obscene mound of soiled pound notes and dollar bills.
Whatever is given a monetary value is eventually sold to the highest bidder.
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham
 
Perhaps it is time for Gaia to put a price on the human race – one that emphasises what a myopic liability it is.
Michael McCarthy, London W13
The clamour of aid agencies for strategies to cope with humanitarian disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines distracts attention from the wider context that, as so often, underlies human tragedy.
This is a part of the world where relentless population growth and commercial exploitation of the natural environment have destroyed the habitats of countless species with merciless disregard, driving many to the point of extinction.
Nature is now reminding us that there are consequences to such naked self-interest and that we spurn respect for the natural order at our peril.
A Greek dramatist or biblical prophet would no doubt add that overwhelming human ambition blinds us to our own vulnerability and invites destruction.
We reap what we have sown.
Dominic Kirkham, Manchester
 
Cuts make divorce more stressful
We wish to highlight a worrying lack of awareness about the alternatives to going to court for separating couples. Despite the fact that these alternatives often reduce the stress and cost of divorce, new polling shows that the British public remain sceptical about non-court-based processes which help avoid conflict.
The problem has been exacerbated in recent months by the Government’s cuts to legal aid. They have directly resulted in fewer people having access to free legal advice, with the result that far fewer are being directed by legal professionals towards solutions other than court.
The numbers speak for themselves: publicly funded mediations are down by 40 per cent – a trend that urgently needs to be reversed.
Solutions offered by family law professionals can take away some of the difficulty of separation. So what a tragedy it is that so few people appreciate the huge benefits of these alternatives to court.
We all have a responsibility to ensure people are far better informed about these options, and minimise the stress for the couple, for their children and for their family and friends.
Rt Hon Lord Falconer  of Thoroton, Lady Butler-Sloss, Liz Edwards, Chair, Resolution, Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Relate, Bob Greig, Director, OnlyMums and OnlyDads
The reason we have ‘no wars on’
“We have the disadvantage that we actually have no wars on,” Paul Pindar told the Public Accounts Committee. What he meant was perhaps: “We have the disadvantage that Tony Blair sent soldiers to wars that were none of our business and with little public support. We have discovered that people do not like to die for lost causes.”
Simon Allen, London N2
 
Army recruitment is apparently being hit by the disadvantage that we have no wars on.
This is a bit like saying that we need more crime in order to encourage recruits to the police force, or that we should scrap health and safety to encourage recruits to the fire service.
Fewer wars: less killing and bereavement, fewer lost limbs and lost minds, less post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some disadvantage!
Sue Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Azerbaijan on journey towards democracy
I wish to express my concern about the claims in the article “The Independent is banned from Azerbaijan’s Baku World Challenge for wanting to look beyond the marketing hype”, 20 November).
First, Azerbaijan is an open country for all foreign travellers, including journalists. However, organisers of events such as Baku World Challenge have their own policy on whom to invite, which I think needs to be respected.
Regarding the media and human rights environment in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan’s strategic choice is establishing mature democracy in the country.
We are members of a range of European institutions, including the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and a strong partner with the European Union.
One of the key areas of our cooperation involves strengthening democracy and human rights.
We welcome criticism that is constructive and helpful; however, our critics should take into account the progress Azerbaijan has made in its journey towards democracy, as well as its recent achievements.
Azerbaijan has turned into a reliable member of the international community, and the government maintains its commitment to strengthening democratic standards in the country.
Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, London W8
Somali people also victims of violence
I am sorry to hear that Mark Buckmaster’s relative was killed by Somali bandits (letter, 21 November) but am saddened that his anger is as indiscriminate as the cyclone that recently hit Somalia.
The Somali people are desperately poor and most are not pirates or warlords but are themselves  victims of the terrible wars that have riven the country and led it to its failed-state condition.
Mr Buckmaster may believe their misery is deserved, but punishing them by withholding humanitarian aid when they desperately need it won’t stop piracy or terrorism.
Jonathan Wallace, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne
Failure to understand how hard life can be
I found the letter from Dan Dennis (21 November) disgusting. Doubtless, as a member of the University of Oxford, on a good salary, he can afford a nice house with a bedroom big enough for a large bed, a dialysis machine and room to swing a couple of cats as well.
Most people live in small places, with tiny rooms and often have room only for a small bed. Lack of imagination makes it impossible for people like him and those wealthy members of the Government to understand how hard life is for the majority of the nation.
I have never needed welfare – in fact, I have a degree from “the other place” and I’ve had well-paid jobs all my life – but I’ve seen enough to know how other people suffer.
Remember, “there but for the grace of God go I”.
John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire
Parable of the financial services
John Dakin writes (21 November) to profess his shock at Sean O’Grady’s supposed mea culpa on mobile phone use while driving, but that is a clear misreading of the piece. It is obviously intended as a modern parable: a metaphor for the behaviour of financial services workers.
There is the reckless  risk-taking, selfishly focused on personal gain at the expense of others; the refusal to accept complicity when it all goes horribly wrong; and the repetition of the same behaviour, even after penalties have been applied.
It’s got it all: what a wonderful article.
David Gould, Andover, Hampshire
Pleasure of shopping is disappearing
Visiting my local Asda, I was repeatedly asked if I would like to use one of its self-service tills. When I said that I preferred to be served by a real person, they looked at me rather pityingly, as if I was mad or just odd.
I realise I am probably fighting a losing battle, but it does seem sad that one of the pleasures of shopping – having a chat with a friendly member of staff – is rapidly disappearing, presumably so that these chains can employ fewer staff. 
Perhaps it is a metaphor for modern life; convenience and profit becoming more important than human contact.
Andrew Lee-Hart, Wallasey, Merseyside
An eternal problem?
Has there ever been a time when the climate was stable?

As I grew up in the Sixties I understood that I was not allowed to have sex (“do it”) until I was 16. I and my peers understood “it” to be vaginal sexual intercourse.
That gave us the freedom to experiment with sexual touching and exploration short of intercourse; to begin to enjoy and relish the feelings, get an idea of the powerful urges involved  (for both girls and boys), but still be in a position to say no with authority. Because, at least for a girl, there is a vast difference between sexual touching and intercourse.   
It would appear that the way the age of consent is now interpreted is that any sexual touching below the age of 16 is unlawful. That is unhelpful in so many ways.
It infantilises boys and girls by assuming that they are unable to trust themselves (and their choice of boy/girlfriend). It assumes that they are incapable of self-control.
It removes a girl’s chance to learn how to handle the conflict between her own immediate engendered desire and a sense of her own worth and greater destiny (because any intercourse could result in a pregnancy).
If, as seems to be argued, the current implementation also inhibits the provision of proper sexual and relationship education, then society is making problems for itself rather than reducing them by taking such a narrow attitude.
The mechanics of reproduction can be understood much earlier than the mechanics of sexual activity. Both can be understood much earlier than a young person can appreciate the role and power of sex.
Relationship education may well be better left to English and language and arts teachers – a proper reading of any worthwhile book will yield plenty of material for discussion and with a deal more subtlety than following a course in an ill-defined and vapidly expressed field entitled perhaps “communications studies” might provide.
For the record, I was raped at 12, started dating at 15, but delayed having consensual intercourse until I felt ready at 18. 
Julia Cadman, St Helens,  Merseyside
 
I was shocked and appalled to hear Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston declare that the age of consent must remain at 16 because “it is there to protect children from predatory old men”. Is there any evidence that the problem of child sexual abuse is restricted to elderly males? Are there no young males, or for that matter females, committing these crimes?
With absurd, injudicious prejudices like this on the Government benches, how can the public have confidence in efforts to deal with such damaging criminal behaviour, especially as Wollaston also garners credibility on this subject by being a medical practitioner?
Henry Page, Newhaven,  East Sussex
 
Greenpeace should learn its lesson
John Sauven of Greenpeace really should be asked to justify the risks involved in sending young passionate activists into such a dangerous situation (“Greenpeace tells of ‘huge relief’ as activists are freed”, 21 November).
International waters are very dangerous places, and from the expressions of relief from those people released on bail, they must seriously question  repeating such actions. Alexandra Harris and Kieron Bryan were clearly terrified.
No doubt Mr Sauven would have briefed them about the risks, but youthful zealotry doesn’t do rational thinking.
Surely Greenpeace could have attacked Gazprom’s actions in a safer, more public location – and created a much better effect. Gazprom has taken up sports sponsorship; why not campaign in that arena  without risking young lives?
Greenpeace has laudable objectives but does tend towards often using dangerous methods. Like all provocative pressure groups, it has its extremists; don’t let this element undo all its good work.
Greenpeace should give each of its supporters a copy of Rose George’s book Deep Sea and Foreign Going. It describes the complete lawlessness of the high seas. Contrary to current thinking that the absence of law is limited to Somalian waters, and that international maritime organisations seek out perpetrators, merchant ships are regularly attacked in many parts of the world, and crews are seized, tortured and killed.
The sea is a dangerous place; use it as your stage at your peril.
Rees Martin, London SW8
 
Wrong time to ask for an amnesty
I wonder if Northern Ireland’s Attorney General had any foreknowledge of the scheduling of the Panorama programme detailing the activities of the British Army’s Military Reaction Force (MRF).
Probably not, but it illustrates why a de facto amnesty is the very opposite of a good idea. The absence of any meaningful acknowledgement that the Army operated outside its own rules of engagement in targeting unarmed citizens not involved with paramilitary organisations continues to this day.
That a unit of the British Army was given licence to operate in such a way will surprise no one who has looked at the history of the Troubles in any depth.
This policy reflected the view held by many in the security forces that the Catholic/Nationalist community was the “problem” that needed to be solved, that the whole Catholic/Nationalist community supported the IRA, and that the best way to address terrorism was to act like a terrorist.
This led to a whole community being labelled as terrorists and to innocent men and women being killed by the forces of the state for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who served in Northern Ireland, although not while the MRF was operating, has credited their actions with being so effective that the IRA was forced to the negotiating table. Really?
And this from a man who commanded the British Army in Afghanistan, another arena in which it has been argued that the actions of foreign military forces have radicalised local communities, leading in turn to the deaths of our own forces.
Robert Hall, Stone, Staffordshire
 
Not the only one to say ‘bloody cyclists’
The plight of Emma Way, out of pocket to the tune of £637 and with over 50 per cent of the points needed for disqualification, aptly demonstrates that today’s youth are severely disadvantaged.
We old idiots fire off stupid letters to newspapers and, luckily, some kind editor saves us by simply binning the nonsense. But youngsters, instead, tweet and find themselves in a world where there is no guardian angel.
The clue is Twitter: you have to be a twit to tweet. Many motorists, myself included, complain about “bloody cyclists” but we draw the line at boasting about knocking them down. Maybe the youth of today are just too honest.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
 Boris Johnson’s latest comment (“Boris turns on cyclists with threat to ban headphones”, 20 November) is typically inane. I have cycled, on average, 100 miles a week for the best part of the past 20 years with headphones on. I can still hear the traffic, probably better than most car drivers. The major elements I use to preserve my safety are my eyes and my brain. Would Boris ban deaf people from cycling?
Jim Alexander Maidenhead
 
If cyclists should be able to hear the traffic, the same rule should apply to pedestrians and other road-users. Motorcyclists’ all-encompassing helmets must be banned. Motorists must drive with their windows open and not be allowed to have the car radio on.
Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire
 
Andrew Charters (letter, 21 November) notes the difference in attitudes towards cycling in Britain and the Netherlands. It’s well known the Dutch have much better facilities for cyclists; but perhaps not so well known is the ANWB.
The ANWB is the nearest Dutch equivalent to the AA. ANWB stands for Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond – the General Club for Everyone on Wheels – and “everyone on wheels” includes cars and cycles.
The ANWB doesn’t exhibit the selfish lobbying for motorists that the AA does, because it also represents cyclists, and that is part of the reason why there isn’t this antagonism between bike and car that we find in Britain.
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
 
Driving in heavy rain at night, on a road with long pools of darkness between streetlights, I came within a shaved inch of hitting a weaving cyclist. He was wearing dark clothes from head to foot and had no lights on his bike. Some  of these idiots really do court death.
Richard Humble, Exeter
 
Is the invisible condom a good idea?
Steve Connor (21 November) tells us the miracle of graphene is going to allow the manufacture of a condom that the wearer (and, one assumes, his partner) can neither see  nor feel. Am I alone in thinking that some small visual identifier might be in order? Or would that entirely ruin the experience?
Manda Scott, Abcott, Shropshire

Times:

New proposals will include the removal of the restricted visa for foreign domestic employees. All parties should support the Bill
Sir, Your report ( Nov 22) about the three women who have been freed from a situation of domestic servitude makes grim reading, but I believe that the practice is widespread, even if this might be an extreme case. Since last year the UK has restricted the right of domestic workers who are brought here to work for one employer by denying them the right to seek alternative employment: the visa is valid for one employer only.
This measure makes such workers vulnerable to exploitation because they have little or no bargaining power with an employer upon whose goodwill they are utterly dependent. They cannot look for another job. The victims in this case do not appear to have been affected by this particular problem but their plight was in any case very serious.
The UK has an obligation, under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which under the Human Rights Act is part of English and Scots law, to take all reasonable steps that it can to ensure effective protection against slavery, forced labour and servitude.
In the case of Ranstev v Cyprus and Russia (2010), the European Court of Human Rights made it clear that this duty entails not only having in place effective, enforceable legislation to provide the basis to protect such persons, but also to take practical steps to assist and protect such persons when their situation comes to the attention of the authorities. This appears to be happening in this case.
The Government plans to introduce a new law on slavery. I very much hope that the proposals will include the removal of the restricted visa for foreign domestic employees and that the Labour Party will support the Bill.
Professor Ryszard Piotrowicz
Member, Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
Aberystwyth University
Sir, Not only is there a visa prohibition on domestic workers changing employers, but the Government has refused to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention. A lack of rights, and enforcement of those rights, for domestic workers means a higher likelihood of extreme exploitation.
Dr Kendra Strauss
Forced Labour Monitoring Group
University of Cambridge
Sir, This was undoubtedly a horrific ordeal but what is less well understood are the ramifications for the victims. Their ordeals leave them in an extremely vulnerable position with no home, no possessions and no place in the world. Many victims of domestic slavery, who Housing for Women works with, have no recourse to public funds and are often dealing with post-traumatic stress to the extent that they may not be able to testify against their perpetrators.
The Government must appoint an anti-slavery commissioner to provide vital support for victims of slavery, and eliminate this human rights atrocity. Only with expert support such as ours, offering safe and secure accommodation, can such women reclaim their lives.
Jakki Moxham
Housing for Women
London SW9

Roma come from Hungary, Slovakia and other countries as well as Romania and represent a very small percentage of the population
Sir, Jenni Russell writes about the immigration issue (Opinion, Nov 21) and yet again in prominence is the question and impact of the Roma community. As an Englishman living in Bucharest I would confirm that the Roma have the same problem here.
The name Roma is misleading. Roma come from Hungary, Slovakia and other countries as well as Romania and represent a very small percentage of the population. It’s just unfortunate that Roma and Romania seem synonymous.
Many of the Romanians who want to emigrate are not Roma. They are hardworking, educated and ambitious and recognise that it will be many years before their country will provide the opportunities they are seeking. Wages are poor, the health service relies on bribes, teachers are badly paid and the government is failing to develop a proper infrastructure.
If I was working in the UK I would always give preference to an Eastern European for a job if they are suitably qualified. They appreciate the chance to improve their economic position.
Jonathan Youens
Bucharest

Even elderly persons walk much faster than the two miles per hour suggested by our Transport Correspondent
Sir, The photograph of Katherine Jenkins (Nov 20) was a distraction from the article to its left, “Traffic lights change ‘too fast for the elderly’ ”.
Even elderly persons, of which I am one, walk much faster than the two miles per hour suggested by your Transport Correspondent. (90cm a sec = 54m a min which is a fraction more than two miles an hour.)
Peter L. Banks
London SW15

‘Centralism will prevail as long as councils are so dependent for their resources on central government’
Sir, Philip Collins ( Opinion, Nov 22) asserts: “There is not a multitude of ways to make large service systems responsive to their citizens”. But his list omits the main one: decentralisation to elected local government.
Centralism will prevail as long as councils are so dependent for their resources on central government. Their single tax, council tax, provides only 18 per cent of their revenue, so they become supplicants for funding from central government rather than engaging in a dialogue with their citizens about local priorities. This country needs a local-government financing based on the principle of financial accountability, with decentralization of local taxation, so that local authorities would draw the bulk of their resources from their own voters through taxes whose rates they determine.
Emeritus Professor George Jones
London N19

There is a parallel with the returning International Brigade members who are now celebrated for their fight against fascism in Spain in the 1930s
Sir, Of course we need to keep an eye on returning British Muslim fighters from Syria and watch for those who would seek to harm our citizens (report, Nov 21). But I would suggest there is a parallel with the returning International Brigade members who are now celebrated for their fight against fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Many were communists and the authorities did not look on their fight with favour. But they were not out to blow us to bits in their homeland. Perhaps most Muslim fighters coming home are of a similar frame of mind. Fine for the authorities to be wary but history tells us there are many gradations of belief and it is unwise to tar all with the same extremist brush.
Peter Norman
East Grinstead, W Sussex

Telegraph:
SIR – The British Trust For Ornithology suggests that the decline in song thrushes – one of our most delightful garden birds – is due to loss of habitat. If so, why has the blackbird population not similarly declined?
I believe the decline has been caused by the vastly increased use of slug pellets during the past 40 years. Molluscs are an important part of the thrush’s diet (though they are not favoured by blackbirds), and comatose molluscs, which have ingested molluscicide, make an easy as well as a poisonous meal.
I would entreat gardeners to stop applying slug pellets and use biological control. Molluscs are nocturnal, so I go out after dark and cut them up with a knife. An increasing thrush population would help keep slugs and snails at bay.
Brian Keen
Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

Catqueen27
• 6 hours ago

A couple of hens or ducks in the garden works too. Slugs go in and eggs pop out!

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richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Sorry, I misread the headline with a lisp. So it is not about an itch from underwear?
I agree that poisons must be used cautiosly, but we have reached a stage in the far north where insecticides have been weakened so much by legislation, that it becomes very hard to control little pests.

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Ped
• 2 days ago

The greenest solution is beer traps. Slugs die happy and, if you empty the pots regularly onto the garden, the birds can have a treat as well. More work than pellets but kinder all round.
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Astrantia
• 2 days ago

If you really need to use slug pellets, put a few in a plastic bottle and lie it on its side near your hostas etc, with the bottle mouth touching the ground. The slugs will crawl into the bottle and remain there. They are out of reach of the birds and can be disposed of. I’ve given up using pellets and now grow my hostas in pots. A thick smear of Vaseline around the lower rim of the pot forms a barrier that the slugs won’t cross. Just wear plastic gloves while you’re doing the job as it’s messy to say the least!
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toots Astrantia
• 2 days ago

Astrantia: I’d prefer that people didn’t use slug pellets but if they do… yours is an excellent suggestion.

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ladyofthelake Astrantia
• 2 days ago

I have heard that a hollowed out grapefruit half works as well. The slugs are supposed to crawl under and then the grapefruit can be dumped in a bucket of water.
We don’t get a lot of slugs here so I’ve never had to try it.
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thatIIdo ladyofthelake
• a day ago

I’m totally bemused.
Is it half a grapefruit or does it half work?
Does the grapefruit poison the slug?
Does the slug suffocate inside the hollowed-out grapefruit?
Does the slug drown in the water or do you hit it over the head with the bucket?
And where do you dump the offending bucket?
If it works with a grapefruit, would an orange or lemon or lime do the job?
Do slugs crawl or do they slither?
Fortunately the answers are of no consequence to me – I don’t have a garden.
On the subject of thrushes, I saw big fat birds walking around eating scraps outside Luton airport. They looked like song or mistle thrushes, or starlings. Anyone know?
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One Last Try thatIIdo
• 19 hours ago

Could have been illegal immigrants, a lot of them live around there

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

As I said I’ve never tried this but what I gather is that you put the hollowed out half on the ground, peel side up. The slugs are attracted underneath.
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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• a day ago

OK, half of this comment has gone! What can distress anyone about a slug solution?
I originally said that when the grapefruit is full of slugs you put it in a bucket of water and the slugs drown or do the backstroke. Grapefruits are bigger than other citrus and so can collect more slugs.
Salt also kills slugs as it dries them out. Other citrus juice, especially lemon will get rid of ants.
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thatIIdo ladyofthelake
• a day ago

Slugs get a really bad time of it all round, so perhaps they were distressed. Nobody buys snail pellets do they?
And slugs are only homeless snails, when all is said and done. Slugs don’t get to ride on that nice lady’s wing mirror either.
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One Last Try thatIIdo
• 19 hours ago

I have the slug pellets, but cannot get a firearms licence for the gun to shoot them. When I said it was to shoot slugs, Mr Plod said they would be gone in 2015 anyway

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

You have made me chuckle. i can picture all the snails and slugs queuing up for a ride! 🙂

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crosscop
• 2 days ago

As an old bird-nester I can say that the Song Thrush has one of the most easily found songbird nests in the country. They start building before the leaves cover the hedges and therefore their eggs and young provide easy meals for the burgeoning number of magpies and crows.
Cambridge University did a study into the decline in House Sparrows and (surprise, surprise) found that 60% of the losses were explained by the rise in numbers of Sparrow Hawks. If they do a similar study into Song Thrushes they would no doubt find that predation on eggs and young is a major factor. But the British Trust For Ornithology will not admit that predation has any effect. They just love those predators.
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toots crosscop
• 2 days ago

crosscop.
I understood that a definitive reason for Sparrow decline hasn’t been established.
The one that seemed most plausible to me was…. unleaded fuel.
http://www.independent.co.uk/e…
Our suburban Sparrows vanished with no apparent help from Sparrow Hawks. I suspect the BTO are right about that.

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One Last Try toots
• 18 hours ago

i had to remonstrate with a Sparrowhawk. Icaught him in our garden taking a pigeon, not allowed under the bird desciption act

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peddytheviking toots
• a day ago

I have the National Collection of house sparrows visiting my garden.

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grizzly crosscop
• 2 days ago

I think you’re getting the BTO confused with the RSPB. The BTO exists to monitor the fluctuations and distribution in bird populations. They have no vested interest in any bird families over any other.
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Buzzard
• 2 days ago

Farmers also use molluscicides to keep the snails and slugs down, but these are also eaten by mice, which are eaten by barn owls and many other creatures. Poisons kill indiscriminately. Full stop.
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unimpressedone
• 2 days ago

Sharp sand, crushed eggshells and nematodes – all perfectly good alternatives.
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oldgit13
• 2 days ago

Mr Keen is undoubtedly correct. Slug pellets are often on display by the checkouts in places like B&Q so that they can be easily purchased and scattered with abandon. To my shame, I used them once, in some flowerpots. A few days later, bird droppings stained with blue dye were all around the pots. Slug pellets should be banned.
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One Last Try oldgit13
• 19 hours ago

B&Q please note that there are other slugfest retailers

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Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

Hedgehogs like slugs as well, and where did they all go to? Torremolinos, for the sun?
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phrancofile Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

Badgers eat hedgehogs among many other things and the population of badgers has increased considerably in recent years.
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toots phrancofile
• 2 days ago

That’s funny… With no hedgehogs for food… how have the guilty badgers thrived so ?

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One Last Try phrancofile
• 2 days ago

Feed slugs to badgers?

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peddytheviking One Last Try
• a day ago

Badgers also eat slugs….& earthworms.

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peddytheviking Oberstleutnant
• 2 days ago

‘Morning OL
I had a hedgehog sow in the garden for several years; one year she produced 3 youngsters. It was intriguing hearing them crunching snail shells nearby as we sat on the terrace to finish a bottle of wine on a summer evening. Unfortunately they all perished in one of the recent harsh winters.
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SIR – Benedict Brogan is right to conclude that Labour’s consistent poll lead is attributable to the Tories’ failing political message, not confidence in Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Since September, the Conservatives have given Labour a free pass on energy prices and failed to capitalise on Britain’s economic transformation from intensive care to the fastest growth in the West. Having successfully implemented neo-Thatcherite public-sector restructuring, aggressive deficit reduction, immigration curbs and radical education reforms, many Tories seem embarrassed to proclaim their achievements and reluctant to attack their opponents’ vapid soundbites.
The Conservatives average 33 per cent in the polls; while electorally precarious, this figure could recover. The Tories should approach the election offering to share the proceeds of growth and to make audacious, targeted tax cuts that raise the living standards of swing voters. This would be paid for by further public-sector efficiencies, welfare cuts and politically popular tax hikes on wealthy foreigners resident in Britain.
Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – Benedict Brogan is right when he lays the relative success of the Labour Party at the feet of the Tories. It doesn’t matter that George Osborne is right and Ed Balls is wrong. What matters is that the Tories have no story to tell because every story is negated by the Lib Dems.
Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire
Rates relief for pubs
SIR – No sector has been more burdened with business rates than Britain’s pubs.
With declining turnovers in the trade, business rates now form an ever greater part of a pub’s costs. Securing a reduction in an excessive rates bill remains far too difficult. We need greater flexibility, so that, following a material change in their turnover, pubs can apply for a review of their bill. Local authorities could also do more to help, through the wider use of discretionary rural rate relief. And small business rate relief should be extended, at least to the end of this parliament, with a saving of £27 million for the pub trade.
The Government has already cut beer duty, but more changes are needed to ensure that these community hubs thrive.
Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive, British Beer and Pub Association
London EC2
White-collar tattoos
SIR – While on holiday in Spain, I encountered an elderly gentleman by the swimming pool in what appeared to be an elaborate T-shirt (Letters, November 20). On further examination, it was a tattoo covering his body up to his neck, and down to his kneecaps and elbows. He had been a staff officer in Burma in the Second World War, and the tattooing had been done then. This gentleman had also been the senior partner in a leading accountancy company.
At a party, I met a partner in the firm who had no idea of the artistry on her fellow partner, as he never rolled up his sleeves and always wore a tie.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
Original selfie
SIR – Looking at my mother’s collection of photographs from the Thirties, I see she captioned them as: “self at”, or “self with”.
David Priscott
Lavant, West Sussex
Seven-day health care
SIR – The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges raises important issues around the implications of introducing seven-day services. The British Medical Association has also warned about the dangers of the varying quality of patient care at weekends.
Many hospitals already deliver seven-day services under the existing consultant contract; rules on doctors’ working hours are not the roadblock to extending care. Better diagnosis, social care and administrative support will be needed to deliver a fuller range of seven-day services.
Given that the NHS has finite resources, it is impossible to provide every service 24 hours a day, which is why we believe that delivering consistently high-quality emergency, urgent and acute care around the clock should be the priority.
We are committed to working with stakeholders across the NHS to make access to seven-day services a reality.
Dr Paul Flynn
Chairman, Consultants Committee, BMA
London WC1
Teenage drinking
SIR – Rosie Boycott’s account of her relationship with alcohol reflects the experience of many people who morph from social drinkers to dependent drinkers.
Ms Boycott suggests that her story might have been different had she been better informed about alcohol in her twenties. Hope UK, the drug and alcohol education charity for which I work, believes that that is already too late. Attitudes towards alcohol are entrenched during the teen years, when clever marketing and peer pressure make regular and even excessive alcohol consumption seem like the norm.
With drug and alcohol education not a high priority for many schools, it is left to the voluntary sector to ensure that young people know the down side of alcohol consumption.
Marolin Watson
London SE1
Keep smoking cool
SIR – Peter Read demands a reason for banning electronic cigarettes in his favourite coffee shop. Allowing him to play with his dummy while grown-up smokers are not permitted is to rub salt into already stinging wounds. He should be made to stand outside, like us, in the snow, rain, fog and wind.
Michael Gannon
Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire
The Church has abandoned its role in society
SIR – Whenever a fall in church attendance is mentioned, the standard establishment response is that it is a “sign of the times”. Instead, the Church should look in the mirror to see where its problems are.
The local church and priest traditionally offered counselling, guidance and comfort to parishioners. In recent years, our society has seen rises in divorce, broken homes, crime, unemployment and stress. People need help. Yet the Church seems to have abdicated its leadership role.
The needs of the people haven’t changed, but the Church has.
Phil Williams
Buckland, Buckinghamshire
SIR – A N Wilson joins Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury in fearing the extinction of the Church.
But rumours of the death of Christianity in Britain are an exaggeration. The recent London Church Census showed that church attendance in greater London grew by 16 per cent between 2005 and 2012, from 620,000 to 720,000. The number of places of Christian worship in London rose during these seven years, by 17 per cent, from 4,100 to 4,800. Churches rooted in minority ethnic communities are at the forefront of such growth. Outside London, there is both growth and decline.
There are causes for concern, but there are reasons to be cheerful, too.
Revd Dr David Goodhew
St John’s College, Durham
SIR – I go to a charismatic modern church with an ever-increasing attendance, including a large number of children. There are many interesting activities for young people, who come to church to enjoy themselves, as well as learn about Christianity. In these difficult times, many people are returning to Christianity.
Helen Piechoczek
Horsham, West Sussex

wattys123
• 10 hours ago

not hitting their immigration promise will cost the Tories – is getting to a number that is over twice what the average figure for the 90s was, really that difficult

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shirehorse
• a day ago

“I go to a charismatic modern church with an ever-increasing attendance, including a large number of children. There are many interesting activities for young people, who come to church to enjoy themselves, as well as learn about Christianity. In these difficult times, many people are returning to Christianity.”
That’s a message that should be ‘shouted from the rooftops’. The Cameron/Boles modern gay conservative party would prefer to shout about homosexuality… and take Britain further into the sewer.
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cynicalm
• a day ago

I am pleased to know that many children are attending evangelical services. They might be able to brain wash their parents into such quaint beliefs.
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JackFrost27
• 2 days ago

I notice the Bulgarian and Romanian smash and grab has already started (‘Student loans to Bulgarians and Romanians frozen’). No comments allowed on that article, perhaps the fear is that we might be ‘unpatriotic’ in our views!
The ineptitude of an organisation (Student Loans Council) to hand out loans to applicants without first establishing whether or not they are entitled them and then to have to claw the money back afterwards from three-quarters of them because they are not, is beyond belief.
Cameron encouraged pupils from India, and Osborne the Chinese, to study here, yet my son faces possible discrimination in his own country because he attends a private school. No wonder he’s applying to US universities where they want the best students at all costs.
Thanks Cameron for driving him and no doubt many other talented English pupils away!
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shirehorse JackFrost27
• a day ago

And if they keep a slave they get a bonus.

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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Michael Gannon,
I’ve invented and applied for patent protection on a cigarette complete with umbrella, windshield, wipers, de-mister and heating system. I have the design here – on the back of a fag packet, somewhere.
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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Paul Flynn,
Wasn’t Professor van Hellsing a ‘stakeholder’?
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spencerisright
• 2 days ago

One of the church’s problems is its clever idea of “reaching out”, in a very real sense, to “other faiths”, particularly islam. Of course it should be a tad more robust about these matters. For example, our church leaders could tell us exactly what the koran is, a book of lies and hate. Come on boys you can do it.
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thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

It’s a disgrace, and our politicians are to blame!
Steven Finn – a talented and highly clever Hertfordshire fast bowler – developed a fiendishly clever tactic in order to take two wickets with one ball. He would knock down the wicket at the bowler’s end, to run out the batsman backing up, and simultaneously bowl out the on-strike batsman at the other end. Ingenious! The Australians were quaking in their boots.
Then along comes the ICC(SSR) and changes the Laws so you can’t do that anymore and Finn is ‘rested’ from the England line-up for the all-important first test in Brisbane.
Any political party worth its salt should knock this outside meddling with our sovereign right to make up our own Laws on the head forthwith.
After all, we invented this game didn’t we? Its OUR game!
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danielfg thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

We invented most games, but cricket seems to be the only one which we can beat anybody in. Apart from rugby of course.
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thatIIdo danielfg
• 2 days ago

… and golf.
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danielfg thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Yes. I suppose if I stopped to think I would find more.
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oldgit13 danielfg
• 2 days ago

Sailing and cycling.
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danielfg oldgit13
• 2 days ago

As I said before, more time required for thinking!
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thatIIdo danielfg
• a day ago

And darts and cribbage.
Just think how many medals we could win if only the IOC would include our sports.
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Fairy_Hanny thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

and snooker
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grizzly thatIIdo
• 2 days ago

Broadly speaking, you’re right! ;º)
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thatIIdo grizzly
• 2 days ago

There you have the proof! Finn would have taken 10, not 5.
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mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I’m glad someone else agrees with me that people with electronic cigarettes in public look look totally stupid – like overgrown babies with dummies, and he, Michael Gannon, a smoker himself!
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mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I wonder if Phil Williams has ever bothered to go to his local CofE and ask for “counselling, guidance and comfort”??
If he has ever done so and been turned away I would more than a little bit surprised.
Maybe he just doesn’t want to go to church and thinks that the vicar should go round the whole parish every day knocking on every door and asking if everything is OK?
Admittedly some churchmen (not just CofE) make themselves more visible than others to non-attendees, but if Phil started to attend church every week the vicar would get to know him and have some chance of judging when he needs help.
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ilpugliese mogulfield
• 2 days ago

I don’t think Phil Williams was seeking help for himself. I’m not a religiously involved person, mogulfield, and Mr Williams doesn’t say what sort of counselling he expects the church to provide, although he talks about issues of divorce, broken homes, crime, unemployment and stress. But my view is that religion should be concerned with helping people to be more comfortable with the mysteries of life – e.g. why we’re here, happiness or lack of it, death – with reference to the beliefs of that faith. And not politics, economics, climate change, dealing with crime, etc.
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mogulfield ilpugliese
• 2 days ago

You are right. I too see religion is an aid to coping with life, helping individuals not get into a mess in the first and helping them deal with the aftermath when they do get in a mess. Religion should not be setting the rules for wider society to follow; on such matters they have only the same right to comment and try to influence things as you or I as individuals.
William’s rather confused letter seemed to be laying the blame for all society’s ills on the church for not stretching beyond its remit and setting firm rules for all.

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Rodney G James
• 2 days ago

The main problem with the church in the UK is it has been badly infected by political correctnes and has forgotten its role of strongly and fearlessly preaching thegospel. When, for example did you last hear a sermon based on St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians preaching the virtue and necessity of hard work? Instead we get all kind of fuzzy right on stuff about ‘relationships’, women bishops and so on.
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mogulfield Rodney G James
• 2 days ago

What church do you attend?? The Gospel message features very strongly in the sermons in my CofE parish church and I have never heard “fuzzy right on stuff” from the pulpit or anywhere else in the church.
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plum-tart
• 2 days ago

At seven years old I went to Sunday School where they told me I was a sinner.
I never got over it………….
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ilpugliese plum-tart
• 2 days ago

I got put off when I read that I should pluck out my right eye if I looked on a woman lustfully.
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plum-tart ilpugliese
• 2 days ago

…and did you?

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ilpugliese plum-tart
• 2 days ago

No and yes respectively.
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lordmuck
• 2 days ago

The ‘church’ regularly attributes falling attendances to it’s ‘failure of presentation’.
Another possible explanation is that fewer (or less) people believe in the essebtial tenets that God made the universe or that there is an afterlife….but I’m unsure how this failure of belief can be addressed by eternal promises of a second coming, revelations etc.
Any ideas Justin ?
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mogulfield lordmuck
• 2 days ago

My name’s not Justin, but I’ll have a stab at helping you.
If you are unsure about the existence of God, I suggest that you start with what the Greek philosophers had to say on the matter, Parmenides of Elea, Heraclitus of Ephesus and, of course, Plato.
Look far and wide outside the scope of the Bible at what others have to say about God and when you do return the Bible, read it alongside an good guide book such as Bowker’s “Complete Bible Handbook” if you don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming that it is intended as a science manual or a pure history book.
When you have surveyed all the evidence for and against you will soon realise that it a subject beyond the scope of empirical evidence and that you simply have to believe, or not.
If you choose not to believe you have nothing more to do. If you choose to believe then a whole new world opens up to you to discover the true nature of God and His relationship with us. Then you should visit your local church for further guidance, possible through Alpha or for general guidance on the Gospel.
Let us know how you get on.
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Fairy_Hanny mogulfield
• 2 days ago

There’s no religion which is based on fact
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mogulfield Fairy_Hanny
• 2 days ago

Not just that, but philosophers have been arguing for at least 2500 years as to whether or not there is any such thing as “fact”!

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manonthebus mogulfield
• 2 days ago

There is one tiny little flaw in your very sensible comment. There is no evidence at all for the existence of God. None, nada. There are a lot of religious books written about certain people who have claimed to know God and to have received his word. There is no existing evidence of the actual words spoken or actions taken or things seen at the time those people apparently made their claims. Their stories were, in all cases, written up by adherents at least one and often several centuries later, having been passed on, made up or misunderstood by word of mouth. There is plenty of evidence of evolution and we are beginning to have a tiny understanding of the origin of the universe. So, I agree with you. You have to base your belief about the existence of God on pure faith. That’s the choice. Best of luck.
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cynarch manonthebus
• 2 days ago

In archaeology we have a little saying ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The same could apply to God.
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manonthebus cynarch
• 2 days ago

A very wise saying. However, the original commenter was suggesting that books claiming that God exists could be used as evidence that he existed. Oh my goodness, where is Wittgenstein when you need him?
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thatIIdo manonthebus
• a day ago

Hiding in a box?
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davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Marolin Watson: I’ve never met anybody who had a ‘relationship with alcohol’. I have, however, known quite a lot of people who drank too much.
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Naomi Onions davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Alcoholics choose alcohol over their jobs, their lives, their health, their friends and their families.
They are convinced that alcohol is the answer to every problem, and that while they have alcohol they need nothing from anyone or anywhere else. Alcohol becomes their solace, their comfort and their love. They would rather die themselves than have it taken away.
All that matters is them and the bottle. It is one of the strongest attachments they will ever make in their life.
In this respect, a “relationship” is the perfect description.
I’ve met hundreds of people who have a “relationship with alcohol”. They are, of course, very different from the people you have known, who simply drink too much.
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danielfg davidofkent
• 2 days ago

Related is the modern buzzword. Alcohol related, drug related you name it. It’s as annoying a word as community.
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toots danielfg
• 2 days ago

Daniel, How do you like the term “recreational” as applied to drug use?
I wonder what other criminal activities we can excuse by adding the word “recreational”. “Recreational mugging” perhaps. Or “recreational child abuse”. Perhaps the BBC should say that’s why they helped Savile do it.
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danielfg toots
• 2 days ago

I drink whisky recreationally. I think I’m recreating my younger days 🙂
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Naomi Onions toots
• 2 days ago

Toots
“Recreational” is usually used to mark the difference from “medicinal”.
Lots of drug use, even addictive and dangerous drug use, is not “recreational” but prescribed.
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toots Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

Naomi,
Oh… but you know what I mean. They say “recreational” in a calculated attempt to make them sound wholesome and innocent.
If they only wanted to differentiate them from pharmaceuticals, (never necessary), they could call them what they are… “Illegal drugs”… (fewer syllables).
I prefer the term “narcotics” (fewer syllables again.. and accurate).
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kiki toots
• a day ago

Its usually down to the BBC or some newspaper promoting crime, as in “Joy Riders” for car thieves.
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The Central Scrutiniser davidofkent
• 2 days ago

I had a long-term relationship with alcohol – my partner being a cherished bottle of Lagavulin 16 y.o. – but she ran out on me.
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kiki The Central Scrutiniser
• a day ago

How long can it be if you only have the one bottle? Or did you mean barrel?

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peddytheviking The Central Scrutiniser
• 2 days ago

On sale in WR at £48 at the moment – that is not a special offer.
I have just discovered a whole case (6 bottles) of an unknown single malt in the garage, whilst checking my stocks of loo-rolls.
My late father must have bought them in Germany, judging by the labels.
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kiki peddytheviking
• a day ago

Lucky devil!

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toots peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Peddy.. “WR”… ?
West Ruislip ?
Wait Rose ?
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peddytheviking toots
• 2 days ago

Waitrose
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SIR – The debate on whether sexual images should be automatically disallowed from homes unless families specify otherwise is beside the point. Filter or no filter, it will make no difference if children are not educated about pornography’s influence, along with the usual topics of sex, drugs and alcohol.
Phil Robinson and Anna Maxted appear to think this is only an issue for families with teenage children, but secondary school is too late to start to speak to them about this. Whatever age you think is the right age to talk to children about sex, you are probably two years too late.
Regardless of our efforts, any electronic blocks and checks will fail, and we must accept this. The only solution is education, at the heart of which should be unbiased information to ensure that pupils understand that it is all right to say “no”.
David Hanson
Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
SIR – I work with a small charity delivering lessons on sex and relationships in secondary schools in Gosport, which has pockets of huge deprivation and one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country.
Related Articles
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21 Nov 2013
A significant number of youngsters are accessing material that would horrify most adults were they to see even a fraction of it.
Those who want to prevent measures designed to make this access more difficult in the name of freedom should accept that they have some responsibility in allowing one of the most pernicious attacks upon our young people to continue and thrive.
Eve Wilson
Hill Head, Hampshire
SIR – Changes to search engines will help stop children seeing images of child abuse, but they will do little to prevent people sharing these images, which is being done through private peer-to-peer networks.
Every illegal image is a crime scene, but law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to identify, locate and protect victims, nor to identify and charge abusers. More resources must be provided.
The internet was designed to withstand serious damage and it treats censorship as damage and provides routes around it. There is no quick technical fix that will protect victims – it needs education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the laws that already exist.
Dr Martyn Thomas
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2
SIR – I live with my wife of 39 years; we have no children or grandchildren, and no young people would ever access the computer in our house. A declaration that this is the situation should be sufficient.
Why, then, will the Government, via my internet service provider, force me to make a declaration about pornography which is an unwarranted intrusion into our personal life?
John Frankel
Newbury, Berkshire

After the Internet police, the lunch box police will not be far behind them, followed by the fashion police, how many coffees you drink in a day police, make sure you sit upright police, chew your food properly police, make sure you brush your teeth in the
morning police, etc
LEAVE US ALONE
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One Last Try
• a day ago

I watched a Jason Statham film last night, very bloodthirsty, he had a knife driven, graphicllly through his hand, but continued fighting. This allowed to be shown, albeit at a cost, as it is a 2013 film.
Certain parts of a lady’s (there are other sexes available) anatomy is deemd too risque for me to view, as is the initiating act (unless you are cohabiting with one other the sexes available) of the procreation of children.
So I can see a knife driven into a hand, but not…….
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manonthebus
• 2 days ago

I have only one word to say: PARENTS.
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One Last Try manonthebus
• a day ago

Pay Rents are ok. DHSS Pay Rents not OK

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peddytheviking One Last Try
• a day ago

I’m not sure how you rendered that – Ok or not OK?

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One Last Try peddytheviking
• a day ago

I think the Pay Rent Parents, will be more interested in the well being of their children, than the DHSS ones, in general
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richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Get a proxy server based in some third rate country, then search through that address to view all of the naughty bits you want. Out of the window go the UK ISP filters. It is like a recent Canadian ruling that demands that images are “removed from the internet”. Not going to work by technologyalone.
It is absoluely no different to using a UK proxy IP if you are overseas and want to watch BBC. It is how I get to watch the Omelette Cooking Channel, even though copyright prevents it being shown over here.
You don’t know how to? I bet the kiddies can work it out by teatime.
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• 2 days ago

Don’t tell Peddy about the Omelette Cooking Channel!
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peddytheviking ladyofthelake
• 2 days ago

What the ‘egg is that?
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richardl_on_disqus peddytheviking
• a day ago

http://www.cookingchanneltv.co…
they have two cupcake shows, so surely there is a place for the egg cracking exploits of the omelette set!
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• a day ago

Do you get the Food Network up there Richard? There are some good shows on that. Lots of Thanksgiving tips right now.
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richardl_on_disqus ladyofthelake
• a day ago

Do keep up, our thanksgiving was a month ago.
Yes we do get that channel, no I don’t watch.
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ladyofthelake richardl_on_disqus
• a day ago

Yes, I know when the Canadian T-giving is. I was just making a comment.

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flexico
• 2 days ago

DT: Please can we have ONE page for AlLL the day’s letters? The only exception should be that where a letter has multiple signatories, signatories 2 to n should be listed on a linked page
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plum-tart flexico
• 2 days ago

I don’t know why they bother with a letters page at all.
Toast anyone?
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ladyofthelake plum-tart
• 2 days ago

Special K and a banana for me this morning. Plus coffee.
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danielfg plum-tart
• 2 days ago

Comments on the letters pages are usually more civilised and polite than elsewhere – even to dear old Johnny Norfolk.
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JDavidJ flexico
• 2 days ago

On the other hand, having a quirky subject, with a photograph, is quite pleasing.
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One Last Try JDavidJ
• 2 days ago

was thinking that: Snap
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 2 days ago

Now sugar-snap peas are one thing I would not put in an omelet.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Try cooked spinach – delicious.
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thatIIdo danielfg
• a day ago

Why cook it? Just ends up soggy.
You can eat spinach raw, but if you must, then just steam it for 1 minute.
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danielfg thatIIdo
• a day ago

It’s better soggy as the omelet is soft so the two go together.
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peddytheviking danielfg
• a day ago

No, you run the risk of ending up with scrambled egg. The steamed spinach must be squeezed firmly to remove as much moisture as possible, chopped, a little lemon juice & just a suspicion of olive oil given to it before adding it to the omelet.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 20 hours ago

Sorry. That would totally ruin it. I have used the frozen spinach so it needs no chopping. And my omeletes have never turned into scrambled egg. They turn out of the pan beautifully.

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ladyofthelake thatIIdo
• a day ago

Have you ever had spinach salad? That’s delicious. Raw spinach, sliced raw mushrooms, chopped hard boiled egg and crumbled crispy bacon. Serve with a sweet and sour dressing. So good and it goes well with fish, steak, pretty much anything.
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peddytheviking danielfg
• 2 days ago

Yeah, that sounds good.
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danielfg peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

But not for breakfast. For lunch or dinner when you’re tired of everything else.

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wakeuptheworld
• 2 days ago

When ever a society looses its morality,crime and pornograhy, sexual deviations, child abuse and prostitution runs wild. It is time to stop all internet porn, that at least would be a start.
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Naomi Onions wakeuptheworld
• 2 days ago

I don’t think consensual prostitution, pornography or even many sexual deviations have anything to do with morality. Just because people enjoy different things in bed doesn’t make them immoral.
People worry far too much about sex, whilst gory horror films depicting violence and terror, often with only a 15 certificate, barely get a tut.
We have a very warped sense of what is acceptable, and of what we allow our children to watch.
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danielfg Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

Some years ago I came across a porn film late at night in Nice on Canal+. I mentioned it to a middle aged French teacher and his wife the next day and he, grinning, said he loves watching them and then to bed!
As for me I watched the first three f***ks in the first ten minutes and became totally bored and switched off.

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One Last Try danielfg
• a day ago

With a performance like that, 3 times in 10 mins, it must have been acting!
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danielfg One Last Try
• a day ago

They were different “teams” 🙂

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bazzerman danielfg
• a day ago

So you were looking at the faces then?

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danielfg bazzerman
• a day ago

There was no need. They were a mixture of blacks and whites. In any cases their faces were probably more interesting than what was going on 🙂

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grizzly Naomi Onions
• 2 days ago

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I have long thought that the opinions of modern humans on such topics are either weird or, at best, selective. Watching two people having sex is far less threatening than watching them hack each others’ heads off or being blown to smithereens by a bomb! For some bizarre and perverse reason the latter is seen as being acceptable whlst the former is frowned upon.
This probably goes back to the Victorians’ odd sense of perspective. For example; why is it acceptable to show humans shoving food into their mouths, whilst it is considered disgusting to show the same product emerging at the other end? No such prissiness is evident when animals are shown defæcating in real life or on television! I am not, for one moment, advocating that such things should be shown on our televisions or in our cinemas (too many sensibilities would be outraged) but it does go to show how twisted our priorities have become when showing a human having a poo is considered taboo, but it is quite acceptable to show him being disembowelled by a sword!
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durnovaria grizzly
• 2 days ago

Never mind the sex act itself, and I wouldn’t find human defaecation at all entertaining, but television seems to be shying away ever more from nudity, even after the watershed and with prior warning.
And what is the point of a programme on midwifery, when the critical moment is blurred out? It never used to be.
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Fairy_Hanny grizzly
• 2 days ago

Morning Grizz, I for one don’t find it acceptable showing humans shovelling food in their mouths because inevitably they start speaking immediately afterwards unless they’ve been brought up proper like wot I was
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One Last Try Fairy_Hanny
• a day ago

like wot I wuz. Yoom posh, yo yam
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geniusloci grizzly
• 2 days ago

I don’t know what you eat, grizzly, but in my view “what emerges at the other end” is not the same product at all.
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Fairy_Hanny geniusloci
• 2 days ago

It is at MacDonalds
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grizzly geniusloci
• 2 days ago

Now you’re being mischievous, Genius. Perhaps I should have confirmed that it comes out in a ‘slightly altered’ state. But this recycled product is still nutritious: I know that garden plants and vegetables would rather have this for dinner than a steak and kidney pud! It’s all about recycling.
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zaharadelasierra grizzly
• 2 days ago

Slightly altered state, Grizz? Have you never eaten sweet corn?
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meerschaum
• 2 days ago

only 4 letters ? really ? Time for Weisswurst and coffee.

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JDavidJ meerschaum
• 2 days ago

Look again – Thrushes and Labour’s poll lead beckon.
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peddytheviking meerschaum
• 2 days ago

‘Morning Meerschaum
I make the count 7 at the time of your writing.
Weisswürst & coffee? Together? Wow!
I’m just going down for my cheese omelet.

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Meerschaum peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

cheese omelets are nice too : hope the morning has been going well.

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peddytheviking Meerschaum
• 2 days ago

Thank you it did, as I’m sure your’s did, powered as it was by Weisswürst.
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One Last Try peddytheviking
• 2 days ago

Yo Peddy
You need to join COA
Cheese Omletttes Anonymous, where you can chat to similar addicts
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peddytheviking One Last Try
• 2 days ago

Hi OLT
Slightly more important might be a society for the prevention of cruelty to eggs – see my exchange of notes on the subject with David below.
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SIR – Now that our clocks have had to revert to Greenwich Mean Time, we are suffering from the loss of daylight hours in the afternoon.
The roads are dangerous for children coming out of school at 3.30pm in the dusk. Of course, it is also dark when they arrive in the morning, but brighter afternoons would allow for healthy outdoor after-school activities. Cyclists and walkers are at far greater risk in the evening rush hour. And pity the poor doggies – some left at home alone all day – who have to be exercised after dark, on leads, wearing high-visibility clothing.
What has stopped the Government from extending British Summer Time year-round? Is it still the fear that Scottish cows would not like to be milked in the dark in the morning? Do the cows read clocks?
Christine Morgan-Owen
Farnham, Surrey

jp1000
• 14 hours ago

Darn it, it’s only a 1/4 past 3 and it’ll be getting dark soon, If we had quadruple summer time it would stay light till 7pm or later – fantastic!

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JohnSc jp1000
• 13 hours ago

And it wouldn’t get light in the morning until 11/12 am. Durrr!!!
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jp1000 JohnSc
• 12 hours ago

ah you cottoned on ……
Had a holiday in Yugoslavia back in the 70’s which was on same time zone as UK, it was August so it got light about 3am and got dark around 6pm, a really crazy way of setting up the clocks.

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peddytheviking jp1000
• 8 hours ago

I drove a Morris Minor all the way down that Adriatic Highway as far as Korcula in ’70, then home inland via Mostar, Sarajevo, Graz, Vienna.

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thatIIdo jp1000
• 12 hours ago

I was there this September/October.
One distinct advantage is that it is pleasantly warm already when you venture out at about 9am.

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thatIIdo
• 15 hours ago

I think the clocks should be set to one, year-round, standard time. The earliest winter sunset time should be approx. 6pm, after which people are mostly not travelling. In the summer you get lots of daylight to enjoy your evenings.
Travelling on dark mornings is not such a problem because there is no need to ‘acclimatise’ after the nighttime.
People who work outside, or people who want to save energy costs when working indoors, can adjust their working times to suit, if they wish. (Note: offices usually have all the lights on even in the brightest daylight and farm/construction machinery generally carries its own lights.)
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kiki
• 16 hours ago

Its the usual story, five million Scots are more important than all the rest. Its always been like that, roll on the referendum.
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Shoyad
• 16 hours ago

I have two main issues with retaining BST all year roound:
Firstly, there is a greater incidence of ice on the roads in the early morning, which would make the ride to work on my motorcycle more dangerous if I had to leave home before it was light (or getting light).
Secondly, I have to check on the pheasants on our small shoot on my way to work; this would be impossible/pointless in the dark.
As for the dogs – they would be walked in the dark twice a day, not just once (we do not have any street lights).
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betonkopf
• 17 hours ago

I refer readers to a website page which shows the line of sunrise across Britain at 8am on 1st January. This is, near enough, the morning of latest sunrise.
Kent is in daylight. England, Wales, and southern Scotland are in twilight. Most of Ireland and Scotland are in darkness. Yes, most of Europe is in daylight, but most of Britain is not. Britain needs GMT in winter.
The maps are at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/m…
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Fairy_Hanny betonkopf
• 17 hours ago

I understood the 21st Dec was the shortest day
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Nagsman Fairy_Hanny
• 15 hours ago

It is and whilst the night begin to get lighter immediately the mornings do not change until around the 28th December as I understand it – although heaven know why.

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betonkopf Nagsman
• 12 hours ago

Molamola is right.
There are two reasons for this:
1. The tilt of the earth’s rotation axis means the sun’s apparent motion through the sky is not uniform.
2. The earth’s orbit round the sun is elliptical, introducing a further variation.
So December 21st is the shortest day, but January 1st is at or near the latest sunrise.

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molamola Nagsman
• 15 hours ago

It’s in connection to the differences between solar noon (the highest point of the sun where you are) from day to day not being 24 hours.
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zaharadelasierra Fairy_Hanny
• 16 hours ago

It’s my birthday, too, Spikey. So I like to think of it as The Longest Night. 😉
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betonkopf zaharadelasierra
• 12 hours ago

Thirty one nights hath December
Plus six others we remember
Jan, July, Aug, May, Mar, Oct
The rest to thirty nights are docked
Save Feb, which twenty nine hath clear
And twenty eight each unleap year.
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kalafrana
• 17 hours ago

As stated below by several people, the basic problem is the paucity of daylight hours in Britain in winter. Changing to BST throughout the year will not create any more daylight hours, but simply mean that it will remain dark much later in the mornings. Some years ago, I spent a week in January in Granada, on roughly the same longitude as Plymouth, where I live now, but significantly further south. It was not light thee until well after 9am. Here, in January, even on GMT, it is not fully light in January until around 9am, and Plymouth is almost as far south as you can get on the British mainland,
What would make a difference is to confine GMT to the November-February period, to get the maximum benefit as the days start to lengthen.
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Gaz
• 18 hours ago

GMT all year round ! So in late June in Manchester sunrise will be 3:40am so it will be coming light at 3am !!! Don’t talk rubbish, who needs daylight then ?
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grizzly Gaz
• 18 hours ago

Do keep up!
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Gaz grizzly
• 17 hours ago

Keep up with what?
It would still be daylight at 3am even if business adopted your policy ….
BTW, who works 9-5 (8-4) these days ??
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danielfg
• 18 hours ago

Sod the bloody doggies. During the last experiment it was horrendous leaving the house while it was still dark, pouring with rain, blided by headlights, trying to get the children and to work on time.
As for the claim that it saved hundreds of lives, I asked the Department of Transport what figures they had. They sent me calculations based on traffic volumes twenty years after the experiment and then calculated the possible deaths saved. There were no actual figures about deaths.
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ladyofthelake danielfg
• 12 hours ago

The change in time doesn’t bother my dog. The only thing that puzzles him is his dinner. He shows up at the bowl an hour late/early for the first few days- then he adapts.

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danielfg ladyofthelake
• 8 hours ago

It is probably thinking like a human – oh well what can I do about it 🙂
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Naomi Onions
• 19 hours ago

Every bleedin’ year!!
If you want to really worry…
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/…
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grizzly Naomi Onions
• 19 hours ago

I predict that if it rains, those who refuse to wear suitable weather-proof garments … will get wet!
You mark my words.
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grizzly
• 19 hours ago

When the clocks are artificially altered (i.e. put forward) in March for the Spring and Summer periods, all we are effectively doing is supplanting a 9–5 working day for a 8–4 one for that entire period. What was 9 a.m. under GMT becomes 8 a.m. when the clocks move forward.
All this country needs to do is adopt a policy of having a working day of 8–4 all year round (instead of just in the summer months). That way we retain GMT but effectively have the synchronisation of daylight hours that we enjoy in the summer. How difficult is that to achieve?
Scotland, which naturally has a longer period of darkness in the autumn/winter period, could choose whether to remain with a 9–5 working day or join the rest of the UK in an 8–4 day.
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Julyan Coe grizzly
• 16 hours ago

100 up votes
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caerperis
• 19 hours ago

Does Christine Morgan-Owen not remember the experiment of all-year BST which took place between 27 October 1968 and 31 October 1971?
Analysis of accident data for the first two years of the experiment, published by HMSO in October 1970, indicated that while there had been an increase in casualties in the morning, there had been a substantially greater decrease in casualties in the evening, with a total of around 2,500 fewer people killed and seriously injured during the first two winters of the experiment, at a time when about 1,000 people a day were killed or injured on the roads. However the period coincided with the introduction of Drink-Driving legislation, and the estimates were later modified downwards in 1989.
The trial was the subject of a House of Commons debate on 2 December 1970 when, on a free vote, the House of Commons voted to end the experiment by 366 to 81 votes.
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kiki caerperis
• 16 hours ago

I remember the general opinion was that mothers had to take the kids to school, it being dark, instead of just shoving them out of the door and going back to bed. Not surprising, it was the mothers that got the time changed back.

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Fairy_Hanny caerperis
• 19 hours ago

That increase/decrease might have happened anyway – it didn’t prove anything
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Geoffrey Woollard
• 20 hours ago

‘Changing the clocks’ is complete and utter nonsense for there are no extra hours of anything to be had in either the Spring or the Autumn. There are twenty-four hours in every day and there are more daylight hours in the Summer and less in the Winter. I agree with Christine Morgan-Owen. GMT all year round, please.
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PeteGreen Geoffrey Woollard
• 18 hours ago

Geoffrey. I think she wanted BST all year round.
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Geoffrey Woollard PeteGreen
• 18 hours ago

GMT or BST: I don’t care, Pete, as long as the b****y clocks aren’t ‘changed’ twice a year.
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zaharadelasierra Geoffrey Woollard
• 16 hours ago

Geoffrey, the nuisance of “changing clocks” is a real nightmare for Dr Who. If only he’d realise that all he has to do is oil the gears before changing years and that sound of chalk against a blackboard would disappear instantly.
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Geoffrey Woollard zaharadelasierra
• 15 hours ago

Dr. Who?
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thatIIdo Geoffrey Woollard
• 16 hours ago

I don’t change mine anyway. This is on the basis that they will be right at least half the time. And even if they stop altogether, they are right twice a day.
I’m not kidding – I know what time it is without looking at a clock – always did. Don’t need an alarm clock either.

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Geoffrey Woollard thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

Try Sandringham time, thatlldo. It was half an hour ahead of everybody else. Gawd knows why.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…
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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 13 hours ago

So the King could shoot more animals!
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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

Very likely, my Lady.

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peddytheviking Geoffrey Woollard
• 19 hours ago

Would we use more or less winter fewerl?
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Geoffrey Woollard peddytheviking
• 19 hours ago

As Henry Crun on The Goon Show (before your time, peddy) said, ‘You can’t get the wood, you know.’
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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 13 hours ago

Hail and well met, fellow Goon fan!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

Our memories date us, don’t they, my Lady?

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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 12 hours ago

I am too young to remember the Goons when they were broadcast. Over the years we have collected tapes and CDs. We kind of got onto them because we were/are big Peter Sellers fans and it started as a result of that.
Sorry to let you down but I will only be 60 in a couple of months. First time I’ve admitted that!!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 12 hours ago

59 going on 60, my Lady: you surprise me!
Well, if you want it kept quiet, don’t tell anybody else. I won’t breathe a word.
BTW, don’t tell anybody else, but I’m 75.
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ladyofthelake Geoffrey Woollard
• 11 hours ago

Why are you surprised? Do I sound older? And your secret is safe with me!

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Geoffrey Woollard ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

I was surprised, my Lady, to learn that somebody so much younger than me could (as I had thought) remember the Goons. But you can’t actually remember the Goons – or rather their original broadcasts – so you have collected tapes, etc., instead. Very wise – as well as very young!
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SIR – My son’s school has just asked for a copy of each pupil’s passport. Apparently, as a Tier 4 visa sponsor, it is required to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that every child has the right to be in Britain.
This, despite assurances by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, in a letter to concerned organisations earlier this year, that he had “no plans to require schools to conduct nationality checks on their pupils”.
Employers, doctors and now teachers: is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?
Richard Williams
Brighton, East Sussex
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Gambling on The Rock
SIR – David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, has condemned Spain’s intrusion into Gibraltarian waters and promised that Britian “will do whatever is required to protect Gibraltar’s sovereignty, economy and security”.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that the Government is proposing new “point of consumption” licensing and a new tax regime which will have a devastating impact on Gibraltar’s economy, specifically its thriving online gambling industry, which employs 2,500 people and constitutes a quarter of Gibraltar’s GDP.
The proposals would likely cause job losses of around a third of the industry’s employees, and significant revenue reductions to the Gibraltar government.
According to analysis by Deloitte, it will also cause 27 per cent of our customers to migrate to the online gaming black market.
This would be the worst possible time for the Government to undermine a bulwark of the territory’s economy.
Peter Howitt
Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association
Gibraltar
Language of Flowers
SIR – My distress at the Paul Flowers debacle (I am a Methodist) has been increased by the BBC and others referring to “the Reverend Flowers”. As your paper, at least, is aware, this man is the Reverend Paul Flowers or Mr Flowers, but never Reverend Flowers. Even our Eton-educated Prime Minister seems not to know this.
Lesley Barnes
Henfield, West Sussex
Turkish delight
SIR – How sad that so much time is given to rating the best shop-bought Christmas fare, such as mince pies. Living in Turkey, I love the fact that, if you want certain things, it’s up to you to create them. My mince pies include real suet, which even has a trace of meat when I get it from the butcher.
Offering guests baked goods that aren’t readily available to buy creates an air of excitement that cannot be beaten.
Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey
Stuffed symbolism
SIR – Cushions are theatrical shorthand for sex: scattered around a Royal Shakespeare Company set, enhanced with red-filtered lights (suggestively dimmed), they indicate that we are in either a bordello or Cleopatra’s Egypt, all sensuality and voluptuousness.
When guests enter a hotel room they are, in effect, taking the stage, agreeing to take the leading parts in a fantasy, a fleeting illusion. Cushions create an ambience suited to discovering anew the passion of one’s courtship. Make the most of it.
Dr Lawrence Green
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Alienating Tories
SIR – I don’t know why Nick Boles, the Conservative planning minister, thinks it is only the young who see the Tories as aliens. As an ageing lifelong Conservative voter, I can’t possibly support a party that would introduce restrictions on the press.
Simon Longe
Beccles, Suffolk
Italian lesson for NHS
SIR – While on holiday in Italy, my partner fell ill. He was taken to hospital in Penne, where he was given first-class medical treatment.
We noticed that Italian families looked after their ill relations, which freed the nursing staff to do other jobs. Of the three men sharing my partner’s room, one man’s housekeeper looked after all his needs all day; another’s wife and son took turns sleeping on a truckle bed by his side; and the third man’s family brought in all his food, staying to feed and care for him.
After five days, my partner was discharged with a six-page report (in Italian, on the results of the tests, etc) and we flew home. On receiving the report, our GP’s manager said she had no funds to cover the translation (though if I had needed an interpreter, funds were available). We had the translation done ourselves, presented it to the manager, and heard not another word from the doctor. We changed doctor.
Letitia Sykes
Rainham, Essex
A stab in the dark
SIR – Brian Keen recommends “cutting up” slugs at night as an alternative to using harmful metaldehyde-based slug pellets. This is cruel: far from being an inert lump of jelly, the slug has a nervous system and can feel pain.
In my experience, no alternative slug remedies work, though where clumps of slug eggs are found, these can be dispersed on lawns to provide food for hungry birds.
In any event, the decline of songbirds in recent decades surely has more to do with the alarming rate of destruction of front and back gardens to make way for extensions and front-of-house parking. There is no place for wildlife in this vision of potted, half-dead conifer and wooden decking. The de-greening of suburbia is surely the biggest factor driving the plight of the thrush. To remedy this situation, why not plant a tree in 2014?
Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex
Meeting the man tried for Kennedy’s murder
SIR – In “The truth about John F Kennedy’’, Gerard DeGroot mentioned the reissue of Crossfire by Jim Marrs, about a “conspiracy” in New Orleans in which Clay Shaw (the only person ever tried in connection with the assassination) figured.
As the article noted, the book formed the basis for Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which seemed “intriguing” in the days when we “knew almost nothing” about Shaw.
Well, I knew Clay Shaw for a short while, having met him in 1956, when I was a 26-year-old accountant working and travelling in the United States for a year. I was on a Greyhound bus bound for New Orleans when a tall, distinguished-looking white-haired man got on. Sitting next to me, he introduced himself as Clay Shaw, CEO of the New Orleans International Trade Mart.
During the two-hour journey, we struck up an acquaintance, and he invited me to see him in his office during the week. I did, and one night had dinner with him.
About 25 years ago I was in New Orleans again, wandering the lovely streets of the old French Quarter with my wife, when we noticed a plaque. It was headed: “In tribute to Clay Shaw 1913-1974”. The inscription said that as “an invaluable citizen, he was respected, admired and loved by many”.
I was proud to have been a friend of Clay Shaw, even for a short time.
Ivan Benjamin
Northwood, Middlesex
SIR – With all that has been said about Kennedy’s assassination, I have never understood why he flew from Fort Worth to Dallas that morning, when it would have been easier by car, taking perhaps half an hour. I have driven between the two cities myself.
If he had come from a different direction and not passed the book depository, the murder might never have taken place.
Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

Comparethemarxists
• 3 hours ago

“SIR – Brian Keen recommends “cutting up” slugs at night”
I have it on good authority that this particular method also works very well on politicians, and of course they are inert lumps of jelly so will feel no pain.
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antoncheckout
• 6 hours ago

I can see a good reason why schools are required to act as visa sponsors. Parents send these children to school from the other side of the world.
We have no ID card system. The Border Agency wants to make sure the little darlings aren’t going to suddenly claim refugee status followed by influx of remaining family members (right to family life enforced by ECHR).
Vetting and rating schools for sponsorship-worthiness means the schools are really really keen that shouldn’t happen.
The scandal with English language ‘colleges’ and lax London ‘universities’ allowed a lot of immigration abuse.
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antoncheckout antoncheckout
• 6 hours ago

If they have asked for a copy of Mr Williams’s child’s passport as well, that is probably the EU eedjit-equality legislation at work – Mr Williams should just write back saying they don’t let the child have one, as they don’t want him to take off for the Bahamas on his own; and explain that the Williams’s are fine old Sussex stock who can trace their ancestry back to the times of pre-Christian King Æðelwealh, to whom they were pledged liegemen and from whom they received 73 hides of land and a vill.
He could even offer to show the headmaster the very vill itself, or maybe just a hide or two. That should clinch it.
Alternatively, tell him that the Norman motto of that proud city Brighton is ‘Je faix comme je veulx.’ (It’s not, but frankly, it might as well be.)
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noxofan
• 7 hours ago

“…is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?”
Whatever it takes.
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django7
• 13 hours ago

I wonder why Richard Williams is so surprised – “Employers, doctors and now teachers: is our nation of shopkeepers being turned into an army of border guards?” – when so many parents these days appear to want to relinquish their parental role.
Whether it’s imparting sex education or social skills, keeping offspring occupied in the evenings or summer holidays, looking after them if teachers go on strike, paying for their care until school age, too many parents look to outside agencies to help bring up their children so they can hardly object if they are subject to the rigours of the outside world.
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Ped
• 17 hours ago

“School demands copy of pupils’ passports”
It is part of the European Union’s citizen information and control system. I have been ordered by my French bank to produce my passport and utility bills for my holiday home. As pupils don’t generally have a bank account their parents are required to produce proof of identity to the school authorities.
The EU is fast becoming ‘Le Quatrième Reich’,- the Fourth Reich – and we all know how the last one ended.
Continued membership of this malign organisation is unthinkable. We must get out at the first opportunity.
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ilpugliese Ped
• 16 hours ago

For a bank, it’s part of the anti-money laundering measures which are international and wider than the EU. For schools and employers, it’s part of the UK anti illegal immigrant/employment measures and I doubt that it is mandated by the EU. There are good reasons to reduce or remove the EU mantle, but these measures would still be required.
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Ped ilpugliese
• 16 hours ago

“For a bank, it’s part of the…”
And Jews were herded into ghettos for their own protection.
Nineteen years since the books were audited properly. Unelected heads of banks, police and military organisations and literally billions of Euros given to individuals and organisations with close links to a small coterie of self electing gauleiters.
It is not an exaggeration to say that were are being subjugated – slowly but surely enslaved!
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zaharadelasierra Ped
• 15 hours ago

Now there’s an interesting set of headlines: “Three women enslaved for 30 years in a London house”. In other news, “60 million people enslaved for 40 years in a corrupt unaudited European Union”.
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Gubbedefekt zaharadelasierra
• 6 hours ago

Yes and we’re also being thoroughly shafted for good measure.

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thatIIdo
• 17 hours ago

Dr Lawrence Green,
I have always been wary of other people’s cushions, using them only after wrapping them in a clean towel.
It seems from your comments that I have been fully justified in my idiosyncracy.
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ericthehalfabee thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

on first glance I read your name as thatlldildo, which seemed apt regarding the topic.
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ilpugliese thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

You’ve found a use for them?
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thatIIdo ilpugliese
• 16 hours ago

I need a very big pillow, or lots of little ones, when I sleep – can’t stand laying flat.
If the pillows are not my own I wrap them in a clean towel or bedsheet.
Things like cushions, pillows, duvets and blankets rarely get washed, that’s why they need covers, cases or wrappings.

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peddytheviking thatIIdo
• 10 hours ago

You can’t stand laying flat….what?
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cynicalm peddytheviking
• 6 hours ago

Carpets perhaps.

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peddytheviking cynicalm
• 6 hours ago

Like a nodding dog in a rear window. Very good.

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ilpugliese thatIIdo
• 16 hours ago

Ah I see. I like a small cushion for the small of my back when seated. If I should fall asleep on one then it would be my own.

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antoncheckout ilpugliese
• 6 hours ago

Given the bullet-like toughness, knobbly pins, sharp edges and spavined dimensions of the average hotel cushion, there really aren’t many positions of the Kama Sutra they could be used for.
I suppose they could be turned into instruments of corporal chastisement in an SM game, but presumably a consent form would need to be completed beforehand and left at the hotel reception desk…

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danielfg
• 18 hours ago

What is a Tier 4 Sponsor?
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zaharadelasierra danielfg
• 15 hours ago

I think it’s a wedding cake for poor people. The bakery wraps advertising banners around each of the four tiers and the little model bride and groom on top of the iced cake are holding up a miniature banner saying “Baked by Bloggs the Bakers”.
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Gubbedefekt zaharadelasierra
• 5 hours ago

Proof if ever we needed it that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.. 😉
This totally gratuitous comment was made possible by Santa Tescosa Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon £3.99 a bottle this week only while stocks last.

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Fairy_Hanny danielfg
• 18 hours ago

not passed the exam for Tier 3
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grizzly danielfg
• 18 hours ago

Pretentious gobbledegook!
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danielfg grizzly
• 17 hours ago

I thought you were talking to me until I looked at my comment 🙂
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grizzly danielfg
• 16 hours ago

I would never dream of talking to you like that, Daniel.
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danielfg grizzly
• 14 hours ago

I know. I just thought, momentarily I would add, that you were having a bad day.
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mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Dr Lawrence gets my vote for most entertaining letter of the week.
I will however carefully check for one-way mirrors and hidden cameras next time I find myself in a hotel room with cushions scattered about.
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One Last Try mogulfield
• 17 hours ago

Too late, I saw the film, with my Nice French neighbours and with Ms Olive Stuffed-Cushion, disgusting!!!!
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Naomi Onions mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Too late. We got you last time!
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peddytheviking mogulfield
• 19 hours ago

Shouldn’t you refer to him either as Doctor Lawrence Green or Mr Green?
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One Last Try peddytheviking
• 16 hours ago

Is he a relation of Olive Green-Cushion?
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plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey
Life is full of ‘if onlys’.
If Franz Ferdinand’s driver had not taken the wrong turning the archduke would not have been assassinated.
Maybe we should blame the motor car…..
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antoncheckout plum-tart
• 6 hours ago

I believe the Archduke’s last words were ‘Scheiss-Navigationsgerät!’ [‘Bloody Satnav!’]
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ladyofthelake antoncheckout
• 4 hours ago

Followed by “Duck!”

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oldgit13 plum-tart
• 17 hours ago

I read that he’d been found alive and the First World War was all a mistake.
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plum-tart oldgit13
• 12 hours ago

No that was Bin Laden …..


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One Last Try plum-tart
• 8 hours ago

Surely Bin Swaffham………

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One Last Try plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Or the inventor of the wheel…….. and the seat……..
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plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey
Do you make your own porridge………….or toast?
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grizzly plum-tart
• 19 hours ago

Plum-Tart,
If she’d followed my lead and made her own mince pies (I even make my own candied peel, so much tastier than the shop-bought muck), then she could have taken the ‘Pepsi Challenge’ with the inferior stuff sold by Fortnum & Mason and Aldi!
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ladyofthelake grizzly
• 15 hours ago

I make my own mincies too. I have a great pastry recipe that is just for mince pies.
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zaharadelasierra grizzly
• 15 hours ago

Gosh Grizzly, you shop at Aldi AND Fortnum & Mason!

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plum-tart grizzly
• 18 hours ago

Do you make your own halal suet grizz?

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grizzly plum-tart
• 18 hours ago

No. Mine’s pretty kosher, though! ;º)
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peddytheviking grizzly
• 6 hours ago

I bet it koshyer a packet.
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mrsbimble
• 19 hours ago

With immigration being the second highest concern for most people in the UK I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect employers, landlords, doctors and schools to help in the fight to stem illegal immigration. Border control are not able to cope and in many countries (USA and Australia) it is not possible to get a job or do many things without proof of entitlement to be there. If would-be illegal know this it acts as a deterrent in itself. For the general public to just shrug and say “I’m very worried about immigration but it’s not my job to help combat it” is unhelpful and hypocritical.
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One Last Try mrsbimble
• 16 hours ago

I wonder if our ‘border guards’ have watched the TV programme featuring their counterparts in Australia. Why are they not following the Australian one’s example. Alll ours do is direct them to safe houses, to join the Uncle Tom Route, after they have been given full details on benefits etc, of course
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Wuffo the Wonder Dog mrsbimble
• 18 hours ago

It would not be unreasonable if, and it is a show-stopper of an if, the Border Agency acted to deport illegals immediately, instead they take their name, tell them to go somewhere and then let them go.
What’s the point in assisting an agency that doesn’t want to know because it acts for a government that doesn’t want to know?
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durnovaria
• 19 hours ago

There is a fundamental point of priciple at stake here: Parliament has positively rejected ID cards, and passports are optional, and not in the gift of the child.
Nor are they likely to have three utility bills, that banks ask for when opening an account for a child, nor a National Insurance number if they are still at school.
So if the school turns the child away, how does a British national parent discharge their legal duty to ensure that that child receives an education to the appropriate standard?
More and more, it is becoming clear that membership of the European Union is fundamentally incompatible with the British Way of Life. So the choice is clear:
either give in gracefully (lie back and think of England), or join UKIP, fight for UKIP and vote UKIP.
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SIR – Christianity will survive for many generations. What seems more likely to me (as a retired church warden) is the demise of the Church of England, due in part to its leaders’ remoteness from congregations “worn down by heaviness”.
I am hopeful that the present Archbishop of Canterbury understands, better than his predecessors, the feelings of the ordinary communicant, in the way that it appears the new Pope does. If not, then I, like many others, will seek spiritual food elsewhere.
Nicholas Fowle
Neatishead, Norfolk
SIR – A N Wilson claims that the faithful no longer really believe in the Incarnation. Of course he knows that the central mysteries of Christianity, the Incarnation and Resurrection, are at the heart of the “splendid liturgy and intelligent sermons” he has enjoyed, but many just do not get it.
For most Christians it is not a one-off choice to subscribe to such extraordinary doctrines. Their depth is explored daily in company with others heading in the same direction. The entire Bible and the whole of history contain signs of the love and truth to which these wonders point.
Related Articles
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22 Nov 2013
Extending Summer Time to improve daily life
22 Nov 2013
That this teaching is not just “spiritual” but stems from events involving a real man in the Middle East 2,000 years ago is too much for many. How could it possibly be true? But a line of witnesses cannot be ignored; and A N Wilson confesses to being among those who will always feel their hearts are restless until they rest in God.
John Capel
Reading, Berkshire
SIR – Why, if the Christian message fails to grab the “me” society, are independent evangelical churches booming, and with young congregations? In east Oxford alone, during the recent long vacation (no students), I came to a quick count of 14 such churches, meeting in hired halls, in less than a square mile. Could the Church of England’s problem be related rather to fatuous politically correct and multi-faith agendas, while the independent churches can preach the Gospel uninhibited?
Dr Allan Chapman
Oxford
SIR – Lord Carey and A N Wilson make interesting bedfellows – both predicting the Church’s extinction. As G K Chesterton wrote: “On five occasions in history the Church has gone to the dogs, but on each occasion it was the dogs who died.”
Christians need to rediscover the life of the early Church. Those Christians were in a more hostile environment yet they turned their world upside down.
Alex Ross
Burford, Oxfordshire
SIR – The Church has always been one generation away from dying out.
Rev David Hoskins
Emeritus chaplain
Harrogate District Hospital
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

tiddles
• 2 hours ago

The idea that God created the universe 13 billion years ago purely for the benefit of humans , many of whom are not the brightest, is pretty hilarious . Is religious belief a form of mental illness ?

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pentagua tiddles
• 2 hours ago

I do not know of any religious belief which has the idea that the universe was created purely for the benefit of humans. It is certainly not part of Christian belief.

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Hugh_Oxford
• 10 hours ago

If the Church of England cared less about being behind the times, and concentrated more on being beyond the times, it might have a future.
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Guest
• 11 hours ago

.
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sweetalkinguy Guest
• 4 hours ago

God moves in a mysterious way.

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Peteko
• 13 hours ago

How do people go through their lives believing in nothing? What an astounding arrogance and conceit not to be thankful to a creator who made the world and all that is in it. Agnosticism I can understand though not agree with, but atheism no – is life, love, music, poetry, beauty, truth, all an accident? Have atheists had their brains taken out?
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manonthebus Peteko
• 10 hours ago

You ridiculous person. To start with, love, music, poetry etc have nothing to do with belief in God. Have you never heard of evolution? Secondly, the arrogance and conceit appears to be all on your side. If I wish not to believe in a God, your God presumably, that is my business. You look to yourself before criticising others.
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ladyofthelake Peteko
• 11 hours ago

What a very insensitive and intolerant remark. It is an example of the very thing we have been talking about.
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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• 8 hours ago

This should have been under the comment when he asked if atheists had their brains removed.

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ladyofthelake ladyofthelake
• 10 hours ago

Some of you can dish it out but you can’t take it. Just an anonymous down vote. Sad.
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oldgit13 Peteko
• 11 hours ago

So, this god you believe in. Is it the same one which Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Rastafarians and many other religions believe in?
If so, why are all you followers endlessly fighting one another – even within the same belief system, eg Protestants and Catholics, Sunni and Shia? While atheists do fight about some matters, religion certainly isn’t one of them.
If it’s not the same god you all worship, how do you account for the existence of several gods? Which one did all the miraculous stuff, or did they all have a go? Which one is the one true God?
Ah hang on a minute, now I’m beginning to see the answer to my second question.
Have you actually considered the possibilty that you’re all barking mad?
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pentagua Peteko
• 12 hours ago

Darwin does not explain how life was created. There are significant gaps in his theory. Scientists are finding that genes are complex in their structure and that it is highly improbable that gene networks, and the creatures that depend on them, were invented by mutations. There is nothing in science that comes anywhere near to contradicting the “theory” that God created life. Atheists have not had their brains taken out but they have mutated into stubborn mules!
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JDavidJ pentagua
• 10 hours ago

The difference between science and religion, is that science is prepared to change it’s mind in the light of new evidence – even if this can be a difficult change. The progress of Evolutionary Theory is an excellent example, where changes are made all the time.
Religion on the other hand doesn’t have evidence that it can refer to, apart from ancient and little-changing texts.
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pentagua JDavidJ
• 9 hours ago

Nobody can alter the words of Shakespeare or Milton. Presumably you reject all ancient writings as nonsense or you are just prejudiced.
There is more evidence to support religious belief – a google search will lead you to some of it but I suspect you have no time for religion and never have had any..

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 6 hours ago

“There is more evidence to support religious belief”
Such as? You must be genius if you’ve found some because theologians have been searching for centuries and have failed.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 6 hours ago

I am not a genius but I wonder if you are talking about proof rather than evidence.

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 10 hours ago

“There is nothing in science that comes anywhere near to contradicting the “theory” that God created life”
There is no need to invoke God in Science. And if you were to invoke God you would have to explain how he came into existence – which would be a great deal harder to explain than how simple self-replicating proteins came in to existence.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 9 hours ago

Where did I say there was a need to invoke God in science? You seem to be referring to God as a physical object. You seem very limited in your understanding.

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Chris Ranmore pentagua
• 6 hours ago

“You seem to be referring to God as a physical object.”
Where? You seem very limited in your understanding of science.

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pentagua Chris Ranmore
• 6 hours ago

Yes I am limited in my understanding of both science and religion.

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litesp33d pentagua
• 5 hours ago

Indeed you are and you show your ignorance for all too see. And not only are you wrong but you are wrong at the top of your voice.

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pentagua litesp33d
• 5 hours ago

Please tell me what is right then.

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SimonNorwich Peteko
• 12 hours ago

This creator that we’re supposed to be thankful towards, is that the same creator that committed genocide in the past and will let people suffer for eternity for the purile reasone that they happen not to believe in it, or is it a totally different creator?
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Fairy_Hanny Peteko
• 13 hours ago

Instead of spouting drivel why don’t you prove that there is a God and he created the universe?
No? well there’s a surprise!
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Peteko Fairy_Hanny
• 12 hours ago

There isn’t any proof. If there was the world couldn’t be as it is, and people could not – completely unfettered – find God for themselves.
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Fairy_Hanny Peteko
• 12 hours ago

If you’d have said “If there was, the world would not be as it is” then that’s feasible
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

” people could not – completely unfettered – find God for themselves.”
People are always finding Gods! There are hundreds of the damn things – Thor, Zeus etc ad nauseam.
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One Last Try Chris Ranmore
• 11 hours ago

Dave Cameron, God of Sodomites
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 13 hours ago

There’s no point in believing something which is fraudulent. With so many competing religions to choose from almost all of them (if not all of them) must be fraudulent.
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Peteko Chris Ranmore
• 13 hours ago

I don’t think fraudulent is the right word – religious leaders are usually sincere but are as weak and doubtful as everyone else. They are trying to understand life and its meaning. A lot of people are happy not to bother. The major world religions agree on many things and Jesus is a prophet in Islam.

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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“I don’t think fraudulent is the right word”
That’s sophistry.
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LingoStu Peteko
• 13 hours ago

“How do people go through their lives believing in nothing?”
I am not an atheist because I “believe in nothing”.
I am an atheist because I do not see any compelling reason to believe in a God.
“Have atheeists had their brains taken out?”
That is arrogant, rude and uncalled for. Many, of not most, of the brilliant minds of our age have doubted the existence of God – from scientists like Einstein to philosophers like Nietzsche.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 13 hours ago

We all have doubts about it, but there is plenty of evidence – which you don’t seem to find compelling enough.
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LingoStu Peteko
• 13 hours ago

Peteko – it is a question of what you consider to be evidence and how you interpret it.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 12 hours ago

I can only suggest you consider why you are different from the rest of the animal kingdom – Christians say it’s because you are made in God’s image. He knows you and wants you to do his will.
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oldgit13 Peteko
• 10 hours ago

We’re not that different from some of the rest of the animal kingdom. We share almost 95% of our DNA with apes and indeed 50% of it with bananas. Would your god have designed it that way, and if so for what purpose do you suppose?

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LingoStu Peteko
• 12 hours ago

OK. Personally, I find Mr Darwin’s explanation rather more compelling.
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Peteko LingoStu
• 12 hours ago

Unfortunately that’s not the full story. Try reading some CS Lewis.
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ladyofthelake Peteko
• 11 hours ago

CS Lewis experienced periods of great doubt and despair with religion.
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thatIIdo Peteko
• 12 hours ago

What’s Alice in Wonderland got to do with it?
Now you mention it though …
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grizzly Peteko
• 12 hours ago

Good afternoon, Peteko,
I’ve been reading all the pros and cons on this argument today and it seems that nothing ever changes: you will always get those who believe in a deity and those who do not, that much will never change, despite the constant preaching from both sides of the equation.
My colours are already nailed to the mast, so I don’t need to repeat them here, but there is one burning question that I would love an answer to, and that comes in response to your earlier remark. That question is: why do I need to ‘believe’, in anything? It seems to me that all other life forms: plants; animals; fungi; protozoa etc, live fulfilling lives without the need to ‘believe’ in anything. To me, beliefs are nothing more than a chain around our necks; a monkey on our backs; a spanner in our works; the cause of much misery and warfare.
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JDavidJ grizzly
• 10 hours ago

A couple of your options do seem attractive.

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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“Try reading some CS Lewis”
What, I’m going to learn about the origins of the universe from reading “The Chronicles of Narnia”?
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bluesman1950 Peteko
• 13 hours ago

I happily experience life, love, music, beauty without any imaginary being to be grateful to. Have you had your brain replaced with fairy tales?
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Peteko bluesman1950
• 13 hours ago

You experience it but have no explanation of/for it, except for the nothing argument.
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 12 hours ago

“You experience it but have no explanation of/for it”
Better to have no explanation than the wrong explanation.
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thatIIdo Peteko
• 13 hours ago

I believe in myself and to a certain extent in my surroundings (including people).
If you have a problem with that then the problem is yours alone.
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Fairy_Hanny thatIIdo
• 11 hours ago

I believed I had flatulence…..I was wrong
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Peteko thatIIdo
• 13 hours ago

A severely limited outlook I think.
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Chris Ranmore Peteko
• 13 hours ago

If you think reality is “severely limited” then yes. If you think believing in fantasies is better then no.
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Irish Times:

Sir, – The current feeding frenzy with regard to the remuneration of hospital CEOs is not easy for health professionals to understand. The CEO of a large hospital is responsible for the utilisation of a budget of perhaps €200 million. He or she has to execute board and policy directives covering hundreds of complex interlocking activities relating to safe patient care. The simplistic neo-liberal business approach to health care has led to a focus on costs and targets at the expense of optimal patient care and indeed compassion. The CEO of a €200 million business is concerned with profit and loss. He or she is unlikely to face management decisions that are even remotely as challenging as those facing a hospital CEO who is responsible for the complexities of patient-centred and coordinated health care as well as finance.
At the same time our hospital CEOs are expected to deliver more efficient and safer care with shrinking resources. Do we or do we not want people of the highest competence to deliver health care to our loved ones? Pay peanuts, etc. – Yours, etc,
IAN GRAHAM,
Rocky Valley Drive,
Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Earlier this month the chief executives of four major hospitals, including Crumlin children’s hospital, wrote to the HSE to warn it that health cuts were starting to threaten patient safety. Prof John Crown commented at the time that it was “extremely significant that the CEOs would put their necks out” as they would “tend to see themselves on the same side of the power equation as the HSE and the Department of Health”.
Fast-forward to this week, and in a move that would surely have Sir Humphrey purring with approval, the Department of Health just happened to release scandalising top-up payments relating to, among others, the CEO of Crumlin hospital. Regardless of the issues in regard to breaches of pay policy, I would say the department has made its policy on necks and parapets abundantly clear. – Yours, etc,
DONAGH McTIERNAN,
Lakepoint, Mullingar,
Co Westmeath.
Sir, – It may help to put these figures into perspective to note that the basic salaries of many senior hospital executives are only marginally higher – in some cases lower – than what the High Court recently ruled were the minimum expenses of a bankrupt person. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK NOLAN,
Cherbury Gardens,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – As good Christians, should we not accept that this is the Lord’s will. Mark 4:25 “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”. – Yours, etc,
COURTNEY MURPHY,
Applewood Heights,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Denis Staunton’s interesting article (JFK, 50 Years after Dallas supplement, November 22nd) on JFK’s presidency rightly credits his “patience, caution and willingness to compromise with his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev” as helping to avert a nuclear war over the Cuban crisis in 1962.
It would, however, be wrong to give Kennedy all the credit for saving the world from nuclear war 50 years ago. His diplomatic skills were hard-learned. Only six months in office and still a novice in international politics, the US president faced the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, in a summit meeting in Vienna.
The summit’s main issues were the Soviet threats to close off Berlin to the Western powers and to locate nuclear weapons in Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida. Deadlock on both matters culminated in the world’s two most powerful leaders threatening nuclear war, Kennedy warning of “a long, hard winter” and Khrushchev adamant that “If the US wants war, that’s its problem”.
As the Irish Press’s London editor, I was covering the meeting and succeeded in getting an exclusive interview with the White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger. His version of the meeting was that Khrushchev gave Kennedy a frightening picture of the likely consequences of a nuclear war, with the major American cities being flattened like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a picture that the gung-ho US military top dogs had hidden from him .
That evening Kennedy told the New York Times top reporter, James “Scotty” Weston, that “he (Khrushchev) beat the hell out of me . . . the worst thing of my life”. It was Kennedy’s real introduction to diplomacy. – Yours, etc
DESMOND FISHER,
Roebuck, Dublin 14.
Sir, – The American essayist Gore Vidal was once asked what difference it might have made had Khrushchev been assassinated instead of Kennedy, to which he replied, “With history you can never tell but I am pretty sure Aristotle Onasis  would never have married Mrs Khrushchev!” – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN CASSERLY,
Abbeybridge,
Waterfall, Near Cork.
Sir, – I was very surprised to read in your Editorial “Remembering our JFK” that ” There is still despite the forests felled in his name no great biography . . .” I would highly suggest anyone who agrees with that statement hasn’t read the superb (and revealing) JFK An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek. – Yours, etc,
DAVID CLOHESSY,
Westbury, Co Clare.
Sir, – As the world remembers the tragic events of November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, we can only wonder why the US did not see it as an opportune moment to introduce strict gun control. How many lives might have been saved over the 50 years if it had? It would have been a fitting legacy. – Yours, etc,
DAVID McCLEAN,
Lisdarragh Lodge,
Hollystown, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I refer to Ciaran Hancock’s article “That sound you hear is the glass ceiling starting to crack” (Business, November 20th).
Hancock refers to the coalition negotiations currently taking place in Germany and highlights specifically the welcome news that it appears that both the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats have agreed on a 30 per cent quota for women on boards of listed companies from 2016. He adds that it would be hard to imagine any issue forming part of coalition negotiations in an Irish programme for government.
In fact the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil in the 1992 Programme for a Partnership Government, agreed to establish a minimum of 40 per cent representation of each gender in direct appointments to the boards of semi-State bodies. And in 2011, Labour and Fine Gael included a commitment to tackle the gender imbalance on State boards in the Programme for Government, again with a target of 40 per cent.
While Ireland still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality in the commercial and political spheres, approximately 34 per cent of positions on State boards in recent years have been held by women. It’s not only in Germany that this issue is being discussed. – Yours, etc,
SINEAD AHERN
Chair Labour Women,
Ely Place,

   
Sir, – Like March in her encounter with the fox in DH Lawrence’s novel The Fox I was spellbound.
When I entered my office at Lower George’s Street, Dún Laoghaire on Thursday morning I was confronted by an adult fox who had apparently entered through a rear door which had been left ajar.
We sized one another up: him with cold calm eyes and me so transfixed that I couldn’t reach for my iPhone to capture the moment. Then with an air of confidence, he turned and showing off his black glinted brush sauntered back towards the door and made his exit. The only evidence of our encounter was his fetid smell which prevailed over xerox paper and ink.
Methinks the forthcoming Dún Laoghaire Business Improvement District project is generating interest from strange quarters. – Yours, etc,
Dr DAVID JAMESON PhD,
York Road,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Dr Roy Flechner’s support for his colleagues (Letters, November 20th) is noble and very humorous and he is right in saying that I am not qualified as an academic historian – neither was I qualified to translate St Patrick’s Confessio from the original – I confess – I have never studied Latin!
That Trojan task was very graciously and professionally done by the late John Victor Luce, professor of classics at Trinity College Dublin, an exceptional Latinist and close personal friend who also wrote his own fascinating and controversial piece in which he claimed to have located the lost city of Atlantis.
In his retirement, he enthusiastically translated for me St Patrick’s Letters, along with other Latin texts published in Louvain by Fr John Colgan in 1647 that were essential to my research. He insisted the phrase “in Britanniis” was open to interpretation and that “in the Britains” or “among the Britons” would be an appropriate literal translation but he also accepted a proposition put to him during our discussions, that it could possibly be a reference to Brittany and not the island of Britain, exclusively.
If Dr Flechner or any of his colleagues would like a copy of that translation, so they can assess its accuracy and potential historic value for their archives, I would be more than happy to share it with them. – Yours, etc,
Rev MARCUS LOSACK,
Via Roma,

Sir, – Neither of us is an expert on the aesthetic, financial or practical issues surrounding the suggested building of a large number of electricity pylons in Ireland. However, we are aware of the debate surrounding the proposals and are troubled by the assertion that electricity pylons are implicated in the cause of leukaemia.
As haematologists who spend a lot of time diagnosing and treating leukaemia we are not aware of any causal relationship between low-energy electromagnetic fields and leukaemia. Although laboratory studies have indicated that electromagnetic fields may produce adverse biologic effects they do not release sufficient energy to damage DNA and therefore it is not surprising that the majority of studies of electric and magnetic field exposure have not shown an association with increased risk of childhood leukaemia. Furthermore, it should also be remembered that an association between childhood acute leukaemia and radiation from nuclear fallout is also quite weak, as numerous studies have failed to show an increase in the incidence of leukaemia in the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl reactor accident. It is fair to conclude that the cause of leukaemia remains unknown in the vast majority of cases.
A constructive debate on the pros and cons of a new electricity grid should not be confused by spurious health claims. – Yours, etc,
SHAUN McCANN,
Prof Emeritus of
Haematology & Academic
Medicine, St James’s
Hospital and TCD,
Clanbrassil Terrace,
Dublin 8 & OWEN P SMITH,
Prof of Haematology,
Consultant Paediatric
Haematologist,
Our Lady’s Children’s
Hospital and TCD,
St Laurence Road, Dublin 4.

   
Sir, – It is very hard to write a newspaper article that does its job for the day but is still worth reading for its own sake decades later. Your supplement (November 20th) shows Fintan O’Toole has done so again and again.
To a university scholar, it is obvious from his other publications, as well as the quality of his Irish Times work, that Fintan O’Toole would be right at the top of any number of disciplines in Irish or US universities: English literature, soc/pol, drama and theatre, non-fiction writing, or history. The range of his talent is unmatched by anyone in contemporary English language journalism. He clearly has long been fitted to serve a turn as artistic director of the Abbey Theatre. That he has put his gifts, along with any writer’s desire to exercise his literary gifts for literary and personal purposes alone, at the service of the daily needs of his country. That is a sacrifice worthy of public gratitude.
His effort to correct the course of the ship of state (one man in a dinghy in front of a supertanker) has a Greenpeace kind of nobility, futility, and Don Quixote quality to it, and a tragic quality too. Hats off to him. The country is in a different place because of his work. – Yours, etc,
ADRIAN FRAZIER,
Henry Street, Galway.
Sir, – If we could endure 25 years of Fintan O’Toole columns (Conor Brady has a lot to answer for!) we can survive anything. Long may your esteemed “opinion-monger” continue to inform, entertain and infuriate in equal measure. I suppose it can only be a matter of time before you publish “25 years of Irish life through the columns of John Waters”? – Yours, etc,
PAUL DELANEY,
Beacon Hill,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Fifty years on from attending secondary school, I can still recall the feeling of gloom that descended, every week, when my homework assignment included the writing of an essay. So let me say, at the outset, and in all sincerity, that it is no mean feat to keep a newspaper column going for 25 years. Congratulations to Fintan O’Toole on this achievement. Personally, however, I am uneasy with Fintan O’Toole’s brand of journalism. While he writes very well, he has been extremely selective in his choice of targets.
This is especially true of his coverage of abortion. Anti-abortion activists are presented by him as inconsistent, hypocritical and prone to the use of dodgy statistics; pro-choice activists are never, ever, criticised. In Fintan O’Toole’s world, no pro-choice politician ever bullies or lies, no woman ever dies from an abortion, psychiatrists can predict a pregnant woman’s suicide, and abortion is a treatment for suicide. Also, while a lot of scientific evidence has been discovered, in the past 25 years, about the development of life in the womb, Fintan O’Toole continues to ignore the baby entirely in this debate.
There may also be a wee problem with political and religious bias. Like so many others in The Irish Times, Fintan did not have a lot to say when a Labour Minister for Education, shortly after taking office, announced a cut in the number of special needs assistants in primary schools. Was he too excited by the simultaneous announcement, by the same Minister, of a cut of 50 per cent in the number of Catholic-controlled schools? – Yours, etc,
JIM STACK,
Lismore, Co Waterford.
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s column has grasped our attention vividly for 25 years. The pin-sharp clarity of his prose still illuminates each topic that concerns us. He has the soul of a writer and no doubt athwart the grain: otherwise he would be mediocre. May he always provide us with a fresh and sometimes necessary acid portrait of ourselves. – Yours, etc,
JOSEPHINE LINEHAN,
Garryvoe,
Castlemartyr, Co Cork.

   
Sir, – I find it slightly amusing that a timepiece on the facade of Clerys, where Dubliners have met for decades (Front page, Frank Miller, November 21st), came from the People’s Republic of Cork – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL GEARY,
Ballyagran,
Co Limerick.

Sir, – By the end of 2013 the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, an independent voluntary charity, will have made grants totalling about €17 million for the period 2011-2013 to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. We rely totally on the generosity of the donating public, who have shown magnificent support to the cause for almost 50 years.
I wish to state unambiguously that not one cent of this has gone to pay top-ups or any salaries in the hospital.
We are dedicated to helping sick children, and their families, through the provision of funding for improvements to hospital infrastructure such as the new Children’s Heart Centre, the new Cancer Ward (St John’s), equipment and patient/parent well-being , and through supporting critical paediatric research at the National Children’s Research Centre (its grants also amount to €17 million over 2011-2013).
The point that has been lost in this controversy is our sick children. Crumlin hospital cares for the country’s most seriously-ill young patients. These children are still sick and we do them no service by potentially putting at risk the fundraising that is needed to upgrade and improve what are wholly inadequate and inappropriate conditions in some parts of Crumlin hospital, through any suggestion that fundraised income is funding salary top-ups, or by our donors deciding to stop donating to our programmes in protest. This is not to dismiss the debate, but we need to ensure, above all else, that some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens – the patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin – do not suffer as a result of the decisions of grown-ups.
Don’t punish sick kids. – Yours, etc,
JOE QUINSEY,
Chief Executive,
Children’s Medical &
Research Foundation,
Our Lady’s Children’s
Hospital,Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Sir, – I can clearly remember my first day in the Post & Telegraphs. The new entrants assembled in a room heated only by a turf fire, in Exchange Court. Heralding our arrival into State employment, an cigire produced a lot of documents for signing. Among them, one which carried a “sanction” of dismissal, was a commitment not to hold down any other paid employment – I was glad to make it.
So many years and so much of taxpayers’ money later, we discover that such commitments did not extend to all.
Now we discover that government employees are receiving “secret payments” – “top –ups”. How does that happen?
If we have learned enough but accomplished nothing, we have discovered that some animals don’t change their spots. – Yours, etc,
ROY STOKES,
Limekiln Park, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Two eminent economists, Paul Krugman (Business, November 19th) and Martin Wolf, cite Larry Summers with approval when he suggests that our economic future may be depressingly like our present. They agree substantially on some of the causes: excessive savings; low effective demand; increasing inequality. But neither seems able to go one step further and suggest the unmentionable. Marx was right. Left to its own devices monopoly capitalism will lead to increased concentrations of wealth, a decline in the workers’ ability to consume and a dearth of productive investment.
Fifty years of social democracy managed to hold this tendency at bay but with the triumph of transnational capitalism, and no counterbalancing democratic force on a global or even regional level, capitalism is back to working as normal. Workers’ share of GDP is declining in most countries. Rights of global capital are enforced by the WTO but no equivalent force defends the global workers’ right to organise and negotiate a larger share.
Badly paid and insecure workers don’t borrow, don’t buy and don’t consume. Overpaid monopolists can’t consume all they produce. The inevitable result is stagnation; social decline and, according to Marx, revolution.
Perhaps he was too optimistic. Cyber-fantasy may be the new opiate of the masses and, with monopoly control of both state power and intellectual discourse, stable stagnation might last a very long time. Not a cheering thought. – Yours, etc,
Dr KEVIN T RYAN,
Castletroy Heights,
Limerick.

   
Sir, – Colin Manning’s letter (November 13th) is to be commended. Prevention of plagiarism requires the establishment and comprehensive implementation of effective preventative procedures along with effective anti-plagiarism software.
A willingness to take strong action against offenders is also needed. Whistleblower protection for staff and students should be included in Quality and Qualifications Ireland’s forthcoming white paper in relation to quality assurance guidelines for third-level education. – Yours, etc,
CILIAN Ó SÚILLEABHÁIN,
Friars Walk, Cork.

Sir, – I am a little bemused by the furore over the remarks by John Larkin, the Northern Ireland Attorney General (front page, November 21st) when there is a very pertinent precedent. As long ago as 1979 the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher at the Lancaster House talks on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe independence included provisions for a full general amnesty for all acts committed during the war there.
This freed Ian Smith and the UDI government and forces of any charges arising from “any act done in good faith for the purpose of, or in connection with, resisting or combating any organisation”. It likewise gave the opposing Patriotic Front forces immunity for “any acts in resisting or frustrating the administration purporting to be the government of Southern Rhodesia”.
It would be of interest to hear why a full amnesty was regarded as essential to the Rhodesian Lancaster House ceasefire agreement but was not considered as part of the Belfast Agreement. – Yours, etc,
TIMOTHY HORGAN,
Weimar Street,

Sir, – I greatly enjoyed your Fintan O’Toole supplement (November 20th). He has upheld the proud journalistic tradition of voicing views that challenge those who hold power, the politicians, and those who grant them that power, the people. Having recently become involved in student journalism I have learnt that this role is important at all levels as it in effect puts a much needed check on power. This role challenges the culture of impunity and other societal failures. I know that like Fintan O’Toole, student journalists across the country have the same zeal for challenging such failures and championing fundamental democratic principles. – Yours, etc,
SEAN CASSIDY,
Opinions Editor,
The College View,
DCU, Dublin 9.
Sir, – Thanks Fintan O’Toole. You said it all! – Yours, etc,
DERMOT FAGAN,
Llewellyn Grove,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – As I face into my 60s, I share Fintan O’Toole’s sense of frustration (Supplement, November 20th) that after a quarter century and more of struggle, we may have altered many things (particularly on the social front) but failed to change the fundamentals, eg the economic system.
For sustenance I frequently recall the words an elderly woman comrade spoke to me during the 1980s: “You may lose many battles but you will only be defeated when you give up!”
Personally, I would like to express my appreciation to Fintan O’Toole for his contribution to the gay rights cause. In particular, I recall that after GLEN (Gay & Lesbian Equality Network) was founded in 1988 we wanted to raise the profile of the issue; one of the ways we did so was by organising public meetings with prominent speakers. Fintan O’Toole accepted our invitation to participate in one such meeting sharing a platform with his colleagues Mary Holland and Emily O’Reilly; all three gave freely of their time.
I remember well how important and vital to us then was the sense of uplift and energy their contributions gave us gay activists that winter’s night in the Clarence Hotel. – Yours, etc,
CATHAL KERRIGAN,
Convent View,
Strawberry Hill,
Cork.
Sir, – Patrick Donohoe (November 19th) repeats the claim that the 1916 Rising was democratically approved retrospectively by the 1918 Sinn Féin election victory.
The Sinn Féin party elected in 1918 survived only four years as it broke apart on the incompatibility of democratic decision-making with the “right”, 1916 style, to impose one’s views violently.
A small majority of the votes cast in the 1918 election were for parties other than Sinn Féin. Unionist representation increased in that election.
Of the seven signatories of the proclamation only one, Connolly, had ever stood for election. His efforts to be elected to Dublin Corporation were rejected by the electorate.
All the violent organisations of the last 100 years – up to the present day – which claim inspiration from 1916 imagined or imagine that they too will be accorded retrospective democratic approval some day. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN Mc DONAGH,
The Court,
Bettyglen,

   
Sir, – I would like to thank Niall Crowley (Opinion, November 21st) for highlighting the One Percent Difference website http://www.onepercentdifference.ie and I would urge readers to visit the site, calculate their 1 per cent, but more importantly, look at some of the more than 690 organisations that have signed up to the campaign and the work they do. In doing so, readers will gain a new appreciation of the immense contribution civil society makes to life in Ireland.
Civil society organisations and the volunteers and donors who support them, do everything from helping vulnerable children to supporting the cultural and sporting organisations, not to mention funding overseas development projects. In short, they are the primary generator of social capital in the State and are richly deserving of public support.
That said, Mr Crowley’s reading of the One Percent Difference campaign is somewhat surprising. The campaign is not “deliberately tapping into our very unhappy relationship with tax”; in fact the central insight which drives the campaign is that Irish people are highly empathic, if shown a need they will respond to it. The campaign is trying to tap into basic decency, which is one of the characteristics of the Irish.
Philanthropy and charitable giving are neither substitutes for paying tax, nor for government investment, and no one I know is arguing they can or should be. The reason is mathematics. The most generous philanthropist this country has known, will have donated, in a lifetime of giving, approximately €1 billion to good causes in Ireland North and South. In comparison, the Irish State spends well over €1 billion every week. The resources philanthropy and charitable fundraising can tap into are tiny compared to the resources of the State, but can nevertheless play a major role in unleashing the talents and energies of thousands of volunteers for the public good, and in funding initiatives which government will never fund, such as advocacy. A vibrant and independent civil society is critical to the health of any nation, without funding from the public it will be neither.
Mr Crowley references an entirely separate proposal by Frank Flannery to encourage investment in the social sector by allowing those individuals who are non-resident for tax proposes to stay in Ireland up to the internationally recognised limit of 183 days on the payment of €5 million to a Government-designated fund or funds, and €1 million a year to the exchequer for 10 years. This is an interesting idea, but it is neither charity nor philanthropy as the funds are not controlled by the investor and the investor is receiving a benefit. Nor is it part of the One Percent Difference Campaign.
If Mr Crowley is uneasy about the campaign, I would be equally uneasy about his suggestion that simply paying your taxes is the limit to the contribution you can make to your community or your country. Thankfully, hundreds of thousands of people are willing to give generously of their time and money to supporting civil society, and to making Ireland a better and a fairer country. – Yours, etc,
SEAMUS MULCONRY,
Executive Director,
Philanthropy Ireland,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s article (“Church watchdog surprised by diocese’s child safeguard review”, Home News, November 18th) could lead to a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Devaney Review of Child Safeguarding Structures and Processes in Down and Connor. To clarify, the Devaney Report did not examine cases and has a distinct and different remit to the forthcoming audit from the National Board for Safeguarding Children.
My sole aspiration in commissioning Dr Devaney was to benchmark the safeguarding work of the Diocese of Down and Connor on an ongoing basis. The first Reynolds-Devaney Review was published in October 2011. As Bishop of Down and Connor, I welcome the audit from the National Board for Safeguarding Children as it will provide further insight into how we ensure the highest standards for the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
To ensure the independence of their work, the Devaney report could not be published until the National Board for Safeguarding Children completed its review. The Devaney report follows the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland’s own recommendation that a diocese should “develop a plan of action to monitor the effectiveness of the steps it is taking to keep children safe”. I share and unite with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in promoting the primacy of child safeguarding in the church. – Yours, etc,
Bishop NOEL TREANOR,
Down and Connor Diocese,
Somerton Road, Belfast.

Sir, – There once was a challenge offered by Irish captain Willie Anderson when the All Blacks performed their ritual at Lansdowne Road in 1989. My take on his action of approaching the visitors’ line-up, ahead of his team, showed some defiance with a hint of menace while almost face to face with the Kiwi captain, Wayne Shelford. Willie was not to captain an Irish side again; it seemed his action, which I enjoyed, was too provocative!
As for counter-active proposals, I submit that such action in future should be better rehearsed, perhaps immediately following the playing of Ireland, Ireland. But it’s only a game and the All Blacks are always welcome here and around the world of rugby. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN BRADY,
Geashill, Co Offaly.
A chara, – There is a simple response to the haka: the troika. Let us send the troika into the All Blacks dressing room before kick-off. The players will then appear on the pitch totally disillusioned, with their heads bowed and with no self-belief. They will have the added disadvantage that their match tactics will be announced in the German Bundestag before kick-off. – Is mise,
EF FANNING,
Whitehall Road,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – I love the haka and the South Sea Islanders’ variants. I am looking forward to bringing my son to the Aviva to see it in person for the first time. I travelled around New Zealand in 1999 and remember clearly the significance of the haka being explained by a Maori elder. It is a greeting (a dubious welcome) to another tribe visiting the home of the tribe performing the haka. It is a challenge to the visitors, a not-so-veiled threat of violence if they misbehave. The visitors do not perform the haka!
Therefore while I love the theatrics of it, it should not be performed by the All Blacks for away games. I agree that the best response, now that we are not allowed to repeat Willie Anderson’s march up to the noses of the Kiwis, is for the crowd to sing their lungs out – I for one will be doing so. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN McENIFF,
Leinster Road,
Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Sir, – I have always believed the haka gives the All Blacks a very unfair advantage over their opponents. If they really need this practice to perform their wonderful rugby, I would like to suggest they do it during their warm-up at the end of the pitch. – Yours, etc,
CLAIRE CONNOLLY,
Kilgarve Court,
Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

   
Sir, – Further to Richard Scriven’s excellent observation of a new season, Pristmas (Letters, November 19th), will January now be known as Postmas? And when large credit card bills arrive, will the memories of Christmas shopping excess they evoke be an instance of Proustmas? – Yours, etc,  
NIALL McARDLE,
Wellington Street,
Eganville, Ontario, Canada.

Irish Independent:

* I learnt today with great sadness of the death of Fr Alec Reid, the low-key Redemptorist priest who paid a pivotal role in ending the Troubles, and also in bringing an end to the Basque conflict in Spain. Fr Reid was the epitome of a man of God.
Also in this section
Don’t punish sick children in row over pay
Remembering JFK
Misplaced antipathy for religious intelligence
He kept out of the limelight and relied on his unshakeable faith in the Holy Spirit to move mountains.
He believed that the spirit moved in dialogue; as long as people spoke to one another there was hope. Where others said ‘no’ he said there was no choice; when others asked ‘why’, he said why not? He was steely only in his determination to make peace.
He was a man of extraordinary integrity and a passionate believer in the primacy of right and wrong. When he was pitted into the tumult of the North, he felt the pain and injustice suffered by parishioners personally. He wept with and for them.
He held the hand of broken-hearted mothers who had lost sons in the violence. He gave succour to dying British soldiers who were beaten, later shot and stripped of all dignity.
Only God and Fr Alec stayed by them. His compassion and innate understanding of, and sympathy for, the human condition made him unique.
The greater good was always his driving force, and he gave his whole life to its service. Much, no doubt, will be said about this fiercely courageous yet ultimately humble Tipperary man in the coming days.
Fr Alec would wear his customary quizzical smile and say, “they can’t be talking about me surely”, for he was not one for plaudits.
People may come and go from the political stage, but the quiet man from the Clonard monastery who bore the concerns of the community on his heart as if they were his own, will be sorely missed and never equalled.
His life was living proof of the words of St Francis that: “Nothing is as kind as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as real strength.” Where there was darkness he brought light.
T G Gavin
Killiney, Co Dublin
BEING A ‘SANDWICH MUM’
* When I read about the ‘sandwich generation’ (Irish Independent, November 13), I was shocked as it described, exactly, my life.
The only difference was that you said some of these women worked part time. I work full time and have three children living at home.
My weekends are spent catching up and preparing for the week ahead. Nobody cares. I am in my late fifties. I work hard at work and in my home with my family.
I do it all with no help. If I ask the children to do something I am told “yes, will do” – but I have to ask. Two hours later, it is not done – even though I might have asked several times – so, in the end, I do it. Then I get screamed at because I make them feel bad or ‘I love to play the martyr’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them but I am tired as I am the only one who shops, cooks, cleans, washes, and irons. I am also a taxi service at the weekend. My husband divorced me years ago and while he was ‘finding himself’, I held our family together.
He was never a hands-on father, and is not much better at this stage, but the kids are adults today so, of course, he spends time with them now. He gets the best of them on his terms, whereas I have no terms.
I am just ‘Mum’ who is always there, seven days and seven nights a week. During the day I smile, but at night I can be myself when I go to bed. I have my mother who has helped me and who cares, thank God.
It is hard and I am lucky. Retirement does not even enter my mind except how in God’s name will I support myself? Or my children?
Name and address with editor
DAVE GALLAHER SHIELD?
* There are many things that link Ireland and New Zealand, including the latter’s sizable proportion of people with Irish heritage and the fact that we are both island nations with near-identical population sizes.
Arguably the most profound connection is personified by Dave Gallaher, the Donegal emigrant who captained the Originals which, during the years 1905-06, were the first New Zealand rugby team to tour the northern hemisphere and were the first to be known as the All Blacks.
Given this incredible Irish connection, I find it remiss that there is no perpetual trophy in rugby contested between our two countries. The connection between, for example, England and New Zealand is celebrated quite colourfully by the awarding of ‘The Hillary Shield’ (named after Edmund Hillary).
In order to commemorate Gallaher’s death on French soil when fighting for New Zealand during World War I, there is a perpetual trophy contested between France and New Zealand known as ‘The Dave Gallaher Trophy’.
Why not establish a perpetual shield between New Zealand and Ireland and call it ‘The Gallaher Shield’?
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
NOT GREEN WITH ENVY
* Many thanks for your timely reminder of some of the rubbish with which we had to put up with during the last government’s tenure. I refer to the totally pie-in-the-sky piece by Eamon Ryan, leader of one of the political parties which oversaw the collapse of our country’s economy.
Apparently, all that has to be done to make Ireland “one of the best clean energy locations in the world” is to shut down all coal and peat-fired generating stations. Problem solved, as far as Mr Ryan is concerned.
But how are we to replace them? Simple – wind, solar, hydro, and flexible gas-fired power stations.
Surely gas is also obtained from fossil fuels? We don’t have sufficient sunlight to make the solar option viable. The only untapped waterfall with sufficient strength for hydro power would appear to be in Powerscourt. And, during a cold snap, wind strength is zero due to the ambient high pressure.
Mr Ryan then suggests interconnections with Britain and France. As an avowed detractor of nuclear power – the only truly viable option – what guarantee would Mr Ryan have that none of this imported power would have been generated in such a fashion? Or would it be a case of ‘not in my back yard’?
Truly, we have more to fear from the possible return to power of Mr Ryan and his cohorts than the worst that Brendan Ogle and his members can throw at us.
DK Henderson
Clontarf, Co Dublin
GOING NUCLEAR
* There seems to have been much fuss made of Iran’s nuclear programme in recent years, and especially now as multinational talks continue. However, personally, I don’t see why there should be such controversy.
If you consider that Iran had its democratically elected leader overthrown by the US in 1953. Then, during the Shah’s reign, it was offered nuclear weapon technology.
Then it saw the US arm Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Since then, it has seen its neighbours Iraq and Afghanistan invaded, and is now surrounded by US bases.
If ever a nation needed such a weapon as a genuine deterrent then Iran is that nation.
And yet Israel – which has violated international law for decades, militarily occupies Palestine and has attacked many countries – possesses nuclear weapons.
The nations that have nuclear weapons (US, UK, France, Russia, Pakistan, India and so on) are obliged under treaty to reduce their arsenals, and yet they continue to violate their own agreements.
So I ask: who is more of a threat, nations with thousands of warheads who refuse to disarm or a country thinking of getting a nuclear weapon?
Colin Crilly
Tooting, London
Irish Independent

* The thought process behind decision-making at government level would surely make for a riveting thesis for some PhD student because it is so utterly baffling to normal people.
Also in this section
Priest with rock-like faith pivotal to peace
Don’t punish sick children in row over pay
Remembering JFK
Take two different examples, which are both linked to Brendan Howlin’s role as Minister for Public Expenditure.
Firstly, he attempted to insert a last-minute amendment to freedom of information (FOI) legislation that would apply a fee of €15 for each question.
Secondly, we hear that if the ASTI votes to accept the Haddington Road agreement, its members will get an incremental payment backdated to July. But the Department of Education, which requires approval for such a payment from Mr Howlin, refuses to confirm how much this will cost because the public have no right to know the cost.
It seems the concept that the taxpayer should have an automatic right to know the cost of things such as backdating increments, genuinely never occurred to Mr Howlin. It is precisely that type of attitude, where an actual member of the Government refers to the Government as ‘them’ instead of ‘we’ that adds to the dysfunctional gap between the process of Irish governance and the public’s ability or will to hold it to account.
This in turn feeds into why the public sector fails so frequently to make long-term decisions in the public interest.
This attitude of fighting any effort at transparency shows that Mr Howlin and the Government he is part of have failed to make the reforms required so that the failures of the last government will never be repeated. A government and public sector afraid of embracing transparency and accountability are not capable of delivering the reforms that are still required for Ireland to reach its potential.
The proof of this is that three years into its term this Government hasn’t even bothered to apply a standard values message across the entire public sector.
Something along the lines of ‘the public is not the enemy and has a right to know…’
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
AUTUMN TESTS TO RELISH
* This year, not only does autumn in Ireland bring its customary crisp freshness in the evenings (which I, for one, always find energising and hopeful), but it also brings a fresh start for Irish rugby.
The Autumn International Test-match window is my favourite period in the sporting calendar, as it traditionally has been the period where we schedule matches to compete against the first-tier rugby nations of the world. It offers the most truthful gauge of where the standard of Irish rugby ranks in the world, not merely of where it ranks in Europe.
It is for this reason that I continue to suggest that we should find the will to play the “big three” southern hemisphere nations on a more regular basis than we currently do, to aid our desired improvement to their level.
Playing Australia and world champions New Zealand this month will represent a step-up which, sadly, is not likely to be repeated until the southern hemisphere returns to Dublin in autumn 2014.
Therefore, Irish rugby must take this all-too-rare opportunity to show the world what we are made of.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
SICK OF THE DART
* This week I witnessed a young woman vomiting at the side of the platform at Monkstown Dart station, a direct result of yet another case of extreme over-crowding on the service. It is the third time in as many months I have witnessed fellow passengers either vomiting or collapsing as a result of the dangerous over-crowding that is now an everyday occurrence on trains.
Contrary to public assurances from Iarnrod Eireann that reduced carriage capacities would ‘only affect non-peak time trains’, the issue of over-crowding has become critical – in particular at peak times.
A large part of this is due to Iarnrod Éireann’s definition of ‘peak time’. I would argue that peak time should encompass the hours of 07.00-09.30 and 16.30-18.30 and not merely 08.00-09.00 and 17.00-17.30.
Secondly, whether by accident or design, many trains during peak hours have clearly been ‘unofficially’ cancelled.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that if there are roughly half the number of trains serving the same number of commuters then said trains will be twice as full.
Name with editor
Monkstown, Co Dublin
RIGHT TO DECLARE?
* In her letter (November 8), Susie Glynn invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in support of a right to same-sex marriage.
It’s worth pointing out that when the UDHR was drawn up in 1948 the concept of same-sex marriage, as generally understood nowadays, was non-existent.
Therefore, to interpret the UDHR as establishing a right to same-sex marriage would be questionable, to say the least; and would be highly controversial, especially outside the Western world (most of the world simply doesn’t share the views of Western liberals on matters such as same-sex marriage and is highly unlikely to do so anytime soon, if ever).
Such an interpretation could well lead to the UDHR being perceived in much of the world as being little more than a vehicle for the advancement of a certain type of Western cultural imperialism and could destroy whatever moral force and claims to universality the declaration has outside the West.
Hugh Gibney
Athboy, Co Meath
OUT OF TUNE
* I sentenced myself to a minute (no more, please) listening to Justin Timberlake’s version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. I now fear I may have splinters in my ears.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont D9
FOR THE CHOP
* This week’s business section reports the sad news that world famous French piano makers Pleyel are to shut down after 200 years.
Having supplied Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin, the company are now unable to compete with competition from China. So, “chopsticks” has come back to haunt them!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Co Waterford
LIFEBELTS AT THE READY
* The news that Ireland will be exiting its bailout from the troika on December 15 is to be welcomed on a nationalist and morale level.
But it will not be negotiating a financial back-up package in case of setbacks or mishaps.
With an economy that has a debt of approximately 120pc of GDP, high unemployment and low growth, Ireland is heading out on to the great ocean of world finance on a prayer and a load of optimism – while waving the Tricolour of imagined independence.
It’s a very big risk given the volatile state of the world financial markets.
Surely it would be prudent to have as much protection as possible against financial upheaval. Ireland is a very small country in financial terms and with an open economy is really at risk in the present circumstances.
I think we should all have our lifebelts handy and our places booked in the lifeboats.
We may be getting our feet wet.
Liam Cooke
Coolock, Co Dublin

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