24 November 2013 50th Anniversary
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are automated by Fred Computicals. Priceless.
Paz pops round with apples lots of apples
No Scrabble today watch An Unearthly child and The Day of the Doctor.
Jack Lynn – obituary
Jack Lynn was an architect whose Brutalist masterpiece proved to be the perfect haunt for gangs and drug dealers
6:50PM GMT 21 Nov 2013
Jack Lynn, who has died aged 86, was one of a pair of idealistic young architects responsible for the Park Hill housing development in Sheffield, a huge Brutalist masterpiece which is as admired by architects as it came to be loathed by many of those who had to live there.
The context of the building of Park Hill was the acute post-war shortage of housing in the city. In December 1940 two nights of German bombing had wrought devastation, destroying many of the Victorian terraced streets. The city was left with a major homelessness problem, further exacerbated after the war as what remained of its Victorian housing was condemned as unfit for habitation. Land was also in short supply as much of it was green belt.
In a desperate bid to solve the problem, Sheffield City Council sent a party of dignitaries to look at housing projects in Europe. They returned full of enthusiasm for the modernist developments they had seen.
The inspiration for Lynn, his colleague Ivor Smith and the city architect Lewis Womersley, was the work of Le Corbusier, whose concrete “streets in the sky” were all the rage in France. The idea was to replace Sheffield’s slums with ultra-modern flats and facilities, recreating the communities that had flourished in the back-to-backs of the pre-war era.
12 Jan 2012
06 Dec 2012
Multi-million-pound makeover for Sheffield’s notorious Park Hill estate
21 Sep 2012
The new development was also conceived (ironically, in view of its later reputation) as a response to what were considered, even in the 1950s, to be modern architecture’s failures: empty spaces, isolation, a lack of street life, a middle-class “we know what’s good for you” ethos.
When the estate was formally opened by Hugh Gaitskell in 1961, Park Hill was hailed as the perfect expression of a utopian vision of social housing. Conceived as a town within a town, it consisted of 996 flats that would house almost 3,000 people and was equipped with every sort of facility — shops, a doctors’ surgery, dentist, clinic, nursery, school, four pubs and a police station.
While most tower blocks of the era were being built around narrow, claustrophobic corridors, Park Hill’s flats were arranged in a snaking warren around interlinked “street-decks”, wide enough for a milk float — communal areas where children could play and families socialise. Its concrete blocks were fitted to the undulating terrain in such a way that they rose from four storeys to 13 while maintaining a level roof line.
A survey of residents conducted by the housing department a year after the flats had been officially opened was overwhelmingly positive, and awards were heaped on the designers. “When one looks out from some part of it and sees another of its limbs swinging across the view,” enthused the architectural critic Reyner Banham, “the effect is like that of suddenly realising that the railway lines on the other side of some valley in Switzerland are the same that one’s own train has just traversed a few moments before.”
Park Hill, where the ‘streets in the sky’ were inspired by Le Corbusier (ALAMY)
The vision of Park Hill as a living community also seemed vindicated. Of the walkways, Banham wrote: “Toddlers play on them, teens mend bikes and swap gossip, Teds occasionally brawl, heroic Sheffield grans, legs akimbo at the street door, are backed by tableaux of floral wallpaper and aspidistras in pots on spindly wooden stands.”
Fired by a deep social commitment, Lynn and his colleagues did everything they could to ensure that the new residents felt at home in their new environment. Cobbles from the old terraced streets surrounded the flats and paved the pathways down the hill to Sheffield station; brick infill panels were made of the same material as the houses they replaced, and there were traditional front doorsteps. Each floor was given an old street name and neighbours were rehoused together.
But Park Hill did not age as well as its admirers hoped. The concrete in which it was built proved less suited to the damp climate of Sheffield than the dry heat of the south of France, and as the years passed it began to stain and splinter or “spall”.
By the 1970s problems were accumulating. Cockroaches invaded the estate and a spate of sex attacks led to headlines in the papers. In the 1980s, as unemployment soared, social problems multiplied. There were burnt-out cars, boarded-up shops, rubbish and graffiti. The council was accused of dumping “problem families” there, while the “streets in the sky” proved an ideal haunt for gangs of lawless youths and drug dealers. Deliverymen found that they often had to dodge milk bottles and other missiles, while older inhabitants who had once chatted and gossiped with their neighbours began locking their doors.
Park Hill in 2013, after its renovation (ALAMY)
The cost of refurbishing the flats and of maintenance was also getting out of hand as a cash-strapped council battled to keep on top of the escalating problems. By the 1980s Park Hill had come to be regarded as a dangerous no-go area, an embarrassing blot on the face of the city .
In the 1990s the council faced growing demands that Park Hill should be demolished, and in the early 1990s some parts of neighbouring estates were bulldozed. But despite making it to the top of Channel 4’s Demolition, which set out to find Britain’s most-hated building and have it knocked down, in 1998 Park Hill was given Grade II* listed status by English Heritage.
The decision presented Sheffield council with a seemingly irresolvable dilemma: it could not afford to maintain the estate and it was not allowed to demolish it. Eventually, in 2004, the council signed a deal with Urban Splash, a Manchester-based urban developer which is now involved in a scheme with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments for sale, business units and social housing.
The renovation was one of the six shortlisted projects for this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize, though it remains controversial. Lynn, who retained a strong social conscience throughout his life, regretted the fact that two thirds of the original council flats will, with the help of public subsidy, be for private sale.
The youngest of eight children of a coalminer, Jack Basil Lynn was born at North Seaton, Northumberland, on October 30 1926. The family fell into poverty when his father had to leave the pit due to ill health.
After graduating in Architecture from King’s College, Durham, and stints with the East Anglia Health Board and Coventry City Council, he joined Sheffield Council in 1952. In 1966, after King’s College became Newcastle University, Lynn was appointed to produce the master plan for a programme of expansion, and subsequently established his own practice, Kendrick & Lynn Associates, with Donald Kendrick.
Lynn had been brought up a Methodist, but in 1968 he converted to Roman Catholicism. He was a strong supporter of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which is dedicated to serving the poor and disadvantaged, and did much work to rehabilitate offenders.
Lynn’s wife, Mari, died in 2001, and afterwards he found companionship with Fiona Manzeh-Longbone, who died last year.
He is survived by his son and daughter.
Jack Lynn, born October 30 1926, died October 15 2013
Five cyclist killed in two weeks on London’s roads calls for action, as your article (“Two weeks, five deaths, more grief: do we need to find a smarter way to protect our cyclists?”, News, last week) and the comment by Christian Wolmar rightly seek.
In reducing road deaths in Britain, let us not forget the 5,000 per annum killed by toxic traffic fumes in London, with the carcinogen PM10 the prime target – 20% of inner London PM10 comes from taxis and nearly 80% from 8,000 buses. To meet air standards means using non-polluting transport such as cycles.
The comparison with Amsterdam, which also has narrow streets, is apposite, since trams are the backbone of Amsterdam’s transport. As well as being fume-free, trams don’t kill cyclist, since they stick to their tracks.
Plans for supertrams in Southwark could show the way to a central London network and sort out the black spots of Oxford Street and other fume-choked roads.
Professor LJS Lesley
President of Merseyside Cycling Campaign, Liverpool
According to the Department for Transport, more than 540,000 cycling journeys are undertaken in London every day. That’s nearly 200 million a year. A dozen or so fatalities are a tiny proportion of these.
Every death is unfortunate, but when cycling is as safe as it is, I have to question Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, spending a billion pounds trying to improve this number. He’s doing it by taking vehicle lanes away and allocating them to cyclists, thus dramatically increasing the overcrowding on roads, which are already close to capacity. This is going to heighten the risks for all road users, including pedestrians, who die at a rate some 600% that of cyclists – where’s the hand-wringing for them?.
If Johnson really wanted to save cyclists’ lives he would be lobbying for a law like that in the Netherlands where, in any collision with a cyclist, the motorist is automatically held to be liable unless they prove otherwise.
Is this just British inability to learn anything from the continent or is Boris too scared of losing the motorist vote?
The truth is that, as any road user in central London and other cities will see every day, many cyclists ride unsafely and without much care for anyone else either. “Cycle super-highways” and the like might give cyclists a false sense of safety, but the reality is that paint on a road means little, even if you can see the colour.
I used to travel from Swiss Cottage down to the Holborn area via Camden, and in the years I did this had no serious encounters with vehicles.
I “rode high”, making sure I was visible at all times; I never went “undertaking” long vehicles (there is a clue in the word, cyclists!) and always wore a helmet. Cyclists have to realise they are the most vulnerable road users, possibly even ahead of pedestrians who, usually, are protected by controlled crossings (when the road users obey the rules!).
Or, as my dad used to put it, as a cyclist, they are out to get you and he was a bus driver!
Cycle defensively, obey the rules of the road, don’t take risks, wear a crash helmet and don’t expect anyone else to look out for you: it’s your life.
Your leader “The state we need: not smaller but smarter” (Comment) encapsulates the current underlying problem in British politics. Shifting the debate from one of size and numbers to one that addresses humans first seems now to be a task beyond our representatives’ grasp. Mired in the market, competition, privatisation, the myth of choice and the illusory trickle-down effect, our politicians have contributed to the alienation of people from the political process.
Not bothering to protest, many escape into the glamour of popular technology and the promise of celebrity. We might begin by seeking a rebirth in local democracy where successive national governments have marginalised local government and where local authorities have often contributed to their own devaluation.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Spain shows the way for Roma
Thank you for the special report on the plight of the Roma community in Britain (“The real story of Britain’s Roma: excluded, ignored and neglected”, News). In Britain, as elsewhere in Europe, the Roma issue is linked to difficult questions of ethnicity, race, social exclusion and political gamesmanship.
The only glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma. Nearly all Roma children there finish primary school. In 1978, three-quarters of Spain’s Roma lived in substandard housing; today just 12% do. Isidro Rodriguez, the director of Fundación Secretariado Gitano, cited access to free education, healthcare and social housing following the anti-Roma repression of the Franco years.
Chairman, European Multicultural Foundation (EMF)
Privatisation hasn’t worked
It is as clear as can be that the experiment of letting the private sector deliver the services essential to a reasonable quality of life for the public has failed (“Energy firms hike prices 37% in three years”, News ).
At privatisation, we were told that yes, the private companies wanted to make a profit, but the companies would want to improve services to customers in order to increase those profits. Competition and innovation would keep prices down. This is not the case. Huge profits are made because people have to buy the services no matter what the price charged. Competition is cosmetic and technical innovation often just increases profits further.
The challenge for our politicians is to take the greed out of essential service delivery and to restore public services to public ownership without restoring the bureaucracy and unwieldiness that persuaded the public to give up ownership of their services in the first place.
Tactics to cope with disasters
Responding to disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan involves “fiendishly complicated logistics” as you report (“‘The strain of fighting bottlenecks that refuse to budge is showing among relief work veterans'”, News). Having visited Indonesia in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, I’ve seen how things can go badly wrong if the aid effort is not co-ordinated. If one lesson can be taken from past efforts, it is that, despite these huge challenges, co-operation and co-ordination between aid agencies is essential.
Executive director, Doctors of the World UK
Contesting this ‘competition’
Your story on how competition-based arguments are affecting outcomes in the NHS misses the wider point (“NHS ‘competition’ policy blocks improved cancer treatment centres”, News). Notably, since the Enterprise Act of 2002, the Competition Commission has placed itself at the core of the economy.
It is astonishing that this rise to power – founded on privatisation and deregulation – has generated so little debate. We could start by asking how one narrow vision of competition was chosen. There is also some amusement to be had from querying why the Competition Commission itself is, in effect, a monopoly.
Alan Hallsworth, professor emeritus
Portsmouth Business School
The world needs to grow up
Henry Porter is right to challenge the image of a “kindly old man” in a corridor behind the powers of state (“No more evasion and prevaricating – Britain’s elite must be held to account”, Comment).
Many of us will recognise in ourselves a residual faith in someone, somewhere up there, who may put things right for us. Often, it allows us to defer decision where only individual and collective action can change things. In matters of war, we march in our millions, but fail to stop the war, or even stop paying for it. When it comes to climate change, we give quite generously after a typhoon but leave unchanged the practice that makes such climate chaos inevitable.
We’re torn between a cheeky disrespect for them up there and an infantile reliance on human science or superhuman providence to save us in the nick of time.
There is much more in common between David Cameron’s Sri Lanka visit and his Tahrir Square walkabout than is evident in Joan Smith’s engaging article “Dave does abroad, but as arms dealer or avenging angel?” (17 November).
Shortly after leaving Sri Lanka, Cameron stopped in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he spoke before a selected audience at the BAE Systems stand at the Dubai Air Show, due to open the following day. This was followed by a private dinner with Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this little publicised stopover was to lobby for UAE to enter a billion-pound deal to buy a fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons.
The UAE was rated at 149 out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2012, and in July saw a mass trial and jailing of dissidents linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, with a similar trial starting in November. In both cases, the accused said that they had been subject to torture. There are also questions over the poor treatment of expatriate workers in the country. There is no evidence that Mr Cameron has taken up the cause of these groups as he has the Sri Lankan Tamils. When it comes to the oil-rich Gulf states the promotion of arms sales is seen as far more important than support for human rights.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
The moves by internet search engines to make it harder to find child-abuse images online do not go far enough (“PM to demand better online protection for children”, 17 November). The measures will do little to stop the people sharing these images, which is 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, find and protect every victim, nor to identify and charge every abuser. 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 to 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
Professor Robert Plomin (“Mr Gove and the question of genetics in schooling”, 17 November) can only argue that the ability to learn is more influenced by genes than experience if he can find students who have similar experiences. But we all know that the sensation of experience varies from one child to another even if they are identical twins. Children take away different things from school life, home life and recreational life. It’s what makes them human.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
I read with interest the interview with Ingrid Newkirk (“It’s bizarre to kill animals for a sandwich”, 17 November). However, her mention of cosmetics testing, without referring to medical experiments on animals, implies that the latter do not come within her scope. This is a pity. The medical or scientific angle on vivisection should be scrutinised for its validity by medical and veterinary people who disapprove of animal experimentation. Yes, such people do exist.
This adulatory piece (“Please keep shoving the royal oar in, Your Highness”, 17 November) misses the point. We are all entitled to our opinions but we don’t have access to government ministers.
This secretive way to influence policy is playing on Prince Charles’s power and privilege and undermines democracy. When we have an elected head of state, Charles will be able to stand for election; until then he should stop abusing his position. Or he could leave public life and then he would be free to voice his opinions publicly.
If we hadn’t privatised the utility companies, energy prices could have been kept down in the first place, as there would have been no shareholders to please in preference to customers (“The big switch”, 17 November).
NHS management out of touch with ward staff
CONGRATULATIONS to Camilla Cavendish for her excellent article “I saw what needs to be fixed in the NHS. Let’s get on with it” (Comment, last week).
Her observation regarding the “senior nurses” who “did not know where their wards were” is redolent of when Richard Baker took over as chief executive of Boots: he allegedly made a habit of pitching up at the desks of middle managers and asking to be introduced to their staff. It quickly became clear to Baker that the middle managers apparently didn’t know their staff. Cavendish says: “Many of the problems in the NHS are management issues.” In the NHS, as with any other organisation, all problems are managerial ones.
Dr John Chamberlin, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
What the doctor ordered
I worked as a clinician and a manager, and the clinical staff were always keen to provide the best possible service, and resented being plagued by administrative bureaucracy. The best results will only be achieved when managers work with clinicians rather than try to regulate them.
Robin Illingworth, London W13
Cavendish tells us Toyota’s Stop the Line quality assurance process helped save a patient from leaving the operating room with a swab in the abdomen. Since the days of the 18th-century surgeon John Hunter, staff in operating rooms have as a matter of procedure always counted all the swabs — clean and bloody — at the start and at the end of the procedure to make sure none are left inside the patient.
Roger Dunshea, Whitchurch, Shropshire
I was surprised to read that Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, is appealing to colleagues who work in other hospital departments to help out doctors struggling in casualty (“Call for volunteers to ease A&E crisis”, News, last week).
When I was a junior surgeon in training in the 1960s and 1970s it was compulsory to spend six months in A&E as a senior house surgeon. A period in A&E should be mandatory training for all specialities.
Hugh Evans, Retired consultant surgeon, Ferryside, Carmarthenshire
Safety in numbers
As 10 experienced leaders of nursing teams in some of the largest hospitals that care for many patients with complex conditions, we are pleased to see that the government has prioritised nurse staffing levels as an issue to be addressed with urgency. However, we are cautious of achieving this by instigating a minimum ratio of nurses to patients.
There is a danger that a mandated staffing level may be perceived as an optimum one, when the number of staff required may differ according to patient need and may be in excess of the mandated level. A safer approach would be to enforce use of a recognised tool at a local level to calculate staffing requirement based on the needs of the specific group of patients. The Shelford Group Chief Nurses, London SW1H
Cycle lanes impeded by design flaws
THE rant by Thomas Bewley about cyclists not using dedicated cycle lanes highlights the sense of motorists’ entitlement (“Cyclists are a law unto themselves”, Letters, last week). I find many cycle lanes are poorly designed, badly built and not maintained. When cycle lanes are busy it’s much safer to cycle on the road, even if it does mean “getting in the way” of motorists. As usual, the minority of idiot cyclists are perceived as the majority. I’m guessing that Bewley doesn’t cycle very much.
John O’Connell, Hertford
Sensor and sensibility
One of the main spurs for overhauling fire safety was not regulation but changes made in the interests of lower fire insurance premiums. A number of the recent deaths related to cycling have been collisions with lorries and buses, most of which are not fitted with the cyclist sensors we now see on newer London cabs and commercial vehicles.
The devices are not that expensive, and adding them would bring a net reduction in accidents, both vehicular and otherwise — so insurers would see a reduction in claims. One would also hope to see a drop in cyclists’ deaths.
Peter Bousquet, Barnes, London
The correspondence ignores the fact that there are red lights and there are red lights. Many junctions are far too busy to be jumped but there are others where one can clearly see traffic and pedestrians. More than 30 years ago in Nairobi many city traffic lights would flash amber at night. In Bath there are plenty of examples where this practice would be sensible and safe. Stuart Andrews, Bath
Mary Clark (“Saddle sore”, Letters, last week) is wrong about cyclists and one-way streets. On the Continent they are rapidly becoming two-way for bicycles. It’s time the UK followed suit.
Colin Stone, Oxford
Paying for risks of rich
IN YOUR article “Richest pay 30% of income tax” (News, last week) and the editorial “The wealthy show that less tax means more” you did not explain the one key reason why Britain’s financial services are so lucrative for these masters of the universe.
In all other sectors of the UK economy there is a balance between opportunity (making money) and risk (losing money). This balance is reflected in the pay and conditions of those industries. However, the same balance does not exist in the financial services sector.
There the individuals are able to take advantage of these “upside opportunities” and — quite rightly — they make lots of money. Then they pay lots of personal income tax on these earnings.
However, when their huge gambles fail and financial services companies lose vast sums of money their “downside risks” are — because of government bank bailouts and quantitative easing — actually being taken by us, the general public.
It is the rest of us — the average taxpayer, small saver and pension fund beneficiaries — who pay when these “too big to fail” banks spectacularly and suddenly do so.
Peter Bryson, Addingham, West Yorkshire
Archbishop leads from the front on spirituality
THERE are encouraging signs that the Archbishop of Canterbury will prove to be as effective a leader of his church as Pope Francis (“Welby can take heart from the Francis effect”, Editorial, last week).
Justin Welby has affirmed that “a deep spiritual base” is needed as much as economic recovery for a healthy society, while his call at Christmas is to eschew consumerism and value loving relationships.
Above all, the Church has recently launched a “pilgrim” course designed to deepen the spiritual life of its members.
The Reverend John Brown, Middleton-on-Sea, West Sussex
You report that the congregations in Catholic churches in Britain have increased by about 20% (“‘Francis effect’ pulls crowds back to church”, News, and “Pope idol”, Focus, last week). I suggest this is down to immigrants from central and eastern Europe rather than anything the Pope has said.
The Catholic Church is one of the most reactionary faiths, which thrives on the ignorance and poverty of its followers. The power of the churches is weakening and the numbers of believers falling.
John Antill, Darlington, Co Durham
National Trust plays fair with rents
WITH universal increases in property values and rents there will be painful pressure on family budgets everywhere, not just for tenants of the National Trust (“‘Strong-arm’ National Trust ramps up rents”, News, last week). As a charity the trust is obliged to maximise income from its assets, but it is also required to maintain old buildings. It spends millions on those occupied by tenants. Moreover, many of those who rent live in enviably nice places.
Pat Morris, Ascot, Berkshire
Your article barely scratched the surface of the issue. A very large number of the properties would not meet decent home standards and much of the rental income is used for conservation work elsewhere. Tenants on the protected leases are frightened that if they push for repairs, or improve the property, their rent will be hiked up beyond what they can afford or they will be evicted.
Linda Baharier, by email
The National Trust always aims to be professional and fair in the way we work with our 8,000 tenants. We’ve recently joined the most recognised independent benchmarking service within the sector, which told us that we charge average market rent for our residential holdings. On farms, we are below market rates.
We can and will adjust rent where we and our tenant can agree to do so. We rent properties to raise vital funds, which we pump back into our core charitable purpose of looking after special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director, National Trust
Congratulations to AA Gill for his article on the female victims of the war in Congo (“My family name means ‘I had to go through a lot’”, Magazine, last week). He was incisive, and sympathetic to those to whom he spoke, while also illuminating their dire conditions. It brought back memories to my wife and me of when we saw the evil of the Lord’s Resistance Army during its operations in north Uganda.
Richard Winn, Bristol
As head of The Sunday Times’s Insight team I wrote Scandal ’63, the first investigative book on the John Profumo affair. In “Notes on a scandal” (Culture, last week) Bryan Appleyard traduces the Labour MP George Wigg, quoting the words of Lord Hailsham. It was Hailsham who was the bad guy, not Wigg, who was a prime source for the book and the real whistleblower hero — the Edward Snowden of his day — but he was exploited by the devious Harold Wilson.
Clive Irving, London EC1
The new homes bonus is not to boost house-building — it is rewarding councils and communities for 400,000 new properties they have already constructed and 50,000 empty ones they have brought back into use (“New homes cost £1m each”, News, last week). Local authorities can choose to spend the money however they like: opening a new library, protecting frontline services or freezing council tax, which doubled under the previous administration. We have other policies to help people onto the housing ladder and to get Britain building.
Kris Hopkins MP, Minister for Housing
Birds going for a song
As usual there are reports of the high cost of free-range, fresh or organic turkeys (“Pricier turkeys gobble up our Christmas cash”, News, last week). In fact a good-quality, frozen, mass-produced Norfolk bird will taste just as good, possibly be more tender and require less work while in the oven, for about one third of the price. And in my experience guests will never notice the difference.
Linda Miller, Dereham, Norfolk
In “Rocketing population is making typhoons more deadly” (Focus, last week) Jonathan Leake says that “policy-makers will try to pin the blame on climate change . . . but the biggest factor by far will be our own inability to control our population”. Just before the international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 the United Nations issued a report that said the obvious way to reduce the impact of climate change was to reduce the number of climate changers (1m more people on earth every five days). Despite thousands of people jetting in from around the world there was no mention of rapid population growth on a planet with only finite resources. The climate change conference in Stockholm earlier this year was also silent on the matter.
Eric McGraw, Author: The Human Race
Making an entrance
Did Oxford University’s director of undergraduate admissions really say that he was on a mission to weed out the “thick and rich” (India Knight, last week)? To imply that Oxbridge and other top universities rely solely on the Ucas points system for entrance is incorrect. All potential entrants are interviewed and there are other assessments in most subjects. This system allows latitude in making offers.
Clare Luscombe Yelverton, Devon
Pete Best, original drummer in the Beatles, 72; Bev Bevan, drummer, 68; Sir Ian Botham, cricketer, 58; Billy Connolly, comedian, 71; Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, 55; Shirley Henderson, actress, 48; Stephen Merchant, comedy writer and director, 39; Arundhati Roy, novelist, 52; John Squire, guitarist, 51; Edward Stourton, broadcaster, 56; Russell Watson, singer, 47
1642 Abel Tasman becomes first European to discover Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania; 1713 birth of Laurence Sterne, novelist; 1859 Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published; 1963 two days after assassinating President John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald is shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby; 1995 divorce, banned in Ireland since 1937, is legalised through a referendum
SIR – Two items caught my attention in Thursday’s Telegraph. On the front page, you report British survival rates against the rest of the world: we are 24th in stroke mortality, 27th in cancer mortality and 25th in infant mortality (with one being the lowest).
On page 10, a headline reads: “GPs ‘best paid of 22 countries’ ”.
SIR – Why does our NHS rate so low on stroke mortality? Is it our failure to start treatment early enough?
The Church of England must demonstrate its values with action
23 Nov 2013
It’s a miracle that the Conservative vote holds up, when so many feel let down
23 Nov 2013
SIR – Jon Law suggests that those requiring A&E treatment due to excessive alcohol consumption should be either denied care or charged a fee on the spot.
Upon my arrival on the ward last year from casualty following a tumble down my pub stairs just after closing time, I was in no fit state to remember my Pin to pay by card and had no cash on me. Smokers, motorcyclists, balloonists, mountaineers, sailors, rally drivers and myriad other extreme(ly dangerous) sport enthusiasts engage in activities that endanger their health and then rely on the NHS if it all goes wrong.
The only truly safe thing I can think of doing is to sit at home writing letters complaining about the costs of the consequences of enjoying a beer or several.
SIR – Last week, I fell in the street in Cuenca, in Castile-La Mancha, breaking my ankle. I was admitted to a very busy Urgencias department at the Virgen de la Luz hospital at 3.48pm and was documented, assessed, triaged, examined, X-rayed, plastered and discharged at 5.30pm, complete with a prescription and letter for my GP. Not one word of English was spoken. I was sore but impressed.
Perhaps NHS staff should be seconded to Spain. Even with the language barrier, they could learn a lot about how to treat patients efficiently in an A&E department.
Alberic, Valencia, Spain
SIR – While waiting for an orthopedic appointment at Poole Hospital, I picked up the nearest magazine to have a read. It was This England, from spring 1974.
SIR – Lord Carey has said that Christianity is “a generation away from extinction” in Britain.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Church is that people need to see the point of Christianity. When the Church can be shown to demonstrate Jesus’s teaching in action, it will have every chance of growing.
I both work and volunteer at a church-based drop-in centre in Coventry. We supply free breakfasts several times a week, offer help finding homes, run skills classes to enable people to be ready for work, and offer a hand of friendship.
We don’t evangelise much; we just try to meet a need where we see one. Christianity preaches love for all, particularly the disadvantaged and poor. Where the Church serves the community, it is on the front foot: we’re moving forward.
Coventry, West Midlands
Making sense of high and low rates for the NHS
23 Nov 2013
It’s a miracle that the Conservative vote holds up, when so many feel let down
23 Nov 2013
SIR – I can’t find a Church of England church anywhere that preaches the Gospel according to the Bible. The priests all pander to what they think people want to hear. It stops me going.
Dr John Gordon
Retiring the milkman
SIR – I have remained loyal to doorstep milk delivery on the basis that it creates jobs, encourages entrepreneurship and has traditionally provided regular social interaction for the lonely.
But nowadays, I pay my milkman by bank transfer and he delivers our milk at 6am, so I have never spoken to him and have no idea what he even looks like.
Now that milk delivered to the door has risen to 75p a pint, when it can be purchased from the supermarket at less than 50p a pint, and front-door deliveries can be arranged for anything you care to mention (Business, November 22), should I consider, as I am retired and need to economise, that I am supporting a pricey anachronism and desert my milkman?
Liquid lunch for slugs
SIR – On our local walks, we frequently collect discarded, nearly empty beer cans. These often contain slugs which, once inside, are unable to get out, probably due to intoxication. The cans can then be disposed of without risk to other wildlife.
We do not use slug pellets in our garden, and we do have thrushes that use our front doorstep as an anvil.
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Brian Keen asks gardeners to help the song thrush by not using slug pellets. This is equally relevant for toads, which are also in decline. Toads eat slugs too. A toad-friendly garden would similarly help to keep Mr Keen’s nocturnal slug-slaying sojourns to a minimum.
Doors to manuals
SIR – Ivor Williams bemoans the abundance of buttons in his car.
A flight manual for a Lancaster bomber, from 1943, was approximately 20 pages long, with minimal text. My family saloon’s handbook, from 2009, has more than 300 pages. I cannot figure out how to programme the radio – let alone get it to fly.
Walkington, East Yorkshire
Ruinous business rates
SIR – Rates on vacant buildings cause bankruptcy. In order to avoid this, landlords demolish perfectly good empty commercial properties. New tenants are not forthcoming because of the onerous obligation to fund the business rate.
This swingeing tax on ownership cannot be sustained. This vindictive notion is yet another product of a sterile economic philosophy that does nothing creative but will plunder the accumulated assets of the prudent until they are gone.
City cycling danger
SIR – The dangers of cycling in city centres are not new.
On October 5 1898, the members of the United Wards’ Club of the City of London debated the propositiont: “It is the opinion of the members that cycling through the City between the hours of 9 and 6.30 is both dangerous to the cyclists themselves and a great annoyance and danger to the pedestrians and traffic and that cyclists should be compelled to dismount and walk through the City during the above mentioned hours.”
The motion was carried overwhelmingly, there being only three dissensions.
For whom the bell tolls
SIR – The lucky bell-ringers who emerged unscathed at Kilmersdon probably know the 1694 Stamford change ringers’ rule: “All you that do intend to ring, / You undertake a dangerous thing.” Danger from a collapsing bell is rare, but there is truth in this adage. More than 700 ringers may expect an injury each year, according to an article in the British Medical Journal.
SIR – I have just received this text from my mobile service provider: “We’re building a better network, working 24/7 investing £1.5 million, every day so that you can chat, text surf and – some text missing.”
Perhaps my provider should concentrate on the existing network, which is appalling in my area.
Newton Longville, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Ministers say that “the young see the Tories as aliens”; older voters are alienated by the undemocratic way the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was hustled into law; droves of EU sceptics have defected to Ukip. Is it not a miracle that “the Conservatives average 33 per cent in the polls”?
Which staunch sections of the population can make up this sizeable remnant?
John M Overton
SIR – The young can change old ways of thinking and should be welcomed to the Conservative Party. I’m over 70 myself and I don’t agree with anything Ukip stands for.
We are the only party persuading the rest of Europe to think as we do: to honour sovereignty for each nation while sharing our nation’s wealth with those who need it.
The Church of England must demonstrate its values with action
23 Nov 2013
Making sense of high and low rates for the NHS
23 Nov 2013
Tell the young: join the Conservative Party and put two fingers up to Ukip. It’s full of blustery stinkers prejudiced against a basic Conservative belief in freedom of choice for education, employment and health – along with a determination to encourage self-reliance, while protecting those who can’t fend for themselves.
SIR – Many pronouncements by Nick Boles lack any trace of conservatism, and his clumsy attempts at outdated political triangulation do him little credit. Mr Boles fears that many young people dislike Conservatives. There is no change here, then, over the past 50 years. It was never cool to be Conservative and never will be, no matter how hard Mr Boles tries.
As they grow older and wiser, many rational young people become Tories. Anyway, pandering to the young, who often do not vote, is a waste of time if it drives long-term party supporters, who definitely will vote, into the arms of Ukip. Calling them “aliens” may increase this risk.
SIR – Nick Boles’s suggestion that the old National Liberal Party should be revived is absurd. A splinter group, it was the product of the specific political circumstances of the Thirties. In permanent alliance with the Tories, it never succeeded in establishing a distinct identity of its own. It had only three MPs when it was wound up in 1968.
No one doubts that the Conservative Party is infused with strong liberal instincts. It needs to make clear it has not discarded other elements of its tradition – above all, its sense of nation.
It could make a start on that by using its full name once again: the Conservative and Unionist Party. Patriotic pride in nation, not liberalism, made the party dominant in Liverpool and other northern towns in the late 19th century, when it was known as the Unionist Party.
It took its cue from Disraeli, who defined Conservatism as “an instinct for power and love of country”.
Madam – So now the Private Insolvency Practitioner who was lambasted for saying that in assessing reasonable income he would have to take into account the status of professional people (Gene Kerrigan, Sunday Independent, November 17, 2013) has been proved at least partially right.
Also in this section
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
Bertie’s own fault
If anything, he understated the position by limiting it to the liberal professions. The High Court has confirmed that if you run into serious financial trouble your family may still be able to access income in keeping with the “lifestyle to which you have become reasonably accustomed”.
It decided that the family of one of the developers of Priory Hall was entitled to an allowance of €108,000 a year to meet living costs (including, notably, golf club membership of €2,000!).
No one wants to see any family destitute. But there should be limits. Cases such as this are an affront to any sense of equity. They must be resented bitterly by those who are struggling to eke out a living, never mind a lifestyle.
The fact that the allowance is legitimate because it comes from assets, the ownership of which is disputed, will be of no consolation. Cases of this sort reinforce the view that the wealthier classes remain protected.
During the boom we heard a lot about the prospects for upward mobility. That would imply that there would be a corresponding degree of downward mobility. Our laws and practices tend to rule out the latter for some, even in times of recession.
It is ironic that within 24 hours of that court decision, the Governor of the Central Bank warned on national TV that “people will not get back to the living standards of five years ago”. Presumably he was referring to ordinary people.
John F Jordan,
Killiney, Co Dublin
Madam – Just finished reading a very topical and sobering article by Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). Quite an appropriate date.
Also in this section
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
Bertie’s own fault
The quotes from Brendan Smith, TD, were quite poignant and Mr Harris’s thoughts were very complementary and worth reading a few more times – which prompted me to think that it might be about time that we convened a forum for reconciliation and forgiveness, to include the full lifetime of the country.
None of the horrors of our history touched me or my family, but we were greatly touched by the horrors inflicted by all sides, on all other sides. And it continues to be painful to see the Civil War being played out every other day in Dail Eireann.
In another Sunday newspaper, the Junior Minister for Finance, Brian Hayes, is quoted as saying something like “let’s leave the past behind” (not verbatim) while his boss, on his first day in office, took the time to climb up a ladder and take down Dev’s portrait and replace it with Mick’s. (By the way, that routine repeats with every change of government.)
If there was a settlement of reconciliation and forgiveness, all the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael stuff could be confined to the archives and we could get on with the business of getting women into the priesthood and running the country.
CAN ADAMS DO A VANISHING ACT?
Madam – I wish the leader of Sinn Fein would just disappear. End of.
MOVE ON AND LOOK TO FUTURE
Madam – When will the Sunday Independent stop attacking Irish republicans? The ranting from Eoghan Harris and Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) would make Murdoch blush. O’Hanlon says that Sinn Fein is toxic, that political parties in Dublin will find it difficult to deal with the party after the next election and she dreads the thought of Sinn Fein in government. Yet she ignores the fact that political parties in the British establishment have been dealing with Sinn Fein for decades, and loyalists have been in government with Sinn Fein since the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement. The British Queen formally met Martin McGuinness, yet according to O’Hanlon, political parties in the south are so precious that they would be unable to work with Sinn Fein. Is this serious journalism?
It is time to look forward, move on and seek ways to bring communities together and address the challenges we now face, including the crisis in the health service, the growing inability of people to pay their mortgages, failing businesses and the crisis facing the elderly.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
NEW SINN FEINERS MUST COME CLEAN
Madam – Your editorial about Sinn Fein (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) stated it was time for Adams to go before he tainted “a new generation of politicians such as Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald with the inglorious odours that continue to emanate from the nether regions of Sinn Fein’s even more inglorious history”.
However, it will take far more than Adams or McGuinness retiring to draw a line under their past actions.
The ‘new’ generation of Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald, by their own admissions, have been involved with Sinn Fein since they were teenagers, which is well over 20 years ago during its terrorism campaign. It begs the question of why, out of all the political options available, did Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald choose to join an organisation with murderous links. They gladly signed up to the ethos of that organisation and have never expressed any qualms about the people they were involved with then, or their actions, and who they continue to be involved with, such as people like Mr Ferris.
If the price of peace is that people who committed sickening terrorist atrocities against innocent people never see the inside of a cell that is a bitter price to pay, but perhaps a necessary one. However, such people should never receive clemency without admitting to their past.
Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald cannot pretend they too are not already stained by their silence on the actions of their colleagues, who they defended so robustly and continue to defend. If people in Sinn Fein want to make a genuine claim to be part of a new generation, they must make a clear break in their links to the people who do not.
If Sinn Fein genuinely wants to be accepted as part of the parliamentary democratic process then it needs to abide by the same rules as every other party in that process. Obviously this requires all past participants in its campaign of terror to admit their role.
Canary Wharf, London
LAME INTERVIEW WITH FERGUSON
Madam – I’m writing regarding Niamh Horan’s review/opinion piece on Alex Ferguson’s interview (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013).
I would like to express my delight that it was brought to the attention of the public how lame Friday’s ‘Q&A’ was. No matter how loyal to the ‘Boss’ – as Eamonn Holmes continuously put it – there’s no hiding from the fact that this book tour is a complete money racket. Mr Holmes fell way below expectancy level, even little things like apologising for coughing into his mic on a number of occasions and also not making eye contact with his interviewee after asking a question, instead scrolling down his list of questions. For all that Ferguson has done for Manchester United, I personally felt this was most unlike the man who will be remembered as one of the greatest managers to ever live.
Celbridge, Co Kildare
MOORE IS CREDIT TO NEWBRIDGE
Madam – I feel a Christy Moore song about Newbridge Credit Union will enter the charts any day now.
Bantry, Co Cork
DON’T BE FOOLED BY BAILOUT ‘EXIT’
Madam – According to recent reports we are about to exit the bailout. But I for one am questioning if this is so. Some years ago, Pope Francis, as the then archbishop of Buenos Aires, stated: “The economic and social crisis and the consequent increase in poverty, has its causes in policies inspired by those forms of neo-liberalism that consider profits and the laws of the market as absolute parameters to the detriment of the dignity of people and nations.”
Unfortunately this kind of analysis has not been mentioned in recent times in Ireland. We would benefit if this were taken seriously. Let us not be deceived by the illusion that everything will be OK when it is business as usual.
Padre Liam Hayes, SVD
FUNERAL COSTS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD
Madam – Louise McBride stated that funeral costs in Ireland are out of control (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). It’s no wonder, if the funeral businesses are unregulated. Its about time the Irish Association of Funeral Directors examined this issue.
The price of a typical funeral varies from €4,000 to €6,000, and a grave with a headstone could come to €10,000. Cremations could set you back more than €2,000. I am sure this will come as a surprise to many people. We have no choice but to pay.