Anna and Sharland

25 November 2013 Anna and Sharland

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are testing a new navigation system and its even worse than Lesley Priceless.
I go and pick up Anna, Liz is not feeling well, have lunch so tired
Scrabble Mary wins but get just more than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.


Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling – Obituary
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling was a defuser of UXBs who emerged victorious in a five year battle of wits with Hitler’s bombmakers

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling 
6:08PM GMT 18 Nov 2013
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wakeling, who has died aged 93, had several narrow escapes from death in the course of his work as a bomb disposal officer.
During the Second World War the men of the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal (BD) Companies risked their lives almost every day, often without ever leaving the shores of Britain. Some 45,000 unexploded enemy bombs (UXBs), as well as 7,000 live anti-aircraft shells and 300,000 beach mines were made safe. In all 394 BD officers and other ranks were killed, and more than 200 were wounded, mostly in the early years of the war when disposal techniques were in their infancy and developed by an often deadly process of trial and error.
On the night of June 13 1943, in addition to the usual high explosive bombs, more than 2,000 German SD 2 anti-personnel bombs fell on Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Known because of the rotating vanes which armed them in flight as “butterfly bombs”, they caused havoc and near panic in Grimsby in particular.
The bombs had never been dropped in such numbers before in Britain and the town’s police force was overwhelmed by the emergency. Wakeling, a section commander serving with 3 Bomb Disposal Company, was drafted in from Nottingham with his section and every available officer and sergeant in the company.
Bombs were found lodged in railway wagons, at sewer junctions, in organ lofts, in the projection-room of a cinema, in chimney stacks and in the ceilings of bedrooms. Others hung from the branches of trees, from gutters or telephone wires and even garden gates. The slightest touch would set them off, and when detonated remotely to render them harmless, there was always the danger that they would set off a “sympathetic” explosion from another one nearby that had not been found.

Second World War bomb disposal poster from one of Eric Wakeling’s books
When a bomb was discovered in the open, a circle of sandbags was built around it. After looping one end of a long length of string over the device, the BD men retired to a safe distance and the string was pulled. Where a bomb had fallen inside a house, in an effort to minimise the damage, a pulley and twine system was devised whereby the bomb was drawn across the room and up to the window space before being dropped into a sandpit below. If it had not already exploded, it could then be destroyed.
Wakeling, who was only aged 21, had dealt with a group of five successfully. Then, as he wrote afterwards, “I pulled a bit of string around the sixth. It didn’t go off so I pulled it again and it still didn’t go off.
“I was in a ditch with my driver and he said: ‘If you pull it much more, it will be in the ditch with us’. So I went and looked at it. It was ticking. That was the stupidest mistake I ever made. It would have gone off on its own accord if I had left it. It only had a few ounces of explosive, but it [was still deadly].”
Twelve “butterfly bombs” were found in a pea field and marked at the time by poles two feet high. Wakeling wrote afterwards: “By the time we had got round to trying to locate them, the peas had grown to two feet, six inches, and we had a devil of a time finding them.”
During the three months that it took to clear Grimsby of the menace, it brought the town to a virtual standstill. As a result, the incident was hushed up for fear that the Germans would realise how effective the raid had been; in fact, it was never repeated.
The raid formed the basis for a memorable episode of the 1970s TV series Danger UXB starring Anthony Andrews. In 1993 Wakeling received a Civic Award from the town.

Eric Edgar Wakeling was born at Deal, Kent, on August 1 1920. His father managed a food processing factory and Eric was educated at Sir Roger Manwood’s School, Sandwich. He enlisted in the Army in 1936 and served in the Army Apprentices’ College for three years before being commissioned in 1940.
When he joined No 3 Bomb Disposal Company, two of its sections had just returned from Birmingham, where there had been heavy raids. They were leaderless; their officers and sergeants had been killed.
Wakeling was in no doubt that he was a replacement. Officers at first had little training and, as a subaltern and section commander, in the early part of the war life expectancy was about 10 weeks. The odds improved once BD units acquired more experience and better equipment to help them tackle the devices.
It was lonely work. Officers were often working on their own and much of the time there was no way of telling why one of them had been killed and so avoiding fatal mistakes in future. A “Category A” UXB, such as one which had halted production at a tank factory or was buried under the runway of an RAF station, had to be dealt with at once. It might be on a time delay fuse set to go off at any moment. The death of a BD officer in those circumstances was regarded as an acceptable risk.
Wakeling would reconnoitre the site and then the BD squads would work around the clock to dig out the bomb, which might be up to 50ft underground. The slightest vibration — a passing train or breaking up concrete — might re-start a clock or explode a bomb with a sensitive fuse.
On one occasion, working on an unexploded bomb in a brewery, Wakeling had great difficulty in extracting a fuse that he had not encountered before. As soon as it had been removed it was rushed to the Directorate of Bomb Disposals. It turned out that the device was equipped with mercury switches so sensitive that the slightest movement in any direction would explode the bomb – a deliberate attempt to kill any bomb disposal officer unfortunate enough to handle it.
“It was only by the greatest luck that I was still alive,” Wakeling wrote later. “The fuse had a slight manufacturing fault in the system.”
From 1943 minefields which had been sown when Britain was threatened with invasion began to be cleared. This was a hazardous task as few accurate maps had been kept and, as many mines had been placed on beaches, wind and water had often moved them or rendered them unstable. Detecting mines amid shifting shingle was a nerve-shredding task. Wakeling was posted to 14 BD Company which had the job of clearing the Yorkshire coast and was then based at Shoreham, Sussex.
After 14 BD Company was disbanded in 1946 he moved to 12 BD Company at Horsham, Sussex, as second-in-command. He was in the War Office for a spell before being demobilised in 1947.
In civilian life Wakeling worked for Heinz and then for the pharmaceutical and household products firm Johnson & Johnson. In 1951 the Army Emergency Reserve was formed and, the following year, he became adjutant of 142 Regiment.
He commanded it in 1965 and retired from the Army in 1967. He was awarded the Emergency Reserve Decoration. Settled in a village in Buckinghamshire, he was a volunteer driver for the elderly and disabled and for the county’s ambulance service. After his wife died, he moved to Kent. He was regarded latterly as one of the last living links with wartime bomb disposal.
He published several books including The Lonely War (1994); Photographic Story of Bomb Disposal (1995); Danger of UXBs (1996); and A Short History of Bomb Disposal (1998).
Eric Wakeling died on Remembrance Day. He married, in 1945, Nicky Hopper. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two daughters.
Lt-Col Eric Wakeling, born August 1 1920, died November 11 2013

• 4 days ago

A fine man, one of the finest generation. re the Butterfly bomb, about 25-30 years ago one was discovered in Belton House near Grantham. it was being used as a door stop while the public toured the house. Someone with UXB training realised what it was and alerted the authorities. Yes, it was live and a miracle it had never exploded! It was taken away and safely disposed of, by more brave men.


My heart sank when I read your headline (Israel: No birth certificates for children of foreigners, 21 November). This contravenes article 7 of the UN convention on the rights of the child (relating to every child’s right to a registered name and nationality) and article 8 (relating to the preservation of identity through an official record of who they are). The ideas behind the convention originate with Janusz Korczak, heroic paediatrician in the Warsaw ghetto. He and his orphanage children did not live to see the UN agreement. They all perished in Treblinka.
Professor Woody Caan
Duxford, Cambridge
•  It was my weekly treat to be allowed on a Friday night to stay up and watch Take Your Pick, followed by The Army Game. So I’ve good reason to remember that the gong-banger on the yes/no interlude was Alec Dane, not Bob Danvers-Walker (Letters, 23 November). Bob’s talents were more usefully deployed in describing in detail the multitude of prizes available.
Phil Harvey
• As far as nudity on stage is concerned (Letters, 22 November), it rather depends on who it is. Some years ago I saw Warren Mitchell play King Lear. He was naked in the storm scene. I’m still in therapy.
Pam Wells
Addingham, West Yorkshire
• Settled down with the reprint of JFK-related Grauniad pages from 1963 (22 November), hoping to have a nostalgic 20 minutes counting typos. Could’nt find one. When did it all start to go wrong?
Mark Bristow
Oswestry, Shropshire

The three women found in conditions of forced labour (Freed after 30 years: the women held as slaves in London house, 22 November) are merely the tip of a very large iceberg. Our research suggests that there are at least 5,000 people, some of them UK nationals, many EU nationals, in forced labour in the UK.
The home secretary has expressed her desire to introduce a simple modern slavery bill very quickly. We hope she does not confuse speed with effectiveness and comprehensiveness. In particular she will need to confront the fact that many of the labour market policies introduced by her government have created the conditions under which forced labour is more, rather than less, likely to occur.
These include cuts in the scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (which need to be reversed, alongside giving the GLA a wider remit); introducing further barriers to justice for vulnerable workers, such as the huge fees required to access employment tribunals; deregulating or limiting the powers and resources of many other agencies that might help to identify forced labour; failing to police existing legislation such as the minimum wage provisions; removing visa protections afforded to domestic workers; and undermining attempts to make the supply chains linked to major businesses, especially food retailers, as transparent as possible.
A flexible, informal labour market equates to one in which modern slavery will flourish. Modern slavery is an issue of criminal justice and not one of immigration control and it would therefore, in any case, be more appropriate for the justice minister to present this bill.
Gary Craig
Professor of social justice, Durham University

Andrew Brown (A church that is sick of itself, 20 November) may be correct in citing George Carey’s response to the failure of the “Decade of Evangelism” to restore church attendance as a major factor in the current decline of the Church of England. It was, however, a foreseeable expression of his churchmanship, and ironically of the conviction widely held in the church that it needed to be “up to date”. The emphasis was all on tweaking worship. The almost exclusive attention to the saying of “Lord, Lord” had the effect of diminishing the overriding Christian duty to “do the will of the Father”.
As churchgoing Anglican since my youth and active in Christian Aid for all that time, I was astounded recently to be advised by a clergyman that the church was not an ethical association; and by a churchwarden that Christian Aid was too political. If the church seems irrelevant to the under-40s, in a society and a world riven with flagrant economic injustices – the antithesis of Christ’s teaching – it is because, with several notable exceptions, the clergy chooses to make it so.
Maurice Vassie
Chair, York Christian Aid
•  The coverage of Lord Carey’s alleged claim that the Church of England is “one generation from extinction” offers support to a familiar, but probably false, story about its inevitable generational decline. Recent analysis by Ipsos Mori of attendance at religious services shows that by 2011 Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) were almost as likely to attend once a month or more as those born pre-1939. They have overtaken both Generation X and the baby boomers. Young people are less likely to claim affiliation but recently look like they are more likely to attend.
The decline in Christian affiliation is largely among those who were only nominally connected, and the decline in overall attendance exaggerated because it’s seen solely through the lens of the Church of England and “mainline” denominations. In 2011, 21% of the population claimed to attend a religious service once a month or more, the same as in 1989. Even if the Anglican church has fallen on hard times, other expressions of Christianity are flourishing.
The Christian church in the UK is certainly changing shape but it’s far from doomed. A smaller, more fully committed church, including the Anglican one, may be a very good thing.
Elizabeth Oldfield
Director, Theos 
•  Andrew Brown vastly exaggerates the importance of the Church of England’s last three archbishops of Canterbury. Their qualities have had only a marginal effect on the declining popularity of organised religion in contemporary society. Personal praise or blame is relevant to their media image but does little to explain why the Christian heritage is in retreat throughout Europe. The Church of England is not a special case.
It is in Africa that folk religion still works. Our younger generation is, on the whole, ignorant of the tradition and simply cannot see the point of churchgoing. A thoughtful minority who are religiously literate, including many children of the clergy, believe they have good reason to opt out of a religious establishment that falls so far short of its ideals. That leaves those who, often but not always despite the churches, have been lit up and inspired by the remarkable personality of the radical young rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, who confronted the religious and secular powers of his day with all-embracing love and paid for that with his life. Those who follow him on stony paths, however few, are the seed bed of tomorrow’s church. Archbishop Carey need not worry.
Paul Oestreicher
•  Empty pews and ageing congregations are, at least in part, the reaction of a bemused, despairing world to a church riven by faction and tainted by misogyny and homophobia. Ed Milliband’s concern for “the squeezed middle” might equally apply to the dear old C of E. The liberal progressive centre has been on the diminishing defensive for 30 years, caught between Reform and Forward in Faith. Thank heavens for Archbishop Welby, who is clear-eyed enough to see the church as society sees it. A crucial first step.
Ian Barge
Ludlow, Shropshire

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, expresses concern about corruption among “minority communities” who “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic” (‘Wake up’ to corruption in minority communities, 23 November). Apparently, they “come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture”.
A cursory look through other reports the same day suggests that he must be referring to his fellow Conservatives. The Greenwich School of Management, a private education provider which consumed one-fifth of the BIS’s alternative provider spend last year, is owned by a private equity firm co-founded by Lord Nash, the education minister. Another story outlines how the Conservative party has received over £1.2m in donations from private members’ clubs since David Cameron became party leader, including £870,000 from the Carlton Club, of which he, among other leading Tories, is a member. Of course, there is no political corruption in this country: we’re British!
Sarah Cave
• A “favour culture” is undoubtedly prevalent within the upper middle classes from which Dominic Grieve comes. His father, Percy, was Oxbridge-educated, called to the bar by Middle Temple in 1938, and made a QC in 1962. Dominic was Oxbridge-educated, called to the bar by Middle Temple in 1980, and made a QC in 2008. I am sure he advanced due to the qualities he brought to the job, but the odious and debilitating nature of the English class system means we’ll never know.
Mick Hall
Grays, Essex


The Archbishop of York has said that the Church of England is one generation away from extinction. His solution was more evangelism, more God. He is completely wrong. 
The solution is for the church, as in the  past, to move with the times and now drop the outmoded belief in God and a conditional afterlife, but keep the moral and ethical thrust of its founder, as well as of other good people of philosophy and science both earlier and later.
In the UK the C of E still retains the affections of many people. There are still church infrastructure and networks throughout England and Wales, which make the C of E well placed to become again the centre of the communities; but the communities served would be people of all faiths and of none, no longer divisive but inclusive. Fundamentalists of all faiths would be sidelined.
A good many churchgoers including some clergy would, I am sure, breathe a sigh of relief at no longer having to say things they, in reality, don’t believe in. 
Chris Beney, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Poor arguments for press regulation
Every time I start thinking that maybe there is something in the arguments for press regulation (or at least the royal charter), I see or hear repellently disingenuous words by its supporters which drive me back to the other side. 
Recently we have seen repeated claims that no paper would be forced to join the royal charter, without mention that any paper that didn’t would be made bankruptable by any group of people who chose to, by launching trivial and vexatious lawsuits at their target’s expense; and claims that the royal charter couldn’t be tampered with by politicians because it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without mention that it would only need agreement between the leaders of the two main parties and such a majority would easily be obtained. 
When you decide on your attitude to something, it is fair to take into account the honesty of its proponents’ arguments, and the proponents of press regulation are not scoring well at the moment.
Roger Schafir, London N21
Without the support of the press many astonishing successive government failings and public health scandals would never have been exposed. For example, in the case of pesticides, rural residents at risk of adverse health impacts from pesticide spraying have been failed at every turn by the state, parts of the judiciary, even certain NGOs. The only sector that has been prepared to help expose this scandal from the outset is the media, predominantly the print press. As a result the issue has been highlighted to millions of citizens worldwide.
Although there have been, without a doubt, genuine victims of appalling treatment from certain sectors of the press, such as the experiences of the McCanns, the Dowlers, and Christopher Jefferies, what about the many other genuine victims of establishment cover ups, corruption and collusion, who have only had their voices heard because we have a free press? A strong independent media can expose disgraceful injustices and is able to shine the light in places which, no doubt the state, along with many politicians, would prefer to remain in darkness.
Restrictions on the free press would no doubt make battles such as mine that much harder.
Georgina Downs, UK Pesticides Campaign, Runcton, West Sussex
With reference to your recent article on the press regulation charter receiving Privy Council approval, I sympathise with the media because, again thanks to a few bad apples, a similar regime is being proposed to regulate businesses that help clients minimise their tax liabilities.
The proposed framework gives HMRC sufficient powers to determine who is carrying out what it considers to be unfair tax mitigation. It could, in practice, be used to put many firms out of business. We are told that this is not how the legislation will be operated in practice, but as the detail is so vague and the framework so flexible, we do not know that.
In both cases we are being asked to trust that the state will not unfairly abuse the powers at its disposal. The problem is that when it comes to politicians there is no confidence they can be trusted.
Richard Jordan, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, London EC2
Stick to the old school languages
A report recently published by the British Council (“Languages for the Future”) recommends that schools in the UK should introduce into the curriculum Arabic, Chinese and Japanese – these languages being perceived to be of greater value in the context of trade than the traditionally taught European languages, in particular French and German.
So far as Arabic is concerned, this is a difficult language to learn by any standard. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that, during the course of many years spent working in the Middle East, I have only come across a handful of British nationals who spoke Arabic with any degree of fluency, or indeed at all. In every case, these Arabic-speakers were graduates of Oxford, Cambridge or other elite universities and/or trained by the British Army or British diplomatic corps.
More to the point, in my experience Arab businessmen, and indeed Arabs in general, do not these days wish to converse in Arabic with “Westerners” and are inclined to regard efforts to address them in their own language as somewhat patronising.
As to Chinese and Japanese, I cannot speak with any authority concerning these languages. However, I should not imagine that either of them are especially easy to learn.
Given these considerations, perhaps  – notwithstanding the pronouncements of the British Council sages – children in UK schools should continue to apply themselves to the  study of French, German and Spanish. Whatever commercial value a knowledge of these languages may or may not have nowadays, there is surely a cultural reward to be gained.
The study of more “challenging” tongues, and more remote and exotic cultures, can come later, I would suggest.
Alexander McGeoch, Dubai, UAE
The music as Mahler intended
There is a simple solution to Andreas Whittam Smith’s problem – that listening to the adagio from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony too often had spoilt its enjoyment for him (22 November).
The Fifth Symphony comprises five movements that take the listener through a range of emotions, from the funeral march of the first movement, to the roller-coaster of the second and the beer-cellar exuberance of the third, before the “mystery” (to quote Whittam Smith) of the famous adagio. But even that merely introduces the rondo-finale, with its turbulent climax.
We should listen to symphonies in the way the composer intended – as complete musical journeys, not as extracts to accompany films or adverts. If Mr Whittam Smith listens to all 70 minutes of the Fifth rather than just the 10 minutes of the adagio, then I am sure he’ll be moved all over again by its stunning emotional complexity.
Michael Gold, Twickenham, Middlesex
A Sideways look at cyclists
As a motorist who does not want to have a collision with a cyclist (letters, 22 November), could I ask for better sideways lighting on cycles and riders?
They are often lit up like a Christmas tree front and back, but these lights are not always visible from the side, particularly on unlit or poorly lit roads, leaving both cyclist and motorist vulnerable on junctions.
Penny King, Thurlton, Norwich
For nine years in the 1970s and 1980s I cycled to work and back between Harrow and Marylebone up and down the Edgware Road, clocking up 25,000 miles.
The worst that happened to me was the occasional puncture. One day, after two inches of snow had fallen, I enjoyed passing all the motorists who were stuck in it. It was by far the best and quickest way to get around London, as long as I remained vigilant.
Graeme Jackson, Gloucester
Still just plain Mr flowers
Your detailed account of how Paul Flowers was able to bob and weave his way through indiscretions, incompetence and a lack of relevant experience or qualifications to gain the top job at the Co-operative Bank (23 November) leaves one important question unasked. How on earth did he manage to miss out on a knighthood?
David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
England expects
To accommodate the various independent movements of some home-nations, could England take the drastic step of leaving the United Kingdom and continue as an autonomous state called “England”? This would allow all other stakeholders to remain in the United Kingdom, saving a lot time and resources. I am confident that England will somehow cope.
Rob Rogers, Falmouth, Cornwall


Sir, Why is anyone surprised that people who are monitored on the basis of statistics that they themselves publish are found to have manipulated the figures (“We fiddled our crime numbers, admit police”, Nov 20)?
Long ago it was established by statute that financial figures provided by companies and public sector organisations have to be audited. Part of the audit process is to look to see that the organisation has robust systems of internal control in place and that these operate reliably. Internal control processes separate those who prepare information and publish it from those who carry out transactions. Audits have their failures, particularly where there is collusion or fraud at the highest levels but, in general, most financial accounts reflect the true position of the entities that report them.
Now we have the police, the NHS, schools, etc, gaming the systems by which they are judged and the results of which are used to inform decision making. Instead of blaming those who rig systems, we should use this as a lesson and install robust internal control and independent audit processes for non-financial figures reported by public bodies.
Jake Claret, FCA, FCMA
London SW1
Sir, Gaming of crime statistics is a danger to public trust in policing. With that in mind, a programme of inspection was initiated on recording of violence and published by the Inspectorate in 2009. This was extended in 2012. While an improvement in the accuracy of violence recording is evident in the published report, the average was too low (84 per cent) and the range too wide. On crime overall, the bulk of forces were estimated to be operating at 90 per cent accuracy or better, but the range was 86-100 per cent. This prompted detailed feedback to 12 police forces and a full 43 force HMIC inspection which will be published next year. Crime statistics need constant vigilant sampling .
Sir Denis O’Connor
Chief Inspector of Constabulary, 2000-12
Sir, It is bad enough that the police have been “cooking the books”, but given the Plebgate admissions, the consequences for justice are severe. We now have evidence of the police issuing on-the-spot cautions to avoid paperwork and improve conviction statistics. To issue a caution, the police perform the role of judge and jury, both of which require the highest levels of honesty, integrity and morality. I suggest the only way to get the police to understand the level of public distrust is to urgently review police powers.
Ron Mobbs
Barnet, Herts

‘The difficulty is finding legislation that will satisfy those who want this to happen and those who in conscience cannot accept this ministry’
Sir, Part of the blame for the vitriol poured out on the Church of England when General Synod failed to approve the legislation for women bishops last year must be laid at the door of the media for its inaccurate reporting of the situation. Your report “Church embraces women bishops” (Nov 21) would lead anyone to assume that the legislation has been approved — but it hasn’t. The article gives exactly the same impression — “The Church of England turned its back on decades of division yesterday and voted overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops.” No, it didn’t. It did that many years ago in accepting the principle that women should be ordained as bishops. The difficulty is finding legislation that will satisfy those who want this to happen and those who in conscience cannot accept this ministry. That legislation has not yet been found.
Everyone hopes that the current legislation which was referred by the General Synod to the Revision Committee will be finally approved, but no one should take that for granted, nor should the media give the impression that it is a fait accompli. As even your correspondent points out, there are still issues to be resolved. Let us hope that they can be resolved, but please don’t give the impression that the legislation for women bishops is somehow already accepted.
Prebendary Brian Tubbs

If we adopted Central European Time there would be a marked reduction in the amount of energy we would use as a nation
Sir, A few years ago you published an article on an investigation by University of Cambridge scientists on the benefits that would accrue to Britain if we adopted Central European Time, thus synchronising our clocks with the rest of Western Europe. Among the many benefits listed was that there would be a marked reduction in the amount of energy we would use as a nation leading to much lower fuel bills for domestic and commercial energy consumers. Another benefit was that there would be a significant reduction in the amount of CO2 gas emitted.
At a time when politicians are trying to reduce fuel bills, why do they not take this simple step? There would be no cost involved other than people would have to endure slightly darker mornings in the midwinter months — a derisory price to pay for the benefits that would be gained.
Stanley Jones
Loughton, Essex
Sir, We recently received an annual energy statement stating that: “It feels better when you’re in control. That’s why we’re sending you this statement”. The statement shows that our electricity usage has decreased by 3 per cent compared with the previous year, but our cost has increased by 9 per cent.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of control.
Graham Plant
Wadhurst, E Sussex

Christian outrage about the depth of poverty in the world is not motivated by the politics of either Left or Right, liberal or conservative
Sir, You are concerned about Pope Francis getting a “good press from the Left” (Tim Montgomerie, Opinion, Nov 21). However, Christian outrage, whether Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, about the depth of poverty in the UK, and the rest of a wealthy world, is not motivated by the politics of either Left or Right, liberal or conservative. It is motivated by empathy with the suffering of poor people reinforced by Christian teaching which originated in the Jewish faith more than 4,000 years before those relatively modern political labels.
Secondly, addressing the plight of the world’s poor is a priority which must not be diluted by disagreements such as abortion. Emphasising disagreements when there is a fire to put out lets the house burn down.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
London N17

Many drivers mistakenly believe that they are entitled to continue driving as soon as the lights turn to amber
Sir, It is not the timing of the green light at pelican crossings (letter, Nov 23) nor indeed the speed at which pedestrians, elderly or otherwise, cross the road which is the problem, but the fact that the relevant section of the Highway Code is routinely flouted by impatient and aggressive drivers after the green light has changed to flashing amber. Rule 196 clearly states: “When the amber light is flashing you MUST give way to any pedestrians on the crossing”.
It appears that drivers mistakenly believe that they are entitled to continue driving as soon as the lights turn to amber. Knowledge of and compliance with the relevant rule would allow pedestrians of whatever age and speed to cross without fear.
Adrian Brodkin
London N2
Sir, A colleague once told me of a competition to find the most arcane, but legal, definition of speed. The winner was barleycorns per fortnight. A barleycorn is 1/3 of an inch. A speed of 2 miles per hour (or 54 metres per second) can legally be expressed as 128 billion barleycorns per fortnight, a reassuringly large number to those of us who are slower across the road than we used to be.
Robert Pennant Jones
London SE1


SIR – Iain Martin quotes Adam Holloway, the Tory MP for Gravesham, as saying “I’m not sure that many people in my constituency are for Better Together.”
I am sure that many English people would be quite happy to see an independent Scotland because it would mean never having a Labour government again. We should grasp the thistle and look forward to a Labour-free future.
Stephen Davidson
Frizington, Cumberland
SIR – The Institute of Fiscal Studies has said that an independent Scotland would require either a sharp rise in taxation or cuts to public expenditure. Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, has argued against this by claiming that a planned reduction in corporation tax would bring increased investment to Scotland and provide thousands of additional jobs to create revenue.
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Mr Salmond is being somewhat disingenuous. Any jobs thus created would merely help to balance those lost in defence and the public sector which would need to be relocated to the remainder of the United Kingdom.
Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent
SIR – Iain Martin writes: “MPs for Scottish seats also get to vote on legislation that affects England…while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish affairs. This is the legacy of the lopsided form of devolution that Tony Blair introduced after coming to power in 1997.”
In fact the situation is even more lopsided than that. Not only can MPs for Scottish seats vote on legislation that affects England; they, like English MPs, cannot vote on domestic (devolved) Scottish affairs. In effect the Scottish electorate votes for two representatives: one to vote on Scottish matters, and one to vote on English and non-devolved matters.
It is amazing that nationalist Scots should even consider looking such a gift horse in the mouth. As things stand, Scotland exerts a quite disproportionate influence in the governance of its larger neighbour.
Dugald Barr
London W8

If Scottish Independence is sanctioned, by the Referendum, and the split becomes legal, at some time after the general election in 2015, then one of the two must happen
1. No Scottish Constituency MPs can be elected to the UK Parliament at the 2015 Election
2 If the Scots are allowed to vote, and return MPs, a further General Election must be held, one month prior to the split, with only those constituencies remaining in the UK returning votes.
Any other way and the English voter remains disenfranchised. The way ahead, must be made known soon,


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• 13 hours ago

Just look back to our darkest days. No I don’t mean WW2, we had a leader then.
I refer to the 13 years of Blair. He set up devolution and the break up of the UK. He knew he’d lose his crony seats in Scotland. So he set up his vote importation plan. He cynically turned London into a non-British swamp where he could fish for votes.
A lot of people were locked into the Tower. Many were harshly treated, but they frequently had windows. When Blair goes there he does not deserve a window.


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• 14 hours ago

This debate is turning on trivial dross. Future generations will look back on this with incredulity. We are talking about the destruction of the country we have shared for 400 years. Did we stand and die against the Kaiser and Hitler only to let a bumptious home grown ego maniac do the wrecking?
Lets get focussed here. The UK is now an integration of nations. Salmond wants a divided Island with Scotland dependent of English gifts. Specifically English underwriting of defence, the currency, the monarchy and business contracts.
My Kiwi relatives look on this squabble and keep asking me when Great Britain will get its act together.


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ilpugliese thisday
• 9 hours ago

I don’t know what Cameron’s game is. Essentially he has put knowing which country we are on hold for two years.


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neoloon thisday
• 13 hours ago

Many atrocities have been committed under the auspices of the union flag.
Scotland should admit to its role in the application of such brutal British imperialism – brutal and miserable for millions of innocent people around the world.
Scotland should renounce the poisonous union with England.
It’s time for Scotland to regain its independence.
It’s time to throw away the Butcher’s Apron.
1 4


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Irish Times:

Sir, – My eldest son had three bicycles stolen in as many years. He reported it to the Garda Síochána and they were able to advise him that bicycle theft was rampant at the moment, at an all time high. Nothing they could do to help. Try to claim on your house insurance.
Imagine my relief to read that the Garda Síochána are now prosecuting at least five tax-paying cyclists every week for breaking a red light. What a useful way to spend scarce resources. I imagine when they reach a point where most of the cyclists are non-taxpayers, cycling stolen bikes, they will divert their resources to prosecuting tax-paying jay walkers. Follow the money lads, you’re playing a blinder! – Yours, etc,
Crannagh Way,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I refer to the correspondence from Pádraig McCarthy and Rev Marcus Losack about where St Patrick was from (November 18th and 19th). Rev Losack is sure he was from Brittany, and Pádraig McCarthy is not sure where he was from. It all turns apparently on the meaning of the place name Bannavem Taburniae. I have a solution to their problem. St Patrick was from Crosshaven, Co Cork.
The current Irish form of the place name Crosshaven is Bun an Tábhairne. The earlier name apparently was Cros tSeáin, ie “John’s Cross”. I believe the current name to be a simplification of Bun Abhann tSabhrainne. An tSabhrann was the old name for the River Lee. It looks curiously like the name of the Welsh river, the Severn. In Welsh that is Afon Hafren and in Latin, Sabrina. Bun Abha or Bun Abhann is to be found all around Ireland. When it precedes the name of a river, it means the place where the particular river runs into the sea. In Irish the principal stress would have been on tSabh- of tSabhrainne. I’m suggesting that because the principal stress would have been on tSabh-, and because Bun Abha/Bun Abhann is so common all around Ireland, Abhann could have been reduced to an, as happens with the prepositional pronoun ann in Munster dialects. An then would have been understood as the masculine article, and in ordinary pronunciation an is reduced to a’ before a consonant. For example, fear an tí is ordinarily pronounced fear a’ tí. The word tábhairne in Munster Irish is pronounced tá-irne.
So there you have it. St Patrick was a Corkman! No wonder they couldn’t understand him up north, or down the west, and he never ventured into Kerry. I think he may have been the first Corkman to make it big in Ireland. He was “from it” as they used to say in the civil service. Eat your heart out Wales and Brittany! – Yours, etc,
Beaufort Downs,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – We welcome World Philosophy Day, as well as your stimulating features on how philosophy can challenge and change us (Education, November 19th).
As you rightly recognise, philosophy has not received due attention in Ireland, which is a crying shame, a scandal even, considering the salutary influence and impact it can have on people’s lives. Your contribution shows that things are slowly changing.
The Philosophy Clinic, which we set up, aims to offer support and facilitate change with regard to this situation. Last Saturday we held our inaugural workshop on the practical philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, showing how stoicism can help us to lead happier and more fulfilling lives, which was a great success.
We will continue in the New Year with a series of seminars which aim to address the contemporary crisis of the loss of meaning in our society. Philosophy is pre-eminently placed to offer a path of practice for such existential exploration. – Yours, etc,
C/o Dartmouth Road,
Dublin 6.

On Wednesday morning (November 13th) I waited on Lower Drumcondra Road at 8.30am for a bus to take me to the city centre. Over the next 20 minutes, five buses passed but none stopped, all were full. At 8.50am a bus did stop for me and the other seven passengers. Surely whoever designed this timetable is worthy of a Nobel prize? The bus staggered along ostensibly into Dublin city centre, but it felt more like deep space as my 9am meeting drifted further and further into the distance.
I’m no expert, but I suspect Dublin Bus was utilising string theory to make this short journey feel interminable. One time-stretching device is the crafty way Dublin Bus funnels passengers on and off only through the front door. Then there is the “dark matter” of each passenger searching pocket and purse for exact change before dropping it into the chute.
The rest of us on the bus watch the traffic lights ahead go from red to green to red. Is the Luas system of prepaid tickets the propriety of another galaxy? But the tour de force of Dublin Bus time-bending is the black hole of the driver changeover. When this occurs, the entire bus must wait for up to 10 minutes until the next driver shows up, has a chat, and then starts up the bus.
When I finally got off the bus, I felt like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and I could echo her sentiments: it was one hell of a ride. – Yours, etc,
Drumcondra Park,

Sir, – By way of response to John Robinson (November 15th), EirGrid under its licence as the transmission system operator is obliged to plan the electricity transmission network in the most safe, secure, economic and reliable way possible.
We fully understand people have concerns and questions about power lines, including health concerns. EirGrid’s position on electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and health is based on the authoritative conclusions and recommendations of established national and international health and scientific agencies that have reviewed the body of scientific research and studies. These panels have consistently concluded that the research does not indicate EMF cause any adverse health effects at the levels encountered in our everyday environment and that compliance with the existing International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection standards provides sufficient public health protection. EirGrid has produced an information brochure for the public on this issue (
In March 2007, the Department of Natural Resources assembled a panel of independent scientists to review EMF and radio frequency research. In relation to EMF, the report states: “No adverse health effects have been established below the limits suggested by international guidelines”.
This position was re-stated by the office of the chief scientific adviser in a report into possible health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields published in July 2010: “It is simply not possible for the level of energies associated with power lines to cause cancer”.
In relation to undergrounding: the majority of the transmission systems in Europe are AC overhead lines because they are the most efficient way of transporting electricity over long distances. The percentages of 400kV lines that are underground in some other EU countries, by way of example, are as follows: Austria, 1.94 per cent; Belgium, 0 per cent; France, 0.1 per cent; Germany, 0.34 per cent; Britain, 1.91 per cent; the Netherlands, 1.43 per cent; Spain, 0.28 per cent; Switzerland, 0.45 per cent. The longest AC cable in the world is 40 kilometres in Japan, where the cable is installed in an air-conditioned tunnel. Undergrounding AC cables over the distances required for the GridLink Project (circa 250km) is not technically feasible.
EirGrid follows best international practice in designing the transmission system and, like our counterparts around the world, constructs the majority of the network as overhead. This means that consumers do not pay more nor do they suffer from extended power outages. The European 10-year network development plan includes the installation of almost 27,000km of high voltage overhead lines in Europe, but only 420km of underground cable. – Yours, etc,
Grid Link Project Manager,
EirGrid, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Not counting prescription and dispensing costs, my family spends around €120 per month on eight different medications for relatively common medical issues. Exactly the same medications or their generic equivalents are available in Spain for €55. None of these generic equivalents are listed on the HSE web site. This, while the HSE is running a deficit of over €600 million a year, is truly astonishing. Who is in charge of the generic medicines programme and what have they been doing for the past five years?. Perhaps I could make a few bob by setting up an import business myself! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Not counting prescription and dispensing costs, my family spends around €120 per month on eight different medications for relatively common medical issues. Exactly the same medications or their generic equivalents are available in Spain for €55. None of these generic equivalents are listed on the HSE web site. This, while the HSE is running a deficit of over €600 million a year, is truly astonishing. Who is in charge of the generic medicines programme and what have they been doing for the past five years?. Perhaps I could make a few bob by setting up an import business myself! – Yours, etc,
Charlotte Terrace,
Dalkey Co Dublin.

Sir, – A short article (“Rector reveals theology behind Drogheda Mass”, November 18th) refers to a book by Church of Ireland rector, Rev Michael Graham, in which he “explains his understanding of the differences between Anglicans and Catholics in the Eucharist”. Given that an important part of Rev Graham’s theology is that Anglicans are Catholics, this seems a little unlikely. – Yours, etc,
Palmerston Road,

Sir, – It is gratifying that the blaa, forever associated with my home town and eagerly sought after on my occasional visits there, has been given European recognition as to its source. But I must take issue with Eddie Hearne (November 21st) when he says it was introduced by French immigrants.
There are a number of problems with this theory. For a start, there were much bigger Huguenot communities in other Irish cities, most notably Dublin, and the unique and tasty bap never appeared anywhere other than in Waterford. Also, when I was a cutter in Waterford Crystal (better known locally as “The Glass” in those days) I was told by another cutter, one McEvoy, that the blaa had been started in the Gold Crust bakery, now also sadly defunct, by bakers who wanted what would, in the present day, be called a mini-loaf to have with their tea in the middle of the night, when all the bread was baked.
McEvoy knew this because his father was one of the bakers. – Yours, etc,
Farrenboley Park,
Windy Arbour,
Dublin 14.
Sir, – Well done to Waterford for getting EU recognition for its blaa. Let there be no more pun fights involving dough, the Rising, proving or even having the Powers to do it. With the revival of the economy, Dublin will ready to play its jumbo breakfast roll with its Blaa Cliath. Incidentally, whatever happened the giant cookies, “Connie dodgers” in Cork, said to have been named in honour of Bishop Lucey, which were used to circumvent the strict Lenten rules pre-Vatican II? – Yours, etc,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire,

Irish Independent:

* There are those who view the haka in a flippant way, and those who see it as a ‘fun thing’. I view it differently. Seen as a quaint, mildly entertaining event in the early days of global rugby, the traditional haka has been misused, abused, fine-tuned and transformed by the All Blacks into an effective declaration of warfare on the sports arena. I don’t need to enlarge on the proven subliminal effects of psychological warfare. Many a battle has been won, and lost, due to the psychological factor.
Also in this section
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
Bertie’s own fault
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Further, what gives the All Blacks special rights to be allowed extra pitch time to perform a menacing ‘war dance’, designed to get their ‘blood lust’ up? And while they perform this ritual, the opposing team is expected to stand quietly, watch respectfully, wait patiently, be silent – and, rendered impotent, ‘accept’ the haka! What a farce!
A retired New Zealand rugby coach recently informed me that the haka has reached proportions whereby if a member of the opposing team is seen to be ‘disrespectful’, inattentive, smiles, laughs, looks away etc while he should be ‘accepting’ the haka, he will almost certainly be singled out for attention during the game. More than a few were punished accordingly yesterday, it seems.
Let no one deny the concealed power of such warlike ‘hoot and holler’. Just as it has won many a tribal battle, it wins many a game of rugby for the All Blacks. The haka is a very powerful accessory that gives the All Blacks a huge psychological advantage, while at the same time having a subtle ‘draining’ effect on those at the receiving end, both during the spectacle and during the game. It’s hard to believe it has been tolerated for so long.
If we accept the importance of the psychological element in sport, then we must also accept that the haka facilitates a grossly unfair advantage to the All Blacks. Ban the haka, I say, let’s just play rugby and witness the All Blacks lose their psychological advantage and the false image of invincibility they currently enjoy.
Players and supporters are subjected to sensationalism that when confronted by the All Blacks, we are up against a superhuman force. The sooner we stop seeing them this way, the sooner we will beat them. This was clearly evident yesterday. It is my belief that without the haka, Ireland would have won yesterday’s encounter with ease.
The All Blacks are not invincible. The haka is there, it seems, to give them an edge beyond the normal parameters that the game allows!
James Kenny
Held to ransom by ESB
* No energy trade union or supplier should be allowed to hold an entire country to ransom with power cuts. Every time the old guard at ESB – this country’s only distributor – has a gripe, everybody must pay with blackouts. It is not the fault of the people that their bloated pension fund went sour, is it?
Like so many others, employees at the ESB have to accept the pros and cons of capitalism. Workers at the ESB are some of the most highly paid blue-collar workers in the country, with the steadiest employment imaginable, not to mention massive bonuses at Christmas time.
The Army should be brought in to counter these tactics by workers who did enough to cripple this country in the past. The days of putting a shotgun to the heads of the Government and the people should be a thing of the past.
Maurice Fitzgerald
Shanbally, Co Cork
* Although the name for the new Liffey bridge has been decided, Dublin County Council might consider a change to Tom Gilmartin Bridge, a patriot who, fearlessly and at great personal cost, exposed the corruption in the heart of our capital city and nation!
K Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
* The reports in your paper (Irish Independent, November 22) concerning crime shocked me, and I agree with your coverage that the perpetrators must be dealt with severely. But, as your columnist stated, we seem to have a tolerance line when it comes to crime.
A nod and wink from a politician to a businessman seems to be okay. A rich man gets a few months in prison for a serious sex assault while a poorer man gets six years. Don’t even get me started on the white-collar crime that has become part of business culture.
If we turn a blind eye to any crime, we turn a blind eye to it all.
Darren Williams
Dublin 18
* Eamon Ryan (Irish Independent, Nov 20) puts his argument forward for renewable wind energy and uses Denmark as our example for moving forward. He fails to explain why local communities reject this form of energy, and what their concerns are.
Unfortunately, Eamon does not mention that there is huge opposition in Denmark to onshore industrial turbines. Eamon also forgets to mention that Denmark is now undertaking an 18-month study into health concerns regarding wind turbines, in recognition of all the research coming forward supporting communities’ claims of ill effects.
But Eamon thinks it is for the greater good and we could solve all our energy problems. May I suggest that, rather than choose the quick, cheap option, we research other, less intrusive options that do not sacrifice whole communities’ welfare. Solar energy may have a higher initial cost, but in the long run it will be lower.
Breege Loftus
Co Offaly
* What I find surprising is that Micheal O Muircheartaigh, who warns us of sickness and afflictions on countless radio advertisements and has such a personal knowledge of all ailments great and small, hasn’t fallen victim to one or all of them himself. Lucky man.
Not so much ‘crying wolf’ from Mick, but he does manage to have me feeling for lumps and bumps on a regular basis. Thank goodness for the nanny state – where would we be without it. . .
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* I refer to Liam Fay’s comments (Irish Independent, November 23) regarding Transport Minister Leo Varadkar’s support for giving equal status to Irish in motorway signage. Fay dismisses this idea as “bonkers”.
Liam Fay is a reputable and smart journalist and it is disappointing to see him joining the ranks of the ignorant in dismissing a proposal that gives Irish language place names equal status.
I always advise politicians and other commentators who reject giving equal status to Irish to take an opportunity to attend Brian Friel’s wonderful play, ‘Translations’. In it, Friel shows how the place names in majority usage, often mistakenly regarded as being in English, are a corrupted form of the Irish language original, usually without meaning.
There are many good examples in my own county of Dun na nGall. Donegal as a name means nothing; it is only when we use the original that we discover that it is Dun na nGall (The Fort of the Stranger).
Liam Fay knows, only too well, that his own surname means nothing; however when he reverts to the original meaning, he can discover that he is from a worthy and highly celebrated Gaelic clan; as in O Feich, and, by ‘translation’, ‘descendant of Fiach’ (raven), a variant of O Fiaich.
Many countries have languages used and spoken in parallel and are comfortably accommodated in public places. It is time for Liam O Feich and others with this tunnel view of language to shed some baggage.
Liam O Cuinneagain
Stiurthoir, Oideas Gael, Gleann Cholm Cille, Co Dhun na nGall
Irish Independent


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