27 November 2013 Roof

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they An old flame of Captain Povey appears. Priceless.
Post a book Peter does the roof lots of moss
Scrabble A draw we both get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.


Yon Mayhew – obituary
Yon Mayhew was a scientist who escaped the Nazis and co-wrote the thermodynamics ‘bible’

Yon Mayhew 
5:31PM GMT 26 Nov 2013
Yon Mayhew, who has died aged 89, escaped persecution in Nazi Germany and eventually moved to Britain where he became an authority on thermodynamics and the co-author of Engineering Thermodynamics Work and Heat Transfer – a work described as a “bible” for students of mechanical engineering.
The book, co-written with Gordon Rogers, was first published in 1957 by Longmans, after Cambridge University Press had been persuaded to turn it down by a professor who had hoped to publish his own book on the subject, but never did.
In clearly laid-out text, it explained the principles of thermodynamics; examined how they applied to particular fluids; and explained the various ways in which work and heat transfers take place. All measurements in the first edition were in British thermal units. A subsequent edition in SI units was published in 1967, and two further editions were published in 1980 and 1992.
The book eventually sold more than a million copies and the publishers also produced international editions. “Rogers and Mayhew”, as it is now generally known, remains on the recommended reading lists for engineering courses at universities across the world.
Mayhew was born Yon Richard Meyerowitz on July 22 1924 in Berlin. His father, Robert, an electrical engineer with the German company AEG, had fled to Germany from the Russian town of Saratov two years earlier after his family businesses — which included meat-canning and glue factories, an electricity power plant and a tram concession — had been seized by the communists.
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Yon was an able pupil, but by the time he was 10 Hitler had come to power and it was impossible for a child with Jewish ancestry to prosper academically. His father was astute enough to realise that things were unlikely to improve, so in 1934 the family moved to Palestine — the alternatives of Britain or South Africa having been ruled out because of immigration controls and the family’s depleted finances.
Yon continued his secondary education in Tel Aviv, and after leaving school started an apprenticeship as an instrument maker. Determined to have a university education in England, he took evening classes for the University of London’s External Intermediate examinations in Mechanical Engineering and applied to half a dozen British Universities — all of which turned him down. Luckily, his brother-in-law, Leonard Kent, a British chemist, persuaded the registrar of Imperial College to take the young man as an undergraduate to read Mechanical Engineering.
He arrived in London in 1945 and three years later, despite the fact that his previous education had been conducted first in German and later partly in Hebrew, graduated with a First and found a job as a lecturer at Bristol University.
The Mechanical Engineering Department was strong and growing when he arrived in Bristol in the autumn of 1948, but Mayhew (who changed his name from Meyerowitz in 1952) was slightly disappointed to be asked to teach a course on heat engines, a subject which he had not enjoyed as an undergraduate — partly because the main textbook on the subject was so poor.

Yon Mayhew greeting the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, on his visit to Bristol University in 1955
Together with a fellow lecturer, Gordon Rogers, he set about writing a better book, and Engineering Thermodynamics Work and Heat Transfer was the result. In 1964 the pair went on to produce a set of tables, Thermodynamic and Transport Properties of Fluids, which also proved very successful, running into five editions.
Despite his sometimes fiery temperament, Mayhew was well liked by his colleagues and was a superb teacher. In 1974 he submitted his most important academic papers to the University of Bristol and was awarded a PhD.
Mayhew served on several professional bodies, including the Institution of Mechanical Engineers .
Despite his Jewish ancestry, Mayhew chose to be confirmed, believing that basic Christian teaching was a civilising influence. In 1957 he married Cora Lamboll in the chapel of Wills Hall, Bristol. She survives him with a daughter and two sons. Another son predeceased him.
Yon Mayhew, born July 22 1924, died November 6 2013


We are shocked and saddened by the high court decision to refuse Isa Muazu’s appeal to be released from an immigration detention centre (Report, 19 November). Isa is in a critical condition, having been on hunger strike in Harmondsworth detention centre for over 90 days. Despite compelling medical evidence and in the context of mounting political pressure from cross-party parliamentarians, the decision to continue Isa’s detention and pursue his deportation contradicts medical advice and shows no regard for the value of his life. We would argue that this goes well beyond a”‘hostile environment” and has far-reaching consequences for society as a whole.
Isa Muazu is a refused asylum seeker from Nigeria who came to this country seeking safety. Despite expert medical evidence in October that he was unfit to be detained, his detention continued, and as he edged closer to death, an “end of life plan” was prepared rather than his release. We believe he must be released to save his life. Many people who end up in detention centres feel anxious, frightened and frustrated. Like Isa, many feel that their asylum claims have not been fairly heard and that they are losing their freedom only for the “crime” of seeking safety in the UK. We are extremely concerned that Isa may die as a result of a hardened stance being taken towards migrants in the UK. We urgently call for clemency in this case. We ask that the home secretary reconsider Isa’s case and act quickly to release him in the UK, so that another death in immigration detention can be avoided.
Juliet Stevenson Actress 
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CS Lewis (Beyond the wardrobe, G2, 20 November) has not often been given credit for the fact that from his science fiction (1938-45) to The Four Loves (1960) he was a sustained critic of western imperialist attitudes to the universe. He turned the fantasy writing of HG Wells on its head in relation to suspicion of the alien and different. It is his western scientist Ransom and Devine, the business man, who are prepared to cut moral comers and treat planetary dwellers as illiterate simpletons to be shot or destroyed, not recognising their superior moral nature and understanding. “Large areas of the world will not hear us till we have publicly disowned much of our past,” he wrote. He made clear he was not attacking science, but systems of command and obedience without a heart, and power without a sense of responsibility, and was candid enough to admit his own personal temptation. So Rowan Williams is right to see him as “a brilliant diagnostician of self-deception”.
K Scoular Datta

The scale of the UK’s bed shortage (Closed wards reopened to stave off NHS winter crisis, 25 November) is shown by OECD figures for the number of hospital beds per 1,000 population: UK 3.3, OECD average 4.9, France 6.6 and Germany 8.2. To make matters worse, income from private patients’ use of NHS hospital resources has risen by 12% over the last year, with a further 10% rise forecast for the next 12 months, according to the NHS Support Federation. Leading up to this bed crisis have been the crippling costs of each wave of hospital PFI developments, which, as Allyson Pollock has demonstrated, have usually led to a 30% reduction in bed numbers, as well as closure of A&E departments and community services. On the ground clinicians have found that raising the issue of bed numbers with managers is likely to have a deleterious effect on career advancement.
Morris Bernadt
• While the failings at Mid Staffs are unacceptable, Jeremy Hunt ignores the underlying cause of the managerial culture complained of by Francis: the chronic underfunding of the NHS (Report, 20 November). Consequently, Mr Hunt can blame nurses, managers, GPs, consultants et al for any shortcoming and be blind to the fact that UK health expenditure is the third lowest of 21 developed countries. Over the past 30 years, the UK’s average expenditure is joint lowest.
Yet recent evidence shows that in terms of reduced mortality, including cancer deaths, the NHS is one of the most effective health systems in the world (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2011). Soon to be published research shows that the UK has had the biggest reduction, at lowest cost, in cancer deaths in the west, as the NHS achieves more with less. Every developed country faces the same demographic and health cost pressures, but we still get the NHS on the cheap, to the detriment to patients and staff morale.
Professor Colin Pritchard

At last we have a deal with Iran and – from Israel to the US, Arabia and back – the hawks cry out “too weak, too weak” (Sanctions will be eased, 26 November). Cue a reassuring chorus from Washington, London, even doubting Paris: the new nuclear inspection regime will ensure that Iran can never again pull a fast one. This deal was signed in the nick of time. What’s not mentioned is that some of the hawks may be less dismayed by the weakness of the Geneva deal than by its strengths. Regular inspections of Iranian nuclear sites will also make any future pre-emptive strike on nuclear plant or personnel a lot more difficult. As a bonus, for humans if not hawks, inspections and diplomatic easing will bring collateral benefits, as mixing and meeting on the ground help make the indiscriminate nature of sanctions more widely understood.
Greg Wilkinson
• The hypocrisy of Binyamin Netanyahu is breathtaking. He condemns the deal between the west and Iran as a mistake because “the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step towards attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world”. Setting aside the fact that Israel attained “the most dangerous weapon in the world” decades ago, making it the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, this significant step towards reducing the risk of war in the area should be welcomed by Israel, which keeps complaining that there is no partner for peace.
The truth about Israel is that it needs enemies to justify huge amounts of US aid, maintain its large military-industrial complex and keep the support of Jews around the world. Israel’s “desire for peace” is shown up for the sham it is by the fact that every time there is the possibility that peace talks with the Palestinians will get somewhere, Israel sabotages the effort with illegal settlements or attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. When will the world wake up to the fact that Israel’s, not Iran’s, is the most dangerous regime in the Middle East, as shown by the 60 years of conflict which its occupation of Palestine has caused?
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History
• The provisional agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme will hopefully lead to a full and final settlement that satisfies all parties (with no Israeli attack on Iran). It’s worth remembering that this could not have come about if there had not been the international co-operation that brought the chemical weapons inspectors into Syria. That only happened because President Obama delayed a strike on Syria, allowing Russia an opening to make Syria accept inspection. And Obama only held his hand because the UK parliament voted against an attack on Syria – thanks to Ed Miliband. That is in addition to Ed standing up to News International, thus helping to bring down some of Murdoch’s minions, and then to the Daily Mail. Not bad going – and he’s still only leader of the opposition.
David Geall
• If Catherine Ashton is truly a persuader and a charmer (From Lady Who to the EUs secret weapon, 26 November) she might like to apply those charms to the climate negotiations, after yet another fudge in Warsaw. The threat to humankind from climate change is far greater than from the Iranians.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

Isabella Blow (A head for fashion, G2, 20 November) was an eccentric who loved dressing up but had no impact on mainline fashion. What we 60s fashion editors are longing for is a definitive exhibition of the work of Mary Quant. Mary will be 80 years old next year and, despite being a household name who almost single-handedly made London the capital of world fashion instead of a place where you could buy a nice twin-set and pearls, she has never received the honour she deserves (a damehood) nor the recognition, in terms of a major retrospective exhibition.
Brigid Keenan and Meriel McCooey
Batcombe, Somerset
• There were no typographical errors in the the Guardian in 1963 (Letters, 26 November) because of the professionalism of the printing staff there, including linotype operators like Arthur White, the front-page compositor (my “uncle” Brian Hoy) and the back-page compositor (my dad, Bert Barlow). These local Manchester lads were the spellcheckers.
Peter Barlow
•  I knew, as I flicked through your Christmas gift guide (Weekend, 23 November) that it was too far, too much, although I was also shamefully captivated by it. Thank you, George Monbiot, for reminding us – and the Guardian – that most of us don’t need more “stuff” (You need that smart cuckoo clock for Christmas, do you?, 26 November). My Christmas list is in the bin.
Alison King
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
• Kipling wrote an even more poignant epitaph to the dead of the Great War than those mentioned by John Chambers (Letters, 26 November). Written after the loss of his own son at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, it read simply: “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.”
Ian Aitken
• We are now being told that the two people suspected of keeping three women as slaves for 30 years are Marxists (Report, 26 January). How long before the coalition attack dogs (and the Daily Mail perhaps) make a connection to Ed Miliband’s father and the Labour party?
Linda Campbell

Your report on the Dallas commemoration of the JFK assassination (In the bitter cold of collective grief, US honours the ‘idealist without illusions’, 23 November) asserts that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the three shots from the book depository. Oswald never appeared in a courtroom and the evidence, for and against, was never tested in front of a jury. His presumed guilt was reasserted by the Warren commission and echoed by the mainstream media, which accepted the lone-gunman thesis as settled fact despite the many discrepancies between the commission’s summary findings and the appendices in the same report. The most recent US government assessment of the evidence, published in 1979, concluded a probable conspiracy in the killing.
You quote commission member Richard Mosk’s assertion that “It was an easy shot” (CIA suppressed Kennedy facts – ‘but there was no conspiracy’, 23 November). Maybe, but it was not one that the FBI or other sharpshooters have been able to replicate during four reconstructions. Opinion passes too easily as fact – aided, alas, by too casual journalism.
Dr Henry Thompson
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
• It is natural perhaps that a former Warren commission insider would have faith in that inquiry’s findings, despite his recognition that both the CIA and FBI withheld information from it. Never mind who shot the president, or how it was achieved; to regard the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald two days later – in police custody, by a nightclub owner with a police record and Mafia connections – as irrelevant is simply absurd, but this was the Warren commission’s posture. Oswald’s murder, without any plausible explanation, would crucially rob the commission of its principal potential source of evidence.
For its part, the CIA was notorious for deception, disinformation, and participating in the overthrow of benign foreign governments that US authoritarians disapproved of, replacing them with dangerous ones that they preferred. J Edgar Hoover, by any standards an egomaniac and sociopath, regarded the FBI as his own fiefdom and ran it accordingly. Hoover’s notorious contempt for both JFK and his brother, attorney general Robert Kennedy, dispelled any likelihood of a vigorous FBI investigation into the assassination. Any material these crackpot institutions withheld from the Warren Commission could hardly have been more dubious than that which they supplied it with. We are left with a narrative riddled with contradictions, gaps, vagaries and understandably, “conspiracy theories”.
Kevin Bannon
• Jonathan Freedland is right to single out hope as a major reason that the Kennedy myth endures (JFK 50 years on: Idealism of a story that ended before its time, 22 November). The Kennedy story also remains a masterclass in public relations. The creation of the Camelot image, the careful use of film and photography, the image of vitality. The problem is that the PR has largely taken over from any semblance of reality in the popular perception of Kennedy. The family man was actually a serial adulterer, the man of vigour and vitality kept going with drugs.
On achievements, the truth of what might of have happened in Vietnam will never be known. What the Kennedy administration did do was create a blueprint to promote the support of some bloody dictators across Latin American and beyond, favoured only according to their usefulness to the overall goal of US global hegemony. The enduring fascination with Kennedy does relate to a desire for something better. It does though also amount to idolatry, a desire to filter out the truth and live in the past.
Paul Donovan
• The world should certainly remember John F Kennedy. But not for the reasons given by his many admirers. His complete lack of interest in moral issues at home must have set back the civil rights of African Americans for many years and, incidentally, the Democratic cause among such groups. His firm belief in the nonsensical “domino theory”, whereby communism would sweep through south-east Asia unless stopped, resulted in a dreadful war in which sharpened bamboo stakes, Kalashnikovs, and old-fashioned artillery pieces were pitted against helicopters, jets, napalm, chemical agents and high explosives. Despite its superiority in weapons, America retreated in ignominy from that conflict, but few remember that it was Kennedy who escalated US involvement in the war in the first place. He did utter a few memorable soundbites, but it is tempting to amuse oneself by wondering if it was his poor command of German that saved us from the ultimate conflict. When he proclaimed himself to be “a doughnut” in Berlin in 1963, there must have been so much merriment among German-speaking Soviets in the DDR, that they probably concluded the man was absolutely no threat to their own brand of communism. Thus the Armageddon we all feared at the time never took place, and for that at least we can be thankful.
Fred Litten

Thank you for reporting on the horrific dogmeat trade in Kate Hodal’s article (Behind the black market dog trade, 18 October). It must have been a very disturbing subject to report on. In travel guides and travel blogs I have read about the crying, screaming and barking coming from those trucks from kilometres away. I find it so disturbing the way these dogs are treated, especially the belief that “the more the dog suffers before it dies, the tastier the meat”.
These incredible animals are constantly helping us humans and deserve better. Dogs are locating bodies in the Philippines right now and after every disaster, helping blind people lead independent lives, helping people with disabilities lead safer and more fulfilling lives, finding landmines, detecting cancer in patients, alerting people who suffer from epilepsy, helping investigators detect how fires have started. Most of all, they give company, pleasure and friendship to millions of people all over the world.
Angela Swan
Port Noarlunga, South Australia
• What a hypocritical lot we British are! A single donkey sanctuary in Devon raises far more money than all the hostels for battered women in the country put together. We will eat factory-farmed meat without a qualm. Beef, sheep, pigs present no problem. But when it comes to horses, donkeys or – God save us – dogs, all reasonable logic vanishes.
Clive Whittington
Vamos, Greece
Australia is in climate denial
I want to express my dismay at the Australian government’s dismissal of climate change as a reality that requires urgent action (22 November). Am I alone in feeling sadness about the current situation in Australia? It seems that a “growth at all costs” mentality has caused greed to take over the national psyche. Negative reporting and whingeing exist side by side with an economy that is the envy of the rest of the world.
The conservative media in Australia argue against climate change science and attempt to spread confusion and denial. Developers and miners appear to run the country, with little concern for the environment or the needs of future generations, in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. Our Liberal politicians are denying the reality of evidence for global warming and its human-induced component, which is clear to the rest of the world. We are being told by them that they have a “mandate” from the last election to continue their policies.
It is likely that Australia will be the first country in the world to reverse a carbon tax that goes some way towards making the polluters pay and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is blessed with abundant supplies of renewable energy that could replace fossil fuels.
Our best hope may be for Australia to be shamed by the international community into playing its part in reducing emissions to a level that will make a difference. I would welcome suggestions from Guardian Weekly readers as to how to pressure Australian “deniers” to join the rest of the world while there is still time to make some urgent changes before it is too late.
Margaret Wilkes
Perth, Western Australia
Nuclear solution is possible
There has been a lot of noise about a deal with Iran on nuclear enrichment, apparently stalled and the subject of much controversy (A mountain to climb, 15 November). There is a more straightforward way. Every Iranian government has expressed willingness to sign up to a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. This would, of course, involve international surveillance to ensure compliance. The proposed Helsinki meeting has been cancelled indefinitely. Yet a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East is the obvious solution.
Jordan Bishop
Ottawa, Canada
Headscarves are a problem
From the Canadian viewpoint, it is odd to see the photo of female politicians happily celebrating their right to wear headscarves again in the Turkish parliament (Eyewitnessed, 8 November). Here, in the Quebec National Assembly, the Parti Québécois premier Pauline Marois is attempting to pass a bill, the Quebec charter of rights, banning the wearing of religious symbols such as turbans, yarmulkes, large crosses and headscarves for those working in public service.
She has the support of the assembly’s only Muslim member, Fatima Houda-Pepin, who said: “In a democracy, it is permissible to prohibit, when the public interest so requires. Gender equality is a fundamental right which remains fragile in an era of fundamentalism.” And she is a member of the Liberal opposition.
Anthony Walter
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Our feeling of helplessness
So, according to Steve Rose, issue documentaries are not always as efficient as they should be to move us to action (All worked up at the movies, 8 November). Maybe the problem is not with cinema but with a certain feeling of helplessness we may have. Or is it that, as Emily Dickinson puts it, “The soul selects her own society, /Then shuts the door”?
Yes, we have a tendency to stay in our own world: a kind of seclusion, the trademark of materialistic societies. We are all well-informed of what’s going on everywhere, it’s live. Do we pretend to be worried or do we really not give a damn?
In the news there are so many tragic occurrences – but afterwards they tell us we need to buy things. And take care not to get us too depressed, or the things we should be buying build up in the warehouses. This isn’t good because, according to the normal cycle, these things should already have been used and thrown away.
If we thought for five minutes, we would stop immediately and take some action.
Marc Jachym
Paris, France
Where has the fun gone?
The voyages of Canadian astronaut Mark Hadfield (15 November) seem both nervy and mundane, with a rare sublime vista when he’s not attending to “the minutiae of checklists and protocols”. Of necessity, chores and domestic drudgery dominate his days: “living there for half a year, on a space station the size of a five-bedroom house, with five other people”. He doesn’t broach the preoccupation with hazardous bodily functions (as does Mary Roach in Packing for Mars), but laments the “bland” food and disposable (paper?) underwear.
Though Hadfield finds earthbound life anticlimactic, the routines of life in orbit seem so to me. The challenges are mostly internal: “claustrophobia and agoraphobia, at once”, and the existential isolation where any small thing gone awry can turn dire.
But where has the fun gone? Flash Gordon, Barbarella, and Tom Swift and the Race to the Moon? Next trip bring along a scrappy little mascot like Laika (or at least a robotic dog) and a pair of parrots as interlocutors – could they fly in zero-G?
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
Commuting is a nightmare
It is simply outrageous the way governments fail to take care of the transport system used by the workforce (High human cost of commuting in Mumbai, 1 November). I live in Brazil and it seems like every day there is an accident on the rails. Not to mention the overcrowded trains during rush hour and the common daily delays.
In Rio de Janeiro, the trains are mainly used to connect the neighbourhoods of the suburban poor to the central commercial part of the city. As they are used mainly by people who lack financial means, the trains are largely ignored by authorities.
That situation is just degrading, especially when we consider the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics.
Marcela Ribeiro
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Closing of the dock
News of the closing of Portsmouth naval dockyard (15 November) was especially poignant for me, having written, long ago now, about the Royal Dockyards at the height of British naval power in A Management Odyssey: The Royal Dockyards, 1714-1914 (1994). They were the world’s first giant, geographically dispersed industrial organisation – the biggest until the last century – and as such presented problems of management that were both challenging and unique, and the object of keen admiralty, parliamentary and public attention. The workforce, always enormous by contemporary standards, had on the eve of the first world war soared to 43,000 (ominously restless) men accounting for one-quarter of the country’s shipyard workers. A century later, I salute the last, sadly departing 940 of that breed.
J M Haas
Pullman, Washington, US
Why stop at Fridays?
Oliver Burkeman has not realised the full potential of his idea to do away with scheduling work on Fridays (15 November). When, as predicted by the Hofstadter law, he adapts to his new schedule, then, no worry, he can take Thursday off too. As he adapts again and again, Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday afternoon etc will surely follow until he has but a few seconds early on Monday in which to fit his schedule.
I believe Zeno had a few words on this issue some centuries ago. But don’t tell the bosses – no doubt those few seconds are all they would want to pay for.
David Blest
Dilston, Tasmania, Australia
My Guardian Weekly reading routine begins with the Comment & Debate section. Retired from a lifelong career in local government, I was charmed by Simon Jenkins’s take on the politics that thrives in cities (15 November). I then turned to the Rob Ford show staggering on in Toronto. Sigh.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada



Is the calorific intake of a patient the responsibility of the doctors, or the nurses, or the catering staff? Opinions differ …
Sir, I fully agree with Neil Churchill, the director of patient experience at NHS England, that doctors must put meals at heart of hospital care (report, Nov 25, and letter, Nov 26).
Along with nurses, healthcare assistants, relatives and volunteers, doctors can easily make it a part of their regular day-to-day ward round to monitor and review patients’ intake of food, which is a vital component of the recovery process: if patients are eating and enjoying their food, they are getting better.
Doctors can also play their role in checking that food and drinks are within patients’ reach, with proper positioning of the bed or chair and correct adjustment of the bedside table. They can also, if necessary, help in cutting up patients’ food.
As a consultant I never had any problem in fitting in this inseparable aspect of patient care into my regular ward round, and encouraged my trainee doctors to do the same.
Dr M. S. Ali
Emeritus Consultant Physician
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich
Sir, I have obviously been mistaken for 30 years. As a medical student I was trained to diagnose and manage illness, through examination and investigations such as blood tests and X-rays. I was also formerly a state registered nurse. Nurses were responsible for patients’ food and fluid intake. Fluid charts were the norm; “push fluids” was a common instruction during our handovers.
Doctors’ working practices do not usually affect whether a patient gets food or drink; if a ward round interrupts, the nurses can arrange to keep meals and offer drinks later, or ask the catering staff to do so.
Why do managers and politicians assume that everything that happens in a hospital is under the control of doctors, or is the fault of the latter if something goes wrong?Are dirty wards, unmade beds and long queues in A&E doctors’ fault too?
Jane Bowskill
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Sir, Some hospitals already take patients’ food seriously. Salisbury District Hospital, for example, cooks all its meals on site using local-grown produce, and issues menus to patients. It also does regular foodtasting on the wards and has a very active food forum committee comprising governors and lay members like myself. The hospital gets very few complaints about the food — but many letters of compliments.
Phil Matthews
Mayor of Wilton
Sir, While a patient in a provincial French hospital some years ago, I had to be placed on a drip and was barred from taking any food or drink for three days. Once the emergency was over, my first meal was brought in. It consisted of thin soup, a piece of bread and — wonder of wonders — a glass of watered-down red wine. My recovery was almost instantaneous.
Professor Dennis Walder
London N10

Units of speed can vary, from the most commonly used and easily recognisable, to increments used in computer operating systems
Sir, We should not mock barleycorns per fortnight as a unit of speed (letters, Nov 25 & 26). It belongs to the venerable firkin-furlong-fortnight system of measurement. Perhaps its proudest implementation was in the VMS computer operating system, where the TIMEPROMPTWAIT parameter was set in microfortnights. A microfortnight is 1.2096 seconds, and the speed of light is 1.8×1012 furlongs per fortnight.
Martin Whittaker
Hook, Hants

The number of people who would lose out in an expansion of Heathrow greatly outweighs the number who would benefit
Sir, When Daniel Finkelstein writes that airport expansion is being held back by “the few” he shows a surprising statistical ignorance (Notebook, Nov 23). Figures suggest that 6 million people would be affected. They include people in South West and West London and hundreds of thousands more in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, whose lives are already blighted by noise and air pollution. Their children are already suffering at schools because they cannot concentrate or even hear their teachers; thousands of workers in these heavily populated areas are sleep-deprived as flights start at 4.30am each day and roar over their beds every 45 seconds.
I think “the few” in this equation are those who would actually benefit from expansion — as ever, the leaders of businesses. Finkelstein might be better served putting his undoubted statistical talents to good use by working out how the aviation industry could improve its future performance by, for example, not sending out half-empty planes, whether there will be enough fuel in the future to power these planes, and whether, when passenger numbers are falling, we need expansion at all.
Charlotte Page
London SW13
Sir, Daniel Moylan (letter, Nov 26) declares that there comes a time when it is right to move Heathrow to the Thames estuary. Just where does he propose moving the thousands of highly successful businesses that are located close to Heathrow, and where will he house the huge army of airport workers needed to build and operate a six-runway hub airport?
This important information is strangely missing from the Outer Estuary and Isle of Grain master plans dated July 19, 2013, and from the submissions to the Government’s Airports Commission.
Stephen Rush
Shepperton, Middx

Does the Government sell-off show that student loans do not work, and that the policy continues to disadvantage those from the poorest backgrounds?
Sir, The decision by the Government to sell nearly £900 million of student loans to a debt collection company for £160 million (report, Nov 25) has caused relatively little comment thus far. Could this be because the Government chose to announce it at the same time as it announced the introduction of legislation to control payday loan companies?
Surely this sale demonstrates what we have known for a long time: that student loans do not work, and that the policy continues to disadvantage those from the poorest backgrounds. As Scotland has demonstrated so admirably, it is still possible to fund student education from the public purse.
Tony Harris

Practising ‘defensively’ curbs treatment choice, creates staff stress, engenders mistrust with patients and deprives frontline care of funds
Sir, Healthcare would improve if the threat of litigation was removed (letters, Nov 15, 20 & 26). Doctors, nurses and health workers generally should be protected by Crown immunity unless they deliberately or maliciously harm patients. Practising “defensively” curbs treatment choice, creates staff stress, engenders mistrust with patients, deprives frontline care of funds, adds to bureaucracy by recording minutiae as well as adding to over-testing and over-prescribing — “to tick all the boxes”.
The vast majority of doctors, nurses and caring staff want to deliver the best possible treatment for each patient. To treat them all as potential criminals is not conducive to the delivery of optimum care.
Steve Ellis
Chestfield, Kent


Players involved in more than one form of the game at international level are overworked, and casualties will continue to occur
Sir, Jonathan Trott’s troubles (reports, Nov 26) may well have their root in the excessive international programme of the England team as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has pursued a policy of maximising income. Players involved in more than one form of the game at international level are particularly overworked, and casualties will inevitably continue to occur.
It is the same muddled thinking that has resulted in nine Test Match venues in this country fighting over seven home Tests per year (in reality eight grounds fighting over five Tests, as Lord’s is guaranteed two matches), causing financial difficulties for many of the counties involved. It’s time the ECB realised that less is more.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey


SIR – Christopher Howse is quite right about book illustrators: Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows would be unthinkable without E H Shepard’s contributions. Perhaps an even better example is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which, like its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, was illustrated by Sir John Tenniel.
As the chief political cartoonist for Punch, Tenniel was a household name at the time, while Carroll was an obscure Oxford don: had Tenniel not taken the commission, the books would probably have sunk without trace.
Mr Howse praises Alex Scheffler’s drawings for The Gruffalo, but does not mention that they owe a huge (and, as far as I know, unacknowledged) debt to Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are.
Matthew Wesley
London SE22

Chris van Allsburg is a superb illustrator. Beautiful, detailed pictures that draw you right in.


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• 13 hours ago

Nigel Molesworth, as illustrated by Ronald Searle.


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One Last Try
• 17 hours ago

Forget the posh books, what about the “Eagle” comic. Superb artwork, and I built my own full size aircraft carrier, from the drawings on the middle page


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JDavidJ One Last Try
• 15 hours ago

You haven’t still got it have you? (The full size carrier.)


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One Last Try JDavidJ
• 14 hours ago

Cameron and Hammond sold it, the *&^$££s


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• 17 hours ago

Quentin Blake gets my vote.


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ladyofthelake ditchdigger3
• 13 hours ago

His illustrations are wonderful and they capture Roald Dahl’s books exactly.


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• 20 hours ago

Alfred Bestall’s unmatchably decriptive illustrations of the Rupert books were a magical feature of my childhood. I don’t think they have ever been bettered. Nutwood was so real you almost felt you could walk into the page.


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JohnnyNorfolk grizzly
• 6 hours ago

I loved my Rupert books they wre wonderful. my mother used to cut the stories out of the then good newspaper the Daily Express and stick them into a scrap book, not the same as the books of course. Toby Twirl was not as good.


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SIR – I grew up in Britain, and moved back to Bulgaria four years ago. The mild xenophobia currently being expressed in Britain over next year’s removal of freedom of movement restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians will only harm Britain in the long run by shifting focus away from rebuilding the economy.
Rather than indulging in sensationalist scapegoating, Britain should, after five years of economic uncertainty, seize the chance to build up its economy by concentrating on education reform, encouraging entrepreneurs and supporting businesses.
Don’t worry about the immigrants: 70 per cent return home within two years, and 90 per cent within five. I guarantee that they can have a good life back in their own countries.
Boyan S Benev
Sofia, Bulgaria
Related Articles
Should pay-day loans be capped?
26 Nov 2013
The books that owe so much to their illustrations
26 Nov 2013
SIR – The Home Office has failed to reject a single work permit from Bulgaria in the past six years despite promising to protect British jobs.
On October 22, Bulgarian MPs voted to extend the ban of sale of agricultural land to foreigners, including EU citizens, until 2020, thus breaking EU law and a major term of their EU Accession Treaty.
The Bulgarian parliament has taken unilateral action to defend what it sees as its national interest: Britain must now do the same. The British Government should extend the labour market restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians, which are due to expire at the end of this year.
If Bulgaria can pick and choose which of its EU obligations apply, then so should we. With one million young people unemployed and public services stretched to breaking point, Britain would be foolish and irresponsible to allow labour market access to Bulgarians and Romanians.
Gerard Batten MEP (Ukip)
Immigration and Home Affairs Spokesman
Ilford, Essex
SIR – There is a need for a proper debate on the immigration issue; but in order to have a proper debate, facts must be established in the first place.
Out of the estimated 7.2 million foreigners living in Britain, only 2.3 million are from the European Union. When we look at foreign benefit claimants, 66 per cent come from Asia, 24 per cent from Africa and only 16 per cent from the European Union.
Any debate should be based on these facts, as they clearly show that the EU’s freedom of movement law is not the main source of immigration.
Patryk Malinski
Feltham, Middlesex
SIR – Why not allow Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants unrestricted entry to Britain but for a limited period, say five years, and pay them any benefits at the rate they would receive in their own country?
Dr Peter Islip
Sanderstead, Surrey

SIR – Pay-day loans should not just be capped, there should be an obligation on the lender to agree with the borrower a repayment strategy that is attainable.
Paul Brazier
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
SIR – The issue of high interest rates charged by pay-day loan companies is a further indictment of our educational system, which fails to teach basic maths to a large sector of the population.
The Government should focus on this, not meddle in a free-market economy.
Related Articles
Immigration is a distraction from the task of rebuilding the economy
26 Nov 2013
The books that owe so much to their illustrations
26 Nov 2013
Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey
Teenagers and politics
SIR – On Friday night, we hosted Radio 4’s Any Questions at the Godolphin School in Salisbury, where I am head teacher. It was a stimulating evening, but I was disappointed that none of the young people in the audience was invited to ask a question, and indeed that the average age of the audience exceeded 45.
If we are considering lowering the voting age – in Scotland, at least, to 16 – and opinion polls indicate that 47 per cent of those under 25 have no interest in voting in the next general election, surely we need to be doing more to encourage the teenage population to engage in political debate.
I would like to see a version of Any Questions aimed at a younger audience.
Samantha Price
Salisbury, Wiltshire
Pointless meetings
SIR – As a member of two councils, Somerset county and Mendip district, which have adopted a policy in recent years of drastically reducing the number of meetings (“Three years spent in pointless meetings”, report, November 22), I have noticed an improvement in services as well as a reduction in costs.
Meetings often result in an increase in bureaucracy, which is the curse of local government. The cost of meetings is often underestimated: there is the cost of officers’ time in preparing for meetings, the printing of agendas and attached papers, the heating and lighting of the rooms in which the meetings are held, and travel expenses for councillors attending.
All councils should query whether many of their meetings are necessary.
Cllr Ron Forrest
Wells, Somerset
Back in a minute
SIR – David White, who often dines alone, asks if there is a simple solution to stop his drink and meal being removed when he goes to the lavatory.
When I was working in a pub, I used to issue smokers who were leaving their pint with a sign saying: “Taking five mins off my life expectancy outside; will be back in five”. Perhaps Mr White should carry a sign saying: “Taking a pee, please don’t clear my plate.”
Katie Polden
Portsmouth, Hampshire
SIR – A coat or jacket on the back of one’s chair or draped over one’s bar stool seems to be the solution to his problem.
Jonathan Chasemore
Potter Heigham, Norfolk
SIR – A good way to prevent bar staff from removing my meal is to place, next to my plate, a copy of The Daily Telegraph, folded to show the puzzles page. On top of the paper I leave a pen.
Martin Owen
Sawtry, Huntingdonshire
Odd charity priorities
SIR – My wife and I recently became pensioners and we are keen to support our local community in retirement.
My wife offered her services to a locally run charity for people less fortunate than ourselves and I offered mine to a theatre group, both partly funded by the local authority. In each case, we were only able to proceed after we had each provided two references and gone through rigorous checks as to our suitability. We were disappointed at how long this bureaucratic process took.
Meanwhile, the Rev Paul Flowers, who has been convicted of fraud, found in possession of pornography on his work computer and caught buying illegal Class A drugs, was at the helm of an organisation that lost billions of pounds of shareholders’ money but was nevertheless allowed to keep his job and even join a committee giving advice to the Government. He was only recently forced out of his job as a result of a national newspaper exposé.
It is interesting to note that the Government wants to curb the power of the press and encourage the Big Society. I know which way my vote will go at the next election: into the dustbin.
Peter D B Yates
Eastrington, East Yorkshire
Not so smartphones
SIR – Boris Johnson recently stated that the future on the London Underground is via handheld devices and not ticket office employees. This is a cosmopolitan mentality and there seems to be a growing gap between those who have smartphones and those who do not.
In my parish, I would guess that 40 to 50 per cent of people are not on the internet; many have lived in the same area for generations, and some have never been to London. How would they be able to travel on the Underground?
The London-based cognoscenti must acquire the wisdom and humility to realise that theirs is not the only world, that it is possibly not even the best world, and that their brave new digital world will exclude a great number of their fellow citizens.
Rev Lida Ellsworth
Bakewell, Derbyshire
I give up
SIR – On entertainment programmes on television, some presenters are given to introducing acts by saying: “Please give it up for…” What am I supposed to give up?
Stuart McVey
Kingsdown, Kent
Explaining the decline in Britain’s song birds
SIR – Regarding the decline of the song thrush, I have a garden of about two acres. The song thrush, which used to be well established, is now only an occasional visitor.
The main cause of the decline is the magpie, which watches the breeding thrushes in the spring and easily locates their nests. The last two thrushes’ nests in my garden were about 10 years ago, and magpies took the eggs from one and the chicks from the other.
Alan Stewardson
Redditch, Worcestershire
SIR – For many years we have looked forward to the autumn when the vines outside our kitchen window are laden with grapes. At breakfast, we can watch blackbirds in great numbers enjoying their breakfast as we enjoy ours.
But this year we have had no visitors at all. The leaves have now fallen from the vines, leaving the lovely bunches of grapes just hanging there and now about to fall off. What has caused this? Is it global warming?
I fear that the finger of blame may point towards the new cat next door, who has been spotted on several occasions sitting in a bunch of feathers.
Freddie Gee
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
SIR – In rural Somerset as a child, the hedges were so thick that it was sometimes impossible to get my small hands into a hedge to see how many eggs were in a nest.
Now, most hedges are cut with a flail which removes the top very efficiently, leaving little cover for small birds to hide their nests. I have not seen a yellowhammer for 10 years. If farmers cut less frequently, perhaps the yellowhammers would return.
Hamish Grant
Buckland St Mary, Somerset

Gladys and Toots: I went to the 20th Anniversary UKIP Conference in London in September with two other UKIP members. It so happened that when we reached Newbury Park where we parked our car we discovered that a return ticket to Westminster would be much cheaper using an Oyster card than buying a day return. But my friends said they seldom visited London so would the £5 “deposit” not be wasted? We were told that we could hand it in at the end of the day and have the £5 refunded at a later date. So my friends bought an Oyster card each.
The ticket office had closed by the time we returned to Newbury Part so I bought the cards back off my friends since I visit London regularly and could be re-imbursed myself. The very next day I went into London again – my two friends could not make it – and was advised by an Underground employee that she would only reimburse me on production of a valid passport!!!
I wish I had had the nous to say “Why do you need one to give me money when you don’t ask to see one when I buy one?” but that didn’t occur to me until much later, and in any case I can try again (with a passport?) on my next visit. But WHY was I told this? Then it all became clear: I was wearing my UKIP badge. No doubt the ticket office employee has a relative working as Daffy Disqus!


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One Last Try
• 12 hours ago

Pointless meetings
For years as an engineer, I have followed the maxim, of:
‘If it works. don’t fix it’
Cllr Ron Forrest Wells et al of Somerset, have come to the same conclusion. If only the common sense shown in Somerset, would spiral upwards to the Oxygen Thieves in westminster


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thatIIdo One Last Try
• 11 hours ago

I used to like afternoon meetings. The contractors (the enemy) would buy me lots of drinks in the pub at lunchtime so I would turn up late for the meeting. Little did they know that I had pre-armed our tea-total architectural engineer with all the info on mechanical spec’s that they were failing to meet. They never did suss that one.


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One Last Try thatIIdo
• 10 hours ago

I had to make do with a tot


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• 16 hours ago

I fear that the Rev Lida Ellsworth has got completely the wrong end of the stick thinking that Boris is restricting London Tube travel to those with a smartphone.
Only 3% of Tube journeys are taken using a conventional ticket bought from a Tube ticket office. Most travelers use touch-cards like the Oyster card or Freedom pass. A smartphone is not necessary.


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richardl_on_disqus toots
• 15 hours ago

None of which would help me as an overseas visitor who does not have a UK compatible smartphone and I do not qualify for an oyster card or freedom pass.
Judging by the hordes at heathrow and st pancreas ticket offices, I believe that I am not alone in being deprived


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toots richardl_on_disqus
• 13 hours ago

Richard. Overseas visitors can easily buy an Oyster card. And please forget about smart phones. Only the Rev. Linda thinks we need one in order to travel.


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ilpugliese richardl_on_disqus
• 14 hours ago

I wouldn’t dream of using a smartphone for ticketing. It’s too critical. Some airlines have apps that allow boarding passes to be carried on such phones. Can you imagine the disaster if the phone failed at that point?


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Woodley_Kid_lostindiscus richardl_on_disqus
• 15 hours ago

You just buy an Oyster Card no qualification necessary. However, that said it does help to have the ticket offices that can advise you. The buses are especially difficult to understand if you do not know the ticketing system.


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manonthebus Woodley_Kid_lostindiscus
• 14 hours ago

It’s no different in other EU countries. In Prague and in Venice, as examples, you buy tickets from a machine and you must swipe the ticket in a machine on the water-bus or tram before each journey, or before the very first in the case of Prague. There are plenty of signs and the information is provided in travel guides. In addition, local people are very helpful when you aren’t sure what to do with your ticket.


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Irish Times:
Sir, – Gráinne Faller (“Parents need transparent information on schools”, Opinion, November 27th), declared there should be a debate on school performance tables.
Just over a fortnight ago, the Chief Inspector’s Report 2010-2012 was published. It contains an analysis of all 2,378 inspections which took place in second-level schools during this period, including surveys of 29,000 students and 20,000 parents. School inspection reports, which are available to the public online, contain factual information on the performance of each school across domains such as the quality of school management, the quality of supports for students and the quality of teaching and learning in subjects. In other words, contrary to Gráinne Faller’s claim that parents do not have easy access to information on schools, these reports answer key questions such as: Is the school well run? Are there good student support structures? Are the subjects taught in a manner consistent with improving educational outcomes for students?
League tables are based on a narrow and distorted view of second-level education, ie that it is all about exam results and CAO points. League tables tell us very little about schools because they ignore the multi-faceted work they do. League tables do not consider that each school and student is unique. They fail to see merit in the fact that schools set and meet goals based on the individual needs of their students. League tables dismiss the challenges faced and often overcome by students and teachers in every school in the country.
The real debate in education is not about league tables, it is about what we want as a society and how schools can work to help us achieve that. At present only 55 per cent of second-level students in Ireland transfer to higher education. Despite the ongoing publication of feeder-school league tables, second-level schools continue to operate on the premise that their mission is to assist all students to achieve their potential as young people and as citizens.
However, if the message is that league tables matter more, all young people, and indeed all of society, will come to suffer. – Yours, etc,
ASTI General Secretary,
Winetavern Street, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Can I deduce from the school “league tables” (2013 School League Tables supplement, November 26th) that if the pupils from schools where a minority proceed to third-level education were transferred to fee-paying schools or Gaelscoileanna that virtually all of these pupils would then all go on to third-level and capture many of the places on high points entry courses? – Yours, etc,
Kilkenny West,
Co Westmeath.
Sir, – I refer to your publication of feeder tables to Irish institutions of higher education and to Gráinne Faller’s article on the measurement of schools’ academic performance (Opinion, November 27th).
At St Columba’s College, we have long championed the rights of parents to have as much information as possible regarding the school’s performance in public examinations and this is why we always publish an average points score per candidate in the annual Leaving Certificate. This information is promulgated on the college website together with information about results against national averages. I know of no other school in Ireland which is so open about its results, but would certainly welcome similar openness from other institutions.
In 2013, St Columba’s had an average CAO points score of 466 per candidate across all papers taken at all levels. Over the past five years, it has had an average score of more than 450 points per candidate. Regrettably, however, this outstanding achievement is not recognised in your tables because, by your own admission, the information you have at your disposal is limited.
It is time there was much more transparency for parents – and the wider public – in the information given out by schools in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
St Columba’s College,
Dublin 16.
A chara, – It is always an interesting set of data, but one wonders whether the use of the “per cent progression” figure is in any way reflective of how particular schools are performing in the year in question. The sample population that would be most instructive as to how well our schools and students are doing, is surely the performance of that year’s Leaving Cert cohort.
The “per cent progression” number includes a school’s students who are repeating first year in university as well as mature students. This skews the school performance data potentially significantly given that only 71 per cent of this year’s college registrations sat the Leaving Cert in 2013.
Therefore, though perhaps unlikely, it is possible for a school whose alumni had statistically significantly high failure rates in their first year exams and elect to repeat the year, to appear higher on the league list than a school where every one of its Leaving Cert 2013 students progressed to university. This surely suggests the data as presented should be interpreted with care.
The data source is not something The Irish Times can control, but I am sure most who scour these league tables would rather a “pure” dataset, based solely on analysis of those who sat the current year’s Leaving Cert. That would allow us develop real indicators of how our secondary schools and our students are performing over time. – Is mise,
A chara, – It is ironic that on the day you publish dubious “league tables”, Dan Flinter’s appointment as chair of The Irish Times Ltd should be announced (Home News, November 26th). A very wise appointment.
Dan Flinter went to the same school as myself, CBS Athy. Out of perhaps 25 Leaving Cert graduates in the three years during which Dan Flinter graduated, one became editor of a national newspaper, another a university vice president, a third an enormously successful business consultant in the US, etc. And not a fee in sight! And there was me! – Yours, etc,
Senator 1981-92, 1997-07,
CBS Athy 1964,
The Orchards,

Sir, – I absolutely agree with Brendan Butler’s views on the absence of any real attempt by the hierarchy in Ireland to survey the views of its members (Rite & Reason, November 26th). I am particularly surprised in the case of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin whom I have the greatest respect for. However, it might not have been his personal choice.
Two weeks ago I attended Mass in Cobham in Surrey, England, and when the parish priest stood up to say a few words on the subject he announced that the bishop of the diocese had issued a recorded message about the survey which was to be played at every Mass in the diocese that weekend. It gave full information on what the Pope wants to know and urged the people to think and submit their views and send them to him by a given postal address or e-mail. All information was also available on his web.
I can see why this church is normally 85 per cent full at all Masses. – Yours, etc,
Georgian Village,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Like Nora Scott (November 26th) I derived some – if not exactly enjoyment – at least satisfaction from reading the Irish Times’s “Fintan O’Toole – 25 years of Irish life” supplement, but for me during the course of my morning commute as opposed to Ms Scott’s preference for bedtime reading.
If she is truly able to “drift off to sleep enriched and satisfied” having read account upon account confirming the deep dysfunctionality and venality of this little nation then she has mastered a priceless life skill which I would be very interested in gaining myself! – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan Road,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In relation to the recent nuclear “deal” between Iran and six Western powers, Niall Ginty (November 26th) tells us that “Israel still remains, understandably, sceptical of Tehran’s new found goodwill towards the West” because “much of what happens in that large country is well hidden and literally underground”.
Much of what happened in Israel during the first decades of its existence was so “well hidden and literally underground” that that rogue state has ended up with anything between 100 and 400 nuclear warheads. Unlike Iran, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), hence its nuclear installations, unlike those of Iran, are closed to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Given that the West spurred on its then ally Saddam Hussein to invade Iran illegally in 1980, deploying chemical weapons supplied by the West, Iran has little reason to display “goodwill towards the West”.
Meanwhile, the best safeguard against the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons would be for the declared nuclear powers to dismantle their own bombs, as required by the NPT. Alas, nothing is less likely. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Rosemarie Rowley (November 25th) oversells the act which binds heterosexual couples together.
As made clear in the Law Reform Committee of the Law Society’s report, Nullity of Marriage: the Case for Reform, the requirement of copulation is not concerned with procreative capacity or potential. Its existence in law remains a relic of medieval times “when the first act of intercourse was thought to ‘mark’ a new bride as ‘property’ of her husband”. The medieval view of women as property is not a valid concern to prevent marriage equality for same-sex couples in the 21st century. – Yours, etc,
LLM, The Rise,
Bishosptown, Cork.

A chara, – For all of us who lived through the Northern Troubles, the image of Fr Alec Reid praying over the body of the murdered British soldier in Belfast in March 1988 (Home News, November 22nd) recalled a defining moment. It came only a few short months after we had witnessed the heartbroken Gordon Wilson declaring to the world “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge” following the murder of his daughter Marie in the Enniskillen bombing.
Here were two deeply committed Christians reacting to the horrors that had been inflicted. With heroic fortitude and forgiveness these two men reached out to the other side. At a critical time in the Troubles these images struck a powerful chord with people. They asserted the sacredness of human life and the common ground of our Christianity when denominational tags threatened to tear us apart. – Is mise,

Sir, – Reading Pól Ó Muirí’s mini-review of my book, Tóchar: Walking Ireland’s Ancient Pilgrim Paths (Books, November 23rd), felt like being accused by a parish priest of having made a “bad confession”.
I am damned in 150 words, it seems, for not measuring up to his level of spiritual transcendence by walking our pilgrim paths for a year and spending at least another two reflecting on my experiences while writing a 298-page memoir/travelogue.
Firmly denied a plenary indulgence by “an tAthair Ó Muirí”, my undertaking was compromised from the start in his eyes because I am a “struggling Catholic and a healthy sceptic in matters of belief” with a strong distrust of the “institutional” Catholic Church. I don’t even get a partial indulgence for reconciling myself with many aspects of the faith of my fathers by the end of the narrative and my honest recognition that faith is always a work in progress.
The review slams my book (wrongly described as a “collection of essays”) as inadequate because it did not have the ending your reviewer wanted. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – May I suggest some alternatives to the traditional Christmas menu, to include the following: cold turkey, cold whisky, cold coleslaw and cold Vichyssoise. Note: no fridge necessary – “power cut” room temperatures will suffice. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The sincerest of commendations to your nation’s rugby spectators – those of the one nation in the world possessing the ethic to remain silent while a kick at goal is being taken, by whichever team. – Yours, etc,
Morriggia Place,
New Zealand.
Sir, – We would like to thank the Irish team for playing so well against the All Blacks. Our principal gave the whole school a homework-free day because of it! – Yours etc,
Harold NS,
Glasthule Co Dublin.
Sir, – For me Sunday’s game was the most heartbreaking since I lost a Leinster Schools’ Cup match in the late 1970s. I cannot even imagine how the players felt. A phenomenal performance nonetheless. – Yours, etc,
Pak Pat Shan Road,
Tai Tam, Hong Kong.

Sir, – Dublin City Council’s slogan “Bag The Poo, Any Bin Will Do” seems at odds with its policy of removing public litter bins to discourage illegal dumping. – Yours, etc,
Aughrim Street, Dublin 7.

Sir, – I have to disagree with the theory of my fellow Waterford émigré Seamus McKenna regarding the origin of the Waterford blaa. I have clear memories of eating blaas from Harney’s bakery in John’s Street, well before Modern Bakeries came in being. The Modern Bakeries version, with all due respects to his father, was, in our household at least, regarded as inferior to the Harney’s version, which had a crustier top. How long before that they came into being, I don’t know, but the Huguenot theory is the one I have heard most frequently.
It would be interesting to hear readers’ views as to the best filling for a blaa. Mine was a fried egg (soft yolk essential) or alternatively a crispy rasher, or, ideally, both! – Yours, etc,
Ballinclea Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I have been following your readers’ recent comments regarding the disappearance of the house sparrow.
I was astonished to encounter a female house sparrow in the Arrivals area of Dublin Airport on Sunday morning. She hopped confidently around, feeding on crumbs, and seemed utterly oblivious to the crowds of passengers, waiting friends and relatives. A welcome addition to our dwindling population of these chirpy, cheeky and humble aviators! – Yours, etc,
Ashford, Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:
Edward Mahon has an interesting take on the 1913 Lockout and the 1906 Trades Dispute Act. He is of course right in pointing out that an employer can make an ex parte application against workers or their unions during a dispute, but in reality this is relatively rare in historic terms. When it does occur, it is frequently and successfully challenged by trade unions.
Also in this section
We’ve plenty more chances to be magnificent
Away in a haka went a match we could’ve won
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
The most important provision of the 1906 Act was that it lifted the threat of unions and individual workers being sued for damages if they undertook industrial action at all.
The government of the day did not introduce this legislation out of the goodness of its heart, but because the campaign to protect workers from anti-trade union laws, and the courts, had led to the foundation of the British Labour Party. This threatened the political hegemony of the ruling Liberal Party.
Without the 1906 Act, the Dublin Lockout, and indeed the rise of ‘Larkinism’ in Ireland, might well have been impossible.
Today we are once more debating how the law can be changed to make collective bargaining legally enforceable in compliance with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, International Labour Organisation Conventions and judgments of the Council of Europe’s Court of Human Rights to vindicate the rights of individuals to freedom of association and the complementary right to freedom of representation without which the former right is fairly meaningless.
Hopefully the new legislation on collective bargaining promised in the Programme for Government and due to be considered by the Cabinet shortly will resolve this difficult issue that has remained the most disputed legacy of the 1913 Lockout.
Finally, can I compliment the Irish Independent on its supplement to mark 1913, which makes some amends for its role in that historic year.
* So, the HSE is to have a cut of €666m inflicted in this year’s Budget. This will be one “devil” of a number to achieve!
* The pathetic whinging over a silly rugby match is really bewildering! Maybe if those heading back to D4 land or planet Malone Road took time to consider the recent Philippine chaos after Sunday’s little inconvenience, then there would be a real reason to identify something as a disaster!
* What a game! Yes we were beaten, but it was a narrow victory by what some suggest is the greatest rugby team the world has seen.
There are people who will say that there is no honour in defeat. Nonsense; Ireland gave us 80 minutes of top-class entertainment that almost denied the All Blacks their historic win.
There were many naysayers before the game who were hoping we could hold New Zealand to a non-embarrassing margin of win. Ireland, with Joe Schmidt at the helm, had other plans. They had the unshakable self-belief they could win this match.
In that pursuit they served up a spectacle that made me proud to be Irish. To those of you who preferred to tune in to a dreary Premier League match, you missed something special. I am now even more convinced that our day against the All Blacks will come in the not too distant future.
* “The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”
It is not Irish people of Muslim faith who need to “go home”.
It is any Irishman or Irishwoman involved in this sort of violent hatred or fear campaign against any fellow Irish citizen, whatever their beliefs or creed, who needs to question their right to belong to the Irish Republic.
A republic, which despite all her oddities, we all hold dear.
It is you, not them, who do not belong.
* Ok, so Ireland is to exit the bailout process by the end of the year, but I am not overjoyed.
We have — due to the incompetence of Fianna Fail — severely cut home-help hours, had major cuts to disability, over 10pc of the population living in food poverty, and cuts to special needs etc.
We have also had the introduction of a property tax and upcoming water charges. We still have huge dole queues right around Ireland. We have also lost thousands to emigration.
The list is endless.
Many people who are contacting me are in dire circumstances, so I for one won’t be celebrating or congratulating such dire incompetence that has led to the misery of so many of the most vulnerable in our society.
* So debt forgiveness has finally become a reality with a ‘haircut’ of 70pc being seen as realistic. Ok, well that’s the big boys off the hook.
But is right now not the best time to finish the fiasco surrounding the home mortgage mess as well? For years I have been suggesting that the mortgage repayments be adjusted to reflect the current value — as well as any increase in the future value — of the family home, for the entire lifetime of the original mortgage.
That would be fair as blame for the mess was equally distributed between all parties involved.
The Revenue people have made this pragmatic money-saving move even simpler by ascertaining the current value of every home in the land. Of course the banks are free to insist on each case being settled based on individual circumstances.
But we all know this would still eventually bring us to more or less the same end solution, but with the addition of quite unnecessary and long, drawn-out agony as well as astronomical costs.
So why not get this mess sorted once and for all in one clean money and misery saving stroke? Or is this solution so obviously simple it would leave our army of resident financial geniuses too embarrassed were it to be accepted?
* The opening of a venue called ‘The Hogs And Heifers Club’ reminds me of cattle going on a pub crawl, and waking up with dreadful hangunders.
* When one tours Ireland you will come across various monuments commemorating deaths, be they from war, revolution or rebellion.
There is even an historic tradition of honouring unknown soldiers.
Might I suggest that we start a new tradition of honouring our peacemakers? Those who spend their lives working so that others can keep living. I can think of no one more deserving of such a memorial than the unsung hero of the North, Fr Alec Reid.
Irish Independent


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