30 November 2013 Books
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to show the flag at Withersea. But Pertwee knows where there is some hidden rum, under the sea, poor old Fatso has to get in a diving suit to retrieve it. Priceless.
Up to the post office to post some books
Scrabble Mary wins we get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.
Hetty Bower began a late career as a public speaker in 2008, at the age of 102. She was invited to address schools, universities and rallies. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Few people remember how an early event shaped them. Hetty Bower, who has died aged 108, did. A finger-wagging attempt by an older brother to browbeat the two-year-old Hetty developed in her a commitment to social justice, democracy and peace. It also left her with a tendency to wag her finger.
Born Esther Rimel in Dalston, north-east London, she became an implacable opponent of war at the age of nine, when she saw the injuries of the returning veterans of the first world war. In 1926, she and her sister Anita sneaked away overnight to feed locked-out miners. Her sister Cis, a suffragette, took Hetty to concerts and taught her about politics. Hetty and Anita joined the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, the first union for women; for its successor, Unison, she marched on Hyde Park in 2011.
Hetty joined the Labour party aged 17 and met Reg Bower while collecting dues from new members. They married in 1932 and that year joined the Independent Labour party, later leaving for the Communist party. After the Blair and Brown era, Hetty rejoined Labour.
In the 1920s and 30s, Hetty and Reg travelled in Europe, attending the Workers’ Olympiad in Vienna and camping with peace activists. She was a life member of the Youth Hostels Association; at the age of 104, she stayed at Bridges hostel in Shropshire while on a “training” walk for her Hertfordshire hike to raise money for Oxfam.
During the second world war, Hetty ran a hostel in East Finchley, north London, for Czech refugees. She was a secretary at what became Bishopswood school, in Hornsey, where her daughter Margie later taught.
Her public speaking began in 2008 when she addressed the Hiroshima Day commemoration in Tavistock Square, London, aged 102, full of nerves, though no listener could have guessed. Impressively clear and concise, she was invited to speak to schools and universities and at rallies. Hetty was widely interviewed by the media, and continued to march and demonstrate – for peace and the NHS, against war and cuts. Her voice, affectionately likened to a foghorn – poor hearing meant she was unaware how loudly she spoke – sometimes gave the impression of sternness, but Hetty loved to laugh. She moved from a supporting role to being a keynote speaker.
Hetty went on every march against the Iraq war, her daughters Margie and Celia accompanying her as they had since the early Aldermaston days. She marched against the proposed closure of the A&E unit at the Whittington hospital in north London, where Margie had been born.
Hetty inspired listeners at the Labour party conference this year to continue to protest, saying: “We may not win, but if we do not protest we will lose.” She gave the same message to the mainly Muslim children of an East End secondary school who staged a musical about the Battle of Cable Street last year, telling them: “Now it’s up to your generation to stand against fascism and racism.”
Hetty had a stroke as she was about to leave home to speak at a primary school. Having sung the old CND standard The H-Bomb’s Thunder in the hospital, she spoke its refrain, accompanied by her wagging finger: “Ban the bomb, for ever more.”
Reg died in 2001. Hetty is survived by Celia and Margie, two grandsons, Iain and Richard, and two great-grandsons, Sidney and George.
Jonathan Wolff is perhaps a tad out of touch (Report, 26 November). There are any number of bright young and not so young women philosophers in the UK. The question is: do the men read the articles, blogs and books of these women? Do they listen to the contributions made by them at seminars, and conferences? A woman professor of philosophy would have been able to think of six or seven ranking professors of philosophy whose work they admire, who also happen to be women: Helen Beebee, Nancy Cartwright, Tina Chanter, Jen Hornsby, Catherine Malabou, Onora O’Neill, Jenny Saul. Perspective is a funny thing. At Manchester Metropolitan we are holding a series of lectures in spring 2014 by philosophers young and old, senior and early career, on various aspects of the hoary topic Women and Philosophy. The men have been expelling us ever since Plato.
Professor Joanna Hodge
Manchester Metropolitan University
Should it come as any surprise that Ukraine has ditched, at least temporarily, its goal of signing an association agreement with the EU because of the latter’s unwillingness to promote fair and balanced economic relations (Report, 23 November). There are millions of people in Greece, Spain, Cyprus and other states on the periphery of Europe whose view of the EU is not that dissimilar.
• In 1981 Norman Tebbit famously suggested that the feckless unemployed should get on their bikes and find work. It is a symptom of how far British politics has shifted to the right since then that Guardian letter writers (29 November) now exhort them to get on boats and planes to somehow find work in countries with even higher unemployment and even lower wages than their own.
• A few weeks ago the Co-op took out a full page advertisement proclaiming “Ethics has always been in our DNA but now it’s in our constitution”. Now the Royal Mail has also taken a full page to emphasise its on-going commitment to its customers. Worrying?
• Bruce Kent tells the Scots to forget Culloden (Letters, 28 November). Oh dear, another persistent myth. Culloden was the last battle in a civil war between the Stuarts and the Hanoverians about who should be king of Britain and Ireland. Scots fought on both sides and support for “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (he of shortbread biscuit tin fame) in Scotland wasn’t that great – even within the Highlands, which were subsequently portrayed as rising en masse for him.
• People upset about a building that resembles a vagina (Report, 29 November)? Bit of balance against all the priapic horrors other architects erect, isn’t it?
• There is joy in heaven over one former Sun editor who repents (David Yelland, Comment, 29 November).
Cllr Rev Geoff Reid
It is Paul Donovan’s right to loathe President Kennedy with every fibre of his being (Letters, 27 November), but he needs to get his facts right.
1) Civil Rights. It was JFK who, far from showing “a complete lack of interest” in the civil rights of African Americans, dispatched the National Guard in 1963 to enforce schools integration. Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights and voting rights legislation of 1964-65 was largely framed by Robert Kennedy in his role as attorney general under JFK and, briefly, under Johnson. JFK lacked the political clout which enabled LBJ to get it past the Dixiecrats in Congress.
2) Vietnam. If Donovan consults the Pentagon Papers, he will find that one of Kennedy’s last acts was to order the withdrawal of 1,000 of the 16,000 US military personnel then in Vietnam and to have Robert McNamara announce from the steps of the White House that he intended to effect a complete withdrawal by the end of 1965. It was Johnson who escalated the war to the extent that he needed to introduce the draft, with all the ensuing socially divisive consequences.
The removal of Diem in 1963 was certainly a murky episode, but it is worth noting that his replacement, General “Big” Minh, was a neutralist, who was prepared to negotiate with the north. For that reason, no doubt, his tenure did not long survive LBJ’s accession and, for the same reason, no doubt, he was dragged out of retirement in 1973 to negotiate with the insurgents when Nixon decided to withdraw.
• Fred Litten’s letter on JFK and Vietnam has to be challenged. He accuses JFK of being responsible for the escalation in US forces. In fact JFK ordered a withdrawal of 1,000 military advisers by the end of 1963 and the “bulk” of the US military presence by the end of 1965. This order was contained in National Security Action Memorandum 263 of 11 October 1963. As for morality, what could be more moral than seeking to avoid nuclear conflagration by negotiating with Khrushchev? Reasons enough, though, for the rabid right to want him removed.
• On 7 December there is another Willy Brandt anniversary (Letters, 26 November) – the “silent apology” in Warsaw in 1970 when he sank to his knees, capturing for many the inability to put into words the horror visited on Europe (and elsewhere) of the Nazi project and a turning point in Europe’s – and especially Germany’s – engagement with those events.
Dr Paul Machon
The Guardian has lost a terrific crossword setter but, with the passing of John Graham, Somersham has lost a gentleman who was truly a gentle man (Araucaria, Obituaries, 27 November). Our friends Gail and Pierre were married by John at Gail’s request and he conducted a service that was unique. A memorable occasion because it was uplifting, sincere and, above all, infused with a sense of fun on such a happy occasion. He was a member of the Somersham reading group and its gatherings will never be quite the same now he is gone. Village quiz nights will now lack some sparkle and zest for there was always stiff competition to be the first to get John on to a team; and he was fair in that he always attempted to sit on a different team on each occasion. Learned, erudite, eloquent, witty and self-effacing about his sharp-minded crossword-setting skill – he was all of those and more. He will be long remembered and sadly missed by us all.
Paul and Vicky Faupel
• We knew his death was imminent but the passing of John Graham, better known to cruciverbalists as Araucaria (Guardian) and Cinephile (Financial Times) will hit the crossword community hard. I had the pleasure of corresponding with John by post from 2000 until 2004. I drank two glasses of fine champagne to toast his memory. Fittingly, I won this in a crossword competition in 2003. The only Araucaria prize puzzle I won was No 23,022, the Christmas 2003 jumbo. I also succeeded in winning Cinephile prize puzzles in 2004 and 2008. Three of the best. Hip-hip-hooray!
• I will always remember the frisson of excitement, on turning to the crossword, to find the name of Araucaria as the compiler, and especially so if it were a themed or alphabetical challenge. I wonder if other readers would agree that for the Guardian to publish his collected works would be one suitable tribute to this unsurpassed genius of compilers.
• Warm summer days on the beach, dad with the Guardian crossword firmly on his lap, Christmas specials and the call from the lounge, “just one clue left!”. All was right with the world. Farewell, Araucaria, and thank you.
Professor David Stephens
Brighton, East Sussex
• Congratulations and thanks to the Guardian for the sincere, perceptive coverage of Araucaria’s death. For my 80th birthday last year, my family commissioned a killer-grade personal crossword – my life in a crossword. Never has a gift brought such pleasure. It took me two days to complete except for one last clue which took 10 days! I feel I have lost a friend of some 30 years.
Beverley, East Yorkshire
• If, on opening the Guardian on a Saturday, I punched the air and yelled “Yesss!”, my wife knew what that meant: an alphabetical.
• My favourite Araucarian clue is “Yogdaws” (3, 5, 2, 10, 4). “God moves in mysterious ways”.
Professor Nicholas Lash
• Will never forget laughing out loud when I got “Over-complicated way to say ‘were you our teacher?'” (Tortuous).
• My favourite clue was “Excellent host, or absent-minded pet owner (4 7 3)”. “Puts himself out”.
• John Graham made such a fantastic contribution to the cultural heritage. His holiday specials in particular deserve the highest praise, from shipping forecast maps and “bob doubles” to Christmas messages running round the outside of a giant grid. Heartfelt goodbye to a sweet and lovely man.
Earlier this year, the Israeli knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan. If implemented, this plan will result in the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins. It means forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation. The Israeli government is pushing ahead with this plan despite the Palestinian Bedouin community’s complete rejection of the plan, and condemnation from human rights groups.
Palestinians are holding mass demonstrations in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory to oppose the Prawer plan and urge international governments to take action capable of pressuring Israel to abandon the plan. The UK government emphasises that it has raised concerns about the forced displacement of Bedouin Palestinians “at the highest levels”. Yet such statements ring hollow when the UK government continues to export arms to Israel and continues its ties with the Israeli government and industry. It is time for the UK government to make its relationship with Israel conditional on respect for human rights and international law and take concrete action to hold Israel to account.
John Akomfrah OBE Artist, film director, writer
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Author, journalist
Bidisha writer Broadcaster
Howard Brenton Playwright
David Calder Actor
Professor Michael Chanan Author
Julie Christie Actor
Jeremy Corbyn MP
William Dalrymple Historian, author, broadcaster
Andy de la Tour Actor
Jeremy Deller Artist
Brian Eno Musician
Bella Freud Fashion designer
Peter Gabriel Musician
Trevor Griffiths Playwright
Rt Hon Sir Gerald Kaufman MP
Bruce Kent Peace campaigner
Jemima Khan Writer, campaigner
Professor Tom Kibble FRS
Mike Leigh Writer, director
Ken Loach Director
Caroline Lucas MP
Jeff McMillan Artist
Michael Mansfield QC
Prof. Nur Masalha
Jonathan Miller KBE Author, director, broadcaster
Professor Laura Mulvey Author
Dr. Karma Nabulsi
Dr Susie Orbach Psychoanalyst, author
Profesor Ilan Pappe Historian, author
Miranda Pennell Artist, filmmaker
Cornelia Parker OBE Artist
Michael Radford Director
Professor Jacqueline Rose Author
Professor Steven Rose
Gillian Slovo Author
Professor Avi Shlaim Historian, author
Dr Salman Abu Sitta Historian
Professor John Smith Artist
Baroness Jenny Tonge
Harriet Walter DBE Actor
Marina Warner Author, historian
Jane Wilson Artist
Louise Wilson Artist
Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
Pat Gaffney General secretary, Pax Christi
Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
Richard Kuper Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Hugh Lanning Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Profesor Jonathan Rosenhead British Committee for Universities for Palestine
Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
I have a real fear. Next year Scotland will vote for independence… and who can blame them? The remainder of the UK will be condemned to a Tory government – for ever. The year after, the remainder of the UK will vote to leave the EU. Scotland will then join the EU and either float its pound or join the eurozone.
The year after, the US will instigate a free-trade agreement with the EU. In desperation, Northern Ireland will solve its centuries-old problem and join a united Ireland. Poor Wales, with nowhere to go, will be stuck with Conservative England, cut adrift in an unfriendly world! At least we’ll have Trident, with submarines parked in the Solent, and our noble bankers to keep us afloat.
Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire
Heartfelt compliments to Mary Dejevsky for her article on Scottish independence (29 November). She has caught not just the essentials of the argument for independence but also the sense of occasion that attended the publication of Scotland’s Future. “This was a statement by a government with a purpose, about a country with a coherent idea of itself.” Perfect! There is not a single Scottish media commentator who has come within a country mile of her perception and optimism.
If Scotland does vote for independence, Mary Dejevsky is one Englishwoman who will have no trouble whatever crossing the non-existent border into our brave new world. And her first drink is on me.
The message I take away from the White Paper is that life will hardly change which makes me suspect Alex Salmond realises we Scots do not want true independence. Behind the dodgy sums and gross inducements lies a “pretendy” independence in which Scotland pretends to go it alone but in practice retains most aspects of Britishness.
What will change are the symbols of power in the hands of the Dear Leader – red carpets, state visits, speeches at the UN, hobnobbing with the planet’s movers and shakers.
Dr John Cameron
As a Scot living in England for 15 years, I have lost some of my Caledonian fervour, and would generally be of the opinion that independence is not the best option for Scotland. But every so often along come the condescending sneers of, among others, M Finn and Mark Walford (Letters, 29 November), and I remember – that’s the England that Scotland wants to be divorced from.
Cigarettes have no place near hospitals
Last year my father died after spending his last four months in hospital. I visited almost daily. This awful time was made much worse because I had to watch my husband suffer from chest pains, breathlessness leading to coughing and sometimes vomiting just because he wanted to come into the hospital to support me. The reason for this was the invariable huddle of patients, relatives and staff smoking at every entrance to the hospital (Jane Merrick, 27 November).
My husband is one of the 5.5 million adults in the UK with asthma. His asthma is triggered by other people’s smoke. From my point of view there is nothing “passive” about this. I have got used over the years to being unable to enter some pubs, cinemas and shops when with my husband because of this entrance huddle, but you should not have to endure this to get to the hospital.
In trying to ward off a possible ban on branded packaging for cigarettes, Forest and the rest of the tobacco-industry lobby are guilty of a crime against logic (Editorial, 29 November). If branded packaging does attract young people to smoking, then surely it should be banned. If it does not, then why bother with it? Either way, attractive branding and packaging are unnecessary.
Shutting away this legal product from over-the-counter sight hasn’t worked. Nor will plain packaging – but suppose it does, and highly lucrative tobacco revenue slumps as a result? What compulsory taxes will be slapped on non-smokers to make good the lost tax now voluntarily paid by smokers?
A discredited theory – but not for boris
It would be reassuring but futile to believe that people in powerful positions were able to think rationally. Reaganomics and Thatcherism were based on the belief in “trickle down” whereby if taxes were reduced for the rich and for business then the nation’s wealth would increase and riches would then trickle down to the poorer to the benefit of everyone (“Embrace culture of greed, says Boris Johnson”, 28 November)
Various analyses from the 1990s on have shown that the opposite happened and continues to happen. The wealth of the richest 1 per cent in the UK has risen by just under 300 per cent since 1979 and that of the bottom 20 per cent by 16 per cent. Wealth over the past 30 years has been trickling up. And yet we still have Boris Johnson arguing for the rich to get richer…
Dr S Ian Robertson
Boris Johnson claims that greed is a “valid motivator… for economic progress”. Really? That is why we are in such a fine economic state now, is it? Because of the greed of those in the financial sector prior to the crash? I have clearly misunderstood the whole situation.
So “greed is good” once again. Except, of course, when workers or trade unions ask for better wages, whereupon the adjective “greedy” is used as a term of abuse by the Tories.
Energy company profits
It used to be said that the military only knew a situation was getting dangerous when Kate Adie arrived from the BBC. I have the same impression when Angela Knight turns up defending the indefensible.
How our privacy was violated
Peter Wright’s account of the circumstances in which the Daily Mail wrote about my wife’s lung cancer is misleading and insensitive (Letters, 28 November).
My darling late wife. Sian Busby, never talked about her lung cancer to anyone but our immediate family and very closest friends, because she did not regard it as anyone’s business but our own. Because she was so upset when the Mail wrote about her illness, she made a point to me of explaining that she had not discussed it with the Mail reporter. And the implication that she talked about her cancer at a party, with the expectation it would be published in a newspaper, is absurd.
As for the celebrity photographer Alan Davidson mentioned in Mr Wright’s letter – he is my cousin once removed, and not Sian’s. It is a running joke for us that he snaps us whenever he sees me and my family. There was never any expectation on our part that those photos would be published.
My memory of why Sian spoke to the Mail reporter at all is that she was flattered that he seemed to be interested in her latest novel. She was recovering from major surgery and chemotherapy, and to be taken seriously for her work would have been attractive to her.
I find it strange that the Daily Mail seeks to defend a crass exposure of very private information, which undid our efforts to protect our boys – the youngest of whom was still in primary school – from painful questioning by friends and neighbours.
The fact that the Mail thought the diary story was “upbeat” is not relevant. It disclosed something we were desperate to keep out of the press.
As I said in my lecture earlier this week, there was no attempt by the Mail to tell us they were planning to write about Sian’s cancer or ask us if we thought it appropriate.
And, as I also pointed out, I would have complained at the time, but Sian urged me not to – because she was frail and she was anxious that in some way the Mail would retaliate. Against my instincts, I bit my tongue and kept quiet.
I spoke about the incident a few days ago to bolster my argument against state or royal-charter based regulation of the press, by showing that I do not argue this lightly and that I have personal reasons for recognising that press intrusion can be serious and painful.
That is why I am saddened that even after all we know about the appalling lapses by newspapers and journalists in recent years, there is still no new and effective system in place to provide timely and appropriate restitution to those unfairly damaged by intrusive or mistaken reporting.
I will continue to argue that precious freedoms would be lost if regulation were underwritten by the state, directly or indirectly, but I strongly take the view that self-regulation is only defensible if newspapers respond in a speedy, decent and responsible way to legitimate complaints.
Many historians, academic and literary, would disagree with the forthright view that Richard III was simply a ‘villain’
Sir, Your leader “Royal Rumpus” (Nov 27), begs a number of questions in deeming that the remains of Richard III should be buried in Leicester. You call him “a real villain”, but the only basis for this is what his enemies said after his death.
Kings of England have, on the whole, been buried where they wished. We have to go back to Edward II, interred at Gloucester after his murder at Berkeley Castle, for a solid instance to the contrary. Even Charles I, executed by the republican regime, was buried in the royal mausoleum at Windsor; and James II in his Parisian exile had his body interred in the English Church and his brain in the chapel of the Scottish College, as he asked.
Richard III would not, it seems generally agreed, have chosen to be buried in Lancastrian territory at Leicester: the question is now whether the licence granted to the University of Leicester to cover the discovery of any, including unidentified, human remains, should take precedence. That is what the judicial review will decide.
Professor Norman Hammond
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research,
Sir, Contrary to what Timothy O’Sullivan (letter, Nov 29) alleges, Richard III was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire. As his parents are buried there, in the parish (formerly collegiate) church, this would be at least as appropriate a burial place for him as St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Sir, Your editorial ignores Richard III’s virtues as a ruler, both before he became King and during his reign. To quote Shakespeare’s Richmond as an authentic verdict on his rule is bizarre. To presume guilt of unspecified crimes in the face of the track record of both Henry VII and his son in disposing of Yorkist claimants to their throne is also odd. If you have in mind the murder of the Princes, you should explain away Richard’s absence of any motive for such a crime. At worst, the verdict of any unprejudiced historian would be non-proven. Even more to the point, you should explain why a man should not be buried where he would have wished.
Etchingham, E Sussex
Sir, You describe Richard III as a “real villain”. I am not a member of the Plantagenet Alliance, but would point out that many historians, academic and literary, would disagree with this forthright view. History, especially at that time, was always written by the victors to blacken the character of the vanquished. Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was not a strong one, and needed boosting by marrying Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter, and by denigrating Richard. Shakespeare would undoubtedly have taken the character of Richard III from these accounts, and would have been happy to appease the Tudors.
I am sure Richard himself would have wished to be buried in York. He did after all, live there and spend time governing that area. There have been some worse “villains” on the throne of this country who have been buried at a place of their choosing. I certainly would not describe Henry Tudor’s son as a paragon of virtue.
Great Bircham, Norfolk
By putting a learning or visitor centre into an unspoilt landscape, the area itself is changed and devalued
Sir, For those who love England’s favourite beach and one of the last small areas of undeveloped coastline in north Norfolk, there will soon be a sad surprise with the development of a large new visitor centre at Holkham. The location chosen is right in the middle of one of the least developed bits of the National Nature Reserve. It’s not a small building either, at about 115ft long by 28ft above the level of the marsh.
The intention is for it to be a “learning centre” but it also has a substantial “refreshment area”. For those of us who have seen a lot of these “learning centres”, a lot more taking of refreshments seems to be done than actual learning.
Moreover, the space and effort given to this element is disproportionate — as along the coast at Cley, where the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has provided a nice visitor destination to take tea, and has generated lots of traffic and car parking into the bargain.
Ironically, by putting a learning or visitor centre into an unspoilt landscape to interpret the “special qualities” of that area, the area itself is changed and devalued.
There is a danger that the whole coast is being turned into an “experience” which is not that far removed from a theme park. This is just another element in this commercialisation, branding and packaging of “North Norfolk”.
Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk
There is evidence that increases in tax on cigarettes have both a short and long-term impact on the volume of smoking
Sir, The Government’s plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes is good news (report, Nov 28). The Chancellor could go further by sharply increasing tobacco taxation in his Autumn Statement. There is evidence that such increases have both a short and long-term impact on the volume of smoking. New Zealand is in the middle of a seven-year programme to increase tobacco taxation as part of its plan to eliminate smoking by 2025. Mr Osborne should do the same; a 30 per cent increase would be a good start.
Dr Craig Pickering
Sir, If colourful packaging encourages hordes of new smokers into buying cigarettes thus harming their health and the finances of the NHS, what of the other principle scourge of the health service, obesity? There seems to be no end of colourful and attractive packaging for calorie-rich confectionery and snacks.
Dr Colin Partington
Great Tey, Essex
Sometimes the paying of a fee for a walk in the countryside can be made to seem completely worthwhile
Sir, After a gap of many years, we recently undertook the Ingleton Waterfalls Walk in the Yorkshire Dales and were surprised to discover that there is a charge of £6 per head. I couldn’t recall paying on previous occasions but was assured by the attendant that, as the walk is over private land, there had been a charge for the past 128 years.
Later, I dug out Alfred Wainwright’s Walks in Limestone Country; the copy is undated but my guess is that it originated in the late 1960s. AW acknowledges the walk being over private land, and in his own inimitable style waxes lyrically: “Here Nature, always bountiful, has been lavish indeed. . . so small a fee, so great the reward. . . the charge . . . 1/- (5p)”.
Drivers should be aware that cyclists may move from side to side as well as forwards, or indeed, backwards
Sir, I was reminded by your letters (“Mind the gap”, Nov 29) of a prosecution some years ago in which the driver’s defence was that an accident was due to the cyclist’s lateral movement. The judge dismissed the plea with the words “A cyclist is entitled to his wobble”.
Gateshead, Tyne & Wear
SIR – Though a non-smoker, I am intrigued by the differing approach of the Government to classless products such as tobacco and premium items such as wine.
Surely a consistency of attitude would suggest that alcohol labels be treated in a similar fashion to cigarette packaging? An image springs to mind of a bottle of Margaux labelled with an image of a diseased liver.
Whitley Bay, Northumberland
SIR – A Commissioner of the EU calls us the nasty country for wanting to discuss limiting immigrants’ benefits, but just look at what EU policies are doing to Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.
SIR – In response to our Government’s proposal to curb some benefits to newly arriving immigrants, Laszlo Andor, the EU Employment Commissioner, tells us what our elected and sovereign Government may or may not do. With what authority does this unelected bureaucrat speak?
Wine labels should have horror pictures on too
29 Nov 2013
SIR – We are the same nasty country that helped to save Europe from Hitler.
Laszlo Andor sickens me.
Smoking on the ward
SIR – Perhaps cigarette addicts need not despair on reading your report. Recently, when in hospital recovering from a major operation, I was amazed to see a seriously injured patient happily puffing away in bed. It emerged that he had been permitted to ease his craving with an electronic cigarette.
Women on the march
SIR – In 1991 as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, I had the challenge of integrating male and female officer cadets into a new, one-year course that, for the first time, involved both training and working together.
One issue was the width of women’s skirts, which were too narrow to allow the women to match the men’s stride. I was keen to follow the example of the French army, whose female officer cadets wore culottes. These were both practical and stylish but sadly the suggestion was over-ruled by the senior ladies in the Army (who had never had to march with men themselves).
It was also necessary to devise a new drill movement to give some respite to women holding a rifle on parade for a long period. I received a furious call from the Household Division pointing out its responsibility for all drill, to which no changes could be made without its authority. My response was that as there were no women in the Foot Guards, they were hardly in a position to pontificate.
The affair rumbled on until King Hussein of Jordan, who took the following Sovereign’s Parade, commented that he thought the women looked extremely smart and would tell the Queen so. I presume the Queen concurred, because the drill movement is still in place and, so far as I am aware, no more has been heard about it from the Guards.
Tim Toyne Sewell
Nether Wallop, Hampshire
SIR – Over-zealous staff are not always responsible for the removal of lone diners’ unfinished meals.
After a day’s walking I entered a cafe and, sitting at an empty table, spotted a full English breakfast only half eaten. Thinking of my hungry dog tied up outside, I scraped the food into an empty picnic box.
Imagine my horror when a man emerged from the Gents and came to my table to finish his meal.
SIR – While I and my fellow queue-dwellers at the Gibraltar-Spain border are delighted that the searching of a diplomat’s backpack here has caused such a furore in Whitehall, the one question on everyone’s lips is: “Is post more important than people?”
Sotogrande, Cádiz, Spain
SIR – Nicholas Crane is quite right about maps. As a student in Edinburgh in 1975, I was given by my three flatmates a complete set of Bartholomew half-inch maps of Scotland for my 21st birthday.
It does not matter that they do not show the few motorways in Scotland; I refer to them in preference to the dog-eared road atlas that has its place under the driver’s seat in the car and which has to be replaced every few years. They do not tear, their covers are impervious to rain, sleet and snow and, crucially, they show measurements in feet.
Almost 40 years later, these precious maps are treasured and used regularly. What 21st birthday present can match that for practical use?
SIR – In my experience as a wine chemist, the musty smell and taste of a corky wine is due to trichloranisole, a product of a mould present in the cork itself, even when it is still on the tree.
It may have been introduced by the cork weevil but I doubt it. The effect of this weevil is indeed detrimental to the wine: the holes it makes in the cork lead to the ingress of air and the subsequent oxidation and gradual leakage of wine.
Tartrate crystals on the bottom of the cork are an entirely natural product of the ageing process and nothing to get worked up about.
SIR – I ordered a local wine in a restaurant in Mexico. The waiter unscrewed the metal cap and presented it to me for approval. I solemnly sniffed it, nodded appreciatively and proceeded to taste.
John H Stephen
The Cutty Sark floating on its sea of glass
SIR – The Cutty Sark looks wonderful in her new setting – the glass encloses the hull much as the sea would have done, so if anything her setting now is more true to life than before.
SIR – Far from neglecting our glorious maritime past, the National Maritime Museum has opened a gallery devoted to the Navy in Nelson’s time, while its new Turner and the Sea exhibition explores that painter’s mastery of maritime art on a scale and to a quality not previously possible.
Dr Kevin Fewster
Chairman, Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site
SIR – The Cutty Sark renovation won the Carbuncle Cup in 2012, donated by the architectural magazine Building Design and voted for by its readers. The cup goes to the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the previous 12 months.
SIR – I too have been disappointed by the state of the National Maritime Museum. When I first visited in 1979, I was enthralled by galleries of exhibits, particularly by the Navigation Gallery, with the Bounty chronometer holding pride of place. I was fascinated by the history, displayed alongside the timepiece, recounting its adventures from Pitcairn, through the hands of American traders, via the family of a Chilean muleteer and eventually back to England.
It was depressing to return to Greenwich recently. After asking three members of staff, I eventually found the chronometer, consigned to the anonymity of a rather badly lit room in the Observatory. It is as if the museum authorities wish to sanitise our maritime heritage.
SIR – Allan Massie suggests that the No campaign to Scottish independence needs to add emotional appeal. This might be provided by reference to a group who to date have gone unheard.
My name originates from Northern Ireland but my four grandparents were mixed English, Irish and Scottish. Clearly I have missed out on Welsh. I have never been able to regard myself as anything other than British.
While I was brought up in London, that included learning at my mother’s knee of my ancestor Charles MacLean of Drimnin who died at Culloden with three sons. Before answering the clan call he had, like me, been an officer in the Royal Navy.
If Scotland divorces itself from the United Kingdom I will feel stateless and removed from my heritage without any say. There must be thousands, if not millions, like me.
Vice Admiral John McAnally
Wine labels should have horror pictures on too
29 Nov 2013
SIR – When Scottish independence is debated I am reminded of Macaulay’s words in the marvellous prefatory sentences of his History Of England. He states that one of his aims is to show how “Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection”.
SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, England must immediately declare the Trident base a self-governing region of England. It can continue to employ Scots as Gibraltar employs Spaniards.
The cost of moving the base is not acceptable and Scotland must suffer for putting the Western world at risk.
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire
SIR – The problem with Scottish separation is that it is driven by one man and his assistant in the SNP, both of whom may be unable to continue in a decade or so, with nobody to succeed them.
Scotland might then become an orphan state within the EU, with the recent Eastern European ragbag intake, and never be properly seen or heard of again.
If the present separation enthusiasm was driven by the people for good and properly informed reasons, and handled by powerful leaders with a real objective in mind, and with no intention of being ruled by unelected EU commissioners, then one could almost see it working.
For a country with Scotland’s history, the present proposal cannot possibly hold any attraction for a true Scot.
SIR – If Alex Salmond gets his way, will the Queen’s coat of arms feature the Unicorn (symbol of Scotland) free and unchained?
Chichester, West Sussex
Sir, – Anyone walking through the streets of our capital at night time or early morning will notice bodies huddled together keeping warm in sleeping bags or sleeping bags hanging out to dry on railings (Dáil report and Dáil Sketch, November 28th).
Having worked in the field of homelessness for 40 years, I can vouch that the situation is worse than ever before. When we opened the entrance to our tiny centre on Thursday morning, 19 people were waiting. They had slept out in tents, squats, parks and doorways in sleeping bags or cardboard. A shower, a change of clothes, feet treated and a hot drink helped them face another day on the streets. This is all part of our holistic health service provided by Trust which is in existence since 1975 and not in receipt of State funding, even though State agencies refer people to us. These men and women came from Dublin city, rural Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. Our limited space meant others had to wait outside. Last month people from 26 different countries availed of our service.
On seeing the Draft Homeless Action Plan Framework for Dublin Region 2014- 2016 on September 26th, I made a detailed submission, based on our experience, to our 50 elected Dublin city councillors. The response was as expected – depressing. Only eight replied and four of those just said “Thanks”.
Walking around the city can give some indication of what’s happening out there, but only in a very limited way – so too sleeping out for one night. I am not aligned to any political party, however I must concur with our Taoiseach’s comment about the woman who slept outside the Dáil in the 1970s. Yes, everyone tried to help her. She reluctantly moved into a hostel for two nights only during a very cold spell, coaxed to do so by ourselves and the gardaí in Pearse Street. She was well known to people in that area, including the very caring staff in the then South Anne Street Post Office. Incidentally, she kept her electric kettle hidden behind the altar in Clarendon Street Church to the consternation of many. She highlighted how complex the issue of homelessness is and the value of building up relationships over a long period of time.
Christmas-time concern for homeless people is welcome and predictable, however this is an all-year problem. Many people require emergency accommodation even though there is a reluctance on the part of planners to accept that fact.
Many people, especially families on the housing list and whose only problem is housing, should have their needs met. Local authorities have an obligation in this regard, as local authority housing stock has been allowed to deteriorate over the years.
Unfortunately for the people we meet on a daily basis who are homeless, the issues are very complex, and not about housing alone.
All Government departments, politicians and planners need to be aware of this fact. – Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder,
Sir, – Organisations who sought charitable donations and then used these to “top up” the salaries of their senior staff have done themselves enormous reputational damage.
The chief executives of these organisations are responsible for the reputation of their organisations above all else. When a chief executive does something which brings the organisation into disrepute, it is a gross dereliction of duty.
This scandal is an acid test of whether Irish society has actually changed since the crash or not. If these people remain in their roles, then the Government has failed us. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Official Ireland often trumpets its pride in the achievements of Irish writers. Politicians and State dignitaries are quick to associate themselves with the success of our poets, novelists and playwrights. Yet, unlike some of other European countries, such as France, as a society we Irish still do not properly support creative writing that has literary value, as distinct from popular commercial fiction.
On Thursday I received, as a contributor, notice from the editor-proprietor of the magazine Books Ireland, Jeremy Addis, that the December issue of that journal will be the final issue. In his editorial for No 353, Mr Addis states that the magazine will close because of falling advertising revenue and because the arts councils have withdrawn their support, “leaving us with expenses nearly twice the size of our income”.
For almost 40 years Books Ireland has provided a valuable service to writers and writing in Ireland, as well as to the book trade, by maintaining a high standard of literary criticism and reviewing of books that had literary merit. There is a scarcity of serious criticism of literature in this country, apart from a few academic magazines such as the Irish University Review, and the books’ pages of your newspaper, The Irish Times. The only other outlet for considered reviews of literature are a handful of “little magazines”, some of which are struggling to survive in this current atmosphere of austerity and recession.
Surely the remit of the Arts Council should include the support of magazines such as Books Ireland, whose subsidy or grant was relatively small in the first instance? Can the council not see its way to reversing its decision to end support for Books Ireland? Or is there a business person out there who cares for literature and who would be prepared to take up the reins at the magazine and invest in it? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Government’s proposed solution to the over-payment to senior managers in various health institutions is to cut the level of funding going to those institutions by the same amount as the over-payment.
The most likely effect of this is that services being provided to patients will be cut by a similar amount, rather than the senior managers suffering the loss of their over-payment.
A more focused and effective solution might be to stop all payment to the offending senior managers until such time as it proven that any overpayment, of any sort, is ceased, will remain ceased and that any attempt to make illegal over-payments in the future will result in the dismissal, from their jobs, of the person(s) approving any over-payment.
Harsh? Perhaps. Effective? Yes. – Yours, etc,
Royal Oak Road,
Sir, – With all the scandal regarding top-up payments to senior staff in some hospitals and agencies, I have one question: were these payments declared to the Revenue Commissioners? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Is the use of public subscriptions to ensure the effective running of the CRC any different to the persistent entreaties from our schools to parents to contribute to the effective running of them because Government policy does not adequately provide the the funds or a realistic strategy to make them viable?
We should applaud the creative initiatives of all placed in this invidious position to ensure the services so desperately needed can continue to be provided. – Yours, etc,
DEREK Mac HUGH,
Sir, – It seems Tallaght Hospital still appears on the list of institutions whose top executives receive a top-up payment. I watched coverage of the Public Accounts Committee meetings with the HSE where they discussed this. I noted the outrage of all present and their desire that such institutions should suffer financially because of such arrangements. But then the issue of “contractual” arrangements was mentioned. I have heard this called the “Because I’m worth it” disease. We saw this situation develop in many financial institutions also and the contract (or disease) had to be left until the institution could rid itself of the contract. Indeed it would appear there are some in the HSE, Department of Health and other advisers in Government Buildings who also feel such worthiness!
Within the HSE it appears, there is a long-standing acknowledgment that such payments were being made. It now either has taken funding or will do from these institutions to cover these financial arrangements, but no details have been given.
Yet this money may not be recouped by the HSE if contractual arrangements are proven to be in place and/or if a sufficient business case is made. Will funding then be replaced or will this funding deficit remain?
It seems patients will take the hit, with additional cuts to services, while awaiting details of the grim service plan, while those at the top will carry on regardless. I would hope all such business cases are published, so the hard-pressed patient can see if they are really “worth it.” – Yours, etc,
Firhouse, Dublin 24.
Sir, – Michael Anderson (November 27th) makes his first flawed comparison of pay between the Master of Holles Street and CEO of Crumlin hospital, failing to recognise that one has direct clinical responsibilities, in addition to a management role. This is not a small distinction.
However, more egregiously he goes on to compare those “privileged young doctors”, who I can assure you “do for their country” day and night (and the day after again for that matter), with the bankers and politicians whose dodgy deals got us all into this mess.
Would the country miss the ministers, civil servants, clergy or bankers who, as Mr Anderson puts it “shamefully let us down”? And I follow by asking, if the country would miss these hard-working young women?
If the answer to these questions differs, lumping these groups together in blame for damaging public morale and social cohesion would seem to me, inappropriate. Honest hard-working people making a contribution to our nation deserve better than being seen as part of our nation’s problems. – Yours, etc,
(Dr) NEIL BARRETT,
Sir, – It is that time of year when we are treated to the publication in the national newspapers of lists purporting to represent the latest “school league tables”. And they are – in a kind of Eurovision song contest sense – a source of momentary entertainment. This is because we all scan the lists searching for the place achieved by our Alma Mater, or, depending on our age, the school attended by our offspring.
However, these lists are much more likely to misinform readers than they are to inform them. Much, for example, is made of the fact that fee-charging schools consistently achieve places at the top of the list. One could be forgiven for thinking that students attending these schools have a better chance of attending a third-level institution because they are the best schools with the best teachers and resources (don’t they appear at the top of the list year after year?).
It is much more likely that the social background of students enrolled in these schools has conferred all sorts of advantages on them before they put one foot in the school building. For that reason, it is almost certain that, if the exercise was repeated while taking into account (or controlling for) the socio-economic status of students enrolled, the resulting ranking of schools would be very different. – Yours, etc,
Dr SUSAN WEIR,
St Patrick’s College,
Sir, – A doctor from a school of economics (Dr Kevin Denny, November 29th) supports the use of school league tables. Does this mean that the compilation of such tables is also a dismal science? – Yours, etc,
Pollerton, Little Carlow.
A chara, – Christopher Hone’s precis (November 28th) of the reasons why The Irish Times should discontinue the practice of publishing school league tables is apt, but I suspect that the practice will not stop because The Irish Times has correctly identified a hunger among a large proportion of parents for such detail. We are essentially a lazy species and if the publication of such school league tables justifies the choice of school for our offspring then we clearly do not need to engage in any further research. – Is mise,
Shannon, Co Clare.
Sir, – Congratulations on your supplement, the New Europe (November 27th), the best I’ve read in many a day.
It is particularly apt as we are into a “decade of remembrance”, a remembrance of human slaughter. Twenty-eight of the warring tribes of Europe bound together in the one club, on terms of equality, where the great debate is on economics and war never gets a mention; where neither tribalism nor religion play any part.
While we’re certainly not in any position to preach, we should encourage all other regions to follow suit. If that could be achieved there are very few problems on the planet that could not be resolved. – Yours, etc,
Bunclody, Co Wexford.
Sir, – Brendan Butler (Opinion, November 26th) asserts there has been a minimalist response by the bishops to engage the faithful in consultation on the important subject of the forthcoming extraordinary Synod on Family.
As directors of the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry in the Archdiocese of Armagh, we wish to challenge the inaccuracy of these claims by Mr Butler.
At the behest of Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Eamon Martin, all 61 parishes have been sent both the official questionnaire and a simplified version to elicit the response of the faithful. The material is accessible online on the Armagh website and on the website of the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry and indeed on some individual parish websites such as Magherafelt.
All parish pastoral councils have been consulted, as have all members of our Diocesan Pastoral Council, active lay organisations, schools and commissions. We have more than 100 adult lay students taking formal and informal theology courses and these too have been asked for their responses.
This weekend there will be an announcement at all Masses encouraging parishioners to complete one of the options available. We have set a deadline of December 8th for completion of the returns and we have been tasked with submitting a report to the cardinal by December 20th. – Yours, etc,
Fr GERRY CAMPBELL &
Dr TONY HANNA,
Co-Directors of Pastoral
Renewal and Family
Armagh Diocesan Pastoral
Sir, – On the release of the best employment figures for some years giving grounds for optimism, the news item fails to make the front page of any of the three main Irish newspapers (November 27th).
In your case, the good news is relegated to page 3 of the Business news. The headline on the front page is “HSE says deficit may be double Minister’s estimate”. The article goes on to say that this is a worse-case scenario and could happen.
No wonder the country is depressed. – Yours, etc,
I’ve just calculated that between my wife and I, we each earn 1.6 times the average industrial wage. We drive a ’04-reg hatchback, we rent a one-bed apartment in the ‘burbs.
Also in this section
Letters to the Editor: Youths letting themselves down by cursing
Letters to the editor: A moment of pause is needed
Same challenges today as before 1913
We have no children. While we don’t live a particularly frugal lifestyle, neither would it be described as lavish — not by a long shot.
We have crunched the numbers and determined that there is no circumstance, save winning the lottery, that we could afford to buy a house in Dublin.
The current housing stock is abysmal. A standard three-bed family home in good condition within an hour’s commute of Dublin city is still unaffordable, while an affordable, yet dilapidated, house will be in such poor state of repair that the costs of refurbishing make that unaffordable also.
I read with envy of how those who drove up house prices in the years prior to 2006-2007 by simply not bothering to calculate their affordability levels are now hoping to achieve writedowns of their mortgages by way of the PIPs. Such intervention, forcing taxpayer-funded banks to write off debt, will deprive the more prudent, younger working taxpayer from ever achieving that status of homeowner so coveted by the preceding generations.
They are effectively pulling up the gangway behind them, ensuring that those who follow will never be able to afford any decent quality of life and ensuring that the urban sprawl continues into the far hinterland for generations to come.
Let the cards fall where they may. Let defaulters walk away without the mortgage debt following them, but they should have to leave their houses behind, like in any other country, rather than providing this grotesque hybrid of socialist housing policy where the “have-nots” must pay the debts of the “haves”.
ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
TEACHERS DO TOO MUCH
The threat by the Education Minister to refuse to pay teachers for extra work delivered (Independent, November 27) is very much a hollow one, considering that what the minister is actually demanding is that teachers do all this extra work (and more) for free anyway.
The majority of teachers that I have discussed this issue with simply cannot cram any more work into an already overloaded schedule and while not ideal, are prepared to take another set of pay cuts instead.
Second-level teachers are right to protect their working conditions and stand up against the tsunami of cuts.
Irish second-level teachers spend more time teaching per annum than their counterparts in the majority of other countries, and they work with the largest class sizes in Europe.
The workload, both teaching and administrative, has increased significantly in recent years.
It seems that every few weeks a new initiative is rolled out by the Department of Education, demanding more and more out-of-classroom work for teachers.
For decades, teachers have papered over the cracks in the under-funded educational system by volunteering for work that is the role of paid support staff in most other European countries. By twice rejecting the Haddington Road proposals, and hopefully by voting no again in December, ASTI teachers have protected both their working conditions and the quality of the education they provide to their students.
KEVIN P MCCARTHY
KILLARNEY, CO KERRY
PRAY FOR PAEDOPHILES
I read Colette Browne’s article today with interest. If ever there is a group of human beings who are regarded as pariahs and lepers in our society today, it is the sexual predators of children and rapists.
As Jesus was always the friend of the despised and the marginalised, would He not show compassion to that group? It is one of the great demands of Christianity that we exercise our compassion when it might revolt us to do so — how willing are we to embrace the new lepers in our society?
The love of God extends to all — to the rape victim and to the rapist. It is difficult for me to comprehend this love, but I would not leave God’s house when a priest asks us to consider extending God’s love and compassion to those we feel deserve it least.
We pray for our enemies, we pray for ourselves when we fail as human beings, we pray for those who hurt us and harm us. Only an infant or child could be expected to pray for those causes dear to their own hearts. A mature person who had more than a passing acquaintance with Jesus would not have a moral qualm about being asked to pray for those who society hates.
ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
MEMORIAL FOR FR REID
I write to support D O’Brien’s call for a public memorial in honour of Fr Alec Reid and his tireless pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Here in Killarney, we had to wait a full 50 years after his death before providing a long overdue public memorial to Fr Hugh O’Flaherty’s equally tireless work of rescue and reconciliation.
Perhaps Irish postal authorities would consider the issue of special stamps in honour of both internationally recognised heroic priests. And given the British dimension of both priests’ work, any stamp issue could perhaps be a joint An Post and Royal Mail initiative.
KILLARNEY, CO KERRY
PHIL HOGAN’S FROM MARS
I read Minister Hogan’s article (November 27) and then I read it again, and again, but I still couldn’t make head nor tail of it!! It seems that the minister writes, more or less, the same as he talks — in riddles.
It brought me back to a tip that I picked up on report writing: “Do not confuse the reader by using unnecessary jargon.” In fact, when writing for a general readership it might be a good idea to assume that the reader is from the planet Mars.
Unfortunately, in this article, the minister compiled the piece as if the writer was from the Red Planet.
SCREEN, CO WEXFORD
BRAVERY OF GILMARTIN
Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
There are many good men in our little country who’ve turned a blind eye for the sake of their sanity and position.
And there was one who said “Enough!” Tom Gilmartin, may he rest in peace, will be one of the few “good” men of this generation who will stand tall when history is written.
WOLLI CREEK, NSW 2205, AUSTRALIA