15 December 2013 Repair

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to take the Todd-Hunter Browns off somewhere on a secret mission. Priceless.

Potter around feeling under the weather broken electric fire picked up, and repaired, vac fixed

Scrabbletoday Mary wins but both of us under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.




Syd Field, who has died aged 77, recognised that the world is full of workaday drudges who dream of writing film scripts for Hollywood and produced a bestselling manual to show them how to do it.

He was the first to challenge the romantic notion that anyone sufficiently inspired could turn out a good script, and instead showed that it was a craft — like carpentry — that could be learned and mastered.

Yet the principles he outlined in his Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (1979) were hardly original. He prescribed the classic three-act structure – set-up-confrontation-resolution — that the screen trade has relied on for decades, and which, as Field himself acknowledged, had been around since Aristotle’s time.

Field was at pains to assert that some of the most successful films in the history of Hollywood, such as Casablanca and Chinatown, followed this three-act structure. Critics, however, pointed out that the tyranny of his “theory by numbers” dominated the worst decade of cinema history, in the 1980s. Another screenwriting guru, John Truby, pointedly called Field’s matrix the “biggest, most destructive myth ever foisted on writers” and “the triumph of complete superficiality over any type of content”.

Nevertheless, Field’s book sold in its millions, was translated into more than 20 languages, spawned a DVD spin-off, and has come to be regarded as the “bible” of screenwriting.

If there was a magic formula for a good screenplay, Field located it in the use of what he called plot points — pivotal moments at the end of each “act” that spin the story around and keep it moving forward. Without these, he warned, and without knowing how the story begins and ends, “you’re in trouble”.

Field advised his readers to visit the cinema and to watch for decisive points of action about 20 to 30 minutes into a film, and again after about 90 minutes. “It’s an excellent exercise,’’ he wrote. “The more you do it, the easier it gets. Pretty soon it will be ingrained in your consciousness; you’ll grasp the essential nature of the relationship between structure and story.”

Sydney Alvin Field was born in Los Angeles on December 19 1935. At Hollywood High School he joined a gang of youngsters called the Athenians, the model for the gang in James Dean’s Rebel Without A Cause (1955). He was reading Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, when one of his instructors, the French film director Jean Renoir, suggested he apply for a place at a film school in Los Angeles.

His first job was at a television company, Wolper Productions, and he later worked as a freelance writer, churning out television scripts for series like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Batman. In the 1970s he taught screenwriting at Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, a private school in Hollywood that employed as instructors people active in the film industry, including Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman.

After leaving Wolper, Field also waded through thousands of screenplays submitted to another production company where he was head of the story department. Recognising that most of these scripts were dire, bogged down in a kind of “amorphous goo” of confusing plot lines and poorly developed characters, he decided that aspiring screenwriters needed help.

Field issued several updates of his Screenplay book and wrote another seven on related themes, including Going to the Movies: A Personal Journey Through Four Decades of Modern Film (2001). He also taught at several universities and worked as a consultant to Hollywood studios. Of the nine screenplays that he completed himself, two were produced and four others optioned.

If his critics accused him of teaching a formulaic approach to screenplays, Field himself deplored the use of modern computer programs which — with an input of story elements from the writer — can churn out scripts in a matter of minutes.

Syd Field is survived by his second wife, Aviva, and by the daughter of a previous marriage.

Syd Field, born December 19 1935, died November 17 2013





As an ex-IT professional who has worked on big high-pressure projects, (all successful) I read Nick Cohen’s article on the latest IT fiasco by private sector contractors with dismay (“Just what will it take for Duncan Smith to lose his job?“, Comment). May I give the following bits of advice to our political masters?

1. Never computerise an excessively complex system. Much of the complexity in our welfare system comes from unnecessary penny-pinching, which is not saving any money at all when the stationery and processing costs are considered. (The calculation of the state pension is a classic example – which, to his credit, Iain Duncan Smith, in a rare moment of intellectual coherence, has promised to tackle.)

2. Go to countries such as Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland to see if their software can be cheaply modified for UK purposes.

3. Give it to a university IT department. Let them pay students as part of a project to put a system together. Great for student CVs and a guarantee of some rigour and quality in the design from competent co-ordinating academics

The problem with asking private sector firms to develop software is that they hire the cheap and inexperienced and charge the maximum they can get away with for as long as possible .

Alan Sharples


Mandela’s great legacy

As a volunteer teacher in 1970s Botswana, I remember visiting Johannesburg and witnessing the humiliation on the face of an African warden whose job it was to chase black kids from the whites-only park. Mandela’s legacy (Comment) is to consign such degrading spectacles to the dustbin of history.

Stan Labovitch


Proud of our Co-op links

We are proud to be MPs with explicit links to the centuries-old co-operative movement. The high-profile difficulties experienced by the Co-op bank have shocked us all and need to be fully investigated. But meaningful partnerships are strengthened, not broken, in times of adversity. Recent Conservative attacks on the co-operative movement and its ties to the Labour party are opportunistic, showing the shallowness of the lip service David Cameron once paid to mutualism.

When the Rochdale Pioneers opened their first co-op shop in the north-west of England they wanted to ensure consumers got what they paid for – safe, unadulterated food sold using fair weights and measures. This ambition to protect the public interest lives on today in the national co-op movement. Led by its members, the sector is worth £37bn, made up of over 6,000 individual co-operatives.

Mutualism brings an understanding not just of how people work together but why and in whose interest. The Co-operative party has always remained resolutely independent, working with the Labour party to promote the values we share. Now, from co-operative housing to payday lending, the distinctive voice Co-operative MPs bring to parliament and the parliamentary Labour party shines through.

John Woodcock MP; Luciana Berger MP; Stella Creasy MP; Stephen Twigg MP; Stephen Doughty MP

Jon Ashworth MP

Gemma Doyle MP

Chris Evans MP

Tom Greatrex MP

Cathy Jamieson MP

Chris Leslie MP

Seema Malhotra MP

Lucy Powell MP

Steve Reed MP

Jonathan Reynolds MP

Andy Sawford MP

Gavin Shuker MP

Capitalism in the wrong hands

I read the extract from David Simon’s talk in Sydney (“‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’“, In Focus). It is one of the most enlightened and thought-provoking comments on capitalism I have ever read. Regrettably, all the time that the controls are in the hands of the Gordon Gekkos of this world (vide Boris Johnson’s recent speech) the universally beneficial reforms of the system will not occur.

Ted Francis



Mauritius gets top billing

I am concerned to note that while your article on Mauritius draws largely from a presentation made by Deloitte on “Investing in Africa through Mauritius”, it ignores the substantial advantages Mauritius offers as a platform for international investment, and the prominent role it plays in driving investment into Africa. (“Deloitte promotes Mauritius as tax haven to avoid big payouts to poor African nations“, Business, 3 November).

Mauritius is ranked first in Africa in the Ibrahim index of African governance, the Fraser Institute’s economic freedom index, the global competitiveness index and in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. It has a stable political and social environment, coupled with an effective judicial system, sound regulations and institutions. Mauritius is recognised by the OECD as a white-listed jurisdiction, and adherence to international principles makes Mauritius a credible, neutral, safe and trusted jurisdiction.

It is important to note here that Mauritius has recently undergone a detailed peer review by the OECD global forum on transparency and exchange of information on tax matters. The OECD has concluded that all the elements are in place and Mauritius operates an exchange of information system which is effective and efficient

Abhimanu Kundasamy

High Commissioner of Mauritius

Mauritius High Commission, London


I agree with Will Hutton (“Osborne wants to take us back to 1948. Time to look forward instead“, Comment). The reason behind the approach of Osborne lies in the tendency for modern politicians of all persuasions to be driven by ideologies that prevent them from seeing the merit in any point of view other than their own. This seems to rule out taking a logical or analytical examination of any of the matters at hand, most plainly seen in the current habit of speakers at the dispatch box to rant and mock their opponents rather than attempt to persuade by argument.

The Clegg approach last week was a carbon copy of that used by Cameron, while the master of this style today is undoubtedly Alex Salmond.

Such people insist that only they can be right. I don’t remember Wilson and Heath, strongly as they opposed each other, behaving in such a way.

I am particularly disturbed by the attitude and the unblinking support given by Danny Alexander to the desires of the government to reduce the size of the state. I doubt that Mr Osborne could find a more committed lieutenant from the right wing of his own party. Were I the chair of the Conservative party, I would advise against opposing his re-election by the voters of his Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency at the next election. They would be hard put to find a candidate more in tune with their own policies than the sitting member!

Harry Galbraith


Isle of Man

This article is fundamentally misleading In 1948, government expenditure would have included railways, electricity, gas, coal, telephones, water and many other services which have since ben privatised. These services are just not counted as public expenditure any more. A more meaningful comparison would have been to look at how the proposals for government spending in 2018 compare with levels of spending at the start and end of the Labour government in 1997 and 2010.

Dave Barlow



Will Hutton need not worry. I’m sure that people who support George Osborne‘s aim to take general government consumption back to 1948 levels will be pleased to see the return of school leaving age at 15 with only 3.4% of 18-year-olds being capable of achieving a university education.

Few lived to enjoy retirement – average age of death for men 66 and 71 for women. At least we will be able to restrict expensive operations which enhance quality of life or even extend it. Forget the ability to protect the premature baby. Forget all the progress we have made creating a caring society – this coalition is tearing it apart. Ah! The good old days!

Janet Roberts



Your leading article (Comment) movingly reminds us of the humanity of Nelson Mandela. In the words of Cyril Ramaphosa: “Everything he did in power … was out of a genuinely felt conviction that the people of our country should have better lives.” Will Hutton writes of the assumption by the Treasury, the mouthpiece of Tory central office, that the public and social institutions built up over the past 70 years “are unnecessary and held in the same contempt by [hard-working] people as a highly ideological Tory party”. He asks if we really want to go back to a 1948-scale state and a 19th-century system of poverty relief. What would Mandela’s answer have been?

Carolyn Kirton


There you all are, caught in the sunshine of a carefree day in early summer, 1939. Snapped in a “walking picture” – all the rage in the popular resorts. Something to treasure for the future. A memento of a happy day.

There’s Peter, my dad’s cousin, aged 16, pipping his mother in height, confident, a teenager’s hand-in-pocket stride in the days when teenagers were just boys or young men. Mum Kathleen – Dad’s auntie – summer coat flying open, such a broad smile under that jaunty hat. Sheila, 12, in a pretty flowered frock with Peter Pan collar. So happy to be at the seaside and heading for the beach, but: “Will you carry the spade, Dad?” So, of course, Uncle Joe does, and the towel, too, for that bracing paddle. In his open-necked shirt and casual jacket, he’s a man content. Maybe he’ll build a castle in the sand later and fill the moat with sea. A family at the coast, but where? I wish I could place the spot. You, all in this moment together.

But I can place you later, precisely, in a different moment. Not in a breezy summer, not with sunshine and smiles. But in a winter full of sirens, explosions and fear. On the frosty night of 12 December 1940, under a clear sky and a bright full moon, the roofs sparkled as the Sheffield blitz began.

You all ran together for the safety of the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden. You made it in good time and were settled in, but something crucial – what could it have been? – had been forgotten, and Uncle Joe went back to the house to get it.

The shelter, that metal arch of dug-in safety, took a direct hit. Suddenly, the future was blown apart.

My dad, aged 19, identified them afterwards, his aunt and two cousins. He wasn’t much older then than Peter would ever be. The only thing he would ever say about it was that Kathleen, Peter and Sheila looked shrunk, like dolls.

I remember as a small child in the 1960s visiting Uncle Joe: a bookish man, a bit of a black sheep as far as his brothers-in-law were concerned, a socialist with a soft spot for my like-minded parents. There was a heavy brown curtain between the back door and the kitchen. Once inside, even with the door opened to a summer breeze, you couldn’t see the garden.

This snapshot has old holes in all four corners, Joe’s pinned-up memory of a carefree day.

Marti Cooper





To answer James Hanning’s question, “What did Mandela really think of Margaret Thatcher?” (8 December), we should listen to voices of the time.

A fortnight after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Frank Chikane, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and a senior member of the United Democratic Front, said in London that Mandela was keen to telephone Mrs Thatcher as they considered Britain to be a “special case”. He added: “We see Mrs Thatcher as our No 1 obstacle in the world.”

Dr Chikane flew in for a mass lobby of Britain’s Parliament on 27 February 1990, organised by the Southern Africa Coalition, a six-month campaign by 90 organisations. It was formed in response to Mrs Thatcher’s campaign against the sanctions that were forcing change, undermining efforts by the Commonwealth, the European Community and the world.

Dr Chikane said he was “dismayed” by Mrs Thatcher’s reaction to Mandela’s release: “She has claimed that it vindicates her policy towards South Africa. She has even ignored Mr Mandela’s warning of the consequences of lifting sanctions … If Britain continues to pursue the approach adopted by Mrs Thatcher it could be responsible for aborting the prospects for a negotiated end to apartheid.”

Of course, the great Mandela felt that there was no enemy with whom he could not talk and came himself to turn the lady a few months later.

Tom Minney

Via email

The death of Nelson Mandela has many meanings but there is a specific one in a British context. The next time a backwoods Tory MP or a neoliberal New Labour MP claims someone is a “terrorist”, very careful thought needs to be given as to whether they know what they are on about.

Keith Flett

London N17

We deplore the on-going attempts of Chevron to avoid paying compensation to the communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon severely affected by the oil giant’s dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste there over decades.

Between 1964 and 1990, the oil company Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – caused one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters. The oil in the waste product dumped in the Ecuadorian Amazon over this period is estimated to be 30 times the amount spilt in the Exxon Valdez disaster.

By contaminating the rivers used for drinking, bathing and fishing, this created a social disaster for the poor farmers and indigenous people living there.

After decades of campaigning, in 2011, an independent Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay billions in compensation and remediation. But this corporate giant refuses to pay. Reports indicate that Chevron is spending hundreds of millions of dollars – more than it has paid on any clean-up – on hundreds of lawyers and on political lobbying to deny its responsibilities.

It’s time Chevron compensated the Amazon communities for the vast damage it caused.

Ken Livingstone; Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party of England and Wales; John Hilary, Executive Director, War on Want; Nick Dearden, Director, World Development Movement; Brian Eno, musician; John Pilger ; Bruce Kent; and 35 others.

Friends of Ecuador

Hamish McRae (8 December) complains that “we seem to be building the smallest homes in Europe”. But the bedroom tax has shown that there is a shortage of accommodation for single people and childless couples. Thus we don’t want the three- and four-bedroom homes so beloved of developers.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Though I am no great fan of Ed Balls, I do think he deserves a more robust defence than he seems to be getting  (John Rentoul, 8 December). One has only to look at the number of small businesses that have gone to the wall, and the daily headlines of hunger, poverty and broken dreams, to wonder whether Ed Balls’s prescription would not have led to a more humane but still effective remedy for the dire state of the economy after the financial meltdown of 2008.

AMS Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset





MPs need to pay own way like everybody else

IS ANYONE surprised that in the current climate of austerity the proposed increase to the pay of MPs provokes disbelief (“11% pay rise for MPs met with fury”, News, last week). One wonders if the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority consists of bankers.

MPs’ “golden goodbyes” and generous pension schemes will go, but will the expense accounts follow suit? Most people are expected to fund their own travel to work, pay their heating bills and, where necessary, finance their own alternative working-week accommodation.
Brian Gibbs, Swindon, Wiltshire

Authority figures
Could you please explain by what dystopian rationale MPs may be “compared with those in equivalent professions, such as council chief executives”? The heads of local authorities manage thousands of staff, multimillion-pound budgets and services that care for the most vulnerable in our society. They do not enjoy the holidays, expenses and pensions of MPs, or avoid responsibility when things go awry.
John McAdams, Glasgow

Poor review
As a former teacher I recall independent pay review bodies recommending wage increases that were “capped” by government. The agency that has recommended the 11% rise for MPs seems to have had no such constraint: £74,000 is more than three times the starting salary of a teacher.
James Stather, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Proof of the pudding for nativity star

YOUR article “Stars of Bethlehem” (Focus, last week) reminded me of my experience of the nativity casting process. Child A was a page because of his diminutive stature (the page costumes were made to fit the smallest children). Child B was of a similar size so we assumed he would have the same role. Imagine our delight when he proclaimed that he had won the coveted role of Joseph.

Nativity day arrived, the proud family assembled. In walked Child B dressed as a Christmas pudding. After the performance we congratulated him, but addressed our confusion about his role. “Yes, I was the Christmas pudding,” explained B. “But the pudding’s name was Joseph.”
Catherine Mee, Bournville, Birmingham

Stable condition
As a mature teacher-training student in the 1990s I recall a discussion in which many of us recalled our “star of Bethlehem” moments, amusing and poignant. All of them were overshadowed by the fellow student who recollected being part of a group known — whether by themselves, their teachers or fellow pupils was not made clear — as “the Uglies”.

One day she was delighted when a friend from this circle was called to take a role on stage. The joy was dashed when her friend returned to say that her role had been that of the stable door.
Judith Smart, Penylan, Cardiff

Pigeon post
I was a pigeon, hopping around to illustrate the bird in the second verse of the little-known traditional Czech carol The Birds — not even special enough to be the cuckoo in the first verse or the peace dove in the third. I’m still having therapy.
Eleanor Balston, Jersey

Shanghai school system turns pupils into drones

SO WE’RE now going to copy the Shanghai method of teaching: 50 to a class, rote learning and long hours (“Teachers get Chinese re-education”, News, last week). After such an enlightened education, UK students should then be able to take their places in sweatshop factories and so develop our defunct manufacturing base.

But why stop there? It would be foolish not to go the whole hog and implement a monolithic political system: it would certainly spare us the rigmarole of elections every five years and, among other things, the totalitarian state could usher in the one-child policy in urban areas. This would solve the overcrowding in inner-city schools — a win-win situation.
Julian Harniess, London SW15

Citizens’ advice
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, is looking towards China for inspiration to improve schools and the “culture of mediocrity and low expectations”. Given China’s lamentable approach to human rights, can we assume he will insist that schools in Britain continue to provide a full curriculum that includes the teaching of citizenship? Wilshaw may be right that we can learn from Far Eastern countries but they have so much more to learn from us.
Dr John Lloyd, Former citizenship adviser 2001-6, Stourbridge, West Midlands

Sight inspection
Last week’s letters page had a picture of Singapore children, who scored highly in maths (“Pupils lack competitive streak of Far East peers”). Of the 19 visible 12 wore glasses. According to my maths this equates to just over 63% with defective vision. Could too much studying be damaging their eyes? Maybe they should get out to play more.
Alison Bomford, Solihull, West Midlands

Only connect
As a state-educated (grammar school) pupil with 30 years’ teaching in comprehensives, I feel a good teacher does not necessarily need an upper-second degree (“Head exposes sloppy errors by teachers”, News, last week).

What is vital is a familiarity with the subject and the general knowledge to answer questions. Some teachers have high academic qualifications but no ability to talk to young people at an appropriate level.
Ian McCarroll, Bedale, North Yorkshire

Speaking clock
So Tom Hodgkinson has just realised that his eight-year-old son can’t tell the time (“Please, Sir! Why is my son reading a crisp packet for homework?”, News Review, last week). Where had he been as a parent all that time, and why hadn’t his child learnt this at home as most do? Does being editor of The Idler say it all?
Lynne Cooper, Nailsea, Somerset

Answering the call of Mandela

A RETIRED Methodist missionary friend who served in South Africa answered her phone one evening to find Nelson Mandela on the line (“Nelson Mandela 1918-2013” supplement, “I fired the killer question, he gave a killer answer”, News, and “He saved his country from a bloodbath”, Editorial, last week) . He was ringing from Buckingham Palace during a state visit, to thank her for visiting him in prison. Your readers may be moved as I was by his gratitude and humility.
The Rev Canon John Young, York

Political solutions
As Sir Trevor McDonald reports, Mandela said: “So long as the parties were prepared to discuss policies which gave neither side an unfair advantage over the other, then all compromises were possible.” If our politicians would stop having the partisan arguments then perhaps our children would not, as your correspondent Lena Knox observed, have “eyes filled with tears — their future is already redundant and most of them know it” (“Bleak future”, Letters, last week).
Adam Williams, Tonbridge, Kent

Yes, Mr President
Mandela’s legacy is Barack Obama.
Stan Labovitch, Windsor, Berkshire

Paying through nose for Van Dyck

ONCE again the British public is being asked to help keep a painting that for almost 400 years has been in private hands, inaccessible except to a privileged few (“£3m bungle over Van Dyck selfie”, News, last week). We are now supposed to believe this virtually unknown work will “enrich our whole culture” and that its retention is somehow essential. Why should the art establishment expect the public to subsidise millionaires who want to make another small fortune by selling a work?

It is not the case that art disappears from public view if acquired by overseas buyers and private individuals. In virtually every major exhibition, one sees paintings and artefacts from private collections, both here and abroad.
Ann Keith, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

National treasure
Richard Brooks correctly describes how the National Portrait Gallery became aware of the auction in December 2009 of the Anthony Van Dyck self-portrait that it is now trying to acquire. However, public museums can rarely mobilise substantial funds to bid at auctions and the gallery was unable to pursue the painting at that stage.

Four years later we have one crucial last chance to secure this important painting for the nation. Van Dyck was one of the most skilled artists to work in Britain and this self-portrait is one of his greatest. To find out more, visit
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery 

Bahrain’s door open to dialogue

IN RESPONSE to your article “Tear gas replaces talk in Bahrain’s ‘liberal oasis’” (World News, last week), Bahrain has provided more than mere “promised reform” but actual deliverables, while political dialogue has not come to a halt; rather, opposition groups have chosen to halt their participation. However, the door to dialogue remains open as the country urges change by consensus.

Also, militant tactics adopted by protesters have at times caused injuries to innocent bystanders and security personnel, creating a very volatile environment for reform and dialogue to flourish. Bahrain’s current political climate is extremely complex, with a diverse spectrum of opinions that must be reflected in any analysis.
Salman AlJalahma, Media Attaché, Information Affairs Authority, Bahrain


Fat profits 
Adding water to chicken is just one food adulteration method used (“Gulp! Shoppers pay £1.50 a kilo for water in chicken”, News, last week). I have just purchased pre-packed beef silverside. To my horror and disgust, underneath the joint was a thick layer of mushed-up fat carefully concealed behind a lower covering of plastic. The weight of the added fat works out as 16% of the total weight of the joint — or an extra £2.45.
Gill Lawrence, Oakham, Rutland

The sprite stuff 
I had never realised what a depth of knowledge is required of a Sunday Times restaurant reviewer until Camilla Long was able to identify the flavour of “singed fairies” in her spritzer (“Table Talk”, Magazine, last week).
John Ireland, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

About time
I am always annoyed when I hear an interviewee explaining that they do not want to say or want to make a decision “at this moment in time” (“And here’s a cliché politicians made earlier”, Letters, last week). Where else would this moment be, except in time? Possibly professors Stephen Hawking or Brian Cox would be able to explain?
Michael Rollison, Cockermouth, Cumbria

Warren commission
I worked as a bunny girl in 1966 when the Playboy club first opened its doors in London (“Playmate Kate has really fluffed it”, News Review, last week). At the time it was not considered “tacky” at all. I was there for two years before going on to university. We earned a lot of money and the club was the centre of London celebrity in the 1960s and 1970s. We did 12-hour shifts in the equivalent of a swimsuit  — at the time girls sunbathed naked on French beaches.
Chrissie Best Exton, Rutland

Corrections and clarifications

In “Road cash used to ‘boost votes’ for Tory MPs” (News, last week), we wrongly stated that the MP for Brentford and Isleworth is Eric Pickles, the communities secretary. It is the Conservative Mary Macleod. Mr Pickles represents Brentwood and Ongar. We apologise for the error.

Because of an editing error in “Head exposes sloppy errors by teachers” (News, last week), Richard Cairns of Brighton College was misquoted as saying “there are a large number of teachers”. He had actually used the grammatically correct “is”.

Last week’s Culture review of David Reynolds’s The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century gave the date of the first Balfour Declaration as 1926. It was 1917. This was an editing error.

In our article about the BBC’s The Ark (“They’re not afraid to go over the top”, Culture, last week) we stated that the series was filmed in Somerset. The location was Charlton Park in Wiltshire.

In today’s article on James Franco in the Magazine we say that in the 2002 film Spider-Man he played the Green Goblin. This is incorrect. He starred as the son of that character.


Cindy Birdsong, singer in the Supremes, 74; Dave Clark, musician, 71; Frankie Dettori, jockey, 43; Michelle Dockery, actress, 32; Oliver Heald, MP and solicitor-general, 59; Carl Hooper, West Indian cricketer, 47;  Don Johnson, American actor, 64; Paul Kaye, comedian and actor, 49; Edna O’Brien, Irish novelist, 83; Paul Simonon, guitarist in the Clash, 58; Julie Taymor, film and theatre director, 61; Stuart Townsend, Irish actor, 41


1906 first section of Piccadilly Tube line opens; 1966 Walt Disney dies; 1970 USSR’s Venera 7 becomes first spacecraft to land successfully on another planet and transmit data back to Earth, recording temperature on Venus as 475C; 1973 American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders; 1993 Downing Street declaration paves way for Good Friday agreement on peace in Northern Ireland





SIR – The Charterhouse (Why a charitable sanctuary should not be turned into a tourist attraction, December 6) is one of the hidden gems of London, a precious survivor of the monastic houses that were such an important part of the life of the medieval City. At the heart of the community, its continued survival has depended on the imagination and entrepreneurialism of those who have run it over the years.

It must continue to adapt to survive. It is a positive development to open the building to the public, making a unique historical resource available to all. Plans to admit visitors will help generate income and are a signal of the transformation taking place in this area of the City.

Sharon Ament
Director, Museum of London
Sir Nicholas Kenyon
Director, Barbican Centre


SIR – What is the point of early diagnosis of dementia when nothing is in place to help?

My late husband was diagnosed with mild dementia in 2002, when I noticed his memory was poor. We went privately for help and tablets stabilised his condition.

For eight years we were well looked after privately and later with the NHSwith hospital visits and monitoring of medication. In 2010 his condition deteriorated, and I found there appeared to be no proper pathway for care.

Most practical help came not from any professionals, but from other carers that I had met in a small support group, who were also floundering. All had different experiences with social workers, and were left in a muddle as to where to go.

In January 2012 a place was found for my husband, one day a week, at a day centre, staffed by dementia-trained nurses. He never did a full day, being deemed uncooperative (a formerly polite 86-year-old). But nothing else was put in place.

So, even with early initial diagnosis, when the condition worsens, what is going to happen with the expected explosion of dementia sufferers and their carers?

Helena Noble
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – I agree with the analysis of Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and share his concern about the size and seriousness of the problem. But my understanding of the situation is different in an important way.

He writes of dementia as if it can be tackled head on, as with HIV and some cancers. There are crucial, if unwelcome, differences. Much dementia goes together naturally with advanced age and is not necessarily a pathological variation.

We live longer, then have a prolonged decline, in relative social isolation – now the usual context of dementia.

Medical technology has little to offer directly to most such cases. What helps is sensitive and imaginative guidance and containment. This is a matter of pastoral health care and welfare. As a GP I know that, 20 years ago, GPs, district nurses and social workers could do this better than now. Personal continuity of care – one of the best contributions to such welfare – has been made almost extinct by managerial systematisation and industrialisation of health care.

We do not need a tranche of dementia clinics, consultants and brain-scanners; we need to find again social workers, GPs and hospital physicians who can build personal relationships with patients, their families and communities – often over years.

We may never “beat dementia”. But we should offer professional, wise counsel to people we can get to know and care about.

This is good, personal, pastoral medical care of a traditional kind. It is realistic and thus achievable.

Dr David Zigmond
London N8




Irish Times:



Irish Independent:


Madam — In the Nelson Mandela supplement (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013) Niall Mellon writes about his many meetings with the South African President, and the Irish people who travelled to South Africa and volunteered with the Niall Mellon housing project. According to Mr Mellon, Mandela “loved our willingness to care for others, people not of our own tribe”.

Also in this section

Letters: Enda was right to look worried this time last year


Letters: Bidding anything but a fond adieu to troika

On Tuesday at the special memorial service in Soweto attended by 90 world leaders, President Obama in his speech spoke about Mandela‘s understanding of the ties that bind the human spirit; “his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us”.

These characteristics of empathy and willingness to give have traditionally been strong points in us Irish. In the World Giving Index 2012 Ireland was named the most charitable country in Europe for the second year running and the second most charitable in the world, after Australia.

Nelson Mandela recognised these traits in Irish people, something that was very central to his own philosophy, that is the vital thread each of us plays in the tapestry of another person’s life. Or as John Donne said in his poem: No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

Nelson Mandela has left many legacies. Surely this must be one of his greatest.

Thomas Roddy,


No light shed on Equality Tribunal

Madam — In her article ‘Lifting veil of secrecy will shed light on family law’ (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013), Dearbhail McDonald points out that “for far too long, family law has been cloaked under a corrosive interpretation of the in camera rule of privacy. As a result… the operation of the family law courts has not commanded the proper levels of public confidence and scrutiny that it deserves”.

She goes on to state that “as journalists, we hear on a daily basis about the perceived unequal struggle of fathers, married and unmarried, in the family law courts” and that “we have no way of confirming or dispelling the myths or perceptions that stalk the family law courts”.

However, Ms McDonald and her journalist colleagues, both in the print and broadcast media, have failed miserably to report on the struggle of fathers, married and unmarried, in the Equality Tribunal, where cases can confirm the bias against fathers by various institutions such as schools, hospitals and the HSE.

Ms McDonald correctly states that “we cannot adequately defend or critique the system because of the in camera rule”. She informs us that “The Courts Act 2013… seeks to pierce the absolute veil of secrecy surrounding our family law courts” but then claims that “we have a real opportunity to shine a light on an area of law that has the potential to affect us all. It would be a travesty to waste that opportunity”.

The travesty is that the Equality Tribunal decisions were all released to the media but the opportunity to shed light on this area of law was not taken. Why should we expect that family law courts will be critiqued objectively when the discrimination shown in these successful Equal Status cases simply fails to get any publicity?

Cathal Garvey,

Equality For Fathers In Ireland,

Slane, Co Meath


Madam — In his television review column last Sunday (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013), Declan Lynch asks the excellent question, “What is this Irish nationalism?” He does not really attempt to answer it, but we know what he thinks.

While his negative attitude towards Irish nationalism is very obvious, I have never seen him make an effort to deal with the question other than in a pass-remarkable way. While questioning the nature of nationalism is good, being utterly selective in choosing to deride Irish nationalism, without offering argument or reason and, even if it were offered, without applying the same yardstick to other relevant forms of nationalism, is indicative of an acute form of Hibernophobia.

Next year, 1914, will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. I doubt that Mr Lynch will refer to British nationalism, which was one of the ingredients that went into the making of that great slaughter, let alone in a snide or disrespectful manner. I expect his attitude to the 1916 Rising commemorations will be markedly different.

Diarmuid P O Luasa,

Baile an Teampaill, Corcaigh


Madam — As one of those patsies identified by Colm McCarthy (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013), I have to agree with everything he writes about this insane Irish Water set-up — 12 years before Irish Water becomes fully functioning sounds like a quango for slow learners.

As to the cost of this nonsense, even taking a very conservative estimate using average salaries, pension contributions, cost of leasing and maintaining office space etc, could, at today’s rates, come to about €250m over the 12 years in staffing-related costs alone. That sure could fix a lot of leaking pipes!

Patrick Pidgeon,

Blessington, Co Wicklow


Madam –Colm McCarthy, the economist our Government relied on to chart the way through the financial crisis, has called on policy makers to prove that wind energy is cost effective (Sunday Independent, December 1, 2013). Strangely, given Ireland’s reliance on Mr McCarthy’s advice in the past, there has been no response by our Government to his call.

Mr McCarthy notes that Irish pre-tax electricity costs are more expensive than France, Germany and the UK. He makes it clear that the headlong rush into wind energy is one of the reasons for these high costs. He points out that wind energy requires expensive transmission lines as well as a range of subsidies, and the cost of these go directly on to our bills.

Without its economic credentials, wind energy becomes a windfall for a handful of developers, but in doing so turns large tracts of Ireland into an industrial landscape. We need to avoid an economic illusion dressed in fancy green clothing.

Mike de Jong,

Strokestown, Co Roscommon


Madam — I have been interested to read reports recently that the Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan TD, has prepared legislation for a partial reform of the Senate and has indeed apparently presented this to Cabinet. I welcome any move in the direction of reform of the Seanad, but I consider it a curious form of consultation as proposed by the Taoiseach that he should have agreed to meet the leaders of the different groups within the Senate including myself, apparently now after the discussion on the bill will already have started in the Dail. This is not a very good harbinger for the future.

I have already expressed concern that the expansion suddenly from under 200,000 to what I then estimated to 500,000 voters would make this a problematic constituency. I understand that the Government’s own figures are 750,000 voters. This will favour those of us who have a high profile and the cost of electioneering in such an enormous constituency will seriously disadvantage the new blood that the Senate needs.

It is an interesting view of reform and democratisation that takes a constituency that represents independence of voice and is about the smallest group in the entire Oireachtas, albeit the most democratic, and expands its membership to 750,000, while retaining the 43 political rotten boroughs with an electorate of approximately 1,000 electors each with five votes, one for each panel; and the third and final constituency — that of the Taoiseach’s 11 in which there is only one voter in the electorate and he votes 11 times without any necessary consultation with anybody. To sum up, it is proposed that one person should be allowed to vote exclusively for 11 seats, 1,000 for 43 seats and 750,000 for the remaining six.

In my opinion, in order for Seanad reform to be successful there should be a full scale overhaul, not piecemeal in dribs and drabs, especially considering the cynicism with which the present Government approached the Referendum in which it was defeated. First of all, there must be an accurate register assembled of all those 750,000 entitled to vote, and secondly, my opinion is that it would be only fair to allow candidates access to the email addresses of their constituents so everybody, including first-time runners, could communicate without massive expense with their electorate.

I am also very concerned that the creation of one super constituency and the abolition entirely of the Trinity and NUI constituencies is partly intended to facilitate the takeover by party interests of some of the last remaining genuinely independent voices in the house.

Senator David Norris,

Seanad Eireann


Madam — It was appropriate that Joe Kennedy dedicated Country Matters (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013) to the mighty raven, a bird so rarely seen here you would think it was an Irish phoenix! I was equally amused by the title “Scanning the skies for absent ravens”, fortifying the same non-appearance belief.

Well, Joe, I have some good news for you. This wonderful bird, the largest member of the Irish domestic crow family, is safe and multiplying in the Cooley Mountains, Co Louth. In the aptly named “Ravendale” and its forest walk, they are flourishing.

On the long walk to Anaverna, home of the Poc Fada, you always feel a temporary visitor as they soar above you, croaking and gliding.

Moreover, you mentioned in your article that, in legend, the same bird species landed on Cu Chulainn’s shoulder after battle with Ferdia. The location? A large rock in a field outside Knockbridge in… yes, you guessed it, Co Louth.

Damien Boyd,

Frankfield, Cork



Madam –How about some balance in your paper’s reporting of Mandela. The glowing tributes are just too much. I even saw one ludicrous suggestion that Mandela is comparable to Gandhi. Nonsense. I beg people to look at Gandhi’s life and then go and learn some of the workings of Mandela’s ANC. Particularly disturbing is their use of petrol-filled car tyres hung around the neck and shoulders of victims and then set alight. It must be the most horrific, painful, slow death imaginable.

Gandhi was a pacifist who would have never allowed such atrocities to happen in his name. Please, people, go find out the facts behind the airbrushing of history. Only God will really judge Mandela now.

Eamon Reilly,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath



Madam — In the wake of the sad death of Nelson Mandela I find it somewhat nauseating to listen to our politicians reflect on how he was an inspiration to everyone.

Mandela spent his life not only working for his people but caring for them. He sacrificed 27 years in prison for their freedom and left with no hate in his heart. In Mandela we talk about a man who carried out his political career with dignity, benevolence and humility. This was a man who donated all of the money he was awarded from the Nobel Peace Prize to help start a children’s charity. This was a man who gave one third of his salary to help fund that charity when it was set up. This was a man void of political corruption.

Here, where the bondholders and the banks were protected while the people were left to deal with massive stress, broken homes and rising suicide, it is hypocritical irony that our politicians should suggest that they were inspired by him.

Derek Behan,



Madam — Shane Ross (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013) wrote the following in relation to the banks: “We were being brainwashed by a … government spinning machine” and “a distracted media”; “a dark secret is being kept under lock and key”; the banks are “in deep, deep doo-doo”; a bank “has told the Central Bank to jump in a lake”; “we are heading into serious trouble in next year’s stress tests”; “next year Europe will send in the hit squads”.

All of that was true during the Celtic Tiger, but we were not told. Are Shane Ross’s allegations true today? If so what are the consequences for all of us? We should be told.

A Leavy,

Sutton, Dublin 13



Madam — Colm O’Rourke wrote last week (Sunday Independent, December 8, 2013) that I didn’t answer his question about what the Asti wants out of this dispute. Personally, as noted in my letter, I would like to see a more balanced and less hysterical debate on the role of unions in Irish society in your paper. But it’s a 100-year old tradition I suppose!

What does the broader Asti movement want? The first is a real concrete promise of not making teachers correct their own students in the new JC. Not a working group (under HR) from the man who promised (along with others) to burn the bondholders and protect child benefit. I know Colm has concern about the JC too. He wants to trust Ruairi Quinn to hear teachers’ concerns. Most teachers don’t trust Quinn. If continuous assessment comes in then some teachers will find a second job helping students they don’t teach pass their projects. There will be plenty of work for grind teachers and parents in writing student projects. If the State couldn’t police its own banks/industrial schools/creches — what hope school projects?

The JC can be dealt with in a cost-neutral manner but supervision and substitution can’t — or can they?

While I find it hard to figure out why we need to spend €850m a year on the army (22 countries have abolished their army — who exactly are we defending ourselves from?) and yet can’t fork out €30m a year for supervising our children, I will take it that Ruairi Quinn fears Sandymount might be invaded by angry teachers. But in asking for it, did he have to increase the periods of availability from three to five? Why exactly? Ask any principal (Colm included) if that was necessary given that the 30 per cent who don’t do supervision will now be frog-marched into it or be paying for someone else to carry the burden. Staying at the present three periods (cost neutral) and allowing all to opt out but pay the levy would also be acceptable to the majority, in my opinion.

That’s some of what teachers want. Both requests would cost exactly nothing!

Barry Hazel, Asti CEC,

Bray, Co Wicklow



Madam — The Love/Hate box set should do well for the festive season, and deservedly so as the show was a superb production, with great acting and chilling depictions of gangland.

But there is another gift I would also think apt, one that could enhance the quality of life of our people in these economically straitened times.

The gift of vital information to the gardai to help crack down on the drug dealers who continue to prey on people of all ages and to tear communities apart, in addition to killing or viciously assaulting or intimidating anyone who gets in their way.

Such information would be far more than just our way of saying Happy Christmas to the gardai. It would help the fight against a cancer that is devouring our society, turning households into barren death chambers and rational human beings into addicts craving a fix.

The addicts, though victims of drug dealing, must also shoulder responsibility for the thriving gangs.

Without their decision to buy that mind- and body-destroying filth from the pushers, drug dealing itself couldn’t flourish. That goes for all addicts, whether those who have to scrape a few euro together to pay the criminals, or people high up the social ladder who can well afford to pay them.

As the festive lights twinkle and the big day draws nearer, why not give the greatest gift of all?

Shop your local drug dealer for Christmas!

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent



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