3 January 2014 Back to Normal
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Leslie has been automated by a computer Ill Bred Fred, which calls him an idiot. Priceless.
Ring Able and Cole mix up over money test Peter Rice, post books and book car in for MOT
Scrabble today I win and get just under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Elizabeth Jane Howard, the writer, who has died aged 90, was acclaimed for her Cazalet series of novels, an epic saga of affluent middle-class English family life. Yet she was perhaps equally well-known for the turbulence of her personal life, notably as the second wife of the novelist Kingsley Amis.
She was in her sixties and already well-established as a novelist when she embarked on The Light Years (1990) the first of the Cazalet novels. She published the final and fifth volume, All Change, in November last year. It was probably her decision to walk out on her marriage to Amis (they divorced in 1983) that liberated her to produce her best work but, although the novels were autobiographical, they drew less on her unhappy marriages than on her wartime adolescence in a prosperous middle-class household.
The novels follow the shifting relationships between three generations of the Cazalet family spanning the decade 1937-1947 and draw a contrast between precocious teenagers who are painfully honest with each other and overbred adults who find it impossible to communicate emotion. The incomprehension and impatience with which women of the Cazalet family view their daughters reflected an enduring theme in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s own life.
As a child, she had had a difficult relationship with her own mother, and as a young woman had walked out on her own three-year-old daughter by her first husband, the naturalist Peter Scott. In the novels, her mother is portrayed as the perennially bored Villy Cazalet, who has given up her career to marry, and resents her daughters.
Elegantly constructed and intelligently and wittily written, the Cazalet series has already earned an honoured place among the great family sagas. A remarkable period piece, full of evocative detail of the trivia of daily life in wartime England, it is especially notable for the way in which every one of the three generations of characters are presented in a way that enables the reader to sympathise with them, however impossibly they behave.
Elizabeth Jane Howard’s sympathetic gift had been sorely tested in real life in a series of unsatisfactory relationships. Kingsley Amis never forgave her for walking out on him and took his revenge by refusing to talk to her ever again and claiming publicly that their marriage had been a terrible mistake. That she was able to forgive him reflected a painful awareness of her own defects, though about these she was less forgiving.
Elizabeth Jane Howard was born in London on March 26 1923. Her father, David, a timber merchant, had gone off to fight with his horse in the First World War when he was only 17. He returned four and a half years later, half gassed, refusing to talk about his experiences, but with a determination to enjoy himself.
Elizabeth Jane’s mother, Katharine, the daughter of the composer Arthur Somervell, had danced with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe before giving up her career to marry. The family lived comfortably in Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, with six servants and a constantly shifting cast of visiting friends and relations.
Despite these comforts, Elizabeth Jane had a difficult childhood. She was aware from an early age that her parents’ marriage was not a happy one. Her mother was emotionally repressed and her father, though charming, was a serial philanderer. He eventually left for someone else, but not until Elizabeth Jane had grown up and left home. Her mother, she recalled, “was outraged and devastated. I think it was pride. It would have been better if she had never really loved my father.”
The frustrations of her marriage and her thwarted ambitions ensured that Elizabeth Jane’s mother was continually dissatisfied. She openly preferred her sons and took out her anger on her only daughter, seeming to take pleasure in putting her down in public: “She made me feel a complete failure. I never understood why.” Understandably the girl’s self-esteem took a battering. Though hardly unattractive, Elizabeth Jane remembered, aged 16, standing in front of a mirror and saying to herself: “You’re so plain, you’re going to have to have a career. No one’s going to want to marry you.”
While her brothers were sent to good schools, Elizabeth Jane’s studies were neglected. She did not learn to read or write until she was six, though once she had learned, she read all she could find, and with few books in the house, began writing to give herself something to read. She wrote her first play aged 14.
She attended a day school for two terms, where she was bullied and had to leave. Otherwise she was taught by governesses until the age of 16, when she persuaded her parents to send her to a boarding school, a domestic science establishment in Beaconsfield.
She never passed any exams but by her late teens had developed striking good looks, with long legs, thick waist-length blonde hair and dreams of becoming an actress. In 1940 she won a place at the London Mask Theatre School.
Within two terms the school closed because of the Blitz, but Eileen Thorndike (sister of Sybil) took a group of young actors down to Devon as a student repertory company. Elizabeth Jane played Katherine to Paul Scofield’s Petruchio then took a job in the winter season at Stratford. When she became ill from lack of food, she had to return home.
Back in London she volunteered to join the Wrens, but was turned down due to her lack of formal qualifications. Instead, she went to Pitmans to learn to type, but within three weeks, aged 19, had become engaged to Peter Scott.
Scott was then serving with the Royal Navy. At 35, he was 16 years older than his fiancée. They had met when she was at drama school and Scott was on sick leave from his destroyer.
He took her out to the theatre and to dinner and drew her portrait. Still convinced she was unattractive, Elizabeth Jane was flattered by his attention: “I really hadn’t the faintest idea what I was in for. He was the first person who noticed me and I was grateful for that.”
The night before her wedding her mother asked her whether she knew “anything about the nasty side of married life”. Horrified by this sudden threat of intimacy, Elizabeth Jane hastily replied that she did, and no more was said.
By the time she was 21 her daughter Nicola had been born (during an air raid — so grim an experience that she spent the time deliberately imprinting the pain on her memory in order to use it in a future book). Three years later she walked out on the marriage and her daughter, taking with her just £10 and a suitcase: “It was a difficult decision,” she explained later, “but Peter and I were just incompatible. I was too young. Our lives were never going to mesh, so there was no point in staying. I was left with no money or qualifications, just a half-written novel.”
This, The Beautiful Visit, was published in 1950 and won the John Llewllyn Rhys memorial prize, catapulting her into the raffish literary scene. The book captured the longing, excitement and comedy of adolescence in a story of a young girl growing up in the years around the First World War.
In her second novel, The Long View (1956), she explored the shifting relationship in a marriage in which a wife’s personality begins to emerge from the carefully designed world of her husband. This was followed in 1959 by The Sea Change.
But her broken marriage and growing reputation as a writer did not make Elizabeth Jane Howard any more skilful in her dealings with men. Still extremely beautiful — she modelled for Vogue during the late 1940s — but unaware of her own seductive power, she found herself constantly being importuned by members of the opposite sex: “I had a lot of affairs”, she later admitted.“I was a tart for affection most of my life.”
One lover was the novelist Arthur Koestler. She met Koestler at a party early in 1955. He proposed to her on St Valentine’s Day, but she parried his offer of marriage and suggested they might try living together.
The arrangement was not a success. Koestler was temperamental and they quarrelled violently. While making love on a canoeing holiday that summer, Koestler refused her request to use a contraceptive and forced himself upon her. When she became pregnant, Koestler was furious and insisted that she should have an abortion, but refused to help her arrange it. The relationship ended soon afterwards. Koestler asked her to dinner the night before he killed himself, but she had another engagement.
She claimed that she had never infiltrated a happy marriage. There were, however, two brief aberrations: the novelist Laurie Lee and the poet Cecil Day-Lewis. She was friends with both men’s wives but this did not prevent her from having affairs, albeit brief, with their husbands. Yet it seemed there were no hard feelings; both the Day-Lewises and the Lees asked her to be godmother to their daughters, an honour she accepted.
A few years later she became engaged to the Australian writer and broadcaster James Douglas-Henry. They married in 1959 because, by her own account, he thought she had money and she got fed up with people wanting to go to bed with her. The marriage was brief, disastrous, but, due to the fact it was never consummated, fortunately childless.
In 1962 she was invited to run the Cheltenham Literary Festival. She introduced new features including a book market and an exhibition of portraits of living writers. She also persuaded more authors than ever to appear, among them Kingsley Amis, who had been invited to speak on “Sex and Literature”.
Amis was then married to his first wife, Hilary Bardwell (“Hilly”), by whom he had three children. He and Elizabeth Jane began a passionate affair and, with cruel timing, eloped to Spain on Hilly’s 35th birthday. When Amis returned home, he found Hilly and the children had gone off on holiday without him. They returned to confront him at Elizabeth Jane’s flat in London. In 1963 Amis and Hilly were divorced and he married Elizabeth Jane.
Initially it was a great love. “Kingsley is terribly funny and that is the biggest turn on of all, isn’t it?” she said. It was a powerful literary and emotional relationship and in the early years of their marriage they influenced and even wrote parts of each other’s works. Elizabeth Jane Howard’s novels during this time included After Julius (1965), Something in Disguise (1969) and Odd Girl Out (1972).
In the 1960s and 1970s the Amises were a literary couple of dazzling talents and good looks. They bought Lemmons, an impressive 30-room Georgian house in High Barnet which Elizabeth Jane restored to something of its former splendour, courtesy of an advertising campaign: “Very Amis; very Sanderson”.
The household teemed with intellectual life: “It was a steady eight for supper, rising to 16 at weekends. One Christmas we had 25 people,” she recalled. Cecil Day-Lewis was staying at Lemmons on the day he died in 1972, and wrote his last poem, At Lemmons, on her table.
But the marriage was never an equal one. “Jane cooked and Kingsley drank,” reported one guest; Amis was demanding and selfish and expected his wife to understand that his work came first and that she had to bring up his three children (who had moved in with them shortly after the marriage), entertain, run the house and huge garden and keep the accounts. She also looked after her invalid mother for the last six years of her life. Elizabeth Jane Howard admitted to weeping as she peeled bucket-loads of potatoes.
Amis’s children were hostile, though she began to get on reasonably well with Martin Amis, whom she helped to educate and inspired to write. But she had little time or energy for her own writing.
By the 1970s the marriage was in serious trouble. Kingsley was drinking heavily and experiencing sexual problems, for which he reluctantly agreed to have therapy: “I realised over a very long period of time that Kingsley didn’t like me,” she said later. “It isn’t something that washes over you like a clap of thunder; it’s a slow realisation, but it’s unmistakable.”
She walked out of the marriage in 1980, telling him that she would only come back if he gave up drinking “because I knew that if he didn’t, we’d never get anywhere. But he didn’t want to.” After their divorce in 1983, Elizabeth Jane Howard hoped to get back on friendly terms, but instead she became the victim of his unforgiving malevolence. In an interview three weeks before his death in 1995 he said: “Do I see her? No. It was bad enough being married to her.” He mocked her suggestion that they could just be friends.
Though she was intensely hurt, she tried not to respond in kind, though after enduring “years of half-truths, withholdings and downright lies” she wrote to Amis’s biographer Eric Jacobs “correcting” matters.
“I always hoped he’d relent,” she said in 1995. “When I heard he was ill, I asked Martin to let me know if he wanted to see me, but he didn’t, so that was that.” As they remained unreconciled, she felt it would be inappropriate to attend his funeral – though, at Hilly’s invitation, she attended his memorial service.
After the break-up, Elizabeth Jane Howard lived in Camden Town, and went through a period of depression and despair, spending many hours in psychotherapy. She later moved to an isolated house near Bungay, Suffolk, where she channelled her passions into writing. But her travails with men were not over. As she admitted in an interview with the Telegraph last year, in the 1990s she had a brief affair with a con man, who wheedled his way into her life after hearing her on Desert Island Discs. She was recovering from cancer at the time: “My guard was down.” Asked if she thought he had wanted to “bump her off to get the house” she replied: “Something like that. It was an awful shock.”
As well as the Cazalet novels, which were dramatised on BBC1 over five episodes in 2001, she wrote Getting it Right (1982), Falling (1999), Love All (2008) and a book of memoirs, Slipstream (2002). She also published anthologies on gardening, marriage and love. In 1987, with Fay Maschler, she produced a cookery book .
She saw her loneliness in old age as the inevitable price of the mess she had made of her marriages. “I don’t like being alone,” she said in 1995, “but I’m getting much better at it. When you make a lot of mistakes, you always pay for them. Not at the time, not necessarily all at once, but you always do pay. And I pay by having to spend the rest of my life on my own.”
She was appointed CBE in 2000.
Elizabeth Jane Howard is survived by her daughter, Nicola.
Elizabeth Jane Howard, born March 26 1923, died January 2 2014
• 3 hours ago
If Kingsley Amis’s idea of revenge were refusing to talk to her after she left him, she should have been one of the happiest women in London.
It is certainly the case that Ofgem is doing a huge amount to reform the energy market (Energy firms overpaid £4bn, says Labour, 2 January). It has spotted that Co-operative Energy, my very small supplier, has been giving me a few Co-op points for sending it my meter readings, and a few more for my payments. And in order to “create a fairer market place for energy customers”, the good old Co-op has been ordered to stop rigging the market in this way. I had no idea that, as a modest member of the Co-op for some 50 years, I would become so powerful in the world of finance.
• Paul Mason (The next Occupy? 28 December) points out that “there is no Geneva convention in the modern conflict between riot cops and protesters”. Now there’s a good idea.
• A glimmer of light in the murkiness that is politics (Month of peace at Catholic retreat helped convince MP to turn her back on politics, 2 January). A principled politician who did not betray her beliefs for the trappings of government power. Dare I hope that others in Sarah Teather’s party might follow in her footsteps and show the same response to the economic abuses that are being inflicted on segments of our society?
• Not only online Christmas shopping (Letters, 2 January). My cousin and uncle went to a fur-and-feathers auction in Dorset in the 1960s to buy Christmas dinner for our large family get-together. My cousin successfully bid on two pairs of ducks only to find when he and my uncle went to collect them he had actually bought two pens of ducks – 24 ducks. All live!
• Re Claude Scott’s letter about Alastair Cook’s duck-filled platitudes (Letters, 1 January); before we send the whole England team to a kangaroo court, shouldn’t we remember that Captain Cook is the wombat we can usually rely on?
I was delighted to read the letter (1 January) from many of the leading people in the NHS calling for a constructive response to the challenges it faces. Last year, comments varied from refusal to accept any criticism at all to undeserved and unfair generalisations about its standards based on a few untypical and awful cases. By international standards, the NHS produces exceptional value for money, remarkable achievements in terms of universal coverage, treatment of people with multiple health problems and staff at every level who are motivated by devotion to their vocation and to their patients. In many ways, the service is the victim of its own success, as more and more of us survive for longer and overcome serious illness or injury.
Above all the NHS needs a consensus based on the determination that it should remain a public service, that change is needed but must be in the interest of patients, and that there must be a shift from dependence on hospitals to the integration of community care and the involvement of GPs at every stage. That in turn implies that doctors must be available 24/7, but a proper rota system should enable them to enjoy regular weekend breaks as in other professions.
House of Lords
• I completely understand why the leaders of NHS organisations do not spell out the real reason for the constant carping by Tory ministers and their slavish followers in the rightwing press: to persuade voters that the only solution is privatisation. If the imperfect NHS works, which satisfaction levels still say it does, there would be no need for a radical solution when simple, sensible tweaking will do the job. The powers that be, literally, are not interested because there are such powerful vested interests who want to make money from the nation’s ill health. If they succeed, their next target will be the BBC, another far-from-perfect organisation that, nonetheless, works massively well in the national interest.
Haywards Heath, Sussex
• Recently I had my appraisal, an annual performance assessment all doctors must undertake (how many other professions do this?). It included an independent survey in which my patient satisfaction score was 91%. I was proud of this until I discovered that it is bang on average for GPs, but I note that it is approximately the inverse of Jeremy Hunt’s score on YouGov. These surveys were introduced by the government to assess the true standard of service, and the results suggest that the people to whom the NHS matters most are not taken in by their propaganda. Nonetheless, their message is getting through: low morale from this regular battering has encouraged early retirement and discouraged recruitment to A&E and general practice. When the shortage of doctors becomes critical in these areas I expect the standard of service will become the government’s self-fulfilling prophecy.
Dr Richard O’Brien
• At last, recognition that all is not ill with the NHS. Also, it is recognised that more must be done with the existing finances available, and that in places, where necessary, improvements in patient safety and quality of care are paramount following the Francis report. The National Health Action party’s aims exactly support this: “We will restore the NHS as a safe, comprehensive, publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable, integrated healthcare system by reversing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and supporting Lord Owen’s parliamentary bill to restore the NHS – the NHS reinstatement bill.”
Ways of achieving these aims are made clear in reports of work done by the previous health select committee on patient safety and value for money.
Richard T Taylor
Co-leader, National Health Action party
• Like many families, when we have needed the NHS we have been overwhelmed by the quality of the treatment and compassion of the staff who have cared for us – and I suspect our experiences are far more common than recent reports would suggest. Four years ago, my 60-year-old wife had a life-saving operation in Frenchay hospital when a glioblastoma was resected; two years ago, our 34-year-old son-in-law had a life-saving operation in Bristol Royal Infirmary when a mitral valve was replaced; one month ago, my 92-year-old mother was nursed back to life after a hip operation in Musgrove Park hospital. Three different operations on three different family members, of different ages, in three different hospitals. The common factor? The brilliance of the medical and nursing staff, their insistence that we knew exactly what was happening throughout those tense and worrying days and their willingness to listen to our questions. Such human involvement can never be “captured” on any form and yet it is the most priceless of all data.
Add to this provision the insight of the GPs who spotted the initial problems and expedited admissions to the appropriate hospitals and you have a service which lies at the heart of the community but is still nimble enough to pull in national expertise when it is urgently needed. It’s called the NHS and we should cherish it as one of the best indicators of a caring and democratic society.
Easton in Gordano, Somerset
• Like very many who consider themselves British, I don’t have to go back to 9000BC to establish that I am, partly, an immigrant. I am of 25% Swedish and 12.5% German ancestry. If Scotland votes for independence, a further 25% of me will be “foreign”. If the prime minister continues down the path of managing NHS demand by restricting free access further, I’d like to know from him which parts of me will be covered. Will I be able to choose from a drop-down menu when I seek treatment, or will the health practitioners have an algorithm to work through, along with all the other bureaucracy they have to satisfy?
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s sample of the “lost” class of 2005 university graduates (28 December) confirms the findings of larger and more representative surveys that “almost half of those who’ve graduated in the last five years in the UK are in non-graduate jobs for which they are overqualified and underpaid. This means the average graduate ‘starting salary’ of £29,000 is a distant dream for many university leavers, as they take anything that’s going in a competitive labour market and render it even more difficult for the less-qualified to find work”. What this leaves out is the type of university and course attended, plus the importance of avoiding the dreaded Desmond (2.2), since a 2.1 or 1st has replaced 3 A-levels or previously 5 A-C GCSEs as the entry requirement for most full-time, secure employment open to young people. In the absence of any alternative, save often part-time, insecure, low-paid work without prospects, including most so-called “traineeships”, it also explains why so many 18-year-olds are still prepared to pay so much for so little in exorbitantly priced higher education.
Michael Morpurgo is right to urge us to honour, rather than glorify, those on all sides who fought and died in that terrible conflict (A year to honour, but not glorify, the Great War’s dead, 2 January). Let us remember, too, the many women at home and abroad who were involved. Women such as my great-aunt, Sister Edith Appleton, who served from October 1914 until Christmas 1919, often very close to the fighting. She wrote an amazing daily journal and, we have been telling her story, with extracts from her diaries, to many groups around the country over the past two years. The moment that strikes our audiences most powerfully is when we read “another diary extract”; I then explain that this is actually from the journal of a German nurse. Only a few miles across the front line another woman was doing her best, also, to bring comfort and healing to those wounded and dying in her care.
My contact with the Deutsches Tagebucharchiv (German diary archive) has been invaluable and very rewarding. Reading the diaries of German nurses alongside those of my great-aunt Edie confirms how the war was a cascade of blunders for all concerned and allows us to look at the common experiences of those who struggled to do their best and survive in appalling circumstances. In June we shall be meeting in Strasbourg, together with German, French and Italian diary-holders, to honour their memories.
• On my desk I have my grandfather’s discharge documents dated 9 July 1918. It cites his discharge in consequence of being “no longer physically fit for war service”. He had been buried alive in no man’s land and his documents record that “this man is entitled to wear two gold wound stripes”. Alfred Robert Ruston slept on the floor of his bedroom for several months when he returned home as he had been accustomed to sleeping on the floors of trenches for four years. He spoke rarely of his experiences – but he spoke often about his friends who didn’t return home. And he told of his guilt that he had been spared; and of the lie “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.
• Please reprint Michael Morpurgo’s inspiring essay in a format suitable for use in schools. If Michael Gove could find funds to send Bibles into all schools, then surely this thoughtful, contemplative and compassionate look back would be an appropriate way to commemorate 1914. It brought tears to my eyes as he revealed the roots of the story which has made such a great play and film. The three men he listened to in his village deserve to have their experiences known by the next generations too.
• Michael Morpurgo’s account of the processes and circumstances that led him to write War Horse was insightful and thought-provoking; not least because it highlighted the effectiveness of artistic representation of human wisdom and philosophy. The capacity, as demonstrated by Morpurgo, to translate true wisdom into inspirational literature and theatre should be celebrated.
hor, Lost Generation?
Ros Coward argues (Spot the royal baby, 1 January) that press intrusion into the privacy of ordinary people is “only bad and wrong when the humanity of the people involved is forgotten”, and appears to suggest that this view is at odds with the findings of Brian Leveson. In fact, what Coward wants and what the judge recommended are one and the same. The Leveson report set out to protect the freedom of journalists to do their job while at the same time ensuring that the humanity of the people who are reported upon was not forgotten. Sadly, on the basis of abundant evidence gathered in his year-long inquiry, the judge found that the press industry had failed, culpably and for decades, to take adequate steps to ensure that people’s humanity was respected.
To address this he came up with a good and balanced formula that should protect ordinary people from unjustifiable press mistreatment in the future: the press should continue to regulate itself, but the effectiveness and independence of its self-regulation should be upheld through periodic external monitoring, in the interest of the public, by a body which itself is entirely independent of both politicians and newspapers. This is what the royal charter that was approved last October will deliver.
Executive director, Hacked Off
• While Ros Coward well understands the urge of the media to sell their wares at any price, she overlooks the effects on the brains and culture of any population with an ambient compulsion to live vicariously through the sexual affairs and the private lives of others. These diminish self-knowledge and self-awareness, lead to slavish conformity of taste (especially in what’s supposed to be shocking or challenging), and the acceptance, through habitual familiarity, of doubtful values. Most men and women are worth more than this trivialisation. True self-realisation is perhaps impossible in such a culture and only money and possessions can compensate for the loss of personal idealism and imagination.
Our grandson has the misfortune to live in an area of high unemployment. Since he left school eight years ago, a few casual jobs only have come his way.
He is grateful to be accommodated in a dilapidated flat, and we have subsidised his meagre income. He is desperate to be independent, so imagine his and our joy when he was offered a job which lasted more than one month. The job was manual shift work at unsocial hours, 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.
Our joy was short-lived. Our grandson was marginally worse off on the minimum wage than he was on the dole. Deducting from his net wage his regular commitments, he was left with £9 per week for clothes, toiletries, sundries and unforeseen expenses. We continue to subsidise him from our pensions.
The minimum wage is a travesty; it is clearly inadequate and should equate to a statutory living wage. Employers paying the minimum wage are, in effect, only a step away from employing slave labour.
A company kept afloat by paying the minimum wage is either making an unjustifiable profit or is commercially unviable. It should not expect parents, guardians or grandparents to augment the company’s wage bill.
R J Rickard, Edinburgh
As the Government will not outlaw zero-hours contracts, another way of addressing the problem of employers who do not want to give employees full working rights would be to change the minimum wage law, so that zero-hours contracts must be paid at a higher rate. In every other part of capitalism, taking a risk is rewarded. It should be in the workplace, too. Fewer rights, higher pay.
Reverend Richard Haggis, Oxford
I appreciate that elephant conservation is a valuable cause, but I was disappointed to see two internships included in your Christmas Charity Auction. Although this is raising money for a good cause, I question the ethics of making desirable opportunities available only to those who can afford to pay for them.
Unpaid internships make certain career paths – such as TV and video production in this case – virtually inaccessible for all but the most privileged young people. Auctioning two such opportunities creates a further barrier. These two internships will inevitably go to young people lucky enough to have rich parents to pay for that essential first credit on their CV.
Moreover, the industries in question miss out on hiring from a large pool of talented young people who cannot afford to work for free – let alone pay for an internship.
Hayley Gullen, London SE5
Non-partisan and working for peace
Sadly, in the troubled history of the Middle East conflict, it is not unusual for those who speak about human rights violations to be branded as opponents (“Clare Short at risk of arrest in Israel”, 2 January).
As you list my own engagement with the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR), can I make clear that as Labour’s European Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, I meet and engage with many international representatives – and this has included accepting roles in the past with the pro-Israeli Labour Friends of Israel.
I am not aware that CEPR has in any way breached its own mission statement that it is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to peace and respect for international law.
Others who have accepted roles as trustees include a German Liberal Democrat MEP from the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, a Green MP who is former chair of the Swiss Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and a British peer who is both a Privy Councillor and former British Labour health minister.
More than 100 parliamentarians have accepted invitations to serve on CEPR’s delegations, including Lord (David) Steel, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Baroness (Margaret) Jay, Conservative MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone, former chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party and currently Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Lorely Burt MP, Lord (Hugh) Dykes, and current Labour shadow treasury, business and justice ministers.
Of course, I will contact the Israeli government in response to the reported statement, but I stand with all those renowned parliamentarians in seeking to promote genuine dialogue and understanding towards finally achieving a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Richard Howitt MEP, Labour Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament, Cambridge
So much potential good goes up in smoke
If the world decided not to have any firework parties on New Year’s Eve 2014 and contributed what they would have spent to a global fund to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease, I wonder how much we would collect?
We could congratulate ourselves for not letting it all go up in bangs, lights, smoke and, in the case of London, flavoured smells! Alternatively, we could have the displays and parties, but donate the equivalent amount of spending to the fund. I was disgusted by the scenes on TV of various cities and their displays, while at the same time there was reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis, and adverts from charities asking for £2 a month to feed or provide medicines for deprived children.
John Ongom, London E11
Why would anyone want an honour?
Pat Rattigan (letter, 1 January) seems upset about not receiving an honour. But I can’t really understand why anyone would want one.
I have been a great admirer of Taoism, which teaches a philosophy of meekness, which shuns honours. Lao Tzu said in the Tao Te Ching: “He who shows himself is not conspicuous; he who considers himself right is not illustrious; he who brags will have no merit; he who boasts will not endure.”
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
An unforgettable conductor
I was disappointed that you were unable to find a single line of space to mention the conductor Sir Colin Davis among the list of obituaries of notable people for 2013 (Review of the Year, 28 December). He was every bit as much of a musical icon as Beecham, Sargent and Sir Henry Wood, for example, in both the concert hall and opera house throughout his 60 years or so of conducting. He must surely have contributed far more to British music over the years than some other musicians (whom I’ve never heard of), such as JJ Cale, Ray Manzarek and Stan Tracey, who did get a mention, and was still actively conducting in the early part of the year before his unfortunate death in April.
Ian Berresford, Poynton, Cheshire
The rest of the British media didn’t appear to mention it at all, but why did you consign the study from the University of South Wales which forecasts global temperatures rising by as much as 5C by 2100 and 8C by 2200 to two column inches on page 16 (“Temperatures set to rise 5C by end of the century”, 1 January)?
And these figures take no account of the biggest story of 2013, about vast quantities of methane erupting from the Arctic Ocean which may be the beginnings of a runaway process which will render this planet uninhabitable to most species, including our own. In a year that will look back a century to the horrors of the First World War, shouldn’t equal priority be given to persuading humanity to look ahead at avoiding the immeasurably greater horror of runaway global warming which will very possibly bring human history to a tragic, rapid and suicidal close?
Aidan Harrison, Rothbury, Northumberland
They used to have a word for it
The news about the plight of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which got stuck in the ice, makes me feel that as the passengers have been rescued and were apparently carousing and ice dancing before rescuers got to them, The Independent can rescue a word that lexicographers have, for some reason, been trying to kill off for decades,
Mallemaroking comes from a Dutch phrase for the drunken behaviour of icebound whaling crews with nothing to do until the ice loosens or rescue comes.
Given that the Oxford English Dictionary records the last proper use of this word as being in 1913, I hope you can print this letter and so rescue this marvellous word for another century at least.
David Walsh , Skelton, Cleveland
Something missing on the new coin
It’s a pity that they couldn’t fit in on the new £2 coin after “Your country needs you” the words “to die”.
Mike Brayshaw, Worthing, West Sussex
Sir, Ian King is not the only one to find giving blood difficult (Thunderer, Jan 1). The last time my wife and I attended at our allocated time we were told that they were running 40 minutes late even though the session had opened only 30 minutes before. We were offered another slot on the same day but when we arrived they were now 50 minutes behind. We decided not to stay. I wrote an email of complaint, no reply ever arrived. I withdrew my services after giving since I was 18 a total of 97 donations. The service has a lot of problems to solve as it is less efficient now than ever.
Kingswinford, West Midlands
Sir, It will be of no consolation to Ian King to know that, in my experience, making an appointment with the NHS Blood & Transplant service (NHSBT) is unlikely to prove more rewarding than the walk-in alternative. Having made an appointment six months ago and having arrived punctually, I was informed that the session was running 45 minutes late. Having another appointment I had to cancel and so did not donate. In December I again made an appointment, only to be told on arrival that the session was running 30 minutes late. One reason given was that staff had to close the session for lunch.
Being an optimist, I have made an appointment for March. By then, hopefully, The Thunderer’s comments will have brought about improvements in the system, or is it just another case of an IT system that is not fit for purpose?.
Robert J. Taylor
Stockton on Tees
Sir, Ian King is right about the difficulty of donating blood. In my experience, however, he is incorrect that “NHSBT is particularly worried about a drop in young donors and is anxious to recruit new ones”.
In 2009, as deputy head of a state secondary school, I initiated hosting sessions for NHSBT to come and collect blood from 17-year-old, first-time donors. On each occasion we provided 60 to 100 new donors, many of whom will no doubt continue to donate through later life. I was overwhelmed by altruistic young people keen to set aside their squeamish reservations and do their bit — a far cry from the public image of teenage egocentricity.
Yet in 2011 NHSBT withdrew from the arrangement. I was told that because, unsurprisingly, the “fainting rate” at our sessions was a little higher than in a standard session filled with repeat donors like Ian King, they would not be coming again. Resources would be put instead into public collections with largely experienced donors, fewer faints, and a more predictable short term yield. The local team’s targets for units collected and “failed donations” would be more easily hit, and with less inconvenience to their staff.
Efforts to get NHSBT to recognise the shortsightedness of this approach fell on deaf ears, even though its own strategic plan aimed to “develop sustainable supplies”.
You couldn’t make it up.
Deputy Head, St George’s School
The best hope is to get a conference to put in place a ceasefire to enable humanitarian assistance and secure a breathing space
Sir, I welcome Roger Boyes’ view (Opinion, Jan 1) that it is time for the UK to focus less on Assad’s political survival and more on the physical survival of the Syrian people.
However, a no-fly zone, presumably to be sponsored and enforced by the US and UK, cannot be the way forward. It will not be sanctioned by the Security Council. We have repeatedly used humanitarian arguments to justify intervention in the Middle East to secure regime change. Having nailed our colours to the “ Assad must go” mast, we can hardly expect the Russians to buy that one again. Would the Commons really support intervention that had no UN mandate? Is President Obama eager to take it on?
The best hope in an increasingly desperate situation is to get a conference, not to find long-term political solutions but to put in place a ceasefire to enable humanitarian assistance and secure a breathing space. For this the key players are the sponsor powers of this proxy war. The cooler heads in Saudi Arabia know that empowering uncontrolled jihadis threatens to backfire on the Kingdom. They have Egypt as an object lesson. In any case Saudi concern is to win the struggle for regional dominance with Iran and their proxies are not winning in Syria now. Iranian participation at the conference is essential; the prize of having its regional role recognised is important for moderates in Iran. For them as for the Assad regime the shift from a conference to oversee Assad’s downfall to one aimed at a ceasefire could secure acquiescence from Hezbollah units in Syria. Russia has every reason to fear the contagious effect of a broken Syria providing, with Iraq, another haven for Muslim extremists. On the other side, the jihadis depend on funding and logistic support from their backers and the neighbouring states, including Turkey.
It may be a long shot, but no party, with the possible exception of the jihadist fanatics, has an interest in a fight to the death over the bodies of the Syrian people. Surely it is worth a try, with more chance of success than attempting now to define a new political settlement in Syria or yet another military intervention with dodgy ambiguity about our final objective. Yes, it would leave Assad and the Baathist regime in place; but are not all the alternatives worse?
Sir Roger Tomkys
British Ambassador to Syria 1984-86
‘We must not lose sight of the fact that in the past 50 years a vast area of land has been covered by housing, roads and factories’
Sir, Congratulations to Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, for addressing the problem of rights of way for homeowners.
For years innocent people have been harassed by bullying officials, creating rights of way through their homes and gardens, even leading to suicides and nervous breakdowns. At last they will be able to live in peace.
We must not lose sight of the fact that in the past 50 years a vast area of land has been covered by housing, roads and factories, while the population has increased more than threefold. Common sense must now prevail.
Sometimes a piece of local dialect can be mistranslated and that has the potential for all sorts of trouble
Sir, “Scunnered” (Jan 2) translates to “disgusted” or “sickened” not “bored”. If, for example, you say “You scunner me” to a typical Scot, I can guarantee that you will be anything but bored.
‘The NHS doesn’t belong to the government or to doctors and nurses. It is a precious resource that belongs to us all’
Sir, Dr Liam Fox is right to say outcomes are more important than targets (“Don’t spare the NHS”, Jan 2) but the challenges facing the NHS are as much about attitude as they are about funding.
Libby Purves (Dec 30), writing about complaints from people affected by floods, talked of a nation that has shifted from citizen to client or customer. In 30 years as a GP, I too have observed the subtle evolution of a people now driven by an ethos of entitlement from a people willing to accept hitches and keep things going. If we continue to be “disgusted” at every turn, we are in danger of losing the very things we are so quickly disgusted with.
The NHS Alliance launches a NHS Temperature Check today, a new index to gauge public confidence in our health service. Surprisingly perhaps, given the media battering of the NHS throughout 2013, public trust in the service remains stable. But it is eroding and will continue to do so unless we think differently.
The NHS doesn’t belong to the government or to doctors and nurses. It is a precious resource that belongs to us all — an NHS Mutual if you like. We must all be part of its success — GPs, hospital doctors, nurses, pharmacists and patients. We must also be critical friends, but make no mistake, the new national sport of sniping at the NHS from the sideline at every twist and turn could lead to the loss of the UK’s greatest asset.
In 2014 I would ask not what can the NHS do for you, but what can you do for the NHS?
Dr Michael Dixon
Chair, NHS Alliance
SIR – In 2014 I would like to see all politicians promise to give up using the word “tough”. Talking about being “tough on this” and taking “tough decisions” is just posturing that convinces nobody.
Will they please treat the electorate as grown-ups? Then we might engage with them more.
The new fitness craze goes back a long way
02 Jan 2014
SIR – My New Year’s resolution is not to watch any television programme with “celebrity” in the title.
SIR – Some calendars start the week on a Sunday and others on a Monday. Surely the week starts on a Monday and weekend is Saturday and Sunday.
I now have one for 2014 that starts on a Monday, with Saturday and Sunday coloured differently at the end of the week.
My husband is adamant the week starts on a Sunday.
SIR – Is it significant that the official pound-euro exchange rate yesterday morning was listed as 1.2014?
Abuse of the Queen
SIR – It is indeed “a constitutional fact that the prime minister must approve everything that the Queen does or says in public” (Peter Oborne, Comment, December 28), but in return Her Majesty should not be expected to permit her royal prerogative to be abused by politicians to bypass Parliament, as recently happened when the Privy Council granted the cross-party royal charter on the regulation of the press “on the advice of the Government”.
The advice in fact came from the three party leaders, one of whom (Nick Clegg) is the Lord President of the Council, in which capacity he should have advised the Queen to have nothing to do with it.
Professor A W F Edwards
Gonville and Caius College
SIR – Your report (December 27) that the former Concorde pilot William “Jock” Lowe sketched out his ideas on how to expand Heathrow on a napkin in a restaurant in Dubai 25 years ago reminded me of other such eureka moments.
The Laffer curve, one of the main theoretical constructs of supply-side economics, was sketched on a cocktail napkin in 1974 during a dinner with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Jude Wanniski.
Carles Rexach, Barcelona football club’s technical secretary, drew up an informal contract on a napkin at the Pompeia tennis club in 2000 to sign up Jorge Messi’s 13-year-old son Lionel. The same year, the Italian architect Renzo Piano sketched out the design for the Shard on a napkin in a restaurant in Berlin.
Napkins have also been used for more nefarious reasons. Paddy Ashdown testified at The Hague that Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian president, drew the proposed carve-up of Bosnia on a napkin at a Guildhall banquet in 1995.
Manucher Ghorbanifar, who had a part in the Iran-Contra affair in 1986, reportedly sketched his ideas for regime change in Iran on a napkin in a bar in Rome in 2001 in the presence of Pentagon officials.
Perhaps readers will know of other eureka moments involving napkins.
Colonel Martyn Forgrave
Blind widow’s phone cut off
SIR – The power companies are to be congratulated for reconnecting their customers so quickly, compared with BT Openreach.
My mother is 89 years old, housebound, registered blind, reliant on friends, neighbours, family and a land-line panic button to stay in her home.
On Christmas Eve, her land line failed. Even yesterday, New Year’s Day, she still has not been reconnected, because of the inefficiency of BT Openreach.
BT Openreach engineers said that, in the above circumstances, she does not come under the “priority care team”. Ha!
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire
SIR – A great deal is made of the expected arrival of thousands of Eastern Europeans coming to Britain to find work. I cannot believe they make this decision lightly.
If this work is available, what additional carrots or sticks can we utilise for our own unemployed nationals who failed to fill these positions?
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
SIR – An excellent biochemistry lecturer in the Seventies introduced me to this mnemonic (Letters, January 1): Very Many Little Hairy Pigs Live In The Torrid Argentine. It is an aide-memoire to the essential amino acids. Unfortunately, while I remember the mnemonic, the names of the amino acids now escape me.
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
Petrol myth exploded
SIR – I am afraid that David Bond (Letters, December 30) has fallen for old misinformation about the dangers of mobile phones in petrol stations.
There is no verifiable case of a fire or explosion brought about in this way. The three most commonly quoted incidents were allegedly publicised by Shell. Shell denies issuing such “information”. None of the incidents has ever been identified.
We should be far more worried about the huge battery in a car, the sparking motors in the car and the incredibly hot catalytic converter slung underneath it. Then there is a real risk of a spark from static electricity between the driver and the car door.
A more realistic safety measure would be to ban cars from petrol stations.
T-shirts take over from college scarves
SIR – The college scarf (Letters, January 1) has been replaced by the university or college T-shirt. It has the facility of showing the college name and badge emblazoned across the front.
SIR – In the Sixties, my extended thumb, a big smile and my Sheffield college scarf (and at times a climbing rope across my shoulder) allowed me to hitch-hike speedily throughout Britain.
I met bored honeymoon couples, racing drivers, perverts and beautiful women, who all added greatly to my education.
Once I was even given a job at a Batchelors food factory after a manager saw my blue and white scarf and screeched to a halt. I was working within the hour.
My wife has disposed of my moleskin climbing breeches, as well as my 28in flared trousers and psychedelic shirts from the Seventies. If she touches my treasured college scarf there will be trouble.
SIR – I’d still pick up a hitch-hiker in a college scarf, but most students are too scruffy.
SIR – The only scarf I wear is the one from my old school, King Edward VI, Camp Hill, Birmingham. I am always happy to identify its provenance to all who ask. Unfortunately no one ever does.
SIR – The new fitness craze, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is not new.
The training regime going by the name fartlek was developed in Sweden in the Thirties.
The interval training used by Seb Coe was a system for athletes developed during the Thirties and Forties by Woldemar Gerschler and others.
The circuit training developed at Leeds University in 1953 consisted of three sets of 10 or so exercises of around 30-60 seconds’ duration completed without a break. One usually ended standing in a pool of sweat. At 72 I am still going strong.
Dunton Bassett, Leicestershire
SIR – The NHS dentistry system in England is unfit for purpose. As dental professionals, we fear that a disaster in NHS dentistry that mirrors the Mid-Staffordshire hospital mismanagement scandal is inevitable.
NHS dentistry in England is not fully available to all 55 million citizens. It is not health and prevention based, and it is not a service free to all, as GP services are.
The Francis report in 2013 showed that bad NHS systems and management lead to bad NHS compromises that can harm the public. It insisted that health-care professionals must at least speak out and raise their concerns.
The Government continues to promise the public that all dental clinical health needs for the population of England are met under the NHS dentistry system, to the highest standards. Yet, with compromises on a national scale, it is frankly impossible for dental professionals to deliver this.
The third most common medical reason for any child occupying a hospital bed is rotten teeth. Nearly half of all adults walk around with deep gum problems in their mouths.
Government statistics hide the rotten truth, for example, by excluding X-ray measurement of decay and relying only on “visible” naked-eye detection, which misses hidden decay.
The chairman of the Care Quality Commission in England, David Prior, recently called for more honesty about NHS failings too, where the “system” simply didn’t tolerate criticism.
We are so concerned that compromised and mismanaged systems will deteriorate further, that we are exposing the above concerns in the public interest now, so that those responsible for NHS dentistry can truly change to be more honest and transparent. Then they might be able to create an NHS dental system in England that is fit for purpose.
Dr Anthony Kilcoyne
Specialist in prosthodontics
Dr A V Jacobs
Founder GDPUK, dental forum; Chairman Annual Conference of Local Dental Committees.
Dr Martin Mayhew
Specialist in dental public health.
Dr Nicolas Taylor
Dr Simon Thackeray
Dr John Anderson
Dr Tim Coates
Dr Donald Sloss
Dr Scott Aaron
Dr John Bates
Dr Adam Randall
Dr Peter West
Dr Andrew Adey
Dr James Mehta
Dr Ray Steggles
Dr Nigel Edwards
Dr Hiten Patel
Dr Alistair Wrigley
Dr Jim McCubbin
Dr Richard Leigh Evans
Dr Andy Lane
Dr Richard Fretwell
Dr Nethin Warnakulasuriya
Dr Anna-Marie Steel
Dr Jason Wong
Dr Ben Zanjani
Dr GP Visser
Dr Ajay Mathur
Dr Sylvia Andrews
Dr Anta Reikstina
Dr Sanjeev Bedi
Dr Martin Damyanov
Dr Georgi Drenski
Dr Tavi Moldovan
Dr Ritesh Lad
Dr Diana Nuca
Dr Andrew Miles
Dr Hitesh Panchal
Dr Eurico Martins
Dr Neil Appleby
Dr Bhavnish Waghela
Clinical Dental Technician
Dr Tejaswi Mellachervu
Dr Meredyth Bell
Dr David Peltz
Dr Anthony Inman
Dr Monik Vasant
Dr Michael Day
Dr Fara Aga
Dr Keith Hayes
Dr Jamie Maguire
Dr John McVeigh
Dr Bogdan Krastev
Dr Richard Vernon
Dr Gopal Varma
Dr Lana Gilchrist
Dr Marc Clery
Dr Neil Austin
Dr Julian Thornton
Dr Carl Taylor
Dr Richard Bannister
Dr Chris Borne
Dr Michael Bellow
Dental Laboratory Owner
Dr Suleena Powar
Dr Mark Johnson
Dr Dahlia Sunba
Dr Ahmad Nounu
Dr Suren Fernando
Dr Arun Kosla
Dr Minal Patel
Dr Rakhshi Qureshi
Dr Mukesh Soni
Dr Kim Spong
Dr Svet Bot
Dr Amit Mehta
Dr Norman Bloom
Dr Prem-Pal Sehmi
Dr Aftab Hussain
Registered Dental Technician
Dr Tam Haque
Dr Rob Ardern
Dr Shaeed Karim
Dr Vijay Gohil
Dr Kartik Patel
Dr Andalib Gornall
Dr Joe Rawcliffe
Dr Julian Holmes
Dr Jappreet Singh
Dr Jansie van Rensburg
Dr Hilary Poole
Dr Sean Gibbs
Dr Mayhana Indrakumar
Dr Veeren Gupta
Dr Jane Ainsworth
Dr Martin Marinov
Dr Kandy Ganesan
Dr Ramesh Parmar
Dr Justin Roberts
Dr Kevaal Patel
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole asks: How can the State convince its citizens that Plan A is viable? Plan A being the creation of a stable democratic state with a reasonably prosperous economy and an independent place in the world (“What makes us world champions at fecking off”, Opinion, December 31st).
Is he being a little melodramatic? Not all emigrants leave because they have weighed up the ideological arguments around patriotism and decided their country offers little to be patriotic about: I’d argue that such considerations are in fact quite low on most emigrants’ priority list.
Plan A can be much improved of course, I wouldn’t, and don’t, hesitate in criticising it; but just because some respondents of a recruitment company’s survey said they might consider emigrating within three years to improve their career prospects does not mean that we can extrapolate that Ireland is a failed or failing in its objectives.
As a journalist he is right to highlight our country’s many problems; his call to action to get us debating these shortfalls is to be lauded. However, I believe that on this occasion he is being too pessimistic. – Yours, etc,
North Circular Road,
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole “What makes us world champions at fecking off” (Opinion, December 31st) has raised in me angry emotions which I hardly knew I harboured.
As a result of the unemployment in the 1980s I have no grandchildren in this State, having educated my children through much hard work and many sacrifices. I am lucky that I can afford to travel to keep in touch.
My anger is aimed at the 67.4 per cent who have jobs but who are quite prepared to “feck off” if their careers don’t improve. I’m tired of hearing of doctors, nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapists – all highly educated by this State – who are allowed to “feck off”!
If the State insisted they stay here and contribute five years to this country at lower wages they could at one fell swoop: increase employment, repay the grants and free education they have received and help rebuild the health and education services, which are crying out for dedicated workers.
Make Plan A viable! If it has to be compulsory, so what. Hopefully, this young educated workforce by dint of hard work and sacrifice could “establish an ethic of equal citizenship”. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Fintan O’Toole contends that the Irish nation has failed to forge a genuine patriotism due to the lack of functioning democratic and economic institutions. Therefore, “actual attachment to the State is weak”, and as a consequence Irish citizens are more inclined to invest their human potential in other countries.
Viewing the latest wave of Irish emigration through this narrow prism of 20th- century nation-statism seems a touch archaic. Instead, O’Toole might have emphasised Ireland’s marvellous opportunity to construct a new, bold post-nation-state patriotism in partnership with our EU neighbours.
One commentator summarised this opportunity beautifully: “Irish culture does not entirely fit the nation-state, [and as it] is complex, many-layered and continually evolving, the set of political structures that would best reflect it would also have all of those characteristics. The nearest thing we are ever likely to get to that ideal set of political structures is a place within an open, democratic, responsive European Union”.
That commentator was Fintan O’Toole. – Is mise,
Co Mhaigh Eo.
A chara, – Fintan O’Toole’s observations on the propensity of Irish people to migrate to the British Commonwealth because of a lack of connection with the State are well made.
In most countries a connection with the State arising out of a shared fate is ensured by the cultivation of the national language. In the absence of Irish, why not migrate and give one’s loyalty to countries with the same (English) nursery rhymes, songs, poem, plays and legends (Robin Hood, etc).
An English-only mentality also costs us export markets and jobs. Our negativity toward speaking Irish saps morale. We need to open our minds to the wider world.
Rejection of Irish, no matter how it is presented, is profoundly negative and shameful, rejecting as it does normal curiosity as to the meaning of place names, common surnames and historical sources in the majority language of Ireland until the mid 1800s.
America and Australia are offshoots of English culture. We are not. Americans promoting English is an affirmation of self. The Danes learnt English without abandoning Danish and have a stronger economy than we. Small open economies with educated multilingual confident populations do well.
It’s high time to stop being in awe of the Dutch or Finnish multilingual and become Irish multilinguals. Speaking Irish makes Ireland sound and feel like a regular European country. It is the recovery of our intellectual and cultural sovereignty and contributes to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed. Such an exciting project would surely attract the brightest and best to stay on and build the nation. – Is mise,
DÁITHÍ Mac CÁRTHAIGH
BL, An Leabharlann Dlí,
Baile Átha Cliath 7.
Sir, – James Morrissey, communications adviser to Denis O’Brien (December 31st) ought to know that when you are explaining you are losing, unlike good journalism. The links between Nama, property developer Paddy McKillen and Denis O’Brien are in the public interest. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Brian Callagy (December 31st), writing about the price reductions in supermarkets, states, “Such practices in the long term may well become predatory”.
As the great economist JM Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead. Meanwhile, cheaper prices will do. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – If Michael Harding continues to contribute pieces of the quality and generosity found in “Message to a heartbroken widow” (Life, December 31st), 2014 will be marked by regular genius and glory.
This column should be reprinted on your Front page to remind everyone about love, loss and humanity. And why we must cherish the present. – Yours, etc,
Somerton Road, Belfast.
Sir, – I have been trying to make sense of the furore over Nicolas Anelka’s gesture known as the quenelle. The pictures of Anelka seemingly making the gesture seemed harmless enough, but certain people are jumping in and blowing it out of all proportion.
The picture of Manchester City player Sami Nasri and friend (Soccer, December 31st) making the quenelle don’t support the present furore. Many international soccer teams make a similar gesture when they are standing to attention for their national anthem before an international soccer game. I seem to remember American citizens, including presidents, making a similar gesture when Old Glory is being raised up the flagpole and the Star-Spangled Banner is played.
Are the French now saying all Americans and any international side that makes a similar gesture are anti-semitic? – Yours, etc,
Coolock, Dublin 17.
A chara, – John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High is one of Colorado’s official state songs. How apt, now that the sale of marijuana has been legalised there. – Is mise,
Revd Fr PATRICK G
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – “World’s first state-licensed cannabis stores open in Colorado” (World News, January 2nd). I suppose Colorado’s state capital, Denver, will now be known colloquially as Mile High City? What? It already is? – Yours, etc,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Dr Mait O Faolain (December 30th) is to be congratulated for defending a particularly vulnerable Minister for Health at this festive time. However he is incorrect in asserting that the artificial separation between the policy setting of the Department of Health and the policy implementation of the HSE introduced by a previous minister for health absolves Dr Reilly of his responsibilities in this matter.
The “probity” exercise comes from Government. The under-six medical card comes from Government. Therefore, Government and the relevant Minister are responsible.
His letter also implies that GPs somehow benefit from a delay in informing the HSE of a patient’s death. As any payments made in respect of a deceased person are subsequently recouped, backdated to the date of death, this is irrelevant. Unless I have personally attended someone on their death, it is not uncommon for a delay of a number of weeks or months before I learn of the death of a patient in hospital. The system is flexible enough to take into account this delay. His letter further implies that the HSE, as the body responsible for registering deaths, relies solely on GPs to inform it of the death of a patient. I am pleased to inform Dr O Faolain that this is not the case. – Yours, etc,
Baile Átha Luimnigh,
Sir, – The recent announcement that Dublin is to have an Independence Trail is most welcome to those still campaigning to save the GPO/Moore Street 1916 battleground – the only extant battleground in 20th-century British and Irish history.
Under the current planning application by Chartered Land this historic area is to be obliterated to make way for a shopping centre development. Under that proposal the planned freedom trail would have to be routed through, of all things, a “Celtic Tiger” shopping mall.
The inclusion of this historic area in the proposed Independence Trail is official recognition, at long last, that the campaign to preserve and restore the area and its “laneways of history” as An Taoiseach describes them is now accepted as the way forward.
The Save 16 Moore Street Campaign Committee deserves great credit for its tireless efforts over a decade to save this historic area from the wrecking ball. There is now a golden opportunity for the State to preserve and develop this battlefield site into a historic and cultural quarter for future generations as a 1916 Centenary Project. It is imperative that a new plan is drawn up immediately to see this through, with input from appropriate State agencies under National Museum supervision, in the national interest. – Yours, etc,
Concerned Relatives of the
Signatories to the 1916
Sir, – I refer to Eamon Devoy’s response (Letters, December 31st) to Fionola Meredith’s article (Opinion, December 28th). Meredith points to the role of Ruhama and Immigrant Council in driving the Turn Off the Red Light campaign. This campaign has been in preparation for several years and is motivated by the ideology of radical feminism with some religious fundamentalism thrown in. The two organisations are core members of the campaign; they initiated it, organised it with other groups, recruited other civic organisations including trade unions, provided the narrative and altogether controlled the agenda. Meredith is correct to point this out.
The trade unions which supported the campaign, including Mr Devoy’s TEEU, have some questions to answer. First, did any of them seek out alternative views to those proposed to them? If not, why not? This issue has been debated in several countries in recent years and there are strong opposing views. Second, did TEEU or indeed any of the unions hold a ballot of its members to ascertain their views before committing to Turn Off the Red Light? If they did not, how can they be so sure they correctly reflect union position on this highly contentious issue? The real story of how the unions came to sign up for this campaign needs to be told, whether there was internal opposition to the move and how that was dealt with.
Finally, Mr Devoy states the reason TEEU signed up was because of trafficking into the sex trade. Clearly it accepted the claim that human trafficking for sexual purposes and prostitution are effectively identical. This conflation of two separate phenomena most definitely suited the campaign agenda and was designed to sway wavering supporters or those with misgivings otherwise. This conflation was also challenged at the hearings before the Justice Committee and has been condemned both by the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law 2012 and the UNAIDS advisory group on HIV and Sex Work 2011. The union support for Turn Off the Red Light was a crucial factor in its success so far and was seized upon by the Justice Committee as evidence that a broad cross-section of Irish society was in favour of the Swedish model and an important factor in its decision to recommend it for legislation. It coloured the whole conduct of the hearings, ensuring that Turn Off the Red Light was accorded the great bulk of time allotted, while the opposition was not afforded sufficient time to even make a proper case. Were these considerations weighed properly by the unions before they made their decision? – Yours, etc,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Sir, – As a citizen of Dublin I feel there is something crass in the way Dublin city councillors agreed to close College Green on New Year’s Eve and to charge visitors €25 to celebrate the festival in what is essentially a public space. Have we learned nothing from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Well done to your correspondent for bringing the plan for the urban beach on Dún Laoghaire East Pier to our attention (Fiona Gartland, Home News, December 31st).
As we can now see from the white elephant of the new library, DLR Council has no interest in conserving the wonderful Victorian character of the harbour and seafront.
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council is co-funder of the urban beach and will again muzzle its own conservation department – as it did for the library.
The next item on the DLR CoCo’s agenda is another huge modern building in the harbour – on the Carlisle Pier – the Diaspora Centre.
The council would be far better off redeveloping the old baths, as well as changing the new library into a diaspora centre and trying to get some value for the €40 million wasted to date.
Hopefully the Minister’s excellent move to refuse to take on any more debts incurred by councils, will prompt DLRCoCo to act in a more commercially aware fashion.
In summary, say no to the urban beach – it will greatly damage the Victorian ambiance of the pier we love so well. – Yours, etc,
Clarinda Park West,
Sir, – Last year, 2013, the Irish nation happily celebrated an event the Government termed “The Gathering”.
But after the Christmas break, with so many Irish people leaving the country, ought not the Government, in turn, mark this sad New Year event of 2014 as “The Scattering”? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Like Brenda Morgan (December 30th), I have a wish for the New Year, mine being that titles of public figures should reflect the transparency which we all crave to see in public life.
For a start, may I suggest Michael Noonan’s title be Inance Minister, because we all know that in this country, there is no “F” in money. – Yours, etc,
* As we enter the new year, I am reminded of something Seamus Heaney said in an interview: “I believe we are put here to improve civilisation.”
Also in this section
Letters: Our EU ‘friends’ not worried about fairness
Letters: A game that will go down in history
Tribute to a man’s courage and foresight
Of course in Ireland, much has improved for the better, but some things stay the same and there are some awful abuses of human rights that make one ashamed. And like in so many countries, the poor, the homeless, the disabled and the prisoners will always be marginalised.
But top of my list for blatant discrimination by the State is the treatment of Travellers and refugees and asylum-seekers living in direct provision.
There are more Travellers living in appalling conditions now than in 1999. All you have to do is look for example at Dunsink Lane in Finglas, north Dublin.
Until Travellers are appropriately accommodated, there can be no improvement in their lives. As a report recently stated: “On every human indicator Travellers’ lives are blighted far beyond those of their settled neighbours: in unemployment, poverty, life expectancy, child mortality, literacy, numeracy, depression, addiction, homelessness and suicide.”
It seems to me that because there are no votes in being fair to Travellers, that the councils fail consistently to provide adequate accommodation in case they alienate their constituents. The State too presides over this and does nothing to encourage a more tolerant, inclusive society.
In the case of refugees and asylum-seekers, the State puts these people into conditions that are akin to open prisons. They are denied the basic living conditions necessary to get over the trauma of having to flee their country and leave everything that gave their life meaning behind — their extended families, their friends, their culture and often their language. They cannot even buy food or cook for themselves. They have no privacy. They are not allowed work. On €19.10 a week in institutionalised accommodation, there are no choices.
I would appeal to the Government to provide appropriate housing for Travellers, despite opposition from locals, and to end direct provision for refugees and asylum-seekers in 2014. We’ve become desensitised to their plight.
STILLORGAN, CO DUBLIN
EQUAL BILLING FOR GAELIC
* It’s a shame that Liam Fay does not understand how important the public use of Gaeilge is, especially in the spelling of place names on road signs. For many, these signs form the only engagement they have with their country’s language. But the disparity in the two font sizes exposes the lack of importance the Irish State gives to its own language, a fact that Mr Fay seems quite content with.
Up until 2005 the only legal form of a place name was the anglicised one. This was corrected by Eamon O Cuiv in a Bill that gave the original Gaelic place name parity of esteem. Leo Varadkar’s support of the initiative to have the original Gaelic place names written in the same font and size as the anglicised ones, albeit in a different colour, is the obvious next step and is an important step toward the full recognition of our own language.
Liam Fay talks about cultural inclusion for non-Irish speakers but misses the point that it is actually the Irish language speakers in this country who feel excluded. When I was a young boy I was actually thrown off a bus returning from school because the conductor (remember them?) could not read my address, which was in Irish. More recently, An Post has been putting stickers on my letters telling me Laitriom is ‘incorrect’ and it should be Sligo.
In the local motor tax office I’ve been told to move aside while they searched for Gaelic forms, I then had to wait while they served the others behind me in the queue.
Liam Fay fears Gaeilge being presented on par with the anglicised version on roadsigns will cause traffic chaos. But same-sized bilingual road signs already exist in Wales and Belgium with no reports of increased accidents on their roads.
ROSSA O SNODAIGH
MATURE AND JOBLESS
* On Friday, December 13, a 51-year-old unemployed sales man from Wexford stood at Newlands Cross wearing a sandwich board saying “To all employers prove to me that you don’t age discriminate, employ me”.
The thing is I feel the same way. I believe that some employers do discriminate, not just against age but also the long-term unemployed.
If any employers don’t discriminate then it’s simple: prove me wrong and hire me.
I’m 48 and have been unemployed for four-and-a-half years now so I fit into two categories: I’m long-term unemployed and middle-aged. I know not all employers and recruitment agencies discriminate this way, but until I get a job I will have no other choice but to believe otherwise.
I’m sick of the rejection letters and emails, the excuses, employers and recruitment consultants that don’t respond. I know that some employers think that if a person is at a certain age or is long-term unemployed it’s because they are lazy and don’t want to work.
Something needs to be done so that people like myself and men like the Newlands Cross protester don’t have to take certain measures to get a job.
We need to start with the Government and the employers if we are to make sure that future generations aren’t left unemployed just because they’re middle-aged or long-term unemployed.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
TRUE SPORTING HEROES
* I feel there is a touch of Oscar Wilde’s famous definition of a cynic as one who knows “the price of everything and the value of nothing” in the RTE sports department, which can show a similar lack of appreciation of what is truly valued by the Irish people.
While the presenter of the RTE sports awards was busy drooling over anything to do with soccer, the plain people of Ireland were busy voting for the team and manager of the year, and hey presto, they voted for Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald as manager and for the Clare hurling team as their team of the year. No soccer accolades in sight!
While players such as the Brogan brothers of Dublin and Kerrymen such as Colm Cooper are playing Gaelic football (fair play to them — no pun intended) all the Roy Keanes and Martin O’Neills in the world will not produce a world-class soccer team, so the sports boys in RTE had better get used to that (for them) unpalatable fact.
RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 14
FLAGGING A SOLUTION
* Dr Haass suggested a compromise flag for Northern Ireland. May I suggest an adoption of a layout such as the New Zealand or Australian flags? This could be the Tricolour with the Union Jack at the top left quarter or the opposite, the Union Jack with the Tricolour inserted.
BANNER ON THE MARCH
* Our good friend Micheal O Muircheartaigh says that it would be fitting if the Dubs won the double this year to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf (Irish Independent, January 1).
Surely it would be more fitting if Clare hurlers won again — after all Brian Boru came up to Clontarf from the Banner county to show the Dubs how to win, just as Anthony Daly did almost a thousand years later!
SWORDS, CO DUBLIN