12 January 2014 Shantoi

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The crew of Troutbridge are celebrating and Mrs Povey want Henry to be promted to Admiral. Priceless.

Shanti pops round for coffee

Scrabbletoday Mary wins and gets well over300, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Cecile Nobrega, who has died aged 94, was the driving force behind the first statue of a black woman to go on permanent display in England.

The Bronze Woman — a 10ft-tall monument to motherhood, showing a black woman holding aloft her baby — was unveiled in October 2008 in Stockwell Memorial Gardens, south London. The original artist was to have been Ian Walters, creator of the statue of Nelson Mandela in London’s Parliament Square, but he died after completing only the clay maquette. The project was taken on and completed by Aleix Barbat, then still a student at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in Chelsea.

Cecile Nobrega — a Guyana-born teacher, poet and playwright — had campaigned for “The Bronze Woman Project” since 1994. Although she did not describe herself as a feminist, she felt that women — particularly women from the underdeveloped world and those descended from the victims of the transatlantic slave trade — received insufficient recognition for their contribution to the family and to society in general.

She launched the project as a charitable organisation and set about raising the money needed, subsequently enlisting the help of an organisation called Olmec, originally set up as a charitable subsidiary of a south London housing association.

The unveiling of the statue, on October 8 2008, came shortly after the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the 60th anniversary of the arrival at Tilbury of the first Caribbean immigrants in the steamship Empire Windrush.


Cecile Elise Doreen Burgan was born in Guyana (then a British colony) on June 1 1919 to Canon William Burgan and his wife Imelda; in 1949 the Canon would become the first black man to preach at Westminster Abbey.

At Bishops High School in Guyana, Cecile showed herself a gifted child — she had composed classical music and written poetry from an early age, and later produced a choral work called Twilight which was performed by national choirs in Guyana and Cuba.

In Guyana, she started two schools — a kindergarten and a vocational school for teenage girls. She also wrote plays, one of which, Stabroek Fantasy (also known as Carib Gold), was particularly successful.

In 1969, however, she found herself professionally at odds with the Guyana government and emigrated to Britain, where she retrained as a specialist teacher, working in Hertfordshire and Brent. She was active in the National Union of Teachers and in the Adult Literacy Programme, and campaigned for children with severe learning difficulties.

Her work with the International Alliance of Women (IAW) and the Commonwealth Countries League gave her the opportunity to travel, and it was at IAW conferences in New York, Kenya, Greece, Japan and India that she began to shape the idea for her sculpture The Bronze Woman.

A resident of Lambeth, south London, for her last 22 years, Cecile Nobrega slowed down towards the end of her life, giving up driving, her computer, and playing the piano; but she remained active in her local pensioners’ group and in t’ai chi classes.

Her husband of 52 years, Romeo Nobrega, an accountant, died in 1994, and she is survived by their two sons and one daughter.

Cecile Nobrega, born June 1 1919, died November 19 2013





I have taught English in several state comprehensives, to students of many different abilities and nationalities, for more than 30 years. The most compelling texts were invariably those which emphasised the horror and futility of the first world war. The literature of endurance, heroism and despair has captured the imaginations of students from all cultures and ranges of ability. (“Using history for politicking is tawdry, Mr Gove“, Tristram Hunt, Comment).

I taught Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse to a group of year eight students who had hitherto shown no interest in reading. They were gripped by the intensity of the battle scenes, and the relationship between man and horse. A mixed-ability year seven class impressed Ofsted because all the students were able to reinterpret Dulce et Decorum Est in their own words .

The power of this literature is that it conveys so poignantly the horror, the shocking loss of life, and the anger and frustration of the poets, novelists and dramatists. These great writers have not “belittled Britain”, Mr Gove, they have immortalised the Great War, they have passed on their reflections to all our children. I, and all my colleagues, will continue to do the same.

Tilly Baker


So Michael Gove is “using history for politicking” is he? OK by me. The point is only whether what he says is true. It isn’t, of course; but to make the primary complaint that he is using his view of the first world war to make political points is asking us to make history irrelevant to all but academics. Gove’s cheap slurs should not be answered by shallow clichés.

What’s wrong with what Gove says is that he sees Britain’s motives as opposition to German militarism. Britain (with its allies), as militaristic as Germany (with its allies), was being challenged in its bid to carve up the globe.  Its war effort should not have been supported any more than Germany’s.

The dead on the British side consisted no doubt of those hoping to stop the Kaiser crushing what they saw as liberty in Britain and of those wanting to give Britain the unlimited possibility of enriching itself, even if it meant crushing the aspirations of people in the “colonial world”.  There were, I suspect, as many believers in peace as spoilers for a fight.

Andrew Hornung

Chipping Norton

Tristram Hunt is right to expose the cheap shots being made by the education secretary, but to characterise the pre-1914 Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm as fascist is unhelpful for several reasons.

Although roots of fascism can be discerned in the years before 1914 (probably more in Italy and France than Germany), the term was not in use at the time.

Fascist organisations, ideas and terminology were essentially a feature of the war and post-war years. Second, and more importantly, expansionist ideas and fears of socialism do not, in themselves, constitute fascism. Or if they did, Edwardian Britain was also fascistic.

Professor David Taylor

Emeritus Professor of History

University of Huddersfield

As an historian of 11th-century England, I now find myself in a quandary . Is it my patriotic duty to support the English or the Normans?  I trust Mr Gove will issue guidance in due course.

David Roffe




The lobbying bill, which is reaching the final stages of debate in parliament, represents a threat to democracy and would limit the right of charities and campaigning organisations to speak out on some of the most important issues facing the country and planet ahead of elections.

Ministers announced important changes to the bill last week following overwhelming concern. However, they do not go far enough.

A petition calling for further changes was launched last week and signed by more than 75 charities, campaigning organisations and 70,000 people.

The extraordinary speed and scale of support for the petition, including organisations such as Oxfam, Countryside Alliance, Amnesty International, the Salvation Army and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, demonstrate the strength of concern that remains.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Chair, Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, London SW1

The evil of buy-to-let

Isn’t it time to recognise the buy-to-let industry as one of the great evils of our age? (Welfare tenants face being cast on to the streets, Barbara Ellen). I can understand, with interest rates being so low, that people might look to purchase two buy-to-let properties as an investment but with a housing shortage it is incredible that a human need such as shelter is being subject to such terrible exploitation.

It is now almost impossible for people born in working-class areas to aspire to own the small terraced houses that their parents or grandparents aspired to get out off.

We understand that a particular strand of Toryism will always look to make profit from human suffering, but it is shocking that under the long years of a supposed Labour government that buy-to-let seemed to be encouraged. I can’t see that profiting from a basic need is any more moral than drug dealing or pimping, and landlords with large buy-to-let portfolios, particularly those wishing to evict families on benefits, should be regarded with the same disdain as bankers.

Michael Dillon 



Misery from lack of social care

The news that thousands of people were forced to spend the festive season in hospital unnecessarily as a result of inadequate social care is just one side of the coin (“Cuts strand 18,500 in hospital at Christmas“, News). Increasing numbers of older and disabled people are being admitted to hospital in the first place because they did not receive the social care support they needed. In 2013 many disabled people, including the deafblind people who Sense supports, faced huge cuts to their social care, leaving them without the support they desperately need to live full and active lives. Deafblind people without support face increased risk of falls and a range of health problems from arthritis to heart conditions.

The care bill currently progressing through parliament is an incredible opportunity for politicians to finally get social care right in the UK. However, without adequate funding, the bill is built on sand and will not provide the right amount of support for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Richard Kramer 

Deputy chief executive, Sense

London, N1

Big society needs big help

One category which has some right to sneer at the new concept of a “big society'” is those who have worked to promote it for many years – only we didn’t give it such a grand title.

I started as a fledgling community worker in Port Clarence, mentioned in Danny Kruger’s article (“The big society is not about picking litter: it is meant to be a challenge to the state“, News) 40 years ago. I helped to bring a near-derelict community centre back to life. The community ran it themselves and learnt how to organise, manage and negotiate.

In 1974 I was working for Cleveland county council. Forty years on I am chair of the community association in Hebden Bridge. Here we have, in the last four years, taken over the ownership of the old town hall and added a £3m extension to provide enterprise units and facilities for local community groups. This is a confident, well-educated and well-connected community – we can do big ambitious projects, without much help from outside. Many communities have more in common with Port Clarence, where without intervention, little is likely to happen. Under this government such support has been progressively cut in the mistaken belief that the “big society” will spontaneously arise wherever it is needed most.

Peter Hirst

Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire


Sloppy language, chaps

My problem with the Fathers4Justice advert using Kate Winslet is the claim that every child “deserves” their father at Christmas (“Fathers 4 Justice needs a much less crummy strategy“‘ Barbara Ellen, 29 December). What a child does or does not deserve is irrelevant here. The point, I take it, is that every child has a right not to be barred from seeing his or her father. People are too ready to confuse what we have a right to with what we deserve, presumably because the latter sounds much more cuddly and compliments us on being super people, which we may not be.

Paul Brownsey

Glasgow University




Ed Miliband’s proposal to interfere in Britain’s labour market is deceptive and dangerous (“We’re too reliant on low-wage labour”, 5 January).

The thrust of his suggestion is that Britain should sign up fully to the European Union’s Agency Workers Directive. He assumes this would create highly-paid jobs for British workers. In truth it would mean fewer jobs all round and a handbrake jammed on our economic recovery.

A flexible and responsive labour market is one of the reasons that we have seen 1.4 million jobs created since May 2010. Imposing the Agency Workers Directive on business, especially small enterprises and seasonal industries, would stop plans for growth and recruitment. A quarter of UK businesses use agency workers and, under Mr Miliband’s plans, a typical small enterprise would have to pay an extra £2,493 a year.

Since the 2008 directive, the EU’s European vacancy monitor has shown a collapse in temporary posts in those countries that adopted it. In France, Germany and the Netherlands, substantial growth in temporary vacancies turned into a fall of one-fifth. In France, vacancies in leading temporary-work agency Randstad fell by more than 20 per cent over two months.

Mr Miliband would take us down the same road for the sake of a quick headline and a wish to appear tough on immigrants.

Anthea McIntyre, MEP

Conservative employment spokesman


What “skills” is Ed Miliband talking about? The last Labour government aimed to push 50 per cent of the workforce through university and increased spending on secondary education by a huge amount. The result is that there is both under-employment and a skill shortage. Doesn’t this suggest that governments are incompetent at gauging the demands of the labour market?

James Paton

Billericay, Essex

Ed Miliband continues to repeat myths that immigration is a key factor in bringing down standards of living. Have migrants caused the housing bubble that creates sky-high rents and prices out all but the most well-off? Are they responsible for the devastating effects of the government’s austerity policies?

There are millions of us who feel migrants have made a phenomenal contribution to this country, and we are all the worse for the toxic rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies that we see from successive governments.

With the three largest parties manoeuvring to occupy Farage’s anti-immigrant bunker who is going to be left in the fresh air untainted by this dangerous and divisive electoral game?

Jim Jepps

London NW1

I too felt saddened at the story of Father Joseph Williams whose body was found in his car in a supermarket carpark (Janet Street-Porter, 5 January).

But, while I would not wish to deny Janet the opportunity of slagging off the Anglican Church, I understand that Fr Joseph was a Roman Catholic, as is the Bishop (not Archbishop) of Northampton. Neither of them are Anglicans, “namby pamby” or not.

Roger Clarke

Perranarworthal, Truro

Noel Howard-Jones is correct in saying that he had no contact with Anthony Summers concerning Stephen Ward (Letters 29 December). However, as the co-author I did receive a letter in 1987 from Mr Howard-Jones declining to be interviewed. The communication was noted in the 1989 edition of our book, Honeytrap, on page 331.

Stephen Dorril

Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

I enjoyed DJ Taylor’s article about Top of the Pops (5 January). It was a shame therefore that the photo was printed back-to-front, showing the band Slade as being totally left handed.

Peter Henderson

Worthing, West Sussex

Every year is like 1914 somewhere (5 January). We must accept grievances will continue and choose our interventions carefully, rather than fall for that other historical truth beloved by politicians which equates non-intervention in any situation as comparable to the appeasement of Hitler’s ambitions.

Ian McKenzie






Growing fat on culture of instant gratification

I WORK in the NHS and the alarming trend of increasing patient waistlines has not gone unnoticed by clinical staff or clipboard managers (“Fat is a self-control issue — take it from supersize me”, Comment, last week).

The 1970s Stanford marshmallow experiment that highlights the link between deferred pleasure and higher academic performance and lower levels of aggression could be extrapolated from further. There are many examples where individuals would rather choose quick-fix gains to the detriment of their future. For instance, excessive television-watching, smoking or even our propensity to take out high-interest payday loans.

Perhaps our increased obesity rate is merely a reflection of our emerging culture of instant gratification and consumerism. Unless we address this wider issue, the precious — if not undernourished — NHS budget will continue to be spent on increasing numbers of fat suits and sympathy courses.
Dr David Carruthers Fowey, Cornwall

Big issue
When I recently had an MRI scan I was told the existing machine was being replaced with two much bigger ones (at a cost of £3.1m) as an increasing number of patients were too big to get into the equipment.

Dominic Lawson’s honesty about his chateaubriand and camembert consumption reminds me of my great-aunt Ethel Rudge, who was a cook to many important families and always said: “Show me a fat person and I’ll show you what they eat.” I can’t think fat without thinking Great-Aunt Ethel.
Tim Kenny Cavendish, Suffolk

Sugar caned
Rather belatedly it seems the world’s health professionals have woken up to the fact that sugar is the likely major dietary agent implicated in much chronic disease (“Sweet but deadly”, Focus, December 29). For half a century dental health professionals and scientists have campaigned to mitigate its role in destroying the nation’s teeth through preventive measures and attempts to draw attention to the aggressive promotional activities of the sugar industry.

Fortunately the “magic bullet” of fluoridation of the water supplies and fluoride toothpastes have brought dental caries largely under control except in the most socially deprived communities where the disease is still rife.

Unfortunately no specific intervention therapies are available for the prevention of systemic disorders such as diabetes mellitus.
Martin Downer Emeritus Professor University College London, Shrewsbury

Sweet talk
I am all for reducing obesity and self-inflicted health problems from eating too much sugar, but has any funding been put in to study the side effects of alternative artificial sweeteners that are in thousands of drinks and foods everywhere? I believe there are countries where many sweeteners and flavour enhancers were banned from products years ago.
Felicity Leicester Surbiton, London

School-leavers need to learn basic job skills

WITH regard to Camilla Cavendish’s column “Exams help, but to get a job our youngsters need lessons in grit” (Comment, last week), my own impression from talking to employers is that too many school-leavers lose out because they lack the basics — they do not know how to dress neatly, turn up on time or adopt an appropriate speech register. The question remains why eastern Europeans, among others, so often have the skills and the discipline.
Andrew Hoellering Thorverton, Devon

Starters’ orders
We run the Prince’s Trust team programme and Cavendish’s article will be going up on the wall. Resilience is crucial: many young people we work with give up before they even start. The education system and government agencies are geared around knowledge, with skills in second place and attitude not even on the map, probably because it’s the hardest to measure.
David Wreathall Co-founder, Inner Flame, Swindon

Citizen gain
I took part in a National Citizen Service scheme that helped me through a difficult time. I acquired valuable skills and went on to become an ambassador, with 100 other young people. I gained confidence in following a less conventional route through apprenticeships. Employers have been interested in my development and impressed by my determination to succeed.
Louisa Seers (aged 18)Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

No time to lose in fight for Alzheimer’s funding

IN HIS article on dementia AA Gill is right that “we could start by helping others and making sure no one does it fearfully and alone” (“The best treatment for Alzheimer’s is tenderness”, News Review, last week). But there’s more. The government has said it will double its research funding for the disease to £122m by 2025. That’s 11 years from now.

The cure, in Gill’s words, will “probably not [come] in time for those of us who worry about it”. My mother suffered from this ailment and my own view is that the money should be committed now.
Barry Borman Edgware, London

Early call
The NHS stresses the importance of early diagnosis for dementia when mental competence to make decisions usually still exists. Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill (to be discussed in the House of Lords later this year) should be amended to provide doctor-assisted suicide as a serious option for those who develop this tragic illness.

In Holland, Belgium and Switzerland this medical procedure is possible for competent individuals in the early stages of dementia. Are we so different from them?
Michael Irwin Cranleigh, Surrey

Not guilty
My mother has advanced Alzheimer’s compounded by total deafness and near- blindness. She lives in a care home and I have absolutely no guilt about this: I know I could not look after her at home. The carers are dedicated, and considering they probably get paid a pittance their care is exemplary.

My only guilt is that the care she receives, together with fortified food, has resulted in extending her life — or rather her existence. I have already lost the loving and intelligent mother I knew, and the longer she survives, the harder it is to remember her.
Pauline Roffe Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Hidden agenda
I worked in dementia care as a charge nurse for 30 years. If psychiatry is the Cinderella service of the NHS, then dementia care is the Cinderella service of psychiatry. For too long the units treating the condition were hidden away from sight, and indeed my own one was condemned to the basement of the hospital. It is only recently that dementia care has become a target for healthcare provision.
Neil Sinclair Edinburgh

Supporting cast
Congratulations to Gill on a sensitive and poignant article — it should be compulsory reading. Unless we give compassion and support to the sufferers and their families how can we regard ourselves as the so-called civilised world?
Mary Waddington Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Government’s countryside hypocrisy

I AGREE wholeheartedly with Adam Boulton’s article “The PM’s green pledges ebb away even as floods rise” (Comment, last week). How can we possibly claim to take a lead on climate change and environmental issues when the government plans to destroy the countryside for HS2 and lift planning restrictions on the green belt?

I have voted Conservative in the past but will not consider doing so at the next election. I am 58 but for me the countryside is far more important than pensions. The claim that this is the “greenest ever” government is risible.
Cynthia Purkiss Eltham, London

Storm warning
Surely we must now realise that the recent extreme weather conditions here and abroad prove beyond doubt that climate change is not driven by human intervention.

The sight of our feeble attempts to mitigate the effects of these storms shows how utterly useless mankind is in the face of nature in the raw.
Peter Gardner Hydestile, Surrey

Legal protection for farmland

FARMLAND is a food factory, not a playground for townies (“We’re not all poachers, Mr Darcy”, News Review, last week). Paths are usually overgrown because hardly anyone uses them, so changing their routes slightly should hardly be a problem. People who earn their living from the land deserve some legal protection from crop and livestock damage, not to mention fly-tipping, illegal hare-coursing and vandalism.
Tom Armstrong Wooler, Northumberland

Long walk to freedom
Eleanor Mills urged walkers to fight for their “right to roam”. People will still be able to walk in the countryside but landowners will be able to ask for rights of way to be diverted from their homes. This preserves their right to privacy. If Mills wants to “let freedom reign” she should recognise that people should be free from walkers traipsing past their front doors.
William Urukalo (age 16) Knaresborough, North Yorkshire


York history lesson
Your article “Mutiny on the high fees” (News Review, last week) stated that “undergraduates studying history at York last year, for instance, spent just 8% of their course in lectures, seminars and tutorials”. The claim is based on government figures that refer to 2011-12 and the data was not robust in the first year of existence because there was little standardisation. Many institutions included activities that we do not consider to be face-to-face teaching.

The data for this year is more robust. In The Sunday Times University Guide’s top 10 history departments the average number of contact hours per course is 14.9%. York is on 11%, as is Oxford, with both committed to a small- group teaching ethos. I have received no complaints about low contact hours from current students — quite the reverse, in fact. Students mostly complain that our three-hour seminars are too long and the reading required for them too demanding.
Professor Stuart Carroll Department of History, York University

Fashion victim
For 20-odd years I have managed to get my husband into Marks & Spencer once or twice a year to replenish his wardrobe (“Marks & Swagger man”, News, last week). Having seen its new designer range I fear I will never get him in there again. M&S has managed to lose a sizeable number of middle-aged female customers; is it trying to do the same with the men?
Eleanor London Crowthorne, Berkshire

Well spotted
The animal pictured in “Facebook posturing helps nail Mexico’s young drug barons” (World News, last week) is not a leopard — it is a cheetah.
Jackie Murphy London NW11

Border agent
Before the referendum on Scottish independence, is it possible to move the border a few miles south of Manchester (“The Scottish no campaign must stand up and fight”, Letters, last week)? We have as little in common with London as the Scots and we deserve a voice and a vote.
Paul Rutherford Davenport, Greater Manchester

Accentuate the negative
Negative campaigning can work in referendums (“No way to win”, Letters, last week). The NOtoAV campaign (on the alternative vote) was negative and won a resounding victory. David Cameron would be advised to keep his distance from the Better Together campaign, though. He is unpopular in Scotland, where Alistair Darling is more attuned to native sensibilities.
Simon Baker Hereford

Toast of the town
I have to take issue with AA Gill’s article on alcohol abuse in Cleethorpes (“Yet another one for the road”, Magazine, December 29). Yes, people do go out and unfortunately have too much to drink, and sometimes behave badly — but not just in Lincolnshire. We have the largest port complex, process the majority of the UK’s seafood and are leaders in off-shore renewables.
Councillor Chris Shaw Lincolnshire County Council

From Russia with booze
Gill complains that from London it takes longer to get to Grimsby than to fly to Moscow. This is most relevant, as Moscow already has in place “drunk tanks” (vytrezvitel) or “sobering-up stations”. In fact they were introduced in Russia way back in 1902.
Richard Rawles University College London


Kirstie Alley, actress, 63; Anthony Andrews, actor, 66; Michael Aspel, TV presenter, 81; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, 50; Melanie Chisholm, singer, 40; Clare Holman, actress, 50; John Lasseter, animator, 57; Pixie Lott, singer, 23; Olivier Martinez, actor, 48; David Mitchell, novelist, 45; Haruki Murakami, novelist, 65; William Nicholson, screenwriter, 66; Des O’Connor, singer, 82


1866 Royal Aeronautical Society founded; 1895 National Trust founded; 1976 Agatha Christie, novelist, dies; 1991 US Congress authorises use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait; 2003 Maurice Gibb, singer, dies; 2004 Queen Mary 2, world’s biggest ocean liner, makes maiden voyage; 2006 more than 340 Islamic pilgrims crushed to death in stampede during a religious ritual in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Corrections and clarifications





SIR – When will governments learn that by encouraging parents to go back to work, we are creating a generation of children who will have no real attachment? Children need to have a good attachment to a carer, usually a parent. When this is not available, a child’s developmental prospects go astray.

Families are under enough pressure already without being forced to feel guilty if they prefer to care for their children themselves, at home.

Being a stay-at-home parent used to be seen as the most difficult job in the world. Why has opinion changed? Maybe it is because we no longer value children, but regard them either as mini-adults or as a threat to our economical growth.

Hilary Sharpe
Waddington, Lincoln


SIR – The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is considering limitation of some medical treatments to those judged “a benefit to wider society”. This seems to mean those who are of working age, and it is discriminatory and immoral.

I am 74, volunteer, and pay standard-rate tax on my pension income. My wife is a tax-paying registered nurse who, at 68, still works two days a week in the busy outpatient department of our local hospital.

On what grounds can either of us be judged to be of no benefit to society?

Revd Christopher Roberts
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

SIR – It’s so Nice to know we OAPs no longer bring a benefit to wider society. Is this policy not euthanasia, in all but name?

Brian Strand
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Say ‘Aaah’

SIR – I wonder whether returning to the routine surgical removal of children’s tonsils and adenoids might help reduce the need for antibiotics.

My husband, our eldest daughter and I had our tonsils removed after suffering from repeated throat infections, and the operation prevented recurrence.

Because of a change in medical opinion, my three younger children were not given this procedure, and have all taken many courses of antibiotics over the years.

I’m now worried about my grandson, who has been prescribed antibiotics at the age of just over one year, for tonsillitis.

Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire

Not that Blackadder

SIR – The name Blackadder is mentioned regularly in reference to aspects of the commemoration of the First World War.

I do not know how such a memorable name came to be used in the television series, but others with military interests may have known of Major General Charles Guinand Blackader, a distinguished soldier who was commissioned into the Leicestershire Regiment in 1888. He served with the regiment for most of his 32-year career, with postings to Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Jamaica, and South Africa, He served in the First World War and was briefly in Ireland, after the Easter Rising.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase Blackader’s medals but, sadly, they were out of my financial reach. I would like to know where they are now, as they are not in the regimental museum.

Captain R J Allen

Dry Jan, but not bitter

SIR – The use of Angostura bitters during Dry January is not permitted in our household, as its label clearly states that it contains 44.7 per cent alcohol by volume. Perhaps, however, there may be a homeopathic effect to be achieved from a relaxing of the rules.

Jean Newlands
Great Wratting, Suffolk

Diet of worms

SIR – I noted this morning while taking out a few dried mealworms to put on the bird table that the packet has a “best before” date on it that will shortly expire.

My husband seems reluctant to test whether the worms are still suitable for consumption. Whose opinion shall I seek?

Bridget Pinchbeck
Chiddingfold, Surrey

Shot dead in Britain

SIR – Your leading articleand Fraser Nelson’s articleput the Mark Duggan inquest into perspective. What were Nick Clegg and David Cameron thinking about when they made their obsequious comments about the family’s loss? We all love our children but they are not all wannabe gangsters.

In Birmingham there are black mothers of murdered children who have been ceaselessly campaigning to get guns, knives and gangs off the streets. These are the people who deserve all our sympathy and the politicians’ help.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Am I alone in thinking that the BBC coverage of the Duggan inquest has been disproportionate, ill-considered, unbalanced and therefore potentially inflammatory?

John Kellie
Pyrford, Surrey

SIR – Mark Duggan’s death did not spark the riots of August 2011. It was the excuse for the looting and anarchy that followed.

Vivien Coombs
Hungerford, Berkshire

SIR – Irrespective of the verdict in the Duggan inquest, it was alarming to hear that jurors were put in fear of their safety afterwards, there was mayhem in court and demonstrators were able to intimidate, jostle and spit at a senior police officer making a statement.

All were unprotected because security seemed to be in the hands of civilian guards. Police are not on duty in many courtrooms these days, leaving a real problem for witnesses and the rule of law.

Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex

Ambridge regeneration

SIR – I can cope with the new Tony Archer but could never cope with a new Jill.

Jan Berry
London SE21

In the chair

SIR – Sid Davies says that he receives at the barber’s a thorough overview of the world situation. This should remind us that the real reason the country is in such chaos is that all the people who know how to run it are cutting hair, propping up bars or driving taxi cabs.

Michael Cleary
Bulmer, North Yorkshire

Buy new cars, fridges and washers, but not today

SIR – I never said that British families should stop buying new cars, fridges and washing machines. Today we are often not able to repair goods because spare parts are not easy to source, and because repairing is too expensive.

Consequently we are spending valuable resources making appliances then throwing them away when just one small component fails. To make more efficient use of resources possible, we need to look at the whole system.

The potential transformation of ways that we use and value materials is explored in a wonderful book, available free online: Sustainable Materials: with both eyes open by Julian Allwood and Jon Cullen.

Professor David MacKay
Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Energy and Climate Change
London SW1

SIR – Duncan Rayner says he does not need to replace his appliances from the Seventies and Eighties. After replacing my 30-year-old fridge, I was surprised to discover that the savings on my electricity bill would pay for the cost of the new fridge within two years.

Richard Renshaw
Little Baddow, Essex

SIR – A mouse has chewed the hose of my dishwasher. A new hose costs £15.99. Call-out and labour for a local repairman would be £65. If I get the manufacturer of the dishwasher to come to repair it, I will have to pay £95.

If we wish to avoid being a throw-away culture, perhaps manufacturing mouse-proof hoses would be a good start.

Penny Elles
Cove, Dumbartonshire


SIR – Early last year my son-in-law was head-hunted for a job in northern Italy. He moved there with my daughter and grandchildren.

The question of their having any rights wasn’t even a discussion point. In order to get the same privileges as an Italian citizen they all had to become official Italian residents and, to get this status, my daughter had to go through a wall of bureaucracy.

Legally supported documents had to prove that my son-in-law had a job. The police inspected their house to ensure that they were actually living where they said they were. Their birth certificates and marriage certificates had to be produced, together with official translations. While this was going on, my son-in-law was unable to buy a car and my 10-year-old grandson couldn’t even play matches with the local football team.

After six months they finally achieved Italian residency and at this stage were given the magic identity card. This card can now be produced on a myriad of occasions to give them exactly the same privileges as an Italian citizen.

It seems to me that most other European countries have got this right in extending the same privileges as local citizens’ only to those who show that they have somewhere to live and that they are gainfully employed.

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Robert MacLachlan
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Viviane Reding, the unelected vice-president of the European Commission, accuses our Prime Minister of “populism” in his expressions of concern about immigration.

If populism means supporting the interests of ordinary people, this is a great compliment to David Cameron’s democratic spirit.

Steve Bodger
Mayfield, East Sussex

SIR – GPs could check patient entitlement to health care, which is based on residency as defined by HM Revenue and Customs, not on nationality, as commonly believed.

To avoid discrimination they would need to do so for all patients registering at a practice. The patients would need to show a passport or other approved identification, and provide a confirmation from HMRC that they have residency rights, and be enabled to confirm the authenticity of these documents. They might need to reconfirm this information at intervals, or when seeking non-GP services too.

I am unaware that HMRC is able to provide this information in real time. Many of my elderly prospective patients lack photo-ID driving licences, or in some cases even passports.

You seem to argue for a national identity scheme by the back door, to replace the old-fashioned trust-based system that currently exists to access GP services. It is arguable, but is this really what you want?

Dr Stephen Baird
Skegness, Lincolnshire



Irish Times:



Irish Independent:

* I write in response to Paul Connolly’s letter (January 9) on the benefits of Europe over the last 30 years. Firstly Ireland joined the EEC on May 10, 1972, which is actually nigh-on 42 years ago.

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Letters: Broaden debate on suicide

Letters: To thine own selfie be true

Mr Connolly points to Europe being good for farming. In 1974 the price of cattle completely collapsed and there was no sign of Europe. He contends that farming is now viable for a large section of the population, despite the fact that the number of farmers has nearly halved since the 1970s.

Mr Connolly also points to an Erasmus programme, yet he bemoans the fact that we don’t learn European languages. What is the percentage of all third-level students who have gone on Erasmus?

Emigration? Since we joined the EU we have seen two major phases of emigration in Ireland — the ’80s and now. Yes, the Irish emigrate to the Anglo sphere. What does Mr Connolly suggest; that we emigrate to Spain for work where 350,000 people have emigrated? Should we move to Greece and milk goats? Should we head to Germany, where there’s no minimum wage? Should we emigrate to Portugal, where the markets — apparently the one true barometer in fiscal measurement — say that Ireland’s bonds are a better bet than in Jose Manuel Barroso’s home country?

The rhetoric of Europe is that it provides peace and that war will not break out again within its confines. Where were these great peacemakers during the Troubles?

Where is Europe when it comes to respecting our neutrality with soldiers stationed in Uganda with no UN mandate?

Finally, Mr Connolly points to the Dublin-Galway motorway as a project funded by Europe.

If Mr Connolly took off what may have been his rose-tinted glasses, he may have seen that it was part-funded by Europe.

Mr Connolly might do well to listen to the rhetoric coming out of Europe that claims that the EU is an organisation that is in existence for 40 years.

It couldn’t be, for the Berlin Wall stood for the first 20 of those 40 years.




* President Higgins’s Christ-less Christmas address is just one more in a steady stream of his meaningless/ value-free diatribes, as if written by a big brother-inspired committee of PC UN apparatchiks. George Orwell wrote prophetically about such a world in his book ‘1984’.

The one redeeming feature of the episode was the initial courage of the Army chaplain in pointing out the absurdity of the speech, undermined by the cowardice of the Defence Forces under fire in issuing a craven apology.

Some secularists are attempting to defend the speech on a spurious appeal to Republican ethics. Nonsense — a republic is defined as a form of government in which power is explicitly vested in the people.

It has nothing to do with imposing secularist dogma, particularly as the majority of the Irish people, 92pc, are Christian. A simple recognition of this in the speech was all that was required, basic good manners really.




* In the media coverage of Uganda’s new draconian anti-homosexuality laws there has been no mention of the massive and growing HIV/AIDs problem in that country.

Recently, Uganda’s President Museveni publicly took a HIV test to raise awareness of the epidemic among the population. Currently, there are 1.5 million people with HIV in Uganda and one million children orphaned because of AIDs. In all, 7pc of the adult Uganda population are living with HIV.

Like all other African countries, Uganda’s HIV/AIDs epidemic is steadily growing.

How these statistics interplay with the Uganda government’s new laws is a matter for further discussion, but it should at least be addressed as part of the context in which the new legislation is being brought forward.




* Rob Sadlier is missing something when he says that “we cannot… claim to live in a republic whilst maintaining… overtly religious… references in our Constitution” (Letters, January 9).

Fundamental to a democratic republic is the principle that all citizens are equal. That ideal arises from the religious ethic of love of neighbour. So religious references in our constitution may not be the “incongruities” that Rob Sadlier says.




* All too often it is the hard word that is heard. The following is a brief compilation of some memorable compliments:

“He was my brother; not by blood, but by choice” — Frank Sinatra talking about Dean Martin.

“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it” — Winston Churchill on meeting Roosevelt.

“He was the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life” — Bob Dylan on Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers.

“Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields. Irish sweat built our great cities.

Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and Irish song; our public life by the humour and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Regan, O’Neill and Moynihan.

So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue behind the American flag” — President Barack O’Bama on the Irish.




* I would like to ask Paddy Power to give odds on whether or not Pope Francis would agree with the ideas in Philip O’Neill’s letter (January 7).

The first big mistake is in thinking that all change comes from the top. I’m sure Pope Francis would be embarrassed to think he was the only hope for the church.

The idea that “all expressions of faith have been taken off course” isn’t based on any evidence whatsoever. Mr O’Neill says, “the country has been in the grip of a very fallible church”, which confuses the doctrine of infallibility. Infallibility doesn’t mean moral perfection, it means guidance in correct teaching, ie doctrine, though I would agree that living according to objective moral norms helps in the reception of faith.

“Christ’s purpose,” he claims with no authoritative sayings of Jesus to back his argument, “was not to create an institution with subservience of its adherents, but to breathe life into the world we all inhabit, releasing the god-given intelligence of humanity.”

I searched Google and I would argue that Mr O’Neill’s reference to Christianity being about “releasing the god-given intelligence of humanity” isn’t mentioned once in scripture or tradition.

Rather Christians are called to faith, which goes beyond reason, but is not and never can be opposed to truth.

Mr O’Neill’s claim that Catholicism could do fine without a “centrally controlling body” is central in his argument.

He even asks why this would not be the case. Nobody would recommend that the State jettisons the Supreme Court and allow each citizen to “thrive on imagination” whilst interpreting the Constitution on an individual basis. It was for similar reasons that Christ started the church, so that it can guide us into the truth.






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