26 January 2014 Drain

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Apertwee is taking Johnson out on the town on Johnson’s money. Priceless.

Drain man comes unblocked but will have to get it fixed permanently and ring Yorkshire Water Monday no boxes no Thermabloc

Scrabbletoday Iwinbut gets under 400, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.



Brian Dowling, who has died aged 87, was a monocled roisterer and journalist who worked alongside Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy.

While Hardy captured many evocative images of 1950s Britain, Dowling chose the subjects, arranged poses and researched locations. And it was Dowling who, with his eye for pretty girls, arranged Hardy’s celebrated “Blackpool Belles” photograph. Later Dowling became a publicist with the Rank Organisation and a pioneering public relations man in the City, known as much for his wry conviviality as for any strict devotion to commerce.

Frank Brian Dowling was born on June 14 1926 at Bromley, Kent. His father, also Frank, was an originator of newspaper cartoon strips who edited the monthly humour magazine Lilliput and later had a brief stint running Picture Post.

Dowling the younger, who had started teaching himself Greek at the age of nine, was educated at Tonbridge and won a scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge. He joined the RAF as a Cambridge cadet pilot in 1944, showing aptitude for flying his Tiger Moth upside down.

Being held in place only by a couple of shoulder straps lent “an added frisson to inverted formation flying”. Posted to a camp in Torquay, the cadets befriended Devonian girls, or as Dowling put it, “there was evidence that the groundsheet, a bulky item in the kit we had to carry, had its uses”.

At the end of war in Europe, Dowling remustered to personnel selection and found himself at Sallufa in Egypt’s Suez Canal Zone. It was there that, for the only time in his RAF career, he scented a whiff of cordite – on a crocodile shoot during which he and his unit expended hundreds of rounds. Not one crocodile was punctured.

Dowling returned to university, but was rusticated from Christ’s for declaiming Aeschylus from the clock tower at two in the morning. He had achieved a First in Classics in the initial part of his Tripos but left Cambridge with a Third in Moral Sciences. There were, he declared, “only two degrees worth having – an effortless First and an effortless Third, and I got ’em both”.

His first job, acquired through nepotism, was as a staff reporter on Picture Post, the mass circulation photojournalism magazine which employed writers such as MacDonald Hastings, Fyfe Robertson and JB Priestley. Office minnow Dowling was assigned to animal stories. When a baby elephant visited the library of the Royal Geographical Society, Dowling’s headline and caption ran: “Dumbo meets the Fellows – a day one elephant will never forget”. His superiors were rather impressed.

The first duty of a Picture Post writer was to support his photographer, and Dowling became the “blunt nib” of Bert Hardy. The camera maestro warmed to his raffish young colleague, and the two covered the port harvest in the Douro, ship launches in Liverpool, the night scenes of Paris’s red-light area Pigalle, and the streets around Piccadilly in fogbound London. That essay caught an essence of post-war London and won Hardy the Encyclopaedia Britannica prize in 1953. Dowling’s substantial contribution to the project went unheralded.

Dowling left Fleet Street in 1957 to write a television documentary series, The Way We Live, for a subsidiary of the Rank Organisation. His arrival coincided with an assertion, from Rank’s domineering chairman John Davis, that television was the enemy and that documentaries were a waste of money. This did not stop Rank two years later buying a stake in Southern Television and starting a documentary series called Look at Life.

Dowling’s sardonic manner niggled Davis, as did his habit of always wearing a carnation buttonhole (a habit Davis liked to consider his own). Dowling’s sartorial flair – occasional tweeds, brass-buttoned waistcoats, a pipe and even a monocle – made the cigar-chewing Davis twitch with irritation. Dowling found an ally in Theo Cowan, Rank’s chief publicist and creator of the Rank charm school. Cowan gave Dowling a job in publicity, where among other things he organised Pinewood Studios’ 25th birthday party. He became a drinking buddy of Rank stars such as Dirk Bogarde, Donald Sinden, Peter Finch and Stanley Baker — but Cowan, perhaps advisedly, kept Dowling away from Rank’s starlets.

Within two years Dowling was head of Rank’s public and press relations. But there were no tall poppies in the Rank Group’s London headquarters – Davis would hack them down before they could become a threat. By 1963 the chairman was sending Dowling memos typed in capital letters to express his extreme disagreement on certain matters. At a monthly meeting of executives, Davis barked: “The trouble with you, Dowling, is you’re too much of a gentleman.” He followed this the next day by remarking: “Your time is short.”

When Davis complained about Dowling smoking his “infernal” pipe at a divisional board meeting, his target responded by attending the next such meeting with a lit Monte Cristo No 5 – the very type of Havana that Davis smoked. Aware that his Rank career was near its demise, Dowling resigned. Davis was enraged: he liked to sack people.

Dowling set up on his own, becoming one of the first City corporate relations consultants. His clients included Kleinwort Benson (which he advised for 30 years), Scandinavian Bank and the Banque Nationale de Paris. Friends were never convinced that he was a capitalist. Dowling was certainly appalled (yet fascinated) when, standing at the bar of the Garrick club one evening in 1969, he fell into conversation with Judge Melford Stevenson. Dowling inquired: “Had a good day?” Stevenson, who had just sentenced the Kray brothers, took a drag on his gin and mixed and replied: “I’ll say so. Those bastards only spoke two words of truth in the whole trial. One was that their defending counsel was a slob. The other was that I was totally biased against them.”

Dowling never wore a wristwatch and never drove a car, though for some years after leaving the RAF he continued to fly Tiger Moths as a reservist. He wore a black or brown Coke hat to town and a Panama in benign weather. In middle age he turned from croquet to real tennis, playing at Lord’s with his Savile club friend Sir Ralph Richardson. His preferred breakfast tipple, after a night on the toot, was a half bottle of champagne.

On a trip to Australia he once spent the morning flying over Sydney harbour in a Tiger Moth, took an afternoon sail in a Hobart racer and spent the evening watching The Marriage of Figaro at the Opera House – all, he was happy to say, at clients’ expense. Though his career had been closely linked with advertising, he grew to hate its consumerist ethos, to the point that he refused to watch commercial television. Well into his 80s, while riding on his tricycle, he was run over by a bus. His words of fury at the bus driver were said to have left some of the female passengers in a state of advanced shock.

Dowling served on the council of Counsel and Care for the Elderly for more than 30 years, also acting as the charity’s deputy chairman and chairman.

He married his wife Eileen, a former searchlight operator in the London Blitz, in 1951. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their three children.

Brian Dowling, born June 14 1926, died December 31 2013






Will Hutton is right to identify economic inequality as the cause of so many societal ills (“We are scared to face the real issue – it’s all about inequality“, Comment). Our sluggish, low-pay economy, high levels of poverty, the housing crisis, our obesity epidemic and welfare bill are all driven by the UK’s extraordinary levels of inequality. More importantly, he is also right that this is an issue that needs to be addressed publicly.

Politicians on all sides have looked at the problems of low wages at the bottom and excessive pay at the top, but few have been prepared to tie the two together. This reluctance to talk honestly and openly about inequality helps no one. Voters of all persuasions are increasingly concerned at the huge gap between the rich and the rest. In fact, the last British Social Attitudes survey found over 80% felt the income gap was too large and nearly seven in 10 believed it was the role of government to reduce income differences between the rich and poor.

Duncan Exley

The Equality Trust

London SE1

Will Hutton makes some valid points in his analysis of inequality but fails to provide any solution other than suggesting that politicians must rebuild the institutions they have so carelessly trashed. To confront inequality head on, we need to reform a tax system that punishes effort and enterprise but rewards unproductive speculation and unearned income. We need to ease the crippling burden of taxes on wages, purchases and buildings and instead collect the unimproved site value of land. At the very least, this reform would encourage the development of vacant and underused sites for the thousands of new houses urgently required to provide a basic human need. Collecting land location value would also be a fair way to redistribute wealth and start to redress inequality.

Michael J Hawes



How does any government start to put growing inequality into reverse? One answer is to reverse the decisions in the 1980s to deregulate lending, abolish rent controls and allow the free flow of cash in and out of the UK. The result is a chaotic housing market sucking billions of personal income away from the shops, building and maintaining infrastructure and from investment in companies that create jobs. International speculation in UK land and homes is forcing house prices and rents upwards. Meanwhile, landlords, who treated housing benefit like a cash cow for decades, continue to profit from a housing market in short supply while the poorest tenants are punished with three caps on the housing benefit.

High rents, now unpaid by housing benefit, are enforced against the tenants’ incomes, which were entirely available for food, utilities, transport and clothes up to April 2013; since then, council tax, plus court and bailiff costs has begun to wreak havoc in the tenants’ lives. Reversing inequality requires statutory minimum incomes in work and unemployment, after rent and council tax have been paid, to be enough to ensure a healthy life, and to diminish the billions paid by taxpayers to the NHS to treat poverty-related physical and mental ill health, and to the schools to cope with poverty-related educational underachievement.

The Reverend Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty

London N17

Labour at least needs to accept the implications of Will Hutton’s article, spelling out so clearly the economic damage of the diabolical rush to extreme inequality. For a long time, the moral and social implications have been pretty obvious, underlined in 2009 by the publication of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level . That was opposed by many including Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who speculated: “The next big battle for a free society will be fought against the new anti-wealth egalitarianism.”

David Charles-Edwards




The article “Mariana Popa was killed working as a prostitute. Are the police to blame?“, News) is a turning point in getting senior officers such as Chris Armitt to admit that criminalisation puts women at risk: “It would be good to allow a small group of women to work together, otherwise… they are working away from other human support.” It has taken 40 years of campaigning to get this truth out. From the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women, many of them sex workers, to the Ipswich murders in 2006, we have complained that the police hound rather than protect sex workers.

Ms Popa was Romanian. The 2012 police raids in Mayfair targeted Thai and Romanian women, the swoops in Harrow Roma brothels. The Soho raids last December, under the guise of freeing trafficking victims, dragged handcuffed eastern European mothers in their underwear on to the streets.

Is it surprising, then, if violent men target a woman such as Mariana Popa? Yes, the police are to blame. And so are feminist politicians, who lead calls for further criminalisation. Having refused to listen to sex workers, will they listen to Chris Armitt?

Niki Adams

English Collective of Prostitutes

London NW5

My report, Shadow City, found that police received £500m to tackle trafficking prior to the Olympics. They found no more trafficking cases than the year before – four – but did raid a huge number of brothels. This meant sex workers were displaced and became more vulnerable to violence. The laws on prostitution need to change. Until they do, we need to change dramatically how we police sex workers.

Andrew Boff

Conservative Londonwide Assembly member, leader of GLA Conservatives

London SE1

Don’t ruin another London gem

The threat of “development” to the Cork Street area of London’s West End is cultural vandalism (“Art galleries forced out of historic London home“, News). The proposed plans will probably go a long way to ruining the character of an area that attracts tourists to galleries that show a wide range of artworks. Many tenants will be forced to move by high rents and it will lose much of the atmosphere that made it attractive in the first place.

Shirley Hughes

London W11

Have a little grace, Mr Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi states in Robert McCrum’s fascinating article about him that after the publication of The Buddha of Suburbia he was “a little overwhelmed at the number of cheques that turned up at my council flat” (“Every 10 years you become someone else“, New Review). Hanif was not in a council flat but a flat provided for him by the W14 Housing Co-operative (of which I was then chairman) on the grounds that he was near broke and close to eviction. Now it’s my turn to be “overwhelmed” to read he was knee-deep in cheques at the time. The W14 Co-operative in those days had its own drama group, which encouraged him to put on one of his earliest plays, The King and Me, about Elvis Presley and the experiences of accompanying me while I canvassed for the Labour party on the Fulham council estates. One man I remember told us to stay at the door as his dog was trained to go for “coolies”. It must certainly have inspired his later film London Kills Me. It would be nice if for once in his many press interviews Hanif acknowledged the help he obtained from the Co-op in that crucial period of his career.

Colin Lovelace (Dr)



Frightening face of fracking

In the excellent article by Paul Stevens (“Fracking has conquered America. Here’s why it can’t happen in Britain“, In Focus), the answer to “Is it bad for the environment?” uses the words “providing the process is well regulated”. There are no regulations in place that deal with the fracking part of the total process. The new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil has no staff with any engineering expertise.

All the indications are that the government has no intention of dealing with these issues. Lancashire county council, the planning authority for fracking, has to find savings of £300m. Council tax from fracking is estimated at £1.7m. Policing costs for Salford already exceed £300,000. Fracking has been done once in the UK – at Preese Hall in Fylde. The returned water has between 1.4 and nine times the level of radioactivity permitted. There are processes for removing this radioactivity. Such treatment is likely to be costly.

Mike Turner


Lytham St Annes

Give us a fair cop

You note the extreme rarity on screen of strong female characters such as Saga Noren driving fast cars (“The car’s the star in Nordic noir as fans elevate The Bridge‘s Porsche to cult status“, News). Equally innovative is the mix of serial-killer suspense and humour, although Noren does not mean to bemuse her conventionally less direct colleagues. With most humour, on and off screen, still performed by men, we await a confident female cop who does irony and jokes.

Joseph Palley




Up until, say, the age of 10, if we were going anywhere special, my father would part my hair for me, in a small ritual that gave me pleasure. He would take the comb, wetted with water by my mother, who would flick it first to dry it a little, the drops making a tiny spatter on the terracotta tiles of the kitchen floor. He would stand above me, so much bigger than I was then, and comb my hair, scraping it across the scalp to either side of my head, so that I could feel the points of the comb, but not hard enough to hurt. The sensation, and his brief concentration on me, always gave me an intense physical pleasure.

My favourite part was a ritual within the ritual. “Is my parting straight?” I would ask. “It’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg,” my father would say, scraping a straighter line – always the mathematician – across the left side of my scalp from back to front. I would get a tiny Mexican wave of goose pimples. Then my father would say, “Bah!” in dismissal of further effort, put the comb down and sometimes walk away, the steel segs on his heels clicking on the tiled floor.

My mother’s notation on the back of this snapshot, taken half a century ago, tells me the scene is at Sleights, on the Yorkshire coast. We would be on an outing from Whitby, perennial favourite for our summer holiday.

I wear a child’s parody of a man’s suit, short trousers reaching almost to the bony cups of my knees, the tweedy jacket with its lumpy leather buttons like miniature conkers. Like one of the Bash Street Kids, my socks rumple down towards my sandals, while at the other end, my outstretched left arm rests along the top bar of the gate, as I wear NHS Milky Bar Kid glasses and a serious expression. My hair is pasted flat as polish, and I remember now the pleasure of the familiar ritual with my father.

I look pleasingly ridiculous, a child clothed and coiffed from a different era, but the pleasure of that ritual haunts me like a tiny, friendly ghost, and I wish I had the magic to conjure it into being.

Michael A Young









Women’s body clocks set off the alarm bells in men

CAMILLA CAVENDISH misses the male perspective completely in her article “Women’s body clocks are ticking but it’s men who dare not check the time” (Comment, last week). Most men would tell you — if they dared — that it’s much less a case of their not wanting to “take responsibility” and “shoulder more of the parenting” than of not wanting to see their sex lives go up the Swanee, possibly for years to come, after child No 1.

Sadly or otherwise, most men’s libidos remain the same when they become fathers. Also overlooked is the fact that many men are wary about having children because they see other men faring badly in the family courts.
Nic Penrake, London

Arrested development
Cavendish’s article resonated with me. I am 32 this year, have a successful career, own a flat and have a busy social life. People are shocked when I say I would love to settle down and start a family — but it’s what we were put on the planet to do. My career gives me a focus in the absence of having a man in my life but I’m certainly not a power-hungry businesswoman.

I recently had to finish a six-month relationship with a 35-year-old man because he refused to grow up. We were great together, and I thought I’d found Mr Right, but he didn’t want to settle down. I gave him an ultimatum and he chose to run. Men are holding us back from being able to have babies.
Name withheld, London E3

Absent fathers
Could it be that men are reluctant to become fathers because they know that if the relationship finishes they’ll probably end up estranged from their children, considering the family courts’ tendency to give custody to mothers on a more or less automatic basis? Or that an unmarried father has no parental rights unless the child’s (unmarried) mother includes him on the birth certificate, which she isn’t obliged to do?

Any man entering fatherhood today runs the risk of having his children taken from him by a system that still encourages women to see children as their personal property, and men as little more than sperm banks and cash dispensers.

Perhaps if the law encouraged women to see parenthood as entering into a long-term, equal partnership, more men would  take part.
Paul Stephens, Bath

Apron strings attached
I don’t think it is surprising that men are as selfish as women in wanting their own agenda. Today it is hard enough to get men out of their mothers’ grasp, with those aged between 30 and 40 still living at home, getting their laundry done and their food provided while hardly ever doing the washing-up. How can modern women compete with all those things?
Ian Tinn, Slough, Berkshire

Celebrities not to blame for our lack of faith in politics

DAVID BLUNKETT is rather shrill in the article “Celebrity cynics ‘put young off politics’” (News, last week). There are deeper reasons why people of all ages abandon politics: the adversarial nature of exchanges in Westminster; the proliferation of (unelected) special advisers who shamelessly spin to party advantage; MPs’ expenses and pensions perks; and the fact that our political masters rarely use state education or public services.
Andrew Cobb, Bath

Vote of no confidence
Blunkett is typical of the out-of-touch and arrogant thinking of our political class. He may blame a fall in numbers among young voters on the cynical views of the likes of Russell Brand and Will Self, but he needs to lay the blame a little nearer to home.
Steve Whyley, York

Self unaware
So the self-publicists Brand and Self are putting young people off politics? Really?As the parent of two — both of voting age — I can tell you that they view Brand as an unfunny poseur and they don’t know who Self is. The lacklustre efforts of political parties to engage young people is to blame. Accusing “celebrities” insults the intelligence of young people.
Gerald Hope, Glasgow

State schools reap rewards of middle-class pupils

ANTHONY SELDON has overlooked one important fact in recommending that middle-class parents above a certain income should pay for state schooling (“Head wants £20,000 state school fees”, News, last week). It is to a large extent the presence of middle- class children in state schools and the involvement of their parents that has driven up standards in some areas.

A better way to raise funds for state education and to tackle the stalling social mobility is to impose a hefty tax on private schools. The money raised could be used to train and employ more teachers and to bring down class sizes in state schools.
Marianna Wells, Twickenham, London

Tax returns
Seldon believes that wealthier parents should pay for their children to attend some state schools. I have good news for him. The UK has an apparatus in place that forces the better-off to pay more for education, irrespective of where their children are educated, and that also allows the poorest families to pay nothing. It’s called income tax.
David Solomon, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Human life before wildlife

WHAT option is open to food producers other than intensification when the majority of the population has been screaming for cheap food (“Goodbye birds. Goodbye butterflies. Hello . . . farmageddon”, Focus, last week)? If animals and crops were reared and grown traditionally there would not be enough food for the growing population and it would be too expensive. It is sad that butterflies and bees have declined in numbers but it is human beings versus wildlife.
Doreen Kettlewell, Bicester, Oxfordshire

Hedge fund
Isabel Oakeshott cannot have visited East Yorkshire. In the past 15 years many miles of hedges and thousands of trees have been planted. In fact, planning permission is needed to remove a hedge. My farm has many hedges, some new but mostly old. A Royal Society for the Protection of Birds survey identified more than 50 avian species. As for intensive farming, small-scale is not viable unless for a niche market. Food at a low cost is all that matters to most people.
Fred Henley, Seaton Ross, East Yorkshire

Food for thought on sugar and diets

READERS might be forgiven for thinking sugar had replaced the saturated fat/ cholesterol duo as the greatest threat to health since the Black Death (“Sugar watchdog works for Coca-Cola”, News, last week). The lack of consensus in the scientific community contributes to public confusion over what constitutes a healthy diet.

What sugar does, especially in large amounts, is to predispose body organs to store rather than to burn fat. The effects of sugar on fat storage are mediated in part by stimulation of insulin release from the pancreas and partly by conversion of sugar into a chemical within body cells that prevents the entry of fat into mitochondria, those parts of the cell responsible for removal of fat by oxidation to produce energy. These mechanisms reinforce each other to enhance fat storage.

The extent to which these processes occur may be attenuated by slow intake of dietary calories. The leisurely consumption of meals is partly a cultural issue and may partly explain the beneficial effects of a so-called Mediterranean diet.

As AA Gill pointed out in his article “My 10 rules for surviving the hungry games”, (News Review, January 12), maybe the relationship between diet and health concerns not so much what you eat but how you eat it.
Geoffrey Gibbons, Emeritus Professor of Human Metabolism, University of Oxford

Unhealthy option
Atticus reports (last week) that “drastic measures” are being adopted in relation to the size of MPs and peers, with sugary snacks being removed from vending machines. It seems these are to be replaced with dried fruits (up to 75% sugars), nuts (up to 75% fats), seeds (up to 50% fats) and fruit juices (up to 18% sugars). Is this more political fudge?
Charles Quekett, Clynderwen, Pembrokeshire


NHS expansion
Dr David Carruthers writes that he and his colleagues in the NHS have noticed the increasing waistlines of patients (“Growing fat on culture of instant gratification”, Letters, January 12). What I have found more noticeable is the obesity of many nurses. Peter Wareham, Coventry

Israel and beyond
Ari Shavit’s article on the state of Israel (“Young, sexy and encircled by threat”, News Review, last week) featured a picture of two young Israeli women. It is worth reflecting that the same faces can be found in Lebanon and across the Arab world. Young, highly educated people who have the same aspirations, love the same food and music and want the same positive future as the Israelis described. Sadly for both Israel and its neighbours the future is being defined by a mixture of religious zeal, failed revolutions and the old and unattractive politicians who have dominated the region.
Anthony Dell, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Thatcher in brief
Tanya Gold accuses Meryl Streep of being susceptible to professional dishonesty for her screen portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady as “nice” and says that “possibly her only redeeming feature was her reluctance to be liked” (“The truth gets trampled in Hollywood’s red carpet stampede”, Speakeasy, January 12). I briefed the prime minister during the Falklands War on a number of occasions. In spite of all the pressures on her she probed anything that appeared flaky, and was calm and courteous, always thanking and encouraging people of whatever rank for their efforts.
David Brice, Retired Commodore, Royal Navy

Legacy of abuse 
I read with pain and regret your compassionate article “20 private schools face ruinous child sex abuse claims” (News, January 12). My now deceased husband was abused by his choirmaster/Cub Scout leader for many years and at the time was not believed, even by his devout mother. This wonderful man was a good father and gentle, kind and loving husband. He suffered for almost 79 years.
Elise Page, Billingshurst, West Sussex

Corrections and clarifications

Our article “How I Made It: Jonathan Short, founder of ECO plastics” (Business, December 15) stated incorrectly that the company ECO Plastics made a profit of £7m in 2012. ECO Plastics made a loss that year. We apologise for the mistake.


Anita Baker, singer, 56; Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, 56; Scott Glenn, actor, 73; Kim Hughes, cricketer, 60; Joan Leslie, actress, 89; Jose Mourinho, football manager, 51; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of Nato, 61; Andrew Ridgeley, singer, 51; David Strathairn, actor, 65; Eddie Van Halen, musician, 59


1871 Rugby Football Union founded; 1885 Charles Gordon, governor-general of Sudan, killed by rebels in Khartoum; 1908 Britain’s first Scout troop registers, in Glasgow; 1950 India becomes a republic; 1982 UK unemployment tops 3m for first time since 1930s; 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India, kills 20,000




SIR – Joseph Mallord William Turner is another artist whose paintings can be dated by forensic astronomy techniques, as a number of them include the Sun, Moon and other heavenly bodies, most notably his Moonlight, a Study at Millbank.

In that painting he included Jupiter as well as the full moon. This has enabled me to determine that it was painted at 8.35pm GMT on August 19 1796, from a point nearly opposite to the present Battersea Power Station.

Mark Edwards
Binley Woods, Warwickshire


SIR – We need to be told why the Church Commissioners have decided to move the Bishop of Bath and Wells to an alternative house outside Wells at considerable expense.

How many of the Church Commissioners know Wells and, if they do, how did they come to this extraordinary, and perverse, decision which has no obvious merit?

The Bishop’s Palace, with surrounding gardens and moat, are a unique part of our national heritage, and should never become, collectively, an ancient monument.

Can this most unfortunate decision be reversed before it is too late?

Lt Col Richard Jackson
Sherborne, Dorset

Apostrophe Street

SIR – Cambridge City Council’s decision to abolish apostrophes on street signs is disingenuous and unnecessary. Contrary to its claims, there is no Whitehall diktat demanding the abolition of the English apostrophe.

The National Land and Property Gazetteer, overseen by local government, does not force councils to remove them either. Councils can continue to use apostrophes and punctuation as part of the official street name.

Numerous Acts of Parliament have required the consent of local people before a street name could be changed. For example, extant legislation from 1907 clearly states that councils cannot change a formal street name without the consent of two thirds of the street’s ratepayers.

If an apostrophe is good enough for Her Majesty’s Government, so should it be for Cambridge City Council.

I would encourage residents to defend their traditional street names.

Eric Pickles MP (Con)
Secretary of State for Communities
London SW1

Cooked crime figures

SIR – Crime, in the areas measured, is clearly falling. Most police forces now produce accurate crime figures. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has been chasing this for the past three years, and forces are inspected in great detail to ensure their figures are accurate. The situation is now very much better.

What I find somewhat ironic is that the senior retired police officers who are now saying the public cannot trust the figures are the very police officers who were in charge when some forces, including theirs, were not providing accurate figures.

Anthony Stansfeld

Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley

Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Cocktails for cows

SIR – Some years ago I typed a research paper on mastitis in cows. The spell checker decided a better option would be martinis.

Lynne Rogers

Woodley, Berkshire

SIR – My mother is hard of hearing, and usually has the television subtitles activated. On New Year’s Eve, the BBC was explaining that Big Ben was the name of the bell housed in St Stephen’s tower.

It had recently, in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee, the subtitles said, been renamed Elizabeth Taylor. So Big Ben, more correctly called Elizabeth Taylor, they said, would chime in the New Year.

Greg Morris
London SE4

American way of death

SIR – The execution of Edgar Tamayo in Texas (telegraph.co.uk, January 23) took place despite calls for delay, from both John Kerry, the American secretary of state, and the Mexican government, because of potential irregularities at the time of his arrest. The world has witnessed yet another inhumane execution to which we would not subject even our pets.

Earlier in the week, you reported that “pharmaceutical companies which oppose the death penalty have stopped producing the necessary chemicals for lethal injections, making it increasingly hard to source the required drugs”.

With the drugs that he was given, Edgar Tamayo took 18 minutes to die; Dennis McGuire in Ohio last week took 26 minutes and was gasping and snorting as he died.

These acts are a crime against humanity and amount to torture. The governors of both Texas and Ohio should be indicted and sent for trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Lt Col Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Manche, France

Naming Zara’s baby

SIR – I thought Mia was a combination of Mi from Mike and the final a from Zara.

Felicity Thomson
Symington, Ayrshire

Smoother socks

SIR – With regard to the query about seamless socks, my advice would be to wear ordinary socks inside out; this is sensible advice we give for preventing foot ulcers in diabetics.

Dr David Evans
Oakford, Ceredigion

Frozen light

SIR – Anthony J Burnet asks why freezers don’t have lights. My Electrolux chest freezer has a light; the freezer part of my fridge freezer does not. I have no explanation.

R J Russell
Denver, Norfolk

SIR – Our freezer has a light that comes on when the door is opened. However, its usefulness is questionable because when the freezer is fully loaded, the light only illuminates items at the front of the unit, leaving everything else in darkness.

Bill Hollowell
Orton, Cambridgeshire

Inaccuracies in the film ‘Zulu’ keep on coming

SIR – Perhaps the soldier who had the most successful post-Zulu War career was Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne. But his portrayal in Zulu by Nigel Green was unrealistic.

The real Frank Bourne, known as “The Kid”, was born in 1854, enlisted in 1872, and was promoted to colour sergeant after just six years. Rorke’s Drift was his first action. Therefore, he would not have been entitled to wear the Abyssinian medal or the African General Service medal as worn by Nigel Green in the film. Neither was Bourne a tall man: he was only 5ft 6in.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Rorke’s Drift, was commissioned in 1890 and retired to the Reserve in 1907. Bourne volunteered for service in 1914, and in 1918 was awarded the OBE and granted the rank of honorary lieutenant colonel.

All those awarded the Victoria Cross deserved them. The defence of Rorke’s Drift may have been a cul-de-sac in the Zulu War, but the bravery shown must be considered separately from the illegality of the Zulu War itself.

I have always felt that, had Zulu portrayed the characters as they actually were, it would have been a better film.

Dr John Black

SIR – Will Heaven lists Zulu’s inaccuracies. At the time of the battle, the regiment was still English (the 2nd Warwickshires). Two years later the regiment, which was based in Brecon, became Welsh. Half of the company in the battle was English, largely from Birmingham and the West Country. The regimental song was not Men of Harlech but The Warwickshire Lad.

Ian Dodd
Craven Arms, Shropshire

SIR – Last year I was told my medical data would be sharedthroughout the NHS unless I opted out. Concerned about the data’s accuracy, I asked to see a copy, even digitally.

The reply was that I should make an official request on a WMG form (whatever that is). If my request was accepted, and if I paid £10, I could call into the surgery to inspect the data. Any copies would be charged at 50p a page up to a maximum of £50.

I decided it was easier to opt out.

John Curran

SIR – The Government’s Troubled Families programme (established in 2012, after the 2011 summer riots) can also use NHS patient data.

“Troubled families are those that have problems and cause problems to the community around them, putting high costs on the public sector,” it says. This is a highly politicised and contentious definition, ill-defined and not fixed.

The Troubled Families programme means that information about patients is not only shared across the health and care system – other departments within local authorities and their external partners are also participants.

Further, each local authority works with the Troubled Families team, based in the Department for Communities and Local Government, and other government departments (to have access, for example, to benefit records).

There is an urgent need, therefore, for more clarity on the information-sharing arrangements for the Troubled Families programme.

Dr Alex May

SIR – I recently had a semi-emergency in which no fewer than six different NHS operatives all had to ask exactly the same questions about my history (ambulance crew, A&E reception staff, on-duty doctor, ward sister, and on transfer to another hospital). This was because they had no access to my records or could not locate my notes.

So the more there are joined-up NHS patient records, the more efficient patient care will become.

Lyndon Yorke
Booker Common, Buckinghamshire

SIR – As a long-term patient of St Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals, I was invited last week to sign up to their scheme to allow access for research purposes to the various bits and pieces they have removed from me over the years.

However, I was disappointed to learn that the scheme would not allow their collaborating with other hospitals where I have been a patient, such as the Royal Marsden. Likewise, Guy’s could not have access to any material of mine stored at the Royal Marsden.

John Reber
Farnborough, Kent




Irish Times:

Irish Independent:


Madam – Whether one agrees with her views or actions, I think Margaretta D’Arcy deserves credit for having the courage to go to jail for a cause she believes in. There aren’t too many people who would consciously choose prison over freedom. Her situation reminds me of a scene in the film Airplane, where all sorts of suspicious looking characters, including some carrying machine-guns and grenades, are allowed to board a plane by the security men, who then proceed to wrestle an unarmed frail elderly lady to the floor to “frisk” her.

Also in this section

The more things in this country change . . .

We fund the salaries, so we have a right to know

Greatest crime is the betrayal of trust

The analogy is all the more apt given the cause Margaretta was espousing.

Responding to a Dail question on her jailing, Justice Minister Alan Shatter declared, “Nobody is above the rule of law.”

If Margaretta had been well in with the elite wheelers and dealers who wrecked the country and laid waste to our economy she’d have been far less likely to spend even an hour behind bars.

No prison food for the jokers who know how to play the legal system to evade justice or for those who came perilously close to wiping Ireland Inc off the face of the Earth.

It will be a long time before you see any of those high- fliers doing time.

But Margaretta had to be jailed. God Almighty, sure society needs to be protected from a 79-year-old woman who suffers from cancer and Parkinson’s when she breaks the law. Life as we know it might come to an end in Ireland; crumble to dust, if rebellious pensioners were not reined in. Thus it was that Margaretta had to face the full rigour of the law and pay her debt to society.

‘Justice is blind’ goes the old adage, and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Methinks she might be only blind in one eye.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Tell grumpy gran to throw a party

Madam – Re: your recent prize-winning letter about the woman of 80 who says she is in hell, I’d like to ask that woman, does she ever look at the television, at the pictures in war-torn countries of very elderly men and women, carrying all their worldly goods in a little bit of cloth, heading God knows where and to what. To think that a woman has a husband and seven children and numerous grandchildren and she has to pass days without speaking to anyone is ludicrous. To say that they don’t speak to her is nonsense. How else do they have access to her money? It has never been a better time to be 80 in Ireland. I know, because I am also 80, as are all my friends. There are so many groups to join and activities to share, but this woman sounds very grumpy and spoilt.

Tell her to have a party. Invite all her family. Tell her to put a smile on her face and a peg on her tongue, and they will all have a great day.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – My mother is in her 70s now and is a self-obsessed, manipulative bully, who over the years has wreaked emotional and psychological havoc on her family. Her “children” (now in our 40s) have decided to go down the route of ‘no contact’ to protect ourselves and our families from her evil.

It both annoys and upsets me to hear people say “but she’s your mother…”.I would give anything to have a close, loving relationship with my mother. Having tried and tried, I know now that this will never happen. She will never change, so I am the one who must make changes in my life to protect myself.

So to you whose life is sheer hell at 80 I say, “you made your bed, now lie on it”.

Name and address with Editor



Madam – What a sad letter from the lady of 80 who is not in touch with her family. I am sure the country is full of lonely neglected people. Maybe this woman and people like her can be adopted by others. Nursing homes which cost over €1,000 a week are full of elders that could be in their own homes. My father died in 1971. Everyone minded the old and the young then. Not anymore. Kids are in creches, elders are in homes, I am waiting for the backlash.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – I was really saddened by the old lady whose letter featured here on January 12.

I am a 38-year-old woman, married with two little girls.

I was blessed enough to have fantastic grandparents, especially two grandmothers whom I adored and really miss.

I have no relationship with my parents but my mother-in-law and father-in-law are special, loving people in my life.

Mad as this might sound, I really miss my grandmothers and have often longed for a sort of “adopted” grandmother! I have often thought of contacting ALONE to inquire about visiting someone but as often happens with the best intentions, I never followed through.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – I am a 66-year-old, retired teacher. Months ago I volunteered for three different organisations, which I shall not name. I have not heard from two of them.

The third wrote to me recently to say they had no position to offer. I had applied for an admin post advertised at the time in their organisation. There was no mention of it, strangely, as if it had not existed. Long delays in dealing with volunteering opportunities seem to be the rule, for some reason. The unemployed and retired must wonder what is one to do to feel useful.

I understand there are issues such as garda vetting (it seems to take forever), but there must be a better way to utilise members of society who want to contribute. Old age need not mean useless.

Michael Power,

Castleknock, Dublin 15

Joe Citizen’s view ignored

Madam – Gene Kerrigan’s insightful article (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014) explains how our politicians have developed a soothing public language of deception that is concealing what he calls a rotten system.

The article clearly explains why we no longer have what we traditionally called ‘political parties’ that work for the good of the people.

Instead of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party they have all become the ‘party of big business’ with a perpetual veto over public policy and the wishes of the average citizen.

The purpose of government in Ireland and across the global western world is to keep wealthy people happy – to create the optimum conditions for them to make maximum profits when times are good and mop up their debts when the economy goes pear-shaped.

The great seduction for the public is the eternal hope that when the economy is working well there will be a trickle-down effect for everyone.

What we fail to realise is that economic growth, austerity, abject poverty and large-scale unemployment are all currently working hand in glove together across Europe and the globe. There will be no trickle-down effect. Irish people are beginning to discover that the will of the people is the last thing on the minds of this Government as well as on the last government.

This begs the question: who do you think you are fooling? It may be some of the Irish people some of the time, but it will no longer be all the people all the time.

Geraldine Mooney Simmie,

Faculty of Education and Health Sciences,

University of Limerick


Madam – Gene Kerrigan’s article, ‘Elites making a killing at expense of State’ (Sunday Independent, January 19, 2014), is one of the best ever printed in the Sunday Independent and a good reminder of why the paper keeps its appeal.

More, please.

Christian Morris,

Howth, Dublin 13


Madam – I do agree that we need a more informed debate on suicide but John Masterson’s article in last week’s paper on the subject won’t help, in my opinion.

He expressed the view that suicide was not so prevalent in the past and that our current more “compassionate” attitude has an unexpected side-effect – making suicide more acceptable. He also seemed to think that Donal Walsh had part of the answer.

In the past many suicides were covered up both by the family and the State, due to the horrific stigma that came with it. So we don’t know the true figures from the past.

It’s possible that there is a little truth to what he says about they removal of the sin and crime element causing an increase but he’s not seriously suggesting we go back to those days, is he? Is it better that people are living in terrible pain rather than being dead? Isn’t that the point Marie Fleming was trying to make? Serious mental illness can be every bit as bad as a serious, painful, life-threatening physical illness. The big difference is the pain can’t be seen.

We are far from having a compassionate attitude to people who are suicidal. The widespread approval of the comments made by Donal Walsh about “these people who choose to take their own life” displays a lack of real understanding towards suicidal people. He seemed to think that suicidal people chose suicide even though there is effective help available. I am not blaming Donal Walsh. He was expressing the anger and lack of understanding of many people.

Ninety per cent of people who commit suicide are mentally ill. The current view that people commit suicide because of common problems like bullying or financial issues isn’t true. Many mentally ill people have trouble seeking help because they feel it’s a weakness. Yet most do seek help when their situation becomes distressing.

Telling off the mentally ill or making suicide a crime or a sin isn’t going to help.

Mary McDonnell,

Youghal, Co Cork


Madam – According to Sean Cassidy in ‘Disagreeing with Donal on suicide,’ (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 19, 2014) “there was an inference that those who battle depression and succumb to suicide do so out of choice,” in Donal Walsh’s message.

I have re-read Donal Walsh’s letter which initially brought him to national prominence and it is obvious from that letter he is speaking primarily about young people who take their lives. To quote: “yet still I hear of young people committing suicide and I’m sorry but it makes me feel nothing but anger. I feel angry that these people chose to take their lives, to ruin their families and to leave behind a mess that no one can clean up”. On re-watching the Saturday Night Show the same message comes across.

Donal Walsh spoke of an anger he felt. This was not meant in any way as a judgment on someone who takes their own life.

He was simply verbalising a feeling. I myself experience anger when I hear of people taking their lives. Despite this anger, I have the utmost empathy for people who take this tragic step.

Donal did use the word “chose” but he also stated: “I have nothing against people with mental illness.”

It’s unfortunate that Mr Cassidy feels as he does about Donal Walsh’s message but Donal started a conversation on this topic and has brought it much-needed attention. In fact it could be argued that he was the catalyst for other people speaking out. A conversation that was started by a boy dying way before his time enables Mr Cassidy and others to bring attention to this area.

Thomas Roddy,



Madam – I wish to let Padraig Cribben, Chief of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, (Letters, Sunday Independent January 19, 2014) know the main reason why young people are not going to the pubs anymore.

May I say a big percentage of our young are responsible people and avail of the cheap drink for sale in supermarkets and go straight to the nightclubs. There is a reason for everything. They feel they are not getting value in the pubs and are probably right. Take down your prices, Mr Cribben and young people might start going to the pub again.

Even for myself I also feel the value is not there anymore. Value is everything today.

Christy Martin,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath


Madam – I felt in praise of Shane Ross and his wonderful work on the Public Accounts Committee, I had to compare him to an old cartoon character I used to watch as a child: “Shane Ross is Top Cat, the indisputable leader of the gang. He can trap all the rats on the board of CRC,

and send shivers down the spines of several more. He’s the boss, he’s the pip, He’s the championship, He’s the most tip top… Top Cat.”

Colette Lavelle,

Westport,Co Mayo


Madam – I don’t get it, I just don’t get it. Your correspondent, Carol Hunt, quotes a so-called gay priest as saying: “I live in constant fear of being found out or being outed.”

Now, if he’s a priest he has taken vows of chastity and celibacy. If he is faithful to his vows then he is not engaging in any form of sexual activity, so what is there to find out?

Thomas Martin,

Clondalkin, Dublin 22


Madam – Recent letters about Lyric FM complain about the amount of talking in many of the programmes.

I agree, and the problem is getting worse. The main culprits, I would suggest, are Gaybo and Lorcan Murray, with the former mixing inane comments, delivered in an inane voice, with a few interesting items and some good jazz.

We enjoy Lorcan to an extent, but not the tedious emails and texts from listeners who appear to believe that we care about what they are doing (sipping cold wine as the husband mows the lawns on his ride-on mower) while they listen. Not all is bad however – presenters such as Liz Nolan and Niall Carroll, to mention but two, are always worth listening to.

Phil Baker,

Celbridge, Co Kildare


Madam – Thank you, Julia Molony, for your article commending ‘The Wezz’, (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014). I am so sick of the bad press this place seems to attract. A number of my nieces and nephews have frequented ‘The Wezz’ over the years and loved it. It’s a rite of passage for teenagers this side of the city, as are similar venues all over the country. My sisters and brothers have dropped their kids off there and waited for them outside and have never seen anything suspect.

In fact, they have always found the security spot on. My brother-in-law one night decided to get petrol in the garage across the road and texted his daughter to meet him there. One of the bouncers insisted on accompanying her until she was safely in her father’s car. Two of my nieces attend ‘Back to Wezz’ every year and love meeting up with old friends.

If the girls are dangling their underwear there like bracelets, which I highly doubt – no one I know has ever actually seen such a spectacle – then they’re doing it all over the country.

The teenagers in Wezz are no different to their counterparts nationwide. I have nieces and nephews in Dublin and in Cork and they are all the exact same – lovely, caring, conscientious young people.

Frances Browner,

Greystones, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent



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