Work starts

31 January 2014 Work Starts
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Pertwee has to make an offer in a blind auction.   Priceless.
Thermabloc started to be put up
Scrabble today Mary wins, just.  and get under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Mary Gilchrist, who has died aged 99, was among the last surviving operating theatre sisters to have served in London hospitals during the worst days of the Blitz.
She would later recall how, as bombs fell all around them, medical staff often had to rush to the roof of St John’s hospital in Balham, south London, in between operations carrying buckets of sand and water to extinguish pathfinder flares dropped by the Luftwaffe to direct bombers to their destinations.

But her defining recollection was of nursing dying soldiers returning from the BEF’s evacuation of Dunkirk, their uniforms burned into their flesh as a result of being immersed in a sea set alight by oil spills. It was an experience that haunted her to the end of her life: “We couldn’t separate their uniforms from their bodies,” she said. “We just had to give them as much morphine as they could take and hoped they would die free from as much pain as possible.”

In later life Mary Gilchrist undertook private nursing work, numbering showbusiness figures among her patients, and devoted much of her time to animal welfare.
She was born Mary Scott on September 12 1914 at Killearn, Stirlingshire, the eldest of 10 children of a tenant farmer. Life in rural Scotland just after the First World War was hard. Unemployment was high, and laid-off miners from the coal fields could often be seen tramping the lanes looking for work, sleeping in ditches and taking turnips from the fields to eat raw.
With money scarce, Mary would have to skin rabbits for pocket money to afford a trip to the cinema — “Aye, and catch them first,” she added. As the eldest child, she was expected to leave school at 14 to work on the farm. But she had other plans, having set her heart on a career in medicine. In those days, to train as a nurse in Edinburgh cost £50 — equivalent to the Scott family’s income in a year. Ever resourceful, Mary managed to enrol for nothing at the Quaker hospital in York, where she qualified as a midwife and psychiatric nurse before moving to London before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Like most young people living and working in the capital during the Blitz, Mary never forgot the excitement and intensity of the experience. Brushes with death were a frequent occurrence. On October 14 1940 a number 88 bus plunged into a massive bomb crater outside Balham tube station, which itself suffered a direct hit, killing 66 sheltering there and injuring many more. Mary escaped the devastation only because she had failed to catch the bus, having turned back at the last minute to collect some papers from the hospital. A photograph of the wrecked vehicle has become one of the most famous images of the city at war .
Mary Scott married James Gilchrist in November 1941, and the next day he travelled to Portsmouth to begin naval service as a signals officer on the North Atlantic convoys. He was later a liaison officer with the Free French Navy, and he and Mary did not see one another again for three years. Post-war he enjoyed a successful career as a gas engineer, and was in charge of converting to natural gas both Buckingham Palace and the Russian embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens — in the latter role he was approached by MI5 and asked to liaise with them over the layout of the embassy .
Always fiercely independent, Mary Gilchrist declined an invitation to serve in the desert during the North Africa campaign . A Whitehall recruiting officer had continually asked her how good her tennis was, how good her bridge, and other questions about her social life . “They seemed more interested in whether nurses would fit into the officers’ mess than their aptitude on the wards,” she would later complain.
After the war Mary Gilchrist was much in demand in private health care. For some time she was the constant nurse to the Forties screen and stage star Sally Gray, later the wife of the 4th Lord Oranmore and Browne. On one occasion the actress threatened to throw herself out of the window of her Belgravia flat, and it was Mary Gilchrist who persuaded her not to jump.
During the 1960s Mary Gilchrist worked with mentally handicapped children in London’s East End. She then moved to West Sussex, where she devoted herself to animal welfare. At the age of 85, at Shoreham, she joined the former model Celia Hammond on the front line of a demonstration against live animal exports, blocking lorries carrying sheep to the ships so they could not enter the port.
Police from Brighton were sent in to break up the demonstration and arrest protesters who refused to move. A kindly officer implored Mary Gilchrist to put down her placard, saying he did not want so venerable a lady to spend a night in the cells. At first she refused, offering her wrists for the handcuffs, but eventually relented — although she never dropped her opposition to the trade.
In 1990 she received an RSPCA Certificate of Honour for her devotion to the charity’s causes.
Her husband predeceased her, and she is survived by their son, Roderick.
Mary Gilchrist, born September 12 1914, died December 21 2013


Food waste will never be curtailed while retailers are allowed to open new supermarkets where there is already ample provision (Major grocers to follow Tesco in revealing amount of food wasted, 29 January). Every store, to compete, must carry a full range of goods, including perishables, which is bound to involve considerable surpluses. Disclosing the volume of food discarded or even sending less to landfill sites is merely paying lip service. It is time for government and local planners to acknowledge that unfettered expansion of the supermarket empire is behind this unacceptable waste of food and act accordingly.
Ruth Stephens
Perranporth, Cornwall
• The report of a prosecution for “stealing” food that had been thrown away (Report, 28 January) comes as no surprise to those of us with experience of defending cases in north London. Last year at the same court the police sought to prosecute a homeless man who had taken a cold shower in a changing room on playing fields with “theft of water”. They refused him bail and he was held in custody. Thankfully, the CPS discontinued that case too.
Greg Foxsmith (solicitor)
• Do the boys in blue and the boys in clover (RBS is ours. So let’s stop this annual festival of bribery, 29 January) share a sense of proportion? While we read about arrests for being discovered in “an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”, can we remind ourselves that in Reykjavik bankers were jailed after being discovered in an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely destroying an entire economy.
Kevin Donovan

Martin Woollacott points out that for a long time the UK was the most successful multinational state in Europe (Comment, 28 January). This is largely because Scottish national pride has not only been permitted, but nurtured; John Buchan was not alone in seeing Scottish nationalism as perfectly consistent with British patriotism. TM Devine notes in his recent book on the Scottish diaspora that Scots were enthusiastic and successful imperialists. The kilted regiments were the crack troops of the empire, widely admired and imitated. Outside the army, the contribution of Scots in developing British institutions and trading networks was enormous and fully acknowledged. For their part, the Scots gained much from participation in the imperial project.
Closer to home, minorities who find themselves less well integrated into a larger state look with admiration and envy at such institutions as Scottish and Welsh national football and rugby teams. Catalan friends display similar attitudes to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (the oldest professional orchestra in Scotland) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Scottish nationalism has always been acknowledged and even encouraged within the UK through many institutional arrangements such as these. Think too of the traditional connection of the royal family with Balmoral, where for close on two centuries they have symbolised the integration of Britishness with Scottish national pride. Perhaps, therefore, the current political initiative in Scotland is more accurately described as separatism. We need to distinguish the attitudes of the contemporary SNP from the proud nationalism of Scots like Buchan and his cultural descendants with which we have always been familiar.
Professor Lesley Milroy
Deddington, Oxfordshire
• Surely everything Mark Carney is saying about the implications for Scotland of a shared currency agreement after independence (Report, 30 January) applies just as much to the government based at Westminster at this point, or after a Scottish departure. In all cases, the relevant government hands over certain financial controls to a Bank of England.
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex
Those who attack Maajid Nawaz’s cartoon of the prophet Muhammad and Jesus greeting each other for causing offence (Report, 29 January) should note the words of Lord Justice Sedley in Redmond-Bate v DPP [1999] (cited in the Lords recently): “Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”
Dick Taverne
House of Lords
• One does not have to share the bizarre political and social views of Ukip donor Demetri Marchessini (Diary, 30 January) to agree with him that “homophobia” is a ridiculous word. Its recent coinage seems to stem from the widespread but mistaken belief that the homo- part of the word comes from the Latin for “man”. In fact it comes from the Greek for “same” (and therefore includes lesbians). Homophobia means, if it means anything, an unnatural hatred or fear of twins.
James Cox
Twickenham, Middlesex
• It is no wonder that Ukip is perceived as doing well (The joke’s not on Nigel Farage …, 29 January). The publicity it gets is unprecedented. It won’t be Ukip that might possibly “win” the European Union election, it will be the media, who daily tell us that Farage will win. Everyone wants to be on the winning ticket.
Janet Davies
Hartley Wintney, Hampshire
• I have noticed that many of the world’s perpetrators of war crimes (Letters, 24 January) received a considerable part of their higher education in this country and especially at Sandhurst. Would it be possible to see a recent syllabus?
Pete Lund
•  It’s wrong to suggest that Finland has little interest in cricket (Letters, 30 January), as Tony Lurcock’s book No Particular Hurry: British Travellers in Finland 1830-1917 makes clear. And the late, great Harry Thompson’s Penguins Stopped Play shows how the universal game may be enjoyed in even colder climes.
Nick Smith
• However metaphorically Mark Carney plonks one leg on either side of Hadrian’s Wall (Larry Elliott, 30 January), both legs will still be in England.
David Robinson
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

As someone who lives near James Turner Street in a community that was also an entry in the Britain in Bloom competition (G2, 30 January), I know what pride they took in Channel 4 preparing a documentary about what they thought was the exemplary community spirit that exists in their area, going so far as to invite the film-makers to the ceremony where they received their award. Imagine their feeling of betrayal when they discovered, it seems to me, that the documentary makers were working to a preconceived script and were looking for instances to support their narrative of benefits abuse. That is maybe why the programme had a cast of only half a dozen characters from the couple of hundred residents who live in the street, filming the action around a small section of the street, where there were a couple of orphan settees. Surely a public broadcaster has a duty to tell the wider truth and its contractors a requirement not to get on by denigrating a whole community trying to get by?
Chris Vaughan

While the international community has spent billions of pounds in Afghanistan since the US-led military intervention in 2001, the majority has been spent on the war effort and a much smaller proportion on repairing the damage caused by that war and developing the country (Half of Afghan children suffer irreversible harm from malnutrition, 27 January).
The British charity Afghanaid has been working alongside Afghan men, women and children for the past 30 years. With the support of Britain’s Department for International Development and generous individual donors, we are building wells, micro-reservoirs and pipe systems to give people access to clean drinking water; installing toilets; to improve sanitation and educating children and adults in good hygiene. We are also helping rural communities to improve agriculture and livestock, developing micro-enterprises and strengthening their food security – so that households do not live in hunger or the fear of hunger.
Programmes such as Afghanaid’s help families keep their children healthy. However, it is critical that when British and other international troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the international community remains committed to providing the money that will enable agencies such as Afghanaid to respond to the frequent humanitarian emergencies and support the long-term sustainable development that will allow children to survive and thrive.
Charles Davy
Managing director, Afghanaid, Kabul
•  Emma Graham-Harrison’s graphic dispatch from Afghanistan draws attention to the evidence that early-life deficiencies in nutrition and healthcare can have lifelong, largely irreversible, impacts on learning achievement, physical stature and adult earning potential. And these in turn impact on longer-term national prosperity and growth.
But even in emerging market countries that have committed resources to tackle chronic problems of maternal and child health, a tremendous amount remains to be done in this area.
Evidence-based answers to these problems were revealed this month at a symposium on maternal and child health and nutrition in emerging markets at Green Templeton College, Oxford. New evidence allows us to specify optimal environments, health and nutrition regimes, and new criteria for measuring outcomes. The evidence allows us to say that under optimised conditions every child on Earth could have identical prospects for healthy, productive lives irrespective of ethnicity. And because it opens new pathways for human resource development it offers the prospect of healthier, more educable, more productive adult populations, without which long-term economic growth, cohesive societies and political stability cannot be achieved.
Governments around the world, particularly those in emerging market economies, need to accept these scientific findings and take a fresh, longer-term perspective on social investment in pre-conception, neonatal, child health and nutrition.
Professor George Alleyne Chancellor, University of the West Indies, Professor Ana Langer Harvard school of public health, Dr Sania Nishtar President, Heartfile, Pakistan, Professor Srinath Reddy President, Public Health Foundation of India, Professor David Watson Principal, Green Templeton College, Oxford, Shengman Zhang Chairman, Citi Asia Pacific
• Muhammed Muheisen’s images of the refugee Afghan children (Eyewitness, 29 January) in Islamabad were quite simply stunning. Every one told a story of suffering and trauma: the innocent faces of conflicts that destroy young lives, not just in Afghanistan but throughout the world. One can only hope that these displaced children will one day be able to return to a homeland that is free of war, and enjoy the childhood they deserve.
Martin Johnson
Congleton, Cheshire

Will economic recovery (Report, 29 January) and a shift from austerity to prosperity translate into improved pay and conditions at work, more investment in skills, enhanced job security and a better work-life balance? Don’t bet on it, especially if the coalition continues to push for a laissez-faire labour market and erodes people’s rights at work. As Zoe Williams rightly said (Comment, 29 January), “our workplaces are as family friendly as 19th-century mills”. She rightly highlights the way in which our zero-hours and low-pay economy undermines rights at work. But it goes deeper than that. Poor-quality work and a lack of voice in the workplace is a problem for the majority and reflects a transfer of power and wealth to executives on high pay. The Smith Institute, which has just launched a major inquiry into “making work better”, is calling for a new deal at work based on higher productivity and a better work-life balance, not a race to the bottom.
Paul Hackett
Director, Smith Institute
• Endless coverage of Labour’s 50p tax rate plan in the Guardian, but none at all of Labour’s announcement to create a small business administration to give small firms a voice at the heart of government, including more support to win procurement contracts. This clever, practical idea to focus the power of government on helping small firms thrive is one of the many reasons a Labour government will be so much better for enterprise than the current one. It would be nice if the Guardian noticed.
Ben Coleman
Labour’s Small Business Taskforce
• Your editorial (29 January) states that new growth will not be secure until Britain invests in its future. The chancellor, in the Times in July 2013, stressed the need to start investing in science and infrastructure around the country but, to date, investment in infrastructure has been mainly in London. Crossrail, for example, involves an expenditure of £15.9bn (2008 prices) and the King’s Cross redevelopment £810m. Professor Dorling in 2013 highlighted the increasing north-south divide; there is an ever-widening gap between house prices in London and other parts of the country and, on 27 January, you reported on 2009-12 net migration into London. It is time for the emphasis on infrastructure spending to shift towards the Midlands and the north.
The recent offer from the China Railway Group for the funding of a crossrail link from Peterborough to Rugby, Coventry, HS2 and Birmingham airport, and the (suppressed) government report recommending building several new garden cities, both offer interesting possibilities. One can envisage two or three really superb new garden suburbs built along a fast monorail line – together with a world-class science, technology and engineering college and associated business start-up facilities – specifically to concentrate on emerging technologies that will drive UK growth.
This is but one idea, but we urgently need to start investing to achieve secure growth and also address the problem of 1 million youngsters currently unemployed, not in education or training.
Robert Oak
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
• Let’s get this straight – the economy is growing and the fastest-growing sectors are utilities (electricity, gas etc) and business services and finance. Clearly, the government should actively encourage these sectors to take even more money from us, either by increasing their patently inadequate charges or via more bailouts (RSB), so that these sectors, and therefore the economy, will grow even faster.
Phil Taylor
• It’s time the self-serving nonsense about wealth creators is exposed to the ridicule it deserves (Letters, 29 January). All wealth is created directly by someone’s labour or indirectly by the labour which produces the capital equipment used to produce that wealth. We could all stare at the bounties of nature forever but until someone gets their hands dirty no wealth would be created. Let’s try a thought experiment: if we placed any of these so-called wealth creators on a desert island (blessed with abundant natural resources) how much wealth do we think they would create? If anyone is still not sure, a look at the excellent 1957 film The Admirable Crichton will give the answer.
Brian Gibson
Rotherham, South Yorkshire


After the visit of the Bank of England Governor no voter in the Scottish independence referendum can claim to be unaware of the serious currency problems involved in this leap in the dark. While the Canadian Mark Carney refused to be drawn into the politics, he left little doubt that Scotland can either be fully independent or stay with sterling, but not both.
The First Minister used to claim that joining the euro was a vote-winner, but even he now accepts “there is no prospect of an independent Scotland being a member of the euro”. Of course he could start his own currency using, say, the Bank of Airdrie as a central bank and track the pound as South American banana republics track the US dollar. But a tiny nation’s currency is at the mercy of markets unimpressed by Alex Salmond’s wishful thinking, leaving us exposed to hyper-inflation and other economic ills.
So it will not even require profligate Scottish bankers to create a situation similar to that which followed the failure of the Darien venture in 1700, with a bankrupt “Skintland” once again begging England to take it in.
Dr John Cameron, St Andrews
Carney translated:
Mr Salmond, you want to use the pound if your Scotland becomes an independent country. You cannot have full sovereignty with a currency union, because if you are lax with your taxation and spending you could become like Greece in the eurozone.
The Bank of England is “lender of last resort” to banks in trouble, but it is itself indemnified by the Treasury in Westminster. Scotland behaving badly financially could not rely on such support.
Ronald Rankin, Dalkeith

I am increasingly perplexed by the apparent absence of serious and regular debate on the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP reflects the threat posed by petty nationalism both in Europe and elsewhere.
The snake-oil panaceas of historical myth and anachronistic grievance are peddled by xenophobic politicians seeking to manufacture fiefdoms from the fragmentation of broader national entities, Yugoslavia being the obvious example.
Why the somnolent, almost fearful response of our own government to the opportunistic vagaries of Alex Salmond and the SNP? It is nonsense to say this is a matter solely for the Scots. It is about Great Britain as a whole. Our nation is a messy, at times incoherent but always wonderful confusion of race, religion and history, but it is a nation, robust, argumentative, self-critical.
The narrow parameters of the referendum, the gerrymandering of the voting age to 16, and the economic illiteracy and Hollywood historicism of the SNP need to be countered at a far more informative, widespread and effective level.
Christopher Dawes, London W11

Given the possibility of an independent Scotland, should we in England be withdrawing our support of Scottish banks, businesses and charities?
Anabel Curry, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

Bring london  down to size
It should come as no surprise to anyone that London exerts a massive draining force on talent and wealth in the UK (“Capital idea”, 28 January).
London is the political, financial, business, media, creative and cultural capital of the UK. The main national institutions of each of these sectors, their largest businesses and most high-profile figures are based in London. In the past the UK had strong industrial and manufacturing bases in the regions. Those bases are long gone.
Other countries have developed more geographically balanced economies. While Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany, the political capital is Berlin. The USA has its political, financial, creative and technological centres split between Washington, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The BBC’s move to Salford was a step in the right direction, but more radical steps are required. One such step involves Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster requires a £1.5bn renovation. MPs and peers have often complained about the inadequate conditions. A new home for the UK Parliament could be built in a city other than London for substantially less money. It would help to revitalise a UK city, not just in the construction, but also through the businesses that would follow Parliament out of London.
Barry Richards, Cardiff

Energy market reforms under way
I am writing in response to your article “Ofgem told to control the ‘big six’ energy giants or face being cut off” (30 January).
We are taking radical action to shake up the energy market, hold companies to account and increase transparency. We take tough action where companies fail consumers, and since 2010 we have imposed over £75m in fines or redress on energy companies.
Our radical reforms to the energy market are under          way to make the energy market simpler, clearer and fairer. Consumers are already seeing simpler choices as a result of our reforms, and these are helping people switch more easily. November and December showed the highest switching rates ever, and these consumers will have found it far easier to find and switch to a better deal.
We are already delivering significant reforms to encourage more new entrants into the market to increase competitive pressure on prices.
Ofgem is committed to changing the energy market for the benefit for consumers. We have no political or financial agenda.
Andrew Wright, Chief Executive, Ofgem, London SW1

It has been a reasonably mild, if rather wet, winter so far, which may adversely affect the profits of the energy companies. Therefore, we should be prepared for them to use milder temperatures as an excuse for hiking their tariffs in the near future to balance their books.
Consumers are damned if it’s warm and damned if it’s freezing, but it’s a win-win situation for the energy companies.
Dave Keeley, Hornchurch, Essex

Living with difficult old relations
Martin London (letter, 27 January) paints an agreeable, idealised picture of “living in supportive three-generation family groups”.
Early in the National Health Service I worked in a psychiatric hospital and observed the steadily increasing numbers of aged patients being admitted, as the general public became aware that full-time residential care might be available for their troublesome relatives. A somewhat cynical view was taken of this.
A few years later I worked in the community as a county mental welfare officer and saw the other side of the picture. I saw families torn apart and destroyed by the highly emotive problems and perceived injustices relating to much-loved parents and grandparents becoming confused, aggressive, unpredictable and unmanageable.
It seems to me that Martin London`s solution to the problems he foresees would simply take us back to the unsatisfactory state of affairs which existed before the NHS.
Judith Woodford, Bozeat, Northamptonshire

Capaldi doesn’t make it as a mod
I think Stephen Bayley has his youth subcultures mixed up in his article “Mod man with a box” (29 January). In the picture Peter Capaldi is dressed more like a teddy boy than a mod: velvet-collared mid-thigh coat, drainpipe trouser and thick-soled shoes (Doc Martens more than brothel creepers, admittedly).
While some mods might have worn Crombies, the iconic outerwear for mods was the ex-US army issue parka, much better on a scooter. Crombies were worn by skinheads and then to the knee, not mid-thigh, together with 18-hole Doc Martens and bleached-out jeans stopping at the top of the boot.
All this is very trivial in a troubled world, but as any mod would say, the devil is in the detail.
Keith Simmonds, London N12

Gender bias  cuts both ways
Chris Blackhurst’s piece “While men are in charge, gender quotas are the only way to increase the number of women in boardrooms” (29 January) raises interesting questions.
Why does nobody in industry, media, or government seem at all concerned with the lack of men in equally key professions?
There is frequent hand-wringing over the lack of women in engineering and science, but there seems to be a blithe ignorance of the impact on society of a teaching cohort of 60-70 per cent women, or how increasingly female-dominated the medical profession is becoming. Both impact on the life chances of men and boys.
John Moore, Northampton


Sir, Lester May is right that the balance of effort in the UK needs correction (letter, Jan 23), but wrong to advocate disbanding the RAF. Now is not the time to waste angst and management effort on such argument, but our US colleagues, and others, are right when they express concern at the shrinkage of the Royal Navy. Once withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete it will be upon the Royal Navy that the support for security, diplomacy and trade will depend; the UK should not be found wanting. In Future Force 2020, with only one operational aircraft carrier and 19 escorts, there will be insufficient resource to fulfil such roles. It is here where the Army and RAF are relatively impotent and must be scaled accordingly. The Prime Minister is disingenuous to suggest that all is well in defence — it blatantly is not.
Chris Palmer
Commodore RN
Havant, Hants
Sir, As Mr May suggests, there are questions about the appropriateness of maintaining independent air forces on both sides of the Atlantic. My research on nearly a century’s experience suggests that independent air forces create two big problems. First, they erect bureaucratic walls between missions, such that soldiers in need of air support often can’t get the help they need. To remedy this the US Army and Marine Corps created their own air forces.
Second, independent air forces create lobbying organisations for parochial approaches to warfighting and procurement, approaches that do not necessarily contribute to the pursuit of national security. The USAF, for example, has consistently advocated for air power-centric escalation of diplomatic disputes, and has often argued for the procurement of sophisticated-but-mission-challenged fighter and bombers and for the retirement of much-beloved attack aircraft, such as the A-10 Warthog.
I believe that it would be beneficial for the UK and the US alike to reconsider the organisation of their military air power.
Dr Robert M. Farley
Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce,
University of Kentucky
Sir, As a former Royal Naval officer it is hardly surprising that Lester May favours his old service over the RAF but his wish to see its assets split between the other two services would not result in the “huge cost and manpower savings” to which he refers. The aircraft would still require the personnel to operate and maintain them, the airfields with their supporting staff would still be needed to house them, no matter what colour of uniform they wore. Administration and headquarters would still be needed to run the organisation, unless Mr May believes that there is excess capacity currently within the Army and the Navy to carry out these functions?
While he is correct that for a maritime nation the Royal Navy is of critical importance and has been badly treated in recent defence cuts, he should not forget that the RAF is much more than just a few combat jets. He makes no mention of its air transport, helicopter support, air-to-air refuelling, intelligence gathering assets or remotely piloted aircraft.
Each of the three services performs an essential role in safeguarding this country and its interests. Abolishing the RAF would neither make us safer nor save the money that Mr Lester says it would.
Phil Mobbs
West Hanney, Oxon

While a mass wedding in Mumbai may seem extraordinary to us, it is not unknown for the same thing to occur here
Sir, I was reminded by your picture of a mass wedding in Mumbai (Jan 29) of my grandfather who was vicar of St Matthew’s Custom House in the early 1900s. Concerned about the lack of weddings, he found that his parishioners could not afford the wedding fees and suggested a mass wedding. The day arrived and the couples lined up along the communion rail. When it came to the last couple the groom said, “But she ain’t my girl.” My grandfather was horrified but said he had already married the girl to the other man. “Don’t worry,” said the groom, “we’ll try it as it is.”
History does not relate if they lived happily ever after, but at the next mass wedding my grandfather got the couples to tie their wrists together.
Judith Rosheuvel
London SW2

There are some things you really don’t expect while training for a fell race in Cumbria
Sir, Last Saturday (Jan 25) my friend Karen Ogle was bitten by a snake, presumably an adder, while training for a fell race at High Cup Nick near Dufton, Cumbria.
It must be extremely unusual to be bitten by a snake in the UK in January.
Reg Ord
Rowlands Gill, Tyne & Wear

Sir, So, the Scots want independence but also have a desire to continue using sterling. Under such a currency union it is possible in the future that we (the rest of the current UK) may have to bail out an independent Scotland (or even possibly, they us).
This being the case, don’t we get any say in this at all? The Scots are entitled to vote on their national independence, but currency union would affect both Scotland and the remaining UK members, and so I should have thought that the proposal that Scotland adopt sterling as its currency cannot reasonably be their decision alone.
Rowel Samuels
Bushey, Herts

From literary agents to poets laureate, there are kindly and productive ways of letting young authors down
Sir, T. S. Eliot was not the only poet who could be tactfully dismissive (“Litotes”, letter, Jan 29).
With the presumption of a 14-year-old, I sent my schoolboy verses to the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield. He honoured me with a four-page handwritten reply, beginning with the sentence: “Forgive me if I say little about your poems: youth writes with happiness and ease.”
He then went on to give me a succession of valuable tips — a remarkably generous put-down.
David A. E. Hunt
Newton-in-Cartmel, Cumbria

Proof that education, rather than supposed safety measures, is the key to ensuring that school children are protected from fire?
Sir, The letter from Dr Chase (Jan 29) reminds me of one you printed many years ago, from the headmaster of a primary school in Lincolnshire (I think). He said that since the introduction of compulsory primary education in the 19th century not one single Lincolnshire schoolchild had been so much as singed in a fire at school, but as soon as fire doors had been fitted, his school alone was sending to hospital a couple of children a week because their fingers had been trapped in the doors.
Richard Channon
Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk
Sir, Dr Chase omitted to mention that fire doors are by long tradition propped open with fire extinguishers.
Nick Parmée
London SW11


SIR – An Environment Agency spokesman defends the lack of river dredging, saying: “If you lower the beds you increase storage in the river, but that’s tiny compared with the flood plain… so lowering the beds often does little”.
Rivers, unlike flood plains, reservoirs and lakes, are not storage facilities; they are transit facilities. By dredging a river, you increase its capacity to move water. If more water moves from land to sea during and after heavy rain, flooding may be prevented or reduced.
Mac Cox
Hook, Hampshire
GPs’ heavy workload
SIR – You report that the number of patients per family doctor has fallen by 11 per cent since 2002. This figure masks a complicated picture: the number of consultations per GP has increased from 8,471 in 2004-05, to 9,672 in 2011-12. General practice is increasingly complex, as we tackle the challenges of an ageing population, a baby boom and more patients with mental health problems.
GPs work exceptionally hard for their patients but are drowning under the weight of spiralling workloads. We hope that the Government will ensure that general practice receives 11 per cent of the NHS budget by 2017.
Dr Maureen Baker
Chairman, Royal College of GPs
London NW1
Freezing point
SIR – Why no lights in freezers? Why freezers at all, when maybe 20 million homes are within a 10-minute drive of fresh food?
Michael Halpern
Stanmore, Middlesex
Minister for the elderly
SIR – As the number of older people living in Britain increases, the social care funding gap becomes more critical. The fact that elderly people are forced into A&E proves that the support system is showing some cracks. We need to see evidence of services prioritising prevention rather than managing crises.
More than two years ago, a petition was handed to No 10 with 137,000 signatures calling for a minister for older people at Cabinet level, who would ensure that different government departments work together to deal with the challenges that come with demographic change. In 2012, MPs voted in favour of a motion calling on the Government to consider making such an appointment, yet we still lack one person in Cabinet responsible for looking at older people’s issues.
It is likely that many of us will need good quality care in the years ahead and we need the Government to take a more joined-up approach to help those older people already falling through the gaps, as well as to protect the generations to come.
Jane Ashcroft
Chief Executive, Anchor
Economics of 50p rate
SIR – It was interesting to read Sir Victor Blank’s wisdom on the effect of the 50p tax rate. Wasn’t it he who agreed the Lloyds Bank, HBOS merger/takeover while chairman of Lloyds Bank?
Many longstanding Lloyds Bank shareholders may question the economic advice offered by Sir Victor.
David Parsonage
Empty properties
SIR – London is not the only area that has a problem with homes being acquired purely as an investment, and then left unoccupied. Towns and villages in the South West are blighted by the second-home syndrome.
My street is typical of many in coastal villages: 13 properties stand empty for most of the year. It is not pleasant on a dark winter’s evening to be surrounded by empty, unlit properties and, of course, it is not good for local businesses.
A possible answer to the problem is to levy multiple rates on empty dwellings.
Bernard Maskell
Croyde, Devon
It’s war!
SIR – Clive Petty is unhappy that the Imperial War Museum is closed until July, when most organisations connected with the First World War are looking to commemorate the start of the conflict. However, the war didn’t break out until late July 1914, with Britain’s declaration occurring on August 4.
The museum’s scheduled reopening in July, after major refurbishment to allow construction and preparation of new Great War galleries, is timely and appropriate.
Nigel Searle
Woking, Surrey
No bloomers
SIR – The accuracy of shorthand-typing as opposed to the bloomers of modern spell-check computers is ensured by the phonetic nature of Pitman shorthand.
An error, whereby a solicitor received a letter saying his clients were ready to “copulate”, would have been virtually impossible had the typist taken notes in Pitman shorthand.
Linda Bos
Midhurst, West Sussex
Bright students have special learning needs, too
SIR – Why are there special needs classes to try to raise the academically weakest to a minimum standard, but none to encourage the strongest to achieve the highest standards?
It could be argued that it is more effective to have special classes for our cleverest students; the difference between gaining 10 D grades at GCSE, as opposed to Es, will have less impact on a child’s life than the difference between gaining 10 A grades to Bs.
Richard Reynolds
Sheriff Hutton, North Yorkshire
SIR – Helping bright children to fulfil their potential is just as challenging as assisting those who have not done well.
It takes more than the teacher-as-facilitator approach that Martin Stephen, former High Master of St Paul’s, proffers, otherwise the divergent thinking of children is rarely harnessed into collaborative learning. The development of necessary mentoring and metacognitive skills is still too rare in teacher training.
Dr Stephen is right to highlight the dangers of overlooking the needs of the gifted in schools, but the problem doesn’t lie at the door of Ofsted, as he suggests.
Neil Roskilly
CEO, Independent Schools Association
Saffron Walden, Essex

SIR – We must support the precious heritage of cathedral music, but state funding is not the answer. How would a government decide how much to give and to whom?
It is up to those of us who sing and worship with them, and cathedral chapters, to find the ways of doing it. We should support the Faith Church Ministries and the Royal School of Church Music in their efforts to help by joining and supporting these organisations. The participation of girls is crucial for the development of this music.
However we must be careful – mixing girls with boys in the soprano line drives out the boys over time, and mixing girls with women drives out the girls.
Geoff Shaw
St Davids, Pembrokeshire
SIR – While I agree with the concern for cathedral music expressed by David Lawson (Letters, January 27), I can assure him that music at Lincoln is not in trouble.
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30 Jan 2014
The choir at Lincoln Cathedral is in good heart and voice, and well-supported by the energetic efforts of those who work to raise the necessary funds. Recruitment is strong, both for children and adults. The music offered day-by-day in worship befits the tradition fostered by William Byrd, organist here from 1563 to 1572.
Very Rev Philip Buckler
Dean of Lincoln
SIR – We need to appreciate the intrinsic musical, educational and cultural value that cathedral choirs provide in Britain.
The standard of singing in this country is second to none because of the training and high expectations of cathedral choirs in all areas such as sight-singing, intonation, discipline, difficulty of repertoire and deportment.
Our choirs owe their excellence to the Church of England, which provides children from all backgrounds with the opportunity to develop these highly prized technical and personal skills.
Professor Jeremy Dibble
Music Department, Durham University

SIR – That MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accuse the Queen’s advisers of failing to control finances and carry out maintenance is beyond belief. At least she has held £1 million in reserve.
The MPs want her courtiers to take “money-saving tips from the Treasury”. Someone should remind Margaret Hodge, the Labour chairman of the PAC, that her party is responsible for the majority of our national debt. And that the Treasury has wasted billions of pounds on scrapped computer systems and countless other vanity projects.
As for maintenance, our roads are full of pot holes, large swathes of the country have been under water for weeks, and the Palace of Westminster is in need of repair. How can MPs feel qualified to lecture others on being prudent?
Stefan Reszczynski
Margate, Kent
Related Articles
Singing the praises of British cathedral choirs
30 Jan 2014
SIR – Suggestions from MPs that Buckingham Palace should increase visitor numbers and be more commercially focused are arrogant and hypocritical. The gains for the nation from tourism and heritage to which the Queen and Royal family contribute far outweigh anything that an MP might attract.
I can’t recall any suggestions by Margaret Hodge for attracting income through letting out the chamber of the House of Commons to businesses and other organisations.
This is a shame, as the long period of the year when it is vacant, during to the excessive number of holidays Parliament seems to have, a tidy sum could be earned towards reducing the deficit.
John Ross
Crewe, Cheshire
SIR – Contrary to what the PAC would have us believe, the Crown does not receive one penny from the taxpayer. Last year the Crown Estate, which manages property on behalf of the Queen, made a profit of £240 million, of which the Queen received just £31 million.
Incredibly, Conservative MPs outnumber Labour MPs on the PAC, but if the Tory MPs let themselves be railroaded by Margaret Hodge, even where the monarchy is concerned, what is the point of electing them in the first place?
Patrick Nicholls
Hemyock, Devon
SIR – Listening to Margaret Hodge on the Today programme criticising the senior staff of Buckingham Palace for financial mismanagement was interesting. Carefully courteous as she may have been, has it not occurred to her or her colleagues that the chronic underinvestment in the historic palaces, which are so significant to our national life and identity, is the result of persistent underfunding of the monarchy by Parliament itself?
Oliver Lodge
London SW16
SIR – We are told that the monarchy has received £36 million on the same day that we are told the Environment Agency has spent £31 million on a bird sanctuary in an area suffering flooding.
I rest my case.
John Castley

Irish Times:
Sir, – As someone with a modicum of legal knowledge, I am amazed at the Department of Education’s assertion that it had no responsibility whatever in the Louise O’Keeffe (and similar) cases. I’m even more amazed that our senior courts upheld that assertion (now overturned by the ECoHR). Responsibility cannot be devolved in such cases. Duties and tasks yes, but ultimate responsibility, no. Not entirely at least. On the other hand it seems to me, though I haven’t read the ECoHR findings, that others must also have had co-responsibility, not least the perpetrator of the abuse; but also the parish priest as “patron”, the board of management of the school and to a lesser extent the parents.
If compensation is to be paid, then will all those listed above, but most especially the church authorities, be asked to cough up, or are they to walk free, again? Or is it to be yet another burden on the unfortunate taxpayer. After all the government has no funds out of which to pay compensation except what we, the taxpayers give them! And we are not only entirely innocent of this crime, some of us are victims too! Yours, etc,
Barrow Lane,
Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – The news that Louise O’Keeffe has won her case against Ireland in the European Court of Human Rights finally rips away the last pretence of generations of Irish governments to evade responsibility for their negligence in protecting children in Irish schools. All Irish people should feel a sense of shame that it took a European court to lance this festering Irish boil.
The Irish legal system comes out of this whole affair more than slightly soiled. The courts always turned down Louise O’Keeffe’s case because they accepted the plea of the executive – even though the State paid for Irish education, it gave a free hand to the Roman Catholic Church to run the schools. It was a grubby quid pro quo – the church got control of the minds and lives of the young and did not make trouble for the State. The State paid up and everything was hunky-dory. Mistreatment? Cruelty? Sexual abuse? Not a chance. The church would not and could not countenance such a travesty. We all know what happened when that can of worms was opened in the past 20 years or so.
The amount of compensation payable now to the living victims of this abuse is almost immaterial. The State fighting to the last gasp when justice demanded a generous approach shows the real attitude of our governments. Money and political power counts – justice is just a word to be trotted out to impress people when the need arises, like an election. Otherwise it’s the always open-to-interpretation law that rules the day.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 was a great day for Louise O’Keeffe and the other abused children of this country. But it was a day of shame for successive Irish governments, the Irish legal system, the Roman Catholic Church and all those patriots, big and small, who heard no evil, saw no evil and, therefore, did not speak up when they should have.
If this State does not abide by the true principles of truth and justice this tragic type of events will happen again and again. When will we learn our lesson? – Yours, etc,
Greencastle Avenue,
Dublin 17.
Sir, – It seems to me the debate surrounding the recognition of same-sex marriage is a waste of time and energy. Should the State not exit the marriage battlefield entirely, abandoning it to religious communities and interested social groupings?
The State is primarily concerned with the legal and civil rights aspects of marriage, and these could be met by two people of any sex signing a comprehensive legal agreement. What we now call “divorce” would become another, formal, legal construct resulting in the dissolution of the agreement that constituted the union. If people want a public wedding with or without a State-recognised legal agreement, let them go to a church or civil association that is prepared to perform some sort of ceremony, even if that entails forming a new body. This would leave organisations such as the Catholic Church free to prescribe or proscribe anything they like about marriage; couples could still have their day out, and the State need not introduce legislation for “marriage equality”. – Yours, etc,
Philipsburgh Avenue,
Fairview, Dublin 3.

A chara, – In the case of many recent massive pay-offs and pensions, legal constraints have had to be taken into consideration.
I am a PAYE worker who took a stand on principle not to pay the household tax and lo and behold the Revenue took it out of my wages without even informing me. No legal constraints to take into consideration there. I assume it will be the same for the water tax.
There have also been cuts to social welfare, the introduction of universal social tax and too many other cuts and proxy taxes; but no legal constraints to take into consideration there either.
So I have come to the conclusion that the laws are for the guidance of the rich and the obedience of the poor and lower paid. There seem to be legal constraints to be taken into consideration when dealing with wealthy and well-connected people and none when dealing with poor or lower paid unconnected people. – Is mise,
Brown Street,
Co Waterford.

Sir, – While our public health system struggles, the cost of private health insurance increases, again. Our health ministers need to realise the damage their levies are doing to both systems.The higher the price of private health insurance, demand for such reduces; the less demand, the lower the income to the State from the levies. This reduces public funding to provide public services and will result in higher taxes for everyone.
The Government should be incentivising people to procure private health rather than forcing people into a distressed public system; and balancing the levies so as to attract people back into private health. – Yours, etc,
Strand Road,
Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Irish Water acknowledges that the company, in taking over existing water services staff, will be overstaffed. The ESRI estimates this will add €65 to the average household water bill. If one applies logic and rational reasoning to this issue – Irish Water’s decision is removing the cost of these staff from the local authorities therefore the Local Property Tax (which funds the local authorities) should also reduce by €65 so the taxpayer will not be out of pocket.
Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, please confirm. – Yours, etc,
Co Galway.

Sir, – Martyn Turner provided the perfect image for the Sochi Games (Opinion, January 29th). The Olympics are meant to represent such values as respect, fair play and friendship. Vladimir Putin, however, has demonstrated his contempt for such values. He is moving Russia towards becoming an authoritarian society again. The 1932 Games did not change the Nazi regime. The 1980 Games did not change the Soviet Union. The 2008 Games did not change the dictatorship that controls China. The Sochi Games will not deter Putin from his attacks on democracy and justice within Russia.
The Olympic Games, and all other major international sports and cultural events, should only be held in nations that are democracies. To do otherwise is to mock and undermine the essential moral values associated with such events. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Street,
Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Sir, – I think everyone agrees with Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton that job creation is the most important issue facing this country (Opinion, January 14th) and that the object of trade missions is simply that. And of course, it is important to do business and maintain friendly relations with all governments in all parts of the world.
However, we question the Minister’s assertion that human rights cannot be raised on trade missions. Nobody expects, as he implied, “human rights (to) be a central part of discussions with political leaders on trade missions”. However, if, as he says, human rights are part of our values and principles as a nation and we must build on our strong record of human rights, then we cannot ignore the issue – even while on trade missions.
A discussion on human rights need not be a confrontation – the message can be delivered without offence, informally, or by building on what may have been raised already through the normal channels. Governments have thick skins – they know they are not perfect and know that they are accountable on human rights issues – that by being members of the UN, it is part of their responsibilities.
What is inexcusable and is an affront to our values as Irish people, is to undermine human rights by not even mentioning violations of human rights and the rule of law when in very repressive countries. Business and human rights do not exist in mutually exclusive spheres. Business depends on the rule of law and respect for basic principles of justice – as do human rights defenders.
We work for the protection of human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). When Ireland became a member of the UN Human Rights Council, it gave a priority to protecting human rights defenders internationally.
In Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi, a human rights blogger, was sentenced to 600 lashes and seen years imprisonment for documenting various abuses by the national religious and morality police on his website. Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were sentenced to ten months imprisonment for speaking out for women’s rights. And in the UAE Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, a leading human rights lawyer, has been in prison without trial since 2012, for providing legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses.
It would have been great if the Government had used the opportunity of the recent trade mission to ask a question about these extraordinarily brave human rights defenders privately and informally and to express their concern.
Is there any evidence to suggest that raising individual cases on a micro level in politically sensitive countries will negate potential gains? Is it a fear, is it grounded in reality or is it just a convenient excuse to dodge the issue? – Yours, etc,
Executive Director,
Front Line Defenders,
Temple Road,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Dr Peter Prendergast, referred to as trained in cardiothoracic surgery and who performs “‘aesthetic surgery” including “vaginal lifts”, states that he would like to see regulation and “formal training” introduced in Ireland (Life, January 27th).
The Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS), of which Dr Prendergast is not a member, would like to assure the public that rigorous and lengthy formal training is available to those who wish to qualify in the speciality of “plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery”. Only after surgeons have completed extensive higher surgical training (six years), specialist examination and in-service assessments by the Royal College of Surgeons are they eligible to be entered onto the Irish Medical Council’s specialist register.
Members of the public should always check to see if their doctor is qualified to perform plastic surgery as your readers will be surprised to learn that any doctor in Ireland can undertake any cosmetic procedure, and even operate on patients, without such training and qualification. These doctors often refer to themselves as “cosmetic surgeons”, a term not regulated by the Medical Council, or any other body.
In other European countries, such as France and Denmark, there are clear legal guidelines that state what type of surgery can be performed and which practitioners can offer what type of services. These were developed, in the interest of patient safety, after years of misleading advertising, inaccurate website claims and unsubstantiated claims of success by non-specialist doctors and commercial clinics in those countries.
IAPS has made numerous calls in the past on the government and the health authorities to regulate plastic surgery far more stringently. We wish to reiterate this call. – Yours, etc,
FRCSI (Plast),
President, Irish Association
of Plastic Surgeons,
St Stephen’s Green,

Sir, – The most remarkable thing about the theft of papal blood for satanic purposes is that it was reported “by an Italian consumer rights lobby” (World News, January 27th) Presumably the Consumers’ Association of Ireland and your own Conor Pope are keeping a close eye on Irish satanists to ensure that the conduct of black Masses in Ireland is up to standard.  – Yours, etc,
Wellington Street,
Ontario, Canada.
Sir, – You report (Home News, January 27th) that every Irish-born first World War soldier awarded the Victoria Cross is to have a “paving stone laid in his honour, paid for by the British government” in his home town. The list will doubtless include Inchigeela-born Michael O’Leary VC (see entry in Dictionary of Irish Biography) who was featured at the time in a recruiting poster jingle, racy of the soil: “Yerra, glory, Mike O’Leary, you’re the hero of Macroom/ Oh glory, Mike O’Leary, sure you spelt the Kaiser’s doom!”
To personalise the colourful local endorsement, the hero’s father, Daniel O’Leary, was invited to speak from the recruiting platform in the Macroom town square. According to the version long cherished in the local tradition, he ringingly exhorted his listeners to enlist “because if the Germans come over here, they’ll be a lot worse than the English, bad and all as they were”. He was dropped from the team forthwith.
I assume the laying of a paving stone will be a public and “reconciliatory” ceremony. I look forward to the occasion with great interest, and no little glee. – Yours, etc,
Douglas Road, Cork.

Sir, – Connoisseurs of long words were distraught when Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz became obsolete due to the abolition of Germany’s law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling, but welcomed back Austria’s Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänwitwe (widow of a Danube steamship company captain) as a contender for the title of Europe’s most protracted locution. – Yours, etc,
Operngasse, Vienna,

Sir, – “Begs the question” means using an assumption as a fact. It’s sloppy to use it as a form of “Raises the question”. It also raises the question, what do we say now when we want to say “Begs the question”? – Yours, etc,
Kingsland Parade,
Dublin 8 .
Sir, – “Undergrounding”. – Yours, etc,
Parklands Court,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Sir, – “Working longer hours”. All hours are of 60 minutes duration, no shorter or longer. – Yours,etc,
Fremont Drive,
Melbourn Estate,
Sir, – “Absolutely” instead of “Yes”, and “I personally” or “me personally” as opposed to “I someone else” or “me someone else”. – Yours, etc,
Cranmer Lane,
Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

* Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney are calling for more vociferous and energetic support for the Irish rugby team at the Aviva Stadium. Alan Quinlan has also taken umbrage with the poor performance of the Irish supporters in the Aviva.
Also in this section
Brian Hayes – a contract with Irish voters?
Letters: Quinn needs to educate himself on faiths
Letters: A reform platform that ignores mental health
I have been attending Aviva and the old Lansdowne Road stadia for decades and have to agree with the main thrust of the comments. We go to these games to support the players we have an affinity with and we get particularly exercised when these players are ‘heroes’ to us.
But two contrasting articles in this paper have caused me to question this call to arms. A week ago you reported “IRFU smash pay structure with bumper €1.5m Heaslip contract”.
This after the former Irish captain and current vice-captain had been the subject of interest from French clubs, boosting his contract value and resulting in a ‘bumper’ pay deal. All well within his rights in what is, we are told, a professional game.
Earlier this week we learned that the Welsh captain, Sam Warburton, had signed a contract to stay in Wales, surrendering an uplift in contract value to go to France according to his agent. He went on to explain Warburton’s motivation; “Sam has decided to accept the very generous and fair offer from the WRU because he is currently Wales captain… he is honoured every time he pulls on the red jersey of Wales and he loves his country.”
I will be attending the Aviva next month with my sons to see the Ireland v Wales game and I will explain to them that although the game is now professional, there is still room for sporting heroes. And these heroes should be supported – with gusto. Hopefully all of them will happen to be wearing the green jersey.
* (Written for a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer)
Oxygen-dependant and failing scarred lungs, the waiting game ticks slowly days to months, tubes and machines part of every day life, the strong smell of sterility and hospital now in your home. A laboured breath as you struggle to finish what you have to say and I wish I hadn’t asked.
The look in your eyes, the despair and acceptance that life is not what was planned for you.
The ‘game over’ signal is drawing near and nobody talks about it, plastering a cheery smile that says isn’t life great.
The ambulance screamed noisily the whole journey, nobody knew what to say or do.
Bloods, tissue matches, hours of assessments as three potential recipients lay sterile and prepped for surgery.
No pair of lungs for everyone in the audience, but you are in the last chance saloon. New dawning, unknown chance, you are wheeled into the operating theatre.
The ventilated game over from this morning’s car accident offers you this unintentional gift.
* One of our greatest actors, Gabriel Byrne, in Kirsty Blake Knox’s article (Saturday, January 25) said he was not surprised by the recent dreadful charity scandals and spoke many truths about Irish life, past and present, which are worth repeating:
* He called for more transparency in all aspects of public life.
* He urged people to challenge individuals who claimed to be in positions of power – they are the servants of the people.
* Ireland of the past was a place of repression and secrecy, ruled with a rod of iron by church and state.
Being around the same age as Gabriel, I can fully relate to all his outspoken and forthright opinions. It can do nothing but good if more courageous people like Gabriel speak out in this country, and tell it as it was and is, both past and present.
People like this deserve our highest respect.
* I am very much looking forward to those bankers claiming that their talents are grossly undervalued in Ireland and proving it by gaining employment with other banks outside Ireland.
If pushed, I would be more than willing to organise a ‘wake’ in celebration of their departure from Irish life.
* As the decades rolled by I have watched the never-ending dance where the partners change but the music is the same.
The merry smiles and the jingle of the coins in the pockets of The Entitled does not stop – it merely moves around to a new set of dancers.
But anger and frustration are bad for the soul and no good for the blood pressure.
Big business has its lobby; public workers have their union but the ordinary taxpayer has only the privilege of putting a pencil cross on a piece of paper every few years. This seems to be a very small input from those who pay the piper.
Perhaps we need an organisation independent of politics, business, unions and all vested interests to fight our corner. A sort of Taxpayers Protection Society. Any takers?
* If compensation is to be paid then will the church authorities be asked to cough up or are they to walk free, again? Or is it to be yet another burden on the unfortunate taxpayer? After all the Government has no funds out of which to pay compensation except what we, the taxpayers give them! And we are not only entirely innocent of this crime, some of us are victims too!
* The announcement of a new stem-cell laboratory in Galway brings us closer to the reality of genetic revolution. We have reached a critical point in our history. We have become capable of manipulating genes. We can now, with all the right ingredients, concoct genetic soup.
As the genetic links become clearer, we will be able to foresee who will be prone to alcoholism, to cancer, cystic fibrosis, which is wonderful.
We are now experimentally treating diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy with gene therapy. Modern medicine is creating miracles on a daily basis, as science probes further, and further into the origins of life. In just a short period of time, we have made astounding progress. One wonders what medical miracles lie on the horizon?
* As Ross-0’Carroll-Kelly would say, “this pylon issue is a complete ‘mare dude!”.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has come to the end of the ‘easy road’ of the non-nuclear, wind-power generation option.
Politicos like people generally prefer routes marked ‘easy road’ to those marked ‘hard road’. Nuclear power was always going to be a hard sell, politically. The wind-power plan has begun to unravel.
Might I suggest, that after dealing with the headaches now thrown up by the pylon issues, the minister and his colleagues in Government might give pro-nuclear proponents a fair hearing and give due consideration to the nuclear power option? Sometimes in life, as in politics, the easy road becomes the hard road and vice versa.
Irish Independent


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