8 February 2014 Sandy

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Taffy can get promotoon if only he can get rid of Pertwee Priceless.

Sandy comes to visit a bit more work done upstairs

Scrabbletoday Mary wins, just.and get over 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.



Jean Miller, who has died aged 84, was a former professional dancer, actress and supplier of game pies to gastronomes; and though she did not begin painting until she was 68, her dazzling landscapes of red hills and blue sheep around her home town of Hay-on-Wye attracted a following well beyond the Welsh borders.

She turned to art principally because she could not bear the thought of a genteel widowhood of charity shop work and coffee mornings. With no gallery, no agent and no formal training, she made a reputation based solely on what people found when they turned up on the doorstep of her ordinary-looking terraced house – every inch of wall space covered with vibrant still-lifes and highly original interpretations of places they knew. She sold oils as soon as the paint was dry and, to keep up with demand, started a lively business in limited edition prints. Sir Arnold Wesker, a collector of her work, called her “a life-enhancer”.

Jean Miller’s whole life was a celebration of colour. She wore only the brightest of clothes and the boldest of jewellery. Her narrow house was an eccentric cave of colour and pattern – stained glass, tulip patterns, paysan ceramics and a dining table laid with Georgian silver spoons. She was an excellent cook, an anecdotalist and an optimist. People who came for paintings were treated to what one collector called “the whole Jean Miller experience”. An artist friend, Cecily Sash, described her, quite usefully, as “a kind of Matisse on speed”.

Her first sale was to a Hay book dealer, Anne Brichto, who bought an impressionistic nude on pink sugar paper for £10. “It was so strong and had such a good line,” she recalled. Brichto persuaded Miller to hold an exhibition of 30 paintings in one of her bookshops in Hay. “We sold to everyone who came in to buy a book.”

Jean Miller’s approach to art, as to life, was deceptively breezy and direct. She never bothered with drawings and usually started with a daub of red. “Once I’ve got the shapes,” she said, “I just paint the colours out of my head. I don’t think about it. The less you think, the better you paint. If you follow your instinct, it’s like having an angel on your shoulder.”

She produced dramatic landscapes of the border country – the Black Mountains, Hay Bluff, the Usk Valley and Hay-on-Wye itself – but also portraits and a joyous line in bowls, jugs, fruit and flowers, of which the most popular was a white jug against a blue background, done when she was past 80. Production would intensify as each year’s Hay Festival approached and she worried that she would not have enough work to show. “I work very quickly,” she once said. “I daren’t tell people how quickly. They might feel they’re being cheated.”


She was born Jean Raley on August 12 1929 at Saint Helier, Jersey, where her father was a teacher. Her parents separated when she was a baby and she was brought up by her grandparents, her mother and her Aunt May (subject of many affectionate portraits) in Folkestone. Her grandfather, Claude Counsell, had studied at the Slade and trained as an artist in Paris before becoming headmaster of Feltonfleet boys’ prep school in Folkestone. Jean was educated there until she was nine, learning football and boxing as well as French and Latin.

When the school was bombed out, the family moved to Windsor, where her uncle John ran the Theatre Royal. Her first professional role there was as a Seed Pearl in Aladdin’s Cave. Briefly, Jean was educated at a girls’ school in Windsor. She then won a scholarship to the Bellair School of Dancing in Godalming (later the Guildford School of Acting) but left at 16 because “there really wasn’t anybody about. We were rather hungry most of the time.”

At 17 she auditioned at the Ambassador Theatre, London, for a part in Sweetest and Lowest (“the naughtiest show in town”), with Hermione Gingold. The job required her to act, dance and sing. She went on tour with Dame Flora Robson and once shared a dressing room with Margot Fonteyn.



At Windsor Rep she met her husband, Michael Miller, who played Henry VIII to her Anne Boleyn in 1066 and All That, staged for the Festival of Britain in 1951. He proposed on their second date and they married six weeks later. The separations of a dual acting career did not suit them, so they moved to Jersey to live the good life, renting a Georgian house for £4 a week, planting a market garden and going bust. Michael Miller returned to the theatre; Jean brought up their three children in the Chilterns.



When a serious car accident brought an end to Michael’s career and most of their income, the Millers lived on their wits. They started to go to auctions and to deal in prints. Jean, a natural and inventive cook, catered for film directors and made game pies for Justin de Blank in London. She told Cecily Sash, who interviewed her for the book Jean Miller’s Paintings (2008): “I discovered that if you put pheasants and grouse into pastry you could charge six times more than if you put beef and bacon in.”

Michael Miller died in 1987, and 10 years later, exhausted by catering, Jean Miller moved to Hay-on-Wye. She joined a painting class at the local community centre, then briefly attended Hereford Art College but was not popular (possibly because her pictures were), and walked out. Some students remarked that she was “too old”.

Aged 68, her real painting life began. She became a local celebrity and more or less ran an open house. “She loved the fun of a late-blooming career, of the commercial side, of people liking her work and her company,” said a friend, Emily Jones. “When you bought one of her pictures, you were buying a bit of her, really.”

In 2006 Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer and struggled with ill health ever after. “The maddening thing,” she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2008, “is that just as you reach an age of being vaguely wise, you pop off, leaving the next generation to learn everything for themselves. I wouldn’t want to pop off at the minute because I’m so busy.” She painted for a further six years, right to the end. Her son and two daughters survive her.

Jean Miller, born August 12 1929, died January 10 2014



Thank you, Simon Jenkins (Germany, I’m sorry. This is the British at their worst, 31 January) for expressing what no German dares to say, lest we are branded war-deniers or humourless. The British obsession with war not only fills bookstands and the school curriculum, but results in open, unchallenged racism. As a German teacher I am invariably greeted with “Hitler!” or “Nazi!”, because that’s the only thing young British people learn about Germany. My son who is half Indian/half German has only ever suffered racist remarks because of his German origin. In more than 30 years living in Britain I have not once been asked about Germany’s recent past as a divided country (of which I could tell from own experience), but countless times about my experiences and opinions of the Nazi regime of over 70 years ago. Britain, which takes pride in its credos of diversity, tolerance and anti-racism, still has a long way to go to fight its anti-German prejudice and this sanctimonious, self-congratulatory, war-worshipping festival is not helping.
Christine Fuchs
Chigwell, Essex

• I am German and have been living in Britain for half of my life, so on realising which year we are in, I began to shiver in my boots. In my experience there’s no particular reason needed to do a bit of German-bashing. It comes in various guises: as “surprise” about the existence of good Germans; during the World Cup hosted in Germany; or camouflaged as a pseudo-psychological treatise on German art in a series on British TV. But quite apart from my own sensitivities, this kind of behaviour is enormously damaging, as it perpetuates blaming someone out there as the devil. It’s a blow to all our attempts to grow up and realise that people are just people who, under certain circumstances, will do the most unbelievable things to save their bacon – be they Germans or Brits or whatever.
Carola Splettstoesser
Forres, Moray


My mother, 79-year-old anti-war activist, Margaretta D’Arcy would like to thank the hundreds of readers who have sent her cards and letters in Limerick prison (Letters, 20 January). She is not in the best of health but the messages of solidarity for her act of peacefully trying to stop the use of neutral Ireland as a staging post for the US military have done much to maintain her spirits. Please continue to write to her c/o Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, Ireland.
Jake Arden

• Re your editorial on whether the UK has a national tree (In praise of, 4 February), no question it has to be Ulmus procera – the English elm. Confined to England, and sparse on the ground north of York, rare in Ireland (and there always planted), the fastest-growing deciduous tree in Europe, formerly spectacular, standing tall but, owing to its failure to set fertile seed and habit of suckering, it was vulnerable to exploitation by a predatory disease, and a recent catastrophic crash has left it a feeble, sickly and low-growing remnant, a shadow of its former glory.
David Hanke

• I have loyally stuck by you for 35 years while people have mocked your spelling mistakes. But today (5 February, page 3) you have printed a beautiful picture of five athletes in the Olympic rings. One of them is my son. And you’ve spelt his surname wrong. Oh Grauniad!
Roger Harington

• How disappointing: an article by Jack Monroe on how to shop (G2, 6 February), with helpful photographs of eggs for identification purposes, but no instructions for us grannies on how to suck them.
Lindy Hardcastle

• Jack Monroe packed a year’s worth of budgeting, cooking, planning and shopping tips into three economical pages. Real value for money!
Iain Orr

• Perhaps I’m missing the point but I wonder if, like me, fellow readers find it a little ironic being lectured on “eating well on £10 a week”. We pay more than that for the privilege of reading the newspaper.
Peter Holden
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Amelia Gentleman (Report, 6 February) really does get to the heart of the problem currently afflicting London‘s housing market. Boris Johnson is wilfully ignoring a major housing crisis that is developing on his own doorstep because he can continue to satisfy the financial interests of the developers and investors who are pricing ordinary Londoners out of the city they call home. The problem is not just found in Hackney. It’s found in every estate agent’s advert for a new £700,000 “affordable” home. It’s on every property developer’s website which stipulates “no social housing”. The London Green party has this weekend launched the Crumbs for London campaign calling for investment in social housing and a fairer deal for rental tenants.
Jean Lambert MEP for London, Caroline Allen MEP candidate for London, Darren Johnson AM, Jenny Jones AM, Benali Hamdache London Green party


I was very pleased to see the Guardian launch its campaign against FGM (End female genital mutilation, 6 February) and can only agree with the call for secondary heads to teach students about the practice before the summer holidays. As a Conservative spokesman for women’s rights and gender equality in the European parliament, I am pushing the FGM agenda in Europe, where we have approximately 500,000 girls at risk. However, a lack of awareness and the hidden nature of this crime are holding back the campaign to protect young girls in the UK. I believe education in schools is one of the best ways to give girls at risk information to help them resist FGM and to address the cultural drives behind this practice. This week, we passed a resolution that demands action to end the horror of FGM and places emphasis on the fact that this barbaric practice happens to children. Next week, I will be holding a prevalence event, the first of its kind, which will be a chance for all member states to co-operate together and exchange information in the fight against this brutal practice.
Marina Yannakoudakis
Conservative MEP for London

• I run a maternity hospital in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. Every day I see the impact FGM can have on women’s health, and their ability to give birth safely. Thanks to the stability afforded by our separation from Somalia, this is a scourge we have been able to start tackling. I train young women to become midwives in their local communities. In order to pass their exams, they have to commit to help end the practice. Thanks to this initiative and many others, a recent Unicef study found that only 25% of girls aged one to 14 have undergone FGM in Somaliland, compared to 99% in Somalia. This number continues to decrease, but too slowly. There is still much work to be done, and women in the Somali diaspora can help by being at the forefront of this cultural change. The decisions they make affect attitudes in the country of their birth. Girls like Fahma Mohamed, who are bravely speaking out in newspapers such as yours, as well as online, may help to make a difference back in Somalia. By bucking the trend, they may start one of their own.
Edna Adan
Director, University Hospital and former foreign minister of Somaliland, Hargeisa

• I have observed in Nigeria the ill-effects of FGM, which include bleeding, infection, scarring, psychological scarring and impairment of sexual functioning. I remember a woman enduring an extremely painful labour, trying in vain to push out her baby – obstructed by scarring of the vulva, a problem which was easily solved in hospital. I have three practical suggestions for those who wish to help this campaign. Firstly, do not call it circumcision, as the ActionAid advertisement in the Guardian does. It is not circumcision. This encourages people to think it is the equivalent of male circumcision, which it is not. FGM involves, at the least, removal of the clitoris. In some areas, such as east Africa, it involves the removal of the major and minor labia with stitching up to close the opening, leaving a small hole for the expulsion of urine and menstrual blood. Such a closure has to be opened by further surgery to allow sexual intercourse. All this without consent or anaesthesia. Secondly, sign the petition at Thirdly, read any of the books by Waris Dirie or Fauziya Kassindja’s book Do They Hear You When You Cry.
Michael Cox
(Retired gynaecologist) Nuneaton

• It is to be hoped the very welcome debate about FGM will also be extended to the opposite sex. Circumcision is just as much a form of child abuse. This outmoded practice confers no proven benefits and should not be a rite or ritual that is accepted in modern society.
Jan Arriens
Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire

• Can we stop speaking of the practice as having been “outlawed” in 1985, as if it had been lawful until then? It may have been the subject of specific legislation in 1985, but it was and remains grievous bodily harm contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It is difficult to see why it should not also be prosecuted as sexual assault.
Naomi Cunningham
Polegate, East Sussex

• Prosecutions are necessary to demonstrate it is illegal. Just pick up your pen, Theresa May.
Ruth Lewis



Stephen Deuchar (Letters, 5 February) is right to point out that our export review system properly identifies works of high importance to be saved for the nation. I am delighted that over the past year treasures such as two remarkable paintings by Stubbs and Jane Austen’s ring have been saved so they can be enjoyed in this country.

But he is wrong to suggest that money to save such objects has been affected by the “ravages of the government’s austerity programme”. The true picture is far healthier. The Heritage Lottery Fund, for example, which often contributes to saving objects for the nation, has seen available funds increase from £247m a year to an expected £349m a year after we reversed Labour’s Lottery cuts. Our last spending review settlement saw £80m of new money for English Heritage to help them manage their properties with a new business model. And we are continually looking to encourage the development of other sources of funding from philanthropic giving and independent fundraising. Our joint fund with the Wolfson Foundation gave over £4m to museums and galleries across England just last week.

The Art Fund does important work but Stephen’s comments need to be considered against a huge programme designed to support our nation’s culture and heritage so that our museums and galleries can continue to look to an optimistic future.
Ed Vaizey MP
Culture minister

• I was very interested to read Andrew Martin’s article (Can Britain’s north-south brain drain be halted? 1 February), but there are a number of points relating to the Arts Council that I wish to clarify.

Arts Council National Lottery spending is in fact £17.26 per head in London – somewhat less than the £69 figure quoted in the article. This £69 figure includes funding for national museums, galleries and libraries which comes directly from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), not from the Arts Council. The Arts Council is the only national body that champions regional funding for arts and culture and works with local government to fund arts up and down the country.

It is true London receives funding because some major national public arts institutions are located there. National organisations benefit artists and audiences across the country. Through touring and digital broadcast they extend their reach. Their educational work and their artistic collaborations extend nationwide. They are a vital part of a national arts ecology.

For that ecology to work our regions must be strong too, with their own national and international centres of excellence – many built in recent years with Lottery money. We are working hard to nurture great art everywhere for everyone, with initiatives like our Strategic touring programme – or Creative People and Places – a scheme to create exciting work in places where there has been little opportunity to experience culture.

We want to build on the work already happening in cities across England but we must acknowledge the interdependencies of the arts ecology, which needs to include a vibrant London arts scene that works with and for the whole country.
Alan Davey
Chief executive, Arts Council England




Owen Jones (6 February) suggests a third way for Scotland – a federation within the Union offering more autonomy – and I suspect the Westminster government will suggest something similar if the independence campaign continues to gain momentum and the country looks like voting “yes” on 18 September. For many north of the border this will never be sufficient.

Independence for me will mean control of our own destiny: no more danger of being dragged into illegal wars at the behest of the Americans in the mistaken belief that the UK is still a world power; no more spending billions on dangerous, obsolete nuclear weapons while public services are cut; and no more squandering oil revenues on right-wing policies, when they could be invested in the future.

Full powers, rather than just more powers, will mean a seat for Scotland at the top table in the EU – and it will be in the EU, despite the scare stories. Independence will also mean Scotland won’t have to leave the EU against its will because of votes elsewhere in the UK.

Oh, and an independent Scotland won’t have that expensive, unelected and undemocratic abomination, the second chamber.

Most important of all: the devolved powers proposed by Owen Jones would mean a sitting Westminster government retaining the right to grant or remove powers at whim, while Scotland continues to depend on the political and economic benevolence of a government it probably didn’t elect and whose ideologies it seldom supports.

Pauline Taylor, Elgin, Moray


Owen Jones says: “The debate about Scotland’s future is one, of course, that the Scottish people alone have to determine.”

As a Scot, born and educated in Dundee, I will have no vote. I am now resident in England. I lived for 20 years in Australia, three years in Argentina and two in Germany. We Scots travel!

It is not the Scottish people who will have the vote, it is the people resident in Scotland, and it would be interesting to know how many of those are actually Scottish.

Dian Elvin, Witney, Oxfordshire


Price of building on flood plains

Dave Bearman (letter, 6 February) makes many good points, but in his defence of the use of flood plains for agriculture, he stops short of attributing blame to the seriously guilty parties who allowed, and still allow, building on flood plains: local councillors.

Along with many others I fruitlessly campaigned a quarter of a century ago against housing and industrial developments on water meadows around the River Linnet where it flows through Bury St Edmunds. Even at that time it was obvious that to reduce the area available for temporary storage of winter rains was bordering on the criminal. But business and commercial short-term interests won, and still win.

Today the Bury Free Press reports:  “Steve Mableson, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s station commander at Bury, said: ‘The River Linnet has broken its banks and flooded the local area involving some 14 houses surrounded by water, some may also be flooded.’ ”

Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


It is all very well for Dave Bearman to say that we are all in this together. As far as the Somerset Levels are concerned, of course the farmers should live there; they always have and the old houses were built high to avoid flooding.

The problem lies not with them but with the non-agricultural community, commuting to the surrounding towns, who live in modern houses on the fringes of the islands, where flooding is more likely. They have no need to be there.

Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset


How can HS2  go ahead now?

In the light of the devastating storm damage to the essential rail link to the south-west of the country, surely paying £46bn to save 20 minutes journey time getting from Birmingham to London must be utter lunacy against the dire need for a new and improved rail bypass for Dawlish. It can only be vested political interests to think or act otherwise.

Peter Gerdes, Crowborough, East Sussex


I am pleased that Roger Padfield found the scenery from the train via Okehampton to his liking (letter, 6 February). I’m sure the residents of Cornwall and south Devon would agree, were it not for the present dire situation which denies them the vital rail link via Dawlish which is so essential to their livelihood. An alternative rail link to the peninsular is a matter for urgent consideration and this should be addressed without delay.

However, to cite this situation as an excuse for scrapping HS2 is short-sighted. HS2 represents an opportunity to construct an urgently needed rail link to, hopefully, prevent similar disruption to our transport network, this time before it becomes an emergency.

John Wess, Malvern, Worcestershire


Small firms have big advantages

Your editorial “Big is beautiful” (28 January) is built on the assertion that “there is no moral or economic advantage in having a job created by a small or medium-sized business over one that grows out of a big company”. This is complete nonsense.

A moral case for small businesses can easily be built around the greater opportunity for individual fulfilment that small firms offer. Lots of small firms mean many more entrepreneurial jobs in the economy. Lots of individuals with greater responsibility for their own jobs and futures provide the foundations for a richer, more informed and more mature democracy.

The economic case for creating jobs in small firms rather than large is more Darwinian, but also extremely strong. Large populations of small and medium-sized firms allow market processes to operate more quickly: firms are born and die quickly – they can double in size or vanish overnight, and they lack the political lobbying power to delay inevitable change. An economy made up of small firms is more flexible in a challenging and competitive world than a similarly-sized economy of large firms.

I write from personal experience, having spent half my career in global corporations, and more than a decade running an SME. You only need to look at sectors like energy and banking in the UK to see the economic and moral case for smaller firms writ very large indeed.

Matthew Rhodes, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


The changing Catholic Church

As another former altar server of the early 1960s and now a priest for over 30 years, I can say that John Walsh’s article “The Francis factor” (4 February) does have some vague echoes of the truth in it for me, though like much media portrayal of the Catholic Church, it is more caricature than reality. I believe the Catholic Church he recalls had begun to change long before Pope Francis came along.

“Catholics love being told what to do,” John Walsh says. Well that may be true for some strict conservatives or older Catholics, but a clergy-conducted tour of life is not what most Catholics want, in my experience.

They know that I do not have the answers to all their questions, and they do not expect me to provide them; moreover, they appreciate my honesty when I tell them that. They may see me as a leader, but they also see me as a companion in the journey of faith, as much in search of what is good and true as they are.

Simple dirigiste answers to complex moral issues are neither what they want nor what they get, from me or most of my colleagues, but rather advice and guidance as best we can give it in the light of the Gospel.

I hope Pope Francis continues to foster the many changes which the Catholic Church is undergoing for the better, but it would be as wrong to credit him with too much, as it would be to have too great an expectation of what he might achieve.

Canon Terence Carr, Prestatyn, Denbighshire


Multi-tasking  at the wheel

Recent letters remind me that in 1955, while driving my first car (an ancient Austin 7) along a straight road, I steered with my knees while rubbing a flake of tobacco and filling a pipe; neither of these two operations can be performed in an agitated fashion, so you will understand that the road was deserted and the car was travelling at its cruising speed of 25mph. The lighting of the pipe also needed, briefly, two hands.

What a mad, happy world it was in those carefree, traffic-free days.

Ted Clark, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


At last, a banker we don’t hate

I would like to praise the chief executive of Barclays Bank, Antony Jenkins, who turned down a massive bonus. He is truly a man of honour, which in banking is a very rare breed. I think it is only right to let him know that the general public does take notice and remember the actions of  such people, just as they never forget the actions of grabbers who take unjustified bonuses.

Dave Croucher, Doncaster





Sir, Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, has said that everyone in the country will benefit from HS2. I wonder how taxpayers in Plymouth and Exeter feel about this project when, even at the best of times, the rail journey from Exeter to Plymouth takes over an hour, and the M5 stops at Exeter. Now, of course, they are marooned.

I suggest that HS2’s £42 billion could be better spent on satisfactory transport links to the South West and other benighted communities.

Elizabeth Balsom

London SW15

Sir, On Nov 10, 2010, Norman Baker, the Transport Minister, told MPs that “Network Rail does not believe that the railway sea defences in the Dawlish area are likely to fail in the foreseeable future, thanks to the works carried out and ongoing maintenance and monitoring.”

It is time to reinstate the missing 20 miles of track on the old inland London & South Western line between Exeter and Plymouth. This would maintain rail connections to Cornwall, provide rail links to Okehampton and Tavistock, relieve road congestion, and boost tourism.

Jonathan Neil-Smith


Sir, This is not the first storm to close the line at Dawlish, though it used not to matter so much as there was an alternative route via Okehampton and over Dartmoor. Indeed Southern and the GWR used to run one train a day over each other’s line so that crews were familiar with the route. Sadly when accountants close public services they never take into account the costs of disruption over the years.

Bryan Simmons

Bratton, Wilts

Sir, The mainline to the west of England was only built along the sea front at Dawlish because Brunel could not get agreement from the landowners to his preferred inland route. Now is the time to take this weak link out of the network once and for all and to reroute this section of the line. Re-establishing of this vital link is of national importance. Surely the enhanced planning powers recently announced to expedite the approval of critical projects can be used to accelerate this crucial project?

Tom King

Lymington, Hants

Sir, Damage to the main West of England railway line at Dawlish will take several weeks to repair, but violent winter storms like the one that caused that damage are likely to become commonplace in future. Perhaps those who protested in vain against the closure of the alternative line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton in the late 1960s had a point?

John Chapman

Hythe, Kent

Sir, The railway along the South Devon coast may have reached the end of its useful life. The 30 miles west of Newton Abbot, in terms of curvature and gradient — long stretches are inclined at between 1 in 36 and 1 in 42 — is the most vicious main line in Britain. The ideal solution would be a new line between Exeter and Plymouth, inland to avoid Dawlish yet serving also Torbay directly, which the present line does not. With a new bridge over the Tamar to replace Brunel’s near life-expired 1859 Royal Albert Bridge, rail travel to and from South Devon and Cornwall would be revolutionised.

Robert H. Foster

Winterburn, N Yorks




The paying public have heard no adequate explanation why the Test career of this most talented England batsman was terminated

Sir, Many years ago the Chelsea footballer Peter Osgood told me about his exclusion from the England team during the 1970 World Cup. Apparently Alf Ramsey said, “Ossie, you’re a genius but you don’t fit the pattern.” Ossie replied, “Boss, if I’m a genius, make the pattern fit me.”

Could this be relevant to Kevin Pietersen?

Philip Reid

London SW11

Sir, The polarisation of opinion over Kevin Pietersen is highlighted in the excellent articles by Simon Barnes and Mike Atherton (Feb 5). While Barnes contends that extraordinary talent must be harnessed for inclusion in a team — almost at all costs — the views of Pietersen’s managers and captains in England and county cricket over the years (Moores, Flower, Strauss and Cook among them) seem to indicate that his presence is not conducive to team spirit. If it is considered that his brilliance as a player is not what it was, the decision to drop him is surely the correct one.

James Dewar


Sir, I have been a mere club cricketer and passionate England supporter for most of my 71 years and I applaud Mike Atherton for his piece on Kevin Pietersen (Feb 6). My concern is that we, the passionate paying public, have heard no adequate explanation why the Test career of the most talented England batsman of his era (like that of David Gower before him) was terminated too soon by lesser mortals. We have the right to know.

Peter Mason-Apps

Reading, Berks

Sir, By any standards, KP is what we call in Afrikaans a “donderkop”, the kind of stubbornly determined and difficult type every team needs. But Phil Collins (Feb 7) has raised the stakes surrounding this saga in an interesting way. Quoting Pietersen’s remark that he isn’t English, he “just works here”, as evidence of his unfitness to represent England, Collins provokes a wider and more interesting question for those of us lucky enough to have become citizens of this country: after how long, and by what criteria, can we immigrants expect others to regard us as British — even if we can also claim to pass the Tebbit test.

George Laurence, QC

London W2


Road vehicles, being confined to the submerged roadway, should be regarded as being ‘Restricted in their ability to manoeuvre’

Sir, A. P. Herbert’s now timely dilemma concerning rights of way between boats and vehicles on flooded roads was raised by David Wilson (“Starboard tack”, letter, Feb 5). In these more rule-bound days the situation is clearly resolved by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

Road vehicles, being confined to the submerged roadway, should be regarded as being “Restricted in their ability to manoeuvre” and therefore should display from a mast three shapes in a vertical line: ball over diamond over ball. At night these shapes are replaced by a vertical line of lights: red over white over red. Immobilised vehicles would be treated as “Vessels aground” and be required to display three balls or three red lights in a vertical line. Other vessels under way are then obliged to take avoiding action.

APH would, no doubt, query whether the Somerset Levels constituted “the high seas or waters connected therewith’” I am sure the benighted residents would have a view on that.

Geoff Butt

Christleton, Chester


‘The Church and of Christians is both to receive the Light and to let it shine out into the world through glass walls’

Sir, Although usually appreciative of Anne Atkins’s gritty commonsense, I have to take issue with her article (Feb 1) on the “stress of living in a goldfish bowl” as a clergy family.

In my 50th year of ordination as a Methodist minister, I understand all she writes about the expectations of and demands on clergy. But apart from agreeing with her about the huge privilege of ministry, I have also to say that the goldfish bowl imagery does remind me that the calling of the Church and of Christians is both to receive the Light and to let it shine out into the world through glass walls. Admittedly, it does need to be toughened glass.

The Rev Gordon Chambers

Brixham, Devon


There are some situations where noise should be expected and accommodation should be made for this

Sir, Apropos pub opening times, the football World Cup occurs only every four years and is of limited duration, but there will always be some
po-faced puritans who resent others enjoying themselves from time to time (letter, Feb 6). I recall an incident recently in our village pub. A family bought a cottage attached to the pub and were then surprised at the noise. One evening the householder entered the pub and at the top of her voice threatened to call the police. The entire room responded with “We are the police”. It was the sergeant’s 40th birthday party.

Jeff Biggs

Hose, Leics




SIR – The England and Wales Cricket Board has compounded the problems that face English cricket, following the disastrous tour Down Under, by dismissing Kevin Pietersen.

Just as critical as their perception of Pietersen’s personality is the light that has to be shone on leadership performance in general, and that of the captain, Alastair Cook, in particular.

Not only was Cook’s batting performance – and shot selection – well below par, but his tactics and field placings were also consistently questionable and inadequate.

Cook should relinquish the captaincy in order to concentrate on, and thereby rescue, his true talent.

Rather than having been dismissed, Pietersen should have been appointed as the captain of the shorter forms of the game. This would have provided him with the responsibility and focus he needed.

Ian McDonald
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

SIR – A team where players, management and staff get on well but which loses all its matches is not what England supporters wish to see. The obnoxious nature of key players is no reason to sack them. The duty of cricket’s managing bodies is to put winning first. Respect may then follow.

Lt Col Rory Steevenson (retd)
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Not-so-smart meters

SIR – A smart electric meter, just like existing meters, only measures the total power being consumed by all the electrical equipment in a house. The only way to tell what a single appliance is consuming is to turn off every other appliance.

For about £20, you can buy a meter that plugs into any 13 amp socket. You then plug your appliance into this meter, and it will tell you what power the individual appliance is consuming.

Because there is such a lack of basic science and engineering knowledge in the Government, it has been talked into proceeding with the unnecessarily complicated and costly smart meters.

Richard Wilson

Identifying feature

SIR – It was a name-tape sewn into a shirt collar reading “G Mallory” that first confirmed to Conrad Anker that he had found the climber’s body 74 years after the ill-fated Everest expedition of 1924.

Rosie Brook
Crediton, Devon

Bullet-proof wallet

SIR – Like Albert Rice, my grandfather, Edward Ruggles-Brise, had a lucky escape when he was serving as a squadron commander with the Essex Yeomanry in 1915.

He was struck in the chest by a German bullet but survived, thanks to a pouch containing loose change, which he kept in his breast pocket.

We still have the pouch, complete with the squashed German bullet.

Sir Timothy Ruggles-Brise Bt
Finchingfield, Essex

Anybody for braces in the old school colours?

SIR – Terry Critchley asks how to tell which regiment or school a chap belongs to if he isn’t wearing a tie.

There are a number of alternatives available: socks, scarves, braces, watch straps, blazer buttons, pullovers, panama bands and umbrellas, always leaving room for a carefully selected club tie as an option.

Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire

SIR – The long tie first appeared around 150 years ago. Has it suddenly become uncomfortable and pointless, as Dr Steven Field suggests?

I have found over the years that my informal ties have enhanced my rapport with both the patients and their parents at my children’s hospital clinics.

Professor Julian Verbov

SIR – The problem of open-necked shirts has been solved in the American army by the wearing of high-necked, straight-topped vests. Civilians might like to have these in a range of colours.

As a further improvement, shirt makers should decrease the distance between the top and the next button. This could prevent the shirt top from sagging under gravity.

G P Diss
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

Is the Prince of Wales wearing an RAF tie?

SIR – As an ex-RAF engineer, I am pleased to see the Prince of Wales (right) wearing what appears to be an RAF tie so often. But is it an RAF tie, or another, very similar, item? He has spent more of his life in other branches of the Services, so I’d like confirmation that his preference is for our tie.

Bob Jones
Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire


SIR – The medieval assemblage of ecclesiastical buildings still in use for their original purpose at Wells is the most complete and unspoilt in England.

For 800 years, save for a short while during the vandalising rule of Oliver Cromwell, the bishops of the diocese have lived there. Eleven years ago an excellent flat was formed on the first floor of the Bishop’s Palace, while the public rooms remained as a rich resource for the Bishop and his work.

Now it is deemed by the Church Commissioners not to be “suitable” and the Bishop is removed. This is in order that the Bishop’s Palace can, according to the commissioners, be further developed “as a tourist attraction”.

The decision was arbitrary; it was not discussed with the Bishop’s staff nor with the Dean and Chapter; nor with the local community, none of whom should be ignored.

Neither should such a decision be taken without considering the effect on the life of the great cathedral only a few yards away.

The fear is that there is, yet unspoken, a plan not only to make it “pay”, but to be rid of the Bishop’s Palace. No one has said what contingency plans there are if the “tourist attraction” fails. Will the Palace then be sold?

It is not too late, nor would it be dishonourable, for the Church Commissioners to reverse their decision and allow the views of those who live and work in this place, and love it too, to be taken into consideration. The proposals, as they now stand, will be regarded for a long time to come as an act of betrayal.

Very Rev Richard Lewis
Dean of Wells 1990-2003
Wells, Somerset

Driverless trains

SIR – The London Underground has been transformed by noticeable changes in technology. Automated driving systems on the Central and Jubilee Lines give a more frequent service.

Most passengers will be unaware that a large majority of Victoria, Central and Jubilee line journeys are operated by automated systems, with the driver being there to provide reassurance to the travelling public. In the next decade we will see automatic train-operation being introduced on other lines.

But even the Docklands Light Railway, which is a driverless system, has a train manager on board.

The question is: while the technology exists for totally driverless trains and staff-free platforms, what is required to convince the travelling public that they are acceptably safe?

Paula-Marie Brown
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2

SIR – Closure of ticket offices on London Underground will deny me, a hearing-impaired and part visually impaired person with poor balance, the ability to obtain my own ticket without assistance.

Donald B Sharpe
Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire

Too much, too young

SIR – In front of me in our local supermarket, a girl of about 14 was buying a coffee, on her way to school. There were many other youngsters also spending upwards of £2 on daily beverages. As the girl quite nonchalantly withdrew a £10 note to pay, I couldn’t help but notice she had at least £50 in notes in her purse.

How can parents let this be? What sort of values and personal responsibility are they encouraging in our young people?

Colin Piers
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire


SIR – Why does Baroness Morgan of Huyton think that retired politicians are suitable to run large organisations? To do so requires managerial and commercial skills, which most politicians conspicuously lack.

Their experience of management tends to be limited to running their own private offices, perhaps employing a couple of close relations as secretary and research assistant. As for commercial skills, many would not even reach the interview stage for a responsible job in the private sector.

We would not have noticed the former Cabinet minister Chris Smith if he had been given a nice sinecure on the board of an innocuous quango such as the Cake and Biscuit Authority, instead of an important organisation like the Environment Agency.

Please could we have an embargo on the appointment of unqualified politicians such as Lady Morgan and Lord Smith?

Lord Grantley
London SW3

Related Articles

SIR – David Cameron’s promise of £100 million for flood relief sounds impressive. It is a move in the right direction, but it’s going to cost a lot more to solve the problems in the south of England.

In my area, the Thames Valley, the Environment Agency’s projected relief scheme is short by £120 million.

Andrew McLuskey
Stanwell, Middlesex

SIR – The first priority stated by the Environment Agency is the health and safety of its own staff. They are not permitted to wear waders, on health and safety grounds, nor, I understand, to go within two metres of a watercourse.

The agency (with responsibility only for England) has more than 11,000 employees. Of similar agencies, only the environment agency for the whole of the United States has a larger staff.

Peter Sadgrove
Langport, Somerset

SIR – Forget the Cobra committee, suspend the authority of the Environment Agency, call in a team of Dutch consulting engineers and get something done.

R G Hopgood
Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

SIR – There would not be a problem with the rail route from Cornwall if there had been less hurry to close down the line from Plymouth to Exeter via Okehampton. Were it still open, passengers and freight could have been diverted while the coastal route is rebuilt. Most of the trackbed still exists, so perhaps the Government should spend some of the HS2 billions on reconnecting this safe inland route.

S M Daniell
London N10

SIR – Following the donation by the Prince of Wales to the area of Somerset affected, is any disaster fund planned for those people so badly affected by the recent floods?

Patsie Goulding
Reigate, Surrey




Irish Times:




Sir, – Michael McCullough (February 7th) wonders how the Dutch can manage to live safely in Groningen, at 5.2 metres below sea level, when we have such difficulty with a wee drop of rain filling our rivers.

The difference is that the Dutch, unlike the Irish, ensure that the land they build on is well protected from flooding before their planning departments grant planning permission to build. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak Road,


Co Carlow.

A chara, – For many years climate scientists have been predicting an increase in extreme weather globally as the planet heats up.

As Ireland is hit with its own extreme weather and flooding causing untold misery and expense, is it too much to  hope that decision-makers and all of us will wake up to the need to get real about addressing climate change and building infrastructure for this new reality?

Meanwhile , I note an interesting offering in my local supermarket. Blackberries flown all the way from Mexico are now available in Irish shops. Spot the connection, anyone? – Yours, etc,



Navan, Co Meath.

Sir, – Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan’s assertion that some parts of our coastline could be surrendered to the sea because “We’re in an era where we have finite resources” (Front Page, February 6th), rings hollow.

Financial resources would seem to take preference over our natural resources. It’s a very sad and short-sighted perspective, giving little hope to those who live in our coastal areas and give generously of their own time and energy to build a tourism product that makes a significant contribution to the national economy. – Yours, etc,


Main Street,

Bundoran, Co Donegal.


A chara, – The draft contract for providing free medical services for children under six is an aspirational document. It is difficult to argue with its aims in seeking to move healthcare away from treating illnesses to prevention. Most if not all family doctors would support this.

It is also a radical document. The administrative burden in this 60-page document would seem to preclude family doctors from having the time to see any sick people, which is radical.

Given that Ireland has the second lowest number of family doctors per capita in the OECD (approximately two-thirds of what we need) and many practices are severely stretched to manage the existing workload, it does not seem credible that this contract could be introduced without having a detrimental effect on patient access and safety.

In the UK patients wait approximately two-three weeks to see a GP and they have over four times the funding that we have, (2 per cent of health care budget here versus 9 per cent). Unfortunately the contract also contains a “gagging clause” that will prevent us from highlighting these safety issues and advocating for our patients for fear of “denigrating” the HSE.

It makes one wonder if they should have discussed it with the various GP organisations before they drafted it rather than discussing it afterwards. – Yours, etc,


Family Doctor,

Baile Atha Luimnigh,

An Uaimh,

Sir, – Ned Monaghan writes (February 3rd) that “typically, Catholic children in America are educated in their Christian faith through Sunday school after church, or daily after school”.

He does not mention the comprehensive Catholic school system (both elementary and high schools) which exists throughout the US.

Moreover, these schools are for the most part highly regarded and indeed enjoy the admiration of educationists both Catholic and others alike. I presume this omission to be an oversight on Mr Monaghan’s part, but it may be useful to remind readers of this large and significant strand in the US school system. – Yours, etc,


Milltown Road.

Dublin 6.




Sir, – I read Frank McNally’s entertaining article (An Irishman’s Diary, February 7th) on Freud and the origins of the quote that the Irish are impervious to psychoanalysis. The article mentioned that Freud had apparently split his psychoanalysis into two categories: the Irish and non-Irish.

Many years ago I did a student exchange in Kollegium Kalksburg in Vienna, where I was improving my German. One morning while speaking to my Austrian friends in class about things Irish people liked to do, I referred to “Die Iren” which I understood to mean “the Irish”. For reasons unknown to me at the time, this caused a lot of laughter among my classmates.

It was finally explained to me that “irre” in German means mad or crazy and that my pronunciation was more like “die irren”, which in German means the lunatics or the madmen.

It seems to me that Freud’s distinction was most likely between the “mad” and the “non-mad” rather than “Irish” and “non-Irish” but of course, the big joke for my classmates was that to them, the term was interchangeable! – Yours, etc,


Iona Avenue,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.



Sir, – Conor Pope writes that the internet site, which promulgated it round the world, has no responsibility for “the neknomination craze” and its tragic consequences (Opinion, February 7th). The fact that more money is made as a result of what happened tells us where the responsibility lies.

The bigger the outrage and the more tragic the consequences the more publicity there is for the site.

Conor Pope, however, reduces the blame to “the twin forces of drink and idiocy”. It goes much deeper than that.

The internet chat sites cultivate our sense of entitlement to the level of the moronic. Their owners are billionaires as a result.

Contrary to Conor Pope’s assertion, therefore, the self-obsessed, self-indulgent, arrogant, intolerant sense of entitlement, cultivated by internet mass media, is the responsibility of those who are benefiting from it. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article (Opinion, February 4th) contains two flaws. First his claim that motive and intention make no difference when it comes to questions of justice and equality does not stand up to the scrutiny of history. Our understanding of justice and equality is what it is today because of the motives and intentions of those in previous generations who worked for change. We would not know what we now know or stand where we now stand were it not for their motives and intentions. Motives and intentions always matter.

Second, he seems unaware that it is not just Aristotle and Lincoln who are prisoners of the systems and structures of their times – Fintan O’Toole is too. There is no high tower for 21st-century newspaper columnists that allows them to deliberate outside of their own inherited structures. Like the rest of us, Fintan O’Toole is a prisoner of his moment and place in the big story. Time will show whether all or any of our ideas and beliefs were of long-term value. In the meantime, motive and intention will continue to matter a great deal in determining the shape of the justice structures we leave from our moment in history. – Yours, etc,


Smithfield Markets,

Dublin 7.

A chara, – To those of us who lived through vilification by the Roman Catholic right in the 1980s “culture wars” an accusation of homophobia might seem positively mild.

We were told we were “anti life” in the run-up to the so called Pro Life Amendment. We were told we were “anti family” during the debate on the first divorce referendum. We “cared nothing for the welfare of children” at the time when Barry Desmond was introducing fairly innocuous amendments to our family planning legislation. And we were advocates of “perversion” when we called for the repeal of anti-gay legislation. More recently a Fianna Fáil politician accused us of having “spat in the face of Christ”, though that was under Oireachtas privilege.

We never sued. Pity. I know lots of good causes that might have benefited! – Yours, etc,


1981-93, 97-07),

The Orchards,

Montenotte, Cork.

Sir, – Having listened to the eloquent and moving speech delivered from the stage of the Abbey Theatre, I wonder if Panti Bliss could be persuaded to run for public office just as she is, without having to check herself at the traffic lights. – Yours, etc,


Admiralty Way,


Middlesex, England.

Sir, – It is unfortunate that the debate about same-sex marriage in this country has begun in earnest with a series of claims and counter-claims about personal attitudes and beliefs. What is really needed at this point in time is a critical national dialogue about the social norms, assumptions, and structures that foster (sometimes unknowingly) discrimination and oppression on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This will require a great deal of individual and collective soul-searching.

Ultimately, the question we must ask ourselves is whether we believe that some in our society should be relegated to second-class citizenship simply for being true to who they are. Or, on the contrary, do we believe that Irish society should be an inclusive community that treats all people equally regardless of gender, sexual orientation or attraction? – Yours, etc,


Parnell Road, Dublin 12.


Sir, – The Government recently changed employment permit rules for non-EEA (European Economic Area) doctors, and now charges them €1,000 per year, every year, for the privilege of working here. Currently our health service is heavily reliant on their skill, care and professionalism to keep basic front-line services running and emergency departments open.

Many will resent paying, choose to join colleagues who have already left this country for better conditions abroad, and spread the word about Ireland’s increasing unattractiveness for non-EEA doctors. As a result, when the HSE finds recruitment for our hospitals even more difficult at the next NCHD changeover this July, could anyone really be surprised? – Yours, etc,


Emergency Department


St Vincent’s University

Sir, – Eamonn McCann’s latest attack on Israel (“Everyone is an anti-Semite for Israel’s ultra-Zionists”, Opinion, February 6th) conveniently ignores the fact Israel is the only UN member that Iran has threatened with annihilation.

Are Israelis right to detect anti-Semitism at work when they are uniquely singled out for criticism? Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister made this point in a speech to the Knesset on January 20th: “Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-Semitic. But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?”

What are we to make of the fact that in recent months McCann has written three entire columns criticising Israel or Israelis in the strongest terms? I don’t recall a single one in a similar vein about North Korea. He devoted one column to Saudi Arabia and his few references to Iran seem quite muted in comparison to those about the world’s only Jewish state, a country the size of Wales.

Why does he take at face value statements by Iran? This is a country long-practised in the Shia doctrine of taqiyya, a form of dissimulation not unlike the “mental reservation” so often deployed in the past by the princes of the Roman Catholic Church. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad and arms and finances Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran stones women to death and hangs sexually abused girls like Atefah Sahaaleh, dissidents and homosexuals from construction cranes so that they slowly choke to death. This continues under the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani. – Yours, etc,


Bayside Walk,




Sir, – The large map illustrating the article “Mapping the past: old worlds being opened up by technology” (Science, February 6th) is said to show a Swedish attack in Germany. This attribution is not correct. In fact it depicts the fateful siege by the Swedish army of the Norwegian fortress Fredriksten in 1718.

Fateful, because it was during this siege that the Swedish King Charles XII was shot. His death resulted not only in abandoning the siege and the army’s retreat from Norway, but it also effectively ended Swedish Great Power ambitions in Europe.

Norway was at that time under the Danish crown, and King Charles war in Norway was thus in reality a war against Denmark, then a long-time Swedish arch enemy. – Yours, etc,


Stepaside Park, Dublin 18.



Sir, – Chris Connolly (Opinion, February 7th), states, “*Some prefer a broader definition: any actions that differentiate between people on account of sexual orientation must be homophobic, just as any actions that differentiate between people on account of race must be racist.”

Substitute discriminate for differentiate and that would be a definition which would then properly frame the debate. – Yours, etc,


Bellevue Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.


Sir, – I did not interrupt you . . . – Yours, etc,


Moyne Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Garth Brooks, yet another date added. – Yours, etc,


Park Lane,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – “Very unique”, “More unique”, “Most unique”. Really? – Yours, etc,


Lisnagade Road,


Co Down.




Irish Independent:

* The recent report issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has said what many within and beyond Ireland have long felt: that the Vatican protected the perpetrators of child abuse at the expense of the victims.

Also in this section

Ireland’s calling out for a new rugby anthem

Letters: Why are we paying debts already written off?

Letters: Instead of reforming HSE we get stealth tax

Weighing up the evidence from across Europe and elsewhere, this conclusion was inevitable. On the heels of the Strasbourg ruling in the O’Keeffe v Ireland case, reflective of the Ryan, Murphy and Clones inquiries into clerical child abuse in Ireland, there are now substantive findings that the Catholic Church, like other religious organisations, perpetuated a code of silence to preserve the reputation of the church and the clergy.

This need not be interpreted as anti-Vatican clergy-bashing but an opportunity for the church to make good on its promises to co-operate with secular authorities on behalf of children.

The underlying issues are too important for the church to now play the part of victim. By removing all paedophiles from its ranks and reporting them to law-enforcement agencies, it helps ensure existing and future school children can be educated and trained in a safe environment.

Rather than seeing inquiry recommendations as undermining the authority of the Vatican, this is the time to place children’s welfare above the institutional church because the message so far is that the Vatican has not taken seriously the significance of child abuse and the need to implement robust structures to prevent further instances.

By making concrete changes in the way the church handles abuse cases and putting some muscle into its own commission on child abuse, it has the chance to claim some moral authority and enter a new era in protecting the most vulnerable within its parish.




* On reading Richard Gallagher’s letter (February 7), one might be forgiven for thinking that the anthem of Ireland is in some doubt. It is, of course, ‘Amhran na bhFiann’. It is not ‘Ireland’s Call’ or any other ditty.

The historic name of Lansdowne Road has been replaced by the name of an insurance company and our national flag appears to have morphed into a mobile phone advertisement. A second draft of our national anthem is not needed and if our proud sporting history is diluted anymore by so-called sponsors, then the Irish rugby team may become unrecognisable.




* The Government announced the establishment of LEO, Local Enterprise Office, with branches embedded in every local authority and 210 dedicated staff to combat the problem of unemployment.

Laudable aspirations but the equivalent of sandbags to combat climate change. There is general agreement that climate change is a reality of the present, which must be adapted to. There is an even greater change occurring in economic activity, certainly in the short term, but the world refuses to acknowledge, adapt to or talk about such things.

Economic activity has changed greatly in the past two centuries; the genius and success of invention and innovation have immeasurably improved the lot of the human race.

Progress has come from subsistence, misery and a struggle for survival to a world of longevity, lush abundance, security and choice. It has been a rollercoaster of ideas, invention, building, production, innovation, work and constant growth.

World population has increased multi-fold and well-being and affluence surpass even the wildest dreams of the most optimistic throughout the ages. But the very success of all that hectic activity is the factor that is bringing that phase of economic activity to a close.

Most, if not all, the ambitions of economics have been achieved. The world can now produce everything it wants or desires in great abundance.

Technology achieved its enormous production power by eliminating dependence on human labour. The tyrant of hard, backbreaking, soul-destroying work is banished forever.

The tragedy and great danger is that as technology improves, an increasing number will never be allowed work at all if the world fails to change its ideology on work. Work to be done has always been the catalyst for creating jobs. Employment precipitated wages and the increasing number who no longer eked out a subsistence living for themselves secured an entitlement to share in the communal wealth of the world.

As long as there was sufficient work, there was adequate employment to sustain coherent society. If we persist with the work/job ideology of history, there will not be enough work. The world must regard employment as a method of distributing wealth with dignity rather than a prerequisite for creating wealth.




* In Miriam Donohoe’s article entitled ‘Parents need support in raising children, not a ban on slapping them’ (Irish Independent, February 7), she asserts (from external research) that children will grow into well adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians and slapping is done within an authoritative parenting style. However, this is a contradiction in itself.

An authoritative parenting style is defined as one where parents listen to their children, encourage independence and place fair limits and consequences on their children’s behaviours. Any discipline under the authoritative parenting style is measured and consistent, it is not arbitrary or violent (Santrock, JW 2007).

If slapping occurs as a common form of punishment then the parenting style can be more accurately described as “authoritarian”.

The authoritarian parenting style is obedience-orientated where orders are expected to be followed without explanation. Punishments are used rather than discipline, and the breaking of rules results in immediate punishment. This particular style of parenting often results in children displaying aggression, lower levels of self-esteem and a tendency to associate obedience with love.

Overly punitive responses (including slapping), regularly used within the authoritarian parenting style, do not allow a child to feel nurtured.

The ISPCC wants to see an Ireland where all children are listened to and valued. But what value do we place on our children if we feel the need to slap them in response to our own frustrations at their behaviours?

The ISPCC and the Children’s Rights Alliance are calling on the Government to introduce a ban on slapping and to run a positive parenting campaign where parents can access information on the more effective alternatives to slapping.





* Back in the day, when the gentry were in control and the peasant population got too large to keep under the boot, they would pack a lot of them on to sail ships and transport them to the other side of the planet.

Our island is suffering under a plague of too much water. I suggest the Government should contact hot places where there is a chronic shortage of water and offer to transport tanker-loads of our surplus water to their ports for a reasonable price.

I can see just one snag here: the Government would decide it would be a good idea to call in consultants, who would come up with a report in five years at a cost of zillions that would suggest that it’s too early to come to a decision but that we should bring in consultants from abroad.

Then the foreign consultants would finally issue a report, costing trillions, which would state that water cannot be carried in sea-going tankers at this time. And Fianna Fail, putting on a straight face, would accuse the Government of wasting taxpayers’ money.



Irish Independent




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