15 February 2014 Better

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge has to do an underwater survey Priceless.

Better day Mary much improved got heat detectors and smoke pen

Scrabbletoday I win but under 400, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow




Professor Richard Ambler, who has died aged 80, was a protein chemist who shed light on the evolution of bacteria and helped to elucidate the processes whereby some bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics.

In 1963 he published the first ever amino acid sequence of a bacterial protein, that of Pseudomonas cytochrome c551, an achievement which helped to open up a whole new field of evolutionary research.

Cytochrome c is an ancient protein, developed early in the evolution of life, which performs a number of functions in a living cell. It delivers electrons into the respiratory pathways of the cell — lodged in the mitochondrion — so that it can drive a proton pump which in turn will synthesise adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the so-called “molecular currency unit” which transports chemical energy within the cell and is vital for life. It also has a number of other functions, one of which is apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Because cytochrome c has been around for such a long time, it has come to play a major role in studies of molecular evolution. Its variance in different organisms, caused by genetic mutations, can be analysed to calculate how long ago in the evolutionary process species diverged. In work which has been much cited by other scientists, Ambler developed improved amino-acid sequencing techniques which enabled him to define four distinct classes of cytochrome c based on variations in physical and chemical properties.

This had a major impact in 1965 when he moved to Edinburgh University to help Martin Pollock research the role of certain enzymes (penicillinase or lactamase) in causing the growing problem of bacterial resistance to the antibiotic penicillin.

Noting that penicillin resistance was to be found in very diverse bacteria, Ambler set out to discover whether the enzymes responsible had a common origin or had arisen independently in response to the antibiotic. By analysing the amino acid sequences of the cytochrome c of the enzymes involved, he and his colleagues demonstrated that while most abundant penicillinases had a common origin, other enzymes had originated independently.

Ambler went on to carry out further research which demonstrated that such organisms evolved both by “vertical” transfer (mutation and selection during the reproductive process) and, crucially, by the acquisition of genes that had evolved in separate organisms. Such “horizontal” gene transfer, he found, occurred with great frequency during the development of antibiotic resistance — a discovery which has proved central to the understanding of what is now recognised as a major public health challenge.

Richard Penry Ambler was born at Bexleyheath on May 26 1933. In 1940 he moved with his family to the Indian city of Poona where his father, a Government scientist, had responsibility for explosives research. Richard spent his childhood in India before returning to England to boarding school.

In 1954 he went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Natural Sciences and subsequently took a PhD, under the double Nobel-winner Fred Sanger, on bacterial proteins. After three more years of postdoctoral research with Sanger in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in 1965 he joined Martin Pollock’s newly-founded Department of Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University. He remained there until his retirement.

Ambler was given a personal chair in protein chemistry in 1987 and served as head of department from 1984 to 1990. He played a key role in the reorganisation of Biology within the Faculty of Science and Engineering that led to the creation of the Division of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology (of which he was Head from 1990-93).

Ambler had a wide range of non-scientific interests, particularly archaeology, and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1985.

Richard Ambler’s first marriage, to Pat, was dissolved, and in 1994 he married, secondly, Sue Hewlett, who died in 2003. He is survived by the two daughters of his first marriage, by four stepdaughters and by Jane Conway, the companion of his final years.

Professor Richard Ambler, born May 26 1933, died December 27 2013





I would like to add my sadness that the many British personnel who made up the Monuments Men are being sidelined (Letters, 13 February). While I never expected a US film to tell the story from a British perspective, I would have hoped that our own media would take up the story. In my own family, John Edward (Ted) Dixon-Spain was seconded to the US army to be one of the Monuments Men. Far from being a civilian struggling through basic training (which the film suggests was common), he was a squadron leader in the RAF, as well as being an art expert and architect (Cairo hospital, Gibraltar Rock hotel, New Gallery Cinema in Regent Street – now Burberry’s). His name appeared under Eisenhower’s on the posters stuck to buildings they were trying to save, and he was recognised by the French for his work, but it seems that his own country, and the US have forgotten him and many others.
Helen Rayner

• As I toured the gallery of the new Acropolis museum containing the Parthenon Marbles I felt sadness and anger: lined up next to the few original sculptures there are also many copies to complete the picture. It is 2013 and a monument such as the Parthenon is still dismembered. The Parthenon is a testament to the numerous raids and pillagers of the enlightened west who passed through an enslaved nation, destroying its cultural monuments or violently stripping them away.

How can the British Museum collude in the perpetuation of this inconceivable injustice? When the sculptures were grabbed by Elgin, the Greeks were subjugated and could not protect their cultural heritage. Now we are a free nation, we have built a suitable museum and we are justly reclaiming them. When the marbles were purchased by Britain, the legality of this acquisition was seriously doubted in the House of Commons. The best thing would be for the museum to show a moral spine and generosity and to return the pillaged sculptures to their place. Otherwise, it will bear a permanent stigma.
Dr Alexandra Rozokoki
Director of the Centre for Greek and Latin Literature, Academy of Athens

• In the global merry-go-round of cultural acquisitions that has placed the Parthenon Marbles here in London, it is difficult to judge whether Britain is a net winner. Spectacular as the British Museum’s collection may be, I can think of no cultural heritage that Britain prizes more highly than the works of William Shakespeare. Yet the largest collection of original source material for Shakespeare scholarship can be found, not on Bankside, nor in Stratford-upon-Avon, but at the Folger Shakespeare Library… in Washington DC.
Sotirios Hatjoullis



Perhaps, as she flies to Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Bahrain and on to São Paulo, Istanbul and Milan, Fiona Woolf (Letters, 13 February) might spare a thought for the UK communities being impoverished and starved of resources by a City set in a “world not driven by nations but by markets”. If she were instead to take a trip to Newport, Mansfield, Scunthorpe, Rochdale or Workington – less glamorous but also much less costly – Ms Woolf might consider how she and her bankers could put something back into parts of this nation torn apart by the markets she so admires.
Cathy Wood
Chiselborough, Somerset

• In my house we have daily “robust watch” as our favourite bullshit alert activity (Letters, 12 February). The earliest example of “robust” is currently 6.20am when I turned on the radio to immediately hear some hapless junior minister waffle on about yet another indefensible policy.
Toby Wood
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

• The governor of the Bank of England has announced that the monetary policy committee has decided that interest rates will “remain on hold until the fourth quarter of 2015” (Report, 13 February). That being so, is there any need for the committee to continue meeting and, if so, what will it do?
Andrew Reeves

• Much as I usually enjoy Sam Wollaston’s car reviews, it’s a shame he chose to use the name Jesus as an expletive (Weekend, 8 February). I’m not asking for special treatment, just the same consideration rightly given to people of other faiths.
Andrew Waugh

• If only Tim Dowling (Weekend, 8 February) realised he and his wife have dual responsibility for household chores, he might not build up such a backlog, and she might sigh less heavily.
Anne Kazimirski
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• “Hodgson calls on Rooney to ‘explode’ at World Cup” (Sport, 14 February). Shouldn’t he be arrested for inciting terrorism?
Michael McGeever
Menai Bridge, Anglesey


The death of Stuart Hall (Obituaries, 11 February) came as a great shock as he inspired me and countless others into socialist action. As an orator I would rate him the equal of Nye Bevan. I remember a byelection in Harrow East where he was speaking about nuclear disarmament. I was sitting in an all-white, conservative audience in the 50s or early 60s. I could feel the atmosphere change as this black guy came on to the platform. But within five minutes they were listening intently and at the end he received an ovation. Hall and New Left Review decided to do grassroots work in North Kensington amid the poverty, the appalling housing and the prejudice of the police towards the black community. Out of this experience came the first Law Centre in 1970, representing people in police stations for the first time, as it wasn’t until 1984 that solicitors were paid to go to police stations. And representing tenants in civil courts who would never otherwise have been represented. Thank you, Stuart. I wish his family well.
Peter Kandler
Co-founder, North Kensington Law Centre


Nicholas Stern is right on two counts (Climate change is here now, Front page, 14 February). He is right to say that industrial transformations have and can happen quickly. Unfortunately he is also spot on to say that in the case of the most important industrial revolution – the low-carbon one – progress is not happening fast enough. Many of the technologies that we can use to make the next giant leap to a climate-friendly energy system exist but they are in desperate need of a Manhattan Project-scale innovation push to bring their costs down to acceptable levels so that they can be deployed at scale with political conviction.

But there is strong evidence to show that the cost of the innovation needed to refine and cut costs of key technologies, such as offshore wind and carbon capture and storage, are small relative to the benefits they will bring in terms of reduction in capital costs and lower prices for consumers. We have analysed 11 technologies and the conclusions show that investment now in low-carbon innovation is a clear win-win.

Take offshore wind. We expect that an investment of less than £500m in innovation over the next five years would put the UK on track to secure some £45bn of cost-reduction by 2050. As politicians count the costs of the flooding they should not ignore the fact that we need to urgently find technological solutions to climate change. Innovation that harnesses public and private funding will unlock the door to deliver the next industrial transformation at high speed and at the lowest cost.
Tom Delay
Chief executive, Carbon Trust

• The growth of climate scepticism is indeed a big threat to climate policy, but so are many of the government’s own policies. Combating climate change is not only about generating clean energy. How much energy we use is at least as important. How is the ordinary punter to reconcile a big push for renewable energy, accompanied by fine speeches on climate change, with the biggest roads programme since the 1970s (a boast of Ed Davey‘s Lib Dem colleague Danny Alexander), growing enthusiasm for new runways in the south-east, backsliding on the commitment to zero-carbon new housing, and glacially slow progress on retrofitting existing buildings and settlements to make them less energy profligate.

Ed Davey works hard on the supply side, but he needs to do battle with his colleagues to conserve energy and reduce demand for it. Nimbys may be a problem, but they are a tiny one when set beside the Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and other government departments.
Shaun Spiers
Chief executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England

• In 2005, I foolishly said to Nicholas Stern that it might actually be nice if the UK got a little warmer. With patience borne of the necessity of dealing with lesser intellects, he asked me if I ever had boiled eggs for breakfast. He pointed out that in heating the pan the water stays still for a long time, but that in the space of a few more degrees starts to swirl more and more violently. That is what trapped energy does to the atmosphere: it makes the weather more volatile and extremes more likely. He explained that although the average temperature increase will be small, the temperature range will get much bigger and UK winters much wetter. Some fellow lesser intellects have not moved on: “The cabinet minister responsible for fighting the effects of climate change claimed there would be advantages to an increase in temperature predicted by the UN, including fewer people dying of cold in winter” (Guardian, 30 September 2013). It is unusual for an economist to make such unnervingly accurate predictions. We should “agree with Nick” and do what he says.
Andy Ross
Visiting professor, University of Reading

• The growth of climate scepticism is indeed a big threat to climate policy, but so are many of the government’s own policies. I’ve just walked 3/4 of a mile to buy my Guardian. It was raining but I had my umbrella so I was not unduly affected. On the way back I saw a procession of cars ferrying children to school. It seemed ironic these cars were contributing, in some small way, to the global warming that has arguably created this awful weather in the first place.
Ivor Mitchell
Wellington, Somerset

• Thank you for leading on the link between flooding and climate change. All other news organisations again appear pusillanimous or downright mendacious when compared with the Guardian.
Alan Horne
Poynton, Cheshire

While welcoming the government’s decision to hold a review of the deaths of 18- to 24-year-old prisoners (Report, 7 February), we wish to make public our disgust at the decision to snub our own and Inquest’s calls for a full independent public review into the deaths of children while in the care and custody of the state. The horrific deaths of 33 children in penal custody since 1990 shames our nation.

Successive governments seem to have taken the view that children in prison are somehow “without” society and undeserving of the protection afforded to children in the wider community.

It is inconceivable that within any other childcare setting 33 child deaths, an untold number of abuse allegations, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, broken bones and illegal restraint, would not have triggered an immediate exhaustive review.

We have written to the prisons minister to ask that government thinks again, listens to the families, Inquest and other learned people who believe it is only right that a review is held, and reconsider its decision as a matter of urgency.
Yvonne Bailey
Mother of Joseph Scholes who died aged 16
Elizabeth Hardy
Mother of Jake Hardy who died aged 17
Rasik Popat
Father of Alex Kelly who died aged 15
Sonia Daggett
Mother of Ryan Clark who died aged 17
Carol Pounder
Mother of Adam Rickwood who died aged 14
Helen Redding
Mother of Anthony Redding who died aged 16








It has been reported that despite Nick Clegg’s pleading, his Conservative partners in Coalition have decided to scrap plans to bring in a proper recall system to enable voters to ditch underperforming Members of Parliament.

It may well be true that all the parties want to push recall under the carpet. As an MP who has championed the cause in Parliament, I will be appalled but not surprised if that’s the case. However it is beyond parody for Nick Clegg to pretend he has been pushing for the legislation. I know  first-hand that the opposite is true.

As part of his portfolio, Clegg was asked to bring forward recall plans. He drafted a Bill, and it is so far removed from genuine recall that it is recall in name only. It is a cynical attempt to convey an impression of democratic reform without actually empowering voters at all. Instead of empowering voters to sack bad MPs, Clegg’s version of recall hands power up to a committee of whip-dominated MPs. It is quite simply a stitch-up.

I have challenged Clegg on many occasions to honour his promise to bring in a genuine recall system and he has been quite clear about why he won’t. First, he assured me that MPs would never back a genuine recall system. I proved him wrong when my own Recall Bill was backed by 127 MPs, and opposed by just 17. He then expressed his real concern – that under genuine recall, MPs might actually be sacked by voters. He mentioned his fear of “kangaroo courts” – or what your readers might refer to as “constituencies”, or “voters”.

Anyone in Westminster who follows this issue knows that Clegg could have backed recall, but chose not to. But to avoid being blamed for yet another broken Lib Dem promise, he has briefed newspapers that it was the Conservatives who forced him to ditch the plans.

It will of course be a disgrace for the Coalition to abandon its promise to empower voters in this way. But it is a double disgrace for the Lib Dems to collude, and to then mislead voters into believing that they  had nothing to do with  it. It stinks.

Zac Goldsmith MP

(Richmond Park and North Kingston, C)

House of Commons


Floods: we need a royal commission

In the light of the dreadful inundations there have been in different parts of the country we surely now need a Royal Commission on Flooding. 

Sensible local plans such as the Environment Agency’s River Thames scheme need progressing too. However the problem now is clearly so great and so widespread that an authoritative body needs to be appointed to take a long look at all the many issues involved.

Andrew McLuskey

Staines, Middlesex

Peter Cunningham (letter, 14 February) is fair to make the point that we in the Thames Valley are paying the price for budget cutbacks in the current floods, as in other areas. But it’s too bad that he and others are tempted towards blame, on the basis that the Thames Valley largely votes for the governing parties, and we ought therefore to reconsider our ways and,  it seems, we deserve what we’ve got.

One thing you learn when you live near water, any water, is that we are all in this together. Climate change affects everyone, each in our own ways. This is neither the time nor the issue to be injecting regional, political or other generalisations.

Parenthetically, some of us in the Thames Valley proudly live in the Socialist Republic of East Oxford, and Labour supporters, Greens, even a few Liberal Democrats, who share Mr Cunningham’s views are not unknown in other communities. We haven’t noticed that the river takes into consideration party affiliation.

Andrew Shacknove



How good to see two young men from the-family-The-Independent-doesn’t-mention-much filling a few sandbags.

It’s sad to see shortages of these items, and even thefts. But why should it just be local authorities and other public bodies taking responsibility for their distribution? You might have thought the insurance companies would be rushing lorry-loads to the affected areas.

Andy Popperwell

London E18


We have seen, from weather maps, that the recent very heavy rain is not exclusive to Britain. What is happening in the rest of Europe? Surely at least one newspaper or news channel could give us some information, or are they just too lazy?

Stuart Lee

Askett, Buckinghamshire

For years, the residents of Staines and other outer London boroughs have been ignored in local TV news bulletins dominated by the London set and the Boris Johnson Show.

Now Staines Upon Thames is headlining the national bulletins and Boris Johnson is nowhere in sight. Thank you, floods, for small mercies.

Anthony Rodriguez

Staines Upon Thames, Middlesex

The time has surely come to dust off the quote from Ronald Firbank: “The world is disgracefully managed; one hardly knows to whom to complain.” Or should we say, blame?

Peter Brook

Malvern, Worcestershire

Myth of a Jewish cabal in hollywood

Rankin’s suggestion that Scarlett Johansson would only choose to promote SodaStream because of a powerful Jewish zealots in Hollywood is insulting on many levels (“Rankin and a new take on why Scarlett quit Oxfam”, 13 February). He refuses to concede the possibility that SodaStream may be a source of employment to Palestinians, with better salaries and benefits than they could find elsewhere. He perpetuates a mentality that falsely claims that a secret cabal of Jews runs the world.

Yes, we can be proud that the movie industry was mostly founded by Jews, many of them recent immigrants, who had the vision to become involved in this new medium. That being said, most of the companies they founded have been dissolved, merged, or purchased by large conglomerates with no significant Jewish base.

The final status of the West Bank has yet to be determined. But a great deal of responsibility for this state of limbo rests with Palestinian leaders who have been unable, or unwilling, to transition from the armed conflict that preceded the Oslo Accords, to the phase of diplomatic negotiations that should have followed Oslo. An Israeli company that provides a livelihood to Jews and Palestinians alike is not the stumbling block to peace that Rankin and other boycotters would have us believe.

Perry Dror

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

A cruel trade from the dark ages

The ivory trade, subject of The Independent’s appeal and this week’s London summit meeting, is yet another of the deep gulfs between the civilised and the primitive in the 21st century.

Modern medical science cures disease and may have eliminated plague and smallpox. Dark-Age superstition advocates the magical powers of tiger bones and the benefits to male potency of  rhino horns.

In Europe homosexuals are permitted to marry. In Africa they are persecuted, attacked, imprisoned and executed. England will soon celebrate the centenary of votes for women. Elsewhere women are the property of men, mutilated, humiliated, shrouded and denied education.

Magnificent and intelligent animals are slaughtered and their tusks turned into trinkets so that wealthy people can exhibit their prestige and vanity with a natural product which looks scarcely different from plastic, but significantly costs more.

Peter Forster

London N4

Poetic talent in the twilight?

I found the article mocking the writing efforts of Kristen Stewart unkind at best (“Twilight star writes worst poem of all time for Marie Claire”, 12 February).

Poetry or prose writing takes time to master, and if Kristen hasn’t written much before, it’s unsurprising that her first efforts aren’t masterpieces. All writers, however brilliant, have written rubbish at some time or other, and many have also been victims of the hubris of the beginner.

However lacking in skill, everyone’s voice deserves to be respected (even that of famous people), and through your columns I would like to encourage Kirsten not to be discouraged. You show  ’em, love!

Daniel Emlyn-Jones


Guilty rewarded, innocent sacked

The banks never fail to amaze with their bizarre behaviour. After all the incompetence, the “talent” in Barclays is to be rewarded again while 1,600 hard-working and innocent branch employees are fired. You don’t cost-cut by giving away £2.3bn!

This bank shows all the signs of being run by a small clique of rich men for their own benefit, with the clients, employees and shareholders nowhere in the equation. How can we stop this?

Chris Haines





Sir, Your vivid front page aerial image of the Thames flooding (“Water world”, Feb 11) shows the severity of the situation and the consequences of recent weather. However, to say that “the Thames bursts its banks” is not correct. Rivers do occasionally burst through embankments but in British rivers, when there is too much water for the channel to contain, the channel is overtopped and water spills on to the floodplain.

This is not just semantics but rather, as geomorphologists know, it is key to understanding what solutions to the problem will eventually be needed, because dredging cannot provide channels large enough to contain the amount of water being rained upon us.

Ken Gregory, Heather Viles, David Sear, Steve Darby
& Tom Spencer

British Society for Geomorphology

Sir, You tell us that the Thames broke its bank on Feb 11. Wrong. It was on my lawn on February 1 and on next door’s before that. Further, although it was impossible to take avoiding action once we got to early evening on Feb 1, we had no flood warning till Feb 6.

It is not reasonable to take alleviating measure upstream, such as the Jubilee river, without first taking adequate measures to protect those downstream who will receive the water much faster and sooner and probably deeper than they would have done before.

If rivers are not dredged, eventually they will change their course. Dredging would not have prevented this Thames flood, but in the long term it would prevent the Thames from changing its path.

Erica Stary

Weybridge, Surrey

Sir, In the 1980s Cotswold district council gave permission for more than a thousand second homes to be built on the Thames flood plain. Our small amenity group spent six months at a public enquiry arguing that the development site was totally unsuitable and was essential to prevent flooding further down the river. Our case rests.

Judith Jackson

Cotswold Water Park Society

Minety, Wilts

Sir, Sandy Pratt (letters, Feb 12) is right to highlight the planning policy granted by some councils; especially, I suspect, in the South East. Ashford is a fast-expanding town and no doubt housing is needed. However, one has to question the wisdom of some of the building at the moment: one site is on Bath Meadow and the other on Flood Lane. The clue, I suspect, lies in the name.

Marion Hudson

Smarden Kent

Sir, It is all very well for Ed Miliband to criticise the Government’s reaction to the floods but how did Labour help in the 2007 floods when 3in of rain fell in 14 hours leading to widespread devastation?

The stoical people of Tewkesbury were left very much to their own devices. Apart from the brilliant help of the Emergency Services they had to rely on helping one another while their house and business insurances paid out to put right the damage. Those who were not insured had an extremely difficult time and had no financial help from the state. Some businesses did not survive, and some people lived in caravans for up to 18 months while their homes were being refurbished. By then the media had moved on.

I have found the recent media circus distasteful: news presenters thrusting microphones in the faces of distraught flood victims and who they think is to blame for all this, in order to foment a political storm.

Jane Edwards

Eldersfield, Glos

Sir, I was a survivor of the “Great Swallow”, having been a board member of the National Rivers Authority Southern and chairman of the Hampshire area environment group of the Environment Agency when the NRA, was digested by the EA which was then sugared, if you can call it that, by the inclusion of waste disposal and air quality. The NRA when led by Lord Crickhowell from 1989 without this unnecessary load was able to concentrate on water. The EA has been increasingly unable to bear the strain of its multiple duties and even in the early days many useful services went down the drain, driven by accountants. Fisheries and flood defence suffered. The worst of it was the loss of water-orientated expertise and bureaucratic unwillingness to take account of local knowledge as used so inexpensively and effectively by the NRA. Let’s not set up yet another quango, simply re-activate the NRA.

Maldwin Drummond

Fawley, Hants

Sir, As thousands suffer flooding in this run of wet weather much focus has been placed on ineffective response from our government agencies. Beyond this real and present problem the government and local councils are also busy extending this problem in many communities by encouraging the building of new homes (through the new homes bonus, which creates monetary bonus for councils approving planning permission) in areas at flood risk. Indeed during a recent conversation with my own planning office it became abundantly clear that policies within the national planning framework were being watered down and permissions were being granted in areas of known flood risk.

If nothing else, the current flooding should remind us all of the potential for climate change and extreme weather events, but our councils and government seem oblivious to this and determined to create misery for future generations.

There should be an immediate suspension of new approvals until the risk of flooding in the UK is re-assessed.

Steve Newton

North Somercotes, Lincoln

Sir, Given current concerns over the causes and management of flooding in the Thames Valley and elsewhere is the prime minister in danger of losing the battle for the next general election on the paddy fields of Eton?

Professor John Hilbourne

Edgbaston, Birmingham



Bob Stanley’s Pop School has provoked one of the largest mailbags, both traditional and electronic, of recent years

Sir, The delightfully indignant correspondence which invariably greets your cultural guides is as instructive as the guides themselves (letter, Feb 13). Apart perhaps from the No 1 choices, Bob Stanley’s Pop School guides are mischievously controversial; so he is to be congratulated on provoking the inevitable fierce debates.

By the way, surely there should be a place for Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode whose immortal opening riff has inspired guitarists ever since?

Bernard Kingston

Biddenden, Kent

Sir, No mention of Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. You had to be there when he blew away Woodstock.

John Adsett

Rochford, Essex

Sir, a “Best Guitarist” list that does not contain Clapton, Bonamassa, Vai or Satriani is no list at all.

John Nightingale

Redbridge, Essex

Sir, The list of guitarists must include Jeff Beck and Franny (Frank) Beecher, the original guitarist with Bill Haley’s Comets. Even after 60 odd years I am still enthralled by his playing.

John Strahan


Sir, Why no Buddy Holly?

Tim Street

Cogenhoe, Northants

Sir, You exclude Eric Clapton from your 20 best guitarists. Oh come on, when did you last listen to Layla ? Can you recall the Sixties and “Clapton is God” graffiti on Tube stations? He ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”? Why did number 13 on your list ask EC to play lead guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps ?

Phil Murden

Horsforth, W Yorks

Sir, Omitting Queen from the 20 best bands was a mistake, but surely Brian May not in the top guitarists was even more of an omission.

Dr Jerry Asquith

Northwood, Herts

Sirs, How anyone can rate the Shangri-las as one of the Top 20 bands of all time, yet exclude the Rolling Sones and Queen?

Melvin Haskins

Barnet, London

Sir, Top 20 bands and no Rolling Stones? Top 20 lyricists and no Paul Simon? Top 20 guitarists and no Angus Young? Definitive?

James Crane

Fareham, Hants

Sir, The 20 best lyrics, without Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman?

Michael Benenson

Teacher, Yalding, Kent

Sir, What? No B. Dylan, A. Franklin, B. Crosby, B. Holly, C. Berry, T. Jones, G. Vincent, E. Cochran, L. Richard, C. Richard, K. Richard?

P. Millar

S Harrow, London

Sir, While I could quibble with your listing of the 20 best pop songs and indeed your 20 best pop lyrics as matters of personal preference, your listing of the 20 best guitarists left me in an incandescent rage. Where are Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Pete Townsend? If I were French I would no doubt set fire to a lorryload of sheep; as I am British, I shall send a letter of complaint to The Times .

David Fernie

Colwinston, Vale of Glamorgan

‘Emergency surgery is already hard, but this ludicrous situation continues because NHS trusts regard parking as a valuable revenue generator’

Sir, That a heavily pregnant woman incurred a hefty parking fine after driving herself to hospital with an obstetric emergency (Feb 11) will surprise no one who regularly uses or works for an NHS trust.

In ten years as a frontline consultant covering four inner-city hospitals, I have amassed nearly 100 parking penalties while covering emergency surgery for critically ill children.

Like many consultants I pay monthly fees allowing limited parking within my main employing trust. The other city hospitals make no allowance for my attendances, insisting instead on the use of pay spaces on site, meters on local roads, or the local NCP.

Problem is, kids with brain haemorrhages and other neurosurgical issues generally can’t cope with the sort of delays and uncertainties which that kind of provision entails. Travelling between hospitals at odd hours, I tend to leave the car wherever I can on site or nearby and hope for the best.

On one occasion I’d just finished dealing with an urgency at Hospital A when I was alerted to the arrival by helicopter of another one, at
Hospital B. Finding myself clamped in the hospital car park (emergency physicians can’t park in a union rep spot) and without £40 in my scrubs pocket (not required to perform emergency neurosurgery) I tried to bargain with the trust parking office. This ended in an altercation with an official who threatened to damage first my car, then me if I didn’t stump up and “f*** off” within 15 minutes.

On another occasion the parents of a sick child in my care offered to pay the parking penalties after I’d been ticketed on three consecutive days while attending him on call in intensive care.

Such events are fairly typical of paediatric neurosurgical life in this city. My colleagues and I pretty much accept that emergency callouts will likely result in a hefty fine.

Emergency surgery is already hard, but this ludicrous situation continues because NHS trusts regard parking as a valuable revenue generator. The cynical use of intermediary agents thinly dissociates them from the unpleasant machinery of this process.

Daily testimony confirms that the situation is far worse for patients and their families, many of whom have disabilities or cancer or circumstances that make public transport unfeasible. The reality is that such families are ruthlessly targeted at the most vulnerable times in their lives.

The situation will not change while NHS corporate well-being is regarded as more important than that of the patients and the staff that care for them,

Michael Carter

Consultant neurosurgeon




Published at 12:01AM, February 15 2014

It is not always the best idea to have a civil engineer in charge: in terms of nuclear waste and chemical discharge, for instance

Sir, Dr Broughton (letter, Feb 13) says a civil engineer should lead the Environment Agency. It regulates nuclear waste management and discharges from industries such as chemical plant, oil refineries, large power stations, etc. Just what would a civil engineer bring to that party?

Dr Allan Duncan

Abingdon, Oxon


Camels do not appear in the Bible as indigenous to Canaan but as given to (nomadic) Abram by Pharaoh in Egypt

Sir, You report that scholars at Tel Aviv have determined that the first domesticated camels appeared in Israel only in the 10th century BCE, so that the appearance of camels in stories about the patriarchs proves “that the Bible was compiled well after the events that it describes”.

The archaeology may be sound; the biblical scholarship is lacking. First, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Second, camels are mentioned in Genesis in only four contexts. And they do not appear as indigenous to Canaan but as given to (nomadic) Abram by Pharaoh in Egypt, as brought from Mesopotamia by Jacob, as used by the Ishmaelite merchants who buy Joseph to carry their wares and in the story of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac — taking with him some camels they had brought from Egypt to demonstrate Abraham’s wealth.

The local pack-animal is not a camel, but some sort of ass . . .

Ian Gamse

London NW4


Despite the current spate of gory television series, when writing a script it is far more entertaining to use wit and humour

Sir, I agree with Sir David Hare (“The killing has to stop”, Feb 12) about the excessive body-count in TV and film drama, but his claim that Hitchcock ‘never killed anybody’ is baffling. What about the notorious shower scene in Psycho? The victims in The Birds and The Thirty-Nine Steps?

M. G. Sherlock

Colwyn Bay, Conwy

Sir, As an American actor/scriptwriter in London I compliment Jack Malvern’s perceptive article (Feb 12) on the high volume of violence on TV.

When writing a script it is far more entertaining to use wit and humour than mindless violence. I recall a line from The Rockford Files, where James Garner, a private detective, says with a grin, “I keep my gun at home in the cookie jar, because if I bring it with me I may have to shoot someone.” Now that takes the biscuit.

Beau Dare

London SW10





SIR – In Cambridge we have a wealth of sculpture, both ancient and modern. I agree that the Snowy Farr memorialis unusual.

Snowy Farr was a dearly loved eccentric who would cycle into the market square with his basket full of cats, rabbits, hens and his famous mice, which ran round the brim of his top hat. When my daughters were small, every visit to town had to start with a visit to Snowy. They would put money in his collecting box and watch as the cat ignored the mice in his beard.

Long after the girls left home, I still sought him out, and now often talk about him to tourists trying to make sense of the strange sculpture. The city council should erect a plaque nearby with a photograph of this wonderful old man, telling of the money he raised for charity.

Mavis Howard
Melbourn, Cambridgeshire


SIR – We are more than a decade away from new runway capacity to serve London, and, with it, the air links that Britain needs to remain globally competitive. It is vital therefore that the Government facilitates more efficient and extensive use of the airport capacity we have.

We firmly support the recommendations of the Airports Commission’s Interim Report to make better use of London’s airport capacity in the short term. We urge Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, to act on the recommendations, with specific proposals.

Work should begin now to establish an Independent Aircraft Noise Authority, able to publish accurate and impartial advice to the Government on the noise footprints of our airports. This independent authority could engender trust at a local level that aircraft noise at our airports can be capped and cut.

At Heathrow, the airport should be granted greater operational flexibility in order to cut stacking and delays to flights. This international hub airport is set to run at capacity for the next 10 years. All options must be ruled in, to cut delays and preserve resilience.

At Gatwick and Stansted, improved rail links are needed to strengthen their ability to compete for new passengers and airlines, to stimulate new services and thus extend the use of their runways.

In particular, we agree with the Airports Commission that new railway track capacity is required, both to improve the Stansted Express and to support the Mayor of London’s growth strategy for jobs and homes in the Upper Lea Valley. We believe improvements to the network must be instigated this year.

A new analysis of the merits of a substantial infrastructure upgrade should be undertaken by the Government, so that it can be considered for inclusion in a refreshed National Infrastructure Plan this autumn.

Baroness Valentine
Chief executive, London First
Adrian Montague
Non-executive chairman, 3i Group
Martin Gilbert
Chief executive, Aberdeen Asset Management
David Partridge
Managing partner, Argent (Property Development) Services
Surinder Arora
Founder and CEO, Arora International
Mike Turner
Chairman, Babcock International Group
Harold Paisner
Senior partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner
Bob Rothenberg
Senior partner, Blick Rothenberg
Chris Grigg
Chief executive, British Land
Stephen Hubbard
Chairman, UK & EMEA, CBRE
James Rowntree
MD Transportation – Europe, CH2M HILL
Mark Boleat
Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, City of London
Paul Curran
Vice chancellor, City University
Des Gunewardena
Chairman & CEO, D&D London
John Burns
Chief executive, Derwent London
John Allan
Chairman, Dixons Retail
Inderneel Singh
Group corporate development manager, Edwardian Group London
Richard Banks
CEO, European Land and Property
Anthony Arter
London senior partner, Eversheds
Kevin Murphy
Chairman, ExCeL
Sue Brown
Senior managing director, FTI Consulting
Hugh Bullock
Senior partner, Gerald Eve
Toby Courtauld
Chief executive, Great Portland Estates
Mark Preston
Group chief executive, Grosvenor
Peter Vernon
Chief executive – Britain & Ireland, Grosvenor
Nicola Shaw
Chief executive officer, HS1
Andrew Murphy
Retail Director, John Lewis Partnership
George Kessler
Joint MD, Kesslers International
Robert Noel
Group chief executive, Land Securities
David Joy
Chief executive, London & Continental Railways
Robert Gordon Clark
Executive chairman, London Communications Agency
Malcolm Gillies
Vice chancellor and CEO, London Metropolitan University
Greg Clark
Chair, London Stansted Cambridge Consortium
Mark Reynolds
Chief executive, Mace
John Morgan
Chief executive officer, Morgan Sindall Group
Francis Salway
Chair, London First Open for Business Champions
Ray Auvray
Executive chairman, Prospects
John Rhodes
Director, Quod
John Spencer
Chief Executive Officer, Regus UK
David Sleath
Chief executive officer, Segro
Paul Kelly
Chief executive, Selfridges
Sue Rimmer
Principal, South Thames College
Noel Harwerth
Chairman, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe
John Synnuck
Chief executive, Swan Housing Association
Tim Hancock
Managing director, Terence O’Rourke
Hugh Seaborn
Chief executive, The Cadogan Estate
Bill Moore
Chief executive officer, The Portman Estate
Richard Simpson
Managing director, property, The Unite Property Group
Daniel Levy
Chairman, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
Ric Lewis
Chief executive, Tristan Capital Partners
Andrew Ridley-Barker
Managing director of VINCI Construction, VINCI Construction UK
Martin Sorrell
Chief executive officer, WPP Group

Scotch mist

SIR – In September the Scottish people will be asked to make an irrevocable choice. Unlike an election, the referendum will give no chance for a change of mind five years later. Extraordinarily, they will not know what they are voting for – two of the most important factors affecting their new nation will not be negotiated until the decision is made: their currency and the EU.

How can Alex Salmond ask the Scots to vote for independence before he has the answers to these two questions? To answer Yes to the independence question seems to be a romantic leap of faith.

John Richmond
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Bridal rat-catcher

SIR – When I was a child, my mother always wore her wedding dress for a dinner party on her wedding anniversary.

One year while she was cooking, my brother ran in to say there was a rat in the chicken run. She stuffed her dress into her stocking tops, grabbed a pitchfork from the stable, and rushed to kill the rat before returning to finish cooking dinner.

She claimed she was probably the only person to have killed a rat while wearing a wedding dress.

Mary Still
Bordon, Hampshire

Statins for some

SIR – In my late forties, I was found to have high blood pressure. At that time, I was slightly overweight, but ran about 20 miles a week. I was treated with anti-hypertensives and, despite having borderline cholesterol levels, also started taking a statin, as suggested by prevailing opinion.

The muscle aches I experienced prevented me from running, my weight rose further, and I became generally unfit.

On stopping the statins, I was able to exercise again, and I now run 33 miles a week. With careful diet, I am three stone lighter, with a healthy BMI. I feel much better and require neither anti-hypertensives nor statins.

Statins are necessary in those who have had a cardiovascular event, and for those in some high-risk groups with irreversible risk factors. However, for the majority, whose risk factors relate to lifestyle, the clear answer is a change in lifestyle.

Tom Pullar MD

Foreign buyers good

SIR – You report that 40 per cent of London homes that sold for more than £1 million last year were bought by foreign buyers. But across the whole of London’s housing market, a number of studies have concluded that only around 6 per cent are bought by foreign buyers.

The number of new homes built in London last year was the highest in 26 years. The mayor is also on target to build 100,000 low-cost homes for hard-working Londoners by 2016.

Getting Britain building is part of this Government’s long-term economic plan, and we welcome the foreign investment that is helping us achieve that.

Kris Hopkins
Minister for Housing
London SW1

No smoke without fire

SIR – My mother had a scary moment once, when, having lit her cigarette, she threw the match out of her Land Rover window, only for it to blow back in. It landed in her handbag, and set fire to her Polaroid sunglasses. By the time Mother had brought the car to an emergency halt, the contents of her handbag were destroyed.

I’m not sure if this put her off lighting up in the car, but she swore she’d never do so while wearing her shades.

Simon Wheatley
Minehead, Somerset

Tied up in knots over the message in neckwear

SIR – When I was acting as an expert witness in a drugs trial, the barrister for the defence accused me of wearing the tieof the Household Brigade, which I was not entitled to wear.

With the judge’s permission, I pulled out the tie from my jacket to show the sail-boat logo on it. It would have discredited my evidence if the barrister had been proved correct. As it was, he became the laughing stock of the court, and gave me the toughest cross-examination of my career.

Dag Pike

SIR – I went to my husband’s wardrobe on Wednesday to look at his regimental tie, of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards. It is exactly the same as the one the Prince of Wales wore on your front page (February 5).

Margaret Broadbent
Addiscombe, Surrey

SIR – Like many readers, I am concerned that the Environment Agency has lost direction. Under the Land Drainage Acts, it has a duty to “maintain flows” in main rivers and critical watercourses. Along with district and county councils, it can serve notices on (riparian) landowners to clear ordinary watercourses of any obstructions.

Early in my career, the Sussex River Authority employed me to survey drainage channels in the rivers Ouse and Cuckmere and Pevensey Marsh catchments, and to draw up schemes for their maintenance.

This excellent authority (long since disbanded) employed “sluice keepers”, who lived locally and made seasonal adjustments to retained water levels. They responded quickly, when extreme weather was predicted, to reduce risk of flooding.

Since the demise of the river authority, I have been appalled at the lack of routine maintenance. The Environment Agency is too remote from local communities. Even local flood-defence committees, which monitored its activities, have been scrapped. People’s lives and properties must come first, and conservation second, when funds are short.

A R Stevens
Herstmonceux, East Sussex

SIR – In the Nineties, the cost of my fishing licence was in single figures. After the Environment Agency was created, the cost went up in leaps and bounds.

It started sending glossy brochures, the most amusing of which told of plans to get a million more women fishing. It gave me and my wife a good laugh, but was a classic example of nanny running amok with our money, instead of focusing on essentials.

Edwin Prescott
Kingston Gorse, West Sussex

SIR – We are not the only country in Europe subjected to disastrous flooding this winter. The river Elbe burst its banks threatening Dresden in December; the Arno is currently about to swamp Pisa.

News broadcasts imply that Britain, uniquely, has somehow failed its citizens by being unable to protect them from nature. It is a global, recurring problem.

Marchioness Townshend
Fakenham, Norfolk

SIR – The BBC and ITN appear to have a policy that, no matter how wet and windy, nothing must be worn on reporters’ heads. Sky News seems to encourage the wearing of suitable headgear. Kay Burley wore a rather natty cap while getting drenched.

Peter Buckroyd
Crondall, Hampshire

SIR – As I knelt on my doorstep stacking sandbags, trying to repel the invasion of water bubbling up from adjacent drains, I was interrupted by the postman handing me a glossy missive from Southern Water. This informed me that I would soon be mandatorily fitted with a water meter to cope with the dearth of water in my area.

Tony Collingswood
Stockbridge, Hampshire




Irish Times:

Sir, – Surely a few days and not a week is a long and changeable time in Ireland’s politics and weather – on Tuesday it seemed that a confident Minister for Justice was denying an approaching hurricane, By Wednesday a low pressure system was dampening public confidence in the Minister’s ability to read the forecast and by Thursday evening’s clean-up operation the Minister was seen to be already hanging the GSOC chair out to dry! – Yours, etc,



Letterkenny PO,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – How positively sick-making is this grandstanding by the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions in asking that the British company, that carried out the security sweep for GSOC should give the committee an unredacted copy of its final report. The committee well knows that confidentiality is an integral part of the relationship between a security company and its client and that there is no question of it being given this report. – Yours, etc,



Waterfall, Near Cork.

Sir, – The recent controversy regarding the Garda Ombudsman bugging has left me with this question, “Am I living in a police state?” – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – It disturbs me that our Government seems determined to distract everyone’s attention away from the core issue of whether or not GSOC was under possible surveillance and if it was, identifying who is responsible for this sinister crime? Possibly our friends in the United States can lend us some of their highly skilled CIA agents to solve this mystery for us? – Is mise,


Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Ponder if you will why the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has not been rendered into Irish as many Government agencies are: who could forget Comisiún Muc agus Bágún? GSOC would become COGS – Comisiún Ombudsman Garda Síochána. Could we then say there are “wheels within wheels” in this whole affair? – Yours, etc,


The Park,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – First the Taoiseach stated the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was required to inform Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of exceptional or grave matters, quoting Section 80(5) of the Garda Siochána Act 2005. This of course was wrong. The section merely entitled the GSOC to make a report to the Minister. I think Enda Kenny, the longest serving member of the legislature is well aware of the difference between “may” and “shall”. Rather than apologise for the continual use of this untruth the Taoiseach when finally called to task gave us the flapdoodle “Any excessive meaning attributed to my words is regretted”.

Then on RTÉ Prime Time , February 13th, Mr Shatter tried a different tack. He told us that under Section 103 of the same Act the GSOC “where they invoke their powers under a previous section of the Act and conduct the type of investigation they did conduct” had an “express obligation” to inform him “and unfortunately that obligation wasn’t complied with”. Yet, the Minister failed to inform us that under Section 103(2)(c) the obligation does not extend to reporting matters that in the opinion of GSOC would not be in the public interest.

We deserve better from our Taoiseach and Minister in the face of a serious crisis. – Yours, etc,


Rathdown Park,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.




A chara, – John Gibbons uses the recent extreme weather events to remind us of climate change (Opinion, February 14th).  While he is correct that climate change has scientific consensus, he is incorrect to insinuate that anyone who points out that extreme weather events happened before man’s widespread usage of fossil fuels (and will happen irrespective of his future usage) may not accept climate change.  

Furthermore, while science can tell us all sorts of things about matter, malaria and measles, it cannot tell us what we should do with our taxes, our politicians or our media.  

How we react to climate change is a philosophical and political question – not a scientific one. Therefore,  the debate needs to shift away from whether climate is real or not (where he seems to want to keep it) towards what is the best thing to do based on the options available. – Is mise,


Beverton Wood,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – All the recent palaver about homophobia can best be summed up by Voltaire’s observation “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. So whether I choose to speak for or against same sex marriage should be respected. – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Could I ask people who have trouble with the “marriage” part of same-sex marriage to think about football. To Americans, football means American football; to the English it means soccer; to the Crossmaglens it means Gaelic football. During the winter it means soccer to most of us and during summer it means Gaelic football. The “it’s not marriage” brigade are stuck in “it’s not cricket mode”. Those who can’t make up their minds one way or the other can be hurlers on the ditch. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,

Swords, Co Dublin.


Sir, – Minister for Health, James Reilly (Letters, February 10th) writes that his health reforms are a two-term project. This I can understand, given that resources are limited at this time.

If universal free GP coverage is to be phased in, and we know that pilot projects in the Irish health care system tend to have a very long gestation, would it not be better to target the most vulnerable groups for any extension in access?

We have already seen the inequity of the over-70s medical card which gave free care to very many well off and soaked up the budget necessary to increase qualifying income thresholds.

This leaves very many families on meagre incomes above the threshold for a medical card. These are the families where a GP fee is a real barrier to timely health care.

I have always supported the idea of free GP services, but feel the fairest way to introduce this is to increase the qualifying income thresholds. The proportion of the population covered can increase as the budget allows. Introducing free care to all children under six just compounds the mistake of the over-70s deal.

Once again, well off and less needy will receive free care and vulnerable groups on low income will have to be _excluded given our present economic constraints. – Yours, etc,


Bayview Family Practice,



Sir, – Dr James Reilly keeps boasting about making medical cards available to the under-sixes (who are usually fairly healthy) but makes no mention of the fact that he is continually cutting the medical cards from the over-70s (who usually have a number of ailments).

We appreciate that he probably hopes we will all crawl away into the undergrowth and die, thus saving him a lot of trouble, but in the meantime we all have memories and votes. – Yours, etc,


Merton Drive,


Dublin 6.


Sir, – If only our bankers and property, developers had the humility of Micheál O’Connor the president of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (“The writing was on the wall, I was about to become unemployed”, Property, February 13th), our country would be in a much better place. – Yours, etc,


Merlyn Park, Dublin 4.



Sir, – With reference to the article on building regulations (Property, February 13th), there is one misleading comment which states, “the regulations will end the system of self-certification . . .”. In fact, the regulations extend the system of self-certification. For example, under the new regulations a developer / builder can use one of his own staff, who happens to hold one of the approved qualifications, to certify that everything is in compliance.

The RIAI recently adopted an updated policy on building regulations which, along with calling for a deferral of the implementation date, also states “Self-certification as set out in the SI, especially in the speculative residential sector, cannot be relied on to protect householders”. – Yours, etc,


Chair of the Building

Regulations Steering

Group, RIAI

Merrion Square,


Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 01:05

First published: Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 01:05


Sir, – In his assessment of Fine Gael’s experiment with the “Just Society”, Vincent Browne (Opinion, February 12th) suggests the following: that “full-scale economic planning, not just of the public sector but of the private economy”, banks brought under government control, direct public investment in jobs and price control (inter alia) would if implemented in the 1960s “have spared us much of the misery caused by the recent crisis”.

Like Vincent Browne, I am interested in how we can create a fairer society. But a fairer society is of no particular benefit if is not economically successful, because then all it does is to impose a more equal misery. It is hard to avoid the truth that every country that has implemented the policies mentioned above has ended up as a tyranny of sorts, with human rights abuses and general poverty. There is little or no evidence that a planned economy, or elaborate statism, solves any problems at all. Contemplating this retro version of socialism as a solution is a tad scary.

There is every reason to work for a society in which rational decisions are taken, democratic principles upheld, and all citizens valued. But this is not the way to achieve that. Or really, anything.– Yours, etc,




Sir, – We have heard a lot about epidemiological studies on the possibilities of a link between electromagnetic radiation generated by high voltage transmission lines and cancer, particularly childhood leukemia. Unfortunately these studies do not seem to have yielded an agreed result that would sway the decision on whether to bury the cables or not.

An aspect of this question, that I have not seen discussed, is the effect that burying the cables would have on radiation. It seems to be assumed that underground cables would have less effect on health. But an electric cable carrying a given current will generate the same magnetic field whether it’s suspended 20 metres in the air or buried two metres under the ground.

No doubt those designing the transmission lines know the intensity of the magnetic field at ground zero (or at any given distance from ground zero) for a suspended cable and how it compares with a buried cable.

An authoritative statement on this point might show how relevant the health argument is to the question of undergrounding.

The aesthetic and economic arguments would, of course, remain. – Yours, etc,


Oaklands Drive,


Sir, – The report by Harry McGee (“Two-term coalition possible, says Quinn”, February 14th) quotes the Minister for Education as saying that a second consecutive term in office for the coalition might be achievable on the grounds that Fianna Fáil “are so weakened and so low in numbers”.

The average age of the Cabinet will be 61.2 years and the average age of the current members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary will be 52½ years of age in February 2016, the latest possible time for 31st Dáil to be dissolved. The average age of the Ahern governments, on assuming office in 2002 and 2007, was 49½ and 50 years of age respectively.

Would the Coalition’s aspirations for a second successive mandate be enhanced by stronger evidence of succession planning and the Cabinet having a significantly younger age profile at the time of the next general election, given that the median age of the population had only advanced by only six months of age to 36.1 years between the census of 2006 and 2011? – Yours, etc,


Bellevue Avenue,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.


Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 01:02

First published: Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 01:02


Sir, – You report (World News, February 10th) that Archbishop Georg Ganswein, an aide to Pope Emeritus Benedict, has said that the ex-pontiff “spends his time studying, reading, handling correspondence, receiving visitors, playing the piano and praying while taking walks in the Vatican gardens”.

Who says that men can’t multitask? – Yours, etc,


Bóthar an Chillín,

An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe


Sir, – As usual Olivia O’Leary hits a whole bag of nails on their heads (Opinion, February 14th). When will we stop paying our TDs €500 a day to go to funerals; when can we get voters to cop on that if they are entitled to help they should go to the relevant State agency.

Is it any wonder that the predicament we are in is partly caused by crocodile-teared TDs driving the highways and byways of their constituencies instead of doing what they are meant to do, managing the country – not checking whether Mrs Murphy has a bed or not. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.




Irish Independent:

* Here’s a question: what is the one thing that Patrick Collison, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin have in common other than being prominent in the payments and technology industries? Answer: they all opted not to finish their third level education.

Also in this section

Let’s tackle our ludicrously high cost of living

Letters: ‘Union’ by name, but EU doesn’t care about us

Letters: No moral scruples on the balance sheet

Patrick Collison, the Limerick-born whiz-kid who co-created Stripe with his brother John, dropped out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whereas Zuckerberg and Saverin also exited Harvard before graduating in order to drive ahead with Facebook.

One can only imagine the difficulty facing the marketing and recruitment officers of both MIT and Harvard, looking to portray their universities as the incubators of dazzling success, but understandably concerned at an alternative moral to these stories: course completion is not essential for success.

Perhaps the best option is to design a university course – with future payments and technology entrepreneurs in mind – that comes to a stop after two years and releases the class to disrupt their industry of choice: the trick would be to leave candidates in the dark about the graduation date.

Cynicism aside, it should be noted that the above billionaire innovators may just be part of an elite few who knew that their ambitions would be hindered by a delay to market as a result of waiting two more years to graduate.

In some school charters it is actually written that inventions of the student belong to the educational institute that provided the facilities and ‘innovative environment’ to make such creation possible. Perhaps this is further incentive to depart sooner rather than later.

Last year college applications in Ireland hit the record number of 73,063, an unprecedented figure that portrays the popular opinion: that success is not possible without further education. The gradual rise of imported jobs into the Republic have largely been in the technology and digital media sectors.

It’s strange to think that students and parents alike are turning their focus towards modern and sophisticated third level courses in the slim hope that they might one day achieve the successes of the billionaire technology talisman … who chose to abandon academia.




* Could I ask people who have trouble with the “marriage” part of same-sex marriage to think about football. To Americans, football means American football; to the English it means soccer; to the Crossmaglens it means Gaelic football. During the winter it means soccer to most of us and during summer it means Gaelic football.

The “it’s not marriage” brigade are stuck in “it’s not cricket mode”.

Those who can’t make up their minds one way or the other can be hurlers on the ditch.




* Following the recent battering of the west coast, it’s reassuring to know that the famous Doonbeg Golf Links has been rescued by a famous New York financier. Just like Davy Fitz and his warriors of last September, the Banner has come up ‘Trumps’.




* Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has been reported as saying that a second consecutive term in office for the Coalition might be achievable on the grounds that Fianna Fail “are so weakened and so low in numbers”.

The average age of the Cabinet will be 61.2 years and the average age of the current members of the Fianna Fail parliamentary will be 52 years of age in February 2016, the latest possible time for the 31st Dail to be dissolved.

The average age of the Bertie Ahern governments, on assuming office in 2002 and 2007, was 49 and 50 years of age respectively.

Would the Coalition’s aspirations for a second successive mandate be enhanced by stronger evidence of succession planning and the Cabinet having a significantly younger age profile at the time of the next general election, given that the median age of the population had advanced by only six months of age, to 36.1 years, between the Census of 2006 and 2011?




* The description of the EU by Anthony Leavy (Letters, February 14) would be perfectly apt, were we living in circa 1991. But it does not fit with the reality of the modern day EU.

The EEC was a community of democratically elected governments cooperating on matters of mutual interest. That has since been superceded by the formation of an EU Government – complete with a president, a council and a parliament – which is insulated from the people it rules by layer upon layer of institutional and governmental bureaucracy. It is effectively democracy diluted.

Mr Leavy also credits the EU with replacing “the devastations of the past” with “relative prosperity and democratic rule”.

I think the increasing number of poor and homeless in Ireland would strongly disagree with that statement.

Pan-European wars may not be an issue at the current time, but the devastation being felt by millions across Europe is now financial devastation, and that crisis has been exacerbated by the EU’s investor-friendly policies.

However, one feels about European integration, it is important that we judge the EU on what it is currently and not on what it used to be.




* On a recent visit to Dublin, from my home in Wexford, I was struck by the growing numbers of homeless people. One of those I met, a man who had been evicted for rent arrears of just two weeks, helped me find an explanation for the situation. He, like many others, was caught in a trap of injustice.

In order to get welfare payments, which can fund a hostel bed, homeless people must produce receipts for two nights’ hostel accommodation (to satisfy the address requirement) costing €18. How they are expected to find €18 is unclear.

Not only are those caught in this trap going without shelter, they are also going without adequate food. The Simon Community soup and sandwiches run is saving them from starvation.

This is a case where we, the people, must hold up our hands. The Constitution states: “The running of the institutions of State shall be informed by justice and charity.”

If our ministers do not remedy this injustice, by agreeing that the State fund the requisite first two nights’ accommodation, for newly discovered homeless people, they will be in breach of that Constitution.

As temperatures hover near freezing, no one must be refused a room at the national inn.




* Tony Barnwell (Letters, February 13) replied to Liz O’Donnell’s article which called for a statue to be erected to honour Luke Kelly, by lamenting that “Padraig Pearse has no statue almost 100 years after his death”.

However, I believe Pearse himself would not have wanted one as he had a pronounced squint in one eye and always insisted upon his photograph being taken in profile. Frontal photographs of Pearse are extremely rare. We all have our little vanities.






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