19 April 2014 Much better
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate suppressing smut Priceless
Mary in hospital brief visit she has had a recovery
Scrabble today, Mary wins by 30 points Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Richard Broke – obituary
Richard Broke was a television producer whose drama The Monocled Mutineer drew the ire of Norman Tebbit and the military
7:11PM BST 17 Apr 2014
Richard Broke, who has died aged 70, was a television producer with a flair for contentious drama; by bringing The Monocled Mutineer (1986) and Tumbledown (1988) to the screen, he found himself at the centre of a national debate on Britain’s military reputation.
When The Monocled Mutineer (1986) was screened it caused furore amongst critics, politicians and military historians alike. The four-part BBC serial (written by Alan Bleasdale and starring Paul McGann) told the story of Percy Toplis, a deserter in the First World War. Norman Tebbit, then the Chairman of the Conservative Party, declared that the drama was further evidence of a Left-wing bias in the BBC. The programme’s historical adviser, Julian Putkowski, distanced himself, as Broke defended the “examples of dramatic licence” incorporated into the script.
Paul McGann in The Monocled Mutineer
29 Dec 2013
01 May 2012
12 Oct 2011
He addressed a more recent conflict with Tumbledown — about the Falklands War. The BBC film starred Colin Firth as Robert Lawrence, MC, a real-life Scots Guards officer left partially paralysed after the Battle of Mount Tumbledown during the advance on Port Stanley. The film was notable for showing apathy by government and Army officials to those wounded in the war; it also highlighted the protagonist’s gung-ho attitude to the campaign. Before it was screened, one of Lawrence’s fellow soldiers, Captain James Stuart, won a legal battle to have a sequence — which he believed identified him as an officer who encourages desertion — to be cut. Broke also handled casting complaints. Kenneth Branagh was initially to play the central role – “But Lawrence,” Broke explained, “who always saw himself as rather posh, was not happy.”
The film’s director, Richard Eyre, said the film was intended to be “deeply political”. Broke’s ambitions, however, remained dramatic: “Tumbledown is not meant to be a documentary. It’s a play acted by actors.”
With both productions his professional hunch paid off — The Monocled Mutineer and Tumbledown each won Bafta awards for Best Single Drama.
Colin Firth in Tumbledown
Richard Broke was born in London on December 2 1943 and educated at Eton after which he worked in repertory theatre before joining the BBC.
In the mid-Seventies he worked on the Play for Today series but his big break came with Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981) — an eight-part serial for Southern Television starring Robert Hardy and Nigel Havers — on which he worked for two years. “I am still very proud of that,” he said, “it was a landmark for me.” The controversy surrounding The Monocled Mutineer five years later showed that Broke could weather a storm. “The government juggernaut was gunning for the BBC,” he said, “when The Monocled Mutineer was on the zebra crossing.”
Throughout his career he brought veteran talents to his productions, coaxing swansong performances out of Alec Guinness, Alan Bates and Lauren Bacall. In 1985, in a rare excursion into screenwriting, he adapted Graham Greene’s last novel, Dr Fischer of Geneva — providing James Mason with his final role, as the titular misanthropic tycoon. Three years later Tumbledown took him back into controversial waters.
As the executive producer of the BBC’s Screen One drama portfolio he was responsible for approximately 50 films. In 1992 he teamed up with the Hollywood director John Schlesinger for the award-winning A Question of Attribution, an adaptation of Alan Bennett’s play detailing the downfall of the traitor Sir Anthony Blunt.
Three years later the pair collaborated again for a television take on Stella Gibbons’s novel Cold Comfort Farm (scripted by Malcolm Bradbury and starring Ian McKellen and Eileen Atkins).
During the rest of the Nineties and into the Noughties he continued to work on single dramas and popular series, including Where the Heart Is, The Murder Room and Messiah: The Rapture.
Richard Broke twice served on the Bafta Council. Although he became synonymous with difficult material it was, he said, strong emotional content that he was most interested in. “I never set out to make controversial drama,” he stated. “I would fall flat on my face if I did so.”
He married, in 1988, Elaine Carew, who survives him with their two daughters.
Richard Broke, born December 2 1943, died April 14 2014
I was saddened to see that War Horse has sacked its live musicians (Report, 16 April) to replace them with recorded music, and that the National Theatre’s executive director thinks the play is “better off without them”. Having seen the play three times, I found that the live music grounded the play in its rural Devonian origins and enriched the experience. But of course I’m just a punter, without the “expertise to assess such matters” which the NT so arrogantly asserts.
• Providential – definition: opportune, advantageous, favourable, auspicious, propitious, heaven-sent, expedient; or is it simply chance that we seem to have stumbled (or managed ourselves) into a mini-cold war with Russia just when we are exiting from Afghanistan and some – especially Nato – are seeking desperately to find reasons to ramp-up tensions in support of defence spending and the military-industrial complex?
• Following the installation of the “uncomfortable” seats in Dover town centre (Dover benches designed to be uncomfortable, 10 April), the same councillor you quote, Sue Jones, has opened her new kiosk, Pebbles, situated on the sea front at the eastern end of the promenade. The kiosk boasts the “prettiest toilets” in the town, which feature unique ceramic art work by Rob Turner, Kent artist. Well worth an Easter visit…
Cllr Linda Keen
Dover district council
• Interesting to read that “UK £50bn better off thanks to Bank’s QE” (18 April). Where did the other £325bn go?
• In respect of place names (Letters, passim), I cannot help smiling, every time I am on the road to Clitheroe en route for fishing, at the public library in Read.
• Lost on the road to Seville, I took a picture of my husband beside the road sign when we came to Moron for the second time.
We are Haringey council tenants and supporters. We are aware that Haringey and other councils are planning to allow a tsunami of greedy profit-driven property developers to swamp our council estates and families, buying and demolishing many blocks to build luxury flats, so evicting tenants and destroying established communities.
Last month developers paid the council £13,000 to send a cabinet member and an official to Cannes to meet them on a luxury yacht to discuss their joint plans. We will reject these heartless plans of freemarket profiteers with as much interest in our wellbeing as a Michelin chef boiling lobsters for their expensive gourmet dinners.
Haringey Defend Council Housing
Haringey Trades Union Council
Haringey Federation of Residents Associations
CONEL, University and College Union
Haringey Housing Action Group
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Whether or not a referendum of all members is a good way to decide on Co-op governance reform (My view of the Co-op will protect its values, 14 April), Paul Myners has correctly identified the democratic deficit in the Co-op’s structures. In fact, Co-op democracy is an embarrassing sham. Members can only vote for area committee members on the basis of anodyne and very brief personal statements which make no mention of political affiliation and posts already held. Candidates are specifically forbidden to canvass. Area committee members then elect regional board members, and regional board members then elect a large proportion of the national board. This is a system the old GDR would have been proud of.
If you track down an area committee member on Twitter you might be able to establish some communication if they happen to be reform-minded. Otherwise, area, regional and national board members are (for the ordinary member) completely uncontactable. This rigged electoral system, lack of transparency and accountability and pathological secretiveness is shameful. Reform is urgently needed if the Co-op is to survive.
• As a member of the Co-op I agree with almost all Paul Myners says about the present structure of the management boards. Where I disagree with him is when he says he is not in position to negotiate on reform. As a member of House of Lords he can purpose an act of parliament to regulate the Co-op. There are good precedents for regulating membership and mutual organisations by act of parliament, and with a large group of MPs sitting in the Co-op party interest it should be possible to get a bill though parliament quickly.
The only way to cut through the byzantine boards and committees is to go for the big-bang solution – and I would prefer one proposed by Myners to any alternative advanced by the big banks and the present Tory-dominated government.
• So, Unite the union has waded into the discussion about the future of the Co-operative Group (End boardroom bickering, say Co-op workers, 15 April). I wonder how Unite members would feel if there was a lively debate within the union on a key policy issue – the relationship with the Labour party for example – and an employer was to suggest that they should end this “public politicking”. Co-operatives are founded on the principle of member control and democracy, one member one vote. Precisely the same governance arrangement as trade unions. It is therefore up to us, the members, to discuss how the crisis in our business is best to be resolved. Lord Myners is absolutely right in pointing out that ordinary members of the Co-operative Group have not had a real say in its affairs. Whether or not his proposed solution is the right one is a matter for discussion.
Two hundred years ago the boundary between trade unions and co-operatives was often fluid. Both movements were set up on the principle that unless workers controlled capitalism, then capitalism would control workers. It’s a shame that a trade unionist accepts uncritically the idea that a co-operative should be run in the same way as a plc, and suggests an ignorance of the philosophical basis of co-operative enterprise. It’s time for a fresh look at the common history and – hopefully – common future of two movements that stand for the principle that profit and greed is not the only basis to run society.
• Its not just Lord Myner’s proposed Co-op Group reforms that may be rejected by the Co-op Group Board (Report, 14 April) but also Co-op members’ proposals for community buy-outs of the group’s farms. It is shocking that the group has ditched its co-op values and principles by a distress sale of its farm estate, having ignored invitations from co-operators for community co-op buy-outs of the farms. The sale was only recently announced, and even though Savills have not had time to draw up farm particulars, we understand that bids are needed by the end of May. This means that the Co-op Group is selling off the family silver to wealthy people, hedge funds and speculators, and that the Co-op farm estate will be lost as a commonly owned asset.
So, we propose that Ursula Lidbetter, the Co-op Group chair, urgently convene a meeting to discuss how some of the farms can be bought at a fair price by co-operative community buy-outs.
Martin Large Biodynamic Land Trust, Charlotte Hollins Fordhall Farm, Pete Riley, Mark Walton Shared Assets, Zoe Wangler Ecological Land Co-op, Mark Simmonds Co-operative Culture, Ruth West, Colin Tudge Campaign for Real Farming
Ken Livingstone and his colleagues yesterday (Letters, 17 April) accused my Panorama programme on the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, of “muckraking”. Rahman has separately accused me of racism, Islamophobia and lying. All untrue – and all because the BBC had the temerity to investigate longstanding concerns about the way Rahman, an elected official, spends public funds. For the avoidance of doubt, the Metropolitan police were not investigating any allegations made in the programme, since the programme did not allege that the mayor had committed any crime. Panorama did not accuse Rahman of fraud in his award of grants to third-sector organisations. Rather it raised questions about some surprising interventions by the mayor in the disbursement of these grants to groups in his local power base.
Livingstone et al’s claims that only 8% of grants awarded by Rahman have gone to Bengali and Somali groups do not withstand scrutiny. This is currently the subject of a separate investigation by external auditors tasked by the communities and local government department – a matter unrelated to police inquiries, which terminated this week. The letter-writers assert that the mayor has “answered more questions in council and attended more scrutiny committees than any other borough mayor”. This puts Livingstone at odds with Labour colleagues on Tower Hamlets council, who complain at the mayor’s failure to answer questions in these forums.
The programme was a measured and valid inquiry into governance under Rahman. It is not the BBC but Livingstone who is damaging community spirit by dignifying the inflammatory and vituperative response by sections of the Bengali media, the mayor and some of his supporters.
Films of Record, for BBC Panorama
During his time as head of Screen One at the BBC, in 1991 I pitched Richard Broke a project called A Foreign Field, with an ageing cast that included Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Lauren Bacall and Jeanne Moreau. “I’d better commission that now” said Richard, “or they’ll all croak before we shoot it.”
Throughout the production, in France and at Pinewood, Richard’s impish humour and gossipy good fun sustained the whole cast and crew.
Some time later, the film had a festival showing in Los Angeles. Richard was staying at the Chateau Marmont, so he had to cross eight lanes of Sunset Boulevard to get to the screening. Normally he wouldn’t allow anyone to assist with his wheelchair but when his wheel jammed halfway across, I steered him through the honking traffic. He was pleased not to be late because Charlton Heston was introducing our film on stage sporting an orange wig. “Did you ever see such a bad syrup?” said Richard in his stage whisper.
Yet for all his wonderful wit, Richard was a devout and devoted man with an incisive intelligence. We loved being entertained by him, but we also loved being challenged by him intellectually. He really was unique.
Jane Merrick (“It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce”, 17 April) made two contradictory points.
She argues that parents need to be provided with more choice, while also criticising the Government for setting up free schools in areas with a surplus of places. She can’t have it both ways. While there is a clear need to address the shortage of places, this does not by itself increase choice. It is only by creating new schools and new school places across the country that we can provide a genuine choice for parents. We are confronting both of these challenges.
We have made an additional £5bn of funding available in this parliament alone to councils to create new school places – double the amount spent by the previous government over the same period – leading to the creation of 260,000 new school places by May 2013, with many more in the pipeline.
We are also allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past. Nearly 80 per cent of new primary places created are in good or outstanding schools and, thanks to our reforms, the number of children in failing secondary schools has already fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010.
We have opened more than 170 free schools for 80,000 pupils, and the vast majority are in areas facing a shortage of school places or are in deprived communities. They are proving hugely popular with parents – attracting almost three applications for every available place – and offer good value for money.
We are building schools at a fraction of the cost of the former government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.
Ensuring enough school places for the growing population is one of our top priorities. Most councils are on track towards creating enough places, with 212,000 new primary places created between May 2010 and May 2013. There are no easy solutions, but this Government has made great strides in driving up the number and quality of places.
David Laws, Minister of State for Schools, London SW1
Jane Merrick aims at the wrong targets when she says parents haven’t truly been given “choice” over which schools their children can attend. If all schools were capable of educating our children to a high standard, there would be no need to have any notion, however spurious, of “choice”.
That our schools are not in a position to do this is down to the failure of successive governments which, instead of being accountable for this negligence, promote a specious concept of parental choice as a smokescreen to hide behind.
As Merrick correctly points out, no such choice exists, yet parents are led to believe it is they, rather than the Government, who have failed their children.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, London
Church has a role to play in state
The arguments Mary Dejevsky deploys to urge a separation between Church and State fail to convince (“If Cameron is invoking God to make his party appear less nasty, then he really hasn’t a prayer”, 17 April).
She mentions the diplomatic minefields such as a PM converting to Catholicism, but we have managed to navigate these and other instances with aplomb over hundreds of years. Then she cites the diversity of the population, but many non-Christian faith groups support the current set-up. They reason that religion in the UK is protected through an established church, with the Church of England providing a buffer for this.
And in relation to the spats between the Archbishops of Canterbury and governments, these are a sign of a healthy democracy. Faith leaders should have a voice in the public debate, just as much as other civil society leaders, though they must be sensitive to the fact that this brings no automatic entitlement to shape laws.
Zaki Cooper, Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews, London NW4
Excerpts from The Gospel According to David Cameron for Easter:
“Consider the lilies of the field. They do not labour or spin. Typical of the something-for-nothing culture we are determined to end.”
“And he welcomed the moneylenders into the Temple – and gave them all huge bonuses.”
“It is easier for Eric Pickles to go through the eye of a needle than for Starbucks, Google and Amazon to pay corporation tax.”
“And he said unto the leper: ‘Atos says you’re fit to work. We’re taking you off disability benefits.’”
“There are many mansions in my heavenly father’s house, but if you’re on benefits, in council accommodation and have a spare room, we’ll hit you with the bedroom tax.”
“Love thy neighbour as thyself – unless they’re a Bulgarian or Romanian immigrant.”
Sasha Simic, London N16
What is it that David Cameron does or refrains from doing because of his Christian faith? Without being clear about that, surely his profession of faith is meaningless? “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
Mark Walford, London N12
Whatever happened to progress?
I’ve just finished re-reading a book that was given to me by my mother on my 16th birthday. It was published in 1914 and tells a story of poverty wages, starvation, charities providing essentials, short-time contracts, zero hours, corrupt businesses that own politicians and vice-versa, and an apathetic population who mistakenly vote for their own drudgery.
They only want “plenty of work” and are encouraged to live a vicarious existence, marvelling at the antics of the rich and famous. We haven’t advanced much in 100 years have we? The book? The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.
Martin Carty, Aldridge, Walsall
Music can thrill without being painful
Chris Maume (“It isn’t a proper rock gig if you don’t leave with your ears ringing”, 17 April) may be being deliberately provocative, but to believe that rock music has to be painfully loud is stupid.
Perhaps groups play so loudly in order to drown out the moronic shouting and whistling which seems to accompany every gig I hear on the radio.
Does Chris ever go to a classical music concert? Part of the appeal is the contrast between the whisper-quiet passages and the fortissimo of almost a hundred musicians playing flat out. They do not need to be amplified. The loud music is thrilling, but not painful.
When Maume needs hearing aids several years before he should because of exposing his ears to excessive volume, I suppose he will expect me to pay for them out of my taxes.
Seriously, we are storing up huge costs for the NHS because of this insane liking for loud live music, and the use of portable music players on public transport with their monotonous percussion noises leaking from the earphones.
I like certain kinds of rock music but I refuse to go to excessively loud gigs. And to suggest that one wears earplugs is adding one stupid idea to another.
Peter Grove, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Days of the celibate priest are numbered
Your report “Catholic bishops call for priests to be able to marry” (18 April) on the possibility of change relating to the discipline of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests is timely.
The recently reported remarks of Pope Francis, suggesting that local diocesan bishops must take responsibility for the solution of local problems, has opened the door to discussion in a new way.
For too long, the whole matter of celibacy for those ordained in the Roman Catholic communion has been a closed book. The Church, through the example of Francis, is experiencing a re-examination of its mission.
This one aspect of Church discipline (for that is all it is) is now being questioned. The answering of a call to ministry need not be associated with an altogether separate calling to the celibate life. The time has come to revoke a discipline that has become a hindrance to vocation.
Chris McDonnell , Secretary, Movement for Married Clergy UK, Little Haywood, Staffordshire
There’s nothing funny about ‘comedic’
I do not agree with Guy Keleny’s dismissal of the word “comedic” (Errors and Omissions, 12 April). If the word “comic” were used in the sentence he examined, it could be taken to mean that the sensibility is comic, in the sense of being funny, rather than relating to comedy.
Most people would probably not be confused for long by “distinctive visual and comic sensibility”. However, I think “comedic” works well and removes any ambiguity even if it is a neologism. I like “tragedic” for similar reasons and would like to start a campaign for its adoption.
Alan Knight, Helston, Cornwal
Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images
Published at 12:01AM, April 19 2014
Who was the ‘father’ of the standard issue gas mask? How much did a soldier earn?
Sir, Further to your item about gas (The A-Z of the First World War, Apr 14), my great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Edward F Harrison, according to records at the Imperial War Museum, was credited with the invention of the “perfect” gas mask which saved thousands of British and Allied lives.
The small box respirator which he developed became universal issue to troops in August 1916. In a letter to his widow, the Minister of Munitions, Winston Churchill, wrote “It is in large measure to him that our troops have been given effectual protection from the German poisonous gases”, and that he would have been promoted to Brigadier-general in charge of all chemical warfare.
The Rev Rachel Borgars
Sir, It is incorrect to suggest that espionage was not a major component of intelligence in the First World War (poster, Apr 14). Signals intelligence through wireless intercept and air photographic intelligence were in their infancy and the Allies on the Western Front and in the Middle East also relied upon espionage for intelligence behind the enemy lines.
In occupied Belgium and northern France the principal form of espionage was to watch troop trains and calculate the types of units by counting the rolling stock and identifying equipment and insignia. For instance, it took 22 trains to move a German infantry division. By early 1916 the British had located all but two divisions, which became crucial when the Germans launched its 1918 spring offensive in France using forces moved from fighting the Russians. Most of the information came from resistance circuits supported by Allied intelligence officers based in Paris and Folkestone.
In at least one instance an Allied officer infiltrated an occupied country by balloon. Homing pigeons carrying coded messages proved successful.
In Palestine, Jewish networks of recent immigrants provided substantial information on Turkish dispositions that eased the advance of General Allenby’s forces to Jerusalem and then Damascus.
As with all resistance activities, the cost was high in terms of lives, but in many respects the First World War networks laid the foundations for the circuits and the management of intelligence from occupied countries during the Second World War. German counter-intelligence also learnt how to disrupt resistance operations.
Nick van der Bijl
Sir, Was it strictly true that Captain Noel Chavasse was the war’s only double VC winner (poster, Apr 17)? Lt Col A Martin-Leake, also of the Medical Corps, won his first VC in the Boer war and was awarded his second in 1914 at Zonnebeke, a short distance from where Chavasse was mortally wounded in 1917.
James P McCamley
Sir, You say that one day’s base pay for a British private soldier was one shilling (A-Z of the First World War,
I have my grandfather’s (2300 Saddler G R Hunt Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery) soldier’s pay book before me, and on January 11, 1918, his daily rate of pay was made up as follows: regimental pay: 2 shillings, proficiency pay: 6d, war pay: 3d; total 2 shillings and 9 pence.
Cambridge and Oxford are overrun with visitors, and the cities’ antique institutions are struggling to cope
Sir, Mary Beard knows the damage tourists have done to Pompeii. She cannot mean to wish the same fate on Cambridge (“Cambridge is a ‘divided city’ as university tightens security and shuts the public out”, Apr 16).
Historic Oxford and Cambridge are small medieval towns swamped by hordes of tourists. The colleges protect themselves by opening for limited hours and many charge entry. Cambridge university protects the Senate House, its Yard and the Old Schools by excluding tourists. In Oxford, alas, the Sheldonian, Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera areas are open to invasion. Tourists climb on the statuary and mouldings, tailgate their way into the library, abuse the staff, and shout and run about in the quads in gangs, picnic on the private lawns, and leave their crisp packets and fag ends on the flagstones.
Students have written in the comments book of the misery of trying to revise for exams with tourist faces pressed against the windows.
There is a balance to be struck between welcoming the world to see places of historical interest and protecting them from threats to their fabric and proper use. At present Cambridge has got that more right than Oxford.
Professor GR Evans
Sir, My experience of Cambridge is of town and gown working, playing and living happily together and I see little evidence of the divisions Mary Beard discusses.
The university museums are all open free of charge. I can walk through King’s College with a resident’s pass. I can watch theatre performed by students. My children love the science and the humanities festivals each year when we explore numerous university departments.
We go to the Observatory and the Botanic gardens, we punt past the Backs and neither my husband nor myself attended the university. And we attend a city-centre church where Professor Beard can regularly witness town and gown, cheek by jowl in unison.
Changes in countryside management are much more damaging than so-called invasive foreign plants species
Sir, Our society holds comprehensive data on all the wild plants of Britain and Ireland, native or alien. In representations to the Commons Environmental Audit Commission (report, Apr 16), we agreed that some (very few) alien plants were a nuisance and often made a bad situation worse. This, however, is truly minor compared with invasions by native plants (brambles, bracken, gorse, reeds, nettles and others), often resulting from changes in land use over the past 50 years, such as under-grazing or the lack of traditional woodland management. This, and the nitrogen pumped out by modern transport, has a far greater impact on biodiversity than any alien ever will. Our members know this well, but emotional headlines about “foreign” invaders win the research funding.
Past president, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
A UN inspector criticised the levels of sexism in the UK. A well-travelled reader says she has seen much worse
Sir, I was disappointed to read that a UN inspector found that sexism in Britain is the world’s worst (Apr 16). Having travelled in several countries and been confronted by much more blatant sexism than at home I find that hard to believe.
I cannot deny that in some places there is a “boys’ club sexist culture”, but it is very much less than some years ago. And I certainly now feel able to criticise such behaviour and expect my point of view to be accepted. When I was studying chemistry at university in the 1960s the departmental magazine printed “a chemical analysis of a woman” which concluded “Highly explosive in inexperienced hands; very complex and results in many unexplained reactions; highly unpredictable; should be watched at all times.”
In my year there were seven woman and 48 men/boys. We few had little difficulty in keeping them in their places.
Newcastle upon Tyne
One reader was less impressed than the head of the Highways Agency with the new system on London’s orbital
Sir, I read “Hard-shoulder driving begins with ‘an almighty jam’” (Apr 15) with considerable interest. I was one of the thousands of beneficiaries of this wonderful system and the extra hour added to a 90-minute journey. My congratulations to the boffins at the Highway Agency (“M25 — ‘no jams’, letter, Apr 17).
SIR – It’s true that the literati shunned Daphne Du Maurier in her lifetime (report, April 15). But recently scholars such as Nina Auerbach, Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik have paid her serious attention.
Virago reprinted her entire oeuvre, and my own Daphne Du Maurier Companion contains fresh scholarship on a remarkable woman’s life and work. Writers from Susan Hill to Stephen King have reworked her great stories and themes, and the loan of papers of the whole Du Maurier family, from George to Daphne, to the University of Exeter library, has encouraged international research.
Professor Helen Taylor
University of Exeter
SIR – For the last 30 years of her life, my mother’s eyesight was poor, so every evening I would read aloud to her. This is quite different from reading to oneself, and my favourite author to read aloud was Daphne Du Maurier. The words just flowed so easily. The stories were great, too.
SIR – It may be true that greater capacity at Heathrow would allow competition and probably lower fares, but the airport’s expansion has long since passed the limits of public acceptability.
As the most noise-polluting airport in Europe, hemmed in by homes and motorways on a site half the size of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow has simply outgrown its premises.
It is time that Heathrow joined with the Mayor of London, who has championed aviation since he came to office, to work for the new hub airport Britain needs, located where noise is not a problem.
London’s population will be 10 million by 2030 and the Heathrow site could provide homes and jobs for many of them. To see crowded west London as the only airport solution is a recipe for inaction.
Chief adviser to the Mayor of London on aviation
Du Maurier from Rebecca to The Scapegoat
18 Apr 2014
Good drugs, bad drugs
SIR – Cannabis is slightly less addictive and harmful than coffee. This has been shown by many studies using much larger sample sizes than the 20 users in the study you report.
For most adults, cannabis is good in moderation. It is a natural supplement to our endocannabinoid system and helps to protect against autoimmune conditions such as diabetes and cancer. It promotes neurogenesis, so is useful for the treatment of brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The United States government holds a patent for the use of cannabinoids in treating such conditions.
Clear: Cannabis Law Reform
Sutton Poyntz, Dorset
SIR – Professor Simon Gibbons highlighted the lack of information available to children aged 10, 11 and 12 about the misuse of drugs.
I chair a local charity that has been presenting programmes in primary schools for ages four to 12 for the past 20 years.
These promote a healthy lifestyle and inform children about the effects of legal and illegal drug use. The object is to equip them to resist peer pressure as they move on to secondary education.
Costs are kept to a minimum and our charges to schools have not changed for 10 years, but we have seen a reduction in bookings solely because of the demands on school budgets in the past few years.
Leicestershire Life Education Centres Trust
Post costs a packet
SIR – I operate a tiny postal business and have absorbed the highly publicised increases for internal mail of about 5 per cent. I also send 800-1,000 small packets a year, and 150-250 by recorded delivery to America, mostly weighing under 40 grams.
Until March 31 the costs were £1.88 and £7.18 each; they now cost £3.80 and £9. I have somehow missed any publicity about these increases from the Royal Mail.
SIR – As an unemployed web developer, I have been told by my local Jobcentre Plus that I must use the DWP website, Universal Job Match, to look for a job. This is like driving around in Del Boy Trotter’s Reliant Regal when what I really need is a BMW.
SIR – The Dean of Ely writes in support of an elevated bypass that threatens the unique southern river view of Ely cathedral.
At the recent hearing into the East Cambridgeshire Draft Local Plan, it was agreed that the controversial bypass should be omitted from the document and replaced with a more neutral statement on the need to tackle the Ely bottleneck.
The district planners had admitted to the inspector that the bypass was not uniquely essential to the delivery of the local plan – with all its growth targets – and by implication that another solution could achieve similar gains. This is the second time that a planning inspector has questioned the scheme.
The matter rests for the moment with the county council, unhappily both applicant and determining authority in this case.
Deciding who’s born
SIR – Like Ron Giddens, I was born with a club foot, and received excellent care. But parents should not be denied the choice of whether to abort a foetus with this condition. I know how much extra care my mother provided me with. If a parent is unwilling to provide this care but is refused an abortion, I doubt that the result will be happy for the child.
K R Brown
SIR – We have a delightful son who happens to have Down’s Syndrome and autism along with other “problems” but who brings happiness to everyone he meets. Despite his profound learning difficulties, he enjoys his life to the full.
Who are we to judge whether or not he should have been born?
SIR – I have closed the waistcoat gap since acquiring braces in 2003 during a post-case dinner with Courtney Griffiths QC and Mr Justice David Poole. I admired the pair Courtney was wearing (scarlet with black skull and crossbones – my school house colours).
“You can have them,” he said, taking them off and passing them across the table. At the end of the evening he stood up and his trousers fell down.
John Bromley-Davenport QC
Heavenly addition to dinner-party banana split
SIR – Dinner party disasters took me back to the Sixties, in Kenya. It was our first dinner party as a married couple, and my husband’s boss was invited. As I was whipping cream for the dessert with my electric whisk a little pink gecko dropped from the ceiling into the bowl, where, I regret to say, it met a sticky end.
What to do? No one could contemplate a banana split without cream and I had never heard of death by gecko poisoning.
Nobody seemed to notice that the cream had a vaguely pink tinge and everyone cleared their plates.
SIR – I do not find it refreshing to have a Prime Minister who does “do God”.
Christians who have defended the Bible teaching on marriage have been sidelined and persecuted and he has done nothing to help. More than 500,000 Christians signed up to the Coalition for Marriage and were ignored by David Cameron and his government.
His weasel words will not convince us, and we do not believe him. No amount of “God-speak” will now save him.
If it is any comfort to him, the other main political parties are no better.
Du Maurier from Rebecca to The Scapegoat
18 Apr 2014
SIR – David Cameron’s comments on Christianity and faith are welcome just before Easter.
He might have been more assertive and made the point that the Christian religion has been the single most important force in driving Western individualism, capitalism and civilisation – which would have caught many secularists off guard.
Christianity focuses on the moral actions of individuals; the Bible teaches us to work hard, respect others and their property, be charitable and not be led into temptation. This has shaped the modern individual that we call “ourselves” and the economic system that we use.
James A Paton
SIR – It appears that there is nothing that David Cameron is not prepared to do to win a few more votes. In his latest ploy to “do God” he claimed to “have felt at first hand the healing power” of the Church. The National Health Service used to be relied upon to provide as much.
Dr Max Gammon
SIR – “The legalisation of same-sex marriage infuriated many traditional Christians”. Many Christians, not just “traditional” ones, continue to be infuriated by the same-sex marriage legislation.
SIR – David Cameron, in this instance, is either ignorant of, or unwilling to recognise the scientific facts about, the origins of the universe, and instead follows the teachings of ancient prophets, who explained existence by means of a made-up god.
How can we trust such a person to make logical judgments on matters of state, since he has already shown his gullibility?
B W Jervis
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – The Prime Minister “puts God back into politics”. Exams are to be arranged around Ramadan. The British are the most sceptical about religion in the world. I’m confused.
Blandford Forum, Dorset
Sir, – I wish to add my voice of protest to those condemning the nasty, bigoted cartoon you chose to publish (April 16th) featuring a group of priests outside a confessional. It was extremely offensive to Catholics and cruel and hurtful to priests; it demonstrates very clearly the anti-Catholic bias of your newspaper. In publishing this cartoon a line has been crossed and a new low has been reached. It is doubtful that this just slipped past the editor unnoticed, so quite clearly it is not just the cartoonist who is bigoted. An apology from the editor is the least we can expect. Yours, etc,
FR DONAL ROCHE,
St Patrick’s Parish,
Sir, – I am appalled at the cartoon by Martyn Turner which you published (April 16th). Its message is without justification or context right now. If you think this cheap shot is only hurtful to priests, think again. It displays a crassness and an attitude which I am very disappointed to find in the pages of The Irish Times . I suppose an apology would be out of the question? Yours , etc,
Sir, – I am disturbed but not suprised at the letters and comments condemning the Martyn Turner cartoon of April 16th. Some are upset because it wan’t funny (cartoon = funny), others because it was satirical on the subject of the seal of confession of the Catholic Church. The victim card is being flourished, even by the moderate champion Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. They all seem to miss the point of the cartoon. It simply states the official views and position of the Church itself. The reaction is to avoid comment on the subject itself and circle the wagons. I think we’ve seen this before, protect the institution and deny the reality. As for it being offensive? Satire is meant to be hard and to make people think afresh but it seems to have failed with these tunnel-visionists. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Borrowing the words of Fathers Kenny and Curran, I wish to object in the strongest possible terms and register my absolute disgust and abhorrence at the removal from the Irish Times website of Martyn Turner’s cartoon of April 16th. Yours, etc,
rue des Sables ,
Sir, – I wish to register my disgust and abhorrence at Catholic priests’ unwillingness to break the seal of the confessional and report child abuse to the authorities. Is mise le meas,
Sir, – I note the kerfuffle which is raging following the publication of Martyn Turner’s cartoon. If ever a molehill has become a mountain this must be it. This is I believe a one-day wonder and we would be well advised to leave it alone. Silence may be the best policy and I would counsel caution. Calls for apologies from The Irish Times are in my view ill-considered and ill-advised. As a Catholic priest, I believe it is most unwise to draw an audience onto ground where we are vulnerable. Yours, etc,
FR IGGY O’DONOVAN,
See second editorial (this page).
Sir, – A number of your recent articles and reports, including pieces by Paul Gillespie, Arthur Beesley, Breda O’Brien and Dick Alhstrom, collectively paint a picture of an insidious and profound cultural shift.
Thomas Piketty’s landmark book Capital in the Twenty-First Century identifies how public wealth is being systematically transferred into the hands of the super-rich, who have effectively usurped democracy and captured the political process. Consequently, any additional revenue generated by Ireland’s current economic upturn cannot be deployed to support decimated public services, but must be funnelled up into the Great Casino of the financial markets to be gambled away.
The dependence of universities on corporate patronage means education has become more about product development and marketable skills than independent research or critical reflection. The humanities are being downgraded and history removed as a core subject, inducing a cultural amnesia that leaves our young people more susceptible to manipulation and demagoguery. Their labour is already shamelessly exploited through unpaid internships and low-paid “employment schemes”.
Workers’ rights are being eroded as big business demands a flexible, cheap workforce. It would appear that as a nation, we are sleepwalking our way into a thinly disguised slave camp, run by, and for, the wealthiest people in the world.
Domestic economies and their workers were traditionally insulated from the vagaries of global markets by socio-fiscal protections such as those embedded in the Glass-Steagall Act, FDR’s New Deal and Europe’s postwar social democratic “mixed economy”. The inexorable dismantling of these safeguards has left us at the mercy of a heartless, predatory, economic system which operates transnationally without regulation, cynically plundering economies, national currencies and natural resources for short-term gain.
President Higgins is one of the few public figures prepared to call it like it is. Politicians worldwide need to come together to face down this new, global, neo-liberal hegemony, to insist that public services, workers’ rights and domestic sovereignty be ring-fenced and protected and that international financial and corporate regulation be reinstated. To Capitalism Sans Frontières, we must say No. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Arts Council established Aosdána in 1981 to honour those whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland and to encourage and assist members in devoting their energies fully to their art.
The work of Irish artists is the bedrock of a multi-billion-euro cultural industry but Ian Kilroy, (Opinion & Analysis, April 16th), concentrates, almost exclusively, on the funding of Aosdána – the cost rather than the value.
Aosdána is an affiliation of individual artists who devote themselves to their art. It has included Nobel laureates, artists across all disciplines who have received international recognition of their work and the founders of most of the cultural institutions of the State.
The cnuas, a subsidy means-tested by the Arts Council which represents substantially less than half the average industrial wage, is available to members to enable them to concentrate exclusively on their work and to help to subvent the not inconsiderable expense of producing art. Many members who benefit from the cnuas have forgone secure, pensionable employment and will never retire. Their work will, however, continue to benefit Irish society long after they die.
Aosdána has always supported the recognition of other groups who wish to form similar bodies and has continually sought to broaden its membership.
There is nothing remotely secret about the work of Aosdána. The art that its members produce is available to all. Its proceedings are published and everyone is welcome to attend the public session of the annual general assembly. Yours, etc,
Chair of the Toscaireacht,
70 Merrion Square,
Sir, – Rev Chris Hayden’s rebuttal of the charges in the article by Paddy Agnew on the late Pope John Paul II (Letters, April 15th) does not stand up.
Pope John Paul was a fine Christian in many ways but his response to US-sponsored repression in Latin America was disgraceful. The papacy has access to world leaders and papal opinion can change things. The pope’s lack of action to stop killings and torture during the 1980s did not convey the message of Jesus. The Vatican, at the highest level, allowed the murder of priests and nuns and, as mentioned by Mr Agnew, Bishop Oscar Romero.
Furthermore, l iberation theology is not a Marxist doctrine but the message of Jesus put into action. In the words of Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Yours, etc,
DEREK M REID,
Lough Derg Road ,
Sir, – Fr Chris Hayden is unfair to Paddy Agnew when he accuses him of substantially misrepresenting the late pope’s position on liberation theology. Though Fr Hayden quotes John Paul II as stating that liberation theology was timely, useful and necessary, this is not the clinching put-down it might seem. John Paul said a lot of lovely things about the Second Vatican Council but under his watch did everything he could to stymie its reforms. Ditto, liberation theology. Actions speak louder than words. Yours, etc,
FR BRENDAN HOBAN,
Sir, – Your editorial of April 16th states that “rural development means different things to different people”. Referring to “difficulties currently being experienced by local communities and small retailers”, it goes on to state that “growing numbers of closed shops and vacant properties provide evidence of accelerating decay”. The reality is that the decline of family retail businesses is almost entirely attributable to the expansion of multiples. The arrival of huge retail giants has sealed the fate of many small businesses and that of their suppliers and employees. In Mayo it has destroyed the commercial and social fabric of many towns and villages. Here we have a concentration of national and multinational retail development which is completely disproportionate to our population.
This is a fact and is patently obvious for all to see. Why we remain in denial of this jumbo elephant in the room is difficult to fathom. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your newspaper (April 17th) quotes the president of the GAA, Páiric Duffy, taking issue with the recent ESRI report Keeping Them in the Game . Mr Duffy says that “ … the point I would have with the ESRI report is that drop-off affects all sports if they are honest”.
Part of being honest is stating truths that people may not want to hear. The ESRI report was based on three nationally representative data-sets, one of which sampled over 26,000 people aged 16 and over. The report shows that drop-out affects all sports. It also shows that the rate of drop-out from Gaelic football and hurling is particularly high compared to other sports. Indeed, the data reveal that among young adults the drop-out rate from Gaelic games is more than twice the equivalent rates for soccer and rugby. The report offers a constructive analysis of possible reasons for the GAA’s higher drop-out rate.
The ESRI’s research in this area is funded by the Irish Sports Council and aims to provide evidence on which to base policy to increase participation in regular sport and exercise. We strive to treat all sports equally. Several sporting governing bodies are engaging constructively with the findings and are using them to try to improve their level of participation. Others might benefit from doing the same. Yours, etc,
DR PETE LUNN,
Sir John Rogerson’s Quay,
Sir, – Is Charles Haughey and the Generators a new hipster band I should be aware of? Yours, etc,
Sir, – Solicitors, it seems, are not happy that they get only 1.6 per cent of judge appointments on a pro rata basis vis a vis their barrister colleagues (“Lack of solicitors as judges criticised”, April 18th).
However, the “relics of the past” argument cuts both ways. One of those relics is that clients generally cannot access barristers without a solicitor being present. But solicitors get paid for what some clients might view as a “childminding” role – pushing up the cost of barrister advice for clients, who would often prefer direct access. Solicitors also sometimes get paid “uplift fees” for not having hired a barrister at circuit court hearings. If solicitors want to be viewed with equal favour in assessment for appointment to the bench (which of course they should), they could start by refusing to play “second fiddle” in their legal advice roles. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. Yours, etc,
Sir, – With reference to AJ Quinn’s letter (April 16th) I also fail to understand why the purchase of a property does not come with the usual warnings we get with most financial investment instruments.
We thought we would never forget the lessons from the last economic collapse. However, it would appear that many people need to be constantly reminded that over a 20- or 30-year mortgage term the price of properties and the size of wage packages can decrease as well as increase. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Vincent Browne is indulging in selective amnesia when he bemoans the fact that, as he sees it, “much has remained depressingly the same” in this country over a long period (Opinion & Analysis, April 16th).
He seems to have missed the fact that this country was bankrupted during the course of that period by the decisions of a small number of its own most powerful citizens. When he states that the euro “opened the floodgates to … the financial crash” he forgets that most of the countries which joined did not become bankrupt.
For the ordinary citizens, to their cost, nothing will ever be the same in this country as a result of the failures of its dominant institutions – government, finance, academia and media – during the boom.
Ironically, the institution which has remained most depressingly the same is the media, which still indulges in the same celebrity-driven, personality-obsessed, flogging-dead-horses coverage of public affairs as it did during the boom. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I enjoy Eamonn McCann’s articles but occasionally he loses his way when he reverts to deep republicanism! It should be remembered by him and others that Irishmen and women were a constant presence in the governance at a senior level of the British empire. Therefore, Arthur Griffith was wrong in feeling that the Irish people were demeaned. It was their empire too! As for the crimes of the British royal family, Sinn Féin/IRA has a pretty good competitive record in that regard. Yours, etc,
Rob Sadlier Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 – Published 19 April 2014 02:30 AM
If only it were that simple. My first question is: which Bible? There is no single Bible. Many different Bibles have existed and exist. Different books with differing contents feature within the biblical canons of different religious groups. Which one are we talking about?
Also in this section
Where is the stamp of approval for the Battle of Clontarf?
‘What would we do here, if we were a real country?’
Demurring to the monstrous gods of capitalism
Moving on from that minor detail, the trouble is that many people have throughout the centuries considered, and many people living today consider, that their particular version of the Bible is a work of divine revelation, to be interpreted literally.
For example, young earth creationists advocate a strict literal interpretation and believe all life on Earth was created by direct acts of a god between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. A 2011 Gallup survey revealed that 30pc of adults in the US – the most powerful and in some ways the most advanced country in the world – said they interpreted the Bible literally.
But, let’s assume that they’re all collections of metaphors. How are these metaphors to be interpreted and who is to interpret them? This is dangerous territory. It can and has resulted in people relinquishing their critical faculties and in brainwashing.
The Bible has been used to justify murder, torture, slavery and homophobia.
It is still happening to this day: the extreme homophobia prevalent in parts of Africa is justified based on biblical interpretations. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said recently: “Certainly, the teaching of the Catholic Church could be used by some people in a homophobic way.”
I have read through various versions of the Bible. Great works of literature no doubt. So are the works of Shakespeare and Joyce, but nobody claims that their works are sources of divine revelation.
I find the concept of human sacrifice (especially in the context of a self/filial sacrifice by a supposedly eternal super-being) morally repugnant.
I also find the concept of hell morally repugnant.
The Catholic Church still teaches that hell exists, yet the church is strangely silent on this matter these days and who will end up there. Practising Catholics often dismiss morally the objectionable concepts and injunctions of the Bible on the basis that they emanate from the Old Testament, but it’s the New Testament that introduces us to the concept of hell.
Thankfully, there is not a shred of evidence that such a place exits.
If such a place does exist, I look forward to having a drink with Mr Hitchens by the fire.
LET’S NOT REWRITE HISTORY
* Hopefully we can always have happy and friendly relations with our British neighbours, but without turning history on its head.
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION
* Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is mistaken in increasing the number of penalty points and fines for texting while ignoring eating, drinking, smoking and the operation of a radio and DVDs while driving.
Previous ministers blamed speed, drunk driving, talking on a phone and not wearing seatbelts for road traffic accidents.
Essential Driver Training was introduced by Mr Varadkar with great fanfare in 2011, but in 2013 road fatalities increased by 30 on the 2012 statistics so texting is now deemed the cause of accidents.
If statistics are to be believed, 25pc of fatal accident drivers were drunk, 20pc were not wearing seatbelts and now 20-30pc were deemed to be texting.
A car radio has as many knobs, buttons, numbers and stations as a mobile telephone.
Is texting on a fixed mobile phone more dangerous than operating the radio controls on a moving steering wheel or watching a sat-nav display while driving?
POST OFFICES ARE HUB OF RURAL LIFE
* The possible closures of post offices strikes another blow at rural Ireland following closures of local banks, garda stations, and health clinics while many schools remain under threat.
For many, the local post office is a focal point for communities and its loss would have an enormous impact on community life.
The social aspect of the post office should be taken into consideration by government, because the post offices are at the heart of the community in towns and villages. The local postmaster provides a personal service that will be lost when they will be forced to close their doors.
It is unacceptable that older people and people with disabilities may now be forced to travel long distances to join the already lengthening queues at bank branches to receive their social welfare payments and pensions, where they also face extra charges along with a customer service that has reached deplorable levels.
It is the elderly and the less fortunate in society who are continually being targeted and the closure of the post office is another aspect of this.
Their closure will inevitably lead to increased levels of isolation and loneliness.
In many areas, the only available shop is attached to a post office and sometimes is the only outlet for social interaction that many older people have.
The banks played a major part in destroying this country. It now appears that it is government policy to get the banks back on their feet by directing more business towards their way.
In doing this, they will have killed off what life is left in rural towns and villages, and the Government could possibly be described as the most anti-rural government we have had in this country.
WHO WILL PAY FOR COUNCIL LEAKS?
l According to the Dublin City Council (DCC) website “water leakage levels have been reduced from 43pc to 29pc from 1997 to 2009”.
With the ongoing installation of water meters, one wonders if DCC will have an extra-large meter installed and be charged accordingly for their water losses?
ROYAL ASSENT FOR RISING?
* David Quinn asked recently whether the Easter Rising was worth it? (Irish Independent, April 11).
As a follower of James Connolly’s Citizen Army rather than the Republican Brotherhood and Patrick Pearse’s Volunteers, I would look at King George V himself for an answer.
Following his very successful 1911 visit to Dublin, during which he visited a tenement, he wrote to the British Surgeon General: “Is it possible that my people live in such awful conditions?
“I tell you, Mr Wheatley, that if I had to live in conditions like that, I would be a revolutionary myself.”
Despite my grand-uncle Austin being in the Volunteers, and my cousin James Arthur dying in British khaki on Easter Monday, I hope that I would have fought for James Connolly’s vision of a People’s Republic – had I lived 100 years ago.
That is in no way to be confused with giving support to the current Labour Party, who in my opinion sold their soul for a handful of bling and a seat on the government jet.