27 April 2014 Quiet day
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate new furniture Priceless
Mary home fsettling in
Scrabble today, Mary nearly got 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Mark Shand – obituary
Mark Shand was an adventurer and travel writer who found his true mission in the conservation of the Asian elephant
Mark Shand: ‘I’ve always loved animals’
2:30PM BST 24 Apr 2014
Mark Shand, who has died aged 62, was the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall and a noted conservationist.
An adventurer in the best sense of the word, Shand never tied himself to anything so tedious as a full-time job. Among his earliest heroes was the 19th-century explorer Sir Richard Burton, and his exploits included riding on horseback through the Andes, journeying to Tibet and being shipwrecked in the western Pacific during a hurricane. His first book, Skulduggery (1987), told of an expedition to an uncharted territory in the Indonesian archipelago, Irian Jaya, which was said to be seething with cannibals.
All this might have degenerated into a life of exotic dilettantism. But while travelling in India in 1988, Shand come across an emaciated captive female elephant being used for begging purposes by her owners: “My mouth went dry,” he later wrote of the moment when he first saw her. “I knew then that I had to have her.” He bought the animal, named her Tara and rode her 750 miles from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to the Sonepur Mela, the ancient elephant trading fair at Patna on the Ganges. Travels on My Elephant (1992), his account of the journey, was a bestseller and won him the Travel Writer of the Year Award.
Shand followed this with Queen of the Elephants (1995), the story of his 300-mile trek across East Bengal and Assam on the back of an elephant with Parbato Barua, India’s only female elephant trainer. The book won the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Prix Litteraire d’Amis, and formed the basis for a BBC documentary.
Major Bruce Shand
12 Jun 2006
Mark Shand: adventurer, conservationist and Duchess of Cornwall’s little brother
24 Apr 2014
17 Jan 2014
23 Jul 2003
23 Oct 2006
Mark Shand with his elder sister, the Duchess of Cornwall (REX)
By now Shand was passionate about the long-term welfare of the Asian elephant. He had a cause. In 2002 he gave up his “day job” (selling Cartier jewellery) and founded Elephant Family, devoted to the animal’s survival. “There are only 50,000 of them,” Shand said, “compared with half a million African ones. Yet bigger, uglier African elephants grab all the attention.” Every day, he pointed out, an elephant kills a human being and a human being kills an elephant. He added: “It is our fault, because we humans have driven them away from their natural habitat. To cut the risk of human-elephant conflict and casualties, we are securing habitat all over Asia and purchasing corridors of land for elephants and helping local people relocate.” The charity has so far invested more than £6 million in a range of such projects.
Shand was not only well-placed to be a fundraiser (having contacts in the Royal family, the aristocracy and the merely very rich), he was also good at it. In 2010 he organised an exhibition of 250 60-inch-tall fibreglass elephants to stand on plinths across London; they were mysteriously removed overnight later in the summer — a visual metaphor for extinction. Each animal was decorated by a celebrity or an artist, and each was later auctioned off.
In 2013 he accompanied the Prince of Wales on part of his visit to India, “to highlight the work of Elephant Family, and show him what remains of Asia’s incredible wildlife”, later declaring: “There has never been such an unprecedented threat to world wildlife. The illegal wildlife trade is now worth an estimated £6 billion a year, and it’s growing.”
Born on June 28 1951, Mark Roland Shand was the son of Major Bruce Shand, who won an MC and Bar as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers, and his wife Rosalind (née Cubitt), daughter of the 3rd Lord Ashcombe . Mark and his elder sister Camilla (now the Duchess of Cornwall) and younger sister Annabel (the interior designer Annabel Elliot) were brought up in a country house at Plumpton, East Sussex.
Mark loved animals from childhood, later recalling: “When I was about eight years old my mother would go to Harrods every two weeks to do her shopping and while she was buying boring things I’d sneak off to the pet department. In those days they had lions and tigers and there was a lot of squeaking and growling going on. To me it was the most exotic place in the world.”
Mark Shand (EPA)
His education at Milton Abbey ended abruptly when he was expelled at the age of 16 — allegedly for smoking dope. Major Shand told his son: “Don’t —- around London, Mark — do something.” So the young man went East: “I did the hippie trail and lived in Bali for a while.”
Having worked as a porter at Sotheby’s, Shand started a business with the Earl of Westmoreland’s son, Harry Fane, selling Cartier jewellery. He was soon being touted as one of the most eligible bachelors of the Seventies, and he was linked in the gossip columns to President John Kennedy’s daughter Caroline, to Bianca Jagger, Princess Lee Radziwill, and to the model Marie Helvin.
He later described his youth as “misspent”, adding: “I don’t have many regrets. I’ve got lots of tattoos, though, a serpent on my forearm, which I got when I was working in the packing room of Sotheby’s, the crab on my shoulder in Texas, and a tiger I found after I woke up with a bunch of Algerian soldiers. On my foot I’ve got some markings which were made by Dyaks in Borneo while I was fairly intoxicated on anything that was remotely available.”
Many women found him mesmerising, one gushing: “He is an Adonis. He’s the nearest thing to a real-life Indiana Jones. He’s always turning up at parties, deep brown, just back from India and telling extraordinary stories.” The novelist Jilly Cooper once said: “I sat next to him at a dinner party, and I was trembling with excitement.”
Mark Shand with his wife Clio and their daughter Ayesha (GETTY)
In 1990 Shand married the actress Clio Goldsmith, niece of the billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Goldsmith. They had a daughter, Ayesha.
For relaxation, Shand enjoyed watching television series such as The Killing and Game of Thrones. He also liked browsing in antique markets. He once had a pet mongoose which escaped in a restaurant and helped itself to a fellow diner’s plate of spaghetti; he also had a myna bird “who spoke in an Irish accent” and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Satan, “who I looked after for a friend while he was ‘a guest of Her Majesty’”.
His favourite books were Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming; Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush; and Rodney Stone by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Mark Shand, whose marriage was dissolved, died from a head injury after a fall in New York, where he had been supporting a charity auction at Sotheby’s in aid of Elephant Family and underprivileged children.
Mark Shand, born June 28 1951, died April 23 2014
There are already enough planning permissions for a large increase in the rate of housebuilding, but the major firms all maximise their profits by building only limited numbers of houses, mainly in preferred locations (“Ten steps to release the pressure in Britain’s housing superbubble”, Business). Indeed, when Ed Miliband last year pledged a Labour government to ensure that by 2020 an annual 200,000 new homes would be built (well short of the agreed need for 250,000), the industry bosses exploded that this was far in excess of their capacity.
The real problem is the cost of land and its increase in value when planning permission is granted. Ten acres of farmland worth £8,000 an acre can multiply 80 times with a stroke of the planner’s pen. This is lunatic; having created this value, the community then stuffs it into the pockets of builders and developers (often the same people) apart from painfully extracting a few symbolic goodies in the shape of such things as a new surgery; a road improvement; a sports or community facility.
Politicians are terrified of the effect on existing house prices of a new building programme large enough to deal with existing and future demand. The objectives must be to ensure that more houses are built without fancy schemes to finance their purchase being necessary; and that a high proportion of the increased land values generated returns to the community that creates them.
Former leader, Hampshire county council
It is not good enough for the property adviser to dismiss increased housebuilding and “garden cities” as solutions to the “housing superbubble”, saying it would take too long and they are not big enough. What happened to forward planning? At the 50th anniversary of the creation of the last wave of new towns, has not the time come to re-examine a mechanism that through an integrated infrastructure, despite all its faults in implementation, provided a civilised environment for thousands of families? This mechanism still exists in the Commission for New Towns, retained to administer new town assets and which combined with the Urban Regeneration Agency to create English Partnerships in 1999.
But it will not happen in the current mania for buzzwords and the “quick fix”. So our hard-won expertise will continue to migrate to those countries that plan for the future and mock our beggarly housing, low in volume and built down to a price instead of up to a standard.
More homes on the scale needed require a planned infrastructure and planning is something that “the market” does not do, other than for its own profitable purposes. Kevin Albertson’s letter ticks all the right boxes, but I am not holding my breath, waiting for these essential ideas to be implemented.
I live in a village of just over 11,000 people in beautiful countryside. Over the next few years, we are faced with developers building more than 1,000 houses on the green fields here. There are no plans that I know of to deal with the increased traffic flow through the village centre or through the narrow village streets along the A281 on the way to Guildford, or to build additional classrooms or to enlarge the excellent village health centre that opened only last year
Like many other towns and villages, we are being encouraged to engage in developing a neighbourhood plan, but this will not be able to control the number of new houses, only advise on where they should be built; anyway, it will take at least two years to complete. As the new houses will be built by then, it is all a bit of a sad joke, paying lip service to the government’s idea of localism.
There are some areas where perhaps a “small state” is needed, but there are others where the state must become involved in planning and delivery. The current need for housing is one of those areas.
Having 30 years’ experience in working with foster carers and the children in their care, I was moved by John Mulholland’s article “The kids are all right” (Magazine) about how a group of young people who have been in care have literally found a platform for their “voice”. I am full of admiration for their resilience and courage, even though we, as a society, have failed to understand properly their needs and ensure these are met.
Foster carers, who have the major responsibility for enabling these kids to build stable relationships, are undervalued. We must ensure foster carers have the knowledge and skills they need. Dr Robert Epstein’s invaluable research on parenting competencies leads the way in showing us what foster carers need. By identifying the top three competencies as love and affection, stress management and relationships, his research findings highlight some of the issues raised in the damming report Couldn’t Care Less (Centre for Social Justice 2008). Let’s treat foster carers like the professionals they are by paying and training them accordingly.
Fostering Relationships Partnership
Hail the probation service
Jonathan Aitken is to be commended for helping to turn around the life of one fellow inmate in Belmarsh prison on release (“Jonathan Aitken calls for prison ‘mentors’ to tackle reoffending”, News). Volunteers have always played a role in probation work, but volunteers are not a cheap fix to solve reoffending. Without proper training and professional support, the risks multiply and support becomes personalised, often leading to inappropriate relationships or failure, or perhaps a relationship tinged with the self-gratification of those who seek to advertise their good works as part of their own redemptive narrative. We still have a successful public system – the probation service – that uses mentors wisely and trains them well, though Chris Grayling’s plans to privatise the service and to enrich corporations of dubious repute through using cheap and ill-trained or untrained mentors threaten this.
National Association of Probation Officers
Christians thrive in Israel
Your piece “West Bank pilgrims find the Easter path to the Via Dolorosa an ever harder road”(News) on access to Jerusalem’s holy sites at Easter places the blame on the declining Christian population in Jerusalem’s Old City, “from 30,000 in 1944 to 11,000 today”, while failing to state that the Christian population had declined to roughly 14,000 by 1948. Since 1967, when Israel regained control of the Old City, the size of the Christian population has remained stable. This is a time when throughout the Middle East hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing, their churches destroyed and their way of life endangered as never before. It is important to state that only in Israel does the Christian population continue to grow and flourish.
Embassy of Israel
Compassion in our society
Having some connection with the food bank movement, I can refute the criticisms of them made by Tories (“Food bank charity quotes PM to rebuff Tory critics”, News). Applicants for food are assessed as being in need. It should be added that some hungry citizens do not approach food banks. Last week, I was with a penniless woman who was too ashamed to go. Others live too far away.
Further individuals often help the needy outside of agencies. Parents and grandparents support family members whose income is not sufficient for essentials. I can think of those suffering from the wretched bedroom tax, whose benefits are delayed, who are in debt. They have been helped by friends from their own pockets.
Official figures underestimate the extent and hardship of poverty. These actions cannot counter the harshness so beloved by the government. But they do demonstrate that many citizens desire a more compassionate society.
Don’t blame Eurosceptics
In relation to the article “Eurosceptics go on the offensive in new row over war centenary”, (News), it is the government that induced the delay over the Europe for Citizens programme. As respects both First and Second World War commemorations, all of which I strongly support, I shall be going to Normandy where my father was killed and won the Military Cross, at Maltot near Caen in July 1944.
I and other committee members deemed that, because we thought the Europe for Citizens programme was of such legal or political importance, within our standing orders we would recommend that the matter be debated, and which, once we have so ordered, has to take place before the government ministers can authorise the proposals. We urged an earlier debate. It is regrettable that the proposals themselves mixed up the question of archives and commemorations that were uncontentious.
Bill Cash, MP for Stone
House of Commons,
Possessions no substitute for a full-time mother
WHAT is the point of a woman working long hours and having to forfeit nearly 75% of her earnings to pay for childcare (“Slave mothers wield a love that smothers”, News Review, last week)? The first 10 years of a child’s life are crucial, as is the support of the mother. I was the product of working parents, something I resent to this day.
Computers, iPhones and bicycles are no substitute for coming home to an empty house, or not having parental support at the school play, sports day or class outing. Yes, I had plenty of free time, and I learnt to be streetwise, to recognise the dangers and to be self-assured, but when I got married and had two children I never worked.
I did voluntary work but was always home to give my children tea and listen to their problems. They were very happy with second-hand bikes, and we had one TV and no computers. Both say they wouldn’t swap me for them.
Women should not be made to feel less competent just because they don’t work.
Sue Sussman, London NW11
I can identify with the points Eleanor Mills raised. I was one of those “slave mothers” and missed out on quality moments with my children as I was hellbent on making sure they had everything lined up to keep them busy.
And, yes, I was that parent at the school gate with the healthy snacks and change of clothes ready for them to go on to the next activity. I was a child of the 1970s, with “make sure you are back for your tea” as the only rule, but for my own children I took a totally different route, wanting to provide everything for them, to protect and smother them.
Gail Sheppard, Canterbury
Right to choose
I had my first child at 40, and as my job as a school teacher started with breakfast club at 7.30am and usually ended at 8pm, I reasonably thought that fitting a newborn baby into this schedule would be difficult so I gave up work.
A second child followed shortly afterwards, and over the years (my children are in their late teens) I worked part-time and full-time for a short period and am now at home. So what’s wrong with that? It’s about allowing women choice, not dictating how they should live.
Susan Comer-Jones, Taunton, Somerset
We have had enough of being told how to parent our offspring. I am at home with my three children (and expecting a fourth) and relish their development. I have degrees, but being a mum is my career right now. Victoria Beckham has not much in common with regular mothers, and holding her up as an example of how to master the art of motherhood while being a successful businesswoman is neither here nor there.
And why are women so focused on what other women are doing? Can we not simply be true to ourselves and get on with it?
Caroline Olivier, Kilcock, Co Kildare
Everybody deserves to have a compassionate death
THANK YOU, Camilla Cavendish, for the cogent and sensitive article on assisted dying (“He asks for Beethoven and eternal rest; we show a pet more compassion”, Comment, last week). My godmother, Elisabeth Rivers- Bulkeley, a distinguished and fiercely independent woman who was one of the first female members of the London stock exchange, travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland several years ago after her diagnosis of terminal cancer.
According to the account of the friend who accompanied her, the experience was bleak, the process furtive and the surroundings unsavoury. If we are supposed to live in a civilised society, why can we not grant the freedom to Sir Chris Woodhead to end his days at home as he wishes, surrounded by loved ones, with Beethoven and bordeaux — or perhaps, in the case of my late godmother, with Mozart and champagne?
Jessica Pulay, London W11
A means to an end
Death with Dignitas is not with a bearded social worker but with a kindly and competent assistant to ensure that the lethal liquid is taken without mishap. Friends and relatives are encouraged to be present, and Beethoven or any other choice of music is often played. If bordeaux is the chosen tipple it must be swallowed quickly before sleep supervenes in three or four minutes.
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would not have helped Tony Nicklinson; nor will it help Woodhead, as applicants must be within six months of death. The late Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill initially proposed that not only those who are terminally ill but also those “permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently and find life intolerable” would have the right to die.
As a sufferer in the final but probably several-years-long stages of multiple sclerosis said to me: “I wish I had terminal cancer. Then at least I’d know I would die.”
Dr Elizabeth Wilson, Glasgow
Home and away
I accompanied my friend Ann to Dignitas in February. Her assisted suicide was dignified, compassionate, gentle and very moving — not a social worker in sight, or a beard.
The tragedy was that Ann, who was in the final stages of supranuclear palsy, should never have had to travel abroad to bring her suffering to an end. She too wanted to die in her own home. There is much to be learnt from Dignitas. Solidarity and support for a change in the law is what we need.
Carol Taylor OBE, Matlock, Derbyshire
EU must not show weakness in negotiations with Putin
WITHOUT gas revenues, Vladimir Putin’s power base and Russia would quickly disintegrate (“Let me put it in black and white: Putin is no grandmaster”, Comment, last week). As late as the winter of 1999 and early 2000 people were stealing potatoes to survive, and the then economic minister in Novosibirsk told me his No 1 priority was to make sure people did not starve.
As Dominic Lawson states, Putin is not a strategist and acts on impulse — very much a Russian characteristic. Our weakness is that the EU is incapable of negotiating an internal position, never mind presenting a coherent case to the outside world, which provides Putin with opportunities for his (mis)adventures.
I worked for a long time in Moscow for the EC, and there is one feature of working with the Russians that I tell everyone who has to negotiate with them: you must, so to speak, slam your gun down on the table when you sit opposite them.
We must form a cogent policy or face the consequence that they will interpret inaction as weakness or a lack of interest. Putin’s current line is economically and politically suicidal. At the same time, we do not want a weak or disunited Russia.
Keith Little, Prescot, Merseyside
Disagreements on Ted Hughes biography
THE estate of Ted Hughes takes issue with some of the claims in the article on Professor Jonathan Bate and his proposed biography of the former poet laureate (“Hughes widow lays cloak over the poet’s life”, News, March 30). The decision to withdraw support for the book, and permission to quote from unpublished, copyright material from the poet’s archive (now on view in the British Library), was not made — as Professor Bate suggests — out of concern that he might unearth “revelations about [the poet’s] private life” in the archive.
There is no “secret being guarded” there, as Bate speculates. And the poet’s widow, Carol Hughes, strongly rejects his suggestion that she “unnecessarily reneged” on the agreement to write what he originally proposed as a literary life of the poet, focusing on the work rather than a traditional biography. The estate had told Bate that it would not support or allow use of copyright material in any “authorised” biography since Ted Hughes had made clear he did not want one.
Regrettably, Bate ignored repeated concerns expressed by the estate and the publisher that he might be straying from his own remit, and resisted repeated requests to see more of his work in progress, as previously agreed. The Ted Hughes estate believes it is important to put these points on the public record.
Damon Parker (Harcus Sinclair), Solicitor to the Ted Hughes Estate
Caution on cancer tests
I support your campaign to beat cancer, but when discussing early diagnosis we must be careful to differentiate between screening tests and those used to investigate patients presenting with symptoms (“Young die as NHS rules deny them cancer tests”, News, April 13). In Britain screening for cervical cancer is restricted to those aged over 25. Medical literature demonstrates that routinely performing smear tests on women younger than this does little to reduce rates of invasive cancer or mortality, but does increase the number of false positive results obtained — along with all the attendant harms (such as worry and stress, further invasive investigations and unpleasant treatments).
Conversely, a young woman presenting to her doctor with symptoms that are suggestive of cervical cancer should, of course, be offered appropriate and timely investigation, regardless of her age.
Dr Liam Scott, Cheltenham
What evidence does William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, have for his assertion that “Islamist extremism” is a growing problem for UK charities (“‘Deadliest threat’ to charities is extremism”, News, last week)? A recent survey of Muslim aid agencies by us found that 88% had regulations in place to prevent the financing of terrorism and had adopted measures to protect against terrorist abuse. Shawcross says Islamist extremism is not the most widespread abuse that charities face, so why not focus on what he believes the most prevalent problem to be?
Dr Hany El-Banna OBE, Chairman, Muslim Charities Forum, London W5
David Cameron is right to state that England is a predominantly Christian country (“In praise of mild faith”, Focus, last week). Though many are not churchgoers, we have a shared sense of morality derived from Christian values. It is right that we stand up and argue the case for the majority of people in this country rather than suffer the perpetual pleas for special treatment for minorities.
Bernie Green, Birmingham
Just the ticket
I smiled at Roland White’s report on the hunt for the hedge fund commuter who dodged almost £43,000 of rail fares (“Now at platform 1, the suspicion express”, News Review, last week). I was a British Rail area manager in the 1980s and had a superb travelling ticket inspector. He reported stories of “City types” who had many tricks, but luckily his knowledge usually led to prosecution. One commuter would use up to eight different stations to start his journeys, hoping to shake off the inspector, but he caught him and he was prosecuted. The culprit lived in an expensive home and his wife was a magistrate but this did not deter him from getting a thrill by trying to cheat the system. It is other travellers who have to pay for the revenue shortfall.
Alex Green, Templecombe, Somerset
Corrections and clarifications
A report (“Palace outgun Cardiff”, Sport, April 6) on the match between Cardiff City football club and Crystal Palace referred to speculation that Iain Moody, Palace’s sporting director and formerly head of recruitment at Cardiff, had been refused entry to the Cardiff directors’ box by the club’s owner, Vincent Tan. We now understand, and accept, that Mr Moody did not even request entry to the Cardiff directors’ box — he was not banned by Mr Tan. We are happy to clarify the position. In the article “Private detective trailed police whistleblower” (News, April 6) a picture caption wrongly stated that Sergeant Peter Brett had died “in the line of duty”. In fact he died in 2011 after he had retired. We are happy to make this clear.
Darcey Bussell, ballerina, 45; Jenna-Louise Coleman, actress, 28; Tess Daly, TV presenter, 45; Russell T Davies, screenwriter, 51; Sheena Easton, singer, 55; Michael Fish, weatherman, 70; Sally Hawkins, actress, 38; Mica Paris, singer, 45; Neil Pearson, actor, 55; Ann Peebles, singer, 67; Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, 68
1828 the Zoological Gardens open in Regent’s Park, London; 1908 opening ceremony of the first London Olympics; 1984 siege of the Libyan embassy in London ends; 1992 Betty Boothroyd becomes the first woman to be elected Speaker of the Commons; 1994 first general election in South Africa in which citizens of all races can vote
SIR – It is through Sir George Young’s attention to detail, and his regular presence at constituency activities, that the Tories have been able to call north-west Hampshire a safe seat.
I fear that, should Boris Johnson be nominated to fight the seat on Sir George’s retirement, there would be an erosion of confidence in the electorate and a reduction in Tory votes.
E A Sclater
SIR – As a resident of north-west Hampshire for more than 40 years, I am insulted that David Cameron feels that he can send his man, Boris Johnson, here from London to represent our constituency. But then, isn’t that what happened with Sir George Young?
As a contributor to Harrogate Agenda, which aims to improve our system of democracy, I agreed with members who mooted a minimum residence requirement for any parliamentary candidate of 10 years.
Our system has changed from bottom-up to top-down, causing people to lose faith in the democratic process and hold the political class in contempt.
SIR – The Russian government has said that “Kiev is using its army against its own people”.
They should know, as that’s exactly what Russians have done in Chechnya for years.
Lt-Col Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Normandy, France
SIR – Are we sure that the Kiev government and its American allies would be sorry to lose Ukraine’s eastern provinces to Russia?
With the pro-Russian east out of any elections, the current pro-EU government in Kiev can guarantee victory in future votes. And who could then blame a pared-down Ukraine for seeking immediate membership of Nato to protect itself from the aggressor next door?
Limits of right to roam
SIR – The 82nd anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass has been offered as a reason for placing more demands on landowners, but this does not acknowledge the limitations of the “right to roam”. The Act specifically excludes cultivated land, which may not be clear to the general public, many of whom, through ignorance, treat farmed land as their back garden.
Our neighbouring estate keeps its footpaths well maintained and spends considerable sums of money to protect walkers from the unpredictable temper of Continental breeds of cattle. Yet many people and their dogs wander at will, disturbing the wildlife that this responsible landowner is aiming to protect.
SIR – Perhaps the reason that people are reluctant to use the word “madam” is because of its unfortunate connotations. One of our postmen used to call me “my lady”, which I much preferred.
Dr Heather Williams
SIR – I enjoy visiting my local florist, who often says: “Hello, handsome” when I enter her shop, but I suspect her greeting is directed at my dog rather than at me.
SIR – How long will it be before Cornwall demands a devolved parliament, followed by a referendum on the creation of a separate sovereign state? Should David Cameron order military manoeuvres in the west of Devon to protect English-speaking peoples in Cornwall?
SIR – Now that the Cornish have joined the Welsh, Scots and Irish in achieving “national minority status”, surely the English cannot be far behind.
A long goodbye
SIR – I can sympathise with Robert Warner, who has difficulty getting his wife away from parties. I had the same problem with my husband, the only difference being that, when I finally got him out of the door, he would suddenly remember that he hadn’t said goodbye to our hosts and had to go back again.
It is telling that Mr Warner refers to his wife “switching off the engine” and “putting away her driving glasses”. Is his wife required to drive to parties so that he can drink as much as he likes?
SIR – I’m afraid I have to counter Mr Warner’s thoughts on slow getaways, lest anyone thinks it is a female trait. In our household, it is my husband whom I find difficult to winkle out of a party. If it wasn’t for my chivvying him along, we would always be the last to leave.
Incidentally, our daughter is about to tie the knot with Mr Warner’s son. I wonder which gene will prevail.
SIR – Rear-Admiral John Trewby suggests that onshore wind farms are cheaper than offshore. That is because developers refuse to pay compensation to house-owners for the loss of value when turbines 425ft high are constructed nearby.
A draft report from the London School of Economics shows evidence that properties within 1.2 miles of wind farms lose an average of 11 per cent in value. If this is factored in, together with the erratic wind speeds, I think he will find that onshore is not so cheap to build or run.
T A Parkhouse
SIR – Rear-Admiral Trewby mentions a Royal Academy of Engineering report comparing offshore and onshore wind power, but it seems to offer only well-known comparisons – for example, that offshore wind farms suffer more corrosion (only too clear from operating offshore oil and gas platforms, as I have done).
It would have been more valuable to have the Academy’s take on climate change – which alone has encouraged the building of all such structures, with the parallel need for heavy subsidies that land up in electricity users’ annual bills.
Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – With the suggestion that no more onshore wind farms will be approved if the Conservatives win the next election, perhaps more attention will be applied to harnessing energy from river flows. The Queen has successfully installed two Archimedean screws in the river Thames near Windsor.
River currents are available all the time, unlike wind and solar energy, and the greatest flow is in winter, when there is most demand for heat and light. Furthermore, connections to towns and existing power lines are shorter than those to hilltop and offshore wind turbines. Despite the advantages, hydro power seems to have been overlooked.
R L Sunley
The bureaucratic bar to laying flowers on D-Day
SIR – It isn’t only the actual D-Day veterans who will be facing difficulties in Normandy this June.
A strong party of those of us who served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the Fifties, together with our wives and families, will be at Pegasus and Horsa bridges to honour the memory of our predecessors, led by Major John Howard, who captured the two bridges in a daring, glider-borne coup de main in the first minutes of June 6 1944.
We will remember Lt Den Brotheridge, killed as he led his platoon over Pegasus bridge, who is buried in the village churchyard at Ranville. His daughter Margaret will want to lay flowers on her father’s grave on the 70th anniversary of his sacrifice, but may be prevented from doing so by French bureaucracy, as she was 10 years ago. Then, as now, the presence of the Prince of Wales caused heightened security.
Those of us who also want to travel to the villages of Escoville and Hérouvillette, where men of our regiment are buried, may be denied that opportunity, and may have to confine our activities to the area around the museum and the landing zone.
June 6 2014 may prove to be not “The Longest Day”, but the most frustrating for the heirs of the heroes of D-Day.
Great Shefford, Berkshire
Established tradition: the Queen at the Maundy service at Blackburn cathedral last week Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty
7:00AM BST 26 Apr 2014
SIR – After failing with the Alternative Vote and reform of the House of Lords, Nick Clegg’s call to disestablish the Church of England will be welcome news for those who support the status quo.
SIR – Why does Mr Clegg think he speaks for people such as me? The Queen has been a guiding symbol of the Church of England through the reigns of weak archbishops and, by her example, has encouraged ordinary believers to carry on through thick and thin. Take away this anchor and I’m ready to throw in the towel.
SIR – How dare Mr Clegg suggest that the Queen step down as the head of the Church of England. She has excelled in her dual role. At the Coronation, she promised to fulfil her duties regarding the Church.
How cruel to suggest disestablishment when the Queen has no chance to reply.
Elizabeth Rhys Jones
Guisborough, North Yorkshire
SIR – If the C of E is misguided enough to want the Queen to step down as its constitutional head, it should make the request, not the Deputy Prime Minister.
SIR – Seemingly forgetting his oath as a privy counsellor in his fifth-form debating society attack on 500 years of constitutional settlement is par for Mr Clegg’s course.
Loving England much, but Europe more, he demonstrates the truth of Elizabeth I’s dictum: “Who hath two strings to one bow may shoot strong but never straight.”
SIR – When Mr Clegg was sworn of the Privy Council, did he take the oath or affirm?
J C Craig
SIR – As an agnostic, may I suggest we treat atheism as a religion, as it seems to be imbued with the cardinal marker of all religions – absolute certainty.
SIR – I am grateful to David Cameron for rejecting Nick Clegg’s call. His embracing of antidisestablishmentarianism has allowed me to achieve my long-held ambition to use this word in context.
Dr S V Steinberg
Madam – Dan O’Brien (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014), gives thoughtful consideration to the value to small states of multilateralism in general and the Commonwealth in particular.
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However, there is ample evidence to counter his assertion that the Commonwealth is “not a hugely important organisation for any of the 53 countries in it”.
As he himself acknowledges, smaller, more vulnerable states have more to gain from being in to ‘clubs’ where all members are bound by the same rules.
For that reason, and many others, membership of the Commonwealth is central to those of our 31 members with populations of less than 1.5 million, the internationally agreed definition for a ‘small state’. A quarter of the members of the G20 also belong to the Commonwealth.
This offers opportunities for interface, and direct and crucial global advocacy facilitated by the Commonwealth plays a vital role in ensuring that due consideration is given to the concerns of developing and vulnerable nations when decisions are made that can have very significant impact on their trade, environment, social and economic stability, sustainability and resilience, and addressing serious capacity shortages.
Marlborough House, London
ECONOMICS AND SCIENCE DON’T MIX
Madam – Congratulations to Dan O’Brien on his piece ‘Economics is now a science almost devoid of agreement’, (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014). His account of the interaction between Mario Draghi and Christine Lagarde, and the contributions from George Osborne, Larry Summers and Robert Gordon very aptly illustrate his view of the multiplicity of variables in current economic debate.
Perhaps it is worth recalling the advice of John Maynard Keynes that in trying to forecast the market, one would be better off looking into the entrails of dead sheep, as the ancient Romans did. Indeed, “entrail-gazing” has come to be accepted as an appropriate definition of economic theorising by many commentators.
I have one quibble with Mr O’Brien’s ruminations. He refers to economics as a science – a frequently expressed view by, of course, economists. Let us see. At the end of 2007, 50 highly paid American economists and analysts predicted their country would not “sink into a recession” the following year. In fact, they predicted that 2008 would be a solid but unspectacular year. Not one of them foretold the crash. That was economics.
Three hundred years earlier, Edmond Halley used the mathematics of his friend Isaac Newton to predict that the comet that now bears his name would appear in 1758, which it did. In our own lifetime, we were confident it would appear again in 1987 (it did), and we know it will appear again in 2061. That is science.
So why could a 16th Century amateur correctly predict events 350 years in the future, but a slew of computer-aided experts couldn’t manage to guess one year ahead? Quite simply because one prediction is based on science, the other comes from entrail-gazing guesswork and shows how misleading it is to couple the words economics and science.
Killarney, Co Kerry
KATIE IS AS IRISH AS THEY COME
Madam – Declan Lynch, in his TV review (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014), questioned the ‘Irishness’ of several well-known people including Katie Taylor. He made the point that Katie’s father is English. Which is true, and no doubt he is also a proud one. Katie has an Irish mother and was born and raised in Ireland. More tellingly, she was Ireland’s flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics. I hope I included enough facts to put any ‘uncertainty’ to bed. In this country we have a tendency to categorise people as either being rabid nationalistic or one who recoils at any hint of nationalism. I suspect Declan Lynch would place himself in the latter category. I find it sad that in this day and age we still cannot celebrate our compatriots without being pigeon-holed as fervently nationalistic.
Dunleer, Co Louth
CULTURE DESERTS GALWAY QUARTER
Madam – Many years ago, I was ordered out of a lane in Temple Bar for busking. Dear me, how things have changed. I read with great interest Donal Lynch’s item, ‘City’s grimy heart is flooded by a sea of tourists and boozers’ (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014). Regrettably, it reminded me of Galway city’s soi-disant ‘Latin Quarter,’ a new historical construction, in which boozing, general mayhem, and dreadfully fashionless ‘hen’ parties at weekends are the main attractions.
That said, I noticed that Donal incorrectly quotes Charles Haughey as describing Temple Bar as ‘Ireland’s West Bank.’ Before we fall over ourselves laughing, I ought to say that this description is more correctly ascribed to that most knowledgeable of political men, Bertie Ahern, and not Charlie. Bertie meant ‘Left Bank,’ of course. But Donal may have been having a laugh and besides, the place resembles the West Bank more than the Left Bank on some nights.
There was a time when the Temple Bar area was inhabited by penniless art students, musicians, trad-heads like myself making a bob or two and at least a sense of cultural energy. The artistic ‘edginess’ is long gone. Somebody somewhere decided to tart the place up and, as always, culture went out the window.
VALUABLE DEBATE ON PAST AND FUTURE
Madam – Eoghan Harris made a glowing reference to me in last week’s column for which I am grateful. However, he concludes with a direct quote from me stating that, “I think the answer to the question whether the struggle for independence was worth it is a resounding No.”
As those reading the essay will see, I was referring to the struggle for independence from the perspective of my parents’ generation, the urban working poor in the decades after the formation of the Irish Free State. The more general point I make is that, “It is only by turning the spotlight on those who failed to benefit from the new dispensation that we can identify and rectify at least some of the shortcomings of the Irish revolution”.
I wholly agree with him on the dangerously seductive power of elitist militarism in the nationalist narrative and the way various forms of mass action and other forms of passive resistance to British rule have been virtually ignored by many mainstream historians. However I would not include Diarmaid Ferriter in their ranks. He is one of the best historians we have. This is not to say that I agree with everything he says, any more than I do with everything Eoghan Harris says, but I do welcome and value the independence and intellectual courage of both men in the debate on our past – and future for that matter.
Portmarnock, Co Dublin
CREDIT DUE TO EOGHAN HARRIS
Madam – As ever, and to his great credit, Eoghan Harris tried heroically to shed some reason and reality, based on the facts, on Irish issues, and latterly on the intricate questions of whether the Rising was necessary and whether royalty should attend. (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014)
It occurs to one that ‘necessary’ may be interpreted in two distinct senses.
Firstly, was the Rising necessary in the sense that a break with Britain would be followed by a flourishing and prosperous Ireland? In hindsight we know to our cost that this was not the case.
Secondly, was it necessary in the sense that Ireland could not otherwise have achieved anything from a modicum of self-government to complete independence? Here again the answer must be a resounding no. One goes along with Mr Harris’s views regarding ‘civil disobedience’ etc but, with respect, he omitted to emphasise, in my view sufficiently, the one crucial factor, namely democracy. By 1918 Britain had almost achieved universal suffrage which she ultimately gained in 1928. In short it was simply a matter of playing for time.
As to whether royalty should be invited, it would seem on the face of it to give succour to those who support the Rising. One has to admit to a perception of infra dig on the part of Her Majesty during some of her Irish visit.
On the other hand, if one may indulge in a little ‘soothsaying’, it could auger a brighter future when Ireland will fulfil her obligations in the prosperity and governance of these islands, the corollorary being an acknowledgement of her debt to Britain.
Perhaps there is a point to Oscar Wilde’s remark: “The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”
Bletchingley, Surrey, UK