Memory test

3 May2014Memory test

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate an new plumber Priceless

Mary both of us very tired off to Mary’s memory test. Bank

Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly350Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Bernat Klein – obituary

Bernat Klein was a Serbian-born textile designer whose exotic mohairs and tweeds put Scottish fashion on the map

Bernat Klein


5:58PM BST 02 May 2014

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Bernat Klein, who has died aged 91, was a Serbian-born textile designer who made his home in Scotland and was taken up by some of Europe’s leading fashion houses.

After an itinerant childhood, Klein settled in the Borders shortly after the war, though not without misgivings. “I dreaded it,” he admitted years later. “I thought Scotland would be so very, very cold – and it was.”

Klein had studied textile technology at Leeds University, graduating in 1948, then designed woven fabrics for ties and handkerchiefs in Bolton before moving to Edinburgh to work for Munrospun, creating fabrics for ladies’ coats and skirts. In 1950 the company relocated to Galashiels, and the Borders remained Klein’s much-loved home for the rest of his life.

The clothes he had seen in Scotland in the aftermath of war seemed to be mainly a dingy brown or green: “And that was just the women,” Klein recalled. “At least the men had their kilts, tartan ties and trews.” Determined to make his adopted country a brighter place, he set up his own business, drawing on his flair for colour to create the exotic tweed and mohair fabrics that would become his signature.

He once told an interviewer: “I think that colours are as important in our lives as words are… All my inspiration has always been derived from nature, what I see when I look out of my windows or walk down to the woods, where there is so much colour, even in winter. ”

A model in an outfit made from Bernat Klein’s textiles, 1978 (DENVER POST)

His big break came in January 1962 when he was sitting in his office in Galashiels leafing through the latest edition of Elle magazine. He was astonished to see a substantial article featuring one of his tweeds — which had been taken to Paris by an agent a few months earlier — made into a suit by Chanel.

“I was too excited to speak or to realise the far-reaching implications,” Klein told The Scotsman in 2011. Up to this point, Klein had been selling lambswool scarves to chain stories such as Woolworths, Littlewoods and Marks & Spencer. Now, however, he found himself in demand from some of the biggest names in fashion: not just Chanel, but also Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent.

Vogue praised him for having “revolutionised traditional English fabrics to win them new recognition abroad”. His creations were worn by Jean Shrimpton (arguably the world’s first supermodel) and by Princess Margaret — while the Princess’s husband, the Earl of Snowdon, wore his tweeds. Soon Klein’s company was turning over nearly £1 million a year, and he played an important part in the post-war revival of the Borders’ weaving and cloth making industries.

A 1968 advertisement in ‘Nova’ magazine featuring a Klein fabric (ALAMY)

Bernat Klein was born in the former Yugoslavia on November 6 1922 into a Serbian Jewish family. Both his parents worked in the textile wholesale business . He was educated at a seminary in Czechoslovakia, but aged 16 — in anticipation of war — he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem, where he attended the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. There he was recruited by the British to monitor and translate signals.

“My job, in Cairo, was to monitor broadcasts from Europe and to report anything suspicious,” he told The Scotsman. “I really wasn’t very good at it, because no one explained the purpose of my work. They said, ‘Get on with it. Listen to the broadcasts and translate. Decide what is important and what isn’t’… If there was some secret code, I never cracked it.” After the war he emigrated to Britain, enrolling at Leeds University.

Having moved to the Borders, he established a weaving mill in Galashiels which at one stage employed some 600 people. In 1966 he set up a hand-knitting business, with more than 200 workers, near Selkirk. He also designed textiles for furniture and interiors.

Klein was appointed CBE in 1973. He was a member of the Scottish committee of the Council of Industrial Design (1965–71) and of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (1980–87). He retired in 1992.

The author of two books — Eye for Colour (1965) and Design Matters (1976) — Klein was also an artist, continuing to paint in oils until the end of his life, and staging a number of exhibitions.

His archive — consisting of more than 1,800 items ranging from sketches for his designs to finished garments, photographs, catalogues, paintings and tapestries — was recently acquired by National Museums Scotland .

Bernat Klein married, in 1951, Margaret Soper, who also designed knitwear for their business. She died in 2008, and he is survived by their son and two daughters.

Bernat Klein, born November 6 1922, died April 17 2014


I believe your correspondents (Letters, 30 April) did not quite realise the meaning of the Holy Week edition of Rev. I do not normally watch the series, but I happened to pick up the conclusion of that week where Rev carries the cross to the top of the hill and is greeted by a bloke with a wonderful masculine smile, who says “We all have our crosses to bear don’t we?” and then vanishes. The look on the vicar’s face as he realised who he had been talking to was a wonder to behold. Christian history and literature is quite used to this story. Martin – a Roman officer – meets a beggar and in reply to his entreaty pulls off his cloak, hacks it in half with his sword and gives half to the beggar – as he looks back he finds there is nobody there. St Francis was convinced that when he kissed the diseased skin of the leper, he kissed Christ and then there is nobody there.

There are various folk stories in which the risen Christ appears in disguise and then vanishes. Tolstoy wrote his short story Where Love Is, God Is to make his contribution to the folk memory of the Christ who comes in disguise to bless someone who richly deserves it.

Someone in the script-writing team knew what they were writing about – the episode was beautifully captured on screen. I was quite pleasantly surprised that the BBC felt able to allow such a profound Christian statement in its drama.
Canon Owen Vigeon

• We have had Jamaica Inn with its mumblings in the dark. Now BBC4 has excelled itself with Hinterland (Watch this, 28 April). Not only are there scenes of near total blackness and barely discernible mumblings, there is the added hurdle of translations of the Welsh dialogue in minuscule text.
Gren Dix
Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

A strangely lost and not yet found film (Reel finds, G2, 2 May) is Fritz Wendhausen‘s Little Man – What Now (1933), with Hertha Thiele and art direction by Caspar Neher. This film – co-scripted by the author of the novel, Hans Fallada – was originally to be directed by Berthold Viertel, with music by Kurt Weill, prominent Jews who had to leave Germany. The novel was an international bestseller and was filmed in Hollywood by Frank Borzage a year later, in a sentimentalised version rejected by Fallada. A poster exists for the 1933 version, but the film itself seems to have been wiped off the face off the earth. Fallada was dubbed “undesirable”, by the Nazis. Was the film perhaps too intolerable for them? It it followed the book, it does contain a comically stupid Nazi oaf. There will be a prize for anyone who can track down a copy of this film.
Nicholas Jacobs

No, it’s not the purists who’ll turn pale or the musicians who will roll their eyes at discovering that this “widely despised” instrument has introduced many people to the pleasures of making music (In praise of… the recorder, 29 April), it’s those who have never heard recorders played well. Unfortunately, it is a very easy instrument to play badly. However, if it’s taught well it can sound beautiful even at a very elementary stage.

The very best way to introduce children to the pleasures of making music is through pre-instrumental classes, developing their sense of rhythm and pitch, listening skills, co-ordination and imagination through movement to music, singing, using simple percussion instruments and listening to live as well as recorded music. These sort of classes can also introduce the basic elements of reading music, before a child has to cope with the discipline of daily practice. With this background, and with the sort of daily practice and parental support required for a child to learn any instrument properly, a well-taught beginner recorder player can make rapid progress and sound good from the very early stages.

The standard of recorder teaching in Britain is improving all the time, and there are now many excellent recorder ensembles a young player can aspire to, culminating with the National Youth Recorder Orchestras. Children in our pre-instrumental classes have a chance to hear a wide variety of different instruments before they choose which they would like to learn. Each year many of our children choose to learn the recorder, because they have heard older children play it well and would like to emulate them.

So come on Guardian, stop replaying the old argument, and start encouraging your readers to listen to some high-quality recorder playing. There’s plenty of it out there.
Jean Murray
Director, Edinburgh Young Musicians

• May I put in a word for the brass band movement and its role in promoting music for young people (Thank you for the music, and goodbye, 29 April)? Originating as village and church bands, they developed, as a result of the industrial revolution, to represent, and take the name of, local communities and works. Contests raised standards of musicianship and composition to a level second to none. Today the repertoires range from traditional marches and hymns and popular music to adaptations of classical pieces and original compositions, requiring the highest level of playing. Competition is fierce where contests are concerned, but there is a camaraderie, friendship and mutual support between bands.

A thriving youth brass band movement throughout the country is encouraging children from four years upwards to have a go. There are many amazingly talented young people making music in bands, learning discipline, commitment how to be a team player and having fun! Few will make the dizzying heights of champion section soloist, but they will all have had the wonderful experience of making music together.
Mavis Armitage
Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Are not those readers (Letters, 29 April) who complain about the Proms programmes missing the point? The Albert Hall’s size and acoustics are not appropriate for orchestral music of the pre-Mahler era. There are plenty of concert halls in London and elsewhere where Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Haydn works are performed by ensembles of no more than 30 or so players with exhilarating freshness and stylistic integrity.
Ian Lawrence

• What a delight to hear that the ENO is providing alternative light opera rather than replicating the work of the Royal Opera House (Report, 29 April). Now all we need is for someone to come up with a system for providing satellite centres outside London so we, the rest of Britain, can also see some of the great productions provided for the capital. I understand the cost has made it difficult in the past, but with all the technology we are now awash with…
Paul Brazier
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

• When I remarked on the letters about Wagner and bagpipes to my wife (30 April), she asked: “Separate letters?”. I’m now trying to get the dreadful idea of the two combined out of my head.
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

• My son had to study Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for GCSE English and it actually made him ill (Letters, 30 April). It didn’t help that the book ends with a child losing his father, which my son has experienced. When I asked him how reading this bleak and unremitting novel differed from the post-apocalyptic computer games he enjoys, he said that with a game, you are always in control, whereas with a book you are at the mercy of the story.
Maddy Paxman

• With reference to your article about me (Report, 1 May), I would advise you that I have severed all links with Ukip, commencing immediately.
DP Marchessini

• All that travelling (Letters, 1 May)! Weeke (Hampshire) has it all.
Jonathan Clayden

• I was always told that a gentleman was someone who got out of the bath to pee in the basin (Letters, 2 May).
Bridget John

I can understand Adrian Searle’s irritation with Alain de Botton‘s curation of the Rijksmuseum to reflect his “art as therapy” theory (Report, 26 April); he is a professional critic and he doesn’t want to be told how to interpret things. But personally I find de Botton’s work helpful, inspiring and exciting. I’ve often been in a gallery or museum and wished for plain English insights into the work. Many of us appreciate such information being made available to us. It can add depth and meaning to something that can otherwise feel obtuse and unrelatable. I very much want to embrace art but am sometimes left mystified and disconnected because it’s presented in a void.

The analysis of art doesn’t come easily to everyone. Don’t want to be guided in what to look for? Don’t read the descriptions then. De Botton – in this exhibition, his books and the fantastic workshops and courses offered at the School of Life – aims to translate things into user-friendly language, to broaden the audience and bring pleasure and solace to people who may otherwise be excluded. That’s a noble effort that I welcome. I think he’s articulate and brilliant, and I’m grateful for his efforts.
Emma Clayton

• Adrian Searle has missed the underlying point De Botton is trying to make: that art has the potential to help us to reflect on issues intimately related to our private (and public) lives. This is not a new idea. Only we have forgotten this through decades of scepticism and a “material turn”, in which stuff for its own sake is seen as valuable.

So we hoard and measure and evaluate material culture based on surface data that looks good and knowledgeable, but ultimately has limited sticking value when it comes to thinking about how we live our lives. De Botton is right: we do need to learn to see art again in more immanent ways. But we do not need facile stickers to do this for us; rather, we need schools and universities that no longer abdicate their responsibility to help us engage with art in intimate, assimilative ways that become part of our daily “working equipment”.
Richard Whitney
Pewsey, Wiltshire

• You report the artist Simon Starling as criticising Henry Moore for accepting a commission for a sculpture celebrating the splitting of the atom (Report, 30 April). Has he actually seen Nuclear Energy in its position on the site of the first atomic pile in the University of Chicago? There is no way that this brilliant and horrible piece is a celebration of atomic physics. When I visited the Enrico Fermi Institute I was amazed that the physicists there could bear to see it outside their windows.
Tony Sudbery
Professor emeritus, University of York

• The chairman of Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette (Just as big as a Boeing 747, 24 April), says Richard Wilson’s new sculpture for Heathrow Terminal 2 “lifts your spirits”. When I read those words my heart sank as my blood boiled.

At 78 metres long and consisting of 77 tonnes of aluminium, Wilson’s creation is just the latest example of a trend towards gigantism in modern public art. Antony Gormley can probably be blamed for starting it with his Angel of the North. Other sculptors who subscribe to the bigger-is-better outlook include Anish Kapoor (his ArcelorMittal Orbit made for the 2012 Olympics is Britain’s largest piece of public art, at 114.5m tall) and Damien Hirst, whose Verity, an allegory of truth and justice, is a 20m high stainless steel and bronze affair; and if you visit St Pancras station you’ll be cowed by Paul Day’s The Meeting Place, a gigantic 9m tall pair of lovers in bronze towering over you, locked in an embrace.

“I wanted that wow factor,” says Wilson of his Terminal 2 sculpture. So wowing the public would seem to explain why these artists are in thrall to bigness. This is why size really matters for them. In my opinion, however, what they actually achieve is to prove that more is less – more size, less depth.

What can’t be denied is the impact these mega-objects have on our cultural environment. Nor should their impact on our natural environment be overlooked. The smelting and working of all that bronze and steel must have required vast amounts of energy, sending a large quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere. Wilson’s as-big-as-a-Boeing aluminium structure might add prestige to the expanding aviation industry but its creation will degrade the natural environment. Can creating a piece of mega-art for its mega-wow effect justify all that pollution?
John Lloyd

There are two omissions in Seumas Milne’s analysis of Ukraine‘s crisis (It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war, 30 April). The first is that however legitimate the Yanukovych government was – and it was internationally recognised – it lost that legitimacy with its rampant kleptocracy. If the estimates of Yanukovych’s $12bn wealth are accurate, he alone accounts for 7% of Ukraine’s GDP, which suggests looting on a vast scale. That alone could justifiably spark the demonstrations that brought him down. The second is that Ukraine, as a sovereign country, has every right to freely apply to join whatever international associations it wishes. But it never joined Nato, and the EU association agreement would have put in on about the same level as Turkey, regardless of Milne’s insinuations. If it was starting to move into the west’s orbit, it was not doing so down the barrel of a gun. It is indicative of Russia‘s weakness that it could only bring Ukraine back into its sphere by force.
Dr Tony King
Barnt Green, Worcestershire

• A fundamental principle in personal and inter-state relations is that no means no. Failure to recognise this often leads to serious consequences. Three times in the past 100 years mainland, European expansionism has met with a response of no. In 1914 and 1939 it came from Britain and France. In 2014 it is coming from Vladimir Putin’s Russia. For the sake of every man, woman and child on the European continent, our western leaders should understand this no from Russia and accept it upon the basis of dire, historical precedent, not once but twice. Incidentally, Nigel Farage understands this. It isn’t about Ukraine; it’s about European expansionism, of which I, as a UK citizen, do not wish to be a part.
Dr Timothy Bland
Romford, Essex


Corporations that bestride the globe

Andreas Whittam Smith (Voices, 1 May) considers the proposal by Thomas Piketty to reduce global inequality through a global wealth tax extremely unlikely to happen. However, his own proposal to improve education and training is also unlikely to make significant inroads.

For such a vast and complex issue, there can be no one simple fix, and a combination of measures is clearly needed. Strengthening international agencies, such as the Human Rights Council, the UN, the World Bank and, yes, even the IMF, can also help. Progress could also be made by clamping down on tax havens and by governments standing up to multinational corporations with smarter regulation in the public interest.

Geoffrey Payne, London W5

Hamish McRae’s analysis of the potential Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca (30 April) is illuminating and thought-provoking. As he says, “global business is global”. That is, to my mind, beyond the reach of any government attempting  to safeguard the interests of its citizens.

He points out that “countries are now competing more aggressively … to get companies to build plants and preserve jobs”. Is this a fool’s game?

Rather than spending billions propping up global banks, waiving the tax liabilities of international organisations and creating tax loopholes for the world’s richest corporations to slip through, would it not be better to focus energy and resources supporting small and medium enterprises, which have been the engines of recovery in employment and honest contributors to the exchequer?

Gordon Watt, Reading

Clarkson’s  fatal mumble

Does Jeremy Clarkson’s apology – “It did appear that I’d actually used the word . . . I didn’t use the N-word here but. . . it sounds like I did. . . I did everything in my power to not use that word” – suggest he needs diversity training or speech therapy?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

Jeremy Clarkson has voluntarily set himself up as a sort of national fool, and to be offended by Mr Clarkson is akin to being offended by the baa-ing of sheep or the barking of dogs. The only puzzle is why he continues to be paid as though he were worth listening to.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent

A note of thanks  is gift enough

Please don’t spend anything on gifts for your child’s teachers (Rosie Millard, 29 April). Instead, please encourage your son or daughter to take the time to write a “thank you” note for all the care “above and beyond the call of duty” that they received, for the patience or the tough love they were shown, for the inspiration or encouragement they were given.

These notes are treasured for ever and fortify us against indifference, exhaustion and the utterances of Messrs Gove and Wilshaw.

Fran Tattersall, Manchester

As a teacher for 40 years, now retired, I completely agree that ridiculously expensive gifts are not only unnecessary but tantamount to bribery. However, I was always touched and delighted when students or their parents sent me a card at the end of the year thanking me for doing what Rosie Millard clearly thinks is “just a job”.

I find it sad that apparently Rosie has never been thanked for her work. She should have been. It’s something that employers should do regularly, because it’s important to feel valued and appreciated.

But it’s also important that the thanks are sincerely meant. I once received a card from a headteacher  who thanked me for doing a brilliant job, on a particular day-long special activity, because he “had heard how well it had gone”, but he hadn’t bothered to find out for himself by coming along to see. That was not appreciated.

Paula Saunders, St Albans

Nicotine bad, alcohol all right

I wonder why Janet Street-Porter (26 April) adopts such a cavalier attitude towards the ingestion of mind-altering substances compared to her deep antipathy to smoking substance-free tobacco.

Tobacco advertising has been banned for decades, and yet alcohol is still advertised widely, with the latest TV adverts for cherry cider and lemon vodka surely aimed at the juvenile tippler.

According to JSP it’s fine for the nanny state to intervene where tobacco is concerned but not in the case of powdered alcohol, which “could be a chance to decriminalise some drugs such as cannabis”.

Anna Farlow, London NW2

An ‘atheist  wolf’ writes

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 April) writes a very fine feature and she has set out a list of dreadful things done by mankind in the name of religion. But then she says: “I have faith and pray and avoid the company of noisy, atheist wolves.”

Well I am a dear old lady of 87 and a very convinced and committed atheist, and I live a decent life, doing kindness to other people, and am not a noisy wolf. They are mainly the religious, I find.

Joan Pennycook, Truro,  Cornwall

Vote for the revolution

If, as some people think, this country needs a revolution in government, and crowds turned out on the streets in protest, the police would be employed, and people would be told that the ballot box is their proper means of protest. What other option is there than voting Ukip?

Judith Woodford, Bozeat, Northamptonshire

How to get rid of bad care workers

Following this week’s Panorama on the BBC, we are again presented with evidence of appalling treatment of vulnerable individuals in our care homes. Although 15 workers have been suspended and eight sacked as a result, the fact is that care workers are not regulated.

Although most care workers are dedicated individuals working in challenging circumstances, there are no enforceable standards and no mechanism to prevent that small minority of unsuitable and unscrupulous workers moving from one employer to another.

The Government has plans to strengthen training, inspection and certification. Whilst these are a step in the right direction, these measures are not on their own enough. There must be a system of personal accountability in place to address poor care and misconduct. As an independent regulator of 320,000 health, psychological and social work professionals, we have already recommended to government a “negative registration scheme” for adult social care workers.

The proposed scheme includes a statutory code of conduct based on core principles such as respect, honesty, integrity and confidentiality. It would also provide a mechanism for considering serious complaints where any individual found to have breached the code would face sanctions. This would include having his or her name placed on a “negative register” of those considered unfit for employment in the social care workforce, making it a criminal offence to work in the sector.

Our proposal for such a system of personal accountability has been incorporated into the Law Commission’s draft bill currently being considered by the Government. We believe the time to act decisively is now.

Anna van der Gaag, Chair

Marc Seale, Chief Executive

Health and Care Professions Council, London SE11

It is disgusting that the elderly in care homes are, in some cases, treated so badly. Care home workers are paid the minimum wage and because the homes are always short of staff they will employ virtually anyone to keep to the required staff/resident ratio. When will it be realised that if you pay peanuts you get what you deserve?

Margaret Threlfall, Langho, Lancashire

The recent Panorama programme was quite right to highlight the appalling treatment suffered by the vulnerable residents at some care homes. Hopefully it will be the impetus for rapid improvement. However, I should like to point out that there is another side to the coin.

My partner recently passed away after a two-year stay in a local care home. I have nothing but praise for the professional care he received there. Being completely bed-ridden and, latterly, suffering dementia, he was by no means an easy person to look after in many ways.

Although his condition was deteriorating, his death was unexpected and the reaction of many of the carers showed that they had become fond of him and certainly did not consider him as just a room number. They have my respect and grateful thanks for all they did for both my partner and myself.

Louise Thomas, Abingdon, Oxfordshire


Sir, You report that British cancer sufferers are diagnosed later than patients in other European countries (“Cancer treatment is ‘national shame’”, May 2). In my GP’s waiting room on Monday evening I heard the receptionist tell callers there were no bookable appointments for two weeks and that the caller could ring back in the morning to be added to the GP’s triage list.

Are patients with chronic symptoms deterred by the lack of non-urgent appointments? Expensive TV advertising campaigns will do little if the real issue is a shortage of GPs.

Monica Elsey


Sir, “I can book a rental car,” says Matthew Parris. “Why not to see my GP?” (Apr 30). A Ford Focus for a day will cost Mr Parris some £40 with insurance. His GP will be paid about £70 to provide Mr Parris with unlimited general medical services for the whole year. As he has in the past made clear that he considers GPs to be useless, Mr Parris may consider the cheapness of their services appropriate. However, for around 20 pence per day, his GP will be under a strict professional duty to consider any and every problem Mr Parris might present. Even at 200 times that expense Mr Parris would not be able to bring all his hurts to Hertz.

Dr Michael Apple

Watford, Herts

Sir, After reading Matthew Parris’s frustration with his GP’s appointment system, I think there may be a case for returning to the olden days when most practices did not operate an appointment system. As I live in a city I have more choice than he does, but after similar experiences I found a surgery with complete open access on weekdays.

Appointments for a particular reason such as a health check can be booked but otherwise you just turn up. The wait may be as long as two hours, but armed with my Kindle, it is not too much of a strain and at least you know you can go when you want and will be seen.

Kathryn Dobson


Sir, I’m so sorry Mr Parris’s doctor’s surgery does not offer a book ahead online service. Our surgery does, and it’s brilliant. Recently, while on holiday, I was able to book an appointment for when I got home.

Pauline jordan

Southwell, Notts

Sir, Matthew Parris’s article on booking to see a GP raises a few interesting points. He would like to book a GP appointment as far ahead as necessary and not be restricted by “surgeries’ rules”. These so-called rules are attempts by GPs to respond to changes imposed by successive governments for GP access since the 2004 contract.

I am a GP in a practice with 8,000 patients. Last Friday 14 patients were DNAs (did not attend) at the practice — almost a whole morning’s list. The further ahead patients book the more DNAs occur.

This is a huge issue in the NHS, and I have yet to hear any politician or journalist pay more than lip-service to tackling this problem. Educating patients obviously doesn’t win votes.

By the way, the last time I booked a rental car in advance I had to wait in a long, long, long queue, and then they didn’t have the correct size car available — maybe not so different to the NHS.

Lois Gravell

Llangennech, Carmarthenshire

What qualities should the BBC seek when choosing as the presenter of its remake of Civilisation?

Sir, It ought not to matter one iota whether the next presenter of the new Civilisation series is a woman or a man (letter, Apr 30). The presenter will be simply a person, a qualified, suitable person.

Madeline Macdonald

Knebworth, Herts

Sir, It would be a sign of the progress of civilisation if we did not have to see a presenter at all. The previous series of Civilisation became the Kenneth Clark show, with his face in every frame obscuring the background. How refreshing it would be to have a clear view of the objects and landscapes with merely a voiceover, and a mute button to hand.

Daphne Heaton

Briston, Norfolk

Sir, I have no concern whether the BBC engages a male or female presenter for its remake of Civilisation. However, I do hope that the person selected will be allowed to speak calmly and directly to camera (as opposed to excitedly over the right shoulder while retreating), without the usual superfluous hand gestures, which I am sure I am not alone in finding intensely irritating.

Richard Cox

Osbaston, Leics

Sir, I have no views about the gender of the presenter, but I do hope the programme is not infested with the unnecessary background music that makes so much television unwatchable. Also I hope we are spared academics talking in the pretentious historical present — “so Caesar comes down here” etc. I suspect that I shall be disappointed on both counts.

Peter Hull


Sir, I strongly agree that a female historian should be invited to present a new series of Civilisation. However, I do question the balance of the advocacy; no man appears to have been asked to join the appeal.

On the other hand, we can hope for a more interesting series than last time, when the staggering tedium of Kenneth Clark’s presenting was the best cure for insomnia since the invention of the sledge-hammer.

Martin Marix-Evans

Blakesley, Northants

Sir, We firmly believe that the best person should be chosen for the job — regardless of gender.

Miriam Gross

London W2

Gina Thomas

It is not enough for schools to buy the machines — staff and students should also learn how to use them

Sir, We welcome the new policy of encouraging schools to buy defibrillators, but we are disappointed that the government did not go further and insist on first aid education for all pupils and staff. We are missing an opportunity to engage young people in an effective, life-saving education programme that can be provided easily and quickly.

Evidence from other countries shows that where staff and students are taught emergency life support and have access to a defibrillator, the outcome from many sudden cardiac arrests is excellent. However, buying a defibrillator is only one part of the solution. If no one knows how to use it and how to respond immediately when a person loses consciousness and stops breathing, the investment is likely to have only limited benefit.

We urge the government to ensure that pupils and staff across the UK know how to use the equipment and have the simple additional skills that will save many lives.

Joe Mulligan (British Red Cross), Sue Killen (St John Ambulance), Simon Gillespie (British Heart Foundation), David Pitcher (Resuscitation Council UK),
Anne Jolly (SADS UK)

Sir, On Friday’s TV London news, in an item about heart attacks, there appeared the subtitle: “The only way to bring someone back to life is to use a decent beer later”.

J Anthony C Martin

London SW18

Weight for weight a cheap cut like lamb shank costs the same as fillet steak – someone is making a tidy profit

Sir, Celia Kunert (letter, May 1) touches on an important point. The popularisation of cheaper cuts of meat by celebrity chefs has presented supermarkets with an opportunity for cynical opportunism. A few years ago lamb shanks and pork belly were at the cheap end of the meat scale and hardly appeared in supermarkets.

Now, there they are, at four times the price one would have paid four years ago. If you calculate the meat value minus the bone on a lamb shank today you realise you are paying fillet steak prices for what were once considered off-cuts.

And who has profited from this move? Not the farmers, to be sure. It is not a matter of supply and demand or inflation; it is profiteering by the big supermarkets, pure and simple.

Keith Sutton

London W2

After many years of school rugby one reader thinks it might now be time to watch the game in decorous silence

Sir, I have for many years watched the erosion of parental standards at schoolboy rugby. Fathers shouting at the referee is now normal (May 1). More alarming, perhaps, is the increase of overexuberant mothers hollering from the touchline. This season I heard “For God’s sake pass it” — difficult because the boy was about to take a conversion. Perhaps schoolboy rugby, like a good haircut, should be conducted in silence.

austen righton

Ickford, Bucks


Welsh feelings blossom for the Six Nations match against England at Twickenham in March  Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 02 May 2014

Comments43 Comments

SIR – Have the rugby authorities taken leave of their senses? The proposal to segregate fans at next year’s Rugby World Cup should be resisted at all costs.

Has there ever been a Wales v England game that lacked atmosphere because of integration of the supporters of the opposing nations?

Bob Ballingall
Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire

SIR – I come from Northern Ireland, and have supported the Ireland rugby team all my life. Having never seen them win at Twickenham, my partner Jill and I were lucky enough to witness the Irish victory there in March 2004 from seats in the West Stand.

As the English line-out imploded I got more vocal and when the final whistle blew on a then rare Irish victory, a very well-dressed, well-spoken English lady in her fifties turned to me from the row in front and said with a smile on her face: “Congratulations young man… my grandmother was from Connemara.”

We all cheered.

Jeremy Charles
Teddington, Middlesex

SIR – John Ewington askswhy The Archers scriptwriters cannot provide the listeners with a few happy events. Well, they do: Jill moves back home and Jolene gets a nice Easter egg. Scintillating stuff!

Compare that with the drama we have had over the last week. It is tragedy of the sort tried and tested over the past 2,500 years. Sophocles would have loved it.

The Archer family is not far removed from Oedipus’s. All the tragic elements are there. Divine powers foretell doom through portentous avian activity, in the case of Ambridge, Kirsty’s encounter with the moribund pheasant.

There is a legacy of earlier deaths that plagues the family. Tony alienates his living son (Tom) through his obsession with the dead one (John).

Peggy’s words to Tom are worthy of the oh-so-wise chorus: “It didn’t just happen – you made it happen.” She asserts that Tom’s big mistake was to have jilted Kirsty at the church, making public an act that should have occurred behind closed doors.

And there are several candidates for the role of Tiresias.

Much of the pleasure for us classicists is in conjecture about what might follow in the tragic world that is Ambridge. Will Tom, driven by his father to emulate his dead brother, meet his end under a vintage tractor?

Might Tony succumb to a second heart attack and die alone with only his (ailing) cattle for comfort? Will Kirsty, Medea-like, direct her vengeance where it hurts most and dispatch Tom’s pigs before their allotted time? Might Henry, the infant generation, be hurled like Astyanax from the roof of Willow Farm?

Carry on scriptwriters. Some of us haven’t enjoyed The Archers so much for years.

Sally Knights
Classics Department
Redland High School for Girls

SIR – The BBC has managed to score a spectacular own goal. The latest twist with the non-wedding of Kirsty and Tom leads me to believe that so many ideas have already been utilised that they must now resort to mimicking the plot from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Sean O’Connor, the editor of The Archers since last year, has shown his preference for the way he worked on EastEnders. The Archers has become silly and very disappointing.

Judy Proger
Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire

Ballet graduates

SIR – All of us in the Royal Ballet are very saddened at the news of the death of the director of the Royal Ballet School, Gailene Stock.

It was disappointing to read that “only a handful” of Royal Ballet School graduates were offered contracts by the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet during her time as director. Since 2009, 79 per cent of the dancers to have joined the Royal Ballet have been graduates of the Royal Ballet School. This is a fitting validation of her inspired leadership during her tenure as director.

Kevin O’Hare
Director, The Royal Ballet
Jeanetta Laurence
Associate Director, The Royal Ballet
London WC2

Second fiddle

SIR – No wonder Harry and Cressida broke up. What girl would play second fiddle for the rest of her life to you know who?

David Silber
Upton upon Severn, Worcestershire

Newark’s Tory lesson

SIR – In their enthusiasm to mount personal attacks on the leader of Ukip, the Tories might be forgetting that the only reason there is to be a by-election in Newark is because of the dishonesty of yet another of their own MPs.

Ronald Stevenson
Richmond, North Yorkshire

SIR – When Nigel Farage decided not to contest the Newark by-election, the pundits all accused him of “bottling it”. If he had decided to go for it, then those pundits would all have accused him of “jumping on the bandwagon”.

Like many, I will be interested in the comments of the three party leaders when the Euro election results are published.

Roy Deal
Locks Heath, Hampshire

Breaking abortion laws

SIR – Dr Max Pemberton says that we cannot be sure if doctors who pre-signed abortion certificates had broken the law .

“Pre-signing” is the practice of signing blank referral forms before anything is known about the pregnant woman. It should not be conflated with the discussion over whether or not doctors need to examine the patients they refer, which is a separate – though very important – issue.

The Abortion Act requires that two doctors form an opinion that the request for an abortion meets the criteria of the Act. It is not possible to form an opinion without knowing anything about a patient. Therefore, pre-signed referral certificates do not satisfy the requirements of the law.

Earl Howe, the health minister, accepted as much in a recent debate, conceding that pre-signing was a “clear breach of the law and where it is found to be occurring a prosecution ought to be brought”.

Luke de Pulford
The Pro-Life Research Unit
London SW1

French dressing

SIR – Henry Samuel tells usthat “France has come a long way since Michèle Alliot-Marie, then a young political assistant, was refused entry to parliament for wearing trousers in 1972″.

A pity, then, that we have not had the same degree of progress in the House of Commons where, as in 1972, my elected MP can still be refused entry for not wearing a tie.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

The threatening tunnel vision of Stonehenge

SIR – I drive past Stonehenge twice a week. Why is it not possible simply to build a new dual carriagewayhalf a mile to the south?

There must be a way of picking a route which avoids the barrows. The archaeological treasures to be excavated from removing the old road would help make up for the disturbance by the new route. Or are we being dictated to by World Heritage committees?

Charles Pugh
London SW10

SIR – I have lived within walking distance of the Stones for more than 90 years, and it would be utter heresy to build a road tunnel that excludes the public from the sight of this, one of Britain’s most famous monuments. The view from the hill to the west of Amesbury is without parallel.

We owe a great debt to Sir Cecil Chubb who bought it and gave it to the nation, for which he was suitably bestowed a baronetcy. The charge made for entry to the Stones now is beyond the pockets of most people.

Diana Gifford Mead
Berwick St James, Wiltshire

SIR – If money is to be spent on putting anything in a tunnel, it should be Park Lane in London. Think how lovely it would be to walk out from the old streets of Mayfair straight into the grassy park and trees. As it is, Park Lane is an uncrossable Chinese Wall of fast, roaring traffic that ruins the second best street on the Monopoly board.

Frances Kemp
London EC4

SIR – The images presented in Panorama of negligence and abuse in a care home will have upset many.

Modern training does not prepare student nurses for management in the way it once did. Selection criteria have changed, and they no longer ensure that people with the right attitudes and values are offered places on courses.

Regulatory bodies such as the Care Quality Commission have failed the profession with poor standards of audit.

One thing needs saying, even if it seems politically incorrect to some. Staff need to be able to speak English properly, and often cannot. How can you care for people whose first language is English, as is mainly the case, if you can’t speak English well? I visited a home in the South where the manager said that none of the support workers spoke English well, and that this might be a problem for supervision. It’s not racist to state this, it’s common sense.

Terry Maunder

SIR – The shameful treatment at the Old Deanery care home shows that the CQC is unable to audit facilities on a sufficiently regular basis to identify shortcomings and protect residents from abuse.

On top of this, under the new Care Bill currently proceeding through Parliament, self-funding residents will be excluded from the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

Philip Johnson
Pantymwyn, Flintshire

SIR – We represent organisations and individuals involved in the provision of residential care for old people. We were horrified at the revelations in the BBC Panorama programme of the abusive behaviour by staff at the Old Deanery.

There is never any excuse for abuse or poor practice, and it is a wake-up call for all those involved in delivering care.

However, this should not be used as a reason to condemn the whole of the care sector. The vast majority of providers offer good, if not excellent care. This is borne out by sector reports, including those of the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as by the findings of the Care Quality Commission.

Professor Martin Green
Chief Executive, Care England
Des Kelly
Executive Director, National Care Forum
Sheila Scott
Chief Executive, National Care Association
Debbie Sorkin
Chief Executive, National Skills Academy for Social Care

SIR – I will never, ever go into care. If assisted suicide is not legalised, I will drink a bottle of whisky with sleeping pills.

I looked after my mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, for two years after my father died. I will not do this to my daughters and I will not be at the mercy of the care system in this country, where you pay your life savings to be abused.

Denise Dear
Yateley, Hampshire

I have to correct your obituary for Gailene Stock in yesterday’s Telegraph. The Obituary is misleading when it says ‘only a handful of graduates were accepted by the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet’, implying that standards during her tenure weren’t good enough. There are, in any one year, only a ‘handful’ of jobs available in the ranks of the two Royal Ballet Companies and the fact that other students were not discarded but were found employment with many other top companies in the world was, I believe, a laudable policy. In fact Birmingham Royal Ballet now comprises 63% Royal Ballet School Graduates rising to 72% at Principal level.

The article goes on ‘The supply of British-born stars dried up, with only Darcey Bussell becoming a household name.’ As though the Royal Ballet School was a conveyor belt for Darcey Bussells. How I wish it were so easy to manufacture stars of that magnitude! And how many other British dancers have become ‘household names’? Margot Fonteyn and……?

It continues…..’an implicit criticism of the Stock approach,…… was Birmingham Royal Ballet’s endorsement of Elmhurst School, Birmingham, as its own feeder institution.’ Untrue. The majority of students employed by Birmingham Royal Ballet are, and have been ever since Elmhurst School for Dance re-located to Birmingham, graduates of The Royal Ballet School. Despite Birmingham Royal Ballet’s close association with Elmhurst, that relocation being a very necessary step in the availability of quality ballet instruction outside of London, and despite a number of our dancers having graduated from there and other ballet schools in England such as English National Ballet School, Central School and Arts Educational School, The Royal Ballet School under Gailene Stock was still the major supplier of our graduate students and Birmingham Royal Ballet, incidentally, was their biggest customer!

The ‘English Style’, a euphemism really for Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballets, and something the article accuses Gailene Stock of considering outdated and irrelevant is, to much of the Dance world, outdated and irrelevant. To us, brought up in that tradition, it is of course of inestimable value and beauty, and it falls to the two Royal Ballet Companies to preserve to the greatest of it’s ability that work and style, but to continue to teach generations of students, not even born when Sir Fred was long gone, a technique that only enabled them to perform his work, ignoring the great changes in what is expected of a young dancer these days, would have been a great error on Gailene’s part. In fact the syllabus and style taught at the Royal Ballet School was arrived at with the full agreement of both myself and my various counterparts at The Royal Ballet and blessed by that most English of dancers and former Director of The Royal Ballet, Sir Anthony Dowell.

That elements of Gailene Stock’s Directorship were ‘controversial’ was an inevitability, but not for the reasons your writer suggests. She took over the school not only at a low point in its history but also at a crossroads, and set it on the international scene in a way that it had never been visible before. Standards rose, employment reached an all time high and Royal Ballet School graduates were to be found leading major Companies around the world, as well as continuing to provide the core and stars of the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. This is not a tarnished legacy. It’s a hard act to follow!

As a footnote I would like to add that many of our company dancers, former graduates of the school, wore their old Royal Ballet School kit in class today in honour of Gailene’s memory and as a clear mark of the esteem they held her in.

Yours faithfully

David Bintley CBE, Director, Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Irish Times:

Sat, May 3, 2014, 02:00

First published: Sat, May 3, 2014, 02:00

Sir. – Strikingly, three newspapers have in recent days carried opinion pieces attacking both the fact and the modus operandi of Aosdána. The implicit elitism, hubris, procedural opacity, communicational inadequacy and remoteness of the body have been noted, and evidence for these charges adduced. It has been castigated for what it is (eg, a clearly incomplete cohort of worthy Irish artists), and for what it is not (eg the Académie Française). The underlying anger in these pieces is part of a wider public anger at unaccountable publicly supported bodies. But the unanimity of the critiques, with their calls for abolition or radical reform, are a bit too striking not to invite a response.

To have Aosdána act and comment as a unified body on matters social and political would require a cat herder. There is no good reason why artists of diverse kinds and ages should be any different than other citizens in the variety of their views. In that they are no different from bodies of engineers or lawyers or academics. To require every artist to finance their lives on income from sale of goods is to impose a frankly cruel Procrustean requirement on work that can be initially of minority interest. It may be hard to imagine but I remember attending a reading by Seamus Heaney nearly 40 years ago in the company of fewer than 10 other people.

Aosdána is far from perfect in structure or achievement. In its original conception it tried to address the problems encountered by those who were willing to devote themselves to the uncertain and, all too often, impoverishing pursuits of artistic creation. The hard lives of some household names fuelled that original ideal. In its imperfect way Aosdána has tried to balance the need to honour those who have chosen this challenging path with the utterly realistic recognition of how hard that often is for those who must also balance the demands of a domestic life.

As chairman of the Arts Council (1993-98) part of my responsibility involved firsthand scrutiny of the levels of income needed to qualify for a cnuas. By no standards could most of the applicants be said to be consistently earning close to the average industrial wage. Very few artists achieve consistent financial solvency over a long working lifetime.

Aosdána is not to be financially evaluated on the scale of certain publicly financed charities whose leader’s salary alone would exhaust the annual cost of the whole of Aosdána in six or seven years. The very diversity of its membership ensures that it cannot be very good at defending itself. But, however flawed it may be as a self-selecting body, it shares those flaws with similar self-selecting structures in analogous bodies.

In the justifiable hunt for greater accountability, Aosdána presents an unsatisfyingly easy target, especially when its costs and its purposes are coldly assessed together for what they are. Yours, etc,


Lr Ormond Quay,

Dublin 1

Sir, – Regarding Rosita Boland’s report on Aosdana’s general assembly I think you should cut that organisation a little slack. Surely it is one of the few publicly funded bodies that has not reported systemic failures causing the death, injury or impoverishment of citizens. Yours, etc,




Sir, – There is now no doubt that in the past we got the kind of regulation that our governments and increasingly powerful business lobbyists wanted. The Government appointed the regulator and, no doubt, outlined the job specifications, which seem to have been roughly: “A regulator is just a civil servant, he never gets high-falutin’ notions and doesn’t get in the way of big business. ”

Despite the appalling consequences of our lack of effective regulation and legislation in the past, John Bruton, the former taoiseach of a Fine Gael-led coalition, in his capacity as chairman of the IFSC, told the European Insurance Forum Conference in May 2013 that we needed to put a rein on financial regulation. Some banks, he claimed, had handed back their licences because of oppressive regulation, regulation which was risk-averse. ome weeks later an American businessman, interviewed on an RTÉ radio news programme, candidly stated that one of the factors that attracted US investors to Ireland was our “low regulatory hurdles”.

Matthew Elderfield, while acknowledging the greatly improved staffing levels in the regulator’s office, has severely criticised the present government’s failure to implement recommendations he made before his departure from his position as financial regulator. No doubt, as soon as the Dáil committee of inquiry has completed its work we will be promised effective legislation and a robust regulatory regime. However, powerful forces will be working openly and behind the scenes to dilute or hinder these measures. Yours, etc,


Countess Grove,


Co Kerry

Sir, – The old English verse quoted by GK Chesterton and related to us by Steve McGarry (Letters, May 2nd) might easily be attributed to John Clare as described by Brian Maye (An Irishman’s Diary, also May 2nd). Another of Chesterton’s observations was that there “are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.” That statement would equally apply to corporations and the state, and not just the people. Perhaps we should be guided by poets and philosophers instead of economists. Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12

A chara, – Regarding the parliamentary banking inquiry: we already know that the bankers broke the law, cheered on, it seems, by state agencies; the country went broke as a result; and no one is going to jail for it. Will an inquiry tell us much more? And even if it does, what does it matter without more stringent laws and stricter enforcement? Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

Sir, – While I normally disagree almost 100 per cent with the policies of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, I am fully behind his proposal that candidates for primary teaching should have studied and passed higher level mathematics at Leaving Certificate. Would we have had the same degree of protest and controversy if the same proposal had been made with regard to English and Irish? I think not. Secondary teachers can afford to be specialists, but a primary teacher must be an all-rounder and I think parents would expect their children to be taught by primary teachers with the best qualifications in all areas of study.

I don’t know if the regulation still exists that a primary teacher must be able to sing, as it did when I was younger, but there was no controversy there; a primary teacher unable to sing could hardly be expected to instill in a child the vital lifelong love and appreciation of music. I believe the situation with mathematics is comparable. As for the ludicrous suggestion that it was the “boys with honours maths” that caused the crash, I would suggest the exact opposite. The crash was due largely to criminal greed, but also to the non-application of sound mathematical principles to economics. Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Mathematics,

University College,


Sir, – Mike Cormack (Letters, May 1st) misses my point about the time I – a school principal – spend putting out the bins. I believe that it is a disgrace to expect schools to operate without sufficient funds to pay utilities and to run without caretakers or full-time school secretaries. I also hold that it is an appalling waste of my salary to have my time spent caretaking and cleaning.

Indeed, I am concerned to have quality teaching in our DEIS school and so I make time for important appraisal of teaching and learning. I am proud to report that, as with the majority of DEIS schools, literacy and numeracy standards are rising, attendance is improving and parents are increasingly confident in their involvement.

We practise what we preach, however, and such labels as “successful”, “less successful” and “unsuccessful” teachers or pupils are not within our ethos. Appraisal is a multilateral process and pupils’ success is measurable not only by standardised testing but in their engagement, articulacy, life skills and behaviour. In individual appraisals with teachers in recent years unfortunately, recurrent labels for teachers are “stressed” and “more stressed”. None however, are without stress. Yours, etc,


River View,

Old Bawn,

Dublin 24

Sir, – The Minister’s failure to understand the effect of abolishing the ex-quota guidance provision on the pupil teacher ratio and teaching hours in schools shows an appalling lack of understanding of or a wilful disregard for very basic maths. Everyone else in the country understands that schools now have reduced teacher time and reduced guidance and counselling. Yours, etc,


Sutton Park,

Dublin 13

Sir, – The arrest of Gerry Adams undoubtedly marks a very significant moment in Ireland’s history, but it has consequences far wider than Irish history alone.

The PSNI’s successful legal battle in the US to gain access to the Boston College tapes sets an extraordinary precedent. Although the IRA interviews were given under a strict agreement of confidence, not to be released until the interviewees were dead, the information contained within them has now been handed over to police and the police have acted on that information.

In the conflict over our desire to see guilty parties prosecuted for a brutal murder and our duty to preserve the historical record, which is more important? The US courts have decided that justice takes priority over history. But that means that our ability to gain such information in the future has been massively compromised, since no soldier, veteran or freedom fighter can ever give evidence to academics now without fear of being discovered.

In law it is sometimes said that it is better for many guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be wrongly imprisoned. Would it have been better to let these guilty people go free so that the historical record can be preserved in the future? Yours, etc,


Newtown Hill,


Co Waterford.

Sir, – I am organising a roll call of writers and artists who will refuse to have weaponised naval systems named after them.

James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, being dead, probably had no voice in the decision by Mr Alan Shatter to paint their names on two new naval vessels. But we, the living, have no such excuse.Yours, etc,


Waterfall House,


Sir, – Always accepting that memories can become unreliable I am puzzled by Mark Hennessy’s article (May 1st) about the replacement of the horses of the Blues & Royals regiment slaughtered in Hyde Park in 1982 by the IRA . My memory is that at that moment I was CEO of Goffs and that working in close conjunction with my good friend Brig Andrew Parker Bowles, the board of Goffs, Frank O’Reilly and the RDS we created a fund that allowed us to replace the horses with the help of Wexford breeders. At no stage can I remember the British embassy expressing any concerns to us. Yours, etc,



Co Kildare

Sir, – In opposition to the recent Sinn Féin motion in the Northern Assembly proposing the introduction of same sex marriage in the North the Church of Ireland has reaffirmed its position that marriage is “the permanent and lifelong union of one man with one woman”. How can this position be reconciled with the practice of marrying divorced persons in church whilst the previous spouse is still living? Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,

Sir, – The Irish Catholic bishops canvassed the Northern Ireland Assembly to reject the Sinn Féin motion to legalise marriage equality in the North, thus bringing the situation into line with that obtaining in England and Wales.

Almost to a man the Unionist MLAs rejected the proposal and the motion was defeated. Cross-community co-operation, an unintended “benefit” of the Good Friday agreement?   Yours, etc,


Putland Villas,

Vevay Road


Sir, – I find it considerably less “absurd” than Boaz Modal (Letters, April 30th) for Palestinians to claim the right to return to the country where they, or their parents, were born, a right they currently lack.

People who consider themselves Jewish, on the other hand, can get Israeli citizenship even though they have no recent link with the country. Their claim seems to be based on the Bible, at best a semi-historical document which, in my view, should not be used to determine international borders or citizenship rights. Yours, etc,


Old Finglas Road,


Dublin 11

Irish Independent:

Published 03 May 2014 02:30 AM

* I have been following with interest the recent debate on the Bible and belief in your Letters columns.

Also in this section

World War I stories still have the power to astonish

Breaking the old rules in a quest for new politics

Country needs to grow up and eliminate political nepotism

I would be grateful if you would oblige me by letting me make a few observations. I find it interesting that the Bible that is held by so many to be an obscure, ancient and outmoded book, can still raise enough feeling in people that do not believe in it, that they feel they have to denounce it with such vigour.

One contributor seemed to lay the blame for wars and oppression on this book, that is held by most believers to be a book of peace, comfort, and love. I would suggest, on consideration, that all those events would be found to be caused by human greed, power- play and manipulation. A book is just a book, and cannot rouse by itself anger and fear – only dictators, despots and power-hungry institutions can build enough momentum by playing on people’s fears and beliefs to cause war and persecution.

Another contributor raised the question of how a loving God could allow a child to be infected by a worm that bored into his eye and left him blind. This is an interesting perspective. When I saw this same interview with David Attenborough, it too gave me reason to reflect and question why. I reasoned that following this train of thought God should remove all dangers from the planet. On a broader perspective, then, one has to ask why would a loving God leave any ill to befall us. The danger in that thought is that if you go that far, then you have to wonder why a loving God does not immediately destroy any murderer – Hitler, Saddam Hussein. This new God then becomes a vengeful God; people on Earth would then be living in fear of any misdemeanour.

If you remember the expulsion from the garden of Eden, God gave man a paradise to live in; man, in Adam and Eve, chose to eat the figurative apple of knowledge. This led God to not destroy them but give them a world full of “thistles and brambles” to live in. We are then told that we all have to die, but if we believe and follow a code of behaviour that in essence is not offensive, and which most would argue is essentially moral and progressive, we will then progress to a paradise existence. If you don’t, you will have had your wish, to live the life you please, and eventually cease to exist.

On your last contributor’s letter, neither scientists or theologians can absolutely prove their case for the origins of life; both theories have holes in them – therefore can I argue that we are presented with having to have a degree of blind faith in either perspective?

This, then, is the nub of my argument. God does love everyone on Earth – non-believers, believers, homosexuals, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, everyone. He loves them enough to give everyone a chance to live their lives on their terms. He has the power to destroy us and the entire world if he so wishes. However, he gives us, more than anything else, choice.

Name and address with editor


* If we apply the criterion of the prevailing culture of the time to the non-jailing of the two Anglo Irish executives, then Judge Nolan’s decision was really not a surprise. But just because events reflect the culture of a particular time does not make them right.

There’s a lovely saying from an old classic court-case movie called ‘The Winslow Boy’ in which Robert Donat, as the solicitor acting for the boy, who has been accused of stealing in school, says: “Let right be done.”

Was right done here? I don’t think so.

Brian McDevitt

Glenties, Co Donegal


* One of my best friends is an atheist and I believe the world is too beautiful not to have a god or higher power. Regardless of our beliefs, we are still best friends, who never debate or fight about religion or beliefs. That’s not to say we never did. We both look back and laugh at how much time and breath we wasted. Life is too short, my friends.

Ollie Boyle

Rush, Co Dublin


* It is a pity that Paul O’Sullivan (April 30) is under the impression that all teachers are on “full pay” and have “guaranteed jobs and pensions for life”. The reality is that an ever-increasing number of Irish teachers are employed on a casual part-time basis with no job security or pension rights, some even living on less than the minimum wage.

Studies by the OECD show that Ireland has one of the highest levels of non-permanent teachers in Europe and that the percentage of our part-time teachers is almost double the European average.

Younger teachers are in an exceptionally difficult position. OECD figures show that the majority of secondary teachers under 30 are on non-permanent contracts of a year or less. They are being offered insecure employment rather than a career.

We now have an army of nomadic teachers who wait by the phone in the hope of scraping together a few hours of employment. The sustained and repeated cuts to our education system over the last six years are driving these teachers out of the workforce and most likely out of the country.

Newly qualified teachers enter the profession after an unpaid training period of five years (soon to be six at second level). It takes many more years to secure some level of permanency and even then this is often on reduced hours that leaves them earning less than the average industrial wage.

The implications for teaching – and learning – are obvious.

Kevin P McCarthy

Killarney, Co Kerry


* Frances Fitzgerald introduced the Children First Bill in the Dail on Wednesday, April 30. A close reading of the Bill makes it clear that its implementation will impose reporting demands on any and all situations where children could even remotely be at risk. As such, it will reach out into all aspects of society, especially the family home, where most abuse occurs.

There are very few bodies whose core ethos is confidentiality to callers and were they to breach that, would betray themselves and those they seek to help. The main pressure to comply with the new legislation appears to be the threat of financial measures, ie they will lose their state funding. Already the Catholic Church has turned its face against complying and has demonstrated that it is unthinkable to comply in regard to the sacrament of penance.

Anthony J Jordan

Gilford Road, Dublin 4


* In relation to the ongoing debate on God, the universe etc, I recently heard the story of a man who brought his three-year-old son on a country walk. There wasn’t a soul (if atheists will pardon the liberty) in sight and in the middle of nowhere, they came upon a pile of rocks which formed a perfect rock tower. Given his age, the young boy had no concept of design, geometry etc, but his first reaction was to ask “who made that ?” The young boy, from his relatively limited interaction with the natural world, knew that stones just don’t stack themselves in such form. The tower had to be the work of a being with intelligence, will and purpose.

Many say we can’t prove the existence of God. But this is to understand the word ‘prove’ in a misleading way. When we observe patterns, design, even beauty in the natural order, it is quite reasonable to understand that there must be an intelligence that underlies it all.

Denying the existence of God therefore becomes as absurd as suggesting that the rock tower in the woods came into existence by itself, or through some series of random events. A child can understand this, but not, apparently, your average village atheist. Sad, really.

Eric Conway

Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent

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