4 May2014Hospital again
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate updating the telephone exchange Priceless
Mary both of us very Mary illo so off to hospital kept her in fr a day
No Scrabbletoday, forgot to take the ipad
Deborah Rogers – obituary
Deborah Rogers was a literary agent for Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro who helped to shape a halcyon era for British fiction
5:54PM BST 02 May 2014
Deborah Rogers, who has died aged 76, was a leading literary agent and played a pivotal role in shaping Britain’s reading habits over the past half-century.
In guiding the careers of, among many others, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Angela Carter, AS Byatt, Bruce Chatwin and William Boyd, she provided a launch pad for authors whose work is today world-renowned. However, her flair for acquiring writers and doing the deal was matched by a warm-hearted character that defied the sometimes brutal cut-and-thrust of literary London. Anthony Burgess, another client of hers, said simply that she could do no wrong.
Deborah Rogers set up her own agency in the late Sixties and — along with Pat Kavanagh, the wife of Julian Barnes, and the American super-agent Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie — by the Eighties had become one of the most significant players in author representation.
She was a mischievous boss (eating desiccated coconut, she announced, was a sackable offence) and a benevolent presence on the publishing scene. “Deborah hardly fits the archetype of the hard-edged, calculating agent,” noted McEwan. She once spotted a young man begging on the street as she made her way to the opera — the following day she gave him a job in the post room at her agency, Rogers Coleridge White (RCW).
Her skills in brokering deals with publishers while nurturing and supporting writers’ talents arrived at a halcyon time for British fiction. Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, a wave of British authors — including her clients McEwan and Ishiguro, along with Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie (who was also once on her books) — were redefining form. “For a long time I think that many English writers were intimidated by language, by tradition, by a sense of being English,” she stated in 1983, “and it took a whole generation to make the language its own.”
Rogers was at the forefront of that zeitgeist — sitting at an agency desk strewn with teetering columns of slush piles, manuscripts, proofs and first editions. For all her achievements in publishing, however, she was self-effacing in accepting praise, deflecting any glory on to her authors. “Those who have entrusted their work to us over the years,” she said earlier this year, “will never know the intense pride that they have brought, and the anticipation and excitement that greets each new manuscript never palls.”
Deborah Rogers with Kazuo Ishiguro at the London Book Fair in April 2014
Deborah Jane Coltman-Rogers was born on April 6 1938. Her mother, Stella, was an actress; her father, David, worked in the City. Deborah attended Hatherop Castle School in Gloucestershire but did not go to university, a deficiency about which she often joked.
Instead, her literary life began in the early Sixties working for the agent Peter Janson-Smith. She set up Deborah Rogers Ltd in 1967 and was soon joined by Pat White. Two decades later they formed RCW with Gill Coleridge.
In the early Eighties her idiosyncratic approach caught the attention of the then unknown William Boyd. “I went to her initially on a complete whim, as a result of reading a little pen-portrait of her in a book by Anthony Blond called The Publishing Game,” recalled Boyd. “From what he wrote she seemed an interesting and untypical literary agent. So I wrote her a letter out of the blue, we met and she took me on for my first novel A Good Man in Africa. Maybe that was typical of her procedure as an agent.”
Indeed, spotting untapped talent was her forte. She oversaw McEwan’s step-up from short stories by placing his first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), with Jonathan Cape — a success that allowed McEwan to buy his first house. And in the fluid business of publishing — Wylie poached Salman Rushdie, Bruce Chatwin and Ben Okri away from her — she remained pragmatic. “I partly should be flattered because my list offered the plums that they wanted,” she stated.
One of her authors was John Pearson, who in the early 1970s wrote a non-fiction work about the Kray twins. Both his house and Deborah Rogers’s office were mysteriously ransacked before the book was published.
Deborah Rogers was resolutely anti-establishment. In 2003 she gave the staff of RCW the afternoon off to march against President Bush’s state visit.
Last month Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day (1989), presented Deborah Rogers with the Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing at the London Book Fair. He joked that there was “an eccentric dimension” to his agent. “The apparent chaos that engulfs her desk is quite legendary,” Ishiguro said.
In accepting the award she was typically modest. “Having always believed that one of the greatest gifts life can offer is to be blessed with work that brings daily excitement, delight and satisfaction, and to have basked in that myself,” she said, “it hardly seems fair to be given an award for what has been a lifetime of such pleasure.”
Deborah Rogers married, in 1979, the composer Michael Berkeley, who survives her with their daughter Jessica.
Deborah Rogers, born April 6 1938, died April 30 2014
The green belt needs to be preserved. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer
Paul Cheshire criticises green-belt policy but fails to mention the huge benefits that it has given this country (“Why Surrey has more land for golf courses than for homes“, News). The article focuses on Surrey, which is actually a prime example of the positive effects of green belts. Surrey has large areas of common land, nature reserves and natural beauty that green-belt policy has helped safeguard.
Without it, the low-density sprawl you find in London boroughs such as Croydon, which were once part of Surrey, would have marched across much of the rest of the county.
In fact, rather than weakening green belts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England believes that they need to be given proper protection. CPRE Surrey is currently opposing two developments for golf courses and evidence gathered by CPRE nationally shows that green-belt land has been allocated for 190,000 new homes, despite government promises to protect it.
This alarming figure has come about because of the intense pressure put on local authorities by the government to meet inflated housing targets.
The government needs to take steps to reduce the pressure for development in the green belt, including by actively encouraging the reuse of brownfield land and existing buildings. Some small-scale, exceptional revisions to green belts may be required to accommodate necessary development in the long run, where this is justified locally, but any wholesale weakening of the policy would have a catastrophic effect on the countryside and the nation as whole.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
This is the situation in my small town in Cheshire East of just over 5,000 homes: as a result of the government’s national planning policy framework and the presumption in favour of development, we are highly likely to get a housing increase of 60%, mostly on greenfield and farmland.
This despite the fact that the town is currently unsustainable, with one health centre at capacity, no employment, B-roads that are routinely gridlocked, overstretched waste disposal, schools full – to name a few of the issues. The only thing that will save our community will be commercial considerations.
We have three brownfield sites that we would like to see developed but so far the only ones being built on are greenfields.
We, as residents, are powerless despite having a very active residents’ group able to put sound arguments and provide evidence. The inspectorate can hardly be said to be independent given some of its recent decisions. Our small town has been surrendered to the developers.
Dr M Wakelin
Emma Duncan, welcoming the decline of the high street and of “offline shopping” in general, strangely fails to address an underpinning economic reality (“The high street is dying. Hurrah…“, Comment).
I live in a small town, very distant from London. Although the commercial hub is sadly diminished, it still fulfils some important functions; for those who might for various reasons feel isolated, it’s a place where they can find human contact. But also, the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker still thrive, buoyed by the fact that, across the generations and classes, many are still reassured that they can buy locally sourced meat and vegetables whose quality they can trust.
If any Westminster government is serious about addressing the decline of facilities and retail business in smaller towns and trying to nurture social cohesion, they should adequately fund local authorities so that they don’t need to raise money by squeezing communities – entrepreneurs who want to trade, shoppers coming in from adjoining villages who need to park.
In rural areas, the high street is essential and bad governance, not internet shopping, is the main problem.
As someone who knows little about association football I was fascinated to read your two-page spread by Tim Lewis about the revival of Liverpool and Everton football clubs, the decline of Manchester United and the effects of their changing fortunes on the wider economies of their cities (“As Manchester mourns, just 30 miles away Liverpool gets set to rock again“, News). However, it would seem that in having two clubs, the city of Liverpool has an unfair advantage over Manchester. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the Premier league allowed another club to be set up in Manchester, say in the depressed eastern part of the city, where it could pour millions of pounds into the local economy and make a point of employing local people and companies? And perhaps this team could play in sky blue in order to distinguish it from the famous “Red Devils” on the other side of town? Would it be possible for Mr Lewis to raise this idea with the relevant authorities on your behalf?
Neoliberalism’s day is done
John Naughton is, to my mind, right in his opinion that neoliberal capitalism is likely to exacerbate the impact on unemployment of the new machine age (“It’s no joke – the robots really will take over this time“, Discover, New Review). When it was first propounded in the 1950s and 60s, neoliberalism arguably served as a useful counterfoil against communism. However useful it was in the mid 20th century, neoliberalism is helpless, even counterproductive, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Global issues, such as climate change, inequality, poverty and increasing unemployment and underemployment, arise from market failure and therefore cannot be addressed by a political system that relies on efficient markets, as neoliberalism does. It is time to move the policy debate on from outdated political/economic prescriptions.
Manchester Metropolitan University
The solution to rail misery
Rail fares in Britain are contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, with season tickets now the largest monthly expense for many people, costing even more than the mortgage or rent (“Cautious or bold: which path will Miliband take to election?“, News).
Just as Labour has pledged to freeze energy bills and reset the market to secure a better deal for customers, so it will be necessary to reform the rail industry to secure a better deal for passengers.
Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4bn of public investment in the rail network every year. These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1bn of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.
A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.
Labour parliamentary candidates Nancy Platts, Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven; Andrew Pakes, Milton Keynes South; Wes Streeting, Ilford North; Clive Lewis, Norwich South; Polly Billington,Thurrrock
Rowenna Davis, Southampton Itchen;
Tristan Osbourne, Chatham & Aylesford;
Uma Kamaran, Harrow East;
Lisa Forbes, Peterborough;
Veronica King, Elmet & Rothwell;
Jamie Hanley, Pudsey;
Richard Burgon, East Leeds;
Clair Hawkins , Dover & Deal;
Will Martindale, Battersea;
Adrain Heald, Crewe & Nantwich;
Neil Coyle, Bermondsey & Old Southwark;
Jessica Asato, Norwich North;
Thangham Debbonaire, Bristol West;
Lara Norris , Great Yarmouth;
Cheryl Pidgeon, South Derbyshire;
Joe Richies, York Outer;
Josh Fenton-Glynn, Calder Valley;
Alex Sobel, Leeds North West;
Stephanie Peacock, Halesowen & Rowley Regis;
Cat Smith, Lancaster & Fleetwood;
Todd Foreman, North East Somerset;
Rupa Huq, Ealing Central & Acton;
Ruth Smeeth, Stoke North;
Mike Le Surf, South Basildon & East Thurrock;
Deborah Sacks, South Norfolk;
Peter Smith , South West Norfolk
Don’t roast Elizabeth David
I was mystified by Fergus Henderson’s attack on Elizabeth David (In Focus, last week), suggesting that she was somehow responsible for promoting a fashion for non-local, out-of-season ingredients. Here’s what she actually wrote in the preface of French Provincial Cookery: “A flourishing tradition of local cookery implies genuine local products; the cooks and housewives must be backed up by the dairy farmers, the pig breeders, the pork butchers, the market gardeners and the fruit growers, otherwise regional cookery… retreats into the realms of folklore.”
Those words were written in 1960. Ms David subsequently published two enduring classics about English food, Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen and English Bread and Yeast Cookery, many years before the current fashion for “English” and “local” began. And, incidentally, French Provincial Cookery includes recipes for pigs’ trotters, black pudding, knuckle of pork, shin of beef, oxtail, lambs’ brains, pigs’ kidney, calves’ liver, calves’ kidney, calves’ sweetbread, calves’ head, and goose giblet stew.
Do get real, Playmobil
My five-year-old daughter and I were pleased to see your article on Playmobil (“Always the little people“, Magazine). However, it doesn’t mention the lack of positive Playmobil models for girls. The majority of “girl” figures are pet owners, mothers and wives. Boy figures get to ride horses and have adventures. Girls can save the world from baddies, too, y’know.
Rather than wasting money on vanity projects such as HS2 and new roads, there should be investment in an integrated public transport system that would effectively support local businesses, commuters, families and visitors to the regions (“High speed ahead”, 27 April).
This is best achieved by public ownership of the railways, and investment in the regional lines. This includes more electrification and a reopening of disused lines, and creating a system more resilient to flooding so that, for example, a washout at Dawlish does not cut off Cornwall. It’s also time for more investment in bus lanes, community car clubs and safer cycle routes. Local bus services should be re-regulated and local councils should be able to save subsidised bus services on the basis of social need.
The massive House of Commons vote in favour of HS2 shows how detached Parliament has become from the views of the public.
Green Party transport spokesperson
In his discussion of the decision to award Cornwall national minority status, DJ Taylor cites a 2011 survey which showed that 41 per cent of pupils in Cornwall regarded themselves first and foremost as Cornish (“There is a bit of the Cornish separatist in all of us”, 27 April). This is not necessarily to be applauded. When I worked in Plymouth not many years ago, I had many dealings with Cornish schools. My enduring memory of their pupils was meeting teenagers in their GCSE year who had never left Cornwall. What these children badly needed was the opportunity to broaden their horizons, not least their British ones, and thereby to enhance their options as adults. The last thing Cornwall’s pupils need is the award of a status that will foster feelings of separateness and parochialism.
A school in Birmingham, allegedly influenced by extreme Salafist or Wahabi theology, is under investigation – reported to have taught that men are superior to women, that wives have a duty to “obey” husbands and may not refuse sex. The teacher concerned is still teaching.
At the same time, the Government calls on women living in households influenced by this sort of ideology to speak out if their men are thinking of travelling to fight. It must realise they have little power to do so.
The best way to counter such extremism is to empower and educate women and girls, advising them of their rights, providing the tools they need to control their own lives, and refuge and protection if they or their children need it. A national helpline able to offer practical advice to women and children would be a good place to start.
Replying to your front page “Will nothing sink Farage?” (27 April), am I right in thinking that a lot of those who intend to vote for Ukip in May don’t really know what they are voting for, and want to give the Government a political kicking regardless of the consequences?
If Scotland does become a petty little foreign country on 19 September, I, as a British subject living in Scotland, will have been forced into exile. It seems that David Cameron was misguided and may regret ever agreeing to a Scottish referendum.
It is hardly fair to single out Tony Blair for failing to make any criticisms of Saudi Arabia (“Demented Blair recites the Saudis’ creed”, 27 April). When was the last time that any leading politician in the West did so? Saudi Arabia has long been a lucrative source of profits in the oil and arms industries.
Why do newspapers have a blind spot regarding the geography of Gibraltar? It is not an island, but a peninsula.
Neil and Christine Hamilton and their UKIP colleagues are likely to do well in the European elections this month (Matt Cardy)
Swing to UKIP should be wake-up call for parties
THE growing support for UKIP has little to do with the party leader, Nigel Farage, and his motley crew (“UKIP’s surge into lead rocks Tories”, News, and “Knock ’em down but UKIP keep coming”, Editorial, last week). It’s all to do with the electorate seeing an opportunity to register a protest vote that demonstrates their frustration with the EU in general and their concerns over immigration in particular.
In the past there has been no practical way of doing this other than to abstain, which is then interpreted by all the parties as being indicative of a lack of interest in politics. The European parliamentary elections provide an opportunity to stick two fingers up to the mainstream parties and their policies on Europe in a way that they will, I hope, find difficult to ignore.
UKIP will get my vote, whoever the candidate is.
Christopher James, Smitheman, Exeter
The demand by the businessman Paul Sykes, a UKIP donor, that a referendum on EU membership be held in this parliament demonstrates a level of ignorance shared by many of UKIP’s cheerleaders.
Precisely how in a coalition government can David Cameron pass the act of parliament necessary to hold a referendum? His coalition partner would not back it, and the opposition would see it as an opportunity to defeat the Conservatives.
An EU referendum simply isn’t going to happen without a Tory majority government — something Sykes and others of his ilk seem determined to prevent.
John Moss, Conservative councillor, Waltham Forest, London E4
I suspect these elections are of real interest to only politicians and journalists. What influence do these Euro MPs wield for the man on the street? It will probably be a very low turnout, which will in turn skew the results.
Come the general election — a ballot that actually has some sway on our lives — I can’t see British voters putting their faith in Farage and his party.
Mike Somers, Congleton, Cheshire
Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Cameron believe the EU is the future for Britain. I am a lifelong Conservative but in the European elections I will vote UKIP because it’s important that the prime minister, who has difficulty understanding the public mood — as he demonstrated over the former culture secretary Maria Miller’s expenses affair — comprehends the feelings around the country about the EU.
Andrew Wyrobek, Derby
My reason for voting UKIP is not that I want more power repatriated from Brussels. The principal reason is that I, like many others, am dissatisfied with and disillusioned by the current political elite (of all parties).
Mike Sleight, Castle Donington, Leicestershire
It is no surprise to me that UKIP is doing so well. I live in rural Devon, and the only election leaflet I — or anyone else that I know — have received in my post is from UKIP. The lanes are festooned with the party’s banners — there was even one lying on the counter at my hairdresser’s the other day. I have neither heard nor read anything about other candidates and had to go onto the internet to find out if there were any.
Mike Bridger, Shaugh Prior, Devon
Fit for purpose
There is something bizarre about the British electorate, most of whom couldn’t name five MPs other than party leaders. Yet they favour a barroom braggart with fantastic pretensions over a government that has successfully worked in the first peacetime coalition for more than 60 years, made huge strides in repairing a wrecked economy, reduced unemployment, given stable growth with low inflation, worked tirelessly to improve education and health, made progress to control immigration, reformed welfare and negotiated successfully with Europe on rebates and budgets. Come on — cut the prime minister some slack.
John Azzopardi, Sorède, France
Parental right to have babies tested for fatal diseases
YOUR article “Parents want end to ban on testing of newborns for fatal diseases” (News, last week) states that this ban was imposed because the results could prevent parents from bonding with their babies. Where is the evidence for such an assumption? It is arrogant, even criminal in some cases, that parents should not have access to such information.
If my grandson had been screened at birth for adrenoleukodystrophy, a progressive endocrine disorder, his life could have been saved. As it was, by the time a diagnosis based on his symptoms was made, it was already too late to intervene.
He was thus condemned to an extended and very painful death over a 12-month period, aged 10 years. Normally only the younger brothers of those already affected are screened, and then if they show no, or few, symptoms, they can be treated successfully.
Anne Downer, Shrewsbury
It is incredible that Britain tests for just five genetic defects in newborn babies. My son was born with the liver disease biliary atresia and underwent a liver transplant the day before his first birthday. This disease could have been diagnosed by a blood test at two weeks old.
However, he was not referred for a test until nine weeks old; his jaundice was dismissed as being a result of breast milk. Had the disease been picked up on earlier, he might not have needed a transplant until adulthood, or possibly at all.
Clare Maceachen, Shrewsbury
Parish councils’ hands tied
THERE were two big problems I experienced as a parish councillor (“Love your parish council. That’s where real power is wielded”, Comment, last week). District council planning committees can rarely go against the recommendations of their officers, as the risk of being successfully sued by an unsuccessful applicant is too great. Another factor is that neighbourhood plans are expensive to create in both cash and human effort and are in no way binding, so they can be ignored at will. After two years as a councillor, having achieved precisely nothing, I resigned.
Chris Starr, Norwich
Assisted dying compromises doctors
I FEEL sure your readers will have sympathy with Sir Chris Woodhead’s predicament (“Britain lacks courage to help me die”, News, last week), but it should be made clear that dying is a passive state; assisted dying is active on the part of the doctor asked to prescribe a lethal dose of a drug to be taken by the patient, as well as the pharmacist preparing the drug.
Both professionals would be considered accessories to murder, irrespective of politicians’ fiddling with the law. Consider the position of the doctor — the ethical position is to preserve life, to cure where possible and to care when that becomes impossible. These duties are incompatible with Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.
It may be all too easy for politicians at a distance from the patient to seek an easy way of relieving the problem. The supporters of assisted dying suggest that the situation is intolerable, but pain can almost always be controlled by suitable drugs administered appropriately, and expert carers such as the Marie Curie nurses relieve the intolerability. The proponents of the bill suggest having documentation signed by two doctors as a safeguard. If the Abortion Act is anything to go by, there is very likely to be the same considerable pressure upon practitioners to agree to a request to sign.
Before any hospices were built in Cornwall, I had considerable experience in managing my own patients dying with terminal gynaecological malignancies. My brother died of motor neurone disease with a PEG, a voice synthesiser and a wheelchair — but he was still working on his PhD until the end.
Constance E Fozzard, by email
I was puzzled by Rod Liddle’s reference to the huge triangular structures at Luxor, as it didn’t ring any bells (Comment, last week). On consulting my schoolboy atlas, I note, however, that there are large triangular structures at a place called Cairo, more than 400 miles north of Luxor. Or have the structures been moved to Luxor for safekeeping because of the unrest in the capital?
Robert Mervyn Taylor, Lisburn, Co Down
I was surprised to see that most of the time Prince George was carried down the steps by his mother when the royal couple disembarked from the aeroplane (“Pile ’em high — 2,000 gifts for George”, News, and “My hols with Kate, Wills and George”, Travel, last week). As the Duchess of Cambridge wears extremely elegant high-heeled shoes and as George appears to be a solid little fellow, wouldn’t it have been more appropriate for him to have been carried by his father?
Joy Parker, Bedford
Hit Malta in pocket
The news of wild bird slaughter in Malta reminded me of sitting in a square in Mdina some 35 years ago having coffee with my late wife and our new daughter (“UK garden birds hit in Maltese massacre”, News , April 13). We were surrounded by hunters with bunches of tiny dead birds tied to poles and their belts. The cafe had a dozen or so tiny cages with a songbird in each, singing to the few free birds in the tree. My wife wept. As we walked out I flicked open all the cages — a small, futile act, of course. We never returned to the island. Perhaps the way forward is to hurt Maltese pockets by not visiting.
Alf Menzies, Southport, Merseyside
How ridiculous that teachers feel they “should [not] be subjected to the stress and pressure of being watched constantly” (“Classroom CCTV treats teachers ‘worse than rats’”, News, April 20). Most licensed venues use CCTV, as it provides evidence of wrongdoing if needed at a later date. I am no advocate of a Big Brother society, but the presence of cameras in schools will do no harm and may prevent not just further incidents but also accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
Simon Knevett, Cardiff
Your article “South snaffles arts lotto money” (News, last week) illustrates one of the challenges the Arts Council faces. A historic legacy of national institutions based in London means there was an imbalance towards the capital, but now 70% of our investment is made outside London. Comparing investment region by region doesn’t factor in the impact organisations have beyond their front yard and the benefit of developing urban clusters of excellence.
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England
Ian Cowie ended his excellent weekly column (“Consumer protection: the will to live wanes”, Money, last week) with: “Regulators, remember the KISS principle: keep it short, stupid”. Even better might be: “Keep it short and simple.” One can but hope.
Roger Manning, Weybridge, Surrey
Your article “The look of love” (Style, last week) focused on the anxieties a woman feels about her body but made no mention of how the man viewed his body, or indeed how it was seen by his partner. I teach relationship education and self-esteem lessons to teenagers and have to combat negative, stereotypical views of body image on a regular basis.
Gemma Hay, Edinburgh
Corrections and clarifications
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (email@example.com or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
Julian Barratt, comedian, 46; Michael Barrymore, TV presenter, 62; Ravi Bopara, cricketer, 29; Dick Dale, surf guitarist, 77; Tony McCoy, jockey, 40; Rory McIlroy, golfer, 25; Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, 86; Amos Oz, author, 75; Graham Swift, author, 65
1970 Ohio National Guard opens fire at Kent State University, killing four students protesting against the invasion of Cambodia; 1979 Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister; 1982 20 sailors die when HMS Sheffield is hit by a missile during the Falklands War; 2000 Ken Livingstone becomes the first mayor of London
Colourful confetti: wild flowers – or glorious weeds – carpet a roadside in Birmingham Photo: ALAMY
6:58AM BST 03 May 2014
SIR – Germaine Greer makes valuable points about the perception of some wild flowers as unwelcome weeds despite their benefits for wildlife. She also expresses concerns about the distribution of wild flower seed by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Grow Wild project.
All seeds distributed by Grow Wild are of UK native origin. The UK Native Seed Hub did not provide the seed, but did work with suppliers to source native origin material and conduct viability tests to ensure high seed quality.
The packets contain a mix of annuals and perennials. The mix is not intended to represent any particular habitat type, but was selected to provide colour from the first year onwards and succeed under a range of growing conditions.
Grow Wild is not trying to replace or restore existing wild flower habitats, and the seed packets and website carry a warning that they should not be used in this way. The project aims to find new ways of reaching out to those who know or care little about wild flowers.
Programme Manager, Grow Wild
SIR – Criticism was predictable from supporters of the Syrian regime of my project with The Telegraph to find and analyse samples from recent chlorine attacks in Syria, which have left at least two children dead in the last few weeks.
However, I am disappointed by other comments from some purporting to support innocent civilians in Syria. These call my “unorthodox and unconventional” approach in bringing evidence of these atrocities to the notice of the international community “unhelpful”.
As orthodox and conventional solutions have had little success in alleviating the misery of millions of civilians in Syria, I suggest a different path. As a minimum, Syrian civilians should be shown how to survive such toxic attacks and given basic protective, decontamination and monitoring equipment. This I am happy to do myself. I have run a number of Skype seminars for Syria. I gave my own basic equipment to the brave doctor who collected the samples for us.
Improvised chemical weapons such as chlorine and ammonia are survivable with basic knowledge, being visible and avoidable.
Can I recommend to those “armchair-bound good men” Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence, who knew about the complexities of the Middle East. He was one of the few who created some sort of order and stability there, through unorthodox and unconventional methods.
Lawrence served in the Royal Tank Regiment (as I was to do). From it came the Chemical Biological Radiological & Nuclear Regiment. Unconventional, unorthodox and unexpected? I think Lawrence might have approved.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
SIR – The Globe audience was not the first to be shocked by Titus Andronicus. A letter by Gilbert Burns, younger brother of Robert, tells of a visit by their schoolmaster in 1768 and of nine-year-old Robert’s reaction to the play.
“Murdoch… brought us a present and memorial of him, a small compendium of English grammar, and the tragedy of Titus Andronicus, and by the way of passing the evening, he began to read the play aloud.
“We were all attention for some time, till presently the whole party was dissolved in tears. A female in the play (I have but a confused recollection of it) had her hands chopt off, her tongue cut out, and then was insultingly desired to call for water to wash her hands.
“At this, in an agony of distress, we with one voice desired he would read no more. My father observed that if we would not hear it out it would be needless to leave the play with us. Robert replied that if it was left he would burn it.”
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Seen outside Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Not sure this is the way to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
David J Lee
Westchester, New York, USA
SIR – My wife recently bought a vacuum cleaner. An instruction (Letters, May 1) on it advises: “Do not put in dishwasher.”
Disabled living together
SIR – There are in Scope homes many profoundly disabled people who, like my daughter, are wheelchair users, have no speech and no controlled movement, and are happy living in a community situation where there are stimulating activities, onsite facilities, and minibuses for the occasional trip out.
My daughter and many others do not wish to be torn away from their long-term friends, carers and surroundings. Evicting them would be destructive.
To be housed in four-person homes where loneliness and isolation are normal would be little more than life in a prison.
Closing existing homes simply because they are out of fashion takes away my daughter’s choice. Scope is turning its back on the most profoundly disabled, the very people it was set up to help.
Labour’s rent cap
SIR – The Labour Party wants landlords to offer three-year contracts at fixed prices. This will require a tenant to sign a three-year agreement, with a penalty should the contract be broken. This is absurd. Young professionals require flexibility thanks to the nature of their jobs, their position in the housing market and, occasionally, their wish to escape a dire landlord.
SIR – The Housing Act 1988 protects most residential tenants already, often to the detriment of landlords. The expiry of any “notice seeking possession” after two months requires a landlord to apply for a Possession Order (at a cost of £275). Even after this has been granted, there is a further cost to expedite the warrant, so the whole process takes between three and six months after the tenant was asked to leave. This gives tenants ample time to find alternative accommodation.
New Milton, Hampshire
Watching the box
SIR – My daughter gave me a nesting box with a camera for my last birthday. We have watched a blue tit take six weeks to ferry all the materials and build a nest. She laid nine eggs and started sitting on April 18, and the very ugly chicks were hatched, all within three hours of each other, on Thursday morning. What a present.
Cohabitants unqualified for benefits of marriage
SIR – Sir James Munby undermines marriage by suggesting that cohabiting individuals should enjoy the same rights as married couples.
Marriage is a legal arrangement which exists, among other reasons, to formalise clearly the relationship between two people. Cohabitants do not have the confidence or commitment to one another to embark upon a formal relationship. Having rejected marriage, such people should not be given the advantages of that great institution.
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
SIR – Sir James Munby is right: it is high time that the needs of unmarried couples be recognised in law.
My experience over four decades as a divorce lawyer confirms the difficulties in obtaining suitable “financial relief” for “uncoupling couples” – particularly women, many of whom mistakenly had assumed their entitlement.
On separation, a reasonable financial outcome is achieved often only with the co-operation of their ex-partner. Beware the myth that “common law wives” have the same rights as married women.
SIR – We already have protection in place for men, women and families in marriage.
Rather than have complicated legislation for cohabiting couples, we should encourage couples to marry.
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
SIR – It is not the Queen who has installed Archimedean screws in the Thames near Windsor. They were installed by South East Power Engineering Limited (Sepel). The Royal Household has a contract with a third-party supplier, Romney Hydropower, associated with Sepel, from which it buys some of its electricity. The Royal Household buys electricity at a commercial rate. Romney Hydropower receives inflated feed-in tariff payments for each unit of electricity it sells to the Royal Household.
Archimedean screws do not generate all the time, as they rely on a drop in water level. During the high levels in the Thames last winter, the Romney weir turbines produced no electricity for weeks, merely obstructing flood flows. During low flow they must be shut to maintain river levels.
SIR – Michael Fallon’s paean to fracking requires a reality check.The shale gas revolution in America, which Mr Fallon wants to emulate here, has peaked, and costs are rising rapidly to extract remaining reserves.
In February it was reported that shale gas producers “will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back.” Shale output drops faster than production by conventional methods. It will take 2,500 new wells a year just to sustain output of a million barrels a day in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
In March, at its annual investors meeting in New York, Exxon Mobil said it expects capital expenditure to be 6.4 per cent lower than last year’s spending of $42.5 billion. The company indicated it would reduce upstream spending and remain selective in terms of investments in downstream operations, as it loses faith in shale.
Exxon announced in June 2012 it was stopping shale gas drilling in Poland, one of the EU’s great hopes for shale reserves. Talisman Energy of Canada has scaled back its Polish shale investments after disappointing early attempts at extraction.
The fracking frenzy seems to be coming to an early end both sides of the Atlantic.
Dr David Lowry
SIR – Only a political mind could dream up the insanity currently encompassing Drax power station, North Yorkshire. Who thought it would be environmentally worthwhile and economically viable to convert the largest coal-fired power station in Europe to one that burns wood pellets imported from the forests of North Carolina over 3,000 miles away?
Drax’s head of environment concedes that the wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce 3 per cent more carbon dioxide than coal. Not only that, but in the longer term you and I will be paying £105 per MWh for Drax’s biomass electricity, more than twice the current market price.
Letters to the Editor – Published 04 May 2014 02:30 AM
Madam – In Colum Kenny’s article (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014) it was stated: “The teaching of religion is just one area where teachers fear that problems are simply being dumped on them.”
Also in this section
As an evangelical Christian, I fully agree that secular teachers should not have the onerous task of having to teach Christianity exclusively.
Why should teachers, (who most likely don’t believe?) have to teach Christian religion exclusively? Will their possible reluctance to do so seep through the curriculum?
Where should faith be then taught to children? The answer could well come from the Protestant and evangelical churches: Sunday schools.
Sunday schools (and creches) are run in spare rooms by volunteer parents, and are parallel to the main church service times. Why can’t the Catholic Church follow this Sunday school-type of model? In the Church of Ireland it has been established since 1809.
As for Holy Communion classes, why are these taught in school at all? In the Church of Ireland, Confirmation classes are run by youth workers and clergy on Sunday evenings, on church property, not during academic hours, on school property.
Finally, whatever became of the Catholic bishops’ policy document, Religious Education of Catholic Children Not Attending Catholic Schools?
This document could be also extended, to work towards establishing a Sunday school-type of model, surely?
WE MUST FACE THE MUSIC
Madam – In response to Johnny Duhan’s article (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014) on DJs not playing Irish music, his comments are more of a sad reflection on past and present government legislators who have never given any consideration to percentage airplay for Irish music. It also goes to show how disjointed the entire Irish music industry is, with very little cohesion.
There is no legislation in place for the percentage airplay of Irish music (English language) similar to the 40 per cent France was awarded in 1996.
Ireland has two official languages, Irish and English, with the Irish language rightly having a national radio and TV station to broadcast music and culture, whilst the English language music and culture continues to struggle.
A very simple example of the disastrous consequences are the royalties being collected from broadcasters nationwide by the Irish Music Rights Organisation, which amounts to millions of euro annually, but with a retention of much less than 10 per cent of royalties for Irish songwriters, composers, singers and musicians showing the real extent of the problem.
This continues to have a detrimental effect on Irish folk culture in the English language, and on the entire Irish music industry – mainly because of the musical influences from English-speaking countries like Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia continually being introduced by very large multinational music companies.
The present Irish Minister for Communications and his predecessors have continually stated that due to a complaint made to the EU, 30 per cent airplay could not be granted to Irish music on the basis that it would discriminate against European musicians. According to the EU, no such decision has been adopted; that would have to be assessed in the light of EU internal market rules.
And according to the European Court of Justice, a measure to promote original works in an official language of a member state which may restrict several fundamental freedoms may be justified as long as it pursues a general objective interest, is appropriate to reach such an objective and does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve it.
A national quota system such as the French one, based on a linguistic/cultural criterion, should be admissible, with the proviso that such a system would be adequate and proportionate to achieve the general interest objective pursued and would not lead to unnecessary restrictions.
A European Court of Justice examination would now seem to be the inevitable route.
Maynooth, Co Kildare
TIME TO MUZZLE THE DOGS OF WAR
Madam – Waiting for Sinn Fein/IRA to apologise unilaterally for resorting to political violence could be a long wait (‘Apology Long Overdue’, Letters, Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014). No, what is urgently needed is for that majority of Irish opinion which was never at ease aboard the violence train to wake up and assert itself. The true split in Irish affairs, going back well before 1916, was that between those who were prepared to work along constitutional lines and those who weren’t. And that remains the unacknowledged fault-line still.
In these times of ferment, leadership is needed which will finally put the cat amongst the ‘ambivalence-to-violence’ pigeons. A new, social-democratic, libertarian, political party which is totally dedicated to, not only an avowed adherence to constitutionalism, but is not afraid to distance itself from the violence of the past, is what Ireland needs. Sinn Fein has the other three parties over a barrel on the question of violence, as 2016 nears, all the others also having blood on their hands in one way or another. It is time to reconnect with that stream of Irish opinion which was forced underground a century ago, and has had to pay lip-service to gunmen, their excesses and their apologists ever since.
Such an initiative would push the dormant rump of armed strugglers – whether Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, or Sinn Fein – into the same camp, and leave the constitutional ground free for occupation by those who eschew violence and aren’t tarred by the ‘bloody legacy’. The armed doggie-in-the-manger has held sway for far too long. The creation of a non-violence party would force all parties to either reject violence or at least to clarify their positions. There is nothing un-Irish about believing in peaceful politics. Until it is free from violence, Ireland shall never be at peace.
Holywood, Co Down
ADULT DISRESPECT WEAKENS TEACHERS
Madam – It was with horror I read Emer O’Kelly’s vitriolic attack on the teaching profession (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). She must have had a dreadful school experience to vilify the entire profession with such a poisoned pen. I am dismayed that the Sunday Independent allowed such blatant discrimination and generalisation to take up space on what I always thought was a reasoned editorial policy. She was disgusting in her comments and inaccurate in her statements.
Yes, I am a teacher. One who entered the profession from another career choice. Much and all as she might scoff, I didn’t enter teaching for the money or the holidays. I genuinely felt I had something to contribute. My daughter is a young teacher who also entered the profession as a response to an inspirational teacher she encountered. She chose her course despite having more than 100 points above what was necessary because she wanted to pass on a love of her subject, like the teacher who taught her. She will be waiting a long time to scale the dizzy heights of €60k, as I will myself.
The value of the new Junior Cert has been identified as being educationally unsound by many independent sources. Ms O’Kelly said that the JC exam is just mindless regurgitation. The current JC English exam asks that students provide or regurgitate information on just 17 per cent of the paper. That is 60 out of 360 marks. The rest is obtained by applying their skills and knowledge of different writing genre. An unforeseen aspect of the scrapping of the independent aspect of the JC exam is the elimination of a European accreditation to the exam. In addition, any student who has in the past applied to the UK UCAS system to pursue their third-level education will no longer be able to provide results equivalent to the GCSE to enhance the evidence based aspect of their application.
Please remember the many inspirational teachers who have crossed all our paths. Please stop the constant disrespect and undermining of the profession that you put in charge of your children’s education and welfare for much of their lives. If you disrespect us your children will and this leads to poor learning outcomes and violence. Stop buying into the inaccuracies perpetuated by those only interested in the destruction of the profession.
MINISTER HAS DONE NOTHING BUT CUT
Madam – Well done to Emer O’Kelly and the Sunday Independent for once again writing hateful bile about teachers. (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014).
Teachers most certainly do not earn €60k on average per year. The ministers she praises earn multiples of a teacher’s salary and get tax-free expenses and perks. Why not attack them? Teachers pay into their pensions every week for 40 years. Teachers do not have jobs for life. Teachers can be, and are, dismissed. Thousands of teachers have no jobs at all.
The minister is destroying our education system. Teachers try to point this out when they can. Teachers have a duty to point this out. Journalists have this duty too. Minister Quinn is about as far away from being a socialist or a trade unionist as Emer O’Kelly is. He attended private schools. He sent his children to private schools.
He most certainly is not the best Minister for Education, since anybody! He has actually done nothing during his tenure except cut, cut, cut, speak to the media, cut, cut, cut, spin, spin, spin. He is arguably the worst Minister for Education I have ever encountered. He has failed utterly in his oft-stated intention to wrest the control of education away from religious denominations. It is disconcerting that Ms O’Kelly views this complete failure of his as a success.
This minister has not only failed the education system, he has failed Ireland’s children. Of course teachers must call him on that, especially if journalists like Emer O’Kelly fail to do so.
I stopped buying the Sindo years ago due to the astounding amount of teacher-bashing in it.
Dr Mairead De Burca,
Baile Mhuirne, Co Chorcai
APOLOGY FOR MICHAEL D PLEASE
Madam – I consider myself to have a sense of humour and find some of the items on the ‘Shutterbug’ pages of Life magazine amusing. However, I was horrified by the caption in connection with the photograph of President Higgins and his wife on their visit to England.
It was in extremely poor taste and not in any way funny.
I wonder how the columnist would feel if a member of his or her own family was written about in this way. That should be the acid test to be used when considering if something is suitable for publication.
I think an apology is warranted.
Navan, Co Meath
NO EXCEPTIONS FOR CHILD SAFETY
Madam – Eilis O’Hanlon says (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014), that when it comes to asserting the protection of a child, no sentence should have a “but” in it. She is right and she is also right about the point she made about the legal relevance or non-relevance of Catholic confession. However, she left out one important point and that is that paedophilia is no ordinary sin. It is a personality disorder and an addiction. Even if the paedophile confesses his sin in confession and then thinks he is cleansed of it and that he is all over and done with it, this might not be the case. He could still be a risk to children and may start going back to doing his crimes again and all the pain that they can cause.
Even if Catholic clergy didn’t know about the seriousness and addictive nature of paedophilia in the past, they should certainly know it now and have no excuses. There should be no exceptions when it comes to keeping children safe.
SILENT MAJORITY GIVEN A VOICE
Madam – I was particularly pleased and pleasantly surprised that the Sunday Independent broke ranks with other arms of the media to give a voice to the silent majority of the citizens of this country where only minorities seem to have freedom of speech. We are living in fear of expressing our views, lest we be branded racist, sectarian, homophobic when we are none of these. Well done to John Joe Culloty in Kerry for having the guts to challenge the nonsense that is slowly taking over in a country which purports to be a democracy. You also gave John Waters a chance to express his views. Did the people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom [including freedom of speech] ever think that a citizen and journalist would be demonised in such a manner? Keep up the good work.
Mornington, Co Meath
PAYING TRIBUTE TO THE LIBERATOR
Madam – Daniel O‘Connell’s philosophy and career inspired such great leaders of non-violence as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. It is time our nation declare a national holiday starting on the May 15, 2016, 169 years after his death. It is long past time that we truly recognise one of the world’s greatest advocates for non-violence and civil rights for all, during the upcoming 1916 commemoration events. “The altar of liberty totters when it is cemented only with blood.” – O’Connell Journal, December 1796.
Vincent J Lavery,
Dalkey, Co Dublin
TYPICAL REACTION FROM SINN FEIN
Madam – Typical of Sinn Fein to put the blame on a political motive for the arrest of Gerry Adams. The reason for Mr Adams being brought in for questioning is because questions have to be answered. Listening to Alex Maskey is the same old spiel. Also Mary Lou McDonald in saying the arrest of Mr Adams is wrong, how insensitive of her? A mother of 10 was taken away tortured and murdered. As a mother herself she should have empathy with the McConville family.
North Circular, Limerick
ON A POWER TRIP
Madam –Nick Webb tells us that wind farm owners were paid €10m not to produce power last year (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). To the layman the windies cannot lose. Too windy? Shut down but pass on costs to customers. Not windy enough? Don’t worry, tot up the loss and pass it on to customers. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t benefit somebody.
Whilst studying economics the power of the invisible hand of the “market” was drilled into me. It would intervene as needed, checks and balances, weeding out the weak, setting bearable costs and prices and incentivising the innovative.
The opposite was the Soviet communist system of state intervention and distortion of free market forces.
Along comes the collapse of the banks and builders in 2008. Did the “market” and its invisible hand intervene?
Hell no, instead we got a Soviet-style bailout of the powerful and wealthy with their debts transferred to the serfs. Market forces and capitalism my arse. The high and mighty were saved and the rest of us were left to sink or swim.
Do those who set up energy projects actually think of the consumer or is everything geared to profit: heads they win, tails they win? Or do some teams play with the wind to their backs in both halves?
Dunboyne, Co Meath
MAY-BE THE BEST INTERVIEW EVER
Madam – I’ve just read that interview with Imelda May by Barry Egan (Life, Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). I think it’s the most amazing and funny interview I have ever read. It was brilliant.
CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
Madam – Hallelujah. An article on fashion in Life magazine for older women! More of Mary Kennedy and her ilk, please.