I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Off to clean the spare bedroom for our guests
ScrabbleMarywins a not very respectable score well under 400 and only by one point perhaps Iwill win tomorrow
Esmé Jack – obituary
Esmé Jack was the doyenne of dressage who taught handicapped children to ride and staged ‘horse ballet’ to music
5:31PM BST 13 Jun 2014
Esmé Jack, who has died aged 96, was the doyenne of dressage — a dynamic equestrian who helped introduce music to the prancing world of “horse ballet”.
The first international competition for dressage set to music was at Goodwood in 1979 . It was the friendship between Esmé Jack and the Duchess of Richmond — who created the Goodwood International Dressage Competition — which led to the landmark event and laid the foundations for the modern sport.
In the early Seventies the Duchess asked Esmé Jack for dressage lessons. “She was a perfectionist, a strong character and a great dressage teacher,” recalled the Duchess. “When she taught, she often played music to her pupils, which I enjoyed, including in the pairs classes, which is like a pas de deux. I thought this was a good idea and between us we suggested it to the FEI, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, to get their permission for Goodwood. They thought it was something new and a good idea.”
Dressage at that time had changed little since becoming an equestrian pursuit during the Renaissance. The sport — a highly-tuned sequence of predetermined movements such as the piaffe (a cadenced trot in place), passage (an elevated, powerful trot) and pirouette (a 180 or 360 degree whirl) — was a silent one. Esmé Jack and the Duchess realised that music would make both rider and horse more relaxed, resulting in a better performance — and a more interesting spectacle.
Musical tests — also known as kürs — created an entirely different atmosphere. The pair used the musical choreography of ballet and ice skating as their inspiration (the ice-skating champion Robin Cousins was a kürs judge). As a silent pursuit, dressage could seem monotonous — as the same set tests were routinely repeated — but with music came variety. The beginnings were humble. “We had loudspeakers that didn’t work and the competitors had to make their own tapes to fit the rhythm of the horse,” said the Duchess. “You have to have a rhythm.” Scottish reels and Spanish flamenco proved suitable.
It revolutionised the sport — put simply, it made it more enjoyable. From its Goodwood origins, musical tests were to became an official part of international dressage competitions. The Duchess of Richmond described how the ripples from those early days gradually spread out, culminating in a wave of gold medals for Britain in the 2012 Olympics. “Esmé Jack,” she recalled, “started off the first very important ripple.”
Esmé Jack on horseback
Eileen Esmé Henderson (always known as Esmé) was born in Richmond, Yorkshire, on June 1 1917, while her father was away fighting in the First World War. She was the eldest of three children born to a Scottish stockbroker and his English wife. Esmé moved with her parents to Scotland and as a youngster at Cochno, Duntocher, enjoyed the outdoor life, playing tennis and golf, and fishing and shooting. She also had her own horses.
Despite her wealthy upbringing — tended to by domestic staff and with black tie always worn for dinner — her parents insisted that she muck out her own horses. No matter how late their chauffeur brought her back from a party she had to be up early to attend to stable life. As an adult she was extremely grateful to her parents for giving her a lifelong habit of never asking anyone to do something that she was not prepared to do herself.
During the Second World War she bought a farm in Scotland — High Clunch, near Stewarton in Ayrshire — on which she worked hard with a wartime staff consisting of one old man. In 1940 she married William Alastair Jack, a brief union which was later dissolved but from which she retained her married name. In the Sixties she moved to Sussex, buying Chantry Farm in Storrington where her interest in horses continued with her riding in point-to-points. She then set up a riding school at Coldwaltham House, which ran for nearly three decades. It was during this time that Esmé Jack met the Duchess of Richmond.
Possessing an extraordinary affinity with horses, Esmé Jack believed that any faults in a horse’s performance or behaviour were due to human error, never the animal’s. As a teacher, she guided riders in using the bridle correctly and how to behave with a horse. It was not only her empathy with horses that came to the fore — Coldwaltham House was one of the first riding schools to offer tuition to disabled children.
As an early supporter of Riding for the Disabled, Esmé Jack was also involved with riding activities for pupils at Ingfield Manor, a school for the disabled near Billingshurst. Princess Anne visited Coldwaltham House as a teenager and later became a patron of the school.
Esme Jack, far right, with Princess Anne (centre) patron of her riding school
Esmé Jack went on to become a List 1 judge at national level dressage competitions.
Old age failed to wither her spirit. She gave up riding in her 80s — although she had a brief return to the saddle a decade later — and as a substitute took up gliding at the Southdowns Gliding Club. In her mid-90s, she was also thrilled to ride pillion on the Harley Davidson owned by her dentist (having developed a taste for motorbikes after the war when she got her first BSA 250).
Her nonagenarian biking led to the suggestion that she might like to take things a little easier. She replied simply: “Why would I?”
Esme Jack, born June 1 1917, died May 29 2014
I watched the documentary with interest on David Beckham in the Amazon (Review, 10 June) and understand that he worked with an independent production company with a 10-man crew. How fortunate, because if it was a BBC production, he would have had a one cameraman, who would have the cheapest aeroplane seats and stayed in B&Bs en route. The BBC is responsible for destroying the art of documentary film-making.
Chair, Guild of Television Cameramen
• In a Suzanne Moore’s otherwise sterling article on our education system (12 June), the perpetuating of the attitude that drumming is not “proper” music was disappointing: “The curriculum narrowed under New Labour. This child studied the Nazis three years running, but at least they still did music. Well, drumming.” I would suggest trying Steve Reich, Max Roach, Led Zeppelin, the Slits, samba, rhumba or in fact, practically any music with a rhythmic element, then deciding whether drums are worth learning.
• I applaud Boris Johnson’s volunteering to show the safety of the second-hand water cannons he has bought, by being blasted by one (Report, 12 June). But if they ask for volunteers to man the test cannon, I predict a riot.
• You report that “Islamists seize Iraq’s second-biggest city (Report, 12 June). Tony Blair’s legacy of invading sovereign Muslim countries never leaves us.
• Other books, in addition to The Grapes of Wrath, suitable for a food/book bank: To Cook a Mockingbird; Barnaby Fudge; Of Rice and Men; The Catcher in the Rye Bread; Lord of the Fries (Letters, 10 June).
Newbold on Stour, Warwickshire
• Sic and Pschitt (Letters, 13 June) were not the only amusingly named items for sale abroad: other soft drinks – Banga and Super Poker; coffee – Bonka; and breakfast cereal – Crapsi Fruit also raised a titter in those with puerile minds.
Thank you very much Jonathan Freedland for your insightful and thought-provoking article (Why we still want to fight Europe on the beaches, 7 June). There is, however, a slight problem with your reading of the creation myth. As an outside observer and as the son of a historian who had strong professional links to the question (my late father was the director of the German Historical Institute in London from 1977 to 1985), I would like to point out that there are significant problems with your timing of the myth.
While Britain was indeed aloof in the beginning, by the time it joined in the 1970s there was a broad acceptance that no man nor country is an island and that therefore one had to join the EEC. Not jubilation, but a pragmatic sense that it was the right thing to do. The adulation of the war started in the 1980s, together with the demonisation of Europe. What was relief in survival and pride in the achievement of freeing Europe from the Nazis became something different, something militaristic, xenophobic and nationalistic. As a pupil of the German school in London, you could feel the change in the atmosphere. The advent of jingoistic war films brought an increase of incidences of bullying on the daily bus ride to school.
Three factors pushed this process: the new Conservatism (Thatcher in, Heath out), Murdoch taking over the British press and the Falklands war. Do not forget that without the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher would not necessarily have won the next election. The use of carefully crafted history in shifting public debate by nationalists is not new, but needs to be recognised for what it is. It is seldom the veterans who clamour for jingoism. They know what war really is. Veterans are usually able to drink a beer with their opponents.
When you spot a “good deal” at the supermarket, you have to ask yourself: “Why is this so cheap?”. There tends to be a horrible sting in the tail. When it concerned cheap fruit and wine from South Africa, it was because workers were paid a pittance. When it was about cheap milk, it was because the farmer was forced to work at a loss. In the case of prawns (The supermarket slave trail, 13 June), it is because of slavery and exploitation, and also because the seas are emptied of immature fish for cheap fishmeal to feed the farmed prawns.
Perhaps even worse, the mangrove woods in the tidal mudflats are being replaced by prawn ponds, so exposing the coast to storm surges. Remember the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami? Far fewer people would have drowned if the mangrove had been intact. Now eat your lovely prawns.
Dr Wiebina Heesterman
We are still waiting for our passports nine weeks after applying (Passsports backlog may be as long as 10 weeks, 13 June). I am a school teacher at an international school in Brunei and need to renew my work visa, but do not have my passport to do so. We have been unable to book flights for our annual holiday to the UK and we fear that the flights will be too expensive by the time that we receive the passports. My daughter was born on 26 February and, after arranging her birth certificate through the British high commission, we sent her passport application on 12 April, along with my passport for ID purposes. When we contacted the office in the UK this week, they told us that the application was still being examined. Whose idea was it to process passports in the UK for all British nationals living overseas? What is wrong with doing them at the British high commission?
Janet Howell Jinadasa
Sungai Tilong, Brunei
• So the Passport Office is seeking to identify and subject to disciplinary action the junior civil servant who leaked the photograph of a backlog of applications to the Guardian. What action will be taken against the chief executive who stated there was no backlog?
• I sent my passport declaration and photo off last Wednesday, having paid the fee and completed the application online. I received a text message yesterday telling me that my passport was being printed and it arrived this morning. The man who delivered it told me that very nearly all of the people he is delivering to are telling him that they applied days, rather than weeks, ago.
• Fifteen years ago, as a police constable, I countersigned a passport application for a resident. A short time later I was contacted by special branch and the Passport Office about another application received from someone I did not know. The applicant I had countersigned for had visited a GP surgery where she began talking to another patient who was there for a GP’s signature on an application, for a fee of £20. That person forged my signature and saved the charge. This was picked up by the Passport Office. The need for checks is vital.
Newcastle upon Tyne
• I am amazed no one has posed the question: why do we need passports anyway? Surely they are one of the greatest infringements of liberty known to western man?
Harriet Harman says she seldom sees people from her constituency at the Proms (State-backed arts must reach out to public – Harman, 9 June). Why not choose one of the 76 concerts between 8 July and 13 September, and organise a coachload of first-timers from Camberwell, who will get the whole experience of visiting the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, the orchestras and thrilling music?
Illustration: Dominic McKenzie
In these austere times we rely on art, music and dance to enrich, sustain and lift us out of the hardships of the economic situation. Harman expresses exactly the position of the arts prior to Jennie Lee’s appointment as first ever arts minister in Harold Wilson’s first government. Her white paper, A Policy for the Arts: The First Steps, stated that the Labour movement is entitled to bread and roses. The arts, she said, “should become accessible without diluting excellence”.
Public funding for the arts should be an integral public service for all. Lowly Lambeth-born Sir Arthur Sullivan, in an address in Birmingham in 1888, said: “Music is a necessity to satisfy certain requirements of the mind.” He went on to highlight the inroads of music into various sections of society. The worry must be that the intervention Harman speaks of will tamper with the product in the drive to attract wider audiences.
• How can Harriet Harman differentiate between classes from her seat at Covent Garden? I think that I meet all the requirements for what used to be called the working class. Poor, both parents factory workers, 11-plus failure and from an inner-city home. What’s worse, I’m a Brummie. But I love opera and so do other people of my background. I became educated by films like West Side Story and the marvellous Carmen Jones. During the interval of Welsh National Opera’s Tosca I chatted to a charming couple, also working class, who had been to Verona Opera productions three times.
Many Birmingham people love and support our innovative Birmingham Opera Company – and we pack out our Cineworld cinemas for the chance to see first-class opera productions. Melvyn Bragg is right (Bragg takes umbrage at working-class cliches, 7 June) to believe that my class is often misrepresented. It would be good if the Royal Opera House could offer more cheap seats.
Kings Heath, Birmingham
• If the new secretary of state for culture, media and sport wishes to “create an environment in which [the arts] can survive” (My name is Sajid Javid and I am a banker, 7 June), he should fight for two things: first, adequate funding for arts organisations, so that they can undertake the outreach necessary; and second, a thriving arts education curriculum in schools, without which young people will not have the necessary cultural literacy to engage with the arts. Specifically, funding for music education is set to decrease year on year, and the Department for Education has recommended that local authorities no longer fund music services. Learning to play an instrument will be available only to those who can afford to pay.
• The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, thinks that every arts organisation in this country should be able to attract philanthrophy. The Lancashire Sinfonietta, one of the north-west’s finest professional chamber orchestras, has had to close due to swingeing cuts imposed on local authority and Arts Council budgets in a timescale that denied any serious attempt to find alternative funding. In the past 17 years we have taken great music to local communities, made high-quality recordings, performed with international stars, produced ground-breaking schools material, experimented with jazz and pop fusion, and promoted the careers of young professional composers.
Thousands of adults and children are now to be denied access to music and music-making because of the austerity measures deemed necessary by Mr Vaizey’s government. Perhaps he could advise which of the banks and financial institutions or tax-averse multinational corporations responsible for this mess could have been approached for help.
• Harriet Harman may well be attending the wrong cultural events. We recently went to the Barbican to hear the legendary Chick Corea play, and I was heartened to see a real mix of people from different ethnicities and backgrounds. Perhaps it’s just that the Royal Opera isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
• The question of how to popularise the subsidised arts is secondary to the question of why the arts generally are almost exclusively the province of the white population. In my two days at the Hay literary festival this year I was disappointed to see not more than a dozen or so non-white faces among the huge crowds of all ages, even though the subjects addressed by the myriad speakers covered topics of universal relevance – and often importance. To counter the argument that Hay’s distance from cities with a high proportion of ethnic minority residents is the major deterrent, I cite our local cinema, the Ritzy in Brixton, where again there are seldom more than one or two non-white people in the audience although Lambeth, Brixton’s borough, has 35% ethnic minority population. The same is true for modern dance at Sadlers Wells, and in West End theatres (though cost is clearly a factor here). Further afield, the Edinburgh fringe, hotbed of the alternative arts, is also almost exclusively white.
• So the new culture secretary, Sajid Javid, lays responsibility for his lack of knowledge of mainstream arts on his upbringing – that”popping along” to the Bristol Old Vic” wasn’t what people from his working class background did. Strange, then, that together with two friends, all of us from working-class families, I regularly went to the Bristol Old Vic as a teenager in the 1950s. Perhaps that’s the reason I never became a banker or cabinet minister, although I must of course be careful not to generalise from my own experience.
Jo Selwood (letter, 13 June) suggests that oil and arms mean more to our rulers in relation to events in the Middle East than human rights or combating Islamic fundamentalism.
The point about oil, a commonplace in criticism of the foreign policy of successive British governments, suggests an odd vision of a society in which only the rulers are interested in oil, and in which the rest of us could do quite well without it (or would be happy to pay much more for it than we do at present). A glance at any main road in the rush hour will demonstrate the falsity of that vision.
As a society we have allowed ourselves to become dangerously dependent upon oil. Until we take seriously the need to reduce that dependence, in matters ranging from alternative energy sources to reduction of consumption of fossil fuels for transport, our foreign policy seems doomed to operate in the malign shadow of our insatiable demand for oil at affordable prices.
Since most people, particularly in positions of responsibility, have regular performance review, is it not time for one to be carried out on the performance of the Middle East Peace Envoy, one Tony Blair?
Arts grants for the unknown
David Lister, in his The Week in Arts column (“Why won’t the Arts Council tell us who’s getting our money?” 7 June) gets it badly wrong. There is no comparison between the funding given regularly to arts organisations relying individually on a wide variety of funding sources, and those judged to merit emergency funding.
Having an Arts Council grant will to most funders – whether a bank, commercial sponsor, paying customer or philanthropist – be seen as a badge of recognition, a reason to support the organisation. Where, after careful consideration of the financial risk, an organisation is judged to require emergency assistance, that is an entirely different form of recognition. And the message that could send to other potential sources of funding at a difficult time could have the reverse impact of what was intended.
A very modest £14m grant programme suggests small organisations not in the same league as ENO – ones judged to have the artistic merit to be helped over a difficult patch in a way that is most helpful.
The idea that decisions are better made by civil servants or ministers, or for that matter “democratically”, is frankly bonkers. The Arts Council is audited by the National Audit Office and is well led by its trustees and executive team. It is right that decisions are made by peers from the arts world at trustee level, supported the extremely competent team led by Alan Davey. Anything else would be the equivalent of ministers picking the England squad for Brazil.
The NAO follow the money. The farther ministers are kept from decision making in the arts the better.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Interim Finance Director at the Arts Council, 2008-2010
Councils’ duty to help wildlife
Britain’s bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, mammals and birds are starving from a shortage of wild flowers, seeds and insects. Changes in agricultural techniques have meant that there are fewer wild flowers in the landscape and this has caused a dramatic decline in the populations of our native wildlife (as highlighted in the RSPB “State of Nature” report).
The most important thing that can be done to help conserve our biodiversity is to provide more flowers, seeds and insects for them to feed upon. This may involve restoring habitats to conditions that allow more wildflower meadows to grow. It also involves allowing more plants in our parks, road verges and open spaces that can be used by bumblebees and butterflies for food.
Much of the land being managed by local authorities is unknowingly managed in a way that makes it unsuitable for wildlife. Many of the plants used in bedding displays produce no pollen or nectar. Many areas covered by grass, which are not used for sport, are cut too many times a year, which prevents the growth of wild flowers, seeds and insects.
As councillors, we need to know that we have the support of the public for these vital changes to happen, which in time, will hopefully reverse the worrying decline in our native wildlife.
Cllr Rob Curtis
Barry, Vale of Glamorgan
In defence of posh boys
John Newsinger’s carping about rich posh boys wearing weird costumes and running education (letter, 13 June) is another example of the millions in this country who think it is a crime to be rich or to be educated in independent schools.
May I ask who elected these “posh boys”? And if they are running the system well, should they still flagellate themselves regularly for the sin of being rich ? Is jealousy one of our prized British values?
Fight for the Land Registry
I am encouraged that 38 Degrees has taken up the cause of opposing the selling off of another public service, the Land Registry. This service, which holds much sensitive information, no doubt will be sold cheaply to become a cash cow for a foreign investor. At present it is self-financing. Any profits are used to reduce fees. It will become a cheapjack outfit bent on milking the public and exploiting the information it holds.
South Cadbury, Somerset
Corruption at the top of football
I am constantly astounded to hear of the levels of corruption within the Fifa organisation that have persisted for many years, bringing disgrace to the game of football (“Enter Blatter and his Fifa army to enjoy the perks of office”, 10 June). What hope of a clean-up for Fifa when its president, Sepp Blatter, refuses to disclose his salary or perks?
Dennis Forbes Grattan
Scottish science needs to stay British
Like Andrew Watterson (letter, 13 June) I have an English background and live and work in Scotland. But I call myself a Scot. Like J K Rowling my allegiance is wholly to Scotland. I share her fear for the future of medical research (and science in general) if Scotland votes Yes.
We have been playing lead roles in the UK science system for more than 300 years, and benefit enormously by our successes in the fierce competition in this big enterprise. UK science is the world leader in delivery per pound and ranks only second to the US in discoveries. If we left the UK we would leave this great British institution.
The Scottish Government currently chooses to spend less per head on science and technology than the rest of the UK. According to its White Paper, an SNP government after independence would not have a minister with a science portfolio, unlike Scots, Gaelic and sport.
I will be voting No in the referendum.
Professor Hugh Pennington
The Tories remain deeply unpopular in Scotland and many in Scottish Labour are somewhat uncomfortable at the connection between the two parties in Better Together. And after Nick Clegg’s coalition with the Tories in the London Parliament, the Lib Dems are almost unelectable.
I am sure that any region north of the Home Counties would jump at the chance of gaining independence from London. Unfortunately, they do not have a choice; they are for ever yoked to London rule. We are not.
An independent Scotland would ensure that our long-suffering electorate would never again be governed by a Tory or right-wing administration for which we never voted. Let us not squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let us ensure that Scottish people, and only Scottish people, will for ever make the crucial decisions for the public weal in Scotland.
We in the rest of the UK may not have a vote in the September referendum, but we do have a say. And, according to the polls, most of us really want Scotland to stay as part of our country,
We in Scotland certainly live in exciting times. Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is against an independent Scotland. Recently, on a somewhat wider scale, the leader of the free world, President Obama too has endorsed the No camp (followed by Hillary Clinton no less).
Surely, it can only be a matter of time now before Pope Francis informs us that the Creator has declared that an independent Scotland would spoil His vast eternal plan.
Pupils from Colchester County High School for Girls, the winners of The Times 2012 Spelling Bee Times Newspapers Ltd
Published at 12:01AM, June 14 2014
Reforming spelling for today’s convenience threatens to erase the language’s history
Sir, Stephen Linstead, of the English Spelling Society, advocates changing English orthography (letter, June 10), but while simpler and more phonetic spelling is surely desirable such rules of orthography play no significant role in literacy. Japanese children have to learn hundreds of characters, albeit interrelated ones, but Japan enjoys one of the highest rates of adult literacy in the world.
The truth is that in the final analysis all systems of writing are ideographic. Were we to read this humble letter letter by letter it would take us quite a long time. In fact we recognise whole words, irrespective of the regularity or irregularity of the orthography. Misspellings occur even in highly regular and consistent orthographic systems. Changing the rules can only add to the confusion. The problem is economic and administarative.
Sir, Patrick West (letter, June 11) is partially right, but a reformer who ends with a more complex product is not a reformer, he is in effect “a complexer”. This is what happened to English spelling at the hands of the 17th-century schoolmen whose concern was not to make the written language more user-friendly and to increase literacy but to make English appear more prestigious and, in effect, less Anglo-Saxon.
Sir, Patrick West talks of “reformers” and “meddlers” when in fact these were neither. They were Dutch printers who didn’t speak English or confused clerics more used to writing in French and Latin. There was neither logic nor system in their approach.
As for the historians of tomorrow, there is no reason to worry about them. The spellings that Chaucer and Shakespeare used, as well as the current spellings we use, will always be available to them. And with our spellcheck technology we will for ever be able to transpose any spelling systems back and forth from one to the other. Nothing can be lost. Much can be gained.
Sir, Patrick West suggests that making English spelling more sensible would make Chaucer and Shakespeare even more alien to current and future generations than they are already.
However, many of their spellings were far more regular than present ones (eg, Chaucer’s lern, erly, frend). They have become less accessible mainly through changes to the language and deliberate undermining of its former spelling consistency.
The Chancery clerks who in the 15th century substituted “ea” for both the long and short “e” sounds (mean, meant for Chaucer’s mene, ment) did so to preserve their superior status, rather than to make learning to read and write easier.
If we wanted to make English literacy acquisition easier we would have to tackle the orthographic irregularities which pupils find most difficult and give teachers most marking. The spelling changes which occurred between 1430 and 1755, between when English became the official language of England again and Johnson’s dictionary, paid no heed to ease of learning.
Trendy choreography may not please everyone, but ballet companies are still drawing large audiences
Sir, Your report about the National Ballet’s retiring dancer, Daria Klimentová (“Trendy choreographers ‘helping to kill ballet’,” June 9) raises important issues, despite Klimentová’s initial comment that our company is exempt from her criticism.
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and the charitable-arm of our company, Re:Bourne, are anything but “a small production company”. Since 2003 New Adventures has performed to over 3.5 million people worldwide. In 2008-13 it gave over 2,000 performances averaging 35 performance weeks a year. Since 2008 Re:Bourne has worked with over 18,000 young people in the UK to inspire the next generation of dancers and dance audiences. We often achieve bigger audiences, and work with more young people, than any of the major ballet companies, ENB included.
It is not true that ballet is a dwindling artform “hastened by modern choreographers” who “destroy the magic”. At least a quarter of our audience are first-time attenders, and nearly 40 per cent of our audiences went on to book for other performances at their home venue, clearly demonstrating that we build, rather than diminish, audiences for more classical works.
Our audiences tend to be more diverse and younger than traditional theatre patrons; we reach out into communities untouched by dance and have a national network of dance ambassadors helping us to nurture and inspire the next generation of dancers and audiences. We do this because we care passionately about the future of our art form.
Sir, Jenni Russell can’t recall the last time she saw a toddler walking down the street hand in hand with an adult (“Beat obesity: Get your child out of that buggy”, June 12).
I can: it was about a year ago, in Winchester. The child, about 3, had clearly insisted past his parents’ capacity to resist on walking along the fairly narrow pavement, with cars whizzing by.
His father was walking along the edge of that pavement, bent almost double, his hands outstretched, clearly terrified by the proximity of cars and child.
I can understand why those parents would have preferred the boy to be in his buggy, for what your columnist misses is that we’ve built an environment in our towns, cities and villages in which the car is king, and the child’s appropriate place is safely strapped into a buggy.
Expecting individuals to change this is unlikely and even dangerous. It’s up to us as a society to create a safe environment for children to get exercise, to interact with others, to be free. Making the speed limit 20mph wherever people live, work and shop would be a start.
Green Party leader
Sir, May I assure you that Guildford Cathedral is alive and well as a working and worshipping community (“Cathedral may close after £7 million asbestos bill”, June 12). We are raising £7 million to improve the provision for our 90,000 visitors per year, to update the 1961 lighting and sound systems and to remove plaster from the ceiling. Like most 1960s plaster, ours contains asbestos. There is no danger to anyone who uses, or has used, the building.
Like all cathedrals we have no direct government funding, and we are delighted to have initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The “people’s cathedral” was built through the generosity of more than 200,000 people, many of them your readers, who bought bricks. Now we need the next generation to continue this work and contribute to the next chapter in the life of Guildford Cathedral.
The Very Rev Dianna Gwilliams
Dean of Guildford
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (June 12) writes that one third of parliamentary seats have been held by the same party since 1945. I grew up in Canterbury, which hasn’t had a non-Conservative MP since 1868, when the borough still sent two members to parliament. The last time that Canterbury didn’t have at least one Conservative MP was 1835.
Britons living abroad should be able to renew their passports locally
6:57AM BST 13 Jun 2014
SIR – My daughter is a victim of the new ruling that passports cannot be renewed abroad. She lives in Zambia and has to either send her passport to Britain by post or come here at great expense and inconvenience.
As she needs to have her passport with her at all times, posting is not an option.
This ruling should be reversed at once, and then perhaps those living in Britain will be able to have their passports processed in time to go on holiday.
SIR – I spent the best part of three days at the passport office earlier this year. My 14-year-old son’s photos were rejected three times: too near the camera; too shiny; and then a shadow beneath the ear.
But my desperation and frustration were outweighed by the staff’s air of indifference and general malaise. The whole place was devoid of charm and the only pleasure seemed to be in telling the public that their photos were not adequate.
Chaos in Iraq
SIR – Is there anyone who still thinks that deposing Saddam was a good idea?
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Send in international peace envoy Tony Blair, without his accountant.
Wickham Market, Suffolk
SIR – Although an independent Scotland will eventually become a member of the EU, it will likely lose the opt-outs that Britain currently enjoys. It will have to say yes to the Schengen agreement and to VAT on food and children’s clothes and stop receiving the British rebate. It’s not in the EU’s interest to give Scotland special treatment. Scotland would also have to join the euro, despite its inherent contradictions. A formal currency union with the rest of the UK is unpalatable to politicians and public south of the border and would be economically unworkable.
SIR – If the abusers of J K Rowling are an example of the type of person supporting the Yes campaign, then this is enough to dissuade me from ever wanting to associate myself with anything they stand for.
St Andrews, Fife
SIR – You report that the voting of 30 members of Fifa may have been influenced by gifts of money.
The problem is that each national association has one vote, regardless of the country’s size or footballing strength. Tiny republics count equally with major footballing countries. This is ridiculous. A more democratic structure is needed.
Major Colin Robins
SIR – I have just watched ants moving on a mosaic floor with fascination. They move along the joints or, with hesitation, cross at 90 degrees.
Cuckfield, West Sussex
SIR – Exceeding the speed limit (Letters, June 12) is around twelfth on the list of causes of motor accidents. The greatest cause is “failing to look properly”.
SIR – The most memorable lessons I took from my speed awareness course were: first, that pedestrians make up a high proportion of those killed or injured on the road; and secondly that, frankly, the accident is often the victim’s fault, but that does not prevent the driver from feeling responsible for the rest of his or her life.
SIR – Malcolm Watson appears to have missed the point. What use are these courses if he has been on three of them?
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – Dr Robert Walker (Letters, June 11) believes that he has found the longest committee name.
The clinical trial I am on is called Stampede: Systemic Therapy in Advancing or Metastatic Prostate Cancer Evaluation of Drug Efficacy.
SIR – Some years ago, the Economist noted the existence of the “First Meeting of the Fifth Session of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. The zippy acronym FMFSAHWGLTCAUUNFCCC never stuck.
SIR – Visually impaired cricketers now compete for The British Blind Sport Primary Club Heinrich Swanepoel Memorial Cup, and great fun it is, too.
SIR – Foolishly answering a marketing call, I asked the caller whether they were phoning from within the British Isles. The answer was: “Not exactly”. Where do you suppose this might be?
S J Feuerhelm
Playing politics with an A-level examination
SIR – Alice Roberts asks what to wear for her politics exam (Letters, June 12).
A fixed smile will do. Also, she should avoid answering any of the questions.
SIR – A purple tie. All the leaders appear to be wearing them now. Clearly they think it will lead them to success.
Good luck Alice.
SIR – For a politics exam one should wear sackcloth and ashes.
Fixed habits: ‘Supermarket shopper’, resin and various media, by Duane Hanson, 1970 Photo: http://www.bridgemanart.com
6:59AM BST 13 Jun 2014
SIR – The alarming rise of obesity in the context of our free-to-use NHS requires radical thinking.
As tobacco tax ensures that those who consume unhealthy products pay for their treatment indirectly, so the Government should introduce a tax on sugar. The amount raised should be commensurate with the NHS cost of treating obesity.
SIR – I am tired of reading statements like “Type 2 diabetes is the result of lifestyle choices” (Letters, June 12) as though this is the only cause.
I have type 2 diabetes, as do several family members. I am not overweight, do not have a “sweet tooth” and attend a gym regularly. Our diabetes is an inherited disease.
SIR – Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, says that, in future, most public services will be available only on the internet.
Not all of Britain can connect to satisfactory broadband service. Many elderly people fear new technology. Moreover, a one-off lesson is hardly likely to provide people with sufficient information to deal with such a big subject.
Hillsborough, South Yorkshire
SIR – I work all day online; I am not afraid of the internet. But I resent the retreat behind the computer screen of huge corporations and the Government. Both take my money and expect me to do all the work, without redress, explanation, or apology if the transaction goes wrong.
SIR – This Government is trying to make people’s lives simpler by moving public services online. When you can bank online at midnight and shop from your bedroom, everyone rightly expects high-quality digital services.
Through our long-term economic plan, services will be digital by default – but not compulsion. Our digital inclusion programme will help 2.7 million people get online by 2016. But for those who can’t, there will always be assistance every time they need to use a service.
Francis Maude MP (Con)
Minister for Cabinet Office
SIR – Harry Mount’s article in praise of the internet is laudable. Technological innovation should improve our lives wherever possible. However, some industries – for example, estate agents and solicitors – offer better service offline.
The writing of wills, conveying property and the sale of property by estate agents can be time-consuming and complex and should be left to professionals. It would be interesting to see how Mr Mount got on in conveying a property with unregistered title, for example. People will continue with professional services in preference to the internet because they can sub-contract a problem they do not fully understand or have time to deal with.
SIR – At the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, 79 per cent of our beneficiaries – average age 75 – are not online.
When asked why not, their responses range from: “What’s that?” to “Cost”. The latter is a major factor when you live on a state pension with no savings.
Is the Government prepared to fund laptops for every pensioner? And does it seriously think a one-off lesson for an 87-year-old will be enough? The Government has a responsibility to ensure that older citizens are not marginalised.
Cdr Malcolm Williams
Chief Executive, Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society
Chichester, West Sussex
Sir, – It was interesting to read British prime minister David Cameron’s article (“Commission process is damaging to democracy”, Opinion & Analysis, June 13th). He writes: “Those who voted did so to choose their MEP, not the commission president. Mr Juncker did not stand anywhere and was not elected by anyone.”
Is this not a case of kettle calling the pan black? Two-thirds of the British electorate voted against David Cameron as prime minister, and although a vote for his party shows implicit support for him as leader, the electorate plays no part in choosing him. The choice of prime minister is not even put to parliament to decide. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – David Cameron makes some obviously correct points regarding the so-called spitzenkandidaten procedure. From an Irish point of view, there is little point pretending that someone in Bandon voting for Sean Kelly MEP or that someone in Buncrana voting for Mairead McGuinness MEP was likely to be primarily voting in order to support the prospect of Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European Commission. I would see a great sense of effective detachment among European citizens as a whole with respect to this new procedure. It is not as if a direct, democratic election by all voters to choose the commission president (which is a procedure that has previously been recommended by various European politicians) has been held.
Mr Cameron makes a particularly pertinent point that it is not in European interests to restrict the “talent pool” of potential candidates for this crucial role.
The precedent proposed, once adopted on this occasion, would inevitably have the effect of perpetually limiting the potential field of contenders for the position in future years.
It is also important for the future of the EU that Britain remains a member state and although the veto John Major invoked to block the appointment of Jean-Luc Dehaene in 1994 would no longer exist, the circumstances effectively dictate that the objections raised by the British government should be respected appropriately. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It was interesting to see Bill O’Herlihy justifying his role as an advocate for the Irish tobacco industry (“Bill O’Herlihy defends role as lobbyist for tobacco industry”, June 11th). Mr O’Herlihy is “concerned” about smuggling.
There is not a shred of evidence to show that plain packaging will in any way increase smuggling, and this was clarified by both the Gardaand the Revenue Commissioners at recent Oireachtas committee hearings on this matter.
Mr O’Herlihy should perhaps focus his advocacy skills on ensuring that the tobacco industry does everything possible to reduce the 5,200 deaths which are directly related to smoking in this country every year – and also encourage it to support all health measures that could reduce the €1 billion-plus spent on treating tobacco-related disease by our health services year after year. – Yours, etc,
Dr ROSS MORGAN,
Sir, – As a cancer survivor, I applaud Minister for Health James Reilly’s attack on the repulsive tobacco industry and their “intellectual property” (“Tobacco firms likely to challenge plain packaging on grounds of intellectual property”, June 11th).
Just over 50 years after the US surgeon-general conclusively proved the link between smoking and cancer, the industry persists in using every possible underhand marketing tactic to addict children and young adults to a product that is proven to kill half its consumers.
If plain packaging has no effect on sales, as the industry’s well-paid lobbyists claim, why are they so concerned?
The industry has threatened a massive legal onslaught on our Government to protect their “right” to continue to kill our citizens.
Perhaps the Government should impose an immediate levy of, say, 90 per cent on the profits from tobacco manufacture and sales to fund the continuing defence of our citizens. Any surplus could be used to fund cancer research, hospices, and other services useful to smokers.
One of the few things we can be proud of here is our pioneering stance in opposing big tobacco by imposing a workplace ban, a ban that has saved thousands of lives already. Let us all support the Government in fighting this vile industry. – Yours, etc,
Santry, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Minister for Health Reilly deserves praise for his various efforts to curb smoking. His personal commitment to this is not in doubt. However, his “bring it on” bravado in anticipating a legal challenge from the tobacco industry to his proposed plain packaging Bill is reckless.
The Minister may relish legal action but he is showing scant regard for the Irish taxpayer, who could be stuck with a bill running into millions if the intellectual property rights and trademarks of the cigarette manufacturers are upheld in the Irish courts. The Incorporated Law Society has already warned of this likelihood. Has the Minister’s Government not inflicted enough pain on the taxpayer already? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – David Smith (June 13th) might be surprised to learn that most atheists are not overly concerned with the belief (or non-belief) of others in deities. Their primary concern is the belief that the same deity cares, among other things, about who you sleep with, how you get married, what you learn in school, and whether your non-viable pregnancy should be terminated. The devolution of authority from the people to the church, often with disastrous consequences, is what really beggars belief.
Separate the church from the so-called republic, and you can believe in whatever you like. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – David Smith writes “the concept of a creator God is a perfectly reasonable one, particularly when placed against the alternative of life from random chance, a likelihood (as calculated by scientist and atheist Sir Roger Penrose) as being one in 10 to the 10th power to the 123rd power”.
However, when Penrose presents this number, it is not as a probability value. For that to be so, all outcomes must be possible and there must be something special about this one – this is not the case. The universe could have come out many, many ways – it just happens that it came out this way. The odds against a specific configuration of a deck of cards is about 10 to the power 59 – yet I do not see regular letters to yourself complaining about the utter improbability of the bridge puzzle.Unfortunately, a perfect monotheistic god does not have that privilege – there is only one possibility, in an infinite number of lesser possibilities.
Using that same statistical reasoning, such a being is not improbable but practically impossible. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ian Courtenay (June 12th) is correct in distinguishing between faith and logic. However, the difference between them does not amount to incompatibility – they are both ways of perceiving and understanding, and they can co-exist and be mutually supportive. By way of analogy, we might note that people come to knowledge of their surroundings by various means – sight, hearing, taste, touch, reflection. These co-existent faculties, though different from each other, can co-operate to the same ends within a single individual.
Faith does not entail the abandonment of logic, but it may be accompanied by an acceptance that human reasoning is not omnipotent in the search for understanding. – Yours, etc,
Kilcullen, Co Kildare.
Sir, – I refer to Breda O’Brien’s article (“Closure of All Hallows is a loss to third-level education as well as to church”, Opinion & Analysis, May 31st) in which she states, “In many ways, All Hallows was like a dream university – small classes, dedicated staff and a particular focus on people who did not fit the standard student profile, side by side with more mainstream candidates . . . it became a warm, humane college of higher education.”
I am a middle-aged mother of five who left school in 1979. I have spent the last 35 years rearing my family and minding my own business. In January of this year I started the adult learners BA (ALBA) course in All Hallows and it has transformed my life. It is a unique third-level course for adult learners. A part-time course that supports and encourages adult learners through to a honours-level BA degree in personal and professional development. This course is unique to All Hallows College; it is not in any way possible for me to transfer to any other college in the country to continue the ALBA. This course is going to be lost to all.
I need to register my dismay at the impending closure of this most amazing, warm, wonderful place of education. – Yours, etc,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.
Sir, – I see our Taoiseach has taken his place at the British-Irish Council alongside the leaders of such places as Jersey, Isle of Man, Wales and other internal British regional authorities. It all seems extremely one-sided to me. If the British are able to include their regional organisations, why can’t the Irish? Should Údarás na Gaeltachta be represented, for example, or the leaders of our larger county councils?
As leader of the country, the Taoiseach is charged with making sure our country is represented in a proper and dignified manner. Taking its place as an equal among some regional governments is neither proper nor dignified.
If it is a truly British-Irish council, it should be a council between the British government and the Irish Government. When the British are taking part in G7 summits, they do not send the Guernsey delegation too.
There are probably many in Fine Gael who are perfectly comfortable with Ireland accepting equal status with internal UK entities. Not to be biased about it, Fianna Fáil had no problem with it in their time either.
I am not so sure that the people of this country are as satisfied with it though. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Alex White’s concern that the Government’s current chicanery with regard to the banking inquiry will give Irish politics a bad name is seriously misplaced (“Government adds two members to banking inquiry committee”, June 13th).
As a distinguished barrister he must be aware that, in order to lose one’s good name, one must first have a good name to lose! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It was interesting to read that the Catholic bishops are composing guidelines for the use of Eucharistic services when needed in place of weekday Masses (“Lack of priests puts Masses in jeopardy”, June 12th).
For the last two years while holidaying in Louisburgh, Co Mayo, I have attended daily Mass, and on Mondays, the priest’s day off, I had the privilege of attending Eucharistic services of the kind envisaged by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
Until our bishops look at more imaginative solutions to the obvious priest shortage, we can look forward with confidence to these well-led lay Eucharistic services. Before long they are likely to become for many a Sunday church reality. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Standard traffic delays” are constantly referred to in the AA Road Watch reports on radio.
When I used to drive in Dublin we expected the usual delays and, as time went on, these became the normal delays. In modern Ireland such hazy terms obviously no longer suffice and it has apparently become necessary to adopt standards. What are the criteria by which traffic delays are arranged in order of severity? Is there a chart in some technical publication that the ordinary driver can consult so as to interpret the necessarily terse AA reports? – Yours, etc,
GARRETT A J CARTON,
Sir, – As a mother of three sons way back in the 1980s, I tried but did not always succeed in avoiding the “ice-cream man”. On one occasion when dragging the three-year-old from the van, he shouted at the top of his voice: “Mam, it’s okay, this is not the filthy one”. And pity the poor children who were told by their parents that when the music played on the van it meant that all the ice cream was gone! – Yours, etc,
Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – That was a very interesting opening ceremony that the Brazilians had for the 2014 World Cup – protesters being water-cannoned by their own police force (Front Page, June 13th). It puts Britain’s Olympic “fake queen” helicopter stunt into the ha’penny place. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Summer has arrived. A band on the bandstand in St Stephen’s Green, breathtaking flower beds and lawns, echiums the height of trees and alliums the size of footballs. To add to all of that, the ducks are coming back! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Further to Alan Bell’s letter (June 13th), while it’s true that fruit and nut with dark chocolate isn’t available on most confectionary displays, it is readily available in the health food stores in organic form. I know because it’s one of the only vices I have left. However, I would urge Mr Bell to be careful as before he knows it he may be shocked to find that his trousers are that bit harder to fasten. – Yours, etc,
* As an adopted person, lucky enough to be adopted by loving and caring parents, I was surprised to read Martina Devlin’s article (June 12) about the trauma that adoptees’ birth mothers (of course, she never mentioned the birth fathers) would face if their adopted children were allowed access to information that would identify them, or if that information became publicly available.
The premise of her article seems to me to be that having a child adopted is some sort of secret that some birth mothers should be allowed to keep secret? Why? Because their husbands or children wouldn’t approve?
If the reaction to finding out that your wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, sister went through the trauma of having to give away a child resulted in anything more than the warm embrace of love and support, I would be amazed and would question the emotional health of such a marriage or family unit in the first place.
There could be no other justifiable reaction to such news and instead of worrying what would happen if the secret was found out, we should instead be asking anyone with a negative response to explain themselves.
There should be no birth mother who ever feels shame that they had a child or that the child was adopted. It may be that after meeting, a relationship evolves from it.
If a birth mother decides she does not want that child to be part of her life, then that is her right but she has no right to also make that decision on behalf of the birth father or any siblings. They must each be allowed to make that decision for themselves.
To properly face our past, we must confront it and accept the things we cannot change and deal with the things we can. We can’t undo the past but we can make sure those who want to be reunited can be and stop putting obstacles in their way.
Ms Devlin’s article seeks, perhaps unintentionally, to perpetuate the stance that having a child adopted is something to be ashamed of when she implies that it would damage birth mothers if people knew their secret. It shouldn’t need to be a secret.
I think the love and support that would be extended to birth parents and the knowledge that their child was raised well would do more to give them peace of mind in later life than any amount of secrecy and the worry of it ever being found out would.
CANARY WHARF, LONDON
NO EXCUSES FOR IRELAND THIS TIME
* David Quinn writes (Irish Independent, June 13): “Single mothers were treated appallingly almost everywhere, not just in Ireland.”
I have no doubt some of what he writes may be correct, but please, Mr Quinn, don’t be trying to find an excuse for us, as there are no excuses whatsoever for any of these dreadful happenings. End of story.
GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL
SOME PEOPLE DID SPEAK UP
* The Government made a good decision on an inquiry into the mother and baby homes of the past and may include the testing by companies of drugs on children in the homes and illegal adoptions overseas.
Some people did speak up. A medical doctor closed a home after 100 baby deaths in one year in the 1940s. It opened again as there was still a need for it. The deaths reduced to single figures. The illegal adoptions to the US were seen as being for the infants’ future. Adoption within Ireland became legal in 1952.
It was a major issue for the State, how to support thousands of pregnant women outside of marriage. There was little social welfare like today and there was a church and social stigma into the 1970s. It does not excuse the cruel physical treatment of them. Ireland changed with the arrival of television in the 1960s. It opened minds.
We see today how the Muslim faith is strict in a few African and Middle-Eastern countries. A woman or girl can encounter similar problems.
One woman who was a professional working person in Sudan was sentenced to death for allegedly abandoning her Muslim faith to marry a Christian. She has been given a stay of execution for two years. Many countries condemned this, but the authorities insist she will be executed. Hopefully, she won’t.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
LET THESE BABIES REST IN PEACE
* The honest approach to the ongoing mother and child homes controversy is to withhold judgment. Remember, the period being covered is the first half of the past 100 years that included the aftermath of two world wars and a civil war.
Ireland was in desperate poverty then. The conditions existing would be undreamt of today; shortages, deprivation, minimum education, gruelling moral standards and no money. Illness and disease were rampant among man and beast.
No welfare system existed. There was overcrowding in small houses and flats in the cities and, with strict rationing, many were on starvation level. Rural areas, were it not for the fact some could grow a few vegetables and borrow a drop of milk, were even worse. The only light was a homemade candle and paraffin lamp, a reason why people spent more time in bed for five months of the year. Piped water and flush toilets didn’t exist. The tub of cold water on the back-door step served as the Saturday evening family communal bath.
Most children in country areas were born at home with the assistance of a mobile midwife that got around on a bike. Hospitals and doctors were often not easily accessible and people died – since a pony and car or a bad bicycle was the only means of transport.
In this scenario, pregnancy was booming and some young girls in trouble, thrown out of their homes, were glad to get the refuge of these mother and childcare homes and the advice and kindness of the nuns, usually trained nurses, who ran them.
With this soul-destroying background it would be difficult to say who was culpable for any mistreatment – community, church or State?
Inquiries only stir up anger, grief, guilt and compensation claims. The decent thing would be to copy the example of the Bethany Mother and Child Care Home survivors – in Tuam, Roscrea or elsewhere.
They erected a memorial in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, with the names of 222 children and commemorated them in a ceremony of prayer, leaving them rest in peace.
THURLES, CO TIPPERARY
THE HOME TEAM WINS AGAIN
* Eighty years after Mussolini insisted on having dinner with the referees the evening before the matches and the World Cup hosts are still getting “home town decisions”. Plus ça change.
WHEN IS A FIX NOT A REAL FIX?
* FIFA is conducting a “together we fight match manipulation” campaign in TV transmissions during the World Cup. So there – manipulation of individual matches is not acceptable and there was no manipulation in the decision to hold the 2024 competition in Qatar.
Moreover, the Croatians have to understand that the bizarre decisions in their game against Brazil were not manipulation. It was merely the time-honoured principles that the home team is favoured and the host country should be in the competition as long as possible.
JOHN F JORDAN
FLOWER GROVE, KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN