20June2014 Shelves

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Our shelves are being put up.

ScrabbleMary wins, under 400, I barely scrape past 300, perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Régine Deforges – obituary

Régine Deforges was France’s ‘high priestess of the erotic’ whose interest in sadomasochism disturbed her feminist admirers

Régine Deforges

Régine Deforges  Photo: GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY

6:24PM BST 18 Jun 2014

Comments7 Comments

Régine Deforges, who has died aged 78, was a publisher and author known in her native France as “La Papesse de l’érotisme” and stimulated a popular interest in sex on the page (much of it sadomasochistic) almost half a century before the current obsession with Fifty Shades of Grey.

As her entry in the Encyclopaedia of Erotic Literature observes, Régine Deforges’s own writing, much of it semi-autobiographical, was “located in the popular rather than the intellectual zone of the cultural spectrum”; and as a result she was not given the sort of serious critical attention accorded to other women writers of the genre.

Moreover, while she won praise from feminists for her exploration of the outer reaches of female sexuality, she was also criticised for her tendency to cast women in submissive roles and for her lurid celebrations of sexual violence. Her novel L’Orage (1996), for example, chronicles the sexual adventures of a young woman who, as an act of homage to her dead husband, fulfils one of his erotic fantasies by subjecting herself to a sadomasochistic tryst with the local village idiot, his father, brother and dog.

While Régine Deforges might not have been a great writer, as a publisher of erotic literature she played a prominent role in a series of battles against censorship in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably over her reprint of Louis Aragon’s Irène which forced her into bankruptcy, but led progressively to relaxations of the rules on obscenity.

Outside France, Régine Deforges was best known for her blockbuster La Bicyclette bleue (1981), an erotically-charged love story set in Vichy France which was the first in a series of 10 novels. The book sold more than 10 million copies in French and in translation, and in 2000 was made into a television series.

This success was undoubtedly boosted by a high-profile legal challenge which began in 1987 when the Trust Co of Georgia, executors of the estate of Margaret Mitchell, noticed glaring similarities between the American writer’s epic Gone with the Wind and Régine Deforges’s novel — not a difficult achievement, since the author herself had acknowledged Margaret Mitchell’s “collaboration” in her foreword, though she claimed that her book was no more than a “pastiche” of the American classic.

The bank sued for plagiarism and, during the two years it took for the case to come to court, Régine Deforges sought to elevate the dispute into a political battle, predicting that a French court would never rule against an honest French writer in favour of a “capitalistic” American bank; meanwhile, she took every opportunity to emphasise that, in contrast to Miss Mitchell’s more decorous work, her own novel was liberally laced with explicit sex scenes.

Régine Deforges’s most popular book

In December 1989 three French judges ruled that La Bicyclette bleue was an “illicit reproduction” “pirated” from Margaret Mitchell’s original, and ordered Régine Deforges and her publisher to pay $330,000 in damages and court costs. However, the judgment was subsequently overturned on appeal.

Régine Marie Deforges was born on August 15 1935 in Montmorillon in the Poitou region of France and educated by nuns. By her own admission a precocious young woman, by her early teens she had read Le Blé en herbe, Colette’s 1923 novel of sexual awakening, and had become familiar “in the hay” with “d’énormes objets masculins”.

In her first published work, however, Le Cahier volé (1978), she recounted in sensual detail a close physical relationship with another girl at her school which led to her being expelled, aged 15, when diary entries in which she described their lovemaking found their way into the hands of the local abbé. In later life she recalled how, after the affair became public, neighbours would taunt her for having “le diable dans la culotte”.

Soon after the scandal broke her family followed her father to Guinea, in west Africa, where he was working. Returning to France after a year, in 1953 Régine Deforges married Pierre Spengler, an insurance agent whom she had met in Conakry. They had a son, but Régine found it impossible to remain faithful.


Her most serious affair began in 1958 after she started working in a bookshop and met Jean-Jacques Pauvert, notorious for publishing the work of the Marquis de Sade and Pauline Réage’s pornographic novel The Story of O. Régine and Pauvert had a daughter, and in 1965, after the breakdown of her marriage to Spengler, they opened a bookshop together.

In 1967 she founded her own publishing imprint, L’Or Du Temps, becoming the first woman to operate a publishing house in France. By the time it had been forced into liquidation in 1972, she had published erotic classics by such writers as Apollinaire, Gautier, Restif La Bretonne and Mandiargues; notched up several convictions for gross indecency; and played a major role in breaking down the barriers of censorship.

Régine Deforges was inspired to try her own hand at writing following an encounter with the author of The Story of O. When it had first been published in 1954, Pauvert had kept the author’s true identity secret, but in the 1970s he arranged for Régine to conduct a series of interviews, published in 1975 as O m’a Dit. Régine Deforges did not reveal the writer’s true identity (it was only in 1994 that the respected journalist and novelist Anne Desclos, who used Pauline Réage as a pen name, outed herself) but she caused a stir by dispelling the common assumption that the author of such a shocking work could only have been a man.

The two women got on famously, discovering a mutual interest in sadomasochistic sex, and it was as a result of Anne Desclos’s encouragement that Régine Deforges launched her own career as an erotic writer.

After Le Cahier volé, most of her novels set her explorations of female sexuality in the context of historical events. Her short stories, however, concentrated more or less exclusively on the female erotic experience, and she published several collections, including Les Contes pervers (also published in comic-book form); Lola et quelques autres (1983); and Rencontres ferroviares (1999).

A striking-looking redhead, Régine Deforges was described in the French press as having a somewhat “sulphurous” quality. A popular guest on television chat shows, she served at various times as president of the Société des gens de lettres and on the jury of the Prix Femina.

In 1984 she married Pierre Wiazemsky (also known as Wiaz), an artist 14 years her junior, with whom she had another daughter.

Régine Deforges, born August 15 1935, died April 3 2014


Great to see the Guardian keeping up Thomas Piketty’s profile (First among unequals, G2, 18 June). We have been here before. For example, Joseph Stiglitz’s Globalisation and Its Discontents pointed out problems. He followed it up with a book of antidotes – Making Globalisation Work. I was enthralled by the first book, and depressed by the second. This was because he gave simple solutions to global problems – but when will they be implemented and who will do it? Capital has a stranglehold on politics and we need a way to break through.
Lorrie Marchington
High Peak, Derbyshire

• Beatrix Potter did not sentimentalise her animals (The truth skinned, 19 June): Peter Rabbit’s father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor, Tom Kitten narrowly escaped being made into a roly-poly pudding by enormous rats, which caused a lifelong trauma, and Squirrel Nutkin was nearly eaten by Old Brown, losing half his tail in getting away. As a farmer, Potter would no doubt have heartily approved of Jeannette Winterson’s actions.
Rachel Marks

• A boy who said that he wanted to be a drummer when he grew up (Letters, 17 June) was warned by a musician that he couldn’t do both.
Stuart Mealing
Holsworthy, Devon

• Other musicians tell lots of unkind jokes about drummers but sometimes drummers get their revenge, as in: what’s the difference between a drummer and a toilet seat? A toilet seat only has to put up with one arsehole at a time.
Bill Lythgoe

• Your correspondent from Salop may have caused shock and amusement when he told his French hosts where he came from (Letters, 19 June), but that’s nothing beside the mirth that I endured the first time I told a Frenchman my surname.
Alan Conn
Morpeth, Northumberland

• What about Oslo, where bookshops are labelled “bugger”?
Ishvara d’Angelo
Totnes, Devon

Simon Jenkins remarked (about recent proposals to bomb Iraq) that “politics remains stuck in Homer’s day, in human vanity and tribal loyalty” (Further Intervention in Iraq? The very idea beggars belief, 18 June). Indeed. And if warfare were not already a respected national institution – if it were not already accepted as the correct ultimate way of resolving disputes – would anybody now think of proposing it? Would someone then solemnly get up and say, “since we are not getting on very well with solving these problems, we had better just go out and start killing each other”? If they did, how would that proposal be accepted?
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne

• In your report on Iraq (18 June) the US state department is quoted as saying that it would be prepared to launch airstrikes, but not “over the head of the Iraqi people”. Is this some new kind of technology?
Nick Boyd
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

As a full-time employee of the NHS for more than 40 years I was delighted to read that the Washington-based Commonwealth Fund, looking at healthcare across the developed world, puts the NHS in pole position overall, despite astonishingly low costs matched only by New Zealand (Expert panel rates NHS world’s best healthcare system, 18 June). This is a colossal achievement and probably represents the best and most realistic assessment of what the NHS is today – despite many pressures and, of course, imperfections, still a remarkable blend of “quality, access and efficiency”. One need hardly add fairness and equity since this blazes out so clearly in comparing our system with, say, the US, where the very best is outstandingly good (I worked there for a year), but the peaks are clearly outweighed by the tragic and shameful troughs (I saw these first-hand too).

It is always a pleasure to look after visitors from the US unexpectedly requiring emergency healthcare here (I have experienced this many times in a long career) and hear their comments – almost always a mixture of admiration and disbelief that our much-maligned healthcare system can offer such compassion and quality without unwelcome and exhausting questions of payment at the point of need.

My pride in reading the report was more-than-somewhat diminished not just by the unfair and repeated brickbats thrown at us by mostly hostile media coverage, but also, and far more importantly, the threats posed by continual reorganisation and what many see as a gradual unravelling of the founding principles of the NHS.

It’s great to see the strong report from Jeremy Hunt, who recognises that the fantastic hard work of NHS staff has now been properly and impartially measured by international experts, but we should trumpet this great achievement more fully.

High marks to the Guardian for the front-page story, but why relegate it to the foot of the page below the photo of a grieving Brazilian football fan?
Jeffrey Tobias
Professor of cancer medicine, UCL, and consultant in clinical oncology, UCL NHS Hospitals Trust

• Steve Richards hits the nail on the head (If people feel powerless it is because they are, 18 June). Last year I wrote to my local MP and asked how decisions were made about the number and location of GP practices. I was concerned because the building of large new estate had not been supported by a new, nearer, health facility. My MP told me to get in touch with the clinical commissioning unit – even I knew that was wrong – but I wrote and asked for my request to be passed on. I eventually spoke to an official. She was helpful but there was no way I could have known (or found out) that her particular office was responsible for GP practices. I spent the latter part of my career as an ombudsman’s investigator. If I couldn’t find out where and how to trace this information, what hope, as Steve Richards says, for the patient who just wants to know why they cannot get an appointment to see their doctor?
Maureen Panton
Malvern, Worcs

• The findings of the Commonwealth Fund’s latest study come as no surprise to those who have steadfastly campaigned to keep our NHS publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable. The media now needs to challenge the politicians’ mantra of “we can’t go on like this” and “we can’t afford the NHS”. We need fewer stories focusing on problems and more celebrating the 1.5 million patients seen by the NHS every 36 hours. We need to ask politicians: “If we can’t afford the NHS, now acknowledged as the most cost-effective service, what are they suggesting we can afford?”
Dr Jacky Davis
Founder member, Keep our NHS Public

• So the NHS has been rated the world’s best healthcare system? Its only black mark is its poor record on keeping people alive. Nothing major then.
Christiane Goaziou
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire

We were delighted by the reported announcement by William Hague at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (Report, 11 June) that the government would investigate the removal of survivors of sexual violence who have claimed asylum in the UK, particularly those from Sri Lanka. There are many credible reports of the widespread use of sexual violence as torture in Sri Lanka, yet survivors of such abuse who have claimed asylum here often struggle to get a fair hearing in the asylum process and many have been threatened with or actually experienced removal to Sri Lanka. There is also substantial evidence of the use of sexual violence as torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and reports that returned asylum seekers are vulnerable to such abuse.

An investigation is therefore much needed. We hope this proposed investigation will consider such evidence and also constitute a meaningful review of the way that sexual violence is treated within the asylum process. Too many survivors of sexual violence who have to cross borders to seek safety are being denied a fair hearing, many are detained and even returned to places where they may be in danger. The current situation is often failing those whom it is designed to protect and traumatising people further. We would also ask Hague and Theresa May to ensure that removals to Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are halted until the investigation is completed. Otherwise we may discover that mistakes have been made that cannot be unmade.

Friday is World Refugee Day and we hope that this is a day when politicians will stand up for the UK’s proud tradition of giving a safe haven to those who come to our shores fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Fred Carver Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, Andy Keefe Freedom from Torture, Natasha Walter Women for Refugee Women, Shami Chakrabarti Liberty, Professor Cornelius Katona Helen Bamber Foundation, Yolanda Foster Amnesty International, Liz McKean End Violence Against Women Coalition

As chairman of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, I want to confirm our position regarding Thai fishing boats supplying fish for the production of fishmeal to the feed mill industry, including CPF (The supermarket slave trail, 11 June).

Through our research and development of alternative protein sources, CPF could walk away from fishmeal. However, doing so would shift the problem to the fishing industry, which is mostly comprised of fishermen earning their living in legal ways. The products of the fishing boats involved in human trafficking and slavery will continue to be purchased by other factories, and the issues around slavery will remain unchanged.

I believe it is better to work within the system, using our buying power to eradicate slavery in the region and make fishing practices fully sustainable. While others talk about it, we are doing it. I confirm as follows:

1) We condemn all aspects of human trafficking and slavery.

2) Under my instruction, CPF has ceased buying fishmeal from suppliers suspected of obtaining bycatch from fishing boats involved in human trafficking or slavery. CPF will involve independent NGOs to routinely audit the legality of the sources of our suppliers.

3) We will conduct an audit on such suppliers to determine if they have been involved in illegal actions. We will stop purchasing meal from suppliers acquiring raw materials from fishing boats involved in human trafficking or slavery, until they can rectify illicit actions.

4) Even though our only link to the fishing industry is our purchase of fishmeal from independent fishmeal suppliers, which we use as a minor ingredient in our production of shrimp feed, CPF will actively assist the relevant authorities in Thailand to strengthen the law enforcement against human trafficking and slavery involving the supply chain of fishmeal.

Under my leadership, CPF is committed to doing the right things and behaving responsibly.
Dhanin Chearavanont
Chairman, Charoen Pokphand Foods, Bangkok, Thailand

Labour‘s policy statement on removing jobseekeers’ allowance from those with skills below level 3, affecting seven out of 10 of young people aged 18 to 21 currently claiming, in order to save £65m, has been described as an incentive to engage with training (Report, 19 June ). This appears to be in response to the IPPR thinktank’s poll, which indicates that 78% of those questioned think the welfare system is unfair to those who contribute towards it.

Labour’s plan hits those with the least and lets those with the most off the hook. Who will be the young people most affected? Will it be the young people who are in the care system, whose experiences have impacted on them so much that they struggle, without considerable support, to stay in education and attain level 3; or maybe those who are living in households where nourishment, both physical and emotional, is scarce. Will these training programmes employ trainers with the skills and knowledge to provide such support?

All of our children need encouragement and support in their life choices. Some young people have to rely on the state to provide those things for them because their circumstances make them vulnerable. Most young people do not hang around claiming JSA thinking to themselves: let’s ruin the economy by doing this. They are desperate to be validated, to be praised, to be told they are worth something. Removing their JSA and forcing, not encouraging them, into work training is just punitive.
Liz McAteer

Ed Miliband ought to understand the structure and purpose of vocational qualifications before launching ill-considered policy aimed at reducing youth unemployment. The aims of vocational qualifications were outlined in a government report published in 1986. These are the combination of knowledge, skills and understanding to: undertake repetitive work under supervision (level 1); to work with confidence under reduced levels of supervsion and undertake work requiring higher levels of skill (level 2); to work without supervision and to supervise others (level 3); and, subsequently, to work in managerial capacities (levels 4 and 5). In recognition that skills were required to enter the workplace, a basic-level qualification was added later which included literacy, numeracy, personal presentation, attitude and time-keeping.

These qualifications formed the basis of Youth Training Schemes for many years. They were, however, devalued in by highly bureaucratic administration. It appears that Labour is still not capable of differentiating between the academic and vocational, and sees vocational qualifications as a route for those with lower academic qualifications to become “respectable” to employers by gaining these “other” qualifications. There is an absence of understanding that vocational qualifications are gained in or close to the workplace. Assuming a level of supervision in the workforce of one to one, which is plainly ridiculous, still only half could possibly attain a level 3 NVQ. To suggest otherwise is to do a disservice to those being pushed into a contrived approach to work-related study which will lead to further alienation of those blackmailed into particiaption. It is perhaps only to be expected from a party which has lost its working-class roots (Labour picks Westminster insiders for key seats, 18 June)
Andy Hawkins
Cupar, Fife

• Nick Pearce’s surrender agenda (Comment, 18 June) should be rejected by all those who remain committed to an inspiring, transformative economic and social agenda for Britain. While it is vital to construct a popular welfare-state narrative, the means championed by the IPPR are not the way forward. His version of localism, based as it is on diverse, fragmented forms of co-production and wasteful competition for human and financial resources, is not the panacea for the good society. Instead attention needs to be given to ensuring that all citizens can enjoy the security and opportunities of a civilised life which their more fortunate compatriots take for granted. Ever more diluted versions of social democracy based on contentment with one’s lot and the odd friendly word with a neighbour is no substitute for the bold and imaginative tax and spend policies that are urgently needed in the areas of youth unemployment, house-building and social care, if growing levels of social inequality and division are to be reversed.
Robert Page

• Ed Miliband’s plans to incentivise unemployed young people to enter training by cutting their benefits will fail to address the problem of youth unemployment because that problem is a structural one, designed into the neoliberal economic order along the lines prescribed by Milton Friedman. Did his father not teach him anything? If the Labour party is serious about addressing the “long-standing pressures on work” it will need to adopt progressive fiscal and social policies – such as investment in public services – capable of generating sustainable apprenticeships and job opportunities, paid for through a progressive and fair tax system.
Charlie Cooper
Lecturer in community & youth work studies, School of Social Sciences, University of Hull


Jonathan Brown’s otherwise excellent article on “rabbit-hutch Britain” (18 June) omitted some of the major reasons for the underlying trend of building smaller houses.

As a councillor dealing with planning applications, I regularly see plans for mixed development of three-, four- and five-bedroom homes being crammed on to ever smaller sites by developers to maximise profit.

The Government’s planning guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework encourages this high-density building to meet the housing needs of the future. The result of these two factors is rabbit-hutch houses that are built too close together, with pocket-handkerchief gardens that are not suitable for families.

This is not a recent problem. My own home, built in the late Sixties, is nominally a three-bedroom house, but in reality the third bedroom is barely able to accommodate a bed and wardrobe for my adult son. As more adult children, unable to buy or rent a home of their own, stay in the family home, we need bigger rather than smaller rooms in our homes.

I would support a minimum room and garden standard in new developments that can be enforced by planning authorities, but I suspect that such a policy would not be popular with developers or with the Government.

Debbie Boote



A family flat has three bedrooms, one for mum and dad and one each for the two teenage children coping with homework and puberty.

Here in London the rent being asked for these flats by such as my landlord, the philanthropic Peabody Charitable Trust, is proving to be too much for a couple of key workers with kids. They can only be afforded by three working adults living in multiple occupancy. This deprives our communities of the balance of young and old and it deprives hardworking families of family homes.

Nik Wood

London E9


Our unfair system of education

Alan Bennett’s premise that private education is unfair, and promotes an unfair society, sounds simple enough, as most truths are (The Big Read, 19 June). My father, who died a year ago, always said that in order to move forward we had to nationalise the banks, and remove private education.

I managed to pass my 11-plus, went to a state grammar school (patchy teaching, not at all as wonderful as some people would have you believe), and was told to apply for Oxbridge. I immediately thought: “No, it’s not for people like me, from a Cardiff council estate.”

So I went  to Leeds University, and the first 10 men I met there were public school boys. And I thought by going to Leeds I was at least going to be with likeminded people. Ha! And they were the ones who hadn’t even managed to get into Oxbridge.

Alan Bennett is right, the education system is unfair, and I have tried to spend the last 32 years righting that wrong, working of course, in the state sector. Not very effectively, it feels, as it remains as unfair as it ever was, much to our shame.

Lin Hawkins

Ashcott, Somerset


Lib Dems did their duty to the country

I recently stood as a candidate in the local elections for the Liberal Democrats. What struck me when out canvassing was how many people still blame the Lib Dems for tuition fees, even though they are the only major party opposed to them.

The fact that the Labour Party freely chose to break the principle of free education and set the precedent of tuition fees seems forgotten. They also set up the commission into university funding which reported in the first months of the Coalition recommending a virtual free market in fees, which no doubt would have led to a situation where only the children of the rich could attend Russell Group universities.

It was the Liberal Democrats, with only 65 MPs, who stopped that and changed the whole structure of fees so that even though the headline debt tripled the repayments were reduced. This has led to a larger number of students coming from low income families than ever before.

Of course a pledge was made and broken. They could have opted out of the Coalition, and left it to the Tories to form a minority government with the Ulster Unionists. However they knew that to keep the economy afloat the Government would have to keep borrowing. It’s unlikely an unstable minority government would have been able to keep borrowing at AAA rates. The Tories at the mercy of their own Tea Party faction would have been forced to slash and burn the welfare state, feeling fully justified in doing so.

The nation’s debt levels are astronomical. We could easily have had a depression on the scale of the 1930s. The fact that we haven’t is down to the stability of the Coalition. That the Liberal Democrats put the interests of the country before the interests of their party is why I still support them.

Alan Juriansz

Twickenham, Middlesex


Have we forgotten how to be British?

Two years ago the Olympics legacy was supposed to have united us as one nation. Now, after such a short time, the Government has to start all over again by telling us how to be British. What happened? Perhaps relocating the World Cup from Qatar would help for a week or two.

Len Jones

Congleton, Cheshire


So 95 per cent of Britons think that to be British you have to speak English (“Graduates four times more likely to back immigration”, 17 June). This seems distressingly restrictive. Is there no room for Welsh? Let alone Gaelic, Manx, Cornish? Have we really become so narrow minded?

Michael O’Hare

Northwood, Middlesex

Have you queued for a bus lately? In London, at least, an amorphous crowd forms, from which the most assertive compete to barge on first. If an orderly queue is an index of Britishness, I fear we are no longer British.

David Ridge

London N19


Greetings from the Black Country

As an incomer to the Black Country thirty years ago I observed the term “Ow bist” used as a greeting, in use along with many other terms such as “am” for  “are”, and “we” instead of “us”. This transforms, locally, the name of a well-know toy chain store into “Toys am we”.

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent


Moment of glory  for England

My favourite moment in the World Cup (Grace Dent, 17 June) was when Sturridge scored for England.

I jumped in the air, ran into my garden shouting “Gooooooooal!” in the dark – and fell into my pond. Magic.

Stan Labovitch


British jihadists ‘walk through’ airports

Concerns, recently articulated by David Cameron, referring to the number of UK and UK-based jihadists training and fighting abroad have been expressed by Special Branch and counter-terrorist officers for many years.

In 1995 at Heathrow I stopped two British passport holders who arrived from Pakistan, and the chilling documentation in their possession showed clearly that they had been comprehensively terrorist-trained.

Intelligence poured into Special Branch clearly illustrating the scale of the problem, yet in 1998 Jack Straw, then the Home Secretary, to the fury of police and immigration officers, abolished embarkation (departure) controls.

That means that even in today’s world, ridden with terrorism, 99 per cent of passengers will board flights in the UK without passing under the eyes of any UK law-enforcement officer.

The saving was £3m a year and successive Home Secretaries have ignored pleas for these controls to be reintroduced.

Former colleagues I have spoken to believe that despite the increasing number of arrests of returning jihadists, it is generally far too easy for most of these individuals to enter and leave the UK. As one despairing officer told me it’s a “walk in the park” and most trained UK jihadists remain below the intelligence radar.

Instead of shredding the morale of the police service, who of course will be in the front line when the predicted jihadist attack occurs, today’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, should listen to front-line counter-terrorist and Border Force officers and strengthen our borders.

Chris Hobbs

London W7

The writer was formerly an officer with the Metropolitan Police Special  Branch

It seems that David Cameron, the “heir to Blair”, is aping his hero in trying to stun the public into compliance with his paranoid policies (“Isis extremists plan to attack us in the UK, warns Cameron”, 19 June).

Only the “within 45 minutes” was missing.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham le Willows,  Suffolk


Only Germans are less friendly than the British, official figures have shown. Why is that?

Sir, Professor Furedi’s observation that people in Britain may be lonelier than those in other European countries due to a lack of intergenerational mixing is an uncomfortable truth (“A nation of loners: only Germans are less friendly than the British”, June 19).

As the number of older people living in the UK increases, the idea that our younger and older generations will continue to live segregated lives seems implausible but sadly not impossible. Older people have a great deal to offer society, and clearly aren’t the only ones in need of companionship and a sense of community.

Today is National Care Home Open Day, when thousands of care homes around the country will aim to connect residents with their local communities, showing the great things that happen in care homes every day. All of us, young and old, should take this opportunity to speak to the older people living around us. Who knows who will benefit the most?

Jane Ashcroft

Chief executive, Anchor

Sir, When my husband died in the Sixties and I was bringing up three children on my own, my parents were living in the area and helped. Now that I am old, my children have families of their own, live in other parts of the country and work erratic hours. They keep in touch by phone and text, but I see them only occasionally. Several of my friends also have none of their family close by. This week one of my close friends died and another is housebound, so I visit her.

I am beginning to wonder who will visit me when and if I find it difficult to get about. However, I do have good neighbours — thank goodness.

Anne Bartlett

Poole, Dorset

Sir, Many people will have been appalled to learn that the UK may be one of the loneliest places to live in Europe. Not only is it worrying to think that many older people are living with profound loneliness, but we also know that this can have a catastrophic effect on our health and wellbeing.

The problem with the government data published yesterday is that it can really only give us a proxy measure of the problem, because it did not measure loneliness directly, only some of its consequences.

Currently we only routinely measure loneliness among those who are in care or who are caring for others. We need the government to commit to measuring loneliness across the whole population so that we can better direct our limited local resources to tackle this issue before it develops into serious medical conditions.

Laura Ferguson

Director, Campaign to End Loneliness

Sir, Further to your editorial “Not Only the Lonely” (June 19), I would add that loneliness is also being tackled by Action on Hearing Loss. Many older people suffer because of hearing loss and feel incapable of seeking help. Deafness and hearing problems make the loneliness even worse, by creating islands in the midst of cities.

David Stanford

Welling, Kent

Just what should we do about the infestation of bats in some of our historic churches?

Sir, All lovers of historic churches will welcome Jean Wilson’s attack on bats in churches (June 17). The brass of Sir Hugh Hastings at Elsing in Norfolk, a world-famous work of medieval art that has been the subject of major and expensive conservation programmes, is now covered with acidic green spots of bat urine. That is just one example among thousands. This crazy and unnecessary destruction must be stopped.

Professor WJ Blair

The Queen’s College, Oxford

Sir, Could not listed buildings and other designated heritage assets be made exempt from the protection currently given to bats and other species perceived to be threatened?

The damage caused is more than their droppings and includes having to carry out building maintenance and repairs at the wrong time of year so as to minimise disturbance to colonies. The impact on the species concerned would be minor, and the benefit to the listed buildings major.

As has been seen with badgers, numbers recover quite quickly, but damage to a listed building can be irreversible.

Hugh Feilden

(Architect), London WC1

Is the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley right to say that ‘exams are set for robots and marked by robots’?

Sir, Sir Antony Gormley thinks that exams are set for robots (report, June 18). Perhaps he should be grateful that his structural engineers for the Angel of the North took the trouble to take some exams before realising his project. He could also be grateful similarly to his doctor, accountant and lawyer.

We clearly need a balance between inspiration and rigour.

Christopher Stone

(Architect) Little Eaton, Derbyshire

Just what should we do about the infestation of bats in some of our historic churches?

Sir, All lovers of historic churches will welcome Jean Wilson’s attack on bats in churches (June 17). The brass of Sir Hugh Hastings at Elsing in Norfolk, a world-famous work of medieval art that has been the subject of major and expensive conservation programmes, is now covered with acidic green spots of bat urine. That is just one example among thousands. This crazy and unnecessary destruction must be stopped.

Professor WJ Blair

The Queen’s College, Oxford

Sir, Could not listed buildings and other designated heritage assets be made exempt from the protection currently given to bats and other species perceived to be threatened?

The damage caused is more than their droppings and includes having to carry out building maintenance and repairs at the wrong time of year so as to minimise disturbance to colonies. The impact on the species concerned would be minor, and the benefit to the listed buildings major.

As has been seen with badgers, numbers recover quite quickly, but damage to a listed building can be irreversible.

Hugh Feilden

(Architect), London WC1

The Newsnight presenter puts the record straight about his so-called ‘swipe at the BBC’

Sir, Making mischief is the chief delight of journalism. But your reporter, who quotes me as saying “I hate this place” in an interview with Channel 4’s great newsman and busker Jon Snow, really ought to have mentioned that the comment followed an expansive gesture in which Snow made clear that he was referring to the new BBC building in Portland Place (report, June 19). The edifice is every bit as hubristic, absurd and uncomfortable as the BBC series W1A suggested. It is also much grubbier.

For the record — and for all its frustrations — I believe the BBC to be one of the nation’s greatest institutions. I hugely admire its ambitions. And I am proud to have worked there for many decades.

Jeremy Paxman

London W11

Nice’s proposals ‘could further reduce access to cancer drugs that patients’ doctors recommend’

Sir, The Government has promised that patients will be able to access the drugs their doctors recommend. Today is the deadline for making comments on proposals by Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for translating this commitment into reality. However, far from improving matters we believe that the current Nice proposals could further reduce access over time.

As cancer charities we see the direct impact that refusal to fund new medicines has on individual patients. What is needed is an approach that has at its heart the understanding that every patient is an individual, every treatment is personal. Any new method of assessing the value of a medicine needs to take into account not just an often narrow clinical definition of benefit, but the personal benefits to each patient and the potential benefits of providing a new drug that are yet unseen. Nice needs to develop an approach that recognises the real experience of patients, who often benefit in unforeseen ways as a result of having been given new medicines.

The UK has an extraordinary record in cancer treatment development, but there is little point in developing new treatments if they cannot be used to help patients. Nice must respond to these legitimate concerns raised by patients and their doctors. If not, it will be up to politicians to act to ensure their promise is kept.

Mark Flannagan, Beating Bowel Cancer; Nick Turkentine, James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer; Andrew Wilson, Rarer Cancers Foundation; Paula Chadwick, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Annwen Jones, Target Ovarian Cancer; Robert Music, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Not all school dinners used to be ghastly. Some were rather nice — especially in South Kensington…

Sir, Not all school dinners were over-cooked and institutionalised (Times2, June 18). In the late Forties I was an English pupil at the Lycée Francais in South Kensington. We were served a hot lunch every day — many times it was an identifiable white fish in white sauce — but it was served in entrée dishes, along with potatoes and vegetables. The manners and habits of home and school thus merged happily and everyone ate what was on the menu.

The dishes were always sent back empty.

Gillian Pilcher



Only wi-fi brings music down from the cloud

To rely on iPads in church, you need wi-fi there too

A tablet-shaped view of Christmas Day Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem  Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 19 Jun 2014

Comments28 Comments

SIR – Lord Lloyd-Webber is quite right about the need for wi-fi to be installed in churches (report, June 13). As a retired clergyman, helping to cover many churches in Cornwall and further afield, I use my iPad for all services (apart from funerals). I deliver sermons and conduct the whole of the baptism and marriage services from it.

The drive to services can be stressful, as I worry that my documents will have been taken up into “the cloud” and won’t be accessible. Last Christmas, I purchased music on my iPad to sing along to during the Christmas Day service at the lovely church of Burstow in Surrey. I arrived to find that it couldn’t be retrieved without wi-fi. My only recourse was to rush from the front of the church to the organ at the back to accompany the carols and back to the front again to continue the service.

Rev Charles Sargent
Newquay, Cornwall

SIR – Do Not Resuscitate orders are usually in the patients’ best interests. Dying is hard and often unpleasant. Why do it twice in quick succession? But doctors now have a legal obligation to inform and consult with patients and relatives if they wish to place such an order. This is desirable but often impractical.

The same doctors do not have an obligation to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation if they believe it to be medically futile. The change in the rules will simply lead to fewer DNR orders being signed and patients will suffer for it. A colleague once stated that when he got to a certain point in his sixties he would tattoo “Don’t even think about it” across his chest, having seen the horrors of inappropriate resuscitation.

If patients and their relatives had practised medicine they would be able to make an informed decision, but they haven’t and they can’t. This new legal duty serves no useful purpose.

Dr Alexander Barber
Camberley, Surrey

Passport delays

SIR – Tony Newport (Letters, June 14) suggests that many of the recent problems experienced by passport applicants were due to laziness or ignorance.

We were two of the unfortunates who were not able to go on holiday and lost the cost of our flights. The information on the Passport Office website stated that three weeks should be allowed to process a normal adult renewal. This was still being stated on the website and telephone line even at the height of the problem.

I telephoned every other day for a week before we were due to fly and was told on each occasion that I would receive a reply within 48 hours. I did not.

Eventually, on the day that we should have flown, someone did contact me. I explained that if we could go to a Passport Office in person we would rebook our outward flight and then still be able to use our existing return tickets. This was not possible as our applications were somewhere in the system – perhaps in Durham or Belfast.

We have learnt that our application was received on May 1 (for a flight on June 9) but not opened until May 6.

Gillian Grafton
Ilminster, Somerset

I’d have scored that!

SIR – I do not understand why my husband was not chosen for one of the teams competing in the World Cup. Or even to referee in it.

Our home commentary is far from dull.

Gay Fearn
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

SIR – Nice though it is to see so many flags of St George flying during the World Cup, it would be nicer to see them being flown every year on St George’s Day.

John Frankel
Kingsclere, Berkshire

Chicken sink drama

SIR – Let me get this right. I mustn’t wash my chicken before I cook it because it will spread infection.

I take the chicken out of its wrapping. I wash my hands, having handled the chicken. Now I’m now going to prepare my chicken for cooking. But having done so, I mustn’t touch the salad, fridge door or other kitchen utensils. Wouldn’t it have been better to have just washed the chicken in the first place?

Mark H Pearson
Prenton, Wirral

Longer school days

SIR – The idea of extending the hours of the school day to support “working-class” children is not new.

In the Eighties, “community schools” introduced flexible, extended timetables to allow such support. Schools opened from early morning to late at night for children and parents, with staff working on a rota.

Sadly, as usual with our politically dominated education system, the initiative was not allowed to be evaluated fully, being overtaken by the next short-term big idea. Policy-makers must realise that education needs well-conceptualised teaching and learning strategies, not quick fixes.

Professor Bill Boyle
Tarporley, Cheshire

Ready seasoned rabbit

SIR – I wonder if Jeanette Winterson could tell us how she caught the rabbit that ate her parsley. I have the same problem, only mine, when captured, will taste of fennel.

B C Thomas
Taunton, Somerset

Th’ alternative rule

SIR – Cherry Cray (Letters, June 17) complains of the loss of long “e” in the word the before a vowel. Here, I’m often asked if I have “been to t’ Turf” when I’ve been following my football team, Burnley. If the word following has a long vowel, th’ precedes it. So it is th’ Orient, but t’ other.

Colin Walker

Stuck on hold

SIR – Christopher Binns (Letters, June 18) had to hang on the phone listening to We Have All The Time In The World. Some time ago I found myself listening to U2’s Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of when put on hold by a high-street chemist.

Meg Hunt
Exeter, Devon

Kicking up a row

SIR – The last people to take their seats in the theatre (Letters, June 18) are often seated in the middle of a row because such people tend to be dilatory by nature. This is reflected also in their leaving booking seats to the last moment and thus being denied more favourable places at the end of rows.

Nigel Milliner
Tregony, Cornwall

Why fewer insects go splat on the windscreen

SIR – That there are fewer squashed flieson the car windscreen (Letters, June 16) may be due to the impossibility of a sustained high-speed run on Britain’s overcrowded and under-maintained roads, rather than to significant changes in vehicle design or fly numbers.

David Warden
English Bicknor, Gloucestershire

SIR – I notice very few when driving in Britain yet still find them on the windscreen on the Continent. Could it be that there are many more cars on British roads, and therefore the numbers of dead insects are divided among more cars?

W A Sykes
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – I was glad to read Adrian Waller’s letter (June 17) noting the reduced insect population in Yorkshire.

I have been doing my best to inhale or swallow as many as I can while cycling, and am glad that my efforts are at last having a noticeable effect.

Dr Andrew Inglis
Acaster, North Yorkshire

SIR – We are told that insects will survive long after man has become extinct. Could their lower mortality rate on windscreens be because they have learnt to avoid cars?

Edward Allhusen
Moretonhampstead, Devon

SIR – These letters lead to another puzzle. If a fly travelling at 5mph northbound collides with a car travelling at 60mph southbound, the fly has to decelerate from 5mph to zero and then accelerate up to 60mph in the opposite direction.

For the instant that the fly is at zero, but in contact with the car windscreen, then the car must also be at zero mph. The fly has evidently stopped the car in its tracks.

John Snook
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – David Blair, your Chief Foreign Correspondent (report, June 18), correctly predicted that reopening the British embassy in Tehran would be seen by Iran as a victory. Worse still, it has damaged our negotiating power as we seek to discourage Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons programme. For Iran now sees William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, as weak and foolish.

PressTV, an organ of the Iranian government, commented yesterday that “in making the announcement of opening a UK embassy in Tehran, Hague was his usual pompous, self-righteous self. He said that Iran was being pressed to reach a deal with the P5+1 and to promote stability in the region [Middle East]. … Hague is a master of smug, stultifying hypocrisy. If you listen to him, you immediately want to rush out for some decent fresh air. But, like others, hypocrites often need help. …Yet, we must all try to be gracious when fools are revealed as fools even though they have not yet really admitted it.”

In my view, having watched him closely since our university days together, Mr Hague is a brilliant man and full of good intentions, as is Barack Obama. Yet they both appear to be being outwitted, like Neville Chamberlain in the run-up to his Munich agreement with Hitler.

If Iran is allowed to maintain its nuclear armaments industry, the potential consequences for us all are just as dire.

Andrew M Rosemarine
Salford, Lancashire

SIR – Isis is highly organised and very rich. Before capturing weapons from the fleeing Iraqi army and plundering the Mosul treasury, it already had significant weapons and funding.

Who has financed Isis and what is their objective? The latter looks to be causing prolonged Sunni-Shia warfare.

Lord Flight
London SW1

SIR – Given the current chaos in the Middle East, is it not time to contemplate the possibility that democracy may not be the best way to govern some countries?

Robert Courteney-Harris
Stone, Stafffordshire

SIR – David Cameron says he will concentrate on stopping British nationals leaving the country to fight for the extremists. Surely it would be more sensible to allow them to go but not let them back. Outlaw them.

Peter Clery
Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire

SIR – The question about whether there are “enough good Muslims in the Arab world able to rise up and defend Islam” from evil men (Letters, 17 June) raises the parallel question about why there were not enough good Westerners able to rise up and prevent the war in Iraq.

There is also the unspoken question about what Christians should be doing.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Motorists and pedestrians who have no experience of cycling may believe that a cycle lane is ideal for cyclists, and that they are legally obliged to use them when provided. Neither is the case. Cyclists are legally entitled to use roadways, regardless of whether someone has seen fit to create a supposed cycling lane adjacent to the road.

The principal reason many cyclists continue to use the road, rather than cycle lanes, is that many cycle lanes are poorly designed, poorly maintained or poorly segregated from other road traffic. I am aware of “cycle lanes” that are interrupted every 50 metres by dangerous gratings, are too narrow to facilitate safe cycling, are painted along the side of roadways leaving the outer lane too narrow for cars to pass, end abruptly at high kerbs or signposts, or, in the case of a recently created high-profile lane in Cork, used daily as a car park. Even those lanes that are usable are frequently filled with uneven surfaces and road debris, including broken glass, a major hazard to bicycle tyres.

I suspect that many of these lanes have been created by councils anxious to show that they have designated a given number of kilometres for cyclists, but bereft of the roadspace or resources to create safe, usable lanes.

Many “designated cycle lanes” share footpaths with pedestrians, inviting conflict and accidents unless both groups of users rigidly confine themselves to their designated lanes, thereby limiting the amount of footpath available for walkers.

It would be helpful if councils would stop creating the impression among the non-cycling public that adequate cycle lanes have been provided, and restrict themselves to creating such lanes that can actually be safely used, and then maintaining them.– Yours, etc,


Menloe Gardens,



Sir, – Surely it is time for a congestion charge broadly within the confines of the area currently covered by the five-axle truck ban in Dublin city centre?

We currently and ridiculously levy a substantial toll on a three-lane superhighway around the city centre (M50) while allowing traffic to crawl into the city centre every morning uncharged, much of it to untaxed city centre car park spaces, which are often provided free of charge by the State and other big employers to their employees. This traffic emerges later that evening, all at the same time, clogging our streets and seriously compromising the efficacy of our public bus system.

A congestion charge would instantly free up road space for cyclists, buses and people who genuinely need to be there. – Yours, etc,


Griffeen Glen Way,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – As residents of the Smithfield/Stoneybatter area of the capital, we heartily welcome Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan’s courageous initiative to reduce the flow of cars along the North Quays, and to provide for safer cycling journeys. Those not living in the vicinity of the quays, but rather driving through en route to work, shopping or entertainment, will find it difficult to imagine the impact for local people of the long-term prioritising of motorised transport in the city centre. These include numerous cyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries, serious and ongoing health risks from reduced air quality, and ongoing noise pollution.

An individual driver commuting to work along this route may believe that they are simply going about their business in a convenient manner, and seek to ease this journey. It is the cumulative effect of tens of thousands of such commuter decisions made each day that is of concern to many residents in areas adjoining the quays. Accepting such a scenario as normal is where the real “madness” lies. In the public interest, we call on our city representatives to support unreservedly the implementation of this plan, a small step towards reclaiming the neglected river banks for more multifaceted public use. – Yours, etc,



Finn Street,

Stoneybatter, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Carl O’Brien’s analysis (“Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals: the last gap in our history of ‘coercive confinement’?” June 16th) should be read by all concerned about how we in the Ireland of today care for the unloved, the dispirited and ultimately the outsider.

During the lifetime of Trust (almost 40 years) we have met many people who were locked away in reformatories, psychiatric hospitals and eventually hostels, all part of the institutional chain. We have met people too who worked in those institutions, unable at times to describe their feelings of frustration of a life lived in an atmosphere of poverty. Those people never became part of the expert groups that flourished in the recent past and their thoughts were rarely if ever expressed.

Looking at what is happening today could well help us reach the conclusion that there has been little change. The pain of living a life unloved and unwanted must be unbearable.

I am mindful of the words of the late Tony Gill who used our service for many years, had spent time in institutions and is now buried in our plot in Glasnevin: “Today I spoke to no one, And nobody spoke to me. Am I dead?”

Accommodation for homeless people is impossible to access. Parks, Garda stations, tents, derelict buildings, shop doorways, etc, fill the gap.

Dr Ivor Browne recalls with shame the era of “barbaric treatment” but feels there is little to be gained in digging up the past. I agree.

Of course, it could easily salve our conscience to apportion blame without looking at the wider issues, especially the role of the State, the inadequate funding and the offloading of responsibility to other bodies. All of this is happening today. How will history judge us? – Yours, etc,



Bride Road, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke’s motion on the 1916 commemorations stresses that they belong to those who gave their lives in 1916 (Front Page, June 19th).

The civilians killed certainly deserve to be remembered. Remembering them may temper any desire to celebrate those whose actions caused their untimely deaths. – Yours, etc,


The Court,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – I cannot see why any of the relatives of those who took up arms in 1916 would be opposed to the presence of members of the British royal family in 2016. I’m sure both groups would get along famously since they both evidently believe in the aristocratic principle that certain people should always be deferred to because of their ancestry. – Yours, etc,


Castle Grove,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Contrary to Donald Clarke’s claim that no Government wants to talk about banning tobacco (“Plain talking about cigarettes, Opinion & Analysis, June 15th), in 2013 the Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Ireland document sets out over 60 actions aimed at lowering smoking prevalence to 5 per cent in 2025. This inevitably raises the issue of banning tobacco at some stage.

Mr Clarke claims that if such a ban were introduced, arguments could be made for banning alcohol and other substances. Yet he misses the point that tobacco is the most deadly consumer product ever marketed. It kills when used as it is supposed to be used and is responsible for over 5,000 deaths in this country each year.

It is therefore in a category on its own; nobody is talking about banning alcohol.

Plain packaging of tobacco has been shown in dozens of high-quality studies internationally to reduce the appeal of tobacco to smokers, including children; and to increase the likelihood that they will take notice of health warnings and to prevent the tobacco industry from giving misleading messages about the dangers of tobacco. For this reason, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland is strongly supportive of Minister for Health James Reilly and the Government on this issue.

As Nicola Roxon, former minister for health and former attorney general in Australia, pointed out in “Plain lessons from Australia” (Opinion & Analysis, June 18th), the multinational tobacco industry spends a lot of money designing cigarette packs aimed at attracting new smokers (overwhelmingly children) and is extremely worried at the prospect of losing the last remaining vestige of advertising in Ireland. They are currently orchestrating a massive campaign aimed at intimidating the Irish Government to try to overturn the introduction of plain packaging. Our children and our grandchildren would not thank us for bowing to this intimidation. – Yours, etc,



Policy Group

on Tobacco,

Royal College

of Physicians of Ireland,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Martin Wolf rightly warns that effective global action to limit climate change would necessarily spell ruin for investors in fossil fuel industries (“A climate fix would ruin investors”, June 18th).

However he neglects to mention the unfortunate flip-side of this bet – that continued failure of global climate action spells absolute ruin for us all. This yields as clear a “lose-lose” wager as one can imagine.

With all due respect to Mr Wolf’s undoubted expertise, it seems to me that the wise investor should dump her fossil fuel portfolio as soon as possible – before the rush starts! – Yours, etc,


Faculty of Engineering

and Computing,

Dublin City University,

Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Ireland could and probably should do more to ease problems of negative equity, but doing do by adjusting property taxes as Prof Thomas Piketty suggests (Front Page and Weekend Review, June 14th) is a thoroughly bad idea.

The property tax is not intended as a wealth tax, even though on average richer people live in more expensive houses and pay more tax than poorer people, and it therefore reduces the inequality of disposable income.

Its main purpose is to pay for the infrastructure and services that every house requires and which cannot or, in the case of waste disposal, should not be financed on a pay-as-you-go basis. It also increases the costs of leaving housing space underutilised.

Its absence during the Celtic Tiger years, combined with extremely high stamp duty, positively discouraged the elderly from downsizing, and failed to penalise those who left inherited houses unoccupied.

By reducing the supply of property to the housing market, it contributed to the rise in house prices, and to the problems of mortgage repayments and negative equity that burden so many households today. – Yours, etc,


Shanganagh Terrace,


Sir, – Geoff Scargill’s claim (June 17th) that Fianna Fáil was “the party that drove the State into the worst financial crisis in its history” ignores the reality that the opposition led by Fine Gael, supported it and actually sought greater expenditure.

Also, while Fine Gael “may have garnered increasing respect for us on the world stage”, what about the price paid by the weakest and most vulnerable in society and at the cost of huge unemployment here?

It bears saying that the reason the figures for the unemployed are not so much higher is because of the vast numbers who had to leave our country to find employment.

There is little hope for the future if the present Government is being touted as better than the previous one. It seems that delusion is the name of the game regarding Irish politics. Hopefully a new party will emerge that will engage with looking after our own people before seeking the approval of the undemocratic European Union. – Yours, etc,



Donegal Town.

Sir, – I fully support the sentiments expressed by Senator Catherine Noone in relation to tackling childhood obesity (June 17th). While education is indeed warranted, the strategy needs to be multifactorial due to the complexity of the problem.

It seems unfair to dismiss efforts to encourage better dietary choices as nannyish regulation when recent discussions around medical card provision and care standards in our hospitals suggest that a Mary Poppins-style State is welcomed back when dealing with illness, including that secondary to obesity. Surely the least we can do is reflect on the “spoonful of sugar” advice? – Yours, etc,


Eglinton Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – I would be intrigued to discover what section of the public Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins TD believed he was representing by asking for clemency for a convicted drug dealer (“Collins wrote to judge seeking leniency for drug dealer”, June 19th). – Yours, etc,


Shannon Cove,

Dromod, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I am writing in response to the letter from the Department of Education and Skills (June 19th) regarding special needs assistants.

While the letter appears plausible, it might interest readers to read some or all of the circular 0030/2014 to which it refers. Anyone who reads this circular will understand why all parents of special-needs children have concerns.

And surely it would be better for the department to rewrite the circular instead of asking the National Council for Special Education “to develop an information booklet” to explain it? – Yours, etc,



Carrick on Shannon,

Co Roscommon.

Sir, – In your editorial “Staying the fiscal course” (June 18th) you set out reasons for supporting a fiscal adjustment of €2 billion.

As almost an aside, in an attempt to give the piece some balance, you state that the adjustment to date “has taken its toll”, without spelling out in equal detail what that toll has been.

Perhaps you would allow me to elucidate that statement? The people have been ground down. – Yours, etc,


Annville Drive,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I had been thinking of trying a little male modelling but Maggie Armstrong’s article on Sam Homan (“Being a male model is ‘not a glamorous life. It’s super lonely’”, Life and Style, June 18th) has put me quite off the idea. In time I might resign myself to the thought that I would be paid less than female models. But, really, 148 per cent less? No thanks. – Yours, etc,


Temple Villas,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Why, in these days of instantaneous communication, does it take several days, to a week, to process an electronic bank transfer (from one Irish bank account to another)? And why on earth do our banks (unlike most other businesses catering to the public) not open on Saturdays?

Just because these things are “the way it’s always been done”, it doesn’t mean we should have to put up with such needlessly poor service. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock Lodge,

Newtown Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a student of All Hallows, it amazes me that a “college of Dublin City University” (a message plastered on everything in All Hallows) is allowed to fail. The connection with DCU is cold comfort to us and should be a warning to other students from other DCU colleges who may rely on that very loose connection. – Yours, etc,


Downside Heights,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Reading of the latest scandals arising from a past that seems to be growing darker by the day, my thoughts strayed to the 1916 Rising and the lofty ideals that inspired our Patriot Dead.

The Easter Proclamation pledged, among other things, to cherish all the children of the nation equally. In 1922, we got the chance to translate those ideals into reality but we didn’t do that. Within months of independence, boys and girls in industrial schools were being subjected to a level of brutality far above that experienced in those same institutions before we won our freedom. The schools had been handed over to religious orders that ran them as they saw fit. Hence began a long litany of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

For so many women, the new Ireland proved to be a little piece of hell. Just as someone had quietly deleted the image of a woman patriot from a photo taken during the Rising, so were the human rights of women, especially single mothers, airbrushed out of the new order that replaced the power of the black and tan with that of the black and soutane. The Magdalene laundries filled up, and from the earliest days of Irish “freedom”, babies were being snatched from their “fallen” mothers to be sold for adoption, while other babies were dying, as we now know, in large numbers in the mother-and-baby homes.

Countless babies that died without baptism were buried secretly, with no funerals as their souls were believed to have gone to Limbo, denied entrance into Heaven to atone for not having been christened. We’ll never know how many unmarked graves lie beneath the fertile soil of Ireland.

Ideas abound on how we should celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Politicians and political parties will undoubtedly vie for the honour of laying claim to that proud patriotic legacy. Here’s a suggestion. Directly facing the GPO, opposite the reviewing stand containing the politicians, celebrities and assorted pillars of society, a massive display board could be mounted with a series of murals depicting the truth of our dishonourable and not so distant past:

Children being flogged by grown adults in a grim institution, their voices unheard by an uncaring conservative society; women slaving in a Magdalene punishment centre under the supervision of God’s chosen, having been signed in by their families or other “concerned citizens”; images of men and women wrongly consigned to mental institutions by their families because they didn’t “fit in”; and a depiction of an innocent baby and her “fallen” mother in one of those homes.




Now that we are getting a bit of sunshine, there will be a slew of snide comments deriding men with white legs crisscrossed by broken veins, knobbly knees, sandals and socks, wearing shorts. I am that man. I celebrate the years of decrepitude and the iron will that resists the current obsession with the bland, perfect body.




As we drive around the country this summer we should all enjoy the beautiful array of flowers in our gardens, window boxes and hanging baskets.

With the unnecessary introduction of water usage charges later this year, this is the last summer we will be able to do so. Their absence will be yet another ‘unintended consequence’ of government policy.

A flat rate water charge would have been a fairer and more sensible method of getting the money which is needed to fix the leaking pipes which we all know are the real cause of water wastage in the country.




Eamon Dunphy’s apology for using the ‘F word’ reminded me of when I was 10.

I used the word, to a certain extent, in conversation with friends. One day my dad heard me say the word and instructed me on how to stop using the word.

He told me to replace the word with ‘firetruck’, a word that has the first letter and the last three letters of the swear word in question. I used the word firetruck so often that at my last year of school everyone had to write down what we thought the other classmates’ occupation would be when they got older. Nearly all of my classmates thought I would become a fireman.




“Anchoring the quantum of adjustment rather than the headline deficit would also avoid pro cyclical responses to revisions in growth projections,” according to ‘IMF-speak’.

In addition, the US-based entity strips Labour of its armour once more. It notes Joan Burton, contrary to a public statement to the Irish people regarding the need for the €2bn cuts, actually intends to back them fully.

Shades of Pat Rabbitte and election promises are things you state but don’t intend keeping. Shades of Eamon Gilmore starting publicly no Lisbon II, but privately assuring the US embassy of his support for a re-run of same.

Reality, of course, is families picking whom to pay this weeks bill’s to. With a water tax onstream, the local property tax already flowing, hospitals gutted, public services lain bare, tax takes up and the migration of thousands of Irish youth, where is our money going?

We worry and fret about the royals coming for the 1916/2016 celebrations. But in truth we have bigger worries and perhaps between now and 2016 we might unearth a hero or two to stand up to Ms Lagarde who, as IMF head, actually pays no tax. A case of do as I preach but not do myself.




Europe (and Germany in particular) should remember the damage done to it, after World War I, by the austerity programme imposed at Versailles.

The reparations bill was so onerous that it was used by Hitler as recruiting propaganda for his Nazi (National Socialist) party.

Now, I wonder, if the troika and the European Central Bank give a fig for those worried by the rise of the new fascism within Europe, or are simply concerned with the monetary dividend being squeezed from countries like Ireland by a patently unfair austerity agenda.

If there is little or no social dividend from this cosy political arrangement, then our established parties could face meltdown at the next general election.

But then, who cares, eh?




It is indeed heartening to see the farmers consistently standing up for themselves.

As soon as the EU or our pathetic governments try to introduce measures which will affect their sector’s income, they come out the following day – fully organised – and take their demands and protests to the very door of their problem maker.

There are lessons always to be drawn from the fearless tactics of the farmers’ organisations, which every trade union in the country should follow.

But they won’t.



Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: