28June2014 Dentist

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I go to the dentist not bat but poor Mary has to go back in two weeks.

ScrabbleI win despite Mary getting a good leadperhaps she will win tomorrow.


Sonia Quennell was a pleasure-seeker who turned down Lucian Freud but not the man who made a mint from the Sound of Music

Sonia Quennell and her husband Peter in 1956

Sonia Quennell and her husband Peter in 1956 Photo: REX

6:29PM BST 27 Jun 2014


Sonia Quennell, who has died aged 85, was a hesitant muse, reluctant wife and dedicated pleasure-seeker who turned down Lucian Freud, modelled for John Craxton, posed for Vogue and married — unsuccessfully — a celebrated man of letters.

While crossing to the Scilly Isles in the summer of 1945, two young painters were captivated by a beautiful fellow passenger. When Lucian Freud and John Craxton first set eyes on Sonia Leon she was then just turning 17. Both artists begged to paint her portrait but she refused, in fear of interminable sittings. She eventually relented for Craxton, however. The magnificent result went to the Tate Gallery shortly before her death.

Portrait of Sonia by John Craxton (1948-1957) (JOHN CRAXTON ESTATE)

She was holidaying in that first post-war summer on Bryher, accompanied by her mother and the shipping-line owner Sir John Ellerman . They had travelled down from their home in Park Lane. Craxton and Freud, rather less wealthy, were staying on nearby Tresco but soon made the boat crossing to find Sonia. She returned with them and was unable to get back that evening. Her mother was furious — but not surprised.

Sonia Geraldine Leon was born on August 8 1928 in London. Her mother, Elizabeth Valerie Leon, set her daughter on a bohemian path, packing her off during the Blitz to stay in Brighton with her friend Gertie Millar, the star of Edwardian musical comedies (but by then the widow of the 2nd Earl of Dudley). Sonia Leon’s father, Kenneth Wilfred Leon, was a Harley Street doctor who, one day, was glimpsed by his wife and two daughters hurrying down Oxford Street. They never saw him again.

Sonia attended the local art school, studying fashion design and drawing. But her chief interest was jazz. And, back in London, she, Craxton and Freud would bicycle through bombed-out streets to basement clubs, where they jived and listened to Django Reinhardt.

At one club, Craxton introduced Sonia Quennell to the fashion photographer Clifford Coffin, who photographed her for Vogue. Coffin said she was the perfect model, with clothes hanging from her as if from a lead pencil. She sat for Craxton’s portrait from 1948 but, with artist and model so easily diverted by life, it remained incomplete in 1956 when Sonia agreed to marry the poet, essayist and biographer, Sir Peter Quennell, whom she had met on a train.

She was Quennell’s fourth wife – and gladly gave way to the fifth in 1967. However, the couple parted as friends. Sonia took from the marriage the portrait that Craxton had finally completed as a belated wedding present. She also took the nickname Spider — which her husband had given her because he thought she looked like a spider monkey.

Sonia Quennell with her husband Peter in 1956 (REX)

She had been a great success with Quennell’s friends, such as Cecil Beaton and Cyril Connolly. “I had no pretensions,” she recalled, with characteristic candour. “I was completely superficial and it charmed them.” She claimed never to have read a book in her life – prompting Connolly once to declare: “I’m going to do what Spider does, and arrange all my books in colours.”

After her marriage, Sonia Quennell moved to Munich and then to Rome with the Oscar-nominated scriptwriter and film producer Wolfgang Reinhardt, who in 1956 had bought the rights to The Sound of Music for $9,000. The couple then lived in style — until Reinhardt’s death, in 1979 — on profits from the stage and screen adaptations. Typically, she watched none of these.

Widowed, she lived in New York before returning to London. She spent weekends, and longer spells, in the country houses of friends — revelling in the sort of house parties where there was dancing all night and fully-clothed plunges into swimming pools at dawn.

Sonia Quennell also dabbled in interior design and championed the work of the Royal Academician Stephen Farthing – getting the Duchess of Westminster to decorate a dining room with his paintings.

But mostly she was herself — the restless girl in the Craxton portrait. Even in her 80s, while in a nursing home , she never lost her wit. “And are you married?” she asked one (unremembered) visitor. “Why ever not? I’ll take you on if no one else will.”

“Really, Spider,” said the friend. “You hated being married!”

“Oh I know I did darling,” she answered. “But this could be your last chance.”

Sonia Quennell, born August 8 1928, died June 7 2014


Amid all the furore around what Luis Suárez may or may not have done (Sport, 27 June), I am bitterly disappointed about the failure to condemn the widespread low-level cheating that is now standard in most “professional” football, and evident daily at the World Cup – actions such as taking throw-ins from the wrong place, feigning injury and then making a miraculous “recovery”, and committing deliberate and cynical foul play. When one player hacked down an opponent in a threatening period of play, the BBC commentator even congratulated him, saying: “He took one for the team there.”

The irony is that at our local primary school, the value we are trying to teach the children this month is honesty! Many of the pupils idolise these footballers, and yet their propensity to cheat is now officially recognised with the need to supply the referees with a can of spray foam. When are the FA, or Fifa, or the Premier League, or commentators and journalists, going to tackle these issues, which undermine the game at every level?
Rev Preb Paul Towner
Rural dean of Hereford

• High studs-up tackles causing severe injury; elbows in faces; dangerous body checks; stamping; and head-butts are all regular occurrences on our football fields. Sometimes these are punished by red cards and two or three match bans. On one occasion, a Manchester United player broke the leg of an opponent in a revenge attack. Red card – but no extended ban. The player involved even boasted about it in his autobiography.

Fifa officials reward themselves well and some are happy to take bribes for awarding the World Cup to nations. Luis Suárez was a Uruguayan street kid with exceptional talent. His offence caused little or no damage to the “victim”. We may find biting tasteless (no pun intended). However, it causes trivial injury and is far less dangerous than many other offences on the field. The punishment meted out is disproportionate and reflects only the double standards of the authorities, who themselves have not been brought to account for their actions in respect to World Cups.
Chris Lakin
Lymm, Cheshire

• It was very revealing to see Luis Suárez through the eyes of Martin Aguirre, a sophisticated and thoughtful Uruguayan journalist, placing him in a wider social context (The beautiful game? We only play football to win, Sport, 27 June). It’s easy to see why Suárez is lionised as some kind of street-fighting hero in such a macho win-at-all-costs culture, but it’s harder to understand how the same rough-house environment could also produce such an exquisite talent as Diego Forlan, voted best player at the World Cup in 2010, when Uruguay reached the semi-finals. Wherever Forlan has played, including a relatively unsuccessful spell at Manchester United, he has attracted almost universal affection for the grace with which he has tried to play the “beautiful game”. One of the nice unintended consequences of Suárez’s repugnant bite could be that we see more of the delightful Diego, now a veteran, on the big stage in Brazil.
Giles Oakley

• As a long-term Uruguayan resident in the UK and now British citizen I felt upset and let down by the Suárez incident. However, I feel equally let down by the British press and the hatred of Suárez that it has uncovered. What is so upsetting is that anyone who objects to this over-reaction is condemned as an apologist. This over-reaction is on an equal footing to the denial of the Uruguayan press which you so much deplore.

As an example, one head-butt at the age of 16 does not equal a history of violence, as is implied by Daniel Taylor (26 June). Please could you provide further evidence of violent conduct in the Dutch league or anywhere else (apart from the biting incidents)? Didn’t Jermain Defoe once bite Javier Mascherano, and didn’t Oxlade-Chamberlain dive and handle the ball in the penalty area (FA Cup final)? Didn’t Joey Barton recently appear on Question Time? How does that square up with all the blinkered self-righteousness we have been made to plough through?

And, finally, how long was John Terry’s ban for racial abuse and when will he be appearing on Desert Island Discs?
Andrés Lafone

• My son went through a biting stage, which was quite distressing (for the other kids in his nursery). We found a reward chart particularly useful in tackling the problem. Maybe Liverpool FC should give him a sticker every day he doesn’t bite someone.
Shane Lynch
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Broadmoor hospital

The entrance to Broadmoor, photographed in 1991, one of the healthcare institutions involved in the Jimmy Savile scandal. Photograph: PA

I am intrigued by the continuing saga surrounding Savile, and the way the media constantly associates his vile acts with two British institutions: the NHS and the BBC (Savile’s reign of abuse across NHS exposed, 27 June). While it seems obvious that both might have done more to prevent these crimes it seems equally surprising that questions are not being asked about two other institutions Savile had relationships with: the royal family and the Conservative party. His close relations with Prince Charles are well documented and if I’m not mistaken he spent 11 New Year’s Eves with Margaret Thatcher, not forgetting Ken Clarke’s generous gift of the keys to Broadmoor. With the levels of surveillance the state is capable of, are we to believe that somebody with the access Savile enjoyed had not been investigated by the intelligence services. Should I be more frightened of the ineptitude or the complicity of these organisations?
Matt Scott
Falmouth, Cornwall

• The latest Savile revelations make distressing reading – children and adults assaulted in hospital, disbelieved and derided, a sexual predator supported and encouraged by those in the highest positions of power. It is not credible for the DoH to blame this on “inadequate processes” – another version of “things were different then”. Sexual abuse and a refusal to listen to victims have never been acceptable in the NHS. However, equally alarming is that the political features that sustained Savile are even more entrenched today. Edwina Currie admits she used Savile as part of her attack on Broadmoor trade unions, calling his approach “a pretty classy operation”. In their obsession with creating an internal market of the NHS, forcing hospitals to compete with each other, successive governments have attacked health unions, driving down public investment and increasing privatisation. Consequently, trusts are forced to resort to fundraising to provide essential services, encouraging senior managers to prioritise this above patient care and safety.
Alison Higgs

• For 50 years Jimmy Savile abused people in health and prison facilities with impunity. Now a report lists these abuses but fails to hold anyone to account. The culture of failing to hold people to account is the same in 2014 as it has been over the past 50 years. “The culture was different then” is an empty retort. Maybe we should have an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of inquiries?
Neil Sinclair

• Understanding the mind of Jimmy Savile (Oliver James, 27 June) may be important and possibly useful. What we must do, however, is respect and listen to every disconsolate child, teenager and adult who is poorly, learning disabled or mentally frail. So many of Savile’s victims/survivors tried to speak up and were silenced, to our shame.
Jane Frances
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Andrew Motion is right (Fields of old are being lost, 26 June), but seems surprised that recent governments have eroded environmental protection laws. The country is now run by internationalists, desperate to lay open British landscapes and cultures to exploitation by international capital. Their talk of Britishness and British values is a smokescreen masking a continued attack on the Britain most of us cherish. We need a long-term plan for sustainable living on this crowded island, one which doesn’t depend on treating the land as a list of components to be flogged off to the highest bidder. It’s not enough to talk vaguely, as Motion does, of “the countryside”: such an abstract, generalised approach permits salami-slicing, with the countryside becoming the scraps left over when developers have had their choice. Britons, whether long-settled or recently arrived, love and engage with countless specific places, including all their cultural and historical associations. We must fight to protect them from incremental destruction by the money-men, for whom one high street, one forest, one field, is much the same as another.
Phil Booth

• On the centenary of Laurie Lee’s birth, Andrew Motion rightly bemoans the “second upheaval” in the countryside caused by housing developments but he’d do well to address the implications of the first one to which Lee’s work stands testament. There are many reasons why Laurie Lee’s peopled countryside of human-scale agriculture has been largely superseded by the green deserts of industrial agriculture, but one of them is certainly the hostility of postwar planning policy to rural dwellers and small-scale farming. While large housing developments continue apace on greenfield sites, many of our members battle with bureaucracy and landed interests for the simple right to live and farm in the countryside – witness the present eviction attempts at Yorkley Court Community Farm. The real issues aren’t about the “sacredness” of the countryside, but about what kind of farming best serves our long-term interests.
Chris Smaje
Landworkers’ Alliance, Frome, Somerset

With next week being Children’s Book Week, I would like to put in a word for poetry in the hope that parents will pick up a book of poems at bedtime. Evidence shows that many children first discover poetry through their parents. I myself dipped into my father’s books of poetry that were left lying around when I was child. I can still remember being moved by the music of the words and the pictures created in my mind.I’m not suggesting the poem replaces the story, but a poem read aloud casts its own spell and can hold children enthralled, awakening in them a new awareness and love of language. Poetry never forgets its roots in song. Children love the sound and associations of words; the surprise of images; of getting their tongues around the music of vowels and consonants. Pre-schoolers and older children enjoy the chance to feel the rhythm of the words through clapping, stamping and other movements. We can all remember the rumbustious enjoyment of nursery rhymes.

Libraries are currently promoting Children’s Book Week and they usually have a great selection of poetry for children and parents to enjoy together. Nevertheless it strikes me as a bit of a shame that for older readers, poetry is found in a separate section in the library or bookshop whilst children’s poetry can be found with picture books, fiction and non-fiction on the children’s shelves. Might that be a barrier in itself to encouraging parents to pick up a book of poetry for their own and their children’s pleasure?
Grace Nichols
Judge, Foyle Young Poets Award 2014

It’s great news that artists are campaigning to remove BP from the National Portrait Gallery’s banners (Letters, 25 June), but artists should also move strongly to get death merchants JTI (aka Japan Tobacco International) out of the Royal Academy. It is disgraceful that the RA has allowed itself to be promoters of a tobacco company RIP Sir Richard Doll.
Jonathan Stone
New York

• Pointing out that the Angel of the North is inappropriate to represent Leeds (Letters, June 26) only emphasises how the city lost out in rejecting Antony Gormley’s proposal for the Leeds Brick Man – 12 years earlier and 15 metres taller than the Angel.
Doug Sandle

Last night’s TV (27 June) speculates on the possibility of a Mormon missionary named Elder Berry. In the early 1960s Elders Crane and Berry tried to convert the good folk of West Earlham, a council estate in Norwich, with some success in the case of my mother Bunny (enthusiastically) and father Bill (reluctantly), who converted back to militant atheism as soon as the missionaries cycled out of our lives. We never discovered Elder Berry’s Christian name, but would like to think it may have been Chuck.
Harry Harrison

• Vernon Bogdanor, (Vote no, Scotland, or become a fax democracy, 23 June) brought to mind an incident at Stirling University many years ago during a visit by Princess Margaret. She was due to speak, but confessed to having forgotten her speech. A professor said to her “fax it up”, and Princess Margaret responded instantly “It does rather”.
David Browning

• For English football fans suffering the World Cup on holiday in Greece recently, the half-time TV adverts for Onan were on hand to provide some relief, if only of the comic kind (Letters, 27 June). (Marine generators, I believe.)
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• What can you say about the Netherlands and their delicious slagroomtaart.
Richard Ellerker
St Ives, Cambridgeshire


It appears that the Prime Minister’s European reform agenda has stalled (“In four-letter words, what senior EU politicians think of David Cameron”, 24 June). If Britain cannot carry with it a known Anglophile like Radoslaw Sikorski then the Government’s attempt to get Europe to embrace the reform agenda is in deep trouble.

In a remarkable show of unity, all three party leaders have opposed the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker and stressed the importance of reform. We need to extend that consensus to an agreement on a clear agenda for change. This is a big opportunity to work together to ensure that reform takes place, and we can start this process with the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party matching the Conservatives’ offer of an in-out referendum.

Keith Vaz MP (Leicester East, Lab), House of Commons

Why should David Cameron take umbrage at the prospect of Jean-Claude Juncker being appointed President of the European Commission? Mr Juncker is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, one of Europe’s most prosperous, yet smallest, countries.

Could this issue be  giving Mr Cameron pause as to what could happen if Scotland votes Yes to independence? Scotland one day holding the EU presidency? Now, that may be the way to entice Scots to vote Yes.

This could give them the chance of a resounding voice in Europe as an independent nation, along with other European countries, rather than the muffled representation for Scotland that Westminster would continue to provide.

Bob Harper, Anstruther, Fife


Cuts loom for leading  psychiatry school

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), a School of King’s College London, is facing a potentially devastating round of compulsory redundancies, with 50 of its academic staff “at risk”. The IoPPN has been at the forefront of research and teaching in psychiatry and mental health for over 50 years and has a superb reputation across the world.

These cuts, to be decided today (27 June), are not driven by any decline in productivity or excellence, but by changes in funding following the introduction of “full” tuition fees, which disadvantage medical schools; the withdrawal of access to central capital funds; and deficiencies in financial projections. As a result, the King’s College Council has decided to ring-fence a capital fund of 6 per cent of its income, requiring, it says, a 15 per cent cut in salaries to staff of its health schools.

The IoPPN and its NHS partner, the Maudsley, carry out clinical research in psychiatric disorders from autism to Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of disability and healthcare costs in the developed world. While there are many areas of strength in UK psychiatry, IoPPN and the Maudsley have played a leading role in the battle to combat stigma against mental disorders and to train future generations of psychiatrists, psychologists and other clinical scientists to translate scientific advances into new therapies.

Mental health has long been a poor relation within UK research funding and staffing. It is not just the IoPPN or Maudsley that will suffer if these job losses materialise, it will also have a devastating impact on UK psychiatry as a whole.

Professors Richard Brown, Noel Buckley, Anthony David, Patrick Doherty, Sir David Goldberg, Francesca Happé, Matthew Hotopf, Corinne Houart, Robert Howard, Philip McGuire, Declan Murphy, Sir Robin Murray, Andrew Pickles, Martin Prince, Mark Richardson, Sir Michael Rutter, Emily Simonoff, John Strang, Sir Simon Wessely, Steven Williams,

Til Wykes, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5


Suarez’s only victim: himself

Thank goodness for Glenn Moore and the perspective he brings to the Luis Suarez affair. Viewed rationally, Suarez did no harm to anyone but himself.

In a moment when a flaw in his psyche took control, he almost certainly ended his World Cup participation and did great damage to his future career. No one else was affected: not the pundits who have been so vociferous in their condemnation (Ian Wright was an honourable exception), not the Italian team who were already down to 10 men, and not Chiellini, who hadn’t been knocked out by a head butt or had his leg broken by a vicious tackle. Suarez could have hoped to gain no conceivable advantage to his team by his action. The victim of the “outrage” was Suarez himself.

Suarez is a supremely gifted footballer who brings far more to the table than he takes away. Off the field he is recognised as a genuine “good guy”, as committed to the life and community spirit in Liverpool as he is committed to the welfare of their team on the pitch.

And far more sickening than Suarez’s bite is the hypocrisy of it all. We’re not talking about tennis, or snooker, or golf, three sports whose participants play by the rules and show full respect to their opponents. We’re talking about a “sport” where shirt-pulling, diving, “professional” fouls, and career-threatening tackles are so rife that they now often go unpunished and often unnoticed. I’m not a Christian but the commandment “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” seems apposite.

Stuart Russell, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Uruguayan man bites Italian man in Brazil. Surely this is the most boring story since the legendary Times headline, “Small Earthquake in Chile. Not Many Dead.”

John Naylor, Ascot, Berkshire


Academy quango open to claims of abuse

With the Government making so many major changes in education, it is easy for announcements of significant changes to slip out with barely any attention. One such was last week’s announcement that over 160 headteachers have applied to help run new regional schools commissions, which are intended to oversee academy schools.

This matters. The Department for Education cannot properly oversee 4,000 academies to make sure they are run properly and their funding is not misappropriated. The National Audit Office has said so, as has the Public Accounts Committee, and now even Michael Gove has realised this, which is why he is setting up regional schools commissioners in England.

But this is one more nail in the coffin of democracy. Another government quango of unelected people. Academy heads, either elected by other headteachers or appointed by the regional schools commissioners, will advise on the performance of the other academies in their area run by the heads who elected them. Nothing about this is open or transparent, and it is wide open to accusations of cronyism and abuse.

I fail to see how this will improve the governance of academies, or more importantly, children’s education. And it is hard to see how this will improve academies’ accountability to parents. Yet you can be sure it will not be cheap to run.

Dr Mary Bousted, General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, London WC2

Where is the ‘race bias’ at the BBC?

Unless Lenny Henry has evidence of bias in the BBC’s recruitment or promotion practices (“BBC’s ‘race problem’ gets worse as ethnic-minority staff quit”, 26 June), I am not interested. Equality has nothing to do with equality of representation and everything to do with equality of opportunity.

If only a small number of minority people are applying for jobs there, then only a small number will be represented. To be calling for an artificially inflated minority representation, probably at the cost of quality, is blatant discrimination and should be opposed at every level.

Paul Harper, London E15

The science of spelling

Thank goodness the AQA is not as confused as Leslie Rowe seems to be (letter, 19 June). Neither sulfur nor kilogram are Americanisms but the correct English spellings of these words as determined by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1992 and the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in 1960.

Christopher Anton, Birmingham

Nonsensical NHS titles

I could not agree more with Dr Anthony Ingleton’s view (letter, 24 June) that we should trim the NHS budget by doing away with jobs with nonsensical titles, such as “Director of the Patient Experience”. So here are two more for the list: “Homoeopath” and “Hospital Chaplain”.

Stan Broadwell, Bristol


Pay close attention

If an employer is one who employs, and an employee is one who is employed, then surely an attender is one who attends, while an attendee (letter, 25 June) is one who is attended, that is to say accompanied or waited upon.

Jenny Macmillan, Cambridge


Sir, You report that Kevin Brooks has criticised publishers for putting too much emphasis on hope and happy endings (“Author fights for right to a bleak ending”, June 23, and Alex O’Connell, Thunderer, May 24).

Last Christmas a literary magazine assembled a list of recently published books suggested as suitable gifts for children under 15. The subjects of the 13 books, according to the article, were as follows: child-killer risen from the dead; malignant ghosts; animal ghosts; a mariner’s nephew meets fate worse than death in hell; baby games, witches and ghosts; boy with paranoia; isolation and autism; girl pilot in Second World War concentration camp; abandoned girl beset by frightening forces; psychic girl, ditto; gleeful anarchy; children on the run because all over a certain age in post-apocalyptic world would be killed. The remaining book was described as a quest novel — fine — but it was actually written in 1962.

Don’t our children deserve some hope? They have enough to worry about in reality.

Jan Herbert

Farnham, Surrey

Sir, Clocks may now go backwards in Bolivia (report, June 26), but for many years some Australians have been leading the way. Recently, guests from Down Under gave us a present of a sundial. The figures I, II, III, etc, are to the left of the central O, and XI, XII, etc, are to the right.

It does not work in the UK.

Dr Ronnie Brown


Sir, On this day 100 years ago, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo in an action that led to the First World War. Unchecked militarism in Europe was also a major factor.

Today is also Armed Forces Day, one of the clearest indications of the remilitarisation of British society. The day was established in 2009 to increase public support for the armed forces, and there are now more than 200 public events, many billed as “family fun days”. This week also saw Uniform to Work Day promoting the reserve forces, and “Camo Day” in schools.

This PR offensive is aimed at embedding “public support” for the military within civilian institutions — from the promotion of “military ethos” in schools to the Armed Forces Community Covenant and Corporate Covenant that aim to enlist every local authority and major business in the support of the armed forces.

More than 453 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan; 34 were just 18 or 19 years old. Thousands more have to cope with long-term physical and mental problems. With so many military casualties — not to mention the civilian deaths — coupled with new security threats that waging war has created, surely it is time to reflect on the longer-term impact of our military culture, and to ask what steps we might take to prevent war itself?

Philip Austin, Northern Friends Peace Board; Richard Bickle, Fellowship of Reconciliation (England); Hannah Brock, War Resisters’ International; Kevin Burr, National Justice and Peace Network; Pat Gaffney, Pax Christi UK; Ben Griffin, Veterans for Peace UK; Bruce Kent, Movement for the Abolition of War; Jan Melichar, Peace Pledge Union; Lorraine Mirham, UK Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Sir, Further to the letter from Barnaby Benson (June 27), I was the captain of a golf team from RNAS Culdrose invited by Harold Wilson to play his team of Scillonians, which mostly comprised members of the local club.

During the course of our four-ball game, the prime minister made a bit of a performance in communicating with Jim Callaghan, who was at that time somewhere on the Isle of Wight. The prime minister was using some sort of walkie-talkie, and the link went: Scillies, Land’s End and then via landline thereafter.

Cdr Peter Deller (RN ret’d)

Mayfield, E Sussex

Sir, Voters are no more outraged with regards to phone hacking than they are about horsemeat in their burgers. What has probably been more revealing to voters like myself are the photographs taken of the politicians and media personnel together at social gatherings: they appear to be a clique who appear to have far more in common with each other than they do with any of us. Hence, we voters also know that their outrage at each other’s professional behaviour is a little forced.

Perhaps Danny Finkelstein’s randomly selected TV audience (Opinion, June 25), comprising normal people and not the usual professionally outraged types, found the whole exercise one in which they were unable to suspend their disbelief sufficiently to participate in it.

Alfarah Kunwar

Broughty Ferry, Dundee


SIR – We are patients, advocates and doctors. We have one thing in common: we all support the Medical Innovation Bill currently having a second reading in the House of Lords, which will legally protect doctors who try out innovative new techniques or drugs on patients when all else has failed.

This Bill will protect the patient and nurture the innovator. It will encourage safe medical advancement, while at the same time deterring the maverick, thereby recalibrating the culture of defensive medicine.

Finally, it will work with evidence-based medicine and provide new data that will inspire and support new research.

We urge the Lords to pass this Bill.

Prof Alastair Buchan
Dean of Medicine, University of Oxford
Michael Ellis MP (Con)
Prof Michael Rawlins
President, Royal Society of Medicine
Prof Ahmed Ashour Ahmed
Professor of Gynaecological Oncology, University of Oxford.
Prof Stephen Kennedy
Professor of Reproductive Medicine, University of Oxford
Dr Henrietta Morton-King
Cumberland Infirmary
Prof Andy Hall
Associate Dean of Translational Research, Newcastle University
Dr Rupert McShane
Prof Mohammed Keshtgar
Professor of Cancer Surgery, Royal Free London Foundation Trust
Prof John Yarnold
Professor of Clinical Oncology, The Royal Marsden
Prof David Walker
Professor of Paediatric Oncology, Nottingham University
Prof Riccardo A Audisio
President, Association for Cancer Surgery
Mr Charlie Chan
Consultant General Surgeon
Alex Smith
Founder, Harrison’s Fund
Dr John Symons
Director, Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation
Prof Dean Fennell
Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology, Leicester University
Eve Pollard
Vice Chair, Wellbeing of Women
James Hargrave
Empower Access to Medicine
Dr Robert LeFever
Ian MacWatt
Honorary Secretary, Caring Cancer Trust
Prof Ian Hampson
Reader in Viral Oncology, University of Manchester
Charley Kitley
Cancer patient
Mavis Nye
Cancer patient
Ismena Clout
Cancer patient
Simon Davies
Chief executive, Teen Cancer America and former chief executive, Teenage Cancer Trust UK
Dr Wen Hwa Lee
Strategic Alliances Manager, Structural Genomics Consortium, University of Oxford
Leena Chagla
Lead Clinician, Breast services, Burney Breast Unit
Tony Levene, Vici Richardson, Paul Fitzpatrick
Trustees, Duchenne Now
Dawn Piechoczek
Cancer patient
Dr David Blacklidge
Dr Elizabeth Perdeaux

The Myrovlytis Trust
Dr Lynne Hampson
Lecturer in Oncology, Manchester University
Prof Christopher W Pitt
Dawn Fidler
Chief executive, The Joshua Wilson Brain Tumour Charity
Linda Wride
Steve Grew
Sharon Kember Brazier
Claire Cowley
Kamran Pirani
Baker & McKenzie LLP
Dr Colin Newman
Sally Becker
Flóra Raffai
Clara Mackay
Interim chair, Cancer52
Emma Hallam
Director, Alex’s Wish Charity
Alexander Masters
Author and rare cancer research advocate
Allyson Kaye
Chair, Ovarian Cancer Action

Players please

SIR – Dr Brian Pike (Letters, June 26) contends that the use of real cigarettes during David Haig’s Pressure at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, “caused observable distress among members of the audience”.

My wife and I also saw this excellent production and, apart from one member of the audience in the front row who appeared to be asleep, we observed no distress whatsoever. I think that the cigarettes used by Malcolm Sinclair in his role as Dwight D Eisenhower are of the herbal variety, which contain no nicotine or tobacco. Although both non-smokers, we find the aroma produced by the herbal cigarettes frequently used on stage to be fragrant and by no means unpleasant.

Bruce Chalmers
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

SIR – I, too, saw Pressure at Chichester. The story depicted events of 70 years ago, and the smoking was entirely appropriate. What next? Would Dr Pike like to cut the scene where whisky was taken? A hint of smoke isn’t going to harm anybody.

Cliff Green
Portsmouth, Hampshire

Budget family

SIR – You mean to say that this hard-working family, which serves as a wonderful advert for Britain, cost me all of 56 pence last year? The Royal family is extremely good value for money. Long may they continue to serve us as an example to others, not least our political classes.

Neville H Walker
Orton on the Hill, Leicestershire

Lerner drivers

SIR – Plausible though it may sound, the claim that “Baby on board” signs were created to alert emergency services to the presence of a child in the car (Letters, June 26) is an urban myth.

In fact, they were first marketed in America by Michael Lerner in 1984, to promote safer driving. Why you might be less concerned about hitting a car if it only contains adults is another matter.

Len Teff
Syresham, Northamptonshire

SIR – Among the proliferation of advisory and warning signs displayed on vehicles, my favourite is the notice on a bakery van I saw which proclaims to would-be thieves: “No pies kept in this vehicle overnight.”

Jeremy C N Price

In a dark place

SIR – I support Lorna Bradbury’s condemnation of The Bunker Diary. The author has been quoted as saying: “Young people are wise enough, if they are watching or reading something they don’t like, to stop.” He is wrong.

I was a young teen at the time of the Moors murders. One morning, my father sent me out to buy a paper. Photos of the murderers were on the front page. I started to read the accompanying article. It had lurid details, but, fascinated and appalled, I didn’t stop. The horror of it remains with me to this day. It is not a good feeling and it has no redeeming features.

I do not blame Kevin Brooks for writing his book but I think publishers owe a duty of care to impressionable young readers. To publish it was irresponsible. To award it the Carnegie medal was even more so.

Books affect people. The psychologist Keith Oatley describes fiction as “the mind’s flight-simulator”, a space in which we learn about the world and develop our sense of self. Anyone who champions this book should ask themselves what purpose is served in a fiction by destroying hope.

Margret Geraghty
Stroud, Gloucestershire

Picnic nicked

SIR – Clare Duffin reports that Wimbledon spectators are up in arms as tea flasks are confiscated by guards”. It is also a Pimms-less Wimbledon for picnickers.

Passing through Wimbledon security this week, after careful review of the online “Wimbledon picnic” rules, we found that while our white wine was acceptable to G4S, a full bottle of Pimms seemed to pose a threat to the successful completion of the Wimbledon tournament. The exact reason for this concern was not provided.

As we were “armed” with an empty jug (for on-court mixing) we were allowed to decant some of the dangerous Pimms, under the watchful eye of a senior security guard. We were even then told – seriously – to stop when we had decanted, in the security man’s opinion, sufficient liquid.

James Horsfall
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

For richer…

SIR – It seems to be a trend for wedding invitations to include not only a wedding list but also, in lieu of a present, a request for cheques towards the honeymoon.

Is this not somewhat tasteless?

Kate Forrester
Malvern, Worcestershire

Cheaper, quicker ways to speed Pennines trains

SIR – Tony Lodge (Letters, June 26) suggests that, as an alternative to the proposed HS3, the existing line from Manchester to Leeds should be electrified to allow the use of high-speed Pendolino trains to cut journey times.

But this rail route was laid down well over 100 years ago and was never intended for trains travelling at more than 60 or 70mph. To upgrade it for trains travelling at up to 150mph would require substantial realignment to eliminate curves and, even with only one major town on the line at Huddersfield, the trains would find it difficult to maintain the high speed required to reduce substantially the journey time over a short route.

Dennis Wilby
West Haddon, Northamptonshire

SIR – We had a good, fast rail system in the North that was ruined by piecemeal cuts in the Seventies and Eighties. What remains is not a network, but bits of systems cobbled together, which were not designed to function as a whole. Replacement of some parts, with small new additions, would achieve all that the Chancellor seeks with HS3, at a fraction of the cost.

Replace the nine miles of track between Skipton and Colne to re-establish the links between everywhere north of Leeds and Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and north Lancashire. Re-lay the fast route between Sheffield and Manchester via Woodhead.

The poor connections between Sheffield and Leeds are entirely a result of the closure 30 years ago of the direct rail link of the former Midland Railway. A new link of a few hundred yards across Bradford, connecting its two railway stations (terminals within sight of each other) would open up so many links across the North that the mind boggles at the positive economic consequences.

David Pearson
Haworth, West Yorkshire

The only way is up: a garden snail begins its trek  Photo: Arterra Picture Library / Alamy

6:59AM BST 27 Jun 2014

Comments86 Comments

SIR – Why do snails climb walls (Letters, June 26)? Because they’re there, of course.

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

SIR – I recently found a brown snail on the rear bumper of my car. I still haven’t been able to figure out where it caught up with me.

J R Ball
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – We mulch the veg patch with rotted horse manure that is rich in brandling worms. When it rains heavily, the worms cross the garden path and climb the house wall. We have seen them as high as 20ft off the ground and we have to assume that they only stop when they reach the eaves. We have never seen them come back down; do they parachute at night?

R Allan Reese
Forston, Dorset

SIR – Professor Susan Jebb, the Government’s chief obesity adviser, has said that parents should ban all drinks but water from the dinner table. Perhaps many children’s digestive systems would benefit if they were to eat at the dinner table in the first place.

Robin Whiting
Castle Rising, Norfolk

SIR – By all means, let’s encourage families to drink more water and make sugary drinks an occasional treat for children.

Drinking fountains in public places and school corridors were commonplace into the Fifties and Sixties. Since the water supply was privatised, these have all but disappeared.

The first water fountains were a public health measure, introduced by the Victorians. We need to reinstate the humble drinking fountain as part of our battle plan against obesity.

Surely the water companies could fund this as part of their corporate social responsibilities. Now that would be a “Responsibility Deal”.

Professor John R Ashton
President, Faculty of Public Health
London NW1

SIR – The costs of the NHS are unsustainable and obesity adds £15 billion annually. How to solve both problems? Levy VAT at the full rate on all drinks and foods containing added sugar. Nanny-statish perhaps, but this sugar is not required nutritionally.

The Conservatives might introduce this after the election, not before, or they risk an attack by Labour on “fashionably slim wealthy rulers targeting fat proles”.

Richard Bethell
Horley, Surrey

SIR – Tax on sugar may have been removed in 1874 (Letters, June 21) but excise duty was imposed on it in 1901. This tax was easily and cheaply collected, being paid by the sugar producers. The tax covered sugar, invert, molasses, glucose syrups and saccharin. The duty was repealed in 1962.

Peter Hull
Hoo, Kent

SIR – Rather than resuscitating a sugar tax, the Government should be looking at positive ways to encourage reduced calorific consumption. This could be by subsidising the consumption of stevia. This is a zero-calorie sweetener now being used in carbonated drinks, among other things. The level of subsidy might be related to the estimated amount of NHS savings in its costs of treating obesity.

Nicholas Sibley
La Colle sur Loup, Alpes-Maritimes, France

SIR – I still have a box of sugar cubes bought in France at the time of the 1975 sugar crisis. Since I gave up sugar in tea 30 years ago, it will be left to one of my descendants to deal with.

Harry Chamberlain
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The changing profile of people becoming homeless, as described by Fr Peter McVerry (“Apartheid Irish-style created by housing policy”, Opinion & Analysis, June 27th) and highlighted by your reporter Kitty Holland many times (“Government plan to end rough sleeping by 2016 not feasible, says McVerry”, June 26th), is an issue that needs urgent attention.

It is clear why the current situation has arisen and it is a situation that appears overwhelming. Would calling in members of the Defence Forces to kick-start the maintenance of vacant local authority housing be a solution to be scoffed at? Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan has a difficult task and to address this issue she needs the support of all relevant government departments and indeed all of us.

Many people we meet on a daily basis in Trust have been rehoused in the past. In a given month we can meet people from 26 different countries who sleep rough. Some of the people we meet are very challenging to deal with because of their personal issues, some apparent from a very young age, including mental health problems, addiction, low self-esteem and often feeling complete outsiders in our society. All these issues take time to resolve if a solution, if there is one, is ever to be reached. For that reason rough sleeping, which is a worldwide phenomenon, will not be solved on our little island by 2016. There will always be a need for very basic, clean, warm and safe emergency shelter (this should not cost the earth) to ensure people are not isolated further, rejected and forgotten about.

The right to shelter must not be ignored. Rights, however, must attach some personal responsibility, however small, otherwise the situation we find ourselves in will race out of control, at enormous expense to the taxpayer. – Yours, etc,



Bride Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Annemarie McCarthy (June 27th) makes an excellent point about the near-poverty status of starting salaries for new civil servants.

A similar situation exists across a number of sectors, and is a direct consequence of the relevant unions voting to keep existing pay and benefits high for existing workers, while new starters have to bear a much greater portion of necessary cost-cutting.

Unions like to paint themselves as progressive engines of social justice.

The reality is that they are special-interest lobby groups whose sole purpose is to win and reinforce privileges for their members, most of whom are workers with long tenure. These are the people who voted to establish such deep pay divides between old and new.

Any fool can see that over time membership profiles will change and that when the new eventually outweigh the old, we will see union influence being brought to bear to improve the status of the new working poor.

By that time most of the old guard will have shuffled off to enjoy safe, guaranteed pensions – funded no doubt by higher taxes on those following behind. – Yours, etc,


Shamrock Street,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – As a former public servant (administrative officer grade for seven years), I have no sympathy for Annemarie McCarthy. She should know that two clerical officers simply cannot afford to have three children. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – Eamon Dunphy, who, normally, is a sensible sort of chap, sadly disappointed on RTÉ when he explained that Luis Suarez was in need of understanding, medical help and, perhaps, God help us, counselling.

This new-fangled psychobabble of the perpetrator as victim is just too predictable and a little tedious.

What Mr Suarez is in need of, apart from a good kick up the transom, is to be hit with a civil suit for damages. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.

Sir, – Surely the quickest and most effective solution to the Luis Suarez problem would be to extract his top teeth and supply him with dentures which, by written contract, must remain in the dressing room during all matches? – Yours, etc,


Charleville Road,


Co Offaly.

Sir, – The pundits say that Luis Suarez needs help. What about a teething ring? – Yours, etc,


Maudlin Court,


Co Kilkenny.

A chara, – Dr Ciarán Ó Coigligh (June 25th) is worried about the fate of the “Anglican Christian ethos” and the “Catholic Christian ethos” after the “incorporation” of the colleges into one DCU campus.

Yet, in 1831 in response to the initiative of Edward Stanley, chief secretary of Ireland, the two archbishops of Dublin, Daniel Murray (RC) and Richard Whatley (CoI) agreed to run the new National Schools which would have “combined literary and separate religious instruction”.

They even managed to produce a course on basic Christianity for teaching in common.

Murray said that there could be no possible objection to a Protestant teaching secular literature to Catholic and Protestant children together. He was succeeded by Paul Cullen, who was to say that any case where Catholics came under the influence of Protestants was, of necessity, a proselytising situation. So I fear that the Catholic ethos referred to is really a Cullenite ethos.

It is Catholic teaching that all who are baptised are incorporated into Christ, so, isn’t “incorporation” a good name for the transfer of the colleges, not only logistically but also theologically? It is also Roman Catholic teaching that we should “become what we are” and wouldn’t that be a lovely ideal for Coláiste Phádraig on its new campus? – Is mise,



Bolton Abbey (Cistercian),


Co Kildare.

Sir, – I would like to support the sentiments expressed by Dr Ciarán Ó Coigligh, who indicated that there was no consultation, no negotiation and no agreement with those most immediately concerned regarding the future of the colleges of education that are to be incorporated into Dublin City University.

That is exactly what happened with regard to the Church of Ireland College of Education. Many members of the church are dismayed at the decision and angry at the way the decision was made. After the board of governors had made a decision, so-called consultation meetings with stakeholders were held. It seems that those involved think that talking at people amounts to consultation. I attended one of those meetings. People were not listened to. Our views were dismissed. Many of us left that meeting sad and frustrated. It was so unlike what I understood to be the culture of the Church of Ireland. Prior to that my experience of my church had been one where people were listened to, respected and where issues were openly discussed. This was different. I wonder what has happened to the church in the last short number of years?

It appears that the Church of Ireland, instead of being a church of the people, has become a hierarchical corporation where decisions are made without regard to the views of members of the church. – Yours, etc,



Glenties, Co Donegal.

Sir, – Brendan Butler (June 27th) says that there is no justification for the continued exclusion of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church because “nowhere in his recorded actions or words did Jesus ever exclude anybody, especially women”.

It is certainly true that Jesus counted many women among his close friends and disciples. However, it is quite incorrect to say that this extended to including women among those who he wished to carry his message to the world, since in fact his recorded words and actions suggest the very opposite.

The selection by Jesus of the 12 apostles is clearly recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, with each of the 12 being specifically named by him and each of them being male. From the words used by Jesus to the remaining 11 following his resurrection, it is clear that he intended these apostles to carry his message to the world, essentially forming the basis for the church. (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19). The 11 apostles, in turn, chose men to succeed them in their mission.

This tradition was maintained in the centuries that followed and, as the catechism of the Catholic Church states, this was not an arbitrary decision but was made because “the Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself”.

Whether you agree with it or not, this seems to be an entirely reasonable interpretation of the recorded words and actions of Jesus, so it is hardly surprising that Pope Francis has taken a hard line on the issue. This stands in contrast to his statements on the question of priests marrying, a matter on which he has shown an admirably open mind, and on which Jesus himself was entirely silent. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – In singing the praises of Irish Catholic education, Pádraig McCarthy (June 27th) is perpetuating a myth.

Educational performance in the first 50 years of the State was in fact dismal, as shown in a 1960s OECD report; in western Europe, probably only Portugal was performing as poorly. Contrary to statutory regulations, large numbers were leaving schooling at the age of 14 without even the minimal Primary Cert, often to a future of unskilled labouring on the building sites of Britain or to domestic service there. Less than 20 per cent of a generation made it to the Leaving Cert; as one who studied for that exam, Mr McCarthy belonged to an elite of about 3 per cent.

Could there be a clearer example of the “toxic intertwining” that Fintan O’Toole addressed in his piece (Opinion & Analysis, June 26th)?

The Catholic Church insisted at the time on control over education, so it cannot escape its co-responsibility.

Only in the 1960s did “official Ireland” begin to realise the gravity of the situation and to give education the priority it should have had in the first place. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – A worrying report by the Irish Health Research Board reveals that the Irish delude themselves on their personal drinking habits (“177,000 dependent drinkers in Ireland”, June 24th).

To counter this threat to the nation’s health, one answer is to mount a long-term strategy of “fighting fire with fire”.

To change the Irish drinking culture requires a similar advertising budget to that deployed by the alcohol drinks industry itself over the past 50 years.

Government should levy a special charge on the industry’s products in the next budget and ring-fence this for a minimum period of five years.

All of this money should be spent in a creative way to inform, educate and, most importantly of all, change attitudes and behaviour, particularly among the young Irish.

This expert report by the Irish Health Research Board now requires the strongest of responses to address the threat hidden in our society.

The fear of citizens is that this wishy-washy Government will once again capitulate to the the drinks industry lobbyists, thereby allowing future generations to become enslaved to this liquid drug. – Yours, etc,


Highfield Park,


Co Kildare.

A chara, – I see that An Post has released a stamp featuring Edward Carson and John Redmond. Edward Carson was, of course, the founder of the Ulster Volunteers. From this the UVF was formed and in 1914 received a huge shipment of arms, including 25,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.

The inscription on the base of Carson’s towering statue outside Stormont reads, “By the loyalists of Ulster as an expression of their love and admiration for its subject.” I think this is sufficient expression of love and admiration in the island of Ireland and Edward Carson’s profile does not need to feature on every letter here.

In Ireland we appear to have some difficulty honouring and commemorating our own heroes and martyrs. I shall wait with bated breath for the Royal Mail stamp featuring James Connolly. – Is mise,


Ceannt Fort ,

Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – The discovery of a dead crow beneath a high-voltage non-insulated electric cable at Hazelhill on the outskirts of Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, has led to speculation that the bird had landed on the live wire, causing a blackout in parts of the district (“Crow blamed for local ESB power cuts”, June 26th). But is it assumed the unfortunate crow had been electrocuted in the process? If so, surely it must have been touching two wires at the same time? For I was always told that a bird could perch on a single naked live wire and not get electrocuted because it was not earthed to the ground. Was I misinformed? – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Is it just me or is the prevalence of texting, status updating, etc, on the rise again while driving? It appears from this professional driver’s point of view that the threat of a court appearance has dissipated and people are back to their old and potentially deadly habits. – Yours, etc,


Maple Lawn,


Co Cork.

A chara, – Paddy McEvoy is critical of Scotland seeking independence (June 27th) and offers our own situation as an example as to why it should be avoided. He forgets one important fact though. Scotland is not selfishly abandoning a large number of its people and leaving them isolated in a sectarian statelet for the foreseeable future. – Is mise,


Whitehall Road, Dublin 14.

A chara, – Over the last few months my three-year-old son has become fascinated by the Luas trams. Every weekend we somehow end up at the Beechwood stop letting him watch one or two Luas trams pass by and it is so heartwarming that, without fail, every driver, along with plenty of passengers, reciprocate his enthusiastic wave and smile. – Is mise,


Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

It is hard to discern what outcomes President Michael D Higgins is seeking to derive from his Ethics Initiative (Irish Independent, June 26). Does he consider that Irish society, as a whole, is morally bankrupt and in need of radical reform? Should citizens ‘unlearn’ the customs and habits of generations? That is a tall order.

A difficulty with his initiative is that he has yet to define what his concept of ethics is. He has suggested the Irish people have moved past the phase of anger and recrimination following the financial crisis, despite the fact that no-one has been held accountable.

Does he consider that ethics are derived from emotion and sentiment?

He is skittish about the concept that value can be measured. But if it cannot be measured, how is society to make progress? Is there any other sophisticated, competitive nation, or enterprise, that does not measure value? Is there a nation that radiates prosperity, progress and vitality where the ebb and flow of the marketplace is not central, albeit with regulation? Is there a sovereign role model that the President is suggesting Ireland should mimic?

Ethics concern well-founded and unambiguous standards of right and wrong that prescribe human behaviour. These are reflected in the context of rights, duties, obligations, fairness, justice and virtue. Ethics underpin other characteristics such as honesty, compassion, decency and loyalty. Ethics provide the basis of a right to privacy, a right to life, a right to safety and a right to security.

Ethical standards are consistent, robust, and thoroughly tested. They are not the faddish product of a village bazaar, nor are they based on some wooly concept of populism and media spin.

It would be helpful if Mr Higgins were to guide us in a more direct, concrete and clear manner as to what he has in mind for a virtuous Ireland that is ethically reformed and the nature of the contribution he is demanding from citizens.





I am writing to you in light of Dublin Pride this week and yesterday being National HIV testing day in the US. I hope that I can speak out to other young gay men to look after their life. I am a 24-year-old man living in Dublin.

Last year, I was diagnosed with HIV. Like many, I was ignorant due to fear and the fact that nobody was ever comfortable talking about it, so, when I got the diagnosis, I had no idea what was ahead of me.

All I was told in the hospital was that it’s no big deal nowadays and I probably wouldn’t need treatment for years. I think this is not a good approach to tackling the issue. The issue is very serious and shouldn’t be portrayed as anything else, just to spare the person’s feelings and emotions on the matter.

They don’t tell you that many treatments do not work for everyone. They don’t tell you that more people are dying from the effects of the medication in the western world than from HIV/AIDS. I realise that the death toll is nothing in comparison to 30, even 20 years ago, but the battle is far from over.

Last year, I went to a comedy show, performed by Panti. Panti openly shared his HIV status to everyone and it was inspiring.

I thought, wow, if Panti has HIV and runs such a successful business and does all the work he does for the LGBT community, anyone could have it.

It was just a few months later that I got my news. I didn’t know anyone in this country with HIV and I was in a dark place, desperate to know more from the people who are living with it.

I feel like I have been alone in this – even when it comes to my family, my own father thinks we should be legally obliged to tell people that have to live with us.

I have worked in the restaurant industry since the age of 16. I have come to learn that this is not possible for me any more. Since the recession hit in Ireland, it has been acceptable for restaurants to not give breaks, especially during busy days. I would work up to 21 days with no days off and didn’t get breaks to eat a lot of the time. I knew, immediately, I would not be capable of this any more, I was already losing weight and getting sick regularly.

I am at a point in my life now where everything I have ever worked towards is gone. The next thing I am going to lose is my accommodation.

It is true when they say HIV is manageable now, it’s something you can live with for a very long time. But I am left asking myself the big questio: can I bare living with this for such a long time?

I don’t know.

So, please guys, protect yourselves.




I believe that An Post has released a stamp featuring Edward Carson and John Redmond.

Carson was, of course, the founder of the Ulster Volunteers, the first paramilitary group in the North.

From this, the UVF was formed and, in 1914, received a huge shipment of arms, including 25,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.

The inscription on the base of Carson’s towering statue outside Stormont reads “By the loyalists of Ulster as an expression of their love and admiration for its subject.”

I think this is sufficient expression of love and admiration on the island of Ireland and Carson’s profile does not need to feature on every letter here.

In Ireland, we appear to have some difficulty honouring and commemorating our own heroes and martyrs. I shall wait with bated breath for the Royal Mail stamp featuring James Connolly.





We all knew what the recent report on Irish drinking habits would contain.

Our drinking habits are the biggest cause of overspending right across all government departments for several obvious reasons: absenteeism; sick leave; drink-related illness; crime; sexual violence; domestic violence; and foetal alcohol syndrome.

Many experts have pointed out that the most vulnerable in society suffer most due to excessive drinking in families. By way of example, let’s look at a family where all the adults are unemployed and there are school-going children.

Typically, a few generations may never have worked, so there is no respect for the dignity of work. Very often there is a pattern of drinking, sleeping late and not getting up to send children to school.

Thus, the children miss out, perform badly in school and end up in the same cycle of underachieving. Across all sections of society, parents are giving the wrong message by drinking in front of their children.

Despite all this, what are we doing to break this cycle? We need a movement of sensible people who will try to counteract the madness.





It is disturbing to hear about the epidemic of homelessness in Dublin, and no doubt other locations.

Is it not possible to set up as a temporary solution– something like a camp, perhaps run by the Army?

It seems that any other solution is long term and, in this country, long term is “long” – take, for example, the children’s hospital.




Irish Independent


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