Le Grand Depart

6July2014 Le Grand Depart

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired but we see bits of the Grand Depart on tv

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Stephen Gaskin – obituary

Stephen Gaskin was a teacher who led a caravan of hippies across America to found a commune built on tradition

Stephen Gaskin in 1969

Stephen Gaskin in 1969 Photo: ALAMY

6:28PM BST 04 Jul 2014


Stephen Gaskin, was a self-confessed “professional hippy” who became an unlikely presidential candidate.

As a proponent of love, peace and harmony, he co-founded “The Farm” — a spiritual community of like-minded tie-die clad, vegetarian, pot-smoking pacifists — in Summertown, Tennessee, in 1971. It became the largest hippy community in the world and an example of an effective self-sufficient subculture.

As a potential leader of the free world — campaigning in the primary elections of 2000 — Gaskin was a Green Party hopeful with a mission to introduce universal health care, reform financial institutions and legalise marijuana.

Although he failed to win the Green Party ticket for the presidential poll he fought a frank and funny campaign. “Did you inhale?” he was asked about his personal experience of marijuana. “I didn’t exhale,” he answered.

Stephen Gaskin was born on February 16 1935 in Denver, Colorado, and had a peripatetic, eclectic upbringing that, while atheist, was inclusive of various cultures. His father was variously a cowboy, builder, mail clerk and commercial fisherman and Stephen was raised throughout the south west of America, with periods in Santa Fe, Phoenix, and San Bernardino. “I’d been to so many different places I had to learn how to make friends on purpose,” he recalled. He maintained that his freethinking was hereditary, noting that his grandmother was a suffragette and his great uncle helped the longshoreman’s union in San Francisco.

Gaskin served in the US Marine Corps between 1952 and 1955, during which time he fought in Korea. During the Sixties he lived in San Francisco, where he taught English, semantics and creative writing at San Francisco State University, working under the celebrated linguist and semanticist SI Hayakawa.

Gaskin with one of his Monday Night Classes

Gaskin’s formal teaching grew into a more personal and philosophical pursuit through his experimental “Monday Night Class” — an open discussion group involving up to 1,500 students and held in 1969 and 1970 at a huge auditorium in the city’s Bay Area. His classes ranged from “Group Experiments in Unified Field Theory” to “Magic, Einstein, and God”. In these gatherings he discussed “consciousness, the spiritual plane, religion, politics, sex, drugs and current events” — all viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of the Sixties counterculture movement (and its psychedelic pharmaceutical refreshments). Unified by the hippy sensibility, the classes formed the genesis of the group that settled at The Farm.

In 1970 Gaskin led 250 people in a caravan of “20 or 30 old buses” from San Francisco to Tennessee on a four-month lecture tour of churches and colleges. “The farther we went, the more people there were who joined the caravan,” he said. “Pretty soon there were three or four hundred of us and the police were meeting us every time we crossed a state line.”

Gaskin’s caravan of hippies crossing America to Tennessee in 1971

As a location for a commune their pocket of Tennessee countryside, with its blackjack oaks and Amish communities, held mixed blessings. Though the thousand acres of farmland they bought was cheap, it was closer to the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan than it was to a main road or a hospital.

The community that Gaskin built was not based on free-love — its core values included the sanctity of marriage, importance of hard work and respect for the Tennessee locals: “You can’t jive anybody who’s teaching you how to run a tractor. It’s something to watch a cat who was once with the Hell’s Angels being taught to run a tractor by an old man – and being respectful to that old farmer.”

Eventually, applicants to join The Farm required sponsorship by a resident, a plan for their livelihood, and an explanation of what they might bring to the community. They then had to pass a probationary period.

Gaskin’s attitude to drugs also followed a – relatively – conservative line. “Don’t lose your head to a fad,” he said. “The idea is that you want to get open so you can experience other folks, not all closed up and off on your own trip. So you shouldn’t take speed or smack or coke. You shouldn’t take barbiturates or tranquillisers. All that kind of dope really dumbs you out. Don’t take anything that makes you dumb. It’s hard enough to get smart.”

In 1974, however, Gaskin went to prison for possession of marijuana. “After we’d been here for a while, we got busted for growing a hundred pounds of grass in the back,” he said. “And we weren’t sure whether the neighbours were more uptight with us for doing that or for being so dumb that we planted it in the deer trails where every hunter who came through could see it.”

He served one year of a three-year sentence. On his release he discovered that his voting rights had been rescinded. He sued the government and after a series of lower court victories won his case, in 1981, at the Tennessee Supreme Court .

Under Gaskin’s guidance The Farm’s ethos extended well beyond its geographical boundaries. The community supported aid efforts in Guatemala, Chernobyl, Belize and the Bronx in New York.

Meanwhile, his wife, Ina May, developed a respected free midwifery service for residents and “outsiders” alike — she turned down an offer to be privately flown to Hollywood when Demi Moore went into labour. Other on-site ventures have also flourished, from book publishing to a soy dairy.

Gaskin was a prolific writer. His books on hippy spirituality include The Caravan (1971); Hey Beatnik! This is the Farm Book (1974); and Amazing Dope Tales and Haight Ashbury Flashbacks (1980).

In 2004 Gaskin was inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and his own wife, Ina May.

While The Farm was home to thousands in its heyday, there are presently just 200 residents — the majority of whom are over 50. It is, however, one of the longest running communes in America. When asked in old age why the community survived, Gaskin emphasised its practical approach. “We were hippies wanting to live together and we accepted the discipline it took to do that,” he said. “Utopia means nowhere. The Farm has a zip code.”

Stephen Gaskin was married and divorced three times before he married Ina May Middleton. She survives him with their two sons and a daughter, along with a daughter from his second marriage and a son from a “non-marital relationship”. Another son predeceased him.

Stephen Gaskin, born February 16 1935, July 1 2014


We come from all walks of British life to say that the experiment to run the railways in private hands has failed. We at All on Board, which includes companies, environmentalists, council leaders, rail workers and experts, disability and social justice campaigners, know that the sensible thing is to run our railways under public ownership.

This is now very easy to do. As each private rail franchise expires, it can become ours. That way, all our investment, our taxes and fares stay in the railways and we get lower fares and a better service. Most investment in the railways already comes from taxpayers. More people will get off the roads and on to rail and we will have cleaner air. A fragmented system, which never benefited from competition because competition is impossible on a railway track, can become whole.

The policy comes at no additional costs to taxpayers. And it is not only green, but it’s popular and it works. Polls regularly show more than 70% of us believe it’s the best thing to do and every time a franchise fails and goes back, albeit temporarily, into public hands, performance improves.

This is about much more than money or efficiency. Trains and stations should be places that we all share.

Tasmin Omond, Lush; Jon Sauven, Greenpeace UK; Len McLuskey, Unite the Union; Paul Nowak, TUC; Rosie Rogers, Compass; and many others online

Christian Wolmar – rail expert

David Robinson – Change London

Frances Northrop – Transition Totnes

Prateek Butch – Social Liberal Forum

Jon Collins – Leader Nottingham City Council

Simon Letts – Leader Southampton City Council

Andrew Burns – Leader Edinburgh City Council

Prof Danny Dorling – Dept Geography, Oxford

Prof Paul Salveson – Dept of Transport, University of Huddersfield

Prof Robin Murray – economist

Prof Ian Miles – Technological Innovation and Social Change, Manchester University

Diane Elson- Women’s Budget Group

Ian Taylor – Transport for Quality of Life

Cat Hobbes – We Own It

Kat Baird – Share Action

Mick Whelan – Aslef

Manuel Cortes –TSSA

Colin Hines – Green New Deal

Andrew Harrop – Fabian Society

Nadia Idle – War on Want

Andy Greene – Disabled people Against the Cuts

Peter Robinson – Campaign Against Climate Change

Blame people, not monarchy

Catherine Bennett’s ad hominem attack on the royal family’s expenses (“Value for money? Our royals aren’t worth tuppence“, Comment) may or may not be justified. But it was almost entirely beside the point. A monarch as head of state in the 21st century, especially one that also assumes leadership of a state religion, would still be an absurdity at a tenth of the cost.

The heir to the throne has almost no choice in the matter: you are brought up from birth, surrounded by an army of courtiers telling you that you have a sacred destiny to fulfil (and whose own income and status depend on it) and only insanity or death will get you out of it. Add an industry of royal service and supply, combined with a gossip-hungry press, and the resulting malign circle of interlocking interests makes the institution virtually immovable. A society that requires such an institution is clearly suffering from infantilism; it is also, quite probably, breaking the law. The European Human Rights Act 1998 demands “respect for private and family life” and guarantees “freedom of expression” – with no exceptions. Is there a lawyer out there who will take on the brief and put the British people in the dock?

Bill Angus



Implacable blue plaque cuts

As two long-serving members of the English Heritage blue plaques panel who resigned in protest at what was being done to the blue plaques scheme, we are entirely in sympathy with the views expressed by our colleagues David Edgerton and Gillian Darley, who have also resigned (“English Heritage under fire as ‘white men off the telly’ dominate blue plaques panel”, News). However, it is not the case that we resigned in protest at the need to make efficiency savings. We were in the process of making careful changes in order to meet the demand for cuts, when we were abruptly overtaken by drastic measures.

These involved cuts out of all proportion to what was required. Of the vital research and support team, five full-time equivalents were reduced to two. Panel members were asked to support these policies. Our view was that this extremely popular, long-established and cost-effective scheme was in real terms being dismantled and its previous achievements discredited.

Dr Celina Fox London

Dr Margaret Pelling Oxford

Walking back to happiness

What an interesting article by Tracy McVeigh on the life of TA Leonard (“150 years on from his birth, Britain salutes the man who got us walking“, In Focus). His legacy to the “open air movement” is remarkable, but one important aspect was missing. The working-class young men enjoyed their holidays in the countryside so much that they decided to continue their rambles when they got home. Local groups of ramblers were formed – CHA and HF Clubs. They flourish to this day. My club, Bolton CHA Rambling Club, with almost 300 members, organises six graded rambles each week, two walking holidays yearly, together with social events. At the age of 109 we are still going strong – a true legacy of TA Leonard’s work!

Kathleen Jackson


See off the payday lenders

One reason for the UK credit union movement failing to grow more quickly is that legislation in the UK has been probably the most repressive in the world. (“Credit unions aim to step into the breach as curbs close payday lenders“, Business). One other reason is that not all employers are prepared to allow a deduction from payroll for credit union savers.

All the most successful credit unions are based around employment where the key factor is employees having payroll deduction for payments to their credit union. For example, Plane Saver Credit Union, which we started 21 years ago at British Airways, has 10,000 members with assets of £36m.

Payroll deductions cost virtually nothing and balanced against the value they provide offer an amazing employment benefit. With political support and the endorsement of religious leaders we can see off payday lenders, doorstep lenders and loan sharks.

Graham Tomlin

Treasurer, Plane Saver Credit Union

Geography lesson overdue

An advertisement on page 11 invites me to “discover Europe”. Please inform the Observer holiday department that I have already discovered Europe as I already live in Europe – in sunny Devon, as it happens!

Michael Tong


In every rich (OECD) country, the share of national income devoted to health services is now higher than it was 10 years ago. Despite the recession, even over the last five years, there is only one OECD country where the share has fallen: Greece (“Cameron warned: NHS is in danger of collapse within next five years“, News).

Looking ahead five years, the question for the political parties is not whether health expenditure will rise in real terms as national income recovers, but who will pay for the higher expenditure? The only alternative is to give up our aspirations for a “world class” or even “high class” health service and return to the benchmark of the 1950s to the mid 1990s: an “adequate service”.

Professor Clive Smee

Chief economic adviser to the Department of Health 1983-2002

East Horsley


You lead with the story that the NHS needs more money to avoid collapse within the next five years. While that is most likely true, one suspects there is still room for savings that will not impinge on patient care.

I recently accompanied my wife to the A&E department of a specialist local infirmary, rated by many the best in Europe. The care she received was exemplary, to the extent that the receptionist took time and care to explain how to complete a questionnaire from which I quote verbatim: “You need to fill in this section. How likely are you to recommend this A&E department to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?”

Professor David C Sanders


The problems of the NHS are far more to do with failure at the centre than in individual hospitals and clinics (“The coming crisis in the NHS“, In Focus).

There have been endless reorganisations and central initiatives that have completely failed in their objectives and that are then swept under the carpet while ministers and their advisers rapidly move on, leaving the service increasingly impoverished.

At the same time, privatisation and competition are being steadily increased, which can only increase fragmentation, secrecy, confusion and the siphoning off of profits. What the service really needs is openness, collaboration and using any efficiency savings to fund new developments in the public service.

Frank Field is right: we need a new national mutual, independent of government but not of voters, to receive all the funds and drive through reform.

Dr Richard Turner


It is quite extraordinary that the King’s Fund analyses the pressure on NHS finances without even mentioning the costs of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, both “startup” and recurring, and the ongoing costs of running the NHS “market” in England. These are more than the Better Care Fund, which is removing £2bn from frontline NHS spending. Clearly the costs of redundant “reform” would not close the NHS’s black hole. But every not-so-little helps

Calum Paton

Professor of public policy (health policy)

Keele University

I scoured the Observer‘s extensive coverage of the NHS’s financial crisis for any reference to the disastrous impact that successive governments’ addiction to the smoke and mirrors of PFI funding has had, as predicted in some quarters, on the NHS’s long-term viability. If, according to Monitor, the funding shortfall for 2015-16 will be £1.6bn while the PFI payments due for the same period will be £2bn, then the figures speak for themselves. Since they are the direct result of government policy, perhaps PFI payments should be met by the Treasury instead of by the NHS, thus solving the problem?

Stephen Butcher



I have seldom encountered a newspaper that manages to face in both directions simultaneously. In the Comment section you publish a perceptive article on the blind disregard of Republicans in the United States towards climate change (“If King Canute had a roads policy”, 29 June), and in the New Review you devote five pages to the political longevity of Nigel Lawson much of which is taken up with his absurd views on global warming.

Not only is he disputing the results of more than 200 years of scientific observation, he refuses to accept the conclusions of every major scientific body in the world including the US National Academy of Sciences and our own Royal Society. It is simply untrue to claim that global warming has stopped. Since 1998 there has been a slight slow-down in the rate of warming, but if you compare mean temperature increase by decade then there has been a steady increase since the 1970s. In addition, sea levels are continuing to rise and the ice-caps are melting faster than had been predicted. Lawson’s views are scientifically unsustainable, but since he has no scientific qualifications this does not bother him.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

In response to Kelly-Marie Blundell (Letters, 29 June) it is a shame that public services are not treated more like factory production lines. If they were, they would be customer focused and effective, rather than target focused and random.

Last year, my mother-in-law was in hospital for three weeks. As someone who does process improvement for a living, watching the nurses was fascinating. The ward layout meant they spent about 40 per cent of their time walking. In no factory would that be OK.

A friend has been going to a small hospital for daily injections for four weeks. He has been given the injection directly, which staff said was quick and easy, and through a drip, which staff said was standard protocol. In no factory production line, would this lack of standardisation be accepted, as it would lead to a high number of quality problems. The most worrying thing is that there is a standard protocol which some nurses feel it is OK to ignore.

Helen Jackson

Belper, Derbyshire

The Trident Commission’s headline finding “Britain ‘should keep its nuclear deterrent'” is mistaken (29 June). Modernising and proliferating nuclear weapons is out of step with international law and Britain’s security needs. In one of its few relevant passages, the Trident Commission concluded that the UK needs to needs to prepare a “glide-path” for reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons. With the Vienna Conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons scheduled for 8-9 December, the Commissioners need to work to ensure that Britain takes part in multilateral steps aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons, rather than sticking the UK’s head in the sand and pretending that the world has not changed in 30 years.

Councillor Mark Hackett

Chair, UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, and 10 others

For Joan Smith the roots of Jimmy Savile’s crimes can be traced back to Radio Caroline and Radio London, even though he never worked for a pirate radio station (29 June) .

The culture she describes was already covertly present in many mainstream institutions, such as the BBC, as well as manifest in the hit musical Hair, and underground magazines. Pirate stations may have been a symptom of the age, but were certainly not the sole cause of the behaviour she describes.

Dr Alan Bullion

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

DJ Taylor (29 June) is correct in his analysis of middle-class festival culture, but he failed to raise what seems to me to be the more significant question: what does the BBC think it is doing giving blanket coverage and free advertising to Glastonbury and the Hay Festival? There are many festivals, large and small. Glastonbury and Hay may merit a mention in a news item, why do they get so much more than that?

Neil P Confrey

Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire


David Cameron’s opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Commission presidency may have won him friends at home David Cameron’s opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Commission presidency may have won him friends at home

Applaud Cameron for fighting UK’s corner over federalist EU

CONGRATULATIONS to David Cameron (“Tory threat to leave EU”, News, “One step nearer the exit”, Focus, and “Odds mount against the UK in Europe”, Editorial, last week). Had he gone along with federalist Europe and voted for Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission, the Tories could have lost all hope of winning the next election.

The Juncker presidency flies in the face of recent European election results and the democratic wishes of many EU voters for reform. British views have been brushed aside for too long. We did not vote for federalism, and I believe a large percentage of the public is quietly applauding Cameron for sticking to his beliefs.
William Turner, Llanfyllin, Powys

Can it be that Cameron has had a “road to Damascus” moment and is now serious about leaving the EU? Or is he just playing the win-win game of Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond: if he attacks the EU and we end up leaving, he will be the big hero; if he attacks and nothing much happens, he will still pick up a lot of those votes, and be a heroic failure.

The prime minister has nothing to lose by going hammer and tongs at the EU before the general election.
John Broom, Headley, Hampshire

Cameron has exhibited a lack of strategic judgment over Juncker. Should the Tories be re-elected there can now be no credible possibility of them delivering the changes they seek, since this requires the building of support among our European partners.
Ramsay Ross, Uppingham, Rutland

Insulting people with whom you work is seldom a sensible way of getting what you want. Even if the UK does leave the EU, the terms of that withdrawal still have to be agreed.
Guy Liddel, Halifax

Dominic Lawson (“You’ve had a drubbing in round one, PM. Best of British for the final”, last week) is correct in stating that what Cameron wants will not be offered. When our politicians accept that this is the case — a situation that Nigel Farage of Ukip understands quite clearly — then Britain can decide where to go from there.
GR Harradence, Fern Tree, Tasmania

Lawson stated that the European Commission president has the sole right to promulgate EU-wide legislation. In fact the commission only proposes laws — it is the elected ministers and MEPs who decide — and the president needs the majority backing of commissioners.
Mark English, European Commission, London

School holiday disputes send wrong message

SOME years ago my daughter was reprimanded at school for doing homework in her lunch hour — alone — rather than bringing it home, according to the school, “so that you can see what she is doing” (“Court test for Gove’s ban on holidays”, News, and “I’ll see you in court, Miss”, Focus, last week).

The ludicrousness of this imperative in a school aiming to promote independent learning seemed inexplicable, and I said as much to her. But I also said the staff were quite right to chastise her: she knew the rules and was breaking them.

Those parents who protest loudly about the ruling on unauthorised absences from school — a policy I deplore — should think about the impact of this on their offspring. How will they raise a generation that can accept the strictures of a democratic society alongside its more beneficial aspects (education being but one).
Jill Holden, Radlett, Hertfordshire

This fiasco over law-abiding parents being prosecuted for their children’s brief absences has come about because we have replaced a sensible welfare-based approach with a blunt statistical one. Only a small number of parents seek to avoid their responsibilities. This crackdown has nothing to do with them.

Absence in general has now become a measurement of school performance, and some head teachers and local authorities seem to have lost sight entirely of what is best for the child in all this and become the agents of a bureaucratic system based only on the crude collecting of data.
Ben Whitney, Wolverhampton

I suspect James Haymore, who is mounting a legal challenge against the crackdown on parents taking children on holiday during term time, would not be very pleased if his son Toby came home and reported cancelled lessons because his teacher had gone on a cheap term-time break.
Anthony Roberts, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

In this debate the position of the school staff has been forgotten. My wife is retiring this month, which means for the first time since she qualified 39 years ago we will be able to take a holiday in term time.
Dr Derek Ford, Cambridge

In the light of Michael Gove’s crackdown, will the parents of the ball girls and ball boys at Wimbledon now be prosecuted? Or will duties at a high-profile televised event always count as “exceptional circumstances” compared with weddings, funeralsand travel experiences?
Stephen Howard, Bristol

Demolishing myths of Liverpool housing

CHARLES CLOVER has an inaccurate view of Liverpool city council’s reason for demolishing the Welsh streets (“A corrupt clique of rulers keeps the north grotty to stay in power”, Comment, June 22). In other parts of the city we have pioneered new ways of breathing life into terraced properties, such as converting two homes into one to make them bigger and more appealing to families, and 80% of the houses in the wider area have been retained.

Sadly the Welsh streets’ terraces are simply not economically viable. They were built in the 1880s, quickly and cheaply, without foundations. They are riddled with damp. You can see with the naked eye roofs sagging and joists coming loose — buildings falling apart. It is ludicrous to suggest that one day I woke up and decided to turn down £40m and destroy a community in the process.

Decades of decline have been caused by residents voting with their feet and moving to areas with a wider choice of better-quality homes. Our proposals are backed by 70% of the local community.
Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Social media and eating disorders

SOCIAL media messages regarding fitness and healthy diets may or may not relate to the increasing prevalence of eating disorders (“Working up a cold sweat about getting thin”, News Review, last week), which have complex causation that includes genetic, biological, psychological and social

They are serious mental illnesses with a high mortality rate, but often they are reported as “weaknesses” in people who take exercise or dieting too far.

Today 96% of 13 to 15-year-olds have access to the internet at home but a very small proportion develop eating disorders. A meta-analysis from last year studied more than 200 research articles and concluded that the media portrayal of thinness and fitness has virtually no effect on males developing eating disorders, and a minimal effect on a vulnerable proportion of females who have pre-existing body dissatisfaction.

As you reported, over the past year there has been an 8% rise for inpatient admissions relating to eating disorders, but it is unclear if this is due to improved awareness or a true increase in prevalence of the disorder.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Woodbourne Priory Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham


Having served on a jury, I am not surprised by the reported findings of the judicial experiment (“On trial: how juries reach their verdicts”, News, last week). Not being allowed to take notes, we spent much of the deliberation time disagreeing about what we thought the judge had said in his summing-up (which had been split between Friday and Monday). I can’t say I was impressed by the experience.
Vic Brown, Morpeth, Northumberland

Justice would be well served by doing away with juries and letting judges preside. Did those jurors at the phone-hacking trial really have the ability to assimilate months of evidence? I doubt it. Leave it to the professionals.
Joe Cowley, Belvedere, London

I savoured every sentence of “AA Gill on life at 60”, (News Review, last week) — laughing a lot, even crying a little and loving his honesty. It has prompted me to nurture friendships more, to travel more and not to be so “anxious” about my children’s education. I wish him a very happy birthday and compliment him on a very inspiring article.
Evelyn Coughlan, Cork

AA Gill is so right about the greatest gift of our generation being the opportunity to travel. I would go so far as to say that we are the luckiest generation yet — luckier than those that will follow.
John Harrison, Via email

What a great article by Gill. Until the advent of the modern media the public were kept totally in the dark about the actions and beliefs of their “betters”. This is why, for example, the Profumo affair was so notorious: people weren’t allowed to know about the personal and political failings of those entrusted with running the country. We now live in a world that provides perhaps too much information — which is why we are so cynical nowadays about politicians.
Trevor Barre, Via email

I am not surprised that Gill telling people he is 60 elicits little response from his acquaintances. Far from “60 is the new 40”, today it is more like “80 is the new 60”, particularly when you consider the number of septuagenarians actively pursuing their chosen careers — John Humphrys, Melvyn Bragg and David Dimbleby, to name but three. And as for the broadcaster Nicholas Parsons, at 90 he is in a league of his own. If it is recognition Gill is after for clocking up 60 years, then the best he can hope for is a free bus pass.
Amir Shivji, Kingston upon Thames, London

The First World War witnessed agony, futility, the killing and wounding of young innocents and the stupidity of certain heads of state (“War poets edited out of memorial”, News, last week). The poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon wrote about it as it happened and suffered the consequences, as did my father, who was badly wounded twice. If these poets are edited out of the artistic programme to commemorate the conflict, it just makes a mockery of their writing and insults the sacrifice.
Jack Collings, Broadstone, Dorset

Owen’s Strange Meeting is the great poem of reconciliation. Like Owen, Sassoon was critical not of the “enemy”, but of those with a vested interest in continuing a futile war.
Andrew Hoellering, Thorverton, Devon


Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


50 Cent, rapper, 39; Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist, 77; George W Bush, former US president, 68; the Dalai Lama, 79; Dame Hilary Mantel, author, 62; Makhaya Ntini, cricketer, 37; Dame Mary Peters, athlete, 75; Geoffrey Rush, actor, 63; Jennifer Saunders, actress, 56; Sylvester Stallone, actor, 68


1189 Richard I accedes to English throne; 1535 Sir Thomas More executed for treason; 1885 Louis Pasteur successfully tests rabies vaccine; 1942 Anne Frank and family go into hiding; 1957 John Lennon and Paul McCartney meet; 1988 explosions destroy North Sea drilling platform Piper Alpha, killing 167


The new sugar guidelines are hard to swallow

Fruit and vegetables are rich in the sugar that scientifc advisers are encouraging us to avoid

Cherries in a London Farmers' market

Forbidden fruits: one ripe banana and one apple contain around 35g of sugar in total  Photo: GETTY

6:58AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments183 Comments

SIR – I read with interest the latest recommendation on daily sugar consumption. When these limits are considered in the light of the recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption – seven or more servings a day – we are faced with a dilemma.

The total sugar intake from eating one ripe banana and one apple is approximately 35g – the maximum daily intake recommended for a man. As all fruit and vegetables contain sugars to some extent then, under the latest suggested sugar limits, no more fruit or vegetables should be eaten that day.

This is clearly nonsense and illustrates the increasingly unrealistic directives from the Government’s scientific advisers. With such confusion in the recommendations, it is no wonder people ignore them.

John Waterhouse

Surprise charges for renewing car tax online

Using unofficial websites can lead to extra costs of £40 or more

Motorists face a rise of up to £20 in the cost of their tax disc as the Government looks to plug a black hole in their finances as drivers turn to greener cars.

The DVLA charges for new tax discs, but others can add an extra ‘service’ fee Photo: REX

6:59AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments217 Comments

SIR – I was interested to read Captain Derek Hopkins’s letter yesterday about being charged an extra £40 for an online renewal of a car tax disc.

In May I renewed the tax for my car by paying (according to the renewal notice) £145. However, my credit card statement shows a debit for £185 had been applied under “directgov.uk.net Alresford”. I too would like to know: “What is going on?”

John Cetti
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

SIR – Captain Hopkins has fallen foul of one of the commercial websites charging for government services. These are free via the gov.uk website. He has been charged a £40 “administration fee”.

Tim Banks
Knutsford, Cheshire

SIR – I nearly got charged £25 for applying for a free Australian visa until I realised that I was not on the Australian government website.

Similarly, I managed to stop my daughter paying £150 for the privilege of submitting her tax return online to HMRC through a private company.

Readers should always ensure that they are on the government website and not a private fee-paying simulacrum.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – If Captain Hopkins complains to the website strongly enough, they might refund £32 of the £40 they charged him, keeping £8 as an administration fee.

However, it really ought not to be beyond the wit of the DVLA to stop dealing with such websites.

Richard Owsley

Airport scrutiny

SIR – I used to travel frequently between England and Ireland during the “Troubles”.

In view of my age and background, I was subjected to regular and extended security scrutiny. I admit to having found this quite annoying, but at least I understood the need for such action.

The threat has now changed, but in order not to cause offence to racial minorities, everyone is inconvenienced, whatever their age and background. This is nonsense. Terrorist profiling is not racism, it is logic.

Vincent Hearne
Nabinaud, Charente, France

Ships of the Line

SIR – The Queen named the Royal Navy’s new and only aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth yesterday.

Her sister ship HMS Prince Charles, with an estimated build cost of £3 billion, may simply be mothballed, placed in reserve, possibly never to see active service.

Is there a subliminal message here?

Geoff Pringle
Long Sutton, Somerset

Sick of chic

SIR – I am heartily sick and tired of reading about how wonderful the French are. Supposedly they have better table manners; they are slimmer; their women are more chic; their food is tastier. Is there nothing they are not good at?

Well, their public lavatories leave a lot to be desired – a hole in the floor, no thank you! And who were all those fat French women at the hypermarket in Calais? Specially drafted-in French-speaking English folk, I presume.

Give us a break, please, from the wonderful French.

Cherry Tugby
Warminster, Wiltshire

Free school crash

SIR – A political car crash is the only way to describe Tuesday’s notification by the Department for Education to pull the funding for a new free school, Fulham Boys’ School in the London borough of Hammersmith, only weeks before it was due to open.

As one of the parents whose sons had a place there, the unthinkable has happened. Some 100 families in the borough must now scramble to find a school with space left just before the summer holidays.

I am not seeking to apportion blame either to Michael Gove’s Department for Education or Hammersmith & Fulham council, but the question arises as to how parents can have faith in the free schools project when last-minute political interference can so easily compromise a good new school. Education is vital to a strong society, and related government policy should be about substance, not political mood swings.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse
London W6

A study in stage fright

SIR – Musicians can have the same problem as the one Michael Simkins describes when it comes to “drying” mid-performance.

In the Seventies, Emil Gilels performed at our local town hall and obviously forgot the middle section of one of the Chopin études.

He improvised so brilliantly that I suspect I was the only one who noticed. I am sure Chopin would have forgiven him.

Lucille Nemeth
London W2

Last words

SIR – Isabel Hardman writes about death in your centre pages.

I am reminded of Woody Allen’s remark: “I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Adrian Holloway
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire

SIR – My dear mother died on Tuesday afternoon, aged 93. She told me that she had woken at two-thirty that morning, and so she read the Daily Telegraph Business section.

Leaving aside the Sport section, the rest of the paper was devoured every day. Many evenings when I thought it was time to help her to bed she would say: “I’ll be a few minutes, I’m just reading the Letters page.”

Alan Judd
Bramcote, Nottinghamshire

Wimbledon fans look forward to a quieter final

SIR – I am really looking forward to the women’s final at Wimbledon: no horrid screaming and no posturing when serving.

I shall be supporting Eugenie Bouchard. She might not be British, but she is from the Commonwealth, which is the next best thing.

Jan Chapman
Fulwood, Lancashire

SIR – I was glad Angelique Kerber beat Maria Sharapova on Tuesday. I was able to turn the volume on for the rest of the tournament.

Steve Hamilton
Easterton, Wiltshire

SIR – The weather forecasters cannot win (Letters, July 2). I live in Wimbledon and while I watched the rain come down upon the BBC commentator, it wasn’t raining at all a few hundred yards away.

In order to have the micro weather forecasting required for large sporting events, there would need to be a dedicated weather channel.

Diane Barnett

London SW19

SIR – Why does the BBC insist on changing channels midway through a match? This makes it impossible to record and watch the whole match later.

G C Lang
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – My suitcase for a recent 12-day cruise was smaller than any of the bags carried on to court by the Wimbledon players for a four-hour match.

I cannot imagine that much is contained in these pieces of luggage, but it does provide their sponsor with a large area for advertising. I will readily make the sides of my suitcase available to any organisation willing to sponsor my holidays.

David Miller
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

It is no longer economically viable for healthcare to be free at the point of delivery

From 2016, people with assets of more than £118,000, including their homes, will have to pay for their care in old age

The Labour MP Frank Field has suggested that pensioners pay ‘their fair whack’ in National Insurance contributions Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments143 Comments

SIR – I have been an admirer of Frank Field in the past, but his proposal that pensioner income be subject to National Insurance contributions (Letters, July 4) is outrageous. Most pensioners today have contributed more than their fair share into the NI “pot” during their working life.

The sooner Mr Field and his Labour colleagues realise that the NHS in its present form is no longer economically viable, the better. Britain cannot offer a health service where every treatment to everybody is free at the point of delivery.

Mal Fairhurst

SIR – Frank Field, one of the more respected and level-headed politicians, suggests that higher-income pensioners should make National Insurance contributions to help offset the National Health Service’s increasing costs that come with an ageing population.

However, would he consider a reduction in such contributions, where the pensioner paid for private medical insurance, and was less likely to use the full NHS services?

As things are, of course, higher-income pensioners do not enjoy the full age-related income tax allowances.

Brian Mahony
Pimperne, Dorset

SIR – To suggest that pensioners pay National Insurance to save the NHS is a bit rich. Many people paid NI contributions for more than 40 years, rarely visit a doctor and have never been in hospital. We consider we have already more than “paid our fair whack”, as he puts it.

Throwing money at the NHS will not help. It is a management-riddled monster. A major cull of management is needed to create a lean, fit machine.

Will Mr Field’s next suggestion be that we continue to make pension contributions until we die, to help fill the hole in state pension provision?

Patrick Tracey

SIR – By the time I retired in 2010 I had made continuous NI contributions for 48 years. However, in order to qualify for my basic state pension of just over £100 a week I only needed 30 years’ contributions.

Could Mr Field arrange reimbursement of the 18 years’ overpayment?

Paul Hayward
Stowmarket, Suffolk

SIR – Frank Field is totally wrong to want to levy National Insurance payments on grey voters. One of the founding reasons for creating the National Health Service was to eliminate the fear of illness in old age for the citizens of the United Kingdom.

Instead, he should look at non-essential cosmetic surgery, or overseas tourists who come here to have NHS treatment and then flee without paying. The latter should pay up-front, and if entitled to free NHS treatment should then be refunded, minus a standing charge for administration.

John Millar
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – I wish to refer to 
Carol Hunt (Sunday Independent, June 22, 2014) and her concern for the approx. 10,000 families who are struggling with anxiety and hopelessness and the fear of banks taking over their homes – also her reference to the two Irelands, one for the wealthy and one for the poor.

Quite recently the 
Minister for Arts, Culture and The Gaelteacht Jimmy Deenihan told the Dail he is very pleased with the €22m 
allocation of funding in preparation for the Centenary of Celebrations for the 1916 rising.

We all cherish the memory of these great men, we will honour and remember them in our own special way. However, the activity of our government is an insult to them – Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and all the great men who gave their lives for freedom.

Betterment and equality for every man, woman and child on this island was their aim, but they would turn in their graves today at the wastage of money, mismanagement and total disregard for our citizens in the Ireland of today.

I will finish my letter with an excerpt from the late Donal Walsh’s book – Donal’s Mountain – the following are the words of wisdom from this 16 year old boy.

“It really does make me ashamed of my Government when they can get wages of hundreds of thousands of euro and yet one of the most important children’s wards in Ireland in Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin, Dublin had to rely on charitable donations to buy a bucket of paint and a brush.”

Philomena Fitzgerald,

Tralee, Co Kerry

O’Reilly plight a real eye-opener

Madam — In the course of my working life I had the good luck of meeting Tony O’Reilly once in the 1960’s. It was after he hit the headlines in the ‘Kerry Gold’ launch and before he took up a top sales position with Heinz USA. In stature, attire and general demeanour he projected burning ambition. He was a man for the ‘high road’ whose progress I followed with zest down through the years as if he were an icon. I even gambled a few ‘bob’ on shares in his companies.

Yes, Sir Anthony O’Reilly was a powerful man and a successful one in every sense of the word — in sport, business and entrepreneurship. In fact he was well up in the Forbes magazine list of top business people in the world, having headed the giant Heinz food conglomerate in America and multiplied its profits many times over — becoming one of Ireland’s elite fistful of billionaires in the process.

His success in expanding INM newspaper-empire — the golden cow that yielded him millions, his interest in Providence Oil, and the development of his ‘pet home’ 750 acre — Castlemartin Estate —were phenomenal achievements. Not to mention his desperate efforts for Waterford Wedgwood, unfortunately, pouring in hundreds of millions of good money after bad, while ignoring the red light.

Despite the stories we read of Sir Anthony’s wealth, the pressures put on him by nine top banks to sell off the treasured assets he yearned and worked for so hard, was indeed very sad and stressful. Great credit for the dignified manner in which he is dealing with this dark hour; unlike other wealthy developers and bankers who fled the scene leaving creditors to lick the dust.  O’Reilly’s prospect of a soft landing, with heiress — Lady Chryss —better than most. Nevertheless, his rapid turn in fortunes is an eye-opener to all.

James Gleeson,

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Experts should consult patients

Madam — There is much talk on suicide prevention today. This is indeed a very serious and pertinent topic. I believe there is a resource that is not being tapped into. I’m talking about “experts by experience.” Let me elaborate.

Many years ago I availed of the psychiatric services because of severe depression with suicidal thoughts. I was given a diagnosis of manic depression and told I would have to take lithium for the rest of my life, otherwise I would be at the mercy of my violent mood swings.

Around three years ago I began to speak publicly on how I overcame this diagnosis and live a fulfilling life,  medication free.

You would think that psychiatrists and experts in the field of suicide prevention would have been beating down my door wanting to know the secret of my recovery or at least wish to consult with me. Not one so called “expert” has contacted me in the last few years.

Unfortunately with people who take their lives, we will

never know the mental anguish that drove them to take this tragic step. However there is a wealth of people like myself who have been driven to the edge, “experts by experience” that isn’t being tapped into.

I challenge anyone in the field of suicide prevention to consult with real people; people who either attempted suicide or who were driven to the edge as opposed to consulting with “experts” who may be highly qualified with many letters after their names. Otherwise they are just extolling platitudes in my view, a means of exorcising their own wafer thin beliefs.

On Friday I celebrated 21 years medication free. On July 17 I celebrate half a century on the planet. No small achievement considering that when in my late teens I never thought I would make age 21.

Surely I have a voice that is worth listening to.

Tommy Roddy

Salthill, Galway

O’Carroll expert at being female

Madam — Eilis O Hanlon (Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014) suggests the Joe Duffy’s question, to Brendan O Carroll, Do they know it’s a woman?, was


Given ‘ Carroll’s genius for playing the part of a woman, it was a very sensible question.

Mattie Lennon,

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Kathleen bites Suarez!

Madam — Do you know I was sure the day of ‘Man eats Man’ and ‘Dog eats Dog’ had arrived, but I’m glad to read that Luis

Suarez didn’t mean to bite

Giorgio Chilleini and has apologised!! World’s gone mad enough, God knows, but it’s not just the day of ‘Malachi

prophecy’ yet. In the Winter of Life, I still learn.

I was 90-years-old on June 30 and for 14 years never missed a week without writing to Sindo letters page! You are my ‘life’ and when I’m in your letters page it makes my day! You’ll never know the light you put in ‘My reason for going on’!

Kathleen Corrigan,

Cootehill, Co Cavan

Letters Editor: Happy birthday Kathleen

Rejoice at access to Lissadell

Madam — It was good to read a story with a happy ending. An interview by Ciara Dwyer (Living Section Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014), entitled Constance The Great. Lissadell House had been closed for five years. Because of a legal battle over a right of way. With Sligo County Council. It’s great Lissadell House is now open to the public. Constance Cassidy her husband Edward Walsh, and a family of seven, said the future began last week when Lissadell re-opened.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny did the honours. One sad note: Sligo County Council faces a massive legal bill.

Many people came to the re-opening wishing them well. And rejoicing in their return. Welcome back to Lissadell. Constance said “the past is the past”. Lets look to the future. So say all of us.

Bernard Rafter,

Berkshire, England

How was World Cup for you?

Madam — What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful World Cup, what a spectacle! And a lot more to come. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The beautiful game at its best. Bill and the boys doing their best. What will we do when it’s over?  Have wonderful memories I suppose. Wonderful.

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Advertise for public job posts

Madam — I feel it is outrageous that the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte appointed two former political public representatives to the board of Bord Na Mona. In fact it is outrageous in my opinion to know that these individuals would have received severance pay following their rejection by Joe public.

Moreover, it proved beyond all doubt that cronyism is also alive and kicking within the realms of this government.

Isn’t it time the country rid

itself of this nod and wink brigade and the way they do business? I believe the answer is yes and I would make no apology for saying so either.

Of course, one of the problems is there isn’t any advertisements for these positions and without competition from the members of the public.

Personally I feel radical changes are urgently needed so that members of the public have an opportunity in applying for any vacancy positions on semi-state boards.

I would like to see such  appointments challenged and a rigorous enforcement of the Equal Opportunities Act being applied. Because up until now, political appointments are at the centre of a lot of controversy, just look at the recent scandals in our charity organisations.

We live in a country where political accountability for their actions is non-existent. Therefore, the ordinary working people of this country will never have a proper opportunity on an equal basis.

Mattie Greville,


Co Westmeath

Plenty to look forward to

Madam — Let us all look to the future and see what we have to look forward to.

There’s the upcoming re-shuffle, lots of fun and games to be had there in Leinster House. Meanwhile rumours are rife that the free water for children will no longer be free. Funding is also to be removed  from the following, Irish Deaf Association, Alzheimer’s  Association and the Carers  Association.

Also announced is that three vital ex-members of CRC are unable to appear before the PAC. The economy, that’s all we’ve been hearing about. Well at last there is light at the end of the tunnel, haven’t you heard the news, it’s fantastic?

The Banking Inquiry is soon to begin, where the truth will be told by everyone and by so doing, will we (the unfortunates who for the past number of years have

bailed out Europe, the banks and others best left un-named) be assured that when this enquiry is over we will all be refunded every penny that we were levied?

Yes we’ll get back every single penny — and if you believe that why not start writing your letter to Santa today?

Ah yes my friends, lots to look forward to, so don’t be too down hearted.

Fred Molloy,

Clonsilla, Dublin 15

Honest debate on finances needed

Madam — As someone who represents one of the wealthiest parts of our country, along with the poorest, I understand the fears about uncontrolled Local Property Taxes. I also however, understand the critical need to raise taxes in order to counter that co-existing poverty. It has been extraordinary therefore, that we have had a debate on the Local Property Tax in the absence of virtually any contribution from those who actually work within the local government sector and try to make a dysfunctional system work.

Instead there have been myriad opinion pieces from academics, ill-informed commentators, vested interests and frequently the oppositionists from the Far Left who have opposed every single suggestion as to how we should finance our system fairly and with democratic accountability. Stephen Donnelly (Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014) simply continued that trend.

Too often the voice of the Constructive Left has been sidelined and the platform left to the opportunists. Across the world Socialists and Social Democrats advocate payment into a collective fund, toward the provision of collective services. All across the world, that is, except for the Trendy Left and Nationalist Left in Ireland.

Here they simply oppose, campaign and seek to instil fear and selfish individualism. I oppose their agenda just as much as I oppose those who broke this country and brought Ireland to its knees.

No Public representative particularly wants to advocate more tax. However, surely this country has had enough of those who promise without cost and who offer public services without any reference to payment or appropriate taxation.

The truth is that since the populist and cowardly abolition of Domestic Rates, Local Government has been starved of funding. The promise to reimburse councils for the rates foregone has never been honoured by Government. Since that decision, approximately €4bn has been withheld from Dublin City Council alone. That cannot be sustained.

In addition Dublin City Council effectively subsidises Ireland by a subsequent decision by a Garret FitzGerald led Government to withhold commercial rates payment on Government properties – last year alone that cost Dublin City Council approximately €30m.

We have just had Local Elections without any meaningful reform can we at least now have an honest debate on Local Government Financing? I have proposed before that a Forum on the Financing of Local Government be established. It would be comprised of the main Political Parties, the Social Partners and the Association of Irish Local Government. There would be an opportunity to contribute for the wider public and it would be given six months to report. The Forum could consider either a national and common approach to the funding issue or, as I would prefer, a range of options that could be determined, as appropriate by local elected Councils.

Dermot Lacey

Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Motor rally fears have disappeared

Madam — I don’t think Motor Rallying is helpful for road rafety. It is very disrespectful of the countryside and tears up the verges, once the abode of daisies, primroses and Wordsworth’s Daffodils. The cars are very similar to the models in the showroom, only that they look like they have been pimped in hell. It’s a template for every Turbo-charged crack head on the road, whose Fiesta only reaches its max in a vertical descent. Rallying is very dangerous for the participants, the plus side of this is, the fewer there are of them, the safer it is for the rest of us.

I have to admit being over sensitised to road safety. The carefree attitude I once had has disappeared. I got entangled with an American company that overcooked the danger bit so much that I was almost afraid to open my front door. A relative, Boomerang Bill, helped me deal with my problem; we named him Boomerang because he returned from Australia.

I have lost all fear now, and would even chance parking the car in Dun Laoghaire, despite the dangers of the parking ticket blight.

John Arthur,

Balally Close, Dublin 16

Cyclists should be insured

Madam – Today it would seem that we are having more and more bicycles on our roads. People are using bicycles for recreation and as a means of getting fit which, of course, is a very good thing.

Cycling clubs are out in strength, they travel in packs for considerable distances in all weathers. All of this, of course, is very good indeed except for one thing; the roads have never been a more dangerous place.

Many roads are too narrow for cyclists to travel in safety. Something must be done to make this much safer. Either the roads must be widened or cyclists confined to wider roads where they can travel in safety.

As a road user, the cyclist should pay a road tax like the rest of us for using the roads and should definitely have insurance. A cycling test should be organised for cyclists so that they can learn to travel in safety.

Road should be made much safer, it is ridiculous to think that speed detection vehicles should be confined to limited roads and even more so that there positions can be found on computers and other devices.

Until much more is done to improve Road Safety the number of deaths and injuries on our roads will continue to 

Michael O’Meara,

Killarney, Co Kerry

Sunday Independent

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