Quiet day

13July2014 Quiet day

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day

ScrabbleIwin, but gets over 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Frank Mumford – obituary

Frank Mumford was a master marionettist whose characterful puppets entertained royalty but were occasionally considered a little too racy by the censors

Frank Mumford in 1947 with his wife, Maisie, and their puppets Fyodor and Mademoiselle ZiziCREDIT: Courtsey of Frank Mumford Archive

Frank Mumford with his wife, Maisie, and their puppets Fyodor and Mademoiselle Zizi Photo: Courtsey of Frank Mumford Archive

6:51PM BST 12 Jul 2014


Frank Mumford, who has died aged 95, was a master of marionettes whose career in variety spanned eight decades.

After the Second World War, he and his wife, Maisie, created a speciality act featuring 2ft-tall puppets with large heads and scaled-down bodies. Their line-up included hippos, skating cats, skeletons, dancers , a matador and bull — and their most famous creation, Mademoiselle Zizi, a diminutive chanteuse based on Lana Turner and Gypsy Rose Lee.

Frank Mumford designed the puppets, carving the heads and hands and making the costumes — one of Zizi’s gowns, lined in shocking pink, was designed by Schiaparelli. The Mumfords gave each character every nuance of natural movement, from a belly dancer seductively removing her veil to Zizi demurely dabbing her face with a handkerchief.

Zizi was once described in a newspaper as “sex appeal on strings” and after one show in Juan-les-Pins she was named “Miss Venus of the Cote d’Azur”. The Birmingham Watch Committee, however, took a less favourable view and banned her at the Birmingham Hippodrome for kissing men in the audience.

The Mumfords played top London nightspots — including the Coconut Grove, Grosvenor House, Ciro’s, the Embassy and the Dorchester — and variety shows and cabarets around the world .

In the 1950s they performed at private parties for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris, and had a two-week run in Monaco performing for Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. “Princess Grace hardly spoke, but Prince Rainier was absolutely easy to chat to,” Mumford recalled. “He was the one I had to go to for Zizi to kiss, but after about 10 shows he got fed up with it.”

The Mumfords made many television appearances in Britain, working at Alexandra Palace in the early days of children’s television . Mumford carved the early versions of the Watch with Mother puppet character Andy Pandy and also featured in Time for Tich (1963-4) alongside the ventriloquist Ray Alan’s dummy Tich and his pet duck Quackers.

Mumford’s last public appearance was in 2004 – 72 years after he had first appeared on stage with his creations aged 14.

Ernest Frank Mumford was born in north London on July 12 1918, a late addition to a large family. He was a solitary child who, while recovering from mumps at the age of six, amused himself by making a miniature theatre from a Maynards sweet box. “I cut a proscenium in the front and had curtains and cut figures out of magazines with hairpins to hold them,” he recalled. But it was when his drama teacher gave him the book Marionettes and How to Make Them by the American puppeteer Tony Sarg that he found his vocation. Originally billed as “Master Mumford and His Marionettes”, he played London’s Wood Green Empire in 1932.

The following year he had a stand of puppets at a School Boys’ Hobbies Exhibition at Alexandra Palace and, after leaving school, got a job at Edmonds of Wood Green making window displays. There, to bring customers in, he created a p uppet theatre, performing afternoon shows and special ones at Christmas. In his late teens he and some friends founded a company and began playing at small theatres around London.

In the late 1930s he met his future wife, Maisie Tierney, who was then working at Morleys department store in Brixton. She joined his act in 1938, but the outbreak of war the following year brought things to a temporary halt.

After training as an RAMC medical assistant, in 1943 Mumford joined the 16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance surgical team, and was first stationed in North Africa. He married Maisie on leave in July 1944, but in September, while working in a hospital at Arnhem, he was taken prisoner and saw out the rest of the war in a PoW camp.

Returning home the following spring, he transferred to the Central Pool of Artists (the official provider of live entertainment to the Armed Forces), and put together a two-hour touring show entitled “Stars on Strings” for the Stars in Battledress organisation. It toured air bases, was manned by 11 staff and had almost 100 puppets. The show was on the road for six months until Mumford was demobbed in 1946.

During the Forties, the Mumfords signed with several London agents. As well as their puppet shows, Frank designed full-scale pantomimes, sets and costumes for Lucan and McShane Productions and for the music-hall star George Robey. Later they were managed by Lew and Leslie Grade.

In 1947 they created the two-handed act for which they would become best known, featuring larger puppets to suit venues such as the Hackney Empire. Two years later they won their first engagement overseas — a three-month contract at Le Boeuf sur le Toit in Paris, where they got to know stars and celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Jean Cocteau and Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1950s they signed to MCA Paris — 90 per cent of their work at this time was in Europe.

As well as designing his own act, Mumford designed and made costumes for others, including Boule Blanche, a cabaret in Montparnasse. He also designed the interior of the Mocambo nightclub on the Champs-Élysées, where the Mumfords played for several seasons.

After Maisie’s death in 1985, Frank carried on alone, giving his last performance at the Leeds City Varieties. But he never stopped planning for future appearances.

Though some were lost or stolen, Frank kept many of his puppets and masses of archive material. Last November a documentary of his life, An Attic Full of Puppets, made by Richard Butchins, was shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the Suspense London Puppetry Festival 2013.

Mumford, a theosophist who followed the teachings of Madame Blavatsky, lived life to the full and did not believe that death was the end. His last words were: “I am OK.”

He and Maisie had no children, but delighted in the company of friends and family.

Frank Mumford, born July 12 1918, died July 4 2014


I was intrigued to hear the latest big idea from the shadow education minister, Tristram Hunt, announcing “master teachers” and a “royal college” of teaching as the key to moving from inconsistent teaching to the sunlit uplands of Singaporean wonderfulness (the practice is imported from elsewhere, so it’s bound to be better), “‘Master teachers’ set to be new classroom elite“, News.

Whoever came up with this educational nomenclature had to scratch their heads a bit. After all, we’ve already had “advanced skills teachers” (remember them?) and “excellent teachers” (boring), so this new superlative has been wheeled in, presumably, as an antidote for “boring old mediocre qualified teachers” (like me?).

As for the royal college, I have no doubt that a heraldic device and the imprimatur of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth will help avoid a repeat of the General Teaching Council (RIP). Yes, it is easy to be cynical as we are living through an era of educational policy made on the hoof designed to spin a good headline, and opposition to it designed not to frighten those voters who believe this very same spin.

I do hope when I fly off for my summer hols I have a master pilot as against just a boring old mediocre one. Crashing is rarely desirable whether at an aeronautical or policy level.

Simon Uttley, headmaster

Saint John Bosco College

London SW19

Religion and the right to die

Catherine Bennett argues that religious campaigners against Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill are dishonest to use arguments that will “make sense to those who do not share Christian beliefs” (“Religious activists have too much say over our right to die“, Comment).

For years, religious groups have only been grudgingly included in public debates, provided that they assent to the principle that they should apply secular reason and use secular language. It’s strange that, when they do so, they are accused of lying. Regardless, it is not the religious who stand in the way of a “right to die”, but parliament and the courts. Bennett, and others who loudly complain that the campaign for assisted dying is a campaign against the imposition of religious values are the intellectual equivalents of Luis Suárez – they bite the religious players instead of playing the policy ball.

Paul Bickley

Director, Political Programme

Theos, London SW1

Richard Hannay is no Holmes

I can’t agree with Robert McCrum (“The 100 Best Novels“, New Review) that Richard Hannay, the hero of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, was “a cross between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond”.

Hannay was as thick as two short planks and would have appeared in a Sherlock Holmes story only as a foil to the quick mind of the great sleuth, in the same way as Dr Watson and Inspector Lestrade.

However, I think Mr McCrum is quite right to identify Hannay as a role model for Bond. Like Ian Fleming, Buchan has his hero charging all over the world in cars, trains and aeroplanes, dressing and talking like a toff while occasionally behaving like a hooligan and, above all, managing to bungle every assignment he is sent on (well, right up until the last scene, anyway).

No wonder the Bond franchise was described on the cover of one of the old Pan paperbacks as “supersonic John Buchan”.

John Tavner



Economic lesson from the past

In the item “Growth is good, but only the right kind – and only if it makes life better for all of us” (Business), Ed Balls is quoted as stating: “The struggle to prove that a dynamic market economy and a fair society can go hand in hand remains to be won.”

Although not an economist, I would suggest that this was already more than adequately proven by the Soziale Marktwirtschaft (social market economy) policy adopted by Germany’s first postwar economics minister, Ludwig Erhard. This policy, I understand, was a major contributory factor to the German Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) and to prosperity across a broad range of the population, coupled with the necessary safety nets for the more disadvantaged in society – the old, the sick, and the unemployed.

Richard Clark



Tartan gone barmy

If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision making, it will do much to swell the no vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa!

John Eoin Douglas



While I can see that the EU judgment on “the right to be forgotten” has caused problems for journalists, it seems absurd for Jane Merrick to describe it as a curtailment of liberty, or even to say that “it is not a great time for journalism” (6 July). The great journalists of the past somehow managed without the internet at all; and as Merrick herself points out, in Egypt three Al-Jazeera journalists have been imprisoned for seven years: that certainly is a curtailment of liberty, with which the loss of access to some facts on Google can hardly be compared.

John Dakin

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Last Sunday you published a century-old photograph of King George V with various dignitaries including one you described as “Henri Poincaré, President of France”. But the first name of President Poincaré was Raymond. You have confused him with his cousin, the mathematician Henri Poincaré, he of the Poincaré Conjecture. Henri Poincaré, like all mathematicians and almost all scientists, is little-known to the general public but as a historical figure he is incomparably more important than his cousin. He counts among the most influential mathematicians of all time, in the class of Gauss, Euler, Hilbert and Newton.

Professor Gregory Sankaran

University of Bath

I loved your coverage of the first stage of the Tour de France (6 July), but Simon Turnbull had to go and spoil it. In an article sprinkled with “t’ Tour” references he tells us that the accents he heard on the walk into Harrogate were mostly of “the Yorkshire derivation”. Well, fancy that! It is Yorkshire, after all. Can’t you simply rejoice that the Tour has come to Yorkshire without constantly harping on about the “Northernness” of it? OK, so it’s in the North. Get over it.

Pippa Lewer

Morpeth, Northumberland

I’m not sure why DJ Taylor thinks the number of middle managers is in decline (“Where have all the middle managers gone?” 6 July). As a union officer I represent a range of them, even though it might surprise some sections of the media that such people are often members of a trade union these days.

He is on much stronger ground when he argues that the world of work has changed from the time when it was perfectly acceptable to do a competent day’s work without the need to work in the evenings and at weekends. The use of email and the internet far from reducing workloads, has in fact created many new possibilities to check things and tell those who previously didn’t know, and probably didn’t need to know, what the outcome is.

One might conclude that the workplace has simply become a less pleasant place than it was some years ago, until one recalls that at least these days it is not always quite so dominated by white men in suits.

Keith Flett

London N17

Katy Guest is wrong to say the landline is dead (“Long live good manners”, 6 July). For although mobile usage continues to grow, many keep a landline as part of a package that includes internet access. And as long as the cost of phoning a mobile remains high, there will be many of us sticking to the more traditional technology who do not want to be at everybody’s beck and call all day.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

I have never used either a computer or a mobile phone. I am comfortable in a world of one-to-one contact, aided by pen, paper, print and post, with the very occasional phonecall. And this letter is, of course, handwritten.

David Seymour

London SE4

How exactly does removing a lobster and two brown crabs “from a fisherman’s lost pot” constitute foraging? (“Lunch on the Beach”, New Review, 6 July)? Where I come from we call that theft.

Janet Wynne Evans

London, W5


No excuse for vindictive media treatment of Harris

THANK you, Dominic Lawson, for having the courage to write the only sensible article on the sad and tawdry Rolf Harris business (“We’re painting Rolf out of history, an art perfected by Stalin”, Comment, last week). Why do we need to destroy every last vestige of his reputation? Harris’s life has been a mixture of good and bad — some of it very bad — but he is a human being deserving of a smidgen of compassion.

While we must sympathise with his victims, the vindictiveness of the media and some members of the public as they turn on a “celebrity” is disgusting to watch. Why are people claiming that a sentence of nearly six years for an 84-year-old is too lenient?

For one thing, at the time Harris’s crimes were committed, an offender was unlikely to have been punished in this way. We now have a growing number of elderly and infirm people being locked away. In Italy sex offenders over the age of 70 are apparently sentenced to house arrest. Something similar, plus fines and community service where feasible, would seem more appropriate — and cheaper — for men who no longer pose a threat of repeating their crimes.
Len Shackleton, London N8


It is for Harris’s victims to forgive, but as a society we should find his actions unforgivable. Adults who betray the innocence or powerlessness of children with their despicable behaviour should be under no illusion that they are welcome in a decent society. Children’s lives are still being ruined by such crimes. The priority is to make sure it does not happen again.
Pat Dunphey, by email


As the partner of someone who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from the effects of childhood abuse and is facing a life sentence with their trauma, any jail term for the perpetrators is too little.
Rob Cockburn, by email


For me, aged 57 and an admirer of Harris when I was a child, the article expressed what many must be thinking. I agree that for his victims to claim their childhoods were betrayed is nonsense. If this were true, then a lot of people involved in the care of children when I was young should now be in prison.
Liz Arnold, London SE18


While the abuse Harris has been found guilty of is indefensible, the rush to destroy his reputation seems a grotesque overreaction. He is not the first creative person to have had an unsavoury personal life, and the humiliation to which he has been subjected seems a terrible-enough punishment.
Michael Moore, Malvern, Worcestershire

UK needs new runways for business take-off

MORE than six months ago the Airports Commission set out clear recommendations in its interim report on steps to avoid an airports capacity crunch, with the key recommendation being that London needs at least one new runway.

It is unacceptable that the government has thus far not responded to the commission’s clear recommendations.

We were delighted the government took on board the concerns of the business community two years ago and established the Airports Commission.

It should now follow through with the commitments it made, and take the tough decisions that Britain needs if it is to retain its international economic competitiveness. Six months have passed since the commission made its interim report and the lack of an official government response looks like wavering.

Heathrow has been full for a decade, Gatwick will be full by 2020 and all of London’s main airports will be at 96% capacity by the mid-2020s. This problem must be addressed with urgency. Political procrastination on a decision to build new runways is strangling the long-term growth potential of the British economy.

More than 20 emerging market destinations are served by daily flights from other European cities, but not from London. It is lack of political leadership that is causing Britain’s international connectivity to fall behind that of our competitors.

As members of the business community, we ask the politicians to respond to the commission’s view that at least one new runway is needed.

This issue is of strategic national importance. All parties that seek to be considered credible on the economy must go into the 2015 election expressing a clear commitment to be guided by the Airports Commission’s final report, including a commitment to build new runways. We urge a public statement on this issue before the end of July.

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP; Michael Tobin, TelecityGroup; Michael Ward, Harrods; Paul Kelly, Selfridges; David Sleath, SEGRO; John King, House of Fraser; John Allan, Dixons Retail; Robert Elliott, Linklaters; Stephen Catlin, Catlin Group; Harriet Green, Thomas Cook Group; Sir Adrian Montague, 3i Group; Rebecca Kane, the O2; Toby Courtauld, Great Portland Estates; Samir Brikho, AMEC; Gavin Hayes, Director, Let Britain Fly; Harold Paisner, Senior Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP; Mark Preston, Group Chief Executive, Grosvenor Group; Mark Bensted OBE, Managing Director, Powerday PLC; Kevin Murphy, Chairman, ExCeL London; Iain Anderson, Director and Chief Corporate Counsel, Cicero Group; Mike Turner CBE, Chairman, Babcock International Group; Bob Rothenberg MBE, Senior Partner, Blick Rothenberg LLP; James Rook, Managing Director, Nimlok Ltd; Gordon Clark, Country Manager, Global Blue UK; Professor Ian Reeves CBE, Senior Partner, Synaps Partners LLP; David Partridge, Managing Partner, Argent LLP; Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mark Lancaster, Chief Executive, SDL; Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive, Mace Group; George Kessler, Joint Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International; Sir Win Bischoff; Michael Oglesby CBE, Chairman, Bruntwood; Hugh Bullock, Senior Partner, Gerald Eve LLP; Inderneel Singh, General Manager, The May Fair Hotel; Des Gunewardena, Chairman and CEO, D&D London; Andrew Murphy, Retail Director, John Lewis Partnership; Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive, New West End Company; Ian Durant, Chairman, Capital & Counties Properties PLC; Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, City of London Corporation; Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive, London First; Surinder Arora, CEO and Founder, Arora Holdings Ltd; John Longworth, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce; Sue Brown, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting; Ric Lewis, Chief Executive, Tristan Capital Partners, Gary Forster, Executive Director, Turley; Simon Walker, Director General, Institute of Directors; Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive, Cadogan; Vincent Clancy, Chief Executive Officer, Turner & Townsend; Tim Hancock, Managing Director, Terence O’Rourke Ltd; John Burns, Chief Executive, Derwent London

NHS duty to finance proven cancer therapies

AS A cancer specialist, I certainly want our patients to get high-quality care (“Dallaglio: NHS chiefs betrayed us on cancer”, News, and “Tackle cancer harder”, Focus, last week). Although medical evidence shows that stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) can be effective for non-small-cell lung cancer — and NHS England routinely funds this — there is a lack of good research evidence that SABR is effective for other cancers.

While we keep emerging findings under review, our first duty has to be to fund cancer and other treatments that are proven to work. At a time when the NHS budget is not limitless, that has to be our priority.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer, NHS England


We cannot afford to spend enough money on SABR, yet we give £414m to the Private Infrastructure Development Group (the agency charged with stimulating private sector growth in poor countries). Surely there must be an opening for a government that has got its priorities right. But where is it?

Roger Hook, Redruth, Cornwall


It was nice to see families being encouraged to include their dogs in fun on the beach this summer (“Howzat! Games where everyone’s a winner”, Travel, last week). However, we would advise against trying to make a “dog trap”, digging a hole in the sand for a dog to fall into. Although your writer believes this is a “harmless wheeze”, it could cause distress and injury to the animal and an expensive trip to the vet, rather than a fun day out at the seaside.There are lots of ways that you and your four-legged friends can enjoy yourselves at dog-friendly beaches, including having a nice walk along the seafront, playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee and paddling in the waves. And remember never to leave your pet alone in the car.
Lisa Richards, RSPCA Dog Welfare Expert, Horsham, West Sussex

Poor pupil behaviour affects all teachers

IT IS not just newly trained teachers who are struggling to manage behaviour (“Teachers hit out at poor training”, News, last week). Research carried out by YouGov for the Teacher Support Network last year found that almost half of UK teachers think pupil behaviour has got worse in the past five years.

While those who had been in the profession for more than six years were far less likely than their newer colleagues to have been unable to teach effectively as a result of poor behaviour, longer-serving staff are significantly more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety or depression.

We not only need to look at training to prepare teachers better when they first begin in the classroom, but also at continual professional development to help staff advance and maintain these skills through long and successful careers.

Julian Stanley, Group Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network


Having just completed training with Teach First, the charity mentioned in your article, I concede that come September I will probably be poorly equipped to deal with the plethora of challenges and potential objects that will be thrown at me, but that’s exactly what I signed up for. Teach First is a brilliant organisation that understands that motivation supersedes method and character supersedes knowledge.

If you want more training in behavioural management, do a standard postgraduate certificate in education. Don’t join a fast-track programme and then criticise it for not teaching you everything.

Christian Hacking, Newcastle



Your headline “By ’eck, there’s nowt so cool as 1m watch Le Tour de Yorkshire” (News, last week) led me to wonder if an article about London would be headed “Cor blimey, guv, would you Adam and Eve it”, or does patronising follow only a northern route?

Paul Allison, Liverpool


I have nothing but admiration for David Carslaw and other scientists who have bravely highlighted the scale of London’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) problems (“Oxford Street is worst place in the world for diesel pollution”, News, last week). NO2 is a key indicator of the presence of the carcinogenic diesel exhaust problem. Urgent action is needed, including fitting exhaust filters to all buses, and shops must protect customers by using air filters. We also need the mayor to lead the world by banning diesel exhaust from the most polluted places, just as coal was banned so successfully 60 years ago this month by the City of London Corporation.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director, Clean Air in London


London’s overall level of air pollution is lower than in many world cities. We are serious about monitoring pollution levels and, unlike other cities, we monitor our most polluted, busiest streets with high volumes of traffic congestion, such as Oxford Street. We do, of course, know that buses and taxis are a big contributor to air pollution along Oxford Street, which is why the mayor has retired the 900 oldest buses, has retro-fitted hundreds more and will deliver 1,700 ultra-low-emissions hybrid buses by 2016. More than 3,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis have been retired, and from 2018 all new taxis will be zero-emissions-capable.

Matthew Pencharz, Senior Adviser, Environment & Energy, to the London Mayor


There is only one answer to the Oxford Street nightmare and that is to pedestrianise it.

Peter Hartley, Westminster Living Streets


Craig Bellamy, footballer, 35; Tulisa Contostavlos, singer, 26; Harrison Ford, actor, 72; Neil Foulds, snooker player, 51; Ian Hislop, journalist, 54; Roger McGuinn, singer, 72; Erno Rubik, architect and inventor, 70; Wole Soyinka, poet and playwright, 80; Sir Patrick Stewart, actor, 74; David Storey, writer, 81


1793 French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat is murdered in his bathtub; 1919 completion of the first non-stop aerial Atlantic round trip, by British airship R34; 1955 Ruth Ellis becomes last woman to be executed in Britain; 1985 Live Aid concerts staged at Wembley stadium, London, and John F Kennedy stadium, Philadelphia


Take note: a slipper isn’t just for Christmas

M&S dominates slipper sales because it is one of the few shops to sell them year-round.

Marks & Spencer sells the lion's share of Britain's slippers each year

Marks & Spencer sells the lion’s share of Britain’s slippers each year Photo: bravo via getty images

6:58AM BST 12 Jul 2014


SIR – Maybe M&S sells one-fifth of men’s slippers because they actually stock them all year round.

As a lifelong wearer, I have tried to buy them elsewhere and been told the store does not have them because “it is the wrong time of year”. “When is the right time?” I’ve asked. “Christmas, of course,” has been the response.

So what do I wear indoors for the rest of the year? Hobnail boots?

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Ke

SIR – The 5-1 defeat of Germany by England in 2000 led to a German root-and-branch overhaul of their game. They set aside the short-term financial interests of clubs and invested heavily in coaching; they now have 10 times as many top-qualified coaches as does England.

Now, Germany is in a World Cup final, while England’s campaign lasted six days.

Similar lessons can be drawn from the German business world, where they eschew fickle stock markets and implement policies designed to build a healthy economy in the long term. Despite the burden of unification, theirs is now the strongest economy in Europe. We need only look at what the Germans have done and copy them.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – I watched the 1966 World Cup final in Bremen. When England won, to celebrate, my German friend and I drove to our favourite pub in my Triumph Vitesse with British number plates. Everywhere we stopped, people shouted “Gratuliere!” (Congratulations!) Of course we must be friends with Germany. We already are.

Peter Howard
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – I yield to nobody in my admiration of Germany but, having been stationed there for some years in the Army, visited Potsdam after the fall of the Wall, danced an Eightsome Reel under the Brandenburg Gate, and just returned from a Rhine cruise, I still find the country humourless, utterly law-abiding and boring. Give me rural Wiltshire every time.

Tim Deane
Tisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – “Let’s learn to love Germany” focused my mind on the failings of British post-war society, not only in terms of football, but also in the visual arts. Since the war, America has had Koons and Warhol. Germany has Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter. We have Hirst and Emin.

Peter Goodfellow
Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

Order in Parliament

SIR – Can it be that John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, will see his nomination of an outsider to the post of the Clerk of the House go forward to the Queen for approval? Or will David Cameron refuse to endorse such an undoubted disaster? Let us hope this threat to the management of the House and the further empowering of an already over-ambitious Speaker is nipped quickly in the bud.

Richard D J Spicer
Stogumber, Somerset

SIR – I was for 42 years a clerk in the Parliament Office (the Lords’ equivalent of the Clerk of the House of Commons), and for my last 19 years, I was Fourth Clerk at the Table and head of the Judicial Office.

From my experience, I know how, if an outsider were appointed, it would shatter morale within the office.

Of course, some jobs are more interesting than others, but over the length of a career, I believe most clerks, in both Houses, would say they had fulfilling lives. Some, of course, fall away, lured by academia or higher salaries; but for those who stay the course, there is the great prize of reaching the top job.

To open up this post to someone not trained by decades of familiarity with parliamentary procedure is not only like offering the post of Lord Chief Justice to an industrialist; it is to return to the early 19th century and before, when Table appointments were bestowed as gifts within the patronage of ministers.

James Vallance White
London SW1

No peace for a pint

SIR – Am I alone in regretting the demise of the pub ?

One evening this week, as I tried to complete the Telegraph crossword over a pint in my local, I was disturbed by ear-damaging screeches from a tired baby, then astonished to see a toddler cycling around the bar at a furious pace.

I can cope with bedlam, but not when combined with kindergarten.

Mark Prior
Plymouth, Devon

Dancing ladies

SIR – I am concerned that the British Dance Council is considering banning same-sex dancing. The opportunity to see more beautiful women dancing is to be welcomed, not condemned.

If some women prefer to dance with each other, then that reduces the male obligation to get up and gyrate on the dance floor, rather than remain sitting down while continuing to enjoy conversation and drink.

Are we also to see the demise of cheerleading and famous nightclubs such as the Folies Bergère?

Edward Schuldt
New Malden, Surrey

SIR – Single sex couples may marry but not dance with one another?

Rev R P Calder
Portsmouth, Hampshire

Premature mail

SIR – Last week, forms for reclaiming tax or paying tax when someone dies, to be completed by the “Personal Representative of Mrs Gertrude Henderson”, arrived at my address.

I am Mrs Gertrude Maureen Henderson, and I am the only occupant of my house.

Should I return the forms or retain them until they are relevant?

G Maureen Henderson
Curry Rivel, Somerset

Solar energy

SIR – Greenpeace and others want the freedom to develop hundreds of new solar farms, heavily subsidised by domestic and commercial users of electricity, so that we can be as green as the Germans.

Solar panels produce power when the sun shines: primarily in summer and exclusively in daytime.

Electricity demand is the opposite:highest in winter and after dark. We shall still have to have conventional power stations, however many solar panels are plastered across the countryside.

The technology is already becoming outdated. Recent developments allow roads and driveways to be made of a new generation of solar panels that will not blight the land in the same way. And surely even with the existing technology, we should be using the roofs of public and industrial buildings before taking a single acre of agricultural production.

Did I dream that I read only last week of the ongoing decline in our ability to be self-sufficient in food production?

Richard Lutwyche
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

The scale of obesity

SIR – I have noticed that very few people’s bathrooms these days have weighing machines. This is a great change from the Fifties and Sixties, when all my friends and relations sported stylish scales on their bathroom floors.

Could this be because people prefer not to know their weight, and rely on the tightening of a waistband to tell them that they need to take notice of their increasing corpulence?

Would doctors and nurses risk unpopularity if they suggested to patients that they should buy a machine and regularly weigh themselves? Each morning, I weigh myself before breakfast, worry if a kilo goes on, and adjust my consumption accordingly.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

Escargot with salad

SIR – Many years ago we had a tortoise that ate snails. She held down the shell with one forefoot, pushed her head into the opening, and hauled out the occupant. Unfortunately this useful trait was offset by her penchant for young lettuces.

Elizabeth Champion

SIR – You report that Parliament is debating whether to opt in to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). We are told that one reason for opting in is that it will make the job of the police across Europe easier.

I served 32 years in the police. The fact that it may make the job of the police easier is simply not a good enough reason to ride roughshod over the hard-won civil liberties of the citizens of Britain.

Graham S Scott
Hanging Heaton, West Yorkshire

SIR – The European Arrest Warrant should be opposed by all those who value civil liberties, since habeas corpus does not apply for those subject to it.

The prosecuting authorities do not have to supply any evidence whatsoever of a crime having been committed in order to get an accused person extradited to another European Union country. They simply have to fill out the forms correctly. In some member states, suspects can then be held for years without trial and in most EU countries there is no trial by jury.

The Liberal Democrats, who in the European Parliament were the prime movers of this measure, are its most vociferous advocates. They argue that it speeds up extradition. It seems extraordinary that anyone claiming to believe in human rights could be happy to see traditional legal safeguards abandoned in order to hurry up serious legal procedures that can have dramatic consequences for people’s lives. We should revert to the extradition agreements we have with numerous non-EU countries in relation to member states.

Graham Stringer MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – Karen Bradley, Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, writes in support of the European Arrest Warrant. This warrant cannot be acceptable to British people, unless the laws that protect our freedoms – including the presumption of innocence – and the prison conditions in which an accused person may be held, are equalised across the whole EU.

Furthermore, unless the EAW sets out a proper prima facie case giving a British judge the right to make a ruling, no one should be extradited.

Ideally, we should draw up an extradition protocol based on English law, and invite other nations to participate. However, being in the EU and subject to the provision that EU law takes precedence over English law, it can’t be done.

The Latvian, whose case Ms Bradley cites as being a benefit of the EAW, probably wouldn’t have been here in the first place if we still had control of our borders.

Don Anderson
London SW19

SIR – Karen Bradley is Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime. I would have thought that she should be against it.

Jeremy Dawson
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

He writes of the “lost art, letter writing having almost been driven to extinction by email”, and I will add to that by the now modest telephone rates. Who remembers the days of one pound per minute call to the USA?

Donal, no doubt, has in mind the loss of personal correspondence but there is one outlet where letter writing thrives and that is in the penultimate page in the main section of your Sunday paper.

The Letters page is not only preserving the “art of letter writing” but it also provides a forum where the ordinary man and woman in the street can express their views on matters domestic and even international.

From my anecdotal observation this page is one of the most widely read in your paper. And once you continue, Madam, to alot space to the unpaid scribes, letter writing will survive, and perhaps even prosper.

Patrick Fleming, Glasnevin, Dublin


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