Hot!

24 July 2014 Hot!

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, but gets over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Dora Bryan – obituary

Dora Bryan was an actress who specialised in the dizzy and scatterbrained but could be equally at home in Pinter

Dora Bryan

Dora Bryan

7:23PM BST 23 Jul 2014

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Dora Bryan, the actress and comedienne, who has died aged 91, was one of Britain’s most versatile performers; she was at home in revues, restoration comedies and musicals and equally comfortable in dramatic roles, most notably in the film A Taste of Honey (1961), in which she played Rita Tushingham’s slatternly mother and for which she won a Bafta award for best actress.

With her tiny frame, round, friendly and mobile face, her warm-hearted grin and Lancashire gurgle, Dora Bryan had the gift of appealing to every audience as soon as she appeared. To all her work she was able to bring a breezily adaptable and engaging personality.

Dora Bryan with Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey, 1961 (REX)

For much of her career Dora Bryan’s slightly vacant stare and wide smile meant that she was regularly typecast as “dizzy and scatterbrained” characters. One critic complained that “on screen she appeared to be dim-witted”, while journalists described her as a difficult interviewee, one noting her habit of changing direction suddenly and rarely finishing a sentence. Yet her range was such that she could also excel in Ibsen and Pinter.

Dora Bryan’s air of vagueness probably owed much to a nervous breakdown which she had suffered in 1957 when she was admitted to hospital after her second miscarriage in two years. Afterwards she suffered sporadically from depression (she later lost yet another baby), and in 1980 she was again hospitalised, suffering from another nervous collapse.

Yet she remained one of Britain’s favourite comediennes and made a career playing what she described as “empty-headed types”. She starred in several television series designed to showcase her talents, including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), in all of which she played various hapless, apparently simple-minded characters.

Dora Bryan in the play They Don’t Grow on Trees in 1968 (CRIDGE ASSOCIATES LIMITED)

She was born Dora May Broadbent at Southport, Lancashire, on February 7 1923, the younger of two children of the director of a cotton bobbin mill. From the age of five she was determined to become an actress, and at 12 she made her stage debut in a pantomime in Manchester. At 15 she joined Oldham Rep as an assistant stage manager and remained with the company for four years, by which time she had graduated to playing juvenile leads. She spent a further six years in repertory companies at Tunbridge, Colchester and Westcliff-on-Sea.

After working during the war for Ensa, Dora Bryan made her West End debut in Noël Coward’s Peace in Our Time in 1947, and followed it with a two-year run in Traveller’s Joy at the Criterion. In 1950, having established a reputation as a comedienne, she starred in several musical revues at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, the Globe Theatre and the Garrick. By the early 1950s she had adopted the stage name Bryan, claiming that she had taken the name from a box of Bryant and May matches — but that a theatre had misspelt Bryant and she had decided to leave it as it was.

Dora Bryan in 1965 (REX)

Dora Bryan made her screen debut in the late Forties, appearing in a variety of films, including Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and in The Cure for Love (1949), in which she co-starred with Robert Donat. Her versatility was demonstrated by her taking roles in films as diverse as the old-fashioned police thriller The Blue Lamp (1950) and the madcap comedy Mad About Men (1954) — in the latter she had a small part as “an ugly mermaid, playing a conch like the French horn and singing sea shanties”.

In 1954 Dora Bryan married the Lancashire cricketer Bill Lawton. They had been childhood sweethearts, and were engaged for more than 13 years. Friends recalled that Dora Bryan (then starring in Much Binding in the Marsh in London) was annoyed when she read the newspaper headline: “Cricket Hero Bill Lawton Weds Actress”.

In 1961 she came to international attention when she appeared in A Taste of Honey, as the domineering alcoholic mother of Jo (Rita Tushingham), a sulky waiflike Salford teenager impregnated by a black sailor. She increased her reputation for versatility when she followed her success on screen with her portrayal of Lorelie Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1962) at the Prince’s Theatre in London’s West End. She brought, according to the reviewer in The Telegraph, “a fundamentally soulless entertainment to life”, playing her part “as if she were observing her stock role from outside and were able to snigger at it privately to share the joke with us”.

Throughout the Sixties Dora Bryan appeared in various revues and one-woman shows. In 1966 she starred as Dolly Levi in the London production of Hello Dolly! In the middle of that decade, she surprised fans when she became a born-again Christian. By the early Seventies, with the support of her close friend Cliff Richard, she was an active member of a group of Christians who made it their mission to “fight pornography and moral pollution”. The group organised a Festival of Light in 1971 which promoted “love and family life” and in which Dora Bryan and Cliff Richard starred together.

But her new-found faith did not spell the end of her problems, and she was forced to pull out of her part in On the 20th Century in 1980 with nervous strain.

“One day I was rehearsing,” she recalled, “the next I was in hospital and they were feeding me tranquillisers.” She also had to confront the fact that she had a serious drink problem, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. (Later her adopted daughter, Georgina, would die from alcoholism at the age of only 36.)

After a complete break from performing, during which she concentrated on running the family business (a hotel in Brighton, which she later converted into a block of flats), Dora Bryan returned to the stage in Aladdin (1982). She said that one of the reasons she returned to work was that she and her family were almost bankrupt and she needed the money.

She went on to appear in numerous classical roles, among them Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1984), Mrs Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer (also 1984) and the Postmistress in The Apple Cart (1985). She also supplemented her income from the theatre by appearing in television advertisements for Woolworths.

Thereafter she continued to appear from time to time on stage. She won an Olivier Award in 1996 for her role in the West End production of Harold Pinter’s play The Birthday Party, and in the same year was appointed OBE.

Dora Bryan’s other films included The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1970) and Apartment Zero (1989). On television, she appeared in Victoria Wood’s sitcom Dinnerladies (1999), and from 2001 to 2005 she played Thora Hird’s sister Aunt Ros Utterthwaite in Last of the Summer Wine. She also had a cameo role in the hit series Absolutely Fabulous.

Dora Bryan with June Whitfield in Absolutely Fabulous (TELEVISION STILLS)

She released a hit record, All I Want for Christmas is a Beatle, in 1963. Her autobiography, According To Dora, was published in 1987.

Her husband Bill Lawton died in 2008, and she is survived by their son and their adopted son.

Dora Bryan, born February 7 1923, died July 23 2014

Guardian:

It is alarming that western leaders, including Cameron, seek to pose as judge, jury and executioner on the issue of who downed MH 17 (Report, 23 July). Why are none of them championing the legal route? They need to gather the evidence from the crash site, from the witnesses who saw the Buk missiles in Torez etc – give it all to the judges at the international criminal court in the Hague (self-evidently the right place for this case to be heard) and have them try those deemed to be responsible for the crime. Eleven years ago, Vanessa Redgrave called, at the rally in Hyde Park, for that route to be taken against Saddam Hussein, rather than the Bush-Blair invasion: think how much trouble and pain it would have saved had her advice been taken.

If a link can be proved between Putin’s government and the MH17 crime, let him be called as an accessory. And if he doesn’t come, let him be tried in absentia. And if, as he did a month ago with Assad, he tries to get the UN security council to block the prosecution, find a way to try him anyway. The world must see that the force of law can prevail over the law of force.

In the 1980s, my organisation spent nine years working to end the cold war through youth citizen diplomacy. The last thing we want to see is a resumption of cold war tensions. No one has a quarrel with the Russian people: why punish them with level 3 sanctions? Everyone has a problem with a government that gives lethal weapons to rebel armies who do not know how to use them and causes the death of hundreds of innocent people. It is such governments, and the individuals who lead them, who must be punished.
David Woollcombe
President, Peace Child International

David Cameron‘s comment that France’s sale of helicopter carrier/assault ships would be “unthinkable in Britain” (Cameron calls for arms sales ban, 22 July) is the purest hypocrisy. The article mentions UK arms sales to Russia of many billions of pounds and no doubt UK companies competed for many of the contracts won by France and Germany. Anyway, as the privatised UK energy companies are buying huge quantities of Russian gas and coal, it is UK consumers who are helping to pay Russia’s arms bill.

Politicians always play fast and loose with the truth where arms sales are concerned and myopia and a bad memory are also great political assets in the arms trade: British fighter jets helped to bring down Allende in Chile, UK Centurion tanks were the core of victorious Israeli battles, and in the recent past the UK delivered weapons to a rightwing Argentina weeks before the Falklands invasion led by British-built and designed vessels.

Your thoughtful leader on Indonesia (23 July), questioning whether the military establishment there will continue to enable democracy to write that new chapter, might have mentioned that this summer they will receive three Govan-built warships.
Robert Straughton
Ulverston, Cumbria

Oliver Bullough (Comment, 21 July) and Angus Roxburgh (Comment, 22 July) are right. We have a responsibility to assist, not just to condemn. Thinking about the problems in Ukraine from Northern Ireland suggests some ideas. Both eastern Ukraine and Northern Ireland are ethnic frontier zones in which people with two distinct identities and allegiances have to live together. After 50 years of fighting about rival claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland, the British and Irish governments finally realised that it was better to recognise realities and negotiate a kind of shared status in which as an individual you could be British or Irish or both and in which power-sharing in regional government was required. And as in Northern Ireland the politics of the latest atrocity – Canary Wharf or MH17 – can get in the way of progress.

The Northern Ireland settlement is widely touted around the world as a way of dealing with divided identities and allegiances. Is it not time in Ukraine for a similar acceptance of realities – dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship for those who want it, negotiation of some kind of power-sharing regional government between the competing factions and recognition of a legitimate Russian interest in looking after Russian communities there?

The British government should be sharing its experience in these matters with others in the European Union. We should all be looking for ways to talk politics with the “terrorists” rather than imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting a military campaign to restore absolute Ukrainian sovereignty.
Tom Hadden
Emeritus professor of law, Queen’s University Belfast

How about denying Russian oligarchs’ children access to our charitable institutions such as public schools?
Martin Jeeves
Cardiff

Owen Jones’s sensitive article (How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier, 21 July) is most welcome. There has been a huge disparity over the past few days in the coverage given to the bombardment of Gaza and the Ukrainian disaster. In the papers I have been able to read, the ratio of column inches has been about 4:1 in favour of the Ukrainian story.

Both situations are equally devastating for those involved. Could the reason for the disparity, therefore, lie principally in the fact that the western nations, and especially the US, see it as in their interest to prevent public concern over events in Gaza from reaching a point where they might be forced to put pressure on Israel, whereas arousing popular feeling over the tragedy of MH17 can be seen as an excellent means, literally dropping out of the sky, of putting pressure on Russia?

How far and in what ways the media follow, or generate spontaneously, the kind of agenda set out above is an interesting question, but it is good to see the Guardian bucking the trend with this article.
Catherine Hoskyns
London

• I was shocked and disappointed to see no mention of Gaza on your front page today (23 July). Israel is raining death and destruction on civilians daily, using appalling weapons, while world leaders stay stumm. The death toll rises daily. But then I saw that the Queen’s horse had failed a drugs test and I understood your priorities.
Charlotte Eatwell
London

• We are concerned at the very partial nature of BBC reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some reporters have shown great bravery in war zones, much home-based journalism lacks context and is unable to report the Palestinian perspective. The attacks on Gaza are presented by Israel and the BBC as being directed at militants, while for Palestinians they are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.

This inability to report the reality of the Israeli occupation has been repeatedly shown by academic studies and reports, including that led by Quentin Thomas, commissioned by the BBC, which noted the “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation”, and said: “In short, we found that BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict.” (Thomas, 2006: 4-7) The BBC has failed to act on any of these findings.

The search for peace is not well served by giving the public such a partial and limited view. We ask now that the BBC produce a televised, public debate to discuss how to redress the deficiencies in its coverage to offer a better account of the sources of this conflict and therefore how it might be resolved.
Professor Greg Philo, Professor Avi Shlaim, Professor James Curran, Professor Natalie Fenton, Professor Julian Petley, Professor Ilan Pappe, Professor John Dugard, Professor Etienne Balibar, Professor Graham Murdoch, Professor Alan Riach, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Grahame MSP, Juliet Stevenson, Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Breyten Breytenbach, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, John Pilger, Mairead Maguire, Bella Freud, Frank Barat, Mustapha Barghouti, Gerda Stevenson, Pam Parsons, Mike Berry, Aimee Shalan, Hugh Lanning, Shamiul Joarder, Diana Buttu, Linda Ramsden, Jeff Halper, Hatim Kanaaneh, Karma Nabulsi, Paul Laverty, Gilbert Achcar, John Hilary

• Karl Sabbagh is absolutely right to say: “If the British had bombed and mortared houses in Catholic districts of Northern Ireland … and tried to justify it on the basis that it was trying to stop IRA terrorism, there would have been an outcry” (Letters, 23 July). But the analogy is a false one. Sinn Féin was not firing rockets daily at the civilian population of the UK in the way Hamas has been doing intermittently but all too frequently to Israel ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

Philip Inman (Weighing down our children with our debts, 21 July) reports on the ticking time bomb that is the debt our country is carrying. We helped almost 1 million people last year to tackle their debts and we work with a range of sectors to improve the experience of those in debt. We find that people almost invariably want to pay back what they owe and build financial resilience in the process – but they have fewer choices of late, as wages stay largely flat and prices continue to rise. This puts the onus on creditors – be they local authorities chasing council-tax debts or energy companies dealing with household arrears – to make it as straightforward as possible to get back on an even keel. As interest rates rise, forbearance and flexibility must be the name of the game if we are to keep people in their homes and active, successful members of society.
Joanna Elson
Chief executive, Money Advice

• Having called for a cap on the cost of credit for the last five years, Citizens UK welcomes the proposal of the Financial Conduct Authority to limit the damage that payday lenders can do (Report, 16 July). Yet we know there is still much work to be done. The 0.8% a day cap would take just £1 off the industry average loan price and the failure to cap the number of loans someone can take means that many will still be trapped in a spiral of using credit to pay off credit.

If the FCA were really serious on clamping down on exploitative lending it would do three things. First, it would set the caps at a level that had a real impact on the price of a payday loan. Second, it would clamp down on the scourge of multiple loans through a real-time database – already suggested by debt advice charity StepChange and others. And finally it would support the Citizens UK proposal to use the fines it collects from payday lenders and banks to endow a community finance fund in order to support more ethical businesses such as credit unions.
David Barclay
Organiser, Citizens UK  

Sadly the proposed reforms of the benefits system laid out in the Oakley sanctions review (Benefit sanctions hit most vulnerable people the hardest, report says, 22 July) cannot solve the underlying problem the report reveals: that the welfare state is being managed without any sense of humanity for those who need its support. If care and compassion was at the heart of our welfare system, claimants would not be sent letters informing them they were being sanctioned without explanation or asked them to complete meaningless and demeaning tasks for no reason. Putting in place procedures to ensure that letters are thoroughly proof-read can only paper over the cracks if the entire rationale and motivation behind the operation of the welfare state is about hitting sanctions targets. We need a completely new approach to welfare – one that prioritises the wellbeing and interests of the very people it is there to support.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green party of England and Wales

Before the new season begins and we forget what happened in Brazil, maybe it’s time to have a look at the English game. It is now nearly half a century since England won the World Cup (England will not bid for World Cup until Fifa reforms – Dyke, 23 July). There are no plans to change the structure of football in England, as did Germany 10 years ago, when they lost badly. Instead of a national team we’ve got the Premier League. It’s a lousy bargain.

Only five clubs have ever won the Premier League. Apart from a top few teams each year, the others are just punchbag sparring partners, doomed to lose except when they play each other – and always on the edge of bankruptcy. The Premier League says it is the world’s top competition. In terms of the money it generates, much of it from the fans and most of it going outside the sport and the country, it is the tops. In terms of quality football, it isn’t. A Premier League team has won the top European competition only four times in the 21 years since the league was formed. Premier League matches are usually – apart from the hype – dull. What we saw in the World Cup was a different game.

The top European players, including Gareth Bale, do not play in the Premier League. All but a few of the foreign players in the Premier League are second-rate yet paid enormous salaries. Many are in their late twenties and starting to coast. To call the Premier League “English” may be an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act. The only way to win the league is to get a sugar daddy from abroad to buy your club, a manager and most of “your” team, all from abroad. (Last season only 25% of the players in the Premier League were qualified to play for England.) We’ll never win the World Cup again and we’ll only rarely win in Europe. Who are the winners in our national game?
Geoff Scargill
Stockport, Cheshire

I was somewhat bemused to read that Philip Clarke of Tesco was paying the price for failing to halt a slide in sales and profits at Tesco (Forty years of service end abruptly for boss after profits slide, 22 July). If leaving with a possible £10m in cash and shares is “paying the price” for failure, is it any wonder that customers have no sympathy on hearing of Tesco’s woes over the past few years? I doubt if Mr Clarke will be filling his trolley with value items for some considerable time.
Andrew Langstone
Solihull, West Midlands

• When publishing an article entitled “Of all the pianos … Casablanca prop for sale” (23 July), would it not have been appropriate to mention the black pianist, Dooley Wilson, shown in the forefront of the photo, who was the actual player of the piano in question, as well as the two white leading actors, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman?
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

• Following Jo Tomalin’s letter (22 July) concerning cleaners’ pay: here in Lewes, careworkers in our residential dementia unit earn a mere £6.12 an hour for a 12-hour shift and a far more demanding job than cleaning and ironing.
Dee O’Connell
Lewes, East Sussex

• A further omission from your James Garner obituary (21 July) was his love of motor sport exemplified by his starring role in John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film, Grand Prix, recently on the BBC and arguably the best motor-racing based film of all time. That and the fact that in the US he ran his own racing team.
Peter Collins
Bromley, Kent

• When I was a kid, our version of Bulwer-Lytton’s line was potentially everlasting (In praise of … 21 July): “It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to his mate: ‘tell me a story.’ So the mate said: ‘It was a stormy night’ and …”
Gill Emberson
Oxford

• First labia, then sixty-nine (yes, in that sense), now (solution, 19 July) shrubbery (with “rubber” clued as “Johnny”): is it time to move the crossword to page three?
David McAvoy
Wigan

Independent:

Next time we ask why young people from this country and other western societies rush off to the Middle East to become blood-hungry jihadists, just think back to these days in Gaza. Think about the silence and hypocrisy of western leaders.

Think of David Cameron sticking out his chest at Putin because of the butchery in the skies over Ukraine, but turning a blind eye to the butchery in Gaza at the hands of the Israelis. Of course he says Israel should exercise restraint. Isn’t it time he told them and us if he feels they actually have exercised restraint?

It’s time for politicians here and in America and other countries to wake up and smell the corpses of the innocent dead in Gaza. And next time Cameron wants to lead the charge to supply arms to groups elsewhere in the world involved in civil wars, he should just stop and think again about that butchery over Ukraine, and how that came to be.

Jill Dobbs, London SE16

 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s action is doomed to fail in the long term, as all it will do is radicalise a new generation of Palestinians. There is genuine concern among Israelis for their security, but the present action will only perpetuate the existing antipathy between the two communities, each of which secretly believes the only solution is the complete obliteration of the other.

It is time for both sides to accept that to get anything you must give something, and each offer the other an opportunity for peace and security.

Keith B Watts, Wolverhampton

 

While the UK, US and European governments worry about 500 western Muslims who are learning jihad in Syria and Iraq, we in Israel are living daily with a terror organisation whose charters call for our destruction.

The death toll in Gaza is to be laid at the door of Hamas. They do not want peace. We left Gaza in 2005 hoping that the Palestinians would “get on with it”. The only thing they got on with was making rockets to kill Israeli civilians.

We have made a cold peace with Egypt and Jordan, but the Palestinians have refused every offer. They are not prepared to compromise and their demands are such that even Israel’s left-wing parties, who would dismantle most of the settlements, could not agree to them. Israelis want peace and are prepared to compromise, but we are not prepared to commit suicide.

Henry Tobias, Maale Adumim, Israel

 

Can it be just over a week since Israel accepted the peace plan to end their attack on Gaza if Hamas stopped showering rockets on them? How quickly do memories fade!

The problem is that if a lasting ceasefire could be made to happen, Hamas would have no reason to exist, as it requires a permanent state of war.

An end to hostilities would enable the big powers to force Israel to give up its ill-gotten territorial gains and pave the way to a viable Palestinian state. However, this means there being a permanent Israeli state, something Hamas will never accept. So the killing goes on.

Lyn Brooks, Ongar, Essex

Of all Israel’s attempts at justifying the slaughter perhaps the most threadbare is the accusation that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields”.

All of Gaza is one densely populated residential area, apart from some agricultural land. Should Hamas place military equipment in the open fields for the convenience of Israeli planes bombing from a great height?

Hilary Wise, London W5

 

Does Prime Minister Netanyahu imagine that the long-term security of Jews in the Holy Land is best assured by bombing Palestinians in Gaza and dispossessing them in the West Bank?

Brian Beeley, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

I am not usually a reader of your newspaper, but I bought it today (21 July) because it was the only one on the shelves that showed on its front page the horror of Gaza. Thank you for your coverage. There seems to be such a big silence, when there should be outcry, especially from heads of state.

Eve Mountain, Waterlooville, Hampshire

 

Health and safety and a childhood denied

Frank Furedi (The Big Read, 22 July) rightly bemoans the appalling continuing erosion of liberty for children.

Here in Marlborough with our partners of 32 years in the Muslim fishing community of Gunjur in The Gambia, we are witnessing an extraordinary paradox. Since 1985 we have sent groups of 17- and 18-year-olds to live with families in that community, to get involved in construction projects with young Gambians as a means to learning about a different culture and a sense of community which is second to nothing that you could find in the UK. It’s a programme of which we are hugely proud, and grateful to our partners, and which has influenced many young lives.

But now risk assessments and health and safety are uppermost in our preparation, to the extent that hard hats and protective clothing should be worn, and no young person must swim in the glorious sea off The Gambia’s beaches. The cost to our small charitable organisation of insurance cover for these trips is rising, and the whole programme is put at risk.

All the while children in Gunjur play freely and at ease in the secure environment of their own and neighbouring large family compounds with no traffic, cared for by the village and the extended family as well as their individual parents.

We run the risk that our children will never grow up as independent beings with an understanding of boundaries, because they have never been allowed to take a risk. Where is the forum in which we can have a proper debate, recognising that at the moment the insurance companies, and that part of the legal profession encouraging us to obtain compensation, are laughing all the way to the bank?

Dr Nick Maurice, Director, Marlborough Brandt Group, Marlborough, Wiltshire

 

It’s not just the children. My son-in-law recently took part in the parents’ race on school sports day. The previous week, a similar race, run round a field, resulted in a parent falling and dislocating his collarbone.

For the race in question to take place at all, therefore, it was deemed necessary by the head that participants would run with beanbags on their heads to reduce speed, even though the athletics track of the local independent school was being used.

My son-in-law was not amused.

Lavinia Martins, Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire

 

Baffled by ‘efficient’ heating system

I’m a Brit living in America (since 1998), and recently returned to England to visit my parents for the summer vacation. I was equally amused and disturbed since my last visit to see that a Hive Home rep from British Gas had visited my parents and installed a new smart thermostat system.

I asked my 79-year-old mother (my father is blind and disabled) how the system works. She said: “I don’t know, but I have the installer’s phone number.”

On reading through the user guide, I found that the “smart” system can be controlled through a computer (which my mother can’t use), or an iPhone app (my mother doesn’t have an iphone), or through a digital display control panel installed in the living room.

I asked my mother what system she’d like. She said: “I like the old system with an on/off switch in the kitchen.”

I asked my mother what the installation technician said when he came to install it. She said that he said the smart system would be “more efficient”.

How is this for efficiency? When my mother needs to change the hot water schedule, she calls me in New York, and I make the changes on my iPhone, in New York. Another case of design-led innovation that fails to ask the simple question “What does the customer want?”

Mark Crowther, New York

 

Fallible Pope?

The head of the Catholic Church, having recently visited the Holy Land, believes he can help to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, an intractable problem of the past 100 years or so. He would also like to end the schism between his own church and the Eastern Orthodox, something no predecessor for over a millennium has been able to achieve. Does this represent the triumph of Pope over experience?

Tim Hudson, Chichester, West Sussex

 

Values doomed to disappear

The new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is threatening to strike off teachers who do not protect “British values”. If Scotland does achieve independence, I assume that we will then be protecting only English, Welsh and Northern Irish values. I look forward to seeing the Department’s document explaining this when the time comes.

Charles Freeman, Brandeston, Suffolk

Times:

Is the concept of human rights now “corrupted”? Lost amid competing jurisdictions?

Sir, The UK is alone in Europe in having no codified constitution limiting the powers of the government in Parliament.

Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke have stood for the rule of law and have been removed from office. There are threats to remove or weaken the powers of the European Court of Human Rights in British cases, and to tear up the Human Rights Act. The protection of individual rights is under threat as never before, setting a bad example to tyrannies everywhere.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC
House of Lords

Sir, Melanie Phillips is correct (Opinion 22 July): the concept of “rights” has become corrupted.

The source of man’s rights is not arbitrary law or even divine law, but the law of identity. A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental human right, (all others flow from it): a man’s right to his own life.

However, the concept of “right” pertains only to freedom of action and is held as a barrier not from the collective, nor for the collective, but against the collective. Man has the right to live but not the right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but not the right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery, enslavement, robbery or murder of another.

DSA Murray
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, Melanie Phillips is broadly right. A British Bill of Rights would need to be enacted repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 and to bypass the European Charter “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972”. It is not only Strasbourg, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act which are at issue.

Now, there is a new dimension – the Charter of Fundamental Rights under Lisbon. Tony Blair asserted, wrongly, that “it is absolutely clear that we have an opt-out” from the charter. The European Scrutiny Committee, which I chair, found that the only effective way to exclude the charter is to amend the 1972 act by primary legislation.

I do not, however, agree that a parliamentary act cannot override an international treaty. Parliament retains its ultimate supremacy but must assert it or it will die on the vine. My committee’s unanimous November report points the way to unilateral repeal of EU legislation at Westminster where it is in our vital national interest — and the reassertion of our national veto. The government’s response to that report, published today, is to stick its head in the sand as the EU legislative tide sweeps in like a tsunami.

Sir William Cash, MP
House of Commons

Sir, Melanie Phillips’ assertion that the European Convention on Human Rights “actually has nothing to do with the EU” needs clarification.

Accession to the convention is one of the conditions (listed among the 1993 Copenhagen criteria) for entry into the European Union.

The accession of the EU, as an entity, to the convention became a legal obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon. Official talks on the EU’s accession have been under way since 2010.

Dr John Doherty
Vienna

He sent his dog after a wounded pheasant. She came back with a surprise …

Sir, That great Somerset countryman, Philip Fussell, was shooting at Molland in Devon, when he sent his dog to retrieve a wounded pheasant which had landed in the river. Some considerable time passed, before the dog returned — to much applause — with a salmon in her mouth.

Rupert Godfrey

Stert, Wilts

Learning to stand up to bullies and playing games of concentration – good preparation for civilian life

Sir, I too was at Eaton Hall OCS in 1957 (Terry Miller’s letter, July 22). We all remember the formidable RSM, “Paddy” Lynch of the Irish Guards, putting his stamp on ridiculously young National Service officer cadets. Although at least 6ft 6in tall, he stood on a table from which to survey the parade and pick up the slightest impropriety.

It was tremendous preparation for civilian life. Many at the Bar, even some silks, flinched before judges such as Melford Stevenson and Leslie Boreham, but after having a strip torn off by RSM Lynch those judges seemed almost tame.

Richard Daniel

London NW7

Sir, Jane Rowe (letter, July 23) seems to claim the wonderful board game uckers for the Royal Navy. When I was an army helicopter pilot in the 1960s uckers was almost an addiction among pilots and ground-crews. I have played it in army crew-rooms in the UK, Germany, Aden, Libya and Hong Kong. In the army the rules did not vary, but Jane Rowe is right about one thing: concentration and basic mathematical skills were the essential attributes of a winner. Strangely, I have never come across the game in civilian life.

Robin Rhoderick-Jones

Dulford, Devon

Sir, Charles McLay (July 23) did not give the full Edinburgh greeting, which, hospitably, is: “You’ll have had your tea, but come in and have something stronger.”

Professor Craig Sharp

Edinburgh

Junior doctor describes a typically harrowing night shift and wonders how the NHS can go to a seven-day week

Sir, It is 4am, and I am a junior doctor writing from a weekend night shift at a respected teaching hospital. I have run arrest calls, treated life-threatening bleeding and sepsis, held the hand of a young woman dying with breast cancer, tried to comfort her family, scuttled down miles of dim corridors, occasionally wanted to sob with exhaustion, forgotten to eat, forgotten to drink, drawn on every fibre of strength I possess to keep dispensing compassion, kindness and, above all, good medicine to my patients this never-ending night.

And right now, huddled over Diet Coke and a laptop, I am struck by the utter absurdity of the fantasy politics played by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, government and opposition alike that a seven-day NHS is possible without a 29 per cent increase in funding.

Do they really not know how desperately thinly we are stretched? I don’t think so. The maths is simple. Pretending that the NHS can provide a seven-day weekday service without funding it isn’t just disingenuous, it is downright dangerous for patients.

Dr Rachel Clarke

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

The interminable conflict which seems to defy any quest for any kind of peace

Sir, Apropos Lt Col Symonds’ letter (July 22), Abba Eban said of the 1967 war: “This must be the first time in history that, on the morrow of the war, the victors sued for peace and the vanquished demanded total victory.” Israel is still suing for peace — and is still waiting for a response. The only answer it ever gets is more rockets aimed at civilians.

Brian Goldfarb

East Finchley, London

Sir, Lt Col Symonds forgets that after the Six-Day War Israel offered to negotiate with the Arabs with no preconditions, including withdrawal from the territories captured during the war, in exchange for a peace treaty. The response was met on September 1, 1967, by the three Nos at the Khartoum Arab League conference: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

Colin Green

Kingston, Surrey

Sir, It is not true that the root of this conflict is Israel’s defensive occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas exists to fulfil the original objective of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, founded in 1964 three years before Israel seized the so-called occupied territories, which was “to eliminate the State of Israel by means of armed struggle”.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey

Telegraph:

Research by Heriot-Watt and York universities shows that benefit cuts have played a part in the rise of homelessness Photo: ALAMY

6:57AM BST 23 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Fraser Nelson argues that the Government’s welfare reforms have been vindicated because there hasn’t been a rise in homelessness despite warnings about the impact of benefits cuts.

Since the implementation of benefit cuts in 2011, official figures have shown increases in all forms of homelessness, including an 11 per cent increase in rough sleeping and a 21 per cent increase in those in temporary accommodation.

Independent analysis by Heriot-Watt and York universities identified benefit cuts as an important driver of rising homelessness, noting that cuts “weaken the safety net that provides a ‘buffer’ between a loss of income, or a persistently low income, and homelessness.”

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
London N1

Unreliable energy

SIR – Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has declared an “urgent national need” for projects such as the Rampion wind farm.

Yet wind farms are hopelessly inefficient and unreliable. Fairly regularly, the total wind-power output of Britain falls to just a few tens of megawatts, which is effectively zero. This “subsidy farm” will destroy the environment, kill huge numbers of seabirds and wreck the beautiful sea views.

Christopher Wright
Findon, West Sussex

Earnest advice

SIR – Tim Walker is not quite right to say that nothing can be added or taken away from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Wilde pruned his original version to good effect. But some splendid lines were lost, as when Cecily informs Algernon that John Worthing has lunched on pâté de foie gras sandwiches and the 1889 champagne:

“1889? Are you sure?”

“O yes. It is on medical advice. Even the cheaper clarets are forbidden to him.”

David Damant
Bath, Somerset

A load of hot air

SIR – Why are those hot-air hand dryers so noisy? Bring back the paper towel.

Mike Haberfield
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Bringing peace to Gaza

SIR – Surely it must be obvious that the random firing of rockets will never win a conflict, and is very likely to bring retribution. If Hamas would acknowledge this, peace could be achieved overnight and bring the suffering in Gaza to an end.

Martin Mears
East Ord, Northumberland

Rationing on the NHS

SIR – In order to save money, many Clinical Commissioning Groups, GP-led bodies that now control a large proportion of NHS spending, are restricting or rationing access of patients with certain complaints to hospital consultants. These complaints include hip and knee problems, cataract, hernias, carpal tunnel syndrome and even skin disorders. Such conditions vary between CCGs: some do not interfere with patient referral at all.

Another type of group, known as “musculoskeletal teams”, have been established in some areas between GPs and consultants. They boast of being a “one-stop shop”. This is not quite correct, but they did manage to prevent nine out of 10 patients seeing consultants, according to an article last year in the British Journal of General Practice.

Surely medical professionals must be enabled to treat patients to the best of their ability. Such NHS policies deny patients the treatment they rightfully expect. These interferences between doctors are unkind and, in my opinion, unethical.

Robert Simpson-White (FRCGP)
English Bicknor, Gloucestershire

SIR – I doubt that social media is the chief culprit in dissatisfaction with GPs.

At one visit to my GP, I was told that I should only raise one subject for treatment; if I had more, I should book a second appointment. Moreover, I had already had eight minutes in the surgery (mostly occupied with the GP looking up data on his computer) “and if I give you any more time I’ll have a riot on my hands”. Now the surgery offers five-minute appointments.

With such treatment from GPs, patients may well be driven to self-diagnose online, but the internet is not the cause of increasing complaints.

Alan Shaw
Halifax, West Yorkshire

SIR – Over the past week, I have suffered a pounding heart and acute breathlessness after even minor exertion.

When my wife attempted to make an appointment for me to get checked out by my local GP in a practice that has traditionally employed four doctors, she was informed that one doctor had recently left, one was off on long-term sickness, one was starting two weeks’ holiday that morning, and the remaining doctor was rather busy and could see me in 10 days’ time. Or I could try again in the morning to see if he had a vacant slot.

Should I (a) pester the practice in the hope of an earlier appointment; (b) visit the outpatient unit at the local hospital 25 miles away; (c) do nothing in the hope that it goes away; or (d) negotiate favourable terms with the local undertaker?

D R Tagg
Alford, Lincolnshire

Good news

SIR – I was delighted to learn that Evan Davis is to become the new presenter of Newsnight. Now I shall be able to listen to the Today programme again.

Richard Coulson
Maidstone, Kent

The wit has gone from cricket’s commentary box

SIR – There was a time when listening to cricket commentary was a joy. The likes of John Arlott and Brian Johnston reported on the game with style, insight and humour.

Now we must endure shift after shift of whinging ex-players as they compete to criticise every shot, ball and field placing.

Tony Smith
Braceby, Lincolnshire

SIR – Several things are beginning to annoy me with the televised Test cricket.

First, the personal habits of individual players leaves a lot to be desired – witness the close-ups of Alastair Cook picking his nose. In addition, several players from both sides have a disgusting habit of spitting. Then there is the overdone high fiving, hugging and general euphoria at every wicket fall. I find this “modern” approach repugnant and unsporting.

Jack Phillips
Dedham, Essex

SIR – At the latest Lord’s Test, the ground staff were brushing the pitch during breaks in play, rather than only between innings. Has the law been changed?

Wear and tear of the surface as the match proceeds gives the bowlers assistance – of which they get very little, now that pitches are protected from the weather.

Brian O’Gorman
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – After a miserable day for English cricket at Lords, I wonder how many wives are telling their husbands to cheer up and accept that it is only a game?

Frank Dike
Bridport, Dorset

SIR – I suspect Jacky Maggs is one of many neighbours forced to suffer indulged and screaming children.

I intend to host a large and noisy garden party on the evening of Monday September 8, which Jacky is welcome to attend. Revenge is best served cold.

Neil Webster
Fulwood, Lancashire

SIR – I’d like to add football games to the list of unbearable neighbourly behaviour.

The noise is often horrendous and can go on for hours. They kick the ball over my fence, announce that it’s against the law for me to keep it, and then barge in to help themselves, telling me that I am not legally allowed to touch them.

Where are the laws protecting my right to enjoy my home in peace?

Sondra Halliday
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

SIR – How to respond to next-door neighbours who purchase a trampoline? Adopt naturism.

Charles Dobson
Burton-in-Kendal, Westmorland

SIR – “Europe must hit Russia hard with sanctions, says David Cameron”. Has he checked with his Lib Dem Energy Secretary?

The National Grid is supplied by 16 per cent coal, 23 per cent nuclear, 45 per cent gas, 3 per cent wind, and 13 per cent other (mostly imports from nuclear France). When Putin turns off the gas to Europe in retaliation, then what? Worse still, the Coalition has pledged to reduce the coal contribution and new nuclear power is not yet available, which leaves us with wind. Get the candles ready.

Dr A E Hanwell
York

SIR – Too many European countries are happy to shelter under the protection of Nato but are unwilling to pull their weight. It is surprising that the United States does not walk away and leave them to it.

Alec Ellis
Liverpool

SIR – Nato should accept the Ukrainian government’s invitation to hold a large exercise in the eastern part of the country still under its control. The exercise would move eastwards, while monitoring the logistical capacity of every member state’s forces to coordinate successfully (Letters, July 22). Assembly would be in one month, action in two, and the Russians should be assured that there was absolutely no intention to move outside the borders of the state that invited it.

Is it not time for hand-wringing and futile measures to give way to effective action against an increasingly arrogant power? The Prince of Wales’s unguarded remark was spot on: this is a case of the history of Thirties Europe repeating itself, and we need to get real.

Tony Jones
London SW7

SIR – One can feel nothing but sympathy for the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew killed in the Malaysian airliner MH17. One can also understand their frustration at the delay in identifying and repatriating the bodies of their loved ones. But as a forensic odontologist, I would caution that the identification process will be slow, as workers must be meticulous in every detail in order to ensure that the correct body is repatriated to the correct family.

Not all of the bodies have been retrieved from the widely dispersed crash site. Ante-mortem information has to be collected from relatives, and teams of forensic experts have to be deployed to wherever the identification process will take place.

James Hardy
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Is it not incongruous that at the same time as bodies of our nationals are being returned from the crash site in Ukraine, we should be celebrating the height of Russian culture at Covent Garden next week? The performances should be cancelled.

Michael Siggs
Colchester, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The one hope, however forlorn, of the terrible tragedy being played out in Gaza in these awful days is that the international powers, especially the USA and the EU, will ensure the removal of the conditions which are the root cause of the terrible situation there. This would simply involve granting the people of both Palestine and Gaza the right to have their own governments and to travel within and out of their territories by land, sea and air.

Of course Israel, like any country, has the right to control the traffic across its own borders, but it has none whatsoever to make Gaza the largest open air prison in the world, to have hundreds of checkpoints across the illegally occupied territories of Palestine and to prevent Gaza and Palestine having their own airports.

Repression in any society inevitably leads to extremism, usually referred to by the repressors as terrorism, as we have seen in our own country and elsewhere in the history of the world. Hamas may indeed be called a terrorist organisation in that its rockets undoubtedly cause terror in Israel , but by any measure of terrorism, its actions are more minor than those of the Israeli government.

There is no competition. The real terrorists in Palestine and Gaza are the Israeli Defence Forces, with Hamas, with its largely ineffective rockets, a far distant second. The responsibility for bringing about a permanent peace in Palestine clearly now belongs to the international political world and our own representatives in the European Parliament must promote the establishment of a complete boycott of all educational, social and business programmes with Israel until its government recognises the rights of the Palestinian people to have the same freedoms as their own people enjoy. Until this is achieved, the battles will continue. – Yours, etc,

PROF EMERITUS

JOHN KELLY,

University College,

Dublin 4

A chara, – Paddy Crean (Letters, July 23rd) suggests that “If Ireland wants to position itself as a peacemaker, it must first be careful not to be seen as taking sides”. What nonsense. Let me list just a few of the issues on which Mr Crean would have us take the safe middle ground: 600 Palestinians, including 121 children, killed in two weeks by Israeli shelling. According to the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), “there is literally no safe place (in Gaza) for civilians”, with 500 homes destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 Palestinians seeking shelter from the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, suggests that the Israeli action “could amount to war crimes” – not to mention the endless land grab and stealing of natural water springs by Israeli settlers on the West Bank or the apartheid wall which, according to the International Court of Justice, is “contrary to international law”. The list goes on and on.

As for me, I’m taking sides. Boycott Israel and all things Israeli. – Is mise le meas,

BRENDAN ARCHBOLD,

Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Imagine if after the London bombings Britain had bombed the Bogside, shelled Divis Flats and fired a tank shell at Altnagelvin Hospital. Would we call a resulting 500+ deaths mass murder? – Yours etc

MIKE JENNINGS,

Kincora Road,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Dublin City Council (DCC) is removing public litter bins and not replacing them. If logic underpins this policy, it must be that having fewer bins equals a lower cost involved in emptying them.

A case in point is the permanent removal of a public bin at the corner of Kincora Court and Conquer Hill Road in Clontarf over three months ago. Despite representations to local councillors of all persuasions, the bin has never been replaced. The bin outside Belgrove National School was also removed. I frequently walk 20 minutes carrying a bag of dog poo in St Anne’s Park to make use of the pitiful number of bins supplied in this 240-acre public amenity.

This morning I was gobsmacked and furious to see that DCC has the money and the gall to send out workers to put up signs urging us to “bin the poo”. Where? The environmental health officer in the waste management section who sent them out is clearly a person with no sense of irony.

With all the hoo-hah about Dublin losing €50 million through the Garth Brooks debacle, I would have thought that DCC might have the brains to understand that the most important element in attracting tourists is having clean streets. Research has also shown a link between dirty neighbourhoods and violence. This is yet another example of the famous Irish “lack of foresight” saga. – Yours, etc,

MARESE HICKEY,

Kincora Court,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Early one morning last month I caught my first large wild trout locally. Since I was a boy I had wondered would I ever see fish thrive again in the the Tolka. I began teaching angling skills to my own kids on its banks last year and explain to them regularly how lucky we are to see trout thriving once again along “our” stretch of the river.

Yesterday’s large scale fish-kill (report by Olivia Kelly, July 23rd) is devastating. Measuring the impact on the fish stocks affected is easier done than measuring the impact on the community.

The Tolka will bounce back again given time and attention. Sadly, it might be too late by then to get some kids interested in angling and wildlife in their neighbourhood, rather than anti-social activities.

I hope those responsible are found and prosecuted without delay. In the meantime more general environmental awareness about the fragility of our rivers is required to prevent a recurrence. – Yours, etc,

JIM KELLEHER,

Griffith Avenue,

Dublin 9

Sir, – For a brief moment I thought Revd Patrick Burke (Letters, July 23rd) was about to respond to Declan Kelly’s criticism of church indoctrination of children. Mr Kelly raised a serious point and it merits an answer. If Revd Burke is particularly sensitive where the Catholic Church is concerned, he should, of course, appreciate that the indoctrination of children is practised by all the long-established religions. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN BUTLER,

Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th) and Declan Kelly (Letters, July 22nd) seem oblivious to the fact that everyone is actively programming their own mind. Whether this is done from websites, TV programmes, adverts, books, newspapers or magazines or from belief systems, each of us, as we mature, needs to challenge our belief systems and accept as fact that the Catholic Church are not the only ones who get it wrong. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

Bullock Park,

Carlow

Sir, – My wife and I returned on Saturday evening from a circular 300-mile tour of south Leinster and Munster by chartered train, ably organised by the Irish Railway Records Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. The itinerary was Dublin to Waterford via Carlow and Kilkenny and then across the rich Golden Vale via Carrrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cahir, Bansha, Mullinavat and Tipperary town to Limerick via Limerick junction. We returned to Dublin via Ballybrophy, approaching Dublin Connolly through the little used Phoenix Park tunnel.

In the Golden Vale we traversed Victorian bow-string bridges and viaducts in cut blue limestone. We alighted at quaint Gothic stations built by the intrepid Carlow-born engineer and contractor William Dargan. We enjoyed delightful glimpses of semi-ruined Norman keeps and Cistercian monasteries, the magnificent Cahir castle and Gothic revival churches designed by John Semple. As we travelled sedately through the vale the afternoon sun lit up the Comeraghs, Knockmealdowns, Galtees, and Slievenaman mountains and the large herds of cattle grazing in rich pasturelands. A memorable and stress-free day to gladden the heart.

Sadly it is feared that the Waterford through to Limerick Junction section of this most scenic of Irish and European cross-country lines is threatened with imminent closure by an overly centralised administration. Surely the local communities and development agencies can be motivated to follow the example of their inspired counterparts on the western seaboard who have initiated the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway cycle experience.

There are many successful tourist-centred railways that can provide a model of good organisation and robust local engagement – the Scottish West Highland railway from Glasgow to Mallaig, the Forest of Dean railway in England and the popular summertime excursions from Anduze to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the remote French Cévennes.

A “Golden Vale Railway Experience” involving expanded train services and stopovers at selected hotels and historic sites along the line, if imaginatively promoted and managed, could be the equal of any of the above and bring welcome benefits to a treasured but less known tourist destination. Are there interested individuals and organisations in the counties of the Golden Vale who might take up an exciting challenge ? – Yours, etc,

HUGH M FINLAY,

New Park Road,

Blackrock,

Sir, – In the last few days The Irish Times has published articles by Breda O’Brien concerning the socialisation of children by the internet, and by Ronan O’Brien concerning the failure of John Redmond’s political aspirations. According to commentators in your Letters column, both are somehow the fault of the Catholic Church, as is also, we may assume, rain in July and the collapse of the Garth Brooks beano. May I take advantage of the same column to pass along my suspicions that the Presbyterians are secretly behind the recent spate of lollypop robberies conducted by seagulls on unsuspecting children, and which was brought to our attention by Senator Ned O’Sullivan?

DAVID SMITH,

Harmonstown Road,

Dublin 5

Sir, – On the Friday morning of July 11th I listened with pleasure to Diarmaid Ó Muirithe on RTÉ’s Thought for the Day expanding on the word “precious” and expressing his fear that it would ultimately disappear entirely except for its sacred use, as in “the most precious blood of the Saviour”.

Like a mediaeval craftsman he placed the word in its setting, examining its facets, colour and texture. Lucidly he argued his understanding of its uses and abuses. That evening I heard, with great sadness, of his sudden death in Vienna. Ó Muirithe’s contribution to our understanding of words, their derivation and local values, is a gem of great preciousness and one for which I, and I’m sure thousands of others, are profoundly grateful. It could truly be said of and for him: in principio erat verbum. – Yours, etc,

CIARAN MacGONIGAL,

Edgeworthstown,

Co Longford

Sir, – As a daily commuter from Dublin to Newbridge I have a suggestion for the new Minister for Transport. Irish Rail has stated that in an era of severe financial constraints, it is unlikely that bicycle fares will be withdrawn. The current annual Dublin to Newbridge train fare is €2,100. With a bicycle it is an additional €3,132. As much as I would like to assist the Government in its efforts to make us a bike-friendly nation it would cost me €5,232 per annum. Therefore I drive.

I work in an office with more than 1,000 employees, a majority of whom commute by car. I personally know of 50 people who would like to “bike it to work”, but not at a cost of €5,232.

Why not axe the bike fee so we can get fit, reduce traffic, help the environment and create more revenue for Irish Rail? Irish Rail says it “can not take bikes at peak times due to space restriction”. It just so happens that it is at peak times that most people need to bike it to work. Would a simple one or two extra carriages be possible – no seats necessary? – Yours, etc,

ANN KINAHAN,

Woodbrook Square,

Dublin 15

Sir, – It falls to me to apologise for letting Fintan O’Toole down. Like many Irish people I have been slack and undisciplined in front of the neighbours. I have tested and tasted too much of this world of luxury. I have drunk that second glass of Bulgarian merlot, lolled around watching the World Cup and wolfed down the last Rolo. In secular penitence I am now going to go west to the barren wastes of the Burren to live on locusts and wild honey. Come, Fintan and all frugal people, come dance with me in the Real Ireland. – Yours, etc,

CIAN P MAC CIONNA,

The Paddocks Crescent,

Adamstown,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Given that both Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have ruled out the possibility of either party entering a government with Sinn Féin, and, given the two parties’ power-sharing strategy at local level, to the exclusion of Sinn Féin, would it be premature to give credit to Sinn Féin for bringing an end to civil war politics in this State? – Yours, etc,

JOE NOLAN,

Castle Farm,

Shankill,

Co Dublin

Irish Independent:

* I recently celebrated my 50th birthday with a party. Having heard from some friends about their reactions to their own half century milestones, it was with some trepidation that I approached the big day.

Over 40 people attended my celebration party. A number of others sent their apologies. It got me thinking of the nature of friendships. Who are our friends? Are friendships constant in life?

Looking back from my present vantage point, I can see I have no contact with the majority of people I grew up with, people I spent my formative years with.

It is a similar story with the majority of people I studied with in various third level institutions and worked with in various jobs.

Friends have come into my life, stayed for a while before we drifted apart, sometimes by mutual consent, other times the “separation” initiated by me or the other party.

Other friendships have remained more long-term in my life. Today I realise I have wonderful friends who would be there for me at the drop of a hat, if needed.

In life we come in contact with other people, each of them on their own particular path. Sometimes we can be touched in a special way by some of these people and that is wonderful when it happens.

It is sometimes in the nature of friendships that people come into our lives, leave their mark, then leave, like ships passing in the night.

Make the most of the now. Cherish your friends today. You never know what tomorrow holds.

And finally, be a friend to yourself.

We all enter this world on our own and leave in a similar fashion.

TOMMY RODDY

SALTHILL, GALWAY

CROWDS AT CROAGH

* What’s the difference between Croagh Patrick and Croke Park? This Sunday there will be 40,000 people at Croagh Patrick.

KEVIN DEVITTE

MILL STREET, WESTPORT, CO MAYO

A LOST OPPORTUNITY

* I just felt that I had to write about what has happened in this country with Garth Brooks. The country is on its knees, crying out for work and our young are leaving. This was an opportunity for over €50m in revenue, not to mention extra work for those who cannot find full-time employment.

I am not a Garth Brooks fan, but I could see the city’s shops were packed on the days of the One Direction concerts. It was like Christmas Eve. How could they let an opportunity like this go?

DEIRDRE SCHLINDWEIN

BALBRIGGAN, CO DUBLIN

POLITICIANS MUST ACT OVER GAZA

* I feel powerless witnessing the genocide of the people of Gaza. Is my inaction or powerlessness that far removed from those who knew what was going on in the concentration camps dotted all over Europe less than a century ago?

They defended their inaction with the excuse of being powerless to act. I cannot allow myself to be in that number.

In a democracy our elected representatives have a responsibility to act. I want them to demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.

I ask them to demand the highest sanction possible on Israel. I seek them to use the full weight of their political voice to demand a cessation of this genocide. I am not hopeful. Sure aren’t they on their ‘holliers’.

CAROLINE CONNOLLY

DUNDALK, CO LOUTH

DISAPPOINTED AT ISRAELI BIAS

* I am shocked that so many children are being killed in Gaza. My two-year-old boy shared my bed recently. In the morning, as I held my boy, I was touched by sadness knowing that some parents in Gaza would lose their children before the day was out.

Today I decided to read the ‘New York Times‘ and ‘The Washington Post‘ to see if they were biased. Their articles left me deeply disappointed. The biggest news from their perspective was a missing Israeli soldier, a rocket landing near Tel Aviv airport and flights being cancelled for a day.

PETER DORAN

ADDRESS WITH EDITOR

GOLDEN VALE IDEAL FOR TOURISTS

* My wife and I returned on Saturday evening from a circular 300 mile itinerary of south Leinster and Munster by chartered train, ably organised by the Irish Railway Records Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

Our journey along the quiet, rural railways in the Golden Vale traversed Victorian bow-string bridges and viaducts in cut blue limestone. We alighted at quaint stations built in the “gas-pipe Gothic style” beloved by the intrepid Carlow-born engineer and contractor William Dargan.

We enjoyed delightful glimpses of semi-ruined Norman keeps and Cistercian monasteries, the magnificent Cahir Castle, and iconic Gothic revival churches designed by John Semple.

Sadly it is feared that the Waterford through to Limerick Junction section of this most scenic of Irish and European cross-country lines is threatened with imminent closure by an overly centralised administration.

Surely the local communities and development agencies can be motivated to follow the example of their inspired counterparts on the western seaboard, who have initiated the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway cycle experience.

A Golden Vale Railway Experience, involving expanded train services and stopovers at selected hotels and historic sites along the line, could be the equal of any of the above and bring welcome benefits to a treasured but lesser known tourist destination.

Are there interested individuals and organisations in the counties of the Golden Vale who might take up an exciting challenge ?

HUGH M FINLAY

BLACKROCK, CO DUBLIN

PRAISE FOR MOTORING ARTICLES

* I have to commend two articles written by your motor correspondent Eddie Cunningham (Irish Independent, July 23).

‘Disabled Parking – Five things to think about before stealing a slot’ was excellent. This crime happens every day and affects so many people, not only in Ireland but across the world.

‘Chilling prediction: how many will die on roads’ was also excellent. I congratulate you on printing such an article and hope it saves many lives.

PATRICK KAVANAGH

RATHGAR AVENUE, RATHGAR, DUBLIN 6

ARE CHRISTIANS REALLY UNITED?

* Cal Hyland (Irish Independent, July 23) believes Christians are now “moving towards the message of Christ through ecumenism” while Jews and Muslims are “still in the mire”, believing in a vengeful, unforgiving and self-righteous God.

Would Mr Hyland also include those Christians living in Northern Ireland and Glasgow; and, according to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, the other 30,000 different schisms within Christianity?

GARY J BYRNE

IFSC, DUBLIN 1

Irish Independent

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