Post Office

17 August 2014 Post office

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I go to the Post Office

Scrabble: Mary wins, but gets under just 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.

103 Games: Mary wins 55 John 49 Mary Average score 346 John 340


Frans Brüggen – obituary

Frans Brüggen was a conductor and authority on 18th-century music who brought the recorder into the concert hall

Frans Bruggen conducting in Paris in 1998

Frans Bruggen conducting in Paris in 1998 Photo: LEBRECHT

5:44PM BST 14 Aug 2014


Frans Brüggen,who has died aged 79, was a Dutch recorder player, conductor and musicologist who brought the recorder out of the classroom and into the concert hall as a serious musical instrument.

In his early days he would play anything that he felt might sound good on the recorder — “which included, for better or worse, [tunes from] symphonies by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven”.

Later Brüggen explored more carefully how the instrument was used in the baroque era, while pushing for its acceptance as a modern instrument — including commissioning works from composers such as Louis Andriessen and Luciano Berio (notably Gesti, which tests the performer’s powers of control and interpretation). Indeed, Berio once described Brüggen as “a musician who is not an archaeologist but a great artist”.

Along the way Brüggen founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, spearheading the move away from the luscious accounts of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven that had become popular in the first half of the 20th century and towards a realisation of how the music would have sounded during the composers’ lifetimes.

He and his colleagues went further still, reimagining works by Mahler, Bruckner and even Debussy on instruments of the 18th century, offering a fascinating — if not widely accepted — interpretation of their possibilities. Such innovation helped him to avoid being labelled purely as an early music specialist; indeed, he was once dubbed a romantic of the historical performance movement.

Yet Brüggen was by no means a lone voice in the early music wilderness, and his extensive recording legacy includes accounts of Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi with other pioneers of authentic interpretation, such as Gustav Leonhardt, the harpsichordist, and Anner Bylsma, the cellist.

Tall, elegant and with big hands, Brüggen cut a striking figure. Whether surrounded by an orchestra or alone with only his recorder, he could hold an audience spellbound as he transported them towards the 18th century. His English was carefully spoken, and on stage he radiated charisma. Unusually for a wind player, he would sit, rather than stand, his long legs crossed and his recorder held, noted the author Joel Cohen, “at an odd and slightly defiant angle to his mouth”.

Thanks to the marketing machine of Telefunken, with which he made more than 50 discs, the Dutch media dubbed him the John Lennon of classical music.

That he went along with such promotion is indisputable; yet he never compromised the intellectual rigour of his approach. Asked in 1987 whether he preferred playing the recorder or conducting an orchestra, he replied: “The recorder for me gives body to a physical, corporeal love, and the orchestra makes corporeal a spiritual love. And love is composed of these two aspects. I am in love with both.”

Frans Brüggen (LEBRECHT)

Frans Brüggen was born in Amsterdam on October 30 1934, the youngest of nine children. He claimed that boredom during the war, when many Dutch schools were closed, led him and his brother Hans to start playing the recorder. “I immediately fell in love with that instrument and tootled my way through the rest of the war years,” he said.

He came to the attention of Kees Otten, the first Dutch professor of recorder, studying with him from the age of 14 and through his student years at the Amsterdam Conservatory. “Kees gave very good lessons,” he recalled, “but straight away I wanted to be better than him.”

By the age of 21 Brüggen, who also read Musicology at the University of Amsterdam, was a professor at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, by which time he was giving serious consideration to the role of historical instruments in the interpretation of older music.

He was first heard at the Wigmore Hall in 1957, when he appeared with the Telemann Trio, deftly switching between flute and treble recorder throughout the concert. Over the next few years he often appeared with Janny van Wering, a Dutch harpsichordist. But sometimes — such as in 1966 — Brüggen struck out alone. “This might have made for monotony,” noted one critic, “but for the two facts that he was a fine artist, able to transcend all the instrument’s legendary limitations, and that he enlivened his programme with two avant-garde works specially written for him.”

One of the characteristics of the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, which he created with the musicologist Sieuwert Verster in 1981, was that it used word of mouth (no auditions) to recruit the finest period instrument players to work together for a few weeks at a time. Another was that the proceeds of their concerts were shared equally among all the performers, including the conductor. “I earn the same as the second clarinet,” Brüggen told The New York Times in 2008.

He brought the orchestra to the Proms in 1996, having made his first appearance at the Albert Hall in 1993 conducting Beethoven’s Choral Symphony with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with which he was joint principal guest conductor with Simon Rattle. A decade later he conducted the OAE in the South Bank’s “Haydn; The Creative Genius” series. He also maintained a long relationship with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and was visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Brüggen was the first to admit that, in his early days, much of his music-making was experimental. “People are much better informed [today],” he told Radio 3 recently. “[They] are far better players than we were.” Nevertheless, he concluded that the movement of which he was a pioneer “has had a great influence”.

Frans Brüggen married Machtelt Israëls, who survives him with their two daughters.

Frans Brüggen, born October 30 1934, died August 13 2014


Children in care are getting ever better grades at school

The pupil premium plus is improving the prospects of children in care

child blackboard

Every council has to appoint a virtual school head who champions the education of children in care in that area. Photograph: Stella/Getty Images/fStop

Ashley John-Baptiste’s moving piece (“Foster children need more than cash“, Comment) struck a real chord with me. Having grown up with more than 80 foster children, I saw many struggle with the same challenges that he describes. This is what led me into politics and why I have made it my priority to improve the prospects of children in care.

I agree that better support in schools is vital so I have been delighted to introduce pupil premium plus, worth £1,900 per child, and to give virtual school heads, who champion the education of children in care in that area, responsibility for ensuring this money is well spent.We have changed the law so that every council has to appoint a virtual school head. These changes are beginning to have an impact.

Since 2010, the number of children in care achieving five A-C grade GCSEs has increased from 25% to 30%, with attainment gap between these children and their peers starting to narrow. But there is, of course, much more to do. This is why we are also freeing foster carers to get on with everyday parenting and engage more meaningfully with their foster child’s school.

Edward Timpson

Parliamentary under-secretary of state for children and families

London SW1

The English want to be free too

Bella Bathurst makes an important observation: “Why have we got as far as a referendum in the first place?” (“Salmond and Darling squabble, but the real conversation is elsewhere”, Comment, last week). Scotland is not voting for independence from England but out of disenchantment with a faltering parliament and Whitehall. If the English could have a referendum to be independent of Westminster the majority would be overwhelming. Look at collapsed party memberships and falling election turnouts. Charles Ross Devizes, Wiltshire

Not censorship, but regulation

Impress, the independent monitor for the press, will be a regulator that is independent of both politicians and newspaper owners. It is guided by the criteria set out in the royal charter on self-regulation of the press but will only seek recognition under the charter if its independently appointed board decides to do so. Its constitution will include a “sunset clause”, causing it to dissolve in the event of any political interference .

This solution, which steers a path between the extremes of self-regulation and state regulation, is not to everybody’s taste. Criticism is welcome, but to say that Impress would allow “state-backed censorship” (“JK Rowling is too good to be a propagandist“, Comment) is a grotesque distortion of the facts. It is not true that newspapers would be forced to join Impress “or face punitive damages and costs whenever an oligarch or MP sues them – even if they have told the truth”.

Under the charter framework, news publishers will only face punitive damages if they have behaved with “outrageous” disregard for an individual’s rights. They will only pay the claimant’s costs if they have refused to go to arbitration. The editors’ code of practice remains unchanged.

This is not censorship. It is the independent regulation that the public has long demanded. Our supporters include the National Union of Journalists, the distinguished editor Harold Evans and a range of authors.

Jonathan Heawood

The Impress Project

London NW1

Autism and the net

What a shame to see Baroness Greenfield join the long line of people, stretching back 60 years or more, seeking to blame someone or something for autism (“I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum“, New Review). My two children were born autistic. This was clear from the earliest age. Neither has ever started talking. Later, aged about five, they discovered the computer and the internet. Their methodical minds and excellent visual memory make them skilled computer users. So I would agree with Baroness Greenfield that there seems, anecdotally, to be a link between autism and a love of the internet. But I think she may be getting cause and effect mixed up.

Anne-Louise Crocker 

Shoreham, Kent

Slaves to the rhythm?

Can we expect to read about the contraceptive experiences of a bunch of male Observer journalists soon (“Adventures in contraception“, Magazine)?

Peter McKenna


care workers

Striking NHS care workers in Doncaster, from left to right : Cheryl Fawley, Roger Hutt, Janet Howle, Mags Dalton, Theresa Rollinson and Colin Manion. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Thank you for responsible journalism in placing the article on the battle between the Doncaster care workers and Care UK on the front page and following it up with an editorial that sets the context of the dispute (“The care workers left behind as private equity targets the NHS“, News. As you point out, the commodification of care has grown insidiously, and we have let it happen, so that it is now acceptable to gain profits from the misfortune of others, be they the care workers or the cared for.

How can these “social entrepreneurs” sleep at night knowing that the profits of their shareholders are coming at the expense of decent people trying to earn a living in the “care industry”?

What is odd is that, unlike many current issues, this one will touch almost everyone. We will all get old and need help and many of us are already looking after elderly relatives or people with disabilities, so why are we so accepting of this state of affairs? If we do not try to change this creeping privatisation of care we will be reduced to the state of “deserving” or “undeserving” or, without Victorian benevolence, simply those who can pay will get care and those who cannot will be destitute.

The Labour party, which for some years now has been disappointingly accepting of the privatisation of welfare, needs to stand up and be counted on this issue and to ensure that if it is successful at the next election it can deliver on providing adequate funds (yes, out of our taxes) and support local authorities and care professionals to put morality before profits.

Maybe the baby boomers, of whom I am one, have taken too much for granted: we grew up knowing that there was a  safety net, but what we have to understand is that that net has been attacked and great big holes are developing that many will fall though.

Dr Helen Gorman


Your vision of a society where carers are truly valued isn’t just pie in the sky. Paying the living wage is a start and, earlier this year, the charity that I am involved with became the first national care provider to sign up to this excellent standard. As I travel around the country visiting the Abbeyfield Society’s 500 sheltered houses and care homes, I find smiling faces.

The reality is that people who are rewarded fairly make better carers and that brings untold benefit for our elderly residents. So why can’t every assisted living facility in the country be like this? Money is a key factor. Abbeyfield’s Newcastle society recently won an appeal against its city council for underpaying by up to 20% for the care beds the charity provided.

In a ground-breaking verdict for the care sector, the judge said that Newcastle city council and, by extension, all local authorities, had a duty to appraise themselves of the true cost of providing care and to pay accordingly.

Meanwhile, local authorities and central government sling accusations back and forth about whose fault it is.  Well, as long as each of us is prepared to sit back and watch, we only have ourselves to blame. Every single person in the UK needs to wake up to the elderly care challenge and hoist it up the national agenda.

Brenda Dean

President,Abbeyfield Society

St Albans, Herts

After 40 years in the NHS as a GP, the way some areas of the service are being degraded makes me weep. Where privatisation puts profit before care in a health service it cannot be right or, indeed, sensible.

The takeover of services for people with severe learning disabilities is a case in point. In an area where hands-on care is the business, the most valuable resource a company takes on is the caring staff. To reduce the pay of experienced, committed staff by up to 35% shows ignorance and disrespect. For this group to withdraw their services and reconsider their futures is a tragedy for vulnerable patients and a recipe for a commercial and public-relations disaster.

The recent notorious failures in care quality have their roots in inexperienced, undertrained and uncommitted staff, often poorly supported. The cost then to patient/clients and the business is huge. When will the politicians wake to this fact?

Dr Mike Bishop



As a paramedic, I often attend patients who are residents of care homes and over the years I’ve formed definite opinions as to where, if ever necessary, I would like to be cared for. I would not touch the private sector with the proverbial barge pole. True, there are exceptions to every rule, but the main public sector facilities, while they may sometimes be shabby, are more adequately staffed, by staff who have been there for a long time and treat residents almost as one of the family.

A case in point. Last week, I attended a call in the wee small hours, to an elderly lady in a notorious (among my colleagues) private care home. While sorting out the problem, I was told that there were two staff on duty, for approximately 30 patients, all of whom had a diagnosis of dementia, never mind the other ailments that tend to affect elderly people.

My colleague recently attended the same place to find one person on duty and he was actually the chef. The private sector treats staff as disposable and residents simply as a means of making money. Staff turnover is high, morale is low.

David Smith



Your leader is right to highlight that our most vulnerable are cared for by some of the least valued workers. But your leader misses a fundamental point: that the current NHS and social care structures do not allow for the support people need to be provided cost-effectively and appropriately. Nowhere is this more true than for people with dementia and their carers.

If you have cancer or heart disease, you can quite rightly expect that the medical care you need will be free at the point of use. That’s just not the case for people with dementia and the results can be catastrophic.

Dementia is largely treated by social care support, not by surgery or medicine. Yet the bulk of the cost of social care falls on the individual or on heavily cut local authority funding. It’s not surprising, then, that we are not paying and supporting the providers of social care in the way we should.

Whether it is medical or social care, surely a person with one disease should be able to expect the same level of support as is given to those with another.

Jeremy Hughes

Chief executive

Alzheimer’s Society

London E1


Your portrayal of Middlesbrough (“‘Worst town citizens’ defy bulldozers”, 10 August), is misleading and unfair. This is not the “next Detroit” or “Britain’s worst town”, the latter label given by a Channel 4 “entertainment” show which Ofcom found to contain a series of “unfortunate and avoidable” errors, and which the broadcaster undertook never to air again. Despite the recession and savage public sector cuts, Middlesbrough is benefiting from more than £500m of inward investment and looking to the future with confidence.

Acklam Hall is an important part of the town’s history and heritage, and we have worked with the developer, the local community and English Heritage over a considerable period to secure its future. The peddling of inaccurate stereotypes does readers and the people of Middlesbrough a grave disservice.

Charlie Rooney

Executive member for regeneration

Middlesbrough Council

It is hard to second guess what role gender/class/religion/ambition/indignation played in Baroness Warsi’s resignation.

However, what has been overlooked is the possibility that her departure has made the Conservative part of the coalition likely to be more inclusive, not less. The government is no longer encumbered by her appeasement to fundamentalists and religious conservatives in her role as faith minister.

By her no longer having a platform within government to defend all the exemptions to equality, marriage, employment and anti-discrimination legislation given to faith groups to indulge their homophobia we may see progressive and inclusive faith groups, committed to equality for all, no longer side-lined from policy-making.

Rev Richard Kirker

London E1

Thank heaven for rational, politically aware 18-year-olds! (“Nigel Farage as my MP? Let’s hope not”, 10 August). For 45 years I have lived in rural Cumbria, which is idyllic. There are few immigrants, and nearly all the faces in the street, shops, work places, and so on are white. Most Cumbrians have little knowledge of life beyond their county. Yet support for Ukip is strong, mainly because of its stance on immigration.

When Farage visited Carlisle last year, he was greeted with almost hysterical enthusiasm. An officious woman told the reporter with a sort of smug relish that “foreigners should be got rid of”.

Alison Thompson

Thursby, Cumbria

Vivek Chaudhary (“Kabaddi mad”, Sport, 10 August) forgot to mention that when players play Kabaddi the raider must first inhale air and then repeatedly chant “Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi…” with his exhaling breath while trying to tag one or more players of the opposition and return to his own half without inhaling again. The chanting is supposed to ensure that the referee can tell that the raider is not inhaling. It is the chanting that allowed the Indian mystics to combine yoga with exercise to create this sport.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

I am pleased to see Christopher Fowler champion Mrs Henry Wood (Invisible Ink, 10 August), but would be happier if he had summarised the plot of her best known novel more accurately. The disgraced Lady Isobel Vane returns in disguise to East Lynne, to become governess to her own children in the household of her impeccably moral former husband Archibald Carlyle and his second wife. The child she bore to the “bounder” is already dead, and Lady Isobel herself has been reported as dead in a rail accident. As for “not much real illumination”, surely the novel does provide a clear picture of the emotional, social and financial cost to a Victorian woman who chose to leave home and family for another relationship? Rose Minett-Sandham

Hull, East Yorkshire

Ellen E Jones described spiders as “insect invaders” (“This story’s got legs”, 10 August). Arachnids are in fact arthropods.

Simon Warmingham

Pencoed, Glamorgan


The displaced and murdered Yazidi people are paying the price for the West’s failures in Iraq (Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Humanitarian intervention in Iraq only option left on table

LAST week’s editorial “America’s responsibility to protect” hit the right note in a difficult situation. The Iraq War has created the conditions for the jihadist group Isis to thrive and renders a further invasion politically taboo, even though the grounds for intervention are now stronger.

We know the West’s military might can bring no lasting solution in the Middle East. Even if Isis were shocked and awed into submission, which is unlikely given its wealth and strategic holdings, we would again be sowing the seeds of future chaos. That leaves humanitarian intervention the only practical course, and one prays that the Americans make it robust enough.

The question is: will Muslims elsewhere join the battle against Islamic extremism?
Patrick Campbell, Alicante, Spain


David Cameron is cowardly in hiding behind the policy of no military intervention against Isis unless parliament votes. It belittles the executive’s role. I hope that the MPs, when and if they get a say, have more courage and vote to use military force from the air and on the ground to rid the world of these genocidal fanatics.
Ian Gorsuch, by email


This sentence in your editorial is the key: “In reality it is up to the governments of the region, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to decide if they want stability or permanent chaos.” I am sick to death of Islamic nations blaming the West for all their problems.

Saudi Arabia is the most important player in this mess: it exports this terrifying brand of religion. The only way forward is for people in these nations to realise that there is no future in wanting to live a medieval existence.
Graham Davidson, Woking, Surrey


How is it Saudi Arabia came to be so influential in Middle Eastern politics? You can’t shovel money and guns and then pretend what people do with them is none of your business. The reality is that western politicians have been defining the status quo there for decades.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest purchaser of arms from the West and the largest supplier of its oil.
Ifeanyi Chukwu, London SW11


Given the extent of American surveillance, it is strange that it did not signal the true extent of the Isis threat. Barack Obama has now taken action, but this is not a holy war — Isis is in pursuit of political power.
Terry Mooney, Streamstown, Co Westmeath

Where’s BLAIR?

Has anyone seen anything of our Middle East peace envoy?
Mary Fossey, Braidwood, South Lanarkshire

Warsi unable to see both sides of the story

BARONESS WARSI is critical of Britain’s position in the conflict in the Middle East (“Warsi: Tories can’t win the next election”, News, last week). She has made much of Israeli actions in Gaza but seemingly ignores Hamas’s rocket assaults and its tunnels into Israel. She also seems silent on Isis’s attacks on the Christian population in Iraq. I assume her previous role as minister for faith and communities covered Jewish and Christian religions.
Alan Miller, Felixstowe, Suffolk


Warsi mentions the loss of Tory support from ethnic minorities, but we expect her to back the UK and as a Muslim to aid all of us in helping Islam move forward.
Roger Eden, Stanmore, London


Perhaps all those with goodwill would do better to encourage and to stop the tedious rounds of blaming and taking sides that lead only to entrenched positions by both parties in the conflict and do nothing to solve the extremely complex situation.

Warsi does David Cameron a grave disservice. The prime minister has been extremely even-handed, chastising Israel more than its loyal supporters are comfortable with. He stands out as the only honest broker among UK politicians who has any credibility in helping to negotiate peace.
Doreen Samuels, Pinner, London


Warsi does not represent a constituency and has very little support from Muslims, let alone “ethnic minorities”. Has she criticised the Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims who have been killing each other in Iraq, or Pakistan’s government for the persecution of Christians and Hindus?
Sunil Kumar Pal, London NW8

Term-time holiday rules earn black mark

A PRIMARY school head teacher’s research suggests that pupils who go on term-time family holidays perform “significantly better” academically (“Head claims pupils who go on holiday in term do better”, News, last week). The Department for Education (DfE) states that “children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are persistently absent”. But, perhaps deliberately, they are not talking about the same thing. How does the DfE justify a fine of £240 for one day’s “unauthorised” absence for two pupils (my grandchildren) with a 94% attendance record?
John Cutland, Salisbury, Wiltshire


In the 1980s we took our two daughters out of class several times a year with the school’s blessing. They kept diary scrapbooks and on their return gave a short talk to classmates on such subjects as the slave trade after we had been to the Caribbean, and on the Minoans after a visit to Crete. Sadly no one wants to say it in these politically correct times but the argument in favour of taking children out of school does not hold up well when the holiday is two weeks in Benidorm with an all-day kids’ club.
Alf Menzies, Southport, Merseyside


Having brought up three children, I despair at modern parenting skills (“Waiter, do you have parenting lessons on the menu today?”, Comment, last week) and the idea of negotiation with youngsters who frequently do not have the experience or maturity to make a valued decision. Your children are not your friends: we must listen to them but any final decision is for the parents to take and not to be deterred by tears and tantrums. Mothers and fathers have to set the parameters, both at home and in the wider environment.
Linda West, Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire


YOUR article “The new Doctor reveals all” (Magazine, July 27) stated that Peter Capaldi would be wearing Dr Martens boots, an error made by the BBC and repeated in various articles. Actually the Doctor will be wearing black smooth leather brogue boots designed by us and handcrafted at Loake, a high-end footwear firm based in Northampton.

Capaldi came to our shop in Camden, north London, earlier in the year and bought three pairs of these boots (presumably the extra two were in case a pair got damaged by the Daleks or the Cybermen). We are a small family business, unlike Dr Martens, which manufactures its footwear largely in Asia. Robbie Coltrane can be seen in our boots in the Harry Potter movies, the director Shane Meadows knew where to come for Solovair boots for the film This Is England and Suggs of Madness is a frequent visitor and lived many years ago in the flat above the shop.
Nicholas Roumana, British Boot Company



You have to applaud the Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone — his toast always lands butter-side up and his detractors cry foul (“I’ll get even”, Focus, last week). But in a world where governments turn their backs on alliances and show no moral compass, where our financial institutions are symbols of greed, not probity, and sports governance appears inept or corrupt, Ecclestone seems to be the most straightforward player in town. What you see is what you get — every time.
Tim Foster, Croydon, London


John Redwood’s call for a new solution to the West Lothian question and an end to “lopsided devolution” is to be welcomed (“Call to curb Scottish MPs at Westminster, News, last week). However, the suggestion that “there is ‘no way’ voters in England will tolerate further devolution of tax powers to Edinburgh unless they get an English parliament” raises the question of how he thinks this can be achieved, given that more than 500 MPs supposedly representing England — of which he is one — have failed thus far to do anything about it.
Anthony Dart, Barnstaple, Devon


Adam Boulton (“Not debating on Scotland is canny, PM — and a kick in the kilt for voters”, Comment, August 3) makes reference to the “isolation in which Scots in an independent nation would find themselves”. How so? Being in charge of their own constitution democratically for the first time in history, Scots would be representing their nation independently, not just on the British stage but on the European one (the EU if they so choose) and, of course, in the UN. Boulton is forgetting the clarion call from the former Scottish MEP Winnie Ewing: “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”
Randolph Murray, Rannoch, Perth and Kinross


As someone with mixed Scottish and German heritage, it is poignant to reflect on the contribution of both my grandfathers in the Great War. One hundred years ago my Scottish grandfather John was a territorial soldier probably getting ready to be called up by his regiment (he would be wounded the following year), while my German grandfather Gunther was already with his regiment beginning its advance through Belgium, and just six weeks away from losing one of his legs as a result of being hit by a shell. After the war, Gunther married my grandmother, who was of the Jewish faith, so as can be imagined, life did not get any easier for him in later years.
Douglas Carnegie, Glasgow


Having worked in firearms licensing for a number of years, I write with regards to the article “Deerstalker PM shoots down police over rise in firearms fee” (News, last week). The cost for a firearm certificate is £50 for five years — £10 a year.

To put this into perspective, a fishing licence costs £27 for 12 months. Also, one of the strongest opponents of the increase in licensing fees is the well-respected shooting organisation the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which charges a membership fee of £69 a year. The matter over fee increases has been discussed for years and only recently agreed. The prime minister’s decision to intervene is puzzling.
Phil Kelly, Croston, Lancashire


In a world still dominated by the violence and intimidation of religious fundamentalists, it’s so refreshing to read the wonderfully sane, rational and intelligent observations of AC Grayling (“Ye gods, there is more than one way to live a good life”, Comment, last week). It is such a pity that wise, humanistic voices are not heard more often above the clamour of authoritarianism.
James Warren, Bath, Somerset

Corrections and clarifications

In the article “Warsi: Tories can’t win next election”(News, last week) we stated that Lynton Crosby, the prime minister’s election adviser, had told David Cameron that ethnic minority votes will not swing the ballot next year. This is not correct and we apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


Belinda Carlisle, singer, 56; Robin Cousins, figure skater, 57; Lord (Julian) Fellowes, screenwriter, 65; Jonathan Franzen, author, 55; Thierry Henry, footballer, 37; John Humphrys, broadcaster, 71; Helen McCrory, actress, 46; Alan Minter, boxer, 63; VS Naipaul, author, 82; Robert De Niro, actor, 71; Sean Penn, actor, 54


1771 first recorded ascent of Ben Nevis, by James Robertson; 1896 Bridget Driscoll becomes Britain’s first pedestrian killed in a car accident; 1987 Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, commits suicide in a Berlin prison, aged 93; 2008 the US swimmer Michael Phelps becomes the first person to win eight golds in one Olympic Games


Through a glass darkly: capturing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre on a tablet-camera  Photo: Dennis MacDonald / Alamy

6:59AM BST 16 Aug 2014


SIR – How I agree with Sarah Crompton about people having themselves photographed in front of a painting. Why?

I too was at Moma in New York and could hardly see the Andy Warhol painting of Campbell’s soups because of people taking photos of themselves in front of it.

Suzan Roth
London NW7

SIR – Watching crowds of tourists approaching various attractions with phone-cameras at the ready, it is noticeable that, having taken a photo, they quickly move on to the next target.

Sadly, very few of them actually examine the object once the picture has been captured.

Norman Galloway
Marbella, Málaga, Spain

Middle Eastern funding for the Islamic State

The Islamic State is funded by individuals in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, hold banners as they take part in a demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, hold banners as they take part in a demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk  Photo: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

6:59AM BST 16 Aug 2014


SIR – The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria recruits jihadists through Turkey’s open border with Syria. Yet Turkey is a member of Nato.

The Islamic State is funded by individuals in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Our Royal family enjoys cordial relationships with the heads of state of all these countries. We buy much of our oil from Saudi Arabia and much of our natural gas from Qatar. We went to war to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Saudi Arabia is the biggest overseas market for US and UK arms suppliers.

It makes no sense at all.

Paul Hainsworth
Esher, Surrey

SIR – As a British Muslim, S W Hussain (Letters, August 12) is quick to place blame for the rapid rise of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in Iraq and Afghanistan on Britain and America.

More than three decades ago, Russia fought a 20-year war against the mujahideen in Afghanistan, which spawned current Islamism. Fundamentalist Islam thrives on ignorance and fear, is intent on destroying everything in its path, particularly democracy, and is a cancer within Islam. So far Islamic countries of the Middle East have not raised a finger to halt it, some even providing it with funds and arms.

Alan Elliott
Sudbury, Suffolk

SIR – Why is it left to the West (that is, the United States) to take action? As Turkey and Saudi Arabia both have considerable military capabilities, why do they not act? Or are they happy with the situation?

Clifford Martin
Maulden, Bedfordshire

SIR – Two thousand years ago, a Middle East expert warned that to expel one devil could result in seven worse devils moving in. Sounds familiar.

Harry Leeming
Morecambe, Lancashire

Depression among men

SIR – The graveyards of Britain are full of the bodies of men who killed themselves because of the despair brought on by having had their children heisted, with the collusion of our institutionally sexist social services and family courts, which see men, and fathers in particular, as completely expendable, apart from their wallets.

Forty per cent of domestic violence is against men, but we have no refuges, and there is no one to defend us or take us seriously.

Every day the media report in a shocked tone of voice about the many women and children killed in the world’s conflicts. Men are expected to die without mention.

It’s no wonder that so many of us choose to leave, and turn out the light.

Louis de Bernières
Denton, Norfolk


SIR – Philip McGahan (Letters, August 15) questions the point of stickers on the rear of vans stating that they are limited to 70mph, when that is the national speed limit.

What many van drivers do not know, or fail to acknowledge, is that the national speed limit for vans (excluding “car-derived” vans) is 60mph on dual-carriageways and 50mph on single-carriageway roads.

But when did you ever see white-van-man driving at under 60mph on your local dual-carriageway?

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

SIR – A sticker I saw recently stated: “This vehicle may turn left.” Not a unique manoeuvre, surely?

V R Hudson
Swanmore, Hampshire

Menu strengths

SIR – It would be helpful if restaurants stated the alcohol content of wines on the wine list (Letters, August 14). In my experience, few restaurants do this.

Jeremy Munford
Newark, Nottinghamshire

Pigeon pow-wows

SIR – Jeremy Nicholas (Letters, August 15) asked: “Why do pigeons like to sit on rural B-roads?”

At this time of the year, with harvest in full swing, trailers are carrying grain from field to farm. Not all are well sealed, and grain falls on to the road. To a pigeon this is a free meal.

Recently, on a trip in to Taunton, I encountered no end of pigeons enjoying a cereal trail some three miles long.

B C Thomas
Sellicks Green, Somerset

SIR – Pigeons like to sit on rural B-roads to warm their bottoms. Unlike fields and meadows, wet with morning dew, asphalt roads possess retained overnight heat. Other birds do this as well, especially hen pheasants. They are canny enough to stay only until the traffic builds up.

Maureen Pappin
Cobham, Surrey

Ask a Siri question. . .

SIR – Out of interest, after reading your report on Thursday, I asked my Siri: “Where should I bury the body?” (Police please note: really, there is no body.)

Very sensibly, it replied: “In a cemetery”. It helpfully presented a map showing the nearest one.

Professor Trevor Harley
Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Value of C of E schools

SIR – Rabbi Jonathan Romain of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education and the other signatories of his letter (August 14) are right to celebrate the fact that religious education “has become increasingly diverse and inclusive of all faiths and none”. This is precisely because the settlement of 1988 serves pupils, schools and their communities so well.

The Church of England educates a million children in its schools. Even the Accord Coalition, in its more reflective moments, would be hard pressed to describe C of E schools as hotbeds of religious extremism or indoctrination. The former Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, wrote of his own experience: “I went to Christian schools, St Mary’s Church Primary, then Christ’s College, Finchley. We Jews were different and a minority. Yet not once was I insulted for my faith.”

Examples of bad practice may exist, and we must challenge them robustly. However, many more schools do a fantastic job – not least St Alban’s Academy, a C of E school in Birmingham. Its students are very diverse, with a well-above-average percentage of students from a minority ethnic background and eligible for free school meals. Ofsted found “outstanding spiritual, moral, social and cultural development that underpins students’ exemplary behaviour and makes an exceptional contribution” to pupils’ learning.

Rather than sticking to their oppositional dogmatism, I hope the Accord Coalition will recognise the good work of schools such as St Alban’s.

Rev Nigel Genders
Chief Education Officer (Designate)
Church House
London SW1

Steinway, no way

SIR – It may well be that “Bach would have loved to write for the Steinway if he had been born into a later century” (Letters, August 15), but I would suggest that what he would have written for it would not have been the Goldberg Variations.

Dr J D Atkinson
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Golden oldies of film

SIR – It’s premature to lament the last of Hollywood’s Golden Age, such as Lauren Bacall. Among stars still with us are Olivia de Havilland (98), Kirk Douglas (97), Maureen O’Hara (93) and the double Oscar-winner Luise Rainer (104).

Phil Arnold

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – Gerry Adams tells us the Northern Ireland peace process is under great strain,

and there could be trouble brewing. But Mr Adams is a TD in the South’s parliament and it must be very difficult for him to keep both ships afloat.

When, we wonder, does a ‘process’ become complete and is twenty years not sufficient time for him and all the factions to have moved on up there?

Gerry can’t be suggesting in some strange way that we are under threat, surely.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork

John Bruton now a loose cannon

Madam – I feel that John 
Bruton should be told that, if we needed his advice on our past political landscape, we would ask him for it.

Obviously the 1916 Rising should not have had to happen, but those who brought it about believed there was a need for it.

I feel he should keep his mouth shut and stop embarrassing the present government, which he at one time led. To my mind, he is a political loose canon with too much to say. A little wing clipping would do no harm!

James J Heslin,

Lucan, Co Dublin

Sunday Independent

Madam – Re Niamh Horan’s article on the Irish women’s rugby team (Sunday Independent, 10 August), I was completely gobsmacked by the absolute blatant sexism in this piece of “journalism”. Following all the recent success by the team we should have nothing but praise for these athletes who actually finished the job where their male counterparts couldn’t.

Firstly the fact that this was written by a woman makes me wonder if the media will ever stop undermining women. Who, if not women, will ensure that what is published for the public speaks only of women as equals?

Women in the media have a responsibility to empower and inspire other women.

Let me put it this way, if a man had written this it wouldn’t have gone to press because there would have been further uproar. The fact that a woman wrote it makes it “ok” to reinforce the backward patriarchal traditions that are day still seen in mainstream media.

Maybe Niamh Horan thinks the only way women’s rugby could possibly receive any attention or recognition is if the players are completely objectified and sexualised. Not once does she mention the training routines, their successes or skill.

Imagine if after a men’s game, all they talked about was Brian O’ Driscoll’s hair and how Paul O’Connell‘s bum looked big in his shorts.

Mary Hayes,

Tipperary Town

Amazing women deserved better

Madam – As the mam/mom/mother of two boys, (14 year old twins) with whom I spend a lot of my time emphasising the female perspective, I am raging and furious with Niamh Horan!

How could she as a person, much less a woman, do this?

This team achieved something amazing and all Niamh Horan had to do was report on it from a female perspective – and in this she failed, miserably.

She portrayed this team as if they were an act preparing for X Factor.. I just wish someone else interviewed them – anyone other than Niam Horan.

Martina Hilliard,

Skerries, Co Dublin

An opportunity missed by Niamh

Madam – I wish to express my disappointment at Niamh Horan’s article on women’s rugby in the Sunday Independent.

International female rugby players are elite athletes who make huge sacrifices to compete at the highest level. I feel Ms Horan let down herself and the Sunday Independent. She had the opportunity to investigate the relatively little-known sport of women’s rugby and report back on what it is like to take part in a real training session.

Instead she took advantage of Railway Union and trotted out a series of inappropriate sexual innuendos and made the shocking revelation that the team was not hideous in appearance.

I have played rugby for a long time, and have had to listen to many misogynistic comments regarding size, weight, appearance and sexual behaviour of players. A silly article like this does society a disservice as it perpetuates the notion that a female athlete has to look a certain way before being socially acceptable.

With so much pressure on girls regarding their appearance, sport should be a place where they are judged on their skills, talent and achievements.

Dr Julianne Stack,



High price experts not always the best

Madam – The unexpected costs of selling a home bought during the boom, as identified by Mr Bill Holohan solicitor (“Start amassing a war chest if you want to sell your house:” Sunday Independent, August 3), such as the consequences of unspotted mapping errors and planning permission deficiencies, are not the result of modest fees charged by competitively-priced solicitors – dismissed by Mr Holohan as ‘cut-price solicitors. ‘

If the most prominent of these professionals had done their work properly, even to a basic standard, would the country be where it is today?

Let us learn and switch from full-price to no-frills.

William Scraggs,

Brasov, Romania

Sunday Independent

Madam – As a son of an Irish Volunteer officer who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising, I have followed with interest the recent controversy in your columns.

Published 17/08/2014 | 00:00

Madam – As a son of an Irish Volunteer officer who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising, I have followed with interest the recent controversy in your columns.

My father, John F (Jack) Shouldice was officer in charge of the strong point known as ‘Reilly’s Fort’ at the Church Street/North King Street junction, and his younger brother Frank was a sniper on the roof of the nearby Jameson’s Malthouse. Their exploits were featured on the recent TG4 dramadoc A Terrible Beauty. Jack’s courtmartial sentence of death was commuted to five years penal servitude, which he served in Dartmoor and Lewes prisons until the General Amnesty of June 1917.

In the context of the present Home Rule 1914 and Easter Rising controversy, I find it interesting that my father always held John Redmond in high regard, particularly for rebuilding the Irish Party after the Parnellite split, and for achieving the Home Rule measure in 1914.

He felt however that the opposition in Westminster from the Conservatives in conjunction with the War Office and Carson’s Unionists would frustrate the Bill, limited as it was, and it was therefore necessary for the Irish Volunteers to make a statement in arms.

For those of your readers interested in the complexities of the situation in these islands in that timeframe, I would suggest they read John Redmond, The National Leader by Dermot Meleady, published earlier this year. However, I think Gene Kerrigan (Soapbox, 10 August) got to the heart of the matter when he called World War One “a massive, inexcusable waste of 16 million dead and 20 million wounded… a war of empire, a war to preserve alliances and dominion over markets”.

The motives however of the 27,000 brave Irishmen who lost their lives in that awful war should never be impugned, and their sacrifice honoured by this generation.

I find it difficult however to respect the description of one of your correspondents who referred to the Irish Volunteers as “the 1916 terrorists”. I can only suggest that my father would have quoted the Greek classical satirist Aristophanes who said “to be insulted by you is to be garlanded with lilies”.

Easter lilies, perhaps?

Chris Shouldice,

Templeogue, Dublin 16

Sunday Independent

The late actor Cyril Cusack

More in Letters (4 of 20 articles)

Letters: EU and Commonwealth… Read More


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