23 August 2014 Tomatoes
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 sort out books and tomatoes
Scrabble: Mary wins, but gets just under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.
109 Games Mary win 58 John 52
Helen Bamber – obituary
Helen Bamber was a campaigner for victims of torture who found her vocation, aged 19, caring for survivors of Belsen
Helen Bamber Photo: PA
6:26PM BST 22 Aug 2014
Helen Bamber, who has died aged 89, travelled alone, at the age of 19, to care for survivors of the Nazi concentration camp at Belsen; after two years in Germany she returned to Britain where she established her own foundation to care for victims of torture.
Founded in 1985, her Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is the only British charity that works exclusively with torture victims, helping them to rebuild their lives, and is the largest such organisation in the world. Since its foundation it has dealt with more than 50,000 victims from more than 90 countries around the world, from Kosovo to Sierra Leone and Congo, and from Iraq to Argentina and Sri Lanka.
The daughter of Jews of Polish extraction, she was born Helen Balmuth in north London on May 1 1925. She had a difficult, unhappy childhood. During the 1930s her father, Louis Balmuth, became fixated on the rise of fascism and saw it as his mission to educate his daughter about the threat. He read to her from Hitler’s Mein Kampf at bedtime and made her listen to speeches by Goebbels on the radio, to show her how easily language and public opinion could be manipulated. “I was well aware that we would be annihilated,” she recalled. “By the time I was 10 I knew it all.”
Her fun-loving mother, Marie, had been forced into an arranged marriage and was disappointed by life and by her husband. The family was often broke, and Helen, a sickly child who suffered repeated bouts of bronchitis, often took refuge in her bedroom to avoid her parents’ violent quarrels. On one occasion she recalled coming home and, finding that her parents were out, fantasised that they might be dead.
In her late teens Helen found work as a secretary and administrator to the National Association of Mental Health, which treated returning soldiers and airmen. There she gained considerable insight into trauma, and in 1945 she defied her mother and volunteered for the Jewish Relief Unit, a small group of health and other professionals sent under the auspices of the UN to work with Holocaust survivors. After some rudimentary training, she was made personal assistant to the director of the JRU and dispatched to Belsen.
Helen Bamber, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (PA)
By the time she arrived, the main camp had been razed and the 12,000 survivors had been moved into a nearby barracks, where Helen and her colleagues were put in charge of distributing food and clothing. Many inmates had died from typhus, and she recalled the dank smell that pervaded the camp, “like the sweet smell of geraniums if you crush them”.
At first she felt useless in the face of so much suffering, but gradually she realised that, while she could not change the past, she could at least listen. “People wanted to tell their story and I was able to receive it,” she told an interviewer from The Observer in 2008. “They would hold me and dig their fingers in and rasp this story out… They would rock back and forth and I would say to them, ‘I will tell your story. Your story will not die.’ It took me a long time to realise that that was all I could do.”
When Belsen had first been liberated by the British Army, there was an outpouring of horror and compassion. But most survivors had nowhere to go. Those who tried to return to the homes they had left were met with hostility by local people who had moved in. Nor were they welcome as refugees. Many remained in Belsen until 1950, and sometimes their anger and frustration spilt over into attacks on relief workers. As a result they became seen as a nuisance by the military authorities in control of the camp: “They changed from being creatures for compassion to being irritating people — displaced persons who had nowhere to go,” Helen Bamber recalled. “And that I found very frightening as a young person, watching those attitudes change.”
After two-and-a-half years at Belsen, Helen returned to Britain, which was then beginning to admit the first child survivors of the concentration camps. She began to work as a counsellor to the children, recalling “their stony little faces, giving nothing back, their sceptical eyes — a complete lack of trust”. She found that she could get through to them by persuading them to reconnect with good memories of earlier childhood. She would get them to draw or paint, and ask them about the games they had played with their parents and the food they had enjoyed.
A harder task was to find schools or employers willing to take them on in a post-war Britain which was preoccupied with its own problems. On one occasion she was interviewed by a headmaster who asked her in all innocence: “Didn’t they give them any books to read in those camps?”
Soon after returning from Belsen, Helen married Rudi Bamberger, a German-Jewish refugee who changed his name to the more “British” Bamber. In 1950, looking for a more settled life, she began working as a hospital administrator at St George’s in Wapping.
While she continued to hold down a series of jobs — as an almoner (social worker) at Middlesex Hospital, administrator at the Middlesex and personal assistant to the orthopaedic surgeon Sir Herbert Seddon — she could not forget her experiences of dealing with victims of the Nazis. In 1958, horrified by accounts of the use of torture by the French in Algeria, she joined Amnesty International, the organisation which publicises the plight of prisoners of conscience.
Over the next three decades she became one of Amnesty’s most passionate volunteers. She helped to set up a medical section, with a group of specialists prepared to examine asylum-seekers claiming to be torture victims, documenting their experiences and lobbying against regimes which condoned experiments on patients in prison hospitals.
She began her Foundation in 1985, initially with a grant from the UN Voluntary Fund, operating out of two rooms in an abandoned hospital in north London with one part-time assistant and a typewriter. From these small beginnings it grew into a centre staffed by more than 100 professionals, full-time and volunteer, treating more than 2,500 survivors a year.
Among those she counselled were a group of septuagenarian former prisoners of the Japanese. The ex-PoWs were rural Northumbrians to whom she was introduced by one of their number, Eric Lomax, in a Northumberland pub. They were initially wary of the stranger from London until she began talking about her own experiences in Belsen, and they began to open up. Later she would advise Colin Firth on his depiction of Lomax’s character in The Railway Man (2013), the film based on his bestselling autobiography of the same name.
Helen Bamber (centre) with former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (left) and Emma Thompson (PA)
In June 1993, though Jewish, Helen Bamber went to Israel and testified on behalf of a Palestinian prisoner who had confessed under torture by the Israeli security forces to being a member of Hamas. Her testimony led to the most serious charges against the man being dropped — one of very few successful challenges to confession evidence in the tens of thousands of cases heard during the Intifada.
Helen Bamber stepped down as director of her Foundation in 2002 to concentrate on her work with patients. In 2005 she set up the Helen Bamber Foundation, to expand her work with torture survivors to include those who had suffered other forms of human rights violations, such as human trafficking and gender-based violence.
A biography of her by Neil Belton, The Good Listener: Helen Bamber, A Life Against Cruelty, was published in 1999. She was named European Woman of Achievement in 1993 and appointed OBE in 1997.
Helen Bamber acknowledged the irony that, even though she had helped thousands of victims of torture, the one person she had not been able to help was her own husband. As a child he had seen his father beaten to death by German storm troopers; his mother had perished with most of his family in the camps.
He was so deeply scarred by his own past that he found it difficult to relate to his wife’s comparatively fortunate upbringing, and they found it impossible to discuss the Holocaust. They divorced in 1970, though they remained friends until he died. The thought of her inability to help him continued to move Helen Bamber to tears.
Their two sons survive her.
Helen Bamber, born May 1 1925, died August 21 2014
I agree with much of Ian Birrell’s exposition and most of his conclusions in his piece on the Middle East (James Foley’s brutal death shows we can’t solve Iraq, 21 August). I cannot, however, agree when he describes our foreign policy as “confused”. It seems to me not so much confused as short-term, short-sighted and utterly self-centred.
We back repressive regimes because they are mostly secular, we back the Saudis because they sell us oil and buy our weapons, we back Israel because the US does, we fail to back Mohamed Morsi in Egypt because he is not at all secular. To put it simply, our politicians love to keep us in a state of fear (and Islam is currently the chief bogeyman), the big companies love making money and we will do anything the US asks. The policies are deeply flawed, but “confused”? I don’t think so.
• You say “there is no action without reaction in the Middle East” (Editorial, 21 August). But those who perhaps fear reaction will also often fear to act.
Fifteen years ago, in Chicago, Tony Blair presented his now famous speech, dedicated to the cause of “internationalism versus isolationism”. Prompted by the evils of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, it set down a series of key principles for international cooperation and intervention which are still valid today.
In particular it laid a framework of goals for the 21st century: cementing solidarity between the EU and US; recognising and supporting a democratic Russia; understanding the pace of globalisation as “also a political and security phenomenon”; and encouraging the spread of democracy, particularly under the impetus of “centre and centre-left politics”.
However, two years later, the attack on the World Trade Center vividly symbolised the vulnerability of global capitalism and western values when attacked by the forces of fanatical, theatrical nihilism. This diabolical “action” has clearly triggered a chain reaction that is still unravelling. Whatever “action” we have taken since then and will take in future will only win if there is a unity of purpose. Those international agencies – military, political and economic – highlighted in Blair’s doctrine, must at last begin to pursue a new and common action.
The pursuit of freedom and democracy, under a binding commitment to the UN’s universal declaration of human rights, would be a good start. Opting out ought not to be an option, regardless of the reaction.
• In the 1930s and 1940s in Europe, many young men turned to fascism, radicalised by the simplistic notion of a future homeland where a pure fascistic ideology would reign supreme. Our present commentary is failing us all, especially Muslims. “Terrorist”, “jihadist”, “extreme Islamist”, “radical Muslim” – essentially these are all manifestations of a psychology and emotional impulse which, transcending skin colour or religious affiliation, is identical to that of earlier fascists.
Those fascists also performed savage killings of helpless non-combatant hostages pour encourager les autres. If we can change our “running commentary” to one which – without equivocation, appeasement or a futile desire to “understand” – calls a fascist a fascist, then we will free ourselves, including the hapless “Muslim community”, which we have patronised and ghettoised, to combat more lucidly and effectively the sinister force which unadorned fascism remains.
• Western leaders are in denial. They refuse to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and its kleptocratic rulers have further destabilised the Middle East with their playing of the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shias. The result was the regular targeting of Iraq’s Shia pilgrims and their shrines by Sunni jihadists. Now it’s the turn of Iraq’s Christians and Yazidis. Saudi Arabia would also have the west go to war with Iran rather than seek rapprochement.
William Hague foolishly aligned the UK with the Saudis by supporting Syria’s Sunni jihadist insurgents. No wonder British Sunni militants flocked to Syria and now Iraq. That some will return as trained terrorists is a legitimate worry. It’s called blowback. The terrorists posing a threat to the west are Sunni, not Shia. Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah and Iran are not our enemy.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
• At the end of your leader on Isis you list concerted international efforts which you say will aid the disappearance of this so-called Islamic State, including various actions in Iraq and Syria. Missing from your list is the one issue which has been responsible over a far longer period than the others for the distrust of the west felt by most Arabs, not just Islamic extremists – the kneejerk support for Israel from America, the UK and the rest of Europe in its 66-year campaign to deny the rights of Palestinians to a country in which they once formed 90% of the population. Your reported summary of radical Twitter accounts – “Why does the world get so excited when an American is killed when dozens are killed in Gaza?” – says it all. And this represents the views of many non-extreme Arabs, but the west chooses to ignore them and believes that the other issues identified in your leader are more important. There will be no change in Arab attitudes to the west until there is a fundamental shift away from the widespread and unquestioning political support for Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians.
Author, Palestine: A Personal History
Newbold on Stour, Warwickshire
• I was interested to read in your lead story (Manhunt for a British murderer with hostages’ fate in his hands, 21 August) that experts in linguistics now feel qualified to pass judgment on the brutalisation of British-born jihadists. I had always understood linguistics to be a science, whose practitioners were notoriously disinclined to pass prescriptive judgments, even on issues that properly fell within their purview, such as common usage, regional accents, dialects and so on. Am I to understand that these same practitioners have now occupied territory previously belonging to moral philosophers, or is this a case of ideology sneaking into science under the cover of darkness?
Professor Malcolm Read
• Vital legislative work is needed at the very start of the new parliamentary session – not least of which should be new powers to strip identified Britons involved in the so-called Islamic State of British citizenship, making it unlawful to re-enter the UK.
• The uncomfortable fact we need to face up to is that British terrorists are a home-grown problem. Our multicultural policies and faith schools don’t work. The only way to defeat it is here in Britain. We must create a solid secular society where all our citizens flourish and to which they can feel loyal. Not some sepia-covered throwback to post-second-world-war sentimentality, but a muscular forward-looking, inclusive, society based on our real needs.
This means, as a start, secular education and a fair and just democratic settlement in England and for the UK parliament, both houses, such as we have enabled in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Immigrant groups will always have sentimental attachments to their countries of origin. We need to be seen to be fair and just abroad too. And while we must respect cultural customs in minorities, we should only respect those which accord with our laws and civil liberties. That must go for Christian groupings too. The way forward is not to deride and ban religion, as some suggest, but to build a national project based on belief in ourselves that we can all get behind no matter what our differences.
Lastly, it would be good to hear from the young, integrated and women as spokespeople from these immigrant communities. The more traditional members should think again about the raising of their boys, particularly, in this society. It is no good just blaming the host nation.
Steven Pinker (10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s ok to break (sometimes), 15 August) is critical, not without justification, of those who draw parallels with Latin usage to construct rules for English grammar. But when he says that if we follow Latin usage we should be saying “Woe is I” he might have chosen a rather better example to make his case. It was early in my Latin studies that I was taught the accusative of exclamation – “O me miserum” – which translates as “O wretched me” and not “O wretched I” at all.
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
• The letters on prepositions at the end of a sentence (Letters, 18 August) reminded of the occasion when Diana Dors was being introduced as a celebrity at a charitable function. The chairman related how, when he first greeted Dors, he could tell by the look in her eyes that she was thinking: “Here’s a man I would like to be made love to by.” Dors replied: “Ladies and gentlemen, your chairman must realise that, even in my private thoughts, I would never end a sentence with two prepositions.”
• Steven Pinker’s argument will not convince me that “10 items or less” is OK. In this case, the “less/fewer” word is qualifying a set of discrete objects. In the case of “less than 21 years old” it is qualifying someone’s age, which is a continuous quantity; “21 years” is a threshold, not a set of objects. Seems obvious to me.
Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
• I am annoyed by the habit of avoiding the word “me” even when it is called for, as in: “Thank you for taking John and I to lunch.” I am told by people who prefer this form that they feel the word “me” sounds uncomfortable, or too self-referential, and they refuse to use the test of removing the other person – would you say: “Thank you for taking I to lunch”? Yet this rule is broken time and time again in both written and spoken speech.
• I was always taught that you never put “from” in front of “whence” because that word was made up of “from where” and so it was like saying “from from where”. Yet I have seen “from whence” used by many a reputable writer. Any answers?
• The parent who took the wrong book for a bedtime story was asked: “What did you bring the book I didn’t want to be read to out of up for?”
• As any fule kno, “which” alongside “that” in the “Render unto Caesar… ” verses actually occurs in the Great Bible of 1539, if not earlier.
• I am 71, so that may be indicative, but I was taught that “who” always referred to a living person while “that” relates to objects or animals. So I can’t understand why the Guardian (the only paper I read so can’t comment on any other) consistently uses “that” when referring to a person/people – for example: name/he/she/it/they “that” did something or other/wore something/went somewhere or other. It really irritates me. Is there an explanation for this?
• Steven Pinker’s article was both fascinating and infuriating to a stickler like me (or should I have said “such as I”?) and I was interested in his discussion of the use of “like” and “such as”. However, what gets my goat is the increasing use of “as such” in place of “therefore” (eg “The rules have changed. As such, you must now… ”). This is creeping into official and academic documents. Where did it come from? (Or should I have asked “From where did it come?”)
• “Me” in “woe is me” is a survival of the dative form; it means “to me”, so no one was saying that they were woe.
Your editorial (18 August) confirms the inadequacy of the Irish Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. But another shocking aspect of the case is that the young woman in question was legally forced to have a caesarian section at 25 weeks’ gestation. Although babies of this gestation can now survive with modern neonatal intensive care, the neonatal death rate is still high and the risk of handicap considerable. The effect on this young woman, allegedly raped in her own country, who asked for an abortion at eight weeks and was suicidal, of a forced caesarian can only increase her feeling of helplessness – another assault on her body. This case suggests that Irish doctors are living in the past century. Legal cases in the US in the 1980s and UK in the 1990s confirmed a woman’s right to refuse a caesarian even if that meant the death of the foetus or her own death. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act should be repealed.
Doctors For a Woman’s Right to Abortion
Your editorial of 21 August, Rennard: wrong call, implying Lord Rennard’s guilt of sexual harassment, is a betrayal of the core principle of the presumption of innocence. Since when did the Guardian support convicting people on the basis of accusations rather than evidence? In Rennard’s case, a police investigation concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant sending a file to the CPS or bring any charges. An internal party investigation by an independent QC found insufficient evidence to bring any charges or to hold a hearing.
Compare the Rennard case with that of Nigel Evans MP. In Evans’s case the allegations were more serious and, after a police investigation, nine charges were brought against him. A jury found Evans not guilty.
I have read your coverage of the Evans verdict carefully. Nowhere can I find an editorial implying that Evans was guilty. Indeed, you suggested that the “CPS may be too willing to bring charges when evidence is not very strong”. Why is there now an editorial on Rennard implying that some other “result” should have been reached?
• Both your editorial and Anne McElvoy on the Lib Dems and Lord Rennard (A sorry saga of mistakes, 21 August) are right. The decision to reinstate Rennard suggests that the political culture not just in the Lib Dems but among a significant section of the political class is lagging behind what is now generally considered acceptable behaviour in personal relations. It should be a sobering thought to Nick Clegg that many large employers, seeing a pattern of behaviour and multiple complaints, would have started a misconduct process in a similar case.
In the words of Roger Kain (Letters, 22 August), the University of London maintains that the 1944 trust deed of the Warburg Institute “is unclear in what it covers” and that is why legal proceedings have been advised. However, in his next paragraph, he refers to a “dispute” requiring to be resolved. Is the clarification of a trust deed a “dispute” (and if so, who with?) or is there a dispute those interested in the matter need to know about?
Anand C Chitnis
• Stirling Smith is wrong in almost everything he says about William Pitt (Letters, 21 August). He supported Wilberforce in his efforts to abolish the slave trade; he was strongly in favour of Catholic emancipation; and he had no hand in the arrest of Tooke. Moreover he led the country through much of the war against Napoleon after becoming prime minister at the age of 24. No prime minister before Gladstone had a better claim to commemoration on a stamp.
• I understand the problems caused by the invasive Himalayan balsam, but I hope the Indian fungus soon to be released in experimental trials will only control rather than wipe out the balsam (Letter, 19 August). As a beekeeper, I find that it is a prolific source of nectar as the plant flowers here from mid-July to the first frosts. A rich nectar source like this was not available to previous generations at a time of year when there is little else. My little workers and my honey yields would suffer dreadfully without it.
• I was pleased to see Felicity Cloake’s perfect prawn cocktail (20 August) served on a blue-and-white Denmark plate. I acquired my set of this crockery second-hand from a neighbour 30 years ago when setting up home with my husband and I have never found a design that rivals it. Any kind of food looks good on it. It’s a pity, though, that Felicity’s plate seems to have a chipped rim.
• If Margaret Baker’s garden really adjoins 10 others (Letters, 21 August) how does she know which one to return each cat deposit to? It’s a question of attribution, surely.
Sir, Carol Midgley suggests that some vets are over-vaccinating animals (“Jabs every year, expensive surgery: what are vets up to?”, Aug 19). Vaccinations are an extraordinary tool in our armoury in the fight against diseases, both in animals and humans. Under the Animal Welfare Act owners have a duty to protect their animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease. We know of no better way to protect against disease than vaccination, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, datasheet or summary of product characteristics.
When veterinary vaccines are licensed, the regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, agrees a “duration of immunity” based on scientific research and vets must work within these parameters. For some vaccines this will be one year, for example leptospirosis, and for others it will be three to four years. This is because the duration of immunity varies — and why the World Small Animal Veterinary Association guidelines refer to some, but not all, vaccines being required less often.
We know that scaremongering can lead to a loss of public confidence in vaccination which can in turn lead to outbreaks of disease. Distemper and parvo virus are still killers — and the reason we see these only rarely is because most owners choose to vaccinate.
British Veterinary Association
British Small Animal Veterinary Association
Sir, Often, well-cared-for pets receive better care than we do. My dog’s “health” insurance is more expensive than insuring our car. However, with our dog we can have guaranteed same-day appointments and the level of care, if admission is necessary, is second to none, with
hi-tech hospital facilities and limitless diagnostic equipment. Specialities are now commonplace — pets have better artificial limbs and physio than most humans would receive on the NHS.
Animal charities should get together with Age UK and place some of the many homeless dogs and cats with caring owners. The charities would need to feed and shelter them anyway, if they remained unhomed; and lonely elderly folk could find a loyal and loving friend.
Sir, May I correct Carol Midgley on a couple of points. The suggestion that vaccination can lead to disease was disproved by an Animal Health Trust survey in 2004. It found no association between the time of vaccination and the onset of illness. Also, blood tests for vaccine antibodies are no indicator of immune status.
Sir, With regard to “Vet costs and pets” (letter, Aug 21) we can blame the insurance companies here as we can with cars. Recently while having my cat treated I queried the relevance and cost of all the proposed measures, to be told “but your card says you have insurance” As this was incorrect the treatment was tailored accordingly.
Covering farmland with solar panels could be a step towards taking the land over for building
Sir, It is not just Melksham, Wiltshire, that is suffering from a spate of solar farm applications (“Solar farms may be first step to greenbelt housing”, Aug 20). In South Shropshire there are five applications for solar farms, two of them just outside Ludlow.
Those who oppose these applications have a problem: they are dismissed as nimbies and it is assumed that all solar panels are good and green, wherever they are sited.
In reality nimbyism is a recognition of beauty and of the English love of the land. There is a common understanding, held by town and country dwellers alike, that human beings need places of rest and beauty in our troubled world.
We may need alternative sources of energy but solar panels on green fields bring their own problems: good agricultural land is taken out of food production, there is a loss of biodiversity, and in a tourist area probably a loss of income, and employment.
Greedy developers are trying to push through poorly prepared proposals for solar farms before the April 1, 2015 deadline. These schemes make vague promises but have few hard facts; there is poor assessment of the current environment and little attempt to assess the impact of their activities. At the end of the life of the scheme there will be a hefty bill for the clean-up of the land — or will it go to housing?
I hope the government takes prompt action to stop this careless ravaging of the countryside.
The Rev Sylvia Turner
HS2 is not the problem – the government should spend the money on repairing the trunk road network
Sir, Damian McBride (“Labour must scrap HS2 to avoid a rail disaster”, Aug 19) misses a fundamental point in relation to Labour’s opportunity to appeal to business — people will always drive cars, and stuff ordered online for home delivery has to be delivered in a van. I run a business that goes to people’s houses to fix doors, windows and locks every day up and down the UK, and I can tell you that the transport system is a far bigger priority than any rail link.
Having done about 30,000 miles around the UK last year, here is my hot list of roads that need enough investment to allow business to move efficiently and get things done: A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge; a South-Coast link road from Kent to Devon, including a bypass around Worthing and Arundel; the M60 — all of it; the M62 — all of it; the M1 — all of it; the A1 from Newcastle to Edinburgh; the M6 from its start to the M55; the M5 from Birmingham to Bristol; the M8 Edinburgh to Glasgow and, worst of the worst, the M25, often little more than a car park.
In short, Mr Miliband should
re-invest the £50bn in the road system and his party would instantly become the party of business.
Sir, David Aaronovitch’s account of anglers and kayakers squabbling (Aug 21) does not ring true of the Tweed, although anglers are seen as paying a lot and canoeists very little if anything at all.
Big Scottish rivers like the Tay and Tweed are fished regularly from boats and a lot of salmon are caught without the fish being put off by the floating fishermen.
Canoeists on the Tweed seem to be considerate and usually give precedence to the angler in the boat as well as on the bank.
And in the past our bewhiskered forefathers would arrange for the salmon pools to be stoned to stir the fish up. It is not unknown either for fish to be caught after canoeists have gone past.
Stephen M Fielding
Sir, While salmon fishing on a prime beat of the River Spey one day, I engaged in some jovial banter with a passing canoeist.
Shortly afterwards I was approached by a very concerned and inquisitive ghillie who had witnessed the exchange from afar. I assured him as to the cordial nature of our conversation. He looked hugely relieved and uttered the immortal line, “Congratulations sir. You’ve just met the laird.”
Longley Green, Worcs
Sir, How right Tanya Gold is about the insidious effects of smartphones (Aug 22). My wife and I have spent the past week taking two 17-year-old Australian girls round Scotland to see the sights — from reindeer on Cairngorm to Arisaig and the Glenfinnan viaduct, Loch Ness and the Edinburgh Festival and castle.
It soon became apparent that in their eyes the object of their journey was not to learn about and enjoy what they saw but to take “selfies”, and to giggle about them in the back of the car. I doubt if they have a clue of where they have been — but it’s all on Facebook. What’s the IT equivalent of a grumphry?
Kincraig by Kingussie
A harvest of plums of the Stanley cultivar reveal their ripeness with a waxy bloom Photo: ALAMY
6:58AM BST 22 Aug 2014
SIR – Where are all the plums (Letters, August 21)? On the tree on our allotment in Devon. We have picked about 150lbs and made jam and crumbles to freeze but have given most away. We also have wasps.
SIR – They are in my garden in France, where my plum tree is so heavily laden that I will have to prop up the lower branches as I have done in previous years.
Robert F Garner
SIR – I am indebted to my fellow Telegraph readers for information on where I might find some wasps. However, I was not complaining but merely curious as to their absence from my garden. As for the lack of plums on Ron Kirby’s trees, I still have a bucketful of damsons to spare.
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
SIR – Please inform Dorset that we’ve got their plums – but have they got our apples?
Hambledon Hill in Dorset, a massive and ‘magical’ Iron Age hill fort, has been bought by the National Trust for the nation. The hill has a rich natural and archaeological story dating back to before the construction of Stonehenge, the National Trust said. The Iron Age fort, the first the trust has acquired for 30 years, was built more than 2,000 years ago and overlies one of the most significant early neolithic landscapes in western Europe dating back almost 6,000 years, the trust said. Photo: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddi
6:59AM BST 22 Aug 2014
SIR – Jutting out like a giant battleship bow from the uplands of Cranborne Chase into the Blackmore Vale, Hambledon Hill is possibly the most spectacular Iron-Age hill fort in Britain.
In its more recent history, the hill was the site of the last stand of the Dorset Clubmen in 1645. These Wessex country folk, embittered by the rampaging armies of both sides in the Civil War, rose up against both King and Parliament. Some 5,000 locals, armed with scythes and pitchforks and led by a local parson, marching to the war cry of “If you plunder us and take our cattle, be assured we’ll give you battle”, assembled on what is now called Clubmans Down, nearby. After baiting a parliamentary patrol at Sturminster Newton and being driven off from Shaftesbury, they retreated behind the ramparts of Hambledon Hill, resolved to fight to the death.
Cromwell was not amused and sent a troop of dragoons to sort the Clubmen out, ordering them to use the flat of the sword where possible. The troops took the hill with little difficulty, killing several, wounding many and capturing around 300.
Many escaped by sliding down the precipitous slopes where horsemen were unable to follow. The prisoners – “these poor silly creatures”, Cromwell called them – were locked up overnight and sent home with a warning to behave themselves.
Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire
File photo: journalist James Foley in 2011 Photo: AP
7:00AM BST 22 Aug 2014
SIR – I was horrified by the terrible death of James Foley. There are few words left that have not been used to describe the barbarity of the Islamic State.
The Prime Minister has left himself no room for manoeuvre by saying there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq. The situation is too volatile to say that categorically. We already have mission creep – the original humanitarian effort has become surveillance by Tornados and drones, and the SAS are helping the Kurds.
Much against my own values, I find myself increasingly wanting boots on the ground. We can no longer stand by and think that the Islamic State will stop at some stage. It is a threat to everything we hold dear, and we should be prepared to fight to protect that.
Public opinion seems to be shifting towards this view, despite memories of the Iraq war, and David Cameron should take note.
22 Aug 2014
SIR – How sickening to see that poor American journalist about to be executed in the most evil and barbaric manner. The fact that a British man was doing this is dreadful.
Thanks to all the complacent politicians over the years who thought multi-culturalism was the way to go, the United Kingdom is not the country I was brought up in.
People like my father, who fought in the Second World War, must be turning in their graves. This is not how they, or we, envisaged life in the 21st century.
Halls Head, Western Australia
SIR – Whatever action is taken against the Islamic State – and we need action, not just fine words – it should not be constrained by peacetime norms. Jihad is holy war and, for the Islamic State, total war.
David Cameron has warned against a knee-jerk reaction, but any reaction would be welcome. For a start, as Nigel Farage has suggested, the scope of the Foreign Enlistment Act needs to be widened to cover Britons who fight for proscribed terrorist organisations, and not just those who fight for foreign states.
Then, we should be making plans to intern any jihadist who returns to the United Kingdom, as the security services do not have the resources to keep track of them.
Any such measure warrants the recall of Parliament, even if no active hostility is envisaged.
SIR – Am I alone in repudiating the notion of a “British jihadist”? Surely the terms are mutually exclusive.
SIR – I understand that Islamic State funding has been boosted by more than £1 billion since it captured some northern Iraqi oilfields. In order to realise that money, they must sell the oil – but to whom? Those involved in this trade should be exposed, and severe economic sanctions applied.
Dr P I Raffaelli
SIR – How the West must yearn for the return of the good old days of Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. We do still have Bashar al-Assad, who now seems positively benign compared with the Islamic State.
SIR – Events in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine are causing tremendous concern among political and religious leaders. Some events are truly horrifying. And what is the EU doing? It is banning vacuum cleaners over 1600 watts.
Sir, – Any women who has the right to travel and sufficient funds will be able to go to England to have an abortion, if she decides to do so. Any women whose right to travel is restricted or who does not have access to that money will, however, be subject to the new legislation, having to face a panel that decides on her fate. The issue of being suicidal is not really of any consequence here.
The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and the new legislation only ever affect an already disadvantaged and marginalised minority. Everybody else deals with a termination the way they decide for themselves and does not have to worry about these things too much, as there is always the option of a trip to England.
At the inevitable next abortion referendum, most Irish voters will therefore again be in a position to contemplate the sanctity of life and the right of the unborn in the safe knowledge that the issue is really only an academic one for them.
And they might even feel pleased with themselves for having taken a “moral stand”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – When will the conversation turn from women’s reproductive rights (which are many, let’s be frank, from myriad forms of contraception to the morning-after pill to the freedom, albeit fiscally defined at present, to decide to abort a pregnancy) to men’s reproductive rights, which are basically nil? When are we going to discuss a father’s rights? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I would like to thank Ruth Cullen for her considered and intelligent column on abortion (“Advocates of abortion ignoring a little truth”, Opinion, August 21st). It is by far the most level-headed and caring piece I have read on the subject.
I need to add that I am not a practising member of any religion and my thoughts on the subject centre on the care we should give young women and their babies in a crisis pregnancy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In her trenchant defence of the pro-life campaign’s position on Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, Dr Ruth Cullen writes: “Thanks in significant part to our constitutional protection of the unborn child the Irish abortion rate is far lower than Britain’s”. If the Eighth Amendment were to be repealed, it’s fair to assume there would be a marked decrease in Britain’s abortion rate. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We are people in or from Ireland. We are under the age of 50. We could not vote in the 1983 abortion referendum which profoundly limited women’s autonomy. No subsequent referendum has provided an opportunity to undo that damage. Many of us have lived our whole lives under an abortion regime in which we have had no say. As a generation we have grown up knowing that the State would compel us to travel if we wished to exercise substantive control over our reproductive lives. We never allowed ourselves to think, at least since Miss X, that we lived under a regime willing in principle to marshal its power against a distressed young woman to compel her to carry her pregnancy to viability.
We have never been given the democratic opportunity to expand the circumstances in which an abortion can be sought in Ireland. We have repeatedly asked for this chance, but the State failed to listen. The law punishes women in our name, but never bore our mark. We are disappointed and concerned by the latest news, but we know that disappointment and concern are not enough. It is time that this generation had its referendum. That referendum must transform the law on access to abortion care.
Women in and from Ireland are entitled to autonomy, to bodily integrity, to be free from unjustified detention, to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. Women in and from Ireland should not have to expose or prove vulnerabilities and private matters in order to access medical treatment.
As long as the Constitution confers equal rights on the mother and the foetus, doctors and nurses will be unable to treat women ethically. As long as the Constitution remains as it is, those privileged enough to afford to travel will make those difficult journeys without the support they need.
As long as the Constitution remains as it is, we consign the most vulnerable women and girls in our society to a system which will not listen to them, which will not give them any say over their own bodies, which will prioritise birth over any long-term trauma caused to them.
The people should be given the opportunity to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and to enact a law that places women’s capacity to make decisions regarding their bodies and their futures at the heart of their medical treatment. The Government claims it has no mandate to act on the Eight Amendment. This group of over 100 academics, comprising women and the men who support us, adds its voice to the demands that the Government finally listens, finally acknowledges that this mandate exists and finally gives us our referendum. – Yours, etc,
1. Prof Jack Anderson, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast
2. Dr Elizabeth Aston, Edinburgh Napier University
3. Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Law School, Trinity College Dublin
4. Dr Helen Basini, Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick
5. Prof Christine Bell, University of Edinburgh
6. Claire Bracken, Associate Professor, Union College, Schenectady, NY
7. Claire Bruton, BL
Sir, – Stephen Collins (“Bruton a political exception in speaking his mind”, Opinion & Analysis, August 16th) gets it wrong when he asserts that John Bruton is attuned to continental thinking on the futility of war (“John Bruton’s argument about Home Rule and 1916 deserves serious consideration”, August 16th).
Mr Bruton’s hero, John Redmond, supported Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1914 and used his influence as leader of Irish nationalism to encourage Irish males to join in a conflict that led to millions of deaths and the disastrous and needless destruction of Germany. The creed that John Bruton would have us celebrate is the opposite of non-violent.
I believe that our Government should be mindful of our origins as an independent State, and of our present position in the EU, in commemorating 1914. We should take care to rise above the war propaganda of that time.
John Redmond and many of his close supporters were active propagandists in the British interest in 1914 and as such they helped to foment a poisonous and irrational anti-German prejudice.
A political creed based on such a legacy is inconsistent with a reflective European commemoration of the first World War. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Prof Ronan Fanning (“Apparent achievement of home rule was an illusion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 16th) claims that “the constitutional nationalists [were] so resoundingly defeated by the republican revolutionaries”.
It is certainly true that, having channelled the aspirations of constitutional nationalists for decades, the Irish Parliamentary Party had collapsed by 1918. However it was not defeated by republican revolutionaries.
The heirs of the Rising, seeking to capitalise on popular disapproval of the executions and opposition to conscription, proceeded like a typical constitutional party – a couple of byelection wins followed by sweeping success in the 1918 general elections.
Sinn Féin achieved this by persuading many constitutional nationalists to transfer their support from the IPP. Thus, despite the rhetoric, Sinn Féin ceased to be revolutionaries and became the leading vehicle for constitutional nationalism. The new order it created was a conditional one and what we call the War of Independence was the defence of its institutions by the army authorised by its parliament, as in any democratic state. When later compromises had to be made, the moderates prevailed over the revolutionaries, and these, unable to accept the decisions of Dáil Éireann, withdrew into the wilderness.
Redmond was defeated by unionist intransigence and the British hypocrisy identified by Prof Fanning. Why not honour him as we do Parnell – brought down by Ascendancy intransigence and Irish hypocrisy! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In her otherwise splendid article on the Irish National War Memorial Gardens (“Garden of tranquility” Magazine, August 16th), Fionnuala Fallon states that Charles Frederick Ball, assistant keeper of the Botanical Gardens, was “pushed” to enlist in the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers by a white feather that came from an anonymous source. This appears to contradict the fact that Charles had enlisted in September 1914 with the other volunteers from the Irish Rugby Football Union. As the war was only a month old, it seems unlikely that a white feather would influence a man with Charles’s record and proven ability. He was already in training when the dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral exhorted Irish women to “shun those who would not volunteer for service, to visit them with severest disapproval, and when they expect a smile, just look them straight in the face and turn away”, as reported in your paper on November 20th, 1914. This may have led to a white feather campaign that sent other young men to their death.
May they all rest in peace. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – How easy it is to lay the charge of elitism at anyone who dares to suggest that “development” isn’t always the best way to go.
I can vouch from recent experience that the stretch of the Barrow Line from Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins is one of the most superb river walks on these islands. And one of the features that lends this walk its unique and irreplaceable charm is precisely the grassy towpath that John Mulligan (August 21st) so much objects to.
Contrary to what your correspondent suggests, the path is neither derelict, overgrown nor unsafe. It appears to be used equally by walkers and cyclists, and there is nothing to impede its use by families generally. Nor is there anything about the path that should limit its use by overseas visitors. So where is the evidence that those who want to retain the grass surface are motivated by a desire to restrict the Barrow Line to “the few”?
A hard, smooth surface undoubtedly makes it easier for wheelchairs and buggies, although I would like an informed opinion on whether or not a grass surface prohibits such access completely. Certainly I would support anything that can be done with the existing surface to make it as user-friendly as possible.
I am fearful, however, that, as often happens in this country, the interests of engineers, county councillors and shopkeepers will ride roughshod over the concerns of the campaigners, and this uniquely beautiful “green corridor” will be lost forever. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I cycled the entirety of the Barrow towpath and Grand Canal last summer and found it to be a fantastic amenity but one that is woefully underused. From the start in St Mullins in Carlow to the finish two days and 200-odd kilometres later in Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly, I met only a handful of walkers and no other cyclists. At least one of the reasons for this must be the poor state of the towpath – in many places it is rough, muddy and unstable. It is a shame that such an asset is so underused. If we are to encourage greater physical activity we need to develop trails that are inviting to the occasional cyclist.
Being for the most part flat and traffic free, the Barrow towpath is an ideal candidate for upgrading to a greenway. There are legitimate concerns about overdeveloping the towpath but all that is needed to make the Barrow towpath user friendly is a thin strip of gravel, no more than half a metre wide, along its full length. Any more would be overkill and would damage the scenic nature of the trail. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Some friends are just back from walking a section of the newly opened Wales Coast Path. They plan to return again several times over a number of years until they have “walked around Wales”. This is a 1,400km walking route that follows the whole of the coastline of Wales. Much of the path is also suitable for cycling.
In Ireland we have been congratulating ourselves for a number of years now about a 42km greenway in Co Mayo, which is isolated from any other walking or cycle route.
There are several other disjointed and isolated greenway projects ongoing, some funded by county councils, some by Waterways Ireland, some by Leader programmes.
Does no-one in the current Government want to leave a real, physical legacy? Is it not too much to expect one project team to be established, which would fund, plan and deliver one continuous, round-Ireland greenway?
The accelerated planning process could be used to deliver such a project in a relatively short time.
There are many foreign and local tourists who would love to walk or cycle around Ireland. A massive tourist opportunity is being lost by the absence of any vision or proper planning in relation to our walking and cycling amenities. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – RD Banton (August 22nd) claims that the EU operates “without any clear targets” and “no written statement as to how [its] efforts will benefit the people”.
However, all annual, multi-annual and long-term targets of both political and administrative bodies of the EU are clearly set out across dozens of publicly available online sources.
In addition, there are literally thousands of written statements on how these efforts are aimed at benefiting citizens.
The EU has a communications problem, but it is certainly not for a lack of output of communications material.
As regards the point on “accountability”, perhaps the writer missed the recent reform of the EU staff regulations in this area?
Finally, over 500 million people earlier this year voted in the European elections. That is how we hold politicians to account in a democracy. – Yours, etc,
JANNEKE van VEEN,
Rue G et J Martin,
Sir, – It is a testament to Albert Reynolds’s legacy that those of us born during his tenure as taoiseach have been spared the violence that for so long enveloped this country. He helped build a lasting peace and for that we should be forever grateful. – Yours, etc,
“All deleterious consequences of [financial] market activity upon ordinary people . . . are considered natural market outcomes for which no one can be held accountable, as if they were just unfortunate natural disasters.”
Maeve Halpin (Letters, Irish Independent, August 20) illuminates the formidable fallacies and fiascos of the current financial market vagary as visited on ordinary people’s lives.
She does so with commendable clarity and a patent penchant for social justice.
While the gambling stock-market gurus revel in their self-aggrandising games of “monopoly money-play”, the half-decent community aspects of retail banking are being discarded hand over fist.
Mammon rules all before it, especially the vulnerable who get trampled and tossed aside in the surge towards grotesque riches for some, and near penury for most.
One has to say ‘half-decent’ in relation to retail banking, as the basic notion and practice of usury is essentially tainted with a ‘core-greed’ ingredient.
One can understand, in part, the moderate value of a ‘loans and interest payback schema’, to bolster at reasonable pace a sustainable growth of general social standards.
However, over the last half-century a brutal culture has exponentially strangled any sense of decency in the market fray.
The skewing of interest rates on the back of fickle investment markets leaves little in the way of sustainability, dependability or reasonability.
The ‘quick-buck’ manual of financial exchange is truly in vogue, and how? The recent and prevailing traumas and collapses in banking would almost appear to have little transformative effect on the culture of capital-capture.
Cabals of vulture capitalists are rampaging around the world sucking up bargains galore from diseased loans and properties for next to nothing.
Ireland is no more a sovereign state, not just because of the IMF/ECB oversights and strictures, but because so much of the country’s assets belong to money-leeching corporations and adventurists elsewhere.
Ms Halpin champions the recall of the Glass-Steagall Act to re-establish the separation of retail from corporate banking. She is perhaps being dreamily optimistic, but let’s hope we can celebrate such optimism, when it comes to pass.
Dreams can come true, if there’s a collective will for authentic democracy and a caring societal model of care/share.
Patrick J Cosgrove
Lismore, Co Waterford
Albert, man of the people
In the winter of 1993, while working as a detective in Tallaght, Dublin, myself and a good friend were alerted to the fact that the Taoiseach would be going to the cinema in the Square, accompanied by Kathleen, to see the Crying Game, and we were assigned to mind them during their night out.
Following the film, we would have been quite content to escort them safely back to the state car, until Kathleen declared that she wanted to go to McDonalds.
I recalled, on hearing of the death of Albert, my clear memory of him casually walking through McDonalds, in his trademark trench coat, as he carried a tray of burgers and apple pies followed by his burly security detail. Truly a man of the people.
Colm Featherstone (retired Detective Superintendent)
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
State’s shame over Gaza
As the latest ceasefire unravels, the impact of Israel’s blitz in Gaza is coming to light, as is the utter horror of what has been inflicted on the people there over the past five weeks.
The absolute destruction of much of the infrastructure of Gaza now means that the already besieged strip is in the throes of an orchestrated humanitarian crisis.
That, coupled with the rising death toll – now at 2,086, including 541 children, the thousands of injured, the hundreds of thousands displaced – further highlights just how shameful the Irish Government’s decision to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an inquiry into war crimes was.
It is long past time that Israel be held accountable for its actions in Gaza and that the illegal siege be lifted.
Zoe Lawlor and Mags O’Brien, Gaza Action Ireland
Responsibility for abuse
A very senior Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, asks us to accept that the Holy See should not have to bear legal liability for priests cited for sex abuse on the grounds that such behaviour is against Vatican policy. He cited a hypothetical example of the employer of a truck driver who molests someone in his truck not, in the Cardinal’s opinion, bearing any liability for the employee’s acts, on the grounds that sexual molestation contravenes company policy.
Has the esteemed cardinal ever heard of the doctrine of vicarious liability? This holds that an employer does bear a liability for the torts of an employee committed in the course of employment. The injured party who claims to have unfairly suffered loss, or harm, could be either another employee or a total stranger. Therefore, if a truck driver were to molest a stranger in a truck owned by their employer in the course of his employment, it is highly likely that there would be a substantial civil case to answer.
This would be separate from a criminal trial and based strictly on legal liability and not merely a moral responsibility.
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Tackling educational barriers
Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland has a point when he says that ‘educational disadvantage, mirrors in large part economic disadvantage’. But it is not the whole story by any means [‘Children of farmers are three times more likely to go to college’, Irish Independent, August 22].
Your article tells us that children of farmers, whose average income from farming is €24,000, ‘are three times more likely to go to college’. The article also tells us that one of the counties sending the highest proportion of school leavers (60pc) to college is Leitrim, the economic profile of which is far from that of affluent Dublin 6.
This is so despite the fact that rural students from relatively modest backgrounds have to pay for accommodation, while urban students can live at home. Overcoming the educational disadvantages that are encountered in certain urban areas, not all of which are economic, is a challenge that should be taken up by policymakers. The return to society and to the people involved would be immense.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Demands on abortion law
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
This provision in our Constitution, which so many are now demanding be deleted, has protected the lives of two people in this country, where, in many other countries, one would have been killed at the behest of the other. Are we to subject the right to life of everybody in this country to the momentary opinions of somebody else?