2 September 2014 GP
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 scan some books.
I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there.
Frank Shipway – obituary
Frank Shipway was a British conductor whose dynamic personality drove musicians to the edge of their ability — and patience
Frank Shipway circa 1970 Photo: T.P/LEBRECHT MUSIC & ARTS
6:39PM BST 31 Aug 2014
Frank Shipway, who has died aged 79 following a car accident, was a British conductor whose dynamic personality inspired his orchestral musicians to create music of a quality they had scarcely imagined; he could also be a tyrant in the mould of Herbert von Karajan, one of his mentors.
For many years Shipway’s power base was the Forest Philharmonic Society in Walthamstow, east London. This community orchestra has an outstanding reputation and is made up of professional people — doctors, lawyers, accountants — augmented by a smattering of full-time musicians.
Shipway, an irrepressible showman, taught the orchestra to think big, engaging top-flight soloists and arranging concerts at the Festival Hall which, to the astonishment of the critics, sold out. His unforgiving demands on the musicians drove many to new heights — his accounts of Mahler and Strauss were statesmanlike, authoritative and invigorating — while driving others away.
He would walk offstage mid-rehearsal to calm his temper; stop a performance to glare at a cougher in the audience; and send a secretary to check on absent players. Behind his back he was known to some as “Frank von S***way”, while others suggested that the FPS emblazoned on the orchestra’s blue and gold banner above the stage stood for Frank “Pushy” Shipway.
Alec Forshaw, in his memoir 1970s London, recalled of playing with the orchestra: “For those without thick skins the sectional rehearsals could be an unsettling experience, where [Shipway] would unerringly pick on the weak and nervous to play on their own.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Shipway worked at Glyndebourne for only one season; his appearances with professional British orchestras were limited to out-of-town concerts; and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Opera House rejected the opportunity to engage the cape-wearing maestro, arguing that Shipway would always be hindered by his “air de grandeur”.
On one occasion the members of a Belgian orchestra went on strike in protest at Shipway’s dictatorial style. “I cannot have friends in the orchestra,” he once explained in a television documentary — adding that, for a true conductor, the orchestra had to be regarded as an opponent.
Frank Edwin Shipway was born in Birmingham on July 9 1935. He described a miserable childhood and how his father snapped at him whenever he played a wrong note on the piano. “I loathed it,” he told the Hereford Times in 2008, when he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Malvern, where he lived, “but he stood over me with the proverbial stick and shouted.”
He was taught piano by Ailsa Verity, whose husband paid for the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra to accompany her star pupils. A fellow student recalled how Shipway “had an extravagant piano style. He would slam down the final chords of a big piece and sit there with his right arm swinging by his side before taking a bow.” On one occasion he reputedly broke the string of an upright piano with the strength of his performance.
He won a piano scholarship to the Royal College of Music but, after what he described as “a certain amount of manoeuvring”, switched to conducting, taking lessons from Sir John Barbirolli and attending masterclasses with von Karajan, whose characteristics he mimicked: the black polo-necked shirt; the sweater draped over his shoulders; even, on occasions, a fake German accent that barely disguised his regional tones. At home he wore a velvet smoking jacket and puffed on a large Cuban cigar.
He was at Glyndebourne in 1961, and two years later took over the South-West Essex Symphony Orchestra, which was soon renamed the Forest Philharmonic Society. This small ensemble, which gave occasional performances in Walthamstow Assembly Hall, soon morphed into a well-organised machine with 105 players from across the capital who, every Monday evening, made the trek to the far end of the Victoria line and beyond. “We are a non-professional orchestra run on very professional lines,” he said, adding that “we had very little money and we took some dangerous risks”.
Those risks included performances at the Festival Hall of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in 1973, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust in 1976 and, for the Silver Jubilee year, Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand at the Albert Hall with almost the full complement of 1,000 orchestral musicians and singers, including the Hertfordshire Chorus, which he directed from 1970 to 1977.
Meanwhile, thanks to enlightened sponsorship from Langham Life Assurance and the benevolence of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, soloists such as Shura Cherkassky ventured to north-east London to play Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and John Shirley-Quirk sang the The Bells by the same composer.
In 1973 Shipway became assistant conductor to Lorin Maazel at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In the early 1990s he founded the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI in Turin, serving as its chief conductor for four years and returning in 2004 to conduct a celebration of Carlo Maria Giulini’s 90th birthday.
He joined the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra in Brussels in 1996, again drawing lush, romantic sounds on stage while antagonising many of the players off it. Three years later he became artistic director of the Zagreb Philharmonic in Croatia.
Latterly he had been a regular conductor with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, and the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, in Finland, to whom he recently explained: “I’m older, more experienced and more patient”.
Only a handful of recordings exist of Shipway conducting, of which two in particular – Mahler’s Symphony No 5 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10, both with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – have attracted widespread praise. His account of Strauss’s Alpine Symphony with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra was shortlisted for the BBC Music Magazine awards this year.
In 2009 he left Malvern to settle near Devizes, Wiltshire. Despite being in his mid-seventies, Shipway rewired the house himself, built a new kitchen and sewn his own curtains. He also threw himself into local life, joining Chirton parish council, directing the Devizes Junior Eisteddfod and enjoying long and liquid lunches, which often evolved into dinner.
He is survived by his wife, Carmen, who was administrator of the Zagreb Philharmonic, and by a daughter from a previous marriage.
Frank Shipway, born July 9 1935, died August 6 2014
‘Better “eco-design” for domestic appliances [such as vacuum cleaners] can reduce energy consumption without damaging performance.’ Photograph: Iris Friedrich/Getty Images
New EU rules on vacuum cleaners will not harm people with dust allergies as your correspondent (Letters, 25 August) suggests. The new rules – supported by most manufacturers and agreed by national governments – will not mean vacuum cleaners picking up less dust or extended vacuuming time. And they include tough standards to reduce dust escaping from the back. The whole point is that better “eco-design” for domestic appliances can reduce energy consumption without damaging performance. That is good for the economy, the environment, energy bills and reducing dependence on energy imported from Russia and the Middle East.
Another reader asks when the EU will ban the most powerful cars. The short answer is that car-producing companies have to meet a (falling) average CO2-emission limit for their fleets of cars, in effect removing the worst fuel-guzzlers.
Head of media, European Commission Office in London
Why is it strange that Garsdale Design, a family firm of architects in Sedbergh, are designing for cities like Nasiriyah (The Yorkshire Dales family who are designing entire cities in Iraq, theguardian.com, 26 August)? What is odd is that they don’t go there. From here in the Shropshire hills we run an extremely successful Manchester University-based archaeological project in Iraq, spending three months a year near Nasiriyah, excavating and training. As in Cumbria or Shropshire, the weather can be rough, and the services are a bit basic (hurry up, Garsdales), but the rewards are more than worth it. In our case, those rewards are not financial, but there is so much business to be had in southern Iraq, the really strange thing is that the British leave all the opportunities to the Italians, Russians, Austrians and other nationalities, who seem to be working there without too much trouble. Perhaps it helps if you don’t read British newspapers.
Dr Jane Moon
Director, Ur Region Archaeology Project
• Craig Sams (Questions raised by the rise of Isis, Letters, 28 August) plays the game of moral equivalence that so many enjoyed in the 1930s. Had he been around after the Nazi invasions of the Rhineland and Austria, he would doubtless have written: “Now they have established a base where they can fulfil their dream of an Aryan state. Why not let them have it? Agree new borders with France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Italy to replace the arbitrary frontiers settled by the Treaty of Versailles, encourage the repopulation of the region with Aryans and fund the relocation of Jews and Romanies. The United States of America were established against a similar background of desperation mixed with terrorist cruelty – existential challenges bring out the worst in people. The west supported the American dream, so why not the Nazi one?”
Dr Anne Summers
Two-and-a-half billion people lack access to improved sanitation, but there’s more to sanitation than just toilets (Global lack of toilets afflicting 2.5bn people – UN, 29 August). Increased media attention on the issue is welcome, particularly a focus on women and girls. However, a solution will only be achieved if the response takes into account the entire process from toilet to disposal or reuse. In reality, this involves improving capture, storage, transport, treatment and disposal or reuse of human waste.
In Zambia, where nearly two-thirds of Lusaka’s 2.3 million residents depend on pit latrines, the biggest sanitation issue is contamination from untreated human waste. When these latrines are full, most landlords choose to bury the sludge nearby, contributing to the contamination of open areas and shallow groundwater. This results in annual outbreaks of cholera in the poorest urban areas.
With sewers ruled out due to geology and expense, a professional pit-emptying service is being trialled in Kanyama, one of the poorest urban areas. Once removed, the waste is treated and sold on as fertiliser for local agricultural production. Demand has remained high since the service began in early 2013, with 10,000 people benefiting from the emptying of 600 pit latrines. Although this service is in the early stages, the results are positive: faecal waste is being more effectively removed from the community, emptying practices are more hygienic and dignified, and customers are happier.
This is just one example of going beyond building toilets, and is the tip of the iceberg. To improve the lives of 2.5 billion people, we need to do more than just build toilets. We need to improve all the links in the chain and make sanitation a safe, sustainable service.
Chief executive officer, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)
• I was dismayed to read about the lack of sanitation in parts of rural India (Snakes, hyenas, murderers: the risk 600m Indians run for lack of toilets, 29 August). I have worked in Papua New Guinea with an NGO that has developed a simple latrine based on a reasonably deep pit, say 2m, with a simple concrete slab over it. This can be covered with a simple hut made from local materials.
In my (retired) voluntary work in Tanzania there are many latrines that are only a hole in the ground with timber boarding over, plus thatch screening.
A combination of these designs would be a concrete slab with a hole in centre over a “long drop” hole. A screen or small hut can be built over it for privacy and cover from rain. Two steel hooks in the side would allow the slab to be slid over to a new hole. The contents of the first hole, if left for 12 months, would be a good source of fertiliser. The only cost would be the concrete, easily constructed by the people themselves. A good source for ideas is the website Appropriate Technology.
• Reading about the problems caused by a lack of toilets reminded me of the harvest camps my father’s Birmingham school organised in the Vale of Evesham during the war, where the sixth-formers spent weeks picking fruit and vegetables on farms. They camped in a field with no flushing toilets available; instead latrines were dug – a trench (which was filled in gradually as it was used) surrounded by hessian cubicles. What could be simpler or more hygienic?
Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway
It is good to see that Cardiff’s land-grab has boomeranged back on them, with apologies multiplying attention to Newport as the home of the UK’s most prestigious event. Your editorial (In praise of… Newport, 31 August) is woefully out of date. Newport’s location is firmly anchored in Wales and has been since 1974. The image of deprivation is an old and false stereotype. Newport has bounced back from heavy industry job losses with high-quality public sector jobs that augur well for a prosperous future.
Paul Flynn MP
Labour, Newport West
• You state (Grander designs at Guédelon – the building site where it’s forever 1245, 28 August) that a rope with 13 equally spaced knots is used for “measuring, marking circles and other geometric figures”. Many schoolchildren would be able to say that such an arrangement would be used to form a 3, 4, 5 triangle to construct a right angle. This device is very old: one of them was found in the Egyptian tomb of a pyramid constructor.
• I wonder which journalist started the now-ubiquitous usage of the word pomp (“in his pomp”) instead of the correct prime or heyday (Comment, 27 August)? I fear the solecism is now so firmly entrenched that, like enormity instead of immensity, it’s ineradicable.
• Surely the reason for the elite bias in the media (Comment, 29 August) is that Oxbridge and the independent schools provide the best media studies courses.
• Steve Bell’s Scotch-speak tutor has let him down in this instance (If…, G2, 1 September). It’s not “the money we’ll hauf tae spend”; a hauf is the official measure of the ardent spirits with which we celebrate all the money we will hae tae spend. I hope that’s clarified things.
• Can anyone suggest a use for whisky tins that are no longer useful for storing tax discs (End of the road for tax discs – and their top fan, 30 August)?
Jonathan Freedland (The ‘PC gone mad’ defence is itself a form of racism, 30 August) labels as being guilty of “the laziest form of prejudice” any who assumed that the British Muslim community would be anything other than enthusiastic participants in the prosecution of abusers in their midst. In the same issue, Ruzwana Bashir courageously recounts her own story of sexual abuse by a neighbour in Skipton, reporting how she, and other victims of sustained abuse, were actively discouraged by family and friends from pressing claims against their abusers. The abusers, once finally prosecuted and imprisoned, were welcomed back into their communities on release. By contrast, the victims were shunned. I draw no grand conclusions from this, and agree with both writers regarding the required improvement of support for victims of abuse. However, Mr Freedland’s argument may display the very type of political correctness that stands in the way of an honest understanding of this issue.
• Jonathan Freedland is right. Political correctness is essentially racist, if a blind eye was turned in Rotherham under the assumption that Muslims do not share “in the collective revulsion at child rape or bloody tyranny in Mosul”. The same is true for multiculturalism, for it treats all cultures, no matter how backward some aspects are, as equally valuable. Turning a blind eye to backward treatment of women and superstition assumes that these communities, because of their heritage, cannot aspire to the enlightenment of 21st-century Britain. That is racism.
• I am truly appalled that Ms Bashir suffered abuse as a child and that her family and the broader Pakistani community were not supportive. Appalled, but not surprised. Women have no status in Pakistani culture. We know of “honour killings’, forced marriages and now, thanks to Ms Bashir, we know that sexual abuse is not considered a crime by many Pakistani men. The fact that we have been prevented from saying so does not make it any less true.
Ms Bashir suggests several ways in which the problem can be addressed, and I do not disagree with her. But whatever the many failures in the system, the abuse in Rotherham must be called by its name – racial crime. Asian men chose to abuse white children. If white men had targeted black children there would be no argument.
I would like to hear leaders of the Pakistani community say they are sickened by the abuse in Rotherham and elsewhere, and that England, for all its faults, has been a fair, tolerant host for tens of thousands of immigrants, who have been offered jobs, homes, education and freedom of religious thought, amongst other benefits. I would also like to hear them say they are addressing the issue of women’s rights within their communities and are complying with the law in this regard. At the moment the silence is deafening.
Glenmore, Co Kilkenny, Ireland
• As a social worker in child protection, I was prevented from exposing child sexual abuse by what I believed to be a culture of fear and shame in social services. Suspicious that children were being sexually abused, I encouraged their mothers to come to a group for social time, hoping that, gradually, they would begin to talk freely about home circumstances, and this they did. However, the suspected abuser must have become suspicious. He wrote to the director of social services demanding that I be removed from the case and to see the files on the case. I was removed and he did see the files (I had not recorded my suspicions). Years later, a health visitor told me the man had served a prison sentence for the abuse and grooming of several children.
I believe I was taken off the case because my managers were frightened the man would go to the press with complaints about social service intervention in his private life. Also, the mothers were in some fear of speaking out.
Abuse will continue to be covered up while those employed to expose it are not believed, or consulted.
Name and address supplied
• It is beyond doubt not only that many young people were sexually exploited in Rotherham but that they were failed by officials charged with protecting them. But coverage of Alexis Jay’s report into the case amounts to near hysteria. There has been little or no attempt on the part of the media to scrutinise the report, or enter into any sober analysis of its extensive and detailed findings. There has, for example, been no discussion of the rather crude methods used to produce the estimate of a minimum of 1,400 victims between 1997 and 2013. Even Jay warned that “the data must be treated with caution”.
There has been a wholesale condemnation of practitioners involved in child protection in Rotherham, but little recognition of the fact – acknowledged in the report – that large numbers of staff, especially those in the frontline – carried out good work.
I have been involved in child protection research for more than 25 years – a career that has included two major studies into child sexual exploitation. I have always been struck, by the commitment and ability of staff involved in child protection. I believe that a more considered examination of events in Rotherham would show this to true of workers in that area also.
Dr Bernard Gallagher
Centre for Applied Childhood and Family Studies, University of Huddersfield
• Following the resignation of Lady Butler-Sloss on 14 July, who has been appointed to lead the public inquiry into organised child abuse in her place? The foot-dragging on this is inexcusable. Clearly, any leak of information prior to a general election might be a game-changer. So it might be politically expedient to drag one’s heels on this matter.
Professor Jay appears to have conducted a no-holds-barred inquiry in Rotherham, not only highlighting establishment failures but the ruined career of a woman who had tried to write a report on systemic failures there. However, the only convictions in Rotherham appear to be five men aged 21 to 30. These men could not been actively abusing children when they themselves were children in 1997.
Surely Professor Jay’s report qualifies her to lead a thorough investigation with full public support? It would also allow her to follow up the lack of action against complicit police and council employees in Rotherham. I would suggest that her deputies might be the MPs Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson, who have campaigned so well.
• There is no way, with present vastly overstretched resources, that the situation revealed by Alexis Jay’s report can be appropriately dealt with; an enormous increase in resources would be needed. This is never acknowledged, while overwhelmed social workers are blamed.
Former social worker, Bedford
Deep divisions have been exposed by both the Yes and No campaigns
Sir, Magnus Linklater (Opinion, Sept 1) is right. Deep divisions have been exposed by both the Yes and No campaigns and opened up wounds which will be hard to heal. The Church of Scotland decided to remain neutral, but influential members of the Kirk deeply committed to social justice, including the leader of the Iona Community Peter MacDonald, are expressing the concerns shared by many of us who work with and for the poorest citizens of England and voting yes.
He said: “I no longer believe the Westminster government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies have favoured the wealthy who have grown richer, and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector.” Even if Scotland votes No the wounds will remain unhealed north and south of the border until confidence of every UK citizen in the fairness of the Westminster government is restored.
The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Sir, In the wake of the second referendum debate there has been much triumphalism on the Yes side, which feels that Alex Salmond’s performance will lead to ultimate victory. If that proves to be true it is an alarming premonition of “independence” since all he did was heckle Alistair Darling in front of a partisan crowd bent on drowning out any argument it did not want to hear.
This is not what passes for debating in a civilised nation and I doubt any uncommitted voter was converted to the cause of destroying that most successful union: the United Kingdom.
The Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
Sir, The choice of 2014 for the Scottish referendum may have suited those in favour of independence, being the 700th anniversary of the great Scottish victory over England at Bannockburn. They may have forgotten another important anniversary. It is 500 years since the birth of John Knox, who sought to bring the two nations together and used his influence to enlist English soldiers to fight alongside the Scots, for the first time, to successfully drive out the French from Edinburgh.
He was instrumental in shaping the Scottish character, the national church and other admirable institutions and paved the way for the union of a shared sovereign in 1603 and the eventual complete union in 1707 which has served both nations very well.
Dr Brian Scott
Sir, In championing the use of the current British summer time throughout the year, Stephen Williams (letters, Aug 30) demonstrates the arrogance of those south of the border from which I, for one, would like to escape. Are we to be eternally grateful that we in Scotland are in receipt of that which the UK government has “afforded them in the past”. He gives the game away by declaring only a “passing interest” in the referendum. Perhaps if he had paid more attention he would understand our reaction to such an attitude.
Paul N Hutchison
Sir, One of the frustrations of being a Scot in the United Kingdom is the common assumption south of the border that anything true of England must also be true of Scotland. A classic example is Alexandra Frean’s US Notebook (Opinion, Aug 29). She informs us that in the four-year degrees in the US, “students are not required to specialise until the end of the second year”, a system, she adds that, “British universities might do well to emulate”.
Scottish universities have long done this, and their example has influenced the US.
Professor Emeritus of Scottish History, University of St Andrews
Sir, Charles McCarthy (letters, Aug 30) says that Scotland would be the only nation that has rejected independence. He seems to have conveniently forgotten that Quebec twice rejected independence from Canada in referendums in 1980 and 1995.
Sir, Thank you for your guide to the 30 best places to eat fish and chips in Britain (Weekend, Aug 30). As epicureans know the best potatoes are grown in Lincolnshire and Grimsby is Europe’s most important fish market. You do not list a “chippy” within 100 miles of the home of fish and chips. Your supplement will come in handy as a traditional wrapper.
Sir, Comparing Ukip with the SDP in the 1980s — as vigorous small political parties attracting much public and media attention — it is worth pointing out that the initial election of high-profile well-known SDP candidates did much to distort the true national picture of the party’s support, evidenced by a poor overall result for them at the 1983 election.
I predict a win for Douglas Carswell in Clacton this autumn on a low poll, followed by a narrow victory in May 2015, then a defeat later in 2015.
Sir, The reader who referred to the Rotherham victims’ parents as “the authors of all this misfortune” in her recent letter (Aug 29) negates the complexity of child sexual exploitation.
A child protection model that focuses on identifying risks in the home misses the needs of older children, who often believe they are in a consensual relationship with their groomer. It also fails to acknowledge that the grooming process relies on perpetrators deliberately driving a wedge between the child and their parents. So when the social worker reports an “unstable home life”, they are negating the possibility that it is the perpetrators of the abuse who have brought instability to a once normal, functional household.
The charity I manage, Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace), works with hundreds of parents who have battled for the police to take action against perpetrators of sexual abuse against their children. Many have kept highly detailed logs of their child’s abuse. Yet lamentably few parents have seen the perpetrator of the child’s abuse arrested, let alone prosecuted. The collective sense of frustration towards the statutory services is palpable.
We cannot afford to repeat the travesty of Rotherham. It is time to rebuild a sense of trust between parents and the police. That is why Pace is calling for every Police and Crime Commissioner to create multi-agency teams to work in partnership with parents and see them as part of the solution, not the problem. Only then can we learn from the horrors of Rotherham and focus blame where it should be — those who commit the abuse.
CEO, Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace)
Sir, It was not only the crunch of boots on gravel that made a military parade (letter, Aug 29), it was the rattle of a small coin introduced into the magazine of the Lee Enfield which added a musical effect as well as one shouldered or presented arms. The butt of the rifle hitting the ground also signified a good parade. The tinkle of a mounted man’s spurs also turned the head of a pretty nursemaid.
Claude R Hart
6:58AM BST 01 Sep 2014
SIR – I recently received a large parcel courtesy of FedEx that looked remarkably like a bundle of old, flattened cardboard boxes. Upon opening it, I was amazed to see that it was, indeed, a bundle of old, flattened cardboard boxes!
Closer inspection revealed that the outside box was one I had used to return some goods to a company in Milton Keynes, and it still had my address on it.
Clearly the company had put it by for recycling, but the ever-diligent delivery company had seen my address and decided that that was where it should go.
I’m all for recycling, but sending 500 per cent more cardboard that I had originally used over a distance of 100 miles is taking things a bit far.
Great Moulton, Norfolk
Discussions leading up to Scotland’s referendum have neglected to mention defence
6:59AM BST 01 Sep 2014
SIR – I watched Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond discussing Scotland’s important vote on September 18. Twice they mentioned the NHS, which is unnecessary because the Scottish government already has the power to run the health service in Scotland. We also heard about pensions and care for the elderly and children.
Why has nobody mentioned defence? One sees pictures of Aberdeen harbour full of ships connected with the North Sea oil industry, and the sea full of oil and gas platforms. It would only take one aeroplane from a terrorist organisation to blow these ships to pieces. Arming ourselves with the equipment to defend these vital installations is not cheap.
Alex Salmond’s proposals for funding Scotland are largely based on tax revenue from the oil and gas industry and yet he would have no means to defend them.
Lady Jean Fforde
Isle of Arran
SIR – You report that doctors may be forced to work at weekends.
Over the recent August bank holiday, I carried out daily ward rounds on Saturday, Sunday and Monday by myself. At rounds during the week, I work as part of a team, including the lead nurse from the ward, a specialist pharmacist, specialist trainees in haematology and junior trainees in general medicine, and have clerical support.
Since the vast majority of consultants already work at weekends, the challenge for the NHS is to provide appropriate support to deliver a seven-day service. As you report, Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association council, correctly concludes that attempting to deliver this increase in staffing levels with existing budgets is “bonkers”.
Dr Michael Galloway
A stitch in war time
SIR – My father was seriously wounded in France during the First World War and was sent to a military hospital in Sheffield, where he was in a “spinal chair”, which forced him to lie completely flat. During his two years convalescing there, he embroidered four pictures on black satin backgrounds using five strands of silk.
These pictures were intended to be cushion covers, but my mother never used them and, after my father’s death, she had them framed. One picture depicts a British bulldog sitting on a map, in the corner of which is large B.
I have seen a similar image at the War Museum and am curious to know if this embroidering was a form of therapy in those days.
Milford on Sea, Hampshire
Mother of all spots
SIR – On one of her recent visits to our house, I took my 92-year-old mother to Waitrose in Cheltenham. The car park was full, so I parked in a nice, wide “parent and child” slot.
No sooner had my mother, who’s as sprightly as a gazelle, and I alighted from the car than we were accosted by a woman who was locking hers in the neighbouring bay. Although the rear of her people-carrier was festooned with child seats, there were no children present.
“Well, at least I am a mum,” she huffed when I pointed this out.
“Well, at least I have my child with me,” retorted Mother before flouncing off to find a trolley.
A greener future
SIR – Leading organisations from the environment and conservation sector have developed seven goals for the next British government that would have a profoundly positive impact on the country. These include making a 2015 global climate change deal a foreign policy priority, protecting oceans and promoting energy efficiency in homes.
A global agreement to slow climate change is looking more likely than ever ahead of next year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference. There is no guarantee that we will reverse the decline in British wildlife and countryside, but there is no shortage of ideas about how to ensure nature’s recovery.
Environmental policy making is challenging and the biggest obstacle to achieving a greener Britain in recent years has been the hesitancy of our political leaders. All of the political parties would be wise to consider our goals as they develop their general election manifestos.
Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England
Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Dame Helen Ghosh
Director General, National Trust
Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Director, Green Alliance
Executive Director, Friends of the Earth
Executive Director, Campaign for Better Transport
Chief Executive, World Wide Fund for Nature UK
Executive Director, Institute for European Environmental Policy
SIR – David Craddock’s letter about e-cigarettes in restaurants really does say it all. He is happy that he can use the devices, but “never during a meal”. I presume he means never during his meal.
Nearby diners will still be exposed to unpleasant and smelly vapours containing nicotine and other chemicals.
No dampened spirits
SIR – Am I the only one to have welcomed the damp August after a warm, early summer? It has certainly done wonders for my apples and pears and late crop of runner beans.
Judge people for top jobs on merit, not background
SIR – Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility tsar, says the dominance of top jobs by the privately educated reflects an “elitist” culture that must be combated by declaring a workforce’s social background.
Do we really want less than the best in the top jobs? Perhaps we should focus on improving the education of the 93 per cent in state schools, rather than criticising the success of the seven per cent in private.
SIR – It is no surprise and no harm that 71 per cent of the senior judiciary have been privately educated. Many were originally called to the bar when the profession was much smaller and more socially exclusive. Nowadays the nets are cast more widely. The Judicial Appointments Commission has replaced an older and wrongly derided system of selection, and already I notice a widening in the backgrounds of those selected as judges. Whether this does or should reflect society more is not for me to say.
His Honour Gerald Clifton
SIR – Military families often pass the baton from father to son – and now, daughter. For decades the only way of providing continuity of education for Services children was to send them to boarding schools, the majority of which are in the private sector, so it is hardly surprising that many officers have that background.
Cdr David Lingard (rtd)
SIR – It is outrageous that the best jobs are filled by the best people from the best schools and universities. Public schools must be closed and Oxford and Cambridge dissolved immediately.
After all, this solved the problem when we had it with grammar schools.
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
Boris Johnson has announced that he hopes to stand for a parliamentary seat in 2015 Photo: PAUL GROVER
7:00AM BST 01 Sep 2014
SIR – The best way to spike the guns of Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage is for Boris Johnson to stand as Conservative candidate in the Clacton by-election. Boris would wipe the floor with both Carswell and Ukip, giving the Tories the impetus for a majority at next year’s election.
SIR – I can understand Mr Carswell’s reasons for leaving the Conservative Party, but I cannot understand his choice of Ukip.
SIR – I would consider Douglas Carswell’s decision more honourable, and less playing to the crowd, if he had to pay the costs of the by-election, instead of it falling on the taxpayers and his constituents.
01 Sep 2014
Bexhill-on-sea, East Sussex
SIR – Your leading article asks: “How will a costly by-election in Clacton help the country move forward?”
The answer is that it will restore the democratic principle that you vote for the candidate whose policies you support, rather than for one who will hail your vote as endorsing policies you don’t like and a leader you don’t trust.
And if everyone who voted Ukip in the European election does so again in the general election, the country will move forward a very long way.
SIR – Many seem to have forgotten that Harold Wilson won an election by offering renegotiation with Europe followed by a referendum. There was precious little of the former and when it came to the latter, all the main political parties together with the full force of the government machine were mobilised to ensure the outcome.
If David Cameron wins next May, we are surely in for a repeat performance.
The only way out of the EU is to elect a majority of eurosceptic MPs to Westminster.
Threshfield, North Yorkshire
SIR – I am sitting at home wondering exactly what it means when Mr Cameron says that the terrorist threat is raised from substantial to severe. Are we all supposed to look behind us a little more when we walk the streets? Do we look in waste bins for explosive objects?
The borders are still porous, illegal immigration is running fast and loose and legal immigration is outstripping all imagination.
I suspect that Mr Cameron is simply trying to take the headlines away from Ukip. Regrettably, in light of the appalling threats we face, I am beginning to waver in my loyalties.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
Sir, – The current medical brain drain and the large number of unfilled consultant and GP positions in Ireland make it clear that this is not an attractive place for medics to take up work.
The doctors expected to apply for positions as consultants or GPs on inferior terms to their senior colleagues have for the last 10 to 15 years been the junior doctors staffing under-resourced hospitals and enduring poor treatment and training conditions.
A deep sense of distrust between doctors at all levels and the HSE must be addressed before any contract negotiations, or indeed the health service, can move forward. The HSE must examine honestly why medics are choosing not to work in Ireland, or our manpower crisis will worsen. – Yours, etc,
Dr STEVEN MALONEY,
Lower Rathmines Road,
Sir, – Is it reasonable that a young medical doctor should leave the State soon after qualifying without returning any significant benefit to the taxpayer that funded their education?
The registration fees are about a tenth of the actual cost of training; these costs are borne by all taxpayers but the benefit – increased earning power for life – accrues to one individual.
May I respectfully suggest that a return to the exchequer could be made either by working full time in a public hospital (not private practice) for several years before leaving or undertaking to repay all or part of the true cost to the taxpayer once they exceed a comfortable living, say twice the average industrial wage, of wherever they go? This return could be used to fund more university places, reducing the strain on the public purse. Many who pay taxes cannot hope to complete such courses.
The same principle might be applied to other high earning-power graduates – a useful contribution to the State from the supply of medical, legal, engineering personnel working on socially necessary but “unprofitable” areas, such as advocacy for the disenfranchised, caring for the vulnerable, public civic projects, etc. While there are often no jobs, there is much work that needs doing to improve our society.
I’m sure a reasonable set of terms and conditions could be worked out with the relevant State departments to ensure all citizens benefit from the investment in the few. – Yours, etc,
The Old Post Office,
Sir, – The majority of medical emigrants stay on the Irish medical registrar when going abroad. The figure which is much more relevant as a measure of medical emigration is the number of requests for letters of good standing , as all those going abroad need this letter. The true level of Irish medical emigration is being underestimated. – Yours, etc,
Dr PADDY DAVERN,
Sir, – The time for the congratulatory if not superficial tone of your editorial of August 30th (“The first, faltering steps”), noting the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire, is long since past. We have a right to expect far more of the last 20 years.
Your view that prospects for the devolved administration dominated by the DUP and Sinn Féin are “good” is not shared here.
There is a profound disillusionment across the electorate with the abject failure of the Executive to move beyond merely keeping the political arrangements in place, with no attempt to tackle the radical reforms needed to move Northern Ireland out of its entrenched segregation.
An important study by Prof Colin Knox of the University of Ulster has shown that the areas where the the conflict was concentrated not only experience higher rates of multiple deprivation than other areas but that circumstances in these districts have worsened since the Executive came into office. A major study by Prof Mike Tomlinson of Queen’s University, using a different approach, reaches a similar conclusion.
We are now entering an electoral cycle over the next two years (Westminster and Assembly) where any risk-taking by the political parties will be minimal.
So, we are likely to get more of the same.
There’s a fair chance, therefore, that all you will be able to do on the 25th anniversary of the ceasefire will be to reprint your editorial. – Yours, etc,
Prof BOB OSBORNE,
Sir, – On the front page of the your edition of August 23rd you carried a hugely disturbing photograph of a Palestinian with a bag over his head being lead off by Hamas militants to be “executed” in a public thoroughfare of Gaza City.
He was one of around 20 alleged collaborators shot dead by masked gunmen in the space of two or three days – each of them “convicted” of reportedly providing information to the Israelis. Inside that particular edition, another picture – this time of three Palestinians kneeling against a wall before the Hamas militants carried out their bloody slaughter. Of the 21 suspected informants, at least two were women, your newspaper reported.
Since then not a comment, as far as I can tell, from any of your columnists or letter writers – who quickly and rightly attacked the Israelis for their savagery during the latest outburst of hostilities – on these incidents of mass executions.
Not a march down O’Connell Street or any other street in protest against the killings. Not even the Seanad recalled to vent the members’ anger at this international outrage. – Yours, etc,
First published: Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 01:10
Sir, – Recent correspondence regarding the Barrow towpath seems to have revealed that there is considerable support for the idea of Waterways Ireland to make the towpath more accessible to a greater number of people of all physical abilities and ages.
There has been no mention in the debate of the recent and thoughtful Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas report, which states: “Assets with huge capacity for development in rural areas include rivers, unused rural pathways, and railways. The development of such assets for rural recreation purposes would allow for the delivery of tourism and recreation infrastructure, providing a stimulus to many local areas affected by unemployment.”
That last word, “unemployment”, is critical. The establishment of a network of long-distance cycling and walking trails, using old towpaths and closed railway lines, would create jobs and could be achieved quickly at modest cost.
The Barrow towpath is not a local issue. It needs to be seen in a national context. It could be an integral link and connector as part of a planned national cycle network, which is Government policy. I am sure a modest grit path, as suggested by other recent correspondents, and available for all users – children, wheelchair users, cyclists, families with buggies – would benefit local users and would attract more visitors (who spend money) and could be achieved with great sympathy to the environment.
The need for a national cycle network has to be recognised, and this small section of publicly owned land along the Barrow may well be an important connector needed to implement this plan. If that is the case, the greater good for the greater number needs to prevail. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – That the traditional Barrow towpath has survived so long without interference is a wonder in itself. I suppose it has to be widened and tamed, flattened and made visually sterile, in a politically correct attempt to make it more accessible for retired fridges and washing machines. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The naiveté demonstrated by Rev Patrick G Burke with regard to population growth is breathtaking (September 1st). His example of us not being knee deep in flies when we should have been if all the offspring of one breeding pair had survived and bred ignores the reasons why this did not happen – great fly populations were wiped out by a variety of means, which in human terms have corresponded to famines and genocidal wars interspersed with periods of low life expectancy and miserable health experiences.
The continent of Africa, for which he quotes figures, is no stranger to famine, genocidal wars, low life expectancy and miserable health experiences.
He talks of over 200 years of “lived experience”. Does he not realise that 200 years represents a mere millisecond in terms of the time humans have been reproducing? Does he not know that the increase in people on the planet in the past 50 years has exceeded the population growth up to that time in all of the ages since the first humans appeared?
He mentions Malthus. This man’s theories have never been disproved. And there is very strong evidence to suggest that, unless policies such as those adopted by China are implemented, it will only be a matter of time before they will receive as much recognition as those of Darwin and Einstein. No matter how much we increase food production by scientific means, the production capacity of the Earth still remains a finite quantity.
Some acquaintance with mathematical principles, which explain exactly what finite means (and also Malthus’s invocation of exponential growth) would greatly inform debates such as this one. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In Ireland when landlords face financial difficulties with their lending institutions the legal redress may involve the eviction of tenants who are compliant with their obligations. A large private rented sector is a feature of housing markets in many OECD countries. In these markets compliant tenants do not face evictions. Ireland should follow these examples. In recent Seanad debates there has been strong support for the position of compliant tenants of defaulting landlords. A policy change is overdue. – Yours, etc,
Senator SEAN D BARRETT,
Sir, – I agree with the Government Action Plan for Jobs in that there needs to be a diversification of foreign language provision in post-primary schools and a move away from the dominance of French (“Schools need to vary language teaching amid ‘predominance of French’, report suggests”, August 29th).
With 14,000 Irish people expected to move to Canada in 2014, Canadian French should be a future option. It might be more easily accommodated into the current curriculum than, say, starting Chinese from scratch. – Yours, etc,
ULTAN Ó BROIN,
South Circular Road,
Sir, – Dr Stephen Kelly (August 24th) rightly draws attention to the significant role played by Charles Haughey in the peace process. This role went back, however, long before the late 1980s to which Dr Kelly refers. Immediately after first becoming taoiseach, in 1979, Charles Haughey summoned Lady Valerie Goulding and myself, we were both in the Seanad at the time, and informed us that peace in Northern Ireland would be a prime objective of his time in office. He instructed me to step up discussions which I had previously engaged in with James Prior, Northern Ireland secretary, and asked Lady Valerie to continue with contacts she already had. We both did as requested and indeed on one occasion my late wife, Pamela, and I, stayed overnight at Hillsborough Castle as guests of Mr and Mrs Prior. However the foundations of the peace process go back even further than that, back indeed to Jack Lynch who, as taoiseach, instructed me during the period when the Irish ambassador had been withdrawn from London, to make contact with James Prior, whom I had known for many years, and who was then a cabinet minister in the British government. Other very early meetings directed towards finding a peaceful solution in Northern Ireland of which I am aware, because I was involved in them under the auspices of Jack Lynch, included meetings with John Hume, Paddy Devlin and the then Duke of Devonshire. None of these meetings or discussions were made public at the time for obvious reasons. The foundations of the peace process in fact go back over several decades. Many individuals played a role, some publicly, some very privately. All of them deserve our deepest appreciation and perhaps it is time some of this was put on the public record.
None of this detracts in any way from the key role of Albert Reynolds, whose relationship and agreement with John Major was so crucial to the peace process, and without which we might still be struggling to find peace in Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Prof RICHARD CONROY,
Sir, – Can there ever be a justification for Irish companies having their accounts offshore? Should any Irish company whose financial affairs are not available for inspection be awarded business from State agencies?
The accounts of any company that operates in the jurisdiction should be available for scrutiny and audit by the relevant authorities in that jurisdiction. That should be the law. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Donald Clarke labels as “jerks” anyone who doesn’t “celebrate” the flying of a rainbow flag over a Limerick Garda station (“Garda rainbow flag signals huge strides taken on gay rights”, Opinion & Analysis, August 30th). So I’m a jerk. He also labels the theory of creationism as “absurd, prehistoric baloney”.
His article – supposedly championing tolerance – exudes intolerance. None so blind as those who will not see. – Yours, etc,
Bayside Boulevard North,
Sir, – I buy your newspaper daily. Why, I don’t know, since so much of what it contains offends me. – Yours, etc,
Dundalk, Co Louth.
Sir, – The letter by Prof Gerard McHugh (August 30th) is the most sensible take on the subject in a long time. Please stop blaming “the points system”. It is merely a filter. The alternative is to admit all who pass the Leaving Certificate, as happens in Germany and France, where some 60 per cent drop out. The cost in extra classroom space and staff is immense and a huge waste. Ireland cannot afford it. – Yours, etc,
Dr TIM GALLWEY
Route de Pau,
Oloron-Ste Marie, France.
Sir, – A bus just passed me with an advertisement for the EBS that read, “We wouldn’t have this house if it wasn’t for EBS”.
Wouldn’t it be nice for once to see a large billboard display on behalf of our financial institutions that read, “If it wasn’t for the Irish taxpayer, we wouldn’t have a business”? – Yours, etc,
Blackglen Road, Dublin 18.
Sir, – I read with some disappointment of the dwindling numbers at Lough Derg this summer (“Call for pilgrims to support ancient Lough Derg pilgrimage”, August 27th).
I made my first trip to Lough Derg in June this year for a three-day pilgrimage. It was one of the most uplifting experiences I have ever had.
Parishes should really do more to promote Lough Derg and the unique experience it offers. And pilgrims should also make more efforts to share their experiences. – Yours, etc,
Like a lot of people, I love the classic Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’ and no part of that comedic masterpiece contributes to the overall hilarity more than the fact that the so-called revolutionaries respond to Roman provocation by endless and rigidly controlled meetings that produce next to no tangible results.
I have to say that the recent crisis in the Ukraine has produced pretty much the same thing on the part of the world’s leaders. Russia simply keeps provoking the world to do something. It bullied Georgia into submission and division years ago and that sort of behaviour has continued. It has destabilised the entirety of eastern Ukraine, played the eastern European equivalent of the “race card” like a political Johnny Cochran and annexed the Crimea. It also now looks set to do the same to the rest of eastern Ukraine.
It seems that, like the People’s Front of Judea from ‘Life of Brian’, they are content to respond to such brutal provocation with pointless meetings and meaningless statements that do nothing but state the obvious. It seems that when it comes to these three organisations, their idea of global peace means keeping the peace in peaceful places or endless mediation, as opposed to strong action.
It might be funny, if Ukraine wasn’t being carved up along ethnic lines like the Balkans.
Maybe at the very end, we’ll have the UN make another statement and then we can all sing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.
Clara, Co Offaly
We pay public sector pensions
Neither the public nor the private sector can exist without the other. We have created a State which employs doctors, teachers, engineers and the people who process our licences. Some are highly qualified and some are not. The private sector needs these people and their willing work.
Comparing salaries in a straight line against the equivalent worker in the private sector is very difficult and when it was tried led to a benchmarking process which became cumbersome to the point of uselessness.
The real issue here is that the people of this country are using their taxes not to create new work or adequately pay doctors or carry out research and development. A vast portion of tax money is being used to pay inflation-protected pensions to a non-working sector.
For a member of the public to gain the current pension of a teacher who retired in recent years, having worked for 40 years, they would have had to invest €1m. And even if they did that, the value of the pension they purchased would still depend on market forces. The teacher, hard-working and deserving of a decent salary and pension, did not contribute this amount and nor did her employer contribute and invest anything like this amount in any scheme on her behalf.
The pensions of the civil servants are being paid out of tax being taken from the public.
What’s more, public servants benefit from a regime which encourages education and there are generous allowances, including study leave and fees paid, for state employees who improve their qualifications.
If a member of the public wishes to improve their qualifications, they have to study at night, pay their own fees and take holiday leave in order to study and take exams.
People in the private sector enjoy few if any of the benefits afforded to public sector workers. Ideally, they should and most employers would love to provide them, but they cannot be afforded in the real market.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Kenny’s return to our screens
The fact that Pat Kenny will soon be back on our TV screens is surely good news, due to the skill and style he brings to his programmes. His loss to RTE remains a major one and the last year has seen little improvement by his replacement team.
Happily, Newstalk listeners can hear the gems of interviews he conducts, which often are more akin to essays than mere news reporting.
Anthony J Jordan
Sandymount, Dublin 4
Do the maths
I hope I’m not going off on a tangent, but I feel that Donegal’s score yesterday of 3.14 plays an important part in explaining how to come full circle.
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
An Irish honours list?
Following the recent death of the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, several commentators rightly pointed out that the contribution which Mr Reynolds made to peace in Ireland was not sufficiently acknowledged during his lifetime.
This raises the question of how this country should honour individuals who have greatly contributed to our country’s progress.
Whilst the awarding of the freedom of a town or city provides an opportunity to recognise a person’s work, this does not represent national recognition.
An independent, non-party-political and unpaid national commission, drawn from leaders of civic society and under the nominal auspices of the President of Ireland, could succeed in facilitating such a national recognition system. It would provide the country with an inexpensive means to recognise those who have contributed to the social, political and cultural life of this nation.
Clontarf, Dublin 3
EU’s twisted logic
If ever we needed an example of the sort of devious and twisted logic that permeates the EU, we got it over the weekend from Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
Speaking on the situation in Ukraine, Ms Grybauskaite said, “It is the fact that Russia is in a war state against Ukraine. That means it is in a state of war against a country which would like to be closely integrated with the EU. Practically Russia is in a state of war against Europe.”
Leave aside, for a moment, the fact that the current Ukrainian government only sought closer ties to Europe after the US and EU supported the overthrow of the previous government, which was democratically elected. Ms Grybauskaite’s attempt to rope the whole of Europe into a war with Russia by attempting to make some tenuous connection between Ukraine and the EU is dangerous and inflammatory.
Having fomented the overthrow of an ‘uncooperative’ Ukrainian government through insidious means, we now have EU leaders attempting to whip up support for military action in a country that is not an EU member state.
Is this the sort of Europe that citizens want? I would suggest not, based on the record low percentage of voters who turned out for the recent EU elections.
Yet we get one arrogant and hypocritical statement after another from EU politicians, demonising Russia while lauding its own actions in supporting the overthrow of a democratically elected Ukrainian government.
One of the arguments that is often put forward by advocates of a united Europe is that closer integration has stopped wars in Europe.
However, we see now that since the EU has evolved from a community of countries into a self-perpetuating, power-hungry organisation, the risk of war on an even greater scale has increased.
Crumlin, Dublin 12