8 September 2014 More books
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around not doing very much at all I get some books
Mary’s back not much better today, rabbitfor tea and her back pain is still there.
Frank Constantine – obituary
Frank Constantine was a gallery director who let local residents borrow art for their own living rooms
Frank Constantine, director of Sheffield City Art Galleries, in 1982 Photo: SHEFFIELD NEWSPAPERS
5:51PM BST 07 Sep 2014
Frank Constantine, who has died aged 95, contrived during 18 years as director of Sheffield City Art Galleries to rebuild and expand collections depleted by war damage through canny purchases, and fostered a lively cultural programme that earned the city a national reputation in the art world.
For much of this time he worked in tandem with Enid Hattersley (the formidable mother of Roy Hattersley), who chaired the city council’s Libraries and Arts Committee. Constantine’s courtly, twinkling yet firm manner was the perfect foil to his chairman’s well-meaning garrulousness; and the combination of her political backing and his own shrewd building of connections through the Arts Council achieved much.
Constantine’s signal achievement came early in his tenure with the reopening of the Mappin Gallery, whose Victorian collections had been heavily depleted when the building took a direct hit during the Blitz.
Working with Lewis Womersley, Sheffield’s modernistic city architect, he created white interlinked open spaces for modern and contemporary works. For what was left of the original collection they conjured up what a later keeper of the Mappin termed “not a gallery of Victorian art, but a Victorian’s idea of contemporary art”. In 2002 the Mappin would be absorbed by Weston Park Museum.
With funds available for purchases until the city hit hard times soon after his retirement in 1982, Constantine showed his genius in the saleroom. He found Pre-Raphaelites to fill a major and surprising gap in the city’s collections, and picked up Matisses and other Impressionists, a collection of Persian pottery and contemporary works by the likes of Auerbach and Caulfield at modest prices. He once kept costs down by purchasing a diptych in two halves, persuading the dealer that, once he had bought the first, no one else would bid for the second.
A particular innovation was a scheme under which Sheffield residents, for a nominal fee, could borrow paintings from the city collection not shown in the galleries and hang them in their living rooms for a few months.
Harry Francis Constantine was born at Nether Green, Sheffield, on February 11 1919, the youngest son of the watercolourist George Hamilton Constantine and his wife Catherine. From High Storrs Grammar School he studied at Sheffield Art College, becoming an accomplished landscape painter. His first job, however, was illustrating a furniture catalogue.
Constantine joined the Royal Engineers and saw war service from 1944 with the Inter-Services Liaison Department, an arm of MI6, in North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Italy.
After demobilisation he trained as a conservator at the Courtauld, then joined his father, who by then was director of Sheffield’s main Graves Gallery. He oversaw the rebuilding of the Mappin as deputy director, and by the time he took over as director of both galleries in 1964 had not only a total grasp of the strengths and deficiencies of the city’s collections, but also a clear vision of what could be achieved with them.
Constantine made the fullest use of those collections through a vigorous art education programme with a reach beyond the middle-class west of the city. Meanwhile, his active role on Arts Council panels brought to Sheffield a succession of popular touring exhibitions, notably of Landseer in 1972 and Alma-Tadema in 1976. The culmination of his directorship was the first British Arts Show in 1979, and the following year the exhibition Homespun to Highspeed: A Century of British Design, created with the Sheffield designer David Mellor and his wife Fiona McCarthy.
From 1991 to 2005 Constantine was a director of the Guild of St George, a charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy founded by John Ruskin. He was appointed OBE in 1981.
Frank Constantine married his wife Eileen in 1946; she died in 2009, and he is survived by their two sons and two daughters. An exhibition of his acquisitions is to be staged next year at the Graves Gallery.
Frank Constantine, born February 11 1919, died July 26 2014
Flash flooding in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 27 August 2014. Photograph: Firoz Ahmed/ Demotix/Corbis
Later this month world leaders will gather in New York for a historic summit on climate change. This is an opportunity to inspire key decision-makers to act in the face of a growing climate crisis that threatens almost every aspect of our lives. Politicians all over the world cite a lack of public support as a reason not to take bold action against climate change. So on 21 September we will meet this moment with unprecedented public mobilisations in cities around the world, including thousands of people on the streets of London. Our goal is simple – to demonstrate the groundswell demand that exists for ambitious climate action.
From New York and London to Paris, Berlin, Delhi and Melbourne we’ll demonstrate demand for an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. There is only one ingredient that is required: to change everything, we need everyone. History is our proof that the impossible is smaller than we think. The abolition of slavery. The end of apartheid. The spread of universal suffrage. All proof that the future is ours to shape. We just need to step out and claim it.
Ricken Patel Executive director, Avaaz, David Babbs Executive director, 38 Degrees, John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace-UK, Matthew Frost Chief executive, Tearfund, Mark Goldring Chief executive, Oxfam, Justin Forsyth CEO, Save the Children, David Nussbaum CEO, WWF-UK, Neil Thorns Chair, The Climate Coalition, Chris Bain Director, Cafod, Loretta Minghella CEO, Christian Aid, Andy Atkins Executive director, Friends of the Earth, Claire James Campaign against Climate Change, Sam Fairbairn National secretary, People’s Assembly Against Austerity
• Zoe Williams makes a compelling case for an energy revolution (Pessimism won’t do. We need an energy revolution, 1 September). Behind a PR smokescreen of getting tough on energy companies, it’s clear that both the government and the Labour frontbench are bending over backwards to keep the Big Six energy giants content. It’s little wonder that people feel pessimistic. A major transformation of the way the UK generates its heat and power is essential. Fuel poverty is rife and the UK is languishing near the bottom of renewable energy league tables – costing jobs, as well as endangering our credibility on tackling climate change.
Above all, what we need is a revolution in ownership of our energy system. If the main parties were really on the side of consumers, community ownership and decentralised energy would be at the heart of their energy proposals – not just the very periphery.
In July, the Institute for Public Policy Research set out clear plans for how cities and local authorities can provide an alternative to the Big Six and create a cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy system. Later this month, Community Energy Fortnight will celebrate success stories of locally owned energy from across the UK – projects such as the Brighton Energy Co-operative that provide a glimpse of an incredibly positive alternative energy future, where people are active producers and not just passive consumers. Profits are reinvested locally, rather than going into the pockets of multinational shareholders. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what policy changes are needed to give all local communities, villages, towns and cities the ability to generate their own heat and power from local renewable energy sources. What’s lacking is the political will to stand up to the Big Six.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
• Matt Gorman, sustainability director at Heathrow – itself an oxymoron –misstates the Committee on Climate Change concerning runway expansion in the south-east (Letters, 4 September). The committee has established a legal limit of 37.5m tonnes of CO2 a year to cover all UK civil aviation emissions through to 2050, to ensure aviation growth fits within the targets for overall greenhouse gas reduction. Current annual aviation emissions are around 33m tonnes a year, so while it might just about be possible to allocate the available headroom – approximately 4.5m tonnes – to an additional runway anywhere in the south-east, which the CCC has said could happen mathematically, this would mean no further aviation CO2 budget for expansion elsewhere in the UK. A busy third runway at Heathrow or a second at Gatwick would very likely soak all this up. We cannot find any statement or form of words that would support Mr Gorman’s claim that the CCC supports a third runway at Heathrow airport.
Board member, Aviation Environment Federation
• Guy Standing (Comment, 5 September) makes some useful suggestions how the fruits of fracking could at least be more fairly distributed than was the case of North Sea oil. One further suggestion: the first use of any profit should be to fund alternative forms of energy for a time when there is no recoverable oil or gas.
Why are the media almost silent about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated by the EU and the US? The TTIP represents a massive attack on the sovereignty of democratically elected governments; it will be irreversible. Attempts to harmonise standards between the EU and the US are likely to hit hard-won protections on food and chemical safety (eg in cosmetics, insecticides and pesticides), the environment, and workers’ rights. US agribusiness is pressing hard for Europe to import currently illegal GM products, and meat that does not conform to EU standards, such as chlorine-washed chicken and cattle raised with growth hormones.
The threat of litigation against states which pass laws in the public interest that could impact on corporation profits is particularly insidious. Already, Quebec is being sued for deciding to ban fracking, and tobacco company Philip Morris is suing the Australian government for trying to protect public health by legislation on the marketing of cigarettes. Germany is being sued because of its policies on nuclear power; Slovakia’s public health system is being challenged by commercial interests. Such cases could become commonplace, with profits being placed firmly above people, and commercial interests overriding national law.
Apparently, Ed Miliband hopes for an NHS opt-out clause, but it is doubtful the EU would make this a high priority in talks. We hope that all our political leaders agree that it should be democratically elected governments that decide what services should be publicly owned and managed, in the public interest, not international corporations.
Steve Rose’s round-up of new films featuring trade unions (Lights, cameras, industrial action, G2, 5 September; Letters, 6 September) would have been strengthened by the inclusion of Still the Enemy Within, Owen Gower’s documentary about the miners’ strike, partially funded by donations from the major British unions. Released next month, it coincidentally features Mike Jackson of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, whose story is fictionalised in Pride. Rose might also have mentioned that, off-screen, staff at the Ritzy in London, the UK’s most successful arthouse cinema, have been campaigning for a living wage from Picturehouse owners Cineworld. Strikes and unions are neither just a historical nor a fictional issue.
• Re the news that the oldest “abstract art”, attributed to Neanderthals, has been found in Gibraltar (Report, 3 September): you have forgotten that on 11 January 2002 you published a piece headed “The world’s first artwork found in Africa”, about a piece of engraved red ochre from Blombos Cave on the south coast of South Africa, dated 77,000 years before the present. The Gibraltar engraving is a mere 40,000 years old. As always, H sapiens was ahead of the game.
Emeritus professor of African art, SOAS, University of London
• “Angry Hodgson” (front page, Sport, 5 September); “Miserable Murray” (back page). Maybe there are some happier sportswomen? It is hard to find out as a Guardian reader, though. No women again in the entire Sport section.
Highbrow argument: Michael Kustow in 1968, as director of the ICA. Photograph: Chris Morris/Rex
Jeremy Isaacs writes: Channel 4 was charged, by Act of Parliament, with providing a “distinctive” service; as its commissioning editor for the arts, Michael Kustow did much to make that promise good. His thinking was bold, his ambition high. Peter Brook’s Hindu saga, The Mahabharata; Peter Hall’s masked Oresteia; Pina Bausch‘s Bluebeard’s Castle and Tony Harrison’s V, directed by Richard Eyre, tumbled on to the screen one after the other. BBC2 commissioned an opera from Harrison Birtwistle, Yan Tan Tethera, but declined to broadcast it. Kustow snapped it up for Channel 4; the television version we made was simulcast with the BBC’s Radio 3. He brought together the artist Tom Phillips and the film-maker Peter Greenaway to attempt A TV Dante: eight episodes of The Inferno resulted. Kustow behaved as a patron of the arts in a grand manner.
Himself an unreconstructed egghead, Kustow also offered highbrow argument. The programme Voices began with Al Alvarez chairing a debate, with George Steiner, Mary McCarthy and Joseph Brodsky, on the effect on artists of dictatorship. Six series of Voices were screened at 11pm. And there were programmes such as Psychoanalysis Today (Michael Ignatieff) and Philosophy Today (John Searle). Thoughtful viewers in those days owed much to Michael Kustow. He deserves to be remembered for it.
Tony Gordon writes: In the 1970s, Michael Kustow generously answered an optimistic plea from Colin Jellicoe and myself (who both owned small galleries) to visit us in Manchester to discuss a possible exhibition of northern based artists at the National Theatre. He was the NT exhibitions director at the time.
Where to go for lunch? He suggested Armenian, as part of his family had originated from Armenia and he loved the food. At the time, Colin and I were both struggling financially and couldn’t really afford the restaurant, but luckily Arto der Haroutunian, the restaurant owner, happened to be one of our artists. Michael proved great company, very entertaining and most gracious.
In due course, the exhibition was organised and filled the foyers of the NT. Looking back, it was not the greatest of exhibitions and was rightly slated by Time Out. However, the knock-on effect was my contemporary jewellery exhibition Dazzle which stayed for 32 years at the NT, until it moved along the South Bank last year to the Oxo building.
Bernard Regan writes: In the last 10 years Michael Kustow and I worked together on a number of projects. One was Another Israel, a meeting at the NUT headquarters in Euston Road, London, which gave a platform to speakers from Israel opposed to the policies of the Israeli government. Michael organised the filming of the event, which was packed. He was supportive of all those who wanted to open the debate within the Jewish community about what was happening to the Palestinian people and of those within Israel who sought to question their government’s actions.
Michael visited Israel and the West Bank and took a close interest in the Freedom theatre in Jenin. I think he made a political journey, too – always questioning and challenging, but engaged and never negative. He brought his wide interest in the arts to bear on how he thought about the issues and how he sought to engage people in a dialogue and discussion about them.
Mike Westbrook writes: One of Mike Kustow’s projects was an English version of Roger Planchon‘s surrealist opera about Al Capone, Mama Chicago. The original music and the songs had got lost, so Mike wrote new lyrics and asked me to write the music. The piece had been commissioned by the Crucible theatre, Sheffield. I duly wrote the score, and my group the Brass Band was booked to play for the show, on-stage. At the last minute the theatre’s director got cold feet about the possible impact of this avant-garde production on the provincial audience and pulled the plug.
The Mama Chicago songs stayed on the shelf until Kate Westbrook and I had the idea of using them as the basis for a jazz cabaret, a form of music-theatre, incorporating improvisation, that we had been developing with the band. The show was first staged at Charles Marowitz‘s Open Space theatre, a disused post office by Warren Street tube. We invited Michael to the premiere, having told him nothing of our plans. To our great relief, he loved the show, and did not seem to mind a bit that we had reworked some of his lyrics as stand-alone songs rather than parts of an operatic scenario.
At the Edinburgh festival in 1978, Mama Chicago won the Fringe award. Over the succeeding years, Kate, Phil Minton and I, with a succession of bands, gave frequent London performances, and toured the jazz cabaret throughout France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Scandinavia, and once to Australia. It was filmed for BBC TV, broadcast on radio, and recorded as a double album. In fact, Mama Chicago was one of our most successful projects.
It pleased Michael that the piece he had sparked off reached such a wide audience. His text for Song of the Rain, featured in the show by Phil Minton, is a work of genius – poignant, witty, and soulful. One of the last times we met was at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden for the launch of his Peter Brook biography. At Mike’s request, Kate sang Song of the Rain. He described that lyric as “God given”. He has left us a great theatre song to remember him by.
Whenever I hear about the imminent dissolution of the UK, my mood sinks. I was born in a country that split in two when I was six. The divorce of Czechs and Slovaks did not immediately hurt me as much as it did my parents (and especially my grandparents) who were born in a proud country but, more importantly, a relatively strong country, with a certain vision and a great potential.
What remained after the separation was a strange emptiness: two weak sister nations without any meaningful aspirations or ambitions and with extremely limited power to determine their fates, but with almost twice as many politicians and bureaucrats getting more power and opportunities for themselves.
When I was growing up, it was the period of Cool Britannia, inspiring the young generation all over the world. It gave rise to what is today one of the most valuable brands in the world. Surprisingly, there has never been any need for a special campaign. The advert has been displayed by millions of volunteers on their badges, T-shirts, handbags, socks, umbrellas or even underwear for free.
The Union Jack is arguably the most popular flag in the world, not only because of its likeable design, but more importantly for what it represents.
The secession of Scotland would not only constitute an unwelcome disturbance to the audience that follows the story of the country they like, but more importantly, it would harm a fragile balance of power in Europe. The UK, as a power that has helped to prevent the rise of any potential hegemony on the Continent at several critical moments of modern history, would be largely neutralised.
If we lose the UK in its current form, the dominance of France and especially Germany in the EU is going to increase beyond a healthy level.
I may never see Czechoslovakia on the map of the world again. However, if the Scottish voters decide to secede, this cannot be the final outcome of the Union’s story. To us, it would only be the start of a quest for a reunion – the only possible happy ending for the inhabitants of the British Isles and of Europe.
Petr Witz, Domazlice, Czech Republic
The Scots will vote yes. And the rest of us will owe them a debt of gratitude. Their vote will send symbolically, in the only effective way our current democratic system permits, these messages to all our politicians:
We want not a change of government, but a change of politics. You lack the competence to run the country, and the vision to lead it. You lied to us and deceived us into an illegal war. You cheated and stole from us. A privileged, privately educated 7 per cent permanently holds up to 73 per cent of positions of power. Our representative democracy entrenches a profoundly unrepresentative power structure. The privileged power elite are not held accountable or punished for their venality, incompetence or mistakes.
We are justly proud of our NHS and the inspirational ideals that underpin it. We want those principles preserved, not undermined by subversive privatisation.
Good luck, Scotland. We respect your courage and admire your confidence.
Keith Farman, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Over 100 years ago one of Scotland’s most principled sons, Keir Hardie, became MP for Merthyr Tydfil, a Welsh constituency at the heart of the South Wales mining community. He was not Welsh and did not speak Welsh but he did share a socialist dream that did not stop or begin at national borders. He went on to change the face of British politics, but he also taught us that there is more that unites us than what can ever divide us.
Soon Scotland will have the choice of remaining within the UK or going it alone. What it decides will have a profound effect on the working-class people of the rest of Britain. Without the red army of Scottish Labour MPs, the chances of any future progressive government being elected at Westminster would be much reduced.
As a proud Brit and Welshman, I urge you to keep sending more Scottish working-class heroes, like Hardie, to our British Parliament. Please don’t leave us now. Together we can achieve more than we can being alone.
Rob Curtis, Labour Councillor, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Barry, South Wales
NHS has a case of chronic myopia
It would be reassuring to think that the sad case of Ashya King and the myopic attitude of the NHS to proton therapy was a rare event, but it illustrates the flawed process through which some treatment programmes are supported and others rejected.
When I developed severe angina almost 10 years ago, I discovered that some doctors in the US routinely reverse the condition, that their patients do not need stents or bypasses and take minimum medication, and that their methods had been published in medical journals.
I followed their treatment plan, reversed my heart disease and resumed a normal life in less than six months. Needless to say, the method is not part of the NHS programme.
My neighbour and her son had both been diagnosed as type-one diabetics and had been injecting themselves with insulin for 15 years. Using methods published in medical literature, but again not currently part of the NHS programme, they were able to give up insulin and bring their blood sugar levels into a normal range through lifestyle changes alone.
Why is it so difficult to get the NHS to open its mind to treatments that can benefit patients and save money but are not part of its current practice?
Why do patients need to look to other countries to find more enlightened solutions to their health problems?
Peter Lewis, Cardiff
Nato’s rapid – and dangerous – reaction
Your cartoonist Ben Jennings is off the mark in lampooning Nato’s rapid reaction force as a tortoise with a couple of rockets attached. Neither militarily nor politically is this correct. Britain is taking the lead, with 1,000 troops and UK officers in charge.
This is combined with another semi-permanent deployment of Nato forces on training exercises in eastern Europe, including another 3,500 from Britain, as well as an open invitation to all countries on Russia’s borders to join Nato. If I were Putin, I’d feel obliged to increase force levels and look for further support to strengthen my borders.
Politically, this has been an extremely rapid reaction, with David Cameron consulting neither Parliament nor the wider public. All this amounts to a dangerous, British-led provocation and escalation, when what is needed is empathy and careful diplomacy.
Quentin Deakin, Tywyn, Gwynedd
The only obstacle to Putin’s dream of recreating a Russian Empire is Nato.
His scheming is all based on provoking some sort of reaction by a Nato country to his military activity, albeit by alleged separatists.
So far, he has got away with invading part of a country whose independence was guaranteed by Russia, shooting down a civilian airliner with more than 200 dead, and all the death and destruction in Ukraine.
Nato will be declared an enemy of Russia after some minor response, whereupon he will claim justification for cutting off gas supplies to western Europe. At which point, he hopes, Germany, France et al will think twice about the merits of belonging to Nato, compared with frozen homes, industries and economies.
Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire
No benefit payout unless you pay in
Yet another think tank favours a radical change in how the NHS and healthcare should be funded. The answer in all such “radical” debates, however, seems to be increasing the tax burden on the working public.
Why doesn’t government address the basic problem – that is, getting more people contributing to the tax system?
People who have never contributed to the system draw on state benefits. Get these people out of the benefits system and into employment, and tax those who will benefit; ie, if you haven’t paid in, then there’s no paying out.
Ron Connelly, Dalgety Bay, Fife
Two comedians and double standards
Alice Jones’s piece on Joan Rivers in the 6 September edition, the same one in which you had an article on the “anti-Semitic French comedian’ Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (“Comedian may face prosecution over sketch about Isis executions”), suggested double standards at work.
For Rivers, everything was “game for a gag”, including dead Palestinians. I struggle to find humour in the statements of either “comedian”. But M’Bala M’Bala is always labelled anti-Semitic. Why, then, is Rivers not denounced for what was by any standards a vile racist rant? Instead, we are told that it was an attempted gag in which she “stumbled badly”.
Is it not time we called a vile racist rant what it is, and denounce whoever makes it for racism?
Keith Jacobsen, New Barnet
Sir, The news that some disillusioned jihadists are seeking ways of returning to Britain offers the government a possible way out of its legal impasse (“Let us come home, say young British jihadists”, Sept 5). Given their reported belief that “if they died fighting other rebels or jihadist groups they might not qualify for martyrdom and its benefits in paradise”, there is clearly a long way to go before these fighters are ready to be reintegrated into society.
Nevertheless the fact that they seem prepared to undergo mandatory deradicalisation programmes and continuing surveillance by the British authorities suggests that it would be worthwhile instituting a rehabilitation programme rather than simply denying British passport-holders the right of return, which would almost certainly be illegal.
Components of the programme would need to include a channel of communication for willing returnees to identify themselves and to make safe and secure arrangements for their return to the UK; formal arrest on arrival in the UK and remand to a dedicated secure detention facility to enable thorough debriefing, rehabilitation and assessment of returnees prior to release (or charge where appropriate); and continuing surveillance after release until the authorities are satisfied that an individual presents no security threat.
The government is right to take a tough line on terrorism and to refuse re-entry if a suspected jihadist would not be rendered stateless, but for British passport-holders who wish to return there must be a way of facilitating this while at the same time ensuring the safety of the public. Michael Patterson Swineshead, Lincs
Sir, The idea that we might seek to reintegrate young British Muslims who become disillusioned with killing in Syria and elsewhere is the utmost folly (“Experts raise fears over strategy to deal with Jihadists back from war”, Sept 6).
Aside from providing a clear route for terrorists back into the UK, it would also send the unambiguous signal that going off to experiment with murderous jihad abroad was a viable gap year option.
Professor of International Relations
Sir, What an opportunity to demonstrate the contrast between the brutal, unforgiving philosophy of the “Islamic State” and the compassionate civilisation of a Christian based society. The proverb of the prodigal son springs immediately to mind.
Moreover, the pragmatic view that there is no stronger instrument of transformation than a mind driven by idealistic fervour that has been changed by the personal experience of a very different reality is one that should not be dismissed by equally entrenched dogma on behalf of our own authorities.
Many of the young men who went out to fight were disillusioned by the British reticence to engage in the early days of the Syrian uprising, and very likely felt disempowered in their personal lives.
A compassionate and intelligent understanding of their motives, as expressed by the German model, would be much more constructive in defeating extremism than a punitive response to their desire to return to what they now seem happy to consider “home”. Putting them in prison is not the answer, but learning how to deal constructively with their undoubtedly traumatising experiences would be educative for us all.
Sir, Rather than the poorly conceived Kansai airport (letter, Sept 5), surely Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport is a more apt comparison with “Boris Island”. This massive project was planned, designed and substantially constructed under British rule using mainly UK-based consultants. The logistical constraints were greater than the proposed new London airport. I worked for a construction company on the new airport, and like all the contractors, our only access to the site was by boat and barge. To reach Chek Lap Kok, new underground and overground rail lines, highways, bridges and tunnels were built (at one time 91 per cent of the world’s dredger vessels were working in Hong Kong waters). The new airport lifted Hong Kong into the top rank of international airports and was a massive boost to Hong Kong’s economy after the handover in 1997. The airport’s infrastructure was also the spur to large new developments served by the new road and rail links. This would be true for “Boris Island” too.
Surely if all this could be achieved by us in Hong Kong, we could do it equally well on our home turf?
Yet why has no one pointed out that the average price of a “pint” in Norway is two to three times that in the UK? Chris Hawkins Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham
Sir, My late Scottish grandfather perhaps held the key to saving the Union. He declared: “You will nay persuade a Scotsman by smothering him in kisses or threatening him with a stick”.
When I, a cheeky wee boy, asked him why then he had married an English woman, he replied: “Laddie, it was the clink of coin”. Roger Macdonald Richmond, Surrey
Sir, Bettany Hughes (report, Sept 5) notes that Ancient Greek women were “kept not only covered, but veiled”. By the time of the Byzantine empire women lived almost entirely separately from men. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 they imitated these Greek practices and forced Muslim women, who had previously been treated with much greater equality and respect, to wear veils and remain hidden in the Zenana or Harem.
Many other inclusive and democratic aspects of the earliest days of Islam, Christianity and Judaism seem to have been forgotten by modern practitioners of those faiths while negative innovations, imposed by later bigots, are mistaken for doctrine.
Aftermath of explosion in Allepo, Syria’s largest city Photo: AP
6:57AM BST 07 Sep 2014
SIR – Frank Tomlin (Letters, August 31) compares the current situation with Syria to the one confronting Winston Churchill in 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union – a world power, with a large population and vast territory, which bore more than its fair share in the eventual defeat of Germany and its allies.
There is no possible comparison between Russia then and Syria now – a small nation with a president who cannot even control his own country.
SIR – David Cameron said the Government will do all it can to save the British hostage being held by Islamic State (telegraph.co.uk, September 2). He then contradicted himself by saying it will not consider a ransom. Can he not at least be honest?
Dr Michael Ford
Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Bored by border talk
SIR – The chaos in Britain’s border controls has been well documented for many years. Ministers, politicians and civil servants always have plenty to say about how to overcome the problems – and yet nothing ever changes.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – Some years ago, when renewing my South African residency permit, I was asked for details of all flights I had made to and from South Africa over the previous decade. When I said I had no such records, a print-out appeared with all details listed: flight numbers, airlines, dates and times.
I am sure South African Home Affairs could recommend a suitable computer programme to the British Home Secretary.
White Roding, Essex
SIR – On the topic of “three-parent babies” one prospective applicant said: “It is a leap into the unknown, but this is progress.” One can sympathise with her wish not to pass on a devastating disability, but does this solution really represent progress?
As Dr David King warns, it would undoubtedly herald “designer babies”, a trend already evident in surrogacy arrangements where “superior” qualities are requested and disabled children are rejected.
The experience of parents who have lost several children to genetic conditions is tragic, but at least to them each child was a child with special needs – not a failed experiment.
Woodford Green, Essex
Who’ll let Red Ed in?
SIR – Contrary to what Matthew d’Ancona believes (Opinion, August 31), David Cameron and other top Tories will be to blame if Ed Miliband ends up in No 10, not those voters who have been driven into the arms of Ukip as a result of the “modernisation” of the Conservative Party.
As for the famous promised in-out EU referendum, I don’t know anyone who believes that this will actually happen.
A noxious problem
SIR – Sue Doughty (Letters, August 31) makes some observations about waste incineration that may be less than helpful.
While burning waste may solve the problem of noxious fumes brought about by landfill, it actually generates noxious chemicals during the burning process. A better solution would be to remove the biodegradable material in waste and anaerobically digest it. This would cleanly collect the noxious fumes, which can be used for the generation of energy.
The ash that remains after burning is contaminated by dioxins, furans and heavy metals, which may make it unsuitable for further use.
Mrs Doughty rightly points out that land is a valuable commodity, but landfill may still be the best way to store waste plastics temporarily to be reused in the future.
I would contend that there is no such thing as “waste disposal” – only waste treatment and storage. Incineration is neither; it is a white elephant that achieves no ultimate good.
John A C Beattie
Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire
SIR – I went to Canada as a war bride in 1946 and in Winnipeg found that some homes were being heated by waste from city incinerators.
This was over 60 years ago and still we have not followed suit.
Walsall, West Midlands
SIR – During the Second World War, marauding seagulls diving to snatch sandwiches (Letters, August 31) were a nuisance to many coastal anti-aircraft and searchlight crews.
The problem was solved by letting them steal sandwiches laced with baking powder.
The seagulls, incapable of burping, soon got the message, and, being intelligent birds, quickly passed it on.
St Helens, Lancashire
Ashya King’s parents were treated unfairly
SIR – Are we now to assume that any parents who choose to remove their child from hospital, even in the absence of any court order, will be arrested?
Ashya King’s parents seem to have acted exactly as any of us would in this situation.
R H Cornish
SIR – The NHS not only denied a specific, potentially life-saving, treatment to Ashya King, it also demanded that his parents abandon their hope of getting the treatment elsewhere. A case of “our way, or no way”.
Making tax taxing
SIR – The abolition of car tax disc is ridiculous. The current system is perfectly straightforward and has lasted nearly 100 years, but is to be replaced by police cars tracking us all over the place causing all sorts of chaos and embarrassment.
SIR – In future, if I sell a car in the middle of the month, I will need to reclaim the remaining value of the tax disc from the DVLA – but it will only refund whole months. Whoever buys my car will have to get a new tax disc – but will have to pay from the beginning of the month.
The Government will profit from two lots of tax paid for the same car on the same month.
East Halton, Lincolnshire
SIR – Having recently lost the key for my 19th-century pocket watch, I went to see about a replacement. I told the watchmaker it was a number six, so he gave me a number four.
A recent Brussels directive has revised the numbering of watch keys: the range of sizes is unchanged, but the numbering is simply inverted. This news will gladden all who have felt the 500-year-old numbering system was not quite right. Perhaps now action will finally be taken to standardise the labelling of wig powder.
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire
No ice or a slice
SIR – Andy Watson (Letters, August 31) wonders why people ask: “Can I get a pint of…?” This is nothing compared to what I heard recently from a youth in our local. He was buying a round of drinks, including a glass of lemonade, and asked the barman: “Can I get no ice in the lemonade?”
Old Glossop, Derbyshire
Eat my dust: under proposed regulations tractors would be able to travel at speeds of up to 25mph Photo: Alamy
6:59AM BST 07 Sep 2014
SIR – Instead of the derisory 5mph increase in the speed limit for tractors, proposed by the Department for Transport, it would be more effective to follow the example of some European countries where slow-moving vehicles are obliged by law to pull over and let other traffic go past when the queue behind them is more than three or four vehicles long.
SIR – Spare some pity for country folk. In our narrow lanes tractors thunder by much faster than the speed limit, driven by young lads with one hand attached to their mobile phones – and they don’t even need a licence.
I am a farmer’s daughter, so I understand they have a business to carry out, but in the age of Health and Safety, surely farmers should have better training to drive these vehicles.
SIR – You describe the frustrations of tracking slow-moving tractors on narrow roads and advise that the Government has found a possible solution by raising the speed limit for tractors.
I happen to be approaching in the opposite direction. Any suggestions?
Norman D Overfield
Bardsey, West Yorkshire
SIR – Never mind increasing the speed limit for tractors – I fail to understand why the ultimate off-road vehicle is allowed on roads at all. They should drive on the other side of the hedge.
Why they are allowed in towns and cities is beyond comprehension.
Independence: on September 18 Scotland will vote on whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom Photo: PA
7:00AM BST 07 Sep 2014
SIR – Derek Leithead asks why an Outer Mongolian who has recently moved to Scotland should be able to vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum while he, born and educated in Glasgow, should not.
Mr Leithead is under the impression that the purpose of the referendum is to ascertain the wishes of the Scots. This is not the case; it has been called for by the SNP who see it as a way of being voted into long-term power.
Expatriate Scots like Mr Leithead have seen the real world and are most unlikely to be hoodwinked by the wild posturings and unsupportable claims of Alex Salmond and his friends. Hence they are unacceptable to the SNP, who are managing the referendum.
SIR – If the United Kingdom had a proper constitutional framework incorporating the various regions of the country in a constructive legal way, the need for the Scottish independence referendum would never have arisen.
The British Government has made no preparations for the possibility of Scotland going it alone, and the Scottish government has no idea what currency to use in this case. The whole thing is farcical.
The referendum saga is a dreadful indictment of the way British politicians have trivialised constitutional matters in recent years. We have a Conservative Party in charge of the country whose Lord Chancellor is not a lawyer; which has got rid of the last two heavyweight QCs in the cabinet (Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve); and which spent its valuable parliamentary time debating gay rights as the single most important issue facing mankind at the time.
It is time the Conservative Party woke up to the importance of constitutional issues and stopped trying to shove them under the Westminster carpets.
SIR – Andrew Gilligan writes about political bias in the Scottish civil service, but he is probably not aware of the democratic deficit in the Highlands.
Last year, independent candidates got the bulk of the vote in the local elections but the paid officers insisted that, because this disparate collection of councillors had no single policy, a fudged coalition should be formed and, guess what – our leader is an SNP clone.
Why bother to go to the expense of an election when you know the outcome?
SIR – Rob Johnston fears that the English regard the Scots as parasites due to the subsidies they receive.
In England, we accept the fact that per capita public spending in Scotland is higher than in the rest of the UK, in return for shared oil and gas revenues, just as we accept the 52 Scottish MPs at Westminster who can vote on issues even when they do not affect their constituents.
University tuition fees have, however, caused deep resentment. Families south of the border are seeing their children saddled with huge debt just to cover their tuition, while Scottish universities offer free tuition to their own and other EU (but not British) students.
Graduates from the rest of the UK are starting careers owing about £50,000 while the Scots have only had to borrow for their living costs. It feels as if our graduates, who must pay off loans for 30 years, are subsidising Scottish and EU students in Scottish universities.
SIR – It is far easier to argue on the “Yes” side, as everything is based on hope and speculation.
This is why we need an alternative vision of the UK’s future from the Unionist camp – one based on real change, not just for Scotland but for England and Wales: to radically decentralise one of the most centrally run nations in Europe to a true federal state.
Sir, – After Cillian Downey’s (September 5th) misunderstanding of what I meant by schools being “run on principles guided by reason”, perhaps some clarification is needed. School governance, built upon a foundation of reason, would be neither guided by – nor prejudiced against – any particular religion.
Such an educational system would be characterised by inclusivity, tolerance and compassion, while promoting critical thinking and calmly rejecting the influence of dogmatism, superstition and bigotry. To claim “the substance of belief is reasonable whether or not we agree with it” is bordering on the ludicrous. Not all beliefs are reasonable. After all, is it reasonable to believe that homosexuality is an abomination, or that someone working on the Sabbath should be put to death? One’s right to hold a belief should always be respected, but it is neither wise – nor possible – to respect the beliefs of all the people in the world. This truism becomes all the more apparent when one considers that many of the world’s religions preach starkly conflicting ideologies, many of which are claimed to be fundamental truths. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As a fan of the great Séamus Ennis, I read the views of Dr Ali Selim with some disquiet (“Call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs”, September 3rd). It would seem that the bodhrán is okay but not the tin whistle. I feel that Mr Ennis would not be happy. – Yours, etc,
Portmarnock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The “educational caste system” envisioned by Jacky Jones is real, but the view of it being dominated by enrolment at particular schools is incorrect (“Educational caste system affects all aspects of life”, Second Opinion, Health + Family, September 2nd). Many studies have shown that the quality of teaching and resources provided to students in schools is highly consistent, regardless of locality or whether the school is free or fee-paying.
The elephant in the room is the very high level of private tutoring and “grinds” classes received by students from well-off families. This factor is largely omitted from official statistics, but is a major factor in improved exam results and third-level entry in particular areas.
Principals of high-performing schools like to pretend that grinds do not exist, and that good results are entirely their doing. Parents don’t like to talk about grinds because that would be akin to admitting their little darlings are not quite as bright as everyone may think. Teaching unions also avoid discussion of grinds – partly because extra teaching outside of normal school hours provides a largely unreported income boost, but also because the high demand for grinds reflects poorly on conventional teaching within schools.
Grinds are expensive, and so are less utilised where money is tight. If we want more equality, a voucher system for disadvantaged families to avail of the same grinds as their better-heeled counterparts would be a big step. – Yours, etc,
Phibsboro, Dublin 7.
Sir, – I write as descendant of people who fought for and lost everything in Austria-Hungary for being on the losing side in the Great War. It is hard today to accept that right across Europe as the lights went out that young and not so young men embraced that conflict, as many did so in Ireland.
The lead-up to the war was toxic, with beating war drums inciting primitive instincts to slaughter one’s fellow man. Teachers spoke of a sense of duty to their students. Religious fervour and the just war were preached from pulpits. The spirit for adventure filled newspapers. Veterans of the Franco-Prussian and Boer wars filled young heads with wild dreams. Naturally all these sentiments were milked by the contesting empires for what they were worth. In the end, nothing.
Trade unionists throughout “civilised” Europe, including our own James Connolly, campaigned against workers becoming cannon and machine-gun fodder in an imperialist, industrialised war but their pleas fell on deaf ears and near empty heads. John Redmond MP surrendered the National Volunteers to take the oath of allegiance to king and empire. They fought, were wounded, traumatised and died accordingly.
Similar fates occurred elsewhere and led to the founding of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia after the war.
It took a madness akin to the courage of today’s jihadists for people to choose to live in rat-infested trenches under constant bombardment, waiting for their commanding officer to blow his whistle, then the junior officers with drawn revolvers (for battle field punishment) to order their men out onto no-man’s land and over barbed wire, shell craters and felled comrades with fixed bayonets to confront distant machine guns. To survive was doubtless a buzz for some, but a soul-destroying horror for most.
When the war was not over by Christmas 1914, Ireland went on to prosper greatly from it by supplying food, drink, horses, hides, cloth, ships, explosives and other materials for the imperial war effort. In fact the Irish were valued more in their fields, farms and factories than at the front. By 1916 there was full employment. When revolutionary idealists took action at Easter they were mocked and derided by most, not least by those at war. Some months later those same soldiers fell to machine-gun fire at the Somme.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings for them. I do not share John Bruton’s opinions. They fought and died for the wrong reasons in the wrong war. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The repugnant barbarism of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the threat it poses to a large part of the world, cannot be overestimated. The terrorists inflicting these grotesque crimes must be brought to justice. However continued military action against the fanatical group is not the solution.
On the contrary, America’s military involvement in a region plagued by injustice and other social ills is likely to serve as a recruiting tool for extremists.
Islamic State is itself an unintended consequence of our war in Iraq. Today, al-Qaeda is not only in Iraq but has also spread to Yemen, Somalia and Syria. It is its more ruthless offshoot. What the people of the Middle East need most are peace, jobs and justice. Military action by the United States and its regional allies would only add to the bloodshed and intensify the problems that breed extremism. – Yours, etc,
Wainsfort Manor Crescent,
Sir, – I have nothing but sympathy for Ray Carey (August 30th), Rachael Stanley (September 3rd) and the doubtless many others who have been advised by priests like myself that they may not have secular music, eulogies or offertory processions, including non-liturgical items, at funerals.
We try to implement what we have been given to believe are liturgical norms which should apply everywhere and in every situation. We need guidance, direction and instruction in this. We need leadership from the bishops of Ireland. I’ll bring this to the AGM of the Association of Catholic Priests at the beginning of next month. I hope that sooner rather than later we will have a definitive set of norms which will apply in all the dioceses of Ireland so that no one will ever again feel aggrieved at what they, rightly, see as unfair treatment.
I would add that such norms should not be difficult to put together. Any priest working in pastoral situations every day of the week could draw them up in his sleep! – Yours, etc,
Fr PAT O’HAGAN,
Moville, Co Donegal.
Sir, – A total of 79 Guantánamo prisoners, considered low-level risks, have been awaiting release for several years, but the US Congress refuses to allow them be released in the US, and the US has been unable to persuade other countries to take them. In addition 70 higher risk prisoners should be transferred to prisons in the US, where they would be subject to US constitutional laws, including habeas corpus proceedings, but this is also blocked by Congress.
Some prisoners have been in Guantánamo for over 12 years without trial. Two Uighur prisoners from Guantánamo were resettled in Ireland in 2009.
As a humanitarian gesture Ireland should offer to resettle more prisoners from Guantánamo, particularly given that the Irish Government facilitated the transfer of prisoners to Guantánamo by allowing CIA and US military aircraft that were engaged in the so-called extraordinary rendition programme to be refuelled at Shannon airport.
Some prisoners on hunger strike are being forced fed, and at least nine prisoners have died in Guantánamo, including six by suspected suicide.– Yours, etc,
Sir, – I would like to respectfully correct a couple of misconceptions in Eugene Tannam’s letter (September 2nd).
First, describing the Barrow towpath as it stands today as having “survived . . . without interference” is not quite accurate. The Barrow Navigation was originally a commercial waterway, and the towpath was what we might today term a “service road”, built to allow the towing horses to pull cargo barges along the river and navigation canals.
Today’s much narrowed and overgrown route is merely the result of the falling into disuse of the navigation; the roadway would in fact originally have been “tamed and flattened”, as your correspondent describes the current move to restore a strip of it.
Second, the notion that a greenway would attract vandals seeking to dump unwanted white goods is unfounded, as anyone in Mayo can verify. Whatever its limitations as a tourism destination because of its short length, the Great Western Greenway has never suffered from dumping.
It has, however, transformed towns like Newport from near dereliction to thriving places that not only attract tourists but that are now great places to live.
As an Irishman living in mainland Europe, I would love to see a greenway connecting Dublin with St Mullins; it would allow me to take my family to Ireland on cycling holidays. Currently, Ireland is the only country in Europe lacking such trails, and like thousands of other would-be tourists, we have to go elsewhere.
Build it, and we will come. – Yours, etc,
Avenue des Rogations,
Sir, – The pantheon of glory surrounding the achievement of the 1998 peace agreement is becoming very crowded. Shortly, among the notable dignitaries we are bound to spot Darby O’Gill or Daithí Lacha in the tumultuous gathering, but there is a distinct and noticeable absence. The real achievers of the 1998 agreement are dead, the innocent victims who did not espouse political violence as a virtue, victims of northern intransigence, southern indifference and British duplicity. They had to pay the ultimate sacrifice, without request, and are not around to write biographies or play with their grandchildren.
Peace is a right; shame on those who have to use others to “achieve” it. – Yours, etc,
Firhouse, Dublin 24.
Sir, – Like many others, I have a great liking for a biscuit with a cup of tea. In latter years, I find myself to be a victim of anonymous shelf-stackers.
Time and time again there are broken biscuits at either end of the packages. Apart from my abandoning biscuits entirely, is there any other solution to this frantic style of shelf-stacking? – Yours, etc,
PADRAIG J O’CONNOR,
Lower Dodder Road,
Sir, – Will the roundabout outside the Dublin venue formerly known as the O2 be renamed the “Three Point Turn”? – Yours, etc,
It’s terrible to be old and apparently still as stupid as ever.
There was I, fully convinced that if Light-fingered Fred and Slippery Sam printed a few million in some back-street basement it would constitute criminal counterfeiting.
I understood this was because such nefarious activities might possibly cause people to distrust the purchasing power of the cash in their pockets or accounts and possibly even destabilise the whole trust-based monetary system.
Now I see that the money maestros are going to conjure up €40bn out of thin air – with basically nothing solid to back it up but a wavering, unproven hope that it might boost flagging European economies!
But, apparently, if you do this and call it quantitative easing, it is somehow magically trans-muted into legitimate financial practice.
But now, a vague, persistent memory seems to be struggling to resurrect itself – the ominous memory of the recent sub-prime mortgage madness.
I also cannot forget its eventual – and continuing – Armageddon-like financial consequences for countless millions of hapless, innocent victims.
Gorey, Co Wexford
Quotas are for fish, not women
The debate rumbles on about gender equality in Irish politics. Quotas are constantly referred to as a method of achieving this. Surely if there is a genuine desire to have gender equality, then the only and best way to achieve this is to have an equal number of seats designated for male and female representatives in all political bodies, including the Dail?
Voters would simply vote for their male representatives on one ballot paper and vote for their female representatives on a separate ballot paper.
Quotas are for farming and fishing, not for women. If Irish society genuinely wants equality in political representation, then perhaps this suggestion deserves some serious debate?
Dalkey, Co Dublin
Keep prayers in state schools
Paul Doran asks why prayers are still said in state schools, and in the process makes a claim for a secular society (Letters, Irish Independent, September 3). The simple reason is that Ireland is a sovereign republic. This merely means that the citizens elect their representatives to government.
There is absolutely no reason for the government of a republic to discriminate in favour of, or promote, secular dogma. Indeed, in view of the fact that the most recent state census revealed 92pc of the population identifying as Christian, it is quite appropriate that Christian prayer should be incorporated in the school system.
Navan, Co Meath
Lack of student digs
Securing a place in the college of your dreams can be difficult enough as it is without the extra pressure of asking ‘will I receive student accommodation’?
Today’s young adults are faced with this dreadful situation as the new term begins again. Many students attending Dublin colleges this year are being forced to commute every day in order to attend lectures, or, even worse, lose out on a place in the college of their choice.
This crisis is clearly hindering further education for students. Dublin city council are said to be in talks about a “30-year plan” while Lord Mayor Christy Burke says actions are better than words. So will they devise a plan? Who knows?
In addition to the evident lack of accommodation, students are panicking as prices sky-rocket. Daft.ie economist Ronan Lyons says, “Rents in Dublin are now 7.5pc higher than a year previously.”
This dramatic price increase in Dublin has parents, and students starting their first year, in utter shock and disbelief. As a secondary school student, I worry that this lack of student accommodation may affect my third-level education. I urge the Government to do something about this immediately.
Address with Editor
Fighting Ebola scourge offline
Ebola is a horrible and nightmarish disease, which is bound to wreak more social and economic mayhem, if it remains uncontrolled.
Most people lack the knowledge and skills to recognise early symptoms, detect the virus, monitor its evolution and make a robust diagnosis differentiating it from similar ailments such as typhoid fever, malaria, Marburg disease and Lassa fever, among others.
The world is short of 7.2 million healthcare workers. The fragility of health systems in affected countries, which are just emerging from the traumas of civil unrest, makes an already difficult situation more complex still.
Also, only 31pc have internet access in developing countries.
The WHO should exploit this awful opportunity to assume its role at the vanguard of combating this global menace by promoting offline e-learning. This could be the magic bullet to disseminate knowledge in remote and resource-limited settings where there is shortage of staff, equipment and internet connectivity.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2, UK
Threat of fundamentalism
History tells us that the church hierarchy, with the best of intentions of course, ignored and disobeyed, Christ’s solemn and repeated warnings never to use human power.
Very early on, the Vatican succumbed to the same old temptation, the male lust for power, to the point where those in control there were claiming spiritual and secular power over the whole world, and the whole human race.
The theologians kept pace, building up a framework to justify the Vatican’s claims of spiritual and secular control – a global theocracy based on the Bible. The male clergy were brain-washed, starting young. It was dangerous to disagree. Terrible things were done in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Is it not ironic that Islam’s theologians today are following exactly the same pattern, based on the Koran? Their male clergy are brain-washed, starting young. Terrible things are being done in the name of Allah. These latests atrocities are not just sporadic; this is a mass movement, determined to establish global spiritual and secular control.
The Islamic fundamentalist teachers are behind it. The West does not yet understand the scope of this movement.
Address with Editor
Exciting times for Scotland
Although English, I sincerely hope the Scottish people seize the historic opportunity next week and vote for independence.
Encouragingly, polls are beginning to point to victory for Alex Salmond‘s SNP. In an independent Scotland, a second plebiscite should be held to abolish the monarchy and offer a democratically elected Scottish head of state, too.
I envy the Rebublic of Ireland, which has senate with elected members instead of an appointed and hereditary House of Lords, and an elected president instead of a monarch. Indeed, should Scotland become independent, reunification of Ireland, more devolution for Wales and a hard look at England’s ridiculous House of Lords and House of Windsor are in the offing. We live in exciting times.
London SW3, UK