Chemist

27 September 2014 Chemist

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Off to the chemist and finally get the medicine for Mary.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down chicken Kiev for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.

Obituary:

Christopher Hogwood – obituary

Christopher Hogwood was a conductor and scholar whose extensive research led to a resurgence in interest in early music

Christopher Hogwood, conductor

Christopher Hogwood Photo: THIERRY MARTINOT

6:22PM BST 25 Sep 2014

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Christopher Hogwood, the conductor, who has died aged 73, was the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music, one of the first and best-known period instrument orchestras. His aim, he said, was to perform baroque and classical music in the style and spirit in which it was originally heard in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Based on Hogwood’s extensive scholarship, Bach was now played on violins with gut strings rather than steel; Beethoven was heard without vibrato; and Mozart piano concertos were brought to life on fortepianos. Meanwhile, valveless horns and baroque violins brought a lighter, crisper sound to the concert hall than audiences were used to.

The Academy was first heard in 1973; before long a collection of decidedly de-romanticised Mozart symphonies established the group firmly on the musical map. Hogwood’s timing could not have been better. The major labels had long-since recorded most of the classical repertoire, often several times over; now they competed to reproduce the most authentic sounding music. In 1985, Hogwood’s LP of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons rubbed shoulders in the pop charts with Prince’s Purple Rain; the latter was named best film soundtrack at the Brit awards, while Hogwood’s disc was best classical recording.

For Hogwood the early music recording bonanza brought not only an escape from what he dubbed the “brown rice and open-toed sandals” image that had hitherto accompanied the drive for authenticity in music, but also fame and substantial royalty cheques, which he ploughed into a remarkable collection of historical instruments that included clavichords, spinets and virginals.

He was by no means the only musician to march into the utopian paradise of the early music landscape. While John Eliot Gardiner and Nikolaus Harnoncourt were promoting their brands of authenticity, and Roger Norrington was presenting his Experience weekends dedicated to a single work, Hogwood became a name more widely known to the public at large thanks to a parallel broadcasting career that included 12 years presenting The Young Idea on Radio 3.

In addition to campaigning for performances on original instruments, which he once compared to the Campaign for Real Ale, Hogwood also succeeded in drawing pure, original sounds out of modern instruments. “He didn’t have the greatest conducting technique,” Ernest Fleischmann, who invited him to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1981, told People magazine in 1986, “but he’s the most stimulating force in years.” Meanwhile, Lincoln Center in New York declared that there was “never an unsold seat for a Hogwood programme”.

Christopher Hogwood playing an early harp (GODFREY MACDOMNIC)

For Hogwood, who was once described by his own publicist as “the von Karajan of early music”, life was as much about scholarship as it was about performance. He published books on Bach and Handel, prepared monographs and edited urtext editions, and made a speciality of tracking down handwritten scores in an attempt to establish what the composer’s original intentions had been before editors, publishers and performing tradition had intervened.

Unsurprisingly, there were critics. While Bernard Levin, in the course of fulminating against period instruments, once suggested tongue in cheek that Hogwood “should be chopped up small and his bones boiled for consommé”, the most barbed attacks came from fellow travellers in the early music world, with the harpsichordist Nicholas McGegan reportedly declaring that the tall, gangling, blue-eyed, blond-haired Hogwood was “really called Hogweed, after the plant: tall, uncontrollable and dangerous to brush against”. Hogwood himself was similarly no stranger to the art of the direct comment, on one occasion denouncing the fashion for audience participation in Handel’s Messiah. “The whole purpose of having a chorus in Messiah is that it represents the public,” he complained. “You might as well have a dance-along Nutcracker.”

Christopher Jarvis Haley Hogwood was born in Nottingham on September 10 1941, the eldest of five children. His father was a scientist and his mother a legal secretary. He was educated at Nottingham High School and The Skinners’ School, Tunbridge Wells, taking piano lessons but not pursuing music seriously.

He read Classics and Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge, taking lessons from Thurston Dart, Raymond Leppard and Mary Potts and spending one summer touring the country in a former laundry van to demonstrate a collection of medieval instruments. He then spent a year in Prague on a British Council scholarship studying the harpsichord with Zuzana Ruzickova.

Back home, Hogwood and a group of friends helped David Munrow to set up the Early Music Consort of London, a group that performed renaissance and medieval music, recorded the themes for the BBC series Elizabeth R and The Six Wives of Henry VIII and continued until Munrow’s death in 1976 at the age of 33. In the meantime he also pursued keyboard studies with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam.

For some years Hogwood played continuo for Neville Marriner’s Academy of St Martin in the Fields, an orchestra that sought to demonstrate that a serious classical symphony could be played by an ensemble of 25 instead of 75. But in 1973 he went his own way, setting up the Academy of Ancient Music, which takes its name from a group which met at the Crown and Anchor tavern in the Strand and existed from 1726 to 1792.

The new ensemble was heavily championed by Peter Wadland, a producer from L’Oiseau Lyre label, who ensured that it had a steady stream of recording work. Soon the Academy was appearing at the South Bank and, in 1978, made the first of eight appearances at the Proms over the next two decades.

By 1980 — after overcoming objections from the Musicians’ Union to Hogwood’s hiring overseas musicians — the Academy was firmly riding the bandwagon of what Andrew Porter later dubbed “historically informed performances”. There were themed titles under the Folio Society banner, carefully aimed at middle England, such as Venice Preserv’d (music by Monteverdi, Gabrieli and Vivaldi); Music at Court (Byrd, Dowland and Bach); and Music from the Armada Years, which included works by both Spanish and English composers from the reigns of Philip II and Elizabeth I respectively.

Hogwood was never shy of giving an authentic spin to well-known works. Joan Sutherland was the unlikely soloist in Handel’s Athalia, while Emma Kirkby joined a pared-down rendition of Messiah that would have been barely recognisable to the nation’s large-scale choral societies. A generation later Cecilia Bartoli stepped up to the microphone in Handel’s Rinaldo, while Beethoven’s five piano concertos were recorded with Steven Lubin using instruments that the composer might have recognised but a modern-day concertgoer was unlikely previously to have seen or heard.

Overseas, Hogwood took his interpretations to the New World, adding the artistic directorship of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, Massachusetts, to his portfolio in 1986, while his appointment as principal guest conductor of the Basle Chamber Orchestra in 2000 meant discovering the neoclassical and neo-baroque compositions of the 20th century, many of which had been commissioned by Paul Sacher, the Swiss music patron. Suddenly, sitting among recordings of Purcell, Haydn and Schubert, there were discs of jazz ballets by Martinu, concertos by Stravinsky and suites by Bizet. So mainstream had the early movement become that even the Royal Opera House opened its pit to him — including, in 2001, a sold-out run of Haydn’s L’Anima del filosofo starring Bartoli. Yet Hogwood could turn on a sixpence when the occasion demanded. A record company did not want Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony pared back to a small orchestra? He would deftly double the forces (in the style of a von Karajan orchestra) and declare it to be a historically accurate re-creation of a “festival” orchestra. “The results are splendid,” he announced.

In 2006 Hogwood handed over the baton of the Academy of Ancient Music to Richard Egarr ; four years later he was appointed professor of music at Gresham College, a post that dates back to the time of Elizabeth I, delivering six public lectures on “aspects of authenticity” in his first year alone.

Hogwood, who was once described as “only half-heartedly living in the modern world”, lived in a rented 1840s house in Cambridge surrounded by books, watercolours and instruments. To mark his 70th birthday in 2011 a group of friends and colleagues published The Maestro’s Direction: essays in honour of Christopher Hogwood. He was appointed CBE in 1989.

Hogwood, who described his faith as being somewhere between Anglican and Catholic, had a 15th-century house in Tuscany and a 14th-century chateau at Aveyron, in the south of France, where he kept two donkeys: Paco and Rabanne. Sy Montgomery, the American naturalist and author, named her pet pig after him, penning a memoir, The Good, Good Pig (2006), that achieved brief notoriety. When the porcine Hogwood died, the musical Hogwood placed a link to its obituary on his website.

Hogwood was separated from his civil partner, the film director Anthony Fabian, and is survived by three sisters and a brother.

Christopher Hogwood, born September 10 1941, died September 24 2014

Guardian:

No. no, Jonathan Myerson is wrong again (Letters, 25 September). Dogs obviously vote on orders from their owners, but felines are independent to a cat. The reason the Queen purred down the line to the PM was to remind him she also is independent of all parties, including the nasty one led by David Cameron.
Sean Day-Lewis
Colyton, Devon

• I have long advocated the renaming of the Bank of England (Letters, 26 September) but would prefer the designation Bank of Britain, permitting us to call it BoB for short.
Jeremy Peat
Roslin Glen, Midlothian

• For a’ that and a’ that, / Thank Stevie Bell for a’ that (If, G2, all this week).
George Phillips
Crail, Fife

David Cameron David Cameron speaks during the debate to decide on approval for air strikes in Iraq. Photograph: Parliamentary Recording Unit via Associated Press Photograph: Uncredited/AP

As I hear the sabres rattling, I continue to think it utter madness for the UK to meddle again in the Middle East (Britain’s involvement in the new Iraq war is a doomed and dangerous gesture, 26 Septermber). War mongering does not win votes in the long term. As in Iraq, where it was always against the wishes of the majority of our country, this would be a complete disaster. Sadly and ironically, we would not be in this situation if Saddam was still in power – the lesser of two evils? Do they not realise that ISIS are encouraging us to respond to the beheadings in order to escalate further?

Rightly or wrongly, many Americans come across as trigger-happy, maybe to preserve their new oil interest in Iraq. This increases hatred for the US. As we have recently seen in Gaza, indiscriminate bombing does not solve underlying problems.

The key has always been, and must remain with, the local Muslim countries which are all desperately worried about the Isis regime and what its barbaric philosophy could mean to them as it spreads into their countries. Why not scale up reporting on this and encourage them? If the US wants to help sensibly it should use its massive influence and negotiating skills to encourage these countries to work together in a more high-profile way. It must also find a way of including Iran, which is a key player in this. It should support these countries, not lead them.

We desperately need some statesmanship – doing what is right for the future and not what seems popular right now – which has been conspicuously lacking over recent decades. I am not alone in thinking that the mould needs to be broken on Middle East thinking. Let it be us that do it while we still have credibility and respect. We have a massive multicultural heritage to draw on.
David Reynolds
London

• So Cameron has his Falklands moment at last. With only months to the election, and with no domestic policy to speak of, apart from shrinking the state back to 1948 levels and matching Ukip on immigration, he is forced to resort to war. Yet again, as Simon Jenkins says, Britain will demonstrate “our incompetence in trying to recast” the politics of the Middle East. Is Miliband so frightened of the rightwing media he cannot offer the obvious anti-war argument? Hasn’t history given us enough examples of the disastrous effects of US and UK interference? Anyway, since when has the indiscriminate blowing up of bodies been less medieval and barbaric than beheading?
Bernie Evans
Liverpool

• Why do we feel the need to get involved and still have the capacity to interfere in a war some 2,000 miles from home? This capacity not only includes a substantial airforce, but also sovereign bases on a sizeable chunk of Cyprus. This is not our fight. Yes, three UK citizens have been kidnapped, with one executed. We should look at all reasonable options for their release, but it must be acknowledged that they all chose to go to such a volatile area.

We are one of the richest nations on earth and still a leading advocate for liberal democracy and basic human rights. However, back home, there is still glaring underinvestment in our NHS, welfare and housing. The argument that we cannot afford to spend more on these is so glaringly exposed by the simple riposte of our military prowess to interfere on other continents.
Dave Packham
London

• No talk of the deficit when money is endlessly available for killing in wars. It was ever thus.
Keith Richards
London

• Only a short week after a vote on Scottish independence during which one of the points made by the yes campaign was that we didn’t feel the need to be constantly bolstering England’s self-aggrandisement of foreign adventures, here we are again, off to war. Did I dream the whole thing?
Allan McRobert
Kirkcaldy

• Prime ministers have regularly used war abroad to distract from constitutional matters or problems at home, as history shows. But that couldn’t happen today, could it?
Elizabeth Webster
Carnoustie, Angus

• A quick rummage through my memory suggests that Jim Callaghan was the last British prime minister not have started a war. Several successors had more than one each. I doubt that Bullingdon Boy David will fare any better than the others.
David Hardy
London

• The effect of of attempting to destroy Isis by annihilating its adherents is likely to be the same as that of the opponents of the early Christian church throwing believers to the lions. Every martyr generates double the number of new believers. When will we ever learn?
Mike Garnier
Bristol

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme team: too complacent? Photograph: Manuel Vazquez for the Guardian The BBC Radio 4 Today programme team: too complacent? Photograph: Manuel Vazquez for the Guardian

The reason many of us oldies have stopped listening to the Today programme has nothing to do with its coverage of foreign news (Radio 4 foreign news often too distressing says Today editor, 26 September). Jamie Angus should know that his programme has become boring. Its presenters exude complacency in their voices. It’s a case of “take it or leave it because we know best” as if other broadcasters are somehow smaller fry, amateurish and less well informed since they don’t “set the day’s news agenda” as Today still claims to do. Today says its weekly reach is 6.7 million listeners. I am no longer one of them but not because of “difficult and distressing” foreign news. I prefer my alma mater, the World Service, and al-Jazeera, with foreign news warts and all.
Jack Thompson
Former BBC foreign correspondent, London

• It is time to change not the BBC licence fee but what we call it. Much of our media is owned by people who are not UK citizens, and who in the final result can decide what news is. The majority of the people in this country get their view of the world from the BBC. It has to be paid for. A freedom of information tax sounds better, and is I think a truer description.
Charles Cronin
London

• I would be less likely to turn off if the presenters’ questions and comments were shorter, allowing the visitor to make fuller replies.
Elizabeth Dunnett
Malvern, Worcestershire

• After covering its share of Middle East conflicts and “who rules Britain” disputes in the 1970s, Today’s sister programme The World at One was always know among the wags in the newsroom as The World is Glum.
Peter Mayne
BBC journalist 1973-2004, London

A woman wearing a niqab veil. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images A woman wearing a niqab veil. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Gaby Hinsliff would have us believe that she is tolerant of cultural fashion choices (Stop this bullying over what we can and cannot wear, 26 September). However, she wilfully ignores what it means to cover schoolgirls’ faces: the face-veil is no more just “a scrap of fabric” than a gag is, it is an iconic manifestation of an ideology which holds that women’s faces are analogous to their genitals as a source of shame which must be hidden from all men other than their husbands.

If it is a fashion choice, it is that of Isis, the Taliban, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, who – along with our Saudi allies – brutally enforce this particular deletion of women from public life. Tolerating misogyny is one thing, but it is depressing that a certain patronising mindset seems to cover its own liberal face so it cannot see and challenge it.
Natalie Seeve
Liverpool

• Gaby Hinsliff deserves praise for picking up on human interaction methods as they apply to disabled people, but in discussing the niqab she picked the wrong disability. David Blunkett’s blindness would not disbar him from communicating with a niqab wearer, but Jack Straw’s deafness does.

When a constituent covered her mouth, he could not lip-read what she said and therefore he was unable to do his duty to her as an MP. Hinsliff reports on a petition which claims that what you wear “does not affect anyone else”. All full-face coverings deny deafened people the chance to engage with the wearer, so the school should be treating the matter as one of equality and discrimination, not against women’s empowerment, but as an offence against all hearing-impaired people. Deaf people’s numbers, incidentally, are likely to increase as people live longer.
John Starbuck
Huddersfield

Sir Donald Sinden dies aged 90

Sir Donald Sinden was frustrated at what he saw as the limitation of the written word. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/EPA

Terry Philpot writes: When I once saw Donald Sinden in farce, some stragglers took their seats in the front row after the play had begun. Without batting an eyelid, Sinden broke off in mid-sentence, walked to the edge of the stage, looked down at the last of the group, said, “Thank you so much for coming this evening, madam, but as you are a little late, let me tell you what’s happened so far …”, proceeded to do just that and then turned back to continue the play.

Ion Trewin writes: As Donald Sinden’s editor for what became his bestselling autobiography, A Touch of the Memoirs, I recall his frustration at what he saw as the limitation of the written word. “When I tell it,” he would say, “I have voice and gestures. It’s not the same when all I’ve got is the printed page.” On one occasion he walked around his Hampstead Garden Suburb garden telling me to write down different versions of the same story to see if he had found the answer. Finally we thought we had a breakthrough. However, when he tried it on his wife, Diana, it failed to raise even a smile. Next day he telephoned me. “Stayed up half the night. Diana read it at breakfast and couldn’t stop laughing.”

Independent:

Here we go again: have our leaders learnt nothing from the past and in particular the recent past and the Bush/Blair debacle?

All the evidence to date indicates that bombing and any other military involvement will just make things worse in the long term and strengthen the appeal of those so-called jihadists in Iraq and Syria and in the other parts of the world where they are carrying out their murderous activities.

 There will be an enormous number of casualties, most of whom are likely be innocent victims, women, children and the elderly, but then we are told that’s just “collateral damage” as if the victims are less human than the rest of mankind.

Surely negotiations for a peaceful solution via the UN should be our main strategy, including putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and others to stop funding and arming the jihadists. In addition, surely the time has come to seek positive reconciliations between the different Islamic groups and the countries of the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine.

Mr Cameron, ignore the warmongers and right-wing extremists, particularly in your party, and get together with our European partners to press for, and fully support, the UN in pursuing a peaceful, negotiated solution.

Bill Askew
Broxbourne 

The problem is, we need to confront the evil of Isis for our own security but it is agreed that bombing alone will not succeed. We are in this situation largely because of the beheadings but the Foreign Office had warned people not to go to Syria and now, as a consequence of the warning being ignored, we are back into a military campaign.

We should not be involved in this. Instead, we should concentrate our efforts on internal security and work towards the Sunni states themselves carrying out the military action.

John Gordon
Twickenham

I’m with Mary Dejevsky (26 September) and ‘‘I simply don’t buy this’’ need to go to war again in Iraq (and possibly Syria) due to ‘‘a clear and present danger to the UK’’. By bombing foreign countries we are creating more enemies and increasing their desire to bomb trains and planes in the UK. Angry actions only ever lead to angry reactions. Would it be possible for the US and UK to redirect our military resources to more positive ends such as refugee welfare and ‘‘carpet-bombing’’ poorer countries with schools and health centres? I’d buy that.

Luke Mone
Leeds

If the UK Government takes part in bombing raids there can be no doubt that we will be less safe here in the UK. There can be no doubt that such action will recruit for the Islamic militants. There can be no doubt that this is a misguided policy.

The choice is to talk, to cut off the supply of weapons, to offer humanitarian aid and make the Middle East a place fit to live in for all.  Why does it seem acceptable to use this area as a weapons’ testing zone and the people thereof as disposable? If we put half the resources that we devote to military action into peaceful alternatives the outcomes would be superior. Some in the UK complain of asylum seekers yet military action will ensure that their numbers will increase.

Peace is not a weak choice, it is a sensible sustainable policy – one the West has  yet to discover and implement.

Lee Dalton
Weymouth

The answer to the problems in the Middle East and Africa is to tear down the boundaries drawn by ignorant colonials who knew nothing about the tribes or their religions. Let the different groups form their own independent countries with their own leaders. Send in negotiators and money to help them. We have tried war, now give peaceful methods a chance.

Judy Basto
Surrey

We need more women to study sciences

It is a real concern that the uptake of physics at A-Level is still so skewed in co-educational state schools.  There is, though, a bit of a myth that girls will only pursue sciences at A-Level if they are in an all-girl environment. Female pupil numbers are doing well in co-educational independent schools. It does help if the pupils can see a genuine gender balance in the teaching staff.

However much we may like to deny it, pupils choose subjects at least in part on their estimation of the adults they see in front of them. It’s a circular problem: we need to encourage more girls to take hard science degrees, so that there are more women in the science labs of all our schools.

Leo Winkley
Headmaster
St Peter’s School, York

Who owns the north sea anyway?

Nigel Morris reports that the MP Andrew Tyrie advocates that all North Sea oil and gas revenues should be paid to Scotland  (26 September). We have heard a lot about this subject recently, but is all North Sea oil and gas Scotland’s by right? Do we have separate territorial waters?

Colin Attwood
Lingfield, Surrey

 

Time to challenge Farage’s false claims

 I have just heard Nigel Farage on the BBC’s Today programme repeat yet again his false claim that 75 per cent of our laws are made by the EU. Why does this claim so often go unchallenged? No doubt he will be trotting it out again at Ukip’s party conference.

As a definitive study by the House of Commons Library established a while ago, the true figure lies between about 7 and 50 per cent, depending upon how loosely you define a law.

 Farage’s 75 per cent figure is so exagerated as to constitute a lie. It is very disappointing that no one either in print in the media or on the BBC seems to be well-informed enough to challenge it.

 The BBC has a particular responsibility here since Farage’s rise to fame owes a great deal to his disproportionate number of appearances on Question Time over a number of years, presumably due – at least at first – to his ‘‘entertainment value’’.

Francis Kirkham
Crediton, Devon

 

Nero and Farage have much in common

Just as the Scots turned their back on Alex Salmond’s independence in favour of a united kingdom, so I hope UK voters will not be seduced by the siren voice of Nigel Farage and others advocating isolation from the EU. His isolationist view recalls the headline, “Fog in the Channel. Europe cut off”. Only in collaboration with our European partners can we hope to resource, let alone feed our growing population. Our imperial past has ill-prepared us for our current pygmy status on the world stage, witness our minimal gesture in deploying forces over Iraq.

It is time for a little humility as we contemplate the ambitions of China, India and the Middle East, all of which dwarf our own self-regarding political mindset. In these uncertain times we need all the friends we can get. Ukip’s promise to cut overseas aid by some 80 per cent is exactly what we should not be contemplating at this or any other stage. Nero and Farage have too much in common for comfort.

Christopher Martin
Bristol

Equality starts with education

As a student at my newly formed ‘‘Academy’’ I am very concerned about the standard of education being offered, particularly in the sixth form. How is it acceptable that many subject areas are continuing to fail their students annually?

This is especially true in areas such as languages and the sciences at my school. As well as this decline in grades, the diabolical lack of extra-curricular opportunities in most state sixth forms is shameful: only the debating society exists outside of my subject choices, which is usually disbanded by October due to lack of student engagement.

The overall lack of vision from most state sixth forms is also detrimental to student aspirations. There is simply no current process in place to help students reach their best university choices; no Oxford or Cambridge society, or any apprenticeships explained to their full potential.

Instead, students are left to drift aimlessly and are expected to do almost all the legwork to enter their university. This is particularly detrimental to students with unstable home lives, who have little support. I cannot personally conceive of the difficulty of doing my personal statement if I had not had the help of my family.

This is even more distressing when I look at the opportunities offered by private or grammar schools. I am deeply aware of the inequality in the educational sector, and this resonates to the core of inequality in the whole of society: equality of opportunity simply does not exist. If change does not occur at state schools then the injustices of modern society will continue, with an elite, who went to the best private schools and Oxbridge, continuing to dominate the most powerful positions in society. That’s why true equality starts with education, Ed Miliband.

Jack Harmsworth
Cheshire

Times:

Sir, I was pleased to read that Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, is to concentrate on behaviour in schools (report, Sept 22). In 1996 I took early retirement from a secondary school in England and taught abroad for six years. In 2002 I returned and took teaching posts but, after becoming used to keen and polite students abroad, I found myself unable to deal with the bad behaviour. I started work at three schools but walked out of each after a week because of the stress of trying to deal with unruliness.

One or two badly behaved children in a classroom can prevent other children learning anything; it is a national disgrace and is due solely to the gutlessness of headteachers, unwilling to deal consistently with the problem. It is probably the reason so many teachers leave the job.

I have been offered other teaching jobs. However, when I have asked whether the school has a system to support teachers faced with bad behaviour, my question has been regarded as presumptious: who was I to question their methods? As I enjoy financial independence I have been able to turn down these posts.

Until this easy-to-solve problem is dealt with efficiently and firmly there is little point in any other educational initiatives.
Chris Price
Minehead, Somerset

Sir, How many people heaved a sigh of frustrated recognition on hearing that low-key bad behaviour in class interferes with pupils’ ability to learn? In my 30 years of teaching, that observation could have been made in any class, in any school, where I worked.

The trouble is that teachers are at least moderately intelligent and moderately well educated. Each tends to believe that their opinion, method or attitude is right. Creating a team out of a group of teachers is a skill that I never saw achieved in any of the four schools I inhabited.

Teaching is also a fairly solitary occupation. If, to feel successful, the teacher needs the good opinion of the pupils, there is a strong temptation to suggest “I’m a good guy, I’m a nice person. You don’t need to follow that silly rule in my classroom.” As soon as consistency breaks down, the battle is lost. If chatting, texting, chewing is allowed in one lesson, why not in
the next?
Elaine Whitesides
Market Harborough, Leics

Sir, As a son, husband and father of school teachers I have had 50 years of feedback on classroom behaviour. I have no doubt that Ofsted’s report, Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms is correct in its assessment of the impact of this disruption on the education of children. Sir Michael Wilshaw may well be right that head teachers “should get out of the office”, but a bigger issue is parents. Unless a school and individual teachers have their commitment and support, pupils know that they can behave with impunity. No wonder low-level disruption is so prevalent.
Simon Tizard
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Sir, Sir Michael Wilshaw has advocated an increasingly assertive stance towards low-level persistent disruptive behaviour, which will undoubtedly lead to a rise in the rate of children being excluded from school. This organisation is committed to improving the future of children with ADHD. We know that 11 per cent of excluded children have ADHD, which is a treatable condition. We would like to see all children screened for this and other underlying mental health conditions after being given a second fixed-term exclusion. This intervention might be more effective in achieving Sir Michael Wilshaw’s aims than asking head teachers to get “out of the office and into the corridors”. Furthermore, it would also benefit “disruptive children” and those who learn alongside them.
Dr Susan Young
President, UK ADHD Partnership, London W6

Sir, Together with Olivier Branford, I wrote the research into the perfect breast, to which Carol Midgley refers (Times2, Sept 24). I was disappointed that, like lesser publications, she gives the impression the study suggests that Kelly Brook has the perfect breasts, when in fact we make no mention of Kelly Brook or any other “celebrity”.

There are many reasons why a woman chooses to have breast surgery — rarely trivial. As a surgeon, I do not judge, but it is my duty to guide and to deliver the best possible care.

Is Ms Midgley suggesting that strategies to try to remedy, rebuild or reconstruct are wrong? Feminism is surely about having the right to have control over your own body. I question why there is so much stigma attached to those who do choose surgery.

Sorry, Ms Midgley, I’m not a urologist, the “trajectory of the perfect male bulge” is for someone else to define.
Patrick Mallucci

London SW1

Sir, It seems the qualifications for being a Ryder Cup player’s wife are much less stringent than for being an actual player. It seems all one needs is to be a blonde.
Ken Broad
Church Aston, Shropshire

Sir, The death of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire this week led me to reflect on The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford, in which Linda’s telephone number is FLAxman 2815.

Who remembers now the evocative names of the old exchanges? RODney, TIDeway, ARNold — all in London — and can anyone else name the book in which VERity 2352 is a number?
Kate Fearnley
London SE6

Sir, I was fascinated to see the footwear on display in the Times photograph of President Rouhani meeting David Cameron in New York. Rouhani is in Gucci loafers (which cost about €500) and our PM in what look like Tod’s slip-ons. Very casual for the UN. I wonder what other treasures Mr Rouhani concealed under his dull brown robes?
Lindsay Blair
London N6

Sir, Apropos the big four supermarkets (letters, Sept 26). Whenever I go into these places, I feel constantly that I’m doing battle with them, trying to suss out their latest ploys to confuse, cheat and outwit me. Prices up, down, all over the place; larger “bargain” packs more expensive than smaller versions; changing the colour of a can and rebranding it as improved and asking twice as much. As far as I can make out, Lidl and Aldi don’t do these sorts of things and are therefore seen as
trustworthy.
Malcolm Mort
Liskeard, Cornwall

Telegraph:

Space race: a father and son visit the Nehru Planetarium ahead of India’s Mars triumph  Photo: MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty

6:58AM BST 26 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – How can India afford to launch a satellite into orbit around Mars at a cost of £45 million?

Recently India spent more than £200 million on a 597ft statue of Sadar Patel (1875-1950), the country’s first deputy prime minister, which at the time was the equivalent to more than two thirds of annual British aid to the country.

I thought that we gave money to India to try to reduce poverty there. But India appears to be far better off financially than Britain, as we cannot afford to fund our own space programme.

Wendy Davies
Poole, Dorset

Left: Anna Chancellor and Ed Speleers bridge the class divide; Harriet Walter as Lady Shackleton almost upstages the Dowager Countess (ITV)

6:59AM BST 26 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Allison Pearson suggests that there is a gender divide regarding Downton Abbey, with women everywhere loving it while men despair.

Here’s one woman who stopped watching it after the first few episodes – such drivel. Dudley Paget-Brown (Letters, September 23), you are not alone!

Jacqueline Cooper
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – I sympathise with Mr Paget-Brown’s boredom with Downton Abbey. I feel exactly the same way about The Great British Bake Off.

Susan Gow
Overcombe, Dorset

SIR – I used to record Downton Abbey and watch it later so that I could fast forward through the horrendously long advertisement breaks.

I now fast forward through the whole programme, and find that it makes for much zippier watching.

Henrietta Boyle
London W4

SIR – I don’t agree that Downton Abbey is a bore, but I want to know when that blighter Thomas is going to get his deserts.

Christopher Cox
Warnham, West Sussex

SIR – I had the misfortune to state publicly that I found Downton Abbey dull.

I have since undergone extraordinary rendition and am awaiting trial under the Suppression of Heresy Act 1414.

Yours, as from an unknown location.

Pete Haslam
Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire

SIR – Downton Abbey is not at all boring. It provides a fantastic platform for anachronisms, incredible lines and nonsense.

Tosh bingo can be such fun. Spotted in the first episode of the new series: his lordship reading the royal edition of The Times (which was not available outside central London and certainly not in Yorkshire).

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

Plan for devolution

SIR – Here’s my plan: devo max for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Westminster becomes the Parliament for England; the House of Lords is replaced with a fully elected Senate, consisting of senators elected from the four nations in proportion to their population, plus their first ministers in an ex-officio capacity. The Senate decides all non-devolved matters, and requires a 60 per cent majority.

John Couch
Llansadwrn, Carmarthenshire

SIR – I would hate to degrade Westminster with its wonderful stateliness to a “junior level” (Letters, September 25).

Where primary legislative powers are devolved, a second chamber is necessary to check legislation. The Stormont Parliament, in Belfast from 1921 to 1972, contained a second chamber.

With a further transfer of powers to Holyrood, Westminster would be within its rights to endow a second chamber as well. Many Scots would, I am sure, be grateful.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

SIR – We should have four home-country parliaments whose MPs come together on British issues through technology when there needs to be a national decision.

That way, all MPs would be equal and nobody would have dual representation. There would be corresponding savings in administration and expenses.

Kevin Cottrell
Buckland, Oxfordshire

Cold-blooded objector

SIR – You report (September 24) that the development of a multi-million-pound tennis centre and golf course may be prevented because of a colony of newts.

Where I live, we have in the region of 4,000 objectors to a huge wind farm that is threatening our heritage, archaeology and landscape. After winning at the planning committee stage, we are now facing a hugely expensive planning appeal.

Has anyone got a spare bag of newts?

E C Coleman
Bishop Norton, Lincolnshire

A suitable name

SIR – Is it a coincidence that the gentleman suing Rod Stewart for breaking his nose at a concert with a souvenir football (report, September 25) is named Mostafa Kashe?

Geoff Riley
Sewards End, Essex

Taxed out of a home

SIR – The shadow chancellor has promised to protect investment in the NHS by introducing taxes on the so-called wealthy – a “mansion tax” on properties valued at more than £2 million, a new 50 per cent top rate of income tax and other unspecified taxes.

In Westminster, as with many parts of the capital, this would not mean the wealthiest funding Labour’s promises, but hard-working middle-class families being hit by extra taxes through no fault of their own. Average house prices in central London have recently topped £500,000, and in Westminster alone, 15,000 properties would be caught by the proposed tax.

So thousands of families who bought homes over the past decade or so, most of whom would not be able to afford to buy them today, find themselves liable to tens of thousands of pounds of additional taxes which they simply cannot afford, as a result of Ed Balls’s proposals.

This policy will jeopardise the recovery by squeezing the middle even tighter, and driving wealth generators out of Britain. Has Labour not learnt from the disaster of President François Hollande’s economic policies, which have seen £17 billion of assets transferred to Belgium alone?

Labour needs to think again, and Londoners, who will be disproportionately affected, need to make sure it does.

Cllr Philippa Roe (Con)
Leader, Westminster City Council
Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown (Con)
Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

SIR – Why is it acceptable for buy-to-let landlords, with many properties and an income, not to pay the tax, while retired Londoners in long-held homes must?

Andrew Wauchope
London SE11

SIR – If the under-occupancy penalty is called the bedroom tax, should the mansion tax not be known as the envy tax?

Simon Millar
Poole, Dorset

Police numbers

SIR – I have worked with colleagues to minimise the impact of budget cuts on police numbers and thus on the security of the people of the Thames Valley. The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report, Policing in Austerity, showed that numbers were reduced by 2 per cent in this force compared with 11 per cent nationally.

We are not poised to lose 400 officers (report, September 22). We need to cut another £20 million by 2018, but I and the Police and Crime Commissioner will do all we can to maintain police officer numbers.

Sara Thornton
Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Picking poppies

SIR – There was an interesting article in The Daily Telegraph earlier in the year about the Tower of London moat being turned into a poppy field (Letters, September 25). This included instructions on how to buy a poppy at a later date (www.hrp.org.uk).

I followed the instructions and on August 5 purchased my poppy.

Margaret Cotton
Barnardiston, Suffolk

Bottled tradition

SIR – Another universally recognisable feature of life disappears as Dairy Crest announces the phasing out of glass milk bottles (Business, September 23). Are there any great British traditions left now?

Robert Parker
Nottingham

Lack of aircraft carriers impedes a fast response to changing political scene.

Adams cartoon, September 25 2014: Ed Miliband directs an aeroplane piloted by David Cameron

Adams cartoon, September 25 2014 Photo: ADAMS

7:00AM BST 26 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Adams’s cartoon on Thursday drew attention to Britain’s complete lack of mobile airpower. One aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean would have provided a quick response to the political need for air strikes.

Roger Welby-Everard
Grantham, Lincolnshire

SIR – Peter Oborne (Comment, September 25) is right. Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabi version of Islam, is the key problem to be faced in the Middle East. Successive American and British governments have ignored this issue, for the sake of transitory oil and defence benefits. As Mr Oborne says, the rise of Isil stems from Wahhabism, and thus a total revision of Middle East policy is required – and this has to include a mending of fences with Iran.

Ron Whelan
London W1

SIR – Whatever one’s views on military intervention, we believe that today’s parliamentary debate will be making a serious omission if it fails to address the effects of such intervention on civilians. Parliament needs to help end ongoing bombing attacks on civilians and get humanitarian assistance to those who desperately need it.

The war in Syria has dragged on for more than three years and the situation on the ground is more brutal than ever, with the Syrian government and more than 1,500 armed groups in action. Syrians live with daily devastation and fear caused by deliberate bombing of schools, hospitals and markets.

As humanitarian agencies, our mandate is to help them, but there are millions we cannot get aid to because of the continuing attacks by all sides, which also put our staff at risk. We must not forget the plight of these civilians, caught up in a war not of their making.

Britain has led the international aid response. We welcome this week’s pledge of humanitarian assistance for Syria and its neighbours. But the Government can save more lives by pushing for the enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 2139, which called for an end to indiscriminate attacks in Syria and for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance.

Dr Mohamed Ashmawey
CEO, Islamic Relief Worldwide
Laurie Lee
CEO, CARE International UK
Leigh Daynes
Executive Director, Doctors of the World UK
Chris Doyle
Director, CAABU
James Smith
CEO, Aegis Trust
Faek Hwaijeh
Chairman, Syrian Civil Coalition
Dr Rim Turkmani
Chairman, Madani Organisation

SIR – How many innocent civilians have been killed by American air strikes in Iraq and Syria? And will the anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist Left demonstrate against this activity in the same way and with the same fervour they showed against Israel when it was defending itself against an enemy with the same policy as Islamic State?

Eddie Young
London NW4

Irish Times:

Sir, – One has to feel sorry for Enda Kenny. Having failed to abolish the Seanad, it now appears that the Seanad may well abolish him. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McDWYER,

Summerhill,

Carrick on Shannon,

Co Leitrim.

Sir, – What this episode demonstrates conclusively is the hollowness of the claims made for “new politics” in the wake of the crash. The concept of civic morality is as alien to Fine Gael in office as it was to Fianna Fáil. Crony governance lives on in the shape of elite patronage and a posture of determined impunity at the highest levels of power. – Yours,etc,

Dr JOHN O’ BRENNAN,

Department of Sociology,

Maynooth University.

Sir, – Of course it is a stroke. How do we know this? We know this because if Fianna Fáil in government had behaved in this way, Mr Kenny in opposition would be on his feet in the Dáil, pink and breathless with outrage. – Yours, etc,

MAEVE KENNEDY,

Rathgar Avenue,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6.

Sir , – I don’t see the problem with our taoiseach’s nominations. Don’t all teachers have their pets! – Yours, etc,

DAVID MURNANE,

Dunshaughlin,

Co Meath.

Sir, – The current furore is nothing more than a tantrum by people who hadn’t fully thought through the consequences of their actions in preserving the undemocratic obscenity that is Seanad Éireann.

Most ludicrous is the charge that John McNulty isn’t “hip” enough to serve on the cultural panel and debate such lofty ideas as seagulls stealing ice cream and other such nonsense. – Yours, etc,

TOM NEVILLE,

Leopardstown Avenue,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Perhaps John McNulty might have made a better choice by resigning his candidacy for the Seanad and maintaining his board post in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma). He would at least have learned some cultural nuggets from the dormant oddities of the museum rather than their equivalent in the Seanad. – Yours, etc,

DEREK MacHUGH,

Westminster Lawns,

Foxrock, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Noel Whelan is right when he says that the NcNulty affair is “cronyism” and a “stroke” (“McNulty debacle exposes sorry tale of failure to reform politics”, Opinion & Analysis, September 26th). But when he gets up on his high horse and starts to call for “meaningful Seanad reform”, he loses a lot of credibility.

“Reforming” the Seanad, by having it directly elected and giving it more power, is just creating another Dáil. We already have one of those.

The Seanad is an expensive, powerless, talking shop for the insider elite.

All the reform proposals in the world will not make the Seanad relevant to the problems of this recently bankrupt country, which has many more politicians relative to population than similar countries.

Members of the media, who are now complaining about cronyism, should remember that during the referendum most of them supported the retention of the Seanad as a bolthole for their own cronies at the expense of the ordinary people of this country. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LEAVY,

Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – Lest there be any doubt, as per Paul Hickey’s claim (September 26th), it is not John McNulty himself who is the problem, it is the manner in which he, out of all the people who could be considered suitable for the appointment to Imma, was chosen that is the problem.

As is the fact that there wasn’t a vacancy in the first place but instead the Imma increased the size of its board from 9 to 11 specifically to allow the appointment of two Fine Gael nominees, which presumably had to be signed off by Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys’s department.

What is also at issue is the moaning from other women candidates who seem to think it’s okay for one of them to be appointed just because they are women and for some reason we need “more” women.

So much for more women in politics bringing a different ethos.

Well, we don’t need more women if they are like the Tánaiste and too gutless to call out cronyism when directly faced with it, with her limp defence that it’s a matter for Fine Gael; or like the Minister herself, who seems to just sign anything put in front of her and takes her orders directly from Fine Gael head office via the Taoiseach’s office; or if they are like the failed Fine Gael candidates who seem to think just being women should be enough to give them the edge, with no mention of capability.

The only criteria for appointing anyone to anything is that the position is publicly advertised so anyone can apply, that the application process is transparent, that those making the appointment can be held accountable, as too should the person appointed, and that the best person, male or female, is appointed.

Old politics meet new politics, but same old politics. – Yours, etc,

DESMOND FitzGERALD,

Canary Wharf,

London

Sir, – The “McNulty Installation” at Imma must rank with Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” as one of the great headline-grabbing cultural events of recent times. Unfortunately the McNulty exhibition only lasted for 13 days and closed on September 25th. I wonder might Charles Saatchi be interested in this unique installation?

After all, “My Bed” was sold recently for £2.2million and I’m sure Imma could do with some extra funding. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK O’BYRNE,

Shandon Crescent,

Phibsborough,

Dublin 7.

Sir, –Jobs for the boys? Unabated – and undebated. – Yours, etc,

TOM GILSENAN,

Elm Mount,

Beaumont,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – Further to Neil Briscoe’s report (“Oil falls but pump prices remain high”, Motors, September 24th), motorists are being ripped off once more at the petrol pumps. He notes that despite a dramatic fall in the price of a barrel of oil in recent months, the average cost of petrol has not come down here, but has actually gone up! He maintains that we should now be paying 17 cent less per litre for our petrol and diesel.

What a difference 17 cent per litre would make to hard-pressed motorists, especially those who have long distances to commute to their place of work. Where are the powers that be – who have no hesitation in regularly raising motor taxes – when it comes to an anomaly like this? It was not surprising that the Irish fuel retailers, when contacted by your newspaper, preferred to remain silent. It goes without saying that they would up the prices at the pumps once there is any hint of a market rise.

It was also startling to read that Dermot Jewell, of the Consumer Association of Ireland, suspects that this disgraceful state of affairs is partially down to apathy on the part of consumers, who realise they have no power at the petrol pumps.

Come on then, motorists, show them this time. Throw off your lethargy and make your voices heard loudly on this latest affront to long-suffering car owners. – Yours, etc,

DENIS O’SHAUGHNESSY,

Janemount Park,

Limerick.

Sir, – John Bruton is right to question whether the rebellion of 1916 was the best course to an independent Ireland. The Easter Rising led to the creation of a state that for more than four decades presided over a failed economy, mass emigration, the systemic abuse of vulnerable citizens by religious institutions and did almost nothing to contribute to the downfall of totalitarian regimes in Europe. The campaign of violence that began with 1916 ended in the permanent division of this island, while the celebration and mythologising of a brutal War of Independence contributed to 30 years of sectarian slaughter in Northern Ireland at the end of the 20th century. Was it really worth it? – Yours, etc,

EDWARD BURKE,

Ardenlee Avenue,

Belfast.

Sir, – The application by John Bruton of the classic formula of the just rebellion theory to Ireland in 1916 is simply not relevant. The theory applies to a sovereign state; not to a country that is governed by another country and is occupied by the military forces of that country.

Moreover, the military character of that rule became more evident, in August 1914, when a Defence of the Realm Act placed Ireland under a form of martial law.

The Irish Party, itself, in April 1918 acknowledged that the well-intentioned attempts of John Redmond to solve Ireland’s political aspirations by trusting in English promises had failed. John Dillon and Joseph Devlin of the Irish Party joined Eamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith of Sinn Féin to issue a statement from the Mansion House which read, “the passing of the Conscription Bill by the British House of Commons must be regarded as a declaration of war on the Irish nation . . . we call upon all Irishmen to resist by the most effective means possible”.

A far cry from Redmond’s call to enlist in the British army in September 1914 and a sure indication that his advice had been misguided. – Yours, etc,

Dr BRIAN P MURPHY, OSB

Glenstal Abbey,

Murroe,

Co Limerick.

Sir, – Speculation about the level of self-rule this country might have achieved if the 1916 Rising had not happened is inevitable, if not very productive. The fundamental question posed by the Rising for us today is not whether it was “necessary” for the achievement of independence, but the consequence of celebrating as the founding act of our republic an armed insurrection by a group that, however idealistic or brave, had no mandate of any kind.

So long as we celebrate their right to achieve their political ends by violence are we not validating the actions of any other group of idealists who have taken, or may in future take the same course? Is that what we want? – Yours, etc,

TOM DUNNE,

Beale’s Hill,

Lovers Walk,

Cork.

Sir, – Rob Sadlier (September 26th) is right in his assertion that to survive in the market place, the pub needs to diversify. Here in the UK we have the bizarre situation of seeing the number of pubs closing, whilst the actual number of outlets that actually serve intoxicants is now at its highest since records began.

The writing is on the wall for the local. Interestingly, what we do see is that the very measures the licensing trade are introducing to invigorate their industry are the very steps which are turning the regular punters away. Many have to serve meals and undertake tacky promotions such as “happy hour” and “two for the price of one”. Pubs can be intimidating places, particularly for those of us of a certain age. Catching the eye of a malevolent youth or bumping into a belligerent drunk can prove risky. And of course there is the drink/drive legislation, the smoking ban and the medical profession frightening the life out of us with their hysterical warnings on the danger of drink.These factors are no friends of the pub landlord.

The most compelling reason contributing to the demise of the pub is the prices. Only this week, a writer to this newspaper (Declan Service, September 25th) complained that he was charged €6.85 for a pint of lager in Temple Bar. Absolutely crazy. Here on this side of the Irish Sea, £6 would get you a fair to middling bottle of wine from the corner shop. Such a sum won’t get you much in the Rose and Crown.

Sadly the local tavern as depicted by George Orwell in his essay “The Moon Under Water” is no more. For him, barmaids should know your name, darts should be played only in the public bar, the premises should be quiet enough to allow one to talk and under no circumstances should it have a radio or piano. Halcyon days indeed. – Yours, etc,

FRANK GREANEY,

Lonsdale Road,

Formby, Liverpool.

Sir, – I thoroughly enjoyed Breda O’Brien’s heartwarming column on the annual Dublin diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes (“Lourdes pilgrimage a miracle of service and selflessness”, Opinion & Analysis, September 27th). I had the honour of travelling with Mount Sackville secondary school. I returned home from one of the most eye-opening, inspiring and humbling weeks of my life. The camaraderie between volunteers, pilgrims, doctors, nurses and helpers was unique and uplifting. My eyes were well and truly opened from the time I landed in Lourdes to the moment I guided my pilgrim to the arrival area back in Dublin Airport. I made new friends, old and young. There were tears of joy and sadness along the way. As the end drew near on the final evening, we all lit candles. Watching the glow of the flames, I reflected on how the best things in life are truly free. – Yours, etc,

SADBH McGRATH,

Castleknock Drive,

Laurel Lodge,

Castleknock, Dublin 15

A chara, – I was delighted by Prof David McConnell’s charming and utterly civilised response (September 25th) to my letter of September 23rd about how science is taking the place of religion for some.

All too often genuine discourse is replaced by sloganeering and personalised slanging which do nothing to advance any debate.

I thank him for his kind invitation to attend the upcoming humanist conference in Galway (even as I congratulate the association on its 21st anniversary). However, I’m sure he will understand that, as a member of the clergy, my weekends tend to be spoken for.

In the same spirit of courtesy I would like to invite Prof McConnell, and indeed all attendees of the conference, to spend some time in one of the many fine places of worship in the area, should the conference programme allow time. – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I was at Little Killary last month, to see the house where Ludwig Wittgenstein lived. The stench from the fish cages offshore was so bad that I had to leave. Can Bord Iascaigh Mhara (September 25th) explain what’s healthy about that? – Yours, etc,

ADRIAN KENNY,

Kingsland Parade,

Portobello,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Margaret Lee (September 25th) writes that President Michael D Higgins often “forays into policy matters”.

This allegation is a subjective one as there is scope within the role of the President as outlined in the Constitution to represent the people of Ireland.

In his oath of office, the President undertook to “dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland”.

In my opinion, Mr Higgins always speaks with the voice of reason, of inclusion and vision for a better Ireland.

We need to hear more, not less, of this wisdom! – Yours, etc,

DAVID WHELAN,

Clara,

Co Offaly.

Australian rules Sir, – The Australian elimination of syllables and phonetic shortening of common words, discussed by Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, September 25th), was described as “Strine” 50 years ago in the “Cinnamon Herod” (Sydney Morning Herald).

Australians everywhere gather on New Year’s Eve to display their mastery of metanalysis, syncope and elision by singing “Shoulder Quaint’s Beef Cot”, also known as “Frolang Zine”. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY

Operngasse,

Vienna.

Pet theory

Sir, – Never mind Irish Water not granting a water allowance to your reader’s dog Harry (September 26th). What about the goldfish? – Yours, etc,

MARY P WILKINSON,

Galway.

On the map

Sir, – So what if it’s in the context of the ghost estate “Fontanelle Heights”, but my native village of Ballivor has received the ultimate accolade – a namecheck in Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s column (Magazine, September 20th).

We have arroived! – Yours, etc,

JOHN QUINN,

Stradbally North,

Clarinbridge,

Co Galway.

Irish Independent:

I was privileged to attend a concert by Joan Baez in Dublin last night. Her demeanour and songs of peace, love, kindness and compassion provided a very brief respite from the destroyed world we now live in.

A world that this year has ascended to unprecedented heights of madness, violence, crime, cruelty, terrorism and absolute EVIL. It was clear that her beautiful rendition of ‘Imagine’ – with amended lyrics – enabled the audience, just for a brief moment, to believe that we were indeed living in a world where everyone cared about each other. But, sadly, the reality is the opposite.

David Bradley

Drogheda, Co Louth

Business as usual

Jobs for the boys continues unabated it appears… and, indeed, undebated.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

The McNulty situation

I continued to be amazed by the undoubted very genuine and justified annoyance of the ladies of the Fine Gael Party at their treatment by the Taoiseach. However, there is something about it that puzzles me.

Where were these ladies when one of Ireland’s finest and brightest, was badgered, bullied and banished for refusing to be gagged? They were perfectly entitled – legally and democratically – to disagree with their former colleague on the matter being debated and voted on.

But did not little alarm bells go off in their heads as to the manner in which she was being treated? (What you permit you promote.) It appears to be a little late now to be crying wolf!

Aidan Coburn

Dunleckney, Co Carlow

Enda Kenny: father of the Dail, leader of Fine Gael, and Taoiseach; these are just a few of the laudable appellations that hang heavy on the shoulders of the leader of our country. He is in danger of acquiring a number of new far less laudable titles if he is not careful concerning his disastrous handling of the John McNulty fiasco.

Speak softly and carry a big stick, isn’t that meant to be the credo of the wise leader? Mr Kenny seems intent on using that stick to either stir up sundry hornets’ nests or else assault sacred cows.

He cannot credibly profess to be heralding a new dawn of high standards in office while playing the same old parlour games of patronage and cronyism.

Mr Kenny has always conducted himself as a stand-up, what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of politician.

How refreshing it would be were he to put his hand up and say: “OK folks, I got it wrong, sorry I’m not perfect”, with the emphasis on “Sorry”.

Then we could all happily move on. Recent conduct suggests a close look at himself might be in order.

TG Gavin

Galway city

Car tax a cause for road rage

The tax paid on an old car is now much more than that paid on a newer car. So, if you are well-off enough to spend tens of thousands on a new car, you then pay a relatively small annual of car tax. However, if you cannot afford to replace your car you will pay, on average, a few hundred euro more per year in car tax.

The argument that this is to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions is a red herring – if the Government really wanted to reduce such emissions then the car tax would be based on mileage. Why do the less well-off in society continue to get hit with the bigger bills?

Seamus Cullen

Knocknacarra, Galway

Where was the vox populi?

A Leavy (Irish Independent, September 25), wrote: “One of the reasons this country became bankrupt is that the members of governments, bank boards, etc were not sufficiently held to account by the Irish media during the boom.” Incorrect!

It should not be the Irish mass media, that we the people should look to to protect our democracy – it is ourselves. The primary role of the mass media is to inform, not to act as our guardians or to shape public opinion. The primary role of the citizen in a democracy is to lead, not to follow.

But then, we live in a nation where the vast majority of its citizens are fearful of speaking publicly the unpopular.

Vincent J Lavery

Irish Free Speech Movement

Dalkey, County Dublin

A thirst for Irish Water answers

Since all the arguments about the water tax started about six months ago, I have still not received an answer to my basic question – “If one of the top priorities of our government is not to make sure that the people of Ireland have decent drinking water in their homes, then what are they actually there for?”

After which one might well ask, what are they doing with the €38 million that they extort from us that is more important than providing us with drinking water? One might also ask why on Earth we should be expected to pay anything at all for the muck that is currently being delivered to our taps from their ancient filter systems.

Dick Barton

Address with editor

Viewing discretion advised

Allow me to reply to John O’Donnell.

He is right that my attitude is common among the paying public who attend matches – we pay, we say!

You mention the modern game, the defensive art, and the tactical battle, are you sure its not Star Wars you’re looking at? I know boring rhymes with scoring, but boring is what I said, I never mentioned low scoring

Regarding your challenge by way of a question, allow me to inform you that anyone who asks a question and already knows the answer is simply looking for conversation.

If the so-called modern game, God forbid, were ever allowed to continue, one would be able to attend All-Ireland Football Finals with three or four other paying customers.

Remember the 1970s? When teams went out and expressed themselves individually? Where we watched the skills of the high fielder? The classy moves that at times ended in goals or points that live long in the memory.

Will we remember six or seven players surrounding another player till they are awarded a free for not releasing the ball? Those are the memories of the modern game.

Fred Molloy

Glenville, Dublin 15

Syria airstrikes allowed by law

Edward Horgan wrote that the air strikes that are taking place in Syria “contravene international law because they do not have UN Security Council approval (Letters, September 25). That is incorrect.

As cited by Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN, Article 51 of the UN Charter covers an individual or collective right to self-defence against armed attack and the Syrian government is unable to prevent Isil from operating on Syrian soil.

Isil poses a threat to the US and its European allies because some members of that organisation are citizens of those countries and there is a likelihood that they will use their expertise to carry out terrorist attacks if they go home.

Ciaran Masterson

Carrickane, Co Cavan

Irish Independent

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