5 October 2014 More or less Russian Vine
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sweep the path at the side of the house, tackle the Russian Vine again.
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.
Lynsey de Paul – obituary
Lynsey de Paul was a singer-songwriter who narrowly missed Eurovision success and clashed with Sharon Osbourne
Lynsey de Paul pictured in 1974 Photo: Rex Features
7:17PM BST 02 Oct 2014
LYNSEY DE PAUL, who has died aged 64, was a perky singer-songwriter behind several Top 10 hits in the 1970s and just failed to snatch a second consecutive victory for the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest with Rock Bottom in 1977; but her performing career never recovered from a litigious fallout with her original manager, Don Arden.
Seated back-to-back at a pair of grand pianos, Lynsey de Paul and her co-writer and vocalist Mike Moran were tricked out for Eurovision glory in the formal attire of City gents — tailcoats, striped trousers and all — to perform their number, which the musical director Ronnie Hazlehurst, wearing a bowler hat, conducted with an umbrella.
Lynsey de Paul’s eagerly anticipated big night coincided with a period of national industrial turmoil, with her one and only Eurovision appearance, staged at the newly opened Wembley Conference Centre, being disrupted by a television cameramen’s strike, forcing the BBC to postpone the song contest for five weeks. Even the song’s lyrics (“Where are we? Rock bottom / Tragedies? We got ’em”) seemed to sum up the gloomy national mood. Nevertheless it remained the British bookies’ favourite and a strong contender to repeat the success of Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me, the singalong hit which won the contest the year before.
Although not to everyone’s taste — one tabloid called it one of our “biggest national embarrassments” — in the end Rock Bottom did not disgrace. The title might have been seen as a hostage to fortune, but it came a respectable second to the French entry, L’oiseau et l’enfant, sung by Marie Myriam.
Lynsey de Paul’s biggest hit, Sugar Me, reached No 5 in the singles chart in 1972, the year after she launched her music career. She was also a prolific composer of television theme tunes, including those for the ITV sitcom No, Honestly, which starred Pauline Collins and John Alderton, and Esther Rantzen’s BBC series Hearts Of Gold.
A petite 4ft 11in but glamorous, with a mane of blonde curls and a beauty spot above her lip, Lynsey de Paul dated a succession of high-profile men, including George Best, Ringo Starr, Dodi Fayed and the film stars James Coburn and Sean Connery – who, according to one report, pursued her with “a vigour of which James Bond would have been proud, and a line in flattery which even 007 couldn’t match”. While in Moscow filming The Russia House (1990) he reportedly called her to say: “I can only kiss Michelle Pfeiffer if I think of you.”
Lynsey de Paul with Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson in 1975
These and other amorous adventures were eagerly lapped up by the tabloids, as was her memorable spat with her then road manager Sharon Osbourne, wife of the rock singer Ozzy Osbourne; Sharon thought her “a miserable old cow”. When, on tour, Lynsey de Paul unwisely ticked her off for being drunk, Sharon Osbourne apparently responded by urinating (or worse, in some versions of the story) in Lynsey de Paul’s suitcase.
When Lynsey de Paul subsequently parted company with Don Arden (Sharon Osbourne’s father) he added to the unhappy history of the family’s relationship with the singer by nominating her “the biggest pain who ever walked the stage”. He later sued her for breach of contract, the protracted legal battle effectively putting an end to her performing career, and prompting an investigation into Arden’s management activities by the Radio 4 programme Checkpoint in 1978. Arden died in 2007.
The daughter of a property developer, Lynsey de Paul was born Lynsey Monckton Rubin in Cricklewood, north London, on June 11 1950. Educated at South Hampstead High School, she had what she later described as a disciplined childhood.
“My father criticised and hit me and my brother a lot,” she recalled. “When I was 11 I vowed I would make enough money always to be financially independent. I finally left home at 21. My motivation was negative because I was trying to get away from something. I turned it into something positive, so that I wasn’t walking away from home but towards something better.”
Having trained at the Hornsey College of Art, she started out designing pop album sleeves before turning to songwriting. Her breakthrough came early in 1972 as co-writer (with Ron Roker) of The Fortunes’ Top 10 hit Storm in a Teacup. A few months later she recorded her own hit song Sugar Me, which also reached the Top 10, the first of 14 British Top 40 hits she wrote for a variety of pop artists over the following five years.
For her own first hit ballad, Won’t Somebody Dance With Me? (1974), she became the first woman to receive an Ivor Novello Award – a second followed a year later for No, Honestly, the theme tune to the hit ITV comedy, and which became another UK Top 10 hit.
She spent several years in California in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the actor James Coburn, who co-wrote two tracks on her fifth album, Tigers and Fireflies (1979), and encouraged her to diversify into acting. Returning to Britain in 1982, she appeared in the British version of the US musical Pump Boys and Dinettes and films including The Starlight Ballroom (1983) and Gabrielle and the Doodleman (1984).
An enthusiastic Conservative Party supporter, she also made an appearance at the party’s youth rally in 1983, performing Tory, Tory, Tory, a song she had written about the party with the refrain “Vote Tory, Tory, Tory / For election glory / We don’t want U-turns/So we’ll vote for Maggie T / Vote Tory, Tory, Tory / The only party for me”.
She later went into television production, making travelogues and hosting her own television programmes such as Club Vegetarian and Shopper’s Heaven. A BBC documentary on self-defence for women, Eve Strikes Back, earned her a Royal Television Society award in 1992.
In the 1990s she bought a Victorian mansion in north London which she called Moot Grange, an anagram of No Mortgage. “I also considered Gnome Groat,” she explained, “and, because I’m a vegetarian and don’t drink, No Meat/Grog.” A long-time campaigner for animal rights, she shared the house with a three-legged cat called Tripod and enjoyed her comparative anonymity.
In 1976 she received the Woman of the Year Award For Music from the Variety Club of Great Britain. The British jeans industry named her Rear of the Year in 1985, an award she accepted by thanking the organisers “from the heart of my bottom”.
Lynsey de Paul, who was unmarried, apparently suffered a brain haemorrhage after complaining of severe headaches.
Lynsey de Paul, born June 11 1950, died October 1 2014
How to get more working people into Parliament? Photograph: Adam Woolfitt/ Corbis
Carole Cadwalladr is absolutely right when she points out what is basically wrong with our political establishment. It is so disappointing that working people, apart from a very few notable and worthy examples, are no longer represented by MPs from their ranks (“How passion has been purged from politics – along with ordinary people”, New Review).
Ministers and shadow ministers no longer feel they need to have any background knowledge in the departments to which they are appointed. I was a teacher and a few years ago I remember having a conversation with a student who asked who was in control of education in the country. At that time, it was Michael Gove. Her response was: “Well, he must have been a brilliant teacher to get to that level!”
Today, it seems the greater the power ministers have, the greater the ignorance they have about the department they are leading. In the DfE, not one minister has a background in education or went to a state school. Cadwalladr is also spot on about the rank-and-file person who wishes to represent constituents and is ignored in favour of media-friendly candidates who have more time, money and celebrity status to pursue their candidacy. The media are partially to blame for that.
Party politics is ruining us and the elites need curbing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A radical but simple reform, allowing the quinquennial election of a government from among political parties, the nomination of local councillors and MPs from electoral rolls and removing the power of appointment to the House of Lords from political patronage, would break the nexus of power centred on Westminster.
If a clearly unsatisfactory democracy is to be revived, effective authority must go to citizens who are outside party control. All of us have a duty to serve as jurors, drawn randomly from the electoral role of our constituency. If that duty extended to fixed-term participation in local and national government, the rot that now infects the Commons could fade.
Politically inspired legislation coming from an elected government would be debated and decided on by those whose country this is – mechanics, fishermen, lawyers, postal workers, doctors, academics, actors, musicians, farm workers, the whole grand gamut –not directed by professional politicians with PPEs and the like. No more whips. And when their term finishes, they return to their careers.
Opening up an historically sanctioned closed shop will be hard. An unpredictable, randomly politicised chamber of diverse experience would require careful management. Many will not want to take part. Long debate is needed. But consider other benefits. Regional parliamentary centres, online debating chambers, the government in London (or Birmingham or Manchester or Bristol or wherever) and the House of Commons dispersed.
Carole Cadwalladr’s article on the relationship between “real working-class people” and the Labour party suffered from a serious lack of objectivity as well as the danger of taking “vox pop” as gospel. The Orpington Labour party was attacked for allegedly manipulating the procedures for the selection of its parliamentary candidate to favour the successful applicant. The integrity of the selection committee was called into question without the chance of reply. I can confirm that all the normal procedures and practices were followed, with an external observer overseeing the operation. Had the Orpington Labour party been contacted we could also have corrected several basic errors of fact.
The definition of “real working class’”(itself never easy) was left blowing about in the wind, dependent entirely upon unchecked self-assertion.
Chair, Orpington Labour party
There was once a telling advertisement for Guinness that went: “I’ve never tried it because I don’t like it.” This super-intelligent cautionary jingle was adopted as the touchstone for his case by Dr Kehinde Andrews in his Head to Head with one of Exhibit B’s actors, Stella Odunlami (New Review).
He describes a performance of Brett Bailey’s live installation with breathtaking detail although he hasn’t bothered to see it. According to him, Exhibit B is a “racist depiction that objectifies (how?), pacifies (who?) and fetishises the black body (in what way?)”. He continues: “The arts do not have the right (the right?) to racially offend.” (Sez who? I thought the lord chamberlain’s censorship role died in the 1960s.) But he goes on: “The exhibition literally turns the black body into an object.” No, Dr Andrews, the theatre is not a literal medium, it is metaphorical if it is anything. I point out that performance only exists if there is an audience present, and who is he to dictate what such an animal should see or hear? And a London audience of all things, crowds of the curious who have been attending troublesome theatre for almost half a millennium, give or take a few Puritan interruptions. How dare he?
I am immensely proud of Brett Bailey’s thoughtful and dignified work, and his entire opus over the years of South African protest theatre, of which I myself have been a small part. And I was proud to read Stella Odunlami’s spirited and cogent defence of the performance she freely chose to appear in. I wish the other actors had also been given the dignity at least of a debate that has been sat upon (I am minding my consonants here) by Dr Andrews and his excitable crew. What a sad day for the health of this liberal democracy and its second-to-none theatre tradition. What was the Barbican thinking of when it acceded to mob rule?
Janet Suzman DBE
Scotland’s rising in the world
Robin McKie points out that with climate change, Norway and Scotland have become better bets for investing in property (“Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived”, ). There is also the fact that Scotland’s land mass is actually rising and its cliffs are of harder rock than England’s. So we can see a future in which the financial district of London is dependent on Thames barriers not to fail against the flooding, while Edinburgh’s financial district and its outriders are not only dry right down to the basements, but pleasantly warm.
Just another reason why England needs Scotland more than Scotland needs England.
Communion is not a reward
Paedophile priests, Vatican embezzlers and mafiosi are not formally disbarred from receiving communion by the Catholic church. Nor are monks and nuns who renounce their vows, couples living in sin or infrequent mass goers. Whatever communion is, all the accounts agree that bread was broken, wine drunk to remember someone who wasn’t particular about the company he kept and who reserved his greatest ire for those who equated religion with rule-keeping. It is not a reward for conformity but as nourishment for those who can scarcely believe that God’s love for them is unconditional (“Pope revisits ‘punishing’ rules on Catholic divorce”, News).
Council tax conundrum solved
There is a very easy way round the problems highlighted by several of the potential London mayoral candidates over increases in council tax (“Miliband’s plan for mansion tax draws fire from top Labour MPs”, News). While they are right to highlight that the mansion tax is both a silly name and the wrong concept, that does not mean the whole idea should be rejected. What is needed instead is a revaluation of the rateable value of all properties and then the introduction of a series of incremental bands above the current H band limit.
In response to Tessa Jowell’s concerns about long-term residents being affected, the answer is simple: the revaluation could be based on the last time the property changed hands. Therefore, the banker who has just bought the £3m home with his bonus will pay much more than the lady next door who paid a fraction of that when it was purchased in the 1970s. An alternative would be to roll up any additional tax that would only be levied the next time the property was sold.
(seeking selection as Labour candidate for the 2016 London mayoral election)
Greens are good for women
What a shame that the opinion poll of women voters that you reported on failed to include the party that beat the Lib Dems at this year’s European elections: the Green party (“Uninspired: why women find all the party leaders a turn-off”, News). For the Green party’s leader is a woman (Natalie Bennett), as is our great crusading MP, Caroline Lucas. The Mumsnet poll shows in detail how little love British women have for the stale leaderships of the other four parties; what a shame that it did not give women a chance to air their views on the fresh – and female – leadership of the Greens.
East-of-England Green party
Carrie Bale doesn’t need a “financial makeover” (“Creative thinking needed for an intern to be free of her debts”, Money, 28 September). Your panel missed the only cure she needs: an internship that pays at least a London living wage.
I have undertaken two unpaid internships over the past year, which I was only able to do knowing I have savings and a level of financial support from my mum. I am the privileged graduate who can just about “afford” to lose money for three months.
This culture of unpaid and underpaid internships needs to end: it is locking graduates out of career opportunities they cannot afford. Until Carrie and other young people have a job that pays more than food, rent and travel, she can’t save or start a pension. I doubt she needed your panel’s advice to work that out.
The various conflicts which have erupted in recent times represent such a morass of territorial, political, ethnic and religious struggles that it is hard to see where we could or should intervene, with what objectives, and hope of success.
One consistent thread that might guide us is the expression of human compassion, which could offer a path to useful engagement as an alternative morality to the horrors unfolding before our eyes. What most exercises the public is the sense of helplessness as we watch the massacres and displacement of people who want nothing more than a peaceful way of life.
Now, rather than trying to pick sides and worrying about where arms might end up, while whole communities are under attack, we should be able to offer a robust source of humanitarian protection followed by sustained financial aid as suggested by David Miliband.
This would help countries flooded by refugees to be willing to accept more, and leaving them free to repel attacks on their own borders. This makes more economic sense than using expensive British air power to dispatch a few trucks.
Aside from those who just like wars – the papers of Rupert Murdoch for example – most agree that UK participation in a third Iraq war is an uncertain matter. Air strikes may impede Islamic State but a political solution is required. The strong impression is that, as in 2003, this is very much secondary to military action. The real danger is that Britain returns to the kind of imperial military state it was in the late 19th century, always at war.
It is great news that the next Conservative government will save £3bn by hitting poor workers. They can use the cash to pay for the missiles they are firing at poor Iraqis.
Woodford Green, London
I suspect rights of inheritance for duchesses are not high on people’s priorities right now (Jane Merrick, 28 September). With the surge of interest in politics from Scotland’s grassroots we could capitalise on that – a written constiution, an elected second chamber and an elected head of state – real reform and change.
Despite being more of a Speysider, Karen Attwood’s article on Irish whiskey (“Sláinte!”, 28 September) neglected to mention the oldest licensed whiskey in Ireland and the UK. Licensed in 1608, Bushmills has been happily distilling away on the North Antrim coast for some time. I suggest a corrective trip.
Looking at “Back to the future, Paris style” (28 September) my eyes went straight to the model in “space age” clothes. Something different? I’d say, but I can’t think of anyone I know who would be seen dead in it! Why designers produce clothes that no one will wear is beyond me.
David Cameron has pledged to continue increasing the NHS budget in real terms, but is money alone enough to keep it healthy? (Paul Vicente)
Whitehall meddlers do more harm than good to NHS
THE government fails consistently to tackle patient expectation and education (“What the NHS needs most is a break from the surgeons of Westminster”, Comment, last week). It’s not enough to put money into the health service; we must enable users and providers to make use of the NHS more efficiently.
I believe we have a system that would work if there were no meddling from Whitehall every time there was an election.
Dr Naresh Kanumilli, Lead for Performance and Quality, Clinical Long Term Conditions, South Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group
Shopping and changing
Camilla Cavendish has accurately diagnosed some of the ailments facing the NHS: the politicisation of the service and the philosophy of “izzy, wizzy, let’s get busy”, change, change, change. Imagine a supermarket where every few weeks the layout changed, where staff were shuffled into unfamiliar roles and where pay and performance were constantly the subject of public scrutiny. Would it be attractive to potential employees and would it run efficiently?
Dr Robin Berry, Consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care Derriford Hospital, Plymouth
I suspect Cavendish’s article could easily be applied to education as well. It is a pity that the NHS and the school system have become weapons that the parties wield against each other and that these services suffer as a result.
James Wheeldon, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria
Paying their way
It never ceases to amaze me that pensioners are exempt from paying into the NHS. I am a German citizen, married to a Briton, and have lived in the UK since the 1970s. The German healthcare system has compulsory membership and is funded by (income-related) contributions. My mother paid several hundred euros a month until her death at the age of 88.
The young are worse off than their parents or grandparents were because of higher housing prices and university fees, so it surely is unjust to ask them to shoulder the health costs of their elders, a group that also enjoys a heating allowance and free transport.
Crista Lyon, Chislehurst, southeast London
A stitch in time
If Mark Drakeford, the Welsh health minister, is so proud of health standards in his country, would he explain why it is unable or unwilling to abide by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines on “two-week wait” appointment times for cases of suspected cancer (“No NHS cover-up in Wales”, Letters, last week)? Welsh consultants have a six-week timeline. However, tumours grow just as rapidly there as in England.
Dr David Skidmore, Consultant surgeon, London SE3
A ground war is the only way to rout Isis
GIVEN the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public understandably has no appetite for another ground war in the Middle East (“Bombing jihadis is futile, says top British general”, News, and “We won’t beat them with airstrikes”, Focus, last week).
Unfortunately it is the only form of warfare that has any chance of defeating Isis. Bombing causes civilian casualties that are then used as propaganda. Our government’s decision to join the campaign will not achieve its objectives without those boots on the ground.
Colonel Barry Clayton (retired), Cleveleys, Lancashire
No return for jihadists
The decision to deploy air power is to be welcomed. However, David Cameron should have secured a quid pro quo agreement from Iraq that would have seen all jihadists from the UK prevented from returning to this country. It would also offer a powerful disincentive for any wannabe extremists from engaging in this murderous form of tourism.
Jamie Beresford, Bristol
Better the devil you know
The Isis crisis arises because of the destabilisation of Iraq and Syria. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been demonised by our politicians, but, with all its faults, it has not been altogether bad for Syria.
The Arab spring raised hopes of greater freedom, yet the examples of Iraq, Libya and Egypt warn us that transition to democracy is often not easy.
It would be advisable now, notwithstanding the horrible things done by all sides there, for us to change tack to help restore order to the region.
Dr Rod Walters, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Enemy at the gates
I found myself agreeing with the vast majority of General Lord Richards’s military assessment. Then his judgment appeared to desert him in reference to what he feels is the need to ignore Vladimir Putin’s transgressions in Ukraine and “bring Russia back into the fold”.
Ukraine is being given a raw deal not just by the bear on its doorstep but by sheep and sheepdogs in the West. If the EU and Nato do not stand up to Russia, there may be another threat on their doorstep to match the one further east.
Paul Iwanyckyj, Doncaster Branch Chairman, Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain
Hands up for the return of grammar schools
HOW right London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, is (“Boris mourns grammars”, News, last week). Re-establishing grammars would be a boon to parents and pupils and a certain vote-winner. Like many children in the 1950s and 1960s I came from a poor working-class family yet was able to receive an elite education at a Leicestershire grammar school. Why, oh why, did the politicians bin a system that was fair and worked?
Tony Ellis, Northwood, London
Most schools embrace evidence-based research to improve learning, and this is encouraged by Ofsted, among other organisations. It was rather surprising therefore to read the watchdog’s chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, extolling the virtues of co-educational over single-sex schools (“Ofsted boss says mixed schools are better”, News, last week). The only evidence offered for this appeared to be Wilshaw’s own experience.
Stephen Nokes, Headmaster, John Hampden Grammar School, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
“The nursery kids are all right” (News Review, September 14) assumes that academic success and well-paid jobs are the only criteria of wellbeing. Competitive high-flyers are not always the happiest of people. I would doubt if the findings in the survey quoted are a basis for complacency on the subject of daycare for young children.
Rosemary Packard, Deddington, Oxfordshire
Women played their part in office frolics
FOR many of us of a similar age, playing with women in the office was the norm (“This is all your fault, Camilla. You kicked things off”, News Review, last week). Yes, the women loved it too, no question, despite what people may think or say. It was a very different time. Of course there are those who will now bow to the “compensation” god: the media have given them the opportunity to make a few bob.
Brian Watson, Purley, London
Antique object lessons in sexual manipulation
Last week I watched five episodes of an antiques programme in which the female “expert” used her sexuality to manipulate each man she was with — bluntly, she was all over them. In what sense is this less the abusive use of sexual power over another person than Travis’s behaviour? In what sense is it less an invasion of personal space? It is time the law recognised emotional as well as physical abuse. Perhaps then there will be a more balanced critique of the failings of both genders.
Philip Iszatt, Radstock, Somerset
London homes fair game for mansion tax
YOU reported that “a Labour party grandee has pocketed a £43m profit from the sale of his London house” (“Peer saves £144,000 by selling his house”, News, last week) and in the Money feature headlined “Revealed: the real losers under Labour’s mansion tax scheme” stated that “hard-working people will suffer”. The vast profits being made by homeowners in the southeast on principal residences are tax-free. A tough mansion tax seems well justified.
Geoff Kite, Pantymwyn, Flintshire
Labour likes nothing more than to label the Conservatives “the nasty party”, but what does its demonising of the rich with its mansion tax proposal say about the party? This is just a cheap publicity stunt attacking the usual soft targets and one that will have little effect in achieving its stated aim of improving the NHS.
Gareth Tarr, Chertsey, Surrey
India Knight (Comment, last week) stated that the mansion tax will result in a “mass exodus of normal people” from London. If I owned a £2m property anywhere, I would pay my taxes and stop complaining.
Fran Okona, London NW1
Electoral reform would build on engagement of referendum
SURELY the most important fact after the referendum was that everyone in Scotland knew every vote mattered, thus making it such a memorable turnout (“The result revealed a nation of brave hearts with cool heads”, Comment, September 21).
How to keep it going, then? If we are to find solutions for the whole UK, then perhaps it is time for proportional representation. This would suck the lifeblood from border alterations and ensure that only change wanted by the majority could take place.
Dominic Lawson’s article (“What’s the way out of this devo mess? We once knew the answer”, Comment, September 21), referring to Gladstone’s possible solution is, I think, best left in history. The public no longer needs wise parenting or to be patronised.
Daniel Ogilvy, Perth
The results indicate that Britain is moving towards a federal state, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland becoming more autonomous, leaving England controlled by what is essentially the UK parliament.
My belief is that England should have its own parliament. If we greatly reduce the size of Westminster to, say, 400 MPs, the money saved can be used to do so.
AJ McGolpin, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
After the referendum, most people agree that reconciliation is now required. However, the reported comments by “Saint” Gordon Brown (the Saviour of the Union!), wherein he accused David Cameron of setting a trap for Scottish voters, will only foment further resentment.
Are the 45% who said “yes” unaware of the additional benefits they receive while the remainder of the UK do not?
Michael McMenemy and Mrs A McMenemy-Rudge, Seaton, Devon
Now that it has been decided Scotland will remain part of the UK (“Keep the kingdom united, a superpower of city states”, News Review, last week), some thought must be given to transport links in the UK.
Unlike France, which is famously hexagonal and crisscrossed with high-speed rail links, the UK is long and thin, with London, the centre of power, located in the bottom righthand corner. It is also pretty much devoid of high-speed rail links.
If the country is to function as a “united” kingdom, then the scandalously high air passenger duty charged on domestic flights needs to be abolished, or at the very least substantially reduced.
Rob McGregor, Dunmow, Essex
Up in the air
David Cameron’s very public grovelling to Scotland was toe-curlingly embarrassing, and his promising the country the earth to remain in the Union contrasts starkly with the contempt in which he holds hard-working, tax-paying Londoners.
The prime minister’s determination to build a third (and likely more) runway(s) at Heathrow will increase noise and air pollution for ordinary people, the majority of whom have no country mansions to escape to.
Anthony and Delia Jay, London SW15
Raise a glass
I had to laugh at Alan Black (“Missing the party”, Letters, last week) conveying the relief of “no” voters by telling us how “champagne corks’” could be heard popping in the “suburbs and countryside”.
What a relief, indeed, it must have been for him and his friends to have avoided “the narrow divisive politics of the nationalists” and the certain “economic abyss” that would have followed. As opposed, of course, to the ongoing narrow divisive politics of the unionists and the economic abyss we find ourselves in currently. Chin-chin.
John McGlynn, Edinburgh
Day of honour
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the UK government commemorated the Scottish people speaking up for Britain by nominating September 18 every year as a national holiday? We can be in no doubt that the nationalists would have hailed it as “independence day” or something similar and therefore it must be equally appropriate to honour the splendidly loyal decision by the educated majority of Scots.
Robert Veitch, Edinburgh
Driving a soft bargain
David Cameron’s stance on the EU (“Tory backbench assassin throws in lot with Farage”, News, last week) would be more credible if he had not announced that when his attempts at reform were over he would campaign for Britain to stay in Europe. This is rather like telling the car dealer you will buy the vehicle whether he drops the price or not. This novel approach to negotiation explains why it is not taken seriously.
David Brancher, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
I have never voted Tory in my life but I felt that the defection of the Conservative MP Mark Reckless to Ukip was both underhand and dishonourable.
Dr Per Svanberg, Ponteland, Northumberland
Nil by mouth
One disadvantage of wearing the niqab is that many of the thousands of deaf children and adults in the UK need to see to be able to hear, despite advanced hearing aids and cochlear implants (“An impossible decision on the unsmiling face of Islam”, Eleanor Mills, last week). They have to watch lip movements and facial expressions, and hand or body gestures or sign language. Most would find it difficult to communicate with someone whose face and lips were covered, whether it be by a niqab, a dentist’s mouth mask or a beard/moustache.
Elizabeth Jones, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Cause and effect
According to “Arctic ice cap in ‘death spiral’” (News, September 21 ), global warming is causing Arctic sea ice to shrink but is simultaneously causing Antarctic sea ice to expand. Is there anything global warming can’t do?
William Toland , Glasgow
Your correspondent David Schofield (“Fuel subsidy is a hot topic”, Letters, last week) has lived in southwest France for too long if he thinks that the winter temperature of 0C to 14C is “much colder” than Britain. Where I live, in northeast Scotland, we were lucky last year to have a relatively mild winter, with the temperature only dropping a few degrees below freezing. In the previous two years, the mercury dropped to -15C and it was more than a week in each case before it returned to a balmy 0C
Angela Townsend, Forres, Moray
Corrections and clarifications
In the 50 Years of Business magazine last week the figures for male average annual wages in 1964 were incorrect. They should have been £915.20 for manual workers, and £1,220 for
non-manual workers. The figures for car production should have been 1.87m for 1964 and 1.5m for today, not 1.87bn and 1.5bn as we stated. We apologise for the errors.
In “Sartre accused of reaping benefits of anti-semitism” (World News, last week) references to “anti-Jewish Nazi policy” and “a death camp” should have been to “the Vichy government’s anti-Nazi policy” and “a concentration camp”. We apologise to Ingrid Galster for the implication that these historical inaccuracies were hers.
In “My secrets for teaching lost boys new tricks” (News Review, last week) we stated incorrectly that Ian Mikardo High School is in Hackney. It is in Tower Hamlets. We apologise for the error.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our website for full details of how to lodge a complaint.
Peter Ackroyd, writer, 65; Clive Barker, novelist, 62; Stephanie Cole, actress, 73; Dame Laura Davies, golfer, 51; Jesse Eisenberg, actor, 31; Bob Geldof, singer, 63; Glynis Johns, actress, 91; Michael Morpurgo, author, 71; Guy Pearce, actor, 47; Nicola Roberts, singer, 29; Nick Robinson, BBC political editor, 51; Kate Winslet, actress, 39
1789 Parisian women march to Versailles in protest at the price of bread; 1864 a cyclone hits Calcutta, killing 60,000; 1936 Jarrow marchers set off for London; 1962 world premiere of first Bond film, Dr No; 1969 first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus airs on BBC1; 1986 The Sunday Times reveals Israel’s nuclear secrets.
Prince Philip has been the Queen’s “strength and stay all these years”, according to the monarch herself Photo: PA
6:55AM BST 04 Oct 2014
SIR – Yvonne Carse (Letters, October 1) argues that a “step forward” for the Duchess of Cambridge would be to have an independent career, so she need not rely on her husband for title and position.
Using the same logic, one could argue that the circumstances of the Duke of Edinburgh represent a step backwards for men, as his titles and position come as a result of his marriage. Yet Prince Philip has been, to use the Queen’s own words, her “strength and stay all these years”, as well as a great support to this nation for seven decades.
The Duchess looks likely to fulfil a similar role for decades to come. She seems happy. Individuals contribute in different ways, usually working to the best advantage of the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Haworth, West Yorkshire
Could Britain turn its back on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Photo: AFP/Getty Images
6:56AM BST 04 Oct 2014
Britons were not given a set of formal rights in law until 1998, when Labour pushed through the Human Rights Act. Before, we were protected by the practical wisdom that had been built up over the ages through the institutions of Parliament, ancient constitutional conventions, the independent judiciary and Common Law.
Are we really more protected with human rights than we were before?
The real purpose of “human rights” is to serve as a tool for pushing the world towards progressive liberalism.
James A Paton
SIR – The Justice Secretary’s use of “could” in his statement concerning withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights is typical of political speech. Why not make a firm Churchillian promise and say that we “will” withdraw?
SIR – How encouraging to see that I’m not alone in struggling with the silly paper driving licence (Letters, October 3).
At a car hire office at Heathrow, I recently presented my plastic card licence and was asked if I had the paper part with me. It hadn’t occurred to me to bring it, so I was told I would be unable to take a car as they couldn’t check for any endorsements.
“Do you have any other driving licence?” the kind staff member asked me. Well, I happen to have a Japanese one. I roughly translated expiry dates, etc., and she was satisfied.
So a valid British licence was not acceptable, but a Japanese one that she couldn’t read was. There was no check on my endorsements (if any) in Japan. In fact, there was no way for her to know I was presenting a driving licence and not a supermarket loyalty card.
São João da Boa Vista, Coimbra, Portugal
SIR – It is no surprise that Sandra Miles-Taylor (Letters, October 2) feels hungry after eating an apple. A colleague of my late father maintained that consuming an apple around 20 minutes before having a meal was a good aid to digestion.
The actor has admitted to taking cocaine while visiting Buckingham Palace Photo: REX
6:57AM BST 04 Oct 2014
SIR – In claiming that he hurt nobody but himself when he took cocaine, Stephen Fry seems a bit naive (report, September 26).
What about the desperate drugs mules who risked imprisonment to feed his habit?
Or the dealers, perhaps less desperate, who still risk imprisonment? Or the general lawlessness that this culture of drug-taking encourages?
Does he really think that mouthing off about the places in which he took cocaine, and generally acting as a cheerleader-cum-apologist for that lifestyle does anything good for society?
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – Ivan Hewett asks why so many resist the attractions of Brahms.
In the wonderfully sturdy German Requiem, the choir in the sixth movement sing “Where, O death, is thy sting?” and Brahms momentarily lets himself go, composing a waltz tune that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Hollywood musical. Most performances this side of the Atlantic tend to keep this section on a tight rein.
SIR – The word “sublime” is used by many to describe the music of Brahms; it’s a term which could not really be applied to the music of Britten.
Brian D Freestone
Brent Knoll, Somerset
Children under the lens
SIR – How can it be acceptable that a photographer can take pictures of another person’s child – in this case a prince – in public places (report, October 3) when, some years ago, a father was arrested for taking photographs of his own children on the beach while on holiday?
Not only is this a prime example of double standards, but it raises the question of whether the safeguarding measures currently in place regarding images of children are being undermined.
Christopher D Wiggins
Toothy gift horse
SIR – My son was amused to receive his RAC membership renewal letter enclosing a free tax disc holder (Letters, October 3).
Littlehampton, West Sussex
Dull and duller
SIR – Am I right in concluding that I would be accepted by the Dull Men’s Club (“Calendar pin-ups who are proud to be dull”, October 3) for my utter dedication to collecting personal travel statistics, which I have done religiously since 1965 when an airline first lost my luggage, a feat performed a further 33 times since by diverse airline operators?
These days there are wonderful websites such as http://www.mosttraveledpeople.com (slogan: On the road to everywhere) to keep up the pressure.
If that were not enough, the local chapter of the Travellers’ Century Club brings together like-minded addicts to compare notes and offer suggestions for the future.
A total of 2,378,920 miles flown, 1,299 flights, 54 aircraft types flown, 235 airports, 113 countries (all fully documented of course): the permutations are endless.
Shurlock Row, Berkshire
The French revolutionaries went wrong trying to create a 10-day week
6:59AM BST 04 Oct 2014
SIR – The use of 10 as a base for all sorts of counting (Letters, October 2) is solely due to humans having that number of digits. The Babylonians long ago realised the advantage of a 12-based system, hence the 360 degree circle.
Twelve gives whole fraction halves, thirds, quarters, sixths and twelfths: the metric 10 just halves, fifths and tenths.
What a pity that the French revolutionaries, with their republican calendar, divided the year into 12 months but then went the wrong way in trying to create a 10-day week.
SIR – As a young engineer, every month for interim payments I had to calculate a number of work items such as 1 ton, 7 hundredweight (cwt), 5 stone and 2 quarters at 15 pounds, 12 shillings and 9½ pence per cwt, and all without a calculator.
It would be a strange Luddite engineer who would wish a return to the good old days when measurements were made in imperial weights and £sd.
Incidentally, the method of calculation was, of course, to convert all the measurements into metric units.
J M Reid
Opening up further problems: Men drinking three pints of beer and women drinking two large glasses of wine per night should be prescribed a new drug, according to Nice Photo: Alamy
7:00AM BST 04 Oct 2014
SIR – Does the £288 million cost per year of the drug Selincro, to dissuade people from drinking two glasses of wine or more each day (estimated to save 1,854 lives over five years), include the cost of the state pensions that we are currently saving by allowing these 1,854 people, of their own free will, to drink themselves into an early grave (report, October 3)?
If the NHS eliminates all of the current causes of death, we will still all die, but of even more expensive and intractable causes that, presumably, we will still expect the NHS to tackle.
In addition to ever-increasing NHS costs, there would be ever-increasing benefits, state pensions and care-home costs to consider, as well as pressure on the housing market. There must come a time when we will be forced to say: “Enough is enough!”
But since such honesty is unpopular, no political party is prepared to face up to reality. The longer an honest debate is put off, the greater will be the percentage of the population getting a living from pharmaceutical, care and associated industries, making it more difficult to find an equitable and affordable answer.
SIR – Why should those who can afford the cost of the wine be given the support of the taxpayer (through the NHS) to help solve their self-induced problem?
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
SIR – Two glasses of wine a night, and you need medication at £20 a week? The drug companies will drink to that.
SIR – We are ready for our two-week cruise to the Canary Islands. As is increasingly popular, the price includes all alcoholic drinks. If people drinking two glasses of wine are now considered to be verging on being alcoholic, perhaps it might be sensible to cancel the cruise and claim a refund on health and safety grounds?
Brighton, East Sussex
SIR – My wife and I drink two glasses of wine each evening and we are horrified to imagine ourselves as borderline alcoholics. That said, our perception may change dramatically if Messrs Miliband and Balls move into Downing Street next year.
Goring by Sea, West Sussex
SIR – Next time I’ll hold a Selincro party. Just think of the money I’ll save on booze.
SIR – I note the side-effects can be dizziness, insomnia and headache. Might as well have the wine in the first place.
East Preston, West Sussex
Madam – Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, blame it on a faceless official in party headquarters. Or so goes the less than catchy refrain from Enda Kenny.
It was everyone’s fault but his, regarding his party’s crude attempt to get a newly appointed Minister to attempt to fix a failed FG politician into a Seanad seat.
Enda, spare us the fake apology, the fake explanation; who do you think you are, Bertie Ahern? One thing we have learned from the John McNulty/Enda Kenny affair is that it apparently takes about three and a half years for a man that everyone would have said was a clean pair of hands on elevation to the Taoiseach’s office, to become a man who is only convincing himself that he is still acting in the best interests of the country.
Let’s be honest, a dead man could have implemented the externally imposed austerity programme we now have to live through.
What exactly has Enda Kenny done during his time in office? This, the latest episode in the long and miserable catalogue of betrayals of our democracy by an arrogant Taoiseach, has revealed one thing – it seemingly doesn’t matter who we vote for, the bastards always win.
Declan Doyle, Kilkenny
Effect of force on politics
Madam – Considerable ink was spilt in Mr McDowell’s article -‘We cannot unravel our history’ (Sunday Independent, 21 September). It is true that the past cannot be undone. It is equally true that actions have consequences which resonate far into the distant future.
McDowell is correct in stating that the Rising is now part of our distant history, but less so when he asserts it “must be treated as such.” Tell that to our Tweedledum and Tweedledee political parties who remain divided by Civil War differences.
It would be disingenuous to hold that the Rising and War of Independence had no inspiration for those involved in the violent events which engulfed the North for thirty wasted years, or had no effect in producing the ambivalent attitude of many in the South to these events.
The courage, patriotism, and service of all those involved, whatever their political stance, in the years preceding national independence have not been denied by John Bruton. However, in stating his preference for peaceful rather than forcible solutions to political problems, it seems that he is trying to warn us of the long-term polarisation of attitudes, and constraints on political progress, which the use of force introduces.
Contrast, for instance, the Northern Peace Process, now in its sixteenth year and compare it with, say, the debate on Scottish independence, the continuous evolution and transformation of the Commonwealth, or the establishment and continuous development of the EU and other international organizations.
To resort to force, or the threat of force, is to reject flexibility and compromise, the possibilities and opportunities for progress and for finding solutions to on-going problems, provided by political interaction and discourse. It is possible to surmise also that the use of force in establishing our independence has had a long-term degrading effect on political thought and parliamentary action, from which may well derive the current public cynicism and disregard for politicians which has now reached proportions that should cause alarm.
These are possibly among the factors influencing Mr. Bruton in formulating his views on this issue. He is to be commended for his service to the public in so doing, and for the implicit warning about the need to exercise the greatest of care in making political choices and decisions. There can be little doubt that the greatest of all Irishmen, Daniel O’Connell, would approve.
Tom Clear, Monkstown, Co Dublin
Media legitimate line of inquiry
Madam – Dan O’Brien claims that the Banking Inquiry requiring ‘senior editors, board members and financial controllers’ of media organisations to come before it is ‘wrongheaded’ and ‘a threat to the freedom of the press.’ (Sunday Independent, 28 September). This is an absurd claim.
One role of the Joint Committee into the banking crisis is ‘to inquire into the reasons Ireland experienced a systemic banking crisis, including the economic, social, cultural, political and financial and behavioural factors and policies which impacted on, or contributed to, the crisis.’
By common consent the inflation of a massive property bubble and its inevitable crash were central to the banking crisis. The bubble involved massive increases in the prices of building land, of new homes and commercial property over a period of more than ten years.
Mass media organisations have huge power in society to shape public and official opinion. One could hardly examine the ‘social, cultural and behavioural factors’ that impacted on a major development without looking at the role the mass media played.
According to Dan O’Brien, ‘the most important function of the media is to hold those in powerful positions to account.’ Governments, banks, major bondholders and developers were indisputably in powerful economic positions during the inflation of the bubble. Did the media hold them to account?
Were there major media investigations into the dizzying inflation of building land prices; or into the fact that an ordinary home was rising in price by the equivalent of the annual industrial wage each year for many years; or into the extension of a normal home mortgage term from 20 to 35 and 40 years and often at very high repayment levels? Did the media act as a watchdog for those who would consider themselves in a vulnerable position, for example working people purchasing homes in these circumstances?
Did the media inquire into whether the huge increases in prices were justified by equivalently rising costs of construction or was there large scale profit taking at the expense of the purchaser and society?
Again it is indisputable that some major newspapers earned substantial revenue from advertising sales of homes and commercial properties. One newspaper group purchased a property advertising web site for a substantial figure. Did this commercial relationship with the property sector in any way influence the relevant organisations in how they dealt in their media outlets with the subject of price inflation or other aspects of the property market that led to the crisis?
Surely it is legitimate to explore questions like these and hear the answers as well as any other observations those being questioned might like to make.
Joe Higgins, TD, Leinster House, Dublin
Kenny is not in Haughey’s league
Madam – I am all in favour of criticising powerful politicians, but when you compare Taoiseach Kenny with former Taoiseach Haughey you are not comparing like with like (Sunday Independent, 28 September).
As you say Haughey may have aspired to be ‘a Renaissance Prince’ and a ‘political giant’ but ‘many of the consequences of his unique personality were for ill’ and ‘eventually … destroyed the country’.
In contrast Kenny is no Prince and his efforts at pulling ‘strokes’ are distinctly amateurish.
He is thus not in the same league in the Machiavellian stakes and, while the jury is still out on the efforts of his government to salvage the country, Kenny cannot be accused of bankrupting the country.
A. Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13
An end to Fine Gael’s credibility
Madam – In life all good things come to an end – and we have just seen Enda Kenny’s credibility disintegrate over the John McNulty cronyism debacle.
Fine Gael’s promise of transparency and openness has been left in tatters and from October 1 the ice bucket water challenge can no longer be afforded here as we are now being fleeced for a natural resource that once came free flowing from Irish taps.
Time to completely flush the system out perhaps? (Not that you will read that in the Sunday Independent).
Vincent O’Connell, New Ross, Co Wexford
Enda and Bertie are so similar
Madam – Is Enda Kenny possibly Bertie Ahern in disguise?
They both defer to powerful interest groups. Developers in Bertie’s case and a large corporate for Enda.
They both gave public money to GAA projects – €110m for Croker, and now €30m for Cork.
They both moved difficult ministers to European positions – first McCreevy and now Hogan.
Enda too has become most adept at avoiding questions in ever rarer Dail appearances.
Both leaders seem to have a particular gift for keeping the few talented and reforming politicians around subdued and both are prepared to throw associates under the bus to preserve their position.
They also have a knack for finding farcical settings for photo ops – like a kitchen cupboard or ploughing a field in a suit.
However, it’s the man of the people portrait that Enda and Bertie paint I find most vexing. They have known only prestige and privilege since election to the Leinster House bubble in 1975 and 1981 respectively and maybe that’s what makes them carbon copy personalities and ideologically the same.
David Cotter, Castlemartyr, Co Cork
Time to fight for our quality of life
Madam – Like everybody else I’m outraged at the conniving under-handedness of our politicians and all the government giving of jobs for the boys.
It is both aggravating and disgraceful that none of those vacancies were advertised so that the “ordinary” public could have the opportunity to apply. Instead, we had the unaccountable politicians once again wilfully abusing their place of power or that of my fellow citizens.
Nor have I forgotten that during the dying days of the previous administration, appointments were handed out like snuff at a wake.
It’s time that we as people began fighting for our own quality of life, as this shower of vultures are no better than the pack of parasites they replaced.
Now Micheal Martin is barking like a pitbull. It is demoralising to hear Mr Kenny’s pitiful waffling that this type of thing was beneath his high political standards. I suppose Mr Kenny feels we should believe that his non-keeping of pre-election promises was below his standards too? Well Mr Kenny I am not convinced and I’m definitely not that gullible either. The root of your problem Mr Kenny is you were trying to do things on the quite, and now you have been caught.
Matthew J Greville, Killucan, Co Westmeath
Thanks John for story of the monks
Madam – John Waters’ article on Mount Mellary (Sunday Independent, September 28) brought a flood of memories for me.
My uncle Aengus Dunphy joined that monastery in the 1940s. My parents were married there in 1958 as he was unable to leave the monastery at the time. He got a special dispensation to speak on the day having kept a vow of silence since the day he entered. He left there and became abbot of Portglenone monastery in Antrim where he passed away this year, aged 93.
He would have loved to have had John Waters come to do a retreat as he was never happier than in a deep discussion about God and life so they would both have had a lively debate. Thanks to John today for bringing the life of those monks alive to us. Personally l never quite got it but l have admiration for their prayer life and sincerity. The life of the Cistercians has been an integral part of my life growing up and l enjoyed imaging John in the middle of that life.
Kay Murtagh, Kilkenny
Really enjoyed John Waters piece
Madam – I wish to acknowledge a really enjoyable article by John Waters in the Sunday Independent (28 September). I thought John hit the nail on the head, so well done.
M. Kealy, Slane, Co Meath
Kerrigan’s ‘dig’ was worthwhile
Madam – Gene Kerrigan furnished sterling service to a reading public last week (Sunday Independent, 28 September).
For months it has been propounded by government ministers and Irish Water, as absolute truth, that Irish Water cannot, by law, be privatised.
Thanks to the excavating of the legislation by Mr Kerrigan we learn that there exists a proviso that such transfer of ownership (alienation) cannot happen, “save with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance”.
The legislation was rammed through the Dail and Seanad, provoking an entire opposition walkout and was signed by the President on December 25, 2013.
The implications of selling and relinquishing a core strategic asset which is our water supply and its attendant infrastructure, do not bear thinking about but it may well become a reality, if for example, there is yet another banking collapse and international money lenders will be evaluating remaining national assets.
In this context Mr Kerrigan’s excavation of the legislation is a good start and it follows and proves the adage that a watchful press is central to our liberties and our welfare in its various forms.
John Sullivan, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Mutts are less likely to be stolen
Madam-In response to the reader (Sunday Independent, 28 September, Letters Page), whose little dog was stolen like Twink’s, may I make a suggestion?
There are many abandoned dogs around the country in pounds and shelters needing a ‘forever home’, with a caring person or family. Maybe instead of spending big money on a pedigree pet, with no idea what conditions it was bred in, people might consider taking on one of these dogs who come in all shapes and sizes. Not only will you have a happy, loyal dog, but it is highly unlikely to be stolen.
My heart goes out to anyone who has been a victim of this crime.
Mairead Kelly, Co Leitrim
Take a new look at mental illness
Madam – Carol Hunt in her review of TG4’s excellent documentary series on the history of psychiatry in Ireland makes the very valid point that “little seems to have changed” in 21st century Ireland. There is much debate as to the origins of so called mental illnesses. The psychiatric profession claims most disorders are caused by chemical imbalance in the brain while psychotherapy looks for causes in a person’s background, most notably their childhood. Yet most schools of psychotherapy do not place much emphasis on the birth process.
I was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression at the age of 20. I overcame this diagnosis through years of psychotherapy and holotropic breathwork.
My own birth was traumatic, I also experienced sexual abuse in early childhood as well as in my late teens.
It was only through my journey of recovery I came to deal with my traumatic birth and childhood sexual abuse which I had completely blocked out.
If a 20 year old man or woman for that matter presents themselves to a psychiatric unit with the same symptoms I presented with 30 years ago will they be treated any differently to the way I was treated all those years ago? I doubt it.
We need to examine the causes of “mental illness.” It is only then we can look for a solution,
Name and address with editor
All this darkness is unnecessary
Madam – Towards the end of October the clocks will be put back one hour, plunging the entire country into unnecessary months of darkness.
It will be dark in November at 4pm and we will endure this self inflicted darkness till the end of March. This is surely absurd.
This is like as if the Taoiseach, Mr Kenny, swallowed the sun and then regurgitated it at the end of March.
Michael O Nuallain, Monkstown, Dublin