29 October 2014 Vet

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 vet for the cats vaccinations still some trouble over a ‘Servas’ visitor won’t answer the phone!

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


Marie Dubois – obituary

Marie Dubois was a French New Wave actress who became an unwilling pawn in the rivalry between Truffaut and Godard

Marie Dubois in La Ronde, 1964

Marie Dubois in La Ronde, 1964 Photo: Photoshot/Collection Christophel

5:39PM GMT 28 Oct 2014


Marie Dubois, who has died aged 77, was an actress whose air of vulnerability diluted the ennui of the French New Wave; she appeared in François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Une femme est une femme (1961), and became an unwitting pawn in the power play between the two rival directors.

Her debut, in Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960), was to set the tenor of her career. As Léna, the orphan waitress who is hopelessly in love with the titular bar pianist (played by Charles Aznavour), she exudes both sensitivity and stability. Truffaut called the character “the girl with whom one could make a fresh start”. It is not to be — Lena is gunned down by gangsters.

Marie Dubois’s air of innocence, blue eyes and gentle smile were to make her a natural choice for casting agents looking for the embodiment of a fragile woman. It was a fitting observation: while filming Shoot the Piano Player, Marie Dubois experienced the first faint symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a condition that she would battle for the rest of her life.

Truffaut became her mentor during the shoot. He suggested that she adopt a screen name (she was born Claudine Huzé), settling on Marie Dubois after the title of a 1952 novel by Jacques Audiberti. Marie Dubois later claimed that she and Truffaut had fallen in love while filming Shoot the Pianist but that the relationship had always remained platonic. At the time of the shoot Truffaut was married and already had a mistress, the actress Liliane David.

Jean-Luc Godard, however, swiftly took advantage of the situation. “You’ve been acting like a s—,” wrote Truffaut in a letter to Godard. “I knew you had seduced Liliane by telling her ‘Francois doesn’t love you any more, he’s in love with Marie Dubois who’s in his new film,’ and I found that pitiful.” Meanwhile Godard noted: “Every day the women we sleep with separate us more than they bring us together.” Despite the rumours and love spats, Marie Dubois and Truffaut remained friends until the director’s death in 1984.

Claudine Lucie Pauline Huzé was born on January 12 1937 in Paris and studied at L’École nationale supérieure des arts et techniques du théâtre (ENSATT). She began her career on stage, appearing in Molière’s The Misanthrope and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Truffaut spotted her in the 1959 television series La Caméra explore le temps (“The Camera Explores Time”) and invited her to a screen test. “Imagine you’re a really vulgar fruit peddler,” she was told by the man behind the camera. “Curse me out.” She screwed up her nose: “I’m so embarrassed. It’s awful.”

Marie Dubois with Oskar Werner in Jules et Jim, 1962

Two years after the success of Shoot the Pianist she worked with Truffaut again, on his love-triangle drama Jules et Jim (1962). Playing Thérèse, the anarchic ex-girlfriend of Jules (played by Oskar Werner), she was responsible for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, in which she mimics a steam engine by smoking a cigarette back to front, puffing away on the lit end. In 1961 (the year she took a cameo part in Godard’s Une femme est une femme) Marie Dubois had married the actor Serge Rousseau, another good friend of Truffaut, who would later became an actors’ agent .

Although Marie Dubois worked primarily in supporting roles, her range was broad. She gave the angst of the New Wave milieu a tender heart, working under the direction of Alain Resnais, Louis Malle and Roger Vadim in addition to Godard and Truffaut; but she embraced slapstick comedy and Gallic noir with equal enthusiasm.

Comedies brought her to an international audience. She was the female lead in the wartime farce La Grande Vadrouille (“The Big Runaround”, 1966) which is one of France’s most popular films and appeared in the English language car race caper Monte Carlo or Bust! (1969). In both films she starred opposite Terry-Thomas.

Thrillers, however, provided some of her best parts. In 1978 she played the ill-fated lover of Yves Montand’s chancer in Alain Corneau’s La Menace. The performance won her the best supporting actress award at the 1978 Césars (the French Oscars).

When film roles were sparse she turned to television , much to the disapproval of Truffaut. “I’ve always felt an actor should do television only if he’s forced to,” he said to Serge, advising that his wife would be better occupied writing her memoirs: “Marie will have to learn to be philosophical about those periods when she is ‘resting’.”

In later life Marie Dubois campaigned for awareness of, and care for, people suffering from multiple sclerosis. “I was born in the cinema at the very same time that a little death crept inside me: multiple sclerosis,” she wrote in her memoirs. “The first time it’s like a fleeting shadow glimpsed in the night and that dissipates in daylight. Hardly disturbing. Then, little by little, it began appearing in the light. The shadow took shape. And that shape was my own.”

As her illness worsened, her film appearances became less frequent, although she continued to take small parts during the 1980s and 1990s, most notably in Alain Resnais’s Mon Oncle d’Amérique (1980) and Francis Girod’s Descent into Hell (1986). The latter earned her another César nomination.

She was made a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur in 2002 and an Officier in 2013. Her autobiography, J’ai Pas Menti, J’ai Pas Tout Dit (“I Didn’t Lie, I Didn’t Tell Everything”), was published in 2002.

Serge Rousseau died in 2007, and Marie Dubois is survived by their daughter, the actress Dominique Rousseau.

Marie Dubois, born January 12 1937, died October 15 2014


Green Curly Kale. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown. Green curly kale … a staple of the labouring classes? Photograph: Alamy

When telling the 12th-century legend of the Green Children of Woolpit to primary pupils in Wiltshire, I explained how the adults of Woolpit were frightened when the green children were discovered, but not the children. “I suppose it’s a bit like Ukip,” commented one pupil. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.
Roger Day, storyteller
Wedhampton, Wiltshire

• I believe the Isle of Wight shares with Cumbria the extremely dubious distinction of being an English county that has never had a female MP (There’s a new Sherriff in town, 28 October). Or did I sleep through the independence vote?
Justine Andrews
Ryde, Isle of Wight

• Please could we have Michael Meacher (People need hope, not the Tory austerity tale, Letters, 28 October) for the leader of the Scottish Labour party?
Robert Leach
Selkirk, Scottish Borders

• “Fat idiots are still idiots even when they’re skinny,” writes Stuart Heritage (G2, 28 October) about three public figures who have done nothing more reprehensible than lose weight. Does the Guardian believe that if trolling is done in public, it’s free speech?
Stephen Sedley

• A traditional English folk song suggests curly kale (Letters, passim) was once a staple of the labouring classes:
Ale, ale, glorious ale; dressed up in pewter it tells its own tale. / Some folks likes radishes, some curly kale, / But give I fried onions and a girt dish o’ taters / And a lump of fatty bacon and a pint of good ale.
Ian Thompson
Hinton Parva, Wiltshire

• The dispersal of the remains of the Berlin Wall was certain fast and furious (Report, 28 October).  I remember, only the day after, being offered a choice of pieces of brick and concrete during a lunchtime pint in Bold Street, Liverpool, just round the corner from some demolished flats.
John Boothby

Green Curly Kale. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown. Green curly kale … a staple of the labouring classes? Photograph: Alamy

When telling the 12th-century legend of the Green Children of Woolpit to primary pupils in Wiltshire, I explained how the adults of Woolpit were frightened when the green children were discovered, but not the children. “I suppose it’s a bit like Ukip,” commented one pupil. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.
Roger Day, storyteller
Wedhampton, Wiltshire

• I believe the Isle of Wight shares with Cumbria the extremely dubious distinction of being an English county that has never had a female MP (There’s a new Sherriff in town, 28 October). Or did I sleep through the independence vote?
Justine Andrews
Ryde, Isle of Wight

• Please could we have Michael Meacher (People need hope, not the Tory austerity tale, Letters, 28 October) for the leader of the Scottish Labour party?
Robert Leach
Selkirk, Scottish Borders

• “Fat idiots are still idiots even when they’re skinny,” writes Stuart Heritage (G2, 28 October) about three public figures who have done nothing more reprehensible than lose weight. Does the Guardian believe that if trolling is done in public, it’s free speech?
Stephen Sedley

• A traditional English folk song suggests curly kale (Letters, passim) was once a staple of the labouring classes:
Ale, ale, glorious ale; dressed up in pewter it tells its own tale. / Some folks likes radishes, some curly kale, / But give I fried onions and a girt dish o’ taters / And a lump of fatty bacon and a pint of good ale.
Ian Thompson
Hinton Parva, Wiltshire

• The dispersal of the remains of the Berlin Wall was certain fast and furious (Report, 28 October).  I remember, only the day after, being offered a choice of pieces of brick and concrete during a lunchtime pint in Bold Street, Liverpool, just round the corner from some demolished flats.
John Boothby

Grayson Perry, The Upper Class at bay (detail) Country-house art? Grayson Perry in front of his tapestry, The Upper Class at Bay, 2012, part of The Vanity of Small Differences exhibition. Photograph: Rii Schroer/Rex Features

Your correspondent Pauline Eyre gives the impression of being very determined not to enjoy Grayson Perry’s exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences at Temple Newsam (Letters, 23 October). This is a pity for her, as it is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking shows I have seen for a long time. Bringing it to the country-house museum was a brave and risky decision by the curators and authorities, who – as I could see on my visits – have done everything they can to make it as accessible as possible to everyone, including wheelchair users.

The fact is that Pauline Eyre herself took the decision not to make use of the stair-climber, to refuse kindly help from the trained staff, and objected to waiting for the passenger lift.

In her online letter she described Temple Newsam as “a minor stately home … a bastion of high culture … with poky bedrooms stuffed with furniture and decorative objects belonging to assorted lives from long ago”. This is not only incorrect but frankly insulting to the people of Leeds, who take enormous pride and greatly enjoy this unique country-house art museum. It is one of only two four-star museums in Yorkshire listed by Mark Fisher, former Labour minister for the arts, in his Britain’s Best Museums and Galleries (2004). He described it as “the north’s best kept secret”, and its collections “a triumph”.
James Lomax
Chairman, Leeds Art Fund

Braes of Doune wind farm behind Stirling Castle On an industrial scale in a rural area: the Braes of Doune wind farm affects the view from Stirling Castle, in Perthshire. Photograph: Alamy

What Polly Toynbee didn’t say (This war on windfarms is the Tories’ latest sop to Ukip, 28 October) was that two weeks ago wind generated 25% of Britain’s power. What we should be doing is growing our own indigenous wind turbine industry, as at the moment we import them from mainly Germany and Denmark. A British wind turbine industry would generate much-needed skilled jobs in manufacturing, and improve our balance of payments too.

Britain could be self-sufficient in cheap energy, as we are surrounded by the sea and wind; the risk of being reliant on imported, expensive fossil fuels would be eliminated, with lower industrial costs making us able to export cheaply. As lower electricity costs were passed on to the consumer, this would boost the economy, as people didn’t have to worry about the “second mortgage” that has become the energy price rip-off. Government could legislate that all newbuild housing should have solar panels as standard.

Are we really saying that the country that invented radar, television, antibiotics and the jet engine, among other things – the country of Alan Turing, Tim Berners-Lee and Peter Higgs – cannot grasp the nettle of a new age of affordable, clean energy?

It was once said that the trade unions were luddites for not embracing change; today the real luddites are Eric Pickles, Nigel Farage and the rest of the Tory and Ukip parties.
Alan Quinn
Prestwich, Manchester

• Maybe reactionary populism works by threes. In the US to be a true Republican (as defined by the Tea Party) is to be against gun control, against abortion and against “the climate change lobby”. And, as Polly Toynbee notes, to be a true Tory (as defined by Ukip) is to be against Europe, against immigration and against windfarms.

In fact Ukip has been at the forefront of many local campaigns against wind energy, including the offshore Atlantic Array, but not on the Somerset levels. The campaign against the Ecotricity proposals that Toynbee speaks of has been led by the Huntspill Windfarm Action Group.

Rather than condemn such groups, it is vital to understand the real sense of fear and loss that often underlies what we might otherwise too easily dismiss as nimbyism. For it is the same fear and loss that fuels anti-European and anti-immigrant sentiment. The need to cling to the idea of a timeless British (physical and social) landscape has been a recurring theme of Toryism, and it is this that Ukip now threatens to capture from the Conservatives.
Paul Hoggett
Chair, Climate Psychology Alliance

• Yes, windfarms are political but Polly Toynbee shouldn’t link all opposition to windfarms with climate-change denials. Wind turbines in the right place are a useful part of a mixed energy policy, even though wind power is not particularly clean or cheap once all construction, standby and transmission factors are considered.

There are other reasons for opposing windfarms. They are on an industrial scale, but built mostly in rural areas, and they create only a tiny number of rural jobs. The real money goes to the developer and the (often rich) landowner, paid by customers (including the poor) via subsidies on their energy bills. Whatever Mr Pickles’ reason for calling in appeals, at least it means MPs and councils are now beginning to listen to local opposition.

Come to Northumberland or east Yorkshire and see the damage done to the landscape there, and listen to the outcry from residents, left and right.
Mike Padgett
Sancton, Yorkshire

Peter Connelly, who was known as Baby P until a court order preventing his identification was lifted Peter Connelly, who was known as Baby P until a court order preventing his identification was lifted. Photograph: ITV News/PA Wire

I don’t like the money spent on public inquiries. However, having just watched the BBC documentary on the untold story surrounding the appalling death of Peter Connolly (Watch this, G2, 27 October), the public needs to understand just how brutal and manipulative are the attempts to scapegoat social workers for our endemic social problems. In this case there was an orchestrated campaign by the Sun (under Rebekah Brooks) to target the social workers and locum doctor involved in the case, all quickly themselves becoming the tragic victims of a contemporary witch-hunt.

The evil resulting from this is that the strain on all the services involved escapes attention, as those with a huge burden of work in the frontline of patching up society’s ills are punished rather than supported. The performance of David Cameron in making political capital out of the tragedy (at the time briefed by his “political adviser” Andy Coulson) was hugely significant in this modern tragedy, as were the panicked reactions of Ed Balls and the rushed report of Ofsted. After this disgraceful farce of wrongful blame (the spokespeople for the police and the NHS happy to tolerate, if not encourage, the misleading targeting of the social workers), the right questions are still being ignored.

How better to support our frontline social workers is the issue. Even as the brave and compassionate Sharon Shoesmith kept trying to talk about what was needed to protect children (and damaged mothers) on Newsnight, Evan Davis continued with the lazy routine of personal blame. Given there was never even an inquest into Peter’s death, a public inquiry might at least make more people aware of the evils of these bullying diversions, perhaps as well highlighting how much more vulnerable professional women are to being scapegoated than men in similar positions of responsibility. There are so many social, political and ethical issues here, which a public inquiry might begin to flush out.
Professor Lynne Segal
Birkbeck College, University of London

'The network of services provided by TGV trains is very extensive – it serves 230 destinations, desp ‘The network of services provided by TGV trains is very extensive – it serves 230 destinations, despite the fact that there are only five high-speed routes. That is its strength – it offers a network of services between all major French cities and most of the country’s rail-served towns.’ Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

There are indeed lessons to be drawn for HS2 and HS3 from the report on the TGV in France by the French audit office (France’s ‘incoherent’ TGV network fails to live up to high-speed promise, 27 October). The report has been used to suggest that the TGV network is “running out of steam”. The report appears to justify this opinion by presenting a headline statistic that states that 40% of journey times on TGVs are spent on non-high-speed routes. The strength of high-speed trains is to cover distance. Given that the average speed of a TGV on a high-speed line is nearly three times that on a conventional route, the distance travelled on conventional lines is only around 10% or 15% of the total distance travelled. Lesson one – beware the misuse of numbers to support a politically motivated argument.

The network of services provided by TGV trains is very extensive – it serves 230 destinations, despite the fact that there are only five high-speed routes. That is its strength – it offers a network of services between all major French cities and most of the country’s rail-served towns. It does this by trains that serve a small number of major centres and then run seamlessly on to conventional lines, something that will not be achieved by the dead-end terminal stations proposed for HS2 in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The adoption of terminal stations will reduce the frequency of services between individual pairs of cities. It will also waste capacity on the high-speed line because of the need to provide separate medium-distance point-to-point services, such as Birmingham to Manchester. Lesson two – high-speed lines must be designed to allow the operation of frequent, regular-interval train services that are fully integrated into public transport networks, and not just to provide point-to-point services like an airline.
Greg Haigh
Dorking, Surrey

Migrants sit in a boat off the coast of Sicily during a mission by the Italian navy as part of its M Migrants sit in a boat off the coast of Sicily during a mission by the Italian navy as part of its Mare Nostrum rescue operation, which is due to end this week. Photograph: Marina Militare/Handout/Reuters

I am horrified to read that our government will no longer support search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, claiming that rescue missions “simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing” (UK accused over migrant rescue plan, 28 October). Have we lost our sense of common humanity? Are we to isolate ourselves to such an extent that we are unable or unwilling to reach out to our fellow human beings? These people find themselves in such dire difficulties that they see no choice but to take to the high seas and risk their lives in vessels that are woefully inadequate. Let us not forget that our government acts in our name and that each of us is implicated in this act of barbaric selfishness.
Anish Kapoor

• Perhaps there is a link between ministers’ plan to let people drown, on the basis that rescuing them only encourages others, and government benefits policy, as outlined in Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (Today’s Britain: where the poor are forced to steal or beg from food banks, 28 October), illustrating how the government let people drown in their poverty on the basis that this callousness is some kind of disincentive to joblessness and a spur to others to find work.

These two articles illustrate that the same repugnant casual disregard for human lives pervades government policy, whether it is benefits claimants, the working poor, the environment, or desperate migrants: literally, sink or swim.
Miles Halpin
Wirksworth, Derbyshire

• Tuesday’s Guardian front page was inspiring, with the story about Dean Balboa Farley running into the prime minister (Police under fire after PM hit by jogger, 28 October) appearing under the one about the government’s refusal to support a Mediterranean rescue mission. I was happy to imagine that Mr Farley was seeking to make a citizen’s arrest of David Cameron for bringing the UK into disrepute, rather than jogging to the gym.
Jan Dubé
Peebles, Scottish Borders

• According to the Home Office, rescuing migrants from boats in the Mediterranean acts as a “pull factor” in encouraging more people to try this desperate route. I’m surprised they haven’t followed their own logic, and employed the Royal Navy to sail around the Med sinking migrants’ boats: that would certainly reduce the flow of would-be migrants.

Oh dear, I’m not sure I should have suggested that, as there must be people in the government who would actually think this a serious suggestion, worth following up.
Dr Richard Carter

• I expect soon to see the disbanding of the ambulance services sent to crash scenes, the cancellation of mountain rescue teams, and the banning of first-aid teams at football matches, all of which have the deplorable “pull factor” of encouraging people to crash their cars into each other, stand under avalanches, and break their own legs playing football.
Karl Sabbagh
Newbold on Stour, Warwickshire

• Saving people’s lives sends out the wrong message? Did someone turn the lights of civilisation out?
Stefan Wickham
Oxted, Surrey

• So, our government thinks that allowing a few hundred more fleeing migrants to drown will act as a deterrent to others following. We’re an island nation with an absolute duty to “those in peril on the sea”. I am ashamed to be British.
Ken Cordingley
Williton, Somerset

• I shouldn’t be surprised. The government’s refusal to support search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean because they encourage refugees to risk their lives is consistent with all its other welfare policies: benefits discourage the disabled from getting out of their wheelchairs and so on.

But the callous ignorance of this “quietly announced” decision fills me with anger. Why does the government think that the number of people attempting this desperate and expensive voyage has doubled to more than 160,000 in the first nine months of this year? No doubt the 90,000 that have been fished out of the water by the Italian government’s Mare Nostrum operation so far this year embarked on their crossing happy in the knowledge they’d be rescued when their ramshackle crafts sank. Those 500, many children among them, who were recently murdered by people smugglers when they refused to transfer to an unseaworthy vessel were just the unlucky few, mere drops in the ocean.

The doubling of numbers fleeing Syria, Gaza, Somalia, Libya and other devastated countries of the region is because these people have lost their homes, their jobs, their families. The politics of these upheavals is complex, but for Britain to wash its hands of a situation for which it bears some responsibility is squalid. I look forward, without much hope, to Labour and the Lib Dems challenging and denouncing this cold-blooded decision.
Rod Edmond
Deal, Kent

Park Honan Park Honan lectured at the University of Sussex

As a result of Park Honan’s inspirational teaching of American literature, I went to the University of Sussex to do a Master’s in American studies.

I still have vivid memories of Honan’s lecture on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, delivered in the style of a Hollywood film producer assessing the possibilities of making a film of the novel. It was a brilliant performance, and one that truly engaged his students.

In seminars, he had the happy knack of allowing the conversation to ramble along, and then, with one or two adroit interventions, lifting the understanding to a more fulfilling level.

For some reason he would often turn to me when the discussion was flagging, and in the kindest tone say: “Well, Turner, what d’you think?” Eventually I would ready myself for his question, the result being I became better prepared for his seminars than I might have been.

To me, he was a breath of fresh air in the lecture hall, and there was always intellectual rigour in seminar and tutorial. What a combination!

I feel very privileged to have been taught by him.

Ukip europe britain Does Britain have a contradictory attitude to Europe? Photograph: Gillian Blease

Britain’s role in Europe

José Manuel Barroso’s comments on the UK’s relationship with the EU highlight the longstanding contradiction in English attitudes to its neighbours (24 October). On the one hand, it is not all right for Brussels to maintain collective jurisdiction over British affairs, but it is all right for London to maintain collective jurisdiction over Scottish affairs. The clamour south of the border to keep the union shortly before the Scottish referendum stands in sharp contrast to the will to respect the other union we have, with Europe.

When you join a club, you expect to respect commonly accepted rules. This is true for Britain in the EU now, as it was in 1707 when Scotland joined England and Wales.

If Westminster wants power to return to Britain, then it is perfectly logical for Scots to want power to return to Scotland. I am not sure that has been perfectly understood south of the border.
Trevor Rigg
Edinburgh, UK

• Not so long ago, a local was complaining to me about so-called immigrants who had come to take advantage of the host country’s generous benefits. There were so many of them, she complained, that their foreign-language dominated conversations in the school playground.

The complainant was French, the so-called immigrants British. I’m not sure that David Cameron has thought through all the consequences of his latest knee-jerk reaction to Ukip.
Simon Coates
Brussels, Belgium

• When David Cameron claims that he can renegotiate the rules regarding European immigration, a representative of the EU asserts that the free movement of labour is an integral part of the Common Market. And that is the whole trouble, and I wouldn’t bet on Cameron being able to change it. But it is nonsense.

The free movement of tomatoes and washing machines across European borders is one thing: they are merely commodities to be bought and sold. The free movement of labour is a qualitatively different thing. People have families and relationships; they need somewhere to live; they travel; they need access to doctors and hospitals; their children need schools.

We already have a home-grown baby boom to cope with, but in addition we have thousands of people arriving every year from abroad, mostly from Europe, whose needs have to be met as well. It cannot go on.

No wonder Nigel Farage and Ukip are raking in the votes. It is not about keeping out the foreigners; it is not racism or any other form of discrimination. It is simply about the number of people on a small island and the rate at which we can absorb and provide for more. It has to slow down or stop.
Martin Down
Witney, UK

• Regarding Jonathan Freedland’s piece on Dad’s Army (17 October): Nigel Farage evokes a bygone Britain that would have been instantly recognisable to William Faulkner. In writing stories of the defeated south, he used to comment, “The past is present.”

Growing up in California, land of the future, I never understood this until my visiting southern aunt “explained” sotto voce that the family lost their money a century ago “after buying Confederate bonds”: this turned out to be rubbish, but so much more entertaining – and enduring– than the truth. I hope events will prove us able to forget Farage as a flash in the pan. Meanwhile, how about a Steve Bell cartoon? You know, with pan.
Linda Agerbak
Arlington, Massachusetts, US

• Jonathan Freedland wheels out “the foundation stone of British Euroscepticism”, ie “that memory of standing alone against the Nazi menace”. May I remind him and lots of other Brits that there was a second army, the Brits’ first non-empire allies: namely, the Polish army that had regrouped in Scotland after defeat in Poland and being let down in France? My father was a captain in that army. After D-day they landed along with the Canadians and made their way to Bremerhaven. The officers were advised not to go back to Poland after the war, which accounts, incidentally, for my birth in Glasgow, along with other Scottish/Polish kids.
Richard Duda
Villers-les-Nancy, France

IMF and global recovery

So, according to the IMF, recovery is being driven by the US and the UK (17 October). Pity that the facing page informs us that real earnings of British workers have decreased for seven years in a row (Pay squeeze worst since Victorian age). Am I missing something? Or is this an accurate definition of the IMF’s priorities?
Giorgio Ranalli
Ottawa, Canada

No wonder that global economic growth may never recover to pre-crisis levels, as warned by the IMF. The crisis was caused by our living beyond our means, spending, not investing, with banks and others looking for borrowers only to increase levels of personal debt.
Adrian Betham
London, UK

The real risk of Ebola

Not to sound hysterical, but am I the only person seeing a huge disconnect between the headline Ebola spreads a global warning (10 October) and the subheading Experts say flu outbreak would pose a bigger risk, accompanied by a photograph of health workers in full Hazmat gear?

If the disease is less difficult to contract than the flu, I should have thought that rubber gloves and a surgical face mask would be enough protection. But then in the same Guardian issue we are told there are five Ebola cases every hour in Sierra Leone, with a prediction of 10 per hour before the end of October. Doesn’t sound like a low-level risk to me.
Rhona Davies
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

Which American values?

Regarding the situation in northern Iraq-Syria, the patent failure of the war the US started in 2003 is more obvious than ever. But after the policies that brought such destabilisation and mayhem, the US has some responsibilities there and cannot simply turn its back and look away from the barbaric (or any other adjective) deeds committed by Isis.

By the way, I haven’t read anything lately about Guantánamo. Yes, remember those 130 or so prisoners still held captive, some for more than 12 years, without trial or even charges and force fed when on hunger strike? A really barbaric (or any adjective you prefer) situation indeed. In his speeches, Barack Obama always refers to the “American values” and “who we are”. Really, by releasing at last the Guantánamo prisoners, the US Congress would show more against barbarism than air strikes which, when they kill five jihadis, 50 new fighters are sent in (17 October).
Marc Jachym
Les Ulis, France

Threats to the planet

Even if leaders from every nation united and built a space-age defence system that could protect every city on Earth from a meteorite impact, it would only highlight how complacent they’ve been about tackling threats to life on this planet (17 October). Asteroid impacts are rare and inevitable, as Peter Jenniskens points out; on the other hand, taking steps to protect humans from each other, and the planet from humans, is a realistic and necessary goal.

The world’s leaders cannot seem to deal with reality or necessity very well, though. I suspect that’s because doing so would require them to be realistic about the impact of their own ambitions, which are a far greater threat to human survival than any meteorite could be.
A Elliott
Berlin, Germany


• As a CNES project scientist, I was very pleased to read the short science article (17 October) entitled Satellite map of sea floor. However, as specified in the acknowledgments of the original Science article, two satellite altimeter missions were used to enhance the new sea floor maps: CryoSat-2 data was provided by the European Space Agency, and Jason-1 data by Nasa and the French space agency, CNES.

Indeed, on the CNES side, we worked very hard with all of the different scientific communities to find an orbit that provided excellent new observations of the sea floor, and continued to make regular observations of the ocean dynamics. So it was a bit galling that our long partnership with Nasa for the Jason series was not correctly specified.
Rosemary Morrow
Toulouse, France

• Referring to the “state-owned” SaskPower International is wrong (10 October), as in Canada we do not have “states”. It should have read “provincial/government owned”, as we have provinces in this country.
Janet Downey
Manotick, Ontario, Canada

• I enjoy my Guardian Weekly, not least because of its careful political correctness. So you will understand my dismay to read Stephen Moss’s glorification of the Dull Men’s Club (10 October). He missed the big story and entirely ignored the tough questions: are women members permitted? Is there a Ladies Auxiliary? When will the name be changed to The Dull Persons Club? Seems this article slipped through the Guardian’s PC screen.
Bob Walsh
Wilton, Connecticut, US


Coming from a former minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Michael Fallon’s comments at the weekend were as surprising as they were misguided.

There are those who would agree there are areas in the UK that have been negatively impacted by immigration. However from a business perspective, migrant workers are playing a vital role in holding our economy together.

The simple fact is there isn’t enough skilled labour in the UK at the moment, and people haven’t grasped what this means for industry. Logistics is a prime example, where we are facing the worst driver shortage in living memory. We’re approaching Christmas, the busiest period of the year, and if we didn’t have skilled foreign drivers to plug the gap, we’d be facing the very real possibility of logistics businesses grinding to a halt.

As a large UK haulier, it is the responsibility of companies like ours to find a long-term solution to this challenge, and we hope the nationwide apprenticeship scheme we’ve just launched will go some way to doing that. But it’s going to take time, and until then we need European workers to keep Britain moving – Michael Fallon would do well to remember that.

Andrew Downton, Managing director, CM Downton



As the Prime Minister, surely it is David Cameron’s duty to officially tell his ignorant “little Englanders” that free movement in Europe is good for the country. It benefits our ambitious young and our employers who have jobs our citizens do not like doing. And also explain to them how the monies to and from the countries are adjusted to help those in most need. If this is too difficult for their understanding perhaps he could organise classes run by primary school teachers.

Rosemary Morton



So Michael Fallon comes out with a statement that parts of the UK risk being swamped by the lack of control of immigration, then suddenly, because of a few eyebrows being raised and no doubt a word in his ear, he back-peddles. The people who objected to what he said were obviously from the higher ranks of society whose areas will not be overrun. The problem is not only immigrants but illegal immigrants.

We have not a clue how many there actually are in the country, but so far the Prime Minister has no answer to any of the problems created by Europe.

Why does he keep promising “after the next election”? He is in charge now.

Dave Croucher



Binbury and Thurnham got there first!

I was most interested to read the article about sound mirrors (report, 28 October). Research undertaken prior to publishing my book Bearsted and Thurnham in Two World Wars 1914-1918, 1939-1945 (2014) revealed the following information:

An experimental form of a sound mirror was indeed constructed in 1915 but not at Detling Aerodrome in Kent. Trials actually took place on farmland at Binbury, in the parish of Thurnham. The site of the aerodrome is also located in Thurnham, but records in the National Archives show officials believed Detling was the nearest village. There are also early references to “Maidstone aerodrome” in the records.

For the trials, Professor Mather of the City and Guilds Engineering College in South Kensington, arranged for a sound mirror, approximately 16 feet in diameter, to be constructed at Binbury.

A section of the vertical chalk cliff face was hollowed out to an almost spherical shape but tilted upwards, and a sound collector was mounted on a pivot at the focal point. Despite the close proximity of the aerodrome, the aircraft used in the tests were flown in from other locations.

The subsequent report said that a concrete reflector would probably be better than chalk as the reflecting surface would be harder. Later experiments carried out at different locations included Dover and Wiltshire and involved sound mirrors lined with concrete. The performance of these concrete mirrors was sufficiently successful in detecting aircraft that they assisted defensive measures during air raids in 1917 and 1918.

All of these experiments were forerunners of the technology which would ultimately lead to the development and successful deployment of radar in the Second World War.

I quite agree with Keith Parfitt’s sentiments that the Dover sound mirrors will be a real point of interest for visitors when fully excavated and exposed, but Binbury in Thurnham got there first!

Kathryn Kersey



I would like to correct your statement that “little is known about the origins of the mirrors”. The Hythe (Kent) Civic Society published a book in 1999, titled Echoes From the Sky, written by a local author, Richard N Scarth, which is the history of the mirrors. The society has recently reprinted it with some additional material.

Alan Joyce , Treasurer, Hythe Civic Society



Women and early motherhood

It is suggested that freezing women’s eggs gives women more choice about a suitable time to have children. I would like to suggest that encouraging women to have children younger would also give them more choice.

Young women have, in recent years, been discouraged from marrying or having children in their late teens and early twenties, and encouraged to work towards a career and/or a “girls just want to have fun” lifestyle.

It is well known that these are the most fertile years. If women were encouraged to have children younger they could still pursue their education and a career later in their twenties, but with the maturity and experience of parenthood. Several couples I know have successfully embraced this life choice. This idea would of course need the support of affordable housing and childcare.

Nikki Bennett

West Kirby


Feminists don’t want to damn males

If Yasmin Alibhai-Brown thinks “the feminist instinct is to damn males, not to understand them” (column, 27 October) then she doesn’t understand feminism.

Actually we want to damn the system of organisation of our society, which we call “Patriarchy”. Feminists have demonstrated how it damages men when they are boys. Of course Muslims live under the patriarchal system too, in fact patriarchy and monotheism are brothers.

Please, anyone who believes feminists hate men, read an actual feminist text. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is an excellent starter. Sadly it’s all still relevant today, despite the “great strides” Yasmin mentions.

Henrietta Cubitt


Red tape and the right to vote

Changes in the system of compiling the electoral register have certainly  caused problems (report, 28 October).

My wife and I have lived at our present address for 28 years, been on the electoral register throughout and voted at every election. As always, I completed and returned the application form for our inclusion on the new register within a day of its arrival.

Last week, my wife received a letter from the county council, stating that her application could not be processed as details could not be matched against official records.

To rectify the situation, she was instructed to provide one of a series of alternative documents. At 81, she no longer holds a driving licence or passport and all utility bills are in my name so she cannot meet any of the requirements as they stand. A certificate of police bail is one acceptable means of identification but she has not, so far, qualified for one of these.

Of course, if failure to supply required proof to the local authority on time  is an offence that entitles the culprit to such bail, the problem should solve itself.

There must be many other elderly people worried by this ill-thought out process.

David Bridgeman-Sutton

Dinham, Shropshire


Undercover police are not guilty of rape

In answer to John Crocker’s letter (27 October) regarding whether a police officer pretending to share the views and activities of a woman is sufficient fraud to negate her consent to sex, I can inform him that such trickery would be insufficient to negate consent. Under UK law fraud can only negate consent if the man is pretending to be another man the woman knows – for example he pretends to be the woman’s husband or his identical twin brother.

Simply pretending to have the same interests as a woman is not sufficient to negate consent; nor is making false claims about your income, social status, or how passionate a lover you are.

Thomas Wiggins



Why £60 will become the cost of sanity

Will it cost £60 now to be declared “mens sana”? Always take at least £60 when you go to your GP. Then if there’s an auction you’ll be able to outbid the Secretary of State’s offer of £55 to diagnose a case of dementia.

John Mann




Sir, Bravo to you for allowing Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, a brave man indeed, to reveal the tactical military and political mistakes made in Helmand as well as the systemic failures of our command system (“Our failure in Afghanistan must be exposed”, Oct 28). If one adds to this the political and military factors prevalent when intervention was decided upon, such as the personal nature of political decision-making, the internal military tensions, the failure to observe the historical lessons of intervention in Afghanistan — which surely the Foreign Office was pressing at the time — and the absence of an exit strategy, then Lt-Col Williams’ calls for a Chilcot-type investigation need to be heeded. Of course they won’t be.
Evan Davies
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Sir, We do not need a Chilcot-style inquiry to reflect that history and geography predicts that military conquest of Afghanistan is impossible. The real lesson that can be learnt from our latest attempt to defy the odds is that political, economic and social progress will be achieved only through education. Educational opportunity should be the legacy which we must continue to support and protect through aid. Without military intervention this would not be possible, and it was not in vain.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, After the Afghanistan retreat there remains one sublime reason for eternal pride. It is the courage and tenacity shown by small units occupying isolated outposts. The gallantry and sacrifice was such that not one forward operating base was overrun. Those soldiers fought on two fronts, against the Taliban and against the politicians at home. History will record admiration for those heroes at the sharp end. The names of their deluded “leadership” will reek in ignominy.
Hugh Charles Jones
Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire

Sir, It beggars belief that we can spend nearly £40 billion on a futile campaign in Afghanistan (yet again) but cannot leave any kind of memorial to the brave fallen. Was there ever a more pointless or ill thought out campaign in British military history?
Andrew Livesey
Latimer, Bucks

Sir, To say that we failed in Afghanistan and that the loss of lives was futile is not really the point. We saw a great evil — the Taliban — and all they were doing, and we tried to do something about it. The alternative was to do nothing, which is not really an option. When will we realise that success and failure are not the opposite sides of a great divide, not sharply defined? For those who lost the people they loved, the idea that the campaign was all in vain must be unbearable. To try and then to fail is not a failure. To be afraid of failure and therefore not to try at all: now that really is failure.
Robin Stemp

Sir, Predictions that the Ministry of Defence could face 7.5 per cent cuts in its funding will be of concern to service personnel and their families. The army is emerging from a four-year redundancy programme and soldiers continue to have reduced income after years of pay restraint. The mood across forces’ families is low — we are not unscathed.

Previous defence cuts were made in an era of the planned exit from Afghanistan and claims that “there is no appetite for war”, but the emergence of Isis, developments in eastern Europe and the use of troops to deal with ebola demonstrate the need for a strong and agile defence force. There is no room for further cuts if we are to retain and recruit our soldiers and the families who support them.
Catherine Spencer
Chief executive, Army Families Federation

Sir, Can those debating the merits of HS3 stop referring to Manchester as the north? Yes it’s north of London, but 107 miles south of Tyneside.
Michael Pearson
Ashington, Northumberland

Sir, I read with interest that the taxman had paid out £400,000 last year to informants who gave tip-offs about tax dodgers (Oct 27). While this may be a clear benefit to HMRC, what is not clear is whether any such payment should be tax deductible.
Clarence Barrett
Upminster, Essex

Sir, Your picture of the Bush family (Times2, Oct 28) reminded me of how well Stephen Sondheim summed up vast presidential families in Merrily We Roll Along. On stage is a similar line-up, this time of the Kennedys, and the song includes, “. . . Till half of the nation’s / made up of relations / of Bobby and Jackie and Jack / And Ethel and Ted and Eunice and Pat and Joan / And Steve and Peter and Jean and Sarge / And Joe and Rose and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows . . .”.
David Simons
Bakewell, Derbyshire

Sir, During the early 1960s when I worked at Fairey Aviation developing tip jet units for the Rotodyne convertiplane, we needed a quiet room (“Britain’s quietest room”, Oct 25). Foam cones were too costly so notices were put on the factory gates requesting egg boxes. Within a few days we had sufficient boxes to make a very good quiet room. The Rotodyne was cancelled and Fairey Aviation taken over by Westland but the noise section, complete with egg boxes, was bought by Rolls-Royce for work on silencers for jet engines.
Jim Schofield
Sherborne, Dorset

Sir, We represent 30 leading manufacturers and together we employ nearly 45,000 people. This is the first time that we — as a group — have commented publicly on the need to develop shale gas in the northwest of England. We believe that exploiting the potential of this new energy is vital for Britain.

More than 800,000 people work in energy-intensive industries and their supply chains, contributing £95 billion to the UK economy. These businesses are the bedrock of our manufacturing sector. Taking advantage of shale gas is particularly critical for the northwest of England, which stands to gain the most from a thriving onshore energy industry.

Exploiting shale could lead to cheaper gas prices or at least stabilise costs for business. We call on all mainstream party leaders to put aside politics and support the extraction of natural gas from Lancashire shale.

Janet Thornton, Managing Director, Inspired Energy PLC

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive, North & Western Lancashire Chambers of Commerce

Mike Damms, chief executive, East Lancashire Chambers of Commerce

Jeremy Nicholson, director, Energy Intensive Users Group

Debbie Baker, head of public affairs, GrowHow

David Workman, director, Confederation of Paper Industries

Anthony Flinn, managing director, HCF

Alex Patrick-Smith, managing director, Hinton Perry & Davenhill Ltd

Mike Shirley, managing director, Hudsons of England Ltd

Stan Higgins, chief executive officer, NEPIC

Mike McGee, director, Cardigan Sand & Gravel Co Ltd

Christopher Walmsley, director, Daedalian Glass Ltd

Gary McGann, group chief executive officer, Smurfit Kappa Group PLC

Agnes Colhoun, managing director, Allglass Reprocesors (UK) Ltd

Stephen Pollock-Hill, chairman and managing director, Nazeing Glass Works Ltd

Allan Laing, chief executive officer, Pentagon Chemicals

Ian Stark, chief executive officer, Chemoxy International Ltd

Graham Payne, executive secretary, Briar Technical Services Ltd

Piers Grummett, plant manager, Stoelzle Flaconnage Ltd

Robert Tyler, managing supervisor, Rhodia UK Ltd/ Solvay Group

Tony Bastock, group managing director, Contract Chemicals Ltd


A dedicated freight line from Liverpool to Hull could relieve the M62

6:56AM GMT 28 Oct 2014


SIR – Never mind HS3 – the North needs a dedicated freight line from Liverpool to Hull, using the kind of shuttle trains that go through the Channel Tunnel. With four interchange points at or close to the A1(M), the M1, the M60 and the M6 or M62, this could relieve the North’s biggest road bottleneck: the M62.

With fast, regular trains and a financial incentive to hauliers to use it, such a line would be more useful than shaving a few minutes off a passenger journey across the Pennines.

Bill Jolly

SIR – Britain used to have a third main line railway, called the Great Central Main Line, which served the East Midlands and South Yorkshire from London Marylebone station, terminating at Manchester London Road station (now called Manchester Piccadilly).

It was opened in 1899, but in the Sixties the government of the day, on the recommendation of Dr Richard Beeching, closed it, because it was considered unnecessary to have a third north-to-south main line.

Paul Helmn
Charnock Richard, Lancashire

Some readers who have given up on Radio 3 have found solace in cyberland

The internet is allowing listeners to venture further afield for their classical fix

The internet is allowing listeners to venture further afield for their classical fix

6:58AM GMT 28 Oct 2014


SIR – I, too, have given up Radio 3. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I’m tuned to Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Classic FM, which offers understated and intelligent announcers, short news summaries, no advertisements, and lovely music.

John Auber
London SW13

SIR – I recommend listening to Rete Toscana Classica online: wonderful music and few interruptions (which are, of course, in Italian).

David Nunn
Port Isaac, Cornwall

Brand recognition

SIR – I doubt that Russell Brand’s popularity is at the expense of Ed Miliband, as Boris Johnson says. Mr Miliband has been found out as simply useless, while Brand is a freakish novelty.

I can’t fathom why people think Brand hides a sweetness beneath the bravado. The cruel way he humiliated Andrew Sachs in 2008 was outrageous. It says a lot about the modern BBC that they still give Brand a platform for his gibbering.

Alasdair Ogilvy
Stedham, West Sussex


SIR – A future leader of the Scottish Labour Party should be an elected member of the Holyrood Parliament, not a Miliband lackey appointed by his Westminster cronies.

Terry Duncan
Bridlington, East Yorkshire

EU club rules

SIR – To say a gentleman should play by the rules of the club he has joined misses the point. Those who voted to stay in the Common Market were deceived as to the true nature of the club.

The correct response for a gentleman, when he finds the club he has joined is in fact a strip club, is politely to leave.

Michael Morris
Little Wratting, Suffolk

Tweeting gloves

SIR – It was great to see the Queen sending her first Tweet, but she had to take her gloves off. Why didn’t someone take her to M&S to buy some touch-screen gloves?

Cynthia Denby
Edgware, Middlesex

Doctors should exercise their right to cut their workload

'Staggering' rise in prescribing of anti-depressants

Doctors most prescribe medicine at intervals “in line with the medically appropriate need of the patient” Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 28 Oct 2014


SIR – I am fed up with the monthly ritual of ordering my prescription, collecting it and then getting the drugs from the local pharmacy. Doctors could cut the time, money and energy spent, by them and their patients, by prescribing three months’ worth of drugs at once.

The Department of Health recommends that prescribing intervals should be “in line with the medically appropriate need of the patient”.

My wife and I have been on the same mild medication for well in excess of 20 years. Doctors: do yourselves a favour, talk to your patients and exercise your right to cut your workload.

G A Tizzard
Liskeard, Cornwall

SIR – An understandable reluctance to press through NHS reform has led to competitive bidding by the political parties for financial support to “save the NHS”. Extra money in the past has led to no significant improvement, and further funds will not address the problems. These include declining productivity (the number of patients treated per doctor employed) and loss of an incentive to higher standards of clinical care, such as weekend and night-time care, both at home and in hospital.

GPs work long hours because administrative and public-health duties have been imposed upon them. Hospital doctors have lost control of their specialties to managers, who impose working directives such as waiting-time initiatives and bed-occupancy targets. These are divorced from the clinical needs of the patient, which should always be paramount.

If public health services – such as vaccinations and prenatal or postnatal obstetrics – were separated from clinical care, GP work overload would be reduced. This would allow reorganisation by commissioners to provide weekend and night-time cover.

Hospital doctors must be given back the responsibility for each patient under their named care, working the hours and at the speed necessary to fulfil the needs of these patients.

Dr R B Godwin-Austen
Retired Consultant Neurologist
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

SIR – In the committee stage of the Medical Innovation Bill in the Lords, Lord Saatchi emphasised that he had listened to other points of views, and yet Earl Howe, the health minister, dismissed almost all the proposed amendments. Clearly, there is more work to be done to deal with concerns expressed by other peers, notably those with a medical background.

The article by Peter Oborne and Anne Williams framed fears about the Bill perfectly. Not a single doctors’ representative body could point to fear of litigation inhibiting doctors from innovating. There are lots of real issues that retard the progress of innovation – but the cornerstone of this Bill, fear of litigation, is not one of them.

Why is parliamentary time being spent in trying to solve a problem that does not exist by removing patient protection?

I hope now the sensible amendments put forward by several peers – notably Lord Turnberg and Lord Winston – will get the thorough examination they deserve.

Darren Conway
London WC2

Would the world be a different place if divisive military intervention had been avoided?

The Union flag is lowered by Capt Matthew Clark, left, and WO John Lilley at Camp Bastion

The Union flag is lowered by Capt Matthew Clark, left, and WO John Lilley at Camp Bastion Photo: PA

7:00AM GMT 28 Oct 2014


SIR – As the long-awaited withdrawal from Afghanistan becomes a reality, it is worth reflecting on the horrendous toll of lives that have been damaged or destroyed by the determination of Donald Rumsfeld to ignore what might have been the wisest words of General Colin Powell, on September 12 2001.

Powell advised that capitalising on the extraordinary unification of the world in the wake of the September 11 atrocity, through stealth, intelligence and global exclusion, was the way to contain terrorism, rather than by inevitably divisive military intervention.

Thirteen years later, one can only be in awe of the contribution made by many thousands of gallant service personnel, but wonder whether the world would have been a significantly different place if Powell’s wisdom had prevailed over Rumsfeld’s hawkishness.

Lt Col Charles Holden (retd)
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – Attention has focused on the Army’s part in Afghanistan. Yet the Royal Navy has for long periods provided Royal Marines, Fleet Air Arm and others amounting to more than 50 per cent of the British forces.

Captain Matthew Clark, shown above lowering the flag at Camp Bastion, is a Royal Navy captain.

N L Stewart
Droxford, Hampshire

SIR – The military has done its duty. The politicians have again failed. This is the fourth Afghan war with no gains. The Taliban are stronger and poppy-growing is at a record level. Internecine feuding and self-interest climb the vortex of corruption.

How will the political class spin this one, particularly to the families who grieve and the maimed and injured soldiers?

James Bishop
Gisla, Isle of Lewis

SIR – If the enormous sums shovelled into the war in Afghanistan had been used to strengthen British immigration controls to the point of excellence, could we sleep safer in our beds?

Warren Page
Purley on Thames, Berkshire

SIR – Will the pension rights of those lions whom James Kirkup praises be anything like those of the donkeys in question? If not, why not? I ask as one who truly wants to know. British justice should demand no less.

Teresa Baldwinson
London NW7

Irish Times:

Sir, – Green Party leader and former minister for energy Eamon Ryan challenges me (October 28th) to clarify my views on several aspects of Irish energy and climate change policy. He writes: “Perhaps Colm McCarthy could help by clarifying if he accepts the scientific consensus that tackling climate change will require us to build a completely clean power system within a few short decades.”

There is indeed a scientific consensus, which a quick Google search would show me to have acknowledged repeatedly, that excessive greenhouse gas emissions need to be curtailed. Mr Ryan appears to believe that this consensus extends to the construction of a “completely clean power system”, whatever that might mean. I am not aware of any such consensus. The scientific consensus is that emissions need to be curtailed. The most cost-effective means to that end has been extensively studied and consensus is elusive.

He continues: “If he does accept that assumption then he needs to show how he would do so without having recourse to additional wind power”. My preference would be for a global carbon tax pitched at a level sufficient to attain the needed emission reduction. This tax would be technology-neutral, and not prescriptive about wind or any other elixir.

The next query is “ . . . why does he not argue for the closure of the peat-fired power stations which are more expensive and polluting than the wind farm alternative?”

The peat-fired stations are indeed egregious emitters and I have (Google again) argued for their decommissioning for aeons.

Why did Mr Ryan not do something about them when he was minister for energy?

It has not been demonstrated that further wind capacity on the Irish system is a cost-effective contribution to the pressing problem of climate change. It is disheartening that Mr Ryan seeks to imply that critics of the wind bonanza are unconcerned about the climate threat.

Has the Green Party been sold a pup by the wind energy lobby? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – As if all the rain this morning was not depressing enough, the picture in your Business + Your Money supplement (“Tilting at windmills”, October 28th) of the wonderful view of Mount Errigal, Dunlewey and the Poison Glen in Co Donegal being ruined by a massive wind turbine had me choking on my breakfast cereal. – Yours, etc,



Co Antrim.

Sir, – Unicef’s report reveals shocking and frankly shameful data for Ireland (“Irish child poverty ranked near bottom after recession increase”, October 28th).

We knew that during the recession the number of children living in poverty increased, but this report shows just how huge a step backwards we have taken.

Ireland’s children have lost a full decade of progress (only Greece is worse at 14 years). The increase in the rate of children living in income poverty, from 18 per cent in 2008 to 28.6 per cent in 2012, puts Ireland in the bottom five worst countries. And tellingly, the family experience of poverty and poverty related stress is also worse in Ireland than nearly everywhere else (only three countries fare worse – Turkey, Cyprus and Greece).

What is so concerning about this report is that despite clear indications this would happen, we still allowed ourselves to follow this path. And it was not inevitable. Unicef’s report shows other countries have managed to improve and even reverse child poverty figures despite the recession. We cannot but heed this latest dire warning. Decisive steps to reverse this trend must be taken as quickly as possible.

We must build on the Budget 2015 pledges and invest in public services that benefit children, in particular health services. We must improve access to quality early childhood care and education and continue to invest in child benefit as a universal payment which, alongside robust public services, are proven to be the best approach to tackle child poverty.

Poor children grow up in poor families; breaking this cycle by investing in children is not only better for them but the economy and wider society too. Children only get one childhood and that so many in Ireland have had theirs blighted is an indelible stain on our conscience.

As Unicef recommends, we must place the wellbeing of children at the top of our responses to the recession. – Yours, etc,



Chief Executive,

Christchurch Square,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Desmond Fennell (October 27th) says “contemporary Irish culture resolutely values only one kind of creative writing, namely fiction” and he avers that we are “a nation loving the artful creation of made-up stories, fearful of minds probing and presenting the realities of the human condition”.

On the contrary, this probing and presenting is the very purpose of literary fiction. It does so by the creation of fictitious settings, characters and action which highlight truths of real human experience.

The purpose of literary fiction is to tell the truth about life, and as such is entirely consonant with the study of philosophy, which is long overdue in Irish schools. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The real reason why proposals for the introduction of philosophy into the school curriculum, despite being repeatedly advanced over the last few decades by such groups as the committee on philosophy of the Royal Irish Academy, have consistently failed has been simply the opposition of the Catholic Church, which felt that its proper domain was being encroached upon.

The power of such a veto is now much lessened, I think, and the remaining problems would now be how to select a course of study that would be neutral as between the various schools of philosophical thought, and how to prevent such a course from being mind-numbingly boring.

A solution would be to employ a process of Socratic-style questioning, presenting a series of propositions, in ethics or metaphysics, and encouraging students to question them, and provoking students in turn to advance their own opinions, which would then be subjected to the same process. This would train the students in a basic philosophic method which could be applied to the whole of their curriculum, which would in turn produce a more open-minded and inquiring younger generation.

It is such a programme that we are currently developing in the Platonic Centre in Trinity College Dublin, and which we hope to be able soon to present to the second-level teaching unions for their feedback. We do feel that such a module would be a most beneficial component of at least the last few years of the secondary school curriculum. – Yours, etc,


Director Emeritus,

Platonic Centre,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – Desmond Fennell is absolutely right. This small island has an international reputation for imaginative writing but doesn’t rank anywhere in terms of its thinkers. George Berkeley, the only world-renowned Irish philosopher, was a bishop whose philosophy was also an escape from reality, promoting as it did the notion that the external, material world doesn’t exist and that the things we perceive are simply collections of ideas put into our minds by God.

The few more secular Irish philosophers, like John Toland and Francis Hutcheson, had a major influence outside Ireland but have been effectively erased from the Irish literary landscape.

Of course, both Toland and Hutcheson left the country, but so too did many great writers of fiction who challenged aspects of Irish society through their works, such as Joyce and MacNeice.

It seems that, whether it is through philosophy or fiction, we Irish cannot bear too much reality. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I refer to Paul Cullen’s report (“Fair Deal waiting list triples since January”, October 28th) outlining the plight of some 2,100 older people awaiting admission to a nursing home as a result of the unconscionable delays in the Fair Deal scheme (also known as the Nursing Home Support Scheme).

A much larger problem relating to these delays is that a sizeable percentage of this older person cohort are languishing in acute hospital beds while being medically fit for discharge and that these beds are not available for acutely sick people.

There is a direct correlation between the number of sick people awaiting admission to acute hospitals being held on trollies in accident and emergency (A&E) departments and the number of older people occupying acute beds in these hospitals.

The solution to this growing problem does not just lie in an increase in Fair Deal funding to facilitate admission to nursing homes but must include a more advanced home care package scheme.

Having observed the growing A&E department problem over the last number of years, I suspect politicians will only act when their sick constituents arrive in their clinics when they are unable to gain admission to an acute hospital. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – As a former member of the Progressive Democrats (PDs), I read Kathy Sheridan’s interview with Des O’Malley with great interest (“Des O’Malley: ‘I didn’t have a thick enough skin’”, October 25th).

There is much to admire about the political legacy of Mr O’Malley; his handling of the arms crisis, opposition to Charles Haughey and his revulsion at Sinn Féin.

But I was surprised at his reaction to the resignation of then tánaiste and leader of the PDs Michael McDowell on the day of the 2007 election count. Perhaps Mr O’Malley felt sick at the reaction of the crowd, which stopped Mr McDowell from entering the RDS, but the article gave the impression that it was the resignation itself which galled Mr O’Malley.

It is disappointing that Mr O’Malley cannot understand that Mr McDowell’s election night resignation was not unique and is common in politics when a party has suffered a defeat. Michael Noonan announced his resignation as Fine Gael leader on election count night in 2002.

The demise of the PDs was not caused by Mr McDowell’s resignation but it did signal the party was coming to an end. It was a sad moment for members of the party and members of the public who had respected Mr McDowell as a very fine tánaiste and minister for Justice. – Yours, etc,


Monkstown Valley,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – What is all this about postal codes (“Living by numbers: how Eircode system pinpoints your address”, October 27th)? For years, a useless monthly newsletter arrived at the RTÉ newsroom in Montrose addressed to Mr Henry Street, Dublin l. Henry Street was, of course, the old Radio Éireann address, at the side of the GPO. The missive, whatever it was, went straight into the wastepaper bin. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Postal codes? Well, it’s fun to be modern. Though most unwelcome correspondents – mostly official, pursuing blind alleys – have seemed able to find me with my four-line address without difficulty for the past 35 years. Presently I am being pursued – by post – for a television licence, though I have no television, and if I had – at 75 – would not be liable for same. I look forward to a post-coded demand for water charges, though how they will meter my stream, I am not sure. This is my adopted country, and I love its people. But its bureaucracy is something else. – Yours, etc,


Beara, Cork.

Sir, – Regarding the 123 signatories on the online version of the letter on the direct provision issue (October 28th), I notice, as is typical of these letters, that most of the signatories seem to be university lecturers in soft subjects such as gender studies (heaven forbid that they should think that their opinions are more important than those of the rest of us).

For a change, wouldn’t it be nice to see the signatories of 123 blue-collar workers? In keeping with the letter of October 28th, a certain percentage of these workers should be living abroad, with an opinion on how tax should be spent in a country where they don’t pay tax.

When The Irish Times decides on whose letters to publish, does it judge the letter by its content, or the number of signatories it has, or the social status of those signatories?– Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I see from Olivia Kelly’s report on proposed new bylaws on busking in Dublin’s city centre that several changes to the styles of performance are being considered (“Barred from Temple bar but buskers may get late reprieve on Grafton Street”, October 28th). There is one change which could be introduced which would improve the quality of the city-centre shopping experience for everyone – a ban on the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers. The city’s general traffic noise is quite loud and in some areas buskers may feel obliged to use amplification if they wish their performance to be heard, but in the pedestrianised areas of Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Henry Street there is no good reason for the use of loudspeakers – other than to drown out the busker up the street!

A reduction in the noise level would actually mean that more buskers could perform along a given street without interfering with each other’s performances. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – As a citizen of Ireland, a Dubliner, a suburban dweller, and a non-runner, I for one am tired of marathons taking over my city on bank holidays. In particular, the June and October bank holidays are taken over by the mini and main marathons, meaning that the city is largely blocked off for most people on those occasions.

That these are among the few bank holidays not associated with Christmas or Easter exacerbates the situation – it’s not as if there are that many days off to enjoy. Indeed, that these events are participated in by perhaps 1 per cent or less of the population surely suggests that these marathons should be moved to ordinary weekends at least, if not out of the city centre areas altogether.

I would also ask why marathons need to be run in a city in the first place – surely this is not the ideal landscape for running? Moving such events to the Phoenix Park or the Dublin mountains would surely be viable? It would also mean that the vast majority of the population who have absolutely no interest in running would not have to endure such niche spectacles, and could get on with enjoying their rare bank holidays in their own city. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – News of the increase in the number of Irish millionaires due to escalating house prices will be cold comfort to the rising number of working people falling into homelessness due to unaffordable rents in Dublin (“Number of Irish millionaires hits 90,000 as property prices surge”, Business, October 21st).

In the moral vacuum of our neoliberal, free market economy, more and more people are inevitably becoming consigned to what critic Henry Giroux calls “zones of abandonment and social death, where they become unknowables, with no human rights and no-one accountable for their condition”.

The logic of a profit-driven system dictates that the cost of socio-economic protections is unjustifiable, but it also means that we have failed in our collective civic responsibility to our fellow citizens. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – I travel the M50 most days and I usually find the slowest drivers in the middle lane, oblivious of those passing them on the inside and outside.

I would gladly sacrifice the minor inconvenience of seeing people in other lanes going a little faster for the poor lane discipline that means I must get through the middle lane owners’ club in order to go from the inside lane to the outside lane for overtaking and then back again. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Irish Independent:

I am replying to Lorraine Courtney’s article in the Irish Independent on the job bridge programme, where she states categorically that “in a wide variety of industries, current students and recent graduates don’t yet have the skills and experience needed to contribute meaningfully to an employer’s success”.

This is despite spending four years, on average, in university gaining a degree, followed by time spent gaining further post-graduate qualifications, with many even returning to universities to gain a second degree after the first has proved fruitless on the employment market.

So, for many, despite having spent the best part of a decade at Irish universities, we conclude they do not have the skills that employers want.

Why do we have universities, bearing in mind they cost tens of millions to run and we have a small army of academics earning often hundreds of thousands of each?

Perhaps it would be best to shut these universities down – if they are so useless in the skilling department – and send the school leavers directly into programmes where they can quickly attain the right skills for employers.

Desmond Nugent

Ballybane, Galway

Autism and C-sections

I wish to take issue with your article: ‘Children born by C-section more likely to have autism’ (Irish Independent, October 27, 2014).

It reports that a meta-analysis of 25 published studies finds a “23pc increased risk” of autism in children delivered by C-section. This sounds like a huge increase, when in fact it is merely a 23pc increase of the baseline rate of about 1pc (so really an increase of 0.23pc).

A clearer way to report this is to say that if the base rate of autism is 10 children out of 1,000, that you would expect -12 out of 1,000 children all delivered by C-section. That is effectively negligible.

Moreover, your headline and much of the text leaves the impression that C-sections cause an increased risk. All the data shows is a (very modest) correlation between these two factors.

It is equally plausible (more plausible in fact) that C-sections are merely an indicator of obstetric complications, which may themselves be associated with an underlying developmental condition of the fetus. Your article confuses a statistical correlation with evidence of causation and leaves an extremely misleading impression.

Finally, no comment is provided from other scientists or clinicians as to the merit of the study or the claims it makes. If you had sought some, you would likely have found that most researchers would not consider a finding like this newsworthy, especially as it so open to misunderstanding.

Despite the authors’ caveats, readers will be left with the impression that C-sections dramatically increase the risk of autism – an attitude that is likely to result in harm to mothers and their babies if they refuse that surgical option under conditions where it is advisable. In fact, no such claim can be made from the results of this study.

Professor Kevin Mitchell.

Institutes of Genetics and Neuroscience

Trinity College Dublin

Canada’s response to terror

The dreadful events in Canada have, to me, only highlighted how different Canada and the United States are in certain respects. They share culture, undoubtedly, but there are still fundamental differences between the two nations.

Canada suffered an awful terrorist attack that left two people dead (including the attacker) and several others injured, with Canada’s Houses of Parliament coming under direct and sustained attack and national leaders themselves almost being killed. Yet I was impressed by the response of Canadians to this attack. Instead of lashing out with military strikes and overblown, repressive legislation, they chose, what is in my point of view, a better way.

They chose to get on with things.

The government got back to work dealing with important national issues. Politicians showed great solidarity with each other and terrific support to the victims. They spoke of strengthening legislation to enable the security services to better protect the country. Even the way they talked about the security services spoke volumes.

Unlike the US they do not separate the services. To them the security services involve all military and civilian groups working in a co-ordinated manner towards a common goal. Americans frequently talk about the FBI and the CIA like they are completely separate entities.

What a difference the 49th parallel makes.

Colin Smith

Clara, Co Offaly

Tide turns against bullfighting

Bullfighting and other cruel blood sports continue to shame twenty-first century society, but thankfully the tide is turning in the battle against such practices.

This month’s vote in the European Parliament to end EU subsidies to farmers who breed bulls for Spanish bullrings received unprecedented support – with 323 of the 690 MEPs voting for it. Some 309 voted against. Unfortunately, this majority was not sufficient to see the proposal pass, as 58 MEPs abstained in the vote and the required majority quorum of 376 was therefore not achieved.

Even so, the result is a major step forward in the campaign to end the indirect funding of bullfighting by EU taxpayers via the subsidies. A majority of MEPs are now openly against bullfighting and the next vote on the subsidies issue will bring closer the demise of this nightmarish blood sport. Each year, the EU provides an estimated €130m through Common Agriculture Policy payments to people who breed bulls specifically for bullfighting.

Bullfighting relies heavily on the subsidies. Without these payments, the horrific “industry” would be on the brink of collapse as attendances are already down at all bull rings in Spain and most Spaniards, according to opinion polls, are now opposed to the practice.

Though it may seek to hide behind the mantles of custom and tradition, and in spite of all the romanticism surrounding it, the truth about bullfighting is unambiguous: each bull is subjected to deliberate and agonizing torture.

At the end of the performance he plunges his sword between its shoulder blades.

John Fitzgerald Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Gay Byrne – one of a kind

I get annoyed when I see Gay Byrne on radio and television at this age of his life, with so much talk about the loss of his pension and all sorts of other investments.

However, my opinion changed on Monday night, with a programme of extracts from the Late Late Show and I have to say I was glued to the television. And I said to myself: there will never be anybody that can take his place.

Pat McCabe

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Sinking feeling on Irish Water

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Irish Water was set up. It managed to tread water for a while until the truth leaked out drip by drip . . . but now it looks to be in deep water.

The Government tried to throw cold water over the whole thing . . . but now it has come to the boil. I have this sinking feeling about Enda and Co. Could this be their Waterloo?

Eamonn O Riordain

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Irish Independent


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