9 November 2014 Bin

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sort out the spare wheelie bin.

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


Margaret Owen was a plantswoman whose snowdrop parties in Shropshire attracted the horticultural elite

Margaret Owen with Camassias

Margaret Owen with Camassias Photo: GAP PHOTOS/JASON INGRAM

6:00PM GMT 08 Nov 2014


MARGARET OWEN, who has died aged 83, was a highly respected galanthophile (an expert on snowdrops); she travelled the country searching for rare examples and gardened at The Patch, an acre of land at Acton Pigott, a few miles south of Shrewsbury.

Bulbs seem to flourish in Shropshire soil, and Margaret Owen was well-known in the tight-knit world of galanthus collecting for her annual snowdrop parties, which took place on the last Saturday in February. About 50 enthusiasts would meet at The Patch, having negotiated, often with difficulty, the winding country lanes. There would be a tour of the garden followed by a convivial lunch, usually a stew prepared by Margaret. Talk was all about snowdrops. There was an end-of-term feeling to the event, since it was the final galanthophiles’ gathering of the season.

The next day, Margaret Owen always held a public sale, digging up her valuable snowdrops and selling them to all comers at reasonable prices. At the end of the day the proceeds — some £6,000 in 2012 — would be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Her youngest sister had died of the disease.

Margaret Owen was a skilled plantswoman with a good eye. She maintained four Plant Heritage collections — Camassia, Veratrum, Dictamnus and Nerine — having founded the Shropshire branch of Plant Heritage in 1982. With her background as a demonstrator for the National Association of Flower Arrangers, she liked unusual species . “When you’re competing,” she once said, “you don’t win on what you buy, you win on what you grow and the more interesting the better.”

The daughter of a Scottish farmer, Margaret McAllister Mackay was born at Lea Farm near Watford on November 27 1930. Her father encouraged her early love of gardening. “He was unusual,” she reflected years later. “There aren’t many farmers who garden as well as farm.”

When war was declared the family had no help at all, so Margaret helped her father look after their large vegetable garden. She helped him by weeding the carrots and onions and finally asked for her own plot . “My father always called me ‘Maggie Mott’, so I always try to grow this scented viola in my own gardens,” she said. She joined the Royal Horticultural Society in 1952.

When the 20-year-old Margaret met Godfrey Owen, a member of the Young Farmers who had his own farm and Friesian herd, they hit it off. Godfrey proposed to Margaret in a cattle shed and they were married in St Albans on October 9 1952. It was the end of her plans to complete her training as a nurse at Barts.

Margaret Owen raised four children, and kept chickens and pedigree Ayrshire cattle. As time went by the family owned or rented land in Cornwall, Scotland and Herefordshire, so driving from one end of the country to the other became standard practice. It was in this period that she started to visit collections in nurseries — among them Jack Drake’s alpines at Aviemore in the Highlands, Margery Fish’s garden in Somerset, and Elizabeth Strangman’s nursery at Hawkhurst in East Sussex.

Galanthus elwesii ‘Godfrey Owen’, named after Margaret Owen’s husband

Everything changed abruptly when Godfrey died from a brain tumour in 1983. Margaret, then in her fifties, made the brave decision to hand the family farm to their son , even though their beloved herd of Ayrshires had to go. (Years later she wept at the memory.) With a void to fill, she poured her energies into plants and began criss-crossing Britain, meeting fellow enthusiasts such as the late Richard Nutt, who gardened near High Wycombe in Berkshire.

Her interest in snowdrops took hold at this time. Godfrey himself is commemorated by a six-petalled form of Galanthus elwesii. Margaret discovered it in a churchyard — she often popped in to churchyards and was a regular churchgoer — at Wrentnall, Shropshire, in February 1996. Subsequently their four children (Sally Wickenden, Jess Egerton, Decima MacAuley and John Godfrey Owen) also had snowdrops named after them.

Her plants were admired by the horticultural elite, and she counted the distinguished plantsmen Christopher Brickell and Chris Sanders as friends. She built up her garden through friendly contacts. She saw her first pink Camassias, for example, at Attingham Park in Shropshire when arranging flowers for a wedding there. Her Camassia hybrids, in a range of pinks, mauves and blues, were shown at Chelsea in 2008.

Her interest in Dictamnus — she had more than 100 — began after visiting Will McLewin’s Phedar Nursery near Stockport. He gave her Dictamnus caucasicus and she bought D. transcaucasicus from Michael Wickenden’s Cally Gardens. Her Veratrums came from Jack Drake’s nursery, grown from seeds collected from the Belvedere Botanical Gardens in Vienna. Primrose Warburg, the Oxford galanthophile, also gave her some rare Veratrums.

In 2010 her collection was staged at Hampton Court Flower Show, winning the award for most interesting exhibit. Her Nerines, some 150, were celebrated. She had bought the original plants from Margery Fish’s nursery at 1s/3d each. She was also interested in heritage daffodils, and organised weekend outings with walks accompanied by lectures.

Margaret Owen had boundless energy, and her enthusiasm was not confined to gardening. She had a flair for organising people. At various times she turned her attentions to baking cakes for the NSPCC; campaigning for the reinstatement of head gardeners at the National Trust; championing the ancient houses of Shrewsbury; restoring the 16th-century Corbet bed tester; finding flowers for the hospital or putting on charity bridge drives. In 2010 she was appointed MBE, and in 2012 the RHS awarded her the Veitch Memorial Medal.

Recently she had undergone a heart operation and suffered a serious kidney infection. Hours before she died Colin Mason, a fellow galanthophile, took her some autumn-flowering snowdrops; she opened her eyes to look at them.

She is survived by her four children.

Margaret Owen, born November 27 1930, died October 24 2014


living wage Members of the Living Wage campaign outside St Martin’s in the Fields. Photograph: Richard Saker for the observer

Although the Living Wage Foundation, along with Citizens UK, deserves congratulations for the success of its campaign in persuading more than 1,000 companies to be accredited as “living wage” employers, real “power to the people” will only be realised when the “living wage” becomes the statutory minimum wage throughout the country (“A living wage revolution: how a brave idea became reality”, In Focus).

Rhys Moore, director of the foundation, makes the point that we cannot wait for the government to raise the minimum wage significantly, but it is only by the enactment of mandatory legislation that all employers will pay a fair wage. These same employers may cry foul, pointing out that it will cripple their profits, but the solution is painfully obvious. The high-earners in all companies – from the boss downwards – will have to endure significant salary reductions.

As an example, Arsenal Football Club cannot continue to hide behind the excuse that deciding to pay the living wage is an issue that is “complex and political”. How can that club’s chief executive justify receiving over £2m, and pay one of his star players £130,000 per week, while many of the ancillary staff barely receive the minimum wage? This unequal situation is immoral and the remedy is a true revolution in equating real worth in our society. Who is brave enough to lead such a revolution?

MA Hobbins



Your editorial (“Enough gimmicks. Hard-pressed families need a decent income”, Comment) rightly exposed just how un-family and child-friendly the government’s record is. But don’t forget child benefit – the erosion of both its value and its universality.

Raising the personal tax threshold while consistently cutting the real value of child benefit effectively discriminates against families with children, given that child benefit replaced child tax allowances as well as family allowances.

And even a living wage cannot take account of family size. That’s one reason why family allowances were introduced in the first place.

Child benefit, which suffers from none of the problems associated with means tested credits, should be prioritised by any “family friendly” government.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett

House of Lords

London SW1

Wonderful news that an additional 60,000 people are now to be paid a “living wage” – they can now actually afford to live. Yet how sad that, in the same issue, Will Hutton feels the need to justify the existence of taxation.

In a decent society, taxation would be generally accepted as necessary to regulate markets, prevent abuse by the powerful and protect the weak. If Labour fails to articulate a radical alternative to the Tories’ excessive individualism, I fear for the future.

Geoffrey Payne

London W5

Your leader is wrong to imply that the benefit system has protected childless households while ensuring that families with children take the hardest hit from austerity.

The fragile incomes of both have been ruthlessly hit by soaring rents, council tax and the costs of their enforcement.

Large families are expected to pay rent and council tax out of their children’s benefits as a result of the £500 weekly cap on benefits. Single adults living alone are expected to pay them out of their £72.40 JSA as a result of the bedroom tax and after the 1% freeze on increases since 2011.

The living wage is good in principle but rent, mortgage and council tax will take ever more of the minimum incomes needed for food and domestic fuel until it is supported by a policy to provide affordable housing, long before enough homes are built to have an impact on the market.

Rev Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty

London N17

European summit david cameron David Cameron’s tax credo may be incoherent, but it’s not immoral. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

David Cameron’s tax credo may well be incoherent and economically illiterate but it is not immoral (“Cameron’s tax credo is incoherent, immoral and economically illiterate”, Comment).

There are, indeed, good a priori arguments, as well as a body of empirical work on ourselves as well as other primates, that suggest that, as Will Hutton puts it, there is a “fundamental human appetite for fairness”. But contra Hutton, a sense of propriety need not require “proportionality of contribution”: depending on the circumstances, it could well be that our sense of what is right is satisfied by other contributory principles.

In any case, even if “proportionality of contribution” did “represent” our appetite for fairness, cutting the higher marginal tax rates on the rich would better satisfy that appetite rather than run counter to it.

Dr William Dixon and Dr David Wilson

London Metropolitan University

London E1

Why guns must be outlawed

Three small words, in John Vidal’s otherwise excellent report on the world’s “murder capitals”, help explain the phenomenon of hyper-violence accompanying rapid social transition in the cities of the global south (“Murder capitals of the world: how runaway growth fuels city violence”, News). The estimated 480,000 people, he notes, are killed “mostly by guns”. As the UN also acknowledges, these rapidly expanding cities are among the most highly weaponised areas in the world.

A combination of profound inequality and small-arms proliferation, driving chronic insecurity, accompanied by state failure, cultivates a dangerous faith (no doubt fostered by US myths of individual freedom) in personal weaponisation for self-defence. Even one of the most privileged gun-toting citizens of a grossly unequal, high-crime society, Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, must now realise that the privatised use of lethal force is no contribution to public safety.

Peter Squires

Professor of criminology & public policy, University of Brighton

Limitations of speed limits

In Bristol, we have a 20mph speed limit throughout the city. This was recently introduced by our mayor on the grounds that it will reduce accidents and make them less serious with fewer casualties, a policy that is in line with Christian Wolmar’s arguments in the New Review (“Are lower speed limits a good idea?”). What is not clear yet is the evidence to support their case and were it subsequently to be proved that lower speed limits did reduce accidents would they then advocate a 15mph speed limit to eliminate them further?

This is not to argue against all speed restrictions, as there would seem to be a prima facie case for having relatively low limits on selected roads in the vicinity of hospitals, care homes and schools, as opposed to the blanket city-wide approach we now have.

Also my recent experience of being tailgated by a clearly impatient and inconsiderate driver, when observing the new 20mph limit on a quiet Bristol road, suggests that this speed limit might well have the unintended consequence of increasing road-rage incidents in our city, with a potentially detrimental effect on road accident statistics.

Mick Beeby


Less of this clock watching

I can’t understand how so many learned people in last week’s Big Issue can write such nonsense about the issues of being on Central European Time (“We’re still in the dark ages when it comes to time zones”). How is it that several million Scandinavian children seem quite capable of adapting to life for six months when it’s pretty dark most of the time and for the other six months when it’s constantly light all the time, the severity of which depends on your latitude? The standard of education in all these countries is typically admired, as well as them having the lowest rates of traffic accidents.

Arguably these countries also have more equal and social welfare orientated societies compared to ours, so maybe there is something more in this argument than whether our kids can cope with one hour’s difference. Quite a ridiculous argument in all honesty.

Keith E Hoult



Don’t bump into the furniture

In the Observer Magazine last week, Nigel Farndale writes: “Jamie Dornan is a happily married, Guardian-reading feminist with a young daughter. So how come he’s so persuasive as a serial killer in The Fall?”

As Laurence Olivier might have put it: “Acting, dear boy.”

Teresa Guerreiro

London NW6

Why should I buy in Dubai?

Wow! Should I be impressed by the fact that 80 million people travel to Dubai for the “retail experience” (“New York, Paris… Dubai. Why this desert mall is the height of couture”, In Focus, )? When I want to purchase special garments, all I need do is jump in the car and drive to Exeter. It’s called “going shopping”.

Ted Lavery

Newton Tracey



Your article regarding lack of care for vulnerable patients appals me, especially the fact that the number of specialist learning disability nurses is falling (“Three vulnerable patients a day die due to lack of care”, 2 November).

My eldest son was severely physically disabled, had a learning disability and was unable to speak; fortunately I was always asked for my opinion when he was ill, and doctors and consultants always listened. Sadly though, this didn’t save my son who died a few years ago while receiving respite care in a special hospital. He was allowed to dehydrate over a weekend, and by the time we were contacted, things had gone too far.

Since my son died, I have been giving talks to new care staff who work in day centres, residential and respite homes. This is a big leap forward by the local authority, in that they have recognised that the best people to talk to care staff are people who have, or have had, a child with a disability. Maybe this idea should be extended to nurses as part of their training.

Diane Graham

Watford, Hertfordshire

As a social worker who works with adults who are learning disabled, I welcomed Charlie Cooper’s article. The one point I felt necessary to make was about the description of Gerald who “had the IQ of a seven-year-old”. Gerald had the IQ of a 37-year-old, because that is his age. Likening people who are learning disabled to children does nothing to promote their rights or to encourage others to view them as equals.

Luke Bryan-Lai

via email

I am writing to correct Jane Merrick’s misconceptions about bus services outside London (“All hands on the parish pump”, 2 November).

Contrary to her suggestion, bus services are significantly cheaper in England’s city regions, including Tyne and Wear, than they are in London. Bus satisfaction in every one of England’s biggest city regions is also higher than in the capital. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of cuts to bus routes in recent years have been by local authorities, not bus operators.

Places such as Manchester and Newcastle don’t need devolution to get Oyster-style smart ticketing. Britain’s biggest bus operators have announced this will be introduced across England’s largest city regions during 2015. Labour’s uncosted and unnecessary bus plans, meanwhile, would land people with a huge tax bill and lead to higher fares.

Martin Griffiths

Chief executive, Stagecoach Group

At present we are giving non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, who are well supplied with lethal aid by our allies. At the same time if young British men leave this country to go out and fight alongside the rebels we punish them. Our policy of half-hearted support for Syrian rebels seems utterly confused and is condemning Syria to war with no end in sight.

Brendan O’Brien

London N21

In the interview with Natalie Bennett she spoke of 10 target seats (“Green Party shuns Lib Dem pact over environment policy”, 2 November). The most important strategy to me would be to vote Green in safe Tory and Labour constituencies.

When the next coalition government is formed, whether it is Tory or Labour, if it does not include the Greens, the first policy they will endorse will be to stop the Green surge. To stop the Ukip surge both major parties have adopted hard immigration stances. To stop the Green surge no doubt they would adopt green policies. It does not matter who adopts them as long as they are in force soon.

R F Stearn

Stowmarket, Suffolk

When it comes to global warming you repeatedly, and mistakenly illustrate stories with photographs of power station cooling towers (Letters, 2 November) – which emit non-polluting water vapour, rather than the implied carbon that these articles are actually about.

Jimmy Bates

Ledbury, Herefordshire


Wing Commander Matt Radnall, the last member of the British military to leave Helmand, prepares to board his helicopter

Afghanistan proof of Britain’s futile attempt to police world

I AM in awe at the courage of our servicemen and women, but what about the 453 lives lost and — of less consequence — the £36bn cost to taxpayers (“We think it’s all over”, News Review, and “Don’t scuttle from Afghanistan”, Editorial, last week)?

Surely Afghanistan has been another pointless exercise prompted by the outmoded belief, held by successive politicians and older readers of certain daily newspapers, that Britain has a responsibility for policing the world.

Trying to remould cultures that have shown no inclination to embrace democracy, and that will in no time follow recent developments in Iraq, will prove to be of little enduring value.
Mike Jackson, Southampton


Christina Lamb’s assessment is absolutely correct. Back in 2006 the British established platoon bases in Helmand that were quickly besieged. These bases were to provide security footprints across the area, but one had an inkling that things were not going entirely to plan when the crews of the Chinook helicopters resupplying them began to be awarded gallantry medals.

What happened to these bases symbolised everything that was wrong. Tactics have to be informed by a strategy, but no credible strategy existed. There was a failure to navigate or harness the local micro-politics and clan system that has been running Afghanistan for centuries. The reliance instead on brute force with little intelligence never had a chance of succeeding.
Patrick Watson, London SW8


In a survey last year 75% of Afghans gave their government a positive assessment and 68% were satisfied with their provincial government. The country’s army was judged with confidence by 88%, and 72% thought similarly of the police. Most Afghans (76%) said their economic situation was better now than under the Taliban. Lamb is judging by western standards.
RP Fernando, Epsom, Surrey


Was the war worth it? No. Did it make the UK safer? No. Did it enrage and enable jihadists? Yes. It also devastated families and ruined lives both in Britain and Afghanistan.
Chris Roberts, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Isle of Anglesey


Amid the gross failure of 200 years of western intervention is a modicum of success — a tripling in production of the opium poppy. The West, principally Britain and America, spent billions, with the invasion cited as a response to September 11, 2001. Perhaps a military campaign against Saudi Arabia would have been more appropriate, and cheaper, since most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
John Cuffe, Dunboyne, Co Meath

Lipman misses her cue on Ed Miliband

I DO not pretend to know the answer to the very difficult question of whether or not we should recognise the state of Palestine (“Careless talk costs votes, Mr Miliband, so chew on that”, News Review, last week).

However, for Maureen Lipman to suggest Ed Miliband should be influenced on this subject by his Jewish heritage is outrageous. Her objection to Miliband also appears to be based on his eating of a bacon sandwich.

Miliband has given very few reasons why the public should elect him and a number of reasons why they should not but bacon sandwiches and failing to show allegiance to his Jewish roots are not among them.

Lipman’s implied threat of the loss of the vote from the less than 1% of the UK population that is Jewish seems somewhat counterproductive. If Miliband were to base his views on Palestine on their vote-winning potential, the ballots of the approximately 5% of the UK population that is Muslim would seem to be a stronger incentive.
Mike Newton, Worcester Park, London


Lipman is correct to think Iraq proves there is a double standard applied to Israel, but not in the way she believes. As Sir Alan Duncan, the former minister of state for international development, pointed out in a recent speech: “We sent an army to repel Saddam Hussein’s claim to Kuwait . . . But there is no punitive action taken against Israel for their persistent annexation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.”

Israel routinely flouts UN resolutions and yet no action is taken. Her objection at seeing on television the suffering of people in Gaza — whom she dismisses as “howling mothers and screaming old women” — is disgusting. Such careless views cost more than votes.
John Corrigan, London SW19


Lipman asks, “How can you recognise a [Palestinian] state until its borders are decided?”, seemingly unaware that Israel is the only nation that refuses to declare its own borders.
Brendan Russell, Esher, Surrey


Lipman was spot-on.
Graeme Warner, Manchester

Faith schools must teach citizenship

I WAS delighted to see that Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, is taking on faith schools (“Faith schools ‘must teach gay rights’ ”, News, last week). As she notes, “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs . . . are not new”. Indeed these values were enshrined in the statutory citizenship education curriculum introduced in secondary schools in 2002. She should insist that citizenship education be the litmus test by Ofsted of the curriculum as a whole.
Dr John Lloyd, Citizenship Adviser 2002-6, Belbroughton, Worcestershire


Living in a society that allows lesbian and homosexual couples to live together is one thing, but recognising them as acceptable before God is to compromise the Christian faith. While it is acceptable to teach about other faiths and the festivals they celebrate, it would be wrong to force children to celebrate a festival of a faith other than their own.

The God of Christianity is not the same as the God of Islam or the deities of Hinduism. Morgan needs to stop hiding behind a supposed Christian faith. It is hypocritical to claim such yet actively to promote relationships that are described as sinful by the God of Christianity.
Frank Pinder, Roxby, North Lincolnshire


Isn’t it about time that faith is left at home when our children attend school? Moral values can be taught without the help of an Almighty. In a modern society why do we pander to so many different belief systems?
Darren Sample, Dereham, Norfolk

Unpalatable criticism

Camilla Long’s review of Spring was one of the most spiteful and unwarranted pieces of journalism I have read (“Table talk”, Magazine, last week). While she was employed to critique a new restaurant, the attacks she made on the chef Skye Gyngell’s personal life were matched only by the degree of vitriol she expended on every detail of the food and decor. If a male restaurant critic had written such a curiously misogynistic piece he would have been pilloried, and rightly so.
Alexandra Shulman, Editor, Vogue


The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contains highly disturbing calculations (“Just 16 years to avoid carbon calamity, say experts”, News, last week). With global population and per capita emissions rising fast, the world has only 16 years left on current trends for effective precautions to be put in place. One wonders why the front page focused on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic crash whereas the article on the IPCC findings was consigned to page 11.
Dr Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute


Your article “BTecs ‘set students up for failure’ at university” (News Review, last week) on vocational qualifications was an unfair representation of a report that demonstrated the improving performance of students attending university with qualifications such as BTecs. The report cited points out that 91% of BTec entry students get a first or second-class degree and more than half at first or 2:1 level — that is surely no one’s definition of being set up for failure. Also, 40% of students entering university with BTecs have parents who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For A-level entry students the figure is just 20%.
Rod Bristow, President, UK and Core Markets, Pearson (owner of BTec)


WHILE both the demand and fiscal pressure on NHS Scotland increase, the answer to the reported poor availability of primary care services is not bigger budgets and more doctors (“Shortage of GPs ‘a danger to patients’”, News, last week). Almost every primary care interaction in Scotland currently requires a face-to-face appointment with a GP.

This is an anachronism. Basic digital technologies used by many patients such as apps, social media and wearable devices can reduce demands on GPs by monitoring chronic conditions and delivering certain primary care services direct to patients at home.

Better use of digital technology is both necessary and inevitable. A recent report by Reform Scotland confirms that of the 994 GP surgeries in Scotland only 67% have basic websites, only 51% offer repeat prescriptions online and only 10% offer appointment booking online. Collectively, Scottish government, NHS Scotland and the GP practices must modernise primary care.

Alex Matthews, Edinburgh


Long, long ago, when I was on the receiving end of wolf whistles (“Stepping out, braced for the whistles and the winks”, News, Review, last week), the classic Scouse response was, “Lost yer dog, luv?”
Ann Beaney, Sherborne, Dorset


Is it beyond the wit of politicians to realise that the majority of British people have no real problem with free movement in Europe for genuine employment opportunities at wages that do not cheapen our own labour pool (it works both ways)? Where they do draw the line is with immigrants from north Africa and the Levant (currently camping in Calais) coming here as so-called economic and political migrants and seeking to ride on our comparatively generous welfare system while offering no benefit to our country. Taking on Europe over immigration is simply a touch of typical conjuring. Most of us see through it. As for Ukip, U Keep It Please.
David Pybus, Folkestone, Kent


You carry a story about Caroline Moorehead’s Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, which has been accused of being “riddled with errors” (“Row over prize book’s ‘errors’”, News, last week). Among these I would like to point out Moorehead’s mistaken reference to “the late Michael Marrus” (page 326). Although Moorehead and her publisher, Chatto & Windus, were apprised of this error it has not been corrected in the recent American and Canadian editions. I am pleased to do so myself.
Michael R Marrus, University of Toronto


Why no one seems able to resolve the present difficulties is a conundrum.

I saw as a public representative on a community health forum a variety of ad hoc solutions which appeared to work well in rural areas. I also attended a meeting where a pilot solution was suggested by a senior clinical manager.

Like a huge oil tanker, course alterations take forever. Someone needs to step up soon — the rocks are not far off.

Thomas Law, Sandbank, Argyll and Bute


BRYAN APPLEYARD is one of our most incisive intellectual commentators, so it is disappointing therefore to have him assert in his feature on religious art (“He is risen”, Culture, last week) that the rigorously formulated views of what he describes as “the militant atheist movement” are “barbarically intolerant and staggeringly ignorant”. Beyond a tickling of some vague emotion, the piece provides not a shred of persuasive support for the position Appleyard espouses.

He then goes on to talk approvingly of the work of “a struggling liberal Catholic” in promoting his unconvincing thesis. As someone who once intended to become a priest, and as a lapsed Catholic, I harbour a vague suspicion that I understand the struggling liberal Catholic’s theological location. It’s simply a place where its proponent can comfortably subscribe only to those aspects and tenets of the church that suit him and haven’t been overtaken by historical, philosophical or scientific progress.

What then does Appleyard mean when having endorsed this devotional neutrality he refers to “the brute hostility of militant atheism?”

Denis O’Brien, Edinburgh


I support Sandy Cullen’s views (“Cyclists run rings round law”, Letters, last week). Many cyclists are also car drivers and insured, albeit not for cycling. Where a cyclist is at fault and is also a car driver, or where they are caught cycling through red lights, or the wrong way up one way streets, or without lights, they should be awarded penalty points on their driving licence. Once their bad road manners cost them money, they will change their ways. Those who do not drive should be made to be financially responsible for their actions, just as uninsured errant car drivers are through the courts.

Harry L Barker, North Berwick, East Lothian


Ed Miliband has his faults, but to criticise him for his food bank contribution is quite pathetic (“Miliband labelled ‘numpty’ over food gift”, News, last week). So what if his (or his aides’) choice was “stereotypically Scottish”? Do the poor of Scotland not enjoy porridge, Scotch Broth and, God forbid, Tunnoch’s Teacakes just as much as well off anti-poverty campaigners? Were the choices also not of benefit to Scottish manufacturers? And, should anyone who donates in this way, (even a politician), have their shopping bag opened up for public mockery, just for some cheap political point scoring? I have given to food banks in the past. I am less likely to do so in the future.

Robin Dickson, Edinburgh

Corrections and clarifications

The Focus article “The great face-off” (last week) stated that George W Bush is seven years younger than his brother Jeb. He is seven years older. We apologise for the error.

The article “Trickery on the menu” (Magazine, last week) suggested wrongly that the London restaurant Bob Bob Ricard marks up its house wine by 600% of wholesale price rather than 272%. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to 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 complaints section for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Karen Dotrice, former child actress who played Jane Banks in Mary Poppins, 59; Delta Goodrem, singer, 30; Sir Ronald Harwood, screenwriter, 80; Roger McGough, poet, 77; Bill Martin, songwriter, 76; Tony Slattery, actor, 55; Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone, 49; Marina Warner, writer and critic, 68; Tom Weiskopf, golfer, 72


1818 Ivan Turgenev, novelist, born; 1953 Dylan Thomas, poet, dies; 1967 Rolling Stone magazine first published; 1970 Charles de Gaulle dies; 1985 Garry Kasparov, 22, becomes youngest world chess champion; 1989 Berlin Wall falls; 1998 UK death penalty, already abolished for murder, is ended for remaining military offences


SIR – The poppy installation at the Tower of London has been an overwhelming success – an amazing aid to understanding how many lives were lost in the First World War. Why remove them after Armistice Day?

Like many I shall travel to London at Christmas, a time when many make the trip to the capital. I’d love to see the poppies and I’m sure others feel the same.

Many families in Britain will have no opportunity to take their children to see them until the school holidays.

I’m sure all those who have bought a poppy would be happy to wait an extra month or two for them, so that others can enjoy them for a little longer.

Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey

SIR – We would be only too happy to let our two poppies stay in the moat until the crowds of people moved by the experience diminish.

Peter and Jennifer Jones
Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – No, no, no, the Tower poppy installation should not be extended beyond the set date of November 11.

It was a simple, but brilliant idea. Since the installation began, the moat has filled day by day, mimicking the rising toll of the human tragedy in the trenches. The Roll of Honour has been read each evening with due ceremony.

Like the poppies in Flanders’ fields that rise, bloom and wither, so did all those young men and women in the prime of life give their today for our tomorrow. Let us honour their memory further by adhering to the original concept. It should not and must not become a cash cow to tourism.

Ian M Dobie
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Politicians should remember that the poppy display was not placed there as a tourist attraction, but to honour and commemorate those who gave their lives in war. As it was originally planned to be complete for Armistice Day and then removed, that should not be changed at this late date.

Perhaps politicians should instead remember that the poppy first went on sale to raise funds for the maimed and sick affected by war. As governments have never provided sufficiently for these people, perhaps they would do better to right this wrong, having seen the feelings of the people of today generated by the success of this splendid installation.

S J Leader
Chessington, Surrey

SIR – The poppies have captured the heart of the British public. A further planting of the same number of poppies at the Tower in the lead-up to Armistice Day in November 2018 should be considered, to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the First World War.

I am confident the response would be the same as this year.

Bob Holland
SIR – The poppy installation at the Tower of London has been an overwhelming success – an amazing aid to understanding how many lives were lost in the First World War. Why remove them after Armistice Day?

Like many I shall travel to London at Christmas, a time when many make the trip to the capital. I’d love to see the poppies and I’m sure others feel the same.

Many families in Britain will have no opportunity to take their children to see them until the school holidays.

I’m sure all those who have bought a poppy would be happy to wait an extra month or two for them, so that others can enjoy them for a little longer.

Joanne Grimwood

Ula, Mugla, Turkey

SIR – We would be only too happy to let our two poppies stay in the moat until the crowds of people moved by the experience diminish.

Peter and Jennifer Jones

Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – No, no, no, the Tower poppy installation should not be extended beyond the set date of November 11.

It was a simple, but brilliant idea. Since the installation began, the moat has filled day by day, mimicking the rising toll of the human tragedy in the trenches. The Roll of Honour has been read each evening with due ceremony.

Like the poppies in Flanders’ fields that rise, bloom and wither, so did all those young men and women in the prime of life give their today for our tomorrow. Let us honour their memory further by adhering to the original concept. It should not and must not become a cash cow to tourism.

Ian M Dobie

Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Politicians should remember that the poppy display was not placed there as a tourist attraction, but to honour and commemorate those who gave their lives in war. As it was originally planned to be complete for Armistice Day and then removed, that should not be changed at this late date.

Perhaps politicians should instead remember that the poppy first went on sale to raise funds for the maimed and sick affected by war. As governments have never provided sufficiently for these people, perhaps they would do better to right this wrong, having seen the feelings of the people of today generated by the success of this splendid installation.

S J Leader

Chessington, Surrey

SIR – The poppies have captured the heart of the British public. A further planting of the same number of poppies at the Tower in the lead-up to Armistice Day in November 2018 should be considered, to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the First World War.

I am confident the response would be the same as this year.

Bob Holland

Great Bowden, Leicestershire

Great Bowden, Leicestershire

Ambridge villains

SIR – It may be a little harsh to predict that Rob Titchener in The Archers will turn out to be a psychotic killer. However, as a white, heterosexual, ex-public school male in contemporary Ambridge, he is certainly fated to be a very bad egg indeed.

Dominic Weston Smith
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – It’s not just actors and plots that have changed in The Archers. Scenes can now last a whole episode.

The BBC once ran an Archers script-writing competition with the guideline that each episode should contain seven characters. Until recently this served as a useful indicator for the listener. Now we can switch off immediately if the opening scene is of no interest.

Rosemary Morton Jack
Oddington, Oxfordshire

SIR – May I just say, come back Vanessa Whitburn, you are forgiven for causing poor Nigel to scream to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley?

Linda Read
London SW14


SIR – Ed Miliband is having a bit of a wobble, indeed the electorate considers him entirely wobbly, woolly and wonky.

However, thanks to Lib Dem intransigence on boundary reform, our skewed electoral balance might yet make this deeply flawed politician the next prime minister in six months’ time.

My dilemma is whether to ridicule him (a pleasing pastime) or tacitly lend him support, since replacing him with Yvette Cooper or Alan Johnson is tantamount to delivering the keys of No 10 to the socialists, whereas retaining him offers a fighting chance of Conservative success.

John Axon
Herne Bay, Kent

Damn that Doggie

SIR – Not all singers avoid performing a song they dislike but the public loves.

Early in her career Lita Roza recorded her chart-topping How Much is that Doggie in the Window? (which she despised). She never sang it again. However Gracie Fields could not avoid Sally, though at her last Royal Variety appearance she commented: “I’ve been singing a boys’ song all my life.”

Rodney Bennett
Richmond, Surrey

Paying the EU bill

SIR – If I were David Cameron or George Osborne, I would tell the European Union that Britain will only pay the extra £850 million now demanded by the EU when last year’s accounts are fully signed off by independent auditors who have approved the way the money was spent.

Adam Secretan
Barcombe, East Sussex

SIR – I have been paying for my gas by monthly instalments based on estimated usage. It now seems that I used more gas than was estimated, so the gas company has sent me a bill for the arrears.

Obviously this is totally unfair, and I’ve asked the gas company to give me a rebate by charging other users more to make up for my shortfall, but I haven’t had any luck; they suggest I could have read the meter myself and seen what was coming.

I’ve refused to pay by the December 1 deadline, and they threatened to add interest if I paid the debt off by instalments. So I stamped my foot and went into a sulk. Funnily enough, I don’t expect much sympathy from the rest of you.

Why Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne think they are different is beyond my comprehension.

Peter Turvey
Guildford, Surrey

Unburnt Salmond

SIR – An effigy of Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, which was due to be burnt in the Guy Fawkes display in Lewes, was removed in case it caused offence to Scottish nationalists. Police are now investigating whether a crime was committed.

Effigies of many well-known people have been burnt in the past in Lewes. Where were the police when effigies of Margaret Thatcher were burnt to celebrate her passing? I was extremely offended watching people holding celebration parties before she had even be buried.

Simon White
Cobham, Surrey

SIR – The Met Police Commissioner says that his force is overstretched. Sussex police are investigating the burning of an effigy of Alex Salmond. Does the latter action represent policing priorities?

Catherine Castree
Fetcham, Surrey

Sex lessons

SIR – The Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool (Latest school advice: sex at 13 is a normal part of growing up”, report, November 5) is designed to help professionals working with young people to protect them. It is not intended to be used as a sex education tool in schools.

In the classroom, young people should be taught about the age of consent, and that they have a right to free, confidential advice, even if they are under 16.

All sensible adults want young people to have sex only when they are mature enough to enjoy and take responsibility for it. Most young people under the age of 16 do not have sex. Those that do need appropriate advice and support from well-trained professionals.

Simon Blake
Chief Executive, Brook
London EC1

You name it

SIR – St Ives, Cornwall, is known as Kensington-on-Sea. Rock has been known as Gerrards Cross-on-Sea for many years. Are there other sobriquets in the country?

Geoffrey Aldridge
Wingrave, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Now that the human remains from the Meath bog have been identified as those of Brendan McGraw, one of the IRA’s Disappeared, can we expect to see Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald displaying his poster in the Dail chamber and demanding a minutes silence in his honour?

This unfortunate man was a victim of a war crime, disappeared at the whim of a murderous organisation who, we’re now being told, was supposedly made up of “decent people.”

Then there’s the Sinn Fein Disappeared – their spokespersons who disappeared from the airwaves for a couple of weeks in the wake of Mairia Cahill’s rape and cover-up allegations, only to reappear when a Sunday Independent poll showed Sinn Fein support rising throughout the country. Now it seems that whenever Adams wants to discuss the likelihood of rain he will be accommodated by RTE News.

Fresh rape allegations against IRA men and seriously bizarre twitter behaviour from him will definitely be a no-no in future it seems.

Eddie Naughton, Dublin 8


No child can be forgotten

Madam – The piece by Mairia Cahill (‘Vulnerable Children left unprotected’,  (Sunday Independent, November 2) is both informative and thought-provoking.

It reminded me of the wider issue of protecting vulnerable children in all walks of life, but especially those in foster care.

The recently published Interim Report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project supports the setting up of a number of Family Courts in order to ensure consistency and continuity of care and support for the most vulnerable children and parents in our society.

Some of these children have themselves been subjected to neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the past – and fostering can be a real support and safe haven for children.

An issue that needs to be addressed is the quality and consistency of care provided by foster families.

The vast majority of foster families provide a loving, caring and nurturing environment for children. Many of these families work closely with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) to ensure optimum care is provided.

However there is a minority of foster families whose quality of care is not what it should be.

In some foster families the foster children are sent straight to their room on coming in from school, not allowed access to the TV remote control or to the fridge, and must absent themselves from the room when the family’s friends or relations call in.

Such families treat their foster children as paying guests, rather than as children in need of tender, loving care.

Thankfully such foster families are in the minority, but with agencies crying out for families to foster children, it is incumbent on all agencies to carefully monitor the welfare of such children

With so many social workers weighed down with heavy case loads, it is inevitable that some children will fall through the cracks.

There is an onus on all of us in society to ensure that the welfare of such children is not compromised further because there are not enough social workers employed to monitor their progress, development and well-being.

Sean O Briain, Drogheda, Co Louth


Hysteria of some water protesters

Madam- Regarding Irish Water, a sizeable section of households have their own supply, so they are not affected. Many households have their own septic tank so will only pay half. The majority of the remainder will pay less than €10 per week as things stand and this will probably be reduced further. This is not excessive – about the price of two cigarettes per day – and can be afforded by most households.

The controversy has been whipped up by Sinn Fein, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and other left wing groups for popular political gain. The sooner people realise this the better. Most people at the marches last Saturday just foolishly jumped on the bandwagon and most of those interviewed could not give a coherent reason as to why they were there.

Yes, mistakes have been made in setting up Irish Water. It has been too rushed and the need for PPS numbers is questionable. However the principle of water metering is correct. You should pay according to usage the same as any utility.

In Co Limerick there used be a flat charge of €127 up to some years ago, which was foolishly abolished. The notion that water supplied to your house is a human right is a nonsense. It such a right existed, then every house in the country, regardless of location, would be entitled to a supply. What would that cost?

People need to get a sense of proportion, stop being fooled by left wing groups and an excitable media and stop the hysteria.

B Swanton, Limerick


Someone has to pay for the water

Madam – Gene Kerrigan is losing the plot if he really believes that anything is deliverable by Government ( or any other body) free of cost; that everyone behaves responsibly with water, electricity, gas, sewage, open fires etc; or that without meters, use can be monitored accurately.

Massive publicity campaigns have been running for years to encourage people to cut back on electricity, gas, and water use, and in Dublin in particular, to stop washing cars, watering gardens and yes, leaving taps running in cold weather.

The septic tank saga has uncovered another story of neglect and potential pollution to water sources.

Every water connection should be metered no matter what the outcome of the current debacle led by our hapless public servants and politicians yet again. General taxation means the responsible users ( who pay it) subsidise those who waste water (knowingly or otherwise).

When we moved into our house in 1972 we paid rates and a separate water charge to Cork County Council. Then Fianna Fail told us if we voted for them, we wouldn’t have to pay rates, water charges or even tax the car. The most sophisticated voters in the world gave them the biggest majority ever? Wake up Ireland and ask your favourite political campaigner, where is their tooth fairy?

T. Murphy, Ballincollig, Co Cork


Irish politics needs some new leaders

Madam – I walked in Leixlip on Saturday with over 1,000 people objecting to Bord Uisce and its outrageous carry on. Some people didn’t or couldn’t pay at all. Others objected to the arrogance and stupidity of Kenny in particular and all his lackeys in general.

Meanwhile, Gerry Adams makes all the right noises in public. He doesn’t want water rates. That’s fine. He was never a member of the IRA. He never defended the cowardly bastards who put bullets into the heads of our friends and schoolmates back then. And he didn’t lie about the young girl who was raped and abused.

Enda Kenny set himself up as the man who was going to clean up politics. We believed him and rowed in behind him and accepted all the hardship, but now he has shown himself up to be the greatest dunce we have ever had. He’ll have to go. Adams and Burton will have to go. Leo Varadcker will have to take over Fine Gael. Micheal Martin needs a chance, Independents need a leader. Then there will be hope for the country.

Dave Boyle, Leixlip, Co Kildare


Gene has reduced me to tears of joy

Madam – The tears of laughter caused by Gene Kerrigan’s wonderfully descriptive word picture regarding the possibility of his older self having to calculate whether or not he will be able to afford to flush his toilet, are blurring my words as I type.

Could you please commission Tom Mathews to produce an apposite illustration?

Ciaran Casey, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin


Pride in the water marchers

Madam – It is with pride that I looked at the news this evening and witnessed the call to arms by tens of thousands of the so-called little people. The unemployed, the old age pensioners and others, parading in their thousands out in the streets of Ireland, protesting against this water charge that the Government is attempting to foist on us. This is another attempt to cripple the poor and destitute.

Right from the start the setting up of this body has been a disaster. Those who were brought in to run the project were, it seems, more concerned with bringing in revenue than fixing the water supply.

Only a tiny minority of those employed in this new body had to apply for these jobs.

There was no control on salaries or bonuses, payments for those who were found not to be doing the job right, as well as huge increases for those who were, seen to be the order of the day with little or no Government interference. We have still no idea what the charge for water will be. We are getting daily hints from Government about possible reductions, in an attempt to appease the masses.

Then there is German finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, telling us how we are the envy of Europe in the way things are progressing here.

I feel sure that the next item on the agenda will be borrowing a couple of hundred billion to get the country up and running again, all guaranteed by the State of course.

Michael O’Meara, Killarney, Co Kerry


What if others refused to pay

Madam – Could I ask a question of the “hey-hey-hey, we won’t pay” brigade? Who are they proposing should pay instead?

It costs money to clean water and deliver it to our taps. Water is a basic right, we hear – but so is food and I don’t hear anyone proposing we get it for free.

The people of Ireland better get real – the national debt stands at about €200bn. What if the international financiers look at the placards and say: well, hey-hey-hey, we won’t pay either?

It’d be back to the lads and lassies dancing at the crossroads – presumably with a convenient well nearby to slake their thirst.

John Hogan, Glin, Co Limerick


Con inspired St Pat’s Cup win

Madam – Last Sunday we came in our masses from a square of land on the banks of the Camac of Inchicore to the bright lights of the Aviva Stadium. It was a journey we had taken before, but for once the Inchicore Roar was dredged up from the depths of our the souls, as St Patrick’s Athletic won the FAI Cup for the first time since 1961.

We also had a benign angel on our shoulder – the Colossus of Castle Island, Con Houlihan, who graced Richmond Park for many years until his sad passing in August 2012.

This one’s for you, Big Fella: a triumph dedicated to King Con!

Mark Lawler, Kilmainham/Inchicore, Dublin 8


Inhumane end for exported animals

Madam – As an animal lover I was disgusted to learn of the 1,500 lambs sent to be used in Islamic rituals in Singapore (Fiona O’Connell, Sunday Independent, 2 November).

These unfortunate lambs were slaughtered without even being stunned having endured a 16 hour plane journey in temperatures of 30C heat. Earlier last week we also learned of the barbaric treatment of the cattle exported to Libya.

Those who love animals had hoped the new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 would bring Ireland into the modern world in our treatment of animals. Perhaps those involved in this grisly trade should consider Jeremy Bentham’s sentiment: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”

Eila Moloney, Limerick


Terror moments stay with you

Madam – I wish to commend Brendan O’Connor on the article he wrote which was published in last weekend’s Sunday Independent, regarding Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein President and former Provisional IRA terrorist. It was uncannily spot-on in its analysis of the man and indeed the other men mentioned.

Having grown up in the Ardoyne during the Troubles we all knew full well that both he and his mentor Joe Cahill and several others were sociopaths of the worst order. “Provisional Taliban” is an apt and fitting description of their mentality. This I can say with some considerable feeling having once in the early 70’s found myself at the point of the gun of one of his (Adams’s) Provo shooters.

Had it not been for the fact that I was well known in Ardoyne and had some school friends whose names I quoted, I am certain I would not be around to write this. You do tend to carry moments of sheer terror such as this around with you for the remainder of your life.

Once again my thanks, and as Ben Bradlee might have said… “the truth is what matters!”

John Jordan, Model Farm Rd, Cork


The long wait for the Disappeared

Madam – With all the upsetting bad news, I feel so sad looking at the dignified stance of the families of the Disappeared, praying to get back the bodies of their dead for proper funerals.

Many know something but are saying nothing. The truth always comes in the end.

Kathleen Corrigan, Cootehill, Co Cavan


1916 ‘snub’ is felt by others

Madam – John Drennan reports (Sunday Independent, 2 November) on the alleged hijacking of 1916 commemorations, for political ends, and the snubbing of the rebels’ descendants.

For the descendants of members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Regiments, the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the so-labelled “English” and Irish civilians, including children, killed in this deadly and unprovoked onslaught, is not the politics/mindset of those alleging and those doing the “hijacking” and “snubbing” well exposed?

Ken Morrow, Belfast


Many reasons not to vote Sinn Fein

Madam – Fair play to Stephen Costello (Sunday Independent, 2 November) for giving six reasons not to vote for Sinn Fein/IRA.

However I would go further and say there are 1,800 reasons not to vote for Sinn Fein/IRA – that’s the number of people murdered by the IRA, plus all the people maimed and injured.

Noel Peers, Torremolinos, Spain

Flag is for equality, and freedom

Madam – I agree with Niamh Horan (Sunday Independent, November 2) that we should reclaim our national flag from the nationalist minority who have laid claim to it and restore it to all citizens of our Republic.

Our flag represents ideals that do not belong to narrow nationalism, but instead fit comfortably alongside civic nationalism which promotes freedom, tolerance and equality for all.

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co. Louth

Our flag festival promotes goodwill

Madam – I read with interest the piece by Niamh Horan (Sunday Independent, 2 November) on reclaiming our flag.

The 1848 Tricolour Celebration in Waterford City has been highlighting the history of our flag since 2011, creating significant goodwill and bringing ambassadors from the US, France, and Canada together to celebrate the history and meaning of the flag.

Jonathan Brazil, Waterford City

Sunday Independent

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