4 December 2014 All clear
I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get Fluff to the vet, all clear thank goodness.
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up rabbit for tea and her tummy pain is still there. We go to see the GP
Lady Juliet Townsend was a countrywoman and writer and for many years Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret
Lady Juliet Townsend
6:19PM GMT 03 Dec 2014
Lady Juliet Townsend, who has died aged 73, was the granddaughter of two famous and self-made men who would influence the future of their descendants: William Berry, the first Viscount Camrose, one of the press lords of his generation and proprietor of The Daily Telegraph from 1927 to 1954, and the lawyer F E Smith, the 1st Earl of Birkenhead, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for India.
The two sides of her family were doubly linked by marriage, as two Smith siblings married two Berrys. As a result she was one of six cousins all sharing the same gene pool, and through the large Edwardian family on her mother’s Berry side she was surrounded by a more extended but intimate group of 22 first cousins.
Her grandfather Camrose and the privileges of a press baron’s empire formed an important backdrop to her early life, but her immediate family was literary, and part of a circle which numbered Evelyn Waugh, John Betjeman, Sacheverell Sitwell and Maurice Bowra among its writers. As a child she was precocious and talkative, uninhibited by her parents’ more august friends; aged 10 she held forth at Evelyn Waugh’s table with gruesome details of a dissected rabbit, to the embarrassment of her parents and the glee of Waugh. Later, this would develop into a remarkable verbal fluency and ability to think on her feet, a legacy from the silver-tongued F E Smith.
Her father was Freddy Birkenhead (the 2nd Earl), historian and author of biographies of Churchill and Rudyard Kipling, and both her mother Sheila and her elder brother Robin were also biographers. For a while it seemed as though Juliet would follow the same path. At 16, her French oral exam (she was not a strong linguist) went as follows. Examiner: “Que fait-il votre père?” Juliet: “Er, il écrit.” (Brightly): “Et votre mère?” “Elle écrit.” “Et votre frère?” “Il écrit.” (Desperately): “Et que voulez-vous faire?” “Ecrire… ” But life opened out into too many directions for this to be a full-time vocation, although she would publish two books and become a long-term reviewer for The Spectator.
Born Lady Juliet Margaret Smith on September 9 1941, she was just old enough to have memories of the Second World War, such as sitting on the knee of a wounded big cousin, and the war’s end in Europe. In the early summer of 1945 she was playing on a beach at Bognor Regis with an older child when they were hailed by a man in a boat: “Go and tell the grown-ups, it’s over!” She was educated at Westonbirt School, Gloucestershire, and Somerville College, Oxford, where she was tutored by the eccentric and formidable Jane Austen scholar Mary Lascelles, a stern pruner of sloppy English and Americanisms whose preferred mode of travel was with a coachman and an 18th-century map.
After graduating in English, Juliet became a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret, somewhat to the disapproval of her republican-leaning aunt Pamela Berry, the society hostess and wife of Lord Hartwell, proprietor of The Daily and Sunday Telegraph between 1954 and 1987. Juliet continued in the role for many years (1965-2002), accompanying the Princess on overseas trips to south-east Asia and Japan, and maddened her friends and cousins by her discretion, always refusing to yield the slightest smidgen of gossip about her royal boss.
A writing commission, however, also came quickly – for the Northamptonshire volume of the Shell County Guides, edited by John Betjeman. Juliet had grown up on the border of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire at the village of Charlton, where the rising F E Smith first established his family home in the early 1900s, and shared her paternal family’s deep love of its undulating fields and woods, described memorably in the gipsy-themed novels of her aunt Eleanor Smith. Now she undertook the task of recording every village, church, stately home and architectural curiosity of this “diving seal” shaped county. The book was published in 1968.
Lady Juliet Townsend with Princess Margaret
A children’s novel soon followed, Escape from Meerut, set during the Indian Mutiny. Published in 1971, it marked the beginning of her professional interest in children’s books, which she reviewed on a regular basis for The Spectator. She also edited a Faber Book of Best Horse Stories.
Juliet was the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Severn, the young painter who took care of the poet John Keats when he was dying of tuberculosis in Rome between 1820 and 1821. She had studied Keats at Oxford and it was a natural step for her to become involved with the Keats-Shelley House beneath the Spanish Steps in Rome, where Keats and Severn had their lodgings, now a museum and shrine to the English Romantics. In 1979 she became a trustee of the house’s British charity and was a frequent visitor to Rome on museum business, at the same time indulging her love of classical and early Christian buildings.
Meanwhile, her marriage in 1970 to John Townsend and a family of three daughters had rooted her to her childhood county, and in particular to her family village of Charlton-cum-Newbottle, maintaining the Smith-Birkenhead heritage after the premature death of her brother, Robin Birkenhead, in 1985. She kept up the tennis tournaments on the Charlton grass courts first established by F E, a keen amateur player whose sporting guests had included the King of Greece, Winston Churchill and Gracie Fields.
Lady Juliet Townsend watching her daughter, Eleanor, present a bouquet to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (ANTHONY MARSHALL)
With her husband, she embarked on local trading ventures. In 1977 they opened the Old Hall Bookshop in the nearby town of Brackley, dealing in both new and antiquarian books – she overseeing the children’s section – and selling throughout the country at book fairs. More recently, they set up a butcher’s shop in the same street, selling meat sourced from their own land.
She took on a selection of local causes, although her cleverness and wide outlook would always prevent her from being pigeonholed as a “county” figure.
In 1991-92 Juliet Townsend served as High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, stylishly composing her own personal uniform (since a female sheriff could not use the traditional one) from a Cecil Beaton photograph, all black velvet and dyed ostrich plumes. Until 1998 she was chairman of the Northamptonshire branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. On stepping down she became Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, retiring in June 2014. The job was far from honorific in many ways and included chairing the committee for the annual selection of the county’s magistrates, delegated to Lords Lieutenant from the Lord Chancellor’s office. It also embraced the presidency of St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton and of the governing body of Northampton University.
She was appointed LVO in 1981 and DCVO in October this year, shortly before the onset of her final illness.
Lady Juliet Townsend was a countrywoman, a family woman and a churchwoman – her faith might be described, in the words of Roger Scruton, as that of “ ‘the Church of England’… not ‘Church’ but ‘England’… a sanctification of the land, its boundaries, its language and its law.”
She is survived by her husband and her three daughters.
Lady Juliet Townsend, born September 9 1941, died November 29 2014
‘We chose our roles in health to provide care, to diagnose and heal – not to push paper around late into the night,’ writes Michael Dixon GP. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt
We welcome the announcement that new investment is to be made into primary care (Osborne under fire over £2bn NHS pledge, 1 December). However, it is not all about the money. GPs are on their knees, new GPs are scarce, there is a developing fracture between patient and doctor due to a mismatch in expectation and reality: general practice is at a tipping point. It’s time to let go of the old order. We must stop being heroes and heroines. Working 12-, 13-, 14-hour days is not heroic. It affects our ability to provide safe and consistent patient care; it affects our family lives; it affects morale and job satisfaction. We chose our roles in health to provide care, to diagnose and heal – not to push paper around late into the night.
As GPs, we have to accept it’s not all about us. It’s about a much bigger picture. We need to work with people to stay well. We need to put silos and fragmentation behind us and work collectively with our colleagues in pharmacy, in hearing and eye care, and our consultant colleagues in hospitals. We need to look forward, although without losing the traditional values of family medicine and locally based health services; values that deliver personal care and continuity and build on the assets of the communities in which people live and work. Healthcare in the future will look and feel different. It won’t divide neatly into primary and secondary care. It will become part of a wider system, one where the edges blur and dissolve. One in which we must all play our part as responsive and responsible citizens.
We propose that part of the new funding supports a new role, a community health connector that enables us as health professionals and as people to create healthy communities that support the new models of care that will sustain an NHS that remains free at the point of need for everyone.
Dr Michael Dixon
Chair, NHS Alliance, and GP, College surgery, Cullompton, Devon
• There is absolutely no question of slowing down on our review of urgent care, which has attracted a broad coalition of support (A&E shakeup dropped over fears that it would be political suicide, 1 December). Indeed, it is a central part of the widely welcomed NHS five-year forward view and the pace is about to accelerate. Sorting out the urgent care system is one of the most important priorities for the public and for the NHS. We have to ensure patients get the right care at the right place, first time.
The heavy lifting starts in 2015-16, which will include the formation of urgent care networks to include all hospitals with A&E departments across England. We then expect networks to identify the 40 to 70 emergency centres which have specialist services. We have always been clear that we expect the total number of urgent care centres to remain broadly the same. I would not want any one to get the impression that we are slowing down or backtracking on such an important project for patients.
Professor Keith Willett
National clinical director for acute care, NHS England
• David Owen cites Scotland as an example of the people power he hopes can be harnessed to preserve the NHS and prevent the inroads of marketisation (How to take back the NHS before it’s too late, 1 December). He might have added that Scotland, having abolished the purchaser/provider split under a Labour administration in 2004, is in a much stronger position to do so, as well as spending a much lower proportion of its health service budget on management than England.
Given the already fragile forms of democratic representation and accountability in the NHS, it is difficult to see how the “new democratic way of exercising the power of the people” that he recommends can be effectively applied, short of a referendum. Increased marketisation and the accompanying commercial secrecy, as exemplified by the TTIP negotiations, will weaken the process still further. Both old and new forms of political pressure need to be applied, in particular to the Labour party, to address the question as to why the leadership has not been prepared to follow the 10-year example of their Scottish colleagues. As with the lead-up to the Scottish devolution referendum, a campaign for an NHS constitutional convention could be the galvanising factor required to restore the NHS to its founding public service principles, with sufficient popular support to prevent all future efforts to dismantle it.
Dr Anthony Isaacs
• I recently received a letter from the CQC advising me that they wish to come and interview me about my role as a manager. I am a GP partner and have not recently undertaken any new roles; ideally, I would like to spend my time seeing patients, although current restructuring of general practice does take me away from the frontline for increasing amounts of time. Over the past month, the byzantine processes of the CQC have required me and my practice manager to complete reams of paperwork to register me as a “manager”. I currently work a 12- or 13- hour day, amounting to 50 or 60 patient contacts, as well as letters, prescriptions and so on. I am informed that this interview will take about an hour. Don’t worry: the CQC registration inspector works flexible hours so she can come at weekends if I prefer. I don’t work flexible time – I work until the job is done.
I successfully completed revalidation in July 2013 – which includes review of non-clinical work. This CQC process is consuming valuable clinical time and financial resources to repeat a paper exercise for which there is no evidence that it improves patient care or patient safety. There is, however, considerable evidence of GP burnout and early retirement – to which the CQC makes a notable contribution.
Dr Rachel Cottam
Park Crescent Health Centre, Brighton
• The GP practice in Newton Abbott might have taken the advice to seek help elsewhere too far (GPs told patients to go elsewhere for basic treatments, 2 December), but the basic principles of the leaflet are sound, namely: 1) the public can now get help from an increasing number of NHS services (eg physiotherapy, mental health services and of course pharmacies) directly without having to go through their GP, which may well make access easier, faster and more convenient, with online self-referral for example, and furthermore direct access to psychological therapies is national policy; 2) the demand on GP practices is huge and ever-increasing, and outstripping supply. If patients who are able and willing to refer themselves directly do so they might well receive appropriate care more quickly and easily, and this would also make a few more GP appointments available for those who really do need and want them.
GPs are expected to do everything from prescribe drugs and infant feeds for small babies at the request of paediatricians to complex drug regimes for the terminally ill, we deal with a huge range of people and problems daily. As Atul Gawande said in his second Reith lecture on 2 December, the volume of knowledge and skill in medicine has exceeded our individual capabilities, and this is certainly true in general practice. Too much is expected of GPs, who must work as part of a system which delivers safe and effective healthcare, which can include patients self-referring to certain selected services.
Dr Stephen Ball (GP)
• Small wonder that NHS England disapproves of the Kingskerswell and Ipplepen GPs who have the honesty and the willingness to communicate the steep decline in standards of care as a result of coalition cuts (Report, 2 December). The rest of us have practices forced to paper over the cracks, pretend that everything is as normal and communicate as little as possible about the deteriorating state of this part of NHS work.
• It makes no sense for the chancellor to promise extra money for the NHS while continuing to cut local authority social services budgets. Ambulances will still be waiting outside hospitals with their patients, beds will still be blocked and waiting lists will still grow if adult social services can’t fund residential care and domiciliary support for older people. The social service budget needs to be ringfenced – just as the schools budget is – and restored to the levels this government inherited.
• I write to you from a hospital bed in Gloucester Royal Hospital, and feel compelled to put pen to paper. I have sat here (particularly this week), reading on my news app about the NHS in crisis, and all the problems.
I want to write to tell you a completely different story. I was admitted with suspected pneumonia at the end of last week. From the GP who saw me in the out-of-house clinic, to the paramedics who waited for my crying children to get in the car and leave before putting me in the ambulance, to the doctors and especially nurses who administered to me when I first arrived, they were all amazing – every single one.
Now, I do have to tell you that I am in one of the oldest parts of the hospital, and not everything works quite the way it should. It’s a bit battered around the edges, and the staff sometimes have to scout around for the “one that works” – not clinical equipment, but those bits and pieces that you need when you have people to stay.
But despite any of that, it has been the most amazing experience, and I have met truly delightful people. To be honest, I wish I had taken notes – though I certainly wasn’t well enough – because it has been a myriad of good deeds and kind words.
And do any of these people ask for any adulation for their hard work? Do they complain when the papers and the politicians run them down? Well, perhaps just a little bit, but wouldn’t you?
Chalford Hill, Gloucestershire
After reading the article by Tom Gross (A modest proposal: let Gaza host the World Cup, 1 December), I had to check my diary to make sure it was not 1 April. The article is such nonsense that a considered response is not needed, but I would like to ask Mr Gross if he has been to Gaza recently, and if so whether he could point out where exactly Ismail Haniyeh lands his private jet. I think we should be told.
House of Lords
• For many years I have bridled at the use of “strong women” to refer to any women portrayed as showing character or independent opinions, or whose roles rely on more than just their relationship to men. Jessie Burton (Strong women? They’re just women says writer, 1 December) exposes the cliche for what it is: evidence of low expectations of women and low interest in the tonal variety of women’s lives.
• Am I your only reader who spotted the uncanny likeness between your photo of the lovely Samantha (Pass notes, 3 December) and that fellow purveyor of good taste, the mysterious restaurant reviewer of the year Marina O’Loughlin (Weekend, 29 November)? More sauce, anyone?
• I will find it hard to take your economic analyses seriously after you demonstrated your inability to count by printing a picture of three parasol mushrooms with the heading “Two fairy parasols” (Letters page, 2 December).
• “Balls-out”? “romcom”? “gross-out”? “celeb-stalky”? “Ob/Gyn”? “ditz”? “douchey” (TV’s most radical, G2, 2 December)? Could we have a glossary to assist your English-speaking readers?
Newcastle upon Tyne
• What’s wrong with 60/60/24/7/52/100/1000 (Letters, 2 December)? And that’s without nanoseconds or aeons. Time-wasting, perhaps?
Great Gaddesdon, Hertfordshire
Choose where you eat with care, Louise Burns (Mother humiliated after Claridge’s staff make her cover up while breastfeeding, 3 December). A couple of years ago I had lunch at Carluccio’s in Covent Garden with my breastfeeding daughter and my granddaughter. In the crowded restaurant, Antonio Carluccio came up to us and said “a warm welcome to a future customer of Carluccio’s”, and asked my daughter if she would like a cushion to lean on. Go where humanity is still important, Louise (and the food was excellent too).
• Sitting in a Paris restaurant in 1957, I asked the waiter where I could feed my baby. He looked astonished. “Mais ici, Madame, ici.”
Paul Mason (Private schools know how to game elite universities – state-educated kids don’t have this privilege, G2, 1 December) has succumbed to crude class-based generalisations, increasingly the default response in the private school v state school debate that the media is so fond of. Paul Mason claims that state-educated 16-year-olds make A-level choices based on “hearsay, myth and information that is outdated”, whereas private-school students happily rely on their teachers’ “years of practical knowledge” and “continual informal contact with elite universities”. In my experience as a recently retired deputy head of a large state school which published a successful national guide to succeeding at competitive university interviews and secured 17 Oxbridge offers last year – and as someone who has met many well-informed and committed heads of sixth and advisers in the state sector – the truth is not as simplistic.
The real division is not between state and private but between schools that provide high-quality, personalised up-to-date advice and information, and those that do not. The independent sector has quite a few of the latter, as does the state sector, which under this government has suffered devastating cuts to careers and higher education advice.
I do agree with Mr Mason’s conclusion – the system often does fail “bright kids from non-privileged backgrounds” – but let us not lazily assume the independent sector has all the answers here; state schools just need significantly increased investment in high-quality guidance, especially for 15- and 16-year-olds, for the expertise and passion for excellence and aspiration is there.
• Paul Mason is probably right. Our society and our economy are being deprived of talent by the exclusive access to universities afforded to the privately educated. This unequal access affects not only the quality and scope of our existing and future judges, diplomats, civil servants and politicians, but also our journalists and editors, our senior broadcasters, actors and even our popular musicians. The answer is not to get a bit more information to state schools, as Mason suggests, nor to go cap in hand to the private sector, as our privately educated shadow education secretary would have us do, but to do what Margaret Drabble proposed: get rid of their charitable status. And stop pandering to the veneer presented at interview panels and auditions.
• For too long state-school pupils have received poor advice regarding the facilitating subjects at GCSE and A-level that will help them progress to the top universities and keep their options open. To help tackle youth unemployment and ensure that students receive the degrees and qualifications that will lead to employment, Russell Group universities must develop a closer relationship with state schools and their careers advisers to ensure that accurate information about required GCSE and A-level subject choices are clear, so that students can make informed choices from as early as year 8. Often, by the time students receive this information at age 16 or 17, it may be too late.
Chief executive, ACDiversity
• Bravo to Michael Rosen for highlighting the hypocrisy of coalition education policy and the folly of the free school zealots (Letter from a curious parent, 2 December). Is it too much to hope that Tristram Hunt might agree with him?
• What I don’t understand is why there seems to be no one (or rather few) in Britain questioning the whole premise that choices you make aged 16 should decide your future. When I was 16 I wanted to be an actor, of course. At 16 nothing seems quite right in your life, and the idea of slipping in and out of the lives of other characters appealed to me. Well, thank goodness I didn’t have to make the choices then that kids at English schools have to. I’m from Germany and there we’re made to study around 10 subjects until the very end of school. We choose two or three subjects to take at an advanced level, but all other subjects – from sciences, to languages, politics, history, PE, ethics, etc – are still mandatory. And the qualification gained at the end enables you to apply to any university course you want. I did advanced English and German, but could have applied to do almost anything at a German university: medicine, engineering, informatics, or graphic design.
I feel that giving young people a broad, well-rounded education that will enable them to turn to almost any subject in their higher education has greater value than forcing them to make decisions when lots of them will not be ready (how could they be?), and that could go on to restrict what they can apply to do at university.
Griesheim, Hesse, Germany
Roger Ridey writes: The transformation of Frankie Fraser from East End gangster to media character can be attributed in large part to Willie Donaldson, writer of The Henry Root Letters, who often referred to their “friendship” in his column for the Independent, William Donaldson’s Week, in the early 1990s.
In March 1994, he announced his plans to stage An Evening With Frankie Fraser at The Goat in Boots pub in the Fulham Road, south-west London. Three years later, An Evening With Mad Frankie Fraser opened at the Jermyn Street theatre and subsequently toured the pubs and working men’s clubs up and down the country for years.
Donaldson also gave Fraser a part in his infamous 1996 Radio 4 series A Retiring Fellow, in which he played Willie’s guide to Marbella. No doubt the mischievous Donaldson would have been proud of Fraser’s success, while wondering why he never got his cut.
Lancaster University students’ union president Laura Clayson. ‘Your story is alarming, given the nature of your two ‘extremist’ posters: pro-Gaza and anti-shale. How close to a Tory police state are we?’ writes John Airs. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
Peter Scott (Anti-terror measures will make us the ‘extremists’ we fear, 2 December) says the government is legislating to ban “extremist” speakers from universities. It is doing nothing of the kind. Free speech is fundamental to universities. There are established criminal sanctions against promoting or inciting violence, and civil remedies for libel. Beyond that, we all have subjective views on what is or isn’t “extreme”, and it is not the role of the law to be prescriptive.
The legislation will involve guidance to universities on how to protect students from being drawn into terrorism and we are shortly consulting on that guidance. Far from suppressing free speech, we will want to ensure that there is a proper opportunity to challenge religious and extremist speakers.
Dr Vince Cable MP
Secretary of state, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
• Peter Scott does well to emphasise the central importance of academic freedom to a genuine university education, and to warn that a minister could stifle it using powers being taken in the present counter-terrorism and security bill. The government could minimise this danger by adding a clause to the effect that the powers of “guidance” and “direction” could not be used to prevent the right of staff and students “to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions”. This particular formulation of academic freedom was forced on the Thatcher government by a strong-minded House of Lords.
Karl Jaspers, who was forced from his academic post by the Nazis, said: “No state intolerant of any restriction on its power for fear of the consequences of a pure search for truth, will ever allow a genuine university to exist.” Surely we haven’t reached that stage yet?
University of Bath
• Bravo, Laura Clayson (Anti-terror bill: how radical ideas could be a crime on campus, 2 December). Stay strong and committed, and you’d better be careful who you strike up any intimate relationship with at Lancaster. I’m not serious, but this in fact is no joking matter. Your story is alarming, given the nature of your two “extremist” posters: pro-Gaza and anti-shale. How close to a Tory police state are we? (And should this letter be printed, maybe I should ask for my name to be omitted.)
Sir, Not only is Black Friday a foreign import of dubious benefit (Thunderer, Dec 2) but it is symptomatic of the new secular calendar that is fast replacing the religious one.
The new festivals encompass the entire year and include New Year’s Eve, Burns’ Night, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, St George’s Day, Father’s Day, Hallowe’en, Guy Fawkes’ Night and, now, Thanksgiving.
Whereas the religious calendar tried to express values and duties such as charity, hospitality and belief in a better version of the world, the secular one is focused on personal pleasure.
If it is too late to coax people back to the traditional festivals, maybe we have to work with the modern ones and try to imbue them with a greater sense of social responsibility, mixing the fun element with a secular messianism to improve society.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
Maidenhead Synagogue, Berks
Sir, Friends tell me that we have not yet experienced the full-on American-style Black Friday. I hope we never see it. This huge-scale consumerism is ruining the spirit of Christmas.
Molly Bruce (aged 15)
Moreton Hall School, Shropshire
Sir, The police described shoppers on Black Friday as behaving “like animals”. Your photograph of long-tailed macaques enjoying their annual buffet in Thailand (World, Dec 1) prove that such comparisons are most unfair. The monkeys are considerably better behaved than shoppers.
Dr Celia Greenberg
Sir, Reading of Mr Thomas’s experience on Black Friday (Letter, Dec 1), I was beginning to think it was a send-up of the scenes seen on the national news. Then I saw his address and reflected that the shopping experience here in the north must be very different to that in the south.
Sir, It might be interesting to compare the space given by the media this autumn to Black Friday, and the amount given next spring to Good Friday.
Sir, Here’s one to ponder: why is it that people will (allegedly) take turns to loot during a riot, yet will shoulder aside and trample upon other shoppers during a “normal” retail sale?
Sir, In mid-November I bought printer cartridges from Amazon for £34. I noticed that in their Black Friday sale that the same cartridges were available for £39. Hmm.
Professor Otto Meth-Cohn
Sir, My three purchases on Black Friday were accomplished easily and in perfect comfort. Each was one pint of excellent Adnams Southwold bitter in my local.
Sir, While relieved not to be suffering from gym face through exercising too much in middle age (Times 2, Dec 2), I fear I am showing signs of fridge face.
Sir, Let us remember today the death 500 years ago of Richard Hunne, a London merchant who, on the morning of December 4, was found hanging in the Bishop of London’s prison. As a victim of the religious tensions that surfaced in the run-up to the English Reformation, Hunne reminds us of the bitter consequences of doctrinal intolerance — whether this be within or between the great religions of the world.
Sir, I felt my age when I heard that most voters want gas and railways renationalised (News, Dec 2). Many younger people of voting age must be unaware that when these bodies were nationalised they were a byword for poor service and the butt of jokes.
Sir, As a Spurs supporter it sticks in the throat to defend Mario Balotelli (“Race storm”, Dec 2), but is it likely that someone brought up by a Jewish foster mother (of whom he is clearly fond) would intend to make an antisemitic post? This was simply the action by one of the many who tweet before they think — and all this on a day when a real antisemite was welcomed back into the fashion world.
Sir, I take issue with your allegation that police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are a “spent force” (Leader, Dec 1). My office is slightly more expensive than that of the police authority it replaced two years ago, but it is responsible for — and achieves — so much more.
Each week I formally question and hold to account the chief constable. In my first two years in office I have met the public at more than 300 events, and I have provided funding to scores of initiatives to help to keep communities safe, divert people from crime, reduce reoffending and
protect the most vulnerable. In my two years in office, crime has fallen, financial prudence has been maintained and praised, and our plans to re-engineer policing have been lauded by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Sir Clive Loader
PCC, Leics & Rutland
Sir, The stout defence of PCCs by Lord Wasserman (letter, Dec 3) has to be viewed in the light of his earlier role as adviser on policing and criminal justice to the prime minister and home secretary. The many qualities he ascribes to the majority of PCCs should perhaps be supported by examples. In my experience, I fail to recognise any of them.
Dr CL Murray
er’s EU destiny
The Iron Lady was pro-Europe, argue 90 prominent Liberal Democrats.
6:00AM GMT 03 Dec 2014
We’ve had: “Go home or face arrest” vans. We’ve had: if you are from the EU and want to move to Britain, go and register at a police station. We’ve had: if you’re out of work, even for a few months, go back to where you came from.
In her Bruges speech in 1988, Margaret Thatcher said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”
What happened to that Conservative destiny? The dual menace of the Tory headbangers and the rise of Ukip.
There is nothing patriotic about bashing immigration from Europe. It is opportunistic, weak and fundamentally un-British. Migrants from the EU claim less in benefits than people born in this country. They are a massive net positive to the British economy. The Tories are scared to admit this. They have lost all sense of political courage – and that is why people have lost confidence in them.
We, the undersigned Liberal Democrats, konw that the real patriotic case is for Britain to remain in Europe; our jobs and our economic future depend on it.
Tim Farron MP
President, Liberal Democrats
President-elect, Liberal Democrats
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Caroline Pidgeon AM
Liberal Democrat Leader, London Assembly
Aled Roberts AM
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for North Wales
William Powell AM
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales
Eluned Parrott AM
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central
Alisdair Calder McGregor
Dr Turhan Oze
Baroness Ludford of Clerkenwell
Chair, Social Liberal Forum
Chair, Liberal Reform
Federal Policy Committee
Chair of English Candidates Committee
Co-Editor, Liberal Democrat Voice
Federal Exeucutive Member
Federal Policy Committee Member
Federal Executive Member
Vice-President of Liberal Youth
Convener, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Diversity Champion, East of England
Policy Officer, Liberal Youth
Secretary, Cambridge Liberal Youth
President, University of East Anglia Liberal Youth
South East Liberal Youth Chairman
Secretary, South Central
Cadan ap Tomos
Secretary, Welsh National Executive Committee
President, North West Liberal Democrats
Liberal Reform Executive Member
President, Keele University Liberal Youth
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Woking
Chair, Oxford East Liberal Democrats
Treasurer, Social Liberal Forum
Bermondsey & Old Southwark
Vice-Convenor, Edinburgh North East & Leith Lib Dems
Chair, Calderdale Liberal Democrats
The Rev’d Simon Wilson
Treasurer, West Norfolk Liberal Democrats
Chair, Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats
Scottish Campaigns and Candidates Committee
Chair, Bromsgrove Liberal Democrats
Social Liberal Forum Council and Liberal Voice
Chair, Western Counties Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrat Voice
Dr Michael Taylor
Treasurer, Calderdale Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Ealing
Vice Chair, Bromley Liberal Democrats
Vice Chair, Hexham Liberal Democrats
Membership Secretary, Liberal Democrat Disability Association
Bill Newton Dunn
MEP for East Midlands 2004-2014
Dr Spencer Hagard
Chair, Cambridge Liberal Democrats
Campaigns Officer, Nottingham City Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, South Norhamptonshire
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Northamptonshire
Chair, Newark Liberal Democrats
Hampstead & Kilburn
Dulwich & West Norwood
Hampstead and Kilburn
Dr Charles Corser
The Rev’d Canon Alan Taylor
Boston and Skegness
Secretary, East Midland Liberal Democrats
Gary Mark Fuller
Folkestone and Hythe
Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham
Plans have been proposed for a tunnel under Stonehenge Photo: ALAMY
7:00AM GMT 03 Dec 2014
SIR – Congratulations to the regions which are to have road improvements.
In Cumbria we have had our sea view to the west spoilt by what I am told is the largest wind farm in Britain and our moors to the east covered with windmills whose construction disrupted natural drainage and caused flooding in the village. We have a nuclear power station to the north and nuclear submarines built to the south. The National Grid has plans to put large pylons right through the middle of our village.
There is enough money to build a tunnel under Stonehenge but apparently no money to fund projects that would go a long way in solving the problems in our area, such as a bridge over Morecambe Bay – which would improve access, alleviate congestion and also supply tidal power.
Why are we expected to supply energy for everyone else while receiving no benefits whatsoever?
03 Dec 2014
SIR – We need to be told the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of the Government’s major road projects, as well as those dropped from the original list, to show whether or not they have been prioritised according to value for money.
With the Government unable to reduce its rate of borrowing, let alone its total debt, we surely cannot afford to spend on any with a BCR of less than about five.
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The Chancellor’s promised road-improvement programme is good news, but who is going to build these roads? I suspect Britain does not have sufficient road-builders.
Relying on imported labour, it will put yet more strain on government services.
SIR – Keith Webb fails to recognise that one of the main reasons for putting the A303 in a tunnel is to prevent the natural reduction in speed of traffic that occurs when a small proportion of drivers slow down to look at Stonehenge as they pass.
SIR – Why do we need an expensive tunnel to stop motorists gaining a view of Stonehenge? A line of leylandii trees would do the job much faster and far more cheaply. A selection of deciduous trees could be planted behind them if landscaping was required.
SIR – There is little point in the Government providing money for new roads when most drivers in this country spend the majority of their time on existing roads avoiding potholes.
Brighton, East Sussex
The 453 remembered
SIR – The Daily Telegraph’s campaign to honour the 453 servicemen and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan reminded me of a proposed local tribute. The A453 between Nottingham and the M1 is currently being substantially upgraded. With the numerical coincidence, it would be a permanent and abiding tribute to the 453 service personnel who died in Afghanistan if the new road were to be named Helmand Way.
SIR – Today, a war memorial on the Embankment in London will be dedicated to the 1,106 Britons who died in the Korean War, 1950-53. It is the first recognition of their contribution.
SIR – To the unknown volunteers who planted my poppy in the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” display and then carefully wrapped it in its commemorative box, I thank you.
To the unknown sailor, soldier or airman it represents, I salute you, and will cherish your memory.
Doctors and suicide
SIR – It is good news that the Royal College of Physicians has clearly reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
Doctors recognise the negative impact of assisting suicide on their profession and the patients they care for. They should not be asked to be gatekeepers for lethal drugs; they know that predicting life expectancy and assessing mental state are fraught with difficulty.
With some friends and families eager to inherit, it is essential that doctors are not caught up in the collusion of avaricious beneficiaries.
Age limit for MPs
SIR – It would be problematic to introduce any form of qualification for prospective MPs. But we should set a minimum age limit. Debate what age it should be, by all means, but I agree with James Kirkup, who suggests 45. By that age, anyone wanting to stand as an MP should be able to demonstrate his or her achievements to date and fitness for the role.
For children failing to thrive, ‘junk food’ can help
A mother and child embrace a varied diet in Monet’s ‘The Breakfast’, 1868 . Photo: bridgemanart.com
SIR – You report that NHS staff are telling some mothers to give babies “junk food” to help them overcome feeding problems. As someone who has worked in NHS feeding clinics for more than 20 years, I would like to reassure readers that these foods are recommended only in small quantities, in conjunction with other nutritious foods and only for children with significant feeding problems, for whom gaining weight, thriving and developing appropriate feeding skills are a real difficulty. Obesity is not the concern for these babies. This advice follows robust research and expert opinion on helping parents with their child’s feeding – often a major worry.
No-alco-pops: festive recipes for a dry season
SIR – Julia Bishop wants something to drink “that is both non-alcoholic and exciting”. I’d like to suggest a Pimm’s substitute: to two litres of diet lemonade, add 50ml of balsamic vinegar and sweetener to taste. Add sliced fruit and vegetables of choice, and lots of ice. I defy anyone to tell that this drink is non-alcoholic – plus it’s low-calorie.
SIR – I make a “mulled fruit cup” using red grape juice mixed with a variety of other juices – perhaps cranberry and pomegranate – and heat them with orange rind, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and a little brown sugar. This is warming, seasonal and, if it’s not as exciting as that made from wine, at least you know you will be under the limit.
Don’t go Dutch
SIR – Thank goodness Penny Mordaunt didn’t say poppycock during her speech, a word that was ruled to be unparliamentary by Speaker Bernard Weatherill during the Thatcher years. Readers who wish to know why should see the word’s Dutch origins.
SIR – Last Christmas we were joshing with a Norwegian friend, expressing faux horror at her countrymen’s pursuit of reindeer to stock their larders.
We asked her what “Rudolf burgers” actually tasted like. “Oh, much like moose,” she helpfully informed us.
Guinevere and Trelawney Ffrench
No way out
SIR – What will happen to tomorrow’s drivers when, their satnav having led them down a dead end, they are unable to perform a “pointless” three-point turn?
SIR – Having seen images of the fighting that broke out in shops on Black Friday, I hope that the televisions, if damaged in the melee, were not returnable.
Sir, – In an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, I heard Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Day Centre say that in 50 years time people will look back and compare the neglect of homeless people in a similar way that we look back on the scandal of the Magdalene Laundries.
I have to disagree with him. More than 40 years ago along with Séamus Ó’Cinnéide I carried out the first census of homeless people in Dublin for the the Simon Community. The level of homelessness then was nothing compared with today and we certainly found no families or children sleeping out.
It was the expectation then that as the economy improved the problem would be solved or at least seriously ameliorated. As a society, despite the recent recession, we are considerably wealthier than we were in 1971 and we have managed not merely to solve the homeless crisis but we have made it worse. We can blame governments and politicians but we all have to take some responsibility as a community.
I hope Brother Kevin is right and the problem will have been solved but reflecting on the last forty years I am not hopeful. – Yours, etc PETER MOONEY. Cabra, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Apparently there are significant numbers of dwellings boarded up because they do not meet current housing regulations.
Homelessness is a glaring emergency, so there should be political will to find a mechanism to accommodate otherwise homeless people in such unused dwellings, until enough units are upgraded, built or the housing regulations are adapted to meet demand. Regulations are supposed to serve the people, not vice versa. Standards for rented houses that result in people sleeping rough are an obscenity. – Is mise, etc, CLAIRE WHEELER Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Sir – An endangered species, a loggerhead turtle, lost her way in a storm and is nursed back to health for a year, then flown to the Canaries (“Leona the turtle has landed in Las Palmas after flying economy class from Dublin”, December 2nd)
A man who lost his way in life’s storm is left to languish and die beside the seat of power of the State. Is humanity endangered? – Yours, etc, FIONNUALA McGEE Rathgar, Dublin 6 Sir, – It has taken the death of a man opposite the gates of our national parliament to focus official attention on the problem of homelessness.
Why is public policy in Ireland always formulated against the backdrop of extreme crisis and outrage rather than as a response to emerging trends and potential future problems?
Homelessness did not receive adequate official attention before John Corrie died. A properly functioning political system would have recognised this during his life. – Yours, etc, MARK COEN Spencer Dock, Dublin 1. A chara, – Is the special forum on homelessness to be convened due to the death of a man or the death of a man on the Dáil’s doorstep? Advocates for people marginalised by our system will have nothing new to say at a forum, special or otherwise.
I’m sure Fr Peter McVerry would take a call from An Taoiseach, as would all other seasoned and committed people who could advise him, should he wish to get sound counsel without pomp or ceremony. I’m sure they would willingly say, yet again, what they have been saying for years.
Austerity augmented the mental and financial vulnerability of thousands. State imposed poverty, in many cases, was a direct cause of homelessness.
As a mark of respect in memory of Mr Corrie, could the Government consider its position, rather than merely deferring the switching on of the Christmas lights in Leinster House? – Is mise, etc, ANNMARIE LEONARD Donabate, Co Dublin.
Sir, – As a 10-year-old boy in February 1955 I attended the England v Ireland rugby encounter with my Dad. I stood tall at the Havelock Square end on a Jacob’s Biscuit tin so I could see all the action.
Jackie Kyle was faster over that first 10 yards than Usain Bolt. I was enthralled with his majestic contribution to the 6- 6 draw in front of a huge crowd. I became a dedicated young fan and went to all the major games. As an avid follower I sought out the players’ autographs, a prized possession of young followers.
Then as a 12-year-old, well into my stride, I was waiting with anticipation the overseas Australian tourists of 1957 to arrive. My hero was to play in a club game against Lansdowne RFC in September. In the relative quiet of the after-match dressing room I nervously approached my champion. I mentioned the upcoming Ulster clash with the tourists in November. As he would be playing he would have access to a game programme. I asked would he give me his address as I wanted to write to him, and the next day I sent him a letter and enclosed a shilling for a programme.
A week after the game, our postman delivered a large envelope with a letter from Jackie. They had lost 9-0 but he enclosed the programme autographed by all the tourists and the Ulster squad. He also sent the menu for the dinner that evening, autographed by all. But the inspirational piece came in the last paragraph of the letter. He said “please find enclosed your shilling. As I was selected on the team they gave me a free programme.” Signed Jackie Kyle. What a gentleman. – Yours, etc, MIKE PARLE Leixlip, Co Kildare.
A Chara, – Conor O’Clery, in his very interesting article (“Did the end of the Cold War sow the seeds for a new one?” November 29th), tells us that with the end of the cold war “the threat of a nuclear holocaust became history”.
Unfortunately this is not the case. There are approximately 20,000 nuclear weapons owned by a growing number of states and until they are all decommissioned the threat of a nuclear holocaust will remain.
What has happened however, is, as Donald Clarke pointed out (“Should we continue to fear another world war?’, August 9th), that “the fear has largely gone away”.
Clarke tells us that nuclear holocaust is no longer deemed terrifying enough as subject matter for Hollywood’s apocalypse movies, and he adds that “The denial of collective death continues. We don’t even whistle in the dark any more. Almost nobody seems to notice the dark. Can we get away with our hubris forever?”. Can we? – Yours, etc, MARY McCARRICK ICND (Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) PO Box 6327, Dublin 6
Sir, – My 25-year-old daughter brought her 16 years old car, for the NCT. It failed on emissions and some rust in the spare tyre compartment of the boot. Is the NCT about putting older cars off the road or safety? When the last person was killed by emissions or flying spare wheels from under cars. Why penalise older cars.
The NCT is a cash cow for everybody in the motoring trade, new car dealers and repair garages. I am all for safety and looking after our environment. Surely it makes more sense to keep good cars going for as long as possible instead of buying new cars and the emission and energy that goes with producing them? – Yours, etc,
Kilmannon Cross Roads,
Sir, – I am amazed that throughout all the talk regarding Junior Cycle reform, nobody has thought to ask students, who have completed the examination in recent years, what they think of the exam.
As a sixth-year student, currently preparing for my Leaving Certificate, I do not think that two or three years of work should be tested in a three-hour exam. Continuous assessment is the way forward and work should be externally corrected.
The education system is so geared toward fact drilling and rote memorisation that students often exit with a head-full of dates and formulas, but without the ability to constructively think. If we readjusted the testing and educational system to focus on critical reasoning rather than memorisation, then even if we knew fewer facts off the top of our heads, we would be smarter overall. We would take a step towards doubt and a step towards thinking for ourselves. – Yours, etc, GAVIN COLL Carrickmines, Dublin 18. Sir, – Geraldine Mooney Simmie (Letters, December 1st) offers a caricature of the proposed Junior Cycle reform, claiming that it will “shatter the conception of education as a public good for all”. Dr Mooney associates the reform of the Junior Cycle with a European “liberal agenda” which seeks to reduce the role of the State in the delivery of public services.
This certainly does not do justice to the proposed Junior Cycle reform, which seeks to enhance the autonomy of teachers by giving them a greater role through school-based assessment of their students. This is very different from the education “reform” measures adopted in a number of developed countries, including Britain, which have promoted standardisation of courses, greater monitoring of teachers and more rigid official control over schools.
The current proposal by the Minister for Education involves the retention of a certificate issued by the State and allocates 60 per cent of the assessment to a final examination marked by the State Examinations Commission. This is hardly a revolutionary change – school-based assessment is already a reality in other areas of the post-primary system, notably the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.
Certainly there are real threats to the concept of education as a public good, but reform of the Junior Certificate is not one of them. Opponents of the reform should be careful what they wish for – it is rare for a government department to offer to share some of its powers and even more unusual for educators to make the case for State control of education. – Yours etc.
DR JOHN WALSH
School of Education,
Trinity College Dublin,
Dublin 2. Sir, – It is alarming to read Prof Tom Collins’s apologia for getting rid of what he calls “brutal” external assessment from the second-level educational system (“Why Junior Cert reform is best for students’ education,” December 3rd).
He overlooks that what he calls “light touch external examiner oversight” would be totally inadequate to ensure the fairness of the second-level system.
Getting rid of an exam system, which has integrity, from second level is a backward step. It will leave it open to the influence of every power-monger from the over-ambitious, influential parent down.
If it leads to greater equality, as Prof Collins is arguing, it will only do so by bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. – Yours, etc, A LEAVY Sutton, Dublin 13.
Sir, – Your editorial (“Too many managers”, December, 1st) concentrated its fury on an area of public-health administration that constitutes just 1.1 per cent of the total number of staff employed in our health services.
The number of health service senior managers has remained at around this level since 2007 as the overall numbers employed in health have declined. Any increase or decrease among such a relatively small group of staff is going to present as a much greater movement when expressed as a proportion of their total number.
Your editorial also states that the HSE employs 48,000 people. However, according to the HSE’s own figures (to September 2014), the total number employed in our health services is just over 97,000, with just over 61,500 of those employed directly by the HSE itself.
It remains the most enduring myth of our health services that it is overburdened with clerical, administrative and management staff.
Between 2009 and 2013, numbers of staff employed in these categories fell by more than any other (apart from “general support staff”). A greater challenge for our health service is to ensure the crippling costs of agency staff are reversed, and that budgets can be used to employ more staff in areas where they are needed. This will increase the capacity of the service and, ultimately, improve the outcome for everyone who uses our health services. – Yours, etc, LOUISE O’DONNELL National Secretary, Health & Welfare division IMPACT Nerney’s Court Dublin 1
Sir, – Surely the reason for the increase in the number of managers in the HSE is as a direct result of the increase in paper work across the health sector . When will someone look at the more important issue of time spent with patients versus time spent writing about patients. Reduce this paper trail of form filling, checklists, ticking of boxes and the need for clip-board management will be reduced. – Yours, etc, MG Storey, RGN, RPN Glencar, Co Sligo.
As a 10-year-old boy in February 1955 I attended the England vs Ireland rugby encounter with my Dad. I stood tall at the Havelock Square end on a Jacob’s Biscuits tin so I could see all the action. I first saw a talented man that day they called Jackie Kyle. He was faster over that first 10 yards than Usain Bolt.
I was captivated and enthralled with his majestic, strategic contribution to the 6 – 6 draw in front of a huge crowd.
I was captured as a follower of the rugby game in that first few hours. I became a dedicated young fan. I went to all the major games and sought out the player’s autographs, a prized possession of young followers.
Competitors like John Bowman, of ‘Questions and Answers’ fame, were there standing in line waiting. The stack of programmes he came with almost toppled him over, he had so many.
Then as a 12-year-old, well into my stride, I was waiting with eager anticipation for the Australian tourists of 1957 to arrive here. I looked forward to adding to my autograph and programme collection.
Jack Kyle was to play in an ordinary inter-club game for NIFC against Lansdowne RFC in September.
In the relative quiet of the after match dressing room, I nervously approached my hero. Could he, would he sign my many programmes? He was kindness itself and was ready to help a young boy. Gaining confidence, I mentioned the upcoming Ulster clash with the tourists in November. As he would be playing, he would have access to a game programme. He astounded me with his modesty by saying that as the Ulster team had not yet been selected, he might not be at Ravenhill.
I asked would he give me his address, as I wanted to write to him about the match programme. He willingly complied and headed off to meet the teams for a chat and a cuppa.
The next day I sent him a letter and enclosed a shilling for a programme. A week after the game our postman delivered a large brown envelope with a handwritten letter from Jackie. They had unfortunately lost 9 – 0 but he enclosed a game programme autographed by all the tourists along with the full Ulster squad and the menu for the after-game dinner, also autographed by all.
But the inspirational thing came in the last paragraph of the letter. He wrote, “please find enclosed your shilling. As I was selected on the team they gave me a free programme.”
What a gentleman to be so kind to an insignificant little boy, now in his 70th year.
The following January, Ireland, guided by the great man, beat Australia 9 – 6. What a day, what a great man.
Leixlip, Co Kildare
We have failed the homeless
While it is right that the abject failure of all Irish governments, especially this one, to tackle homelessness should be highlighted, it is also important to remember that it wasn’t just on this occasion that the State failed one of its citizens.
Jonathan Corrie, who died almost at the gates of Leinster House, wasn’t born homeless, or with drug and alcohol problems. We can but hope Mr Corrie’s loved ones can take some comfort in the fact he must now be at peace and that if there is a God, then he will have embraced Mr Corrie at the gates of Heaven.
But that must not absolve us of the shame that a death like his can take place anywhere in Ireland in 2014. We hear talk about long-term plans to address homelessness but can it really be beyond the wit of our well-fed and overpaid ministers and their myriad advisers, to find locations where even suitable pre-fab accommodation can be put up? That at the very least can provide access to services and facilities for homeless people, be they on the street or any of the many family units left homeless, due to the brutal policies of Fine Gael and Labour using the money the State generates to prioritise protecting the well-off at the expense of those who are most marginalised.
Locations that are clean, safe and suitable where homeless people can at least have time to think while longer-term solutions are put in place.
Addressing the emotional needs of some of these people will not be done overnight but providing for their physical needs can be solved overnight by this Government at the stroke of a pen.
If Enda Kenny’s Government cannot even solve a problem as demanding of humanity as homelessness, then it is not up to the job.
Canary Wharf, London
A homeless man freezes to death while sleeping on a Dublin street, close to our national parliament and at the start of the holy festival of Christmas of 2014. The fact that the man’s name, Jonathan Corrie, bears the initials JC is of some significance because they are the same initials as that of Jesus Christ, whose birth we’re supposed to be celebrating in the weeks ahead.
The reaction to this tragedy and manner of this man’s death has rightly stirred the conscience of people in high office in both church and State, with Lord Mayor Christy Burke and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin promising to do something once and for all to begin to deal with the scandal of people forced to dwell on the streets of our cities and towns.
We Irish have traditionally been upfront when it comes to sorting out other people’s problems in other lands; this is an opportunity to prove that we are capable of looking out for our own distressed people who have fallen upon hard times.
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Loneliness: invisible but endemic
David McWilliams’s article on homelessness (Irish Independent, December 3) was both thought- provoking and constructive.
However, Mr McWilliams seems to think that loneliness is, somehow, below homelessness in the league of human suffering. He is wrong about this.
The despair of loneliness can kill someone, just as homelessness can. Both loneliness and homelessness are now endemic in our society. Despite this, they are both “invisible”.
Loneliness and homelessness are in all parts of our society, both rural and urban, and they both demand our greatest attention.
Ireland has become a ‘desert’, when it comes to human contact, i.e. real human contact.
We are now more selfish and more closed off from each other, than we’ve ever been before.
More and more of us are deliberately cutting ourselves off from any kind of human contact.
People are cutting themselves off by consuming high levels of alcohol (at home) and also with Facebook, headphones, texting and other kinds of escapist technology.
Thus we have more and more lonely people and, in addition, almost total apathy towards the homeless.
White Street, Cork city
Statues don’t retire
As a proud Kilkenny man, apprehensive adrenalin ran through my body as I read Teddy Walsh’s letter (Irish Independent, November 27) concerning the real birthplace of Fr Theobold Matthew – Thomastown, Golden, Tipperary.
Now Teddy, I am sure you know that it’s hard to get anything back off a Cat once it is given a catch, but on this occasion, I think we must concede to our great hurling neighbours. You see, Teddy, I thought Fr Matthew was retiring, not moving.
But sure I should have known that statues don’t retire, do they?