7 December 2014 Foot

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get Joan’s books upstairs.

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


Queen Fabiola of the Belgians – obituary

Queen Fabiola of the Belgians was a Spanish aristocrat who was working as a nurse when she was secretly selected as a royal bride

Queen Fabiola in 1963

Queen Fabiola in 1963 Photo: REX FEATURES

7:33PM GMT 05 Dec 2014


Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who has died aged 86, had one of the most unlikely royal courtships of modern times when an Irish nun was sent on a secret mission in the 1950s to find a suitable bride for King Baudouin I.

The only unmarried child of a wealthy Spanish aristocrat, Fabiola was working as a nurse in Madrid and living in her own apartment when Sister Veronica O’Brien arrived in Spain at the behest of the future Cardinal Suenens, then auxiliary bishop of Malenes. Suenens was concerned that the King, who had been on the throne for nine years and was deeply religious, was lonely and needed a wife; and when Baudouin met Sister Veronica he confided to her that he wished to marry a devout Catholic — preferably Spanish and aristocratic.

After consulting Fabiola’s headmistress in Madrid, who thought that her former pupil might help to find a candidate among the unmarried daughters of her friends, Sister Veronica was duly introduced. She decided that she need look no further, reporting to Suenens that Avila (their code name for Fabiola) “came in like a breath of fresh air, tall, thin, well-built, good-looking and striking, bubbling with life, intelligence and energy”.

The nun invited Fabiola to stay with her in Brussels, where she met the King. Then, when Fabiola returned to Madrid, Sister Veronica followed with a letter from Suenens, urging her to marry Baudouin. Fabiola fell into a rage, but eventually calmed down and agreed to return to Brussels, where Baudouin came to meet her secretly. The couple became close when they sheltered from the rain and said the rosary together in his car during a visit to Lourdes. Fabiola duly accepted his proposal, hours before the King was called back to Belgium by the crisis in the Congo.

Years later King Baudoin wrote in his diary: “Thank you Lord, for having given me Fabiola as my wife and Veronica as my guardian angel.”

Fabiola Fernanda Maria de las Victorias Antonia Adélaïda Mora y Aragon was born in Madrid on June 11 1928. She was sixth of the seven children of Don Gonzalo Mora y Fernández, Conde de Mora and Marqués de Casa Riera, and his wife, Doña Blanca de Aragon y Carillo de Albornoz. Fabiola’s father was one of Spain’s largest landowners and lived in a palace with a marble façade in Madrid . There were 17 servants who were required to join the family every evening to recite the rosary. In addition, Fabiola was a god-daughter of Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (the wife of King Alfonso XIII and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria).

When King Alfonso was forced to flee Spain in 1931, the family moved between Paris, the Basque country and Switzerland. As befitted a girl of her class, Fabiola received a serious and highly cultured education. Their exile ended in 1939, when they returned to Madrid to retrieve their palace, then sporting a red flag as the headquarters of the women revolutionaries.

Fabiola trained as a nurse in military hospitals in Madrid and San Sebastian. She published a children’s book, The Twelve Marvellous Tales, the royalties from which eventually went to the National Society for Children.

By the mid-1950s all Fabiola’s siblings were married, and after rejecting an aristocratic Spanish suitor as not sufficiently serious, she resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood, dining every night at the family palace which, since her father’s death, had become a shrine to his memory with 50 stray dogs roaming the garden.

King Baudoin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium at a gala in Mexico City in 1965 (REX FEATURES)

In Belgium, the young King Baudouin also had a complicated family background. His grandfather, King Albert, had died in a climbing accident when he was three, and his mother, Queen Astrid, was killed in a car accident when he was four. During the Second World War his father, King Leopold III, was spirited away as a prisoner of war while Baudouin and his younger brother, Albert (who reigned as King Albert II from his brother’s death in 1993 until abdicating in 2013 in favour of his son Philippe), and their sister, the late Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxembourg, were kept in seclusion until liberated by the American army in 1945.

After his father’s second marriage, to Liliane Baels (later known as the Princesse de Réthy), the Belgian people were not pleased, and Baudouin found himself King at 21, after Leopold’s abdication. During the 1950s Baudouin was so close to his stepmother as to give grave concern to some of his ministers. He considered being King a vocation similar to that of a priest, but after his brother Albert married he became preoccupied by the need to marry and continue his line.

When the marriage took place in Brussels on December 1 1960, Fabiola wore a gown hemmed with white fur by Balenciaga. Princess Margaret represented the British Royal family at the ceremony.

As in all families, there was a black sheep, and in Fabiola’s case it was her brother, Jaime Mora y Aragon, a playboy who, in contrast to the austere simplicity of his sister’s life, was a familiar feature at the Marbella Club in Spain; he was not invited to the wedding.

Strains also existed within the Belgian royal family. Fabiola disliked her husband’s stepmother on sight, a feeling that was reciprocated. When the King and Queen returned from their honeymoon, they found that King Leopold, Princess Liliane and their three children had vacated the palace in their absence, taking their furniture and pictures with them.

King Baudouin never forgave his stepmother for this slight, and the only times they met after this were at the funeral of his grandmother, Queen Elisabeth, in 1965, and of his father in 1983, when Fabiola held Liliane’s arm supportively during the service.

Queen Fabiola of Belgium in 1960 (GETTY / PHOTONEWS)

King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola proved a popular couple, noted for their quiet dedication to Belgium and the Belgian people; for their staunch Roman Catholicism; and, more poignantly, for their many attempts to have children, all of which ended sadly. Queen Fabiola was also known for her charitable work and for her discreet elegance, being dressed in the smartest of haute couture, notably by Chanel.

The King and Queen travelled extensively. They paid a state visit to Britain in 1963, Baudouin being appointed a Knight of the Garter, and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh paid a return state visit in 1966. Relations between the Queen and the Belgian couple were strong, and Baudouin’s was the only funeral of a foreign monarch she has ever attended in person during her long reign.

Fabiola devoted her life to charitable work, and to cultural activities in Belgium, attending concerts, artistic performances and lectures. She was especially interested in the welfare of children, and set up a special secretariat at the royal palace to deal with issues concerned with handicapped children. At Laeken, one of the royal residences, the King and Queen built a wooden chalet, where Fabiola cooked and Baudouin washed up. As a nephew put it: “She adored him as if he was a living god on a pedestal.”

It was a particular sadness for them that they remained childless. Pope John XXIII astonished the world by announcing that Fabiola was pregnant during the Belgian couple’s visit to the Vatican in June 1961. Two weeks later she miscarried. In 1962 she was delivered of a stillborn child after a four-month pregnancy, at which point a Swiss gynaecologist told her that she had only a 10 per cent chance of carrying a baby to full term, and herself a five per cent chance of surviving.

The King and Queen made pilgrimages to Assisi and Lourdes, praying for a child, but Fabiola miscarried again in 1963. In 1966, and again in 1968, a baby died in her womb. After that they became resigned to having no children, but were sustained by their faith. Having no children brought them sympathy in their country, where the Belgian people considered them as symbols of parenthood to the nation.

In 1979 King Baudouin told some Belgian youngsters: “You know that we are childless. For many years we struggled to fathom the meaning of this sorrow. But gradually we came to understand that, having no children ourselves, we have more room in our hearts to love all, truly all, children.”

Queen Fabiola in 2004 (REX FEATURES)

When the Belgian government wanted to pass a law liberalising abortion in Belgium in 1990, the King felt so strongly against this that he asked the government to declare him temporarily unfit to reign so that he did not have to give the bill the Royal Assent. This was agreed, and afterwards he resumed the throne. King Baudouin died suddenly of heart failure at his villa in Spain on July 31 1993, and Queen Fabiola attended the funeral dressed in white. Afterwards she thanked the Belgian people for their response to his death, and moved out of the royal palace.

Queen Fabiola remained popular during her years of widowhood, although in 2013 she was accused of using a foundation to avoid death duties. She was always included in state ceremonies by King Albert and Queen Paola, appearing between them on the balcony on the day that Albert was invested as King.

Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, born June 11 1928, died December 5 2014


Communist partisans being arrested,  December,1944. Communist partisans being arrested, December,1944. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith, in their article “Athens 1944: Britain’s dirty secret”,’ (Magazine, question why the story of the Greek civil war “remains curiously untold in Britain”. One reason is because, as Jeremy Isaacs writes in his book Storm Over 4: “The British insisted the only true version of events was theirs.” This is why, when Isaacs commissioned, and I produced, the three-part series Greece: The Hidden War in 1986, it was banned after one transmission following pressure from members of the British establishment. In Storm over 4, Isaacs writes: “Greece: The Hidden War did not lie.” In Greece, the series has been broadcast numerous times. Perhaps it’s time to show the series again and let the British viewers decide where the truth lies.

Jane Gabriel


Liverpool’s housing success

I was interested to read about the success that the council in Stoke-on-Trent is having with its £1 homes scheme (“The £1 houses and thriving potteries are making Stoke boom again”, New Review). However, I was disappointed by the comment that Liverpool’s similar initiative “has failed thus far”. In fact, the scheme is progressing well, with all 20 properties in the pilot matched up to applicants. Six of these are progressing with the refurbishments and work will commence on the other 14 early in the new year. We also have a reserve list of applicants ready to sign up for other properties we are planning to make available soon.

This is not a competition between Liverpool and Stoke and we are genuinely encouraged by the success that Stoke has enjoyed. However, our schemes differ in several respects. As described in your article, the Stoke scheme involves the council actually undertaking the works itself and tying its “£1” customers into a loan repayment agreement.

Our scheme provides successful applicants with the opportunity to fund and manage the refurbishments themselves. Although this lessens the council’s control over the works, customers have welcomed this autonomy.

Ann O’Byrne

Cabinet member for housing

Liverpool City Council

A school model that works

Sam Freedman makes valuable points in “State schools don’t need private sector advice”, (Comment). He is right that where the advice offered patronises it is of little value and can do harm. He may also be right that some independent schools found themselves involved in the support of academies without knowing the extent of the challenge. However, one statement in his article must be corrected.

Dulwich college has not pulled out of the Isle of Sheppey. Having been instrumental in the setting up of its academy, in improving academic standards and in ensuring the openings of its new buildings, between 2009 and 2013, Dulwich relinquished the role of lead sponsor to Oasis Community Learning, but continues as an educational partner. We are proud to support Oasis’s mission to effect a social transformation, through its schools, on the Isle of Sheppey, work we did not have the resources to undertake. I sit on the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey’s council and explore means by which staff and pupils at Dulwich and on Sheppey can benefit from shared experiences.  We have set a model others should follow; we have the same relationship with E-ACT’s City Heights Academy in Lambeth.

Dr JAF Spence

The Master

Dulwich College

London SE21

French nuclear nonsense

Whatever doubts the French may continue to have over Iran’s plutonium production reactor at Arak, they seem to be sanguine about Iran’s involvement in uranium enrichment, so much so that they are in industrial partnership with the Iranians in this technology and have been for four decades since the agreement was initiated by the shah in 1975. (“The deadline might have passed, but the nuclear risks remain critical”, leader)

The origins of the deal are illustrative of the dangers of international nuclear collaboration. A joint-stock European uranium enrichment Eurodif Consortium was formed in 1973. Two years later, Sweden’s 10% share was sold to Iran.

The French government subsidiary company, Cogéma (now Areva), and the then Iranian government established the spin-out Société Franco-Iranienne pour l’enrichissement de l’uranium par diffusion gazeuse (Sofidif) with 60% and 40%  shares respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25% share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10% share of Eurodif.

The hypocrisy of France, as a nuclear technology supplier to Iran, ganging up on its customer client with the other United Nations’ permanent five Security Council members and Germany, would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

Dr David Lowry

Former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC)



Don’t mess with my choo-choo

A great review by Rowan Moore (“Just the ticket: the joy of England’s railway stations”, New Review) of the English railway station – but could he not have resisted the creeping Americanisation of “train stations”? The clue was in the title.

David Spaven


Dementia patients in Germany - Hands The number of elderly people with dementia is growing and hospital staff and carers need to have proper training. Photograph: Daniel Karmann/ dpa/Corbis

I felt compelled to write as my experiences with my late mother during her stays in hospital mirror the sad story told by Nicci Gerrard in her moving article “My father entered hospital articulate and able. He came out a broken man”, (First Person).

When staying in a geriatric hospital in Canterbury, happily now closed, she was treated with lack of respect (partly because I was a demanding daughter) and, as she had to remain in hospital while residential care was organised, she declined.

We were fortunate that her dementia wasn’t Alzheimer’s but multi infarct dementia and she took what I used to refer to as the scenic route, so once she was established in a nice home – near my sister and me so there were regular trips out for lunch and to church – she improved and became more settled.

I also remember some pretty bad experiences in a council-run respite care home. After visiting my mother on a summer’s evening, I noticed the french windows had been left open and on the way out, I had to escort three elderly and confused people back inside as they had simply wandered off. One old lady told me she wanted to get to the bus stop for the school bus, which was heartbreaking.

Another time, an old lady in an advanced state of dementia, with nothing left but her anger and anxiety, was carried by her arms and legs like a rag doll and plonked on the floor near the chairs occupied by me and my mother.

We need proper education in geriatric psychology for care home workers, plus Ms Gerrrard’s excellent idea about family or friends accompanying elderly dementia sufferers through hospital visits.

Jane Hardy


I was deeply moved by Nicci Gerrard’s account of her father’s rapid decline after a prolonged stay in hospital. That an active, independent man who was living well with dementia was left broken because our hospital system is not set up to provide the level of care he required is a tragedy.

Worse still, it is not an isolated incident – it is happening time and time again up and down the country. With more than a quarter of hospital beds occupied by people with dementia, the way care is provided must be transformed.

The Dementia Action Alliance is urging hospitals to become dementia friendly, to train all hospital staff, from consultants to porters, in what dementia is and means, and to have a dementia champion on each ward.

If not, many hospitals will continue to fail in their duty to provide care for the most vulnerable. Beyond hospital care, we should also ensure people living with dementia live well wherever they are receiving care, whether that is in residential care or at home.

As dementia progresses, people have complex needs and it is essential that care meets their expectations by supporting independence, recognising them as individuals and offering a range of services that meets their need for both quality of care and quality of life.

Professor Graham Stokes

Co-chair of the Dementia Action Alliance


The swift decline of Nicci Gerrard’s father following a stay in hospital almost exactly mirrors that of my mother.

After a stay of six weeks following a fall at home, we were called to a family meeting at the hospital and informed, without specific diagnosis, that she had a few weeks left to live.

The consultant said quietly to me: “Less, unless you get her out of here.”

After dedicated care from family and nursing home staff she was restored to us – fearful, incontinent, bed-bound, unable to feed herself and a shell of the person she had been.

She lived another 20 months and as long as I live it will haunt me that I did not fight for her to get better care in hospital, as I would have done for my children, even at the real risk of being labelled a troublemaker.

Chris Hinchcliffe



The huge increase in official estimates of slavery in the UK, as captured by the Home Office’s “dark figures” (“There are up to 13,000 slaves trapped in UK”, 30 November), reveals just how blind society has been to these crimes in the past. Instead of being helped by police and the Borders Agency, many trafficked victims face prosecution, deportation, and the risk of being re-trafficked – meaning they are often reluctant to testify against their perpetrators and their ordeals are never captured by official figures. The Modern Slavery Bill needs to urgently address this by increasing awareness of slavery within all communities, and putting victims first to ensure they receive lasting support. Until then, this horrific crime will continue to lurk in the shadows.

Jakki Moxham

Chief executive Housing for Women, London SW9

Opponents of fracking in North Yorkshire have received critical support from the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Mark Walport, whose recent report described fracking as an unproven technology carrying similar risks to CFCs, asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol (“Fracking firm’s plans criticised”, 30 November). This fatally undermines the Government’s current policy which is to promote fracking at the expense of energy conservation and renewables. But Government policy does not stop at promoting the wrong business model. It also seeks to remove environment-friendly MPs from the ranks of the Conservative Party. Both Tim Yeo, chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, have been deselected by their local Conservative Associations. Ms McIntosh is the local Yorkshire MP who has opposed fracking in her constituency, while Mr Yeo has been outspoken in his support for renewables. It appears that sustainable development is incompatible with being a Conservative MP.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

DJ Taylor points out that snobbery in British society has a long history and is still very much with us (“From Strood to No 10, we love a snob story”, 30 November). Much of it is to do with class difference and division, which must be of some concern to those who think that class is no longer much of a factor in Britain. What Taylor doesn’t address is that the flip side of snobbery, deference to authority and one’s alleged betters, is in fact very largely dead and the country is certainly the better for it.

Keith Flett

London N17

I read about homeless veterans in absolute amazement (Christmas Appeal, 30 November). We should scrap Trident and not buy any more weapons (apart from those needed for national security) until every returning soldier is housed and given a pension.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

You report that “party leaders David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have already pledged their support to the Homeless Veterans appeal” (30 November). But surely our parliamentarians ought to be the working to ensure that ex-servicemen get looked after without having to rely on charity?

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Kim Carnell should be advised to buy her daughter a train set from an independent model railway shop, where she will receive good advice to get her daughter started on what could prove to be a life-long hobby (“Why should boys have the best train sets?” 30 November). There have been some very good women modellers over the years. Although men are in the majority, don’t let that put you off. Incidentally, Ms Carnell’s daughter will become competent in a variety of skills, from electrical wiring of layouts to model-making; life long skills. Who knows, she may become a scientist.

Christopher Williams


Mental health organisations want to see a fair distribution to psychiatric services of the £2bn the chancellor has promised the NHS in his autumn statement

Overstretched mental health services need funding boost

THE health regulator Monitor and NHS England recently recommended cuts of 1.5% to mental health services that have been chronically underfunded and subject to real-terms cuts for the past three years. The case last month in Devon of a teenage girl with mental illness being held in a police cell showed how overstretched mental health services are.

And demand is rising. Recent figures show the number of people in contact with secondary mental health services increased last year by nearly 10%. We know times are tough for the NHS, but for people with mental health problems life has been a lot tougher for a lot longer.

Last week the chancellor promised an extra £2bn in funding for the NHS in the autumn statement and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to valuing people’s mental and physical wellbeing equally.

Now we need to see these promises reflected in a fairer proportion of funding committed to mental health — and locally commissioners also need to do the right thing and invest in services.
Sean Duggan, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health; Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation; Stephen Dalton, Chief Executive, Mental Health Network; Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind; Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness; Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists


Offering a woman a birth in an isolated midwifery centre as opposed to a fully equipped maternity unit is like asking her to partake in a game of chance (“Doctors’ fears over midwife birth centres”, News, last week). If the labour and delivery proceed smoothly, as in the majority of cases, it is wonderful.

However, should there be complications, especially in the second stage or the immediate aftermath — and far removed from obstetric or intensive intervention — the price could be very high. It boils down to personal choice. I know what mine would be.
Tim Coltart, Consultant Obstetrician (retired),
Guy’s Hospital and Queen Charlotte’s Hospital for Women


In “Osborne to throw NHS £2bn lifeline” (News, last week) the government is again attacking the symptoms (NHS overload) instead of attacking the cause (widespread obesity and ill health). The most recent evidence tells us the cause of so much inflammatory illness is our diet of processed food.

Food manufacturers make their profits from converting a small range of cheap processed bulk crops plus lots of additives into addictive, palatable foods. They will use their economic power to deny the problem and resist change, just as the tobacco firms did. Nonetheless, to stop us sinking under the weight of escalating healthcare costs, there must be change.
Stephen Dockray, Torquay

My friends don’t fear the m-word, Mariella

I HAVE enjoyed Mariella Frostrup’s book programmes and have agreed with her views on women’s issues but I was disappointed by her interview (“I’m glad my hot flushes are causing a few blushes”, News Review, last week).

I don’t know what exclusive circles Frostrup must move in, where women blush at the thought of discussing the menopause. In the world I inhabit they discuss it freely, but the thought of having health insurance to cover treatment for its symptoms would never occur to us. The photo with the article also made my blood boil.

Maureen A Jeffs, Nottingham


Some women sail through the menopause almost untroubled, while many have severe symptoms, and I would sympathise with any of them seeking help. If Frostrup wishes to discuss her options for treatment, any half-competent GP could help her.

However, should her health insurer pay for private treatment? Such companies generally do not cover maternity care, regarding this as “natural” too. Should they pay for male pattern baldness or middle-age spread in men? I am sure these cause distress. I don’t think insurers are sexist. And most payouts are for new hips, knees and suchlike in older patients, so they’re hardly ageist either.

Dr Peter O’Donnell (retired GP) Epsom, Surrey

Developer riding roughshod over community

THE property developer Gladman claims to respect the planning system and local communities but this bears no resemblance to our experience of the company (“Green fields hit by ‘no win, no fee’ developers”, News, last week).

A resident objecting to the application to build a large estate outside their town was met with laughter from its spokesman, who asserted that the company would win because it would appeal to the highest level, and there was a suggestion that objectors do not have the money to take it on.

The coalition needs to remove any presumption in favour of sustainable development, curtail the expenses claimable on appeal and introduce a greenfield levy to subsidise brownfield developments.

Ann Gray, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire


The number of houses required will be built, and built where the local population has agreed for them to be constructed. Gladman is pre-empting this by pushing through plans in the Stroud district council area that are not for sites within the local plan, namely Baxter’s Field in Stroud and Mankley Field in Leonard Stanley.

In short, the developer is overriding the democratic process and the government is complicit in its total disregard for local democracy.

Diane Odell, Leonard Stanley Gloucestershire


Because of the government’s aggressive planning policy of favourin g development and the lack of any local plan by the district council, Wellesbourne has had in the past five years an increase of nearly 400 houses either being built or planned to be built. In our village it will not be green fields that are lost but a flourishing and historic airfield — home to a number of associated businesses — which will be covered with a virtual new settlement containing 1,500 houses, larger than all but one of the developments highlighted in your article.

The village of Wellesbourne is some five miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon. The 2011 census recorded a population of just under 6,000 residents, with about 2,500 dwellings. What will a further 1,500 houses do — an increase of more than 50% in the size of the village? George Osborne in his autumn statement is likely to be encouraging even more housebuilding.

David Close, Chairman, Wellesbourne and Walton Parish Council, Warwickshire



What an outrageous comment by Cardinal Vincent Nichols about the proportion of child abuse committed by Catholic priests (“Church abuse is ‘minor part’ of problem”, News, last week). That it is a “minor part” goes without saying, considering what a vanishingly small part of the population the priesthood represents. His refusal to acknowledge guilt suggests a continuing denial of the church’s crimes. Any priest convicted of this sort of

abuse should suffer at least the same penalty as was handed down last week to Myles Bradbury, the doctor imprisoned for 22 years for child sex offences. It seems the attitude of the church authorities can be compared to that of the bankers: they just don’t get it.

Martin Howe, Chelmsford


The vitriol directed towards Michael Palin by AA Gill (“I don’t give this one a ghost of a chance”, Culture, last week) vindicates my decision not to waste time reading critics. Gill asks if anyone would notice if Palin “ceased to exist”. Would anybody notice if Gill ceased to exist?

Paul Chapman, Wellingborough


Rod Liddle mentions signs in the back of cabs stating cab drivers’ right to go about their work without being verbally or physically abused. He then asserts that it is a truism that all places that have similar notices are places where the public get royally stuffed (“Shut up, you canting cabbies — swearing is bloody good for you”, Comment, last week). Liddle has obviously never been in a hospital, the back of an ambulance or similar location where the staff are trying to do their best not to stuff the public — indeed, quite the opposite. As someone who works in one of these places and regularly has to put up with unprovoked verbal and physical violence, I find Liddle’s comments almost as distasteful as Mr Mellor’s.

Trevor Bechtel, Perthshire


With regard to the South Yorkshire model Sam Rollinson (“Doncaster lass to be catwalk queen”, News, last week) — by ’eck, it were only a few week ago she were boilin’ ferrets and coolin’ the faggots and tripe wi’ her da’s flat cap. Give the north -of-England stereotype a rest, me old china.

Chris Greenwell, Darlington


I presume Jeremy Paxman did not have to be asked 12 times if he would accept £1m for his memoirs (“Paxman nets a million for his BBC memoirs”, News, last week).

Frank Greaney, Formby, Merseyside


The Sunday Times’s Save Syria’s Children Christmas appeal need not be concerned about any ill feeling with regard to Tony Blair being honoured by Save the Children (“Blair award”, Letters, last week). Given his outstanding contribution in helping to lighten Africa’s load, Blair’s accolade is long overdue. Unlike your correspondent who has allowed his sanctimony to punish Syrian youngsters by not donating to the charity, I will now be forwarding cash for the first time in years.

Ian Hoyle, Rotherham


As an avid — and Jewish — reader of Dominic Lawson, I have always admired his masterly use of the English language. However, as far as Yiddish is concerned, I hope he won’t mind me offering an alternative — and in my view more accurate — translation of the word “nebbish” in his column (“If you want No 10, turn off the Milibrain and bring us sunshine”, Comment, November 23). I was brought up in London’s East End at a time when it was occupied more or less exclusively by the Jewish community and “nebbish” was a word used to express a pejorative view of a fellow Jew. My understanding was that it meant a “nobody” or “a person of no worth”.

Dr G Sandler, Sheffield


The reference in the correspondence “Fee paying” (Letters, last week) to the “grubby world of agents who place the students of overseas parents” is intemperate and ignorant. I run an education consultancy that operates as an agency in Kuala Lumpur and in Ho Chi Minh City. Universities and schools would not employ us, and students and their parents would not call on our services, if we were “grubby”. We are similar to any other private company offering a service to the public, such as solicitors and accountants. I have two overseas offices that have to be paid for. My employees travel to the UK once a year to visit our client universities to check on updates and meet staff. We also try to ensure that all students are bona fide with regard to their visa applications.

Geoff Notcutt, Education Consultant, Bedford, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City


Monique Sanders (“Not so decisive”, Letters, last week) makes the mistake of believing she knows the views of people who do not vote.

It cannot be assumed the 15.4% who did not vote in the Scottish referendum opposed independence. Consequently, her premise is false and her calculation incorrect.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh


Why does Camilla Long insist on using ludicrous nonsensical phrases such as “suppurating human loofah” and last weekend’s particularly egregious example, “seeping billionaire titbiscuit”? What are they meant to convey? Am I missing something? Please find someone who can write without using these senseless aggregations of words — if “titbiscuit” is indeed a word.

Bryan Johnson, By email

Corrections and clarifications

The general pictured with the article “Far write: France finds its voice in Mr 1950s” is not Charles de Gaulle but Philippe Leclerc. The picture was wrongly captioned by Agence France-Presse. We apologise for the error.

The story “Four from same family ‘join Isis’” (News, last week) incorrectly stated that Istanbul was the Turkish capital. We apologise for the error.

The article “Hasidic teacher accused of slapping pupils” (News, November 23) should have stated that the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is “mainly” based in Stamford Hill in London and in Salford.

Last week’s Glass House column on apps (Magazine) incorrectly described a personal tax scheme called Ingenious as illegal. We accept that this would have been understood as a reference to Ingenious Media’s film investment schemes. These are not illegal, and 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.


Nicole Appleton, singer, 40; Emily Browning, actress, 26; Noam Chomsky, philosopher, 86; Luke Donald, golfer, 37; Anne Fine, novelist, 67; Colin Hendry, footballer, 49; Nicholas Hoult, actor, 25; Sue Johnston, actress, 71; John Terry, footballer, 34; Tom Waits, singer, 65; Jeffrey Wright, actor, 49


1732 opening of the Theatre Royal, now the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden; 1941 Japan bombs US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; 1972 launch of final US moon mission, Apollo 17; 2006 tornado in Kensal Rise, northwest London, injures six people and damages at least 100 properties.


George Osborne’s relief measures for businesses; modern-day slavery; Gordon Brown’s legacy; pigs and prehistoric monuments; prospects for those not yet tired of London

Only slashing the business rate for shops in towns and villages will help local retailers

Only slashing the business rate for shops in towns and villages will help local retailers Photo: Christopher Pledger

7:00AM GMT 06 Dec 2014


SIR – The Chancellor announced on Wednesday a review of business rates. It is vital to extend the package of relief measures he put in place in last year’s Autumn Statement.

If we want our town centres to survive, we have to do something to help the high street, which will struggle to compete with the likes of Amazon.

A reduction in business rates for all town centres would help them revive. This could be paid for by raising council tax on wealthy households which, in turn, removes the need for the mansion tax.

Peter Burgess
London W9

SIR – Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, predictably complains about the “cost of living crisis” responsible for the undershoot in tax intake and consequent increase of the deficit under the Coalition.

Under the previous 13 years of Labour administration, Britain saw a greater percentage decline in manufacturing industry than it ever did during the Thatcher years. The consequence of our long-term decline in producing high-value goods is low-paid jobs in the service sector and a constant demand on the welfare system to supplement living standards.

Michael R Gordon
Bewdley, Worcestershire

SIR – If David Cameron and George Osborne think that BBC coverage of the Autumn Statement was biased, they should have been watching the ITN News the same night, which referred to the damning reports of the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Peter Oborne’s excellent article was also critical of Mr Osborne’s qualities as Chancellor.

Are they all biased, or are the Tories the only ones in step?

Tony Fry
Ruthin, Denbighshire

SIR – One way to achieve real socio-economic progress would be to move to a government of national unity, bringing together the very best people to govern us. Another would be to engage us all, possibly under a legal obligation, to help provide our local community services.

The internet and telephones could be used both to facilitate such developments and to enable everyone’s views on key matters to be taken into account.

Mike Tyler
Aid for Trade Foundation
Worthing, Surrey

SIR – Those who liken the new higher rates of stamp duty to a mansion tax fail to appreciate the significant difference between a one-off tax on a single transaction involving the passing of money on the purchase of a new home and the taxing every year of an asset that is probably generating no income.

John Boast
London N21

Slavery in Europe

SIR – Modern-day slavery and human trafficking are urgent challenges facing Britain, with several thousand people trapped in slavery now. According to the International Labour Organisation, modern slavery is an illicit trade worth at least $150 billion (£96 billion) per year that exploits 21 million people globally.

We are pleased that the Government has promised action and that the Modern Slavery Bill, currently before Parliament, includes a new requirement for businesses to report on slavery and forced labour in their supply chains. But this provision must be strengthened if it is to drive real change in company supply chains. That is why we are supporting a cross-party amendment to the Bill, which would make the law clearer on what information companies need to publish.

Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK
Andrew Caplen
President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Steve Clifford
General Director, Evangelical Alliance
Marilyn Croser
Director, CORE coalition
Joanna Ewart-James
Director, Walk Free Partner Network
John Hilary
Executive Director, War on Want
Anne Lindsay
Lead Analyst on the Private Sector, CAFOD
Samantha Maher
Policy Director, Labour Behind the Label
Dr Aidan McQuade
Director, Anti-Slavery International
Paul Parker
Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Caroline Robinson
Policy Director, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
Kumar Swamy
Managing Trustee, Dalit Freedom Network UK
Jane Tate
Co-ordinator, Homeworkers Worldwide
Terry Tennens
Chief Executive, International Justice Mission UK
Steve Trent
Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation
Owen Tudor
Head of European Union and International Relations, TUC
Mags Vaughan
Chief Executive, Traidcraft
Andrew Wallis
CEO, Unseen
Ruth Chambers
Consultant, Transparency in Supply Chains Coalition
London SE18

Sweden’s Ukip

SIR – After two months in power, Sweden’s Social Democrat government has been brought down by the refusal of the far-Right Sweden Democrats to support its budget. With 13 per cent of the vote at the last election, the Sweden Democrats are the country’s third-largest party, articulating increasing hostility to uncontrolled immigration, particularly from Muslim countries.

As in Britain, this far-Right party picks up as much support from the working-class Left as from the Right, but establishment parties and media either ignore them or deride their supporters as fascists. Still, the Sweden Democrats look set to hold the balance of power in the election in March.

The economic protectionism that has characterised Europe for the past half century has now morphed into social and cultural protectionism, or nationalism.

Britain is on the brink of the same counter-revolution. The established political parties seem unable to command a majority in the coming election, largely because of a party that articulates a general anger about immigration and loss of identity. Whoever wins in May, probably with a minority, even in coalition, it will be the votes, if not the MPs, of Ukip that hold the balance of power, as the far-Right parties do in Sweden, France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Holland. These parties may not be very nice. A more balanced conversation may be preferable to the polarised debate they offer. But to ignore or ridicule them is to disfranchise a large section of the electorate that has cast its votes quite legitimately.

Hugo McEwen

Blair’s real job

Andrew Crowley

SIR – Tony Blair is correct to criticise MPs who have never had jobs outside politics. Is running a consultancy a “real job”? Until we have ex-police officers, soldiers, teachers, factory hands and railway workers in the House of Commons, our Parliament will never be truly representative.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

Monitoring old drivers

SIR – The judge who said that it is the responsibility of older drivers and their family and friends to monitor their driving skills is wrong.

People are inherently selfish and many will not give up unless forced to do so. All drivers should have to resit the test and pass an appropriate medical at least every five years. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Clive Pilley
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Home deliveries


SIR – Women have been giving birth at home since the beginning of time (Letters, December 5).

It is only in the past 50 years that they have been encouraged to go to hospital. In that time we have seen the rise in the use of Caesarean sections, forceps, ventouse and all the myriad interventions that doctors relish.

Alison Brown
New Romney, Kent

Brown’s legacy

SIR – I read that Gordon Brown is to step down as an MP at the next general election.

I thought he did this four and a half years ago.

Will Price
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

SIR – I have been wondering what Mr Brown’s greatest achievement was.

Was it selling the nation’s gold at an all-time low, failing to spot the financial crisis, or becoming known as the bigot of Rochdale?

Clive R Garston
London SW8

SIR – Gordon Brown said that his father taught him politics was “about public service and a vocation born of high ideals”. What a shame he could not live up to this advice while squandering his legacy in petty squabbles with Tony Blair.

Tony Fricker
Lindfield, West Sussex

My wife Kate


SIR – Your picture of Kate Moss modelling for “The Boy in the Dress” looks like my wife changing the duvet cover.

Lionel Atherton
Buxton, Derbyshire

Liquid diet

SIR – The Mediterranean diet is good for you. One glass of red wine equals three vodkas.

Should I be drinking vodka with my Mediterranean diet?

Alison Hodge
Kingston, East Sussex

Pigs make the time fly by on Salisbury Plain

SIR – Dr Michael Young (Letters, December 4) is wrong to call the pig farm close to Stonehenge “a significant blot on the landscape”.

On our visits to Shepton Mallet, my wife always looks forward to seeing the porkers enjoying their freedom, roaming the vast field, with shelter provided as cover against the elements.

Also, this farm is a wonderful advertisement for British farming and demonstrates why we should buy UK-reared meat whenever possible.

John Dickinson
Chipperfield, Hertfordshire

SIR – After many years sitting in traffic on the A303, Stonehenge loses its attraction. At least the pigs provide entertainment, discussion and thoughts of a bacon butty.

Jeanette McCreery
Templecombe, Somerset

Lively prospects for those not yet tired of London

SIR – Bryony Gordon states that nobody likes London. Not so.

Due to an accident, I have not been able to get up to London for more than a year, and I miss it very much, having enjoyed its many entertainments and lively atmosphere in the years I worked there.

Wheely suitcase injury, rude cyclists and the stink of body odour are not limited to London.

David Hight
Camberley, Surrey

SIR – As a friend and I finished dinner the other night at a superb Japanese restaurant, in a London street stuffed with Italian, Lebanese and all manner of other options, we reflected on how dreadful it is to have so much choice.

Walking through the streets, we noticed how miserable it is living amid beautiful architecture, ancient parks and history at every corner.

Saying goodbye at the bus stop, it struck us as appalling that we could get home within the hour for less than £2. Awful city. We all hate it here.

Mary Gogl
London SE1

SIR – I am so glad that the London congestion charge is, after 10 years, “broadly accepted by all political parties in London”. But what about real people?

Richard Forth
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

SIR – My late father used to commute regularly from Bristol to Newcastle via London. He would say that the best view of London was from the end of the last train departing from Paddington.

After three years working in central London, I agree wholeheartedly.

David E Hockin
Portishead, Somerset

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – For years we have been listening to various governments urging us to help the economy by buying Irish if at all possible. I recently went shopping for fruit and veg and decided I would not look at the labels before purchasing.

I was not surprised to see bananas from Belize, pears from Portugal, oranges from Cuba, kiwis from New Zealand and tomatoes from Holland.

However I was disappointed to see apples from Poland and France, and I was annoyed to see potatoes from Israel, onions and scallions from Spain, turnips from France, and, worst of all, carrots and  lovely heads of green cabbage from Spain  and parsnips from Portugal

Surely to God we have the ideal climate in Ireland to grow potatoes, scallions, turnips, cabbage, carrots and parsnips as well as apples of every colour.

Many people used to be proud to keep a good vegetable garden, but nowadays people shrug and say: “ You can buy it cheaper in the supermarket.”

At least my mushrooms were Irish grown.

Murt Hunt, Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo


Madam – A jolly big Santa’s welcome to all the visitors and sightseers coming to our capital city this month. Please enjoy the markets, the craic and the hospitality Dublin always provides. Go out wrapped up in warm coats, scarves and jumpers, have a hot toddy or glass of mulled wine. Flit from shop to shop and get immersed in the seasonal merriment. And when you have got tired and weary of the artificial yuletide atmosphere, have a nice hot meal in an upmarket restaurant.

   If perhaps reality rears its ugly head, save a thought for the many homeless people who are gathered around in the shadow of the Christmas lights.   These hungry and destitute misfortunates are faced with having to endure sub-zero temperatures while sleeping on a concrete mattress, using a doorstep as a pillow and being treated as little more than an inconvenient nuisance.

Vincent O’Connell, New Ross, Co Wexford


Homeless plight betrays State ideals

Madam – It is appalling to bear witness to the tragedy of current day Dublin street life.  It is appalling that the principles and ideals of the State’s founding fathers have been desecrated mere metres from the main institution of that State.  It is appalling that the members of that istitution have bestowed a greater worth on the Troika and bondholders than on the lives of our citizens.  It is appalling and hypocritical that organs of state congregate in a comfortable, roomy, well heated mansion to ‘consider a response’ to the ignominious death of the homeless Mr. Corry, within eye shot of Leinster House.

It took sacrifice of life and a revolution to establish our State.  It is a tragedy that the State has been subverted by self-interest.  Sacrifice of life has again occurred and a revolution is again needed – a social revolution to re-claim the principle of government of the citizens by the citizens for the citizens.  God bless the memory of Mr. Corry.  His death has exposed the dysfunction of Government and the hypocrisy of society.  His life may have achieved a great and noble end – the tragedy is that he wont know about it.

Tom Beckett, Limerick


Why the fuss over Delaney’s song?

Madam – So what has the fuss been about regarding John Delaney singing a ballad about an IRA hunger striker. In last Sunday’s edition of your paper Richard Sadlier states that Delaney has been damaged beyond repair. Dion Fanning states that he “can’t be an ordinary Irishman singing an Irish song and CEO of the FAI.” Three letter writers to the paper are equally critical of the man.

However Niamh Horan’s article, “Delaney can be utterly adored and hated – all in the same night,” gives us an insight into the man and leads to a better understanding of what occurred. Ms Horan states “For such a big wage packet (€350,000), in many ways, Delaney has managed to stay close to the fans on the ground.” I met John Delaney once at a function in Galway and asked if I could have my picture taken with him. He had no idea who I was but he was very courteous and obliged.

I have less respect for whoever made the recording and later released it. In the overall scheme of things, what John Delaney did was trivial.  He has apologised so let’s move on.

Thomas Roddy, Galway


Delaney would’ve loved my session

Madam – The ballad sung by John Delaney in a Sandymount pub recently brings back memories of days long ago. It was an evening at Coleraine Football Club in the spring of 1968 or 69, when that club entertained Cork Celtic in a Blaxnit Cup match, the North/South competition of its time.

After the match we had a memorable evening. We sang the Sash Me Father Wore, Kevin Barry et cetera. The star attraction was the famous Irish traditional singer, Eileen Donaghy. In the attendance among other local dignitaries were  a Superintendent of the RUC in Coleraine and the then President of the FAI, the late Sam Prole.  At the end we all stood to attention for “God Save the Queen”.

John Delaney, you would have loved it, as I did. Has the doctrine of political correctness begun to outstay its welcome?

Sean Deegan, Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath


Did I see the same play as Emer?

Madam – When I read Emer O’Kelly’s review of “Returning to Haifa,”  I was left wondering if I had seen the same play. She hadn’t one good word to say about it, nor about the people involved. What I saw and heard was an intriguing story, based on fact, which was well acted and directed, and never less than absorbing. I have no connection with the theatre company, nor do I take sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, while proportionately condemning atrocities by either side.

I might have reluctantly deferred to Ms. O’Kelly’s superior professional knowledge of the theatre if I hadn’t come across a review by another critic which gave a much more positive opinion of the play and those involved. He called it a “supple and thought-provoking piece”. I agree

James Evans, Dublin 14

Respect for all is the key

Madam – While not subscribing to its ethos, I have long admired the courage of the group Atheist Ireland in seeking respect for its sincerely held non-belief in a Supreme Creator of the universe.

But I am deeply disappointed with its objection to the re-instatement of the vandalised metal cross on the summit of Carrauntoohil.

Yes, it is a symbol of one of the major religions, but the fact that it was vandalised was reason enough to repair and re-install it, as otherwise the vandals would have succeeded. Apart from that it was a familiar landmark and an integral part of the local community heritage.

I would equally applaud the restoration of an ancient Druidic or other pre-Christian icon or representation or indeed any cherished atheistic symbol of unbelief in a Deity, if that had been vandalised.

John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny


Journalists should be impartial

Madam –  As a general comment on your columnist , Emer O’Kelly’s recent article (Sunday Independent, 30 November): A journalist/broadcaster ceases to be an impartial chair and instead becomes an ‘advocator’ when they begin stating their support for one side in any debate on any topic. This leads whether consciously or unconsciously to at least a bias in their questioning in a debate. This has in the past and will have in the future an effect in swaying undecided opinion by leading the public instead of informing the public. As a worst case it can be as serious as the final RTE Presidential debate and directly affect the democratic process.

Criostoir McGrath, Clonmel, Co Tipperary


Will IMPACT members protest?

Madam – It seems SIPTU has now agreed to join with other trade unions in protesting against the water charges.  I wonder will its sister union, IMPACT, be joining them too?  Perhaps then IMPACT can explain its part in the secret negotiations it held with the government parties in setting out the manning levels, and pay and conditions of Irish Water employees and the mass transfer of local authority employees to the company, many of whom received redundancy payments and pensions before transferring into further well-paid and pensionable employment.  Perhaps IMPACT can further explain why half of the new positions were not advertised. Finally as IMPACT is a member of the Irish Water Consultative Group, did it have any part in setting the level of charges?

Patrick Pidgeon, Blessington, Co Wicklow


Opportunists should keep away

Madam – I am all in favour of legitimate protest and welcome in particular the many who have for the first time in their lives

taken to the streets and marched in protest against perceived injustice. I do not, however, welcome

the exploitation by some opportunists whose only interest is in causing maximum disruption and undermining the institutions of the State. If they  succeeded, they’d  cause  suffering to  those who depend on the State for welfare payments.

Willie Crowley, Newbridge, Kildare


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