Dental hygienist

3 January 2015 Dental Hygenist

Mary a little better, but not well enough to go to the dental hygenist. She cleans my teeth to within an inch of my life.


Claude Frank performing Schubert in 2008

Claude Frank performing Schubert in 2008 Photo: Getty Images

Claude Frank, the pianist, who has died aged 89, was one of the great interpreters of Beethoven, giving ethereal performances of the composer’s music around the world for almost 70 years.

Frank was a student of Artur Schnabel, who could trace his pedagogical lineage through Theodor Leschetizky and Carl Czerny to Beethoven and who did much to increase the composer’s popularity in the first half of the 20th century. In 1970, the bicentenary of Beethoven’s birth, Frank recorded all 32 of the piano sonatas for RCA Victor and performed the entire cycle in several major cities around the world.

Nor was his interpretation of Beethoven limited to performance and recording. He had an affable sense of humour, on one occasion describing preparing to play the chromatic run in the opening movement of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto as “like brushing one’s teeth, to put it politely”.

Claude Frank was born into a Jewish family in Nuremberg on Christmas Eve 1925; an older brother was a talented amateur violinist. With the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s his father had fled to Brussels, and Claude joined him there in 1937, moving shortly afterwards to Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire. The advancing German occupation left him once more fearing for his life and he drove with his mother to the Pyrenees before they made their way on foot over the mountains, through Spain and on to Lisbon.

A music store allowed him to practise after trading hours, but his sublime playing was soon overheard, and he was invited to perform at a party thrown by the Brazilian ambassador. One of the guests, the American consul, was so impressed that he offered Frank his first “fee” – a visa to the United States. The ageing Schnabel – for whom Frank had played before the war in Europe – agreed to give him lessons, but Frank’s enthusiasm to take American citizenship meant that in 1944 his studies were interrupted by military service.

He resumed his studies with Schnabel and took lessons with Maria Curcio. He also studied theory with Paul Dessau at Columbia University and conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. His New York recital debut was in 1947, followed a year later by an appearance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. For a time his career veered towards choral conducting; but he was a finalist in the 1954 Leventritt piano competition in New York, losing out to Van Cliburn, and appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic in 1959 under Leonard Bernstein.

His first London appearance was at the Wigmore Hall in January 1950. He returned in 1957 to accompany the violinist Roman Totenberg in a recital by Beethoven and Brahms that one critic noted “really caused the listener to sit up and listen to each work as if with new ears”. There were also appearances and tours with the London Mozart Players under Harry Blech.

Frank’s repertoire remained largely of the classical era, performed with great depth and remarkable insight, eschewing any form of pianistic pyrotechnics.

He was on the juries of several competitions, claiming that he could spot if a competitor had the potential to be a winner from the manner in which he or she walked on stage, even before they started to play.

For many years Frank made chamber music with the Juilliard Quartet, among others, and taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and at Yale School of Music in Connecticut. Yet there were still solo performances, including in 2008 when he was one of a handful of pianists – including Lang Lang – who took part in the cultural programme for the Beijing Olympics.

Frank met his wife, Lilian Kallir, a pianist and fellow refugee from the Nazis, at Tanglewood in 1947, but it would be another 12 years before they married. They played duets together, often by Mozart, until her death in 2004. He is survived by their daughter Pamela Frank, the violinist.

Claude Frank, born December 24 1925, died December 27 2014


Tony Blair
‘Tony Blair should go back to doing what he does best – making Blair richer,’ says Sasha Simic. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA

The defence of Blairism by Anne McElvoy (Britain’s new generation of populists fail the Blair test, 31 December) was a timely reminder of the now very tired and tedious assumptions made by political commentators of her kind over the previous 20 years. One of the worst is her assertion that “business in Britain” is regarded by Labour as “little more than the setting for perfidious economic crimes”. This theme, that somehow Labour is anti-business, will, I suspect, be a major line of Tory attack in the coming months. The most effective response will be to point out that it is not anti-business to be against corruption, profiteering, exploitation of vulnerable workers, tax avoidance on an industrial scale and those corporate forces that aim to undermine the whole democratic process, all of which have been catalogued day by day by our financial media.

For those with Ms McElvoy’s mindset, however, these would, no doubt, be dismissed as “a few rotten apples” and the fundamental tenet that private business and the market rule supreme and must never be challenged will remain sacrosanct. Ed Miliband should take heart. If his tentative first steps into questioning the nature of current society have ruffled the feathers of Tony Blair and Ms McElvoy, he’s on to something.
Ted Woodgate
Billericay, Essex

• In her latest depressing rallying call to vote Labour (2015 will be a year of political thrills – and colossal dangers, 30 December), Polly Toynbee argues that this is essential under our “broken” electoral system in order to prevent “irreversible damage” under a Tory government and claims that, if Labour wins, “Cameron’s dangerous alternative will be forgotten.”

Surely the revelation of Thatcher’s ideas for removing schools from local authority control and the progressing of these plans under Cameron illustrates that the Tories will never forget their plans. What Toynbee seems to forget is the experience of the last Labour government, and the state of the Labour party today, in which any leftist alternative has been silenced.

The last Labour government, if it had tried, could have reversed many of Thatcher’s policies. Instead, it extended some of them. Judging by Labour’s declared intentions, we can confidently expect the same under Miliband – more austerity, more attacks on immigrants, more support for big business and multinational corporations, more ignoring the urgency of tackling climate change.

Changing the direction of travel won’t come without popular political action outside the Westminster bubble, but voting can help if people stop voting for a party with policies that will make things worse. Those are the wasted votes. Voting for the Green party or other candidates that oppose these attacks is unlikely to get them elected, but it’s our chance to show opposition, and the bigger that opposition, the better for our future.
Peter Whitworth
Surbiton, Surrey

• With polls indicating an SNP whitewash destroying the “new” Labour party presence in Scotland, the Guardian responds by saying: “few could have predicted, or did predict…” (Editorial, 27 December). Actually, many people did predict this meltdown. When Labour was taken over by a privileged elite with an entirely alien ideology, it was inevitable that a social base unable to get genuine democratic representation would attempt to reconstitute itself elsewhere. It’s a tragedy that there still is a real Labour social base that is now permanently dispersed – into the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens, Left Unity, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and even some lost souls into Ukip – because it has no genuine Labour candidates for whom to vote.

The real question is why news outlets such as the Guardian did not criticise the entryist neoliberal coup d’état in the way they scrutinised Militant. The last Labour cabinet included two brothers and a married couple. Positions have since been found for the children of Kinnock, Prescott and Straw. Anyone who would have cared about these undemocratic stitch-ups has already left. Do they think parachuting Blairite Jim Murphy into the Scottish leadership position will help?
Gavin Lewis

• Ed Balls says a future Labour government would “get the deficit down in a tough and balanced way” (George Osborne is at the margins – Labour is the centre ground, 2 January). Here in Haringey a Labour council has just announced plans to cut its budget by £74m over the next three years by measures that are tough mostly on people, such as my son, with severe learning disabilities and autism, and others with dementia and other complex needs (who will bear more than 40% of the proposed cuts). If Labour is so obsessed with balancing on the centre ground that it is incapable of standing up for the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society, what is the point of electing it, either nationally or locally?
Mary Langan

• With radical groups such as Syriza and Podemos poised for electoral success in mainland Europe, Tony Blair has appeared to warn the Labour party against being “too leftwing” (Blair doubts Labour will win next election, 31 January). Insisting “I am convinced the Labour party succeeds best when it’s in the centre ground,” he calls for “moderation”. To make his argument work, Blair is forced to overlook the achievements of Clement Attlee’s well-known “moderate” post-1945 government, which nationalised the commanding heights of the economy and built the welfare state and the NHS.

If the Labour party fails in May’s general election, it will be because it is not leftwing enough and will peddle a watered-down version of Tory austerity, rather than an alternative to it. Blair should go back to doing what he does best – making Blair richer.
Sasha Simic

• Blair owes everything he has to the Labour party. If he cannot bear to endorse Ed Miliband, because Ed’s success would show there was an alternative to the “third way” or whatever passed for policy under Blair, can’t he just keep his mouth shut? Whatever Neil Kinnock’s qualms might have been about the way Blair handled things, he would never have been so disloyal to the movement he loves. Blair, on the other hand, seems only ever to have seen the Labour party as a means to an end.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

• Many political commentators have never understood that Ed Miliband’s election as leader of the Labour party was driven by a rejection of New Labour, of which his brother David was very much part. Labour would certainly not have won in 2010 under Blair and, I suspect, would have lost even more seats.
John Boaler
Calne, Wiltshire

• No solutions to the UK’s problems can be free from ideology, a set of beliefs that identifies what solutions might work. Blair’s genius was in presenting his chosen policies as a “middle way” of supposedly non-ideological, practical solutions, including support for the US in Iraq, or introducing PFI into the NHS. Nowadays, when someone talks about commonsense solutions, will we be wiser?
Gill Westcott

• Thank you, Mr Blair. You have made it 100% certain that my vote will go to Ed Miliband. I hope your prediction has nothing to do with the proposed mansion tax.
Phil Jones
Eastington, Gloucestershire

• At last (Labour MP rails against leader’s ‘Hampstead’ politics, 24 December). Labour should find 20 more working-class MPs like Simon Danczuk and reduce the number of those recruited because they are “sycophants who cut their teeth as special advisers”, usually drawn from Oxbridge, it should be added. If so, I will return to campaigning for the party.
Bob Holman

• Tony Blair’s grasp of labour history was always poor – one suspected deliberately so – and seems to have grown worse since he left office. He may think that a traditional rightwing party will always beat a traditional leftwing one in an election, but that does rather raise the question of how Labour won the elections of 1945, 1950, 1964, 1966 and 1974 (twice).
Keith Flett

• Neal Lawson criticises Tony Blair (Dear Tony Blair, maybe it’s your fault if the electorate hasn’t shifted to the left,, 1 January): “You were only concerned about winning, not about reshaping society, so who are you to say Ed Miliband is too leftwing?”

Three responses (from me, not Blair):

First, the prime purpose of the Labour party is to continue in its existence (reshaping society is a bonus): “Its purpose is to organise and maintain in parliament and in the country a political Labour party” (clause 1, name and party).

Second, New Labour’s 1997 manifesto specifically declared a programme for a “new centre and centre-left politics”. The draft was supported by 95% of the membership; the rolling programme was endorsed three times by a comfortable majority of the national electorate.

Third, Ed Miliband was subsequently elected as leader on a platform that was distinctly to the left of New Labour.

So that’s where we were, and this is where we are now.

Remember, though, whatever the shortcomings of the New Labour project, it was undoubtedly one of absolute clarity, and one of total determination in delivery (the 10 key pledges were all well delivered).

Of course, no one doubts that the political centre of gravity can change. But, as with New Labour, Ed Miliband’s Labour must also demonstrate a clarity that is not only ideologically unequivocal but also specific and measurable in its practical aims.

As I am sure Neal Lawson would agree, a party that is quick to rubbish its own recent past achievements needs to be supremely confident about its present ability to predict and react to the challenges of the future.
Mike Allott
Eastleigh, Hampshire

• Anne McElvoy’s analysis of Labour is wholly enlightening, and a simple analogy may make things even clearer. Politics can perhaps best be understood in geological terms: there must be a firm foundation for what one might have to call the philosophy of a party. Above this are strata of elements, which may be mined or discarded as long as the core foundation remains firm. At the surface, or the ground or vegetation level, arrangements may be made to appeal on a temporary basis – pretty flowers, garden gnomes or juicy strawberries – as long as these are not mistaken for the necessary strong and supportive rocks below. If this bedrock is destroyed, the pretty fauna and the mined temporary materials will also start to slide and collapse. This can take time, but it is certain to occur. It remains to be seen whether or not New Labour was an ephemeral horticultural indulgence or if its gardeners – the Blair testers – accidentally toppled the whole geological entity. Let’s hope not.
Ian Flintoff

• Why should anyone take any notice of Tony Blair? He was wrong about the euro and wrong about Iraq. He would have taken the NHS and other public services further in the direction of uncoordinated profit-seeking competition. He has shown no real concern about inequality, and still instinctively believes in discredited “trickle-down” capitalism. He has learnt nothing since the 2008 collapse, which destroyed not only a huge amount of wealth but also the foundations of free-market economics. New Labour is contrary to all that Labour has stood for since 1945, and offers no real difference from rational Conservatism. I believe the majority of the electorate knows this and has moved on – if not decisively this time, it certainly will after the next market meltdown.
Alan Bailey

GP surgery, London, December 2014. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Despite all the good points made by your correspondents (Letters, 30 December) about “mutualisation” and other not-for-profit configurations to fight off NHS privatisation, we should be worried about “social” enterprises. Consider the example of a social enterprise in West Yorkshire care – it made a profit a couple of years ago and redistributed it among its employees. A charming example of mutualism and co-operation, or a social enterprise becoming a private enterprise that gives out bonuses?

The other government practice that complements this is the notion of increased “local control” – ie devolving more functions to councils and then cutting their budgets so they reduce services as a result. Just as for care, the private companies are waiting in the wings.
Jonathan Hauxwell
Crosshills, North Yorkshire

• I think Dr Chang has a misapprehension about mutuals. If they are registered as community-interest companies there is a legal assets lock, tying these into some community benefit; if they are registered as mutuals then staff must be able to vote on any proposals for takeovers. I suppose I could make a similar generalisation about doctors all being fat cats, which would also be untrue.

Perhaps those organisations he was thinking of were not true mutuals or social enterprises. Or he is remembering the mutual building societies, which had no asset lock and whose members opted for a slice of the profits?
Don Macdonald
Community Training Partners

• Could these objections (Doctors attack plans for 24/7 health service, 2 January) be connected to consultants’ weekend working in the private sector? When I had my (private) bypass done, two of us were treated on a Sunday morning.
Stan Zetie

Polish airmen at a British RAF base in 1940
A group of Polish pilots on the wing of a Wellington bomber watch aircraft take off from a British RAF base in 1940. Photograph: AJ O’Brien/Getty

So 200 years ago the first Duke of Wellington led the British army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo (Obituary, 2 January). Next you’ll be telling me that English public schoolboys won the Battle of Britain 75 years ago.
Bill Gabbett

• Barney Ronay has got it wrong (Letters, 1 January). God save the Queen is not a plea to God to save the Queen: it just expresses the hope that He will. The verb is subjunctive, not imperative.
Michael Bulley
Chalon-sur-Saône, France

• The snow melted here on the first day of the year and celandines are bravely in flower beside the river Greet.
Catriona Todd
Southwell, Nottinghamshire




David Attenborough makes an important point about global leaders being in denial about climate change (report, 2 January). However it’s not only our leaders who are wilfully ignoring the scientific facts, it is those they represent: us.

The rate of change in our climate is sufficiently slow from a political viewpoint that it can safely be ignored until after the next election, and the evidence of low levels of savings and pension provision suggests that we share our leaders’ short-term view of life. I don’t believe our leaders are so stupid as to think climate change is not a reality, or powerless to make a difference if they chose to; it’s just not a priority.

Solutions to big problems often comprise many different elements, and some of these might be: continued and strengthened international political debate and agreeing of targets; more effective communication from the scientific community; and continued pressure from the likes of Greenpeace. In the end, though, I think we may have to rely on the fact that economics usually trumps politics and hope that investors recognise the economic consequences and opportunities of climate change and act accordingly.

David Wallis

Cirencester, Gloucestershire


Amol Rajan asks: “How can you get global co-operation on climate change when the economics of it are so unpredictable?” (Letter from the Editor, 27 December) The economics of energy supply will remain unpredictable for as long as we rely on internationally traded commodities (fossil fuels) which are subject to regional geopolitics and politically inspired decisions about supply and demand.

The situation is made even more uncertain by the fact that supplies are eventually going to run out, and may well be stranded in situ long before that if rapidly worsening climate change forces worldwide decarbonisation.

This should be compared with renewable sources of energy, where the price is predictable and the supply is inexhaustible, locally produced, and non-polluting. Maybe the question should be: “How can you hope to have economic stability until the issue of climate change is settled?”

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


Tom Bawden (1 January) is right to say that an emotional charge is urgently required if the issue of climate change is to be understood by the non-scientific community. Our natural scepticism is often encouraged by the short-termism of weak politicians who prefer to ignore the problem while they are in office. Surely it is absurd that we readily accept the views of scientists in vital areas such as medicine but scoff at them when climate change is up for discussion.

But who is capable of delivering this essential message in a palatable form which sceptics will be prepared to listen to? I would suggest that Bill Bryson, the author of The Short History of Nearly Everything, is the man for the job. In that book he managed to explain a great deal about complex fields of modern science to at least one ignoramus, whose view of the world has been changed as a result.

David Hindmarsh



Why anyone would drink protein shakes

Nicholas Lezard (“Why would anyone drink powdered protein?”, 30 December) makes snide comments about those who use gyms: in a country where average levels of physical activity fall well below those recommended, I would suggest that anyone who takes time to go to a gym should be praised, not condemned as “narcissistic”. The people I meet in my local council-owned leisure centre aren’t there for narcissism. They are trying to build up some fitness.

The use of protein shakes is based on solid scientific evidence that ingestion of additional protein in the half-hour or so following exercise enables the muscles to rebuild the losses incurred during exercise. Improving muscle strength is an integral part of becoming fit, and that doesn’t necessarily mean “body-building”.

As I approach 70 years, I know that like everyone else of my age, I am undergoing a progressive loss of muscle mass, and anything I can do to lessen this is likely to increase the duration of my independence in old age. Why is that a subject for derision?

And as to his absurd comments about protein shakes likely being made of “dried and ground-up worms”, let me assure Nicholas Lezard that the proprietary protein shake that I take after exercise is made of soy protein (fine for vegetarians) and is available in a range of flavours (banana and strawberry are my favourites) that make it truly delicious.

Keith Frayn

Emeritus Professor of Human Metabolism at the University of Oxford


Gallipoli: The British suffered most

John Walsh, writing about the anniversaries that fall this year (1 January), is peddling the old myth that Gallipoli was an exclusively Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) operation.

Exact figures for casualties on the Allied side are difficult to come by, but the best estimates show that the Anzacs had about 11,000 dead and 24,000 injured. British casualties came in at about 34,000 dead and 80,000 injured. The French casualties were about equal to those the Anzacs suffered. This is not to decry the sacrifice made by Australia and New Zealand. In proportion to their populations at the time their casualties were huge.

If you get the chance to visit Gallipoli try to see some of the beaches at the south-western end, where British forces landed. In all probability no one else will be there. Visit V beach, where the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers lost so many troops in the landing that they were merged and nicknamed the Dubsters. There you will see a beach where blood really did “stain the sand and the water”.

Eamon Hamilton

Sutton Coldfield,  West Midlands


More high-speed lines, fewer local trains

The city of Tours in France, where I live, has had trains à grande vitesse (TGV) for many years. I was interested, therefore, to read John Lichfield’s article (27 December) concerning developments in the system.

The line which previously terminated at Tours is now being extended to Bordeaux, and, although it is a while before it comes into service, French railways (SNCF) are already giving us a grim foretaste of what we might expect.

The fastest services now bypass us, even though our urban population is about 400,000 and we are a hub of no fewer than seven railway lines. This has increased our journey time to Paris by 20 per cent and we have also lost our direct trains to Lille, with its simple connection for London.

However, it is not only the TGV service which has deteriorated. The massive investment in this system has led to much under-investment elsewhere. The classic route to Paris has fewer and fewer trains because ageing rolling stock is not replaced. Some other lines are restricted to 40kph; trains are replaced by buses or cancelled, sometimes at very short notice.

This may be due to the TGV, it may be due to general dysfunction in SNCF: I cannot draw conclusions. However, I do see a deteriorating railway with mounting frustration among travellers.

Once a great supporter of HS2, I now feel that, should it go ahead, it must never be at the expense of what railways can also do very well: taking local traffic off the roads.

John Neal

Tours, France


Ebola quarantine: a modest proposal

The wonderfully decent and heartwarming proposal from Clark Cross (letter, 31 December) that health professionals returning from “Ebola countries” should be placed in isolation units is a splendid idea. Especially if the US, EU and UK were to batten down the hatches and leave western Africa to its own fate. This would ensure that no more selfless doctors and nurses would travel to assist health services in these afflicted areas to try to contain and halt this horrific infection.

Perhaps Mr Cross would like to consider the apocalyptic words from a senior US health-official: “Ebola” and “Lagos”. Or perhaps he would rather we quarantine the entire continent?

Ronan Breslin



Her bed is nothing to my desk

I’m no professor or art student, but if an unmade bed can be sold for over £2.5m then my untidy desk is worth at least double. I like to think it is a parody of organisation, and contemporary art obviously.

Better still, although we’re no longer sure Tracey Emin really lay in her bed (letters, 31 December), I assure you that I’ve worked at my desk. I made it how it is and never will onlookers have seen such talent!

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire


Sir, Judging by your piece on anniversaries (“2015: it’s going to be a year to remember”, Dec 30), it seems that CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” is alive and well.

This year will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field by Edinburgh-born James Clerk Maxwell. Among other things, Maxwell’s theory showed that visible light was a kind of “electromagnetic wave”. His was the first “field theory” — the kind of theory that now dominates modern physics, giving us, inter alia, the Higgs boson. His theory led to the discovery of radio waves, and so gave us radar, TV and mobile phones. Einstein was led to his relativity theory by thinking about the implications of Maxwell’s work, which also anticipated the quantum description of photons.

For those who care about the Union, Maxwell was a Scottish genius who was nurtured and thrived in the United Kingdom.
Professor Wilson Poon
University of Edinburgh

Sir, December 31 was the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andreas Vesalius, the renowned anatomist and doctor who wrote in 1543 De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body). He was the first to disprove that man had one less rib than women. For those wishing to celebrate the great man’s birth it should be pointed out that in 1514 the Julian calendar was in use and the Gregorian calendar was not introduced until 1582. So Vesalius’s 500th anniversary is actually on January 10.
Dr John Firth
Consultant pathologist
London N9

Sir, The Norman church of St Alban in St Albans, a site of Christian worship since around AD300, celebrates the 900th anniversary of the consecration of the “new” Norman building this month. Throughout its history it has been variously an abbey and the leading Benedictine monastery in Europe. In 1877 it assumed its cathedral status.
It continues to thrive.
Alfred Hagerman
St Albans

Sir, I was disappointed not to see the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole (1815-1864) on your list of important anniversaries for 2015. Boole was a proud son of Lincoln and first professor of mathematics at the university in Cork, a post he obtained without the benefit of a university degree or secondary level education, being almost entirely self taught. He is the founder of pure mathematics and the father of computer science.
Desmond Machale
Emeritus professor of mathematics, University College Cork

Sir, In his celebration of English achievements in years ending with a 15 (“Happy new year Britain . . . and here’s why”, Dec 29), Matt Ridley lists some of the advantages we enjoy as a nation, including our climate, geography and democracy. However, he omits a key asset. English law and its development as the preferred choice of international business, lies at the heart of our success in attracting both talent and investment from all over the world. Of all the anniversaries Mr Ridley mentions, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is the most important.
Ep Greeno
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Sir, On reading your table of anniversaries in 2015, I was reminded of when our daughter took my technophobe husband to buy a mobile phone. On return she asked me to guess what four digit Pin he had chosen. “Battle of Agincourt of course”, I replied. She was astonished that I had guessed correctly. My explanation: what else would a historian choose? At least we knew he would never forget the Pin, even if he really did not know how to use it.
Pamela Hart
Watford, Herts

Sir, Matt Ridley’s aside “I presume the French do not celebrate Agincourt or Waterloo” (Dec 29) reminded me of a visit to the French Army Museum in Paris where Agincourt was described as “un échec — a setback!” My friend and I burst out laughing and heads turned disapprovingly. We both felt chastened. The English may have won but it was hardly their finest hour, marred as it was by the unchivalrous slaughter of French prisoners.
Tony Lawton

Sir, I am proud to be called “Grandude” by my grandchildren (letters, Dec 27, 29, 30 and 31).
Robin Miller

Sittingbourne, Kent

Sir, I was named and remain “Gary”.
Jan Wilcock

Sir, Having been soundly thrashed playing Star Wars games by my grandchildren, I am now “Pap Vader”.
Brian Brayford
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Sir, As early grandparents, we became “Marge and Parge”.
Philippa Hutchinson
London NW6

Sir, My parents were known as “Manda” and “Panda”.
Geoffrey Honeywell

Sir, Can I be the only “Grappa”?
John Julius Norwich
London W9

Sir, When my dad became a grandad he asked to be called “gaffer”, saying that it was a 16th-century term.
Sam Ashton

Hornby, Lancs

Sir, My grandson gives me an extra ten seconds before chasing me in a game of “it”. He calls me “fast grandma”.
Liz Gerrard

Burston, Norfolk

Sir, Am I the only “Grunge”?
Eithne Carus-Wilson

Malvern, Worcs

Sir, We settled on “Wise and Revered Grandfather” which was shortened to “Weird Grandfather”.
Dermod Malley

Halstead, Essex

Sir, My mother buys premium bonds for her five grandchildren. She is known as “Gambling Granny”.
Helen Savage

Chesham, Bucks

Sir, My granddaughter called me “gum”. Luckily, the name didn’t stick.
Mike Finlay

Barnet, Herts

Sir, My mother kept dogs. My children called her “Granny Woof”.
Richard Tucker

Stanton, Glos

Sir, I’m Farfar (father’s father)
Jeff Galatin

Monks Risborough, Bucks.

Sir, My grandson calls me “Normal Grandma” to differentiate me from his two great-grandmothers.
Sharon Cavendish

London, N2

Sir, I’m “Nanajac”.
Jacqui Tucker

London W8

Sir, I’m Grammx as my phone’s predictive text would not allow “Granny”.
Sue James
Pamber Green, Hants

Sir, My son wrote to his grandparents “Dear Gunpa and Groanma”. It was entirely appropriate.
Michael Gaine

Saffron Walden, Essex

Sir, To my great niece I am “Gup”, but my portly brother is “Gut”.
Paul Silver-Myer

London N20

Sir, I have just spent a fascinating hour perusing the front page of a 1938 edition of The Times, thanks to your archive offer.

The small ads are riveting. They reveal that recycling is not new; Guy’s hospital appealed for settees to furnish the nurses’ sitting room.

Clothes turning was offered — whereby suits and overcoats were dismantled, and reassembled with the fabric reversed, thus doubling their life. Ill-fitting garments were recut and repaired.

Maybe we can learn from that generation’s thrift; though the ad for unwanted artificial teeth is rather unappealing.

Sylvia Crookes
Wensleydale, N Yorks

Sir, Matthew Syed (“The slippery slope from halal meat to FGM”, Opinion, Jan 1) chooses selectively from inconclusive scientific evidence to support his view that religious slaughter is less humane than conventional mechanical methods of slaughter, neglecting the ample body of evidence that supports the opposite view that shechita, the Jewish, humane method of slaughtering animals for food, is humane and conforms to all the principles of animal welfare.

Mr Syed appears not to be familiar with the broad range of far more serious animal welfare problems such as the questionable mechanical stunning methods that include shooting by captive bolt stun gun, asphyxiation by noxious gas, electrocution by tongs or water. Neither does he seem to be familiar with issues related to handling and the woeful levels of mis-stunning that have been well reported in The Times. Instead, he has taken aim at the easy target — faith communities.

The government’s determination to protect the right of faith communities to practise religious slaughter is the result of honest, evidence-based debate.

Henry Grunwald QC
Chairman, Shechita UK

Sir, Matthew Syed’s article needed more research. First, FGM is done as a cultural practice in some Muslim communities and not because it is mandatory in Sharia. Second, kosher and halal procedures for slaughtering consider both animal and human welfare. The method of slaughtering ensures that all the blood is drained out of the carcass. Even the veterinary fraternity and the scientists now concur that consumption of excessive blood is harmful for humans.

Masood Khawaja
Director, Halal Consultations

Sir, Matthew Syed, while arguing logically, and correctly, that “animals should be slaughtered humanely” regrettably states that the practice of ritual slaughter is inhumane. Shechita, despite his protestations, actually stuns and kills at the same time.

There is ample evidence of failures when animals are “pre-stunned”, conveniently ignored by those who insist it to be the kindest method of ending an animal’s life.

He should be congratulated for combining ritual slaughter, FGM, forced marriage and gay couples in one article. He concludes with an appeal that we have the give and take of rational debate. Hasten the day.

Jack Lynes
Pinner, Middx

Sir, Matthew Syed’s article reminds me of an incident I heard from a rabbinical judge who was supervising the slaughter of animals. Next to him stood a veterinary surgeon who was slyly criticising the method throughout — which the rabbi chose to ignore.

After the session another slaughterer came in to stun animals pre-slaughter for a non-kosher batch. He was clumsy and rarely hit the correct spot on the head — with most of his animals writhing in agony before the actual slaughter. When the rabbi asked the surgeon why he had not found this second way crueller, he replied “Your method is inhumane, our method is not — this was just an exception”.

What should come before “rational debate” and “limits” on religious practices is a basic understanding of what they consist of.

Gavriel Cohn
London NW4

Sir, Ritual slaughter has no place in a compassionate society. However, the problem with Matthew Syed’s “secular liberalism” which he trumpets as “a positive, muscular and rather wonderful creed” is that, in spite of his compelling arguments, there is a danger that nothing will be done to change these inhumane practices.

If indeed the EU’s Farm Animal Welfare Council has condemned ritual slaughter, surely the government should be morally empowered to close down establishments where it is practised.

Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Thank you for publishing such a splendid, direct and daring article by Matthew Syed. It is so refreshing to both see freedom of opinion in your newspaper and to admire a well constructed and well-written opinion with which I could not agree more.

Adrian L Bruder
Crawley, W Sussex

Sir, Dr Peter Green (letter, Dec 31) is correct. I gave such evidence to the Home Affairs committee in 1979 on a proposal to establish drying-out centres into which non-violent drunks would be diverted, away from the hazards to which they would be exposed in police cells. These centres would be staffed by personnel trained in the care of those with impaired consciousness and fully equipped with resuscitation apparatus.

The committee accepted the proposal, but it was never implemented, and subsequent calls for its implementation by the Police Complaints Authority and the Royal Society of Medicine went unheeded. Perhaps now, if it is recognised that the problem also endangers A&E services, there may be some action. Such centres could be adapted to accommodate violent drunks safely and give welcome relief to harassed A&E departments.

Dr Neville Davis
Hove, E Sussex

Sir, Ralph Lloyd Jones (letter, Dec 31) clearly has not read my biography of Radetzky, otherwise he could not describe him as a reactionary. His views on Europe after the fall of Napoleon are also misguided. Austrian Italy was the most progressive part of the peninsula till 1848 and Habsburg rule in Europe was far less despotic than Napoleon’s military dictatorship. The Habsburg Civil Code of 1812 was more progressive than Napoleon’s.

Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics



David Williams piloted the fault Virgin Atlantic 747 safely back to the ground

David Williams, right, piloted the fault Virgin Atlantic 747 safely back to the ground Photo: Enterprise

SIR – David Learmount (“Too many pilots can’t handle an emergency”, Comment, December 31) argues that an over-reliance on computers to fly aeroplanes has left pilots under-prepared. As a former test pilot, I, too, am concerned about the changes in training over the past 50 years.

The increasing use of “glass instruments”, whereby analogue or dial-based indicators are superseded by electronically operated displays, results in high dependence on the reliability of systems that may fail.

I was taught to fly by a maverick instructor who often distracted students with some minor problem while he turned the fuel off, mismanaged the propellers or other engine controls, fiddled with the flight trim controls or turned vital switches on or off. We then had to find a rapid way of getting ourselves out of trouble.

Much of the training today’s commercial pilot has is undertaken on a flight simulator rather than in a real aircraft, which does not prepare him or her to spot when indicators are supplying incorrect information. The Air France Airbus crash of 2009 was a classic example of this, where a very simple systems failure gave demonstrably wrong information not just to the pilot but to the whole flight crew.

There has to be a moment when a pilot has the experience and ability to conclude that he or she cannot depend on electronic instrument displays but must fly the aeroplane by hand.

If this approach to training is questioned, then one only has to look back a few days to the successful outcome of a tricky landing by a Boeing 747 at Gatwick (report, December 30) with only three-quarters of its main landing gear deployed. That was achieved by a “hands-on” approach.

Arthur W J G Ord-Hume
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – On the Airbus series of aircraft, the main controls are by side-stick controllers, which move independently. During an incident where the aircraft is being thrown around the sky, it may be that neither pilot is aware of the actions of the other and thus control is lost.

This seems to have been the case with the Air France aircraft lost over the Atlantic. The Boeing system has control yokes that are firmly fixed together and visible to either pilot, so each knows what the other is doing. As a retired pilot, I know which system I would rather use.

Richard Statham

SIR – Captain David Williams’s superb landing at Gatwick brings to mind the return flight my wife and I made to Rhodesia once. On landing in Athens, the brakes jammed, causing large holes in the landing wheels. New tyres had to be sourced from Rome and, while we endured the necessary delay, as guests of the airline we made our first visit to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. A happy ending.

William H Hirst

Calculating tax

SIR – Following on from your recent article about the high levels of happiness in Denmark, where taxes start at 50 per cent, Diana Goetz (Letters, January 1) says that we have to be prepared for pay higher taxes to fund better public services in Britain.

In the UK, once an employee’s and employer’s National Insurance contributions are taken into account, basic rate tax payers are already paying the equivalent of 40 per cent, and higher rate earners are paying 49 per cent.

Maybe the difference in happiness levels can be accounted for by how much more of this revenue we waste, compared to the Danes. David Cameron repeatedly claims to have taken millions of working people “out of taxation altogether” when in reality they are paying 12 per cent on any earnings above £5,668.

It is time the Conservatives offered the electorate something radical that’s worth voting for.

Geoff Dees
Alford, Lincolnshire

Value of civil servants

SIR – Sandy Pratt (Letters, January 1) implies that “pen-pushing civil servants” do not deserve honours. Also in yesterday’s newspaper, you looked back on the 30 years of the mobile phone revolution.

For most of that time, I was a civil servant responsible for the negotiations, that opened up the radio frequency spectrum essential for that development. I personally negotiated with the Ministry of Defence to make more spectrum available to allow the two initial operators to grow rapidly and roll out nationally.

Later, I persuaded other European countries to open up a higher frequency band, which enabled additional operators to be introduced. More recently I was involved in the international negotiations that supported the successful switch-over to digital television and the release of yet more valuable spectrum for the mobile industry. I am proud of my time as a “pen-pushing civil servant”, my contribution to Britain’s leading role in the mobile phone revolution and my OBE.

Michael Goddard
New Haw, Surrey

Some bright spark

SIR – At the end of the broadcast of the giant New Year’s River Thames firework display, the BBC put up the caption: “This programme contains flashing images.” Well, I never.

Dave Alsop
Churchdown, Gloucester

Wrappy Christmas

SIR – Both my friend and I received scarves for Christmas. One was mistaken for a tablecloth, the other a bedspread. How on earth is one supposed to wear such a large piece of cloth? Like a sari?

Jan Denbury
Winsley, Wiltshire

Close-knit family

The Debonnaires in their Danish-style jumpers

SIR – One thing my wife copies from the Danes (Letters, January 1) is their knitting patterns. She has knitted about 40 jumpers for family members over the past two years (pictured) – and those not for family are sold for charity. She should be an inspiration to the younger generation to learn to knit.

Malcolm Debonnaire
Reading, Berkshire

Evening kick-off

SIR – Richard English (Letters, January 1) underestimates the reasoning capacity of members of the Armed Forces when it comes to the year twenty-fifteen. I don’t believe anyone thinks the First World War started at 7.14pm, or that the Second World War kicked off just before twenty to eight in the evening.

Jan Bardey
Kineton, Warwickshire

Nostalgia for East Germany’s finest automobile

Warts and all: a mother and child pass a Wartburg in Stendal, eastern Germany, in 2003

SIR – Adrian Love (Letters, December 31) claims that anyone who owned a Wartburg would wish to keep that secret.

Citizens of East Germany had two choices when it came to cars. Both had two-stroke engines, but while the tiny two-door Trabant was basically made of hardened linoleum, the roomier four-door Wartburg was made of steel and therefore was a far more prestigious item; the town of Eisenach (whence my father fled to Britain in the Fifties) was extremely proud of its cutting-edge product.

Both cars had waiting lists of 15 years or so, which certainly is a long time to wait to discover that at least Trabis couldn’t rust.

I have seen a few Trabis in Britain, but never a Wartburg, which makes me sad.

Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

SIR – Who is to say that the password, relating to the name of the late Christopher Barlow’s first car (Letters, December 31) was the make?

I have friends who habitually give their cars names; I remember one was called Penelope.

Mike Laughton
Harrogate, West Yorkshire

100 years of jam, Jerusalem and so much more

SIR – In listing important centenaries in 2015, (Features, December 31), you omit the founding of the Women’s Institutes.

Never mind jam and Jerusalem, this fine organisation is responsible for many campaigns – “Keep Britain tidy”, “Time to talk about organ donation”, “SOS high streets and town centres”, “More midwives”, “Equal pay for equal work”, “SOS for honey bees”, “Breast screening”, “School meals for all”; need I go on?

Then there was the splendid work undertaken during the Second World War in bottling fruit, growing food, organising and caring for evacuees, and providing support for women in the community while their menfolk were at war.

The WI offers a place where women from all places in our society meet as equals. Our centenary year of 2015 will be filled with activities to mark the event, especially at our annual meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in June, where our speakers will be Dr Lucy Worsley, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Helena Morrissey.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

Your toast

SIR – You report (December 31) that a person’s approach to toast reveals his or her personality.

I eat no toast and therefore, apparently, I have no personality – I am the invisible man consuming bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, black pudding and baked beans.

Chris Watson
Lumut, Perak, Malaysia

Exactly one year ago, 100 dental professionals wrote a letter to you, raising serious concerns that the NHS dental system in England was unfit for purpose. Dentists have said that they cannot provide the best care while under pressure to meet the NHS’s “Unit of Dental Activity” targets.

The last year has only seen the situation worsen. For example, we had the largest ever NHS patient recall, when 22,000 patients of the dentist Desmond D’Mello were advised to be tested for HIV and hepatitis, after huge volume targets – commissioned and supervised by NHS management – compromised care and left no time to clean properly between patients.

Today, the new number one medical reason that any primary school child aged 10 or under is hospitalised in England is rotten teeth. This is 100 per cent preventable.

The Government continues to promise the public that all dental clinical health needs for the population of England are met under their NHS dentistry system, to the highest standards.

This is a lie. It is impossible for dental professionals to deliver this quality of service nationally with the current limitations. Nor is it likely to be possible under any political party in these times of austerity.

In the months before the general election, politicians must stop fostering unrealistic expectations, and should develop a national 20-year plan based around prevention. They must also recognise that dental professionals need to be allocated protected time to see each patient, not high-volume targets. Otherwise we will have learnt nothing from the NHS Mid-Staffordshire disaster.

Dr Tony Kilcoyne
Specialist in Prosthodontics
Dr A V Jacobs
Dentist and Founder GDPUK, dental forum
Dr Martin Mayhew
Specialist in Dental Public Health
Dr Joanne Birdsall
Specialist and Consultant Orthodontist

Dr Mal Meneaud

Dr Caroline Wilkins

Dr Adam Lane

Dr Suraj Patel

Dr Audoen Healy

Dr Timothy Hodges

Dr Andrew Bates

Dr Gopal Varma

Dr Carl Taylor

Dr Chas Lister

Dr Alif Moosajee

Dr Rob Dyas

Dr Paul Mandon-Gassman

Dr Shereena Ilyas

Dr Miles Grout

Dr Janet Speechley

Dr Jason Greenwood

Dr Zaki Kanaan

Dr Sarah Andrews

Dr Jamie Thind

Dr Rakhshi Qureshi

Dr Philip Friel

Dr Ian Wilson

Dr Ajay Mathur

Dr Bruce Mayhew

Dr Dipesh Patel

Dr Graham Porter

Dr Natasha Vadasz

Dr Simon Thackerey

Dr Graeme Fisher

Dr Durani Burani

Dr Nirmal Patel

Dr Teo Ruja

Dr Norman Bloom

Dr Michael Lavelle

Dr Jaina Shah

Dr Jay Ganatra

Dr Jane Brooks

Dr Hiten Patel

Dr Ray Steggles

Dr Arthur McGroarty

Dr Celia Burns

Dr Richard Carr

Dr Masood Jaffer

Dr Scott Aaron

Dr Chris Borne

Dr Keith Hayes

Dr Roy Damoney

Dr Claire Simpson

Dr John Bates

Dr Richard Evans

Dr Martin Bayne

Dr Danny Pretorius

Dr Peter Gould

Dr Simon Gallier

Dr Carla McCann

Dr Stephen Butler

Dr Paul Isaacs

Dr Robert Moxom

Dr Ruth Dening

Dr Iain Cambell

Dr Victoria Taylor

Dr Peter Costello

Dr Tim Pickering

Dr Don Sloss

Dr Vijay Vithani

Dr Tim Coates

Dr Graham Nicols

Dr Andrew Adey

Dr Huong Nguyen

Dr Diana Dumitriu

Dr Duncan Scorgie

Dr Dominic O’Hooley

Dr David Bevan

Dr Victoria Holden

Dr Shahir Shamsuddin

Dr Eurico Martins

Dr Anya Sieinska

Dr Lincoln Hirst

Dr Frederico Ferreira

Mhari Coxon

Bal Chana

Kelly Chambers

Helen Metcalf

Julie Mayers

Jeanette Grimley

Morag Powell

Racheal Thelma England

Miranda Steeples

Rosie King

Rikke Jacobsen

Debbie Hemington

Donna Schembri

Alun Reece

Alix Furness

Mike Day

Philip Dixon

Julia Parry-Jones

Lubna Hussain

Raquel Valentim

Barbara Jones

Sylvia Andrews

Paul Woodhouse

James Mehta

Paul Scott

Julian Thornton

Kevin Gibney

Globe and Mail:


Tabatha Southey

Gentlemen, I’m here to mansplain Dickens … okay?

Irish Times:

Sir, – As Brendan O’Regan pointed out (December 31st), “the eighth amendment is one of the most explicit equality measures in the Constitution, and yet those who would normally champion equality remain silent, if they are not actually attacking the measure”. How can this be explained? Ireland, according to the World Health Organisation, has one of the safest records for maternal care, and safer than those countries where abortion is legalised, so where is the proof that this amendment should be removed? There will always be hard cases and, as is well known, these make poor law, but how can valuing equally the life of the mother and baby be objectionable? Our safety record is based on just that – seeking to ensure the life of both. At our peril we follow other countries, as pointed out by Mr O’Regan, in “the excesses of abortion” and, once again, it must be repeated that there is no such thing as limited abortion. Once it is legalised the efforts start immediately to extend the limits, as evidenced here in Ireland.

I appeal to The Irish Times to please have regard to that much-prized object nowadays – equality – and ensure that the debate is balanced. – Yours, etc,


Donegal Town.

Sir, – I don’t wish to be pedantic, but I note that the neologism at the centre of the mangled syntax of the 1983 anti-abortion amendment is creeping into standard usage in the media. I refer to the quite ridiculous use of the word “unborn” as a noun, which until recently has usually cropped up in inverted commas or italics, pointing to its non-standard status. The attorney general, in correspondence with the taoiseach in 1983, rightly criticised the proposed insertion of the term into the Constitution, calling it “ambiguous and unclear”. It is still, in 2014, not defined as a noun in the most up-to-date edition of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary.

This is to say nothing of the flat-out incorrect use of the word “mother” in the same amendment. Another neat ideological semantic trick, of course – anti-abortion campaigners naturally seek to make mothers of women against their will, including in their choice of words. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann may be a patently flawed and nebulous amendment but it can’t be repealed without the consent of the people.

Is yet another divisive and factious referendum on the emotive issue of abortion now inevitable? The question is purely rhetorical. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett’s call for a “free vote” in the Dáil on “conscience issues” is one of those well-intentioned ideas that sound good but are impossible to implement (“Barrett calls for free vote on conscience issues”, December 30th). Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that a form of words could be agreed upon to define what was or was not a conscience issue, ie not to do with finance, taxation, foreign affairs, defence, etc.

We are then left with the question of what constitutes a “free vote”. The party whip aside, going publicly against the clearly expressed wishes of the party leader is probably not going to advance a TD’s political ambitions.

Pressure is brought to bear on TDs in other ways. The genuine fear of extremists over “conscience issues” is another factor.

The only possible form of free vote for TDs in the Dáil would necessarily be the same as for the general public in elections, a secret ballot. However, were the public to be prevented from knowing how their representatives were voting, there would be a clear argument that democracy was not being fulfilled.

Back to the drawing board, Ceann Comhairle! – Yours, etc,


Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Frank Browne (January 2nd) writes, “I think most reasonable people would respect politicians who openly expressed a belief based on conscience”. Why? I, and presumably most people, vote for politicians to represent their constituents rather than themselves. Shouldn’t a TD’s beliefs regarding matters of conscience be entirely irrelevant unless an explicit part of their election campaign? Otherwise “personal conscience” in the Dáil just looks like self-indulgence and political expediency, inviting cynicism in the electorate. We have quite enough of this already. – Yours, etc,


Coachford, Co Cork.

Sir, – Gerry Moriarty errs on the side of charity in his assessment of the late Ian Paisley’s last few years ( “Paisley took the road of redemption before the end”, December 31st). He mentions the late Lord Bannside’s acknowledgment that there had been discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland but he fails to refer to the former DUP leader’s repeated and brazen failure to withdraw his own venomous anti-Catholic statements.

In an interview with him on BBC Radio 4 in 2010, John Humphrys referred to Ian Paisley’s comments about Catholics breeding like rabbits. When Ian Paisley denied having ever said any such thing, John Humphrys told him that the remarks were on tape (indeed a recording was played during the broadcast); Ian Paisley’s only response was to make a trite comment about how “that was then and this is now”.

In the interviews earlier last year with Eamonn Mallie to which Mr Moriarty refers, Ian Paisley actually tried to justify his highly offensive comments about how the late queen mother and her younger daughter had committed “spiritual adultery and fornication” by visiting the pope – a statement which suggests that Ian Paisley’s monarchism was hardly sincere.

Mr Moriarty makes much of Ian Paisley’s close relationship with Martin McGuinness. He doesn’t tell us that when that redoubtable critic of the Provisional IRA Cardinal Daly died six years ago, Paisley had nothing to say. The truth about the Chuckle Brothers act is that extremists mix very well – all too well. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I join Ulric Kenny (December 30th) in welcoming the decision by UPC to introduce network-level content filtering. It is telling to compare the actions of the UK government with our Government over this important issue.

In the UK, the prime minister recognised the damage being done to children through access to inappropriate material, and the difficulties that parents have in attempting to install content filters in home computers and wireless devices. He demanded that the internet service providers introduce network-level content filtering, and they obliged. Consequently, in the UK, people have a choice – they can receive the normal, pornography-saturated internet, or they can receive an internet where most of the pornography is removed.

I have lobbied politicians here to take the same approach. However, there is a refusal at Government level to do so, with vague talk of tackling this problem with increased levels of education on this issue.

More education on the problem is necessary, but the response has to be multifaceted, and demanding that all internet service providers offer their customers the choice of network-level filtering should be a key part of any response.

It is irresponsible and untenable that our Government insists that it will not demand this of our service providers. All the research on this issue has proven that there are many serious consequences for young people who view age-inappropriate material.

The sooner we follow the UK lead on this issue the better. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I was interested to learn, through your Corrections & Clarifications section (December 27th), that Bishop John Buckley has “not at any time bowled in clerical garb”. I wonder whether your obituary writer (“Mick Barry, the modest monarch of Irish road bowling”, December 20th) was misled, as I was, by the photograph on page 184 of the coffee table book A Day in the Life of Ireland, appearing to show his grace in cassock, mid-bowl. The book claims he was playing Frank Nash, the lord mayor of Cork, that day (May 17th, 1991). – Yours, etc,


Sir, – While mailing an international package to Dublin this afternoon, the clerk at Canada Post asked me if Dublin was part of either Northern Ireland, or, and I quote, “The normal Ireland”.

Trying to remain politically correct, I think “neither” was the most appropriate response. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – According to the Gospels, Jesus never shirked his duty to admonish and correct those whom he knew to be failing in their duty towards God. Far from disapproving of Pope Francis’s “rant” (Eric Conway, December 31st), it is my opinion that the pope would be compromising his high office and the entire Roman Catholic Church and indeed all Christians were he to overlook the faults of the curia. Jesus certainly threw no stones but he did draw attention to the need for a change of heart. As his vicar on earth, Pope Francis can do no less. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – On arriving in Dublin from “the country”, many years ago, I was struck, among other things, by the range, variety and beauty of the front gardens that bedecked many areas of the city.

These provided beautiful spectacles of colour, especially in spring and autumn as splendid arrays of colour brightened up dark days!

Alas, no more! Like forests laid low by the mighty chainsaw, city gardens are disappearing at a rate of knots, as tarmac, concrete and cobble lock gradually replace every vestige of grass or greenery in the city.

Of course, not only is this a mistake from the point of view of aesthetics, it also has serious environmental consequences as increasingly regular flooding, exacerbated by lack of soil for soakage, clogs up our gutters and creates havoc for citizens.

When will somebody shout stop? Surely there is a way of incentivising people to keep their gardens for their own benefit and that of the wider community?

And many new houses include no green area whatsoever – surely someone in charge of planning can do something about this?

Wouldn’t it be a positive step if the new year brought about a new awareness of the beauty and importance of something as common or garden as the front garden? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

A chara, – Dónal Casey writes that pedestrians need to be better illuminated while walking on rural roads (December 30th). However all road users need proper lighting. Is it an offence to drive with only one functioning headlamp? It would appear not.

In just 30 minutes recently we counted 14 vehicles with faulty lights. These included a bus, a lorry and a taxi, as well as two cases of a missing rear-light.

On badly lit unmarked roads, pedestrians, even with flashlights, haven’t a chance when cars have insufficient headlamps to light the road ahead. Everyone has a duty to check their lights and not wait for NCT tests or Garda checkpoints to do so. – Is mise,


Rath Chairn,

Co na Mí.

A chara, – Anne Strahan (December 31st) makes a comparison between animals in the wild and foxhunting. It may be natural for hounds to chase and kill a fox but I don’t recall any species other than humans that makes it a spectator sport. – Is mise,



Sir, – My brother-in-law, a proud Longford man, now deceased, wept on hearing of the fire which gutted his beloved St Mel’s Cathedral.

How he would have wept with joy and pride had he lived to see the magnificence of the now rebuilt cathedral some five years on.

Allow me, through your newspaper, to thank everyone involved in this unbelievably amazing refurbishment. It was a triumphant finish to the year. – Yours, etc,


Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Irish Independent:

silhouettes of mother and son partly isolated over white
silhouettes of mother and son partly isolated over white

I watched the sad story of the tragic mother and baby who were on life support unfold with keen interest.

  • Go To

Only a few years ago, I had a life-threatening incident while pregnant. I was due to have my baby at the end of December and on October 10, after an incident in work, I was taken to hospital for a check-up, when my heart stopped.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the consultant present, they immediately delivered the baby and this enabled me to survive, though they did not know how she would do at the time. They also didn’t know how I would do, as I was in a coma for a while to aid my recovery. My daughter is now three years old and an utter ticket. She is the life and soul of the house. If she had not been delivered, my life would have been over there and then. There was no guarantee she would survive when they delivered her.

I asked my mother the other day what she would have done about me if it had been a similar situation to that of the poor lady in the recent incident, and she said she would have tried to save the baby. I have to say, I agreed with her 100pc. When there is a life to save, the best possible effort should be made to do so. This is not the first instance of something like this and won’t be the last.

I have to say, for me, death is death. In my instance, dignity would have had no place, as I knew nothing from the moment my heart stopped. (Where is the dignity for those killed in war or by sickness?) I was operated on with no anaesthetic of any kind and not in a theatre, as I was gone. Where was the dignity in that?

Dignity, as far as I am concerned, is only in the eyes of the living – the real dignity is to protect those around you and to save what you can.

I have given a lot of thought to this over the last three years since my survival, as really my daughter and I are a miracle, even though it has been very tough since from a familial and work perspective. I now ask where is the dignity in my life as it is. My husband has suffered a lot also, as he has not been able to gain full time employment since, as have my other children in their own way. I have one girl in particular – the one born before the daughter mentioned above – and she still asks me am I OK and tells me she loves me at every opportunity, as I was gone from her life for quite a while.

The recent heartbreaking case should not have been made public, as there were other children involved.

Sue Saidi

Address with Editor

Aircraft safety: false warnings

I began flying commercial jets in the early ’70s. The commercial jets of that time – the BAC 1-11 and the Boeing 707 and 747 – did have technical problems on a regular basis, but were adequately dealt with by the pilots. Failures on these aircraft, although frequent, were easily identifiable.

I have also flown the latest-generation Airbus A330, with its highly computerised flight deck. Here, the pilots are computer operators, monitoring the aircraft’s progress as it flies its pre-planned route,and checking when it is opportune to climb to a higher/more economical altitude, safety parameters allowing – as the aircraft burns approximately 5 tonnes of fuel per hour. Failures on this generation aircraft are very rare, but as in cases when planes are flying into hazardous weather, and the external airspeed sensors become blocked, can be misleading.

In relation to the recent accidents linked to hazardous weather, as described by David Learmont (Irish Independent, January 1), the basic principal is to avoid it, as it is clearly shown on weather radar systems. This may be achieved by either climbing, or turning left or right (if climb is not available, as in the AirAsia case.)

When these sensors become blocked, as in the Air France case in 2009, warning lights illuminate in the flight deck,and aural warnings sound, indicating that the aeroplane is being flown at too high a speed and is in danger of exceeding its manufacturer’s limits.(At high altitude, the maximum and minimum speeds can be within 20 kts of each other.) While this warning is false, the pilot reaction has been to slow the aircraft – hence in many of these cases the aircraft stalls, and falls from the sky.

These accidents highlight the need for the aircraft manufacturers to ensure that any warnings received by the pilots in the flight deck, accurately reflect the malfunction involved, thus leading to the correct action being taken.

Eugene Mc Carthy, Captain, Retired

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Famine is no laughing matter

I write to strongly condemn reports that British television station Channel 4 has commissioned a comedy show on the topic of the Irish Famine, called ‘Hungry’, by Dublin-based writer Hugh Travers.

The Famine directly affected over two million people, so this is nothing short of insulting to the memory of those people.

I am extremely saddened and angry that one of the most defining eras in Irish history will be the source for a new sitcom. I am not surprised that it is a British television outlet funding this venture. I do not believe an Irish station would commission this project, and I hope that RTE and TV3 will rule out supporting this programme.

In one of the most authoritative publications on the Irish Famine, ‘Altas Of The Great Irish Famine’, edited by John Crowley, William J Smyth and Mike Murphy in 2012, the preamble outlines the following: “The Great Irish Famine is probably the most pivotal event/experience in modern Irish history … In terms of mortality, it is now widely accepted that a million people perished between the years 1845-52 and at least one million and a quarter fled the country”.

In addition, Mr Travers’s suggestion that because 170 years have past it is now OK to look again at these events in a comedic light is totally ignorant of how this issue has been dogged by poor information, social stigma and lack of insight into this period of Irish history.

David McGuinness

Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

Gay marriage: for and against

I just heard that our Taoiseach will be prepared to debate publicly the gay marriage issue. This shows a courage that was always there but sometimes hidden.

We trust that he will also use this opportunity to present openly his support for gay adoption. For many of us, this is a more important question and it would be good to have the Taoiseach’s reassurance on the point.

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin

In a military engagement, a decoy is often used to dupe the enemy into defending the wrong position. This is exactly what has happened in the same-sex marriage debate. Catholics are defending the traditional Catholic/Christian view of marriage when it is not under attack – and cannot be. What is under attack is the meaning of ‘marriage’ itself. Marriage must have four elements to be a real marriage. A man, a woman, the possibility of the mutual procreation of children, and the mutual love and care of each other.

By definition, therefore, same-sex union cannot be described as a ‘marriage’, and certainly cannot be described as an ‘equality’ issue. Equality with what?

Out of genuine compassion, some well-meaning people might support the idea of changing the Constitution to call a same-sex union ‘marriage’ when such unions are already rightly recognised by the State.

If such a change were to take place, could we see a prosecution of a parish priest for refusing to perform such a ‘marriage’. Don’t let us sleepwalk into this referendum lulled by the ‘assurance’ that ‘this is all we want’.

I trust this complies with your rightful editorial call for a reasoned debate.

Pat Conneely

Dublin 11


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