12 January 2015 Lazing
Mary a little better though she could manage to get up for breakfast. Gout fading loaf around doing nothing.
Anita Ekberg, who has died aged 83, was the statuesque former Miss Sweden who became a global film sensation after cavorting in Rome’s Trevi Fountain for Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). Although demure and innocent by today’s standards, the scene caused a scandal and made the 29-year-old Swede a household name.
Some gossip columnists sniffily nicknamed her “The Iceberg” due to her Scandinavian roots, yet her dramatic décolletage, glowering good looks and vivacious delivery proved an enticing and popular combination with cinema audiences of the Sixties.
Director Frank Tashlin, who directed her in the 1956 comedy Hollywood or Bust – the pun was intended – claimed that Anita Ekberg’s appeal lay in “the immaturity of the American male: this breast fetish. There’s nothing more hysterical to me than big-breasted women, like walking, leaning towers.”
Anita Ekberg was indeed a teetering tower. She was 5ft 7in tall and possessed a considerable bust, of which she once said: “It’s not cellular obesity, it’s womanliness.” Yet in the same year that Tashlin had typecast her, Ekberg showed that she could really act, if given the opportunity, when she played Hélène Kuragin, the unfaithful wife of Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda) in King Vidor’s epic War and Peace. However, she was fully aware that her allure was centred on her physicality. “I have a mirror,” she said in the late Sixties, “I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t know I am beautiful.”
Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg was born on September 29 1931 in Malmö, Sweden, one of a large family (she had seven siblings). As a youngster she had no desire to be famous. She wanted to marry and settle down to a conventional life. A childhood pleasure was to draw and fashion clothes.
Out walking one day, a talent scout spotted her and persuaded her to enter the Miss Universe contest. Winning as Miss Sweden, she gained a trip to Hollywood. A screen test did not bring much work and she returned home disheartened. However, she was determined to make good as an actress and began saving for a return trip.
Her break came when Bob Hope chose her to accompany him on a Christmas tour of American air force bases in Greenland in 1954. Studio moguls soon heard about the roars of approval for Anita and offered her a contract. She had small uncredited roles in films such as The Mississippi Gambler, Abbott and Costello go to Mars and The Golden Blade, before winning supporting parts in Artists and Models (1955) and Blood Alley (1955; playing a Chinese girl). Her first lead came in Back from Eternity (1956). By this time she was being touted as “Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe”.
Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita (Kobal Collection)
She moved to London in the mid-Fifties but was lonely and hardly left her hotel. Having refused dozens of invitations to premieres, something impelled her to finally accept one offer. Her escort turned out to be Anthony Steen, a matinee idol alumnus of the “Rank School”. They were married in 1956.
In her first British film, Zarak (1956), she met her match in Victor Mature. Playing a native dancer, with a few spangles and bangles judiciously placed, who falls in love with Mature’s hulking Zarak Khan. The film left audiences wondering who had the bigger chest. She teamed up again with Mature the following year for the thriller Interpol.
At this time her marriage to Steel was rarely out of the headlines, with reports of drunken driving, rows and violent recriminations. Eventually the union completely soured and they divorced after three years.
Anita Ekberg with her first husband Anthony Steel (REX)
She did not have time to mourn the marriage. Her performance in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita the following year made her a star. Shot in Rome at a time when the Italian obsession with celebrity was at its height, she played the starlet Sylvia opposite Marcello Mastroianni’s philandering paparazzo journalist. The part fixed her in audience’s minds as the European blonde “sex bomb” – stylish, sensual, shallow and ephemeral.
In the film’s most famous scene, she splashes with abandon in the Trevi Fountain, her black low-necked dress trailing in the frothy waters, cooing: “Marcello, come here.” In fact the scene had been shot in February and Mastroianni was doped up on vodka. “I was freezing,” she recalled. “They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn’t feel my legs any more.”
Following the success of Fellini’s masterpiece, Anita Ekberg appeared opposite Bob Hope in Call Me Bwana and Frank Sinatra in 4 for Texas (both 1963). She was also considered for the part of Honey Ryder in Dr No but lost out to Ursula Andress. When she did appear in a Bond film, it was both unwitting and unflattering: in From Russia with Love (1963) Sean Connery shoots a spy escaping through a gigantic Call Me Bwana poster featuring Anita Ekberg’s face. “She should have kept her mouth shut,” says Bond.
Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain (Alamy)
Anita Ekberg’s on-screen persona – a freewheeling man-eater from overseas – soon spilt over into her private life. Sinatra was one of the many leading men she was rumoured to have taken as a lover, along with Errol Flynn, Yul Brynner, Tyrone Power and Gary Cooper.
She often played characters possessed of an untethered and wild spirit. As a “war lady” in The Mongols (1961) she indulged in torture and sado-masochism, striding in thigh-high boots among the slave girls cracking a bullwhip. For “The Temptation of Dr Antonio”, Fellini’s episode in the portmanteau feature Boccaccio ’70 (1962), she was once again the sex object, this time as the model featured on a “Drink More Milk” billboard poster who is brought to life to trap a puritanical doctor. Thus Fellini followed Tashlin in using her abilities for erotic satire.
In 1963 Ekberg married Rik Van Nutter (who later played Felix Leiter in Thunderball). They lived in Spain and Switzerland and in 1969 became entrepreneurs. “Rick and I have gone into the shipping business. We found a cargo ship and we’re in business with the captain,” she said (the couple also bought a Chinese junk). “Ours is a good marriage. There are so many good times in marriage, that the bad times are really unimportant. Anyway, I learnt from my parents that difficulties are there to be overcome.”
As with all sex symbols, age diminished her currency. By the end of the Sixties she was complaining about the lack of available roles. “I should be able to get work myself on the strength of my acting. I shouldn’t have to sleep with producers to get parts. It’s depressing to see parts going to actresses who can’t act their way out of a wet paper bag but who are friendly with producers,” she observed. “My life has changed quite a bit, of course. The Ferrari’s gone – now I have a Mini Moke.”
The downward spiral continued throughout the Seventies. She made films but they were more often than not B-movies with salacious titles such as The French Sex Murders (1972) and The Killer Nun (1979). Her scenes for Valley of the Dancing Widows (1975) were left on the cutting room floor. At home things also began to disintegrate: she accused Van Nutter of cheating her over a car-hire business they owned. The couple divorced in 1975.
Anita Ekberg in 2010 (AFP)
Two years later, her house was robbed, with the thieves stealing fur coats, jewels and silver, the fruits of her once-famous career. “My last 10 years have brought nothing but bad luck,” she stated.
After a second robbery in 2011, she appealed to the Fellini Foundation for financial help. It was a sad sign of decline from the Amazonian actress who had five decades earlier threatened paparazzi with a bow and arrow.
Her final years were spent living in semi-reclusion in a run-down Italian villa outside Rome, where her only companions were two great Danes.
Anita Ekberg, born September 29 1931, January 11 2015
Your editorial writers and commentators and most of your correspondents (9, 10 January) wring their hands in impotence over the Islamist massacre in Paris. In fact, there is a great deal citizens of the rich countries can do to combat Islamic fundamentalism. First, the western powers should withdraw politically and militarily from the Middle East. Every western intevention for the past 150 years has served to strengthen fundamentalist Islam. In particular, they should immediately cut military and political collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which are the principal backers of Isis and Wahhabism (whatever their recent protestations). Second, the people of the western countries should give every support we can to the brave and beleaguered secular and democratic political currents in “the Muslim world”, such as the Labour party of Pakistan and the trade unions in Iraq and Egypt.
Third, in Britain, we should be campaigning for state schooling which is completely secular, depriving the Church of England and the Catholic church as well as other smaller churches of their anachronistic control of state schools. This is the medieval and barbaric hangover that should concern us. Parents have (limited) rights to impose their religion on their chilrden, but a democratic state has no business indoctrinating children in any religion.Please stop wringing your hands and get involved in politics that can really change things.
• I was disturbed by the letters in Friday’s Guardian. The responses made me ashamed to be a Guardian reader. Rather than condemning the killings, almost all played them down, tried to excuse them, or suggested the victims had somehow brought them on themselves. What’s happened to us? Have the past 15 years been so bloody that some people have run out of sympathy, and have none left for innocent cartoonists being gunned down in cold blood?
Richmond upon Thames, Surrey
• Some of your correspondents have argued that the right to free speech must be tempered by the avoidance of offence. Whilst I applaud the humane values underlying this claim, I must disagree. There is not – and never could be – any universal definition of what is offensive. we all have our own internal calibration of what offends; I cannot know what you think or might feel and so any stricture that bars me from saying something offensive will inevitably fuel a creeping self-censorship which is the antithesis of freedom of speech.
To live in a free society is to risk being offended. We can complain; we can retaliate; and we can shout aloud our discomfort. What we cannot do is shoot those who offend us. Je suis Charlie.
Hope Valley, Derbyshire
• Freedom of speech is a relative concept already limited by legislation. Libel, slander and incitement to racial hatred are crimes, as is denial of the Holocaust in Germany. Perhaps we should discuss whether figurative representation of Muhammad should be banned in the interests of public safety and social harmony, while continuing to tolerate satire of religion or any other belief or ideology. Such a limitation would hardly constitute a crippling assault on values that most of us hold dear, but might assuage concerns of many who are offended by images of the prophet.
• Your editorial (9 January), which defends the decision to not publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons by appealing to the faulty logic underlying the calls to publish them as a matter of freedom of speech, is misguided. The cartoons have now become part of a news story and for that reason alone should be published. It is the responsibility of a media organisation to keep its users well-informed so they can form their own opinions on these issues. We should not have to search for this information elsewhere.
• Has the Guardian taken all leave of its senses in donating £100,000 to Charlie Hebdo? The “war on terror” is fought on two fronts. One is the hard war in the form of bombs and tanks. The other is the soft war in the form of the ideological demonisation of Islam. Charlie Hebdo quite consciously played its part in the soft war. It is no Private Eye. And the claim it is left is a dubious one. For when it comes to Islam many parts of the French left have a shabby record, from the way the French Communist party opposed Algerian independence onwards. While the killings have to be opposed, is it any wonder that when petrol is poured on the raging fires of Muslim-baiting some people are liable to be burnt? By donating this money to a journal that the Guardian itself would condemn if its so-called satire were directed against Judaism, it seems to have learnt nothing.
• I too want to resist the language of “war” (Tariq Ramadan, 10 January), whether metaphorically or literally meant, and whether it refers to a fight against politically motivated killings, against a particular religion and its adherents, or against terrorism as a phenomenon. Safety and human rights cannot be protected by violent hostility. They can come only from the building of understanding and respect, locally and globally. It will be hard to escape the dynamic of spiralling action and reaction but it must be done. We need the language of wisdom and kindness, not the language of war.
• Watching the Unity March of 1 million-plus people in Paris on Sunday, it reminded me of the Iraq anti-war march of up to 2 million people in London and 15 millon people in 800 cities around the world on 15 Februrary 2003. Would the march in Paris would have been necessary if the earlier march had been listened to?
For anyone committed to the ideal of a multicultural society, the murder of cartoonists who vulgarly ridiculed Islamic faith proves a complex matter to address in times of soaring Islamophobia. Joe Sacco approaches this explosive issue (10 January) in a respectful and differentiated way; at the cost, however, of ignoring the political meaning of the attack. Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures are indeed often offensive. But Sacco’s reflections on the use of stereotypes or on a previous controversy over anti-Semitism in Charlie Hebdo are highly problematic in the context of the shooting. What Sacco and many others who prefer criticism over solidarity fail to understand is that the Je suis Charlie manifestation does not imply an acceptance of the magazine’s caricatures. Quite on the contrary: the power of the statement lies in the identification with a magazine which many – including presumably the several French imams who declared their support – strongly disliked. The failure of prominent voices among the left to grasp the gravity of the attack is one of the most disturbing phenomena it has revealed.
• Joe Sacco’s humanity shines on this week’s dreadful events with a rare clarity and honesty. It’s only a starting point to defend the right to be offensive. We must also ask what greater good our offensiveness serves – if any. Sacco illustrates that, in reality, only some offensiveness is defended, and asks us to consider why. If powerful reactionary forces mock vulnerable and victimised groups, is that as valid as when the tables are turned? What happens if a group is weak in one arena and powerful in another, and the balance is constantly contested? Instinctively we are all aware, that if the pen/cil is mightier than the sword, it can also be as dangerous. Sacco’s cartoon alone justifies my Guardian subscription as a contribution to free and responsible speech.
Syriza’s potential victory in the forthcoming elections in Greece is of the utmost importance for all those who want Europe to change course. Such a victory would be an expression of the demand for dignity and justice: for hope. The threats and pressure applied by EU leaders, the troika and financial circles to influence the electoral choice of the Greek people are unacceptable.
Throughout Europe, we will defend the right of the Greek people to make their decisions freely; to break with austerity; to say no to the humanitarian crisis that has plagued the country; to pave the way for a real alternative for Greece – for a social and democratic reorientation.
We believe that such a change in Greece will not affect the future of the Greek people alone. A victory for Syriza will allow Greece to escape from the current catastrophic situation but it will also represent green shoots of change for Europe. Breaking with austerity policies would be a signal, a source of hope for those who want to stand tall. At the same time, if Syriza is voted into power, its government will need massive support from the people of Europe in the face of the pressures from the financial markets and political forces which fear any departure from the obsolete framework of capitalist globalisation.
Nicola Acocella Professor of economic policy, University of Rome, Matyas Benyik ATTAC Hungary, Nadezda Cacinovic University of Zagreb, Croatia, Mario Candeias Direktor des Institut fur Gesellschaftsanalyse, Berlin, Germany, John Douglas President, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Elena Frangakis-Syrett Professor of economic history, City University of New York, Dan Gallin Global Labour Institute, Geneva, Switzerland, Adoración Guamán Hernández Professor of labour law, University of Valencia, Spain, Jean Ziegler Former member, UN human rights council and 327 other initial signatories. Full list and petition at with-the-greeks.eu
Infrastructure bill is a threat to the rights of the British public
The infrastructure bill now making its way through the Commons is yet another threat by this government to take away the rights of the public – not just in future developments but also in environmentally damaging activities such as fracking. It has already been passed by the Lords. If it becomes law the following will occur:
1) Any public land (apart from that owned by the royal family and now our forests) can be transferred to the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, to be passed on to private firms to use for any kind of development, with all rights of public access removed.
2) The recovery of gas and oil – including fracking, coal gasification, coalbed methane extraction and geothermal – anywhere in Britain to be a legal objective.
3) The right to dump and abandon any substance whatsoever under any land (including radioactive and gases).
4) The right to drill under any land, public or private.
5) Major projects (such as power stations, new towns, high-speed rail and motorways) to be decided on by government rather than councils, with communities also unlikely to be consulted.
6) Any species deemed non-native (including barn owls, red kites, goshawks) can be controlled or exterminated.
7) Councils given short time limits to enforce planning restrictions or their duties will be discharged by a panel of two government inspectors and a minister, giving developers free rein.
8) The Land Registry to be given major new powers to hold local registers, and be the judge, jury and executioner on land ownership disputes.
9) Anyone building fewer than 50 houses in a development will no longer need to ensure they are zero carbon or eco-friendly.
If this becomes law it makes a mockery of any democratic rights still held by the people of this country. There is a mass lobby of parliament on 14 January.
Canon Andrea Titterington
Silly me. When Cameron said in 2010, “vote blue, go green” I didn’t realise he was referring to the TV debate in 2015 (Report, 9 January).
Saltdean, East Sussex
• Would you please not use term bedblockers (Report, 7 January). This neoliberal language dehumanises people to commodities and treats them as a transactional contract, rather than humans. They are vulnerable people that need us to love them, care for them and provide them with a decent quality of life by paying a bit more tax.
• Whoaaa! Alex Hern (Why it’s smart to be dumb, 7 January) promotes more traditional alternatives to the latest gadgets – the apparently now antiquarian Kindle, instead of the iPad. If you want to read a book, get a book. To quote Hern: “They’re simple, they work.”
President, Antiquarian Booksellers Association
Sir, I once heard EM Forster give a Cambridge lecture titled “Did Jesus Have a Sense of Humour?” He thought not.
It would be possible to ask a Jewish audience if God has a sense of humour, even though the thin-skinned might take offence.
During the Islamic golden age it would have been possible to ask a Muslim audience the same about the Prophet, even though to many that was blasphemy.
In Britain (but not yet in Northern Ireland), parliament has abolished the crime of blasphemy, and our law allows offensive speech that satirises and ridicules religious beliefs and practices. That law protects our secular society.
In Britain, as in France, we have a right but not a duty to offend that belongs to all of us, of all religions and none. We are all Charlie.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC
Sir, There is a difference between the right to offend and being offensive. Expressing a contrary view about a faith or religious practice may well offend but deliberately being offensive to cause hurt, by using words or actions with the intent to cause distress, such as leaving a pig’s head on a doorstep, is clearly wrong. The two instances cited by Roger Harris (letter, Jan 10), the Public Order Act 1986 and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches Act 2012, clearly refer to deliberate use of words to insult or offend. I see no reason to repeal these acts.
Free speech has never been, and can never be, a licence to say absolutely anything in any circumstance.
Sir, To call the vicious criminals who killed journalists and others in Paris “terrorists”, and imply they had some sort of strategic aim of destroying free speech as part of some Islamist plot, is to assign a level of abstract thought and clarity of purpose to people driven by narcissism and a search for personal significance. In our research interviewing convicted terrorists, it is only their leadership that have any distinct ideology or political objective. The people who carry out the shootings are much more like those spree killers who drive into McDonald’s or strafe their erstwhile workmates with automatic gunfire.
To call them terrorists is to give a grandeur to what are mean-minded despicable acts.
Emeritus Professor David Canter
School of Psychology, University of Liverpool
Sir, A clear contradiction stands between those who uphold free speech and those who seek to suppress it. I therefore take issue with Nabil Hanafi (letter, Jan 10) who writes that “defending free speech means defending the rights of even those who say that such a freedom should not exist”. This is an intellectual oxymoron. Common sense dictates that in giving intolerance a platform we effectively support our own demise.
Sir, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s criticism of the West’s complacency is spot-on (Saturday Interview, Jan 10). As leader of several African diaspora organisations, I have spent the past decade trying to secure the collaboration of government, media and universities to implement initiatives to counteract the spread of Salafi jihadism among African communities. My efforts have occasionally been met with stalling and, more often, outright rejection.
Tellingly, attackers such as the killers of Lee Rigby, the authors of the recent atrocities in France, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber”, were all of African descent. Time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Director, Policy Centre for African Peoples
Sir, Saudi Arabia condemns the attacks in Paris as a “cowardly terrorist act” (report, Jan 10). How does this stance tally with the news, reported in the same edition, that a young Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, was given the first 50 of 1,000 lashes, a ten-year prison sentence and £175,000 fine, for insulting Islam?
Sir, Further to Matthew Parris’s Opinion article (Jan 10), I wonder who, in the long run, is more likely to put the lives of my children and grandchildren at risk: his “murderous misfits”, or the people in this country who consistently oppose giving our security services the tools they need to keep them safe?
Rear Admiral Conrad Jenkin
West Meon, Hants
Sir, The article by Sajid Javid (“Killers want to offend but not be offended”, Opinion, Jan 10) was well-balanced. He is wrong, though, to state that the writings of Socrates “continue to be widely read”.
Socrates has no writings. It is the writings of his pupil, Plato, about Socrates that are widely read.
Sir, Maybe the non-saluting bemused soldiers at Sandhurst (letter, Jan 9) mistook Air Vice-Marshal Higgs for a bo’sun.
Corcullen, Co Galway
Sir, Paul Ackford’s belief that there is less respect for officials from rugby players today (Sport, Jan 10) reminded me of the instruction given to me by the senior games master in my first week at grammar school 50-odd years ago: Rule 1. The referee is always right. Rule 2. If the referee is obviously wrong, Rule 1 applies.
Sir, TMS (Jan 9) describes Harold Macmillan starting a letter to Harold Wilson in 1963 with “Dear Wilson” as “patronising”. Surely it was simply the way professional men addressed each other then, even ones they had known from school and university.
At that time I was a junior private secretary to a cabinet minister, and frequently had to write to the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Michael Adeane. Despite the disparity in age and status, we addressed each other as “Dear Adeane” and “Dear Martin”.
Sir, The caption accompanying your picture of a leopard gecko (Jan 10) states that its feet have claws rather than sticky pads. The pads of most species of gecko are adhesive but dry, not sticky in the usual sense. They depend for their grip on short-range inter-molecular forces called van der Waals forces. An artificial fabric based on these forces can be used to enable a man to climb a vertical wall — a true-life Spider-Man.
Dr Richard J Bird
Middleton Cheney, Northants
Bray, Co Wicklow
SIR – According to Nick Clegg, we will win the struggle against terrorism “not by increasing our security but by protecting our liberty”. Doesn’t the murder of the Charlie Hebdo journalists show that liberty depends on security?
In order to protect the freedom of its citizens Britain should increase police action against terrorist suspects. Freedom also depends on the use of force against its enemies. If Mr Clegg had said we should beware of overreaction he would have had a valid point, but he is wrong to treat liberty and security as mutually exclusive concepts.
Dr David G Green
SIR – Justice isn’t dispensed from a gun – that’s revenge. I’m not aware of any god that seeks revenge and only weak humans seek such recourse.
East Halton, Lincolnshire
SIR – Freedom of speech does not confer a licence to indulge in bad manners and insensitive behaviour towards our neighbours.
What about fraternité? Surely that means living together in harmony.
SIR – Let the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square now permanently carry a column in the shape of a pencil bearing the legend Je suis Charlie.
SIR – The cry of “Allahu Akbar” from the terrorists as they stormed the Charlie Hebdo building has been used by extremists as they behead Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, bomb churches in Nigeria and separate out and kill those who can’t say a Muslim prayer in parts of Kenya.
Extremism can be found in any religion, and Muslims have been on the receiving end too, but a report released yesterday by our charity, Open Doors, shows that 40 out of the worst 50 countries for Christian persecution show Islamic extremism as the main driver of this oppression.
Something closer to home, like the terrible events in Paris, is particularly shocking. But we can expect more of this unless we fight extremism as an international community much more actively than we are doing.
CEO, Open Doors UK & Ireland
SIR – The sad death of 12 people during an attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris dominated newspaper, television and radio headlines last Wednesday.
A bomb killed 37 police recruits in Yemen on the same day, but received nowhere near the same degree of attention.
Both were attacks by terrorists, but I suppose it’s who you are and where you are that counts.
B E Norton
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
SIR – Up until the moment Nigel Farage spoke out last week we had endured a succession of politicians mealy-mouthing their way around the carnage in Paris.
Of course we have a fifth column in our midst. It was the same in the Seventies and Eighties, when the source was the IRA. The difference now is that it stems from the headlong rush into the misguided policy of multiculturalism, fed by the unfettered immigration embraced by the Labour government of the late Nineties.
Not for the first time Mr Farage taken the pulse of the nation and spoken for the greater majority of it.
Eastbourne, West Sussex
SIR – It was galling to hear Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, a French journalist, having to correct a British television presenter on his offensive mis-use of the word “execute”, pointing out that there was no judicial endorsement of the Paris murders.
This is one of many similar solecisms currently in vogue throughout the media.
Hove, East Sussex
Tackle alcohol misuse to ease A&E pressures
SIR – The current A&E crisis is being compounded by the failure of policymakers to tackle the impact of excessive alcohol consumption. Approximately 20 per cent of all A&E attendances are alcohol-related. This increases to 70-80 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights.
Almost every family in the country has been adversely affected by alcohol misuse at some point, but successive governments have failed to enact evidence-based policies that would save lives and ease pressure on the health, policing and criminal justice systems.
A 50 pence minimum unit price for alcohol, regulation to protect children from alcohol marketing, improved alcohol labelling and the establishment of alcohol care teams with specialist consultants and nurses are simple measures – none of which would punish responsible drinkers – that must be adopted urgently in order to reduce pressures on A&E departments.
Alcohol Services Lead, British Society of Gastroenterology
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore
Chair, Alcohol Health Alliance
Former President, Royal College of Physicians
Dr Dominique Florin
Medical Director, Medical Council on Alcohol
Dr Adrian Boyle
Chair, Quality in Emergency Care Committee, College of Emergency Medicine
Medical Director, Substance Misuse and Associated Health, Royal College of General Practitioners
Dr Carsten Grimm
Royal College of General Practitioners
President, Faculty of Public Health
Prof Frank Murray
President, RCP Ireland
Chairman, RCPI alcohol policy group
Shirley Cramer CBE
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Chief Executive, Alcohol Concern
Alcohol Health Alliance
Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Dr Mark Hudson
President, British Association for the Study of the Liver
Shirley Cramer CBE
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Chief Executive Officer, UK Health Forum
Director, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Consultant Hepatologist, Newcastle University
Professor Linda Bauld
Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention, Cancer Research UK
Director, Drink Wise
The Duke of York’s public contribution
SIR – In response to Christopher Wilson’s article (“It may be time for the Queen’s second son to leave the public stage”, report, January 4) it is worth noting that Court Circulars show that last year the hard-working Duke of York carried out more than 300 public engagements. These often reflected his encouragement of science and technology as well as the British charities and other valuable causes of which he is patron or president.
The Queen and many other members of our Royal family who still selflessly carry out official duties are already over the usual retirement age. The extensive public work of our monarchy would be diminished if the Duke withdrew from national life, especially if it had an impact upon the participation of his charming daughters.
Saving British dairy
SIR – Milk and cheese consumption per capita has declined steadily since 1985. While the number of dairy cows has dropped dramatically over the last 10 years, the amount of milk produced by the British herd has barely dropped. With a shrinking demand and almost constant supply, the market price has only had one way to go.
Processors and retailers, rather than fighting for a greater share of the pie, should try to increase its size with innovative products like Arla’s Lactofree and Cravendale. As someone who works in the cheese industry, I also believe that more also needs to be done to promote cheese’s rich nutrition and health benefits.
Soya milk, almond milk and the rest of these ghastly impostors are nutritionally very disappointing. Don’t even get me started on low-fat spreads.
Wind farm farce
SIR – Paying wind farms to switch off their turbines because the electricity network cannot cope with the power they produce is farcical.
It would be more logical to leave them generating, pay other producers to reduce output and actually conserve some non-renewable resources.
SIR – I was watching the horror show Necker Island Paradise on BBC Two last week when the spell was broken by the opening bars of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row, playing on a nearby radio.
It is high time someone asked Dylan to put real names on the faces of the song’s “quite lame” people.
Bangor Erris, Co Mayo
Solving the mystery of the east-west buttonhole
Bright as a button: Pearly Kings and Queens celebrate the annual Harvest Festival in Covent Garden (Alamy)
SIR – Having manufactured shirts and pyjamas for over 60 years I can reveal that the last buttonhole on a shirt is placed horizontally (Letters, January 4) because it may take greater strain than the others when the wearer plays sports, moves across a seat, or simply sits with legs akimbo. All pyjama buttonholes are horizontal due to the greater stress placed on them during sleep.
The remaining shirt button holes are vertical, as this looks smarter and is easier to secure than the horizontal sort.
SIR – The horizontal bottom buttonhole has appeared as a result of braces falling out of fashion. Trousers now need to be held up by friction between the waistband and the shirt, causing a vertical pull on the shirt.
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
SIR – Any dressmaker will explain that an east-west buttonhole stays closed, and is useful for those with beer bellies.
SIR – Short-sleeve shirts are worn casually outside the trousers during summer. The east-west buttonhole provides reinforcement for the inevitable pulling across the fabric when one slips one’s hands into one’s linen or chino trouser pockets.
Jules Bowes Davies
Pont Ceri, Carmarthenshire
SIR – I do up my shirt buttons from the top downwards and find a crossways buttonhole useful for letting me know that I have finished, thus avoiding the frustration of seeking out a buttonhole for the spare button sewn on below.
Seaford, East Sussex
Grey squirrel cull
SIR – If the grey squirrel cull goes ahead taxpayers will be paying for the wholesale slaughter of wildlife.
Can nobody see anything wrong with giving landowners money and the “requirement” to cull thousands of grey squirrels “using whatever method they prefer”? Even if it were acceptable to wipe out a species in this way, other animals – such as birds, bats, doormice and red squirrels – would also be put at risk from indiscriminate poisoning and snaring.
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire
SIR – In the Fifties funding was available for every grey squirrel tail taken to the offices of the Ministry of Agriculture. I believe it was sixpence.
I spent many hours shooting grey squirrels and was immensely pleased to be able
to supplement my pocket money. Our large ginger cat, Sherry, did valiant work bringing squirrels
back home too. She did not reap the benefits, as someone usually cut the tails off her catch before she reached home.
The proposed funding seems far less efficient, as it is not based on exact results.
East Haddon, Northamptonshire
Luck of a generation
SIR – Before demonising the older generation for living through “decades of prosperity and property booms” we should remember that average mortgage interest rates in the Eighties reached 16 per cent. They never fell below 8 per cent, and there was no Help to Buy scheme underwritten by the taxpayer.
Facebook and fiction
SIR – Mark Zuckerberg’s resolution to read a book every fortnight is commendable, but he places too much emphasis on non-fiction.
Reading fiction enhances our ability to connect with different kinds of people and sharpens our emotional understanding – traits that would be invaluable in counteracting the oft-levelled criticism that the rise of social media has led to an increasingly self-obsessed society.
Love is in the air
SIR – Sorry chaps, you’re all wrong: the sexiest voice (Letters, January 4) belonged to the lady who used to read the Geneva Volmet weather reports. The wonder of the Alps at 36,000 ft and that voice…never forgotten.
Capt John Grogan
SIR – I was posted to RAF Melksham as an education officer in 1958. One of the young ladies who did the station tannoy announcements had the most beautiful and alluring voice.
I managed to meet her at the weekly Scottish country dancing event and married her soon thereafter.
SIR – One day in the early Seventies I gave up my lunch break when on turnround at Sumburgh to walk to the control tower in search of the Shetland approach controller with the honey-soaked voice.
Seated at her console was a lady about my mother’s age, knitting, feet on the desk, wearing brown corduroy trousers. I made an excuse and left.
Capt Martyn Johnson
Driffield, East Yorkshire
(Paul Grover/The Telegraph)
SIR – If Gwyneth Paltrow wishes to detox on garden weeds she would be very welcome on my allotment at any time.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Globe and Mail:
Sir, – We can’t all be in Paris to march in solidarity with the victims of terror attacks there. But we can make sure we stand by the values of freedom of expression and a refusal to be cowed by fanaticism. – Yours, etc,
Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Sir, – I refer to Dr Ali Selim’s warning to the Irish media of legal action if they publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoon he finds offensive and which others found so offensive that they killed 12 people (“Ali Selim urges media not to republish Charlie Hebdo cartoons”, January 7th).
Dr Selim has in the past argued against the abolition of the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution which, disappointingly it appears, will not be the subject of a referendum this year. His contention that satirising religious beliefs should not be tolerated is incompatible with freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Free and open expression is not only part of – but also essential to – a healthy democracy.
Humour, irony and satire are an integral part of this freedom and (save, of course, where there is for example incitement to violence, hatred or racism) should be protected.
Do we really want to live in a country where being involved in the likes of a humorous cartoon, Father Ted or The Life of Brian could result in a fine of up to €25,000? The law against blasphemy is an anachronism and should be removed. Blasphemy laws have fomented intolerance, prejudice and violence elsewhere. One need only look to other countries where such laws survive. In Egypt, insulting Islam and Muhammad has resulted in the death penalty – seven Egyptian Christians were sentenced to death in 2012 for their role in the “anti-Mohammad” movie. In Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, blasphemy is also punishable by a penalty up to and including death. In Pakistan, two politicians, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated because they called for reform of the blasphemy law.
Embarrassingly, Ireland belongs to the blasphemy club. There may have been no prosecutions in Ireland to date, but this may change. Furthermore, other countries have cited Ireland’s prohibition on blasphemy in support of their own poisonous activities.
The Convention on the Constitution recommended that the offence of blasphemy be abolished. Such an offence has no place in a democracy which values freedom of speech and freedom of expression. These fundamental freedoms cannot be sacrificed in the name of a prohibition on causing offence to certain people’s beliefs. Religion is open to question, scrutiny and humour, just like any other set of beliefs or ideology. Nobody has the right not to be offended. – Yours, etc,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
Sir, – Richard Coffey writes (January 10th) that “satirists and cartoonists should not go so far as to intentionally offend, insult or incite people of other creeds and beliefs”. As the great Salman Rushdie, who had more cause than most to ruminate on the topic, declared “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend it does not exist”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The review of the Leaving Cert applied maths course (“Plan for Leaving Cert computer science module ‘tokenistic’”, January 8th) is welcome indeed, as the current content is too narrowly focused on mathematical physics (beautiful as that subject is) and does little to portray the wide scope of modern applied mathematics, with applications in diverse areas in finance, fluid engineering, systems biology, climate modelling and so on. The new specification proposed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) aims to address this issue.
In a rather deft move on the part of the NCCA, the proposed new specification aims simultaneously to address a skills gap that has arguably opened up as a result of the (well-intentioned) introduction of Project Maths. Thus, the new specification aims to strengthen the mathematical capabilities of those second-level students who wish to pursue a Stem subject (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at third level. From my own experience as a third-level lecturer, I anticipate that this would greatly enhance the students’ engagement with Stem subjects at third level and therefore soften the transition between second and third levels.
Finally, even the introduction of computational science may not be so problematic, so long as the focus here is on the connection between computation and applications in scientific modelling and simulation, leaving “pure” computer science to be introduced as a possible standalone subject in the future. Using open-source programming platforms and computer hardware such as the exciting (and very cheap) Raspberry Pi computer, a module along these lines could in fact be delivered in the vast majority of secondary schools with only modest investment in equipment. The open-source principle, while not only cheap and cheerful, also reflects current best practice in scientific computing.
Thus, there are many exciting possibilities in play, giving the NCCA an excellent opportunity to fashion an applied maths curriculum consistent with the needs of Irish students and society and better reflective of modern trends in applied and computational mathematics. – Yours, etc,
LENNON Ó NARAIGH,
Applied and Computational
School of Mathematical
University College Dublin.
Sir, – The irony of Lucinda Creighton TD’s new party being fronted by three individuals representing incompatible interests should not be wasted on the electorate.
Ms Creighton departed Fine Gael following her election in 2011 due to a matter of conscience, after years of dutifully supporting the governing Coalition’s reforms, and she continues to espouse conservative social values. Eddie Hobbs criticises the role of the State in people’s lives and advocates for its reduction. Cllr John Leahy from Offaly calls for State support for rural post offices, farming families and public services, which would involve a concomitant increase in the reach of the State.
These three platforms are each appropriate and stimulating contributions to the debate around political and social reform in Ireland.
However, they are completely incompatible with one another, and any “alliance” or “common ground” reached between such people will represent little more than an opportunity for individuals, interests and egos to be put before the national best interest.
Multiparty politics is a painful business of compromise involving the aggregation of needs and the allocation and distribution of limited resources among a multitude of competing interests, usually at the expense of sectional, local and personal interests.
Anyone who thinks that an alliance of such diverse “independent” individuals can bring about much-needed reforms and progress in the national best interest should carefully scrutinise the agendas of individual candidates, and what exactly it is that holds any such “alliance” together before choosing to give them their vote. – Yours, etc,
Department of Politics
and International Studies,
University of Cambridge,
Sir, – Besides voting on the budget, there is no obvious reason why every single piece of government legislation, no matter how rushed or flawed, should be blindly supported by government TDs.
The suggestion that, without the whip system, TDs would not follow their party’s principles, or would be bombarded by lobbies, is incorrect. TDs are bombarded by lobbies anyway, and most victims of the whip system in recent times fell because they tried to uphold their party’s promises to the electorate, such as Róisín Shorthall or Lucinda Creighton.
As for political instability leading to economic instability, Belgium has often gone without a government for well over a year in recent times, with little economic ill-effect. And the relatively stable Fianna Fáil-led governments between 1997 and 2011 were responsible for leaving us in this mess. – Yours, etc,
TOMÁS M CREAMER,
A chara, – We now know that the UN, a former minister for education, the chairman of the forum on patronage and pluralism, and various others wish to see fewer schools under religious patronage (“Segregation concerns over transfer of school patronage”, January 2nd). It all seems rather overwhelming. Except that the people on the ground aren’t as keen; in fact the reason that the idea isn’t progressing is because of “huge local hostility”.
Parents don’t like the plan and parents, as it happens, are the primary educators of their children. It even says so in the Constitution. Which tends to make, I would suggest, the forces behind the push to wrest the control of schools into other hands a lot more underwhelming than they might at first appear. – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – My point in highlighting the misuse of the political label of “Independent” by the media and Irish people in general was to point out that there is no such available option on the ballot paper (December 24th).
Although I do not want to see large numbers of so-called Independents in the Dáil, their automatic regulation to the category of “non-party” candidates on the ballot paper is surely confusing and politically mischievous.
As your columnist Colm Keena pointed out (“Why Ireland needs positive party politics to tackle challenges of globalisation”, December 31st), we desperately need party politics in Ireland today and apart from the undesirability of having large number of Independents in the next Dáil, it would be equally disturbing to encourage a non-party/party division at a time when we need more rather than less coherence in Irish politics.
While I share Tom Neville’s bafflement (January 2nd) at the growing popularity of Independents in Irish political life, we cannot expect new party politics to emerge if we ourselves continue to maintain our old self-centred social, cultural and political habits.
That much quoted observation that to change the world you must first change yourself certainly applies to Irish people today. Is it too much to hope that we will see the emergence of new politics in Ireland during 2015? – Yours, etc,
Dr VINCENT KENNY,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – JD Mangan (January 8th) baldly states “Eamon de Valera used the Irish Press newspaper which he’d set up himself to con shareholders investing in the company”. This is totally untrue. JD Mangan is entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts. This falsehood has been propagated by others through misrepresentation, selective use of extracts from documents, suppression of facts and bolstered by the invention of purported “facts” which can be shown to be untrue.
Eamon de Valera did set up the Irish Press and over 10,000 people subscribed funds because it was he who had set it up. There was nothing underhand in any of what he did.
For example, in February 1930, Frank P Walsh, a noted Irish American lawyer, wrote to bondholders of Republican Bonds seeking to raise funds for the Irish Press in America by the assignment of bonds to my grandfather. Within this letter he stated: “Whilst these funds are being solicited by way of donations, Mr de Valera, will, of course, not derive personally any monetary profit from them. He intends to make the necessary and proper arrangements to ensure that if any profits accrue from the enterprise, or, if there should be any distribution of assets, such profits and the amount of any such distribution will be made available for the donors, according to their respective donations.”
I can vouch that such arrangement were put in place and the commitment honoured. – Yours, etc,
EAMON de VALERA
Sir, – Are the days of chivalry and courtesy in Ireland over? As a senior citizen I travelled by Dart from Blackrock into Dublin city centre recently. The carriage was full of students from at least three different schools (I’m not going to mention them by name) travelling to the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in the RDS. All the seats were occupied by the students and all the adults were left standing in the aisles. Not once was I or any of the other adults offered a seat!
By contrast, travelling by Tube in London recently, on two occasions I was offered a seat when standing in the aisle. Perhaps a little training in behaviour wouldn’t go amiss in our schools. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In reference to the letter written by Dr Andrew Kelly (January 2nd) in respect of the Arts Council, circuses and wild animals, I would like to point out that under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council has a duty to uphold circus as an art form. That includes all forms of circus, be they traditional or contemporary. Circus is one of our oldest art forms and one of our most socially inclusive.
The Arts Council currently supports only two traditional circuses, Fossett’s and Duffy’s, both which use animals as an integral part of their shows. Fossett’s works only with horses, while Duffy’s has worked with sealions in recent years. They do not, however, use lions and tigers. Both of these circuses are in full compliance with the Framework for the Welfare of Animals Presented in the Arts document, which the Arts Council implements, and they also have their own highly detailed animal welfare policies
Both of these circuses love and respect their animals and treat them with the greatest of care, something which not every human in our society is afforded today. – Yours, etc,
Irish Street Arts, Circus
and Spectacle Network,
c/o Irish Theatre Institute,
Sir, – The suggestion by Dr Gerry Burke (January 8th) for the requisition of private hospitals by the Government for the benefit of the “common good” is as laughable as it is foolish.
Such hospitals already serve the common good by removing strain on public provision of services. Given that he acknowledges their efficiency, surely he would be more in favour of government incentives for the construction of even more private hospitals and personal incentives making private health insurance less costly? Surely a better solution than leaving more helpless patients in the clutches of the seemingly hapless public system. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The real culprit in the Charlie Haughey affair is Allied Irish Banks (AIB). In 1979 AIB wrote off a debt in excess of £1 million which was owing by Charlie Haughey to the bank. If AIB had pursued Haughey for the amount owing and got a judgment against him, then if he was unable to pay, he would have been adjudged a bankrupt, disqualified from Dáil Éireann and his political career would have come to an end. – Yours, etc,
Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2.
The recent attacks in France have shocked the world and especially those of us who value free speech. These murderers do not understand, nor do they care to understand, that the right to say what we want is a cornerstone of our civilisation and is intrinsically important in the social and political history of the West.
It is what we call a human right, one of those rights given to us by nature, or God, or whatever higher power you believe in.
The right to freedom of speech has been long sought after and hard won over many centuries. It can in fact be traced back to the birthplaces of Western civilisation in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Both laboured under repressive tyrannies for hundreds of years before regaining their freedom and enshrining free speech in their laws. The theme of freedom borne from the sufferance of tyranny is one that is repeated throughout Western history.
England embraced free speech after years of Cromwellian dictatorship, during which theatres and other such places were shut. It then fended off attempts at absolutist monarchical rule.
The right to free speech is vital to the dialogue that generates the change we value so much.
Our whole attitude to this vital right can best be summed up in the line: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” The very fact that I’m writing this piece shows free speech in action.
Clara, Co Offaly
Remembering ‘Charlie Hebdo’
I am a big fan of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and will always buy a copy when visiting France. I do this for the laughs I get from the fantastic cartoons and witty scripts. In fact, I have a kept a few of these over the years so I can relive the laughs.
A particular favourite is from 2003 during the heat wave in France. It is signed Wolinski (RIP) and I am saddened to realise that I will no longer be able to enjoy his work.
There were no sacred cows in the magazine; it parodied religion, politics and even the French themselves.
I listened to the comments of Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre, and he seemed to indicate he would have a problem with content from such a magazine being published here.
Is this man the self-appointed censor in Ireland?
Freedom means responsibility
In the wake of the terrorist killings in Paris the right to ‘freedom of expression’ has been heralded repeatedly, which strikes me as one of the Western world’s enduring myths.
We have never had to be more careful about what we say, rightly or wrongly, and mindful of ethnicity, gender, social background, sexual orientation, disability, colour and beliefs. At what point does ‘freedom of expression’ slide into offensive behaviour, defamation, blasphemy and downright racism? The atrocity in Paris must be condemned. However, satirists and cartoonists should not go so far as to intentionally offend, insult or incite people of other creeds and beliefs.
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, however, the exercise of this right carries with it duties and responsibilities. In a world increasingly divided between religious extremism, with Islamophobia and disaffected Muslim youth going off to fight in the Middle East, we need to respect people of other creeds, promote tolerance and build bridges – not destroy them.
Terenure, Dublin 6
Free speech is a human responsibility, it is not a privilege, and the primary responsibility inherent in free speech is to speak truthfully and fairly. This implies honesty and the willingness to hear the meaning of those with whom we engage in discourse and to learn from that discourse.
A healthy family, community or society treasures honesty and fairness in all matters above all else, because we do live together and our action or inaction affects each other and feeds into the future to affect the lives of people as yet unborn.
This responsibility is a constant. It is a fundamental human standard. It’s the very essence of healthy adult maturity.
Free Speech is therefore both a social and a personal responsibility, as well as a ‘response ability’; it contains within it the hearing out of the response to what one has uttered as part of its essence. Antagonism is not free speech, and is in general, an immature approach to discourse.
Tom Gilsenan rhymes “Inda and Lucinda” (Irish Independent Letters, 07.01.2015). Perhaps Inda will be at a ‘looseenda’ if Lucinda wins?
Reboot or a kickstart?
If Lucinda feels like a “reboot” she might be better advised just to buy herself a new pair of boots.
Coolock, Dublin 17
I know a number of people who would love to “reboot” the political system. Regrettably, it involves sudden and sharp applications of force to the posteriors of certain public figures.
Of course, this is a pipe dream, a term which might be applied to Lucinda Creighton’s new party. Announcing the formation of a new party with only Eddie Hobbs and John Leahy in support was not impressive. Eddie Hobbs is better known as a financial journalist/advisor rather than a politician. John Leahy is apparently a county councillor but can hardly be described as a household name. This is not an inspiring start for a new party, nor is the news that €1m is being sought to enable the party to fight the forthcoming election.
Name and address with editor
Solving the crisis in A&E
I am a nurse in one of the country’s large regional hospitals and I believe there is a simple, cost-effective solution Health Minister Leo Varadkar could implement to help reduce hospital admissions and improve medical care.
Every day a significant number of elderly patients are referred from nursing homes to Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments, in particular those suffering with pneumonia and other respiratory ailments and severe urinary tract infections. These patients are typically referred to hospital having been seen and diagnosed by a GP. In almost all cases their key medical requirement is for intravenous antibiotics and intravenous fluids to be administered for a short period. However, sending these patients to A&E means taking elderly, vulnerable people out of a warm familiar environment and into busy and at times chaotic hospitals.
This could be avoided if nursing staff in long-stay facilities were trained to cannulate patients – a simple procedure that would mean intravenous antibiotics and intravenous fluids could be administered in nursing homes, in their own beds, under the care of a medical doctor.
Nursing home staff are medical professionals who are also familiar faces to nursing home residents – making for a less frightening experience for patients. I have no doubt that putting this relatively simple change into practice would mean recovery times would be much quicker for patients whose medical treatment would be a safer and a less daunting experience.