24 January 2015 Sharland
Mary a little better she could manage to get up for breakfast. Sharland and Susan from Emergency Care comes to call.
Satirical cartoonist whose spidery illustrations captured the ‘venom and anger’ he felt for the modern age
Martin Honeysett, who has died aged 71, was a leading satirical cartoonist and illustrator with an acerbic sense of humour and a gift for the gag.
During a career spanning four decades Honeysett worked for magazines and newspapers including, among others, Punch, The New Statesman, Private Eye, The Oldie, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer, providing instantly recognisable spidery cartoons which seemed to encapsulate all the casual cruelty, greed and stupidity of the modern age. As he once explained, he tried to include “venom and anger” in his cartoons: “I’ve always enjoyed the darker, blacker humour.”
The journalist Libby Purves once confessed that at one stage her home life seemed to be summed up by a Honeysett cartoon of a woman in curlers slumped in a chair surrounded by pizza boxes, remote controls and bottles. At the door, her husband is saying: “And another thing – that lifestyle guru of yours is a bloody waste of money.” In another cartoon, an obese mother in too-tight clothes, clutching pint and fag, leans out of the pub to tell her two delinquent offspring, “We’re going home soon. Go and nick a car.”
It is said that cartoonists often end up looking like their drawings, which might have caused Honeysett concern, as his characters – from moth-eaten grannies in wrinkled stockings, slippers and curlers, to slobbish youths with multiple piercings, baseball caps askew and falling-down jeans – had a tendency to sag in all the wrong places. In fact Honeysett was nothing like his illustrations, remaining trim and fit and continuing to enjoy regular dips in the sea near his home in Hastings into his late sixties.
Martin Honeysett was born in Hereford on May 20 1943 and brought up in Croydon. After education at Selhurst Grammar School he spent a year at Croydon School of Art.
He then worked briefly in a London animation studio and in a factory in Manchester before emigrating, in 1962, to New Zealand, where he had a variety of jobs from lumberjack to stage hand for New Zealand Ballet. After a further few years in Canada he returned to Britain in 1968 and worked as a bus driver while drawing cartoons in his spare time.
After initial rejections, Honeysett sold his first cartoon to the Daily Mirror in 1969 and by 1972 his work was in such demand that he was able to give up the day job.
As well as newspaper and magazine work he illustrated several books for adults and children, including Sue Townsend’s The Queen and I; Dick King-Smith’s H. Prince and Farmer Bungle Forgets; Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys and Girls by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and a series of poetry books by the humorist Ivor Cutler. In addition he published several collections of his own cartoons, including The Joy of Headaches: How to Survive the Sexual Revolution; Fit for Nothing: How to Survive the Health Boom and Micro Phobia: How to Survive Your Computer.
One of Martin Honeysett’s cartoons in the Spectator in 2002
Honeysett won awards at cartoon festivals in Europe and Japan, and his cartoons and paintings appeared in exhibitions at public galleries such as Chris Beetles in St James’s. Examples of his work are held in public collections including the Cartoon Art Trust and the V&A.
From 2005 he spent two years as a visiting professor at Kyoto Seika University, the only institution in the world to have a cartoon faculty.
In 1970 Martin Honeysett married Maureen Lonergan. The marriage was dissolved in 1988 and he is survived by a son and a daughter. Another son predeceased him.
Martin Honeysett, born May 20 1943, died January 21 2015
I was grateful that, due to the first in, last out filing system in my rucksack, I read Jonathan Jones’s piece (Under the influence, G2, 21 January) after viewing the new Rubens exhibition at the Royal Academy, even though I agree somewhat with his conclusions. But given Jones’ strongly independent thinking on the exhibition, and his strident point that it had just six major Rubenses, it’s surprising that there was no mention of the elephants that weren’t in the room.
One obvious reason that, on entering the first room, his “eyes fell on a painting by John Constable” is that the Rubens landscape for that room hasn’t arrived from Leningrad, along with at least two others. We are probably never going to know whether the delay (at least I hope it’s a delay) has been caused at a low or high level, but it’s not hard to imagine that Russians, on constantly being told by western politicians how they are toughening sanctions against Russia, might not be responding with enthusiasm to loans to a British institution with such a regal cachet. At the very least, the absences told me that ascribing enthusiasm for Rubens’s landscapes as “German” was another over-simplification of this exhibition. But perhaps a wider message is intended.
• Frank Landamore (Letters, 23 January) calls for innovative printing and wireless technology to solve the problem of reading small, badly positioned captions in art galleries. Such technology already exists. It’s called a booklet. At the National Gallery’s recent Rembrandt exhibition, I was handed a small, free book that reproduced the captions in perfectly legible, large script.
Peter Hain’s idea of “outflanking” the Greens betrays a misunderstanding of what green politics is about (Report, 23 January). Green politics is not a more radical version of labourism, but a different politics altogether. Labour (old and new) will argue that economic growth is the solution to all our problems. Greens argue that continued growth in a country like ours, far from being a source of wellbeing and a solution to inequality, is an obstacle to them both. Growth threatens wellbeing by dismantling the ecological and social webs that bind us together and justifies inequality on the grounds that the bigger the cake, the more crumbs will fall from the table. Climate change is a sign of the catastrophic strain that mainstream politics has put us under. That’s why a vote for the Green party is a fundamentally different vote to one for Labour – however bold on tax and spending Labour turns out to be.
Professor Andrew Dobson
• I love the utopian dreams of the Green party and, just like John Harris (The Green surge, G2, 22 January), applaud their “audacity of hope”. Dreams are all very well, but it is having a working Commons majority that allows them to implement their programme. If the Greens want to have the power of office, as opposed to the liberty of perpetual opposition, they will need to get used to the grubby business of government, probably as part of a coalition. In reality, this will mean having to accept policies and actions that go against the green ideology, imposed by a dominant Labour party. Those wedded to green idealism should also look at history and see that insurgent parties will, inevitably, be co-opted by the elite. This happened to Labour, originally founded to be a voice of the trade unions. Do not assume that the Green leadership will be any different.
Some 77% of British Jews say that they have witnessed antisemitism disguised as a political comment about Israel. As if to prove the point, Friday’s letters page was a neatly arranged showcase of claims that our organisation is secretly an Israeli front and our polling on antisemitism was “flawed” or even concocted specially to “dovetail” with the policies of the Israeli government. Ours was not the only polling to lay bare the rising tide of antisemitism. Polling aside, 2014 was the worst year on record for antisemitic incidents. Why can some of your readers not accept the facts for what they are and address the very real problem of antisemitism, rather than supposing in spite of the evidence that it is a fiction, or that it does exist but would cease to if Jews supported Israel less? Jewish concerns must not be silenced by conspiracy theorists railing about Israel.
Chairman, Campaign Against Antisemitism
I profoundly disagree with Sam Wollaston’s review of the BBC’s production of Wolf Hall (22 January). Unlike Mr Wollaston, I’ve read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Despite Hilary Mantel’s irritating habit of referring to Cromwell only as “he” – a practice which she modified in Bring Up the Bodies, by occasionally referring to him as “He, Cromwell”, in order to clarify who was thinking or speaking, I have enjoyed both books.
Not so with the first TV episode. The BBC may have spent a fortune on the costumes and actors and gone to great lengths to shoot the whole thing in candlelight, but the script is incredibly clunky. Too much wooden explanation is included, so that, for example, when one courtier tells another that Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother, boasted after his wedding night with Queen Katharine of Aragon that “he had spent the whole night in Spain”, he then explains limply that the queen was Spanish. Everyone at court knew that and so, I imagine, do most people watching the programme. The majority of English people have some idea about Henry VIII’s wives. An equally clunky explanation is offered concerning the influence of Katharine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Though this is less likely to be known to the audience, the explanation could have been woven more subtly into the conversation. I’m not sure I can bear to watch any more episodes.
Anne Dart Taylor
• Mark Rylance’s depiction of Thomas Cromwell as a soulful, family-centred, introspective, silently suffering spectator is totally removed from the ferocious tiger who set up a proto-Nazi regime in England. He created a cult of leader worship, tortured the innocent young men round Anne Boleyn to get false accusations, leading to her death, set up a black propaganda campaign to undermine the monasteries, led a vile process against the religious who tried to cling to their ancient faith, subjected the simple Carthusians to an agonising death, destroyed the noblest Englishman (Thomas More) because he would not conform to Cromwell’s Führerprinzip.
He had absorbed the brutal cynicism of Machiavelli during his 12 years in Italy and applied this realpolitik in London. Miss Mantel is not the first bluestocking to fall for a nasty, cruel man of power: her portrait of Cromwell needs to be balanced against the facts of history.
• Sam Wollaston does an injustice to Hilary Mantel by emphasising the sheer volume of her books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. They are the most accessible historical novels I have ever read: the reader is plunged literally from the first page to the last in the machinations and intrigue of Henry’s court. They are so immediate that it makes it very difficult to return to this century.
The first episode of this great BBC adaptation was a masterpiece of superlative acting, staging and involvement. I have still imprinted on my retina the sheer poignancy of Grace with her angel wings and how she suddenly disappeared in a breath of air from Cromwell’s sight. The whole performance was understated and human, so dust off those books and revel in their mastery.
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
• I am confused and not a little appalled that if the mainstream parties are being rejected, like Thomas Cromwell by comparison with Thomas More, people are turning to Ukip. Holbein did not portray More with a metaphorical cigarette in his mouth. He does not fit the modern world, nor the ignoble alternatives that people have turned to. Cromwell may, as Martin Kettle writes (Cromwell the fixers’ fixer: a role model for our times, 23 January), give some hope to mainstream party politicians (wrong party, though). But surely if people admire him it is how we admire a villain and an outsider. However, no cigarette for Cromwell either. It is just so good to have an antidote to four months of electioneering – pity it isn’t so long.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
• If, like Sam Wollaston, you lack either time or inclination to face the “executioners blocks” of the Wolf Hall tomes, there are always digested reads in the form of nursery rhymes. There are those who think I Had a Little Nut Tree relates the visit of Katherine of Aragon to the Tudor court, that Old Mother Hubbard is Cardinal Wolsey with Henry as the dog chasing the bone of divorce, and that Humpty Dumpty represents his grace’s subsequent fall. London Bridge is Falling Down may also chart the decline of Anne Boleyn in the second part of the story, though, to be fair, each rhyme may have alternative interpretations.
• Apparently the production has strayed from its otherwise impeccable historical accuracy and has shrunk the male actors’ codpieces so as not to offend American viewers. Does this mean that while it is a good thing to publish images offensive to Muslims, we must on no account broadcast images offensive to Americans?
Sir, Mark Rylance is a brilliant actor but his historical knowledge is out of date (“Politics needs a new Cromwell, says Rylance”, Jan 20). The old argument that the English Reformation was a royal response to grassroots anti-Catholicism is not sustainable. A wave of revisionist historians has provided ample evidence that the Reformation was not “England demanding the right to choose its own course” but a top-down imposition on a largely unwilling populace, whose loyalty to the old religion continued in spite of increasingly draconian legislation and punishment.
One dramatic example of popular feeling was the Pilgrimage of Grace, when several English counties, angered by liturgical changes and by the dissolution of the monasteries, rose in rebellion against the crown, demanding negotiation and a halt to reform. Only the cynical duplicity of Henry and Cromwell prevented the success of that uprising, which was followed by brutal reprisals against the king’s subjects. I think that we can do without that brand of dictatorial “pragmatism”.
Lower Bebington, Wirral
Sir, Andrew Billen (Television, Jan 22) is right to praise the excellence of Mark Rylance’s performance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC production of Wolf Hall. But when he remarks that “a few deft scenes with his family establish him as a man stubbornly unbrutalised by his father’s violence” and goes on to wonder where Cromwell’s grief at the death of his wife and daughters will take him, we should remind ourselves that Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell is a work of fiction inserted into a drama that purports to be historical.
What we do know, from plentiful contemporary sources, is that Cromwell was a ruthless thug who, to gain his own ends and those of his king, bribed, blackmailed, suborned, threatened and corrupted people and placed spies in the households of court servants. There is no evidence at all that he was abused in any way by his father, nor that he was a fond husband and sensitive proto-feminist parent who encouraged his daughters to learn Latin and Greek.
Oddly enough, Thomas More was such a parent, but that is one of many facts that Mantel has suppressed, introducing instead anecdotes about More that are completely made up. By all means let us admire a fine acting performance but let us not confuse the play or the novel with anything like the historical truth.
Sir, Andrew Billen’s review of Wolf Hall does only half the job. Yes, the BBC adaptation is very good. But he omits any comparison with the adaptation done on the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014. The RSC’s version had far more pace than the BBC’s offering as it contained a series of often very short scenes that elided rapidly into each other, thus producing a more engrossing narrative. The wings of the theatre also enabled Cromwell to play in the shadows. Both adaptations do justice to the underlying books, but the RSC’s is the more engrossing of the two.
Sir, I was surprised that no cleric in Wolf Hall wore the tonsure. This was only formally abandoned following Pope Paul VI’s 1972 Apostolic Letter, Ministeria Quaedam.
Sir, Ben Macintyre’s excellent article (Jan 23) fails to mention one crucial piece of scientific history. At the end of the Second World War Churchill threw away a chance for Britain to lead the way in the development of computers by disbanding the team at Bletchley Park and ordering the computers themselves to be destroyed. Tom Flowers, who built Colossus, went back to his telephone work, and although Alan Turing wanted Flowers to work with him on computers he was not allowed to reveal why Flowers was the right man for the job. So Flowers stayed with the GPO.
To this day, even many textbooks (let alone popular accounts) fail to mention that Colossus, Flowers’s brainchild, was the first electronic programmable computer — a genuine Turing machine.
Piddinghoe, E Sussex
Sir, I can remember having my feet measured at school, and was very proud to be the only boy with feet large enough to qualify for extra coupons (“Dictator Churchill”, letters, Jan 23). My mother, on the other hand, was horrified at the thought of the expense. I never did get the shoes.
Sir, Fifty-five years ago my first baby was born in Sydney. We had only lived there a few months and were shocked when my husband had to leave me at the door of the hospital (“It’s official: men really shouldn’t be at the birth”, Jan 21). I lay for hours on my own in a small room, with nurses occasionally checking me, until I needed help at the actual birth. The temperature was 104F (40C) that day and continued to rise over subsequent days; the babies were bathed in tepid water to keep them cool through the days and nights (no fans or air conditioning).
Although my beloved husband was with me when our other three babies were born, the one person I longed for 55 years ago was my mother.
Sir, Like most fathers nowadays I was present at my son’s birth, and while this was an amazing experience, both my wife and I later confided in each other that, for all the positives, we had had exactly the same creeping doubt in the labour ward: there is a point during childbirth where — particularly as a helpless and useless bystander — one realises that a male presence in the room feels somehow out of place, like an unwelcome intruder gazing on some ancient rite whose mysteries will always remain alien to the uninitiated, and whose presence offends the goddess.
Sir, How would Oliver Kamm (The Pedant, Jan 17) interpret the triple negative, as used in Norfolk and Suffolk? Last week I was pleased to hear again “No, they hint got narthin.” Confusing young people, whose knowledge of grammar is fairly minimal nowadays, is surely preferable to the loss of such picturesque colloquialisms.
Sir, The Grocer’s report on falling marmalade sales may not be a true reflection of the preserve’s popularity (“Marmalade is toast at home,” Jan 22). I would venture that the homemade variety is on the rise. But what recipe to try each January? In our household at least, this question often results in Seville war.
Emeritus professor, University of South Wales
SIR – Graham Allen, the Labour MP for Nottingham North, says that compulsory voting is on the agenda. The logic of his argument is that responsibility for disengagement with politics lies not with the political class but, rather, with voters who have the temerity not to be gulled into legitimising whatever politicians choose to do.
The idea that voting under the duress of criminal sanctions will recapture public interest is bizarre. It is yet another example of the deepening divide between ruled and rulers.
SIR – Claiming that compulsory voting would make us appreciate politics more is like saying that if we had been made to watch those terrible B movies of the Fifties and Sixties, we would have learnt to love them.
SIR – The right to vote is a privilege. I have exercised that right ever since I became eligible. Make it compulsory, and I will not vote.
Compulsory voting would turn a privilege that must be cherished into nothing more than an irritation like buying a television licence.
Then, how on earth would an apparently overstretched police force bring to justice the numbers of those who did not vote?
The politicians must give us something to vote for, become visible in the community, earn our support and loyalty. Surely the turnout in the Sottish referendum demonstrates that point.
The fight for the right to vote was long and hard, but it was not a fight for the Government to be able to tell us that we must vote.
SIR – Graham Allen is right to be concerned about the disengagement with politics that exists at the moment. As a result of this, undesirable regimes could gain power.
Such, however, is the sense of self-importance of politicians that one of their answers is compulsory voting. It is not clear to me how corralling an unwilling populace into the polling booths would remove the current disillusionment.
It would be much better if efforts were aimed at the root of the problem itself, but politicians seem unwilling to do this, as they are, in fact, part of that problem.
SIR – During a general election in India, there is a public holiday to ensure that everybody gets a chance to vote.
If we adopted that system, with the proviso that it would be a working day for any non-voters, I am sure voting numbers would improve.
Britain’s foreign aid
SIR – The House of Lords will today debate a private member’s Bill designed to entrench in law a government commitment to spend at least 0.7 per cent of national income on aid. The Bill has the backing of the three big national political parties. However, it is against both the national interest, and, ultimately, the interests of people in poor countries.
This proposal was considered in detail by the Lords Economic Affairs Committee in 2012. The committee, including representatives of the Left, Right and centre, unanimously came down against legislating for the 0.7 per cent target. We said it would “deprive future governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at home and abroad”; that it “wrongly prioritises the amount spent rather than the result achieved”; that “the speed of the planned increase risks reducing the quality, value for money and accountability of the aid programme”; and that “it increases the risk that aid will have a corrosive effect on local political systems”.
Even before such a target has become law, the Government shoved money out the door to meet the 0.7 per cent. The National Audit Office said this risked “missed opportunities to get the best outcomes from this spending”.
The Bill needs to be defanged.
Lord Lawson of Blaby
Don’t waste drugs
SIR – My husband, who has cancer, has also had to abandon many drugs due to the changing nature of the disease. Fortunately, we have found a charity that will take medicine in complete strips (and in the manufacturer’s box). Inter Care, based in Leicester, is grateful for these and its newsletter details how the medication is put to good use in different African countries. GP surgeries can choose to be collection points for this scheme.
Problem with Page 3
Image from the No More Page 3 Facebook campaign page
SIR – I take no offence at the naked form, indiscriminate of gender. I would call myself a fan of Barbara Windsor. The issue I take with Page 3 is that it promotes damaging ideas on how men and women should view each other.
Children grow up believing that, because daddy likes it, the photo represents the perfect woman. Such a portrayal, rooted in sexism and ageism, and spread out not exclusively on the top shelves of newsagents but in a popular newspaper, makes this depiction a kind of acceptable norm.
In a world where too many women are cruelly condemned for seeking an education and role as something other than a sex object, I think valuing cyphers with pouts in place of voices does nothing but demean the argument for equality.
I hope that Stephen Bayley (“Page 3: a victory for the joyless”) is never in a position where society judges him on his private parts in the name of British bawdiness.
SIR – Although not a reader of The Sun, I was pleased to learn that feminist bullying has not prevailed and Page 3 has been restored to meet Sun readers’ expectations.
Why should the editorial policy of any newspaper be dictated by a vociferous minority, the majority of whom, I suspect, don’t even read that paper?
If there was anything to which I strongly objected published in the Telegraph, I would simply cancel my subscription.
No Right to Buy
SIR – The Right to Buy scheme being pushed (again) by Conservative Cabinet ministers can only mean there is another general election on the way.
The sale of publicly owned homes designated specifically for people on low incomes cannot be justified. There is a severe shortage of this type of housing, and the number of people on housing lists is increasing. The subsequent building of new council houses has never matched Right to Buy sales.
Many of the ex-council homes have become lucrative rental businesses for the buyers – often rented back to councils and housing associations. And where does HM Revenue and Customs stand with respect to Right to Buy discounts of up to £102,700?
The system stinks.
SIR – Congratulations to Allister Heath (“A council house giveaway could be the Tories’ game-changer”) for another brilliant idea for the politicians.
Giving poor households a proportion of the equity in the property they occupy is surely the right way to build responsible home ownership. That, in turn, does much to build family and community cohesion. Everyone is a winner, and the state withdraws a bit further from an area that it should not be involved in: handing out income support grants and subsidising private rents.
Preserving a piece of Britain’s Cold War heritage
SIR – In your obituary of the great philanthropist Sir Jack Hayward you mention the support he gave to the restoration of the SS Great Britain. He was also instrumental in saving the project to restore the Vulcan bomber XH558 to flight.
In 2006, when the programme was in danger of collapsing for lack of funds, I was enlisted by the trust’s then chairman, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Knight, to help raise some cash.
I approached a few wealthy Thatcherite Tories, including Sir Jack Hayward, to whom I pointed out that the Vulcan had served in the Cold War as the carrier of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, before the role switched to submarines, and that it had only once been deployed in anger, during the Falklands campaign. What connected the Cold War and the Falklands? Margaret Thatcher.
Fired up, I made an impassioned plea for funds to save the project, and the jobs of those working on it.
Late one night, I received a call from Sir Jack who said: “So sorry to hear those chaps are about to lose their jobs – count me in for half a million.” The project was saved and the iconic Vulcan continues to star on the airshow circuit.
A great patriot, he wasn’t known as “Union” Jack Hayward for nothing.
Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Con)
The aesthetic advantages of the one-eyed glass
Fisheye lens: an early 20th-century colour lithograph of piscine trends in fashion (www.bridgemanart.com)
SIR – My local branch of Specsavers has twice been able to fill my two monocles (which I procured from antiques fairs) with prescription lenses.
A monocle is very useful for avoiding tan lines on one’s face in sunny climes, when on the deck of a cruise ship or in the garden reading the Saturday Telegraph in summer. My second monocle has a dark tinted prescription lens and, I confess, can give a me slight appearance of a villain in Indiana Jones, but is indispensable when reading on a sunny day at sea.
The idea of a contact lens is something I can’t even contemplate – it would be grit in my eye as far as I am concerned.
St Mary Bourne, Hampshire
SIR – In 1989, I was learning to fly and at my medical was diagnosed as being short-sighted only in my right eye.
When piloting an aircraft, if you need glasses, by law you have to take two pairs of spectacles with you.
In an effort at humour, I bought one pair and a monocle (“Monocles are for madmen”). The monocle was fitted with a photochromic lens, which darkens on exposure to light.
My flying instructor was somewhat nonplussed when I turned up for my last lesson before my first solo, on a bright sunny day, wearing a monocle, the lens of which was almost black.
Killing it online
SIR – I have a minor heart condition so, naturally, I have been searching the web for information.
Now all my pop-up ads are for insurance cover for funeral expenses.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – A hand-painted sign outside a farm on a busy 50mph road in Oxfordshire reads: “Slow down! Don’t kill more peacocks.” I have never killed a peacock and I don’t know the speed below which an impact with a Land Rover would be non-fatal. Less signage, more fencing?
Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire
Globe and Mail:
Rate the cut
Name five internationally recognized Canadian brands that are manufactured in Canada. It’s harder than you think – and the absence of a quick answer makes the Bank of Canada’s rate cut look like closing the barn doors long after the horses have bolted (Wanted: All-Perils Insurance Coverage – editorial, Jan. 22).
It’s a pity, because in our nearly 150-year history the wealth and stability of the past decade was likely our best opportunity to move from resources into a value-added economy. Fingers crossed for whatever happens next.
Peter Smith, Calgary
The oil-price reduction that triggered the rate cut by the Bank of Canada has a far greater effect on the vote than the rate cut itself (Poloz Cushions The Blow For Harper Conservatives – Jan. 22).
The “reverse Dutch disease” under way – oil price down, so dollar down – primarily helps Ontario, where the swing seats are. Alberta would vote Conservative at $20 oil. It is ironic that a major slowdown in the industry that is championed by the Conservatives as Canada’s economic engine could get them re-elected.
Michael Margolick, Burnaby, B.C.
Laughter’s dark side
Re Quebec’s Take On Blackface (Jan. 22): La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé defends the use of blackface, arguing that “the detestable minstrelsies that used to portray stereotypical and generic versions of blacks as dimwitted … are not as well known in French Quebec.” I agree completely: Ignorance is the reason why blackface is still accepted here. Simon Fanning, Montreal
Hiding behind a culture of ignorance is the last thing Charlie Hebdo would have done.
Cultural codes and taboos may differ from people to people, but if you’ve unknowingly offended an entire culture the right thing to do is apologize, unless you just don’t care. Quebeckers may or may not be largely unaware of the historical insult that goes along with blackface, but if so, it’s time we learned.
Michael Ashby, Montreal
Re Defence Of Blackface In Quebec Feels Hollow (Life & Arts, Jan. 21): I thought it was a joke, but Globe and Mail theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck was serious when he described “that kind of racist portrayal of a hockey player” (P.K. Subban) in the year-end comedy show Revue et corrigée presented in Montreal. I saw the show and I didn’t see anything racist in it.
It was a clin d’œil to P.K., who is a real hero here. That’s why he was portrayed in that revue de l’année.
But, as we could see with the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, it seems humour is a very delicate matter in the ROC.
Pierre Trottier, Montreal
Blackface is outrageously offensive. I notice that P.K. Subban has not exactly leaped to the defence of the actors in the revue.
Maybe he was too busy watching clips of fans in blackface and afro wigs at an NHL game in Montreal in 2010, or a banana getting thrown at Kevin Weekes in 2002 at the Bell Centre in Montreal during the playoffs? Hard to say.
Christopher Price, Toronto
‘Cruel and unusual’
Re Solitary Confinement Should Be Rare (editorial, Jan. 22): Much ink has recently been spilled over solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. But I have yet to read specific commentary about the 1976 decision of the Federal Court in the McCann case. This decision declared confinement in the Special Correction Unit (SCU) of the B.C. Penitentiary, long since demolished, as “cruel and unusual” punishment, contrary to the Canadian Bill of Rights.
In short, such solitary confinement was unconstitutional.
The trial, which I attended, took place in New Westminster in 1975, well before the Charter. The SCU conditions at issue involved lengthy confinement (the longest continuous period was 754 days for one inmate) in an 11-foot by six-foot windowless, poorly ventilated cell for 23.5 hours per day, with continuous lighting and no outside exercise. There were other dehumanizing aspects of the incarceration. Sound familiar?
If such conditions were unconstitutional pre-Charter, they surely must be unconstitutional post-Charter. Have we forgotten our legal history?
Vincent Orchard, Burnaby, B.C.
Yes, some investors and businesses create jobs (1-Per-Cent Solutions – letters, Jan. 22). And in economic down times, they cut them, with no thought to the larger economy or the people they employ. Some businesses are efficient and make good decisions, others crash and burn.
But investors, businesses and the rich don’t build roads, staff hospitals, or provide policing, all of which cost tax dollars. In these areas and many others, governments can make better use of my money than the 1 per cent – with the added bonus that I have an opportunity every few years to fire them if I don’t like what they’re doing with my money.
Linda Bondoc, Calgary
The game’s afoot
Twirls and selfies?
If Eugenie Bouchard is serious about wanting to improve her game, I can think of two things she could give up right now (Bouchard Advances And Dances Down Under – Sports, Jan. 22).
Christopher Grounds, Burlington, Ont.
Put (un)paid to it
I find it laughable that American interests are looking for compensation from Cuba for property lost in a social revolution (The Rapid Thaw – Folio, Jan. 21).
Did America compensate Britain for all the investments and property English business interests lost in North America after the 1776 revolution? Did the French aristocrats of 1789 (those who survived) get compensation from the French state for their seized estates? Did émigré Russians get compensation from the Soviet Union after the 1917 revolution? No!
It’s ludicrous for the U.S. and U.S. businesses (Office Depot, if you can imagine!) to expect to be compensated for what Cuba saw and still sees as the just deserts of social revolution after decades of unabashed American exploitation. But the U.S. has always seen itself as special, that the normal processes of social revolution and other people gaining independence shouldn’t apply to it – an attitude of “specialness” still prominent in its interpretation of free-trade agreements.
Hágase verdadero (Get real)!
W. E. Hildreth, Toronto
Grannies know best
Unlike Lucy Waverman’s granny, who put beef in her shepherd’s pie, my Scottish granny made hers using lamb (For Shepherd’s Pie, Granny Knows Best – Life & Arts, Jan. 21). When my gran made pies with beef, she called them “cowboy pie.”
On the other hand, maybe the canny shepherds Ms. Waverman references stole a calf from the neighbour rather than sacrificing a sheep that they were pledged to protect.
Gordon Duncan, Claremont, Ont.
Sir, – It is regrettable that on the same day Government published details of its proposed marriage equality referendum in the Dáil, Joan Burton introduced its Gender Recognition Bill to the Seanad (“Tánaiste says recognition of transgender identity a sign of growing maturity”, January 22nd).
The Government proposes to grant the right to marry to same-sex couples while simultaneously proposing that transgender people be forced to divorce.
This is because its fears that giving gender recognition to trans people who are still married will lead to the introduction of same-sex marriage by the back door.
In the Dáil debate last year and in the Seanad recently, all the TDs and all but one of the Senators who spoke pointed out the Bill’s failings. The dissenting Senator did not seem to disagree with the others but merely expressed the hope that the faults in the legislation could be worked out in time. Nevertheless, Ms Burton ignores all of this and ploughs on regardless.
This Bill does nothing for the trans children who are already marginalised and bullied in our schools and in society. Trans children exist whether Government or indeed our society wants to acknowledge that fact.
Trans adults are required to get a psychiatrist or endocrinologist to confirm legally that they are who they say they are. Is this not reminiscent of the treatment of gay and lesbian people 30 years ago?
Most objectionable is the Bill’s forced divorce requirement. In Article 41 of our Constitution, the State guarantees to protect the family; it pledges to guard the institution of marriage.
There is no proviso in the Constitution that suggests these clauses should not apply if one of the spouses to a marriage is transgender! How does the State meet these constitutional obligations when demanding that trans people divorce to achieve recognition of their identity?
We are talking about forced divorce in a country where divorce did not even exist 20 years ago.
Trans voices have been largely ignored by Government in the preparation of this Bill which deals with our rights. Trans people represent a very small part of society but is that any reason why our rights should continue to be denied by Government?
It is truly historic that every Government TD and Senator support the right of same-sex couples to marry. But perhaps someone could then explain why each and every one of these politicians will also support the introduction of forced divorce for trans people. Government has already acknowledged that it is a human right of any person to have their gender legally recognised.
This right should not be contingent on a couple who do not want to get divorced being forced to do so.
Successive Governments have made trans people wait 21 years for legal recognition. Now that they have finally agreed to uphold our human rights, they attach conditions.
This Government should not feel pride with the introduction of this legislation. Instead, it should feel shame. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – John G O’Dwyer states that the lack of access to the Irish countryside “is not the problem” when it comes to attracting walking tourists (“We need to breathe new life into fading tourism in rural areas”, Opinion & Analysis, January 22nd). He then goes on to say: “Of course, it would help the development of walking tourism if access to the countryside could be improved”.
Talk about wanting it both ways.
His assertion that the closure of more than half the B&Bs around the country is the big problem for would-be hillwalkers is to put the cart before the horse. The B&Bs are closing for a variety of reasons but paramount amongst them is the small number of tourists walking Ireland’s hinterland. Why? Because there is no certainty as to where they can walk.
Nor does Ireland have the networks of paths, and pedestrian bridges or the choice of walking books or established routes to be found in every other European country. Why this lack? Because of uncertainty over access – an uncertainty born of political cowardice and narrow sectional interest.
A succession of governments, including that of self-declared hillwalker Enda Kenny, has continued to make a fetish of extreme property rights over the common good – the good not only of visiting tourists but our own citizens. A modest Bill by Labour backbencher Robert Dowds TD was introduced in the Dáil 20 months ago. It was designed to make establishing rights of public access easier. It is currently breathing its last having been quietly suffocated in the dark recesses of the Fine Gael-dominated Oireachtas environment committee.
Consider that and you will realise how wrong it is for Mr O’Dwyer to claim that legislating for change would be “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. After years of the “softly-softly” approach to farmers, it is becoming obvious that only a change in the law will suffice.
The looped walks established with the aid of Failte Ireland around the country are indeed welcome. But they are a tiny fraction of what is needed if we are to open the country for walkers and to make it possible for them, as many of them want to do, to walk from place to place. It is a sobering thought, but the small county of Hereford in England has almost as many free-to-walk miles as the Republic. Meanwhile, the whole of Scotland and most of Wales is open.
As for John O’Dwyer’s assertion that there are virtually no access problems here, Keep Ireland Open has dozens of disputed routes on its books. Close to my home here in the Glencree Valley in Co Wicklow, Dublin’s lungs, I can take him to six disputed long-standing routes within a couple of miles.
Ireland is not open for walking tourists. Until it is, tourism will continue to move to the towns. Or to countries more welcoming to walkers and cyclists. – Yours, etc,
Keep Ireland Open,
Glencree, Co Wicklow.