8 Febuary 2015 Better
Mary much better has three meals.
Suzanne Kyrle-Pope, who has died aged 93, was a naval daughter and became a naval wife; in almost half a century of globe-trotting she was besieged and bombed in Malta, made maps for the Normandy landings, took part in an opium raid in Singapore, and introduced Father Christmas to Bahraini children.
In a memoir, The Same Wife in Every Port (1998), she offered a unique record of life in a naval family at a time when Britain still had military bases around the world supporting the three Armed Services.
She was born Angela Suzanne Layton at Wolverhampton on February 1 1921. Her father, the future Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, KCMG, KCB, DSO, was, she recalled, popular with his men, but in his family life he was a martinet: “intolerant, severely critical and unapproachable, inspiring nothing but fear and dread”. Because Suzanne was the last of three daughters and not the son he had hoped for, he had no interest in her at all, and their encounters were usually unpleasant. After a perfunctory education in England, in 1938 Suzanne joined her family in Malta, where her father had been posted two years earlier as second-in-command of the Mediterranean fleet, in the rank of vice-admiral.
Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, KCMG, KCB, DSO
Malta at the time was teeming with British servicemen and there were parties every night. But the pleasures of an active social life were offset by her father’s hostility. “You’ll never get married, you know,” he told her; “you are too fat and ugly, and no one wants to marry a girl who can’t even play tennis.” In response Suzanne (who had inherited some of her father’s obstinacy) vowed to marry the first man who asked her — and she did, aged 19, in April 1940.
Her husband was an Army officer called John Parlby; her father gave his consent while expressing regret that she was marrying a “Pongo” (naval slang for a soldier). But the marriage was a mistake from the start. She had never been told the facts of life and had no idea what to expect. Their short honeymoon, spent on the Maltese island of Gozo, was an “unrelieved, fumbling failure”.
After the wedding, Suzanne’s mother returned to England, following her father who had been appointed to the Home Fleet. In June the Italian air force began the aerial bombardment of Malta, in which they were joined by the Luftwaffe from early 1941.
As an Army wife, Suzanne remained in Malta throughout the siege (which lasted until August 1942), working in the cipher office of Military Intelligence. As the attacks intensified, she had a narrow escape when she managed to dive off her bike into a ditch just as a Messerschmitt flew down the road, strafing it with bullets. On another occasion the Valletta hotel in which she was living was bombed and collapsed, blocking the entrance to a natural cave underneath, where the residents had taken refuge, and filling it with choking dust. They were rescued three hours later.
After the hotel bombing in Valletta
By the spring of 1942 Suzanne had had a miscarriage and, as food shortages and interrupted nights took their toll, she became unwell. In early August 1942 it was decided to evacuate wives who were ill in the Wellington bombers which were stopping in Malta at night to drop mail and medical supplies. She left for Cairo, from where she was evacuated to Britain by troopship round the Cape of Good Hope.
Back in England, while living with relations of her husband in Oxford, Suzanne joined a team at the Bodleian Library involved in topographical planning for the Normandy landings. Her job was to study photos brought in from RAF reconnaissance flights taken at low altitude along the Normandy coast and stick them together to make long panoramic views, annotating landmarks that could be recognised from landing craft. On D-Day each landing craft carried one of her panoramas.
Her husband had returned to Britain in early 1943, and the following year she had a daughter, Virginia. John Parlby crossed over to Normandy with the D-Day force but was wounded two days later. While he was recovering in hospital she learned that he had been having an affair. In 1945 he was posted to the British Army of Occupation in Germany.
While living with her parents in Malta, Suzanne had become fond of a young naval officer called Michael Kyrle-Pope, but he married someone else; and during the war Suzanne was told that he had been killed trying to escape from a PoW camp in Germany. So in September 1945 she was astonished to receive a telephone call from him, in which he told her that not only was he alive, but also that his marriage had broken down. His return was the “final straw” in the break-up of her first marriage.
Suzanne and Michael Kyrle-Pope on their wedding day
Their parting was amicable, her husband agreeing that Virginia should live with her; but when she told her father of her intention to get divorced the results were explosive. He disowned her, threatened to “smash” her new fiancé’s career and contrived to ensure that her husband would get custody of Virginia. When she and Kyrle-Pope married in 1947, the wedding was attended by many of his relations but none of hers. Later she discovered that at the time her father had been conducting affairs with two mistresses. “No words can ever express my feelings of disgust for my father and his cant and hypocrisy,” she wrote later.
During her second marriage, which produced another daughter and a son, Suzanne Kyrle-Pope followed her husband to postings in Gibraltar, the United States, Spain, Germany, the Gulf and the Far East where, in 1967, he was promoted to rear-admiral and appointed chief of staff to the C-in-C, Far East.
But she refused to be a typical Navy wife. Instead, withstanding the disapproval of stuffier expats, she immersed herself in local life. In Washington she worked as a shop assistant in a fashion store; in Germany she worked in displaced persons’ camps and persuaded Women’s Institutes back home to send presents for camp children for whom she arranged Christmas parties; in Singapore she became close friends with a Chinese orchid expert, visited servicemen in the psychiatric ward of the British military hospital and went on patrol with the Singapore Narcotics Bureau.
Her favourite posting, in the 1960s, was Bahrain, where she became a good friend of the Sheikh’s wife, organised a children’s library service, made friends with Arab merchants in the Suq and paid visits to Dubai (“an attractive old town built along two sides of a lagoon”) and Abu Dhabi (“a little primitive town on a promontory, with dirt roads, bordered by barasti huts”).
After her husband’s retirement from the Navy in 1970, they moved to Hertfordshire and later, in the 1990s, to the West Country to be near their daughter, Emma Leigh, whose husband Jonathan was then headmaster of Blundell’s School, Tiverton (he is now Master of Marlborough). There she entertained select groups of well-behaved Blundell’s pupils, known as her “tea boys”, to weekly tea parties, remaining in contact with many of them after they had left the school.
Michael Kyrle-Pope died in 2008, and she is survived by her son and two daughters.
Suzanne Kyrle-Pope, born February 1 1921, died December 23 2014
In the city of Brighton, Hove and Portslade on the south coast, we’ve had a Green-run council now for almost four years and to say it’s been a disaster is a slight understatement. (“Chaotic as they are, the Greens remind the main parties that vision matters”, Comment) There have been literally whole months when the rubbish hasn’t been collected, recycling rates have actually gone down and we are now faced with paying millions for a seafront vanity project called the i360 that very few residents actually want.
The Green group of councillors is riven by disagreement and the latest farce-like situation involves local Green party members voting to mandate their councillors to set an illegal budget, trying to force their own council leader to stand down and suggesting that this all be explained to voters by means of street theatre! To add insult to injury, we also have the local Green MP shamefully trying to distance herself from her own council colleagues.
A complete shambles that will be unceremoniously booted out this May in our local elections.
Health regulation is not ailing
Aseem Malhotra’s concern that Nice (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is being ‘‘compromised by pressure from a misguided, industry-friendly government” is misplaced (“Is Nice, our health regulator, fit for purpose?”, Comment).
He claims, citing “insiders”, that Nice’s independent advisory committees have been encouraged by ministers “to be more favourable to the drug and (medical) device industries”. They haven’t. Their job is to interpret the evidence in accordance with Nice’s published methods and to make the recommendations they consider the evidence supports. They don’t get paid for doing it. They do it because they want to get the best for people who use the health and social care system with the resources it has available. They respond to reasoned argument and they are not pushed around by anyone.
Dr Malhotra says: “Failure to regulate the drug and device industries is causing unfathomable damage to our health at great cost.” On the contrary, it’s because we have such a rigorous system for assessing new treatments that patients and the NHS have the best chance of being able to exercise informed choice in their care.
Sir Andrew Dillon
Chief executive, Nice
People need to study people
Last summer (Observer, 22 June 2014) saw an exchange of correspondence in your pages about the recently established A-level in anthropology and the immense educational value of the subject for young people. Last week, the awarding body responsible for the anthropology A-level, AQA, announced that it is to be discontinued.
The decision to discontinue the anthropology A-level is both short-sighted and premature. Anthropology is the only academic discipline to span the humanities and sciences and to offer deep insights into both our common humanity and the rich diversity of contemporary cultures and world views.
Former director, Royal Anthropological Institute
Vacant idea is utterly vacuous
The recent introduction of vacant building credit could have far-reaching and potentially catastrophic effects, both for jobs and for the provision of affordable homes in London.
Changes to planning guidance that encourage the development of empty buildings as homes would be welcomed, but this policy does not do that and risks permanently damaging the social mix of our capital city. It has created a perverse incentive for unscrupulous landlords and developers to evict existing tenants and could result in the loss of billions of pounds’ worth of affordable housing investment from developers.
It is now difficult to find anyone who supports the policy, with concerns expressed by London councils, planning experts and even major developers. Together, we represent all the major parties of London politics and are calling on housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis, to suspend immediately the planning guidance related to vacant building credit, pending a full independent impact assessment of the policy’s consequences for jobs and affordable housing in London.
Tessa Jowell MP Kevin Davis leader Kingston upon Thames council Ruth Dombey leader, Sutton council Peter John leader, Southwark council Jenny Jones AM (London Assembly member) Len Duvall AM
Schools do know pupils’ needs
Barbara Ellen’s piece (“Are we creating a lost generation with no prospects?”, Comment) tells only half of the story. No one should doubt the herculean efforts going on in most/all secondary schools. All pupils have detailed statistical records including the requirement to achieve three levels of progress. All sorts of intervention schemes are in action; homework clubs, booster classes after school and in holidays, mentoring schemes, close attention to attendance and lateness.
The factors affecting exam performance from outside the school are well known, but are studiously ignored by the present government. Therein is the problem and the solution.
David J Handley
Ruling out free higher education, Alan Ware (Letters, 6 February) talks about “how to best match the provision of education and training with the needs of an economy”. How about changing our economic hierarchies and elitist privileges to best match the needs of our citizens? This how we ended up with the former free higher education and mandatory student grant.
• Perhaps Herr Schäuble (Report, 6 February) should offer the 500 tax collectors to the UK government to collect from the wealthy?
• If you work beyond state pension age, you stop paying national insurance (Letters, 6 February). Why?
Barton on Humber, North Lincolnshire
Snapshot: Our annual fortnight’s holiday at Mr Veal’s
This photograph is of my family on holiday in Newquay, Cornwall in the 1970s outside Mr Veal’s bungalow, which we rented for two weeks at the start of every summer. It was always the same two weeks, as my dad worked as an aircraft electrician for Hawker Siddeley and the factory closed for the Leicestershire fortnight.
Mr Veal lived in the bungalow all year round including the summer holidays when he decamped to the attic while letting out the bungalow below. He must have taken the photograph.
I now know that Mum and Dad saved carefully throughout the year for this fortnight in the sun for us. My dad had a market stall on a Saturday as well as his main job and my mum, as was more typical in the 70s, didn’t work. She made most of our clothes, but sometimes they came “over the fence” from the girl next door when she’d outgrown them. My Bay City Rollers dungarees came to me this way.
In the picture, my top is covered with swimming badges dedicatedly sewn on by my mum, who also took my brother Stu and me most days to early morning swimming sessions with the Newquay swimming club so that when we got home we wouldn’t be behind with our training.
Nana always came on holiday with us as Grandad died when my mum was still in her teens. She loved the holidays as much as we did and although the rest of the family could all swim (and surf), she had never learned, so we always enjoyed having a paddle with her. She’d tuck her skirt into her knickers at the sides; something I do now myself if not suitably dressed, much to the embarrassment of my own children.
My children are now a couple of years older than Stu and I are in the photo and they have never been to Newquay, but we have similar beach holidays to the ones we enjoyed then. I hope that when they are my age, they will look back on their holidays as I do, with lots of happy memories.
Danger of domino effect if Greece is let off its debts
WHY put all the blame on Angela Merkel and the “Teutonic” attitude, as Camilla Cavendish calls it (“Have a heart, Mrs Merkel. After all, Berlin helped write this Greek tragedy”, Comment, last week)?
Germany is not the only country to think there must be limits. I have no doubt many people in the UK would think the same if they had to foot the endless bill.
I am not German but have lived in Germany for 35 years and raised a family here. I have worked and continue to work part-time — also because it is good for me — to subsidise my state pension.
If we go on subsidising cronyism, corruption and the sunbathers in Greece, more countries will follow. Portugal, Spain and others will be next. Moreover, we have no idea where the new Greek government is heading.
Ella de Vriend, Bonn, Germany
The article fails to recognise that we cannot conjure money out of air or claim debts entered into by past governments are no longer our responsibility, which appears to be what the Syriza party in Greece and Podemos in Spain want.
Austerity is a necessary fact of all our lives. It is true that Greece should not have joined the euro, as it is not competitive, but that again was a freely taken decision by the Greeks.
A stable exchange rate such as that provided by the euro is, however, a huge benefit to countries — mainly in northern Europe — that are able to compete and are willing to exercise the necessary discipline over their spending.
This is not a benefit that we in the UK have shared as we have experienced fluctuations in our exchange rate against that of our main partner.
Peter Howard, Haslemere, Surrey
HOME AND AWAY
It was refreshing to read a piece echoing the arguments and logic we Greeks have had to adopt in our plight. I am 23 and lucky enough to have moved to Britain in time not to be affected by the situation in Greece. When I go home I leave feeling depressed and disheartened. My friends have been advised to give up further education as there will be no jobs for them in their chosen fields; they work as baristas and waitresses.
We desperately need structural reforms there that can’t be achieved with our hands tied behind our back. I sit firmly centre-right — a card-carrying Tory and a former council candidate — but I think I would have voted for Syriza.
Amy Yiannitsarou, London N13
Full marks to Cavendish for her defence of the Greeks. Germany was itself twice bailed out last century when facing financial ruin and should now do the decent thing by Greece, which, after all, accounts for less than 2% of the EU economy. The moral case is unarguable.
John Davie, London W3
Frustration at fighting a losing battle
CONGRATULATIONS on your feature on Diana Gabaldon’s works and recent screen success (“Lights, camera, inaction”, Focus, last week).Her period of choice, Scotland’s rich Jacobean history, has much to commend it and certainly no shortage of material. If the forthcoming television series has done her books justice, it will make excellent viewing indeed.
Interestingly, however, you compare the work with Game of Thrones, the production that has brought nearly half a billion pounds worth of prosperity to Northern Ireland in the absence of suitable studio facilities in Scotland. There can be no greater irony then, with Outlander about to burst on to British screens, that the site of the 1745 battle of Prestonpans, where Gabaldon’s Lord John Grey character features prominently, is under imminent threat from ill-conceived development. Doubly so when this battle site actually overlooks Cockenzie power station, one of the largest, most versatile covered spaces in Europe, moreover one undergoing part-decommissioning. However, in the current climate, it looks less likely now that generating will ever resume at the site as had been the plan.
If ever there was a hand to glove situation, then surely this is it. Just how can a supposedly tourist-friendly local authority ignore the Gabaldon phenomenon that has seen tour companies inundated with bookings elsewhere, and choose instead the desecration of the mostly English graves at the battle site, moreover one that gave voice to a verse in the British national anthem no less? It simply beggars belief.
David Ostler, Steering committee, Coastal Regeneration Alliance, Longniddry, East Lothian
Fast-track airports expansion to boost UK
THE Airports Commission has completed its final consultation on options for the expansion of UK airports. We back the commission’s work but are concerned that unless politicians act swiftly on its recommendations, our economy could lose out to the tune of billions of pounds in trade and investment.
This debate isn’t just about where we lay 3,000 metres of concrete for a runway; it is about how we secure Britain’s future economic prosperity. The inescapable fact is that the UK trades 20 times more with countries with which we have a direct air link, and that 40% of our exports by value go by air.
Our global competitors won’t wait for us. By 2036 the world’s main cities are likely to have built more than 50 new runways, providing an additional 1bn passenger journeys a year. China alone will have constructed 17 new runways, and the airport at the new Dubai World Central development will provide more capacity than all London’s air terminals combined.
We believe that before the general election the political parties should commit themselves in their manifestos to a quick decision on airports expansion, guided by the commission’s final recommendation, for the good of the country.
George Weston, Associated British Foods; Paul Kelly, Selfridges; Baroness Jo Valentine, London First; John Stewart, Legal & General Group; Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP; Sir George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf Group; Mark Preston, Grosvenor; Richard Solomons, InterContinental Hotels Group; Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset Management; Robert Elliott, Linklaters; Victor Chavez, Thales UK; David Sleath, Segro; Nick Roberts, Atkins;Surinder Arora, Arora Holdings; Heather Lishman, ABPCO; Dale Keller, BARUK; Harold Paisner, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP; Bob Rothenberg MBE, Blick Rothenberg LLP; Ufi Ibrahim, British Hospitality Association; Richard Fursland CBE, BritishAmerican Business; Chris Grigg, British Land; Michael Hirst OBE, Business Visits and Events Partnership; Hugh Seaborn, Cadogan; Stephen Catlin, Catlin Group; Iain Anderson, Cicero Group; Mark Boleat, City of London Corporation; Professor Paul Curran, City University London; John Burns, Derwent London; Kevin Murphy, ExCeL London; Mike Cherry, FSB; Theo de Pencier, Freight Transport Association; Sue Brown, FTI Consulting; Hugh Bullock, Gerald Eve LLP; Mike Turner CBE, Babcock International Group; Gordon Clark, Global Blue; Toby Courtauld, Great Portland Estates; Michael Ward, Harrods; Nicola Shaw, HS1; Michael Spencer, ICAP; John Lehal, Insight Public Affairs; Simon Walker, Institute of Directors; George Kessler CBE, Kesslers International; Andrew Murphy, John Lewis; Sir Winfried Bischoff; Mark Reynolds, Mace; James Fennell, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners; Richard Dickinson, New West End Company; James Rook, Nimlok; Adrian Shooter CBE, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership; Glen Moreno, Pearson; Mark Bensted OBE, Powerday; John Rhodes OBE, Quod; Mark Lancaster, SDL; Sue Rimmer OBE, South Thames College; Tim Hancock, Terence O’Rourke;Rebecca Kane, The O2; Bill Moore CBE, The Portman Estate; Ric Lewis, Tristan Capital Partners; Vincent Clancy, Turner & Townsend; Professor Michael Arthur, UCL
Bishop’s bully-boy tactics do little for the abortion debate
I FOUND the response of Bishop John Keenan to Jim Murphy’s view that abortion is a matter for a woman’s conscience quite chilling (“Catholic church rift over Murphy stance on abortion”, News, last week). Bishop Keenan is quoted as saying “Catholic politicians are not permitted to be pro-abortion”. First , Murphy does not seem to be saying he is pro-abortion, merely that he believes individuals should have the right to decide what is right for them. Second, Murphy was elected by, and now represents, a diverse range of voters — of all religions and none — and stood under the banner of the Labour party with its wide-ranging manifesto yet the bishop seems to be saying that, at least on some issues “he’s our man and he’ll do as he is told”.
Well done, Murphy, for not going along with this profoundly anti-democratic sentiment and if I may be permitted to offer advice to Bishop Keenan: if you want to have anyone sitting in your pews in years to come, you should perhaps lose this authoritarian voice which, I believe, leaves you badly out of step with most people, including, I’d suggest, a great many decent people in your own church.
Jim White, Glasgow
Bill offers hope in war on killer diseases
WE ARE a group united by grief. We are the bereaved — widows, widowers, brothers, sisters and parents — who have lost loved ones to incurable diseases. We are the parents fighting for the lives of our children who have cancers and degenerative diseases. We are the patients dying for an answer to our own illnesses. We have never met one another. But we share a bond of pain and fear.
And we are united in our support for the Medical Innovation Bill. Not because we believe that it is the silver bullet. Not because we think that if it is passed, tomorrow there will suddenly be new cures for cancers, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other killer diseases.
We support the bill because it gives us hope that doctors will feel more confident to try novel approaches to killer diseases for which current treatments are known not to work. We support the bill because it offers hope to people yet to face what we have faced.
We support the bill because it will inspire doctors to innovate and to collect and share the results of their innovations so that medical science is advanced. We know it will give doctors confidence and legal clarity to try more and to do more.
The patient’s voice has been drowned out. We have been patronised and told we must leave it to the experts. But we have watched — and are watching — our families die. Some of us are watching our own bodies die. Doctors have the medical experience but we have the human experience.
Nobody knows more about these fatal diseases than we do. As the bill proceeds to the Commons, our voice will be heard.
Gail Rebuck, Sir Michael and Lady Pakenham, Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber, Victoria Gray, Antonia Wellington, Lord Bragg, Sir Christopher Bland, Frieda Hughes, Vita Paladino, Lord Foster, Debbie Binner, Tom Parker-Bowles, Sara Parker Bowles, Richard Kitley, Mavis Nye, Ray Nye, Omaira Gill, Alex Smith, Rose Fletcher, Claire Cowley, Paul Cowley, Annette Gration, Philip Gration, Pat Hay, Julia Samuel, Sir Henry Keswick, Vivian Duffield, Neil Hay, Mary Toms, Nathan Toms, Barbara Whitehead, Julie Cooper, Christine Winters, Esther Driscol, James Driscol, Maurice Chambers, Beverley Chambers, Gemma Chambers, Clare Smith Daughter, Stauroulla Parker, Michele Parker, Dorothy Vaux, Diane Salisbury, Betty Salisbury, Pauline Debra, Debra Stuart, Stuart Faulser, Jan Weston, Cathy Dear, Elaine Bounds, Karyanne Todd, Amanda Reynolds, Steve Wride, Linda Wride, Richard Elson, Jackie Elson, Dr Irene Kappes, David Wilshire, Faye Wiltshire, Patricia Wiltshire, Dawn Fiddler, Barbara Scott, Robert Scott, Barbara Hampel, Billy Jenkins, Hannah Richards, Angela Davies, Michael Lasseter, Pan Pantziarka, Gail Mathe, Elaine Mitchell, Louis Brooks, Julia Travers-Wakeford, Lawrence Tansley, Sue North, William Pope, Diana Boyle, Robert Johnson, Karen Waldron, Ian White, Gayle McElhinney, Patricia Stubbs, David Williams, Jonathan Stubbs, Julie Williams, Jane Weitzmann, Jen Selig, Sally Greene, Emily Crossley, Nick Crossley, Tony Levene, Paul Fitzpatrick, Lord Smith of Clifton, Alex Johnson, Andy Johnson, Lara Veitch, Natasha Bramble, Kerry Rosenfield, Doron Rosenfield, Emma Hallam, Andy Hallam, Steven Ho
SEEING THE BIG PICTURE ON OXFORD STUDENT HOUSING
OXFORD University did not commission the review of the planning process around our graduate student flats at Castle Mill (“Slicing off top of Oxford ‘eyesore’ flats to cost £30m”, News, last week). A planning expert was commissioned by Oxford city council entirely independently of the university. His findings that the university followed all statutory planning and consultation processes are therefore all the more significant.
Nor did the university conduct the retrospective environmental impact assessment that concluded that Castle Mill’s public benefit to students and Oxford’s overstretched housing market outweighed any remaining visual intrusion. Independent planning consultants carried out that assessment. They also recommended that the university take additional measures to help the buildings blend in more. The university is seeking to follow that advice.
Finally, the photographs in your article are highly misleading. As any Oxford resident can confirm, they show almost entirely different parts of the city’s skyline and so provide no useful point of comparison. With an estimated £30m of funding at stake, it is important that everyone gets the right perspective.
Professor William James, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Planning and Resources, University of Oxford
I’m afraid your correspondent Alastair McCall’s defence of the Scottish National party in reply to last month’s editorial “Fruitcakes come in from the fringe” falls at the first hurdle (“Currant affairs”, Letters, last week). The “fruitcake” classification is based on policy, not popularity. All his point seems to indicate is that Scotland has an inordinately large number of fruitcakes.
Malcolm Fox, Lauder, Berwickshire
Watt a man
The article “There must be more to progressive government than ‘ban it and pan it’” (Comment, last week) contains two interesting statements, one right, one wrong. It is true that Britain’s regulatory system is internationally respected. It is the reason why episodes like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have not occurred in Britain. But it is not true that green posters denouncing James Watt would have been condemning the internal combustion engine. James Watt invented the steam engine. He is the reason why railways started with steam and not with diesel.
Michael Spencer, Pittenweem, Fife
CRIMEA AND PUNISHMENT
With reference to the column by the former US assistant secretary of state James Rubin (“Putin won’t stop on his warpath until timid Nato shows it has teeth”, Comment, last week), it is the EU and America that have helped to create the crisis in Ukraine by encouraging the western factions. Crimea has always been a part of Russia, which has always depended on its warm-water ports. The trade sanctions imposed on Russia are also hurting Europe. The old, tired policies of America are encapsulated in Rubin’s viewpoint.
Thomas Duffy, Bowdon, Greater Manchester
A TENOR WELL SPENT
Bryan Appleyard’s interesting piece on the English National Opera (“A fight at the opera”, Focus, last week) contains statistics that, though widely quoted, do not accurately paint a picture of arts funding. The figure removed from the annual Arts Council budget of £485m for 2015-16 is actually £19m, not £83m. The government will provide £270m for arts organisations and £43m for museums. In addition there will be £75m for music education hubs. Taken together this will be less than 0.1% of government expenditure next year. It’s a small amount of money that does a lot of good: for society, tourism, the creative industries and our children’s education — not to mention entertaining and inspiring us.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman, Arts Council England
Your editorial “Europe’s folly leads to a Greek tragedy” (January 25) stated that the greatest risk to Europe from the Greek election result was the “spread of disorderly politics”. But to judge by the sheer confusion in Britain surrounding the television debates that are a prelude to the election, is there not an increasing possibility that a characterisation of this kind will be appropriate to describe our own predicament as well? There’s also the power of minority parties to veto measures, notwithstanding broad-based popular support for them. I cannot be the only one with a sense of foreboding that, after May 7, on some important issues the wishes of the majority will be overruled.
David Meakin, Cheltenham
A RAT’S TALE
Matt Rudd bemoans changing museum displays (“Isn’t this museum fun, kids: no Dippy the diplodocus, but lots on composting”, Speakeasy, last week). Salisbury Museum’s “Dippy moment” came when it removed from display a rat from the skull of the nobleman William Longespée, entombed in the city’s cathedral. As evidence of Longespée’s alleged poisoning, the rat proved an irresistible story; popular demand achieved its restoration. Our three-legged stuffed duck was not so lucky.
Peter Saunders, Curator Emeritus, Salisbury Museum
The world is rightly condemning the barbaric actions of Isis. However, which national leaders have mourned all those beheaded under a dubious judicial system in Saudi Arabia?
Ingrid Dey, London NW3
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Malorie Blackman, children’s laureate, 53; Osian Ellis, harpist, 87; John Grisham, novelist, 60; Sarah Montague, broadcaster, 49; Nick Nolte, actor, 74; Sebastiao Salgado, photojournalist, 71; Mary Steenburgen, actress, 62; John Williams, composer, 83; Trinny Woodall, TV presenter, 51
1587 Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed; 1819 birth of John Ruskin, art critic; 1904 Japanese attack at Port Arthur starts Russo-Japanese war; 1924 first execution by gas chamber takes place, in Nevada; 1931 birth of James Dean, actor; 1971 world’s first electronic stock market, the Nasdaq, starts trading
SIR – The role of charities in reducing pressures on the NHS extends beyond helping older people to leave A&E departments (“Hundreds of volunteers to help free up beds in over-stretched hospitals,” report, February 5).
Too many terminally ill and dying people in hospital, with no clinical need to be there, would be better supported in a hospice or their own home. Hospices can help prevent their unnecessary admission to hospital, and many work with hospitals to provide alternative care options.
We have asked the Government to expand this work by backing a national programme to help reduce the number of people in hospital beds at the end of life by 50,000 each year. This is about a fifth of the number of people in hospital when they die. Our initiative can give better targeted care and save the NHS an estimated £80 million a year.
We hope the Government considers more partnerships with voluntary-sector organisations – to avoid recurring bottlenecks for the NHS, and provide people with the care they need and want.
Director of Policy, Hospice UK
SIR – Charles Moore (Comment, January 31) is right. I constantly hear the refrain that the NHS is the envy of the world, yet I travel widely and I have never heard a foreigner express similar comments. My untutored guess is that the French and probably Scandinavian medical systems are better than ours.
Two particular issues irk me. First, the dogma on privatisation has reached the ludicrous stage where even if it is clearly in the patients’ interest, it may be rejected.
Secondly, the principle “free at the point of delivery”. It is obvious that we need market discipline and that those who use the NHS, with lots of exceptions such as pensioners, should make a contribution.
SIR – It is true that the NHS is by no stretch of imagination “the envy of the world”. What other countries do admire is our independent school system, and the key to its success is in the word “independent”.
World-class schools and world-class hospitals must charge the people who use them. The role of the state is to redistribute income so everyone has the means to pay for such services.
A R Graham
SIR – Terry Collcutt (Letters, February 2) reckons that the NHS saved his life through hospital treatment.
This is odd. Does he think that if he were French or German or Swiss he would have died?
His life was saved by modern medicine, not the peculiar arrangement that is the NHS.
The price of gas
SIR – Gas suppliers have recently announced, almost in unison, price cuts that are derisory in relation to the fall in the bulk commodity price.
They plead that in order to maintain security of supply they had to enter into long-term contracts at a price much higher than the current level.
But the petrol component of the pump price has fallen exactly in line with the commodity price and the same is true of heating oil, and those suppliers are no less concerned with supply security.
Whether to enter into long-term contracts or not is a management decision. If management gets it wrong, it should pay the price, and the company shareholders should share the pain. In no other industry would the customer bear such a high proportion of the cost of a supplier’s purchasing mistakes.
SIR – Why do television detectives (Letters, February 6) never lock their cars when calling to interview suspects?
SIR – You report (February 6) that Ed Miliband says he would “probably” have to pay the £250-a-month mansion tax that Labour wants to introduce. The question to ask is whether he will then claim it back from parliamentary expenses as a cost for his main residence.
SIR – My recently purchased hot water bottle (Letters, February 6) came with the instruction that it should not be filled with boiling water.
Seaford, East Sussex
SIR – Perhaps the £10 million cost of policing the Ecuadorian embassy, where Julian Assange has spent more than two years in refuge, could be paid from the overseas aid budget.
German role in Greece
SIR – The message conveyed by the Greek finance minister is grave: the country is worse than broke, with no prospect of repaying its debts and a generation of young people with zero chance of meaningful employment (Business, February 6).
Before the euro, Greece had a devaluing drachma, which kept the country nicely competitive in world markets, but hardly at the cutting edge of fiscal responsibility.
But with German industrialists lobbying hard, Athens entered the euro club with low interest. Over three years, the super euro almost doubled in value against the dollar. In came Deutz tractors, Mercedes cars, Leopard tanks and a shiny new airport, all fuelled by cheap credit and a fast-appreciating currency. This was not so good for Greek industry, which saw its industrial base laid waste. Inept governments compounded the damage.
The European Union is now morally bound to help one of its own.
Let European banks take the hit and let European governments work closely with the new Greek government to improve the prospects for a nation tottering on the brink. It was not so long ago, after causing untold misery and death, that Germany had its own debts written off, and look where it is now. Perhaps Germany, in opening the cookie jar, thinks it is blameless. It is not.
Director, Francis & Arnold (Hellas)
SIR – The law on rape has not changed, nor has the burden of proof (report, January 29). All suspects remain innocent until proven guilty, which the prosecution still must prove beyond reasonable doubt.
The evidential tests to bring a case of rape remain the same, and our new toolkit does nothing to affect normal sexual activity where consent is not just given but, in most cases, very obviously given.
What we are now doing is ensuring that, in every rape case where consent is the issue, not only will the actions of the complainant be examined, but also the steps taken by a suspect to establish that consent was given. Such questioning of suspects and gathering of evidence will help to ensure that the law is upheld.
The law on rape is clear, and so must be the importance of looking at all the circumstances in determining consent in these difficult and sensitive cases.
Director of Public Prosecutions
Crown Prosecution Service
SIR – In January 2008, Sir Martin Gilbert (Obituaries, February 5) wrote a pamphlet, British Government Bombing Policy 1939 to 1945, specifically to support the creation of a Bomber Command campaign medal. He sent this to politicians and VIPs throughout the Commonwealth.
In June 2008, the Canadian senate unanimously voted for a motion that Canada should seek a meeting with Britain to discuss creating the medal. This matter remains unresolved to this day.
Wg Cdr A J Wright (retd)
SIR – Why does so much arm-waving go on while people talk to the television camera? Is it necessary to convey the message like a tick-tack man? I switch channels when this happens, even if the subject is of interest.
New Malden, Surrey
The curious history of Britain’s pub names
Sign of other times: the Bull and Dog, painted on stone in 1689, in Sleaford, Lincolnshire
SIR – My great-great-grandfather John Cardwell, described as innkeeper on his death certificate in 1851, was to be found in the Labour in Vain pub (report, February 5), which stood a stone’s throw from his brother Cooper’s lace manufactory in Northampton. This still exists, and has in Welsh the inscription: “Without God, without anything; God and enough”. The family delighted to translate this instead as “Except the Lord build the house”, and held the “Labour in Vain” to be the less evangelically minded brother’s response.
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
SIR – Rather than change the name of the Labour in Vain, a more fitting pub sign for it might show a voting slip with a cross for Labour being pushed into the ballot box.
Every life’s an open book in the mobile world
SIR – While the advent of mobile telephones has largely been a boon, they have made privacy a thing of the past.
On a recent outing to London, I was regaled in a bar with one woman’s account of an ultimatum she had presented to the married cad she was having an affair with.
At dinner, a pregnant lady sitting a few feet away graphically detailed the findings of her most recent gynaecological examination.
On the train home, a third woman complained at length about her boss (another cad) whom she disliked intensely but feared might dismiss her if she revealed his proclivities to the wider world.
Globe and Mail:
Damnation once again – An Irishman’s Diary about Dante’s Inferno
A guided tour of hell
I was reading Dante’s Inferno one night recently, while eating cheese. And it must have been this combination that, later, gave me an appalling nightmare.
In the nightmare, the Italian poet led me on a tour of hell, just as Virgil had led him. We met under the sign – “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. And after congratulating him on his major birthday (he’ll be 750 in May), I asked about the people moping around outside the gates, in Limbo.
“Ah yes,” Dante said. “Those were the types who, in life, were always telling others, ‘Cheer up, it might never happen’. Their punishment is to be stuck out there, indefinitely.”
This was when I remembered that, in Dante’s vision, the damned were given tortures to match their sins – so that fortune tellers, for example, guilty of trying to see the future, spent eternity with their heads on backwards.
We were now inside hell proper, and I was immediately aware of a sulphurous smell and terrible noises. The smell was the river Acheron. And as we boarded a boat to cross, I realised that the terrible noises were from a man playing guitar nearby.
“Don’t pay the ferryman,” he sang, and with a shock I recognised him. “Is he in hell?” I whispered. “Ah no – not permanently”, Dante laughed. “He just has to entertain the ferry passengers during summer months, for all eternity.”
The crossing itself seemed to take forever. But when we finally disembarked, I noticed that the passengers, who were now covering their ears in a vain attempt to block out Lady in Red, had to stay on board.
“Yes,” confirmed Dante. “In life, they all used to have loud phone conversations on public transport. They’re on that ferry permanently. Their mobiles have been confiscated.”
We had reached the first circle of hell – a strange place, with various tortures that, although mild, caused the residents great distress. In one area, for example, there was a cinema, where reclining viewers, guilty of the same habit in life, had the backs of their seats kicked constantly by devils.
Elsewhere was a self-service restaurant, where diners writhed in pain. Dante explained that their sin had been to claim cafe tables with coats or bags before joining the queue. And on closer inspection, I now saw that the eternal “seats” of these wretches were hot plates, with candles underneath.
The second circle of hell was full of people talking loudly. Many sounded happy or excited. Yet they too were clearly suffering, by just having to listen to each other.
Dante explained that they had spent their earth-bound existences making annoying radio ads. And indeed, such was the cacophony, I too had to cover my ears, although not before hearing the wheezy chuckle of “Old Mister Brennan” again and learning that Harvey Bloody Norman was having yet another sale.
Hell’s third circle was an old-fashioned lake of fire in which sinners boiled horribly while, between screams, trying to talk into mobile phones, or pressing the buttons.
I was told that, in life, they had commissioned automated phone systems. To illustrate, Dante took a mobile from the nearest sinner and we listened. The voice said: “If you want to escape eternal damnation and go to paradise instead, please press 1…”
So we pressed 1, but got another menu: “If you know your 47-digit reference number, please enter it followed by the hache sign. If you do not know your reference number and would like to speak to a customer service representative, just say ‘Help’.”
Of course, when we said “Help!”, the voice replied: “I’m sorry – I didn’t catch that”. And so on, forever.
Dante now brought me to the fourth circle, where men in suits were being toasted over an open fire. I didn’t recognise them at first. Then the penny dropped. “Are they…” I began to ask, “bondholders?” “Yes, they’re finally burning them.”
The fifth circle, I remember, was for journalists. But before we reached it, I fainted with terror. Then I woke up. So I never did find out who was there, nor who was in circles six to nine.
The last thing I remember was Dante warning that if, I didn’t want to find out, I’d better mention two talks about him to be given in Ireland next week by an expert called Alessandro Scafi.
The first is at the Italian Institute of Culture in Dublin on Monday. The second is on Tuesday in University College Cork. Both events are free.
You can find out more at iicdublino.esteri.it or by (non-automated) telephone at 01-6621507.
Sir – Thank you Eilis O’Hanlon for a well-crafted presentation of the ins-and-outs of the Same-Sex Marriage debate (Sunday Independent, Jan 25).
No level-headed person would argue that children can flourish without good mothering and fathering. The problem seems to hinge on who provides that mothering and fathering.
I’ve seen fathers who did more – and better mothering than mothers, and vice versa.
I’ve seen heterosexual couples who have been disastrous as parents; and gay and single parents who deserve medals.
The ‘no-change-from-the-status-quo’ brigade give the impression that heterosexual low-graders are preferable to those who would rank down-their-list of family options, particularly gay parents. But unfit people, whatever their sexual orientation, can be a blight on a child’s life.
What those who are not impaled on medieval definitions are saying is that, wonderful as the ‘gold-star’ family might be, it shouldn’t render all other options beyond the pale and unequal.
Holywood, Co Down
Not proud of our Holocaust record
Sir-Olivia O’Leary’s account of her youthful journalistic naivete as she gently probed West German president Dr Karl Karstens, about his Nazi past in the 1980 state visit to Ireland (Sunday Independent, 1 February), was most insightful when she recalled the seeming embarrassment of her journalistic colleagues that any type of reference to Dr Karstens’s past had been uttered at all.
Perhaps this was symptomatic of a burgeoning collective national embarrassment as historians began to reveal the woefully inadequate and uncaring response of the Irish state to the mounting 1930s Jewish tragedy.
These revelations, although only in the initial phase when Dr Karstens visited in 1980, would eventually show, as O’Leary sais, that we refused “‘entry to so many Jews fleeing Hitler” that less than 300 arrived during the duration of the Nazi regime.
This is perhaps best understood when the immigration efforts of Robert Briscoe, the Irish State’s only Jewish TD are examined. He made multiple applications to secure refugee status for German Jews throughout the immediate pre-war years to no avail, as nearly all were refused.
Indeed Briscoe, a personal friend of de Valera’s, encountered such a sustained rejection that he was compelled to leave Ireland for sustained periods as a member of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s New Zionist Organisation and become a senior organiser of the Aliyah Bet. Only through this endeavour was Briscoe able to effectively save a small number of his co-religionists.
Furthermore, the full extent of Ireland’s exclusionist policy can be seen through the microcosm of Briscoe’s own personal tragedy, where despite being a member of the ruling government party, Fianna Fail, he could not, although he made strenuous and repeated efforts, secure an entry visa for his aunt Hedwig, a native of Berlin who was eventually deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
As O’Leary pointed out: “the dead can’t ask questions. So we must do it for them”.
Dr Kevin McCarthy,
We should spend money elsewhere
Sir – It is misleading of Keith Mills (Sunday Independent, 1 February) to suggest that the upcoming referendum on marriage equality will redefine marriage. Mr Mills correctly states that marriage is “mentioned” in the Constitution, but it is not defined therein.
In order to redefine anything, one would need to have a working definition to begin with. Anything else would require the talents of a magician.
I would therefore agree with Mr Mills on one point: money would be better spent elsewhere.
Marriage definition is exclusionary
Sir – I am glad Terry Healy enjoyed reading Claire McCormack’s article (Sunday Independent, 25 January) as she stated in last week’s edition.
I however did not have the same pleasurable experience in reading her own letter despite having read it several times to try and understand why I found it so confusing. I would suggest that she could have saved herself time by simply writing the last paragraph as that seems to summarise the true intent and purpose of her letter.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman who may create children and not between two men or two women.
“Why let lesbians or homosexuals rob us of the meaning and the word marriage.They have already stolen the word ‘gay.’”
Given her definition of marriage, those of us who are past child-bearing age or who for medical reasons are unable to have children are also outside of the criteria for entry into this exclusive institution.
With regard to the preceding paragraphs, I am still confused.
Was Patrick Pearse just being naive?
Sir – Ruth Dudley Edwards is essential reading for me. She is a no-punch-pulling, informed and honest journalist. However, to suggest Patrick Pearse was a liar is quite below the belt! (Sunday Independent, 1 February).
He was naive; a sentimental dreamer and out of his depth in a highly-charged time. In effect, he had all the characteristics of the Irish patriot of yesteryear.
Could he have been lied to and then imparted in innocence, this “reliable information” to the gullible.
Recording history is a massive responsibility.
Charlie’s mark in sands of time
Sir – Listening to Joe Duffy and Sean Haughey on RTE’s Liveline recently, discussing the Late Charles Haughey, I was tempted to phone in and say my friend and I were praying for his canonisation.
I could have gone on but being shy — and not bad looking either — I decided not to. So I was relieved when I read James Gleason’s letter ‘Charlie will be well regarded’ (Sunday Independent, 25 January).
Thank you James. I’m sure he will have a high place in Heaven and footprints on the sands of time. May his gentle soul rest in peace.
There’s a way to beat diesel thugs
Sir – The raison d’etre of marking agricultural diesel is to permit its sale at a much lower price compared to the normal open market price and thereby facilitate and subsidise, food production.
It is not surprising that enterprising individuals will strive to capitalise on this divergence of price, seeking to use this cheaper diesel for non-agricultural use or, worse again, to systematically render it as open market diesel for sale, with horrendous environmental consequences and of course losses to the Exchequer and considerable policing costs.
I would also suggest that all legitimate bona fide users of agricultural diesel should be tax compliant, having unique tax, VAT and PPS registration numbers, and in addition are familiar with account administration, the keeping of records and importantly the keeping of receipts. If that were done, there would be no need to mark diesel. We could simply use the taxation system to subsidise food production.
All legitimate users would simply pay the open market price for diesel, submit their receipts and be reimbursed on a quarterly or annual basis.
Mindful of the great work done by the customs service over the years in countering the abuse of agricultural diesel, perhaps they could be used to supplement the Revenue Commissioners in such a new approach by helping to validate the true cost of core legitimate diesel use for food production and in detecting those who masquerade for the purposes of gaining a lucrative tax rebate.
Of course on a global level it would be better if all such fuel rebates on food production were dispensed with, as they have a number of unhealthy consequences.
They favour richer countries. They impact on local/indigenous food production. And they can contribute to overproduction of some staples — which is not conducive to stable markets. The can also be responsible for demeaning food by turning it into a mere trading commodity rather than an essential for life.
What the Greeks did for us
Sir- The proposal to incorporate philosophy into the school curriculum can only be of benefit to a long suffering people. Philosophy contributed most to ancient Greece.
Over 3,000 years ago Socrates lived, Plato and Aristotle taught philosophy, Pythagoras mathematics and Hippocrates medicine.
The descendants of these people who had settled around Constantinople were dispersed by the Ottoman Turks and went mostly to Italy where they played a major role in the Renaissance — in essence, a revival of ancient Greek culture a thousand years earlier.
Here, selective versions of philosophy and history gave rise to the flight of our brightest and best citizens.
Granted there has been a major shift in emphasis, since then, away from religious control, but much more needs to be done to repair the damage done by the God squads.
Save our essential library services
Sir – I have read with utmost fury an article in last Sunday’s paper (1 February) by John Drennan about plans for the amalgamation of libraries and the introduction of unmanned libraries in rural Ireland.
As a member of Donegal Town branch library I am utterly opposed to any move to amalgamate our library. In fact we are waiting on a new library for the town which was promised some eight years ago and which was “shelved” due to the economic crash and the disingenuous intentions of the politicians at the time.
It is ironic to note (as per the article) that we in rural Ireland (especially in the western counties) are compared to the Nordic countries when it comes to the apparent success of unmanned libraries.
What a pity that we in this non-Nordic country have not the competitive economies of these countries which allows their inhabitants to have one of the highest standards of living in Europe and to register near the top of the “happiest” scale of places to live.
Perhaps a good move would be for this government to ‘lease’ the west of Ireland to the Nordic countries — then we can thrill at the prospect of unmanned libraries while enjoying our high standard of Nordic living.
Or we could just register our dissatisfaction with all things non-Nordic — at the polls.
Inver, Co Donegal
Greek approach is just selfish
Sir – Whatever its effect on European or indeed Irish politics, John Drennan missed the principal significance of the election of Syriza in Greece (Sunday Independent, 1 February).
By cheerleading demands for debt forgiveness, many Irish media commentators are supporting hypocritical Greek demands that the citizens of countries whose decision makers were responsible should be saddled with the consequences of the recklessness of a succession of Greek governments.
After receiving billions in a bailout, the Greek attitude now is to give the two fingers to every one of the citizens of other EU countries who paid for the Greek bailout. When we realise that the bailout was the result of the recklessness and irresponsibility of those in charge in Athens we see how hypocritical the Greek attitude is.
Irish media support for the Syriza policy amounts to a mé féin gospel of demanding that ordinary citizens pay, no matter how damaging to their fellow Europeans. That attitude is as reckless as that which bankrupted them in the first place.
There should be bit more perspective to this serious debate. It should recognise that threatening to bring the house down unless citizens of countries which were responsibly run write a blank cheque for those which were irresponsibly run has to be unacceptable.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Questioning the reality of growth
Sir – I see the IMF is querying the authenticity of Irish “growth” and the export surge Ireland is experiencing.
It is suspected a percentage of the “growth” may arise from produce bought at cost from low price economies and routed or in some instances just invoiced through Ireland ensuring profit is taxed at 12.5pc or considerably less.
I once knew of a company selling and exporting products supposedly originating here, when even the “made in Ireland” labels were imported.
I am reminded of a story of a local meeting held in the 1950s when industrialisation was first promoted in Ireland. Discussion centred on an idea to manufacture bicycles locally but was criticised on the grounds of absence of local materials in the product.
One entrepreneurial spirit however cheerily proclaimed that the air in the tyres would be Irish — and that was good enough for him.
It appears a portion of present export growth may be of similar content — at a much higher temperature of course.