10 Febuary 2015 GP

The GP comes to see Mary.


auline Yates with Geoffrey Palmer in The Legacy of Reginald Perrin

Pauline Yates with Geoffrey Palmer in The Legacy of Reginald Perrin Photo: BBC

Pauline Yates, the actress, who has died aged 85, was best known as Elizabeth Perrin, Leonard Rossiter’s long-suffering wife in the 1970s television sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

From Rep in the 1950s until her final television performance in Rose and Maloney in 2002, her career lasted more than 50 years. In the so-called “Golden Age” of British television, in the 1960s and 1970s, Pauline Yates was one of its stars.

Pauline Lettice Yates was born at St Helens, Lancashire, on June 16 1929. The family moved to Liverpool, where her father was a travelling salesman and her mother ran a grocery store. Alhough her parents disapproved, she always wanted to act, her younger sister Margaret recalling an occasion when she gave an impromtu performance, in the dark, of The Phantom of the Opera, with herself as the phantom, which had scared the younger girl to bits.

Pauline attended Childwall Valley High School, leaving at 16 to take up her first job as assistant stage manager at Chorley Rep, from which she graduated to stage roles. Soon she was travelling throughout the country, often performing twice nightly . The habit of hard work would stay with her throughout her life.

In the 1960s, Pauline Yates became a familiar face on television soaps and sitcoms. If she tended to be typecast as the patient, put-upon wife – in such series as Dixon of Dock Green, Sentimental Education, Crime of Passion, Play of the Week, Armchair Theatre, The Ronnie Barker Playhouse, Rumpole of the Bailey and Kavanagh QC, she was occasionally given roles that did not involve her playing second fiddle to a male lead. In Harriet’s Back in Town (1973) she was the divorcée who returns to London to restart her career; in My Honourable Mrs (1975) she was an MP . But it was as Leonard Rossiter’s wife in Reginald Perrin that she achieved most fame. Her catchphrase “Have a nice day in the office”, with Rossiter’s invariable response, “I won’t”, became something of a leitmotif for the white-collar office worker classes.

Although she excelled in television, Pauline Yates continued to appear on stage, including as Viola in Twelfth Night at the Liverpool Playhouse. Although she lived in London for more than 40 years, she always regarded the city as home.

Pauline Yates met her husband, the actor and playwright Donald Churchill, while he was working as a stage electrician in her home city; they married in 1960. Although Donald enjoyed a successful career, Pauline was the family’s main breadwinner and, though she was a fervent socialist who always voted Labour, she enjoyed her status and wealth.

For a time they lived in a sprawling house with an enormous garden in suburban Surrey and Pauline would think nothing of spending most of her wages on designer clothes.

In the late 1960s, however, she insisted that her family abandon the suburbs where, she claimed, wife-swapping was rife, for Camden Town, where her neighbours included Alan Bennett, Beryl Bainbridge, Jonathan Miller and Joan Bakewell, for whom she was sometimes mistaken.

On one occasion she was stopped in the street by a man who insisted she must be the “thinking man’s crumpet”, and though she politely demurred, he remained adamant. “ You are Joan Bakewell,” he declared, before adding, “Well… I bet you wish you were.”

Donald Churchill died in 1991 on the set of the sitcom series El Cid and, in later life, Pauline Yates moved into Denville Hall, the actors’ home in Middlesex.

She is survived by two children, the actor Jemma Churchill and the writer and playwright Polly Churchill.

Pauline Yates, born June 16 1929, died January 21 2015


Houses of Parliament, London
Anachronistic? The Houses of Parliament, London. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

In your editorial of 4 February you once again edge gingerly towards advocacy of a federal UK. Next day David Davis (Letters, 5 February) equally cautiously tiptoes towards the same solution. The Liberal Democrats favour federation but seem too timid to spell out its advantages or to answer misguided objections to it.

England’s preponderant size is a reason for the safeguards for the smaller nations provided by a federal system, not an objection to federalism; and federalism would reduce the number of professional politicians around the UK, not increase it, even with the new English parliament and government which would eventually be an indispensable feature. It offers the only satisfactory answer to Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian question; ends the gross over-centralism that still disfigures our present constitutional arrangements; permits and encourages further devolution within each of the four nations; brings government decisions closer to the people they affect; and works fine in many comparable western democracies from whom we can and should learn.

It would sharply reduce the scope and powers of the Westminster (federal) parliament and government, which may be why it’s so fiercely resisted by machine politicians. Everyone else would benefit. Labour, the party that started the still unfinished devolution process, should adopt it as a very long-term aim and promise to start the long process of consultation and research required to precede it.
Brian Barder

It is apparent that the devolutionary initiatives proposed and enacted over the past 20 years have produced a more opaque and anachronistic constitutional political landscape than ever before. Instead of settlement and clarity we have confusion and uncertainty. The problem is generated by constitutional “conservatism” and a reluctance to address the broader questions beyond narrow party political lines (eg “vows” I & II). In this system, devolution is always seen as a concession to be made, rather than a way of improving democracy (George Robertson’s “Devolution will kill nationalism stone dead”). The current chaos is the latest attempt to add constitutional sticking plaster to a wounded Westminster that is clearly dysfunctional. The habit of relinquishing too little too late has roots in our colonial past (cf colonial North America, and Irish home rule), and here we see the same process in the current piecemeal legislation in progress now.

The solution is a bold step to a fully federal UK which would consist of parliaments of each of the nations. This would produce crystalline transparency. The Commons would return to being the parliament of England, and the Lords would be transformed into a new UK-elected superior House. This would add no legislative layer or cost and would have the advantage of producing a much more stable constitutional settlement.

So, yes, David Davis is correct to propose federalism, but will we take this path, or continue to muddle on to inevitable separation?
Euan Brown

Gordon Brown’s proposal for a constitutional convention to reform the Lords, regions, voting system etc in a single package is just political prevarication. Such a bland-sounding exercise would take years and yet never find all-round agreement, least of all from the SNP.

William Hague’s plan on the other hand is moderate, workable and fair to the majority in the UK. If there is a hung parliament Scottish MPs would still be able to determine which party forms the government. Giving English MPs control over English-only laws would certainly have majority support from the voters and might even be adopted by the next parliament.

As to Brown’s jibe comparing Cameron to Lord North, that just exposes himself to the counter thrust, viz: Brown will always be remembered as a dithering, failed PM.
Keith Hindell

Might I suggest a union of the western isles of Europe? The United Kingdom and Great Britain are as much history as the empire was when a transition took place to form the Commonwealth of Nations.

In the manner that the term Scandinavians links Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, with a Nordic council, so the Western Isles of Europe might unite England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Each nation would have its own parliament and initially each country would meet, say, quarterly, hosting the union in rotation. By 2020, with the union established, the meetings would be twice a year, still hosted in rotation.

Topics for discussion at the council of the Western Isles of Europe would settle down to borders (air, land and sea), transport, defence, economy, culture, heritage etc. Our geographical European form was recognised by the Romans 2,000 years ago and it is time for us to identify the beauty and form of our four great nations and use our topography to form the state of our union.
David Rhodes
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Denmark Street on the outskirts of Soho, London's 'Tin Pan Alley': English Heritage says that it has
Denmark Street on the outskirts of Soho, London’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’: English Heritage says that it has ensured no buildings of architectural significance will be demolished during redevelopment. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

English Heritage fully recognises the vital qualities of Soho and Denmark Street that campaigners hope to retain (A lament for the death of bohemian London, 6 February). Denmark Street is actually already a conservation area, in recognition of the special character of its buildings, but only special policy areas can ensure a particular trade continues in a particular place. These can be designated only by the local planning authority – Camden – or the Greater London Authority.

Our statutory remit means that our advice has to be limited to the physical impact of development on historic areas. In the Denmark Street area, working with the council and the developer, we have ensured that no buildings of architectural or historic significance are to be demolished. This includes the rare surviving small industrial forge building in the back of 22 Denmark Street. We are also pleased that the proposals will undertake urgently needed repairs to listed buildings which have been neglected for many years.
Chris Smith
Director of national planning and conservation, English Heritage

Ambulances outside A&E department, Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Under the NHS in Scotland, there is one local health authority for each region of the country that organises and provides health services in its area. Above, Glasgow Royal Infirmary accident and emergency department. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The King’s Fund’s pronouncement on the “damaging” Tory NHS reforms (Report, 6 February) is illuminating in laying bare the waste reaped by the biggest top-down restructuring in the NHS’s history, but obfuscatory in its insistence on separating that reorganisation from privatisation. The reforms were introduced precisely to bolster competition in the NHS. This is not the cuddly, provider-blind competition between NHS providers, “the independent sector” and voluntary-sector providers, but a slow and determined march toward profit-making privatisation, with all the implications that brings for the pay and working conditions of staff. The talk of a Hunt phase two, with a renewed push towards integration, is also misleading since competition will still trump integration. The privatisation train may be slow in getting out of the station, but with the facilitating framework in place, it will gather pace. Could this perhaps a case of praising with faint damnation?
Jason Glynos University of Essex, Ewen Speed University of Essex, Karen West Aston University

The King’s Fund is right about the damage done. As an NHS trust governor I am appalled at the byzantine complexity of the NHS in England. We have a plethora of bureaucracies which have to be paid for out of public funds: clinical commissioning groups, local commissioning sub groups, hospital trusts, ambulance trusts, community health trusts, NHS England (national and local), health and wellbeing boards, Monitor, the Care Quality Commission, the Department of Health, Health Education England, Public Health England, PFI contractors, private healthcare contractors and external consultancy firms. All drain money that ought to be spent directly on patient care. Under the NHS in Scotland, there is one local health authority for each region of the country that organises and provides health services in its area. However, I suppose it is too much to expect the current ideologically driven Tory administration to be willing to adopt the common sense approach to the NHS as implemented in Scotland.
Ian Arnott
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, centre, with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Francois Hollande
Crisis talks on Ukraine: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, centre, with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Francois Hollande. Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

I have no love for modern capitalist Russia, or for Vladimir Putin, but there are always two sides to a conflict. Regrettably, the Guardian gives credence mainly to the anti-Putin version. In that narrative, the Russian leader is alleged to have violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, though no hard evidence is offered. For those who support western Ukraine’s criticism of Putin it is salutary to remember that the present government came to power via a coup. Moreover, many of its supporters are self-confessed followers of Nazi ideology.

For the Guardian, one of Putin’s main transgressions has been the annexation of Crimea. But this is dangerous ground for western critics of Putin, as a moment’s reflection should remind one that Israel routinely annexes Palestinian land but has never been censured for its action. Turkey, which annexed northern Cyprus, has never been subjected to sanctions. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it is morally shaky ground for western leaders to condemn one country for annexation while condoning it by another power.

As David Owen has pointed out (26 August 2014), Russian leaders are understandably worried by the eastward march of Nato, threatening its security. If we wish to avoid catastrophe in Europe the west must come to a diplomatic agreement with Russia, however difficult that may be (Report, 8 February). The alternative is unthinkable.
David Stainwright
Hove, East Sussex

The solution to Ukraine has been floated – and ignored – before. Treat Russia as part of continental and cultural Europe. Field a joint EU peacekeeping force with Russia and Ukraine. Fly all three flags. Enforce and police the Minsk agreement. Leave Crimea for another day. Use an EU Marshall plan to rehabilitate eastern Ukraine. Recognise significant regional autonomy within a unified Ukraine. This is something the UK should lead with France and Germany, rather than waiting for Washington to let us do it.
Tim Dyce

David Cameron could play no part in the Moscow talks (Report,, 7 January). Britain is a US puppet state, which for decades has not had a foreign policy separate from that of the US. Since America precipitated the Ukraine crisis by orchestrating the coup in Kiev, it would not be appropriate for Britain to play any part in mediation.
Stephen Mennell

Amjad Bashir MEP speaking on a Ukip platform, 2014: he has now defected to the Conservatives. Photog
Amjad Bashir MEP speaking on a Ukip platform, 2014: he has now defected to the Conservatives. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Given that members of the European parliament are elected by proportional representation on the basis of regional closed lists, how can it be that an MEP who changes party retains his or her seat? Amjad Bashir was elected as one of three successful Ukip candidates after the party gained 31.1% of the vote in Yorkshire and the Humber. Labour won two seats and the Conservatives one. But following the defection of Bashir to the Conservatives, they now have two members representing the constituency. Why hasn’t Bashir lost his seat to the fourth-named candidate on the Ukip list? Can anyone explain why the will of the voters, in a party list PR system, can be overridden by an elected representative switching parties?
Brian Ross-Meering
Newark, Nottinghamshire



Sir, Is the visit of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande to see President Putin going to be a re-run of Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938? In both cases the separate affinity, in language and political orientation, of a part of an independent country which a nationalist leader wanted to occupy or control, if necessary by force, has given rise to contention. Both leaders would claim some justification because of the vulnerability of their border areas under the status quo. In one case as a result of the excessively harsh Treaty of Versailles, and in the other by the steady encroachment of Nato eastwards.

In a natural desire to solve the problem by diplomatic means, as the alternative would be too horrendous to contemplate, the European leaders might accept a de facto separation or even observation of the disputed area in return for, as Chamberlain did, a promise of no further territorial acquisitions; but can Putin be trusted? We can only hope that any appeasement this time does not end up like the last one did.
Field Marshal Lord Bramall
House of Lords
Sir, Putin’s end game is obvious. He will achieve his objectives within Ukraine, and when/if the economic sanctions imposed reach the point at which he considers his survival is in question the West will be given the option of lifting them or facing military conflict. The West will blink first because it has no other choice.

Preserving peace costs money, effort and strategic thought and, just as importantly, adequate size of military forces to achieve the aim, which is to avoid conflict. Nato has to be conventionally capable and credible. Given the underfunding throughout the alliance over the past 30 years, that is not the reputation that Nato now enjoys.
PP Gilroy (Sqn Ldr, RAF, ret’d)
Bishopsteignton, Devon
Sir, General Sir Richard Shirreff’s comments lamenting David Cameron’s absence from the shuttle diplomacy were inappropriate (report, Feb 6). Ukraine is not a member of Nato, and Nato countries have no obligation to involve themselves. Sabre-rattling can only inflame the situation.
Christopher Ellis
Farnham, Surrey
Sir, It seems obvious that the United States has reservations about the Hollande/Merkel initiative and is holding back. It would not be surprising therefore, if this is the case, that the British government should be taking a lower profile than some would wish.
Brigadier Nicholas Cocking
Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Sir, Putin is not alone in dubious moves (leader, Feb 6). It is clear that the window of opportunity was opened early last year by the EU’s ham-fisted moves on the EU-Ukraine association agreement, which, though scarcely mentioned now or then, contained a raft of military as well as economic proposals that precipitated the origins of the present situation. The naive ambitions of the EU are significantly to blame for the current situation, and even now Ukraine is not engaged in sufficient reform.
Sir William Cash, MP
House of Commons
Sir, Perhaps those advocating leaving the EU would explain how Britain’s exit from the EU, or the prospect of it, would help to deal with the situation in Ukraine, and our vital interest in finding a satisfactory outcome to it.
Sir Peter Marshall
London W8
Sir, Russia’s peace offer is, as you state, an attempt to secure military gains, but it is hardly “cynical” (leader, Feb 6). If the army representing the Russian population of eastern Ukraine is to maintain its foothold, it is surely preferable for this to be managed via diplomacy than through further bloodshed.

Putin’s overture to Hollande and Merkel is far less cynical than his sponsorship of violence to date.
Dr Richard Braithwaite
Pondwell, Isle of Wight
Sir, In reply to Roger Boyes’s article (“Arming Ukraine will stop Putin in his tracks”, Feb 4), we in Russia have a saying: “Gamble but don’t try to win back what you have lost.” OK, the West bet on Ukraine and lost, with a civil war now raging there. Under the circumstances, would arming Ukraine not look like throwing good money after bad?

Besides, Putin knows how to stop Nato encirclement in its tracks: a buffer state with a territorial dispute.
Mergen Mongush

 Sir, I always enjoy Derwent May’s column but I should point out that the track left by a fox in the snow is readily distinguishable from a dog’s (Nature notes, Feb 4). The fox walks with immense precision, leaving a perfect single line of clearly cut impressions, almost as if it had hopped on one leg. A dog’s paw prints, by comparison, are clumsy: the edges are blurred and fall to either side of a central line.
Lindsay Waddell
National Gamekeepers’ Organisation


French President Francois Hollande (R) gestures as he speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Photo: Kremin Pool

SIR – If America goes ahead with arming Ukrainians it will be making the same mistake it made in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

In Syria, America armed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with anti-tank missiles. Instead of changing the Syrian calculus, this merely prolonged the demise of the FSA. In Libya, America not only armed the Libyan militias, it also conducted air strikes on their behalf. But when the war ended, America had no long-term plan for post-Gaddafi Libya. In Iraq, Isil forces are now driving around in American Humvees, while Shia militias have access to American tanks and other protective vehicles.

There are no easy solutions to the conflict in Ukraine. Sending weapons is an easy choice. The hard choice would be to make the Minsk Protocol work.

Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

SIR – Some 5,400 people have been killed in Ukraine since April 2014, with many more wounded. Well over one million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. Human suffering on this scale cannot and should not be ignored.

Negotiating with President Vladimir Putin may well be a difficult and lengthy matter. It should nevertheless be done, without appeasement and in as forceful and strong-minded a way as the united leaders of the world can manage.

It must be made clear that the killing has to stop and that new unrecognised break-away fiefs are not to be established.

Lord Hylton (Crossbench)
London SW1

SIR – If Barack Obama sends arms to Kiev it would be in flagrant violation of international law and punishable by the international court at the Hague.

I fully support the efforts of Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande in trying to get a peace deal with President Putin. The belligerent language used by the American vice president, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, the Secretary of State, is irresponsible.

Terri Jackson
Bangor, Co Down

SIR – Who authorised Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande to negotiate with Mr Putin on our behalf and with what terms of reference? Where is the much vaunted and expensive EU diplomatic service and has the United Nations nothing useful to contribute?

John Lindsay
London SW6

SIR – America sent John Kerry to Kiev, where he expressed concern over the dangerous situation in Ukraine.

The leaders of France and Germany have been discussing possible solutions to the conflict with Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has been on the campaign trail, visiting the set of Emmerdale.

Nesta Desmond
Kendal, Cumbria

Sex-selective abortion

SIR – We support women who have been or are in danger of being coerced into sex-selective abortion in Britain, particularly in communities where there still exists a preference for a son. Most of us are pro-choice, though some of us believe that abortion should only be available in limited circumstances. We are united in the belief that sex-selective abortion must end.

The current framing of the law sends mixed messages; the British Pregnancy Advisory Service argues that sex-selective abortion is not illegal under the Abortion Act and that the law is “silent on the matter”, and Professor Sally Sheldon – the lead signatory of a letter to The Daily Telegraph protesting against the proposed amendment – has argued that the unlawfulness of sex-selective abortion is “far from clear”. These are just two examples among many.

The proposed amendment does not change the grounds of the Abortion Act. It does not “criminalise”. It merely makes explicit something that is already unlawful. It does not preclude abortion where there is a sex-linked disability in the foetus. It does not require ethnic profiling. It is limited to the issue of sex-selective abortion.

Practical help is needed in areas where women are sometimes devalued and degraded to the extent that people try to stop them being born. We believe the Government can, and should, play a part. This amendment provides that opportunity and we urge all MPs to support it.

Rani Bilkhu
Jeena International

Jasvinder Sanghera
Karma Nirvana

Faeeza Vaid
Muslim Women’s Network UK

Balvinder Kaur
Sikh Women’s Alliance

Imam Ajmal Masroor
Barefoot Institute

Bal Kaur Sandhu
Sikh Council UK

Sanjay Jagatia
Hindu Council UK (London)

R Kashyap
Hindu Council UK (Birmingham)

Satish Sharma
National Council of Hindu Temples UK

Ravi Singh
Khalsa Aid

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (Crossbench)

Sara Khan
Director, Inspire

Kalsoom Bashir
Co-director, Inspire

Polly Harar
Sharan Project

Jagdeesh Singh
Human Rights Activist

Mandy Sanghera
Human Rights Activist

Dr Gurnam Singh
Coventry University

Ranjana Bell
Director, Rba Equality and Diversity

Sajda Mughal
Jan Trust

Shahida Choudray
The Networking Hub

Khatija Barday-Wood

Ms Kaur
Unique Homes

Mandeep Sagoo
MKV Legal

Vaneeta Prem
Freedom Charity

Shahein Taj
Henna Foundation

Counterfeit cigarettes


SIR –The Government is choosing to move ahead with the standardisation of tobacco packaging when there appears to be very little reported evidence that the policy works. Recent reports suggest the Cabinet is not even in agreement on this issue.

Our concern is very much related to the impact this move will have on crime. According to the Government’s own figures, tobacco smuggling costs £2 billion per year and those who smuggle tobacco products are often involved in other forms of serious crime. Therefore, it makes no sense to introduce legislation that would in effect make tobacco packaging easier to copy and lead to more counterfeit products hitting the streets in Britain. This will place further pressure on law enforcement at a time when resources are already dwindling.

Sir Ian Johnston
Former Chief Constable, British Transport Police

Chris Bird
Former Detective Chief Superintendent

Derek Wilson
Former Detective Sergeant, Fraud Squad

Mick Wickerson

Roy Daisley
Former Detective Chief Inspector, Home Office

Malcolm Campbell
QPM Former Commander, North London HQ

Mike McAdam
Former Detective Chief Superintendent, C Division

Nigel Gunning

Barry Phillips
Former Detective Chief Superintendent, Flying Squad

Tony McStravick
Former Detective Chief Superintendent, Fraud Squad

Roy Ramm
Former Commander, Flying Squad

Chris Simpson
Former Detective Chief Inspector, Fraud Squad

Michael Carroll
Former Detective Sergeant

Michael Waller
Former Detective Superintendent, Special Branch

David Cox
Former Criminal Intelligence

John Legge
Former Detective Inspector, W Division

British Jews

SIR – The Gould family are emigrating because of anti-Semitism.

I am a third-generation Jew. I consider Britain to be my home and I have both benefited from and contributed to life in this country. I urge fellow Jews to stay and fight for our rights as equal and safe citizens, who will not be bullied into leaving.

Experts ignored on wind farms in wild Scotland

SIR – Few dispute the necessity of reducing our energy use and pursuing renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, in order to help address climate change. However, there is public disquiet about the proliferation of energy developments in Scotland’s wild land areas.

It is vital that any decisions on the location of these developments rely on the fair and impartial assessment of all pertinent information and points of view.

Unfortunately, in the face of evidence and objections from many different organisations, communities and individuals, the Scottish Government has approved proposals to site colossal wind farms inland, at Stronelairg in the Monadhliath Mountains, and offshore, straddling the firths of the Forth and Tay.

In both cases the Scottish Government chose to ignore the views of its own expert advisers from Scottish Natural Heritage, who made it clear that the impact from these turbines will be very significant. At the very least, evidence of this calibre should trigger public inquiries.

Rather than force objectors to challenge these decisions in the courts, at great expense, the Scottish Government should first ensure they have been exposed to the proper and democratic scrutiny that their scale and potential impact warrants.

Barbara Goodman

John Mayhew
Director, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland

Brian Linington
President, Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Peter Willimott
President, Munro Society

Sir Kenneth Calman
Chairman, National Trust for Scotland

David Thomson
Convener, Ramblers Scotland

John Milne
Co-ordinator, Scottish Wild Land

Going the extra mile to take care of your body

(Gallo Images / Alamy)

SIR – I was pleased to read that David Moorcroft is in good physical health. David and I were contemporaries in Coventry Schools’ athletics and cross-country competitions in the Sixties and early Seventies and were friendly rivals – mainly because he was comfortably better then me.

However, unlike David, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at 28 years of age and have had numerous surgical procedures since then, including a replacement knee and replacement hips. This condition was not helped by fast(ish) long-distance running on roads with inadequate footwear in my mid to late teens.

Running of all types will generate positive health benefits if carried out in a controlled way. You must heed good advice about pace, distance and footwear and, most importantly, listen to your body when it complains.

Peter Jones
St Neots, Huntingdonshire

Ten to the dozen

SIR – Lisa Moore asks why, in 2015, children should be expected to know the 12-times table. She also says that a better understanding of the decimal system is far more important.

There are 12 months in a year and 12 hours on a clock face. Eggs, bottles and cans tend to come in dozens. Pence and shillings are part of our history and tradition, and most of our historical documents would refer to “old money”.

Of course children should know the 12-times table.

Stephen Beetlestone
Taplow, Buckinghamshire

History repeats itself

SIR – Michael Leapman (“How Wolf Hall has dashed our expectations”) makes a valid point about the television dramatisation.

My husband and I recorded episodes two and three while we were away on holiday. Upon our return we inadvertently watched them the wrong way round. I can assure you, it doesn’t make any difference.

Laraine Goss
London NW3

720-minute steak

SIR – While working in the catering industry I was once asked for “the 12-hour slow-braised steak – medium rare”.

Steve Cartridge
Egerton, Bolton

Spring onions


SIR – It seems an odd time for Public Health England to issued a warning about daffodil bulbs being mistaken for food; they should have been planted months ago and are unlikely to be in supermarkets again until the autumn.

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

SIR – I wandered lonely as a shopper
When I saw the sign,
The host of golden daffodils,
Had moved to crisps and wine.

Linda Read
East Sheen, Surrey

Globe and Mail:


Floor crossings: Voters will decide if it’s principles or opportunism

Irish Times:

Sir, – I was surprised when I read the article quoting Pope Francis as having said that it’s okay to smack children as long as their dignity is maintained (February 6th).Victims of violence never lose their dignity; it is the assailant who loses his dignity. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – Now that Pope Francis has expressed his support for discipline through spanking, it is to be wondered whether, the next time he makes one of his outrageous and unapproved comments, a Vatican official should administer a quick slap? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The lacuna in Vatican understanding of women, children and parenting is frighteningly exemplified in the pope’s recommendation that children be subjected to corporal punishment. Infliction of pain on the body of a child is child abuse. The secular world has for a long time recognised that good discipline never involves violence, especially towards little ones.

A church that has taken decades to acknowledge clerical sexual abuse of children needs to learn from the insights from psychology about parenting and violence. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I do not often find myself disagreeing with former president Mary McAleese (February 7th). I find I have to disagree with her now. She feels the pope overstepped the mark in seemingly supporting parents giving their children a smack to discipline them. Looking at the bad-mannered children I encounter every day, I cannot help feeling that the odd smack could do a lot to improve them. It certainly did no harm to those of us of a certain age where a slap and indeed a bit more was the norm. – Yours, etc,


Glenageary, Co Dublin.

A chara, – I hold Mary McAleese in high regard. I do not necessarily agree with every utterance of hers, either when president or as a private citizen.

She protests too swiftly in regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Pope Francis. With regard to the convention, 194 states are signatories, some with reservations. Just 45 (23 per cent ) have introduced legislation outlawing corporal punishment of children. The UK and US are among those that have not done so. This does not necessarily imply approval of corporal punishment of children. There are questions about how far legislation can or should regulate how parents bring up children. Not everything we see as harmful is necessarily to be outlawed. We see tobacco and adultery and lack of physical exercise and telling lies as harmful, but we have not criminalised them.

The convention itself does not make explicit mention of corporal punishment. Article 19 refers to states taking “appropriate measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse”. If a child physically attacks another child, is it “physical violence” to restrain the child physically? The child might think so. This is not to defend corporal punishment. We need to ask when and where legislation is the appropriate way to go.

Pope Francis might have expressed himself better; as indeed could many politicians. He was not however, as Mrs McAleese asked, “actively and internationally promoting the corporal punishment of children”. In speaking casually and freely, he is perhaps doing the church a big favour – weaning his hearers away from taking everything he says as official teaching. While deserving respect, he knows he is not the sole repository of wisdom for the church or the world. Nor is the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It is not always wise to look to enact law to control what we see as harmful. If we try too hard to regulate people, we may do more harm than good. There are other ways. – Is mise,


Sandyford, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Why do some people in society consider it appropriate to beat a child, while at the same time condemning such behaviour between adults? – Yours, etc,


Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir , – Mary McAleese (February 7th) is right to express concern regarding the pope’s comments on smacking and the mixed message that it gives to those seeking to justify corporal punishment. But as a father of small boys, I can appreciate at times, such as getting them out to school while they prefer to wrestle on their beds, that it can lead to occasional moments of parental fallibility on my part. Pope Francis brings a human touch to his role that many of us can relate too, even at the cost of the occasional politically incorrect slip-up. I think he will accept a telling-off by his child protection committee when he next meets it. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Discipline (even a smack on the bottom) can and must of course be administered with love, and I would imagine that the remarks made by Pope Francis indicate his thinking is something along these terms and he is certainly not advocating “corporal punishment” in the sense Mrs McAleese refers to. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I found myself segueing in my thoughts from the ill-considered and weird counsel from Pope Francis on corporal punishment within the family to that meted out to class pupils in my distant days in primary school – the downward swish of the cane; the “strap”; a searing slap across the face; a wooden handle of a hammer whacked on the the hand; and the tugging upwards of sidelocks to excruciating effect! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Tue, Feb 10, 2015, 01:05

Sir, – Much of the current criticism of Greece’s government’s hard-line stance in relation to its debts comes down to the idea that Greece is expecting citizens of other euro zone countries to underwrite their decades of unrestrained profligacy. This is simplistic and the reality is a little more nuanced, especially if one wishes to consider the histories of all the countries involved.

The EU can’t have it both ways either. If its attitude is one of “united we stand” it would, of course, be more honest of it to admit that a sizable proportion of current Greek debt was the result of a similar situation to Ireland in that it relates to private banking debt and much of this British, French and German. Of course, it won’t do this. It would upset the “bigger players” and interfere with the established narrative.

However, in the interests of balance, it’s instructive to recall how, 62 years ago this month, creditors of postwar Germany came together in London to hammer out an agreement, the end result of which was a complete cancellation of 50 per cent of Germany’s postwar debt. It’s worth noting that, despite what was inflicted upon that state during the course of that same terrible war, Greece was one of the countries which acquiesced to this deal again, with the “united we stand” or “all for one” philosophy in mind. Private as well as public debts were cancelled at that time and the deal covered all creditors. The idea being that with a stronger German economy, Europe as a whole stood to gain. In express consideration of this, a somewhat generous clause in the agreement allowed that Germany only pay for debts out of its trade surplus, and these repayments were limited to a maximum 3 per cent of export earnings every year. As a result, Germany’s creditors had to buy German exports in order to be paid, resulting in Germany only being required to make recompense from genuine earnings, without recourse to new loans. And it meant Germany’s creditors had an interest in the country growing and its economy thriving.

The modern medicine which consists of bailing out reckless lenders via new loans, while simultaneously forcing governments to implement “austerity” and free-market liberalisation to become “more competitive”, has only resulted in increased poverty, deepening inequality and depleted economies. Despite some overoptimistic hyperbole, the Irish economy is in far from rude health and 2015 promises only more of this misplaced medicine.

I applaud the Greeks in resisting the destruction of both their economy (which has shrunk almost 25 per cent since 2008) and its people’s lives in order to appease a greedy elite a stance which stands in marked contrast with the idea of “constructive dialogue” (to quote Enda Kenny) which has been the hallmark of the deferential approach of our leaders from the outset. – Yours, etc,


Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – A Leavy (February 6th) is right. The Greek electorate decided in its wisdom to vote into power a government that has more in common with the old guard of communist dictatorships than it has with any current European democracy.

That government now cries foul when the empty rhetoric of its inner circle is laid bare for closer examination by those who must pay the piper.

I sincerely hope this lesson is not lost on the Irish electorate in the coming 12 months or so.

We have more than our fair share of flat-earth politicos waiting in the wings – primed and ready to provide us with free lunches. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – It would be misguided for Ireland and the other “debtor” nations to seek a debt relief conference. In many quarters this is perceived as virtuous nations picking up the tab for the “partying” of the irresponsible. An EU economic recovery conference is required, with debt relief being just one strand. Who could argue that Europe-wide growth is not in the interest of every member state?– Yours, etc,


Dunmore East,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – I wish to congratulate The Irish Times on its coverage on February 7th of the Greek post-election standoff with the rest of Europe. The articles by Cliff Taylor, Denis Staunton, Stephen Collins, the cartoon by Martyn Turner, and the editorial, while expressing totally different viewpoints, showed Irish journalism at its best.

I’ll stop there as I am liable to relapse into pontificating from my own particular perspective on the issue and that would spoil the point I am trying to make. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – There is one thing I would like to ask those who are adamantly opposed to debt relief for Greece – how, exactly, is a country with 25 per cent unemployment, and no large exporting sectors, supposed to pay off a debt of over 170 per cent of GDP?

This is not economically or fiscally possible.

If the intention is to punish the Greeks for “their sins”, I was not aware that the poorest strata of Greek society, or those who are fully tax compliant, were totally responsible for the state of the country.

Syriza plans to tackle corruption and tax evasion – unlike previous Greek governments. So why are so many opposed to co-operating with a Greek administration that is finally dealing with Greece’s real problems? – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.

Sir, – In advance of and shortly after the recent Greek elections, Syriza was referred to in the media (including The Irish Times) as “a far-left party”. More recently, however, it has been referred to as “left-wing” party. What will it be next week, I wonder? “Centrist”? – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – It is time those who complain about the use of the term British Isles acquainted themselves with the difference between physical and political geography. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – “The British and Irish Isles” might take a while to get used to, but it would be the obvious – and politically correct – solution. And diehard republicans can always reverse the order if it gives them a complex. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Not for the first time, John A Murphy (February 7th) has gone beyond the views of Éamon de Valera. While visiting Dublin in 1937, the American journalist John Gunther referred to the British Isles. Dev firmly told him that the term could be used only as a “geographical expression”. When Gunther substituted “a group of islands in the northern part of Europe”, his host “laughed heartily”. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – The stated justification for continuing this postmediaeval descriptor after 1922 is that the “British Isles” is a mere “geographical” term, not a political one. In that sense, so the argument runs, it’s equivalent to a mere geographical or informal historical term such as “Scandinavia”.

The UK’s parliament does not agree with the notion that this is a blandly geographical term. The UK’s 1978 Interpretation Act states unequivocally that the “British Islands means the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man”. Ireland is neither mentioned nor purported to be subsumed.

The term “Scandinavian”, for instance, is not an official term that any Scandinavian country can lay sole official claim to. The term “Scandinavian” respects all Scandinavians by applying a new common adjective to all Scandinavian countries.

This is distinguishable from the “British first” mindset behind the “British Isles” argument, a mindset that views as natural and right that one large country’s statutory official territorial descriptor (“British”) should informally be applied, without consultation, to another small state. I suspect it would be a different matter entirely if someone in Sweden started a campaign to substitute “Greater Sweden” for “Scandinavia” and started describing other Nordic countries as “Swedish”.

If we’re really stuck for a meta-descriptor, we could always look to the shared cultural traits of both countries in 2015. Foremost among these is the reality that both countries are governed by the kind of gentlemen who are never happier than when acting against the interests of their citizens and in the interests of rich tax-dodging minorities.

On that basis, let’s call ourselves the “Western Oligarchipelago”. – Yours, etc,



Co Tyrone.

Sir, – Conor Martin comments (February 7th) that “nobody gets married simply because the other person is of a different sex or has the ability to have children.” Really? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

A chara, – David J Strahan (February 6th) argues, as do others, that the upcoming referendum on marriage equality will redefine marriage. Surely the existence of civil marriage for heterosexual couples, and removed from any religious trappings or meanings, has already done this. I would suggest that nothing fundamental will be happening when the right to civil marriage is extended to all of our population. If the referendum is passed, the broader question for people of faith must surely be that this State no longer prefers or gives special consideration to marriage as defined by the Catholic Church or indeed any other religion. This is in my eyes what separation of church and state looks like and indeed it is why I will be voting Yes. – Yours, etc,


An Uaimh,

Co na Mhí.

Sir, – It is heartening to hear how concerned our legislators are at the level of alcohol consumption by the younger generation. The fact is that alcohol is at the heart of Irish life. This is reflected by the presence of not one but two bars in Leinster House serving alcohol to deputies and their friends.

What an example it would be to the younger generation if the deputies were to decide unanimously to remove the bars from the Houses of the Oireachtas. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – Has no-one given a thought to the possibility that the age requirement of 35 years chosen in the 1930s reflected a mid-point of sorts in average life expectancy? I propose that, given that current life expectancy runs into the high seventies for Irish men and early eighties for Irish women, that we now change the Constitution to reflect this and adjust the age requirement to 40 years. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Irish Independent:

The assumption that material comfort is superior to having many siblings is an untenable one.
The assumption that material comfort is superior to having many siblings is an untenable one.

Barbara McCarthy (Irish Independent, January 27) writes that having children that you can’t afford is a form of neglect. Based mainly on a financial evaluation, Ms McCarthy qualifies that not being emotionally wealthy enough is also an issue.

  • Go To

Such assertions are, in the first place, arrogant and, secondly, judgmental. Arrogant because the writer assumes that there is a formula for determining how many children a family can emotionally afford – though she fails to actually say what this is. Maybe it is contingent on the parents: can some parents emotionally manage more children? Is that to say they are better than others? That there is a way to measure how well children have been reared?

Citing financial affordability, on the other hand, is insulting to the many families that brought children up in far more difficult times, in bigger families. Is Ms McCarthy saying all these children were neglected? From Ms McCarthy’s formulaic, judgmental arguments, one would assume so.

I attended a funeral of a mother of 13 children recently. The funeral was sad – but happy – a large family who have grown up to be well formed, who miss and love their mother, but have each other, to come together, and to move forward in life with numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

There isn’t a formula for family but the idea that there is some surety in small families, planned and all worked out, is an arrogance that is not borne out by evidence – and an insult to the past. The assumption that material comfort is superior to having a bunch of siblings (and that craic that goes with them: the smiles, the tears, the fighting and the making up) is an untenable one.

Dualta Roughneen, Kiltimagh, Co Mayo


The Wild West on Grafton Street

On Saturday, February 7, I had the great pleasure of seeing legendary composer Ennio Morricone performing live at the 3Arena. He played a two-hour set that I will remember for the rest of my life for its brilliance and professionalism. I walked home star-struck, clutching my programme and humming snatches of my favourite spaghetti western themes, the themes that first interested me in the great man’s work.

My route home took me through Grafton Street. It is hard to put into words what I saw there. From the Brown Thomas end right up to the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, the street was peopled with drunks. They weaved up and down the road, crashing heedlessly into the few normal pedestrians like myself. Fresh pools of vomit and urine decorated the pavement.

Young women in dresses that barely covered their modesty tottered drunkenly up and down Dublin’s most famous street in skyscraper heels. Many were screeching inebriated bull**** and obscenities both at each other and at total strangers. No small part of these obscenities involved nasty sexual suggestions. I’m no prude, but this type of thing, coming from young women, is both disturbing and deeply sad.

Almost at the top of the street as you head towards the green, a well-dressed young woman lay stretched out on the ground surrounded by broken glass, her designer handbag a few feet to her left.

“I don’t want stitches!” she groaned to her friends, who were busy calling an ambulance. Did she fall over purely by accident, or because she was blind-drunk and couldn’t walk in her shoes? I can’t say for sure, but I sure as hell could make an educated guess.

Probably the most upsetting thing about my late-night walk was the sight of no less than four homeless men sleeping, or trying to, in shop doorways on Grafton Street. That they should have been forced to make such a disgustingly dirty, litter-strewn and dangerous street their ‘bedroom’ is wrong in the extreme. Look at the risks they are running. They could be physically attacked or robbed or vomited on by the groups of drunks that roam the street on which I saw not one member of the Garda Síochána.

What the hell has happened to Grafton Street? Having just come from Ennio Morricone’s concert, where I listened to his fantastic spaghetti western themes, it felt like I’d walked from that straight out into the Wild West of old.

Sandra Harris, Dublin


Left should temper its outrage

The Left should temper its outrage at the arrest of Paul Murphy, a man who has traded on his public declaration that he was “elected to break the law.”

If they don’t, they can’t be surprised when they are accused of undermining the machinery of State.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Kilkenny city


Water charges are ‘bad law’

Myles Duffy’s letter (Irish Independent February 4) concerning the refusal of certain TDs to pay water charges is full of quotations by classical writers Cicero and Plato.

I will give you another quotation, from Charles Dickens’s novel ‘Oliver Twist’: “The law is an ass”.

There is, Mr Duffy, what is known as good law and bad law – this particular piece of legislation, which bluntly extracts money from people, regardless of income or circumstances, is bad law.

Perhaps, Mr Duffy, you can afford another domestic bill, however down here in my world it makes life just that little bit more difficult due to economic reasons.

Terry O’Connor, Swords, Co Dublin


Corporal punishment is history

I found myself this morning thinking about Pope Francis’s ill-considered and weird counsel on corporal punishment within the family and comparing it to that meted out to pupils in my far-off days in primary school.

Instruments and methods of educational torture ranged as follows: the deadly downward swish of the rattan cane; “the strap” (lengths of leather, professionally stitched into one piece and black as the brother’s cassock); a searing slap across the face; a wooden handle of a hammer whacked on the hand; and, alternatively, the simultaneous tugging upwards of a boy’s sidelocks – to obvious excruciating effect!

Oliver McGrane, Rathfarnham, Dublin

To kill a sequel

Both the book and film versions of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ are classics.

Like all classics, they are hard if not impossible to repeat, especially if the second attempt is based on the same material.

Frank McCourt’s ‘Angela’s Ashes’ immediately comes to mind; the follow up ”Tis’ was weak by comparison.

Harper Lee’s ‘Mockingbird’ is a rare species, it is beautiful and simple, and so many characters jump out of the pages at you. They must forever be allowed their freedom, and not once again imprisoned, to be put under the microscope for inspection.

All great beauties are a once-off – leave well enough alone!

Fred Molloy, Clonsilla, Dublin 15


Why Kenny won’t support Greece

Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan are against any debt write-down for Greece.

Why would this be? Common sense would suggest the Greek debt is unsustainable and there is absolutely no chance of repayment of the vast debt that is chocking the country to death.

Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan have had, and continue to have, little appetite for standing up to the Troika and Germany.

Ireland is still in the financial mire and this will continue for decades, as it seems our leaders are determined to pay back every cent owed to German bondholders and others.

Clearly, Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan can’t be seen to support the Greek situation at home, as then there would be no excuses they could offer as to why they did not seek a write-down for Ireland.

They can’t be seen to support it in Europe either, as then Germany and France might frown upon them and they would not get the gold stars for being the good little boys of Europe. Both men are former school teachers, and it would seem that we all have to be disciplined.

Rory O’Connor, Lucan, Co Dublin

Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: