Letters to the Press on a wide range of matters fly through the interweb from my PC like rounds from a Multi Launch Rocket System. However if they do reach their intended target there is seldom any reaction and publication rarely results. So it’s back to the drawing-board with my old school motto ringing in my ears: Per manendo vincimus (Through perseverance we conquer).
Although comprehending the meaning of our school motto represents the sum total of my knowledge of Latin, unlike the Daily Telegraph I seem to have a grasp of the difference between ‘principal’ and ‘principle’ as well as knowing how to spell Marshal correctly. Dwelling on the subject of Rank, were I able legitimately to sign my letters ‘Field Marshal’ would I achieve a more successful publication rate? Current failures could, of course, be nothing to do with Rank and I simply write bollocks; judge for yourself (if you are still here):
I am old enough to remember when the DT employed a competent Defence Correspondent. However, today the paper seems incapable of accepting that Marshal (as in Field Marshal) only has one L (see Page 7).
Many are likely to agree that the term Right Wing is widely deployed in a pejorative sense however this is not a recent phenomenon. Those of my advanced years will recall General Sir Walter Walker’s organisation of the 1970s which started life as Anti-Communist Unison group (later renamed to Civil Assistance) which, at its height, sported a membership of 100,000; in response the then Labour Defence Secretary, Roy Mason, declared that the organisation represented a “near fascist groundswell”. In general it is probably fair to say that one person’s patriotism is another’s fascism and the exchange of emotive terms is a feature of our increasingly intolerant so called democracy. For my money the political scene would be clarified if the Right Wing was re-classified The Common-sense Party or failing that the – I am right you are wrong Party.
That fine actress Suranne Jones reveals that, as a straight woman, she has been heavily criticised for having the temerity to play the role of a Lesbian. It is perhaps ironic that her revelation appears in juxtaposition with Doris Day’s Obituary that talks of her money-spinner films in which she co-starred with the gay Rock Hudson; I do not recall any contemporaneous protest from straight actors back then. It is surely the case that a talented actor should be able to play any part with conviction. [NB. By definition an actor is pretending, hopefully with conviction, to be another person; the same principle applies to actresses]
No doubt some will claim to be outraged at your reference to Le Champlain cruise ship as ‘her’. They may also be confused bearing in mind the vessel was named after a male explorer. I rather hope the common-sense majority will be neither outraged nor confused.
William Johnson (DT 3rd April) rightly highlights the potential dangers of touchscreen controls. There is, however, a host of other distractions on the dashboards of modern cars the most fatuous of which is a large digital display of an aerial view of a car with a capital D atop; the garage advises that the display is informing me that I am driving a car.
A Disastrous Adviser
Theresa May’s key adviser for her disastrous 2016 General Election, Nick Timothy, is now dishing out advice to Members of Parliament (DT 12 March). I wonder if many will follow it!
In suggesting that “the best mathematicians do not make the best teachers” Fiona Wild (DT 18 March) is partly correct – in fact they usually the worst teachers. In my day the fundamental problem was that the clever mathematician could not understand that many of us simply did not understand the logic of mathematics. Further, our comprehension of the subject was not aided by their inclination to plaster the blackboard with complex formulae at presto pace. Another consequence of the clever approach was that mathematics became an isolated intellectual exercise disconnected from reality; in other words the ‘big picture’ was never explained and it is almost impossible to motivate a student where an activity appears to offer no end-product. My views are spawned from bitter experience since, for some inexplicable reason, I was planted in the top maths set but within three Terms found myself in the bottom set and the subject has remained a complete mystery to me.
Unlucky Bin Bag Widow
You report that Mary Jane Cowan was made the “principle beneficiary” in her husband’s Will (ST 17th March). However, in taking her case to Court to release yet more money from said Will, she must have been disappointed not to have been accorded the more relevant appellation of “principal beneficiary”.
Bob Ferris’s suggestion that all aircraft movement should be banned (ST 21 April) raises an important question? How will Emma Thompson get back to California?
Jane Moth suggests that, with his post Notre-Dame pronouncements, President Macron is displaying his ambition to be Emperor of Europe. Au contraire he is surely eyeing up the Papacy.
(Drunk) Lady Drivers & Sober (we assume) Lady Judges or Sex Discrimination
This article headline (DT Saturday) suggests the age of equality still has some way to go: “Serial drink-driver spared jail because she is a woman”. The lady in question hit two cars – writing off one of them in the process – before crashing in to a ditch, where the car burst into flames. Her Honour the Judge said to the defendant “had you been a man it would have been straight down the stairs”. Does her Honour have any grasp of the concept of ‘equality before the law’?
Oh good! After four years of debate the European Commission has ruled that Britain can keep the name ‘Tonic’. Many will be wondering what other vital investigations are being expensively pursued by the politically directed EU bureaucrats while the rest of the world is worrying about such trivial issues as climate change and fair trade. Perhaps proof will soon be needed to justify the claim of a certain lozenge being described as ‘Fisherman’s Friend’.
Sherelle Jacobs (DT 28 Nov) is surely correct in bemoaning the loss of decent sitcoms from our allegedly main sources of TV entertainment – namely BBC and ITV. Perhaps ‘middle England; has been conned into to believing that the genuinely amusing apolitical, non-sneering sitcom is alive and well since we, thankfully, have ready repeat access via Dave TV to many gems that have stood the test of time such as The Two Ronnies, Fawlty Towers, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Only Fools and Horses. To be fair, it might be suggested that the BBC’s Not Going Out and Outnumbered are doing their best to keep the sitcom tradition alive. Sherrelle also suggested that ‘the world of competitive front gardens, multi-storey car parks and ram raiding invaders’ offer script potential for a series that might satisfy her yearning for a series that would offer a break from the endless fare aimed at the metropolitan elite. Although based on the unpromising social arena of high rise flats in Glasgow, BBC’s Still Game would, I suspect, satisfy that yearning for a genuinely funny and cleverly plotted sitcom – it works for me!
Keeping the Army in the Public Eye (KAPE)
High Street Recruitment Offices offered a number of advantages that, being hard to quantify in financial terms, the modern military bean counters choose to ignore. For example, they kept the Services in the public eye (defined by the Army in olden days as KAPE) which, as the Armed Forces shrink year-on-year, is becoming increasingly important lest the general public think its members hail from another planet. Those offices also provided an initial sift of candidates and the cost saving benefit of encouraging those candidates who were manifestly unsuited for the military to consider other career options. As for attracting suitable candidates there used to be a ‘Satisfied Soldier’ scheme that rewarded serving personnel some extra leave if they succeeded in persuading someone to enlist (a much more powerful, honest and cost-effective process than glossy advertisements that all too often offer only half truths).
Education and Social Mobility
The Headmistress of St Catherine’s School, Bramley is correct, in my view, in pointing out the important contribution of Independent Schools to social mobility. In the 1990s our daughter attended her excellent school via the Assisted Place Scheme, without which we could never have afforded to send her there. What a pity that one of the first acts of the Tony Blair Government was to stop the scheme.