IoS letters, emails & online postings (6 October 2013)

I read with anger your report on the lack of fitness in schoolchildren ("Childhood obesity obsession masks fitness 'time bomb'", 29 September).

I have long regretted the declining importance given to PE in schools. I was taught at teacher training college that the acquisition of gross motor skills came before and aided the acquisition of fine motor skills – that is learning to how to skip, jump, run and climb would aid the ability to hold a pencil, use scissors and manipulate smaller items. Why then, has the Government pushed PE to the bottom of the curriculum pile? School playing fields have been sold to builders and the secondary school day is much shorter than it used to be. Team sports in junior schools are often extra-curricular activities which have to be paid for.

We are now reaping the benefit of children who are unfit, many of whom have not grown up with a love of exercise and sport.

Judith Johnson,

Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire

We need a healthy lifestyle in which people can walk and talk in the street and children can play there as they did for countless generations. Giving residential roads the same status as pedestrian crossings would give back the streets to people who live in them. My research has shown that, given the freedom to play out in the street, children are active. It also means people are more neighbourly, that is "big society", again for minimal cost.

Rob Wheway

Director, Children's Play Advisory Service, Coventry

I don't think I have read a more misleading or partial piece as "Once upon a time in the East" (New Review 29 September).

We rightly hear about 150,000 Jews "expelled from Spain in 1492". But the article is silent on the 1.5 million Armenians destroyed by the Ottoman authorities around 1915. Ironically – given our righteous anger about slaughter in Syria during 2013 – many Armenians perished on forced route marches towards Deir ez-Zor in Syria.

The "model of peaceful co-existence was for many centuries the norm", conveniently forgets massacres during the 1890s of some 300,000 Armenians. It is a dangerous falsehood to say that the "rise of fanaticism can be traced directly to the end of the caliphate in 1923". It predates the 1920s by a long chalk.

The "real tragedy of the Ottoman Empire" and latter-day Turkey is the virtually unacknowledged stain of blood resulting from the Ottoman's execution of the 20th century's first holocaust.

James Derounian

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

What a pity that D J Taylor wrote about Sherlock Holmes without some basic research: the deerstalker hat was not "brought to the party by the actor Basil Rathbone", but was introduced by Sidney Paget in his illustrations for The Boscombe Valley Mystery in the Strand Magazine for October 1891.

John Dakin

Toddington, Bedfordshire

Tobacco is a pernicious drug that kills ("Smokers, what's hard is seeing a loved one die", 29 September). I smoked for 43 years and over time, tried all the methods to stop. To no avail as I had to have that hit of nicotine.

For anyone to stop for good there has to be a trigger. For me, it was my then six-year-old grandson. At a family gathering I had my "Stop smoking patch" on my arm, knowing in my mind that I would fail yet again.

My grandson asked me if I had given up smoking. I told him, "Yes". He said, "That's good Gramps, you won't die now like Granddad did." He had lost his other granddad that year to cancer. How could I let down a six-year-old? He is now 15 and I'm still his Gramps. I hope those of you that smoke and want to quit find your trigger.

Vince Bridle

West Sussex, via email

Janet Street-Porter's cheap gibe about a stay at Astley Castle not being worth £1,430 is unworthy of her ("Don't build in the country", 29 September). That price is for July, low season prices are much lower. For the money you rent a beautifully restored and updated historic building with stunning views which sleeps eight. Three nights for four couples works out as less than £60 per person per night. What does she expect to pay for a large fully furnished castle?

Bob and Rose Sandham


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