Letters: Barmy Army behaviour

Barmy Army behaviour drives cricket fan to walk out
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I compliment Dominic Lawson on his cricket article (4 August),which expresses so well my own views. I am a regular fan and have travelled extensively to watch international cricket. I have witnessed the decline in behaviour over 40 years as a well-established pattern which reflects general social trends where so many people seem to have forgotten how to behave.

I attended most of the Edgbaston Test and on the last day was able to get a seat in the members' area. It was a refreshing experience to find people who clapped the achievements of the opposing team when they did something worthwhile.

I now go only to Test matches, because the drunken crowds at one-day and, worse still, 20/20 games has become insufferable. Last year, I went to my last one-day international at Bristol. At 10am, I found myself surrounded by people already drinking beer. By lunch-time, I was being splattered with beer, caused by people trying to build towers of empty glasses. The dreaded Mexican wave was in full flow, as was the noise level and abuse of opposition team members and supporters. I walked out mid-way.

For me, the pleasure of watching the cricket is to be found out of the country and, in particular, Australia where most of the grounds have alcohol-free sections and misbehaviour is quickly dealt with.

Mike McWatt

Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

A poor argument for bank bonuses

Sean O'Grady's argument (Opinion, 5 August) goes that people on low wages shouldn't moan about bankers getting massive bonuses while they struggle to make ends meet, because if they were handed big bonuses, they wouldn't refuse them.

So, the poor should stop moaning about inequality and an unfair society and watching their children grow up in poverty while the rich get richer. The poor should just get on with struggling without complaining because, if they were the beneficiaries of this psychologically damaging and unhealthy, brutally unequal society, they would be happy?

So it's not about building a fairer society, but accepting we're all greedy and would take advantage of the weak and vulnerable if we had power? He may as well argue that we should stop complaining about violent dictators, because if we were dictators we would behave in the same way.

Karl Osborne

Hounslow, Middlesex

About the performances of the government-owned banks: John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist, explained the trickle-down theory by saying, "If you feed a horse enough oats some will eventually pass through for the sparrows in the streets". In today's Britain, the government banks are the horses and the sparrows, businesses and the people.

The Government has spent billions of taxpayers' money on oats and vet bills for the sick horses. Enough oats are not getting down to the sparrows to pull the country out of recession. The Government, with its credit rating approaching that of a sub-prime mortgage-holder in negative equity and three months in arrears, must soon come to a decision: will it continue to waste good oats, and stump up for vet bills for the sick horses, or decide whether it would it be cheaper to send them to the knacker's yard?

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Conspicuously quantitive easing has worked sensationally well. The banks have been able to sell all those underperforming bonds back to the Government and feed the resulting cash mountain into the markets to inflate equity prices, so allowing them to revalue their balance sheets upwards and declare huge profits.

All these big profits mean that the banks can now afford to "restructure" and make lots of ordinary people redundant without harming their bottom lines too much and still leave lots of cash available for the brilliant, exceptional minds at the top to have entirely reasonable and proper multimillion-pound bonuses for engineering this stunning success.

Eventually, I will understand how this is different from the Ponzi scheme that took Madoff to jail. Can anyone tell me what exactly is this stuff that is trickling down on me?

Mike Bell


My wife and I have received miserly interest on our Barclays instant-access savings account over the past year and, to add insult to injury, the bank recently demanded that we pay £30 for cheques to transfer our own money to a building society offering many times Barclays' rate of interest.

Perhaps Barclays' chief executive and his highly paid "best people in the industry" (report, 4 August) should apply their skills to matching or bettering the interest rates paid to savers by mutuals. Could it be that they are not as clever as they would have us believe?

Paul Gibbins

Sutton, Surrey

I would like to challenge the often-made assertion that big bonuses are needed in the financial services industry to attract the right sort of person. It seems to me that the big-bonus culture is likely to attract people whose avarice far exceeds any sense of personal responsibility for their reckless actions, and who would therefore be among the worst possible people to occupy positions of high responsibility in banking.

J A A Johnson

Tonbridge, Kent

We have heard a lot recently about how the public sector should share the pain of the private sector.

Can I now look forward to a huge bonus the next time some of my students successfully graduate?

Dr Pete Dorey

Reader in British Politics

Cardiff University

The true worth of home-schooling

I read Simon Webb's Comment ("We must get tough on home schooling", 30 July) with interest. Most home-educating families find that home education is a journey which we take alongside each individual child. Some find that a formal approach works best for their child, others an entirely hands-off approach. Many of us find a middle road.

One thing that most of us would say is that children do learn best by teaching themselves. All they require is a loving adult to answer questions, provide information and experiences and (sometimes) to show them how to do things. And, yes, it can take some children longer than others to master reading, but that is true of school children, and at least HE kids aren't made to feel like idiots if they don't master a sunject to a government-set target.

I'm surprised at Mr Webb's assertion that it is neglectful to allow children to pursue their own interests. One of my boys spent a lot of time climbing trees; he now works in forestry (and yes, he can read, write and do sums). Another is keen on computers and plans to make a career in that field.

It would seem Mr Webb has yet to discover the truth that emerges from HE, which is that with a bit of loving guidance children can grow up to be well-rounded, self-regulating, fully functioning adults; they don't need to be forced, coerced and badgered into it.

Sue Cardus


A rich history of science in Islam

It is untrue that Islam brought an end to scientific and systematic thought in the Middle East (letters, 5 August). Mechanics, optics and the symptoms of plague were all explored in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the theories of sociology were given an astonishing debut by Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406. All such investigations were made after the alleged Islam-inspired end of critical thinking.

Scientific research was limited, or backed, by court patronage, rather than by religion. The original ninth-century translations from Aristotle had been made possible in Baghdad by the half-believing Abbasid caliphs. Their devout conservative successors curbed research, but could not stop science or thought in Syria, Egypt or North Africa.

The view that Islam was one thing, slowly coming to some sort of peak then declining, taking science with it, is an orientalist fantasy, which entirely discounts the vast variety of court life in the various Arab dynasties, as well as the different political and social concerns, aspirations and prejudices. It also ignores catastrophic events such as the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Greeks know how to run good pubs

What a pity guest and stranger are not synonymous in English as in Greek. I read John Moore's letter (31 July) on the lack of welcome at his local. We had just returned from a week in Rhodes. Demetrios, the owner of Hippocampus, our local bar there, greeted us daily as his "good friends", arm around our shoulders, chatting to us warmly and making us feel special.

Then, out of curiosity, we went to an English-run pub. We had no interaction with the English landlord beyond him serving us then taking our money, despite us being the only customers: no greeting, no conversation, no smile: so no more drinks ordered there; we returned to Demetrios's bar.

On our last night he went home at 1.30am and left us to drink up and close up with: "Have a good trip back to England, my good friends, and maybe you will come back next year?" Maybe we shall.

Michael J J Day

Settle, North Yorkshire

Steven Halden blames the tobacco ban for the demise of local pubs (letters, 24 July). The Commons Select Committee report about pub companies in May stated that MPs were astonished to find 67 per cent of the lessees surveyed earned less than £15,000 pa and over 50 per cent of the lessees who had turnover of more than £500,000 pa earned less than £15,000. The lessees may share the risks with their "pubco", but they do not appear to share the benefits.

Pubco tenants are initially attracted to run pubs by low entry costs, but many soon find making a decent living is difficult. Leases oblige them to buy alcoholic drinks from nominated suppliers at up to twice the open-market price. If a struggling tenant leaves a pub, another tenant will replace them. In the years of booming property prices this was successful, but is much less so now.

The tobacco ban, alas, is just another nail in the coffin.

Richard Ward

London SE13

Without seemingly realising it, Eric Chadwick (letters, 3 August) highlights the devastation caused to the British pub industry by the smoking ban. It was the five-pint-a-night man with his tin of roll-ups rather than the occasional drinker who kept these establishments in business.

And, before long, unless there's a rethink and smokers are catered for in licensed premises, Eric will have nowhere to enjoy his pint or two and maybe a meal in comfort. A little common sense and less selfishness and there's room for both; ask the Spanish.

Terence Roy Smith

Biggleswade, Bedfordshire


Dangerous hunters

It is not just an incredible rudeness which demonstrates a blatant disregard for others among hunters (letters, 5 August), but their dangerous behaviour. Living in rural Norfolk, I have witnessed those shooting game, quite casually, aim across roads, and I find numerous cartridges in my garden.

Mitya Pearson

Langley, Norfolk

Done by digital

Yet another glossy booklet arrived yesterday from Digital UK about our switchover in November. Tucked away on page 16 is the surprising information that some older digital boxes and TVs will then stop working. I contacted Digital UK and, sure enough, mine is one of them. So, for years, I've been able to get all the digital channels, but as soon as they become the only channels available I won't be able to get any.

Ken Ford


Rook hook solution

It has been discovered that rooks were able to "fashion a simple tool out of wire to help them retrieve food from an empty container" (report, 6 August). With an abundance of wire and empty containers in the world, I cannot understand why this technique can't be replicated on a wider scale to eliminate famine for good.

Chris O'Byrne

Redhill, Surrey

Let hacker stay

If the Americans could seen fit to offer a job to Werner von Braun, the Nazi rocket expert (whose last V2 of the war damn near killed me), why can't they act similarly in the case of the hacker Gary McKinnon, rather than contemplate uselessly banging him up for 60 years? In today's electronic age, the job could, presumably, be done while he remained domiciled on British soil. Perhaps part of the answer is that von Braun's devastating rockets had not been aimed at America.

Michael Edwards

London SW20

Now read it

In response to Tom Sutcliffe's request for great last lines (31 July), might I draw attention to the poignant economy of the last words of the poem "Home is so Sad" by Philip Larkin? The words: "That vase". If you don't already know the poem, how can you not want to read it now?

Haydn Middleton