Deep sense of loss
Tom Lubbock's writing in The Independent has helped me more than anything else to understand art, particularly through his Friday discussions of particular paintings. As well as being a tragedy for himself and his close family, his early death has therefore left a deep sense of loss in me, and I am sure many others whose lives have been lit by his insights.
Malcolm Peltu, London W4
A long, hard look
I should like to echo Alexander Adams's praise of Tom Lubbock and his weekly Masterpieces articles, and the plea for a collection of them (letter 11 January).
Having read these for a time, I was so intrigued by Tom's quirky and tangential approaches that I started to look long and hard at the selected picture first to try to see if I could come anywhere near to predicting what he might say about it.
I was delighted and enthused when sometimes I felt I had been on his wavelength.This seems like real education: my attitude is forever changed.
Vivienne Cox, London W4
Education in seeing
I have for many years read your paper, and the highlight for me was always Tom Lubbock's artwork and his writing. I have a collection of his collages cut from past papers, and also of some of his criticism.
I never tire of them. Many critics teach you and make you think. Tom Lubbock made you see and feel.
I once heard him on Radio 4 objecting to the fashion for over-prescriptive curator's notes in exhibitions, and oh, how I cheered.
I have learnt so much from him, not only about art but about humanity. He also frequently made you laugh.
Janet Hardie, Aberdeen
For years our family's Christmases revolved around Tom Lubbock's wonderful Details art competition – 16 squares showing tiny details from famous, and not so famous, paintings. During the year, art books would be bought, or given as birthday presents, because "they may come in for the art quiz". The weekend before Christmas the much-anticipated page would appear and, from then on, until the final day for posting answers, our one objective was to find all the pictures.
Shouts of "I've found it" or "Are you sure you've checked all the Rembrandts?" or "I just don't know whether it's ancient or modern" would echo from all over the house, and vast piles of books would appear up the stairs. The best we ever managed was 14.
Future Christmases will not be the same without Tom Lubbock's Details, but, thanks to him, Christmases past were full of happy hours with wonderful paintings.
Pat Farr, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
Bankers go back to their bad old ways
The news that huge bank bonus payments are being prepared for is insulting to those that are to be made redundant as a result of the great financial debacle.
I have never ascribed to the myth of special talent that marks out the likes of Bob Diamond and Stephen Hester. They are acting like bandits dividing the spoils, while those in government make meek noises of disapproval.
Normally, large profits attract new entrants to an industry to compete those profits downwards. The financial services industry, alas, does not operate in this way and the need for tight regulation of its behaviour for the pubic good is imperative.
It appears that nothing has been learnt and the banks and hedge funds are back inside the gambling casino.
Graham V Cornwell, Stanmore, Middlesex
George Osborne's climb-down on bankers' bonuses comes as no surprise to those of us who have been watching the Government's actions in Brussels.
Last summer I took new legislation through the European Parliament that sets limits on the proportion of a bonus that can be paid upfront and in cash. These rules aren't about bashing the banks. They are about reforming the bonus culture so that bankers are rewarded for their long-term success instead of being incentivised to make risky investments.
The Coalition eventually signed up to the new rules in June, but throughout the autumn, while making bold public statements about their intentions to be tough with the banks, they were lobbying to weaken the rules, looking for loopholes through which banks could pay far more of their bonuses in cash.
Having seen the Government say one thing in public while doing another in the corridors of Brussels, I suspect that few of George Osborne's friends in the Square Mile will have been losing much sleep over ministers' rhetoric over the past few months.
Arlene McCarthy MEP (Lab, North-West England), Vice President, Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, European Parliament, Brussels
Since the time of Margaret Thatcher this country has been obsessed with service industries, and in particular financial services, to the detriment of more creative and innovative endeavours. Sadly this continued through the Blair/Brown years.
Inevitably young people soon realised that salaries in the financial sector were in a league of their own, and so it became the ambition of vast numbers of able students to get a job in the City. This enabled the investment banks and other financial corporations year after year to cream off the brightest and best recruits, who might otherwise have been using their grey cells to do something rather more worthwhile. They might, for instance, have been making technological breakthroughs which would have given this country a sound industrial base on which to secure a prosperous future.
It is heartbreaking to see the very people who have done so much to jeopardise the future of our nation reaping all the rewards.
Robert Curtis, Birmingham
It is surely time that the bankers' bluff was called. They are not indispensable or irreplaceable.
Our universities are producing hundreds of extremely bright, suitably qualified and hard-working graduates who, with a minimum of training, could replace these so-called essential "workers" within weeks, if not days. I am not downplaying bankers' and traders' abilities, but they kid us all if they pretend that they could not be replaced overnight by the queues of eager, hungry and able young people. What they do is not rocket science –- all that is required is numeracy, competency and hard work.
If they prefer Bahrain, Hong Kong or Zurich to London – OK, let us wish them well, but they will be back.
Tom Simpson, Bristol
So what would happen if all the highly remunerated bankers left the UK? Without so many multi-millionaires to support, we could find ourselves with simpler, more competitive banks whose value (market capitalisation) increases over time rather than being run purely for the benefit of their highest paid employees.
A more competitive banking system would deliver higher returns on savings and lower mortgage rates, increasing pension funds and fewer British businesses sold abroad to generate fees for the City and then closed down. We could also expect less banking investment in exciting risky adventures abroad and more boring investment in British businesses. And of course less support by the British taxpayer and less debt.
After all, banks do not create wealth; they only create the illusion of wealth by creating debt.
Nick Bion, Reading
It is stupid to argue that bankers should not be paid huge bonuses, if such rewards ensure better performance for shareholders, including the Exchequer; it is just envy. However bankers such as Fred Goodwin were paid ridiculous sums of money before without any obvious benefit to the performance of their employers, most of whom were bailed out by us.
That shareholders are allowing management to revert to this very dubious practice is beyond belief. This is not envy, but economic common sense.
Lars McBride, London SW13
Being unable to keep up my mortgage repayments, I requested a meeting with the manager of my building society. I suggested a number of dates within the narrow window between my returning from my holiday in the Maldives and my setting off on my Caribbean cruise.
When we did meet he seemed to be rather irascible, and had the nerve to suggest that I had been somewhat profligate. I told him that I felt that the period of remorse needed to be over. What really shook him, however, was my threat to move my mortgage to another company.
Stephen Shaw, Nottingham
While we wait with bated breath to hear how Bob Diamond's family feels about his acceptance of a possible £8.5m bonus (report, 12 January), what do the families of the members of the Treasury Select Committee have to say on the matter?
Malcolm Addison, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Mandarins and Chinese mothers
Dominic Lawson's article on "Chinese mothers, a lesson to us all" (11 January) refers to the completely different attitude the Chinese have to school work and education without explaining the basis of the difference.
For centuries, the "class" system within imperial Chinese society was not primarily based on inheritance through birthright, but on the attainment of success at the imperial examinations. A family (and even a whole village, in instances of extreme poverty) would pool resources to educate a bright child to attempt to succeed at official village, township, and provincial level examinations, and ultimately imperial examinations.
If success was achieved at imperial examinations, one was elevated to the status of a mandarin, the highest ruling class, and with it came influence, power and wealth. The elevation of the successful candidate also brought honour and wealth to the family and the village. Ingrained through centuries of practice is the concept of social mobility through education.
My grandparents were poor economic migrants from China to Malaya in the early 1900s who worked to their bones to educate my father (and his siblings), who in turn, as a mere civil servant in Malaysia, educated me and my seven siblings to college and university levels. My parents lived frugally and denied themselves very simple comforts to finance our education. We in turn, having secured much better careers, ensured that my parents had a very comfortable and enjoyable retirement, travelling the world to visit me and my siblings who migrated to work and live in four different countries.
The Chinese take-away families throughout the UK are doing no different from what my grandparents and parents did.
Stephen Chang, Bickley, Kent
Challenge for children's fiction
With the tragic loss of Dick King Smith (Obituary, 6 January), an undeniably great children's author, perhaps it is the right time to evaluate the state of children's literature in Britain today.
Scanning down the list of 2010's bestsellers, what is striking is the dominance of Stephenie Meyer, a young reader's novelist of an 11-16 audience (with many adult fans too). A largely younger audience, then, has decided the state of our bestselling list.
While it is inevitable that our younger readers will stick to an author they enjoy, Anne Fine in the 90s, Jacqueline Wilson in the early Noughties and now Meyer, there is a worrying sense in which our literary web is limited by the dominance of a small number of popular authors. I fall victim to this too, having been an avid Blyton fan as a child, devouring anything and everything from Malory Towers to Amelia Jane.
The challenge of a children's author today is to write literature for a more visual imagination: literature for a generation stimulated to a greater extent by 3D, HD etc. Is the true test of a great literary worth in its capacity to be transformed into a film?
Ryan Service, Walsall, West Midlands
Labour took the easy way out
Steve Richards (11 January) argues that the previous Labour government's profligacy is a myth. He claims in support of this argument the alleged consensus that the additional public expenditure was necessary.
However, he fails to address the real culpability of the Labour government – they increased public expenditure substantially but failed miserably to increase taxation enough to pay for all this largesse. As virtually everyone agrees, it is much less damaging to increase taxation during boom times than during bad economic times.
What Labour was guilty of was taking the politically easy way out (increasing expenditure without increasing taxes) rather than what the country needed.
Michael Eysenck, London SW20
No crime to be Scottish
Jonathan Owen informs us in the second paragraph of his article on Ian Brady (10 January), that the infamous moors murderer is, in fact, a Scot. Fair enough: I was unaware of this and am happy to be enlightened.
A few paragraphs later, perhaps in an effort to avoid juxtaposing two "Bradys", Mr Owen looks for an alternative epithet for his subject. One feels that something like "murderer", or "prisoner" might have sufficed but, no, "the Scot" is deemed to best capture the nature of the beast.
Given the indigestibility of too much information delivered at once, we are fortunate that Mr Owen holds back for three paragraphs before informing us that Brady is not just a murderer, but a Glasgow-born murderer to boot, enabling us to conclude that he is, indeed, very likely to be a Scot.
Being a Scot who considers himself, first and foremost, British, I have no nationalist axe to grind but I do wonder if Mr Owen (the Englishman? the Welshman? other?) is trying to make some subtle point. I think we should be told.
Dr James Darroch, Birkenhead, Wirral
While the view in football and rugby is different, in the case of cricket I have never met a Scottish cricket fan who does not support England (unless against us of course). We rejoice in the Ashes triumph. I shared the long nights following the defence.
Scots are much more interested in cricket than most of your English readers would imagine, and we salute the team.
Hugh Mackay, Edinburgh
Books about paedophilia
Amazon withdrew its webpage on my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case after an article in November that implicitly attacked the company for having "links to websites that sell literature by pro-paedophilia campaigners". ("Amazon retains links to websites selling literature on child abuse", 12 November.)
Having just been alerted to your story, I would like to point out that Paedophilia: The Radical Case currently has over 80 citations on Scholar Google. Your report in effect trashed my work solely by reference to my background as the author. It made no valid point as to the merits or otherwise of the book itself.
Tom O'Carroll, Cumbria
Subsidy for car-users
In the same week that passengers are told they will have to pick up a greater amount of the cost of rail travel, we learn that the Government is planning to bring in a fuel stabiliser. The stabiliser will see the tax payer picking up the cost of fluctuations in the international oil price, providing a subsidy to the car user.
This really does prove that the Government's green credentials are not worth the unrecycled paper they are written on.
Paul Donovan, London E11
Now we're all safe from attack by an extinguisher-wielding Edward Woollard, has there been any progress in locating the brute who fractured Alfie Meadows's skull with a stick during the student fees protest? I know who scares me more.
Chris Lilly, London E14