Letters: Royal Shakespeare Company

RSC should care about how the audience gets home
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I have only recently read David Lister's article (6 September) about the problems people have getting home from Royal Shakespeare productions in Stratford-upon-Avon. I agree with him warmly that the RSC ought to do something about it.

When I contacted them and asked for advice about the length of the performance and the likelihood of getting the last train back to Oxford and London, which departs at 11pm, I was told that they had already cut the play text, and that transport home "is up to the individual, I am afraid". They suggested that I should contact Chiltern Railways myself and point out the inconvenience. Who is Chiltern Railways more likely to listen to, one private individual or a major national theatre company running from two to five shows per night? It should be the RSC which is contacting Chiltern Railways – or any other railway and coach companies –- and telling them that they would have many more passengers if they could run the last service a little bit later.

The RSC could perhaps help by providing a minibus from the theatre to the railway station straight after the performance. It would be a five-minute ride rather than a 20-minute walk in the dark (and often, the rain). People would far rather pay a bit for that than have to pay for a hotel overnight.

The RSC sold out long ago for this production of Hamlet and so their management possibly thinks it has no need to take any more trouble over customer relations, but what about the future? David Lister mentioned a teenage girl who went to Hamlet at Stratford and was shocked to find that she could not get back to London afterwards, but had to book into a hotel at a cost of £90. Is that girl likely to come to future productions or to encourage her friends to do so?

We are now going into a severe economic recession, and the RSC should be concerned about the tickets it has got to sell next year and the year after.

Julia Gasper

Oxford

Lunacy of lending to the short-sellers

The venom directed against short-sellers is being aimed at the wrong targets. "Spivs and speculators" will always take advantage of weak regulation and act up to the limits of the law. What beggars belief is the actions of those institutions who lent stock for the purposes of shorting, for a fee. Are they insane?

I watched on screen how in a matter of minutes, shares in HBOS, one of Britain's largest and oldest businesses, halved, then more than doubled. Had the takeover talks then failed, a run on the bank would have been inevitable and bankruptcy or nationalisation would have followed.

The resulting destruction of wealth and loss to the institutions is already substantial (many trackers were forced to hold the shares and it is believed that the bank had been targeted by shorters for months). Had HBOS gone down, it would have been even worse. Given that some of these officials are custodians of our savings and pension schemes, their actions are totally unacceptable. Name them, shame them and sack them.

Norman F Douglas

Eaglescliffe, Sockton-on-Tees

"The knee-jerk reaction of politicians is just mind-blowingly stupid." That's a quote from a short-trader printed in the Business section on Saturday (20 September). Does this person think that we are mind-blowingly stupid enough to believe that it is right for the politicians to stand idly by while he and his cohorts trash financial institutions one after the other, thereby risking further misery being heaped on the taxpayer?

We have had enough of such nonsense.

R P Wallen

Nottingham

D Jerome (letters, 19 September) asks "Will banks never learn?" and cites the case of a large mortgage being offered recently to a couple who could not afford even a token deposit. It is not banks that have not learnt: it's governments that have not learnt. Banks learnt long ago that government is behind them, however reckless they are.

We do need government backing for a portion of depositors' money, since every citizen is entitled to a safe bank account. But the mortgages corresponding to the latter should be well regulated and conservative. In contrast, there is much to be said for risky or "dragon's den" type lending. But the latter sector of the market needs to be kept separate from the former. And the latter cannot be allowed to grow so large that "it cannot be allowed to fail", otherwise it effectively becomes government-backed.

Ralph Musgrave

Durham

The US government is to spend hundreds of billions of dollars removing toxic loans from the system, in effect bailing out the banks following their disastrous lending practices, which provided the fuel for the housing boom.

Rather than giving the money to the banks, why not give the money to those people who are now unable to afford their mortgage payments? This solution would not only have the effect of removing the toxic loans from the system, but would also avoid the disastrous social consequences of huge volumes of home repossessions.

Surely this would be a more effective use of taxpayers' money than handing it straight to the bankers. Or would this be a breach of the unwritten rule that the largest handouts are reserved for the rich?

Dr Maria Kutar

Manchester

As the present banking crisis is unlikely to be a natural disaster, but most likely based on unsound pratices and greed, would it be unreasonable to suggest that the legal system should step in to force the Masters of the Universe to hand back their record bonuses of at least the last year?

This may only be a small contribution to make good what has been lost, though it would be a kind gesture to the ordinary taxpayer who, as so often in the past, has to pick up the bill for mischief caused by those who invariably get away with it.

Gunter Straub

London NW3

Self-confidence and sexual health

The consultant gynaecologist T Bloomfield makes an interesting point in his defence of the HPV vaccination programme (letters, 19 September). He states that: "HPV is not sexually transmitted in the sense that syphilis and gonorrhoea are . . . . Neither participant needs to have had sex with anyone else recently, or indeed ever . . . . Sexual intercourse is normal, otherwise none of us would be here."

This goes to the heart of the debate about sexuality and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most people catch STIs because of sexual activity of some kind. We should not be afraid to say so and we should not feel obliged to be squeamish on behalf of the faint-hearted. Having sex is part of the job description of being a human being.

As long as government "awareness" campaigns and "educative" television programmes like Sex Education on Channel 4, continue to throw all infections that may be sexually transmitted into one big pot and attempt to scare people into using condoms to prevent them, we will continue to have an immature and ignorant approach to sexuality.

Our students, young adults and people in general, need calm, informative and balanced information about STIs so that they understand prevalence and risk and do not become traumatised when some of them, inevitably catch something. They need to know where to go to for sexual health checks and to feel comfortable about doing so whether they have symptoms or not. And they need self-confidence and the ability to resist peer pressure so that they are able to say no to sex if they do not want it.

Nigel Scott

Herpes Viruses Association

London N7

A few things for Brown to put right

Mr Brown owns up to his mistakes and wants to put them right. Well done Mr Brown! Of course, you will never put New Labour right in a mere two years, so you must concentrate on your biggest mistakes and hope we forgive you for the rest.

Get out of the Middle East, repeal 42-day internment, scrap ID cards. Freeze energy prices, save the Post Offices and insist councils empty bins weekly. Scrap stamp duty. Place a cap on council tax increases. Honour pay agreements for police and teachers. Honour your promise of a referendum on Europe.

Whew, a busy two years ahead, Mr Brown. Get to work!

Barry Tighe

London E11

Clegg's call will leave voters cold

So, the evening reverie of 250,000 UK citizens was interrupted on Wednesday by Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg's automated cold-call ("Watchdog warns over Lib Dems' phone poll plan", 17 September). What an astonishing decision.

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not the call can be deemed as marketing – and therefore in breach of privacy regulations – is the party unaware of the general feeling towards automated phone messages?

We recently surveyed UK consumers to ask them which communication methods most irritate them. Automated cold calls were voted top of the irritation table, having usurped live telesales calls as most annoying. Automated calls don't even give the recipient the chance to vent spleen at the caller – perhaps just as well for Mr Clegg and his party.

By adopting this automated calling strategy, the party presumably wishes to be seen as innovative and modern. It's a mistake all too often replicated in the commercial world, where businesses scramble to embrace the latest communication strategy, only to appear rather misguided and desperate – the middle-aged trendy at the nightclub.

Perhaps Mr Clegg might wish to do his own market research into UK consumer attitudes before embarking on his next recruitment drive.

David Jefferies

Marketing Director

Pitney Bowes

Harlow, Essex

Not a good day for science

As a lifelong atheist, but also a lecturer in philosophy, I was intrigued by the Royal Society's decision to remove Professor Michael Reiss for attempting to engage young students in debate about the scientific credentials of creationism. This is an issue that also causes my academic colleagues anxiety and, judging from the emotion with which they talk, sleepless nights.

Any scientific enterprise, in order to be scientific, must permit its own philosophical assumptions to be questioned and to enter into debate with those who oppose its theoretical arguments. Nor, if it wishes to retain its status as a champion of science, can the Royal Society determine the basis on which others develop their critique. Robert Winston, unfortunately, is probably right that this is not a good day for science or scientists.

Dr Rory Ridley-Duff

Senior Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University

Briefly...

Our utilities

Instead of a "windfall" tax on the utilities would it not be better to tax them a percentage of their equity each year? That way, at 5 per cent we could restore them back into public ownership in 20 years.

Brian S Hodgson

Bedford

Rats with fluffy tails

Far from being relieved to discover that her suspected rat infiltration is actually down to squirrels, Rebecca Tyrrel (Days Like These, 22 September) should get hold of her local council pest control department immediately. Squirrels, more so than rats, are capable of causing severe structural damage to a house in a remarkably short time.

Peter English

Ruthin, Denbighshire

Tagging the toffs

I'm inclined to believe that the good Oxford does the nation (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 22 September) is to keep all the batty right-wing braggarts in one place during their university years, allowing the rest of us to study in peace, followed by appending handy identifying letters after their names, MA (Oxon), for the rest of their lives. Long may such a service continue.

D Barnes

Leeds

Saviour of his people

In your article about Count Bernadotte (18 September) and the accompanying pictures of those who had assisted Jews during the Second World War, you have forgotten the then King of Morocco. When told to hand over his Jews, of whom there were thousands settled throughout the country, he replied: "We have no Jews, only Moroccans." Morocco thus became the only country under Nazi domination not to have a single Jew deported.

Susan Hillyard

Bakewell, Derbyshire

In praise of austerity

In our area they've shelved plans to cover our countryside in concrete. There are noticeably fewer cars on the road. And, in the second fattest nation in the world, food is more expensive. The credit crunch: long may it continue.

Amy Brady

Little Downham, Cambridgeshire

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