Letters: The Barmy Army

Barmy Army ruin cricket with their demand for 'fun'
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The Independent Online

It is only infrequently that I agree with every word that Dominic Lawson has written ("Boorish and chauvinist: the new breed of England cricket fan", 4 August). However, he is to be praised for publicising what now makes attending Test cricket matches so unpleasant, even for those with a deep appreciation of this form of the game.

Lawson does not comment specifically on the peculiar enthusiasm for cross-dressing that is a characteristic of a substantial minority of the Barmy Army sort of spectator. He identifies the concept of "fun" as motivating all such spectators, but he does not go on to comment on the insidious contemporary belief that every form of entertainment must be "fun".

Watching a production of Hamlet for those attracted to such activities would be entertaining, but only the psychologically disturbed would expect it to be "fun".

At the moment those genuinely wanting to watch cricket remain grateful for the amateur form of the game and for the much-derided county match.

Christopher T Husbands

Hayling Island, Hampshire

Dominic Lawson's article should consider why it is that unlike in England, Test-match cricket around the world is played mostly to half-empty stadiums devoid of atmosphere. It is the unique ability of the English fan to keep himself entertained (i.e. get incredibly drunk) during the dull periods of play which keeps the supporters coming through the turnstiles. This can often take the form of fairly uncouth behaviour, but isolated scare stories of xenophobic supporters aside, it is generally nothing to get too worked up about.

I would far rather see cricket being played to raucous full-capacity crowds, three sheets to the wind, than to stadiums half-full of polite dozers, clappers and coughers who might give the impression to the sport's organisers that there is no future for Test-match cricket.

Nathan Hoskins

Kentisbeare, Devon

I agree with almost everything that Dominic Lawson says but in his closing remarks he goes too far. I recall the electricity in the air on the first morning at Lord's in the 1950s but the "expectant susurration" he refers to was overwhelmed long before the Barmy Army took up arms. It began, alas, with the steel drums and calypsos of the West Indians and has deteriorated ever since. Of course, to many the event is now much more fun – but it ain't cricket!

Ron Malings

Rhyl, Denbighshire

Why the oil will never 'run out'

Your report on the coming "oil crunch" (3 August) betrays ignorance of past experience and the nature of natural resources. Since the 1920s the US government has predicted the complete depletion of oil reserves on numerous occasions. They have always been wrong.

The source of this error is a misunderstanding of the nature of natural resources. Just measuring the current physical amount of any resource is misconceived. In fact, natural resources are only really resources in use. Therefore, an increase in the efficiency of how we use resources is the equivalent of discovering new natural resources.

Moreover, as a resource, such as oil, becomes more scarce, the price will increase, thereby making it more profitable to use alternative resources or find oil in new places. That's the process by which North Sea Oil was discovered.

So as long as there is a competitive market in oil, Dr Birol's statement that "oil will one day run out" is extremely likely to be false. If oil scarcity were to reach the frightening levels trumpeted on your front page, the relative price compared to other resources would be so enormous that no one would use it. We do not yet know what it is that we will turn to to replace oil, but that is the nature of innovation.

John Halstead

Altrincham, Cheshire

Your report "Warning: oil supplies are running out fast" underlines what environmentalists and oil experts have been saying for some time; that new energy sources need to be developed now not merely as an alternative to oil, but to combat global warming.

This requirement is frequently cited as being incompatible with the need to reflate the economy; the argument is that such development must wait until we can afford it.

But the classic reflation scenario depicted by Keynes includes massive public works as well as purely fiscal measures to reflate the economy. So far, the Government has only done the latter.

The classic example of successful reflation is that of America after the Depression: as well as tax cuts, this included large government expenditure on necessary public works, the best-known being the Tennessee Valley project.

In the present situation an ideal project would be the tidal barrage in the Severn estuary. This would help to reflate the economy, give a boost to our ailing civil engineering industry and help to replace future fossil-fuel use.

Phil Nicholson


A radical rethink on transport policy is necessary, but electric cars can suffer from problems of range, practicality and power.

One solution would be to use electric railways to transport electric cars between urban centres; an added advantage being that the railway power supply could be utilised to recharge the cars in transit.

Upon arrival, if public transport was not suitable, your electric car would be available for business or social use. The entire journey would be completed with less pollution, less stress, and better time-management.

Curiously, during the heyday of the railways this principle was used for goods transport. Each railway station had its goods yard, from which local distributions were made, often using horse-drawn wagons or electric tractors. Past practice can still offer a great deal for future decisions.

Dr David Bartlett

Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Steve Connor ("Warning: oil supplies are running out fast", 3 August), has not taken into account the vast amount of frozen methane hydrates that lie in the oceans, some two miles deep and more. This methane, which amounts to about 10,000bn tonnes, is about twice the mass of all fossil fuels on land, including oil, gas and coal.

If we use this methane at a rate of two tonnes per person per annum, together with other sources of energy, including renewables, we should have enough energy to last us for about 1,000 years.

This methane can be retrieved by open-cast mining and collected via a moveable shell roof, placed over the area of mining. If the methane hydrate is disturbed, it will rise upwards, because it is less dense than water.

Professor Carl T F Ross

University of Portsmouth

How Islamic ideas became stagnant

Robert Fisk ("Why does life in the Middle East remain rooted in the Middle Ages", 28 July) fails to give sufficient weight to the part played by religion in the intellectual stagnation of the Arab world.

For hundreds of years Islam not only demonstrated its capacity for coexistence with other traditions, notably Christianity, but encouraged major advances in mathematics, architecture, science, agriculture, art and literature.

But this "golden age" ground to a halt when religious leaders, in what is known as "the closing of the gates of ijtihad", decided that the tradition of independent, critical review of the Koran and Sunnah should end. They knew all there was to know on the subject and there was no need to continue the debate.

Sadly, Islam has never recovered from this and the result is the moribund state of affairs we see today.

Quentin Macfarlane

Fettercairn, Aberdeenshire

Banks have duped the taxpayer

The announcement of massive profits for the banks who intend to continue paying huge bonuses underlines how well the Government, and by extension the taxpayer, has been duped (report, 4 August).

The banks have been allowed to restore their balance sheets at the taxpayers' expense. While the banks are allowed to operate in this bubble of prosperity, everyone else picks up the bill in the form of higher taxes and cuts to public services.

When the next great crash comes about, as it undoubtedly will due to the unwillingness of government to seriously regulate the banks, then whoever is in power may be forced to let banks go to the wall. The banks need to be put on notice that they will not be bailed out the next time.

Paul Donovan

London E11

Bob Diamond, the head of Barclays capital, believes obscene levels of pay and bonuses "essential if we want people to work in our industry". This despite evidence that high-flying graduates are shying away from financial services, perhaps because they do not want to be seen as greedy and obnoxious.

Perhaps someone should suggest to him that not everyone works solely for financial reward.

Andy Macrae

Sarah Macrae

Waterlooville, Hampshire

I remember how students forced Barclays to change its policy on investing in apartheid South Africa, by boycotting the bank. Perhaps those of us who disapprove of large bonuses should move our custom to a bank that doesn't indulge in this – on the assumption that we could find such an institution.

Janet Tinbergen


Hunters believe they are above law

I was amazed to read about the Countryside Alliance "retraining" hunt staff to "shed their toff image" (3 August).

I live in the middle of Wiltshire, and since the ban have frequently witnessed local hunts showing their true colours: a mounted hunt follower shouting at a League Against Cruel Sports monitor, "why don't you go back to your council house or whatever hovel you live in"; a hunt master clicking his fingers to summon a policeman, the policeman happily obeying.

The majority of hunts continue to completely ignore the "ban". Despite their attempts to become "media savvy", they consider themselves to be better than the rest of us, and above the law of the land.

Steve Dixon

Devizes, Wiltshire


Double fault

Philip Hensher (Opinion, 3 August) complains about someone from a university literature department misspelling his name. Ironically his own following sentence about it makes little sense: "If I see a paper from a first year undergraduate who misspells an author's name, it is returned unmarked, rather than offer them a job teaching the subject."

Raymond McCann

London SW2

Condom controversy

In the irresponsible article "Sex without condoms can keep you sane" (4 August), a "psychologist" claims not only that sex with a condom is in some way bad for you, but that only straight unprotected sex holds any benefits. Not only is this homophobic, but it is obviously based on shaky science. A sample of 210 Portuguese people in a self-reporting survey is not representative of the Portuguese population, let alone the UK's.

Jack Neill-Hall

London W5

Plays for today

The theatre is enjoying a renaissance thanks to playwrights shining a light on Britain today, writes Michael Coveney (arts, 30 July). Playwrights like me are addressing domestic issues because for the first time in ages, there's juicier fodder at home than abroad. Who wanted to write about the merging of Customs and Inland Revenue when the US was using water-board torture techniques? Now though, there are rich pickings; a government that thinks printing money will end a recession, and politicians indignant at our request to check their expense claims. Hurrah! Gives us plenty to write about!

Zia Trench

London N15

Iraq inquiry

My thanks to your columnist Richard Ingrams (1 August) for alerting readers to the religion of two of the nominated panellists of the Iraq inquiry, and the gender and race of the third. We stand warned and await with interest the denomination of the rest of the panel. Also, could he perhaps fill us in on the evidence on which he bases his claim that the two "Jewish historians" are "thought to be in favour of the Iraq war".

Maureen Lipman

London W2

Original needlework

The caption accompanying David Keys's article of 31 July states that the opulent interiors and furnishings for Dover Castle have been recreated by English Heritage. In fact English Heritage commissioned various skilled independent craftspeople from all over the country to produce artefacts for this project. The Royal School of Needlework created four significant pieces, including the Guest Hall Backcloth depicting Henry II on horseback which you show in the images.

Monica Wright

Royal School of Needlework

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey