It is good to have a banker pointing out the difference between banking and gambling (letter from Peter Croggon, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, 9 November). Perhaps real bankers should be more vocal in defence of the vital role they play in any capitalist system. Perhaps, too, those of us who are not anti-capitalism but simply fed up with its abuses should make clear that we do not blame bankers. We blame the computer-aided croupiers in their casinos camouflaged as banks who play with our money. We also blame the politicians who lay down the rules of the games they play so that the croupiers can count on "heads I win, tails you lose". So let's hear it for honourable and much-needed real bankers.
Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire
At last (Dr Kitchen's letter, 9 November) someone is placing the blame for the banking crash at its source. We want the cheapest loan and the best return on savings. Banks seek ways of supplying that demand. No one complains when their desires are satisfied but when the inevitable decline in asset (usually houses) value occurs we look around to blame anyone but ourselves, exclaiming that banks are greedy and of course we are not. But we must bring in politicians also, who benefit by encouraging "a property-owning democracy".
G D Morris
Port Talbot, Neath
I think Jo Bousfield (Letters, 9 November) is wrong to lament the bloodless anonymity of modern banks' customer relations. If she has been with a bank for 42 years, she will be able to remember how awful it was when the bank manager was a little god in his own parish, a jealous god demanding loyalty and obedience.
For many years, when I was young and poor with a growing family and a mortgage, my bank manager would command me to attend his office on regular occasions so that he could berate me for some imagined extravagance such as overspending a few pounds at the supermarket. To escape, I changed banks the very minute I finally went into the black.
Then there was the Captain Mainwaring type who demanded to know all kinds of personal information such as: "Tell me, do you intend to have any more children?".
Oddly, I also knew a bank manager personally and I asked him once what criteria he used to allot his loans. He told me he never lent to anyone who lived in a house with two grown women: "You know, two women in one kitchen, if you get my drift. And I never, never lend money to a man who wears suede shoes."
Give me faceless, unfeeling indifference every time. I don't want bankers as my friend or confidant. An ATM machine and online banking are as close as I want to get to the species.
Has the largely taxpayer-owned Lloyds Banking Group really picked up on customer care by introducing a "professional complaint handling qualification"? (8 November). Would not a professional "get it right first time" qualification be better proof of this?
Remembrance is not enough: soldiers need help
Up in the loft I have the letter my father sent to his brother in 1917: "Great news! I am going with the Expeditionary Force at last! Please don't tell mother..." He had joined up in London in 1914, and had lectured in ballistics to machine gunners. He was sent on leave between courses, while many of the people he had taught met their deaths. All his life he refused to put on medals, but he always wore a poppy on 11 November.
His brother had joined the Norfolk regiment; later known as the "vanishing Norfolks". Brother Arthur suffered from what was then called "shell shock" from his experience at Gallipoli. The vivid nightmares and episodes of depression were probably made worse by the social convention of some things being considered "too horrible to talk about".
Modern armaments and modern medicine create new tragedies for our soldiers and these are things we need to talk about. A bowed head and comfortable donation to a good cause while remembering "the fallen" is simply not enough.
Robert Fisk (Opinion, 5 November) is spot-on. Forget about the BBC newsreaders he mentions, just switch on the lunchtime show Loose Women. As I write, each of the panel is wearing a glistening, silver-edged, sequinned poppy which would brighten any Christmas tree. After dazzling me, they made me feel physically sick. And it is hard to believe that whoever created them handed their profits to the national poppy factory.
My father's father didn't come home from the Great War and therefore never saw his baby son. My father's stepfather didn't make it back from the sequel. I shall wear a poppy in their memory and in honour of all the other fallen; but I shall wear it only on Remembrance Day. There is rarely a day I don't wonder what my many fallen relatives went through. But surely one day of sincere, focused, symbolic, nationwide memory is honour enough.
Richmond upon Thames, Surrey
I work in a primary school where we acknowledge Remembrance Day each year. Far from the poppy being a "fashion appendage", as Robert Fisk suggests, we use it as a focus for children to think about war and the suffering it causes.
We have poppies available in the playground and each class makes poppies to be used in our ceremony at 11am on 11 November each year. We invite guest speakers and present two different ways of thinking about the issues related to war in assemblies. We have children in school who have been affected by war in various parts of the world and we have staff who have connections with casualties of war from the Second World War to more recently. It is a thoughtful and moving experience.
Will non-poppy wearing England international footballers be ostracised? Will any have the courage to go au naturel?
Nicholas E Gough
No one should presume to know what motivates other people to wear the poppy (even TV presenters and MPs). For many of us the First World War was a history lesson from our parents and school. We were too young to fight in the Second World War, but we had family members who did and some did not return. We wear the poppy in remembrance of those who gave their tomorrows for our todays and we are eternally grateful to them.
Leaving aside the arguments as to whether or not we need to have a specified day and symbol of remembrance for the country's war dead, I am appalled that we rely on charitable collections to provide for the needs of disabled ex-servicemen and the upkeep of war memorials.
Surely in a country that has no hesitation in spending tens of billions of pounds annually on weapons of mass destruction and other military hardware, government could afford to pay the relatively small sum of £30m to the British Legion to provide, free of charge, poppies to those who wish to wear them?
Children's heart surgery reviewed
It is wrong to suggest that the review of children's heart services has been "derailed" by the outcome of the Royal Brompton's judicial review (report, 8 November). The case for change has never been stronger – clinicians, parents and national heart charities all agree that we need fewer, larger centres carrying out children's heart surgery.
We think that it is unacceptable that the outcome of the Royal Brompton's legal action is to prevent the NHS from considering the 75,000 responses and petitions already submitted from people across the country. We are preparing to appeal the Court's decision so that these voices may be heard. The review continues and, regardless of the appeal, we will reach a decision on the future of children's heart services by spring 2012.
Sir Neil McKay
Chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts
Heads have every right to strike
For so short a leading article, yours on the headteachers' strike (10 November) contains two breathtakingly large assumptions. Since when does striking indicate a lack of moral responsibility? If this strike is the first in the NAHT's history, it is hardly an ill-considered action. Let us hope that any children who think beyond a day's holiday are having it explained to them that this is a principled action against the errors and greed you yourself instance.
And then you repeat the old canard that parents will have to take time off work. Yes, they will. But it has never been the business of schools to act as crèches for working parents, nor to prop up an ailing economy by doing so.
Could the train take the strain?
Your correspondents (10 November) have referred to the involvement of HGVs in the recent sad events on the M5. While not knowing where these particular HGV journeys originated and would have terminated, one notes that the M5 runs between Birmingham and Exeter and that there is a parallel railway line for the entire route. Indeed, it extends beyond the limits of the M5 to Penzance and Scotland. Might we, with profit, reflect on the factors that caused the loads incinerated and spilled on the M5 to be on HGVs rather than freight trains?
Despicable U-turn on cluster bombs
It really is dispiriting that our government should even consider a U-turn on the banning of cluster bombs ("UK backs bid to overturn ban on cluster bombs", 9 November). Is this another example of their craven and slavish posturing to the US? I doubt they could even spell "ethical" let alone understand its meaning.
The long, the short and the tall
We'll do a deal, Adrian Hamilton (Comment 9 November). As a woman of 6ft with a husband of 6ft 6in, we will stand at the back of exhibitions and sit in the back few rows at the theatre if those under 6ft stop booking extra leg-room on flights.
Not enough women on top
Your correspondent R Havenhand (letter, 7 November) says: "We were promised that women in high positions in politics and business would do a better job than men". Who exactly promised him this – his mum? Nobody made that promise to me.
I believe that if we had more than 50 per cent women in Parliament, the culture would begin to change, and our MPs would begin to behave less like children in a primary-school playground. But then Simon Carr would lose much of his material!
It'll be a while yet before things start to improve.