Letters: It takes more than a poppy to honour soldiers

The following letters appear in the 7 November edition of The Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Friday 06 November 2015 20:34

I agree with Melissa Hawker’s sentiments about wearing poppies (letter, 6 December). My recent experience shows they are so accurate.

I went swimming with a friend’s son. He lost both feet and a hand in Afghanistan, and was walking on prostheses and carrying most of his sports gear draped over the hook on his left arm. A woman swooped on the British Legion display, saying, “We must do something for the poor boys!” She bought the dinner-plate sized poppy for her car and went in to swim.

Once changed into his “indoor feet” Garry went to swim with a couple of guys who had been behind us in the queue. Garry put his hook down with his towel and was about to sit down and take his feet off when the same woman swept up, shouting that she did not want to see his ugly scars and stumps.

The pool attendant asked her to leave. She refused. The manager had to come and remove her, to applause from the other users.

How many more poppy buyers are as two-faced as this woman?

David Critchard

I was born in 1940. My grandfather was at Gallipoli, my father landed his tank on a Normandy beach, my mother drove for the Motorised Transport Corps and brought up a child in the Blitz and my stepfather survived the Railway of Death in Malaya.

The Remembrance Day poppy should have some significance for me, and it does, but the current practice of it being worn weeks before 11 November by every Tom, Dicky and Harriet in the media has become extremely irritating. Simon Kelner (“It’s none of your business whether or not I wear a poppy”, 4 November) hit the tedious nail on the head.

The sight of television presenters adorned with the thing is, frankly, ridiculous. Do I walk about the farm with a poppy on my Barbour? Of course not! It is being worn too soon, too inappropriately by too many people, which has a decidedly cheapening effect.

Penelope Reid
Wantage, Oxfordshire

Good article by Mark Steel (6 November). However, as a newspaper you are now using the poppy appeal as a political football. No I’m not incandescent with rage, just saddened. After 27 years as a soldier (now retired but still a reservist) I find it sad that one of the few effective charities is having its activities hampered by both the loony right and loony left. If you don’t wear a poppy it’s OK by me. However, you are putting people off having collection points in their workplaces for fear of controversy.

Leave the subject alone and let it rest and let the Royal British Legion get on with a very worthwhile and desperately needed fundraiser.

Jim Draper
Lydiate, Merseyside

What is this austerity government up to?

While wholly agreeing with John McInerney (letter, 5 November) and others who have questioned why public services are being so savagely cut, I believe it’s time we had more information about the Government’s true strategy. To what extent are these cuts aimed at eliminating the deficit, rather than a deliberate policy to permanently reduce public services?

George Osborne spoke openly before the election of his desire for a smaller state (an echo of Republican/Tea Party policies in the US). I suspect the spin doctors have identified this as a toxic expression, because since the election the same idea has been expressed in a more appealing way by David Cameron and Nicky Morgan, for example, as a belief that taxes should be reduced so that “hard-working families” can keep more of what they earn to spend as they like.

Superficially, this is attractive, but if taxes are to be reduced then the Government will have less revenue, and the already-creaking public services must be further undermined.

This may not matter to the few who send their children to public school, never use public transport, have private health insurance, and can afford the cost should they become involved in a court wrangle.

Personally, I believe that high standards of public service – everything from the NHS to affordable university education, care for the elderly, the availability of local authority housing, and access to the justice system, right down to expecting to be able to speak to someone when you phone the tax office – were among the factors that helped to make this an attractive country to live in. All of this is now under threat.

Ken Gofton
Tonbridge, Kent

The problem is not enough doctors

Jeremy Hunt is being deliberately dishonest with his solution to the junior doctors debacle. It’s not extra pay they need.

The real solution to the problem would be to provide the extra manpower needed to give increased medical cover over weekends. Not possible on a whim. He proposes a smokescreen solution by increasing their pay.

He must surely know that it takes years to train up extra doctors. Sad that politicians only think short-term.

Dr Cecil Northridge
Barrowford, Lancashire

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development blames a shortage of doctors for the “poor to mediocre” performance of the NHS.

The 1957 Willink Committee forecast an excess of doctors and the Government cut the number of medical students severely. Every year since then thousands of highly suitable applicants have been rejected by British medical schools. Today, 100,000 of the 274,000 doctors registered in the UK trained outside this country.

There is no shortage of lawyers, journalists or estate agents, entry to these occupations not being subject to government control.

Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Herbal medicines can really work

As a retired academic pharmacologist who participated in a number of published studies on “herbal medicines” based on natural products, I take exception to your confusing editorial of 5 November.

While the majority of scientists including myself regard homeopathy as palpable rubbish, the same does not necessarily apply to herbal medicine. Many of the most effective drugs we have today are based upon herbal remedies, some of which have been recognised for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Evidence from Australian Aboriginal cave paintings 35,000 years old suggest that they were familiar with the corkwood plant, which is a source of the alkaloid scopolamine still used for treating nausea and sickness.

We have used digitalis from Foxgloves since medieval times for treating heart disease, quinine from cinchona bark for treating malaria (and adding to our gin and tonic), aspirin from willow bark, morphine from the opium poppy, penicillin from fungal mould, and fungal-derived statins.

The list goes on and on. Please get your facts straight.

Dr Chris Dacke
Southsea, Hampshire

Death for the pleasure of it

The nauseating experience of unexpectedly witnessing the death of a hunted fox, as recounted by R Harley (letter, 4 November), is endured by many people.

I and my colleagues have been hunt monitors for many years, taking in the Oxfordshire, Cotswold and Gloucestershire areas and witnessing what we believe to be hunting as usual. What your correspondent saw happens regularly, but it is dismissed by the hunts as an “accident”.

I and the 80 per cent of decent people who want the ban not only kept but strengthened will never understand how people can consider seeking out, tiring out and then laying a pack of 30 hounds on to an animal to tear it to pieces a “jolly good day out”.

Behind the chocolate-box image is nothing but death for the pleasure of it.

Margaret Barnicle
Holmer Green, Buckinghamshire

The neglected side of football

While agreeing with Bill Fletcher’s comments (letter, 5 November) on the over-exposure of the Steven Gerrard story, I feel the very limited comment on the lower football leagues is a real omission.

This reflects a media which hypes many of the destructive elements in the game: overpaid, often foreign-born footballers who are not allowed to grow up at their own pace. If the England national team is ever to prosper, stories from the lower leagues need to be aired.

Carole Lewis
Solihull, West Midlands

Historical costume from Downing Street

If Baroness Thatcher’s old clothes may end up in a public collection, surely the trousers, jackets, shirts and ties of recent male prime ministers ought also be preserved for the nation.

It would be sexist if they were not.

Peter Forster
London N4

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