A fat lot of good
Sir: Max Pemberton is right that obesity is a terrible problem in western society (‘The battle of the bulge’, 12 October). But it is not helped by doctors. He seems to think that eating fat makes you fat: ‘While people back then were slimmer, they ate fattier foods.’ He then appears surprised that despite ‘eating better now’ and having access to more gyms and ‘working out more’ (which is arguable), we are not as slim as our predecessors. The plague of obesity seems to have started about 40 years ago, when scientists, funded by margarine manufacturers, came up with the brilliant wheeze that eating animal fat makes you fat and causes heart attacks. Many of the foods that had up to then sustained our ancestors and kept them slim were anathematised. Thus began the modern obsession with fat-free or low-fat foods, laced with sugar. These are disastrous on the metabolism when coupled with those other staples of the modern diet: convenience foods made with cheap denatured grain and potatoes. Wash them all down with fizzy sugary drinks and the result is all too obvious. Quite simply, most fat people are fat because they subsist on sugar and refined carbohydrates. The grim fact is they are being poisoned: by bad food, bad education and bad medical advice.
Sir: It just so happens that I was up at my local hospital yesterday meeting with a consultant, so I took along my Speccie to finish reading. Naturally, given the surroundings, I reread Max Pemberton’s article and the people around me fitted exactly the profiles given in the article. Scores of obese people — and that was just the NHS staff. They easily outweighed us waiting patients by ten to one. ‘Go figure,’ as our Taki would say.
Keep the press free
Sir: Billy Bragg’s reasoning (Diary, 12 October) that ‘to enjoy our freedoms’ the press must be subject to control by an ‘independent’ regulator was perverse. Someone of Mr Bragg’s vintage should understand that any influence MPs are given over the press now, however small, will prove the thin end of the wedge. Liberty demands a free press. Occasionally there may be victims, but no system is perfect. The alternative, that someone — however seemingly neutral — does control the press, is unthinkable and would, in the end, make us all victims. The real issue over the Mail’s treatment of Miliband père is hypocrisy. When Margaret Thatcher died earlier in the year, there were many on the left who danced on her grave. Where were Mr Bragg, Mr Miliband and the BBC then? In the latter case, cheerfully transmitting the poison. If the left want to dish it out, they must learn to take it. The press must be free, short of libel, to say what it likes.
Sir: My attention was arrested by the remark in Cressida Connolly’s coverage of Geordie Greig’s affectionate portrait of Lucian Freud and his inbuilt amorality (Books, 12 October) that ‘he very seldom forgave’. Lucian was my neighbour here in Notting Hill Gate — four doors along. We were on courteous greeting terms for years, since it was his practice to have a late breakfast at Sally Clarke’s famous restaurant, slap next door to me. At about the turn of the century, splashes of what I took to be thickish soup began appearing on the lower panes of the windows of my front hall. This was puzzling. Had I upset a neighbour, who was responding with this eccentric gesture of disgust? No sooner had our weekly Ukrainian daily wiped the window clear than a new splodge appeared. Then in 2009 Sally rang me from next door. ‘I have the answer,’ she said. ‘It’s Lucian. I’ve just seen him stopping as he passed your house and gobbing at your window.’
It happened that I bought our house at the end of the 1960s from Wynne Godley and his wife Kitty Epstein. Kitty’s first husband, and father of two of her daughters, was Lucian, on whom she walked out in 1952 after a cascade of flagrant infidelities on his part. With no experience in this field, I fancy that one tends to know where one’s previous spouses have made their homes, especially if they keep the children. Was my hall’s front window, then, the butt of the great painter’s inability to forgive an affront to his priapic vanity?
Sir: My confidence in Martin Vander Weyer’s wisdom took a bit of a knock when I read his suggestion that Labour spokesmen had ‘misunderstood’ the new issues market, as they asserted that the Royal Mail had been sold too cheaply (Any other business, 12 October). I doubt anyone in Labour misunderstood — every instance of Labour’s hollow protestations on the subject was clearly nothing more than sour-grapes politicking.
Anthony J. Burnet
East Saltoun, East Lothian
Sir: Robert Gore-Langton (Arts, 12 October) accuses Barry Humphries of ‘dubiously resurrecting’ the ‘boring’ character Sandy Stone for his farewell tour. Sandy Stone was part of Humphries’s repertoire from the 1960s onwards, and was given many of the most closely observed, tragicomic monologues outside the oeuvre of Alan Bennett; I’d say he more than deserves his place between the grotesque egos of Sir Les Patterson and Dame Edna.
Sir: Dot Wordsworth writes about blazers and jackets (28 September). I was always led to believe that gentlemen wore coats; potatoes had jackets.
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