Sir: Alexander Chancellor has called for Spectator readers to suggest a message to send into space on behalf of the world, in response to some Russian billionaire’s prize of £1 million for the best (Long life, 19 September). Given that the nearest form of intelligent life is at least 60,000,000,000,000 miles away, it had better be a good ’un, as we all know what we Earthlings tend to do with cold-callers. Moreover, given that the bulk of the world’s population cleave to the notion that our life-form is God-given and unique among the planets, it should probably be penned by a consummate ad man; someone steeped in the art of dissembling while remaining, of course, legal, decent, honest and true. Maybe, therefore, something along the lines of: ‘Earth. There’s no place like it.’ Perhaps Rory Sutherland could be persuaded to give it a spin?
Sir: What has the Revd Anthony Pellegrini (Letters, 26 September) against Marin Alsop, who made history by becoming the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms in 2013? Her return this year felt like a homecoming: she was at ease in a programme ranging from Delibes and Strauss to The Sound of Music. And the audience adored her. Alsop, an American, is no ingénue: she is musical director of the Baltimore Symphony and has guest-conducted many of the world’s great orchestras. Switching off at the sight of her, as Mr Pellegrini says he did, seems somewhat unreasonable.
It’s better in Scunthorpe
Sir: Readers will be pleased to know that a traditional, unashamedly jingoistic Last Night of the Proms was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the excellent John Rigby at the Baths Hall in Scunthorpe. Perhaps the BBC would like to relocate its coverage to north Lincolnshire next year?
Sir: I enjoyed Rod Liddle’s invective against the appalling taste of Tory rockers (26 September), as I too loathe ‘prog rock’. However, Rod is wrong in thinking that there are only ‘one or two right-wingish rock bands’. Other than those he mentioned, step forward two thirds of ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Nico (deceased) and Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground, Johnny Ramone (deceased), Kid Rock and Tony Hadley, Phil Collins and that bloke from Take That (the last three admittedly difficult to fit into the rock category). Elvis’s disgust for the Beatles’ drug taking is legendary; the mighty Lemmy of Motörhead has a collection of Nazi memorabilia. The list goes on. Indeed, perhaps compiling a list of left-wing rockers would prove to be the lesser task.
Don’t call us junior
Sir: So-called ‘junior doctors’ are being infantilised. We are not juniors, but doctors, who experience the extremes of life and death, intimately, such that they become the unsaid, understated part of our everyday work. Our patients trust us with their lives. We are the first to hold the new-born baby delivered by emergency C-section, we are the last to close the eyes of the young man to preserve his dignity after he has been brought in by helicopter following a road traffic accident. We meet the broken family in A&E at 4 a.m., whose daughter hung herself in the stairwell of their home that day. We stay late to ensure the man with end-stage liver disease has a more peaceful night, after he vomited blood all day long. We meet the lady on intensive care who jumped in front of a train and survived, this time. We are generally peaceful people and we love our work and our patients, but we can no longer be undermined as we are now. Hopefully the public will start to understand what our work really looks like each day and begins to look beneath the ‘row’ over doctor’s pay to the more insidious destruction of the NHS that is taking place as we speak.
Drs Lauren Gavaghan, Hannah Turts
and Jamie Plumb, London
Machiavelli on immigration
Sir: Peter Jones (Ancient and Modern, 12 September) cites Livy in support of an acculturative immigration policy. But Machiavelli’s conclusion in his Discourses on Livy was different. Rome’s decline and fall was, he thought, the outcome of having become dependent on her colonies, so that she became eventually little more than a colony herself. Not least for the UK and France, such ‘wages of empire’ are surely a far more realistic judgement of immigration’s causes and effects.
Dr David Beresford-Jones
Sir: Alexandra Coghlan (Arts, 26 September) wonders if there is a ‘more heart-stilling moment in all opera than the finale of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro’ when the Count begs forgiveness of his wife. A contender for the prize comes in a remarkably similar situation towards the end of Vaughan Williams’s opera Sir John in Love. In music of profound beauty, Ford also begs forgiveness of his wife, whom he once suspected of infidelity with Falstaff, in Shakespeare’s memorable words ‘Pardon me wife, henceforth do what thou wilt; I rather will suspect the sun with cold than thou with wantonness,’ to which his wife mingles her response in the words of Richard Edwards’s madrigal ‘The falling out of faithful friends renewal is of love’, the whole reconciliation being crowned with Vaughan Williams’ setting of ‘Greensleeves’. Few moments in opera contain such moving tenderness.
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