What have we learned in 2,074 years?
Sir: “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt: People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero -55 BC
Not much has changed, the financial incompetence, money wasted on foreign aid when it should be used to build Australia dams, railways and roads, the arrogance and too many living on public assistance.
We need a generosity report
Sir: Your leading article bemoaning the lack of charitable giving in Britain misses the mark (‘The power of giving’, 9 February). It is not a lack of generosity that’s the problem, but a lack of acknowledgement. Our lifeboats and air ambulances are kept in operation by charitable donations. In 2016/17 Cancer Research UK raised £190 million from individual donations. First aid and other services at public events are supplied by volunteers. Every NHS trust in the land has buildings and equipment funded by charitable donations. Every art gallery, theatre and museum has facilities funded by donations. These funds come from all sections of society — David Harding’s contribution to Cambridge is extraordinary, but 90 per cent of CRUK’s £190 million arrived in donations of £10 or less.
I suspect most users of these services and facilities assume them to be state-funded. If we published an annual Generosity Report that summarised and listed the remarkable contributions made by the British public, that misconception could be laid to rest. And if the report were set before parliament it would allow the government of the day to give the public a pat on the back — and to stop taking vicarious credit for private funding.
Sir: Melissa Kite’s reasoning regarding the RSPCA is correct (‘Hold your horses’, 9 February). In his opening statement its new CEO, Chris Sherwood, claims his remit is to ‘develop and maintain services which meet the needs of animals and the people that care for them’. But Melissa’s piece highlights some serious concerns as to whether he is fulfilling this brief. Can the RSPCA really be said to be considering the needs of the people who look after animals if it seizes healthy horses from a caring owner? What due diligence does it carry out before seizing such animals?
Hurst Farm is clearly a soft target. An elderly, partially sighted farmer, who has invested time, effort and money in looking after animals in his care, can put up little resistance. Where is the RSPCA when really serious welfare cases come to light, where it at times appears to turn a blind eye to equines in dire situations? In these cases the RSPCA appears happy to hand things over to smaller charities to pick up the pieces. Often as not, these are charities which cannot really afford to do much.
Finally, how does the RSPCA make its decisions about who to pursue for seizure and prosecution and why does there appear to be a deliberate selection process? It seems a fair question to ask when considering making a donation to a registered charity.
North Walsham, Norfolk
Sir: James Delingpole’s column about his Lyme disease (9 February) will ring true for many readers who suffer from chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, which are often dismissed as ‘just depression’. Sufferers not only experience a lack of sympathy (which in most cases is unwanted anyway) but also a definite hostility from the medical profession.
There is a Chinese saying: ‘Long illness makes a doctor of every patient.’ It is certainly true that many sufferers do so much research on their condition that they end up knowing more than their doctor. However, this commendable desire to be proactive in finding a possible treatment for their condition is often taken as proof of mental instability. You can’t win.
Sir: Tristram Hunt’s enthusiasm for the architecture of the V&A Dundee (Diary, 9 February) is not shared by locals. Many correspondents to the Dundee Courier have bemoaned its drab and ugly appearance, calling it ‘the dirty iceberg’ or comparing it to ‘a giant rubbish skip’. The vast interior is little better, with only two galleries — one for touring exhibitions and the other celebrating Scottish design, and with lots of empty space.
Visitors to Dundee will have a much more rewarding experience at the civic-run McManus Galleries and Museum in Albert Square.
Coupar Angus, Perthshire
No case for HS2
Sir: Liam Halligan’s piece on HS2 is spot-on (‘The wrong track’, 9 February). I am surprised to find myself for once on the same side as Andrea Leadsom.
Most of the argument about HS2 focuses on cost; I’d like more on the pros and cons. Any projected benefits seem to be based on an assumption that more people will travel the route, because the travel time will be less. Sir Colin Buchanan showed the fallacy of this argument as far back as the 1970s in his dissenting appendix to the Roskill Commission report on a new airport for London. Add to that the error of assuming that in ten or 20 years’ time we will be living our lives much as we do now and the case for HS2 evaporates. The only thing we know about our future way of life is that we don’t know what it will be. Moore’s Law still applies: technology will continue to transform our lives, including our travel choices. Infrastructure investments should be fairly small in scope and cost, not massive and speculative.
Measure for measure
Sir: I was interested to read of the difficulties of understanding Celsius temperatures when one is used to Fahrenheit (‘Chicago Notebook’, 9 February). I have to say Americans are not the only ones who have Fahrenheit temperatures ‘embedded in their notions of temperature’. I wonder if other Brits like me, over a certain age, think of hot sunny temperatures as being in the 80s and 90s. We also have to cope with weather forecasters talking about the snow being centimetres deep, which means nothing if one thinks in feet and inches.
As for cooking, it is very difficult now that recipe books are beginning to drop the pounds and ounces in favour of grams and kilograms, and measuring jugs often just have litres. Thank goodness we still have miles on our road signs.
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