Sir: In James Forsyth’s analysis (‘Boris’s booster shot’, 14 November) he infers that a vaccine, if provided to the majority of the UK population, would deliver herd immunity from Covid-19, noting that ‘it seems increasingly probable that by the second half of next year, we will be emerging from this Covid nightmare’. I pray that he is right, though fear he may not be. In a recent Lanceteditorial the view expressed was the exact opposite, as it notes that any vaccines are ‘unlikely’ to prevent transmission, though will reduce the severity of symptoms and likelihood of death. Critically, if transmission cannot be stopped via vaccine, in the absence of R being systematically below one, then Covid-19 will remain in circulation in society. Even in the event of a 90 per cent effective vaccine, this would presumably still have significant consequences. The editorial concludes: ‘Often it is difficult to offer solutions, but it is straightforward in this case: interventions that have been in use since early in the pandemic, most crucially physical distancing and hand hygiene, must continue indefinitely.’ How depressing.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Sir: Reviewing my wife Ann Pasternak Slater’s biography of Vivien Eliot (14 November), Robert Crawford is also shielding. His own half-completed, conventional biography of T.S. Eliot is in the works. One thing (of many): Eliot committed adultery; we don’t know with whom. Which is Pasternak Slater’s position. Crawford criticises her for not proposing Mary Hutchinson (perhaps) or Nancy Cunard (more likely) as partners in Eliot’s frankly confessed adultery. But as he makes clear in his own first volume, there is no conclusive evidence for either woman. There, in the absence of candidates, he even proposes that Eliot’s was ‘an adultery of the heart’, nothing physical at all. So the charge levelled against Pasternak Slater applies more accurately to himself. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot.
New College, Oxford
Sir: Many thanks to Nick Newman for his anniversary homage to Pont (‘Cartoon hero’, 14 November) and for the marvellous handful of British Character cartoons. Although the reproduction in the magazine makes it hard to spot, the keenest of observers might just detect a tiny ‘s’ lurking in the bottom left of the first of these (‘Why of course, Mrs Harrison’). In his 1969 illustrated biography, Bernard Hollowood recounts how Graham Laidler (aka Pont) fell in love with a 19-year-old girl while in Austria in 1936-7 and they became unofficially engaged. However, her parents disapproved on age grounds and the couple agreed to test their devotion by accepting a six-month separation. During this time they had no communication but had agreed on a coded message — the ‘s’ — which appeared on all his drawings from April 1937 till the end of November that year. Sadly, the opposition remained at the end of the six-month period and the couple accepted defeat. Three years later, he died.
Sir: I empathise with Rory Sutherland whose 30-year attempt to bring back the cravat ended in failure (The Wiki Man, 14 November). My similar, although much shorter, attempt at popularising this useful garment was equally unsuccessful, but I do remember being complimented by an older gentleman who said: ‘So nice to see a man wearing a cravat.’
Consider the elderly
Sir: I’m elderly, Matthew Parris — I’m 91 — and I live alone, not in a home, but I agree that we need some consideration (‘It’s shameful how we have treated our elderly’, 14 November). I had an unpleasant experience last week: I am slow because gout makes walking difficult for me, but usually people on the bus are kind; they help me with my shopping trolley and give me a seat where it is not in the way. I’m still upset by being shouted at by a man who said I should use Dial-a-Ride, presumably because I was delaying the departure of the bus.
Sir: The apparent hypocrisy of my alma mater, exposed by Charles Moore (Notes, 14 November), is actually based on logic. Jesus College, Cambridge, has realised that dead benefactors can neither complain about the despoiling of their reputations nor make further benefactions, whereas living ones — like the Chinese communists — can do both. But why stop at poor Tobias Rustat? Surely the College’s new ‘woke’ credentials could be further burnished by tearing down the statue of its founder, Bishop Alcock. Being a 15th-century prelate, he must have had many opinions unacceptable to modern tastes. I never thought I would write these words: I am ashamed of my old college.
Blessing of a lost key
Sir: Hopefully the answer to Laura Freeman’s question ‘Will our churches ever re-open?’ (7 November) is a resounding yes, in spite of the gutless directives issued by the Church of England authorities. Luckily, our local church had to stay open during lockdown because the door key was lost centuries ago. The bells ring for a few minutes every Sunday morning. This sign of life, hope and continuity is appreciated by those within earshot.
Church Warden, St Peter and St Paul’s, Sheinton, Shropshire
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