Nicci Gerrard, through her writings in this newspaper and lead role in John’s Campaign, has done more than just effect yet another government U-turn (“Why did the government take so long to back down on this care home cruelty?”, Comment). She highlighted the patchwork of care homes covering more than 450,000 residents and their loved ones and how they had become “jails of enforced loneliness”, where Covid was not the only killer. That jolted me into connecting with other patient carers to channel and help assuage the pain of suffering in isolation, hitherto without mutual support and always in dread of that final telephone call.
I have great admiration for Nicci and her dogged determination to prove that “our campaign is not over” but her conclusion that “bereft families can finally open the door to step out together into the world” is tragically not the case for bereaved families like mine, who will have to live the pain of “unredeemable time” after receiving that call when I lost my darling wife in a prison of enforced loneliness.
A once proud name
I grew up the proud bearer of a singular, immediately recognised surname, origins obscure, within a family known for its professional service and solid reputation for quiet decency and hard work. There are no more male heirs left on our side, nor, I believe, within the older branch of the family. How sad, then, to see the legacy being left by the last male of the family as portrayed by the richly accurate pen of Chris Riddell (“The emperor’s new curtains”, Comment). My forebears would be turning in their graves.
Shameful inaction on fraud
In the face of more than 3m incidents of financial fraud a year worth at least £2.8bn, the government’s response to Martin Lewis that it is “really difficult” to regulate the likes of Facebook and Google is reprehensible (“There’s an epidemic of scams, but fraudsters are getting off scot-free, says Martin Lewis”, News). Furthermore, its preference to instead rely on Lewis’s £3m court victory, a minuscule blip on the revenues of the internet behemoths, did nothing to recompense victims. How much longer are we expected to accept government inaction and disregard for the rights of its citizens?
Great Shelford, Cambridge
Cakes and Port Vale
Rachel Cooke’s dilemma of how to warm oatcakes is easily solved (“Let them eat oatcakes”, Notebook, Comment). Simply lay the oatcake on the grill pan, add thinly sliced or grated cheese (traditionally cheshire but cheddar will do) and grill until bubbling. Roll up and eat! Add extra fillings – brown sauce, bacon, sausage, mushroom if you must.
Oatcakes are our traditional foodstuff – product of local agriculture and the traditional bottle kilns that fired the potbanks of Stoke-on-Trent. For those who don’t have a Neal’s Yard Dairy on their doorstep, you can always use mail order, visit Stoke on Trent’s oatcake shops, or make your own from ready-made packs available from Port Vale football club’s shop. That way, you would be savouring a local delicacy as well as backing a football club whose owners, supporters and foundation value loyalty above all else.
I wanted to say how much I valued the interview with Dr David Bell (“What matters is the truth. I hate the fact that the fear of being seen to be transphobic now overrides everything”, the New Review). It is worrying that the Tavistock sought to suppress the (in my view) very reasonably questioning position of Dr Bell with respect to the potentially irreversible treatments being carried out on children and adolescents. The subsequent judgment of the high court in the case of Keira Bell v the Tavistock and now the recent decision of Sweden to halt the use of puberty blockers in children (except as part of research trials) bears this out.
More and more clinicians are becoming extremely concerned at the practice of increasingly treating psychological distress about one’s body and gender with potentially irreversible medical and surgical treatments.
Dr Ellen Wright
Not more solar energy
Will Hutton writes about the potential impact of space-based technologies on our lives, including plans to beam solar energy from giant mirrors in space to the Earth’s surface (“Fifty years after Apollo, space is about to transform our life on Earth beyond recognition”, Comment). Climate change is happening because rising CO2 levels trap heat in the atmosphere instead of allowing it to radiate into space. Pouring yet more energy into the system will only result in yet more heating. We already receive plenty of solar energy from space; we just need to make better use of it.
Unfair payment after death
Anna Tims’s report resonated with me following the sad death of my mother in November last year (“Grieving relatives tell of despair at months of waiting for probate”, Cash). As executor, I appointed a solicitor to manage probate of my mother’s estate. There is substantial inheritance tax (IHT), which I do not object to but cannot afford to pay so will need to liquidate assets from the estate once I have been granted probate. HMRC has agreed to wait for the IHT to be paid up to 28 days after the issue of the grant of probate. There appears to have been no progress made by the relevant probate registry since January. HMRC has confirmed that interest on the IHT will still accrue from 31 May, six months from the date of death.
A “financial fine” for an inadequate government system seems ludicrous, stressful and an unfair burden on grieving beneficiaries. My mother would be horrified if she knew that her family were struggling to benefit from her carefully managed estate.
Ted Hastings is right
Kenan Malik writes of crony capitalism and the unregulated market being central to the Grenfell tragedy (“Grenfell is still giving up its secrets and they retain the power to shock”, Comment). Nick Cohen writes on rampant cronyism/sleaze in central government and the lack of regulation in public life (“If public life goes unregulated, just who will hold politicians to account?”, Comment). Despite all this, Boris Johnson still heads the polls.
The final words of superintendent Ted Hastings, Britain’s favourite cop, come to mind: “What’s happened to us? When did we stop caring about honesty and integrity?”
Hair of the dog
Further to Barbara Ellen’s piece (“Haven’t you heard, Tony? The nation’s barbers have reopened”, Comment), I’m surprised that she made no tonsorial comparisons between Tony Blair and the ragamuffin stylings of the current occupant of No 10. Better perhaps to resemble a silver fox than a sheepdog?