Staying home for marriage
Sir: ‘Find me a person who stopped voting Conservative last week because of David Cameron’s vague, half-arsed, lacklustre stance on gay marriage. Go on. I dare you… I’ll settle for just one of them instead…Anyone?’ (Hugo Rifkind, 12 May). Well, there’s me for a start: for the first time ever (I have voted at every election since I was old enough, and I am now over 70) I spoiled my ballot paper for this reason; and I’m not the only one who thinks that the preservation of marriage as normally understood (one man and one woman) is of fundamental importance to our society. The Coalition for Marriage petition now has over half a million signatures, making it one of the largest-ever online petitions.
Women on radio
Sir: Melanie McDonagh (‘The Right to Squeak’, 12 May) says that having a feminine voice is a real disadvantage in broadcasting. Your readers may be interested to know that we have been monitoring the use of female experts as contributors to news and current affairs programmes. The figures show that on average four times as many men as women experts are interviewed. Some programmes, like the Radio 4 Today programme, use on average six times as many male as female experts. This does not reflect the number of women in professions or organisations. Regardless of the timbre of the female voice, women should be seen and heard more on TV and radio. The more women we hear, the nicer they will sound.
Department of Journalism
City University, London
Sir: I’m sure Melanie McDonagh is right that women with high, quiet voices are at a disadvantage on radio — but shifting to a screech is exactly the wrong approach. Teachers are taught to deal with a noisy classroom by speaking confidently but very quietly, so that their pupils are obliged to fall silent. What works on badly behaved children is almost certain to work on political commentators.
Cheese to please
Sir: Brian Sewell (Diary, 12 May) says there is no English cheese to match the smelly French Mont d’Or. I agree that, going on stink alone, soft French unpasteurised cheese wins hands down, but taste-wise it is hard to beat proper tangy cheddar. Whenever I visit my French relatives I am always commissioned to bring as much of the stuff as I can carry.
In praise of darkness
Sir: Matthew Parris (5 May) does well to recommend the removal of the hideous, urine-coloured glow of sodium street lamps in the countryside; and it is highly debatable that they are needed anywhere. The eye is more confused than sharpened by bright light at night. Colours are distorted. Gaps of darkness are bewildering traps. Humans appear ghoulishly inhuman, as if made of mustard. And the lights are relentless, merciless; they never go out.
Street lighting should use tungsten and be decorative only, like the pretty strings of lights on a pier. The rest destroys night vision (the dark is never dark!). Apart possibly from places like Cordoba, this planet was totally dark at night until only very recently. It cannot be that there is anything special about the current era which demands otherwise.
Sir: Congratulations to Simon Marcus for his excellent article ‘Minority report’ (12 May). I have long believed that political correctness is leading us into danger. When combined with moral relativism, the doctrine of multiculturalism, and ‘human rights’, it forms a toxic mix which no one seems to have the courage to address.
Mates of Melbourne
Sir: Gerry Fad rubbishes Melbourne for the most petty reasons (Letters, 12 May). Do not be put off! Australia is a terrific country and Melbourne one of its great, vibrant, cosmopolitan cities. I have been several times, and I have enjoyed every minute. You do need to tune into the local vibe. Just go with the flow and she’ll be right, mate.
Sir: I was disturbed by Gerry Fad’s mean-spirited attack on Melbourne in your letters last week. It seemed rich coming from someone who lives in Bristol, which is hardly the world’s most thrilling city. Melbourne is a much finer place, one in which James Delingpole would be lucky to live. I say that as a Sydneyite, so you can’t accuse me of being partisan, Gerry.
Sir: Rory Sutherland suggests that ‘supposedly the two best things to have on your person if your plane is hijacked are a Canadian passport and a foreskin’. Sound wisdom. The trouble is, I am not a Canadian and, being a woman, I don’t have a foreskin on my person. Should I avoid flying?
Sir: Did anyone else spot the subtle irony of Toby Young’s column last week (Status anxiety, 12 May)? Eight hundred words telling us about the loss of the family hamster and finding her again, on returning from a debate on the future of journalism.