Don’t write off Assad
Sir: Ahmed Rashid refers to our ‘Arab allies’ supporting al-Qaeda (‘The plan to back al-Qaeda against Isis’, 18 July). Clearly they are no allies of ours, so thank you Mr Rashid for pointing this out. Apart from that, his perspective is peculiar. He starts off by accusing Assad of plunging Syria into a bloody civil war. Clearly that is not the case. The civil war was started by Assad’s opponents, encouraged by the ‘success’ of the Arab Spring elsewhere. Of course we now see that the ‘success’ was illusory. He also suggests that Assad is finished. Now that his ally Iran has come in from the cold, I think it is a bit early to write him off. Authoritarian regimes are not palatable to western democracies, but they are often better than the chaotic alternatives. Egypt is a safer place for its citizens than Libya or Syria. The West should work with Iran to restore Assad, or some other strong, non-Islamist government. People forget that minorities including Christians fared well under the Assad regime.
Whether Lee lied
Sir: Gavin Mortimer accuses Sir Christopher Lee of being misleading about his second world war service career when claiming to have been in ‘special forces’ (‘Who dares lies’, 18 July). It is possible that Lee was just being discreet. As an RAF liaison officer, he may have been attached to the SAS and SOE as a member of an RAF ‘Special Liaison Unit’. We now know that such people were actually answerable to MI6 and charged with disseminating Ultra — the famous signal intelligence revealed by British codebreaking. Thousands were told to keep quiet after the war about their involvement and did. Perhaps he was one of them?
A pre-nup for Taki
Sir: It did come as something of a surprise to discover that Taki is to marry our daughter Lara (High life, 11 July). Who would have thought, when I was reading The Spectator out in New Zealand in the 1980s (in the days of the great Murray Sayle, Jeffrey Bernard and, indeed, Taki), that my daughter would one day be marrying into the clan? I suppose it would have been nice to have been informed, but that must be the way it is with modern youth.
We live not far from Chawton, where Jane Austen wrote that ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’, and so it has proved. But with so much turmoil in Greece (and I am sure Taki won’t mind me insisting on this, in the circumstances), we will have to impose strict conditions, in particular control of the assets as collateral for the dowry. Supervision of both this and our daughter’s welfare will be as strict as anything the EU, ECB and IMF could come up with.
Sir: David Bye (Letters, 18 July) is wrong. Nowhere in my diary (20 June) do I write anything to ‘bemoan’ the ‘infection’ of British English by Americanisms such as ‘I’m good’ instead of ‘I’m well’. My diary simply states that I am ‘surprised’ by ‘our differences in what we say and what we mean’. Often while in America I find myself delighting in, then using, a fresher vocabulary. ‘Lucked out’, ‘bad actor’ and ‘get laid’ are just three examples.
Sir: Much as I respect Alexander Chancellor, I must disagree with his comments on croquet (Long life, 18 July). He refers to it as a vicious and nasty game, which has the object of bashing your opponents’ balls into the bushes. This might describe garden croquet but is a million miles away from the proper game of Association Croquet, an international sport which is played in a very gentlemanly way.
Secretary, Church Stretton Croquet Club
Sir: Alexander Chancellor’s article about croquet reminded me of the unlikely setting in which I learned to play it. This was the lawn in front of the RUC station in Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, a village that would later become notorious during the Troubles. One of the sergeants was a bad loser who had an amazing vocabulary of swear words. Passing locals got quite used to this and smiled indulgently. Alexander is right, however, in saying that it is a most vicious game.
Sir: Roger Alton is quite wrong in thinking that Nick Kyrgios is just what Wimbledon needs (Sport, 11 July). He may be a good tennis player but his display of bad manners, boorish behaviour and poor sportsmanship is not only embarrassing for Australians, but besmirches a beautiful tournament. Even his mother has said she wished he’d take a leaf out of Roger Federer’s book.
Sir: To add to Harry Mount’s remarks on ancient survivals into modern Greek (Greece Notebook, 18 July), I recall my delight at finding that Athens bus stops were indicated by signs transliterating as ‘stasis’.
Michael Grosvenor Myer
Another way out
Sir: Henry Stewart does not go far enough when he suggests replacing ‘Grexit’ with ‘Grexodus’ (Letters, 18 July). ‘Grexit’ is made from two Latin words, and much better would be two Greek words making ‘Hellexodus’, which is exactly appropriate.