Sir: While I enjoyed much of Simon Jenkins’s analysis of why England’s cathedrals are thriving (‘Why cathedrals are soaring’, 8 October) his article misses the point. As a self-confessed non-worshipper, his understanding of these buildings and their significance lacks a crucial dimension. The raison d’être of our churches and cathedrals is faith and worship. By focusing exclusively on historical and aesthetic elements and ignoring their continuing important spiritual role, Jenkins risks behaving like a restaurant critic who never bothers to taste the food on offer. I would suggest that most people who go to cathedral services do so not to avoid ‘demands’ to pray, but because the intercessions, the music and most of all the preaching are of a quality you don’t always find in the 1,000 best churches he has also catalogued. Perhaps Jenkins needs reminding that all are welcome at the Lord’s table, and he should break the habit of a lifetime and come and join us.
Sir: As Simon Jenkins notes in his uplifting article on cathedrals (8 October), they mostly date from around 900 years ago. It was a period of crop surplus, increased trade, rising prosperity, reduction in disease and surplus labour, all thanks to the Medieval Warming. Indeed, the world was warm enough for the Vikings to farm Greenland using the same methods as in Scandinavia. Sadly it all came to an end in the 15th century with the Little Ice Age. Could it be that global warming has had a bad press?
Invitation to dismissal
Sir: I was invited by the ambassador of Ireland to attend a reception at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Disappointingly, I was turned away by party officials because I had not, allegedly, been cleared by ‘security’. When I showed the young Conservative in charge my invitation, he looked at it and said ‘Irish embassy? Is that northern Ireland or southern Ireland?’ I was obliged to explain to him that Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom, and thus does not have an ambassador to the Court of St James. Where do the Tories get these people?
Hang on to your condoms
Sir: Lara Prendergast is right to draw attention to findings indicating that use of the oral contraceptive pill is not risk-free (‘Unhappy Pill’, 8 October), although she must acknowledge that unwanted pregnancies are also a health hazard. The rhythm method, the alternative she suggests for women who want to have sex without becoming pregnant, is not hugely reliable. The humble condom is a far better alternative. It is cheap, easily available, effective, has no serious health risks and reduces the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Every young lady should have one in her handbag.
Dr Ian McKee
Early to bed, early to rise
Sir: Rory Sutherland (The Wiki Man, 8 October) suggests that we put clocks back or forward on the same dates as North America. But if we are serious about maximising our waking hours of daylight, instead of going to the trouble of changing all our clocks twice a year, we should go to bed at eight and get up at four throughout the year.
George MacDonald Ross
Blame the beech marten
Sir: Ian Wallis (Letters, 8 October) argues against the reintroduction of pine martens, citing the problems he has experienced with them in his house in France.
I believe Mr Wallis is mistaken. The antisocial behaviour that he describes is typical of the beech marten (Martes foina), a smaller cousin of the pine marten (Martes martes). But although they look similar, the behavioural patterns of the two martens are very different. The beech marten (or house marten) has readily adapted to life with humans. By contrast, the pine marten prefers forest life and tends to avoid human settlements. Reintroducing pine martens may even help to reduce our population of non-indigenous grey squirrels.
The further good news is that Spectator readers can relax: while the beech marten is common in continental Europe, it has apparently never lived in the British Isles.
Hearing the other side
Sir: Charles Moore’s workman (Notes, 8 October) is wasting his money by buying the Guardian and the Telegraph each day ‘to get both sides’. I also read the Telegraph daily; to get the Guardian viewpoint I turn on my radio and listen to the BBC.
David J. Cox
Hove, East Sussex
Sir: Mr Pender-Cudlip is quite right to say (Letters, 8 October) that Athenians could be as murderous in dealing with perceived enemies as any other ancient state. But that does not affect the claim made by the funeral speech in Thucydides that Athens was itself an ‘open society’, welcoming in foreigners. As many other sources point out, Athens needed them because of the vital contribution they made to Athenian trade.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Sir: Following John Cleese’s remarks about your editor, I thought the best response, as an Englishman, would be to go out and buy the magazine. Jolly good it is too.