A church for all people
Sir: I enjoyed reading Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s account of debates in the Church of England in the interval between our parish mass for Advent 3 and our service of nine lessons and carols (‘Mission impossible?’, 16 December). She asks whether the church is planning ‘a back-door “evangelical takeover”’. The simple answer is no. Yes, the Archbishops’ Council has helped to fund churches such as St Luke’s Gas Street in Birmingham, St Philip’s in Salford, and St George’s Gateshead — though it is a bit harsh to dismiss these churches, which are effective in reaching students, young people and families, as ‘centres for instant conversion’. But we have also supported churches in outer estates in Blackpool, rural ministry in Salisbury and in Cumbria, parish development across County Durham, and traditional parish work in the diocese of Coventry and in the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s traditional catholic parishes. Our work is about supporting all traditions of the church, to help us become once again a growing church for all people in all places.
Secretary General, Archbishops’ Council, Church of England, London SW1
Not Brexit’s fault
Sir: Your superbly articulate but sadly misguided columnist Matthew Parris is wrong to connect infrastructure procrastination with government time spent negotiating Brexit (‘Leave Brexit alone and get on with governing’, 16 December). There are many reasons for delays such as planning, funding, changing priorities of incoming governments etc. Take Heathrow’s third runway for instance; the Roskill commission was set up in 1968 (before even Brentry, never mind Brexit!) to look into expansion of London’s main airport and now, 50 years later, not a sod has been turned, nor will be until 2020 at the earliest, if ever. No, Mr Parris; I share your frustration but please don’t blame Brexit — not this time!
Leave Cambridge alone
Sir: If Brexit serves to frustrate the mission of Matthew Parris to bury historic Cambridge in steel and glass and to concrete over the surrounding fenlands and much of Bedfordshire, then it has already been amply justified.
How internships help
Sir: Your leader in the Christmas issue (‘The social network’, 16 December) proposed that readers contribute offers of work experience in 2018. I can share with you an example of the value of internships here in South Africa, a country blighted with chronic unemployment, especially among the youth. Until recently I managed a small private enterprise related to the pharmaceutical industry, and was involved with volunteer work at a school in a township near Cape Town, where one of our aims was to provide pupils with insight into career opportunities. The typical profile of a student would be from a single parent background, living in significant poverty, often with HIV/Aids. Classes were frequently of almost 40 and the teachers themselves were barely literate. Prospects for most of these pupils were dim. This is not to say that many were without potential; it’s just that their surrounding circumstances were bleak.
But schooling should help prepare pupils for future life, so I asked the teacher of one class to select two pupils who could work at my company on free days. Within a few weeks, one of the two ladies who had been chosen informed me that her brother would not allow her to work in a ‘white man’s’ company.
The other lady continued with the internship. She graduated from school some ten years ago without top marks, but with a sense of determination. She now works for one of South Africa’s leading banks, and is studying to qualify as a branch manager. She has a child, and is determined to fund his private schooling. She owns her apartment. This progress may not mean much in the UK, but here in South Africa it is certainly significant, as it indicates the broadening of the middle class through property ownership and, with that, social responsibility.
I hope this example demonstrates how internships can be incredibly useful.
Camps Bay, South Africa
That’s all folk
Sir: In his review of Steve Roud’s Folk Song in England (16 December), Clinton Heylin curiously claims that Victorian and Edwardian collectors sought ‘professional’ singers in pubs rather than workplaces, and that the origins of folk songs have never been properly investigated. He seems to have missed the eight volumes of Aberdeen university’s The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, containing the 3,000 songs amassed in the decade before the Great War, by two men who were brought up and educated in their region, speaking its dialect, who searched all levels of society, recording at both home and work. He will be relieved to find detailed editorial notes treating every aspect of each song, including its origin and history.
The Spectator’s ghost
Sir: I read with great interest your ghost survey in the Christmas issue (‘Have you heard a convincing ghost story?’, 16 December). There is in fact a ghost residing in the very building where this magazine is produced. Frank Schuster, a wealthy lover of music, friends with Edward Elgar, lived at 22 Old Queen Street in the early 20th century, hosting parties and socialising. He appeared to be walking towards me on the stairs late one evening, very well-dressed, but he disappeared as I was about to pass him. I later identified him from an old photograph we have here.
Lucy Childs (marketing director)
The Spectator, London SW1
Sir: The Barometer column of 2 December reports that a Durham University rugby club cancelled their pub crawl where the crawlers were dressed either as miners or ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s government following complaints by the Durham Miners Association.
Charles Moore in Vol. 2 of Margaret Thatcher’s biography notes that during the Battle of Orgreave, the use of local rugby clubs to form ‘snatch squads’ to sort out the pickets was considered. Perhaps the Association should have put forward its team of pickets and the rugby club its ‘snatch squad’ for the pub crawl just to see what might have happened as a historical exercise.
Less of a flap
Sir: Rory Sutherland is wrong about the actions of the captain of the British Airways 777 which crashed short of the runway at Heathrow in 2008 when both engines had failed due to fuel icing. The skilful captain did not instinctively add ‘another few degrees of flap at the very last minute, enough to clear the fence at the end of the runway’. Because the aeroplane was decelerating, the captain did the exact reverse of increasing the flap setting and in fact reduced the flap setting from 30 degrees to 25 degrees. Had he not done so, Boeing calculated afterwards that the aeroplane would have landed 51 metres short of the actual impact point. Rory Sutherland’s instinctive behaviour would only have helped if the aeroplane had been carrying excess speed. It is a good thing that aeroplanes are still controlled by professional pilots!
Mike Post (retired captain, BA 747)
Sir: I must emphatically disagree with Lionel Shriver when she says, ‘A purity test for artists is the end of art’ (16 December). Censor is the greatest muse. Caravaggio is never so brilliant as when he’s trying to camouflage his homoeroticism, or Shakespeare his Roman Catholicism. Great art is so often transgressive, but it must have something to transgress. Ms Shriver should instead lament the dreadful quality of our censors — the progressive left — and pray for a better class of villain than Louis C.K.
Anne of Green Gables
Sir: I recently came across this reference to your publication by L.M. Montgomery, in a letter to Ephraim Weber (her regular correspondent), dated 2 September 1909, following your review of the recently published Anne of Green Gables: ‘[The Spectator] honoured me with a two column review and was exceedingly kind and flattering. I did feel flattered. The Spectator is supposed to be “the” review of England and praise or blame from it makes or mars. It wound up by solemnly warning me not to make a sequel so when it sees I’ve disregarded its advice I expect it will justify my warning by “slating” my new book. But I’d rather be abused by The Spectator than ignored — or even praised by many inferior sheets. I can’t really believe that my little yarn, written with an eye single to Sunday School scholars, should really have been taken notice of by The Spectator.’
The letters don’t relate whether or not you slated Anne of Avonlea. In any case, I thought you might be amused … or even rather pleased.
Sir: In his characteristically concise memoir A Little Learning (1964), Evelyn Waugh makes clear why he held no degree from Oxford (Letters, 9 December).
Eager to have his second son’s education completed, Arthur Waugh despatched him to Oxford after he had won a scholarship at Hertford. Evelyn consequently arrived in a by-term, Hilary 1922. He achieved a third in his finals eight terms later, or one term short of the nine required in residence to be eligible to graduate. ‘My father decided that a Third Class BA was not worth the time and expense of going up for a further term.’
Icklesham, East Sussex
What built Silicon Valley
Sir: Charles Moore asks ‘what industrial strategy built Silicon Valley?’ (Notes,
2 December). The answer is the largest defence budget in history. Having the world’s biggest buyer of tech on your doorstep, not to mention the benefits of military infrastructure, such as the internet and GPS, is the secret of its success. The navy, Nasa, even the CIA have their own venture capital funds. It brings to mind the old US military saying: ‘Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.’
Kyogle, New South Wales, Australia
Mind the Gap
Sir: David Butterfield is right (Notes On, 9 December) — the Watford Gap service station is not lovely. But the environs do have points of interest. The church at Ashby St Ledgers has fine box pews and at Weedon there are the barracks where George III was going to shelter if Boney invaded. Must we wait for the prediction once made in our local paper, ‘Tourist boom threatens Northants’, to be fulfilled?
Greens Norton, Northamptonshire
Sir: What a joy to see Michael Lewis writing again in The Spectator (America Notebook, 16 December). His new year’s vow to teach his children about money reminded me of the time I tried to show my son the futility of gambling by taking him to a bookmaker. The boy asked me to bet on a horse at 80-1, and I did, thinking no chance. It romped home. He now believes that any time he wants money he can just make a wager.