Sir: Matthew Parris’s article ‘What question should a second referendum ask?’ (26 October) occasioned a wry smile from me this morning. His first question — whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union — has already been asked and answered, at great expense and trouble, in 2016. The only logical reason why it should be re-asked is if the first time it was asked was illegitimate in some way. But it was only after the result was known that questions were raised about its legitimacy. At the time, not a breath was raised. However, I do like Mr Parris’s second question. We shouldn’t have a second referendum, but if we do let’s make the choice ‘deal or no deal’. That would be a legitimate question.
What would be the point?
Sir: Matthew Parris’s proposed democratic-sounding solution for questions included on a second referendum ballot paper will do nothing to alter the present impasse (26 October). As witnessed by their actions, the establishment and a majority of MPs have shown that they have disregarded the Leave result and are trying everything in their power to keep the status quo. If a second vote, however detailed, is also for Leave, would their actions be any different?
Sir: Charles Moore’s sales assistant didn’t know what a blotter was (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 October). In the men’s clothing department of John Lewis in Southampton, I told the young salesman I was looking for a pair of grey flannels. I was directed to ‘bathroom towels’ on the floor below.
Sir: Douglas Murray’s article (‘Don’t be such a chicken about Chick’fil-A’, 26 October) highlights the irony that the American culture wars haven’t come to this country through religious and social conservatives, as some feared, but through social and cultural liberals. While the former are rather tame in this country, with relatively little political influence, the latter are strident and militant and seem to carry all before them. Smug in their self-righteous sense of virtue, they can’t see themselves as the intolerant zealots that they are. I am reminded of the question in Amin Maalouf’s Samarkand in relation to the Assassins: ‘What reign is worse than that of militant virtue?’
Sir: Mark Mason (‘The I’s have it’, 26 October) is right that language (meaning, pronunciation, spelling, grammar, punctuation) has always evolved and should continue to. His nuanced discussion with Sam Leith in your subsequent podcast also seemed to me to strike the right note. We all have our pet aversions, but ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are rarely the appropriate labels to apply, and neither pedantry nor anarchy should rule. It was ironic therefore that the same edition included Terence Ryle’s letter insisting on the prosaic ‘crack’ instead of the evocative ‘craic’. Many Mackems (the well-heeled and downtrodden alike) and their friends to the north, including beyond the Scottish borders, would beg to differ.
Sir: Peter Hitchens (Letters, 26 October) might like to know that church bells still have their weight denominated in hundredweights, quarters and pounds. A hundredweight, of course, contains 112 pounds. Trust me, I’m a bellringer.
Sir: Susan Hill’s story of the loss and mysterious reappearance of mobile phones (‘Stranger than fiction’, 26 October) reminds me of my own experience involving a roast goose recipe of the late Jennifer Paterson. The recipe had been torn from The Spectator by the late wife of the editor, columnist and avid Spectator reader Paddy McGuinness and solemnly presented to me, stained with splattered goose fat, on New Year’s Eve 1999. I was driving to Bathurst to celebrate the new millennium. Somewhere along the way, the recipe was lost; I presumed it fell from the car at one of our stops. A thorough search of the car did not find it.
Some months later, while working in my office back in Adelaide late one evening, I was disturbed by a noise from the back of the office where the photocopier and bins were. I went to investigate and found, sitting on top of the confidential waste bin, the lost page of The Spectator with Jennifer Paterson’s roast goose recipe. It even had the splattered goose fat stains. No one in the office recalled having seen it before.
I put it down to the miraculous intervention of Jennifer Paterson, and if the Vatican ever decides to open the cause for her canonisation, I shall be ready with evidence of a first miracle.
Aldgate, South Australia
Professor Martin Gore
Sir: My family and I were very touched by Jeremy Clarke’s kind mention of my brother Professor Martin Gore (Low Life, 26 October). The last thing my brother would have wanted was for people to stop being vaccinated due to the very rare but tragic outcome of his yellow fever jab. He was a great advocate of all forms of vaccination particularly for children — as are all my family.