Sir: Like Jenny McCartney, I too am fed up with flying (‘Civilised air travel? Pigs might fly’, 5 August). However, it’s not for any rudeness on the part of the staff, which I have as yet not encountered. Nor is it the lack of meals. Who needs them? No, it’s the agony of endless queues at the airport, the misery of taking off shoes and putting them back on, with no chairs supplied, and the confiscation of small items overlooked in packing. This is no fault of the air companies, but the rise in terror attacks has made such scrutiny necessary. I have ceased to travel long journeys by plane and try to manage with rail.
Sir: Ross Clark (‘Road to nowhere’, 5 August) highlights the likely limited range of electric cars. However he does not mention another factor. The range compared to petrol or diesel is sure to be further reduced in cold weather. With water-cooled petrol and diesel cars, the cabin heat is provided by waste heat from the engine cooling system, which would otherwise be dispersed via the radiator. In other words, the cabin heat is free (though the fan still costs). In electric cars, the cabin heat would have to be provided by the battery, further reducing the range. I do not know how much research has been done into this but judging by the cost of running a 1-2kW electric fire at home, it is probably significant.
Sir: Jenny Coad disapproves of those who indulge their love of photography (‘Snapping point’, 5 August). I rarely take photos with my smartphone, mostly because I don’t remember to, but I support the right of others to do so. Some of us prefer to experience art and music without a device in front of our faces. Yet few of us would criticise those who choose to sketch their favourite artwork or who sit with their eyes closed to allow the music to wash over them. Some people experience an occasion in richer detail and with greater pleasure when they try to frame it for a photograph. If Instagram is the price of getting young people into art galleries and concerts, then it is worth paying.
Armed services spending
Sir: Allan Mallinson’s piece ‘A Fighting Chance’ (5 August) is a plea to maintain the size of the army at the expense of the other two services. As with many such pieces, it repeats a range of assertions about the army’s importance that are simply not borne out by recent history; to choose just one, the second world war ended with the atom bomb rather than infantrymen firing at each other. He also complains, incorrectly, about expensive Royal Navy and RAF equipment programmes squeezing the budget. A quick look at the most recent MoD Annual Report and Accounts (p129), which treats strategic equipment programmes separately, shows the army’s ten-year equipment procurement programme is priced at more than £15 billion, while those of the Royal Navy and the RAF are £10 billion apiece. Far better to make a persuasive case for the greater MoD spending that is clearly required, rather than playing the game that makes life easiest for governments of pitting the services against each other.
Thornbury, South Gloucestershire
The wife-beater question
Sir: James Delingpole’s laments those ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ questions (‘No true Tory can support this gender idiocy’, 29 July) but like many before him, he identifies the wrong question. The classically difficult question to answer is: ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ ‘No’ being the answer that any honourable husband ought to give, but also the truthful answer of a wife-beater. Although domestic violence is an area in which I practise, I have never found it necessary to ask either formulation in court.
Temple, London WC2
Get a life
Sir: I particularly enjoyed the article ‘I Am An Embittered Old Man Who Fails To Understand That The World Around Me Is Developing And Refuse To Educate Myself, Hence I Lash Out In Any Way I Know How In Order To Feel Important’ by James Delingpole (29 July). I think it’s disgraceful that upstarts like Simone de Beauvoir or Virginia Woolf get to point out that gender is socially constructed and that there is no reasonable way of defending the idea that individuals with one set of genitals have to dedicate the entirety of their lives to upholding the values arbitrarily attached to whichever genitals they possess. Sarcasm aside, I do not agree with every piece I read in The Spectator, but never before have I been moved to write in to express my contempt for the narrow-mindedness, blatant intellectual insecurity, almost parodic sense of superiority and outright homophobia of something in your pages. Mr Delingpole, with due respect, get a life; no one is forcing you to find a new gender identity because diversity and tolerance is being propagated.
Sir: I was delighted by the book review of Bowland Beth: The Story of an English Hen Harrier (5 August) and the tribute paid to the 20th-century breed of nature writers. BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford) was a particular talent and we at the BB Society are dedicated to keeping his memory alive. His other legacy was the conservation of the Purple Emperor butterfly: owing to his reintroduction programme, the species survives today in an established colony in Fermyn Woods, Northamptonshire.
BB Society, Solihull