The Spectator

Letters | 25 August 2012

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A place for sport

Sir: Many of us in the education world are baffled by the political furore over school sports fields. Harris Federation runs 13 academies, largely in tight urban spaces. All manage to deliver outstanding sports lessons. Why? Because of the skill of our sports teachers and the vision of our sponsor, Lord Harris of Peckham, who once dreamt of becoming a professional footballer.

Harris Boys’ Academy East Dulwich has sport as a subject specialism but almost no outside space of its own. Bizarrely, in 2008 Southwark Council would only provide planning permission to build the school on condition that we would not use the park opposite for sport. Our local MP, Harriet Harman, has not helped our efforts to get this reversed.

Yet the school’s PE department still manages to provide an outstanding sports programme, using the Peckham Pulse swimming pool, King’s College London’s sports grounds and the Herne Hill Velodrome, where Bradley Wiggins began his cycling career. We annually hire our local sports stadium, engaging 10,000 students in a day of competitive sports. A little imagination can deliver a great deal.

The Olympic legacy issue ought to be about giving pupils the thrill of competition and an outstanding experience of sport. And this is about far more than whether a school owns an on-site playing field.

Daniel Moynihan
Chief executive, Harris Federation

All are counted

Sir: Ahmed Rashid’s otherwise very credible analysis of the war in Afghanistan (‘End game’, 18 August) is impaired by his claim that ‘countless British soldiers have been killed’ in Helmand and Kandahar. All these brave soldiers were most meticulously counted. To assert that the British dead were not booked is a disrespect to the modern military machine, and to the memory of those who gave their lives for their country only to be then written off as an uncounted heap of fallen warriors.

Chris Butler
Borough Green

Not a cynic

Sir: Why does Kate Chisholm (Radio, 18 August) classify me as an ‘arch cynic’ for expressing dissent about Olympic optimism? She may disagree with me, but that doesn’t mean my objections are cynical.

I also wonder why she gave such a startlingly inaccurate summary of the contribution I made to the Today programme. I didn’t ‘bang on’ about the cost. I never mentioned it. I didn’t say the opening and closing ceremonies gave a ‘false image’ — would that they had. Her review doesn’t just allege that I said things I didn’t say. It completely ignores what I did say.

Even so, Ms Chisholm claims to be able to read my mind. ‘Hitchens,’ she writes, ‘would no doubt pooh-pooh the existence of the BBC’s Asian Network as a waste of the licence-payers’ money.’ Would I? Is there no doubt? How does she know? I suspect this allegation is one of those insinuations that you catch on the edge of the remark. I don’t much like it.

Peter Hitchens
London W8

Acid remarks

Sir: It does not take a genius to see that Andrew M. Brown has never taken acid (‘Psychedelic Revival’, 18 August), and his research into Albert Hofmann’s discovery failed to mention the famous bicycle ride home from the laboratory during which he started to get the effects from the drug that had been absorbed through his skin and which culminated in an out-of-body experience.

He refers contemptuously to ‘the alternative value system’ inspired by LSD. If by that he means the confidence conferred by a sudden access of self-knowledge and spiritual awareness, it is a value system that is only ‘alternative’ to those who wish to control others. It is that awareness that is truly frightening to those who claim authority, because it removes the fear by which most government imposes its will. It is for that reason that although I can foresee some recreational drugs being legalised under regulation, it will be a long time before that happens with LSD.

Joss Wynne Evans

A valuable service

Sir: Peter Jay’s remarks about National Service (‘Skylarks or slavery’, 18 August) are mostly drivel, giving the typical left-liberal slant on what was a most valuable institution. I don’t believe National Service had any effect whatsoever on the morale of the armed forces — certainly not in the army. The men in my troop in Germany and Malaya were a mixture of Regular and NS. It was impossible to tell them apart and they got on extremely well together — and, I like to think, with me, a ‘posh’ public school boy. I do not recall, as an NS officer myself, ‘living the life of Riley and being waited on hand and foot’. Nor do I think that the men were particularly uncomfortable — indeed in some cases I suspect they enjoyed a higher standard of living than they did at home.

Henry Keown-Boyd
Grieg’s other masterpieces

Sir: Damian Thompson is mistaken

(Arts, 18 August). Grieg’s Piano Concerto is certainly a masterpiece but not his only masterpiece. I suggest he sits down with Leif Ove Andsnes’s recordings of the concerto and the Lyric Pieces, and Anne Sofie von Otter’s (1993) of Grieg’s Songs. To select just one masterpiece from those three is like choosing the greatest Olympian of all time — a rubbish exercise.
Mary Humphries

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