The case for small homes
Sir: Your editorial rightly highlights what must be one of the government’s priorities once the worst of this crisis abates (‘Call that care?’, 2 May). I have been the owner and manager of a small, five-bedroom care home for nearly 30 years and, having had a majority of privately funded residents, can recognise ‘the iniquity whereby residents with savings have found themselves cross subsidising those who are funded by local authorities’. The government should firstly allow the payment of care home fees to be tax refundable. It is only fair that those who are saving the state the money for their care should at least not have to pay tax on it. This might provide an incentive for people to save for care — thereby giving themselves more choice — rather than spending what they have in the knowledge that the state will pick up the bill.
Secondly, government should make it easier for individuals to set up their own small care businesses (well regulated, of course), again with tax incentives, so that rather than having elderly people ‘put away’, they are part of the community they live in. Not only would they be able to live more ‘normal’ lives, but they would also be less vulnerable to being overwhelmed by pandemics. Well-run small homes are also more likely to keep their staff, which in turn gives the residents greater stability and security. A network of small homes across the country would give much more choice to elderly people who recognise that they can no longer manage alone, but abhor the thought of being institutionalised.
Benefits of commuting
Sir: I find myself in the rare position of disagreeing with Rory Sutherland (The Wiki Man, 2 May). I have decided I miss commuting terribly. I live and work in London, so my journey could never be described as overly pleasant. It did however have the benefit of breaking up the day.
The idea that we gain an extra day a week works only on paper. I suspect that at the moment many — like me — simply wake up and start working almost right away. Reading a book or going for a leisurely stroll feels wrong first thing in the morning — somehow unearned.
The best part of commuting? It draws a firm line at the end of the working day. Even in this age of laptops and mobiles, going home gives us closure. Now, as we are already at home, the work day drags on, later and later.
They say Covid-19 will help us appreciate things we previously did not. Commuting belongs on that list.
No single writers?
Sir: I read with relish the private lives of my favourite writers through the eyes of the ‘people stuck with them’ (‘Spectator writers in lockdown’, 2 May). All very enjoyable. Until I pondered. All these free spirits actually live with someone? Where are the single writers? And I felt sad, because so much of these virus days are about couples, kids and families. Please spare a thought — and a page — for the single, widowed or childless.
The Canon’s tent
Sir: In his weekly notes, Charles Moore records that David Johnson had a bill from his dry cleaners, for ‘removing vomit stains from cassock’ (The Spectator’s Notes, 2 May). When I was a pupil at King William’s College in the Isle of Man, Canon Stenning, Archdeacon of the island, had a bill from his dry cleaners for his surplice. The charge read: ‘1 Bell Tent.’ Canon Stenning admittedly was not a small man.
Daring to correct Dot
Sir: I fear Dot Wordsworth is mistaken about the origins of the Angles (Mind your language, 2 May). They did not come from ‘the Angle (in southern Schleswig)’, but rather from Jutland and the islands to the east. See Stenton’s Anglo-Saxon England, p13.
Sir: The ongoing Izal debate brings to mind a day in the mid-1990s that I spent trout fishing on the River Test in Hampshire. Invited into the house for a glass of wine, I expressed my surprise at finding Izal in a bathroom. The owner explained that at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 his mother, fearing a worldwide famine, had stocked up on everything that she could buy. They were still using up her stock of Izal 80 years later.
Sir: If I might usefully help the Izal last a little longer, it is worth remembering that it had many more uses other than the obvious. My wife recalls using it as writing paper. I frequently used it as tracing paper and, as a junior RAF officer, I once wrote a cheque on it. Each leaf in that instance was branded with the phrase ‘Government Property’.
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