When my great grandfather George Nation was out in Dawson City at the very turn of the C20th, managing mining syndicate investments, he wrote as often as he could to his wife Eva back in London. Those letters still exist and they provide a wonderful glimpse of a different time, commenting on local and international news and asking of course after his three children.
He started each with his cursive ‘My Darling Eva’ and finished somewhat formally with ‘Your Loving Husband GM Nation’. Letter writing using pen & paper has gone out of fashion, replaced first by email and then by the highly abbreviated text; most are deleted at some stage, so unlike George’s letters there is rarely any trace.
If you are old enough you might connect ‘letter’ with the British/American Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’, a fifteen minute weekly broadcast on the BBC. Cooke would speak of some topical US issue, tying together different observations and anecdotes, all beautifully orated in his deep rich voice. The letters were broadcast from 1946 until his death in 2004.
William Donaldson, on the other hand, was a satirist and author, who wrote to those in positions of power and influence, for example The Queen, The Prime Minister or The National Council for (so called) Civil Liberties, under the pseudonym Henry Root and with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
You will know by now I vacuum up news stories; some aspects of a story may lodge in my memory, most simply add to the general data bank from which I can make comment or observation …… a little like gently drifting a watercolour-laden brush across an existing image. Some aspect may prompt me to put pen to paper, or more normally these days finger-tips to keys on my laptop and send a comment to the paper I have read since schooldays (Note 1) – The Times. My efforts rarely make it passed the sub-sub-editor’s desk but I was pleased to have something published early this month
“8th July 2022
Sir! In The Times 8th July ‘Affluent patients face longer NHS wait’, Kieran Patel, university hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Trust’s medical director says that ‘if you have patients who smoke, have hypertension or are overweight, you can use those factors to weigh their position on a waiting list, potentially pushing these patients forward on the list’. For those of us who make an effort to keep the weight down by exercise and sensible eating and who have long recognised the benefits, let alone the cost saving, of not smoking, this smacks of rewarding those taking little responsibility for their own health.”
This is not a black and white subject for sure but, with the British Nation the fattest in Europe, surely educating and supporting people to take even a little responsibility for their own health will save them and the NHS money in the long term?
And a week or so ago I had to respond to this:
“Sir The Sunday Times article about Lincoln Cathedral was wonderfully informative and a great example of modern restoration techniques. However Liam Kelly didn’t learn much geography at school. If the cathedral had been “upwind” of the various factories and power stations that caused the thick layers of dirt, it would have been blessed by clean air. I think ‘downwind’ is the term Liam is looking for!”
It did not get published!!
Last Christmas I spent with Celina’s brother and family here in Estoril, Portugal. I was prompted to write the following to the Times’ Feedback column:
“Dear Feedback: Watching the sun rise in the south east over the Targus Estuary in Portugal I was catching up with my online Times. There must be something magical about the Glastonbury Tor in Britain as the picture caption suggests you can have a 360 degree view of the sunrise if you climb to the top.
Ah! The magic of Christmas!”
In September last year our city staged its annual Marathon, possibly the most popular after The London Marathon. But, horror of horrors, it was too short!! Another letter ….
“Sir…..Living in the great city of Brighton & Hove, I read with a mixture of amusement and sadness that last Sunday’s marathon course was ‘568m’ too long. It’s amusing as it is unbelievable how anyone could get it so wrong. It’s also sad that, as the distance is universally known as 26.2 miles, so the extra missing distance should have been 621 yards.”
And I couldn’t this go; in July 2021, 7 square centimetres is not 7 centimetres squared!!
“Sir! Oh! Dear! Leonardo’s Head of a Bear was described in the Sunday Times as being 7 sq cm. Helpfully a ruler showed it was 7 centimetres both long and tall, making it 49 square centimetres! Back to the classroom!”
In June 2021I wrote some scribbles about two issues facing the general public here in Britain; a scandal within The Post Office and a scandal within the Construction Industry. (PC 235 Generosity in Government) The Times covered both in a ‘Leader Article’ the following month, which deserved comment:
“Sir! Your leader comment in The Sunday Times was spot on. Two issues concern the right-thinking middle-of-the-road Brit. The scandal of the Post Office’s actions over the last two decades with regards their own postmasters deserves some strong action; the Government’s response is wish-washy and pathetic – this needs to be gripped and those responsible named and shamed.
Other individuals who through no fault of their own are facing financial hardship are those living in buildings with unsafe cladding. We rely on the government to regulate the building industry. When the laws are deemed inadequate it’s the government who should pick up the complete bill.”
One in a hundred might get published but it’s fun to try. More to follow (maybe!)
Richard 22nd July 2022
Note 1 When I was at school I took advantage of the much-reduced Student Subscription for The Times; their way of buying your loyalty to their stance on news stories.