Sir: Charles Moore is as ever bang on target (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 September). National Trust members have had a raw deal this year, but so have many loyal staff and volunteers. It should not surprise any visitor to a National Trust property that a very rich person built it and lived there. No doubt they achieved great financial wealth by being quick-witted, entrepreneurial and above all ruthless in their dealing. They likely exploited everyone irrespective of race or creed. How many mill owners sent ‘boys’ up chimneys, down mines and into the machinery to clear blockages?
The National Trust is a curator of buildings, artefacts and estates. They do not have a remit to delve into the background of their benefactors and make judgments. They should consult the membership before they get out of their lane.
Sir: Reflecting on Charles Moore’s article (26 September), I wondered how Rudyard Kipling has so far avoided ‘re-presentation and interpretation’. His statue in the village of Burwash (close to his National Trust-owned home, Bateman’s) has evaded vandalism. Surely the author of ‘The White Man’s Burden’ is ripe for a tumble?
A possible explanation presented itself during a conversation I overheard recently in the village shop. Asked by a customer who the bronze man sitting comfortably on the bench was, the shop assistant replied with confidence that it was ‘Mr Kipling’. Perhaps Battenberg cakes are not yet considered problematic?
Burwash, East Sussex
Sir: Kit Wilson rightly bemoans the state of sports coverage provided by the BBC (‘Own goal’, 3 October). For those of us brought up in the 1970s and 1980s listening to Sport on 2 on a Saturday afternoon, there can be no comparison between the eloquent and evocative football commentaries of Peter Jones and Bryon Butler and the histrionic approach that Alan Green takes. Jones and Butler were assisted by the knowledgeable and intelligent summariser Jimmy Armfield and although there was no ‘bants’ they all knew what they were talking about.
As a teenager in the 1980s I certainly didn’t need a commentator who was more relevant to me. I just wanted someone to describe clearly the match as it was happening and somebody else to explain why it was happening. Jones, Butler and Armfield were the masters of their art.
Save our signal boxes
Sir: I loved Christian Wolmar’s ‘Notes on’ signal boxes (3 October). I have early memories of visiting the lady in charge of the signal box at Breadsall in Derbyshire in the early 1960s. She had a roaring fire, a chintzy armchair and in the corner by the big windows stood the levers. The combination of machinery and domesticity grabbed my attention even as a small boy. She made us welcome and we loved her.
The signal box and station are now gone, along with the stuffed badger in a glass case on top of the piano in the waiting room. The fine Victorian station house was abandoned by British Rail after the station closed. I’ve seen a signal box converted into a home in Norfolk. It would be a terrible defeat if the remaining boxes were not saved.
Sir: The best-known signal box must surely be the one at Oakham railway station — on which Airfix based the miniature that is on thousands of model railway layouts.
Sir: Sam Leith takes a curiously benign view (‘In defence of wokeness’, 3 October) of the increasingly proscriptive wokedom which now pervades our institutions, academia, quangos and even many corporations. Moreover it is a bit rich of him to accuse its critics of ‘sneering’ at woke warriors’ excesses. If there is one thing common to the wokerati, it has been their eagerness to advertise their bien-pensant disdain for the supposedly Neanderthal views of the majority of the public —whether on Brexit, British history, minority ‘victimhood’ or free speech. Indeed it has been the autocratic tendency of the so-called ‘liberal elite’ (surely now an oxymoron if ever there was one) to hector and lecture ordinary people on how they must think which has arguably fuelled the anger and resentment behind the growing revolt against the pernicious wokedom now undoubtedly infecting our culture.
Sir: Petronella Wyatt thinks only the Chinese are more regimented than the British (Diary, 3 October). My wife and I are currently in La Rochelle which is in a ‘zone verte’. Yet when it comes to wearing masks the compliance level is close to 100 per cent, even when walking around en plein air. Failure to comply risks looks of withering disapproval. I simply couldn’t imagine a similar response back home.
What ho yo!
Sir: Has ‘What ho!’ ever been widely used outside Jeeves and Wooster, Dot Wordsworth wonders (Mind your language, 3 October). I can assure her that here in the Black Country a hearty shouted ‘What ho yo!’ was a standard greeting when I grew up. It has sadly fallen out of use now.
Halesowen, West Midlands
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