Sir: Having opened my copy of The Spectator upon arrival in the post, I read your article ‘Welby’s gatekeeper’ with interest (23 January). I was surprised and humbled to discover how much power and influence I have over the political engagement of the Archbishop. Let there be no doubt that the Archbishop sets his own agenda.
More fundamentally and crucially, I was disappointed to see victims of abuse and wider issues relating to safeguarding being brought in to play in a politically focused piece about the workings of Lambeth Palace. It is a matter of public record that the Archbishop and his team are ready to meet with survivors and have done so regularly. The specifics of the Smyth case are currently subject to a review, to be published later this year. It is not possible to comment specifically on the matters raised in the article until that review is finalised. We remain appalled and deeply grieved at the abuse suffered by many at the hands of the Church. We pray daily for survivors and continue to do everything we can do ensure the Church is a safe place for all.
Chief of Staff and Strategy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, London SE1
Sir: As an ex-Countryside Access Officer I can attest to the National Trust’s rigidity and commitment to ‘progressive ideology’, as mentioned in Rod Liddle’s piece (‘Who volunteers to be lectured by children?’, 16 January). In fact, at times we did refer to the NT as the National Front. I remember once organising a walk to a local landmark called Black Dick’s Tower. I was taken to task by the local NT officer and asked to rename the walk. I pointed out that was the name of the tower and it was also on the OS map. Another time I was told not to use the term ‘alien species’ when referring to certain flora and fauna; for example grey squirrels. Please can the Trust stick to looking after its historic buildings and estates and running its overpriced cafés?
Dr John Gleadow
Sir: As longtime collectors of verbal gaffes, malapropisms and other slips of tongue, we enjoyed Freddy Gray’s ‘Bring on the Bidenisms’ (23 January) on the lead-tongued President Joe Biden. However we take exception with his assessment of former president Donald Trump as essentially gaffe-free. There were many instances of foot-in-mouth, to wit: ‘Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides, from gaining our independence to abolition of civil rights, to extending the vote for women, have been led by people of faith and started in prayer.’
Or: ‘You’ve worked so hard on the kidney. Very special — the kidney has a very special place in the heart.’
And, in his pre-presidency years: ‘If there is one word to describe Atlantic City, it’s Big Business.’
Perhaps he’s not up there (or down there, as the case may be) with the likes of Dan Quayle, George W., or Joe B., but let’s give credit where credit is due!
Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras}
Toronto, Canada; Seattle, USA
For whom the bells toll
Sir: I was interested to note that Jeremy Clarke referred to living between two bell towers (Low Life, 16 January). He remarks that: ‘Because the state bell is ahead of the church bell by as much as two minutes, each hour is tolled twice. Handy, perhaps, if you lose count the first time round.’
Jeremy Clarke may like to know that, in some Alpine villages, church bells toll the relevant hour, then toll it again some two minutes later. I first noticed this in Breuil in the Cervinia valley (made famous in Whymper’s Scrambles Amongst the Alps). This arrangement is for the reason Jeremy Clarke suggests and is specifically so that herds working in the high Alps can recognise the correct time.
Sir: I was delighted to read Christopher Brown’s reminiscences concerning the 300th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1985, in which I too played a small part (Notes on historical re-enactments, 23 January). Having given birth to my first son three months previously, I was thrilled to be part of the fledgling Blues and Royals cavalry regiment, on the side of course of our true King James. The exhilaration of those mad cavalry charges in the years when I was part of the Sealed Knot re-enactment society is something I have always treasured. I dream about it still and, like Taki, I have a fear of falling at speed!
Sir: You ask ‘Are there any mountains left to climb?’ (Barometer, 23 January) and list three. There are hundreds, maybe thousands. High ones, too, mostly over 5,000m (Mont Blanc is 4,808m). The mountains of Central Asia are almost endless. There are mountainous regions in Tibet, Xinjiang, Yunnan and many other regions that are hard to get to. Oddly, climbers who often love to climb a mountain by the hardest way do not like to walk very far to get to their mountain. There will probably be unclimbed mountains for at least another generation.
Sir: If Dot Wordsworth (Mind Your Language, 9 January) had spent her childhood in wartime Wigan, she would know that dividing and sharing a rare orange or tangerine created kicklings, two or three of which could be given to each family member. I think we might have been overawed by spherical wedges.
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
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