How accurate is the ‘Waitrose test’?

4 December 2021

9:00 AM

4 December 2021

9:00 AM

The Waitrose test

Sir: Like Rod Liddle, I live in the north-east of England — a little further north and nearer to Sunderland (‘Keeping up appearances’, 27 November). The area is not particularly affluent and we do not have a Waitrose.

For the first 30 years of my life there was an enormous slag heap in the area: a legacy of our coal-mining era and an eyesore. There was a deposit of open-cast, accessible coal next to the heap, and an opportunity arose to dig out the coal, deposit the slag heap into the space left, and then landscape the area into a beautiful country park with ponds and trees, suitable for walking, cycling and other pursuits. There was opposition to this at the time by locals — who eventually benefited the most — on the grounds of noise, dust and traffic. This was proven to be unfounded, as all aspects of disruption were well managed.

Thirty years later there are objections to a new housing estate being built adjacent to the park, on private land. The locals want to save the green belt, and are concerned about stretched services, such as doctors, schools and the like. The houses being built are top-range and out of the reach of many locals. People may argue that the priority lies with more affordable accommodation for the more needy. But if the Rod Liddle theory is right, the improved appearance of the park will bring much-needed affluence to the area. We will also need good planning of the required services, and a Waitrose, otherwise the rich people may not want to come.

Ian Charlton


Jukebox memory

Sir: Matthew Parris’s article about memory jogged mine (‘When memory lane becomes a cul-de-sac’, 20 November). I have long thought that the memory system is like a jukebox, where the discs correspond to the information held in the memory, and the arm that selects the desired disc is the process by which the right information is selected from the memory bank. Now aged 84, I ‘forget’ all sorts of facts I know perfectly well, such as people’s names. However, given quizzes with multiple answers to choose from, I can choose the right answer — assuming I ever knew it. It seems therefore that it is the retrieval system that breaks down in the elderly, and the knowledge remains intact.

Could it be a possible alternative to Matthew Parris’s theory that it is the retrieval system rather than the memory which develops in children at two to three years of age? It is, I think, generally believed that treatment experienced in infancy can affect the personality in later life, which suggests that such experience is lodged in the subconscious memory.

Robin Aird

Wolverton Common, Hampshire

Face facts

Sir: I hope Lloyd Evans looks further than East Grinstead for the full extent of pioneering work in plastic surgery (‘The Guinea Pig club’, 27 November). Rauceby Hospital, Lincolnshire, as RAF Hospital No. 4, also undertook a significant amount of surgical work led by Fenton Braithwaite. He was subsequently invited by Archibald McIndoe to join him after the war at East Grinstead. Such was the reputation and affection for Rauceby by former patients that when I was involved in the organising of a commemorative event at the hospital in 1990, we had a good number of Guinea Pigs attend, with the highlight for them being a flypast by the Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Rob Kendrick

Metheringham, Lincoln

Doctors without borders

Sir: The GMC is as keen as your correspondent Andrew Forsyth to enable good internationally qualified doctors to join the UK workforce, where they play a vital role (Letters, 20 November). This year, notwithstanding the pandemic, we registered almost 11,000 doctors who had qualified overseas by the end of October.

However, we’re currently bound by complex and overly prescriptive legislation that hasn’t kept pace with changes to the UK’s healthcare systems and society. The government is working on regulatory reform which will mean we can streamline our registration processes, offering a single type of registration and a single standard for all registrants based on qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience. That can’t come soon enough.

Una Lane

Director of Registration and Revalidation, General Medical Council

Shock treatment

Sir: Mary Wakefield discusses the behavioural changes observed during the pandemic, and whether they will be permanent (‘Will we ever go out again?’, 27 November). I use a medical analogy. The condition of atrial fibrillation — a particular form of irregular heartbeat — can be corrected by a precisely administered electric shock. This is called cardioversion; at least one US president and one UK prime minister, have benefited from this treatment. However, as the interval from onset to treatment increases, the less successful cardioversion will be. This is because the actual structure of the affected part of the heart changes as the condition persists.

Socially, many people have been in atrial fibrillation since March last year. There is a danger that at some point the changes to the structure of our lives will become permanent: cardioversion will no longer work and the damage cannot be repaired.

Dr John Urquhart

Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk

Mulling on mullets

Sir: How marvellous to read Hannah Moore’s encomium to the ‘business up front, party out back’ hairstyle that is the mullet — which, incidentally, is most impressive when sported with a neat bald patch (‘Notes on…’, 20 November). There are various theories but does anyone know the true etymology of the term ‘mullet’?

Christopher Fletcher

Stanton St. John, Oxfordshire

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