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SIR – Does Nigel Farage believe it is acceptable for Russia to grab another country’s land at the cost of thousands of lives and the forced migration of huge numbers of Ukrainians, who are fearful of the deliberate targeting and massacre of civilians – as happened in Bucha (“West’s reluctance to meet Moscow across negotiating table ‘shocks’ me, says Farage”, report, February 10)?
Negotiation on his terms would be a reward for Vladimir Putin, who also appears to care nothing for the deaths and injuries of conscripted Russians.
SIR – It is to be greatly regretted that President Biden is beginning to show his age (Letters, February 10), especially when he has done so much over the past two years to support the brave Ukrainians in their defence against an abhorrent Russian invasion.
Although he has been reluctant to give all the advanced weapons that the Ukrainian military has asked for, surely Mr Biden must realise that Putin is just waiting in the wings for Trump to return to the White House.
Mr Trump is a known admirer of Putin, and to ensure that Ukraine is not left helpless at Mr Trump’s whim, Mr Biden must hasten the release to Ukraine of the F-16 fighter jets they have been promised, and give immediate authority for Nato nations to hand them over forthwith. The F-16s, with appropriate weaponry, would change the war’s calculus.
Mr Biden’s historical legacy is hanging in the balance.
B J Colby
SIR – The West holds about $300 billion of frozen Russian assets. This should all be handed over to Ukraine to help in its war effort.
SIR – Tucker Carlson’s recent interview in Moscow (report, February 9) highlights the bizarre historical thinking behind Vladimir Putin’s strategies.
What is most concerning is the Russian leader’s outrageous statement that, in refusing to hand over the Danzig Corridor to Hitler, Poland “went too far, pushing Hitler to start World War Two by attacking them”.
Following the logic of this thinking, Putin is evidently eying the Suwalki Gap, the 40-mile strip of land on the Polish-Lithuanian border between Russia’s equivalent of Danzig – Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea – and Belarus, Russia’s ally.
Refusal of Poland and Nato to hand over this piece of land could, given Putin’s mindset, prove a casus belli that triggers a “special military operation” to seize the Suwalki corridor and establish a connection between an isolated Russian Kaliningrad Oblast and Belarus.
Asylum and baptism
SIR – I read with interest your interview with Rev Matthew Firth (February 9) regarding spurious baptisms of asylum seekers. I was made aware of this problem when I was a curate in Eastbourne.
I started preparing an Iranian lady for baptism and was greatly helped by an Iranian pastor in Brighton who checked the veracity of her Christian profession. When I expressed surprise at how many times he wanted to see her, he said there were many fakes.
This was in 1999. It seems that bishops in the Church of England have some catching up to do when it comes to knowing what parish clergy are dealing with at the coalface of ministry.
Rev James Paice
SIR – Your report, “Church accused of operating ‘conveyor belt’ of asylum seeker baptisms” (February 9), contains an imaginative range of allegations from Rev Matthew Firth, who resigned as a priest in the diocese of Durham in 2020.
Mr Firth does not offer any evidence to support these claims, however a check of the parish records shows that the portrayal of a “conveyer belt” of applications is distant from reality. In fact, a total of 15 people (13 adults, two infants) who may have been asylum seekers have been baptised over the past 10 years. Of these, seven were baptised by Mr Firth himself.
As priest in charge, he will have been aware of his responsibility to check the authenticity of candidates. If there was anything amiss, Mr Firth should have reported it. Had he raised concerns with senior staff during his time at St Cuthbert’s, they would of course have been taken seriously and investigated. He did not do so.
Rt Rev Paul Butler
Bishop of Durham
Heat pump fiasco
SIR – When I moved into a rural house built to the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes, I felt pleased that I was doing my bit for the environment. However, living in it is challenging.
The ground-source heat pump has failed (Comment, February 9). The installer – a well-known national manufacturer of boilers – has surprisingly stopped doing “renewables”, and its recommended service engineers think that they might have to dig up the array of pipes buried underground. Neighbours who were faced with the same problem have ripped theirs out and installed an oil-fired boiler – ironically, from the same manufacturer.
Green solutions sound good, but the technology is not yet ready. All I can do is wrap up warm and listen to the beetles eating the sheep’s wool insulation while pondering what to do.
Lunch in the Loire
SIR – One Friday we stopped for lunch in the Loire Valley (Letters, February 10) at a lively restaurant where locals were celebrating the end of the week. I ordered the lamb (cerveaux d’agneaux), and was politely asked by the waitress if I realised that I had asked for brains.
I gratefully changed my order to the simplest of dishes, a blue steak. I think my dignity was preserved.
SIR – When I ordered crème brûlée in an English restaurant, I complained to the waiter that the cold custard was not crème brûlée. I was told that that was how chef did crème brûlée, to which there was no answer.
SIR – Like M James (Letters, February 10), I’m irritated by the proliferation on BBC Radio 3 of trailers for other programmes. Mercifully, we are spared these during live concerts or operas.
In the morning they can come at roughly half-hour intervals, which is maddening. I complained to the BBC and received a rather lofty response that it does not regard its promotional content and trailers as advertising, but rather as direct communication and information to and for licence-fee payers, which forms an essential part of its public service obligations.
It ignores the point that most listeners of Radio 3 wish to hear predominantly classical music without frequent interruption by trailers for other unrelated things – such as rugby, thrillers, and soaps. And besides, repetition of the same advertisements rapidly becomes very tiresome, to the point where one is probably more likely to switch off altogether – presumably not what the BBC wants.
SIR – If Ian Mabberley (Letters, February 10) has a Freeview television he can get Ken Bruce on channel 716. Happy listening.
Curious credit scores
SIR – I fully agree with Peter Vargeson (Letters, February 10). The mindset of agencies offering credit ratings must be investigated.
He is concerned that, despite his perfect credit-worthiness, his rating has dipped by 30 points. I have a 100 per cent credit rating, and people are falling over themselves to offer me credit. However, I have zero income, being a dependent spouse.
What is the point of such useless rankings?
SIR – You cannot get a credit score unless you borrow money, and you can’t borrow money unless you have a credit score. So how does a first-time buyer manage?
SIR – Regarding the nation’s favourite biscuit (Leading Article, February 9), readers should try white chocolate digestives if they can find them. Wow.
Gowthorpe, East Yorkshire
A loss of gloss in modern women’s hairstyles
SIR – Most modern haircuts (Features, February 9) look to me as if hastily achieved with a pair of kitchen scissors.
A lot of money is spent to get an uncombed look. Gone are the shiny, smooth, beautifully cut styles of yesteryear. I doubt many men turn in the street to have a second look at a fabulous hairdo today.
Why are train companies rewarded for failure?
SIR – I read with incredulity that train companies are set to earn bonus payments from the Government after performance standards were lowered to make them easier to meet (report, February 10).
Shall we try this in other walks of life? Perhaps only eight out of 10 pairs of spectacles should need to work properly. Or just nine out of 10 operations should have to be a success.
Rev Cindy Kent
SIR – Your article on customer service was interesting reading (Magazine, February 10). I was saddened to see that Thames Water’s complaint-handling rating is now “poor”.
Thirty years ago, as a manager in the company’s customer service directorate, I was involved in getting that rating improved from “very poor” in 1993 to “very good” in 1996 – a rating maintained until I left the company in 2000.
The improvement was effected largely by intense staff training: “Put yourself in the customer’s place – would you be satisfied with that?” How regrettable that the standards have not been maintained.
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