Letters: Big cats, the BBC mocking those who stammer and a call for a new national anthem

Suffolk's Laura Wright sings the national anthem at Twickenham, London

Suffolk's Laura Wright sings the national anthem at Twickenham, London - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Each day we give our readers the opportunity to share their views through our letters page.

Here we bring you three letters from this week.

Alasdair Cameron, of Westhall, wrote:

Tony Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, is proposing a bill for a new National Anthem for England. We do not need it, any more than we needed Flower of Scotland, celebrating a mediaeval battle totally irrelevant to a modern, progressive country. The latter was written by Roy Williamson of the Corries for the guitar, and was never intended to be more than a folk ballad. It is now played on the great highland bagpipe by pipe bands at numerous functions, and it is a botch, because in the second half of the tune there is a C natural, there is no C natural in the bagpipe scale. It is an insult to good piping.

Having been born and bred in Edinburgh and lived half of my 70 years in England, I can speak for both countries. We only need one anthem, God Save the Sovereign (King or Queen) and one flag. My parents had a house only 500 yards from Murrayfield, and as a youth I would listen to the rugby crowds of all nationalities roaring out God Save the Queen – wonderful!


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Forget about Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, dump your saltires and St George crosses and fly the only banner that matters, the flag of the Union: to do otherwise is demeaning of the Monarchy, for which the majority of the British population have great respect.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, hang your heads in shame.

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One anthem, one flag, one people: it works, don’t mess with it!

John Thomspon, of Oulton Broad, wrote to say:

I am hoping I can persuade some readers to support a petition I have set up. It is against the mimicking of stammering in the BBC sit-com “Still Open All Hours”. Some will think I am demonstrating a perfect example of political correctness gone mad. The point is that many people do not realise stammering is recognised as a disability. The simple question is, would it be considered acceptable for the BBC to use any other disability purely to make people laugh? I suggest if they did there would be an outcry. I gave the BBC examples of scenarios using other disabilities to make people laugh and asked if they would be considered acceptable. My question was not answered! The petition has been signed by Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the British Stammering Association, whom I quote: “There is little doubt that stammering is one of the few disabilities that seems to be fair game when it comes to using it for comic effect. No TV programme these days would ever use cerebral palsy for comic effect, but they don’t hesitate (all too often) to do it with stammering. And you have to ask yourself why that is. “The petition won’t stop the BBC broadcasting Still Open All Hours. But it might, just might, get someone, or a few people whose job it is to commission programmes, to actually think about the issue when it crosses their desk. The problem isn’t that these people maliciously decide to make fun of people who stammer, the issue is they don’t realise stammering can be a difficult, life-changing condition and therefore see no problem. Raising this as an issue isn’t lacking in humour, or being po-faced.” There will almost certainly be some reading this who stammer or have family members or friends who do. They will know what a difficult and distressing thing it can be to live with. What more common and necessary human function is there than having to speak? Considering the number of years the original “Open All Hours” was broadcast I can understand why some might be questioning why I have taken until now to raise the issue. To explain, I am not normally a big comedy viewer. I watched the programme by chance ironically shortly before the late Ronnie Barker passed away. I was not going to complain about a programme that was no longer being broadcast! However, when I learnt there was to be a follow-up series I watched it to see if it included stammering. The stammering in the original series was wrong but the mimicking of the former character, Arkwright, by David Jason, as Granville, in the follow-up is arguably worse. It is precisely what a bullied child or teenager who stammers could be on the receiving end of. The programme is in effect telling the bullies it is okay to do it and distressing to watch for the child or teenager being bullied. I do know some teenagers who stammer who were distressed by the programme. I hope I have persuaded some to consider signing or at least to read the comments of those who have signed. The direct weblink is rather long. I suggest going to www.change.org.uk and searching for “BBC Director General: Stammering is not funny.”

Annette White, of South Lopham, wrote:

Approximately ten years ago I lived in Nayland, Suffolk. I used to do a morning delivery round by car, delivering newspapers to rural locations, cottages, farmhouses, etc. This involved early starts and in the winter the bulk of it was done in the dark. One morning just before dawn I was driving down Gravel Hill, a narrow lane near Nayland, when I noticed in the distance something in the road. As I got closer it seemed to be an animal, at first I thought it was a muntjac deer, then I became aware that it was a much larger dark coloured animal sitting down in the middle of the road, roughly the size of a large dog. What happened next was so incredible that since then I have told few people, as they would not have believed it. In one enormous movement the animal leapt to the left into the bank and disappeared. It was at least 4-5ft long with a long tail that curled up at the end and the tail seemed to be nearly as long as the body. Other than a deer, which this definitely wasn’t, I can only think of one animal that could be capable of a leap like this, some type of cat. When I reached the point at which I had seen it I looked up at the bank alongside the car and it was above the level of the car roof so I would estimate that the animal had leapt at least 10-12ft from the centre of the road up onto this high bank in one leap. Even if it had been a dog, and it was not dog shaped, a dog would not have moved in this way, only a cat would be able to leap like this. To say that I was shaken and awestruck was an understatement and I have tried since to make sense of what I saw. I did not report the sighting as the last thing I wanted was for this beautiful animal to be hunted down and killed. There are some accounts of large cats being seen in the Polstead area, which is near Nayland, as well as other locations. I say cats because there must be more than one of these for them to be surviving. Finding food wouldn’t be a problem with all the roadkill and rabbits around and as long as they can continue to find food there is no reason for us to panic. If there are wild cats in Suffolk they are extremely good at remaining hidden and it would seem that they appear to be justifiably more afraid of us than we are of them. I will not be surprised if many more people contact you to say that they have seen them.

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