Five years ago good fortune placed me in the hands of Henry Marsh for neurosurgery on a meningioma (NS Profile, 14 March). The tumour was in a tricky place at the base of the brain, adjacent to the brain stem and attached to delicate cranial nerves. Substantial damage to the latter would have caused loss of sight, hearing and voice.
With brilliant surgery and humane decision-making, today I can read, ride my bike (with a helmet) and converse, though there is a loss of hearing in one ear. We take that as a big win.
Beyond that, Henry came on to the wards pretty well every day, often in scrubs, to see how I was progressing. He understood and made light of my frustrated act of rebellion in removing my nasal feeding tube and kept my family informed about treatment. The standard of post-surgical care by his young team and the nursing staff at the Atkinson Morley urges me to hope that all NHS units will one day be as well resourced as those at London teaching hospitals. Thanks, Henry.
Fair slice of cake
We are indebted to Robert Skidelsky for the light he brings to our woes (“The economic consequences of Mr Osborne”, 14 March). The driver behind every national economic policy is growth, but the obverse of the coin must eventually be stagnation and decline. Surely the target for a sustainable national policy should be a steady-state economy and a fairly divided cake? Or is it perhaps the undeclared policy to go for 2 per cent growth while accepting 2 per cent inflation?
Robert Skidelsky’s essay is welcome, but late. Victoria Chick and Ann Pettifor published their paper The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne in July 2010. It looked at a century of UK economic data and concluded prophetically that fiscal consolidation (or austerity) increases rather than cuts the level of public debt as a share of GDP. Skidelsky is also wrong to equate success with growth. So yes, as your editorial says, we do need more public investment, but for the sake of human flourishing we need to move swiftly towards a no-growth economy.
Enough is enough.
Editor’s note: The headline “The economic consequences of Mr Osborne” was an allusion to Keynes’s 1925 essay about Churchill and Britain’s return
to the gold standard.
I am bemused by the way economists such as Robert Skidelsky have retained their credibility after the great crash of 2008. Skidelsky writes with great confidence and clarity about the consequences of austerity. Would that he had had similar foresight in the years leading up to 2008, when the value of sub-prime mortgages topped $1trn and Icelandic bank debt was five times the country’s gross domestic product – just two indicators among many that were pointing to disaster. Where was he then?
Regarding Ralph Steadman’s cartoon: hasn’t the apple been inserted at the wrong end?
Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire
In John Gray’s review (The Critics, 7 March), he draws attention to many atheists’ ignorance of Nietzsche. Gray identifies similarities between the Nietzschean and Christian attitudes towards the tragic sense of life and suggests that the Christian conception of divine grace eradicates tragedy, and this is possibly why Dante’s poem wasn’t called The Divine Tragedy. Does it also show that the crucifixion of Christ was comedic to medieval Christians, even though the title of Dante’s magnum opus (originally just Commedia or The Comedy), has nothing to do with Christ? Perhaps more atheists should read not only more works by other well-known atheists, but also Dante.
I would like to compliment André Carrilho on his brilliant caricature of Vladimir Putin (cover, 7 March). I would love to see more illustrations in the NS, particularly satirical illustrations and caricatures, as well as the fine strips by Tom Humberstone.
Victoria Whitehouse Infantino
Max Fishel (Letters, 14 March) wonders what proportion of NS writers attended private schools – but surely the wider issue is not who is at the top of their game, but how they got there. If you set equally able children off on a race in which some are running against the wind without shoes, who do you think will win?
Fishel says that he wonders if a more representative group of writers might produce spikier, bolder and more challenging pieces. Reading Sue Douglas’s diary (14 March) makes me think he is right.
Caerphilly, South Wales
I was somewhat nauseated by Sue Douglas’s account of high living and fine dining. As she is an admirer of Marinetti and the Italian futurists, I suggest she tries this recipe from their admirable cookbook of 1932: “1 skinned salami, 1 cup of black coffee, 1 tbsp of eau de cologne. Tip all into a lavatory bowl, mix thoroughly and leave to marinate.” Buon appetito, Sue.
George Eaton’s excellent tribute to Bob Crow (Observations, 14 March) includes two strange comments: first, surprise that Crow believed in withdrawal from the European Union and second, that the RMT did not reaffiliate to Labour “despite Ed Miliband’s repudiation of New Labour”. Crow’s opposition to the EU was not surprising, as nearly every socialist from Harold Wilson to Tony Benn has been opposed. And Miliband has not repudiated New Labour. The main change to the party constitution by New Labour was the abolition of Clause Four. Miliband has certainly not repudiated this.