Gazette letters: Magpies, a thank you, sex education and taxing cannabis

A file image of a magpie. Picture: TONY HISGETT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

A file image of a magpie. Picture: TONY HISGETT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Tony Hisgett/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Magpies are great, but won’t make you richer, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Sentries keeping watch over our every move, magpies guard our neighbourhood streets. Alone or in pairs, they seem to always be there. I cannot walk through de Beauvoir on my way to work without being spotted by at least a couple.

In the north-west corner of Victoria Park there always seem to be a small parliament (or, as some say, a tiding). Whenever I see three or more together I cannot help but remember the old rhyme, hoping that I might catch sight of five (for silver) or six (for gold) to finally clear my student debt. It hasn’t worked out yet.

Popular myth tells us their beady eyes seek out shimmer and shine, collecting fools’ gold from gutter and garden in equal measure. Recently this has been questioned by scientists, who claim they would always rather pick up more familiar objects – it is just that we notice more when the objects hanging from their beak glint in the sun. But the same scientists made clear they were only observing “married” magpies (they mate for life). Perhaps single magpies, known to be more unpredictable in their behaviour, are the ones collecting sparkly trinkets to impress future lovers.

Brought up in a superstitious household, I sometimes struggle against the urge to salute a lone magpie as I run through the park. Slowly but surely, though, I am training myself instead to admire these handsome birds and ignore the rumours of arrogance, theft and bad luck that people have ascribed to them for so long.

I am well into my 80s and have to walk with a mobile aid, writes Val Dunmow, full address supplied.

Last Friday my Rollater hit a fault in the pavement in Junction Road and I was thrown heavily onto my back, hitting my head.

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Immediately, a small crowd gathered offering to keep me warm and make me comfortable if possible.

Somebody rang 999 and shortly afterwards an ambulance came with two fantastic paramedics who lifted me into the ambulance and conducted innumerable tests to make sure that I had not damaged myself badly, and was not concussed.

They then brought me to my flat, did more tests, filled in forms and kept me alert with cheerful conversation and jokes for about an hour.

I would like to say “thank you” to all those kind members of the public who tried to look after me and to the caring and efficient paramedics who maintain the quality of our National Health Service.

Islington’s young people should not miss out on sex and relationship education (SRE) simply because they do not attend the right kind of school, write Cllr Joe Caluori, children’s boss, and Cllr Janet Burgess, health and social care boss.

SRE is already compulsory in council-maintained secondary schools but the government is facing mounting pressure to introduce it into academies and free schools. All children deserve to be fully educated not only about sex but also STIs and healthy, happy relationships, so they are prepared for adulthood when they leave school.

Despite government cuts to public health budgets, Islington Council continues to have a major sexual health service to meet local needs. We are working with other London boroughs to create a new online sexual health service, and will also integrate services for STIs and contraception. This will improve our ability to prevent infection, diagnose early and increase access to contraception.

But the government must act nationally if our children are to protect themselves from abuse, be healthy and develop happy relationships. We will therefore be writing to the education secretary to urge her to introduce compulsory SRE in all schools.

Having read about business rates, it defies logic to hammer businesses with such enormous tax increases, writes Michael McElligott, Amwell Street, Islington.

It will induce failure for many and, for the survivors, the cold comfort of extra costs.

Meanwhile, there is a market for the sale of cannabis worth a king’s ransom in taxation, which could go a great distance in helping tax revenue collection. Why in this day and age all methods are not maximised is highly weird.

Employees will also have to compete with robotics in the very near future, so what is the self-funding plan of the government? When this occurs there will be even fewer people in work to tax. Perhaps if the government and councils were made up of artificially intelligent beings, whereby we vote for a sequence of policies and the AI just creates the pathways to generate the outcomes, life would be better for a lot of people.

My problem with politics is that it seems to focus all energies on the problem and not the solution. The human council doesn’t seem to have any answers, just polished excuses paid for by public taxes.

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