FOOTBALL REFEREES: I SEE that Christopher Wardell has a low opinion of football referees (HAS, May 20).

How has he arrived at this opinion when he says his soccer efforts met with modest success?

In 1947 I was captain of the Scottish Schools' football team, playing alongside lads who went on to play professionally, as I did myself.

I went to the US and played in the Washington State League and subsequently became a referee in that league.

Refereeing is a very difficult job but my experience taught me to respect them and the present referees from the Premier League to the Conference are of a very high standard indeed. - Hugh Pender, Darlington.


HOW wise is nature. Trees and vegetation have spent thousands of years taking the carbon from the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into coal, which is then buried below ground.

Then human beings dig up the coal and set fire to it - returning the plant food to the atmosphere.

Of course, this means that animal life will fade because of the lack of oxygen to breathe, but no doubt nature will resolve that in the future and the cycle of life will be repeated. - E Reynolds, Wheatley Hill.


GENERALLY, I think that Sharon Griffiths makes reasonable comments about current issues in the Press. However, I think her views on graduates being forced to work longer are ill informed and ill considered.

I am a graduate who went into higher education with the benefit of a full grant. I was awarded this because I came from a single-parent, low-income, working-class background.

I entered full-time employment in my early twenties, having acquired both an honours degree and a post graduate qualification, thanks to my grant and various low-paid jobs during the holidays.

Since then I have worked hard to build my career, paying substantial amounts both into the state and into my private pension plan. The latter is necessary because, let' s face it, at whatever age my generation retires, the state pension will be worth nothing.

If, in future, you have to work a minimum number of years before you are entitled to a full state pension, perhaps a lot of people may find themselves being forced to work longer, for example, stay-at-home mums, part-time workers, people who have never worked, etc.

The Government is focusing on graduates because they are already making provision for themselves and won' t be so reliant on the state.

As for the view that graduates "swan off" on gap years. I had a gap year but, like a lot of other graduates, I worked and supported myself. As for having an easier working life, is working full time easy for anyone?

Ms Griffiths is welcome to come and do my "easy" job, but then again she has neither the skills nor the knowledge or qualifications, which is what I went into higher education for in the first place. - Geraldine Smith, Darlington.


PRIME Minister John Major prudently opted out of the 48-hour working week due to the unacceptable cost to business.

However, as part of the EU Social Chapter meeting held at a later date, it was sneaked in under a health and safety item where a majority vote won the day, thereby forcing Britain, with no opt-out option available, to accept the EU regulation.

As Government has given up the greater part of our sovereignty and independence to the EU we will have no control over the issue other than to accept that no-one will be allowed to work in excess of 48 hours - unless we resign our membership of the EU and stop its endless interference in our affairs. - John Waiting, Guisborough.


TIMOTHY Hackworth's Sans Pareil (HAS, May 25) was a brilliantly strong engine; even though on the day of the Rainhill Trials it did not even qualify for the contest.

Stipulations laid down that competitors had to be within a certain weight for a four-wheeled locomotive; a further stipulation was that it should be properly sprung. Sans Pareil was five cwt over the maximum weight and did not even have any springs, as the drive went directly to the wheels.

The judges gave Timothy Hackworth every chance when overlooking these rules until Sans Pareil sadly broke down.

The Stephensons knew exactly what was required at the trial when, just months before, they were involved in other trials at Killingworth and where they exhibited excellently. The Stephensons also complied with every rule in the competition at Rainhill and actually far excelled the performance ever thought possible of a locomotive at this time.

Regarding the alleged failure in the cylinder casting, there is not one piece of evidence regarding this. If there was this would have been pointed out to the judges. Furthermore, other writers of the day say it was due to a water pump problem, which may be a more likely reason for the breakdown. - Bernard McCormick, Newton Aycliffe.


SO the Government's chief advisor on youth crime, Professor Rod Morgan calls on the media to stop calling children yobs (Echo, May 23).

I suggest he visits a local park like the one in my town where these 'delightful children' cause massive damage and use language fit for the gutter, preventing many parents from taking children there to enjoy the facilities.

There is no doubt most teenagers are decent, friendly and respectable. However, the mindless minority (nowadays in larger groups) spoil it for everyone.

I wonder if the professor has realised that, in fact, these children's parents are the 'yobs' , not giving a damn what their offspring do just as long as they are not under their feet.

This is the same reason school teachers struggle daily in spending more time just keeping order rather than teaching the decent pupils from decent homes.

Unfortunately, I don't have any answers. Then again, I'm not a professor! - Robert Bridgett, Shildon.


DID you go on a holiday abroad in the 1980s and did you have a holiday romance?

Did it last, or was it just a quick fling on the beach? Whether you went away by yourself, with friends or on a Club 18-30 holiday, I would love to hear your stories for our Channel 4 documentary.

If you were looking for love or working as a rep abroad and have a story to tell, please contact Roz Sinclair, assistant producer at Testimony Films. - Roz Sinclair, 12 Great George Street, Bristol BS1 5RS, 0117 9258589,