Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close

Letters

Vol. 31 No. 21 · 5 November 2009

Search by issue:

In the Sorting Office

Like Roy Mayall writing in your issue of 24 September, I am a postman and concerned at the absence in the media of any account of how mail delivery is organised and what Royal Mail’s modernisation programme entails. The programme was introduced because the popularity of email and texting has caused a drop in mail volume. Royal Mail’s first step was to reduce the number of walks. It did this by cutting some walks in each area and making the remaining walks longer. A postman who normally delivered mail to six streets, say, now found himself delivering to eight or nine. During the summer months, when mail volumes were low, he could, perhaps, just cope with this. But as autumn begins and the Christmas catalogues start to come out, every week and sometimes every day can be heavy. In the run-up to last Christmas, there were postmen who only finished their walks at 7 or 8 p.m., sometimes two or three times a week. In one depot alone, around 15 postmen phoned in sick. This Christmas, with the even longer walks, it could be worse. Royal Mail is a strong promoter of general health and safety, but as the walks lengthen and the loads increase, many of us feel that our own health isn’t being taken into consideration.

The next step in the modernisation was to stop overtime. The new, longer walks were generated by a computer program called Pegasus. We were assured that Pegasus had made all the new walks around three hours long. Some of the walks were indeed three hours long, and the postmen on those rounds had no trouble completing them in time. But a significant number turned out to be considerably longer – some of them up to four and a half hours long – and mail began piling up as postmen brought post back at the end of the day because they couldn’t deliver their loads without working extra, unpaid time.

The most recently introduced measure is to return from a four-day week to a five-day week. For postmen working a 40-hour week, this means there will be two hours fewer each day to deliver the same amount of post. It is now no longer possible for any postman – including those doing the three-hour walks – to complete his or her walk in the allotted time, no matter how fast they walk. As the pressures increase, many postmen who have been with Royal Mail for a long time are taking voluntary redundancy. A lot of knowledgeable, hard-working postmen are leaving.

Postmen speculate endlessly as to why Royal Mail is making it impossible for us to do our job properly. The most common theory is that Royal Mail actually wants to get rid of us and replace us with casual workers. Traditionally, Royal Mail hires casual staff to help deliver the heavy Christmas mail. This year the casuals never left. As required, they can be phoned at a moment’s notice to come in and help out. They may be asked to work for just a few hours or a whole day. If mail volumes are low, they are not called and are not paid. When paid, they are paid less per hour than the full-time postmen. And because, as casual workers, they cannot join the union, they have no representation if and when things go wrong. At present Royal Mail favours the casuals, but in time, if they start experiencing the pressures the postmen are facing now, there won’t be a union to protect them. In contrast to the casuals, postmen are mostly on 40-hour-week contracts. When they go on holiday or get sick, Royal Mail continues to pay their salaries. All these costs and difficulties fall away with casual workers. From a financial perspective, Royal Mail may think that getting rid of its long-serving postmen is worth it.

Maybe the fact that Royal Mail is now run by managers who have little or no hands-on experience and who use computer-generated models to organise everything is the explanation. We experienced this directly with Pegasus when some walks turned out to be considerably longer than others. The data that had been fed into Pegasus were standardised: each walk had a set number of destinations, with so many seconds to walk up a garden path, so many seconds to put letters through a letterbox etc. Not only did Pegasus get the total timings spectacularly wrong, but the walks made much less sense than when they were organised by the postmen themselves: for instance, a postman could find himself walking an extra 200 yards down the road to deliver mail to six letterboxes that would have more easily and naturally fitted into someone else’s walk.

A more cynical theory is that Royal Mail is being deliberately run into the ground so that when the next opportunity to privatise it comes around, people will be so fed up that they will accept it as the unavoidable solution to getting their post on time again.

A postman on a 40-hour contract works an eight-hour day on average. He or she spends the first two or three hours sorting the unsorted mail in the depots. He then takes 30 minutes for breakfast. For the next two or three hours he sequences the mail for his own walk so that he can deliver it door to door. He then has to travel to and from his walk and deliver his mail in the remaining time. It can’t be done, at least not without overtime, which Royal Mail has stopped altogether. Casual workers, however, don’t have to sort mail at the depot – this is done for them by the postmen on 40-hour contracts. Instead, they move straight to sequencing their door-to-door mail. When they leave the depot, they can take as long as they need to deliver their mail. On the heavier walks, some work 12-hour days. That’s how long it really takes to sequence and deliver some walks – and that’s without sorting!

Working for Royal Mail has become a bewildering experience. Depot managers pressure and harass us to comply to rigidly fixed unworkable schedules. They insist we take out full loads of mail, which they know and we know cannot be delivered in the allotted time. We therefore constantly bring back the undelivered surplus and waste time the following day getting it ready to take out again. Meanwhile, the depot managers can report the walk as cleared to their superiors, who are obviously putting them under pressure too. It’s evident that some depot managers are just as unhappy with this state of affairs. Their orders are to push out as much mail every day as possible, regardless of the amount that comes back at the end of each shift.

Of course the strike is adding to the chaos, but it is not causing it. The one-day-a-week strike – now countrywide – is an attempt to pressure Royal Mail to come to the table to discuss the dire situation and a way for postmen to express support and solidarity with one another as we face an onslaught of unmeetable demands.

Pat Stamp
London W10

The Mysterious Tioli

There’s even more to George Tioli than Robin Dibblee suspects (Letters, 22 October). The main point is that he was irresistible to women. (Superficial reasons for this are conveyed in the celebrated photograph of the original British International Column, taken in Barcelona in August 1936, where, clad in Tyrolean gear, Tioli squats stage front next to his captain, Tom Wintringham.)

George Tioli in Barcelona

The list of his conquests included a woman I met some years ago: she fell in love with George while a member of the Young Communist League in Oxford. She attended a lecture I gave more than 60 years later and was keen to discover what had happened to him in Spain. Well, among other things, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland, Angela Guest, Eileen Blair and Jeanne Spero happened to him (not all in quite the same sense). So, I rather suspect that Dibblee’s Great-Aunt Vera happened to Tioli in Felpham. The story about Folkestone pier seems too good to be true even in the fabulous context of Spanish Civil War (and MI5) stories. A good deal of circumstantial evidence indicates that – helped by fellow agent Georges Kopp – he betrayed the Blairs and other ‘dissident elements’ to the NKVD in Barcelona. Other survivors from Jeremy Harding’s ‘snakepit’ believed that the last thing that happened to Tioli was Stalin. He was apparently arrested in summer 1937, placed onboard a Soviet supply ship returning to Odessa, and ‘disappeared’.

Rob Stradling
Penarth

Compliments of Sorts

Thomas Jones, in his review of Inherent Vice (LRB, 10 September), asserts that those who haven’t liked the last Pynchon books ‘often complain’ that his characters are not proper characters, ‘in the sense that developed over the course of the 19th century: basically, there’s never anyone to sympathise with.’ When? I haven’t seen this complaint in two recent negative reviews by Louis Menand (in the New Yorker) and by Sam Anderson (in New York magazine). Speaking for myself, as a hostile reviewer of Against the Day, the question has nothing to do with whether you consider Pynchon’s characters fully rounded in a 19th-century sense (19th-century characters not being all that rounded, anyway, in the end); or whether you ‘sympathise’ with them: does one ‘sympathise’ with, say, Peter Verkhovensky, or Stavrogin, or Verloc, or any of the people in a Michel Houellebecq novel? Surely the issue is not what a novel’s characters are (round, flat, major, minor, caricature, sketch etc) but what a novelist does (or doesn’t do) with them: what is seriously at stake in the entire novel of which they form the fabric. And what Pynchon does with his characters, increasingly, is juvenile vaudeville. If you like that, fine. But in his review, Jones unwittingly gives two reasons why one might not: reading Pynchon’s new novel, he writes, ‘is probably as close to getting stoned as reading a novel can be’ (which he takes as high praise); and – apropos of Pynchon’s relentlessly jokey treatment of 1970s California – ‘But there’s something profoundly bleak about the inability to take anything seriously’ (which he also envisages as a compliment, of sorts).

James Wood
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Taxonomy in Crisis

In his exploration of the Darwin Centre, Peter Campbell misidentifies the species of scientist present, and thereby does a disservice to taxonomists (LRB, 8 October). Taxonomy explicitly involves the naming and identification of species; natural history, by contrast, is the collation of information about organisms. The former is a specialist enterprise, while the latter has for centuries been augmented by the work of amateurs, who depend on the names to make their observations meaningful. The task of piecing together the evolutionary relationships between species falls to systemacists. While systematics creates the tree, taxonomists are required to label the buds. Yet taxonomists are a threatened species. Natural history attracts the glamour and publicity, systematics hogs the funding, and the number of trained taxonomists continues to fall.

Markus Eichhorn
University of Nottingham

Fond Memories

Lord Beaverbrook, as Jenny Diski describes him, may well have seen himself as a protector of family values, but in the final years of his life the old man was in need of some protection himself (LRB, 8 October). I worked for the Sunday Express in 1961 and have fond memories of the Jacob Epstein bust of Beaverbrook that reigned over the foyer of the Express building. It was a typical Epstein work, with a small gap between slightly parted lips, and it was into this tiny orifice that fag-ends were constantly being placed by disrespectful employees. Removing them became a full-time job for a harassed commissionaire.

Garth Clarke
Sydney

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.