Monday, 21 August 2017

Your Letters...

Sensible decisions

Sir, — I am delighted to hear that terribly difficult decisions have been made recently to support our businesses in Henley town centre rather than hinder them (Standard, June 16).

Spoon, a small independent coffee shop in Duke Street, has been allowed to have chairs outside despite staunch objection and the same goes for the Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse restaurant in Station Road, which has finally been granted a late (9pm) licence to use its outdoor terrace. Hallelujah!

Of course we must be careful when considering further applications.

While walking home after a drink with friends one day trecently, I did see an old man shouting at a cloud.

Apparently it didn’t have planning permission. — Yours faithfully,

L Watkins

Friday Street, Henley

Misguided objection

Sir, — The Henley Society’s planning committee wants to stop a two-storey side extension to a house in Leaver Road, stating that these houses were built as low-cost starter homes and should not be extended.

The people who want to extend their property are doing so because their daughter wants to stay in Henley. They are doing it so she has her own place to live. They are not going to profit from building this extension.

Other householders in Leaver Road have extended their properties and two have even built a new house on their land.

David Whitehead, the committee chairman, should be more interested in getting the council to build social housing so families such as these don’t have to provide housing for their children so that they can stay in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Dangerous diversion

Sir, — I am writing regarding the temporary closure of the A4155 Henley Road (Standard, June 23).

I fully understand this work has to be carried out but I feel it is ludicrous to think drivers will follow the 20-mile diversion that will be in place.

It is obvious to me that the majority of traffic (including heavy goods vehicles) will use Dunsden, Binfield Heath and Shiplake as an alternative rat run.

All three of these villages have minimal footpaths for pedestrian safety and the route people will take will also take them past two children’s nurseries and Shiplake Primary School.

I feel that, without proper care and consideration to these villages, there is a very high risk of accidents occurring. Councillor David Bartholomew has stated the highways team will drive the diversion route during the first three days of the works, but I feel there needs to be a presence within these villages to monitor the volume and speed of the traffic passing through so that action can be taken to avoid any accidents occurring. — Yours faithfully,

Lee Buckett

Heathfield Avenue, Binfield Heath

What about road deaths?

Sir, — Grenfell Tower is a particular tragedy when residents were perfectly entitled to expect to live their lives in safety and security in the accommodation available.

Reaction to this awful calamity has overshadowed the way we respond to the 1,800 or so annual road death victims.

The 22,000 people seriously injured on our roads annually places a huge load on our NHS, especially accident and emergency departments. Each one is a human and family disaster.

All residents and road users bear a great responsibility not only for their own safety but that of fellow citizens.

It remains to be seen if the tower block fire was started by a defective fridge or perhaps a lithium telephone battery or other failure. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Lawson-Smith

Fair Mile, Henley

Protect our school funds

Sir, — I was delighted to see that the Conservative Party appears to have abandoned its plans for the expansion of grammar schools with the proposal being absent from the Queen’s Speech.

There was never a shred of evidence that returning our education system to the Fifties would increase social mobility — indeed. the evidence pointed in quite the opposite direction.

Also welcome for its absence from the Queen’s Speech was another misguided manifesto commitment — that of scrapping free school lunches for primary school children (a policy introduced by the Liberal Democrats under the coalition government).

One big question as regards this Government’s plans for education does remain. During the election campaign the Conservative Party — after considerable pressure from schools and other political parties — promised more funding (although still not enough) for schools, including protecting all schools from budget cuts as a result of the revised funding formula.

Henley MP John Howell made much of this promise and indeed claimed some credit for it.

But the additional money for this was due to come from scrapping free school lunches which are not now being scrapped. Mr Howell needs to hold his Government to account to ensure that the funding pledge is upheld and that the money for this is not found from elsewhere in the already stretched education budget. — Yours faithfully,

Laura Coyle

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for the Henley constituency, Streatley

Soft Brexit is no deal

Sir, — Laura Coyle, the “hard Remain” Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Henley, promotes soft Brexit against the democratic will of the people (Standard, June 23). Soft Brexit means no Brexit. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Inadvertent defamation

Sir, — I wonder whether the immunity from prosecution that our MPs enjoy for statements they make in Parliament extends to “inadvertent defamations” of Messrs Barnier, Juncker and company as might seem reasonably likely over the coming weeks of “negotiation”? — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Short story that flopped

Sir, — Your columnist Mink Elliott gives us a wonderful insight into how unique our thinking, beliefs and tastes are.

It would be wonderful if we all took turns at what Mink does. For example, like her, we could share our pleasure, disgust, horror and ideas as to what interests us and, indeed, what we think others may think about us in a one-off article.

Her musings jogged my memory as to an experience many years ago on a residential training course.

We were all either psychologists, psychiatrists or with a background in mental health, training to become psychotherapists.

During a general discussion I felt confident enough to illustrate my preoccupation with the unhelpful lack of care or interest in society as to the experiences of others — by that I mean their story.

Could this mean we ring- fence our own absorption and listen up on occasions, I wondered.

Madame Mitterrand had encountered a tribe of pygmy people in Africa. She was enchanted by the manner in which they relayed their daily experiences through a sing- song account at the end of the day.

For example, “I went to the river for water and on the way I saw a strange green bird, I was so surprised etc..”

Madame Mitterrand invited them to Paris to give a rendition of this valuable human need to be heard that was enshrined in their culture.

At the end of my description there was an uncomfortable silence (I was self-conscious now).

The focus was not the human need to be heard and accommodated but rather “can you use the word pygmy”? So was I a racist, a mocking other or plain ignorant.

I mumbled into the background and wished I had not spoken or was dead. The thrust of my contribution was dissolved in group anxiety and the preoccupation was with a term some were uncertain of.

Perhaps we can only refer to plants or animals as pygmy despite being part of the animal kingdom.

Apparently a pygmy is a member of an ethnic group whose average height is unusually short. Anthropologists define pygmy as a member of any group where adult men are on average less than 150cm (4ft 1in). A member of a slightly taller group is termed “pygmoid”.

The term is most associated with peoples of Central Africa such as the Aka, Efe and Mbuti.

If the term “pygmy” is defined as a group’s men having an average height below 1.55m (5 ft 1in), then there are also pygmies in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Andaman Islands, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia and Brazil, including some Negritos of south-east Asia.

By the way, I am 5ft and in a way a pigmy too and that is a fact. In fact, I may be becoming even smaller as I age. — Yours faithfully,

Vivien Price

Shiplake

That wasn’t swan upping

Sir, — Congratulations on keeping abreast of latest Fleet Street themes by publishing fake news on your front page and in glorious colour!

I am amazed that nobody on your editorial staff is aware that royal swan upping has nothing to do with removing the swans from the Henley reach for the regatta.

Royal swan upping dates back to around 1186 and I think the regatta is somewhat younger than that.

This year, swan upping will take place from Monday to Friday, July 17 to 21 when the uppers travel the 79 miles from Sunbury to Abingdon.

They will be passing through Henley on Wednesday, July 19 with a stop for lunch at the River & Rowing Museum.

The safe removal of the swans from the regatta course is co-ordinated by the charity Swan Support, based in Datchet.

They are helped by the few people on the river who have experience handling swans who happen to be swan uppers.

I hope this clarifies this oft-quoted mistake. — Yours faithfully,

Colin Patrick

Swan upping support
co-ordinator, Stoke Row Road, Kingwood

Editor’s comment: “Our report did not say that this was the annual swan upping ceremony. It said that the birds were removed from the river by David Barber, the Queen’s Swan Marker, with assistance from swan uppers, which, as Mr Patrick confirms, were present as they have relevant experience. It was therefore accurate.”

Red kite goes shopping...

Sir, — My friend and I were amazed when walking through the aisles of M & Co in Henley on Friday to see a large bird (a red kite, I believe) fly through the door.

As it flew towards us, we ducked down among the jeans and then watched it approach the bottom of the store, see there was no exit there and fly back towards the door again.

The kite had obviously forgotten to see something of interest because it then wheeled round and, as we ducked, did another swift circuit of the shop before eventually exiting at the front door — much to the surprise of the customers coming in!

I thought it was a kite, which are very common around here, but my friend thought it was a pigeon.

Did anyone else see it and what did they think it was? — Yours faithfully,

Rhona Mogridge

Makins Road, Henley

Thanks for generosity

Sir, — On behalf of South Oxfordshire Mencap Society, may I say a very big thank-you to all the wonderful people of Henley for supporting our Learning Disability Week event and charity collection in the town on Saturday.

We collected the magnificent sum of £630.18, which will be used to help our members to enjoy mainstream contact in our community.

We arrange discos, outings and support for our Meteor Club, which meets on a weekly basis, providing opportunities for social contact for our members and respite for their carers and families.

We are a charity based in Henley and are always looking for volunteers to help with and fund our activities.

Please pass on our thanks to all of our contributors and helpers. — Yours faithfully,

Brian Connolly

Honorary treasurer, South Oxfordshire Mencap Society, Church Street, Henley

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