Thursday, 24 January 2019

Caversham Heights Society

THE first few weeks of the society’s 42nd season have been full and encouraging.

The first meeting on September 5 began with the annual meeting and election of the committee.

All members were
re-elected with the exception of treasurer Carol Cozens, who was standing down, and former hospitality secretary Lis Nealon, who was retiring after many years of loyal service.

Both were presented with bouquets of flowers and thanked for their services.

John Brunnen was elected treasurer.

Following these proceedings, members were enthralled by two talks on the “Challenges facing the NHS at 70”.

The first was given by an administrator at a large London hospital, the second by a paramedic who works for the South Central Air Ambulance Service.

We all had to grasp the enormity of the pressures facing the NHS since its inception in 1948: the numbers of patients dealt with on a daily basis; the numbers healed of different illnesses, many of which did not exist 70 years ago; the numbers of doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals; the increasing sums of money spent on the NHS, unfortunately much of it badly; the reliance on foreign staff; and the changing patterns of work so that nurses are now expected to take on work previously done by doctors while consultants are increasingly becoming specialists in their fields.

The problems arise from an ageing population, from obesity and diabetes and from the decline in local GP surgeries so that too many patients opt to go to their nearest accident and emergency department rather than a local pharmacist or GP.

The huge costs to the NHS of missed appointments was also highlighted.

From what was said there is much to praise and be thankful for but there are still many challenges facing the system.

The superb work done by the air ambulance service was also highlighted with some very moving and actual cases being described.

What came as a surprise to many was that from the beginning of this month the NHS is no longer responsible for the air ambulance services which are now charities reliant on public contributions to keep them flying.

On September 19 we had a fascinating and well-illustrated talk on “Victorian and early 20th century architecture in Reading” given by Richard Havelock, a local expert and member of the Lutyens Society.

He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and discussed different approaches to architecture and how these had changed, or not, over time.

He also talked about how the rivalry between different architects had a profound impact on the buildings of towns like Reading where a mixture of stone Georgian houses along London Road and the Assize Court in the Forbury should be seen alongside the Victorian red brick properties such as the Reading and Kendrick Schools.

Although Reading was much maligned as a red brick town by writers such as Jerome K Jerome and Sir John Betjeman, Mr Havelock pointed out that the town could be proud of its heritage.

Some of the great architects, such as Waterhouse and George Gilbert Scott, had such a positive impact on buildings like Reading prison, the almshouses in Castle Street, Huntley and Palmers and Caversham rectory.

Perhaps Reading Borough Council should do more to advertise the positive aspects of Reading now that the abbey ruins are once again open to the public.

The third event in September was a day visit to Stourhead, the jewel in the crown of National Trust properties in Wiltshire.

Although Stourhead is noted for the glorious autumn colours that show its gardens and classical temples and other buildings to great effect, the day of our visit was a little too early for this splendid show.

However, it seemed to matter little because we were there on one of the last hot summer days.

The talk on October 3 brought members down to earth when they were presented with a sobering but inspiring and encouraging introduction to the work of Launchpad in helping homeless people in Reading.

Sophie Stokes opened our eyes to the plight of homeless people by defining different types of homelessness and revealing how people became homeless, often through no fault of their own.

She said Reading had one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country — 407 or one in 162 households — and there were 30,000 people in social housing.

Launchpad began in 1979 when some Reading University students decided to do something about the homeless. In 2011 it became Launchpad, an independent charity which is now providing housing support and floating support, helping people with benefit applications, budgeting, healthcare and developing life skills.

It works with other local organisations such as Readifood, the Salvation Army and FAITH and it seeks to help its clients regain their independence, find employment and a proper home.

Most of the audience found this talk inspiring.

Future events include talks on “Fusion — a clean future?” and “Swan upping on the River Thames” and a Christmas party.

Meetings are held on alternate Wednesday evenings in the Caversham Heights Methodist Church hall at 8pm, preceded by coffee and chat. Newcomers are always welcome.

For more information, email or visit www.caversham

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