Sunday, 13 June 2021

Your letters...

Staffing for our benefit

Sir, — A ticket inspector standing outside Henley station recently told me the cheery lady who was usually at the ticket counter had resigned.

She had become stressed by people in the early morning queues being rude to her.

How could this be when they have two positions to sell the tickets? Two people at two counters would comfortably get through these queues — one could be permanent and one part-time.

There is now is no permanent ticket seller — just “floating” or “relief” counter staff and a machine which can sometimes be out of order.

After I left the station I went to the post office, where there were 14 people in the queue and only two staff serving at the four counters.

One of them was rummaging in a cupboard trying to locate a form for her colleague.

The bloke behind me was muttering, as was the bloke in front of me.

When I finally made it to the counter I was confronted by a lady who was both efficient and pleasant.

She explained that if they had staff at the four counters they would be twiddling their thumbs when things became quiet.

The answer to this is to have two permanent staff and two part-time staff to relieve pressure on the permanent ones.

As it is, both sides of the counter are glum. We are frustrated on this side while the other side is struggling, not through any fault of their own.

The answer is the recruitment of part-time staff at both the station and the post office, possibly paid by the hour.

We need managers who can organise things differently for the benefit of us all. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Brown

Western Road, Henley

Some rail positives

Sir, — Picking up on the comments by Patricia Mulcahy, who chairs our friends at the Henley Branch User Group, about “improvements can’t come soon enough”, (Standard, January 6), we at Henley Trains try to spot the positives.

Over Christmas the following were delivered by Network Rail:

lAccess for London-bound slow trains to both sides of the slow platform at Maidenhead, lessening the impact of single line running during disruption.

lAn additional flyover into London from the Heathrow spur, reducing crossing trains and associated disruption.

l A new platform at Hayes, allowing additional local electric services and West London capacity to and from Paddington.

l A new platform at West Ealing to enable Greenford services to run as a shuttle, allowing the additional Hayes services above.

l A flyunder at the Acton freight yard, reducing the impact of freight services coming out of the yard on London-bound services.

l Considerable amounts of electrification towards the next step, Hayes to Maidenhead, in a few months’ time.

Improvements are already arriving and we’d like to thank all those who toiled in the cold and dark over Christmas for Network Rail on our behalf during the Christmas closure.

We welcome those with a positive outlook at henley

Here’s to 2017. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Henley Trains

Pressure goes with GP’s job

Sir, — I was incensed and saddened when I read of the Henley doctor quitting her job when the going got tough (Standard, January 6).

I appreciate the pressure of work but this is the real world: imagine the pressures of working in the hot spots of the world with no, or so few, resources.

I presume that she took an oath to help and nurture her patients but who is she helping by abandoning them?

How fortunate is she to have the brains and ability to do so much for society and to be able to gain the satisfaction of a job well done, however difficult that may be?

And it is not as if she is not well-remunerated for doing so.

I see and experience the pressure of work in my surgery and thank the Lord that, with all the trials and tribulations, the doctors, nurses and all staff work through it with professionalism and a smile for us patients. That might just be part of the cure! — Yours faithfully,

John Moore

Northfield End, Henley

NHS can no longer be free

Sir, — Surely people other than myself must be wondering when will the UK confront its sacred cow of a health service free at the point of delivery?

Having recently returned from Malaysia, I am reminded that the word “delivery” there means a fixed charge is made for assistance at childbirth and a smaller one, in the order of £5, to visit a doctor.

If this system was adopted here, it would at a stroke ease the pressure of demand on the NHS and at the same time bolster its finances.

In this country it seems to be completely acceptable to spray money around in the January sales but not to contribute directly towards the essentials of life. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Heads have got it wrong

Sir, — I am unsurprised that some headmasters are against the re-introduction of grammar schools (Standard, December 30).

It will inevitably result in them losing their best performing students, affecting their school’s ranking in the league tables.

In my (not very) humble opinion, the headmasters are choosing the schools’ rankings over the pupils’ future and clearly don’t care if able students get the education they deserve.

Maybe the parents of pupils at those schools should think about that.

I appreciate that some may feel that grammar schools are unfair on the less able student but failure in an early exam such as the 11-plus means nothing.

Ask any successful entrepreneur and they will tell you they had many more failures than success — they just don’t give up when things go wrong.

It would be foolish to judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree but surely far more foolish to make monkeys live underwater instead? — Yours faithfully,

Simon Brickhill

Goring Heath

Demise of our high streets

Sir, — The news that the Old Post Office café in Wargrave could close (Standard, January 6) is sad but merely the continuation of a trend that has been in place for many years and in many of our villages.

In my teen years from the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties my father was manager of the International Tea Company Stores (telephone number: Wargrave 7 — quaint), situated opposite the Woodclyffe Hall.

His main competitor was a similar store situated on the corner of Church Street, namely Budgens.

These two busy stores were supported on High Street, starting from the Twyford end, beyond the Bull Hotel, by a chemist, a greengrocer (Stringers), a ladies’ hairdresser, a gentlemen’s hairdresser (Alf Beckford) combined with a tobacconist, a sweet shop, a dairy (Jones Bros), WH Smith & Son, a café (run, I recall, by Carol Shute), a butcher’s (Jennings), an electrical contractor (Stan Bennett and heirs), a wet fish shop (Tony Shaw), an antique dealer, two busy motor repair garages (Rideouts and Wargrave Motors), a post office combined with drapery shop (run by Cyril Sansum) and a baker at the bottom of Church Street.

The demise of High Street began, I think, when parking on both sides of the road was stopped and shoppers wishing to park close to the shops began a drift to Twyford and elsewhere.

There were, of course, four public houses/hotels along High Street in those days — the Bull, the Greyhound, the White Hart and the St George and Dragon. All four survive today as hostelries — make of that what you will. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Harpsden Road, Henley

Phase out diesel vehicles

Sir, — At the Henley Town Council meeting on January 3, it was heartening to hear the Conservatives through Will Hamilton confirm their manifesto that guarantees the traffic survey will curb congestion and drive out pollution.

This is in the context of having 26 days in December above the European standard and the many new houses to be built in the Henley area.

Since 2007 no actions have been forthcoming in Henley to address the pollution levels and those that have been mentioned, such as electric car charge points and birch trees, do not seem to have materialised.

Last week the UK’s chief medical officer stated that the issue of deaths from pollution can only be addressed if we urgently phase out diesel vehicles.

I do hope the residents of Henley begin to consider their own and their children’s health when they next purchase a car.

It is the only way to guarantee clean air for Henley. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Good way to protect land

Sir, — The Open Spaces Society is pleased to learn that Shiplake is to develop a neighbourhood plan (Standard, January 6) and would like to remind residents that this gives them an opportunity to identify land for designation as Local Green Space.

This was first introduced in the previous government’s National Planning Policy Framework of 2012 but has been little used.

Potential Local Green Space must be reasonably close to the community it serves, demonstrably special to the community and local in character rather than extensive. Beauty, historic significance, recreational value, tranquillity and richness of habitats for wildlife are all relevant factors.

While the effects of designation are not entirely clear, it does offer some protection to the land.

With Shiplake and Lower Shiplake under such pressure from development, it can only help to ensure that at least some land is designated as Local Green Space for the community to treasure and enjoy.

There is more information on our website at
neighbourhood-planning-and-protecting-open-spaces/ — Yours faithfully,

Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary, the Open Spaces Society, Bell Street, Henley

Wonderful festive lunch

Sir, — We would just like to say a huge thank-you to Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury and Jill Vallis for the most wonderful lunch on Christmas Day at Sonning Common village hall. It was a very memorable occasion. — Yours faithfully,

Flora and David Ashby and Hazel Jenkins

Honour is well-deserved

Sir, — May we congratulate Brian Hughes on his award of a British Empire Medal (Standard, January 6) — it has been a long time coming.

His steadfastness and dedication to the service of charities is unequalled. To see him collecting for the Poppy Appeal in all weathers unperturbed for so many years defies belief.

I have done some fund-raising for the Royal British Legion myself and to work alongside Brian is inspirational. Hats off to him.

Brian, enjoy your fame and may we see you for many more years to come, standing outside Starbucks and proudly marching with the standard of the Royal British Legion.

If you see Brian, bid him well for he is a true gentleman and a loyal patron to the cause. — Yours faithfully,

David and Joshua Thatcher

Gainsborough Crescent, Henley

Important difference

Sir, — The editing of my letter in favour of grammar schools (Standard, January 6) gave the impression that the two Ofsted quotations regarding Gillotts School were from the same 2012 report.

In fact, the second quotation (“You have successfully raised the level of challenge for the most able pupils”) was from the 2016 report, as I had indicated.

The difference is important, showing that the commendable improvement has been much more recent. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Great day for young Hawks

Sir, — The Henley Hawks under-10s squad enjoyed supporting the 1st XV during their derby game against Redingensians at Dry Leas on Saturday.

As well as providing ball-boy and shared “guard of honour” duties, the juniors played two games on the first team pitch at half-time against their under-10 counterparts from Redingensians in front of a gate of more than 800.

Mirroring the hugely competitive and enjoyable encounter between the senior sides, all the children demonstrated considerable skill, energy and enthusiasm as they put on a great display of mini rugby.

I would like to thank the Henley Hawks management for giving the juniors such a fantastic opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a large and supportive crowd, making it a memorable day for all the children involved. — Yours faithfully,

Ed Horner

Coach, Henley Hawks under-10s squad

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