Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Your letters...

Hospice must not be sold

Sir, — At the meeting of the Townlands Steering Group in Henley town hall last week, the main item on the agenda was end-of-life care in Oxfordshire with particular reference to the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed (Standard, August 24).

Members of the Sue Ryder management in London had agreed to attend and answer questions about the future of the hospice.

By the start of the meeting there was standing room only for the public, which indicated the widespread concern about what the management proposes to do with Joyce Grove.

Holly Spiers, the director of hospices and fund-raising, who has no medical qualifications, took most of the questions.

Very little was revealed other than that Sue Ryder would not build a purpose-built hospice on the site when Joyce Grove is sold.

There was no commitment to a hospice in the area because Ms Spiers seemed to think that the recently introduced home nursing service would be an adequate alternative.

This ignored the very ethos of the Sue Ryder hospice movement to provide end-of-life care for those who needed 24-hour nursing away from home.

There was no indication of what would happen to the dedicated nursing staff in Nettlebed, many of whom have not been consulted.

Indeed, one member of the public reminded Ms Spiers that she had had at least 18 months to formulate a plan yet was still unable or unwilling to provide definitive solutions.

Clearly, with a growing ageing population, there will be a greater demand for hospice care.

We came away from the meeting feeling that our concerns had not been addressed and that the Sue Ryder management was deliberately withholding vital information about their ultimate intentions.

Many of us believe that the Nettlebed hospice should not be sold unless and until there is another hospice commissioned in the South Oxfordshire area.

If necessary, we will be prepared to mount a public campaign to that effect.

I hope other readers will write with their views. — Yours faithfully,

Alfred Waller


Asset that is delivering

Sir, — I think the directors of the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed have somehow missed the point.

It is not a business venture, it is a hospice where care, support, compassion and advice are offered to those who are nearing the end of their lives and, just as importantly, to those who have been given the devastating news that they have a terminal illness.

I wonder if those who are advocating closure of the hospice have any idea of how it may feel to be given this life-shattering diagnosis? Being offered time at Sue Ryder can make an amazing difference to them however long they have left.

I work as a complementary therapist in the day clinic one morning a week and just coming up the drive makes you feel as if you are entering a different world.

Step through the doors into the beautiful hallway and you know you are entering a sanctuary of peace — an oasis of calm and hope. Yes, hope! Upstairs there may be people dying but downstairs it’s about living.

You pass into the dayroom full of laughter, full of activities — knitting, painting and beadwork to name a few — and patients chatting and giving support to each other.

Some who were only given months to live are still going strong two or three years later.

This is due in some way to the wonderful care of the nursing staff, the volunteers, therapists and spiritual helpers, but I and many others believe that the house and grounds also contribute to this — it’s a very special place.

Holly Spiers says the hospice is an valuable asset and she is right.

But she is wrong to say it is not delivering — it is delivering 100 per cent in giving comfort and healing not just to the patients but also to the families, friends and carers of those who go there.

My own father died there 20 years ago and I remember walking round the grounds with my mother and sisters and feeling we were being held in love as we came to terms with his death.

If the beds upstairs are not always filled is it such a problem? If places were closed on the grounds of not being filled to capacity most of the churches and cathedrals would close overnight!

A huge amount of money is raised through the sales, donations and fund-raising so why not have a yearly target amount to keep the hospice open? I’m sure the directors and trustees would be amazed at the response! — Yours faithfully,

Leslie Maynerd

High Street, Whitchurch

Excellent experience

Sir, — My experience of Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley.

Father’s X-ray, parked car, six minutes, job done. Excellent. — Yours faithfully,


Britwell Salome

Connection failure

Sir, — Your correspondent David Thomas (Standard, August 24) should have properly read the article on the “third Thames crossing” before launching into his diatribe against Conservative politicians while enthusing about the possibility of the proposed bridge being linked to an upgraded A4074 to Oxford.

John Howell MP’s quote in the article was “…the bridge is particularly useless unless there is somewhere for it to lead on to.”

The essence of many people’s objection to the bridge is that it would connect up to the M4 via the A329(M) and simply dump thousands of cars and lorries on to South Oxfordshire roads with nowhere for the traffic to go other than the B481 to Nettlebed or the A4155 to Henley.

The villages along the B481 simply couldn’t cope with the heavy goods vehicles and Henley is already choked with traffic; Reading Road is at a standstill most mornings and Duke Street has some of the worst air pollution in the country.

The Berkshire councils promoting the bridge have steadfastly refused to consider a new relief road linking the Oxfordshire end of the bridge to the A4074 as it would increase the cost of the scheme and make the “business case” that much harder to justify.

With this clarification, I trust Mr Thomas will re-direct his anger towards Reading East Labour MP Matt Rodda and insist that he stops trying to push through a plan with a bridge that doesn’t connect to the A4074 but simply moves Reading’s traffic problems into South Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Bartholomew

Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council

You can’t undo result

Sir, — The very long and rambling letter by Stuart Fox and the shorter one by Mike Phelan (Standard, August 24) were simply naked attempts to set aside the result of the 2016 referendum, in which a clear majority of the UK electorate voted to leave the EU.

That result, gentlemen, is called (direct) democracy, which I suggest, like the jury system, is the least worst system we know. Or do you know a better one?

What specialist knowledge do you have, Stuart, which convinces you that Brexit will be a disaster? None, I suspect. Yours is just an opinion among many, but expressed at great length.

You confuse the Brexit decision with the difficulty our government is having in carrying out that decision. Hardly surprising since MPs are divided, just like the country at large, and they are led by a “ditherer” of a Prime Minister (who they elected), who was a Remainer before the referendum and one imagines is therefore only a lukewarm and late convert to the Brexit cause.

Stuart is surely right that the EU does not want the UK to leave but in reality it is all about money and we are a net contributor. Very simple, whatever they say.

Pray tell me, Stuart, what would be wrong with the UK trading under World Trade Organisation terms? That is how most of the world trades, is it not?

What a tragedy for our country that some MPs on all sides of the house, instead of presenting a united front to Michel Barnier, still prefer to play the game of party politics, presumably for personal gain, when what is urgently required is informed and decisive leadership. This issue is far too important for “business as usual”.

If you, Stuart, were designing the rules for EU membership, would you make those rules so complex and Byzantine that no country would ever contemplate seeking to leave? Yes, of course you would and that is precisely what they have done.

Simply put, the electorate apparently wants the UK to be like the vast majority of other democratic countries in the world — spending our money as we think fit and deciding how many people may come to our crowded island to live and work. What is so wrong with that?

It has nothing whatever to do with “racism” however you choose define it, Mike.

The big picture is that we are witnessing a large-scale movement of population into Europe which will continue, possibly with increasing desperation on both sides, until the conditions in their respective countries improve, which I suggest will not happen anytime soon. Obvious surely? Yet none of the measures taken so far acknowledge this simple fact.

The sticking plaster solutions on offer by most EU politicians are hopelessly inadequate for the task.

I was baffled by the letter from David Thomas, which read like an article he had just read on Wikipedia.

His style was that of a typical socialist who always knows best. His literary tour de force ranged from the A4074 road to artificial intelligence to a short survey of American universities. Along the way, our much-esteemed MP also comes in for criticism. The connection escapes me.

Only a Corbyn-led administration will satisfy David apparently. I hope he will like it. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

Better pay at the top

Sir, — The Office for National Statistics recently revealed that the number of jobless folk was at a 42-year low, resulting in a rate of four per cent.

However, while the pay of company chief executives rose, on average, by 11 per cent last year, the rise in pay for full-time workers only amounted to two per cent.

Need I write more? — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Does council really care?

Sir, — Our recycling bins were due to be emptied on Wednesday, August 15.

The refuse collectors missed my bin and those belonging to my neighbours on either side. I rang South Oxfordshire District Council and the lady I spoke to said the recycling bins would be emptied in the next two days when the refuse collectors returned.

On Friday last week I rang to check that the refuse collectors had received the message but was told there was no record of my phone call, so “tough”, we would have to wait for two weeks and put my recyclables in a clean, non-recyclable, plastic bag.

As a pensioner with limited funds, I am not prepared to buy bags because of the inefficiency of the waste disposal service.

I understand from my neighbour that she emailed the council the same evening.

I wonder if the council will give us a refund on our council tax? — Yours faithfully,

Patricia Dixon

Lovell Close, Henley

A spokeswoman for South Oxfordshire District Council responds: “Residents can report a missed bin by phone on 03000 610610 until 5pm on the next working day after the scheduled collection.

“Missed bins can also be reported by completing our webform or by emailing admin.southoxford@
biffa.co.uk up until midnight on the next working day.

“If residents have recycling that won’t fit in their bin, they can put it out next to the bin in a clear plastic bag or cardboard box. Plastic bags can be recycled as part of our waste collection service.

“We would also urge people to ensure they get their bins out by 7am on the day of collection to ensure they do not miss the crews.

“If people need further assistance, for example if they need help moving their bins, then they can request an assisted collection by calling 01235 422406 or emailing waste.team@southandvale.

Appalled by attendant

Sir, — I am a 76-year-old woman and I had the most dreadful experience recently at the Shell petrol station on Remenham Hill.

I pulled my car into the station, which I regularly use to fill up my car, but was unable to pull the handle out of the pump.

I think it may have been my arthritis acting up.

So I went into the station to see if the attendant could help me. I thought it to be a reasonable request.

However, I was met with a tyranny of abuse and aggression from the attendant that startled and scared me.

We did try to contact the owner of this business but we had no luck.

In an area such as Henley, which has a significant elderly population, I find this treatment to be disgusting.

I for one will never give my custom to Shell Remenham Hill again and I have made sure that all of my friends and family will do the same. — Yours faithfully,

Rose Murray


A Shell spokeswoman responds: “We are disappointed to hear of the experience the customer had at Shell Whitehill Service Station.

“This site is operated by one of our independent dealer partners and we are working with them to fully investigate this incident. We pride ourselves on the fantastic work that our customer service champions do across our 1,000-plus UK sites to help our customers on their journeys.

“This includes teaming up with FuelService, an app to help customer get assistance refuelling their cars, a service which is available at the Shell Whitehill Service Station.”

Now theatre is booming

Sir, — As the box office manager at the Kenton Theatre in Henley and living in the town centre, I am relatively well known.

As a consequence, I have been stopped several times by people concerned about the state of our theatre after the alarming report headlined “Theatre in deficit due to management ‘difficulties’” (Standard, August 24)

An example from Sunday morning: “Hello, Richard, funny shenanigans going on at the theatre!”

I’m sure the passer-by did not intend to imply any financial impropriety, rather that we were in a state of disarray, which I agree could be concluded from your report.

I would like to emphasise that the financial condition of the theatre as described was a reflection of the state of affairs one year ago — to the end of August 2017.

And although the chairman and secretary of the trustees have recently resigned, they will be replaced at next month’s annual meeting.

The success or failure of the theatre largely depends on the knowledge and expertise of our senior management.

Their primary task is to seek out shows that will appeal to our local community and bring quality performances to Henley.

To this end our general manager Paula Price-Davies and, until recently, Tom Ryan have made great progress and in the current financial year have completely turned around the theatre’s fortunes.

We now have 40 shows on sale (a record), commencing in mid-September with a Neil Diamond tribute.

Our recently produced brochure has something for all tastes — comedy, drama and music along with plenty for the children.

This coming season promises to be the most successful in the theatre’s history.

As well as bringing dozens of original shows, Paula has been successful in obtaining sponsorship from local businesses, contributing another income stream unheard of before her arrival.

I can reassure those with concerns about the condition of the theatre after last week’s report, that the financial state of the theatre to the end of August 2018 will show a dramatic improvement over last year’s.

Moving forward into the coming financial year, commencing on September 1, the Kenton will be rocking to the sound of great entertainment, the dark days of yesteryear being well and truly behind us! — Yours faithfully,

Richard Rule

Church Avenue, Henley

No more ‘difficulties’

Sir, — With reference to your article “Theatre in deficit due to management ‘difficulties’”, I would like to stress that the figures which you reported on in considerable detail are now 12 months old.

As the general manager Paula Price-Davies pointed out, the first half of this year’s figures show an 11 per cent increase in ticket sales against the year reported and 20 per cent above the five-year average, including an all-time monthly record for November.

The more recent resignations, which are completely unconnected with the figures reported on, will not adversely affect the performance for the year just ending.

Indeed, all have worked hard throughout the year to resolve historic difficulties and bring the Kenton Theatre back on course.

The remaining trustees intend to build on the improving results with the support of replacements to be elected from a well-qualified “field” at the forthcoming annual meeting. — Yours faithfully,

Cliff Colborne,

Interim chairman, Kenton Theatre, Henley

Magnificent musical

Sir, — We bought our tickets for Sweet Charity at the Watermill, Bagnor, some months ago and were very dismayed to read Mary Scriven’s rather scathing review (August 3).

This was our first visit to this quaint theatre, set in most tranquil countryside, and on entering the tiny auditorium anxiously wondered what type of show we were about to see.

Well, we needn’t have worried. From the very outset, we were entertained by a very talented and enthusiastic cast, each of whom could certainly multi-task — acting, singing, dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments.

We thought that Rhythm of Life was a musical extravanganza with a fantastic arrangement and harmony.

We enjoyed the dance numbers too: they were certainly not unimaginative and to get 13 performers on a stage the size of a postage stamp was a feat in itself!

We would highly recommend this show. — Yours faithfuly,

Carole Lewis and Alan Gibbon

Woodlands Road, Sonning Common

Shakespeare and showers

Sir, — We would like to thank all those supporters and willing helpers who contributed to the two fund-raising events held on behalf of the Chiltern Centre for disabled children and the Thames Valley Adventure Playground over two weekends at Peel Fold in Henley.

The Shakespeare’s As You Like It evenings were just that with excellent attendances despite the dire weather forecasts.

The Lamb Players proved to be adept at avoiding some minor showers and the slightly damp conditions enforced a strong bond between the players and the audience. Good old English weather!

The evening tribute to Beatrice Lillie (our alternative to the Rewind South festival) was a magical and memorable evening with superb singing performances from local company Opera Prelude.

Their magnificent voices complemented those songs of yesteryear on a beautiful, sunny evening.

A big thank-you to all who helped and especially to the picnickers, who steadfastly supported and left no litter behind. There was just one champagne cork left on the lawns from a very special vintage — we know who drinks this brand and I shall be seeking an extra contribution to charity, you can be sure! — Yours faithfully,

Alan and Carol Pontin


P.S. Opera Prelude will be presenting One Romantic Evening at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on November 17.

Thank-you for support

Sir, — It is not possible to individually thank all those who have contacted me, but the written and verbal expressions of sympathy I have received since the very sad death of my husband, Keith, have been overwhelming and I have been touched by the warmth and esteem with which he was regarded. Thank you so much to everyone.

I feel privileged to have shared 63 years with him. — Yours faithfully,

Daphne Wheal

King’s Road, Henley

Your Wilde assumption

Sir, — Congratulations on your picture coverage of the Rewind South festival (Standard, August 24).

However, I have to take issue with your caption accompanying the picture of Kim Wilde, saying: “Leather-clad Kim Wilde performs alongside her guitarist”.

Her guitarist for many, many years has been her brother Ricky Wilde.

I guess even he would admit he has changed a tad from his own early Seventies teen star days but Kim and her band have been such supporters of Rewind that I think Ricky deserves his own mention! — Yours faithfully,

Katherine McAleer

The Mount, Caversham

Print news that matters

Sir, — I was dismayed and disappointed that local community information news for Sonning Common had yet again been replaced by an easy story about a planning application (Standard, August 24).

As a community newspaper, many organisations need the Standard to spread good news and developments with volunteer groups.

Please can you limit the number of articles on planning and certainly only concentrate on the more major developments.

The FISH volunteer centre has returned to Springhill in Kennylands Road, Sonning Common.

We very much look forward to our clients popping in to see us. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Mills

Chairman, FISH volunteer centre, Sonning Common

The editor responds: “The story about the volunteer centre was left out due to the shortage of space in last week’s paper but is published this week.”

Autumn, the first signs

Sir, — Here is a short poem about the first signs of autumn at Highmoor Cross — Yours faithfully,

Debbie Warren-Price

Blackberries, small but sweet this year,

Summer tans fade while jumpers and wellies appear,

Days shorten as the sun stays lower in the sky,

The last barbecue, the first Sunday roast,

Chimneys are swept, the range is turned up,

The smell of wet earth in the woods,

Leaves turning colour, fungi emerges,

Cool showers replaced by long hot baths,

Barley is harvested and fields are ploughed,

Flowers fade as gardeners mulch,

As August ends, it really starts turning.

Overheard at market...

Sir, — Overheard at the Thursday market in Henley on the fruit and vegetable stall:

Customer: (General indistinct grumbling) “… and people don’t say thank you.”

Woman serving behind counter: “What do you expect? This is Henley.”

I suspect people will draw varied conclusions from that exchange! — Yours faithfully,

Paul Bradford

Elizabeth Road, Henley

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