Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Your letters...

Your letters...

Hospice is such a loss

Sir, — Like many others, I am concerned by the closure of the Sue Ryder hospice, especially at the loss of the memorial, peace garden, sales venue, Sue Ryder events etc.

The closure draws near with the designated last sale on March 28 and I understand the remaining residents will be allowed to die there.

My family, like many other families in our community, has had first-hand experience of the superb palliative and end-of-life care that Sue Ryder ensures.

In my experience, staying in the family room during my father’s time of departure in 2017 we had many memorable moments that could only be experienced in an environment such as Joyce Grove — the nurses and doctors were phenomenal.

However, on the day of his departure, we looked across the March sky, filled with thick, grey gloomy clouds.

My father looked out and saw the sun. He said to me, using my childhood nickname: “Mookie, I would really like to go home now, the sun is so beautiful in the sky. I would like to rethink ‘being in the hospice’.”

Home means many different places to different people but those wishing to die at home should take note that death is not always so simple as closing one’s eyes and “going home”.

My father’s death was particularly complex and he did need pain management and a doctor close at hand for prescription drugs.

I will not go in to the details of his death but I would say that when you really are facing death, life goes on and home can illuminate itself, to show you the way.

I mentioned his request to the doctor at the hospice, who took a deep breath and told him: “What is best for you today is to spend time with your family at the hospice.” She asserted that he needed to concentrate on being with us.

Many of us have had an intimate experience of death and have shed many tears around death and losing someone we love.

However, Sue Ryder and the sales bought us so much life: a community, a path, illuminating a direction, helping us navigate the stages of grief and bringing new life to our homes through sales, through letting go of unwanted items, through changes of circumstance, through being together, through bereavement, change and new life.

I am concerned about the closure, especially the silencing of people’s voices, something not normal to our “Sue Ryder Nettlebed”.

I would really like to see strong acknowledgement of the volunteers, nurses and doctors and communication of exactly what is going on. Transparency seems to be lost in the gloomy March grey clouds.

We are a strong community, capable of great resources in finding answers to our hurdles and road- blocks. As a community, we are stronger than most.

But how have we been overlooked so grossly? How has the social entrepreneurism of the sales been discarded as not so important when this level of turnover is normally seen as serious business?

Does Sue Ryder seriously think people will just give to the charity’s shops in the same way instead?

The community efforts made by volunteers, donators and buyers are highly evolved and serious to the business of charity in respect of end-of-life and palliative care and from a perspective of social entrepreneurism.

I feel it would serve the community to raise awareness of their power.

We are a community capable of raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, all by ourselves, through the sales, for want of an environment to work from.

I feel it is important to not lose sight that those evolved goals can be used in any direction with a supporting environment.

I feel it is important to separate the community aspects from the big corporate charity element in this case, as the community values do not appear to be being met.

I am worried that when they said there was a decrease in demand for end-of-life care at the Nettlebed hospice it was perhaps a smokescreen (although I have no evidence).

The Sue Ryder experience was holistic and about bereavement as well as end of life.

However, it also supported home — illuminating a path and light.

Upcycling furniture, letting go, loss and renewed activity in life through the community were all supported through the sales.

I feel we are arriving at a raw place by letting the situation develop without a proper voice to represent the community position in respect of the charity.

The community is strong in its ability to resource and come together to overcome most hurdles.

However, without transparency and communication, we are disabled with no ability to pull together.

We are brushed aside for an objective that is not being shared. There are a lot of questions still unanswered.

I feel our community voice needs to especially celebrate the volunteers and the achievements of compassion expressed in the heart of our community, separate to the charity.

This is a sensitive time, when so many people are about to be shut out of their place of peace, memorial or where their loved one died and will be forever loved.

What is your position with this?

I feel the volunteers need to be acknowledged, especially on the last sale date.

I understand that Sue Ryder is having a party for 200 people after the sale. However, it says it can’t facilitate giving donations to the volunteers from a community perspective.

If you would like the essence of the sales to work towards something meaningful for the community with a new building in mind or another site, please write to the Henley Standard.

If you are a volunteer or work for Sue Ryder and would like to have a voice, please write too. — Yours faithfully,

Amanda McGregor


Closure is a tragedy pt 2

Sir, — May I thank Councillor Ian Reissmann for his response to my letter in your article “Campaigners demand answers over hospice closure” (Standard, March 6).

The images painted in the article were of dynamic campaigners leading the community and demanding answers as to Sue Ryder’s operation and future.

But the responses were merely new words for old actions.

The facts are that the Townlands Steering Group met twice in 2019, in March and November.

The November meeting considered only the plans for the new parking arrangements at Townlands Memorial Hospital.

So Sue Ryder was discussed only once in 2019 — approximately a year ago.

Furthermore, the charity’s chief executive met with the steering group in August 2018 and has held it at arms’ length ever since despite a promise of a meeting next month. This is hardly the image of a dynamic set of campaigners.

Ian, stop spinning political messages and let us settle down to the hard slog of seeing what can be recovered from this debacle for everybody.

Now is the time to abandon the Townlands Steering Group and constitute a Sue Ryder Steering Group with South Oxfordshire parishes.

Having developed a plan of engagement, let us demand a meeting with Sue Ryder management, Oxfordshire County Council and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

We need to review the way forward for a disillusioned community whose more vulnerable people see a growing threat from coronavirus in which Sue Ryder could have a special role to play. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Give hospice to community

Sir, — The residents of Henley and district have generously and energetically supported Sue Ryder in Nettlebed for more years than I can remember.

If Sue Ryder can’t/is not willing to continue to run close care facilities there, why doesn’t it hand it over to a local community group which can?

They’re surely not getting out because of all the lovely cash they can get from a property developer, are they? — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher


How to cope with virus

You are worried about becoming infected by the covid-19 virus. Everyone is worried. Don’t worry.

Instead, learn how to prepare for the worst. You can help yourself to avoid the virus. You can also strengthen your immune system.

My viral experience taught me several simple things to help me avoid covid-19.

Last year I was paralysed with a life-threatening virus. It took just seven days for a virus to paralyse me from my feet to my chest.

I collapsed in a shopping centre in Reading. I had no idea what was wrong. I experienced difficulty in standing. It was suddenly very hard to walk without holding on to someone. I was scared.

My GP saved my life by accurately diagnosing this rare virus despite never having seen it before. No, it was not coronavirus. I had a more deadly disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which kills eight per cent of all victims and paralyses the others, usually for many months or weeks. Sometimes GBS paralysis is permanent.

I’m determined to do everything I can, sensibly, realistically and practically, to be able to recover completely in the event that I catch the coronavirus covid-19.

Coronavirus is in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. I’m aware that the risk of catching covid-19 is high. I’m elderly and I suffer badly from colds and influenza. I also tend to catch flu annually, or more often.

What should we elderly people do? We need to plan to avoid unnecessary movement and meetings. Stay at home.

Here are 10 simple and practical suggestions to enable older people to prepare for and to survive the covid-19 pandemic that is almost certain to reach us. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

1 Avoid unnecessary contact. Don’t shake hands with or kiss anyone.

2 Wear gloves when leaving home. Wash your hands when you return.

3 Shop when it is quiet. Don’t touch supermarket trolley handles.

4 Get exercise by walking or cycling if gyms are a possible risk to you.

5 Have the latest flu vaccination, plus other vaccines where relevant.

6 Improve your diet, more vegetables and either fresh or dried fruit.

7 Drink more fresh water, at least a litre a day. Tap water is fine.

8 Think before you leave home, is your journey really necessary?

9 Ask your family or friends to shop for you if you are able to do so.

10 Use common sense. Listen to the news. Avoid meeting new people.

Better use of hospital floor

Sir, — As it becomes more likely that an epidemic of the covid-19 virus will hit the UK, we hear the NHS will have difficulty in finding enough beds in hospitals around the country.

Seeing as the first floor of Townlands Memorial Hospital remains empty, could the powers-that-be use some common sense and use this facility if required?

It still amazes me that this wonderful hospital we are so grateful for is not being used as efficiently as it was designed to be.

I wrote to our MP John Howell four months ago asking what was happening to this empty floor. I am still waiting for a reply.

If Mr Howell reads the Henley Standard, which I hope he does so he can gauge what his constituents have to say, then maybe he could write a letter in next week’s Standard so we can all know what he has to say on this matter. — Yours faithfully,

Isobel Morrow

Greys Road, Henley

Don’t deface listed bridge

Sir, — I understand that, despite opposition from the townfolk of Henley, our councillors have backed the ludicrous plan by Clive Hemsley to install LED lighting on our historic bridge.

Henley Bridge has stood the test of time since it was built around 1786 and has had numerous sympathetic restorations to the structure over the years due to corrosion and damage to the elliptical stone arches.

The bridge is Grade I listed and as such should be protected from modern art installations such as the proposed LED lighting.

My company, Limeworks, understands all about historic and listed properties and how to restore and maintain them sympathetically, which we do for many clients in the Henley area whose properties are as old as the bridge.

The very thought of someone even considering fitting modern LED lights to the delicate stone walling of this beautiful and historic structure fills me with sadness and despair.

The use of acrylic adhesives, cable ties and silicone on the stonework may even damage the delicate ancient stone walls and possibly compromise the original lime mortars in between.

I hope common sense prevails and this project is filed away where it belongs, the nearest waste bin at the council offices.

Perhaps Mr Hemsley, who is an artist, should consider gathering up his easel and canvas to capture the elegance of this bridge in all its glory and paint the image instead of defacing it with lights. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer


And I’ll light up a castle...

Sir, — I read with incredulity the saga relating to the attachment of lighting to the Grade I listed structure that is Henley Bridge.

I was thinking I would replicate this feat at a local Grade I listed castle (while the owners are out, of course) but fear I would be up before a judge far quicker than a planning committee. — Yours faithfully,

Chaz Zappa

Park Road, Twickenham

No vision or leadership

Sir, — It cannot be right that increasing numbers of young families have to move out of South Oxfordshire and that our essential public services struggle to find staff because there are too few affordable homes for them here.

Nor can it be right that oversized, unco-ordinated “speculative” developments can be forced on villages without any of the facilities to make them work.

But that is happening and, without the intervention last week of the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick, it’s precisely what the Liberal Democrat/Green administration at South Oxfordshire District Council would have perpetuated.

The average age of a first-time home buyer in South Oxfordshire is 41 and the average house price here is now 14 times average salary.

The situation is little better in the rental sector where, according Valuation Office data, average household rent represents 44 per cent of income.

We need new homes and we need them in the right places, close to jobs, public transport, and well-planned infrastructure.

We all hate seeing our beautiful countryside being ploughed up for housing but the reality is that for years too few homes have been built in South Oxfordshire to meet the needs of local people.

And too many of those which have come forward — not least in Henley and the surrounding villages — have been speculative developments which residents and the district council have been unable to resist because of the inadequate pace of housebuilding here.

The Local Plan submitted last year by the Conservative administration at the council aims to address these challenges. It creates a vision for the growth of the district over the next 15 years, co-ordinating homes, employment land, roads, cycleways, schools and other amenities. Under the plan, the Henley area is protected from those unwanted developments.

But since their election last May, the Lib-Dem and Green councillors now in charge have been trying to withdraw the plan, leaving the district with only an increasingly out-of-date development strategy and putting every village and town at risk of yet more speculative development.

The Lib-Dems, in particular, have failed to demonstrate leadership, vision, or even a basic understanding of how best to serve the interests of residents.

And Mr Jenrick’s decision to direct the council to allow the local plan to progress to inspection is the ultimate indictment of the poverty of their administration.

This is a question of competence and regretfully the Lib-Dems, in particular, have shown little of that. They have dithered and delayed, arrogantly ignoring the unequivocal advice of the council’s own planning experts and wasting hundreds of hours of council officers’ time — the equivalent of tens of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds — in the process.

This is not the leadership South Oxfordshire deserves. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative)

South Oxfordshire District Council, Britwell Salome

Please move storage area

Sir, — I agree with John Moore that Zzoomm contractors did a very good job laying cables on one side of Northfield End (Standard, February 29).

The workers were diligent, courteous and left everything neat and tidy.

However, things are very different on the north side, where the majority of Northfield End residents have to park. The area has become a gigantic store for Zzoomm barricades. A report in the Standard suggested that work may not resume until early summer, leading to a summer of discontent.

I assume that Oxfordshire County Council has given the company permission without any thought for the consequences.

Can Zzoomm not find a better place for its storage? — Yours faithfully,

Ian Tiffin

Northfield End, Henley

Not worth it anyway

Sir, — I feel truly sorry for the Henley businesses impacted by the Zzoomm-related roadworks. This is yet another case of the internet destroying bricks and mortar businesses on the high street.

However, there is another side to this. Why on earth would a normal Henley resident want Zzoomm’s “superfast” broadband?

Henley is well served by traditional fibre to the cabinet technology that delivers performance suitable for most households. Running a broadband speed-checker, I am currently getting 84 Mbps to the house and I’m paying £34.50 per month for a package that includes unlimited free calls, including to mobile, and TV channels.

Zzoomm would charge £29 per month for just the broadband so at face value is cheaper.

However, most households will still want a phone service so would need to keep their existing phone line with its associated charges or sign up for an internet phone service for an additional charge and there’s still no TV included.

Yes, Zzoomm does offer better upload speeds but households rarely need to upload huge files to the internet so that’s no benefit.

A couple of neighbours have asked for my views on the Zzoomm packages. After explaining the above points to them they have wisely decided to save their money.

So unless you have a house full of teenage gamers or don’t need a landline phone at all, my advice would be don’t fall for the “faster is better” hype. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Gadsby

Western Road, Henley

Unwelcome return

Sir, — I read with excitement about the return of the Stonor Supercar event (Standard, March 6).

As a resident of Lower Assendon, I just love it when those pimpmobiles come racing through the 30mph zone of our village.

But rather than get annoyed about it, I think it’s a great opportunity to raise public funds.

All we need to do is to ensure Thames Valley Police officers are set up by the Golden Ball pub, speed gun in hand, ready for a bumper day.

According to government legislation, a person driving at 51mph through our village could be fined an amount equal to 150 per cent of their weekly income.

By my calculations, that’s nearly £15,000 if you are earning £1million a year (assuming, of course, you are on PAYE).

So, by catching just a small number of multi-millionaires driving like Nigel Mansell, we can expect much improved police funding here in Henley! — Yours faithfully,

Simon Barnett

Lower Assendon

Let’s help cut carbon

Sir, — Your correspondent Philip Collings has several statistics wrong (Standard, March 6).

The percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is 0.04 per cent, not 0.0004 per cent, as he stated.

Human activity has been responsible for 32 per cent of current levels, not three per cent, as he claimed. (Figures from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth report.)

The reason that such an apparently small part of our atmosphere can have such importance is, of course, because it absorbs heat, hence “the greenhouse effect”.

Let me assure your correspondent that “economic and social collapse” is the opposite of what Extinction Rebellion is trying to achieve.

XR aims to change government policies and citizen actions to ensure the continuation of civilised life on earth, ensuring a future for our children and grandchildren.

So I applaud Henley Town Council’s declaration of a climate emergency.

However small our contribution in Henley to the cutting of carbon emissions may be, some effort in this direction is surely better than none. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Ducker

Gallowstree Common

Tiresome denials

Sir, — Surely every regular reader of the Henley Standard is now very familiar with Philip Collings’ views on climate change.

Just in case you have missed his regular correspondence, I’d summarise his opinions thus:

1. Climate change is made-up nonsense.

2. He knows this because he has studied the facts and is far more knowledgeable than the scientific community.

3. If you have reached a different conclusion then you are some sort of wishy washy millennial snowflake.

4. Anyway, we can’t do anything about it because it’s all China’s fault.

Given our intimate awareness of these views, why, oh why, does he still feel the need to write regularly to remind us of them?

Perhaps it is time for Mr Collings to find a new hobby. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Dickson

Greys Hill, Henley

Save time and energy

Sir, — We are approaching the date when our clocks move forward one hour.

I was wondering how much our carbon footprint might be reduced if the country moved the clocks forward by two hours.

The so-called “double summer time” existed during the Second World War as an energy-saving device, effectively putting the country on the same footing as mainland Europe. We could do something similar in winter.

Are there any scientists out there who could do some calculations?

I appreciate that such a change would be unpopular in some areas but might be a small sacrifice compared with more draconian measures. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Fairweather

Rotherfield Greys

Justify this tax increase

I have just received my council tax bill for 2020/21 and note that at county level Oxfordshire has managed a reasonable annual increase of two per cent while South Oxfordshire is looking for more than four per cent.

When we get to the next local elections I look forward to hearing the Henley town councillors’ explanation for the eye-watering 13.2 per cent increase they have demanded of me. — Yours faithfully,

Roger Grant

Cromwell Road, Henley

Baffling and truly sad

Editor, — How dispiriting, just a month after your story about the Kenton Theatre’s very healthy 2017/18 financial results, to read last week current chairman of trustees Chris Tapp saying: “All we are trying to do is keep the place open”.

For this historic venue to go from record ticket sales and all-time high attendances in 2018 to, by the chairman’s own account, being under threat of closure is extremely worrying and arguably self-inflicted.

As you reported, KT Promotions, who have brought several sell-out gigs here in the last three years, are the latest lucrative hirer to pull out entirely from the venue due to hire rate rises.

Similarly, ticket price increases have led to attendance dropping to a five-year low.

A grant application is suddenly withdrawn and the record-breaking panto company replaced with one run by a recent Kenton trustee.

It seems the theatre does not want the money from hirers, audiences or Henley Town Council but at the same time has been spending money on legal costs, including on the eight-week “gardening leave” of the current (at time of writing) general manager. A baffling and truly sad situation.

As a visible team member from those busy 2017/18 seasons, I’ve had numerous volunteers, staff, visiting companies and audiences getting in touch to ask what can be done.

I can only urge one of the trustees to refer the theatre to the Charity Commission and the public to join the Kenton as members (it’s free and gives you a voice at the next annual meeting). — Yours faithfully,

Tom Ryan

River Terrace, Henley

Where has trust gone?

Sir, — I write with reference to your article headlined “Charity helping Henley’s people in need” (Standard, March 6), about the John Hodges Trust,

Mr Hodges, who died in 1924, left Harpsden with no pub but a large sum of money, three cottages and three fields, one being for cricket.

It is unclear whether or not the present village hall is the one left by Mr Hodges or whether a new one was built with his money.

He was Harpsden’s benefactor. He spent his life helping the less well off in the village and providing sewing machines for the ladies to sew at the hall and other activities.

He even built a swimming pool. Together with the architect Victor Hutchings, my family tried to see if it could be restored. It was filled in and its location can no longer be seen.

In the Fifties and Sixties, the trust provided a Christmas party for all the children of the village. There were also other communal activities, bonfire night etc.

The last meeting of the trust I attended was probably two years ago when a Mr Wilson was chairman and the trust stated it was taking down a cottage in the village and building two eco houses.

Several villagers asked questions about the finances of the trust and its future activities and could residents be informed of the meetings and activities. There was no mention of the status of the trust being changed.

As villagers, we have never been informed who has taken over the trust and for what purpose. I think some older people might think rights have been taken from them.

When the school closed the hub of the village ended. I understood the monies that were provided by the John Hodges Trust. allowing the school to be built, went into a trust to be entrusted to the church after a stipulated number of years, I assumed to our church.

Life of the community in Harpsden has faded. There are bereaved people in the village who are neglected and the roads are appalling. A shop serving coffee would help. As in other villages, it would be a community hub.

Also a post office visiting weekly to sell stamps etc and a mobile library service as parking in Henley is so limited.

Has our John Hodges Trust been removed from our village without residents’ knowledge? — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss


Prayers will be answered

Sir, — My heart goes out to your correspondent “LS, Henley”, who told of the drug dealing on their doorstep (Standard, February 21).

We are praying for you and them in the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who knows all things.

I encourage you to talk to God about it. He will do more than we can hope, imagine or even think, as the Bible says.

To those who, even now, are considering writing to disagree with me, don’t waste your time. I have already proven the case! — Yours faithfully,

Geraldine Radley

Vicarage Road, Henley

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