Tuesday, 02 June 2020
Where do we go from here?
Sir, — We are indeed in a right mess. The Government’s response to covid-19 will destroy tens of thousands of small businesses and will cause millions of people to be laid off.
The rescue package announced by the Government which consists of, inter alia, a bundle of a third of £1 trillion of debt will push the UK further into a financial chasm.
All this seems to be based on a computer model which has told our leaders that by requiring everyone to stay far apart (two metres) the potential death toll will drop from 250,000 to 20,000.
Even without examining the detail of this model there seems to be loopholes in the apparent logic behind the assumptions.
I sincerely hope that the severe economic hardship we are about to endure will really save so many lives and reduce the physical misery that is being caused to the nation’s health by this disease.
But this faith in computer models is to say the least surprising. It was a computer model that initiated the reckless financial behaviour which caused the crash of 2008.
It was at least computer model thinking, if not a particular model itself, which led to Boeing designing the 737 Max with its dodgy aerodynamics.
I am highly sceptical of computer models, especially those which have such enormous impact on our society.
There is another issue behind our current situation which deserves some thought.
In former times there must have been many strange diseases which struck society, such as the Black Death or smallpox, the occasional outbreaks of cholera and, of course, the infamous Spanish flu which infected, it is said, 25 per cent the entire world’s population and killed 10 per cent of those which it infected.
When these really got out of hand they caused mayhem on a large scale but they were slow to develop and our understanding of disease was very limited.
The situation we are facing now is quite different and we have a much greater understanding of what we are really facing and how we find ourselves in this situation.
There is little doubt that one of the drivers of the current crisis is globalisation. Our ease of access whereby we can travel to almost anywhere on the planet within 24 hours must surely be something which we should now re-evaluate. The great potential we now have to spread disease all over the world, surely, should now be considered as a real downside to worldwide travel.
I have no idea as to how we can even begin to think about controlling our appetite for global travel. Freedom to roam the world, if you have the resources to so do, is now so deeply embedded in our culture.
But as one commentator recently said on television, “This may not be the last time we will see a pandemic like this sweep the world”.
And if we were to convince the world that travelling far and wide was not ideal what would we do with the tens of thousands of aircraft and the millions of people employed by the travel industry? We are indeed in a right mess. — Yours faithfully,
Over-70s are so important
Sir, — While understanding the apparent rationale for proposing to confine the over-70s to their homes for up to four months, does anyone in Parliament understand how important those between 70 and 80 are to their local communities, especially those in rural areas?
Apart from many like me (aged 76) who are actually employed, there are very many volunteers on whom the running of their communities is completely dependent, especially in the provision of services to the really elderly.
These are the same sensible and community-minded volunteers who could and would assist in managing the problem unless they are prevented from doing so by government fiat.
Just taking Sonning Common as an example, services to the really old and needy will collapse if those between 70 and 80 are taken out of circulation. The whole Fish operation is totally dependent on the so-called elderly, as are the WI and other voluntary bodies.
There is also the question of how it will be enforced. The UK has a population 10 per cent larger than that of Italy but has only about 110,000 police versus the Italians’ 310,000-plus so how would it work?
We did have a police community support office in Sonning Common for an hour last week and it was a major talking point for days.
As a matter of practicality, the mother of one Sonning Common resident (herself over 75) is 111 and lives alone and independently in Peppard, though she has to be visited daily by one of her children. Is she to be left to die alone?
Should I be forced to cease working I shall try to sue the Government for wrongful dismissal and loss of earnings.
Can John Howell MP please ask those in charge of this to see sense and if there must be a lock-in to make it at 80-plus to retain the contributions of thousands of healthy septuagenarians? — Yours faithfully,
The experts know better
Sir, — I read with surprise verging on disbelief Rolf Richardson’s letter (Standard, March 20).
He gives us a run through of some figures of fatalities from covid-19 from other countries.
He then opines that, based on a letter from a retired doctor in the Richard Littlejohn column Daily Mail, we should all relax, forget the evidence of other countries and go about our business in the usual way.
Mr Richardson appears to wholly concur with this view, even to the extent of discourteously dismissing the advice of the two chief advisors, Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Witty. May I suggest Mr Richardson reads through the CVs of Sir Patrick and Prof Witty and then offers his own services as an advisor to the Government and give up reading the Daily Mail. — Yours faithfully,
By now, Rolf Richardson should already see how wrong he is about the coronavirus.
When he wrote his letter, he quoted 50 UK dead from covid-19. As I write (March 20) it is 233 dead (coincidentally where Italy was two weeks ago).
Unchecked, the death rate multiplies by 10 per week, for example on March 14 about 23 people had died. By the time you read this, the UK may have more than 2,000 dead from the coronavirus.
In the absence of comprehensive testing (how many test kits did UK have?), a realistic estimate of population infected today is dead x 1,000, i.e. for the the UK about 233,000 (as of March 20).
Don’t knock China — the only reason they have reversed their coronavirus death rate is because of their draconian shutting down of everything. It seems to be the only answer at present.
Prime Minister Boris is trying to manage expectations — pre-warning of what will happen, advising actions, then awaiting acceptability before enforcing regulations — not perfect, but understandable.
Like Rolf, I like to apply common sense but don’t forget your family and friends who may miss you when you die and especially the health workers you may infect on your way out.
Brexit may save us from some things but not, I’m afraid, coronavirus.
Stay home, Rolf. — Yours faithfully,
Keep sense of proportion
Sir, — In all the doom and gloom, we should not forget the saying “No news is bad news”.
The media thrives on images of space-suited medics rushing patients to hospital.
My breakfast reading is now the “worldometers” website, which tells the story in figures. And it’s rather different.
To date (Monday), total world deaths stand at 14,748. Of active cases, 95 per cent are classified as “mild symptoms”.
Worst hit has been Italy, with 978 cases per million population, the figure for the UK being 84.
The website is unable to determine mortality rates, presumably because many people simply go home and never report it.
Statistically, covid-19 is an inefficient killer, its victims being almost entirely the old or frail.
And therein lies the problem because these susceptible groups are not dying naturally but in a rush, leaving medical services unable to cope.
The world is in lockdown so that granddad can have a couple of years more. By the way, I’m 86.
What to do, now that we are permitted almost nothing? Well, spring has sprung and Henley is a glorious places to live. Get out and about and enjoy both of these.
Covid-19 is not a magician and needs contact to infect. Keep your distance and everyone will be okay.
David Attenborough advises “a sense of proportion”. The guru has spoken. — Yours faithfully,
Wootton Road, Henley
Stay safe and be kind
Sir, — We would like to give this message to our local residents.
The coronavirus is a highly infectious, nasty disease. It is easily transmitted and it will attack the healthy as well as vulnerable members of our community.
It is really important that you all take effective social distancing measures so that transmission rates are reduced to take the pressure off health facilities, GPs, hospitals, doctors and nurses and the virus is minimised.
Take this seriously.
Great praise and thanks must go to our vital services — health professionals, police and teachers at this time. We are going to rely on these wonderful people over the coming weeks and months.
There is information on the website for Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire Disrict Council.
A local covid-19 Facebook community group has been set up with our full support to look after the vulnerable and elderly people in our community in safely getting food and medicines to them. The important thing at the moment is to social distance and also to take care of residents of Henley and neighbouring villages with acts of kindness. — Yours faithfully,
Councillors Ken Arlett (Mayor of Henley), Kellie Hinton and Stefan Gawrysiak
South Oxfordshire Disrict Council
Bringing out worst part 1
Sir, — I have just been verbally insulted by an over-70-year-old in Waitrose in Henley who commended that I was “lucky to be allowed in”.
One thing the coronavirus highlights is that life-threatening viruses and illnesses can be invisible, as can disability and vulnerability.
I live alone and the Government lists MS as one of the vulnerable medical
I went shopping on Friday in the hour that Waitrose set aside for those who are elderly or at greater risk if they catch covid-19.
I was clutching one basket and a medical letter.
I hope that over 70-year-old takes a moment to reflect. She made me feel awful.
Maybe this awful virus will teach us to have less prejudice of each other and to take greater care of this planet. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
Bringing out worst part 2
No flour, haddock or cod in Waitrose at 8.30am last Friday. So much for a slot for us oldies.
The shop was also full of very well preserved 70-year-olds.
A friend overheard a 40-something say: “Yes I was told off but what the hell, I got my shopping.” She then piled her shopping into her car and left the trolley in the middle of the car park.
We are all turning into very selfish, nasty people. — Yours faithfully,
Station Road, Henley
Well done, Tesco Henley
On Friday we arrived at Tesco in Henley at 9am. The car park was full and there were not many trolleys left. This didn’t bode well.
However, we found the shop generally well stocked (apart from rice/pasta/toilet rolls, of course) and were able to buy most things on our list.
A very sensible two-queue system had been put in place — we were able to join the left-hand side queue (fast track one for older and vulnerable people), which moved quickly to the checkout.
Those in the other queue were moving much more slowly as a result.
Customers did not appear to be “panic buying” — it was just the sheer number of them so, of course, the shelves would be cleared pretty quickly.
Clearly, we do not know how often stock is replenished and what those shopping in the afternoon would find.
We recognise that the supermarkets are under extreme pressure and, on behalf of our age group, we would like to say a huge thank-you to Tesco for its help. It’s up to us all to shop sensibly and help them to help us. — Yours faithfully,
Carole Lewis and Alan Gibbon
Editor, — I would like to convey my thanks via your newspaper for the outstanding service I experienced at the Tesco store in Henley last Friday morning.
The management has introduced a sensible rationing system and has done its utmost to ensure social distancing wherever it is practical within the store.
Challenging times. Thank you. — Yours faithfully,
I am astounded at the lack of products on the shelves of our supermarkets — but what I also can’t understand is the vast amount of “bags for life” I’m seeing all of a sudden.
I haven’t seen so many (new looking) plastic bags being carried throughout the town for, well, years.
I can only assume that the stockpilers currently hoovering up the groceries are so unused to shopping that they don’t have their own bags. I wonder if they realise fresh produce goes off?
Time for a good book and a cuppa (ahhhh, tea bags).
Stay well. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Road, Henley
Please cancel all events
Reading the Henley Standard last week and seeing the word “Cancelled” splashed over the front page, I was amazed that your staff had photographed so many social events from the week before, when we should have been in self-isolation.
In the article of cancelled events, I was amazed that the organisers of the Henley Royal Regatta, the Henley Festival and Rewind were under the illusion that these events may still take place... Get real, this virus is going nowhere soon.
Before the costs to build the stage, so to speak, take the same decision as everyone else and cancel until next year. That is the right decision, with the uncertainty going forward.
Of course, you may have well have heard from the organisers since then... — Yours faithfully,
I repeat: use empty floor
Sir, — Two weeks ago, I wrote to ask if our MP John Howell would reply to my letter and let his constituents know what was happening to the empty floor at Townlands Memorial Hospital.
I pointed out that we were heading for a huge strain on the NHS and a lack of beds.
Now we have reached that point across the country, could he let us know what is happening? Hotels are being used, which is commendable, but a purpose-built hospital with an empty floor is not.
Please, Mr Howell, could you let your constituents know what the intention is?
We in Henley fought so hard for the hospital in the first place and the NHS is in crisis. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Road, Henley
Please back businesses
We are constantly reminded how lucky we are to live in Henley.
What an amazing response from our community to the request for volunteers to help those who need extra assistance in the present crisis.
Our thoughts are very much with our local restaurants, bars and shops, whose businesses are under such pressure.
They have been very supportive of the community events and in charity fund-
raising over many years.
Now is the time for the community to thank them and ensure their survival by buying takeaway suppers and goods online or over the telephone for safe home delivery and operating strictly within Government guidelines.
Come on, Henley! — Yours faithfully,
I am sure we are all dismayed by our recent supermarket experiences regarding empty shelves and in particular a lack of toilet rolls.
March 20 celebrated the International Day of Happiness and I am sure that happiness for the average UK citizen is now a home garage shelf well stocked with soft toilet rolls for what appears to be a six-month lockdown.
Perhaps if the Henley Standard was to follow the example of a newspaper in Sydney, we in Henley would be better placed to ride out the impending pandemic.
This Aussie tabloid is now printing, at its own expense, two extra sheets of newspaper to be used by any Aussie who is being denied access to a basic human right of soft toilet paper.
Being a “war baby”, this brought back memories of my deprived years when my “derriere” was regularly burnished by a copy of the Daily Mirror or, as I preferred, a copy of the Sporting Life (previously softened by my mother).
Our delicate daily ritual was usually undertaken in an outdoor, cold and whitewashed khazi festooned with an abundance of beetles, bugs and spiders.
But did we “war babies” complain or write to the local newspaper? No, we just got on with it. It made us proud to be British and this was our own personal but lowly war effort.
Ah, fond memories. That I could not sit down easily for the post-war austerity years has probably contributed to my view of “Always look on the bright side of life” and “Always put your troubles behind you”.
I am sure that by this simple gesture the Henley Standard would contribute enormously to the “war effort” against the coronavirus and that if you were to perform this simple weekly gift for your readers through your newspaper, the relief for Henley’s supermarkets would be quickly evident.
As a fitting lifetime reward, I am sure that our very own Clive Hemsley would be only too pleased to light up the Henley Standard offices at his own expense in perpetuity.
Deal or no deal, Clive? Please may the Henley Standard save our bare shelves (and bottoms)? — Yours faithfully,
Stoke Row Road, Peppard
Print some extra pages...
Sir, — May I be so bold as to suggest you print extra copies of the Henley Standard for the next few weeks as we may need to read it then hang it in squares in the smallest room? — Yours faithfully,
Essex Way, Sonning Common
Something extra please
Sir, — Now that the schools have been closed till further notice, and so many people are self-isolating, I wonder whether the Henley Standard might help to keep loneliness and boredom at bay.
One idea might be a children’s writing competition for different age groups, perhaps along the lines of the BBC’s 500 words competition. Prizes could be vouchers for local independent shops, which must be suffering in these troubling times.
For the older generation, perhaps they could send in photos of floral displays from their gardens to be featured weekly.
Finally, for the general population, a weekly quiz or a crossword competition would be nice.
No prizes necessary — just winners’ names published could be the prize. — Yours faithfully,
The Countess of Macclesfield
The editor responds: “I will consider these suggestions carefully but in the meantime, I would welcome all contributions in words or pictures about readers’ experiences of the coronavirus and self-isolation or any other subject.”
Please write to old folk
I work at Thamesfield, which is a nursing home and retirement village off Wargrave Road in Henley.
We have restricted access to our home and we don’t know how long we won’t be having visitors.
I thought it would be lovely if any of your readers who has the time could write to us — a card, a letter or even a drawing?
They could tell us how they are doing and the things you enjoy. If they send their address we could write back and it doesn’t matter how old they are.
I’m sure our residents would love to hear from your lovely readers and also it may help someone at home who might feel lonely at this difficult time.
They can write to us at: Residents, Thamesfield, Wargrave Road, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 2LX or via my work email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks so much. I’m sure this would lift all of their spirits. — Yours faihfully,
Wellbeing co-ordinator, Thamesfield, Henley
Ode for the thoughtless
Sir — Please would you consider this poem for your letters page?
I felt it appropriate given the behaviour of some people at this worrying time. Many thanks. — Yours faithfully,
Why can’t you stay in?
I don’t know where to begin.
Your stupidity and selfishness
Are dangerous sins.
Why can’t you stay in?
You’re like an evil twin.
Ruining all the effort
The rest are putting in.
Why can’t you stay in?
Your excuses wear thin.
You don’t need 10 of everything
From the supermarket bins.
Why can’t you stay in?
If you don’t, we won’t win.
And soon, there’s a hospital
You’ll be lying in.
Hypocrisy of dog breeders
Sir, — Well done to Erik D’Arcy-Donnelly for spinning out” two unsuitable winners at Crufts this year due to both not being “good reflections of the breed” (Standard, March 20).
I note that both dogs were brachycephalic breeds — so perchance both had the portent to develop the severe breathing problems inherent in such dogs these days due to indiscriminate breeding and “fashion”.
But what is most concerning is that both dogs, prior to be awarded best in breed at Crufts, had had to win a number of qualifying classes where others had also agreed that they were indeed the best examples of their breed.
This is wrong on so many fronts — not least the health and welfare of the dogs — and highlights the hypocrisy of some breeders.
So much for being a nation of animal lovers. — Yours faithfully,
Don’t starve terriers
Editor, — I was very relieved to read that Henley vet Erik D’Arcy Donnelly was checking over dogs at Crufts this year, ensuring they are good, healthy representatives of their breed.
I note he is also the owner of border terriers. My family have owned border terriers and Jack Russells for many years. As well as super family pets, they are great for keeping vermin down on the farm.
Our dogs are fit, a sensible weight (they can go to ground and get out) and will do a good day’s work if required.
My daughter, who is a veterinary nurse, and I visited Crufts this year and spent some time watching the border terriers being shown.
We were rather shocked to see how this once robust terrier is now a shadow of its former self.
Most of the dogs being shown were thin, not just slim but thin. The ribs were visible in some dogs and they looked very hungry.
Might we suggest that if Erik is at Crufts next year he spends a little time looking over the border terriers?
This is a working terrier and in order to do its job it requires adequate nutrition in amounts careful enough to maintain a healthy weight.
The end result might achieve the current desired look in the show ring but restricting adequate nutrition and rationing food intake to near starvation levels in our opinion is not responsible dog ownership.
I doubt many of those border terriers being shown at Crufts could keep up with our dogs doing a hard day’s work. — Yours faithfully,
Janet and Dawn Porter
Sir, — Once upon a time there was a rabbit hutch and my mum wanted to see some baby rabbits born to her doe. I was about 10 years old at the time.
So it was that Ted Dorey, a local lad, came calling to sort things out.
The big buck was released and soon we stood around patiently.
I didn’t know at the time about animal behaviour but a hue and cry went on and it was such a small hutch. As a result of Ted’s help, my mum was pleased at the outcome as nature took its course and later many small bodies arrived — a magic moment from the Fifties and for my eyes a wonder of nature.
Good old Ted. — Yours faithfully,
Peter M Adams
Ramshill, Petersfield, Hants
My faith is unshakeable
Sir, — Douglas Kedge has challenged me “morally and spiritually”, he says, and wants me to spell about the proof of my experiences with God (Standard, March 20).
Oh, I could fill many columns of the Henley Standard with the ways the Lord Jesus Christ has worked in my life.
For the sake of space, I will limit my case to one example.
By grace, through faith, Jesus has opened my eyes and heart to the gift and realisation that He is who he claimed to be — Almighty God Himself.
He has rescued me from sin by his death and resurrection and has filled me with his Holy Spirit to live in Him forever.
There is room at the cross for all. Now, for me, that’s more than I could ever have hoped, imagined or even thought. — Yours faithfully,
Vicarage Road, Henley
30 March 2020
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