Friday, 05 June 2020

Your letters...

My stupid neighbour...

Editor, — I write to you as I am very concerned about the spread of coronavirus, like lots of other people.

But not our next-door neighbour, who doesn’t seem to care.

He hires two contractors to fix a fence between us that actually needed fixing two years ago when he moved in.

So he decides to get them to do it on Friday after the Prime Minister states that no one should go out unless for shopping, exercise, medicines or helping a vulnerable person.

Yes, I understand they were probably self-employed but there will be payment from the Government, not now but soon.

So next-door goes off for the morning, leaving the workmen standing in my garden, sneezing out loud and not even trying to cover their mouths, coughing and then spitting in my garden.

I actually call 101 [the police non-emergency number] and the lady I spoke to said it was out of order and she couldn’t understand why people didn’t think the coronavirus is serious.

She also said that although self-employed people could work, she didn’t think a new fence was an emergency and next-door should have waited. Then she took a few details.

I can only assume these men and my neighbour are of very, very low intelligence and actually don’t care about anyone, even their own families.

I hope that whoever knows my neighbour will realise how stupid and selfish he actually is and will stay away from him as he is mixing with others and they could possibly pass the disease on to him and he then to other people.

If he passes it on to his family he only has himself to blame.

People must take this crisis seriously. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

...who is not alone

Sir, — I live aboard a wide beam boat.

We are moored in Henley along with many others. We are all supposedly in lockdown due to covid-19.

The Canal & River Trust has asked the public to avoid moored boats. This is not the case here with so many people up and down the towpath.

Runners passing, babies in pushchairs not respecting the 2m rule, Mill Lane car park with cars constantly arriving and people walking dogs. I sit on my boat scared to go out.

There have been no police officers along the towpath and no signs to say “stay home”. Please, we all feel so vulnerable. Stay safe. — Yours faithfully,

Marisa Whitfield

Is lockdown best policy?

Sir, — We are being given glimpses of the government model that now shows many people will die from the coronavirus under different circumstances.

We have, however, been shown nothing about how many people’s lives are being, and going to be, destroyed by the current lockdown strategy.

Presumably there is some sort of model which shows how the economy and our social fabric is being affected by the shutdown.

It would be irrational to believe that we can only model deaths and that we can’t model loss of income, loss of jobs, closing of businesses, increases at food banks, children without school meals, people suffering from depression and hypertension due to isolation etc.

What will all this disruption and deprivation do to our society and what will be the impact of a multi-year deep recession?

Those who believe that the economy will bounce back immediately may well be in for quite a surprise.

Is it possible that the policy we are pursuing might turn out to be worse than the disease itself?

I certainly don’t know the answer to this thorny question and I don’t see anyone in public office being brave enough to ask it.

One other issue is the fact that if leading members of our government and our septuagenarian heir to the throne can be struck down with the disease and not disintegrate, should we not be encouraged? — Yours faithfully,

Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

Upsetting statement

Editor, — In John Howell’s article about coronavirus (Standard, March 27), he wrote: “The number of deaths that have already accrued is quite upsetting.”

“Quite upsetting”? That’s an understatement.

Perhaps Mr Howell was one of the MPs who voted with the Government to charge nurses for their training, to block pay rises for nurses, or who supported underspending on the NHS over the last 10 years?

These have resulted in a seriously underfunded and understaffed NHS, even in normal circumstances.

I fully accept that these are extraordinary times, that this particular problem cannot have been predicted and that the Government is now having to find billions to carry us through.

But what are the Government and MPs for if they cannot keep the fundamentals of the health service properly funded and staffed and have plans for extraordinary events?

More specifically, why, when it was clearly serious in China in January and Italy in February, did we not have orders for testing kits, protective equipment for medical staff and ventilators weeks ago?

No good being “quite upset” now. — Yours faithfully,

Moira Hankinson


Stick to the guidelines

Your corresponent Rolf Richardson really doesn’t seem to get it (Standard, March 27).

It is not just about keeping granddad (and perhaps also his granddaughter with asthma) alive for a couple more years, it is also about preventing the NHS being swamped and overwhelmed with very, very sick people.

Enjoy the sunshine, as Mr Richardson suggests, but within government guidelines, tedious and boring as they are. This disease doesn’t only select the old. — Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Passmore

Pearces Meadow, Nettlebed

Amazing foresight...

Sir, — May I be the first to congratulate the management of Zzoomm and Oxfordshire County Council for their foresight in scheduling major works in Henley town centre during the covid-19 outbreak.

Their prescience in doing so has significantly limited the impact on shoppers and shopkeepers.

I would like to ask if they are available to help me select my lottery numbers next week? — Yours faithfully,

Darrel Poulos


Not in spirit of helping

Sir, — This is my third week of confinement at home due to the virus and I was heartened at the Government’s announcement regarding taking on the rail infrastructure, particularly so when it was announced that advanced and season tickets would be refundable.

Many rail franchises have adopted these directions, putting the interests of their customers first.

Full refunds, simple application processes and waiving of “admin” fees.

One, of course, has taken the opposite approach — Great Western Railway.

After finally managing to get a coherent reply from them — no mean feat in itself — I find that, for an admin fee of £10, I can get a refund for the unused portion of my season ticket.

So far so good.

However, because of the superb value (their words, not mine) of the season ticket compared with a daily fare, the refund will be based on 10 months, not 12, which will leave me just under £900 out of pocket.

Furthermore, when the lockdown ceases and we all begin to get back to normal, not only will I effectively be paying double for my new season ticket for the last part of the year but — because the “loyalty discount” of renewal is only valid if you renew within one month of the old card expiring — I will lose the discount too.

GWR then will stand to profit from:

• The admin fee.

• Not reimbursing the total amount of the season ticket pro-rata.

• Not having to apply discounts to the next wave of season tickets.

Great work if you can get it and absolutely against the national spirit of supporting each other through these times of trouble. — Yours faithfully,

Kevin James

Luke Avenue, Henley

A Great Western Railway spokesman responds: “Season ticket holders who are following the Government’s advice and not travelling are able to claim a refund under the usual terms and conditions, which involves paying an administration fee (usually £10).

“The Department for Transport has confirmed that administration fees continue to be paid by customers to operators entering into an emergency measures

“It’s wrong to suggest that GWR is profiting from this fee. As the franchise is being run on a fixed term, fixed fee contract for the next six months, the revenue risk passes to the Government.”

Maybe it was mercy dash

I write with reference to the letter headlined “This shopper should be ashamed” accompanied by of picture of a car full of shopping (Standard, March 27).

Forgive me, but I believe this shopper should be applauded.

I live in one of the many small villages around Henley. Many have no transport and most not even a village shop.

Many of us are now getting on and can no longer drive safely. Wonderful younger people who enjoy living in these villages are grouping together to fetch and carry for those who have no transport.

They fetch prescriptions and medicines and bring back shopping for those who can no longer shop for themselves, however willing they would be. — Yours faithfully,

Marieke Chatterton

Desperate food shortage

It is patently clear that online shopping for Waitrose customers is not the way forward and leaves me with no other option than to fight my way in the store on a regular basis.

Having waited 11 days for my Waitrose order, it arrived the other morning preceded by an email confirming which goods from my order were being delivered. It bore little resemblance…

If we are being told to stay at home and go out only for essentials, particularly as I am over 70, we must be able to rely on a grocery delivery.

I have not been able to select another slot up to and including April 13 as no more are currently available, so now I am being forced to go out and mix with others.

I was advised that the following items were not available: milk, peanuts, broccoli, flour, spaghetti, toilet rolls, mayonnaise, lapsang sushong tea, tissues, smoked salmon and tinned tomatoes.

I am beginning to despair for the people of Henley who rely on Waitrose. — Yours faithfully,

Veronica Carlton

Station Road, Henley

Pubs doing their bit too

Sir, — Many businesses are facing very difficult times as they try to navigate a way through the current crisis.

The situation is particularly acute for our local pubs that have been obliged, quite rightly, to close to normal business and it is a great concern that many will struggle to survive.

However, the headline that appeared on your two-page article reporting that time had been called on temporary takeaways and that restaurants, pubs and cafés were closing after moves to fast food deliveries had failed (Standard, March 27) was rather misleading.

It is still currently permitted under the latest government guidelines for our pubs, breweries and other establishments to continue to provide alternative services.

While the Government offer to pay 80 per cent of staff costs for those who are temporarily laid off and concerns over implementing safe working practices for staff have led to many of our local pubs and restaurants closing down entirely for the duration, there are several which are continuing to provide services to their local communities, including food and drink takeaway and home delivery and provision of fresh produce, groceries and other essential household items.

The South Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, the national organisation that supports, promotes and campaigns for everything that is great about British beer and pubs, is maintaining a directory of pubs and breweries in the South Oxfordshire area that are currently providing these valuable services. This can be found at

Many of the pubs providing these services are owned by independent operators and are in rural villages.

It is quite arguable that as we all drastically limit our journeys outside to buy food and other basic provisions, a visit to your local establishment providing such a service is both a safer, and a much tastier option, than a trip into the town to join a queue at the supermarket or visit the off-licence or takeaway shop.

Of course, any pubs providing these services have to comply with the rules on distancing and minimising contact.

So, for example, you will invariably find when you book your takeaway that you will be given a specific time slot for arriving for your pick-up. Please do look at the opportunities some of our local pubs are still providing. — Yours faithfully,

Graham Hards

Chairman, South Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale

Needlessly depressing

Sir, — Am I alone in finding much of the news and current affairs programmes put out by the BBC extremely depressing?

No, it’s not so much the content but rather the style of presentation.

Why is it the BBC — supposedly the nation’s official station of record — never misses an opportunity to have a dig at the Government?

That is done by constantly playing the record of why didn’t they have more of that magic ingredient “foresight”? Yes indeed, many of us feel the same way about various aspects of our own financial affairs.

Then we hear from disgruntled medical staff. Is there not one of them who thinks, taking into account this totally exceptional event, the Government is doing a reasonable job? This may not be wholly accurate but would at least be better than the constant tale of woe we are offered.

Finally, we are invariably whisked away to some exotic, sunkissed, often third world, location to hear from a “holidaymaker” who at some length reports on the inadequacies of the UK government in getting them home.

So, come on BBC, gives us the facts but don’t depress us more than necessary. — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh


Thank you for kindness

Sir — We recently received a note through our door from a young family, who themselves only recently moved into our community.

Because of covid-19, they offered to help with shopping, getting prescriptions or even help to change a light bulb. A very kind and generous thought.

Within days another neighbour had set up a WhatsApp group for residents and this group has grown in number.

The help by those less restricted to those of us who are greatly restricted has been of enormous help and very much appreciated.

While we have been fortunate not to need help just yet there will come a time very soon.

It is both refreshing and comforting to know that we have these wonderful neighbours and that the community spirit is very much alive and working. Long may this continue.

A huge thank-you to everyone who is helping.

I hope that when we are finished with this nasty virus we can hold a party to say a really big thank-you to everyone.

It will also be a great opportunity to put faces to the names of all those on our WhatsApp group. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Wellesley-Davies

The Hamlet, Gallowstree Common

Some virus verses...

Sir, — Here’s another coronavirus poem for your letters page. — Yours faithfully,

Lucas Jones


So, now Boris has spoken
We hope Britain has woken
And realised the dangers we face.
But by following etiquette
We’ll overcome this threat
And put everything back in its place.

No, you can’t go outside.
But let’s show some pride
And be serious about this restriction.
After all, those before
Were summoned to war
While we’ll simply watch

Three weeks lie in store
And probably far more
Why not make it a time to remember?
With family or alone
Let’s fill our isolation zone
With fun, from now’til December.

You could learn a
Make new flavours of
Write a novel or paint a montage.
Spend time with your pets
While watching boxsets
Before cleaning out the

Put right the misnomer
Yes, you can drink Corona
While calling and messaging friends.
And the odd glass of wine
Will also help pass the time
Until this whole thing ends.

So, be patient and true
’Cause we’re counting on you
Every hour we’re locked down together.
Until one day, we’ll hear
There’s nothing more to fear.
As we sail into fairer weather.

What are these losses?

Sir, — My old Cambridge pal broke the news that l won’t be receiving my guest tickets and invited down to watch our favourite sport this year.

He is a long in the tooth member who has, it seems, had to forfeit his annual subscription to lessen the regatta’s “significant financial loss”.

Both being “careful” with our cash (a dusty leftover from accountancy days, which came in handy when my former colleague noticed that the regatta accounts show more than nine million in capital and reserves) and pensioners, we were puzzled as to why such a loss could happen when the regatta had not even started to put up the marquees or put in any services.

I was especially keen to see the new tents that have just been purchased for nearly £2million.

But that’s not a loss and it would have cost them half that probably to have the old ones put up. So no loss there.

Apparently, from reading his mournful statement, chairman Steve is worried about the financial plight of his suppliers, such as their caterers, the global catering group Compass, who serve 5.5 billion meals a year, and SSE Electrical Engineering, with a turnover in excess of £1.5 billion.

Even the firm which builds the course and the groundspeople have other work through the year.

So no panic, Steve, they will be fine. All the casual workers from home and abroad will do something else.

What a blooper not to have outside event insurance. With a potential zero claims record, the regatta would face a very low premium. False economy.

As stingy old fogies, we can’t see the significant loss unless Steve and co are calling loss of turnover and splashing out on new marquees the “substantial loss” that the subscribers, according to the regatta, have to underwrite.

In which case he should refer to established consumer rights on refunds if he cares anything for his members in this age of acute media scrutiny. — Yours faithfully,

H B Everett

Bowling Hall Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Some truly good news

Sir — Congratulations. In this day and age of fake news, you published the most fundamental piece of truth I have ever read in any newspaper in my 63 years.

I refer to the letter written by Geraldine Radley, replying to Douglas Kedge, headlined, “My faith is unshakable” (Standard, March 27).

My wife was wondering why I should be shouting so agreeably and excitedly at the Henley Standard, so I read out the letter to her, which beautifully mingled a reply to Mr Kedge, her personal testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All my wife could say was “Wow!”

Although I don’t know Mrs Radley, I would like to endorse her testimony.

I, too, could fill many columns of the Henley Standard with the ways the Lord Jesus Christ has worked in my life and my testimony is exactly the same as hers, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

I thank God for His mercy. Jesus is my Saviour and has dealt with my sins with His own blood, for He died, was buried, was resurrected, ascended into heaven, and, as this current pestilence should remind us, judgement is on its way, Judge Jesus is coming again very soon.

The Lord Jesus Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God, begotten, not created”. Indeed, He is The Great Creator himself, “The Word” who said, “Let there be light” and, “The Word became flesh”, i.e. “The Word” became the Man, Jesus.

He is “the Light of the world”, “who loved me and gave Himself for me”, so much so, that He poured out His life’s blood, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.

Forget about modern religion. Knowing God personally is entirely the opposite, Is it any wonder then that we sing, “O how I love Him, how I adore Him”?

In this current epidemic, which is causing many people to think deeply, I offer myself as a further loving witness to acclaimed atheist, Douglas Kedge, who, according to what God says, is, “a fool” and such was I.

If he wants any further proof that God exists, I plead with Mr Kedge to listen online to Ian Paisley’s Sixty Minutes To Go and read John’s Gospel.

The writer of Amazing Grace, former slave trader and reformed preacher John Newton, wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was (spiritually) blind, but now I see.”

I therefore pray that Mr Kedge will not wait until he gets there to discover that there are no atheists in Hell, which will only be by his own determinate choice, having rejected Jesus Christ and God’s offer of salvation and eternal life. As God says to us all, today, “Consider your ways.” Maranatha! — Yours faithfully,

Tim Taylor

Bensgrove Close, Woodcote

My prayers answered

Sir, — I offer my experience as a contribution to the debate conducted by Geraldine Radley and Douglas Kedge.

Long ago I was a self-employed electronic engineer and neglected my practice to nurse my mother through her terminal illness. I lost my clients and soon had neither work nor income.

I searched earnestly for employment. Eventually I despaired and challenged God to find me a job. I gave Him 30 days. A clear voice in my head accepted the challenge provided that I continued to look for work with unremitting diligence.

At the time I served on the board of governors of a small rural college of further education.

After a routine call on the head of business studies, I told him of my problem. He assured me that there were no vacancies at the college.

On my way out I met one of the lecturers whom I had got to know and told him of my predicament.

“There is a vacancy but it won’t interest you.”

“Tell me about it.”

I was interviewed and offered the job of junior computer technician. We went to the head of administration who adamantly refused to hire me because the job had not been advertised.

“Don’t be silly,” said my future boss, “We advertised the job a month ago and had no applications.”

“That was a month ago. The job has to be advertised again.”

I was successful and remember looking at a letter of appointment on day 30.

The salary was miserable. I said a grumbling prayer: “God, this is not at all the sort of job I had in mind.”

He replied: “You never specified what sort of job. I have found you one, so take it.”

I enjoyed the job, took advantage of the study opportunities at the college and two years later was a senior lecturer at a top polytechnic.

God does answer prayer but not always as we expect. Therein lies the adventure of Christian life. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Geake

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Hope to see you in July

Sir, — In an effort to relieve cabin fever in my household we have put our clocks forward by three months rather than the usual one hour.

I will let you know in July if this trick worked. — Yours faithfully,

Dirk Jones

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

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