Tuesday, 02 June 2020

Your letters...

Time to open hospital floor

Sir, — As a serving member of the Townlands Steering Group (since its inception, I have sat on the group on behalf of Henley Town Council, the Friends of Townlands Hospital and Peppard Parish Council), I am disappointed with the result of a meeting that certain group delegates had with the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which seems to be determined to mothball the top floor of Townlands Memorial Hospital forever.

The commissioning group’s theory that people prefer to die at home is the same old phrase that was given out when the Townlands’ inpatient care was being denied to frail and sick local people and the wards were eventually closed.

It is patently untrue.

However loving a family one has, it is extremely unlikely a family member has had any training in caring for the elderly and anyone dying with cancer.

My mother, Florence, had cancer in her later years and was cared for at home until our GP advised it was time to contact Sue Ryder.

Mum was a recipient of that specialist care in the last two weeks of her life for which she and we, her loving family, were so grateful.

My mother was a very private and stoic person but I remember well, when she had very little strength, her being carried on a stretcher to an ambulance outside her home ready to take her to Joyce Grove and her face taking on such a look of relief as she waved and smiled at her neighbours who had come to see her off.

Half an hour later, she was comfortably ensconced at Joyce Grove where she received unbelievable care — morphine administered when necessary to kill pain and compassionate, specialist care which allowed her to pass away peacefully two weeks later and — as she had lived — with dignity.

What I know to have been important to my mother was that she hated to think she was being any trouble to her family or anyone — nothing could have been further from the truth.

But I think a lot of sick, elderly people feel they are being a burden to their families so this constant mantra of “people would rather die in their own home” is an absolute untruth and does not allow the patient the dignity they deserve in death.

Why, oh why, is the commissioning group not able to use its power to force the NHS in these hours of great need locally for end-of-life cancer care with the closure of Joyce Grove or in the war against covid-19?

Why will it not open up the purpose-built hospital ward on the top floor at Townlands, which should be being put to good use for the community and not waste the inspiring specialist care of the Sue Ryder staff should they wish to move there with the closure of Joyce Grove?

Townlands Memorial Hospital is our own community hospital for which local people fought for 13 years to save.

Please, commissioning group members, insist the whole building be used in these strained and strange times and make that fight worthwhile. — Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Wood

Chair, Peppard Parish Council, deputy chair, Friends of Townlands Memorial Hospital

We should use hospice

Sir, — I have read various letters to you and spoken to many people regarding the use of the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed for covid-19 patients.

As you know, Joyce Grove is an extremely large premises and is now closed to patients. There are therefore both oxygen and ventilators in situ.

I have been in contact with John Howell MP who applauded the idea in theory and suggested, if I hadn’t already, to broach the idea with Sue Ryder.

This I have done to several departments at their head office but I’m afraid this communication has reached an impasse. This is all I can say.

I just wanted the many people who also thought of the idea, which would also take some pressure off the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and with whom I have spoken to know that I really have tried my best. Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Deborah Williams

Lion Meadow, Nettlebed

Think again, Sue Ryder

Editor, — My husband and I have made the decision, with the reluctant agreement of our children. that if we get the coronavirus, we do not wish to go into a general hospital and die alone on a crowded ward.

Neither do we wish to take up ventilator use which could be used more effectively elsewhere.

Surely this is the time for the Sue Ryder trustees to rethink their decision to close the Nettlebed hopsice and offer it and the superb palliative care that their nurses can give in these exceptional times. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Godfrey

Birch Close, Sonning Common

Please help our charity

Sir, — I am a nurse at Sue Ryder palliative care hub South Oxfordshire.

I am writing to tell you about the devastating impact the coronavirus crisis is having on us and how we urgently need your readers’ help.

We are facing a huge challenge in the next few weeks. All our shops have closed and nearly all our fundraising activities have stopped, resulting in a massive drop in our income.

For the very first time, we are finding ourselves in the position where we might not be able to afford to continue providing end of life care.

We are so very proud of the work we do, the expert care we give and the vital support we provide to the NHS thanks to our generous supporters.

Today, we find ourselves needing support more than ever before.

It is devastating to think we might not be able to continue. I cannot imagine what our patients would do without us. This is why I am asking your readers for help. If we can raise enough money to help us get through the next few weeks we stand a chance. It will make all the difference.

We are all facing something we have never faced before, which is why Sue Ryder has launched an emergency appeal.

I am asking your readers to please give whatever they can afford. Every pound you give could make the difference to whether we can continue to be there when it matters for local families in the future. It is that simple.

Please donate at www.sueryder.org/donate

Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Sylvia Thomas

Well done, Tesco staff

Sir, — I have often been encouraged to write a letter of thanks to the staff of our local Tesco store who I have always found to be unfailingly polite and helpful.

This time they have excelled themselves. I joined the seemingly long queue on Friday morning during the slot for the elderly to shop but, in spite of its length, I was inside the shop within 10 minutes.

We were constantly reminded to keep our distances and I was able to buy everything that I needed and was out in 40 minutes.

As a result everyone was in good spirits and I arrived home quite uplifted.

Well done, Tesco, for your organisation and care of us in these difficult times. — Yours faithfully,

Audrey Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

Quality and good value

Sir, — Having read your article headlined “Extra Shop” (Standard, April 3), we tried Orwells’ Sunday lunch offer and would recommend it to anyone for quality and value.

They also offer a shopping list which we utilised. I would also mention that Sharon Luscombe at the Golden Ball in Assendon offers a similar shopping service and is willing to try to source any reasonable shopping requests. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Wood

Ancastle Green, Henley

Don’t waste spring plants

Sir, — We hear now that thousands of plants and shrubs are probably going to be destroyed due to these unprecedented times.

Maybe if they could deliver our orders placed either by phone or email we would all benefit.

The wonderful hanging baskets, bedding plants, shrubs and much more would cheer gardeners up, be good for our mental health and good financially for the nurseries.

Hoping for a positive response from any nursery. — Yours faithfully,

Isobel Morrow

Greys Road, Henley

Unfair on nurseries

Sir, — Such a shame that Toad Hall garden centre in Henley cannot open.

It must be full of spring flowers looking for beds in Henley’s gardens. The supermarkets and petrol stations can sell flowers, so why not Toad Hall?

Revive Henley in Bloom. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Huntington

Swiss Farm, Henley

Stop work for Easter

Sir, — Thank you to Zzoomm for their note advising me that Western Road will suffer disruption due to its works for up to 20 days from yesterday (Thursday).

The purpose of this letter is to request that Zzoomm does not undertake any disruptive or noisy works in Henley during the Easter break, i.e. from today (Friday) to Monday.

Given that Easter is meant to be a time of quiet reflection and peace, coupled with the current covid-19 situation, where many people are confined to their homes, I believe it is important that the Henley neighbourhood does not have to suffer the continuing noise and disruption caused by these works over the Easter holy days.

I look forward to receiving Zzoomm’s reassurance that Western Road and other areas of Henley will not be disrupted by the noise over the Easter period. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Gadsby

Western Road, Henley

Joshua Greedy, head of marketing at Zzoomm, responds: “I can confirm there is no build work taking place over the Easter holiday.”

Welcome to real world

Sir, — Poor William Fitzhugh. Faced with a major health, social and economic crisis, he can’t find any good news on the BBC (Standard, April 3).

Lest he think this is a BBC conspiracy, I urge him to listen to the daily government press conference or look at the headlines on every newspaper and he will discover that the media (of every political persuasion) are united in their criticism of a government that denuded the NHS of resources, has reacted too late to the crisis, keeps making promises to do things it subsequently cannot deliver and consistently refuses to take any responsibility for the parlous state we find ourselves in.

Welcome to the world we live in, William. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Ducker

The Hamlet, Gallowstree Common

Helping the most needy

Sir, — A television news clip on Sunday showed a man who had set up a charity and who was delivering brown paper bags of food (I think it said that it was mostly bread) to people who were locked down in apartments in Italy.

The news clip said that these people were going to receive government aid which was going to take six weeks to come through but at the present time these people had no money at all and consequently no food.

I wonder if anything like this is happening in the UK and, if it is, how would we know about it? I would really like to know how our government intends to flatten the curve of hardship for the people at the edge of society in the UK.

What is being done to quickly get money into the hands of the people whose livelihood has been destroyed? — Yours faithfully,

Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

Not so much self-isolated..

Sir, — In these days filled with dismal, depressing daily news, it is uplifting to find something of amusement.

I refer to the letters by Dan Remenyi (Standard, March 27 and April 3).

Having read them several times, I would suggest that to be self-opinionated is still alive. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


Thank you to everyone

Sir. — Following my letter two weeks ago, I would say how very encouraging it has been to see so many local organisations, businesses, residents, council staff and local councillors band together to help support people in need, be it through food deliveries or just a chat with a lonely neighbour.

Particular thanks to the organisers of the covid-19 mutual aid teams of people that are covering just about every road in Henley to make sure residents are safe in their homes and to see what, if anything, their needs are.

To the likes of Tesco, Waitrose, Cook, WH Smith to name but a few businesses that have donated food. WH Smith, for example, donated the majority of their Easter eggs, which were delivered to care homes.

To the Henley 60+ Social Club, which is in contact with its members daily, Nomad in Upper Market Place, which is delivering food parcels around Henley, and the wonderful lady in a queue at Waitrose who paid for the shopping of the gentleman in front of her as he could not find his credit card details.

To people phoning me as they were self-isolating so could not help but wanted to donate money to local organisations.

To the gentleman that organised the delivery of venison that he had pre-packed, all free of charge.

Finally, a big thank-you to all our NHS workers who are trying to protect us all.

Stefan Gawrysiak and Kellie Hinton, Henley’s other two South Oxfordshire district councillors, and I still have some money available for any organisations that need funding due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Our details can be found on both the council’s website and Henley Town Council’s website.

Self-isolating is obviously difficult for some people but when I was speaking to 99-year-old Second World War hero Dick Charlton the other day, his four years as a prisoner of war put this into perspective.

So far Henley and the surrounding areas have been fairly free from the virus, so please follow Government advice: Stay at home, stay safe and think of others. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ken Arlett

Mayor of Henley

Keep your spirits up

Sir, — On Sunday, March 15 I met up with and went for a gentle stroll with Walkers are Welcome (Henley) with my fiancée Rosemary.

I described our meeting and walk in my Nature Notes column of March 27.

All of us had a great time. the Maltsters Arms at Rotherfield Greys was open for a pre-booked and welcome, tasty lunch.

All planned meetings and associated activities have now been, sadly but necessarily, cancelled. Like all across our land, the pub is now closed indefinitely.

Meeting up again is a distant dream but that does not mean that we can’t engage in conversation on the phone or through social media, which have both proved to be invaluable.

If anything, I believe that nascent friendships have been truly forged and I’m confident that when we finally emerge from this dreadful situation our world will be a better place.

To everyone, keep your spirits up, stay positive and be careful. I’ll still be writing as there is plenty to witness locally.

I send my best wishes to all readers of the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,

Vincent Ruane


Poem for our heroes

Here is my latest poem about the coronavirus pandemic. — Yours faithfully,

Lucas Jones


To the supermarket saints
Restocking each aisle.
Managing our movement
With a reassuring smile.

To the prodigious postmen
Patrolling our streets
With letters from loved ones
We won’t see for weeks.

To those in utilities
Now the lockdown’s begun
Your power and water
Will keep our hope on.

To telecom techies
Connecting us all.
To find comfort in crisis
With every phone call.

To the volunteer armies
Determined to succeed
In giving the vulnerable
Essentials they need.

And, of course, to the
The nurses and all
Who spend every second
Treating those who fall.

Every one of you, heroes
Strong, silent and true
Every one of us, ever
Indebted to you.

Stay safe, everybody

Editor, — I wanted to share this poem, which was written by my nine-year-old son, Charlie.

I hope you like it, it has a great message. — Yours faithfully,

Kate (and Charlie) Hannah

Lower Shiplake

The virus is spreading
Now it is heading
Around the world
I’ll do all that I can
That is my word

Everybody indoors
Close to people no more
Schools and parks are close
But not forever, I suppose

Fewer people outdoors
To keep safe
It’s the right thing to do
This is all for you

We’re all a little bit scared
It is all so new
But if we stay safe
We can play together
In a month or two

Something to smile at

Sir, — Let’s roll, or not as the case may be. The following is, of course, fictional but topical.

I hope it brings a smile during these unprecedented times. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Mason

Northfield End, Henley

Sqn Ldr Troy Rolls was the lead Chinook of Andrex Flight as it flew low and fast over the undulating Chiltern Hills.

Two other Chinook helicopters made up the flight as they flew behind and astern the flight leader.

Their mission today was to deliver three ISO containers of toilet rolls to Tesco in Henley-on-Thames. It was an emergency measure after a number of Tesco lorries had been hijacked over the last two weeks.

The town was bereft of loo rolls.

Each Chinook had an ISO container triple-hooked under the belly of the aircraft — it required deft flying skills from the pilots as they carefully managed their precious cargo.

They even had additional toilet rolls inside the Chinook’s spacious cabin. There were thousands of them.

Troy got on the radio.

“Tesco control, this is Andrex Flight leader requesting ISO drops to your car park; confirm no cars in locality and all trolleys secured in sheds.”

Tesco control was in fact a military ground controller who was the eyes and ears of the store manager. He’d spent a few days with Eddie the manager ensuring everything was in place for the ISO drop.

The latter wasn’t a literal drop, the Chinooks would be coming in one at a time before getting into the hover and gently lowering down until the ISO was on the tarmac.

A team of “military hookers” (steady on!) would then release the ISO before the Chinook flew off.

The ground controller said: “Ah, Roger, Andrex Flight, vector in over the hockey pitches which are completely clear. Watch for the marshal with high-viz bats.”

Troy replied with a laconic “Affirmative”.

His co-pilot Flt Lt Nick Tracy spoke to the two rear crewmen: “Charlie, Olivia, all happy with the plan?” Two crisp replies of “Roger” came back.

The three huge Chinooks skirted around Henley before settling into a slow southerly approach toward the hockey pitches while avoiding the Bremont new- build — they didn’t want to flatten anything with the downwash or an ISO container.

As flight leader, Troy would be the first in. “Here we go, heads out,” he said.

The Chinooks’ crewmen were perched on the side doors looking out and down as the helicopter manoeuvred towards the hockey pitches and the Tesco car park.

Troy pulled in a little bit more power as he got instructions from the hookers’ boss while his crewmen “spotted” the marshal with the bats.

On the ground the queue of shoppers started in the sports centre car park before snaking back along the Reading road toward the Three Horseshoes pub.

Patricia and Sandra had been standing in the queue for at least an hour and were getting fed up.

“All this for some toilet rolls,” said Patricia. “I can’t believe we’re actually queuing for loo rolls — it’s surreal.”

“Well, I hope we’re able to get a pack of 16 or 24,” replied Sandra.

“Did you bring a black bin bag to cover them so nobody sees?”

“No I didn’t, I’ve got my sturdy brolly with me and they’ll get a whack if they try anything.”

The women heard the Chinooks before seeing them — the Doppler effect transmitting the noise of the rotor blades.

Troy brought the Chinook gently over the hockey pitches before seeing the Hel 1 slot which had been painted on the car park tarmac.

He set up the hover, the jet engines whining and the tandem rotors slapping the air and creating a substantial downwash. He eased his giant steed down, listening to the instructions from the boss hooker.

The ISO container made contact with the tarmac, the hookers released the connections and Troy and his crew were good to go.

The other Chinooks delivered to their appointed Hel 2 and Hel 3 spots before powering off to rejoin the Andrex Flight leader.

The front queue of the shoppers watched in awe as the mighty Chinooks delivered the much needed cargo. No more rationing of toilet rolls tonight, they all hoped. “Would they get a pack of four, eight, 16 or 24?” they all wondered.

Musical memories

Sir, — How delighted I was to see an old friend of mine in the paper, namely Melba Pitt (Standard, March 21).

She and I go back many years to when she organised a small singing group in Henley.

We went out and about entertaining various groups and societies and we rehearsed at Melba’s home.

It was in 1981 that she and I sang a duet at the Kenton Theatre, It was I Have a Song to Sing O from The Yeoman of the Guard. We went on to sing it at an eisteddfod at Tilehurst. It went quite well considering I was scared out of my wits. Melba was so calm.

Thank you, dear lady, for the music. — Yours faithfully,

Clifford A Pryke

Woodlands Road, Sonning Common

Not fooled, nor foolish

Your correspondents Geraldine Radley and Tom Geake (Standard March 27 and April 3) have strong, decently expressed Christian beliefs and I can respect their position.

However, may I gently point out that a heartfelt declaration of faith and a conviction that a happy coincidence demonstrates divine intervention do not constitute proof, as the word is normally understood, for the existence of God.

Tim Taylor’s letter (April 3) was very different in tone and content.

He suggestsed that the coronavirus pandemic (“This current pestilence”) is linked with God’s judgement on the world.

The vicious nastiness of Old Testament divinity is apparently very acceptable to Mr Taylor.

He regards me (and presumably the millions like me) as “a fool” for not accepting his version of faith.

He calmly asserts that Hell awaits me on his assertion that I have deliberately decided to reject Jesus.

A deliberate rejection must imply having believing knowledge. In claiming to be an atheist, I am, therefore, a liar in Mr Taylor’s view.

Even if believing rejection were the case, an eternity of suffering of some sort does seem out of all proportion for making a “foolish” choice in this life.

Finally, one wonders what it is about a tiny minority of religious believers in that they ecstatically present and adore a most unpleasant God. There is ample evidence for this syndrome in the darker side of the history of religion.

Fortunately, most Christians today present a very different version of faith. Perhaps Mr Taylor is referring to these when he urges us to “forget about modern religion”. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Why I lost my faith

Sir, — I was a Christian believer for many years. I considered that there must be a God (defined as completely good and completely powerful).

For confirmation of this there is Jesus and the Bible as the Word of God. I had been confident in my faith. I knew God was good, and that He loved me, because that was a “given”. I knew Jesus had “died for my sins”, so I was okay, I would “go to heaven” and avoid hell.

Christians do a lot of praying. They also experience anxiety when wondering how God will answer and at a more vague level they wonder how communication with God is supposed to be experienced because it is not the same as conversation with people.

How do you communicate with God — and how does He communicate back to you? Are your senses involved, or is it all in the mind? What “results” would you be conscious of?

I had a cousin who suffered from bi-polar disease and had also gradually fallen prey to other health problems and put on a lot of weight.

At the church I attended there was to be a healing service with laying on of hands. I went up to have hands laid on me as a proxy and made it clear that I was there for my cousin.

I mentioned her by name. She would not have been able to go herself anyway as she lived in a different part of the country.

I waited for her to get better. During the next two years she got worse. Although her condition deteriorated, she had become more interested in worshipping at the church where she lived and had communion brought to her when her health did not permit her to attend church.

But I felt very let down. Why did God not heal her? Surely God’s will would be that she get better? Then I thought, “when had there ever been any answer to any of my prayers?”

It all seemed a pretence and I (like others) habitually made excuses for God, for example, had I some hidden fault, or somehow had not “pressed the right button”, so that God did not see fit to answer?

I decided to think more about the God of the Bible. I couldn’t find much to admire. The Old Testament God is pretty brutal. Praising Him, saying (or singing) how wonderful He is (as in Psalms) doesn’t make Him wonderful. “Handsome is as handsome does” and the Old Testament God did dreadful things.

Suddenly I realised that there has always been so much misery and unfairness in life and so much wrong about God that it just didn’t make any sense. It was no use to keep thinking ‘where is God, why doesn’t He do something?’ At last it made sense — of course, there is no God.

Many people continually experience unbearable and ongoing suffering. When kind Christian people help others, I consider that to pretend that it is God doing it through them, is just that – pretending. What does God actually do?

I do wonder how believers can continue to believe. As Omar Khayyam said in his insightful poem,

Ah, Love, could thou and I with Fate conspire
To change this sorry state of things entire
Would we not shatter it to bits and then
Remould it nearer to the heart’s desire?

Would the world be the way it is if you were God?— Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Geake

Sonning Common

Churchgoers meet online

Editor, — Our churches have been closed, but churchgoers have still been able to meet, through the good work of our ministers and others, via the internet and live streaming, YouTube, Facebook and email.

So a big thank you to all those involved. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Hails

Secretary, Churches Together in Henley

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