Monday, 01 June 2020

Your letters...

Town looks shabby

Sir, — On Friday, I looked forward to my first essential trip to Henley in six weeks but was greatly saddened by the state of the town.

I had to fight my way through the pedestrian barriers, which is an especially difficult feat when met by someone coming in the opposite direction. Common sense prevailed and we are still virus-negative — I hope.

I know you cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs but I nearly cried at the chaos of Market Place and hope it can be returned to its normal iconic state.

We would not want any sink holes to appear in the long term. I believe our Mayor is vigilant to any unsatisfactory restoration work on Zzoomm’s part.

In particular, I was appalled by the lack of ambience and welcome at our western gateway — the Tesco roundabout.

When I remember how much effort Liz Hodgkin and I put into the previous design and the Henley-centric boat resourcing of the roundabout I could cry.

At this time the “silver lady” looks decidedly dishevelled and flaunting herself provocatively on a non-manicured stage is at odds with these strained times. She isn’t, in fact never was, an attractive representative of the town.

She badly needs a shampoo and set as well as having her roots touched up. If Donald Trump is to be believed, a rubdown with unlimited disinfectant would give her that complete immunity to which we all aspire.

It would further assure the town’s residents and visitors that washing while singing protects and proves to everyone that she is only an antibody after all.

I am sure that Tesco would willingly sponsor the necessary products.

Or am I just being sarcastic? That’s for you to decide. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Is upheaval necessary?

Sir, — I am not as certain as Darrel Poulos in wanting to congratulate Zzoomm and Oxfordshire County Council for their foresight in scheduling major works in Henley town centre during the covid-19 outbreak (Standard, April 3).

This upheaval seems to be happening at a rate of knots down here and elsewhere. Crash, bang, wallop! Oh no, not again.

People will not stop to ask questions in an emergency, as we have already seen with the empty shop shelves. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Peterborough, Cambs

Cordiality required

Sir, — I wrote to Henley MP John Howell concerning the fact that he once voted against a pay rise for nurses.

This is what I wrote:

“Dear Mr Howell,

I see from your voting record, which was published recently by the London Economic Group, that you were one of the MPs who voted against a pay rise for nurses. Many Tory MPs did the same and some had the outrageous audacity to applaud themselves for such an action.

“When parliament returns, which it should with some urgency, then I hope that when the occasion arises, which it most certainly should, then you will not vote in the same way as before. Thank you.”

I was pretty astonished to receive the following reply:

“I would be grateful if you did not play politics with an issue about which you know very little.”

As he knows nothing about my particular knowledge/interest in politics or my ongoing concern for all staff in the NHS, I cannot believe his arrogant response.

I think he is probably referring to the fact that, recently, the cap affecting nurses’ salaries was removed and probably feels this was some recompense for the impact of the pay freeze which NHS staff endured for almost 10 years under the Tory government.

Mr Howell should remember that he is an elected person who should respond more cordially to anyone raising concerns regarding very current and relevant issues. — Yours faithfully,

Maureen Dougall

Station Road, Henley

John Howell MP responds: “I did not vote against an increase to nurses’ pay; I voted to maintain the public sector pay cap across the public sector as a whole. I voted against an unhelpful Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech.

“Nurses’ salaries were raised significantly in the year after and negotiations took place specifically for nurses with the unions under Agenda for Change.

“In autumn 2017, it was announced that nurses would receive at least a 6.5 per cent pay rise over the following three years.

“As part of the pay deal, more than 200,000 nurses are benefitting from a pay rise — nurses below the top of their pay band are receiving an increase of at least nine per cent.

“The deal was one of the largest public sector pay increases in several years.”

We’re still a democracy

Sir, — Criticism is the oxygen of democracy. That is why we have an Opposition, freedom of speech and a free press.

But to attack Andrew Marr as being biased is simply nonsense. Furthermore, he is generally one of the more mild-mannered political commentators in our society.

I do agree with James Watkins (Standard, April 24) that there is a serious problem with the media.

It has become acceptable for someone being interviewed to ignore a question or refuse to answer it and simply make some empty and often inane statement about how they are succeeding with their own objectives.

When this occurs, as it does frequently now, an interviewer should say “I trust the public will note that you have not been prepared to answer my question” and not give the interviewee airtime to promote what they want to say.

It is most regrettable that, over the years, the right to free speech has increasingly become the right to obfuscate, exaggerate and even lie.

Adding to this problem of getting to the truth, some national newspapers often rush to find the most sensational headlines to attract readers.

All of this has been most unhelpful to the public in trying to find out what is actually going wrong.

My previous comments were not meant to imply that the Government was, as Mr Watkins put it, sitting on their derriere, but rather the many of the things they have been trying to do are lacking in efficiency or effectiveness and I am not alone in this view.

On Sunday, the BBC told us that Tory backbenchers and even Tory donors are now questioning the current lockdown policy.

The trouble is that we have not had a proper adult conversation about the options which the country faces and how we should proceed. There are other ways of coping with the crisis and these need to be discussed.

Furthermore, it is essential that we are given much more information, such as just how many deaths there have been in care homes etc.

Mr Watkins’ comments become most insightful when he suggests that I move abroad. Perhaps he should request that the Government creates a scheme such as the £10 passage to Australia for the likes of me, the Tory backbenchers, the Tory donors and all the others who are questioning the current government policy. — Yours faithfully,

Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

• In James Watkins’ letter last week, it could have appeared that he was attributing a sentence to Dan Remenyi, whom he was criticising. In fact Mr Watkins wrote: “By all means pose a sensible, non-repetitive question and await the guest’s reply, not continually interrupt and what l would term, ‘go for the jugular’.” My apologies for any confusion.

Interrupting interviewers

Sir, — Before the coronavirus situation broke, the BBC was already in the dock with the national press for an overcombative interviewing style.

I’m sorry to say the lesson has not yet been learnt and by the “chopping” of responses attempted by some pandemic-related interviewees, the BBC is sometimes inhibiting what might be vital information from coming to light.

Fundamentally, it is usually an easier task to talk superficially about something than to actually do it and this should not be taken advantage of. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Don’t believe the Tories

Editor, — I think a better covid-19 mantra would be:

Tory voters
At the next general election
Stay at home,
Protect the NHS,
Save lives.

Do not believe the Tory party when considering the loss of more than 20,000 lives. — Yours faithfully,

Ali Greeley

In lockdown in Binfield Heath (normal place of residence Wales)

Shopper was so rude

I had to write in about what I observed today while shopping at the Henley branch of Waitrose.

In the awful times that we find ourselves in, I could not believe what I was witnessing when I saw how a man (polite version) spoke to some of the staff about his melon, which he didn’t think had ripened.

Most normal people would have asked if he could just return it but not this fellow. He spoke extremely sarcastically and down his nose to the poor lady on the customer service desk and then other members of their staff.

I cannot believe how well the staff managed to keep their cool — personally, I would have suggested a good place where he could put his melon.

Surely in the times that we are currently in, and to be honest in all times, we should be acting in a dignified way.

The staff in this shop, like many others up and down the country, are putting themselves and their families at risk every day to serve us so we can get the essentials that we need.

This man should be ashamed of himself (I doubt he will be) and I really hope no one else that lives in this beautiful town acts in the same way.

My only regret is that I did not say anything to him. What a horrible man. — Yours faithfully,

John Bushnell

Eternal existence

Editor, — I’m sure some readers will agree that there are many reasons to look up to the heavens at the moment.

Stargazers will already know that scientists revealed last month that the first known comet to visit us from another star system has an unusual make-up — mostly of gas.

Apparently, the comet’s other claim to fame is that it can seed young worlds with the chemicals necessary for life.

By naming it 2I/Borisov, I assume it has nothing to do with our former MP and current Prime Minister, but his name is now destined to spread across the galaxy for eternity. — Yours faithfully,

Damien D’Souza

Queen Street, Henley

Meeting the challenge

Sir, — While in lockdown I have rediscovered the word “coddiwomple”, meaning to travel purposefully towards an as yet unknown destination — something we are all doing at the moment.

The days, weeks and months ahead that we all face (of all faiths and none) will no doubt be a challenge and full of anxiety, loss and change and things may never be quite the same as they were before.

Yet in these difficult times it is worth remembering that although we cannot stop this particular wind of change, we can adjust our sails to enable us to reach our hope-for destination — a world that has conquered coronavirus and remains united — not just a global village in name only.

Please remember to stay home and stay safe. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Not enough gardens

If all the houses in Henley were two or three or more up and down all would have gardens.

This is not how it is now as far too many do not have gardens — Yours faithfully,

Neil Parsley

Mount View, Henley

Ode to Captain Tom

An ode to Captain Tom Moore, set to the tune of Space Oddity by David Bowie.

I would have attempted to sing it but those familiar with my singing ability would say that would be very unpleasant for all concerned. — Yours faithfully,

Pauline Cole


This is Captain Tom to grounded homes
I’m stepping out the door
And I’m walking in a most determined way
I don’t want to get back inside — so pay
For here
Am I walking with a good frame
Far around the block
NHS is blue
And there’s so much I can do
This is Captain Tom to grounded homes
I’m feeling quite serene
And I think the public knows what it should do
The NHS — I love it very much
It knows
Though I’ve done one hundred circuit trips
I’m feeling very proud
And I think the public knows what it must do
And I think my life on Earth is not yet through
Grounded homes to Captain Tom
You’re still on course
Direction’s strong
Can you hear us, Captain Tom?
Can you hear us, Captain Tom?
Can you hear us, Captain Tom?
Can you “Here am I walking with a steel frame”
For the NHS
NHS is blue
And there’s so much I can do.

Do do do do do donate

My lockdown experience

Sir, — I have written a song about experience during this strange time.

It’s a rewording of the classic Billy Joel song We Didn’t Start The Fire.

This is how I feel. — Yours faithfully,

Darren Hillier, aka

Bertie Slippers

Children’s entertainer,


Money woe
Mustn’t let
The grass grow
Face mask
Home task
Topping up the
Wine glass
Channel hopping
Online shopping
Got a slot?
You must be joking!
Mad hair
Need a shave but I don’t care
This is me in isolation
24 hours of a news fixation
This is me in isolation }
No distraction from this new contagion.
Make do
Tinned food
The kids have got an attitude
Work from home
On your own
Staring at the telephone
Twitter feed
5G conspiracy


Zoom app
Take a nap
Key worker
Street clap
Bash a drum
Bang your head
I think I’m going back to bed
Box sets
Waking up with
Night sweats
4 leaf clover
Can’t wait
Til this is over.

Just leave bridge alone

Sir, — Wokingham Borough Council, Henley Archaeological & Historical Group and Peppard Parish Council have — again — objected to the proposal to install LED lights on Henley Bridge.

Letters and articles published in several editions of the Henley Standard have explained clearly and cogently — again — why people and various groups are against this yet the proposer Clive Hemsley dismisses these rather derogatively as “negative letters”.

The accusation that “people are now popping out of the woodwork rather than coming to a public meeting” (Standard, March 20) was both disingenuous and erroneous.

Was the public meeting referred to a meeting of Henley Town Council’s planning committee and would a member of the public have been allowed to speak?

I suspect that many people did not know when this meeting was scheduled.

The proposer’s comment about 30 bridges in London being lit up is pointless and has no relevance to the much smaller town of Henley and reflects that much else also happens in cities and larger towns which would not sit well in a small town.

London and other large towns such as Blackpool are highly-lit places but Henley is not and such artificial lighting would look out of place here.

I have also noticed that the unauthorised lights already attached to the bridge, which should have been removed months ago, are still in place.

Can the authorities please explain why they have been so slow in ensuring their removal?

As a private individual who has neither ownership of, nor rights to, the bridge, Mr Hemsley does not have the right to alter it in any way.

It is also concerning that the lights would be controlled privately, although the bridge is a public structure.

Many reasons have been given demonstrating why this beautiful bridge should not be defaced, damaged and degraded in this way.

Henley, with all its restaurants, shops, pubs and festivals, does not need a garishly lit-up bridge to show its glory.

It is because we are so proud of our historic bridge that we wish to show it to the world just as it is with no cheap artificial frills. — Yours faithfully,

Nicola Robinson

Sonning Common

Just accept defeat

Sir, — The prospect of hideous fairground lights defacing a beautiful ancient bridge is beyond comprehension. Henley is not Disneyland, although Clive Hemsley obviously wishes it was.

He has already ruined the entire elevation of a listed building by smothering it with a so-called living wall (in fact half dead).

It is sad he is not mature enough to accept defeat and stop wasting councils’ time and taxpayers’ money with his puerile whining that he has not got his own way. — Yours faithfully,

Ro Holden


Phrophet of doom

Sir, — When the Hamble Brook flooded in 2001 you carried a letter saying that it had been known to flood only twice in the previous 100 years, once in 1914 and again in 1939. Happily, there was no world war in 2001.

Wet winters since then have seen it flood on two or three occasions but its re-emergence in the time of covid-19 suggests that it has not lost its curious ability to be a prophet of doom. — Yours faithfully,

Christopher McCall


Badgers do kill sheep

Sir, — My husband has farmed all of his life and is now semi-retired.

Over the years we have kept our own sheep but in more recent years we have helped a friend look after her flock of Black Welsh Mountain ewes.

They lamb in our fields and then move to a paddock next door.

Over the years we have lost lambs to a number of predators and I am afraid that badgers are top of the list, worse actually than the fox.

How do we know that badgers are the culprits? Because we have seen remains of lambs at the entrance to badger setts and lamb fleece with badger hair clinging to the fences.

We have never seen evidence of lambs near fox earths.

I am not letting foxes off, however, as along with badgers, they are responsible for eating the eggs of ground-nesting birds, which we see evidence of each year.

Some years ago we had a “rogue” badger who broke into one of our chicken houses, killing the occupants. How do we know? We saw it.

Badgers are carnivores who will either take a live lamb while the ewe is busy perhaps having a second.

On the sad occasion that we have found a dead lamb, not much of it is left when badgers, foxes, red kites or other birds of prey are responsible.

I am afraid Mr Brock has a lot to answer for and I can tell your correspondent James Munn (Standard, April 24) that losing an animal in such a way is devastating and something we never get used too. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Jackson


Little joke for you all

Sir, — I thought that your readers might enjoy this joke (think the Waitrose queue). — Yours faithfully,

Suzanne Came

Bell Street, Henley

I was in a long line at 7.45am at the grocery store that opened at 8am for seniors only.

A young man came from the car park and tried to cut in at the front of the line but an old lady beat him back with her cane.

He then returned and tried to cut in again but an old man punched him in the gut, then kicked him to the ground and rolled him away.

As the young man approached the line for a third time, he said: “If you don’t let me unlock the door, you’ll never get in.”

More News:

Latest video from

VIDEO: Tributes paid after rugby player's death

POLL: Have your say