Tuesday, 02 June 2020

Your letters...

Community counselling

Sir, — Apart from being an enormous amount of fun, what a great opportunity the Henley Lockdown Festival has given us to be able to support those most vulnerable in our society.

Thank you to Jayson “JJ” Jaurigue of EightRay Music and his team and all those contributors who made the event possible.

It was so vibrant, so full of energy and enthusiasm and did what it set out to do; it brought happiness into our homes as well as raising funds, so thank you to those of you who felt able to donate to make a difference.

As a local charity, whose work means we need to guard the privacy of our clients, it is hard to get the word out there about what we do.

It feels so affirmative that the event raised more than £12,000 for Riverside and we are grateful that it has given us the opportunity to raise our profile, so that a wider group of people know who we are and how to benefit from what we offer if needed and how to support the work we do.

The Government’s extension of the lockdown, and the realisation that measures restricting our interactions will be in place for some time to come, has brought home the reality that we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint.

As time passes, we are becoming used to a very different way of being both together in our determination to support each other through this crisis and alone in our individual homes leading very separate lives.

The measures we are all having to take to disrupt the spread of the virus creates a lot of challenges for us all, but for many the strain is felt more intensely and feels unmanageable.

We at Riverside have transitioned our service to be able to offer video or telephone counselling so that, despite the current restrictions, we can be available to those who are struggling with very real concerns that this alarming crisis has raised.

As a service, we have been offering affordable counselling in the community for more than 30 years and are aware that the current crisis is having a profound impact on many individuals’ mental health. Although our base is in Henley, we have expanded into other areas to meet the growing demand for counselling.

In recent years GP practice-based counselling across Oxfordshire has declined. At the same time, our service has grown from five counsellors, to 50 who all volunteer their time.

Last year, we carried out more than 3,000 counselling sessions in the region and every year this number increases. Last year alone we experienced a 35 per cent increase in enquiries.

We are bridging the gap between the lack of NHS provision and private counselling which is not affordable for many of the clients we see.

Most of our clients come to us on the recommendation of their GPs who know we are both professional and will only charge clients what they can afford to pay.

We are a British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy accredited service and work within a clear ethical framework.

Our counsellors are well supported by a strong clinical team, making our work safe and effective. In a survey last year our clients rated us as 9.1 out of 10.

We are embedded in the local community and have an understanding that comes from knowing the concerns of individuals who make up these communities.

We receive no statutory funding and are dependent on funding from grants, trusts and generous individuals who recognise the value of what we do.

We want to increase the number of clients we can offer counselling sessions to as there is no doubt that this crisis will cause an influx in demand.

We want to be accessible to those who are most vulnerable so they can get the help they need.

Our aim is to keep our team strong so they can support those most troubled by this crisis, those who have confronted trauma and loss.

The uncertainty we are all facing for many seems overwhelming but we at Riverside know that counselling can make a profound difference.

All of us will be facing challenges to our mental health during this crisis so please do access our support if you feel we could be of help to you.

You can contact us by calling (01491) 876670 or email contact@riversidecounsellingservice.co.uk

You can find out more about us at our website, www.riversidecounsellingservice.co.uk.

We have details of resources on our website to support your mental wellbeing on both our covid-19 and “other useful resources” pages. — Yours faithfully,

Hilary Arthur

Director, Riverside Counselling Service, Henley

Let’s work together

Sir, — Thank you for continuing to publish the Henley Standard in these difficult circumstances, when advertising revenue is clearly much reduced. We value your commitment.

I do detect a chink of light on the horizon and look forward to Henley re-opening for business.

But it will not be easy, particularly for the retail and hospitality sectors, namely the shops, hairdressers, cafés, restaurants and clubs etc., which give Henley its unique atmosphere.

Even with government assistance with its furlough arrangements, many of these businesses will have been pushed towards the financial edge.

It seems to me that all such businesses might usefully spend this enforced slack period by forming some sort of trade association with a view to a common approach to the questions of negotiating rent standstills or future rent reviews, dealing with business interruption, insurers and so on.

Many such businesses will have such problems confronting them in the near future and it will surely help them to pool their thinking and resources with a view to getting the whole town back on its feet.

This is not a time for cut-throat competition. All these businesses contribute to the life and attraction of Henley and they need to stick together to nurse it back to life again. Similarly, I would respectfully suggest that the landlords of such local businesses need to discuss the situation among themselves.

This is not a time for them to maximise their returns. They all need to work with their tenants to help them bring the town back to life as soon as possible.

A little understanding, generosity and flexibility now will surely help to get the town back on its feet again in the shortest possible time, to the mutual benefit of all concerned, namely themselves, their tenants and the local community who are their principal customers.

It’s not going to be easy but we have seen many heartening examples recently of successful co-operative action for the common good.

We are all in this situation together and we will all need to make an effort to get out of it.

In the meantime, keep up the good work. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Blandy

Quarry Lane, Shiplake

One-eyed perspective

The ultra-loyal musings of Henley’s MP are as jarring as his predecessor’s claim that the UK is dealing with the pandemic successfully.

I recognise that Easter is not long behind us but surely only a government supporter who has lost their critical faculties could write a sentence as fatuous as “it does appear as though the number of deaths is coming down” (Standard, April 24). All most of us can see is a rising death toll.

As for “the rate of diagnosis seems to have reached a plateau”, given the mess that has been made of testing, how can John Howell be confident of the infection figures we are given?

It is not as if he is reluctant to find fault: GPs’ problems with procurement of PPE is an organisational foul-up within the NHS; the British Standards Institute drags its feet in approving designs and the Times is “disgraceful” for daring to criticise the Government.

Such a one-eyed perspective from a backbencher may well be what one expects when considering more trivial matters than a pandemic and the shutdown of large swathes of society.

However, when his countrymen and women are dying in their tens of thousands, the real disgrace is Mr Howell’s toeing, come what may, of the party line. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Grant Robertson


Not the time for politics

Sir, — I am tired of the blame game. I resisted writing when asked to choose between blaming and thanking God.

Now apparently the Tories are to blame for the deaths that have occurred.

I can understand perfectly well that the way the coronavirus outbreak has been dealt with must be analysed later. This must be done to deal better with similar situations in the future.

The time though is not now. The data is simply not available.

No one is to blame for the virus: responsibility for its spread, perhaps. To bring politics into the discussion is not helpful. If we are, however, to do so then where was the enlightened Labour Party when it was needed?

I hope that we will all learn something from an experience that is affecting us all. As with all learning, it will only happen if we keep an open mind. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Binfield Heath

Arrogance of dog walker

With the lovely weather we’ve been having, my partner and I — like many others — have enjoyed taking our daily exercise in the beautiful countryside that surrounds Henley.

On the Saturday before last we were heading home from Harpsden Woods when we saw a man taking his dog out for a walk.

We watched as he took the dog on to the course of Henley Golf Club and let it foul.

I asked if he would be picking up the mess and he replied: “Well, I suppose I have to. I do live here you know.”

The sheer arrogance of the statement astounded me. I live here too and wouldn’t dream of letting my dog foul in a shared space. Not only is it disgusting, it is antisocial and illegal.

In the face of the current global pandemic, this may seem like a trivial thing to be concerned about but I urge dog owners of Henley to pick up after their pets — bags are available from all supermarkets for just a few pence. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Aggressive ‘professional’

Sir, — I was recently told by a neighbour of how she was terrorised by a pack of some 15 dogs while walking a public footpath across a field in Peppard.

Her two dogs were terrified and she felt very threatened.

When she remonstrated with the person in charge of the dog pack, he shouted at her that she shouldn’t be walking in the field, in spite of the fact that she was on a public footpath.

She tried to walk away but two large dogs from the pack followed her and would not return to the man.

Apparently, this professional dog walker habitually releases a pack of dogs, off the leash, in this field and acts extremely aggressively when there is any sort of confrontation.

I personally witnessed the same man shout at two runners on the footpath, telling them they should not run towards his dogs. It seems that his pack of unrestrained dogs have priority over any other user of this local walking area.

When I raised this matter with other residents of Gallowstree Common it rapidly became obvious that this man is habitually aggressive to other people and is well-known for this behaviour.

Is this man exempt from the legal requirement to keep dogs under control and prevent them from creating in other people the fear of injury?

It is certainly true that his behaviour shows that he does not have the normal care and courtesy towards other members of the public.

Is this a matter for the police or for the landowner whose land is crossed by the public footpath? In what circumstances is terrorising women a form of behaviour that can continue apparently unchecked in a civilized society? — Yours faithfully,

Jim Ducker

The Hamlet, Gallowstree Common

Thank you for support

As ever, we are keeping busy with the Orwells community shop and we would like to thank everyone who has continued to support us.

We have been overwhelmed by the support and the community spirit.

We want to wish you all our love and hope you are keeping well in these uncertain times — stay safe, stay home and protect our fantastic NHS.

We are more than happy to continue to make deliveries to the vulnerable, high risk and those who are socially isolating.

In order for us to do so, we are encouraging people to only (if possible) make use of our collection service. It’s quick and easy, there are no long waits, no contact and certainly no queues. — Yours faithfully,

Ryan Simpson and Liam Trotman

Orwells, Shiplake Row

Lockdown blues

Sir, — Here’s a poem entitled Lockdown Blues. — Yours faithfully,

Dave Winship

Caversham Park Village

I’ve been buying only essentials
And obeying the government rules.
I’ve been doing the clapping for carers
And plenty of video calls.
I’ve run out of pasta and loo rolls
And queued at the chemist for meds.
I’ve done quizzes with friends on Zoom
And seen just the tops of their heads.
I’ve been planning more running and walking
But I haven’t persuaded my legs.
In the stores, I’ve kept to two metres,
And danced in the aisles when there’s eggs.
I’ve promised to write a to-do-list
But each day I go and forget.
I’ve bought lots of books for my kindle
But haven’t got round to them yet.
I’ve remembered that Mondays are bin days
And made sure they’re out there by eight;
And then I’ve discovered it’s Tuesday —
I’m twenty-four hours too late.
I’ve watched all the daily news briefings
And marvelled at all of the stats;
When R equals one, I nod wisely
And pretend I’ve grasped all the facts.
I’ve bought wine for that special occasion,
When the end of the lockdown’s in sight…
But then I’ve succumbed to temptation
And drunk it the very same night.
Are invisible enemies scary?
I’m not sure I really concur.
My mind comes up with an image
Of big pointy ears and fur.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel
Or is it an oncoming train?
I hope you cope better than I do... I can’t wait to see you again.

Mother unmasked...

Editor, — I’m not sure if I should blow the whistle at this time.

Maybe we should, in this instance, be morally flexible and look the other way, just this once. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Hay-East

Badgers Walk, Shiplake

It’s her
I know someone who’s using all her tools
To break all the rules
And she’s getting away with it
She’s vulnerable but she’s not staying at home, she’s not isolating alone
No social distancing for her.
She’s defying travel restrictions and going anywhere if you please, she doesn’t think she is spreading disease
Don’t even ask... she’s not wearing a mask
She’s spreading it with her every breath
But somehow she’s not increasing death.
Sometimes she cries with rain pouring from her eyes
But often she just smiles her golden smile for miles
The bigger the better
Mostly she just goes out whenever and wherever she likes.
Showing off her new clothes of blue, yellow, red and green and every colour in between
She doesn’t do social media but she has the biggest audience of all
She’s moving around, freely, in front of our eyes
No disguise
Sometimes she’s so hot she’s running a fever
Other times she’s cold and frozen to a chill — but still, not ill
You can touch her, smell her, hear her, taste and see her and yes she is contagious ...but only in her beauty
But please don’t hate her — she’s your Mother Nature.

In defence of badgers

Sir, — Following Diana Jackson’s response to my letter (Standard, May 1), I sought counsel from Peter Martin, former chairman of the Badger Trust.

I trust that you will find enough in his passionate response to steer Mrs Jackson and farmer Jonathan Steward to a less ignorant and less dangerous understanding of their own local wildlife.

Mr Martin says: “Badgers are omnivorous opportunist feeders whose main diet is earthworms, insects and in the autumn fruit and nuts. They are also very partial to maize which farmers are planting more of to feed livestock. They feed at night because the worms can only be on the surface at night (to avoid being killed by the UV component of sunlight).

“They also feed on ground-nesting birds’ eggs and will scavenge carcasses of pretty much any creature that dies e.g. rabbits, birds etc. That includes hedgehogs around which there is a lot of controversy.

“Badgers, like so many animals, are not ‘predators’ in the way popular culture depicts predation. That is to say in the style of a cheetah or lioness chasing down a gazelle. Their ‘prey’ is very small and not moving very fast. They are not built for chasing things, although they do chase each other in territorial disputes, but not very far.

“They are low to the ground and have very strong legs designed for digging as they spend most of their time either underground or digging up insect larvae. They have fierce looking teeth but these are for defence, not attack. They do not chase anything they eat. They sniff it out or come across it by chance.

“In the case of lambs, the involvement of badgers and foxes is just one of those rural myths that has a tiny thread of truth surrounded by a lot of ignorance and supposition. Farmers often discover lamb carcasses in the morning when they have been royally scavenged by all manner of creatures (foxes, badgers, crows, avian raptors etc.) at night and they immediately make the assumption that their lamb has been killed by predation in the sense of the cheetah and lioness.

“Badgers are particularly wary of contact with livestock. They specifically avoid contact with cattle and are very wary around anything bigger than them.

“Lambs have very attentive mothers who protect them against all comers. Foxes, badgers, crows etc. will loiter around newborn lambs because they are looking to pick up the afterbirth (highly nutritious) and (more disgustingly) the lamb’s first fecal output, which is also highly nutritious.

“What normally happens is that the lamb the farmer finds in the morning with its eyes pecked out and guts in all directions has actually died during the night for various reasons.

“Mostly this is due to birth defects, a disinterested mother or hypothermia. That’s when the scavengers move in to quickly do what nature always does — clear up after itself.

“Farmers either furiously deny this or won’t believe it. This is because they don’t want to admit that the lamb’s loss is down to a problem with the lamb or its mother or — and this is the real kicker — their own negligence.

“Many farmers bring their ewes inside the farm for lambing so they can be sheltered, protected and the farmer is nearby in case there are birthing problems. It’s called animal husbandry.

“Farmers who leave ewes out to lamb in the fields have to take the risk of higher mortality. They have to decide to either apply more resources to care of their lambs or accept a higher mortality rate.

“What they can’t do is pass the blame for it on to the local wildlife or, worse still, ‘townies’ who live in the countryside and know more about the subject.

“Farmers shouldn’t spout off about it unless they are prepared to put in the time watching it and reading/watching the output of those who do proper research.” — Yours faithfully,

James Munn

Queen Street, Henley

Difficult time for charities

Sir — As the chair of a long-standing independent animal welfare organisation that covers the Henley area, I have to agree with your article about the Blue Cross centre in Lewknor (Standard, May 1). We are also suffering in the current situation as we depend on donations for our very existence.

Obviously we cannot just stop rescuing cats that need our help, even in these worrying times.

Our work is particularly difficult during this time of the year with the kitten season upon us as, sadly, so many kittens and pregnant female cats are abandoned.

Over the last 36 years we have established a good number of foster homes which each has a substantially built “cat house” in the gardens in which to keep a rescued feline prior to bringing it back to health before rehoming.

This usually involves a necessary visit to a vet, which can be costly. Even though we work closely with a number of practices, the bills have to be paid.

We currently help about 500 cats every year and, sadly, the numbers are growing, particularly with the feral colonies that are now prevalent in most of our towns.

However, we will continue to react to any emergency and trust that we will be able to maintain our service as we have in the past. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Butler-Smith

Chair, Thames Valley Animal Welfare

Thriving butterfly

Sir, — The butterfly photographed by Terry Allsop (Standard, May 1) was a holly blue, not a chalkhill blue. They must be having a good year as there are plenty in our garden at present.

Chalkhill blues don’t appear until July. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

Remember we’re at peace

Sir, — There are now very few people left who either fought or lived through the last war and the number of those of us who grew up in the war is rapidly declining.

So the percentage of the population who have actually experienced the horror, tragedy and ravages of war is very small.

It you have not experienced it, there is no way you can appreciate what it was like.

Likewise, when peace in Europe came on May 8 1945, you cannot appreciate the utter relief and exhilaration we felt on that day.

The punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the outbreak of the Second World War. The Americans, under President Truman, made sure that was not going to happen again and gave Germany the wherewithal to get back on its feet again.

They did not help us (they had already done that in the war) and, yes, for a long time, unlike in Germany, we still had rationing.

But that did not matter as we were used to it and, after all, it did keep us healthy.

Now we are celebrating 75 years of peace in Europe, a miracle in itself.

Sadly, generations since in the UK seem to have carried on the myth that we are still fighting that war — a myth not helped by those brilliant sitcoms Dad’s Army and ‘Allo ‘Allo, which have given so much entertainment but, of course, were nothing like the reality.

As we celebrate today, let us remember those 75 years of peace with our neighbours. — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

Nightingale sang for us

I thought this memory would be worth recounting at this time. I was 14 at the end of the war in Europe and I lived in Dairy Lane, off Marlow Road, Henley.

In the evening of VE Day my mother and I walked through the woods to a dance at Hambleden village hall. My father was in the air force in  Egypt at the time.

On the way back we heard a nightingale singing — even then there were not many about. We shone our torch at the bird. It carried on singing as if it was celebrating the end of the war.

I can still see this bird in my mind and remember the tree where it was. — Yours faithfully,

Mary Aldred

Luker Avenue, Henley

Hopefully, never again

Sir, — I had the good fortune to buy an old 78rpm record at a car boot sale in Remenham that had been given by Vera Lynn to her (unnamed) wartime army driver in Burma.

I contacted Dame Vera and went down to meet her at the Grand Hotel in Brighton — a memorable occasion. She recognised the item for what it was and also the accompanying writing but her memory of the situation had, needless to say, largely evaporated.

When I subsequently checked on the record’s contents it was just bits and pieces of recording studio material but no matter. My late uncle, a Gordon Highlander, was evacuated from Dunkirk and my late father, who was in the RAF, worked closely with Earl Mountbatten and Orde Wingate in Burma, meaning that he did not actually return home until mid-1946 after an unbroken three-year stretch.

Fortunately, our reconnections with Germany are now wonderful so, very hopefully, never again. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Science or belief?

Sir, — It was surely just a coincidence that you published Emma Richards’ letter headlined “The case for Christ” in the same week as we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble telescope (Standard, April 24).

That amazing device has allowed astronomers to see almost to the edge of the universe and to view galaxies six or more billion light years away.

They can also see and understand how new galaxies and stars are formed in their billions and also collide and disappear.

An important part of the case for the worship of Christ, whose existence as a prophet is not disputed, rests on his being the son of God and all that flows therefrom.

It would help if Ms Richards and other followers could explain how far across the billions of galaxies and the trillions of stars in them the writ of God actually runs.

Is God purely an Earth-bound construct or does God’s writ extend further into the void of space? If the former, how did that only come about here? If the latter, how far out does God’s ability to be all seeing at all times extend? If it were to be all encompassing why would any God be interested in the goings-on on this tiny speck when he could have much more fun smashing galaxies into one another and creating super-massive black holes?

We deserve to know. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Informative letter

Sir, — I know it’s a bit late but I wanted to say a huge “thank-you” to Philip Collings for his most informative and interesting letter entitled “Lots to tell grandkids” (Standard, February 7).

I had cut it out and put it safely to read it at a later date and was so pleased to have come across it while tidying up during this lockdown period.

I so enjoyed it and wanted to let him know it is definitely a very interesting history lesson not only for grandkids but for me.

Thank you, Mr Collings.— Yours faithfully,

Mrs Karen Kelly

Frilsham Park, Yattendon

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