Friday, 21 January 2022

Your letters...

Fewer night trains please

Sir, — I find it difficult to sympathise with Neil Gunnell’s wish for late night trains to run, when very few people are using them (Standard, November 12).

I was under the impression that we are all desperately trying to save on the use of energy.

A train with three coaches, trundling up and down the branch line, spewing forth diesel fumes and carrying just a few passengers, does not seem like a suitable way to save energy and reduce pollution.

I hope that Great Western Railway will look again at its decision to reinstate the original service in December and start to think seriously about the impact this is having on the environment.

According to Neil, as few as five passengers are using the late-night trains.

He forgets that even before the pandemic, there were still only about five passengers carried in three coaches.

Please, GWR, look hard at the timetable in the light of what we know about pollution and climate change and accept that the obvious conclusion should be fewer late night trains and coaches, not more. — Yours faithfully,

Vivien Pheasant

Lashbrook Road, Lower Shiplake

Now trust is listening

Sir, — I was heartened by the supportive letters (Standard, November 12) highlighting other instances where the National Trust had not listened, particularly over the loss of the benches to enjoy the remarkable view from Greys Court towards Rotherfield Greys.

I am delighted to report that although the vote at the annual meeting concerning volunteer management was technically lost, the trust has reached out and is now listening.

Last week I was invited to London to chat informally with the acting chairman Orna NiChionna to discover why I and others had become so disillusioned with the way in which the trust has been led in the recent past.

Orna proved to be a good listening ear and told me that the board does not like to hear stories of such disaffection.

Indeed, a paper is due to be prepared to be presented to the board which will highlight the issues and may lead to significant improvements in the management of volunteers in the future.

These are positive outcomes from the meeting in Harrogate and I, for one, will continue to renew my membership of the National Trust. — Yours faithfully,

Caroline McAslan

Kidmore End

Time for MP to retire

Sir, — While our local MP never replies to letters, I note now even the automated reply has ceased.

So we now know John Howell condones the corruption of his parliamentary colleagues.

It seems he has actually given up the pretext of communicating with constituents.

In this failure he shows himself a worse performer than Boris Johnson. At least he answered letters.

The chief whip and speaker have been advised of Mr Howell’s ineptitude.

It’s time he spent more time with his family and retired. I’m sure “generous friends” will support him. — Yours faithfully,

David Dibben

Caversham Heights

Let’s vote out Tories

Editor, — Last week’s letters pages contained an unprecedented volume of material critical of our constituency MP, John Howell.

The general feeling is that he is consistently voting for legislation which is undemocratic, unfair, unhealthy, unwise and immoral.

Since his re-election in 2019, he has followed the voting choice of the majority of Conservative MPs.

It is therefore unfair to blame him personally for this deluge of bad legislation, which is the product of the Government and promoted by the Conservative Party.

Objectors, of which there are a growing number, must apply the concept of “joint liability” to the Conservative Party and its members, MPs and councillors.

This process has already commenced. The Tories have lost 33 local government seats in the Oxfordshire county and South Oxfordshire district council elections since 2019.

Whenever the democratic opportunity arises, at by-elections or local elections, we must remember the unsavoury results of recent Tory legislation and express our dissatisfaction by continuing to remove the Tories from office. — Yours faithfully,

David Winchester

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

PM owes us an apology

Your article headlined “MP defends voting with government in sleaze row” (Standard, November 12) quoted Stephen Barclay (the fire-blanket used to defend the Government’s actions in Parliament when both Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees- Mogg went into hiding last week), who offered his “regret” that the Government had “conflated” concerns about the investigations system and the Owen Paterson case.

John Howell also speaks of conflation — “two issues, that of an individual case and that of general concern have become conflated”.

This “conflation” — two things being put together, as if accidentally — is the same weaselly mea culpa previously used in parliament by Rees-Mogg when the Government first U-turned.

It is less an apology, which we all deserve, than a specious attempt to put the issue into a miasmic chicken and egg tailspin intended to confuse us as to what came first, the attempt to get Mr Paterson off the hook or a noble Tory attempt to improve standards.

But the evidence is clear, as m’learned friend Geoffrey Cox might say if he were not in the British Virgin Islands working against a case presented by the Foreign Office, that the attempt to get Mr Paterson off the hook came first. Are we really to believe that the chief whip had this plan for revising the standards authority sitting in his top drawer, refined and ready for when a case came along — in this case that of Owen Paterson — which would give him a chance to present it to the Commons?

If so, and the Government was really interested in giving MPs a chance to adjust standards for the better, why did it nobble its own attempt to do so by appending its attempts at improvement to one of the most cut-and-dried cases of Commons graft in years, a case in which the committee on standards noted “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of confusion between the private and public interest”?

If so, if it was such a good idea, why did it have to be forced through the Commons with a three-line whip?

Why was it so poorly thought through, it never having occurred to its movers that their new arrangement would need cross-party support and that a jury rigged 5-4 in favour of the Tories would not smell good to the Opposition?

No, “conflation” is not the truth of this issue.

A better example of conflation is when Johnson when asked at COP 26 if he had a message to voters concerned by headlines about the return of Tory sleaze, declared that “the UK is not remotely a corrupt country”, thus answering a question he hadn’t been asked in an attempt to conflate the dishonesty of his government with that of the UK as a whole.

Excuse me? The accusations flying around his ears lately are not that the UK is corrupt but that his party is because of conflicts of interest, crony covid contracts, Wallpapergate, free fancy holidays and flogging peerages (with more stones yet to be overturned).

How dare he conflate his own dubious behaviour and that of his Government with that of the UK as a whole? Every honest person in this country deserves an apology from him for that (let alone the Leadsom amendment).

This country still plays by the rules and that is why Johnson finds himself so out of step with it and in so much trouble at the moment.

Johnson needs to give up his second job as a clown and turn a sober eye to sorting out the conflicts of interest that will continue to bedevil his party until he does. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Hay

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Boatyard with history

Sir, — I was interested to read that Lady McAlpine and town councillor Will Hamilton thought our Wargrave Road boatyard to be, I quote, “an eyesore that this untidy, unloved industrial site currently offers those walking along the Henley bank of the river” and “a fairly unglamorous shed” (Standard, November 12).

I would like to point out that the boatyard suffered a catastrophic fire in 2004 and we rebuilt the premises with modern buildings that had full planning consent on a site that had been commercial for approximately 130 years.

The freehold of the boatyard was recently sold to Adam Toop for him to establish a base for the Rose-Toop collection of traditional river craft.

A section of the property has been leased back to our company so that we can still provide boatyard facilities on the site. Boatyards are part of the commercial life of the river.

Originally, the yard was the boatbuilding premises of Shepherds who were in business in Henley from the late 19th century and who built steam launches and all river craft.

The Hobbs family purchased the yard and Shepherds’ business in 1917.

Our company has recently expanded by acquiring a part of the Thames and Kennet Marina Moorings (Dreadnought) at Caversham Lakes as a change of direction was thought to be appropriate for the business.

We wish Penny Rose and Mr Toop every success and look forward to the development of their project. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Hobbs

Hobbs of Henley

Fireworks like war

Sir, — Victor Wilson likened Checkendon to a war zone (Standard, October 20).

On the evening of Sunday, November 7, it became a war zone again with explosion after explosion in the guise of a fireworks display.

It saddens me that there are people who have no conception or care for the terror they inflict on domestic, equine and farm animals as well as wildlife.

Obviously, until there is new legislation controlling the use of fireworks, our animals will be victims of the behaviour of a few selfish and uncaring people every year. — Yours faithfully,

Name supplied

Checkendon

What are you on about?

Sir — Your letters pages are, I suggest, characterised by contributions that inform or complain or exhort or provoke.

I noticed the postscript to T Austin’s letter headlined “Back to the future...” (Standard, November 5), which suggested that the content might stimulate me in some way.

I therefore read the letter to find that it made no sense to me at all, so I read it again with the same result.

Then I left it for a day and tried again and then asked my son to read it after which we were both left wondering what it meant and why you had published it at all.

Each of the 13 paragraphs seemed to express an idea of some sort but in total they did not create a logical whole to which one could respond — more like an archipelago of ideas floating in a sea of confusion.

It seems that T Austin, who clearly has no practical experience of working with heavy horses, thinks they could be used to generate electricity in the manner that small horses and donkeys were once used to operate treadmills.

If that were to happen, the justified ire of horse lovers would make the eco-loonies glued to the roads seem incredibly sensible.

It would be of staggeringly little interest to me to know what T Austin actually meant to say. Score D-. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Council acts at last

Following my letter last week, I would like to say that a representative of Reading Borough Council got in touch with me by telephone and we arranged to meet.

He inspected the overgrown pathway and was appalled at what he saw.

He explained that plans were in motion for all the pathways in Caversham Park to be cleared.

To my surprise, the pathway behind our house was cleared the next day. I must give the council credit for the job carried out.

Many thanks again, but why did it take the action of the Henley Standard to get a result on an issue which had been ongoing for 19 months? — Yours faithfully,

William Kelly

Caversham

Shamrock to be sure

Congratulations to the two centenarians, Kate Cook and Eva Hayes, at Abbeycrest nursing home (Standard, November 12).

However, after you explained that Ms Hayes was an Irish citizen and had received congratulations from the Irish president, it was a bit strange to read in the very next sentence that her room had been decorated with clovers!

Really? Whatever the similarities/differences may be between the two plants, surely shamrock was the right term in this context. — Yours faithfully,

Kathy McAleer

Help was appreciated

I just want to say a big thank-you to “Amanda” who was so kind and helpful to a young man and me who were in collision outside her home.

It was very much appreciated. — Yours faithfully,

Pearl Parker

Ode to life in lockdown

During the lockdown and covid-19 pandemic, members of Remenham Women’s Institute decided to record the feelings, actions and activities of the times with rhyming couplets.

The “poem” has been completed with contributions from many of our members and has, I think, created quite a record of the period.

We were wondering if you would publish it in the Standard, bearing in mind the ongoing situation as perhaps a reminder to everyone of what the past months were like. — Yours faithfully,

Daphne Austen

President, Remenham WI

Lockdown Life

Covid has come, or is it purely ‘flu?
Boris and friends tell us just what to do
Cases rise fast, the graphs show it all
“Stay at home if you can” goes out the call
Stores put down their
shutters,
To keep the country safe is all that matters
Inspirational people made masks and scrubs
To keep care workers safe from the bugs
All our workers were placed in danger,
To save the lives of a total stranger
Drawers are sorted,
cupboards too,
Life will open up, once
lockdown is through
We chatted to friends, all on the ‘phone
With books and the news, we were never alone
Now there’s shopping to do from your local store
It’s click and collect or brought to your door
Just scan your favourites or work down a list
I get all the “usuals” or is there something I’ve missed?
So lockdown came and
lockdown went,
Of new ideas, we are totally spent.
It’s not that I’m bored, there’s still plenty to do
I would just like to go out and meet up with you
Exercises just via Zoom
All the family in one room
Could we meet at Christmas, yes or no?
The turkey, ham and pudding are all on the go.
During lockdown, every day’s the same
And I really don’t know who is to blame.
Weddings, funerals, holidays and the end of term ball,
Birthdays and school events — yes, we’ve missed them all
No hugs from grandchildren or given to others,
Just through their windows a wave to fathers and mothers
Schools were closed for a very short time,
Teachers continued with their support on line
Then temperatures taken and flow tests in schools
Wash your hands, wear a mask, these are the rules
Days go by quickly, with breakfast, lunch, tea and
dinner,
Gardening, walking,
Zooming and reading make each day a winner
Hooray, hooray, the end is in sight,
Six people to supper, Oh, what a night.
Having our friends in our homes — such a treat
And we can even greet with a hug when we meet.
We’ve cleaned, cooked and ‘phoned ‘til we’re blue,
And now we’re let out, life is like new
Red, orange, green — so should we go
A holiday or another go slow?
I wonder, should we book a flight
Or not? I think we might.
The first day of freedom couldn’t be met
Can’t do this, can’t do that — not yet.
Still people have jabs, the first and the second,
More in the arm, the better, they reckoned.
So now we go towards
freedom day two
Such relief will be felt the countryside through
Quarantine days, sanitisers and jabs
Now for autumn safety, they work in the labs
All is quite safe in every single ‘plane
The pilots and crews just want to take us to Spain
Countries of the world go
forward with care,
We just pray all will be over by this time next year.

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