Sir, — Having had a miserable week, I felt I needed a boost and on the spur of the moment, while passing the Kenton Theatre last week, popped in and bought a ticket to see Footloose on Saturday evening.
It was not a show I had seen before and I knew nothing about the story.
Doubting my rash purchase, I arrived at the theatre for the performance — and was delighted.
Reading Operatic Society put on a show that was lively, exhilarating, tuneful and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. In fact, the final rendition of the song Footloose was so enjoyable that the audience danced as well. The youthful cast were a joy to watch, especially Sam Pemberton for his comedy timing, Charlotte Gilliam for her cute quirkiness, James Gwynne for his powerful singing and acting and Jerome Ifill whose dancing ability was outstanding.
I have not been a frequent theatre-goer before but if shows like this are at the Kenton regularly I will certainly be back.
Thank you for a wonderful evening, Reading Operatic, I feel much better now! — Yours faithfully,
Mary Williams, Stoke Row
Support local businesses
Sir, — With yet another closure of a small independent shop in Henley, this time Confetti and Spice (Standard, March 29), I feel a sadness that soon all the shops will be the usual chain stores that we see in every high street.
The extortionate rent and rates will deter the small independent local shops from setting up in Henley.
From my work running the Love Local Market, I see so many small businesses who make and sell amazing things yet have very little opportunity to get their things to market.
For some time, we have been trying to get help with a pop-up shop in one of the empty retail spaces with very little support from landlords.
We believe that it is so important to support our local businesses. We will be having the next Love Local house and garden show at Henley town hall on May 16 from 10am to 1.30pm so make sure you come and support the locals.
And the next time you go to order something on the internet, stop and “think local” and see if you can actually buy it from someone within this area... it is not always the case but at least consider it.
Sermon over and look forward to seeing you on May 16. — Yours faithfully,
Lynne Lambourne, Love Local Market, Peppard Common
Few shops for my kind
Sir, — There are many people who have lived in Henley for many years who think back to the time when the town was full of shops selling everyday items one would require.
Now, like many others, I use only Waitrose, W H Smith, Boots the chemist and, occasionally, Robert Dyas and Laura Ashley.
Most of the others I do not use and they are not frequented by many people who live in Henley.
Someone asked a while ago why people go to other towns to shop?
I think you only have to look at our selection of shops to see why. It’s not the decor on the outside that is the problem, it’s what they are selling.
I do not think the majority of shops in Henley cater for many of the town’s people, especially people of my age group who would gladly use the local shops if they sold what we wanted.
Here’s a verse I wrote called I Hate Shopping. — Yours faithfully,
Margaret Thompson, Reading Road, Henley
Another shop has closed down, what will it be next? Our town is full of useless shops I really am perplexed. We now have a tattoo parlour and a nightclub or two Shops for fingernails to be done to me that would be no fun.
The fashions in the windows are not at all my style Some look so very stupid they really make me smile. These clothes are for the very young; I am no longer in my prime Going into these shops would be an awful waste of time.
Shopping when you get to my age is no fun at all Spending hours just looking for clothes nearly drives me up the wall. The shoes in the shoe shops are not my style And I’m tired of shopping and must rest a while.
A slice of cake and a cup of tea would go down a treat To give me a rest from my weary feet. We have many expensive coffee shops in town But their prices just make me frown.
A fancy cake and a drink would cost a lot When all I long for is tea from a pot. So that’s enough of shopping it’s not for the likes of me I am off home to put my feet up and have a cup of tea.
Don’t scrap disabled bay
Sir, — I was surprised to see that in town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith’s report to the meeting of Henley Town Council last week there was a proposal to change the disabled parking bay at the traffic lights end of Hart Street into residents’ parking.
This is the only disabled parking area in Hart Street. Much of the rest is already residential parking and on the other side of the road there is mainly bus stops and taxi parking.
The only other disabled parking in the central part of Henley is one bay some way down Bell Street.
It would be good to know whether disabled citizens have been part of the consultation process for this move, or if disabled people are considered as the “easy meat” to give a good kicking on behalf of the able-bodied residents.
As one who frequently uses this Hart Street disabled parking to transport a disabled passenger, I should not only like to ask what are the actual persons and real motives behind this proposed move but also to ask that the current position be left unchanged. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Silvester, Henley Town Council, Luker Avenue, Henley
Sir, — I was interested to read the picture letter about the parking problem in Bell Street, Henley (Standard, April 12). Your correspondent asked where the parking enforcement officer was. Maybe I can help. Responsibility for on-street parking enforcement currently sits with Thames Valley Police but, as we all know, it gets relatively low priority.
Legislation exists that would allow responsibility to pass to Oxfordshire County Council who, in turn, would delegate the power to South Oxfordshire District Council.
In principle, we would be quite happy to take this on because we know that parking problems, not just in Henley but in other areas such as Shiplake and Watlington, are not getting the attention they deserve.
So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Put simply, Henley Town Council does not support this arrangement.
As and when the town council changes its view and invites us to carry out parking enforcement in Henley, I will happily progress things.
Until then, the parking free-for-all will remain. So, if your readers want better parking enforcement in Henley, I suggest that they let the town council know. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Ann Ducker, Leader, South Oxfordshire District Council
Sir, — I have been in correspondence with Oxfordshire County Council’s highways department and it has taken me three months to get an answer to my simple query, “What was the repair cost and were you satisfied with the repairs to the potholes in the lane where my house is situated?”
They initially refused to answer. I requested again under the Freedom of Information Act. Again they refused.
I had to appeal and, finally, got an answer and apology from a review officer, stating that the seven potholes cost £402.85 to repair and they were “satisfactorily repaired to the appropriate standard”.
This being so, I can now appreciate why Oxfordshire roads are so appalling. The standard of repair the council seeks is a disgrace and the price paid extortionate.
The job took no more than an hour. I estimate the material cost to be £25 and the workmanship was dreadful.
The repairs have caused further potholes beside them simply because there was no attempt to cut out an area around them to where the road surface was sound.
The workmen just filled with a couple of shovelfuls of materials and tampered down.
I believe that the highways department should be investigated for crass incompetence and irresponsibility in sanctioning payments. No way is Gatehampton Lane the only example. At all times it is surely of prime importance to spend public money in a right and proper fashion. — Yours faithfully,
Bill Jackson, Gatehampton Lane, Goring
Be tolerant on the road
Sir, — Cyclists are faced with a dilemma. Public roads are very dangerous.
If two cars have a slight argument, you’ll just be a few quid out of pocket for some body repairs. The same incident with a bike may well be a one-way ticket to the crematorium.
Bikes and motor vehicles do not mix, a fact recognised in much of northern Europe, where dedicated cycle tracks are common. Anything similar in this country is far down the list of priorities.
Henley’s one pathetic cycle track, at the end of Reading Road, can be covered in just 24 seconds.
The South-East is now the most congested area of Europe. What with the baby boom and barely controlled immigration, pressure on space can only get much worse, so a safe cycle network will remain a pipe dream.
What to do? Well, go into survival mode and cycle on the pavement — as long as you always give way to pedestrians and dismount if there’s the slightest doubt. A rap on the knuckles from the law is better than finishing up as ash in an urn.
Unfortunately, cyclists are often their own worst enemies, especially en-masse, when they can hold up traffic for miles, a recipe for driver frustration.
Arrogant cyclists are not confined to public roads. Only recently, cycling the Thames towpath, I had dismounted in favour of some pedestrians when a cycle club, maybe 20-strong, swept past all of us without a care in the world.
So, please let’s have some consideration from bikers and some tolerance from drivers and walkers. — Yours faithfully,
Rolf Richardson, Wootton Road, Henley
Another view of Thatcher
Sir, — I suppose it was inevitable in a Tory stronghold like Henley that a one-sided view of Baroness Thatcher’s legacy would appear in your paper (Standard, April 12).
There is controversy about most of her policies but two facts seem the most relevant to me: during her long reign child poverty doubled and the rich got 50 per cent richer.
Far from “saving” Britain, Thatcherism’s legacy is the financial mess we are all in today, largely caused by the debt, greed and loose regulation of the City that she was the first to encourage.
She called herself a friend of the brutal dictators Pinochet and Suharto and supported South Africa’s apartheid regime, condemning Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.
Appropriately, a direct “product” of Thatcherism is her son Mark, upon whom she doted.
A convicted criminal and loan shark, he earned an alleged £60million fortune from arms and other deals made by her government.
Perhaps he, rather than we taxpayers, could foot the outrageous £10million bill for her “state” funeral. — Yours faithfully,
Richard Bossons, Harpsden
Sir, — I believe that the Woodcote neighbourhood plan will be discussed at the annual parish meeting to be held at the village hall on Tuesday.
When I attended the “drop-in” session in February I was surprised to find that the choice of potential sites was narrowed down to a handful of locations, three of them in Reading Road, although most people said they wanted development “spread around the village”.
One of these sites was described as “brownfield” and yet there was not one building on it. How many other mistakes were made?
“Help select the most appropriate sites from the blue sites,” we were told in February. The “appropriate sites” were said to follow what villagers said they wanted last summer, i.e. within the built-up area, not affecting the landscape, not taking development into the countryside, spread around the village and not in traffic hot spots.
I was not alone in thinking that some of these were inappropriate sites since they did not fall into the criteria laid down by villagers.
Elsewhere in the country, neighbourhood plan meetings have been proper public meetings where those promoting the sites were given a few minutes to speak in favour of their sites.
The public were fully involved and allowed to make up their own minds without having a small group of people to fillet the sites.
After all, isn’t it the purpose of neighbourhood plans for everyone to be fully involved? Don’t people think we are educated enough to decide for ourselves?
Word on the local grapevine is that what was suggested in February may change dramatically. I hope the village will not have to make a decision there and then.
In the interests of transparency, I hope that at the meeting on Tuesday the audience will be informed where members of the neighbourhood plan committee live. This information has never been published.
In February half of the sites suggested were at the opposite end of the village to where most of the committee live.
Therefore, we have a right to know where those recommending sites actually reside. That way we might understand why some sites were rejected. — Yours faithfully,
Simon Flatt,. Bridle Path, Woodcote
Let’s take it steadily
Sir, — After reading that the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan is going to a referendum in May 2015 (Standard, March 29), I wonder why there is such a rush to get a decision on the Woodcote neighbourhood plan?
Henley has been told that it has to have another 400 homes, which I suppose is reasonable given that it is a town.
But there has been no decision on how many houses should be allocated to the various larger villages, including Woodcote.
We might have to have fewer than the 70-odd suggested by the neighbourhood plan committee but it could be more.
We should know more about what the landowners or developers are prepared to offer before a final decision is taken on the location of new developments. — Yours faithfully,
Terry Allaway, West Chiltern, Woodcote
Sir, — Our family, who have owned land off Bridle Path, Woodcote, for the past 40 years, recently published a leaflet about sites in the Woodcote neighbourhood plan and this was distributed to households in the village.
We believe this site follows most of the criteria suggested by a number of villagers last summer.
In particular, as a family with younger members living in Woodcote, we are conscious that the village has an ageing population and younger people are having difficulty in remaining in Woodcote since prices are fairly high.
There is a need for new accommodation for both youngsters and the elderly.
Since this land has been in the family’s ownership for so long we are able to adopt a more paternalistic attitude to our site and reflect what local people consider is important. We are also able to provide land for community use.
The response to our leaflet has been encouraging.
We hope that as many people as possible will attend the annual parish meeting in the village hall on Tuesday at 7.30pm. — Yours faithfully,
Richard and Janet Bray, Bridle Path, Woodcote
Can’t argue with evidence
Sir, — Your correspondent Philip Collings attacks both the scientists who work to understand climate change and the policies directed towards mitigation (Standard, April 12).
I think he is particularly wrong about the scientists and I would urge those who do not like wind turbines not to extrapolate their irritation into concluding that the scientists are selfishly misguided.
Several of Mr Collings’ assertions are questionable. The temperature may not have increased as rapidly over the past decade but it has not gone down as he would presumably expect if climate science was all a myth.
Of the last decade, seven years fall into the hottest ten since records began, including 2012.
The idea that there is now “more ice than ever at both poles” is extraordinary when last summer ended with the Arctic ice at its lowest extent since satellite records began.
Search the web and include the National Ice and Snow Data Center and make up your own mind — and note that some think the warming in the Arctic is partly responsible for our recent cold winters.
Scientists are by their nature sceptical, though not about carbon dioxide causing greenhouse warming: without it we would have a snowball planet encased in ice.
I find it very odd that Mr Collings should quote Tim Flannery to support his criticism of scientists. As I understand him, Flannery, while demonstrating healthy scepticism, believes the climate may be warming dangerously fast.
He argues that we know enough to act without too much delay, even campaigning for closure of Australia’s coal-fired power stations.Don’t believe everything in the Mail. If you read the Telegraph go to the skepticalscience.com website for balance. For the history of our understanding of the greenhouse effect look at aip.org/history/climate or for a really up-to-date take on the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide see the April 2013 edition of Weather magazine.
Watch, too, the BBC’s perhaps excessively balanced coverage which even gave James Delingpole a chance to argue his case.
Mr Collings perhaps has an antipathy to all television as its development was so dependent on physics. But for most of us who appreciate what science has done for us, please accept that there is a problem and move on to enter into an intelligent debate on the mechanisms for mitigation.
Dieter Helm points out the self-deception of Europe’s de-industrialising countries in tracking their production of carbon when consumption is what matters.
Britain’s production may have decreased by 15 per cent between 1990 and 2005 but consumption of carbon including imports increased by 19 per cent.
One would hope that conservatives would fall naturally into the camp of those wishing the best for the planet, but by taking extreme positions some on the Right are opting out of important discussions as to how mitigation policy should develop.
There are strong economic arguments for a carbon tax and strong arguments against picking winners. Search on William Nordhaus to follow some of the economic discussion.
I would gladly see our countryside sacrificed to turbines if I thought it would help but I think they will contribute very little and we need a market to find optimal solutions.
I agree with Mr Collings that the chairmen of our key committees should be transparently free of interests.
I don’t defend the behaviour at CRU, even if the scientists were only being naïve, but the vendetta has gone too far when the climate community hardly dares to express its convictions and now scientists are having too little influence on public policy.
Where there are uncertainties the logical way forward is to increase research. So please stop arguing against the overwhelming evidence, which is that we face a huge risk, and enter into the discussion as to what we do about it. — Yours faithfully,
John Pears, Peppard Lane, Henley
Beware ash tree conmen
Sir, — Rogue traders have been targeting householders with ash trees on their property, falsely claiming that trees need to be felled or pruned due to ash dieback disease.
Chalara dieback is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus. The disease causes leaf loss and dieback in affected trees and, depending on the age of the tree, can lead to tree death.
Tree owners are not required to take any particular action unless a statutory plant health notice has been served.
Such a notice can be issued by the Forestry Commission or other plant health authority. Once infected, trees cannot be cured but not all trees die of the infection.
Young plants can be killed within one growing season of symptoms becoming visible, while older trees can survive initial attacks but may die only after several seasons of infection.
The Government will not be encouraging the felling of mature ash trees in either urban or rural situations.
The retention of mature ash maximizes the potential for regeneration of a new population of disease- resistant trees.
Dead and dying wood is also beneficial for some wildlife species that depend on ash. Veteran and ancient trees are also important components of a resilient woodland or landscape.
Always be wary of doorstep traders and know your rights when dealing with them.
Further information can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website, www.forestry.gov.uk — Yours faithfully,
J W Fulford-Dobson MArborA, Fulford-Dobson & Associates, Market Place Mews, Henley
Sir, — On behalf of Cancer Research UK, I am writing to thank all those who participated either as guests, helpers or contributors to our annual daffodil supper, which took place on Friday, March 22 at Harpsden village hall.
I am pleased to say that the evening raised a magnificent £2,450.
I have just completed the year-end accounts for the Henley branch of Cancer Research UK and can confirm that we have raised £16,643.23 (and this is completely independent of the shop in Henley).
Thanks go to the many people who have helped realise this splendid sum.At Cancer Research UK, world-class doctors and scientists are working together to push through new and effective treatments for cancer faster than ever in order to prevent more people from developing the disease.
A group of our fund-raising volunteers from the Henley branch (including myself) were fortunate enough to visit the charity’s research laboratories in Oxford last summer and it was very inspiring and motivating to see at first hand the work being undertaken there and the amazing progress that is being made.
If anyone would like to organise an event locally on behalf of the charity in the coming year, we would be very pleased to hear from you. — Yours faithfully,
Susie Gerhartz, Henley Fundraisers for Cancer Research UK, Luker Avenue, Henley
My dog was attacked
Sir, — I have not written to the Standard before but felt compelled to do so after a distressing attack on my dog last weekend.
On Sunday I took advantage of the sunny weather to take both my toddler and black Labrador out together for a walk to the park.
I saw a beautiful young German shepherd in front of the piazza café and thought that mine could play too as she is a well-socialised and energetic animal.
I foolishly presumed that as the other dog was off the lead it must also be a well-disciplined animal and under its owner’s control. I was horrified when the owner started running towards her dog, shouting: “Mine attacks dogs.”
My dog was quickly bitten several times and was yelping and frightened and seeking cover behind me. She continued to cry out loudly for several minutes once the other dog was restrained by the owner and was clearly in pain and shock.
Everyone who witnessed the event was upset by the scene and I was too shocked to ask the lady owner for her name.
To her credit, she had managed to get her dog back on the lead promptly, which helped to limit any further damage or distress, and she explained that her dog is a rescue dog and not friendly towards other dogs.
I only managed to say that she should keep it on a lead, especially with dogs and children around.
My lovely Lab sustained several deep puncture wounds and had to have antibiotic injections and tablets from the vet. I will have to see if she has any anxiety around dogs.
I have learned a lesson not to trust other dog owners to have control or to be responsible and I would urge all Henley dog owners to be aware of the risks and to be responsible for their own animals.
I would also like to warn people to be aware of the very light coloured, long-haired German shepherd which is unpredictable and likely to be aggressive.
I for one will be keeping my dog on a lead in any crowded spaces from now on, reserving freedom walks for open places like Maidensgrove Common and Gillotts Field. — Yours faithfully,
Yvette Kershaw, Greys Road, Henley
New landlord is welcome
Sir, — The Bottle & Glass is the only pub left in Binfield Heath, so it was with pleasure that a group of friends and myself met the new temporary landlord last week.
Anthony is a charming, enthusiastic chap and also a great chef. We had a good, cookedto-order meal from a really well-thought out menu — all the food locally sourced and fresh.
We wish Anthony well and will continue to support him in his venture to turn the pub around and make it as successful as it used to be.
Give him a chance, Brakspear, and let us keep our last remaining pub! — Yours faithfully,
Susan Summerland, Binfield Heath
Excellent food and value
Sir, — With reference to your correspondent John Williams’ attack on the prices at Shaun Dickens’ new restaurant at The Boathouse (Standard, April 12), I suggest anyone writing about this excellent new venue should visit it before making a comment.
I have been in the business for 25 years and I know how difficult it is to start a new restaurant venture with high rents and all that goes with it.
I had lunch there on Sunday with my partner and I must say that the food was excellent and, given we had a bottle of wine too, it was very reasonably priced.
I recently went to the Waterside Inn for lunch and I have to say Shaun’s cuisine impressed me more for less than half the price.
I wish Shaun and his team the best of luck. — Yours faithfully,
Nuno Rosado, Western Road, Henley
Sir, — Tom Fort’s BBC 4 documentary about his 170-mile down the River Trent in a punt (Standard, April 5) was a lovely, sedate, interesting and compelling piece of television. Well done. — Yours faithfully,
Nick Jones, Albert Road, Henley
Thoughts on turning 50
Sir, — I consider myself to be reasonably attractive.
I try to look after myself and, if I do say so myself, my figure isn’t too bad either, although I would like to change my rather large bosom! Over the years I have been subject to a fair bit of attention from the opposite sex, although some of it unwanted attention.
Of course, every girl likes getting attention and there is nothing more satisfying than walking down the high street, hearing a wolf whistle and realising that it is directed at you!
It certainly puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step — unlike the unwanted attention coming from those men who only have one thing on their mind and when they talk to me don’t make eye contact, oh no, they actually talk to my chest! Imbeciles.
In my mid-thirties I had my three beautiful daughters, the eldest of whom is now 15 (going on 20!).
We used to enjoy going shopping quite regularly together but now she is that bit older she prefers to go with her friends, which I completely understand of course.
When she was younger and we did go shopping together I felt really quite chuffed when I still managed to get the odd smile from a man, admiring me. For a mother-of-three, it did feel good.
I would often look around the street, catch the eye of a young man and have a little flirty smile or two!
Now although my daughter and I do still go out together occasionally, the biggest difference is, she is a young, beautiful girl, both inside and out, full of life, with clear skin, a beaming smile and a fabulous, bubbly personality and so she gets all the admiring looks.
I, well, sometimes it’s like I am invisible and when I look around the street, there are no eyes to catch.
It is as if I am wearing an invisible cloak and this makes me feel a little sad as it makes me realise I am getting old (I don’t feel it, I still feel quite young), although, in a funny sort of way, it’s quite nice being invisible.
Now it’s my daughter’s turn to catch those admiring looks. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
Gentle and kind man
Sir, — I was sad to read about Ivor James’s passing (Standard, April 12).
He was a gentle, kind man and a great proof-reader and I’m sure he will be missed by by those at the Standard.
I am a former colleague from many, many years ago. — Yours faithfully,
Lucy Khan, Banbury
RIP my old school pal
Sir, — I was sorry to learn of Ivor James’s passing. He and I went through school together and were both members of the 1st Henley scout troop.
On Guy Fawkes night he would come up to our house to let off fireworks.
Although I haven’t lived in Henley for many years, I still have fond memories of my time there. RIP, Ivor. — Yours faithfully,
Roger Hoskins, Melbourne
Does theatre need sign?
Sir, — Can anyone explain why the Kenton Theatre needs an illuminated sign? It’s not as if there are any other theatres on New Street. — Yours faithfully,