Sir, — The mind-numbing effect of non-stop, heartbreaking television news contrasts sharply with the positive effect of meeting a courteous, appreciative young Afghan refugee family walking with their small child through our village.
We have seen so much violence that perhaps this causes us to forget that we can all do something, however small, that can make a real difference to just one refugee family. Watching an Afghan child eating some of my fresh raspberries made me realise I could work with others to help some Afghan, Syrian or other desperate refugee family to end their nightmare, to help them find a new life, to set down roots in a safe, civilised village like Binfield Heath or a prosperous town like Henley.Nimbyism, a political blame game, is no answer. A new and different approach is called for.Could the Rotary clubs, and all other established affinity groups that achieve so much in south-east Oxfordshire, now create a team that can work together? The Henley Standard advertises an increasing number of job vacancies each week and there are probably skilled and experienced refugees who could fill some of those vacancies and add to the success of our local economy as well as creating more fulfilling lives for themselves and their families, also adding to our communities.Please could the Henley Standard act as a catalyst, linking people of goodwill and all the organisations they represent to come together in a practical and effective manner? Let us discuss and define what we are able and willing to do, in the name of humanity, on behalf of all the different communities in south-east Oxfordshire.
Readers of this letter include many who could form an effective team to assist the local authorities to select real asylum seekers from among the hundreds of thousands of real refugees. Let us be positive in our reactions to this problem.Try to imagine if it had been your small son or grandson washed up on the beach in Turkey, or your family that had no option but to flee to avoid the destruction and constant threat of persecution, injury and death.Each of us has our own personal problems but, in relative terms, most of us are able to help others, even in a small way.
Henley has a lot of capable, retired people, many of whom are educated and still able to work very effectively together.Surely we can find ways of creating an effective team to provide a practical selection and support team to help some refugees? The Henley Standard helped to bring us together over Townlands Hospital. Could we now come together to help some deserving asylum seekers as well as proving we can help each other and the communities in south-east Oxfordshire? Are there any readers of this letter willing to join in creating such a team? — Yours faithfully,
Rotary Foundation fellow in international understanding,
Give them our millions
Sir, — Respect to Tom Clark, who plans to deliver to the refugees in Calais (Standard, September 4).While David Cameron now decides to only help the people in the UN camps on the Syrian border who already have shelter, medical care and security, the people who urgently need our help are the ones who are without any of these necessities.
They are the children in the boats, the families on the trains, the communities at the roadsides and the desperate in “The Jungle”.
They are going to need a lot of blankets, Tom. It’s soon going to be very cold out there. At what temperature does a baby die? Henley Town Council received an unbudgeted windfall of £4million from Tesco some years ago. We never needed it, nor budgeted for it. We have never used it.
It is the money of the people of Henley, not a council budget reserve. Let’s release at least £1million of it as a caring community and do our bit to help the victims of a collapsing civilisation that is the responsibility of incompetent politicians.Reading Festival is sending tents and suchlike, all left over by the audience.Henley has a lot of money sitting in the bank that it never budgeted for or ever needed. Tom and his volunteers could do a lot more if we gave it to him. It is ours to give after all. We are the real Henley residents.Charity begins at home and home is where your heart is. Our hearts just went out to the father of poor little Alan and Ghalib Kurdi and all the other victims of relentless and smug political folly.
It’s really a small price to pay and one that we can take on to show an example as a privileged community.
We may then be able to look our own kids in the eye. That will be our reward, the respect of our own children.Tom said that he doesn’t care about politics. We should all echo that sentiment and help him cross the rocky road. — Yours faithfully.Peter Burness-Smith St Mark’s Road, Henley Solution and help neededSir, — I think the offer of local residents to house refugees from Syria in their own homes is generous. There may well come a time when this is required — after, for example, practical details have been worked out, including how long they will stay with families, what role South Oxfordshire District Council will have in this and after checks have been Â completed.
I am very pleased that the Government will be resettling up to 20,000 refugees over the course of this parliament and that they will be given a five-year humanitarian protection visa. In fact, we have already granted asylum to more than 5,000 Syrians and their dependents. Like so many, I found the recent photos displayed by the press deeply upsetting. People have told me how they have been in tears at the sights that have appeared on our television screens recently. We have a responsibility to help those fleeing from the conflict in Syria by making a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable Syrians. That is why we are tackling those refugees coming from camps bordering Syria and discouraging Syrians from giving their lives to cruel people-traffickers to make the dangerous journey to Europe.
We have, of course, sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, which is saving thousands of lives. We are also at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria as one of the biggest bilateral donors of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £1 billion. That is just about more than the amounts donated by all the other countries of the EU put together.
The solution to this problem is not simply about taking Syrians on a short-term basis into our homes. We need a comprehensive solution that deals with the people most responsible for the terrible scenes we see: President Assad in Syria, the butchers of ISIL and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people. — Yours faithfully,
House of Commons,
Threat to our bus services
Sir, — I wonder how many people are aware of Oxfordshire County Council’s proposals to cut bus services in Henley. On Thursday evening last week, my wife and I and eight others attended a public meeting in Henley held by the council to outline its proposals. This meeting received virtually no advance publicity, which probably partially accounts for the low attendance. The Henley Standard carried a very brief notice a couple of weeks ago and the online consultation makes no mention of the meeting.Meetings were held in other parts of the county in July (the nearest one to Henley being in Didcot) and it appears the meeting in Henley was some sort of after- thought.
Also, since the majority of people using the buses in Henley are either elderly or disabled (or both) it would have been preferable to have held the meeting in the day-time when people could use the bus to encourage those most affected to be there. One can only wonder whether the council really wanted people to attend. The online consultation sets out two options which the council is considering:
1. To abolish all subsidies for bus services in the county, meaning the almost certain withdrawal of all the Henley town routes (151, 152, 153 and 154), the 145 Henley- Woodcote route and the 139 Henley-Wallingford service.
2. A reduction of the subsidy, giving preference to routes which serve the most people who do not live within 400m of a non-subsidised bus route (in the case of Henley the 800/850 High Wycombe-Reading routes).
This option is likely to mean the withdrawal of the 153 (Abrahams estate) town route whereas the others stand a chance of survival at least for the time being until more (inevitable?) cuts take place in the future. It was interesting that the paper handed out on the night made no reference to option 1 in the consultation and only referred to the partial cuts as opposed to the complete elimination of subsidies. The proposals do not take account of the practical issues relating to the Henley town routes arising from the fact that one bus presently covers all four routes and the withdrawal of one route would mean the bus remaining idle for 25 per cent of the time.However, this could represent an ideal opportunity for a re-assessment of the town’s bus services and a change to the routes so that other significant parts of the town, such as the station and Townlands Hospital were included.
The present Henley town service operated by Whites, using very old buses, does not exactly present itself as an efficient operation. No printed timetables are available and very little publicity is given to the service.I believe there is a strong case for a local group in Henley to determine a realistic proposal for local bus services. The withdrawal of the 139 service to Wallingford with a connection on the X39/X40 service to Oxford would further increase the likelihood of Henley residents going to Reading (on the non-subsidised bus routes) for shopping and leisure rather than spending money in their own county.This could possibly bring people to think that Henley would be better off if it were part of Reading.
My experience of the services operated by Reading Buses is that they are far superior to most others. If Henley was part of Reading then maybe we would have an even better service from Henley to Reading such as the one which already operates from Peppard. I believe that with an ever- increasing population, the need for bus services will increase.At present I use the local town bus sometimes; in future years, when I might not be able to drive, I will probably need it more. I’m sure I’m not alone.If we had a really good bus service it might encourage more people to use it, thus reducing the need for so many local car journeys. If readers feel strongly on this issue then they should read the consultation available on the internet by searching for “OCC bus consultation” and respond accordingly.
The consultation closes on Monday so you only have the weekend to do so. Copies of the consultation are said to be available at local libraries. — Yours faithfully,
Peter C Stone
Protecting our heritage
Sir, — In 1974 Henley lost its borough status and became a town council. As part of that process, Henley handed over its responsibilities as the highways authority to Oxfordshire Council Council. The handover document included the area in front of 94 to 102 Bell Street as highway maintainable at public expense. In 1995 some of the landowners put up notices that this area was private land. The Henley Society reported to the county councilt its belief that this was highway and legally must not be obstructed. After a period of time, the county council agreed to investigate and wrote to the landowners. After more than 10 years of debate, the investigation showed that the land was indeed highway. (Yes, it really took that long!) Unfortunately, over this period the area had been neglected and this beautiful area of Henley had had ugly Tarmac put over the heritage Georgian paving, the green triangle had been trimmed and 11 private parking spaces squeezed into the area. Access to these parking places was over the pavement, inches from residents’ front doors, that was regularly used by residents and children from Rupert House School.
Even worse, the owner had sold some of these parking spaces to residents for sums in excess of £40,000 each. As part of the conveyancing process of the sale of these slots in 2006, the county council incorrectly reported to enquirers that the area was not highway. When this error was exposed, the council proposed extinguishing the highway with a “stopping up” order which would allow the spaces to be sold and used as private land, thus depriving residents of the control and use of this land as parking and its protection and use as a heritage amenity. A number of residents and campaigners were alarmed at this loss, which would allow the dangerous layout and damage to the heritage aspects of this site to persist. Henley Residents’ Group councillors proposed using the legal right of Henley Town Council to object and ask the county council to maintain the land for public benefit. The town council agreed. In the end the campaign was successful and there is now a safe layout of the public parking spaces. We are still waiting to hear the county council’s response to make good the damage done to the site while it was thought to be in private ownership. In the recent High Court case the developer Chesterton, which purchased the land in 2006, sought compensation for the extra amount it paid in the belief that the land was not highway and it would be able to sell the parking spaces to private individuals for their private use. While the county council was undoubtedly careless, it seems wrong that this compensation should not be sought from the original vendor of the land who benefited from the council’s error.
Even if Chesterton and the original vendor are to be compensated for their lack of windfall (nothing has been lost as legally the land was always highway), the county council is insured for this. Henley Residents’ Group, Henley Town Council and many others who campaigned to protect this beautiful part of Henley are very happy at the success of this long campaign and are pleased that our actions have been completely vindicated as in the best interests of the residents of Henley, its environment and heritage. — Yours faithfully,
Councillors Ian Â Reissmann and Stefan Gawrysiak (chairman) and Dick Fletcher (secretary)
Henley Residents’ Group
Better your behaviour
Sir, — South Oxfordshire District Council’s handling of my complaint about the behaviour of Henley town councillor Dylan Thomas was at best slovenly and your report (Standard, September 4) didn’t help.
Cllr Thomas did say that the Henley Residents’ Group proposal to reserve housing for local people was racist.
That insult cannot be described as “political knockabout” nor as being “within acceptable parameters of political debate”. Even the Mayor reprimanded him.
He admits that he made a hand gesture to indicate that Ken Arlett was “a little man”.This is completely unacceptable behaviour by anyone, let alone by an elected councillor in a town council meeting.In time, let’s hope that Cllr Thomas learns that reserving homes for local people is not promoting racism.
We’re not going to get a public unreserved apology, so let’s hope that colleagues in his party will prevail on him to behave better in future. — Yours faithfully,
So what is racist then?
Sir, — Among Councillor Dylan Thomas’s derogatory comments, he suggested that I should stand down as chairman of UKIP Henley due to a poor showing in the district council elections.I wonder if he suggested to David Cameron that he should stand down when UKIP beat the Conservatives decisively in the 2014 European elections? For someone who has never met me, does not know who I am and would not recognise me in a “police line-up”, Cllr Thomas does have some strange opinions.
After only four months as a Henley town councillor, it may be time for him to take stock and see how many of his own Conservative councillors he has alienated, let alone the Henley Residents’ Group councillors. I am not sure the answer will come as a surprise to him.More importantly, South Oxfordshire District Council’s monitoring officer was not prepared to take any action for racist remarks made by Cllr Thomas against both UKIP and Henley Residents’ Group members, be they directly or indirectly.
This is not the first time that I have complained to the district council about racist remarks made by Conservative councillors but it seems that the monitoring officer has the full support of her line manager and the chief executive, so perhaps it would be interesting to know from the council when racist remarks become more than the “huff and puff” of local politics. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, UKIP Henley,
Father-in-law the ferryman
Sir, — I was interested in your Diary item about Aston Ferry (Standard, August 7).
My father-in-law Fred Harper was, I think, the last ferryman there.My husband Len grew up in that house and his mother lived there until the end of the last war.
Fred was recalled to the navy in 1939 and his three sons, Arthur, Reg and Len, were called up too. Arthur and Reg went into the army and my husband Len joined the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot.
All came through unscathed but their sister Gertie, who was sent to work at the underground factory at Wargrave, contacted tuberculosis and died, aged 24. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs P Harper
Memories of wartime
Sir, — I am writing regarding the Second World War after watching a very memorable service attended by the Queen and Prince Philip on television.
When the war years were approaching I was just 10 years old and I well remember 1939.
We all had to do a bit for the country and my mother said we would take in evacuees. We were a family of four, so with three children taken in, it made seven to care for.
However, the house in Greys Road, Henley, was large with 10 rooms in all.Along came three families from London so the house was very full but very happy, although very hard work as father was in the Royal Army Service Corps doing his service for his country. So much did happen during those years of the war for our family.
Mother received a scroll from the Queen Mother thanking her for her kindness during the war years. It was lovely for mother to have that honour, a real treasure.
We will always reminisce about helping our country by “doing our bit”. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs H E Austin
Thanks for defibrillators
Sir, — I would like to thank you for the article publicising the public access defibrillators recently installed in Bix and Assendon at the village hall, Bix, the Golden Ball, Lower Assendon, and the Rainbow, Middle Assendon (Standard, September 4).
These are installed in easily accessible locations on external walls facing the respective car parks and adjacent roads.Access codes to the security cabinets are provided on an “as needed” basis by South Central Ambulance Service when a 999 medical emergency call is made.I would also like to add the parish council’s thanks, and I am sure that of residents, to those listed in the article as contributing funding for this project, particularly the private individuals, including the Bix Common Field Holders, and the tenants of the Golden Ball and the Rainbow, for allowing the security cabinets for the defibrillators to be installed on their premises and for meeting the cost of energy for the security cabinet emergency heating and LED lighting. Thanks, too, to Brakspear which undertook the fitting and wiring-in of the security cabinets as well as giving permission for the cabinets to be installed on their buildings. — Yours faithfully,
Robert Aitken Vice-chairman,
Bix & Assendon Parish Council,
My stream of music
Sir, — Here is my selection for “Temple Island Discs”: The Water Music — F Handel; Old Father Thames — Peter Dawson; The Good Ship Lollipop — Shirley Temple; Bourne Free — Matt Monro; Weir All Going On A Summer Holiday — Cliff Richard; Vole-are! — Dean Martin; Eau My Beloved Father — Puccini; The Stream Of Gerontius — Elgar.My book choice would be Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce and my luxury would be any painting by Canaletto.I will keep whichever 78rpm shellac disc survives the pounding waves. — Yours faithfully, Martyn Read Mout View Close, Henley Scrambled scorecard Sir, — After reading your scorecards for their victory over Oxford, Henley Cricket Club surely could not fail to wrap up the Home Countes Premier League title. Poor old Oxford apparently gave away an extra 10 runs to their opponents and could not win this match despite their batsman J Barrett scoring a massive 187 runs. I look forward to reading this week’s result and scorecard! — Yours faithfully, Brian Scrivener Elizabeth Road, Henley Editor’s comment: “Sorry, we did mess up the maths on the Henley scorecard and I am also sorry that the club failed to win the title on Saturday.”
Ode to the Sleeping Lion
Sir, — I wrote this poem in 2002. — Yours faithfully,
David M Page
The Sleeping Lion Pour the waters on my soulÂ
And quench the burning in my breast.Â
The foolishness of all I see surrounds me,Â
My family, English to the core, Â
Fought for freedomÂ Five hundred years and more. Â
But now they stream,Â
In countless hordes, onto our land,Â
Perhaps the Trojan Horse once more? Â
And still we silence keep,Â
Where now the lion? Â
Still in slumber deep?
Hospital to be treasured
Sir, — On Saturday, I had the misfortune to cut my thumb on a carving knife while washing up.
I patched myself up and continued with the day until I could stand the throbbing pain no longer. I don’t like to bother the NHS unnecessarily because it is overrun and this accident was my own stupid fault. I would like to thank the staff in the minor injury unit at Townlands Hospital for their prompt attention, excellent professional care and valuable after-care advice while they stitched up my thumb. I am very impressed and resolved to consider this facility as an essential Henley asset to be treasured. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I took this picture of birds flying through a rainbow from Friday Street on Tuesday evening last week. Some other people said you might like it. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — This photograph of a roadside bank with rose bay willowherb and cowparsley was taken near Ewelme.
With the fluffy white clouds and blue sky in the background, it was taken on a better day than some of those that we have been having recently. — Yours faithfully,