Saturday, 31 July 2021

Your letters

Intervention for the worse

Sir, — I would like to respond to our MP John Howell’s vitriolic letter (Standard, December 4) about myself and others’ views on the new Townlands “hospital”.

Until the end of last year it looked like at last all the work that done by the Townlands Steering Group over 12 years would come to fruition and the residents of Henley and surrounding parishes would be getting a new hospital with 18 beds.

All this changed at a meeting in February when David Smith, chief executive of the Oxfordshire Clinicial Commissioning Group, said a new plan was coming forward for the hospital. At public question time I asked for details of the plan and a lady produced an A5 piece of paper, stating: “This is the plan.”

What we have is a prototype hospital, or pilot scheme, yet we have no information on what the criteria are to let us know if it will be a success or failure.

If as, Mr Howell suggests, there is clinical evidence for meeting healthcare needs why have the steering group and the public not seen it?

The one thing I agree with him on is when he states: “I personally intervened with ministers to make sure it happened.”

Yes, he certainly did. When he intervened we had 18 beds and a new Peppard ward and when he had finished we had 14 hospital beds in a care home and even that has not been signed up yet.

The steering group and residents of Henley and the surrounding parishes have been positive throughout the past 12 years.

Unfortunately, they have come up against negative people and their organisations, which one has to suggest is the new government’s policy.

— Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Pursuing a promise

Sir, — I was appalled to read the missive from John Howell. Does he actually think that the best way to make his case is to be rude about those who criticise him?

Our town was promised a new hospital with a certain level of facilities. Our previous MP, Boris Johnson, added great support to the campaign which achieved that end. Perhaps we should ask him to open our new “hospital”?

The “ranters” identified by Mr Howell are doing no more than pursue what we were promised and trying to establish a number of facts, so I think he needs to be careful how he categorises people who disagree with his spin on what we are being given by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

The people he criticises are hardly “ranting”. All they are doing is expressing their views and asking questions (another good one is “where has the money gone?”), while we can equally ask Mr Howell what funding he, as our parliamentary representative, has secured for the new, much more expensive, model of care he claims to support.

Sorry, Mr Howell, but you haven’t helped keep our fully equipped hospital, you have been rolled over by the arguments of the commissioning group and swallowed them hook, line and sinker.You have failed to represent the interests of your constituents by failing to help secure what we were promised.

Presumably I’m now categorised as yet another “ranter”. Fair enough, but I know where my vote won’t be going in 2020. And while one swallow might not make a summer, don’t forget that mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

Maybe we would be better off with someone who is fully committed to our town.

—- Yours faithfully,

Mike Romans

Cromwell Road, Henley

Meaningless spin from MP

Sir,— With reference to John Howell’s letter, it is amazing what you can say through spin without really saying anything with any meaning.

According to our MP, we are going to get “up to 14 beds” and these beds are going to be “hospital-related”. Whatever is such a thing as a hospital-related bed?

And who is going to look after the patients, up to 14 of them at times? Are there fully trained nurses standing by at all times to care for them, or are these staff also “hospital-related” who just happen to be around? After all, anybody can be “hospital-related” if they work on the premises.

— Yours faithfully,

Ruth Gibson

Vicarage Road, Henley

Insults but no answers

Sir, — I see that John Howell has confirmed his paid-up credentials as a member of the “Nasty Party”.

He has followed his boss, the Prime Minister, in insulting any political opponents who wish to dispense an alternative truth.

I do not remember him opposing the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust or Henley’s GPs when they gave laser sharp opposition to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans for Townlands Hospital this year, or the 3,000 local residents who gave a thumbs down to pulling previously agreed beds out of our new hospital before it has even opened.

This time he has descended to a new low in trading insults with my friend, Ken Arlett. Of course, I use “friend” in the context of the Arabic proverb “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. However, I do wonder if Mr Howell has actually contravened resident confidentiality in letting it be known that Ken “talks through his backside”, his condition being known to only a close few.I do assure people reading this letter that it is a non- contagious condition.

Ken’s condition used to be cured with a procedure at Townlands Hospital called a “bottomectomy” in which the vocal cords were stretched from the posterior to the throat and brain.

Regretfully, since our MP’s divine interventions with the commissioning group, we no longer have a bedded or working hospital and it may be open only at some unknown date in the future.

Unfortunately. Ken, if we are to get you fit for purpose without delay, you will need to go to a private hospital.

My fond wish for Christmas and the New Year is that Mr Howell shows Councillor Ian Reissmann, chairman of the Townlands Steering Group, some of his covert diplomacy skills with decision-makers in high places and together they both develop answers to the questions I asked in these columns two weeks ago on the future of Townlands.

We still have no answers to these essential questions for the people of our town who deserve better. I shall keep asking through the medium of your newspaper about our white elephant. Remember, it is the only hope for us all.

— Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

A whiff of politics

Sir, — Assuming that “talking though his backside” is a congenital condition shared by politicians, one can only deduce that John Howell’s more ample proportions than those of Ken Arlett — at whom he aimed his propellant last week — enable him to be more adept at this motion.

I doubt that even the new Townlands Hospital, to which the two have evidently come to blows, will be sufficiently well-equipped to eradicate either of them of this condition, nor enable them to talk with the eloquence one would expect.

— Yours faithfully,

Michael Hodges

Station Road, Henley

Not fooled by propaganda

Sir,— John Howell’s letter seems to have come from the Ministry of Truth. He insists on calling a building with no beds and one NHS nurse a “hospital”.

But we are not fooled by his propaganda — calling a clinic a hospital does not make it one.

— Yours faithfully,

Dave Smewing

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Advocating nothing

Sir, — I am pleased that your correspondent Richard Creed seems to agree with at least one of the declared objectives of our elected government’s new policy regarding Syria (Standard, December 4).

Item 3 on his list stated that a (more) “realistic option” is to reduce the ability of Daesh/ISIL to sell oil or gain funds.

The precision bombing of oil installations (but not the wells themselves) to degrade Daesh/ISIL’s ability to access cash is exactly what the Government is doing, is it not?

Or perhaps Mr Creed is one of those pacifist hand-wringers who chooses to perceive no present or future danger from Daesh/ISIL and therefore really advocates doing nothing.

Meanwhile, I read John Howell’s letter with astonishment. I have been a Henley Standard reader for more than 40 years and I cannot remember such a rude letter from our MP.

Neither Michael Heseltine nor Boris Johnson would have written such a letter, I am sure.

Perhaps it indicates Mr Howell’s opinion of his constituents?

— Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

Good reason not to bomb

Sir — In his statement supporting air strikes on Syria (Standard, December 4), John Howell MP stated that the arguments against bombing do not have any validity.

In fact, the arguments against were well made in the recent parliamentary debate and many MPs had real difficulty in making up their minds.

The current situation in Syria is confused, with the country being bombed by the US, the French, the Russians and the Syrian air force.

We have now added ourselves to the list and will be held jointly responsible by the Syrian civilians for the harm being done to them. They can hardly be expected to know the origin of a bomb that falls on them in the middle of the night.

The actions of our handful of aircraft when compared with the US deployment is unlikely to have any significant impact on ISIL but by joining in with the bombing of Syria we will have lost a diplomatic advantage and increased the risk of terrorist activity directed against our citizens at home and abroad.

We should also remember that the cost of a two-aircraft sortie is about £1million.

The major failing of the parliamentary motion was that it did not mention ground troops or a comprehensive strategy for either beating ISIL, or replacing them subsequently with a viable Syrian government. It also ignored the correlation between bombing and refugees.

Henley Labour Party had a full debate on this issue the day before the parliamentary vote. Members voted by a large majority against air strikes.

This was not because members wanted to do nothing. We felt that David Cameron’s proposal was so simplistic that to go ahead with it would not be in the best interests of the British people or the Syrians.

— Yours faithfully,

David Winchester

Secretary, Henley Constituency Labour Party

Drivers lack knowledge

Sir, — With reference to Helen Holbrook’s letter concerning the Fair Mile road markings (Standard, December 4), it’s always best to check the facts before writing to a newspaper to offer advice on something as important as driving law.

The national speed limit section of Fair Mile has a lane separator surrounded by dashed, not solid, lines.

There is no law against using the marked area for overtaking when it is safe to do so. The area should be considered to be a wider than the usual dotted white line and can be crossed in the same way. If the border was a solid line then it should not be crossed.

Centre hatched areas like this are used deliberately by highways agencies on roads that may previously have been considered to be dangerous in an attempt to reduce overtaking. The reduction is caused by a large number of drivers not knowing the regulations, having not kept up with changes in traffic law and regulation since they took a driving test.

These drivers tend to avoid driving over any lines, just in case, rather than learning what they mean.

You can see this on most days on Fair Mile when a car is turning left and the following drivers brake almost to a stop rather than move out on to the hatchings and pass.

I feel it best not to comment here on the suggestion that flower containers should be placed in the centre of a high speed road.

— Yours faithfully,

Martin Hoare


Mo’s in with the bricks

Sir, — I am writing in response to Thomas Ford’s letter regarding the kebab van in Greys Road car park (Standard, November 27).

I do not see a problem with this and am glad that Mo has his pitch back.

He has been in the town since I can remember and I do not understand what harm he is doing.

With regards to the litter and vomit, this can be anywhere in any town and feel it is slightly unfair to link that to Mo. I also do not understand why “with all the pleasantries the kebab will attract” you have to be certain someone to enjoy a kebab. This is not all the van serves.

I suggest Mr Ford lets people trying to run a business get on with it as there would probably be a moan if they weren’t working.

Henley has its magic and a kebab van has not changed that!

— Yours faithfully, Alice Eggleton


What a palaver

Sir, — As I read your article on Goring residents trying to find out what was going on with Tesco’s plans for the old Queen’s Arms pub (Standard, December 4), I was reminded of the opening scenes of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

I assume that the only reason that the plans were not “on display” but locked in the bottom of a filing cabinet in a disused toilet with a sign on the door reading “Beware of the leopard” was because either Tesco couldn’t find a cellar with no stairs or working lights, or was afraid of being sued by the estate of the late (and great) Douglas Noel Adams.

Heavens to Murgatroyd, what a palaver!

— Yours faithfully,

Simon Brickhill

Goring Heath

Better beer benefactor

Sir, — Lacking in Christmas spirit my response may be, but I shall not be rushing four miles to Goring to collect my free pint.

Brakspear was quite happy to leave our village without any pub after successive managers could not sell enough of its beer nor cope with the rent. Without the generosity of a local inhabitant who bought The Sun, we should be pintless and without the focus enjoyed in village pubs for centuries.

Fortunately, our benefactor now owns a successful free house which, quite justifiably, does not show Brakspear’s beer clips on the counter.

— Yours faithfully,

David Giles

Hocketts Close, Whitchurch Hill

Well done for getting Elton

Sir, — Well done to the Henley Festival for securing such a big star as Elton John.

As far as I know, the festival’s way of selling tickets hasn’t changed.

— Yours faithfully,

Jemima Hume-Humphreys


Thanks for generosity

Sir, — We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have collected for this year’s Harpsden Poppy Appeal and to all those people who have been so generous in their support with donations.

We are happy to report that the total collected is £4,600.

— Yours faithfully,

Hilary Andrews and Helen Karim

Poppy Appeal organisers for Harpsden

Excellent effort

Sir, — Just to let you know that the donations to the Mayor’s charity fund from the exhilarating Santa fun run are still coming in online.

However, as I write, the online figure is at £1,490 and I collected £150 outside the River and Rowing Museum on Sunday. I don’t know how this compares with previous years but it is an excellent effort.

Thanks go to the town councillor participants — the Mayor Lorraine Hillier (and Mayoress Susan George), Helen Chandler-Wilde, Sam Evans and her dog Humphrey and Will Hamilton.

Thanks also to Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes for arranging the excellent hot chocolate and brownies and for the Quince Tree café for providing them and Councillor Dave Eggleton for his seasonally resplendent motor bike. Season’s greetings.

— Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Nimmo Smith

Henley Town Council, St Andrew’s Road, Henley

You forgot my wife!

Sir, — Last week you  published a strikingly generous 90th birthday tribute to me; far exceeding what I  merited.

But you managed to omit any mention of the one factor that truly makes old age tolerable, even exciting: my wife of 28 years, Sheelin, who fills the house with sunshine even when there is none outside.

— Yours faithfully,

Sir Alistair Horne


Sensational sunrise before the storm

Sir, — I took this photograph on Saturday in a 10-minute window before Storm Desmond struck! — Yours faithfully,

Jo Duncan

Rotherfield Greys

Sir, — Tony Stevens, who was featured in your article last week about the Sue Ryder Christmas appeal, will be well known to users of Eye and Dunsden village hall where he has been caretaker for the last four years.

In his time as caretaker he made many improvements to the grounds and has been involved in our plans to update this old Victorian building with improved facilities for users and a new entrance and lobby.

As a keen fund-raiser for the hall, he ran monthly bingo sessions and helped on the door and bar at village hall events such as our popular open air theatre event on July 19, our last event before Tony was diagnosed with cancer.

He always manned the gate and organised the parking at our annual bonfire event and he was determined to do so this year on October 30, despite being in a wheelchair.

This summer he was also planning a joint fund-raiser with his friends Debs and Kaeti to raise money for the hall and the local scout group but due to his illness it has had to be postponed.

It is now planned to be held in April or May and, although Tony may not be able to be there, we hope as many people as possible will attend to make it a success. Details will be on the hall’s social media and website next year.

Tony took special pride in the hall, which he has known all his life having been born in Dunsden and been to school at the hall.

He took on the job of caretaker at short notice when the previous caretakers left and while he was still at the Jet garage in Henley. He loved the job and was very popular with users and always ready to lend a helping hand.

As he was the only paid employee, albeit part-time, when he became unable to work we were left in a difficult position and we are still trying to find a replacement for him.

His shoes have been hard to fill as he did more than the hours we paid him so we may have to split the job and find a cleaner and someone local to look after the grounds and maintenance.

Tony is a real character and we continue to give what support we can in recognition of the support he has given the hall over the years.

— Yours faithfully,

Beth Timms

On behalf of the trustees of Eye and Dunsden village hall, Dunsden Green

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