Thursday, 17 June 2021

Your Letters...

Sir, — With reference to the pending council cuts in day services for elderly people (Standard, December 2), I would like to make a few comments.

Over the years, various Governments have made it possible, via the NHS, for people to live longer. Having achieved that, what do they do? Move the goal posts!

The pension age is moved from 65 to 67. Women now retire at the same age as men (under the guise of equal rights).

Care homes, nursing homes and geriatric hospitals are closed down or driven out of business by starvation of funds. One-to-one care in the home is restricted to as little as one hour per day. Old people are kept in hospital blocking beds because there is nobody out there to care for them.

People are living longer and longer, so the problem will continue to grow.

Okay, it is not all negative as the Government has given a little on pensions and a free TV licence and home heating allowance.

But this is a mere drop in the ocean compared with the amount that has been taken away.

Having now been a one-to-one 24/7 carer for six years, I can talk from experience.

We have seen four different specialist consultants and tried various medications but the condition worsens every year.

Unless one has worked with and cared for a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s one cannot comprehend the devastating destruction that it causes.

From a highly intelligent being with a first class honours degree and a senior position with an international engineering consultancy to one who can no longer undertake simple household chores, dress and undress, shower or bath, find their way around the home, read a book, follow a TV programme or go for a walk unaided.

More and more people are developing this terrible condition every year.

The Bluebells Community Club, run by Age UK, does a fantastic job running a day centre in Henley on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

They are real experts at caring for old people who suffer with dementia and who have little or no help or care during the day.

To reduce or remove this fabulous service would be nothing short of criminal when there are so many other areas where money could be raised. As an example:

l School buses. Buses are used every day to take children to and from Gillotts and primary schools. Why should one of the richest neighbourhoods in the area have free transport? Dropping just one bus, or charging for the service for a week, would be enough to subsidise a community club for a week. Parents who use the bus service for their children are saving a considerable amount of money not using their cars. They can afford it.

l Free meals. All children aged five, six and seven get free school meals at primary school. They should either pay or take a packed lunch.

l The South Oxfordshire District Council newsletter. To create the content, print and circulate must cost at least £1 per household. That would pay for a care community for the year. What is wrong with putting it on the council’s website? It could even be done as a supplement to the Henley Standard or as a free newspaper.

Let me just leave you with this:

“Someone new has moved into my home. Sometimes I feel we have met before but some time ago.

She looks like my wife and even sounds like her but the person under that skin I really do not know.

I rise at seven and make a cup of tea and choose clothes and trinkets for her approval for the day.

She drinks her tea while watching the morning news but can’t understand what those people say.

Oh so very tactfully, I suggest that a hot shower may feel good and what about a nice shampoo?

It takes her ages to get dried and clothed and agreeing to my selection and wearing something new.

Then over breakfast every day we have the same conversation. Who am I and do I have a job?

Do I know her parents and brother who live down in Somerset and John her teenage heartthrob?

She no longer drives, shops, cooks, cleans or reads a book but does enjoy a bit of washing-up.

It has to be done again as running it under the cold tap doesn’t shift the dirt from plate or cup.

She used to love a walk but has aches and pains and now needs company as she will get lost.

So I hire a carer to walk with her on her favourite routes. Such a great service at very little cost.

Her day is filled with counting clothes pegs and other such strange and totally meaningless tasks.

Then evenings are the dreaded times as the darkness fills her with fear and many questions asks.

‘Is this my house? Is this where I live? Don’t I live further down the road?

‘It’s dark and very late — are the children in yet? It’s time they were in bed.

‘What’s happening to me, my head’s in a state?’

‘Are my mum and dad still alive? Where are they living and do they know where I am tonight?’

The same questions not once or twice but again and again. Nothing I say can possibly be right.

She packs her bags to return to Somerset because that is where she thinks her family still exists.

When told that that was over 50 years ago she will dissolve into tears and the sad charade persists.

This will last until 10pm when it is time for bed when she will sleep and rest her tormented mind.

All we can do is offer comfor reassurance and love. We just need to be tolerant and very kind.

She was such a brilliant lady with first class honours degree and at the top of the company tree.

Skilled at bridge and so well read with a personal library of hundreds of ‘heavy reading’ books.

A worldwide traveller, great hostess and a fashion queen so well known for grace and looks. It has now been six worrying years of tests and consultations since first we noticed the decline.

We have seen all the medics and nothing can be done. Sadly, it is just now just a matter of time.” — Yours faithfully,

Edward Harding

Lower Shiplake

Vital support will continue

Sir, — There is a number of clarifications required to your coverage of the future of daytime support services in Oxfordshire.

Firstly, the county council is not saying it will not provide transport. We will provide transport for people with eligible care needs.

In all cases clubs can use the Oxfordshire Comet if they wish.

We very much hope voluntary organisations will continue to run services. We have £250,000 of continued grant funding and we will support organisations to find alternative sources of funding.

It should be pointed out that there are about 200 voluntary sector daytime support services of one sort or another in Oxfordshire.

Only 47 of those receive any grant funding from the council, so more than 150 operate (and have done so for many years) without any funding from us. The people attending the Henley Day Service all have eligible needs.

Therefore whatever happens to the building in which they currently receive a service, all the people who use it will continue to have a service from the county council specifically because they have an eligible need.

They will continue to receive support for sport, hydrotherapy etc and that’s under either model currently being consulted upon.

They will have exactly the same eligibility for support as currently. — Yours faithfully,

Benedict Leigh

Lead commissioner (adults), Oxfordshire County Council

Caring staff in hospices

Sir, — My 34-year-old daughter Lucy recently spent the last week of her life in the Countess Mountbatten Hospice near Southampton, where she lived.

I would just like to endorse Kelly Williams’s view of hospices (Standard, December 2).

They are not all doom and gloom, they are staffed by very caring and uplifting people, who are willing to help not just patients but also their relatives in any way they can. The whole place had a very positive atmosphere. — Yours faithfully,

Pamela King

Pangbourne

How to curb unruly youths

Sir, — I refer to your story headlined “Police crack down on youths causing disturbance at night” (Standard, December 2).

I live near the affected area in Sonning Common and they do indeed cause a disturbance.

As a woman, I avoid visiting the shops after dark because of the groups congregating there. More than once I’ve experienced sexist harassment and once somebody spat at my feet.

But before reaching for intrusive, high-resolution CCTV, there is a number of things that could be done to combat the problem.

The area seems practically designed to attract groups of teens, cars and drugs what with its covered plastic bus stop, benches, shops open much later than necessary, poorly maintained, broken front lots, cracked, uneven pavements with large patches of water, ugly Sixties architecture, an off-licence, three takeaways, dingy or non-existent street lighting and a hidden car park behind the One Stop shop all within feet of each other. What do town planners expect? CCTV will go a good way towards making the area feel even more downbeat and intimidating.

Why should villagers put up with being spied on over what is an eminently solvable problem? Plenty of other villages in the area manage it.

I’d suggest removing these bus stops — there is another one not far away — spreading the benches out along the road, getting more retail variety with shops closing at a more appropriate time for a village, tidying up the area by replacing the broken concrete with something people have more respect for, removing the shops’ front parking lots (which are always clogged and inaccessible anyway), putting a gate across the back parking lot, which is closed at night, double yellow lines on the main road, planting a few trees and installing better lights.

It would also help if the One Stop shop and post office employed at least a few local people with the confidence and vested interest in disrupting this behaviour. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address
supplied

Our young need cadets

Sir, — I read that a number of “youths” have been visited by the police in connection with antisocial behaviour in Sonning Common (Standard, December 2).

Who can blame them if there is nothing for them to do?

This problem will soon arise in Henley if nothing is done to provide something meaningful for our “youths”.

The Henley Army Cadet Force and Henley Air Training Corps will soon succumb to the same fate as the Henley Youth Centre and be shut down and forgotten about.

Our Friday Street building is on the Defence Secretary’s list for military estates to be closed (with our closure meant to happen in 2014) and the site has been earmarked in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan to provide 10 new homes by 2027.

So this is a plea for people to assist in our struggle to find us a suitable site before we succumb to the same fate as the youth centre.

What else is there for young people of Henley to do?

The cadets and air training corps currently have a combined 75 cadets, all aged between 12 and 18.

We provide them with challenging and progressive training based on military themes, instructing them on values and standards — essentially turning young teenagers into respectable young adults.

I must also add that all the instructors, including myself, are volunteers and do what we do for the young people of Henley.

Anyone who was at the Remembrance Sunday parade in Henley could watch these proud young people parade in front of their loved ones.

This may not happen in five years’ time and what else is there for young people to do?

So may I ask that more consideration is given to us for the sake of the future young people of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

2nd Lt Thomas Fearn

Henley Detachment Commander, Oxfordshire (The Rifles) Army Cadet Force

Henley MP John Howell responds: “I much enjoyed my visit to the Henley Army Cadets on August 31.

“My daughter has had a very fruitful association with the naval cadets, so I support the excellent opportunities the cadets make available for young people in the area.

“I do not believe that Thomas’s fears of being shut down and forgotten about will occur — the cadets are too much part of town life.

“The Government is keen to increase the number of units. In schools, for example, ministers have a target to expand the number of CCFs by 145. Banking fines worth around £50 million are committed to the cadet expansion programme, which will increase the number of cadet units in state schools to 500 by 2020.

I know this applies to schools but it is a good indication of the importance which we give to this issue.”

Facts can’t be airbrushed

Sir, — I’m flattered that Harpsden Parish Council chairman Kester George took the trouble to follow up on my recent letter (Standard, December 2).

I am mystified as to how it could be inferred that I blamed John Howell for the predicament we’re in with our neighbourhood plan.

I was simply bemoaning the discrepancy between his version of events and the reality as we know it — a classic example of Trump’s post-truth with indisputable facts simply airbrushed away as if they didn’t exist. — Yours faithfully,

Trevor Howell

Blandy Road, Henley

The sound of silence...

Sir, — Thank you for covering the story of the Henley resident who is having an issue with the noise from the local primary school next door — it took me right back to an experience I had while on holiday this summer in France.

While there I visited a small village similar in size to Henley and set in idyllic countryside.

The entrance to the village takes you past a cinema- screen sized photo of the local primary school class.

The composition is classic and timeless: the children in the front row cross-legged, behind them another row standing and a third row behind them, possibly on a bench.

All the characters you would expect are there: the neat girls, some smiling confidently, others shy, all mixed up among the slightly scruffy boys.

They are flanked by their teachers and the scene is identical to the many similar pictures I have that chart the progress of my own children when they passed through Trinity Primary School.

A division of the SS arrived in this French village in June 1944. They locked all the women, children and infants in the church. They then smashed the stained glass windows and threw in grenades. Everyone in that huge photo was in the church.

After the war, President De Gaulle decreed that the whole site be left as a memorial and a new town be built nearby.

Today, as you stand in the ruins of the church in the pin drop silence, you can see the lead from the windows distorted into grotesque shapes as they were blown outwards from the force of the explosions within. On the floor is the remains of a rusting pram.

As I left Oradour-sur-Glane, holding the hand of my 11-year-old a little too tightly, the wind direction changed.

It carried a sound on it, faint at first in the clear summer air, but then quickly growing stronger and more distinct. It was of the children of the modern day school nearby, playing during their break.

The sound made me stupendously grateful that I live in RG9 in 2016.

Here I can read the Henley Standard with its coverage of parish council intrigue, missing cats, potholes and stories about noisy playing children. Keep up the good work. — Yours faithfully,

Damien D’Souza

Queen Street, Henley

Support our branch line

Sir, — I refer to recent letters regarding electrification and the Henley branch line service proposals.

Hurrah to the Henley Branch User Group for finally coming out and stating the obvious that an improved off-peak daytime service will benefit the vast majority of branch users.

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes has described having a half-hourly service with consistent timings and connections as a “no-brainer” for the town.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith (with a remit for Oxfordshire transport) has retweeted his support and our MP John Howell has tweeted that, of course, he supports development.

Pretty unanimous for this side of the river, then.

But let’s clear up some confusion. There has been some talk of rush hour services and swarms of disrupted commuters yet none of the proposed plans affect rush hour services!

There has been some talk of a 30-minute service on the main line and thus longer waits if the daytime branch frequency remains at 45 minutes.

No, there is a main line service every 15 minutes. What’s important is consistent timings and connections, hour in, hour out, when both run to a 30-minute schedule.

Some have said that a tight- running branch line leaves no space for waiting and therefore lots of people stranded at Twyford.

Well, no. With a 15-minute main line frequency it would be entirely possible to schedule a 14-minute wait time every single time. The question is of optimum connecting time.

Some have said we await the timetables. These have been with user groups since mid-October.

And guess what? Generally, four to five minutes for onward connection to London (across the platform), six to nine minutes coming back. That’s three for the footbridge at Twyford and there’s the time left for minor disruption. Pretty good!

Hourly service for Wargrave? Well, every train from Twyford stops once at Wargrave — two trains an hour. One is direct and one indirect but it will be entirely possible (albeit not ideal) to travel via Shiplake if a direct train is not available, at marginal extra cost, and arrive within approximately 45 minutes of the previous train, as now.

So what of electrification and the suggested death of the line under continued diesel service?

Last week Henley Trains (Henleytrains@gmail.com) met with Great Western Railway managing director Mark Hopwood who explained that a considerable number of diesel trains will need to stay in service for the Greenford, Windsor, Marlow, Henley, North Downs (Gatwick), Basingstoke and Didcot-Oxford services.

He is confident on there being sufficient maintenance capability but he also said that early experience of main line electrics is one of better reliability, bringing improvement to our commuter experience as they start to serve Reading-London (and ultimately us on the branch).

Mr Hopwood advised that GWR is still working on means to provide an all-station, all-train branch service regardless of electrification and our MP has had confirmation that electrification is a deferral, not a cancellation.

When electrification reaches Reading (don’t hold your breath), we can expect further improvement.

While through-branch services may stop, connecting trains at Twyford will be bigger — and both user groups and GWR would like those trains to be GWR trains with hat-racks and toilets and more seats than Crossrail.

With a dedicated branch shuttle, we can expect there to be more services in the peak and better punctuality than now.

So don’t believe all the doom and gloom that lands on these pages.

However, I think that if we — everyone on the branch line — wish for longevity and long-term improvement, we should stand up and support efforts being made on our behalf. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Henley Trains, Blandy Road, Henley

Time to ditch Leaping Lady

Sir, — I think it is time that Henley called time on the “Leaping Lady” statue on the Reading Road roundabout.

It has very little visual impact unless seen up close and would be more appropriate at a recreational area where children play or people exercise rather than in the middle of a busy road at the gateway to Henley.

The fact that it is continually being vandalised is another good reason to move it.

I am sure that the good people of Henley and regular visitors like me would prefer to see the lovely old boat filled with flowers restored to that site, or a sculpture of some rowers maybe?

These would be far more indicative of the Henley ethos. — Yours faithfully,

Andrea Golder

Sonning Common

Don’t be coy about corners

Sir, — Why is everybody so coy? The curved metalwork and domes in the corners of churches are to stop men urinating in a dark corner. — Yours faithfully,

Jane Pryce

Butcher will be missed

Sir, — Keith Whiting of Shiplake Butchers is selling up (Standard, November 25). Oh dear.

A lot of local gossip was exchanged outside the butchers on a busy Saturday morning or crammed together inside the shop.

I used Keith’s shop for many years until my local shop, Binfield Heath Stores, starting to stock a good selection of Gabriel Machin’s meat. So if the Shiplake Butchers ceases to exist in the future, you do have a local source equal to Keith’s quality supplies. I wish Keith good wishes for the future — what he has done for the area is so appreciated. Thank you, Keith.

Who remembers when Mr Gash ran Shiplake Butchers and Mr Pullar was a dentist in Henley? There must be lots more appropriate names out there. It would be fun to hear of them. — Yours faithfully,

Shirley Cooke

Shiplake Cross

Please keep town clean

Sir, — I have lived in Henley town centre for 27 years.

As the town invents more ways to attract visitors in order for local businesses to prosper, it does seem that the local authority and various Henley organisations have forgotten what it means to invest in clean-ups.

As a result of the Christmas Festival on Friday the town looked an absolute disgrace the following morning.

All the litter bins were overflowing until late morning and the pavements were filthy.

I felt ashamed to show family visitors the way around the town.

We must invest in more efficient litter collections around the town centre and the pavements should be washed regularly.

All those businesses that gain extra revenue from the Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Festival, Henley Literary Festival etc. should be asked to contribute to extra litter collections and a thorough clean of the pavements after each occasion should be mandatory.

This town needs visitors but the thousands of people who live here should expect and demand a much cleaner environment for shopping and walking.

Years ago shopkeepers would regularly sweep and wash down the pavements outside their premises — what happened to that practice?

If that is not to happen, Henley must invest in a pavement-cleaning machine on an urgent basis. — Yours faithfully,

Maureen Dougall

Station Road, Henley

What a great festival night

Sir, — All wrapped up against the autumnal evening, the streets alive with excited children and their festive parents.

The shops enjoying late-night custom and in some cases dispensing free mince pies and mulled wine. What a splendid event was the Christmas fair evening in the town centre of Henley.

Gluhwein, hot dogs, doughnuts and hot chocolate as well as a funfair with all the usual attractions.

Well done to the committee which organised the event and to the fairground operators, who had removed all evidence by the following morning.

The town returned to a normal Saturday trading, except for the uncollected piles of rubbish! — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh

Henley

Great.. apart from Santa!

Sir, — On behalf of the eight of us (ranging in ages from three to 40-plus) who visited the Henley Christmas Festival together on Friday and had such a lovely time, I would like to give big thanks to Paula Price-Davies, who works so hard so that we can all have a fun night, and to all the town council’s office team, who I saw picking up litter in the drizzle as we headed home.

Just one sour note — the Santa from the otherwise magical lantern parade who decided to de-robe and de-beard in full view of distressed children queuing to see the (fantastic) Santa provided by Tesco in the King’s Arm Barn grotto.

Such a shame after everyone else’s hard work. Please can we send that Santa back to the North Pole for next year! — Yours faithfully,

Tom Ryan

River Terrace, Henley

Sadness at Christmas

Sir, — This is sent with love to sad people at Christmas. — Yours faithfully,

Christine King

Gallowstree Common

Suddenly the trees are bare.
Autumn’s brief fires are rotting under foot,
Branches are scimitars, iced with killing teeth
And berries take the place of sun-warmed days
Bringing their joy.
Advent. Coming.

Happy families plan for gifts and food and smiles,
Re-living loving times and sighing.
They never make them come again
But they try anyway.

A little family, Mum and Dad and son
Will never have such Christmases again.
They are to part.
Planning, at night, the practicalities
Of who will have
The forks, the wedding gift from Gran,
The fridge, the table.

But have they planned the conversations?
“You will be with Dad this year but we will Skype
And you can show me all your toys.
No, Gran won’t be there. And nor will Jim or Tabs.
Or me,
But they will send you lots of licks and purrs
And I will send you kisses.
We’ll have another Christmas, and you’ll have more toys.
No, Dad won’t be there. But you can Skype
And show him all your presents.
I don’t know. Perhaps another year.
We’ll have a new home then
And you can choose your room.”

And so, for birthdays, Easter, holidays
The conversations, ripping at their hearts,
Go on.
And life is never quite the same again.

Thank you for support

Sir, — The Henley Volunteer Drivers (previously the Henley Volunteer Bureau) held a street collection in Henley on Friday, November 18.

In spite of a very cold day, and competition from the Christmas fair, £177 was collected.

We are grateful to the people of Henley for continuing to support us.

This collection not only raises money but also promotes the driving service that we offer and presents an opportunity to recruit new drivers.

Anyone interested in driving can call our office on (01491) 572923. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

Thanks for generosity

Sir, — I would be most grateful if you can please pass on sincere thanks to Andy Goodman, manager of the Henley Waitrose store, and his team for kindly agreeing to allow us to carol sing in the store on Saturday to raise much-needed funds for Cancer Research UK.

Although we have sung in the store at Christmas over several prior years, we have never raised this much: an astonishing £801.56 was donated by customers this year in just over three hours.

So I would also like to thank sincerely all those Waitrose customers who donated so generously.

In addition, I would like to pass on a big thank-you to the 20 volunteers who sang and collected with me on the day. — Yours faithfully,

Jill Grinsted

Fundraising volunteer, Cancer Research South Oxfordshire, Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

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