Letters March 31 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Alternative invasion of the coffee shops

SIR - Yes, they’re at it again. The old codgers of St Albans and surrounding locale with their MacBooks filled with draft complaint letters...interfering with mine and many others’ peace and quiet and frappachino. The other day, I thought I’d sneak into Cafe Nero (on the way to one of the many pound shops) and have a relaxing cup of coffee (soya only of course) with my civil partner. We were in luck - the place was empty. No sooner had I taken the first bite out of my vegan gluten-free brownie though, then the door opened, then again, then again-one after the other of middle-aged codgers, ageing bric-a-brac and walking sticks. Soon, the whole place was heaving with coughs, splutters, moans, old men groaning, staffs tempers frayed and grumpy old men jogging to the loos around the tables of hot drinks without any nursing care in the world and a whole load of mess on the floor. It was like an old people’s home without a leader to keep the old dears in tow. The whole atmosphere and ambience of the coffee house was spoiled in a matter of moments - the once relaxing music barely audible in the din of the over 50s ferociously typing their gripes. And it’s not just Caffe Nero. All coffee houses everywhere seem to be blighted by this old fart invasion, hell bent on destroying the peace of those who just want to chill out, meditate, read some Germaine Greer, or in the case of the hard working staff, just want to have a nice day at work. Jeez, I know that a lot of senior citizen centres have closed recently, and that private care homes cost a bomb these days, but why go why do you old geezers insist on spoiling the peace of others? That said, I do appreciate no-one has the divine right to silence. However, customers do have the right to enjoy their coffees in relative peace and quiet. If the noise was being made by children, I’m sure someone would write a letter to the Herts Ad. I have a cure. If some bright entrepreneur out there could open up a old sods-only coffee shop, with sound insulated walls, magnifying glasses, ear trumpets and a sign on the door saying miserable middle aged gits welcome here, I for one would cheer from my overpriced, flat balcony. Until then, please, if you have to visit with an over 50 whilst I am trying to write my screenplay and enjoy my chai latte, do think twice about coming in to shatter my silence. You’ll know what I mean when you speak to your daughters. I thank you!


Charmouth Road, St Albans No room for ageism in the workplace

SIR - Your front page story in last week’s Herts Ad re Alan Dove who recently won £63,000 after suffering age discrimination at work reveals a deeper crisis at the heart of today’s society. There is no doubt that the working world has changed much since I began mine in the late ‘seventies, where Sun Page 3 pictures could be found pinned up on many a corridor wall, very few women held positions of authority and were more likely to be found together in the typing pool - and sexism and workplace bullying were as ubiquitous as Kevin Keegan haircuts. Things should have got much better. They have, but have got worse in other ways. Now, employees’ performance is micro-monitored like never before, companies are hamstrung by reams of H&S and data protection regulation and political correctness hampers every sentence we utter lest we offend anyone. Although a raft of legislation exists to protect employees against bullying, racism, sexism etc, nothing concrete has been done to halt the tide of age discrimination against more senior members of staff - and it begins at the recruitment stage. Companies erroneously believe that employing predominantly younger workers gives an impression of vitality and vibrancy, yet there is much to be gained by having a balanced workforce; just ask B&Q who make a point of employing the over 50s. A significant proportion, not all of today’s youth have no sense of urgency, poor timekeeping and people skills, few manners, no sense of the importance of how to address older people and an obvious absence of diligence that some, not all older workers possess. If I had been given a pound for every time I’d been ignored when entering a shop or greeted with “Hello buddy, pal or matey” by a younger staff member, I’d be able to buy an Audi 4x4 by now! If younger people learnt a few more manners and improved their people skills, together perhaps with new ageism laws more rigorously enforced, then situations like the appalling denigration of a loyal and long standing employee such as Alan Dove will be consigned, like Page 3 pin-ups and typing pools were, to the dustbin of time. With age and experience comes a wisdom that cannot be possessed by youth. I know because I have been young once, thought I knew it all, but found that I knew so little compared to what I know now. Sadly, it is only with the passage of time that the cock-sure, know-it-all attitude of the younger whippet mellows. Those who saw to their not inconsiderable cost that Mr Dove’s life experience should be treasured rather than something to deride might set an example to all other firms out there thinking of cutting costs by cutting out their key assets, ie, mature staff members is that they mess with a middle-aged workforce at their peril. I thank you!

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Still confused over hospital’s future

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SIR - The future of St Albans City Hospital (SACH) and of hospital services in West Herts continues to be confused and uncertain, to say the least. The Strategic Review of health and social care in West Herts, called “Your Care Your Future”, has proposed several alternative plans about how to re-configure the district’s hospitals. One plan is to build one large new hospital to provide ALL hospital services on one site, but West Herts Hospitals Trust would probably build it in the grounds of Watford General Hospital (WGH). That plan implies the closure of SACH. A second plan is to refurbish WGH and SACH, to concentrate acute and emergency care at WGH and day surgery and diagnostics at SACH - safeguarding the future of SACH- and possibly to set up a “hub” to provide some health and social care services in our town centre. The Dacorum Patient Group has a plan of its own. This involves building a new acute and emergency hospital (in addition to WGH) adjacent to the A414 midway between Hemel and St Albans, and to set up a St Albans hub to provide more or less the services presently provided by SACH. Some of your readers might consider the second and third plans and ask a couple of questions: “Why build a hub when we already have a hospital?” and “Is it possible that because the NHS is short of money we might lose a functioning hospital but gain an ill-defined hub?” Those questions show the confusion and uncertainty and –indeed- outright rumour and speculation that surround this important topic, the future of St Albans City Hospital. I ask your readers to try to find out what’s going on by visiting “Your Care Your Future” at www.yourcareyourfuture.org.uk or e-mailing info@yourcareyourfuture@.org.uk I ask the Strategic Review team to decide which plan they prefer and to tell us without delay.

JOHN WIGLEY Chair St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group

‘Keep quiet and pay’

SIR - May I give Mr Winsor some advice re: his parking issue. He is lucky that the police have not given him an Fixed Penalty Notice for unecessary obstruction, parking in a dangerous position, and driving elsewhere than on a road, all of which would cost him more than a council ticket and could incur points. Keep quiet, pay the fine and park elsewhere until the council change the road layout

D WYLIE Watford Road, St Albans

Pilot was a pupil

SIR - I just wanted to share with you some feedback in response to a comment in your letters section. You ran an article on February 27 commemorating one of the Battle of Britain’s pilots, Geoff Gledhill. In response to one of the letters you published in the letters section on March 10, we can confirm that Sgt Pilot Gledhill was indeed a pupil at St Albans School leaving in 1937. Gareth Hughes, a parent of a former pupil of St Albans School (with a strong interest in history!) spent a considerable amount of time investigating the names on the School’s four War Memorials and reported that Gledhill, of the Royal Air Force, together with his Flight Commander, was killed in action in 1940. Together they attacked a greatly superior force of enemy aircraft and sadly were not seen after that. However their achievement was recognised by a special congratulatory telegram to the Squadron by the Commander-In-Chief.


Misinformation from Tories’ publicity

SIR - You have reported the sad news that developers have been granted conditional planning permission to demolish the Baton in Marshalswick. The Conservative councillors of this ward voted to approve the plans. In the Conservatives’ recent In Touch publicity it was incorrectly reported that the Marshalswick North Residents Association have nominated The Baton as an Asset of Community Value. In fact the ACV nomination was made by a group of local residents who believe Marshalswick deserves a family friendly pub at the heart of our community; we are the Baton Community Group. We hope that readers of this publicity are not taken in by the attempts to portray the terrible traffic and parking problems the development will cause as a great opportunity for the councillors who voted to approve it.

LINDSEY MCGREGOR Representative, The Baton Community Group Sherwood Avenue, St Albans

Sticking up for Christmas Market

SIR - I write as a Hertfordshire resident, who though not living in St Albans visits regularly. I found the 2015 Christmas Market a bit disappointing when compared to the previous year’s; however would not label the stall content all “tat’”. There were certainly a few excellent craftspeople there – particularly those offering some larger items of woodwork. I do hope that the Christmas Market will continue and thrive with even more interesting stalls – it is a lovely festive season focus within St Albans.


Armitage Close, Rickmansworth

Shocked by lack of Sparks card offers

SIR - Is there anyone else wondering what all the hype is about the introduction last year of the Sparks Loyalty Card programme. Being regular loyal M&S customers over the years, we have collected a staggering 24,000 points since it was first introduced last year and whilst we log-in every week to see what is on offer it bears no comparison to what is on offer to non-Sparks holders every week in store. We also used to enjoy their loyalty card for their coffee shop until it was discontinued and when questioned why we are told to go on line to see their “wonderful offers”. Rarely do we see anything of interest. This week for example the four offers are 20 per cent off bacon, 20 per cent off tinned tuna and salmon, five for four across fresh fruit,salads and veg and/or 20 per cent off cream cakes none of which we would rarely buy from M&S. Clothes - yes but prefer to see them first. Will the points ever be exchanged for anything of monetary value to encourage us to continue saving them ? I am one disillusioned customer. Are there any others ?

N SAGAR Cuckmans Drive, St Albans

No need for homes to remain empty

SIR - I read with considerable sympathy the plight of homeless Elizabeth Kerley, (60), in the March 3 edition of the Herts Advertiser. Among other things the article states that the local authority doesn’t regard her circumstances as urgent, even though she is sofa-surfing with her possessions all over the place which, according to her doctor, is affecting her health. Last summer I had a letter published which asked the open question as to why a ground-floor council studio flat in my block was done up swiftly after the previous occupants disappeared and then left vacant for about two to three months. In that letter I stated that the council seem to have a problem tapping a round peg into... a round hole. And indeed, when I had the opportunity to meet with a housing representative (for this particular area) on another matter sometime after the flat was reoccupied, I asked if she had read my article in the local paper (a paper which has frequent important opinions and articles regarding the housing problem in St Albans). She said she had not. So I asked about the two to three months of vacant excellent living space. She stated that it was difficult to find people to move in due to the flats being “studio” and not “one-bedroom” - people didn’t “bid” for them readily, preferring to wait for more “desirable” abodes. I’m sure I’m not the only person who sees something of a disparity here. Ms Kerley is sleeping on sofas. If she didn’t have friends able to put her up, where would she be? I know people who are sleeping in car parks. But I also know of at least one council property that is divided into flats designed for temporary housing and at any one time some of those flats remain vacant for considerable time. In my opinion, not one of these should be empty for any longer than a day or two, at most. Bureaucracy takes time. It doesn’t take that long for the myriad possible effects that personal homelessness can generate to take hold and cause great distress.

FINTAN BERMINGHAM Ladies Grove, St Albans