Letters, May 22, 2014

Superheroes of #SuperStAlbans

SIR – Very many thanks to some lovely people who came to my assistance recently when I fell in St Peter’s Street. They were so kind and I feel lucky to live in St Albans.

YVONNE BUTTOLPH Hall Place Gardens, St Albans

SIR – May I through your letter pages thank everyone who contributed to the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) street collection in Marshallswick on April 26? The £295.49 donated will be used in the occupied West Bank and Gaza where MAP is the only charity permitted by the Israelis to provided medical assistance. Under the terms of the Israeli blockade, now in its fifth year, many basic food items, drugs and medical supplies are prevented from entering Gaza, including x-ray machines, electronic imaging scanners, laboratory equipment, batteries and spare parts required for the equipment used in MAP clinics. As a result, some patients with treatable ailments either die or are left with permanent disabilities. Children are particularly adversely effected, as a recent report by Save the Children and MAP has highlighted. Those interested in learning more about the work of MAP can visit www.map.org.uk The next MAP collection will be in Harpenden on Saturday, June 28. Anyone willing to assist should contact me on 01727 861247 or by email at dave6637@aol.com.

DR RD LEIGH Gibbons Close, Sandridge

Fond memories of a wonderful doctor

SIR – The obituary in the Herts Advertiser (April 17) was a reminder to me of the wonderful care I received from Dr Hawkins over more than 20 years. He was a lot more than just a good GP, he was a really lovely man. Astute and gentle, he always sent you away feeling in better spirits and better able to cope. He was a wise man realising that often the time he gave you was worth more than any prescription. It was refreshing to encounter his commonsense approach to what seemed complex issues. Long before scans were available for pregnant women and when x-rays were to be avoided if possible, he correctly predicted the birth of my twin daughters (Charlie and Nicky McCay, now 48 years) 10 weeks before their arrival! His support and encouragement in the years that followed were a life saver on many occasions. I was so sad when he retired but grateful to have been fortunate enough to have been given such good care at such an important time in my life.

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MARGARET STONE Orchard Street, St Albans

Anti-social disposal of dog waste

SIR – Disposing of your dog’s “leavings” is a three stage process: 1) Take bags out with you when you go walkies, 2) bag up any deposits, and 3) dispose of used bags responsibly (i.e. in some form of designated receptacle, NOT the low hanging branches of a tree). What kind of person does stages one and two, but not three? I ask because not far from my house is an electricity substation with a high wall round it. Just outside it is an ever growing pile of bagged up dog excrement. It took one of the local mums to explain to me what is going on. Dog owners are kindly throwing their full bags over the high wall then periodically, when some work needs to be done on the substation, the workmen pick up all the bags and put them neatly by the gates. When the council come round to cut the grass... It’s disgusting and my children along with many other local children have to walk past this sight every day on their way to primary school. My natural inclination is to blame dog owners, but that wouldn’t be true, anti-social and thoughtless people are all around us, naturally a certain percentage of them will have dogs. Owning a dog doesn’t cause moronic behaviour, it just creates an extra way for morons to exhibit moronic behaviour. Even then though suggesting that this is just a symptom of a background level scumminess in wider society doesn’t seem quite right. A truly thoughtless person wouldn’t even have embarked on step one, let alone step two. The people I am talking about obviously know and agree that it is their responsibility to clean up after their dog – they aren’t complete morons – so I am truly baffled as to what is going on. If any two stage poo collectors would dare to admit to it in these pages I would be genuinely interested to understand your rationale. But what I really want to say is this: if you haven’t done all three stages, you haven’t disposed of anything.

NICK CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

No surprises about Cyril Smith

SIR – The newspaper reports regarding the shocking behaviour of Cyril Smith MP whilst disgusting to read will come as no surprise to those who lived and worked in and around Rochdale at that time. As a trainee teacher on work placement at Rochdale college I was told that the reality of his character was far removed from the political image created for him . Although I never met him, rumours of his of his dodgy nature were common and people did feel that things about him were being hushed up.

TONY LEACH Langley Crescent, St Albans

Don’t blame the staff for loo policy

SIR – I have never written to a newspaper before, but I must on this occasion following the vastly different tones of the letters from Margaret Metcalfe and Elizabeth Dumpleton in the issue of May 8. I worked for many years on the first floor of BHS, but left five years ago. No one from the store has asked me to write or knows that I have done so. During my time, there were endless complaints from the public regarding “the state of the loos”. Sadly, some people deliberately left the facilities in such an appalling state, we regularly had to close them anyway. Obviously, the store is trying to prevent this situation, plus resolving any other issues, by introducing the new paying customers only policy along with Waterstone’s bookshop who presumably were experiencing similar problems. However, may I point out that none or the rights or wrongs of this are the fault of the sales staff! They must be having a very difficult time. Please ladies and gents, don’t take it out on them! What do all the needy folk do in their urgency in Tescos I wonder? At least BHS has kept its conveniences for paying customers!

MEG RYAN Alzey Gardens, Harpenden

Wrong move to shoot rhea bird

SIR – At the time I am typing this I have just read of the rhea, known as Rita, being shot and killed by a gamekeeper in Royston. Whilst I understand the danger the bird posed and the shooters motive to prevent a road accident, I still feel as if killing this wonderful species of bird and turning it into sausages was by no means the best option. What if the bird could be anaesthetised with a dart gun? That would stop the need for the administrator of the anaesthetic to be close to this fairly dangerous (but still extraordinary) bird and that could mean that the bird could be donated to a nearby zoo or wildlife park which could give it the care it needs. Unfortunately it appears that the rhea was shot as a safety measure, with large talons and lightning speed it makes sense to stop this threat to people. Perhaps it was a knee jerk reaction from the gamekeeper? Well maybe he has saved the bird from a more grisly fate such as a car hitting it. However, I am sure that many will feel deeply saddened by the murder of this animal which will now become a show-piece in a butcher’s window rather than being given a second chance.

LOUIS THOMAS (aged 14) Ramsbury Road, St Albans

Roundwood must listen to residents

SIR – With regard to the proposed granting of a music licence for Roundwood School which featured in your paper of May 1, in the absence of any precise details concerning the governors’ intentions it is extremely unlikely for one to commence an intelligent debate on the subject. For example, is it the intention that daily usage of these facilities will occur at the times suggested in your article (i.e. up to 11pm five days a week and 2am for the remainder); who will monitor the noise levels; who will be in charge each time the premises are used; how many people are expected to make use of this offer and when will the school decide to close its books? I feel these questions, and many others, require answers: the residents should not be expected to tolerate further encroachment on their space without proper controls being enforced. Park Hill is, no doubt, going to be affected by an increase in traffic yet no-one has had the courtesy to advise us that a music licence was in the process of being sought. Furthermore, what justification is there to require a licence until 2am; this is a residential area that has to daily adjust to vast numbers of journeys to and from the school. Quite often the traffic is certainly exceeding the 30mph speed limit, especially late evening after night classes, etc., have finished. Why should we have to expect more of the same? Ultimately, if the voice of the local people who are affected is not taken into account there will be a danger of a backlash against the school and feelings just now are running pretty high.

RA WHITE Park Hill, Harpenden

Council failings over state of allotments

SIR – Further to the recent letter from Christine Graves (Still big demand for allotments), I should like to add the following observations. As site steward for many years, I am distressed by the state of the Folly Lane allotments. There has been no inspection by the council for over six months. This used to be done prior to holders’ annual payment, giving them the chance to clarify whether they wished to keep their plot or release it. I have not heard of any new applicants which would seem to suggest that Ms Graves is correct to assume that the waiting list has been lost. There has been a serious lack of attention to the grass which is now unacceptably high. We are no longer provided with a skip resulting in a health hazard of broken glass and empty canisters that contain remnants of potentially toxic plant chemicals. The area has also resulted in a home for numerous happy rats. There appears to be generous funding for sports facilities in St Albans, quite in contrast to allotment funding. Whilst not deemed “on trend”, allotments are more popular than ever with many proven general and mental health benefits. They are also an invaluable resource in helping our children understand where their food comes from, a point that is high on the agenda for many government initiatives.

J STRINGER Hill Street, St Albans

Not so eco-friendly in reality FCC?

SIR – After reading your rather interesting article entitled “Eco-friendly station launches new book exchange scheme” on page five of your paper dated May 15, I thought I would add my own thoughts regarding FCC’s performance on the eco-friendly front. For starters, I was not aware that St Albans had solar panels fitted; if so, this is good news, but they could have publicised it more. One thing that stands out to me about St Albans is that it seems to have missed out on the comprehensive station lighting modernisation program carried out on all other northern Thameslink stations a few years ago, resulting in a rather interesting mish-mash of old and new lighting – from the ultra modern LED lighting on the footbridge to the ancient platform lights that are literally falling apart; some of the lights are so old that they date back to the good old days of British Rail. If they did modernise all the remaining lighting, this would cut energy and maintenance costs. Travelling in from St Albans through to Farringdon demonstrates FCCs true eco-friendly credentials, observable by the sheer amount of platform lighting blazing away in bright daylight. The last time I travelled, I noticed Elstree, Mill Hill Broadway, Hendon Cricklewood, West Hampstead and Farringdon with every single outside light lit in bright sunlight, and this seems to have been the case over the past few months. Only St Albans, Radlett and Kentish Town currently seem to have platform lighting that is controlled as it should be, namely on when it’s dark and off when it’s daylight. Mill Hill Broadway in particular is a dismal example of sheer profligacy, with a huge array of glaring fluorescent lighting at the end of one platform; this looks more at home on the perimeter wall of a prison, rather than a railway station. Farringdon is also pretty dismal in this respect, with masses of brand new platform and service passageway lighting blazing away in bright daylight; this is inexcusable, given that it has just been modernised. By contrast, the waiting rooms on the middle platforms at West Hampstead are in dingy darkness at night, as the lighting has not been repaired for years. So, in conclusion, I would suggest that FCC get their house in order before singing their praises about being “eco-friendly”. It would not cost very much to correct all the problems I have outlined above, and would save them significant energy and maintenance costs going forwards. Who knows, they may even save enough to be able to reduce their fares slightly!

ROBERT COWARD Beverley Gardens, Jersey Farm

Count your blessings

SIR – Annie Brewster is approaching the end of her term as Mayor. If the next Mayor is not so visible and active on our behalf, then perhaps he/she won’t incur such unpleasant criticism (April 10, May 15). But who knows? Perhaps the town will be lucky enough to find a substitute for this lady who has tirelessly and so effectively promoted St Albans for the last year. To any detractors, a message: “Prepare to accept such wonderfully good fortune with grace and gratitude.”

ROSEMARY STEVENS Worley Road, St Albans

Descendants sought for family tree

SIR – Does any reader know anything about Emily Joiner or Frederick Page? In particular, do they appear in your family tree? For many years, the Broadwood family, who were renowned as manufacturers of pianos, lived at Bone Hill, in Chiswell Green Lane, outside St Albans. One of them, Henry John Tschudi Broadwood, was a churchwarden at St Stephen’s Church, St Albans. His sister, Lucy Broadwood was a leading light of the Folk Song Society. Through her, John Broadwood’s wife Ada and younger daughter Janet became interested in folk song. Songs they were given by two people in Chiswell Green were published in the Folk Song Society’s Journal in 1898 and 1914. Emily Joiner’s mother came from a straw plaiting family in Leverstock Green but they moved to St Albans when she was very young and she was christened at St Stephen’s Church. She was married at St Stephen’s in 1874 and buried there when she died in 1938. From at least the 1890s until her death, she lived at Chiswell Green Cottages, in Chiswell Green Lane. In 1914, she was employed in the garden at Bone Hill and sang to Janet and Lucy Broadwood songs she had learned from her mother and grandmother. Lucy and Ada Broadwood met Frederick Page in 1898 when he was 15 and he sang her songs he learned from his father and mother. She described his father as ‘a shepherd to Mr Bailey near here’. At that time the family lived at Noke Farm, but they had moved by 1914.

ALISON MACFARLANE Tel 01727 852111 40 Warwick Road, St Albans AL1 4DL