Ham&High letters: Whittington Hospital, cuckoos, business grants and Antrim Gardens

A rainbow over the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Picture: Liz Berman

A rainbow over the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Picture: Liz Berman - Credit: Liz Berman

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Saying huge thanks to hospital staff

Janet Shapiro, Connaught Gardens, Muswell Hill, writes:

May I say a personal thank you to Whittington Health for their continued care of patients not infected with Covid-19, but suffering from other health problems?

Zoning of the hospital, together with careful checking of new admissions for infection keeps patients safe. In the past few weeks I have had to access services in Haematology Out-Patients, Chemotherapy Unit, A&E, Ambulatory and Coyle Ward. In all of these I have received the highest quality of care and cannot say how much I appreciate the ongoing hard work of the staff.

Meanwhile, our team at Hornsey Pensioners (hornseypag.org.uk) is doing its best to keep in contact with members. Members miss the monthly meeting but regular bulletins have been sent round, both by email and post. Also a rota has been set up to contact members by phone.

Those not on email are really suffering during this pandemic from necessary face to face isolation. The more fortunate amongst us can at least see and speak to relatives and friends using Skype. Of course we miss the hugs.

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NHS has been underfunded

Mrs E Woolley, Tottenham, full address supplied, writes:

Firstly I am writing to thank all the staff at the Whittington Hospital on Nightingale Ward after being rushed in with Covid-19, who looked after me well.

The reason why I ended up at the Whittington was because the North Middlesex Hospital was on divert, Chase Farm A&E should have never been closed as the North Middlesex cannot cope as many ambulance cases were outside awaiting entrance.

It just shows that the NHS has been underfunded and if the government, or any party, thinks closing an A&E is a good idea, they should think again and will be met with fierce opposition as all politicians, especially Boris, love our NHS and they should start funding it properly and not make it a charity case.

Cuckoo returns

Hamish Birchall, Dartmouth Park Hill, Camden, writes:

In May 2014 your paper reported the first cuckoo heard in decades on Hampstead Heath.

Ham & High readers will be pleased to learn that I heard the characteristic male cuckoo call early this morning, Sunday May 3, in the Dartmouth Park conservation area at about 6.10am.

This amazed me as in the 36 years since I moved to London, I have never heard one calling before on Hampstead Heath or indeed anywhere in the capital.

I reported this to local bird guru Pete Mantle, and he later confirmed that the cuckoo had also been heard at the same time and reported on the London Birders Wiki by one Matt Evans, another local birdwatcher.

Perhaps this is another example of nature reasserting itself as human activity is reduced under lockdown.

Business grants

Cllr Luke Cawley Harrison, Crouch End Liberal Democrats, writes:

It is utterly shameful that Haringey has paid out just 29 per cent of business grants. Only one other borough in the whole of London is worse, whilst some have processed grants to well over 80pc of their small businesses.

I have written to Haringey to ask for an independent review into why the delivery of the grant payments process has lagged so badly - to commence as soon as internal council business returns to normal. Businesses are contacting me daily, desperate for their grants to be paid just to keep them afloat, many having received no communication from the council.

They deserve to know why they have had to wait and to have confidence that the council will do better in the future.

A Lament

Robert Ilson has written this poem about the closure of Antrim Gardens:

Antrim Gardens : A Lament

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”

I can still hear it: children’s laughter

Wafted from our little park

Helping even a long time after

Me to endure the dangerous dark.

Where has that laughter gone, I wonder,

Now our pretty playground’s locked

And what else is rent asunder

When tenderness and joy are blocked ?

They did not ask for our consent

Nor have they told us what to do

When grown-up kids, less innocent,

Seek whom to blame : Us, Them - or You ?

Some believe that children resist coronavirus better than adults. But Camden allows adults to continue using the allotments behind Antrim Gardens whilst denying children the use of their traditional playground. Is there a legal basis for such distinctions?


Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

In the London Borough of Barnet, the promotion of culture and the arts from the 1960s to the present day has been centred not round the council or the public libraries as in neighbouring Hampstead and Camden, but by a band of volunteers under the leadership of Pam Edwards, the secretary of Barnet Borough Arts Council (BBAC). During that period until austerity cuts under Thatcher, Barnet libraries deservedly enjoyed a high reputation.

The cuts to public services, allied to a Tory majority on Barnet Council, changed all this for the worse.

On a personal level, Pam was awarded a BEM for services to culture and the arts, but because of an inoperable knee problem she was obliged to sell her house and move into a care home, from which she continued to run BBAC, and to edit and write a powerful editorial in its newsletter Barnet Arts, campaigning against the philistine closure and castration of council run public libraries.

Pam is now 94 years old and remains healthy in body and mind. I phoned her today and was reassured of that. Of course, she is aware that she is also an elderly woman, and vulnerable in the care home to the pandemic, as are so many brave but elderly people in this position.

If she should die from the virus, the cause may certainly be blamed in part on the incompetence of political leaders blinded by an obsession to “get Brexit done”, and a consequent failure to follow the example of countries in Europe who prepared in January by stock piling PPE; and the incompetence of the pursuit of hostility to migrant labour by key workers in the NHS, the care services and in harvesting crops.

This incompetence has been a major contribution to the appalling death count of thousands of key workers and thousands of care home residents. Cause and effect.

One lesson is for parliament immediately to appoint a leader capable of responsible action in a crisis. If a vote of no confidence in the government leads to a general election, we must vote to ensure the emergence of a leader who will inspire us towards a stable future.

A general election would entail also prior legislation making it illegal for politicians to tell lies or for the media to report these lies as the truth. This is the lesson from the general election of December 12 in the UK and the presidential elections in the USA, the results of both of which would have been markedly different had legislation been in operation.