Ham&High letters: Coronavirus

A goat at the annual weigh in at London Zoo. Picture: Richard Hutchinson

A goat at the annual weigh in at London Zoo. Picture: Richard Hutchinson - Credit: Archant

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

Government should support London Zoo

Simon Lang FRAS, president and joint astronomy secretary, Hampstead Scientific Society, writes:

I was rather shocked to see that London Zoo has put out an appeal, to the public, to raise funds for its survival during this Covid-19 epidemic.

It is a registered charity which relies on visitors’ fees to stay afloat but hashad to shut because of the danger of the virus infecting the animals and concerns over social distancing.

As the oldest zoological society to be involved in the conservation of so many endangered species, they should not have to be a registered charity in the first place, in what is one of the wealthiest societies on the planet.

The government needs to take on the responsibility for providing the funding to the zoo, rather than them relying on the generosity of the public during this crisis. Most potential donors have to be frugal for now, as they do not know what they can afford currently. We’re not poor on paper but can see a reason why we might end up with not enough money coming in to feed ourselves, if our main income source is lost.

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This government should provide financial support for the zoo to pay all its workers, who should be considered as key workers, because they are helping protect our planet during this crisis. The animals they are caring for are 18,000 in number and need to be fed.

I hope this situation can be resolved sooner rather than later, with the terrible consequences that could involve.

Construction site should shut down

Janine Sachs, chairperson, Save Swiss Cottage, writes:

Following Lockdown Boris declared that “if construction companies continue then clearly they should do so in accordance with the guidance of Public Health England, and they have a duty of care to their employees”. He goes on to justify his decision for not “closing down the whole UK economy” as being “in accordance with the scientific and medical advice” – as if the medical and scientific community would put non-essential multimillion pound construction projects before public health.

In his recent “Update on Covid-19” Sadiq Khan modified his call for a complete ban on all non-essential construction to “spread the start times of work on the biggest sites in London to ease the impact on public transport”.

Whilst this compromise may help minimise the spread of Covid-19 on the tube, it would do little to stop the spread of the virus on building sites where construction workers often have to work closely together to get the job done.

Despite developer Essential Living covering up all the portholes for viewing into their 100 Avenue Road site since Lockdown – their construction workers were huddling together on-site to build their non-essential, controversial Swiss Cottage Tower.

Major builders such as Mace and Wimpey have shut down all their construction sites to limit the spread of coronavirus, as have HS2 and many other construction companies. Essential Living should do the right thing and follow suit.

One way or another?

Judith Morgan, St John’s Wood, full address supplied, writes:

Many pavements in St John’s Wood are narrow.

To facilitate social distancing, should we encourage walkers and other pedestrians to treat the pavements as one-way, asking them to always select the pavement on the left-hand side of the street?

Drivers are already used to progressing along the left-hand side of a road.

Just the jog

Sebastian Wocker, editor, The Hampstead Village Voice, writes:

Nothing against joggers per se. Just the those (and there are a fair amount) who refuse to take evasive 2m action, slow down or yield on narrow paths when required.

Needless to say there are a fair amount of unconscious, self-entitled blighters around these days, and when those sort of people jog, they seem to think 2m doesn’t apply to them.

There are non-joggers like this too of course, especially in the slender aisles of small corner shops, but the fact a jogger is moving at such speed and more likely to pant heavily, dare I say splutter – at least I do when I jog – makes them a bit of a menace under the current circumstances.

And many don’t have a sense of humour either. After I tweeted ‘joggers are a menace’, a lady (jogger) replied: “Vilifying a group gives people permission to attack that group. It’s dangerous,” as though joggers are now some sort of “vulnerable oppressed group” that needs special protection.

I reminded her that joggers are not a ‘group,’ just random individuals who choose to move on a public highway much faster than everyone else and, in Coronaworld, that comes a certain amount of responsibility.

So if a jogger comes too close to you then gives you lip for politely asking them to keep their distance, just tell them to “jog on”!

Bins removed?

Trevor Grove, Avenue Road, Highgate, writes:

All the litter and dog-poo bins on the Heath have been removed, just when the number of weekday walkers has increased. This morning my wife and I filled two carrier bags with litter, including discarded face-masks. Small heaps of bulging poo-bags are building up on the spots where the bins had been. Whose bright idea was this?

Tree chopped

Maria Emilia Jennings, Shepherds Hill, Highgate, writes:

One of the most loved and frequently admired trees in Highgate Conservation Area has been chopped. This outstanding juniperus was planted almost 50 years ago at his home, 15 Shepherds Hill, by Dr Stefan Buczacki.

Dr Buczacki is a horticulturalist and botanist and well known as a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. Many residents making their way to and from Highgate library and Highgate tube station were shocked and sad to see the tree that added so much beauty to the street scene having its beautiful shape. Sadly, residents’ pleas to the council and councillors alike to save the tree were ignored.

Borders open

A Swiss Cottage resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

Why is the UK not restricting its borders from at least the countries with the highest of cases and deaths from coronavirus, ie Italy, Iran, China and South Korea, to help prevent the spread of the disease here? Advice to wash our hands for 20 seconds many times a day; self-isolation; banning mass gatherings; closing GP surgeries are all well and good but without serious control of our borders all other sensible measure are like trying to fill a bucket full of holes.


Jane Bywaters, Hornsey & Wood Green Group, Amnesty international, writes:

This year many people’s holiday plans will be affected by Covid-19, and travellers will obviously be taking proper advice before they book. This week the government is discouraging all no-essential travel to certain countries.

This will change in due course and when making future plans holidaymakers should also consider whether their vacations could negatively impact the people and places they visit. One example is holidays and activities in Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Online tourism companies such as TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com knowingly offer holidays in Israel’s settlements, despite them being illegal under international law.

The settlements are literally constructed on land stolen from Palestinian families, whose own homes and business have been bulldozed by the Israeli military.

The UN and most countries in the world – including our own – have long called for Israel to halt settlement expansion, and Amnesty believes they should be dismantled. By operating in the settlements, the likes of TripAdvisor are profiting from crimes against the Palestinian people.

Please support our petition calling on TripAdvisor to “check out” of the settlements - amnesty.org.uk/actions/checkout

I took a drive

Darius Parvizi-Wayne, of Hampstead, writes:

I took a drive

From north to south

Through an eternal sunset.

I saw not wild beasts

Wrestling with claw and grizzle,

Nor balls of fire,

Nor throated rattle,

But the soft minglings of fright in street lights.

I saw the candid ash of the Spaniard’s Inn,

Centuries of banditry banished with the wind

Etchings of Gordon’s rioters,


I saw night at day

Shuttered doorless houses,

Clouded by the obsequious bending

Of parched trees.

I saw bars wherever I turned,

Bidding steeled simpers

To disrobed mannequins

On Heath Street.

I saw bars wherever I turned,

Branded on the furrows of the gracile bourgeoisie

Witnesses to the dissolution

Of what they had known.

I saw masks upon eyes of death

Ripe and ready to pop

Taut with viscid tentacles.

I saw neon

And neon

And neon

And the darkness therein.

A throb to the right,

A sombre clunk along the residue of England’s Lane,

A throb to the left,

And the flowers awaited me

Burst from their ventricles.

Campus buildings remain open

Brendan Pavey, head teacher, North Bridge House Senior Schools, Hampstead and Canonbury, writes:

Clearly, these are extraordinary times and our most important consideration is the wellbeing of our school community; parents, staff and pupils alike. This is quite a challenge for everyone but it is often the case that, through the biggest challenges, we see people’s greatest strengths. Indeed, the resilience and energy of our staff and children, their creativity and inventiveness, and the incredible support networks offered by parents, friends and family have been nothing less than amazing.

While our campus buildings throughout Hampstead, Camden and Islington remain open for key workers, all students have successfully transitioned to online learning (using Seesaw, Firefly and Microsoft Teams) and are continuing with daily lessons – everything from tutor time to Music and PE.

Working with Marcos Gold, the business district manager for Hampstead, we are also keeping our Senior School car park open for critical care staff at the local Royal Free Hospital.

I very much look forward to when we are all physically able to return to school. The children are the heartbeat of the school and in these uncertain times, it is this spirit that they bring to the lives of our teachers and everyone at NBH that is sorely missed. Stay home, keep safe, and we look forward in eager anticipation to the time when we are allowed to return to our school buildings.