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Ham&High letters: Covid artwork, Brexit, Keir Starmer, the Ponds, disabled park access and coping with virus scare

PUBLISHED: 16:00 16 April 2020

The Zabludowicz Collection in Chalk Farm, closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: André Langlois

The Zabludowicz Collection in Chalk Farm, closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: André Langlois

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

Community art

Linda Grove, Hampstead, writes:

You may recall Olivier Chan’s wonderful NW3 poster images on the Hampstead path by the Royal Free Hospital, in-front of the new Pears Building, which have brought a lot of joy to passersby, cheering up an otherwise building site.

My 10-year old grandson has been going through lockdown since mid-February in Hong Kong and he, like other children, are starting to have issues with the outside. He says “bad things happen if you go outside” and is refusing to venture out of his home. What are our children learning? Avoid human contact? This is going to be their generation’s childhood to deal with suspicions and fears .

I would like to propose that we be extra friendly to children with their families when we are out on our daily hours walk by smiling, waving or saying hello, and deck out houses and streets with artwork like Olivier has done on Hampstead Path – just A4 paper, laminated and fixed with Blu Tack. The artwork is viewed by hospital staff and volunteers.

Anyone can draw and write a positive message,children and adults, no age limit required the just need to be cheerful.

Extend Brexit

Prof Mark Geller, Gilling Court, Belsize Grove, writes:

I absolutely support the government’s mantra that we will do “whatever It takes”, which is why I’m supporting Best for Britain’s campaign to extend the Brexit transition period.

It’s not reasonable to expect the government to secure a new free trade deal with the EU while dealing with a deadly situation on our shores. Extending gives us time to focus on the pandemic now and work out a deal with Europe later.

We are facing a crisis that transcends traditional politics. Nearly half of Conservative voters agree that transition must be extended in the face of this pandemic according to recent polling by Best for Britain.

NHS England confirmed resources they put aside for “no-deal” have already been released to tackle the virus. If we cannot get a comprehensive deal in time, how will we weather the double whammy of no-deal and a global pandemic?

We cannot control the timing of the virus outbreak. But we do have control of our transition timetable. And we can be sure we did everything in our power to save lives.

Back to Labour

Eddie Linden, Sutherland Avenue, Maida Vale, writes:

I grew up in a working-class Lanarkshire mining town and joined the Independent Labour Party aged 16, when it was in its dying days.

However, I was actually brought to London in the late 1950s through my activism in the Young Communist League. After a few years I realised I was not a communist, and severed my ties with the party. I later joined the Labour Party.

I’ve been a Labour man all my life: I still fondly recall the 1945 election victory under Clement Attlee. That was a great reforming government, building decent homes and bringing us the National Health Service we are now reliant on. At the age of 84, though, I have wondered if I will live to see another Labour government. I knew that Jeremy Corbyn would never win an election; I met him at a funeral some years ago and never imagined that one day he would be party leader. I knew who his supporters were: the kind of romantic middle-class Utopians who think that the working-class are really left-wing. They are not, and it is thanks to Corbyn that we have another Tory government.

Following the election defeat, there was only one name who could replace him: Keir Starmer. Having let my Labour membership lapse some years ago, I recently re-joined the party so I could vote for Keir. Amidst all this gloom, I was thus delighted by the great news that he has been elected Labour leader. I don’t know how long I’ve got left, but now I can die happy.

The Ponds

Robert Sutherland Smith, Widecombe Way, East Finchley, writes:

Ana Truman is correct (her letter March 19) in portraying the wealthy, Royal Charter-based City of London Corporation, as an ancient anachronism.

In the Square Mile residential, popular votes in local elections, are heavily outnumbered by City business votes – a system of pre-democratic local government franchise, which was reformed and abolished everywhere else in the UK a long time ago.

The City Corporation’s peculiar voting system, is simply the preservation of the old guild and livery company system of government that originated in the middle ages, long before the ending of high profit margin monopolies in trade, when business interests were paramount and popular democracy did not exist – as it still doesn’t in the Square Mile.

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Although she concludes that “this something for nothing culture is completely out of place in our post Brexit UK” – she was referring to Hampstead Heath – she evidently thinks that the City Corporation’s outdated model of government, does?

Think of disabled passengers

Martin Hewitt Save Autism Services Haringey, writes:

Haringey Council has shut down car parks in Alexandra, Finsbury and other parks to ensure only people on foot can visit to exercise each day.

This blanket approach ignores the needs of people with physical or learning disabilities who can only access parks to exercise using vehicles driven by their support workers.

Disabled residents are being discriminated against by the council who have as part of their lockdown measures shut the few remaining day centres left following the austerity cuts of four years ago.

People on foot continue to use parks but people limited by their disabilities are excluded. Instead they are confined to home with their family carers and support workers, placing additional strain on families trying their best to care for disabled relatives under trying circumstances who can exhibit difficult and challenging behaviours.

Why can’t the council instruct staff manning park entrances to allow cars with disabled passengers with blue badges to enter?

Still on the starting blocks

A Hampstead resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

One minute we are leading our independent lives and suddenly coronavirus sweeps us all up like a tsunami something that we can’t see, and it’s knocking us down like dominoes. But not to worry Boris is telling us to “keep calm, and Carry on”.

Rubbish, total waffle as usual. Our government is slow off the starting blocks as usual. I bet he wishes we were still part of Europe now. We all need to help ourselves, each other and the world. I wrote to our local councillors to ask if they can produce a neighbourhood support link for the area where I live.

As the week went on, I began to appreciate what I have compared to others – a lovely home, a garden, a beautiful area and a pension – unlike so many in the service industry who are losing their jobs and financially live week to week. I would love to help others at this time but I can’t having become the “elderly”, yuck I hate that term, but my priorities have to be with my lovely husband at this time.

Our GP recommends that we self isolate, due to my husband’s bad health, so we have to dispatch our lovely lodger, and will have to lock down and clean our home ourselves with the swift departure of our dedicated Brazilian cleaning lady who says my husband is “knackered”.

All my husband and his essential medical appointments are cancelled and we have phone conversations with the consultants instead on the phone.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been released from Evin Prison for two weeks with an ankle security bracelet and is staying with her parents in Tehran.

The coronavirus is hitting Iran badly and some prisoners have been released to avoid the virus, but who knows?

A young friend decides that she is going to dig up her entire garden (“survival”) and plant veggies and keep chickens so she and her son can have a strong source of protein.

My neighbour announces that she is making herself a gym in her house so her trainer can join her online with his instructions whilst she does her exercise during her choice to lockdown, to which I reply to her that I’m planting tomatoes, beans and parsley in my front garden and if she shares her gym with me, I will share my veggies.

My mum, aged 94, lives independently and is upset because her village has put notes in everyone’s doors with offers of help except hers. She calls the village chief and tells them that she has been forgotten, but not to worry, she still drives and can volunteer help to others .

I went to the local supermarket where I met someone I know: “How many loaves of bread are we allowed to buy?”

Reply from me: “Just buy what you need and leave some for others.”

I go and visit a friend in the hospice in my all-in-one paper antiseptic gown and am called to the matrons office.

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“My husband has a heart condition, we are self isolating and I can’t afford to take any infection into my home, plus I want to protect the hospice from the possible virus.”

“Well I am sorry,” said the matron, “you either take it off or I have to ask you to leave because you are frightening the patients and staff.”

I left and another friend visited our friend in her regular clothes having commuted on the underground.

A young man across the road, back from university, whose own mum is sick, sent me a message this morning offering me and my husband help. A young man, I have seen grow up, go through difficulties in his life, turning to help others.

Wonderful, whilst there is good will and community spirit – and as Greta says:”Listen to the science,” – then we are on the starting blocks.


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