Ham&High letters: Christmas smiles, Mary Woolstonecraft, Ponds, Living Wage and concessionary travel

Linda Grove's decorated front garden.

Linda Grove's decorated front garden. - Credit: Archant

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

Mick Farrant's cats socially distancing.

Mick Farrant's cats socially distancing. - Credit: Archant

Bringing smiles to children’s faces

Linda Grove, Belsize Lane, Hampstead, writes:

Let’s go crazy with colour, bring a smile to our children’s faces by decorating our trees and outside spaces!

This is my effort outside my home in Belsize Lane, opposite St Christopher’s school and I am encouraging the children to write positive messages that we can hang in our trees in our street. Do come and see Santa on the bench, bring your children and join in the fun.

• We want to see your decorations so send your pictures to us here

Statue for Mary

Cllr Richard Cotton, Camden Town with Primrose Hill ward, writes:

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The statue of Mary Wollstonecraft at Newington Green, where she taught, has caused great controversy, Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman lived and was buried in Camden and she is remembered with a plaque on Oakeshott Court close to her former home in the Polygon and, more recently, a street in King’s Cross was named after her. Isn’t it time that we had a statue here in Camden to one of the most influential women this country has ever produced – preferably one that does not trivialise her achievements of objectify her womanhood by showing her naked?

Ponds closure

Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman, United Swimmers Association, writes:

Swimmers may protest against closure of the Hampstead duck ponds during the Covid lockdown but the prospect of a restorative leisure dip is not far away. For those in poverty or hardship, who cannot afford City Corporation imposed money making charges, it is meant to be permanent.

Good behaviour

Mick Farrant, Kentish Town, full address supplied, writes:

Humans may not be always be following lockdown regulations but these two cats are, queuing at a food bank, socially distanced. Alas we could not find suitable masks and in any case they probably would not let me fit them.

Unknown Warrior

Lester May (Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy – retired), Camden, full address supplied, writes:

The organisers of events associated with Remembrance this November have done the nation proud. Reporting the centenary of the burial of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, some referred to The Unknown Soldier but Warrior is right, not soldier. For the Unknown Warrior may be a Royal Navy sailor or a Royal Marine and, whoever he was, his body was brought across the English Channel, most appropriately, in the destroyer HMS Verdun.

Sailors and Royal Marines not required for service at sea in the first years of the Great War formed the Royal Naval Division, fighting in Belgium and Gallipoli. In 1916, what was left of the RND helped form the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division which, under Army command, fought on the Western Front.

Sailors fighting ashore was not new. A naval brigade was at Bunker Hill in 1774 and brigades were common in the 19th century, notably in the Crimean, Zulu and Boer Wars and the Boxer Rebellion.

Sub Lieutenant A P Herbert was a naval officer with the 63rd. Later an MP, he penned an amusing poem about General Shute’s disapprobation of the Royal Naval Division – its naval humour perhaps too risqué for modern times.

Children’s Day

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

Saturday, November 20 is Universal Children’s Day. So it’s a good time to focus attention on the plight of young Aser Mohamed. He was only 14 when he was arrested by the Egyptian authorities on January 12, 2016 and subjected to enforced disappearance for 34 days. He then faced a range of charges, including being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and attacking a hotel, on the basis on confessions by the teenager under torture. In October 2019 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. So far Aser has spend nearly a quarter of his life in prison. He has been in prison for the equivalent of the GSCE and A level years and his first year at university. This is despite the detention of children being against Egypt’s own laws.

Aser is especially vulnerable in prison; he suffers from a chronic allergy that causes respiratory difficulties and puts him at particular risk of Covid-19. Amnesty is asking people to write to the authorities (1) requesting his immediate release; (2) that they launch investigations into his enforced disappearance and torture allegations; (3) pending his release he should be allowed communication with family and lawyers; (4) and that measures should be taken to protect his health. To write a letter on his behalf, please contact hornseyandwoodgreenaiuk@gmail.com/ Aser is only a teenager and deserves to find a new life.

Living Wage

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield & Haringey, writes:

This week, thousands of lower paid Londoners will be given a pay boost with the increase of the voluntary London Living Wage to £10.85 an hour. Over the last four years, the number of employers in the capital signed-up to the Living Wage Foundation’s scheme has doubled. As London begins its recovery from the second lockdown, I hope to see this number continue to rise.

After a decade of austerity, we have seen a worrying surge in in-work poverty and food insecurity. It is vital that we act now to close the widening gap between wage packets and the costs of living.

I welcome the government’s recent announcement of the extension of the furlough scheme until March. However, the chancellor must put measures in place to ensure that furlough pay can no longer be allowed to fall below the minimum wage and that, as a starting point, the temporary uplift in Universal Credit payments is extended.

I am also backing the calls made by the TUC that statutory sick pay should be increased from £95.85 to £320 per week to match the real national living wage.

Santa’s year

Sarah Lambley, NSPCC supporter fundraising manager for London, writes:

It’s been a difficult year for Santa and the elves. Social distancing in the workshop has meant production has been tricky at times but they are still on target to have everything ready for Christmas Eve.

Amazingly, Santa has still found time to team up with us at the NSPCC, to send personalised letters all the way from Lapland.

Each ‘Letter from Santa’ is printed and posted directly to your child in a festive envelope. You can choose the background design and fill in your child’s personal information such as age, best friend’s name or particular achievements throughout the year.

All we ask in return is a donation to help us be there for children.

To find out more about the NSPCC’s Letter from Santa visit nspcc.org.uk/Santa

Thank you

Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, writes:

I want to thank everyone who stood up to the government and their appalling plans to penalise London by scrapping concessionary travel for the young and old, and do untold damage to businesses and family incomes by extending the congestion charge to the North and South Circulars.

Mayor Sadiq Khan could not have stood up to the government without such strong public support, and he has secured financing for TfL for six months. We may have won this battle, but the war continues. The government continue to treat London unfairly by breaking their promises to cover the cost of Covid, and by saddling TfL with debt. We must remain vigilant and make it clear that the Conservative Party’s war on Londoners must stop. Tax revenues from London far exceed expenditure we get in return, yet the Conservatives still want to take more and more. I urge Londoners to stand beside Sadiq in his quest for a fairer deal for London.