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Sunday, 3 January 2021

Please help find 13 year old's killers


Thames Valley Police have reported the fatal stabbing of a 13 school boy earlier this evening in Bugs Bottom. If you have any information please contact TVP. My heart goes out to the boy's family at their tragic loss. It is horrendous, devastating news.

Copied below is TVP's statement:

Murder Investigation Under Way After 13-Year-Old Boy Dies In Stabbing In Reading

Thames Valley Police has this evening (3/1) launched a murder investigation following the death of a 13-year-old boy in Emmer Green, Reading.

Officers were called at 3.50pm to reports of a stabbing in Bugs Bottom fields, near to St Barnabas Road, Gravel Hill, Emmer Green.

Tragically, a 13-year-old boy died of his injuries at the scene.

The victim’s next of kin are aware and are being supported by specially trained officers, but at present, no formal identification has taken place.

No arrests have currently been made.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, head of Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “This is a fast-moving and dynamic investigation, which is ongoing.

“We are in the very early stages of this investigation, but we believe that the victim was attacked by two or three males, who made off after the incident in the direction of Hunters Chase.

“There will be a very considerable police presence in the area of St Barnabus Road and Gravel Hill for a number of days, and we have a very large scene-watch in place.

“I would appeal to anybody who was in Gravel Hill this afternoon and believes that they witnessed anything that could help this investigation to please make contact with police if you have not already done so.

“This is an area that is used extensively by dog walkers, and I believe that there will have been witnesses to this dreadful incident, or who may have seen the offenders leaving the area quickly.

“I would ask anybody who was driving or cycling in the area and has either a dash-cam or a head-cam to please check the footage between 3pm and 4.30pm, and get in touch if it has captured anything that may assist this investigation.

“Similarly, many families walk in the area, and so if anybody has taken photographs within the area around that time to please check these and contact us if you have picked up anything suspicious.

“I would also be keen to hear from anybody with CCTV footage in the area, please can you check this and again contact us with anything that may be able to help us in this investigation.

“You can call the 24-hour number 101, quoting incident reference 1069 of 3 January or call the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“This is a tragic and shocking incident which has resulted in the death of a young boy. We have specially trained Family Liaison Officers supporting the boy’s family and the thoughts of all of us within the force are with them at this extremely distressing time.”

Local policing area commander for Reading, Superintendent Nick John, added: “This is a shocking incident, and I would like to re-assure the community that we are working tirelessly to locate the offenders and bring them into custody.

“Naturally, this incident will cause huge concern in the local community, and I fully understand those concerns.

“I would like to re-assure the community that we are leaving no stone unturned in this investigation and we have deployed a large number of police officers and staff to the area.

“If you have any concerns or any information, please do not hesitate to speak to one of them.

“We are in the very early stages of this ongoing incident, and I can assure you all that we are working to ascertain what has happened and arrest anybody suspected of being involved.

“We have a strong local community, and I would encourage anybody who has any information that would help us to locate the offenders, please contact us, and you can do so in the strictest confidence.”

Monday, 21 December 2020

Recycling over Christmas in Caversham

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has announced today recycling information covering the Christmas period.

RBC will be operating Christmas tree collection centres across the borough between 4 January  and 22 January. Residents can take their trees to 3 designated areas north of the river located in the car parks at:

  • Albert Road Recreation Ground
  • Clayfield Copse
  • Hills Meadow

Trees left at the above collection points will be chipped and used in a range of landscaping schemes across the borough. Another way to dispose of your Christmas tree is to chop it up and put it in your green bin if you subscribe to the garden waste collection scheme. Alternatively residents can book a slot at the re3 recycling centre and take it there.

Please note that there will not be a collection point at Mapledurham Playing Fields! I've asked officers to put up notices as soon as possible so last year's debacle can be avoided.

Civic Amenity Site

The Recycling Centre in Island Road, Reading, will be open between 8am and 6pm over the festive period except on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day when it will be closed. Also, it will be open between 8am-4pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Changes to collection days

As usual, bin collection days will change over the holiday period and it is possible to check the revised dates here.

Garden waste collections due on Friday 25th December will take place on Tuesday 29th December. The Garden Waste Service will then be suspended until week commencing 11th January, when collections will take place one day later than your normal collection day.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Ways to protect yourself from scammers

Scammers are sending emails which are quite convincing. It's always worth taking a couple of minutes to check the details before risking pressing anything within an email.

Things to check include: hovering your mouse over the sender's email to reveal the actual account it came from. If the scammer quotes your account number or licence number, check that too. Another indication worth checking is did they use your name in the salutation?
Have a look (to the left) at the email I received this evening. It asked me for just £12 and helpfully gave me a "Pay Here" button. However the TV Licence number quoted is not mine, I don't use the email address the scammer sent it to for paying our TV Licence, and the email account they sent their email from is not Gov.UK TV Licensing but instead JosieSorrentino@hotmail.com
If you realise an email is from a scammer and you haven't clicked on anything within it, please report it to: report@phishing.gov.uk
If however you realise after providing information that it was a scam, report it to: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or ring them on 0300 123 2040. If this included your card or bank details, talk to your bank immediately.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Mental health is just as important as physical health

In my life I've never known a time when there has been so much pressure on people's mental health. Coronavirus has a lot to answer for, what with lock down making it feel like we're living in a zombie-type disaster movie. Many haven't been able to hug their loved ones for fear of catching the virus. Tragically people have died without family or friends' visits during the hospital and care home lock down. It will therefore be no surprise to have more than the usual 1 in 4 of us suffering from a mental health issue (like anxiety or depression) this year.
- The sun will rise tomorrow -
An early swim before work helps me
A recognised problem is people don't feel that seeking help for poor mental health is as important as it is for physical conditions. It's easy to know a broken leg needs urgent attention, but not so when you are feeling terribly lonely, depressed or simply just not yourself. Perhaps you have or someone you know has found it difficult to get out of bed, to bother to wash and dress, cook or to go outside? People can worry that it is silly to 'bother' their GP, embarrassing to admit to themselves or others that their mental health is poor: but it is brave.

Mental health can affect anybody at any age. You are not alone, it is ok to ask for help - you don't have to do this by yourself. The sun will rise tomorrow.

There are many different ways to try and improve mental health. It isn't something that you can just snap out of; however there are things that can help - these will be different for each of us. For me gardening, being with my cat, swimming, getting outside playing the piano, listening to music and painting help.
Pets offer wonderful companionship
Companionship is more of a challenge, especially for people who live by themselves. Pets are truly wonderful. 

Try to pop out every day - even just to the local shop or for a short walk is good.

Especially this year, lots of people are feeling alone. The first step is to reach out to family, friends, your GP or one of the support groups.

Look after yourself. If you are finding this difficult, do ask for help. 

Here are some suggestions:

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Construction progress of Mapledurham Pavilion

I took lots of photos when I was shown around Mapledurham Pavilion last month by Andy Lockwood - Reading Borough Council's officer who has been doing an excellent job overseeing the refurbishment works. 

Sadly due to covid restrictions it is unlikely the council will be opening it for lettings until the New Year. A virtual meeting of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management Committee is being held on 13 October. Progress of the Pavilion's refurbishment and the re-profiling of the Playing Fields will be discussed as well as other matters such as parking. Members of the public will be able to register to observe the meeting (contact me for further details).

This photo of the Pavilion's new roof, was taken on my visit to The Heights' construction site earlier in September.

Pavilion's impressive new roofs viewed from on top of The Heights
(the school's scaffolding in the foreground)

The morning I visited the Pavilion it was cloudy as you can see from the photo below. The main hall has six double doors on this elevation. The central four are glazed which will give superb views across the playing fields, with the ones either side being filled in as they are Fire Exit doors. The glazed doors will have externally fitted, electric shutters for security. 

Southern side of the Pavilion

It has been about 20 years since the council boarded up the windows this side - done partly because of the vandalism, but also because of the poor state of the old frames. Although I remember how disheartening it was to have to carefully sweep up all the broken glass before being able to open up the hall for the Escape parent and toddler group I ran, it was so sad and claustrophobic having the windows boarded up. I'm sure I'm not alone relishing the views being opened up!

Kitchen's external hatchway/window and door
to playing fields. Part-clad wall

Inside, the partitioning has nearly been completed, as has the wiring. We saw the progress being made in the two football changing rooms. These will be accessed solely through two external doors on the western side.
Doorways to football changing rooms
(both ends of the western elevation)
View of both changing rooms
(partition wall yet to go in)

The main hall was coming along well. I'll just leave it to the photos and captions to show you the rest.

View of the main hall from what will be the kitchen hatch


Doorway along widened corridor to ancillary rooms (store room
on LH, kitchen RH side, WCs + 2 mtg rooms and Tennis Club's room)


 
Kitchen viewed from main hall through hatchway. Kitchen
units/appliances yet to be finalised and installed
(white door to Tennis Club's room visible in the distance)

Pavilion's front entrance - yet to be clad externally


Lamps to the side of the footpath from the Pavilion to Chazey Road
(avenue of trees yet to be planted this Autumn)


Do let me know if you have any questions. My contact details can be found here.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Virtual celebration of Older People's Day

Reading Borough Council has published details of a virtual celebration this Thursday, 1 October - see below to which everyone is welcome to attend:

Reading will be celebrating National Older People’s Day 2020 with a free online event on Thursday 1st October, highlighting the contribution all older people make to the Reading community.

The event this year is a virtual one which be held on the Reading Culture Live website. In previous years the event has been held at Broad Street Mall and this year we acknowledge the Covid-19 situation which has created increased loneliness and isolation for older people. The aim of this year’s National Older People’s Day event is to demonstrate the resilience of older people in our community and the great work of voluntary organisations and community groups who have supported older people during difficult times.

The event is organised by Age UK Berkshire and Age UK Reading, with support from Reading Borough Council and members of the Older People’s Working Group.

Reading’s Older People’s Day 2020 celebrations start with a live virtual coffee morning event hosted by Age UK Berkshire at 10:30 am. Meet and connect with older people in Reading and share lockdown experiences. To join the virtual coffee morning, register online or email opwg@reading.gov.uk or call 07811 026070.

The online Reading Older People’s Day event then moves to the Reading Culture Live website www.readingculturelive.co.uk. A video introduced by Mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens will showcase the rich array of local services that have supported older residents during the pandemic and lockdown. An information booklet with the content of the video and information about local services will be published. If you would like a printed copy, please contact opwg@reading.gov.uk or call 07811 026070.

Memory project video; the second video reflects on the town during Covid-19 and how it has affected the older people. Contributions will be shared featuring stories, thoughts and memories.

The videos will be available on the Reading Culture Live website from 1st October onwards to watch at a convenient time.

Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care, Cllr Tony Jones, said: “Older People’s Day is a lovely chance to celebrate later life and the huge contribution older people make to our communities. This year our event moves online. I’d encourage people to register to join our virtual coffee morning and watch the videos celebrating local services who have supported older residents during the pandemic, and the memory video which has captured a snapshot of this unique time and how it has affected the older people of Reading.

Please spread the word, invite your friends, family and anyone you know who might benefit.”

For more information including support with IT and accessing the event please call, 07811 026070 or email opwg@reading.gov.uk

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Construction progress of The Heights at MPF

On Friday I went to Mapledurham Playing Fields and visited The Heights school building to see how construction was coming along. With me kitted out with my safety hat, high viz and safety glasses, Andy Mason - Kier's Senior Site Manager - kindly showed me around. 

As is visible from outside Kier's boundary fencing, the school's steel frame is encased by scaffolding, with monoflex on the western side to give residents living closest to the school privacy from the workmen.

Inside the site I was struck by the quantity of grey soundproofing panels on the inside of the construction boundary fencing. Also noticeable was the drop in ground level in the north-west corner, the school being at least a metre lower than Hewett Close. 

One challenge the pandemic has created is the need for Kier to increase welfare space. Their canteen, which usually would hold up to 30 people, can only be used by 5. So 2 further canteens are being delivered, plus an extra office and toilet block (the latter will be connected to the tank on the north-eastern side to keep any smells away from residents' homes).These welfare units will take up space on site which means construction material deliveries must be timed meticulously for immediate use.

Andy showed me the ground floor which was being worked on as we spoke. Preparation of the floor slab includes a 250 mm layer of sand then an insulation membrane, finished off with 250 mm of concrete. This should be completed this week.

The first floor's concrete was poured last week. Next goes down the latex. The steel framing system (SFS) arrives this week. It will be installed first on the western side. Then, to minimise future impact to residents nearest the school, this side will have its exterior boarding completed as this will help shield them from the rest of the works.

To minimise noise, the steel panels have been cut to size off site at the manufacturers. This has meant the concrete floors and the frame have had to be constructed incredibly accurately with a tolerance level of just 3 mm instead of the normal 25 mm. 

Kier are going above and beyond too by building a soundproofed room to house a cutting machine, again to minimise disturbance to residents. 

We climbed up the temporary, external stairs to the roof, where all the school's plant will be located as well as a large quantity of solar panels. 

It was fantastic to see the Playing Fields from this view point. They are looking so good. Installation of the path from Chazey Road to the Pavilion, which will make the area much more accessible for all, is nearing completion (visible in the photo).

It was good also to get a bird's eye view of the Pavilion's spanking new roof, completed in the last few weeks. I'll post a picture of this as well as internal photos in the next few days once I've checked out how the Pavilion's refurbishment is going.

The school is on track for Easter 2021 completion. If you have any questions, do let me know.