Christmas Lights in Chiswick

The Christmas lights will be turned on this Thursday (30 November) at George IV. The star of the show as always will be the Fuller’s dray horses, but there will also be a barbecue, Sipsmiths mulled sloe gin and carols from Belmont Primary School. 4.00pm till late with live music in the pub. All proceeds go to Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospices.

Magical Lantern festival opens

The Chinese Lantern Festival has opened in the grounds of Chiswick House. I love the mix – a bit of Christian tradition, a bit of Chinese with a pinch of Hans Anderson and a dash of Disney. Thoroughly recommended, with or without kids. As much fun whether you’re going as a prelude to a few beers on a night out or as a place to take visiting family here for Christmas.

As you follow the marked path through the gardens you start with Father Christmas and his reindeer, come on to tableaux of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince, Disney’s Bambi, Dreamworks’ Antz, penguins, jelly fish and the Song Dynasty temple to name but a few. My favourite is Noah’s Ark.

20% off tickets with a club card

It’s expensive though, so take advantage of the club card deal of 20% off tickets. When you book online at just enter the promotional code Chiswick20 and show your club card on the gate when you go.

Outrage over pop up Christmas tree vendor

Pines & Needles has appeared on Acton Green Common, to the great annoyance of local trader Spencer Wheeler. Spencer runs Wheelers Garden Centre, tucked away beside Turnham Green tube station. Most of their trade at this time of year is in Christmas trees. He is ‘disgusted’ that Ealing council has allowed them to set up for just four weeks, creaming off some of the Christmas trade which helps local businesses like Wheelers and High Rd fruit and veg stall holders Collins to survive in Chiswick the rest of the year.

Support local businesses

‘We need this month to struggle through January and February’ says Spencer. ‘I don’t think it’s fair that the council allows them to be here for just four weeks while we have to battle on, paying business rates and so on’. He plans to write to local MP Rupa Huq to ask for her support to stop this happening again next year and asks for our support.

Pines and Needles is open from 8.00am – 9.00pm and buy in bulk, but it might not work out cheaper buying your tree from them. Pines and Needles charge £5 for a wooden block to stand them on and £15 for delivery, whereas Wheelers provide both for free.

10% off Wheelers Christmas trees and decorations with a Chiswick Calendar club card

And then of course there’s The Chiswick Calendar club card. Club card holders get 10% off Christmas trees from Wheelers. And if we want to continue to be able to buy bedding plants in the spring, cut flowers from Wheelers florist and other services like landscape gardening the rest of the year, we’d better get behind them and support them.

Chiswick artist wins National Open Art award

‘Church’, oil on linen, Marguerite Horner, 2017


Chiswick artist Marguerite Horner has won an award in the 2017 National Open Art competition for one of a series of paintings she made after a visit to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in 2014.

She won the themed category sponsored by MS Amlin insurance company for depicting ‘Continuity in an Uncertain World’ for her painting of the makeshift church built by Eritreans there.

Marguerite went to the Calais Jungle in 2014 with a group organised by the Comboni nuns, who are based on Chiswick Lane. They needed a driver and she had a car. She took lots of photographs and later decided to paint the experience for a one woman show earlier this year in Westminster called ‘Keep Me Safe’.

Lifting ‘the ordinary into the extraordinary’

After getting a degree in Fine Art, Marguerite trained as a scenic artist at the BBC and worked for many years as a commercial artist. She then did her MA and returned to painting with her own voice. She exhibits widely in Art Fairs and Group Shows, including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and a string of other prestigious shows.

The art critic Lady Marina Vaizey OBE ( former FT and Sunday Times art critic and Turner prize Judge) says Marguerite’s paintings ‘Lift the ordinary into the extraordinary and the specific into the Universal’… they are about… ‘The life behind the eye as well as the life in front of it’.

She spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about the experience of visiting the Calais Jungle and about her work. See also Marguerite’s Facebook page.

Vole Patrol

I am not a rat

There are many types of small mammal living happily in Gunnersbury Triangle. The National Lottery funded ‘Vole Patrol’, an 18 month survey by volunteers to find out which species were alive and well in suburban woodland and more about how they lived. Among the sites surveyed was Gunnersbury Triangle.

The survey found high numbers of wood mice and bank vole, as well as smaller populations of common shrew, pygmy shrew, yellow-necked mouse, and field vole.

Ben Steel went to Gunnersbury Triangle’s autumn open day to meet some of the conservationists and volunteers. Though of course when he went in broad daylight there was not a vole, mouse or shrew to be seen!

A tale of two sports clubs

A major upgrade in sporting facilities at Dukes Meadows is being proposed by Hounslow Council. The proposals are open for public consultation until Monday 27 November and we are invited to have a look at them and give our opinions.

I’ve been to see the display at Chiswick Town Hall and had a look online and it all looks lovely. But to paraphrase the former US Secretary of State for Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the trouble with anything hypothetical like this is that there are ‘the known knowns’, the ‘known unknowns’, but there are also ‘unknown unknowns’ which have led Chiswick Rugby Club to support the proposals but the Old Meadownian Football Club not to at this stage.

Although the plans have come from the London Borough of Hounslow and consultants Continuum, the money for all this is to come from third parties. Once the consultation period is over, the next stage will be for the Parks department to apply to the Planning department for planning permission early in 2018 and then to raise the funds.

Chiswick Rugby Club get £1.3m investment in 4G pitch

Chiswick Rugby Club are fortunate to be acting on a ‘known known’. The Rugby Football Union is proposing to spend £1.3m on building the latest generation of artificial, all weather pitch at Duke’s Meadows. After the 2015 World Cup the RFU announced more than £50m investment which they promised to deliver over four years to provide 100 artificial grass pitches across England in order to grow the game. Chiswick Rugby Club, which has some 500 members, and currently fields four senior teams in addition to the Minis, 200 girls and boys aged 5-13, meet their criteria for investment. The RFU has offered to install a new 4G pitch, which will be lit, enabling the club to play at night as well as in all weathers. The RFU will own the pitch, ring-fencing 12 hours a week for the club and renting it the rest of the time at a reduced rate to others wanting to play rugby. A win – win for the RFU, the Council and the Chiswick Rugby Club.

The Old Meadownians are in a different situation.

Old Meadownians vote against the proposals

The Dukes Meadows proposals would provide a new football pavilion and two 3G artificial grass pitches for football as well as improvements to the grass pitches. ‘What’s not to like?’ you might think.

But unlike the RFU – Chiswick Rugby Club arrangement, the investment, through the Football Association’s Parklife scheme, would be a contract between the London Borough of Hounslow and the FA.

Old Meadownians have ten adult football teams and close ties with Chiswick Meadonians Youth and Chiswick School (they were formed by former pupils at the school). The club is a local success story, both on and off the field, being one of the largest and most successful amateur clubs in the London area, at a time when there is a significant decline in adult male 11-a-side football.

Their problem is this: currently they share changing rooms with the Thames Tradesmen rowing club at Chiswick Boathouse, which is to be knocked down and rebuilt. They have asked for ten changing rooms instead of the six which the Parklife scheme usually provide, as they are a big club. They have been offered preferred partner status with input to the design and operational model, but they say they are being asked to make a ‘leap of faith’ that the requisite funding will be available and they are concerned that they may end up worse off.

Club chairman Derek Barnett says: “the club has serious concerns over the proposed project costs and the uncertainties regarding the available funding such that a significant funding gap may emerge as the business plans and the funding strategies develop in the New Year.

Thus, whilst the current design incorporates sufficient changing rooms and a social space to support Old Meadonians’ requirements, no assurances can be given that these will not be cut back in the final plan resulting in a situation that the club will have access to fewer facilities than those currently available.

In addition, even as a Partner Club, Old Meadonians are likely to pay a pitch hire charge which is significantly more than the club can afford. This is coupled with the fact that the club will have less security of tenure than under the current arrangements. The ‘leap of faith’ requested by Parklife is deemed to be too high a risk for the long term future of a well-managed 88 year old club.

As a consequence Old Meadonians FC have voted to not support the Parklife proposal during the Public Consultation process”.

General improvements

Dukes Meadows is home to a number of sporting clubs. The area of unspoilt common land between Chiswick Bridge and Chiswick Pier is home to the Tideway Skullers rowing club at one end and Chiswick Pier Trust at the other, with Chiswick Rugby Club, Old Meadownians Football Club and Chiswick Cricket Club in between as well as three more rowing clubs, Barnes & Hounslow Hockey Club, two multi-sport centres: Virgin’s Riverside club and the Dukes Meadows Golf & Tennis club and the sportsground for a private school: King’s House, most of whom lease the land from the council.

The sporting facilities share the area with a large number of allotments and the Duke’s Meadows Trust, which runs an adventure playground and paddling pool, the Sunday morning Food Market and artists’ studios. The bandstand by the river is a popular picnic spot at weekends.

The proposals are intended to keep the unspoilt nature of the place but at the same time improve sports facilities. The hockey club is promised an improved pitch as well. The ‘public realm’ plans include things like tidying the bushes and putting in better lighting and signage as well as renovating the band stand.

There would be an increased number of parking spaces and there has been some concern expressed that there will be an increase in traffic generated by the improved sports facilities.

Ginger Whisk joins Abundance London to make chutney

What could be better? A cooking school which likes to use local seasonal produce and a charity which seeks to make good use of fruit that if not picked by their volunteers would go to waste? Ginger Whisk and Abundance London are a marriage made in heaven and they got together last month to make chutneys and preserves in a free community day.

New Remembrance exhibition at St Michael & All Angels

A new exhibition commemorating servicemen from Chiswick who died in World War 1 opens today in St Michael & All Angels Church, Bedford Park. A Choral Requiem Mass will be held in the church at 9.45am on Remembrance Sunday November 12th, followed by a procession to the war memorial outside the Parish Hall.

Those remembered in the exhibition include Commander Walter Sterndale Bennett, RNVR, DSO and Bar, who died of his wounds 100 years ago today, November 7th, in 1917. Another whose life is being commemorated is Lieutenant Arthur Nixon of the Royal Flying Corps who was killed a month after his wedding at St Michael & All Angels.

37 of the 128 servicemen named on the parish war memorials fell in 1917. Ten of their stories are being told on large panels in the church, including photographs of the men and their homes and images of medals, gravestones, maps, a 1917 timeline, letters of condolence and other documents.

New website dedicated to Chiswick’s WW1 dead

It’s the fourth annual World War 1 exhibition at St Michael & All Angels, researched and compiled by one of its congregation, David Beresford. The stories are also now told on a new website devoted to the St Michael & All Angels Church World War I Project, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which you can see here.

There are lesson plans to help teachers use the stories and documents in class. Local schools have been invited to visit the church to see the exhibition and parish war memorials.

David Beresford said: “The number who fell in 1917 is almost as many as the 40 we remembered in the previous three years from August 1914. As the conflict continued, the rate of attrition rose inexorably, requiring constant replenishment of manpower and the compulsory national service of those over the age of 18.”

The Monstrous Regiment marches to a new drum beat

Are there any two words on the internet more sinister than ‘Hello dear’? I made the mistake on Twitter of following this very attractive young man purporting to be from New York, whose Twitter description actually said ‘I’m a really nice guy’. Now usually, in my limited experience of social media, you follow somebody and you never hear from them again. They may show their appreciation of your wit and wisdom occasionally by liking what you write. They may take issue with you on some point or other. But when this guy just contacted me with ‘Hello dear’ followed by ‘Are you there, hun?’ it really gave me the willies. My Twitter handle @Chiswick_Bridge didn’t give him my name but if he’s really from New York he’s not going to want tickets to Jazz at George IV or my opinion on CS9 so the open-ended ‘Hello dear … are you there hun?’ was nothing short of sinister. I showed my son, whose derisive snort confirmed my worst suspicions that this guy had seen my photo and pegged me as a vulnerable middle aged woman ripe for exploitation.

I’ve had the experience twice, once in Brixton and once in Paris, of having a bloke sidle up to me when I was on my own walking in the street at night and say menacingly sotto voce “you’re on your own, aren’t you?” That did the job as well; I was suitably freaked out. You may be thinking ‘this woman’s paranoid’ and it is fair to say that I have an active imagination and watch too many crime dramas. Taggart’s doleful refrain “Therre’s been another murrderr” comes to mind far too easily. But life experience has taught me that men are predatory.

It’s hard to reconcile with the behaviour of the men you know and like, but what is obvious from the current outpouring of women’s experiences of sexual harassment is just how common it is. So common that women don’t usually bother talking about it. In fact every woman can relate tales across the range from catcalling and sexist remarks to groping and a depressingly large number have also experienced serious sexual assault and rape. I think my generation have been ground down to tacit acceptance that ‘tis the nature of the beast. From the joyous blooming of radical feminism when I was a teenager, to the level of hate fuelled comments levelled at Hillary Clinton during the presidential election campaign that were purely gender based, it’s clear that although significant battles have been won, the war goes on.

Rupa Huq MP

“The asymmentry of power relations cements a culture of control”

Rupa Huq MP reported this weekend that she’d been groped by an MEP when she was in her ‘20s. “I didn’t come forward at the time for the reason many women don’t. The asymmetry of power relations cements a culture of control, with the young and powerless fearful that it will be career-ending for them”. I had a similar experience from a journalist colleague in local radio. I did report it to the (male) station manager, who just dismissed it. I also applied for a producer job on Radio 4 for which I was more than qualified and when I asked the editor why I hadn’t even got an interview was told “I’ve got enough little girls who can do research”. I felt exactly the same as Rupa – that it would have done me more harm than him to report such blatant sexism.

So I salute all the women who are coming forward now. This could have happened in any era, but it is the power of social media which enables the sheer volume of voices to be heard. What must happen now though is that instead of organisations like the UK Parliament paying lip service to equality and life just continuing as normal, this has to be translated into a new normality in which sexist behaviour is not tolerated.

Jo Brand chairing ‘Have I Got News For You’

“It (sexism) wears you down”

I watched have I Got News For You on Friday and it was clear that the four male panellists were a bit baffled by this apparent storm in a teacup over a man touching a woman’s knee. It took the token right winger Quentin Letts to declare “this is not a sex scandal”, “this is Jane Austen” and Ian Hislop to turn it into a joke with “Grope and Gropability”, but as four perfectly nice blokes what they failed to realise is that, trivial as it may seem to them, it is the avalanche of low level crap that young women especially receive on a day to day basis that is so demoralising. It took chair Jo Brand to explain (to huge applause from the audience) “It doesn’t have to be high-level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons … for women, if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down”.

And it’s up to all of us, men and women to call out unfair and unpleasant, demeaning behaviour when we see it, not just duck the issue.