Tributes to Nell Gifford

Nell Gifford, founder of the hugely popular Gifford’s Circus, died earlier this month of breast cancer.

Tributes from her large circle of showbiz friends have been published in the national press and in the local papers in the Cotswolds, where the circus is based.

Helena Bonham-Carter wrote:

‘Giffords Circus has been, for 14 years, a beacon in my year. A sort of summer Christmas. Particularly the bit at the end when the troupe invite the audience into the ring to dance. I always try to bottle that feeling to last me for the year.

‘It was so long ago now, (that she became ill) we should really have got used to the fact that she would die but for those who had the luck to know her she really was a superwoman.

She wasn’t made to end. She was extraordinary. No one did chemotherapy like she did. I know no one else who would be flat out on her bed one moment and then on a horse in front of an audience the next, all smiling and in hopeful bridal white.

‘She was a true warrior, a poet, a magician’.

She leaves twins who are not yet teenagers, a boy and a girl. One of the last things she did was to write a book: Nell and the Circus of Dreams which is about a little girl who had to cope with her mother being ill, as she herself had to do when her own mother was seriously injured in a riding accident.

Image above: Nell & the Circus of Dreams, by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith, published by Oxford University Press

Had she made it to 2020 she would have been celebrating 20 years of Gifford’s Circus, which she set up with her then husband Toti.

The circus will continue, as was her great wish, and will be performing their 20th anniversary show The Hooley in the gardens of Chiswick House, 25 June – 13 July.

‘Come and join our dance to the timeless Celtic rhythms and drums and get down with the fairy folk’.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: our review of the 2019 Gifford’s Circus show Xanadu here.

See also: All Star Turn Out for the Circus here.

New Year’s Honours

Man in the Middle – Chapter 16: Rorke’s Drift

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.16: Rorke’s Drift

We didn’t watch the film ‘Zulu’ this Christmas. Instead, we relived it.

Not literally, of course. But as wave after wave of friends and relatives hurled themselves upon our hospitality for three nights, continuously probing for shortfalls in our tempers and our wine supplies, home felt like Rorke’s Drift, the beleaguered army post in the movie.

It’s Boxing Day. Mid-morning. I’m still in bed, but I hear Christmas Carols playing and can picture Wife having a coffee with her mum downstairs. She’ll be drinking from the recyclable, foldable coffee cup which Son gave her as a Christmas present because she wants him to see her using it the minute he wakes up. She’s signalling: ‘I love your Christmas gift so much I couldn’t wait to use it.’ Which is just as well because he was up till 3am playing Mortal Kombat so the chances of her seeing him before tea-time are slim.

I hear the scraping of tables and chairs. Wife is moving things around. Putting things away. Soon, she and my Mother-in-Law will decide the day’s battleplan. This is, after all, only day two of the Rorke’s Drift Christmas siege and an overseas regiment of relatives arrive this lunchtime. Beds will need to be changed. A smorgasbord of new nibbles will need to be laid out and fresh bottles of Prosecco loaded onto the wine rack in the fridge, like mortar shells ready to fire.

There is no point me getting involved in the battle plan. I’m infantry. In fact, I’m catering corp. My job to pass plates and pour drinks, not to reason why. There’s no rush, either. The CO knows how to Get Christmas Done and, soon enough, I’ll be instructed to get up, find an ironed shirt and comb my hair. The call to arms is inevitable.

I hear my bedroom door opening slowly and think the moment has come. I shut my eyes quickly and pretend to be asleep. If I’m caught with my eyes open, it will raise all sorts of questions. Have you had a bath yet? Don’t you realise they’ll be here in an hour? But if I pretend to be asleep still, I can blame the alarm and spring into action purposeful and apologetic. In mature moments, I realise I am as bad as Private Hook in the movie ‘Zulu’ who hides in the army hospital when his colleagues are fighting for their lives. We’re both Class A malingerers.

But it isn’t Wife coming into the bedroom. It’s Son who creeps under the blankets next to me. The moment is poignant with sweet memories of when he was a little blond teddy bear, climbing into our bed to open his Christmas presents.

‘Was it always like this?’ he asks, sleepily.

‘You mean Christmas?’ I say putting my arm over him.

‘No, I mean you not pulling your weight. We were discussing this last night after you stomped off.’

‘Stomped off?’

‘You ruined ‘Call the Midwife’ with your moaning even though you know both Grannies love it. When Mum asked you to shut up you stormed off into the kitchen.’

‘I was just pointing out some pretty fundamental flaws in the plot.’

‘Was it necessary though?’

‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!’

‘Classic. You can’t handle the truth, so you get all pompous and start quoting Shakespeare or someone to shift the conversation away from the fact that you’re in the wrong.’

I wonder when he went from being a teddy bear to teddy boy but, at the same time, feel a little parental pride at his analysis. He’s right. I keep a collection of phrases to scare people off when I feel cornered, which I use like a skunk uses its spray.

Wife opens the door. For a moment, there’s a smile on her face as she remembers the old days of family snuggles and a bed full of wrapping paper. But the smile disappears as she realises that there are Things to Be Done to Get Christmas Done and she must make them happen.

‘I’m afraid we don’t have time for this bromance right now. I need you both downstairs dressed. Sharpish. Comb your hair and find a clean shirt. Preferably ironed.’
‘I was just saying we should do exactly that to Dad,’ says Son, like a sycophant.

‘Is it time to reinforce the North Wall?’ I say, knowing Wife will get the reference to the movie Zulu and hoping it will earn me more brownie points than Son’s shameless grovelling.

‘Oh dear. I thought you’d given up on that Zulu movie fantasy years ago,’ says Wife, shaking her head.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 17: Resolutions

Read the previous one – Chapter 15: Christmas Crackers

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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Thousands encouraged to join bad tax schemes

Tax consultants are continuing to advise freelance workers and contractors to enter into tax avoidance schemes which could result in bills for hundreds of thousands of pounds in the future, according to MP for Brentford & Isleworth, Ruth Cadbury. Not only that, but the schemes are being promoted now to workers who earn far less than those who have already found themselves having to pay hefty fines for using them.

Until now it has been relatively high earners who have fallen foul of the schemes. As a result, it’s estimated that some 100,000 self-employed people have received hefty charges from HM Revenue and Customs, an unforseen tax bill for income earned several years previously, which many of them are now struggling to pay.

Although they have benefited from paying relatively low tax, people make major life decisions on their estimated disposable income; they take out mortgages and send their kids to private school; they spend the money. The sudden realisation that they face crippling and unexpected debt causes huge stress and anxiety, and there have been seven suicides directly connected to the HMRC’s Loan Charge, made retrospectively on those who have been using the schemes.

‘Disguised remuneration schemes’ – aka dodgy tax avoidance schemes

The tax avoidance schemes in question are ‘disguised remuneration schemes’ in which employees are paid via third party companies, usually based off-shore, which “loan” the money to the worker.

I spoke to an IT worker in Chiswick who now owes HMRC £180,000 because she benefited from one of these schemes. The woman, let’s call her Hayley, says it was advertised as ‘QC and HMRC approved’ and she had no clue she was doing anything wrong.

Loans aren’t taxed, but these loans were never intended to be repaid, so in 2011, as a result of a clarification in the relevant law, HM Revenue and Customs decided to treat them as tax avoidance. There followed new regulations, introduced in the 2017 Budget, which resulted in the Loan Charge being imposed retrospectively in 2019.

Hayley, who moves from contract to contract with different clients, had been advised to use an umbrella company to sort out her tax, which she did between 2010 and 2016. It was less hassle than setting up an independent company of her own and she was attracted by how easy it was.

HMRC sent their correspondence to an old address for her, despite her current address being on her self assessment tax form, so by the time she found out she owned money for those six years, they’d piled on interest and penalties. She was told by HMRC in 2017 that she must pay £180,000. If she didn’t settle the amount would go up to £240,000.

MPs inundated by anxious constituents

The average loan charge appears to be over 100,000, with some charges running into several million pounds, and when the extent of the financial hit began to be known, MPs were deluged with petitions from anxious constituents.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group was formed, with Sir Ed Davey, Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton, as chairman and Ruth Cadbury as vice-chair. They heard submissions from those affected, including the family of one person who’d killed himself because of it.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group warned in November that the attitude of HMRC towards the loan charge was “wreaking havoc” on taxpayers, that it was unfair for the charge to be made retrospectively and that many of those affected are suffering with severe mental health issues because of it.

Andy Earnshaw, one of the founders of the Loan Charge Action Group, which now has around 4,000 members, says he had a nervous breakdown when he realised the extent of his liability, and had to take time off work because he couldn’t cope with the stress of it.

In a survey of 2,086 individuals affected by the Loan Charge, carried out by the action group, one-third of participants had sought counselling and medication to cope with Loan Charge-induced stress, and 40% indicated that they had also “seriously considered” suicide.

‘It is time that the Treasury and HMRC stopped trying to make excuses and issuing misleading statements but instead accepted the impact their demands are having’ wrote Ruth Cadbury, in March.

Independent report advises on changes

At the urging of the All Party Parliamentary Group, an independent review was commissioned , to be carried out by Sir Amyas Morse, the former Comptroller and Auditor General and Chief Executive of the National Audit Office.

He took evidence from all concerned and his report went to the Government during the election. It was made public on 20 December. He acknowledged that contract workers and freelances had signed up for these schemes on the advice of tax professionals. He concluded that it was therefore unfair of HMRC to have made the charge retrospectively on income dating back to 1999.

His recommendations will now be subject to new legislation to be introduced by the new parliament, but that still leaves many thousands of people with huge bills which were totally unexpected and which they now can’t pay.

In his report Sir Amyas Morse said:

“The foundation of our tax system is fairness and where this is undermined through avoidance schemes it is right that these are tackled.

“However, in doing so, the government and HMRC must act proportionately and responsibly.

“As my review makes clear, the design and delivery of the Loan Charge didn’t get the balance right between tackling tax avoidance and protecting the rights of taxpayers and, in some cases, has caused serious distress to the individuals affected.”

His recommendations, accepted by the Treasury, were that:

• The charge is only applied to loans taken out since 2010, rather than the original date of 1999.
• Those who declared their loan on tax returns since 2010 and were not contacted by HMRC will also be exempt from the charge.
• The deadline for paying the charge will also be moved from January to September of this year, allowing payments to be spread more easily.
• People can now elect to spread the amount of their outstanding loan balance evenly across three tax years

Campaigners’ response

The Government’s acceptance of Sir Amyas’ report means that some 30,000 people will have their tax bill reduced, and 11,000 will have nothing to pay, but campaigners say the recommendations don’t go nearly far enough.

The Loan Charge Action Group welcomed the report, which they say vindicates their members as law abiding tax payers, but they say:

“We do still believe that it is wrong to have the Loan Charge retrospectively apply between 2010 and 2017, when the law was actually passed – this still sets a dangerous precedent”.

Ed Davey, called the new 2010 deadline “meaningless” and said any retrospective demands for tax payments should be abolished entirely.

Senior Conservative MP David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said HMRC had given “reassurances that the schemes were legitimate” in the past and only clarified the law through the Finance Act in 2017.

“The reality is that those affected by the loan charge were advised by promoters of the schemes that the arrangements were perfectly fine.

“In some cases HMRC itself gave reassurances that the schemes were legitimate.

“The Treasury needs to take a common-sense look at these proposals and ensure no loans before 2017 are included in the scope of the loan charge.”

“Constant pressure”

For Hayley the nightmare continues. “There is constant pressure all the time” she says. “It underlies everything”. She’s been with her boyfriend for seven years. They would like to get married but she doesn’t want to make him responsible for her debt.

“There are just whole days which I’ve spent crying” she told me, and the constant pressure is enough to destroy a relationship. They can’t make plans which involve big financial decisions. They went on holiday and spent the whole time arguing about what they should do.

“It’s a massive weight on our shoulders and this stuff is never going to go away” she says.

While she has shared her problems with her boyfriend – let’s call him Stephen – she knows of others who have struggled with it by themselves. One man they know, with children, who has not told his wife.

“You feel criminalised. You feel silly. You’re a professional; you feel you should have seen it coming. You can’t tell your family.

“I feel so guilty, for dragging Stephen into this, for feeling like this when there are people who are worse affected than me”.

She still has no idea how she will pay the money owed. Her current contract has come to an end and the market for contractors is drying up she says, because of the tax problems clients face when employing them. One of her worries is that if she is made bankrupt that will be the end of her career, as most of her work is in the banking sector.

Campaigners have welcomed Sir Amyas’ report, but it still leaves many thousands of people, like Hayley, with huge bills which were totally unexpected and which they now can’t pay. And instead of the schemes themselves being made illegal, it seems a whole new catchment of people are being sucked in without realising they are storing up financial troubles for the future.

“Reprehensible” promoters still selling these schemes

Despite the controversial nature of these schemes and the publicity there has been about them, perhaps the most shocking aspect is that tax consultants still promote them.

In his independent review, Sir Amyas says: “The loan charge was intended to shut down loan schemes, but the review found there were more first-time users in 2017-18 (over 6,000) than in any year dating back to 1999-2000”. This he says is “reprehensible.”

“Scheme usage continues to be extensive in the 2019-20 tax year to date, with over 8,000 individuals having entered into loan schemes between April and October 2019. A key driver of ongoing scheme usage is a limited number of promoters and professional advisers who are selling schemes in spite of knowing that they will not deliver the tax benefits being promised.”

As Ruth Cadbury highlighted to me when I spoke to her about this, the evidence from HMRC, as outlined in Sir Amyas’ review, is that the typical profile of new users of these schemes has changed. There is now a higher volume of less affluent users because the marketing of loan schemes has changed to target them.

“Genuine, honest taxpayers find themselves caught up in this and the Government doesn’t appear to be doing anything to stop these people being caught” she said.

Caught up in this?

If you are one of those freelances who has been caught up in this, Hayley says don’t struggle with it alone. Being part of the Loan Charge Action Group has helped her enormously with coping with the stress, and she says Ruth Cadbury’s support has been fantastic. There are at least a hundred people in Hounslow struggling with this problem, including a small group in Chiswick, who support each other.

If you would like to get in touch with Hayley, email us at and we will pass your email on to her. You can contact the Loan Charge Action Group through their website.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tribunal tells landlord to repay unreasonable service charges

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Christmas Quiz 2019

Chiswick Book Festival Christmas Quiz 2019

In conjunction with The Chiswick Calendar.

While you’re lying semi-comatose on the sofa, digesting a gargantuan dinner, if you find yourself trapped between small children transfixed by Frozen 59 and the deaf old dear gently snoring in the armchair, and you’re looking for a little diversion, look no further …

We bring you an opportunity to broaden your general knowledge, with specific reference to where you live and its literary history. Pit your wits against the best in Chiswick for a chance to win a beautiful Folio Society edition of Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes (in English) – a book which is the subject of one of the quiz questions – kindly donated by Stephen and Sarah Foster of Foster Books.

To enter the competition

Answer these 40 questions. All the answers can be found in the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books, or its weblinks, on the Chiswick Book Festival website. A good starting point is this Quick Guide. Entries must be submitted by midnight on Sunday 5 January 2020. Simply email your answers to, putting ‘Quiz‘ in the subject box. There is no fee for entering but if you enjoy the quiz, you may like to make a donation to one of the three Chiswick Book Festival charities: The Felix Project, InterAct Stroke Support or Doorstep Library (but whether you do or not will have no bearing on who wins).

The winner will be the person who gets most answers right. In the event of a tie, there will be a draw for the winner, overseen by the editor of The Chiswick Calendar Bridget Osborne.  The judges’ decision will be final!


1. Which Chiswick newspaper editor revealed the plot (dramatised in The Crown) to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace him with Lord Mountbatten?

2. Which west London food charity was founded by the great grandson of the illustrator of the Chiswick Shakespeare?

3. Who was the Star Wars actor who lived on a houseboat in Chiswick and whose wife wrote a book called ‘Swans at my Window’?

4. How did John Osborne receive the contract for his play Look Back in Anger to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre?

5. Who was the Government minister whose parents arranged for EM Forster to be celebrated with a blue plaque at Arlington Park Mansions?

6. Where in Chiswick did the author of Empire of The Sun enjoy walking with his children?

7. 175 years ago, how many giraffes in Chiswick greeted the Tsar of Russia and Prince Albert at ‘one of the grandest fetes ever held in England’?

8. What event in Chiswick connects Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby?

9. What was Ralph Miliband doing in Chiswick when he wasn’t studying at Chiswick Public Library?

10. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Blenheim Road?

11. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Chiswick High Road?

12. Which Booker Prize winner lived in Barrowgate Road?

13. Which Oscar-winning writer lived in Hartington Road?

14. Which Oscar-winning actress lived on Chiswick Mall?

15. Name one of the two Chiswick writers buried in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey.

16. In what year did a Poet Laureate and an exhibition help save the first garden suburb from the threat of redevelopment?

17. Which writer moved to Chiswick to mark William Shakespeare’s four hundredth birthday and discovered you could buy a house here for less than £3,000?

18. Name the autobiography of the comedy duo who started their career in digs with Mrs Duer in Clifton Gardens.

19. What is the name of the house at Strand on the Green where the author of The Pursuit of Love and a celebrated ballet dancer have both lived?

20. Name the wife of the vicar of St Nicholas Church in Chiswick who wrote 600 letters to an Austrian refugee during World War 2?

21. Which treasure in the Bodleian Library was created by William Morris when he lived in Chiswick High Road?

22. Which Chiswick gardener later became an MP and designed the Crystal Palace?

23. Who was the headmaster immortalised in the autobiography of a member of The Who, brought up in Chiswick?

24. Which Chiswick screenwriter received an Oscar nomination for a Beatles film?

25. Which Chiswick novelist’s “riotously funny account of a new mum who goes back to work as a spy” is recommended as a Christmas gift by the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson?

26. Who gave the director Peter Brook, born in Chiswick, a special theatre award last month?

27. Which Chiswick humorist died 50 years ago this month and was commemorated in The Oldie?

28. Which novel with scenes set in Chiswick was dramatised by Tom Stoppard for an award-winning BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch?

29. Who called Chiswick House “my earthly paradise”?

30. Name two people on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books who created the musical Cats.

31. Which Chiswick-born collector has a gallery devoted to his finds in the Museum of London?

32. Name two artists on the Chiswick Timeline of art and maps, the mural at Turnham Green tube station, who also appear on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books?

33. Which two addresses in Chiswick have rival claims to be where Becky Sharpe threw the dictionary in Vanity Fair?

34. In which book does GK Chesterton parody Bedford Park as “Saffron Park”?

35. Where in Chiswick House can you find a portrait of Alexander Pope?

36. Name the trilogy of novels, featuring scenes in Chiswick, by the writer commemorated with a blue plaque in Burlington Gardens.

37. 60 years ago, who topped the bill at the final performance at the Chiswick Empire?

38. Which member of a famous chocolate family has written about Queen Victoria’s matchmaking?

39. Which Prime Minister is identified as No 100 in the key to the painting ‘The Royal Garden Party at Chiswick’.

40. Which Sunday newspaper carried the headline “Put the word out: Chiswick may be the UK’s most literary location”?

Have fun and good luck!

Image at the top of the page: Dinner at Haddo House, 1884 by Alfred Edward Emslie

Cercle Français Chiswick

There is a French conversation group which takes place in Chiswick once a month. Le Cercle Francais meets on the second Friday of the month in the Raphael Room of St Michael & All Angels Church. Each month a speakers gives a talk in French on a French subject. Past talks have covered a wide variety of topics, from Champagne to Clemenceau and his relationship with the artist Monet. There’s time for meeting and conversing before and after the lecture.

Keep an eye on The Chiswick Calendar website for details of talks, or Cercle Francais Chiswick’s own website. To find out more about the society, contact Joan Blackham.

Email: / Phone: 07956 245438

Advent Calendar Auction

St Michael & All Angels Church Advent Calendar is on show in the church on Bath Rd. Each day a picture by a local artist is unveiled. 

The art works will be auctioned online, starting on Christmas Eve when the last Advent calendar door is opened, and closing at a party in the church, after the morning service on Sunday 5 January 2020.

St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park

Picture above by Marguerite Horner

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick artist wins National Open Art award

See also: The Chiswick Calendar 2019 Christmas Quiz in association with the Chiswick Book Festival

Christmas Quiz

Did you know that there are more than 350 people who live, or have lived in Chiswick who have published a book? This is beginning to make me feel quite inadequate. 

Torin Douglas, Director of the Chiswick Book Festival, has complied a list of these scholastically incontinent souls, which you can find on the festival website

One of the better known authors to whom Chiswick lays claim is E.M Forster, who has a blue plaque to prove it.

Next week’s newsletter will be short and sweet, but will feature a Christmas Quiz, based on this literary heritage.

Your start for ten is: 

Who was the Government minister whose parents arranged for EM Forster to be celebrated with a blue plaque at Arlington Park Mansions?

Laryngitis stops play

Saturday night’s show and several other performances of Hansel & Gretel at the Chiswick Playhouse have had to be cancelled owing to one of the performers going down with laryngitis.

Chiswick Playhouse apologises to anyone who has turned up expecting to see the show, only to find it cancelled, and promises to offer them tickets for another performance.

Those who missed out included at least one of our competition winners. For the record, the meal that the witch offered Hansel and Gretel when they entered her cottage, in the original version of the Grimms fairytale, was pancakes with sugar, apples, and nuts.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

See What’s On at Chiswick Playhouse here.

Carol Singers go Contactless

Carol-singers from St Michael & All Angels Church, Bedford Park, will be at Turnham Green tube station tonight, (Tuesday 17 December), raising money for the church’s annual Christmas Charity Appeal from 5.30 to 7.30pm.

The Appeal is in aid of the church’s three 2019 charities: The Upper Room, The Amber Trust and WaterHarvest. 

 For the first time they will be taking contactless payments, as well as cash and cheques, and people can also donate online via the church’s VirginMoneyGiving page. (No pun intended. I don’t think. Branson, not Mary.)

St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Advent Calendar Auction

See also: The Chiswick Calendar 2019 Christmas Quiz in association with the Chiswick Book Festival

Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Our two Labour MPs, Ruth Cadbury and Rupa Huq will be back at work at Westminster today.

Ruth won Brentford & Isleworth with a majority of 10,514. Both Labour and Conservatives lost vote share to the Lib Dems, who more than doubled their support.

That still left Labour with 50.2%, and Conservatives with 32.2%. The Lib Dems took 12.5%. Both the Brexit Party and the Greens lost their deposit.

Rupa won Ealing Central & Acton with a majority of 13,300. Again, both the main parties lost votes to the Lib Dems, who tripled their support.

Labour won 51.3% vote, to the Conservatives’ 27.1% and Lib Dems 17.2. Again, both the Brexit Party candidate and the Green Party candidate lost their deposits, failing to gain 5% vote.

Keep on keeping on

Ruth said:

”It is an honour to be re-elected to represent our vibrant and diverse community for another term in Parliament.

“I promise that I will keep working hard to return the trust you’ve placed in me, listen to your concerns and respond your needs, whilst also reflecting values of decency, compassion and openness”.

“No matter how you voted I promise that I will continue to work hard to represent everyone on both local and national issues.

“I have always said that I am willing to work with anyone to make our local area a better place to live, and I look forward to continuing to campaign on a range of issues.”

Rupa’s done a couple of TV interviews already, in which she said the combination of Brexit fatigue and the characterisation of Jeremy Corbyn as “the spawn of the devil” by the British media is what did for Labour nationally.

Neither would be drawn on whether Corbyn should go now, straight away, or on who should succeed him.

23 year old MP

Among those taking up their seats for the first time will be 23 year old Nadia Whittome. Yes, a 23 year old who still lives at home with her mum and dad, will be representing Nottingham East for Labour.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also:  Thousands more being encouraged to join tax schemes likely to incur huge penalties – Ruth Cadbury’s work on getting fair solution for those in receipt of the Loan Charge

See also: Candidates pledge on affordable housing – Rupa Huq work on getting affordable housing in Ealing

Man in the Middle – Chapter 15: Christmas Crackers

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.15: Christmas Crackers

This Christmas we have people flying in, popping by and sleeping over. It’s going to be a week-long Bacchanal which will test our livers, family unity and organisational skills to the max. There’s only one person capable of pulling this complex operation off and it’s not me. Wife, on the other hand, has the diplomatic and logistic skills of an Olympian. If she’s on her game, we’re all OK. If she’s not, nothing will happen. Christmas will be a cock up.

In days gone by, she would have embraced her role as Head of Making Christmas Happen willingly. She would even have counted it as fun. But her love affair with Christmas has been eroded over the years and now hangs by a thread. It started with the children skipping Midnight Mass and now involves the questioning of most of the rituals and routines which she created for them and once charmed them so much. She must feel like a Pope faced with the Protestant Reformation.

I haven’t helped. I lack Christmas spirit, apparently. I say things like ‘I don’t like Christmas carols as a genre’ and if someone starts waxing lyrical about the John Lewis Christmas advertising, I will lecture them about the contradictions between the preaching’s of Jesus Christ and what capitalism has done to his birthday celebration. Thinking about it, I’m probably the biggest Christmas downer of all.

We need Wife to ‘Get Christmas Done’. The oven is ready but the turkey is days away from being stuffed. Which is why when I hear Mother say she wants to veto Christmas crackers I start to panic.

‘No point buying them. I’ve heard all the jokes before. After all, I grew up with half of them.’

Son supports her on environmental grounds. According to him, the UK wastes 30% more paper at Christmas than at any other time of the year and cutting back on Christmas crackers would be a small step towards climate salvation.

‘Why stop at crackers? I think we shouldn’t wrap any of our presents this year,’ says Daughter. I can hear Wife grinding her teeth as another relic of her Christmas ritual is thrown to the heretics of utilitarianism.

‘Respect,’ says Son, as if he were a hoodlum from the Bronx. ‘What else can we ditch?’

‘Please God, the Queen’s Speech,’ says Mother throwing herself fully into the unfestive spirit.

I am genuinely worried that Wife might explode if this conversation goes on. Not least because her mother will want to watch the Queen’s Speech, making it another conflict zone to navigate come the day. I switch the conversation to the Christmas menu, which is normally controversy (but not gluten) free.

‘I’m thinking nibbles are smoked salmon canapes, crisps, nuts washed down by a glass of prosecco. Spinach souffles as a first course and for the main event beef wellington and a vegetarian loaf. Potatoes, red cabbage, carrots, peas, bread sauce on the side. Christmas pudding for dessert and then cheese and port. OK?’

‘Are you feeding the five thousand or just the family?’ asks Wife, dry as a ten-year-old panettone.

‘You need to lose weight, not put it on,’ says Mother, thinking she’s supporting Wife.

‘Your vegetarian loaf is like a brick,’ says Son. ‘I don’t see why I should be penalised at Christmas because of my vegetarian principles.’

‘This is why I may go to Jonny’s. Why does Christmas have to be so bloody stressy,’ says Daughter, perhaps not realising that the threat to be elsewhere on Christmas day is only adding to the stress.

I am having a man in the middle moment. It’s like being surrounded by smoke on a battlefield. You can hear shouts and groans but you can’t see where they’re coming from. It’s impossible to know what the right thing to do is next. But doing nothing is dangerous, too.

Mother has made her decision. She’s retreating to her bedroom. She’s picked up the smell of gunshot and decided she may get caught in the crossfire if she stays.

Age UK says more than half a million older people aren’t looking forward to Christmas, because they feel lonely. I wonder if she feels the opposite.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 16: Rorke’s Drift

Read the previous one – Chapter 14: Made in Chelsea

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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A year of planting and art

Saplings ready for planting in Chiswick House Walled Garden

Guest blog by Karen Liebreich

Abundance London’s year ended with a splurge of tree and hedge planting. The more we read about climate change and loss of biodiversity, the more the evidence reveals that planting stuff is important. Of course, it’s not a solution, but it’s a contribution.

Tree and hedge planting

We were involved in lots of tree and hedge planting over the past weeks. Luckily in most cases other people did the planting and we just helped out, supplied plants, mentored, or, in some cases, simply stood by and encouraged the workers:

We filled the gaps with new saplings on the Sleeping Beauty Hedge along Burlington Lane, and added hundreds of daffs and forget-me-nots. Last November we planted the bulk of the hedge and nearly all of it has survived the first year, in spite of some rubbish tipping and people walking through it. Particular thanks to Rory Harding. One day soon this will be a dense flowering hedge, full of twittering sparrows and wild roses.

Chiswick House walled gardens staff and volunteers planted up hundreds of saplings that Abundance had rashly signed up for from the Conservation Trust. This hedge will provide nourishment and shelter for the bees whose hives are in the northern walled gardens; jars of honey and a shelter belt for insects.

Volunteers installing planters by Gunnersbury tube station; Cherry blossom by Jon Perry

Friends of Harvard Hill Park organised an amazing community planting day attended by some 120 adults, loads of kids, and Lampton Greenspace 360. Councillor Hearn got his hands muddy, and Cllr Giles had to be restrained from wielding her pickaxe too vigorously to remove rocks from the planting area. People came from near and far and Brighton to plant 800 hedging plants and 3 oak trees grown from acorns many years ago by Harry Triton. They also put in some outsize croquet hoops of living willow whose function may become more obvious once they green up in spring. This followed on from an initial planting of 200 trees by Abundance last November, carried out by local primary schools and residents, which led to the formation of a new Friends group which has energetically taken the baton and is running brilliantly with it. We now have a young buffer hedge against the noise and fumes of the A4, which will also provide wildlife habitat and a more cared-for environment.

Staveley Road Blossom Day

A group of residents are working their way down the road weeding and cleaning up the tree pits in preparation for next April’s big Japanese-themed Blossom Day when the road will be closed for our very own Chiswick Hanami; no need to visit Japan and clock up carbon air miles… Hounslow Highways will be replacing a couple of dead trees over the next few weeks, and the Blossom Day team are working on lots of very exciting activities from sushi to raku. If only we knew exactly when the blossom will be at its best…

The piazza flowers receiving some TLC

2019 Abundance achievements – PIazza, Plinth, Party, Planters and Pits

We worked hard to refurbish the piazza on Turnham Green Terrace by replacing the bike racks, planting up a perennial flower meadow, installing lovely big curving benches and launching the W4th Plinth with Sir Peter Blake’s image which will change every 6 months and bring an exciting new artwork to the embankment wall. We closed the street in September (with the Cookbook Festival and all the traders along the road) and held a fun party to launch the piazza.

Along the High Road we installed planters at Gunnersbury Tube station (with Cultivate London), planted up William Hogarth’s statue and the tree pits on Devonshire Road (with Stefano Marinaz Landscape Architecture) – all of which plantings should reveal their true glory next spring. And we picked apples and pears with local schoolchildren through September, which we pressed into juice at the Turnham Green Terrace Street Festival.

Tree pits in Chiswick High Rd and Devonshire Rd

Hounslow declares Climate Emergency – and sows wild flowers

We’ve been working with the Borough on several greening initiatives to help fight the ongoing climate crisis. Over months of meetings and discussions (yawn!) a ‘strategy group’ has been working on a new policy, to be presented to Cabinet in January. In conjunction with other community environment groups, Hounslow Highways, Lampton 360 Greenspace, Co-alo, and the Borough officers, we’ve come up with a swathe of proposals.

One of these is to stop mowing all road verges and encourage wildflowers to improve biodiversity. As some of you may appreciate, changing contractual obligations (25-year PFI!), work habits (mow grass really short!), planting and maintenance techniques, as well as public expectations (weeds, messy leaves, insects!) is a task akin to changing directions on a big tanker approaching Chiswick Bridge… If we do nothing then the effects on our lives may be similarly dramatic.

So these first signs of a real change of direction and attitude should be welcomed with loud cheering, even if these are currently smallish pilot studies; we hope they are a sign of bigger things to come. The following areas have been selected for wildflower treatment. Some have already been rotavated and sown; others will be sown in spring. Notice boards are to be installed explaining what is happening. In Chiswick we have two areas – the grassy area opposite the Steam Packet by the river at Strand-on-the-Green, and raised beds on the Alexandra Gardens estate. Hounslow Highways has packs of seeds with the same mixture available to sow for schools or local groups, so you can participate and grow your own mini-me meadow. Let us know if you’d like a pack.

Wildflower areas

Bedfont Staines Road (Spinney Drive 2 sections) Big field opposite St Mary’s Bedfont, and also on the opposite side of the Staines Road.
Bedfont Staines Road (opposite library 4 sections) Verges
Brentford Albany Road Outside Berkeley House
Brentford Ealing Road grass areas along Ealing Road
Brentford Ealing Road Front of Cressage House
Brentford High Street Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf
Brentford High Street (Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf) Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf
Brentford High Street J/W Pottery Road/High Street
Chiswick Alexandra Gardens raised beds in front
Chiswick Strand on the Green opposite Hearne Road
Feltham Bedfont Road corner with Redford Close
Feltham Heron Way Verge at j/w A312
Feltham Snakey Lane just before the Texaco garage
Feltham Staines Road (4 sections) Verges
Feltham Sunbury Road j/w Ryland Close
Heston Almorah Road verges
Heston Burns Way verges
Heston Channel Close Entire road
Heston Guernsey Close Entire road
Heston Vicarage Farm Road j/w Cranford Lane
Hounslow West Bath Road Rosemary Aveue to roundabout
Isleworth Twickenham Road just down from the A316, behind bus stop, just across from Cole Park Allotments.
Isleworth Twickenham Road outside Ridgemead Court

Other projects

We also worked on the Great West Hedge,  hoping to plant a buffer all the way along the A4 from Chiswick to Hammersmith (or further!) and the Thames Path Pledge, hoping to enhance and upgrade the river path all through London. These are big, long-term projects, but maybe 2020 will see some progress?

Here’s hoping for a greener New Year.

Seasons greetings

Karen Liebreich is Director of Abundance London

Read more about Karen Liebreich and about Abundance London

See our profile of Karen Liebreich here

Read a feature about the work of Abundance London here

Performance art?

Images above: Dartmoor Winter 1 painting; artist Joanna Brendon

One of Chiswick’s best loved artists posted on her Facebook page a day or two ago about ‘One of the most embarrassing incidents in my life…’ In for a penny, in for a pound, Joanna Brendon says she’s happy for me to share it. The story unfolds in Poundland in Chiswick High Rd …

Joanna writes:

I went into Poundland to buy some washing detergent. I found the one I wanted but it was on the top shelf so I asked this woman if she could reach up and get it for me. She happily did that and put it straight into my wheely basket. When I got to checkout, I suddenly slipped and fell into a large stack of biscuit tins, and chocolates which came tumbling down around me. Embarrassing. Then I realised that I had slipped in a pool of detergent which had leaked from the litre bottle in my basket. Then – and this is the cringe-making moment – I looked back and saw that I had left a trail of detergent up one aisle and down the other. In other words, everywhere. Even more embarrassing..

If Poundland had intended to instal a festive skating rink, I would say that they’d done a pretty good job. All the buyers ( in some cases, just potential buyers as they skidded past their intended purchase) were skating all over the place, crashing into display shelves, carefully erected stacks and each other. I was aware that there was a lot of squealing. As they skidded around, they spread the detergent even further, so that people could only exit this mayhem by mincing along tiny slivers of ‘dry’ land. Mortifying.

The woman who had put the detergent into my basket was nowhere to be seen, but it wasn’t her fault; the bottle must have been cracked all along. And it wasn’t mine as I never touched the bottle. But this didn’t prevent me from wishing the floor would swallow me. I was given a replacement bottle, paid for my goods and shimmied out of the door, leaving three or four men trying to clear up the mess.

It was an exciting experience for the few children in the shop. They especially liked the mass of foam where one of the cleaners had added water to the detergent, creating a tiny igloo.

What a farce!

See more of Jo’s paintings on her page in our Directory of Chiswick Artists

Image below: Reflected Trees

Riverside Studios open for business

Riverside Studios in Hammersmith has opened to the public. In what is known as a ‘soft launch’ the new building, along the riverside right by Hammersmith Bridge, is currently open just for food and drink from the cafe and bar (Cafe / bakery open weekdays 8.00am – 4.00pm; bar / Restaurant open seven days a week from 12.00 – 11.00pm) and for an exhibition by local artists.

The first theatre production will be in January. Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, with Olivier award winner Alice Krige and Nobuhle Ketelo (featuring William Close and his Earth Harp) opens 23 January, and runs until 23 February. Tickets are already on sale for that and the second production: Love, Loss & Chianti by Christopher Reid, with Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Johnson, 25 February – 17 May.

The cinema is still being built, or at least there is no staircase leading down to it, but operations manager Jake Stanley is quietly confident it will be ready to open on 1 February. When I went in to have a look round last week there was a palpable air of excitement, as the staff can’t wait to show of their shiny new building to the hordes expected through the doors.

The foyer is massive. Looking a bit bleak at the moment, aside from a solitary Christmas tree, it will eventually have big interactive screens to entertain the crowds of people queuing for the four studios, cinema and restaurant. Krishnan Guru-Murthy was sitting in the foyer when I went there, with the production team of Channel 4’s election night special, putting the final touches to Thursday night’s live broadcast from Studio 1, the arts centre’s dedicated TV studio.

Photographs above: Riverside Studios massive foyer; Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy

“It’s the most modern, state of the art TV studio there is” Jake told me proudly. “You can come in from Heathrow, come straight here from the motorway and drive straight in to our special loading dock with all your gear.”

The studio is supremely flexible, so TV companies can build bespoke stages for their shows. It’s already been used for Richard Osman’s World Cup of the Decade and the Brit Award nominations. Impossible to tell they were the same venue as Channel 4’s election night broadcast. The studio has capacity for an audience of 550 but the tiered seats are fully retractable. They fold up like a concertina, floor and all. With a black curtain pulled across it’s as if they were never there.

Photograph above: Old Riverside Studios in 1975. Courtesy of Riverside Studios

Historic venue

The Riverside Studios has a fantastic history. Bought by Triumph films in 1933, the former Victorian iron foundry on Crisp Road was converted into a film studios with two stages and a dubbing theatre.  It changed owner several times, and in the 1940s films such as We’ll Meet Again (1943) with Vera Lynn and The Seventh Veil (1945) with James Mason were produced there. Some of the great British film actors worked there, including Trevor Howard, Alistair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Alec Guinness.

In the 1950s and ’60s the studios were used by the BBC to make television programmes. Opened by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1957, during it’s second incarnation some classic TV shows were made at BBC Riverside Television Studios, as it then became: Hancock’s Half Hour, Dixon of Dock Green, Six-Five Special, Z-Cars, Top of the Pops, Blue Peter and some of the first series of Dr Who.

The Riverside Studios that I remember is the arts centre it became in 1974, when the Riverside Trust, formed by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, took it over. David Bowie played there. The Sex Pistols rehearsed there in the early days when they were still called The Strand. Julie Covington starred in a landmark production of The Cherry Orchard; Helen Mirren, who started her career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performed in Measure for Measure. It was home to Dance Umbrella, had exhibitions of work by Edvard Munch and David Hockney, Antony Gormley and Yoko Ono.

From the late ’90s it renewed its connections with television, hosting audience participation shows such as TFI Friday with Chris Evans (Channel 4), and panel games Never Mind the Buzzcocks (BBC) and Celebrity Juice (ITV). It closed on 14 August 2014, by which time the building was literally falling apart.

Photographs above: Samuel Beckett coming out of rehearsals for Waiting for Godot, 1984. Photo credit: John Minihan/University College Cork. Group picture: from Left to Right: Paul Jones, Peter Bowles, Anna Massey, Alan Bates, Leigh Lawson, Elizabeth Estensen, Hayley Mills, Judy Parfitt, Peter Gill, Brian Cox, Eleanor Bron, Phillip Joseph, Emma Piper, Martin Shaw, Tony Steedman. Courtesy of Riverside Studios.


The new building has not been funded on the old model of local authority and Arts Council funding, but on the new developer-led model, whereby Mount Anvil. working with A2 Dominion, have built an entirely new venue.

165 residential flats, four new studios to be used for television, theatre and as flexible event spaces; another studio for rehearsals, two cinemas, (one with 202 seats, and another smaller 46-seater for private hire) as well as Sam’s Riverside restaurant (as in Sam Harrison of Sam’s Brasserie fame in Chiswick) which opened at the beginning of November (an ‘upmarket, stylish site, serving finely tuned classics’ – Evening Standard).

Hence the £25 million debt Riverside Studios now has to pay off, mainly by renting its TV studio space.

Paintings above: The Market Will Decide by Brian Deighton; Mexican Dance Masks by Romy Rey

Riverside Artists

The Riverside Artists Group, who used to show their work at the old Riverside Studios and have been homeless for the past five years, are delighted that despite the necessity of making a commercial success of the studios, the Riverside Trust still wants to engage with the local community.

Of the 37 artists in the group, 27 are showing their work, including Clare Belfield and Chloe Freemantle, whose work is known to Chiswick people from Artists At Home open studios. The exhibition also includes work by Romy Rey, a Swiss artist whose work has been displayed in galleries throughout the UK. Her Mexican Dance Masks painting is typical of her work, which she describes as falling into four categories: Ancient and Tribal, Geometrics, Dreamscapes and Landscapes. Brian Deighton’s work, The Market Will Decide, which is the poster image for the exhibition, is a protest at the impact of the big fossil fuel companies on the environment. Prices range from £120 to £10,000.

They’re an interesting lot, the Riverside Artists Group. They were set up in 1986, the same year as the old Riverside Studios and their adventures have included holding exhibitions in both Russia and Spain. The Russian trip, in the last remnant of the Cold War, involved an exchange with Russian artists. They showed their work in Moscow and played host to Russian artists exhibiting here, who all lived on their hotel breakfast and saved up their £5 daily expenses to take home such luxuries as kitchen appliances and in one instance (a sculptor I presume), a chainsaw.

The new Riverside Studios’ brief, says Jake, is to be ‘as adventurous as possible’. Here’s to the next great adventure. Let’s hope it achieves as great a reputation as its predecessor.

Photographs above: Riverside Studios foyer cafe

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

See also: Directory of Chiswick artists

Join the Handbag Colour Revolution

Tired of seeing the same indistinguishable monochrome bags up and down Chiswick high street? Take a stand and join the colour revolution at huh! Bags. Proud local Jane Dyson has launched her own online store from her Chiswick studio, featuring a range of beautifully eye-catching bags to help you stand out from the crowd and express your personality one stylish handbag at a time!

No one knows reinvention better than Jane. Originally starting as a travel agent she moved from career to career, creating her own free newspaper distribution company before representing a number of businesses on the board of Menzies Distribution.

“The board of Menzies was an amazing experience I learned so much and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world but I felt I wasn’t being true to myself.” Jane said. “It was all about internal meetings and satisfying shareholders which of course you have to do but I’m very much a people person and I was missing that interaction. I thought, I’ve done that, now we need to do something else, so I moved house, refurbished the house and did all of that.”

It was during this period of rediscovery that Jane had her colours done. This was a completely new concept to me but Jane explained that people have their colours done in order to find out which colour palette suits them the best.

“People come to me now and I do their colours and see which colour suits them. You’re one of the seasons and we look at your skin tones and everything really. I had mine done 25 years ago, maybe even longer, but my daughter always knew I was into it. She had a friend come round and said ‘oh mum what colours do you think Mylo is?’ and I thought, do you know, that’s it! I love that stuff; maybe this could be the next thing”

After this colour revelation, Jane began researching the company behind all this, House of Colour.

“I went on the website and they said they had vacancies, I think it was Wimbledon or somewhere, so I was like okay, not too far, but then I got a phone call two days after I sent my submission asking ‘oh is it just Wimbledon you want? Because I’m in Chiswick and I’m about to retire’. I was like, right okay, this is so weird, so literally within three months I’d retrained”

Jane now owns the House of Colour franchise for Chiswick, Richmond, Barnes and Kew so if you ever want to discover your true colour palette and find out what works best for your skin tone, size and body-shape, visit Jane in her Chiswick studio.

“I’ve helped a lot of people now within that business. It can be a bride and her bridesmaids, it can be someone who’s just retiring and they’re losing their way a bit, it can be a new mum who’s body shape has changed she doesn’t really know what to wear. I call them the wilderness years.”

When discussing House of Colour, Jane explained that the majority of colour stylists’ studios’ had featured products such as scarves, hats or jewellery – something that clients could buy in their newly discovered signature colours.

“One thing when people have their colours done is the first thing they want to do is to buy something in their colour. I just sort of hit on the handbags. One of the consultants had a handbag in her studio and I got a couple of her suppliers then I started selling handbags in my studio”

Immediately clients starting asking about the colourful handbags in Jane’s studio, asking if she had a website as they had friends who would love the bags. Whilst on holiday Jane decided she had had enough of the monochrome bags filling high-street retailers and after successful customer feedback, Jane began creating huh! Bags to add that signature pop of colour to any outfit.

“I wanted to create a fun brand, a cheeky brand with the main thing being affordability. That’s where the name huh! Bags comes from – handbags under a hundred. When we launched, which was only 3 weeks today, I thought to myself are people going to go oooo they’re lovely bags or will they just want a black one, we didn’t know but I’ve sold aqua, pink, bright yellow because they’re not accessible to a lot of people.”

huh! Bags have launched with a range of 12 different styles to suit every personality as well as a choice of interchangeable statement straps. During their initial launch they fell into the top 8% of Shopify businesses that launched that week, so the business is already taking off.

With their highly affordable price-point and sleek, colourful designs huh! Bags would make for the perfect Christmas gift. To view the full collection of bags and straps head over to If you’re interested in visiting Jane at her Chiswick studio drop her an email at to arrange your very own style consultation.

Christmas present ideas: ‘Lacroix sweetie’

If that familiar knot is beginning to form in the pit of your stomach as you realise you won’t be able to put off thinking about Christmas presents for that much longer, maybe we can help.

Idea one: a little bit of luxury

Chiswick Auctions is holding an Affordable Luxury sale today (Tuesday 10 December) at 11.00.

Catalogue available here: Affordable Luxury 

Telephone number: 020 8992 4442.

Among the items in the catalogue are two Christian Lacroix silk scarves. None other than Edina Monsoon’s favourite designer. Lacroix sweetie! 

On Wednesday at 11.00 their Interiors & Antiques sale has everything from silver teapots and Victorian novelty silver bookmarks to George V full gold sovereigns: Interiors & Antiques catalogue

On Thursday 12 December at 2.00pm their auction of European Works of Art & Clocks includes this Italian Renaissance terracotta bust, which I think is just exquisite. European Works of Art & Clocks catalogue

Italian Renaissance terracotta Reliquary bust

If you’re more of a pragmatic present buyer, how about a warm, fluffy gilet or high lace up boots from Lizard women’s fashion in Turnham Green Terrace.

Or some essential item of clothing, such as a shirt, jeans or a jacket from LA Menswear. They stock brands such as Timberland, French Connection and Diesel, but sell them for real bargain prices.

LA Menswear, Turnham Green Terrace

Like Chiswick Auctions, both Lizard and LA Menswear are independent local businesses, and both happen to be members of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme.

Lizard is offering Club Card holders a discount of 10% off coats and knitwear

LA Menswear is offering 10% off everything

Sam Pennington has been to both shops and talked to the owners about what they have on offer how they choose their stock.

Read Sam’s interviews with Lizard here and LA Menswear here.


Train strike on South Western Railway

Train  strikes are affecting services on the line between Chiswick and Waterloo until 2 January.

And just in case the strike is resolved, don’t get complacent; there’s engineering work on Sunday 15 December.

BBC Transport correspondent Paul Clifton has a stab at explaining what it’s about here

South West trains say they will endeavour to run a reduced service. You can see their strike timetable here.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Road reopens after Brentford fire

See also: Cycleway 9 work starts at Kew Bridge

Road reopens after Brentford fire

Brentford High St has been reopened after the fire at Travelodge hotel in the early hours of last Wednesday (4 December).

162 guests were safely evacuated and about 100 firefighters battled the blaze for several hours overnight at a five-storey hotel.

Brentford High St has been closed between Kew Bridge and Pottery Road, near Watermans Art Centre, but that stretch of road has now been reopened.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cycleway 9 work starts at Kew Bridge

See also: Train strikes on South Western Railway

£366 to park a bike by the river

The Coffee Traveller cafe’s bike has become a familiar sight on the tow path at Strand on the Green over the past few years. 

With flowers on the handlebars and a sign directing people from the river down an alleyway to Thames Rd, it advertises the cafe’s existence to people out for a stroll along the river.

The cafe has recently changed hands. New owner Aziza was contacted out of the blue by Hounslow Highways, to say she had to apply for permission to keep the bike there within 48 hours, or they would remove it.

The bike was an “unauthorised advertisement” they said. 

After several hours’ form filling online on Sunday, she and her business partner discovered the application would cost them £366, an amount which they say the cafe can’t afford.

The bike / advert has been an important marketing tool. “To be honest we get a lot of customers because of this bike” says Aziza “It’s a little bit upsetting.”

According to Aziza. the previous owners didn’t have planning permission for it and never had an issue with it. She has a sneaking feeling that someone dobbed her in to the council. 

Chairman of Strand on the Green Residents Association Richard Griffith says they had no objection to the bike, as long as she took it in every night. ‘£300+ is a bit OTT’ he told me.

For years the row of shops at Strand on the Green was crying out for a cafe and locals have welcomed the quality coffee and opportunity to sit and chill.

Let’s hope the loss of advertising doesn’t have too much of an adverse affect on custom.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Watch: New Brentford Stadium – A Bird’s Eye View – November 2019

See also: Plastic waste in the River Thames at Strand on the Green attracts national media attention


Grove Park & Belmont among top primary schools in the UK

Grove Park and Belmont primary schools in Chiswick are among the top state primary schools in the country, according to the Times & Sunday Times guide Parent Power 2020.

The survey looks at the top 2,000 schools in the UK. Grove Park was ranked 79 and was rated Outstanding at its last Ofsted. Mayor of Hounslow Tony Louki was at the school on Friday to celebrate their Charities week, in which each year group learns about a local charity,

Belmont  just missed the Top 100 bracket, coming 101. It too was rated Outstanding at its last Ofsted. The school’s choir will give its annual Christmas concert with the Hogarth Singers this Saturday at St Michael & All Angels Church at 6.00pm. 

The Times / Sunday Times rankings are based on Sats results, but both schools have a lot more going on than that narrowness of focus would suggest.

Considering there are more than 16,000 state funded primary schools in England, that’s not bad going.

Photograph above: Hounslow Major Tony Louki at Grove Park School

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: “Children need to know who’s in charge – Interview with Chiswick School Head Teacher Laura Ellener

See also: Arts Ed wins award for supporting students

Christmas Market

The Food Market Chiswick, held every Sunday morning at Dukes Meadows, will be a full on Christmas market next weekend  (15 December) from 10.00am – 2.00pm.

Among the regular stall holders are a cheese stall and an olives stall as well as a fishmonger, two farmers selling produce direct from their farms, and a couple of vegetable stalls, offering the basic ingredients for a great Christmas dinner.

Next weekend you will also find some lost elves and their reindeer and a Christmas ‘boogie bear’, a Christmas tree, decorations and free craft activities for children at the market, which is behind the flats opposite Chiswick School on the A316.

Food Market, Chiswick

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Dukes Meadows Trust celebrates 20 years

See also: “Chiswick Food Market enabled us to survive as a family business”

Candidates pledge affordable housing

Photograph: L to R Sonul Badiani (Liberal Democrats), Rupa Huq (Labour), Julian Gallant (Conservatives)

Candidates for the Conservative Party, Lib Dems and Labour were among 60 community leaders in Ealing on Sunday attending a candlelight Advent procession in support of Ealing Citizens and the Affordable Housing Campaign.

Rupa Huq (Labour), Julian Gallant (Conservatives) and Sonul Badiani (Liberal Democrats) all pledged their support for the campaign, which has seen members of faith and community groups working with the council on a plan to develop 50 permanently affordable homes on a site in central Ealing.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

See also: ‘£43m wasted’ on scrapped NHS plan for west London hospitals

Switching parties and voting tactically

To illustrate the fluidity between parties, here’s Lib Dem candidate for Ealing Central and Acton, Sonul Badiani, out campaigning with Andrew MacKinlay, former Labour MP for Thurrock.

After representing Thurrock for Labour for almost 20 years, he stood down in July 2009, expressing disillusionment with the way he felt other MPs had caved in to party pressure rather than standing up for their beliefs. In May this year he joined the Lib Dems.

Then we have a string of people on Twitter, saying they are voting tactically to keep Ruth Cadbury as MP for Brentford & Isleworth.

ITV featured a new item with ex pats living in Spain, among them a Brentford & Isleworth constituent switching parties from the Conservatives to vote for Ruth, because of her consistently pro-Remain stance.

“I will also be voting tactically for @RuthCadbury” writes TV executive James Farrell “to deny Boris a majority and prevent a hard Brexit.”

James was Head of Development with BBC Studios, where he earned a reputation for discovering major new talent. He’s currently working on the HBO prequel to Game of Thrones.

Sir John Major

But most remarkable of all has to be former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major urging us not to vote along ‘tribal’ lines but to:

 “Vote for the candidate who you believe will best represent your own views and aspirations in Parliament.” 

In a recorded message in support of the Final Say campaign, he described Brexit as “the worst foreign policy decision in my lifetime”.

“It will make our country poorer and weaker. It will hurt most those who have least” he said.

Appealing for young people to vote, and underlining that their turn out could make all the difference, he said:

“Don’t allow your future to be shaped by others, with no input from yourselves. You – every single one of you, can make a difference to the election result.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Watch The Chiswick Calendar 2019 General Election Debate

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Uncertainty rules

Or – Why you should never listen to the polls.

The opinion polls have varied hugely over the past week or two, from predictions of a safe Conservative majority to a hung parliament. 

With three days to go to the election, polls are being published almost daily, but the truth is, pollsters regard this as one of the most unpredictable elections of recent history.

Big, reputable companies such as ComRes, YouGov or Ipsos MORI adhere to strict guidelines about sample size and the wording of questions, but even so only one poll accurately predicted the outcome of the last general election.

Why? People change their minds, and let’s face it, it’s not just politicians who lie. According to the British Election Survey, up to 40% voters changed allegiances in the 2015 and 2017 elections.

This election more than ever, the changing face of British politics has made us unsure, with many people leaving it till the last minute to make up their minds.

Ruth Cadbury (Labour), Helen Cross (Lib Dem), Seena Shah (Conservative) candidates for Brentford & Isleworth at The Chiswick Calendar debate

At our election debate with candidates for Brentford & Isleworth: Ruth Cadbury (Labour), Helen Scott (Liberal Democrat) and Seena Shah (Conservative) around a third of the audience of more than 200 people said they hadn’t yet made up their minds.

Brexit has cut across traditional party lines, polarised opinion and split the main parties. Both Conservative and Labour have moved away from the centre ground and an oft repeated refrain is that people don’t want to vote for either of their leaders.

The issue of trust (or lack of it) in politics has also made it harder than ever for people to choose.

So don’t believe whatever the latest polls say and think you needn’t go out and vote because your candidate is sure to win, and it’s raining. Get out and exercise your right to vote!

You can watch a video recording of our debate on The Chiswick Calendar website, with timecodes for different sections of the debate on Brexit, the NHS, Crime, Heathrow & Climate Change, the Econony, what to do to save our High streets and how great a liability is your party leader. 

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Watch The Chiswick Calendar 2019 General Election Debate

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Introducing Lucy O’Sullivan

Guest blog by Lucy O’Sullivan

Lucy is the parliamentary candidate for the Brexit party for the Brentford & Isleworth constituency, 2019 general election

When you read this blog, we will have only two days left to the General Election.

Unlike many of you in Chiswick, I voted Leave in 2016. My decision to leave was not – as the papers would have it – due to insularity, age, or lack of education – indeed I am the daughter of graduates, trilingual myself and I have a Masters in modern languages from a top flight university. No, unlike all the other candidates, I lived and worked in Brussels for 16 years – and my decision was based on what I witnessed first hand. And which scared me. Lack of any meaningful economic growth, massive youth unemployment (apart from in the UK ) and no useful policies to boost employment, grandiose plans for EU expansion, EU flags, anthem, and planned EU Army … but most of all, our loss of Sovereignty and autonomy. As a EU contractor, I was even flown on a few days EU networking ‘super jolly’ to Finland with 450 others and no justifiable aims. I knew something was very wrong…. As the second largest contributor, WE – you and me – paid for that trip and the EU’s now permanent ‘largesse’.

And this week when I see riots and strikes paralysing France because Macron is trying to streamline their overgenerous pensions system – public sector pensions eat up 16% of Government spending (in UK its 6%) …I despair. No wonder 70% of French school pupils want jobs in … the public sector. THAT’s the height of their ambition. An easy life with big fat salaries, big fat perks and even bigger, fatter, pensions at the end. Let me say it again: WE ARE THE EU’s SECOND LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR.

I want to see our country succeed. I want to see our country thrive. I want to see our country welcoming the brightest and the best from around the world not just from the protectionist EU. And I want our children and grand children to be well educated, to have ambition, creativity and fulfilment. We are the world’s fifth most successful economy let’s stay that way or surpass it! But if the Boris/May Treaty goes through Parliament unamended we will find it virtually impossible (‘LEVEL playing field’, ‘regulatory alignment’ ‘no State aid’ ) to make trade deals with any other part of the world and we will find everything from financial services to our forgotten fisheries bound by EU law…which WE fund and pay for. The Brexit Party need seats in Parliament to keep the Tories to their ‘promises’.

My (now adult) children were at Chiswick & Bedford Park pre-prep school so, naturally, early in 2008 we returned back to this vibrant West London area. I noticed the streets were far busier, traffic denser, cultural activities broader, hospitals bursting, house renting and buying exorbitant, and the cost of living prohibitive for the many. So the first thing to tackle in Brentford and Isleworth is the cost of living. This could be done when we leave the EU immediately by reducing tariffs on imported non-EU goods. Twenty per cent of UK food items are sourced out of the EU and leaving would allow us to have zero tariffs on certain foods, footwear and clothing. Secondly, the Brexit Party wants to cut VAT on domestic fuel. EU rules stop this happening but we would zero rate energy bills immediately we leave and saving an average £65 per household.

And what of our beloved NHS? The Brexit Party wants to invest in the NHS and to improve local services: unlike the other parties, we wish to implement 24hr GP surgeries and create a new non-degree level nursing qualification providing more medical and care staff in hospitals and homes.

Chiswick High Road is a car choked thoroughfare. CS9 adoption, though very divisive, might – after obvious disruption – inject some real local community feel to the area. And the Brexit party wants to invest in all our high streets, – alongside reforms to corporation tax, we would replace business rates with a simpler system funded by an online sales tax. This would make an immediate difference. Local shops and businesses must be locally supported and encouraged or we’ll lose them. After 25 years as a business consultant, I see such support as crucial to my own business success.

We would also tackle the terrible scourge of homelessness which we see on the streets of West London. We would change the funding model so councils could borrow from central government more easily to build council houses. And we would allow more flexibility in the number of affordable homes within a development scheme.

We would definitely increase police numbers – provide more visible policing on the streets and ensure focus on combating violent crime, robbery and burglary rather than as we see currently, enforcing restrictions on free speech. We also – as a priority – wish to stop the menace of drug dealers, youth gangs and the horrendous growth of knife crimes. This should not be happening in a ‘civilised’ society.

Finally, all of us at the Brexit Party intend reforming our political system so that Parliament truly represents and works for the people – and not just for ‘career politicians’. We alone are the New Radicals.

You may read our ‘Contract with the People’ at

The Chiswick Calendar freebie – Tickets to Hansel & Gretel

The Chiswick Calendar is offering free tickets to Hansel and Gretel at the Chiswick Playhouse, for ten lucky winners who are able to go to the show this week.

The traditional tale, suitable for children aged six and upwards, will take children on an adventure in a forest of silver trees:

‘far from their city life, their Xboxes and Insta likes, into a world of lollipop houses, tap-dancing cockroaches and a witch with a penchant for single use plastic and the only remaining sustainable food source: children’.

The cast is full of veterans of West End productions, including: Pippa Conway, Joshua Oakes-Rogers, Serena Flynn and Tomi Ogbaro, so it promises to be a good one.

To win one of ten pairs of tickets for performances this week – Wednesday 11 December at 7.00pm, Thursday at 3.00pm / 7.00pm, Friday at 3.00pm / 7.00pm, Saturday at 3.00pm / 7.00pm or Sunday at 11.00am / 3.00pm – all you have to do is answer this question:


In the original (1812) edition of the story as published by the Grimm brothers Jacob and Wilhelm, what meal did the witch give the children when she enticed them into her house?

First correct answers to email: win the tickets. Please put Hansel & Gretel tickets in the title of your email.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tabard Theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

See What’s On at Chiswick Playhouse

For the man who has everything – but never enough socks

The men in our lives are notoriously difficult to buy Christmas gifts for but you can never have enough socks. Jeans, shirts, jackets, belts, bags … independent men’s fashion shop LA Menswear is the answer.

L.A Menswear is a hidden gem. Hidden in plain sight on Turnham Green Terrace, it’s a treasure trove of designer brands that are, for once, affordable. Featuring Timberland, French Connection and Diesel, to name just a few of the brands they stock, L.A Menswear pride themselves on their discounted prices, searching the distributors for the best deals to bring to their Chiswick customers.

L.A Menswear stock a huge range of menswear from essentials, such as jumpers and jeans, but also suits, bags and winter accessories. It’s tiny. You can easily walk by and miss it, but the store deals with between 20-30 big-name brands, selecting the best items from each season’s collection to bring to Turnham Green. They constantly rotate their stock, keeping most items in store for around nine or ten weeks before they get moved on to a concessions store in Wales, so there are always new bargains to be found. They’re currently offering Levi’s jeans at £65 which caught my eye as I had a rummage around – most high street retailers sell them for more than £85.

Originally founded in 1991 by the store’s namesake, Lionel Avery, L.A Menswear has gone from strength to strength. As well as having the Chiswick shop they’ve developed a fantastic internet presence, which is hardly surprising given the considerable discounts they offer on huge brands. They often have exclusive items on their popular eBay page and are currently in the process of developing their own website.

Although big brands and tempting discounts are what draw people in, customer service has always been at the heart of L.A Menswear.

“We are not difficult to deal with, we exchange, we refund with no quibble” said manager, Henrik. “We also do same-day alterations. We’ve sometimes got people in who buy a pair of trousers on their way to a wedding and they sit in the fitting room whilst I run across to the tailor and they get them back ten minutes later.”

From the outside it might not necessarily appear as though the store would have so many fantastic, high-end brands inside but the design of L.A Menswear has always been a conscious choice, Henrik tells me.

“As you can see, we don’t spend a lot of money on décor, we prefer to put it back into the products and service we offer” he said.

So whether it’s a pair of Timberland boots, winter waterproofs or a Marc Darcy suit for your upcoming Christmas party, L.A Menswear is likely to have something that tickles your fancy. What’s more they offer 10% off all their stock to Chiswick Calendar Club Card holders, which is even included an additional discount on sale items. So head down there now, before the best bargains get picked up by someone else.

LA Menswear is at 11A Turnham Green Terrace, Chiswick, London W4 1RG

Man in the Middle – Chapter 14: Made in Chelsea

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No. 14: Made in Chelsea

I have never believed life imitates art. But I do now because Mother is telling me about her courtship with my Dad.

It’s as if they had modelled their early relationship on Benedict and Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Mother playing the role of the feisty, young Beatrice and dad is Benedict, the aristocratic wit and marriage hater. Like the characters in the play, they spent their early meetings throwing barbed comments at each other like rival artillery brigades, their courtship more fight than flirt.

‘I first met him at a dinner party. He was so arrogant that after a few exchanges I simply turned my back on him. Refused to speak to him for the rest of the meal.’

Picture the scene. It’s Chelsea in the late Forties. Everyone’s dressed up for dinner and how you hold your knife and fork says more about you than your bank balance. Turning your back on someone at dinner is a public declaration of war.

‘What did he do to deserve that?’ I ask, not sure if I really want to know. Every time we discuss my father with her, I feel I’m walking through a minefield.

‘He told me he was holding a drinks party the following week and asked me if I could ask my sister to it. He suggested that if I could persuade her to come then I could come too. Hardly, flattering, don’t you think?’

Mother’s sister was a successful actress at the time and married to a film director. She was a minor celebrity and would have added some cache to father’s cocktail party. I struggle to see my father as this social snob. But I can see him saying something as ham-fisted as this. He was a shy man and didn’t always handle social situation’s well.

I want to know why she was there in the first place. She comes from a large, working class Irish family with barely a bean to their name.

‘How come you were hobnobbing in Chelsea given your lowly start in life,’ I say, not meaning to sound patronising but failing.

‘Thanks to my sister’s connections and my looks. I was modelling then. Being good looking has always been a passport to social mobility,’ she says.

‘Sounds like an episode of Made in Chelsea with Grandpa as that stuck up p***k Spencer Matthews. Frankly, it’s amazing they ever got married,’ says daughter, later, as I share the story.

I am not sure which one is Spencer Matthews, but I know the programme is a loathsome celebration of vanity and social neuroses among the over tanned trustafarians of SW3. I remember lecturing the children on the lack of wit and moral fibre of its participants and begging them to switch over to something more wholesome like Blue Planet. Unsuccessfully.

‘Must be tough for you,’ says Son, as he cuts into a Linda McCartney red onion and rosemary sausage. ‘All those years telling us not to watch the programme because the people were so self-obsessed and stupid. And now it turns out that you were ‘Made in Chelsea’ yourself. How does that feel?’

I want to answer but I can’t find any words. Instead, a picture of Derek Underwood, the England bowler comes to mind, his off stump being wrenched out of the ground by a ferocious fast ball from Michael Holding and him turning immediately towards the pavilion, defeated.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 15: Christmas Crackers

Read the previous one – Chapter 13: Burning down the house

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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Ode to Cycleway 9

A poem about the political machinations surrounding what was originally proposed as Cycle Superhighway 9 and will now officially be known as a Cyclepath as it goes through Hammersmith and a Cycleway once in reaches Chiswick, in the hope that makes it more palatable to its opponents.

A cycle superhighway
That’s what the people need
So lycra louts so fit and trim
Can pedal through at speed

No, no a Superhighway
Gives quite the wrong impression
The image that we seek to give
Is of another fashion

We want it like the Netherlands,
With children in a trailer
And flowers on the handlebars
Chuck out that old inhaler

Reduce congestion
Clear the streets
Take lungfuls of clean air
And drive your old polluting cars
Along it if you dare

A Cycleway is what we need
It’s much more anodyne
Or even better ‘Cyclepath’
Not Superhighway nine

We’ll bamboozle them with labels
And confuse them with PR
So they won’t know the cycle route
Continues quite so far

CS9 is dead we say
Long live the cycle path
And those of you who want to drive
Can stick it up your arse