Brentford Sportsfest

If you fancy taking part in a 10k, 5k or 3k run, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust is organising the Brentford Sportsfest (formerly known as the Brentford Challenge) on Sunday 12 May. There […]

MP smashes Marathon target

Congratulations to Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, who ran in the marathon on Sunday and completed it within five hours – one hour and ten minutes quicker than last year.

She’s raising funds this year for two charities:

The Children’s Ward + Sun & Stars Appeal at West Mid Hospital, which is raising money to create a child-friendly, welcoming, calming environment on the ward with better facilities, specifically designed to make being in hospital easier for children and their parents.

While the hospital staff on the children’s wards provide excellent care, they could do with some improvements to the environment, including the installation of a dedicated teenagers’ space, a new play room, a ‘home-from-home’ parents’ area, entertainment equipment and technology at every bedside, and bespoke artwork throughout.

The other charity is Young Minds about which she says: ‘Every time I meet young people, teachers and parents, they tell me about their experience of the crisis in children & young people’s mental health; that the need is growing but when young people reach out, too often help is too hard to find.

That’s why I’ve decided that my second Marathon charity this year is Young Minds – they’re leading the fight for a future where all young minds are supported and empowered, whatever the challenges’.

If you would like to help nudge the current total of £3,519.00 across the line to her target of £4,000.00, you can do so here.

Ruth was one of 14 MPs who completed the marathon. Not that MPs are at all competitive, but in that elite bunch she was eleventh to finish.

Asahi takes over at Fuller’s

The beautiful old Wisteria plant at Fuller’s Griffin brewery is in full munificent bloom. Brought here from China in 1861, a year after the battle of Waterloo and planted in the brewery yard outside what was then the Head Brewer’s house, it is one of the oldest in the country.

It must have witnessed a few changes over more than 150 years, but perhaps none as significant as this week’s hand over of brewing at the site to Japanese beer company Asahi.

The company bought the Fuller, Smith & Turner drinks business for £250m, including its flagship London Pride and has made clear its intention to carry on brewing at the site by Hogarth roundabout.

Asahi issued a statement yesterday announcing the arrival of the first range of cask ales and ciders  into its portfolio: London Pride, Frontier and their first Premium Cider brand, Cornish Orchards.

The acquisition is part of Asahi’s international growth strategy ‘to lead the Premium Beer category across Europe’. They have previously bought Peroni and Pilsner Urquell. In practice it should mean that beers made at the Griffin brewery are sold more widely through Asahi’s international infrastructure. 

There was still a rather wistful message on Twitter from brewing team leader Henry Kirk on Friday as he started the last batch of beer to be made by a company still run by descendants of the the Victorian brewer:

‘I’m the last brewer on shift at Fullers while it is still owned by the family. Brewing a Wild River to see us home’.


Photograph by Jon Perry

Winners of this week’s freebie

Last week we offered two free tickets to the Great British Food Festival, returning this summer to Chiswick House, to ten lucky winners of our competition.

The competition question was:

Which famous Jane will be demonstrating her cookery at the Great British Food Festival on 12 July?

  • Jane Beedle
  • Jane Seymour
  • Jane Fonda

The answer to the question is Jane Beedle and the ten lucky winners are: Gina Mawson, Adele True, Claire Emerson, Sarah Duncan, Gwen Young, Andrew Fitzgibbon, Gretchen Moore, Chetna Raval, Alic Joy and John (whose surname is unclear but you will know which John it is because we’ve emailed you!) We have emailed all the winners about how to claim your prizes. Enjoy!

The Festival will be on all weekend – Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July. ’50 artisan producers, fabulous hot food and delicious drinks, brilliant bars, chef demos, Men v Food Challenges, Gin-Offs, Cheese-offs, Cake-Off. Blind taste challenges, live music’.

Winners of this week’s Chiswick Calendar freebie

Last week we offered two free tickets to the Great British Food Festival, returning this summer to Chiswick House, to ten lucky winners of our competition.

The competition question was:

Which famous Jane will be demonstrating her cookery at the Great British Food Festival on 12 July?

  • Jane Beedle
  • Jane Seymour
  • Jane Fonda

The answer to the question is Jane Beedle and the ten lucky winners are: Gina Mawson, Adele True, Claire Emerson, Sarah Duncan, Gwen Young, Andrew Fitzgibbon, Gretchen Moore, Chetna Raval, Alic Joy and John (whose surname is unclear but you will know which John it is because we’ve emailed you!) We have emailed all the winners about how to claim your prizes. Enjoy!

The Festival will be on all weekend – Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July. ’50 artisan producers, fabulous hot food and delicious drinks, brilliant bars, chef demos, Men v Food Challenges, Gin-Offs, Cheese-offs, Cake-Off. Blind taste challenges, live music’.

The most un-diva like opera star

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lesley Garrett at the weekend. She really is the most un-diva like of opera stars – really down to earth, friendly and chatty. I saw her recently in a production of Messiah at Richmond theatre – not the Messiah, as in Handel, which you might expect, but a piece of glorious nonsense with Hugh Dennis and John Marquez (the policeman in Doc Martin) about a theatre troupe staging a production about the birth of Jesus. They were just larking about really, while she ostensibly tried to sing serious arias. It was her first play and she thoroughly enjoyed herself. “it was like being in a comedy class with High and John. I felt I should be paying them to be there”.

She’s done a lot of ‘firsts’. She achieved fame and success as an opera singer in her twenties, with the English National Opera, but has branched out in all directions, into management, sitting on the board of the ENO, and in TV, as a participant in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Masterchef and genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?  Channel 4’s Countdown and latterly on Loose Women. “Up until 1990 I was just an opera singer” she says (using ‘just’ as if being the ENO’s principal soprano were no big deal). “I was beginning to get parts in Europe but then I met my husband” (North London GP Dr Peter Christian) “who just turned up in my dressing room one night. We got married and had our two children quite quickly and I found I didn’t want to travel. I didn’t want to be one of those artists who was always travelling and away from their children a lot”.

Meeting her husband coincided with her first album and her first TV deal. Now her children are 25 and 26 and she has a fabulously varied career under her belt, including 14 solo albums to her name. Her latest album, The Golden Girls, recorded with Bonnie Langford and Maria Friedman, was recorded at a studio in Chiswick, with the photoshoot done at Chiswick House. She will be returning there this summer for Chiswick Proms, 7-9 June, starring in the Last Night of the Proms on the Sunday night.

She is still very involved in performing operas, and is keen to promote new operas and good roles for older women. She’s just finished Jack the Ripper – The Women of Whitechapel, by Iain Bell, with a libretto by Emma Jenkins which explores powerful themes of community and women struggling against the odds. “There was no difference between destitution and prostitution in Victorian England” she says “if you were destitute you were automatically assumed to be a prostitute”. The opera is told from the women’s perspective and although the Ripper is ever present, he doesn’t actually appear. The parts were written for specific performers and grim though the subject matter may be, they are all parts for older women. “Of his five victims” (Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, murdered in 1888) “they were all older women in their forties or early fifties, except one”. having campaigned for roles for older women in opera, this represents something of a breakthrough: “Here you had Dame Josephine Barstow at her full powers in her late seventies as the madam of a brothel”.

Another of her bêtes noires is the lack of music provision in schools these days, so another of the strings to her bow is organising music workshops for children. One of the reasons she’s pleased to be taking part in Chiswick Proms this summer is the family atmosphere of parents and children enjoying music together. She says Last Night of the Proms on Sunday 9 June will be “a wonderful eclectic mix with something to suit everyone” with a 55 piece orchestra recreating the atmosphere of the Albert Hall in the gardens of Chiswick House with tried and tested favourites including Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and Jerusalem, and lots of flag waving.

Chiswick Proms are members of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, so holders of our Club Cards can get a 10% discount on tickets for the Chiswick Proms weekend, which also includes an evening of comedy, with Jason Manford and Shappi Khorsandi on Friday 7 and an evening of musical comedy with Ruthie Henshall on Saturday 8 June. Just enter our special discount code: CAL10 at the  online check-out when buying tickets.

Kevin McNally to be at Bedford Park Festival

It’s officially summer. The line up for the Bedford Park Festival has been announced. Top of the bill is Pirates of the Caribbean actor Kevin McNally (photographed with Keira Knightley) being interviewed by Susannah Simon. He is about to be on TV appearing as Captain Mainwaring in three lost episodes of Dad’s Army, He’ll be talking about that and the highlights of his career, including roles as King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe and Tony Hancock on radio and TV.

Actor, writer and director Andy Nyman will open the Green Days weekend, the fete on the common opposite St Michael & All Angels Church, which signals the start of the festival, at 11am on Saturday 8 June. Currently starring at Tevye in the acclaimed West End production of Fiddler on the Roof, he has appeared as Winston Churchill in Peaky Blinders and also created the cult hit Ghost Stories, now on at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Stars of stage, screen, poetry and music 

Among the stars of stage, screen, poetry and music in this year’s festival (the 53rd) are poet Imtiaz Dharker, hotly tipped this week to be the next Poet Laureate. Imtiaz will be the guest speaker at the annual poetry evening, hosted by Chiswick poets Anne-Marie Fyfe and Cahal Dallat. Cahal will also be celebrating the life and work of poet WB Yeats, one of Bedford Park’s more famous residents, in Land of Heart’s Desire: the WB Yeats Walk.

Music highlights in St Michael & All Angels Church include the return – by popular demand – of the London Welsh Rugby Club choir; a special D-Day concert by the London City Orchestra commemorating the event’s 75th anniversary; a serenade for flute and strings by internationally acclaimed flautist, Paul Edmund-Davies, violinist David Juritz, Grammy-nominated guitarist Craig Ogden and virtuoso cellist Adrian Bradbury; and a lunchtime concert by The Oxbridge Organ Duo, Benedict Lewis-Smith and Julian Collings, on St Michaels’ magnificent pipe organ.

Photographs above: Andy Nyman, Imtiaz Dharker and David Juritz

Photography competition and exhibition

This year The Chiswick Calendar will be running the Photography competition and exhibition and entries will be shown on The Chiswick Calendar website as well as in the St Michael & All Angels Parish hall. Email us at if you are interested in taking part.

Tickets on sale this week

The Photographic Exhibition and Competition is one of the festival’s regular favourites, which also include the Bedford Park Summer Exhibition, showcasing more than 100 works by local artists; Artists at Home, in which over 50 local artists displaying their works; the Bedford Park Walk and the Bedford Park Open Gardens, featuring a dozen of the most beautiful gardens in the world’s first garden suburb. Other events include TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, to be performed by the students of St Paul’s School in St Peter’s Church, Acton Green; a house concert and a wine-tasting and supper in beautiful Bedford Park houses; a concert by the St Michael & All Angels Choristers; and Haydn’s Nelson Mass, celebrating the church’s 140th anniversary serving Christ in the community.  Tickets go on sale this week at the Festival’s website:

Green Days

Each year, thousands of people enjoy the traditional village Green Days Fête and Craft Fair, which is great fun for all the family. The weekend includes a bandstand with live music and entertainment, fairground rides and games, food & drink, a craft fair with 20 exhibitors offering a wide selection of high-quality craft works, many different types of stalls, competitions; a Family Cycle Zone, which offers cycling advice, free bike maintenance and a raffle to win a bicycle; and an Electric Vehicle Zone. For children, there’s a five-a-side football tournament and a fancy dress competition (theme: Musicals), as well as face painting, games and activities in the children’s corner. There are also great competitions over the weekend, including a chance to Win-A-Meal for two at one of more than 30 local restaurants; the High Roller Tombola and the Champagne Lottery. The Photographic Exhibition and Competition will be on display in St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall throughout the weekend. Come and meet The Chiswick Calendar at our stall on the green.

The 53rd Bedford Park Festival – ‘Chiswick’s favourite fortnight’ – runs from Friday 7 June until Sunday 23 June 2019, with the Green Days fete and Craft Fair on 8 & 9 June. It will raise money for the work of St Michael & All Angels Church and its charities for 2019: The Upper Room, which feeds and supports people in need in west London; The Amber Trust, which helps blind and partially-sighted children fulfil their musical potential; and WaterHarvest, which helps bring clean water to remote and arid villages of rural India. The Bedford Park Festival is run by St Michael & All Angels Church, supported by dozens of local people and businesses. It was set up in 1967 to foster a sense of community, celebrate the arts, and raise money for urgent repairs to the Church. Since then it has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities.

Interview: Helen Cross, Lib Dem European elections candidate

It’s refreshing to talk to someone in politics who is very clear about what they and their party want. As we’ve found out recently, the two aren’t necessarily the same at all. With both the Conservatives and the Labour Party split to the core over Brexit, the Lib Dems have been consistently singing from the same hymn sheet, albeit in a smaller choir.

When I spoke to Helen Cross, announced on Friday as one of the Lib Dem list for the European elections, she was upbeat and positive. She’s fighting these elections seriously. She expects whoever is elected to be there for the duration of the parliament as she is adamant that Britain will not be leaving the EU. She only joined the Liberal Democrats because of Brexit. “When I saw Nigel Farage standing there saying they’d won without even a shot fired, with the line up of thick necked men standing behind him, I thought ‘this is what fascism looks like’. I decided if I didn’t stand up and fight it, I would never forgive myself’.

Since then she’s been on every EU march she could, campaigned all over the country and stood in the local elections last year in Turnham Green ward. ‘I’d never been an activist’ she says. She’d very briefly joined Labour while at university in Bristol but their “toe the line approach” to politics didn’t suit her, she says. What she finds attractive about the Lib Dems is that it stands for “diversity, tolerance, freedom and fairness”. The culture, she says, is very different in the Liberal Democrat party and she feels able to speak her mind. The atmosphere is “super democratic” she says.

Helen, a management consultant who lives in Grove Park, has been elected by the membership as one of a list of eight candidates from the Liberal Democrats competing for eight seats London wide. The voting system is the complicated D’Hondt system of proportional representation which means the person with the most votes will get are seat and after that the votes are redistributed. It’s a system which favours larger parties, which is why she thinks the Lib Dems are in with a chance, compared with other smaller parties which might do better under other forms of PR.

I asked her about the irony of fighting against other parties such as the Greens and the new independent party Change UK, all jockeying for position to get our votes, when splitting the vote might just open the door for Nigel Farage. She says “we as Lib Dems would have liked to present a cross-party front. We approached Change UK and we approached the Greens and they didn’t want to. We welcome more parties but we need to be a bit smarter”. She points out that Steve Bray, the man who has made a name for himself shouting ‘Stop Brexit’ outside the Houses of Parliament, was going to stand but has pulled out because of that very reason. Instead of voting for Change UK as a protest vote, she says we should be looking at this in terms of a programme of policies for the full five years.

Apart from the clear message of Stop Brexit, they have a full slate of policies on other issues. For her, the most important are inequality, climate change and protecting public services. She is proud to have been elected to the National Policy Committee looking at ways of supporting small and medium enterprises with good investment. Action on climate change is now urgent. There needs to be a coherent pan European strategy. On public services, Brexit has been disastrous for the NHS she says, with catastrophic numbers of staff leaving and money we can ill afford diverted into planning for Brexit.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is storming ahead in the polls (currently neck and neck with Labour at 28% in the most recent Opinium poll of voter intentions for the European elections, with support for the Conservatives at 14%). The Lib Dems and the Change UK party are both at 7%. Despite this, Helen says she is confident that the Lib Dems will take three of the eight London seats. To be fair, London voted 60-40 in favour of staying in the EU, so the Brexit party is likely to do less well in London than elsewhere. But even if they do as well as she hopes, as she is number six on the Lib Dem list, she is unlikely to be getting on a train to Brussels any time soon. I guess it’s all about teamwork.

Ruth Cadbury MP links funding cuts to knife crime

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, hit out at the Government during Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday over continuing cuts to public services and said there was a direct link between cuts to local authority budgets and the increased levels of violent crime, especially knife crime, that have been targeted towards young people. Speaking in the Chamber, Ruth told David Liddington, who was standing in for Theresa May that ‘‘Teachers, specialist Children and Youth workers, and others are warning that Government cuts are making it harder to protect young people from knife crime’’.

Since 2010, she says, the Government have cut funding for youth services by 70%, with schools facing a real terms funding cut of 8%. Likewise the Metropolitan Police have faced £1 billion in cuts, which in turn has meant there are 3,000 fewer police officers in London. Alongside these cuts, violent crime in England and Wales rose by 18% last year. The Metropolitan Police have held two public meetings in Chiswick in the past six months to address concern about the growing number of incidents of knife crime locally.

Speaking after the debate, Ruth said ‘‘In my latest crime survey I’ve had dozens of constituents tell me that the best way to protect young people from violent crime is to invest in vital prevention based services such as youth clubs, whilst ensuring our police officers have the funding they need to respond to crime when it occurs. Teachers, and social workers are now warning that whilst they know which children are at-risk, they simply don’t have the resources to protect them. This stems directly from the Government cutting real terms school funding by 8% since 2010. Even Conservatives like Lord Seb Coe are now saying that there is a direct link between cuts to youth services, and violent crime. When I asked about this in Prime Ministers Questions, David Liddington gave a weak response which completely ignored that the Government have cut £880 million in youth services, whilst also imposing step cuts on frontline policing. It’s clear that the Government need to listen to teachers, youth workers, parents, and young people, and reinvest in our communities, to help tackle violent crime.’’

What he actually said was: “The facts are that the Government have increased police funding by more than £970 million for the next year, and the Labour party voted against that increase when the order came before the House. However, the hon. Lady is right to say that this situation is not only about policing and new laws, but about early intervention. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has secured £220 million for early intervention projects to try to steer young people at risk of knife crime and other violent crime away from the gangs that can seduce them into that appalling way of life”.

Locally we have seen public money withdrawn from the Hogarth Youth Centre, which will no longer receive money from Hounslow council after a transition period. It now has to raise sufficient funds to be self funding. When Superintendent Gary Taylor, Deputy Commander of Metropolitan Police West Area, addressed last December’s public meeting, he said the police service had had huge cuts made to their budget. “It’s quite a big ask to keep everyone happy with reduced resources” and “the money saving journey is not yet finished.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick’s best kept secret

See also: Hogarth Youth Centre could run out of money within four years

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Free tickets to the Great British Food Festival

Win two tickets to the Great British Food Festival, returning this summer to Chiswick House.

We have ten pairs of tickets going begging for the Friday night – Friday 12 July. Come and enjoy some live music and great food at the evening session in the lovely walled garden.

All you have to do is answer this question:

Which famous Jane will be demonstrating her cookery at the Great British Food Festival on 12 July?

  • Jane Beedle
  • Jane Seymour
  • Jane Fonda

The first ten people to email the correct answer to will receive a pair of tickets.

The Festival will be on all weekend – Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July. ’50 artisan producers, fabulous hot food and delicious drinks, brilliant bars, chef demos, Men v Food Challenges, Gin-Offs, Cheese-offs, Cake-Off. Blind taste challenges, live music’.

The Chiswick Calendar Freebie – Tickets to the Great British Food Festival

Win two tickets to the Great British Food Festival, returning this summer to Chiswick House.

We have ten pairs of tickets going begging for the Friday night – Friday 12 July. Come and enjoy some live music and great food at the evening session in the lovely walled garden.

All you have to do is answer this question:

Which famous Jane will be demonstrating her cookery at the Great British Food Festival on 12 July?

  • Jane Beedle
  • Jane Seymour
  • Jane Fonda

The first ten people to email the correct answer to will receive a pair of tickets.

The Festival will be on all weekend – Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July. ’50 artisan producers, fabulous hot food and delicious drinks, brilliant bars, chef demos, Men v Food Challenges, Gin-Offs, Cheese-offs, Cake-Off. Blind taste challenges, live music’.

Travellers moved on but rubbish remains

A group of travellers who moved in to the disused car park next to Sainsburys on Essex Place in the early hours of Friday morning have been moved on by the police, leaving behind them mounds of building rubble they brought with them.

A local resident who saw them arrive tipped off Cllr Joanna Biddolph, who reported their arrival to police in Hounslow and owners of the abandoned building site, Lend Lease.

A local business reported trucks arriving at the site and dumping building waste on Saturday at a two rate an hour. Presumably the travellers were being paid to dump the waste illegally.

“It’s a well known tactic” says Joanna Biddolph, “to get paid to dump illegally”. Getting rid of the waste, which can only be seen from the road if you peer through the gates, will now be a job for Lend Lease.

Tickets to a Wine tasting – Last week’s competition winner

We have a lucky winner for last week’s competition – two tickets to a wine tasting event at the Hogarth Club on 9 May.

Elite Travel Destinations in collaboration with Mullineux & Leeu, winner of Platter’s wine of the year award, are hosting a wine tasting event in the Crucial Café of the Hogarth Club on Thursday 9 May.

The competition question was:

How many 5 star ratings have Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines received from Platter’s South African Wine Guide since their first release in 2008?

The answer is 25 and the winner is Deborah Fisher.

We are delighted to say that Elite Travel Destinations has joined our Club Card scheme. See details of their Club Card offer here.

What is ‘natural health’? Zen Maitri explain their philosophy

Zen Maitri, the recently opened health store in Turnham Green Terrace, describes itself as a ‘natural health apothecary’, offering herbal medicine, health consultations and meditation as part of an integrated approach to health. Co-owner Krishan Dhokia grew up around natural health, as his parents ran Maitri Health, a successful natural health store in Streatham, south London, but he is also a qualified pharmacist. “I wanted to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches to health” he says. This combination of the natural and the scientific is the ethos of the store, to modernise traditional practices and combine the empirical with the natural. “Our philosophy is to integrate with and support conventional medicine” says Krishnan, “not to work against it or develop a distinct approach from it”. The herbalists who work at Zen Maitri are qualified medical herbalists who have done a four-year medical degree in herbal medicine. Their nutritionists are similarly professionally qualified.

Photographs: Zen Maitri and herbal products

Natural health supporting conventional medicine

The NHS is quite sniffy about herbal medicine, lumping it together with all manner of complementary and alternative practices on the NHS website, but even it acknowledges that ginger can be good for reducing morning sickness and has given its support for an academic study of the effectiveness of herbal remedies for the common cold. The Daily Telegraph’s Science Editor Sarah Knapton reported in March that in the first NHS intervention of its kind, 20 surgeries in south east England are offering the South East Asian herbal remedy andrographis, or a placebo, to see if the plant can help soothe symptoms of coughs, sore throats and sinusitis. Some 33 trials have already suggested that andrographis is useful for treating the common cold and the flu virus but it has never undergone clinical testing in the west. The trial is being monitored by Southampton university.

Antibiotic crisis

The antibiotic crisis facing health organisations around the world is a great example of why herbal medicines are becoming increasingly relevant, says Krishan Dhokia. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. “We desperately need to develop new antibiotics and, just as important, GPs need to cut down on needless antibiotic prescriptions (which are exacerbating the problem) and instead look for natural ways to treat people. Fortunately, many herbal medicines are effective, sustainable, cheap and far less likely to lead to resistant strains of bacteria” he says.


What is ‘natural health?’

It’s quite hard to know what to trust when you enter the realm of natural health as, despite various attempt by parliament, it is a field which remains unregulated and even practitioners themselves struggle to come up with an agreed definition of terms. Krishan Dhokia explains that Zen Maitri’s understanding of natural health uniquely combines three distinct elements which are scientifically recognised and grounded: herbal medicine, nutrition and meditation.

Mindfulness as effective as drugs for depression

Mindfulness, inspired in part by Buddhist philosophy, involves training the brain to deal with negative emotions using techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. Zen Maitri offers all three. A recent study led by Professor Willem Kuyken, a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, found Mindfulness to be at least as effective in treating depression as commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs, but without harmful side effects. Professor Willem Kuyken is director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. His study was peer reviewed in the JAMA Psychiatry medical journal, published by the American Medical Association in April 2016.

Krishan Dhokia sees empowerment as the key: “If you can teach a community the power of herbal medicines and practices like meditation, they can take control of their health, live more sustainably and be in a much stronger position to deal with the challenges they face”. Zen Maitri’s Natural Health Apothecary aims to be a community hub for bespoke herbal medicines, health consultations and classes in meditation, pranayama and breath work.

“We want to be a hub where the community can learn about the health benefits of all things natural. That starts with our expertise in herbalism but extends to our in-house nutritionist, our in-depth consultations and our meditation classes. People are complicated and their health is too, so we look at their challenges – whether that’s fatigue, mental health, skin problems, immunity, digestion etc – from a holistic perspective. We can develop custom teas, creams, oils and supplements to go and also have a range of ready-made products. Ultimately everything we do is about helping people live and feel better, through a combination of herbal medicines, our expert consultations and empowering classes”.

I am looking forward to trying out what they recommend for my aches and pains and seeing what difference it makes. Zen Maitri is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a 30% discount across a range of products and services.

Defending the decision to keep A&E at Charing Cross and Ealing

Guest blog by Anne Drinkell

The proposed closure of Charing Cross as a major acute hospital was part of a NW London project called ‘Shaping a Healthier Future‘. The proposal was to close around 300 of Charing Cross’s 360 acute hospital beds, its A&E Department and associated acute services. There was a similar plan for Ealing Hospital. Over the years since it was first proposed in 2012, ‘Shaping a Healthier Future‘ morphed into the equally Orwellian sounding ‘Sustainability & Transformation Plan‘ and aimed to cut £1.3 billion from healthcare budgets in the eight NW London Boroughs as its contribution to the £22 billion “savings” required across England by 2021.

We were asked to accept that closing 565 acute beds in NW London and reducing the health budget by £1.3 billion would lead to significant health improvements because alternative community health services would be expanded, so there would be less need for acute hospital beds. This seemed at best naïve and at worst cynical. Campaigners feared that acute beds would be irrevocably lost, leading to a huge increase in demands on community health services that were already massively over stretched.

Pedalling unrealistic projections about how much acute sector work the community sector could take over was a feature of many of London’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans and provoked this response from the well-respected health think tank the King’s Fund:

Even if additional investment is made in services in the community, reductions in hospital use on the scale proposed are not credible. Heroic efforts will be needed simply to manage rising demand with existing hospital capacity.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that NW London’s plan was predicated on slashing the number of outpatient appointments by 222,370 and planned hospital admissions by 49,875. Think about it. Faced with a rising and increasingly elderly population many with multiple illnesses, the plan was to reduce numbers of planned outpatients and operations (cataracts, knee and hip replacements etc.)

As a former community matron, nurse practitioner and district nurse I’m committed to expanding community services – for many people home is the best and safest place to receive care. In NW London over the last seven years there have been some excellent examples of community health projects reducing clients’ unnecessary hospital admissions. The bigger story however is of an under resourced community sector struggling with rising demand – unable to stop rising numbers of A&E attendances and hospital admissions. The lesson is that developing community health care requires time, testing and resources. It can’t be done on the hoof and on the cheap, something Shaping a Healthier Future did not learn.

Save Our Hospitals has never campaigned for Charing Cross to deliver the full range of every clinical service. We’ve always acknowledged that there are conditions where there’s good evidence that treatment is better delivered in specialist centres, concentrating expertise and resources, even if at a greater geographic distance. We have consistently championed the work of the major trauma centre in St Marys, the Heart Attack Unit at Hammersmith and the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at Charing Cross Hospital.

However there are also times when patients need urgent but not necessarily specialist medical consultations and the time lag between emergency and treatment is critical – for example severe anaphylaxis or an acute asthma attack. In these cases having a local A&E is of crucial importance even in London because although distances between London hospitals are comparatively short, ambulance response times and traffic delays can lead to dangerously long journeys.

It is simply not true that around 30% of Accident and Emergency attendances are unnecessary. Studies have shown that NW Londoners use their A&Es more appropriately than other parts of the country and Professor Tim Orchard former medical director, now Chief Executive of Imperial College NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, is on record as saying that the vast majority of A&E attendance are appropriate. That’s why Imperial spent millions in 2018 actually expanding the A&E at Charing Cross.

Shaping a Healthier Future‘s predictions were spectacularly inaccurate, forecasting a huge reduction in A&E attendances across NW London of 64,175 over 5 years. In reality A&E attendances and hospital admissions soared, particularly after the closures of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es. It led to well publicised delays in ambulance arrival and transfer times, A&E waits and planned and unplanned treatment delays. The rising need for acute care nationally has led the Royal College of Medicine to call for 5,000 more acute beds across England.
Locally the surge in demand created a ripple effect throughout NW London. In the Observer in 2018 senior anaesthetist Dr Johansson described Imperial’s hospitals:

We have seen a 40% increase in Blue Calls – the most seriously unwell, ambulance-delivered cases……. Patients on the routine operating lists…. on the day they have their operation cancelled……. The conditions in A&E were just awful. There were patients everywhere. Patients on trolleys in corridors. ….. The whole system was absolutely paralysed. It wasn’t lack of staff in the emergency department that was the problem: our Trust has been very good at providing adequate staffing. It’s the bed blockade: we cannot get our patients to where we need them to be – on the wards – because of the lack of beds…… there is a real problem getting our critically ill patients into ITU because we are unable to get the patients who are already in there out on to the wards. Lately, we were getting to the stage where we couldn’t actually do emergency operations because we had too many patients waiting for intensive care beds.”

The government’s U turn on the closures is belatedly acknowledging what has been obvious to senior clinicians and hospital managers for some years, who have repeatedly stated in minuted board meetings that closures would be unsafe in the foreseeable future as NW London couldn’t cope without the acute capacity in Charing Cross Hospital.

Reversing the closure decision makes our NHS safer for Chiswick residents. Of course our health services must change to meet future challenges. Hopefully the process this time will include genuine consultation with local people. There may well be proportionately more community care and further specialisation and centralisation, based on clinical evidence and long term adequate resourcing. If this leads to better clinical outcomes necessitating fewer hospital beds that would be welcomed by most people. What’s unacceptable is a rushed series of hospital closures primarily on financial grounds with little evidence that community alternatives were viable and plenty that closures would trigger an acute care crisis. Avoiding that scenario is good news – though it’s scandalous that policy makers who signed off this plan, wasting many millions on spin doctors and private management consultants have not even apologised.

Anne Drinkell is Chair of the Save Our Hospitals campaign

Photograph above: Anne Drinkell, Chair of Save Our Hospitals, with Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman of the Royal Institution and Imperial College Healthcare

Photographs below: Support from a Pearly Queen, Anne (far right) handing in a petition with fellow campaigners, and the audience at one of the campaign’s rallies.

See also the case for moving A&E out of Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals:

A doctor’s view of Charing Cross Hospital A&E decision

Plans for zero emission double-deckers jeopardised?

Transport for London was planning to introduce electric double-decker buses to routes which crossed Hammersmith Bridge but the dispute over who is to pay for the much needed repairs to the bridge could jeopardise the introduction of clean, zero emission buses.

The new electric double-deckers are more than twice as heavy as the old AEG Routemaster buses which were phased out more than a decade ago, because of the batteries they carry, and the additional cost of strengthening the bridge to carry their weight may prove too much for our cash strapped authorities.

The bridge was closed indefinitely on 10 April to all but pedestrian and cycle traffic, because of the critical need for repairs. Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which owns the bridge, is in a Mexican stand-off with TfL, which runs the buses, and the Department of Transport, over who should pay the estimated £40 million cost of strengthening it to meet 21st century traffic requirements.

Electric zero-emission buses

Of the 9,396 buses in London’s public transport fleet, just over a third (3,240) are hybrid buses running off diesel and battery power, according to the most recent audit figures from last year. The New Routemasters, dubbed ‘Boris buses’ as they were introduced when Boris Johnson was mayor, are supposed to be cleaner, but have been criticised for emitting more pollution than the old ones due to the unreliability of the hybrid batteries.

TfL have now shifted their focus to introducing all-electric, zero emission buses, in line with the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to tackle air pollution. Transport is responsible for around 20% of London’s CO2 emissions (of which buses make up 5%) and the current mayor Sadiq Khan has set a target of a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020.

Currently only 96 of the London bus fleet are electric, most of them single decker buses, provided by several different manufacturers. TfL is also experimenting with the world’s first electric double-decker, made by the Chinese company BYD, which was introduced on a couple of central London routes in July 2015.

BYD is the largest manufacturer of pure electric buses. Reviews of the bus praise it’s fast acceleration, its ability to drive 155 miles in heavy city traffic on a single charge and its quiet and smooth ride compared with the traditional vibrations, jerks and noise passengers have come to expect from older buses. They’ve been evaluated by more than 150 cities in 36 countries and are commonplace in Chinese cities.

Political will

The problem of pollution in China’s big cities is well-known, and a cautionary example for us. As a result, the most polluting country on earth is now racing ahead with zero emission public transport. Shenzhen became the world’s first city with an all-electric public transport system this year, having retired the last of its combustion engine fleet of taxis in December. Shanghai, which operates a similar number of buses to London, is not far behind. It expects to be all-electric by next year. “Each year we purchase buses with a longer range and higher specifications for less money” Li Hong, depot manager at Shanghai Bashi Public Transportation depot, told the South China Morning Post.

I suspect it’s rather easier to enact sweeping changes of this nature in China, where the Communist Party holds sway across the board. Here we have a Conservative government telling a Labour council that the responsibility is theirs, that they’ve been given the funding, so they should sort it out. Hammersmith and Fulham hit back that there’s no way they can meet costs of £40 million when their budget has been slashed in recent years and their total budget for everything is £160 million.

TfL say the responsibility is not theirs but they are working with the council on a plan to upgrade the bridge. TfL and H&F both say it’s for the Government to provide the funding. “We need the certainty of a long-term steady and sustained funding arrangement to allow London to cover the costs of its own infrastructure maintenance” said a TfL spokesman. The government’s response was that “Between 2015 and 2021 the government is providing £11bn of support to TfL.”

While they all fight about who is to foot the bill, we are left to breathe toxic air and as everyone starts back to work after the Easter break, Chiswick can expect more traffic to be rerouted over Chiswick Bridge.

According to new data from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory, which now includes data from 2016, two million people in London are living in areas with illegally high levels of air pollution. Overall, air pollution levels are beginning to fall. Between 2013 and 2016 total nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions fell by 9% and the introduction of the ultra low emission zone on 8 April should speed up that decrease. It penalises more diesel cars, which are the primary source of NO2.

Hammersmith and Fulham’s Local Implementation Plan for the next four years include the aspiration to make Hammersmith Bridge a ‘zero emission bridge.’ The old Routemasters, which were withdrawn from regular public service in December 2005 (although one ‘heritage’ route remains in central London) weighed 7.68 tonnes; BYD electric double-deckers weigh 19 tonnes, whereas hybrids weigh in at 12.65 tonnes. Strengthening the bridge to take the weight of electric buses, not to mention electric cars and vans, will cost more than repairing it merely to maintain the status quo.

Whether the collective will exists to prioritise clean air in our politically charged system with its woefully short-term outlook, or whether clean buses will be ditched in the ongoing negotiations about money, remains to be seen.

Photograph above: BYD’s electric powered double-decker bus

A doctor’s view of Charing Cross Hospital A&E decision

Guest blog by a Consultant at Charing Cross Hospital

The decision to “save” Charing Cross Hospital does not improve the health of residents in Chiswick, and potentially makes it worse. It is purely a political decision which has nothing whatsoever to do with provision of the best quality healthcare. It is not a cause for celebration. I write this as a hospital consultant who works at Charing Cross hospital (and Hammersmith and Chelsea and Westminster), loves working there, and thinks it provides excellent care. The fundamental problem it exposes is that everyone wants a truly local hospital that provides the very best healthcare; this is simply neither possible nor safe in today’s age of increasingly complex medicine.

Local politicians ‘contribute nothing useful’ on this subject

Local politicians (MPs, councillors) of all political parties are never useful in this discussion: they will not support any healthcare changes that even hint at moving services away from their local residents, even if this is only five miles away (surely still “local”?) and would improve care, and is supported by evidence and facts. Evidence and facts have no chance faced with these emotions, so local politicians are usually disruptive and contribute nothing useful.

Why your local hospital cannot do everything to a world class level

Some basic facts to remember: healthcare now requires large teams of professionals, the support of complex imaging (CT scans, MRI, ultrasound), pathology departments, nursing, physiotherapy and more. Increasingly, healthcare is about the long term management of chronic diseases in older people, and less about dealing with acutely sick patients. A minority of the care the population needs is delivered by acute hospitals (though this consumes the majority of money spent) and a minority by A+E (better called Emergency Departments). We do not have enough staff working in healthcare in any area, from doctors to therapists, radiographers to dieticians. Finally, an Emergency Department cannot exist in isolation: it needs the support of complex imaging 24/7 (CT and MRI scanning), an intensive care unit to take severely unwell patients, surgeons resident and immediately available, physicians to make complex diagnoses, and manage patients with sepsis, pneumonia, liver and kidney failure, and much more.

Several years ago NHS London took the brave and correct decision (based on clinical evidence from trials, not based on money) that if an ambulance crew suspected you were having a heart attack, they would take you to a “heart attack centre” and not to your local Emergency department. They would drive you past Charing Cross Hospital and continue to Hammersmith Hospital (where the Heart Attack Centre is located). You would not have a choice. This would allow you to be taken immediately into an operating room straight from the ambulance, have an immediate angiogram and have your blocked coronary artery opened up immediately. No waiting, anywhere. A heart attack centre has staff available 24/7, all the kit and technology, to save lives from heart attacks. This is proven to save lives. Yes, you will be in hospital for a few days much further from where you live, making it harder for your family to visit, but you will not be dead. I know which I prefer.

The same has happened for patients with strokes: you will be taken to a major stroke centre which may not be your local hospital, which will make it harder for your family, but make it much more likely you will live and will not be disabled. This cannot be offered in every single hospital.

If you are cycling and are hit by a car on Chiswick High Road, your ambulance will drive past Charing Cross hospital, and take you to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, where there will be a major trauma team waiting with orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, abdominal surgeons, anaesthetists, ITU, CT and MRI scanning all available 24/7. Your chance of surviving, with minimal disability, will be hugely improved, even though you have travelled further. It is simply not possible to provide this level of care in every hospital in NW London: there are not enough staff to run an MRI scanner in every hospital 24/7; there are not enough surgeons; not enough nurses, and never can be, with any amount of funding. This is not about money.

Let’s take another example not involving an emergency department: if you find a breast lump it is now possible to attend a single clinic at Imperial NHS Trust where in one day you will see a breast surgeon, have a mammogram, an ultrasound, a biopsy. You will get the results from all of this before the end of the day. Fantastic. This is world class care. This is only possible by putting all these people in one place, including the pathologist who needs to look at the biopsy, and the multiple pieces of equipment and technology. This service happens to be at Charing Cross Hospital, but could have been at St Marys or Hammersmith Hospital, but could not be in all three. Would you really mind travelling one hour to get all this done in one day (but much less if you cycled!), with all your questions resolved, rather than needing 2 or 3 visits to a slightly more local hospital over several days or weeks, with ongoing anxiety and stress?

Finally, if you need complex surgery, for example for bowel cancer, involving the newer robotic technologies, which will likely minimise complications and severe side effects, this cannot be provided in every hospital: no healthcare system can afford such expensive equipment nor in fact train enough surgeons to use it, in every single hospital. It is worth having to travel a little further to have these benefits. It is up to us as doctors to explain clearly the benefits. In this circumstance there is no reason you cannot attend an outpatient clinic in a local hospital (Charing Cross for example) before and after the operation, and it is only your inpatient stay which needs to be somewhere a little further away (such as Paddington).

Campaign ‘disingenuous’

This is what the healthcare plans in NW London were trying to achieve. Excellent care delivered by excellent staff, with the right support, to give you the best chances, which might not be completely “local”. The headlines “Charing Cross to be closed” is disingenuous but good for publicity, and was never part of the plans. Plans existed (amongst other things) to improve outpatient and community care and day case surgery at Charing Cross, and try and centralise complex care in various locations in NW London, to make improvements for patients, such as I have described above.

Decision to “save” Charing Cross Hospital does not improve the health of residents

Let’s finally return to Emergency (A+E) Departments. The one at Charing Cross is clearly well used, and offers high quality care, but a very large proportion of people attending do not need a full blown Emergency centre – they need a doctor to look at a rash, or an earache, or treat a urine infection, but for some reason did not want to attend their own GP. This care does not need a full blown A+E. And if you are truly sick, and arrive in the middle of the night to Charing Cross Emergency Department, your chance of been seen or reviewed by a consultant is very small, since there are not enough consultants to be present 24 hours a day in all Emergency departments. So your care may be managed by a relatively junior doctor. Clearly to manage the true emergency work load in fewer Emergency Departments does require expansion in those remaining, but this would allow for consultant presence 24/7 and better support from surgeons, imaging and all the newer technologies. But surely, if I have to travel further to an A+E in Chelsea rather than Charing Cross I will be sicker and more likely to die? This is simply not true. As I have shown in the previous examples, the extra travel time is completely offset by the improvement in your care by having an appropriate team of staff ready to treat you.

This is why I urge you all to think about how you can have the best quality healthcare in an era of increasingly complexity of medicine, and from whom you ask advice. It is your choice, but it is a choice. You cannot have your cake and eat it! You can have a truly local hospital (eg Charing Cross) which CANNOT deliver everything at a world class level, or you can have truly excellent healthcare here in NW London, but may need to travel a little bit further (to Hammersmith, or St Mary’s or Chelsea and Westminster hospitals). Politicians may understand this but they will never support the movement of a service away from their patch, regardless of the evidence. They are wrong. The decision to “save” Charing Cross Hospital does not improve the health of residents in Chiswick, and potentially makes it worse.

The author of this piece preferred to remain anonymous, but is a Consultant at Charing Cross Hospital

See other guest blogs by the same author

Budget slashed for life-saving kidney treatment

See the case for keeping Charing Cross Hospital as it was

Defending the case for keeping A&E at Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals

‘No-Fault’ Divorce finally here

Guest blog by Nicola Withycombe

Few take the decision to divorce lightly – especially parents. Earlier this month the Government’s long-awaited decision to update our archaic 50-year old laws and to implement ‘no-fault’ divorce legislation was finally announced. And for families, it cannot come soon enough!

Under current UK law there is one legal ground for divorce: “irretrievable break- down” of a marriage. And there are three main reasons you can give to show a marriage has irretrievably broken down: adultery; unreasonable behaviour or separation.

Given that the first two of these reasons are all about attributing or apportioning blame, it’s clear these criteria have a profoundly negative and adversarial affect on how many couples approach and embark on the legal process. It should come as no surprise then that levels of animosity, hostility and conflict often escalate to the point where many end up in protracted family courtroom battles, spending unnecessary, and often excessive amounts of time, money and emotional energy!

The move by the Ministry of Justice follows a public consultation, which showed overwhelmingly widespread support for the new initiative, as well as a lengthy period of conscientious campaigning for reform by resolute family justice professionals and organisations. Responses revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.

With 40% of marriages currently ending in divorce, many trusted institutions have delivered extensive research, assessments and reports illustrating how the parental ‘blame-game’ and the associated conflict has a profoundly damaging emotional impact on the lives of children. Many family professionals feel the current law has been failing to meet the welfare needs of families for decades.

So it’s good news that once the new ‘no-fault’ law is implemented, couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage by proving fault. Spouses will also no longer have to be in agreement to end their relationship, which prevents anyone from refusing a divorce if their spouse wants one. Separating couples will also no longer have to wait years to formalise the process which will allow ‘transitioning’ families to begin to function efficiently again more quickly once co-parenting plans are in place.

The new laws will include a minimum time frame of six months from the petition stage to a marriage being ended, allowing couples to reflect on their decision and providing them an opportunity to turn back.

Many more parents who are experiencing their divorce or separation are now recognising the importance of adopting a more mindful, strategic approach to the process from the earliest stages. In seeking to enhance their understanding of family breakdown, they gain valuable insights, not only into their own thoughts, feelings, responses and behaviours, but those of their precious children. This enables them to minimise the conflict, gain new perspectives and constructively navigate the complex and varied co-parenting issues that arise. Ultimately this approach aims to provide more positive support for the whole family.

Nicola Withycombe is Co-Founder & Director of not-for-profit organisation Kids Come First

Kids Come First® is a Community Interest Company dedicated to delivering unique, customised, child-focused support and training suitable for all separating parents. Founded in 2015 by two family therapy and mediation professionals we provide specialist advice and expert guidance on successful co-parenting strategies. / email

New church choir for children

Christ Church Turnham Green is starting a new choir for children. Called the ‘Beating Heart Kids Choir’, it will be led by Country & Western singer / songwriter Rachel Button.

Starting in May, the club for children 5-13 will run on Sundays in term-time from 09.30-10.30am. ‘The Choir songs are inspired by the Christian faith, and carefully selected to uplift, encourage and inspire’. There is no membership fee but the Church would like a donation of £50 per term where possible.

To book a place, go here.

Children’s art competition

The Metropolitan Police is celebrating 100 years of women in the police force with a children’s art competition. 

Open to all school age children between the ages of 6-18 years, artists can enter one of three categories – school years 1-6  / 7-11 / 12-13.

Entries will be accepted in a variety of media: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Photography, Illustration, Video Art, Moving Image, Installation, Digital Art, Mixed Media. The brief is to create a piece of art which celebrates 100 years of women policing. 

The winners will have a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Police and the prize will include lunch at the world famous New Scotland Yard.

All competition entries need to be photographed and submitted to email address: by 30 April.

The Chiswick Calendar Freebie: Two Tickets to a Wine tasting

Win two tickets to a wine tasting event at the Hogarth Club on 9 May.

Elite Travel Destinations in collaboration with Mullineux & Leeu, winner of Platter’s wine of the year award, are hosting a wine tasting event in the Crucial Café of the Hogarth Club on Thursday 9 May. Tickets to sample some of the best wines the South African wine region has on offer, along with canapes from the Crucial Café are £25, but a pair of tickets can be yours for free if you can answer this question correctly:

How many 5 star ratings have Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines received from Platter’s South African Wine Guide since their first release in 2008?

Tickets go to the first person with the right answer to email

At the wine tasting there will also an opportunity to enter the prize draw for a chance to win two nights’ stay for two people at the luxurious Leeu Estate in Franschhoek in the Western Cape, organised by travel firm Elite Travel Destinations.

Book tickets to the event at Eventbrite

We are delighted to say that Elite Travel Destinations has just joined our Club Card scheme. Details of their Club Card offer here.

Is Wayne the seal lonely?

The seal which has become a common sight at Kew Bridge has taken to making friends with canoeists and paddleboarders.

Christened ‘Wayne’ by regulars at the sports centres under the arches, he has become quite bold in hopping up onto boards and canoes, which has led to the question of whether he’s lonely. 

Although we think of seals living in colonies, it is apparently quite common for them to go off on their own. They come together in groups to mate and look after newborn pups, but then it is quite normal for them to go off and be solitary for months, according to Natalie Dyer at the Sea Life Trust in Cornwall.

“They behave quite differently in water” she says. “While on land they tend to shy away and move away from people, in water they’re a lot more confident. It’s like they know they’re much more proficient in the water than humans are”.

They’re curious and playful animals she says, but she offers a word of warning. They have bacteria in their mouths which can cause a nasty complaint called ‘seal finger’ so it’s not a good idea to reach out and touch them, in case they nip.

Her advice, if boarded by a seal, is to stay still and watch it, and if this photograph by Active 360 paddleboard instructor Richard Vallance is anything to go by, Wayne is more than happy to pose for photographs.

At the moment he seems quite happy and has plenty of fish. Come the autumn though, we are likely to find he disappears again, to find a colony and do what seals do in the winter.

Glengarry Glen Ross at Richmond theatre

Richmond Theatre, Monday 15 – Saturday 20 April 2019

It’s hard when watching David Mamet’s play now not to compare it with the (1992) film. Jack Lemmon gave such a spectacular performance that I’d forgotten Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey were even in the same film.

Mark Benton plays the Jack Lemmon role, Shelly Levene, and captures that same desperation of a middle aged real estate agent in a grubby Chicago office who was once king pin, top of the sales chart, bringing in real money, but is now on a losing streak, skint and unable to catch a break. When bluster and bravado fail to work on office manager Dave Moss, played by Denis Conway, he is reduced to pleading with him for some decent ‘leads’ – names of potential clients who might actually be persuaded to buy – rather than having to resort to cold-calling ‘deadbeats.’

The play won a Pullizer Prize in 1984 and now, looking back ten years on from the effects of the financial crash of 2008 you can see the trajectory of how salesmen, ruthlessly selling an aspirational lifestyle, manipulating people’s hopes and dreams without any thought as to whether they could afford it, ended up by bringing the whole greedy edifice crashing down.

The system took its toll on the salesmen as well. That’s what this play shows. Selling is stressful. Chasing ‘prospects’ to get higher up the chalk board and the opportunity of getting the best leads, is like a continual crap game with your daughter’s college fees and your family’s medical insurance at stake. Even Ricky Roma, the Al Pacino character in the film, currently top of the board and within an ace of winning the top salesman’s prize, a Cadillac, changes in an instant when that prize is snatched from him. The office golden boy, played in this production by Nigel Harman, goes from listening sympathetically to Shelly, magnanimous and relaxed, to breaking up the office in fury when the sap he’s persuaded to part with his life savings the night before comes in to the office to cancel the contract, having talked to his wife.

Strong performances by the whole cast, with intense interchanges in a highly charged atmosphere and a very evocative set make this production very well worth seeing.

Photographs: Zephryn Taitte with Nigel Harman; Nigel Harman; Mark Benton with Nigel Harman

Green areas of Dukes Meadows being turned into a car park

Dukes Meadows Trust dismayed at council plans to spend £400, 000 to turn green areas of Dukes Meadows into a car park

Last week Dukes Meadows Trust learned that there is a single member decision tabled for next week to sign off £400,000 to implement a car parking scheme for Dukes Meadows. The plans include hard surfacing and installing knee rail along the green verge on the Promenade, against the council’s own policies and policies to protect the river environment such as the Mayor of London’s Blue Ribbon Network.

The council’s consultation for Dukes Meadows, attached, promised better cycle and pedestrian access, but none will be delivered within the £400k of spend, nor are there any traffic speed control measures proposed. It was known that a large amount of new car parking would be created to support the proposed sports development on the upstream side of the Meadows, but there was no suggestion in the consultation that informal areas of the park on the downstream side would also be given over to parking to support sporting events, in fact public realm “improvements” were promised.

Photographs: the area to be fenced and hard surfaced, as it currently is and what it will look like after.

The plans announced, shown on page 39 of the report, include two coach turning circles in the bays behind the band stand. they were not mentioned in the original consultation and the Trust is at a loss to know why they are needed and why the council thinks it is a good idea to encourage diesel fume, belching coaches into an area used for walking and jogging and by families for picnics.

The Meadows is, sadly, currently unsafe and unpleasant for cyclists and pedestrians. These plans are likely to make the situation worse, with more cars and coaches encouraged to park up right on the river Promenade.

It is distressing to see so much money being spent on such regressive and destructive plans. They are a 1970s throwback, a homage to car use in complete disregard for the environment. The council has completely failed to balance the rights of those who use Dukes Meadows for formal sports and people for whom Dukes Meadows is a pleasant, green open space that they want to use for walking, taking their children to play and enjoying a natural environment.

We hope that the council will reconsider and talk to all users of the Meadows, not just sports clubs and people driving to events, to invest the £400k in a way that is fair to all.

Kathleen Healy MBE is the Development Manager of Dukes Meadows Trust, which runs the park with the children’s paddling pool and adventure playground and the Sunday Food market which supports the park financially.

Featured image photograph – Allotments at Dukes Meadows. Photograph by Roz Wallis

Could this be the last season for Colliers boat trips?

Colliers, the local family firm who have run pleasure boat trips on the Thames for forty years, may have to close if proposed new safety regulations become law. The firm operates boat trips between Hampton Court and Westminster Bridge between April and the end of September, but the 2019 summer season, which started on Saturday, could be their last.

Proposals to bring safety standards for older boats in line with modern vessels require that some operators will have to take out seating at or below the waterline, so that boats could remain afloat if the hull was damaged. Danny Collier, one of the two brothers who operate the boats from Kew and Richmond piers, says that they would lose three out of their four boats, as they couldn’t afford to make the changes. They have both been skippering boats on the Thames for almost 40 years, running pleasure cruises mainly in daylight hours in the summer months, and neither one has ever had an accident.

Historic vessels

Princess Freda, built in 1926, took part in the Dunkirk evacuation during WW2, ferrying troops from the French beaches to larger naval vessels. The rescue of 300,000 Allied troops was described as a ‘miracle of deliverance’ by Churchill. Dan says Freda has since carried half a million passengers on day trips up and down the Thames, but to meet the regulations, the refit would cost around £250,000 and result in a loss of 50% of seating capacity. He and his brother John say it would not be commercially worthwhile and put them out of business.

Photographs: Collier family, Dan, John and John’s son Alex, an apprentice boatman, in the middle

Their other boats are also classed as ‘historic vessels’. Queen Elizabeth was built in 1924 and Connaught was built in 1911. The Clifton Castle (built in 1926) has already been remodeled, losing the saloon and 50 seats but retaining most of the seating capacity; it would be the only boat in their fleet to meet the new regulations. There are as many as 20 boats on the Thames which would be similarly affected.

“Hampton Court trip would be lost”

The Collier brothers say the trip to Hampton Court would be lost completely, as fellow operators Lorraine Maynard and Ed Langley have also said they would no longer be able to continue. Operators of pleasure boats have been consulted on the proposed regulations, which would also legally require the installation of fire detection systems and mechanical bilge pumps, and the provision of life jackets and life rafts for all passengers. The Colliers’ boats already comply with most of these requirements, including life jackets and life raft capacity for all of those on board.

Photographs: Mooring at Hampton Court; Hampton Court Palace: View from the boat at Teddington

What’s prompted the new regulations?

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), who are behind the proposals, say the current review of ‘Grandfather Rights’ associated with standards for older domestic passenger vessels began in 2016 against the backdrop of the Thames Safety Inquiry on the Marchioness accident. 51 people on boat the party boat lost their lives in 1989 when it was hit at night by the Bow Belle, a far larger vessel. The inquiry report was published in 2000 and as a result a Formal Safety Assessment of Domestic Passenger Vessel Safety was subsequently carried out for the MCA. This resulted in safety legislation for new vessels being increased. ‘Following this step change for newer vessels, it was found necessary for older vessel standards to be brought, as far as possible, up to an equivalent level of safety, to provide a consistent safety standard for the travelling public’.

Dan Collier points out that one of the conclusions made during the Inquiry was that the Marchioness would have rolled over even if she’d had the kind of ‘damage stability’ now being introduced, because she was hit by a vessel which was six times bigger and she was pushed under the water.

Cross-party support for Colliers

Colliers have won cross party support from MPs Ruth Cadbury (Labour), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Vince Cable (Liberal Democrat). Ruth Cadbury has raised the issue with Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling in written questions, asking what effort he has made to find out the impact of the proposed regulations.

Ruth Cadbury MP for Brentford & Isleworth told us: ‘’I’m concerned that these new regulations could force historic boats and businesses across the Thames to be scrapped. I’ve contacted the Department of Transport to urge them to make sure that any new regulations consider the historic nature, and value of older ships.’

Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond said: ‘I enjoyed spending time on the Princess Freda with the Colliers, but it is patently obvious that these new regulations will put them and others like them in the sector out of business. They have been around for a very long time, and the boat itself is nearly 100 years old. But more than that, the many thousands of passengers who are drawn to Richmond every year to spend time on their boats are enormously important for our local economy. The government is going to have to rethink its approach.’

Vice Cable MP for Twickenham told us: ‘I recently visited Eel Pie Island Slipways whose boatyard business is also at risk if Colliers and others who operate the older passenger boats no longer need the maintenance work to be done as before’. If the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are ‘inflexible’ he says he will try and secure a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Lord Salisbury, who organized the Diamond Jubilee Pageant, has also written to Chris Grayling about it. Princess Freda, with John Collier at the helm, led the royal procession in 2012.

Decision expected later this year

The MCA have suggested that historic vessels may be granted exemption from the rules in ‘exceptional circumstances’. They say:

“We recognise that certain ships have intrinsic historical value and form an important part of UK maritime heritage. That said, we cannot make a wholesale exemption for historic ships as a group … any future exemption request put forward by one of the Dunkirk Little Ships (or indeed any other historic passenger commercial ship) would be looked at on its individual merits, on a case by case basis.”

The MCA told The Chiswick Calendar that any exemption requests would need to demonstrate that any risk posed would be low or mitigated by special circumstances. The MCA is now considering the operators’ comments, and consulting further, before making firm proposals to go to the Secretary of State for a decision.

Media Club – Surviving Brexit:

Brexit has exposed the divisions in both our main political parties; with the issue dominating the headlines, it’s hard to look past.

In the first of two events ‘Surviving Brexit’, we look at how the Labour party has changed and ask can Jeremy Corbyn lead the party into number 10?

Lewis Goodall, a Sky News Political correspondent and author of ‘Left for Dead: The Strange Death and Rebirthof Labour Britain’ discusses the party with Simon Hannah, Labour party activist, trade unionist and author of ‘A Party with Socialists In It.’ 

BBC presenter Julian Worricker chairs the debate on Tuesday 30 April at the Pilot pub on Wellesley Rd. 

Book tickets here.

In The Drink calls ‘last orders’ on single-use plastic cups

It’s always rather demoralising after the Boat Race to see the river banks and the River Thames itself littered with plastic cups and the remains of people’s picnics. 

This year the environmental damage wasn’t quite so bad, thanks to the campaign In the Drink. The initiative by Paul Hyman, who runs the paddleboarding outfit at Kew Bridge, and a group of environmental activists, was launched last week.

The campaign aims to rid the Thames of plastic waste by persuading pubs and anyone  near the river not to use single use plastic straws and cups. The problem is that even if people have thrown them away in the bins provided, these are often overflowing and the plastic finds it way into the water.

Paddleboarders started the campaign by organising regular clear-ups of the river themselves, fishing out anything from water bottles to traffic cones. 

Their efforts were rewarded last weekend by Positively Putney investing in 14,000 reusable plastic cups to be shared among eight pubs at this year’s annual Boat Race Day.

Paul Hyman told me it was a “great start” but hadn’t achieved all that it might, as users weren’t asked to pay a deposit which they got back on return of their cup, so many ended up in the bins and some in the river.

He also noted that Hammersmith & Fulham had made great efforts to collect waste this year, tying waste sacks to the railings of Bishop’s Park to supplement the permanent waste bins.

Comedian Bill Bailey with In the Drink campaigner

Less pleasing were the free bottles of water handed out by sponsors Smartwater, owned by Coca-Cola, many of which were left lying about at the end of the race. 

In the Drink has had a £10,000 grant to research the extent of the problem and practical alternatives, the reusable cups demonstrated at the launch by supporter and keen paddleboarder, comedian Bill Bailey.

“We want to work with riverside bars, events and venues to establish mutually beneficial systems to phase in sustainable alternatives,” said Alison Baker, co-founder of In The Drink. “We’re hoping London pubs will help us and work together to look after the river we all love.”

Now all they need is a sponsor to give them the funds to take the work forward. 

Acton takes up Chiswick’s literary challenge

I wrote last week that the timeline of Chiswick writers published by Director of the Chiswick Book Festival Torin Douglas, has reached 250 names.

With luminaries such as Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, John Osborne and Dame Iris Murdoch among our claims to fame, not to mention older generations of illustrious authors including the Irish poet WB Yeats, author of Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray and 18th-century satirist Alexander Pope, verily can we claim the distinction of being a great literary neighbourhood.

Local historian Val Bott ventured to suggest that other postcodes might like to see if they can beat us in the literary stakes. No sooner had she thrown down the gauntlet than it was picked up. 

The Observer published a piece on Sunday titled: ‘Put the word out: Chiswick may be Britain’s most literary location.’

‘Bath, Edinburgh and the Lake District are each deeply steeped in literary history and are justly proud, while Stratford-upon-Avon could claim to being the single most important literary destination in Britain. But now there is an unlikely new contender…’

‘Unlikely’?!!! How very dare they!

Now Twitter has lit up with suggestions by our very near neighbours Acton, indicating they think they might be in with a shot at the title. ‘Forsooth’ say I, ‘pshaw’.

Just because the have Julian Barnes and Guardian columnist Tim Dowling. Ok so Eric Morecambe once lived there and the Who’s Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend and John Entwistle went to Acton County Grammar School. But literary capital? I think not.

Clare Gittins, who’s been tweeting about it for the Acton Arts Project told me: “I think it’s a fantastic idea. It’s a delightful thing to talk about anything which brings a community to life by telling a story about the people who lived there”. 

Acton Arts Project are hoping to persuade Ealing Council to let them have the now defunct Acton Library as a community arts centre and are keen to promote anything of a cultural nature in Acton.

Clare now seems to have been given the job of collating Acton’s list (“until it becomes too onerous, when I will ask for help”). 

Chiswickians should keep a beady eye out for any other published authors we can add to Torin’s list, lest any other pretenders try and take the title.

‘Pretentious – Moi?’ to quote the immortal Miss Piggy. (Or should that be ‘Pretentious – Nous?’)


A Woman of No Importance

Sonia Purnell has a new book out. A Woman of no Importance is the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who changed the course of World War II, whose story has never been told before. It reads like a thriller: ‘a suspenseful, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant tale of heroism and sacrifice’. (BookPage) and has been very well reviewed.

Sonia has form in producing well researched, beautifully written historical memoirs. Her last book First Lady, on the life of Clementine Churchill, was chosen as a book of the year by The Telegraph and The Independent. Her first book, Just Boris, (about Boris Johnson) was longlisted for the Orwell prize. A Woman of no Importance is selling so fast it’s had two reprints in two days and Sonia, who lives in Shepherd’s Bush and has appeared at the Chiswick Book Festival, is currently promoting it on a book tour in the States.

“I’ve always been interested in spies” Sonia told me. “My father was a spycatcher, working in British counter-intelligence, so that world has always interested me”. She stumbled across Virginia Hall researching World War II spies on the internet and wondered why so little had been written about her. Glamorous, American, hugely successful and with the memorable feature of a wooden leg, she couldn’t work out why she Virginia seemed so elusive. She was without question a hero, who played a significant role in altering the course of the war. In 1942, the Gestapo made it a priority to track down the mysterious ‘limping lady’ who was fighting for the freedom of France. An urgent Gestapo transmission read: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”


As she dug deeper, Sonia realized that part of the reason Virginia Hall was not more celebrated was because after the war she went on to work for the CIA, so it suited her purpose to remain out of the public eye. But it was also that she didn’t conform to the romantic / tragic heroine stereotype, thinks Sonia. She was too good. “She didn’t conform to the feminine ideal” she says, “I’ve seen internal job appraisals from her former CIA bosses. Men tried to do her down because they saw her as a threat. Even her SOE controller during the war described her as ‘embarrassingly successful’.“

That Sonia should have read her internal CIA appraisals speaks volumes about the meticulous nature of her research. Virginia had “about 20 different code names” she says. She spent three years tracking down the story, spending time in the Resistance archives in Lyon and in Paris and America and getting to know Virginia’s family in Baltimore. She also discovered a historian of prosthetics at the Science Museum. It was an “epic detective operation” she says – “not easy”.

Photographs below – Virginia as a child with brother John and father Ned; Virginia and John as adults; Virginia as a young woman. She grew up on a farm and had an affinity with animals

Virginia became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines, despite the encumbrance of a wooden leg (she’d literally shot herself in the foot in a hunting accident in Turkey at the age of 27, and named her prosthetic limb affectionately ‘Cuthbert’). Working for the SOE – Special Operations Executive – she established vast spy networks throughout France, organized weapons drops and became a linchpin for the Resistance. When the Germans laid a trap and captured almost all the SOE operatives in southern France at one meeting,  she didn’t go. She managed to get all 12 out of prison in a spectacular jail break involving classic subterfuge such as hiding files in pots of jam.

Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. Eventually her cover was blown and she escaped by hiking over the Pyrenees into Spain. “She couldn’t reveal she had a wooden leg” says Sonia, even though they were pushing through deep snow. “If they’d known she would have ended up in a ravine because they’d have thought she would slow them up”. Even after she escaped she plunged back in to the war in France, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

A Woman of no Importance is available from Amazon and in all good bookshops – providing that is they’ve not sold out and are waiting on the next reprint.

Photographs below – ID papers from when she was posted to Tallin in the 1930s; steering a gondola in Venice; painting by Jeff Bass of Virginia transmitting messages from a farm in the Haute-Loire, July 1944; Virginia was the only civilian woman in the Second World War to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, for extraordinary heroism against the enemy. She received the medal in Washington, DC on 27 September 1945.




Peter Oborne eats humble pie in the ‘national interest’

Peter Oborne, the Daily Mail columnist who lives locally, has admitted that he was wrong about Brexit. Peter took part in The Chiswick Calendar’s EU Referendum debate in 2016 and argued that Britain should leave the EU as a matter of democracy, that it was not right for decisions to be made at EU level which should be made by British politicians, and as a matter of principle, for the sake of our sovereignty, we should leave. On Sunday he did a very public volte face, with an article in Open Democray in which he wrote: ‘Today I have to admit that the Brexit project has gone sour. Brexit has paralysed the system. It has turned Britain into a laughing stock. And it is certain to make us poorer and to lead to lower incomes and lost jobs’. There are many who have also changed their minds, according to the polls, but typical of Peter, he is big enough to admit that it and eat humble pie, very publicly for the sake of the national interest.

‘Future generations will damn us’

He told John Humphrys on the Today programme yesterday that he was “still a bit conflicted” but he said in his article that Brexiteers ‘will never be forgiven if and when Brexit goes wrong. Future generations will look back at what we did and damn us’. He argues, as a Brexiteer, that ‘We need to take a long deep breath. We need to swallow our pride, and think again. Maybe it means rethinking the Brexit decision altogether’. When he voted Leave, what he had been looking for was ‘a sensible Brexit’, but he says: ‘There’s zero chance of a sensible Brexit amidst the pandemonium and hysteria at Westminster just now’. Unlike many on in her party, he thinks Theresa May is a ‘hero’. ‘She’s shown immense fortitude and determination which has won her the respect and admiration of decent people. But there comes a moment in life when determination alone turns to madness. When the wisest and best move is to give up and think again’.

‘Barbaric Donald Trump style dystopia’

Looking back to our debate in May of 2016, he said something which I didn’t think at the time was that significant: “There is a school of people who want to leave Europe who want to turn us into something in the mid-Atlantic, you known a sort of barbaric Donald Trump style dystopia, and I don’t want that and I don’t think most sensible people do”.  Now it seems chillingly prescient, how much influence this school of thought would have.

How telling that he concludes his article: ‘Finally – and without naming them – I must state that there are many MPs (and not a few journalists) still marching under the Brexit banner who will read this article with a sympathy and support they do not feel able to declare. They too have changed their minds’.

Whether you voted Leave of Remain, his article is well worth reading. I was a strong Brexiteer. Now we must swallow our pride and think again

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Brexit acrimony

See also: Peter Oborne publishes website of Boris lies