Man in the Middle – Chapter 9: Mother moves in

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. 9 Mother moves in

I am hanging Mother’s paintings and pictures in my study. The study smells of drying paint and I have a headache. I am not sure if the ache is because of the paint’s volatile organic compounds or because I can’t hang a single painting straight.

I’m peeved because I’m not even winging it like I normally do with household chores. I’ve watched a Wickes DIY video on how to hang pictures (twice) and bought a new tape measure, plugs, picture wire and a hammer. I’m locked and loaded. I’ve even put a pencil behind my ear like the guy in the video to get me into the role like a Method actor. But after four hours only three small pictures are actually on the wall.

‘You’re not a natural at this DIY thing, are you?’ says Wife from the doorway. ‘You hang pictures like Jackson Pollock paints – randomly.’

I feel an urge to dispute this. But she’s right. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way the pictures are hanging.

‘I didn’t want it to look formal,’ I say lamely.

I am hanging Mother’s pictures in my study because she moves in next week. My study is becoming her bedroom. She has called time on solo living. It is the end of hesitation and the start of something new, though none of us is quite sure what.

Many of the photographs are from a shared past: now departed aunts, uncles, and godparents. Others are of people, who played a part in her life, which I can only guess at. They’re from an age when men polished their shoes before going out in the evenings and women smoked through cigarette holders.

‘Cigarette holders came in different lengths for different situations: one for the theatre, one for dinner and so on. It was a more elegant age,’ she says pointing at a photograph of my father lighting a cigarette for her. They’re at a party in a place she can no longer remember.

The study walls are too small to curate an entire life, of course. Tough choices have to be made. How many pictures to hang of the grandchildren versus husband? Is a photograph of our wedding day necessary when there are so many elsewhere in the house? Should every decade of life get a showing? Making these choices is stressing everyone and I am feeling more like an insensitive curator of an exhibition than a caring son.

Choosing the pictures for her bedroom is a small challenge compared to the sorting the rest of her possessions, though. We have agreed a plan to sort things into three groups: Keep, Donation and Dump. But the categories keep getting redefined. Overnight some piles grow, some shrink. It’s a border without customs controls. I’ve booked a small van to bring her stuff over in two days. At this rate, I’ll need to hire a lorry instead. The whole house will be full of her stuff and tip from a shared home into a Museum for Mother. I wonder if Wickes have a video, which will help me?

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 10 The Phone here

Lantern Festival returns to Chiswick House

The Lantern Festival is to return to the gardens of Chiswick House next year, with 2,000 lantern sculptures arranged in 47 groups in a Lantern Trail around the gardens.

The show, called Lightopia, is currently in Edinburgh and moves to Manchester before coming to us 22 January to 1 March 2020.

Unlike previous shows, this one doesn’t have a theme:  ‘the designs are the timeless units of nature’ but it will be more interactive. Visitors will be invited to ‘explore the illuminated wonderland using touch pads and drums to control extraordinary sculptures’ and there will be acrobats performing around the park.

Plans for a new Chiswick Health Centre

Plans for a new Chiswick Health Centre have gone on show at the centre in Fishers Lane. 

The current spectacularly ugly building is due to be knocked down and rebuilt so the health services within it can expand, to meet the needs of a population which is both expanding and ageing.

What those who use it have been waiting to find out is where they would go to see their doctor while the work was going on. The answer, it has now been revealed, is the Stamford Brook Centre on Stamford Brook Avenue. 

Robert Flann, Pratice Manager at the Chiswick Health Practice, one of three surgeries at the centre, told me that the short term upset would be worth the long term gain.

“The building is way past its sell-by date and once we have a brand new building we will be able to offer our patients a better service”.

Chiswick Health Centre

Stamford Brook Centre is an NHS owned building which has until recently been used for offices. The NHS would bear the cost of getting a change of use agreed and of carrying out the refurbishment of that building.

But Hounslow Clinical Commissioning Group is reliant on a developer for the capital to carry out the redevelopment of the medical centre itself. While the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been dishing out money for hospitals like sweeties ahead of a general election, the grants are for hospitals and emergency services, not community healthcare. 

NHS Property Services has a list of 23 developers who could pitch for the project. The plans include the provision of 48 flats on the site in addition to the new health centre. Hounslow Council leader Steve Curran has said they must include some affordable housing.

Just how much affordable housing will be included, how much money will go to the developer from the sale of the flats and how much will be available to be spent on the health centre is all up for discussion before the project goes forward for planning permission.

Steve Curran commented last week “there’s still a long way to go on this”.

The plans are available to view at the health centre until tomorrow (Wednesday 30 October) and online here.

Edward Lear painting for sale

A painting by the poet (and polymath) Edward Lear is one of the items up for auction this week at Chiswick Auctions.

The sale of British & European Fine Art at 11.00am today (Tuesday 29 October) has nearly 300 lots, available for viewing from 10.00am.

George Sidney Shepherd painting of Covent Garden 

The sale also includes a painting by George Sidney Shepherd of Covent Garden Market in 1829, as it was before the new market was completed in 1830. 

The main layout of Covent Garden dates from Inigo Jones’s designs for the 4th Duke of Bedford dating from the 1630s, which became the first public square in the country. 

The fruit and vegetable market started in the centre of the square in the mid seventeenth century and by the 1760s it had taken over most of the area.

By the end of the century it had become ‘the greatest market in England for herbs, fruit and flowers’.

West London riding stables for disabled people sells Lucien Freud sketch

The artist Lucien Freud was a regular visitor at Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, where he would drop in, happy not to be recognised, and sketch the horses.

Sister Mary Joy, the Roman Catholic nun who runs the centre and set it up originally 30 years ago, had no idea who he was when he first arrived, but she finds that having an artist in residence helps with fundraising.

Little did she know quite how much. Money is always short and the stable yard needs refurbishment, so she has decided to part with a sketch he did of one of the ponies – Goldie.

It will go on sale at auction at Chiswick Auctions on 3 December and is expected to fetch between £40,000 and £60,000.

Freud, who died in 2011 aged 88, donated money to the centre from time to time and brought apples and carrots for the ponies on his visits.

He gave her the sketch years ago and it has sat unnoticed in her office ever since, so as far as the art world is concerned it is a new discovery, ‘previously unknown’, and it’s causing some excitement.

“I love the Sketch of Goldie for what it reveals about Lucian’s process – a canvas worked up in charcoal and then rubbed over with paint rags to give it form and energy,” said Krassi Kuneva, from Chiswick Auctions.

I met Sister Mary Joy in March and wrote a feature about the work of the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre which you can read here. The difference it makes to disabled children is remarkable.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 8: Cakeism

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. 8 Cakeism

Mother thinks Boris Johnson is right about cake. She supports having it and eating it, wholeheartedly. She’s just watched the Daily Politics discussing the impact of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit on our food supplies and she tells me no politician is stupid enough to let Brexit damage the cake supply chain.

‘Cake shortages caused the French revolution. They won’t repeat that mistake. And, if they did, we’d just go back to baking our own cakes. We survived the War without panettone, and we will survive again.’

I wonder when my Remain voting Mother morphed into a cross between Mary Antionette and Geoffrey Boycott? Where did she learn French history? And why doesn’t she know that panettone is a breaded loaf, not a cake? I am about to discuss all this with her when I remember I came round only to check she’s OK and not to waste time debating the impact of Brexit on the global cake supply chain.

I offer to make her a cup of tea, instead. Her fridge is almost empty. A pint of milk sits next to a lemon drizzle cake, a Bakewell tart and four jam donuts. There’s a tin of tomato soup on the top shelf. Unless she is auditioning for an extreme episode of ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ it’s clear her obsession for cake is more than just political. I decide it’s time for me to talk to her about getting some balance into her diet.

‘I worried you’re not eating enough. Or not eating the right things,’ I say. ‘When did you start this cake thing?’

‘When did you start being a nosey parker?’ she replies.

Undaunted, I suggest she needs to include whole grains, proteins and more fat in her diet. I say that cakes are not bad per se but should eaten in moderation.

‘We need to make your diet less Willy Wonka and more Yotam Ottolenghi.’

Mother falls silent during my sermon. In fact, she has turned off her hearing aid and jacked up the volume on the TV. It’s so loud the dead could be walking all over West London.

‘You’re becoming a cake addict,’ I shout, irritated at being stonewalled. ‘Don’t you realise the sugar in all those cakes is like having crack cocaine.’

‘If crack cocaine is as good as lemon drizzle cake could I try some?’ she replies.

Fretting over dinner, I explain to the family why they should also feel aggrieved by Mother’s reaction.

‘It was all for her own good,’ I end.

There is an embarrassed silence. They’re like ambassadors at a diplomatic reception, where Donald Trump has misread the autocue. After a while, Son speaks.

‘Supermarket cakes come in lots of packaging. If she cuts back on that it has to be a good thing for the environment,’ says Son, showing he values Gaia more than Granny.

There’s another short pause.

‘This incident is a political metaphor. It illustrates the conflict between the individual’s right to live the way they want and the desire of the State to prevent harmful behaviours. She sees it as her right to eat as much cake as she wants. You chose to be Mr Nanny State. Given that Granny doesn’t like being told what to do, I don’t understand why you are surprised at her reaction?’ says Daughter.

This is not the support I was after. I turn, hopefully, to Wife, who is clearing up the plates.

‘The moral of the story is: ‘Don’t teach your Grandmother to suck eggs’,’ she says. ‘Now, who’d like some pudding?’

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 9 Mother Moves in here

The Queen Mother’s Port

Guest blog by Sam Hellyer

Port first became popular in the UK in 1703 during the war with France. Merchants were authorized to import it at a low duty, to satisfy the deprived English wine drinkers, who had a taste for drinking French wine. British Merchants began to invest more and more into the Port industry, including the likes of W. & J. Graham’s who founded their firm in Porto, in 1820. Graham’s has an outstanding history of producing some of the finest vintages for well over a century, with remarkable rich flavours. You can therefore imagine my excitement when last month I was able to get my hands on a very old and rare bottle in Margate, on a very wet and cold day…

Margate is a beautiful seaside town, although some of its charms are dampened when it rains. The rain was that kind of all-pervasive mist that doesn’t soak you to the bone but does suck all the warmth from you the second you step into it. After navigating the winding backstreets, I stepped out, and instantly wished I’d worn a thicker suit. But I did up my jacket, to stop the wind trying to whip it off my back and continued on my way.

The Port I was here to collect was at a venue across the road, a venue I knew the name of, but I’d never actually been to until today. So, I was a little confused to see what looked like a bus stop on the opposite side of the road with ‘The Winter Gardens’ above it and absolutely nothing but a fenced off garden behind it, and beyond that the sea. I crossed the road and peered into the garden, which was a crater, and in the crater was a theatre. The bus-stop I’d seen had double doors in its back wall that led to an enclosed staircase and down to a reception area.

I was introduced to Paul, who had contacted me about three cases (and five bottles) of Graham’s 1977 and after introductions, was offered to try one of the bottles (looks like I’d only be collecting four bottles). We sat at a table by the window with four port glasses and a half full decanter and he poured me a glass, explaining they thought it might be best to taste it to make sure it was still drinkable.

Drinkable isn’t the word, it was luscious. Smooth, with the last hurrah of thick tannins lining the tongue and laying down a plush carpet for the chewy fig and lingering acidity to mingle on. With them came a hint of smoky and chocolatey notes, the smell of cigar boxes, and freshly sanded wood.

The tale of the Ports is brilliant, in 1983/84 (no one could remember which one), the Queen Mother had been the esteemed guest of the venue for dinner. They were instructed that they had to have Vintage Graham’s on hand for her. Either the food and beverage manager wanted to make sure she was well catered for, or he thought she could imbibe her own body weight in Port, but too many cases were ordered. Due to either zealous over-ordering or her Majesty having an off day, much of the port remained undrunk. It proceeded to feature on 35 years-worth of stock counts before the food and beverage manager finally retired and the new incumbent thought that maybe it was time to sell it on. In the bar it would have cost around £70 per glass, which might have proved quite a hard sell, so instead the decision was made to auction it.

After finishing my glass of Port, I asked to see the cellar and was duly led behind the bar with its luscious crimson floor and down a small hatch leading onto chalky steps. The steps shed a layer of dusty white powder with every step and soon I was in a room with dusty white walls. The cellar was carved out of the cliff face when the venue was built in 1911. It’s surrounded by thick chalky stone, which runs under the car park, and presumably if you were to dig a few meters further out, you’d be looking onto open water. As far as cellars go, it was ideal, a constant temperature, heavily insulated, no natural light and not too dry.

The port shared a locked cage in the cellar with cases of Gadd’s beer from the Ramsgate Brewery and large formats of Vodka, Gin, Whisky and Rum, all of which turned over on a weekly basis to satisfy the thirsty visitors to Kent’s largest entertainment space. As I surveyed this beautiful but bustling cellar, all I could imagine was one of those sped up videos where everything else was brought down to the cellar, stacked, racked or wheeled into storage and all the time these three cases of port sat, unmoving for 35 years. It is now these cases time to shine, to get their moment in the spotlight and finally be appreciated ahead of all the fly-by-night, built for quick-consumption compatriots that have sped past it.

So, some months ago, out of the blue I got an e-mail. It started innocuously enough asking if we auctioned port. A very brief e-mail, and it took several months for them to get the go ahead. But, the culmination of this long story, starting with the queen mother in 1980 not drinking the three cases of port intended for her visit and culminated in a very wet miasma of salt tinged rain, a glass of the most wonderfully stored port I’ve come across to date, and the cases loaded into the boot of my car ready to be auctioned off in December, where it will finally achieve a moment in the spotlight.

The estimate of the Graham’s 1977 Port is £700 – 850 and will be sold at Chiswick Auctions on 5th December, 11.00am.

Chiswick Auctions Wine & Spirits sales provide a route to market for everything from single bottles to sealed cases ranging from Madeira, Whiskies and Vintage Port to First Growths, Super Tuscans and New World Wonders. For a free and confidential valuation or for more information on anything discussed in this blog, please contact Head of Wine & Spirits, Sam Hellyer: sam.hellyer@chiswickauctions.co.uk

chiswickauctions.co.uk

Sam Hellyer is the Head of Wine & Spirits at Chiswick Auctions

Dukes Meadows Trust petition delivered

Duke’s Meadow’s Trust has delivered a petition to Hounslow Council signed by over 1400 local residents demanding that they ‘drop their destructive scheme to develop car parking areas and coach turning circles at The Promenade, riverside public open space, at Duke’s Meadows’.

The parking proposals are part of the council’s plans for the development of Dukes Meadows sporting facilities, but Kathleen Healy, Development Manager at the Trust, said:

“So many local people have told me how shocked, distressed, and justly angry they are about this damaging and destructive scheme which would spoil our riverside public open space at Duke’s Meadows”.

Cher

I  saw Cher last night at the O2. She was fantastic. The woman’s a goddess. She’s one of a handful of artists, like the Beatles, whose music is so big, you not only know all the songs but find you know most of the words, just because you’ve incidentally absorbed them throughout your life.

She started by saying she’s 73 and by rights should have reached her sell-by date, but she still had it. ‘What’s your grandmother doing tonight?’ That kind of ego might be unattractive, but on her it inspires love and admiration. As I left the arena I heard one woman say ‘I want her body’ and another group of friends hugging before they split up to go their separate ways, declaring ‘we’re all Cher!’

She belted out 50 years of hits with that amazing voice as powerful as ever, striding around the stage, strutting her stuff with such ease and confidence.

She changed from one fabulous costume to the next about every two songs, the show not missing a beat as the set changed with a huge video backdrop showing a starry sky, flames, fireworks, downtown Memphis, a Burlesque club, black and white footage of her and Sonny and clips of her films; a gantry in front of it providing two levels for dancers, acrobats and musicians.

Her hair changed from blue to black, to blonde, to auburn to white as she worked her way through The Beat Goes On, If I Could Turn Back Time, Strong, Walking in Memphis. She even sang I Got You Babe, Sonny and Cher’s greatest hit. “I didn’t know how I’d feel about doing this one, but hey, he liked it, you like it, I like it. And if I didn’t do it this time I could always do it on my next farewell tour”.

All of this has nothing whatsoever to do with Chiswick. I just wanted to CHER

Arts Ed launches in Dubai

Arts Ed is launching in Dubai and across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They will be working with eight international schools, delivering performing arts training.

The Principal, Chris Hocking said:

“We are thrilled to be bringing ArtsEd to Dubai. Our fantastic teachers, brilliant graduates and talented students will work with our UAE partner schools and their students to deliver world-class bespoke programs helping to develop a full range of performance skills internationally.”

At a dinner, with performances by Arts Ed graduates at a the Marriott Marquis in Dubai, HM Consul General, Andrew Jackson said:

“This is a great example of creative partnership between the UK and the UAE, bringing together culture and education”.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 7: No Respite

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. 7 No Respite

Mother and I agree we’re going to ignore the advice of the Minister for Loneliness to ‘take your grandparents on holiday’. The Minister used to do it and wants the rest of us to follow her lead as part of her strategy to ‘beat loneliness’, apparently.

It’s not that the Minister’s advice is bad, theoretically. But it’s going to be hard to follow because Mother hates trains, planes, automobiles, ferries and cars. She also detests bicycles. Or rather bicyclists, whom she regards as thoughtless hooligans who enjoy scaring old people by riding on pavements and jumping the traffic lights.

The only way to get her to the south of France – which is where we’re heading – is to hire a sedan chair and a team of muscled youngsters to carry her. The journey would leave almost no carbon footprint and give two fit, young people work for a fortnight or more. I wonder if the Minister would finance this as an innovative piece of policy making and a sure fire publicity coup?

‘The last time I went to France the dog had diarrhea for a week and your father drank a bottle of a brandy every day. At my age, I can’t risk reliving that all over again,’ says Mother.

Son thinks she has hodophobia, a rare disease, which makes you fear travelling and should be taken to the psychiatrist. Wife thinks she’s being selfless and should be left alone. I am trying to remember if Father liked brandy that much. The bit about the dog is true.

‘If she were a dog, we’d put her in a dog home. She’d get three meals a day and happily run around with the other dogs. Why aren’t there dog homes for old people?’ says Son.

‘We could set up cameras in her flat so we can watch her on our iPhones,’ says Daughter.

‘We could just respect her wish to stay at home,’ says Wife.

The worry that something might happen to her while we’re away doesn’t disappear just because we’re going to respect her wishes. But son has given me an idea. I investigate short term respite care and talk Mother through the concept of her signing up for some while we’re in France. She looks at my kindly after mulling it over for a short while.

‘If I drop dead while I’m in this so-called respite care home, they’d be obliged to tell you I was dead. Which means you’d be obliged to come home. Which means the family would be obliged to come home, too. Which means the holiday would be ruined for everyone.’

‘But here’s the rub. Coming back early won’t bring me back to life. And if I die before you get back, nothing very much will happen. They’ll just shove me in a giant freezer and call you when you come home, sun-tanned and relaxed. Frankly, you’ll be in better shape to deal with the shock after the holiday not during it. Don’t you think? So, when you think about it this respite care business is clearly a pointless complication and expense.’

I am bamboozled but not stupid enough to fight on.

‘You’d rather be by yourself? At home, then?’

‘Yes. L’enfer c’est les autres. Why do people always assume us oldies need to be with other people? The politicians and those busy bodies need to remember that.’

She pauses for a moment.

‘Good God, imagine being on holiday with a politician.’

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 8 Cakeism here

Hounslow council promises environmental action plan by December

Hounslow council has promised to publish an action plan for tackling climate change by December. At a ‘Meet the Cabinet’ session at St Michael’s Church in Elmwood Rd, Grove Park last Wednesday night (16 October), with council leader Steve Curran and six other members of Hounslow’s Cabinet, the member responsible for environment, Cllr Katherine Dunne said:

“We are looking at all areas of the council’s work. We expect it to impact all areas – lots and lots of things”. The action plan council officers have been working on will come to Cabinet in December. “There are lots of good suggestions already” she said. One of the initiatives which looks certain to be introduced is the introduction of a parking levy on large employers, such as Sky and the businesses at Chiswick Park, with the aim of discouraging personal car use. Hounslow may be the first London local authority to -introduce the Workplace Parking Levy.

Council leader Steve Curran said Chiswick High Rd already has hybrid buses and LB Hounslow has the second highest number of electric car charging points of any London borough.

Housing

One of the main areas the council must address is the carbon efficiency of its housing stock. Residential properties account for 15% greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Katherine said: “Our housing stock must be energy efficient”, which will mean retrofitting a lot of existing council owned properties and making sure new ones are zero carbon.

Transport

Transport remains the biggest source of emissions, at 27%. Much of the meeting was taken up with discussion of transport issues, with comments about the new CPZ areas around Grove Park, congestion on Sutton Court Rd and the impact of the closure of Hammersmith Bridge on Chiswick.

Residents’ parking

Grove Park has suffered from commuters coming into the area to take advantage of free parking in order to use Chiswick rail station, Gunnersbury Park tube station, or to get to Chiswick Business Park by foot. The introduction of a new Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) has eased the parking situation for residents greatly, but Debbie Kellow brought up an unintentional consequence – the excess cars not owned by local residents have now shifted to the Chiswick School end of Staveley Rd and Burlington Lane, making crossing those roads potentially more dangerous for Chiswick School pupils.

Cllr Sam Hearn had pointed out a couple of weeks ago that it was also making life harder for teachers. I asked the question her raised previously of of whether teachers might be exempted from CPZ restrictions, as they mostly can’t afford to live in the area and have a huge amount of stuff to carry with them to work. Cllr Tom Bruce, lead Member for education, was quite firm and unequivocal in saying ‘No’. There could be no exceptions, he said, even though he himself is a teacher and he well understands the problems teachers face.

Cllr Khan pointed out that when Hounslow had built its new headquarters, Hounslow House, they had designed it without car parking spaces, forcing council workers to use public transport.

‘Liveable neighbourhoods’

Cllr Hanif Khan, Cabinet member responsible for Transport, said his team would be looking at the issue of parking in Staveley Rd / Burlington lane as part of the ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ consultation. The council has money from the Mayor’s office to spend on making south Chiswick (ie south of the A4) more ‘liveable’ – ‘unlocking potential for more trips to be made by foot, bike and public transport, while improving public space’. The council is seeking our comments on how they should spend the money to improve the area now, until 15 November. You are invited to make your comments here.

Congestion on Sutton Court Rd

One of the perennial problems is commuter cars rat-running through residential streets, feeding in to already very congested main roads such as Sutton Court Rd, which crosses the A4. Carol Peterson suggested making the exit onto Sutton Court Rd from Wavendon Rd left turn only and the exit from Barrowgate Rd right turn only. Cllr Joanna Biddolph made the point that quite a lot of the issues concerning traffic congestion in Chiswick, and especially at Sutton Court Rd, are to do with the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.

Cllr Khan promised that traffic light phasing and any suggestions to do with easing traffic flow would be discussed with traffic officers as part of the Liveable Neighbourhoods plan.

Plans for a new train line

He also mentioned plans to “reinvigorate” a train line running “from Southall to the back of Sky” which would enable more Sky workers to get to work more easily by public transport. This is a plan to convert an existing but little used freight railway for passengers. The council has been working for some years to resurrect the line. LB Hounslow has now commissioned Network Rail to begin a detailed study on building the new train link from Brentford to Southall. Cllr Khan has said before that the earliest this scheme could be in operation in the western area would be 2021.

Heathrow third runway

In view of the council’s enthusiasm for tackling climate change, John Hickman said he’d like to understand its stance on Heathrow. Steve Curran said Hounslow was against the expansion of Heathrow, but that whether the third runway was built or not, the airport would still continue to be there, and many of Hounslow’s businesses and residents depend on it for their livelihood. He said he didn’t agree that taking an adversarial approach, joining the High Court action against Heathrow was good use of money. It was a waste of money, he said, and they were better “buiding a relationship which is not just adversarial”.

Ultra Low Emission Zone

Cllr Joanna Biddolph raised the subject of ULEZ – the Ultra Low Emission Zone – pointing out that it only goes as far as the North Circular road. “We (the Conservatives) have been lobbying for it ti include the North Cireular”she said. “Will you join us?” Cllr Katherine Dunne answered that Labou too wanted ULEZ “to cover the whole of greater London. We are pushing for that – Yes, way beyond the North Circular”.

New Chiswick Health Centre

Also discussed were plans for a new Chiswick Health Centre where the existing one is in Fishers Lane. “We’re in the pre-application process” said Steve Curran. “There’s a long way to go but the council is fully supportive, but we have to tread carefully and make sure it’s policy compliant. I haven’t seen any affordable housing (in the plans so far) and they (Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare) haven’t got any capital”. With all the money promised for new hospitals by the government, “They should be able to find new NHS money. It has to policy compliant. I’m not satisfied that a building of that size and number of units is acceptable without affordable housing”.

I pointed out that the huge development at Brentford stadium doesn’t have any affordable housing either, though the possibility is left open for negotiation in the next phase of building there. Chiswick would be pretty pissed off if planning permission for its shiny new healthcare centre was turned down because there was no affordable housing in the plan (there must be room for all of about six flats) if the stadium complex developers are allowed not to have any. “We’re pushing for it hard in the next tranche of development” at the stadium, he said.

The plans for the new health centre will be unveiled tomorow (Wednesday 23 October) at the centre between 1.00 and 7.00pm.

Bid to be London’s Borough of Culture in 2021

The Cabinet members also talked about LB Hounslow’s bid to become London Borough of Culture in 2021, a programme run by the Mayor of London to promote culture across the capital. If Hounslow won that status, it would mean extra money coming into the borough from the Mayor’s purse – £1.35m to support the development of a year-long cultural programme.

What would it mean for the borough if we won? ‘Winning London Borough of Culture will be massive for us. It’s a prestigious award that will put Hounslow on the map. It will create momentum and focus for our future culture plans and it will bring in significant investment from the Mayor’s Office’.

What should we do to help them win it? Support the bid by clicking here and make some suggestions about promoting the culture of the borough. “One of the problems is that people don’t know what Hounslow is” says Steve Curran. “It’s a series of separate hamlets which people drive through or fly over.”

Photograph by Ian Wylie

Staying put

More than 1.54 million people work from home for their main job, according to data from the Office of National Statistics. It’s a trend which has increased by nearly 75% over a decade. Another 2.66 million work in different places but use their home as a base.

In Chiswick it’s easy to see why you’d opt to stay here rather than squeeze yourself on to a crowded train and journey to work with your nose in someone else’s armpit, and many people have chosen to try and build a business working from home rather than put themselves through that every day – or even most days.

Zoe Nixon is one Chiswickian who decided to make a go of it, building her business blending and selling quality teas from the kitchen table. I met Zoe to find out how her business had developed over the four years she’s been doing it.

Photographs above: Zoe Nixon on a tea plantation in Kenya; her Tutti Frutti blend

The Kettle Shed

If you meet someone for the first time and ask them what they do, tea blending isn’t top of the list of jobs you might expect to hear, in west London anyway. How does an English woman with no family history of owning or running tea plantations, or blending or selling anything, become a tea blender?

The answer was that she went on a spiritual business course. Zoe used to be a banker, but as a single mother found it hard to do that job and have any time with her daughter. She went looking for ideas. ‘If you could do anything you wanted and money was no object, what would you choose to do?’ she was asked. Her answer was that she’d like to run a cafe – “an extension of her kitchen table, where people would read, date, fall in love, relax”. That’s a 24/7 kind of occupation, so really no better than banking. What’s along those lines? Something which is related to having a cafe? Offering warm beverages, but from your kitchen at home? By the end of the weekend she had fixed on tea blending.

She did a tea masters course and started making her own blends at the kitchen table. She took them to farmers markets and sold them direct from a stall. As the business grew she outsourced the blending, while keeping control over what goes into the teas, and she now supplies shops and cafes – Rhythm & Brews, Tamp, Angie’s Little Food shop and Lemon & Limes in Chiswick – as well as selling direct online.

Award-winning blends

She now has 19 different flavours – several of them award-winning. Her Bang On breakfast tea, Tutti Fruity and Darjeeling have all won Great Taste awards. A panel of over 500 experts – chefs, buyers, food writers and retailers – do the judging, and the industry awards are a trusted seal of approval. Perhaps the most unusual is her Carrot Cake tea – a Redbush base, with cinnamon,carrot, mallow flowers and almond slices.

She sells all over the UK, but mainly in London. “I try and keep everything ethical” she says. The tea bags are made from vegware, eco-friendly catering packaging. Some cheap tea bags have plastic in them, she says, whereas hers you can compost. The cardboard boxes are also fully recyclable.

She also works in homeless shelters and donates a cup of tea to a homeless person for every box sold in a store or cafe. Shelter from the storm in Islington, Wimbledon guild, Ealing and Hounslow winter church shelters and Look Ahead in Hackney are among those where she’s given and made tea. “They don’t really like the speciality teas. They ask for ordinary tea, so I go and buy cheap ones to the same value and make that”.

Zoe has recently been to Kenya with her daughter Darcy, aged eight, to a plantation in Limuru to see how tea is grown and picked. Her company is too small to buy direct. Most of the farms in the area are contracted to Unilever, so her purpose was not to buy on this trip. but to learn more about the farming of tea. She mainly buys through a tea broker, but she does find the Department of Trade and Industry helpful in suggesting farms to work with.

Four years in, what’s next in developing the business? She’s now looking to sell to hotel chains. So if you know of any in need of some funky, ethical, quality teas, give her a ring.

thekettleshed.com 

 

A good place to buy booze 

When Asahi bought the Fuller’s Griffin brewery in April, there was a collective intake of breath – a big Japanese multinational taking over a traditional English brewery with 200 years of family history attached to it? What next?

Well nothing much, it would appear. The big boss, CEO Akiyoshi Koji came over from Japan to assure the assembled workforce that he’d bought the company because he liked it exactly the way it was. Far from changing the name or dropping beers off the sales list, Asahi say they want to take the well-loved Fuller’s brands and market them better, across their extensive worldwide network.

A cursory glance round the brewery shop reveals it to be much the same ‘visitor experience’ it was when it opened last year, except for the odd bottle of Peroni Nastro Azzuro, which Asahi also owns, and number one Japanese lager Super Dry, nestling alongside London Pride ale and Cornish Orchards cider in gift packs. There are racks of beers, ciders, wines, food and merchandise at very competitive prices (even more so if you take advantage of your 10% discount with your Club Card). See the Fuller’s offer here.

But the best thing about it is the ‘Growler Bar’ where you can take your glass flagon and refill it with the beer of your choice for about half the average bar price in London.

Beer among the cheapest in London

A ‘growler’ is a glass flagon which takes three and a half pints, which you can fill up with the beer of your choice and take home with you, then bring back for a refill. The first one is full price, but after that when you bring it back they charge just the fill price of between £2 and £3 per pint. When the average price of a pint in London is around £4.57, that’s a pretty good deal.

Why is it called that? According to Adrian, the shop manager, ‘growler’ is an American term. When beer is transported across the country in the US and the containers are jiggled about in the process, CO2 escapes, making a kind of growling noise.

Wine, Champagne and Porter smoked salmon

The brewery calls its on-site shop a ‘visitor experience’ because it has the Pilot Brewery at the back, where small batch beers are brewed, in batches of 1,500 litres, trying out new recipes in collaboration with other brewers, as well as the tasting bar within the shop. Being able to bring your growler in for a refill is in some ways going back to the old days, but in other ways the shop is very 21st century, reminiscent of a Disney or a theme park shop with everything you could possibly want that could conceivably be associated with Fuller’s – all the beers and ciders but also wines exclusive to the Fuller’s shop, spirits and food from the Fuller’s kitchen.

The brewery shop sells a Black Porter smoked salmon, black pudding and a breakfast pack of ham and sausages from the artisanal butcher Owtons, all of which have some beery ingredients. “There’s a massive range of goods” says Adrian, including T shirts, hoodies, tote bags and satchels, beer mats, bottle openers, key rings … you name it. It may surprise you to find what an extensive choice of wines and Champagnes are on sale.

Free tour of the brewery with a Chiswick Calendar Club Card

It’s also where the tours of the brewery start and finish. The tours take place every day of the week except Sunday, departing from the desk at the entrance to the shop. The tours are well worth doing, as the history and the process of brewing is really interesting and you are plied with samples. The Fuller’s brewery tours attract quite a lot of foreign tourists to Chsiwick. The tasting tour normally costs £20 but is available free to Chiswick Calendar Club Card members. Go here to see how to get your discount, then go here to book. The shop is open Monday – Friday 10.00am – 8.00pm, Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm and is closed on Sundays.

Christmas beers

Every year Fuller’s brings out its Vintage ale, a high strength ale designed to keep. “It’s the same basic recipe each year”, says Adrian, “which is given a bit of a tweak” (a brewing term, I’m sure!) Or as the Fuller’s website puts it: ‘Fuller’s has created a new recipe of Vintage Ale every year since 1997, picking the best ingredients at the time, to make a strong beer with a complex character. Every bottle of Vintage Ale is individually numbered, making our older Vintage Ales extremely rare and sought after’.

Apart from the 2019 Vintage ale, they’ve just launched an Imperial Porter. “Lovely for Christmas” says Adrian. ‘With a complex malt make-up, this beer offers the smoky, mocha flavours of our classic London Porter. The addition of black treacle to the brew brings with it a sumptuous layer of velvety caramel, which nicely offsets the hop bitterness’ says the website.

And if you want to push the boat out for a present, there’s the Brewers Reserve No.5, with “figgy pudding notes” says Adrian. What makes this special is that it is aged for 18 months in 30 year old whisky casks. ‘Pouring a dark brown colour, it conjures a sherry-like aroma with notes of bourbon on the nose, while on the palate, it delivers sweet biscuit, fruitcake flavours and ripe notes of cherry – ending with a warm, smooth and satisfying finish. A truly special beer that every ale lover should experience’ is how the marketing team put it.

Adrian is from New Zealand. “It’s very different having to get your head around traditional English ale” he says, but he appears to have taken to it like a duck to water, loving the “passion and commitment that goes into brewing here”. The English have a “love affair” with ale he says. He’s not wrong.

fullersbrewery.co.uk

 

Best thing since sliced bread

There’s a quiet revolution going on. People are baking their own bread again, not in the bread machines that were all the rage a while back, but by hand, mixing the ingredients in a bowl and slapping the dough about on the kitchen table. I went on a bread-making course last week at Hen Corner in Brentford and found myself in the company of an intelligence analyst, the first officer on a cruise ship, a cyber security specialist, a neuroscience researcher and a nurse, all ages, who wanted to learn how to make bread at home, themselves. It was thoroughly enjoyable and we came away with armfuls of  bread – all these different types pictured here – and much more of an understanding than you can get from just reading a recipe.

I was there because Hen Corner are members of our Club Card scheme. Sara Ward offers our subscribers 15% off all her courses, which also include sausage-making, cheese-making, jam, chutney and preserves, bee-keeping and how to look after chickens, and special courses for Christmas baking. The others were there because they really wanted to learn how to make tasty, nutritious bread themselves.

Carolyn, the nurse, had been given the experience as a Christmas present. She’s an experienced baker, but was never quite satisfied with how her bread turned out – till now. Poppy, the intelligence analyst, had set up a microbakery in Cambridgeshire and was interested in how Sara taught bread-making. The rest of use were more or less novices. Sara gets chefs coming to learn bread-making from her. Apparently baking bread isn’t a big part of a chef’s training (but essential if you’re a chef on a ship which is out at sea for days on end, for example). What she teaches is technique, which you can’t learn from a book.

First of all she makes everyone feel very welcome. Hen Corner is an ordinary terraced house, Sara’s family home, with a large garden where she keeps bees and chickens and grows fruit and vegetables. An important part of the ethos is that she is welcoming you into her home. “Initially I thought that people might not want to come to a home” she says, “but it’s turned out quite the opposite. You don’t need an industrial kitchen to make good food. If you can make bread at my kitchen table, you can do it on your own”.

Long experience has taught her that someone will be late, so she factors in a half hour get to know you chat over tea and coffee, round the large kitchen table, so there’s no stress as people arrive, giving their excuses apologetically; they quickly chill and we’re old mates by the time we get down to business. From there on in it’s all business. We made three batches of dough, a white dough, a wholemeal and a sweet dough, measuring out the ingredients on small kitchen scales, mixing them in a bowl, using a bread scraper, then slapping the dough about on the table to stretch the gluten, till it changes texture and it ready to be left to prove.

Along the way she tells us about Hen Corner. She and her husband wanted to try and live sustainably. They quickly realised they couldn’t achieve that totally, and settled for one meal where everything came from the garden. What to do about protein? Keep pigs? Chickens, they decided, were more practical in the garden of a terraced house, so they keep a small flock, 24 currently, which provide them with a constant supply of fresh eggs throughout most of the year. When we made our sweet dough, the eggs were were breaking into the bowl were fresh that morning, still warm, with very yellow yolks.

Photographs above: Poppy; Hicham and Marwa; Sara and Marwa

She also told us a bit about the history of bread-making. Why ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ is not a phrase you will hear in her house. How post war, when the emphasis was on mass production, the Chorleywood process was invented, industrialising bread-making to produce the white sliced loaf, but in the process using such fine white flour that all the goodness and taste were lost and they had to add vitamins back in to make it legal to sell.

Sara’s been doing this for ten years so, while the atmosphere is laid back, chatty and friendly, she’s on a relentless timetable to get all three batches of dough done, so one is proving while you’re making the next, and the first is ready to shape into loaves once you’ve made the last. Having plied us with tea and coffee and fresh buns at the start, it was no hardship to work through till a late lunch of freshly made pizza and salad from the garden, with homemade wines or elderflower cordial (made last season, having scoured the neighbourhood for Brentford’s best flowers). We made a white loaf, a focaccia bread (rosemary from the bush outside, naturally), wholemeal seeded buns, a chilli and cheese loaf, cinnamon buns and chocolate Viennoise.

We came away with exactly the learning points she wanted us to. Basic bread is just four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast and water. For wholemeal bread, use wholemeal flour. For sweet bread use milk instead of water and add some sugar, eggs and butter. That’s it. She got us to brainstorm the types of bread you could make with those three basic doughs and the list is surprisingly long: a white loaf or rolls, focaccia, pizza, pitta bread, baguettes (use more water), nan (yoghurt in the dough), ciabatta (olive oil) all from the same basic white dough.

Wholemeal dough can become loaves or rolls, seeded, with dried fruit and nuts – cranberry and sunflower seeds, fig and hazelnut, pesto and pinenuts, cheese and bacon – the possibilities are endless. Sweet dough can be chocolate or cinnamon buns, doughnuts, saffron bread (with milk and currants) … Once you understand the percentages – how much liquid to how much flour, and the technique, you can play about and experiment, or stick to the many recipes which are widely available.

Poppy, who runs the microbakery in Cambridgeshire took away the efficiency of the course – “I feel we’ve been shown how to do three things which are the key to lots of different breads. Very clever.”

Jesse, the cruise ship officer said “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work – the structure of the course – but it was pretty much spot on how it was described online”.

Carolyn, the nurse said: “Because it’s in a home, I do feel that I could do it in my own home. My mum’s bread was perfect and I now see what I’ve been doing wrong. A bread scraper might make all the difference and I now know I don’t need to add sugar”.

Marwa and Hicham (neuroscientist and cyber security specialist, a couple) were just delighted which how much they’d learned: “Now we know how to do it we can just play around and try out making so many different things”.

All were very pleased with the course, the knowledge imparted and the quality and quantity of the bread they got to take home.

Sara’s next courses are a cheese making course on 30 October and Christmas baking and hamper courses in late November and early December. The next bread-making course like this one will be in March 2020 (the October one is already sold out), but there are quite a variety of bread making courses available. Sara also sells bread from her home in Brentford every Friday.

hencorner.com

Photograph above, left to right: Poppy, Hicham, Marwa, Jesse, Carolyn, Bridget and Sara

Plans for Chiswick Health Centre unveiled

Plans for the redevelopment of Chiswick Health Centre in Fishers Lane will be revealed at a drop-in ‘engagement event’ at the centre on Wednesday 23 October between 1.00 and 7.00pm.

The spectacularly ugly building is due to be knocked down and rebuilt so the health services within it can expand, to meet the needs of a population which is both expanding and ageing.

The health centre is currently shared by three surgeries: Chiswick Health Practice, West 4 GPs and Chiswick Family Doctors Practice, who together look after more than 20,000 people.

They’ve reached the point where they’re so squeezed for space they aren’t able to offer as much in the way of services as they’d like to.

“It’s like playing Jenga” says Sarah Herdman, Practice Manger for Chiswick Health Practice. Trying to find a room to use is literally “one in one out.”

The building also houses community nurses, a dentist, two counselling groups and a physiotherapist, a baby clinic and diabetes workshops. Two of the practices also offer minor surgery.

Site of Chiswick Health Centre

The ‘engagement event’ on 23 October will be the first time the plans, believed to involve a second storey and residentail flats on top, will be available to view.

The plans will remain on view, available for people to comment on until Wednesday 30 October. They will then go back to the council before being presented to the public again for further consultation.

Also under consideration is when the health centre staff and patients will go while the centre is being rebuilt. Hopefully there will be some word on that as well.

Greens selecting a new candidate

Hounslow Green Party has announced that Victoria George, their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Brentford and Isleworth has decided not to stand in the next General Election for personal reasons.

 ‘We wish Victoria well and look forward to her resuming her work on behalf of the Green Party in the near future.  We thank her for her outstanding campaigns against plastics, pollution, the Third Runway, the climate emergency and also on the brilliant start she made to the Election campaign’ says spokesman Daniel Goldsmith.

 They are now selecting a new candidate, ‘even though it will be difficult to replace Victoria’.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 6: Shopping with Mother

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.6 – Shopping with Mother

I don’t know many men who enjoy clothes shopping. I know even fewer who’d risk buying clothes for their wives or girlfriends without them being present. I certainly won’t any longer because I never again want to feel the hopelessness provoked by the question: ‘Did you keep the receipt?’

I did once have a male friend who enjoyed clothes shopping for and with women. It was like watching a trapeze artist on a hi-wire. His girlfriends thought his commitment to clothes shopping with them was proof of his concern in them. I thought it was a cunning ploy, like a fox pretending it cared about the interior design of a chicken coop.

I haven’t seen this friend for thirty years. But I am thinking of giving him a call because Mother wants me to go clothes shopping with her and I am wondering if he has any tips on how to handle this challenge. Or better still, if he can come along.

I have tried to persuade her we don’t need to go to the shops. I have explained that we can buy clothes ‘on-line’ and ‘quibble free returns’, one of the great advances of human civilization. But she still insists on going to the shops.

‘Don’t worry. I won’t ask you for an opinion on anything,’ she says hitting on one of my deepest fears.

At the retail park, things are going better than expected. I try to help by saying things like ‘Man-made fabric looks good on you’ and ‘The sale stuff is over there’ but Mother wants to ploughs her own path down the aisles, pleased not to have me fussing nearby.

I haven’t seen her for a few minutes because I am becalmed in front of the stretch jeans, but I can hear laughter at the checkout and look over to see an assistant talking very, very slowly and loudly to Mother. There’s a queue of bemused people around her. I walk over.

‘Can I help?’

‘She had a turn when I gave her the bill,’ says the assistant.

‘What’s the matter?’ I ask Mother.

She mouths words but makes no sound. She points to her ears and shakes her head.

‘Is she deaf and dumb?’ asks the assistant.

‘Not when we came in,’ I say.

Mother is tugging my arm. I lean down.

‘Lost my wallet. You need to pay,’ she whispers.

Being unable to pay is one of Mother’s great fears. It’s linked to childhood memories of seeing her mum and dad fobbing off the rent collector. She has nightmares of being caught in exactly the scenario she’s just been through. I pay for the clothes and we leave.

Walking to the car, I can’t resist asking if her strategy wasn’t a little excessive? Couldn’t she just have admitted she had lost her purse and wait for me?

‘The queue was building up, so I had to take decisive action. Last year, in M&S I pretended to faint. They sent me home in a black cab,’ she says with a slightly wicked smile.

I wonder if these extreme avoidance strategies become common as you get older? I remember a friend saying his mother pretended she was going to hospital for a blood transfusion to avoid going to her grand-daughter’s primary school pantomime. Compared to this, playing deaf and mute seems understated.

The shopping trip is over. We’re both feeling good, though, despite the drama. We’ve come away with new clothes, a full set of receipts and without an argument. This is the greatest retail success I’ve had since I chanced my arm and bought an omelette pan for my birthday without consulting anyone. I can’t help feeling my old mate was there with me, like a friendly retail sprite, guiding me and Mother to this state of shopping satisfaction.

I turn out of the car park and mother tells me to ‘slow down’. We’re doing 10 mph.

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 7 No Respite here

Chiswick’s home-grown Flamenco dancer

Chiswick has a flamenco dancer. A home-grown British dancer, whose parents aren’t Spanish either, but who is nonetheless very well regarded not just in London but internationally among those who know and appreciate the distinctive music and dance of Spain.

How? Why? I asked Anita Reacher, aka Anita la Maltesa. “I’ve always danced” she told me, “from when I was three years old”. Evenings after school, (Strand on the Green Primary School and then Brentford High School for Girls) and at weekends from the ages of three to eighteen she went at least twice a week to study ballet, ballroom, tap and contemporary dance, gaining ballet grades up to level six with the ISTD – Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

She distinctly remembers her father Chris bring home a flamenco LP by Los Gallos when she was 14. Two tracks in particular made a deep impression: a mournful Soleá, “a very deep, painful, profound ‘palo’ piece” and a more upbeat Sevillana “the folklore dance of Seville, usually danced by a couple at fiestas.”

It was not until she met flamenco guitarist Ramon Ruiz at a performance by Antonio Forcione at Bunjies Coffee House and Folk Cellar in Soho when she was 18 that she really fell in love with the music and the art form – and him.

“I loved movements of the hands and the arms and was intrigued by the footwork. The rhythms are inspiring. The most important thing is the rhythm”.

Photographs above: Jairo Barrull, Anita la Maltesa and Ramon Ruiz on guitar

They lived together in Spain for four years, where she was performing as a singer in a group and beginning to learn flamenco dancing, and were then invited to Italy where they lived the next four years and where she became successful as a flamenco performer, touring the country, with performances on TV and in clubs, theatres and fiestas.

They’ve performed all over, at the Edinburgh festival, the Juste Pour Rire festival in Montreal, in France and Germany and even on the Generation Game, where some poor soul had to try and copy her moves, to national ridicule. Now London based, she has a regular slot at Salvador & Amanda in Covent Garden and two or three times a year she performs at George IV in Chiswick, where she packs out the Boston Room.

“Flamenco is an expression of life” she says, “mostly about deep emotion”.

Photographs above: Anita and Ramon

She believes its roots are deep in Spain’s gypsy culture going back at least 200 years, but she says the 1980s and ‘90s saw a real flowering of the art form.

I’ve seen flamenco dancers in Granada and I’ve seen Anita perform here and the concentration, the passion, the flair, the showmanship and the accomplishment of her incredibly fast footwork and rhythm are every bit as inspiring. When I saw her at George IV the audience watched completely silently, almost as if the whole room was holding its breathe, so focused were they on the amazing spectacle.

She still dances with Ramon, a wonderful guitarist, and guest artists – drummers, singers and dancers. She’s performing at George IV on 20 October at 8.00pm with fellow dancer Jairo Barrull, percussionist Pablo Dominguez, singer Carlos Lobo and Ramon on guitar.

Tickets available from Anita.
Tel: 07875 768 608 / Email: Anitalamaltesa@hotmail.com

A new place to go and make stuff

The Maker Station has opened up in Brentford – ‘a co-working space for makers and creatives in west London’. As a ‘Maker’, for £30 per month you can use the space as often as you want, take part in free networking events, collaborate and grow your business. As a ‘Friend’, for £15 per month, you can be a part of the creative community and benefit from member perks, such as selected free classes.

The classes look fun. Some for adults, some for children and some for both together. The picture is something of a clue. There are lots of Halloween and half term related activities over the next couple of weeks. Next month the classes are much more varied and adult oriented – general afty-crafty themes such as glove-making, weaving and how to tart up unloved garments which have fallen out of favour.

Here are the classes for the rest of this month

 

Thursday 17 October – How to get the best out of Instagram
Monday 21 October – Family card quilling (making designs out of spirals)
Tuesday 22 October – Tie-Dye for kids

Thursday 24 October – Family pumpkin carving afternoon
Thursday 24 October (evening) – Adult pumpkin carving
Friday 25 & Saturday 26 October – Beginners leather bag making (2 day course)
Friday 25 October – Children’s Halloween headdress (at the Parenthood in Chiswick)

Friday 25 October – String art for children
Saturday 26 October – Knit & Natter
Saturday 26 October – Children’s Halloween headdress
Tuesday 29 October – Adult Hallo-Queen headdress
Thursday 31 October – Handbag Atelier Accessory class

To find out more about the Maker Station and all their lovely courses, have a look at their website

themakerstation.co.uk

Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

The Tabard theatre is rebranding itself as the Chiswick Playhouse. The studio theatre above the Grade II* listed pub in Bedford Park has shared the pub’s name since its inception. Now the owners have decided they want ‘Chiswick’ to be in the name, so that local people recognise it as their theatre and theatregoers across London know where to find it.

Mark Perry, Executive Director of Chiswick Playhouse, says:

‘We want to demonstrate our pride in our local heritage and ensure that the local community recognises the venue as Chiswick’s local theatre.

‘We also want the wider London theatre-going audience to recognise our reputation as an exciting producing theatre, creating shows that will start in Chiswick and move on to other London venues and beyond’.

Photographs above: Al Murray; Alan Alda with the cast of Radiance; Dara O’Briain

Punching above its weight

The Tabard has built up a good reputation over the past ten years with Simon Reilly as manager, producing a mix of established writers and new work, with mostly unknown actors but the occasional well-known name – Alan Alda’s play Radiance had its UK premiere here in 2015 with Cathy Tyson in the lead role as Marie Curie. Alan Alda himself flew over from LA to be there.

The plays have mainly been produced and performed by tiny ad hoc theatre companies, but the Tabard has also had some great successes – Gigi and the Little Match Girl for example – with in-house productions.

They also have a steady stream of comedians trying out material before they go on tour or launch a new TV show. Al Murray and Dara O’Brien, who both live locally, are among those to have used the space to try out new shows. The Chiswick Calendar has also held several political debates at the theatre.

As ‘Chiswick Playhouse’ it will continue with this mix of material.

‘Rather than genres, we want Chiswick Playhouse to be the breeding ground for the next generation of top creatives’ says Mark Perry.

Covering Up Marilyn

Guest blog by Valentina Borghi

Who would imagine that one of the most famous costumes in Hollywood’s history, the shocking pink satin dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1953 motion picture Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, was designed as ‘Plan B’?

The original costume created by William ‘Billy’ Travilla for the Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends sequence, consisted of an extremely revealing black fish-net body stocking up to the breasts, then covered in nude fabric and embellished with a mass of diamonds.

However, during the production of the movie, it was publicly disclosed that Monroe had posed nude for the Velvet Dreams calendar in 1949, before she became well-known and when she was desperate for money. The producers gave Travilla strict instructions to design a less provocative costume in order to distance Monroe from the scandal and not to lose investors. The pink dress was therefore a last-minute replacement.

Photographs above: Left – Marilyn wearing the costume she wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Right – Marilyn wearing the original costume for a screen test

Not many images of the original costume exist. The top portion was used in another film, How to Be Very, Very Popular and was worn by Sheree North. Unfortunately, all that remains today of the original costume is the belt and ostrich feather fan and are part of the Greg Schreiner collection.

Lot 139 in Chiswick Auctions next Autographs & Memorabilia sale, is an extremely rare test photograph of Marilyn wearing the original costume, personally signed and inscribed by the actress to ‘Tommy’. Although the identity of the dedicatee is not known for sure, the idea that it might be her co-star Tommy Noonan (who plays Lorelei Lee’s wealthy fiancée) is certainly appealing. Considering how short-lived the costume was and the limited circulation of photographs featuring Monroe in that outfit, the lot will certainly attract Monroe fans.

 

Photographs above: B&W test shots of the original costume intended for Marilyn to wear in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In the middle is Lot 139

Interest in Marilyn Monroe autographs and memorabilia has always been incredibly strong. The American actress is still one of the most iconic movie stars and her dramatic death at a young age made items signed by her or related to her career extremely sought after on the market.

The pink satin dress worn by Monroe when signing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friends was auctioned in June 2010, with an estimated price of between $150,000 and $250,000 at Profiles in History. It was described as “the most important film costume to ever come to auction” and sold for $310,000. In June 2011, again at Profiles in History, the red sequined gown worn by Marilyn as she sang, We’re Just Two Little Girls from Little Rock sold for $1,476,000.00.

This rare photograph of Marilyn will feature in our Autographs & Memorabilia sale, Wednesday 16 October. We are the only London auction house with a dedicated Autographs & Memorabilia department, headed up by Valentina Borghi who specialises in the valuation of rare signed photographs, letters, documents & ephemera.

Valentina Borghi is Head of Autographs & Memorabilia at Chiswick Auctions. Contact her at: valentina.borghi@chiswickauctions.co.uk

chiswickauctions.co.uk

Shocking misuse of police time

Guest blog by Ann Crighton

We all know that if we go home and discover a burglary, there is almost no chance of a Police Officer attending – you will make a report and be given a crime reference number in order to make an insurance claim. Many other crimes we would like to be investigated will not be investigated – reason – not enough Police Officers but is that true? Could it be that the Police we pay for are in fact engaged on revenue raising duties?

I am a direct access barrister and my perspective is that the Police have plenty of time to pursue motoring offences and often for no good reason.

Here is an example of a case that I dealt with a couple of weeks ago.

Pakistani man (‘D’) married to Polish woman with two small children. Both work – he works as a cashier in a curry shop and she works as a cleaner. A disabled customer rang D and asked for food to be delivered to him. D said he would have to wait until the delivery drivers started work. Half an hour later customer rang back and said, ‘I’m hungry, I don’t live far away from you, please do me a favour and drop off the food’. D took his break, jumped in his car (which had fully comprehensive insurance) dropped the food off and then went to Tesco to buy a sandwich. Having bought his sandwich, he returned to his car.

Three Police Officers spent over 2 hours with him questioning him about his insurance and identity (even though he handed over a photo drivers’ licence). They discovered he had fully comprehensive insurance (for which he had paid over £800) but, because they saw he had a food container in the back of the car, they decided to charge him with no insurance on the basis he did not have commercial insurance. They impounded his car, having taken the sandwich out – they said, ‘is that the sandwich you have just bought for your lunch?’ Anyway, they arranged for his car to be towed away but they let him eat his lunch.

The case went to Court and he was found not guilty. I got a Defendant’s Costs Order meaning he will get most of what he paid me to represent him back, but he still will not get back the £250 he had to pay to get his car out of the pound. D and his wife were hugging each other and in floods of

tears when he was rightfully found not guilty – the Court proceedings filled them full of fear.

My point is this – do we really want to pay three Police Officers to spend two hours harassing a man who works for the minimum wage and has saved up to pay for fully comprehensive insurance? Wouldn’t they be better employed investigating burglaries and violent crimes?

Another example – Chinese woman driving expensive car with fully comprehensive insurance which cost far more than £1000. Police Officer stops her and asks her where she is going and she responded, ‘to work’. She is prosecuted for no insurance because her insurance did not cover her for commuting. She had no idea and immediately changed her policy – the extra cost being £15. Nevertheless, she was prosecuted for no insurance and had to plead guilty because no insurance is a strict liability offence. She pleaded Special Reasons and her licence was not endorsed with points. She too was terrified about the Court proceedings and cried with relief when her licence was not endorsed with points.

These cases are typical of the sorts of cases I deal with. Usually the people are working and are strangers to the Courts. They must take time off work to go to Court and they usually spend months worrying about having to go to Court and what will happen to them when they get there.

My point – did the Police really need to take these defendants to Court? There are huge backlogs of cases waiting to be dealt with in the criminal courts. Do we (the public) want our Courts clogged up with cases like this and Police Officers spending time pursuing them?

Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to give the Defendants I have mentioned a warning? I spent 20 years as a prosecutor and can say that if they had been shoplifting it is highly likely they would have been given a warning. Similar if the offence being investigated was e.g. common assault.

Could this be a political decision? Taking motorists to Court raises revenue – they pay fines, costs and victim surcharge. Violent criminals and burglars are usually not working so will not be paying fines etc. BUT is this what we/the public i.e. those who pay the Police doing?

Ann Crighton
crightonchambers.com

Ann Crighton is a barrister with her own chambers, specialising in motoring law

If you would like to know more about Ann, you can read a profile of her career in the law Society Gazette here

Heathrow Court Appeal

The Court of Appeal will hear all four legal challenges to the expansion of  Heathrow airport on Thursday 17 October.

Friends of the Earth, which is bringing one of the challenges said:

“We are pleased the Court of Appeal has agreed to hear our grounds for appeal against the damaging decision to increase the UK’s single biggest source of climate pollution at Heathrow.” 

“This case is about saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. We need to leave the world in a better state for our children and their children, not a worse one.

This means ditching the expansion of high carbon infrastructure projects like the third runway at Heathrow. Expanding Heathrow will only benefit a minority of people, while leaving us all to suffer the awful impact on the environment.

CHATR plan protest

Members of the campaign group Chiswick Against a Third Runway (CHATR) will be meeting at Turnham Green tube station at 07.45 on the morning of 17 October to go to the court.

‘We need a large turnout of locals to join other groups from all over London and the South East, and show strong opposition to having an extra 700 planes in the air over London every day’ said a spokesperson.

Extinction Rebellion

The court case falls in the period when Extinction Rebellion are planning to shut down central London. 

It has said its members are planning to blockade “every single road” into central London for two weeks.

Those who were settling in for the night last night seemed determined to keep up the protests, with hundreds of people blocking streets and junctions.

New Social Group for Chiswick

Ever found yourself at a loose end when all your friends are busy with family or have prior engagements?
Lynn Emm, a teacher who has lived in Chiswick for nearly 30 years, is setting up a new Friday night Meet-up group.
‘There must be lots of people who stay in watching TV by themselves when they’d rather be out’ she says.

Friday Night Drinks in Chiswick

This is not a singles club she says, it’s open to all ages, singles, couples, friendship groups, all inclusive.

Lynn has experience running a Meet-up group before, and has met a lot of friends through it. The key to success is to give people a warm welcome.
‘I would like to think that if people pluck up the courage to come, they will make friends’.

The first one will be at the One Over the Ait pub next to Kew Bridge on Friday 11 October, from 7.30pm. The riverside bar area including the firepit is reserved for the meeting.

The next one will be at the City Barge pub on Strand on the Green on Friday 25 October from 7.30pm.

Further events will be scheduled in November at the Steam Packet and The Bull’s Head.

Register here or just turn up.

 

Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London visits Chiswick

The Lib Dem candidate for London’s 2020 Mayoral elections was in Chiswick last week for a fundraising event.

A career civil servant who has spent ten years as a policy adviser on transport, local government and the environment, she stands for ‘global, liberal, pro-European, warm-hearted policies’ and she has some interesting ideas.

Freedom of Movement

In her speech at the Lib Dem party conference she talked about freedom of movement for EU nationals in London. I asked her how that would work post Brexit, as the Major of London does not control immigration.

“If the government introduced the Australian based points system, there is provision for regional differences in visa restrictions” she said. In other words it might be possible for people to live and work in London who are not able to do so elsewhere in the UK.

Knife crime

Her biggest priorities are tackling knife crime and the environment, she told  me. 

With knife crime she takes a pragmatic approach and her emphasis is on prevention rather than enforcement. She wants there to be no permanent exclusions for badly behaved pupils from schools. “There’s a clear link between exclusion and violence”. Her plan is to re-balance resources, shifting them from specialist exclusion provision to better support for mainstream schools. “There has to be a path back, to give them some hope”.

Legalise cannabis

She also thinks legalising cannabis would have an effect on knife crime. There is a huge amount of evidence, she says, that exposure to the  illegal drug market leads to criminal activity. There is now overwhelming evidence where the legalisation of cannabis has been tried, that is reduces violence.

She also wants to introduce a ‘happy hour’ for young people. “Between 4.00 and 6.00pm is a scary time for many young people. The most traumatic time is travelling home from school”. There are lots of people trying to help, she says. The Mayor’s office could coordinate and promote after-school activities to keep young people safe in the gap between school and when parents arrive home from work.

Every school should have a dedicated community police officer she says. She wants local police stations re-opened and is thinking creatively about co-siting police and libraries for example, to make best use of under used buildings. 

Taking a pay cut to fund a young mayor for London

She thinks there should be a young mayor, alongside the main incumbent, a parallel role which would have real influence over policy. She would be prepared to donate £40,000 of the £140,000 mayoral salary to pay for it.

What are her chances? The best ever, she says.”Never before in London have the indications been so good for the Lib Dems”. The mayoral elections will be next May.

Wet weather floods Thames with sewage

The heavy rain we’ve been experiencing has seen an outpouring of raw sewage into the River Thames.

Until the Tideway Tunnel is completed in 2023 / 24 there is little that Thames Water can do about it, they say. Victorian engineer Joseph Bazalgette’s sewer system is 200 years old this year. It was designed for a much smaller population and a city which had far more green spaces to absorb rainfall.

The combined network takes both the discharge from buildings – kitchens, bathrooms and toilets – and run-off from roadsides. Waste water ends up in the river when the volume is too great for the system to cope. When the sewer is full, the excess is discharged into the river through outfall points.

The weather forecast is for more heavy rain, with flood warnings in some parts of Britain because the ground is already saturated.

Thames Water told me they have extra people working on rainy days to ensure the sewers, pumping stations, overflow points etc are working as they should.

‘We monitor weather forecasts a number of days ahead so can get additional people on standby to be called in if the rain comes.

‘We also have monitors in many of our sewers which provide data on how full they are so we can predict where we many potentially have issues and can send people there to investigate’.

British Rowing, based at Hammersmith, don’t advise rowers to stay out of the water in these conditions; they say just take sensible precautions such as covering cuts or grazes with waterproof dressings and hosing down all equipment after outings on the river. 

I’d think twice about letting my dog go in the river at the moment though.

Chiswick’s ‘influential’ citizens

The Evening Standard has published its yearly list of the top 1000 people it considers to be the most influential movers and shakers in London, and among the chosen are several Chiswick citizens.

Hilary Benn MP, Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, is included in the list of politicians making a positive contribution.

‘Ever polite, always sensible — but an interrogator of steely persistence, Benn’s committee peeled away layers of pretension from Brexit ministers and exposed poor preparations.

The Benn Bill in September is now a unique Act that outlaws a no-deal Brexit. The tea-drinking son of Tony Benn is trusted by all sides’.

Ruth Cadbury MP

Ruth Cadbury appears under the ‘Environmental activists’ heading.

As co-chair of the all-party Parliamentary group on cycling, the Standards selection committee say:

‘The Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth uses her political skills to showcase the “green” cycling agenda and share clever ideas nationwide’.

James O’Brien

James O’Brien appears among the broadcasters listed.

‘The outspoken LBC radio host has become a leading voice in the Brexit debates, famous for his no-nonsense phone-in conversations with callers about Brexit.

‘Last year O’Brien published How to be Right in a World Gone Wrong, a hilarious guide to dealing with other people’s ‘faulty opinions’.

Peter Murray

Peter Murray, Chairman of the New London Architecture, is listed in the Property section

‘Murray studied architecture and as a journalist and commentator he has turned his passion for a better built environment into a lifelong campaign.

‘Through the NLA, he has established a coveted annual awards ceremony at the Guildhall for architects, while the well-established annual London Festival of Architecture showcases 500 events across the city.

‘A keen cyclist, he energetically explores London looking at buildings, concluding that the capital is easier to navigate, healthier, cleaner and a quieter place than when he came here 50 years ago’.

Inquest on Abi Oliver

An inquest has heard that 18 year old Abi Oliver took her own life on 27 January last year in the grounds of Chiswick House.

Her mother found her near to death, after mobilising a search party for the teenager, who suffered from anxiety and depression.

Tasha Oliver, who was searching the grounds with Abi’s friends, found her using the Find My Phone app. She gave her daughter CPR but she died later at West Middlesex hospital.

Coroner Sean Cummings told West London Coroners’ Court that he may be making recommendations to the government regarding mental health provision for young people, after he heard evidence from Abi’s family.

They told the court she had spent a year in various hospitals, including six months spent in a psychiatric unit in Manchester, and they had been concerned about her being treated hundreds of miles away from her friends and relatives.

Getting the better of the menopause

Chiswick Medical Centre is hosting another of their Women’s Health evenings. Dr Stephanie Goodwin will be talking about the menopause, along with specialists on breast health and dermatology.

Thursday, 10 October, from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Chiswick Medical Centre, 347-353 Chiswick High Road, W4 4HS. There’s a £5 charge, which will be to be passed to the children’s rugby charity, Wooden Spoon.

Stephanie is a GP with a special interest in the menopause. I talked to her about treatments on offer which ameliorate some of the worst effects of the menopause, which many women don’t realise are available to them. She says GPs don’t know enough about it, even though it affects all women, and some prescribe antidepressants to women who aren’t depressed, but just going through the change. There are now effective treatments which not only mitigate the effects of menopause but reduce other long term health risks, she says.

‘As I started to approach the menopause, as did many of my patients, I realised that my knowledge around the subject was a bit patchy! So I took it upon myself to learn and train with the British Menopause Society. I’m so glad I did. After all, as a doctor, the only condition that all of my female patients will experience is the menopause. That’s a lot of women.

Symptoms of menopause

‘Menopause is a definition. It means you haven’t had a period for over a year. So you don’t know you’ve had it until it has passed. The time leading up to that is called the perimenopause. That can last anything from a few months to several years. The main symptoms of depleted hormones are hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, anxiety, joint pains, brain fog, vaginal dryness, lack of libido. Your periods may stop, the irregular or remain regular. Sounds horrendous doesn’t it!

Not enough doctors know about it
“Doctors don’t know about it” she told me. “They don’t know about the recent data and some prescribe anti depressants instead of the treatments they should be offering”. Women don’t take them she says, because they know they’re not depressed. Her recommendation is that women ask their GP surgery who on the staff specialises in menopause, and book in to see them.

HRT

HRT is Hormone Replacement Therapy. It replaces the female hormones – oestrogen, progesterone, and sometimes testosterone. Oestrogen is vital for our bone strength, it protects the bones, the brain, the vagina and bladder. Progesterone helps with mood regulation and sleep. Testosterone is good for the heart, the bones, drive and focus and sexual desire. ‘In the short term, when you use HRT the symptoms of the menopause are controlled, and in the long-term, we are investing in significantly better health for when we are old ladies’.

I put it to her that HRT has had a bad reputation. In many women’s minds it’s connected with breast cancer.

‘My view is that the benefits of HRT far outweigh the risks. Women often ask me about the risk of breast cancer. For every thousand women taking HRT, there may be an extra 5 diagnosed with breast cancer after 7.5 years. HRT may promote the growth of breast cancer cells already there, but it will not give you breast cancer. The evidence seems to suggest that the synthetic progesterone is maybe the problem and personally I don’t prescribe synthetic progesterone. There are other alternatives. Remember also that most women die from heart disease and evidence suggest that HRT is can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. By the way, HRT doesn’t make you fat….. It’s a lack of the hormone oestrogen that does that’.

She says it comes as news to many women that HRT can be beneficial for long term health risks. “It does help if you have joint pain. It seems to help with anti-inflammatory. It’s also has a good effect on cardio and on reducing your risk of bowel cancer”.

Types of HRT

There are different types of HRT: those which use Bioidentical hormones, which are widely available on the NHS and those treatments that are specifically formulated with mixtures of different hormones.

‘Bioidentical hormones are hormones that are structurally the same as those that we produce in our bodies. I prefer to call them body identical hormones to differentiate them from hormone treatments that are specifically formulated with mixtures of different hormones. In my opinion, the vast majority of women don’t need these bespoke mixtures and body identical hormones are widely available on the NHS, but many GPs aren’t aware of it.

‘I feel that these hormones are better tolerated as our bodies recognise them as familiar structures. I do, however, feel that every woman needs an individual assessment of her symptoms and of her risk of other conditions. It’s an important time of life to stop and take stock of where you are both physically and emotionally. It should be a liberating time of life and sometimes it isn’t. Make sure that you speak to a doctor or nurse who is interested and clued up on the menopause so that you get the best possible advice. It’s well worth it’.

An initial 45 minute consultation with Stephanie will cost you £295. “Normally by the end of that I can tell a patient what their prescription should be and I write to their GP”.

This page is paid for by Chiswick Medical Centre. Book tickets for the Women’s Health evening here.