I wouldn’t marry Boris

Best moment of The Chiswick Calendar’s election event at George IV on Tuesday:

The Boston Room erupted with laughter when our chairman, political journalist Peter Oborne, asked Seena Shah, the Conservative candidate for Brentford and Isleworth: ‘Are you proud of Boris?’

Her answer was priceless.

Mysterious little villages appear

Comedian Dara Ó Briain has noticed little villages have been sprouting up in Chiswick by the roadside.

A few days ago he spotted one in Chiswick High Rd. 

“Right” he told his Twitter fans, “, I bring you THE MADDEST LITTLE THING EVER. I only noticed this by chance today, I have no idea how long it has been there but; In the middle of Chiswick High Road there is a traffic island…. and somebody has built a tiny village on it.”

Then he noticed one on Sutton Court Rd.

“I had get on my hands and knees to see it properly, while traffic went past and people stared, but it is there, built on a concrete base. How long has it been there? Who built it? Who lives there?”

“Would love to know who put them there – mad but brilliant… Someone is putting a lot of effort into this and I love them for it”.

You’d think, being Irish, he’d know about the Little People. Maybe he wasn’t aware we have them here too.

BBC London will be visiting today to film a segment for the evening news and try and find out the architect. They look awfully like the ceramic houses which appeared in Abundance London’s community art project last year, to me.

Known for their propensity for guerilla gardening (they’ve planted fresh tree pits recently in Devonshire Rd) I wonder if they have moved on to guerrilla urban regeneration for Little People.

Lots of entries for the ‘W4th Plinth’

Abundance London has had lots of entries for the ‘W4th Plinth’ on Turnham Green Terrace.

The art space on the side of the railway embankment was unveiled at the launch of the new piazza in September, and Sir Peter Blake’s image, currently in situ, is the first of what will be a succession of art works to occupy the space.

Danny’s Dog Show is one of 30 entries which you can see here. Submissions have now closed and a committee led by Sir Peter will choose three candidates to put to a public vote.

The winning image will replace Sir Peter’s on the wall in the new year.

Check out our new website!

We are delighted to unveil the new Chiswick Calendar website, which we have been working on for the past six months.

It is faster, more automated and more secure, with some snazzy new design features, for which I have to thank Chiswick based web developer Dawn Wilson, whose patience matches her talent as a designer.

Most people go to the website to read the articles introduced in this newsletter, so you will be pleased to know each story is now available in our new News & Features section, easily accessible from the menu, with separate sections for news, features and guest blogs.

See where you can use your Club Card, to get the best discounts in Chiswick. Make your money go further and support our local businesses at the same time.

Find out what’s on this Christmas, with ideas for presents in our Christmas Shopping guide, ideas for Children, Christmas Entertainment and Christmas Food & Drink.

You’ll notice that our daily events listings look different , thanks to Andy Chitty of Exigen (another Chiswick local), and his brilliant programming skills. His assistance in the development of this website has been greatly appreciated.

Go here to see what’s on today, including the award- winning film, The Living Thames – ‘an odyssey along the river as it meanders through London’ at 7.30pm at Chiswick Pier; as well as our own general election event.

Filigree goblet and bowl by Gioilla Zordan

Chiswick Directories

If you’re looking to buy some original art, to find a fitness activity which suits your needs, or you fancy doing a bit of volunteer work, have a trawl through the Chiswick Directories.

A Chis-wiki

Maybe you’re new to the area and just want to get a sense of what the place is like. See This Is Chiswick – a kind of Chis-wiki (geddit?! You’ve no idea how proud I am of that!) of Chiswick People, Places and Organisations.

CGI of Brentford Stadium South Stand

Brentford Stadium

Chris Wickham will be keeping us abreast of news about the new Brentford Stadium and stories about Brentford FC in a new section about the club and its state of the art new stadium, due to open next summer.

2020 At a Glance

You can see the main events of next year’s Chiswick’s social calendar in our 2020 At a Glance guide. 

Buy us a coffee

And if you’re just thinking what a marvellous website this is, you can now Buy us a coffee. We are a Community Interest Company, so any profit we make goes back in the pot to pay for the website as a community resource.

For that and other gizmos, and general problem solving wizardry, I have to thank software engineer James Willcocks, newly graduated and looking for more work…

Huge thanks also to our sponsors. John D Wood & Co, Hogarth Club and Asahi for giving us the wherewithal to be able to upgrade the site.

Feedback

We’d love your feedback on the site – good or ill. Pages that don’t load, links that don’t work, random bits of Latin which crop up where they shouldn’t – but mainly of course what a lovely, user friendly website it is!

We know that you will have the best user experience will be by using an up to date version of Chrome as your browser. The least good combination is using Safari as your browser on a Mac desktop or laptop (though Safari on hand held Mac devices is fine).

Contact: info@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk

Prospective buyers and sellers turn to renting

Photograph by Anna Kunst

Guest blog by Tannaz Bhoot

John D Wood & Co has a lettings section as well as a sales department, and this year we have found a lot more people wanting to rent. Despite the continuing uncertainty regarding Brexit, we have had a record year for businesses relocating their staff to London, and a surge in a new type of renter – prospective buyers and sellers. In a market where buyers have not found their dream home, get sudden cold feet about a long-term commitment, or just financial nerves, renting became a flexible and less committed option. Vendors who were fortunate to secure a good sale have also joined the army of renters, as they in turn became buyers and the option of renting became an attractive safety net.

Not enough rental property

As is often the case, a rise in demand has created a shortage in supply, and towards the latter part of the year we began to find there was a decline in available property. Chiswick has not suffered from this as much as other parts of the capital, but there has been a drop in the number of properties coming on to the market. This may be that current tenants who started out as buyers have decided to extend and stay on as tenants. The risk of moving, but not finding a suitable option to buy, has meant many people have renewed for a further term. In Chiswick we achieved some strong rents for our landlords and were able to also avoid any prolonged periods without tenants.

Tenant Fee Ban

The Tenant Fee Ban came into force in June this year. The new legislation stopped the practice of tenants having to pay letting fees to agents in the private rented sector, and it also introduced a cap on tenancy deposits. What impact would this have on ourselves and our clients? It took a great deal of planning and preparation to ensure we were legally compliant. The general feeling has been that the law has further protected tenants and has required us agents to be even more on knowledgeable in order to be able to advise both landlords and tenants in the right way, as both prospective tenants and landlords are asking us more questions.

Zero deposits

Zero Deposits came to the market, a change many of us are still getting used to. Prospective tenants can now rent a home without having to pay a hefty security deposit. Instead, you pay a non-refundable fee equating to one week’s rent, to an independent company. We’ve found that this has been helpful to first-time renters, many of whom have found that they could buy something important for their new home with the money they would have had to pay as a deposit, such as the sofa they really wanted.

It is a major change to how we have traditionally worked in lettings and is yet to be tried and tested. We will see this next year when tenancies come to an end. with zero deposits will put the Zero Deposits companies to the test. We predict that rents may increase into the New Year as demand is unlikely to reduce; whether supply meets the demand is a question we are all asking. 2019 was a year of a lot of change in the industry and we will see the effects into 2020.

Tannaz Bhoot is the Head of Lettings for John D Wood & Co

johndwood.co.uk

John D Wood & Co sponsors The Chiswick Calendar

Man in the Middle – Chapter 12: Political junkie

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. 12 Political junkie

Brexit has made Mother a political junkie. It’s put the drama back into democracy and the Ping-Pong into Parliament as far as she is concerned. She watches up to six hours a day of political news and has gone cold turkey on her usual diet of daytime movie re-runs, without any regrets.

She likes Select Committee enquiries, especially if the witnesses are disrespectful, and any debate in the Commons, so long as John Bercow is adjudicating. Most of all, she likes Prime Minister’s Question Time, which is her ‘appointment to view’ TV programme of the week.

‘I don’t know why they keep criticizing it for being like Punch & Judy, darling. It’s far more vicious and much, much more entertaining.’

She has no truck with those who say Brexit has poisoned the political discourse and she loves PMQs precisely because it is a bear pit brawl. Perhaps all she is doing is being honest where others are not.

‘Is Bercow on today?’ she says ‘I do so love to hate him. Classic short man syndrome. Like Napoleon,’ she says.

‘There’s no Parliament while there’s an election on. Besides he’s leaving Parliament, he’s stepped down,’ I say.

This is bad news as far as Mother is concerned. She worries that the new Speaker won’t be the same ‘value for money’. Worse, a new Speaker may take things back to the ‘boring old days’ of faux politesse and stupefying procedural interventions. Bercow going is like ‘Dirty Den’ leaving EastEnders or the National without Olivier. I am too scared to tell her that the new Speaker is planning to ban clapping.

‘It’s the end of an era,’ she says sadly.

In the absence of Parliament TV, she gets her morning dose of politics from Sky News. At lunchtime she switches to the Daily Politics because she adores Jo Coburn, who is the sort of daughter she’d have wanted if she had ever had one.

‘She knows how to keep those men on their toes,’ she says admiringly, as her thin fingers wriggle into a pack of Ritz biscuits. According to Mother, keeping men on their toes is a skill every girl should learn at an early age.

‘That’ll teach him for not giving a straight answer,’ she glows with pride every time Jo Coburn nails down an evasive spokesman.

I don’t remember Mother ever being interested in politics before Brexit. But I do remember that my Father occasionally volunteered for the local Conservative party. He took me out to deliver leaflets one evening. I think it was February 1974. After one road, he gave up and dumped the leaflets into a bin.

‘Too cold,’ he said, turning to me. ‘Let’s go to the pub.’

I was slightly shocked. My dad was a litter lout. But I was also flattered: he wanted to hang out with me. I replay the memory to Mother. Is it true?

‘Probably.’ She says. ‘Given the choice between the pub or politics, there was only going to be one winner. Heath lost that election. Probably your father’s fault.’

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 13 Burning down the house here

Christmas comes to Chiswick

A couple in Chiswick have gone all out to impress this Christmas. Julie and Harry Simpson have recently moved here and the people they’re trying to impress are their seven year old twins Freddie and Oscar.

“The children have special needs” says Julie, “and Harry just wanted to do something really special for them”.

The boys have Fragile X Syndrome, which causes a range of developmental problems. When the lights went on, their parents were gratified to hear screams of delight and excitement. Other people have been complimenting them on the display too, taking pictures and posting their letters to Father Christmas in their special Santa’s postbox.

Photographs by James Willcocks

Chiswick artist paints ‘The Queen’

Chiswick artist Humphrey Bangham was commissioned to paint two portraits for the current series of The Crown. “I don’t know if they’re still in it or if they hit the cutting room floor” he says, but he was asked to paint Olivia Coleman as Her Majesty and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten.

The third series was launched on Netflix last week. I’m up to episode five and can tell him his portrait of Mountbatten certainly made into the final cut, playing a small but significant part in the episode in which ‘Uncle Dickie’ is invited to lead a coup against Harold Wilson’s government.

He met them both on a shooting day when they were already in costume. I asked him what they were like to work with. Everyone says how lovely Olivia is. Charles has a reputation of being a tad imperious on set, and given the kind of role he plays, you can just imagine what being on the receiving end of a stern look from those steely blue eyes might be like. His stock in trade is a gimlet stare ranging anywhere from direct to withering.

“They were lovely” says Humphrey. “Olivia Coleman was an absolute delight. Everything everyone says about her is true. She’s giggly and lovely”. He met her at Wilton House, near Salisbury, home of the Earl and Countess of Pembroke, and spent half an hour with her taking photos. Charles Dance he met at Ham Polo Club, and once he managed to get him to stand still for five minutes he was “charming.”

Humphrey has been a professional artist and designer for over 30 years, having trained at Chelsea art college. He’s a dab hand at knocking out Van Dycks and Gainsboroughs for period dramas. His portrait of the Queen is in the style of the Italian artist Pietro Annigoni, who painted Her Majesty twice; the portrait on which Humphrey’s painting is based, Her Majesty in Robes of the British Empire, in 1969.

“The script is a closely guarded secret” says Humphrey, “but I did see Prince Philip (Matt Smith) had a line in which he walked past and said she looked like she was standing on the moon. How very Prince Philip.

Introducing Helen Cross

Guest blog by Helen Cross

Helen is the parliamentary candidate for Lib Dems for the Brentford & Isleworth constituency, 2019 general election

Chiswick’s Dilemma

Chiswick is a tolerant, international community. EU citizens are core to its identity, commerce and culture. Many Chiswick residents have enjoyed the freedom to move to the EU to live, work and love.

Brexit changed that. It made many EU people feel that they had become ‘second rate’ citizens. It is contributing to falls in inward investment and even house prices. It is destroying the prospects of British citizens who have moved to EU countries or who would like to.

Not that the voters of Chiswick wanted Brexit. We voted overwhelmingly against it in the Referendum and we backed the Liberal Democrats in the recent European Parliament Elections. It is the Tories who imposed Brexit on us. It is the Tory Party, which has spent the last twenty years tearing itself apart with its Euroscepticism.

Brexit has led to the death of moderation in the Tory party. Brexit is its new evangelism. Which is why so many moderate One Nation Tories like Justine Greening, Nick Bowles, Sam Gyimah, Dr Phillip Lee, Sarah Wollaston and Dominic Grieve have left the party (or been expunged from it). The current Tory Party has little to do with the party of Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine and John Major. Instead, Boris Johnson’s party is backed by Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage.

That’s why I want to make an appeal directly to Conservative voters in this constituency: Vote Liberal Democrat.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you believe your children and grandchildren deserve the benefits of EU citizenship and freedom of movement which you’ve enjoyed.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you want our businesses to continue enjoying being part of the largest single market in the world.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you want to avoid years of trade negotiations with the EU27 and the rest of the world extending the nation’s focus on Brexit for years.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you want to unlock the potential of a £50bn Remain Bonus, which would finance proper childcare and the NHS.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you want to end Heathrow expansion – which would see hundreds of planes a day flying the length of Chiswick High Road.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you want to protect our local business community, which is so reliant on EU27 workers and entrepreneurs.

Do not vote for a Conservative party, which could give us a no deal Brexit at the end of next year. (Does anyone believe that Johnson can get a free trade deal in a few months?).

Read what the Bedford Park Society, HACAN and others are saying about the impact on the local community of Heathrow expansion. Then ask yourself do I want to vote for a Tory government?

Read Peter Oborne’s devastating blog about the Johnson government’s attitude to truth and ask yourself: Do I want to reward this sort of behaviour?

Do you want to vote for a Tory candidate who isn’t local and voted Leave or for someone who has lived here for over 15 years and cares about the place?

In this constituency, many moderate conservatives have already joined the Liberal Democrats or are supporting us on the doorstep. We are the alternative to a Labour and Conservative Party, gone to the extremes. There is no way that Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister on December 13th based on the current polling and in any case it is clear that as long as he is in charge of Labour it will supportive of Brexit.

So, if you want to stop Brexit, this election is probably your last chance to put an end to the waste and prevent years and years of trade talks leaving the country’s businesses in limbo. This is the last chance to stop a prime minister whose personality and track record make him unfit for office. This is a time to stand up and be counted. Vote Liberal Democrat.

Chiswick Cinema update

I’d say the construction of Chiswick Cinema is in good hands. Mark Brown, project manager on behalf of Conamar Building Services, has been responsible for several theatre projects, including the modernisation of the Dominion theatre in Tottenham Court Rd., though perhaps the pinnacle of his career was to project manage the building of the 97 storey Infinity tower in Dubai (pun intended). When you’ve done that, and sat round a table with 36 Arab stakeholders, trying to keep up, with beginners Arabic, overseeing a project such as the construction of the Chiswick Cinema doesn’t seem quite so stressful.

There have been a few setbacks. Squatters held back the start of work earlier this year for several weeks. “They were very nice” says Mark, “even invited me in for a cup of coffee”. Chiswick Cinema took legal action and they were evicted.

From then on it’s been plain sailing. They’ve demolished the interior, keeping the front facade and one major wall. There’s still more demolition to do, but the next stage, having put in pilings and dug the drainage, will be to install the structural steel columns to support the upper floors.

Photographs: Project manager Mark Brown; looking down inside from the first floor gantry; the three levels where the main cinemas will be

There will be three cinema screening rooms seating around 100 people each, which will be roughly where the three areas of yellow brickwork are now (pictured). There will also be two smaller screens, one of them for hire as a private screening room seating 15 people, with a private dining space adjacent.

There’s nothing left of Ballet Rambert, which occupied the building for 40 years. They did find some broken crockery and a pile of teeth, says Mark. I must have looked slightly alarmed, as he hastened to assure me they didn’t belong to the squatters. More like a horse’s teeth he thinks, judging from the size (which still raises more questions than it answers!)

Images: As it looks now from the High Rd and as it will look on completion

The plan is to have a mezzanine area with seating and a wall of glass overlooking the High Rd. There will be bars and food areas and the whole building will be wheelchair accessible. The opening is currently on track for this time next year, though in the construction industry it’s always rash to be too precise.

The foundation memberships have now all been sold; the last few having gone on sale last week. There will be other types of membership – student membership and an annual membership, all to be confirmed some time next year.

“People are really interested in the project” says Mark. “They stop me and ask what we’re building, and the reaction is always very positive.” A film buff himself (he and his wife go regularly twice a week) he thinks the cinema will go very well in Chiswick. “When I say what we’re building, people say ‘that’s great, this is really what we need here.’ It seems like it’s a really tight community. People round here all seem to know each other and support each other.”

Good to hear. Roll on next November.

Watch: Brentford host Utilita launch

Utilita, the Official Title Partner of the Kids and Girls Cup competitions, marked the launch of their partnership with the EFL in West London last week. Our Jersey Road Training Ground played host to a tournament to kick-off the new partnership with Utilita, who are also a Brentford FC partner. Schoolchildren from Rabbsfarm, Marlborough and St Anselm’s Primary Schools took part in a six-aside tournament to mark the start of the partnership and celebrate the Kids and Girls Cup competitions.

The event was supported by Brentford FC and the Brentford FC Community Sport Trust, who hosted the tournament. Wycombe Wanderers’ Adebayo Akinfenwa, Brentford FC players Josh Clarke and Joe Hardy and Brentford FC Women’s stars Charlotte Tanner and Nicole Goolab were on hand to coach the teams, acting as mentors for the round robin tournament while other players – including Rico Henry and Saïd Benrahma – also stopped by.

Utilita are one of the UK’s fastest-growing energy suppliers and a leader in the smart meter revolution – installing Britain’s first ever smart meter way back in 2008. Brentford are one of 14 EFL Clubs currently partnered with Utilita. The firm are Brentford’s Official Energy Partner and also the shirt sponsor of Brentford Women’s FC First Team and Development Team.

The full story can be seen here, some pictures are here and a video from the event can be seen below.

Meet The Bees at Griffin Park this Christmas

Our annual Christmas event is a fantastic chance to take part in lots of fun Christmas activities and meet the First Team players at Griffin Park!

On the evening of Monday 16 December, make it a Christmas to remember by celebrating our last Christmas with The Bees event at Griffin Park. We will have signing sessions with The Bees squad members around Griffin Park, photo opportunities with Santa, traditional carols by the tree and fun games for the whole family. There is plenty to look forward to, so make sure you don’t miss out!

Save the date and we will see you then.

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

Over the past few weeks the construction of our new home, and the surrounding development, has continued at quite a pace. The pitch is now installed and is being cut by when needed our ground staff with growing lamps also in use. The majority of the seats are now in place with only the media seating yet to be installed.

Lots of cladding has been installed and the screens that will sit above the side stands also now in place. Work is continuing on the internal fit-out and finalising the areas around the stadium. The associated development is also well underway around the stadium. Have a look at how the project is coming along from a Bird’s Eye view.

First Season Tickets sold

More than 400 supporters have already secured their Premium Season Tickets at our new stadium and will get exclusive access to a sports bar concourse, known as The Dugout. Our move to the new stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit with friends and family. We expect The Dugout to sell out soon, so if you want to invite friends and family to watch the game with you next season, we strongly advise you to secure  a Season Ticket for them.

If your friends and family can’t attend all games, you may be able to resell your seat for specific games via our Ticket Exchange. More information about Tickets Exchange at our new stadium will be available in the coming months.

Adult prices are £690 and concessions £530. All Season Ticket prices and locations are available here with Premium Season Tickets referred to as Band P. We’ve been selling access to The Dugout to Season Ticket Holders who joined the waiting list**. Premium Season Tickets are selling fast but it’s not too late to register your interest online.

Join the waiting list for Premium Season Tickets here

A member of our team will be in touch to invite you to our Reservation Centre to purchase your Premium Season Ticket when it is your turn based on the following criteria.

More information about Premium Season Tickets can be found here and in our Frequently Asked Questions. In case you missed it, all other Season Tickets will be available from January 2020 and the detailed timeline can be found here.

*Season Ticket Holders will be able to buy two additional Season Tickets in the one purchase. These could be for new Season Ticket Holders, or fellow Season Ticket Holders who are in a lower priority window group. Season Ticket Holders can also group up with fellow Season Ticket Holders and their ‘plus two’s. This will allow you to team up with others that you want to sit with, up to a maximum group size of 12 – assuming your group contains at least four Season Ticket Holders. This will be strictly monitored and we reserve the right to amend this policy should sales exceed expectations. The make-up of your group may impact on where you can sit – larger groups with more new fans will need to move to less central locations to ensure that longer term fans are not unfairly displaced.
**
Subject to availability.

Premium Seats selling fast

While current Season Tickets Holders will soon be able to secure their places at the New Stadium with Premium Season Tickets, hospitality continues to sell well.

1889, our most exclusive package, and TW8 are close to selling out with less than 20 per cent of the top two tiers available to purchase. Our sports bar option, the Red & White package, is also proving popular with supporters and is available purchase from just £82.50 (+VAT) per month, plus an initial Licence Fee (a tradable asset). This is perfect for those of you looking for a more relaxed matchday experience with a little extra comfort in a prime viewing location.

Don’t miss out, simply register to our waiting list and a member of our team will contact you to invite you to our Reservation Centre to discuss the premium seat options. 

ArtsEd centenary film

ArtsEd has made a short film to commemorate its one hundredth anniversary this year.

The school is expanding. Recently they started a collaboration with schools in Dubai. Now they have launched auditions in Dublin on 18 December.

For residents of Chiswick we get the opportunity of cheap tickets to musical theatre on our doorstep of West End quality.

Christmas Toy Appeal

Residents in Hounslow are collecting toys for diistribution to disadvantaged children locally.

Shockingly, child poverty in the Hounslow area has worsened in the past year alone, with over 8,600 children living in poverty across the local area (Child Poverty Action Group statistics for the Brentford and Isleworth constituency for May 2019).

Looking to play a part in tackling the issue, a small group of residents with extensive experience working for charities tackling poverty and hunger in London have decided to put their skills and experience to use in their local area.

Having launched a community appeal for the second year running, they hope to collect 2,000 new toys from local residents for local children, for distribution through a network of over 10 charity partners. These include organisations such as children’s charities, baby banks and even food banks.

Want to help?
Donate a toy, donate money, help with wrapping and distribution. The toy appeal will culminate in a Community Toy Wrapping Event, where local residents are invited to come together to sort and wrap the donations before distribution. Sunday 15 December at the Nishkam School in Isleworth.

thatsawrap.org.uk

Chiswick Oasis appears to be working

 

The Chiswick Oasis, the wall of greenery alongside St Mary’s RC Primary School and the A4, was opened with great fanfare by the Mayor of London in the summer, after parent Andrea Carnevali raised many thousands of pounds to have it installed, with help from Cllr Ron Mushiso amongst many others.

Parents also painted the inside of the school with special paint, also meant to absorb noxious particles from the air, and installed air purifiers after the school was listed as being one of the most highly polluted parts of London (and its sister school next door, The William Hogarth school).

Andrea tells me that initial tests appear to show that the paint and the purifier are doing their work. The school’s readings show a drastic decrease in the levels of No2, PM2.5 and PM10. The purifier has shown a drop in level by more than 90%.

“When it comes to the paint in the dining room, the drop in level of Nitrogen Dioxide is really astonishing” says Andrea, “considering we’re just talking about ‘paint’. The average is about a 76% improvement, but most of the times it’s even higher”.

Andrea is now keen to share what has rapidly become an expertise in the absorption of air pollution, with any school which would like to follow suit.

Not Selected

 

Two of our Chiswick / Hounslow councillors have recently put themselves forward for selection as parliamentary candidates.

Both elected councillors for the first time last year, at the youthful end of the spectrum of councillors. Ron Mushiso and Patrick Barr were hopeful of being chosen for candidates in London seats, but neither was chosen.

Never mind guys, just think what great public service you’re doing answering all those emails about potholes and residents parking.

You don’t get off that lightly, after just one year!

Peter Oborne publishes website of Boris lies

Political journalist Peter Oborne is among a group of journalists who have launched a website entitled:

‘The lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of Boris Johnson and his government.’

What’s interesting about them as a group is that they’re about as far from Trotskyist revolutionary agitators as you could hope to find.

Peter is the former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph; Richard Assheton is a freelance reporter for The Times and The Sunday Times and features writer for The Sun and The Sun on Sunday; Adam Bychawski is the assistant editor of Open Democracy; Tom Chivers is a former Assistant Comment Editor at the Telegraph …

And so the list goes on. Mainstream, one could even argue right wing journalists, but highly experienced journalists for whom truth telling is a professional credo, who consider the current climate in politics is so mendacious that they need to put the record straight.

‘TRUTH is important in politics. Never more so than today, when huge issues are at stake affecting the lives of every voter and the future of the nation and the world. 

Political deceit is a form of theft. When people or businesses get money by deceit they face criminal charges. When politicians win power by deceit they can do vastly more harm, but face no penalty at all’.

boris-johnson-lies.com

Don’t Sweat it

Prince Andrew’s “I don’t sweat” and “I don’t believe it’s a picture of me in London because… when I go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie,” have to be up there with Bill Clinton’s “I didn’t inhale” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” as two of the most lame and unconvincing answers in television history.

What is it with these powerful, privileged men and their egos that suggests it’s a good idea to flannel your way through an interview with tough, no nonsense journalist such as Emily Maitlis and give such weaselly answers?

Meanwhile Boris Johnson refuses to be drawn on how many children he has. Why is it important? Character. Do you want the prime minister of your country to be the type of man who won’t acknowledge his own children?

Guardian journalist Marina Hyde is on a mission to get Boris Johnson to come clean about how many children he has in her column this week.

‘Walking away is, of course, quite the speciality for Johnson, whose Wikipedia famously lists his progeny as “5 or 6”. Very normal’.

‘The only political interview I truly want to see this campaign is one in which Johnson is submitting to questions – and a polygraph – from Jeremy Kyle’.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 2013 that the Daily Mail was justified in publishing stories about his secret lovechild because of his “recklessness” in conducting extramarital affairs and the bearing that had on his suitability for public office.P

Man in the Middle – Chapter 11: Archaeology

 

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. 11 Archaeology

Mother is sitting in the window leafing intently through a stack of loose leafed, old photographs. She looks at the front of each photograph and then folds it over to check the back like an archeologist gently turning ancient stones in her hands. Her chair has high, wooden armrests and a deep seat so the chair seems to be swallowing her. The autumn light on her white hair looks ethereal.

She’s so absorbed it takes a while time for her to realize I am in the doorway. When she does she snaps.

‘It’s rude not to knock before you come into someone’s bedroom. I thought I’d taught you better than that.’

‘You did. But I knocked three times and decided I couldn’t wait any longer.’

‘You’re as impatient as your brother,’ she sighs. ‘And as rude.’

Being as rude as my brother is about as bad as it can get. It puts me in a league alongside Prince Philip and Frankie Boyle. But she’s right. I shouldn’t have snuck in and spied on her.

‘Would you like me to get an album for those photographs?’ I ask shifting into compliant, helpful mode.

‘There’s none left,’ she says portentously.

I am confused. Is this a line from ‘Waiting for Godot’? Or the moment dementia took control?

‘Destroyed them all,’ she says.

Acting runs in Mother’s family. Her sister was particularly successful at ‘treading the boards’, as my father called it. Mother is not beyond occasionally hamming things up, especially if she’s feeling bored.

‘What are you talking about?’ I ask.

She reminds me of one day in the early eighties when my brother came back from University and burnt all the photographs of us. He made a funeral pyre of them outside the garage while my parents were asleep. Unusually for him, he did a thorough job and set light to the negatives, too. I call him up to see if he remembers. He does.

‘Why did you do it?’ I ask.

‘Self preservation.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘From five to fifteen Mother cut our hair,’ he says. ‘Only she wasn’t Vidal Sasson. Bowl haircuts. In every photo.’

Embarrassed memories begin to stir. I remember a picture of my brother and me in pajamas standing next to our beds, in particular. I am holding our cat and my brother is pulling on its tail, one eye red from the camera’s flash. Mother is standing behind us ruffling our bob haircuts. She’s smiling, proud of us and, perhaps, even of her hair handiwork.

‘Christ, we looked like medieval monks,’ he says. ‘If those photos got into the wrong hands, we’d have been ruined. Girl friends lost. Friends shamed. They were so embarrassing they could have even ruined careers. I did us both a favour.’

Mother has propped up on the shelf opposite her bed a photo of my god father, whiskey in hand, talking to my god mother, who married an Argentine diplomat and was, therefore, seldom short of decent corned beef during the Second World War. I wonder why she has chosen this photo over the others? I wonder if she remembers the picture of me and my brother and the cat having his tail pulled? I am about to ask her about all these things but then something in me hesitates and I decide that some stones are best left unturned.

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – Chapter 12 Political Junkie here

 

Pretty Pollys or Pests?

By Steve Anderson

You tend to hear them first. Small, faint chirruping that swells into a chaotic chorus of trills, whistles and squawks. And then you see them; bright green missiles careering almost in formation, swooping above the traffic on Chiswick High Road, soaring past joggers on the riverside. They are Ring-Necked Parakeets, found in and around this area for more than 30 years, but now there seem to be more than ever.

The Parakeets usually make two daily appearances in Chiswick – around 8 in the morning and between 4 and 5pm. Many head for the London Plane Tree outside my house. When it was pollarded last week, about 100 landed in a smaller tree nearby. I recorded a video of them, posted it on social media and the response was instant.

‘Send them back where they came from,’ posted one close friend, her language at odds with her noted pro-Remain sentiments.

Well, where do they come from?

The Ring-Necked Parakeet – Psittacula krameri – is a native of a wide expanse of dry tropical countryside stretching from West Africa through India to south of the Himalayas, where it is most commonly found.

So how did they turn up around 6,000 miles away in Chiswick? Opinions differ. Many believe that parakeets escaped from the set of The African Queen when it was filmed at Isleworth Studios in 1951, though the fact that they only became evident in recent years tends to undermine that theory.

Even more exotically, Jimi Hendrix is supposed to have released a pair of parakeets in Carnaby Street in the 1960s. No-one can confirm this, probably because they were there in the Sixties and can’t remember if it ever happened but hey, it’s a good story.

Images above: photograph by Jon Perry; painting by Romaine Dennistoun

More plausible is the claim that in the Great Storm of 1987, a number of aviaries were wrecked in the Surrey borders. The first mass sightings of the parakeets occurred a few years later.

‘They are taking over’ another friend posted on Twitter…naturally.

Are they? The current estimate is that there are 8,600 mating pairs of parakeets, so at least 17,200 at large and flying around a house near you.

A friend who lives near Richmond Park claims the parakeets ‘have killed all the woodpeckers’. The RSPB doesn’t think it’s that bad yet but is aware of the ‘potential impact on native bird species such as woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches, through competition for nest holes.’

The RSPB ‘is not in favour of a cull of parakeets at this time’ (my emphasis) but wants them watched in case too many of them cause too much harm to native birds.

‘Jeez,’ posts another friend, ‘what do they eat this time of year?’

Back to the RSPB. “Despite their tropical origin, parakeets are able to cope with the cold British winters, especially in suburban parks, large gardens, and orchards, where food supply is more reliable. They feed on a wide variety of fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, grain and household scraps. Parakeets are colourful and frequent visitors to bird tables and garden feeders, particularly during the winter months.”

Follow Steve at @steve1anderson on Twitter (yes, he’s aware), and go here if you want to read more about parakeets.

“Shameless electioneering”

Press release by leader of the Labour group on Hounslow Council, Steve Curran

In answer to Chiswick’s Conservative councillors’ criticism of the suggestion that work on Cycleway 9 at the Kew Bridge junction could start before Christmas …

Cllr Steve Curran said: “Cllr Joanna Biddolph, Leader of the minority Conservative Group in Hounslow, is using the council’s approval of Cycleway 9 as a cynical attempt to divert attention from the Tory party candidate for Brentford and Isleworth, Seena Shah’s position on Brexit and Cycleway 9. As we know, the Tory candidate is a fanatical Brexiter and has also publicly stated she is against Cycleway 9, this is in stark contrast to Ruth Cadbury, the Labour Party Candidate.

“Cllr Biddolph is now using the temporary closure of Hammersmith Bridge as an excuse to try to stop Cycleway 9. She also has the bare face cheek to suggest the decline in the high-streets will be further exasperated by CW9 and the Bridge closure. She forgets that her own government since they were elected in 2010, have done nothing at all to help high-streets and small businesses, especially with regard to reducing Business Rates, as we all know when the Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary, he said “F*** business”.

“She is also complaining about leaves on the pavement and roads, I know she is surprised at this, but it is Autumn and that’s when leaves fall! We have over 11,000 trees in the Borough (making us one of the greenest boroughs in London), with 23 staff exclusively working on leaf clearance over the next few months. I am really grateful to Cllr Guy Lambert, Lead Member for Recycling and Highways who is working very hard with Hounslow Highways, who are out there in all-weathers keeping our pavements and roads clear and safe”.

“I would have hoped, Cllr Biddolph and her colleagues would be more worried about air quality and pollution. The Labour Group and the Council have already signed up to the Climate Emergency and we are committed to do everything we possibly can to improve air quality in the Borough, especially for young people and children. It’s a shame Cllr Biddolph doesn’t appear to share that view, she is more concerned about traffic congestion in Chiswick High Road”.

Ends

“Shockingly irresponsible” decision to start work on Cycleway 9 at Kew Bridge junction

SHOCKINGLY IRRESPONSIBLE TO START WORK ON CS9 AT KEW BRIDGE JUNCTION WHILE HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE IS CLOSED TO TRAFFIC, SAY CHISWICK’S CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLORS

Chiswick’s Conservative councillors have slammed the decision, first read about in Councillor Guy Lambert’s weekly blog, that TfL could start work on CS9 before the end of this year – at Kew Bridge junction, a notorious traffic pinch point which is already even more congested than usual with over 2,000 additional vehicles a day, displaced because of the closure to traffic of Hammersmith Bridge.

Chiswick’s Conservative councillors are demanding that this work be stopped until Hammersmith Bridge has re-opened to traffic because of the impact it will have on main and residential roads in Chiswick, and Brentford. They say starting work in winter makes no sense either with the weather likely to interrupt work, unnecessarily prolonging the disruption and chaos.

“It is hard to think of a more absurd decision than this. It’s winter and the wet, cold weather will undoubtedly slow down progress. Residents in Chiswick, and Brentford, can be sure they will see the route and Kew Bridge severely restricted, therefore even more congested and polluting, but with no-one working because of winter weather conditions. The disruption will be pointless.

“The fact that one of Brentford’s councillors – also cabinet member for highways – cannot see how irresponsible this decision is shows just how little Labour councillors know about, or understand, Chiswick and the way it works. It seems Councillor Lambert doesn’t know how his own ward works, either, if he cannot see the additional impact, on his residents, retailers and businesses, of starting work in winter and while Hammersmith Bridge is closed to traffic,” said Cllr Joanna Biddolph, councillor for Turnham Green ward and leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council.

“His dismissive tone and the words he used to describe the impact ‘no doubt there will be periods of pain whilst the works progress’ demonstrate his lack of concern for residents, workers and the many shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses along this stretch – and beyond,” she said.

Cllr Patrick Barr said, “It is absolute madness that work is due to commence, perhaps before the end of the year, on the Cycle Superhighway’s Kew Bridge section, while Hammersmith Bridge remains closed.

This will have a severe knock-on effect and subsequent impact on the already present traffic chaos in and around Chiswick. On that note, we still await an update on traffic mitigation for Chiswick following a visit by Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, and TfL traffic planners earlier this year to witness the traffic chaos in Chiswick as a result of the closure of Hammersmith Bridge, and discuss traffic mitigation for Chiswick. We were promised this would be looked into in September 2019, when the school year started, for an accurate picture of the problem and steps to solutions. I have still to receive an update, despite having chased Transport for London.

“There is a clear lack of joined-up thinking. I wonder whether Cllr Lambert actually has the full picture or is simply doing what his “comrades” ask of him, with no thought for the residents of Chiswick?” Cllr Barr said.

Councillor Sam Hearn said, “TfL’s decision to proceed immediately with these high-impact and time-consuming road works beggars belief. TfL management appears to be living in some kind of parallel universe that is not inhabited by real people. There can be no justification for starting this work whilst the closure of Hammersmith Bridge is still causing such serious traffic problems throughout the Chiswick area.”

This stretch is part of the section of Chiswick High Road where it becomes the South Circular/A205 (between Chiswick roundabout and Kew Bridge) which is in the TfL road network. There will be consequences for the western section of Chiswick High Road/A315, Ellesmere Road/Great West Road/A4; the North Circular/A406, Strand on the Green, Brentford High Street/A315 and for accessing and leaving the M4 in both directions, as well nearby roads including in Surrey Crescent, Stile Hall Gardens, Wellesley Road, Strand on the Green, on the junction and beyond on Brentford High Street near Kew Bridge.

There are many shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants along the route or very close by, in Chiswick Riverside ward and in Brentford ward including along that section of Chiswick High Road, Strand on the Green, beside the bridge on the west, around the junction. It will also affect Brentford Leisure Centre.

Residents live on all these roads as well as Wellesley Road and Stile Hall Gardens.

“Residents don’t need to be reminded that Kew Bridge is a major route in and out of Brentford, just as it is for Chiswick. It seems, though, that we do have to point this out to Cllr Guy Lambert,” Cllr Joanna Biddolph continued. It’s clear he doesn’t care about disrupting Chiswick’s residents, retailers, workers, businesses and visitors. Is he really prepared to put them through even more traffic chaos by starting work while Hammersmith Bridge is closed to traffic and in the worst of winter?

“We see the effects of Cllr Lambert’s inefficiency every day in Chiswick. He’s cabinet member for highways, recycling and trading companies. Our streets and pavements are covered in slippery wet leaves because he has failed to anticipate that leaf fall and wet winter weather will coincide. Streets have not been swept to schedule. Residents, workers and visitors cannot walk with confidence but instead have to tread very carefully to avoid slipping and falling. Our pavements are treacherous.

“And now he can’t work out that starting work on Kew Bridge while Hammersmith Bridge is closed to traffic will cause even more traffic chaos – in his own ward as well as in the three Chiswick wards. You couldn’t make it up!” she said.

Chiswick’s Conservative councillors have issued a list of questions to Cllr Hanif Khan, cabinet member for transport, traffic and parking, and Cllr Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, that need to be answered including about compensation to traders who, they say, should be given a business rates holiday, and residents who should be given a council tax holiday for the disruption.

ENDS

Hogarth Youth Centre could run out of money within four years

The trustees of Hogarth Youth Centre held a meeting last week to which they invited the great and the good of Chiswick, including councillors and parliamentary candidates, to impress upon them that they need the community’s help. A show of hands demonstrated that the majority of the audience had never been there before, which is unsurprising since they’d been invited for their fundraising ability, whereas the people who use the centre are some of the most vulnerable and deprived kids not only in the borough of Hounslow but in the whole of London.

Unless you have cause to use it, not many people even know where it is, tucked away at the end of Dukes Rd, in between St Mary’s RC Primary school and The William Hogarth School. But those who do use it, regard it as a lifeline, as speaker after speaker testified.

Carol, a grandparent, has two grandchildren who use the centre. Forty years ago her two sons used it; now she is kinship carer for her two grandchildren. The centre runs sessions after school four days a week for 8 – 11 year olds and teenagers, and during school holidays takes them on outings and residential trips.

“It’s not as easy as it was 40 years ago” said Carol. “If this wasn’t here, I don’t know whether I’d still be looking after my grandchildren. I get really tired, and this is my respite”.

Clare has three children who use the centre. She described her eldest girl as very shy and terrified of going out after the terrorist attacks in central London. “The youth worker would come and pick her up from home. She has really brought her out of herself and got her to talk to people and make friends”.

Her youngest has Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Aspergers syndrome. When he was having problems at school, Denny, the lead youth worker, got to know the child well, went with her to meetings and helped them change school. “Denny was a rock for me. I don’t know what I would have done without him. My kids love all the staff here and if it went, I don’t know what I’d do”.

Denny Anthony came to the Hogarth 15 years ago as a full time youth worker for Hounslow. “Youth work is informal education” he says, “supporting young people to make positive decisions, building trust and giving them support”. When Hounslow council withdrew the funding at the end of last year, he was made redundant, but the trustees hired him and with assistant youth worker Naomi Alleyne and the help of volunteers, he is able to provide social sessions for between 300 and 350 children.

Hounslow gave them transitional funding to see them through this year. They have the building on a peppercorn rent, and bring in money by licencing rooms for a variety of activities, but they need to bring in more money. “Studies suggest that for every £1 put in to funding youth services, society is repaid seven or eight fold in economic and social benefit” said Trust Chairman Fred Lucas. Less street crime, better performance at school, greater employability, better parenting skills. Not investing in youth services is a false economy.

Could you donate? Become a friend of Hogarth Youth Centre? Do you need a venue for a party or classes? Would you like to hire one of the rooms? Do you have useful skills such as fund-raising or teaching? Would you be prepared to become a trustee or a volunteer? Maybe you could help them out with IT knowledge.

Contact the Hogarth Community Centre, Duke Road, Chiswick W4 2JR / Tel: 0208 747 1999 / Email Fred Lucas: fred.lucas@hogarthtrust.org.uk

You saw it here first!

Remember Sirli Raitma’s picture of her mother Eha? It first graced this newsletter and the pages of The Chiswick Calendar website in May, as an entry in the Bedford Park Festival photography competition. Then again in June, as the overall winner of the competition. Now it’s all over London, being enthusiastically endorsed here by a traveller at Stockwell tube station.

Eha has become the poster girl for the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing exhibition, from 7 November – 16 February. ‘The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 is the leading international competition, open to all, which celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography from around the world’.

Sirli and her mum are both hugely proud. “I took her around on the tube when we went to the exhibition, and every time the train stopped there was a huge poster of her right outside” says Sirli.

 

Photographs above: Sirli’s photograph of her mother Ehaa; illustrations by Alison Brown (@Aliscribble); Marta Altés (@martaltes); Yiyi Silva (@yiyisilva); Joshua Hall (@joillustration)

The Cult of Eha

Sirli’s image has inspired illustrators to draw and paint versions of her photographs of Eha, pictured above. “We’ve had so much positive feedback” she says. All she needs now is for it to lead to some commissions.

See more of Sirli’s portraits of Eha and read the touching story of how the portrait project came about, (written in June), here.

Introducing Ruth Cadbury

Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury

Ruth is the parliamentary candidate for Labour for the Brentford & Isleworth constituency, 2019 general election

I have been the independently-minded Labour MP for the Brentford & Isleworth seat (including Chiswick, Osterley and Hounslow) since 2015. First elected with less than 500 majority in 2015, my majority grew to over 12,300 in the 2017 snap election.

Brexit

This constituency voted to remain in the EU; Chiswick by over 70%. Any kind of Brexit, and particularly a hard Tory Brexit, would threaten the economy, our environmental and consumer standards, our rights at work, our security and peace in Northern Ireland. I believe that the best deal with the EU is the deal we already have. I voted against revoking Article 50 and four times against a disastrous Tory Brexit.

I firmly support offering a Peoples’ Vote to act as a confirmatory referendum with ‘remain’ on the ballot along with a clearly defined ‘leave’ option. I have pledged to campaign for Remain in the Referendum because I firmly believe that no leave deal can be better than the deal we have as a full member of the EU.

The 2016 vote was an advisory referendum with no definition of what ‘leave’ meant. Serious questions have also been asked of the campaign methods used – whether it be the NHS bus lie or the manipulative targeting of voters in Hounslow claiming that immigration would be easier. The ‘leave’ campaign was also found to break electoral law by the Electoral Commission. This should not be allowed to happen again.

And by the way – merely revoking Article 50, with the people having no say, will not restore many people’s trust in politicians and I believe is an irresponsible pledge.

 

Crumbling public services

Nearly a decade of Conservative Government cuts has left our NHS, education system, social care and most other public services at a crisis point; the most visible proof being the escalating number of rough sleepers we see on our streets and the tragic rise in the use of foodbanks by struggling families.

NHS

Founded by the Labour Government in 1947, the NHS is being put at risk by the Tories. Inadequate funding to cope with the predicted rise of demand, cuts in funding to Council social care services, inadequate Mental Health support and a skills crisis across all clinical areas – the NHS is surviving through the goodwill and enormous hard work of the staff. I commit to campaign to cut waiting times, properly fund Mental Health services and end prescription charges.

Education

I’ve visited all the schools in the constituency; meeting heads, teachers and students and they tell me about the impact on Hounslow’s schools of the lost £410 per pupil; narrowing the curriculum and exam choices, lack of support for children with additional needs and shortages of basic equipment. Cuts to Council budgets has meant that all-important youth services have all-but disappeared. I will support policies to reverse per pupil funding cuts and I will continue to work with parents and Parent Teacher Associations.

Policing

I chaired two well attended public crime discussions this year and held a constituency survey which together showed how concerned people are about crime. I have liaised with police to increase communication and work with the community. Following the public discussions, it was good to see parents setting up a support group to help address youth crime. But the impact of £1 bn cut in the Government grant for London’s policing since 2010 has meant fewer police officers, community support officers and police stations and a rise in violent crime. Tory Ministers have now admitted their cuts went too far, but are still not prepared to address the scale of the problem. I will campaign for more police on our streets and restored youth services.

The Environment

Climate change is having an impact locally and globally. I heard Greta Thunberg speak in Westminster earlier this year, and it is right that young people have been forcing us to take address the issue seriously. After Labour declared a climate emergency the Conservatives followed, but I have challenged the Government repeatedly to take action, not just spout warm words.

I have campaigned against expansion at Heathrow not only because of the climate consequences but because whole areas not currently severely affected by aircraft noise, such as Chiswick, will be under the final approach path. Expansion will increase road traffic here, and the resultant air pollution will cause yet more problems, particularly for older people and young children. I am proud to have supported the Chiswick Oasis green wall project with St Mary’s school parents, and campaigned on engine idling outside local schools. As a result of the green wall, there has been a 37% improvement in air quality for the children at St Mary’s.

About Ruth

I’ve lived locally for over 30 years, and represented Brentford on Hounslow Council for much of that time. I worked as a town planner, and brought up 2 sons who went to Lampton School in Hounslow. I know what concerns local people have and hope once again to continue to represent the area I have been so proud to call home.

Outside politics; I run on Saturday Parkruns and ran the London Marathon twice, raising funds for Shelter, Young Minds and CW+ Sun and Stars Appeal at West Middlesex hospital. I’m supposed to be in training for next year’s marathon!

I will be out campaigning over the next few weeks, so if you have any topics you would like to discuss, please do get in touch! You can so email me on ruth@ruthcadbury.org.uk.

Meet Artistic Blacksmith Neil Brown

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that someone special? Hot Metal Works create beautiful personalised creations, ranging from bottle openers and key-rings to bird feeders and magnificent garden sculptures. Based in the London Museum of Water & Steam in Brentford, Blacksmith Neil Brown stocks a range of unique ready-made gifts, as well as happily accepting private commissions.

Neil Brown

From visiting Neil in his Brentford workshop, his passion and enthusiasm for his craft was clear from the way he excitedly talked about his creations. It seemed as though Neil had been fantasising about a creative career since he was young so it came as a shock to find that it wasn’t until relatively late in his working life that he delved into the world of artistic blacksmithing.

Previously working in IT, Neil, like many of us, felt unfulfilled by his job. “I always felt that there had to be more for me – something I really enjoyed and could excel at” he said. Thankfully, and rather by chance, he stumbled across a three-day blacksmithing course for beginners and took to it immediately.

The World of Blacksmithing

After falling in love with the creative process, Neil applied for a blacksmith job in North London. Despite having no ‘real world’ experience he got the job which provided him with a solid foundation in his blacksmithing career endeavour. While this was a fantastic opportunity, the role didn’t satisfy his artistic mind.

The thing Neil loved most about blacksmithing was taking a cold lump of steel and transforming it into something completely new. He resultantly left that job and moved on to accompany a master blacksmith in Guildford, before taking on a job as the only, and therefore main, blacksmith for another local company.

“Despite my lack of experience on the forge, I took the position and didn’t look back” he said. “Suddenly, all those techniques I’d been absorbing were being used and I was creating beautiful objects from cold, hard steel”.

As Neil progressed and his skill grew he finally decided to venture out on his own prompting the birth of Hot Metal Works. Now he makes fantastic creations, both practical and sculptural from his workshop in Brentford.

Hot Metal Works

As well as crafting steel works of art, Neil also runs workshops where you can go along and experience blacksmithing for yourself. The workshops are open to anyone over the age of 18 and no prior experience is required. In the informal class, Neil provides a hands-on introduction to blacksmithing, teaching eight different techniques to help you create your own hand-forged ironwork to take home. His workshops are in high demand and the remaining dates for 2019 are already sold-out so be sure to strike while the iron is hot and book your place for next year.

With Christmas just around the corner, Hot Metal Works’ artistic blacksmith workshops could make for a fabulous gift and if that’s not for you, Neil is also more than happy to take on one-of-kind commissions. If you have an idea, whether it’s for a sculpture, piece of furniture or a personalised hook with your cat’s footprint in, he is more than happy to help you bring it to life.

Neil’s blacksmithing course costs £170 and you can find out more and book your place by emailing neil@hotmetalworks.co.uk. If you’re interested in buying Neil’s work, ordering a commission or grabbing a gift voucher in time for Christmas you can contact Neil on the email provided or visit his workshop at The Forge, London Museum of Water and Steam, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford TW8 0EN.

hotmetalworks.co.uk

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

Mike Belcher, from March House Farm in Leicestershire, has been coming to the Food Market in Chiswick since it first opened 20 years ago. Being able to market their meat direct to consumers in London has been a lifeline for his family farm, he says.

“Farming had been through two recessions. We had 180 acres, a small family farm supporting two families, and we needed to expand to survive”.

Many farmers diversified around that time, moving into tourism, offering Bed & Breakfast and opening their farms for public events during lambing and sheep shearing. The BSE crisis in the mid nineties had a terrible impact on the sale of beef, though it didn’t affect their herd directly, and things were about to get even tougher with the outbreak of Foot & Mouth in 2001.

“Food has been sold too cheaply in this country” says Mike. “It’s a hang over from the Second World War, but food producers need to be able to stand on our own two feet and not have to rely on subsidies”.

“Consumers want to know where their food comes from”

Mike started running stalls in at markets in Wimbledon and Twickenham around the same time as the one at Dukes Meadows in Chiswick and they now sell 60% what they produce through farmers markets – at Wimbledon and Twickenham on Saturdays, Swiss Cottage midweek and at three markets: Bishops Park in Fulham, Queen’s Park and Dukes Meadows on Sundays.

Direct contact with consumers has helped the family’s bank balance, but it has also made them realise the extent of the disconnect between producers and consumers. “We try and explain what goes into the food” says Mike. He finds consumers in London are interested to know what they’re eating and want to know about the production process.

March House Farm is not organic. Mike doesn’t think organic food is necessarily better and doesn’t believe it is sustainable in terms of feeding the whole planet. Instead they mix the latest technology with traditional farming methods to get the best yield from the land, and in doing so, have reduced their input of fertilisers by 40% over the past decade.

The Belchers now farm 1400 acres, a mix of arable farming and livestock rearing, and they seem to do a bit of everything – wheat, barley, sheep (2,000 breeding ewes) and cattle (160 cows), pigs (30 sows) and turkeys, ducks and geese for Christmas. The farm, at Great Dalby in Leicestershire, has been in his family for four generations. Mike’s wife Heather does the books; their sons Daniel (36) and Thomas (33) run the farm, while Mike runs the marketing operation.

Latest technology combined with traditional farming methods

Mike explained what he meant by their use of the latest technology with traditional farming methods:

“We use GPS in the tractors, so we follow a straight line, which means there’s no overlapping, so there aren’t bits of land which get a double dose of fertiliser”. They also map the fields, so they know which bit of land has a greater or lesser amount of potash, phosphate or boron, and they are able to programme the distribution of fertiliser accordingly. That’s how modern technology contributes to their farming methods.

The part played by traditional farming is the rotation of crops; they plant forage crops in between the barley and wheat harvests – stubble turnips, forage rape, rye grass, maize and kale, which with the addition of farmyard manure increases the biodiversity of the soil. It also makes them almost self-sufficient in cattle fodder. They just add cattle cake to their diet to ‘finish’ the cattle and cereal bars to give pregnant ewes a bit of extra nutrition.

Mike claims this is the most eco-friendly and sustainable type of farming there is, and says British farming is two and a half times more efficient than the world average in terms of carbon footprint, “because we are using what is naturally ours – the finest grass in the world” and grass is the biggest sequester of carbon. (Scientists back him up on this. A recent study from the University of California, Davis, found that grasslands are more resilient carbon sinks than forests).

“Our farm footprint is exactly what it was 100 years ago” says Mike, “except that we’ve taken out one hedge”. I asked him about the impact of modern farming on birds and wildlife. “We’ve never lost the numbers of birds and wildlife” he says. “My family generations back would feel absolutely at home on the farm today. They’d recognise it as pretty much how it was then”.

Right now they’re concerned with how wet the land is. They haven’t been flooded, as they’re not near a river and they have areas of ridge and furrow, not planted since the 1700s, which give the farm a bit of a natural flood defence, but their fields are sodden and just five miles away there are lakes where there should be fields, under water for several weeks. It means only ten percent of the winter wheat has been sown.

Supermarkets pay too low

It’s hard work driving down to London a the crack of dawn, but by selling direct to the public Mike finds he is able to make what he considers a fair living, while consumers are paying around the same price they would at a supermarket.

Their local slaughterhouse supplies Waitrose, M&S and Sainsburys, also Aldi and Lidl, who are “huge backers of British food producers” he says. But while supplying supermarkets gives them a regular income, says Mike, they couldn’t survive as a business on the rates they pay.

Direct to the public, March House Farm leg of lamb sells for £12.00 per kilo, lamb shoulder for £10.00 per kilo, lamb cutlets at £16.00 per kilo. Beef topside sells for £13.00 per kilo, best rib at £21.00 per kilo and sirloin at £26.50 per kilo. Manor House Farm turkeys sell for £75 – £80 for a bird around seven kilos.. Sausages (Moroccan / Merguez/ lamb and mint / pork and leek / Lincolnshire / cracked black pepper / Fire Cracker chilli and plain gluten free pork) £10.00 per kilo.

“Homely” bowls club

Over the years Mike has made many friends in Chiswick. He enjoys the interaction between country and city and feels at home at the Bowls Club, who ply him and his team with tea and coffee, and among the other market traders, several of whom have been coming to the Sunday morning market as long as he has.

“The club is fantastic – helpful and friendly. There’s a homeliness about coming here and Friends of Dukes Meadows offer a fantastic facility”.

Mike would like to offer 10% off to anyone who spends over £20 at Dukes Meadows Christmas market on Sunday 15 December (open 10.am – 2.00pm) who mentions The Chiswick Calendar. That includes orders for Christmas. If you can’t get to the market that day, you can put in your order by phone: 01664 563919.