Chiswick Confined – My Corona blog Week 4

Keith Richards, writer and resident of Chiswick, living on his own, has started writing a diary of his Corona lock down. Beginning on 24 March 2020, he’s documenting the experience from his last pint in a pub onwards.

“Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
Cause the sun’s gonna shine
In my backdoor some day”

From ‘Trouble in Mind”

Traditional – Southern USA

Jollof wars and Georgia blues

The connections in today’s somewhat rambling blog are a little convoluted but trust me they coalesce at the end. I am going to start by combining two of my favourite themes – supporting local businesses and enjoying great music.  Now, what does a Nigerian Restaurant in North End Road, West Kensington and a Pub with a Wood Fired Pizza Oven in Boston Manor have in common?  Well, food obviously and the fact that they are both doing their best to serve their communities and their customers and, frankly, to survive in these trying times. However, there is another connection that I will come to explain later.

I have written about the joys of a great ‘local’ with particular reference to The Raven at Stamford Brook.  Obviously the pub is shut at the moment but landlord Dave is also connected to another fine boozer with the same values and they are still managing to keep open for deliveries.  The GreenW7 really do serve serious Wood Fired Pizzas and their range of Burgers is imaginative and extensive too – plus they do beer deliveries!!  Check them out at

Pitanga restaurant in North End Road is one of my go to places.  Chef/Owner Nky is an amazing cook and has developed a range of food that ranges from the traditional Nigerian soups and stews to a more modern style of fusion. A modern Nigerian style restaurant called ‘Ikoyi’ in Mayfair has recently been awarded a Michelin star and, frankly, having been to both much of Nky’s cuisine reaches their standards at about a third of the price.  If your locked-in palate is jaded and you need to stimulate your taste buds with something a bit different give her food a try.  Even if you have never tasted Nigerian food you may well have heard of the ‘Jollof Wars’.

Nigerians and Ghanaians get very heated about whose is the original recipe for Jollof Rice (ssshhh, don’t tell them it is probably Senegalese) and when Jamie Oliver tried to dip his toe in that particular water by adding ‘Oyinbo’ nonsense like sun dried tomatoes he definitely bit off more than he could chew.  Think of it like West African Paella or Pilau.  My favourites include Nky’s take on traditional street style foods such as Suya and Akara, her different versions of Plaintain and her Uncle’s Warri stew. Her goat dishes are very popular.  You can check out her menu on: but currently she is only taking orders by email ( Please note she is just cooking for specific orders so 24 hours notice is best.

In the papers today I read that KFC, Burger King and a couple of other chains are re-opening selected stores for take-away.  If we do not support our local independent shops, cafes and restaurants now then when you eventually can go out you won’t find any of them left.  These big corporates pushing bland, unhealthy stodge will have taken over our High Streets.

Images above: Album cover – Trouble In Mind ….. Georgia Blues

Now, if you are a regular ready of my daily version you will know that every day I drop a cover of one of my collection of old Vinyls, which explains the photographs above.

I do not remember when I bought this album, it is not dated and I cannot find any reference to it on-line.  “Trouble In Mind ….. Georgia Blues” was released on the ‘Revival’ label founded in the UK in 1971 riding the peak of interest in old Southern and Missippi Delta Blues.  The label folded in 1974 and I suspect I would have bought mine in the mid ‘70’s in Brighton.  The actual recordings were made in the ‘60’s by an American music historian and blues aficionado, George Mitchel.  Mitchel was born in Florida and brought up in Atlanta and I believe he toured around recording these artists personally.  I first got into the more electric Chicago Blues that inspired the Stones, Eric Clapton and so many others back in the late ‘60’s when I would listen to ‘Mike Raven’s R&B Show’ on my transistor radio on a Sunday afternoon on the 237 bus going to The Farx Club in Southall.  I was lucky enough to catch ‘Howling Wolf’ there backed by The John Dummer’s Blues Band in about 1970.  However, these recordings are the earlier, rougher and more traditional blues of the Deep South. Several of the songs were covered later by better-known artists.  In 2008 many of the recordings we re-issued as the George Mitchel Collection, they are called ‘field recordings’ and some of them are available on Spotify.  Do give them a listen.

When I moved full time to Nigeria in 1999 my taste for West African music developed.  West Africa has been a melting pot for cultures and their music for centuries before Europeans got anywhere near there.  I am not going to get into why the colonial story of an absence of history and culture has long since been debunked but the traditional music of the area that includes modern day Mali, Burkina Faso as well as Northern Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana was shaped by interaction with the cultures of the Maghreb, the Nile region and Arabia at a time when Europe was in the dark ages.  I soon learned how to sit in the corner of a local bar with my Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and appreciate the different musical styles of Makossa, Soukous, Fuji, Juju, Highlife and, of course, AfroBeat played by local bands. However, I was pretty ignorant of how the region’s music developed until I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of my now good friend and brother Ed Emeka Keazor.  Ed is a man of many parts. Just one of them is that he is a musical historian and not just in an academic sense.  Ed is a sweet vocalist and has a band in Lagos with some of the greats of a bygone era. Predominantly Highlife musicians, the average age is well into the ‘70’s and the oldest member is 92 years young!  In a society where there is no social safety net or effective pension musicians just genuinely have to keep playing until they drop.  It is through Ed that I first came to know about Palm Wine music.

Now, are you waiting for my connection?  Well, Blues enthusiasts are always looking for the source or the ‘roots’ of The Blues.  From Ry Cooder to Taj Mahal and even the late Ginger Baker, blues musicians have travelled to West Africa and recorded with local artists as part of their search for the ‘lost link’.  Of course, there is no single ‘link’. There is no doubt that enslaved persons carried African cadences across the ‘Middle Passage’ to the Americas. The ‘call and response’ chants that came to be heard in the cotton fields of the area where ‘Trouble In Mind” was recorded definitely had their antecedence in African rhythms and the many stringed instruments of West Africa have cause to be considered the forerunners of the guitar. Palm Wine music itself was a melee of different influences including returned enslaved persons who went back to Sierra Leone or Liberia. I leave Ed to describe it best in an article he wrote in 2014:

Some of the best of the more recent Palm Wine musicians are available on Spotify such as S E Rogie, Dr K Gyasi and Koo Nimo. Do give them a listen too.  In fact, I am going to give you a hand here ………

“Dieman Noba Smoke Taffee” or ‘Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana’ (as the album is called) is by Sooliman Ernest Rogers, known as S E Rogie, who was born in Sierra Leone in 1926 and brought to London by DJ Andy Kershaw in 1988.  Here he formed a band called Palm Wine Tappers that included such luminaries as Danny Thompson and Kari Bannerman.  They recorded the eponymous album but Rogie died just after it was released.  The whole album is available to listen to including being available on Amazon and in 2011 ‘Rolling Stone’ ranked the album’s title track at number 13 in their list of “The 15 Greatest Stoner Songs”.

There are clear influences from around the world in S E Rogies’ music but for me there is a simple, Delta Blues vibe about it.  At their core both Blues and Palm Wine music are the sound of individuals describing their lives, their loves and hopes and fears through the medium that comes most easily to them.  In many cases, these individuals would be in a position of unemployment and penury and that condition is reflected in the lyrics and the tone of their music.  I consider myself fortunate that in this locked-in time of Covid I still have access to their voices.

And the link?  Kari Bannerman, who plays Guitar on this track is an outstanding musician, perhaps best known for his role in the iconic band ‘Osibisa’ he often plays with Ed Keazor in the London based ‘West African Highlife Collective’.  Where do they sometimes play and hopefully will again when this has settled down? In Pitanga!  In addition, when I launched my book ‘Never Quite The Insider – A Nigerian Memoir’ in the UK, we did it at The Raven. I was fortunate that Ed and Kari played at the event with the Collective and landlord Dave (who is a music nut) and I have talked about bringing them back to do a proper gig there.  This is what its all about. Links and connections – supporting local businesses, appreciating music and enjoying the multi-cultural environment that London offers.  Once restrictions are eased I will get back to the simple pleasure of my favourite pubs and restaurants and as much live music as I can find.  As for now ……

“Covid in mind, I’m blue
I won’t be locked down always
Cause that sun’s gonna shine
when I sit in the pub some day”

Read more blogs by Keith

Read the next in the series – My Corona blog Week 5

Read the previous one – My Corona blog 3

See all Keith’s My Corona blogs here.

See more of Keith’s work on his website –

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Episode 3: Unpacking more of this year’s Wisden

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

In the first two episodes they previewed and then reviewed the new Wisden Cricketers Almanack. In this one they find they’re not yet done mining the rich seams of gold within its pages, talking about cricketing and the environment – how some of the most important matches are played in some of the world’s most polluted cities – how the game is gradually shifting to become more of a winter game, with the season starting earlier, and they celebrate the fact that the game is being played in new and unexpected places, such as Mali and Lebanon.

From the review of cricket in Ecuador they make the amazing discovery that Julian Assange has a cricketing background and a standing invitation to join Quito Cricket Club.  It leads them to discuss the concept of Cricketers of Conscience and the possibility of an organization of that name to take up their cause. They review some famous players who have become victims of infamous régimes. Thousands of less known players and cricket lovers, especially journalists, are now victims of state power, prejudice, persecution and violence. A new organization could campaign for them all – and suggest candidates for profiles in next year’s Wisden. They invite responses and will say more about this in coming weeks.

They embark on designing their own fantasy Philosphers’ eleven, celebrate a new Afghan record holder, and discuss the recent interview in the Times between Mike Atherton and Nathan Leamon, the official data analyst for the England cricket team. Statistical analysis is being applied to cricket as it is to any big business.

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Get in contact with the podcast by emailing, we’d love to hear from you!

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Next episode – Episode 4: Cricket anyone? Anywhere?

Previous Episode – Episode 2: Publication of Wisden 2020

Listen to all episodes – Oborne & Heller on Cricket


Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast was produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Southfield councillors hold online forum

Chiswick’s three Lib Dem councillors. who represent Southfield ward on Ealing council, are holding an online forum.

“It was with regret that our last scheduled Ward Forum (1st April) could not go ahead due to government advice on gatherings and social distancing” they say. “Whilst we endeavor to keep in contact with our residents, and I’m sure some of you may have questions to ask, we have decided to carry out a virtual Southfield Ward Forum using Zoom (free online conferencing service)”.

The ward forum is on Wednesday 22 April at 7.00pm.

Southfield Councillor and Ward Forum Chair Gary Busuttil said:

“We hope residents can join us where we will first give an update about changes to Council services due to coronavirus and then answer questions from residents about any topic they wish to raise”.

Anyone who would like to ask a question or attend the meeting should email  for more details.

LB Ealing planned to do away with ward forums last year but the three councillors managed to persuade the council of their value.

Image above: The three councillors in better days, when they were able to have their picture taken together


Work of famous local artist Hugh Cronyn goes on sale

Image above: Hugh Cronyn sailing across the Channel to Dunquerque c. 1938

Guest blog by Krassi Kuneva of Chsiwick Auctions

Canadian-British painter Hugh Cronyn (1905-1996) led a fascinating life in America, Europe and England before World War II, thanks both to the support and connection of his family and friends, and his innate charm and talent. Young and impressionable, fresh from Vancouver, and with an irrepressible can-do New World outlook, Cronyn’s unpublished memoirs recount his study and travels and the many remarkable people whose paths he crossed.

He started out as an artist in Toronto under Franz Johnston (an early member of the Group of Seven or the Algonquin School of Canadian landscape painters in the 1920s and ’30s). He studied at the Arts Students League in New York and enjoyed Paris in the early 1930s. Tutored by André Lhote, he travelled widely across Europe (whether struggling over the Alps by bicycle, or rescued from puncture failure by his cousin’s chauffeur driven Bentley), and ended up in Hammersmith, where he immersed himself in the rich bohemian life he encountered in West London.

In Florence he was underwhelmed by his introduction to Roger Fry, but on his arrival in London was star struck by Ivon Hitchens, whose second solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery he helped hang. Living first in St Peter’s Square and thereafter in different studios on the Hammersmith-Chiswick borders by the Thames, he became acquainted with a swathe of leading artists and writers of the day, from Dylan Thomas to Henry Moore.

Image above: Hammersmith Mall

Painted in 1937, Hammersmith Mall captures the essence of the area as Cronyn knew it. The painting depicts the historic easterly end of Upper Mall, Hammersmith, leading to Dove’s Passage and its eponymous pub. Originally opened as a coffee house in the 18th century, The Dove is recognisable to the right of the composition from its cream pitched gable end, punctuated by a single window. To its right is 21 Upper Mall where the poet George Rostrevor Hamilton was living at the time. To its immediate left, at the end of Dove’s passage is 15 Upper Mall which once housed Doves Press, run by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, and associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris, who had lived nearby at Kelmscott House. On the left of the composition are numbers 22, 20 (tucked away) and 18 Upper Mall.

Cronyn first moved to 27A St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith in 1935 and subsequently to 9A Black Lion Lane, with the pub immediately opposite. In his unpublished memoirs he recalls the landlord and his wife Arthur and Florrie with affection, the skittle alley where he played frequently, and the life surrounding St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith up to King Street and Chiswick – pre-construction of the A4 dual carriageway – as being ‘like a small village’. The writer, humourist and politician and close friend of Cronyn’s, AP Herbert (‘APH’), would hold court at the Black Lion every Sunday. It was through such gatherings that Hugh met so many artists, writers and thinkers of the day. At the lively gatherings and parties held at 12 Hammersmith Terrace, Cronyn met such artists as Edward Wadsworth, Mark Gertler, Leon Underwood and John Piper. Ceri Richards lived nearby, as did poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding in St Peter’s Square. Cronyn became friends with Julian Trevelyan at Durham Wharf. On a trip to Dorset with Trevelyan he visited Eileen Agar at her farm, and was introduced to Kitty Church, wife of Anthony West, son of H.G. Wells. In his own studio he held sketching classes with Victor Pasmore, Claude Rogers and Elsie Few.

Images above: Black Lion pub and its skittle alley

Pillars of the local community, many were regulars at the local Black Lion pub. Having acquired passion for wood engraving from his neighbour Gertrude Hermes, Cronyn created some expressive pieces of The Black Lion and the new Skittle alley in 1939.

The pub had an additional importance for Cronyn, as it was there, at one of the many gatherings organised by A P Herbert, that the artist met his wife Jean Cronyn (née Harris; 1919-2003) in 1941. At the time, fresh out of Oxford, she was working for the Board of Trade, while Cronyn was on leave from the Navy; they married the following year. Jean later became secretary to AP Herbert at 12 Hammersmith Terrace.

Image above: Portrait of the artist’s wife Jean Cronyn

In this portrait of his wife, Cronyn uses free bold brushstrokes, strong outlines and vivid colours. On the left of the composition is an early dish by the studio potter Michael Cardew (1901-83).

Following the outbreak of War, Cronyn was commissioned into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. His distinguished war record began with the award of a George Medal (GM) when he defused a 500lb bomb that had lodged unexploded in the hold of an oil tanker. He subsequently served on board ship in the North Sea and the Pacific, ending his naval service with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. From 1949-69 Cronyn was tutor of painting at Colchester School of Art alongside John Nash who became a great friend.

On 30th January 1965, the day of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral, Cronyn, a lifelong lover of the Thames and an ardent supporter of Churchill, secured a spot on the Embankment on the north side of the river. From there he looked across the floating pier on the South Bank, with the Royal Festival Hall to the right. Following the service at St Paul’s Cathedral that morning, Havengore bore Churchill’s coffin from the Tower of London up the Thames to the Festival Pier. From there his body was taken by train to its final resting place at St Martin’s Church, Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace.

In the ensuing oil Cronyn captured the stately arrival of Havengore at Festival Pier escorted by two bobbing pilot boats with Churchill’s body draped with the Union Jack. Above, silhouetted against the blue hoardings hiding the construction site of Queen Elizabeth Hall, is the heavy black form of the hearse to take Churchill’s coffin to the waiting train at Waterloo Station.

The first state funeral for a non-Royal for thirty years, at the time it was the largest and most watched event in history. Over 320,000 people queued to pay tribute whilst Churchill’s body lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days, 3,500 attended his funeral service at St Paul’s, and over 350 million tuned into the BBC to follow the occasion. During Havengore’s journey up the Thames sixteen RAF fighter jets flew in formation over Churchills’s coffin. Churchill’s widow, Lady Churchill memorably remarked to her youngest daughter at the end of what would surely have been an exhausting day for her: ‘It wasn’t a funeral, Mary – it was a triumph’, a note clearly borne out by the sense of celebration that Cronyn captures in the present vibrant depiction of this historic moment, despite the sobriety of the occasion.

Following Cronyn’s appointment as Tutor of Painting at Colchester School of Art in 1949, the family moved to Suffolk. In 1975 the Cronyns moved back to Chiswick Mall to live at 3 St Peter’s Wharf overlooking the Thames, the artists’ studios recently constructed by his old friend Julian Trevelyan. Cronyn exhibited widely during his lifetime, especially in London and Suffolk, including as a regular contributor to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in Toronto, Canada. His paintings are in private and public collections in France, Sweden the USA, Canada and the UK.

Chiswick Auctions is excited to present a group of works by the artist for the first time at the secondary market. We hope to shed more light to Cronyn’s life and work, as they certainly deserve a wider attention and appreciation. Hugh Cronyn’s works will be offered as part of the forthcoming Modern & Post-War British Art sale at Chiswick Auctions, which will take place on Wednesday, 22 April at 11.00am.

Krassi Kuneva is a specialist in Modern and postwar British Art. Before joining Chiswick Auctions she worked for Christie’s. She studied Art History at the University of Warwick.


Charities ask Government to increase Child Benefit

An alliance of more than 25 charities has asked the Government to increase Child Benefit as part of a package of measures to help low income families hit by the Coronavirus emergency. So many have lost their jobs, or don’t qualify for the new Government financial aid measures, the lowest paid are the most vulnerable to the economic fallout from the Coronavirus. London has a child poverty rate of 37 per cent – the highest in the country.

The London Child Poverty Alliance, supported by Brentford & Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury, is seeking  “emergency support” for low income families through adjustments to benefit entitlements, by covering more housing costs, making temporary changes to Universal Credit arrangements and enhancing the ability of local authorities to give help.

Among the package of measures is an increase in Child Benefit by £10 a week per child for the duration of the pandemic. Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the LCPA, said:

“We need to put children at the centre of our response. As a nation, we are being asked to make huge sacrifices to protect the vulnerable and help the NHS. We want to ensure that children do not suffer as well, as a result of more working families being pushed into poverty.”

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group told the Guardian newspaper:

‘Increases in universal credit and working tax credit to help families face the economic impacts of the coronavirus are welcome, but they don’t go far enough. An increase in child benefit of £10 a week per child would do much more, reducing child poverty by five percentage points compared to less than two percentage points as a result of the increases in universal credit and working tax credit.

‘What we learned between 1999 (when Tony Blair announced his ambition to end child poverty) and 2010 is that if you throw parents a lifeline, they will pull themselves free of poverty. That lifeline is desperately needed now. By 2010, the UK was halfway to achieving its target of cutting child poverty to 10% in 20 years. But 10 years of austerity has resulted in a £40bn annual reduction in spending on social security. We have more food banks in the UK than we have branches of McDonald’s and homelessness is rising. Furloughing will not help people who have lost a job due to school closures or who have simply got sacked.

‘Without immediate action, we will shortly exceed the poverty levels seen back in 1997 when child poverty was at 34% (4.3 million children). This ought to be the best country in the world to grow up in, but we cannot begin to claim that while so many children’s lives are blighted by poverty’.

Food Bank pick-up points in Chiswick

The Food Banks in Brentford and Hammersmith are struggling to cope with the demand and have been putting out urgent requests for food stuffs. The good news is you can now make donations of food in Chiswick.

One person at 98 Wavendon Avenue has made their house a collection point. Inspired by their success, Mary and Henry Brown are also making their house at 7 Strand on the Green (frontage on the river) a collection point.

“In the good old days there were collections from Chiswick Town Hall and from supermarkets” says Mary. “Now many of us avoid the supermarkets, and the Town Hall is closed. But sadly people’s need for help with their basic ability to feed their families is growing. Foodbox distributes food from its base in Brentford right across the borough – its a lifesaver for many families. Please donate something if you can – any non-perishable food, plus toiletries, baby food, milk and nappies, and also pet food. Thank you in advance.”

Strand on the Green Junior School also collections contributions of food for members of the school whose families are disadvantaged. They will be resuming collections on Monday 20 April. They leave a collection box out on Mondays and Fridays between 10.30 and 11.30am.

Hounslow Community Foodbox say they are grateful for all non-perishable, frozen and fresh food donations, but the regular food items required include:

  • Tinned & fresh potatoes or mash
  • Tinned meat – casseroles, corned beef, ham
  • Tinned Fish – tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Tinned vegetables – sweet corn, peas, carrots, beans
  • Tinned and fresh fruit (such as satsumas)
  • Pasta sauces
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Cereals
  • Jam/preserves
  • Small cooking oil
  • Tinned soup
  • Baked beans
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Tinned custard
  • Rice Pudding
  • Squash
  • Long life milk
  • Baby food & milk

Pet food and non-food items such as toiletries, cleaning products and nappies are also very welcome.

UWL takes over students’ leases

The University of West London has announced it will take over the leases and third-term rent for students in its halls of residence at the West London campus. Paragon student lets are managed by charity Housing Association Notting Hill/Genesis. The students’ rent for the summer term was due on Wednesday. With many students having returned home and others unable to return due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the looming rent payment has been a source of anxiety.

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, welcomed the decision by the university and criticised the Housing Association for not doing more to help the students.

‘I know how worried students at Paragon have been about the demands for rent … So when students contacted me I urgently wrote to the CEO of Notting Hill Genesis to ask for urgent protections for students at Paragon. With many having returned home, and having lost their jobs that help them pay their rent,  it is simply unfair to make students pay when they are not able to stay here, and which they cannot now afford.

‘I’m sorry that NHG/Genesis weren’t able to support the students in the way that other student accommodation providers have done at this time.  However I’m very pleased that the University of West London have stepped in and offered to cover the leases for UWL students livings at Paragon. This is the right step and I know this will provide relief for UWL students’.

Hounslow cracks down on fly tipping

Hounslow Council has issued a warning against flytipping rubbish on streets following a recent increase during the lockdown period. Cllr Guy Lambert, Cabinet Member for Highways, Recycling and Trading Companies at Hounslow Council said:

“The vast majority of our residents do the right thing, but in the past 48 hours there has been a reported increase in flytipping across the borough. Dumping waste is a criminal offence, could result in a fine, causes a mess on our streets and puts added strain on our essential service providers and key workers – the men and women who work hard to keep our streets clean.

“We are committed to reducing flytipping in Hounslow and our Enforcement Team continues to gather evidence from flytipped items in order to investigate the source of dumped waste and impose fines to offenders”.

Penalty fines

In 2019, Hounslow Council issued 4,803 Fixed Penalty Notices in relation to flytipping and littering on both public and private land.

“There simply is no excuse for dumping waste, particularly as the collection of waste and recycling remains a priority for the Council and we are continuing with all collections as normal. Our aim is to do everything we can to keep the streets clean, keep collecting your rubbish and make sure your recycling boxes/bins continue to be emptied, while protecting the health of our workers and residents” said Cllr Lambert.

“As most of us are now staying at home, it is natural that this will create more household waste and put pressure on our recycling and waste services – a bit like an extended Christmas.

“This week a revised collection timetable was established in order to enable our waste and recycling crews to take a bit of extra time off – much needed when they have been going above and beyond in challenging circumstances. Disruption was kept to a minimum with households receiving their collection just a day later, with all collections being ‘caught up’ by Saturday 18 April.

“We can all work to minimise our waste at this time and help reduce the pressure on our waste and recycling service – ensuring collections remain as normal for as long as possible. Simple steps such as reducing, reusing and recycling all you can make such a difference, so take full advantage of the weekly recycling service by disposing of all food waste (if available), paper, cardboard, plastics bottles, tubs, pots and trays, glass, tins, foil and cans.

Don’t use lockdown time for a major clearout

“Please avoid doing any clear-outs at this time, as this will likely increase the amount of waste and recycling you generate, but if you do need to dispose of larger or extra items and you can’t store them safely in the meantime, then please utilise our Bulky Waste collection service which continues to run as normal. For more information visit

“We had to take the decision to temporarily close Space Waye reuse and recycling centre from Friday 20 March to the public until further notice, this was in accordance with government guidance to reduce the spread of coronavirus and stop unnecessary journeys. We are all currently instructed to remain at home, and only go out for basic food shopping, medical needs and for one form of exercise a day. Visiting Space Waye is not considered an essential journey so again if you have items to dispose of please utilise the bulky waste service.

Don’t burn garden waste

“The garden waste collection service is continuing as normal also, so if you wish to dispose of your garden cuttings then please visit If signing up to the garden waste service is not an option, consider undertaking home composting. For guidance on home composting see

“A reminder that we are appealing to all residents to not dispose of waste on a bonfire as the smoke generated causes air pollution and has potential health effects for you and your neighbours especially if they have contracted the Covid-19 virus. Fellow residents who are self-isolating may rely on fresh air from open windows as they are unable to leave their homes”.

If you wish to report flytipping, then please report incidents along with other issues by downloading the FixMyStreet app, please search ‘FixMyStreet’ on Google Play and Apple App Store or by visiting




Residents in sheltered housing alarmed by lack of Covid-19 care

Residents at the Garden Court sheltered housing complex in Rothschild Rd in Chiswick were alarmed when an ambulance arrived last week, returning one of the people who lives there after he’d been treated for Covid-19 at Charing Cross hospital. One of the residents, who witnessed his arrival, told The Chiswick Calendar that the hospital transport crew, wearing protective clothing, asked if they could drop him off in the communal lounge area of the sheltered accommodation, as his room was locked and he didn’t have his keys. They told the residents he was Covid-19 positive.

Another resident, Bill, asked them to stay outside until they could get hold of Careline, who manage the property on behalf of Ealing Council. Although the block of flats is ‘sheltered’ and has 40 residents over the age of 60, there is no warden on site. Careline took an hour to come, according to Bill. He and his neighbour were shocked that there appears to have been no communication or arrangement made for the man’s reception or care management.

When eventually they arrived and the transport crew brought him in, they disinfected their vehicle before they left and the Careline worker, himself wearing Personal Protective Equipment, settled the man in his room, but no attempt was made to clean the public area through which he’d passed to get to his flat.

Covid-19 positive man ‘found wandering the corridors’

A further complication is that the patient apparently suffers from dementia. Government advice is that patients who are returning from hospital having been treated for the virus should remain in self-isolation, but it’s unclear whether this man is capable of understanding that. He has carers coming in and out, but most of the time is there on his own.

His neighbours’ anxiety was increased when one of them found him wandering the corridors with his trousers round his ankles on the evening of Friday 10 April. The Chiswick Calendar has been sent a picture of him holding his stick in one hand and holding on to the communal handrail with the other.

“I contacted our housing officer twice before the Easter weekend, in office hours, and to this day (16 April) she has not responded to me. Her boss wouldn’t confirm this man had been treated for the Coronavirus because it was ‘confidential information’, but she assured me he couldn’t leave his room because he was unable to get out of bed” said the resident we first spoke to.

Response from Ealing council ‘disappointing’

‘The response from the neighbourhood manager for the Acton hub took hours and was really disappointing’ said Bill. ‘More concerned with the patients confidentiality than the fact he has a deadly virus and ignoring the safety of the other 38 residents within this Scheme, most of whom are very vulnerable’.

In fact the Secretary of State for Health has issued four notices under the health Service Control of Patient Information Regulations 2002 requiring local authorities to share data about patients with Covid-19. ‘For patients, this means that their data may be shared with organisations involved in the response to coronavirus (COVID-19), for example, enabling notification to members of the public most at risk and advising them to self-isolate’.

Having seen him in the communal space, the residents are now “terrified” that they will catch it, the neighbour told us. They are “too afraid to leave their rooms”. Bill and a friend have been wiping down the handrails, door knobs and keypads regularly with disinfectant. He called a meeting a month ago, at which residents put their questions regarding Covid-19 to the council.

“We haven’t heard anything back from it. We haven’t even had the minutes of that meeting. You’d think in a global pandemic preparations would be made. I called that meeting because we know that if Covid-19 gets a hold in here, 75% residents could die. We have people who have heart conditions, who’ve had strokes, cancer, you name it”.

He asked the council for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to carry on doing the cleaning, without success. “We haven’t seen our so-called housing officer for a month. Eventually last week we got a few cloths and a few things of Flash given to us”.

Bill and his neighbours have also seen the man’s carers leave items such as waste from his room left in the communal trash and communal laundry. Some of his carers have been wearing PPE, but others not, they say, and those that have been wearing the kit have disposed of it in the communal waste. “There are bits of apron left there and no other carers use that particular room”.

Case raises important questions

As they are unable to trust that he will self-isolate, they have asked Ealing Council to remove him so that they and he will be safer. They have involved both local councillors and MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq. As we spoke on Thursday (16 April) the residents were expecting that he would be removed, but the response from the council, communicated to the residents via their MP, has been that he ‘does not meet the threshold’ for them to take out a legal injunction to make that happen.

Amid mounting criticism of the Government over the way management of the Coronavirus has been handled in care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted at the ministerial briefing on Wednesday that ministers had been “taking action” to protect care home residents from the start of the crisis. Care providers have been calling for more testing for weeks, amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 homes.

This case in Chiswick begs the questions:

Why was there no arrangement made between the hospital and the local authority for the return of someone with Covid-19 to sheltered housing accommodation?

Why have the residents been fobbed off by council officers with assurances that this man is self-isolating when they know he isn’t?

Why is there not someone on site to help in this emergency?

Why is he not being moved to somewhere equipped to deal with people who don’t have the mental capacity to understand self-isolation?

Will he now be re-tested to put the other residents’ mind at rest?

We have contacted the council for a response to those questions.

Cllr Andrew Steed, in whose ward Garden Court is located, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“One appreciates that we are going through an exceptionally difficult time for the NHS and the Council, but this episode raises many questions. How is it that an elderly person with known mental health issues can be delivered to Sheltered Housing with no forward planning or co-ordination with the result that residents are left to manage the situation? The Council accepts that the on-going care of the resident was unacceptable, what assurances can the Council provide that steps have been taken to ensure this does not happen again’?

Garden Court resident Bill told us:

‘It would seem there are no emergency measures in place to protect residents during this crisis. So if something serious happens, sort the mess out yourselves is the message’.



RNLI: Don’t get caught out by the spring tides

The RNLI have issued a warning to people not to get caught out by the spring tides.

RNLI helmsman Andy Mayo said ‘People taking their permitted daily exercise have been caught out in several incidents. We have seen the Thames towpath busy like a sunny Bank Holiday every day of the week with walkers, joggers and cyclists. Some have been walking along the foreshore. We have had to rescue those who have been tempted to walk over to islands at low tide.

‘The tide rises very rapidly especially in last week’s high spring tides. We have rescued many over the years who have got in trouble while going for a walk by the river not knowing that the Thames is tidal in London.’

The Thames lifeboat crews are changing their operating procedures to protect themselves so they can continue their lifesaving work. The crews have been split into nine teams, each doing a 24 hour shift. There is no mixing of crews or physical contact at changeover. This change in rostering means that if one team has to self isolate another team can step in.

The High Rd loses another business to the Coronavirus

Famous Brands, the parent company of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, has said it will no longer continue to fund the ‘better burger’ chain, according to industry magazine Big Hospitality. Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) currently has 60 or so restaurants around the UK, including one in Chiswick High Rd.

Famous Names bought GBK in 2016 for £120 million, but there has been a decline in ‘casual dining’ over the past couple of years, and with restaurants now shut because of the Coronavirus, the chain now faces an uncertain future. Business analyst Anthony Clark told Big Hospitality that Famous Brands’ decision not to spend money on GBK meant the business would not survive.

“When you withdraw funding for a struggling business it is signalling its death knell”.

That is the second big hospitality company to pull the plug on a chain with a branch in Chiswick High Rd since pubs and restaurants closed on 20 March. The owners of the Roebuck went into administration just over two weeks ago.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank has suggested that 25% of the UK economy could be lost by the summer due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Le Vacherin launches crowd funding

See also: LB Hounslow wins £600,000 in fines from prosecuting criminal landlords

No offence, but I’d rather have Peter Rabit. Or Raabit from Winnie-the-Pooh

Richard Heller is a former columnist for the Mail on Sunday

Here he offers The Chiswick Calendar his thoughts on the state of our nation.

Boris Johnson is on the mend. The Sun greets this event with a headline that crosses the frontier between sycophancy and blasphemy: “Now it really is a Good Friday!” I dread to think of its headline should Boris get up on Sunday and have a little walk. If it keeps up this sort of stuff, the Sun will lose its reputation as a serious newspaper.

Saturation reporting of Boris Johnson, but no further news of Nadia, the stricken tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Not my idea of balanced coverage.

Our country is now in the hands of Dominic Raab, who was the sixth choice for leader by his party’s MPs in the last Parliament. No offence but I’d rather have the late Raab Buttler. Or his distant cousin Jos, who isn’t doing much at the moment. Or Peter Raabit. Or Raabit from Winnie-the-Pooh, or any of his friends and relations, including the beetle Henry Small. Or why not the Easter Bunny, who will be free this weekend, as only the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, had the acuity to notice?

This is a dangerous time for the Raab we’ve got. There is no apparent end of lockdown and people are vexed and frustrated. Familiar goods have returned to the shops and there is no thrill any more in detecting loo roll or celeriac, or in devising exotic recipes for pilchards with dried apricots, to make use of forgotten items in store cupboards.  Plans to use the time for self-improvement have long been abandoned. Great novels pile up unread beside settees, language courses have stopped at lesson 3 (although I can now say “¡Caramba! El postillón ha sido alcanzado por un rayo” should the need arise)[1], hectoring fitness videos have been silenced as have wheedling meditation gurus. People have stopped shaving or flossing and sartorial standards at home are making a vertiginous descent: even I no longer change my tie to compose light verse.

I warned the government some time ago about the peril to zoo animals in the crisis and now poor Nadia the tiger has caught the Covid virus in the Bronx Zoo in New York. As a caretaker leader, Raabit could not survive such a development here. He will probably order mass testing for all our zoo creatures, or at least the cute ones.

My junk email folder is usually full of Nigerians offering me untold riches, or else offers to enlarge an intimate part of my body or reduce all the others. Now it has been invaded by a faux bonhomme called William. Showering me with spurious wishes for my health, he offers to sell me face masks and protective clothing at a bargain price.

Get away with you! I suspect that your masks and clothing would disgrace a child’s Halloween costume. If they were any good, I would want them to cover a health worker not a bouche inutile such as mine.

Bouche inutile was a ruthless French military term for people who made no contribution to the nation’s war-fighting capacity (sadly it included much of the French army in 1940). I think it might usefully be extended now to people who spread fake news about Covid19. President T Ronald Dump will know whom I mean.

[1] Spanish for “Good lord! The postillion has been struck by lightning”, a probably apochryphal useless sentence from Victorian language guides.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 31: Can you be Hygge without hugs?

A middle aged man realises his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. 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.31: Can you be Hygge without hugs?

‘Is the ‘Dutch Housewife’ a porn movie?’ asks my son, looking up from his phone.

‘Why would we watch a porn movie while Granny’s still up?’

Mother is sitting with us silently mouthing answers to University Challenge. Or doing a Mindfulness exercise.

‘Why would we watch a porn movie full stop?’ says my wife, horrified.

‘Dad said: ‘You’d like the ‘Dutch Housewife’?’ It sounds like a porno. Don’t get shirty with me,’ says my son.

We’re debating what movie to watch after University Challenge.

‘I said she’s LIKE a Dutch housewife. I was complimenting her for organising the deep clean we did on the house today,’ I say.

‘We?’ says my wife.

‘It’s a saying. In the 17th century, Dutch women were famous for their hygiene standards and their rigorous cleaning regimes. Just like Mum.’

I smile at the beloved.

‘Famous for my cleaning regime, am I? I guess you’ll be pimping me out on a neighbourhood website as a deep cleaner, next?’

Covid-19 cabin fever has set in. Nothing I say or do now can get me out of this deep and dangerous impasse. The situation is potentially so ugly that I may have to apologise and send myself to bed without supper.

‘Noel Coward!’ shouts Mother at the TV rocking forwards with excitement. For a moment, it looks like she is going to fall off her chair.

‘Noel Coward’ Jeremy Paxman repeats softly from the TV.

Mother has correctly answered a question which the mighty Trinity College Cambridge team have fluffed. And they don’t fluff many.

‘Goal!’ shouts my son and breaks into a strange jig, which he’s copied from a Jack Black Instagram video, to celebrate Mother’s one answer victory.

I don’t want to rain on her parade, but we are watching a repeat of last week’s show and she got the same question right then. But that’s Covid-19 for you: every day is Groundhog Day.

My son’s jig has broken the tense atmosphere. If I keep my head down, I may make it to bed fed and still married. But Covid-19 has got me thinking deeply about life. For example, while disinfecting the bannisters this morning, I wondered if it is possible to be hygge without hugs?

Hygge is fuzzy Danish word stands for homely conviviality and Nordic knitwear. I get that artisan woollen beanies, socks and jumpers can fill many gaps in a bourgeoise life. And I’ve often wished I were Scandinavian because of their superior social system and crime procedurals. But if you can’t hug or kiss your family because you have to stay two metres apart how long can you create a happy hygge household? I guess Gywneth Paltrow would know? I also want to know if the family agree with me that the Government should rename the ‘Nudge Unit’ because it is clearly inappropriate in current circumstances to be nudging anyone.

Should I risk these thoughts with them? Or call it quits now?

‘Chekov.’ My wife starts whistling and fist pumping. She’s got a question right on University Challenge.

‘Dad,’ my son whispers and showing me some no-name online dictionary on his phone.


‘It says here a Dutch housewife can mean a prostitute, a sex doll or a body length pillow.’

‘Let’s not go back over that now,’ I say. ‘At least, not till after dinner.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 32: Howard Hughes Stays Over

Read the previous one – Chapter 30: Has Covid made pants pointless?

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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Staveley Rd Blossom 

Chiswick Market centenary

The group behind the Chiswick Flower Market proposal, of which The Chiswick Calendar is a part, has received overwhelming support for the idea from local traders and residents. There is still time for you to give us your feedback by filling out our survey here. We are hoping, and planning for the market to become a reality in the autumn.

The Flower Market will stand on the site of Chiswick’s original outdoor market, which was established in early 1920, in response to a different economic need – men returning home from fighting in the First World War who needed an income. The discussions at the time in the equivalent of today’s social media – letters to The Chiswick Times – are very revealing of the class and gender politics involved.

Images above: drawing and tinted photograph of the outdoor market at Chiswick

Middle class ‘feeling the pinch’

On 20 February 1920, a correspondent who signed himself merely as ‘X’ wrote to The Chiswick Times:

‘the amount of shop accommodation in the Chiswick High-road is altogether inadequate to the requirements of the locality’.

On 27 February 1920 The Chiswick Times reported:

‘At a meeting of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Mr H Johnson presiding over a good attendance, Mr J Sander moved the following resolution:

‘That in the opinion of this meeting a municipal market for Chiswick as a permanent institution is desirable in order that the public of all classes may have full facilities for the purchase of commodities…

… He believed the commodities sold there were such as to benefit the people who had “felt the pinch”, and they were not always those who were termed the working classes, but many were of the middle class, whose earning power had not increased, through prices had gone up’.

Mr Sanders lost that vote, as the members of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce saw the market as a threat to their profits. He lost the battle but won the war, as the outdoor market continued to trade for several years until it was moved inside Linden House in 1924 and became a permanent fixture where the police station is currently.

Image above: Indoor market

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women’

On 3 March 1920 a woman resident wrote to The Chiswick Times, giving the Chamber members something to think about:

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women, as well as that of the mere man (who never has to go shopping and make 10s go as far as a £1 would have done in pre-war days), and when they seek re-election we women shall bear this is mind.

‘Possibly the members of the said Council have never had to stand in a queue (unless perchance at a “first night” at the theatre) in order to obtain the commonest, commodities of life, as most of us were obliged to do during the war.

‘And now, when a market is forthcoming, where a few pence can be saved, a slight compensation for the tremendous increase in the cost of almost everything in our homes, one cannot believe that they will abolish what is, and has been, a boon to many of those whose incomes are but slender’.

The idea for the Flower Market predates the Coronavirus, and hopefully it will be one of the things which gets us back on our feet once it has passed.

Thanks to Tracey Logan for historical research and to Michael Robinson for picture research.

@Chiswick Flowers


Le Vacherin launches crowd-funding 

Thames Path closed to runners & cyclists

Ruth Cadbury MP calls for Universal Basic Income for self-employed

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, is calling for a temporary universal basic income for self-employed people. She says concern from self-employed people about what they are going to live on, now their income has dried up, is one of the issues people contact her about most frequently.

In her most recent newsletter to constituents she says:

‘Parliament has shut down and I and my team are all now working from home. Like all MPs and their staff, we are inundated with calls and emails from constituents with a host of pressing problems, generally raised with us because the Government announcements don’t address their situation, or promised action hasn’t materialised.

‘The two most frequent issues coming in to me have been; self-employed people for whom the Government announcements are no help, and constituents who are stuck abroad. There are probably over 10,000 self-employed people in this constituency. I supported the call for a temporary universal basic income for selfemployed people. I am glad the government introduced some support, however I still have concerns about the details, and for those who are excluded from the various schemes. I have written to the Chancellor again about this.

‘Many constituents are stuck abroad with dwindling supplies of money and medicines and no certainty as to how they will get home. We have helped and advised dozens of UK citizens trapped abroad and I am asking Foreign Office Ministers to urge the UK Government to do more.

‘Other issues also coming in include; the cancelling of cancer treatment, evictions by frightened landlords, and the inability to get food and essential medicines to name a few.’

You can see her full newsletter to constituents here.

Morrisons delivers Easter Eggs to Food Bank and to West Middlesex hospital

Morrisons in Brentford has delivered more than 1,000 Easter eggs to the local Food Bank and another pallet load to staff at West Middlesex hospital. Michael Willis the store manager saw a social media post for volunteers and food.

“I saw a request for food on the Hounslow website, rang them up and offered as many Easter Eggs as we could manage” he said. “We have delivered about a dozen pallet loads so far, which is somewhere in the thousands.  I’m now off to the West Middlesex Hospital with a van full of eggs for their nursing staff just so say in a small way, a big thanks for all the fantastic work they are doing for the community”.

Cllr Guy Lambert, Cabinet Member at Hounslow Council who is also a Vice-Chair of the local food bank said:

“This is a really generous gesture by Michael and his team at Morrisons so many thanks to them.  They will certainly bring a smile to a lot of children’s faces come Easter Sunday. I must also say we have had equally generous contributions of other essential food packages from Sainsburys, the Co-op and Asda, and through them, have distributed hundreds of food parcels to those local residents who need them most.”

Chiswick School delivering food and computers to its pupils

Images above: Head teacher Laura Ellener and assistant on the delivery run; receiving a delivery of eggs

Chiswick School is one of those which has remained open for the children of key workers and those who are for a variety of reasons considered ‘vulnerable’. Since they launched a fundraising campaign to help disadvantaged children and their families just a couple of weeks ago, the school has raised £7,000. The school will remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday and over what in theory should be their Easter Break, staff will be delivering food parcels, vouchers and computers to their students at home.

Here’s an update from head-teacher Ellener and her team:

‘In such an unprecedented time, Chiswick School has been working hard to ensure there is support in place for its school community and beyond.

‘Online lessons and other resources are being used and students are engaging with work that has been set and families are managing with this new way of learning. The school has made its own YouTube Channel ‘Chiswick School Blog’ to enable students to feel connected while they are at home and the twitter feed @ChiswickSchool is a great way to keep in touch with the work the school is doing during this time.

‘The school remains open for children of key workers and other vulnerable students. Teachers are working on a rota system and social distancing is in place. The students are completing online work, experiencing creative activities such as Art and cooking and also spending time at the school’s allotment and playing sports. Over Easter the school has also decided to remain open – including Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Images above: food parcels ready for delivery

‘In addition, the school has been delivering food parcels to hundreds of children. With the help of their school caterers ‘Innovate’, recipe packs were made up complete with instructional videos and a recipe book. Tasty meals have been made by the students who have been sharing pictures of their dishes over twitter. Despite the government not funding free school meals over Easter, the school will be able to keep supporting as Hounslow Council have made the decision to fund this initiative.

‘Earlier in March, the school launched a fundraising campaign to support vulnerable children and their families. So far the campaign has received nearly £7000 in donations – this is a fantastic achievement and testament to the kindness and generosity of the community.

‘Some of the funds raised have been directly passed on to vulnerable families as Tesco vouchers and also used to support the FSM food parcel delivery initiative. We will begin to deliver family food parcels to those that need support after Easter. Students without computers are also being supported with teachers delivering these over the Easter break. Some of the money raised is also being used to provide dongles so that children with no internet access can get online and access the remote learning activities. Deliveries are also being made to local elderly people who have requested support. In addition the school donated approximately 300 pairs of science goggles to support The Royal Hospital Medical Centre which looks after around 300 veterans.

‘Please get in touch via The school is happy to help if it can.

‘Headteacher Laura Ellener said:

“The teachers and support staff at Chiswick School have been extraordinary during this time and are working hard to support students who are in school and those learning from home. I feel incredibly lucky to be working in Chiswick and we love serving the community here. We miss the students a great deal and we are working hard to keep in touch and make sure they continue to learn. We have been very impressed with their efforts so far and urge them to keep going and to stay at home. Hounslow local authority have also been incredibly supportive as have our students’ parents. We have been so grateful for the messages of support.”

Anyone wishing to donate should do so via the school website –

Five movies for Covid Lock Down

James Thellusson

1. Withnail & I

Once a year, I watch this movie alone with a bottle of wine. The family leave me to it. They understand I have a bromance with a movie about a bromance between two out of work young actors at the tail end of the Swinging Sixties (‘They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man’). It contains my favourite ever line in any movie: ‘We’ve gone on holiday by mistake’. I have been saying this to the family every time we’ve got off a plane or into a car to go on holiday for the last twenty years. Sad, I know. This movie is an elegy for youth and an age of experimentation. It’s outrageously funny. No sex but lots of drink and drugs. If it were a cult, I’d join it. In fact, it is a cult and I’m a member.

Pair with: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Andersen’s beautiful comic homage to a luxury hotel and its extraordinary manager Gustave H, just as the Nazis take control of Central Europe and crush the life out of an epoch of grace and elegance. It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs but the script, especially Gustave’s musings on life, are sensationally witty. The plot, which cracks along with chases, escapes, shoot outs and ski scenes is a comic fusion of a Bond movie and the Keystone Cops. The stellar cast is hilarious. I’d share my favourite quotes from the movie, but I’d get flamed. Google: ‘Quotes of Gustave H’.

Pair with: Fawlty Towers.

3. Addams Family Values

I don’t know where to start praising this movie. Or finish. Diamond sparkling dialogue. Gemstone gags. Back to back side ripping scenes. And, at its heart, one of the most loving marriages ever imagined between Gomez and his wife Morticia. My wife bought me the Addams Family pinball machine for my 50th because she knows how much I like it. Favourite lines? Man in the Middle would choose when Morticia turns to Gomez and says: ‘Don’t torture yourself, Gomez. That’s my job.

My favourite line is spoken by Uncle Fester, played by the genius Christopher Lloyd, responding to Debbie, the gold-digging nanny:

Debbie: ‘With your looks, your charm…women must follow you everywhere!’

Fester: ‘Store detectives.’

Pair with: The rest of the Addams family movies.

4. Mike Bassett England Manager

Mike Bassett England Manager is undoubtedly the funniest football movie ever made. Played by Ricky Tomlinson, Bassett is a foul mouthed, tactically illiterate, unsuccessful English football manager bizarrely selected to manage the England team. His team selections are as absurd as his press conferences and his team talks. Writer and Chiswick local Rob Sprackling was the first to create what has now become an archetype – the bone headed English football coach. One for footie fans. And those who like to see it satirised.

Pair with: The Life of Brian

5. School of Rock

The first time we saw this, the family and I were stuck inside in a cottage in Cornwall. It was wet, wet, wet. We watched the movie three times (almost back to back). We crowd surfed the smaller children across the sitting room. We air guitared along with the ‘face melting’ solos by Dewey Finn, the lead character played by Jack Black. Favourite scene: Dewey Finn singing ‘Math is a wonderful thing’.

Pair with: The Belles of St Trinian’s



Chiswick Confined – My Corona blog Week 3

Keith Richards, writer and resident of Chiswick, living on his own, has started writing a diary of his Corona lock down. Beginning on 24 March 2020, he’s documenting the experience from his last pint in a pub onwards.

Image above: Turnham Green Terrace

“Some people think that evolutionary psychology claims to have discovered that human nature is selfish and wicked. But they are flattering the researchers and anyone who would claim to have discovered the opposite. No one needs a scientist to measure whether humans are prone to knavery. The question has been answered in the history books………..people treat it like an open question, as if someday science might discover that it’s all a bad dream and we will wake up to find that it is human nature to love one another.”

Steven Pinker

The sunbeams mock us

Somehow, it seems to me that the warmer weather and the sunnier outlook inspire mixed feelings. There is no doubt that brighter evenings and beams of watery sunlight through open windows lighten the mood but somehow they also seem to mock us, house bound as we are.

Well, we should be (house bound that is).  I have been going for my joint exercise/shopping trip most weekdays but generally staying in at weekends when the High Road is at its most busy. There is concern of course that more people will be tempted to break out of their confinement during this long Easter weekend. I can imagine, for example, that the riverside along Chiswick Mall will be pretty ‘chocker’ and I see residents along there have already been complaining.

My hope is that people are sensible and limit their outings to walks, singly or in pairs, and avoid picnics, games and the kinds of activities that make keeping a safe distance impossible. I hope too that cyclists are sensible. Most regular peddlers are both competent on their bikes and less selfish when it comes to sticking to cycle-paths and safer areas. It seems to be the less practiced amateurs who jump on a street hire bike and are, frankly, selfish bastards – often cycling on pavements – and are a danger along the Mall, for example.

The real jeopardy is, that irresponsible behaviour is more likely to push the police into being more aggressive when administering existing rules or that government, either local councils or Westminster, are forced to affect a more stringent lock-down. For those of us with patios and gardens or even decent size apartments, that is an annoyance. For those with large families in small flats or families in social housing or sequestered in estates a total close down becomes a serious threat to mental health. There is already an increase in domestic violence and a more stringent shut down will put many women and children (and, yes, often abused men too) in genuine harms way. It is only the more comfortable in our society for whom a trip in the fresh air is a life-style choice rather than a necessary escape from real depression, pain or physical threat.

As I have mentioned before, my sister lives in Spain, as do other friends and some of the stories I have been told illustrate what could happen here.  I know that people have been fined, and sometimes we are talking thousands of Euros, for walking their dog more than 200 metres from home, walking along the beach instead of the road and even sitting on their own doorstep with a guitar (not even playing it).

For another alternative reality, I have just spoken to a friend in rural France. Once a week they are allowed a single drive to the local town to go shopping – just for food or medicine – with identification and a list of their shopping which the supermarket will date for when the police stop you and check, which they frequently do. Everyone in Europe I speak to think that the UK is mad to have such relaxed rules but many of them are feeling the strain after five weeks or so of containment (much longer in Italy of course).  Our reputation has already plummeted as our apparent desperation for toilet paper has been the butt of European Social Media, not to mention the lunacy of our prime mister going from boasting about shaking hands to being in intensive care within the space of a couple of weeks.

I will pop out for probably my last shop this evening (Thursday as I write this) for fresh provisions for the weekend – and from local shops.* I will take pains to keep my distance and respect the wishes of those who also seek to avoid contamination.  I will be grateful that I live in a place where the shops are still open and that I am able to use them.

If there are enough idiots out over this Easter period who do not have that respect or that flout government guidelines we will end up with the kind of enforced restrictions that are the reality across most of the rest of Europe.  If that happens all of us will suffer, particularly those that are genuine in their need to get out for a few minutes. The thoughtlessness and selfishness of the few over the weekend could endanger the lives of many and cause distress to those that are not as fortunate as us.  Think about it.

  • Just to repeat my usual mantra about supporting local shops. If you ever need a better reason, how about Tesco paying a Dividend of £637 Million dividend, part of a total of £900 million for the twelve months up to February, when they have just received what is effectively an £700 Million subsidy from the Governments Business rates holiday?  Whatever happens during this crisis they will still be there at the end.  Our local butchers, greengrocers, bakeries and neighbourhood shops will not be unless we support them now.

Read more blogs by Keith

Read the next in the series – My Corona blog Week 4

Read the previous one – My Corona blog Week 2

See all Keith’s My Corona blogs here.

See more of Keith’s work on his website –

Feel free to post any comments or suggestions there or by email to

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

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GPs surgeries remain open over Easter as Covid-19 peak expected this weekend

Images above: Dr Richard Drewry; Grove Park Surgery

GPs surgeries across the country have been asked to remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday as the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic is expected to be this weekend. Although we won’t know whether it is or isn’t until a few days after, the NHS is braced for a busy weekend. In west London the West Middlesex is close to capacity with Covid-19 patients but other NW hospitals still have some capacity. The new Nightingale hospital which has been set up in the ExCel centre in east London is also up and  running, ready to receive people with the virus.

Dr Richard Drewry of Grove Park Surgery is one of a team of GPs who are spending their whole time triaging suspected Covid-19 patients referred by 111 and other doctors locally, deciding whether or not they should go to hospital.

The system is “quite robust”

It’s an awesome responsibility deciding over the phone whether someone should go into hospital or not. “It is fairly easy to tell whether someone has the virus” Dr Drewry tells me. How often he gets the diagnosis right is “impossible to tell” as there are no tests available, but there are some obvious pointers – breathlessness, people struggling to do normal tasks because of their breathing, running a fever and the persistent cough. He acknowledges that not all the symptoms present all of the time and that there are other symptoms – a headache and sore throat for example – but the system is “quite robust” he says, as by the time you get to speak to him you will also have talked to either your own GP or 111.

Hounslow is in the process of setting up walk-in clinics for Covid-19 patients, staffed by a GP and a nurse. There is one already up and running in Feltham. LB Ealing also has one set up at the Community Health Centre in Mattock Lane. There will be a total of three such clinics  in Hounslow. The nearest one for Chiswick residents is likely to be in Isleworth and Brentford, at premises which haven’t been functioning as a surgery for a while. I say ‘likely’ as there has been some discussion in recent weeks as to where exactly it will be, and ideas about where the clinics will be located have been raised and dismissed, but Dr Drewry says he is 90% sure it will be there and not in Chiswick.

At time of writing there are 396 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Hounslow, 589 in Ealing and 313 in Hammersmith & Fulham, but that of course only reflects those who have been tested in hospital.

“Full and frank discussions” with the elderly

How does he handle the decision on whether to send very elderly patients into hospital? That is a very delicate matter, he tells me. The truth is that the very frail and elderly are unlikely to get a ventilator, not because they are a scarce resource and should be given to someone younger, but because he says it won’t help them.

“You’re not going to get a ventilator because you won’t survive it. It’s a pragmatic decision. There’s just no point taking up a ventilator if it’s not going to make any difference”.

There is no age cut off point in his mind, he tells me. There’s a big difference between a 70 year old who has had a heart attack and has high blood pressure and a fit 75 year old who has had no health problems.

If an elderly patient wants to go into hospital, he will send them. It is their choice, he assures me. it will be for the intensive care doctors to decide on their treatment once there. It is his job to talk to elderly patients about whether they might be better off at home amongst their family, rather than going into hospital, where nobody can visit you, in all probability to die. Would he prescribe palliative care if they decided to stay at home, even though their is no test available to prove the diagnosis? Yes he would. His job is to ease suffering.

Treating people with other health issues

What about people with other health issues? The population doesn’t just stop having other illnesses. “We have very few people coming into the practice now” he tells me. Doctors at Grove Park Surgery realised quite early on the dangers of infection to both staff and patients and closed their doors, doing most of their work on the phone.

“Since all this started we wound down all the routine stuff, partly to protect patients and staff and partly to support secondary care”.

Whereas in a normal clinic doctors at the practice might see 15 patients, now they might see one. The nurses see more patients than the doctors, as blood tests for a patient who is acutely unwell, ECG tests for someone with a heart problem and wound dressings are all urgent procedures which have to be done face to face. The practice has all the Personal Protective Equipment the staff need, and has had since the beginning.

Is it easy to diagnose someone over the phone?

“We’re quite used to it” he tells me. When he came to Grove Park Surgery 14 years ago he was the one who introduced the system of triaging all patients who want urgent appointments on the day, before they come in to the practice.

“Video consultations have increased quite dramatically” he tells me. That’s an option available to anyone with a smart phone, though he admits that not everyone has the technology and not everyone wants to be seen when they are ill in bed. The “risk-benefit analysis” is definitely in favour of telephone consultations as the risk of patients coming to the surgery is just too great.

The people who are suffering are those who think we’re too busy to call

“The people who are suffering are those who don’t contact us because they’re worried about disturbing a doctor because they think we’re too busy, or they’re too worried to come in”.

They are seeing suspiciously low figures of people who have suffered strokes and heart attacks and hospital paediatricians are also very quiet.

“I think we may end up seeing cases further down the line than we should have done; patients who are much sicker”.

Support for the NHS is “very sweet”

Dr Drewry does sometimes make house calls.

“I have my Personal Protection Equipment in the boot of the car” he says. “I was putting it on in the street one day and someone came up to me. I thought I was going to get mugged, but he thanked me”.

“People clapping for the NHS is very sweet. Personally I get a bit embarrassed. I am just doing what I do”.

He wasn’t too worried initially that he might catch the virus through dealing with patients, but now he says he is more wary, especially as he has a family member who is vulnerable to the disease.

“There is more of a risk than we first appreciated to younger people.”

He is also very aware of the dangers to his nursing staff, who have many more face to face contacts, albeit wearing their protective gear, and to the local pharmacists, who are seeing people without the benefit of protective clothing.

“The more you are exposed to it, the greater your viral load. We now know that people who have prolonged exposure over a longer time get the illness worse”.

LB Hounslow wins £600,000 in fines from prosecuting criminal landlords

Immediately before the current lock down, Hounslow Council’s Planning Enforcement Team won its 17th prosecution. The case, at Ealing Crown Court, was brought against two unscrupulous landlords who were ordered to pay fines totalling over £6,000. The record 17 successful prosecutions in a year have together resulted in more than £600,000 being netted, all of which has been put back into the public purse.

In one case Zahid Malik, a Hammersmith based landlord, was fined for erecting and renting out a bed in shed type accommodation on London Road, Hounslow. In another, Hounslow based landlord Balkar Singh was found to have converted his property into two separate flats illegally, netting the council their biggest ever fine of £246,000.

Zahid Malik received a confiscation order totalling £135,000 requiring him to pay this figure within three months or face up to two years in prison. The judge also fined Malik £12,000 and ordered him to pay the Council’s costs in full totalling £7,500. Mr Malik was also required to remove his bed in a shed.

This follows on from another case in which Hounslow based landlord Balkar Singh from Nicholes Road, received a confiscation order in August last year totalling a quarter of a million pounds following his conviction for a serious planning offence. Mr Singh’s fine of £246,000, plus a separate fine of £8,000, plus the Council’s costs amounted to the biggest confiscation haul in Hounslow’s history.

In February 2008, Hounslow’s Planning Enforcement Officers served an enforcement notice against Mr Singh after he illegally converted his property into two separate flats.  The notice required him to return the property to its intended use.  Although Mr. Singh complied with the notice in 2009, sometime afterwards he converted the property back to two flats again.

Council officers together with Hounslow Police visited in 2016 and found one of the flats to be occupied by tenants who were paying Mr Singh £900 per month in rent. Mr Singh continued to ignore the enforcement notice and in 2018, at Isleworth Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to one offence contrary to the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

Following his conviction the Council’s financial investigator pursued a confiscation investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. It was established that Mr Singh had a ‘criminal lifestyle’, as defined by the Act.

Criminal landlords and illegal extensions

In another case Gurdeep Gosal of 19 Raleigh Road, Southall was found guilty of two offences contrary to the Town & Country Planning Act, after renting out two illegally constructed outbuildings at his mother’s property. Mr Gosal failed to comply with an enforcement notice which required him to cease use of the outbuildings as self-contained units, and remove the works that had been carried out to enable the use of the outbuildings as residential units.

In two other cases, Teji Amraj Lal was fined £2,133 for erecting an illegal 35 square metre rear extension without planning permission and failing to demolish it after being warned to do so 5 years ago. The property is at 87 Vicarage Farm Road, Hounslow.

And at 54 Kingsley Road, Hounslow, two sisters who jointly owned a property partly used previously for the family’s Solicitors firm, were fined just over £5,000 when a rear extension was found not to have been demolished. A poorly constructed building made of breeze blocks with a poly carbonate sheeting roof and likely used partly as a residential unit was found.

Cllr Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council said:

“I would like to thank the Council’s Enforcement Team for their hard work and professionalism in bringing to book these criminal landlords. I’m delighted that we have successfully prosecuted these criminals and that they have been dealt with severely by the Courts. I hope this is a warning to all criminal landlords, we’re on to you and we will not hesitate to bring the full force of the law upon you to stop your criminal activities”.

Capital Interchange Way development one of several which will impact Chiswick

The decision to go ahead with a major housing development on Capital Interchange Way by Chiswick roundabout, on the Brentford side of the A205 and south of the A4 / M4, is the first of many which will have an impact on Chiswick, says Cllr Joanna Biddolph, leader of Chiswick’s Conservative councillors.

“During this time of national emergency the Conservative and Labour groups on Hounslow Council have agreed to set aside partisan differences and work together to support our residents” she says.

“In that spirit I don’t want to criticise this decision today… However, I am disappointed that we haven’t had another opportunity to raise the concerns we know local residents throughout Chiswick have about the impact of this large development on our already over-stretched infrastructure. There are several other big developments to come, all of which will impact on Chiswick, and we would like them to be considered together, not approved one-by-one”.

Images above: CGI of  how the development will look at night; site of the development as seen from the road

The Capital Interchange Way site is being developed by Redrow and Catalyst by Design. The plans, which include 420 flats as well as new commercial and retail space, were originally submitted in 2018. Hounslow Council required certain changes to be made but have now signed off on the development, which will create 116 one bedroom units, 272 two bedroom units and 32 three bedroom units as well as around 30,000 sq ft of commercial space and 10,000 sq ft of retail space.

Conditional planning approval for the development was given last September. It was granted on condition that the developer funded important community projects under what is known as benefits Section 106 payments and that agreement has now been reached. ‘Section 106’ benefits include a certain amount of ‘affordable housing’, off-site highway improvements, including some to Gunnersbury Station, and a Carbon Offset Fund payment of £474,783.

There should have been an Planning Committee meeting on 2 April, but this was cancelled because of the Coronavirus emergency.


Images above: Idea of the height and bulk of the new buildings as seen from the road and from the River Thames

Cllr Biddolph said:

“Although, and quite rightly in the circumstances, the planning committee meeting on 2 April was cancelled we must not let these big developments slip through without proper and detailed analysis of how they will affect Chiswick.

“Once normal life resumes – which we will hope will be before too long – we do need to have a big public debate about the cumulative impact on Chiswick of all the proposed developments.  In particular, we need to look again at how we can make the neighbouring boroughs work together more effectively where large developments are at, or close to, the borough boundaries.”

Episode 2: Publication of Wisden 2020

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They will chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

In their second podcast Peter Oborne and Richard Heller root for truffles in the rich soil of the new Wisden Cricketers Almanack.

Episode 2: Publication of Wisden 2020

More Platforms

Oborne & Heller assess Wisden’s selection of the five cricketers of the year: Jofra Archer, Pat Cummins, Simon Harmer, Murnus Labuschagne and Ellyse Perry.

They praise the coverage of women’s cricket, and the retrospective obituary for one of its early pioneers, the redoubtable Frances (Max) Heron-Maxwell. But why not a retrospective Cricketer of the Year award to Rachel Heyhoe-Flint?

They hail the call by the Editor, Lawrence Booth, to correct the injustice of withdrawing Test status from the England series in 1970 against the Rest of the World – one of the best cricket teams of all time. But they argue that official Test status should be withdrawn from the white-only matches which apartheid South Africa played in the 1960s and early 1970s after South Africa left the Commonwealth.

And why did Wisden give such a long obituary to John Carlisle, the Right-Wing Tory MP who did nothing for cricket except support the rebel tours which defied sanctions and split the cricket world?

A far worthier obituary was that of Lord Bramall, former Chief of the Defence Staff, an accomplished cricketer coached in early life by Douglas Jardine. In his seventies he played a fine innings for the House of Lords against the House of Commons at the Oval, in a match overshadowed by the run-out of Jeffrey Archer – an event so terrible that Peter and Richard and other onlookers were sworn to silence. Will they keep their promise? Find out in the coming weeks.

They defend Henry Blofeld’s latest book against a savage attack from reviewer Alex Massie calling it ‘”idle and clichéd.” – but suspect that it will boost sales from Henry’s loyal fans.

They pick out much else in a review of a superb edition of Wisden, covering the greatest English season in living memory. It will give solace to its readers in a summer where cricket is suspended indefinitely. They promise to return to important things they missed – and apologize for doing a T20 review of a Wisden which deserves a timeless Test.

Get in contact with the podcast by emailing, we’d love to hear from you!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Next episode – Episode 3: Unpacking more of this year’s Wisden

Previous Episode – Episode 1: A Preview of Wisden 2020

Listen to all episodes – Oborne & Heller on Cricket

Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast was produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

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Funny books to take your mind off things

James Thellusson

James Thellusson has put together a list of his favourtite comic novels to take our minds off things.

1.Down with Skool / Geoffrey Willans & Ronald Searle: If your kids think their education has been ruined by Covid-19 make them read about the trials of Nigel Molesworth because any fule kno St Custard’s is the worst boy’s skool in the country and St. Trinian’s is the worst for girls. Phonetic spelling has never been so funny.

2.The Ascent of Rum Doodle / WE Bowman: Think ‘Ripping Yarns’ by the Python duo Michael Palin and Terry Jones.  This parody of British mountaineering and derring-do is narrated by Binder, one of the most incompetent and unselfconscious characters in British fiction. Binder is Bertie Wooster mixed with Edmund Hillary. But he’s the antithesis of leadership and it’s soon clear he couldn’t organise a beer tasting at Fullers, let alone the ascent of the infamous mountain Rum Doodle. You’ll roar with laughter at ‘Rum Doodle’s’ characters: Jungle, the navigator who is always lost; Prone, the physician, who is always flat out ill and Pong, the cook, whose inedible rank food smells. Read in an afternoon.

3. What Ho! Best of Wodehouse / PG Wodehouse: I’d like to read a review of Jeeves by Jeremy Corbyn. I imagine Wodehouse’s elegy for the values of Edwardian society and uncritical acceptance of the master servant relationship at the heart of Wodehouse’s work would set Jezza’s teeth on edge. Sometimes, I feel the same way. But…the writing is crystal clear and there is something kind, charming and gently witty about the whole thing. If this doesn’t make you smile, don’t bother with Wodehouse:

‘What ho!’ I said.

‘What ho! Said Motty.

‘What ho! What ho!’

‘What ho! What Ho! What ho!’ 

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.

4. The Sellout / Paul Beatty: If any of the comic books (above) have any serious intent, they wear it lightly. The Sellout, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2016, is a full-on, sulphuric comic satire on race relations in the USA. The book tells the story of a small-town community in Los Angeles where the local black community reintroduce slavery and segregation. It’s an outrageous, possibly offensive premise which is a deliberate challenge to liberal values, multi-culturalism and the reader. I often felt uncomfortable. But it is also very funny, angry and beautifully written. The humour is badass, foul mouthed and visceral. At one point, Hominy, a sado-masochist, attaches the doorbell wires of his front door to his testes to enjoy the pain every time a ‘Trick or Treater’ press his doorbell on Halloween Night. If your idea of humour is the subtle social innuendo of Jane Austen, this is not for you.

5. Diary of a somebody / Brain Bilston: Bilston’s sometimes called the Banksy of poetry. He’s got a huge following on Twitter. This is his first novel. It’s a wistful diary of a man who struggles to be a poet while losing his wife, son and job. The protagonist is a shy, sensitive, witty man put upon by life and his family, called Bilston. ‘Diary’ isn’t a page turning pot boiler. But it is a delightful picnic hamper of sound bite sized snippets perfect for families who want to share a joke while in lock down. Tim Dowling with gags. For example:‘My surroundings went by in a blur – I’d forgotten to put my contact lenses in – but rarely have I felt so alive. I treated myself to a super-sized fry up brunch in celebration: two extra Quorn sausages.’ 


Good articles on Covid-19

I alternate between being glued to the news and escapism. I’ve read a couple of good articles recently relating to the psychology of the Coronavirus emergency.

VICE UK has this report from correspondents in Italy and Spain:

What to Expect After a Month of Lockdown, According to People in Italy and Spain

“Don’t give yourself false hope – like thinking that after two or three weeks it will go away, and you will get back to your normal life.”

Read here.

Harvard Business Review has this piece with the world’s foremost expert on grief, David Kessler, to explain the feelings we’re dealing with at this time.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

“We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different… The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air”.

Read here.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 30: Has Covid made pants pointless?

A middle aged man realises his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. 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.30: Has Covid made pants pointless?

I’ve given up wearing trousers. They’re superfluous in the current situation. Unless I have to go outside to the shops or for a walk, I can’t see any benefit in them. The same applies to shirts and shoes. Neither are necessary in this indoor world.

Pyjamas, on the other hand, have become more valuable than ever.  They’re the ultimate all-rounder, like Ben Stokes. You can rely on them to come good in different situations: bedroom, kitchen, sitting room. You can even work out in them.  Pyjamas will never let you down which is why I’ve been in mine for several days.

I’m explaining to the family that Covid-19 is challenging the very fabric of our society and posing profound questions like: are clothes pointless? I wouldn’t be surprised if in some louche parts of London, like Mayfair, where people can afford good underfloor heating, many families have moved beyond the pyjama and embraced nudism. We’re still conforming to Bourgeoise timidities, however, and haven’t reached that point yet.

‘I’m just saying that Covid-19 makes pants pointless. They’re an affectation like shaking hands or kissing when you meet.’

‘OMG. You’re becoming a student again,’ says my wife, her voice trembling between horror and despair.

‘You’re rewilding,’ says my son. ‘Like an ancient forest being returned to its natural state.’

‘On Zoom, no one can see your chinos,’ I point out. He nods in agreement.

‘What about socks?’ asks my son.

‘Good point. The only reason I’m wearing socks is these wooden floors. They haven’t been varnished for years and I’m worried about splinters.’

‘Fair enough. Plus there’s an environmental upside to your approach: reducing the clothes you wear means fewer wash cycles which means reduced use of chemicals and water. It’s a virtuous circle,’ says my son.

‘Please don’t encourage him,’ my wife scolds my son.  ‘He hasn’t even put his T-shirt on the right way this morning. How long have you been wearing that, anyway?’

‘Two, three days?’

‘It’s the crack in the dam,’ says my wife.

‘The decline of the Roman empire,’ says my son, chipping in on his mother’s side now.

‘You have a responsibility, as a father, to maintain decent standards of dress. And to set a positive example to your son. Do it for your Mother, at least.’

Mother looks up from her toast and jam.

‘He used to blow his nose on the curtains when the vicar came around. He’s always trying to shock people. His brother is worse.’

‘I’m just saying there’s a case for temporarily relaxing some of the usual social norms. We spend most of our time on different floors of the house. What does it matter what clothes we have on? Or even if we have any on?’

‘Is there any Government guidance on Covid and nudity?’ asks my son.

‘How many naked health workers have you seen recently? You idiot,’ says my wife.

I feel a lecture coming on from Mother about the Blitz spirit and what King George VI would do in these circumstances. I start to edge out of the kitchen, shoulders sliding along the wall, like a drape on a curtain rail. This way, I maximise the distance from the others who are splayed across the kitchen like a star fish.

Later, I Zoom with my daughter, who is in Cardiff. I hope she can explain why my pyjama policy isn’t winning votes from the clan. She says research proves communities become more conformist when threatened by disease. It makes people psychologically reject outsiders and embrace conventions. It’s a psychological version of our biological immune systems.

‘Clothes enforce gender stereotypes. The gender convention in clothing is that men should ‘wear the trousers’’. Right? By not wearing trousers, you’ve broken that gender convention. You’ve sent them a sign that you are surrendering your position as the family’s patriarch. Symbolically, you’ve emasculated yourself.’

‘Emasculated myself?’

‘Yes. You’re behaving like a pathogen.’

‘I’m a pathogen?’

‘Yes. You’re as bad as Covid-19 because both of you are a threat to their conventions.’

‘I’ve managed to emasculate and debagged myself at the same time without even realizing it?’


‘What can I do?’

‘Put your trousers on?’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 31: Can you be Hygge without hugs?

Read the previous one – Chapter 29: Mother’s birthday

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

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