Football Never Went Away – An EFL update

EFL clubs and their respective community organisations (CCOs) have always been, and remain, at the heart of their communities, and their importance to the daily lives of so many people cannot be underestimated. That has been reflected in the outstanding collective efforts that have been made in supporting the response to coronavirus so far. In the midst of the unprecedented and, quite clearly, challenging set of circumstances brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19, clubs came together to collectively show that even when there are no fixtures, Football remains at the heart of the community and never went away.

With 36.6million people in England and Wales living within a ten-mile radius of an EFL club – a radius that encompasses four in ten residents who fall into the most-deprived population groups – never has this work been more important. CCOs, like Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, were quick to co-ordinate activities with their local authorities, with vulnerable community members and safety at the forefront of their thinking and response. More than 215,000 food parcels have been delivered across the network, including an extra 26,000 Easter eggs and treats to NHS staff and vulnerable adults and children. As one-to-one contact moved online or via telephone, more than 120,000 calls were made with fans, the elderly or vulnerable by EFL Clubs.

And as the Government called on the public to ease the burden on the National Health Service, at least 30 clubs opened their doors to key workers, offering space and facilities in stadia for testing and accommodation. In addition, clubs have delivered over 13,000 items of PPE equipment and 3,500 prescriptions.

In the absence of fixtures and training sessions, players put their role-model status to good use, and made an incredible impact in their respective local communities. Instead of delivering goals, some delivered food parcels, while others made vital phone calls instead of tackles, all for the benefit of those most vulnerable members of society. And, as the nationwide lockdown was extended, the CCO network adapted to ensure people could remain healthy, active and connected.

EFL clubs and CCOs are delivering outstanding work across the country every hour of every day and will continue to do so. They are also providing a significant service to their local authorities, many of whom turned to their clubs in the early weeks of the pandemic. Alongside this, the clubs and charities are finding innovative new ways to fund raise to support their fans, councils and local charities.

The adaptation of CCOs has been phenomenal and will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our EFL communities. From the outset of our response, the safety of our communities and our clubs has remained paramount and adherence to Government advice has been at the heart of our delivery.

New online health classes from Trust

With many now returning to work, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust have adapted their sessions to fit around everyone’s busy schedules. They have also added new classes including HIIT training and “morning stretch”. Feel free to join in.

Full details below:

HIIT training A high intensity interval full body workout to burn fat and improve fitness and strength. Suitable for anyone with a basic level of fitness Every Monday 7.30am-7.55am and every Thursday 5.30pm-6pm
Morning Stretch A morning wake-up with gentle stretches to loosen and re-align the muscles. Helps with circulation and your posture. Every Monday 8am-8.30am
Tabata High intensity interval training. Eight sets of fast-paced exercises each for 20 seconds with a 10 second rest. Not suitable for anyone with joint, respiratory or cardiac difficulties Every Tuesday at 12:45-1:15pm and every Friday 7.30am-8am
Pilates for all A low-impact form of exercise that strengthens muscles and improves posture, flexibility and balance. Build core strength and move with the breath. Suitable for all levels. Every Wednesday 7.30am-8am and every Thursday 1pm-1.30pm

To book your place, email

#BeeTogether – What it means to us

Brentford Football Club has been consistent for many years with its position on racial equality. We want everyone to feel welcome at Brentford and will continue to fight racism and discrimination of any kind. The events of the past few weeks have highlighted the importance of this work and we can all do our bit to make a difference.

Togetherness is one of our key values as a Club. We pride ourselves on our spirit and togetherness on and off the pitch. We believe that working together has got us to our current position and in the past few months when we have not been able to be physically together, it is the value of togetherness that has helped us get through these incredibly challenging times.

We have a dressing room and staff consisting of more than 15 different nationalities and from many different walks of life. We are one Club, one team and one community. We have a focus on our work in our local area, which is one of the most racially diverse in the country. We are proud to represent Hounslow, West London and London and to represent everyone, no matter their heritage, colour, religion, sexuality or gender. There is absolutely no room for racism or discrimination of any kind at Brentford.

Football is for everyone; it belongs to and should be enjoyed by anyone who wants to participate in it, whether as a player, official, staff member or spectator. We aim, therefore, to bring people together in a way that supports positive change, makes people feel valued and improves the lives and inclusion experience of our fans and wider community. As fans of Brentford Football Club, we are one family, and regardless of your background, it is fundamental to our values that everyone should be made to feel welcome as supporters of this Club.

We are passionate about our stance on racial equality. The phrase black lives matter is, for us, not a political stance. It is simply our Club standing for equality alongside our players, staff, supporters and the wider football community. The mistreatment of black people across the world needs to change. We are united with everyone that wants this to happen.

It may be that some people do not agree with this, but make no mistake, we will not change our view that racism and prejudice will not be tolerated at Brentford. As we prepare to move to our new home, we will do absolutely everything we can to ensure it is a haven for Bees fans regardless of their colour, religion, sexuality or gender, that is why we believe in #BeeTogether.


The Community Sports Trust Sock Basket Challenge

As part of the #BeeWell initiative, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust are showcasing some skills challenges. After a small gap, the next one comes from one of the participants in the Trust’s deaf sports project. See the full information below.

Brentford FC support Not Today or Any Day video

A special video created by the EFL features Brentford striker Ollie Watkins. The EFL announced the video last week and released it ahead of the return of the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday. You can see it below.

Brentford FC showed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the game against Fulham on Saturday. There have been protests across the world to show solidarity against racial discrimination. Brentford players took a knee at kick-off of the 2-0 win at Fulham and wore t-shirts to share the message while striker Watkins released a personal message.

Brentford FC has also just released a new video reiterating our stand against racism and discrimination. Under the #BeeTogether banner, the video features Brentford players, fans and staff, and stresses the importance the Club places on togetherness and unity. See it here.

An intergenerational project with a difference

As part of a project run by Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Primary School pupils from across West London are being encouraged to write letters of support and solidarity to elderly or vulnerable Brentford fans who might be self-isolating. With an estimated 2.2 million elderly or vulnerable people currently shielding in the UK against Covid-19, the Connecting Generations initiative aims to improve pupils’ literacy skills while simultaneously supporting older Brentford fans who might be feeling socially isolated.

The initiative is in partnership with the Premier League’s Primary Stars project, which normally delivers P.E and PSHE lessons to a number of schools across west London. Yet with the backing of footballing legends Michael Owen and Dion Dublin, this initiative is aimed at unlocking hundreds of pupils’ creative potential.

Calum McHardy, the Trust’s Premier League’s Primary Stars Coordinator, said: “Through this initiative, I hope that different generations of the Bees community are able to share their experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown with one another. The importance of communicating and being connected with somebody during this adversity is massively important for everyone’s mental wellbeing.”

Cliff Crown, Brentford FC Chairman, said: “A number of us on the Board as well as our CEO Jon Varney , have been in touch by telephone with our older fans during the past few months. We have had some great conversations with them, listening to their memories and stories and we all really enjoyed it. I am delighted to see this initiative from our Community Sports Trust that will link young and old fans, it is a great idea and will benefit all.

“This is the latest great piece of work carried out by our Trust over the past three months. It has been a challenging time for all of us and the staff at the Trust, supported by our players and others, have really helped in the local area. It makes me proud, as Chairman, to see how we have been able to help people at this extraordinarily difficult time for us all.”

During the government lockdown, Brentford FC’s award-winning charity has been supporting hundreds of adults and children through online activities including chair-based exercise classes for older people self-isolating. The Trust recently launched a new #BeeWell campaign with Brentford FC stadium builders EcoWorld, which aims to support children and adults with their physical and mental wellbeing. To sign up for the initiative click here.

For more information about the programme please email

Brentford players, fans and staff send message of togetherness

Ahead of their first match back this weekend, Brentford Football Club has released a new video reiterating its stand against racism and discrimination.

Under its #BeeTogether banner, the video features Brentford players, fans and staff, and stresses the importance the Club places on togetherness and unity.

Jon Varney, Brentford FC Chief Executive, said: “It may not be possible for us to be together in person right now, but we can all be together in spirit, working together to build a Club and ethos that we can all be proud of. We want everyone to feel welcome at Brentford and will continue to fight racism and discrimination of any kind. The events of the past few weeks have highlighted the importance of this work and we can all do our bit to make a difference.”

Thomas Frank, Brentford Head Coach, said: “We pride ourselves on our spirit and togetherness. We have a dressing room consisting of 15 different nationalities from many different walks of life. We are one Club, one team and one community, there is absolutely no room for racism or discrimination of any kind at Brentford”

Premium Seat offering outlined to Off the Pitch

Brentford FC Commercial Director James Parkinson has outlined the details of the Premium Seat offering at our new stadium to Off the Pitch. Off the Pitch delivers unrivalled football business journalism and insight to subscribers as well as delivering a business intelligence tool to compare data from clubs across Europe. They have been following the story of our new stadium.

In an interview conducted earlier this season, before football was halted, James spoke to Off the Pitch about the flexibility the Club will have at our new stadium. James explained the strategy was designed to fit in with the West London area and said there was interest in the Club due to development in recent years on and off the pitch. The full piece can be seen here.

The article is behind a paywall but fans can read this, and other Brentford content on the platform, by signing up to a seven-day trial. More information can be seen here.

Cyclist injured in crash with dog on Acton Green Common sues owner for £50,000

A man who crashed his bike when a dog ran in front of him as it chased a ball is suing the animal’s owner for £50,000.

The Metro newspaper reports that Chiswick resident, 70 year old David Crane, was cycling through Acton Green Common on his way to work in March 2016 when cocker spaniel Felix ran in front of him. He tried to avoid the dog, but came off his bike and injured his head.

Central London County Court heard that Mr Crane, a publishing executive, went over the bike’s handlebars and hit his head, which resulted in a seizure, concussion and a brain haemorrhage. The court heard that his injuries have resulted in him suffering from loss of memory and concentration as well as headaches. It has affected his sense of taste and smell and his left ear was also damaged as a result of the crash. He says he was not cycling fast when the accident happened.

He is suing the dog’s owner, 48-year-old investment banker Carina Read, claiming that she was negligent in failing to keep the dog under control and that she should have been aware that the dog chasing a ball “with no regard for his surroundings,” might cause a cyclist serious harm.

Ms Read told the court Mr Crane should not have been riding in the park due to local by-laws forbidding it; his crash resulted from a “freak occurrence” and that she had her dog under control.

Her lawyer, Nigel Lewes, said that Ms Read had been using a “thrower” to throw balls for Felix to chase, and that she had been standing around 33 feet from the path Mr Crane was cycling on. He said: “She threw the ball parallel to the path. Felix went after the ball and it bounced off his head, deflecting towards the path.

“At that point she became aware of Mr Crane cycling at speed with his head down. She tried to warn him but Felix chased the ball and was struck by the front wheel of his bicycle.”

Mr Crane is also suing the dog-owner under the Animals Act 1972. Mr Lewers says that legislation only relates to cases involving a dangerous animal. He told the court: “Felix was not dangerous. He was running to catch a ball.”

The case was has been adjourned.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: LB Hounslow issues more than 4,000 fines in Devonshire Rd and Turnham Green Terrace

See also: Police investigating three deaths in Brentford

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

LB Hounslow issues more than 4,000 fines in Devonshire Rd and Turnham Green Terrace

LB Hounslow has issued a total of 4,024 Penalty Traffic Notices in Devonshire Rd and Turnham Green Terrace since traffic restrictions were introduced earlier this summer. The number of fines issued in Devonshire Rd is 42, while the number in Turnham Green Terrace is 3,982.

The total face value of these tickets at £130 per ticket is £523,120, but most drivers who have opted to pay their fine have paid up within the discount period, paying £65 rather than the full amount.

As of Wednesday 30 September 2020, 1,487 drivers have paid the PCN issued to them. 1,449 of those paid during the discount period and 38 paid £130, netting the council £99,125. There are currently 2,785 PCNs still open at varying stages.

Many rivers opting to challenge the fines

A considerable number of drivers who’ve received fines have opted to challenge them. When the signs first went up at both ends of Turnham Green Terrace and at the High Rd end of Devonshire Rd, many people complained that they weren’t clearly visible or they weren’t clear what ‘access only’ meant.

In both roads it is supposed to mean that motorists can stop and park in a disabled bay if they have a disabled permit, or in a loading bay if they are loading or unloading something heavy or bulky. An obvious flaw in the design of the restrictions is that drivers may enter intending to stop legitimately, but if there is no disabled bay or loading bay free, they have no option but to drive through and incur a fine.

John Fitzgerald, who runs Snappy Snaps on the corner of Chiswick High Rd and Turnham Green Terrace, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Two of my customers last week ended up with parking tickets because they were trying to get down the Terrace as they were trying to come in and drop off framing work to give to me – but if the loading bays are full what are they to do?”

Cllr Guy Lambert told The Chiswick Calendar that the council would look sympathetically at claims which appeared to be genuine, but he and Cllr Hanif Khan, Cabinet Member for Transport, have both also expressed their shock that so many drivers appear to have just ignored the road signs.

There are currently 839 PCNs on hold following the submission of a representation. The representation can include motorist challenging the issuing of a PCN or a request for a change of keeper – these are usually hire vehicles or where an employee is liable for PCNs.’

Hounslow’s “indifference towards Chiswick” is “contemptuous” says Cllr John Todd

Conservative Cllr John Todd, who asked Hounslow Council Parking Services for the data, said:

“My view is this a punitive application of a confusing inadequate traffic scheme devoid of any consultation process or meaningful dialogue with Chiswick Councillors.

“Initial warning to residents, businesses and other users about this scheme was grossly inadequate and was compounded by inadequate signage, a matter which continues, despite our representations.

“The overt indifference towards Chiswick by this Labour adminstration and it’s brutal financial punishment towards residents and businesses is contemptuous”.

Cllr Todd represents Homefields ward.

The Chiswick Calendar spoke to Cllr Hanif Khan and Cllr Guy Lambert in June. Both confessed that they were unhappy with the way in which the traffic restrictions had been introduced. Both said they were not satisfied with the lack of clarity in the signage and the way in which the changes had been communicated to residents. The delivery of an explanatory letter detailing the proposed traffic changes in Chiswick (which you can find here) was somewhat patchy. It went to some households but not others.

The Chiswick Calendar put the obvious problems to the councillors in June.

What if you drive in, with the intention of stopping to load or unload but there isn’t a space, so you have no choice but to drive straight through?

Or you mean to go to the garage in Devonshire Rd, or to Chief coffee shop in Turnham Green Terrace Mews, but you accidentally overshoot, as both have narrow entrances which are easy to miss?

Hanif said: “Good points both, which I will take away and consider”.

Guy said: “Assessment of violations will be judged with the opportunity to make your case as to why you have apparently transgressed. It won’t be enforced rigidly”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Turnham Green Terrace Traders blame traffic restrictions “mayhem” for a dramatic drop off in trade

See also: Councillors admit there will be traffic chaos

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

Police investigating three deaths in Brentford

An investigation is underway following the deaths of three people in Brentford. At approximately 00.50 on Tuesday 6 October, Metropolitan Police officers forced entry to a residential address in Golden Mile House, Clayponds Lane, Brentford following concerns for the welfare of the occupants. Inside the address, officers found the bodies of Poorna Kaameshwari Sivaraj, a 36-year-old woman, and her son, three-year-old Kailash Kuha Raj.

They also found a 42-year-old man suffering stab injuries. Despite the best efforts of officers and London Ambulance Service (LAS), he died at the scene. He has been identified as Kuha Raj Sithamparanathan and was married to Poorna and the father of Kailash.

Picture: Poorna Kaameshwari Sivaraj with son Kailash

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command leads the investigation and said:

“Although we are in the infancy of this investigation is appears that Poorna and Kailash had been dead for some time.

“This is a murder investigation and my team will work diligently to establish the sequence of events that led to their murders and the death of Kuha Raj Sithamparanathan.

“Our initial enquiries have established that Poorna and Kailash had not been seen or heard from for some time, perhaps since around the 21 September.

“We know the family often walked their dog, a poodle cross breed, in and around the local area and I would ask anyone who saw them at any time in the last month to contact police so we can begin to build a full picture of their lives.

“I know I speak on behalf of all the officers in my team that words cannot sufficiently sum up the devastation that this horrific incident will have on the families of those involved. However, I can reassure them that we will do all we can to provide them with the answers they need about what has happened here.”

Detectives from the Specialist Crime Command are investigating. Anyone who has information that could assist police with their investigation are asked to call 101 ref CAD 7365/6

Cllr Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities at Hounslow Council commented:

“We are deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of the deaths of three people in Brentford. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims, and the residents of Clayponds Lane”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: “Probably a good thing” Chiswick cinema not ready till next year

See also: Turnham Green Terrace Traders blame traffic restrictions “mayhem” for a dramatic drop off in trade

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

Full text of the letter from a group of Chiswick residents to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, 28 September 2020

Letter published in response to Chiswick’s Conservative councillers’ own letter to the minister about the traffic changes introduced in Chiswick in the summer of 2020.

Support for Government Cycling and Walking Policies from Chiswick Residents

25th September 2020

To: The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Copy: Steve Curran, Leader Hounslow Council, Hanif Khan, Hounslow Council Cabinet Member, Dr Will Norman, Mayor of London Walking and Cycling Commissioner

Dear Secretary of State,

We would like to offer our strong support for the policies you have announced to put walking and cycling at the heart of transport. We also wish to respond to the open letter sent to you by some of our local councillors earlier this month “The destruction of Chiswick’s community, town centre and retail economy.”

A number of us have been in the front line of public health efforts against the pandemic and welcomed the statement you made on May 9 announcing a £2 billion package to support active travel to help the country emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Given the predicted upsurge in traffic and the virus, the reallocation of road space in favour of walking and cycling is even more necessary now.

Our council (London Borough of Hounslow) has implemented measures exactly in line with your guidelines: pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, cycle and bus-only streets and modal filters to create low traffic neighbourhoods. We are therefore disappointed that some of our local councillors have failed to back your vision, opposing the measures from our council that are making it a reality.

We are also concerned that their letter misrepresents the situation in Chiswick.

● They claim a Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme is “a massive over reaction (sic) to a problem that exists for only a few hours a day”. Traffic counts show the opposite, with many of our residential streets blighted by rat-running through the day.

● Their reference to the “revival of the discredited Cycleway-9 scheme” concerns a protected bike route that was initiated by the Prime Minister while he was Mayor of London. Construction of the first phase has just been completed and it is now being expedited using temporary measures. Safer cycling on Chiswick High Road is more important than ever given the shift to shopping locally.

● “A hammer-blow to Chiswick’s retail businesses” fails to convey that the shift to shopping locally has triggered a local boom. Shops that were long empty are finally being let. The first ever Flower Market on Chiswick High Road two weeks ago saw over 7,000 visitors with our shopkeepers enjoying their highest sales for years. Notably, an overflow car park was provided for this event but not a single car used it. Traders on two more roads have asked the Flower Market team of local residents to expand to their streets.

We welcome the opportunity to affirm our strongest support for your vision, and the measures needed to realise it by reallocating road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Edward Seaton, DM FRCP, Consultant Dermatologist, London
Professor Jeremy Levy, Professor of Medicine, Imperial College London
Dr Mark Esler FRCA, Consultant Anaesthestist, Imperial College NHS Trust
Kate Frayling, Physics Teacher, Local School
Dr David Game PhD FRCP, Consultant Renal Physician, London
Andrew Hurn, Parent Governor, Cavendish Primary School, Chiswick
Dr Sheila Hunt, General Practitioner (within LTN area), retd.
Dr Radegund Norbury MRCGP, General Practitioner, London
Dr Tran Seaton FRCR, Consultant Radiologist, Imperial College NHS Trust
Dr Anna Wilson MRCGP, General Practitioner, London
Dr Karen Liebreich MBE, Author, Director Abundance London
Peter Murray, Architect, Chair Bedford Park Bicycle Club
Professor Tom Pike, Professor of Microengineering, Imperial College London
Christopher Richardson, Architect
Michael Robinson, M.Eng C.Eng MIET, Engineer
Christopher Blishen, Business Mentor
Paul Campbell, Managing Director, Consulting Business
Andrea Carnavali, Filmmaker
Keith Dickson, Emeritus Professor of Technology Management, Brunel University

Three Little Words

A short story by John Haycock

The radio went on as usual just before 6:30am on a dull Friday, no light in the sky as yet. It was, in fact, just over a dozen days to go to 31 December.
“. . . and finally, our tip for today comes from Southwell, the last race of the day, the 2:45, and JGC advises that you back ‘True Blue’ each way.
Now, with a summary of the news, here’s Noel Sleet.”

Sue stirred a bit. The broadcast continued.

A new voice continued: “The government has announced a total ban on all reporting of fuel shortages or supermarket queues. JGC added that ‘this sort of talk was ‘very unhelpful’ to our strategy of a calm approach to Brexit’ and said that they were working incredibly hard, around the clock, to obviate any fuel shortages.

In other news, Dido Harding, the new supremo for the aged, added that food parcels were due with 75% of all pensioners in a matter of weeks.
“On the markets, the Pound rallied slightly and now stands at just over two to the US Dollar. Financial sources however expect it to drop to nearer three towards the end of December. JGC therefore advise you to do as much Christmas shopping as you can in the next few days.
“And that is the news from the New BBC.”

We wondered how many listeners would remember Harold Wilson’s ‘pound in your pocket’ speech, 53 years ago.

The radio went silent as I turned it off; but by then Sue was awake. “Why not turn to BBCi? At least you’ll get closer to the truth.”

Perhaps I should explain a bit here. Firstly, it was ‘wise’ to know precisely what the government was saying. Or doing. The BBC, as we knew it, had been ‘mothballed’ – the government had said.
Instead, the ‘New BBC’ would broadcast the news, every hour, on the hour. In between, there’d be light entertainment; some sport, talks, music, a few well-loved plays – and lots more ‘slow radio’ to keep us all calm.

Thankfully, a few daring characters, nameless, for good reasons, but with very-familiar voices, had ‘vanished’ from the old airwaves and were now broadcasting (clandestinely of course), cunningly beyond the pale of The Broadcasting Act 1990, from two little offshore islands, Man and Guernsey – hence the name, BBCi.

Sue ranted on. “Besides which, who the hell do JGC think they are, telling us when to shop?” she asked, rhetorically. “When did any of them queue for hours?”

We all knew who JGC were. It was also clear that, even in your own home, it was unwise to use the full names of The Three. We both knew why. In a hugely popular move, the government had announced in mid-October that all houses were to be given, free, immediately, the new BRoadband and ‘ BRAlexa’; voice-activation for every home, in every room. A masterstroke, we all
thought: the army of young unemployed were trained to install the system – using technology that apparently had been perfected in top-secrecy in the year since the last election.

The system dramatically simplified home education, WFH, shopping, all social contacts. To be honest, it worked so well that we wondered why we’d not had it before. The “world-beating” system proved that we were, indeed, taking back control. But did BR-Alexa have a second, more sinister, string to her bow?

The gloom of the morning settled its arms around us. Covid, Brexit, unemployment, food shortages and the early onset of winter held the nation bound, paralysed by fear, unable to ‘change the clock’, metaphorically, now nearing a minute to midnight. Our plans for the weekend were simple: see if Ken the butcher had anything that resembled a joint – and if not, we’d happily settle for our favourite, tomato bredie, a lamb stew.

Ken had promised us ‘a bird’ for the end of the week – so we’d enjoy the big day as best possible; Christmas had ceased to have much joy, sadly, and the Border terrier puppies – well, all they wanted was a long walk, good for all four of us.

So how had the sunny Indian summer in September turned to this? The coup on Saturday 31 October, the deadline set by the EU for the UK’s final plan, was as fast and unexpected as a busy butcher’s cleaver: a grave announcement that we needed to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. ‘Clear the decks’ said the headlines. ‘Batten down the hatches’.

Most of the old Ministries disappeared, ‘streamlined’ into two super-departments, Home and Away.

The Top Three seized absolute power. Parliament was just a building, nothing more. PMQ was scrapped. J. was, notionally, still in charge. G. ran Away; and C. ran Home. As he’d done before, a wag noted. The Home Ministry contained a special new force, run by JRM (it’s always advisable to use initials, rather than full names.) The police and army had been amalgamated, in a new government initiative, designed, we were told, to keep us all safe, in our homes, from the perils of Covid and any unexpected problems caused by Brexit. So what better name, JRM concluded, than to call this force the Home Guard, reminding us he is often known as the minister for the last century – poor Jacob, indeed.

About this time, the negotiators had agreed to disagree – and parted in acrimony, taxis and Eurostar. The UK was probably ‘going it alone’, ‘backs to the wall’; bulldogged stubbornness, pigheaded arrogance. I wondered idly how and why these two animals, dogs and pigs, had lost their good name. All the UK’s hopes of trade deals were dashed by 10 November; but quietly we all rejoiced. Biden had won by a clear margin and Nancy Pelosi rejected all JGC’s requests for a trade deal, citing the Irish border debacle and the stubborn JGC adherence to the Withdrawal Act.

By mid-November, the prudent had finished their panic buying; we’d not started ours. We trusted, as millions had to, that a way out could be found; surely? Suddenly, Maslow’s Hierarchy became default dogma; the necessity for water, shelter, food, medicine: now became actual worries, not background niggles.

A new low point came early in December, in the New BBC 20:00 news bulletin. A teensy bit more belt-tightening would see us through the next few months, was the gist of it. “Your parents will remember that the three day week was a good thing for Britain – it made us realise how great we were, and how great again we will be, shortly,” the Spokesman told us.
“From tonight, the electricity will go off at 9pm and come on in time for your shower. BR-Alexa will not be affected, so you can still work and play – and remember to. . .” the voice droned on, but we’d ceased to listen. The Coalite guttered; we toddled up Wood Hill to bed.

Could things get worse?

As November turned into December, we thought about the old slogan: WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER – and realised the ‘this’ was actually a typo. Yes, we were all in sh*t, we agreed. And yes, things could, and did, get worse.

I’ll gloss over The Big Day of 25 December. Our ‘bird’ turned out to be a pair of wood pigeons; not bad, as it happens, but thankfully we had a bottle of Fonseca port for afters. And, as usual, HM at 1500!

The Sunday just after Christmas dawned, bright, very cold. We had the headlines: ‘50mph is tops’ said The Telegraph, referring to the new speed limits. ‘Keep it up’ exhorted The Mail. The Express praised the Triumvirate, lavishly. “Five days to full freedom” they shouted, alliteratively. Only The Observer’s third leader, about climate, seemed to avoid the tensions, growing by the minute, of the critical week ahead.

Did we understand the article correctly? Maybe time would tell. But we sensed that something was stirring. We felt a rising sense of anger, frustration; and we also kept reading and hearing of similar, deeply-felt disquiet in all walks of life, from industrialists, from churchmen, from politicians. Why even a few top brass, recently retired from the services, seemed really unhappy.
The Move came quickly later that day: caught almost all of us unawares. But old friends, due to come over for a drink at lunch, had let it slip that their daughter, in ITV News, had been told to be ‘within 15 minutes of a studio’ all Sunday.

In hindsight it’s as plain as a pikestaff as to what was happening – and as we owe so much to those hundred or so brave people, it’s worth spelling it all out in detail.
‘The Hundred’ had been divided roughly into four groups. Each group as the cliché has it, comprised a cross-section of ‘those set in authority over us’: it consisted of key politicians, top civil servants, faith leaders, captains of industry and commerce; a few disenchanted top brass from the military – and in the fourth group was the new Met Commissioner – oh, yes, and The Speaker. There were also more than a few well-known faces from the telly and stage. In the old days, they would have been led by Dicky, but now Gary L is a ringleader, with a few luvvies to keep him company.

So, where to meet, as discreetly as possible, near enough to Parliament? And how to signal this information, at the last moment, to each person individually, not electronically, for obvious reasons?
Naturally these locations were top-secret on that Sunday morning. They knew when to meet, of course: the Celebration Sunday Lunch had been well leaked, they all had to ‘Be There’ by 1pm sharp.

Let me give you a bit of the back story, because it’s important. Have you come across ‘what3words’? W3W is a smartphone app, free to download. It’s used by the emergency services around the world; maybe you read the story from late August when a Belfast man fell down a steep slope into an unmarked cave, breaking his fibula in the process. It didn’t look good for him;
but he’d got this app, pressed the LOCATE arrow and got his position, pinpointed within milliseconds. He called 999, gave the three words locator – and was rescued within 30 minutes.

As my tech-savvy nephew told me, its a geocode system with an accuracy of three square metres. It encodes geographic coordinates, GPS to you and me, into three ordinary words. For example, the north side of the Cenotaph is identified as ///echo.bottle.year. W3W’s great appeal is its simplicity; no long strings of numbers and letters – just three simple everyday words.
But cunningly, it also works in reverse: if someone gives you three words for a rendezvous, input them into W3W and bingo, you know exactly where to meet.

The third leader of The Observer on that fateful Sunday 27 December, was vital. Under the heading CHANGE IS COMING, it was a very short piece, ostensibly about climate change. More David Attenborough than George Monbiot, it talked abut each of us as individuals, taking responsibility, making a change in our daily lives. It exhorted us, saying, I recall, ‘big government’ was a bit powerless, pulled by various lobbies, pummelled by ‘vested interests’. It concluded that it was necessary for ‘the man in the street to take action’; how prophetic.

Then, strangely, it had just 12 words as a last line, gobbledygook, a printer’s glitch, we thought, left over from another article? types enjoy food; above boxer lands; tiles focus swept; cargo pudding cargo. Sadly, I can’t find my copy to show you; I think we threw it out as a bin collection was due. Shame, it’s a collector’s item now, I believe. But put those words, in groups of three, with full stops between them, into a W3W app – and a precise rendezvous is shown – which helped The Hundred, all presumably at home, to move swiftly into position for midday.

Four main meeting points had been chosen: Queen Victoria Memorial, Horse Guards Parade, the Eye and Parliament Square; innocuous enough for four small groups of six at each point, no more, to congregate for a convivial chat – and wait. All within a few moments’ quick stroll of The House. Their new leaders-in-waiting were, obviously, the four ex-PMs, BBMM (who’d all just returned from Sandringham, where The Monarch goes for Christmas),one at each location. Oh, the fifth, C, said he was “undecided as whether to join them”; thankfully.

The end, for the ‘gang of three’, as we now often called them, came swiftly. They, their wives and close advisors, 150 in total, were all in the Members Dining room, enjoying smoked salmon, followed by game pie – and they rose as one when the four ex-PMs strode in and performed citizen’s arrests on JGC and a few key followers. A judge-in-chambers’ ruling, obtained an hour beforehand, stated that the actions by the government, or JGC as in effect it was, were ultra vires. The ruling said Parliament ‘had not been consulted’ about the unilateral decision by The
Three to leave Britain at the mercy of a WTO deal; ‘worse than useless’, was the general opinion, even inside the Westminster bubble.

The Hundred ‘new great and the good’, had followed the ex-PMs and gathered in the Westminster Hall. ‘See and be seen’, was their motto; watching and being watched, as the disgraced JGC trio and their acolytes were marched out. The news of the coup spread through the palace of Westminster. And then onto BBCi. And finally,a terse, monosyllabic fin de siecle broadcast, at 6pm on
New BBC which ended with the glorious words: “That is the end of the news from the New BBC, London. And our last broadcast, ever.”

Later, explaining their actions in a nationwide broadcast on BBCi, The Four said that JGC had acted ‘contrary to the welfare of the citizens of Great Britain, creating widespread fear and anxiety’, and, by the ‘wilful, reckless act of no-deal for Brexit’ had imperilled the free flow of goods, services and medicines.

The next morning, Parliament, recalled, sat in Emergency Debate. This was not as simple as a constitutional crisis, someone said; it affected the very fabric of British society, values, reputation. The ruling party was leaderless, clearly, and for one brilliant moment, all MPs acted for the good of the country, not the party. By the narrowest of margins, Parliament agreed to dissolve and, uniquely,
agreed that an interim ‘government of national unity’ be established pro tem.

The next few days, 28 to 31 December. were chaotic – but wonderful. In a smart move to make the change of power as seamless as possible, the new administration called themselves ‘The JGC’.
Which, natually, also stands for The Joint Governing Council. Reason, commonsense and the rule of parliamentary law was restored and by the thirteenth day, Britain was at last, again, at peace with itself. Suddenly, you could not find a soul who’d actually ‘agreed’ with a no-deal Brexit – and helpfully the EU ‘stopped the clock’ at 22:58 on 31 December, pausing the deadline – and by mid-January Britain had a full tariff-free trade deal.

Yes, there were huge concessions on both sides, but in the months to come, it was widely recognised that Brexit had in fact so shaken the member states that the long-overdue reforms were not only possible, but were desirable. Unbelievably, our deal was all but as good as being part of the EU again.

The Three went their own ways: J, a cunning linguist with his Latin, went to Perugia to brush up on his Italian; G went to live on a small vineyard; and C? Well, he’s a ‘Global Ambassador’ for Specsavers. A proper fairytale ending, with no panto villains. Could we dream, could we hope, for this fable to come true?
Time will tell.

© John Haycock 2020

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: This month’s new books, October 2020 

See also: Man in the Middle – the thoughts of a middle aged man’ on moving his mother in with his own family

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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October 2020 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Annakarin Klerfalk has a look at what’s on offer and chooses three good reads for October. The Book of Two Ways, Midwinter Murder and Home Stretch are all out in October.

The Book of Two Ways

Jodi Picoult has written twenty-four bestselling novels and she is best known for My Sister’s Keeper and Small Great Things. Her latest novel is called The Book of Two Ways, which questions life, death and missed opportunities. The reader meets Dawn, a woman who helps people in their final journey towards a peaceful death. She is confident in those difficult situations but when she nearly dies in a plane crash, she starts to question her own life decisions. What would her life have been like if she had made different choices fifteen years ago? What if she had stayed with the man she loved and persued a career in Egyptology? Can she still choose between two possible futures?

The Sunday Times review: “Her intelligent, meticulously researched novels explore ethical dilemmas through heartrending, headline-grabbing scenarios.”
The Book of Two Ways is published on 22 October by Hodder & Stoughton.

Midwinter Murder

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie remains the best selling fiction writer of all time. Her 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections and her play, The Mousetrap, have sold more than two billion copies. From the queen of the genre comes a posthumous winter-themed collection of short stories called Midwinter Murder. Some of the stories feature the famous detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and the all the usual suspects are there too; mysterious guests, dangerous gifts and deadly poison. The collection ends with a story called Christmas Adventure and what could be more suitable in the run up to the festive season?

American-Irish writer and actor Tana French says: “Reading a perfectly plotted Agatha Christie is like crunching into a perfect apple: that pure, crisp, absolute satisfaction.”
Midwinter Murder is published by Harper Collins on 1 October.

Home Stretch

Home Stretch is written by one of the UK’s most popular comedians and TV presenters, who just happens to be also a Sunday Times bestselling author. Graham’s third novel is set in 1987, in a small Irish community. The plot opens with preparations for a wedding and a group of friends drive to the beach the day before the ceremony. A car accident leads to three deaths. Three others survived. Conor got lucky but he blames himself as he was the driver. Unable to stay in the village, he starts travelling and a new life flashes in front of him. But sooner or later, he will have to face his past.

Author Marian Keyes reviewed it as: “Magnificent… his writing is evocative and perfect. His grasp of human loneliness and longing is beautiful and comforting.”
Home Stretch is out on 1 October, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Annakarin Klerfalk

Anna is a literary agent based in Chiswick who is keen to hear from authors trying to get their books published. Contact her on She used to run the Waterstones bookshop in Chiswick. You can read more about her and Intersaga here.

See more of Anna’s book choices here

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

Man in the Middle – Chapter 54: Sipping roast parsnip soup

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.54: Sipping roast parsnip soup

Mother is slowly sipping roast parsnip soup under the watchful eye of her carer. She eats her lunch purposefully, leaning her head down as she brings the spoon up to her lips. Her right-hand trembles, but this time the soup doesn’t slop over the side of the spoon.

‘We’re going make you big and strong again,’ says the carer, cheerfully, as Mother swallows the warm soup.

‘Huh,’ says Mother.

The noise she makes is so indistinct I am not sure if she is agreeing with the carer or dismissing the idea she could ever be strong again as ludicrous; a naïve and unconvincing cliché.

‘Good soup?’ asks the carer.

‘Yum, yum,’ says Mother, smiling and rubbing her stomach.

I’m bemused again. What does she mean by choosing that childish phrase and child-like gesture? Is she taking the mickey out of us for the daily fuss we make to ensure she eats and drinks more than she did in the days before her fall? Or is this her dementia playing Twister with her personality? I hope it’s the former.

It’s certainly becoming harder to gauge her tone. And her voice, which used to be vibrant and camouflaged her ninety years of wear and tears, is quieter and weaker now. She lives inside herself more than before. Since returning, she stays in her room longer, sleeps more and tunes out of family conversations sooner. She’s like a camper, setting her tent in the corner of the field, happy to be on the same site as everyone else but keen not to be too close.

I’ve noticed she has started to find simple things, which others would take for granted and unremarkable, as wonderous and worth commenting on. Sometimes to the confusion or embarrassment of others.

‘She tells me I am ‘very clever’ to draw the curtains by myself,’ my daughter said.

‘This morning, she said I have ‘brilliant’ hair,’ said my son.

‘I have ‘beautiful’ taste in teacups,’ said my wife.

At first, I thought this was her being overly solicitous. Now I think all her innocent and candid observations are a function of her mild dementia – the world and the people around are genuinely wonderous to her.

She can still play the dame, though, and is more than willing to give me a piece of her mind in small, sour pieces. Only yesterday, she accused me of being overbearing and acting like a prison governor.

‘What are you going to do if I say ‘No’? Force feed me?’ she asked when I suggested she had a small, second helping of pasta.

‘But you need to put some weight on,’ I said.

‘What is this place a gulag for the old?’

As I had just finished reading ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’, I was able to explain to her that she was definitely not living in a gulag.

‘And if you were, you would be punching and kicking your way to the front of the queue to get a second helping of my wife’s wonderful penne al’arrabiata,’ I said, looking forward to telling my wife how I had defended her cooking.

‘Creep,’ said Mother and slunk slowly away from the table.

Luckily, Mother likes soups more than pasta. Minestrone is her favourite. But today’s roast parsnip soup is going down well enough. She’s dabbing a chunk of bread around the sides of her empty bowl.

‘What sort of soup was this?’ Mother asks.

‘Roast parsnip,’ I say.

‘Your father liked curried parsnip soup. Got the idea from a woman in the local pub.’

‘Was it nice?’

‘No. She was imprisoned for embezzlement. Cooked the books somewhere. Got quite a stiff sentence.’

‘I meant was her parsnip soup nice?’

‘No idea, darling. I never tried it. I can’t stand parsnips.’

‘You won’t be wanting more of this then?’ I say holding up the soup ladle.

‘No, I don’t think so,’ she says. ‘Nice though it was. Too many parsnips make you windy if you know what I mean?’

The carer looks at the kitchen floor. I pour out the remains of the soup into a bowl for my lunch and decide next time, I will ask her what soup she wants before I make it. And remember that she isn’t lost yet.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 55: In the sweat of your brow shall you eat

Read the previous one – Chapter 53: Midlife crisis

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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Chiswick Unbound – Pints or Polemics?

Trufflehound launches Dining Club

Independent cinemas “shielded” from the blockbuster effect

Image above: Cinema at Watermans

A string of postponements of what should have been blockbuster movies from the autumn 2020 schedule has hit the cinema industry hard, but independents are to some extent shielded, Watermans arts centre Marketing Director Erica Weston tells Matt Smith.

On Sunday 4 October Cineworld announced the temporary closure all of its UK venues, with the company warning that industry has become “unviable”. The following day Odeon said they would be closing a quarter of their cinemas on weekdays across the UK.

The big cinema chains were reacting to the news that the release of the new James Bond movie No Time To Die was being put back for a second time. It is now due to premiere in April 2021. Large portions of the American cinema market have been shut down. Studios are holding off releasing films during the pandemic in the hope of making a better profit later on., so the pipeline of big blockbuster films has run dry. Other releases that have been pushed into 2021 include Disney’s Black Widow and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

Whilst larger cinema chains are clearly struggling, this isn’t the case with smaller, independent cinemas such as the one at Watermans in Brentford. At least not yet anyway.

“Big blockbusters don’t affect Watermans quite so much”

Erica Weston, the Marketing Director of Watermans, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Big blockbusters don’t affect Watermans quite so much because we’re an independent arts cinema and our audience tend towards more independent films and smaller titles.”

The cinema is only operating at a third of its capacity of 120 seats, due to coronavirus restrictions.

“We have been filling that capacity quite well, and to expectation to date, which is quite encouraging” she said. “But the main problem is, which is what Cineworld have been saying, is that the pipeline of new films is really, really bad.

“A lot of production had stopped over the full lockdown and so I think it will be interesting to see what comes over the next few months. At the moment we have been ok because the smaller films have been released and they’re less American centric.”

Adapting to change

Images above: Erica Weston; Watermans Arts Centre

The benefit of Watermans having an independent cinema is that they can create a programme week-by-week which has been very closely tailored to their audiences tastes.

“We can be really agile and really responsive to what they’re enjoying and we know them really well so that’s helped us to weather this.

Watermans took a survey about how customers feel about returning to the cinema with Covid-19 still circulating. They found that a third said they were completely unbothered, some were nervous but not completely opposed to the idea and some were not considering coming back at all in the current climate.

“Something else we are doing is we have protective screenings on Mondays, which is for people who were shielding and who are being extra careful. The idea is if you’re in a room with other people who are taking extra care, then you’ll feel safer than you would normally and that’s been quite popular.

“The more that people see other people go to the cinema, the more they’ll be inclined to go themselves. Which is why films like James Bond are important because it gets people out to see how safe the cinemas have been made.”

“Obviously, long-term, any cinema will say that’s it not sustainable only to have 20-30% capacity.”

No more discounts

Prices have stayed the same at Watermans but discounts such as £6 Mondays and The Chiswick Calendar’s £6 Tuesdays have been scrapped because the arts centre can no longer afford to give discounts.

“We’ve kept our £6 families, because we know that families have been very hard hit by Covid in terms of jobs.

“Basically we have just simplified our pricing structure.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Turnham Green Terrace Traders blame traffic restrictions “mayhem” for a dramatic drop off in trade

See also: Jogger fined for spitting says he was just sweating

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

“Probably a good thing” Chiswick cinema not ready till next year

The project director of the new Chiswick Cinema gave The Chiswick Calendar her reaction to the news that the release of new James Bond film No Time To Die is being put back till April 2021.

“It’s probably a good thing that we won’t be ready to open until next year” Lyn Goleby told us. “Every cloud has a silver lining and this is ours. With all that’s going on in the cinema industry at the moment we would probably be mothballing it if it were ready to open now”.

The news that the release of the new James Bond film No Time To Die has been delayed for a second time came as a blow to the cinema industry, following on from the postponement of two other major autumn releases, Wonder Woman: 1984 and Marvel Studios’ Black Widow. 

Cineworld, owner of Regal and Picturehouse cinemas, announced it was temporarily closing all of its cinemas in the UK and US, with the loss of 5,500 jobs in the UK. Odeon quickly followed with an announcement that they would be closing a quarter of their cinemas during the week, only opening them at weekends to save money.

“Knee-jerk reactions”

“There are lots of knee-jerk reactions happening at the moment” said Lyn. “If anything we will probably we slow to open so we catch the new releases at the right time. There will be a really good film schedule for next year, with all the films that have been put back as well as all those that were scheduled for release next year”.

The cinema, in the old Ballet Rambert premises by the junction of Chiswick High Rd and Chiswick Lane, will have three screening rooms when it’s finished, seating around 100 people each. There will also be two smaller screens, one of them for hire as a private screening room seating 15 people, with a private dining space adjacent.

Work on the new cinema “slow and steady”

Work was due to start initially on the cinema in June 2018. It was put back by various things, including squatters taking over the premises. Once work started in 2019, it proceeded well until the builders were forced to down tools by the coronavirus in March 2020. The contractors weren’t able to work again for over a month.

Since then progress has been “slow and steady” says Lyn. “It’s gone gently, slower than it might have done without the pandemic, but we have had no procurement problems, which I thought we might have done and we are well funded by Trafalgar Entertainment, so thankfully we’re in no danger of going bust”.

The contractors’ portacabins were removed from the site on Sunday 27 September and transition work is going on for the next phase of the work to be started by the company doing the fit out.

When will it be ready?

“We are now expecting to be open in the spring” Lyn told us. “We have got to be in good shape to show the new Bond in April”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The cinema-going experience is “a casualty of Covid” says Andy Harries

See also: Work restarts on the Chiswick Cinema site

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

The cinema-going experience is “a casualty of Covid” says Andy Harries

Image above: Daniel Craig in No Time To Die

No Time To Die release postponed till April 2021

The news that the release of the new James Bond film No Time To Die has been delayed for a second time has come as a blow to the cinema industry. The release, already delayed from April to November 2020 because of the pandemic, has now been put back until April 2021. The announcement follows news that two other major autumn releases, Wonder Woman: 1984 and Marvel Studios’ Black Widow have also been pushed back.

Cinemas rely on these blockbuster films to pay the rent. Wihout the bums on seats, cinemas are closing. Cineworld, owner of Regal and Picturehouse cinemas, confirmed that 5,500 UK staff will lose their jobs after it announced it was temporarily closing all of its cinemas in the UK and US. Odeon have announced that a quarter of their cinemas will close during the week and open only at weekends to save money.

Images above: Andy Harries; Clare Foy and Matt Smith in first series of The Crown

TV and film executive and Chiswick resident Andy Harries talks to The Chiswick Calendar

The prime minister has urged people to “go to the cinema” but that’s “a bit mad” says film and television producer Andy Harries. The chief executive and co-founder of Left Bank Pictures, which has brought us The Crown as well as TV series such as Wallander, Strike Back, Outlander and The Replacement, lives in Chiswick and spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about the state of the TV and film industry.

“It’s hard to imagine that people will want to sit in a cinema with a mask, three feet away from the next person” he said. “I wouldn’t want to”. Going to the cinema is supposed to be fun –  relaxing,  uplifting, not something which makes you anxious.

“The cinema going experience is a casualty of Covid” but, putting an optimistic and positive spin on it, “I think it will bounce back” he told us.

“I think people will want to go out again. It won’t happen until there is instant testing and a vaccine available, but I imagine next summer as a frivolous time when the world goes mad!”

Images above: Olivia Coleman and Emma Corrin in The Crown – Netflix

“We finished The Crown just in time”

Left Bank Pictures finished shooting Season Four of The Crown in March “just in time” said Andy. “We literally finished a week before the coronavirus hit. We were incredibly lucky with the timing”. Olivia Colman returns for a second series as Queen Elizabeth II and Emma Corrin is introduced as Princess Diana in the series which will be shown on Netflix on 15 November.

In what I believe is a Chiswick Calendar exclusive, Andy told us there was one big scene they planned to shoot which they didn’t because of Covid-19.

“One big scene” missed out

“We were going to film when Prince Charles went skiing and his great friend was killed in an avalanche”.

It was March 1988 when Major Hugh Lindsay was buried in a cascade of tons of snow at the resort of Klosters. Prince Charles was with him when the avalanche hit, but escaped unhurt. Princess Diana was not on the mountain, but back at the royal party’s chalet at Davos.

“It was another footnote to the story of Charles and Diana. Diana was there with him, but not skiing. It was going to be filmed in Spain. Then we were all set up to go and film it in Scotland, but in the end we just ran out of road”.

Series Five of The Crown will not now be filmed until next July.

Image above: Nuno Lopes and Laura Haddock in White Lines 

White Lines, Quiz and Sitting in Limbo also made it before Covid-19 stopped filming

In his forty year career, Andy has produced some of the very best Television drama, including The Royle Family, Cold Feet and The Deal, a play about the infamous deal between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that Brown would have his opportunity to be prime minister if he gave Blair a clear run at the leadership in 1994.

His company’s most recent productions, which have all been aired this year, were lucky to complete production before the coronavirus brought everything to a grinding halt.

In White Lines Laura Haddock leads the cast in the story of her quest for the truth when the body of a legendary Manchester DJ is discovered on the Spanish mainland twenty years after his mysterious disappearance from Ibiza. Laura plays his sister, who returns to the beautiful Spanish island to find out what happened. ‘Her investigation leads her through a world of dance clubs, lies and cover-ups’.

Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes was an instant hit in the role of Boxer, a very sexy but nonetheless principled and sensitive (yeah, right) man of violence. White Lines definitely helped the passing of lockdown in our household.

Image above: Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford in Quiz

Quiz is the extraordinary and sensational story of how Charles and Diana Ingram attempted an ‘audacious heist’ on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Major Ingram, his wife Diana and an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, who was sitting in the audience, were accused of cheating their way to a million pounds on what was, in 2001, the most popular game show on earth. The couple stood trial for signalling the correct answers by coughing. Matthew Macfadyen plays Charles and Sian Clifford plays his wife.

Michael Sheen won great praise for his ‘uncanny’ portrayal of quiz master Chris Tarrant in the three part mini-series which aired in April.

Image above: Patrick Robinson in Sitting in Limbo

Sitting In Limbo is the story of Anthony, (played by Patrick Robinson) who after living in the UK since he was eight years old, decides to visit his elderly mother in Jamaica.  He has never held, or needed, a passport before and while filling out the paperwork at the Passport Office he is stunned to discover that there is no record of him as a British Citizen -despite having lived in the country since 1965.

With the onus on him to prove his British citizenship to the Immigration Office, Anthony finds himself stuck in limbo, forced to leave his job and unable to claim benefits. In the early hours of a Sunday morning, Anthony is forcibly removed from his home and detained as an illegal immigrant. The devastation that ensues puts Anthony at the centre of what has now become known as the Windrush scandal.

Sitting In Limbo brought home to many people the breathtaking injustice meted out to those caught up in the Windrush scandal. “An absolutely astonishing watch” said one viewer. “Shocking and heartbreaking” said another. “Really intense but essential viewing”.

If you’re still casting around for things to watch while not going out, there’s three to watch on TV right there.

Image above: Daniel Craig in No Time To Die

Host of dramas put off till next year

Andy has just finished putting off till next year a programme of work scheduled for the autumn. The Fear Index, a thriller for Sky based on the book by Robert Harris, has been postponed till the spring. Another big series based on a book by Louise Penny, which was due to be filmed in Montreal, has also been put off.

Left Bank does a lot of its filming overseas and apart from the increased cost (Covid measures would have added 20% to the budget) filming such big productions is just not practical. There were some 650 people involved in producing The Crown, not all of them travelling or on set, but including the office staff and everyone, and they were often filming in several places at the same time. Challenging at the best of times, now that would be a logistical nightmare.

“We stopped filming immediately when Covid hit” said Andy. In April / May we thought we would be back filming in October, but deep in our hearts I suppose we thought it might continue”.

He has sympathy with the makers of No Time To Die.

“Big productions like that cost $200 – $300 million. It’s a global franchise so they would not have make the decision lightly but studios can’t afford to make films like that and not make their money back”.

It was hoped that action thriller Tenet would bring people flocking back to the cinemas but hasn’t done that well. The Disney film Mulan skipped cinemas and has gone straight to the Disney + channel.

Images above: Mrs America; I Hate Suzie; Tehran

What to watch on TV – as recommended by Andy Harries

So since we’re all likely to be staying in for the foreseeable future, what has Andy seen recently that he recommends for watching in the comfort of our own living rooms?

Mrs America – Available on BBC iplayer. TV series detailing the political movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and the unexpected backlash by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s. Cast includes Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba and Elizabeth Banks.

I Hate Suzie – Sky Atlantic series starring Bille Piper. Suzie Pickles (Piper), has her life upended when she is hacked and pictures of her emerge in an extremely compromising position.

Tehran – Apple TV. Tamar is a Mossad hacker – agent who infiltrates Tehran under a false identity to help destroy Iran’s nuclear reactor

Once Upon a Time in Iraq – Available on BBC iplayer. With unique personal archive from civilians and soldiers from both sides of the conflict, this series takes viewers closer to the realities of war and life under Isis than they have ever been before.

“That was fantastic” said Andy.

Image above: Once Upon a Time in Iraq

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: “Probably a good thing” Chiswick cinema not ready till next year

See also: Independent cinemas “shielded” from the blockbuster effect

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.


Episode 23: Talking with ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor

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.

The rise of women’s cricket, in England and worldwide, is the biggest story in the modern history of the game. Clare Connor CBE is a witness to this journey and a key driver of it. As a cricket-crazed girl, she played in boys’ and men’s teams, not even aware of English women’s cricket. But still in her teens, she played Test cricket for England women, then captained the side to a famous long-delayed Ashes triumph. After retirement she became a top administrator. Since 2012 she has been the chair of the ICC’s women’s committee, and more recently became the ECB’s Managing Director for women’s cricket and a board member. From October next year, she will become the first woman President of the MCC – a men-only bastion for over 150 years. She is the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their latest cricket-themed podcast.

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She describes the thrill of learning about her MCC appointment from its incumbent, Kumar Sangakkara (then captaining MCC on tour in Pakistan) and the MCC Chief Executive, Guy Lavender. She outlines her ambitions in the role in making the Club more inclusive.

She outlines her early cricket career in and near Brighton, unaware of women’s cricket and with no role model in women’s cricket. Although the only girl in her early teams, she never felt like an outsider, through the unconditional support of her parents and team members. She describes the trial – and the shot in front of the then England women’s coach – that brought her into women’s cricket.

Clare speaks of the demands of her England international career, juggling them against her university studies in English and her later job as a teacher. Like her colleagues she was never paid match fees: initially they even had to pay all their own expenses, including overseas tours. Full professional contracts were introduced only in 2014.

She describes vividly the intense national celebrations in 2005, shared with the England men, of the double success in their respective Ashes series, culminating in a ceremony and a joint photograph at an empty Lord’s.

Clare picks out highlights of the global advance of women’s cricket, given new impetus by T20, notably its take-off in Thailand, its progress in Pakistan after the pioneering courageous work of the Khan sisters, and the current proliferation of women’s competitions. She outlines the ICC’s efforts to develop the game in new territories with no background in cricket, and to use the game for social unity and global healing after the pandemic. She cites dramatic statistics of the current TV and digital audience for women’s cricket in England and worldwide. She refers to the growing discussions of the possibilities of women’s cricket selling its own rights and obtaining its own sponsorship. (One downside to its growing success is the infiltration of attempted match fixing into women’s cricket.)

She emphasizes the huge importance of showcasing women’s cricket (with free-to-air TV coverage) at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, and the strong efforts being made to include both men’s and women’s cricket in the next Olympic Games in Paris. Time constraints might well require this to be a T10 format. Hybrid pitches (real turf matched with artificial) will be essential: they have played a great role in the spread of global cricket.

Finally she contrasts her early career, unaware of women’s cricket, with the ambitious ten-stage pathway devised by the ECB to attract girls and women into cricket and let them progress as far as they want. She concludes: “There are so many more opportunities now for girls and women to feel more part of cricket, as players, fans, coaches, and that’s a very exciting journey.”

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 24: Talking with Historian and Author, Dr Prashant Kidambi

Previous Episode – Episode 22: Talking with MCC’s Head of Heritage and Collections Neil Robinson

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

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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. 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.

Jogger fined for spitting says he was just sweating

A jogger was given a fixed penalty fine of £120 in Chiswick High Rd. Mark Meghezzi, a Commercial Director with artificial intelligence platform Afiniti, was allegedly fined for spitting on Tuesday 29 September, but he says he was just perspiring. He took to Twitter to vent his anger.

‘Is this really what it has come to?

‘Sadiq Khan I can’t imagine this is how you intended these resources to be deployed.

‘I received a fine from Sadiq Khan’s London Borough of Hounslow for doing nothing more than going for a run down Chiswick High Road.

‘I paused at Turnham Green Terrace and went down on my haunches (it was a tough one) and waited for the traffic lights to turn green.

‘As I did so, naturally the sweat poured off me and I blew some away from my lip, towards the road. This is natural and unavoidable when running’.

Why he thought a busy shopping street a good place for a run, he doesn’t explain.

‘I was then accosted by a very excited young ‘Covid Officer’ who advised me that I had been ‘observed spitting’ and who then very eagerly issued me with the £120 FPN in the picture.

‘I stood back (mostly in shock) after receiving the FPN from this ‘officer’.

‘I observed him repeat his truck twice more with passing joggers and cyclists, stopped at the lights.

‘Needless to say this FPN will not be being paid and a complaint has been raised against the individual for their conduct in issuing it.’

Interactions with the public captured on camera

His comments on social media were widely reported. Asked for a comment by the Mail Online, Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran said:

‘The Fixed Penalty Notice was not given for any Covid offence or sweating, and nor was it issued by a Covid marshal. The notice was issued by an Enforcement Officer for spitting.

‘Officers tackle a wide range of offences to tackle environmental and anti-social behaviour to support the local community. All of our officers are provided with body-worn cameras that capture interactions between staff and members of the public. Details of why a Fixed Penalty Notice was issued is provided on the notice along with details of a representative process that allows for notices to be reviewed.’

‘Go and sweat and spit somewhere else’

Reactions in social media were split. Readers of the Daily Mail and were sympathetic. One calling themselves ‘Simbad’ on the Daily Star’s comment thread wrote:

‘A lot of fed up folk these days would have given this so called “officer” a good smack and run off !’

Another replied:

‘Can see a lot of these so called covid officers getting hurt soon’

On social media Stewart Jones wrote:

‘Nonsense. Man runs down busy road, sweats, spits during a pandemic. Tells the Daily Mail that he received a fine from Khan’s London Borough of Hounslow… Pay the fine. And go and sweat and spit somewhere else’.

Peter Evans added:

‘If people want to jog for exercise to the point of near exhaustion, they can go round and round the quiet perimeter of one of our many open spaces rather than using our busiest pavements along with many other pedestrians’.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Motorist drives around Staveley Rd barrier

See also: Local councillors accused of undermining minister’s transport plans

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. It entitles you also to a Chiswick Calendar Club Card, which entitles you to all manner of deals and discounts within Chiswick.

Dean’s Close bridge has lights installed

Workmen install Staveley Rd barrier early morning

A team from Hounslow Highways has installed the barrier across Staveley Rd in Grove Park which is part of the ‘Liveable neighbourhood’ changes designed to stop commuters cutting through the Grove Park and Strand on the Green areas. Twice before a team from Hounslow Highways has turned up to install the barrier, to be met with local residents protesting against the removal of the existing traffic island and installation of the barrier.

This time the workers came early; according to one of the residents they arrived at 5.00am, another told us 7.00am on the morning of Thursday 1 October, and caught the residents napping. They had the basics installed before the protesters were able to mobilise. Supported by the police, they put up perimeter fencing so they could work inside it.

Images above: Staveley Rd – photographs, Cllr Sam Hearn, Steve Nutt

“Officially sanctioned vandals”

Cllr Sam Hearn described the dawn swoop as the act of “officially sanctioned vandals”. He lives on Park Rd where residents are expecting to see increased traffic now that Staveley Rd is closed. The new traffic design forces cars coming down Staveley Rd to turn off into Park Rd. The idea is that once drivers know Staveley Rd is blocked off they will cease to use it as a cut through.

This morning there was a queue of traffic doing U turns in the road and returning the way they came.

Images above: Staveley Rd, photograph Cllr Sam Hearn

‘Worst fears confirmed’

A spokesman for Park Road Residents said:

“Our worst fears have been confirmed.  The council have ignored local residents, and admitted they are in the pocket of a few.  They might think £40,000 is a small amount of money to take out and re-install some islands, as council taxpayers we don’t.

“Worse still they are judge and jury on an opaque Consultation process, where already exists that people even not within the area can comment.  That is abuse.

“We asked Mr Frost sometime ago to provide copies from the Emergency Services that they had approved the scheme.  He declined to do so.”

“It just proves that LBH is living up to the words of Council Leader Steve Curran when he said at the last Council meeting “I am not concerned about people… Chiswick”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Protests in Staveley Rd as workmen return to install barrier

See also: Understanding the traffic changes in Grove Park