Man in the Middle – Chapter 18: Kitchen Sink

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.18: Kitchen Sink

Mother is washing her clothes in the kitchen sink. She is kneading them slowly and methodically like a master baker with a new batch of dough. On the counter next to her, I can see her pink pyjamas and some other garments soaking in my favourite copper stock pot.

This stock pot is French and very expensive. It’s bronze sheen is beautiful and every time I use it, I feel it does something magical to my otherwise mediocre cooking. With it by my side, I can open any cookbook with hope and ambition.

Looking at it now, full of undergarments and washing powder suds, I feel my culinary aspirations slipping away as fast as the dark water Mother is tipping down the plughole. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I think my emotions are close to what Parisians felt as they watched Notre Dame burn last year.

For a minute, I watch her from the doorway, while coming to terms with the violation of my stock pot. Why is she doing this? After all, we have a laundry room and the washing machine and drier are both working. Normally, she throws her dirty clothes into the communal laundry basket and they get washed along with everyone else’s. Is she unsatisfied with the way we have been washing her clothes? Or is this one of those seminal moments when I am going to realise that her mental health is beginning to crack?

‘What are you up to?’ I ask, gently.

‘Have you gone blind?’ she snaps back.

‘What I mean is, I was just wondering why are you washing your clothes down here? By hand? In the sink?’

‘To save your wife from having to do it for me, of course. What’s wrong with you this morning? You seem to have come downstairs without your brain.’

I’m a bit stung by this. To be fair to me, when it comes to doing the laundry, I’m pretty woke. I do my fair share alongside my wife. At least, that’s how I see it. But she’s missed my point. It’s not who’s doing it that I am worried about, but where and what it’s being done in. I ask again why she has chosen to do her laundry in the kitchen sink?

‘To save the planet, of course. Did you know, a single load of laundry in a washing machine creates 600g of CO2. If we wash our clothes less often and at a lower temperature, then we may be able to save the planet. Besides, it gives me something useful to do.’

I admire the fact that she has decided to try to save the planet at this stage of her life, even though it involves defiling my favourite stock pot. But I’m peeved because I can hear the voice of my Son speaking through her. I remember him ranting on about the ‘outrageous’ energy consumption of washing machines and, especially tumble driers a few weeks ago, when he tried to persuade us to recycle the tumble drier and use a washing line instead.

‘If you want to go to school in wet clothes for half the year, then be my guest,’ said my wife. ‘But if the tumble drier goes, so do I.’

For me, this was the decisive moment in the debate. No man in his right mind would ever consider trading his wife and a tumbler drier for a washing line. But, obviously, my son hadn’t given up on the argument and had continued his lobbying efforts with his grandmother, quietly and effectively.

‘There are lots of ways we can help fight climate change without washing our clothes in the kitchen sink,’ I say.

‘Of course, there are. The United Nations says we should wash our clothes less frequently, too. I’ve been wearing this lot for ten days, at least,’ she says proudly pointing at the garments in the stock pot.

My stomach tightens. I don’t want to know what clothes are in the stock pot. Or how long it is since they were last washed. Something beautiful has been desecrated and can never be the same.

Read the next in the series – Chapter 19: Reeling in the Years

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 19: Reeling in the Years

Read the previous one – Chapter 17: Resolutions

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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Hounslow plans to raise Council Tax

Hounslow Council is considering increasing Council Tax for the year 2020-21.

‘The ongoing impact of a decade of government cuts to its budgets and continuing financial pressures mean that Hounslow Council is having to consider increasing Council Tax by 3.99 per cent for 2020/21’.

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services said:

“The council continues to face major financial challenges due to austerity, particularly from the ever-growing demand on adult social care and children’s services. We therefore will need to make tough decisions in relation to Council Tax increases whilst protecting essential services for our most vulnerable residents and communities.”

The increase, which will be put to a Council meeting on 25 February, will mean an increase of £48.92 a year for a typical Band D property (excluding the Greater London Authority precept). According to LB Hounslow the increase would have been bigger if they hadn’t been so careful with the accounts:

‘Sound financial management has enabled the council to opt for an increase lower than last year’.

The Conservative opposition within the council, nine out of ten of whom represent Chiswick, does not agree that there has been sound financial management.

Photographs above: Cllr John Todd; Council leader Steve Curran

Failure to ensure sound financial management

Councillor John Todd says:

“Not one figure or example of good prudent practice or effective management is produced to justify the increase suggested”.

In fact, he says, there has been a “significant failure” by the council to ensure sound financial management.

“In June 2019 the London Borough of Hounslow Head of Governance reported to the Cabinet that their oversight of the LBH trading companies was materially wanting”.

The reference to ‘LBH trading companies’ refers to Lampton 360, which was set up in 2012 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the council, to run recycling, housing and green spaces in the borough, and turn a profit for the council in the process. This says Cllr Todd, has not been achieved.

“These entities had then borrowed circa £50m from LBH, had significant running costs and have yet to show any return. The justification to have these separate trading companies in some cases duplicating what’s done by council staff is not readily explained. They’ve been operating since 2016”.

He says he does not accuse council staff or councillors or financial impropriety, but he does accuse them of “slack” and “sloppy” use of public funds.

Lampton 360 Governance Review June 2019 criticised operation of Council owned companies

The report Cllr Todd refers to was a report by Peter Large, Head of Governance, presented to the Cabinet in June. In summary, the report says:

‘Generally, the existing framework has worked well and, subject to some important exceptions, has been applied and followed by both L360 and the Council’.

Among the important exceptions is this:

‘it is a requirement of the Shareholder Agreement that each subsidiary should submit an Annual Business Plan to the Council for agreement. For various reasons, this did not take place in 2018/19.

‘This is a serious omission. The submission of business plans for agreement, and the subsequent reporting of achievements in meeting business plan objectives through the year, is a key component of the governance framework, assists in transparency, and is one of the key mechanisms through which the Council can exercise control over L360 activity’.

‘Each company’s Business Plan should set out the key objectives of the business for the business plan period, how and when those objectives will be achieved, what resources will be required to deliver them, and how success will be measured. Without the opportunity to approve or provide input into business plans, or to approve any changes to business plans if necessary, the Council cannot assure itself that its own or L360 objectives are being achieved’.

Peter Large’s report concluded that  Lampton 360 needs to produce business plans for the Cabinet’s approval and that the Council needed to ‘recognise its role as the commissioner of L360’s services’, and develop a proper commissioning strategy.

‘There is a need for more clarity and better understanding across Council (both at officer and member level) in relation to roles and responsibilities with respect to L360’.

‘Savings’ not actually saved

Cllr Todd also criticises the way in which Hounslow Council has identified savings over a five year period, but not delivered them.

“In late 2019 savings which had been agreed by Cabinet members and senior officers over a period since 2014, totalling £16m, were removed or rebased. Put simply, unrealisable savings sitting as IOUs in someone’s desk slowly collectively building up to a huge sum making them making the description of them as being ‘savings’ as utter nonsense”.

Unallocated funds not used

He is also concerned about unallocated funds not being used.

“LBH continues to have unallocated funds, such as funding from the government called New Homes Bonus. Currently £20m plus NHB is available with some of this funding being carried forward unused from the last financial year. Hounslow has a £8.1m council tax shortfall in this budget and it could be eliminated or reduced by using this funding”.

“We’ve yet to see the Council Budget report which is due in February. The Government grant was increased this year by 4.45% with additional funding for adult and children’s services. This Labour Council’s manifesto promises to keep council taxes to a minimum. It demonstrably hasn’t”.

2% increase ringfenced for adult social care

Local authorities have a legal duty to fund care for those who pass centrally set needs and means tests. As the population ages, the need for adult care is spiralling. According to the Institute for Government:

‘Demand for publicly funded adult social care is likely to continue rising faster than money local authorities have to spend on it. Unless local authorities can make further efficiencies, the government will either have to spend more or accept that local authorities will have to reduce the quality of, or access to, care’.

Two per cent of the 3.99 increase is an adult social care precept, an increase which central Government has said it expects councils to make. The adult social care precept is ringfenced to protect adult social care services for the most vulnerable families.

Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran’s commented on the proposed increase:

“The council, residents and businesses face significant challenges for the foreseeable future, but despite the cuts to our budgets, we are committed to providing good quality services that are viable and economically sustainable. We must find more innovative ways of dealing with these new challenges, especially with regard to climate change and becoming carbon neutral by 2030. We will continue to put significant resources into improving air quality and green spaces in the borough, and I look forward to working with residents and businesses to achieve this.”


Britain abandons the rights of children

Photograph: Sara Nathan, co-founder and director of Refugees At Home; Lord Dubs with Nicholas Winton

The EU Withdrawal bill is being discussed in the Lords this week, and Alf Dubs, who came to this country as a child refugee from the Nazis, courtesy of the Kinder Transport programme, will be trying to get an amendment passed which will allow unaccompanied children to be reunited with members of their surviving family in this country.

It’s something which happened as a right under EU law. When the Withdrawal bill was first debated, Lord Dubs managed to get all party backing for an amendment which kept the right for an unaccompanied Syrian child to be reunited with an uncle in Birmingham, who may be their only surviving relative of the war.

When the Withdrawal bill was reintroduced and passed by the Commons last week, that amendment had been quietly ditched. He’s now fighting to get it put back.

“The way we treat the most vulnerable people is a test of who we are, what kind of country we hope to live in and what humanity we have. The most vulnerable people imaginable are lone refugee children” he says.

The numbers of children seeking to join their families here amount to only a few hundred. Lord Dubs is calling once more on public support.

Sara Nathan, who runs Refugees At Home, a local charity which enables ordinary people to offer rooms to refugees while they are finding their feet, argues here that impact on the most vulnerable of humanity, if the amendment is not reinstated, will be to drive unaccompanied children into the waiting hands of traffickers ready to exploit them.

Photograph: Musicians from the Yehudi Menuhin School playing in the Good Chance theatre in the Calais Jungle camp in 2016

Guest blog by Sara Nathan

R, a refugee from Afghanistan, is obsessed with cricket, which he has learnt to play through the Refugee Council scheme. When I first met him, he couldn’t wait to get back to his game. But some food would be good too. Actually, lots of food. Such a slight, thin boy and it was obvious to someone who has a son, that he couldn’t be more than about 16: the lack of muscle; the half-fledged look, everything really. But the powers-that-be said he was 22, and he was therefore kicked out of his foster placement and banned from school. So, although my charity, Refugees At Home, doesn’t usually host unaccompanied children, given the option was an all-night bus, graveyard or park, we took him in. R was lucky. The Refugee Council fought his case, the judge agreed he was still a child and soon after he went back into care.

R is just one of the thousands of unaccompanied children facing a really uncertain future either because they can’t get to the UK safely and legally to join their family here or because, if they do get here safely, they are forbidden from reuniting with their birth parents.

This week the House of Lords may well decide to re-instate the Dubs amendment to the Brexit Withdrawal Bill and allow separated child refugees, now in Europe, to come to the UK to be reunited with family members here. But given the government majority, it’s unlikely to make any difference. Last week the new government dumped its previous commitment to take in child refugees

Alf Dubs – who is a patron of Refugees At Home, which is how I know him – has lobbied, fought, persuaded and cajoled us to treat children now as he was treated when he came to this country as a six-year-old kinder-transport child in 1939. When Sir Nicholas Winton saved Alf and 668 other children and enabled them to flee Nazi persecution and build their lives here, he created a whole generation of people who grew up to be British citizens, integrated into the communities which rescued them.

At the very same time my grandparents hosted another kinder-transport boy, a German lad called Richard, whom I vaguely remember, who grew up and went into business with my father. Maybe the kindertransport wasn’t altogether a good thing: what Great Britain was doing was choosing to rescue the children but condemn their families to oppression and death in the extermination camps. The policy was to separate the smallest and most vulnerable, almost all of whom never saw their parents or siblings again, and forget about the rest, who perished.

It should make us want to do better this time. Or at least as well.

But child refugees are having a harsh time of it. If they manage to get here on their own, we are the only country in Europe which doesn’t allow minors to apply for family reunification visas for their parents and siblings. Adults who get refugee status in the UK can be reunited with their children and spouses, but children are expected to grow up here on their own – whatever they have fled.

The authors of a report published just last week by Amnesty, the Refugee Council and Save the Children “Without My Family” say this is “at odds with national law and a flagrant breach of international law, causing irreversible harm to children in this country.”

The numbers aren’t huge: there were 3,060 unaccompanied child asylum-seekers claiming asylum here in 2018. About a third of that number attained refugee status. And then they are condemned to be alone.

About 10,000 separated children have arrived in the last decade: they get here informally, often by lorry, because there are no safe and legal routes to join siblings, aunts, other family members. The Home Office has only facilitated 700 to do so “legally” in that time. And that’s in spite of the work of Lord Dubs and the Safe Passage campaign.

Photograph: Musicians from the Yehudi Menuhin School playing in the Good Chance theatre in the Calais Jungle camp in 2016

When my husband and I took a group of young musicians from the Yehudi Menuhin School to play in the Good Chance theatre in the Calais Jungle camp in 2016, the rapt audience was full of young Afghani lads, travelling alone or with friends, aged maybe 12 – 16. I can’t forget the teenager who slunk out as our Canadian cellist played “The Dying Swan” – because the beautiful music was making him cry so much and he didn’t want to display weakness.

We knew that Yehudi Menuhin – who visited Belsen to play for the survivors there just after it was liberated – would have wanted his centenary year marked by ‘his’ children performing to separated children in a camp only a few hours travelling time from his famous school in Surrey. So that’s what we did.

Some of those children may have made it here to join their extended families. Others just disappeared when the Jungle was destroyed. They will have been trafficked, raped, exploited. They are children.

Now there are about 4,000 unaccompanied children in Greece alone. They can’t stay there safely. Even the Home Office doesn’t send asylum-seekers back to Greece: it’s grossly over-crowded and failing to cope.

Yet 348 MPS voted against an amendment that would have kept protection for child refugees in the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Maybe the Lords will mark a protest. Probably it will be ineffective.

So, if we want the UK to be the sort of civilised country which doesn’t approve of children, victims of war and persecution, being rejected and left to suffer, we have to take action ourselves.

We can support Safe Passage, which campaigns for those children who still have a right to come here, to be allowed to do so:

We can join the over 150,000 who have signed the petition:

There is a charity which supports separated children when they arrive in the UK by providing arrival packs (I help pack them a couple of times a month – its quite fun and you feel you have achieved something concrete).

Finally of course, I would encourage anyone with a spare room to apply to host with Refugees At Home. We don’t host many children and those we do are the age-disputed ones. But it’s really worthwhile and life-enhancing – and I have hosted 21 people, so I should know by now!

Sara Nathan is co-founder and director of the charity Refugees At Home 

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Volunteering in Chiswick 

See also: Eighty years since the Kindertransport brought refugees from Nazi Germany here

Cherry Blossom Festival

Plans are afoot for a Cherry Blossom Festival this spring.

Every year the trees along Stavely Rd, in Grove Park, put on a magnificent show. 

Resident Sally Malin decided there’s no better way to celebrate the coming of spring than to have a street party when the trees are in bloom.

Sally, who runs Better Mental Health Chiswick, is all for anything which will uplift the spirits, which the annual display of blossom definitely does.

Her main problem in organising such an enterprise is second guessing when the little darlings will bloom.

The Japanese themed street party will be either Sunday 19 or Sun 26 April, to be confirmed in February, once there’s a clearer idea of how the weather is affecting the buds.  

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Better Mental Health Chiswick

See also: Labour activists set up Better Mental Health group

“Do the politically difficult things as soon as possible”

We can expect a raft of controversial planning reforms in the weeks to come, which may pave the way for a forest of tall buildings along the approach to London from Heathrow and into Chiswick.

Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser Dominic Cummings told ministerial aides at a No.10 briefing just before Christmas that the Government “must do the politically difficult things as soon as possible.”

That, he said, would include planning liberalisation, including allowing developers and homeowners to build upwards.

Developers see the planning process as a huge and expensive drag on the business of getting their developments built, and want the power of local government reduced.

Other Government plans likely to be implemented include scrapping a regulation that forces builders to apply for permission if they want to demolish a commercial property and replace it with homes.

Hounslow Council wants the M4 corridor flanked by commercial buildings, not residential, not least because of the poor air quality and the noise generated by the motorway.

But LB Hounslow lost a High Court case just over a year ago to Paradigm Land, who bought an office block on the Great West Road, a few hundred yards west of Chiswick roundabout, and turned it into housing units.

High Court to decide on the Curve

We are awaiting another High Court ruling, on the Chiswick Curve, the 32-storey development at Chiswick roundabout proposed By Starbones.

The development was turned down last year by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State at the Department of Local Government and Housing, after planning permission had been refused by Hounslow Council and the decision had gone to a Public Inquiry.

The developers immediately appealed the Secretary of State’s decision, and it is now a matter for the court to decide.

But there are other planning decisions waiting in the wings for the next Secretary of State to decide, and the political wind has changed.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Local residents oppose Chiswick Curve proposal at public meeting.

See also: Who has control over business decisions?

Who should be the next leader of the Labour party?

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, would like your thoughts on the subject.

Should it be Keir Starmer, who came to Hounslow to support Ruth’s election campaign and has been endorsed this week by Ken Livingstone?

Should it be Jess Phillips, who announced on Jan 1:

“I’ve woken up with an absolute cob on about the people who get to make decisions about our lives. 2020 starts with fire in my belly and I promise that won’t change”.

Will the Labour party be remade in Jeremy Corbyn’s image with Rebecca Long-Bailey as his successor?

Or one of the other candidates jockeying for position?

Ruth Cadbury would like to hear what you think.

She gives us her thoughts on the parliamentary year ahead, the challenges and her ambitions for 2020 in her guest blog on The Chiswick Calendar website. Read her guest blog here.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury – 2020 Look Ahead

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick MPs

Get fit in 2020

It never hurts to at least start the year with intentions of getting fit. 

The Hogarth Club in Airedale Avenue offers an exclusive Chiswick Calendar membership deal, with a reduced joining fee and an offer of two months’ membership for the price of one.

The Hogarth Club offers a state of the art gym and a pool, with sauna and jacuzzi and a range of classes from Bodypump to yoga.

But if you don’t want to join a gym, you just want to pick a bespoke activity to focus on, have a look at our Fitness Guide for a range of fitness activities around Chiswick, from ballet to paddleboarding.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Getting back to fitness after childbirth

See also: The Fitness Directory

The Chiswick Calendar party 2020

The Chiswick Calendar is celebrating five years. 

Come and help us celebrate on Thursday 16 January in the Boston Room of George IV. 7.30pm (doors open 7.00pm).

Meet other people with a vested interest in maintaining all the good things about Chiswick and creating new things to make it an even more enjoyable place to live.

The most informal AGM you could possibly find! Music from the Greg Davis trio.

Tickets £8.00 + booking fee.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Pictures from last years party

See also: Jazz at George IV

Re-launch of historic Bedford Park Bicycle Club

January 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 January.

My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa is a powerful debut about school abuse, written by Elizabeth Kate Russell. The novel alternates between Vanessa’s present and her past and is timely in the era of #MeToo.
In 2000, 15-year old Vanessa becomes involved with her 42-year old English teacher. Vanessa is bright, ambitious and convinced that he is the great love of her life.

Many years later, Vanessa discovers that another former student has accused the same man of sexual abuse. Vanessa feels conflicted when a journalist wants her to tell the real story. Her relationship was loving, wasn’t it?

Stephen King reviewed it as “A hard story to read and a harder one to put down… a well-constructed package of dynamite.” My Dark Vanessa is published by Fourth Estate on 23 January.

American Dirt

American Dirt is a page-turning Mexican migrant novel, written by Jeanine Cummins. It tells the story of how Lydia and her son were forced to flee their home in Acapulco, to then illegally cross the US-Mexico border.

The local drug cartels were always a threat but Lydia was a happily married bookshop keeper, who thought their lives were fairly comfortable- until she made a mistake and the cartel went after her family.

Have Lydia and her eight-year-old son a chance at life? Jeanine’s book is terrifying as she gives a face to migrants everywhere who run for their lives. Don Winslow reviewed it as “A Grapes of Wrath for our times.” American Dirt is Tinder Press’ leading title for 2020 and it’s published on 21January.

The 24-hour Cafe

The 24-hour Cafe is written by Libby Page, the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido, which has sold in over twenty territories around the world.

The 24-hour Cafe is the cafe that never sleeps. Stella opens the doors day and night for the lost, the hungry, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is welcome and where anyone can be themselves.

We meet Hannah and Mona, who are best friends, waitresses and day dreamers. On this particular day, their friendship will be tested, the community will come together and their lives will be changed forever. The 24-hour Cafe is published by Orion on 23 January.

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

Read about the annual Chiswick Book Festival here

Robin Knight wins Christmas Quiz 

Picture above: Dinner at Haddo House, 1884 by Alfred Edward Emslie

Local author Robin Knight has won the Christmas Quiz, run jointly by The Chiswick Calendar and The Chiswick Book Festival.

Robin is the author of Mike Cumberledge SOE, the biography of a wartime hero, and a former correspondent for Time magazine. He fought off stiff competition to win the prize, a beautiful Folio Society edition of Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, donated by Foster Books. Robin had 37 correct answers out of a total of 40 questions.

Runners-up were Diana Oppe in second place, who scored 36 marks, and Sara Gronmark in third place with 35 correct answers. You can see the questions, which I know many of you have pondered, below, along with the correct answers.

Photographs above: Torin Douglas; Robin Knight

“Congratulations to them all – it wasn’t easy and we marked very strictly” said Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, who judged the quiz with Bridget Osborne, editor of The Chiswick Calendar.

“We wanted exact answers – so question 8, about Alain-Fournier, needed to include the name Sanderson’s, not just ‘a west London fete’. Question 4 about John Osborne needed the fact that George Devine rowed out to his houseboat, not just ‘on his houseboat’. And for question 32, about the two artists who are featured on both Chiswick Timelines, both names were needed to gain a mark.”

All three finalists got question 26 wrong, leading the judges to look at it again. “We asked ‘Who gave the director Peter Brook, born in Chiswick, a special theatre award last month?’ “ said Douglas. “We were thinking of Evgeny Lebedev at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards in November 2019. But it turned out that Brook had also won Spain’s prestigious arts prize, the Princess of Asturias award, and this was presented to him in October by Princess Leonora. Since we had specifically said ‘a special theatre award last month’ we stuck to our guns!”

Photographs above: Ant & Dec, Ooh What A Lovely Pair; Stephen and Sarah Foster with a copy of Le Grand Meaulnes

Ant & Dec take Chiswick writers to 400

Torin is hell bent on proving we are the most literary post code in the country. So imagine his delight when Robin got one of the answers wrong, and with his answer, inadvertently tipped Torin off to a pair of authors of whom he was unaware. The knowledge that Ant and Dec have written a book take his list of authors who live, or have lived in Chiswick, or have written about it, to a nice neat 400. Don’t for God sake tell him of another one, or he will have to find another 99!

“One of the few questions which Robin Knight got wrong was No 18, about the autobiography of a Chiswick comedy duo” says Torin. “The correct answer was ‘Eric and Ernie’ but he put down ‘Ooh What A Lovely Pair’. I’m afraid I thought he was being facetious!”

Photographs above: Phil Brown, courtesy of Wookiepedia; John Osborne

Questions and answers

Here are the questions, with the answers, which can all be found by careful reading of the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books pages of the Chiswick Book Festival website.

1. Which Chiswick newspaper editor revealed the plot (dramatised in The Crown) to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace him with Lord Mountbatten?


2. Which west London food charity was founded by the great grandson of the illustrator of the Chiswick Shakespeare? THE FELIX PROJECT

3. Who was the Star Wars actor who lived on a houseboat in Chiswick and whose wife wrote a book called ‘Swans at my Window’? PHIL BROWN

4. How did John Osborne receive the contract for his play Look Back in Anger to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre? GEORGE DEVINE ROWED TO HIS HOUSEBOAT WITH IT

5. Who was the Government minister whose parents arranged for EM Forster to be celebrated with a blue plaque at Arlington Park Mansions? ED VAIZEY

6. Where in Chiswick did the author of Empire of The Sun enjoy walking with his children? CHISWICK HOUSE GARDENS

7. 175 years ago in Chiswick, how many giraffes greeted the Tsar of Russia and Prince Albert at ‘one of the grandest fetes ever held in England’? FOUR

8. What event in Chiswick connects Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby? A FETE AT THE SANDERSON SOCIAL CLUB IS SAID TO HAVE INSPIRED A KEY SCENE IN BOTH BOOKS

9. What was Ralph Miliband doing in Chiswick when he wasn’t studying at Chiswick Public Library? CLEARING BOMBED OUT HOUSES

10. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Blenheim Road? WB YEATS

11. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Chiswick High Road? HAROLD PINTER

12. Which Booker Prize winner lived in Barrowgate Road? IRIS MURDOCH

13. Which Oscar-winning writer lived in Hartington Road? ROBERT BOLT

14. Which Oscar-winning actress lived on Chiswick Mall? VANESSA REDGRAVE

15. Name one of the two Chiswick writers buried in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. SIR JOHN DENHAM and REVD HENRY FRANCIS CARY

16. In what year did a Poet Laureate and an exhibition help save the first garden suburb from the threat of redevelopment? 1967

17. Which writer moved to Chiswick to mark William Shakespeare’s four hundredth birthday and discovered you could buy a house here for less than £3,000? ANTHONY BURGESS

18. Name the autobiography of the comedy duo who started their career in digs with Mrs Duer in Clifton Gardens. ERIC & ERNIE

19. What is the name of the house at Strand on the Green where the author of The Pursuit of Love and a celebrated ballet dancer have both lived? ROSE COTTAGE

20. Name the wife of the vicar of St Nicholas Church in Chiswick who wrote 600 letters to an Austrian refugee during World War 2? MOLLY RICH

21. Which treasure in the Bodleian Library was created by William Morris when he lived in Chiswick High Road? THE ODES OF HORACE

22. Which Chiswick gardener later became an MP and designed the Crystal Palace? SIR JOSEPH PAXTON

23. Who was the headmaster immortalised in the autobiography of a member of The Who, brought up in Chiswick? MR KIBBLEWHITE

24. Which Chiswick screenwriter received an Oscar nomination for a Beatles film? ALUN OWEN

25. Which Chiswick novelist’s “riotously funny account of a new mum who goes back to work as a spy” is recommended as a Christmas gift by the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson? ASIA MACKAY

26. Who gave the director Peter Brook, born in Chiswick, a special theatre award last month? EVGENY LEBEDEV (EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS)

27. Which Chiswick humorist died 50 years ago this month and was commemorated in The Oldie? STEPHEN POTTER

28. Which novel with scenes set in Chiswick was dramatised by Tom Stoppard for an award-winning BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch? PARADE’S END

29. Who called Chiswick House “my earthly paradise”? GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE

30. Name two people on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books who created the musical Cats. TWO FROM: ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, GILLIAN LYNNE, WAYNE SLEEP

31. Which Chiswick-born collector has a gallery devoted to his finds in the Museum of London? THOMAS LAYTON

32. Name two artists on the Chiswick Timeline of art and maps, the mural at Turnham Green tube station, who also appear on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books? WILLIAM HOGARTH and ANTHEA CRAIGMYLE

33. Which two addresses in Chiswick have rival claims to be where Becky Sharpe threw the dictionary in Vanity Fair? WALPOLE HOUSE and CHISWICK SQUARE

34. In which book does GK Chesterton parody Bedford Park as “Saffron Park”? THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY

35. Where in Chiswick House can you find a portrait of Alexander Pope? THE BEDCHAMBER

36. Name the trilogy of novels, featuring scenes in Chiswick, by the writer commemorated with a blue plaque in Burlington Gardens. TWENTY THOUSAND STREETS UNDER THE SKY

37. 60 years ago, who topped the bill at the final performance at the Chiswick Empire? LIBERACE

38. Which member of a famous chocolate family has written about Queen Victoria’s matchmaking? DEBORAH CADBURY

39. Which Prime Minister is identified as No 100 in the key to the painting ‘The Royal Garden Party at Chiswick’. RT. HON. WE GLADSTONE

40. Which Sunday newspaper carried the headline “Put the word out: Chiswick may be the UK’s most literary location”? THE OBSERVER

Ruth Cadbury’s 2020 look ahead

Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury MP

After being overwhelmingly endorsed by local Labour members at the selection meetings at the start of October, I was honoured to be re-elected in the general election that followed, and am grateful to everyone who voted for me and who supported the campaign here in this constituency.

I believe a large part of the reason for the election result here was as a result of voters’ level of anger with the Tories over their austerity policies and with concerns about Brexit.

However, the results in London were not reflected across the UK. It was a dreadful election for Labour, and for the people of this country who need a Labour Government. Whilst Labour retained seats in English and Welsh cities, we lost seats and vote share virtually everywhere else. Labour needs to gain over 120 more seats needed to form a Labour Government, so we need a leadership team to transform our party to one that is seen as credible to the majority of voters in seats we’ve just lost, those we’ve lost since 2010; as well as seats like this. If you have been a Labour voter, I would welcome your views on who you think the next party leader, and deputy leader should be.

2020: Looking ahead

2020 has hardly begun, yet each new day brings further uncertainty. Trump instructed US forces to assassinate Suleiman (the head of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA and special forces combined) bringing an unprecedented level of tension to international relations.

It’s a month until Brexit yet we’re hardly further on in knowing the nature of our departure. And last week Dominic Cummings announced a fundamental culture change in the Civil Service and with it a further power grab by Government from Parliament. Despite his apparently radical agenda, Cummings clearly has no ideas or even interest in addressing the country’s top challenges; the distribution of power and wealth, gross inequalities and poverty, tackling climate change etc.

With a majority of 80 in the Commons, and so many of his moderate one-nation Tories gone, the Boris Johnson is now free to continue the destruction of our police, health, education, council and other public services started by his predecessors. Whilst there have been many un-costed spending announcements, with a Brexit-induced economic decline continuing, and the inevitability of ongoing tax-breaks for high earners and large corporations, this Government will have little ability to throw money around; so the cuts to our essential services will continue apace along with the devastating impact it will have on so many.

Heathrow: We are waiting for the High Court judgement on the judicial review of the decision to proceed with Runway 3 at Heathrow.

My Priorities: My colleagues and I now face being in continuous opposition for the months and years to come. Nevertheless I will continue to raise the impacts of Government policy that matter most to my constituents such as the housing crisis and poverty. Particular local focus will be on:

• addressing knife crime and support for our young people;
• services for children with disabilities and additional needs;
• Air quality and climate change – including the impact of Heathrow expansion
• The rights of leaseholders
• Having a third go at the London Marathon, and beating my 2019 time and fundraising total!
I will also play a continuing role on the All Party Groups for Cycling and Walking, and on the Loan Charge

You can find previous reports of my work on my web site; I also report regularly on my Facebook page and via Twitter and Instagram @RuthCadbury. You can see full details of my questions and speeches in Parliament, and get Regular updates about my Parliamentary activities on TheyWorkForYou

Ruth Cadbury is the MP for Brentford & Isleworth. Contact her at: 

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Thousands encouraged to join bad tax schemes

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Man in the Middle – Chapter 17: Resolutions

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.17: Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Day and everyone is slouching in front of the TV. Only the TV is off, because one of Wife’s New Year resolutions is that the family should watch less TV. She hasn’t quantified exactly how many hours of TV that means we can watch this year or how it’s going to be monitored. Nor are we clear if we each get our own allocation of hours or if there is just one giant family budget to draw down on.

Son suggests we use a model like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme with each of us getting a fixed number of TV hours at the start of the year which we can use up or trade with each other. ‘Think of it as a sort of carbon offsetting scheme with TV hours instead of carbon units. It will create a more flexible model better suited to the TV viewing needs of each individual member of the family while keeping a lid on the total TV consumption of the household.’

Daughter asks if she can sell all her TV units in one go because she is heading back to university next week and so shouldn’t be expected to participate in the scheme. She could also do with the money.

‘I don’t think the trade would be financial,’ I say, remembering the trauma when the children tried to trade stamps with each other.

‘On the contrary, I’d be happy to act as an exchange for the trading house. Though you’d all need to make a small deposit to underwrite the initial start-up costs,’ says Son.

Mother hasn’t said anything yet. But she’s tuned in. I think she is trying to understand if the proposed cap on TV might actually be serious. If so, we can expect a fight. Clearly, her TV consumption can’t be included under our family’s TV Viewing Cap even if she is the largest consumer in the house. Asking her to cut back her TV consumption is as pointless as asking the Chinese to stop building coal powered generators.

‘Shall we discuss it all over a beer down the pub?’ I say trying to break the conversation up before things get tricky.

‘I thought you were doing Dry January?’ says Wife.

Eleven hours into the New Year and I’ve already forgotten my one and only New Year’s resolution. The first sign of family difficulty and my sub-conscious is ordering a session IPA.
‘You’re right. But I’ll have something non-alcoholic.’

‘Let’s stay here, put the fire on and do something together. The Quiz of the Year or a puzzle.’

The children groan.

‘Like the old days,’ she appeals to us all.

‘In the old days, we’d have watched a movie together. Now we can never find something we all want to watch,’ says Son.

‘No TV. Until tonight. That’s that,’ says Wife, picking up the TV remote with a fierce grip. It’s clear it will be a fight to the death were anyone to try to take it off her.

‘Quite right,’ says Mother, in the stern voice she uses whenever she’s signalling that she wants to be taken seriously. ‘All of you. No TV till tonight.’

Mother admires decisive parenting even though she herself was laissez faire as a parent. Quite why she’s so keen on backing Wife’s ‘No TV’ policy is not immediately obvious.

‘If only I’d been as strong willed with you and your brother about the TV. You both watched far too much of it. Planet of the Apes and all that other rubbish. I blame your father he was never firm enough with you.’

It seems our New Year resolution has reminded Mother of an identical one of her own years ago to curb my excessive youthful TV habits.

Wife quickly lifts the newspaper up so we can’t see her face. Daughter leaps for the kitchen her eyes crinkled up. I think she’s crying. Or laughing. Son is googling something.

‘Nice one, Granny. Planet of the Apes. 1968. We can watch the original with Charlton Heston tonight. How about it, everyone? We’ve finally found something even Dad will like.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 18: Kitchen Sink

Read the previous one – Chapter 16: Rorke’s Drift

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

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