Dog or husband? Brexit quandaries

Image above: Angela and Jim at their home near Carcassonne

Angela Corden and her husband Jim live part of the year in Chiswick and part in France. Howard, their dog, has an EU pet passport, but in the fevered pre-Christmas days of the EU trade negotiations, the all consuming question was: would Howard have to go into quarantine? What to do?

Guest blog by Angela Corden

“But he’ll never survive in quarantine!” I wailed.

I was having a Christmas/Covid/Brexit meltdown. The subject: when, how and with what documents could we take our dog back to France in January. Howard, our rescue dog, was the first member of our household to get a coveted blue passport. In his dotage he got to travel with us numerous times on his EU pet passport, he got to lounge in the sun half-heartedly showing an interest in geckos climbing the walls.

Alas the days of wine & roses were in the balance for him (& us). Quarantine was in reality looking pretty unlikely, but such was the head of steam that the uncertainty and speculation had created amongst Brits with pets that I admit I lost perspective. That’s the thing with the unknown, the worst case scenario becomes plausible in your head. What will we be able to do? When will we know? How can we plan? Should we book now? Should we wait? When do we get our Covid test? What if?

Images above: Howard enjoying a dip and in the back yard of the house in France

A New Year separation

In the end, as the deadline drew nearer and no further clarity was given we decided my husband and Howard would dash back to France early, ahead of 31 December, using his pet passport and our residency papers (plus, thankfully, a negative Covid test).

I’m not asking for sympathy, I’m aware having a maison secondaire is a First World problem; I’m just sharing with you how it was for us over this strangest of Christmases. The anxiety levels have been rising: Is Jack safe going into work on the train? Will Sophie be OK working with young kids? Will my dad be ok living on his own? Will Jim’s dad continue to recover well? Will my sister-in-law get a break from back-to-back funerals? Will my theatre friends ever work in the West End again? Will my doctor friend and her colleagues get a break from the relentlessness of Covid?

And that’s on a good day! Throw that lot in with the ‘will we/won’t we see one another over Christmas’ nail biter and running Brexit negotiations up to the wire and it was the holy trinity of angst. I think we’ve all had a year of guessing, speculating, hoping, having hopes dashed, grabbing any opportunity for a break in the relentlessness of it.

Images above: The house in France; Jim working on the back yard

Residency status ‘in progress’

Jim and I make up some of the 150,000 Brits who call France home for much of the year. We’re lucky, I know. We bought a part renovated maison de ville (townhouse) in a village 15 minutes from Carcassonne in SW France. It was a decision made post 2016, to keep a foot in Europe, and it was a choice between extending the back of the house in London or having a whole house in Languedoc. Europe won.

We’ve been travelling back and forth with our ageing dog, marvelling in our Europeanness for a few years now. Heck I even call the editor Brigitte – such is my continentalness these days! But increasingly there has been a big old Brexity cloud on the horizon; we felt sure it would shed its burgeoning rain and we’d see a rainbow soon. But no, it seems No 10. style these days is to run things up to the wire.

So much was up in the air for Brits in the EU right up until a few days before the deadline. God knows how hauliers and trade are faring if our community’s worries are anything to go by.

In the meantime the French government had assured us that, by meeting some residential criteria, we could apply online for residency status in France, allowing us to spend as much time as we wanted coming and going. After all, British property ownership in France amounts to €18bn, so their pragmatism makes sense.

Our village mayor, Jacques (bien sur) has assured us that we’re welcome and he will do anything he can to help smooth things through. The British embassy has been posting incredibly helpful videos and myth busters each day to dispel panic & doom. Our neighbours and friends in France want us back too and are always on hand to help.

Images above: A drawing of their town house; Lunch; Howard

Wild asparagus and rhubarb meringue

We found ourselves in lockdown there earlier this year; we had been due back to the UK to see the family but were weighing up what was safe and sane when the choice was made for us. Macron spoke & we stayed put.

Our neighbours and fellow villagers couldn’t have been more kind. Madame Barri (corner shop) left us some wild asparagus she’d picked on her daily walk, Guillem next door left us a dozen eggs from his hens and his wife baked us a rhubarb meringue, Sylvie from across the road made us some face masks.

The mayor wrote to every household to explain the latest laws & health protocols and we discovered everything we could within the permitted 2k walking radius of our house. The vineyards, the river Aude, the foothills of the Alaric mountains, the winding back streets, crumbling old barns, the flora & fauna….

Back then, whilst immensely grateful for what we had, we did allow ourselves to dream of warm afternoons and long lunches with friends – but all that had to wait. And it will have to wait now too. We’ve made it to 2021 with none of our crew overboard. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Sitting tight, watching and waiting

So now I find myself alone in Chiswick with my husband and dog in France. I have some work commitments here in the UK as well as some life admin to sort out before I can join them. Under current travel rules I am able to travel to France, treated as a resident of the country returning home (though Brits who aren’t resident in France cannot travel).

Our residency application is ‘in progress’ but our supporting application documents have demonstrated a commitment to France, therefore we’re effectively given the benefit of the doubt by the French government until the application is rubber stamped and we get our Carte de Sejours.

Everyone I know of in a similar situation either got over before the 31 December to avoid any border confusion or is sitting tight until things become clearer over the next few weeks.

Covid and Brexit-wise. I read with some alarm about British nationals, who were Spanish residents, being offloaded from their BA flights in the last day or so, despite having their rapid Covid tests & all the required paperwork.

The British Embassy have commented to say they were indeed carrying all the correct documentation to be allowed to travel. These people have to re-book their expensive rapid Covid tests, their flights and change all their accommodation plans in Tier 4 London. What a mess.

So I think I will sit tight for a bit. I’m waiting & watching this space….

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Brexit effect – What it means to be French in England now

See also: The Three Old Hacks podcast – Britain and Europe, where did it all go wrong?

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Sadiq Khan tells ministers to “get a grip” on foreign arrivals

The Mayor of London said Ministers needed to “get a grip” on foreign nationals arriving in the UK, in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Sadiq Khan said it is too easy for travellers to enter the capital, and has demanded stricter quarantine measures and more rigorous testing regimes from the Government.

He said powers relating to quarantine rules lie with central Government, rather than the Mayor’s Office. So far, he said, the calls have “fallen on deaf ears”.

Mr Khan has criticised the Government’s unclear messaging on foreign travel, which has led to people being unsure on what they actually need to do.

On international travel, he said:

“Other countries that have been affected have not allowed people to come in unless they properly quarantine for a period of time and there is proper testing.

“If you compare and contrast what happens at our airports in relation to the airports in, for example, Seoul, there is a big difference.

“So I’m really frustrated, as the mayor of a city with a number of airports serving us – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City, plus the Eurostar – at the ease with which people can come in to our city, potentially with new strains of the virus.

“And that’s what we’ve been calling on the Government to make sure they stop the virus coming in through other means, and that’s why it is really important for them also to get a grip with international travel in relation to this virus.

“I’m asking for much more strict controls in relation to those arriving in our country, including not least far more testing at the point of arrival and proper quarantining before they leave the airport firstly for the testing and before they can leave their homes.”

National lockdown was “inevitable”

Speaking after the Prime Minister announced a third national lockdown on Monday (4 January), Mr Khan said:

“This announcement by the Government of a full national lockdown was inevitable. It is unclear why it took Boris Johnson so long to reach this conclusion The virus is out of control and our NHS is increasingly at risk of being overwhelmed by an exponential rise in cases, with COVID admissions to hospitals now significantly higher than any time during this pandemic.

“The new variant of the virus is spreading quickly – the only way to get the virus under control is a full national lockdown, as well as the Government taking every step possible to rapidly accelerate the vaccine programme. I continue to call the on the Government to make wearing masks mandatory outdoors when in queues, streets and other crowded places outside. To Limit the risk of new variants spreading, we need more rigorous testing and quarantine rules put in place at our borders and airports. It is also crucial that greater financial support is provided to businesses, the self-employed and those self-isolating which is still woefully insufficient.

“Tonight’s announcement means more difficult weeks ahead for our city. Londoners have already made huge sacrifices, but once again I urge each and every Londoner to follow the rules. Stay at home, protect the NHS and help to save lives.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Christmas impact – Covid cases up by nearly 50% in Chiswick

See also: Professor Jeremy Levy has received his Covid vaccination and says it’s imperative that when you’re offered one, you take the opportunity

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.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Top four categories vaccinated by mid Feb “if things go well”

Image above: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that Britain is re-entering national lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday 4 January that as we go into the third national lockdown, there is one key difference compared to last year. We now have effective vaccines. He described as a “realistic expectation” that by the middle of February, “if things go well” the first vaccine dose will have been offered to everyone in the four top vaccine groups.

These are: residents in care homes – both older adults and their carers, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is considered ‘extremely vulnerable’.

Professor Jeremy Levy is a kidney doctor at a London hospital, who got his jab on Monday. Though he’s a consultant nephrologist, usually concerned with kidney transplants, he’s been at the frontline of treating Covid patients since the beginning of the pandemic. He’s written a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar on his experiences and why in his view it is imperative for everyone who’s offered the vaccine to take the opportunity.

Guest blog by Professor Jeremy Levy

I am thankful, delighted and feel privileged that today I received my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as a front-line doctor, working locally here in West London hospitals.

I am completely confident that the vaccine will protect me as much as is possible and is safe. I have been encouraging all my patients to take it as soon as they are offered it.

Covid is absolutely not a joke. Today a very close friend, aged 63, with no health problems, a full time doctor, a father and grandfather, died from Covid on an intensive care unit.

When the first wave of Covid struck back in March I was working on wards full of patients with Covid: on my first ward round on the Monday, one patient died before I had even finished seeing everyone, and two more patients, perhaps your neighbours, died later the same day.

During that first week, seven patients died under my care. This was truly devastating. Many staff, especially nurses and other healthcare professionals, and especially those from Black and Asian backgrounds, were terrified because of the undoubted extra risks they seemed to face. And we now face a seemingly worse situation.

My hospital – which is your local hospital – has filled almost all space for the sickest patients, despite having massively expanded the available ITU beds, and is close to becoming overwhelmed. We are having to reduce most routine health care, which of course is not routine for those affected, but crucially important to them.

I can no longer be sure I can give patients life-sustaining or life-changing transplants when they become available. I have had to radically curtail my outpatient clinics. We are reducing all operations which are not life-saving. We are not exaggerating the problems in any shape or form.

When you’re offered a vaccination – take it!

Therefore please, keep at home, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep away from people, and get vaccinated as soon as you get the offer. Vaccination is the only way to get rid of this problem, like it did with Polio in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Very few people can now remember the scourge of Polio, killing or disabling children and adults, a disease which has been eradicated by vaccination. The risks from Covid are infinitely more dangerous, and Covid is devastating lives.

You will be invited by your GP to receive a vaccine by age group (oldest people and those “clinically extremely vulnerable” first): please don’t chase your GP – they have all being working flat out in very difficult circumstances and have created appropriate lists of patients, and the vaccines have to be spread out around the country.

You will be called when a vaccine is available locally and for you. When this happens, just say yes! And you won’t get a choice of vaccine: both are excellent, extremely well validated despite the short time scale, and work well. And it is clear to me that offering more people the first jab and delaying the second will save more lives short term and reduce illness: the first dose gives more immediate protection (via generating immediate antibodies), while the second (booster dose) gives longer lasting protection by stimulating other parts of the immune system (for example T cells).

The evidence suggests that for the country, for the population as a whole, for you, your friends and relatives, this is a better approach given the extra-ordinary circumstances we are in. And don’t forget that younger people are not immune from the devastating consequences of Covid, even if the risks of death are lower.

I am currently looking after patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s suffering prolonged hospital admissions and serious long-term consequences from Covid. Your Facebook “friends” telling you stories of vaccine harms, are not telling you that Covid kills, maims and devastates. Please, keep away from crowds, closed spaces, wear your mask, and say yes when offered your vaccine.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Prime Minister announces third national lockdown

See also: Latest Covid figures for Chiswick 

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.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Prime Minister announces third national lockdown

The Prime Minister announced last night (Monday 4 January) that we are going back into a national lockdown.

The new variant of Covid-19 is between 50 and 70% more transmissible. The hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

In England alone the number of Covid patients has increased by nearly a third in the last week, to almost 27,000. That number is 40% higher than the first peak in April.

We’ve set a new record for the number of people testing positive – more than 80,000 tested positive on 29 December across the UK.

The number of deaths is up by 20% over the last week.

Primary and secondary schools will be closed across the whole of the UK until after the February half term, for all but children considered vulnerable and the children of key workers.

Boris Johnson’s statement in full

“Since the pandemic began last year, the whole United Kingdom has been engaged in a great national effort to fight Covid.

“And there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work.

“But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.

“Our scientists have confirmed this new variant is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible – that means you are much, much more likely to catch the virus and to pass it on.

“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

“In England alone, the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week, to almost 27,000.

“That number is 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.

“On 29 December, more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK – a new record.

“The number of deaths is up by 20 per cent over the last week and will sadly rise further. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.

“With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.

“In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.

“That means the Government is once again instructing you to stay at home.

“You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a Covid test, or to escape domestic abuse.

“The full details on what you can and can’t do will be available at gov.uk/coronavirus.

“If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, we are advising you to begin shielding again and you will shortly receive a letter about what this means for you.

“And because we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

“Everyone will still be able to access early years settings such as nurseries.

“We recognise that this will mean it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.

“We will provide extra support to ensure that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed, and we’ll distribute more devices to support remote education.

“I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country.

“Parents whose children were in school today may reasonably ask why we did not take this decision sooner.

“The answer is simply that we have been doing everything in our power to keep schools open, because we know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances.

“And I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children – children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid.

“The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.

“Today the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officers have advised that the country should move to alert level 5, meaning that if action is not taken NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days.

“Of course, there is one huge difference compared to last year.

“We are now rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history.

“So far, we in the UK have vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.

“With the arrival today of the UK’s own Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine, the pace of vaccination is accelerating.

“I can share with you tonight the NHS’s realistic expectations for the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.

“By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

“If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

“And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.

“I must stress that even if we achieve this goal, there remains a time lag of two to three weeks from getting a jab to receiving immunity.

“And there will be a further time lag before the pressure on the NHS is lifted.

“So we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead.

“But if our understanding of the virus doesn’t change dramatically once again…

“If the rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be successful…

“If deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect…

“And, critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules…

“Then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers.

“I want to say to everyone right across the United Kingdom that I know how tough this is, I know how frustrated you are, I know that you have had more than enough of government guidance about defeating this virus.

“But now more than ever, we must pull together.

“You should follow the new rules from now, and they will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Parliament will meet – largely remotely – later that day.

“I know that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland share my conviction this is a pivotal moment and they’re taking similar steps.

“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle.

“Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.

“And, thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight and we know exactly how we will get there.

“But for now, I am afraid, you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Thank you all very much. ”

Here is a video of the Prime Minister’s statement on 10 Downing Street’s YouTube channel.

 Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Latest Covid figures for Chiswick

See also: Professor Jeremy Levy has received his Covid vaccination and says it’s imperative that when you’re offered one, you take the opportunity

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.

The Brexit effect – What it means to be French in England now

We ended our membership of the EU with more of a whimper than a bang in the end and the whole event was overshadowed by the pandemic . It will be a while before we’ve worked out the effects, but for some residents of Chiswick, coming to terms with the changes is a more urgent task than it is for others.

EU nationals living here have until 30 June to register on-line for ‘Settled Status’. Refusal to apply would put them at risk of forcible removal, but Sophie Atkinson, a French woman who married an Englishman and has been here for more than 50 years, has yet to register. She can’t quite bring herself to do it, because she says, she is so upset at being made to feel ‘like a criminal’.

By Sophie Atkinson

My name is Sophie Atkinson. I am French and I have lived in the UK, in fact mostly in Chiswick, without interruption since September 1968.

From 1968 to 1974, I was an “Alien” and had to go to Holborn every year to renew my green card.

Then in 1974, all at once, I got married to a British Citizen, the UK joined the EEC and I after five years of living in England, I was free of the yearly ordeal in Holborn.

I loved England, I loved the British, I worked, I had children, I paid taxes and I adopted the British customs as my own. I did not feel the need to apply for a British Passport because I was European and my French passport allowed me the same freedom across the world as the British one.

I am distraught about Brexit. For quite a while, I could not even talk about it without bursting into tears. I am angry that Europeans and British citizens living in Europe were not allow to vote in the referendum.

I am offended that I have to register to have the same rights as I already had. I am punished for being ‘a foreigner’ yet, I have lived in this country for more than 50 years, paying taxes, bringing up my children as British citizens. I have never been in trouble with the law. I worked for charities.

I still have not registered because every time I think of it, I want to scream at the unfairness and stupidity of it. When I tell my English friends how I feel, they are not aware of it and when I explain, they say “Well why don’t you do it then, I shall help you.”

My European friends all know what it feels and however different we are, we all feel betrayed and upset and angry.

Some people suggested that I apply for a British passport. I now would not want one now even if it was offered for nothing.

My life is here in England, my friends, my partner, my children and yet unless I ‘register’ like a criminal, I will go back to being an alien. I am sad because a lot of British people are also going to be penalised for the lies and the stupidity of a handful of politicians.

Read more stores on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Dog or husband? Brexit quandries

See also: The Three Old Hacks podcast – Britain and Europe, where did it all go wrong?

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.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Latest Covid figures for Chiswick

Latest Covid figures for Chiswick

Episode 36: The man who changed cricket for ever: Peter Hain

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

He was once the most hated man in cricket. He faced down threats to his career and to his life. He achieved his mission, an epoch-making change in international sport. His new book (with the great historian André Odendaal) Pitch Battles not only narrates his astonishing personal journey but sweeps up the history of South African sport and society, especially the lost stories of non-white players, and throws down major challenges for everyone today who cares about the state of global sport. Peter Hain discusses these themes and makes new revelations as the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their latest cricket-themed podcast.


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Peter Hain traces segregation in South African sport to its earliest days when under the influence of Cecil Rhodes the English colonial authorities decided to exclude non-white players from representative teams, including the superb fast bowler Krom Hendricks, “the Basil D’Oliveira of his time.” He adds: “Although laws were introduced under apartheid to enforce it in a very rigid way, racism in South African sport began under English rule.”

He speaks of his South African childhood as a cricket and soccer fanatic forced to play segregated sport: “I could not play with or against black players because it was against the law of the land.” The apartheid régime actually banned black spectators from white-only sporting fixtures, and he remembers the police removing and beating up those who climbed trees to watch their local team. His family were alone in his circle in admitting black people to their home as equals. One black friend told his parents: “this is the first time  I’ve come through the front door of a white man’s house.” White people generally chose to live in a bubble: “It was not so much  turning a blind eye [to apartheid] as not wanting to know what was going on.” He draws a grim comparison with a later visit to the former Dachau extermination camp, where the local villagers had professed themselves unaware of its purpose.

Peter Hain describes his journey into anti-apartheid activism, which began at age 11 when his parents were jailed and later served with banning orders which actually stopped them communicating with each other until they were given special permission by the government. His father was unable to work as an architect and his family moved to London when he was sixteen. He joined the anti-apartheid movement but remained sports-crazed. “From my own experience, I always thought sport was a vulnerable spot for apartheid”. Arms and trade with South Africa were hard to attack because of the great geopolitical and economic interests behind them, but “I thought we could do something about sport and that’s what led me to get into non-violent direct action to stop white-only South African sports tours.” The non-selection of Basil D’Oliveira gave huge impetus to his campaign to stop the 70 white South African tour, with which the MCC persisted as if nothing had happened.

He recalls meeting D’Oliveira years later in 1994 during South Africa’s first post-apartheid tour of England, and his enduring wistfulness at being denied the opportunity to play for his country of birth. Peter Hain had initially resented D’Oliveira’s refusal to get involved in the anti-apartheid cause, but in retrospect he acknowledges that his non-political stance helped to expose the nature of the South African régime and win the support of middle England against the tour.  He says that he always sought a broad coalition of opposition to the tour, and cites the Fair Cricket Campaign, launched by Bishop David Sheppard and the former Conservative Education Minister Sir  Edward Boyle, with “many luminaries of the Establishment”, who met him in secret, to the chagrin of his most militant supporters.

He describes the rehearsals in 1969 for direct action against the 70 tour, first in the actions against the private white-only South African cricket tour by the Wilfred Isaacs XI and then against Davis Cup tennis and the touring Springbok rugby team. They opened in the Basildon, Essex (rarely a hotbed of protest) and soon made him an almost universal figure of hate among sports fans: “People did not understand why we were disrupting their favourite sports and there was a real sense that this represented the end of civilization.” Still only 19, he was propelled into the national limelight as chairman and principal spokesman of the newly-formed Stop the 70 Tour campaign: “I was quite shy… I expected to be just a foot-soldier.”

The Springbok rugby tour was successfully disrupted not only by sit-downs at Twickenham and other pitches but by infiltrations of the team’s hotel (with high-strength glue) and even the team coach. “These actions helped us build a broad-based movement to stop the 70 tour by non-violent direct action – but as a sports lover I felt double-edged about this because that team was one of the greatest  teams in the modern age.” He describes meeting some of them years later, and hearing their acceptance of the necessity of his campaign, notably Mike Procter, who said “This figure Peter Hain – I hated him at the time and he stopped my international career, but actually he did the right thing.”

The campaign induced African, Asian and Caribbean countries to threaten to boycott the Commonwealth Games due that year if the 70 tour went ahead. “The politics around that became explosive and the tour became a seismic event – but it was the threat of direct action that got it cancelled. It was a great relief when that happened because we would have wrecked the tour.” He recalls only two figures of standing in the cricket world to support the campaign.  One was John Arlott and the other was Mike Brearley. “He very courageously joined our March conference and spoke from the platform. There was virtually nobody else, and we were viewed as an alien bunch of anarchists, communists and drug-taking nasties by the MCC and the Establishment. There was simply no meeting of minds with them.” Besides saluting Mike Brearley, Peter Hain hails the refusal of the Welsh and British Lions rugby international John Taylor to play against the white-only Springboks. Otherwise British sportspeople generally avoided confronting apartheid or even thinking about it.

Defenders of the 70 tour and sporting links with South Africa often talked of “building bridges” to influence her policies. Peter Hain rubbishes the phrase: “It was deeply dishonest and hypocritical sophistry. From 1948, when the policy of ‘building bridges’ began, apartheid grew worse.” Conditions worsened not only for non-white cricketers and sportspeople but for non-racial officials. “There was no attempt to build bridges with them, and they were harassed, sacked from jobs, subject to banning orders and jailed.” He cites the infamous case of Dennis Brutus, shot by the police allegedly trying to escape custody, abandoned with life-threatening wounds by a white-only ambulance and ultimately imprisoned on Robben Island.”  He says that “building bridges” never attempted to create change in South Africa, which was achieved only after the pressures which began with the sports boycott.

He describes the huge personal pressures he faced leading the campaign but adds: “I suppose I had the innocence of youth. I felt that this was a cause that had to be pursued, where we had a chance of 100 per cent success, which we did achieve, which is a very rare thing for any moral cause. I always thought we could do it, and I didn’t worry too much about things people could do to me.” He received massive hate mail and faced physical violence; his university career and later employment with the Union of Communications Workers were threatened. South Africa’s infamous Bureau of State Security sent him a letter bomb which might have killed his family. Later they tried to frame him for a bank robbery, abetted by the cricket-loving judge King-Hamilton (one regularly mocked by John Mortimer in Rumpole Of The Bailey), who actually invented new evidence of his own in his summing up. He also survived a private prosecution for conspiracy financed by the South Africans. Elements of Britain’s security services may have assisted some of BOSS’s efforts. “They regarded us as Communist agents and the South Africans astutely positioned themselves as resisting a Communist takeover of Africa.”  He says that he took heart from the intensity of BOSS’s actions in demonstrating the impact of his campaigns.

Peter Hain recalls some of the press coverage which helped to make him an ogre to British sports fans. John Junor, the famously choleric editor of the Sunday Express, called for him to fall into a sewage tank up to his ankles – head-first. “And that was one of the nicer things said about me.” British newspapers established a myth that he had dug up cricket pitches and he was actually blamed (years after the 70 campaign) for the attack in support of the convict George  Davis on the Headingly Test match pitch in 1975. “The only thing I did to cricket pitches was to run onto them and sit down on them.” He is still horrified by the other false allegation that he put tin tacks onto rugby pitches. He acknowledges that there were many freelance proposals for action against the South African tourists, including breeding locusts, using radio-controlled aeroplanes and (Richard’s personal 1970 proposal) synchronized movement behind the bowler’s arm.

Peter Hain reflects on the lessons of his successful campaigns for modern global sport, and particularly the criteria by which nations ought to be excluded from it. He says that in the late 1960s “South Africa singled itself out. I was accused of bringing politics into sport: actually it was the South Africans who did so.” White South African politics had denied Basil D’Oliveira the chance to play for his country, denied the possibility of non-racial sports in the country, denied him the opportunity as a boy to play sport with or against anyone who was not white. “South Africa was very clear-cut in my mind. Its politics infested the heart of sport in a unique way, only paralleled by the way the Nazis excluded Jews from sport in the 1930s. But when you get to contemporary questions, such as Arsenal’s star Mesut Özil rightfully protesting against China’s horrendous treatment of the Uighurs, you have to ask should there be sport with China, or should there be sport with Russia, given its treatment of dissidents. I am very cautious about taking a hard and fast position on all this. You have to judge [each case] on its merits, in the particular circumstances, otherwise, frankly, there would be no international sport at all and we would all find a reason for not playing with each other.” But he acknowledges that there are big moral issues at stake, for example in whether Saudi Arabia is using sport to project a wholesome image for itself on the global stage when it has just jailed a female journalist for campaigning for women’s rights. He calls for a measured debate on ethical issues within international sport by all sports administrators, players and supporters. He is encouraged by the willingness of leading sportspeople such as Lewis Hamilton, and even sports administrators, who have engaged with human rights issues and BlackLivesMatter – a huge contrast to sportspeople’s attitudes in the Sixties and Seventies.

However, he is horrified by the reaction of many in the white cricketing world in South Africa to BlackLivesMatter. “They took a very antagonistic, denialist stance. I would have thought that of all the teams, South Africa, with its thorny and vicious history of apartheid in cricket, would have taken the lead, white and black, in supporting BlackLives Matter. Apartheid stained South Africa for half a century, and before that there was racism in cricket, with the exclusion of Krom Hendricks. South Africa should have been leading the way, and white cricketers, with their black international colleagues, should have been the ones to say to the world ‘we should all do this together.’ Instead they are still arguing among themselves, the whole cricket administration has been split…. Civil war has broken out in South African cricket over BlackLivesMatter in a way I frankly find repulsive and astonishing.”

Get in contact with the podcast by emailing obornehellercricket@outlook.com, we’d love to hear from you!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Next episode – Episode 37: The United States: Paradise Regained For Cricket?

Previous Episode – Episode 35: “Absent, caught fire” and other great moments from Scotland’s cricket heritage

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.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

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 Blogs & Podcasts

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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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Who is a key worker?

Image above: Police (library picture taken before the pandemic)

Throughout the pandemic, when the schools have been closed to the majority of pupils, they have been open to those children who are considered ‘vulnerable’ and to the children of key workers.

If a child is considered ‘vulnerable’, both the school and the parent / carer is aware. There are formal processes involved, which include children on Education Health Care Plans.

The definition of a ‘key’ or ‘critical’ worker is set out on the Department of Education website, which you can see here. It involves parents whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and also those whose work is important for the EU transition process.

It includes those who work in health and social care, education and childcare and key public services such as people involved in operating the Justice system, religious staff, those working for charities and delivering key frontline services. It also includes journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

It includes some, but not all, administrators in local and national government and those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food and other essential items.

Police and others involved in maintaining public safety and national security, transport, border control, utilities, communication and financial services are also considered ‘critical’ workers by the government.

Schools ask parents to fill out a questionnaire about their job and they then write to families who fit the criteria, about their child’s education provision.

Image above: vegetables on sale on a stall on Chiswick High Rd; photograph Jon Perry

From the government website

Key/Critical Workers – List of Occupations Health and social care

This includes, but is not limited to, doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes:

  • Childcare
  • support and teaching staff
  • social workers
  • specialist education professionals who must remain active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response to deliver this approach

Key public services

This includes:

  • those essential to the running of the justice system
  • religious staff
  • charities and workers delivering key frontline services
  • those responsible for the management of the deceased
  • journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting

Local and national government

This only includes:

  • those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food:

  • production
  • processing
  • distribution
  • sale and delivery
  • as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines)

Public safety and national security

This includes:

  • police and support staff
  • Ministry of Defence civilians
  • contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak)
  • fire and rescue service employees (including support staff)
  • National Crime Agency staff
  • those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas

Transport

This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes:

  • staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
  • the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
  • information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response
  • key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)
  • postal services and delivery
  • payments providers
  • waste disposal sectors

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Where to get help and information

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.

Majority of Chiswick school children stay home

Image above: Cavendish Primary School; Google Street view

The schools were meant to be going back this week (5 January 2021). The majority of children and teenagers in Chiswick will be staying at home. Schools in LB Hounslow, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham are amongst those forced to delay the start of the new term in the latest Covid-19 restrictions announced on Wednesday 30 December by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

See 30 December: Chiswick Schools among those closed to majority of pupils by Covid restrictions

At least Chiswick parents are clear. Not much notice for parents desperately trying to arrange child care or schedule home schooling for several children around one available computer, but as we’re in the highest tier, with Covid cases rising sharply before Christmas, both the need and the instruction to stay home is understood by parents and teachers alike.

Image above: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking on BBC Andrew Marr show

Confusion elsewhere on whether children should go back to school

Elsewhere the picture is more confused. Boris Johnson went on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday to announce that there may be “tougher measures” announced in the next few weeks, and at the same time that schools are “safe” places to be. Parents should send their children to schools in areas where schools are open, he said, at the same time as teaching unions were calling for blanket closures.

The National Education Union joined the NASUWT on Saturday in calling for all schools to remain closed, to stop the rapid spread of the new variant of Covid-19. The union’s joint general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, told BBC Breakfast on Saturday:

‘We know that pupils now can transmit the virus through their homes, through to their families and into the community, they’re the most effective transmitter of the virus’.

Less than three weeks ago, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, was threatening to take legal action against schools in Islington and Greenwich, for wanting to close before the end of the December term, because of the worrying increases in infection rates. As late as last Wednesday, two working days before the schools were due to open, primary schools in these boroughs were still being told that they would need to reopen this week. It wasn’t until Friday that Gavin Williamson announced they would be closing after all.

Schools in Derbyshire, Brighton and Birmingham are among those in areas where schools can remain open, where local councils have said they would back head teachers if they decided to close them.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham told Sky News the Tier system “confuses people” and called for “national arrangements through January.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also called for there to be a national lockdown, saying it was “inevitable” that more schools will have to close.

Images above: Cavendish Primary School; Strand on the Green Junior School

Reaction from schools in Chiswick

In Hounslow and Ealing Boroughs, primary schools will only be open from 4 January for children considered to be vulnerable and for the children of key workers. Secondary schools are also only open from 4 January for vulnerable children and children of key workers, with pupils who have exams in 2021 returning in the week beginning 11 January, before the rest of the school. Primary schools and secondary schools are currently expected to reopen fully on 18 January, pending review on 13 January.

Ruth Woods, Head Teacher at Strand on the Green Junior School, informed parents in a letter on 31 December, saying: ‘Please bear in mind that all our information is gathered from public briefings with no indication of what is to be announced prior to this. However, we have been planning for this contingency and our remote learning offer is ready to roll out for those children who will be learning from home.

‘Nobody wants to move to remote learning but, rest assured, we will do our utmost to make it work’.

Mr Murrell, Executive Head Teacher, and Mrs Coleman, Head of School at Cavendish Primary School, sent out a letter to parents confirming they would provide home learning activities through the online platform Google Classroom and that ‘we will do our best to keep you informed of any updates including arrangements for re-opening’. They ask that parents and carers do not bring children to school unless they have received confirmation from the school that they are either in the ‘vulnerable’ or ‘critical worker’ category.

Head Teacher of Southfield Primary School, Darren Jones acknowledged in his letter to parents on 31 December:
‘This will come as a huge disappointment, I know, that we have to move to Remote Learning for a few weeks as announced by the prime minister yesterday.

‘I want to assure you that we have listened carefully to your concerns from the first lockdown and have refined the system, as some of you experienced in the autumn term when certain year group bubbles had to self isolate… be assured we will work through this together as a Southfield Community’.

St Mary’s RC Primary School just has a brief message on its website, with further information promised on 4 January:

‘We are closed until 18th January, but open for Nursery, Key Worker children and our vulnerable pupils’.

Image above: Laura Ellener, Head Teacher of Chiswick School, with pupils (library picture taken before the pandemic)

Staff worried about their safety

Laura Ellener, Head Teacher at Chiswick School wrote to her parents:

‘The school community has coped admirably well during the pandemic and I know that this is a very worrying time for children and families. We understand there may be some anxiety around returning to school and our pastoral staff will be working with students to support them.

‘Some staff are also anxious about their own safety and some may have been asked to work from home while we remain in Tier 4. All of these are genuine challenges but we are working on these and aim for school to remain a happy place where students can relax and enjoy their learning’.

She sets out very clearly in her letter that students learning remotely from home will be expected to be ready for registration at the beginning of lessons, properly dressed, with the relevant books and equipment for writing and should be logged in for Tutor Time from 8.40am on Tuesday 5 January.

Images above: Students at Chiswick School

Teachers taken away from teaching to give Covid tests?

Chiswick School parents of students under 16 have to give their consent to their children being tested for Covid-19 at school by 9.15am on Monday 4 January. Older students need to give their own individual permission. Students whose parents withhold permission are still entitled to attend school.

Clearly the school is scrambling to work out how to deliver the testing. Ms Ellener promises further information later in the week, but notes:

‘When / if staff are involved in lateral flow testing they will take a register and then set work on Show My Homework/Google Classroom’.

LB Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Education Tom Bruce told The Chiswick Calendar before Christmas that the lack of planning or communication from the Department for Education over Covid testing was ‘a debacle’.

‘Many of the Government’s decisions and changes have had support from school leaders, staff and local politicians from across the political spectrum. But the manner of this government’s interaction, and at times inaction with our schools, shows a complete disregard for schools, parents, and more importantly pupils’.

Image above: Police (library picture taken before the pandemic)

Who is considered to be a critical worker?

The definition of a ‘key’ or ‘critical’ worker is set out on the Department of Education website, which you can see here. It involves parents whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and also those whose work is important for the EU transition process.

It includes those who work in health and social care, education and childcare and key public services such as people involved in operating the Justice system, religious staff, those working for charities and delivering key frontline services. It also includes journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

It includes some, but not all, administrators in local and national government and those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food and other essential items.

Police and others involved in maintaining public safety and national security, transport, border control, utilities, communication and financial services are also considered ‘critical’ workers by the government.

Schools ask parents to fill out a questionnaire about their job and they then write to families who fit the criteria, about their child’s education provision.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Government plan for Covid testing in schools a ‘debacle’ 

See also: Chiswick Schools among those closed to majority of pupils by Covid restrictions

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.

 

Fisher’s Lane review put off till February

Ealing Council officers have confirmed that the promised January review date of the contentious Fishers Lane traffic scheme will now be pushed back till February.

Chsiwick’s Lib Dem councillors, who represent Southfield ward, have been pushing for the closure of Fisher’s Lane to all vehicles but buses to be discussed at a full Cabinet meeting. They have carried out a survey of Southfield residents and organised a public meeting at the beginning of December to enable local residents to give their feedback on the scheme. They managed before Christmas to get the issue on the first Cabinet meeting of 2021.

Since that was decided, London has gone into Tier 4, Ealing is facing very high levels of Covid-19 infection and serious pressure on its hospitals.

In his New Year message Council Leader Julian Bell said:

“The NHS is reporting serious issues in hospitals as Covid-19 infections have risen sharply in London and the UK in December. In Ealing our current case rate for the week up to 25 December is 623.5 per 100,000… up by 32%, the fifth highest rise in London since the previous seven days. This has led to increased demand for hospital care”.

Councils are also having to deal with supporting secondary schools in introducing mass testing for pupils.

Image above: Cllr Andrew Steed beside the railway bridge in Fisher’s Lane

“A kick in the teeth”

The Lib Dem councillors still think there should be time made to discuss the Fisher’s Lane scheme, which has been controversial and aroused a lot of opposition. Liberal Democrat Southfield Councillor Andrew Steed said:

“The Julian Bell-led Ealing Council delayed review date is a kick in the teeth for Southfield residents. It delays the chance for facts to be presented to Ealing Council about how most people think the scheme does not work. Liberal Democrats have less disruptive alternatives that need to be discussed and have consulted with residents at the Southfield Ward Forum meetings and using surveys.”

Councillor Steed added: “Labour is using the ‘covering their ears’ strategy to the Fishers Lane scheme by arrogantly claiming “It’s not a referendum” with regards to listening to residents’ views. Ealing Labour’s contempt of the people, it is supposed to serve, is deplorable. Schemes that have such a wide impact to local residents deserve to have the facts heard and reviewed urgently.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Overwhelming majority want changes to Fisher’s Lane and Turnham Green Terrace

See also: South Chiswick traffic consultation meeting fully booked

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.

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South Chiswick traffic consultation meeting fully booked

Chiswick RNLI features in TV documentary

The Chiswick Lifeboat station was busy over Christmas, with call outs on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and 27th December. Chiswick is one of the few RNLI stations with a crew on permanent standby 24/7.

Their work is being featured in the BBC TV documentary, Saving Lives at Sea at 8.00pm on BBC Two, Thursday 7 January 2021, along with that of RNLI crews at Lymington and Poole. The Chiswick crew rescues a lot of people, but also a fair few animals, amongst them this rather ungrateful cat, who was easy enough to find, but proved harder to pick up.

Last year, the lifeboat crews and lifeguards around the UK and Ireland raced to the aid of over 9,400 people. All its staff are volunteers. Chiswick RNLI managed to hold one fundraiser in February before fundraising operations were shut down for the year. They have a fundraising page here.

While they have dealt with fewer emergencies among the usual community of river users – canoeists, rowers and boat owners – they have helped more people who have been cut off by the tide while out walking, as people unfamiliar with the Thames sought less busy locations for getting out and about during lockdown.

The total number of incidents they were called out to in 2020 was 186, including a last minute entry – a call which came in at 23.49 on New Year’s Eve. Similar to totals for 2016 and 2017, their tally was 37 below the average for the last eleven years, reflecting the lack of leisure activity during lockdowns.

They have started the new year with three call outs on New Year’s Day and one on Saturday 2 January.

Images above: Pictures of some of Chiswick RNLI’s rescues in 2020, including two guys whose motorbike got stuck in the mud and a rather bedraggled fox saved by a canoeist

rnli.org/chiswick

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: RNLI crew rescues ungrateful cat

See also: A new recruit enjoys her first day out with the RNLI

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.