Students crowdfunding to pay for film project

Image above: St Mary’s University 

Five second-year students at St Mary’s University in Twickenham are crowdfunding to pay for a short film they have been assigned to produce.

Studying film, communications or marketing, the students have taken a multimedia production module that requires them to produce a short-film which was written and pitched by a third-year screenwriting student.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched so the students can produce ‘the best film they possibly can’. The grades they receive will contribute towards their final degree and the students say they are striving to leave university with a first, which will help them to go on to find employment.

The group is hoping to raise £200 which will go towards purchasing props, travel, food expenses and any additional costs that may arise throughout the production process.

The film is called ‘Artistic Innocence’ and tells the story of James Locksmith, a young artist who is finding it hard to balance his desire to be a successful painter and a single man looking for connection. James struggles with a severe anxiety disorder impairing both his social and work life, but his masterpiece could be just around the corner.

You can find the crowdfunding page here: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/artisticinnocence

“Any amount will be greatly appreciated”

Tahlia Klein, who started the fundraiser, said:

“If we exceed our target goal or underspend, the remaining funds will be given to a mental health charity as our film focuses on the subject of mental health which is an extremely important topic that needs to be spoken about more. This is particularly the case with young men, as they are less likely to talk about their mental health than women which is something that needs to be changed as no one should suffer in silence.

“Any money that you give will make a huge difference and improve the quality of our short film. We have all previously worked together to produce a film during our first year of university so we all get along and are an extremely organised group that can meet deadlines and go the extra mile to deliver more than we are asked.

“Even if you are unable to contribute, you can still help us out by spreading the word to your friends and family to help us reach our goal! Any amount will be greatly appreciated for us to produce Artistic Innocence, a film that covers such an important topic!”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See also: Ealing’s Liberal Democrats launch local election manifesto

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Fire in Southall seen across west London

Image above: the fire as seen from an unspecified home in west London (Twitter: @CarolionD)

An enormous fire broke out in West London on Tuesday afternoon (5 April) sending a giant plume of black smoke into the air.

Smoke from the fire in Southall was able to be seen for miles around, with pictures being shared on social media showing it is visible from Heathrow, Hounslow and Kew. The fire has now been put out and crews have left the scene.

The London Fire Brigade shared footage from the scene in Tachbrook Road, showing firefighters fighting the inferno from the back gardens of neighbouring homes. The fire broke out in a commercial garage with an adjoining storage area. Several cars and a container of oil also alight.

Above: Tweet showing the start of the blaze in the garage

Eight fire engines were sent to the scene initially, shortly before 12.00pm. But that was later increased to ten with a total of 70 firefighters battling to control the blaze at its peak.

The brigade’s 999 control room took over 40 calls reporting the fire, with the first one coming in at 11.45am.

Station Commander Graeme Hunter, who was at the scene, said:

“The fire is producing heavy smoke, which is visible for miles. We are urging residents in the area to close their windows and doors.” Fire crews from Southall, Hayes, Feltham and Heathrow are among those at the scene. The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Andrea’s film review – The Novice

The Novice ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali

A college freshman joins her university’s rowing team and undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, no matter the cost. Out in the cinemas this week.

This psychological drama which at times veers towards thriller/horror is one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen recently. It’s probably not the easiest watch, but there’s a lot to be impressed about.

The ‘Novice’ of the title is Alex Dall, a college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team with only one thing in mind: winning.

The film essentially is a character study which delves deep into the corrosive nature of Alex’s obsessive-compulsive behaviour, not just towards sport, but school and life in general. Her actions pretty quickly start pushing away all the people around her, including her friends, team-mates and crucially her lover.

Hard to believe this is Lauren Hadaway’s first directorial effort, she seems to have a real understanding for not just visual storytelling but also all those movie-making techniques from editing to sound: jump cuts, kinetic camera movements, strange audio mixes all combined together to get the audience close to Alex’s fractured state of mind.

Meanwhile the stunning cinematography, with its beautiful calm dawn shots and reflection on water, conveys both the beauty and the pain of sport.

It’s easy to see echoes from films like Whiplash and Black Swan, both dealing with obsessions: with music in the first instance and with dance in the second, but Hadaway’s distinct style makes this a piece of its own.

The fact that she’s also written and edited the film gives it a very personal distinctive aesthetic, whilst her decade-long experience in sound editing in mega-films like Justice League and The Hateful Eight shows at every beat and gives the film an extra dimension which enhances its pathos.

All of this is at times may feel slightly over-done and possibly a bit intrusive, but I like to think it’s intentional given the character it’s trying to depict.

At the centre of this, Isabelle Fuhrman’s fierce and powerful performance (you might remember her from that very creepy, though rather silly, film called Orphan) is magnetic as well as infuriating and actually rather hateful too.

In the end however, the film remains more of an enigma for me, as the plot becomes slightly secondary to the mood it’s creating and the experience of it.

We don’t really learn what pushed Alex to be the person she is, nor what’s going to happen to her. All we’re left with is a very uncomfortable feeling which might even put you off sport for a while.

It’s a film that I admired more than loved, but I can’t wait to see what Hadaway does next.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

The Novice is out the cinema right now.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Hear the People Sing

Sunday 15 May will see the production of Hear The People Sing, a celebration of 150 years of music in Chiswick.

This very special concert, to mark 150 years since the founding of St. Paul’s Church in Grove Park and the residential area of Grove Park itself, will include musical styles from the Chiswick Music Hall to the Beatles, Zadok the Priest to the Artful Dodger.

An adult choir of 50 and a children’s choir of 40 will be joined by several West-End performers, accompanied by a rousing professional orchestra under the direction of Mike Reed.

The show will bring together Bogdan Kominowski (West End shows include lead roles in Jesus Christ Superstar and Elvis), Nathan Elwick (Young Frankenstein), sopranos Rebecca Gresson and Andee-Louise Hypolite and international musical directors Mike Reed (Phantom, Joseph, Bat out of Hell) and Mike Dixon (We Will Rock You, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar) – and all on your doorstep in Chiswick.

Two performances of the concert will take place at 3.30pm and 6.30pm with tickets available from Eventbrite: Hear the People Sing tickets

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Arts Society celebrates Ukrainian artists in unique fundraiser

See also: Jazz at George IV every Thursday night

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

More ‘firsts’ for newly vaccinated Cassie the Cavapoochon puppy

Image above: Cassie by the river with owner Sharon

Cassie does Chiswick – Week 5

We have been following the progress of Cassie the Cavapoochon puppy as she settles into her new home in Chiswick. This week was her first week properly ‘out on the town’, post vaccinations. She and owner Sharon have been trying out the delights that Chiswick has to offer a dog and their companion.

Out on the town

By Sharon Moore

Cassie has had her first pampering session at Chiswick Dog. I was very nervous leaving her for an hour, but having visited the groomer during the week previously and chatted to them I felt more at ease.

They take an hour to wash, dry and trim the essentials. To start getting puppies used to the environment, they take their time, as the puppy may need a rest. I walked past after 50 minutes and Cassie was done and being cuddled while some bigger dogs were waiting to be collected.

The have different time slots for puppies and older dogs so they do not become too overwhelmed. She had the cutest little blow dry. I think she looks like a dog version of Princess Leia from Star Wars.

We also went to two dog friendly restaurants on the weekend. One was the Hart’s Boatyard in Surbiton, which allow dogs downstairs and outside, and the other was the local City Barge Pub on the river. Cassie was so exhausted after a playdate she slept through even with her friend Pringle the Pomeranian on the next seat.

Cassie is still getting used to walking on a lead, everything is so exciting to sniff, so we move very slowly and often in circles. I am looking forward to the next few puppy classes and getting out at lunchtime for some walks in Gunnersbury Park.

Images above: Sharon and Cassie at Urban Pantry

Pancakes at Urban Pantry

We went for pancakes at my favourite pancake spot in Chiswick, Urban Pantry, on Saturday. They are dog friendly and were so sweet they brought a blanket over for Cassie and a treat. Cassie had had a little walk in the morning so was quite tired and just sat in her bag sleeping while I tucked into their amazing pancakes with my friend.

Cassie also came out with me on Friday night to my friend’s home, as she has not spent much time in another home before. She was an absolute star, and had a ball with a new toy from my friend. There was a toilet mishap on the rug, but it was forgiven; she loved exploring the new space and fell asleep on the rug while we were having dinner.

Image above: Cassie with Sharon’s Mother’s Day present

Mother’s Day

We also celebrated Mother’s Day which gave me an excuse to get myself something and claim it was Cassie’s idea. The pet industry is massive and these days you can even get yourself little pottery models of your dog if you wished. I decided to keep it simple and get myself a very comfy sweater off Etsy, with a ‘Dog Mom’ label.

Being from South Africa we prefer the term ‘Mom’ to ‘Mum’, so it took some time for me to find this and then choccies and flowers were just an added treat. I know for so many days like this can be really hard for those who have lost their loved ones, so it is really just an important time to be kind and share love as much as possible. So, if anyone needs any Cassie Cuddles, please just let me know, she loves to give them, and it can completely change your day!

Cassie decided to try to eat the roses as you can see in the pic. She absolutely loves to try to eat most things in sight if she gets the chance and she loves cuddles and play time on her back trying to bite my fingers, gently most times, thankfully.

Read from the beginning of the series here –
Cassie is picked up from a breeder in Wales and brought to her new home in Chiswick

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Escaped falcon spotted around south west London

See also: Beavers could be reintroduced to SW London

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

 

Public attitudes to news – care to give your view?

Image above: Bell & Crown closed during lockdown

Take part in a survey about local news and recovery from the pandemic

The Chiswick Calendar has been collaborating with Bournemouth University in a project which they call ‘Solutions based journalism’. They are interested in news stories in local publications which present some kind of positive or constructive angle on how the country recovers from the pandemic. We’ve been sending them our stories on how businesses and organisations in Chiswick have been adapting and coping throughout the pandemic.

Stories such as this one: A year of the pandemic. How has Chiswick fared?
This one: Pandemic one year on – Unexpected silver linings: Ballet classes online
And this one: Out of lockdown Harriet’s Kitchen was born
Initiatives by young people: Setting up a business in lockdown: Francesca & Olivia Johns – Boeboes
And institutions: Hounslow £20 vouchers bring new customers to Chiswick shop

They are now looking for volunteers to take part in a survey, as part of their research on how the public has been using local media, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Would you be prepared to be interviewed online during May? Your reward will be a a £20 gift e-voucher. That and the good feeling you will get from having informed and influenced training they will be giving journalists across the UK as a result of their research.

The project is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is called “COJO for COVID recovery: Solutions-focused constructive journalism as a pandemic exit strategy for local/regional UK communities”. (Snappy isn’t it?!) They want to know how the public has been using media, in particular local outlets, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are a Chiswick Calendar reader and would like to take part, register as a participant here: Bournemouthonlinesurveys.ac.uk

Thank you for being such positive and constructive readers!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: I’ve never had to work so hard in my life

See also: Chiswick Flower Market chosen by national High Streets Task Force as an example of how to regenerate high roads

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

The west London families preparing to host Ukrainian refugees

Image above: Mat, Anna and son Malakai

One of the many families whose refugee is waiting for a visa

Over the past couple of weeks Mat has been moving boxes of stuff out of his study and stowing them, neatly labelled, around his bedroom. His erstwhile study is well on the way to becoming a guest bedroom so he and his partner Anna and son Malakai can host a Ukrainian refugee.

About a hundred families have signed up so far in LB Hounslow to do the same. When the UK Government announced the Homes for Ukraine scheme on 14 March and opened the visa application scheme in the same week, the policy changed from Ukrainian refugees only being able to come and live with family here to being able to live with anyone who would agree to host them.

Applications flooded in. As of last Friday, official figures showed 32,200 people have applied for the visas and 4,700 have been granted, but only 500 of those granted Homes for Ukraine visas so far have come to the UK, according to The Times newspaper. Around 200,000 British people have reportedly volunteered themselves as hosts.

The process is a minefield for vulnerable young women seeking sanctuary, but it is not entirely straightforward for potential hosts either. The Chiswick Calendar has been talking to Mat and Anna about the process – how you go about it and what to expect.

Q: Why have you decided to do this?

“Like everyone who has responded to the scheme we’ve been hugely affected by what we’ve seen on TV. I feel very lucky to have a stable home and a good long-term relationship. I feel privileged and I want to give back.”

Q: How have you set about finding the person you will host?

“We started by researching Facebook groups. There are lots of different groups that have been set up. Some are better than others. It’s informal, anarchic. They’re not all endorsed by charities but I would recommend Facebook groups as a starting point to see what people are offering. My advice: type “Ukraine” into the search, click to select “groups” then go into the group with the highest number, e.g the top one here:

Images above: Facebook sites for hosting Ukrainian refugees; Aleksandra M, looking for accommodation in London

“I think the Host4Ukraine.com website seems very good. They have updated recently to require identification checks, presumably to protect people moving forward.”

Typical of the kind of entry is this one from Alexandra M: ‘I’m looking for a sponsor in London. I already found a job here and searching for a sponsor for a visa. I’m a software developer.’

“They tend to be young women and children in the main. Older women take the view they’d rather stay and look after the men fighting.”

Mat and Anna got quite a long way down the path of getting to know one 19 year old Ukrainian woman in Frankfurt. They had offered her a home and applied for her visa before she changed her mind and decided she would go back to Ukraine.

Her family had chosen to give her the opportunity to leave, giving her the money to travel to friends in Germany, but they could only offer her accommodation short term. Her grandparents reckoned they were too old to leave and the rest of the family wanted to stay. None of her friends were leaving but typically, she told them, it was the youngest girl of the family who was encouraged to leave to maintain the bloodline if the others were all killed.

Image above: Mat with the family dog

“We looked through hundreds of listings”

“We looked through hundreds of people’s listings and decided instead of going through this ‘beauty parade’ we would created our own listing about ourselves and what we were able to offer. We posted it one night and woke up to 50 messages.

“None appeared in any way fraudulent. None of them asked for money. There was no hint of a scam. They just posted messages asking ‘would you consider hosting me’.”

Having followed the same process again, Mat and Anna have this week got to know another young woman through video calls and have offered their home to her. This was their listing:

The UK has opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees! We are a family of 3 living in Chiswick, West London. Main road, opposite cafes, restaurants, shops, and 5 minute walk to the river and local park.

We can provide this room, some food, transport, kindness, and even work, as we run our own business. (No experience necessary, and to be very clear our offer of a home is unconditional, it does not depend on working for us, that would be your choice and we would support you either way.)

Here are pictures of our local park (with Ukraine flag), our garden, living room, and us. We also have a small dog as well. We have signed up to the government visa scheme and ready to find someone or two people we can sponsor.

Image above: Ukrainian flag flying over St Peter’s Square

Q: What forms did you have to fill in?

“We spent about 35 minutes filling out the form with her on video phone so we could check things. The Homes for Ukraine visa application is easy, it’s uploading the documents which is the problem. It’s a disgrace, a complete farce.

“I uploaded the documents and checked six days later whether they’d got them ok. If they haven’t, you have to start the visa application process all over again. Tens of thousands of people have experienced problems with this. Many people who applied on 18th and 19th March STILL have not had their visas processed even though the Minister for Refugees, Lord Harrington, said on 15th or 17th March they were working on getting the process down to hours rather than days.”

Again on Sunday (3 April) Lord Harrington admitted the process was far too slow and promised people fleeing Ukraine would have their visa applications processed within 48 hours.

Q: What checks are done on you to make sure you are suitable hosts?

“The Council [Hounslow] has been in touch. We’re not sure what they will look for. If the visa is accepted, the person comes over irrespective of council checks. The only thing we know they require is that the person has their own closable door, not just a partition in a shared room.

“The government has given councils advice and we understand everyone in a household over the age of 16 will be required to have a criminal record check.

“I’ve gone a bit overboard. Anna and I work in schools so we already have DBS checks but I have also had a gas safety check done and an electrical safety check and a fire safety check of my own accord. I would imagine they would check that fire alarms have batteries in them and things like that, but the Council hasn’t told us anything specific.”

They haven’t heard anything about the visa for the first girl, which they applied for 15 days ago, and now they are starting the process again, but another host family in Chiswick who applied not long after them has now heard this weekend that the girl they are hosting has her visa through.

Where to apply for a visa: Apply for a visa under the Ukraine sponsorship scheme

Mat’s sponsorship guide: Mat and Anna have given this a lot of thought and Mat has put together his own sponsorship guide, which has been translated into Ukrainian and distributed on various networks: Mat’s Sponsorship Guide

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Watching the news knowing your stepson is there somewhere, fighting for the Ukrainian army

See also: “People are fearful” says Bishop of the Russian cathedral in Chiswick

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Episode 22: How the world is reacting to Putin’s war

The Three Old Hacks discuss the world’s response to Putin’s war. UK journalists give the impression the whole world was pro-Ukraine, but that is not the case, says Mihir Bose.

Listen to former BBC News sports editor Mihir Bose, Economics editor of the Sunday Times David Smith and political commentator Nigel Dudley discussing Putin’s war and their memories of the Falklands war, 40 years ago.


More Platforms

Listen to more episodes here.

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

Watching the news knowing your stepson is there somewhere, fighting for the Ukrainian army

Image above: Roman Romanovich

While most of us are able to watch the news with a kind of detached horror, for some the war in Ukraine is personal. The world is now so interconnected of course there are people in Chiswick with relatives caught up in it.

Stuart Kerr has written a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar about the experience of cheering from the sidelines, doing whatever their family can to support his wife’s’ son, his stepson Roman Romanovich, a 42 year old computer expert with three children of his own, who has signed up to fight for his country.

A glimpse of Romchick in Putin’s war from a little house in Chiswick

By Stuart Kerr

Me and Valery Gergiev go back a long way. Not that I’ve ever conducted a live orchestra, eyes closed in deepest reverie. Or even learned to read a single note of music. The fact is, I’ve always rather imagined I can do both, with or without a baton. So I’ll never forget that morning of 24 February when Russian troops crossed the border to strangle the soul out of Ukraine, when my instinctive first reaction to war was to seek hope from something fine in Russian culture – and play very loudly Valery’s exquisite recording of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique symphony with his own St Petersburg Mariinski Orchestra.

I should have known better.

My recently departed mother-in-law, Nina Alexandrovna Rykova, was pure Russian, born in 1926 in Smolensk. As a teenager she ran before the advancing Nazi army and ended up trembling on the other side of the Volga River whilst the monstrous Wehrmacht shelled Stalingrad to rubble. Over a year later she managed to creep her way back home to enjoy a couple of short years, her last as a teenager.

Image above: Nina Alexandrovna Rykova

Then the war ended and Stalin ordered thousands and thousands of his people to up sticks, answer the call of their motherland, board a cattle truck and go off to “Russify” the Western Ukraine, taking advantage of all those nice empty houses left vacant after Hitler’s holocaust. Not to mention lots more suddenly available homes after about 200,000 Ukrainians, deemed far too nationalistic, were rounded up and sent forever to Siberia. Which briefly explains how Nina got to marry Ukrainian Lev Ilyich Kuzma and create her daughter and my wife Tatyana Lvivna.

Nina’s long life was thus idly contaminated and savagely kicked about by the two most ruthless of evil dictators ever born. But thank goodness death spared her from the flowering of this third depraved war criminal. The one that terrified her in her final years – the one now busy murdering thousands of innocent Ukrainians and their children.

The one who flattened Mariupol – and then flattened it again and again until the decaying human flesh and the twisted debris and the unexploded bombs and the shards of shrapnel congealed into a sickening Martian-like landscape, reminiscent of a vast empty building-site pummelled down into blood-soaked hardcore with a few eerie skeletons of once grand buildings dotted in-between – the one who now joins Hitler and Stalin to become that triumvirate from hell whose joint memory will be cursed until the end of time – Vladimir Putin.

Image above: Lviv Opera House

Tatyana and I were married in Lviv, honeymooned in Kiev and have been back countless times. Lviv is a beautiful and nowadays lively European city with trams, pretty cobbled streets and glorious architecture in its historic centre. Like a small-scale Vienna on account of it once being part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, almost certainly designed by the same architects.

We love the wonderfully moody restaurants like Amadeus with its hints of the old days, musicians softly playing jazz and eating vareniki or borscht. Or popping into an Austrian Kaffeehaus for outstanding coffee with multilayered torte, or divine strudel, traditional poppyseed cake and a huge choice of delicate pancakes with scrummy fillings, tastier than the best we have along Chiswick High Road.

If you ever get there, take a stroll along the centrally pedestrianised and very wide Svobody Prospect pausing occasionally between the horse-chestnut trees and the old gentlemen on benches playing chess with the spring sunshine glittering between the leaves. Then wander on down to the glorious Opera House set in its beautiful square of statues and fountains where children sing and dance at the weekend, It’s a delightful place.

Even more delightful because Tatiana’s son and my amazing step-son Roman Romanovich enjoys a wonderful life there. Or rather he did until recently (more of that later). Romchick, as we call him, has visited us in Chiswick a few times but would have come far more often had not successive British governments (thanks Theresa May) pandered to the very worst of those millions among us who assume he or any other Ukrainian only ever want to get into England to disappear into the black economy and stay forever.

Getting a visa to visit this country has always been a complete nightmare for Ukrainians. A ridiculous nightmare because people like Romchick are deeply patriotic and would never want to spend more than a couple of weeks of the year away from the land they love.

Roman has two teenage children and a five year old son in Ukraine: an expensive ultra-modern two bedroom flat that many in England would die for; another flat in nearby Stryy where he was born and has friends; a motor-bike, a car, two mountain bikes and even a blinking Brompton bike; a top job (until this war) with an American computer programming company; a mutual love affair with Morty a young miniature schnauzer; a life of fabulous skiing in the nearby Carpathian Mountains; adventuring far and wide; swimming in beautiful rivers and lakes in mid-winter; white water rafting; morning jogs through the woods five minutes away; exploring European cities; taking summer breaks in places like Israel, Egypt and Turkey; teaching, entertaining and educating his kids; a wide social whirl with nightlife and rich culture in a throbbing city he adores. Every day that passes he’s sucking the very best out of his beautiful homeland.

So, quite apart from frightening the life out of his mother, it was hardly a surprise when about a week after Russia invaded, our precious 42 year old Romchick along with most his friends trooped off to the authorities and signed up to fight for their freedom.

Image above: Roman Romanovich in his original uniform in his trench

First they had a week’s training. A crash course for beginners in the basics of war including what to do when you get shot but are still alive and important facts about which end of the rifle the bullet comes out. By all accounts (no names or specific details are allowed re Russian internet spies) these recruits, in the image of our own “Dad’s Army” make a splendid addition to the Ukrainian National Guard.

There’s several bankers and computer programme experts like Roman, an Orthodox priest with a beard down to his belly, a Member of Parliament, the doorman of the famous Grand Hotel in Lviv, a professional footballer, teachers, businessmen, several 50 plus year old veterans from the old Soviet army, even a lad who was working with his father in Poland but ran back to the border and joined-up after dad confiscated his passport in order to keep him safe.

As for the wives, children and families of these brave lads. At least we could all relax. For a while our boys were safe. So far they were only playing at war. Pretending. Then one morning in mid March around dawn, news broke in London that Putin had bombed an army training camp just north of Lviv. Many were feared dead.

Forgive me if I pass on the next five or six hours. None of us everyday, non-military folk has the foggiest experience or concept of war landing on our own doorstep. Particularly in Europe in 2022. War in all its sordid detail with all its gory violence and its ruthless cruelty. That’s something we occasionally see on TV from places in the middle-east or Burma or remote corners of Africa. Far away sad places where people somehow don’t know how to settle their differences in peace. Somewhere else. Anywhere else. But not here on our own doorstep in leafy W4. Impossible! How wrong could we all have been? How naïve?

Thankfully, after a barrage of desperate Skype messages from Tatyana, news came through from Romchick just before midday. “Don’t worry. It wasn’t me. We’re not even in that training camp.”

That’s modern war for those involved but looking on from afar. People live from one newsflash to the next and all we can do is wonder. And fret. You soon learn. Individually everyone learns how to cope. Somehow. Anyhow. How to hope but not too much. Just in case. How to get through spending every hour of every night and day on the brink of receiving either the horrific news you dread – or the sudden joy of bells ringing out and a signed armistice. When they all lay down their guns and go home. Meanwhile the wait goes on. Everyone is in limbo.

About a week later Roman broke the news that, unlike Ukraine’s regular army, the National Guard didn’t have the sort of stuff soldiers should wear when they go into battle. That woke us up! But alas, we were already too late. A quick check across the internet soon told us that the Ukrainian diaspora had already visited just about every army surplus store within 300 miles of London and stripped the shelves bare. Panic set in. And guilt. Why didn’t we think of this? Why didn’t we ask? How on earth could we be so useless as to send our boy to war with sod all to protect him against Russian bullets?

This time it was daughter Iryna who came to the rescue. Roman’s far younger baby sister. Either by chance or some sort of divine intervention, she was at work that day for the first time in about two years of Covid and was already at a City desk. She quickly rang around and managed to find a nearby shop in Mile End that specializes in state-of-the-art military stuff. Brand new and expensive but they might have a few pieces left in their storeroom. They had. She got three fantastic helmets (two for Roman to give to his friends), an amazing pair of shrapnel-proof goggles, special knee pads and gloves and finally an £800 vest of full body armour back and front. The last one in stock. Made of a compound half the weight of steel but twice as protective against bullets.

Thus a large 20kg parcel stuffed full of kit, packets of mixed nuts from M&S and multi-packs of Snickers chocolate bars, left Chiswick in our regular Ukrainian van on 28 March 28 bound for Lviv. From where it was immediately transferred into a private car and driven about 80 miles by an army friend, arriving in Roman’s secret camp on April Fools Day. Efficient these Ukrainians.

Image above: Roman Romanovich wearing his smart new hat and goggles

So what happens next with this war? And how will it all end? Nobody knows, obviously. But I’d suggest there are two likely outcomes. Either (more like wishful thinking) a few in the Kremlin see the writing on the wall and take Putin out. Or (most probable) he relentlessly carries on, losing thousands more of his hapless army, until such time as he’s caused enough death and destruction to claim a glorious victory back home having fulfilled all his promises: castigating all the neo-Nazis, forcing NATO to abandon potential membership plans and proudly saving Ukraine.

The problem with that outcome (apart from it being lies and nonsense) is that it would do absolutely nothing for one of the major victims of Putin’s War. His main audience. Putin’s own Russian people. The masses of brainwashed zombies that see their great leader as the saviour of their great nation. Who post-victory would look forward to once again seeing their sportsmen up on some rostrum where they belong: in some great stadium with world leaders and VIPs looking down as their flag flutters on high and their great national anthem blares forth yet again with their conquering hero of a leader benevolently smiling down on his adoring subjects.

This terrifying yet possible scenario would represent the exact opposite to what happened in Germany after WW2. Because Germany was visibly and thoroughly defeated with nobody left standing to claim any crazy self-styled victory. In 1945, with their cities bombed to bits and Hitler dead, the humiliated German public entered a period of acute ignominy and widespread self-criticism. It’s taken them years post Nuremberg to own their national humiliation and throw off the final shackles of shame. Seventy seven years to be precise. Blocking the Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline and sending German armour to Ukraine represents the sudden re-emergence of Europe’s most powerful nation – the one positive bi-product of Putin’s war so far.

Putin simply cannot be seen to have won this war. This planet cannot afford a victorious Putin leading his adoring country. He’d only be back to do it all again somewhere else. If he does survive beyond the inevitable ceasefire, the hardest of sanctions and sporting bans must continue for at least as long as it takes. Until it dawns on the good citizens of Russia that they’ve swallowed far too much Putin Propaganda Poison and that they’ve been thoroughly duped. No more Olympic Games. No more football. No Formula 1. Nothing. No global sporting or cultural contact whatsoever. Russians need to learn why their country is an ostracised pariah state. Then they need to bow low before photographs of a shattered Mariupol with its dead children and all its murdered grannies and accept the naked truth – that this grotesque quagmire wasn’t created by Ukrainians but by the serial war-criminal Putin. Who did it all in their name! This much they must own. It might take decades. But there can be no going back. No “normalisation”.

And as for Valery Gergiev. Sacked by the Munich Philharmonic, cancelled by the western world of music, now back in Moscow isolation making grandiose cultural plans with his friend the President, all my CDs and LPs of his work are now gone. Destroyed. I never want to hear of him or his work ever again.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Arts Society celebrates Ukrainian artists in unique fundraiser

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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April 2022 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Jessica Bloom has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Young Mungo, Companion Piece, and After Everything You Did.

 

Young Mungo

The extraordinary, powerful second novel from the Booker prizewinning author of Shuggie Bain, Young Mungo is both a vivid portrayal of working-class life and the deeply moving story of the dangerous first love of two young men: Mungo and James. Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in a hyper-masculine world.

They are caught between two of Glasgow’s housing estates where young working-class men divide themselves along sectarian lines, and fight territorial battles for the sake of reputation. They should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all, and yet they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the doocot that James has built for his prize racing pigeons. As they begin to fall in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo must work hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his elder brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold.

But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. When Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland, with two strange men behind whose drunken banter lie murky pasts, he needs to summon all his inner strength and courage to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future. Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism, Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the meaning of masculinity, the push and pull of family, the violence faced by so many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

Images above: front cover of Young Mungo, Author Douglas Stuart

Companion Piece

The unmissable new work from Ali Smith, following the dazzling Man Booker-shortlisted Seasonal quartet

‘A story is never an answer. A story is always a question.’

Here we are in extraordinary times.

Is this history?

What happens when we cease to trust governments, the media, each other?

What have we lost?

What stays with us?

What does it take to unlock our future?

Following her astonishing quartet of Seasonal novels, Ali Smith again lights a way for us through the nightmarish now, in a vital celebration of companionship in all its forms.

‘Every hello, like every voice, holds its story ready, waiting.’

Images above: front cover Companion Piece, author Ali Smith

After Everything You Did

It ends with a car crash. Two women, both maimed, their long blonde hair matted with blood.It begins with waking up, in an unfamiliar hospital bed. Bright lights, nurses – and handcuffs.

She is told her name is Reeta Doe, and that she’s been in an accident. That she’s in Florida. That the FBI have been following her since Mississippi.

That she has brutally murdered two women. College girls, who look just like her. Two more are missing, and one survived.

Reeta recalls nothing. She cannot answer the questions; all the things they want her to explain are no more familiar to her than the prison she is taken to. Her only hope is a journalist named Carol, who can follow the trail of devastation Reeta left in her wake.

All the way back to Pine Ranch, and the only family she ever knew. An astonishing debut crime novel, exploring identity and nature versus nurture, with an unforgettable character at its heart. Perfect for fans of Girl A and The Girls.

Images above: front cover of After Everything You did, Author Stephanie Sowden

Jessica Bloom

Jessica Bloom is a bookseller at her family bookshop, ‘Bookcase London’, an independent bookshop open in Chiswick since 1993.

See Anna Klerfalk’s book choices from previous months here.

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Chelsea 1, Brentford 4 

Image above: Brentford FC players after scoring

The dust is still settling over Stamford Bridge and a memorable Brentford victory that began for us in Andalucía just before four o’clock local time, when we discovered a television service that would bring the West London Premier League match to our front door. Well, into our holiday sitting room actually, a facility unavailable to loyal Bees fans in the UK with no match tickets and more blind faith than belief that anything could be gained from the season’s third meeting with the champions of Europe.

With the sun in southern Spain shining as brightly, but more warmly, than in West London, we were pleased to see Brentford begin in spirited fashion. Chelsea would soon shift up a gear or two, we reasoned, but in the meantime, it was good to see Ivan Toney coming close with two chances of scoring.

David Raya, fresh from his international debut performances with Spain, saved with finger-tip precision a goal-bound effort, but that was the best of it where Chelsea were concerned. And slowly it dawned on us armchair spectators that the home side was becoming unsettled by Brentford’s fluidity in general and, in particular, the commanding presence of Christian Eriksen.

History may well show the opportune signing of a player whose cardiac arrest when playing for Denmark last June saw him collapse and to all intents and purposes die on the pitch – only temporarily, thank heavens – was the key that unlocked Brentford’s fortunes like no other.

It certainly looked that way to the handful of ex-pat devotees more than a thousand miles away witnessing a remarkable dismantling of a star-studded Chelsea side, even if the real drama of the afternoon did not begin until just a few minutes into the second half.

That was when centre-back Antonio Rüdiger seized upon the ball some thirty yards from the Brentford goal and thundered a shot that caught Raya inches short with his despairing dive and cannoned from an upright into the goal. Chelsea’s relief was palpable, but also as short as the blinking of an eye.

Within ninety seconds, give or take a few, Bryan Mbeumo set up Vitaly Janelt to burst clear of a defence and beat goalkeeper Edouard Mendy handsomely. And a bemused Chelsea were still scratching their heads four minutes later when Mbeumo and Eriksen broke at pace from their own half for Bryan to cross into the Dane’s path, enabling the team’s new goal-machine – three goals in as many games, two of them internationals – to deliver a fine chip and put the Bees ahead.

This was not a script with which Brentford fans were over-familiar. Nor the home faithful, whose relative silence further emphasised the visitors’ mounting vocal contribution in determination to remove from memory the two defeats by Chelsea already this term. This time the provider was Toney, whose pass six minutes later enabled Janelt once again to place the ball beyond Mendy’s reach.

Three goals in ten minutes! And still Brentford were not finished delivering abject frustration to their hosts, with substitute Yoane Wissa making space following a goalmouth scramble to fire a low shot into the far corner of Mendy’s net – his first touch of the game.

At the final whistle the visiting fans erupted as if the World Cup was suddenly theirs. That’s the Brentford way.

In Estepona, two similarly jubilant supporters danced a jig in the sitting room and agreed that the home game against West Ham next weekend could not come soon enough for we returning wanderers.

My mate Charlie, sadly not with us but following the action on Bees Player audio back in Chiswick, had to make do with messages expressing our admiration of the entire team that had written their names into the club’s list of legends.

‘Vamos! Si se pueden las Bees,’ tweeted Charlie.

Si, Charlie.

Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rüdiger, Alonso (substitute James 55); Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Kanté (sub Lakuku 65); Ziyech, Havertz, Werner (sub Kovačić 64).

Brentford: Raya; Roerslev, Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (sub Canós 88); Eriksen, Nørgaard, Janelt, (sub Jensen 82); Mbeumo (sub Wissa 85), Toney.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group

Pictures by Mark D Fuller & Daniel Hambury (Brentford FC)

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Beavers could be reintroduced to SW London

Image above: a Eurasian beaver

Beavers could return to south west London should an application to reintroduce the animals be granted. The Ealing Beaver Reintroduction Project, led by the Ealing Wildlife Group, hopes to obtain a licence from Natural England in order to move two beavers into Paradise Fields in Greenford in 2023.

Others involved in the project include Ealing Council, Friends of Horseden Hill and Citizen Zoo. The Council has agreed to provide ranger support and partial financial backing as the scheme would ‘improve the local environment and provide community benefit’. Ealing Wildlife Group will be seeking further funding for the project should the application be successful.

Previously found across Britain, beavers were hunted to extinction in the 16th century. They have been successfully reintroduced in several parts of the country, with London’s first pair introduced to Enfield in early March.

Introducing the beavers could significantly improve local biodiversity and support rewilding efforts generally in London. Dams built by beavers reduce the risk of flooding and help control flow rate. The introduction of a pair of beavers would allow the project to study whether introducing beavers into the area could help cut the risk of floods like those seen in London last summer.

If successful, beavers would likely be captured in Scotland and brought down to parts of south west London.

Image above: a Eurasian beaver

Public consultation launched

For the application to go ahead, a public consultation has been launched so the concerns of local residents are taken into consideration.

The intention is to enclose most of the ‘highly suitable’ ten hectare site of Paradise Fields, so the beavers can be housed safely. While visitors would be allowed to enter the site, with hopes for educational tours in the future, site users will be asked to modify their behaviour to some degree.

Visitors would be expected to close gates, not to litter, to walk dogs on lead, sticking to paths, cyclists will need to dismount to enter and exit and to report any fence damage. It is for these reasons the consultation survey has been launched.

The survey requests feedback from local residents and site users, so that any concerns they have regarding the proposed changes can be addressed.

Various environmental groups cite evidence of beaver reintroduction providing unique benefits to local ecosystems. Beaver reintroduction in other parts of the UK has been accompanied with the natural return of various rare bird species and reduced flood peak flow rates.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Friends of the Earth petition LB Hounslow to scrap fossil fuel investments

See also: RNLI on standby as Boat Race expects quarter of a million spectators by the Thames

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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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.

Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

Image above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph; David Giles’ post on social media

Chiswick councillor Joanna Biddolph gave out confidential information about measures to protect councillors’ security to someone who then published it on social media.

Her action, which could have put councillors in harm’s way, has been investigated by Hounslow Council’s Principal Lawyer Jayne LaGrua, who found Cllr Biddolph, a Conservative councillor for Turnham Green ward (re-drawn as Chiswick Gunnersbury in the coming local elections) had broken the Members Code of Conduct, both by breaching confidentiality and by abusing her position.

Joanna Biddolph has now apologised to the Chair of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee. She told The Chiswick Calendar:

“I accept the deputy monitoring officer’s findings and the recommendation of an informal resolution, specifically that I apologise to the chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee which I have, of course, done.”

The incident happened when feelings were running high about the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in September 2021. Opponents of traffic restrictions introduced in Chiswick organised a demonstration outside the Council’s headquarters Hounslow House on Thursday 23 September 2021. They wanted to make their feelings known to members of the Overview and Scrutiny committee.

Security officers at Hounslow House had decided councillors should avoid the demonstrators and enter the building from a side entrance for their own safety. David Giles, a prominent member of the Conservative Party in Chiswick, (since expelled from the party for describing Hounslow Council as the ‘Brentford Taliban’) then published that information on the OneChiswick Facebook group. He posted:

“LBH security told Councillor Joanna Biddolph last night that councillors will not be allowed to use the main front door of Hounslow House on Thursday. They’ll have to use the side gate to go in through the back door. The side gate is on Bath Road on the Western side of the building next to the entrance to the underground car park.

“This is fine for councillors who arrive by tube at Hounslow Central as they will walk past you. Others might not see you. You might have to be creative about how you look for councillors arriving. You may have difficulty recognising some of them apart from John Todd, Ron Mushiso, Sam Hearn,Gabriella Giles or the other Chiswick Councillors”.

READ ALSO: LB Hounslow Cabinet decides to keep Grove Park traffic restrictions as they are

Image above: Protesters with placards opposing the introduction of traffic restrictions in Chiswick

Joanna Biddolph broke the Code of Conduct in two ways

The Council Members Code of Conduct says councillors ‘should not disclose information … acquired by them which they believe, or ought reasonably to be aware, is confidential in nature.’

The Code of Conduct also says councillors ‘should not use, or attempt to use, their position improperly to the advantage or disadvantage of themselves or anyone else.’

A member of the public complained that Cllr Biddolph had broken the Code of Conduct and their complaint was upheld in both these respects. The matter has now been referred to the Conservative Group Leader Gerald McGregor.

Putting councillors at risk

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, who has herself written about the vulnerability of being in public office, on the receiving end of abuse and threats, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“This is shocking behaviour from a senior Conservative councillor. Disclosing security information puts councillors at risk and we have seen the tragic impact this has had on politicians over the last five years.

“This is a shocking breach of the code of conduct and councillor Biddolph should know better. I hope Chiswick Gunnersbury residents will remember this incident when casting their vote in the upcoming Council elections.”

“Extremely dangerous and misguided”

Cllr Salman Shaheen, Chairman of the Brentford & Isleworth constituency Labour party, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“I welcome Conservative Councillor Biddolph’s apology for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information. It was an extremely dangerous and misguided act, especially when one considers councillors had received death threats over these traffic measures.

“It’s just another example of the Conservatives pouring petrol over the flames with their inflammatory words. Previously we’ve seen Cllr Biddolph cite comparisons between Chiswick High Road and Belfast during the troubles. Chiswick’s residents deserve councillors who will work hard for the whole community and not persist with divide and rule politics by stirring up animosities.”

Cllr Joanna Biddolph has asked us to point out that she had merely repeated a resident’s comment that the traffic changes made Chiswick ‘like Belfast in the Troubles’ rather than originating it. We have asked Group Leader Gerald McGregor for a comment.

Previous threats against councillors

A year earlier a comment on social media in which an opponent of the traffic measures had threatened to shoot Labour councillors was followed up by police. Simon Mabbutt, who stood unsuccessfully as a UKIP candidate in Chiswick Riverside ward in 2014 wrote:

“The council members who agreed this most pathetic changes which has increased pollution, ruined businesses and KILLED PEOPLE RE EMERGENCY VEHICLES NEED SHOOTING. I AM HAPPY TO PULL THE TRIGGER. They are the biggest imbeciles ever.”

He followed this with:

“I think it’s time to find out who and where these imbeciles live”.

His comment was answered by Marlene Johnson, suggesting where he could find the councillors’ addresses. Marlene was then a company director of a lettings agency based in Chiswick and one of the organisers of the Facebook group One Chiswick.

At the time Council Leader Steve Curran said:

“Ever since the murder of Jo Cox MP, we take this sort of threat very seriously.”

READ ALSO: Threat to shoot councillors followed up by police

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See also: Sofa Workshop Ltd goes into administration

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Ealing’s Liberal Democrats launch local election manifesto

Images above: Ealing Liberal Democrats pose outside of Ealing Town Hall

Ealing’s Liberal Democrats have launched their manifesto in the run up to the local elections in May.

Chiswick has three Liberal Democrat councillors in Southfield Ward, which is a part of LB Ealing. Those councillors are Andrew Steed, Gary Busuttil and Gary Malcolm.

The party has come out swinging for the Labour-run Ealing Council, saying residents are “fed up with Ealing Labour’s PR machine trying to dictate what we do and how we do it”.

Candidates are hoping to capitalise on various controversial policy decisions made by the council over the last few years, including the various ‘Low-Traffic Neighbourhood’ schemes and the closure of the Acton Recycling Centre.

Lib Dems want to ‘get the basics right’

Launching their manifesto on Sunday (3 April), the local Lib Dems listed their main priorities should they be elected on 5 May:

  • ‘Listen to Ealing – Bring back Ward Forums and consult on traffic schemes.
  • ‘Better planning system and housing – Stand up to developers, take a stand against inappropriate tall towers and make new buildings net zero carbon.
  • ‘Improving transport and the environment – Sort out road and pavement repairs, invest in parks and green spaces and ambitious climate change plans.
  • ‘Clean & Safe Ealing – Reduce litter and fly-tipping, reverse falling trend in recycling and reverse Labour’s street light dimming.
  • ‘Care for people – Help with the cost of living crisis, stop cuts to youth services and investing in people’s mental health.
  • ‘A well-run Council – Cut or reprioritise wasteful spending, keep Council Taxes low and publish an annual Green Plan.’

Councillor Gary Malcolm, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:

“Liberal Democrats wants to see Ealing Council getting the basics right so they can be a Council you can trust. Our priorities are to have Clean and Safe streets and to be Listened to. This means standing up to developers, reducing litter and fly-tipping, reversing the falling trend in recycling and reversing Labour’s street light dimming.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See also: Sofa Workshop Ltd goes into administration

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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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.

 

Escaped falcon spotted around south west London

Image above: Jester the caracara falcon spotted in Streatham Common

A falcon which escaped from London Zoo in March has been spotted around south west London.

The bird of prey escaped the zoo during a training session on 15 March and has since been spotted in South Ealing, Richmond and Putney.

Staff from London Zoo continue to try to lure Jester home with her favourite foods, keeping track of her mostly thanks to sightings by the public.

Jester is a crested caracara, a falcon species native to the Southern US and Central America, and has a wingspan of four feet. Generally, the species eats small birds and insects, but is also likely to scavenge for food waste in an urban setting.

The crested caracara does not pose any risk to public health, although some small pet owners have expressed concern despite assurances from zookeepers.

Image above: Jester spotted in one of London’s green spaces

Zoo “not concerned’ about Jester’s welfare

London Zoo issued a statement explaining:

“We are not concerned about Jester’s welfare, as caracaras are well equipped for surviving in an urban environment.

“Caracaras are small birds of prey and pose no danger to people or dogs – rather like a crow or magpie, they are primarily scavengers, eating carrion, insects and grubs or food in bins. We are not concerned about Jester’s welfare, as caracaras are well equipped for surviving in an urban environment.

“The team will continue to encourage Jester into her travel crate so they can bring her back home, where her brother, Joker is waiting for her – alongside a celebratory homecoming meal of her favourite quail and crickets.”

The zoo have asked members of the public to refrain from feeding Jester if they see her, so that zookeepers can ensure she maintains a nutritious diet.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Friends of the Earth petition LB Hounslow to scrap fossil fuel investments

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Andrea’s film review – The Bubble

The Bubble ⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

A group of actors and actresses stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel attempts to complete a film. Available to watch on Netflix.

Judd Apatow is now considered one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, not just as a screenwriter, which is how he started, but as a director and producer. His name has been attached to some of the most successful comedies of the last 20 years, both on TV and on the big screen, from The Larry Sanders Show, to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Bridesmaids.

His most recent film The King of Staten Island came out just as Covid broke and forced all cinemas to close down: it ended up being one of the first victims of the pandemic in cinema terms, something which Apatow must have felt quite strongly about, because it his first film after that is actually about Covid.

The Bubble is about a group of narcissistic and egotistical movie stars (a concept quite easy to buy into), trapped on a pandemic-quarantined film set. Their attempts to finish filming the 6th sequel of a Jurassic Park-style franchise are constantly battered by Covid infections, restrictions and continuous lockdowns and production shut-downs.

On paper this had the potential to be absolutely hilarious and if I have to be honest I found myself laughing out-loud and smiling more during the first ten minutes of this film than in many other comedies this year.

This clearly wants to be a satire on show business, celebrity culture and Hollywood in general as being out of touch with reality. It’s also a film that deals with Covid itself and makes the madness of the pandemic part of the story.

There are indeed some funny moments at the start of the film, mostly playing on those frustrated feelings we’ve all shared during those endless lockdowns. For example, there are some amusing moments when during various Zoom calls we’re shown a studio boss always in amazing locations around the world, a proof that some people had definitely “better lockdowns” than many of us. Alas the film fails at any attempt to give any clever insights or genuine reflection on the state of Hollywood during the pandemic.

A lot of the comedy is made up of too many “inside jokes” which might play nicely to those Apatow’s Hollywood peers, but will probably go over the heads of any member of the normal audience.

The film feels more like a collection of sketches, most of which are way too indulgent, to say the least, and too stupid to be funny. They’re also badly strrung together in an attempt to make them look like a coherent film (an attempt which fails miserably).

None of the people in the large cast of middle-to-big names like Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele), David Duchovny (The X Files), Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) nor the many cameo appearances from stars like Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, John Cena, John Lithgow and Benedict Cumberbatch help to make this any better.

In fact, after a while I just began to feel sorry for all these actors, not for what they were going through in the film, but because they were actually in this film and they were making complete fools of themselves and being generally very unlikeable.

The result is a very uneven film, which too often struggles to get a laugh and feels insufferable and interminable (a cardinal sin for a comedy, in my view).

It also reminded us of a time we’d rather forget… probably just like we should forget this film.

“Well at least we tried to make a movie in this difficult time. They can’t judge us for that” says one character just at the end of the movie. I wonder whether that’s Apatow realising he’s made a dud.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

The Bubble is available to watch on Netflix.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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 

LB Hounslow warns against Council Tax fraudsters

LB Hounslow has issued a warning about bogus phone calls from fraudsters, who are claiming they are issuing Council Tax rebates.

The fraudsters claim they are working on behalf of the council to issue the Government’s £150 Council Tax rebate and have been calling Hounslow residents asking for bank details.

Hounslow Council said they will never phone and ask for bank details, and there is nothing that residents need to do at the moment with regard to the rebate. More details will be provided about this at a later date.

The Council asks that if you receive a phone call, and the caller says they work for Hounslow, ask for a name and then call the main switchboard number to verify the details if you are not sure that it is a genuine call.

If you suspect that a crime is being attempted, then you can report it to the the Police by calling 101.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Friends of the Earth petition LB Hounslow to scrap fossil fuel investments

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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LB Hounslow makes it into Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column

Image above: Private Eye 1 – 14 April magazine

Hounslow Council makes an appearance in Private Eye this week in the ‘Rotten boroughs’ column. The Eye reports the Council has come under fire for the lack of diversity among its candidates for the May elections.

‘One Labour member told local news website Brentford Today [&TV #Debate Not Hate#]

“Labour councillors like to celebrate the borough’s rich diversity. Fine. So why don’t they celebrate it when they choose candidates to stand in the local elections?”

‘In the party’s recent selections, not one person of Afro-Caribbean origin was given a safe seat.’

The article goes on to say Muslims make up 14% population of Hounslow but are likely to provide around 40% of Labour’s councillors.

‘The Feltham & Heston Labour constituency party, which supplies around half Hounslow’s Labour councillors, remains under special measures imposed by Labour HQ for “widespread membership abuse”. The allegation is that members are signed up for the sole purpose of voting for particular candidates.’

As The Chiswick Calendar has also reported, many of the Labour Party’s Muslim members in Hounslow attend the same mosque, giving the mosque a disproportionate influence in the party.

READ ALSO: Cllr Hanif Khan, Hounslow Cabinet Member for Transport not reselected for election

Private Eye‘s Rotten Boroughs columnist continues:

‘Thirteen Labour candidates are associated with one mosque, the Hounslow Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre, which is well regarded for its charitable and community work.

‘But whatever the merits of individual candidates, there are concerns that socially conservative Islamic councillors may have a disproportionate influence on certain matters such as LGBT rights. Brentford Today points out that if these candidates “vote as a block [sic], they’ll be close to choosing the next council leader in May.”

‘The likely winners are Cllrs Shantanu Rajawat and Samia Chaudhary, chair and deputy respectively of the Feltham & Heston constituency party.’

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.
 

 

Andrea’s film review – Ambulance

Ambulance ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

Two robbers steal an ambulance after their heist goes awry. Out in cinemas now.

The plot for the latest Michael Bay film is essentially an excuse to showcase a very prolonged car chase from beginning to end. After bank heist goes wrong, two brothers hijack an ambulance and set off on a high-speed pursuit that never seems to stop, as they try to keep their hostages alive.

For the last few decades Michael Bay’s movies have been synonymous of explosions, fast cutting, stylistic visuals, special effects … and let’s be honest, dumb scripts and heavily objectifying women.

Critics (Mark Kermode being one of the most vocal) have been describing Bay’s way of filming actresses as “lascivious” and “pornographic” and have criticised the director’s constant sexist remarks and stereotypical female characters.

According to the “Urban Dictionary” website “In order to appreciate his dumb shock and awe style, you must either be stupid enough to think on his level or smart enough not to care how intellectual a movie about robots and explosions is”. And while such definition feels harsh, I can’t help sharing some of that feeling too.

His over-dependency on slow motions, used pretty much every time there’s an explosion or a loud noise (so basically all the time in his films), have now become almost parody of the genre itself. Not to mention Bay’s love for low-angle shots looking up at characters getting out of cars.

The last Bay film I actually enjoyed was probably The Rock, starring Sean Connery, Ed Harris and Nicholas Cage, and that was back in 1996.

Ever since then, the director has given us the silly Armageddon, the almost insulting Pearl Harbour and the abysmal Transformers movies. He’s also been producing some of the most pointless remakes of classic horrors from the ‘70s and ‘80s: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. None of which came even close to the originals and most of them were panned by critics and audiences alike.

So you can imagine my surprise when about half way through Ambulance I realised I wasn’t actually hating the film as much as I was expecting and in fact I thought it was quite entertaining, in a very “turn-your-brain-off” type of way.  I was also pleased to notice that some of the most offending aspects of Bay’s sensibility had been finally turned off for once.

There are in the film some obvious echoes from Speed, another movie constantly “on the move”, (though it’s more difficult to empathise with shouty-shouty Jake Gyllenhall as we did with Keanu Reeves) and while, of course, it is too long and Bay’s tendency to over-cut things, as if on steroids, his lack of self-aware humour and his love for showing off with his new drone-toy, which pointlessly flies up and down skyscrapers, along roads and across all sort rooms rather randomly, did get a little bit on my nerves, as an action flick, Ambulance is a perfectly serviceable one: it’s full of action set-pieces and it “does what it says on the tin”.

In fact I’d go even further and say that it’s one of the best films Bay has done in decades!

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

Image above: Sergey Brilev on Russian state TV

Brilev on list of 14 latest to be sanctioned

Russian TV presenter Sergey Brilev is among a list of 14 Russians to be sanctioned by the British Government, it was announced on Thursday (31 March).

The Foreign Office announced ‘Russian propagandist Sergey Brilev’ was among those who ‘spread lies and deceit about Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said:

“Putin’s war on Ukraine is based on a torrent of lies. Britain has helped lead the world in exposing Kremlin disinformation, and this latest batch of sanctions hits the shameless propagandists who push out Putin’s fake news and narratives.

“We will keep on going with more sanctions to ramp up the pressure on Russia and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table.”

Sergey Brilev holds a British passport and owns a flat in Chiswick. When Francis Scarr, who works for BBC Monitoring, pointed out last month that the Russian state TV presenter had property in the UK there were many who commented on social media that Brilev should have his passport revoked and ownership of the flat taken away from him.

Some of the residents in his apartment block beside Heathfield Terrace in Chiswick added their voices to that call. The Foreign Office statement said:

“Having previously lived in the UK, Brilev will no longer be able to access any of his UK assets or continue business dealings.”

The government is also directly sanctioning state media organisations, targeting the Kremlin funded TV-Novosti who own RT, formerly Russia Today, and Rossiya Segodnya who control news agency Sputnik.

Brilev the ‘spy’

While he was stationed in London for the Russian TV station Vesti, between 1996 and 2001, Brilev was a regular contributor to Sky News and BBC News representing Russia.

Back in Russia from 2001, with his own TV show, he has been named the best TV news and current affairs presenter by the Russian TV Academy several times. He has also on several occasions been the official co-commentator of the live ceremony of the inauguration of the President of the Russian Federation.

Russian state TV is unashamedly propagandist. Brilev did an interview with the Russian president about the Salisbury poisonings, which failed to challenge Putin’s line that the novichok poisoners were just innocent tourists.

Russia’s opposition leader, lawyer Alexey Navalny, has accused Brilyov of being a “Putin propagandist”, who “never criticises the Kremlin.”

The Times published evidence from Navalny in 2018 that Brilov and his wife Irina were on the UK electoral roll and that Mrs Brilev had bought a £700,000 apartment beside Heathfield Terrace in Chiswick in 2016.

Daily Mail journalist Will Stewart quoted espionage expert Sergey Kanev in February accusing Brilev of having acted as a spy when he lived here.

‘A source is signalling me that UK citizen and at the same time a presenter of Russian State Broadcasting TV and Radio company Sergey Brilev is allegedly an SVR staffer who earlier worked in London under cover of ‘journalist’.’

‘Disinformation is part of the Kremlin playbook’

The Foreign Office announced the sanctions as ‘disinformation is part of the Kremlin playbook’.

Other ‘propagandists’ sanctioned today include:

  • Aleksandr Zharov, Chief Executive Officer of Gazprom-Media and former Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor)
  • Alexey Nikolov, Managing Director of RT
  • Anton Anisimov, Head of Sputnik International Broadcasting

Image above: Apartment blok where Sergey Brilev owns a property

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Russian TV presenter with flat in Chiswick ‘a spy’

See also: RNLI on standby as Boat Race expects quarter of a million spectators by the Thames

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

RNLI on standby as Boat Race expects quarter of a million spectators by the Thames

Image above: RNLI lifeboat from Chiswick lifeboat station in action on the River Thames

Organisers of the Boat Race are expecting 250,000 spectators to be watching from the shore on Boat Race day, Sunday 3 April. Boat race partners the RNLI says:

“It’s rare to have a crowd that big gathered on a river bank, and especially one as tidal as the Thames – so we’re asking those enjoying the day to take care and respect the water while having a fun day out.”

The RNLI station at Chiswick Pier is celebrating 20 years of saving lives on the River Thames this year and regularly have to rescue Boat Race spectators who have climbed down to the shore to watch the race and get stuck, unaware how quickly the tide comes in.

Safety advice

“Our advice to those coming to enjoy the day is to be aware of your surroundings, as slips trips and falls can happen easily. If you do fall into the water unexpectedly, remember to float to live.

“Keep calm and try not to panic, lean back extending your arms and legs to keep your airway clear of the water and if you need to, gently move your arms and legs in a gentle motion to help you float. Once you have your breathing under control then consider swimming to a point of safety.

“If you do see anyone in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard and if you can, try and give a location as this will help rescue services get to those in difficulty quicker.”

The RNLI is a charity and relies on donations from the public and volunteers to crew the lifeboats. you can donate to save lives in London here: RNLI.org/BoatRace2022

Image above: Mark Pusey, one of the RNLI volunteers at Chiswick lifeboat station who will be on duty this weekend

Swapping drums for a dry suit

One of the lifeboatmen on duty this weekend on the Chiswick lifeboat will be Mark Pusey, celebrity drummer. Mark has performed with Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Leona Lewis and Tom Jones. Mark said:

“I’m unbelievably fortunate to have such an incredible job as a drummer, and I’ve toured alongside some very talented artists…

“I have to pinch myself sometimes considering what I do for a job – it’s great performing and seeing people enjoying the music – it just gives you an amazing buzz as you fully embrace the atmosphere whether it be on stage or recording in the studio as you enjoy the moment.

“In contrast, in my time away from the drum kit I’m lucky enough to make a real difference in London as I volunteer for the RNLI helping save lives along the River Thames.

“It’s a far cry from standing side by side with a pop star, however, when you put your hand out to pull someone from the water in their moment of need, it gives you a different kind of buzz, a sense of satisfaction – a feeling you’ve made a difference and saved someone’s life.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Friends of the Earth petition LB Hounslow to scrap fossil fuel investments

See also: Christ Church Chiswick want homeless people camped on their land moved on

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

 

Andrea’s film review – E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world.

I’ve just come out of a screening of E.T. with live music played the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and all I want to do right now is talk and write about it.

My son and I watch this film pretty much every year and every time it’s the usual storm of emotions as if we were watching it for the first time. And that’s one of the many powers of this absolute masterpiece. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’ll still laugh, you’ll still be thrilled… and you’ll still cry.

Watching it (probably for the 100th time) with the clinical eyes of the nerdy filmmaker I can only marvel at what Spielberg was able to achieve.

To me this is ‘pure cinema’. It’s most likely one of the main reasons why I fell in love with films and if today I’m the person I am and do the work I do, I have E.T. to thank.

This is Spielberg at his very best, with his unique ability to tell visual stories. His camera is always in the right place, at the right time: for this film, he brings it down to children’s level (or E.T.’s level) cutting off the faces of all the grown-ups, as if to enhance the power that children have and to get closer and closer to them.

It’s incredible how for three quarters of the film we never see the face of an adult (except for the mother, who’s the only one ‘allowed’ in the children’s realm). And yet, we never even wonder about it, because we are so invested in the story that we don’t even notice it. It’s a technique often imitated, but never quite matched.

Watching it tonight, with a live orchestra, I was reminded of how many sequences rely on just music and no dialogue (the whole beginning for example). If this isn’t the purest form of cinema as visual storytelling, I don’t know what is.

Some people call the film (and Spielberg) too sentimental, but actually the ability to manipulate people’s emotions so effortlessly, as if it was the easiest thing in the world, is a skill set that very few directors have.

The film is packed with great moments: of course the iconic shot of ET and Elliot flying across the moon, possibly one of the most enduring images in the history of cinema, but also great scenes like E.T. speaking (“E.T. phone home”),  E.T. dying or the last goodbye, as well as dozens of little tiny moments, which go mostly unnoticed, but are so beautifully handled that should be studied in every film school: the sequence with the men from the government entering the house for the first time, all played through a series images with lights and shadows moving across the toys in the bedroom, or the beautiful cross cutting between E.T. at home and Elliot in school culminating with “a quiet man” played on TV and Elliot kissing the blond girl.

I adore the very odd blocking of the moment with Elliot facing a spotlight as E.T.’s hand lands on his shoulder, a scene which seen from the outside might look unnatural and awkward, but somehow in the hands of Spielberg, through his lens seems absolutely natural. I have a particular soft spot for the quietest moments too: the scene where Elliot shows his toys to E.T… or the two of them listening to the mother telling stories to the little sister (how spectacular Drew Barrymore was, by the way!)

And then of course, last but certainly not least, the powerful Oscar-winning score by John Williams, which in the screening tonight took centre stage, just as soaring and warm and you might remember, though interestingly I also noticed how crucial a good audio mix is. The music tonight played mostly all on the same level, making me very aware of it throughout and possibly undermining the moments where you really want it loud. I loved the experience of a live orchestra playing during the film, but if you watch E.T. for the first time, it’s probably better to see it as it was originally intended.

The screening tonight in the packed auditorium served as a little reminder of the kind of crowd pleaser this film is… Not that I need to be reminded anyway. The audience’s reactions were a statement how powerful and magical this film still is.

Family entertainment has hardly been better than this. Children (and adults) across the world have been blessed with E.T. for 40 years (it is indeed its anniversary) and I urge you to find any excuse to watch it again whenever you get a chance.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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 

Sofa Workshop Ltd goes into administration

The Sofa Workshop on Chiswick High Rd closed on Thursday (31 March) as the company went into administration. The mid-market UK upholstery retailer has 16 stores across the UK.

According to administrators accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper:

‘Despite achieving significant revenues, these have been outweighed by trading losses, especially in light of Covid-related supply chain disruption and significant increases in transportation costs on importing goods from Asia into the UK over the last year.

‘Consequently, the business has been unable to meet payments as they fall due and has remained reliant on the support of its shareholder.’

For some time the store in Chiswick had been advertising clearance deals of 50% off. Potential sales options were explored but no buyer came forward. The administrators have made 77 staff redundant.

From Thursday, 15 stores and the website have ceased to trade. One store, 204-208 Tottenham Court Road will continue to trade for up to 14 days in order to sell through the floor stock.

Outstanding orders will be fulfilled

Toby Banfield, joint administrator and PwC partner, said:

“I’m pleased that we have been able to sell the order book, ensuring that customers will receive their outstanding orders.”

Customers will be contacted directly by the Group as soon as possible to provide a further update on the status of their orders.

For more information go to the administration website: www.pwc.co.uk/sofa-workshop

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick’s ‘Russian spy’ Sergey Brilev sanctioned by British Government

See also: RNLI on standby as Boat Race expects quarter of a million spectators by the Thames

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.