If ever there were a Chiswick film this is it: Downton Abbey – A New Era

Image above: Downton Abbey; Carnival Films

Screening + Q&A at Chiswick Cinema

Chiswick Cinema held an event  to mark the launch of the new Downton Abbey film with Jonathan Maitland interviewing a panel of luminaries involved with the making of both the TV series and the films.

First we watched the film. The second full length feature film Downton Abbey – A New Era picks up exactly where the last one left off, in the mid 1920s. The Chiswick Calendar’s film reviewer Andrea Carnevali slightly damns it with faint praise by saying it will appeal to Downton fans. So I guess I’m a fan.

To be fair, I have watched all the episodes of all the series and now both films. I thought the first film was ridiculously far fetched and rather obvious, which no amount of lovely costumes and scenery could make up for, but this one was pacy and witty and fun. Just pure enjoyment. The audience was largely women of a certain age, who like me, laughed and cried in all the right places.

The truly remarkable thing is that to a man and woman, all the panel live within a mile of the cinema – actors Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes) and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), director Simon Curtis, producer Liz Trubridge and designer Donal Woods. If ever there was a film Chiswick should claim as its own, this is it.

Jonathan Maitland hadn’t seen anything of the Downton oeuvre before. He also professed to finding it “moving and entertaining”.

Director Simon Curtis said:

“You always hope a film will come together. There are so many story lines. This adds up to more than the sum of its part, which doesn’t usually happen.”

Image above: Downton Abbey; Carnival Films

The enduring popularity of Downton

Asked why Julian Fellowes’ drama was so popular, Simon – only involved with the series as a viewer until this film – said he thought it was the humanity with which he bestowed his characters that made it so engaging.

Liz Trubridge, who has been working on the Downton project from the start, added: “good stories, a fantastic cast and the feelgood factor.”

Phyllis Logan has also been involved from the start, playing the housekeeper Mrs Hughes from the first series. When she first was approached she thought:

“On paper this was bound to be moderately successful. Dame Maggie Smith was attached to it and so was Hugh Bonneville. Julian had won his Oscar for Gosford Park.

“I read a few pages of the script and thought ‘this is bloomin’ good you know’. I got so embroiled with the characters from the get-go.

“I thought ‘I know that kind of character. I know exactly what they’d do’. I was quite nervous because I thought ‘I really want to do this’.”

Part of the series’ appeal is the look of it. Liz Trubridge talked about touring England in 2009 looking for the right place to film it. They saw Highclere first but as the story is set in Yorkshire, they also looked at other houses.

“We didn’t want a Palladian Jane Austen house. We wanted something different.”

Image above: Downton Abbey; Carnival Films

The luxurious look and the historical accuracy of the set

Donal Woods as designer, was charged with getting every detail exactly right. There is a funeral in this film, as one of the key characters dies. [Spoiler alert. The oldest character.]

People have been surprised the funeral did not involve a horse drawn carriage and copious amounts of flowers, but he told the audience, they found that by 1928 the smart thing was to have a car for the hearse and just a few bouquets of flowers in a stylishly understated way.

Every bit of furniture, jewellery and costume has been meticulously sourced. His research has even taken him to a lawnmower museum in Wales and the Post Office museum in London.

“His attention to detail is extraordinary” said Liz. “When we first filmed at Highclere I was trying to work out why the downstairs rooms looked so realistic and I realised it was because he had scuffed the walls so it looked lived in. Even the skirting board was scuffed.”

One of the main story lines in this film takes the family to the South of France. During lockdown they were having to think of alternate locations which could double for the French riviera.

“Liz was trying to persuade me that Gunnersbury house would be a possibility” said Donal, “but fortunately we got to go to France.”

Image above: Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery as Lady Edith and Lady Mary; Carnival Films

A life changing experience for Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael

Michelle Dockery said Downton had changed her life.

“None of us had any idea it would become so huge. I remember thinking it was an important audition. At the time I was living in a house with four girls that felt like a student house, though we were all a bit older than that. I remember exactly where I was then my agent told me and I had to sit down. It has changed my life.”

Laura Carmichael was plucked from obscurity for the role of Lady Edith. She had left drama school two years earlier and was working as a receptionist in a doctor’s surgery, being turned down for part after part. She too has found it life changing said Liz Trubridge.

Image above: Laura Haddock arriving on set as silent movie actress to film at Downton Abbey; Carnival Films

Favourite scenes

The construction of Downton Abbey – A New Era is that there is a film being filmed within a film, an idea borrowed from Singing in the Rain. Dominic West and Laura Haddock (also west Londoners) join the cast as stars of the silent movie and take over the house, inevitably involving all its occupants. Their careers are on the line as talkies are just starting to be made.

“I really enjoyed the film within a film” said Michelle, “and the last 20 minutes. I sob every time.”

She refers to the death of Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. (The film has been out for over a week. Everyone who cares will know by now!) Jonathan Maitland wanted to know who it was that had the courage to tell Dame Maggie Smith she was being written out.

“I wouldn’t be so stupid to break the news myself” said Liz. I was left to Maggie Smith’s agent. The great actress was very sporting about it apparently.

“Couldn’t I go earlier? I must be about 109 by now” is what she is reputed to have said.

The filming of the deathbed scene took all day, said Simon, and was particularly moving because many of the cast and crew had been together since the beginning of Downton and had grown together, playing a family in the drama but also bonding like an actual family.

Image above: Phyllis Logan and Jim Carter as Mrs Hughes / Carson and Mr Carson; Carnival Films

Getting into character “like slipping into a hot bath”

The actors, who have now been working together for 12 years now, love coming back to their characters.

“It’s really easy to slip back into character. I love getting back into costume” said Michelle Dockery.

“It’s like slipping into a hot bath” said Phyllis.

I asked whether the characters ever invaded their personal lives because they have lived with them so long. “Yes”, said Michelle. She had been sharing a hotel room with Laura Carmichael and it was quite late. They wanted to go to sleep but the people in the room below were being very noisy.

“Right” she said, “I’m going down there” and marched downstairs to get them to shut up. Listening from above, Laura told her “you went full-on Lady Mary then”, which apparently had the desired effect.

When Phyllis asked her husband, actor Kevin McNally, sitting in the audience, whether she ever slipped into Mrs Hughes mode, he replied:

“When are you not Mrs Hughes?”

Downton Abbey – A New Era is still on at Chiswick Cinema.

Image above: Michelle Dockery and Maggie Smith as Lady Mary and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham; Carnival Films

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Andrea Carnevali’s review of Downton Abbey – A New Era

See also: All Andrea’s film reviews

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Shantanu Rajawat elected leader of Hounslow Council

Image above: Shantanu Rajawat; Katherine Dunne

Shantanu Rajawat is the new leader of Hounslow Council with Katherine Dunne as his deputy. The two recently re-elected councillors were chosen by Hounslow Labour Party membership at their AGM on Monday night (9 May).

Shantanu Rajawat had been Cabinet Member for Finance in the last administration. Katherine Dunne was Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency.

Shantanu’s leadership style is expected to be more collegiate than that of former leader Steve Curran, who stood down before the elections because of ill health. A senior member of the party we spoke to told us he stood for carrying on all the good work of the last administration, “but in a more inclusive way.” He expected the culture to change, with more engagement within the group between Cabinet Members and the rest – “a more consultative approach.”

The “listening” council

Shantanu spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about his vision for the next four years and told us:

“My vision is more of a listening council. I want people to feel they have been listened to and heard.”

I asked if that meant he would change the way the traffic restrictions in Grove Park and Strand on the Green are managed and whether they would be prepared to spend more money on it. He said the LTNs were in continuous review.

“If the cost is justified and you can measure its effect, it’s worth spending the money.”

His goal is to deliver the manifesto, in particular the ‘Young Person’s Guarantee’, which he described as ‘wraparound support from birth to the world of work’, bringing the various elements of what the council provides for children and young people into one team to focus the expertise they have in supporting young people. That is something he would be keen to invest in.

Image: Guy Lambert

Guy Lambert, who worked closely with both Shantanu and Katherine in Cabinet over the past four years, told us he was:

“Delighted with the new leadership. They’re well placed to build on our record of council of the year 2021.

“An experienced leadership team who were at the heart of the last administration, can build on the considerable successes and  who are committed to engage more closely both with the public and with the Labour team on the council.

“We have a lot of new, young, talented and committed councillors and our first foothold in Chiswick for decades. The way the election worked out, and today’s leadership outcome would be hard to improve.”

“Committed to building on the best work of the last administration”

Before the AGM there were seven candidates seeking election as leader but Shantanu was the favourite. After the vote he published a statement saying:

“I am honoured and humbled the Labour Group has elected me as their new leader and I am very grateful for the support of my colleagues.

“I want to thank Steve Curran, our outgoing leader, for all his hard work and fantastic achievements over the last eight years. Under his last administration, in which I proudly served, we built over 1,000 council homes, were independently recognised as having the best roads and among the best parks in London, and we won Council of the Year.

“I am committed to building on the best work of the last administration, working to tackle climate change and air pollution, improve our estates and communities, and build social housing.

“But I also want us to forge out in new directions to build an even better borough. Fundamentally, residents and businesses want a listening Council.

“I want to work across the borough for cleaner streets and more opportunities for young people in Hounslow. I want to give local people every chance for their voices to be heard on local decisions so that everyone in Hounslow, from Chiswick to Cranford has a seat at the table.

“I want us to be transparent in our ambitions for the borough and how we will go about realising them. Ours will be a borough for all our residents and ours will be an administration that is always on their side.

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar website

See also: Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

See also: Sam Hearn – The frustration of being continually in opposition in LB Hounslow

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Andrea’s film review – Annie

Annie ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

A feisty young orphan is taken in by a rich eccentric, much to the chagrin of the cantankerous woman who runs the orphanage. Annie is available to rent/buy on all the major streaming platform (Amazon, Apple+, Google Play, Youtube).

I must have seen this film more times than I wish to admit, but what better excuse to re-watch it with my son than its 40th anniversary?

Back in 1982 Annie was pretty much slashed to pieces by the critics, panned as a “a sluggish, stage-bound mess of an adaptation” and pretty much ignored by the audiences. Musicals rarely set the box office on fire, as even Spielberg’s West Side Story proved last year.

Today, possibly riding on that sense of nostalgia for everything that’s ‘80s, the film seems to have gained a bit of a forgotten-cult status. And why not? After all this is the work of a master director, John Huston, so it can’t be that bad. He did his best to infuse excitement, colour and verve into what is, let’s face it, a pretty straight forward script, with not a lot of surprises.

Along the way, there are some rather brilliant musical numbers: It’s a hard knock life and I think I’m gonna like it here for example, with their large number of singers and dancers perfectly choreographed within massive sets, really give that glitz, shine and spectacle that only Hollywood can give.

But yes, there are also some pretty weak ones too, where it feels like Huston not quite knowing what to, left the camera running, and the actors doing their bit.

I remember as a child being a bit bored during some of the numbers. Indeed the pacing seems to be a bit off for what’s really a family film.

Having said that, all the actors (Albert Finney and Tim Curry among them) are at the top of their games, particularly Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, who’s clearly having the time of her life here and manages to make her baddie so incredibly vicious that it’s impossible not to enjoy her presence and at the end (SPOILER ALERT, but I mean, the film 40 years old!!),  when she’s forgiven, we’re all much happier for it.

A weak link for me has always been little Aileen Quinn in the titular role of Annie. I’ve always found her incredibly annoying. She always knows what to do, what to say, she’s good at everything… Hard to really feel sorry or root for somebody like this (except at the very end, in the only scene where she is actually in peril). But obviously she can sing and dance pretty well, and she does look the part, which is probably why she was cast.

Anyway, as a family affair, it’s a perfectly watchable one. Your kids will enjoy it and by the time it’s all over you’ll be swept away by its feel-good vibe and you’ll be shamelessly signing along “Tomorrow… Tomorrow, it’s only a daaaaay aaaaawaaaaay”.

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

Annie is available to rent/buy on all the major streaming platform (Amazon, Apple+, Google Play, Youtube).

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

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Andrea’s film review – Severance

Severance ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali

Mark leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs. Available to watch on Apple +

I’m a couple of weeks late to the party, but I’m happy to report that this series is really as good as everybody says it is!

Who would have thought that one of the slickest, most thought-provoking, audacious, satirical and innovative series would actually come from the mind of Ben Stiller?! Yes, you heard me right: the same guy who gave us Zoolander, Night in the Museum and Meet the Fockers. However funny those films might be (for some), I never thought he had this sort of stuff in him.

The title refers to a procedure by which employees of a big corporation called Lumon “sever” their brains (by implanting a chip in them) so that they forget anything of their outside lives once they start working in the office and vice versa. So basically none of them has any idea who they are in real life and once outside they have no knowledge of the work they do, until it transpires that things are even shadier than they appear…

This is one of those creepy mind-bending mysteries that starts quite slowly but then builds up to an unnerving finale. All drenched in an atmosphere that resembles a cross between an Orwellian novel and Kafkaesque dream and a hint of Beckett for good measure.

Clearly it is all a metaphor for big corporations and we as workers feel trapped in our daily (possibly meaningless) jobs. But I’m probably making it sound a lot heavier and boring that in fact it is. Part of the joy of this is learning little by little some of the secrets hiding behind.

This is what Lost should to be without the pointless padding and with a lot more style.

Unpredictable, intriguing, ambitious and constantly surprising, this is really the most impressive TV series of the year and possibly beyond.

Yes, it could be a bit tighter (most series could) and there were moments where it felt bordering on indulgence (especially half-way through the season), but having seen it all and especially the gripping finale, I can hardly complain. I had a ball with it. My only complaint is that the cliff-hanger at the end made me want to wish I were one year older so that that I could watch the season two straight away!

The amazing cast includes Adam Scott, John Turturro, Christopher Walken and a terrifying Patricia Arquette, I mean, do I need to say more?

After what felt like being slapped on the face by loud sounds and chaotic visuals from that mumbo-jumbo that was the latest Dr Strange, it’s great to be reminded of what really clever sci-fi is able to do.

This may not be a light watch, but it’s a compelling and ultimately a rewarding one! Highly recommended.

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

Severance is available to watch on Apple +

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

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Episode 89: Writer, broadcaster, cricketer Isabelle Westbury celebrates the upward trajectory of women’s cricket

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.

After a playing career in the Netherlands, Middlesex and Somerset Isabelle Westbury has become one of Britain’s most acute writers and broadcasters on cricket, in combination with a professional legal career. She is the latest guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their cricket-themed podcast. In Peter’s unavoidable absence, Roger Alton shares the bowling in this edition.


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Isabelle celebrates the recent explosive growth in viewership of women’s sport in general recorded by the Women’s Sports Trust. The women’s cricket World Cup had made a powerful contribution to this, in spite of its location in New Zealand and the awkward timings of matches for viewers elsewhere. The rapid progress in participation, following and commercial backing for women’s sport, including cricket, was a remedy for gloom over enduring inequality. 1-4 minutes

The growing audiences would accelerate the vital recognition that women’s sporting events are part of sport itself, not a separate and inferior version of activities for men. She urged sportswriters to identify events as women’s or men’s rather than assuming that a genderless event must be a men’s one. That would help to dispel the perception created for global audiences by the continued overwhelming preponderance of coverage of men’s events. She welcomes the growing replacement of batsman with batter. 4-8 minutes

On the World Cup, Isabelle explains the unlucky exclusion of Thailand from the Finals after their pre-pandemic performances had given them real hope of qualifying. After the pandemic, the ICC had fallen back on an established ranking system based on one-day internationals, which strongly favoured the leading male cricket nations. The ICC had recognized belatedly that this system penalized countries like Thailand and Brazil, which had deliberately prioritized women’s cricket because it offers quicker international progress and returns on initial investment. It had promised to extend ODI status to more women’s teams. In her view, the example of Thailand showed the potential for women’s cricket to take off in non-Commonwealth countries, 8-12 minutes including the United States, although they seemed determined to build cricket from the top down by replicating the male Indian Premier League. 29-30 minutes

She suggests the factors that have made women’s cricket stronger in Australia and England than other countries, although the World Cup had produced many close finishes and other teams had excelled expectations. 18-22 minutes She deplores the short-termism which had continually delayed the formation of a women’s IPL, which would hugely increase participation and spectatorship in Indian cricket. 24-27 minutes She describes the Fair Break tournament in the UAE promoted by the private sector, where leading England players were performing as the Women’s Barmy Army. It had provided opportunities for women from “new” cricket countries and had demonstrated the potential for high returns on initial capital investment in women’s cricket. 23, 28 minutes

She suggests that cricket is the ideal vehicle for promoting gender equality through sport, given the lack of physical content, the ease of playing it in different types of clothing and the opportunity for children to play in the same teams until a late age. 13-14 minutes

She assesses guardedly the prospects for women’s and girls’ cricket in Afghanistan under the Taliban and is worried that they have been overlooked by the ICC amid global concern to preserve the “miracle” of Afghan men’s international cricket. 14-18 minutes

She analyses the implications of the appearance of women’s cricket in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. If, as hoped, this led to its inclusion in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, it would showcase the potential for the women’s game to grow cricket in non-traditional locations. 29 minutes

She comments on the earnings of women cricketers, contrasting England, where there is a big gap between the top players on central contracts and all the rest, with Australia, which had introduced central contracts later but decided to spread investment and earnings more evenly in women’s cricket. Australia’s international team therefore had more depth of current talent. In England, it remained difficult for all but the top players to make a living from women’s cricket alone, even for those supposed to be “full-time professionals.” This was a deterrent against entry for young women with cricket talent, unless, as in former times, they could count on family support. The women’s Hundred had, if accidentally, helped to break down classism in women’s cricket, by making the game attractive to new urban and lower-income audiences.  It was a historic step to promote a new tournament equally for men and women. 30-38 minutes

She anticipates cricket catching up with rugby in ten years time with women as umpires in men’s Test matches. She sees no early prospect of mixed cricket teams, nor would she welcome them. Women cricketers sought equality with men, not uniformity. Women’s cricket has different qualities to men’s: women often produce better-fought Test matches than men and she would like to see more of them. 39-44 minutes

Isabelle shares highlights of her recent visit, her first, to Pakistan to cover the first Test against Australia in Rawalpindi. She strongly urges England women to tour the country. 51-54 minutes

Finally, Isabelle describes her own cricket career, shaped strongly by an expatriate childhood. She had turned to cricket in the Netherlands as a teenager when she could no longer play football in mixed teams and had qualified by residence to make a one-day international appearance with the Dutch. Notwithstanding her later professional career in England she modestly explains why she eventually followed her parents’ advice to write and talk about the game rather than play it. 45-50 minutes

Get in touch with us by emailing obornehellercricket@outlook.com, we would love to hear from you!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Previous Episode – Episode 88: Haringey Cricket College – a missing engine of opportunity in English cricket

Listen to all episodes – Oborne & Heller on Cricket

Peter Oborne, Richard Heller & Roger Alton

Roger Alton, guest host for this episode, was formerly editor of The Observer and The Independent, and is currently the Sports Columnist for The Spectator. 

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.

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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

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

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Police car crashes at Hammersmith Broadway just before Muse concert crowds leave the Eventim Apollo

Image above: photograph Jeremy Vine

A police car crashed at Hammersmith Broadway on Monday night, ending up on the pavement just before thousands of Muse fans left the rock band’s concert at Eventim Apollo.

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine was there to see the multi-platinum selling band and took the photograph above, Tweeting:

“10.10pm — police car totalled, ploughing onto pavement at Hammersmith Broadway. 10.20pm — 5,000 @muse fans (including me) walk down the same pavement. That’s a lot of luck for a lot of people. Hope all in the car were okay.”

Image above: photograph Jeremy Vine

Pete Alexander wrote:

“Happened right in front of us. We were in a cab at the lights. Police car seemed to swerve to avoid a pedestrian or another car doing the same thing. Pretty loud bang hitting the fencing.”

Another man [Tweeting as A1_bloke] commented:

“They must have hit it pretty hard to end up that far off the road.”

Another person [Tweeting as Expresso Depresso] wrote:

“Punch up at Muse before they even came on and a police car smashing into a wall as I left doing easily over 70. What a night.”

The band is considered one of the best live bands in the world. Their shows have been described as “groundbreaking” and “incendiary”. They have won two Grammy Awards and two Brit Awards, amongst many others – and have sold over 20 million albums worldwide.

They brought their Simulation Theory World Tour to Hammersmith as a benefit for War Child & Médecins Sans Frontières.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

See also: Fiesta Flamenca wows Chiswick audience

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.

Fiesta Flamenca wows Chiswick audience

Image above: Anita ‘La Maltesa’ with percussionist Andrej (L), singer Olayo (centre) and guitarist Ramon Ruiz (R)

Anita ‘La Maltesa’, (born and bred in Chiswick), packed out the Boston Room of George IV on Sunday night for another of her fabulous Fiesta Flamencas.

Two or three times a year the flamenco dancer and guitarist Ramon Ruiz perform in Chiswick with a different line up of guest artists each time. On Sunday night they were joined by dancer Francesca La Chica, singer Olayo and percussionists Seb Ruiz and Andrej, who received a standing ovation at the end of the night.

Anna Kunst recorded the event on camera.

Images below: Fiesta Flamenca – Anita ‘La Maltesa’; guitarist Ramon Ruiz; singer Olayo; dancers Francesca La Chica and Anita La Maltesa; Francesca La Chica conducts her own bullfight with a shawl

Photographs Anna Kunst – annakunstphotography

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Anita La Maltesa profile

See also: A cake fit for a Queen – enter Jubilee cake competition 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.

LB Hounslow caused “significant injustice” by failing to provide education for special needs child

Image above: Hounslow House

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman have ruled LB Hounslow caused a “significant injustice” by failing to provide alternative education for a child with longstanding mental health issues, for approximately eight months.

The complaint, which was raised by the mother of the child and who is referred to only as “Miss B”, claimed the local council failed to provide alternative education from February 2020 when the child was unable to attend school for medical reasons.

Miss B accused the council of failing to provide sufficient support in school from September 2019, failing to start an assessment of their special educational needs at an earlier point, and delayed in considering in her complaint.

The complainant said this had caused her “significant upset” and distress to her child, referred to as “Child C”, and to the family as a whole. She said family members have had to take unpaid leave to try to educate the child themselves.

While the ombudsman recognised the complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they still considered this fault could have been avoided by the council. The Council has agreed to pay compensation, and had since “taken action to improve its procedures”.

Child was without regular education for two years

Miss B’s child has longstanding and complex needs including autism, demand avoidance, anxiety and depression. She had been in contact with the mental health service (CAMHS) and C was on the waiting list for treatment. In September 2019, C started secondary school (School Z) and struggled to settle into the new environment. They became increasingly anxious and upset in school and reluctant to attend.

In November 2019 the school tried educating C on their own out of the main classroom setting. Miss B said this approach was working. But when the school tried reintroducing them to the main classroom they struggled again. CAMHS advised that C should be educated out of class and suggested School Z was not the right provision.

C’s problems increased and they struggled to attend School Z after Christmas 2019. In January 2020 CAMHS wanted to arrange a meeting at the school and advised the school to stop the reintegration work for now. The Council said the meeting was held on 28 January 2020 and reintegration was going well. Miss B provided evidence that reintegration was not going well and although C was attending school, they had not attended any lessons in the classroom. By mid-February they were not attending at all.

Over the next few months it became apparent that mainstream schooling was not appropriate for the child. The council agreed C would need an education, health and care (EHC) plan, which is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support.

Delays, school rejections and complaints piled up

CAMHS produced a report on 22 January 2021 confirming that C could not attend School Z and had been medically signed off since February 2020. At a multi-agency meeting at the end of January 2021 CAMHS advocated for a specialist placement. The Council started to consult with alternative schools.

Meanwhile Miss B had complained to the ombudsman claiming C was without education. The complaint was not upheld by the ombudsman because the child remained on the school roll at School Z to access out-of-school provisions. Backing up their decision, the ombudsman cited a number of options offered by School Z which Miss B had declined, and the Council was now providing home tuition.

Various specialist schools declined the child on the basis they weren’t suited to the child’s needs, including one school in November 2020. Child C started to receive home tutoring between March and July 2021, but struggled to manage the sessions and often became distressed. The tutor said limited educational progress was made and it would have been better in a neutral distraction-free space.

Miss B escalated her complaint but the council said it did not receive her request. Miss B’s preferred school offered a visit which had to be postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. She chased up her complaint and the Council asked her to resend the email. The Council responded to the complaint in May 2021, accepting that communication with Miss B had been poor. It said the special educational needs team was not aware of C’s problems until February 2020 and C was provided with online education while they were not in school and more recently tuition had been provided.

Miss B complained again to the ombudsman. In July 2021 the Council issued a final EHC plan naming the specialist school for September 2021.

Ordeal has had a “significant impact” on the child

The ombudsman who reported on the case said:

“The fault caused C injustice. They are a vulnerable child at a key point in their education and to miss eight months of education is likely to have had a significant impact on them. It also caused Miss B significant stress coping with a distressed child at home for such a long period of time with no alternatives offered.

“I have taken into account that C was not living with Miss B from October 2020 until February 2021 which reduced the impact for the period from December 2020 to February 2021. However, there is evidence that Miss B was still involved in trying to secure education for C during this latter period.

“The Council has argued I cannot make a causal link between the lack of provision on the Council’s part and the impact on C’s education or Miss B’s health. It is my role to consider on the balance of probabilities whether fault by the Council has caused injustice to C and Miss B. I maintain that being out of education altogether for eight months is likely to have had a significant impact on C and caused Miss B significant stress.”

LB Hounslow ‘is committed to ensuring every child receives an appropriate education’

A Hounslow Council Spokesperson said:

“The Council has complied with the decision in this matter and is pleased that the Ombudsman recognised the steps taken to improve relevant processes. The Council is committed to ensuring that every child in the borough – who is unable to attend school by reason of illness, exclusion or otherwise – receives an appropriate education.”

The Council agreed to pay Miss B and C a total of £2000 and explained that it has changed its procedures in two areas:

  • Families are advised not to wait for individual school assessments and to parallel plan, considering if other schools are able to offer assessments more quickly.
  • It has changed the admission process for the out-of-school provision to ensure the Council is involved at the start and end of the placement.

The ombudsman has welcomed these changes.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

See also: Fire at bakery warehouse in Park Royal

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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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.

Next Chiswick Cheese Market May 15

Image above: a stall at Chiswick Cheese Market by David Insull

by Fran Warde

The sun beamed brightly for the Easter bunny hunt amongst the cheese stalls at our April market (which was a great success for chocolate-loving young ones).  Stall holders were happily selling their wares; adults were shopping and chatting about Cheesewick life; and everyone was talking CHEESE!

The cheese mongers and makers arrived at the Easter Sunday Market with a superb, and increased, selection of cheeses for all our loyal customers to choose from. Now, we have heard that some discerning consumers are filling their fridges just once a month with cheeses from our market and this comes as no surprise – we do too!

First off, I made my way to award winning White Lake Cheese Company. They joined us for the first time with their fine range of over 20 cheeses made in Shepton Mallet from Guernsey cow, ewe and goat milks. Amongst others I chose Tor, a fresh and smooth, ash-coated goat’s cheese that becomes fuller-bodied with age. It has an unusual almost pyramid shape which I mention because the cutting of a cheese is very important.

Image above: Wild Garlic Yarg cheese, Pevensey Blue cheese

To me, in order to get the full flavour from the centre to the outside of a cheese, it should always be cut in wedge like a cake. Once in our house I was found with steam coming out of my ears when the top of the Tor had been aggressively lobbed off!  Philistines! Conversations were had and lessons given in how to cut a cheese with promises received that this cheese butchery would never happen again. Any fine cheese has to be looked after and cut and eaten appropriately.

Back at the Market, Faye on Big Wheel Cheese arrived with a superb cheese offering that won gold at the World of Cheese Awards 2021, Wild Garlic Yarg.  Produced with the milk from their Ayrshire herd, the recipe and method is identical to the much loved Nettled Cornish Yarg apart from the final dressing being in an artistic wrapping of pungent wild garlic leaves which is left for six weeks to absorb the natural magic of the leaves. This difference creates a slightly firmer cheese that has the delightful addition of a gentle, garlicky flavour.

In May it’ll be the 1st anniversary of our lovely Chiswick Cheese Market.  I know, I know, time flies when you’re eating cheese. We are going to mark the occasion with a CHEESE TASTING at our Market HQ which is being kindly offered by one of our longstanding stall holders, Heritage Cheese. The fabulous Shane Holland from Slow Food UK will be on hand with advice on tasting. You’ll be guided through tasting three cheeses and then be asked to select your favourite and we’ll announce the winner, chosen by you, the public, on social media.

Big congratulations to Pevensey Cheese who won Best Cheese at The Artisan Cheese Awards in April – Faye from Big Wheel cheese will be selling it at the market in May.

Image above: packaged Tor cheese, Tor cheese – properly cut

Your chance to name a cheese

Itis with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Lynda Hill founder and respected cheese maker at The Marlow Cheese Company.

James, her husband and cheese market stall holder is taking the helm at the dairy and continuing with Lynda’s original recipe for their famous Cygnet cheese. Furthering that recipe, he has cheekily swapped Guernsey cows milk for sheep’s / ewes, creating another beautiful small soft cheese with an edible rind – it starts off firm and delicate, then when mature it breaks down into a soft and runny stronger flavoured cheese. He is also smoking some of these cheeses and what’s more he is looking for a name for that new cheese – could you come up with a great name?

Visit the Marlow Cheese stall this Sunday, meet the cheese, chat with James and let them both inspire you!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: A cake fit for a Queen – enter Jubilee cake competition in Chiswick

See also: The frustration of being continually in opposition in LB Hounslow

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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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.

Brentford 3, Southampton 0

Image above: Althletico – Raya’s flying punch

What a wonderful season this has turned out to be. Who could have predicted that a bus stop in Hounslow would emerge as major players and acknowledged supreme entertainers in one of the toughest football competitions in the world?

Witness the latest chapter in a remarkable story: another superlative performance by Brentford as the Saints failed to go marching in.

Southampton beat them 4-1 at home earlier in the year, but this team was one that couldn’t find its way through a resolute Bees’ defence, even one depleted by the absence of the injured Ethan Pinnock. And it was only six days since Manchester United had sent Brentford home from Old Trafford nursing a 0-3 defeat.

No wonder the home crowd were so reluctant to leave the Community Stadium as the team trouped from the pitch after their familiar lap of honour to leave thousands still dancing on the terraces and in the stands.

With just two matches still to play in this first, accomplished Premier League season, the Bees regained twelfth place in the table to put eleven points between them and the relegation box. The fact that Norwich City and Watford – the two sides automatically promoted at the end of last season – were confirmed as returning immediately to the Championship, proved just how far play-off-winners Brentford have come in their first top-tier outing since 1947.

Images above: Incoming! – Rico Henry eyes the target (left), Strictly football – goalscorer Wissa tangos his way out to trouble (right)

Okay, games in hand by those jostling for position below means that occupying a relatively lofty position may not last. But, hey, hands up any fan who would not have grabbed with both hands a near-mid table place if offered it back in August of last year.

Southampton started well, with slick passing at speed that would have caused Brentford to scratch their heads had they not been busy trying to get out of their own half. It didn’t last long, although David Raya was almost caught napping when attempting to clear the ball while harassed by striker Adam Armstrong.

Then all genuine attacking action switched to focus on visiting goalkeeper Fraser Forster, all 6ft 7ins of him. Matthias Jensen went close, Yoane Wissa shot too near the keeper after a superb Ivan Toney head-flick feed, and Christian Eriksen failed to convert a couple of chances, proving that this playmaster does not always display finishing finesse.

No matter. An explosive Brentford burst after 12 minutes saw an Eriksen’s corner chipped back into the goalmouth by Toney for Pontus Jansson to bundle it into goal. The skipper scored his first Premier League goal four games ago – looks like he’s in danger of making a habit of it.

Skip now to little more than a minute later when Eriksen was brought down midway inside the Southampton half and referee Michael Salisbury showed commendable judgement in recognising Brentford’s advantage as Wissa collected the loose ball and sprinted away to beat Forster with a measured pass that even his great reach couldn’t cope with.

Image above: Two on 2 – Mbeumo and Henry close down Walker-Peters 

Adam Armstrong managed to get the ball past Raya just before the interval, only to be judged offside. Otherwise, the pattern remained the same, Brentford buzzing threateningly – a Toney shot rebounded, only for Bryan Mbeumo to blast it skyward – while the Saints, relying on two wings and probably a prayer, added several long shots to their repertoire to not avail.

Just under the half-hour of the second period saw a melee in the visitors’ goalmouth when several Bees tried to force the ball home, a pinball episode ended by Jensen firing over. No matter; a slightly shorter repeat performance saw Kristoffer Ajer appear somewhat surprisingly in the midst of it all to sidestep a tackle and then neatly nutmeg Forster for his first Brentford goal.

Game over, really, although Thomas Frank’s decision to substitute 19-year-old forward Nathan Young-Coombes for his first-team debut just a few minutes before the end was good for his morale and hopefully for Brentford’s future.

The entertainment mentioned earlier in this review was on this occasion provided by the appearance in the main stand of former player and broadcaster Chris Kamara, ex-club chairman (and restaurateur) Dan Tana, and Bradley Walsh, one-time player staff but now a popular TV host and actor, dapper in suit and tie.

Nice to see the celebs turning out, I murmured to my mate Charlie.

‘What celebs?’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Bech Sørensen, Henry; Jensen (substitute Young-Coombes 87), Nørgaard, Eriksen; Mbeumo (Baptiste 81), Toney, Wissa (Dasilva 68).

Southampton: Forster; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud; S Armstrong, (Romeu 83), Ward-Prowse; Diallo (Elyounoussi 64); Redmond, A Armstrong, Broja.

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

Pictures by Liz Vercoe 

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.

Mind Matters – If you have noticed a new reluctance to do things that didn’t exist before the pandemic then you are not alone

As we emerge from the pandemic there are some emerging differences in its impact on people’s lives. For many the end of the pandemic brings a return to normality, for others it’s about catching up on missed activities but for others there is a struggle around certain aspects of living. I wrote last time about an increase in people seeking our services and there appears to be a number of common concerns so today’s article is about one of these, the struggle many people are having in doing things that were easy for them pre-pandemic.

When I say reluctance this might be experienced as anything from a little apprehension and hesitation through to complete debilitating panic. Agoraphobia is the term most used to label the latter and its wikipedia definition is given as ‘extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult’. The word given in that definition that I find most unhelpful is ‘irrational’ because and as the wikipedia dictionary states, irrational is understood as ‘not logical or reasonable’ when in reality and as neuroscience confirms our feelings are grounded in logic and their existence is entirely reasonable.

A part of our brain, the amygdala constantly takes information from the body’s senses and searches for risk, determining the degree of danger based upon existing information and experience. If the potential for danger is assessed as high then the body’s physiological response is one appropriate for the danger, otherwise known as our fight, flight and freeze reaction. The experience of the flight, fright, freeze response is in itself a possible source of distress and it becomes attached as information to the previously held bank of experience and information. Simply put, the unpleasant experience of a panic attack can in itself be the source of further panic attacks and this means that escalation is a natural outcome without some kind of intervention.

So if you have noticed a new reluctance then it is worth spending some time to reflect on your experience, questions you might ask yourself include are you reluctant to do things that you used to enjoy doing or found easy to do? Have you felt unsafe in a public space even though everyone else seems to be acting calmly? Do you feel more lonely in certain situations? Do you feel as though you need someone with you, feeling nervous or frightened at just the thought of being outside alone or any other situation? Or maybe it is particular types of confined spaces that trigger difficult feelings? Or maybe it’s different types of travel – cars, buses, planes, trains etc? Experiences of hyperventilating, dizziness, feeling unwell, panic, palpitations, being sick, exhaustion if you do try to push ahead? Feeling of missing out on everyday life, not wanting or being able to meet friends and family, go shopping, attend job interviews or travel? Finding yourself having negative sensations and feelings even though your thoughts are not able to determine any particular specific threat? Worrying about your worries?

Often when people come to see me I find out that they also feel ashamed and isolated by their experiences, this might be because of self judgement or because of bad experiences in trying to talk to someone else and I think this can be traced back to the lack of understanding that I wrote about at the start of this article.

The causes of agoraphobia and its milder experiences are not entirely clear, underlying health conditions, traumas as well as periods of change where someone has gotten used to a different routine are often relevant. Over the last few years the pandemic has created a particular context in which other people and being outside has had real risks so it is natural for us to take some time to readjust. We also have terrible events unfolding with a war in Europe and concerns about our climate, the cost of living crisis and so it can be natural to feel safer staying at home? But if at the moment you are finding that your quality of life is suffering because you cannot do things that you or others think of as everyday then maybe it’s time to try and take action?

As psychotherapists we take over where medical science ends so we always ask whether you have consulted your GP about your experiences. Assuming all potential physical causes and treatments have been considered we then seek to get a full understanding of the context within which your experiences occur, to try and locate a trigger point and develop solutions for change. Ultimately what we are seeking to do is give the amygdala new experiences and information that will alter its assessment of risk and change its response.

So if either yourself or someone you know has changed behaviour and appears risk averse the best starting point is acceptance that something very real is being experienced and that time and attention is needed to understand what that is – our experiences contain messages for us and sometimes we need to work to understand them.

Nicholas Rose
Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Couples Counsellor and Coach

UKCP registrant, MBACP (accred), UKRCP
PGDip, MA, Adv Dip Ex Psych

Nicholas Rose & Associates
Counselling, psychotherapy and coaching for children, adults, couples and families.

nicholas-rose.co.uk

Read more blogs by Nicholas Rose

Read the next one – Mind Matters – Considering Prejudice

Read the previous one – Mind Matters – Mind Matters – Looking after the mental health of children and young people

See all Nicholas’s Mind Matters blogs here

Read a profile of Nicholas here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

The frustration of being continually in opposition in LB Hounslow

Image above: Sam Hearn with dog Leo

Interview with Sam Hearn, on retiring from local politics in Chiswick

When Sam Hearn became a councillor in December 2007, he remembers it as an exciting time when the Conservative group was able to get things done:

“It was gloriously exciting. We were slaughtering a lot of sacred cows which had been in place for decades”.

Things like the organisation of LB Hounslow’s Council’s Leisure Services, which according to Sam had been put into a structure with a charitable body at its core:

“an innovative thing which Labour had tried to do, which put it in a position to apply for all sorts of grants, but which was horrendously complicated and ended up with a black hole of £4 million which the trustees weren’t aware of.”

Financial restructuring is the sort of thing which floats his boat, as Sam has spent most of his career “either setting up for breathing life back into internal audit departments”.

Having worked as an accountant with international construction companies and a global pharmaceutical company, he spent 15 years with Historic Royal Palaces, based at Hampton Court, helping them become more commercial and then worked for the National Theatre as Head of Internal Audit, before devoting himself full time to the trials and tribulations of the residents of Chiswick Riverside (aka Grove Park and Strand on the Green, or its most recent bureaucratic iteration, ‘south Chiswick’).

He stood down at these local elections because local politics can be pretty stressful and at 68 he decided he wanted to spend more time with his family (yes really).

Image above: Joanna Biddolph with Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso at last Thursday’s count, re-elected as councillors in Chiswick, Gunnersbury, 5 May 2022

“You have to approach this as if you might one day be in power”

He had planned for the last four years to be his last stint as a councillor before he took over as leader of the group in May 2017, by that time with ten years’ experience, but instead of seeing out his time as Leader, steering the group’s development in the way he wanted, he was unceremoniously deposed two years later by new kid on the block Joanna Biddolph, elected for the first time in 2018 (who was herself unseated as leader a year later, to be replaced as Leader by Gerald McGregor).

After the local elections on 5 May 2022, the Conservatives remain a small opposition rump. The Labour Party remains in overall control of Hounslow council, with 52 Councillors, out of a total of 62 seats in 22 wards. The Conservative party won 10 seats, eight of which are in Chiswick.

Sam’s time as a councillor has been coloured by the frustration of being continuously in opposition, but it is a condition he has come to terms with.

Before he was elected, his view on being the merits of being a councillor was quite simplistic:

“I had always said ‘what’s the point if you’re not running the council? It must be extremely frustrating if you’re always in opposition?’ Which is true, it is.”

Now after nearly 15 years his take on it is more nuanced:

“You have to make power by making personal relationships in committees.

“A proportion of councillors realise you have to approach this as if you might one day be in power. You have to be constructive. But other councillors find it a lot easier to be negative, to believe everything is done with ill will and not trust anything Labour does.”

Image above: Chiswick Pier; photograph Anna Kunst

The real work of being a councillor

The real work of being a councillor, he says, is getting stuck in to committee work and case work. Sam has been a trustee of the Thomas Layton collection – 5,200 archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, 3,500 coins, tokens and medals, 4,000 maps and prints and 8,000 books and manuscripts from the 16th century to 19th century bequeathed to the people of Brentford.

He has been a trustee of Chiswick Pier – a charity established by the Council to manage the leasing of the moorings for houseboats on the pier and managing premises for the Thames Explorer Trust, the the Chiswick Sea Cadets, the Chiswick Pier Canoe Club and the RNLI, whose role is also to and help people understand more about the local river and community.

He has also been a Governor for Strand on the Green Infants and Junior Schools – plural – at the centre of a hard fought campaign to keep the two schools as separate entities. They were under pressure to integrate, which would have saved money, but which both heads opposed because of the disruption it would have caused.

Because of his background in accountancy, chairmanship of the Pensions board was a natural fit, but he has also spent four years as a member of the Housing and Environment scrutiny panel  committee and a year on the Planning committee.

“Being on the Planning committee was one of the scariest things I have ever been involved in. For every meeting you have a thick pile of documents to get through. Your decisions affect people’s lives and it goes across the borough so you don’t necessarily know the area under discussion.

“It required so much knowledge you could spend all your free time learning about it.”

Such is the complexity of planning regulations that, he says, the danger is that planning decisions could all become officer decisions, as they have the necessary background and training to understand the intricacies.

But as was proved with the recent case of an application to build luxury houses in the garden of a Victorian house on Hartington Rd, Council officers can also come up with recommendations which neither the public nor the councillors on the committee, think are either right or reasonable.

READ ALSO: Development of luxury houses at Hartington Rd turned down

Image above: Sam Hearn; photograph Matt Smith

The bulk of a councillor’s work should be case work, if they are doing their job properly. They are the conduit between the residents and local councils, helping people access information they cannot find and to realise that there are ways in which local councils can help with problems.

The most common issues, says Sam, are those such as fly-tipping and abandoned cars and individual problems such as parents needing help with getting their children into schools, particularly children who need to be ‘statemented’ to access the help they need with particular learning issues.

“It’s the same with accessing benefits. People very often just can’t find their way through the bureaucracy.”

Sam reckons he has dealt with more than 400 pieces of casework over the past three and a half years, not including his postbag on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the cycle lane.

On that subject he is “mentally exhausted” he says, but is still after “proper” consultation.

“I am desperate that we approach the new administration not thumping them in the face but that we just ask for a proper consultation on options and the things we have been told can’t be done.” [Such as regulation of traffic by ANPR cameras].

Image above: Strand on the Green Junior School

Highlights and successes

What are the successes of which he is most proud? I asked him.

Winning the argument to keep Strand on the Green Infants and Juniors is one. Managing the public consultations on the introduction of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) another. Bringing a senior police officer from West Area, the tri-borough command covering Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow to address two public meetings on policing in Chiswick was another useful thing to have done.

He was reminded a few days ago, by a woman he confessed to not remembering, that he had helped her get her autistic son get the educational support he needed. Another, a single father who had suffered mental illness himself, as had his wife, Sam supported in his attempt to keep his son in mainstream education despite his behavioural difficulties.

He has managed to help some people who have become homeless. He helped a man get his life back on track when he had been thrown out by his landlord – Hounslow Council – for not paying the rent and in the process had lost all his personal paperwork. He also helped a family of five made homeless by a private landlord to be rehoused by LB Hounslow, visiting alternative premises in Feltham with them. These are the satisfying outcomes which make being a councillor worthwhile.

“Though selfishly, the thing I have found the most satisfying is the learning. You learn so much by being a councillor.

“It’s important not to get a God complex” he says, “running on emotion will get you nowhere and there is no point in telling people ‘we can do something to stop this’, if we can’t.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

See also: First Labour councillor elected in Chiswick for 30 years

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

Image above: Amy Croft

Interview with Amy Croft, newly elected Labour councillor for Chiswick Riverside

Amy Croft, 46, mother of two teenagers, living in Feltham north, was just getting off the Docklands Light Railway to go to work when she heard she had been elected as a councillor for Chiswick Riverside ward.

She was due at work at 8.30am, which is just about when the declaration was made, after a third recount. She had stayed at the count at Twickenham rugby stadium until just before 5am on Friday morning but at that point had to bale, in order to get to work on time.

READ ALSO: First Labour councillor elected in Chiswick for 30 years

“Yes I am surprised to have been elected” she told The Chiswick Calendar.

“I’m not going to lie, I was very shocked and I am under no illusion that it was anything to do with me, it reflects the national picture. The current government is on a very destructive path and things need to change.”

So I asked, was she horrified to now have to do the job?

“No I am fantastically excited and honoured to have the opportunity” she said.

Amy is an ‘academic director for quality and engagement’ at Anglia Ruskin University, where she is responsible for the academic quality of the degree programmes, making sure the courses meet the various requirements on them.

The ‘engagement’ part of her job covers all the non-academic student engagement, so her department deals with “support and advice for students in all situations, complaints and getting students back on track with their studies who may have had some challenges.”

A background in dealing with people’s problems is a useful start for a rookie councillor, as most of their work is casework: dealing with people who are trying to get a planning application or a business application through – or blocked – who have become homeless or are having difficulty getting a disabled child the educational opportunities they need, as well as the more run of the mill complaints about overhanging trees, potholes and more recently, traffic restrictions.

Amy has been a lifelong Labour supporter, campaigning more actively as a member of the party for the past ten years. This is the first time she has stood for election as a councillor.

Images above: Strand on the Green; Jennifer Griffiths

How well does she know the area?

“I visit Chiswick more for leisure than anything else. It’s beautiful. We come here as a family for river walks.”

She is not alone in representing an area she does not live in. Several of Chiswick’s other councillors who have just been re-elected also live outside Chiswick, but got to grips pretty quickly with the issues affecting Chiswick in their first term.

She intends to dive in and get to know the area as quickly as possible and thinks it might actually be an advantage to Chiswick to have someone inside the majority Labour group. The Labour Party remains in overall control of Hounslow council, with  52 Councillors, out of a total of 62 seats in 22 wards.  The Conservative party won 10 seats, eight of which are in Chiswick.

She hopes to persuade the people of Chiswick that the Council does care about this area.

“I want to make it clear to residents that their views will be heard and I think it will be helpful to have diverse representation.

“I think if I can do my job well and represent people and bring issues to the Council, I am just in it to do a good job and give people a bit of faith. I am fully committed to doing my best and hope to change some perceptions.”

New councillors have an induction period and some training for the job. She will then have to find a way of working with her two ward colleagues, Conservatives Gabriella Giles, re-elected for a second term in Riverside and Peter Thompson, a former leader of the Conservative group.

When I spoke to her two days after the election, neither of her new colleagues had been in touch to congratulate her, but she hopes they will be able to work well together.

“If I can have a collegiate relationship that would be ideal.”

She plans to start with surgeries once a fortnight, “one in the day and one early evening at weekends” at least until she gets a measure of how many people will come to her for help.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: First Labour councillor elected in Chiswick for 30 years

See also: Conservatives win Chiswick Gunnersbury

See also: Conservatives win in Chiswick Homefields

See also: Liberal Democrats re-elected in Southfield

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Fire at bakery warehouse in Park Royal

Image above: Firefighters; photograph London Fire Brigade

Fifteen fire engines and around 100 firefighters were called to a fire at a warehouse on Minerva Road in Park Royal. on Saturday (7 May). Half of a warehouse used as a bakery was damaged by fire. There were no reports of any injuries.

The Brigade’s 999 Control Officers took 11 calls to the blaze. Station Commander Mark Nunan, who was at the scene, said:

“On arrival, crews were faced with heavy smoke coming out of the building but firefighters worked incredibly quickly to get the fire under control. Smoke has now subdued.

“One of the Brigade’s 32-metre turntable ladders was used as an observational tower, providing an aerial view of the incident.

“Firefighters are expected to remain on scene throughout the night.”

The Brigade was called at 5.54pm and the fire was under control within an hour. Fire crews from Park Royal, Acton, Willesden, Wembley and surrounding fire stations attended the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brigade and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: First Labour councillor elected in Chiswick for 30 years

See also: Home Office boss who spiked Chiswick lover’s drink with abortion pills is convicted

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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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.

Local elections a close run thing but Chiswick retains 8 Conservative and 3 Lib Dem, councillors

Image above: Amy Croft, Labour candidate elected in Chiswick Riverside

Chiswick has elected its first Labour councillor in 30 years in Chiswick Riverside, returning eight Conservative councillors across the three Hounslow wards and re-electing its three Liberal Democrats in Southfield ward.

The contests were, as expected, very close. In Chiswick Riverside there were just nine votes between Amy and the Conservative candidate who came fourth, Sebastian Wallace. Conservative Gabriella Giles was re-elected alongside Peter Thompson, a former leader of the Conservative group, after three recounts.

In Chiswick Gunnersbury all three Conservative councillors were re-elected, but there were only 23 votes between Conservative Ranjit Gill and the Labour candidate who came fourth, Emma Yates.

Labour’s Hanif Khan, former Cabinet Member for Transport at LB Hounslow, got the least votes of any of the three Labour candidates in Chiswick Gunnersbury. He said afterwards that he had been “personally repeatedly targeted” in campaign leaflets, but even so he polled only 342 fewer votes than Joanna Biddolph, who won most votes in the ward, with 1,552.

In Chiswick Homefields the Conservatives were more comfortably elected, with clear blue water of 469 votes between the highest polling Labour candidate and the lowest polling Conservative, Jack Emsley, standing for election for the first time. John Todd was re-elected with the highest vote of any of his colleagues, with 1,884 votes. Conservative group Leader Gerald McGregor came not far behind with 1,849.

Image above: returning officer and Hounslow CEO Niall Bolger

Turnout for local elections is always very low compared with general elections but turnout in Chiswick was relatively high – above 40% in all three Hounslow wards and in Southfield ward in Ealing.

Liberal Democrat councillors, Andrew Steed, Gary Busutill and Gary Malcolm  were all re-elected in Southfield and the Lib Dems have taken over from the Conservatives as the main opposition party.

Conservative group leader Gregory Stafford resigned at the weekend, saying:

“After 8 years as Conservative Group Leader on Ealing Council, I have decided that it is time to step aside.

“I am immensely proud of the hard work and achievements of the Conservative Group during my time as Leader, from saving local libraries from closure, to successfully stopping tower blocks being built on the green spaces, and helping to remove the unwanted and counterproductive so-called ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’, Conservative councillors have consistently campaigned on the side of residents.”

Chiswick Riverside results

Andrea Black – Green 513

Melvin Collins – Labour 936

Amy Croft – Labour 1,064 elected

Gabriella Giles – Conservative 1,105 elected

Bill Hagerty – Green 362

Elly Lewis-Holmes – Green 455

Charles Rees – Liberal Democrat 485

Peter Thompson – Conservative 1,087 elected

Sebastian Wallace – Conservative 1,055

The number of people who voted was 2,930 out out an electorate of 7,167. Turnout 40.64%.

READ ALSO: First Labour councillor elected in Chiswick for 30 years

Image above: Joanna Biddolph, Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso

Chiswick Gunnersbury results

Joanna Biddolph – Conservative 1,552 elected

Helen Cross – Liberal Democrat 803

Will Francis – Liberal Democrat 840

Ranjit Gill – Conservative 1,382 elected

Johanna Guppy – Liberal Democrat 657

Hanif Khan – Labour 1,210

Ron Mushiso – Conservative 1,402 elected

Uday Nagaraju – Labour 1,215

Emma Yates – Labour 1,359

The number of people who voted was 3,645 out out an electorate of 8,927. Turnout 40.83%.

READ ALSO: Conservatives win Chiswick Gunnersbury

Image above: Jack Emsley, John Todd & Gerald McGregor

Chiswick Homefields results

Martin Bleach – Green 600

James Charrington – Liberal Democrat 646

Mark Cripps – Liberal Democrat 627

Leigh Edwards – Liberal Democrat 585

Jonathan Elkon – Green 455

Jack Emsley – Conservative 1,746 elected

Astrid Hilne – Green 488

Saroosh Khan – Labour 1,251

Mukesh Malhotra – Labour 1,213

Gerald McGregor – Conservative 1,849

John Todd – Conservative 1,884

Olivia Uwechue – Labour 1,277

The number of people who voted was 4,301 out out an electorate of 10,060. Turnout 42.75%.

READ ALSO: Conservatives win in Chiswick Homefields

Image above: Ealing’s Liberal Democrat councillors – Southfield councillors are Andrew Steed (left), Gary Malcolm (centre right), and Gary Busuttil (centre left)

Southfield results

Gary Busuttil – Liberal Democrat – 2,552 elected

Sophie Charman-Blower – Labour – 1310

Darryl Li-Ming Coates – Conservative – 854

Crystal Billie Eisinger – Conservative – 916

Anthony William Garrick – Conservative – 883

Chris Green – Labour – 1022

Mike Landon – Green – 886

Gary Malcolm – Liberal Democrat – 2,614

Tamoo Raza Malik – Labour – 967

Andrew Timothy Steed – Liberal Democrat – 2,585

The number of people who voted was 5,065 out out an electorate of 11,466. Turnout 44.17%.

READ ALSO: Liberal Democrats re-elected in Southfield

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Amy Croft “surprised to have been elected” as Chiswick’s first Labour councillor in 30 years

See also: The frustration of being continually in opposition in LB Hounslow

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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

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Liberal Democrats re-elected in Southfield

Image above: Ealing’s new Liberal Democrat councillors

The Liberal Democrats have become the official opposition on Ealing Council, wrestling the title from the Conservatives. The three councillors who represent Southfield ward – Andrew Steed, Gary Busuttil and Gary Malcolm – were re-elected.

Six Lib Dems were elected as councillors: Jon Ball, Athena Zissimos, Gary Busuttil, Gary Malcolm, Andrew Steed and Connie Hersch. Five Conservatives were elected.

Labour retained control the council after winning a majority of seats, with a total of 70 candidates elected. The turnout across the borough was 40.31%.

Celebrating their victory, Ealing Liberal Democrats said:

“Thank you to all of the voters in Ealing that have voted #LibDem! We’ve elected six fantastic community champions who will continue to work hard for you over the coming months and years. We are now the official opposition in Ealing and will always fight your corner.”

Ealing residents “will now have a voice in the council”, say Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Gary Malcolm told The Chiswick Calendar:

“It’s the first time ever that the Lib Dems have become the official opposition which is quite significant and the lowest the Tories have gone to.”

“We have had a very clear plan this last year or two and it’s evident Ealing council has not listened to people but we have. Our manifesto are about making the borough safer and cleaner.

He said new Liberal Democrat councillors had been elected at the expense of the Conservatives who he said had been complacent, assuming they would be re-elected despite being “lazy” in the performance of their role as councillors.

“They can’t take us for granted anymore and we will be after them a lot. Residents will now have a voice in the council.”

He added that new “energetic” Lib Dem councillors would help to make Ealing a better and safer place.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Conservatives win Chiswick Gunnersbury

See also: Home Office boss who spiked Chiswick lover’s drink with abortion pills is convicted

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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).

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Conservatives win in Chiswick Homefields

Conservatives Gerald McGregor, John Todd and Jack Emsley have been elected in Chiswick Homefields ward.

Leader of the Conservative group on Hounslow Council, Cllr Gerald McGregor said the result was a reflection of the feeling towards the Labour Party locally and that Chiswick has been treated “extremely badly” by Labour.

He added: “It’s quite simple, people in Chiswick don’t like what the council has done to the area.

“The people of Chiswick don’t like to be treated like serfs.”

Jack Emsley, elected for the first time time, said it was “very exciting” to have been elected as councillor. He praised the tactics of the local Conservative campaign and said their tactics had worked out “beautifully”.

He told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Over the past ten months I have met some very interesting people and some people with problems which they didn’t know the council could solve.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience. The sort of things that are causing them problems are things like noise, tree roots and litter which are not trivial things to them.

“Being able to solve some of these things for them is really exciting. I am looking forward to going back to people and being able to help them.”

He said Homefields ward, which includes streets such as Airedale Avenue, off Chiswick High Rd, is seen as a rich part of Chiswick, but it also includes council estates to the south of the ward; homes in Edensor, Alexandra and Staveley Gardens which are not rich areas.

“There are lots of people who are really struggling with the cost of living and there’s a feeling that they have been left behind.”

Jack works in public relations for Tuva Partners, a small start up firm which deals in clean technologies.

His girlfriend Caroline told us:

“I am so proud of him, for running a campaign that actually helped people.”

Chiswick Homefields is the largest ward in Chiswick with the most electors in it. It also had the most candidates standing.

The result was announced just as Chiswick Riverside went into its third recount. In Chiswick Gunnersbury (previously Turnham Green ward) the three Conservative candidates Joanna Biddolph, Ron Mushiso and Ranjit Gill were also re-elected.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Conservatives win Chiswick Gunnersbury

See also: Home Office boss who spiked Chiswick lover’s drink with abortion pills is convicted

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Conservatives win Chiswick Gunnersbury

Image above: Joanna Biddolph, Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso

Conservatives Joanna Biddolph, Ron Mushiso and Ranjit Gill have been re-elected in Chiswick Gunnersbury (previously Turnham Green) ward.

In a very close fight they beat the nearest Labour candidate Emma Yates by just 23 votes.

It was obvious early on that it would go to the wire. Once all the ballot papers had been counted on which voters had cast all three votes for the same party, the Conservatives were 200 ahead.

They then started counting the votes of electors who had chosen candidates from different parties. For a while it was a very close run thing whether Labour’s Emma Yates or Conservatives’ Ranjit Gill would win.

Emma, 40, who has been working for the Labour party as a volunteer since she was ten, was standing for the first time.

“I want to thank everyone who put their trust in me” she said.

She is the Labour candidate who has come closest to being elected in Chiswick Gunnersbury / Turnham Green ward for 30 years.

Image above: Joanna Biddolph, Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso

Reporting by Matt Smith

“A mandate to review the cycle lane” – Ron Mushiso

Hanif Khan, former Hounslow Cabinet Member for Transport, whose job it was to install the cycle lane and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, was also visibly disappointed, though he said he would “live to fight another day.”

He told The Chiswick Calendar the cycle lane issue meant there was a block vote against him. There were spoilt ballot papers with ‘No Cycle Lane” written on them.

He said the “smear campaign” of several leaflets personally targeting him had had their desired effect.

Ron Mushiso told us it was much tighter than he expected. He said they now had a mandate to review the cycle lane.

“The electorate has spoken and they couldn’t make it any clearer. The cycle lane needs to be reviewed. The cycle lane has been put to a petition in the past.  Residents have tried to feed back on it before and the petition wasn’t taken seriously.

“Now we have a mandate for a review. TfL need to review the design and leave all options on the table.”

“A very hard fought campaign” – Joanna Biddolph

“It was a very hard campaign, because Chiswick has been divided for so long and we really need to think about how we can bring the community together… I hope that the three of us are able to do that.”

“We’ve got continuity, we’ve been in the job for four years working really hard and I hope residents understand we have been working on their behalf and we’ll carry on doing so. We’ve certainly got no intention of doing any less.”

On Hanif Khan’s accusation of a smear campaign and his assessment that a block vote against the cycle lane was the reason for his loss, she said:

“I don’t know how he would think of a block vote to that, everyone votes as an individual. I got no sense of anything on the doorstep other than individuals having one-off conversations with us.

“And whilst a lot of people talked about it they talked about other issues as well. So I can’t see how anybody would organise a block vote.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Home Office boss who spiked Chiswick lover’s drink with abortion pills is convicted

See also: “Phased opening” of Elizabeth Line on 24 May

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

Andrea’s film review – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff. Out in Cinemas right now.

Before I say anything about this film, I should state my credentials: I’ve grown up playing with superheroes (and now I play with them together with my son). I consider myself a bit of a geek (I hear my friends shouting back at me “Only a bit?!?!”), I’ve watched all the Marvel films and TV series made so far (some multiple times) and I’ve always been intrigued by anything which deals with the concept of parallel universes.

So you can imagine my surprise when half way through this film, not only I found myself thinking “How can this be so bad?”, but I was also bored out of my mind.

For the first time in my life I saw myself as one of those “despicable Marvel-haters” who think Marvel movies are basically the end of cinema.

This is exactly the kind of film those people think of when they make those statements.

Well, who can blame them now?

The more I watched Doctor Strange 2, the more I got frustrated by the huge amount of exposition which was being dumped on rather mercilessly and got angrier and angrier at the huge amount of money being splashed across the screen.

The disappointment felt even bigger after the sheer joy of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the previous Marvel film which I had enjoyed immensely, which fleshed out the geek in me like nothing before and had left me with a great taste for more multi-verse fun.

The problem with this film is that it’s anything but fun. In fact, the only amusing thing about it is how seriously it takes itself, as Danny Elfman’s score pounds loudly over a kaleidoscope of imagery where neither gravity nor any sense space or time has any bearing on reality. Nothing of what we see feels real.

And I know we are talking about superheroes, people in capes, wearing silly masks, but even in those films there must be some rules for us to care about what’s going on.

You can’t just throw everything at the audience and pretend we can just go along with it, just because we enjoyed some of the previous instalments.

Here, there’s no jeopardy, no stakes, no real surprises (and no, I don’t count pointless cameo appearances from other films as a “surprise”), but just a messy, disjointed, very confusing and over-produced film both in terms of visuals and sound.

I don’t know what kind of film director Sam Raimi is thinking he’s doing, but if it is a horror is not scary, if it is an adventure film, it’s dull and un-exciting and if it’s a drama about a woman’s need to be a mother… well then it’s a total failure. And this comes from somebody who is a real fan of that director.

Do you know how sometimes you feel these films are good up to the last act and then, when the final showdown happens, they always seem to go over the top and ruin everything they have built up to that point? Well, this film is basically that “final act” all the way through, interspersed with some clunky exposition here and there, which I’m not sure I entirely understood anyway, mainly because after about one hour I had turned off my brain and was eagerly waiting for it to end.

Of course there were some nice visual effects along the way and yes, some of the imagery that Raimi came up with was interesting too (though sometimes it felt he was more keen to reference his previous movies than actually creating something which people would care about), but even those things got eclipsed by the amount of “visual noise”. Have they ever heard of the saying “less is more”?

After a while, after endless people showing up in weird places, flying, smashing things, shouting poorly written lines and concocting flames and all sorts of other magical stuff, it all looked the same to me.

This is not just the worst film of the year, or the worse Marvel film so far, but possibly one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

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

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out in cinemas 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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We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

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Home Office boss who spiked Chiswick lover’s drink with abortion pills is convicted

Image above: Darren Burke

A Home Office boss accused of spiking his lover’s drink with abortion pills has been found guilty of administering a poison.

Darren Burke, a deputy director at the Home Office, was accused of trying to cause Chiswick resident Laura Slade’s miscarriage, after adding the abortion drug to her orange juice.

Burke was accused of using illegally procured Mifepristone, a prescription drug used to terminate pregnancies, and crushing it in a glass of orange juice which he offered to Slade.

Ms Slade said at her flat in Chiswick Burke was “very flustered” after repeatedly offering her something to drink, and returned from the kitchen with an orange juice.

She refused to drink the juice, which was laced with mifepristone, on 4 December 2020. Ms Slade had an unconnected miscarriage weeks later, Isleworth crown court was told.

“Its your body but we can’t keep it” Burke told Slade

Jurors saw WhatsApp messages showing how Burke pleaded with Ms Slade to have an abortion citing the practical difficulties of keeping the baby.

He told her he would not leave his wife and could not be on the birth certificate because he could not be a part-time dad.

The pair had begun a secret affair after meeting in a nightclub in Kingston and after five years of sleeping together Ms Slade discovered she was pregnant, messaging Burke that she had a ‘”spanner in the works”.

“There was some discussion about the possibility of Ms Slade having a termination and it is clear from messages that Mr Burke did not want her to have the baby,” said prosecutor Paul Jarvis.

He begged Ms Slade to have an abortion and texted her saying: “Babes I understand it’s your body but we can’t keep it.”

“No you mean you can’t,” replied Ms Slade.

Image above: Isleworth Crown Court

Decision unlawfully supplying a poison still pending

David Spens QC, defending, told the court in his closing speech:

“Mr Burke told you that he purchased an abortion tablet as a possible option after a phone call… That is his evidence. She, for her part, denies that there was any such discussion. Mr Burke told you that on December 4 he encouraged Ms Slade to drink diluted orange juice, that he told her she needed to keep her vitamins up.

“Ms Slade told the police that he was persistent that she should have a drink. Her evidence in fact is that he only asked her twice to drink the orange juice. Firstly when he brought it for her. The second time was as he was making to leave and she said no. And the important point is that he asked her, he did not tell her.

“But by the time she is reporting this to the police his asking has become persistent. These matters are in dispute, the resolution of which will help you decide your verdicts.”

He denied the charge but was convicted of administering a poison to cause a miscarriage.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Senior civil servant spiked Chiswick woman’s drink with anti-abortion drug, court hears

See also: Met Police to monitor officers’ phones and emails for ‘alarming’ language

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.

 

“Phased opening” of Elizabeth Line on 24 May

Image above: Acton Main Line station

The Elizabeth Line, the new east to west Tube service, will open on 24 May.

Transport for London announced on 4 May that the long-awaited line, which fell years behind schedule and went billions over budget, will start running through central London in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.

TfL said the “stunning” £20bn project would transform the capital’s public transport network, adding 10 per cent capacity and boosting the post-pandemic return to work.

Wednesday’s announcement, which is subject to final safety approvals, had been eagerly awaited but the chosen date is slightly earlier than many expected. The line will initially operate in three sections – the western section between Reading, Heathrow and Paddington; the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood; the eastern section between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

The services to the east and west will continue to run into the mainline stations and passengers wishing to continue their journey to one of the new Elizabeth line central London stations will need to change to Paddington or Liverpool Street Elizabeth line station. The closest stations to Chiswick are Ealing Broadway and the Acton Mainline.

Image above: the Elizabeth Line map as of 24 May

Line will be ‘fully integrated’ by 2023

TfL have said that later in 2022, probably in the autumn, the next phase of opening the Elizabeth line will integrate services from the east and west into the new central tunnels and stations. This connection will bring the three railways together and enables services from Reading and Heathrow through to Abbey Wood and from Shenfield through to Paddington.

The service in the central stations between Paddington and Whitechapel will provide 20 trains per hour at peak times.

The final timetable across the entire railway will be in place “no later” than May 2023, according to TfL. The service in the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel will remain at 24 trains per hour during the peak.

When the final timetable is fully up and running and all services are integrated, it will take 13 minutes to get from Ealing Broadway to central London.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Mulberry Centre celebrates 21st anniversary with ‘spectacular’ concert in Chiswick

See also: Strand on the Green preparations for the Jubilee

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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.

May 2022 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Jessica Bloom has a look at what’s on offer and chooses The House With the Golden Door, Ruth & Penand The Island.

The House With the Golden Door by Elodie Harper

The life of a courtesan in Pompeii is glittering, yet precarious…

Amara has escaped her life as a slave in the town’s most notorious brothel, but now her existence depends on the affections of her patron: a man she might not know as well as she once thought.

At night she dreams of the wolf den, still haunted by her past. Amara longs for the women she was forced to leave behind and worse, finds herself pursued by the man who once owned her. In order to be free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is.

Amara knows her existence in Pompeii is subject to Venus, the goddess of love. Yet finding love may prove to be the most dangerous act of all.

We return to Pompeii for the second instalment in Elodie Harper’s Wolf Den Trilogy, set in the town’s lupanar and reimagining the lives of women long overlooked.

Image above: The House with the Golden Door front cover, author Elodie Harper

Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine

The brilliant debut novel from Emilie Pine, author of the international bestseller Notes To Self

Dublin, 7 October 2019.

One day, one city, two women: Ruth and Pen. Neither knows the other, but both are asking the same questions: how to be with others and how, when the world won’t make space for you, to be with yourself?

Ruth’s marriage to Aidan is in crisis. Today she needs to make a choice – to stay or not to stay, to take the risk of reaching out, or to pull up the drawbridge.

For teenage Pen, today is the day the words will flow, and she will speak her truth to Alice, to ask for what she so desperately wants.

Ruth & Pen is the fictional debut from Emilie Pine, author of the international bestseller Notes To Self Deeply involving, poignant and radiantly intelligent, it is a portrait of the limits of grief and love, of how we navigate our inner and outer landscapes, and the tender courage demanded by the simple, daily quest of living.

Image above: Ruth & Pen front cover, author Emilie Pine

The Island by Adrian McKinty

The brand new unmissable thriller from the award-winning author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Chain.

It was just supposed to be a family vacation. A terrible accident changed everything. You don’t know what you’re capable of until they come for your family.

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover a remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the enclave, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.

Image above: The Island front cover, author Adrian McKinty

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.

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.

Man in the Middle 87: Willy Wonka should run adult social care

Man in the Middle is the fictional diary of a Boomer coping with the demands of an ageing mother with dementia, his millennial children and his own impending obsolescence. Bowed down by Brexit, Covid and self-pity, all he wants is more ‘me time’. Will he succeed? Or is he destined to be stuck forever in No Man’s Land in the war between the generations?

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

No 87: Willy Wonka should run adult social care

Mother is sitting at a table by herself. Her fingers rest on the edge of a cup and saucer half full of spilt tea. Her eyes are open, and her head is tilted backwards, perhaps thirty degrees. I can’t tell if she is gazing up a slight incline towards Heaven or is asleep.

Whichever it is, she seems calm. Until that is, she sees my son and I waving at her through the glass panel, which runs around the dining area. Then, like a dimmer switch yanked to the max with a sudden twist of the wrist, she starts whining like a wounded animal in a trap.

‘Take me home,’ she cries. ‘Take me home.’

My heart slinks away to hide in the car park. It can’t cope with the painful truth that the one thing she craves is the one thing it can’t give her – hope that one day she might leave this place.

Two of the carers walk towards her.

‘Don’t let them near me. They’ll hurt me,’ she is shedding fearful tears as she speaks.

The carers look at me. They’re thinking: does he think that’s true? Does he think we hurt her, that we’re cruel? I don’t but that doesn’t matter right now, what matters is Mother’s perception that they might hurt her and the distress that will cause everyone. Everyone? Actually, the other residents seem oblivious to her distress.

‘Let me deal with this,’ I say, reluctantly asserting myself.

I put my hand under her left elbow and help her up.

‘Shall we go to your room, mum?’

‘I want to die. I just want to die,’ she replies.

*

In her room she wipes away her tears and pulls her dressing gown around her bony shoulders.

‘So cold in here,’ she says.

I close the window on the spring sun.

‘Unwrap the chocolate,’ I say to my son.

‘Would you like some chocolate, Granny?’ he says, handing her three squares of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut.

‘Thank you, darling.’

Chocolate is the opiate of old age, and I am mother’s Pusher. I never come without a medicine chest of choices, and I can’t remember how many times a fix of Cadbury’s chocolate has helped turn the tide on a depressing conversation. Frankly, I would put Willy Wonka in charge of adult social care.

She points at her wheelchair, which is folded up in a corner.

‘That’s where he keeps his bike when he comes and spends the night. We had a fight so when he comes now, I move out.’

‘Who keeps his bike there?’ asks my son.

‘I don’t know,’ she shrugs her shoulders. ‘The man who collects the pips perhaps?’

I point at my son, so she doesn’t think I’m referring to the fantasy biker.

‘He’s going back to university tomorrow. He’s here to say goodbye.’

‘I keep his postcards in the cupboard,’ she says.

He sends her postcards to remind her that although she is out of sight she is not out of mind.

‘I’ve got exams when I go back,’ says my son, gamely trying to involve her in a new line of chat.

‘Oh, I am so pleased. But do you have any friends?’

Clearly, in the tangled forest of her mind, friends are more important than exams. But it sounds as if she’s more worried about his ability to make friends than pass exams.

‘Yes, I have friends,’ he replies a little sternly.

‘But what’s the matter with your voice?’ she asks.

‘My voice? Nothing.’

‘It’s got nuts in it,’ she says decidedly.

‘His voice has got nuts in it?’ I ask.

‘No, stupid. This.’

She points at her bar of Cadburys Fruit & Nut chocolate.

Somewhere down the corridor, a door is open, and a resident is calling ‘help’, ‘help’, ‘help’.

Sometimes conversation is impossible and its best just to sit back and listen.

*

‘They’ve been stealing things from me. This blouse, for example. One night, we had an auction to see who should win the little blouse and they both drew, so they had to toss for it, you know, toss a coin and the one who tossed the coin right was the girl who got the blouse.

‘I had to give it to her. And I had to give a speech and say how terribly sad I was that only one of them could have it. But deserved it. She’d done a lot of work for me, washing and manicuring and everything like that. It was fair the way we did it, and eventually she got it. But it set up a terrible anger on the opposite side, because the one who got it was a very popular girl, and was top of her job, which was washing and cleansing and all of those intricate things like giving you your medicine at certain times. So, she won everything and got the most marks. Which was fair. Well, at least, that’s what I’m told by the scruffy little man who puts everything in his pocket.’

*

‘You can make wonderful soup with rotten vegetables if you have an imagination,’ she says. ‘When you were a child, I often made you soup out of rotten old vegetables and water.’

‘I don’t remember,’ I say.

‘It was good soup,’ she says.

‘I’m still alive,’ I say.

‘That was very Green of you Granny,’ says my son impressed that she was an early adopter at managing food waste.

‘Sometimes it came out green, others it was more like tomato soup, especially if I poured in one of those nine penny tins of tomatoes.’

‘Speaking of which it’s time for us to go shopping for dinner,’ I say. ‘I’ll come see you tomorrow.’

‘Don’t bother,’ she says. ‘Nothing will have changed.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Man in the Middle – An Offaly nice idea

Read the previous one – Man in the Middle – Do I owe you anything?

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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A cake fit for a Queen – enter Jubilee cake competition in Chiswick

Image above: Special occasion cake by Parle Pantry

Green or rather Red, White and Blue days are fast approaching. The Bedford Park Festival is a two week arts and community festival that will Royally kick off on Friday 10 June with the launch of the art and photography exhibitions in St Michael & All Angels Church- the traditional start to the annual Green Days weekend on Acton Green Common .

On the Saturday, 11 June, the refreshment tent is holding a “Cake fit for a Queen” competition, sponsored by The Chiswick Cinema.

“Prizes are exciting” says cake stall organiser Jenny de Montfort, “as the Chiswick Cinema has not only donated some tickets but is offering a classic membership as the top prize. Added to this it is rumoured that an actor from the Downtown film will act as judge to fit in with the film theme.”

The entry form can be downloaded here…

A cake fit for a Queen

Entry rules

Jenny would like all cakes to be delivered to the Green to the Refreshments area by 4pm on the Saturday 11 June for judging that day. She would be very grateful if they could sell all the cakes the following day for the church’s three charities. This means the ingredients must be listed. Also if there are any plates or boxes to be collected, please put a sticker with your name and telephone number.

The caption might also help your winning chances!

Lisa Read has illustrated the form and many people will know her beautiful book “Frederick the Fox”. She will be designing the treasure hunt in Turnham Green Terrace so look out for her beautiful clues!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Strand on the Green preparations for the Jubilee

See also: Chiswick’s Big Jubilee Sing

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.

Strand on the Green preparations for the Jubilee

Image above: Strand on the Green; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Sunday 5 June Jubilee celebration. 12 noon – 6pm

Lucy Cufflin describes the events planned for Strand on the Green

With June fast approaching we have been really busy down here at Strand on the Green planning our Jubilee celebration on the banks of the Thames. Its free to come along and everyone is welcome.

We planted the seed of an idea but locals have risen to the occasion with huge enthusiasm – Fullers are bringing their horses and dray for rides, courtesy of the Bell & Crown, local school bands are performing, Morris dancers will be dancing, the paddle boarders will be out paddling and local bands providing live music.

We have blue badge guided walks, a free self-guided treasure hunt to follow along the Strand, a jubilee cake stall, grand raffle, games and competitions.

The Steam Packet is providing the music, The City barge wine tasting and face painting and to end the day we are very excited to announce we have plans afoot for an inter-pub rowing race  – so come and cheer your favourite team along!

We are closing the road for our activities leaving the green spaces by the river for everyone to park themselves with a picnic or buy fantastic food and drink locally – lots of ‘specials’ on offer!

I’m reminded of the song

When the weather is fine you know it’s the time
For messin’ about on the river
If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice
As messin’ about on the river

We’ve been thrilled by the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone locally and a big thanks to the support of Hounslow Council so come and join us on 5 June and celebrate our beautiful corner of the Thames.

Image above: Strand on the Green in winter; photograph Joanna Raikes

Competitions

Before the 5th why not enter one of our friendly and fun competitions? Winners announced on the day. Great prizes and all entries will be displayed on the Chiswick Calendar website, outside Fullers offices on the Strand and on the SOGA and GPG website.

18s and under and 19 and over in each category.

All entries by email initially to lucycufflin@gmail.com by 20th May 2022

Photography – submit a photo that captures ‘The spirit of Strand on the green’

Art – Design a Coat of Arms that represents Strand on the Green to you

Poetry – compose a poem inspired by ‘what Strand on the Green means to you’ no more than 25 lines

Limerick – a limerick starting with ‘a lady from Strand on the Green’ or other 2 syllable descriptive

Here’s a taster limerick to start you off ……

A dachshund from Strand on the Green
Often heard, but seldom was seen
New shoes big and tall
Made big what was small
A visible, barking machine!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Thursday’s local elections in Chiswick “very tight” say candidates

See also: The Mulberry Centre celebrates 21st anniversary with ‘spectacular’ concert 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.

Andrea’s film review – Father Stu

Father Stu ⭐️⭐️1/2  Review by Andrea Carnevali

Follows the life of Father Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Out next week.

Based on a true story, as we can see from the obligatory real photos and an video extract over the end credits, Father Stu tells of a former boxer (Mark Wahlberg) who after a series of ‘’unfortunate events’’ finds God and decides to become a priest.

The problem with a film like this is that if you do not buy into the reasons for which Stu turns to God, then nothing else really makes sense after that and unfortunately this is exactly what happened to me.

Director Rosalind Ross, here on her first film, seems to focus on all the wrong things and eventually trivialises a potentially inspirational story.

For example, she spends an awfully long time setting up Stu’s life before the “incident‘’, but definitely not enough trying to explain what really made him change from agnostic and madly in love with a woman, to wanting to become a priest within five minutes of screen-time.

It’s a contagious problem in this film apparently, because people seem to make life-changing decisions which contradict their characters very quickly and mostly off-screen. And so the same abrupt change for example happens to Mel Gibson, who plays Stu’s father.

His redemption from a selfish, drunk, obnoxious man, who’s never really been close to his son, to “father of the week”, might be true to real life, but in the film is clunky and feels phoney. But then again, since the director is Mel’s partner (and the mother of his children) we can see why he was chosen to play a character who’s granted a second chance.

Very little time is given to the inspiring effects and positive impact Stu must have had to his local community. We see people queuing up to be able to see him, but we don’t really know how he was able to touch them: we are just supposed to take it all for granted.

It is still a very watchable film (in fact audiences in the Austin where the film has already been released, seemed to like it a lot more than I did) and Wahlberg does his best despite being somewhat miscast, not helped by some weird-to-say-the-least and rather distracting make-up in the last act.

The film makers’ hearts are possibly in the right place, but they let down a good story and great cast down (Jacki Weaver and Malcom McDowell are also in the film) with a superficial script and a bland direction which ticks boxes instead of exploring them.

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

Father Stu is out in cinemas on 13 May.

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 nbsp;

 

Andrea’s film review – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. Out in cinemas from next week.

Trying to describe this Everything everywhere all at once is not an easy task, mainly because it doesn’t belong to any category nor does it stick to any of the normal rules we’ve grown to accept when watching a film.

The simple fact that it’s labelled as an action, adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, experimental and martial art film, tells you everyone you need to know. In fact I think it touches a couple of more genres too.

On the surface it’s story about an unremarkable Chinese middle-aged woman on the verge of a divorce, working in a launderette (actually we’re in America, so I should probably call it “Laundromat”), who’s suddenly sucked up (figuratively and literally) into an insane (and I do not use this term loosely) adventure. She’ll have to save the world by exploring other parallel universes and connecting with the lives she could have led.

But aside from this simple synopsis, I don’t think anything can prepare you for the kind of assault on the sense that this film is going to have on you. Even if you’ve seen the previous film by directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, The Swiss Army Man, in which Daniel Radcliffe played a farting corpse (yes, you’ve heard right), you’re still miles away from true exuberant and energetic madness of this one.

This is a film that is so full of imagination, eye-popping ideas and verve that at times I wondered whether anyone making it was sober or even drug-free.

The idea of multi-verse seems a pretty hot topic in cinema these days: since 2018 when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse received universal acclaim among critics and audiences alike and with Spider-Man No Way Home, breaking all box office records and the latest Doctor Strange just about to be released in cinemas, there is certainly a lot of hunger, especially among the young crowds and comic-lovers, for stories taking place across parallel universes.

As well as the latest multiverse Marvel adventures there are also echoes from The Matrix and Scott Pilgrim vs the world, but while this film shares a lot with of that comic-like sensibility, it’s clearly more interested in exploring the idea of multiverse as a way to tackle more humanistic themes.

The film is really about finding and accepting ourselves, it’s about family, about regrets and, without sounding too pompous, it’s basically about the real meaning of life and the fact that it’s OK to be a mess.

With such deep themes running throughout, which I’m sure will resonate with many, it’s a shame the film itself feels the need to be as messy as the characters it’s trying to portray.

And while I really liked the performance by Michelle Yeoh and was pleased to see Ke Huy Quan returning to the screen so many years after The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I can’t help feeling that the stupidity of  the some of the more “over-the-top” moments (people having to impale themselves with pointy objects in order to switch universes, or people with sausages instead of fingers, just to mention a couple of examples) and the frenetic pace of the editing and the film in general, not only wore me down and made it all feel a bit repetitive, despite the huge arrays of ideas on display, but also diluted all the good things on offer.

In this end this was an exhausting experience, which unfortunately overwhelmed the heartfelt message at its core. I wish I had loved it more than I did.

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

Everything everywhere all at once is out in cinemas from next week.

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 nbsp;

Ukrainian girl settled in Chiswick expresses her thanks

Image above: Diana Danyshenko posing at a work event in Kyiv

“I couldn’t believe it was really happening”

“I would like to say thank you, to my British hosts and to people in Chiswick for their kindness and support” says Diana, newly arrived in Chiswick from Ukraine.

She is one of the first, if not the first to have applied for a visa and come here, seemingly without a hiccup.

There has been a torrent of stories about delays and incompetence on the part of our government; cynicism about the degree to which they want to make it difficult for refugees to get visas, pour encourager les autres; stories about loopholes in the hastily cobbled together system which have allowed some refugees to be ripped off by their hosts, finding themselves homeless when they cannot pay for bills, or expected to do the housework, or provide other, less savoury personal services.

But this is a good news story. Diana, 21, applied straight away as soon as it was possible to do so, got a visa within two weeks and has landed on her feet with a family who are, she says, kind and welcoming, whose friends are also kind and welcoming, and who are able and willing to support her. She also thinks Chiswick is great – much greener than she expected for somewhere so close to the centre of London and full of lovely friendly people – having been here a few weeks, she still can’t quite believe her luck.

Her neighbourhood of Kyiv was being shelled before she left. She got used to second guessing when the Russians would bomb and spending a lot of time in underground shelters and witnessed her share of injuries and destruction. Ironically, it is the next period of her life which she may find the most difficult.

In Kyiv she shared a flat with a friend, having moved to the capital the previous summer to pursue her law career, studying for her masters degree in Law at the prestigious Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv while working as a paralegal in a well-regarded firm. Ambitious and determined, but not from a professional background, she worked hard at networking, running events for the Ukrainian equivalent of the Law Society. The future looked good.

When the bombs started falling, her first thought was for the list of jobs she had to do that day in the office. Only when the firm contacted its staff to say ‘find a place of safety’ did she let go of the fiction that life could continue as normal and start thinking about survival.

“When it started my flatmate was away. I woke up in the early morning to the sound of explosions, but I couldn’t believe it was really happening. My friend rang me and I started to look at the news and began to comprehend it was true.”

She had a grab bag packed with a few warm clothes and toiletries but had not seriously expected to need it. Out of habit she also had all her documents together in another bag, backed up to the cloud, as she has that organised, legalistic kind of outlook on life. That especially has stood her in good stead.

“I am a very calm person, but when it started I had a horrible panic because I was home alone and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know the neighbours. I had only been there six months and I was out all the time working. I found a shelter and for some days there were lots of explosions.”

Image above: Diana promoting a charity run in Ukraine

“The first days I was here I felt guilty”

She prefers not to dwell on the bad bits, instead telling me she had found out about the Opora website through Facebook, where you could look for British sponsors, connected quite quickly with her host family, filled out the forms, got her visa, moved to the west of the country and got on a bus to Warsaw and a flight to London.

She makes it all sound very matter of fact, which is partly her English, which is very good but not yet fluent; partly that she is conscious that she is talking to a journalist and wants to give me an accurate, no frills account; and partly that it did go very smoothly.

“My host family helped me fill out the document to apply for the visa. There were lots of buses out of Ukraine from the west of the country and I flew with Wizz Air, which made no charge for Ukrainians other than for baggage.”

It may also be that really she is still in shock, having been so rudely uprooted from her well-planned life. Once here she suffered from survivors’ guilt:

“The first days I was here I felt guilty, but now it’s ok.”

She has also stopped flinching every time a low flying aircraft comes over on its way to Heathrow.

Many of her friends are still in Ukraine – the men because they are fighting and really have no choice, the women because they do not want to leave their families or feel they need to stay and support the war effort.

She watches the news and talks to her friends every day, many of whom are in Odessa, where she lived before Kyiv and where the news today, as we sat in a cafe on Chiswick High Rd, was that the runway at the main airport had been destroyed in a Russian missile attack, as part of its renewed attack on the south.

“Bombs and missiles are not so horrible as Russian troops because they rape, they murder, they torture” she said, mindful that various of her friends live in areas which are now occupied by Russian troops.

She has discovered the Ukrainian social centre near Holland Park, where she is able to make some contribution to the war effort. She has not yet, I think, begun to unpack what has happened to her and her country, still in ‘flight’ mode, concentrated on doing what is necessary to survive.

Image above: Diana with fellow law students in Odessa

“I think I will be successful here”

She is resolutely positive:

“Actively I think that everything will be good.”

Buoyed up by the support of her host on day one she applied for a bank account.

“It will take two weeks I think, but they were so kind and helpful”.

Vodaphone not so much. Not unkind, but unable to help her with a phone contract because she did not have a bank account. Instead she got a phone card from giffgaff in one day. After these early successes she was sufficiently confident to apply for a National Insurance number and a Biometric Residents Permit by herself.

She has received a £200 voucher from LB Hounslow, which can only be spent on food, so she has bought groceries and cooked ‘Deryny’ – potato pancakes with sour cream – for her hosts.

Now she is focused on getting a job.

“I think I will be successful here”.

By rights she should be. She is resourceful, determined, hard-working and ambitious. But to be a lawyer is hard enough if English is your first language and you learned English law at university. She is looking for work as a paralegal but will have to start from scratch learning about the English legal system.

If you are looking for a paralegal with fluent Ukrainian and Russian, good English and some German with some experience of international tax law, please contact us at info@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk and we will pass your contact details on.

Image above: Diana posing at a law event in Odessa

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The west London families preparing to host Ukrainian refugees

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

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.

 

 

Thursday’s local elections in Chiswick “very tight” say candidates

Image above: L to R: Labour candidates for Chiswick Gunnersbury, Uday Nagaraju, Cllr Hanif Khan, and Emma Yates

A protest vote against Boris Johnson

Amongst all the posturing and bluster, you can sometimes get a straight answer out of a politician.

Sunday’s flower market was popular, especially with candidates for this week’s local elections. Conservative Cllrs Ron Mushiso and Ranjit Gill have helped out regularly since the market’s inception; Cllr John Todd and candidate Jack Emsley are frequent visitors.

Marking their turf also this week were the Labour candidates for Chiswick Gunnersbury ward, Uday Nagaraju, Cllr Hanif Khan, and Emma Yates. (Full marks for buying a plant. Zero points for its PR value as a prop in a photo opportunity, which says to me she’s actually planning to plant it).

I asked both groups what they were hearing on the doorsteps in Chiswick and what they thought of their chances when people turn out to vote in the local elections this Thursday (5 May).

They both said the same thing: that Conservative voters were reticent about voting for their party this time because of Boris Johnson’s behaviour and were planning to send the national party a message, using the local elections to protest. Both groups said they were personally confident, but were hesitant to say they would win, as they expect it to be tight.

Image above: L to R: Conservative candidates Cllr Ron Mushiso, Jack Emsley, Cllr Rangit Gill, campaigning at the flower market

Could Chiswick go Labour?

“We’re all expecting to lose our jobs” says Cllr John Todd ” but at the same time people are very nice on the doorstep and it’s good to meet people who you’ve been in email contact with and you know you’ve helped.”

National polls are showing Labour currently has the strongest public support, with 42% those polled saying they would vote Labour at a national election, against 34% saying they would vote Conservative. Sky News say experts are predicting big urban areas will swing to Labour, including possibly Wandsworth, which could make a historic switch to Labour after 44 years of Tory rule.

It is hard to imagine Chiswick with Labour councillors. Although Labour has been in control of Hounslow Council since 2010, Chiswick has not had a Labour councillor since the mid-1990s, but it looks as if that could change. Polling companies Electoral Calculus and YouGov are both predicting a 5% swing to Labour.

Last year’s Mayoral elections showed 52% Chiswick voters opted for Sadiq Khan and a survey in March this year by Electoral Calculus suggested all three Chiswick wards would vote Labour in a national election. Though surveys about voting intentions in national elections do not necessarily predict what will happen in local elections, if that attitude prevails, Chiswick’s Hounslow’ wards might go to Labour.

The same survey suggests the Liberal Democrats would hold on to their seats in Ealing’s Southfield ward.

Image above: Conservative candidates out canvassing, Cllr Ron Mushiso in centre, with Cllr Joanna Biddolph to his right; one of the Conservatives’ campaign leaflets 

Negative campaigning

The campaign has been hard fought in one ward in particular: Chiswick Gunnersbury (previously Turnham Green) where Conservative councillor Joanna Biddolph and LB Hounslow Cabinet Member Hanif Khan stand out.

She, because over the past four years she has been as focused as an Exocet missile on her particular targets, usually trying to stop things: campaigning against the cycle lane, low traffic neighbourhoods and the planting of cherry trees on Turnham Green and raising objections to initiatives such as the Sunday markets.

He because he was Cabinet Member for Transport, whose job it was to install the cycle lane. For those who are still exercised by the cycle lane it does not matter how good a local councillor he has been in the west of the borough, or how experienced and influential he is as a Cabinet Member, Hanif Khan has had the door closed in his face, especially since the distribution of leaflets targeted against him personally. When he does get the chance, he talks about the improvements made to the cycle lane since its inception: safer access to buses and an increase in disabled bays.

The hyperbole of the anti cycle lane campaign (making Chiswick like ‘Belfast during the Troubles’ – quoted by Cllr Joanna Biddolph in her column) and anti Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes (“This is a new form of apartheid pass law” – Cllr Gerald MacGregor) illustrates how bitter and factional discussion of those issues has become, such inflammatory language making it hard to have any sensible dialogue on the subject.

Images above: Cllr Ron Mushiso picking up litter in Chiswick recently; Cllr Hanif Khan taking part in a litter pick in 2015

Litter picking contest

There have been some farcical moments to the campaign, such as when Cllr Mushiso and Cllr Khan got into a litter picking contest (makes a change I suppose from the other sort).

Conservative Cllr for Turnham Green Ron Mushiso:

“Rather than candidates for elections in Chiswick reporting every issue to @HounslowHways #FixMyStreet They aught (sic) to know that sometimes you can solve the problem yourself by taking responsibility.”

Labour Cllr for Brentford Guy Lambert:

“Some of us (including @HanifKhan_1) have been doing litter picks for years, plus our pics (if we remember to take them) include and thank the residents we work with, rather than being cheap political shots.”

Ouch.

Cue video from Cllr Hanif Khan in his former ward of Hanworth Park, with a video of litter picking with residents there in September 2020 and a snapshot of a yellowing newspaper page from the Hounslow Chronicle in 2015 showing Cllr Khan on Feltham Green taking part in a ‘Spring clean on the green in summer sun’.

Image above: An overgrown tree in Cranbrook Rd, candidates Jack Emsley, Cllr Gerland MacGregor and Cllr John Todd; an illustrative pothole

Potholes, weeds and overhanging trees

Do the majority of voters still care about the cycle lane? Or do they care more about other issues?

I look back to the last local elections, when the subject uppermost in people’s minds seemed to be potholes (ah, such innocent times). Hounslow Council pledged to invest a further £2 million to fix potholes in local roads and invite residents to report potholes that need attention.

There are still corkers – in Windmill Rd for example – but in the annual State of the City Report in 2021, carried out by technical advisers employed by local authorities across the 32 boroughs, Hounslow’s record on the state of the roads was considered the best in London.

Hounslow also won Council of the Year, not just in London but in the whole country, in annual awards organised by the Local Government Chronicle, for ‘consistently delivering high quality services and making significant improvements to the lives of its residents’.

These are external assessments of Hounslow’s record, not characterisations by those with a political axe to grind who would have us believe the council was the devil incarnate and has it in for Chiswick in particular.

What will people vote on? If they vote on local issues at all, according to the Labour candidates the subjects most raised on the doorsteps is not traffic on the High Rd but the state of the pavements and weeds outside their houses.

They have focused their campaign on three issues:

“The residents all agree with our three local campaigns: the NHS, Gunnersbury Station [overcrowding and access] and Royal Mail.”

When I spoke to Conservative Cllr John Todd, standing for re-election in Homefields ward, he said the issues were very diverse. Number one, accounting for about a third of his doorstep conversations, people wanted to know when the Piccadilly Line would stop at Turnham Green. The two other main issues that come up are street cleansing and “grossly overgrown trees”.

“When you look at some of them, clearly the borough is very behind”.

The Conservative manifesto commits to ‘building quality homes instead of tower blocks, reversing Hounslow Labour’s policy of year-on-year Council Tax rises, reviewing controversial traffic schemes, and cleaning up the borough’s local politics to ensure the Council works for and listens to residents and local businesses’.

Whoever wins on Thursday, Hounslow has a tough few years ahead of it, trying to recover from the pandemic.

Hounslow comes fifth from the bottom in a table of London salaries, by borough, with the average wage of employees £24,800, compared with Hammersmith & Fulham at £30,300 and the City of London (the highest) £53,200. [Source: HM Revenue and Customs].

Hounslow’s economy, reliant on Heathrow, was projected to be the second worst of all London boroughs, according to work done by consultants for the council in 2020, with high rates of unemployment and homelessness expected. Unemployment currently stands at 7%, the sixth highest in any London borough over the period from 2018-2021. [Source: Trust for London charity].

So there is some serious work to be done.

Out of sheer divilment though, I would love to be a fly on the wall of the first ward councillors’ meeting which had both Labour and Conservative newly elected representatives. Just to see them trying to work together.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: May local elections – List of candidates for Hounslow published

See also: Hounslow Conservatives publish local election manifesto

See also: Hounslow Labour Party launch local election campaign

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

See also: Hounslow Green Party launch manifesto

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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