How to spot a suffragette in the family

Professional genealogist Gill Thomas on how to get the best out of a Census

Gill Thomas is a professional genealogist who has worked on events such as the Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition, helping the public with queries about how to trace their family history. Like the rest of the world, she’s taken her activities online and offers interactive sessions about how to do family research. In her first blog, here, she suggests how to get started on family history. In her second blog she explains how to get the best out of a Census.

Welcome to #Blog 2. Thanks for all the feedback – keep sending me all those questions and ideas. I do hope that you have begun to make positive progress with your research. As billed, I’ve been thinking about tips to give you when interpreting Census records.

The Census 1841-1911

Census returns are the bedrock of ancestral research. You can piece together the approximate birthdate of individual family members from the age recorded.

Top tip! The records were usually taken in April of the year, so deduct a year from the age when working out the birthdate. Also remember to keep a note of the information in the transcription – Piece, Folio and Page numbers. It will help you to remember where you found the record and to share with others.

The Censuses recorded in England, Wales and Scotland are largely in the same format. The most recent Census available to see online is that recorded in 1911. Instead of using an enumerator, households were for the first time encouraged to complete the form themselves.

Image above: Suffragette Census, 1911

Top tip ! Note the signature by the address, as it is likely the signature of your ancestor, not an enumerator. Information recorded also included whether the individual was a worker or business-owner. Women were asked how many children they had borne also including the number alive or dead. The years that a couple had been married are also noted. The number of rooms in the home were also included. In Wales and Scotland, returns showed whether people were bi-lingual or monoglot. If you are lucky, you may even spot a return where information is incomplete or spoiled, usually indicating the actions of a suffragette!

From 1911 backwards a Census was recorded every 10 years. The amount of information for each differs slightly with a diminishing level of detail, but once you’ve grasped how to interpret the returns it should be plain sailing apart from the 1841 Census. Try to find at least three bits of information about the household in each that match, such as places of birth, names of children as well as ages. If you have seafaring ancestors, ‘Vessels’ is the district to search for them.

Although there had been earlier surveys, the Census listing individuals commenced in 1841. Standards of record-taking varied, and crucially the relationships between household members were not listed, nor the precise place of birth. Most importantly, the age of adults were rounded up or down to the nearest five, whereas the those of children tended to be more akin to their actual age.

In many cases you will find abbreviations for occupations – for example, FS might stand for Farm Servant or DS Domestic Servant. Talking of occupations, it is likely that you may come across an occupation which is unfamiliar. For example, I recently researched the history of a family, many of whom worked as Orris Weavers. (Orris weavers worked with silk, silver and gold making elaborate braid and embroidery which was added to usually men’s clothing. This skilled craft had died out by the 1850’s).

Top tip! Best resource for old occupations can be found at Hall Genealogy – Old Occupation Names

Why only to 1911?

You may at this point be wondering why I haven’t talked about Census returns made after 1911. The next release for the 1921 Census is scheduled to go live in 2022. In the meantime, the 1939 UK Register, taken for the purposes of establishing rationing needs during World War 2, has already been released which includes the dates of birth of household members, although the details of any children potentially still alive have been redacted.

The Census I am looking for doesn’t appear to be online

The bad news is that there are some gaps in the datasets online, and there are differences between what’s available on Ancestry and Find My Past. Many local Family History Societies have further records available, so it’s worth checking their publication lists, but you may need to accept defeat in a sequence as some have been lost to posterity.

Scottish and Irish Census returns

Find My Past and Ancestry have Scottish Census information in their records collections but in both cases you will only be able to view transcriptions of the records, not the forms themselves. Scotland’s People holds the digitised version of Scottish Census returns, and payment for these can be made buying credits online.

If you are looking for Irish records, unfortunately owing to the combination of the actions of the British Army during World War 1 who cleared the archives of the records to make space, combined with a fire during the Civil War, the only surviving Census returns are for the years 1901 and 1911, but both can be accessed online at

Other types of research using Census returns

One request I’ve received since starting this blog is for help with researching house histories. The Census is an excellent starting point for building a picture of the inhabitants of your very own Acacia Avenue. Census records can be searched by address as well as by an individual’s name. Search by Census datasets, drilling down through County, Town and District instead of the more usual process of name, date of birth etc. Simply leave the name boxes blank but put in the address. You will be prompted to provide information with regards to county, area and enumeration district.

Top tip! If you are researching a Chiswick address, don’t forget that Chiswick was in Middlesex.

Hot News for researchers this week, is that the National Archives have lifted the £3.50 download charge usually levied for digitised items such as Wills, whilst they are closed. Simply register on their site and put the download into your basket and receive the pdf free of charge. See

Next time – Births, Marriages and Deaths. Keep sending those questions in!

Gill Thomas of Who What Where Research

Gill is a professional Genealogist and Member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA). She also lectures at the Society of Genealogists. If you don’t feel like starting a research project yourself or are looking for a gift for a special occasion, she is also available to take commissions including house histories.



Let them eat bread!

By Sara Ward

I run a weekly micro bakery from home in Brentford, where locals can order bread, buns, honey and preserves to collect on a Friday afternoon, so I’m used to buying flour in 25kg sacks, and if I’m stocking a few different varieties, it’s not uncommon for me to have 100kg in the house.

Most people don’t keep flour in that quantity in their kitchen cupboard, but when the lockdown started suddenly everyone wanted to bake.

I’ve been chatting to a miller that I know, the lovely Emily at Wessex Mill in Wantage near Oxford, and she explained why the millers have found it hard to keep up with the demand.

Many of us eat wheat, in some form or another, every day, or even every meal. Toast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch and pizza for supper all rely on millers grinding grain into flour before bakers and chefs can create the convenient food that’s so comforting, and I haven’t even mentioned all the pies, pasta and cake that we love so much.

When you look at the huge volume of shelf space that the supermarkets surrendered to cakes and bakes, biscuits and pasta, then compare it to the small selection of flour they stock, it’s obvious that we would usually much rather pick up something ready to eat than grab an apron and mixing bowl.

So why the shortage of flour? The industry just isn’t geared up to supplying it in small bags. It’s much easier for mills to fill big sacks of flour for customers ordering in bulk, this is where their main sales are, and it’s a system that’s worked well for decades. The small bags for sale via shops are just that, small bags.

Even with increased demand, the mill can only fill so many per hour and as we all hope things will go back to normal, investing in expensive new packaging equipment for a short-term challenge, isn’t cost effective.

We’ve started running our bread courses online using Zoom. If you have got flour, please join us, and if you haven’t got flour and would like to join in, I’m sure I could bag you some up for collecting locally.

All new virtual courses can be found on our website.

Sara Ward runs Hen Corner from her home in Brentford

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Best thing since sliced bread

See also: Flower Market opening 6 September

Help for the cricket-deprived

Images above: Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in action

by Richard Heller

Of course there are more important things to worry about, but the virus left England bereft of cricket just when its devotees could look forward to the new season. To us, this represents not just a physical but a psychic deprivation. No cricket is almost a synonym for no hope. Our condition was made worse by the mocking fine spring weather, which would normally have drawn us in droves to our first outdoor practices and our first matches, where even those of us like me, in the twilight of cricket careers which never really had a dawn, convince themselves that they still have some magic to offer for one more season. Those who have finally retired as players have been deprived of their brief authority as umpires or scorers, or the joys of live spectatorship – companionship, shared memory (and the display of expertise), the mentoring of new generations, the aesthetic pleasures of watching a graceful ritual with moments of sudden drama.

Cricket deprivation is a very hard condition, so when my old friend Peter Oborne invited me to join him in an effort to relieve its victims I was happy to answer the call. Peter and I have shared over forty years of cricket, playing with and against each other for a variety of teams in this country and overseas, especially Pakistan where we worked together on two major books on the history and dramas of Pakistan cricket. He has almost forgiven me for a catch I misjudged on the deep midwicket boundary off his bowling, which, in a mighty effort to reclaim, I tipped over the rope for six.

Peter suggested we do some cricket-themed podcasts, to help those locked away from live cricket. He thought that together we could give them an alternative remedy to watching repeat matches or the video (delightful though it is) of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson giving slip catches to his dog. There are other cricket podcasts, but they tend to be dominated by gossip or “banter” or discussions of such cricket news as remains. We hoped listeners might enjoy something different – two friends talking about anything and everything that has made them love cricket. Our podcasts share the kinds of conversation we used to have on long railway journeys in India and Pakistan, often with the help of fellow passengers.

We have a slight bias towards Amazing Facts or Eccentric People in cricket (including the legendary J E P McMaster, who will be for ever the worst England Test cricket player). At times, we tip into complete fantasy (the tragically lost cricket scene in Gone With the Wind.) But we have also talked seriously about the literature of cricket, and cricket’s relationship with domestic and global politics. The iron discipline of our producer Bridget Osborne keeps us more or less focused, the expert engineering of James Willcocks makes us sound more or less coherent.

We have been lucky with our guests to date. Nathan Leamon gave us unique insight into the nature of top-level cricket (and an amazing fact about Ben Stokes) from his first-hand knowledge as England’s performance manager and his creative imagination as author of the superb cricket novel The Test. Tim Wigmore made us see T20 cricket in a very new light based on his book Cricket 2.0 (he even told us how to pronounce the title) which was rightly chosen as Wisden‘s book of 2019.

We have been constantly enriched by listeners’ suggestions for topics and contributors. Our literary excursion elicited dozens of other cricket novels we should have mentioned – and we’ll read them all and talk about them another time. To my amazement, one was by my idol Garry Sobers, and I really should never have missed that since he was my special subject on Mastermind.

By the time these lines are published, it might be possible to watch a live cricket match on television in an empty stadium. Those who want and need more from their English cricket season are welcome to drop in on us. We hope they will stay.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Together they wrote ‘White On Green’, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Oborne & Heller on Cricket – Review of Wisden 2020

See also: Oborne & Heller on Cricket – with guest Tim Wigmore on the impact of T20

We all know we need more housing in London

Guest blog by Cllr Andrew Steed

Ealing, like Hounslow, is now holding ‘virtual’ planning meetings. Cllr Andrew Steed took part in his first such meeting this week to speak out against a planning application for 42 flats on land currently used as a car park  in his ward of Ealing Southfields. Here’s his guest blog on the meeting.

I was speaking as Southfield Ward Councillor against the planning application for four blocks of flats: 42 flats in total on land currently used as a car park. The car park is used by over 70 leaseholders many of who work in businesses on Canham Road or Stanley Gardens. Most of the site is used by Factory Quarter residents, which is actually situated in Hammersmith & Fulham. However the impact of the flats will be felt by those Ealing residents living on Greenend Road, Hawkeshead Road and Worcester Drive.

We all know we need more housing in London, but that does not mean all applications have to be supported uncritically, and there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed: lack of amenity space and the flats being out of character. The issue of the car park, the building of a new underground car park, and where the existing cars are accommodated whilst the build takes place make the application less than straight forward.

Finally the big issue for local residents concerned the fact that nearly all windows had a south facing aspect, so Greenend Road residents would be overlooked by ninety windows and 27 balconies. Local opposition was organised by Don Tanswell, (the Chair of the local residents association) and by Nadia Nostrati who spoke against the scheme at the Committee. However, many other residents were involved making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and by last Tuesday 270 people had made objections on the Ealing Planning Portal.

After presentations and some debate the Planning Committee decided to grant the application. We had hoped that we might get a deferral at the very least, but no. We knew it was not going to be easy, but seemingly it is ever more difficult for residents to put over an alternative view once the local planning authority has decided to recommend an application should be granted. This is partly due to changes in legislation and I suppose the most obvious example is that a developer can appeal a decision whilst an opponent or objector can not.

Money from developers for council projects is not a sufficient excuse for sub standard developments

The option of Judicial Review is far too expensive for most individuals or even group of individuals. But the problems go deeper than that. I mentioned the lack of amenity space. The shortfall was 60%. This was resolved by the developer making a £187,000 contribution as part of the S106 settlement. Another £13,000 payment was made for Carbon Dioxide offsetting.

The S106 settlement is used to mitigate the impact of new housing on the local community. In principle they sound good, and provide much need funding that would not otherwise exist. We do not know where that money will be spent, yet, but the broader point is: should we accept that a development can be left with a lack of amenity space for families and children? Should a developer get a free pass (OK, one costing £187k) to build sub standard developments?

Another area of concern is many of the Planning ‘rules’, are not rules at all, they are guidelines and guidelines can be adjusted and are flexible. In the Greenend Road application, the issue of privacy was a key factor. Most of the houses were a suitable distance from the windows of the new flats. But a number were not on both Greenend and Hawkeshead Roads and Worcester Drive. That is unfortunate for those houses as the average measurement meant that the criteria had been met. Or take the Ealing policy for 50% affordable homes in any new development. Conveniently the London policy is 35% in a fast track application-guess which policy was agreed?

In addition residents had a problem in trying to consult with Ealing officers, especially in trying to obtain information via FOI requests. This process began last year, in December, and was never resolved. Despite interventions by residents and eventually myself with senior legal officers at the Council, information was not forthcoming.

The final insult was the issue of site visits. As Ealing never fails to point out, site visits are not a statutory requirement, but, all councillors agree that they are very useful. They also provide an opportunity for those members of the Planning Committee to learn about an application and for residents to ask questions and make their feelings known. Due to lockdown there are no formal site visits, but councillors can make private visits. This is hopefully a temporary measure. The issue was complicated with this particular application as the car park is usually locked, so access is problematic. I believe that no member of the committee actually visited the car park. No member could experience how close the new build would be to the existing homes.

I have touched on just some of the problems with the application and attempts by residents to successfully challenge it. Does this all matter? I believe it matters very much, it undermines the trust in local government, it results in ‘jokes’ about councillors taking backhanders. The system needs to be as transparent as it can possibly be.

Cllr Andrew Steed is a Lib Dem councillor for Southfields ward in the borough of Ealing

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: When are the schools going back?

See also: Safer streets in Chiswick – Time for action, not words

In Defence of Eurovision

By Georgia MacPherson

On Saturday night from 6:30 to midnight, households up and down the UK sat down for a marathon viewing of Eurovision programming on BBC1 and BBC2. Celebrating old favourites and the contestants whose moment in the spotlight was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic, what could have felt like 5 and half hours of compilation videos went by surprisingly quickly for those die hard fans who were missing their usual Eurovision fix that comes around every May.

Fun fact: Greta Thunberg’s mother represented Sweden at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest!

Many of those who are reading may roll their eyes at such a positive review of the night, after all why should the BBC block out the prime time Saturday night slots for a celebration of the least cool night of the year? It’s true, even from a huge Eurovision fan, Eurovision has never been cool, even from its inception. One of the longest running television programmes, even in 1956 when the competition began, the twee pop songs and operatic ballads did not capture the rock “n” roll craze that was spreading across Europe.

Images above: Lucinda MacPherson and daughter Georgia; Lucinda dressed to support Russia

‘The only competition that would let Jedward on our screens twice’

But that’s what so wonderful about Eurovision and what drew in 182 million viewers last year. Unashamedly camp and wacky, it is the only competition that would let Jedward on our screens twice, and the only night on television where one might see Russian grannies baking biscuits on stage, a fake DJ pretending to scratch and the son of an Icelandic minister for foreign affairs dressed in BDSM gear, all in the space of an hour. With winners including ABBA, Celine Dion and Dana International, Eurovision has not only been the excuse for many of us to bathe ourselves in glitter for one night of the year but has also been the springboard for many careers that we still celebrate today.

Fun fact: Portuguese rebels used their 1974 entry as the signal to start the Carnation Revolution!

I was worried that this tribute to Eurovision would be awkward and stilted, and while yes, at times the replacement 2020 show “Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light” felt slightly clunky, isn’t that part of the charm of Eurovision? In a time when we’re all craving normalcy, listening to Graham Norton make fun of the technical lag between different countries is a welcomed constant in the Eurovision universe. The shows felt heartfelt and sincere, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of X Factor reject and veneer poster boy Ryland, his commentary on BBC2 brought comfort when we’re all seeking a sense of community.

Fun fact: In 2003 Belgium’s entry was performed in a completely made up language!

Eurovision this year wasn’t the same as the previous 64 competitions, and yet somehow it felt more needed than ever before. In the spirit of the first Eurovision Song Contest, the main show did succeed in its own way of bringing Europe together, with landmarks across the continent and beyond lighting up in honour of Katrina and the Waves winning entry “Love Shine A Light”.  Campy and slightly amateur at times, watching the past and cancelled entries brought a sense of pride to this little household in West London as I hope it did for others who watched. In other words: Long Live Eurovision!

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Roll on the next Car Boot sale

See also: Chiswick Confined – My Corona blog

Safer Streets in Chiswick: Time for Action not Words

Images above: Tran’s bike in collision with a car; Tran with her wonky wheels

By Dr Edward Seaton

My wife Tran was hit by a car whilst she was cycling to work today. She is a consultant at Charing Cross Hospital and was cycling to a breast cancer clinic, along King Street. She was riding an upright Dutch bike and wearing normal clothes. Not a thread of lycra in sight. With no warning, a car drove into her, bucking the front wheel and smashing the steering stem. Fortunately, she was entirely unhurt.

I’m normally a Dermatologist, but have been working in the intensive care unit at Hammersmith Hospital. The Covid crisis is forcing us all to think and act differently. Our environment has massively changed. In the last seven weeks the sound of the countryside has come back to Chiswick. The air tastes clean, the stars are bright, birds are everywhere, people are walking in the middle of the streets, some simply strolling and chatting, others running or walking dogs, some skateboarding or even hitting tennis balls. Many are dusting-off or buying bikes and people are cycling as they haven’t been for decades.

It sometimes takes a great upheaval to precipitate change. In 1973 the Oil Crisis was the stimulus for the Dutch to move away from car-centricity and to develop space for people cycling and walking. The bicycle is now as synonymous with The Netherlands as the tulip or windmill. Now it is time for the UK to ask itself some serious questions.

Our cities have for centuries been places where people collect in groups to live, trade, socialise and work efficiently. However, in the last few decades we have allowed much of our public space to be overtaken by road and devoted to those travelling through. People, we strangely call ‘pedestrians’ are crammed onto narrow strips at the edges of roads with an expectation that they have a duty to avoid the ubiquitous minefield of traffic danger.

Those using bicycles, the most efficient means of personal land transport ever invented, are almost an afterthought, banned on pavements and exposed to risk of injury on roads where protection from cars is only offered by painted lines.

The Covid pandemic should fundamentally alter the way we behave, both now and in the future. Social distancing on public transport will reduce capacity by 85%. If only a fraction of people using tubes and buses switch to cars, our main roads will be clogged by queues of traffic, the air once again polluted by particulates and the sound of birds replaced by incessant traffic noise. Residential streets in which people are now walking and where children are playing will again be used as short cuts by rat-running traffic.

Forty percent of car journeys in the UK are under 2 miles but many of us are habituated to using a polluting machine weighing a ton-and-a-half to go half-a-mile down the road to pick up groceries or a mile to take the kids to school. We need to walk more, cycle more, ebike more and (if they are legalised) e-scoot more instead.

The Government recognises this. The Prime Minister has predicted a post-pandemic ‘golden age’ for cycling and his Transport Secretary’s recently issued Statutory Guidance requires local authorities to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling ‘as swiftly as possible and in any event within weeks’ including ‘pop-up cycle facilities’ using flexible plastic wands, with ‘physical measures separating cyclists and other traffic’.

It demands footpaths be widened outside shops and transport hubs using cones, and that School Streets are developed, restricting traffic around schools at drop-off and pick-up times. Roads must be closed using ‘modal filters’ such as large planters to allow access from one end only and to protect people on foot or bike.

In London the Mayor has announced the closure of large areas of the centre to cars completely including London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge and in less than a week has created the first of many new segregated cycle paths, on Park Lane. Many London Boroughs are also taking decisive action including our neighbours Hammersmith and Fulham who today started taking road space to build segregated cycle paths on Uxbridge Road, King Street, Hammersmith Road and Shepherd’s Bush Roundabout (too late for my wife sadly).

Response of Hounslow and Ealing ‘timid and disappointing

The response of the Boroughs of Hounslow and Ealing so far has been rather timid and disappointing. Action is promised, and I hope is coming but the traffic is now flooding back and this week taking children around on bikes once again feels risky. Yet another consultation in Hounslow has been launched asking for ideas. But all we have to show in Chiswick so far is about a hundred metres of yellow cones to widen just one part of Turnham Green Terrace’s pavement. This is not going to encourage anyone to cycle and is not good enough.

I strongly welcome today’s statement from our Chiswick councillors, who despite focussing for much of last year on collecting signatures opposing a proposed local bicycle path, now ask that ‘we move on from the controversy… about cycleway 9, and find a new consensus’. That we ‘avoid a return to normality and a surge in car use’ and that we retain the benefits of improved air quality and children cycling more. The statement is very encouraging. But will we see action?

I hope politicians of all parties act to make Chiswick the beautiful, low-traffic pleasant neighbourhood that it once was and again could be. They could start now by installing segregated cycling along the proposed length of cycleway 9 on the roadway itself and by linking Richmond and Chiswick. They could close Turnham Green Terrace, and Devonshire Road entirely to through traffic and make them quiet, outside spaces for people to sit and enjoy where they could visit independent shops and cafes. The Borough and its councillors could prevent through-traffic from the A4 cutting past Chiswick by filtering Dukes Avenue and other rat-run roads. They could segregate a bike lane on Sutton Court Road to safely link Grove Park and Chiswick High Road, and could create bike paths on Bath Road to the east and Acton or Bollo Lane to the north.

They could do all this in about two weeks by using planters, wands and cones in a temporary fashion, with a view to making changes permanent if the experiment works. But the window of opportunity is closing and the time to act is now.

Images above: Hounslow House; Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran

Response from Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran

The Chiswick Calendar asked Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran for his response to Ed’s guest blog. He said:

“I’m delighted that so many people are interested in making improvements to walking and cycling in the Borough. I can understand Ed’s frustration, as we all want to make improvements as quickly as possible, however as everyone knows we are in unprecedented times and the Government’s advice to avoid public transport has changed everything! We’ve all seen the benefit of less pollution i.e. improvements in air quality and less general noise either from aircrafts or vehicles. All of these are a benefit to everyone.

“We have to find the right balance between this new requirement for better and safer walking and cycling provision, against the need of businesses to open again as its vital we try to everything we can to support our high streets, who were already suffering badly before Covid-19. I have asked Cllr Hanif Khan, Lead Member for Transport and Corporate Property to move as quickly as possible to make further improvements on top of the ones we have already announced.  I know from what I’m hearing from residents, they want to see more action and less words, as a Council we are absolutely committed to doing this”.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Conservative councillors publish new policy on walking and cycling

See also: LB Hounslow introduces social distancing on Turnham Green Terrace






Roll on the next car boot sale

Guest blog by Polly Williams

There are many things I miss about pre-Covid life, but one regular mass gathering that I pine for in particular is the Chiswick Car Boot sale, which was the inspiration behind one of my recent illustrations.

I was first introduced to the Chiswick Car Boot sale by my partner, a lifelong Chiswickian, and his mother, for whom the monthly pilgrimage to the bric-a-brac mecca was a fond staple of his upbringing. I remember the first time I went: it was a brisk winter morning with the sort of icy chill tempered only by a hot bacon roll and the warmth of a cup of tea. We’d rolled out of bed uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning. As my partner’s mother had warned: “you have to get there early for the best bargains!”

We paid our small entrance fee to the friendly Chiswick Community School volunteers, and I was immediately enthralled by the impressive array of stalls before me. Just about everything under the sun was on display. I immersed myself in the stalls, seeking out the most obscure and fanciful items I could find. I can’t describe the joy I feel from chancing upon something special, and my excitement at falling in love with an inanimate object that I never knew I needed. I love the thrill of entering into negotiations with unwavering sellers, managing to knock off a few quid here and there while other browsers enviously look on.

A couple of years and many car boots later, our flat has become littered with second hand goods – much to the annoyance of my housemate brother!

Our shared living spaces are a literal trove of my obscure findings: the Danish teak ice bucket, our matching set of Dartington glass corn-on the-cob dishes, the fashionable French antique opera glasses I optimistically bought for a bird-watching trip, the fish-shaped sea-green gluggle jug, the psychedelic painted 60’s butterdish (which, because of a stubborn rancid odour has been repurposed into a bed for cress!), the tiny pewter watering can (which is used to water aforementioned cress!) and an ever-growing collection of mismatched glasses that’s required an entire drinks cabinet — also second-hand — to house it.

My wardrobe, too, has benefited immeasurably from these outings: faux fur coats, cashmere jumpers, a fine felt hat with a glorious feather and a welsh woollen cape are to name but a few of the additions.

But beyond these items, what I love most is that the car boot sale, as well as being a place of transactional exchange, is also a place of exchange of stories, knowledge, ideas and fashion tips. An enquiry into an unknown item can reveal the decades-old habits and norms of our ancestors. It’s a place where even the most casual and mundane conversations can quickly elevate into the realm of the profound, where our hopes, dreams and fears are shared.

The car boot sale holds such a dear place in my heart that I was compelled to draw it. As an illustrator, I am drawn to hives of social interactivity and these scenes form the inspiration for my art. The car boot sale proved fertile ground for one of my pieces. I base my illustrations on my observations, embellishing them with my own surreal and imaginative touches or quirks. Much like the car boot sale itself, you sometimes have to look a little closer to find some of the hidden treasures peppered in my work.

There’s no telling how long it will be before the car boot sale opens its gates again, but I can’t wait for that time. If you, like me, share in this love, then I hope my illustration transports you back to those early morning ventures to the infinite wonder that is the Chiswick Car Boot.

Polly Williams is an illustrator who trained at Leeds Art School and works for companies such as VICE, Elle, Marks & Spencers

Instagram : @Pom_lette


Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Enter your photographs in the Bedford Park Festival 2020 photography competition

See also: Enter your art work in the Bedford Park Festival 2020 Summer Exhibition

‘I’m not a bee-keeper, I’m a bee landlord’

Guest blog by Susan Lee Kerr

I’m not a beekeeper, I’m a bee landlord. In my Grove Park backyard I have two hotels abuzz with bees. Easy peasy, and no worries about swarming, queen bees, swashbuckling hats with nets… or even bee stings. My bees are loners, female and they ‘vant to be alone,’ to quote Greta Garbo. They are solitary bees. Of the 270 kinds of bees in the UK, says Friends of the Earth, only one is the hive-living honey bee, and 90 per cent of the rest are wild and solitary. All of them are important pollinators that keep plants reproducing (and producing fruit and veg).

My first bee hotel (probably from Friends of the Earth) is a ceramic square that hangs on my garden fence, packed with hollow bamboo tubes. While honey bees live in huge complex communal societies (hives), a solitary makes her home in a single hole. In nature it will be in a rotted tree or timber or reeds or, for some species, in the ground.

A birthday present, it took two whole years before any action happened. Maybe the hotel smelled of humans, or of factory (a very nice factory, I’m sure). Or – as I found out from the instructions with my second bee hotel – maybe it faced the wrong direction. It should face east apparently, and mine was west. No worries, it wasn’t hurting anything just hanging there empty. Eventually I noticed a few of the hollow tubes were blocked up at the ends with dried grey-brown grit-looking stuff… occupants! Two further years: full house!


Images above: Susan’s ‘bee hotels’

Bee hotel the second is teardrop shaped, wooden. Actually I’ve decided they are bee tenements, not hotels. Received this Christmas, I hung it on a branch of our bird feeding station in January. I thought that would help to weather out any un-bee smells. It dangles on a rope and turns west-southwest. By 26th April, no takers. Okay, let it bee (sorry, can’t resist). When I looked a week later it had acquired eight lodgers. And on 9th May seventeen of the holes were packed.

Both hotels are abuzz, literally, especially on a warm day. I can stand just feet away, much closer than social distancing, and watch. In they fly, land, crawl into their chosen tube, emerge, fly out. Repeat, repeat, repeat. What are they doing? For food they suck up nectar from flowers and pick up pollen on their hind legs, coincidentally cross-fertilizing the flowers. Aside: we take this information for granted but did you know that it wasn’t until the late 1700s that the sex organs of blossoms and the involvement of insects was discovered?

Solitary bees mash up the pollen and nectar to make a food paste and lay it down in the tube with an egg, which duly becomes a larva. And then another and another until the tube is filled and sealed – that grey-brown grit I observed. The siblings one by one, in reverse birth order, I assume, chew their way out of the tube, reed, earth or wood hole and fly out to repeat the cycle.

Honey bees, in their sophisticated, hierarchical mass production society, from the same ingredients make and store an excess of honey and pollen-product. They produce wax too, to create the familiar honey-comb structure as storage chambers and nurseries.

Simple, old fashioned, easy to grow flowers are the biggest bee attractors in our shaggy, ordinary Chiswick back garden. Right now cranesbill geranium is buzzy with bees. And weigela, too. Catmint (nepeta) is just coming on, and lasts long into the summer – they love it. Lavender is a big draw too. And buddleia, a bit later. Roses and pelargonium attract less attention.

Bees can get you into literary spheres if you’ll only connect with the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books. W.B. Yeats was living in Bedford Park when he wrote the Lake Isle of Innisfree, yearning to ‘live alone in the bee loud glade.’ Sounds like a Covid-19 isolation antidote. I’ve yet to write a bee haiku but I have written one featuring a greenfly – and pink lipstick. See and, next month, the launch of my haiku retrospective, The Walk Home.

There’s a sting in this tale. You don’t get any honey for yourself from solitary bees. All you get is virtue (yay pollinators) and the effortless pleasure of being a bee host.

The bee in my bonnet started with a pack that included flower seeds, loads of info and a bee identification poster. It makes a great gift, still available at And, great timing, Wednesday 20 May is World Bee Day, see and Twitter @beescount and hashtag #beescount on Twitter, Instagram etc Another good source

Susan Lee Kerr is an author, who lives in Grove Park

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Garden Centres Reopen

See also: Growing your own vegetables


Hounslow to publish proposals for south Chiswick in the next couple of weeks

Boris Johnson says we should walk or cycle to work where possible. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says the same. Both fear a mass decision to jump into our cars to avoid using public transport as we return to work. The impact of that would be ‘Carmageddon’. The need to introduce traffic management measures to stop Chiswick being in continual gridlock has become more urgent as the lockdown eases.

There were already changes afoot in the bloc of residential streets between the A4 and the River Thames before the Covid-19 emergency. LB Hounslow held a consultation on how to spend money from the Mayor of London in making this area a ‘Liveable neighbourhood’. Sam Hearn, one of the councillors representing Riverside ward, who leads on Transport for the Conservative group of councillors, tells The Chiswick Calendar that we should hear in the next couple of weeks what the council has in mind.

‘We have an opportunity to improve our communities with these new measures’

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has called for more journeys to be made by foot and bike.  On Friday he told regional leaders that they should be encouraging commuters to make this switch.  Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, has announced that £2bn has been allocated to initiatives designed to boost walking and cycling. Even though the lockdown will only be relaxed gradually there are major concerns that the roads of big cities such as London will become gridlocked as commuters abandon public transport, where capacity is much reduced because of social distancing, and take to their cars.

It is sensible therefore that Chiswick, and the rest of the borough of Hounslow, should play its part in enabling what is known as active travel. Announcements have already been made that temporary schemes have been brought forward under emergency powers suspending some parking on certain streets to enable pedestrians to maintain social distancing.  Other temporary cycling schemes are being introduced including the road closures in Dukes Meadow, and Wellesley Road and Stile Hall Gardens. Cycling in these areas will become more attractive and residents’ quality of life will be improved.

The consultation phase of south Chiswick’s Liveable Neighbourhoods scheme, part-funded by TfL, is progressing well. Officers hope shortly to issue detailed plans, based on a consultation survey and public workshops setting out various options that could significantly reduce rat-running along residential roads. This would make cycling and walking a more attractive prospect for example for school journeys and would reduce the risk to pedestrians crossing at certain junctions. Unfortunately, TfL’s weakened financial position is likely to delay the rolling out of some big-ticket items (Grove Park piazza) unless alternative funding is made available.  The Government is providing £250 million of immediate funding but this will only cover temporary schemes.

Council ‘cutting corners’

Hounslow Council has launched a public consultation entitled the COVID-19 Transport Response. The aim is to improve our road network thereby protecting those travelling to and from work as well as residents simply using their local streets to visit local businesses and neighbours. If you wish to comment click on the link below to share your views

Some residents might, for example, like to highlight where Cycleway 9 will reduce the width of the pavements of Chiswick High Road making social distancing impossible.

The situation we find ourselves in is subject to change at short notice. When changes are implemented at such an unprecedented rate it is almost inevitable that mistakes will be made, and even good schemes can be improved.  We believe that because of the imperative to deliver a rapid response, corners are being cut. The benefits in more normal times derived from democratic oversight and due process are being lost.

It is vital that all decisions, no matter how urgent, are properly explained to residents and are capable of being challenged and reversed. This is after all public money that is being spent. No temporary measure should be allowed to become permanent without a full review (as the Government has said) and including all interested parties. The anticipated short-term to medium-term changes in traffic volumes and profiles should not be allowed to dictate long-term policy. Whilst there is anecdotal evidence that more cycle journeys are taking place there is no guarantee that this will be sustained if and when a vaccine is widely available, when residents return to work and schools have re-opened, let alone when bad weather and short hours of daylight return in the autumn.

Image above: parking bays coned off on Turnham Green Terrace to allow for pedestrians to exercise social distancing 

We agree with ministers that temporary cycle lanes should be properly separated from other road users so as to reduce the risk to cyclists from motor vehicles and to protect pedestrians; painting lines on the road will not be sufficient.  We also agree with the Government that Hounslow Council needs to properly protect the interests of businesses, including ensuring they have access for deliveries (and for collections in some cases).  Local shops have taken a huge hit because of the lockdown and we must not make it more difficult for them to trade as the lockdown comes to an end.  We must also ensure that there is sufficient parking for those for whom it is essential.

The pandemic has caused so much heartache and misery but the unexpected improvements in air quality and reduction in traffic noise are welcome.  We have an opportunity to improve our communities with these new measures but we all need to engage in the process so that the resulting changes have the support of residents and businesses.

Cllr Sam Hearn is the transport spokesperson for Chiswick’s Conservative councillors

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Avoiding ‘Carmageddon’

See also: Keith Richards: My Corona Blog 

Avoiding ‘Carmageddon’

The day after Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation introducing the beginning of easing the lockdown, roads into London  were jammed as communters headed in to work. This picture of Stile Hall Gardens (below) was not taken on 11 May 2020, but shows the kind of rush hour congestion which is typical in many of Chiswick’s residential streets even before the Covid-19 emergency.

It was announced last week that it would soon be closed to through traffic as part of a package of traffic management measures being carried out by Hounslow Council. Michael Robinson, a resident of Stile Hall Gardens, has written a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar urging other residents living in streets clogged by heavy traffic to take heart from their experience.

Image above: Stile Hall Gardens

What will be the new normal for traffic in Chiswick?

As a resident of Stile Hall Gardens for almost 20 years, the amount of traffic in the street used to be considered an inevitability. Along with the drone of planes heading for Heathrow and the clatter of South Western trains was the sound of car engines, either idling as they queued up along the street in the evening or accelerating past the flashing ’20mph Slow Down’ sign during the day.

That was until 2015, when the route of Cycleway 9 was changed. Six years earlier, when it was launched by Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, the original cycle superhighway route had followed Chiswick High Road to Chiswick roundabout. In 2015 it was re-routed along Wellesley Rd to save money, at the behest of Andrew Gilligan, then Mayor Johnson’s cycling commissioner, now special advisor on transport.

Wellesley Road is also jammed with queuing cars in the evening so it couldn’t be a cycle route unless it was closed, and they couldn’t close Wellesley Road without also closing Stile Hall Gardens. After years of resigned acceptance by residents, we now saw a way by which things might change.

Five years, a petition, a survey and three consultations later, Stile Hall Gardens residents are on the cusp of this change and the road will be closed soon. Such change isn’t easy or unanimous but ultimately there were more people who valued a quieter and safer and less polluted street for everyone over saving a few minutes on some car journeys.

We’ve had a taste of life without through traffic during the Covid emergency.  Gone is the nightly rat-run of queuing cars, to be replaced by greater numbers of people walking, jogging, scooting and biking. Birdsong has replaced idling engines and irate drivers sounding their horns. Still no difference to the drivers accelerating past the 20mph sign, though.

Other streets in Chiswick afflicted by through traffic have also had a quieter time since lockdown, but their future may be less tranquil. Passenger numbers on public transport are likely to be restricted, and many will be reluctant to use public transport until the virus has dissipated.

There are predictions of large increases in car journeys; ‘carmageddon’ for urban areas close to major arterial roads, like Chiswick.

The government has announced a package of measures, additional statutory guidelines (and some new road signs) to address these issues. Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps said: “the government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians”.

What could this mean for Chiswick?

Cycleway 9
TfL has already announced the acceleration of Cycleway 9 as part of their “Streetspace” programme. My guess is that construction work at Kew Bridge will be completed but other sections will be implemented through installation of barriers in the roadway rather than the slow and expensive process of digging up the streets.

Closure of Wellesley Road and Stile Hall Gardens to through traffic
Closure was planned for the summer and will be brought forward.

South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood
The council has announced they will be looking to bring forward some measures to manage traffic and they will communicate these later in May. They have already announced the trial closure of the road under the railway bridge in Dukes Meadows.

Turnham Green Terrace and Devonshire Road
Following residents’ complaints about lack of space for pedestrians, Hounslow has removed car parking on some of Turnham Green Terrace to allow greater physical distance for people on foot. There have been calls for this to be extended. Other cities such as Vilnius have removed parking and through traffic to enable restaurants, cafes and other businesses to expand onto the street after they are allowed to reopen. This means they can maintain physical distance while being able to serve more customers than if they were restricted to their premises. The majority of street space in Turnham Green Terrace and Devonshire Road is given over to motor vehicles driving through, not space that benefits the businesses on the street and people visiting the street. While access to motor vehicles is needed for loading and deliveries, the current emergency has highlighted just how out of balance the current allocation of space is.

Image above: Chiswick High Rd air pollution. Source: Air Quality England

End the Dukes Avenue rat run?

Other streets afflicted by traffic:  the following data from Dukes Avenue will be typical of many streets in Chiswick.

A few months ago I asked Hounslow officers for local traffic data and they provided me with a traffic survey for the Dukes Avenue area of Chiswick carried out in early April 2019.  This was before the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to motor traffic so traffic volumes are likely to have increased after the survey.

Visualisations of the traffic data can be seen at and below.

Key points are:

  • The major through routes in the area are from Chiswick High Road to the A4 along Dukes Avenue with a secondary route between Chiswick High Road to Sutton Court Road via Dukes Avenue and Barrowgate Road.
  • Peak traffic is from 6pm to 7pm with on average, one vehicle every 10 seconds along Dukes Avenue
  • Traffic on Dukes Avenue is 87% through traffic cutting through the area. Only 13% is local traffic where the trip has started or finished within the area.
  • 83% of traffic is made up from cars

Do Dukes Avenue residents want their street to return as a short-cut to the A4 with perhaps even more traffic? If not, now is the time to ask for change.

Image: Visualisation showing flow of through traffic in the Dukes Avenue area, from “inbound” streets on the left to “outbound” streets on the right.  Source: Michael Robinson

So what can people do?

Hounslow has launched the following website hounslowstreetspace to collect feedback on problem areas. People concerned with the impact of traffic in Chiswick should comment here and raise the issue with your ward councillors and Cllr Sam Hearn who will be the lead local councillor on this.

Government guidance for councils describes two methods by which changes to roads can be fast-tracked using Experimental and Temporary Traffic orders rather than the usual long, drawn-out consultation process. Councils can move quickly if they want to.

What do we want the ‘new normal’ to be?

The London Borough of Lambeth has been one of the leading boroughs tackling transport issues with Covid-19 and has published a transport strategy describing their planned measures. Air pollution from motor traffic was already high in the area and links are being researched between air pollution, Covid 19 fatalities and respiratory conditions. Lambeth’s Deputy Leader has said she “doesn’t want to lurch from one public health crisis into another” hence the plans to address traffic before it is too late.

The Covid emergency has given many people a glimpse of what life with less traffic can be. Now is the time to say where you want less traffic to be the new normal in Chiswick.

Image above: Reallocation of road space last week in Brixton, LB Lambeth. Source: Heidi Alexander twitter.

Michael Robinson is a resident of Stile Hall Gardens and also a committee member of Hounslow Cycling Campaign

Technical footnote: traffic survey data from Hounslow was analysed using software I wrote in Python using the Pandas data analysis library. Visualisations were created using the Tableau application, the QGIS geospatial data application and a specialist Python graphics library. The traffic flow visualisation is known as a Sankey chart after 19th century Irish engineer Captain Matthew Sankey who used this style of chart to illustrate flow of energy in steam engines. I plan to produce similar information for the South Chiswick area when Hounslow makes this data available.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: What will it take to make Chiswick a Liveable Neighbourhood?

See also: Street walkers in Waltham Forest

26.2 people enjoy the 2.6 Challenge on 26 April

By Rosie Leyden The sun shone down on us – a group of 26 friends plus a one-year old – as we completed a running / walking / cycling relay of a total distance of four marathons last Sunday – the day of the cancelled 26.2-mile London Marathon. Starting at Bushy Park, we wove our […]

Local parkrunners take on the 2.6 Challenge

By Rosie Leyden

Pembroke Athletica is an informal group of running friends, from Chiswick and West London, who meet up each week at parkrun in Richmond Park, run 5 kilometres, and then (more importantly) enjoy coffee and cakes at Pembroke Lodge café. At least they do in normal times. This Sunday they are all taking part in the 2.6 Challenge.

What is the 2.6 Challenge?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on UK charities, with the cancellation of thousands of events and the loss of billions in income through fundraising events. The Virgin Money London Marathon alone, which should have taken place this Sunday 26 April, is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, which raised more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019. Many of these charities have had to reduce or stop services at a time when vulnerable members of society need them most. Thousands of staff have been placed on furlough and many charities will not survive the next few months.

The 2.6 Challenge is raising money to help those UK charities to survive. Anyone can take on the challenge. All you need to do is dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 that suits your skills, and complete it on Sunday 26 April. It can be something simple – like going up and down the stairs at home 26 times, or dancing to some music for 26 minutes, or walking 2.6km round your house in fancy dress (about 3,500 steps), or walking or running 2.6 miles as your daily exercise. Anything with a 2 and a 6. For some whackier ideas, see:

Pembroke Athletica’s 2.6 Challenge

The 2.6 Challenge for Pembroke Athletica is a team running relay of 19 stages, with each stage starting at the house or flat of one Pembroke Athletica (PA) member and finishing at another. The total distance they will be covering is equivalent to 4 marathons (4 x 26.2 miles), with most stages being about 5km. Their team runners will pass through Bushy Park, Isleworth, Twickenham, Richmond, Kew, Chiswick, and Gunnersbury Park. They’ll also be passing a virtual baton to other parkrunner family members in Bedford and Cheshire for two of the legs.

26 members of the PA crew will be taking part – or 26.2 if you include Anastasia, who’s just one year old. They will of course be maintaining appropriate social distancing guidelines – no batons, and no hugs but lots of smiles and self-distancing selfies.

They are aiming to raise £1,000, and are up to £486 so far. If you would like to donate, go to Or to give via the main fundraising page for the 2.6 Challenge, see:

Enjoy your 2.6 or 26 on 26th!

Rosie Leyden is a Chiswick resident and member of ‘Pembroke Athletica’

Image above – the running group in better times.



Growing your own vegetables – April

Images above: Coriander; Pak Choi

Rose Lewis on what to plant in April

The last couple of weeks I have been planting more and more seeds – I now have more time and along with my allotment – I have also started some in my garden and my window sill. I figure that if I am going to be home all summer, I need extra food for my lunch as well as dinner.

The weather has also been extraordinary so seeds are germinating much quicker which is always more motivating. Its surprisingly satisfying coming down in the morning and seeing which seedlings are popping through the soil. Check out the pak choi that I planted just two weeks ago and that’s kale on the right which is also doing well.

Rocket is also coming through so I should be eating within the next few weeks. So here some suggestions for what you can grow in April.

Keep on growing lettuce; Rocket and any other green leafy salads to ensure you have a plentiful supply. Grow some new seeds every couple of weeks. Its amazing what dishes you can them too. I love putting rocket in almost anything – sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner – just add it like you would any other herb.

You can try other herbs too – who doesn’t hate buying little packets of herbs from the supermarket. Just buy packets of seeds, plant them in pots and leave on a sunny spot inside. Water sparingly and then watch them grow.

Coriander works well if you have a sunny spot inside – this is mine that I planted two weeks ago (image top left) – almost ready to harvest. You can see the rounded leaves before they take on the characteristic shape. Basil, Parsley and Mint are also firm favourites – although they take longer to germinate. My mint is only just coming through. You can plant herbs in one big pot although Mint (once it gets going) sometimes out competes the others so if you have the space – keep them separate.

The key thing about herbs is that they grow best when you keep on picking them so again like Rocket – use them generously – that way you will keep them healthy all summer. As the weather warms up there are more things you can plant both indoors and outdoors.

Images above: Potato plants; carrots before and after harvest 

Potatoes – if you can get hold of some seed potatoes – it might be worth trying them. So easy to grow. If you have enough outside space – then just follow the instructions. We planted ours this weekend.

If you are more limited – you can try growing them in a bag/bucket. You literally just fill up a bag/pot/bin full of compost and plant your seed potatoes – watch them grow and then harvest as and when you need them. They are ready when the leaves have died back completely. You can buy all these fancy bags which make it easier to harvest or you can just dig around with your hands until you find them.

Courgettes – I mentioned them last time but it’s a great time to start planting the seeds either in big pots or straight into garden. Make sure they have enough room though as the plants grow big.

Beetroots and Carrots seeds can also be planted now. You will be amazed when you see the seeds – you wont believe that are going to turn into plants. Plant them in pots to start with to give them best chance when you transfer them to a bigger area. No garden – no problem – transfer them into bigger pots when they get stronger. Just don’t sow too many seeds. Although if you do have too many plants – a generous gift to your neighbours am sure will be appreciated.

If you haven’t planted your broad beans or peas  there is still plenty of time so get cracking. Finally you can start your French beans off inside now too – so delicious and they are such generous plants – I got tons last year from just six plants. This one you need space for as they are climbers – many make wigwams to help them climb but a trellis or even just some wire on your fence will work just as well.

In our other news this week, we had a new colony of bees arrive on the allotment. 10,000 bees and a Queen were newly placed into the hives. Here is our resident bee keeper Alice helping them settle in.

Rose lives in Chiswick and has been growing vegetables on her allotment for the last few years.

No offence, but I’d rather have Peter Rabit. Or Raabit from Winnie-the-Pooh

Richard Heller is a former columnist for the Mail on Sunday

Here he offers The Chiswick Calendar his thoughts on the state of our nation.

Boris Johnson is on the mend. The Sun greets this event with a headline that crosses the frontier between sycophancy and blasphemy: “Now it really is a Good Friday!” I dread to think of its headline should Boris get up on Sunday and have a little walk. If it keeps up this sort of stuff, the Sun will lose its reputation as a serious newspaper.

Saturation reporting of Boris Johnson, but no further news of Nadia, the stricken tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Not my idea of balanced coverage.

Our country is now in the hands of Dominic Raab, who was the sixth choice for leader by his party’s MPs in the last Parliament. No offence but I’d rather have the late Raab Buttler. Or his distant cousin Jos, who isn’t doing much at the moment. Or Peter Raabit. Or Raabit from Winnie-the-Pooh, or any of his friends and relations, including the beetle Henry Small. Or why not the Easter Bunny, who will be free this weekend, as only the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, had the acuity to notice?

This is a dangerous time for the Raab we’ve got. There is no apparent end of lockdown and people are vexed and frustrated. Familiar goods have returned to the shops and there is no thrill any more in detecting loo roll or celeriac, or in devising exotic recipes for pilchards with dried apricots, to make use of forgotten items in store cupboards.  Plans to use the time for self-improvement have long been abandoned. Great novels pile up unread beside settees, language courses have stopped at lesson 3 (although I can now say “¡Caramba! El postillón ha sido alcanzado por un rayo” should the need arise)[1], hectoring fitness videos have been silenced as have wheedling meditation gurus. People have stopped shaving or flossing and sartorial standards at home are making a vertiginous descent: even I no longer change my tie to compose light verse.

I warned the government some time ago about the peril to zoo animals in the crisis and now poor Nadia the tiger has caught the Covid virus in the Bronx Zoo in New York. As a caretaker leader, Raabit could not survive such a development here. He will probably order mass testing for all our zoo creatures, or at least the cute ones.

My junk email folder is usually full of Nigerians offering me untold riches, or else offers to enlarge an intimate part of my body or reduce all the others. Now it has been invaded by a faux bonhomme called William. Showering me with spurious wishes for my health, he offers to sell me face masks and protective clothing at a bargain price.

Get away with you! I suspect that your masks and clothing would disgrace a child’s Halloween costume. If they were any good, I would want them to cover a health worker not a bouche inutile such as mine.

Bouche inutile was a ruthless French military term for people who made no contribution to the nation’s war-fighting capacity (sadly it included much of the French army in 1940). I think it might usefully be extended now to people who spread fake news about Covid19. President T Ronald Dump will know whom I mean.

[1] Spanish for “Good lord! The postillion has been struck by lightning”, a probably apochryphal useless sentence from Victorian language guides.

Five movies for Covid Lock Down

1. Withnail & I

Once a year, I watch this movie alone with a bottle of wine. The family leave me to it. They understand I have a bromance with a movie about a bromance between two out of work young actors at the tail end of the Swinging Sixties (‘They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man’). It contains my favourite ever line in any movie: ‘We’ve gone on holiday by mistake’. I have been saying this to the family every time we’ve got off a plane or into a car to go on holiday for the last twenty years. Sad, I know. This movie is an elegy for youth and an age of experimentation. It’s outrageously funny. No sex but lots of drink and drugs. If it were a cult, I’d join it. In fact, it is a cult and I’m a member.

Pair with: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Andersen’s beautiful comic homage to a luxury hotel and its extraordinary manager Gustave H, just as the Nazis take control of Central Europe and crush the life out of an epoch of grace and elegance. It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs but the script, especially Gustave’s musings on life, are sensationally witty. The plot, which cracks along with chases, escapes, shoot outs and ski scenes is a comic fusion of a Bond movie and the Keystone Cops. The stellar cast is hilarious. I’d share my favourite quotes from the movie, but I’d get flamed. Google: ‘Quotes of Gustave H’.

Pair with: Fawlty Towers.

3. Addams Family Values

I don’t know where to start praising this movie. Or finish. Diamond sparkling dialogue. Gemstone gags. Back to back side ripping scenes. And, at its heart, one of the most loving marriages ever imagined between Gomez and his wife Morticia. My wife bought me the Addams Family pinball machine for my 50th because she knows how much I like it. Favourite lines? Man in the Middle would choose when Morticia turns to Gomez and says: ‘Don’t torture yourself, Gomez. That’s my job.

My favourite line is spoken by Uncle Fester, played by the genius Christopher Lloyd, responding to Debbie, the gold-digging nanny:

Debbie: ‘With your looks, your charm…women must follow you everywhere!’

Fester: ‘Store detectives.’

Pair with: The rest of the Addams family movies.

4. Mike Bassett England Manager

Mike Bassett England Manager is undoubtedly the funniest football movie ever made. Played by Ricky Tomlinson, Bassett is a foul mouthed, tactically illiterate, unsuccessful English football manager bizarrely selected to manage the England team. His team selections are as absurd as his press conferences and his team talks. Writer and Chiswick local Rob Sprackling was the first to create what has now become an archetype – the bone headed English football coach. One for footie fans. And those who like to see it satirised.

Pair with: The Life of Brian

5. School of Rock

The first time we saw this, the family and I were stuck inside in a cottage in Cornwall. It was wet, wet, wet. We watched the movie three times (almost back to back). We crowd surfed the smaller children across the sitting room. We air guitared along with the ‘face melting’ solos by Dewey Finn, the lead character played by Jack Black. Favourite scene: Dewey Finn singing ‘Math is a wonderful thing’.

Pair with: The Belles of St Trinian’s



Funny books to take your mind off things

James Thellusson has put together a list of his favourtite comic novels to take our minds off things.

1.Down with Skool / Geoffrey Willans & Ronald Searle: If your kids think their education has been ruined by Covid-19 make them read about the trials of Nigel Molesworth because any fule kno St Custard’s is the worst boy’s skool in the country and St. Trinian’s is the worst for girls. Phonetic spelling has never been so funny.

2.The Ascent of Rum Doodle / WE Bowman: Think ‘Ripping Yarns’ by the Python duo Michael Palin and Terry Jones.  This parody of British mountaineering and derring-do is narrated by Binder, one of the most incompetent and unselfconscious characters in British fiction. Binder is Bertie Wooster mixed with Edmund Hillary. But he’s the antithesis of leadership and it’s soon clear he couldn’t organise a beer tasting at Fullers, let alone the ascent of the infamous mountain Rum Doodle. You’ll roar with laughter at ‘Rum Doodle’s’ characters: Jungle, the navigator who is always lost; Prone, the physician, who is always flat out ill and Pong, the cook, whose inedible rank food smells. Read in an afternoon.

3. What Ho! Best of Wodehouse / PG Wodehouse: I’d like to read a review of Jeeves by Jeremy Corbyn. I imagine Wodehouse’s elegy for the values of Edwardian society and uncritical acceptance of the master servant relationship at the heart of Wodehouse’s work would set Jezza’s teeth on edge. Sometimes, I feel the same way. But…the writing is crystal clear and there is something kind, charming and gently witty about the whole thing. If this doesn’t make you smile, don’t bother with Wodehouse:

‘What ho!’ I said.

‘What ho! Said Motty.

‘What ho! What ho!’

‘What ho! What Ho! What ho!’ 

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.

4. The Sellout / Paul Beatty: If any of the comic books (above) have any serious intent, they wear it lightly. The Sellout, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2016, is a full-on, sulphuric comic satire on race relations in the USA. The book tells the story of a small-town community in Los Angeles where the local black community reintroduce slavery and segregation. It’s an outrageous, possibly offensive premise which is a deliberate challenge to liberal values, multi-culturalism and the reader. I often felt uncomfortable. But it is also very funny, angry and beautifully written. The humour is badass, foul mouthed and visceral. At one point, Hominy, a sado-masochist, attaches the doorbell wires of his front door to his testes to enjoy the pain every time a ‘Trick or Treater’ press his doorbell on Halloween Night. If your idea of humour is the subtle social innuendo of Jane Austen, this is not for you.

5. Diary of a somebody / Brain Bilston: Bilston’s sometimes called the Banksy of poetry. He’s got a huge following on Twitter. This is his first novel. It’s a wistful diary of a man who struggles to be a poet while losing his wife, son and job. The protagonist is a shy, sensitive, witty man put upon by life and his family, called Bilston. ‘Diary’ isn’t a page turning pot boiler. But it is a delightful picnic hamper of sound bite sized snippets perfect for families who want to share a joke while in lock down. Tim Dowling with gags. For example:‘My surroundings went by in a blur – I’d forgotten to put my contact lenses in – but rarely have I felt so alive. I treated myself to a super-sized fry up brunch in celebration: two extra Quorn sausages.’ 


Watching live theatre on the TV

Torin Douglas ventures into new territory, watching a National Theatre production at home

I’m very grateful to The Chiswick Calendar for telling me that the National Theatre would be live-streaming James Cordern in its huge hit play ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’.

I watched it go out live – and the play and performances were every bit as funny on the screen as I remembered in the Adelphi Theatre eight years ago. That is saying something, because it was a very physical production – a highly theatrical experience – with audience members being dragged onto to the stage every night, including, most memorably, a reluctant Max Hastings, who wrote about his experience in the Daily Mail.

Having said that, getting the play onto my screens at home was a journey of discovery. I found and subscribed to the National Theatre’s YouTube feed and popped the time and date in the diary, but I wasn’t quite clear what would happen next. Would I have to download it? Would it crash the internet? Was it best to watch it live, or to catch up with it later (it’s available for a week). I’d already decided to watch it later, but fortunately I’d recommended it to my son Michael, who lives in Manchester. He started watching it live from the start and WhatsApped me:

‘Watching “One Man, Two Guvnors” on YouTube and enjoying all the comments in the chat box saying “my drama teacher is making me watch this, I don’t get it” “whyyyyyy”’.

And then: ‘Very good ! I’m enjoying it and am categorically NOT a fan of James C!’

So I decided to catch up with it live too. I looked for it on my iPad and, sure enough, there was the feed – filling the top left quarter of the screen, with a stream of comments rolling down the right hand side, punctuated by bright yellow emojis and green symbols showing that people had made donations. It was interesting – and there was lots of laughter – but it wasn’t the ideal way to watch a big National Theatre production with a big cast and a big set. I’d once tried and failed to get YouTube on my allegedly ‘smart’ television set  – life generally being too short to watch YouTube on your TV –  but this seemed the moment to have another go.

Usually I watch TV via a Sky box, which is why I don’t normally use the ‘smart’ element of the TV set unless I’m watching Netflix (which has its own red button on the keypad). I had to disengage Sky and find the TV set’s home page, which then offered me a selection of apps (who knew?) – BBC News, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, Amazon Prime… and YouTube. I clicked on that and after wrestling with a pretty clunky search function I found the National Theatre’s ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’.

These days, our 27-inch screen is seen as titchy – hardly bigger than some people’s mobiles – but suddenly it was filled with the manic figure of James Cordern, charging round the stage with suitcases. Success! And the production really was laugh-out-loud funny.

I noticed that 317,000 people had subscribed to it and were watching it live. The play’s director Nicholas Hytner was on the Today programme the following morning, explaining why it was the perfect production for these times – being pure entertainment, based on Carlo Goldoni’s comedy ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ – a theme he expanded on in a Guardian interview. In it he recalled that when the show went to Broadway, Donald Trump was lured onto the stage – much more willingly than Max Hastings!

By Monday, 2,045,000 people had watched ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ – and there are still several days to go. I dug out my Adelphi programme and was surprised to see how much I’d forgotten – and also that it was exactly the same cast as on the screen. I’ll be watching it again before Thursday, this time with programme in one hand – and maybe an ice cream, or something stronger, in the other….

You can catch it on YouTube until Thursday 9 April 9.







Find out your family history

Image above: Old Chiswick 

Professional genealogist Gill Thomas suggests how to get started

Gill Thomas is a professional genealogist who has worked on events such as the Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition, helping the public with queries about how to trace their family history. Like the rest of the world, she’s taken her activities online and is planning some interactive sessions about how to do family research. Read her introductory blog and let her know if you would be interested in taking part in one of her online Ask the Expert sessions.

Family history “so compelling I left my job”

Welcome. I seem to have joined the ranks of the ‘bloggerati’ as part of The Chiswick Calendar’s Lockdown-things to do. I began my own ancestral research many years ago when I worked in Marketing, and found it so compelling that I left the corporate world, re-trained and have run my own research practice Who What Where Research ever since.

This is the first blog of the series. I will be covering different topics such as tips on interpreting Census returns; searching for parish records; researching military ancestors; organising your own One-Street Study and DNA testing, but if anyone has a particular topic that would be of interest do get in touch.

I need to gauge your level of knowledge and interest so I can target sessions most usefully, so the more feedback and questions I get from you, the better. I am also going to be researching Chiswick Calendar editor Bridget Osborne’s ancestral history as part of the series, so you can follow the project as it unfolds.

Images above: Gill’s two grandfathers, James Percy Davies (L); Benjamin Arthur Thomas (R)

No time like the present

If like many others you have always intended to start researching your family history but never had the time before, the good news is that there have never been as many online resources available as there are now. Normally I spend a lot of time telling researchers to get out there and visit archives, but in the temporary absence of those – where to begin?

Use your living family

The best starting point is to collect relevant information for all your family members starting with yourself, working backwards through the generations listing key dates (i.e. Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths). Involving older relatives in the project might well reveal useful information about ancestors.

Some family historians like to record everything on paper and there are many free options available online which you can access by searching for family history charts, using sites such as Alternatively, there are various genealogy software packages available so you can store all the information you collect in one place. (This can be doubly useful if you want to share information with other family members and can also be used to print out ancestral charts). Family Tree Maker, Family Historian and Legacy are some of the best-known packages. The internet is full of advice as to which might offer the best solution for your needs. (See for reviews.)

Image above: 1911 census for retired army officer Samuel Moores’ household in Woodstock Rd

UK civil and religious records

Following on from what you have gleaned from family members, your research will most probably lead to UK civil and religious records. Census returns made between 1841-1911 are available online, as is the 1939 UK Register taken for the purposes of evaluating rationing needs.

The subscription websites Ancestry and Find My Past have extensive datasets available, as does Family Search (which is free to access). Scottish information can be accessed via Scotland’s People, a credit-based service.

I should at this point issue a genealogical health warning … do not assume that the family trees posted online by other researchers are correct. Do your own research and keep a note of where you found the source. When I began researching my own ancestral history many years ago, this was the biggest rookie error that I made, which led to lots of wasted time and effort.

Sometimes this can arise as a result of what I term Victorian vanity publishing syndrome, the result of a researcher finding a published/printed family history and accepting it at face value, when instead it might just as easily be re-classified as a work of fiction, no matter how well-intentioned the author.

Images above: Front cover of the West Middlesex Family History Society Journal, March 2020 issue; 1915 pram advert from a shop in Turnham Green Terrace

Family History Societies

If you are not familiar with the area from which your ancestors hailed, it could be very useful to join the local Family History Society. Not only do they have experienced volunteers, but they will have local knowledge. For me, local societies are the unsung heroes of genealogical research. Not only to do they provide unique sources of information, they tend to charge very modest membership subscriptions and often publish a journal a couple of times a year.

Don’t forget to walk the dog

Embarking on your own family history project could be just the thing to engage with during these challenging times, especially to keep the ‘grey matter’ ticking over. But I warn you, it can be all-consuming! Just remember that the dog still needs a walk and you really ought to get up for a screen break and to make a cup of tea every now and again, but on the plus side you can stay in your pj’s as long as you like and no-one will know!

To make this blog as useful as possible, do please send me your questions and thoughts. My next blog will include tips about interpreting Census returns.

Gill is a professional Genealogist and Member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA). She also lectures at the Society of Genealogists. If you don’t feel like starting a research project yourself or are looking for a gift for a special occasion, she is also available to take commissions including house histories.




Keep Calm and Grow your own

Image above: A daily average harvest from Rose & Steve’s allotment last year

Rose Lewis gives some pointers on how to start a vegetable patch

As Covid-19 accelerates, many of us are fearing that our food supply might be disrupted. Visiting the supermarkets you would think it already has! There has been a massive increase in people buying seeds in the last few weeks as many of you decide that now might be a good idea to start a vegetable patch.

But where to start ?

My friends ask me because I have growing fruit and veg on my allotment for a few years now and despite my rather lack of enthusiasm when my husband suggested it, I love it. Growing your own fruit and vegetables has undergone a transformation – it is no longer just the preserve of the older generation. It’s for anyone who is interested in eating locally produced food that hasn’t been shipped (or worse flown) from miles away and is free of pesticides. And even better, it saves you money and you can control its supply (well almost – weather is quite important). We do get a lot of fruit and vegetables from our plot (see photo above) and we often share our excess. I have only just finished my last fruit that I froze last year and I eat it every day on my breakfast.

Questions that I am being asked are mainly around two things – what can I grow and how long will it take? So here are some tips to start you growing along with 6 recommended vegetables to start with. They include super-fast growing veg that you could harvest within three weeks and super easy vegetables that literally anyone can grow.

Key things to know before you start

Its really easy, if I can do it anyone can. You don’t need an allotment, a small sunny patch in your garden, your balcony or even a windowsill will do. You can even grow some indoors especially herbs, sprouting seeds and small leafy greens (rocket).

You don’t need much to start – a few old plastic pots will do if you are growing on a balcony or keeping them in pots; the seeds and some compost to start them off. Some veggies do work better if you start them off in pots but some you can just put straight into the ground with the compost giving them a good start in life. (The latter two are not quite as easy as it used to be – I hear Sainsbury has sold out of their seeds and the garden centres are now shut. But you are able to order online from places like Marshalls. It make take a little longer so order without haste! Morrisons in Brentford also has compost earlier this week. Here are my pots that I have grown a few herbs that can just stay in the pots but the veggies I will transfer when they have grown for a few weeks.

It helps to have a sunny spot too and you will need to keep the seeds moist as they germinate (begin to grow). Water them regularly doesn’t mean everyday although it the sun keeps shining, you might have to. The key is to keep them moist – touch your hand to the soil (remembering to wash them thoroughly afterwards) is the best way to check this.

Four super-fast growing vegetables

Here are four super-fast growing vegetables that you can plant anywhere and harvest within 30 days.

Radish – those lovely pink fiery little vegetables can be grown within 20 days. Yes that fast! The seeds are tiny so sow thinly in a pot or in your garden and keep moist. You will see the seedlings within about 7 days – good for your motivation. Grow successively – ie a small amount of seeds every 4-5 days to keep you from having too many and keep on sowing right through the season.

Rocket or any lettuce actually – super easy and fast growing and you can add to so many things. You can be eating rocket within 20 days especially if you pick when the leaves are small. Cut the leaves when they are ready and the plant will keep on growing. You can grow them in pots on your windowsill or straight into the ground but use the compost to create a good basis for the seedlings

Spinach is fast and also keeps growing and like lettuce – you won’t need to keep sowing seeds. You just pick what you want and come back when it has grown back. You should be able to harvest this super healthy veg within 30 days. I picked spinach today from stuff that I planted last year  – it even survived our winter.

Another of my favourite is Pak Choi.  Yes you can grow it very well in an English garden and in pots. It grows quickly and abundantly so sow a very small amount in succession. We have been left with a glut of it and although delicious – finding things to do with it every night is hard. Again you can grow this straight in to the ground or in pots.

Three more that are easy to grow

Three other vegetables that are super easy and so lovely. These take a little longer to mature and are best in a small patch in your garden. You can start them off in pots, which work especially well for vegetables that need warmer weather to survive outside.

Peas and Broad beans are very easy and if you plant them now – you can be harvesting the best peas you will have ever tasted by mid-June. You need a bit more space for these as they grow tall and need some support – so a garden is definitely best. You can start them off in pots in your house and then transfer them when they are about 5 cm tall. Or you can grow them straight into the ground

My last vegetable will be courgettes. These are good seeds to start off in pots before you transfer them to the garden in late April/early May. They need space so more difficult in pots but a good one for the garden – easiest vegetable ever to grow. If there are just two of you in the house, or your kids hate them – just plant two seeds as they produce a lot of courgettes.

Rose Lewis



Wake up Ministry of Justice and start social distancing

Images above: Wimbledon Magistrates Court; Ann Crighton

Let’s hope someone at the Ministry of Justice was watching the TV at 8.30 last night, with the rest of the country. While major criminal trials have been cancelled, minor traffic offences were still being prosecuted last week. Twice Ann Crighton, Direct Access barrister and foudner of Crighton Chambers, had to to set off last week, to magistrates courts in Wimbledon and Cheltenham, to queue up and be searched, to represent her clients. ‘Not a sign of hand sanitiser’. She felt compelled to write to to her MP and the leader of Hammersmith (her local) council about it.

Not a sign of hand sanitiser

The Ministry of Justice (probably better named Ministry of Injustice) seem to know nothing about ‘social distancing’.  Let me give you some examples of my personal experience in the last week.

Monday I schlepped off to Wimbledon Magistrates Court – client up for drink driving. Got to Court and showed security my MoJ pass (I sit on the bench of Employment Tribunal so have one with a photo and that is supposed to grant me access to any MoJ building).  Security refused to recognise. Fair enough so I then showed her Bar Council pass on my phone (Wimbledon Court supposed to be taking part in that scheme). Security person couldn’t get her phone to work, therefore, could not verify pass but spent 15 min trying to.  So, Security make me queue up with defendants and witnesses to be searched (thoroughly). Not a sign of hand sanitiser etc. What are the chances of a middle-aged woman bringing a fake MoJ pass to Court and, along with that, a fake Bar Council pass?  Doesn’t matter – automaton decides I am not to be trusted so searched I must be.

Wednesday, my friend Julian, another barrister emailed Luton Court to seek an adjournment on basis his client was in Spain and could not get out of Spain. Response (twice) was that he needed to attend and apply in person. So, off he schlepped from Wimbledon to Luton and the application was granted in a couple of minutes.  He too had to queue up to get through security. Anyway, after that waste of time, off he went back home to his very young children.

Friday, I rocked up at Cheltenham Court. Searched (along with everyone else entering Court). No gloves or hand sanitiser in sight (but they are more pleasant than Wimbledon).  In the Advocates room I was joking with other barristers quoting Shakespeare ‘First thing we do is kill all the lawyers’ and I was told that the week before there were bottles of hand sanitiser around but this week a member of the Court staff had collected them all and placed them in the Magistrates retiring room.  Don’t know if that is true or not (hearsay) but fact is I could see none around let alone being used.

My friend Julian and I deal with traffic offences.  The offence I dealt with on Friday was a youth charged with no insurance.  He had fully comp insurance for his car but the problem was his car was in the garage and he drove his Dad’s car but, despite fact he paid £3.5K for insurance it did not cover him to drive his Dad’s car.  Technical and PC should have let him off with a warning but that is not how money is raised for the Government.

So, minor traffic offences being prosecuted but if my client had been charged with murder, case would have been adjourned because of Coronavirus.

I am amused when I read those over 70 to be placed under (roughly) house arrest, bars closed, gyms closed and so on to ensure ‘social distancing’ whereas the Ministry of Injustice (a Government Dept) are intent on doing their best to spread Coronavirus (or given the state of the Courts any other disease).

Quite astonishing that you/the Government should shut parks but I am due in Brighton Court on Friday to represent a chief exec of a successful Co, a middle aged man who has never been to Court before, on a speeding charge. He will queue up to be thoroughly searched by security and, when the case is over, he will go home to his wife and kids and I will schlep back to London and cook dinner for my son and his friend who are off school because of Coronavirus.

Other friends/members of my family cannot believe this is happening but Secret Barrister and everyone else involved with the justice system knows that it is just typical of the MoJ BUT I thought I would write this long email to you because you ought to know because what is happening is just wrong & possibly dangerous.

Doesn’t seem to matter what madness the MoJ gets involved with e.g. sale of Hammersmith Court, endangering lives, etc. – they get away with it.

Interested in raising it?  It is controversial but can be corroborated and is definitely the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Hogarth Club introduces new fitness programme

Guest blog by Vojin Soskic

The New Year is here. Predictably it is back with a bang and not just if you saw some fireworks. On the crest of that wave, we can exclusively reveal a brand new product at The Hogarth.

We introduce to you… The Hogarth Octagon Health and Fitness tests!

January is a popular time in gyms but we know there is danger of not maintaining the momentum in the coming months. One of the ways to stick to it is to set goals which are specific and measurable. These can then be reset as you reach one to target another. The Octagon tests will be a great way of achieving long term success.

Whether you are a beginner or a more seasoned exerciser everyone will have areas for improvement and the Octagon measures 8 categories in Health and 8 in Fitness, which will give you a starting point from which you can aim to improve and retest down the line.

Photographs above: Octagon Health testing

The Hogarth Octagon Health test will screen for 8 cardiovascular disease risk factors: age, family history, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, blood pressure, body mass index, diabetes and cholesterol. Whilst risk factors like age or family history cannot be affected the other six can be tackled proactively. Whether you need to lower your blood pressure or increase your activity levels we will help you do that. Even if you are not at risk from any of these, don’t wait until you are and keeping fit will combat them ahead of time. Think of it as a health M.O.T.

We can get through it all in less than 20 minutes and you will be much better informed about your health status. It might feel like being back at school as you will be graded from A-E at the end.

Photographs above: Octagon Fitness testing

As for The Hogarth Octagon Fitness tests, do not worry it is not an entry exam for the army! In half an hour it will look at strength and cardio as part of it, but it will also look at the quality of your movement. We will assess control, flexibility and mobility. The 8 tests will each determine a score out of 5. The range of motion of your muscles will directly impact what you can or cannot do in exercise and everyday life.

For this we will check ankle, posterior hip, anterior hip and upper body mobility. An overhead squat will be assessed for depth of movement and control. Single leg stability will test both sides individually as the ankle, knee and hip joints work in unison during the exercise. Your core strength will be scrutinised with an abdominal curl test. You will finish with a 3-minute Watt Bike test from which we can measure your aerobic capacity.

The variety of these tests will paint a comprehensive picture of your fitness and you will get an overall score from 1-5 alongside the individual categories. This should give you the impetus to work on areas of improvement and consolidate your strengths.

You can book in for either the Health or the Fitness Octagon. Or you can do both in under an hour.

The new decade has begun and at The Hogarth we are always looking at evolving in our quest to help people improve in their aspirations. We feel The Octagon will be able to enhance a clearer vision for everyone’s goals in 2020!

Hope to see you at the gym desk soon.

Vojin Soskic runs the gym at the Hogarth Club

The Hogarth Club sponsors The Chiswick Calendar and offers Club Card members an exclusive membership deal.



Ealing refunds parking fines

Guest blog by Cllr Andrew Steed

Did you get a parking permit reminder?

This was a story from last autumn: Ealing Council had a IT meltdown with the result residents did not receive reminders to renew their permits. Upto 3,000 Ealing residents subsequently ended up with a parking fine. Many appealed but the Council response was that it was up to residents to renew and rejected appeals. Local LDs raised the issue with parking, with the Portfolio Holder, the Chief Executive and asked questions at Full Council. To be frank it looked like the Council were adamant and would not do the decent thing. However I began to hear anecdotal stories that some of those who appealed were receiving notices cancelling the fines and refunds issued. It has now been confirmed that the Council will refund all residents who were penalised as a result of the Council’s own failure.

Crime down in Southfield?

Last Tuesday I attended our local Police Panel with 30 other residents. All wards in London have, or should have Police Panels, it is a key ingredient of Community Policing. Over the years Southfield has benefitted from some effective Chairs, committed ward sergeants and dedicated PCSOs and a team of Street Watchers. On this occasion we were joined by Inspector Leigh Ballard who manages the 23 wards in the Borough. Topics included doorbell cameras, thefts of catalytic converters, fly-tipping, and the relationship between the various ward police teams. Overall crime is down in Southfield year on year.


As the discussion forum indicates this is a big issue at the moment with a number of proposals in the ward and neighbouring the ward. The TfL proposal for Bollo Lane is actually in South Acton but will impact us significantly: the initial consultation gave the impression there would be something in the region of 400 units-to now discover it will be twice that number is shocking. The Stanley Road development with a planned 22 storey tower is also a concern, with local opposition growing and getting organised. Closer to home, as it is actually in the ward, are the plans for Cobbald Way, the site is currently a car park behind Greenend Road, adjacent to Acton Pumping Station. This last application is due to go to the Planning Committee soon, maybe in February, and I will speak against it.

Ward Forums – the final chapter?

Hounslow has Area Forums, Ealing has Ward Forums. Credit where it is due, the Ward Forum was originally a Conservative initiative. Over recent years Labour reduced the recommended number of meetings, the extent of officer support, and the budget to spend locally. Our meeting in St Albans Church on the 1st April will be the last such meeting. We maintained four meetings a year, lived with limited officer support, and enjoyed being challenged by residents. The ability to fund local improvements, be it lighting in our parks, helping local charities, or contributing to the Turnham Green Murals was appreciated by all. It is a great shame and without wishing to sound too dramatic, bad for local government and local democracy.

Cllr Andrew Steed is one of three Lib Dem councillors representing Ealing borough’s Southfield ward.

Green shoots in the housing market

Guest blog by James Waight

Welcome to our first Chiswick property market blog of the year and decade. As the cloud of political uncertainly recedes, green shoots begin to emerge for the market.

Regardless of your political persuasion, having more clarity about the direction of our country is creating greater confidence amongst buyers. There is a huge amount of pent up demand and it didn’t take long for us to agree our first sale of the year, a lovely two-bedroom apartment in Goodwood House at the asking price.

We are hoping this positive result is an omen for the rest of the year. The mood amongst property professionals is bullish, the vast majority expect property transactions to increase and modest price growth.

Certainly the early indicators are encouraging, the number of buyers registering is up massively on last year as is the number of viewings we have carried out.

As I write this blog we have just agreed the sale of a charming house on Wilton Avenue within one week of marketing, after receiving multiple bids. This is not unusual as there is still a shortage of available properties, so now could be a prudent time to market your home.

If you would like any advice on selling, buying or renting please don’t hesitate to contact us, alternatively feel free to pop into our office on Turnham Green Terrace.

James Waight is Associate Director of John D Wood & Co estate agents in Chiswick. John D Wood & Co sponsors The Chiswick Calendar.

From the Curious to the Extraordinary

Photographs above: Flea circus photograph by Robert Doisneau; an egg of the Elephant Bird from Madagascar 

In January 2020, Chiswick Auctions will hold its inaugural From the Curious to the Extraordinary auction. The sale will celebrate the weird, the wonderful and everything in between and will be the ultimate cabinet of curiosity for interior enthusiasts or those with eccentric tastes. Ahead of the sale, we take a look at some of the items already consigned by their Specialists.

Step right up, come one, come all to the greatest show on earth

French photographer Robert Doisneau is known for his humanist photography and romantic images of Paris. In contrast Doiseneau’s work in the Curious sale ‘A flea tows a gun carriage as part of Wagner’s flea circus’ captures the bizarre but charming and once extremely popular mode of entertainment.

The flea circuses heyday was in the 1830s due to the abundance of fleas and was originally used by watchmakers to display miniature objects. The circuses remained popular for 50 years but slowly died out due to modern hygiene practices and the invention of the vacuum cleaner, which wiped the star performers out, making this image a throwback to a bygone era. Estimate: £400-600.

How many eggs does it take to make an omelette?

Like their namesake the flightless Elephant Bird from Madagascar was huge! Standing at a towering 3 meters, their eggs were no exception on the size scale, measuring in at 34cm and weighing around 10kg. Now extinct, they are the largest type of bird eggs to ever be found, with the volume of a single Elephant Bird egg weighing 160 times more than that of a chicken’s egg. Estimate:  £2,000-3,000.

The continuing mystery of the head and the theatre

This mysterious painted terracotta head is a fascinating sculptural object and yet we do not know the maker, function or subject. Indistinctly inscribed to the inside ‘John L.M.L ii V.on.V Theatre, London 1873’, despite much research, the owner has not been able to find a direct link to any particular theatre. It has been suggested, it was used as a stage prop or acting tool, perhaps a very strong man could place his head inside to play a part, hence the eyes that are drilled out. Whether it depicts the Green Man, a satyr or the devil himself is also up for discussion.
Estimate £1000-1500.

All creatures great and surreal

This work by British artist Harriet Horton’s takes the ancient art of taxidermy developed by the Egyptians, who not surprisingly mastered this pretty well owing to their already apt skills of mummification and mixed it with a splash of surrealism and pop art.  Horton’s work becomes a bizarre mix of the macabre and a candy colour daydream, that would look perfect adorning any room. Estimate: £350-500.

If you are interested in the sale please contact Head of Sale, Rachael Osborn-Howard at

From the Curious to the Extraordinary will take place on Tuesday 21st January 2020.


Britain abandons the rights of children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest blog by Sara Nathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Volunteering in Chiswick 

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

Ruth Cadbury’s 2020 look ahead

Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury MP

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

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

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

2020: Looking ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Thousands encouraged to join bad tax schemes

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

A year of planting and art

Saplings ready for planting in Chiswick House Walled Garden

Guest blog by Karen Liebreich

Abundance London’s year ended with a splurge of tree and hedge planting. The more we read about climate change and loss of biodiversity, the more the evidence reveals that planting stuff is important. Of course, it’s not a solution, but it’s a contribution.

Tree and hedge planting

We were involved in lots of tree and hedge planting over the past weeks. Luckily in most cases other people did the planting and we just helped out, supplied plants, mentored, or, in some cases, simply stood by and encouraged the workers:

We filled the gaps with new saplings on the Sleeping Beauty Hedge along Burlington Lane, and added hundreds of daffs and forget-me-nots. Last November we planted the bulk of the hedge and nearly all of it has survived the first year, in spite of some rubbish tipping and people walking through it. Particular thanks to Rory Harding. One day soon this will be a dense flowering hedge, full of twittering sparrows and wild roses.

Chiswick House walled gardens staff and volunteers planted up hundreds of saplings that Abundance had rashly signed up for from the Conservation Trust. This hedge will provide nourishment and shelter for the bees whose hives are in the northern walled gardens; jars of honey and a shelter belt for insects.

Volunteers installing planters by Gunnersbury tube station; Cherry blossom by Jon Perry

Friends of Harvard Hill Park organised an amazing community planting day attended by some 120 adults, loads of kids, and Lampton Greenspace 360. Councillor Hearn got his hands muddy, and Cllr Giles had to be restrained from wielding her pickaxe too vigorously to remove rocks from the planting area. People came from near and far and Brighton to plant 800 hedging plants and 3 oak trees grown from acorns many years ago by Harry Triton. They also put in some outsize croquet hoops of living willow whose function may become more obvious once they green up in spring. This followed on from an initial planting of 200 trees by Abundance last November, carried out by local primary schools and residents, which led to the formation of a new Friends group which has energetically taken the baton and is running brilliantly with it. We now have a young buffer hedge against the noise and fumes of the A4, which will also provide wildlife habitat and a more cared-for environment.

Staveley Road Blossom Day

A group of residents are working their way down the road weeding and cleaning up the tree pits in preparation for next April’s big Japanese-themed Blossom Day when the road will be closed for our very own Chiswick Hanami; no need to visit Japan and clock up carbon air miles… Hounslow Highways will be replacing a couple of dead trees over the next few weeks, and the Blossom Day team are working on lots of very exciting activities from sushi to raku. If only we knew exactly when the blossom will be at its best…

The piazza flowers receiving some TLC

2019 Abundance achievements – PIazza, Plinth, Party, Planters and Pits

We worked hard to refurbish the piazza on Turnham Green Terrace by replacing the bike racks, planting up a perennial flower meadow, installing lovely big curving benches and launching the W4th Plinth with Sir Peter Blake’s image which will change every 6 months and bring an exciting new artwork to the embankment wall. We closed the street in September (with the Cookbook Festival and all the traders along the road) and held a fun party to launch the piazza.

Along the High Road we installed planters at Gunnersbury Tube station (with Cultivate London), planted up William Hogarth’s statue and the tree pits on Devonshire Road (with Stefano Marinaz Landscape Architecture) – all of which plantings should reveal their true glory next spring. And we picked apples and pears with local schoolchildren through September, which we pressed into juice at the Turnham Green Terrace Street Festival.

Tree pits in Chiswick High Rd and Devonshire Rd

Hounslow declares Climate Emergency – and sows wild flowers

We’ve been working with the Borough on several greening initiatives to help fight the ongoing climate crisis. Over months of meetings and discussions (yawn!) a ‘strategy group’ has been working on a new policy, to be presented to Cabinet in January. In conjunction with other community environment groups, Hounslow Highways, Lampton 360 Greenspace, Co-alo, and the Borough officers, we’ve come up with a swathe of proposals.

One of these is to stop mowing all road verges and encourage wildflowers to improve biodiversity. As some of you may appreciate, changing contractual obligations (25-year PFI!), work habits (mow grass really short!), planting and maintenance techniques, as well as public expectations (weeds, messy leaves, insects!) is a task akin to changing directions on a big tanker approaching Chiswick Bridge… If we do nothing then the effects on our lives may be similarly dramatic.

So these first signs of a real change of direction and attitude should be welcomed with loud cheering, even if these are currently smallish pilot studies; we hope they are a sign of bigger things to come. The following areas have been selected for wildflower treatment. Some have already been rotavated and sown; others will be sown in spring. Notice boards are to be installed explaining what is happening. In Chiswick we have two areas – the grassy area opposite the Steam Packet by the river at Strand-on-the-Green, and raised beds on the Alexandra Gardens estate. Hounslow Highways has packs of seeds with the same mixture available to sow for schools or local groups, so you can participate and grow your own mini-me meadow. Let us know if you’d like a pack.

Wildflower areas

Bedfont Staines Road (Spinney Drive 2 sections) Big field opposite St Mary’s Bedfont, and also on the opposite side of the Staines Road.
Bedfont Staines Road (opposite library 4 sections) Verges
Brentford Albany Road Outside Berkeley House
Brentford Ealing Road grass areas along Ealing Road
Brentford Ealing Road Front of Cressage House
Brentford High Street Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf
Brentford High Street (Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf) Albany Parade opposite Goat Wharf
Brentford High Street J/W Pottery Road/High Street
Chiswick Alexandra Gardens raised beds in front
Chiswick Strand on the Green opposite Hearne Road
Feltham Bedfont Road corner with Redford Close
Feltham Heron Way Verge at j/w A312
Feltham Snakey Lane just before the Texaco garage
Feltham Staines Road (4 sections) Verges
Feltham Sunbury Road j/w Ryland Close
Heston Almorah Road verges
Heston Burns Way verges
Heston Channel Close Entire road
Heston Guernsey Close Entire road
Heston Vicarage Farm Road j/w Cranford Lane
Hounslow West Bath Road Rosemary Aveue to roundabout
Isleworth Twickenham Road just down from the A316, behind bus stop, just across from Cole Park Allotments.
Isleworth Twickenham Road outside Ridgemead Court

Other projects

We also worked on the Great West Hedge,  hoping to plant a buffer all the way along the A4 from Chiswick to Hammersmith (or further!) and the Thames Path Pledge, hoping to enhance and upgrade the river path all through London. These are big, long-term projects, but maybe 2020 will see some progress?

Here’s hoping for a greener New Year.

Seasons greetings

Karen Liebreich is Director of Abundance London

Read more about Karen Liebreich and about Abundance London

See our profile of Karen Liebreich here

Read a feature about the work of Abundance London here

Introducing Lucy O’Sullivan

Guest blog by Lucy O’Sullivan

Lucy is the parliamentary candidate for the Brexit party for the Brentford & Isleworth constituency, 2019 general election

When you read this blog, we will have only two days left to the General Election.

Unlike many of you in Chiswick, I voted Leave in 2016. My decision to leave was not – as the papers would have it – due to insularity, age, or lack of education – indeed I am the daughter of graduates, trilingual myself and I have a Masters in modern languages from a top flight university. No, unlike all the other candidates, I lived and worked in Brussels for 16 years – and my decision was based on what I witnessed first hand. And which scared me. Lack of any meaningful economic growth, massive youth unemployment (apart from in the UK ) and no useful policies to boost employment, grandiose plans for EU expansion, EU flags, anthem, and planned EU Army … but most of all, our loss of Sovereignty and autonomy. As a EU contractor, I was even flown on a few days EU networking ‘super jolly’ to Finland with 450 others and no justifiable aims. I knew something was very wrong…. As the second largest contributor, WE – you and me – paid for that trip and the EU’s now permanent ‘largesse’.

And this week when I see riots and strikes paralysing France because Macron is trying to streamline their overgenerous pensions system – public sector pensions eat up 16% of Government spending (in UK its 6%) …I despair. No wonder 70% of French school pupils want jobs in … the public sector. THAT’s the height of their ambition. An easy life with big fat salaries, big fat perks and even bigger, fatter, pensions at the end. Let me say it again: WE ARE THE EU’s SECOND LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR.

I want to see our country succeed. I want to see our country thrive. I want to see our country welcoming the brightest and the best from around the world not just from the protectionist EU. And I want our children and grand children to be well educated, to have ambition, creativity and fulfilment. We are the world’s fifth most successful economy let’s stay that way or surpass it! But if the Boris/May Treaty goes through Parliament unamended we will find it virtually impossible (‘LEVEL playing field’, ‘regulatory alignment’ ‘no State aid’ ) to make trade deals with any other part of the world and we will find everything from financial services to our forgotten fisheries bound by EU law…which WE fund and pay for. The Brexit Party need seats in Parliament to keep the Tories to their ‘promises’.

My (now adult) children were at Chiswick & Bedford Park pre-prep school so, naturally, early in 2008 we returned back to this vibrant West London area. I noticed the streets were far busier, traffic denser, cultural activities broader, hospitals bursting, house renting and buying exorbitant, and the cost of living prohibitive for the many. So the first thing to tackle in Brentford and Isleworth is the cost of living. This could be done when we leave the EU immediately by reducing tariffs on imported non-EU goods. Twenty per cent of UK food items are sourced out of the EU and leaving would allow us to have zero tariffs on certain foods, footwear and clothing. Secondly, the Brexit Party wants to cut VAT on domestic fuel. EU rules stop this happening but we would zero rate energy bills immediately we leave and saving an average £65 per household.

And what of our beloved NHS? The Brexit Party wants to invest in the NHS and to improve local services: unlike the other parties, we wish to implement 24hr GP surgeries and create a new non-degree level nursing qualification providing more medical and care staff in hospitals and homes.

Chiswick High Road is a car choked thoroughfare. CS9 adoption, though very divisive, might – after obvious disruption – inject some real local community feel to the area. And the Brexit party wants to invest in all our high streets, – alongside reforms to corporation tax, we would replace business rates with a simpler system funded by an online sales tax. This would make an immediate difference. Local shops and businesses must be locally supported and encouraged or we’ll lose them. After 25 years as a business consultant, I see such support as crucial to my own business success.

We would also tackle the terrible scourge of homelessness which we see on the streets of West London. We would change the funding model so councils could borrow from central government more easily to build council houses. And we would allow more flexibility in the number of affordable homes within a development scheme.

We would definitely increase police numbers – provide more visible policing on the streets and ensure focus on combating violent crime, robbery and burglary rather than as we see currently, enforcing restrictions on free speech. We also – as a priority – wish to stop the menace of drug dealers, youth gangs and the horrendous growth of knife crimes. This should not be happening in a ‘civilised’ society.

Finally, all of us at the Brexit Party intend reforming our political system so that Parliament truly represents and works for the people – and not just for ‘career politicians’. We alone are the New Radicals.

You may read our ‘Contract with the People’ at

Budget slashed for life-saving kidney treatment

Guest blog by a Consultant in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

So with three days to go before you vote, what is the true state of affairs of the NHS locally? And if this does not matter to you, don’t bother reading on. I’m not going to throw billions of pounds at you, nor share reams of data, but just my local experience. I am a consultant in the world class Kidney (renal) centre at Imperial NHS Trust (Charing Cross, Hammersmith, St Mary’s Hospitals).

We deliver some of the very best treatments available, undertake the most complex operations and transplants, look after the sickest patients, and are renowned internationally for our research and teaching. Despite this it is clearly true that patients don’t get the quality of care they need all the time. And none of this is “elective”. People don’t choose to have kidney failure, they don’t choose to need dialysis nor choose when this might happen.

Almost all of it occurs suddenly, out of the blue, and most patients need life-long care that just cannot be delivered by excellent local GPs. And the number of patients just grows and grows (expanding at about 4% per year), since these are often diseases of ageing, linked to diabetes, occur in patients with multiple other diseases, and this is despite enormous advances in diagnosis and treatment.

10% budget cut for 2020

So what is happening now? Well, I have just been asked to save nearly 10% of my budget in 2020 (we were supposed to save 5% every year for the last 4 years which we have not managed to do).

How to save 10% when kidney diseases is becoming more and more common? We already have amongst the second lowest number of doctors per kidney patient in the UK (this is bad), and over 50% of our nursing staff are from overseas and extremely anxious about Brexit; many are thinking about leaving. My clinics are already over-full, and patients often wait ridiculously long either to get an appointment or in a clinic. None of this is of course our choice.

Which bit of the work would the Minister like me to stop doing? Stop giving a kidney transplant on the first Monday of the month? Refuse to dialyse anyone over 65 years old? Stop using any life saving drugs which cost more than a packet of crisps? Although I am trying very hard, I cannot stop kidney disease in its tracks.

Poor social care, hospices full, no money for investment

We certainly could get some people out of hospital sooner, except that social care is so poor that care homes don’t have capacity to immediately take residents, or hospices are full (and mostly funded by charities).

And we certainly could be more efficient, except that that would take some up-front investment which is never available. For example currently we have had a huge boost in the numbers of kidney transplants being done locally (because of change in the allocation system nationally; a good thing), but this means we are frequently cancelling other routine operations as we only have one operating theatre we can use. Which of course is terrible for those patients affected. This could be solved by using two operating theatres, but we have no funding for this (mostly staff costs).

But, say the more right-wing conservatives, you (the NHS) are just so organisationally inefficient compared to my private GP or private consultants. Inefficient. Well, my £60 million turnover department with several hundred clinical staff, is led by one full time manager, one consultant working two days leading the unit, three middle level managers and eight administrative staff (who also do all secretarial work for 25 consultants).

And unlike my teams, the private sector just says “no” if it does not want to look after you (kidney disease is very expensive to treat), and never takes patients requiring emergency care. It never does the kidney transplants in the middle of the night. It never takes acutely sick patients. It is easy to be efficient when cherry-picking your work. And of course the private sector doesn’t need to cope with the homeless, poor, malnourished, or refugees.

Staff stressed and working very long hours

So are my renal unit colleagues stressed and disheartened? Five of my consultant colleagues have been off sick this year at some point. All those over 50 are thinking about how to just stop doing some work (we are all working more than 55 hours a week, and many more than 60). And I have not even mentioned the sorry pension saga affecting senior health care staff, mostly but not only, doctors.

It’s complex, but basically we are all being taxed more for any extra work we take on (to help patients): I face an extra tax bill (on top of my forced pension contribution and income tax) this coming year of £25,000, because I am being paid an extra £6,000 as governance, risk and quality lead for my department. And if I do extra outpatient clinics to cut the waiting list I will face a similar hit. I am paying the government to do more work. It simply doesn’t stack up!

Election promises

And so the promises. Parties can promise any numbers of nurses, but if they stop immigration of people earning low salaries (nurses) or don’t pay a decent living wage, it cannot happen. Ask any nurse if they can live in Chiswick (they cannot!). The current government abolished the nursing bursary which allowed mature students to take up nursing in huge numbers, but no longer.

And the promise of 40 new hospitals? Surely this will solve it? Imperial is one of the “new hospitals” on the magic list. But of course this promise is not funding a new hospital locally. Not even in your dreams. All we have been offered in reality is pump-priming for building, repair, renovation (and Imperial has amongst the biggest back-log of repairs and infrastructure problems of all hospitals in the UK), and an amount which does not come anywhere close to what is needed. But certainly not a new hospital.

The pension mess is not even on an agenda. One party has been in power for eight years and I can find no evidence for any benefit locally: no increase in staff, no extra funding, no new resources actually in place to make healthcare better. And I have not even mentioned GPs. Clearly investment needs a revenue stream meaning an economy generating wealth, but it then needs a genuine will and commitment.

One party has made a sensible promise for increase in income tax to be dedicated to the NHS. As for the rest, I am unconvinced by the rhetoric which strikes me mostly as meaningless and completely devoid of any sense of reality.

The author is a Consultant in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

See other guest blogs by the same author

A doctor’s view of Charing Cross Hospital A&E decision

NHS – one of the hot topics during the 2019 general election campaign

See what the candidates for Brentford & Isleworth constituency Ruth Cadbury (Labour), Helen Cross (Lib Dems) and Seena Shah (Conservatives) had to say about the NHS during our election debate:

The Chiswick Calendar 2019 general election debate