U turn on funding school meals

A few days ago, Cllr Tom Bruce, Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Education, Youth and Children’s Services, wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, criticising the Departments for Education’s decision not to fund free school meals during half-term. He was one of more than a thousand councillors across England to have written to the government calling for free school meals to be provided over the half-term and summer breaks, after ministers said there were no plans to fund them during the forthcoming holidays.

Ordinarily free school meals are only provided during term time, but the government made an exception last month because of the unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty facing schools and parents. At Easter, vouchers were made available at the last minute to help support the most disadvantaged families and the councillors warned they would now face “holiday hunger” as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

The Government has now reversed this decision and will retrospectively reimburse schools for the costs. Schools minister Nick Gibb revealed during an education committee hearing on Wednesday, half way through the May half term week, that the government would now fund free meal vouchers for this week.

Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s shadow children’s minister, said:

“Labour has always supported families accessing free school meals over half-term, but announcing this U-turn during the week itself is far too late. Families have been extremely worried that they would not be able to feed their children properly this week as a result of the Government’s initial reluctance.”

Cllr Tom Bruce also had a number of other questions for the Education Secretary, which still need an answer:

  • ‘Are schools expected to remain open for critical workers and vulnerable pupils over the summer break?
  • ‘Are schools expected to remain open for a wider cohort of children?
  • ‘If schools or summer schemes are to be offered during the summer break, will the Department for Education fund free school meals?
  • In light of the Government’s demand that Transport for London withdraw free travel to under 18s, what support will be given to those travelling to and from school?

Cllr Bruce said:

“It was of course welcome that the Government u-turned on its disgraceful decision not to fund free school meals, and has done the decent thing in supporting schools and families during this extremely difficult time.

“However, it’s unacceptable that there is still so much uncertainty around how schools will be expected to operate over the coming months. It is not fair on hard-working teachers and concerned parents.

“Staff have been working non-stop since the beginning of the school closures, often in very unfamiliar and difficult conditions. Many schools in Hounslow have remained open through the Easter period, bank holidays and half term, supporting key workers and vulnerable children. They are now planning to welcome back more children, in an even more challenging environment.

“To enable schools and parents to plan effectively we need to know now what will be expected of them over the coming months. Teachers want to strike the best balance between keeping themselves and their pupils safe, while providing the best education they can. This is impossible when the Government is keeping us in the dark. We need answers.”

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tentative return to school

See also: When are the schools going back?

Artists Stay Home – Jill Meager

Artists At Home has been a feature of life in Chiswick for decades now. The annual Open Studios by artists in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush over a long weekend in June is something many of us look forward to.

This year the artists will be ‘Staying Home’ as opposed to ‘At Home’, meaning they will not be welcoming visitors over the threshold, but they will be selling their work online instead. The Chiswick Calendar will be featuring some of the work of the artists taking part this year over the next few weeks.

Today’s featured artist is Jill Meager.

Raised in rural Scotland, Jill works primarily in response to wildlife – its resilience, its design and now increasingly its vulnerability. She exhibits regularly in London and around the UK and has been a finalist in both the National Open Art Competition and the V&A Inspired By series as well as being shortlisted for the RA Summer Exhibition.

She has designed Christmas cards for Farms for City Children and InterAct Stroke Support, and one of her hares has featured in a Michael Morpurgo short story. Her work is held at the Jane Newbery Gallery, Dulwich and The Ashburn Gallery in Ashburton, Devon. She has recently developed a range of prints, cards and gifts based on the images she has created. Jill trained at Cambridge University and Putney School of Art and Design.

“I have long been fascinated by wild creatures and I feel a strong emotional connection to them. In my portraits, I try to capture their beauty, the profound meaning of their existence and the important and often under-estimated role they play in our lives.

“On my journeys, it has been a great privilege to see hares, hedgehogs, puffins, kittiwakes and many other amazing creatures, but it has also been sad to acknowledge that many of them are struggling to cope in a man-made hostile environment.”

” It’s taken me a while to adjust to a Covid world: I thought it might be reasonably straightforward since as an artist I spend so much of my time alone, but I have missed visiting the wild places that inspire my work and I have missed people and chats and the daily interactions with the outside world that I took for granted. But on my walks, I have sketched ducklings, and so many birds, and have even had goldfinches at my bird table.

I also have a toddler in the house so he has had his portrait painted. As an artist, I am very interested in the fragility of the world – how each living thing is so dependent on a fine balance of circumstances and this fragility seems to be even more prominent at the moment. I hope it is a time to reflect on what we need to take care of in our future world.”

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Artists Stay Home – Jasna Bell

See also: Bedford Park Festival goes online

Two radio plays – premiered at the Bedford Park Festival

The XV Theatre Company proudly presents two radio plays, specially written for The Bedford Park Festival.

The Bedford Park Festival is going online this year with The Chiswick Calendar as one of several digital platforms hosting events.

Creature Features by Freya Alderson and Christina Balmer

Creature Features imagines what would happen if a journalist went to interview the pets and wildlife of West London during lockdown. What are their lives like with the humans all at home? Is their habitat disturbed by the constant ‘exercising’?

A play for all the family to listen to together, let’s find out what Gareth the overweight duck and Lula the over-excited Labradoodle have to say.

Featuring: Lucy Briers, Phyllis Logan, Veronica Quilligan, Eric Carte, Adam Leese, Andrew Maud, Kevin McNally,  John Rowe and Jeremy Vine.

Creature Features will be available to listen to on Tuesday 23 June. The link for the play will be added here nearer the time and will go live on Tuesday 16 June. For the time being, just make a note in your diary!

Images above: Jeremy Vine; Kevin McNally; John Rowe

Dusted With Sugar by Christina Balmer

In this short piece we meet two characters you might find at any church fete, anywhere in England. But are they really what they seem? Bittersweet, or sweetbitter? It’s not always what you think.

Featuring: Phyllis Logan and Kevin Morris.

Dusted With Sugar will be available to listen to on Tuesday 16 June. The link for the play will be added here nearer the time and will go live on Tuesday 16 June. For the time being, just make a note in your diary!

Images below: Phyllis Logan; Fr Kevin Morris, Vicar of St Michael & All Angels Church

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Bedford Park Festival goes online

See also: Trio Manouche – The Isolation Sessions

Champagne Superhighway

House prices along London’s Cycleway routes are 80% higher than the London average, according to research carried out for letting agents Benham & Reeves. They looked at house prices along the seven cycleway routes and compared them with the average price for London. House prices along all seven cycle superhighways averaged £874,578, which is 80% higher than the current London average of £485,794.

Does that mean that proximity to a cycle lane positively affects the price of property? Do people actually seek out properties beside a cycleway route or is it just that the cycleway routes have been put through London’s most expensive areas, which tend to be bullet proof price-wise? I asked the director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr.

In truth, he said, their research didn’t really prove that cycle lanes cause an increase in the price of property. Their research isn’t that detailed, but what it certainly shows is that cycle lanes don’t cause a depreciation in prices.

“I hate cycle lanes with a passion” he said. “I like driving around London, but what our research shows is that well located properties in expensive areas aren’t negatively affected by the introduction of cycle lanes”.

So that’s good news for people who own properties near the High Rd or in Wellesley Rd. In the most expensive area where there’s a Cycleway – CS9 from Tower Hill to Lancaster Gate – properties are 150% above the London average.

“With the congestion zone and the costs of running a car and parking, I think cycling is one of those alternatives to public transport that people are looking to, and I think if you work in the City there’s increasing interest from people wanting to be able to jump on a nearby cycle lane”.

“One of the questions developers are most often asked (from people buying off plan) is will there be somewhere where I can store my bike?”

This news doesn’t really come as any surprise to Marc, he told me, as he did some research when ‘Boris bikes’ were first introduced.

“Rental properties within 200 yards of a bike stand increased the rental income by 15%” he said.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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

See also: Safer Streets in Chiswick: Time for Action not Words

Phasing out the lockdown

Image above – Chiswick House Gardens, photograph by Anna Kunst

Phase one of the lockdown is coming to an end. We will find out properly on Sunday what the Prime Minister has in mind, but already it’s been widely reported that people will be able to move more freely, have picnics in the park and so on.

Whatever Boris says on Sunday, it is not expected that the economy will just snap back to normal. More than six million jobs have been furloughed, according to HMRC, all non-essential shops have been closed since 26 March, and our concept of normality is being redefined as people have begun to realise the enormity of dealing with this virus.

Images above: Dominic Hughes, owner of Pot Pourri; Stephen Foster, owner of Foster Books; Leona & Mark Janson-Smith, owners of PostMark

The Chiswick Calendar has been talking to people in Chiswick about how they are adjusting their expectations.

Traders are adapting their way of operating in acknowledgement that fewer people are going to want to do face to face shopping even when the shops are reopened, having been frightened into staying at home for five weeks.

So far we’ve spoken to food businesses who have introduced deliveries and click and collect services. Last week I spoke to florist Dominic Hughes about how Pot Pourri has fared, Les Magiera of Autocheck Chiswick and John Fitgerald, busy refitting Snappy Snaps with individual perspex booths to enable social distancing when they reopen.

This week Stephen Foster of Foster Books and Leona Janson-Smith of PostMark have talked to The Chiswick Calendar about their plans for post lockdown.

Image of Chiswick House – Photograph by Anna Kunst

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Upper Room braced for more people needing help

See also: Walk a Mile for The Upper Room charity

Man in the Middle – Chapter 34: The lure of yoga

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

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

No.34 The lure of yoga

I’m woken by a South African woman urging me to ‘keep going’ and the sound of panting in my right ear. Her voice is slightly muffled, but her message is clear.

‘Nearly there. Don’t stop now.’

I can’t remember starting, to be frank, and I’d much rather go back to sleep. It’s 8.30am, for Heaven’s sake.

‘Noooooh,’ I moan, two fifths awake. ‘Too tired.’

I only went to bed five hours ago after a marathon TV binge with my son: ‘Zombieland Double Tap’ followed by two back to back series of ‘Adventure Time’, the greatest work of art about pre-pubescent boyhood, an era which my family agree I’m an expert in.

Unfortunately, the woman’s has voice has latched onto me. Much as I’d like to, I can’t go back to sleep. I get out of bed and go to the window.

In the next door garden, the young family is exercising together on yoga mats while their South African female fitness instructor’s voice urges them onto new levels of well-being from out of a laptop.

‘And…Rest. Egg-cellent, you guys. Same time tomorrow?’ she asks.

‘OK,’ I mumble, staring at my bare feet and tired, grey pyjamas.

I shut the window and lie on the bed. I’m being left behind. Others are using the lock down to better themselves, whereas my only achievement has been to master the YouTube app’s new voice search function. And I only did that to save the energy required to press the buttons on the TV remote. I must take a lead from my neighbours and shake off my covid lassitude.

At breakfast, I take my first step to redemption by apologising to the family for failing to be a positive role model.

‘I should have done something constructive with the time but all I’ve done is wallow in Ground Hog Day,’ I confess.

‘You’ve been eating like a ground hog too,’ says my son.

‘But today, I’m putting that right. I’m adopting a new faith, a new mantra: ‘Carpe Diem’.’

‘Is he converting to Catholicism?’ asks Mother.

‘No, he’s going to stop being a slob,’ says my wife.

Mother releases what could be a hiccup or a truncated giggle.

‘How will we recognise this ‘Carpe Diem’ stuff, dad?’

‘I’m open to suggestions.’

‘Try to get a bit fitter,’ pleads my wife, who has taken up Italian, crocheting and bread making in the spare time around doing her full-time job.

Getting fit? I wonder if I could slip into our garden each morning and secretly work out alongside the neighbours? The instructor’s South African accent easily carries the fence.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ says my wife.

‘Think about what?’ I ask.

‘Joining in with the neighbours. They don’t want to hear you puffing away like an asthmatic sea lion and if you tried their workouts, you’d have a heart attack in five minutes.’

I don’t how she knew what I was thinking but she’s right. It would be unfair of me to disrupt my neighbours’ morning work out by having a heart attack. They’d be within their rights not to speak to us again, if I did.

‘What about yoga?’ says my wife.

‘Yoga sounds fun,’ I say, remembering yoga doesn’t involve running around or weights.

‘I once bought his father a yoga tape,’ Mother chips in. ‘Just after his first stroke.’

‘Tape means VHS video,’ I say to my son, not wanting him to be excluded from a piece of family memorabilia by old fashioned terminology. He shrugs his shoulders.

‘I’m not stupid you know.’

‘He often got very angry with the video player, didn’t he?’ I say to my mother.

‘I think the video player caused his second stroke, actually. I found a tape jammed stuck in the machine’s mouth and him puce on the floor alongside it,’ says Mother.

The possibility his second stroke was caused by a fight with a video player is highly plausible. My father believed inanimate objects had malicious souls and set out to frustrate human beings. His blood pressure would soar when they were disrespectful, as he saw it. He wasn’t an animist, though. This was just a prejudice he adopted after years of failing at simple household tasks and DIY.

My wife gets up because she has work zooming looming. She looks me in the eye.

‘What’s it going to be, then? ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ or ‘Carpe Diem’?’

‘Bring me the yoga mat, I’m going to start right now’ I say, grabbing the moment by the throat.

‘Ha. Dad’s going to attempt yoga,’ says my son to his sister via Facetime.

‘She wants to know if I can film it. This could be our chance to become YouTuber millionaires,’

Read the next in the series – Chapter 35: Nachos





Autocheck Chiswick open for business

“Many of my customers are surprised to find we’re still open” says Les Magiera, owner of Autocheck Chiswick.

Garages are allowed to remain open, as they provide an essential services, but the Government has given drivers six months lee-way on getting their MOT done and since very few people are driving anywhere, he’s had very few customers over the last month.

“We’re not closed, but we’re not open every day” says Les, “We only open when we build up enough work and then we don’t open with a full staff”.

Before the lockdown the garage was always very busy, working six days a week. A well-established car servicing and body repair specialist, Les, who opened the business in 1983, specialises in German cars, including BMW, Audi, VW and Mercedes Benz. The business has grown a strong reputation for reliability and service quality, undertaking all manner of car maintenance and body work as well as MOTs.

“Business has halved”

Since the lockdown his business has halved.

“A lot of people don’t realise we’re still open” he says. “To be honest it’s a bit of a mess. Nothing is a hundred percent clear. The Government has told people to stay home, so that means less work for for us. I think the Government should have done a proper lockdown so that everything stopped. A stricter lockdown would have been better. Spain and Italy have had a stricter lockdown”.

I asked Les whether they are able to maintain cars and practice social distancing, with one mechanic working on each car.

“No, not really” he tells me. “Very often you need a hand from another guy and you have to work closely”. His mechanics come to work by public transport, one from east London, another from Hanwell, so they are at risk.

Line many other businesses he has had to make the decision whether to furlough his staff or keep going and bring in enough money to pay them. “Everyone has taken a cut” he says.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See more: Work restarts on the Chiswick Cinema site

See more: The Good Wine Shop is closed, but is taking online bookings and delivering wine to your door

Work restarts on the Chiswick Cinema site

Work has started again on the Chiswick Cinema site, which has been shut down for over a month. Builders from Conemar started back at the site earlier this week.

“The Government is beginning to encourage construction again” says Lyn Goleby, the entrepreneur behind the Chiswick Cinema, “and the workers on our site will be working in a socially distanced way.”

What are her thoughts on when the cinema will now open and how the movie-going landscape has changed as a result of the Coronavirus? She spoke to The Chiswick Calendar.

Image above: Lyn Goleby

Sky News is reporting today that when cinemas reopen, Odeon cinemas will not be showing Universal films. The reason? Universal released Trolls World Tour direct to on demand services, since the cinemas are shut.

“The row is over blown by the media” Lyn tells me. “It’s more likely that Cineworld will only show Universal films if they agree to abide by the 17 week window, allowing films to be shown in cinemas first”.

Having a film available only in the cinema makes it more special, the consumer feels they’re privy to something which is not universally available; they’re seeing it first and it gives going out watch a film on a big screen a sense of occasion. But the row is symptomatic of the concern in the film industry about how the experience of the Coronavirus lockdown, with the public consuming all their films at home, will affect the cinema landscape once the lockdown is eased. Will people want to go and sit in an enclosed space, next to strangers? Some cinemas are considering selling tickets just for alternate seats, but it depends on their capacity, says Lyn. For some that is just not viable.

“It’s very difficult in low capacity cinemas with fewer seats. It will probably be easier for multiplexes with a lot of screens and spare seats, and harder on independents”.

Images above: Mark Brown, project manager; Cinema site as it was in November 2019

At the moment it hasn’t affected her thinking on how the public’s experience at Chiswick Cinema will be.

“We’ll see what the landscape looks like towards the end of this year, whether there will be an immediate bounce back or whether people will react with fear and caution. A big bit of me says people are impatient to get back. There’s been too much fear spread by the media, with the emphasis always on the death toll”.

Her only concession to the Coronavirus so far has been to plan for automated ticket machines.

“We had them in the plan originally, but then I decided against them. preferring personal customer service. Now I think I will probably put them back in”.

“We won’t be opening in September”

Where she has been forced to compromise is on the date the cinema will be ready. Not only has their been no work on the site for over a month, but supply chains in the building industry have been disrupted.

“We won’t be opening in September” she says. “Inevitably there will be a delay”. They had the steels and fixings on site already, before everything was shut down but they are waiting for a revised schedule from Conemar, who are in turn talking to their suppliers.

But at least they’re back at work and the show is on the road again.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Cinema update, November 2019

See also: Perspex screens go up in Snappy Snaps

Perspex screens go up in Snappy Snaps

The Chiswick Calendar talks to John Fitzgerald about the shop’s Coronavirus refit

At the beginning of the lockdown period people embarked on all sorts of ambitious projects – decorating, learning a language, developing their cooking skills – but not apparently going through their photographs.

I’d have thought that Snappy Snaps, who offer an online printing service, would be rushed off their feet with photography projects, but no. In normal times they’d have maybe 20 jobs per day through the website; now they’re down to two a day, if that.

“I think it’s difficult to concentrate on big projects” says John Fitzgerald, franchise owner of Snappy Snaps Chiswick. He himself feels like that and I’ve heard other people say the same. We’re anxious about the Coronavirus and what will happen, and it’s hard to settle on anything that requires too much sustained focus.

Snappy Snaps’ staff are all on furlough. Usually the shop, run by John and his brother in law Anthony Gallogly, is buzzing, with people queuing for attention, whether it’s to get prints done or pictures framed, a passport photo or a baby portrait. Looking ahead to the time when they will be permitted to open again, John has been thinking about how they can offer the best customer service they can while keeping staff and customers safe.

“It’s not possible to be two metres away from another person in our shop” he says. “I’m not sure it works in any shop really”. Whereas people are prepared to queue for food and medicines, he’s not sure they will for non-essentials, so he’s been been using this period of enforced inactivity to redesign the shop to accommodate as many customers as they can.

They’ve packed away the stock and ripped out the old bank of computers along the left hand wall. Instead they’re installing four perspex kiosks which abut the serving counter, like the old sound booths in record shops in the 1960s, so customers can use the computers, facing the serving counter, shielded from fellow customers on either side. John and his staff will be shielded from customers by a perspex screen all along the counter, but they will be able to see their customers’ photos on computers mirroring those in the kiosks, on the staff side of the counter.

“Our changes to the shop will make it a safer environment for customers and our colleagues while maintaining the personal service we always strive for” says John.

How will you be able to hear people? I ask “You can be sure Anthony won’t have any trouble making himself heard” he says, with a laugh. The perspex, though effective against bodily fluids, is thin enough for customers and staff to be able to hear each other.

Online framing consultations

Framing consultations will also be conducted through a perspex barrier. The framing counter is staying in the same place, on the right hand side of the shop as you go in. Customers can look at the options for mounts and frames as they can now, just not be able to touch them. The shop will continue to offer passport photographs but John doesn’t imagine there will be much appetite for the portrait photography they offer in the shop’s basement studio.

John is under no illusion that trade will spring back up to the level it was before the shops were forced to close. “Some people will go straight out to the pub and to shops and restaurants as soon as they can, but there will be others who will be more cautious, and some who won’t want to go out and do anything unnecessary at all”. When the shops reopen, he’s expecting trade to be between 50% and 70% what it was before the lockdown started.

“We are working on a new app which will allow people to have a framing consultation at home through a streaming camera, if they don’t want to come into the shop” he tells me. Snappy Snaps has had to stop all framing for the time being because they can’t get the supplies, but they hope to be able to try out the new app soon, and when it’s up and running they will also offer a free home delivery service. They we will be setting up a booking system for consultations on complicated projects.

“We should have some of the changes ready for end of next week” he tells me. “We will be ready for re-opening of the high street whenever it is announced”.

“We are committed to making this new normal as normal as possible while still ensuring a safe working environment”.

Meanwhile they are offering their usual service of printing and delivering gloss prints, and a selection of photogifts, canvases and posters through the website.


Chiswick Station House looking for new tenant

The station house at Chiswick station (the actual station house which backs on to the platform, not the pub of the same name on the other side of the tracks) has come on the market, available to rent.

Currently a design studio, the yellow brick building on Burlington Lane was originally the stationmaster’s work place during the golden age of steam. The building is Grade II listed, built in 1849 to service the Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway as an extension of the Richmond Railway, which was taken over by the London and South Western Railway in 1850.

The station is mentioned in Queen Victoria’s journal. She was a frequent visitor to Chiswick House and a prodigious diarist. Her earliest entries date back to before the railway was built. On 10  August 1839 she wrote:

‘Talked again of my being so bored in London; of my going to Bushey on Monday, and intending to go to Chiswick one day, which I had never seen; of my wishing to see places.’

On Saturday 19 June 1841 she got her wish:
‘We set off for Chiswick, Ly Barham, Henrietta, Ld Poltimore, Ld George Lennox & the 2 Equerries, following in other carriages… The Duke of Devonshire, & Ly Carlisle, & the Dss of Sutherland received us … The luncheon was very fine & there was some pretty music … After luncheon, we saw the Children, & the weather having cleared up, we all walked in the garden & pleasure grounds, which are very beautifully laid out. A Band was playing on the grass. The place is quite Italian living’.

She wrote of the traffic jams when fashionable London went out en masse to visit the botanical gardens at Kew:

‘Drove home by Chiswick, & got into a great crowd of carriages, returning from a Botanical Fete’

Photograph above: The Mayflower, taken in 2015 by Ian Wylie

When trains were introduced she notes the ‘amazing rapidity of going on rail-ways’, and her next visit to Chiswick House, 30 years after her first, was by train:

Friday 7 July 1871
‘We went to Chiswick, & drove from the station to the house in a few minutes’

After that she became a more frequent visitor as her eldest son the Prince of Wales rented Chiswick House in the 1860s and 1870s, so the station house would have witnessed some very grand scenes.

Tuesday 11 July 1876
‘At ¼ to 5 left for Chiswick with Beatrice, Leopold, the Dss of Atholl, Evelyn P. & the 2 Equerries, Lenchen, Christian & his sister, joining us at the South Western station, — to attend Bertie & Alix’s garden party. They met us with their children & took us into the garden party’.

Chiswick’s 21st century residents occasionally get a taste of what it must have been like to travel here under steam. The Cathedrals Express company run occasional trips from central London stations to Cathedral cities.

The station house has been stylishly converted to provide modern office space and the owner has planning consent to construct a new building adjacent, which is due to be started this summer.

The property is on the market with Whitman & Co Commercial.

Suspicous puppy

Penny enters the face mask debate

Should we all be wearing face masks when we venture out? Were we led up the garden path in thinking we didn’t need to just because there weren’t enough to go round and we might have panicked?

Robert Peston to scientist:

Matt Hancock says the science shows they don’t really yield the benefit. Why do you disagree with him?

Scientist to Robert Peston:

‘Erm, because I’m a scientist who just led the world’s first cross-disciplinary international review of the evidence for this with 19 of the world’s top experts in this, and actually the evidence does not at all show what he claimed. It actually looks a lot like this could be one of our most important tools’ (in the fight against the Coronavirus).

Penny the orangutan was convinced. Either that or someone is attempting to gag her to stop her speaking out about the environmental damage done to her rainforest habitat.

Residents in sheltered housing alarmed by lack of Covid-19 care

Residents at the Garden Court sheltered housing complex in Rothschild Rd in Chiswick were alarmed when an ambulance arrived last week, returning one of the people who lives there after he’d been treated for Covid-19 at Charing Cross hospital. One of the residents, who witnessed his arrival, told The Chiswick Calendar that the hospital transport crew, wearing protective clothing, asked if they could drop him off in the communal lounge area of the sheltered accommodation, as his room was locked and he didn’t have his keys. They told the residents he was Covid-19 positive.

Another resident, Bill, asked them to stay outside until they could get hold of Careline, who manage the property on behalf of Ealing Council. Although the block of flats is ‘sheltered’ and has 40 residents over the age of 60, there is no warden on site. Careline took an hour to come, according to Bill. He and his neighbour were shocked that there appears to have been no communication or arrangement made for the man’s reception or care management.

When eventually they arrived and the transport crew brought him in, they disinfected their vehicle before they left and the Careline worker, himself wearing Personal Protective Equipment, settled the man in his room, but no attempt was made to clean the public area through which he’d passed to get to his flat.

Covid-19 positive man ‘found wandering the corridors’

A further complication is that the patient apparently suffers from dementia. Government advice is that patients who are returning from hospital having been treated for the virus should remain in self-isolation, but it’s unclear whether this man is capable of understanding that. He has carers coming in and out, but most of the time is there on his own.

His neighbours’ anxiety was increased when one of them found him wandering the corridors with his trousers round his ankles on the evening of Friday 10 April. The Chiswick Calendar has been sent a picture of him holding his stick in one hand and holding on to the communal handrail with the other.

“I contacted our housing officer twice before the Easter weekend, in office hours, and to this day (16 April) she has not responded to me. Her boss wouldn’t confirm this man had been treated for the Coronavirus because it was ‘confidential information’, but she assured me he couldn’t leave his room because he was unable to get out of bed” said the resident we first spoke to.

Response from Ealing council ‘disappointing’

‘The response from the neighbourhood manager for the Acton hub took hours and was really disappointing’ said Bill. ‘More concerned with the patients confidentiality than the fact he has a deadly virus and ignoring the safety of the other 38 residents within this Scheme, most of whom are very vulnerable’.

In fact the Secretary of State for Health has issued four notices under the health Service Control of Patient Information Regulations 2002 requiring local authorities to share data about patients with Covid-19. ‘For patients, this means that their data may be shared with organisations involved in the response to coronavirus (COVID-19), for example, enabling notification to members of the public most at risk and advising them to self-isolate’.

Having seen him in the communal space, the residents are now “terrified” that they will catch it, the neighbour told us. They are “too afraid to leave their rooms”. Bill and a friend have been wiping down the handrails, door knobs and keypads regularly with disinfectant. He called a meeting a month ago, at which residents put their questions regarding Covid-19 to the council.

“We haven’t heard anything back from it. We haven’t even had the minutes of that meeting. You’d think in a global pandemic preparations would be made. I called that meeting because we know that if Covid-19 gets a hold in here, 75% residents could die. We have people who have heart conditions, who’ve had strokes, cancer, you name it”.

He asked the council for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to carry on doing the cleaning, without success. “We haven’t seen our so-called housing officer for a month. Eventually last week we got a few cloths and a few things of Flash given to us”.

Bill and his neighbours have also seen the man’s carers leave items such as waste from his room left in the communal trash and communal laundry. Some of his carers have been wearing PPE, but others not, they say, and those that have been wearing the kit have disposed of it in the communal waste. “There are bits of apron left there and no other carers use that particular room”.

Case raises important questions

As they are unable to trust that he will self-isolate, they have asked Ealing Council to remove him so that they and he will be safer. They have involved both local councillors and MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq. As we spoke on Thursday (16 April) the residents were expecting that he would be removed, but the response from the council, communicated to the residents via their MP, has been that he ‘does not meet the threshold’ for them to take out a legal injunction to make that happen.

Amid mounting criticism of the Government over the way management of the Coronavirus has been handled in care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted at the ministerial briefing on Wednesday that ministers had been “taking action” to protect care home residents from the start of the crisis. Care providers have been calling for more testing for weeks, amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 homes.

This case in Chiswick begs the questions:

Why was there no arrangement made between the hospital and the local authority for the return of someone with Covid-19 to sheltered housing accommodation?

Why have the residents been fobbed off by council officers with assurances that this man is self-isolating when they know he isn’t?

Why is there not someone on site to help in this emergency?

Why is he not being moved to somewhere equipped to deal with people who don’t have the mental capacity to understand self-isolation?

Will he now be re-tested to put the other residents’ mind at rest?

We have contacted the council for a response to those questions.

Cllr Andrew Steed, in whose ward Garden Court is located, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“One appreciates that we are going through an exceptionally difficult time for the NHS and the Council, but this episode raises many questions. How is it that an elderly person with known mental health issues can be delivered to Sheltered Housing with no forward planning or co-ordination with the result that residents are left to manage the situation? The Council accepts that the on-going care of the resident was unacceptable, what assurances can the Council provide that steps have been taken to ensure this does not happen again’?

Garden Court resident Bill told us:

‘It would seem there are no emergency measures in place to protect residents during this crisis. So if something serious happens, sort the mess out yourselves is the message’.



The High Rd loses another business to the Coronavirus

Famous Brands, the parent company of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, has said it will no longer continue to fund the ‘better burger’ chain, according to industry magazine Big Hospitality. Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) currently has 60 or so restaurants around the UK, including one in Chiswick High Rd.

Famous Names bought GBK in 2016 for £120 million, but there has been a decline in ‘casual dining’ over the past couple of years, and with restaurants now shut because of the Coronavirus, the chain now faces an uncertain future. Business analyst Anthony Clark told Big Hospitality that Famous Brands’ decision not to spend money on GBK meant the business would not survive.

“When you withdraw funding for a struggling business it is signalling its death knell”.

That is the second big hospitality company to pull the plug on a chain with a branch in Chiswick High Rd since pubs and restaurants closed on 20 March. The owners of the Roebuck went into administration just over two weeks ago.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank has suggested that 25% of the UK economy could be lost by the summer due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Le Vacherin launches crowd funding

See also: LB Hounslow wins £600,000 in fines from prosecuting criminal landlords

Chiswick School delivering food and computers to its pupils

Images above: Head teacher Laura Ellener and assistant on the delivery run; receiving a delivery of eggs

Chiswick School is one of those which has remained open for the children of key workers and those who are for a variety of reasons considered ‘vulnerable’. Since they launched a fundraising campaign to help disadvantaged children and their families just a couple of weeks ago, the school has raised £7,000. The school will remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday and over what in theory should be their Easter Break, staff will be delivering food parcels, vouchers and computers to their students at home.

Here’s an update from head-teacher Ellener and her team:

‘In such an unprecedented time, Chiswick School has been working hard to ensure there is support in place for its school community and beyond.

‘Online lessons and other resources are being used and students are engaging with work that has been set and families are managing with this new way of learning. The school has made its own YouTube Channel ‘Chiswick School Blog’ to enable students to feel connected while they are at home and the twitter feed @ChiswickSchool is a great way to keep in touch with the work the school is doing during this time.

‘The school remains open for children of key workers and other vulnerable students. Teachers are working on a rota system and social distancing is in place. The students are completing online work, experiencing creative activities such as Art and cooking and also spending time at the school’s allotment and playing sports. Over Easter the school has also decided to remain open – including Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Images above: food parcels ready for delivery

‘In addition, the school has been delivering food parcels to hundreds of children. With the help of their school caterers ‘Innovate’, recipe packs were made up complete with instructional videos and a recipe book. Tasty meals have been made by the students who have been sharing pictures of their dishes over twitter. Despite the government not funding free school meals over Easter, the school will be able to keep supporting as Hounslow Council have made the decision to fund this initiative.

‘Earlier in March, the school launched a fundraising campaign to support vulnerable children and their families. So far the campaign has received nearly £7000 in donations – this is a fantastic achievement and testament to the kindness and generosity of the community.

‘Some of the funds raised have been directly passed on to vulnerable families as Tesco vouchers and also used to support the FSM food parcel delivery initiative. We will begin to deliver family food parcels to those that need support after Easter. Students without computers are also being supported with teachers delivering these over the Easter break. Some of the money raised is also being used to provide dongles so that children with no internet access can get online and access the remote learning activities. Deliveries are also being made to local elderly people who have requested support. In addition the school donated approximately 300 pairs of science goggles to support The Royal Hospital Medical Centre which looks after around 300 veterans.

‘Please get in touch via enquiries@chiswickschool.org. The school is happy to help if it can.

‘Headteacher Laura Ellener said:

“The teachers and support staff at Chiswick School have been extraordinary during this time and are working hard to support students who are in school and those learning from home. I feel incredibly lucky to be working in Chiswick and we love serving the community here. We miss the students a great deal and we are working hard to keep in touch and make sure they continue to learn. We have been very impressed with their efforts so far and urge them to keep going and to stay at home. Hounslow local authority have also been incredibly supportive as have our students’ parents. We have been so grateful for the messages of support.”

Anyone wishing to donate should do so via the school website – www.chiswickschool.org

Still working on the Flower Market

We are still working on the Flower Market idea, though obviously the original intention of starting it in May has gone by the wayside. One thing we’d like you to do, if you would be so kind, is to fill out a brief survey, which will help us with the next stage of development.

Read what we’ve done so far and what our next steps will be, aided by the feedback we get from the survey.

Update from the Chiswick Flower Market Team

An update from the flower market team and your jobs for April!
1. Fill in our survey
2. Send us your kids’ artworks
3. Stay safe and socially distanced

Once upon a time, in a previous life, on 20th February BC (Before Coronavirus) we held a large public meeting at the George IV, attended by many Chiswickians including many traders from the High Road and surrounding shopping streets. It was lively, positive and very encouraging, and we felt there was a real sense of community and excitement.

Things have of course been delayed, but we are using the time to hone our plans and get ourselves ready for the Great Re-Opening.

The team – led by local residents Karen Liebreich of Abundance London, Bridget Osborne of the Chiswick Calendar and Ollie Saunders Chartered Surveyor – gave a short presentation. From a palette of possibilities we had selected two ideas to run with – a Chiswick Flower Market and a Property Forum to help kickstart the revitalisation of the High Road. We emphasised that these were not exclusive ideas – others were more than welcome to run with other ideas, but perhaps the Flower Market could act as an icebreaker for many more, easing the path for other initiatives. Food, vintage, arts and crafts were other popular ideas and we look forward to seeing their development too.

As a result of the meeting and the strength of feeling from the floor, along with the feedback received afterwards, a Tenants and Landlords Forum has been set up, led by Ollie Saunders, with help from local Chartered Surveyors Jeremy Day and Andy Cole. CPD sessions were already planned, along with ways of providing help and advice to existing tenants and those looking to open on the High Road.  The Forum would also provide more information about rental levels in Chiswick so that the property market worked better for everyone.

It was all looking very promising with government initiatives on rates and green shoots popping up in the Chiswick crevices before everything fell off the Corona Cliff. The Forum is now helping tenants in discussions with landlords and is striving to help keep as many businesses solvent so that when it is safe for us to emerge blinking into the light once more and we can again say that ’Chiswick is Open’, as many of our shops will have survived as is possible.  

The Flower Market plan was (is!) for a monthly Sunday morning market on the old Market Place, the area in front of the police station currently used as a car park. The idea of creating a Columbia Road for West London was received with great enthusiasm.

Before even whispering the idea we had approached the existing flower sellers and the traders who overlook the area. As Nature Intended, Chateau and Foster Books were supportive. Dukes Meadows Trust which runs the weekly Farmers’ Market was also positive and has since been generous with advice. All seemed set with a fair wind.

In the days that followed the meeting the Flower Market team set to work with huge enthusiasm. Our inbox was full of support – ‘a wonderful idea… a fantastic idea… an excellent initiative… ‘ and this was accompanied by offers of support for which we are very grateful. We will be in touch shortly. We will be needing help pretty soon, both administrative and on the ground help on Market Days. Like the glamorous but redundant brain surgeons currently finding themselves fighting Corona virus by filling out boring drug charts in spare basement wards, some of the jobs may not be exciting but we will need help – and Chiswick will probably need this Flower Market to help us revitalise our High Road even more than before!

So, to bring you up to date with progress so far:

We strengthened the team. We now have a top finance director, a market manager from the events world, a designer, a surveyor, and a pool of talent to dip into as we get closer to launching.

We embarked on a major consultation exercise. It seems we are not obliged to do this for licensing purposes, but as we personally are of the area and for the area we would like everyone’s input and to listen to any issues beforehand. We dropped letters off to all the traders along the nearby part of the High Road, Devonshire Road and Turnham Green Terrace. These went in BC, and we were about to mailshot all the residents in the flats above and the houses in neighbouring roads. For obvious reasons that hasn’t happened. We provided our councillors with an early sight of our business plan, and met with several of them.

We have a survey ready that we would encourage you all to fill in. Which hours should we open? What should we sell? And any other comments you have to send us. We are listening… Please respond here – there’s a free box for you to add your comments.

We sorted out our constitutional status: We have applied to become a CIC, a Community Interest Company. We started to sort out our bank account but this has also hit the Corona Skids for now.  Likewise our insurance policies.

We met with London Borough of Hounslow. They were wholeheartedly supportive of our project and while they won’t be able to put any money into the Market, they will help us navigate the exciting issues of licensing, traffic management and waste disposal. Our learning curve is steep!

We worked out our Traffic Management scheme. We needed somewhere to park the flower trucks and we think we have found this, tucked away out of sight of the High Road and not near any residential properties, but near enough that the traders can sprint over to collect more stock.  We worked out where the disabled bays could go temporarily on the Sunday mornings. We planned out how many stalls we could have and where they would be positioned.

We started the licensing procedure. This is really boring, so we won’t thrill you with the detail. Just trust us, it’s really dull, so we are definitely taking one for Team Chiswick here!

We set up a website and twitter accountChiswickflowermarket.com and @ChiswickFlowers.

We started approaching flower traders to see if they would be interested. There was an excellent response, and then… So now we have time to curate our offering, approach the best flowery people and prepare a fabulous market for west London.

We need your art. If you are locked up with your kids please get them to create us flowery pictures. We want to use these for our banners, website, tweets and… to cheer ourselves up. So please, don’t murder your children: give them some paints, coloured pencils, i-pad, plasticine – whichever medium you can and get them to create for us. What does the Chiswick Flower Market look like? What do they want at the market? Which flowers can they see there? (We accept grown up flowery art too.) Send them as jpgs to info@chiswickflowermarket.com or via twitter to @ChiswickFlowers

So – your Flower Market jobs for April:
1. Fill in our survey
2. Send us your kids’ artworks
3. Stay safe and socially distanced

With best regards
Chiswick Flower Market Team

Answering the call

Images above: Grove Park surgery; Dr Sheila Hunt

Sheila Hunt must have dealt with thousands of patients over the years. She set up Grove Park Surgery in 1988 and retired in 2017, so is forever saying hello to people as she goes about her business in Chiswick (although a good proportion of those who’ve seen her and nodded have actually befriended someone else, as she has an identical twin sister).

She taken up art in retirement and is the treasurer of Chiswick Choir, who had their first ‘virtual rehearsal’ this week, with mixed success. She has also signed up for a 5k charity run, having never been a runner in her life before. She knows it will be cancelled, but is using her one opportunity per day to take exercise, to persevere with the training regardless.

Now she’s waiting to hear what contribution she will make to the Coronavirus emergency, as she is one of the many retired medical staff who have answered the call to help our in this national crisis.

“Most people who go into medicine want to make a positive difference” she told me. “That feeling doesn’t go away when you retire”.

Many of her peer group with whom she trained are also volunteering, and like Sheila are waiting to be told what to do next. When you apply to the General Medical Council (GMC) you are given the option of working directly with patients, or you can choose to non face to face work. She’s opted for the latter.

“There’s no point in going in and adding to the list of people who are sick” she says pragmatically.

The GMC has been waiting on the emergency legislation going through parliament to re-license former doctors. As soon as it becomes law (very shortly) retired doctors will automatically be re-licenced unless they have specifically opted out. You’d think after 30 years she would have absolute confidence in her ability, but she is slightly apprehensive.

“Telephone triage requires a very particular set of skills” she says. “When you meet a patient face to face they provide other clues you can work with”.

Having been her patient I’d be mightily relieved if I got through to Sheila for triaging, but with typical modesty she says “I have been out of it for a bit and doctors aren’t particularly good at tick lists”.

Her son is also a doctor and she is deeply concerned about the lack of protection for medical staff, which she says is “totally inadequate” in both GP surgeries and hospitals.

“The Government has had time to ramp up provision for both testing and personal protective equipment. They’re not testing anyone unless they’re admitted. The personal protective equipment is inadequate. It’s appalling. The Government should have done more testing much more quickly. They should have looked at what was happening in China and South Korea and reacted much more quickly. South Korea has had relatively few cases because they did widespread testing, they quarantined and traced contacts”.



Chiswick Confined – My Corona Blog Week 1

Keith Richards, writer and resident of Chiswick, living on his own, has started writing a diary of his Corona lock down. Beginning on 24 March, he’s documenting the experience from his last pint in a pub onwards. Here are his first two blogs from this week.

Day 1: 24 March 2020

So, like most of you I am stuck at home – or at least we are supposed to be – since BoJo’s announcement of a semi-lock down yesterday evening.  Or, if you are a Nigerian reader currently in Nigeria, you will likely be learning about the whole social distancing phenomena and wonder how you can apply it to a ‘face me, face you’ society (though probably not from your local pastor or iman – more rants about them later). If you are reading this from my sister Anne’s community around La Herradura in Spanish Andalucía this may also provide you with some balance away from the more sensationalist British media. I do not want to utter those words “I am bored”, because I have so many things I could and should be doing but, as is all too often the case, replacement activity is far too distracting and, yes, blogging counts as a replacement activity.

Even so, this is an interesting and, I guess, historically and social-behaviourally (is that a thing?) important time and worth documenting (along with the millions already doing it). This will be the record of my time here in Chiswick, West London: how I cope and what I see round about me.  For the record I am a 66 year old male and since yesterday afternoon living alone. George, my 26 year old son, was with me but as of yesterday is staying with his Mother, Pauline. That makes sense as he can continue with his University projects while helping out in her garden or walking the dogs – Fortnum, Bentley and Willow. Oldest son Tom is living and working down in Bristol. I am a social animal so like so many of us – you – it is going to be interesting to see how we cope with social distancing, solitude, maybe loneliness, in emotional, psychological as well as physical terms. My normal day would be to leave the flat, just off Chiswick High Rd, at least twice a day, ostensibly to do daily shopping but inevitably to stop in one of my regular cafés/coffee shops either on my own or to meet up with the many friends that live locally.  In the evening the walk would often end up in my local boozer, The Raven by Stamford Brook tube.  I might take a book and sit quietly on my own to read or I might equally stay at the bar and chat with one of the fellow regulars I have got to know.  Reading quietly alone in my favourite café or pub is still a social activity because I am surrounded, can observe and have the choice to engage with the people around me. Clearly, all that has now changed!  Nevertheless, current guidelines are that we are allowed to walk out for necessary shopping and to take exercise and while that is still possible – because the shops are still open, the regulations still allow it and I am still free of symptoms – I intend to utilize that option – as I did today.

Up until BoJo’s announcement and despite his repeated ‘requests’ and ‘soft warnings’ Chiswick had been recognisable as itself. Clearly quieter than normal with pubs, cafes and restaurants closed for sitting in but mostly offering deliveries and take-aways but nevertheless busy enough to make physical distancing tricky. For example, the queues in some shops were standing a couple of metres apart but others were too crowded or badly organised. Today (Tuesday) I popped out around 1 pm as I wanted to buy bread and post a book.  ( A Swedish PhD student has asked me for his studies!) There were very few people around, visibly less than the weekend.  The pharmacy where last week I queued for 30 minutes was completely empty. Most non- essential shops were shut and had signs of varying quality and clarity taped to the inside of their doors.  Obviously the many High Road Cafes were shut though some had tables outside selling their wares for carrying away and others had notices on how to order take-aways and whether they did direct deliveries. There were a few Deliveroo riders lolling around on their bikes in the weak sunshine though I imagine they would be busy later in the evening.  It was a somehow ‘discombobulating’ experience to see the popular trendy places such as High Road House, normally always busy, so eerily silent.  The few walkers were pretty focused on keeping a couple of metres apart as they passed and quite a few had masks.

So, I had two chores and they exhibited the best and worst of how traders are reacting to the challenges. As I approached the Post Office (on Heathfield Terrace) I could see a couple of people in front of a clearly shut door, straining to make sense of a square of white paper crookedly stuck on it. I kept my social distance until I too could approach the door and attempt to read, let alone understand the scruffy and tiny notice. Despite the website saying the Post Office was open with normal hours the notice was clearly saying it would only be open part-time. But what hours?  I leave you to see if you can read it? Apart from being in a twelve if not ten point font the times have been badly scribbled over so as to be illegible. While I was there a pensioner came over and was visibly distressed and had her face just a few inches as she tried to understand. When I explained and offered to help she wandered off muttering. Many pensioners still collect their pensions and allowances in cash from this Post Office and that notice was thoughtless and unhelpful. I have no problem with them reducing hours or taking steps to protect their staff but they need to communicate clearly. I already have a low opinion of the service from this Post Office and this confirmed it but several in the vicinity have now closed and my only alternative is down into Hammersmith’s King St.

At the other end of the efficiency scale was my experience at Source – the slightly hippy, plastic free, eco shop where I re-fill various containers of product as diverse as porridge oats, olive oil and washing up liquid. This trip was for dried nettle leaves (a pleasant tea and a herbal anti-hay fever remedy – with thanks to Dhill for the recommendation) and my evening treat (if I am not allowed down the pub I need a reward) of broken slabs of various dark chocolate (in this case with a hint of sea salt). In contrast to the Post Office, Source had their act together. A sign saying they were allowing 5 people at a time in the shop with a member of staff enforcing a ‘one in, one out’ system with a squirt of hand sanitizer as you go in.  That’s the way to do it!  I felt like they knew what they were doing and actually gave a shit about their staff (and their customers) so credit to them.

One of the themes of this blog will be that we all need to remember those traders and services who did give a shit during the crisis and give them our patronage afterwards. Those that are not looking after their staff, that price gouge and take advantage should be boycotted thereafter.

So, I think that is enough for my first ‘Corona Blog’ – I suspect this will be a long season, assuming I have the energy and someone somewhere actually reads it.

Please stay safe. More tomorrow.

Day 2: 25 March 2020

So, yesterday after starting this blog I went down the pub.  “How dare you do that?” “That’s irresponsible!” I hear you say.

Well, those that know me at all will also know that my local is the excellent Raven run by landlord Dave Finan and his team. When all this is over do drop in – it’s just opposite Stamford Brook tube. I knew that they were struggling when he told that me on his usual heaving St Patrick’s Day (17 March) they had about 30% of their normal Paddy’s Day volume – and that’s a lot of pints of the Black Stuff left un-drunk. On Friday 20 the sun came out so George and I took ourselves for a riverside walk along Chiswick Mall.  On our way back we just thought if the Raven was not too busy we could pop in for a sensible socially distanced pint.  At the very moment we walked in the few locals that were there were glued to the TV screen and Dave did a ‘ssshhhhhh’ from behind the bar with a finger to his lips.  It was the actual BoJo announcement that Pubs and Restaurants were to shut from that evening.  We felt for a glum looking Dave with a cellar full of un-drunk pints and a kitchen full of food ready for the weekend, so were morally forced to stay – duly distanced from the other regulars who we conversed with from afar – and consume several of those pints and eat what food we could. Which brings me to the point – why I went down the pub yesterday. The answer was to collect some eggs! Dave had messaged several of his locals to say he had so many eggs that would go to waste so we were welcome to pop down and pick up a few. So I did – and I sho

uld point out that he came out and gave them to me outside the pub and I was not allowed to sneak in for a quick one. I look forward to an omelette over the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, having deciphered the rubbish Post Office signage I took myself down this morning to catch it before it shut at 12 (or was that 12.30- who knows?) Well, today they did have a proper sign outside (was that because I tweeted a copy of the photo to the @PostOffice twitter feed?) but they also had a queue stretching 50 metres down Barley Mow Passage. Given everyone was clearly 2 metres apart it was probably only 20 people but there was a member of staff telling them that they were closing on time and would not be serving even those people already at the back of the queue. Raise a glass to customer service!  I had better go down before breakfast tomorrow.

Overall, the High Road was significantly busier than yesterday with queues outside Boots and the banks – all orderly and socially distanced. M & S had a very well organised waiting system supervised by a member of staff and my local Sainsbury’s (by the junction with Chiswick Lane) had a less well managed and more informal system. As I wanted some milk * I joined the queue.  There are always some tossers though, aren’t there? One guy turned up and went to walk in. On being stopped as the queue was pointed out to him he swore at us and marched off. I exchanged glances, bonding with my fellow pavement dwellers.  In fact, I did notice generally there was more eye contact between strangers in queues and on the streets than we would normally see in ‘reserved’ Chiswick.  Long may that continue.

Talking of supermarkets. Why is everyone rushing to the supermarket and then complaining their shelves are empty when nearly all the small, local shops in Chiswick have plenty of stock? Apart from eggs, which I am told are in short supply everywhere (not for me though, thanks to Raven Dave) I saw just about everything you need in the small businesses that we should be supporting along the High Rd. I leave you with a few pictures and a strong recommendation of where to go for your provisions if you are local.  Even the little Italian Restaurant on Elliot Road, Tarantella, is making the best of it and I will certainly try their bread at some point.

So, this is just my second of this series of blogs. Much of my writing reflects the many years I spent in Africa, particularly Nigeria. I still have many friends in Lagos and elsewhere, many that still treat me as a member of their extended family, and I am very worried about them as more and more news is coming in of the spread of the virus throughout that continent. Some of my future posts will cover what is happening out there and how that impacts their families here in the diaspora. My sister is currently in Spain where they are in the midst of what is becoming the worst outbreak any where in the world. I am worried about her and her friends as they are now in their second week of isolation. We are suburban London dwellers – and lets face it, if you are reading this missive from a privileged member of the middle class you are also pretty much going to be middle class. Remember, for many, if not most of us there are going to be many, many in worse circumstances than us.

Meanwhile, how am I doing isolated from my family? Well, I will share with you how I am determined to eat healthily – I am mighty proud of my home made soups so you may just get some of my own recipes. I am doing my best not to descend into too regular use of my pretty substantial booze stock (I do have a little bar in my apartment) nor do I want to use up my marijuana chocolate too quickly. On the other hand, as my Nigerian friends would say “Bodi no be wud o” **  and this is just the kind of circumstance that a good glass of wine, a strong bottle of Nigerian Guinness or a puff on my little pipe was designed for.  Watch this space!

* In cereal and my porridge I am now an avid user of Oat Milk but in my morning ‘cuppa’ it has to be the traditional cow’s stuff!

**  Pidgin. Literally – ‘your body is not made of wood’ an expression that means we are humans and not devoid of emotion, of one kind or another.


Supermarket chaos

I reported last week that the supermarkets had started rationing goods and opening for those over 70 only for the first hour. That was the theory. Several people reported to me that the scheme hadn’t quite gone to plan.

‘The so called special hour for elderly and vulnerable people in Sainsburys was APPALLING’ said one, who wishes to remain anonymous.

‘The few elderly there wandering aimlessly with  empty trollies while hundreds of mostly young people trashed the place. I was of course one of the elderly but more incensed than disconsolate! I arrived at Sainsbury’s in Chiswick at 7:15 AM, to find the car park completely full with barriers generously open, and the whole store heaving with people of every age, mainly young.

Over half the store had already been plundered as clean as the vulture-picked bones of an antelope on the plains of the Serengeti. The queues for the tills already stretched to the back of the store, consisting of people with trolleys crammed full, hardly any of whom appeared to qualify by the age criterion.

‘A relatively small number of elderly people, some of whom did appear quite frail, wandered the store, pushing empty trolleys, and looking like the souls of the dead thronging the banks of the river Styx, longing for oblivion. I neither saw nor heard of any indication that the management of the store either knew or cared about the ‘first hour’ promise.

Certainly there were no signs, and as far as I know no attempt by staff to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Neither did I see any sign of customers being limited in terms of the number of items purchased. Even a dedicated queue for us would have helped, as standing in a queue for over an hour is bound to tax the resilience of even the toughest pensioner.

‘I have to say I saw no examples of bad behaviour or micro-aggression, but the whole situation was entirely unacceptable and Sainsbury’s should be ashamed of themselves’.

The store in Essex Place has apologised to elderly customers. They were overwhelmed by the demand, which has been unprecedented, and say they have now taken on more staff.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: No shopping except for basic necessities

See also: Row over Councillor’s ‘go shopping’ advice

Councillors cancel face to face meetings

Images above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph; Chiswick library, where councillors’ surgeries are usually held

Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran has announced that, following the NHS Coronavirus guidance to stop face to face meetings, all councillor surgeries are cancelled with immediate effect for the foreseeable future.

In Chiswick, Surgeries with Hounslow’s Councillors usually take place at Chiswick Library every Saturday morning. These surgeries will not now take place. Councillor Joanna Biddoph, leader of Chiswick’s Conservative councillors, said councillors will remain available, as they usually are, by phone and email “to help residents throughout these extraordinary times.

“We don’t know what the impact of Covid-19 will be and hope residents will understand if we prioritise people who are vulnerable or at risk of, for example, being evicted or becoming homeless, perhaps dealing with everyday issues later.

“Our focus, and the council’s focus, will principally be on managing the crisis, maintaining essential services and following government and Public Health England guidance.  Please raise general concerns with us but knowing that Covid-19 related issues might have to come first.”

Steve Curran said: “Councillor Biddolph and I recently met and agreed that we will be working together to support the Council’s response to the coronavirus crisis in Hounslow. I know residents and businesses will be reassured that party politics will form no part of the Council’s response, this will ensure that councillors and officers are working as one for the benefit of Hounslow. We urge everyone to follow the Government’s and Public Health England’s guidelines so that together we can protect the most vulnerable and continue to deliver essential services.”

How to contact your councillor

Here are the contacts for Hounslow councillors representing Chiswick:

Chiswick Homefields ward

Cllr Patrick Barr
07976 703263

Cllr Gerald McGregor
07866 784821

Cllr John Todd
07866 784651

Chiswick Riverside ward

Cllr Michael Denniss
07976 703274

Cllr Gabriella Giles
07966 270823

Cllr Sam Hearn
07833 376222

Turnham Green ward

Cllr Joanna Biddolph
07976 703446

Cllr Ranjit Gill
07976 702956

Cllr Ron Mushiso
07976 702887

Here are the contacts for Ealing councillors representing Chiswick:

Southfield ward

Andrew Steed
07736 649 664

Gary Busuttil
07985 443 860

Gary Malcolm
07813 205 218

More planes flying over Chiswick?

Heathrow has a Plan B says Ruth Cadbury

Last week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal that the proposed expansion of Heathrow is unlawful is a setback for the airport authority, but Ruth Cadbury MP says the airport has a Plan B.

The Appeal Court ruled their proposed expansion was not legal because it did not meet the Government’s international commitments on Climate Change. Heathrow is appealing the decision in the Supreme Court.

Whether it manages to challenge the ruling successfully in the Supreme Court or whether it has to revert to its Plan B, either way their ‘insatiable appetite for more flights’ will mean more planes over Chiswick, she argues.

Statement on Heathrow expansion by Ruth Cadbury

‘The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Government should have taken the climate change implications of the Paris Agreement into account when drawing up the National Policy Statement which outlined its plans for a third runway.  The Court has not said there will be no third runway but is inviting the Government to reconsider and amend the NPS in order to take account of the Paris Agreement. It is widely assumed that Prime Minister Boris Johnston, a long-standing opponent of Heathrow, will amend the NPS to kill off a third runway.  The Government has made it clear that it will not appeal against the appeal court decision to the Supreme Court.  Whilst Heathrow Airport will do so, it might struggle to overturn the judgment if it does not have Government backing.

‘Whilst I believe that Runway 3 is increasingly unlikely to happen, we haven’t stopped Heathrow’s insatiable appetite for more flights. I have no doubt that Heathrow are already working on option B – to try to get more flights on the existing two runways.  In the last but one consultation Heathrow offered the option of putting additional flights on the existing runways as an interim measure while Runway 3 was being built; by using IPA (Independent Parallel Approaches).  This means having additional flights joining the approach path later (from the north over Acton etc and from the south over Kingston & Richmond).

‘My take is that they will now go for this option as their way of getting more flights in, without the hassle & cost of another runway. This will mean we lose the current night flight regime, which effectively means we currently have no flights between 11.30pm – 4.30am and only 16 flights 4.30-6.00 am.  We would also lose the alternation regime, which gives those living under the existing flight paths eight hours respite (for the 70% of the time the planes are landing on Westerly operation).

‘So we must continue the fight by saying “NO Expansion” for all the reasons we have been opposing the third runway; climate change, additional noise, additional communities affected, more road congestion, more air pollution……

‘Meanwhile; consultations on night flights and and Aviation White Paper are still awaited’

For more information, the AirportWatch website is full of up-to-date information.


Ruth Cadbury is the MP for Brentford & Isleworth and has just been reappointed to the Transport Select Committee.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cautious welcome for Heathrow decision

See also: Do the politically difficult things as soon as possible 


Cherrygate – Cllr Joanna Biddolph’s statement

When ‘Cherrygate’ blew up last weekend, after the planting of 16 cherry trees was stopped by Cllr Joanna Biddolph at short notice, leaving a bunch of bemused volunteers spade in hand, many on social media thought the councillor had had dug an even deeper hole for herself by not explaining her reasons publicly. On 20 February (a full six days after the cancellation) the leader of the Conservative councillors in Hounslow issued this statement:

I have deliberately not commented before now as I have not wanted to influence, interrupt, or in any way affect, discussions that were taking place within the Friends of Turnham Green (FOTG).

Along with Cllrs Ranjit Gill and Ron Mushiso of Turnham Green ward, and Cllr John Todd of Chiswick Homefields ward, I attended the AGM of the Friends of Turnham Green on 14th January. Proceedings at the AGM were more complicated than has been reported. Concerns were raised during the meeting and afterwards. Later, members of FOTG’s landscape committee contacted us raising concerns about the decision making process leading up to and at the AGM and providing background information that gave the issue more weight. As councillors, it is our duty to take up concerns raised by residents and to ask officers to investigate.

First, and of course, I talked to my councillor colleagues about the legitimacy of the concerns and concluded that they were significant. As one of the ward councillors, I raised the issue through the leader of the council, Cllr Steve Curran, who asked officers to postpone the planting so discussions could take place. I was glad that the council, specifically the leader and officers responsible for managing our open spaces, took the concerns seriously. They were about internal issues that everyone believed could be resolved internally and amicably, and hoped would be resolved internally and amicably.

The request was to postpone the planting so discussions could take place. This point – postponement – was clear in the statement made by Cllr Samia Chaudhary, cabinet member for leisure services including our open spaces, who said the planting had been “put on hold”. It was never “blocked” as all those involved in the discussions knew. Using the word “blocked” unfortunately raised the temperature of the issue and caused unnecessary and unfounded alarm outside the Friends and gave a wholly misleading picture to Chiswick residents and beyond. The postponement was to allow time for discussions within FOTG to agree a way forward that put the long-term future of Turnham Green centre stage.

I had several discussions with officers, all of us seeking an amicable resolution. They acted fast taking steps to organise meetings and talk to all those involved. I was impressed by their knowledge
and their deep wish to enable a proper and fair outcome. After an exchange of emails, I met Rebecca Frayn, chairman of FOTG, and Ed Stanley, secretary of FOTG, to explain why I had intervened and to try to persuade them to meet the members who had raised concerns and to discuss those concerns with them. Rebecca and Ed said they did not think it was right to listen to the voices of the 20 per cent of those present at the AGM who disagreed with the decision when 80 per cent of those present had agreed with it. It was undemocratic. I explained that the process leading to that vote was in question and that discussing it with the members who had raised them could lead to an outcome all could agree on. We also discussed the merits of holding a meeting with council officers and an extraordinary general meeting.

Other discussions took place. I was glad to learn that Rebecca and the FOTG members had arranged to meet and a meeting took place. It covered the full range of issues that had led to the
postponement of the planting and arrangements are in place for a further meeting with council officers next week to try to resolve them. At the heart of this issue is trees. Everyone is alert to the current climate change emergency and the enormous value that trees have in removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, improving our air quality and reducing global warming. There is no disagreement about that. The type of trees, their location and the long-term biodiversity of Turnham Green are issues that did not get a fair hearing at the AGM which was presented with one option. That was undemocratic and of concern to members.

Much has been said on social media, and in emails, about what has been seen as a high-handed and undemocratic attempt by me to overturn a democratic decision. The issue was never as simple as voting percentages. It was about the decision-making process before and at the AGM which had not been made democratically. In contrast, councillors are elected by residents in a democratic process and are expected to represent residents and their concerns, uncomfortable though it can be. It was extremely unfortunate that this arose just before planting was due to take place, and we are sorry that the planting event was cancelled at such notice. We are glad that most people who had planned to come to the planting found out it had been cancelled before the event. We are sorry that some turned up only to find they had wasted their time.

We are very grateful to the Friends and other volunteers who work so hard to keep Turnham Green looking so lovely all year round. It is Turnham Green ward’s premier open space, at the heart of the ward and of Chiswick High Road, a welcoming spot that speaks of home to so many residents as they travel through and within Chiswick. It takes a lot of work to keep it to its current extremely high standard and perhaps the publicity it has received during what has been referred to as #CherryGate will bring others out and onto Turnham Green volunteering, not just at tree planting time.

We look forward to hearing about the suggestions the FOTG landscape committee makes later this year for the long-term ecology, biodiversity and enjoyment of Turnham Green. And we look forward to working with FOTG to enhance this special part of Chiswick. They and Chiswick residents can count on us to continue to arrange community clean-ups on Turnham Green and to support requests for more or better bins, improved paths, repairs to railings, help with planting and generally to work hard alongside them to look after this very special green space at the heart of
our community.


Cherrygate saga continues

The Chair of The Friends of Turnham Green, Rebecca Frayn and member of the committee Karen Liebreich have both resigned from the residents’ group, putting the future of the organisation which has made many improvements to the Green over the past 14 years in doubt.

The anonymous donor, who promised £5,000 for tree planting on the Green has rescinded their offer. They have honoured their commitment to pay £2,000 for the cherry trees, which have already been bought, but will not spend the further £3,000 they had promised for other types of tree which were to have been planted on the south side of the Green.

Cllr Joanna Biddolph has now issued a press statement on why she stopped the planting of 10 non-fruiting cherry trees to fill in the gaps in the existing avenue of cherry trees. One of those who objected to the planting has also issued a statement.

But the fate of 16 trees (ten intended for the avenue plus another six fruiting trees intended for elsewhere on the Green) remains uncertain, as they languish in a depot in Hounslow. Karen Liebreich says Abundance London is still trying to ensure that some of the trees are at least planted in Chiswick. The trees are several metres high, with large root balls and need to be planted somewhere soon.

Photograph above: Rebecca Frayn. Photograph by James Willcocks.


Resigning as chair of The Friends of Turnham Green Terrace, Rebecca Frayn slammed the decision by Cllr Joanna Biddolph to block last week’s planting, calling it ‘a precedent which completely undoes the democratic principles that underpin our purpose as a Friends group’.

‘Who would have thought that the offer of 10 free cherry trees could create such a storm of outrage and upset amongst such a vocal minority?’ she wrote. ‘I’ve scratched my head over how to be King Solomon, held a number of meetings, and it is apparent that the dissenters have no interest in working constructively to resolve things. Most disappointingly of all, amidst all the storm of petty in-fighting in which this tiny minority have become so embroiled, the far more pressing issues of how we as citizens can contribute to mitigating the climate crisis and supporting our declining wild life by urgently planting more trees has been tragically cast aside’.

‘But once a tiny minority, supported by Councillor Joanna Biddolph, successfully blocked our planting day last Saturday, despite the overwhelming vote in favour of the tree-planting at our well attended AGM, it became apparent that they had now set a precedent whereby a motion passed by a majority of our members will only actually be implemented if that vocal minority, together with Councillor Biddolph happen to agree with it. A precedent which completely undoes the democratic principles that underpin our purpose as a Friends group. I very much hope a King/Queen Solomon can be found to take the Friends forward now’.

Photograph above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph


The row erupted after a decision was taken at the Friends’ AGM in January to plant cherry trees to fill in gaps in the existing avenue of cherry trees on the north side of the Green. There was some discussion about whether or not a donation for the planting of trees should be spent on cherry trees. Jill Spencer raised the objection that fallen cherries were messy and commented that she had ruined a pair of shoes walking through them.

Karen Liebreich, a member of the group’s Landscape Committee, was called a ‘dictator’ for saying she was only interested in planting cherry trees in that avenue, as opposed to any other kind of tree. In the end the meeting voted 21-7 in favour of cherry trees and ten non-fruiting trees were bought to go alongside the pathway, with an additional six fruiting trees to be planted elsewhere on the Green.

Cllr Biddolph was at the AGM on 14 January. She wrote to Hounslow’s Head of Parks, Stefania Horne, last week, and then to the leader of the council Steve Curran, to demand that the planned planting on 15 February was stopped. It was cancelled on Friday afternoon and some volunteers turned up expecting to help with planting on the Saturday.

‘We are sorry that the planting event was cancelled at such notice’ she says in her statement.

‘The issue was never as simple as voting percentages. It was about the decision-making process before and at the AGM which had not been made democratically’.

She does not explain in her statement what she means by this.

‘Later, members of FOTG’s landscape committee contacted us raising concerns about the decision-making process leading up to and at the AGM and providing background information that gave the issue more weight. As councillors, it is our duty to take up concerns raised by residents and to ask officers to investigate.

‘The request was to postpone the planting so discussions could take place’.

‘We look forward to hearing about the suggestions the FOTG landscape committee makes later this year for the long-term ecology, biodiversity and enjoyment of Turnham Green’ she adds.

You can read her full statement here.

Photograph above: Turnham Green cherry tree avenue in winter. Photograph by Andy Murray.

Crossed wires in the Landscape committee?

The ‘background information that gave the issue more weight’ appears to be that the Landscape committee were not separately consulted before the AGM.

Rebecca and Karen were both members of the Friends’ Landscape committee and both in favour of filling out the cherry tree avenue with new saplings. Another member of the landscape committee, Jan Hewlett, also wrote an email saying:

‘I like the cherry avenue especially in spring. I suggest at our next AGM … we might ask people what they would like and where. Let’s try to keep up the democratic approach’.

But a fourth member of the committee, Jill Spencer, complained that she was not consulted before the AGM. She raised the issue with Cllr Biddolph. In her statement she says:

‘I raised my concern about the lack of openness and democracy over the tree planting project with our local councillors. Although being a member of the landscape committee, the first time I heard of the plan to plant more cherry trees was when it was presented by Karen Liebreich at the Friends’ AGM in January’.

‘In my request to ask Hounslow Council to delay any planting until this autumn, I made suggestions to look at the wider picture when the trees are in full leaf, and develop a clear planting plan considering all the options for suitable trees, and the possible sites available to work around the many conflicting uses of the Green.

‘I stand by my request to ask Hounslow Council to delay the planting of more cherry trees, pending a wider community consultation based on a clear holistic planting plan. It’s really about the long-term future of the Green and making considered decisions about how best to enhance and improve it for future generations to come’.

Photographs above: Flowering cherries in the streets of Chiswick. Photograph by Jon Perry.

‘Mind-blowing’ usefulness of trees

The future of the 16 cherry trees is at present uncertain. They need to be planted somewhere because they’re too big to be ‘heeled in’ temporarily.

Rebecca is a film maker, with her new film Misbehaviour, starring Keira Knightley, about to open in cinemas next month. She is also an environmental campaigner and pointed out in her statement:

‘New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all emissions from human activities, a figure the scientists have described as “mind-blowing.” As a result the WWF, the Woodland Trust, The National Trust, The Wildlife Conservation Society, and BirdLife International – amongst many other august bodies – are calling for schemes like these to be urgently implemented.  Hounslow are about to roll out a wonderful borough wide tree planting scheme. Please let’s all bear the larger environmental picture in mind and get behind it!’

Commenting on the cherrygate debacle on social media, Dr Edward Seaton says 16 cherry trees would have absorbed half the CO2 produced by a car in a year. According to an article published in the journal Forestry in 1999 from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in Midlothian, Scotland, he says:

‘The number of widely spaced wild cherry trees needed to absorb the carbon produced by the average car in a year is 32 … Surprisingly real world emissions from cars has not much changed since then, perhaps because larger cars are more fashionable.

‘If, as the article states 16 cherry trees had been planted, they would have absorbed about half the CO2 produced by a family car per year and would have done the equivalent of this every year for about 45 years (and also looked quite nice)’.

Test Blog Post


Naila Hazell selected for Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition

Work by a local artist Naila Hazell has been selected from over 1,500 entries to appear alongside artworks by some of Britain’s leading artists.

The Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition will be on display at Mall Galleries from 20 to 29 February.

Naila Hazell is a British contemporary artist, taught by renowned Soviet social realism painter Boyukaga Mirzoyev while she studied fine arts at the Azerbaijani Fine Arts academy. She has had numerous solo and group shows in Baku and is now continuing her work and exhibiting in London.

The Royal Society of British Artists holds an open submission exhibition in central London each year at the Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1

Open 20 to 29 February, 10am to 5pm

Admission £5, Free to Friends of Mall Galleries and Under 25s.

Chiswick Calendar offer

The gallery is happy to offer free entry for two Chiswick Calendar readers on mentioning The Chiswick Calendar at the Gallery Desk.


Worried about the High Rd?

The problem of empty shops in the High Road is as bad as it has ever been. The issue of why businesses are closing down is complex: the shift in shopping habits to buying online, competition from Westfield, high rents and rates are all important factors.

The Chiswick Calendar is pleased to be part of a consortium of businesses and residents who have ideas for improving the economy of the High Road, which include a flower market, a vintage clothing market and an association of landlords and tenants. The group includes Abundance London, which brought Chiswick the mural at Turnham Green Terrace, the refurbished piazza there including the ‘W4th plinth’ community art work and a variety of planting schemes in urban spaces.

It also includes commercial surveyor Ollie Saunders, surveyor Steve Nutt and landscape gardener Stefano Marinaz, all local residents and businessmen who would like to see some community action to improve the vibrancy of the High Rd. We’re holding a public meeting to outline these proposals and invite other ideas.

Public meeting

7.30pm on Thursday 20 February in the Boston Room of George IV, 185 Chiswick High Rd.

Please come and contribute your thoughts on the subject. Click here to register for a (free) ticket, just so we have an idea of numbers.

Photograph of Chiswick High Rd by Anna Kunst – annakunstphotography.com

The Chiswick Calendar freebie – winner

Who won our competition for a meal for two at Little Bird cocktail lounge and restaurant, opposite Chiswick rail station?

Ailsa Sheldon  @ailsasheldon

Congratulations to Ailsa, who wins a meal for two up to the value of £80.

All you had to do was to:

1. Follow @thechiswickcalendar and @littlebirdrestaurant on Instagram
2. Like our Giveaway! post on Instagram
3. Tag a friend you could share the offer with⠀

The giveaway closed last Thursday – but we will be having another one soon for a meal for two at Annie’s restaurant. Watch this space, as they say…

Little Bird Chiswick
1 Station Parade, Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4 3HD