Car and bike trouble and getting the bees to come back to Ealing Road
On Thursday afternoon a Teams meeting about Boston Manor Park, arising from the meeting I had held with the Friends a few days ago. An excellent turnout of officers including the head of Greenspace and the Assistant Director of environment was reassuring. The concerns are being taken very seriously and we have now arranged to meet the friends on site as soon as we are allowed, in early December.
In the evening was the Isleworth and Brentford Area Forum. The main items were an update on community engagement, which is something we have identified as needing change and where we are building on the experience of the very successful community hub established during the lockdown. It’s a priority to seek to engage better with a wider span of residents. We have some very engaged people but they are predominantly from a particular subset of residents – often older, predominantly white, often engaged in specific community activities or groups. It’s much harder to reach your average Joe or Josephine who does not habitually engage with local causes but whose voice really needs to be heard. And it’s equally important to ensure people who do engage actually get an opportunity to make a difference. There’s a real desire for change here, and we don’t want to see the community action inspired by the pandemic dwindle, but to encourage it to be sustained.
We then have an update on the climate emergency actions, including the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, school streets etc which are being implemented. I take it from an almost entirely empty mailbox (Swyncombe Avenue excepted) that these schemes are fairly uncontroversial in Brentford, (Chiswick, in case you haven’t spotted it, have a different view…) though the odd deadhead disagrees,
Ripping out plants from planters will not lead to schemes being reversed, they will just upset local people who have been assisting in making these rather unlovely planters lovelier and cost council tax money to replace plants that have been killed. Genius.
On Friday morning I was due to join a tour of our leisure centres with the directors of Lampton360 including the new Leisure Director (who hadn’t actually started at the time). The ridiculous car got an outing. It was delighted to see me and was wagging its tail in excitement. I wanted to check out a couple of things by Brentford Towers, after which I was heading up Green Dragon Lane on the way to Heston when the radio went silent. Then there was a beep. Then the engine stopped. I got it to the side of the road and tried to restart it. Nada. Cutting a 3 hour long story short, I eventually got it loaded on a truck and despatched to Capital Motors, for a course of hideously expensive real Jaguar parts (he always tries for cheaper alternatives) and Capital’s impeccable care.
So I missed the tour, but was delighted that a man from Coalo green team recognised me, tapped on the window and we had a chat. First he apologised for a missed communication which led to them destroying a bit of guerrilla gardening on the Haverfield estate. He said he had talked to the person who complained and they now seem to be chums. I complimented him on the improvements we can already see in the Towers gardens and I was so happy to see how enthusiastic he is about improving our green areas. He loves working for Coalo, having joined a couple of years ago from Richmond, and said he was really happy with his new MD, who’s doing a lot of communicating. As I walked home, I spotted him planting roses in Ealing Road (well, on the verges) so we should have a better display there next year. And more bees, even if Bees have migrated half a mile Eastwards. Watch out not to get stung.
On Saturday I had a long chat with Ruth, our MP, about various local updates. We were planning to have a socially distanced coffee somewhere but somehow hanging around under the ledge outside La Rosetta to escape the rain didn’t appeal greatly, so Captain Zoom intervened.
To add to my woes, a friend of mine had asked to borrow My Little Pony so I checked it out to see if it was ready to ride. I had left it locked up in the underground car park, and when I looked I found someone had nicked the clamp that stops this folding bike from folding when you’re riding it. I can only think that the dimwits thought the bike would come into two halves and thus escape the D lock.
I tweeted my dismay at Halfords, who make the bike, and to my delight I had a call from the Chiswick store on Monday to say they have ordered a new clamp for me. Customer service par excellence!
On Monday evening we had an all member briefing. These happen every few weeks to update councillors about important current issues and initiatives. We had a very informative update from our Director of Public Health who always seems to be really on top of her brief. There were some updates about the current impact of the virus in Hounslow: we have sadly had a few more deaths and cases are rising, including amongst older, more vulnerable people and we have a few cases (3 I think) in one particular care home. But the borough now has a proper role in Test Trace and Isolate and to no great surprise our experienced public health officials have a much higher success rate than call centre operators from who knows where working for who knows who. I slap myself hard to stop talking about spouses of Conservative MPs, old school chums from Eton, major donors etc because people might get the impression that I think our esteemed government is less than perfect which would never do.
We also get a more councillor-focused presentation about the community hub/community engagement – similar to what we had already heard at IBAF.
Tuesday Morning is my fortnightly West London Waste Authority catch up call. No great events to report in the day to day but an interesting discussion on policy and development. We are measured on recycling percentages and across the UK they have been flat for several years, though Hounslow’s are creeping up. This is based on weight of recycling versus rubbish but it is a very crude measure. What we really want is to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to incineration, not increase the amount we recycle but if we get better reuse (eg by deposit return schemes) recycling rates will actually go down. Similarly, if we waste less food we will have less food recycling, so a good thing will actually make our numbers worse. Plus some recyclables are much more valuable in ecological terms than others – recycling light aluminium saves (from memory) 7 times as much energy as recycling heavy paper. The chart shows some of the things that are going on at a policy level.
Later, it’s another in the series “Swyncombe Avenue Blues”. Suffice to say Hounslow, from Swyncombe residents to the council leader, are quite clear that Swyncombe needs significant traffic reduction. HGVs are already on the way out but that’s far from enough and we need to reduce lighter vehicles, preferably by agreement with Ealing but unilaterally if we can’t agree. Watch this space, or watch for spaces between the current queues.
Later in the day, another regular, this time about Walnut Tree Road in Heston where there is a builders merchant which is very unwelcome to residents on this cul de sac and causes numerous problems. This is exacerbated by Houses in Humungous Multiple Occupation. We have enough trouble with this in Brentford (more than enough, actually) but I was a bit – well, a lot – shocked to hear that in what looks like a modest unassuming 1930s semi there are around 30 residents according to someone our local contacts know who has recently escaped.
Wednesday morning my monthly catch up with the chair of Lampton. Main topic is the leisure centres which Lampton have now taken over. Each has two boilers so there is always one operational (in theory) but in practice only one of the six leisure centres currently has any working boilers, a bit of an issue when there’s swimming pools and showers needing hot water. Oh, and a bit of heating wouldn’t go amiss in December either. Just adds to the challenge of getting them open post lockdown but Lampton are working furiously on this, as well as giving them all a thorough deep clean. The staff are raring to go, including our just-arrived new director, and they’re delighted to be back in the Hounslow family, even though many are currently furloughed.
In the afternoon a dentist checkup. Inevitably she unearths a filling requirement – years of debauchery with toffees leave a legacy – and inevitably everything costs an arm and a leg, or perhaps a molar and an incisor, due to PPE, extra cleaning, danger money etc. The pleasure of the drill awaits me in December.
In the evening an update from the Mighty Bees about Lionel Road Stadium. By the time they’d gone round 25 introductions my internet gave up and my attempts to get back in were thwarted so please don’t ask me for a detailed update. I joined a council presentation about the Digital Festival instead. This centred on ideas to get people – particularly those who are older, poorer or with poor English – better engaged in the digital world, both in terms of helping them get equipped and helping them get comfortable using technology. We have another session on this next week which includes laughter yoga, which sums up people’s reaction when I try and do yoga poses.
Capital Motors ring to say the car is ready. In the absence of a folding bike that doesn’t fold on the move, I decide to use a hire electric bike. The one by the library lights up and says it’s ready to go, but doesn’t go. The one by the station says it’s unlocking but never unlocks. The one in Burford Road is the same. The 237 refuses to take my freedom pass but takes my debit card, so I eventually make Chiswick. I suppose the morning stroll was good for me.
Back home for brecker, followed by a meeting with the new Lampton Development and Investment MD, who I’d previously seen only at interview. All positive. I’ll see him again in a minute at the Lampton Development LLP board meeting then various other meetings this afternoon. Phew. I am a member of the YouGov opinion poll panel and they frequently ask me whether I work part time (up to 30 hours per week), full time, not at all, etc. Until the last couple of weeks I have perpetuated the myth that I’m part time. No longer.
Oh. I am making a belated entry into Movember where you can donate to various men’s health causes here.
I am hoping to recreate this look from 1978, so everybody can say “Gosh, you haven’t aged at all”
Cllr Guy Lambert
November 19, 2020