On the hunt for a brown envelope
Shock, horror, here I am sunning myself in Brentford’s tropical climate, sipping a Tequila Sunrise (well, a cup of tea, in fact, but it looks a bit orange with the light through it) when a peremptory email from t’editor arrives: “Oi! Where is it?” Panic obviously ensues, I put on my writer’s visor and repair to the blog factory, commonly known as my kitchen/diner table.
On Thursday evening it’s the pension fund panel. Somebody wrote to me that it was boring of me to write about this, which has naff all to do with Brentford residents. Fair enough, but I have to sit through it so I think it’s only fair to share the pain a little. I have never been one whose juices are set raging by thinking about the relative investment strategies of fund managers: I know that makes me pretty weird, but there you go. This month was different because we had yer actual Actuaries presenting their triennial (that’s once every three years, you at the back who haven’t been paying attention) valuation. You know the joke about actuaries – they are said to be people for whom the life of an accountant seemed overly exciting. Anyway we had an older one and a young one: they were not really all that boring and looked conspicuously normal. The weird thing about pension funds is everything is turned on its head. If people die young, this is good news because there’s less pension to pay. The good or bad news is that Hounslow employees and ex-employees’ life expectancy has actually come down somewhat, against the trend. As far as we know this is just random variation, but despite being good for the pension fund, it’s a worrying statistic and needs to be watched. The fund itself is exceptionally healthy, as these things go, and not much has changed in three years so that at least is a relief.
On Friday some more Credit Union stuff in Teddington and an excellent excuse for a decent bike ride. On this occasion I eschew the pub for a healthy lunch in Brentford’s excellent café near Brent Lea. Sausage and onion baguette – luvly – and nobody can say I’m not getting my 5 a day. Well, at least one and maybe the brown sauce makes 2? I didn’t get where I am today by eating unhealthily. Oh, perhaps I did.
Saturday is surgery up at Clayponds: quiet as usual with just one lady who will have trouble finding the £80 for her CPZ permit. I enquire, but it seems we cannot accept payment by instalments so there’s really nothing I can do to help. I have nothing but admiration for people like this lady who bring up a family on a shoestring and are determined to pay their way without getting into debt, and I wish I could help her.
Sunday Myra and I go for a door-knock stroll around Carville Crescent and Crowther Avenue. This wasn’t a cunning plan but by accident is rather well-timed, because Crowther and Clayponds Avenue are all marked out for resurfacing, so people are pretty pleased that this is finally getting done.
Monday I cook a brunch for my daughter who is all chilled with school hols starting, and spend the rest of the day with the dreaded emails, phone calls and other drudgery, though I fit in a gym session in the evening, having a rare Monday evening without meetings.
On Tuesday afternoon we have the working group for the Hounslow website. This has been going for a bit now and everybody seems pretty happy with it, though there are lots of improvements in the pipeline. Obviously we spend the meeting carping and moaning. We also talk about a new telephone system for which the council is out to tender at present and which they hope to introduce during that perfectly stretchable period known as ‘the summer’. In my experience across all fields of technology implementation, the summer is that period that begins around May or June and ends sharply on December 24th. It will come as no surprise that there is a lot of dissatisfaction, from councillors and the public alike, with the current telephone system. We are told that there have been major improvements in the performance of the main switchboard with far more calls being answered in a reasonable time and far less being abandoned, but nobody thinks that there is not a way to go yet.
In the evening, we have a special council meeting to admit all 7 branches of the British Legion which operate across Hounslow to Freedom of the Borough. From memory that means they are now allowed to drive their sheep across Kew Bridge without paying a toll, though I’m hoping they’ll hold off on that until the roadworks have concluded. Seriously, it was good to see all the Legion people, the vast majority of whom have served in the armed forces and every one of whom has done good charity work to support ex-servicemen, getting some recognition (and free beer). Each branch was introduced by a councillor and for me the stand outs were Richard Foote with a moving tale about his family and our ex-Gurkha, Bishnu Gurung. Robert Oulds was looking very fierce with his holster slung over his shoulder but it turned out this was for the Standard and the ceilings in the Lampton Park Conference centre are too low, so it was redundant.
On Wednesday evening I yet again had to miss the quarterly meeting of the Thomas Layton Trust: this is in itself fascinating and ends with a traditional dinner in La Rosetta: fascinating company and good food but instead I find myself in a Labour party meeting in Chiswick High Road, followed by a couple of pints at the Old Packhorse pub and a bag of chips on the way home. All glamour for us councillors.
Today, Thursday morning, I go up to Clayponds estate to meet a resident and see what is going on and behold!
I have to dodge my way between tar lorries, road rollers and hard hatters as Clayponds Avenue is being done today. Hallelujah! My bike starts purring and I have to tell it to calm down, there’s always Chestnut Avenue, Netley Road and Lateward but despite the views of all my cynical fellow citizens, there is no doubt at all that in general the roads are in a better state than for donkeys years. Litter was in good shape on my route this morning too, even the notorious Clayponds footbridge being spick and span so some things are working.
This afternoon we have an update on the planned improvements to the Brentford Towers and then there’s something in the evening. Now what is it? It’s slipped my mind… oh yes, I remember, it’s planning committee and we’re talking about Morrisons. Apparently the decision has already been made and I am under orders so I must find out this afternoon who’s giving the orders and what they are. There were also rumours of brown envelopes, though the only ones I’ve seen in the Civic centre contain sandwiches and I’ve already had lunch.
April 6, 2017