Where west is north and directions aren't helpful
Looking south across the A4
Friday was meeting free so Saturday was my next event – at the library for surgery. Having fought for some time to get the library open for surgery, this was actually the first time I had ‘done’ the surgery myself. Expecting to get bowled over in the rush (not really) I had to wait an hour for a punter, a lady who immediately looked very disappointed and told me she was hoping to see a Melvinator. Story of my life with the ladies. Anyway, I was familiar with her (housing) case but Mel was the one who’s up to date (it actually got resolved this week, gadzooks!)
She also raised with me the matter of the signposts. Some rather handsome signposts have appeared on the A4 but the lady was the first of three people who pointed out to me that Brentford station is not to be reached northbound on Ealing Road from the A4, nor is Kew Bridge station located in Osterley. Somebody suggested they had been placed in anticipation of Brexit to confuse invaders, but Hounslow’s head of Traffic says I’m not allowed to call him Captain Mainwaring as that honour has been claimed by Chris ‘no ferries’ Grayling.
Coming to Monday, I find a meeting described as Street Scene Pilots, to be held in the office of Chief Whip Tony Louki. This is a pleasing throwback – the kind of office you might have found inhabited by the Managing Director of a medium sized firm in a 1960s drama series – anyone remember The Brothers? It has accumulated trophies, like a model Trabant and a cricket bag containing pads. The bat has been removed and stands by Tony’s desk but he assures me he has not (yet) used it on any recalcitrant councillors. There is a fridge and a well-stocked cocktail cabinet (none of it financed by the taxpayer, since you ask) from which from time to time I have taken samples, purely in the interests of science, obviously. Anyway, none of this has anything at all to do with the meeting, which involved two officers who are working up proposals for how we take forward local initiatives across the borough to bring improvements to the street scene. Tony, as chair of one of the area forums (and very persuasive, even without using the bat) had suggested he would coordinate action in each of the 5 area forums so this was planning for it.
Later in the day I meet with Chief Exec Niall Boulger, who has now had time to give consideration to Lampton 360 in its various guises. We will shortly be reviewing the companies’ governance arrangements and Niall brings experience of this from his previous jobs. He suggests some amendments, the principles of which I happily agree to.
In the evening, down to Isleworth Public Hall for my penultimate meeting as chair of Thamesbank Credit Union. I’ve decided to step down at the AGM in March: we have a raft of talented new directors and I’ve been doing it too long, making me stale and in any case I have more than enough other things to keep me occupied.
Tuesday is again meeting free and I manage to get to the gym for the fourth day running, which may be a record, as well as having a decent bike ride.
In the afternoon an invite arrives for the Brentford Business Breakfast organised for Wednesday morning by the Chamber of Commerce. I decide to go along to the Harvester in Boston Manor at what for me is the ungodly hour of 9am. The Melvinator, despite being Godly, is delayed by some devil or another (perhaps the 195 bus, who knows) and arrives at 9.30. Anyway, interesting talks to a few local business people. I’m conscious that I don’t talk enough to business people despite this being my background – actually, I think the council in general should do more with business.
Later in the morning I’m in the civic centre to meet with Brentford Together. This is an initiative of the London Sustainability Exchange who have won some funding from the Big Lottery to do community building in Brentford. The premise is that people’s health – both mental and physical -can be improved by more social contact and physical activity and they have funding for a three year project. In the spring they will be looking to recruit some (volunteer) ‘activators’ who will try to spark such activity in their street/estate etc. Seems a good idea and I agree to sit on their steering group which will only meet 3 or 4 times a year.
Then I go to the gym yet another time trying to get fit (OK less unfit) for cabinet question time in the evening, where we expect a warm Brentford Reception at Brentford School for Girls, hopefully not involving missiles. We get a decent turnout – 30 or 40 people – including some of ‘the usual suspects’ and a good smattering of people we haven’t seen at such events before. And a really wide range of questions – housing, finance, communication, parks, development and of course potholes, amongst many others.
During the day, the Melvinator shows me two pictures he has obtained from an old pal of his which show the plaster (or stone?) lion which once lived in Carville Hall Park. In one of the pictures we see a handsome young Mel in close proximity to the said lion’s bottom. In the other an even younger character, maybe even a schoolboy Mel, is at the sharp end of the lion, apparently commanding it to halt. It was an ineffective command because at some point the lion scarpered – some say it was stolen. Anybody have anything to add to the story?
I’m round to Thursday again, and another ungodly start, this time heading for a 9 o’clock start at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton. A nice morning bike ride to catch a train at Chiswick station, however my feeling of virtuousness is put in perspective when Julian Bell, the leader of Ealing Council, remarks that he cycled the whole way. He complains about pollution along the way but had I tried that, the pollution inside the hall would have been worse.
This is a London-wide conference of environment directors, lead members and similar from the boroughs, focused on the two big environmental challenges – air quality and carbon emissions on the one hand, waste, recycling and street litter on the other. I’m not great at conferences but they do make you think, and I picked up a few ideas.
In the afternoon we have a meeting of the Libraries and Parks task group. I enjoy these because, whilst nothing is perfect in these austere days, everything seems a great deal better now we don’t have Carillion in the way. Good things coming down the pipe, including for Brentford library – more when proposals have progressed.
Cllr Guy Lambert
February 22, 2019