Don't Travel Down the Irrawaddy in a Crocodile Canoe

Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back

Cllr Guy Lambert
Cllr Guy Lambert

January 19, 2024


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The Chiswick Calendar party was great and it was good to see a number of local people being recognised with a local Oscar. These prestigious awards are actually given the evocative name ‘The CRAP Awards’ and the highlight for me was Ruth Cadbury and Jeremy Vine doing a spoof on an old Two Ronnies sketch, where Jeremy asked the questions and Ruth always gave the answer to the previous question. Funny.

I have used the official pictures from Bridget and her team who run the Chiswick Calendar as mine were of the usual superb standard of all my pics. The benefit of this is that I cannot be seen in the pic (I was probably at the bar) and it is always a bonus when I avoid being pictured.

On Friday in my calendar it says ‘Day Off’ which reflects a new year resolution I made to take a bit of time each week pretending to be normal. Whether it will last, time will tell but I remember my wise and former ward partner, the late and much missed Myra Savin, advising me to keep a day empty each week, something that she followed. It is very tempting as a councillor to spend too much time working and it’s important for mental health to try and keep a connection to real life! This Friday I largely succeeded, but perhaps mainly because there was a man there all day messing with my plumbing (I mean the flat plumbing). He told me the damp in my wall was modest and it would not make sense to hack all the plaster off (as another suggested) but buy myself a dehumidifier, a piece of advice I followed.

So I survived with a modicum of sanity until Saturday, when I was off to Chiswick again for the unveiling of a new painting for the ‘4 th plinth’ at Turnham Green Station (or nearby)

I’m bravely and probably inadvisedly using my own pic. It was a pleasant (and cold) morning with some local delicacies (is a sausage roll a delicacy?) and zyder on offer which warmed my cockles. The huge pictures here are always well worth an examination. Like the previous one they are quite dreamlike and I love these in the local area. We need to do something similar in Brentford, and that’s something I’m working on (vaguely).

Sunday was our monthly surgery in the Digital Dock. Despite Brentford High Street being much more lively these days, the actual number of people wanting to talk to councillors is still pretty restricted and is mainly people we know. There was nobody at all from Brentford West and very few from the other wards we serve. My conclusion is that people find it easier to send an email (which suits me) and lets me schedule visits to hot spots and see people where they choose.

In the afternoon I went with a friend to the British Museum, a place which I had hitherto had managed to miss, despite living in London since I arrived as a 17 year old undergraduate and employee of the Ford Company. This was to an exhibition called Burma to Myanmar, a country about which I knew not much, except what my late Uncle Norman told me after his wartime service there. Not sure he spent much time biffing the Japanese, which is probably why he was there as a Major, but he told many stories of his time drinking pink gin with the Saopha of Mongmit who he thought was royal, though I think he was exaggerating. Whatever, it was an interesting exhibition, with some very cool exhibits. This one I think is a pair of councillors (not the Labour Party).

But my favourite was this crocodile. Google think it’s a small wooden boat but I would not recommend it for travel down the Irrawaddy.

On Monday I had a Teams call with one of my important officers, the man who currently looks after both Recycling and Waste (at which he is new, and temporarily covering after a colleague left), but also the Hounslow Highways contract which he has been monitoring for at least the 6 years whilst it’s been me responsible. There’s a lot going on in both sides of his job – planned changes to how we organise street cleaning and get going with the ‘Pavement Pledge’, promised in the manifesto are related to Hounslow Highways. Big changes instructed by the central government in the way we collect and deal with waste. The legislation was passed in 2022 but the government will soon (?) get around to telling us what they actually want. Fortunately, we are in good shape with this, though there are still things we need to tackle, mainly about getting food recycling expanded to cover every residence but perhaps more challengingly, persuading residents to use the facilities. Most of our food waste (though Hounslow is better than most and moving in the right direction) is still dumped in black bins which is terrible for the environment including homes (where they stink, with 2 weeks to develop an aroma) and the wider one (where the food produces a huge amount of Methane, the most difficult greenhouse gas). Our residual waste (what is in your wheelie bin) is largely incinerated. Much better than the old way of landfill – no longer used in Hounslow - but is polluting and expensive, and it will get more expensive when the government get around to taxing it which they plan to do in a couple of years.

Gosh, that was a long paragraph, but it captures most of what my cabinet portfolio covers, that therefore needs a lot of attention and action. Tuesday morning I spent an hour or two with my old pal Philip, a man with a colourful past in the far East, and one of the people I treasure having met him as part of my work as a councillor. He has a very old fashioned view of the world (though very up to date with technology) and we disagree on most things, e.g. Brexit but it’s lovely to spend time with him.

In the afternoon I was back in the bin, for an online meeting with the MD of the West London Waste Authority. Useful, and a lot to get on with! In the evening, 3 meetings. First was listening to and (in part complaining) about the latest update from Ballymore. Actually, most things are going OK but still various things I want to improve. Next was the formal Cabinet meeting. I had no particular items in the cabinet but I found myself commenting on the Small Sites Programme. Like many things in this world there are acute challenges – I think particularly about the new council houses now looking nearly finished on Windmill Road which have lost us a popular local car park, and the development on the garage site in Layton Road which is very challenging for neighbours whilst it’s being built, but between the two small developments there will be 9 more families properly and economically housed in our town and to me that outweighs the challenges. We do, of course, protect the people who are affected and me and Lara do our very best to do so.

On Wednesday I was at the Watermans for a very rare daytime movie, a moving and riveting film called One Life, about a young man who saved 669 young Czechs from the Nazis. After that, I had an update with the MD and Chair of Hounslow Homes. They are busy building some new ones but the market is very difficult at present, with high interest, inflation and our efforts to provide homes at rents people can afford. They are making progress on a number of fronts and are busy taking some work previously outsourced, back in the company for better service and less cost!

In the evening it was a session at the Vacuum Cleaner Stadium previously known as Community. I shouldn’t be mean about it because the footer club have been a fantastic supporter of Hounslow Community FoodBox (no plans to rename as the GTech FoodBox). The evening was a lovely event for the volunteers who do all the work for the FoodBox. It still startles me when I see how many people are involved in this. There are far more than my picture showed – must have been about 80 there – and it was a lovely evening including a meal, a couple of drinks, and a guided tour of the stadium including behind the scenes.

I think this slogan, aimed at the players, was quite good for councillors. Well, cool and brave anyway.

When I got up this morning it was lovely and sunny and I spied this Meeting of the parliament of birds in Brentford this morning which I tweeted (or maybe I mean Xed) “Chief crow has proposed that cormorants be deported to Rwanda. Acrimonious split amongst the Crow Party but the motion is passed and will now proceed to the Murder of Owls for more scrutiny.”

Councillor Guy Lambert


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