A Week of Decades and Cups of Tea Moments

Chiswick Gunnerbury councillor Jo Biddolph looks back on an exceptional week

Cllr Jo Biddolph

It’s been another week when decades happen. It began with a flurry of WhatsApp messages with family and friends around the world immediately after we learned that The Queen had died. We have royal stories about which we often reminisce and they brought us together again.

Life on Friday, 9th September was oddly surreal yet strangely normal – every day for a councillor includes unexpected complex juxtapositions. After a discussion with council officers about the council’s recent consultation on suicide prevention, the increase in suicidal feelings after the death of a public figure (if this has happened to you, please talk about it) and Suicide Prevention Day, I met a resident to discuss a planning application, dashing back to my desk for the first of a series of briefings on the local Operation London Bridge plan before meeting friends for a much-anticipated Chiswick Book Festival talk. The death of The Queen wove its way through it all.

The King and Chris Patten

Chris Patten was director of the Conservative Research Department (CRD) when I worked for Conservative Central Office (CCO) many decades ago. He and the director for whom I worked were as closely politically aligned as it was possible to be; their thoughts, policies and actions were symbiotic; they were my political mentors – on the soggy wet end of the Tory spectrum.

Chris was a patron of the Tory Reform Group (TRG) where I worked a few years later, and chairman of the Conservative party when I returned to work there in 1992, this time in the press office during the local and European elections and the general election (when he lost his seat). With those links, and family connections with Hong Kong, I couldn’t not book the festival event about his Hong Kong Diaries and invited TRG friends to join me. Of course we hadn’t anticipated that, before Chris spoke, we would watch the live broadcast of The King’s address. I noticed quite a few attendees not clapping after King Charles III spoke, and the applause for Chris being significantly more fulsome and sustained. Is Republicanism strong in Chiswick or are many of us enthusiastic Tory wets? Either way, we needed supper. Tor Thai Bistro was fully booked so we went next door to the always reliable Annapurna and shared royal and Tory anecdotes as well as poppadums, curries and wine.

Chris Patten signing his book. Picture: Roger Green

Cup of tea moments

Saturday’s surgery was cancelled so I had time to be glued to the television watching the proclamation at St James’s Palace before the second of the two Chiswick Book Festival events I thought I’d have time for. I nodded in agreement throughout crisis management specialist Lucy Easthope’s talk about her book “When the Dust Settles” but it was her words “cup of tea moments” that proved we thought as one. In Lucy’s example, after a disaster, it isn’t enough to have a room for relatives; human touches are needed – cups of tea and the opportunities they give for listening to and supporting fearful relatives. When working through the aftermath of the Bishopsgate bomb in the City in 1993, we Corporation of London press officers looked out onto Guildhall Yard at a snaking queue of keyholders wanting to be let into offices sealed inside the scene-of-a-crime cordon that enclosed much of the City. It was drizzling. The key holders were getting wet. They would soon be grumpy, and rightly so. A few yards inside Guildhall was the door to the Great Hall, out of bounds except when the court of common council met or heads of state came to speak. It didn’t occur to anyone downstairs that this sacrosanct space could be used until the policy chairman (the equivalent of council leader) issued a command to open the Great Hall. Keyholders went inside; tables were set up; restrictive rules about access to buildings were explained in the warm and dry. A cup of tea moment, embedded in the crisis management plan that followed. Upstairs in the press office, calls from journalists around the world came through round the clock keeping seven of us busy on phones that didn’t stop ringing. We learned after about four hours that you can’t run a crisis on packets of biscuits – all we’d had time to buy on our way in. From then on, in every crisis management plan I’ve written or worked through, a named person has the crucial task of arranging proper food for all involved in the crisis. It’s not an indulgence. It’s an essential cup of tea moment.

Local proclamation

There appear to be cups of tea moments in the local Operation London Bridge plan – at least for councillors and VIPs. I hope there are cups of tea moments in the plan for all the staff who have been implementing it, too. With Covid-19, hot dry weather fires and now the death of The Queen, councils have been in crisis management mode for two and a half years. Everyone needs cups of tea moments. As I left our proclamation service (with orders of service that included the new national anthem, to help us sing the right monarchical word), and seeing a generosity of leftover sandwiches, cake and fruit, I asked if some could be taken back to Hounslow House for the teams on duty there and unable to attend our ceremony or watch the national news. You can’t run a crisis on sandwiches, either, but my obsession with crisis food gives them a slightly higher ranking than biscuits (of which I saw a lot on some desks where more than intermittent sugar rush highs were needed).

Mayor of Hounslow Cllr Raghwinder Siddhu with Conservative Group leader Cllr Peter Thompson and Deputy Lieutenant Rosi Boycott Mayor of Hounslow Cllr Raghwinder Siddhu with Conservative Group leader Cllr Peter Thompson and Deputy Lieutenant Prescott

Hounslow House doesn’t have a balcony from which to announce accessions in the old-fashioned way. An open space outside Holy Trinity Church in Hounslow became the scene of our ceremony which went without a hitch, despite the sound overhead of planes coming in to land. In north London, the Hendon Town Hall balcony is no longer used because it needs to be strengthened but it was from there that my grandfather announced the accession of King Edward VIII in 1936 (later that year, he stood there to announce the abdication, too). There were similar scenes this year in some boroughs, territories, and realms.

Hendon Town Hall proclamation of King Edward VIII in 1936 Hendon Town Hall proclamation of King Edward VIII in 1936

Will Norman snapped telling pedestrians what to do

And, unusually, he was not telling them to get onto bikes. As I was crossing The Embankment on the way to line the route on Wednesday, there he was – directing pedestrians towards Horse Guards Avenue, the route to Whitehall as Bridge Street was closed, until he interrupted himself by taking A Very Important Call. His main role was to apologise profusely to people wanting to cycle – cycle lanes in the Westminster area have been suspended for ceremonial reasons – but guess what, the overwhelming majority were walking. His pink jacket reminded me of my time as a London Ambassador during the Olympic Games in 2012 when our very pink uniforms led to us being known collectively as the magenta magicians. He hasn’t woven much magenta magic over Chiswick.

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner
Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner

Local life continues …

Although many council meetings, including surgeries and the Chiswick Area Forum, were cancelled, and political campaigning suspended until the end of the mourning period, council life representing and supporting residents has continued as normal for councillors.

No parking, please

There is no end, it seems, to the ways in which TfL impacts residents of Chiswick Gunnersbury ward. The latest assault is its proposal to turn a patch of open space into a car park that will significantly affect residents and the character and peacefulness of the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate, the pretty conservation area that sits beside the North Circular opposite Gunnersbury Park. It isn’t only the large number of cars – 65 – that could be coming and going at the back of residents’ houses, it is the times of their arrival and departure (through the night, interrupting sleep), the noise (car doors slamming, engines revving, interrupting sleep), the light (tall lamppost columns and headlights beaming into bedrooms, interrupting sleep), the loss of habitats (it’s not a pretty patch of land but we value bees, birds, butterflies and insects and most importantly bats which are regularly heard and seen here, all of them needing darkness at night) and the way TfL runs roughshod over residents’ views.

There was a stand-off when a digger appeared assertively on a corner the day after the consultation closed (starting and closing, it turns out, before the council had displayed the required notices so it has since been restarted and extended). We’d already had one public meeting – at which I outlined the gloomy outlook that residents face when TfL asks Hounslow council for something – and it won’t be the last. (Who’d have thought I’d be campaigning against parking!)

Houses not flats, please

I’ve often referred in my blogs to the desperate and heart-breaking experiences of residents in inadequate housing. It continues to dominate with a troubling number (one is too many, in my view) of residents’ lives blighted by anti-social behaviour, harassment, intimidation or overcrowding. There’s worse, too, of which more another day. Investigations take far too long; communications are inefficient; short sighted (by which I mean politically motivated) decisions about sky-rises full of studio, single and two-bedroomed flats do not provide a life for families. I am still looked at quizzically by councillors in other parts of the borough who assume Chiswick is a different world and are surprised when I talk about issues they have to grapple with, too. All life is here.

Support our local shops, please

Am I the only resident who looks with concern at new shops, cafes, restaurants that appear not to fill a gap but seek only to grab a share of an already well-provided-for market, risking our stalwarts’ success? With three gelateria – Duci, Foubert’s, Oddono’s – why do we need more, and chains too? It’s the same with sushi restaurants – Kuyamoto, Makoto, Rokkon and Yuma Sushi – yet two more have opened, both chains too. And surely we have enough cafes selling cakes and pastries – more of them are coming. Doesn’t anyone – estate agents or business owners – consider what we haven’t got enough of? In these rough financial times, if you can afford to have a treat, please support our existing businesses and reward them for their loyalty and commitment to our community.

Councillor Joanna Biddolph

Chiswick Gunnersbury ward


07976 703446


We are back to our usual routine of holding face-to-face surgeries in Chiswick and in Gunnersbury.

Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library (the eight Conservative councillors take this surgery in turn).    

Gunnersbury: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Gunnersbury Triangle Club, Triangle Way, off The Ridgeway, W3 8LU (at least one of the Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillors takes this surgery).   



Tuesday, 20th September at 7.30pm: Borough Council (please note the later start time)

Tuesday, 27th September at 7pm: Audit and Governance Committee

Wednesday, 28th September at 7pm: Planning Committee

Monday, 17th October at 7.00pm: Housing and Environment Scrutiny Panel

Tuesday, 18th October at 7.00pm: Cabinet


Chiswick Gunnersbury (was Turnham Green) ward

Cllr Joanna Biddolph joanna.biddolph@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 703446

Cllr Ranjit Gill ranjit.gill@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 702956

Cllr Ron Mushiso ron.mushiso@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 702887

Chiswick Homefields ward

Cllr Jack Emsley jack.emsley@hounslow.gov.uk 07977 396017

Cllr Gerald McGregor gerald.mcgregor@hounslow.gov.uk 07866 784821

Cllr John Todd john.todd@hounslow.gov.uk 07866 784651

Chiswick Riverside ward

Cllr Peter Thompson peter.thompson@hounslow.gov.uk 07977 395810  

Cllr Gabriella Giles gabriella.giles@hounslow.gov.uk 07966 270823 


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September 16, 2022