What a funny old year it’s been on twickerati. From a springtime of booming reader stats and heated debate in the comments sections to a summer lull and retrenchment, and then to ending the year trying to move things forward with additional contributions. A very big thank you to the many people who have provided such positive feedback about twickerati. If it wasn’t for you the site would definitely be consigned to the internet wilderness by now. Thanks too to the lovely locals who have offered to help with additional content, especially to those who have already provided copy, namely ‘Bill Webb-Ellis’ and the ‘Newbie’ journo. It’s much appreciated. Here’s to more collaboration in 2016.
Of course, regardless of the sustainability or otherwise of the finest and only blog featuring ‘news, comment and ill-informed opinion about Twickenham’, the town itself has had plenty of newsworthy excitement in 2015, so much so that we wrote a few words for the Richmond & Twickenham Times about it. You can read it on page 14 of the current edition of the paper. Can’t find your copy? You could always sign up for the e-edition couldn’t you? In the meantime, we’ve included it below for your public convenience. We hope you enjoy it…
Twickenham – A Year In Review
2015, eh? What a year it’s been. First there was January happily ticking along all on its tod and then, hot damn, before you knew it a load of other months turned up one after another, after a-flippin-nother. And this happened not just in God’s Own London Borough (that’s Richmond upon Thames, btw) but across the whole of the south of England too! It really is amazing how LBRuT (aka El Brute) manages to co-ordinate this with other local authorities. Hats off to them! And what of plucky Twickenham, you ask. Well, here at twickerati HQ this is what we remember about 2015.
It all began with a lot of heated debate about bus stops moving, pavements changing and cycle lanes migrating. And then it just carried on. It’s all part of El Brute’s Twickenham Action Plan aka the “TWAP”. First it was the new luxurious York Stone paving in the town centre that got people all in a lather. This was a tad ironic because, as we’ve all now found out, a jolly good lather is exactly what is needed to keep those fine slabs gleaming and gum free. The one teeny problem? This hasn’t actually happened yet. As for the new cycle lanes in central Twickenham, there’s nothing like dedicated cycle lanes to transform the whole cycling experience and what we have is nothing like dedicated cycle lanes. To be fair though, the uncertainty about what bikes and vehicles are now supposed to do in King Street keeps everyone hyper-alert, and we especially love those new car-sized boxes at traffic lights where drivers can pull up and stop on top of a bicycle painted on the road. Satisfying.
By the time we got to April, election fever was in full swing. It was turning into the battle of the doctors but not in the sense of Baker versus Tennant versus Capaldi but rather Cable against Mathias. Would Vince Cable keep his seat thus ensuring that the people of Twickenham were ignored at the very highest level of government or would there be an upset such that Twickerfolk would get a new representative who would sit on the back benches and get ignored from there? As it turned out “our Vince” was toppled from his perch by “our Tania”. The result shocked many and even seemed to stun the good doctor herself when the results were announced in the early hours of 8th May. It was a real FA Cup style upset after which Tania got to her cup final at Westminster, the Lib Dems got heavily pipped (is such a thing as ‘heavy pipping’ even possible?) and Labour, UKIP and the others were condemned to return to the Mr Fixit Southern Premier League until the next time around.
When it wasn’t election politics, it was politicking of a different kind keeping us interested. We’re talking Heathrow expansion of course. With David Cameron “off of being Prime Minister” having previously stated a third runway would not be built on his watch, the plans for a third runway rumbled onwards and upwards like that Air Emirates flight which lumbers over your house on a summer’s evening, spoils your barbecue and wakes up your toddler. Despite a previous referendum in the borough that showed over 70% opposed to a third runway, the lobbying both for and against has been intense. It’s not surprising that big business is campaigning hard for this but they’ve been ably abetted by what must surely be the most professional and well-organised grass roots campaign ever. Funny how things like that can happen. A Government decision got closer and closer and closer until suddenly it was shunted back to next summer. At least we can still ponder on visions of the Blue Baron (aka Council Leader Lord True), Zac, Tania and Boris all manning the barricades against David, George, the CBI and the shareholders of Heathrow’s owner Ferrovia. It would be quite a sight wouldn’t it?
Autumn came, and the long, long wait for the Rugby World Cup was finally over. Twickenham was ready. Richmond was ready. England was ready. The hype, the tension, the excitement, the fans… the early exit of the hosts from their own competition. Oh dear, that wasn’t in the plan. As for Twickenham itself, after bracing itself for an influx of supporters, traffic and tourists the event turned out to be surprisingly muted in the town centre. Carmageddon never fully materialised, Twickenham traders did not see the boom in tourist sales some had hoped for and even the pubs seemed quieter than on regular international days. It was almost as if the RFU were happy to see fans stick to the stadium bars and official FanZone whilst parting with their cash. Surely not.
No year in Twickenham is complete without a big argument about something or other, preferably directed at Richmond Council. Until Twickenham becomes a London Borough in its own right that’s just the way it’s going to be. Schools, stations, rugby, a big home for a big boat the name of which still sends shivers down many a spine, we love ‘em all. In 2015 it’s been the plans for developing the land along Water Lane between King Street and the river that’s been the argument of choice. It’s well known that Twickenham’s greatest asset is not its people (unlike the place where you work) or even its vast array of cafes, rib shacks, pubs and charity shops but rather its proximity to the River Thames. With El Brute’s 2014 purchase of a chunk of land giving the possibility of opening up the space down to the river and creating something new, the ‘design concept’ for the site was launched to great fanfare. The architects appointed to wow Twickenham were Q&F Terry, who had successfully re-imagined Richmond Riverside some years back. It works well in Richmond doesn’t it? Imagine the surprise of many a humble denizen of TW1 and TW2 to find that the Terrys’ ideas for Twickenham paid homage on a grander scale not just to the architects’ own designs in Richmond but also to central Twickenham’s extensive regency architectural tradition, you know, the one that didn’t exist until the construction of the Barclays Bank building on York Street at the turn of the 20th century. Cue much grumbling from the locals, lido-ists and those who wanted, well, something that opens King Street up to the river and draws on Twickenham’s own heritage. Hey, maybe this would be a good spot for some kind of boathouse? La plus ca change.
So, does the town look better at the end of 2015 than it did at the beginning? Sure does. Some great shops have opened, there’s always lots going on and Twickenham remains London’s premier leafy suburb beginning with a T and ending in ‘ham’. Will we still be arguing the toss about building plans, schools, airports and traffic all the way through 2016? You betcha! It’s just the way we roll. Or, as is the case on Heath Road and Richmond Road during rush hour, “don’t roll”.
Merry Christmas Twickenham and Best Wishes for 2016. You know you love this place really!