Ho ho hum. Christmas is upon us which means it’s that time of year when we look back over the last 12 months and wonder if they were any different from the previous 12 months. Or the 12 before that. In Twickenham!!!
What happened this year? In the Brexit fall out, our new remainer MP Conservative Tania Mathias got the heave-ho after just two years in the job and was replaced by our old MP, Vince Cable who’s even more ‘remain’ than Tania but is part of the opposition rather than part of the Brexity government. Vince also became party leader for the Lib Dems thereby ensuring his remainy comments got more press coverage than they otherwise would have done had he just remoaned from the sidelines.
The Twickenham Riverside development finally reached the status of a ‘validated planning application’ after two years of consultations in which a great many locals said they didn’t really like the designs, wanted cars moved back from the direct river frontage, thought the buildings were too big and the ‘town square’ too small. The designs went on a journey of architectural iterations, complete with new architects to boot, and ended up so far from the original ideas that the process might as well have started two months ago rather than two years ago. If this is all a Christmas gift from Councillor Pamela Fleming we just hope she’ll leave Twickenham with a gift receipt.
Talking of big builds work finally began at Twickenham station. You’ve probably seen it, or maybe not seen it, because the old station building has now well and truly gone. Work will run for years and will definitely be finished in time for the Rugby World Cup, the next time England hosts it.
And if you’re easily confused, just don’t try to obey the yellow painted instructions on the narrow path that runs down to the temporary station building. It’ll blow your mind! We fully expect a pedestrian pile up soon, or at least that awkward ‘step to the left, step to the right’ dance which is usually reserved for office corridors and shop doorways. Excuse me. Excuse me.
And talking of things rumbling on forever, in 2017 a third runway at Heathrow became the government’s ‘even more preferred option’ for airport expansion apart from in the opinion of those who don’t want it to happen and those who say it will never happen. At least we can be clear that it’s still a ‘thing’ while we speculate on whether the DUP will have the final say in the matter.
What else has happened this year? Nick True, the Blue Baron stepped down as leader of Richmond Council and handed over to Paul Hodgins from Barnes. The Blue Baron’s retirement from the blistering white heat of local politics could spell an end to all those posh put downs and damning quotes in El Brute press releases. Remember his call for “a period of silence from certain all too well ventilated local voices”? A True classic. His departure also leaves a big gap in the nicknames market. Hodgins just doesn’t have the same stature as True, or even the same tweed collection.
Some people got upset about English Heritage’s plans to create a slice of new old heritage authenticity at Marble Hill Park while St Mary’s University is planning world domination by building across its sports facilities, the same ones that helped it become well-known in the first place. New community building The Exchange opened which, among other things, now shows films from the new Twickenham Cinema Club. It’s part of the Brewery Wharf site which has been built and opened in the time it’s taken to not rebuild Twickenham station.
In the town centre, Eel Pie Records opened selling music to vinyl aficionados old and new. It’s ideal if you want to combine music with booze from Ricardo’s Cellar and South African Biltong because they’re all in the same premises. Costa and Esquires joined the ranks of coffee chains in town, the Seasons kitchen shop closed and so Iceland got bigger, Nandos is coming and pet pampering boutique Bazil and Ruby arrived in Church Street. MultiYork, purveyors of interest free credit (with a fancy sofa chucked in for good measure) went into administration and announced it’s closing its Heath Road store. And that’s just a sample of High Street goings on.
Restaurants opened, restaurants closed. Some even opened and closed within the year. If only they’d consulted you beforehand, eh? Arthurs on the Green closed when its owners retired and long standing Chinese restaurant Jun Ming also shut, to be replaced by a pizza restaurant and Sicilian place respectively. A couple of the smokehouse / ribshack joints that appeared just before the rugby world cup said goodbye to Twickenham too. But of course La Serenata on the corner of London Road and Whitton Road continued as Twickenham’s greatest mystery. Never open Italian restaurant? Or MI6 safehouse with a secret tunnel to Londark on Heath Road, Twickenham’s number one retailer of plastic bags and sacks? You decide.
We’ve had summer and Christmas festivals, farmers markets, French markets, craft markets, gigs, American Football at the home of rugby, exhibitions and a literature festival too. And with Christmas just days away it’s wonderful to see local newsagent Meet and Deep News on Hampton Road getting recognition for their ‘open shop’ on Christmas Day. Their invitation to anyone to drop in for a mince pie and a hug has gone viral on Twitter with hundreds of retweets and over a thousand ‘likes’. And if that wasn’t enough, a Sky news van showed up. Sir, Madam and the whole #meetanddeepfamily, we salute you. Just make sure you stock up on extra mince pies!
Wow! It’s certainly been a busy year but aren’t they always? But could more be done, say, if the political types all worked as one? It got us thinking. We tried to picture what it would be like if new Council Leader Paul Hodgins, his Deputy Pamela Fleming, Lib Dem opposition leader Gareth Roberts and Twickenham MP Vince Cable all worked together for the greater good. It looked a bit like this…
Merry Christmas all and Best Wishes for 2018.