Category Archives: Features

Harlequins: Marking the End of the O’Shea Era

We don’t often cover rugby on this site but, and it’s a big but, Harlequins are Twickenham’s top flight team and in the last few years under the direction of Conor O’Shea the club has achieved some notable success including winning their first (and only) Aviva Premiership title in 2012. Now O’Shea’s leaving the club and heading to Italy, times are changing and we felt it was worth paying tribute to the man and the success he brought to The Stoop. Occasional twickerati roving reporter and big Quins fan Bill Webb-Ellis looks back on the O’Shea era and ponders on what the future may bring…

 

With the reduced, ‘de-funned’ (for which read, de-deathed due to excessive drinking) London 7s last weekend, as well as the Aviva Premiership semi-finals taking place, the players at Harlequins were busy posting photos of themselves in Cannes on Instagram. Their coach for the past six years however may well be ruing his send off the previous Friday night in the European Challenge Cup Final.

With 80 minutes played and trailing by seven points, Quins had possession in their own half, if they could get a converted try, they could take the game to extra time. The ball came to flyhalf, Ben Botica, who inexplicably kicked it up field, giving possession to Montpellier who carried it out to win the match and the cup. Botica had already signed to play for Montpellier next season, and the conspiracy theorists had a field day. In truth, the game had been lost in the previous 80 minutes with Harlequins out-muscled by Jake White’s strong South African bolstered side, unrecognisable from the team that Harlequins put 41 points past at home in November 2015.

Conor O’Shea arrived at Quins in March 2010 among the embers from Bloodgate, and took over from caretaker coach John Kingston after Dean Richards resigned and was then banned from rugby for three years. O’Shea won 35 caps for his country as a stylish full-back and had played, captained, coached, been Director of Rugby and even Managing Director of London Irish, before working for the RFU as Director of Regional Academies and then National Director of the English Institute of Sport.

In O’Shea’s first full season, he took Harlequins to victory over Munster at Thomand Park in a Challenge Cup semi-final, becoming only the second club to beat the Irish province at home in a European Competition. In the final, Quins beat Stade Français with a last-minute try from Argentinian wing Gonzo Comacho, sent through the French side’s defence by a grubber from Danny Care; the conversion by Nick Evans gave them the cup by a point, 19–18 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

The confidence that came from the cup win after the lows and humiliation from the season before brought about a new Quins’ style. O’Shea held a summit with his four coaches as to what was needed to move on. The words and phrases that cropped up were leadership, culture, empowering players, discipline, and the response was immediate. In the 2011–12 season, Harlequins won their first 10 premiership games before losing to Saracens at Twickenham in the Big Game 4. A home playoff semi-final against Northampton Saints saw a 14-man maul go over the line for Joe Marler to score the winning try and secure a 25-23 victory.

Quins v Wasps [copyright Seconds Left Images]

Quins v Wasps  (Copyright Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images)

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Dr Tania Mathias: Being Twickenham’s MP One Year In

Who’d be an MP? Not us that’s for sure!  The long hours, having to deal with all those constituents, the listening to long speeches, learning how to wave order papers in the air in that special way, it’s all a bit too much. And that is why it’s a job best suited to other people.  Here in leafy Twickenham we had Vince Cable as our MP for 18 years and then, on the 7th of May last year, a day of big political upsets, Dr Tania Mathias the Conservative Party candidate, was elected as Member of Parliament for our humble ol’ town.

But what is it like being a new MP?  We’ve absolutely no idea (see above) and that is why we decided to put ten questions to Dr Mathias about her first year in the job. And can you guess what happened next? That’s right, she agreed to answer them.

 

Tania Mathias

Dr Tania Mathias MP

Here’s what we asked, and, more importantly, here’s what she had to say…

1. What was going through your mind in the early hours of the 8th May 2015 as you were declared Twickenham’s MP? And did Vince Cable give you any words of advice?

TM: At 4am on 8th May I was taken by surprise and I didn’t have a speech prepared. I found myself thinking of the young schoolboy Daniel who had told me on election day morning that he was going to stay up to hear the result. Mostly I was glad that all the supporters in the room and watching the results at home knew their efforts had brought success.

There wasn’t any time for a handover that morning and my duties started the following Monday so I didn’t manage to get any tips or advice from Dr Cable until later in the year.

2. How easy (or tough) has it been adapting to life as a new MP?

It’s been relatively easy because I’ve always had jobs that are all-consuming. There’s also a lot of support from colleagues from both sides of the House especially from those who entered Parliament at the same time.

3. What has surprised you most about Westminster life?

The biggest surprise is that the House of Commons as a workplace – from the doorkeepers to librarians – is one of the friendliest and most helpful I have worked in.

4. How well do you think you have represented your Twickenham constituents in your first year?

I’d like to think I have represented Twickenham constituents well. Whilst I’ve supported the delivery of the manifesto on which I stood, I have not been shy to challenge the government when it has been wrong. I have replied to over 10,000 emails from constituents, handled over a thousand individual cases, and held weekly surgeries throughout the year.

5. What are you most proud of from your time in Parliament so far?

I’m proud of already being known for standing up for local concerns – opposing Heathrow expansion, fighting for Kneller Hall – and for standing up for those who need help such as single parents on tax credits and unaccompanied refugee children.

6. You’ve said you are in the ‘remain’ camp for the forthcoming EU Referendum. What is that decision based on and do you think it reflects the views of your constituents?

I have based my decision on our economic needs for small businesses and on security. While I describe myself as ‘Euro cautious’ I believe we can be strongest in a reformed EU.

7. You’ve come in for criticism, especially on social media, after voting for cuts to ESA disability payments. Planned changes to junior doctors’ contracts are also proving controversial. As a doctor yourself, do you stand by these policies?

ESA will be fully protected for those who are not able to work, but I did support changes for those who can do some work – existing policies to support people with disabilities to find work have not been as effective as they should have been. I have met with disability groups and individuals with disabilities in Twickenham about the 2017 changes for new claimants and I share their concerns that current work programmes are not helping enough people. The changes to ESA need to go hand-in-hand with better, more individual support for claimants to find work.

On the junior doctor contract, I have met with the junior doctors and with Jeremy Hunt and have urged both to negotiate without pre-conditions. I do not agree with the Government’s move to impose the contract, but nor do I support the strike action. It is only through negotiation and compromise that a reasonable solution will be reached.

8. Heathrow expansion. You’re opposed to it but isn’t it just a matter of time before it happens anyway?

Whatever the Government decides, I will continue to fight for a ‘better not bigger’ Heathrow, and I will do all I can to oppose a third runway. I believe that pollution concerns will ultimately stop expansion anyway – noise and air quality are already unacceptably poor for too many people in Twickenham and beyond.

9. Now you’re an MP rather than ‘just’ a local councillor, how do you view your role in terms of getting involved in local issues? Could you ever see yourself disagreeing with LBRuT?

My job is to speak up for my constituents and this will mean disagreeing with my own party either in government or in the council – and that has already happened on some issues. I am, however, able to discuss my concerns with local government colleagues.

10. And finally, what are your priorities for the year ahead?

Nationally, I will continue to push for the issues I stood on at the election : a strong economic policy to maintain lower personal taxation, and low corporation taxes and investment allowances support local small businesses. I will continue to promote engineering and science in our schools. I will also continue to support human rights both in the UK and abroad.

Locally, I will continue to oppose Heathrow expansion and push for the airport to do more to tackle current levels of noise and air pollution. I will fight for better rail services and CrossRail 2 for our constituency; I will fight to keep a military presence at Kneller Hall; and I will fight for better flood defences.

 

You’ll probably be pleased with some of what you just read. You’ll probably be displeased with some of what you just read. Please feel free to delete as applicable. Well, actually you can’t delete it but you could always add a comment below.

 

Spring sprung?

Twickenham from Eel Pie Island bridge

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David Bowie: A Music Legend with a Twickenham Link

Eel Pie Island’s rich music heritage includes many famous names. Some of them are greats, a few of them genuinely deserve the title ‘legend’. One such legend, David Bowie, died today at the age of 69. Michele Whitby is a Twickenham resident and curator of the Eel Pie Island Museum which ran as a pop up exhibition at Twickenham Library last year. In this short piece, Michele, a huge Bowie fan, gives her take on the passing of someone whose nascent creative genius touched this part of London many decades ago…

11th JAN 2016. ‘Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.’
Being woken to the words ‘Mum, David Bowie has died’ coming from my daughter’s mouth at 7am this morning was not what I had in mind to start the week. My first thought was ‘please let it be one of those hoaxes’, my second was ‘if it’s true, then he orchestrated the release of his final album in perfect Bowie style’. Then I cried.

My daughter understood my tears and hugged me. After all ‘Starman’ was the song I chose to sing her as a lullaby when she was little and she has grown up listening to his music. She loved the line from his song ‘Kooks’, written for his own son, ‘And if the homework brings you down then we’ll throw it on the fire and take the car downtown’ (we were actually able to do this when we moved to a boat with a wood-burning stove!). She was as mesmerised as I by the fabulous V&A Bowie exhibition and it is testament to his genius that he could effortlessly engage different generations through his output of brilliant music. Continue reading

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2015 in Twickenham: A Year in Review

ice-cream-van-twickenham-twickeratiWhat 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.

London Road

London Road, cycling

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. Continue reading

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The Official Twickerati Visitors Guide to Twickenham

Twickenham. A town with balls.

Twickenham. A town with big balls.

Coming to Twickenham for the Rugby World Cup? You are? Welcome! Bienvenue! Ciao! G’day! The other ones!  You’ve probably already got all your plans sorted out for your visit, haven’t you? Beer, rugby, curry, more beer then get the hell out of here. Are we right? Probably, but we hope not totally. Twickenham is more than just rugby and we should know, we bloody live here. All the time.

We thought we’d give you a few pointers to non-rugby things you could do if you’re staying around for a few days. We’re not going to tell you about all the pubs, cafes and restaurants right in the town centre (you can find them yourself) or about the huge RWC Fanzone in the Old Deer Park in Richmond, you can find that too although don’t expect to find many old dears there, it’ll be far too noisy for them. We’re also not going to go banging on about the likes of Richmond, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court or even central London. You can do that yourselves.

First, some background on Twickenham…

The town is London’s premier leafy suburb. It is part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRuT) which is affectionately known as El Brute. Top dawg on El Brute Council is the Blue Baron. Yes, he’s a real person, yes he’s a real baron and yes he really is blue (politically speaking). The Blue Baron’s seat of power lies at York House, the Twickenham HQ of Richmond Council where naked ladies cavort in the grounds. There are naked horses there too. Kinky or what? Continue reading

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TWAP! It’s the New Road Surface and Cycle Lanes

It’s not been long since we last talked about the Twickenham Action Plan (aka the TWAP) or about bikes for that matter. But as we begin to see a few signs that the road and pavement works in Twickenham may actually come to an end at some point this spring (or perhaps summer, but definitely, 100% definitely before the Rugby World Cup) we thought we’d take look at the brand new road surface and cycle lanes. The result? Confusion. Confusion for us, confusion for cyclists and, quite possibly, confusion for drivers.

Advance cycle stop markings at junctions?  Nothing says ‘stop your car here’ quite like a massive bicycle painted on the road, or so it seems. Some education is required.

Cycle lanes? We’ve got yes, no and maybe. All at the same time. It’s a very mixed picture.

We all know that the sheer volume of traffic through Twickenham means finding a solution that suits, cars, cyclists and pretty much anyone else is always going to be tricky but here at twickerati HQ we can’t help but feel that bike lanes that appear, disappear then re-appear will make life confusing for all.

Most troubling is the north side of King Street heading towards Richmond. Cars coming from Cross Deep are in two lanes as they turn right into King Street. Cars coming from Heath Road are also in two lanes (bus stop and regular M&S deliveries permitting). But King Street now has a cycle lane marked out and the road simply isn’t wide enough for two lanes and the cycle lane. Should cars merge into a single lane? Dunno. Should cars drive in the bike lane? Perhaps. Should they try to do both?  And what is supposed to happen when the road narrows to barely two lanes at the York Street / London Road junction. It’s unclear. Apart from giving a general indication that there might be cyclists around, these bike lane markings make things ambiguous for drivers as well as cyclists and that doesn’t seem like a good recipe for a safe and sensible approach. Maybe there’s still time for an early rethink or at least some clearer signs and a bit of education?

That’s our view as a driver, cyclist, pedestrian and bus passenger. What’s yours?

Two lanes plus bikes?

Two lanes plus bikes?

A brief video clip

A Vine

UPDATE: On May 11th @LBRUT responded to a question on Twitter about the lanes in King Street from @CindyCroucher. The LBRuT response was, “It operates as a single lane for most of the time, with an advisory cycle lane marked on the nearside… During peak periods traffic can travel in two lanes by over-running the cycle lane if not in use.”
To us that just sounds like usual road use, i.e. if there’s a cyclist in the left hand lane, try not to run him/her over. Perhaps that’s the ‘advice’ bit in the ‘advisory cycle lane’?

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Eel Pie Music Museum Update

Print Remember a few weeks ago when we told you all about the plans for a museum dedicated to Eel Pie Island’s music heritage? Of course you flippin’ do, although it was really the organiser Michele Whitby rather than us who told you all about it. Well Michele has an update for you on the state of the plans. And guess what? Here it is….

“Whilst still looking for permanent premises, the Eel Pie Island Museum will be running a pop-up version, renting two of the upstairs rooms at Twickenham Library, from early June until the end of October. We really wanted to have something in place for the Twickenham Festival and the Rugby World Cup so the chance to do this at the library is fantastic. Local businesses and residents have already come forward to help, both financially and with offers of skills and time. We would like to thank them all, particularly David McGeachie from Tenant Finder, the first business to offer sponsorship to the project. Dave has been active on the local music scene for 15 years and is really passionate about helping make the museum happen. We’re delighted to have him on board.

The museum is being run as a Community Interest Company, which means that all profits get ploughed back into the project. Anyone wishing to contribute any amount, no matter how small, can do so by bank transfer or cheque. Please email me at michelewhitby@hotmail.com for further details.

Really, every penny helps and will be greatly appreciated. We will be making a ‘wall of fame’ for contributors in the museum.”

Michele Whitby with David McGeachie

Michele Whitby with David McGeachie

LINKS:
* Previously on twickerati: Plans for an Eel Pie Island Museum
* Contact Michele at michelewhitby@hotmail.com

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Plans for an Eel Pie Island Museum

Eel Pie Island Music LegendsYou might not know it today but Twickenham has a rich music heritage around jazz and rhythm n blues. Well, we say it’s Twickenham’s heritage but it’s fair to say that one small piece of this town is at the heart of it – Eel Pie Island. Perhaps you went along to the Eelpiland exhibition at Orleans House Gallery in 2013. If you didn’t, you should have. It gave a great insight into the Island’s music scene in the 1950’s and 60’s. But what if that exhibition could be made permanent for more people to enjoy? Michele Whitby is a Twickenham local,  Eel Pie islander and a champion of spreading the word about Twickenham’s place in music history. In this guest blog she takes up the story….

Eel Pie Island Museum
Michele Whitby

Plans are afoot to create a new museum in Twickenham dedicated to Eel Pie Island. World famous for its musical heritage, the island also has a fantastic riparian history, all of which really deserve to be celebrated and shared, not just with locals but also the many tourists that visit London.

Richmond-upon-Thames is steeped in history, stately homes and beautiful parks which all make it a great place to visit. But alongside the more traditional attractions, our borough is also sitting on a wealth of very significant musical heritage. Global superstars such as the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and many more, started out on their path to fame and fortune right on our doorsteps. Eel Pie Island played a pivotal part in the British RnB explosion and was a mecca for thousands of music fans in the 1950’s and 60’s; we really should be making more of this exciting aspect of our history.

For today’s sixty-somethings, who were actually ‘there’ when it all happened, the chance to revisit their youth and show their children and grandchildren just how cool they really were is something that is missing from the attractions we currently have on offer. At present we only have the Heritage Board outside the Barmy Arms dedicated to arguably one of the most exciting aspects of the area’s history – Eel Pie Island. The board attracts much attention and almost daily tourists amble over the bridge to the Island seeking a taste of the musical history, but of course the hotel is long gone and there is nothing left to see.

Eel Pie Island Hotel

Eel Pie Island Hotel

So, I want to set up and run an Eel Pie Island Museum in Twickenham, as close as possible to the Island itself. Continue reading

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Whither Church Street?

It’s fair to say that some things remain totally baffling to us here at twickerati HQ. How apples fell from trees before Isaac Newton invented gravity is one. The success of the television career of Nick Knowles is another. And, although it might seem strange to say it, the state of Church Street in Twickenham is yet another.

Church Street

A flowered up Church Street

Do people love Church Street? They surely do. It’s everyone’s favourite Twickenham street, isn’t it? Al fresco dining in summer; French markets; Christmas lights; a couple of great pubs; some quirky shops, a smattering of local businesses and a decent selection of restaurants. All great. Is it a roaring success? Maybe, a bit. Sometimes the place is buzzing. And yet on the other hand we continue to see empty shops – Par Ici, Escape, Langtons, and Mercado to name but four. Complement to name five. Take a look around on weekdays and even weekends and you’ll see that it’s not exactly heaving. Where is everyone? As a shopper you’re more likely to have to step aside for a passing car than as a result of the press of fellow punters.

Mid morning on a mild October Saturday

Where are you? Mid morning on a mild October Saturday

And yet, look at just about any promotional publication or website focusing on Twickenham and you can be pretty damn sure that lil’ old Church Street will feature. And rightly so. But where are the millers, the bustlers, the browsers and the leisure pursuitists? Some might be in the shops but the others are, well, elsewhere.
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