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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Pics of the Week: Spring & Water

If you can’t always remember what’s great about living in Twickenham then spring mornings and spring tides should be near the top of your list. Need some photos to remind you? Here’s four for you then.

Looking towards Radnor Gardens

Looking up river towards the Heart of Darkness (aka Teddington)

Early doors, Twicke-side

The Thames, early doors, Twick-side

Oh no, not again.

Oh no, you’ve only gone and bloody parked there again.

Arriving at The White Swan in style

Arriving at The White Swan in style

There are probably a bunch of other reasons too but we’ll come back to them another time (when we actually remember them).

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Residents’ Riverside Draft Revealed

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death seems like an apposite time for an update on the Twickenham Riverside development. Why? Well, we’ve got comedy, tragedy, a cast of memorable characters, history repeating itself and bitter power struggles. Add to that the option for referencing this saga to the titles of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. The Comedy of Errors or As True Likes It,  etc, etc, add your own versions at the end) and then top it off with the possibility that we might get an amphitheatre on which we’ll be able to see it all acted out one day. Bostin’ as they say in the Midlands although whether they say it as far south as Stratford-upon-Avon is a mystery (to us).

You’ll recall that after having listened to local residents across several consultations over several years, the Council went away, did some mulling and cogitating, worked with big name architects Q&F Terry and then unveiled designs for the riverside which nobody particularly seemed to like. Oh dear. LBRuT (pron: El Brute) then announced that it would work on revisions which would take account of residents’ feedback and, possibly, just possibly, make the scheme do the things that it was originally supposed to do, namely create a useful town square and open up central Twickenham to the river.

Twickenham riverside site from Embankment

Twickenham riverside site from Embankment

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A Twickenham Cultural Hub. Well, Will It Be?

You’ve probably seen this building loads of times. Perhaps you walk past it every day on your way to the station. Maybe you’ve even pondered on how it’s possible to put so much scaffolding against one single structure? But what exactly is it?

Brewery Wharf, Twickenham

Brewery Wharf, Twickenham

Why, it’s the new ‘community and cultural building’ for Twickenham of course! It’s part of the large Brewery Wharf development that’s going up on the old Royal Mail sorting office site. It’s a big site and will include over one hundred new flats and houses with a very light sprinkling of shared ownership homes too. Part of the deal for the development was for some kind of community building that would benefit the town. It’s not a bad idea even if, according to us here at twickerati HQ, it’s in the wrong place. Wouldn’t it be better located right, slap bang in the town centre, possibly even as part of the Twickenham riverside development? We think so, but what do we know.  Anywayyyyy…

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Please Sponsor Me In The Brighton Marathon

Spear LondonHello Twickenham. Here’s a request that’s a bit different from the usual twickerati nonsense. I’m after your money. Not for me you understand but for SPEAR, the Twickenham based charity helping homeless people in the area. I’m running in the Brighton Marathon on Sunday 17th April and any donation you can make to SPEAR will be very much appreciated. With less than a week to go there’s no time like the present to act so why not read on then immediately click on the link to donate via the twickerati JustGiving page. Yes, do it right now please.

What & why?
Apart from doing things like having a day job and updating twickerati with Twickenham related stuff, I also do a bit of running from time to time. 5k, 10k, 10 miles and more, but one thing has been missing – a full marathon. And that’s why I’m running Brighton. 26.2 miles is a long way. A bloody long way. Apparently, it’s twice the distance of a half marathon! It’s going to be hard, it could take a while, my knees and ankles are going to hate me more than they do already, but it will be worth it if I can raise money for an excellent local cause too.

Who?
I am raising funds for SPEAR, a charity based in central Twickenham. If you live locally you’ve probably heard of it. Its mission is to enable homeless people in South and West London to find secure accommodation and work towards a positive future.

If you enjoy reading twickerati whether on the blog, Twitter or Facebook then I’d be hugely grateful if you could make a donation to SPEAR to help it with its important work with vulnerable people. Any donation, however large or small, would mean a lot to me but it will mean much more to them. Thank you very much. Russell

 

UPDATE 18 APRIL 2016:

Thanks so much for all your donations, you have helped raise over £1,000 for Spear. Both Spear and I really appreciate it. The money will be put to good use tackling homelessness in our part of London. As for the run, I reached my ‘best case’ target time of 3h 45m thanks to a bit of preparation, fantastic support along the route and the knowledge that I was running for a good cause. Thank you all again. Russell

Sorry about the photo, the staff photographer was having an off day but you get the idea.

 

Did it!

Did it!

 

LINK:
* DONATE: twickerati JustGiving page for SPEAR
* More about SPEAR

ice-cream-van-twickenham-twickerati

P.S. If you are an actual friend of mine (and for the avoidance of doubt I like to think I have at least three, maybe four at a push) I also have a personal JustGiving page for exactly the same thing in case you’d prefer to sponsor me there.
P.P.S. And if you’re wondering why I have not asked for sponsorship earlier, my propensity to accrue minor sporting injuries has put me off doing that until now.

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Pic of the Week: Room with a View

New flats going up on Heath Road offer the prospect of stunning views. The building, Twickenham House, has images on the hoardings showing the type of accommodation you can expect and we have to say that having a view across Mediterranean rooftops as opposed to the Tesco Express and the railway line will be a very attractive proposition for some.

Views across Tesco and the railway

Views across Tesco and the railway

Views across the Med

Views across the Med

Twickenham House on Heath Road

Twickenham House on Heath Road

It’s amazing what they can do these days, isn’t it?

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LBRuT to Spend £2m on Royalty Festival and Street Parties

Richmond Council has stepped up its campaign to secure royal status for the borough. It’s no secret that leading Councillors are keen to add the ‘royal’ moniker to the borough’s name and to secure all the prestige and pageantry that goes with it. It would be a major coup for LBRuT if they can pull it off.

The seat of El Brute power

York House: Home to El Brute

As part of its £2m ‘Project Royal’ campaign the Council is planning to splash the cash on a ‘Royalty Festival’ and street parties to celebrate the Borough’s connections with the monarchy. The festival will take place in Marble Hill Park in June at a time when many people will be holding street parties to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. The Marble Hill event will feature a giant, free street party for anyone who wants to attend. Planning is already well underway and Council Leader Lord True, aka The Blue Baron, has gone on the record to say: “The 90th birthday of our monarch should be a glorious occasion for us all to get together and celebrate her reign and the service she has given to our nation. I am thrilled to be able to host an event in one of the Borough’s most beautiful open spaces and have been working closely with the Parks Department on the plans. The Parks team have already adopted some of my exciting ‘lawn art’ ideas for making the grounds look suitably regal. Furthermore, I and several other Councillors will be leading a royal parade by way of entertainment”. Continue reading

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Orleans House Discovery ‘Out of this World’

Extraordinary evidence has come to light about the original function of the famous Octagon Room, part of Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham as a primitive device for celestial communications.

During research for the Heritage Lottery-funded £1.8m renovation project, in which original drawings and documents have been sourced in an effort to revert the décor to its true 1720s state, artists and technicians were stunned to discover a previously undiscovered stash of diagrams by its architect James Gibbs showing the unique, cylindrical building as a vast acoustic earpiece with various ingenious sound enhancers and transcribing machinery, all beneath a giant retractable roof.

gibbs_octagon_1

James Gibbs (1682-1754) has long been known for his interest in extra-terrestrial activity having witnessed as a young man “many curious fire globes o’er Thames at Richmond”.  Several of his other building designs have alluded to astronomy but this is the only known example of his obsession being put directly into practice, most likely with the generous financial assistance of wealthy Twickenham resident James Johnson (1655-1737), notable for sharing Gibbs’ fascination having “experienc’d a divinely sensuous other-worldly abduction”.

gibbs_vision

Richmond Council officers have long been mystified since discovering that the original footprint of the house and gardens, of which the Octagon Room is the only section remaining intact, mimics exactly the constellation of Orion with the Octagon sitting in place of dominating star, de Mairan’s Nebula. Most remarkably reams of transcripts discovered within the documents appear to depict abstract wave patterns with a stunning similarity to those of NASA’s Keppler spacecraft purporting to show unusual, unexplained activity way beyond our own solar system. These have now been passed on to the British Astronomical Society for deciphering.

There is now evidence that much of the machinery stayed in place relaying “an abundance of communications” until the arrival of King Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans in the early 1800s who, as a deeply religious man and a representative of the Catholic Church, saw it as a “dark art”, ordering its immediate removal and destruction. It is assumed that the documents were somehow rescued by Louis Philippe’s wife Maria Amalia after her husband’s death as they have been in the possession of her family, ancestors of King Ferdinand IV of Naples, stored in an impenetrable safebox, ever since. There they would have stayed had the safe’s mechanism not inexplicably given out last month revealing the contents for the first time in over 200 years.

 

LINK:
* LBRuT: Celestial Communications at Orleans House

Gibbs had a strong interest in UFOs

Gibbs had a strong interest in the extra terrestrial

[Contributed by our special correspondent Avril de Furst]

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