“Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, building Trumpton one block at a time. With flats by the river and parking galore, we just have to hope that it’s better than before”.
Yes folks that’s what Councillor Pamela Fleming is absolutely insisting gets sung before all meetings at Richmond Council this Christmas. We’re not sure if she can actually hold a tune but we do know that she can hold a (party) line.
Christmas is upon us just as it was at this time last year. It’s a time when we look forward to wincing at our bank balances and praying that our guests will leave (just bloody leave!) but we also look back on the year that’s ending. It’s been year of strange events, plucky Leicester City winning the Premier League, plucky Brits voting for Brexit, and plucky billionaire bully-boy businessman Donald Trump winning The Pres Factor across the pond. Here in Twickenham we’ve had our fair share of surprises too. Surprise that LBRuT, aka ‘El Brute’, stuck with their unpopular scheme and chosen architect for Twickenham Riverside despite strong local opposition. Surprise that the high street at the end of the year looks very similar to the way it looked at the beginning, and surprise too that a new third runway at Heathrow got the nod from the government. Actually none of those three was remotely surprising but they warranted a token mention.
What of the riverside scheme? Here at twickerati HQ we’ve been disappointed that the Council have persisted with a plan that doesn’t do justice to the potential of the site, is overloaded in terms of scale and features a design that pays a traditionalist homage to a non-existent past. After all these years of dithering and deliberation Twickenham looks set to end up with something that’s ‘sort of OK’ rather than something great. It’s a shame. But on the bright side we do have a wonderful new station to enjoy as we go about our business. You’ve not seen it? What?? Well it was definitely going to be built after the Rugby World Cup. Definitely! The rugby world cup ended over a year ago but nothing’s been started yet. On the plus side, it’s not actually behind schedule because the phrase ‘after the rugby world cup’ applies to all dates from November 2015 to the very end of time. Hurrah!
At least the development opposite the station on the former post office sorting office site is nearly complete. It’s even got our new ‘community building’ / ‘cultural hub’ in it where things will happen that the community can do or look at or maybe wear or something. In truth, we’ve no idea. If it can support a thriving theatre-cum-performance space then that will be good but the only concrete idea we’ve had is that it might have been better to have a community building as part of the riverside development but what do we know?
On the high street, long standing Chinese restaurant Jun Ming closed, Arthur’s is up for sale and we said farewell to the mysterious Cakes World and Marc Jason’s Shoeworld. The Press Room and Caffe a Roma arrived but so did Costa. The Heath Road restaurant that never lasts and which was most recently called Flavours of Sicily didn’t last. Former Blockbuster video store turned Morrison’s supermarket closed its doors again and is now turning into a Screwfix and a Co-op mini-supermarket has appeared in what was the Old Anchor pub. This, my friends, is the way of the world these days.
So what else happened? We had summer festivals and Christmas lights. New primary schools opened, more places are on the way in a giant new block at St Richard Reynolds College as is a whole new secondary school on the Richmond College site in Egerton Road. A man made national news when he brought Twickenham traffic to a standstill on a rugby day by throwing bricks and tiles off a roof and thieves blew up a cash point on Heath Road and made off with the contents. Richmond Council continued its merger with Wandsworth with the aim of making savings in back office costs through sharing resources. And if you wanted an ice rink to get you in the festive mood then you were to be disappointed. El Brute rejected proposals for a temporary winter rink in Radnor Gardens. Apparently school kids need the space…. even when they’re on holiday.
Here at twickerati we even managed to disappoint ourselves by living up to our recently lowered expectations. We updated the site only occasionally and focused on the same few stories over and over again. The simple fix of finding more time, of writing with more wit and style and of securing regular contributors proved to be not quite so simple after all. But we battle on and, after all, why wouldn’t we with plenty of Twick-o-centric developments likely in 2017. Work on the riverside, maybe that new station, some new flats that look just like all the others, shops closing, shops opening, a permanent home for the Eel Pie Music museum.
This is what living in God’s own leafy outer London suburb is all about. This plus the parks, the river, the pubs, cafes and restaurants and above all else the people, i.e. you lovely lot.
As we conclude we say to you, put away thoughts of that charming John Lewis advert and think instead of the new seasonal YouTube video from El Brute Supremo, the Blue Baron aka Lord True. Buster the Boxer’s got nothing on him. This Council video is all about listening to Sir True’s view of the world whilst looking at the back of his head in a giant mirror. Nothing says Christmas quite like that!
And that, little friends, is that. Have a great Christmas, have a wonderful New Year and thanks for reading this blog over the last 12 months.
MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL