On the Patch
The end of the school term marks that point in the year when the first phase of summer slowly ends and the holiday season starts in earnest. I may be looking forward but, as in every year, I have sweet memories of June and July in Ealing.
One of the joys of this job is the great variety of school summer fetes and great community occasions like the Hanwell and Greenford Carnivals. It has been a delight to accompany our new Mayor, Cllr Harbajan Kaur Dheer, around the patch and to see her throwing herself into our community life with gusto.
Saturday the 11th July was a typical day with the 4th Northolt Scouts working with McDonalds at Westway Cross for a community clear up first thing in the morning. The franchisee, Mr King, is one of those people who believes in putting something back and he sponsors the annual litter pick which the Scouts support with the sort of enthusiasm that gives you hope for the future.
Moving on from there I went to Horsenden Primary School for their magnificent summer fair which featured teachers being soaked in the stocks and a grunge pit where foul substances were hurled at the sporting staff members and some of the finest cakes in the constituency were swiftly snapped up by an appreciative crowd. The new school buildings looked great and what a tribute to the Headteacher Liz Walton and her team. This is truly excellent primary school. It may be one of the biggest in London but every pupil feels individually valued and I felt a lot of pride in the playground on that scorching Saturday.
Heading down to Hanwell next I was the guest of Albert Tamou and the crew at Celtic FC who were having an open day on Brentside Playing Field. Dave, Len, Leon and the rest of the coaches give so much of their own time to keep the club running and hundreds of youngsters learn about teamwork, collective achievement and a little discipline as well as becoming more than capable footballers. It is an unwritten rule of politics that the elected MP has to make a complete mug of himself by trying to remember the soccer skills that he was once so proud of. I managed to convert my three penalties using the Pirlo placement technique but could not get near the crossbar in the challenge and when it came to calibrating the speed of the penalty I clocked in around the 50-60kph while some lad from the under 14s managed 102kph with ease.
Slinking away from the pitch of shame I headed up to Northolt to meet a representative of the local Kurdish community who wanted to discuss the UK government’s position with regard to the Peshmerga fighting so bravely against the barbaric ISIL in northern Syria and Iraq. There are those who say we should be arming those fighting our enemies but Britain has an unfortunate record in this regard and had we supported Bashar al-Assad two years ago we might have been in even greater trouble than we are at the moment. Don’t forget that the Americans armed and funded the Mujahidin in Afghanistan as they were fighting the Russians. The Russians left and the Mujahidin morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda so such matters are seldom simple. It is, however, really hard to look a young Kurdish man in the eye and say that while you admire the courage of his people you cannot see the UK supplying heavy weapons to any of the disparate Kurdish militias taking the fight to ISIL.
It was rather a relief to head off to North Greenford to present the prizes at the Horsenden Allotments and Gardens Association Summer Show. This really is one of the happiest occasions of the parliamentary year. Bob Axbey is always so welcoming and this year I was delighted to welcome the new President, Vic Coe. I’ve known Vic and his wife for many years and especially respected Vic for his work as the premier daffodil judge. I then had the great pleasure of presenting the actual awards and enjoying a bit of banter while drawing the raffle. A wonderful oasis of calm in a busy day and Mrs P was delighted with the bunch of sweet peas that I was given.
A quick sprint back to Hanwell for 6.30pm Mass and then to Westminster where I had to host a dinner for alumni of the London School of Economics. To my horror as I strolled into Central Lobby and saw 172 alumni all wearing evening dress while I was in standard MP uniform of lounge suit, white shirt and Labour Party tie. Wishing that the ground could swallow me up I put on a brave face and soldiered on.
A quick radio interview at 10pm and then back home to Hanwell with the prospect of a really busy Sunday ahead of me – but more of that later!