Sunday, 25 October 2009

Adventures in Congo

This is more an apology for the lack of posting than anything else really.

Yesterday I crossed the border into Congo, and am now in Bukavu in the province of South Kivu. There is a lot of fighting here at the moment with UN forces confronting some of the various militias that exist here, some of whom fled Rwanda after taking part in the genocide there.

On our first day we were sat in a cafe after I arrived only for some drunken Congolese policeman to come barelling in to the cafe and demand $100 from me, because he said we hadn't paid enough road tax. After lots of negotiation we sent him away with $10 and a pack of cigarettes. Such is life in Congo. There is little or no security here and what does exist comes from the UN forces. I am sitting just down the road from one of their army camps. Think of that next time people criticise our police.

The war here has claimed over 5 million lives in the last few years alone and yet is one of the least reported in the West.

Anyway unsurprisingly perhaps this means maintaining the blog for the next week is going to have to take a back seat. I am typing from a dark room with no lighting, running water or air conditioning (it is plus 30 degrees here) or other things you might take for granted in England. I am also being attacked by some ferocious mosquitoes! Bizarely it does have an intermittent internet connection though, hence this posting.

I cross back into Rwanda in a week and from there back from this bush to the W12 Bush - and I can't wait. Till then dear reader.. au revoir and take care

Thursday, 22 October 2009

BNP protest in White City

mango-tree-fruitWell, after all of the build up, this evening will see the BBC ratchet its quest for ratings up another notch with the appearance of Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, on Question Time. The protests that have been promised by anti fascists and supporters of the far right in this country have started to materialise and the real victims in the short term will be the residents of W12.

There have been warnings today of the increased likelihood of racially motivated attacks, and where are these more likely to happen than in W12 this evening. Filled as it will be with drunken psyched up skin headed yobs - in one of the most ethnically diverse areas in London.

I hope your evenings are not too ruined. On a personal level I am writing this from under a mango tree in Burundi, central Africa. I am here for two weeks for work and go to Congo on saturday. I wonder how many of the bomber jacketed Neo-Nazis that will be staining the Bush this evening actually realise that they are all descended from African ancestors, who lived very near to where I am sitting right now?

Monday, 19 October 2009

Acid attack: Katie Piper speaks out

Katie PiperThe woman who was raped and then permanently disfigured by two Shepherd's Bush men will be speaking about her experiences on a channel 4 programme on October 29th at 2100.

You can read her account, which she gave to the News of the World here. What still amazes and frankly disgusts me about this case, apart from the brutality of what was done to this woman, was the pathetic nature of the sentence handed down to one of the men who carried out the act of hurling acid into a defenceless woman's face. Stefan Sylvestre received just a few years.

When I wrote this article I wondered if I had gone over the top - but if anything I didnt go far enough.

It's something I will be raising when I meet some of those who pass sentence on W12 criminals at this meeting. Will report back.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

In Burundi

Just arrived in Burundi. This is a small African country next door to Rwanda and Congo and about 100 miles south of the equator. Hot and very humid. Lots of important work to do here, but nice to have lots of sun! Excuse a slow down in updates - and hello all you Bushers from Equatorial Africa!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Real face of RMT: "Sling him under a train"

The immortal words of a Tube worker as he screams after an elderly gentleman getting on a train. "Yer a litle girl" he adds for good measure. We've all seen little episodes like this if we've lived in London for any time, and of course these are the same people who keep trying to hold us all to ransom by going on strike. It's just that this time we have the power of the web to fight back. With any luck this campaign to hound the little prat out of his job will have worked by the end of next week. Although Communist Bob would probably call a strike to get him re-instated.

1925 Update: the tube worker has now been suspended by TfL and is apparently "being investigated". Predictably over here on the GoingUnderground blog, one of the commenters who is a tube member of staff has already started to make excuses for this behaviour.

Nick Griffin and the BNP come to town

GriffinI won't be in the Bush to see this but steel yourself fellow Bushers for the arrival of a bunch of flag waving bomber jacketed booted thugs with shaved heads next thursday. The BBC, in its onward search for the shock factor to boost ratings, has invited BNP leader Nick Griffin on to the Question Time programme. No venue is stupid enough to host a meeting like that so its going to take place at White City. Which means that those of us who live here have to put up with what is likely to be hordes of police, the inevitable closure of Wood Lane and nightmare traffic.

Just so a Hitler lover (and this time not Bernie Ecclestone) can have his platform on the telly. Cheers BBC.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Nathan Harris sentenced to life

Nathan Harris..except he will only in fact do 16 years.

Which is long enough given he is only 16 years old at the moment, but then why call it "life"?

This sentencing brings to and end a story which started almost a year ago in a killing that left the Bush, which is sadly no stranger to youths killing each other, stunned.

It was something about the fact that Craig Brown was killed while unloading christmas shopping and also probably that time of year that brought the full horror of it home.

It makes this forthcoming visit to "meet the sentencers" who deal with the local gangsters who run around shooting and stabbing each other and innocent bystanders in the Bush all the more interesting. I will report back after the meeting. Any questions you'd like asked?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Back to Congo

Congolese child soldiersOn friday I will be flying back to Congo in central Africa for work. We are a peacebuilding organisation and Congo, or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to give it its full name, is the world's largest conflict by far. Over 5 million people have died in the last few years alone. Yet no-one in the west has really ever heard of it.

At least you have now. Here is some more information about it.

 Going to places like this makes me appreciate just how lucky I am to live in the Bush. To be brutally honest I am already really looking forward to coming back. Forgive a slow down in updates on this blog while I'm away - I'll do what I can in what are likely to be challenging circumstances.

London Overground nightmare

overgroundInteresting journey to work today, which revealed much about how the general approach of Transport for London, to tell as little truth as possible, actually feeds down on to the front line.

I got to the station at 0910 and saw that the very delayed 0820something was actually going to arrive at 0912, lucky me I thought and sprinted across the bridge to the platform. I saw the dot matrix sign saying it was actually going to arrive in 3 minutes. 3 minutes counted down to 0. Then  it went back to 3 minutes. Counted down to zero. Then it went back to 3 minutes. Counted down to 0. Then it went back to 3 minutes. Get the picture?

Eventually I gave up and got the tube instead. I think what annoys me and other passengers the most is the way they lie to you. If it had said actually no, it will be at least another 15 minutes, I'd have been able to make an informed choice. But that's about putting the fare paying passengers first, and also making them liable for a customer charter refund. So they won't.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Greenhalgh answers back on housing

demolitionAs you'll have noted I've covered the housing issues on this blog a fair amount recently, and I have to say its been hard to find anything from the council that refutes a lot of the criticism it gets from residents and Labour.

So here is something I've just been sent by a reader - Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh defending his housing policy and taking a few swipes of his own at his critics. You can't say I don't cover both sides .. its just finding the council's side that's quite difficult sometimes!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Nun relics brought to HMP Wormwood Scrubs

wormwoodscrubsA slightly bizarre story from the BBC here. Bits of a nun who died in 1897 are being brought to our neighbours in jail today so that Catholic inmates can pay their respects. The nun was beatified (made a saint) by the church in Rome after she died.

I've written about the hidden lives of our imprisoned neighbours before, who I used to see going about their business over the walls from the maternity ward at next-door Queen Charlotte's hospital, but I don't think I realised quite how strange life was in there!

Bush at dawn


Good morning. And welcome to another working week!

Here are some more utterly gratuitous pics of the Bush at dawn, about 0615 to be precise, taken last friday morning when I was gym-bound. If, like me, you leave and return to the Bush in the dark at this time of year you'll know the Bush is really alive already by then so here it is in all its' glory.

My own personal favourite last friday morning was a middle aged woman, clutching a can of fosters, dancing to no music and leering at me from a doorway of the william hill betting shop on Uxbridge Road - "good morning" shrieks she, "..and gawd bless yer dahlin" as I walk past!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Car crash Goldhawk Road

Saturday 10am: Nasty looking car crash on Goldhawk Road just after roundabout with Askew Road in direction of Stamford Brook. Police have sealed off the rest of Goldhawk Road after the roundabout and a very smashed up vehicle being lifted by a crane. Doesn't look good.

Saturday 2.25pm: Road completely clear now, but a sad little pile of debris swept onto side of the road with quite a lot of sand. Hope everyone got out OK.

Craig Brown murder: killer found guilty

anotherlifelost3Nathan Harris from the White City estate was found guilty this week of the killing of Craig Brown.

He will be sentenced on monday.

Just before this murder I came back from Liberia in west Africa, which is a country that for the last few decades has endured one of the worlds' most vicious and brutal civil wars even by African standards.

This is a place where kids frequently use extreme violence as a way of life.

And as I said at the time, when you consider the fact that so called 'hard' kids here, who by comparison live a life of absolute luxury, use this sort of violence over an issue we now know to be so trivial as a previous fight is depresing beyond belief.

Pravda speaks on Goldhawk Block

PravdaThe latest edition of H&F News, the council propaganda sheet that you pay for with your taxes, has given the official council version of what happenned at this planning meeting. Having been there I can say that their account is one of the most biased and inaccurate accounts of a meeting I think I have ever read.

Apparently the council officers "guided" the councillors to the only decision that was open to them - er, wrong. In fact the council officer had to admit that some of the key points in her submission were wrong. This included the statement that Innocent Drinks "wanted" to leave the Goldhawk Road Industrial Estate. This was, she admitted, totally untrue. In fact as the officer ploughed through her report all you could hear were cries of "rubbish" from over a hundred local people who had packed in to watch.

The chair of the committee (who represents Shepherds Bush Green ward) Alex Chalk, is the only person quoted in Pravda's article. In fact he is quoted at such length that it takes up an entire column of text. The "journalist" obviously ran out of time or space to be able to interview a single member of the Residents Association or any other person who disagreed with the council's decision to allow the property developers they have such a high regard for to move in.

This is more a post lamenting the lack of an independent media that can accurately report the news in H&F rather than a comment about the rights and wrongs of the planning decision. What we now have instead is a propaganda rag that by hoovering up all the local advertising revenue has effectively driven any independent newspapers out of the Borough. So all we have left is this council mouthpiece that distorts the truth to fit a political agenda.

There are several changes to the Bush coming up that you might or might not agree with, such as the culling of the trees on Shepherd's Bush Green. Don't expect that freesheet that drops through your door to give you the full picture on that or anything else! I might even write a letter to the "Editor" you know..

Friday, 9 October 2009

Transport for (non-disabled) London

Tube LiesTfL have long lied about the reconstruction of Shepherd's Bush Station. I, like many other Bushers, had to endure months of walking to White City in the freezing cold as they knocked down the old station in order to build the new one that was part of the deal with Westfield. As we were trudging towards the station one of the things that we were promised was a station fit - and acessible - for all.

As I know from personal experience however, TfL are rarely to be trusted. And sure enough before the new station was opened it was revealed that TfL had "discovered" a major engineering reason why a lift could not be installed without huge expense. I am not an engineer but it strikes me that completely levelling a station and building it from new does leave quite a lot of scope for the installation of a lift.

Hammersmith And Fulham Action on Disability, HAFAD, have been making a noise about this today. Well done to them, and shame on both TfL for being the toe rags that they are and on the council for not forcing either Westfield or TfL to spend what was necessary to ensure that those of us who happen either to be disabled now or who will be in the future can actually use this new station.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sewage in our river

smellyAs you know if you were in the Bush it rained hard this week, and as Thames Water told us at this meeting, this generally means that raw sewage from as far afield as Camden and Brent flows through North London, into our part of west London and then into the river. That's when we're lucky. When we're not lucky it also flows into houses in Hammersmith. This is because the Victorian sewers just can't manage the sheer volume of rain plus toilet flushes.

As I type this Thames Water and other authorities are currently trying to deal with a large flow of poo that flowed into the river following the rain on wednesday this week and is currently merrily sitting in the river right next to our Borough. The authorities are trying to use peroxide and other chemicals to disperse it but its still there at the moment.

This rather makes the case for the new sewer that Thames Water wants to build, the Mayor of London has told them to build but that our council has demanded be stopped. I just wonder how our council are going to find a face saving way of climbing down on this one, as they catch the whiff of something smelly from the windows of Hammersmith Town Hall.

This is a current status update from the Environment Agency: (it wouldn't win first prize in a plain English competition but you'll get the drift. As it were)

This event is  possibly  a combination of Mogden Storm Tanks and CSOs and that is why the sag is quite wide.  Rainfall over West London forced Mogden to go to river on Tuesday afternoon, and the storm sewage was dosed with peroxide as it coincided with low water.  The central London CSOs also went to river.  Both discharged again Wednesday evening as a result of the heavy rainfall, but not at low water.  

Estuary temperatures are falling (16 degrees), and that might be why the sag is developing slowly.  I had hoped that things would pick up over the course of today given the sunshine, but that has not been the case. The sag is now now below 25% saturation, falling slowly.
Further rain is forecast for Friday afternoon to Saturday evening which might be interesting depending on the state of tide.

FW flows are not fantastic - until the evening of the 7th around 10 cumecs - the rain briefly raised it to >20 but this has now returned to 10.

EU to sue UK over sewage floods into Thames

The view from Furnival GardensAs I got completely soaked walking up Uxbridge Road today I wondered about whether or not this was going to mean yet more sewage pouring into people's homes in Hammersmith, the key driver for what looks like the inevitable tideway tunnel (or "super sewer" as our esteemed council call it)

Now it would seem the EU are going to sue the UK government over the amount of poo being poured into Old Father Thames - and make the new 'super sewer' in our Borough even more likely. You've got to wonder when our council are going to admit defeat on this one. Even the Mayor has ordered them to fall into line! Furnival Gardens in W6 appears doomed.

This from Reuters news agency:

EU COMMISSION TO SUE U.K. OVER SEWER FLOODS Britain faces court action by the European Union environment watchdog after sewers repeatedly flooded into the river Thames during rainstorms, two EU officials said on Tuesday. The European Commission will also take the British government to the European Court of Justice over sewage spills in Whitburn, northeast England. The case could create pressure for increased investment by Thames Water, part-owned by Australia's Macquarie, and Northumbrian Water Group. "This is partly about health, due to the bacteria and viruses in the waste water. But it's also about the environment due to the high levels of nitrogen and phosphates," said one official. Britain is not properly applying Europe's waste water directive, the Commission is expected to argue when it launches the case on Thursday. Combined sewers, which carry both human waste and rainwater, have been put under pressure in northern Europe during a string of rainy summers, particularly in Britain. Britain is not alone. France, Belgium, Ireland and Spain have similar sewage systems and problems during heavy storms, one EU official said.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

H&F council cuts in The Guardian

guardian%20logoFrom today's Guardian newspaper, read more here

Debbie Domb should be happy. Her local council is the self-styled "borough of opportunity", where council tax is being slashed, more bobbies are on the beat, three public parks boast Green Flag environmental awards, and a £2m library has just opened at negligible cost to the taxpayer, thanks to private sector partnership.

The Conservative-run council's promise of "putting residents first" has sent public approval ratings soaring. In a poll of 1,260 people last year, 64% said they were satisfied with the council – 10% more than in 2007 – and it holds a maximum four-star rating from the Audit Commission.

This Tory flagship local authority has won praise from the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, for grasping that most elusive of political holy grails – low council tax combined with improving services. And Whitehall Tories are eager to emulate the success of their town hall counterparts in west London who, according to Osborne, have been "rooting out waste and cutting costs or improving services through innovative new policies".

Yet innovation and improving services appear thin on the ground to Domb, a resident of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Shaun Bailey attacks Goldhawk Block decision

goldhawk redevelopmentThe conservative candidate for our constituency at the next general election, Shaun Bailey, has said he is "disappointed to hear about the decision of the council to grant approval to the Goldhawk Road Industrial Estate development". This decision by our council, run by his own party, would have a negative effect on local businesses he says. They of course, including Innocent Drinks who employ over 100 local people, will now have to move out to make way for the council's property developers.

'Disappointed' is quite a mild word but it probably reflects how far Mr Bailey can go in criticising his own local party. I'm not sure it will really be strong enough for the voters of Brackenbury, who the tories really need in their quest to win the new Hammersmith constituency which includes the Bush.

The relevance of this to the Bush is that this is a pretty good example to my mind of the Council making far reaching changes to our environment that affect people's lives, not really listening too much to local people if that planning meeting was anything to go by, and not even being held to account very strongly by someone who aspires to represent the area in parliament. Residents living close to Westfield might even think I am talking about them. Redevelopment of Shepherd's Bush Green anyone?

I am not trying to tell anyone how to vote - I would just say that Shaun Bailey has now demonstrated how timid he would be in sticking up for local people against their local authority if he was elected our new MP. Our current MP Andy Slaughter must be delighted.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Conservative Party conference 2009

toryrosetteAs you read this I shall be driving up the M1 to the last of the three main party conferences in the UK, and I can't wait for them to be over!

I did meet our MP Andy Slaughter at last week's Labour conference and may see Shaun Bailey his Tory challenger for our constituency this week. Full report on those discussions to follow.

In the meantime have a good week and send some sun my way - the next couple of posts will be from a hotel room in rainy Manchester!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Meet the sentencers: West London Magistrates Court

justice is servedI just received this invite via the Brackenbury Residents Association mailing list, so thanks to them for that. I'm going to go along and hope to find out a bit more about how this sentencing system works. I've reported on some of the more serious crimes that have scarred the Bush and surrounding areas before like here.

But the thing that often leaves me speechless are the sometimes pathetic sentences that are handed down, that seem almost to reward the criminal. I'm not a member of the hang 'em flog 'em brigade, and I'm not advocating some draconian new code, but I am interested in knowing more about how our local gang members, for example, get dealt with. Feel free to reply to the advert, the text of which I've pasted below, too.

Thursday 26th November 2009 from 18:00 until 20:30

An evening at

181 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith

W6 8DN

An opportunity to learn about the sentencing process and to exchange viewpoints with the sentencers

Free Fish & Chip Supper!

Tour of the Courthouse!

RSVP Lisa Trinder

T: 020 8700 9320


Friday, 2 October 2009

Propaganda signs are back!

PropagandaA new crop of North Korea-style propaganda banners seem to have sprouted up all along King Street in Hammersmith recently.

I spotted this one earlier this week which I think was quite new.

Our esteemed council has a fondness for this sort of thing, so now they've started rolling out a new campaign in Hammersmith its only  amatter of time before we see them in the Bush.

Surely this has nothing to do with the Tory Party conference being just round the corner? I think you have a right to know. You paid for them after all..

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Readership keeps growing

oscarThis blog got 3,782 readers over the course of this month, up from 3,660 in August. Thanks for continuing to read and contribute, either your ideas as comments or as many of you do privately with ideas for local stories. This is why I think its important to keep the blog going.

I can't be everywhere at once and my travel committments make this even less likely, so in the words of some cliched Hollywood Z-lister .. "this achievement is for all of you"!