Monday, 29 September 2014

Nice Night For A Walk

Like most people in the area you probably have a vague recollection of groups of people in funny yellow wigs wandering about Worcester Park in the middle of the night at various points in the past. Perhaps it was all just a weird dream...

Or perhaps it was the annual Moonlight Memories Walk raising money for St Raphael's Hospice. If, this time you would like to be one of those people in a funny yellow wig, the opportunity is at hand.

This very weekend, nay this very Saturday evening (4th October), good people from near and far will be donning such wigs of yellow, and indeed T-shirts and other adornments of a similar hue, and setting out to stroll the streets of North Cheam and Worcester Park in an effort to raise £50,000 - nearly as much money as St Raphael's needs to run for a single week.

It all begins at 6pm at St Bede's Conference centre (which is just behind St Raphael's) with face painting, a bouncy castle, hot and cold food and indeed a bar. The actual walking begins at 8:30pm and follows a 5 mile route around the local area.

Everyone is welcome to take part (children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult) and everyone is encouraged to ware yellow. A yellow t-shirt and presumably a yellow wig is provided.

The cost of all this irreverent fun (it is a charity after all) is £15 for adults and £10 for children and you are encouraged to add some sponsorship to that as well if you can. You need to register before 12 midday on Friday (3rd October). To so do, be not hesitant in your emailing of louisa.hitchen@straphaelshospice.org.uk or indeed else your phoning thereof on 0208 254 2466.

And who knows, maybe people will be wondering what you are doing wandering round in a yellow wig this Saturday night!


Malfunction Overload

The new bridge and lifts at Worcester Park station were only opened at the very end of June. It is not even October yet and the lifts have already broken down twice. At least this time however the lifts have decided to inject a little humour into their failure. I'll allow blog reader Alex to continue the story from here. He writes:
"I recall the lift on the London bound platform broken down a little while ago, which some, (presumably those who contribute the least to the no doubt considerable capital investment) confidently dismissed as a ‘one off’.  
As I waited on the platform today, I heard an announcement coming from inside the bridge: “Lift overloaded! Please reduce the load!” At the top of the steps, I found the lift doors open. I had a camera with me and recorded a quick video – as you can see, there was no ‘load’ – the lift was quite empty. So that’s another ‘one off’ freak breakdown."



"The same brand new lift has now had two complete breakdowns. Frankly, I wouldn’t take my chances in there, particularly if I was on the last train of the evening – no matter how desperately I needed it!"
Hope springs eternal...


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Vote For Your Favourite Shop


There is often much discussion on here and around the area in general about the state of the High Street. For clarity I am referring here to the main shopping area streets - i.e. Central Road, Windsor Road, London Road over in North Cheam etc. Few of us (if any) want to see our shopping areas taken over by multinational outlets pushing out the very local independent shops which make our area unique.

Multinationals do have inbuilt advantages in that they can run national advertising campaigns, draw on the many experiences of numerous employees across many shops - putting tried and tested systems in place, buy in bulk to keep product prices down and provide customers with a 'safe' shopping experience - in that they'll know exactly what the experience will be like before they even walk in the door.

For these reasons I'm sure all of us have chosen Costa over Checkers and Waitrose instead of Ross's and Woodward Bros in the past (I'm just as guilty), or worse still, driven over to Kingston before even considering if Preview Menswear, Worcester Spark or the Toy Shed might have what we are looking for.

Our independent shops have other advantages though. They are unique and personal for a start. They are are part of the community and help shape the community. And they each give us something we can't quite get anywhere else at all.

An addition, independent shopkeepers have often poured life savings into their business. They have chosen to work extraordinarily long hours, day after day for many years and no one pays them to do it. Their only financial reward is what is leftover from the takings in the till after everything else has been paid for. They never really know how much that is going to be from day to day. Some do well out of it, others struggle. But they each chose to take that risk and give it a go and we are the ones who benefit by having those choices available to us. And I applaud them for it.

It is therefore appropriate that these businesses be occasionally recognised and I am glad once again to be able to draw your attention to the Independent Shop Of The Year competition in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park.

Parliamentary candidate, Paul Scully (on the Conservative side - same as me...) has put his money where his mouth is and has launched the competition in which local residents can vote online for their favourite independent retailer at www.suttonlocal.org.uk. Everyone who takes part then goes into the draw to win £100 to spend in the winning shop.

Last year the competition was won by Precision Chiropractic in Cheam (followed closely by our own Woodward Bros butcher shop in second place).

Kate Irwin of Precision Chiropractic said, "it’s a fun competition, supporting local businesses".

After the launch Paul commented,
"I am a small business owner committed to supporting local retailers who create jobs for local people, protect the character of our high streets, and help to build a healthy local economy. I encourage everyone to take a moment to express their gratitude for the hard work of the staff at their favourite local shop, by voting online at www.suttonlocal.org.uk".
Voting is open until 16th October and this year’s winner will be announced on 23rd October. By taking part in the competition, customers have the opportunity to say thank you to a local retailer that they feel has provided an outstanding service to them and their families.


Tacky Taxis

For those wondering what became of the old Born Sushi shop in Windsor Road, the latest addition to our high street has just been revealed. And it's not the sort of shop front you're likely to miss.

Looking like the home page of the tackiest website you've ever seen, the only thing missing is a dozen flashing signs. Perhaps I shouldn't give them any more ideas...

Shop front 'before'
In case you hadn't worked it out from the shop front, the new business is a minicab office. Whether or not they are open for business yet is hard to tell. The signage all went up last week - it was apparently finished on Friday. However the door is locked and peering through a small gap in the signage reveals only a single unmanned desk. It has been suggested that it is a telephone only office and not a walk in one so we might never see it open.

A brief sounding of local opinion suggest that 'tacky' and 'over the top' appear to be the main first impressions given out by this new venture. I'd personally add 'gaudy' and 'tasteless' to the list.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Bin Number Two

I spotted this note near central Road. If this is you - consider yourself told...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Yankee Doodle Diner


Many people have been wondering what has been going in inside the old Al Jenat supermarket which closed back in April last year, barely more than 6 months after opening. Rumours have been flying
around: Is it going to be a children's soft play centre? Will it be a new restaurant? Well actually it's going to be both.

Bronco's, as it shall be named is to be a new American style diner with a children's soft play area at the back (being dubbed 'The Ranch').

This all sounded to me almost like something I've seen before. A burger restaurant with a kids play area? Now Mcwhen have I seen that concept before? Surely I thought this must be a restaurant chain- they are just opening a franchise. Take a look at the logo - it's too professional for a single one off business...

However one of the new owners, Lee told the blog:
"We are not a franchise or a chain but a simple family business owned and to be run by two local mums who want to run a family restaurant made for and aimed at families. We live in the area and have children at local schools. We are supporters of local businesses and believe in supporting the community. 
The restaurant (Bronco's) is an American style diner serving Burgers, Hotdogs, Ribs, Pancakes, Waffles and Ice Cream. The Ranch at Bronco's is a soft play area situated to the back of the restaurant and will be a welcome space for parents to relax and play with their young children. We will host children's birthday parties and activities in the day and an adult atmosphere will be created in the evenings. We hope the Worcester Park residents will enjoy our unique creation. We are half way through the build at present but hope to open end of October/beginning November."
The day the work began 
A quick check of the internet confirms that there is indeed no such restaurant chain as Bronco's. This is indeed just a very good idea being brought into being by a couple of local Mums. The idea of the soft play area at the back is a real winner. Having a four year old myself I can see this will be a major attraction for Mums and Dads who in all likelihood haven't been able to enjoy a meal out together in ages. And of course for the kids what's not to like about soft play with Hotdogs, Pancakes and Ice Cream?

Even not being a great fan of burgers and hotdogs, I'm finding myself mentally planning an family evening there. Given that sort of pull, I suspect this idea is destined to succeed!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Rumours Of Coffee And Cake


Raising money for charity takes many forms. Some people like to run or walk long distances. Some pour buckets of water over their heads. But this Friday you can drink coffee and eat cake in order to raise money for that most worthy of charities: McMillan Cancer Support.

The event is being put on by Rumours Wine bar (at the top of Central Road) this Friday from 8am. All tea coffee and cake are free! All that is asked of you is a small donation (or large if you like) which will go to the McMillan charity.

Wayne Catton from Rumours told the blog that they have been:
"Planning this for a while but the coffee machine broke down and was supposed to be fixed last Tuesday. It was only done yesterday."
They didn't want to start advertising it until they had a working supply of coffee. That is why there has been so little notice until now.

He did add though that they have been inundated with cakes for the day. Lots of local people have been baking goodies for the event so there is sure to be a lot to chomp through. Don't let it all go to waste! make sure you are there to help eat the cake, enjoy a coffee (or tea) and help McMillan at the same time.

I love it when I see local business working with local charity and the community. Everyone gains and nobody loses. Good work!


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Have A Dig Around

Do you have any Roman ruins lying around the house? Perhaps you should look again because apparently there are few bits on the ancient temple of Mithras missing and they could be around Worcester Park.

The ruins were discovered in the City of London in Walbrook Square (between Bank and Mansion House tube stations) in 1954 when a carved head was dug up and recognised as the Roman God Mithras. Building work was stopped and people were able to see it for two weeks before the remains were packed up and moved. A few hundred visitors were expected to turn up on the first day but around 35,000 showed up and the queue went around the block. It was described as the Roman discovery of the century.

This month marks 60 years since the original discovery and a project is under way calling for people who witnessed the excavation in 1954 to come forward to tell their stories and share their pictures of the event.

At one stage the ruins were stored at a builders yard in New Malden and it is known that a lot of items were pinched during this time. There could be bits of ancient temple all over the area, especially in things built about this time. You may have had a piece of Roman god at home all this time and not even known it! Eventually the remaining pieces were exhibited back in the City close to where they were found.

As Sophie Jackson, an archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology said:
"If there's a bit of Roman stone - better still mortar - in Gran's rockery, the Temple of Mithras would like it back."
If you might have a bit lying round the house or garden, please contact the Museum of London Archaeology on 020 7410 2266, email oralhistory@mola.org.uk or visit www.mola.org.uk.

For more info (and to see where I pinched the pictures from) see the BBC report here. Thanks also to blog reader Doug for alerting me to this...


Say 'Thieeeve'

Police are on the hunt for a chap (pictured) after he used a stolen credit card to withdraw money in Worcester Park soon after a burglary.

Cards, electrical items and other valuables were stolen from two homes in New Malden, during the night of the 2nd August. One in Arthur Road and the other nearby in Seaforth Avenue. In both cases the homes were raided while the owners were asleep upstairs.

The suspect apparently withdraw money in Worcester Park and then booked a minicab to Gipsy Hill.

Detective Constable Mike Bunn from Merton Burglary Squad, said:
"These burglaries have left the victims in a state of fear knowing that someone had broken into their house whilst they were sleeping.
We are very keen to speak to the man on the CCTV image as he may be able to assist us with this investigation and catch the person responsible.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detective Constable Mike Bunn on 0208 649 3019 or call Crimestoppers Anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Post Election

If you would like to win a two course dinner for two at The Brook pub/restaurant please read on. At the end of this post is a survey. Those completing the survey will be automatically entered into a draw to win this very nice prize - compliments of, and thanks very much to the Brook in Worcester Park.


Looking back at the Council Election

It's now been nearly four months since Kingston, Sutton and the other London boroughs went to the polls to elect their local councillors for the next 4 years. And with another (Scottish) election happening today it is perhaps an appropriate time to look back at this last one. As many blog readers know this last election was a very personal event for me as I was one of the candidates standing in Worcester Park ward (in the London Borough of Sutton).

At the time I wrote that I would "take blog readers with me" on the journey to find out what it is like becoming a councillor if I won.  Unfortunately I missed out on winning a seat by a 75 votes and did think it was perhaps only right then to take readers through what it is like to lose. However having written and re-read versions of this post soon after that (and shown them to other people) I realised it was important to step back and wait until I could speak a little more objectively about the experience.

The first thing to say is that whatever the outcome it is a very intense emotional experience. For most candidates of all colours it is the culmination of months of hard work. For many, it is years of hard work - all unpaid.

The period from when the polls close at 10pm until results start to be announced many hours later is a surreal slice of time when all of us (the candidates) are on a level footing, going through the same hopeful anxiety, trying to be neither too confident nor too resigned. Nothing unites people like a shared emotional journey and this is the one time when all candidates across the various parties can have a knowing chat or a laugh together, knowing there is nothing more anyone can do to alter the as yet unknown outcome.

The best moment of the night for me was soon after walking in when someone asked if I'd heard the news that the BBC were apparently reporting exit polls suggesting the Lib Dems had lost Sutton Council. I didn't mind at this point if we had won outright or if we would need to form a coalition with Ukip or even Labour, Sutton needed a new start and this would finally be it. Unfortunately quite soon into the count it became obvious that this was just idle gossip.

After hours of concentrating on people counting votes, having spent the entire day from 5am leafleting, phoning and knocking on doors to persuade people to actually go and vote, the results started to come in. Each time an announcement of an impending result was made, the various parties' electoral agents were invited up to see and accept the numbers and then Niall Bolger, Sutton Council's chief executive would officially announce the result.

Usually you have a fair idea of whether you have won or lost before the result is announced and this helps you brace yourself (if necessary) for when you find out for real - probably from your electoral agent just before the announcement is officially made. The actual announcement though is usually the point when people's eyes well up. Whether with excited disbelief for the newly first elected, or gutting disappointment for those who worked so hard but didn't make it, especially for those who lost seats they had held and worked hard in for years.

One by one the list of disappointments grew as capable, dedicated and hard working Conservative candidates found it had all been in vain.

On a positive side we did see some exceptional new Conservative councillors elected and it was good to see many of our existing councillors retain their seats.

The Worcester Park results were one of the last to be announced and I took a small comfort from that while it was close, Graham Witham (our previous Conservative group leader) had told me from bitter experience that the difference between our party votes was unlikely to be made up with split votes and that we had probably not made it through in WP. I was at least ready and able to put on a brave face and congratulate the winners properly after our disconsolate results were announced.

I arrived home at nearly 8am, having been awake and mostly working solidly for nearly 30 hours straight (and having only slept one and a half hours the night before.) There was just time to put the results up on the blog before going to bed for a long and dispirited sleep.

The first few days afterwards were very difficult. I was not able to face even visiting Central Road for over a week. I knew that the pain and disappointment would subside in time but there was some real grieving and soul searching to do in the meanwhile.

I could go into further detail but risk crossing the line between describing what it feels like and venturing into 'woe is me' territory so I'll cut this off here.

I am however interested in why people made the decisions at the ballot box that they did - and how they feel I could perhaps do things differently next time - if there is a next time. There is a survey to this affect at the end. (remember the dinner for two prize...)


Thoughts on the Results

I have heard several theories as to why the Lib Dems did so well. Very few of them involve people actually wanting the Lib Dems to win 5 out of every 6 seats on the council (although given the low turnout they did this with only 16% of eligible people voting for them). Even Lib Dem voters I have spoken to would have preferred a more even balance - just for the sake of better democracy with a reasonable sized opposition.


Ukip effect

The Ukip vote did have a major affect on the outcome. Ukip did garner many votes across Sutton although they didn't win any seats in the borough. The Worcester Park Ukip candidate received 768 votes which was nearly double the gap between the highest vote taker (Lib Dem) at 1508, and the lowest Conservative result - 1146, meaning that that Ukip voters effectively chose the Lib Dem status quo for Worcester Park by not doing anything about it. Across the whole of Sutton many Ukip voters seemed not to use all three of their votes and if they had all voted Conservative or Labour with their other votes then Sutton would now have a much more even balance of councillors including several Labour councillors as well as a stronger Conservative opposition. In fact if even just half of Ukip voters across Sutton had voted Conservative instead of Ukip we would now have a Conservative run council (with 32 out of 54 councillors) instead of a Lib Dem one. So it really has been a case of vote Ukip - get Lib Dems. If you want to check out the maths for yourself, Adrian Short has provided all the data here. Number crunch away!


Target Sutton

It also seems the case that the Lib Dems nationally had targeted Sutton specifically as one of a small number of councils they must not lose. One voter I spoke to said they received 10 answer phone messages from the Lib Dems on election day trying to persuade them to vote Lib Dem. Yes 10! It seems that Lib Dems around the entire country were ignoring their own areas and instead telephoning people in Sutton in order to keep Sutton Lib Dem. They have already tried to spin their terrible results nationally by claiming something like 'people like us where they know us' but it may be the result was manufactured at our expense just for the sake of the national Lib Dem party having one positive piece of spin to use.


Where Now

Many blog readers will have noticed that I have not managed to post quite so often since the election. I had not been working prior to the election, preferring to use my saving and focus on the election instead (with a great deal of thanks going to Mrs WP).  I had hoped if I won, to treat being a councillor as a part time job (it pays around £10,000 per year) overlapping with running the blog and then trying to land an additional part time job to make up the financial shortfall. I felt I could serve Worcester Park as a very effective councillor this way.

Given the outcome, I have instead had to return to full time work to pay the bills and so have just not had the time available to post as much as I had previously.

This does bring me back to the original question of what people would have preferred me to do, which also feeds into the question of whether I should stand again. I was originally offered a candidacy in a safer Sutton ward and would indeed now be Sutton councillor had I taken up the offer. However I felt Worcester Park was the right place for me and worth fighting for. Did I make the right decision?

Please let me know what you think. However this time rather than general comments below, I would prefer to find out what individuals think and so I have put together the survey below which I would ask you to please fill in.

I know many people aren't particularly keen on surveys so as an incentive, The Brook pub/restaurant opposite Green Lane have kindly offered dinner for two as a prize for one lucky survey respondent chosen at random from everyone who completes the survey. This will be drawn on the 12th of October so you have just under a month to enter. You will be able to use your prize any time before the end of November.

And the survey's not that long anyway. I await your feedback...




The data you provide will be retained by the Conservative Party (“the data holders”) in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and related legislation. By providing your data, you are consenting to the data holders making contact with you in the future by telephone, text or other means, even though you may be registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Your data will not be sold or given to anyone not connected to the Conservative Party.