Mayor

West is best?

The suburban town of Uxbridge comes under the Just About Travel spotlight

So BoJo is headed to UB8. London’s mayor – the man born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – is one step closer to Whitehall having been selected as Tory candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the 2015 general election.

The blonde king, who “whacked” in his bid at the eleventh hour, declared himself “thrilled” to have pippeddeputy leader of the local council David Simmonds, the deputy leader of Windsor and Maidenhead council Simon Dudley (who was born in the constituency), and Harrow-born barrister Suella Fernandes to the post.

But will Boris be “thrilled” by the suburban town of Uxbridge? Situated in zone six at the arse end of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, Uxbridge - whose most famous daughter is Christine Keeler (the 1960s model who became involved in the Profumo Affair)  is a world away  from Westminster.

Kaye Holland, who grew up in the London borough of Hillingdon,  of which Uxbridge is a part, has the low-down on life in UB8 to help make the Mayor’s new move that little bit more manageable…

 

What to see and do
This won’t take long. There’s the Hillingdon Outdoor Pool (formerly known as the Uxbridge Lido) should Mr Johnson want to swap cycling (Boris is known for his love of bikes) for swimming. The Grade II-listed pool reopened in 2010 and has recaptured its 1930s gory: expect fountains and, for children, a heated shallow splash pool. The pool served as training ground for the South Korean Olympic team during the London 2012 Games.
If he’s a football fan, Boris can cheer on the mighty Uxbridge FC. The club could certainly do with the support – they currently languish in the Southern Football League Division One Central.
Alternatively Boris can play a round – of golf that is. (Just About Travel wouldn’t dream of referring to the Mayor’s three extramarital affairs, one of which resulted in him fathering a love child). Should he fancy himself as a swinger (wahey!), Boris can head to  Uxbridge Golf Club in The Drive.

Culture vulture
Erm… pass. Just kidding: Uxbridge isn’t completely devoid of culture. An architectural buff like Boris will love the Charles Holden designed tube station with its curved brick facade and cornucopia of concrete pillars. The Hillingdon Civic Centre  – constructed in the seventies using 2.8 million red bricks and 750,000 tiles – also has a certain appeal. For theatre (JAT knows that the mayor like his shows having bumped into him last October at the ill fated premier of From Here to Eternity at the Shaftesbury Theatre), Boris will need to make a beeline for the Beck Theatre in Hayes or else the Compass Theatre in Ickenham (two nearby towns).

Best bites
The chain gang are out in full force in UB8 : there’s plenty of pizza/pasta joints (here’s looking at you Pizza Express, Prezzo and Ask), a perennially popular Nandos (the queue to get in often snakes along the High Street) but, depressingly, independent restaurants are few and far between. The exception to the rule is Nonna Rossa – a much loved local Italian restaurant whose head chef, Brian Scully, once worked at  Daphne’s and The Ivy. Nonna Rosa regularly holds events such as a Sinatra night – the next one is on Wed 24 Sept.


Top shops
Uxbridge boasts two shopping centres. First up there’s the tired looking Pavilions that’s home to branches of TK Maxx, Marks and Spencer, Wilkinsons, Iceland et al. Then there’s the more modern Chimes whose tenants include Topshop, Next, BHS and Debenhams department store. The Chimes also houses an Odeon cinema showing all the latest blockbusters should the Mayor fancy a little light entertainment after a day at the office.


After dark
Boris will want to check out the Crown and Treaty – a great place for a pint (or two). The pub – once the Crown and Treaty House – was named after the attempt by Charles I and Parliament to reach an agreement to end the Civil War back in 1645. The talks weren’t successful and subsequently Charles lost his head. The historic drinking den is also serves as a fine live music venue.

Blonde ambition: Boris has betrayed London

So Boris is back. The blonde king has announced his plans to stand as an MP in 2015 and he did so in typical Bojo style. “I might as well be absolutely clear that, in all probability, I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015,” he spluttered after his speech on Europe last Wednesday. “It is highly likely that I will be unsuccessful in that venture, by the way. You should never underestimate the possibility of things going badly wrong. But I will try that. But one thing is absolutely clear, I will serve out my mandate here in London.”

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This from the man who, in the run up to the last mayoral election, pledged to put Londoners first. Back in 2012 he told the Evening Standard: “If I am fortunate enough to win I will need four years to deliver what I have promised. And having put trust at the heart of this election, I would serve out that term in full. I made a solemn vow to Londoners to lead them out of recession, bring down crime and deliver the growth, investment and jobs that this city so desperately needs. Keeping that promise cannot be combined with any other political capacity”.

Quite right Boris: running London is NOT a part time job. It’s a full time one that, quite simply, can’t be combined with writing a column for The Telegraph and serving your constituents while working out a way to get your hands on the ultimate prize - becoming leader of the Conservative Party. For make no mistake: Boris is nothing if not ruthlessly ambitious – as his announcement that he wants to be a part time Mayor makes clear.

JAT doesn’t always agree with Nick Clegg but the Deputy PM clearly has the blonde Conservative sussed. “Behind all the clumsiness and bumbliness he is actually a really, really ambitious politician,” the Lib Dem leader told LBC Radio earlier this week. “He treats his political ambition like he treats his hair. He wants everyone to think he does not care but actually he really, really does care.”

London's Mayor: Boris Johnson

Boris’ plans to be a part time mayor bear testament to this and show that he  is more interested in succeeding his old Etonian comrade, David Cameron, than serving the interests of Londoners who are now learning that they have been lied to.

London deserves better than a man obsessed with vanity projects – think Boris bikes that no one wants to sponsor and a desire to build Hong Kong style skyscrapers that have resulted in a city more polluted than Beijing, as opposed to affordable housing – who is now (and probably never was) not content to ‘just’ be mayor of the world’s greatest city.

His zip wire antics and Dad like dancing may have once made us smile, but today Londoners are no longer laughing.

Beijing commuters’ hell is nothing compared to that of Londoners

When I left Beijing for the summer, there were many things I expected to miss while away from China’s dynamic capital - shopping and the sensational street food being just two examples. But I never thought I’d find myself not only missing, but positively pining for Beijing’s subway system. Pre summer 2011, the metro was definitely one of my Beijing bête noirs and, I thought, for good reason. The line up for the tickets is always long and when – after what feels like eternity –you do finally arrive at the front of the line, chances are you’ll be informed that you are not able to charge your card in this line, or can only charge your card (which isn’t helpful if you don’t have a card).

Then there’s the headache of actually getting on the train. No matter what time of day you choose to travel, the trains are always, always jam packed with people and each new station has more people getting onto the train, than off. Cue much pushing and shoving as the doors open and the crowd’s surge forward, searching for that elusive seat. Once on the train, you’ll find yourself pressed up against a stranger (or three) and barely able to breathe until you reach your intended stop.

However after spending the summer in London, I’ll never moan about Beijing’s metro again. Sure it’s far from perfect but believe me: it’s one that the average Londoner would kill for.

It’s been a hellish summer for London commuters, particularly those forced to ride the Jubilee line (the silver one which, worryingly, is also the principle tube line for the 2012 Olympics, serving the stadium at Stratford). London’s larger than life mayor, Boris Johnson, has spent some £13 million on upgrading the Jubilee line: it hasn’t been money well spent. The beleaguered line has suffered on going problems with the new computerised signalling system. In theory, it’s supposed to make trains run faster. In reality? It keeps breaking down, resulting in loss of connection between signal control and train on-board computers. The system then has to be rebooted, stranding the train – and its plethora of passengers, often in the early hours of the morning.

I know having been ‘one of them’ on more occasions than I care to count, most recently last Saturday night. Travelling ‘home’ after a final evening out in London, I found myself trapped underground for 90 minutes at midnight, before being told by the hapless London Underground staff to take a night bus to King’s Cross – which has just been named and shamed as the capital’s worst tube station for crime with almost 200 offences committed there last year – and from King’s Cross another night bus, followed by a taxi.

The price for my pain? An extortionate £4 (40RMB) for each single journey. One word: ouch. Suddenly Beijing’s subway system doesn’t seem such a bad deal. It might be crowded, but the trains run like clockwork (I have never waited more than six minutes for a train), are clean and, crucially, cheap. My friends and family invariably can’t believe it when I tell them that it costs just 20p (2RMB) to go absolutely anywhere in Beijing. What’s a bit of pushing and shoving in the face of such a bargain?

Boris, if you’re reading this (rumour is that the mayor’s step brother resides in Beijing), take note: the Olympics aren’t the only area where London would do well to take a leaf out of Beijing's book.