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 Autumn 2006

Terry Ford - an Appreciation


Terry Ford, Editor of Thames Ditton Today for the past twelve years, has died following a sudden illness while on a cruise. His age was always a closely-guarded secret, and he considered himself to be at least twenty years younger than indicated on his birth certificate. He would have been 81 on 31st August, and was looking forward with his wife Yvonne to celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in September. 

Terry was educated at Kingston Grammar School and then at Kingston Technical College. He was always keen on aviation, and after being invalided out of the Royal Air Force in his late teens, he embarked on a career in aircraft design. He worked for many years for many aircraft manufacturers, culminating in British Aerospace at Weybridge. He took early retirement when the design office there closed but continued his involvement in the industry, writing freelance for various journals in the technical aerospace sector until his death. 

Terry and Yvonne moved with their family to Weston Green in 1963, and with his professional writing skills it was only a matter of time before he was recruited, in retirement, to help with Thames Ditton Today and became its editor. He regularly contributed articles, and his 'Round and About' series indicated a wide and active scope of activity and curiosity. As well as travel, his interests included gardening, ballroom dancing, and philately. 

Terry leaves Yvonne, two sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren and will be sorely missed by them and by all of us.


New Editor of Thames Ditton Today

Following the sad death of Terry Ford in August, Keith Evetts has become our new editor. Keith, his wife Lesley, three children and African Grey parrot Dolly have lived in Church Walk since 1992 in between postings abroad. Retired since 2003, Keith runs the web sites for the Residents' Association and the Vera Fletcher Hall as well as pursuing many interests.


The Residents' Association team has continued to oppose those developments damaging to our environment and to aid those supported by local residents which are in keeping with the character of the village and Weston Green. They have put in an immense amount of time at meetings with council officers, site visits etc. They are positive in their approach and also work with applicants and council officers to suggest improvements or conditions to proposals.

  • 43 The Drive 
    We supported Elmbridge Council's refusal of the application to demolish one house and build six two-storey terraced houses in two blocks of three and one detached two-storey house with detached garage as the scheme was cramped, overdeveloped and out of character with the surrounding area.
  • 29-31 Ember Lane
    We opposed the proposal to build two rows of four terraced town houses, one fronting Ember Lane and one fronting Carlton Close, after the demolition of two houses as the scheme would create an overdeveloped appearance in the street scene, detract from the amenities enjoyed by the existing residents and be harmful to the character and appearance of the surrounding area.
  • 16a High Street (next to Moss Chemists)
    We supported Elmbridge Council's refusal of the application to change the use of the shop to a one-bedroom flat as the proposal would adversely affect the viability of Thames Ditton as a shopping centre if there were large frontages of houses separating the existing shops.
  • 11 Warwick Road
    We supported local residents' objections to the proposal to build a house on land at the side of the house on grounds of inadequate access and parking for the new house and increased parking problems for existing residents.
  • Land adjacent to 33/34 Linden Close
    The appeal to build a two-storey block of flats at Linden Close was dismissed as the development would not be in character with the surrounding area and would detract from the appearance of the locality.
  • 5 Riversdale Road
    We opposed the proposed two-storey extension close to the boundary of No.6 which would have been cramped, unneighbourly, and would have created a terrace effect, out of character with the street scene.



Mike Lockwood, Chief Executive of Elmbridge Council, showed his personal commitment to the environment by joining other Elmbridge staff, neighbourhood police, local businesses Burley & Son, Cleanaway and Brewer and Sons to clean up Ash Path in Thames Ditton in August. The volunteers removed undergrowth and painted out graffiti.

Our special thanks to Ted Woolley, the gardener at the Home of Compassion, for planting and watering all the flowers in the fountain at the Boyle Farm roundabout throughout the two months' drought this summer.

Thames Ditton Hall

Thames Ditton Hall is the new name for the Thames Ditton Youth and Community Centre following its major refurbishment and reopening in September. This is the happy end to a seven year battle by local residents, user groups and the Residents' Association which started when Surrey County Council tried to sell the site for redevelopment. The Hall is now available for hire -just ring 01372 474569. More details in the next issue.

Art, Bridge and Tai Chi Classes at the Ember Centre

The Ember Centre for Retired people at the Vera Fletcher Hall reopened in September following the installing of a splendid new oak floor (from sustainable sources) and new and quieter heaters. There are classes for everyone - a 'stay fit with Tai Chi' class on Monday afternoons from 2.45 - 3.45 pm, bridge classes on Mondays at 2.00 pm in a friendly, stress-free atmosphere where you can improve your bridge whether you are a beginner or an improver, and on Thursdays at 2.30 pm , art classes in water-colours, acrylics, collages etc. New members at all levels are welcome. For further details of all classes phone Harry Livesey, Manager of the Ember Centre tel: 020 8398 9870 (Mondays and Thursdays) or Linda Sheldrake: 01372 474553, or simply turn up on the day.


To the new Vicar of All Saints, Weston, the Reverend Philip McAvoy, his wife Karen and children Sam and Ben. He was installed by the Bishop of Guildford on 6th September. And to the new Head of Thames Ditton Junior School, Stephen Hughes. Stephen was previously a Head Teacher in Banstead, then a senior education officer in the London Borough of Bromley, but he really missed working in schools and is now delighted to be returning to teaching. We wish them long and happy stays in Weston Green and Thames Ditton.


To Thames Ditton Infants School on their top award of Artsmark Gold by the Arts Council. And to Jo Huxster (from Station Road) and Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent for winning a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest journey on three wheels, with their 12,000 mile drive from Bangkok through Thailand, China, Russia and Europe in their pink tuk-tuk. They raised more than £25,000 for MIND (TD Today Vol. 38 Summer issue)

Dates for your Diary

This year's Residents' Association Christmas Party will take place on Saturday 9th December at the Vera Fletcher Hall. Come and enjoy a three course dinner and your favourite music. Residents who enjoyed last year's Christmas Party will tell you that at £26 a ticket, it is the greatest party of the year. For tickets phone Fiona Elliot 8398 1788.

The High Street will be closed to traffic for the Christmas Fayre on Wednesday 13th December 6.00-9.30pm and there will be a festive evening of late night shopping, complimentary beauty consultations and massages, mulled wine, roast chestnuts, mince pies, wine tasting, carol singers and Father Christmas.

Subscriptions Please

If you have not yet paid your subscription this year, please so as soon as possible. Although all our officers are volunteers, each year the Association has to fund some costs of this magazine, our open meetings, election expenses and expenses such as spring bulbs and the Christmas tree in the village. The subscription is only £3 per household but we hope that residents who can contribute more will do so. Subscriptions (in an envelope please) may be left at Moss Chemist, 14 High Street, Thames Ditton, Thorkhill Road Pharmacy, 94 Thorkhill Road and Councillor Maureen Sheldrick, 34 The Woodlands, Esher KT10 8DB or posted to Peter Haynes, Membership Secretary, at 6 Onslow Gardens, Thames Ditton KT7 0JJ.  Thank you.


What's the Secret?


Among the High Street's focal businesses, the Secret Garden greengrocery and florists have thrived in the village for nearly twenty years under Nick and Eileen Ive. The secret, as so often, is a mix of personality, hard work, good products and service, and the right market. 

Nick, always cheerful - though admittedly we haven't asked Eileen to confirm that - enjoyed his Saturdays on a market stall far more than a three-year apprenticeship in non-vegetable electronics, and after running a greengrocery stall at Perivale Station he rented his Thames Ditton shop in 1987. When opportunity arose thirteen years later to buy it at auction, along with the two adjacent shops and the flat above, the Ives seized their chance. The small triangular shop next to the florist was hard to let, and a year ago they moved the greengrocery there, letting their former shop to the Five Rivers Delicatessen (which looks like being another success story). The self-sufficient florist business has now been let to a young couple, leaving Nick and Eileen free to concentrate on greengrocery. The village is a good place to trade, they say, with few hassles - and no problems with shoplifting or vandalism. 

Their weekdays begin early: Nick leaves before dawn to drive the lorry to Western International Market near Heathrow, buying fruit, vegetables and flowers wholesale each day for quality and freshness, and getting back around eight o'clock. Meanwhile Eileen gets to the shop shortly after six and goes to work on the daily orders for local pubs, schools and institutions including the Home of Compassion, which collectively account for two-thirds of the trade. 

During the mornings in particular, discerning villagers make their way to the Secret Garden where they can buy seasonal produce, fresh farm eggs and exotica such as chillis, kohl rabi, sweet potatoes, root ginger and limes - all selected by Nick on the basis of what's available, what's good and what's good value. Many of the clientele are older, and maybe wiser: Nick and Eileen would like to see some younger residents shopping there too. Time might be a factor for working couples: but the Secret Garden will make up a box of fruit and veg to order and deliver free to homes within a reasonable distance of the shop. And quality? We asked one younger customer on leaving the shop. He replied: "No contest. We do a supermarket shop at least once a week but we got tired of their greengrocery produce that was unripe or wasn't fresh, and finished in the bin after days in the fridge. Okay, some things you can't get in the village, but what you do get is better and cheaper here. I can pay £1.15 for an avocado in (an Esher supermarket) that goes from unripe to rotten. Or I can pay 75p here for one that ripens up perfectly in a couple of days. If satsumas are on sale, I know they're OK - I get offered one to taste. If they aren't on sale, it's because Nick couldn't find any decent ones at market. The seasonal produce is very good." 

In reaction to the supermarkets' good-looking but flavourless greengrocery imports from far-off countries, local organic fruit and veg boxes are a recent trend in many neighbourhoods. Does the Secret Garden buy direct from small producers such as local allotment holders? "No, but we're open to that kind of thing," says Eileen. "A while ago we ordered some fantastic apples from an English supplier who grew traditional varieties with lovely flavour. But nobody would buy them because they had spots and blemishes on the skin (no insecticides or wax used, you see)." 

Nick and Eileen's shop has become a key part of village life, attracting shoppers to the High Street and contributing to the small social nexus around the triangle. Many customers are known by name, and often stop to chat. During the hot spell last July, they stayed a while longer to enjoy one of the few public places in the village with air-conditioning: those vegetables are pampered. Many slipped a contribution into the box for Joanna Huxster's trek by rickshaw from Bangkok to Brighton to raise funds for the charity MIND (TDT Vol 38 Summer Issue: ' Tuk to the Road').

Yes, The Secret Garden is now a Village Institution.

Secret Garden: High Street, Thames Ditton
Open: Mon-Fri 0700 to 1500
Sat 0700 to 1300
tel:020 8398 9759


Parking Problems - and Finding Solutions

From our RA County Councillor

Parking is a major issue in Thames Ditton especially now that we have charges in Ashley Road car park and also the increasing numbers of commuters and office workers parking in roads around the Village and especially around the Station, creating problems for shopkeepers and residents. All these on-road parkers are unwilling to pay for parking. The cost to park all-day in Surbiton Station car park is £7.10 and £3.20 at Esher Station. 

one solution to High Street parking

There need to be solutions that are acceptable to the majority. These could be some or all of:

  • No parking in roads for a short period in the day - say 9am-10am to deter commuters and office parkers.
  • Parking for one hour (say) in the High Street and outside the shops in Summer Road.
  • Residents' Permits for residents of the High Street and the Island.
  • Some double yellow lines in various roads, for example in Watts Road, to allow cars to pass.
  • Do nothing!

The Residents' Association will form a task group under Ben Ellis to discuss the problems and attempt to find a solution. He is looking for help from all roads affected so please volunteer to join the group. His telephone number is 020 8398 2114. Please also keep an eye for news on our website.

What's happened so far: I have arranged for Surrey County Council to carry out a parking survey to compare the situation now with 1999, late 2005 (before charges in Ashley Road car park) and now. This will indicate not only the scale of the problem but will enable the Transportation Department at Surrey to come forward with some ideas to ease the situation and which can be considered alongside our own proposals. This parking survey is underway and we await results. Enforcement will obviously need to be addressed and any proposals will be subject to consultation and all residents living in roads affected will be involved. 

Peter Hickman


Hugh Arnold, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur


Hugh and Pam Arnold

In March of this year Hugh Arnold, a Weston Green resident, was awarded the distinction of “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur”. This is the highest order the French government awards its own and foreign citizens. This distinguished honour came 64 years late! In 1942 Hugh had been serving as a Sub-lieutenant on motor torpedo boats but was sent to Falmouth to join a Motor Launch (ML) whilst awaiting repair of his boat, which had been damaged in action. Motor launches were used mainly for minesweeping but, soon after arriving in Falmouth, it quickly became evident that the next mission would be quite different. The “master plan” would involve ramming the HMS Campbeltown, filled with delay-activated explosives, into the enormous dock at Saint Nazaire that was of great strategic importance to the Germans in the context of the Battle of the Atlantic. The delay- activated explosives would allow the crew a couple of hours in which to get ashore. A total of sixteen ML’s were to be involved in the raid, and they were tasked with picking up the crew of the Campbeltown and then deploying commandos to destroy various targets in the area. Hugh recalls that the men felt quite relaxed about the mission – they all accepted that there was a job that had to be done. Hugh didn’t even tell his parents that he was going on such an important and dangerous operation!


The success of “Operation Chariot”, as it was named, was crucial. The German U-Boat raids on transatlantic shipping were threatening Britain. Supplies of food and arms were being disrupted and there would be extremely serious consequences if this were allowed to continue. The raid, however, did not go entirely to plan. HMS Campbeltown did not explode at the desired time and this meant that the heavily-defended jetty prevented the land commandos from going ashore, and Hugh’s ML was attacked. Three men on board were killed and many more injured, including Hugh, who still has shrapnel in his leg. The ML was extremely vulnerable whilst it was desperately trying to direct fire which would destroy searchlights. On the following morning, much to everyone’s relief, HMS Campbeltown exploded and the dock was completely destroyed. In terms of achievement, the mission was a success but, out of the 611 troops who took part, 169 were killed and 200 were taken prisoner. Only 242 returned to British shores immediately after the raid.

Hugh was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action in St Nazaire. He went on to serve on MTB 621 patrolling the beaches and defending troops after the D-Day landings. This is where Hugh had a very lucky escape. A bullet passed through his elbow, piercing his jacket. Miraculously, the bullet missed his body! A severed ulnar nerve has meant that he has been unable to straighten his arm ever since. This did not deter this stalwart gentleman from playing both rugby and cricket after the war. More recently Hugh has played golf on a regular basis.

I have known Hugh for some twenty years. He and his wife Pam are cherished friends and neighbours. You would think that Hugh, a man of such distinguished honours, who has served his country so highly and achieved so very much could be forgiven for the occasional spate of boasting – not so! It was not until quite recently that my husband and I became aware of Hugh’s distinguished past. It was a chance remark that prompted us to question him about his wartime activities, and, even then, it was with reluctance that the whole remarkable tale was revealed.

There are many men who like Hugh, have given so much in the defence of their country and our liberty. We owe them all so much. I stand in awe of their courage, determination, and humility.

Thank you Hugh – and many congratulations!

Tannia Shipley.


Local Health - Change in the Wind

We may get ultrasound...

Services at Thames Ditton Community Hospital at Emberbrook have been under threat for a number of years. But now there may be some change in the wind. First, though, for those who may be new to this area, a bit of background: 

We’re not alone with the problems we have encountered with our Primary Care Trust (the NHS body responsible for most of the health services we use): many community hospitals in the country are concerned about their future and many others have already been lost, particularly over the last 18 months. In the NHS Plan 2000, the White Papers “Keeping NHS Local 2003” and, most recently, “Our Health, Our Care, Our Say,” the government consistently recognises the need to develop community hospital services, including rehabilitation beds such as those provided at Thames Ditton. This is in order to improve delayed discharge figures from the acute hospitals, reduce the need for readmissions due to inadequate after care treatment at home and to provide care closer to home; in the process there should be financial benefits to the health service in moving non-critical care away from the more costly critical care hospitals.

In Thames Ditton at least, we still have four inpatient beds in the NHS wing at Emberbrook Care Centre. This has been achieved with support from all quarters: local people who have written, phoned, complained and generally pestered the PCT as well as the invaluable backing of Elmbridge Borough Councillors from all parties, Surrey County Councillors and our MP, Ian Taylor. The need for the beds in Thames Ditton remains and is now reinforced by the threat to beds at other community hospitals in this area.

Inpatient services have also suffered under PCT cutbacks: outpatient services at Emberbrook Health Centre next door have been steadily if not stealthily depleted. A recent assessment carried out by the Friends has indicated that there are fewer outpatient services in Thames Ditton now than there were in the mid 90’s. So much for ‘Local Care, Local Choice’!

A new Primary Care Trust: Once again there is another restructuring of the NHS: so will we see things change locally? In October a new Primary Care Trust covering the whole of Surrey replaces the East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey Primary Care Trust and four others. The full implications of these developments have yet to be evaluated, but locally we hope that there will be benefit in a greater emphasis on the local provision of primary care health services than we have seen up to now. 

Local commissioning of health services: The NHS reorganisation includes the introduction of ‘Practice based commissioning’, a not entirely new concept to the NHS even if some of the details are different. This is enabling the local doctors of Thames Ditton, Weston Green, Hinchley Wood, Claygate, Molesey and Esher together to set up a company to provide GP and other primary care services on contract to the PCT. MEDICS (standing for Molesey, Esher and the Dittons Integrated Care Services) should be established in October subject to the PCT signing the necessary contract. The potential benefits include a major improvement in the speed and accessibility with which a range of services can be accessed by patients.

Under the new system, GPs will hold the funding for the commissioning of services; MEDICS plans to develop and provide locally based services which will be commissioned by GP’s within the area. One of the first services being considered is an ultrasound service, which would be based at Emberbrook Health Centre. Anyone needing this invaluable diagnostic service at present is likely to have an anxious 8 – 10 week wait for the service offered at Kingston Hospital. 

The Friends of Thames Ditton Hospital at Emberbrook are delighted to be actively supporting this venture. Funds have been ear-marked for the purchase of the necessary equipment once the service gets the go-ahead. MEDICS is also considering the development of other services at Emberbrook, as well as an increased number of consultants’ outpatients’ clinics, possibly including ENT, General Surgery and Urology. 

Good news though this is, we are still dependent upon the PCT including Thames Ditton Hospital at Emberbrook in their long-term strategy. So, before the present East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey PCT disappears, the Friends have also taken action requesting the assistance of Surrey County Council’s Health Select Committee (the local statutory body which oversees the activities of the PCT) to ensure that Thames Ditton Hospital at Emberbrook is retained in the PCT’s Local Delivery Plan when they hand over to the new Surrey PCT – as indeed it was when EEMS PCT took over from their predecessors.

Karen Randolph Watson
Chair,Friends of Thames Ditton Hospital at Emberbrook


Strictly Not Ballroom

Meet local residents...

It's nearly eight o'clock on a dark, damp Wednesday evening. Out of the murk a hundred people head for the Surbiton Assembly Rooms. Another fifty are being drawn towards Imber Court. What's going on? Inside, the coats come off to reveal ladies dressed up, men in jeans. Out of the bags pop dancing shoes. Partner dancing is back in fashion.

And why not? You can have a great time, learn a new skill, get some exercise, and all for little more than a fiver. You don't have to wear tails, white tie or a thousand yards of white tulle, for this is strictly not ballroom dancing. The popular dances are those that have spread from streets and bars to pubs, nightclubs and village halls as well as dance studios. Salsa, Ceroc, Jive; Argentine Tango, Chachacha, West Coast Swing, Bachata, Merengue. These are 'people's dances' that have no hidebound rules and are still evolving.

If you can hear music, move your feet in time and hold a partner you can learn these dances. Age is immaterial as long as you're of adult size and not infirm. A typical crowd for a vigorous dance like Salsa or Ceroc will include ages from 16 to 60, with the average around 35; while many of the best men Tango dancers are in their seventies - it takes a long time to become good at leading Tango, the yoga of the dancefloor! And in these dances - the majority of which have Latin origins - men are Men and women are Women (or maybe ladies). The man leads; the lady follows ... if you're lucky!

Typically, an evening starts with an hour of separate classes for beginners, improvers and more advanced dancers, followed by freestyle dancing. These are drop-in classes, and numbers can vary, but a dance teacher can cope with a moderate imbalance between numbers of men and women. You don't need to take a partner of your own: partners rotate every few minutes during a class. Aside from the need to 'give everyone a go,' this is so that the pupils learn to adapt their lead or follow to different partners. Of course you also get to dance with all the partners during a class, and asking for a dance when freestyling afterwards is that much easier. So if you want to learn to dance and your 'other half' grunts and resists the idea, leave them at home! In fact, spousal dancing has been known to lead to stormy arguments that can persist long after a dance is over....

Learning is quite difficult for the guys, at first, for they have to learn not only new moves, but also how to lead and organise the pattern of dance 'on-the-fly,' taking account of their partner and ensuring her safe passage round the dancefloor. Potentially humiliating: but get over it, guys! For the ladies, it's not long before they can take to the dancefloor with a variety of partners and have a good dance. But whether you're leading or following, the process of learning, if you and your partners have a sense of humour, can be hilarious. It's very rewarding to learn new bodily skills, and there's also that sense of teamwork with a partner.

Dancing is a contact sport and an excellent form of exercise. Salsa, Ceroc and Jive, for example, are as aerobic as slow jogging. Your arms and legs, ankles, waist and hips are all exercised. Tango is slower, but as your weight is always balanced on one foot or the other, seldom both, you'll find your thighs and ankles have been working pretty hard! You should dress accordingly in fairly lightweight clothes that will not get in your partner's way, and shoes that will slide easily on the floor and allow you to turn and spin freely. Ladies like to dress up a bit and it's nice when they do; but jeans are fine too except for tango, where we like a good view of their elegantly extended calves ending in splendid heels. Men generally dress in slacks, chinos or jeans, shirt or teeshirt, and light shoes with reasonably slippery leather soles. Don't be frightened off, guys, by those daft foppish outfits you may have seen males wearing on Strictly Dance Fever. You never see those on the social dancefloor!

The social and fellowship aspects of partner dancing are enjoyable, too. But these are not dating dances. Most people are there simply to dance and enjoy themselves, not to hunt their next mate. And if you get depressed about your last dance, there is almost always a bar at these places. Alcohol and dancing don't mix very well, though. You'll find you prefer to drink a lot of water. 

You won't have to walk or drive very far, as you'll see from the list here. So - no excuse now! Dance while you can…… 

Where to go:

Salsa: fast, flirtatious, syncopated 8 - beat Latin dance - immensely popular

Mondays 2015: Above Don Pepe Tapas bar, next to Cardinal Wolsey pub opposite Hampton Court Green (excellent place to learn, friendly group)
Tuesdays 2000: Kingston Dance Studios
Wednesdays 1945: Imber Court Sports Club, Ember Lane
Thursdays 2030: The Angel, Giggs Hill Green (quirky venue, friendly group)

Ceroc: franchised 4 - beat derivative of jive/rock - very popular

Wednesdays 2000: Assembly Rooms Maple Road, Surbiton
Fridays 2000: King George's Hall Esher

West Coast Swing: smooth, moderately-paced 6-beat American dance

Mondays 2000: King George's Hall Esher

Tango Argentino: elegant, sensuous, intimate dance of poise and balance 

Mondays 1900: William Morris House, Wimbledon Broadway
Tuesdays 2000: The Stoke Forum, Guildford
Fridays 2000: Lecture Hall, 26 Lingfield Road Wimbledon Village 


Curtain Up at the Vera Fletcher Hall

Now in its 15th year, our Autumn programme at the hall includes the best of the country’s performers including Rodney Bewes and Virginia McKenna, in a splendid mix of music, drama, poetry and children’s entertainment.

Rodney Bewes as Pooter

One of the highlights is the one-man show by Rodney Bewes - “The Diary of a Nobody” on Saturday 18th November. Known to millions as the star of “The Likely Lads”, Rodney performs the story of lovable, hard-done- by Mr. Pooter, whose rose tinted vision of his lot is exposed to hilarious effect at every turn. The show was a sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival where it ran for three weeks and was described as “a gem of a performance “ by the Sunday Times. 

On Friday 6th October we celebrate National Poetry Day with Jim MacCool’s “Celtic Night In,” a Folk Club evening, when top performance poet Jim MacCool brings his magnificent Ionan Tales which were premiered at the Sunday Times Literary Festival for the Millenium. The evening includes “The Selkie’s Tale” – a magical story of abduction, jealousy and retribution - and short poems, Irish drum and Scottish and Irish songs by this Performance Poet of the Year in 2005. Jim has received rave reviews wherever he has performed in Britain and North America – “A poet who stopped the traffic in Chicago”, and “Jim really is a national treasure”. The bar will be open throughout the evening with beer, wine and soft drinks to drink at tables and the show should appeal to all age groups. 

Virginia McKenna

This year is the 100th anniversary of poet John Betjeman’s birth and on Friday November 24th we are very lucky to have film and TV star Virginia McKenna, together with actors Derek and Amanda Waring and pianist Philip Mountford in “Love, Life and Laughter”, a delightful, critically acclaimed revue featuring the poetry of John Betjeman, together with words and music from Noel Coward, A.A.Milne and Edward Elgar. 

Love & Madness Productions, who gave us their memorable “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet” return to the hall on November 14th and 15th with their new productions of “Henry V” and  J.M Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” on successive nights. These exciting, modern, full-scale productions tackle the problems of celebrity and the theme of leadership – when does a man who leads his nation to war become a hero? How far should a leader go to prove himself? When a murderer attracts the love of a rural Irish community, incapable of distinguishing scoundrels from heroes, how soon will the fickle nature of celebrity wane? 

As always we have treats for music lovers. Sagi Hartov is well known as a prize-winning cellist to those have been to Tanya Ursova’s concerts and on Friday November 3rd he is joined by pianist Benjamin Frith, an international concert pianist who at the age of only fourteen won the British National Concerto Competition, and who went on to a first prize at the Rubenstein Masters Competition and top prize at the Busoni International Piano Competition. He has appeared with the world’s finest orchestras. These two outstanding musicians will play works including Chopin nocturnes and Rachmaninov and Mendelssohn sonatas. 

On Saturday November 25th our old friends English Pocket Opera return with Mozart’s “Magic Flute”. Sung in English, this is a brilliant new fully costumed production by Britain’s most exciting small-scale professional opera company. 

Noel and I

Fans of Noel Coward and Ivor Novello are in for a great treat on Friday 20th October when Andrew Brewis, Rachel Becker, Hal Dyer and David Bromley present “Noel and I”. Andrew, who has played before the Queen and in venues such as the Café Royal, presents a revue including such favourites as “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, “I’ll See You Again” and “We’ll Gather Lilacs”, alongside scenes from the best of Coward’s plays including “Private Lives” and “Tonight at 8.30”. Those who saw Andrew Brewis’ previous shows at the Hall such as “Jerome and Julie” and “Simply Sondheim” can look forward to a feast of nostalgia and witty songs. This team possesses a distinguished list of credits for acting and directing. They have appeared on television and radio, (Butterflies, A Man For All Seasons), and at theatres including the Birmingham Rep and the Old Vic. 

Fans of Hinchley Manor Operatic Society will welcome them back on 10th-14th October in “The Little Shop of Horrors”. The flower shop doesn’t do well until a strange new plant draws in the customers – but what does it eat and why do customers disappear? 

We have a treat for older children from 6 upwards with the People’s Theatre’s “Bink and the Riddle of the Sphinx” on 7th October. A stunning new pop musical, this is a classic tale of cunning, battle and adventure – can Bink solve the riddle of Greek mythology’s most terrifying monster or will he lose his kingdom, his princess and his life. More magic, more music and more whizzpops than ever. On 2nd December Cat’s Grin Theatre Company present “A Christmas Carol” – it’s Christmas Eve and Bob Crachit, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are brought to life in this witty and original production. 

Tickets for all of these shows can be obtained from the Box Office (Joan Leifer tel: 01372 462078) and The Pro Shop, 50 High Street, Thames Ditton.


Nice Dungarees, Baby

Lottie, Cherie, Debbi and Thomas

It's good to welcome another shop to the village. Just round the corner from the High Street at 2, Station Road, which has languished empty and forlorn for many months, "Lottie and Thomas" launched on 16 September with Lucy Alexander doing the honours. Lucy, presenter of BBC1's "Homes Under the Hammer," is a recent resident of Thames Ditton and a young mother herself. 

Owners Cherie Noy and Debbi Rose, who live not far away, have named their shop after their own tots. They explain: "We're both recent first-time mothers and found out pretty quickly that shopping on the high street is a whole new ball game when you're trying to cater for the needs of a baby. So we came up with the idea of having an annexe to the shop. It's basically a comfy room where customers can nurse and change their babies in a clean and discreet environment - with a baby monitor, somewhere to park buggies, and basics such as bottle warmers, nappies, creams and toys. We want to try and eliminate all the possible pressure points from shopping and to put back some of the pleasure." 

The Molesey and Thames Ditton NCT branch welcomes this approach.

Cherie and Debbie will specialise in stylish clothes, shoes, toys, gifts and keepsakes for children up to and including the age of three. They've stocked it with an eye to mums, grandparents, godparents, doting aunts and uncles - anyone in fact who has a child to buy for and who wants to get something that's just a little bit different. "We've sourced some great European brands," says Cherie, "things that we would want to dress our own children in - funky, yet stylish. And we've gone for clothes and shoes that allow children to be individuals, rather than advertising campaigns for major labels. We've also got gifts for christenings, 'new mum' pampering lines - something, we hope, for everyone." 

Cherie and Debbie have given up successful careers to become their own bosses for the first time. There is, they say, a lot to learn, but they're determined that Lottie & Thomas will offer good service and quality stock. We wish them luck.

Lottie and Thomas, 2 Station Road
Opening hours:
Tuesday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 10am-4pm.


Margaret Briggs

Margaret Briggs September 2006

Interviewing Margaret Briggs, it was hard to believe that in April this year she reached the age of 90 and had lived in Thames Ditton for 25 years. She's well equipped with a smart digital telephone, email and a computer, and looks at least twenty years younger. 

Before she married, Margaret was Secretary first to an author then a Literary Agent. At the age of 21 and newly engaged, she made a decision that was rather shocking at the time: she started her own business - a Secretarial Bureau. She did this because she realised that she was never going to fit into what was the norm and be a stay-at-home housewife. She wanted a home and children but she also wanted an outside interest where she could be her own boss and control her priorities. 

Margaret married John Briggs in 1938 but the war came along and her husband, who became a Squadron Leader in the RAF, was sent to India for three years, leaving her with a baby daughter. Margaret tackled this period with characteristic pragmatism: taking a cottage, raising a pig (TD Today Vol 37 Autumn 2005) and running a cake shop (TD Today Vol 38 Spring 2006). 

After the war, Margaret and John settled in Woking and had two more children. Still determined to live a full life she opened a Nursery School in her own home and began a successful career as a writer. Her first article was published by the London Evening News, where she soon established a regular column and went on to write a book "Jam Tomorrow" (Victor Gollancz). Many articles followed for the national press as well as a dozen or more short stories for the BBC. 

John was very supportive of his wife's ventures as well as being a very active businessman himself. The Vice Chairman and Managing Director of a large paper manufacturing company, when he retired in 1969 he and Margaret went to live in Malta for a while. 

It was a happy marriage for 43 years. After her husband died, Margaret moved to Thames Ditton and threw herself into voluntary work, including the Hospice and Samaritans. From 1984 until 1992 she was Editor of Thames Ditton Today, and still enjoys writing articles and producing periodic Crossword Puzzles for the magazine twice a year. 

Margaret maintains, however, that her greatest contribution to the area has been her co-founding of Elmbridge U3A (University of the Third Age), where she still leads a local Creative Writing group. U3A is known worldwide and there are about a thousand branches in the UK. Locally it offers forty-five different interest groups to retired people, encompassing the arts, education discussion, languages and leisure activities. Elmbridge has six hundred members who pay a subscription of just ten pounds a year. 

I discovered finally that Margaret is a Quaker, and attends the Meeting at Esher. As well as her three children, she has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren (five by the end of this year). I was most interested to learn that her younger son is a playwright. He uses his second name, Richard Everett, as his nom-de plume and his latest play, Entertaining Angels with Penelope Keith as leading lady, is currently touring Woking, Richmond, Brighton and Bath prior to London. 

Meeting Margaret Briggs was a very interesting experience. I now know what she meant when she said that her idea of unhappiness was not having enough to do!

Our Reporting Staff


Elmbridge Literature Festival - November 2006

Book lovers and all those with literary tastes in Thames Ditton are in for a treat in November, when The R C Sherriff Trust and Elmbridge Borough Council, working in partnership, put on the Borough's first Literature Festival. 

Inspired by the success of our first Literary Competition, 'Cook up a Story', that attracted nearly one hundred entries in 2005, the decision was made to programme a much bigger event around this year's competition, "On My Way", tapping into the obvious literary interest that abounds in the Borough and enabling more people to become involved. A general invitation was issued, in March, to local organisations and, in June, to schools, to participate in a month-long Literature Festival in November. 

We have been heartened by the response from the local community: schools, libraries, bookshops, community centres, arts venues, drama groups, creative writing groups, reading groups, the poetry café, individual poets, playwrights, authors and novelists have signed up, creating a really varied and exciting programme, which will take place in venues right across the borough. Many participants have taken the competition theme of travel and journeys as the inspiration for their own contributions. 

The Vera Fletcher Hall is hosting a fascinating series of events (see 'Curtain Up' in this issue) and a Royston Pike Lecture by local author Adrienne Dines, "Hitting the Ground Running," on 30th November to conclude the Festival. There will also be a free Storytime, for children aged 3 - 5, at the Dittons Library on Tuesday 9th November, from 2.00 - 2.30pm. Places can be booked by calling 0208 398 2521. 

In addition to these local events, there will be a Storybus touring the Borough one Saturday; creative writing workshops in both prose and poetry; playreadings; talks by authors; literary teas and suppers; children's theatre; and, of course, public readings of the winning entries from the "On My Way" competition. There should be something for everyone, whatever your age and taste; so please come along to as many events as you can and help make the Festival a success. The official Festival launch is scheduled for 28th September, from which date a brochure, detailing all the events and how to book, will be available from the R C Sherriff Trust* or from Elmbridge Borough Council** at the Civic Centre in Esher. The same information will also be published on their websites and we will pick out events in Thames Ditton and Weston Green on our own website's 'what's on' page. 

Festival venues, such as the Vera Fletcher Hall, and Riverhouse Barn in Walton, will hold a stock of brochures as well.Don't forget, the closing date for the literary competition is 27th October, so you still have time to enter your poem or short story. Entry forms can be obtained from the R C Sherriff Trust, the Civic Centre, riverhouse barn, Weybridge Books or any public library. Get those imaginations working!

*R C Sherriff Trust, Case House, 85-89 High Street, Walton-on-Thames KT12 1DZ; 
telephone 01932 235 990; 
Web: :

**Maggs Latter, Arts Development Officer, Elmbridge Borough Council at the Civic Centre in Esher; 
telephone 01372 474 584;