With a car that these days sees the mechanic more often than his nearest and dearest and two kids who still cling tenaciously to their perceived right to be chauffeured to and from schools in opposite hemispheres, even getting to a meeting can be something of an achievement.
This week's itinerary began on Monday with a briefing by a consultant on housing allocation policy. The LOCATA system which we current use has been heavily criticised, sometimes rightly so, but still seems more fair than the old "not what you know but who you know" system. There is though a need to make it more transparent, better understood and in places more logical.
After a spot of lunch it was across to Feltham Town Centre to link up with Amolak Tatter, my superbly innovative and dependable Criminal Justice Programme Manager who along with his team was launching the Controlled Drinking Zone from a well-populated stall outside Asda. Whilst there I bumped into many old friends including former councillor John Murphy and his wife Pat.
Tuesday morning was my regular meeting with Mimi Konigsberg and Sue Witherspoon, respectively Director of Community Services and Assistant Director for Housing. As always there were a number of projects, problems and live issues to talk about. Then in the afternoon it was a discussion with Celia Golden and Permjit Chadha who have been so helpful to me in all my work as Chair of Hounslow Against Racial Harassment (HARH) and, more latterly, the Race Crime Stakeholders Group.
In the evening I had the choice of a private Executive meeting or the monthly meeting of the United Residents' Association of Ivybridge (URA). It was at the latter that it occurred to me just how far we had come and how much had been done just to reach a situation in which a few ordinary people who care about their estate could actually sit around a table with officers of Hounslow Homes and discuss such everyday issues as security, repairs, the concierge service, service charges and so forth. Less than three years ago such a benign scenario would have been deemed totally unacceptable and only those residents who were considered to be in good standing with the political establishment of the time would be afforded such a privilege, with officers effectively under orders not to communicate with those lesser mortals from outside their number. Today a very dedicated and efficient officer team are able to engage without fear with a comparatively small but well-organised and - most importantly - representative group of residents.
On Wednesday I accompanied Caroline to the doctor's surgery for a routine appointment, before having a pleasant and enjoyable lunch at a Southall restaurant with an officer with whom I have been working closely on Community Cohesion. Then in the evening the LBH Community Group held a Special Group Meeting to discuss some recent issues, not least how to deal with the fallout from the recent decision by the Sustainable Development Committee to approve the Mogden expansion plans. I am pleased to say that the Group reached a consensus view on this and some other recent concerns that were robust, proportionate and reasonable in equal measure.
The next morning Councillor Paul Fisher and I met with other members of an ad hoc Community Payback Joint Action Group to discuss how to take best advantage of the excellent service provided by the Community Payback Team under Bridget Klempner in a more joined-up way than has been happening of late. Sadly in places the "can't do" culture still prevails in areas of our corporate operation and Paul, I and other members of our Group are resolved to confront this mercilessly without any quarter being given over what is about to become the last year of the present administration.
In the evening the Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee (IBAC) met to consider, amongst other things, a request by residents of Isleworth's Hillary Drive to close the footpath which runs through the development and has created crime and security issues for residents there. The request for outright closure was opposed by The Isleworth Society (TIS) and eventually rejected, but it was also agreed that the residents of Hillary Drive deserved some protection and that safety and lighting issues would be addressed by a working party comprising councillors, TIS, the police and residents. Yet another excellent example of a community working together outside of the realm of politics to resolve everyday issues and problems. A motion tabled under Any Other Business seeking to protect the Area Committees from any attempt by anybody to weaken, merge or reduce them was supported unanimously.
Today (well I guess it's yesterday now) I had the morning to myself to catch up on some casework, but in the afternoon I travelled across to the Bridge Link Centre on Ivybridge to meet a resident to discuss an ongoing local issue, then back to Isleworth Public Hall for the first part of a meeting of Old Isleworth residents concerning traffic issues in and around Church Street.
It is with some amusement that I sometimes receive advice, usually from predecessors who failed residents during their time in office and who were subsequently rejected, that I should find myself a 9 to 5 job and only give the remainder of my time to my constituents and to the public who elected me. Even without such a burden there don't seem to be enough hours in the day, and important work does from time to time get overlooked.
So much so that at nearly three in the morning I find myself recording my week's deeds for posterity.