On Wednesday morning, when ICG and MRAG members ventured forth to distribute over 6,000 leaflets announcing that evening's well-attended Mogden demo, I made the conscious decision to volunteer to leaflet the Ivybridge estate by myself. I always feel it is a bit of a cheek to ask our usual leafleting teams to commit when the notice is so short, and that to annoy them by so doing might put their long-term commitment at risk.
With around 110 individual four-storey blocks of maisonettes and four eighteen-storey tower blocks, and with me being a tad overweight, out of shape and - erm - thirty something the prospect was a daunting one. Did I also mention that I suffer from a foot condition which makes even walking painful?
Well, I set off on my expedition after breakfast and laboured around the first fifty or so maisonette blocks before deciding to call upon a member on the estate for a drink of water (typically I had forgotten to take any with me). Also at her home was another former activist from the estate who had fallen out with us over a local matter. Over a fifteen minute chat we were able to resolve most of his issues and he pledged his restored support for the cause (later that day he was to turn up at the demo). During that time we were also visited by another member, who volunteered to distribute leaflets to two of the four tower blocks, an offer which wasn't refused.
When I left the member's flat I happened across one member or supporter after another. Two took small quantities of leaflets for their own blocks - every little helps. A third contacted me by telephone after having received the leaflet, and a fourth by e-mail. All four promised to turn up at the gates of Mogden later that evening, promises which all four of them were to honour. A resident who stopped me to report some outstanding, unperformed repairs did likewise. I also had the opportunity of a long chat with some of the girls from Hounslow Homes at the Langdale Centre - a really great team of officers of whom I am intensely proud, met one of the caretakers with whom I regularly exchange news and, a little later, was able to touch base with Councillor Paul Fisher, who had himself been leafleting elsewhere, over a coffee at the Bridge Link Centre.
By the time I had completed my assignment and hobbled home along the Twickenham Road the pain of my immediate predicament was more than offset by a feeling of elation from the sense that, just like before when I spent less of my time at the Civic Centre and probably more of it pounding the streets of my ward, there was a feeling of warmth and affection towards the Community Group and the cause it represents. On top of all that, the relationship we enjoy with the Hounslow Homes officers on Ivybridge is now a good and positive one, and they liaise constructively with us and with the one, united residents' group without fear of reproach. The spirit, as one of the members I spoke to that afternoon, was "just like the old days", but with new opportunities which simply weren't around when we seemed to be fighting the whole world.
The superb turnout at the demo itself was simply the icing on the cake. After that highly successful event I enjoyed a drink with one of those old members who had become a little disengaged but who was now once more raring to go and was volunteering for canvassing duty, a role for which he has an obvious talent.
Last night our monthly "Roadshow" social drink at the Isleworth Royal British Legion was quite well supported. There was a really good "feel" amongst those present, who included former active Labour Party members and Conservatives who support the ICG at a local level. We are recruiting not only numbers, but people of real quality and experience. As for the Legion itself, other than dispensing free beers for the duration of the evening it would be difficult to imagine what the people running the operation on both sides of the bar could have done to make us feel more welcome.
There is high morale amongst members of the ICG and a sense that we are ready to get out there and do a job. Just like the old days, in fact.