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Emma Thompson and me

When Tony Slattery and Stephen bloody Fry turned up and started mwah-mwahing and calling one another

Sipson is a hamlet in the Middlesex parish of Harmondsworth. It is first mentioned in a document from 1110, but its name is of Saxon derivation so it must be older than that.

I imagine it as nestling in a landscape of wheat fields and grazing sheep where apple-cheeked maidens milk cows and respectful children touch their forelocks as they open gates for you.

Very like modern-day Shropshire, in other words.

But if the government has its way then Sipson, its church, school and pubs, will be buried under Heathrow’s third runway.

Others do not take this destruction so lightly. Greenpeace has bought a field near the village and is selling it off in small plots to people opposed to the runway. The organisation’s hope is that the need to arrange compulsory purchase of land from so many individuals will pour so much glue into the works of officialdom that the development will not go ahead.

There is already an impressive list of purchasers for these ransom strips, including Zac Goldsmith, the impressionist Alistair McGowan and Emma Thompson.

Not wanting to be left behind, I have bought one too.


To be fair, as footballers say when they are interviewed these days, the government is doing something about carbon emissions. They are discouraging people from using plastic carrier bags and forcing us to use energy-saving bulbs.

I know all the arguments. How these bulbs are cheaper in the long run, don’t give you epileptic fits (whatever the Daily Mail says) and lead to your receiving letters from grateful polar bears. It’s just that they don’t come on when you press the switch.

And when they do come on, they give off a sullen, dingy light that transports you back several decades.

A friend installed the new bulbs last year. Within days, he reports, Izal lavatory paper had appeared in his bathroom and corned beef in his fridge. He now lives in terror of meeting the landlord on the stairs and being asked to pay the rent he owes.

He wouldn’t mind, but he owns the house.


Bert Hazell, who was Labour MP for North Norfolk between 1964 and 1970, has died at the age of 101. As he lived to a greater age than even Manny Shinwell, Hazell was the oldest ever former MP.

Unless you know different, of course.

Hazell fought Barkston Ash in Yorkshire (something like the modern-day Selby constituency) in 1945 and 1950, but lost to the Tories both times. Yet there are four members of the 1945 Parliament still with us: Michael Foot, John Freeman, Francis Noel-Baker and Ernest Millington.

In fact Millington was elected even before that. He fought and won a wartime by-election for the short-lived Common Wealth Party at Chelmsford and held the seat for them in 1945. He joined the Labour Party the following year but was defeated in 1950.


It was a bright morning and, as we disapprove of absentee landlords on the Stiperstones, I decided to travel to London to inspect my new property. Arriving at Sipson, I unfolded my deck chair and copy of the Shropshire Star, and settled down to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Soon more people arrived. On one side there was Alistair McGowan – or at least someone who looked very like him. And on the other...

I didn’t mind Emma Thompson. I could have tolerated Hugh Laurie. But when Tony Slattery and Stephen bloody Fry turned up and started mwah-mwahing and calling one another “darling” I became grateful for the jets passing overhead.

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England