Growing Up Near The Malaysian Rain Forest

Cllr Ranjit Gill reflects on his childhood as he experiences his fourth week of self-isolation


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We are currently experiencing unprecedented times. I don’t remember such difficult times in this country but, when I was growing up in Malaysia, we had a curfew in Kuala Lumpur in May 1969. Riots in the aftermath of the 1969 Malaysian general election (when opposition parties made gains at the expense of the ruling coalition) led to a state of national emergency. I remember this vividly as I was having a history test and had not revised for the next morning! On the other hand, my brother had gone for revision lessons for his O-levels and did not return till the next day, escorted home by the police.


In this emergency we know what we need to do: stay at home, go out only when essential and for exercise (see the link below for advice about exercising pets) and, when out, maintain social distancing. Being out in warm weather is tempting and it is easy to forget that the deadly virus is lurking about. It can strike any one of us. While some people are more at risk, Covid-19 does not distinguish between age, race, religion, rich or poor. We are all the same.

One of the worst things is when you can’t even say goodbye to a loved one. Two days ago a good friend in Vermont, USA, informed me that her mother had passed away that night. A week before she had told me that her mum had the virus and was worried that she wouldn’t make it. My friend was unable to visit her mum in the care home or say goodbye.

What we all have learned is to value all those on the front line. These are the people who are helping us, the doctors, nurses, medical and non-medical staff – the porters, the cleaners and all the staff at these hospitals – who are caring for us. I was out last Thursday clapping for the NHS – and all carers and support staff – and was happy to see so many of my neighbours doing the same.

Having had a replacement aortic value some 15 years ago, my GP advised me to self-isolate. It’s week four now for me.

Community spirit

What got to me after Boris had made his announcement on TV was that panic buying set in. Lots of people bought more than they needed. What’s with the obsession with toilet paper? Having grown up on the edge of a jungle and with no toilet except the massive rain forest, I had never heard of toilet paper before coming to this country in 1979.

But the crisis has also brought out the good side of human nature. I have had friends doing my shopping for me and clients sending me boxes of work files; one of the boxes turned out to be full of food. Many others are helping the vulnerable and elderly. This is really encouraging at a time like this that we can help each other. Help is also available through the Hounslow Community Support Hub; don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it.

Spare time and self-isolation

Personally, I have spent more time in the kitchen. Previously this was the domain of my partner but now it’s my responsibility. So I get the chance to try out some culinary delights, for which I have to thank my late mother who always made us share the cooking at weekends between my sister, my brother and me. Living on the edge of the rainforest had its own merits. A great vegetable garden, free range chicken, fresh milk from our cows and fresh fruit from the garden and the rain forest. The only downside was when you find out that your favourite chicken had landed in the cooking pot! Plenty of crying and not eating a meal that day. There were great days growing up in the jungle, being Tarzan in the forest and swinging from trees from those long dangling ropes/roots from the trees was my favourite and that of my friends.

Government measures

I’m an accountant so you’d expect me to be interested in measures the government has brought in to help the economy. They include:

For anyone who submits a self-assessment tax return payment on account that is ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020, this may now be deferred until January 2021.

For UK VAT registered businesses with VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer the payment without any penalty. If you choose to defer your VAT payment, you must pay it on or before 31 March 2021. VAT returns need to be filed as normal. If you want to defer and usually pay by direct debit, remember to cancel your direct debit mandate.

Various other measures have been announced by the government relating to business rates, employers, employees and the self-employed. You can find more details on the government website and for rates and grants to certain businesses, on the Hounslow Council website.

Crime and anti-social behaviour

Residents have reported continued drug dealing and I have passed this information to the police, as have my colleagues.

Sadly, there seems to have been an increase in fly-tipping, graffiti and other anti-social behaviour. With fewer people out at night, others can get away with these things. Please report fly-tipping and graffiti online in the usual way; the Council may not be able to respond straight away but they are still dealing with such incidents.

Our different world

I know some of the days ahead will be grim. Two things we can enjoy are the global fall in pollution because of reduced vehicle use and fewer flights, and the fact that nature is bursting out all around us.

From a councillor perspective, our face-to-face surgeries have been cancelled but we are all still available by email and on the phone. Please do raise issues with us, whether related to Coronavirus/Covid-19 or not. All our contact details are below.

Cllr Ranjit Gill

Turnham Green ward

07976 702956


Reporting graffiti, fly-tipping, etc:

What to do with recycling and rubbish if you have been diagnosed with, or have symptoms of, Covid-19:

Exercising pets:


Council meetings. Including the Chiswick Area Forum, and surgeries have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. All councillors remain available by phone and email as before.


All face-to-face councillor surgeries have been cancelled until further notice but you can still contact your councillors at:

Chiswick Homefields ward

Cllr Patrick Barr

07976 703263

Cllr Gerald McGregor

07866 784821

Cllr John Todd

07866 784651

Chiswick Riverside ward

Cllr Michael Denniss

07976 703274

Cllr Gabriella Giles

7966 270823

Cllr Sam Hearn

07833 376222

Turnham Green ward

Cllr Joanna Biddolph

07976 703446

Cllr Ranjit Gill

07976 702956

Cllr Ron Mushiso

07976 702887

April 4, 2020

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