Topping out the new TreeHouse Trust building

Have the real pleasure of ‘topping out’ at TreeHouse on Friday. TreeHouse is a centre of excellence for children with autism and is our pride and joy in the heart of Muswell Hill. To walk around and see the love and care that these children get makes you weep wishing that all autistic children could come here.

When TreeHouse first set up shop, they were housed in a mega portacabin – portacabin on the outside but inside a two story building. Despite early concerns from residents (and me) about building on open land – they won us all over – thank goodness.

Today’s ceremony was for their new building. ‘Topping out’ is the traditional ceremony of the building profession when you get to the top floor. I had to hold trowel with concrete for the photos.

Lord (Tim) Clement Jones chairs the Trust and all the people who work there, the Trustees, the parents, the friends of the Trust and all work with an energy and commitment I have never seen to that degree in any organisation.

So – we climbed up, and up, and up – and with the sun shining and standing on the roof we topped out! The building should be finished next summer. Can’t wait to see it. What a lovely start to my day.

Last stop of day was as Guest Speaker at Ashford Liberal Democrats’ Annual Dinner. It took three and three quarter hours to get there – nightmare. However, as always, once there it was a lovely evening – and they have a great prospective candidate in Chris Took.

Then it was up at 6am to go to Ditchley Park near Oxford for the one day of three I can manage in a new relationship building forum – Chinese / Anglo. It’s a great challenge and a good way forward as China is one of the great powers of the world and there are some challenges for both of us to begin to really understand each others needs and ways of doing business.

The idea is that we will meet at least once a year in this way to build strong ties between our two countries and that way – hopefully – we will be able to work together. It wasn’t an occasion for having a go or hectoring over issues where we think each other could bear improvement – that will come with time. Instead the first steps were team building and relationship building.

The new Chinese Ambassador to Britain gave the after dinner speech in the evening. Madame Ambassador is quite something. Not only delightful and charming – but the way she said things made me think that there really will be a way forward. China is engaging now in the world – and is even helping in Darfur (not enough yet – but definitely engaged). As Madame Ambassador said – we have to help China understand what being a responsible world power means as they don’t have the experience and understanding. And she wants us to help China to gain that knowledge. So – she sold me!

Treehouse Trust's birthday

With Lord Clement-Jones at the Treehouse Trust birthdayYesterday I went to a big reception in the Lords for the 10th birthday of TreeHouse. TreeHouse (Trust) is the most fabulous of organisations. Basically – ten years ago two mothers of autistic children got together to say that their kids were not getting the right care and attention – and set up TreeHouse. Lord Tim Clement Jones (Lib Dem colleague in the Lords) leads from the front on this – and together with very committed group of people has taken this idea through to creating the best ever school for autistic children that there is. But it’s not just about the children lucky enough to go to TreeHouse – it is a Charitable Trust which works on improving the case for all autistic children and research etc.

My involvement – well mainly that when TreeHouse were looking to build the proper bespoke buildings they came to my constituency and Muswell Hill. At first local residents were a little concerned about this proposed school on a green site – but it wasn’t green, green – it was land actually covenanted to educational purposes. And the staff are phenomenal – and if you could visit and see the work, the care and the love that these children receive – you would take TreeHouse to your heart the way we all have done. Treehouse has gone out into the community of Muswell Hill and earned its affection. In fact, the birthday cake was from the local bakers and now – we are all as proud of punch to have something this excellent on our patch.

At the event at the Lords, several of the children came and played some music and sang songs. If you don’t know an autistic child – then you will have no concept of just what a momentous achievement those seemingly simple songs were. I take my hat off to everyone involved – a truly moving occasion and such a worthy cause.

Then a quick meeting with the Missing Cypriots lobby opposite Parliament – where I meet up with Susie Constantinides from my local patch where she mother hens the Cypriot Centre. I meet a group of mainly women bearing photographs of young men strung around their necks. These are the missing Cypriots – their husbands, sons and brothers – who disappeared so many years ago and who have never been seen since. Altogether 1,619 Greek Cypriots – including civilians, women, children and old people – have not been seen since August 1974 and their fate remains unknown.